GENTECH archive


Michael Moore:The Battle of Seattle

December 7, 1999

Dear Friends,

They never knew what hit them.  They had assumed it
would be business as usual, the way it had been for
decades.  Rich men gather, meet, decide the fate of the
world, then return home to amass more wealth.  It's the
way it's always been.

Until Seattle.

On the morning of November 30, 1999, as government
officials from 135 nations attempted to meet with the
largest gathering ever of corporate executives, tens of
thousands of average everyday working Americans shut
down the city of Seattle and physically prohibited the
hoped-for historic and official merger of the earth's
political and business elite.  I was there.  I saw it
first-hand.  It was a sight I had never seen.

But there it was.  It was a massively representive body of
Americans (and Canadians and Brits and French, etc.),
all of us standing there on the streets between Pine and
Pike -- Teamsters and turtle-lovers, grandparents and
Gap clerks, the homeless and computer geeks, high
school students and Alaskans, nuns and Jimmy Hoffa, Jr.,
airplane mechanics and caffeinated slaves from Microsoft.
A few were professional protesters, but the majority
looked as if this was their first exercise in a
constitutionally protected redress of grievances.  There
were no "leaders," no "movement," no idea of what to do
except stop the World Trade Organization from holding
its secret meeting.

Only the anarchists seemed organized.  They even had
their own anarchist marching band!

The big labor march grew so large (that's what happens
when so many workers are temps), it broke into six or
seven separate marches, choking off the entire downtown
area of Seattle.

The beauty of all this is that it just happened.  And why
should anyone be surprised?  After two decades of
downsizing, wage stagnation, lost health benefits and
the deliberate destruction of the middle class, the bubble
sooner or later had to burst.

The Fortune 500 brought this on themselves.  If they
hadn't been so greedy, if they had been willing to share
even a sliver of the pie, then maybe Seattle wouldn't
have happened.

But the rich decided to take a piss on their biggest
supporters -- their loyal workers, those Reagan
Democrats -- and there's nothing uglier than a
Teamster who voted for Nixon realizing he's been had.

It was funny watching how the media presented the
Battle of Seattle ("violent protests" was the mantra),
and while a McDonald's and a Starbucks had their
windows broken, the truth was that 99% of the
participants destroyed no property and took great
pains to treat the city of Seattle with endearing
respect. Seattle is, after all, the only city in the
history of this country to have a general strike (the
entire town refused to show up for work back in 1919).

The liberal mayor of Seattle, who at first did not want to
be known as a West Coast Mayor Daley, eventually lost
his cool and let his police force run amok.  Tear gas and
rubber bullets started flying toward the grandparents and
the nuns.  All civil liberties were suspended. They even
had the audacity to use the term, "no protest zones."
Hey, this is America, buddy! Seattle may be considered
one of those groovy "Pacific Rim" cities, but that doesn't
make it Singapore.

Clinton came to town on the second day. He was so
badgered by the protests, he ended up committing a
sin so serious, it was like he was burning his draft card
all over again. He completely changed his position and
called on all WTO countries to enact laws prohibiting
trade with nations that use children in sweatshops and
do not honor the rights of all workers to organize a
union. Whoa! You see, free trade is an absolute with the
WTO (e.g., trade must never be used as a tool to
accomplish "social" goals). So, for Clinton to climb the
space needle (or was he chased up it?) and then declare
that the human rights of workers were more important
than making a buck, well, this was nothing short of Paul
being knocked off his horse and seeing Jesus! You could
almost hear the collective seething of the hundreds of
CEOs gathered in Seattle.  Their boy Bill -- the politician
they had bought and paid for at so many coffee klatches
and Lincoln Bedroom stays --- had betrayed them.  You
could almost see them reaching for their Palm Pilots to
look up the phone number of The Jackal.

It was a tremendous victory for everyone who lives from
paycheck to paycheck.  We owe a lot to those brave
souls who got arrested and spent the rest of the week
in jail.

This is by no means the end of Big Business.  The
richest 1% still own 90% of everything in this world.
They will not go down without a fight.

But they have been put on notice that people from all
walks of life have had their fill and will not let up until we
have a fair, just, and democratic economy.  This week,
Seattle was the Lexington and Concord of a movement
that now cannot be stopped.  Mark it down, this last great,
important date of the 20th century -- November 30, 1999 --
The Battle of Seattle, the day the people got tired of having
to work a second job while fighting off the collection agents
and decided it was time the pie was shared with the people
who baked it.

Michael Moore
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