Festival of Resistance * Mass Nonviolent Direct Action * Street Theater
Increasing poverty and cuts in social services while the rich get richer; low wages, sweatshops, meaningless jobs, and more prisons; deforestation, gridlocked cities and global warming; genetic engineering, gentrification and war: Despite the apparent diversity of these social and ecological troubles, their roots are the same—a global economic system based on the exploitation of people and the planet.
From Nov. 29 to Dec. 3 in Seattle, WA, thousands of leaders of transnational corporations, government officials and an army of bureaucrats will come to the World Trade Organization’s Summit to further their drive for profits, and their control over our political, economic and cultural life, along with the environment. Their new strategy to concentrate power and wealth, while neutralizing people’s resistance, is called “economic globalization” and “free trade.” But these words just disguise the poverty, misery and ecological destruction of this system.
Tens of thousands of people will converge on Seattle and transform it into a festival of resistance: mass nonviolent direct action; reclaim the streets with giant street theater, puppets, celebration, music, street parties and pleasure; vibrant sounds of community, creativity and resistance and glimpses of life as it could be in the face of hundreds of deadening businessman, bureaucrats and politicians. A new world is possible and a global movement of resistance is rising to make it happen. Imagine replacing the existing social order with a just, free and ecological order based on mutual aid and voluntary cooperation.
Join us. Come to Seattle.
Mass Nonviolent Direct Action Information
We are planning a large scale, well organized, high visibility action to SHUT DOWN the World Trade Organization on Tuesday November 30. The World Trade Organization has no right to make undemocratic, unaccountable destructive decisions about our lives, our communities and the earth. We will nonviolently and creatively block them from meeting.
Hundreds of people will risk arrest, reflecting the diversity of groups and communities impacted by the WTO and corporate globalization. We envision colorful and festive actions with large-scale street theater as a major element. We will make space and encourage mutual respect for a variety of nonviolent action styles reflecting our different groups and communities. The WTO Summit offers a historic opportunity to halt corporate globalization and to help catalyze a widespread mass movement in North America.
Why Nonviolent Direct Action and Street Theater?
It is time to raise the social and political cost to those who aim to increase the destruction and misery caused by corporate globalization, as movements in other parts of the world have. Nonviolent direct action can force corporate globalization onto the front burner of public discussion and, coupled with high visibility street theater, will get national and international alternative and mainstream media coverage. The time is ripe for massive nonviolent direct action against the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the corporate globalization it serves. Demonstrations and protest have been an essential part of every successful social change movement in North American history, but they are too often marginalized by corporate media, too easily dismissed by those we want to engage, and bore participants. Street theater used as a tool for making social change can break into people’s consciousness, communicate powerfully and capture the imagination of participants and observers.
Well-planned nonviolent direct action can intervene into a process that we have been left out of, showing the depth of our opposition and forcing the issues onto the public agenda. There is an incredible opportunity to use street theater—art, dance, music, giant puppets, graffiti art and theater—and nonviolent direct action to simplify and dramatize the issues of corporate globalization and to develop and spread new and creative forms resistance. This will help catalyze desperately needed mass movements in the US and Canada capable of challenging global capital and making radical change and social revolution.
Direct Action Network (Against Corporate Globalization)
The Direct Action Network is a network of local grassroots groups and street theater groups across the Western United States and Canada who are mobilizing our communities to creatively resist the World Trade Organization and corporate globalization.
Why Come to Seattle?
By Stephanie Guilloud
We eat food. The WTO regulates the standards by which our food is grown, processed, and sold to us. The WTO determines the labor and environmental practices that determine how our food is grown.
We work. The WTO sets the standards by which employers determine who to hire, how much to pay, what kind of benefits we receive, and the safety conditions of our workplace.
We breathe. The WTO has already ruled that breathing clean air is not a priority. Higher profits for oil companies is far more important to the benefit of the world.
We go to school. The WTO wants to create educational standards that limit public sector educational services to the standards that businesspeople and corporations decide. Math programs designed by M&M Candies (what’s the chance of a green one?) have already entered our school systems.
We live in an industrialized country that exploits other nations and other peoples for the sake of comfortable living conditions in the US. We have a responsibility to understand the reality of the global economy beyond our own lives and speak out against these policies. Seattle offers an amazing opportunity to stand together as human beings and declare our sovereignty. Making these connections is the necessary step in creating institutions for our own communities, our needs, our children, and ourselves.
What is the WTO?
By Stephanie Guilloud and Chris Dixon
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a baby in the era of multinational corporations and international economic agreements. But it’s got a big family. The WTO came into being in 1995 as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). GATT was established in the wake of the Second World War as a limited set of rules regulating the trade of goods and merchandise among its member nations. Since 1986, GATT has become even more aggressive, though, raising corporations to equal standing with nations and overruling federal, state, and local laws when they “interfere with free trade.” The overall goal is to eliminate “trade barriers,” frequently including labor laws, public health regulations, and environmental protection measures-all of which get in the way of the corporate bottom-line: profit.
Previously, global agreements like GATT have been temporary and suggestive ideas for international trade regulations. As a child of GATT, however, the WTO solidifies suggested policy into permanent enforced standards. And although the WTO includes 134 member countries, developed nations like the US, Canada, Japan, and those of the European Union repeatedly make key decisions in closed meetings. Meanwhile, in its “dispute resolution system,” the WTO allows countries to challenge each other’s laws as violations of WTO rules. Cases are decided in secret by a panel of three professional trade bureaucrats (often corporate heads) that aren’t bound by any “conflict of interest” rules. It is no surprise, then, that every single environmental or public health law ever challenged at the WTO has been ruled illegal.
Once such a final ruling is issued, losing countries have a set time to make one of three choices: (1) change their law to conform to the WTO requirements, (2) pay compensation to the winning country, or (3) face non-negotiated trade sanctions. In short, what the WTO says goes.
The WTO’s decision-making power covers more than traditional trade issues, too. WTO negotiations affect not only goods but also the import and export of services. For instance, privatized educational systems like classes on the web, corporate-owned and operated universities, and study abroad programs are all considered “services.” The WTO creates standards that demand the lowest common denominator, which endangers the autonomy and innovation of the public sector.
In addition, the WTO regulates “intellectual property,” allowing the patenting of seeds and indigenous knowledge. Officially, the WTO upholds the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPs), which mainly benefits Western drug and biotechnology corporations. What this means is that such corporations, protected (and encouraged) by the TRIPs treaty and the WTO, can gather up traditional knowledge of herbs, seeds, medicinal plants, and so on, exercise complete control over any new extensions of that knowledge, and reap the profits. Most people call this theft; the WTO calls it “intellectual property rights.” All the while, without the power and money of multinational corporations, the people who lose out—indigenous peoples, as well as many so-called “Third World Countries”—are barely able to fight in ongoing TRIPs disputes, or even enter into debates over Intellectual Property Rights agreements.
Moreover, WTO negotiations deeply affect the environment. For example, in the upcoming November Ministerial, the US government has proposed that a zero-tariff forestry and wood products agreement be signed. This agreement would accelerate the importing and exporting of logs, countering current efforts to protect forests as eco-systems and climate controls. In one swoop, then, it would mean the end for many environmental regulations and other controls on timber production and trade.
Altogether, the main goal of the WTO is to create a fully-integrated global capitalist economy “free” of any “discriminatory” barriers. “Non- discrimination” is a catch word indicating policies that reject any and all obstacles to trade. Case studies, however, illustrate who is actually discriminated against.
THE BEEF HORMONE CASE: After studies in Europe concluded that artificial growth hormones in beef created early menstruation in young girls and health problems, the European Union (EU) banned the sale of beef from cattle that had been raised in this way. In 1998, a WTO panel, called to action by US beef companies, ruled against the law that the EU passed. The EU had until May 13, 1999 to open its markets to hormone-treated beef. Because the EU refuses to open its markets, the WTO forces them to pay upwards of $124 million annually in compensation to the United States.
THE SEA TURTLE CASE: Four Asian nations challenged provisions of the US Endangered Species Act forbidding the sale of shrimp caught in ways that kill endangered sea turtles. In 1998, the WTO ruled that the US was not acting in compliance of WTO rules. Requiring shrimp nets to be fitted with inexpensive “turtle excluder devices” has been ruled “WTO-illegal.”
THE CLEAN AIR CASE: On behalf of its oil industry, Venezuela challenged the US Clean Air Act regulation that required gas refiners to produce cleaner gas. A WTO panel ruled against the US law. Foreign oil refiners now have an option to sell dirtier gasoline in the US as a result, despite domestic challenges.
The WTO has the absolute authority to supersede local, state, and even national laws if a corporation pressures its government to challenge a particular mandate. Without any avenues of accountability and very few avenues of transparency, anyone who is not a corporate head, trade official, or WTO bureaucrat is effectively shut out of all decisions. Clearly, THE WTO IS NOT OUR INSTITUTION. We do not control its process, and we do not benefit from its decisions.
WTO in Seattle
Seattle, Washington is touted as a major gateway to the markets of Asia and, particularly, Japan. According to the Seattle Host Organization for the WTO (headed up by Bill Gates of Microsoft and Phil Conduit of Boeing) one in four jobs in Washington state are directly related to exports.
The November 29–December 3 WTO Ministerial Meeting is the first trade meeting of its kind to be held on US soil. When similar negotiations take place in Singapore, the Philippines, Geneva, and other places worldwide, the opposition gathers in the hundreds of thousands.
The magnitude of this meeting is far greater than the 6,000 delegates from 135 countries that will attend. Indeed, the WTO meeting will transform Seattle into a militarized zone. Roads will be blocked, the police are prepped for riot response, and SWAT teams are “flexible.” Our presence in Seattle demands attention to the growing global economy and its effects on the natural world, working people, Southern nations, and indigenous peoples around the world. Our presence in Seattle demands public space as a non-negotiable right. The affront of the WTO meeting represents a challenge to connect all of us as workers for a more just and livable world.
“A Citizen’s Guide to the World Trade Organization.” APEX Press, 1999.
Shiva, Vandana. Biopiracy. South End, 1997.
The Case Against the Global Economy. Sierra Club, 1996.
By Chris Borte
Resistance to the WTO is growing daily. People are organizing from the ground up and forming alliances worldwide among grassroots labor, environmental, and social justice groups to oppose this neoliberal institution: Teachers hunger striking against privatization in Argentina, working side by side with women organizing against quasi-slavery in the “Maquila” factories of Mexico, Bangladesh, Salvador, and Nicaragua; farmers struggling against globalization in India, Philippines, Brazil, Estonia, Norway, Honduras, France, Spain, Switzerland, Bangladesh, Senegal, Mozambique, Togo, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia and many other countries; Ogoni, Maori, Maya, Aymara, U’wa and other indigenous peoples fighting for their cultural rights and physical survival; students struggling against nuclear power or the repression of striking workers in Ukraine and South Korea; rank and file labor like postal workers from Canada resisting privatization, women’s rights activists, environmentalists, unemployed, fisher folk, anti-racists, peace mobilizers, and animal rights activists...the list could easily fill these pages.
Coalitions that formed to oppose NAFTA, GATT, APEC, and the Multinational Agreement on Investment (MAI) have grown more experienced and successful at working together to fight corporate globalization. Forging those necessary links between our movements becomes far easier when we realize the assholes who are clear-cutting the last of our ancient forests are the same assholes who are trying to smash our unions and destroy the limited forms of democratic control we still have. The old 1960s slogan “think globally, act locally” is no longer sufficient. We must create ways of thinking and acting both locally and globally at the same time.
One of the most exciting movements fighting corporate globalization formed in February of 1998, when peoples’ movements from all continents met in Geneva and launched a worldwide coordination of resistance called Peoples’ Global Action Against “Free” Trade and the World Trade Organization (PGA). In their literature they emphasize four major points:
(1) A very clear rejection of the WTO and other neoliberal trade agreements as active promoters of a socially and environmentally destructive globalization; (2) A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying can have a major impact in such biased and undemocratic organizations, in which transnational capital is the only real policy-maker; (3) A call to non-violent civil disobedience and the construction of local alternatives by local people as answers to the action of governments and corporations; (4) An organizational philosophy based on decentralization and autonomy.
PGA intends to serve as a global instrument for communication and co-ordination for all those fighting against the destruction of humanity and the planet by the global market, as well as building up local alternatives and peoples’ power. Their first call to action was the June 18th protests against the G8 summit in Germany. Movements ranging from the Chikoko Movement in Nigeria to the Pakistani trade unions, from the Argentinean churches to a broad coalition of social movements in London, occupied the financial centers of their cities to reject the rule of the G8. Such coordinated resistance in a total of 41 countries showed that the process of converging our movements is gaining strength and speed. Even as this article goes to press, PGA is organizing at their second conference in Bangalore, India for the WTO meeting in Seattle and beyond.
“Not Pepsi/Coke, We Want Water!”
“Not Pepsi/Coke, we want water,” cries the National Alliance of People’s Movements in India. They are calling for India to quit the WTO and campaign for an alternative institution to regulate world-trade in a democratic, pro-people and environmentally sustainable way. They believe all transnational corporations (TNC) should be forced out of India and have called for a boycott on all TNC goods.
This is in stark contrast with those who hold hope of achieving justice through reforming the WTO. Reforms lead nowhere when corporations and their governmental counterparts are in charge. We need to globalize solidarity and liberation, not capitalism, and fight for a participatory and sustainable global village. The WTO must be shut down.
Over the past two decades, people’s movements have waged successful campaigns against the operations of transnational corporations on numerous fronts ranging from worldwide boycotts against Nestlé on infant formula, bank loans to South Africa, the battles against Union Carbide over the Bhopal disaster in India, the repression of Coca- Cola workers in Guatemala, the promotion of bio-tech milk products by chemical companies like Monsanto, and the clear-cut logging and deforestation by Mitsubishi and MacMillan Bloedel, to name but a few. It is important to remember that these corporations do not have infinite power—they are not inevitable. We live in a concrete world, within time and space, with ongoing processes that we can affect. We can shut down these bastards.
Just a few years ago it may have seemed impossible to stop the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, a trade agreement that would have given corporations the authority to sue countries for policies that placed people or the environment over profits. And yet due to movements like those mentioned in this article the MAI was shut down. WTO, you’re next!
Seattle General Strike 1919
100,000 people shut down Seattle from February 5 to 11, 1919 and took over essential services under workers management.
"There will be many cheering, and there will be some who fear. [...] The closing down of Seattle’s industries, as a MERE SHUTDOWN, will not affect these eastern gentlemen much. They could let the whole northwest go to pieces, as far as money alone is concerned.
BUT, the closing down of the capitalistically controlled industries of Seattle, while the WORKERS ORGANIZE to feed the people, to care for the babies and the sick, to preserve order - THIS will move them, for this looks too much like the taking over of POWER by the workers.
Labor will not only SHUT DOWN the industries, but Labor will REOPEN; under the management of the appropriate trades, such activities as are needed to preserve public heath and public peace. If the strike continues, Labor may feel led to avoid public suffering by reopening more and more activities,
UNDER ITS OWN MANAGEMENT.
And that is why we say that we are starting on a road that leads - NO ONE KNOWS WHERE!"
-- Anna Louise Strong in The Union Record, Tuesday February 4th, 1919, the eve of the Seattle General Strike.