By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of People’s Struggle
30 November 2009
November 30, 2009 marks the 10th anniversary of the Battle of Seattle. We remember this for shutting down the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Ministerial Meeting through militant street protests and mass mobilizations by indignant workers, farmers, students and peoples from various countries.
The Battle of Seattle followed the People’s Assembly against the WTO, in which as keynote speaker I delivered on November 28, 1999 a comprehensive address criticizing and condemning imperialist globalization and calling for people’s resistance and I announced the work of the International Initiative Committee to form the International League of Peoples’ Struggle. The denial of permit to the Rally-March of the aforesaid assembly resulted in a protest picket that served as prelude to the protest marches, which led further to the Battle of Seattle.
Since then, monopoly capitalists have attempted to push imperialist globalization even further through a new round of the WTO as well as bilateral or regional “free trade” pacts. But people’s resistance has blockaded the WTO at each turn — frustrating the Ministerial meetings in Doha (2001), Cancun (2003) and Hong Kong (2005) — with the vital participation of members of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles.
The 7th WTO Ministerial meeting to be held on November 30 to December 2, 2009 in Geneva is the latest attempt by monopoly capitalists to revive the Doha Round of trade talks, and this time with an increased sense of desperation. Through the WTO, monopoly capitalists, the finance oligarchy, and heads of imperialist states are trying to hoodwink poor and indebted countries into further opening up their economies to surplus goods and capital from the advanced industrial capitalist countries.
They vainly hope that by exporting more goods to other countries, gaining access to cheaper raw materials and exploiting cheaper labor, they can overcome the gravest crisis that has wracked the world capitalist system since the 1930s. But rather than resolve it, it will only worsen the global crisis of overproduction and the destruction of productive forces especially in poor and oppressed countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Agribusiness monopolies, for example, want expanded Agreement on Agriculture that would allow them to continue dumping their highly subsidized products into poor countries while opposing the introduction of even token measures of protection for food and other goods that are most sensitive to the latter.
Meanwhile the imperialist states have increased rather than reduced or eliminated the agricultural subsidies that they provide to the monopoly firms that supply seeds, farm inputs and machinery, and control trading. This exacerbates the global overproduction of agricultural commodities and destroys the livelihood of millions of peasants and small farmers in the third world who cannot compete against these global giants.
Smallholders with limited access to land, water, modern inputs, credit, post-harvest facilities, and other farm support become suppliers of agribusiness corporations or agricultural workers. Either way they face declining incomes and greater insecurity as a growing share of farm income is appropriated by local landlords, traders, usurers and global agribusiness giants that monopolize farm inputs and international trade.
Local big landlords, comprador capitalists and foreign financial speculators are taking over millions of hectares of land and forests to plant biofuels or to convert them to special economic zones and commercial centers. This is exacerbating food insecurity and hunger and poverty on an unprecedented scale.
Fisheries are also under threat by the WTO since the imperialist states are insisting on reducing tariffs for the entire fisheries sector. This will accelerate the depletion of marine resources and the displacement of fisherfolk and coastal communities whose livelihood depend on these resources, especially when combined with unequal Fisheries Access Agreements through which the heavily subsidised industrial fishing fleets from imperialist countries gain access to the territorial waters of poor countries which are already over-fished.
In the manufacturing industries, imperialist states are pushing for the imposition of steep additional tariff cuts on manufacturing goods entering third world countries and introduce new rules which would prevent the use of tariffs to protect strategic or infant industries in the latter. On the other hand, these same imperialist states are increasing their own applied tariffs as a way of saving industrial monopolies from going bust in the midst of the global depression.
Even bourgeois economists warn that this will result in more bankruptcies, lay-offs and deindustrialization in poor countries. It will also drastically reduce revenues for social spending and public investment.
Imperialist states are dangling the prospect of liberalizing the entry of workers from poor countries suffering from chronic unemployment in exchange for the liberalized entry of transnational corporations (TNCs) in key services sectors, such as financial services, energy, and telecommunications. This paves the way for greater foreign monopoly capitalist control over strategic sectors such as mass media and utilities.
The monopoly bourgeoisie of the leading imperialist countries is using the current global financial, food and climate crisis as the justification for an early conclusion of the Doha Round. In fact, the WTO is one of the principal instruments by which the monopoly bourgeoisie has enforced policies that engendered and continue to worsen these crises.
WTO rules prevent countries from adopting new financial regulations that restrict the operations of “financial service suppliers.” They do not allow the banning of fictitious financial products such as derivatives, and they do not allow restrictions on the size or form of financial firms (not even to reduce systemic financial risk). In short, the WTO bars regulations that place limits on the predatory practices of finance capital and the inflation of financial bubbles that precipitate financial crises.
The WTO integrates more farmers and agricultural output into the global market. The more food production is oriented towards serving foreign markets rather than domestic needs, the more transnational corporations – commodity traders, food processors, and global retailers — increase their stranglehold over the global food system; and the more food becomes inaccessible to those who need it the most. It is precisely the monopoly capitalist control of global agriculture and the food system that has spread the global famine now afflicting over a billion people in the world.
Likewise, trade liberalization encourages the growth of energy-intensive industries , the expansion of chemical-intensive corporate farms, increases the extraction and burning of fossil fuels; deforestation; and other major drivers of global warming. WTO rules also prevent governments from adopting environmental and social regulations that restrict the operations and profits of monopoly capitalist firms including measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The liberalization of trade in so-called climate-friendly goods and services is being hyped up as a means of mitigating climate change. In fact, TNCs which supply these goods merely want to use a new WTO agreement to widen their market access and at the same time strengthen and extend their monopoly patents over technologies which hardly make a dent on aggregate GHG emissions. Biotech firms are now stockpiling patents on what they claim to be climate-resilient crops which they hope to market widely with the aid of the WTO.
The imperialist states within the WTO remain united in their interest to pass on the burden of coping with these crises onto the shoulders of the working classes, especially in the poor and oppressed countries. However, inter-imperialist competition is also at play inside the WTO as each of the advanced capitalist countries resorts to increasing protectionist measures.
Such protectionist measures include domestic subsidies that form part of stimulus programs and trade barriers that limit market access for exporters from other countries in the hope of reviving their own domestic economies. This is the reason why even third world governments representing comprador elite interests have so far refused to acquiesce to imperialist demands for more market opening.
This accounts for the ambivalence of imperialist spokespersons who, after using every multilateral gathering of imperialist states and major economies this past year to call for the earliest possible conclusion of the Doha Round, are now saying this December’s Ministerial meeting would just be a stock-taking exercise rather than a negotiation.
At the same time, this may be a bluff to further divide the ranks of poor countries and goad the governments of some of the latter to concede a few key demands in order to have a basis for negotiations. This was already the tendency displayed by India’s comprador ruling class during the WTO’s mini-ministerial meeting held in New Delhi last October.
It becomes more imperative for peoples’ movements not to be complacent and to be vigilant and militant about the future of the WTO’s Doha Round and the neoliberal project in general. After serving their interests well for the last three decades, monopoly capitalists are not about to give up neoliberalism anytime soon.
But history is against them. The rottenness of the monopoly capitalist system itself, not just the neoliberal project, is laid bare by the grave crises devastating the people and the planet today. More than ever, it is imperative that we not only push back against the expansion of the WTO and other imperialist instrumentalities, but to fight for their outright dismantling.
It is high time that we call for the building of a new international economic and political order that is premised on equitable and mutually beneficial relations among nations and oriented towards the fulfilment of social needs rather than private profit and the private accumulation of capital.
As the monopoly bourgeoisie tries to preserve its wealth and power, the more resolute the people should become in waging militant struggles for greater freedom, democracy, social justice, development and world peace. The progressive mass movements and revolutionary forces of the people of the world will surely gain strength and advance in the struggles for national and social liberation against imperialism and all reaction. ###