Colonial Latin America (Louis)

Xxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx at
Mon Jun 11 21:26:19 MDT 2001

> In net terms, colonialism was a bleeding process.  It was plunder. But 
> colonialism proper is pretty much gone.  The dominant type of economic 
> relationship in today's world market is trade, both of commodities
> and services') and financial assets (which includes capital exports).  It
> not altruism or cooperation.  It is capitalist commerce. 

Julio, the dominant  type of economic relations since the emergence of
modern capitalism has always been international "capitalist commerce"
(albeit in changing volumes). What you are saying above--exhange of
commodities and financial assets--  is not unique to today's capitalist
markets. East India Company in the 18th century was as much involved in
financial assets as J.P.Morgan is today. The difference is that British
directly colonized India, whereas US sends its financial missionaries to
replace governments from within, as it happened with Yugoslavia. Capitalist
commerce has always required, and will require, some form of  CONTROL over
others' resources, directly or indirectly. 

In so far as the capitalist competition over world's resources continues,
global capitalism does not render imperalism irrelevant.  From what I
gather, you are subscribing to Adam Smith's theory of  liberal
internationalism--that capitalism will converge nations through comparative
advantage-- (as opposed to Lenin's theory of imperialism).

btw, on the issue of how cooperation and conflict occur among major
capitalist powers (such as G7) in relation to certain policy agendas like
banking and free trade, you might consider reading Gramscian applications
of international relations: Gill and Law _Global Hegemony and the
Structural Power of Capital_ (ISQ, 1989). 

 It entails the 
> exploitation of workers by capitalists the capitalist way.  But it
> entail consistent or systematic plunder of one country against another.  
> IMO, not to a significant extent.

The economic logic of  MODERN IMPERIALISM entails a _systematic and
consistent_  plunder of other country's workers  and resources. It is
optimal for capitalists to use cheap labor elsewhere to lower the costs of
production, because this is the main profit drive of capitalism.
Accordingly, the seperation between the logic of imperialism (which you
seem to be taking political and non-capitalist) and the logic of capitalism
(which you seem to be taking as economic) is a plain _economic fallacy_.
Global economic relations are relations of power (and are political by

April 24, 2001 

 Made in Squalor: Labor Standards Clash With Global Reality


AN SALVADOR — Six years ago, Abigail Martínez earned 55 cents an
              hour sewing cotton tops and khaki pants.
              Back then, she says, workers were made to
              spend 18-hour days in an unventilated factory
              with undrinkable water. Employees who
              displeased the bosses were denied bathroom
              breaks or occasionally made to sweep
              outside all morning in the broiling sun.

              Today, she and other workers have coffee
              breaks and lunch on an outdoor terrace
              cafeteria. Bathrooms are unlocked, the
              factory is breezy and clean, and employees
              can complain to a board of independent
              monitors if they feel abused.

              The changes are the result of efforts by Gap,
              the big clothing chain, to improve working
              conditions at this independent factory, one of
              many that supply its clothes.

              Yet Ms. Martínez today earns 60 cents an
              hour, only 5 cents more an hour than six years

              In some ways, the factory, called Charter,
              shows what Western companies can do to
              discourage abuse by suppliers. But Gap's
              experience also demonstrates the limits to
              good intentions when first-world appetites
              collide with third-world realities.

              Ms. Martínez's hours are still long, production
              quotas are high, and her earnings are still not
              enough to live on. She shares a two- room
              concrete home with a sister, two brothers, her
              parents and a grandmother. 

              Yet the real alternative in this impoverished
              nation is no work. And government officials
              won't raise the minimum wage or even
              enforce labor laws too rigorously for fear that
              employers would simply move many jobs to
              another poor country.

              The lesson from Gap's experience in El
              Salvador is that competing interests among
              factory owners, government officials,
              American managers and middle-class
              consumers — all with their eyes on the lowest
              possible cost — make it difficult to achieve
              even basic standards, and even harder to
              maintain them.

              "Some have suggested that there are simple
              or magic solutions to ensure that labor
              standards are applied globally," said Aron
              Cramer, director of human rights at Business
              for Social Responsibility, a nonprofit
              advocacy group that receives support from
              business. "In fact, it takes a great deal of

              Fed up with abusive conditions, Ms. Martínez
              and a small group of other workers organized
              and began to hold strikes at the factory, then
              called Mandarin International, in 1995. As
              tension rose, workers took over the factory
              and shut down power to the plant. Security
              guards forcibly ejected strikers; union
              members said the guards dragged women out
              by their hair and clubbed them with guns. The
              factory's owners fired hundreds, including
              Ms. Martínez.

              It might have ended that way, except that it occurred just as
concern about sweatshops
              was rising in the United States. Groups like the National
Labor Committee, a
              union-backed, workers advocacy group based in New York, had
formed to
              oppose sweatshops. Mandarin offered a media- ready case of
abuse, and the revolt
              was widely publicized.

              Still, two of the four retailers using Mandarin left after
the protests — J. C. Penney
              and Dayton Hudson (now Target). Eddie Bauer, a unit of
Spiegel Inc., suspended
              its contract. Gap Inc., which is based in San Francisco,
intended to quit, too, but a
              group of Mandarin workers pleaded with the company to save
their jobs. Some
              blamed union organizers for the trouble. "Problems were made
to look worse by the
              union," said one employee, Lucía Alvarado, who has worked at
the factory for eight

              Gap executives chose to stay after deciding that all the
groups involved — workers,
              labor activists and factory owners — were willing to make
changes. The workers
              were expected to stop disrupting the plant, and managers had
to agree to more
              humane practices and to accept outside monitors.

              To make sure the changes stuck and to arbitrate disputes, Gap
decided to try the
              then innovative idea of hiring local union, religious and
academic leaders as
              independent monitors who would meet regularly with workers to
hear complaints,
              investigate problems and look over the books.

              "It's not a paradise," said Carolina Quinteros, co-director
of the Independent
              Monitoring Group of El Salvador, as the monitors call
themselves. "But at least it
              works better than others down here. They don't have labor or
human rights

              The push for change ranges far beyond the Charter factory, or
El Salvador. Today,
              activists on college campuses are calling for an end to
sweatshops everywhere. [As
              recently as this past weekend in Quebec, world trade
officials debated how to clean
              up those operations, and the United States has pushed
developing countries to raise
              pay and working conditions in thousands of plants from
Bangladesh to Brazil.]

              Results, however, have been negligible. The basic problem is
that jobs and capital
              can move fast these days, as the president of El Salvador,
Francisco Flores, is
              keenly aware. "The difficulty in this region is that there is
labor that is more
              competitively priced than El Salvador," he said.

              Here, as in many other countries, labor advocates say the
problem is made worse
              by the government's cozy ties with factory owners. When a
Labor Ministry
              committee issued a report critical of forced overtime, poor
safety and threats against
              labor organizers, factory owners complained. The government
swiftly withdrew and
              disowned it.

              Salvadoran officials and business leaders have also objected
to monitors Gap has
              hired to police working conditions. They contend that the
group is a tool of unions
              that want to keep jobs from leaving the United States — or a
leftist anti-government
              front, a suspicion left over from El Salvador's long civil
war, which ended in 1992.

              Then there is practicality. Gap spends $10,000 a year for the
independent monitors
              at Charter, which is owned by Taiwanese investors, and
thousands more for
              management time to arbitrate disputes and for its own company
monitors to recheck
              the facts on the ground. For the company to duplicate these
intensive efforts at each
              of the 4,000 independent factories it contracts with would
have taken about 4.5
              percent of its annual profit of $877 million last year.

              In a world where costs are measured in pennies, that
percentage would be a
              significant burden. Wal-Mart and Kmart are praised by
investors for relentlessly
              driving down costs, but they have much less comprehensive
monitoring programs. 

Gap says that expense and staff time are not
              even its main concerns. The experiment in El
              Salvador has only reinforced the company's
              conviction that companies cannot substitute
              for governments indifferent to enforcing laws.
              Also, it said, retailers have limited power over
              their independent contractors. Either they pull
              out, which would punish innocent workers, or
              they must accede to a slow process where
              they must cajole and bully for every bit of

              "We are not the all-powerful Oz that rules
              over what happens in every factory," said
              Elliot Schrage, Gap's senior vice president for
              global affairs. "Do we have leverage? Yes. Is
              it as great as our critics believe? Not by a
              long shot."

> As for telegraphs and railways being benefits, if there's any need to say
> is because you and others deny it.  Of course, they are capitalist 
> businesses.  They are first and foremost for the benefit of capitalists. 

> Under capitalism, everything that is not the independent radical struggle
> workers winds up being for the benefit of the capitalists.  But that
> mean that there are not lesser evils for workers under capitalism.  Is it

> necessary to say that this infrastructure is a tangible benefit for
> in the 'Third World', not only in their daily lives, but also because it 
> affords them the opportunity to build an alternative under better 
> conditions?
> _________________________________________________________________________
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