Populism

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Sat Feb 18 12:34:25 MST 1995


At 5:10 PM 2/17/95, Sam D Fassbinder wrote:

>On Friday 17 Feb 1995 Doug Henwood says:
>
>But then there's the larger issue, NAFTA itself. The nationalist/populist
>position on both sides of the Rio Grande is a simple No! This is very
>different from the classically Marxist position, which, as stated by Marx
>himself in his famous 1848 Brussels speech, is that since free trade
>heightens the tension between capital and labor he cast his vote for free
>trade. Anyone want to step into *that* minefield?
>
>My response: I'm afraid that I don't believe that free trade heightens the
>tension between capital and labor.  What might IN REALITY (and not in some
>economistic fantasy) heighten tensions between capital and labor is the
>existence of a labor force that can agree that action against capitalist
>interests is better than no action against capitalist interests.  This is not
>going to happen as the result of some calculable behavioral stimulus-response
>to free trade.  It might happen as a result of a change in the way workers
>negotiate the system, which might be affected by free trade, lower wages etc.
>for sure.  But you have to try to understand worker subjectivities and worker
>culture if you want to know what motivates them to become Marxists,
>unionists, fed-up populists or whatever is needed to get the job done.  Don't
>you?  I kinda doubt that macroeconomics will tell you all that.

Who said it did? I certainly didn't, nor did Marx.

Didn't the debate over NAFTA bring these issues out in a major way? Has
trade policy ever before become such a hot political issue? Did anything
ever promote cross-border contacts as effectively as the anti-NAFTA
coalition? Did anything ever reveal the state's class interest so clearly
as Clinton's enthusiasm for NAFTA's passage? Did anything reveal so clearly
that "free markets" are created by human action rather than arising
spontaneously from nature?

Doug

--

Doug Henwood
[dhenwood at panix.com]
Left Business Observer
250 W 85 St
New York NY 10024-3217
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