jacdon at jacdon at
Fri Apr 20 09:32:35 MDT 2001


More than 150 years before NAFTA and the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the
Americas--the focus of the demonstrations now taking place in Quebec
City), Karl Marx analyzed the significance of "free trade" in a way that
is entirely relevant today.  Here are brief excerpts from a speech he
delivered in Brussels on Jan. 9, 1848.

Jack Smith

What is free trade under the present condition of society?  It is
freedom of capital. When you have overthrown the few national barriers
which still restrict the progress of capital, you will merely have given
it complete freedom of action.

So long as you let the relation of wage labor to capital exist, it does
not matter how favorable the conditions under which the exchange of
commodities takes place, there will always be a class which will exploit
and a class which will be exploited.

It is really difficult to understand the claim of the free-traders who
imagine that the more advantageous application of capital will abolish
the antagonism between industrial capitalists and wage workers.

On the contrary, the only result will be that the antagonism of these
two classes will stand out still more clearly.

Do not allow yourselves to be deluded by the abstract word "freedom."
Whose freedom? It is not the freedom of one individual in relation to
another, but the freedom of capital to crush the worker.

All the destructive phenomena which unlimited competition gives rise to
within one country are reproduced in more gigantic proportions on the
world market.

One other thing must never be forgotten, namely, that, just as
everything has become a monopoly, there are also nowadays some branches
of industry which dominate all others, and secure to the nations which
most largely cultivate them the command of the world market.

If the free-traders cannot understand how one nation can grow rich at
the expense of another, we need not wonder, since these same gentlemen
also refuse to understand how within one country one class can enrich
itself at the expense of another.

Do not imagine ... that in criticizing freedom of trade we have the
least intention of defending the system of protection. One may declare
oneself an enemy of the constitutional regime without declaring oneself
a friend of the ancient regime.

Moreover, the protectionist system is nothing but a means of
establishing large-scale industry in any given country, that is to say,
of making it dependent upon the world market, and from the moment that
dependence upon the world market is established, there is already more
or less dependence upon free trade. Besides this, the protective system
helps to develop free trade competition within a country.

But, in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while
the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and
pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the
extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social
Reprinted from the April 26, 2001, issue of Workers World

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