To: Detroit Workers' Voice mailing list
August 18, 2016
RE: The TPP, Greece, Puerto Rico, Obama, Trump, and US nationalism

The bankruptcy of neo-liberal trade agreements --

By the Seattle Communist Study Group, prepared with respect to upcoming anti-TPP actions such as the "Rock against the TPP" event (

Against widespread opposition from people all across the USA, the Obama administration continues to press its plans to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. This is an agreement that reinforces neo-liberalism on a wide range of issues: it further binds signatory governments to austerity, deregulation, and market fundamentalism; it enforces compliance by means of gigantic penalties; and it erodes democratic governance through secret tribunals which can overturn labor, environmental, and consumer protection laws – any measure which can conceivably be said to affect the profits of some corporation.

The countries which are party to this treaty include five stronger, more developed economies (US, Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand) and seven weaker, less developed economies (Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Chile, Peru, and Mexico). The treaty aims to facilitate the export of capital from the stronger economies to the weaker ones, reinforcing social conditions for the profitable exploitation of labor in the weaker economies. Thus it would give capitalists new ways to intervene in the economies of all the countries involved in the treaty. They would be able to cancel any regulations that impede their ability to make a profit, and lower the standard of living of workers throughout the treaty area. It isn't really a free trade agreement, it's more like an investor rights agreement, and it establishes new barriers to trade in the form of patent royalties and longer copyright terms. It was negotiated in secret from the public, under the direction of corporate lawyers and lobbyists. It strips the masses of any democratic rights to challenge its effects by imposing an autocratic body over the signatory governments.

A treaty to stiffen the neo-liberal straitjacket

The treaty focuses on financial and investment matters that facilitate shifting production from one country to another, to seek the least worker protections and the lowest wages. By enforcing patent royalties for drugs, it will kill large numbers of people by pricing these drugs out of the reach of the poor. It includes much longer copyright and patent protection periods for all new products, which will restrict the availability of advanced technology to less developed countries. This acts against such countries developing independent industry, thereby promoting continued dependency on the capitalists of the rich countries.

In a time of dramatic climate change, the treaty will roll back environmental regulations. Once again, this sacrifices the lives of millions to the interests of a few rich profiteers. It does not recognize the problem of climate change, and thus it does nothing to move these countries away from the extraction and use of fossil fuels. These features are not accidental, but are the product of the neo-liberal outlook enshrined in the treaty.

Neo-liberal institutions such as the TPP shift misery
onto the backs of the people

Already we have seen what concentrated market fundamentalism has done to Greece, under the heel of the 'troika'. The Greek people are being systematically robbed by the banks, and are expected to pay off the resulting mountains of debt. It has gotten so bad that the IMF leadership has begun to admit that they made a mistake in forcing the Greek government to agree to the conditions of the EU bureaucrats. But this has not stopped the 'troika' from continuing to loot the Greek masses, with the help of "their own" bourgeoisie.

In another example, the Puerto Rican government had to default on its $422 million debt payment in May. This is the third time that the government has not made a payment on its debt. Austerity has already hit the economy very severely, and students have been waging massive struggles against the defunding of public services. For this reason, the governor chose to pay police and teachers instead of making the debt payment. But instead of granting the island government bankruptcy rights, the US Congress is placing the island under an undemocratic oversight board with the power to impose cuts in social services regardless of the needs of the people, as a condition of temporary relief from payments on the debt.

This is what happens when effective mass organizations do not exist and the arrogance of the ruling class can crush the resistance of the people: Greece subject to the European bankers, foreign governments, and the IMF; Puerto Rico subject to a colonialist US Congress. The TPP is one of a such a series of measures that shift increased misery onto the backs of the working people in order to increase profits.

Solidarity with the workers of all countries,
not with our exploiters

Obama will now try to push the TPP through Congress immediately after the election. Workers and youth should therefore mobilize friends and co-workers to fill the anti-TPP demonstrations during the next period, as well as organize their own protests and contingents. We should also oppose U.S. nationalism in the movement. For example, while Obama pushes TPP under the idea of advancing U.S. national interests -- really, Wall Street interests -- against rivals like China, the Democratic and Republican opponents of TPP also resort to nationalist appeals in fighting for what they think is in the best interests of Wall Street. Thus, Donald Trump shrieks against other countries "beat(ing) us." And ignoring that the U.S. would dominate the TPP with its economic and political strength, he says the TPP "would put the interests of foreign countries above our own" and "undermine our independence" (shudder). This demagoguery also appears in a left-populist form in the anti-TPP protest movement, and it is intended to divert us into supporting our own exploiters in their competition with rivals abroad. In opposition to it we must stand up for the interests of the workers of all countries -- just as we must stand up for the especially exploited national minorities, immigrants and women in this country.

The choice is either to compete with the workers of other countries by joining in the race to the bottom, or to rise in solidarity with the workers of other lands in the fight against global capital. And the AFL-CIO leaders are consistently on the wrong side of this struggle. Since the 1979 beginning of the neo-liberal offensive, they've used every dirty means to force concessions on American workers under the nationalist slogan of "saving jobs" against foreign competition. The result is that while wages have often been cut in half, and health care and pension benefits gutted, jobs have not been saved -- only the profits of the capitalist class these bureaucrats serve have been saved. Thus, a new generation of activists is going to have to take up the task of reorganizing the working class in this country on an internationalist basis.

Indeed, whether Congress passes or defeats the TPP, the struggle against the neo-liberal offensive of the bourgeoisie is going to have to continue. The "Fight for $15" movement is part of this struggle, and it has raised the issue of organizing unions. Such unionization is going to have to be done by cores of new activists with ties or roots in the workplaces, and who, unlike the SEIU, are not opposed to real strikes. Another part is the struggle against privatization of everything from education to water. Another is the environmental movement, where already-failed or sure-to-fail neo-liberal solutions (like cap and trade and the carbon tax) must be opposed with a fight for direct regulations and planning with mass involvement. There's no other way to avert catastrophic climate change.

In Seattle there are many anti-TPP activists who simultaneously participate in the environmental movement. They work to organize resistance to exploitation in their workplaces, and participate in the Black Lives Matter and other progressive movements. We should use the protests against the TPP and other outrages against the people and environment to make closer links among ourselves, and aim at forging an independent movement of the working class. Only such a movement can beat back the neo-liberal atrocities of the bourgeoisie, and go on to tear up their roots: the capitalist system of production.

Seattle Communist Study Group
August 18, 2016
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Posted on August 21, 2016