marxism-digest V1 #1588

Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at
Tue Dec 7 18:02:47 MST 1999

Jon Flanders wrote:
>Wow. So rather than being a confused and contradictory protest in response
>the the depredations of capital around the world, this was a reactionary
>demonstration leading people in the direction of fascism?
>Logically then the police attacks were directed by pro-bourgeois democracy
>elements of the ruling class against premature fascists, rather than
>ruling-class repression against citizens interfering with the business of
>capital accumulation.
>Do you agree with this Phil?
>Can't we make a distinction between the undoubted America-first ideology of
>the nominal leaders and the sentiments and desires of the people who turned
>out? Could any demonstration taking on the manifestations of capitalism in
>the U.S not start out this way?
>Were the early demonstrations against the Vietnam war reactionary because
>they were led by people who saw the war as a greivous violation of the
>finest traditions of U.S. democracy?

Well, this is a fine turn around Jon.  You attacking the Barnesites and me
defending them!

I did say that their comments about Buchanan being there to recruit
stromtroopers from the anti-WTO protesters was crazy talk.  So, in answer
to the question in your third para, no, of course I don't agree.

IN terms of the earliest demonstrations against Vietnam, I would say they
were quite different to the Seattle protest.  Because they were *against an
imperialist war*, however confused the politics were.  But I agree with the
Barnesites that there is nothing inherently or potentially progressive
about people in the USA being against the WTO.

In an imperialist heartland like the US being 'against' the WTO is about as
indicative as being against the Republicans and for the Democrats.

I can understand why a lot of people on the left got enthusaistic about the
Seattle protests - which is Mac's point about the first significant protest
for his generation after a long drought.

But I think it's indicative more of the weakness and sad state of the left,
than a sign of anything radical, that these protests have been talked-up
and are being made to appear as something they are not.

I also think it's a bad method to read protests today through 1960s eyes.
The whole mood of society is different today and we have to read protests
today in this context, not by saying 'well 60s protests were a jumble as

One of the big differences, it seems to me, is that people believed in
humanity in the 1960s and our ability to change things.  Today, there is a
very deep pessimism about humanity and our ability to change things for the
better and a lot of 'radical' protest reflects this and has a virulently
anti-humanist and strongly irrationalist edge.

If the theme of the labour contingents in Seattle was for protectionism of
US industry, I certainly cannot see anything progressive.  If you want to
'read' that in terms of 1960s protests, it is American nationalism and
patriotism and thus more like the construction workers demonstrating in
support of Washington's  war on Vietnam than it is like the early anti-war


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