Am I from the third world?

Dace edace at
Tue Mar 14 11:43:09 PST 2000

>I still suspect most "Third World"
>workers are a lot friendlier to the notion of a social clause in the
>WTO than he [Patrick] is, though I certainly have no evidence for that.
Here's what Robin Hahnel has to say on the subject, in the current issue of Z Magazine.

***The View from the Bottom of the Labor Heap: Jaggi Singh, reporting from Bhopal India on January 13 during WTO Director-General Mike Moore's ill-fated trip to India to repair the damage from Seattle, provided the following perspective: "The official Indian government delegation to the Seattle WTO ministerial meetings took a hard-line stand, at least publicly, against linking trade to labour and environmental standards. It was a position supported by all the major parliamentary factions, including the so-called left parties. Indeed, the government's view not only echoes that of other governments in the third world, but is critically supported by the majority of progressive opponents of globalization in India and the rest of South Asia. It's not that activists here are 'soft' or relativistic about labour standards, the environment or human rights; nor are they naive about whom the Indian government really represents. Rather, they see Western governments' apparent discovery of universal human values and standards as a ploy to ensure a competitive advantage for their own multinational companies. This view is widespread in countries like India, with its own historical context of colonialism, and contemporary context of neo-colonialism with which the 'holy trinity' of the WTO, IMF, and World Bank are considered synonymous."

Jaggi Singh quotes Sanjay Mangala Gopal, the co-coordinator of the National Alliance of People's Movements saying: "We will define our own way of development and we are capable of doing it. Who are you to teach us about child labour or anything else?" These are not words spoken by a hypocritical Indian capitalists or government officials. This expression of oppositiion to labor standards comes from the leader of a major coalition of 125 grassroots organizations who have been in the forefront of the leadership of the international resistance to globalization. R. Geetha, a union and women's rights activist based in Madras, comments: "Who are they to impose conditions on Third World countries? People are starving here! Why the hell should they tell us what kind of economy we should have?" Rejection of reforming the WTO by appending labor standards to further liberalization appears almost universal among the progressive, radical grassroots organizations and coalitions leading the fight against globalization in India. Medha Patkar, a leading organizer of the Narmada Bachao Andolan mass movement against destructive development and displacement in the Narmada River Valley rejects labor standard reforms saying, "The ultimate goal is to say no to the WTO. We're against the whole capitalist system." The Karnataka State Farmer's Movement [KRRS] is a member of the People's Global Action (PGA) movement against "free" trade, which includes the Zapatistas of Mexico and the landless peasants' movement (MST) of Brazil. The KRRS in recent years has dismantled a Cargill seed unit with iron bars, burned Monsant's field trials of biotech cotton, and trashed a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in Bangalore. After Seattle the KRRS expressed concern that "the demands of the big labour unions and environmental groups almost mirrored that of the U.S. govertnment." This sentiment was seconded by a group of adivasis (indigenous peoples) from the state of Madhay Pradesh, who a week before the demonstrations in Seattle stormed the World Bank offices in Delhi, covered it with posters, graffiti, and cow shit, and left a letter saying: "We fought against the British and we will fight against the new form of colonialism that you represent with all our might."***

Hahnel concludes that the focus on labor and environmental standards threatens to drive a wedge between first and third world constituencies in the anti-globalization movement.

By the way, opposition to the WTO can certainly be motivated by opposition to capitalism. But that doesn't mean the only alternative to the WTO is world socialism. A development model that seeks to protect third world markets and cultivate third world capital would give poor countries control over their own development. This would be a great improvement. It would enable countries to choose their own fate, socialist or not.


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