Fighting global capitalism

Free trade

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 By 2000 world trade was 20 times larger than it had been in 1950 — far outstripping the growth in world output (GDP), which had grown nearly seven times over the same period. Trade has grown especially fast since the late 1980s, twice as fast as output. This is not the first...

Fair trade

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. “Fair trade” and...

Localisation

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”. Proponents of localisation such as Colin Hines argue that reducing the volume of international trade would give nations both economic and political...

Socialist policy on trade

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. In England the Corn Laws that had kept the price of food high (and the landowners rich) were repealed in 1846, sparking a great...

Marx's major works on foreign trade

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. He argued: “Say, in his notes to Ricardo’s book translated by Constancio, makes only one correct remark about foreign trade. Profit can also be made by cheating, one person gaining what the other loses. Loss and gain within a single country cancel each other out. But not so with trade between different countries. And even according to Ricardo’s theory, three days of labour...

Proudhon, patron saint of fair trade

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 one of the most prominent radical thinkers of his day, and in works such as System of Economic Contradictions — or The Philosophy of Poverty (1846) and Credit, Free of Interest (1858) was an early advocate of some fair trade ideas. He argued that workers should receive the full value of their labour, but would be free only when they could acquire the means of production, become handicraftsmen (women, as Marx...

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

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. Fair trade, free trade, and socialism Free trade Fair trade Localisation Socialist policy on trade Marx's major works on foreign trade Proudhon, patron saint of fair trade Independent working-class politics in the Third World South Africa: workers defeat apartheid

An appeal to SWP and Respect Students: don't let your leaders scupper left unity!

And let's be honest about what our disagreements really are... If different sections of the left can work together to defend democracy in NUS, why can't we work together to present a united challenge in the elections at the next NUS conference? That was a question which members of Workers' Liberty/AWL were among the many people asking SWP and Respect students at the NUS Extraordinary Conference on 4 December. The response was universally positive - with a crucial exception. In the first left/pro-democracy caucus held that day, NUS executive and SWP national committee member Rob Owen chose to...

A virtual picket line - a first in labour history

I have been on many picket lines in my time but until today they have all taken place in the real world. Today saw the first ever strike and picket to take place in virtual reality. Second Life allows you to create a virtual person (or avatar) and go around doing the sorts of things you supposedly...

The Lies Against Socialism Answered

For most of the 20th century, the common image of "socialism" was the USSR and the other states modelled on it, China, Cuba, and so on. There were always socialists who were critical of Stalin's or Khrushchev's USSR, seeing it as an unacceptably bureaucratic version of socialism, and keen to create a more democratic version in their own countries. By the late 1960s or early 1970s, a big majority even in the official Communist Parties was highly critical of Brezhnev's USSR. But most of those who criticised the USSR clung to the idea that some other USSR-model state - China, Vietnam, Cuba.... -...

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