As this issue of Internationalism was being prepared for publication, news of violence in Seattle, with police clubbing and aiming tear gas at demonstrators outside the meeting of the World Trade Organization, was brought to us by the mass media. The bourgeois press raised the specter of the 1919 Seattle general strike, but this demonstration was not the awakening of a working class movement. It was an inter-classist movement involving many student activists. Nonetheless, we cannot let this moment pass without some comments.
We must denounce this episode of state repression and violence. In addition to using clubs and tear gas, the police shot rubber bullets at the demonstrators. This particular violence was not aimed directly at the working class, but we can be confident, these tools will be used against the workers in future struggles.
There were some 25,000 demonstrators brought by the unions to protest outside the WTO meeting. The United Steel Workers union protested against other countries ‘dumping’ lower cost steel on the American market. The Teamsters union brought contingentsmsters union brought contingents to protest jobs migrating to poorer countries, where the workers get lower wages than in the US. The unions brought out their forces in an effort to reinforce their tarnished image as ‘defenders’ of the working class, all the better to show an image of militancy for the labor struggles to come.
The unions are now claiming to oppose child labor being used to depress labor costs and workers losing their jobs when production migrates elsewhere. These unions are the same ones which have worked so long in cooperation with the state and the corporations to enforce the worsening of working conditions and wages.
This moment was an opportunity to give a warning to the American workers that if they do engage in real struggle, there will be repression aimed at them. After a period of a fairly low level of class struggle in the US, we have begun to see signs of the re-awakening of combativity among the workers.
Let this ‘warning’ to the working class, intended to be a brake upon the struggles of the proletariat which are already on the horizon, help the workers to recognize the serious stakes. The working class must prepare to fight…outside and against the unions.