The siege of Seattle marked the rise of a popular resistance to the evils of globalisation

The siege of the World Trade Organisation in Seattle shocked those who speak for western power. "The violence," said the New York Times, "diverted attention from the basic point the demonstrators sought to make - the need to reform the WTO's procedures." This message of "reform" rang out from President Clinton and was echoed by the team of Blair ministers in Seattle. According to Clare Short, ordinary people were "bamboozled".

What really worries them is that people are not bamboozled. Editorial pronouncements that people do not understand the "abstract complexity" of "globalised free trade" are mocked by the millions who understand perfectly the destructive manipulation of their lives by monetarist (or "Third Way") governments, institutions like the WTO and piratical corporations. The majority of Americans, says a national survey, regard globalisation and their famously "booming economy" as exploitative.

The illusion of a prosperous global village, all of us with our modems, same sitcoms and same "lifestyle", comes from a media that has become the standard-bearer of a "global economy". The growing numbers of poor are pitied from time to time, but mostly they remain unpeople and the causes of their impoverishment a largely forbidden subject. Clare Short, "firebrand of the left", is looking after them: she who "doubts" that inequality comes from globalisation, she who is Blair's trusted International Development Secretary.

Seattle has shaken the globalisers, and "reform" is their emergency jargon. "The WTO," says the New York Times, "should bend over backwards to side with environmental advocates when the cause is just." No guesses who will decide "when the cause is just". Even before the Seattle conference, the WTO's ploy, supported by a big public relations campaign, was to project a "human face" and invite "dialogue" with selected non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and so divide and weaken the popular front calling for its demise.

The Blair government epitomises the danger of this seduction. In 1997, following his announcement of an "ethical" foreign policy, Robin Cook staged a Mandelson-managed event at the Foreign Office to which selected journalists, editors and representatives of leading NGOs were invited to hear the Foreign Secretary speak on "human rights in a new century". Cook began by saying that "all nations belong to the same international community" and are "neighbours [who] share a global economy". This was manifestly false; there is one economy for the rich and one for the poor, causing the greatest wealth disparity since records were kept. The seduction proceeded with Cook announ- cing that Britain would fund a special centre for NGOs where they would have "a fuller opportunity to put forward their views" to the government.

The problem for the voluntary agencies is that they are already too close to government through funding and tax-exempt charitable status. What the globalisers of the Blair regime want is a more efficient way of co-opting and controlling them. Following Seattle, this has a new urgency. Both the WTO and the European Commission have called on "partner NGOs" to participate in "issue- specific" events. "A millennium round of trade talks should not just benefit business," says the former trade commissioner Sir Leon Brittan. "We can and should ensure that consumers and the environment also gain . . . NGOs are crucial partners in preparing for the negotiations that lie ahead."

In fact, the benefits to humanity, as opposed to business, are a mirage. The real negotiations are over. The Marrakesh Agreement of 1994, which gave the World Trade Organisation totalitarian powers, was formulated by bureaucrats behind closed doors and signed by governments as a "final act" of the Uruguay round of trade deals that placed power firmly with the rich nations and their institutions. As Michel Chossudovsky, author of The Globalisation of Poverty, has pointed out, an entirely undemocratic world body "has been casually installed in Geneva, empowered under international law with the mandate to 'police' country level economic and social policies". This amounts to a "repeal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights", providing "legitimacy to trade practices which border on criminality [including] the patenting of human life forms".

The terms of China's accession to the WTO is almost guaranteed to devastate agriculture and employment as western banks and corporations are granted "national treatment". Global financial power is being centralised as never before, and speculative capital is becoming more powerful than ever before. A dictatorial world government is forming. This is globalisation.

War and globalisation go together. Those countries on strategic territory, such as the American oil protectorate from Turkey to the Caucasus, are subject to attack with "humanitarian missiles" or to "containment" with embargoes that hold their people hostage to the compliance of an uppity dictator. None of this is new. The imperialists of the last century demanded economic control under threat of war. Gunboat diplomacy, it was called.

Seattle signalled something the globalised media have worked hard to suppress or obfuscate: the rise of a universal, informed, popular resistance. "Beware the rumbling out there," warned the president of the US Federal Reserve Bank. He was referring to humanity. Us. On our behalf, John Berger recently quoted the poet Juan Gelman:

". . . we're going to take up again the struggle
again we're going to begin
again we're going to begin all of us
against the great defeat of the world."

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