Max Sawicky sawicky at epinet.org
Sat Nov 13 10:02:24 PST 1999

Angela said:
> . . . i don't know where you see 'amoralism'. even from this distance,
the last
> two decades in the US and Britain, as well as here, have been accompanied
> by a distinct moralism. across the board, the repubs, tories, liberals,

mbs: I would think it would be obvious that I meant amoral in contrast to the genuinely humane values, the understanding of which I have a personal and exclusive monopoly. In other words, this looks like a rhetorical point, not a substantive one.

> labourites, and democrats have -- in the absence of any redistributive
> possibilities -- resorted to an increasingly frantic moralism. or is it
> that you're pairing 'amoral' and 'global'? tell me it isn't so; but with
> your depiction of the nation-state as the repository of virtuous
> protectionism, i'm not sure.

mbs: let me allay your fears on this point, if it's really necessary.

> you said you didn't disagree that deregulation of laws relating to
> employers was accompanied by an authoritarianismviz workers... i note the
> double negative. yet, i think you're missing the whole raison d'etre of
> migration laws, and indeed of most laws: they don't stop things from
> happening, they create and sustain certain condition. in the case of
> migration law, they create distinctions between groups of workers, eg.
> illegality doesn't make migrant workers disappear, it only makes them

mbs: "only" is inaccurate. It can also make them unavailable for work altogether by the excluding country. Or make some of them unavailable (from a constructive practical standpoint, the issue isn't whether or not, but how many).

> available for undocumented and hyper-exploited working conditions -- and
> that can, does, happen just over the border and inside a country. short
> of re-asserting a formal system of apartheid (which in any event only ever
> really applied to certain occupations), the only real option for
> against the competitiveness of the labour market is to make sure that
> organised labour includes those at the bottom end of the scale, those who
> are used as scabs.

mbs: In practical terms, I take the spirit of this to point to demands for jobs for all as a continuing priority of labor. Which is fine, but there are real limits to the speed at which such a program can be actualized. The elimination of limits to migration increases the bargaining power of capital relative to labor. Control of migration has the reverse effect. The latter should be our goal.

By the way, the point of reducing "foreigners" to the roles of consumers and producers is to offer substantive components to an anti-xenophobic/anti-nativist critique of so-called free trade.

The most important component is that of international labor solidarity behind international labor standards (incl human rights, environment, etc.). There's going to be more action in Seattle, of a multi-national, multi-issue (i.e., not 'class essentialist') character, than any one place has seen in quite a while. I predict that little of it is going to be devoted to hand-wringing about the chauvinist component of protectionism that I hear on LBO and PEN-L. Although I don't see all facets of it with equal enthusiasm, it seems to me that right now this is the most important development on the left of the past 25 years. You assorted softies here, in respect of free trade, seem to gloss over that.


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