jacdon at SPAMearthlink.net jacdon at SPAMearthlink.net
Sun Apr 8 12:26:32 MDT 2001


By Jack A. Smith

        QUESTION: What do the following elements have in common--The price of
corn in Mexico, the reign of Queen Victoria, the downfall of the USSR,
the South Korean economy, the arrest of former Yugoslav president
Slobodan Milosovic, the far-right nature of the Bush presidency, the
worsening plight of the peoples of the third world and an upsurge in the
U.S. radical movement?
        ANSWER: If you attended the April 1 meeting of the Caribbean and Latin
America Support Project (CLASP) in the small town of Highland, N.Y.,
April 1 you’d know these were just some of the points made by speaker
Brian Becker of the International Action Center (IAC) in his analysis of
the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
        The FTAA is Washington’s plan for extending the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Canada and Mexico to all the
Americas by 2005.  Only Cuba out of 35 nations has been excluded.  All
the participating nations are meeting at a “Summit of the Americas” in
Quebec City, Canada, April 20-22 to put the finishing  touches to the
agreement amidst an anticipated crescendo of protest by activists from
Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere opposed to capitalist globalization.
        The FTAA negotiations have been taking place in secret for the last six
years and the public has not been informed about the details of the
draft text that is being worked upon--but some information has
penetrated this barrier.  For example, government social services in
many countries would be put in grave jeopardy through enforced
deregulation and privatization.
        In essence, the practical effect of this expanded NAFTA would be to
lower production costs by driving down living and environmental
standards and the quality of social services;  to weaken the ability of
national governments to regulate big business, and to create powerful
global institutions, such as the World Trade Organization, which are
accountable only to  giant corporations.
        Becker, a co-director of the IAC, initiated the counter-inaugural
protests in Washington against George W. Bush in January and organized
last year’s Madison Sq. Garden meeting in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal,
took his audience on an extemporaneous anti-imperialist global tour that
began with an examination of word meanings and concluded  with a
prediction that the U.S. left will rise again, soon.
        Queen Victoria was evoked during a deconstruction of propagandistic
word meanings, such as “free trade” (capitalism’s domination of foreign
markets), “flexible labor markets” (the super-exploitation of labor) or
“war on drugs” (in the U.S., targeting a greatly disproportionate number
of black youth for punishment; in Colombia, the excuse for Pentagon
military intervention against the country’s liberation forces).  Becker
noted that the British queen is most remembered for a “moral” code so
famously unforgiving that an entire era was named for her, but
Victoria’s real secret was that she presided over an immoral regime of
vicious colonial oppression around the world, including the hideous
Opium War forced upon China. Like Victoria’s feigned morality, the
FTAA’s lofty expressed goals degenerate in reality into a vicious grab
for U.S. corporate profits at the expense of working people throughout
the Americas.
        The thought of creating a “continental NAFTA” may be a pleasant dream
for U.S. corporations but it’s nightmare for the working class, Becker
suggested,  noting that nearly 400,000 U.S. jobs have been lost since
NAFTA took effect because Yankee companies relocated to Mexico to take
advantage of much lower paid workers and weaker labor standards.
Meanwhile Mexican workers have been super-exploited at higher and higher
rates.  Since NAFTA began, over a million additional Mexicans work for
less than the prevailing minimum wage of $3.40 a day (not hour, day) and
some million Mexican workers have tumbled from the lower middle class
into poverty.  He noted that in vast areas of Mexico, where corn is a
staple food, many farmers have been impoverished by duty-free cheaper
corn imports from more mechanized and subsidized U.S. agricultural
imports.  Under the FTAA, these exploited Mexican workers would be
pushed into competition against even more desperate workers in Haiti,
Guatemala or Brazil by national companies seeking tariff-free access
into U.S. markets.  Meanwhile, U.S. companies would be protected from
competition by the industrialized nations of Europe or Japan.
        Corporate capitalist globalization is bad enough without NAFTA-FTAA
type trade agreements, Becker declared, drawing upon his February visit
to South Korea at the invitation of that country’s union movement.  He
described the struggle unions are trying to mount in defense of workers
suffering from pro-corporate  “structural adjustment programs” imposed
by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
        Since the collapse of the USSR a decade ago, Becker explained, the IMF
and other institutions of global capital have vastly expanded their
activities around the world.  In 1990, for example, only 10% of
third-world countries were subjected to IMF structural adjustment
programs, which invariably favor international capital.  This year, that
number has risen to 80%.  “At one time, the third world could turn to
the Soviet camp for economic aid,” he said, “and this provided some
comfort for the poor countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.  The
collapse of the Soviet Union was a catastrophe for poor third world
countries who were left with no alternative but to seek aid from the
IMF.  This explains the great upsurge in neocolonialism in the last
decade.”  The FTAA, he continued, will accelerate the process of
neocolonialism in Latin America and the Caribbean, where half the
population is already living in poverty.
        The recent arrest of Slobodan Milosovic by the new U.S.-backed
government of Yugoslavia (Washington financed and directed the unified
election campaign of some 18 opposition parties last fall that defeated
Milosovic) is also part of globalization’s hegemonistic designs, Becker
mentioned.  The Clinton administration and Congress threatened a cut-off
of all international and IMF assistance--desperately needed since the
U.S./NATO destruction of the country’s civil infrastructure--unless the
Belgrade government incarcerated the former president by midnight March
31, which it did just in time.  The IAC co-chair also pointed out that
one of the reasons for the U.S./NATO assault to begin with was that
Yugoslavia, alone among the former socialist societies of Europe, held
out in part against repeated IMF demands for privatization and massive
cutbacks in social programs.  Now, Yugoslavia has a government willing
to comply totally.
        “Now that there is no alternative to globalization such as a Soviet
camp any longer,” Becker declared, “it has become the responsibility of
the peoples of the world to create an alternative by their actions.”
This is the context in which he placed the current beginnings of an
international movement against globalization.  He also predicted the
“rebirth of a radical movement in the U.S.” based on the “present
unusual political situation” (i.e., the fact that the majority of
Americans--Greens plus Democrats--voted for a left-of-center government
but got a far-right-of-center regime instead) combined with the
gathering economic crisis and the existing early stages of an
oppositional movement. “As the most conservative president in a
century,” Becker explained, “Bush may provide an incentive to
        The April 20-22 mass demonstrations in Quebec City and at U.S.-Canadian
border areas are a hopeful sign of this increased resistance,” he
continued, pointing out that the IAC was among the organizations seeking
to send vans and buses into Canada for the confrontation.  “We are
bringing a clear message to the 34 heads of state  assembled in Quebec
City:  the poor people of the world won’t take it any more--a new day is
        The only way to confront corporate globalization, the FTAA, IMF and the
new right-wing regime in the U.S.--which all operate in tandem--is to
create a mass mobilization of the American people around a number of
interrelated issues, Becker argued.  Such an effort will take place in
Washington Sept. 29 in protest activities aimed against the Bush
administration and globalization, among other issues. (The CLASP
membership unanimously voted to support the action.) “We must
demonstrate that it is not the oppositional movement but George W. Bush
who is isolated in America,” he insisted.
        In conclusion, an approved FTAA trade pact will insure that the
100-year domination of Latin America and the Caribbean by the White
House, Wall St., and Pentagon will be greatly strengthened in this new
century.  President Monroe’s wildest fantasies of excluding foreign
competition to U.S. economic hegemony in Latin American and the
Caribbean, as embodied in his famous Doctrine, could not approximate the
FTAA agreement as a deterrent to trade competition by Washington’s
industrialized capitalist competitors.    It amounts to arming Uncle Sam
with the Monroe Doctrine on one hand and Teddy Roosevelt’s Big Stick in
the other.  Becker left no doubt, however, that sticks and doctrines are
no match for a people united and mobilized in opposition.

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