| Introduction: Ten years after Seattle – Challenges for Global Social Movements Today

Foto: Dang Ngo

Foto: Dang Ngo

Close to the anniverary of the spectacular 30 November 1999 protest against the World Trade Organization in Seattle we received the manifesto by Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Italian activist and intellectual, “Ten years after Seattle. One strategy, better two, for the movement against war and capitalism“. Seattle was a welcome surprise for its militant, broad based protests and rebellion. Another treaty privileging the North failed; the movements suceeded in scandalizing the economic and social consequences of neoliberal globalization. Since then ‚Seattle’ stands in as a symbol of the powerful re-vitalization of global struggles against capitalist globalization.

Today – ten years later – Beradi positions himself radically against this narrative of success. Sure, he also regards ‚Seattle’ as a successful rebellion against the promises of neoliberalism. However, according to Berardi, social movements in general have not changed much about global capitalism, to the contrary, global wars and and militant fundamentalisms have proliferated.
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| Nicola Bullard:There’s no redemption in a monastery

by Nicola Bullard

It is so interesting to look back at the issue of Focus on Trade that we published just after the collapse of the WTO talks in Seattle in early December 1999. (In case you are interested, it’s number 42.) In the lead article by Walden Bello, what is striking is not the triumphant heralding of the arrival of the anti-globalisation movement, but a rather tame recounting of the collapse of the talks over issues of transparency, attempts to introduce environment and labour standards, and a disgruntled African delegation.
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| From Seattle to Copenhagen: Will Africans again block a bad deal?

by Patrick Bond

The decade since Seattle should have taught civil society activists and African leaders two powerful lessons. First, working together, they have the power to disrupt a system of global governance that meets the Global North’s short-term interests against the Global South, and against the long-term interests – and survival – of the people and planet. Second, by disrupting global governance, major concessions can be won.
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| Monasteries or mobilization? Seattle and the case for action

By Ian Greer

On November 30, 1999 around 50,000 protesters filled the streets of downtown Seattle to protest the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization.  At least half were trade unionists from around Western US and Canada protesting free trade and the threat it posed to jobs and worker rights.  Also present were representatives of hundreds of NGOs from around the world, and thousands of local environmentalists, feminists, anarchists, socialists, students, academics, and activists from various racial, ethnic, and religious groups.  ‘Seattle’ became an icon and inspired several large demonstrations against corporate globalization around the world.
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| How Do You Institutionalise a Swarm?

by Tadzio Müller and Ben Trott

For French Philosopher Alain Badiou, an event is a break, a moment of rupture with a clear ‘before’ and ‘after’, where the ‘after’ could not be foreseen even from within the event itself, and whose meaning is primarily ascribed in retrospect. ‘Seattle’ was an event in this sense, creating an unexpected disruption within an apparently hegemonic, imperial structure by a newly emergent, multitudinous, antagonistic social subject. This was a subject which, later, would have many names, but was best described with the French term mouvement altermondialiste – the movement for a different globalisation.
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| Not the Monastery, But Counter-Hegemony

by Ulrich Brand

I agree with Bifo Beradi’s assumption that we find ourselves in a condition of global war, and that the emancipatory global social movements, the world-wide anti-war demonstrations on February 15 2003 notwithstanding, are unable to do much about it. I also share the diagnosis that the movements in Western Europe have achieved little in terms of alternative forms of sociality, as can be seen by the political responses to the current crisis which have barely been able to intervene into the neoliberal relations of forces. If we look at developments in Latin America, however, this is not the case. In contrast to Beradi, I do not believe the condition of war to be dominant in all societies. An attempt to advance an emancipatory politics in Baghdad, for example, takes place in different conditions than it would in La Paz, or Vienna.
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| Bifo Berardi:Ten Years after Seattle. One strategy, better two, for the movement against war and capitalism

by Franco “Bifo” Berardi

We have to be prepared to the prospect of a long period of monastic withdrawal, but also to the prospect of a sudden reversal of the global political landscape. A moral rebellion began in Seattle in November 1999: after the act of disruption of the WTO summit millions of people all over the world declared that capitalist globalization causes social and environmental devastation. For two years the global movement produced an effective process of critique of neoliberal policies, giving way to the hope of a radical change.
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