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Mike Gonzalez

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Global warning

(May 1994)


From Socialist Review, No. 175, May 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


For Richer, For Poorer. Shaping US-Mexican Integration
Harry Browne
Latin American Bureau £7.99

There may still be some people somewhere who believe that the market can bring benefits. The last and latest attempt to re-establish the illusion was the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on 1 January this year. Unfortunately for Clinton, his assurances to Congress that his version of the agreement would be more socially responsible than earlier drafts were exposed by 20,000 armed peasants in southern Mexico who showed that it would bring only hunger and poverty.

NAFTA has only one purpose – to integrate the world market for the benefit of powerful capitalist interests. The consequences will be immediate. Populations expelled from their land will become wage labourers producing crops for export or will drift to the factories that are moving from the US or Canada to Mexico because this disposable army of workers is cheaper and less able to defend its working conditions.

These new factories will produce goods for a wider market, but most of them will be beyond the reach of those who produce them. In the very short term 500,000 jobs will be lost in Mexico. Once the ruling classes of the so called ‘Third World’ tried to set up their own protected areas of economic activity, now they are rushing to become part of great international conglomerates.

NAFTA is a model of what free trade and global integration mean. The British and Mexican ruling classes not only share a common ideology – they are competing for resources in exactly the same way. Each claim that the economy as a whole will benefit from any new investment. The reality in the long recession of the 1990s is that some economic sectors will grow, but the benefits will be accumulated in the heart of a corporation that will seek to spread its investments across the world for its own profit.

The authors of this book offer plenty of evidence and detailed statistics to reinforce the point. They underline the dangers and the brutal consequences of this ‘corporate bill of rights’. At the heart of their critique is a hope that new international institutions will arise to oversee and control the international order.

It is a futile hope. GATT and NAFTA are the economic arms of a system whose military and political expressions, like the UN, have made it brutally clear on whose behalf they are prepared to act. Change will come only when power shifts towards the producers. All the guarantees offered by the Mexican government to the people of Chiapas were meaningless until they fought back.

The alternative of creating an independent state able to protect itself from the system has been exposed in Cuba, Nicaragua and Mexico itself. Such states may offer the opportunity of resistance – but they cannot offer an alternative. The sane world the authors of this book so clearly wish to see can never be created by members of a capitalist class whose survival depends on the successful exploitation of workers.

Politically, only the international organisation of workers offers an alternative future. The great illusion that a global economy will bring a general improvement is exposed from Chiapas to the sweatshops of China. The only improvements in the lives of workers have been won by workers themselves.


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