Richard Moore

From: "Int'l Network on Disarmament and Globalization" <•••@••.•••>
To: "MIL-CORP" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: [mil-corp] Susan George on Seattle
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 18:18:25 -0800
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Network Members:

We were very fortunate to have Susan George appear on our panel on The WTO
and the Global war System. Here is an article by her looking back on

Steve Staples

 Le Monde diplomatique
January 2000


        After the WTO fiasco at Seattle, many neoliberal commentators set
about rewriting history. They said, somewhat improbably, that the US had
emerged victorious and Europe and the countries of the South had lost out,
Europe because it had not managed to table new rules and the South because
it had failed to get more markets opened in the North. In fact, despite
suitable noises from President Clinton, the failure of the trade talks
shows the limits of Washington's power in the WTO, where for the first time
delegates from the South turned the consensus rule to their advantage. As
for the Fifteen and the European Commission, it is true that they had
wanted to extend the agenda, but only in order to deregulate more areas for
the benefit of their own multinationals. The true victors at Seattle are
the citizens' movements. They have struck a blow against the proposal to
use trade as a means of general deconstruction of all collectives and
governments of the South, of whatever persuasion, that have now staked a
claim to full partnership in the future. This is the birth of world public
opinion. What we need now is national and international recognition of the
peoples' elected representatives. - B. C.


The civic movement's success in Seattle is a mystery only to those who had
no part in it. Throughout 1999, thanks primarily to the Internet, tens of
thousands of people opposed to the World Trade Organisation (WTO)  united
in a great national and international effort of organisation. Anyone  could
have a front seat, anyone could take part in the advance on Seattle.  All
you needed was a computer and a rough knowledge of English.

The main rallying point was the StopWTORound distribution list. This put
people in touch with the whole movement and enabled them to get their
names on other more specialised lists. Among the most useful were those  of
the Corporate European Observatory in Amsterdam - unbeatable on the  links
between lobbies of transnational firms and United States or European  trade
negotiators - and the Third World Network and its director, Martin  Khor,
with its detailed information on the positions of Southern  governments and
everything that was brewing at the WTO's Geneva  headquarters. A number of
institutions published regular information  bulletins: the International
Centre for Sustainable Trade and Development  (ICSTD) in Geneva, the
Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)  in Minneapolis, and Focus
on the Global South in Bangkok. Many  enthusiasts from various countries,
like retired Canadian trucker Bob  Olson, located and circulated vital
items of information from all over the  web.

Add to this the frequent Internet updates on national anti-WTO movements
in Europe, Australia, Canada, the US and India, and the slightly less
frequent updates from Africa, Latin America and Asia, and you begin to
have some idea of the volume of information available and the work of
thousands of militants-turned-experts - conferences, symposiums and
seminars, leaflets and articles, interviews and press releases.

Army of equals

In France outstanding work was done by the Association pour la taxation
des transactions financières pour l'aide aux citoyens (Attac), whose
international meetings in June 1999 - including a high-profile WTO element
- were attended by delegations from 80 countries (1), and by Coordination
pour le contrôle citoyen de l'OMC (CCC-OMC), which covers 95  organisations
including the Confédération paysanne, Droits Devant!, the  Fédération des
finances CGT, and the FSU, and has the political support of  the Greens,
the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (LCR) and the  Communist Party.

In the international division of work prior to Seattle, Friends of the
Earth in  London had undertaken to gather signatures from 1,500
organisations in 89  countries calling for a moratorium on the trade
negotiations and a complete  review of the operation of the WTO with full
citizen participation. Mike  Dolan of Public Citizen, an organisation
founded by Ralph Nader in  Washington DC, had been busy on the ground in
Seattle since the spring of  1999, locating and booking the venues that
would be needed to  accommodate a huge number of meetings. In San
Francisco, the  International Forum on Globalisation was putting the
finishing touches to  its 26-27 November teach-in, at which speakers from
all the continents  took it in turns in turns to address an enthusiastic
audience of 2,500  crammed into the Bennaroya Symphony Hall.

For months thousands of people had followed training courses in non-
violent protest organised by the Direct Action Network (Dan) (a collective
of environmental and political activists). In the run-up to the WTO
meeting, the Dan repository at 420 East Denny Avenue, Seattle, had  become
the focus for an army of equals. Separate teams had been formed  to take
charge in each of the 13 sectors surrounding the conference centre.  Their
members, all prepared to be arrested, were in place at 7 a.m. on the  first
day and blocked the opening session.

Artists had set to work well in advance on huge puppets and models that
lent a festive air to an otherwise deeply political event. Students from
dozens of universities, including nearby Washington State University,
returned in force to the American political scene, concerned by the damage
to the environment and the exploitation of third world workers and children
 (as a result inter alia of a campaign against sweat shops called Clean

Even more surprising, in the light of recent US history, was the Sweeney-
Greenie alliance named after John Sweeney, the leader of the powerful
trade union group AFL-CIO, and the Greens. Ever since the Vietnam war,
trade unionists and environmentalists had been on opposite sides of the
political fence. For organised labour, ecology was synonymous with leftist
policies and unemployment. They sank their differences, however, and  made
common cause against the WTO. For the first time pacifists and  human
rights campaigners, too, were disturbed by the harmful  consequences of
globalisation and joined in the anti-WTO movement. And  Via Campesina, a
network representing peasant movements in 65  countries, also had a date in
Seattle. This coalition of the century was  completed by many foreign
delegations, the two largest being those from  France and Canada.

In short, everyone was ready except the police, who looked like something
out of Star Wars and acted in a way that was quite over the top. There is
evidence, often backed up by photos or videos, of police provocation,
coercion and collusion with "anarchist elements" that were in fact simply
hooligans and wreckers.

Whole districts and blocks of buildings, old people and children, were
attacked with pepper and other (as yet unidentified) gases. Five hundred
and eighty people were arrested, and many of them were roughed up and  kept
in solitary confinement for more than 48 hours in defiance of the  American

Millennium Round stillborn

Thanks to Washington's intransigence on agriculture and Europe's wish to
add a raft of new items (investment, competition policy, environment,
public contracts, etc) to the agenda; thanks to the revolt of
representatives  of the South, outraged at being excluded from the
negotiations (see article  by Agnes Sinai); and finally thanks to the
protest movement, the  Millennium Round was stillborn. However, the WTO
still has a remit,  under the decisions taken at the Marrakesh ministerial
conference in 1994,  to resume at any time discussions on agriculture and
services, including  health, education, and "environmental and cultural
services", whatever that  may mean. The Trips agreement on intellectual
property is also to be  reopened, including the patenting of living

The instant people got back from Seattle, they all had their two
pennyworth to say on the theme "things will never be the same again". And
it is true. It was a defining moment, a beginning, but we must build on it
without delay because the forces of neoliberalism, humiliated and
determined to get their own back, will lose no time in regrouping. In other
 words, the popular movement may have gained time and scored a fine
victory, but it has not yet got the moratorium and review it was seeking.
The European Commission is anxious to resume negotiations "between
responsible people" who have not budged an inch on the principle of free
trade and commerce in the service of the transnationals. They will meet
again, if possible behind closed doors, and will make sure opponents of out
 and out globalisation do not get another media platform like Seattle.

The basic strategy vis-à-vis governments, the European Commission, the  WTO
itself and the transnationals must be to maintain vigilance, keep up  the
mobilisation and pressure, and mount an offensive of counter-proposals
with the ultimate objective of building genuine international democracy.
This will call for a sustained collective effort, for discussion and
action. It  cannot be planned in every detail at this time.

It should nevertheless be possible to agree on some principles at once.
Trade must have no place in areas such as health, education and culture in
the broadest sense of the term. The case of hormone-fed beef is a perfect
illustration of the WTO's refusal to exercise due precaution. So, if there
is  any doubt as to the harmlessness of a product, the burden of proof must
in  future lie with the exporter. No living organism must be patentable and
any  country must be free to manufacture and distribute basic medicaments
in its  own territory. Food safety and the integrity of peasant communities
are  more important than trade.

The proceedings of the WTO body for the settlement of disputes must be
subject to recognised principles of international law: human rights,
multilateral agreements on the environment, the basic conventions of the
International Labour Organisation (ILO). There must be an end to the  WTO's
refusal to discriminate on the basis of processes and methods of
production (PMPs): we must be free to give preference to products that
have not been made by children or semi-slaves.

The question is how to break the sterile North-South deadlock on the
social and environmental clauses? With a jealous eye to the only halfway
effective bargaining counter they have - low wages and cheap, pollution-
generating production methods - some Southern governments see the
introduction of rules in these areas as a disguised form of protection. One
 idea worth exploring might be to devise a system for rewarding the
countries that make the greatest efforts in the areas of labour and the
environment, instead of penalising them as we do now. No-one is  suggesting
that the same wages should be paid everywhere or that Laos  should be
treated in the same way as Luxembourg.

Thanks to World Bank and United Nations Development Programme  statistics,
we know a great deal about levels of material and human  development
worldwide. Suppose the ILO and the United Nations  Environment Programme
were to classify all countries at a given level of  development - including
the most advanced - according to the respect they  show for labour law and
for nature. The best, at each level, would be  granted tariff preferences
or even exemption from customs duties, while  the products of the others
would be taxed according to their classification.  Such a system would
allow a review of the hallowed most-favoured-nation  clause, which in fact
favours nothing but a rush to the abyss.

Free marketeers, from The Economist to Alain Madelin, the French
neoliberal deputy, generally accuse opponents of the WTO of being 1.
ignorant; 2. unrepresentative; 3. against the poor; and 4. against rules
and  in favour of anarchy and the law of the jungle. In fact, it is
precisely  because they know what they are talking about that the NGOs and
citizens'  movements are against the WTO. Seattle has shown that the
popular  movement represents many things and many people. It is touching to
see  the sudden neoliberal concern with the fate of the poor in the South -
not  always well represented by their governments - but very few people
have  so far been discovered who enjoy working for a pittance in degrading
conditions, who do not mind being unable to send their children to school
or living in an environment that has been laid waste.

The popular movement is all for rules, but not the rules of the WTO in its
present form. That is why, in the words of the militants, we shall have to
"fix it or nix it".

* President of the Globalisation Observatory, Paris, vice-president of
Attac  and author of The Lugano Report, Pluto Press, London, 1999.

1) See the Attac collection, "Contre la dictature des marchés", La
Dispute/Syllepse/VO Editions, Paris, 1999, 158 pp., FF 35.

Translated by Barbara Wilson

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