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
It wasn't perfect or 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,
5 Days That Shook the World: Seattle and Beyond, 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 dissent."
To that, I'll add: the only thing worth diversifying is dissent.
is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions
You're Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found
on the Web at: