Strange Anti-WTO Bedfellows
- 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 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
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
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
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?