World Trade Organization Meets in Seattle

Between November 29 and December 3 1999, Seattle, Washington will experience what is being billed as "The Protest of the Century". The World Trade Organization is having its Third Ministerial Meeting there, and a wide spectrum of malcontents is promising to show up and spoil the party. All flights, buses, trains and hotels are booked up.

Previous events augur well for this demonstration. The North West in general and Eugene in particular have seen a growing movement of disaffection ranging from defending forests to contesting gentrification by various means including riot and sabotage. The anti-WTO protestors are in a good position to question the moralism which plagues most opposition in the USA. For example, anti-imperialism -- opposing powerful countries and supporting weak ones -- makes no sense in this movement. Hopefully, it will lead some of the third-worldists to reconsider, and realize the enemy is the world capitalist order, not just its metropolitan centers. The WTO has for instance enabled puny Venezuela to force the USA to repeal some of its environmental laws, which harmed Venezuela's oil industry. It has forced the European Union to import American beef treated with carcinogenic hormones. It really is a world-government type organization, ruling in favor of free trade, not of the "oppression" of some nations by others. A good example of the politics of some of the protestors can be found at Even the thread of massive demonstrations and various other kinds of action have caused serious concern to the powers that be. Acccording to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, "Political Leaders Fear Oponents Have Gained Upper Hand". Chevron took out an ad New York Times, defending Free Trade, in response to the WTO's critics.

On the other hand, the demonstrations will be diverse. There will be trade unionists arguing for protectionism, in other words, nationalism, anarcho-veggie types moralizing about MacDonald's, and all manner of special interest groups trying to hijack the bandwagon. Everything, in fact, except what you find on our website: a class analysis generously sprinkled with a critique of civilization. Another weakness may be that the authorities have had several months to prepare. The official organizers of the demonstration have included among the principles: "no violence, either physical or verbal; no weapons; no drugs or alcohol; and no property damage". They may be tempted to collaborate with the authorities in suppressing those who don't agree with all of these principles. As Senator Murray put it "The labor community is going to have a demonstration, and that's great, the environmentalists will do the same, and that's a good way to express opinion, but what I don't want the outside world to see is burning of cars or something that presents the wrong image" -- Z Magazine, Nov 1999. However, it should be possible to bring this cogwheel of capitalism to a standstill.

Still, we are notoriously bad at prediction, particularly where the future is concerned. We don't know what's going to happen. We can only say go to Seattle, and if you can't be good, be careful.