Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Globalization Debate

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9780007150472: Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Globalization Debate

The story of the rise of the movement that wanted accountable, improved globalization.

For two years Naomi Klein wrote a weekly column for Canada’s leading newspaper, the Globe & Mail (syndicated worldwide, in the Guardian in the UK). She has, by selecting, rewriting and rearranging these columns, prepared what amounts to a first-hand historical record of the gradual rise to prominence of the anti-global-corporatism movement, and of its most notable successes and failures. It has a truly international scope, covering everything from the Zapatistas’ rebellion in Mexico to the Social Centres in Italy, from the biggest peaceful protest demos since the 1960s to the gassings and shootings at Genoa. Naomi analyses developments in local democracy, in law enforcement, in privatisation laws, in capital migrations, in union behaviour, in marketing, in summitry. She gets close to the suited summits – the WTO, the G8, the IMF, NAFTA. She looks at bioterrorism, pollution, hypocrisy, fear and confusion. It is a portrait, or rather the underlying negative, of the planet's torrid time between the Seattle summit and the world-changing events of 11 September 2001. It makes for dramatic, immediate, indispensable history writing, and reading.

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Product Description:

This is a history of the rise of the anti-globalization movement, from Seattle to September 11th, 2001. The text charts the group's most notable successes and its failures and is international in scope. It covers all aspects of the topic, social, legal, and political.

Review:

Fences and Windows is not a follow up to the bestselling No Logo. Rather it is a collection of articles and speeches written on the hoof at the various conventions and summits around the world in the wake of the mass protests against the World Trade Organisation in Seattle. Klein's involvement with the new grass-roots anti-corporate movement gave her--and thousands of others--a fast-track education in neo-liberal economics and the effects of globalised corporate activities upon landless farmers in Brazil, teachers in Argentina, fast-food workers in Italy, coffee-growers in Mexico, shanty-town dwellers in South Africa, migrant tomato pickers in Florida, union organisers in the Philippines, and homeless kids in Toronto.

One of the most important and inspiring aspects of the book is Klein's description of the ways in which the new movement differs from left-wing political organising of the past. Rather than being unified by a political party or a national network with head offices, annual elections and subordinate cells and locals, it is shaped by the ideas of individual organisations and intellectuals but, crucially, does not defer to any of them as leaders. What facilitates the multiplicity of campaigns is the communication technology which in turn shapes the movement in its own image. What emerged on the streets of Seattle, Klein observes, "was an activist model that mirrors the organic decentralised pathways of the Internet--the Internet come to life".

What gives Klein's analysis added weight is her reports of the tactics of police and security forces around the world in the campaign to criminalise dissent. Among the tactics used are pre-emptive strikes where movement organisers are intimidated before major meetings or simply arrested before they get there. More worrying still is the propaganda war that seeks to blur the distinction between violence and civil disobedience. This in turn leads to a situation where police violence against protesters is normalised and where indiscriminate gassing occurs so frequently that protesters appear on the streets with necessary protective gear of swimming goggles and bandanas soaked in vinegar.

Overall Fences and Windows is engaged, informative, troubling and inspiring. It's also worrying because it's difficult to believe that governments and corporations are allowed to operate such hypocritical and destructive economic policies while passing themselves off as the champions of the very people they are destroying. It's inspiring because there is hope of change--not least in the models of political organisation she describes. In this regard her article on Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas is remarkable and truly inspirational. The inevitable weakness of a collection of articles such as this is that there is inevitable repetition. On the other hand, the fact that Klein wrote them on the move, from the inside and as it happened (or very shortly afterwards) gives the whole urgency and immediacy. --Larry Brown

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