Confronting the Global Ripoff
Protests to Target World Trade Organization in Seattle
Revolutionary Worker #1031, November 21, 1999
At the end of November, the eyes of the world will be focused on Seattle. Government officials and trade representatives from all the imperialist powers and many other countries are gathering for a major meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO). At the same time, many different people plan to converge on Seattle to confront the WTO and oppose imperialist globalization.
The WTO meeting in Seattle is described as the "largest trade conference" ever held in the U.S., and President Clinton is scheduled to make an appearance. Set up in 1995, the WTO--along with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)--are key instruments under the control of the U.S. and other imperialist countries.
According to the imperialists, the WTO promotes "free trade" and benefits people around the world. The real function of the WTO is: to maximize the freedom of action of imperialist capital--so that investments can be moved quickly from one location to another to lower costs and maximize profits; to further pry open the economies of Third World countries to foreign investment and control; and to institutionalize a framework for competition among the imperialist powers.
Using "free trade" as a weapon and codeword, the imperialist bullies claim the "right" to go into any oppressed country and do whatever they want, with as few restrictions as possible.
Resistance Around the World and in the Belly of the Beast
The WTO--and increasing imperialist globalization in general--means greater exploitation and misery for the world's people, especially in the Third World. Just consider the case of Mexico: Since NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) went into effect in 1995, the incomes of the poor have been cut in half, and the percentage of people living in poverty has increased from 30 to 50 percent of the population.
The horrors of imperialist globalization are giving rise to mass resistance--by peasants and fisherfolk in the Philippines, sweatshop workers in Guatemala and Indonesia, indigenous people and university students in Mexico, and many others. In 1997, a million small farmers in India took to the streets to protest the patenting of seeds by U.S. monopoly capitalist corporations. Militant street protests in Berlin, London and Geneva have challenged the WTO and imperialist economic policies. This resistance is creating more favorable conditions for revolutionary struggle. In Peru, Nepal and the Philippines, Maoist people's wars are setting liberating examples for the oppressed everywhere.
And there is resistance to globalization right here within the U.S. The movement against the Seattle WTO meeting is developing powerfully. Tens of thousands of people from around the U.S. and many other countries are mobilizing to confront the WTO in the streets of Seattle. Many youth involved in the WTO protests look around and hate what they see--a capitalist world run amok where the only thing valued is profit and where everything is "for sale." Among many activists, there is a view that these protests are history in the making and there is a tremendous sense of urgency to carry out determined opposition to the WTO and imperialist globalization.
A wide scope of protest activities are planned--including mass street demonstrations, direct action aimed at shutting down the WTO meeting, school and work walkouts, a human chain to encircle the convention hall and call for cancellation of Third World debt, trade union rallies, a "festival of defiance" called by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War Anti-Imperialist, etc.
A People's Assembly conference and march against imperialist globalization, initiated by Bayan-USA, will bring together peasant activists, anti-imperialists and others from many countries. The People's Assembly continues the work started by the People's Conference Against Imperialist Globalization and People's Caravan held in the Philippines in 1996. The aim of the People's Assembly is to deepen exposure of the WTO and imperialist globalization, strengthen international resistance, and forge international solidarity.
A very broad range of people and organizations are expected to take part in the protests. Delegates will be coming from India, Philippines and other oppressed countries. Environmentalists, students, revolutionaries, trade union groups, anarchists, religious groups and others will be pouring into Seattle from up and down the West Coast, Canada and around the U.S. A wide diversity of political positions and views exists within this anti-WTO movement. There is a good basis to develop more determined resistance and deepen people's understanding of the nature of the global system of exploitation. And there is exciting potential to strengthen connections between anti-imperialist forces and develop more opposition to U.S. imperialism.
The Seattle authorities are working with the highest levels of the federal government to prepare for the protests. The official security task force includes the Seattle police, FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, State Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The police are threatening to use pepper spray and SWAT teams against protesters. And Seattle area cops have received training from a top German police official who headed the clampdowns on recent protests against the "G-7" meeting of the biggest imperialist governments.
Clinton has been trying to defuse and confuse the protesters by claiming to be for "more inclusiveness" in the WTO decision-making process. He said that while he disagreed with the message of the protesters, he welcomed the planned demonstrations in Seattle. But Clinton is an enthusiastic promoter of the WTO and "free trade" policies. And his administration prevented human rights activists from Nepal and Bangladesh from getting visas to enter the U.S. These activists had planned to take part in the People's Global Action Caravan from New York to the anti-WTO protests in Seattle.
A Fight for a Different Future
On the agenda for the WTO meeting in Seattle are trade talks on agriculture, services and what is known as "intellectual property rights." Under WTO and other "free trade" agreements, imperialist monopoly capital is increasingly turning everything--even plant species and people's DNA--into commodities that can be patented and sold for profit. For example, in the name of "intellectual property rights," drug companies are trying to patent the DNA of a Guatemalan woman who is believed to have immunity to cancer. Large agribusiness corporations can cite "intellectual property rights" to patent plants and seeds that are indigenous to Third World countries--and then force peasant farmers to pay for these plants and seeds that have been developed over hundreds of years by the people working the land.
Through the WTO talks, the U.S. government hopes to increase their control of agriculture in oppressed countries, step up domination of U.S. agricultural sales around the world and expand the penetration of U.S. telecommunication and financial services industries into other international markets. The WTO Agreement of Agriculture (AOA) has already been a disaster to peasant farmers around the world. Under the AOA and other imperialist economic policies, there has been rapid concentration of land into the hands of imperialist agribusiness. The AOA rules on international trade in food products have also accelerated the undercutting of subsistence agriculture in the Third World, drawing peasants even deeper into the cut-throat competition of the export food market.
Activists point out that WTO policies and imperialist globalization in general are furthering environmental pollution and destruction of endangered animal species. An important environment-related issue in the Seattle WTO meeting is the Global Free Logging Agreement. The Clinton administration is eager to get this agreement signed in Seattle. According to environmentalists, the elimination of tariffs on forest products under this agreement will lead to large increases in logging and consumption--at a time when much of the world's remaining native forests are facing extinction. Deforestation through commercial logging causes land erosion and other problems--leading to disasters such as the recent floods and mudslides in Mexico that have killed thousands of people.
Along with pushing forward their agenda of imperialist globalization, the imperialists have another goal in Seattle. As the end of 1999 draws near, they want to send out a "millennial" message--that the future belongs to them, that the people of the world must bend to their every demand and requirement.
Maoist political economist Raymond Lotta points out: "Globalization is hailed as the `wave of the future.' But the future this system holds out--with all its technological capability--is heightened exploitation and oppression in the oppressed nations and in the imperialist countries. The future this system holds out--with all its global contact points--is to push hundreds of millions of people to the margins of economic activity. The future this system holds out--with all its investment--is more distorted economies, less able to feed and meet the needs of the people who work the land and factories."
The imperialist vision of the future is nothing but a nightmare for the majority of the people worldwide. It needs to be opposed with a vision of a very different future--without exploitation, oppression and inequalities that mark today's world. As the imperialists meet to advance their schemes for global plunder, it is fitting that the WTO will be opposed and resisted right here in the "belly of the beast."
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