Column Written 12/3/99
Mumia Abu-Jamal
All Rights Reserved

If they [NGOs-Non-Governmental Organizations] are allowed to hijack the World Trade Organization talks, it will be a dangerous precedent that every governmentand every global company will regret long after the protests in Seattle." Business Week magazine

The spectre of tens of thousands of workers, environmentalists, human rights activists and anarchists, seizing the streets of Seattle, was a stirring sight indeed. Their opposition to the antidemocratic, corporation-heavy World Trade Organization earned them the enmity of the corporate media, and the vocal condemnation of corporate politicians. The WTO, the successor organization to the GATT-General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, functions as a virtual shadow government, in fact a Super-government, that rides roughshod over the national and state concerns seeking to protect the wages of workers, insure environmental standards, and protect collective bargaining gains. To the extent that the WTO consists of a collection of governments, it in fact protects corporate interests: the primary interest of capital, over and above all other interests. In this context, the demonstrations were a welcome and powerful corrective, expressing the views of the many, not protecting the interests of the few. Much can be said about the much-maligned anarchists that rocked the mid-city, by attacking the shimmering edifices of capital.

The press leaped at the opportunity to call them "thugs," or "hooligans," who were involved in "violence." What is missing from the reportage, of course, is that those young folks attacked property, not other beings. Meanwhile, the state, through its police, attacked persons, kicking them, gassing them, beating them, and jailing them. What, one wonders, is the greatest form of "violence?" But, in the world projected by the corporationist media, state violence isn't real violence. Only individuals who are unaffiliated with the state can therefore be truly violent. What madness!

John Cavanaugh, from the Institute for Public Studies, speaking at a public meeting in Seattle around the time of the demonstrations, likened the powerful anti-capitalist, anti-WTO demonstrations to another well-known act of violent civil disobedience that marked the beginning of the American Revolution. That act of Civil Disobedience is now known as the Boston Tea Party, where Americans demonstrated against the trade domination of the British, by blackening their faces (to hide their identity), dressing like Indians (to hide their ethnicity), and by destroying over 30,000 pounds of British Tea, by throwing boxes, bundles, and bales into the Boston Harbor. Their lament? Taxation Without Representation. To the Brits and their Tory sympathizers, this was the action of "thugs," "hooligans" and "ruffians," no doubt. But what did they contribute to the public spirit of resistance to the British Empire? The length and breadth of capitalist corporation's control over the lands, resources, and labor of millions of people in the US and abroad (especially in the so-called Third World) makes the grievance of Americancolonists against the British look remarkably petty.

The WTO is the unelected, privately-dominated body that undermines democracy by its very existence. They make the rules under which the world's vast economy is organized. And all must submit to this economic power, despite local, national and/or regional laws to the contrary. For the only "law" that they respect is the primacy of profit. Capital makes the rules; labor dances to their tune. Consider, how very quickly (overnight in fact!) Seattle cops created what was termed a so-called "Protest Free Zone" in the very heart of a major American city, to "protect" the interests of foreigners, diplomats and businessmen, of some 50 square blocks! A "protest free zone," is by necessity, a "First Amendment-Free Zone," with the word "free" meaning as little as the term used in discussing "free trade." In what part of the United States does the U.S. Constitution not apply? In whose interest was this cordon sanitaire established? The citizens of Seattle, or the monied gentry of global capital?

Seattle revealed the fault line underlying the lie of the great economic "miracle" of the 1990s. It revealed the justifiable fears and anxieties at the heart of millions of American workers. It revealed who politicians work for. It revealed the nature of the police. It can, it should be, a beginning.


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