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#1160: WTO in Seattle : Goff comments

From: Stan Goff <stangoff@all4democracy.org>

> From: Fred Wardenburg <fwardenburg@uswest.net>

Some reactions.

> The WTO ministers, far outnumbered by press and protesters, are meeting in
> Seattle this week.  I'm interested in whether folks on the list are
> following this, for its relevance to Haiti.  One good link for finding
> coverage, info and archived articles and documents is
> http://www.wtowatch.org/
> Personally, I'm getting involved in the demonstrations from the point of
> view of one who wants to challenge the economic mind set with justice and
> environmental values and to learn more about it.  Part of my reference
> is getting to know Haiti at least a little through visiting my daughter
> there.

Haiti is both a victim of capitalism and a bellweather (sp?) for where it is
leading us.  Haiti was integrated into the global economy early on, even
with its predominantly semi-feudal production system, because the product of
the sharecropping system there was grown primarily for export.  Ther Marine
occupation, still touted by false histories as a stabilizing influence, was
precisely to protect American investments there, when US capitalists began
industrializing agricultural production.  So in a sense Haiti got a head
start on all of us, as a nation subordinated to the interests of
international investors.  The results are clear--grotesque economic
stratification, a de-funded and thoroughly colonized public sector, and
massive irreversible environmental devastation.

> When I was there I stayed at the Olaffson.  In the room next to me was an
> American businessman.  His small company sells macrame kits.  A design is
> sewn onto a piece of fabric which the customer completes with needle and
> thread.  He told me that in a three day visit to Port au Prince he could
> contract to have a years' worth of his kits prepared.  Twenty Haitians
> glad enough to get a few days work for a few dollars a day, I'm sure, but
> that's good news only in the short term view.  Many of these twenty may
> been forced out of lives in the countryside and into Cite Soleil  to
> part of Haiti's "major exportable resource, cheap assembly labor".

This is precisely to the point.  Haiti is doing much as the American South
did in creating a "friendly business environment."  Full foreign ownership,
tax deferrals for years, and a huge repository (shall we call it the reserve
army) of desperately compliant labor in an anti-union political environment.

> If I understand the WTO mindset (I'm sure I don't, not fully, but I'm
> learning),  Haiti's economic future  as a global trading partner depends
> making cheap labor centrally available in Port au Prince.  Do gooders like
> me who would favor supporting small farmers in the countryside practicing
> sustainable agriculture are mired in a romantic past that no longer

I wouldn't call that the past, romantic or otherwise.  There can be no
return to THAT past, because it never existed.  That would be progress.  But
there is no way forward on that front or any other without economic and
political strategies.  Expropriation and redistribution of land is an
absolute prerequisite, and as we know from experience with the caudillos,
the landed folk will declare war over this measure.  Moreover, the Haitian
people can not implement this political solution, even in the face of
grandon violence, so long as the US, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO
continue to exercise such outrageous influence over every aspect of Haitian
life; economic, social, political, and ideological.  While it is true the
grandons and the technocrats have their differences in Haiti, they willclose
ranks against popular government every time.  So the core struggle for the
Haitians, and every other developing nation, at this stage, seems to be
first and foremost... self-determination and sovereignty.  That's what the
WTO aims to subvert.

> That mindset needs to be challenged and wiser, longer term strategies must
> be envisioned and adopted all over the world or the rich will get richer
> eventually lead us all over the cliff.  AT the bottom of the cliff is a
> devastated environment and an untenable gap between rich and poor people,
> over-developed and underdeveloped countries.
> Of course, WTO is not a government.  It's an agreement between
> Any country can pull out and go its own way whenever it wants.  WTO can't
> literally force Haiti or the United States to do anything against its

This is where I think I disagree.  The existence of "consensual mechanisms"
and technical democracy do not translate into meaningful choices for people,
for governments, or for anyone else.  The WTO is aiming to usurp national
and even local law.  International finance capitalists attempted last year
to push through the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, which would have
been a kind of Constitution for the New World Order.  The WTO and its
constituent parts already exercise political control, because economic power
translates directly into political power.  Bill Clinton is a perfect example
of the correct political employee for international finance capital.

> But WTO enshrines a mindset.  It ratifies a set of values under the benign
> guise of an agenda that seeks only to rationalize international trade.  It
> arms those in my country who don't prioritize economic justice and
> environmental sanity, with a club.  "We have to accept these clothes from
> Haitian sweatshops because we agreed not to bar any country's exports on
> basis of their internal labor practices." The WTO and its supporters would
> like to trump any messy, contradictory viewpoints with the "real world"
> card.  "Get with the real world!  It's global and its an economy, stupid!"

This is the ideological icing.  It doesn't support or sustain the power of
the WTO and others.  It is designed to keep us as bewildered as possible so
we can't get our bearings and act.  If you oppose free trade, you're a
nativist or a protectionist, etc.  Totally a straw man.  It's not freedom or
trade or even global economics we are opposed to.  It's the increasingly
intolerable domination of our lives by the captains of capital.

> In this country, the press is astounded at the arrival of thousands and
> thousands of protesters (with a richly mixed agenda) in Seattle to
> challenge, and maybe disrupt a discussion of  tariffs that would have had
> everyone yawning a few years ago.

Whose press is it?  GE's?  Westinghouse?  Disney's?  Think about it.

> "Something's happening here...what it is ain't exactly clear...."

There's a man with a gun over there, tellin' me I got to beware.