"Do we have any libertarians here tonight?!" Pando goes to Rock Against the TPP

By Dan Raile , written on September 15, 2016

From The Party Desk

International trade agreements are tough.

Government representatives and lobbyists far and wide convene to sort out trade protocols over many years, then try to sell the resulting mash to their legislatures back home.

As we enter the fall of 2016, things aren’t looking good for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the treaty drafted by 12 Pacific nations this spring. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have vowed to oppose it as president (though even Clinton’s old friend Terry McAuliffe thinks she’ll revert back to her former pro-TPP position). And even if Congress were in the habit of passing laws, the unpopularity of the TPP is likely to resonate with their electoral imperatives.

Nevertheless, the scabrous knot of labor unions, NGOs and anarchists that regularly oppose such things are leaving nothing to chance. They’ve pooled their mailing lists to create Rock Against the TPP, a series of free concert events around the country this summer and fall. (The photo above is from their event in Denver)

Who wouldn’t want to attend a concert called “Rock Against the TPP”?

The San Francisco version of this event took place at the Regency Ballroom last Friday night, headlined by hip hop group Dead Prez, hosted by legendary local agitator Jello Biafra, and sponsored by the Teamsters, United Steelworkers, and Communications Workers unions, the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, and internet policy advocates the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight For the Future. Naturally, I went along too.

In the course of the six-hour event, the stage was occupied alternately by musical acts and anti-TPP inveiglers. The crowd maxed out somewhere above a thousand people, and skewed white, much like the rest of San Francisco. (A majority of the musical performers were not white, and one even got the crowd to chant “fuck white privilege” along with her.) Attendees were culled from the diminishing ranks of San Francisco punks, anarchists and labor activists. Books and legal herbal smoking blends were on sale in an annex. The music ranged from conscious salsa to conscious melodic hardcore to conscious hip hop.

There is something for everyone to hate in a document as sprawling and multifarious as an international trade agreement, from Sanders to Trump and all points in between. Each organization made its case for the disasters to wrought under the TPP. All of them railed against the secretive process of drafting the agreement, and there was some agreement about the general villainy of corporations. Some inveighed against capitalism, including “acclaimed riot-grrrrl cellist” Bonfire Madigan who ended her set with a song against capitalism and then asked the crowd to check out the limited edition clear vinyl records at her merchandise table: “And if you don’t have ten bucks just take one I guess, maybe if you know someone that has a Paypal you could send something our way later on.”

No one at the microphone was daft enough to invoke making america great again, though millions of Americans associate that goal with their opposition to the TPP. Only the EFF’s representative was bold enough to confront this strange affinity.

“I know we have a lot of progressives here tonight, right?” he asked, in what sounded suspiciously like a British accent. A cheer went up through a crowd primed by several hours of labor rally call-and-response.

“Do we have anybody from the other side of politics? Do we have any libertarians, any Republicans?” Silence, heckling, catcalls. The brave cyber libertarian pressed on. “You don’t have to be ashamed, because we’re all fighting TPP together.” And just like that, he lost the crowd. Not even his closing exhortation of “So let’s all go wild and stop the TPP” could bring them back.

Another thing nobody did was to read or summarize from the TPP itself, or give any accounting of its proponent’s reasoning or aims. But of course this was a rally, and we live in a post-factual society anyway. Still, Jello Biafra offered some constructive, general-purpose advice:

“If you don’t tell people about this, who will? And that does not just mean the internet. It does not just mean blogging to people who already agree with you. This means going one on one with people who don’t agree with you, or don’t know this is happening. Sit down and talk to them. Don’t dismiss people as tea party idiots or ignorant tech yuppies. Eye to eye, one on one, person to person… bite the ankles of your Congress creatures and don’t let go, so that they know they are being watched.”

With that, Biafra announced Dead Prez, who kicked off their impressive set by telling the crowd they’d never heard of the TPP.