Free trade, fair trade, and socialism: Workers' Liberty 3/17

Fair trade, free trade, and socialism

Author: 

Paul Hampton

Trade is a vital part of the neoliberal economic, political and ideological regime that now dominates the world economy and most national states.

In this pamphlet we try to grasp the essential features of the world economy, especially relating to trade issues.

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Free trade

Author: 

Paul Hampton

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.

The world trade order today

The world trade order today

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Fair trade

Author: 

Paul Hampton

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”.

Few opponents of free trade argue that trade per se is harmful, although the localisation school emanating from green politics certainly appears to do so. Instead most charities and NGOs want the rules of the game changed.

Analysis of "fair trade"

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Localisation

Author: 

Paul Hampton

The most drastic alternative to free trade, popular on the green wing of the global justice movement, is localisation. Localisation means that: “everything that can be produced locally should be produced locally”.

According to Australian green Gary Buckman, the localisation school “generally sees global trade as an inherently destructive economic force and believes that the only way poor nations will get any richer is through less trade, not more”.

The most drastic alternative to free trade, popular on the green wing of the global justice movement, is localisation.

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Socialist policy on trade

Author: 

Paul Hampton

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.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels first wrote about world trade in the 1840s, when British capitalism was the dominant industrial force in the world economy and free trade had just become the commercial policy of the British government.

A revolutionary alternative to both “free” trade and “fair” trade.

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Marx's major works on foreign trade

Author: 

Paul Hampton

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.

Marx on international trade.

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Proudhon, patron saint of fair trade

Author: 

Paul Hampton

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”.

Proudhon was an early advocate of some fair trade ideas.

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Independent working-class politics in the Third World

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.

During the so-called “golden age”, 1950-73, world GDP grew by almost 5% a year; over the “neoliberal” period since 1973 the world economy has grown by 3% a year. In both periods growth was faster than at any time in history – the world economy is estimated to have grown by just over 2% a year between 1870 and 1913 and just under 2% a year between 1913 and 1950.

Over the last half century, the working class has grown in size and social weight as capitalism has developed.

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South Africa: workers defeat apartheid

Author: 

Paul Hampton

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.

From the early 1980s, there was a massive upsurge in working class struggle. On 1 May 1986, 1.5 million workers “stayed away” from work to demand an official May Day holiday – the largest strike in South African history.

The AWL believes that if COSATU and other workers’ organisations had formed a political party, they could have won power in their own right.

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Workers' Liberty 3/17: free trade, fair trade, and socialism

Fair trade

Author: 

Paul Hampton
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.

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.

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