Globalization and the Class Struggle Today

Opening to the National Board

"It is well known with what reluctance the English 'Free-traders' gave up the protective duty on silk. Instead of the protection against French importation, the absence of protection for English factory children now serves their turn."

Karl Marx wrote that in his first volume of Capital. I think it illustrates neatly the relationship between the struggle against capitalist globalization and the domestic struggles of the working class at home.

The fight against capitalist globalization is central to the class struggle today. It touches and affects virtually every economic, social and political struggle of the working class and oppressed people the world over. More and more our actions and plans have to take this reality into account. More and more, Communists and the left must make the linkage clear and fight for the global integration of struggles to match the global economic integration now dominated by monopoly capital. Some have called it globalizing peace, justice and equality.

Sam put things very well in his keynote when he said, "Notwithstanding the claims of its proponents, economic globalization is accompanied by fierce exploitation, economic instability, and crises. In its wake, problems of vast dimensions have arisen - AIDS, poverty, hunger, debt bondage, labor migration, global warming, marginalization of whole regions and continents, and the heightening of national and racial oppression." And I would add that it also leaves in its wake an international war on labor and unions.

Paying particular attention to the keynote section on capitalist globalization should be our starting point for this discussion. I think the keynote set the ideological framework for what should now be a discussion of how to throw the full weight and fighting spirit of the Party into this critical and epic battle. There are a lot of interesting theoretical questions about imperialism and globalization, and they should be studied and discussed - but in the context of moving the Party into greater action and new levels of coalition building against globalization.

We must also be clear on our overall strategic concept of defeating the ultra right as outlined in the keynote. Building the broadest possible coalitions and alliances to rebuff the ultra right and fighting capitalist globalization are not two different or separate tracks of struggle. They are two totally intertwined sides of the same struggle. As the keynote indicates, the huge concentrations of wealth and power in this new global level of monopoly capital are the material base for a more vicious ultra right. And the struggle against the effects of capitalist globalization is increasingly a political fight for democracy to break the ultra right's haughty power.

The keynote compared the integration process of local and district economies into national economies in the 1900's to the integration of national and regional economies into a global economy today. This is a helpful comparison because it shows in both cases it was and is a process of capitalist development. Not a bad policy of some politicians. This was one of Lenin's big points in "Imperialism." Understanding this gives Marxists a basis for understanding the objective laws of development at work in this process. It gives us the tools to analyze and strategize with a better understanding of the underlying forces at work.

We understand that no dynamic process of monopoly capitalism or imperialism takes place outside the context of the class struggle. We know that they, the rulers, owners and flunkies of monopoly capital don't hold all the cards. Or as we used to say down home: "It takes two to tangle." Actually it takes a lot more than two to tangle in this case. In the global class struggle, it's the interests of the vast majority of people on our planet versus a tiny handful. Why is it important to restate this basic idea? Because based on appearances it is too easy to conclude that you can't fight City Hall.

The death of Carlo Giuliani in Genoa, and the hundreds of protesters sent to the hospital in those demonstrations, has already sent a shudder through the anti-globalization movement. Many parts of the coalition are examining their participation. Some are tempted to conclude that the forces arrayed against them are just too great and that all they can do is get people hurt. It's not the dominant conclusion, but it does have impact. And the violence does serve to put off some of the more mainstream sectors of the anti-globalization coalitions. Still others are angry and more determined than ever. In any case, the Genoa events can cloud the ability to appreciate and understand the important victories already won, and it can definitely dampen the fightback.

We went through this in Seattle. The provocations and the violence did have an impact in narrowing down events that followed. So I think it even more incumbent on us to fight in coalitions for the broadest possible mass tactics and to expose the role of the provocateurs and police violence. We have to fight to keep the focus first and foremost on the corporations and the global institutions of imperialism.

The corporate globalizers were also shaken by the protests in Genoa. Germany and Italy, old capitalist partners in global crime, are now proposing to the European Union a new special EU police force to "pool intelligence, monitor borders, intercept riot ringleaders, and develop tactics to contain rioting." They are outraged at the lack of law and order - where "anti-globalization protesters can prevent international summits being held in major cities."

The Economic Downturn

The economic downturn (that even many big business economists now see as a potential global recession) is also impacting the anti-globalization movement. Let's look, for example, at the impact on the labor movement. It was a fracturing setback to the movement when the Teamsters and Laborers decided to break ranks and endorse Bush's energy plan in the name of jobs. And just this past week, the AFL-CIO seemed to backslide on the environment when it lobbied to "explore the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil with safeguards to protect the environment." This was the position they took in lobbying some Democrats to defeat amendments that would have exempted the Alaska north slopes. This is bound to cause rifts with the environmental movements and others. It is the economic downturn, coupled with Bush's ultra-right policies that refuel and give new weight to the old "jobs versus the environment" argument.

Also we must note that American labor was very quiet when Bush unilaterally decided to blow off the Kyoto Treaty.

A global recession will have other, bigger negative effects. In part, the WTO, the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the other treaties are attempts, in the interests of capital to be sure, to regulate competition and smooth over inter-imperialist rivalries. Even that limited function is threatened by the economic downturn. This is how Michael Moore, the secretary general of the WTO, put it early in the year:

"The world economy is looking vulnerable. According to the just released WTO Annual Report 2001, the world economy is retreating from the high growth path seen last year, dimming the prospects for world trade in 2001. The volume of world merchandise trade is expected to grow by 7%, a marked reduction from the estimated 12% in 2000. The US economy, motor for the world economy, is stuttering. A recession in America could export trouble to the rest of the world. An upsurge in protectionism could make things much worse. The virtuous circle of trade liberalization and economic growth could all too easily become a vicious spiral of protectionism and stagnation."

For protectionism and stagnation read trade conflicts and declining profits. And as we all know, a global recession threatens even more political danger from the ultra right.

It is evident from the violence used in Seattle, Quebec and Genoa that Adam Smith's invisible hand is now very much supplemented with the iron hand of police repression.

Without going into a lot of facts and figures, it is pretty evident that the growing global economic slowdown aggravates most of the negatives of capitalist globalization - poverty and inequality increase, exploitation and oppression intensify, racism and national chauvinism and anti-immigrant hysteria intensify, degradation of the environment and destruction of rural and farming life speeds up. And as the opening quotation from Marx indicates - frustration and limits on profits in the global economy will only heighten the attack on the working class and people at home.

Labor's Response to Globalization

Ever since Seattle, it has been clear that labor is responding in a new way to globalization. While this has been very evident to us in terms of the new leadership of the AFL-CIO and the important changes we've seen domestically, what we haven't perhaps been so much aware of 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 Jarvis and I saw in Durban, the threat of globalization has helped move the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions 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 ILO. These are basic rights to organize, work free of any kinds of discrimination - racial, national or gender, 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 begin to raise the issue of social and democratic control over globalization? Of course only a world socialist system 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? Here we have the labor movement 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. But nowhere do they mention that the US has not ratified six of the eight core labor conventions, including the right to organize and bargain collectively. 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 for 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, November 9th. This is an important initiative on many fronts. In the first place, it has been a long time since any world labor organization called for simultaneous actions around the world. And it's been even longer since the AFL-CIO endorsed such a call.

The demands are also very advanced and very interesting in most cases:

1. Protection of basic workers' rights from the exploitation that results from world trade;
(Placing this demand this way separates local national conditions from standards for the trans-nationals 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 countries;

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 medicines 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 activities."

It is also important to say that the Qatar meeting is probably the most important capitalist globalization summit on the horizon. Why? Well, again, let me read you a quotation from Michael Moore of the WTO:

"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, Mr. Chairman, 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 after.

"The questions facing Ministers will be the same as at Seattle: are they ready to launch a wider process of negotiations - a new round, in fact - and if so what should its content be."

This was in a speech that he gave just about ten days ago. 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 November 9th, 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 globalization.

One last thing on labor before I move on. In my report at the Convention, I proposed that we adopt a new industrial concentration policy that would target special national attention to Longshore, transportation, auto and steel. I argued that transportation-Longshore is the Achilles heel of globalization, where workers have real power. I won't steal Evey's thunder. I trust we will schedule very soon a report back on the tremendous International Dockers Conference that Evey, Juan and I attended. It certainly bore out the proposal for concentration and it certainly underlined the power of transportation workers. And it confirmed that the forces of capitalist globalization are singling out transport for union busting.

A recent article in the Economist magazine underlined the importance of transportation to globalization. It is entitled, "Could container ships as fast as speedboats soon shorten global supply chains? A transport revolution is waiting to happen." The article notes, "Air freight offers speed for the 40% of the world's trade (by value) that travels in cargo flights or in the hold of passenger aircraft, but it costs ten times more than sea transport." The article goes on to describe new container ships that can travel twice as fast as current freighters and, more importantly, will not use cranes to load and unload, but instead use a roll-on roll-off system. Needless to say this technology will eliminate many skilled waterfront jobs and signal renewed attacks on maritime workers.

More Protests and the FTAA and Fast-Track

There is just a hell of a lot of things going on in the fight against globalization. Now comes the Global Justice Week of Action in Washington DC to protest the annual joint IMF-World Bank meeting. A whole week of activity is being planned for September 24 through October 1. Mobilization committees have been established in several key cities. It has been endorsed by a wide range of organizations including the AFL-CIO, Jobs w/ Justice, and the 50 Years is Enough coalition. It unites the broad spectrum of anti-globalization organizations.

Here are some of the activities planned:

24-25: Women's Equality Summit, Congressional Action Day
26: March in defense of the rights of immigrants
27 (evening)-29: Teach-in on the World Bank, IMF and the Global Economy
Forum on the impacts of international financial institution policies on women in the global economy
28: "Behind the Label" retailer actions with UNITE, protesting sweatshop conditions
29: Interfaith Service for debt cancellation and global justice
30: Massive rally and march, demanding:
IMF/World Bank debt cancellation
A fair trade agenda and no Fast Track/FTAA
Priority treatment for combating HIV/AIDS
Support for local labor struggles (including parking lot attendants' fight for the right to organize with Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Local 27)
Preparation for the ICFTU's Global Unions' Day of Action by the Workplaces of the World to be held Nov. 9 around the meeting of the WTO in Qatar

Obviously we have to be a part of this exciting week.

We must also consider our involvement in the fight to defeat fast track and the FTAA. In my opinion, we just have not been sufficiently there in coalitions and otherwise. We have a special responsibility to help in this fight against capitalist globalization in the belly of the imperialist beast. The Labor Commission must take much responsibility for our weakness here. We have to play a better, more organized role in bringing these fights to the whole Party. And I think we in the national leadership have to also recognize our shortcomings. We have to be more geared to action and involvement.

Don't get me wrong. We have done some good work, just not enough and not fast enough in our response time. Here I really end up back where I started. I think the key to improving our work is to place the question of capitalist globalization in relation to every other area of struggle, and in relation to every other coalition building effort. For arguments sake I would say that globalization is the dominant process of monopoly capitalism today - far beyond what has ever existed before. Thus the struggle to curb capitalist globalization is the central feature of the class struggle today - not only internationally, but in every country.

Can we imagine a solution to the crisis in steel that does not include the curbing of monopoly globalization? In auto? Can we imagine a solution to the AIDS crisis, or to global warming that does not include curbing global monopoly power?

Anyway - I hope this all made some sense. Regardless here are some specific proposals for discussion:

1 - We need to ask every commission and working group to hold a discussion about how globalization relates to their area of responsibility. For example, Seattle and other mass anti-globalization actions reveal a need for looking more concretely at how globalization intensifies racism and national chauvinism and making the connections. The movement as a whole has done little to single out the special issues of globalization that intensify racism and discrimination. We need to find the concrete struggles that can link the struggle against globalization to the special needs of racially and nationally oppressed communities. A discussion in the African American, Mexican American and Labor Commissions on this subject would be very helpful. We should also see to it that such discussions are organized in our Rural and Farm Commission, our Women's Working Group, our Religious Working Group and our Peace and Solidarity Working Group.

In regards to our Environmental Working Group I think the focus must be on any possible specific initiatives we can take to get a labor/environment dialogue going on jobs. A top staffer from the AFL-CIO raised with me the need to put together such meetings and discussions. She said that a sizable group in the AFL-CIO leadership and staff are disturbed by the backward steps on the environment. And she pointed out that it was such meetings and initiatives that led to changes in policy on the environment in the past. We need to rekindle the discussion of conversion to green technologies and job creation in cleaning up the environment and making the companies pay for that clean up.

2. We need a full, thought out plan for our participation in the Havana meeting of the San Paulo Forum. We need to participate with some thinking and initiatives for uniting the left throughout the Americas for defeat of the FTAA. We have a special responsibility to raise the issues of US corporate and finance capital shenanigans in Latin America, including cancellation of debt and targeting specific companies. Also in this regard targeting Plan Colombia and the NASA incursion into the Amazon forests of Brazil.

3. We need to have a full plan for our participation, mobilization and building the Global Justice Week of Action the last week in September and the Global Unions Day of Action on November 9th. I think this should include taking steps now to find a place in DC to hold a Party- and PWW-sponsored forum on globalization as a part of the week's events. And we must work with districts to get the Party involved in planning committees, etc.

4. We need to take a look at how we can make a priority effort of helping to defeat Fast-Track. On Sunday I'm meeting with a top representative of Jobs w/ Justice who wants to raise with us our role in helping to defeat Fast-Track and FTAA. Our increased presence is requested and we must meet the challenge with action. Of course this means use of the PWW, PA and mobilization and coalition building in the first place. Also, I think we need our Legislative and Political Action Commission to help us think this through.

5. We need to help develop the ILO core rights campaign and work with it to develop a wider discussion of ratifying the conventions and moving trade issues to the UN and out of the hands of imperialist institutions. In some ways this is an ideological campaign, but it also requires practical help in pushing the AFL-CIO campaign to a wider coalition and audience outside of labor.

I want to end again where I started with Karl Marx. We all have our favorite writings and quotations. Since I first read the Communist Manifesto years ago the following paragraph has been one of my favorites. I think it more timely than ever and it expresses the material basis for the optimism we should feel about making the contributions we must to this vital struggle.

"Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lie not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralize the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes. But every class struggle is a political struggle. And that union, to attain which the burghers of the Middle Ages, with their miserable highways, required centuries, the modern proletarian, thanks to railways, achieve in a few years."


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