Anniversary of Seattle WTO
Protests - Global Economic Austerity Measures
By Mark Taylor-Canfield
On the anniversary of the demonstrations in Seattle against the World Trade Organization, folks in the so-called "First" and "Second" world are now experiencing what the anti-corporate globalization activists warned everyone about back in 1999.
North America and Europe are now the targets of economic hit men and their friends in the multinationals.
The agenda first began as an attack on the poorest of the world's nations, but now even the USA, the UK and other powerful countries are no longer exempt from global economic austerity measures. As the corrupt bakers celebrate their good fortune, working folks, students and the middle class continue to suffer from economic hardships, including high unemployment due to outsourcing, and the loss of their right to organize as unions.
In the US, Wisconsin was the first major test case, with Michigan following suit. But many cities, counties and states are now experiencing fiscal emergencies resulting in draconian cuts to social programs supporting health, education, environmental protection and transportation.
In the great rush to privatize every possible government service, the corporations are gaining massive rewards while local governments continue to risk widespread bankruptcy and financial ruin.
No, I am not talking about the conditions of the Great Depression during the 1930's. I am actually referring to current economic conditions in the US in the wake of the devastating 2008 economic crash.
The Occupy Wall Street protesters put it best in their popular chant:
"The banks got bailed out -- We got sold out!"
In any case, the dire predictions of the anti-WTO demonstrators in Seattle have now come true in many ways. On November 30th 1999 the Battle of Seattle began to rage, and since that time global corporatization has resulted in widespread poverty and economic upheaval for the majority of the planet's population. With local jobs moving overseas, labor unions have been forced to give up many of their hard won benefits. The backbone of the unions has been broken many times by restrictive contracts, anti-union labor laws and a leadership that is quick to co-operate with politicians and big business.
Neo-cons have almost been successful in stopping any new funding of government programs for the poor or the establishment of any tax reforms for the rich. Although the average American realizes they have been screwed, they feel powerless to change the economic and political conditions which are quickly eliminating the middle class.
On Black Friday there were 1,000 protests, pickets and rallies at Walmart stores in the US. Occupy Wall Street activists joined the picket lines to protest working conditions. The backlash to crass corporate commercialism has begun to sweep across the globe from Argentina to China.
The "American Dream" is simply not sustainable either in the US or anywhere else on the planet. Workers have been staging national strikes in Greece and Spain. Corporate hospital workers took to the streets in San Francisco during the last week of November and ILWU clerks closed the Port of Los Angeles on November 28.
So, as I enjoy my intense flashbacks to 1999 and the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, I must admit that the warnings of the activists were very accurate. Today we are living in the world that they feared might come to pass following GATT, NAFTA, Free Trade of the Americas treaty and all of the other neo-liberal agreements that have caused the proverbial "sucking sound" that Ross Perot foretold.
I wrote a letter to the editor of the Seattle Times before the 1999 protests appealing to both police and demonstrators to keep things peaceful. I was worried that a potential confrontation might take place during the WTO ministerial conference, and unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. After the WTO delegates and plutocrats held their expensive party, the city was left holding the bag for millions of dollars in extra security costs, etc.