Free Trade

MATHEW at enigma.rider.edu MATHEW at enigma.rider.edu
Wed Feb 22 11:24:16 MST 1995


>
> >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

> 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

I have grave doubts about this "US labor and "joint" organzing" line of
argument. I tend to agree with the thesis that Marx intended and supported
the idea of free trade becoz it destroys national boundaries and
"internationalizes" the labor movement. Translated into today's vocabulary
it means "if there is an international regime of capital, why not an
international regimeof labor?" So far so good - I mean, theoretically this
is valid position. However, when we try to think of how it would
materially unfold then we have to contend with the history of the labor
movements - and a very dirty history at that. When Nafta was unfolding and
American labor was up in arms about job loss I remember speaking to some
trade unionists/marxist scholars in India (thats where I am am from and
therefore some familiarity with whats happening in India) and there
attitude was very simple - "See why the hell should we suddenly become
concerned about American labor? Why is it that the call for the
International Brotherhood of Labor is on us now? For five decades when
American labor (Western Indus. countries labor more generally) had
fascinating arrangements under the Keynesian Welfare State and built
themselves up into a "labor aristrocacy" they forgot all about
international brother hood and such stuff... Why are they remembering us
now? What stops us from saying that we are gaining jobs right now
(exploitative but nevertheless jobs) and you are losing them - suits us!
just as you said suits us for five decades"

Of course, they were not so crude and calm about these pronouncements but
I am just summarizing it this way to make a point clear. The idea of
internationalization works if the nature of identities and labor startegy
are both capable of seeing the international picture. In the past, neither
have the first nor the third world labor movements seen or done much
along these lines. Theoretically speaking both the attitude of American
labor right now - "protect our jobs" and the attitude of Third World
Labor - "send the jobs here, what me worry about American labor" are both
regressive. But these are precisely the effects of the last fifty
years...
	The problem however is that when somebody like me speaks to the
thrid world activists then I have no responses left, except a call to
"stop being defensive" and the treatment of "unions as devices for
protection of jobs" and "build international bridges." Unfortunately for
many of them this call sounds hollow and they sometimes say so.

The problems I see specifically with the posts are are as follows:
For Chris the "teleological theory of internationalization" holds a
primary place in his argument... However, the "real" events do not
necessarily follow this logic. Capital and its international movement is
(and was) expected to "secularize" - i.e, eliminate nationalist
tendencies etc... except that we have found, as Hall following Gramsci
would say, "capital tends to accentuate some of these differences rather
than simply homogenize everything out" (not an exact quote) in the
startegic use of labor (even this homogenization-hetrogenization is a
dialectical formation uni\like Marx's original formulation). This brings
me to my response to Scott - if indeed an internationalization is the
"goal" then it means a "negoatiation" giventhe difference in real
conditions of existence that persists even today between first and third
world labor forces. What is the nature ofthis negotiation?? Scott raises
a voice against "paternal" attitudes... I agree... but how does one
imagine a negotiation which eliminates the effects of some very material
differences in context? IF American labor starts from "we want to protect
our jobs" then how can a negotitation unfold coz, third world labor is
probably also saying exactly that - we want to get/protect jobs?

Biju





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