Free Trade

Scott Marshall Scott at
Tue Feb 21 21:08:51 MST 1995

>Marx regarded free trade as "the normal condition of modern capitalist
>production" whilst protectionism was "an artificial means...of
>forcibly abbreviating the transition from the medieval to the modern
>mode of production". Marx was well aware of the tremendous disruption
>that free trade caused to workers' lives. He did not, however, support
>free trade because it "heightens the tension between capital and
>labour", but because it *internationalized* it. He regarded free trade
>as ultimately inevitable.

I don't see any evidence that Marx either supported or rejected free trade
in the abstract. He most often analysed it from the point of view of class
interests involved at that particular moment - that is who was championing
'free trade' and to what end. Mostly he wrote about free trade and
protectionism issues as matters between capitalists and of little
consequense of good or bad to workers.

I would like to see a concrete instance where Marx "supported" free trade
even knowing well that it would hurt workers in that particular situation.
I've never seen any such mechanical deterministic idea in Marx that free
trade would internationalize the class struggle so therefore he would
support it.

>For Marx, protectionism was a dead end for workers seeking to defend
>themselves from the effects of free trade. The workers' answer to free
>trade had to be the development of a *workers' international*. Free
>trade meant workers could only defend themselves by allying themselves
>with workers in other countries. This position is well put in the
>resolution passed in favour of the First International at the first
>Congress of the British TUC. Marx undoubtedly had a hand in preparing
>this resolution:

In fact the fight against NAFTA was exactly a fight that united workers on
all three (Canada, Mexico, US) sides of the border in struggle with capital
and against NAFTA.

>Marx's concept of an international was firmly based on the continued
>extension of free trade.

Huh. ah where did he say this?

>The protectionist campaign to preserve "American jobs" waged by the
>AFL-CIO against NAFTA, supported by virtually the whole of the US
>left, was reactionary and leads US workers straight into the arms of
>populist charlatans like Ross Perot.

This is silly. In the first place trade unions must fight to protect jobs.
It is a most direct challenge to capital. At the heart of the class struggle
right now is who will benifit from the S & T revolution - the capitalists
with bigger profits and capital and production mobility or the workers with
saving jobs and income. As to Ross Perot he was taken on by many in labor as
a opportunist on the anti-NAFTA bandwagon. I heard many trade unionists
blast Perot at an anti-NAFTA rally sponsored by the AFL-CIO in Chicago.

>Until NAFTA, the US trade union movement had done absolutely nothing
>to assist the working class in Mexico. Indeed, its leadership had
>worked with the US state department to subvert and destroy any real
>independent development of union organization throughout South
>America. Since NAFTA, important beginnings at developing cross border
>co-operation and organization have been made.

This is wrong on several counts. There have been several joint organizing
projects etc initiated jointly by US and Mexican unions in the last ten
years, especially around the border areas. It's true about top AFL-CIO
interferance etc, but that ain't the sum of the labor movement and sweeping
condemnations like this only helps the class enemy.

Also implied to my way of thinking in the above is a paternalistic notion
that the unions should assist or help the Mexican working class as a matter
of the bigger richer unions supporting their less fortunate counterparts.
Uniting with Mexican workers is a matter of class unity that is in the
interests of all workers. To the degree that that unity has not been built,
(indeed due in no small part to the chauvanist influences on labor by the
dominant ideology), then to that degree all workers US and Mexican have been
hurt by that lack of unity. We have just as much to gain solidarity with
Mexican workers as they have from - and as much to learn.

But it is really ironic that after blasting labor on it's fight against
NAFTA, you then cite it as the turning point in building solidarity. Doesn't
that speak volumes about the common struggle we waged against US capitalism
in the first place.

Marx never took a hands off or an aloof attitude to workers struggle even
when he thought they were wrong - the most popular instance being the Paris
Commune. He argued his lungs out against it until it was under way - then he
devoted all his energies in supporting what he **knew** was a losing battle.
The Mexican, Canadian and US left was absolutly right in supporting the
fight against NAFTA.

Like they said in the Manifesto: "Now and then the workers are victorious,
but only for a time. The real fruit of thier battles lies, not in the
immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers."

Scott Marshall                             *
3116 S. Halsted                              *
Chicago, Il. 60608                            **
(312) 842-5854                                 **
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"An ounce of action is worth                * **
a ton of theory."   -Freddy Engels          **

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