Ray O. Light
In the weeks following the powerful anti-WTO protests in Seattle, Washington, we observed that, "On November 30th, 1999, for the first time in 50 years, a significant section of organized labor in the USA demonstrated opposition to important international policies of the US ruling class." As Mumia Abu-Jamal, the imprisoned Afro-American anti-imperialist fighter, also observed, "The battle of Seattle was a crucial one, but ... it is merely a beginning, not an end."
By contrast, a number of opportunist and trotskyite forces in the USA and elsewhere described the Seattle protests as a "global victory". For example, Steve Zeltzer opened his article appearing in the otherwise very positive journal Revolutionary Democracy (April 2000), as follows,
"In the biggest global victory for workers in decades, thirty thousand unionists and tens of thousands of students, environmentalists and human rights activists stopped the World Trade Organization in its tracks and sent its 133 Trade Ministers home in utter defeat. The Battle of Seattle has made it almost impossible for the WTO to take major new steps in the next few years to further drive down wages, working conditions and environmental standards throughout the world."
Zeltzer claimed victory too easily. He failed to recognize the bitter and sanguinary struggle for state power that will be required to win "global victory" over WTO and its imperialist sponsors. And he failed to recognize that such a victory will require a protracted struggle to win the hearts and the minds of the world's workers for proletarian internationalism and communism in the face of imperialism, headed by US imperialism. Consequently, Zeltzer buries the need for the establishment of proletarian vanguard parties and a new Communist International to lead the world's workers and oppressed peoples to victory over US led imperialism. Instead, he concludes with the petty bourgeois democratic projection that (somehow) "internet and communication technology" will enable the workers of the world to build a "new internationalism without borders and with complete democratic communication."
Trumpeting a similar note, trotskyite Workers World Party (WWP) spokesman John Catalinotto had declared at an international working class gathering a few weeks after the April protests in Washington, DC that the chief significance of the Seattle anti-WTO protest had been the US youth fighting the cops. Using gross exaggeration, Catalinotto asserted that these youth had once again heroically laid their lives on the line in Washington, DC. The Workers World spokesman even had the audacity to say, "this was not Peoples War, but ... "-- implying that these youth are actually engaged in a serious war with the US government at this time.
While the role of the youth in Seattle and Washington, DC was quite positive and anti-imperialist, one difference between Seattle and Washington, D.C. was that the imperialist state apparatus had learned from their debacle in Seattle. Many of the most militant and daring anti-imperialist youth, handicapped by their anarcho-individualist politics, were easily rounded up and detained by the police before any protests could really get going in Washington, DC.
Despite the fact that they call themselves "Workers World", WWP does not take the standpoint of the international working class. Rather, their class composition and class outlook is found largely in petty bourgeois youth and homosexual activists and is alien to the working class. Consequently, Catalinotto and the Trotskyite WWP missed the most significant element of the Seattle anti-WTO protest; namely, "... there is no doubt that the organized section of the US working class which has tragically been broken away from the rest of the international working class for the past half century and has been allied instead with its own imperialist bourgeoisie has begun, at long last, with the anti-WTO struggle in Seattle, to break with its own bourgeoisie and make links once again with the rest of the international working class (quoted from our article, "No to WTO!--The US Working Class Takes a Step Forward in Seattle").
In conformity with their class perspective, in the midst of pages and pages of coverage of their newest "historic victory" -- the April 16th-17th demonstration of the predominantly white petty bourgeois youth, the April 27th issue of Workers World barely mentioned the most important demonstration held during the April week of action in Washington, DC -- the April 12th "No Blank Check to China" Rally of 15,000 working class members of the AFL-CIO. And Catalinotto failed to even mention this demonstration in his speech to working class representatives from around the world.
Yet, it was precisely this anti-China mobilization that worried the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), the union whose political strike in coordination with the Seattle anti-WTO protests had been the highlight of that historic event, shutting down the Seattle docks and ports up and down the West Coast. The old CIO union, with its militant left-wing tradition, held its convention immediately after the April events. In a Resolution entitled, "The ILWU, China, and Human Rights", the ILWU warned: "The fight over trade with China should not overshadow or sidetrack the momentum built by the Seattle protest over globalization and the corporate-led domination of workers worldwide..."
The conclusion of our December '99 article had posed the following :
"For the proletarian revolutionary cause one significant question is, will the working class of the USA be won back to the side of Clinton and US imperialism on the basis of protectionism, legalism, and great-nation chauvinism? Or will the US workers continue the journey, only just begun, away from the fatal embrace of their own imperialists and into the arms of their brothers and sisters of all lands-the international proletariat?"
April 9th began a "week of action" to carry forward the anti-corporate momentum launched in Seattle. Union members joined in a "Jubilee 2000" rally on that day that called for debt relief for the oppressed nations being crushed under their debt to the imperialist countries and groupings, international banks and finance capital. The week's mobilization ended with the April 16th-17th Mobilization for Global Justice march and rally of protest by 30,000 people against the oppressive imperialist policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose delegates were meeting in Washington, D.C. This was a similar opportunity for protest to the one provided in Seattle the previous November by the WTO.
But AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and the other "labor lieutenants of the capitalist class" on the AFL-CIO Executive Council had carried out a major miseducation and mobilization campaign among the organized sector of the US working class for the April 12th demonstration against China's entry into WTO. One of the few articles that has even gently exposed the AFL-CIO leadership's betrayal of the working class on this issue, was "The WTO, Not China, Threatens US Workers" by Anuradha Mittal and Peter Rosset of Food First. They pointed out that, "It is not China joining the WTO that hurts American workers, it is the WTO itself" (CovertAction Quarterly, Spring-Summer 2000). They assert that, "While China should have the same right as any nation to join the WTO, we should recognize that the WTO is bad for people everywhere, whether Chinese, American, Mexican, or Indian." Mittal and Rosset conclude that, "The American labor movement and environmental movements need to give up their single-country bashing."
In reality, it is the US-led banks and multinationals which are harming the US and Chinese workers and will be able to harm the Chinese workers more now that their state has been accepted into WTO! Faithful servants of US imperialism that they are, Sweeney and his ilk demagogically called for "No Blank Check for China"! instead of "No Blank Check for International Banks and Multinational Corporations" -- the message that had emerged from Seattle.
Using this ruse, Sweeney et al helped US imperialism to rally the US workers against China on the basis of great nation chauvinism, anti-communism, and protectionism. In this way the US workers were maneuvered into shifting from outright opposition to WTO (their post Seattle position) into a position of defending the "integrity of WTO" from corruption by China!! This allowed Sweeney to return to his original pre-Seattle position of support for the Clinton-Gore-Bush US imperialist position in favor of WTO -- "Just give labor a seat at the table-please!"
The AFL-CIO's April 12th China-bashing demonstration diverted the 15,000 organized workers away from the debt relief demonstration of April 9th and the more ant-imperialist, anti-monopolist demonstration against the World Bank-IMF on April 16th. Thus it broke them away from their new allies discovered in Seattle. And broke the momentum which the participation of significant sections of organized labor on April 9th and especially April 16th would have represented.
More importantly, the April 12th "No Blank Check for China" demonstration successfully pitted the US section of the international working class against the Chinese section of the class and the rest of the international working class, once again making the US working class an ally of its own worst enemy-imperialism, headed by US imperialism. Sweeney et al were able to use the anti-WTO, anti-Clinton momentum of the Seattle spirit to rally the workers to the great nation chauvinist protectionist position ("anti-China") on April 12th, objectively weakening the international working class opposition to WTO, and paving the way to a US imperialist victory (pro-WTO) on May 24th! The "Republicrats" in Congress were now strong enough to pass the May 24th resolution, on behalf of US imperialism, providing Permanent Normal Trade Relations to China. Thus the demonstration accomplished the exact opposite of what the workers intended!!
On May 24th, by a vote of 237 to 197 the US Congress passed the bill to provide China with "Permanent Normalized Trade Relations" (PNTR). The dominant section of US finance capital strongly desired the passage of this bill as evidenced by the bipartisan agreement of both the Republicans and Democrats in the House where 73 Democrats provided the clear margin of victory. If this wasn't clear enough, "After the vote was taken that afternoon of May 24th, members of both parties left the House chamber and joined corporate lobbyists at separate fund-raisers that the two parties had conveniently scheduled for that same evening. The Republicans raised $14 million from a Who's Who of Corporate America, while the Democrats scored a record $26.5 million from the same cash cows. In fact, the Democrats' one-night total was more money than the entire 1992 Clinton campaign raised. That's what eight years of loyalty to Wall Street can deliver." (Hightower Lowdown, June 2000, his emphasis)
Even more striking was the unqualified support for the bill from both the current and the next President of the USA, i.e. Clinton along with Al Gore and George W. Bush. With the "Republicrat" duopoly's stranglehold on the Presidency, they effectively removed the "foreign trade" issue from any referendum of the people through the ballot box. (Of course, both Buchanan and even Nader provide the protectionist electoral "alternative" that still leads back to support of US imperialism.) In this set up deal, with few exceptions, they have had the collaboration of the AFL-CIO's top leadership.
The British imperialist publication, the Economist, noted: "Bill Clinton ushered the China trade bill through Congress by a surprisingly large majority of 40 votes, despite relentless opposition from the AFL-CIO, the country's largest trade union organization and one of the building blocks of the Democratic Party" (The Economist, June 3, 2000). Given its "relentless opposition" to the trade bill, one would think that the AFL-CIO leadership has now broken with the Gore presidential campaign -- right? Wrong! Despite the great momentum the working class members of the AFL-CIO and their newfound allies built up in the anti-WTO protests in Seattle, Sweeney and the dominant section of the AFL-CIO bureaucracy have been able to remain solidly behind Gore-Clinton and US imperialism. How did they accomplish this? In a word -- "China-bashing".
Because they underestimate the central role of the working class in the transformation of society from its present monopoly capitalist and imperialist stage to a new socialist world, opportunist and trotskyite forces are unable to expose and, in fact, objectively provide political support to the most vile traitors to the working class such as the AFL-CIO's Sweeney, et al.
Last December we observed: "This still relatively privileged section of the US working class has discovered allies among environmentalists, anarchist youth, anti-imperialist national minority workers, and representatives of trade unions from other countries whom they cheered and marched with. Now that their eyes have begun to open, the task of the workers vanguard in the USA is to help deepen all these alliances while concentrating on solidarity among the international working class as the focal point of the alliance. ... As Marx taught, where the capitalists are better organized and united than the working class, they win. Where the working class is more united and organized than the capitalists--we win." April 12th and May 24th once again demonstrated the profound correctness of Karl Marx. The only way for the WTO-IMF-World Bank imperialist onslaught against the world's peoples to be stopped remains:
WORKERS OF THE WORLD AND
OPPRESSED PEOPLES UNITE!!
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