Battle In Seattle
(Looking Back Seven Years)
By Mickey Z.
30 October, 2006
When activists made global headlines
by essentially shutting down the meetings of the World Trade Organization
(WTO) in Seattle in late 1999, the term "anti-globalization"
was bandied about without much serious explanation. The majority of
those in the streets were not against the literal concept of global
interaction; it was the current form of remote control imperialism euphemistically
known as trade or globalization that inspired the demonstrations.
Created in 1995, the WTO is a bonanza for corporate profit that slipped
in under the public radar. "Most of America slept right through
the birth of this 134-nation organization, including many in Congress
who voted to ratify U.S. membership," says Mark Weisbrot, Research
Director of the Preamble Center, in Washington, D.C. "In the fall
of 1994 Ralph Nader's Public Citizen offered $10,000 to any member of
Congress that would read the 500-page treaty and answer ten simple questions
to prove it. Senator Hank Brown of Colorado, a Republican who had voted
for NAFTA and planned to vote for the WTO, took the bet. He passed the
quiz with a perfect score, collected the winnings (for a charity of
his choice), and then proceeded to announce that having read the agreement,
he felt compelled to vote against it."
Brown's vote was not enough. Thus, when the truth about the WTO eventually
became more widely know, the only vote left was by raising hell. The
organization's decision to hold its annual meeting in Seattle provided
activists with the stage they needed to be heard by millions.
It wasn't perfect protestors feuded over goals, issues, and tactics.
Even the mainstream media recognized that paradox, with the Los Angeles
Times stating: "Leaders of the peaceful demonstrations have lashed
out at the anarchists, accusing them of undermining their anti-globalism
(sic) message by breaking windows and destroying property. The anarchists
in turn accused the Seattle protesters of protecting the same private-property
interests that the WTO represents."
Infighting and compromises aside, those five days in Seattle injected
American dissidents into an internationalist movement. In their book,
³5 Days That Shook the World: Seattle and Beyond,² Jeffrey
St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn declared that the "street warriors"
who were "initially shunned and denounced by respectable 'inside
strategists,' scorned by the press, gassed and bloodied by the cops
and national guard" were able to: shut down the opening ceremony;
prevent President Bill Clinton from addressing the WTO delegates; get
the corporate press to actually mention police brutality, and force
the cancellation of closing ceremonies.
Chuck Munson of Infoshop has listed the many accomplishments of the
movement, post-Seattle. These include the international Indymedia network;
the return of a direct action, confrontational style of protest; putting
organizations like the WTO, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund
under the microscope; establishing the Internet as an activist's most
valuable tool of communication; and inspiring millions across the globe
to put their passions into action. As Michael Albert of ZNet has articulated,
the goal is to globalize equity not poverty, solidarity not anti-sociality,
diversity not conformity, democracy not subordination, and ecological
balance not suicidal rapaciousness. "In the present circumstances,"
Arundhati Roy adds, "I'd say that the only thing worth globalizing
To that, I'll add: the only thing worth diversifying is dissent.
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.
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