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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire UCL - UCL Economy Working Group, The false dilemma of protectionism and free trade (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Wed, 27 May 2020 09:10:16 +0300

The false dilemma of "free trade" and "protectionism". The absurdity of the international measure of unemployment illustrated by the latest French figures. State support for the tourism sector. Here is the program for this new note from the UCL Economy Working Group ! ---- Against the false "free trade / protectionism" dilemma: productive autonomy ---- The economic crisis which is hitting the whole world has revived the interminable debates between supporters of protectionism (whether it is "intelligent", "united", or "European") and defenders of free trade. What to think of these debates ? The "radical", communist or social democratic left is willing to speak in favor of one form or another of protectionism against liberal globalism. We would therefore be tempted to think that protectionism is the solution favorable to popular interests when free trade serves bourgeois interests. But is it that simple ?

In reality, these two types of trade policies have been alternated frequently by bourgeois states since the beginnings of capitalism, and even before. "Mercantilism", roughly the old form of protectionism, was put in place from the reign of Louis XIV by Colbert in order to support exports and increase national wealth. We can not yet say that Colbert was a socialist ... But it is also true that the XIX th century was marked by widespread opening of trade borders, as well as the end of the XX thcentury, after decades of protectionism. This protectionism is also applied in a heterogeneous way according to the sectors: the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) applies a strong European protectionism for the agricultural field, contrary to most of the other sectors subjected to the fluctuations of the international trade.

What interests do these policies serve ? On closer inspection, they essentially defend a fraction each time different from bourgeois interests: free trade supports big industrial-financial capital, largely uprooted. But protectionism carries the interests of the national industrial bourgeoisie least integrated into globalization. When it applies to agricultural production, it also defends the interests of large landowners.

One might think that joining the less dominant bourgeoisie, that which is little or not integrated into the big world trade, is more in line with the interests of the people. After all, are we not in the same boat? But refocusing on a national bourgeoisie more linked to state interests will only take us from one end to the other of the same quagmire. We workers would be exposed to the permanent economic war being waged by the capitalist states. Protectionism could certainly allow some relocations and slightly reduce the pressure of international competition in the short term, but it is also the instrument of aggressive export policies against other countries and of probable imperialist escalations like the one taking place at the moment. between the United States and China. So that protectionism carried out in France could very quickly turn against us. Finally, multinationals do not necessarily exploit their employees more, on a country scale,

We must fight against the totality of policies which put each working people in competition with the others. Protectionists or free traders, they are never more than two sides of the coin of the ruling class. All these policies fuel imperial rivalries and nationalism, making the permanent threat of war hover above us. We don't have to take sides with one fraction or another of our exploiters. The good of our people cannot and should not be achieved at the expense of that of others. If we really want to defend it, then we have to organize solidarity. Everything that can reasonably be produced must be produced locally, from a socio-economic and ecological perspective. But in parallel, it is necessary to systematically cooperate with other peoples to produce goods on a large scale that cannot be locally, and to organize useful and peaceful exchanges. This project has a name: productive autonomy. Let us defend there to defend our class and refuse the false dilemmas of the parasites who govern us.

To go further: https://www.unioncommunistelibertaire.org/?Contre-le-libre-echange-l-autonomie-productive-5148

The troubling unemployment figures
The publication of unemployment figures for the first quarter in France, which shows a drop in the number of jobseekers in category A jobs, has caused a lot of reaction as it does not seem representative of the current period. We do know that March was marked by a historic increase in unemployment. The health and economic crisis put an end to the interim missions and given the economic situation, the fixed-term contracts were clearly not renewed. In terms of hirings, there is a 29% slowdown in people leaving job center job seekers' files. Hiring declarations, for their part, decreased by 22.6%. [1]

By the end of June, the OFCE (French Observatory of Economic Conditions) expects France to account for 600,000 more unemployed people. These figures are based on the international definition which qualifies as unemployed anyone who has not worked in previous weeks, who is actively looking for work and who is available to take up a new job in both. weeks to come. The most widely used definition of unemployment is therefore simplistic. In the current period, many people are simply unable to actively seek work and are therefore not considered to be unemployed. [2]The international unemployment indicator is already highly problematic in normal times, because it leads to underestimating the share of forced part-time work and precariousness in general. But it becomes, in the present crisis, purely and simply absurd.

These impressive figures are nevertheless low compared to what we can see in the United States, where there are 3 million more private workers every week. In France, the partial unemployment scheme acts as a buffer. But for the past few weeks, the government has been pushing to reduce the number of people on short-time work. The number of workers on partial unemployment has risen from 12.4 million last week to 11 million workers today. [3]The crisis is far from behind us. We do not know when and under what conditions the most affected sectors such as hotels or restaurants will be able to revive. The government's decision to allow French people to go on vacation this summer is a decision to limit the economic crisis and not a logical decision from a health point of view. According to Eric Heyer, economist at the OFCE: "We will be at an unemployment rate of around 10% in June and perhaps beyond 12% at the end of the year". Nothing very reassuring ...

What policies are looming against the economic crisis ?
Everywhere, the contours of the economic crisis are becoming clearer. All countries, to the extent of their capacities, adopt support schemes for their national economies. Often, these plans are accompanied by a declared desire to return to a form of "relocation", which could eventually lead to chain protectionist policies. States are going into debt, and in the more or less short term, everything suggests that new austerity measures will befall the populations. The European Union is on the way to finding a common agreement on a recovery plan. This attempt is supported by the Franco-German government duo, which proposes to raise it to 500 billion euros. [4]A sum at the very least high with regard to the budget of the union (1% of European GDP) but also very low from the point of view of the total wealth of the EU and the recovery plans announced separately by each State. [5]This plan would be financed by a loan made directly by the EU on the financial markets, and reimbursement would be provided by the EU itself and not by the Member States. The reversal of the German position, hitherto hostile to any pooling of debts at European level, is emblematic of the risk of implosion of the EU if it is unable to find common ground between its various components. It constitutes a reaction to the anti-European Central Bank judgment recently issued by the Karlsrhue court. [6]Several northern European countries have already explicitly opposed this proposal, which it is difficult to believe will succeed as it stands. [7]

In France, it is around tourism that announcements have intensified this week. This sector, which represents 7% of GDP and 2 million jobs, has in fact been almost completely shutdown for two months. There is growing concern among professionals about the fear of prolonging confinement this summer, which would simply mean the collapse of thousands of companies among the 62,000 in the sector, many of which have already been condemned. Government declared this sector "national priority "And dedicates to it a plan of 18 billion Euros ... without social compensation for the employers, while tourism, whose harmful environmental effects are proven, relies largely on a seasonal workforce often over-exploited and under -paid. The question of employment is also one of the main concerns in the event of reopening, employers worrying about the possibility of social movements. The idea of a government platform for volunteers is gaining ground ... despite the blatant failure of the one set up for agriculture ! After its failed operation, the French state tends to align itself with its European neighbors, by facilitating the arrival of low-cost immigrant labor from Eastern Europe. [8]At the same time, the abusive use of fixed-term contracts and Interims will be facilitated by the signing of special agreements at company level. As for CSEs, they will be able to draw up to 50% of their operating budget to finance social activities: as many means withdrawn for their action to defend employees.

This note was produced by the Economic Working Group of UCL, aiming to synthesize essential data on the economic situation that we are going through with the coronavirus crisis. It has evolved in the form of a newsletter, structured in several articles of various sizes. It is as sourced and factual as possible, and aims to link the main data on the economic situation with more general political and social analyzes. However, it was carried out by activists who are not economic professionals. Do not hesitate to make any constructive feedback.


[1] https://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2020/04/28/hausse-histor-du-chomage-au-mois-de-mars_6037997_823448.html

[2] https://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/baisse-en-trompe-l-oeil-du-taux-de-chomage-au-premier-trimestre-20200514

[3] https://www.liberation.fr/france/2020/05/15/avec-11-millions-de-salaries-concernes-le-recours-au-chomage-partiel-amorce-sa-decrue_1788442

[4] https://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2020/05/18/la-france-et-l-allemagne-proposent-un-plan-de-relance-europeen-de-500-milliards -d-euros_6040040_3234.html

[5] https://www.lefigaro.fr/vox/politique/accord-franco-allemand-500-milliards-ne-suffiront-pas-a-reequilibrer-le-budget-de-l-union-europeenne-20200521

[6] https://www.franceculture.fr/economie/cour-de-karlsruhe-contre-bce-un-combat-politique-plus-que-monetaire

[7] https://www.ouest-france.fr/europe/ue/europe-pourquoi-le-plan-macron-merkel-de-500-milliards-d-euros-n-est-pas-encore-arrive -bon-port-6839983

[8] http://cqfd-journal.org/CQFD-no167-juillet-aout-2018

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