by Mickey Z.
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
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 perfectâ€¹or anything even close. Different factions within the
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, Â³5
Days That Shook the World: Seattle and Beyond,Â² 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 is
To that, I'll add: the only thing worth diversifying is dissent.