Battle in Seattle

Tony Tracy tony at
Fri Dec 3 20:04:00 MST 1999

Mac had said:

>This gives me a question for Tony as well, who I gather spent most of
>the day with the labour march. How hard did the Reds (FSP, CPUSA, PLP
>WWP, ad infinitum) push to get workers over to the danger spots? What
>was so bizarre is that they were only two blocks away, we could see
>them. I was holding my breath for their appearance. My eternal thanks
>to several longshore and dockworkers for coming, my eternal
>condemnation to Sweeney/Hoffa/Georgetti for their guilt in leaving the
>other radicals vulnerable to the assaults we got. Rank and file are
>always more radical...

and Paul had asked:

>I want to put out a request for information on the role that
>socialist parties or groupings played in the action. I know that the
>Left is weak, but it would be interesting to hear about the tactics of
>specific groups, what perspectives your group/party had, etc. Who was
>the most visible? What political points or demands were

I can only speak to what I saw, which wasn't really a whole lot in
terms of the organized left, or at least their role in the action.

I travelled to Seattle on Tuesday morning with a busload of folks who
are members of, or "contacts" of, the Vancouver branch of the
International Socialists (the Canadian equivalent of the American
ISO). The IS had organized two busloads to go down, and, as a couple
of close friends of mine are still in the IS and had asked me to come
with them to keep them company for the ride there and back, I thought
I'd get a kick out of travelling on one of their buses, rather than a
union bus that I was booked on previously (for those that don't know
-- I left / was forced out of the IS nearly two years ago... so the
bus trip was doubly fun in that it made some folks in the IS national
leadership, who had arrived in Vancouver to travel down for the WTO,
visibly uncomfortable to have me travelling with their contingent).

When we arrived at the stadium in Seattle, the IS members were under
discipline to join with folks from the ISO in selling copies of SW at
the gate -- I left briefly to go get cheap american smokes and some
coffees for my paper-selling friends, and by the time I returned
pretty much every group that I could imagine was selling or giving
away papers -- plenty of copies of the Militant being hawked, loads
of the CP papers being liberally given away, copies of Labor Notes
seen in folks hands, Workers World visibly present, the folks from
Labor Militant were out selling, etc.... I even saw somebody selling
Revolutionary Worker (which I haven't seen anyone selling since my
days on the east coast, when I used to spend many weekends in Boston).

There were rightwing wingnuts present hawking stuff as well -- the
Lyndon Larouche supporters were out with the "New Federalist" and
handing out copies of that fascist Lyndon's "address to working
people" and selling his latest book in front of one of the gates to
the stadium where the rally was held (by the way, if you haven't seen
Chip Berlet's article on Larouche & his conspiracy-laden anti-semitic
organization, I'd recommend checking it out at -- but of course that's
completely off topic).

Oddly, I didn't see comrades from the Freedom Socialist Party, who I
were certainly there, as Seattle is their strongest base... I had
hoped to link up with them during the rally or march, as I've been
working closely with an FSP comrade here in Vancouver for some time
around various campaigns. I think the fact that I missed seeing an
entire organization (who I suspect had a sizable presence, judging
from the attendance at a May Day function the FSP sponsored in
Seattle earlier this year that I had attended) speaks to the size of
the rally and march, though :)

As the march got underway, various left groups formed up into
contingents to march with their banners & placards (and papers, of
course)... the contingent with which I marched was largely
Vancouver-and-Victoria-based folk, led by the BC component of the
Canadian Federation of Students and a number of unionists from BC,
but was joined by the IS and ISO contingents in short order.

When my militant-unionist pal and I split off from our contingent and
went up to check out the point at which the marchers were being to
turn away from the convention centre (the actual site of the WTO) by
the marshals, I watched as several contingents of left organizations
"made the turn to the left" (again, physically, not programatically)
*away* from the convention centre. It was hard to determine what
discussions were going on within those contingents, of course, but I
later heard that the IS / ISO contingent had a good argument amongst
themselves about it, with a significant minority wanting to continue
straight through another block or two towards the convention centre,
while the leadership made it clear that their contingent was turning
with everyone else (I'm given to understand that this became a major
point of debate in their Vancouver branch meeting the next night as

Certainly when my "marching buddy" and I were way off the official
march route and in the "hot spot" zones, there were no signs in sight
of anyone that I would visibly identify with being in an organized
socialist/communist group (ie. no banners or picket signs from any of
the groups / no papers being sold as the tear gas canisters flew,
etc.). But it's hard to tell, really -- especially since I'm pretty
much a stranger to the "scene" in Seattle and thus wouldn't likely be
able to recognize leading members of different left groups there.

So, I'd have to say, from what little I saw from my vantage point, I
think the various groups did play a role -- largely in bringing folks
out from their schools & workplaces (and particularly the colleges
and universities), which was apparent in the composition of the
various contingents, but little if any identifiable role in helping
to get the marchers to show physical solidarity with the folks who
were closer to the convention centre. And I didn't see any leaflets
or materials handed out by anyone that addressed the *inevitable*
sell-out by the Hoffa/Sweeney leadership of the rally and march.

Another observation that I don't think has been brought up here
before now: I was impressed with the presence of supporters of Mumia
Abu-Jamal on the march -- there were many "Free Mumia / Stop the WTO"
placards, and a good number of the chants that I was hearing had Free
Mumia content...

comradely greetings,

Tony Tracy

ps: by the way -- I echo Lou's sentiments on "fuzzy thinking"
(contained within a recent post in which he outlined four key trends
of demands amongst the protesters in Seattle).

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