Some comment on globalization, part 2

joelw at joelw at
Sat Sep 8 19:59:07 MDT 2001

 Posted by Joel Wendland:

Opinions (Peoples' Weekly World)

Globalization, the ILO and international labor

By Scott Marshall

This is the second section abridged from a report to the Communist Party
USA National Board. The report can be read in its entirety online at

Ever since Seattle, it has been clear that labor is responding in a new
way to capitalist globalization.

This has been very evident in terms of the new leadership of the AFL-CIO
and the important changes domestically. What perhaps hasn't been so
apparent in the United States is the important international changes
taking place.

Despite the many problems, much of the world labor movement is on the
alert and actively opposing corporate globalization. As the Congress of
the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in Durban,
South Africa showed last year, the threat of globalization has helped
move the ICFTU out of its cold war past and into greater struggle and
greater openness to world trade union unity.

In fact, the ICFTU, supported by the AFL-CIO, has initiated a global
campaign for recognition and adherence to the core labor conventions of
the International Labor Organization (ILO). These are the basic rights
to organize, work free of any kinds of discrimination, racial, national
or gender, with no child labor and no forced labor.

The significance of this campaign is that it begins a discussion that
can help answer one of the main questions in the fight against
globalization. How can we raise the issue of social and democratic
controls of globalization?

Of course, only a world socialist system, with real workers' and
people's democracy can fully answer that question satisfactorily. But in
the struggle ahead, a key question is how to try and loosen monopoly
capitalism's hold on globalization.

Clearly the institutions of imperialist globalization, like the WTO and
the IMF, cannot be the instruments of popular democratic control.
Shouldn't the anti-globalization movement demand that the rules of trade
be governed by the United Nations and the ILO?

Wouldn't it be a significant contribution to the struggle if we could
help raise this basic issue of greater democracy and popular control?
The labor movement is opening the door for just such a push.

The AFL-CIO has launched a poster campaign for the core ILO conventions
and has a beautiful web page about the campaign. One weakness is that
nowhere do they mention that the U.S. has not ratified six of the eight
core labor conventions, including the right to organize and bargain

As the Farm Labor Organizing Committee points out, ratification of that
convention would mean that Congress would have to repeal right-to-work
(for less) laws.

Fighting to help expand and develop the AFL-CIO's ILO campaign is not
only a golden opportunity for the left and the anti-globalization
coalitions to raise the bigger basic issue of democracy and popular
control in international trade, but also it is a campaign against
anti-labor legislation at home.

The ICFTU, with the support of the AFL-CIO, is also taking an important
lead in protesting the next ministerial meeting of the WTO to be held in
Doha, Qatar. They are calling for a Global Unions' Day of Action on the
opening day, Nov. 9.

This is an important initiative on many fronts. It has been a long time
since any world labor organization called for simultaneous actions
around the world. It's been even longer since the AFL-CIO endorsed such
a call.

The demands are also very advanced and interesting:

1. Protection of basic workers' rights from the exploitation that
results from world trade; (Placing the demand this way separates local
and national conditions from standards for the transnationals and paves
the way for unity of workers in rich and poor countries.)

2. Reforming the world trading system to benefit the poor in developing

3. The right to quality universal public education and health services,
free from WTO rules; (This demand actually cuts across a lot of issues,
including the fact that some of the major demands of the WTO on China
are to end free daycare and health care in their large industrial plants
as unfair subsidies.)

4. Cheap and affordable medicine to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS; and

5. Opening up the WTO system to consultation with trade unions and other
democratic representatives of civil society.

It is also interesting how the ICFTU describes the actions: "The Day of
Action will be coordinated at the global level and delivered at the
local level, taking the form of diverse actions to be determined in
individual countries ranging from stoppages and demonstrations to
workplace discussions, public meetings and high-profile media

The Qatar meeting is probably the most important capitalist
globalization summit on the horizon. Why? Here is what Michael Moore of
the WTO said:

"We cannot pretend that this can be merely a 'routine' ministerial
meeting, at which ministers will discuss general economic trends and
progress in the WTO's built-in agenda. The context in which Ministers
will meet ensures that a fundamental decision will be taken at Doha,
whether positive or negative, which will have long term implications for
the future of this institution and the way we conduct our business.

In our joint report ... we have said that failure to reach consensus on
a forward work program that would advance the objectives of the
multilateral trading system, particularly in the light of the earlier
failure at Seattle, would lead many to question the value of the WTO as
a forum for negotiation. It would certainly condemn us to a long period
of irrelevance, because it will not be any easier next year, or the year

Further in his remarks, reading between the lines, he is quite
pessimistic about the possibilities. Moore's speech takes on an almost
scolding and quarrelsome tone. All is not well in "capitalist free
trade" land.

To be sure, there are many internal contradictions, especially around
questions of agriculture and dumping laws, and between industrial and
underdeveloped countries. But there is also the mass pressure that much
of the world's working class and people question the legitimacy of the
WTO and its monopoly corporate sponsors.

So it should be clear that if there is effective mass action on Nov. 9,
it could well help set back a new round of global trade negotiations and
cause even further splits and fissures in the institutions of capitalist

Scott Marshall is a vice chair of the CPUSA and chair of its labor

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