Trade is a vital part of the neoliberal economic, political and ideological regime that now dominates the world economy and most national states.
Workers' Liberty 3/17: Free trade, fair trade, and socialism
Whether you live in Mexico or Morocco, South Korea or Spain, you can buy food produced on the other side of the world. Toys made in China, jeans in Guatemala, trainers in Indonesia and cars made in Brazil are sold thousands of miles away. This is the golden age of world trade, if nothing else.
Many of the young people, NGOs and unions who mobilised for the big demonstrations in Seattle in 1999, or in Edinburgh for the G8 summit, argue that the alternative to the neoliberal, free trade agenda of the multinationals, the big powers and the WTO is some sort of “fair trade”. Three million people have signed Oxfam’s petition to “make trade fair”.
The most drastic alternative to free trade, popular on the green wing of the global justice movement, is localisation.
A revolutionary alternative to both “free” trade and “fair” trade is the perspective held by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL). It is based on the core ideas of Marxists a century ago, applied to the circumstances we live in today.
In his notes on the history of economic thought in 1861-63, first published as Theories of Surplus Value (but in fact the second draft of Capital, volume 1), Marx comments on the way a rich country can exploit a poorer one.
Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865) was a founder of anarchism and author of the book What is Property? (1842) to which he gave the celebrated answer, “it is theft”.
Capitalist development is a fact of the last fifty years. World GDP increased nearly seven-fold from 1950 to 1998, with an average growth rate of nearly 4% a year, according to OECD figures.
A strike wave began in Durban in 1973 involving nearly 100,000 workers. It shook the racist apartheid regime (where only the white minority could vote) that had ruled for 25 years. Students played an important role too, calculating cost of living indexes and doing research for workers.
Workers' Liberty 3/17 examines the facts about world trade, the arguments about fair trade, the lessons to be learned from the writings of Marx and Engels, and the outlines of a socialist policy. Download pdf here, or read online.