Memphis Minnie's Blues Link


Who Needs The WTO?

NOTE: The following tract was widely circulated in Seattle and elsewhere during the November 1999 anti-WTO demonstrations.

In ancient times the word tyrant signified not simply a figure of oppressive authority, noted for extreme cruelty and injustice, but more precisely one who dared not appear in public without bodyguards. The vast interlocking tyrannies of our own time suggest that this strange period which flatters itself as "postmodern" might perhaps more aptly be called neo-ancient, and in any case qualifies as an example of barbarism at its goriest. Courtesy of the "free enterprise" system, the U.S. has created the most spied-on, billy-clubbed, tear-gassed, and locked-up society in the history of the world.

Today, however, it is not only top government officials, captains of industry, mobsters and religious potentates who surround themselves with cops and more cops (public and/or private), but also celebrities, stars of stage and screen, athletes, talk-show hosts and hostesses, radio personalities, brokers, bankers, gamblers, gurus, and all manner of high-profile non-entities. So inflated has the tyrants' network become in the past hundred years that our whole society is now afflicted with cops everywhere: in the street, of course, and the workplace, on the beach, and wherever young people and people of color assemble, but also in schools, in libraries, at concerts and other places of entertainment.

These reflections came to mind as we read media reports implying that, at the World Trade Organization's highly publicized plot-and-plunderfest in Seattle this month, the number of cops, soldiers and paid informers may well exceed the combined total of WTO conference attendees and protestors.

It should not be overlooked that the WTO itself is a kind of cop, or rather a kind of tyrants' watchdog—a symbolic hyper-watchdog at the portals of the new, improved, post-colonial, multicultural, genetically modified, low-fat imperialism. Organized in 1995 with specifically anti-labor motives in mind, the WTO has also manifested from the start a total contempt for even the most basic ecological concerns, and an obsequious eagerness to obey each and every command issued by the stage-managers of commodity fetishism.

It is in fact the avowed aim of the WTO to help coordinate U.S. capital's current scramble for Africa and Asia, as well as the restructuring of a freshly rebalkanized Europe, now conveniently dominated by the U.S.A.'s very own NATO. More generally, the WTO's task is to oversee U.S. capital's worldwide campaign to lower wages, destroy unions, restore sweatshop conditions, shield corporate polluters and wilderness-wreckers, facilitate the commercial annihilation of endangered species, and above all keep the profits soaring. Another important but more covert purpose of the WTO is to prepare the way for the globalization of slave labor.

The WTO's function, therefore, is not simply to maintain existing inequality but to expand it, indeed to globalize it—in other words, to make an already intolerable situation infinitely worse for everyone except billionaires

For us, surrealists, the WTO represents everything loathsome and disgusting in this world, and inspires only our revulsion. Almost to the point of caricature, it epitomizes contemporary civilization's disastrous hatred of the Marvelous. The WTO not only exemplifies the fear of poetry and love, the fear of human freedom, and the fear of wild creatures and places—it also broadcasts those fears, exacerbates them, and merges them into the Great Fear that paralyzes such a large portion of the U.S. population today: the fear of being "different," of being oneself, of being alive.

The WTO's stupid, boring, empty apologetics—its "booms," options, clout, profits, Prozac, diplomatic victories, accords, telecoms, Normal Trade Relations, "services," deals, tariffs, "futures," deficits, rapid growth, incentives, deregulation, ventures, market values, and "development" (i.e., covering the Earth with cement): all this truly makes us sick. (WTO rhetoric, like that of its confederates—the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and President Clinton himself—could serve as a manual for students of the devaluation of language.)

Such words and phrases are no laughing matter, any more than the deeds they document. Sixty-five years ago, W. E. B. Du Bois described just what horror the strokes of a pen can bring: "Flames of jealous murder sweep the earth, while brains of little children smear the hills." Make no mistake, the WTO can sign no agreement which is not a death sentence. Its reason for being is to make learning and youth, poetry and desire, solidarity and joy, poverty and weakness, wildlife and old growth—indeed everything not serving the crimes of capital—into a capital crime.

Clearly, as a bureaucratic embodiment of Patriarchy, Capital, Statism, White Supremacy, Genocide, and Ecocide—in short, the globalization of all forms of misery and miserabilism—the WTO is a veritable emblem of the sum of all villainies today.

Is there really anything to argue about here? Isn't it frightfully obvious that the WTO is a thoroughgoing abomination? That its whole agenda boils down to domination and devastation? That we'd all be much better off without it?

Here, then, are three simple, straightforward, reasonable demands:

Abolish the WTO!
Defend the Marvelous,
by any means necessary!
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!

22 November 1999
P.O. Box 6424, Evanston, IL 60204; E-mail: