One Year After Seattle
November 30, 2000 12:47 AM   Subscribe

One Year After Seattle -- "A year has passed since the World Trade Organization's "Millennium Round" collapsed under clouds of tear gas in Seattle," writes Mark Weisbrot, in this useful overview of what was -- and is -- at stake. "The debate over globalization has been altered, perhaps permanently, to include some of the concerns of civil society: poverty and inequality, economic instability, and the environmental costs of globalization...."
posted by johnb (30 comments total)
Also, I highly recommend This is What Democracy Looks Like -- an inspiring, action-packed film about the N30 demonstrations. Here is a list of screenings throughout the US and Europe over the next few days. You can also order a VHS version for $25.

Shameless marketing copy:

"This Is What Democracy Looks Like is a truly ground-breaking accomplishment. With beautiful graphics, a passionate narrative, and stunning writing, it embodies the spirit of the protests."
-Naomi Klein

"As the winds of change blow ever stronger across this land, This Is What Democracy Looks Like can be regarded as THE documentary account of the first great political democratic struggle of the 21st century."
-Robert McChesney
posted by johnb at 12:50 AM on November 30, 2000

Its about to go down here again, too. Protesters say they are planning to visit every year at this time until something is done. The Mayor and city council say they won't be making the same mistakes they did last year (guess theyll be new ones!)
Good thing I don't work downtown!!

posted by black8 at 1:21 AM on November 30, 2000

"The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood.

All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe.

In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures there arises a world literature". - From Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto 1948

Hmm seems Marx forsaw globalisation long before anyone had ever conceived of the concept of a multinational corporation.

He also spoke of its ill effects on the masses: "The modern laborer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the progress of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident, that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society".

However, his prescription for uplifting the living conditions of the masses through collective ownership of the instruments of production has not fared well in all its manifestations in the twentieth century. Perhaps the very best we can hope for is a more level playing field between capital and labor in the developing world. This is where groups like S11 can make a great contribution through raising awareness about the excesses of global capital in these emerging markets.

posted by murray_kester at 1:54 AM on November 30, 2000

N30: read about - listen to - starbucks - schell - possibly watch - noise!
posted by gluechunk at 2:06 AM on November 30, 2000

I work downtown. Our building management has issued a notice that in the event of violence, the property may be locked down. That means if you leave the building for lunch, you had better take your access keys with you, because you might not be able to get back into the building.

What, exactly, do the protesters who will be returning to Seattle "every year" until "something is done" want Seattle to do about it? Last I checked the Federal government, which is the only entity with power to "do something" is in the other Washington. Do you suppose the protesters are just really, really bad at geography?
posted by kindall at 3:01 AM on November 30, 2000

I have a friend that just goes for the sake of protesting, says it's very nice company, make friends and all that. Small protests have hardly been all that effective, besides getting on tv, for the 20 seconds that the tonight's news, your average family will think nothing more of it than a buch of nuts having nothing to do but slack off.
posted by tiaka at 5:01 AM on November 30, 2000

Damn globilization. . . destroying the biosphere. . . oppressing poor workers in China. . . what can we do about it?. . .what can we do?. . .Wait, I've got it. Let's all go downtown and smash up a Starbucks! When the bourgeoisie can't find a latte, that'll really get their attention.
posted by CRS at 6:08 AM on November 30, 2000

I work pretty close to downtown (at the bottom of Capitol Hill--in one of the "Twin Toasters" for you Seattleites). I predict it'll be a yawner (although if any of you stinky hippies out there want to prove me wrong and get me sent home, that's cool . . . I got tear-gassed last year trying to walk home, so I'm ready for anything).

My question is, am I a horrible, jaded person for wishing that the protesters would all just get lost and find something useful to do? It was with a dreary sense of deja vu that I walked to work this morning, observing various doorways with backpack-wielding granolaheads sleeping in them, snoring into their ridiculous whitey dreadlocks.

Hmmm. I seem to have some issues. I just previewed this post, and you sure wouldn't know from reading it that I'm a leftie.
posted by Skot at 8:33 AM on November 30, 2000

Your "average family" judges protesters as slackernuts not by how many of them there are, but by what they're protesting. Faced with a large WTO protest in Seattle, your "average family's" reaction is something like, "Gee, there sure are an awful lot of those slackernuts, aren't there?"
posted by kindall at 8:35 AM on November 30, 2000

There is a fundemental problem with the kind of protest that we witnessed in Seattle and Swtizerland over the past 12 months; the problem is this - protesting outside a building that contains the representatives of global capitalism is ineffective in that the machinery of capitalism will continue with ot without them; what is required is local protest on a samaller scale in smaller communities all over the world.

Interesteing examples of this can be found all over the world. There are areas in Europe, for example, where postive non-conformity has produced the result that people in communities in Ireland, Britain, France , Germany , Holland etc, have forced central authorities(and the economic system that props it up) to withdraw and allow these communities live how(and even where) they want.

Like everything 'charity begins at home' just as non-conformity begins at home - if enough people pull out and live 'humane lives' many of the problems that we witness around the world(thrid world proverty, eco-destruction, colonial wars etc) will simply disappear over time.
posted by druadh at 8:40 AM on November 30, 2000

All you folks critiqing the protestors style, choice of venue and politics, must concede one point. Last year, they got their message across via international media play and stopped the Seattle WTO conference. Before you go telling them how to do it better, ask yourselves, have you ever done anything remotely that big?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:15 AM on November 30, 2000

I agree with you Capt., but I already have an almost pathological hatred of cops and I'm not really interested in getting my head smashed in by some deputized hick from out of town with something to prove.
On the other hand, I was appalled by the reaction of the local media. As I recall, only one station tried to explain why the protests were happening in the first place, the rest having someting akin to Skot's attitude.
I remember seeing one lady interviewed on TV and she was bummed 'cause she couldn't do her X-mas shopping.
I was also thought the protest at the King County jail was kinda stupid, chanting about 'Solidarity with all prisoners' sounded dumb.
Some of my friends went downtown as a way of gaining some 'street-cred'. Getting gassed as a way of standing up the The Man.
In my opinion the last year's protests started out anti-WTO and then turned into an anti-police protest and a right to protest protest.
Democracy can be ugly and messy sometimes-I just hope the message doesn't get lost.
posted by black8 at 10:37 AM on November 30, 2000

hey black, bring a bike helmet.
posted by snakey at 12:10 PM on November 30, 2000

Oh dear, how very disappointing. I was hoping for a bit of reasoning. Alas: so far, no substantive commentary from the anti-protester contingent. In any case, here are some possible avenues for reasoned discussion:

1) Evidence for the claim that, given the cause, it would have been more effective not to have protested on N30.

2) Evidence for the claim that the cause itself is misguided -- i.e., the claim that the kind of trade promoted by the WTO will actually lead to *less* economic inequality, environmental degradation, and so forth.

I have to admit a bias: I believe both claims are absurd. However, I am always interested in detailed historical or statistical arguments that cause me to rethink my positions.

Then again, rightist slackernuts have a reputation for intellectual laziness, so I suppose I shouldn't expect too much ;)

PS - oh, and here's a hint to get you started: the N30 protest happened last year, not this year. That's right, November 30, 1999. All that's happening today is a celebration of the first year anniversary. Hope that helps.
posted by johnb at 12:23 PM on November 30, 2000

Here's my contribution, as lifted from the now defunct (remember them?):

No issues will get out, not as long as the police crack down and the mainstream media focus on that instead of ideologies, which don't really sell papers anyway. And the protesters sabotage themselves, just by getting arrested. They become the news items instead of the banners they're holding. And ain't that America, ain't that irony. People have truly become the products, not ideas.

I wish I'd lifted the whole article, since now unless the author would like to magically appear and supply the rest, it's dust in the wind, dude.

Anyway, this swatch will have to do. I agree with the author on one point. Notice how "the media" always manages to single out the one goof in the crowd who can't string a sentence together to be the "spokesperson" for the greater protest? Or is it just me?
posted by ethmar at 1:06 PM on November 30, 2000

The movements for women's rights, (domestic) labor rights, civil rights, and so forth, were all initially plagued by the same kind of obscenely distorting media attention that now plagues the "seattle coalition". And yet the consensus view -- among historians who have studied the subject -- is that these movements have been successful in achieving social change. I see no reason to presume a priori that this movement will fail where comparable movements have succeeded in overcoming negative media coverage.
posted by johnb at 1:43 PM on November 30, 2000

JohnB: I hope I am not the "rightist slackernut" you are trying to draw out. I am guessing I am not, since almost every argument we every had was about clogged streets.
Iamintellectually lazy tho, but that goes hand in hand with being anti-intellectual. Lalala, Happy Anniversary
posted by thirteen at 2:05 PM on November 30, 2000

I might be the "rightist slackernut" since I'm the guy who first used the term in the thread. Although, calling me "rightist" would be a gross oversimplification.

Leaving aside the questions of whether or not globalization should be stopped, and whether the "N30" protest was an effective way to derail the process, a more immediate question is whether the process can be stopped. My take is that anyone who throws themselves in the path of the globalization juggernaut is just wasting their time and energy. There's too much power behind it for a mere handful of people to stop it. Of course, I'd never dream of telling anyone how to waste their own time and energy.
posted by kindall at 2:24 PM on November 30, 2000

There's too much power behind it for a mere handful of people to stop it

Hey, Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star™ single-handedly, I seent it.

posted by ethmar at 2:41 PM on November 30, 2000

>>calling me "rightist" would be a gross oversimplification

Given the rest of your post, I think not. You are basically reciting the right-wing talking points -- in particular, Margaret Thatcher's TINA: "There Is No Alternative." Of course, in truth there are infinitely many alternatives to the current set of rules, and with a bit of effort, we will have new rules in a generation or two. Remember that earlier in the 20th century, before people started organizing seriously, ideas along the lines of the New Deal sounded impossibly utopian. But the ruling class is never completely immune to public pressure. This holds true whether the government is straightforwardly autocratic, or has the formal trappings of democracy, as our system does.

Actually, thirteen, I am intrigued by your quaint interest in traffic issues. And I have nothing but respect for your original point of view, which is thankfully not contaminated by "talking points".
posted by johnb at 3:00 PM on November 30, 2000

johnb: You assume that just because I think it's inevitable that I'm in favor of it. That would be a mighty big assumption. I'm rather ambivalent about it, actually. I see good, I see bad, I'm not entirely sure of how it all comes out on balance.

There are certainly infinitely many alternatives to the current set of rules, but it's not as easy to get the locomotive to jump onto a different set of tracks as you seem to think it is. Not without getting crushed under its wheels, anyway.
posted by kindall at 3:08 PM on November 30, 2000

Check it out, ya'll, the (smarmy, biased, evil) CATO institute says the WTO is just fine. You kids! You kids get back to school! Leave the big jobs to us!

WTO Report Card II: An Exercise or Surrender of U.S. Sovereignty?

In part, the summary reads: Critics across the political spectrum allege that the World Trade Organization undermines the ability of the United States to determine its own trade, tax, environmental, and foreign policy. But an examination of how the WTO really works reveals that no such threat exists to U.S. sovereignty. The WTO is a contract organization that arbitrates disputes among its members on the basis of rules that all have agreed to follow. Like every other member, the United States has the power to veto any agreement of which it disapproves.

Ahem, horseshit. Thankyougoodnight.

posted by capt.crackpipe at 4:28 PM on November 30, 2000

Well, you can bend over and let the corporate apologists assfuck you or not. I prefer 'not'.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 7:56 PM on November 30, 2000

Mr. skullhead - LOL, exactly so, well said.

The most annoying people on earth are those so-called "liberals" who read a few Tom Friedman/Paul Krugman op-eds, spew forth the party line, and then patiently await elite approval. They're pathetic, and they always will be pathetic until they make an effort to get up off their knees.
posted by johnb at 8:30 PM on November 30, 2000

Capt -- yes, horseshit indeed. For the Cato Institute, "sovereignty" essentially means "protecting investors from popular interference." WTO is quite good at that, true enough!
posted by johnb at 8:46 PM on November 30, 2000

The last line is so very true. the United States has the power to veto any agreement. Yep they do. But that doesn’t mean the agreement isn’t binding. One country, one vote, and if the motion passes, it becomes WTO law. The agreement becomes binding and no country has any recourse to dissent it.

Hey CATO, thanks for the propoganda! Anybody know how I can flip them off from my computer?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:22 PM on November 30, 2000

What does it really mean to "protect investors from popular interference" when the two parties involved in that statement are the same groups of people, as is increasingly the case?
posted by kindall at 11:33 AM on December 1, 2000

Jeesus. Not so, Kindall. That’s a terrible myth. Doug Henwood: relying on figures supplied by the Federal Reserve, shows just how it is that the rich get richer while everyone else is happy just to stay in place. The richest 1/2% of Americans control 29% of all financial wealth - more than the poorest 90% of the population (which controls just 23%). The top 5% of stockholders control 95% of all the stock held by individuals. Yet somehow we're being led to believe that the 1990s mutual fund mania has led to a democratization of finance. Some democracy.

Here’s the Survey of Consumer Finanaces which says just that.

You make a lot of outlandish statements without backing them up.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:16 PM on December 1, 2000

JOHNB: I went to the This is What Democracy Looks Like screening/party tonight. That film is amazingly well done! I was expecting a little more than some footage pasted together. It was the total opposite. Very good! NY Indymedia had some other clips from rallies in Cinncy, NY, Prague (those Czecks are nuts!) and Melbourne. Very inspiring. The dj that put the soundtrack together spun after the screening.

A wonderful film! Everyone go see it!

Do you know anything about the Indian women they interviewed throughout the film? She seemed to embody the movement. Painfully intelligent, and always wore a smile.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:02 AM on December 2, 2000

Capt -- Yeah, that movie kicks ass. I saw it in the cinema a few months ago, then got a VHS version for purposes of proselytizing my extended family over the holidays ;)

I think the Indian women you are referring to is Vandana Shiva, author of Stolen Harvest, which is a nice, brief overview of the impact of intellectual property issues (within agriculture) on the environment and third world living standards etc.

Also check out Shiva's Reith Lectures, referred to in this thread...
posted by johnb at 11:42 PM on December 3, 2000

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