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by Seattle members of the Communist Voice Organization
"Fair Trade" and the rotten role of the AFL-CIO misleaders
. The lying has started. Officer Smith of the SPD: "Whenever we used tear gas or bullets with pepper gas, we warned people. We gave them five minutes to leave." The P.I. in a Dec. 4 "news" article: "Some of the protests turned violent, and the police responded with tear gas and rubber pellets." B.S.! For two days running, repeatedly, and for hours on end, the police fired tear gas, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, hard-rubber pellets, and wooden bullets into crowds of peaceful protesters. So much so that they temporarily ran out of projectiles.
. But it's only beginning. We now face weeks of sickening "analysis" and tragi-comic finger-pointing by the capitalist establishment. A recent scene at the Washington Athletic Club:"Blame Schell! No, blame Gates and Condit! No, off with Stamper's head! No, no, let's unite to buy more munitions and equipment for the police! Yes, that's it, and let's savage the anarchists too! Yes! Yes! Sshh . . . .for God's sake don't anyone mention capitalism, sweatshops or the environment when we leave this room."
. Yes, we do have some more fundamental matters to discuss.Led [by] Gates, Condit, Nordstrom & Co., with Locke, Schell, and Stamper in tow, the local bourgeoisie hated the protests and set out smash all but the tamest. They threw Constitutional rights out the window and exposed that behind bourgeois democracy, including under the Democrats, stands the police state. To us, however, the demonstrations and protests were glorious. We loved them. We emotionally embrace the thousands who participated, and encourage them to politically defend themselves (as they've already begun to do). Down with all the lies, evasions and political incitements of the bourgeoisie! It wasn't the anarchists who "caused trouble" at the WTO meeting...it was the armed detachments of capitalist "law and order", the police! Free all of those still in jail!
. The mass protests were not only glorious, but an inspiration to deepen the critique of not just
the WTO, but of the monopoly capitalist system which it represents. One heard calls for the
necessity to raise the political level everywhere, and Marxist leaflets were very warmly
received.The protests also inspired motion among activists to get more closely linked
together.More, the protests provoked discussion on the political trends among protesters and of
various tactics pursued, by many thousands of people. Any lasting victories of the protests must
come through the development of these tendencies (i.e., to deepen the critique of monopoly
capitalism, to get more organized, to better understand the various political trends among those
protesting.) As a contribution to such development we would like to briefly comment on some of
the issues being discussed.
. The capitalist establishment goes nuts with this issue, insanely calling the smashing of thingsviolence, while justifying the very real violence of its police. And the media lies about it by pointing to one or two extremely isolated and minor instances of damage to small merchants and implying this was what it was all about. But the truth is that it was the million and billion dollar corporations that got hit, the vicious exploiters of temp labor and sweatshop labor at home and abroad, the plunderers of the earth, corporations which lock the women of the "Third World" in factories for 12 hours, pay them pennies, subject them to sexual abuse, etc., etc., while charging sky-high prices for the commodities they produce. But the bourgeois media just can't understand how anyone could hate such fine corporations, which in essence are the WTO. And they weren't just hit by anarchist groups. After the police launched their assault many protesters consciously took vengeance on the most notorious of these corporations by smashing their windows and furniture, etc. And in the aftermath, thousands of people have been saying "good, it's good that the bastards got it". We support that sentiment, that class hatred of the exploiters.Without it no serious political movement of the working class and other oppressed people can be built. At the same time 99% of the same people very much realize that trashing won't build such a movement.We're not fools.The path forward on the 30th was best represented by those who strove to keep the political protests going right in the face of the police assaults. Thus we support those who took vengeance on the corporations as our sisters and brothers. But at the same time we hold that the trashing really was a diversion away from the pressing political tasks of the day (and of our time). The fact that the police concentrated on attacking the mass protests rather than chasing trashers says something about what was of most concern to the establishment.
. Anarchist groups coming to the demonstrations just to trash is a different issue and will be dealt
. Concussion bombs and tear gas are designed to terrorize and cause panic. If fleeing people trample each other to death it's just "collateral damage". The police and their masters knowingly gambled with people's lives in their Nov. 30th assaults --- all for the greater glory of the multinational corporations. But the masses in the streets didn't panic. They continually regrouped and resisted on a mass scale. That wasn't supposed to happen.Besides their loss of $17 million downtown, this is what has shaken the "city" (the capitalist establishment). And it bodes very, very well for future protests in Seattle and across the country.
. As the police assaults intensified on Tues. afternoon scores, and then hundreds of protesters began to hurl tear gas canisters and other projectiles right back at the cops, while at the same time counseling everyone to hold their ground, retreat only when necessary, and slowly, slowly. They were cheered on by thousands.Hundreds of other protesters also struggled to keep the demonstrators together and shouting political slogans, but opposed throwing things at the police (perhaps with the exception of tear gas projectiles). They too were supported by thousands and their overall actions were honorable. But we think that they were mistaken in their opposition.Certainly, everyone can agree that throwing tear gas back on the police slowed their advance (they had some problems seeing through the smoke). It also forced them to use more, to such an extent that they temporarily ran out. These actions actually allowed the protest to stay more firmly together and on the streets hours longer.
. But what of the issue of sticks and bottles?
. Everyone knows the police launched the attacks, not because they were angry about being hit
by objects (and they weren't, not in the beginning) but because they were out to break-up the
protests. They were firing point-blank into peaceful demonstrators who were sometimes even
sitting down! So all the usual rubbish about "provoking" the police can be left aside. Besides this
people were justifiably angry at being shot and gassed and had a right to defend themselves with
whatever was at hand. Still, the argument was made that throwing sticks or bottles caused the
cops to fire more.This argument is problematic. At the same time it was being made the cops
were lobbing their projectiles hundreds of feet into the crowds, not just at the front lines. And it
misses the main point . . . which is this: The masses are going to be in much more serious and
scary of situations with the police than existed last week---in bitterly contested strikes, or
struggles against racist outrages in the black communities, for example. To win they will have to
engage in defensive as well as offensive operations against these guard-dogs of capital. But for
that to occur they have to believe that they can defy and overcome the authorities ("we can do
it!"). And that has to be a mass belief. The actions of the projectile-throwing protesters on the
30th and 1st helped inspire such a belief and establishes a great tradition. If anyone wants to see
what this tradition looks like in practice check out the scenes of the Korean working class in
struggle over the last decade and more. The victories which this contingent of the international
proletariat has achieved in the past decade are a rare thing in comparison to the defeats the
workers have generally suffered in most other countries. And these victories are not unconnected
to the Korean workers' and students' tradition of giving the authorities tit for tat when they
attack.They didn't come from a pacifist approach, even a militant and active pacifist approach.
. Today's youth are surrounded on all sides by tremendous wealth and power. But all capitalism offers most of them is "temp"-labor, sweatshop conditions in places like Amazon.Com, drugs (those the capitalist market-place readily provides), and prison (in this era of budget cuts there's always money for more prisons and police---even when violent crime is declining). More, they're constantly on the verge of homelessness as rents skyrocket. They see the earth being ruined by capitalist development. They see abominable acts, like U.S. imperialism's starvation of the Iraqi masses through sanctions...acts which go on and on. How can they not want to rebel against this Babylon?
. Anarchism says that one should rebel, that the capitalist state has to be smashed if there is to be a better life, that communism (or communalism) is the goal. Thus many young people are attracted to it. But that anarchism says these things is not it's problem. Its problem is it's non-politicism, or anti-politicism, which leads it to impotence. It rejects bourgeois politics (it thinks) but it doesn't abandon bourgeois ideology. Although many anarchists are workers, and very exploited ones at that, the class standpoint of anarchism is petty-bourgeois (small capitalist).Hence its elitist attitude toward the working class and other oppressed people. It may see that the working people are smothered by the rotten reformism of the AFL-CIO leadership and it's American-flag-waving "fair trade" ideas, for example, but it can't lower itself to doing the years of patient political work necessary to win the mass of workers (not Sweeney and Co.) away from these ideas, something which must be done if the working class is ever to mount the stage of history as an independent political force capable of destroying the capitalist system and replacing it with communism. Such a proletarian-revolutionary approach is just too political for anarchism.Instead it draws the petty-bourgeois elitist conclusion that the "backward" masses need to be aroused by the "daring" actions of a handful of autonomous groups, or aroused by anything but scientific political analysis. Thus it deserts the field in the face of bourgeois politics, especially bourgeois reformist politics like those of the AFL-CIO bureaucracy.
. In the final analysis, anarchism's whole "concept" of revolution is utterly barren. Autonomous groups will somehow incite a mass rebellion. Suddenly the unenlightened workers will realize that they need to smash the capitalist state machine and this will be done. Then we'll have communism, environmental problems will be solved, etc., etc. This bareness leads to despair.And part of the despairing politics of some anarchists is the politics of "inflicting material damage on the bourgeoisie". Even if groups which practice this were capable of smashing much more than a few thousand dollars worth of glass in billion dollar corporations it would still be rot. Capital is a social power which must be overthrown in a social revolution of the politically aroused masses.But the elitism of anarchism leads some groups to sneer at the masses and sneer at the anti-WTO protests. This includes one group boasting that it suffered no arrests while the stupid peaceful demonstrators suffered hundreds. It never enters such people's heads that the shutting down of the WTO was a significant political victory, or that more latent power existed among those peaceful protesters than in a thousand anarchist groups. The sneering of such groups can hardly be considered progressive.
. This all said, we would emphasize that although we're enemies of anarchist ideas, and their class
standpoint, we're not the enemies of people attracted to anarchism.
"Fair Trade" and the rotten role of the AFL-CIO misleaders
. We want to assist the development of the trend for proletarian revolution. Decisive in this is the development of a truly Marxist-Leninist trend. Such a trend must be anti-revisionist--- that is it must fight in theory and practice against all the rotten revisions of Marxism made by the state-capitalist parties of the late Soviet Union, Cuba, China, etc., as well as by the CPUSA, various Trotskyist groups, and Maoists in this country. The building of such a revolutionary trend will give rightfully rebellious youth turning to anarchism an alternative. But these are really a small minority. The vast majority of rebellious youth, workers, and other exploited and oppressed people who came into the streets maintained various reformist ideas. And the most organized and concentrated expression of these ideas on the streets was the AFL-CIO leadership.
. The AFL-CIO bureaucracy represents a small labor-aristocracy and not the vast masses of
workers. Its basic theory is that the workers and capitalists have a common interest and it's a
political representative of capital (including capitalist "law and order") in the workers'
movement.For this reason it's a bitter enemy of Marxism, and revolutionary politics in
general.We saw what this leads to in practice on Nov. 30. Allegedly to "protect" the workers in
their march the AFL-CIO bureaucrats organized thousands of marshals. The real purpose of this
was to ensure that the march stayed several blocks away from the WTO meeting and then hurried
back to the Seattle Center. But when the march got downtown there were ten thousand protesters
already there confronting the WTO. Speeches denouncing imperialism and calling for proletarian
internationalism were being given at the People's Assembly rally. Marxist leaflets were being
distributed. The bureaucrats didn't want the workers to become infected with that spirit and those
ideas. So they couldn't be democratic and say "you can stay here or go back to the Seattle
Center". No, workers either had to form wedges and physically break through the line of
marshals or sneak under the rope.(At one point, to great applause, a group of several hundred
machinists forced their way through. There were several other mass break-throughs as well.)
Once more on "fair trade":
. Given the expanding exploitation, human misery, and environmental rape which neoliberal free trade (the policy of the WTO) is causing, the protectionist "fair trade" slogan has an appeal. But it's premised on maintaining the same capitalist system bringing all the misery and ruin in the first place. Thus it would shift who has jobs and who does not have a job around, for example, but it can't solve the question of unemployment. Take the American steel-workers. Capitalism creates a "surplus population" much faster than expanding production can provide jobs.Moreover, the productive capacity of the world steel and aluminum industry has outstripped the market. Given this, the American steel-workers are confronted with defending what they can of past gains and giving every support to the struggles of their brothers and sisters overseas. But under the red, white and blue "fair trade" slogan the USWA bureaucrats marched steel-workers to the docks on Dec. 1 to mourn "jobs going overseas".The workers were supposed to demand that duties be slapped on (curse-word) foreign steel. This benefits the American steel capitalists nicely. But does it save jobs? Not in the countries whose steel is being protected against. And even in the U.S. it can't save jobs for long. The capitalist laws of competition will still ultimately drive the steel monopolists to innovations in productive technique, which will make workers superfluous.Anarchy of capitalist production will still cause cycles of boom and bust in this industry.Unemployment in this or any other industry just cannot be ended as long as capitalism exists.
* * *
. Fellow protesters, if you like the ideas in this leaflet spread them in your circles. We're in for a period of lying and diversionary assaults by the bourgeois politicians and media so it's important we strengthen our ranks. More, it may be a long time before we again have large demonstrations in Seattle. Now then is a good time to follow up on the links we've made during the past few weeks. Correspond with us and let's find ways to link more closely. Let us deepen the discussion of the Marxist alternative to capitalism and all its infamies. Let us strive to build a revolutionary trend in society with the same tenacity we exhibited during the WTO protests.
Seattle members of the Communist Voice Organization (CVO)
December 6, 1999
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Last changed on December 11, 1999.