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Strange Anti-WTO Bedfellows

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  • Dan Clore
    STRANGE ANTI-WTO BEDFELLOWS: THE OLD RIGHT AND THE NEW LEFT Is This Any Way to Run a Movement? Knute Berger is the editor in chief of the Seattle Weekly. The
    Message 1 of 1 , May 28, 2000
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      Is This Any Way to Run a Movement?

      Knute Berger is the editor in chief of the Seattle Weekly.

      "The whole world is watching" was a chant heard in
      Seattle's streets last November and December during the
      massive anti-WTO demonstrations. While most of the world
      did watch on TV, many observers here in Seattle were
      checking out the politics and tactics in the streets.
      Quietly among these were numerous representatives from
      the far right. Most were also opposed to the WTO, but
      Seattle wasn't their Woodstock.

      Pat Buchanan slipped into town, not to march but to do
      interviews and meet with political allies. Another
      presidential candidate, Howard Philips, the
      [Insert joke about Howard Phillips Lovecraft here --DC]
      standard-bearer of the arch-conservative Constitution
      Party (formerly the U.S. Taxpayers Party), was also here.
      So, too, was at least one observer who filed reports to
      the Militia of Montana's e-mail list. Even farther to the
      right, some skinheads and neo-Nazis were in town for the

      Some were clearly uncomfortable with what they saw in
      Seattle. The old hard right has been opposed to the WTO,
      its predecessor GATT, and the United Nations and obsessed
      with the erosion of national sovereignty for many
      decades -- long before sea turtles were endangered. (And
      they were right about fluoridation!) They were not
      impressed by Seattle's rabble of Johnny-come-lately
      hippies on the left, even though they may be in agreement
      about the evils of China and the New World Order.
      Buchanan can embrace Teamsters Union President James
      Hoffa, to whom he has offered the vice president's slot
      in his Reform Party run, because he's a red-blooded
      American working man, but hugging pinko forest sprites
      and anarchists -- forget it.

      The old right is pressing its antiglobalism agenda by more
      conventional means. Street demonstrations? "We don't do
      that," says John Birch Society President John McManus, who
      came through town last week. Such things tend to alienate
      ordinary citizens, he says. "The most we might do is put
      a float in a parade." But the Birchers and other
      conservative groups are pushing one of the most important
      anti-WTO pieces of legislation on the table, House Joint
      Resolution 90, sponsored by conservative GOP Congressman
      Ron Paul of Texas. [Note: that's one-time Libertarian Party
      presidential candidate Ron Paul. Odd to see him connected to
      the John Birch Society. --DC] The resolution calls for the
      U.S. to pull out of the WTO and must be voted on before June
      3. Nevertheless, McManus is keeping supporters on the left
      at a distance. "I am not anxious to have a left-right
      convergence," he says.

      But others on the even fringier right are fascinated, even
      inspired, by what they saw in Seattle.

      In a recent posting on the Militia of Montana list -- MOM
      for short -- a correspondent known as vikingpatriot took
      militia members to task for being "disorganized, splintered,
      easily defeated." He suggested that the militias could look
      to the left and to the anti-WTO movement for a role model.
      In a follow-up e-mail to me, vikingpatriot elaborated: "The
      left wing's ability to organize at the grassroots level is
      almost beyond compare. Their ability to utilize modern
      technology to communicate and change planning and strategy
      on a moment's notice is stunning. The left has displayed an
      uncanny ability to put aside their egos and work for the
      greater good of their cause . . . and that is the only road
      to victory."

      The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups
      and militias, has included information in its current
      "Intelligence Report" detailing how some far right groups
      are finding common cause and common enemies with the
      anti-WTO coalition.

      Advocates of what is called Third Position ideology -- mostly
      neo-fascist groups -- are openly sympathetic with the
      anti-WTO movement. American Front, for example, is a skinhead
      group that is anticapitalist and anticommunist (they advocate
      a "third" way). They support animal rights and are
      sympathetic with eco-terrorism, like the arson action in
      Vail, Colorado. Many are also neo-pagan followers of Odin.
      They are strong believers in racial identity politics, which
      often translates as white supremacism or separatism. Remember:
      Hitler was a vegetarian with a taste for pagan-themed opera.

      Some neo-Nazis believe that the anti-WTO uprising will help
      them fight the international Jewish banking conspiracy. Matt
      Hole, of the neo-Nazi World Church of Creation, saw great
      promise in the streets of Seattle when he was in town. "What
      happened in Seattle," he says, "is a precursor for the future,
      when white people in droves protest the actions of World

      Vikingpatriot also predicts that one day left and right will
      come together to protect their rights: "There will come a day
      when Americans will have to discard the labels of left and
      right, conservative and liberal, and stand together and fight
      for freedom."

      As the anti-WTO/IMF/World Bank movement morphs into a new kind
      of antiauthoritarian populism, allies will pop up in unexpected
      places -- plenty of people all across the ideological spectrum
      believe their constitutional rights have been infringed, believe
      their right to self-determination is in jeopardy, suspect that
      the U.S. government no longer represents we the people but
      rather acts on behalf of transnational financial interests.

      What's most interesting is not how stable such a broad coalition
      might be (in fact, I think it would be untenable) but that the
      sense of powerlessness and anger is so widespread. From
      middle-class kids to militiamen, tree huggers to race haters,
      Steelworkers to skinheads: Just how many canaries have to die
      in this coal mine before we figure out something is wrong?
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