Defending China's Right to Self-Determination

Jonathan Flanders jon_flanders at
Wed May 24 21:53:20 MDT 2000

<unconditional support for China's permanent normal trade status, and
unconditional admission of China into the WTO are essential
challenges to the hysterical and hypocritical moralism of the AFL-CIO labor
bureaucracy, and many "human rights," "labor" and "environmental"
groups.>Eric Mann

Huh? I think Eric Mann is way off base. He's just putting a plus up where
others put a minus. The GLW article that follows his on this list points
out many reasons why the China deal is no good for Chinese workers. We
can't be supporting it. It's just a formula for further capitalist inroads
in China. I read one article after another about Chinese workers protesting
the dismantling of the state-owned industries, which the WTO has in its

The challenge for labor activists is to put flesh and bones on the old
slogan, "workers of the world, unite." How can we really link workers
struggles around the world in a way that makes sense? Campaigning for or
against a trade deal has little or nothing to do with this. That just traps
us in an alien frame of reference.

I wonder if Mike Yates could publish his May Day talk here. He made a good
start in addressing the problem in that speech.

Another point. The Yokich statement on the UAW's considering support for
Nader illuminates another side of this question. Labor officials are
confronting like never before their essential lack of political clout in
the "New" Democratic party. Rank and file workers really are scratching
their heads over the support for Gore, given the big campaign labor
organized around the China-WTO.

It's not the way I thought things would happen, but the fact is the issue
of plant closings and globalization is driving workers away from supporting
Democrats, not a vast strike wave crashing against walls of corporate
power. In fact, the threat of plant closures has as much as anything
precluded such action up to now. Look at the weakened state of the unions
organized in GE, currently bargaining for a new contract.

How many organized workers are left at GE? 40,000? Thousands of jobs have
gone elsewhere in the world, and GE is on a campaign to convince it's
suppliers to move to Mexico. GE perhaps more than any other corporations
poses the question of international workers organization. We can ask the
question, why don't our "International" unions include Mexicans? What are
we doing concretely to aid Mexican workers?

I think specific questions like these go a lot further than futile efforts
to take sides in trade deals.

Jon Flanders

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