Faux on Cockburn

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at yale.edu
Tue Jan 11 05:34:29 PST 2000

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-lbo-talk at lists.panix.com
> [mailto:owner-lbo-talk at lists.panix.com]On Behalf Of Rakesh Bhandari
> d. China passes on the lion's share of its revenue to its foreign partners,
> though such exports swell its trade surplus. Take those fast selling Barbie
> dolls at a retail price of $10 each, while the import price was only $2,
> and China received just $.35 (thirty five cents) on a net basis after
> deducting costs of imported raw materials and transport.
> Faux says nothing about this rather pitifully small size.
> The problem here is the demands Clinton has made on China in order to
> placate Faux so noisily concerned with the Seattle protestors about how bad
> the deal will be for us ordinary Americans. In trying to placate those who
> can shout the loudest, Clinton promises to open up China to more US exports
> so as to compensate for Chinese imports.

Rakesh, the fact that Chinese workers gets so little of the purchase price of imported goods is one of the top issues being protested.

Most unionists protest both the low wages of the Chinese workers in the deal and the benefits to US capitalists, since both sides of the deals strengthens global capitalists at the expense of workers globally.

No one expects most toys and textiles to return to US unionized workers, so protectionism against China would just move the goods to the next cheapest country, so arguing that this is just about US jobs is a red herring.

Yes, there is self-interest in US workers wanting Chinese workers to have the right to organize and demand a higher percentage of the export price from the multinationals, but that is the traditional self-interest of workers helping other workers gain power. The better other workers are doing, the harder it is to exploit you as a worker.

In the WTO and China discussions, the unions are not demanding protectionism against specific goods -- which manufacturers and unions have done in the past admittedly -- but are have now moved away from protectionism to a demand for enforcement of fair labor standards.

Protectionism does benefit workers and national-based capitalists in one country at the expense of workers and local capitalists in another, but demands for labor standards benefit workers collectively in both countries at the expense of capitalists in both countries.

You can argue over whether the WTO can fairly administer labor standards, but if you disagree with the principles of labor standards, particularly the right of workers to organize without repression from the state or multinationals, I really have trouble distinguishing your position from the WALL STREET JOURNAL.

When folks make these accusations that unions are all just capitalist-oriented protectionists, I just wonder how many actual flesh-and-blood union leaders they have met (other than in their theoretical left textbooks). Most union organizers over age forty were members of various Marxist and Communist organizations during the 1970s-- in the Bay Area which I know well, it is hard for me to think of too many unionists who don't have a Party background of some kind. A large number were even Maoists and had great sympathy for the Chinese government, although much fewer have sympathy for the Deng-Jiang policies.

So it is perfectly reasonable to accuse them of poor analysis, but this creation of straw man union opponents just is a simplistic approach to the debate. You may argue that despite their intentions or theoretical goals, the end result is what you are arguing, but to ignore those intentions leads you to make statements such as the above ludicrous claim that unionists have not highlighted the fact that Chinese workers get very little gain from trade themselves. That has been one of the main arguments for labor standards and for you to claim the opposite just highlights the fact that you are arguing with a shadow.

-- Nathan Newman

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