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Friday, 10 November, 2000, 17:43 GMT
Naomi Klein answered your questions

The Canadian journalist Naomi Klein has become an unofficial spokeswoman for the anti-globalisation movement.

Her best-selling book, No Logo, documents the popular backlash against the increasing economic and cultural reach of multinational companies.

She claims that the anti-globalisation protesters represent a more democratic alternative to corporate domination of the world economy.

And she reckons that this movement is becoming increasingly powerful. Politicians and big business ignore it at their peril.

Do you share this vision? Do you think it is nonsense?

To watch coverage of the forum, select the link below:


Full transcript

News Online:
Do you consider yourself a spokeswoman for the anti-globalisation movement:

Naomi Klein:
I guess I am a spokesperson in the sense that I have things that I like to speak about but I am not speaking on behalf of anyone.

I am also talking for those other people who are doing fantastic work who do not get an opportunity to speak for themselves or who get misrepresented.

News Online:
You are in London this week partly to speak at a conference of the world development movement held on the protest the attempts to liberalise trade and services. Why were you speaking out on that issue?

Naomi Klein:
The World Trade Organisation is in the process of extending its reach significantly into the services domain and moving well beyond the trading of goods, for example, applying its rules to things like education and healthcare, waste disposal, water etc.

Speaking as a Canadian, our public services are what define us as a nation. To me this is a frightening extension of the World Trade Organisation.

The movement that I have been tracking is very broad. These international institutions have created a coalition for us and this extension into services is very much a part of that. It brings all these opposition groups together who are fighting for public education, public healthcare, environmental sustainability and so on.

Lee, Winchester, England:
Do you simply oppose Globalisation full-stop or simply how globalisation is behaving or working out in practice?

Naomi Klein:
Globalisation is a meaningless phrase. All it really means is interconnectedness between nations and I am fully in favour of that.

I am not a nationalist. I consider myself an internationalist. I feel we need to reject this paradigm of pro-globalisation camp versus the anti-globalisation camp and force the discussion to be become more sophisticated by saying this is the kind of globalisation we want.

There is nothing inherently good or bad about the free trade of goods what is being debated is the preconditions that are being attached to that trade. What countries are being told they have to do to change themselves - privatise and liberalise their services for example. There is nothing inevitable about that in that it is a very clear political agenda which I reject, while still considering myself an internationalist.

James Taylor, United Kingdom:
Do you feel that the nation state is losing control over the growth of multinational corporations, and if so, should nation states be allowed to restrict this growth?

Naomi Klein:
I don't want to glorify nation states. I think what this is about is fundamentally self-determination of citizens with local communities everywhere having the right to plan and manage their communities how they wish.

This is watching power shift from points close to home to faraway points, for example, the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the IMF. The issue is about taking back that power at a local level.

Asif Khan, UK:
Against the might and money of globalised industry, do you see legislation ever being enforced to curb their excesses?

Naomi Klein:
I think it is. The reason there is resistance to this movement is because corporations have had this wonderful free ride. We did make some way as nation states figuring out how to regulate corporations and how to counterbalance the effects of the free market through unionisation, regulation, monitoring and penalties.

However, as corporations have globalised our politicians have accepted the idea that they can't do anything anymore because the corporations are so hyper-mobile; they can just leave if we do not play by the rules.

But our governments get together all the time - for example, in the Hague, the Apex summits, G7 summits and so on and what they do is they agree to give up power because it is easier to agree to them all giving up power rather than getting together and agreeing to make global rules and regulations to counterbalance the growing power of corporations.

This is why we are seeing citizens around the world forcing their way onto this international stage by protesting and rioting outside of these meetings. They are saying what is going on is not OK and that their interests have to be represented as well as the interests of corporations.

Amoroso Gombe, Kenya:
You are not someone from the Third World. You don't know what it is like to live there. WE WANT MORE GLOBALISATION. We want Coca Cola, Nike, BMW etc to come and build factories and give us jobs so we don't have to spend the only life we have languishing in misery. What makes you think you know what's best for us?

Naomi Klein:
There are people out there who perhaps don't want globalisation - I am not one of those people. I am not against trade but I am not against globalisation.

I think poor countries do need investment but the problem with that argument is that it is used to say that we have to accept all of the investment on the corporations' terms and that is what I am rejecting.

Take Nike, for example, the reason there is a campaign against Nike around the issue of sweatshop labour is not because people like me are picking on Nike.

Workers in Nike factories in Indonesia, Vietnam and China have organised wildcat strikes, putting their jobs on the line, in order to get unions into these factories. These people are not saying they do not want Nike factories but they are saying they want to take the seed of investment and turn it into real development.

However, when these workers have tried to improve the conditions of their low wage jobs and make good of this promise of development, the factories move to another country.

Benjamin Davies, USA:
I argue that globalisation makes nations dependent on peace while isolation will make some nations dependant on war. What will happen if the US cuts of trade with China? What will happen if the Russians have another revolution due to lack of foreign investment?

Naomi Klein:
I don't think the evidence is there for that. If we look at the Gulf War this was very much a trade-driven war and about access to oil. We went to war to protect trade. That example disproves this thesis.

I don't think we are moving to this promised peaceful future. If we look at what is happening now at the US election, we have the two main candidates fighting with one another over who is the bigger hawk and who is going to spend more on military spending.

What we see is that war itself is trade and it is very profitable.

Ed Barker, UK:
What effect, if any, will each of the candidates in the US presidential race have on globalisation?

Naomi Klein:
The reason why Ralph Nader ran for president and why he received millions of votes is because of the convergence on economic policy between the Republicans and the Democrats.

There are issues on which the two parties diverge - trade is not one of them. However, it was significant that Nader's voice was heard so strongly despite all the efforts to silence him.

Dayanand Kathapurkar, India:
I have a strong belief that globalisation does not benefit the developing nations in long term. Do you think that globalisation does not ultimately benefit the rich countries either?

Naomi Klein:
There are some people who are benefiting a great deal from globalisation. There are winners and losers - there are the included and excluded. The real story of globalisation is that this is happening in every country of the world and this is why this is not an issue of nationalism.

Andrew McCartney, UK:
We sometimes out-source programming jobs to cheaper programmers in India and Pakistan - for about one-tenth of the cost of hiring programmers in the UK. How can you argue that these guys are getting exploited, when they'd actually be worse off if we didn't hire them in the first place?

Naomi Klein:
I am not saying they are being exploited. I think it can be very positive for labour to shift and it is true that industrial economies were built on low-wage factory jobs but what turned it into sustainable development was the introduction of free trade unions, collective bargaining etc. It did not happen magically and what we are forgetting is that development is a give-and-take, rough and tumble, tug of war between commerce and collective forces coming together.

Geoff, UK:
Would you agree that new technologies such as mobile phones and the Internet, although run by multinationals, are powerful instruments for grassroots democracy?

Naomi Klein:
They already are, for example, the Internet and cell-phones. Protests like we saw in Seattle and Prague, I believe, could not have happened in the way that they did without those technologies. Some people say this is ironic these protestors are using the tools of globalisation but it is only ironic if you accept the premise that this is a protectionist movement and not about globalisation.

Progressive forces have been arguing in favour of internationalism for a long time - we are ones that wrote the UN Charter and we need to reclaim the language of globalisation and international interconnectivity. Of course we are using these tools to connect better with each other.

Geoff, UK:
How can I as a parent try to teach my children about the artificiality of advertising and exploitation of corporations without appearing pious, extremist or out of touch? It is so difficult when the vast majority of signals in our cultures suggest that you are what you buy.

Naomi Klein:
This is a really tough question. I think it is the wrong route to every be pious on these things because these companies are speaking to young people in a language of inspiration and using powerful ideas and imagery to sell consumer products. I don't think we are stupid for being drawn to marketing - there are some intelligent and sophisticated people working in the marketing sector, selling our most positive and important ideas back to us in the form of branding.

Branding succeeds because society has failed by leaving these ideas unattended. Brands are the only ones speaking to young people in the language of inspiration. It is a failure of politicians, parents and communities and that is why we are seeing the rise of this kind of branded self-identification. We want more meaning in our lives unfortunately we don't get it through our running shoes and laptops.

P. Jones, UK:
Haven't you become a brand name yourself and isn't anti-globalisation movement just another religion, like those you decry?

Naomi Klein:
I don't think I am a brand although I am concerned that too much attention around this movement is being focused around me. There are thousands of people involved in this movement and I am getting more than my share of attention. I am not a brand - there is just a book so I would reject that assertion.

This movement is remarkably non-ideological in that the idea that knits together all these pockets of activism around the world is simply the idea of self-determination and getting back some control over their communities and economies.

I do not believe there is one ideology that will reach around the world. We need to find a belief system that rejects that sort of "one-size fits all" ideology systematically. This movement has no Bible or manifesto but we can agree that we have the right to the basic level of self-determination and democracy.

Trevor, UK:
What fuels your optimism that anti-globalisation protest will continue and flourish?

Naomi Klein:
Just watching it happen. Watching this tiny movement grow from tiny seeds of resistance.

It has grown from something that started only five years ago to something that is starting to look like a mass movement. People feel themselves to be part of something global - there is diversity and it isn't monolithic.

I didn't use to be so optimistic but I decided I did not want to live that way anymore. I also believe optimism is a choice - I made it and I believe that optimism is contagious and I so encourage you Trevor to try it.

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See also:

27 Oct 00 | Talking Point
Are we slaves to brands?
18 Oct 00 | UK
I shop, therefore I am
25 Sep 00 | Business
Among the protesters
14 Sep 00 | e-cyclopedia
Globalisation: What on Earth is it about?

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