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Re: Race to the Bottom?
by Khaldoun Samman
15 November 2003 17:11 UTC
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Steve writes,

<<Free trade pacts pit workers against one another,
but so do protectionist measures of the sort often
advocated by the more powerful American unions or, for

that matter, George Bush, who has not yet negotiated a
free trade pact of any importance, but has signed
bills protecting the American steel industry and
subsidizing US agriculture.>>

I tend to agree here with Steve, but maybe adding one
additional argument.  While many on the American left
are unable to imagine a world-level movement that has
at its core the interest of the world's workers, those
who benefit from protectionist policies are small in
comparison to most American workers who are now
experiencing retrenchment and a repressive American
government.  This has to do with the fact that for the
first time in the history of the Modern World-System,
capital has commodified/ proletarianized/ de-ruralized
the entire globe, incorporating fully all hitherto
other systems, leaving little traces of pre-modern
historical systems.  Hence, as Wallerstein has argued,
capitalists, in their search for externalizing the
costs accrued by the struggles of these prior
incorporated groups, seek out new zones to reduce the
overall cost of production.  But in an age where new
zones are hard to come by, you can expect capitalists
to become extremely aggressive not only on the workers
of the periphery but also in the core.  There is
nowhere to go except towards a more pariah like attack
on all workers world-wide.  

Hence, those workers, like the Steel workers you
mentioned, who are on the privileged side of the world
labor divide, are acting out what they have
traditionally done: pressuring their powerful state to
protect them at the expense of other workers.  But I
predict that this strategy will no longer effectively
work simply because capitalists do not have an open
frontier at their disposal and will probably push Bush
and others to turn on these elite workers as well.  In
such times, these workers will have to rethink this
traditional strategy of theirs and work towards a
world working class movement that has at its
foundations the promotion of the wretched of the
earth.  This is a far more superior strategy.  Rather
than asking less privelege classes to take on the
burden of this transitional age, it joins workers
across the seas, forcing capital to relinquish its
traditional weapons and tools of oppresion. 


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