Attack on Inequality
Dialogue with Bernhard Obermayr, proponent and founding member of ATTAC Austria
[This dialogue originally published in "die arbeit", Nr.5 May 2001 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.uhudla.at/news/2001/05_attac/attac.htm.]
If civil society in the progressive sense made itself felt in the past in movements in the areas of ecology and the third world, the mechanism of capital exploitation in the narrower sense is emphasized in current initiatives. One of these groups active in Austria is ATTAC. Bernhard Obermayr, economist and ATTAC-proponent, is questioned on the background and goals of this organization.
When was ATTAC founded, by whom and with what goal?
Bernhard Obermayr: ATTAC was founded in June 1998 in France under the pressure of the disastrous Asian crisis. The starting point was an article in the newspaper "Le Monde Diplomatique" which called for a citizen's movement to introduce a Tobin tax. As a result, ATTAC spread very quickly in France and leaped over to other countries. ATTAC is now active in nearly 30 countries of Europe, Africa and Latin America.
The political demands were also expanded in the course of the organizational expansion of ATTAC. Instead of the exclusive orientation in the Tobin tax, the more general approach of a basic regulation of the international financial markets became the focus of attention. The demands arose for abolishing tax oases, debt remission for poor countries and democratization of international financial institutions. A counter-design to the neoliberal globalization was proposed.
When was ATTAC first active in Austria? What organizational initiatives are underway? Who supports your projects?
Bernhard Obermayr: In Austria, ATTAC was founded in November 2000. ATTAC Austria organized as an association of regional and substantive groups exists in almost all states. Groups are occupied with pension reform, questions of tax justice, financial markets from a feminist perspective ("feminist ATTAC") and the Tobin tax. ATTAC is supported by a huge number of organizations, unions, Christian organizations, solidarity groups and economists.
How are theoretical and practical work related in the conception of ATTAC?
Bernhard Obermayr: ATTAC grapples with the central questions of neoliberal globalization and gives theoretically sound answers to these challenges. These analyses and alternatives are brought into the political discussion. We plan the publication of brochures, regularly give lectures at schools, adult classes and universities, organize public events and offer workshops for political organizations. We can gain a certain media presence for our demands through well-placed, invigorating actions and press newscasts.
What is ATTAC's main goal in political work? What is your organization's relation to parties, unions and NGOs (non-governmental organizations)?
Bernhard Obermayr: Our work in Austria is concentrated on building a powerful organization, spreading information and constructing a network of support organizations. ATTAC seeks to cooperate with parties, unions and NGOs. Collaborations occurred with the jubilee year 2000, the poverty conference and the SOS partnership. Political lobbying work with the German government is only beginning.
What are your next goals?
Bernhard Obermayr: The further organizational building of ATTAC is the most important step. Substantively we will focus on the themes of ATTAC and feed the political discussion with as many sources as possible... One vital event is the World Economic Forum (WEF) from July 1-3 in Salzburg. The forum will enable us to bring alternative conceptions of globalization in the debate. On the European plane, lobby work concentrates on introducing the Tobin tax and closing down tax oases.