Unequal exchange

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Tue Jan 24 16:23:18 MST 1995


I welcome WPC's grim but concise response to my
query about unequal exchange.

>>>
No modification of commodity exchange is possible
that will get round this. Only the development
of labour productivity in the less developed
countries can effect a change.<<<<

 I understand the answer to be:
it is an unequal exchange of labour
(not an unequal exhange of  exchange value) .
*And it is fair!*

In England the politically conscious aid
charities have moved far beyond patronising
hand outs, and now actively seek within the
constraints of the charity laws, to promote
change. It is hard to criticise this, but I think
the implications of wpc's reply are that it is
hopelessly insufficient.

Indeed campaigns to annul third world debt, while
giving the quickest relief, seem to me to imply in
themselves a patronising relationship: what can be
wrong with all these third world peoples, that they
repeatedly get into debt? Don't they perhaps need
the realism of the IMF and the World Bank to make
them sort themselves out? Isn't it a good thing that
the new government of national unity in South Africa
should think again before building all those antenatal
clinics: they should concentrate on earning some
more foreign exchange first. (And one of the few really
competitive technologically advanced South African
industries is armaments. The logic is rather unmistakable.
But is this the socialists getting a bit too close to the national
bourgeoisie or are they  just reading the same balance sheet?)

Campaigns for "Fair Trade" by progressive people in the
developed countries, seem to concentrate on
trying to get tariffs lifted from lightly-manufactured goods
like textiles in which there is already intense world
competition, or in hoping that the third world can
get a bit of extra help to organise cartels in the
production of a few commodities which represent a
progressively smaller contribution to  the overall
world economy.

This is truly a situation where what is
going on before our eyes should be illuminated by
a more profound and scientific Marxist analysis.

What are the implications for
global campaigning of wpc's harsh warning.?

Or do we just go on trying to build socialism in one
country whether by united fronts, popular fronts,
electoral reform, coalitions, or putting all our bets on
the lesser of the usually two major parties of the bourgeois
democratic system?

Chris Burford

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