Social Protectionism

Max Sawicky sawicky at
Wed Mar 8 09:37:32 PST 2000

To Patrick, ever gracious in argument:

> since the immediate future I hate to tell you is
> capitalism.

PB: By which you mean neoliberal capitalism powered by financial/merchant circuits of capital, with an authoritarian global state giving out orders about what kind of economic policy to follow? Or can we not change some of those features by reducing the influence of neolib global statecraft so that nation-states have a bit more space to shift development strategies towards mass, popular interests? And if we're socialists, isn't that space a necessary if insufficient condition for a more radical rupture in local relations of production?

[mbs] We don't disagree on this point, tho I'm not much of a socialist. But this reasonableness seems inconsistent with your next assertion, namely to "smash" the global state.

My reference to self-delusion was not aimed at the mechanics of the bond boycott, quite the contrary. I think finance is a highly vulnerable target. It was to seeing such a practical tactic as a route to smashing states. A tactic is not the same as a strategy. As above, you seem to have duelling strategies.

PB: . . . Rebut this, Max: Practical self-defense through int'l solidarity would be excellent, while practical self-defense through watching Sweeney-Hoffa get a seat at the WTO table to beg for Social Clauses is self-delusional. . . .

[mbs] If we get int'l solidarity, it will grow out of the stuff happening now that upsets an assortment of lefts. There is still a question as to what this means, however. Apparently it does not mean defense of labor rights, unless some kind of vaguely-defined consensus is attained among various parties. Again, I think any such consensus grows out of parochial movement. Just like some folks here think revolution grows out of nationalist struggles.

I also think disqualifying ICFTU affiliates as legitimate voices is way over the top. Here again you're avoiding the main political arena for a purified but isolated one.

> Why anyone should expect the U.S. (or European, or Japanese,
> etc.) working class to defend other workers before themselves
> is beyond me.

PB: . . . They did in relation to SA workers, didn't they, taking a slight hit on pension fund and church endowment holdings, in order to engage in solidarity?

mbs: This was barely on the radar screen of the vast bulk of U.S. workers. A nice left sideshow. Seattle was a main event.

> Casting an interest in labor rights and environmental
> protection as somehow a ploy of U.S. capital is simply
> absurd. NO corporate interests have indicated any
> sympathy for this, except as a political sop to facilitate
> trade deals.

. . . That's the point. Now we can talk about who wins in the trade deals, right? . . .

[mbs] You seem to be arguing a) labor/green standards might play some marginal role (they haven't yet) in greasing the skids for neo-liberal trade deals; b) neo-liberal trade deals are awful for developing countries; ergo: labor/green standards are to blame. In other words, a English tea-drinker is to blame for British imperialism in India. But a worker who acquiesces in drinking tea is not the imperialist, even if he supports colonization. States are imperialist because state-sanctioned use of force is the foundation for imperialism. And if the worker begins some sort criticism of the system, this is the clay for real opposition, tho he may have not given up tea.

> Framing this as a U.S. national-corporate
> interest is precisely backwards and is contradicted by
> what all the elites in the U.S. are doing, which is
> denouncing labor on this every day. Calling a call
> for regulation "social imperialism" is just loopy.

It's imperialist when the people affected by the actions of an oppressor nation's working class aren't playing a central role in the strategy. That's not a loopy argument, it's common progressive sense, isn't it?

[mbs] I'm no leninist rocket-scientist, but "Imperialism" seems to be about the use of force by nations to advantage capital. Your definition seems too broad.

Turn the argument around. Suppose SA workers were mobilized to a fare-thee-well and helped the SA Gov secure FDI on relatively favorable terms for labor, something like the EU does, to the disadvantage of U.S. workers. Should we start screaming here that we were not consulted on this policy? I don't think so. Our challenge would be to follow a similar path.

. . . That's all it ever is, though, Max, "in principle" as an afterthought. How about building Third World workers and communities into the strategy from day one?

[mbs] well we are some way past Day one, but people are working on this too.

Anyhow, I still insist, Max, that there's merit to debating whether millions of dollars of US workers' lobbying bucks shouldn't be turned towards shutting down the WTO instead of merely keeping China out. Do your democratic comrades in ACILS (and I think highly of many of them) have any capacity to run that kind of debate in the US working class? If not, then that really IS a problem.

[mbs] "ACILS"? There's merit, not to say necessity, to debating across national borders on this, but there is not much disagreement in U.S. labor, from what I can see, with the China/WTO policy.

I'll just close by suggesting that all look at the evolution of U.S. labor's policy, where it has come from to where it is, rather than in static relativist terms. The direction is what matters, and the direction is positive.


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