Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at
Mon Dec 6 16:25:55 MST 1999

"Craven, Jim" <jcraven at> said:

> I just came back from Seattle last night--the last of the protests at
> King county jail were tapering off with the King County Prosecutors
> to release the remaining arrested protestors if they agree to show up
> trial. The tactic is to demand public defenders, not waive right to a
> trial, plead nont-guilty and to clog up the system with trials. The
> majority of those still held were charged with various misdemeanors
with a
> few charged with felonies.
> I was involved in protests but also, with working press credentials,
> circulated throughout various demonstrations in downtown and on
Capitol Hill
> and inside the press areas of the conference itself. I have to say
> that I was not as enthused and hopeful and some who were there and
> their own accounts. For example, in any demonstration, there are
bound to be
> some diverse and contending elements--brought together around a
> concern--but the diversity in Seattle was something else. I asked
> demonstrators some baci questions about the WTO--very basic--and many
had no
> idea about its basic origins, composition, proposed rules etc. The
> from far right to "left" was truly astounding.


The point you are after, if I gather correctly, is that there were some
truly bizarre people out at these marches, less that 1 in a hundred
were actually thinking revolution. This is true. The way a lot of the
people thought at the demos was quite reactionary (I get furious
everytime I see a "Free Tibet" sign, and there were more than a few
here. I pose the following question:

  What the on earth did you expect the demonstration to look like? This
is the most apolitical, intellectually traumatised continent on the
planet, and it has been for most of the century. Speaking of just the
first world, when France had the general strike in 68, N America had
the riot in Chicago. One was rather more politically impressive. When
Australians went on strike to get out of the war, the AFL CIA was
drumming up money for the napalming of peasants. Ad infinitum...

OF COURSE the American and Canadian demonstrators were an eclectic
bunch, What I was taken to the point of breathlessness by was the fact
that so many were doing something, ANYTHING. Remember, for all of you
who have been at this since the sixties or longer, those of us who
started in the eighties or nineties have never seen any action by more
than a few hundred or a couple of thousand.

  Moreover, what better way to politicise people than to shoot the
hippies with rubber bullets and tear gas them and their friends? I
didn't spend time with people I knew, and did so quite deliberately.
What was a tame, smiling dancing hippie one minute was a stunned kid
who just had their first world, white skin privileged mind set tear
gassed out of 'em. A majority of these people actually believed that
mass demonstrations would destroy the WTO by way of the power of seeing
people in the streets. At least most of them believed that non-violence
on the part of a march will automatically mean non-violence on the part
of the state. These thoughts are GONE. For fifty thousand confused and
searching North Americans, and their friends, and so on...

  What was impressive was primarily two things: The look in peoples
eyes before and after one of our columns was assaulted. The twinkle was
gone, for some replaced by a loss of their own ideological vision
("love the cops, and they'll love you back" ahd to be my favorite). For
others, it was a brute understanding. I'm impatient by nature. I want
this movement to form into a Red Army, complete with all those unions
that were redirected by Hoffa, et al right now. Instead, we have a very
real opportunity to do something with this: We can attempt to propel
these marches into something more political, more defined and concrete.
We can attempt to destroy the reformism involved, and keep those "God
Hates Fags" people the hell away. We did see all sorts of whackos, but
all the rational revolution minded people (like you, Jim) on the West
Coast were there- and that beats pretty much all the other stuff we've
been up to for a long time.

On the other post about Anarchists: I refuse to talk about anything
political with them anymore. I only talk about the issue at hand,
whatever organising is going on. Anarchists were also the prime
organisers of the demos against PM Chretien awahile back. Is this not
worth it? I think it is. Narcissistic is an apt description of too many
radicals, being a poseur is a huge part of the radical left in North
America these days. I get very tired of my politics being mocked by
people who don't often know jack shit... but they are doing the work.
Anarchism is a very white, first world ideology. It basically amounts
to "I want my bourgeois society privileges, with a little socialism and
no cops". It is very weak on dialectical thinking. It just doesn't do
it, actually. However, a lot of these people are very interested in
making societal change happen. That can be shown as the difference
between the Anarchists who came in by bus and just attended the
demonstration, and the ones who were their for weeks, providing
housing, food, legal advice, etc... to the others.

In sum, many, maybe even most of these people will end up as Corporate
bigwigs, as Louis suggests. Some will stay radical, and might even get
some real understanding of how to build a better world, and what they
are actually up against.

Seattle tought lessons that "chairman Chomsky" could never do. I, for
one, will do whatever I can to push harder for a follow up. Let's hope
it doesn't turn into a bunch of stupid lawsuits against the Seattle
police dept., as it did here in Vancouver after the cops pepper sprayed
the students.

Macdonald Stainsby

check the "ten point platform" of Tao at:

"We believe that socialism is the fairest system and we
are devoting our lives to it, but we have to demonstrate its
viability. It has always been a complex process, even though we
thought it would be easy. We have lived under pressure from the
start, and more so today, but we are not going to give up. That would
be crazy."
-Raul Castro, General of the Cuban Army, 1999.

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