. . .
The fraudulent alienation of the state domains, the robbery of the common
lands, the usurpation of feudal and clan property, and its transformation into
modern private property under circumstances of reckless terrorism, were just
so many idyllic methods of primitive accumulation.—Karl Marx, Capital
When I traveled to Colombia in 2004, at the invitation of Coca-Cola
workers from the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria
de Alimentos (National Union of Food and Beverage Workers, SINAL-
TRAINAL), it was the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade
unionist. For several years, labor leaders had alleged that clandestine
paramilitary groups were murdering and terrorizing them and union
members with the collusion of Coca-Cola Company management. A
lawsuit filed by SINALTRAINAL in U.S. federal court had charged Coca-
Cola with gross human rights violations, and the union, feeling its back
to the wall, was desperately trying to build international support for a
campaign against Coca-Cola that would pressure the corporation and
the Colombian government to stop the repression that was rapidly
eroding the ranks of union membership. Coming on the heels of the
1999 protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle—the so-
called Battle of Seattle—the efforts of SINALTRAINAL to focus interna-
tional attention on the crimes taking place in Colombia, amid a vicious,
decades-long civil war, struck me as a compelling aspect of what was
still referred to as the “global social justice movement.”
The leaders of SINALTRAINAL sent me off on a five-city tour in which
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