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(en) US, Burning and Looting All Illusions Tonight - The FTAA and the Future of the Anti-Globalization Movement

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 17 Sep 2003 17:22:31 +0200 (CEST)

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> By the Magic City Marauders (poshlost@hushmail.com)
The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is the latest trade agreement
being pushed by big business in a process that is being referred to as
"globalization". It should, however, more specifically be identified
as capitalist globalization, as capital is the only thing that is being
globalized. Some proponents of globalization claim that it will create
a new internationalism, which will eventually preclude the relevance
of the nation-state, thus uniting humanity across borders. This is a
cynical manipulation of the facts. Globalization and free trade seek
to remove all restrictions from capital without regard for anything but
maximizing profits. To see a clear example of this, we need only look
towards NAFTA and its effects on Mexico. U.S. capital flows freely into
Mexico, building factories there because of the abundance of cheap labor.
At the same time, the Mexican market is
opened to U.S. agribusiness and results in almost 2 million small farmers
who cannot compete being forced off their land and into urban centers
in search of low-wage, maquiladora-style work. Worse still for Mexican
workers, many of the companies that moved there in search of cheap labor
are now moving manufacturing jobs out of Mexico in favor of China, where
they can pay even lower wages. In stark contrast to the freedom that
capital enjoys thanks to NAFTA, the American-Mexican border has been
increasingly militarized. By removing restrictions on capital and maintaining
restrictions on immigration, corporations are able to move factories
to wherever they can find the cheapest labor. With the expansion of free
trade, countries will be forced to lower wages in an effort to attract
jobs. Needless to say, this will further diminish U.S. trade-unions,
and the increased pressure on the working class will most likely find
expression in widespread nationalism and xenophobia (see Lori Wallach's
"America First!" stance), unless the anti-globalization movement is able
to present a relevant alternative with an analysis grounded in an internationalist

Capitalism is organized crime…

While it is important to oppose the FTAA, we must not lose sight of the

broader forces at work. Globalization is merely the latest stage of capitalism,
where corporations are beginning to exercise more control than nation-
states. However one feels about states, this is a harrowing development
because corporations operate on the profit-principle and only on the
profit-principle. Whatever increases profit is good and whatever decreases
profit must be overcome. This is not a matter of morality; it is simply
a law of business. It should be no surprise then, that companies choose
to employ sweatshop labor, as it is not a matter of whether a company
is ethical or not, but rather that a basic principle in a capitalist
economy is that exploitation should be increased whenever possible in
order to yield greater surplus value. In this light we must keep in mind
that the trade ministers who are meeting in Miami this November are not
negotiating a human rights agreement.

And thy enemies shall be of thy own household

Due to the great imbalances in economic strength between the United States
and Latin America, it can be argued that the FTAA represents a new form
of imperialism which seeks, whenever possible, economic domination in
favor of direct occupation. This is especially relevant when we note
the pressure that is put on countries to privatize their basic services
and natural resources. What this means is that large corporations, mainly
but not exclusively U.S.-owned, will control the means of survival for
millions of people in Latin America. It is a mistake, however, to assume
that Latin American nations are homogenous. While the working class and
peasantry are fundamentally opposed to these dealings, it is a much more
ambiguous case with the local elite. Many South American elites reluctantly
support globalization and privatization. They are reluctant because they
recognize that their economy is not nearly as robust as that of the U.S.
and are concerned about obtaining more bargaining power in trade negotiations.
They do not, however, fundamentally oppose capitalist globalization.
Rather they only oppose it insofar as it threatens their own elite interests.

The case of Brazil and its current president, Lula, illustrates this

point particularly well. While riding to power with the promise of opposing
free trade and representing the interests of labor and the millions of
Brazilians mired in poverty, it is abundantly clear at this point that
Lula has no intention of rejecting the FTAA. Now in office, his critical
position is founded more in accommodating Brazil's large and powerful
Agribusiness interests, not the 10 million citizens who overwhelming
rejected the FTAA model in a recent referendum. This is by no means a
fluke. Rather, it epitomizes the failure of liberal/leftist leaders to
present any real challenge to the agenda of big business. We cannot look
towards Latin American leadership to genuinely oppose capitalist globalization,
as they are, for the most part, self-interested opportunists. One cannot
ascend to the corridors of power by being otherwise.

Get Your Hand Out of My Pocket!

In light of what is at stake, let us take a closer look at the U.S. opposition
to globalization in terms of the parties involved and their motivation.
The AFL-CIO, along with several other national interest groups (Jobs
with Justice, Public Citizen, et al.), has been primarily responsible
for the emergence of the U.S. anti-globalization movement. They have
provided a relatively large amount of its resources and are recognized
by most as the official voice of the movement. For the section that follows
it is important to note that when we refer to the AFL-CIO we are speaking
of its entrenched bureaucracy and union bosses, and not the rank-and-

The AFL-CIO's interest in the anti-globalization movement is purely self-
interest. They oppose the FTAA because it threatens to further diminish
their membership by sending jobs overseas. Their orientation is thoroughly
nationalist and reactionary because they only oppose the loss of U.S.
jobs, but do not fundamentally oppose the exploitation of non-U.S. workers.
Wholly invested in this system, they would be satisfied if big business
would grant them a voice in trade agreements so that they could advance
their specific aims.

Their ultimate goals are stated quite clearly in their literature - a

return to New Deal economics and the welfare state nationally, and Keynesian
economic policies globally. More immediately, however, they seem to have
settled for the more practical goal of jockeying for a seat at global
trade meetings, where they can present their specific demands, in particular
the protection of U.S. manufacturing jobs, in order to stay afloat as
an organization. To oppose globalization without opposing capitalism,
as the AFL-CIO does, is to support a return to isolationism and capitalism
on a national scale. This is hardly a project worth advancing. Furthermore,
this orientation will always be a defensive one because it does not
challenge the notion that corporations should control the global economy.
While corporations are innovative and dynamic, continually devising new
methods to increase profits, groups like the AFL-CIO can only scramble
to deflect these attacks on workers rights. Ultimately, they have no
intention whatsoever of truly championing the real interests of working
people. Rather than fighting for an economic system based on fulfilling
everyone's basic needs as opposed to concentrating wealth into the hands
of a few, the AFL-CIO narrowly focuses on specific corporate excesses,
completely ignoring the underlying order that both fosters and rewards
these excesses. Historically, their position can be compared to those
who opposed the emergence of capitalism in favor
of the feudalism which had existed up until then. It is sufficient to

look at how they operated in the organizing efforts for the coming FTAA

protests in Miami, to clearly understand why the AFL-CIO, and other establishment
opponents of the FTAA, are not the legitimate voices of working people
and, in fact, hinder actual working class resistance.

With friends like these…

The AFL-CIO arrived in Miami with a vague program for opposition and

lacking any real, organized base in local working class communities.
They soon invited local groups into the fold of a "broad-based" coalition
(insofar as anyone can really be in a coalition with a multi-million
dollar gorilla) to gain an air of legitimacy, all the while using their
national status to manipulate the decision-making process and push their
agenda - conformist, mealy-mouthed and backward - on everyone else. This
agenda, of course, does not even begin to address the real problems facing
working people in Miami or elsewhere. And this is precisely the point.
The union bureaucracy is too heavily invested in the system to honestly
challenge its inherent injustices. At best, they are a lobbying group
that lacks any political perspective for actualizing its demands.

The Stop the FTAA ballot campaign is a perfect example of Labor's cowardice
in the face of dire circumstances. It is senseless to create fake ballots
when the trade ministers could not be any more forthright about having
no interest in abiding by the will of civil society. It serves only to
reduce the sincere concerns of working people into an empty media spectacle.
Worse still, the ballot campaign rests upon the assumed legitimacy of
capitalist globalization. They are merely petitioning unelected trade
ministers for a seat at the table along with big business and government.
The rhetoric of "fair trade" is irrelevant because these establishment
groups refuse to challenge the premise that big business should be in
control of the world economy, and with union bosses being the only voice
that working people would have in these dealings, one can clearly see
that this is not the way forward for anyone truly seeking social and
economic justice.

Organize, organize, organize!

On the other end of the spectrum are the direct action oriented anti-

capitalists. While this segment of the anti-globalization movement, and

its antics, has been responsible for garnering most of the media attention,
it has been noticeably silent on the issue of globalization itself.
Dialogues are occasionally conducted on the merits of property destruction
and how these major protests can be given more muscle, but generally
questions of analysis and goals are deferred to the more mainstream groups.
What has happened, in effect, is that the more
uncompromising opponents of globalization have become the enforcers for

its mainstream opponents. If the anti-capitalist segment of the movement
is to be at all relevant it must first and foremost develop itself as
a politically independent movement, with a clear analysis and a base
of support in local communities. Protests can be useful, but we cannot
forsake the more important groundwork which is vital to building a real
broad-based revolutionary movement. At present, all the direct action
tactics at major protests achieve is to attract negative press, and possibly
to pressure big business into adopting a few reforms. However, for those
of us seeking to fundamentally alter the reigning social and economic
conditions, a movement based almost entirely on protests, however militant,
is unacceptable.

Dare to fight! Dare to win!

In Latin America, broad-based opposition movements have come together

as a result of the effects of globalization. In Cochabamba, Bolivia,

widespread resistance was sparked when a multi-national corporation (Bechtel)
attempted to privatize the region's water supply. In Argentina, it was
the International Monetary Fund's disastrous austerity plans which brought
the working and middle classes out into the streets. In the U.S., however,
globalization's effects often take more subtle forms and seem less relevant
to the everyday lives of working people. It is then the task of the anti-
globalization movement to link the everyday issues facing working people
to the process of globalization. If the movement against capitalist globalization
is to be at all relevant, it must address social justice as a whole,
tackling the issues affecting people's everyday lives - such as unemployment,
decaying communities, and police brutality - as well as issues of global
trade. This must be coupled with an uncompromising analysis grounded
in an internationalist perspective and based on human needs as opposed
to profits.

If there is a lesson to be learned from all this it is that the global

economy is not static. It is constantly being shaped by multi-national

corporations in their own interests. This however, is not inevitable,
we have the power to affect a real change, but it will not be quick

or easy. We need to begin organizing a movement capable of addressing

the totality of social and economic justice with the intent purpose of

advancing the interests of working people. The fight against capitalism

did not begin in Seattle and it will not end in Miami. It is an ongoing

effort and there is still much to be done. Dare to struggle, Dare to

[The Magic City Marauders are an anti-authoritarian collective]

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