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We hereby send you the article "Seattle '99, marriage party of the Left and the Right?", concerning the campaign against the Ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation starting at the end of November in Seattle (USA). Please feel free to distribute this article further, or to publish (parts of) it. We would be happy to receive feedback on this article from you or others.

Best regards,
Eric Krebbers
Merijn Schoenmaker
(De Fabel van de illegaal, Netherlands)

Seattle '99, wedding party of the left and the right?

At the end of November the members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will discuss their new Millennium Round in Seattle. The North American town will see a whole series of demonstrations, actions and discussion meetings. By now a very diverse mixture of activists, lobbyists and politicians are gathering under the vague banner of the anti-globalisation movement. Both the left and the right are joining and seem to have put their quarrels aside.

"A historic change is under way at the very heart of the globalisation process: millions of people are mobilising. Tens of thousands of them will be in Seattle,"[1] says lobbyist Susan George. "The fight against the WTO and all it stands for is in my view the main one. There is even a chance of winning this fight."[2] George is one of the foremost European lobbyists against "the globalisation".

Many lobbyists seem to somewhat overrate the movement. "Seattle will be the protest of the century", some of her colleagues say, without much knowledge of history. "The bosses are scared", others add. But who are they supposed to be scared of? The left has not been a very strong force since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and it hardly exists nowadays. That's why the lobbyists are no longer exclusively looking to their left. They have started to actively build a new worldwide movement in which not only left-leaning people, but also conservatives, nationalists and even the New Right must be able to feel at home. The extremely unclear concept of "globalisation" comes in handy. Political activists of all creeds can project their own problems on it.

George and some 60 other lobbyists, researchers and opinion leaders and their NGOs are members of the International Forum on Globalisation (IFG), an elite think tank. They organise a congress in Seattle and never tire of repeating that they expect some 2400 participants. IFG members often participate at meetings all around the world. They are the main driving force behind the campaigns against "the globalisation", and they initiated the actions against both the MAI and the WTO.

They want to bring the Left and the Right together in one big movement, and they seem to be successful at it. Therefore the IFG lobbyists cherish their somewhat progressive image and at the same time try to remain acceptable for the Right. But after reading their articles and books it becomes very clear: the IFG is politically right wing and very conservative.

By criticising "the globalisation" and multinationals they try to use the remaining left-wing activists to further their own conservative goals, and also try to influence them ideologically. Therefore the IFG are a danger to the already vulnerable left.

In the Netherlands, a lot of left-wing activists are also enthusiastically participating every time the IFG-members initiate a new campaign. They are also organising actions at the end of November, taking part in the worldwide coordinated protests. In the beginning of this year the Dutch organisation "De Fabel van de illegaal", together with some other groups, was still actively asking organisations to sign the NGO declaration on the WTO, which was written by some IFG members. When the ideas of the IFG became clearer to them, De Fabel decided to stop, although other groups continued. In the near future De Fabel will publish an analysis of the right-wing ideas of the foremost IFG members.

French culture in danger

Seattle prepares for the reception of activists from many countries. Peoples' Global Action (PGA) this time organises 2 action caravans to the WTO meeting. One across the US, including activists from Chiapas, Mexico. And another one from Canada, ending at the elite IFG meeting. A strange choice, for the PGA is known as a left-wing grassroots movement. Also expected in Seattle are eco-activists, union members, steelworkers, lorry drivers, farmers, fisherfolk, postal workers, women's rights activists, artists, students, gay and lesbian activists and pacifists. Only a small minority will want to get rid of capitalism all together. The rest will rather aim at an international regulation of "the economy" or will opt for a nationalist future.

The French farmer and leader of the Confederation Paysanne (CP), José Bové, no doubt belongs to the nationalist category. The farmers of the CP are angry with the US government, which doubled the import tariffs on French cheese, in retaliation for the decision of the EU to put a ban on meat with hormones coming from the US. The farmers immediately started a dynamic campaign against McDonald's, which is after all an American multinational.

The angry farmers organised many actions, and even broke down a complete McDonald's restaurant in Millau. Last June farmers from India, arriving with the PGA action caravan, came to help a bit. At home they also have a tradition of attacking American companies. The French farmers also disturbed an American film festival because they are very much worried about their own French culture. Bové got arrested but was released shortly after. He sent his regards to the French premier and president for their support and received a ticket to Seattle from the ministry of agriculture to defend the French interests there. Besides the French Communist Party and the Front National, some Dutch anti-globalisation activists also reacted very positively to the farmers' actions. They called for solidarity with Bové.[3]

Supporting working families

"The Seattle summit will be a historic confrontation between civil society and corporate rule", says Mike Dolan. He works for the American consumer watchdog group Public Citizen founded by Ralph Nader. Public Citizen is connected to the IFG and initiated the campaign against the MAI treaty. Dolan now acts as the great coordinator and spokesman of the counter movement in Seattle. Not everyone seems to be happy with him, but little can be done about his presence. He sits in the middle of the web, like a spider. On the one hand Dolan supports the American PGA caravan with several thousand dollars, on the other he speaks up for the extreme Right Pat Buchanan, now a candidate for the American presidency, representing the Reform Party. "Whatever else you say about Pat Buchanan, he will be the only candidate in the 2000 presidential sweepstakes who will passionately and unconditionally defend the legitimate expectations of working families in the global economy,"[4] Dolan writes. Indeed, Buchanan supports American workers. As long as they are conservative and obedient and not unemployed, black, gay, female, lesbian or Jewish. He's also not particularly fond of left-wing workers. Buchanan on Argentina: "With military and police and free lance operators, between 6.000 and 150.000 leftists disappeared. Brutal: yes; also successful. Today peace reigns in Argentina; security has been restored."[5]

Closed eyes

Former Republican big shot Buchanan is known for his sharp attacks on international trade treaties like GATT, NAFTA, MAI and now the WTO. "Traditional antagonists as politically far apart as Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan are finding some common ground on trade issues,"[6] says IFG member Mark Ritchie. He is also director of the American Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, which supports small farmers. Reform Party spokesman in New Hampshire John Talbott agrees with Ritchie. "If you close your eyes, it is difficult to hear much of a difference between Ralph Nader on the left and Pat Buchanan on the right when they talk about the devastating effect of free international trade on the American worker and a desire to clean big money and special interests out of Washington."[7] According to Buchanan this big capital is mainly in the hands of "the Jews". He presents himself as "the only leader in this country who is not afraid of fighting against the Jewish lobby".[8] Buchanan calls Hitler "an individual of great courage" and doubts whether the holocaust really was that big an event.[9] But "Jewish capital" isn't the most important reason why Buchanan wants to be a candidate for the presidency. No, in the first place he wants to end "illegal immigration", that is, according to Buchanan, "helping fuel the cultural breakdown of our nation".[10]

The populist Buchanan is probably the foremost representative of the extreme right in the US. His constituency consists of Christian fundamentalists, militia members and neo-Nazis. These millions of people might explain Dolan's flirt with Buchanan. Together with his enthusiastic commentary Dolan sent around a newspaper article in which Buchanan openly says: "American workers and people first."[11] But Buchanan is not alone with that opinion. Also the big right-wing trade union AFL-CIO wants to make "the rights and interests of US workers a priority".[12] The union also mobilises their rank and file for the demonstrations in Seattle.

The government is not the enemy

When Dolan's work and ideas were criticised from the grassroots level, the coordinator of the American PGA caravan immediately took his side. "Let's work together when we can, work in parallel when we must, but never work against each other when our goal is the elimination of the WTO and its corporate benefactors."[13]

While organising, Dolan keeps repeating his mantra: "Remember, for us, the enemy isn't these governments that comprise the WTO. The enemy is the transnational corporate, free trade lobby."[14] Consequently Dolan can perfectly work together with the right-wing Republican council member Derdowski, who earlier initiated plans for a Seattle MAI free zone. Also according to Derdowski the discussion around the WTO transcends the old borders between the left and the right. "The issue for conservatives is the sovereignty of America, the constitution. State and local authority is in danger of being eroded through international treaties, ceding authority to foreign regulatory bodies."[15] Together with the Republicans Dolan organises a demonstration in Seattle.

On a meeting they brainstormed on how to get the conservative inhabitants of the affluent districts of Seattle to also take to the streets. They decided to put IFG member David Korten on the task. They assumed this ex-businessman would easily connect to the rich.[16] Shortly after, Korten showed up at the grassroots level. He acted as the most important guest lecturer at a strategy meeting on non-violent direct action. Korten is probably the foremost ideologue of the movement against "the globalisation". He would very much like to return to the 50's, when the economy was, according to him, still local and capitalism was not yet "perverted". His second hang-up is neo-Malthusian. He wants to reduce the world population from 6 to 1 billion. How? That he has, wisely, not revealed yet.[17]

Crucial battles

Susan George also believes that "state sovereignty" is "under threat".[18] Therefore she wants us to strive for the "greatest possible unity".[2] The need for that also became clear to George in the US fight against fast track, a special presidential authority to push through trade treaties. "The anti-NAFTA and anti-WTO forces of the left defeated fast-track authority for the president only with the help of the far right. It was still a good thing to defeat fast track."[19] Ritchie, her colleague at the IFG, also has a good deal of experience in working together with the extreme right. "Aside from Nader and Buchanan, the anti-GATT and NAFTA trade alliance include a wide spectrum of what would have previously been called left and right elements. This diversity of views and constituencies gave the campaigns much of their strength."[6]

De Fabel van de illegaal, on the other hand, fights the coming together of the left and the right. Whoever starts working with the right automatically drops migrants, women and gays as potential allies, for they are always under attack from the right. The last couple of months De Fabel have heavily criticised collaborations with the right. Articles have been written on the ideas and activities of the New-Right ideologist Goldsmith, who is also an important IFG member and sponsor of the think tank.[20] George got very angry about the criticism. De Fabel was splitting up the movement, she wrote. And because of that "we" would lose the "crucial battles" that "will be fought" in Seattle.[2]

Millionaire Goldsmith was put on the program of the IFG conference in Seattle, but in the meantime he has been taken off. Whether the cancellation of his lecture has anything to do with the criticism of de Fabel remains unclear.

Merijn Schoenmaker
Eric Krebbers
(De Fabel van de illegaal)


1. Seattle prepares for battle, Susan George. In: Le Monde Diplomatique, November 1999.
2. Letter to Dutch organisation De Fabel van de illegaal, Susan George, 21.9.1999.
3. Dolle toestanden in Frankrijk, Kees Stad, 7.9.1999.
4. Letter by e-mail, Michael Dolan, 2.3.99.
5. The right wing revolt against the modern age, Margaret Quigley and Chip Berlet. In: The Public Eye, Vol. VI, No. 1 December 1992. .
6. Cross-border organizing, Mark Ritchie. In: The case against the global economy and for a turn towards the local, Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith, 1996.
7. Right wing populism / Reform Party. Homepage Public Eye, 11.7.1999. Same text by Chip Berlet on Corporate Watch site.
8. Kritiek op Buchanans kijk op nazi-Duitsland, Bert Lanting. In: De Volkskrant, 25.9.99.
9. Pat Buchanan in his own words, FAIR report, 26.2.1996.
10. Free trade and foul, Leonard Zeskind. In: Searchlight, October 1999.
11. Buchanan dumps on Clinton steel policy, Edward Walsh. In: Washingon Post, 2.3.1999.
12. Gephardt calls for a seat at the table for labor, environmentalists in WTO-talks, Tom Gilroy. In: Washington Post, 13.10.99.
13. Letter by e-mail, Michael Morrill. 13.10.99.
14. Protesters busily practice for WTO meeting in Seattle, David Postman. In: Seattle Times, 10.9.99.
15. Shutting down Seattle, Geov Parrish. In: Seattle Weekly, 19.8.99.
16. Globalization foes plan to protest WTO's Seattle round trade talks, Helene Cooper. In: Wall Street Journal, 16.7.99.
17. Antiglobalization, Doug Henwood. In: Left Business Observer No. 71, January 1996.
18. State sovereignty under threat - globalising designs of the WTO, Susan George. In: Le Monde Diplomatique, July 1999.
19. E-mail by Susan George, 17.9.1999.
20. Millionaire Goldsmith supports the Left and the Extreme Right. Eric Krebbers. Goldsmith and his Gaian hierarchy. Eric Krebbers. Both in: De Fabel van de illegaal No. 36, September 1999.

Some editing of the English translation by Alain Kessi

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Last updated 1999-11-25