Malaysian social imperialism?

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at Princeton.EDU
Mon Mar 6 07:30:36 PST 2000

Michael, this is a confusing reply since you don't comment on anything in my post under this header. As for your response to WSJ article on denial of Cambodia's quota increase, I don't quite understand your point. Are you defending denial of quota increase on the grounds of labor violations in Cambodia? I don't.Won't there always be labor violations to be found by which sanctions/quota increase denial could be justified? Do you support the MFA (or its replacement through social protection) while liberalization and quick and ruthless adjustment is being forced on the rest of the world through the WTO and IMF/WB? I don't.

Do you think it's good that UNITE has been able to talk the US state which was doubtless listening for other reasons into shutting Cambodia out? Why does the use of labor standards towards that end impress you? Is it because you think they are the only way to force third world capitalists to allow for wage and other improvements? But if they now know that it won't buy them future access (i.e., they'll figure out that quota increase denials will be imposed unless they do something other than improve wage conditions) then why will they change their anti labor behavior henceforth?

Why won't Cambodian capitalists try to produce so cheaply through even more wage repression that they'll find some greedy capitalist on the other side who will be willing to circumvent illegally the quota? Why won't they figure that the only way to get US captialists to fight for quota increases is by making Cambodian production sufficiently profitable for them through more profit repatriation, higher equity participation and the like for the imperialists? Is this good for the Cambodian working class?

> One, was it actually bad for the
>entrepreneurs? The writer implies that entrepreneurs paid higher wages
>and set up whole establishments only because they expected an increased
>quota, and so now that the quota hasn't come through, these uneconomical
>wages and establishments will all be cut back. And yet, there is no
>evidence of it.
The article purports is dated lined the end of February --
>three months after the disappointment of their quota hopes had become
>clear -- and yet it gives several examples of workers successfully
>fighting to expand their rights and owners shaking their heads and giving
>in. And even though this is a Wall Street Journal article, where
>reporters are drilled to pack in all the economic data an article will
>hold, there is no mention of an increase in business failures, not even

To quote from the bottom of the article:

"The 14% quota increase would have translated into 18,000 more jobs in Cambodia, says Van Sou Ieng, chairman of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia. Instead, since the U.S. decision in December, 18 plants here have shut down.

"We turn away 100 to 150 people every week," says Roger Tan, head of Thai-Pore Garment Manufacturing."

> What's remarkable to me is just how swift and
>thorough-going the improvement seems to have been when employers and the
>government thought there was something in it for them.

Reversal of improvements could be just as swift and thorough-going. Anyway if the quota increase had been granted, then quite likely that Cambodian entrepreneurs would have reverted to their old ways until of course the renewal of the quota increase was under consideration again.

The only way to build solid, lasting improvements is through enhanced worker power to which arbitarily imposed US sanctions cannot help much in the long run. Sanctions are a bad and terribly unfair strategy that the US captialist state will only agree to (anyway) for reasons other than social protection.

I can't help noticing that the reporter never quotes anybody on the
>UNITE side in any detail, which would allow them to cite the facts that
>might support their case.

That's probably because UNITE has very little knowledge or concern about the effect of the quota increase denial (or even quotas) on Cambodian workers just as the AFL-CIO seems not to have followed up on the consequences of the Harkin Bill. What is there to quote?

Yours, Rakesh

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