N30: Looking back on a decade of activism against global capital
As many of you know, this Monday, November 30 marks the tenth anniversary of the mass actions in Seattle against the World Trade Organization—actions that brought students, global justice organizers, trade unionists, peace activists, Seattle residents, and many, many others together in one of the most successful protests on United States soil in recent memory; actions that helped to mobilize a generation of young activists around the antiglobalization struggles taking place around the globe; actions that helped to inspire a decade filled with militant and artful interventions into the mechanics of the neoliberal machine.
N30 in Seattle wasn’t the first antiglobalization protest—J18’s Carnival Against Capitalism in London, Eugene, and other cities around the world might claim that honor, though strong demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank took place in Berlin in 1988, Madrid in 1994 as well. But Seattle played an important role in the decade of struggle against global capital that followed. Bolstered by the victory in Seattle, the antiglobalization generation continued to march on, through New York, Philadelphia, Prague, Montreal, Genoa, Quebec City, Davos, Cancun, Miami, Athens, Tokyo, Pittsburgh, and beyond. There were other successes, to be sure, and a hell of a lot of casualties, too, but Seattle continues to stand out as an important landmark in the history of mass mobilizations.
AK Press has just released a long-awaited collection of essays looking back on the events surrounding the Seattle 1999 WTO protests, edited by the incomparable David Solnit and Rebecca Solnit (with Chris Dixon, Anuradha Mittal, Stephanie Guilloud, and Chris Borte), The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle. It’s on sale on the AK Press website for 25% off all this month, and I highly encourage you to get a copy for yourself … and for anyone you know who was touched by the events in Seattle. Rebecca and David have both done an amazing job of exploring the ways in which the memory of Seattle has become something of a contested terrain: David’s essay looks at the star-studded indy film, Battle in Seattle, and recounts the efforts of activists to help set the record straight, while Rebecca’s essay tells the story of her scuffle with the New York Times over their representation of (highly exaggerated, and largely fabricated) protestor violence in Seattle. And Chris Dixon’s “Five Days in Seattle” is an excellent analysis of what really happened during the shutdown from the standpoint of a key organizer. Plus the book is profusely illustrated with dozens of black and white photos documenting some of the key moments before, after, and during the protests.
But as much as November 30, 2009 marks an important anniversary, and, perhaps, the passing of an era, it also marks the start of something new. In preparation for the counter-activities around the UN’s summit on climate change which gets underway in Copenhagen next week, activists around the country have called for a day of action for climate justice. In eight cities, a broad and diverse coalition of organizations working for social, environmental, economic, and racial justice will come together to call for urgent action on the global climate crisis based on equitable, democratic and science-based solutions. Find more information on the Mobilization for Climate Justice website: http://www.actforclimatejustice.org/ – and if you’re in Chicago, DC, Boston, New York, Seattle, Burlington, Seattle, or San Francisco, you can find information on the MCJ website about the actions planned, as well as post information about actions taking place in other cities. Please check it out—even if you don’t join the actions on November 30, there’s important info there about climate change issues, and about other climate justice actions planned in Copenhagen and around the globe. (Plus, keep an eye out for AK’s forthcoming book, Sparking a Worldwide Energy Revolution, edited by Kolya Abramsky, due out early next year.)
You also might want to check out:
BeyondTalk.net, where you can join the Climate Pledge of Resistance.
David Solnit discussing the new book and the upcoming mobilizations for climate justice on Democracy Now! on Monday, November 30.
Rebecca Solnit’s essay for TomDispatch, “Learning How to Count to 350: Remembering People Power in Seattle in 1999 and Berlin in 1989”.
Naomi Klein’s article for The Nation situating Seattle in the context of of the upcoming Copenhagen protests.
Stephanie Guilloud’s sharp reflections on the organizing lessons learned in Seattle in the Project South newsletter.
The Seattle WTO People’s History Project, where you can share your own stories and reflections about Seattle.