issue no.2, 5 June 1999Also have a look at these Pages:
Another week of Caravan...
Already half-way through the Inter-Continental Caravan – 500 people from the South travelling all through Europe for a month, protesting against wordwide economic structures, activities of multinational corporations, against genitic engineering, wars and nuclair threats. Here in Cologne we’re doing fine, except for all the Bullen in town not even letting you cross a bridge at times. Lots is going on everywhere, so here we go....
Spontaneous actions on GMO in the UK
We received these notes from Katherine about the Caravan in the UK. Sounds
The crowd blocked the lobby and nego-iated for 5 of the farmer leaders, and 3 of us and a translator to go inside. We had a 30 - 45 minute meeting with the director and assis-tant director, both of whom were quite embarrassed and surprised, but civil. The farmers told them they were astonished at the findings of the report and they were so frustrated their point of view was not heard, that they had to come in in such a manner. They said their problem was not production of food- in fact that poor farmers prices were low because of overproduction and that storage was a problem - but distribution, and they criticised genetially engineered crops and intensive agriculture. It was quite late in the day so i don't know what media coverage it got - it certainly got a huge photo and caption in the Guardian (of course!) the next day. Nuffield said they would pass on the message to the bio-ethics council. I picked up a grant applica-tion form in the lobby on the way out, if anyone has a good idea how we could use it (Grassroots South bioethics forum?! ;-)
On the Saturday we took the caravan up to a crop squat, again thanks to the last minute salvation of genius gene-tics cam-paigners, all of whom I will love forever and ever. It was a Monsanto test site in Essex that had been pulled up a few weeks ear-lier by protesters. We walked over the fields and one squatter said when he saw the first Indians coming with their turbans, and pink ribbons on their ban-ners, and chanting, he had tears in his eyes. The genetics people had set up a small camp, with new plantings of vege-tables, infor-mation stands on genetics, tripods, ben-ders, and welcomed us with an Irish jig on fiddles and flutes. Anarchist Teapot, who were also total stars, cooked a big stew for everyone. The police came and were very fluffy, although there seemed to be heli-copter surveillance. We all had tea and sat in the sun swapping stories of genetics and campaigning and generally chatting and enjoying the peace of being out of London. Some activists demonstra-ted lock on and tripod tech-niques to the famers, and swap-ped ban-ners with them. A nice sight - a climber going up the tripod to fly the Pun-jabi far-mers union flag next to the RTS flag already up there. The farmers planted organic vegetables into the earth of the destroyed test site, and watered them. This was in-credibly moving. One of the farmers sang Punjabi songs whilst Dave, an English guy, played the sitan (a type of banjo) and accompanied him. It was a totally beauti-ful combination of western and eastern music, for some reason it really worked. The singer, Jagdish Singh, sang a song about resistance to the British colonial rule, and then the squatters sang an Irish tune on the same theme! Then Jag-dish sang a song which he summarised afterwards saying, "this is a promise to our guru that we will never run away from our fields of battle", and the campers, who were staying overnight in the field, said, "Us too!". We were all blown away by the day, it was really really special. There was a journalist from the Economist who came along with us, and when I asked her what she thought of the crop squat, she said "absolutely bril-liant! I've had more intelli-gent conversa-tions in the last hour than I have had in three months of cafe squat-ting in South Kensington." (i guess that's no guarantee of what the article will be like though).
LOTS of love and stamina to everyone - and i wish for many more moments of inspired genius in the next 3 weeks. See you in Cologne. Katharine
More press coverage
Media attention in the UK has included 4 or 5 pieces in The Guardian; some in the Asian press; 2 BBC radio interviews (one on BBC world service, one BBC south east TV footage, also to go into a documentary on genetics campaign); another Inter Press article („South Asian farmers take protest toLondon" - www.oneworld.org/ips2/ may99/04); the BBC Food programme; pro-bably something in The Big Issue (maga-zine); Head Magazine; Red Pepper. In Italy, Corriere della Sera, the main italian newspaper, published a photo of the white crosses we planted on wednes-day and wrote: "The crosses of misery: An expanse of crosses in Viale Elvezia, word-less Spoon River, to recall the horror of misery and war, of the "neocolonization" of the South, of the unbalance between poor and rich countries, of the ravage caused by some trade agreements. A delegation of "Caravan 99" -an association (sic! demon-strating in these days in several european cities which arrived yester-day to Milan, invited by the Leoncavallo -- wanted to represent all this with a strong image: these mourning white crosses filled the park behind the Arena for the whole day."
Monsanto action in Belgium
Friday the 28th, the ICC was in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, to demonstrate
before the European technical center of Monsan-to. After the "Chez z'elle"
vegetarian meal, a 500 people walk left, strongly squared by the police,
that obliged us to go through an industrial zone poor of workers to avoid
student town where we could have strengthened our troops. Anyhow, some
televisions were present and were interviewing and filming the discussions
between Flemish farmers, already trapped by seeders, and the Indians. A lot
of dishevelled youngs and even some shy NGO's were there (Nature et
Progrès, Oxfam Solidarité ...)
Left Radical Demonstration in Cologne
The left radical movement in Cologne mobilised to a demonstration and a counter-Summit on the actual days of the EU Summit (June 3-4). After difficult negotiations the police and the organizers of the demo had finally reached agreement on a route. However, the police insisted that the two cars with loudspeakers had to be fully searched. Police presence was even higher than during the Euromar-chers' demonstration on Saturdays. Even though the police was permanently escorting the demonstrators, still some Police PR people were spreading leaflets saying: "Everyone has the right to come together and to express one's opinion, in peace and without weapons. It is a task of the police to guarantee this basic right. (...) Ihre Kölner Polizei."
Arriving at the meeting point on Ebertplatz, the ICC group was enthusiastically received by the crowd which reached 3500 participants. Some speeches through the loudspeakers were arranged for some ICC participants: Ghopal (Nepal), Popodu (Karnataka), Diana Damian (Mexico) and the two women from Bangladesh. In Germany you can be charged for things that you say during a demonstration. This was one of the reasons why the cars` windows were covered, to make it more difficult for the police to identify the people speaking. Some of the speaches of the ICC participants were so energetic that people often didn’t even need translation to start applauding or whist-ling. The ICC expressed their solidarity with the large diversity of european struggles present at the demonstartion and called for global resistance against the current economic world-order. One of the most powerfull moments was, when one of the women sang a song of resistance which has been prohibited in Bangladesh.
The demonstration gathered many people from all over Germany and other parts of Europe. She was mostly targeted against fortress Europe and the ´problem´ of immigration - a very hot topic in Germany at the moment, as the German police killed a Sudanese refugee a few days ago when forcing him into a plane back to his country.
Three different Caravans were present at the demon-stration: the ICC, the Geld oder Leben-Caravan (Mone-or-your-Life) and the Caravan for the rights of migrants and refugees, that has started fasting in protest against the death of the Sudanese refugee. The Dutch delegation had showed up with the by now famous „EU-Rot op!" banner. The demonstration was also characterised by opposition to the war, to the high level of police repression in the EU and the capitalist suprana-tional EU-project as such.
The people from the ICC were very tired and went out of the demo a little before the end. At the very end of the demonstra-tion the police provocated the demonstra-tors by arres-ting one person. Everyone stopped in the middle of the street, shouting for this person to be released. The situation seemed to be about to escalate as several hundred policemen surrounded the street in a matter of seconds. Eventually the police showed a bit of intelligence for a change and released the arrested person, allowing the people to finish the demon-stration in peace, with music and nice food. So contrary to many specula-tions the demo didn’t turn into riots in a city filled with 12.000 policemen.
Frauenveranstaltung: a meeting of revolutionary sisters
After the demo (and despite their fatigue), the women went to the Alte Feuerwache (the location of both the Anti-Summits) for a women’s meeting. As we had lost every-one after having left the demo, I took them there, not having a clue about where, what and why. Fortunately we found Chis there, who fetched them some food. Translators in Bengali, Kanada and Spanish were organised, and we found the room. Not bad.
Although I did not plan to stay - ‘frauen-veranstaltung’ did not sound particularly exciting to me (o prejudices!)- I did hang around for a bit and ended up having one of the best evenings so far!!
Anita Sahai had come especially from Aachen to talk about the situation of women in India. She explained about the differences between the North and the South of India. In the South, women generally have more rights than in the North, and they have better access to education. In both North and South, women of higher castes are more restric-ted than women of lower castes. In some cases, women of a very high caste are not even allowed to enter their own living room when there is a visitor. Generally, the situation of women has become harder. The economic situation forces them to work outside of their homes as well. However, this does not lead to a process of emancipation; it merely contributes to the amount of work women have to do, as men will not share in the household chores.
Parvati Kalasannavar (Karnataka) spoke about the struggle, also of women, against seed multinationals on Indian farmer families, and about the health risks of genetically modified food products.
Salomi Mathew (Karnataka) explained that women in India are suppressed first by their parents, then by their husbands, and when they are older by their sons. She also said that this is the general picture, and that there are fortunately also good men. „We need to fight for our rights; not only in India!"
According to Bahnishikha Jamali (Bangla Desh), women in Iran, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh all share the same problems, and are the slaves of their fathers, their husbands and their sons. Despite the female leadership that Bangla Desh has known (two prime ministers), this has not improved the situation of women. The same goes for the involve-ment of many NGOs, who have not been able to get to the heart of the problem, and have not increased the power and the economic emancipation of the women in Bangladesh. The process of globalisation, on the other hand, has increased the economic and sexual exploitation of women.
After greeting her revolutionary sisters, Shamsun Nahar Khan (Bangladesh) explains that women in her country do not possess the economic means to fight. Women sometimes even have to ask permission from their husband or mother-in-law to get a glass of water or some food! They can be chucked out of the house by their husbands, being forced to leave the village without her clothes, without money. However, she said, the harshness of the oppression caused the harshness of the resistance; in this respect, the colonial period is an inspiration for this struggle.
Diana Damian (Mexico) told about how the participation of women in the Zapatista Movement brought them more respect from men. These are only the first steps however; women who first fought for democracy are now fighting for equal rights between men and women. She made a special remark about the situation of lesbian women, that they should not be pushed back in closed rooms to live the way they want to live, but should be able to express themselves and move around freely.
In between the talks had been music, indian dances and a great vocal contri-bution from 3 Karnataka women!
The Caravan reaches Italy!
The following report is by Giuliano from Guiliano:
The busses arrived at 4 PM, so the day started pretty late. Just the time to have a shower and some food -- something that takes hours if you multiply everything by 270 -- and there where two important deadlines: the presentation meeting and an anti-war demonstration, one of the many going on every day in the whole Italian peninsula, from North to South. The presentation meeting went pretty smooth -- the various movements parti-cipating to the Caravan presented them-selves, and there was also some practical issue like giving a map of the city to all indians, together with some reference phone numbers, money change and phone cards distribution.
At the end, we presented the peace demon-stration and asked if people were not too tired after such a long travel -- from Paris to Milan by bus -- to participate in it. At 18.30 there was the demonstration organized in Piazza Castello by the "Women in Black", a mainly female-based peace movement, focusing very much on the human side of war, e.g. WHAT IT COST TO HUMANITY!!! The Caravaneers who felt like participating in it gathered in Leonca's yard and -surprise - it was almost all of them!! We took a free subway because the bus drivers were tired, till the center – the Castle -- where the demonstration was called. At 7 PM a couple of thousand people moved around the park surrounding the castle. After some walk they planted 350 white crosses next to the Arena, to symbolize the children killed in the last days by the folly of NATO bombing and Serbian nationalism. Everything went perfect, but relaxed as everybody was, it got late. So, back again to the Leoncavallo for dinner, then public meeting with the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. This was quite crowded but it was kept to a minimum, so to end by midnight and allow people to rest -- altough some Caravaneers hanged around with us till 3 AM.
The Caravaneers who arrived here are fan-tastic. I really don't know where they got all that energy. They showed an enthusi-asm really unexpected partici-pating to all our initiatives and really communicating with people till late at night, after the meeting. Also, it was a very warm day, so even more tiring. Really, the first italian days start at the best.
However, tomorrow it might be more difficult. This caravan is not really loved by the power and by many others, and there are difficulties with the special train we organized for the visit to Rome. Yesterday, the police said we can't have it, although a few days ago they said precisely the oppo-site. Such a fast change of mind is quite strange: maybe some hidden power powered some lever?
Demonstration at the Stock Exchange
After breakfast, about 500 people gather-ed outside the Leoncavallo for another visit to the center of the city. This time we went to the Stock Echange, one of the largest in Europe and headquarter -- right in these last weeks-- of a huge speculative opera-tion: the supposed merger between Telecom Italia and the Deutsche Telekom, a typical financial operation that stole hundreds of millions dollars from the pockets of the "sheeps" making the "herd" of globalization: the so-called "savers".
The demonstration -- authorized by the police like the demo on wednesday --
started at 11.30. Initially the police would not allow us to demonstrate
right in front of the S.E. -- but then all demonstrators (about 500) raised
their hands and pushed their way trough. After some talking, the police
stepped back and let us pass. So, till brunch-break the square in front of
the S.E., namely called "Piazza Affari", i.e. "Business square", was filled
with the green scarves of KRRS, with coloured vests of indian women, with
turbans of the Sikh and -- of course -- with black protest music from the
Social Centre Leoncavallo.
The Green Trains
In the evening, after a press conference in the afternoon and a general briefing after dinner, 250 caravaneers left for Central Station, where they would demonstrate to state the right to free transportation for political reasons. Again, the police was there, but there was no confrontation. At the end we reached an agreement, e.g. the pay of a symbolic price. OK for the sym-bolic price, we said, but for couchettes. The caravaneers were tired (see below), and they needed a rest also yesterday night. More bargaining, and at the end the issue was solved: couchettes for everybody for 3.100 marks. The Caravan left thus for Rome at about 11 PM. (NB. What we heard is that the action at the FAO in Rome was great, but we’re waiting for a report on that.)
Biotech debates in Irun/Iruña
40 representatives of peasant, fisherfolk, and women´s groups participated in an intense day of protest in Iruña (basque: Irun), as part of the tour which they are performing throughout Europe during the InterContinental Caravan for Solidarity and Resistance. In the morning, there was a press event in the central Castillo Square, with a big array of media, including various TV stations. During this, they exposed the threat which globalisation and free trade agreements imposed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), multina-tionals, and genetically mani-pulated seeds pose towards India and the whole of humanity. In addition, they denounced the situation of women, and the worsening of this situation in the front of the new neoliberal economic order, the situation of traditional fisher-folk, and the megaloma-niac dam projects in the Narmada River Valley in India.
Afterwards, a group left to the Public University, and with the support of the ‚Navarra Platform Against Transgenic‘, they ran to the university with the happy music from trikitixa, carrying out a first "occupation" of the library, in which an Indian peasants told his doubts about the myth of "scientific progress" and denoun-ced those who impose transgenics on us, telling us that peasants already know that transgenics will not solve the pro-blem of world hunger, because hunger is a problem of distribution. Certain acade-mics were indignant, but the vast majority gave a huge ovation. From there they went to the centre of Biotechnology Research which is connected to the university and where experiments with genetically mani-pulated Navarro pepper are being carried out. The centre was occupied and in the end the director agreed to hear the protests of the Indian delegation, and welcome them in his office. A placard which said "trans-genics stop!" was hanged on the wall and the Indian delegation made a sit-in inside the building.
From there they went to the Gaztetxe (Occupied Social Centre) to eat. Every single Caravan participant was invited to eat together with someone else as the Gaztetxe filled up with people wanting to get to know them.
Different media (mainly alternative ones) interviewed 5 of the representative in the Casa de la Solidaridad-Elkartasunaren Etxea (Zabaldi), before joining more than 200 of us again in the Castillo Place to denounce this international economic dis-order, and with the will to create a genuine globalisation, that of the people opposed to this system here, in India, or anyother part of the planet. They ran through several streets until arriving at the Taconera park where there was a symbolic act with the planting of a local species and another from India, there was an exchange of gifts, and more denuncia-tions of the themes already adressed several times before. We ended with a dinner and a party with Basque & Indian songs and dance in the school-farm Illundain in which they were accomodated.
Tuesday the 1st June, they left for Tafalla to visit an organic farm and later they took part in an act of denunciation in the central square of Tudela (Navarra) again, before leaving for Gallur. In parallel to this, 3 other Indians left for Rioja for the whole day.
Action at Max Planck Institute in Cologne
On Friday morning a group of 50 people from the ICC, including Diana from Mexico, Shamsun from Bangladesh, many people from the Cologne action camp along with people from a local anti-gen group paid a vist to the Max Planck Institute in Cologne.
The MPI institute is to 80% funded by public money and does not directly research for the industry, however they provide a lot of basic technique and know-how that is picked up by the industry. It is one of the worlds leading institutes in terms of scientific research. It has been researching the use of GE in agriculture as well.
So we gathered outside of the insitute with our banners. There was hardly any police there. Remember there are 12.000 police-men in the city these days. After some talk with the MPI, the indians accepted an invitation to come and discuss inside in a big auditorium. The represenant of the MPI started a classic lecture on how the use of Genetic Engeneering in agriculture is going to feed the world.
Eventually the microphone was handed over to the ICC. Two farmers said that they were happy that the MPI people were worried about the problem of the world food situation, but that with their traditional agricultural methods indian farmers were more than able to feed their population and that the use of GE in agriculture was totally unnecessary. He compared GE to the experiences with the Green Revolution, giving concrete example in their life, highlighting the dependency created on pesticides, the salinity of the soil, the polluted water and the fact that we had to listen to nature and pre-vail the traditional farming knowledge. There were many verbal exchanges. Shamsun from Bangladesh gave a nice statement as well.
The MPI people insisted on the fact that they didn't have any responsibility, but the politicians! Eventually we were indirectly asked to leave the place, saying the time was over and the police was expecting us to go. By that time two heavy loaded police riot vans had gathered around the building and the police was distributed in the area like army soldiers. We stayed outside the fence for a while putting biohazard stickers all over the place. Chris brought along her latest painting....you'll get to see it in Geneva or Cologne.
Visit to Organic Farm near Berlin
Sided by alot of intersted persons and a journalist, participants of the Interconti-nental Caravan visited the organic farm „Appledream" near Müncheberg. The farm supplies Berlin households with crates, stuffed with organically grown food on a subscription base. The Indian visitors asked many ques-tions about costs, techniques and the struggle against diseases in organic agriculture, and about the breeding of livestock under an ecological perspective.
Lunch we had at „Oecolea", a rural commune, only a couple of miles away. After we had been presented some pro-jects running in the commune, the people from the Caravan met with local anti-GMO activists, discussing the problems of genetically manipulated seeds – lasting for only one year, not being able to promul-gate itself, but still expelling old and highly resistant traditional seeds from the indian market. This drives Indian farmers into debt & dependency with multinatio-nal companies such as Mon-santo and AgreVo. Such developments are contra-dictory to their views of self-determination and self-sufficiency in agriculture, barring their ways to real independence from western european and northern american industrial nations.
In a forum-discussion, organised for the evening as a part of the internationalist days in the Berlin Technical University, such views were restated with even stronger force.
This update is a compilation of the reports and press releases that we have been receiving from different places. For more information on the ICC events, you can contact the local groups, or the Cologne press office:
European Press office: tel: +49 173/ 419 74 64 or +49 221 9816711