Anarchists Want to Unite With Diverse WTO Protesters

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By Marshall Kirkpatrick, of Eugene Oregon's Anarchist Action Collective

The protest against the WTO took power back from multi-national rulers and put it in the hands of the people. Tens of thousands of protesters had a variety of different plans for how to get and how to use that power. The common thread, though, between picketing, blockades, dancing , lock downs and window smashing is that all of those tactics derailed the "business-as-usual" focus of the week and empowered the people to determine the nature of the event. Obviously, that is not justification enough for the use of any of those tactics; but it's important to recognize what they all achieved together and what the dominant statement of the protest was. Had that statement been managed perfectly by bureaucratic leaders of big labor and environmental organizations, it would have been nothing more than a plea to yet another managerial class to make this sick world sustain itself. Since other groups contributed energy to the event, its statement could not be molded by a few organizations.

Some people wanted only to contribute to the WTO agenda. Others wanted to force protection of their interests. Still others wanted to chase every capitalist, politician and cop out of town. From French farmers to the AFL-CIO to masked anarchists to Seattle residents of many stripes -- the only thing everyone had in common was that they acted to take back power over their world. That is obviously desirable. Most people favor more local governments to international bodies and locally owned stores to multi-national conglomerates. That's because the closer the power is to what it's held over, the greater the incentive there is for that power to be exercised in the subjects' interests.

Anarchists have this same belief, but carry it out to its fulfillment. Sometimes that's because people will accept nothing less than total autonomy and personal responsibility. For example, people ought to relate to the land that they live on honestly and based on their knowledge. Outside laws objectively applied with no real connection to the place are by definition closer to corruption than they are to environmental integrity. No one can be trusted to be as responsible for you as you are for yourself. No one else can take as good care of you as yourself and the people that love you.

Bill Gates does not love you. Neither does your congress person. Your boss probably doesn't love you and if your teacher does then they have a sick idea of love. None of them know you. Even when you meet, there's miles of institutions, roles and red tape, separating you.

Other people demand a total reclaiming of power because they believe that nothing less will solve many of our problems. They believe that as long as control of our lives lies outside of ourselves and our environment, that we will never be healthy and safe. It is when people who cannot understand us rule us that they justify oppression with falsehoods like sexism, racism and anthropocentrism.

If a movement is dynamic and strong, then there should be debate every day about the value of all tactics. I firmly believe, after seeing, hearing, feeling and reading evidence in support of this conclusion, that breaking out a corporation's window is a healthier and more effective way to change society meaningfully than working with an elected representative. To break a window is to form a direct personal connection with a world that is ordinarily completely out of your control. It tells McDonalds that for at least one day, they cannot use a shiny new window to make money at everyone else's expense; for at least that one day you will use that window to tell the world that you will not accept what goes on inside that building. Once it has been demonstrated that people are willing to do that, those who hold almost all the power in society quickly have less.

There are many arguments against political property destruction. I'm not going to respond to them here. I will refer anyone interested to the available literature (including the soon to be a classic pamphlet "Ten Frequently Asked Questions About Window Smashing" coming soon from Anarchist Action Collective.)

All I want to show here is that on some level, all the people in Seattle were working in the same direction. It is what everyone has in common, control for the people, that anarchists value most. Many of us believe that we could all go much farther in the same direction, together.

Towards that end is the "other half" of the anarchist movement, free mutual aid. That's the part that the most people within our community support. Anarchists and their allies reclaim power for themselves by learning to fill their own needs. In Eugene and all around the world, many people work to provide their own food , education, protection, entertainment and spirituality. Those needs are fulfilled according to what will actually be best for us and what we have around us naturally. As few outside people as possible are responsible for the work, decisions and results.

Ultimately, many of us believe that our lives and the rest of the world will continue to be in danger until we combine the healthiest parts of society with an attack on the forces of outside control that are trying to take over everything. All of the work goes on every day and night in the same basic spirit, to reclaim power for ourselves and the earth. Though many parts of society will use "divide and conquer" tactics to weaken people coming together, if we can respect that common goal then we will be far more capable to effect change.

For more information about anarchism, including video sympathetic to our perspective, write to Anarchist Action Collective PO Box 11703 Eugene Oregon 97440 or e-mail your mailing address to

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