The return of socialism to the political debate shows the possibility of reviving the mostly hidden but rich tradition of working-class struggle and resistance in this country.
May 6, 2009
SOCIALISM IS back--in the media, in political debate, and, on May Day, in the streets.
May Day is International Workers Day, a socialist holiday marking the struggle for the eight-hour workday in the U.S. more than a century ago. Since then, it's traditionally been a day of celebrations for the labor movement and the left.
In recent decades, May Day in much of the world has become a kind of ritualized demonstration with little political impact. But this year, it was a day of angry protest in Europe against anti-worker policies carried out by governments amid the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Hundreds of thousands of workers marched in Paris behind socialist and trade union banners. Greece, too, saw mass protests.
Demonstrations in the U.S. on May 1 were far smaller. Nevertheless, May Day, long ignored in this country, has been re-established on the U.S. political scene thanks to the immigrant rights movement. That's an important achievement, because for decades, May Day was seen through the lens of the Cold War--it was a foreign, "communist" holiday that had nothing to do with U.S. workers.
In reality, May Day is as American as apple pie. The first May Day protests in 1886 were led by anarchists and socialists in Chicago--four were hanged in the political witch-hunt that followed a bombing in Haymarket Square. So it's entirely appropriate that May Day 2009 once again finds socialism back in the political mix.
A recent Rasmussen opinion poll found that only a bare majority of people in the U.S. say they prefer capitalism as an economic system. Among people under 30, there was an even split between respondents who chose socialism, those who preferred capitalism, and those who weren't sure.
The poll findings highlight a political change that goes well beyond the shift in mainstream U.S. politics symbolized by the Democratic sweep of last November's elections. Indeed, the Rasmussen poll shows the possibility of reviving the mostly hidden but rich tradition of working-class struggle and resistance in this country.
It isn't difficult to understand why socialism has a new appeal. Capitalism, the system that seemed so unchallengeable just a few years ago, is now in its worst crisis since the Great Depression.
Jobs are disappearing, homes are being foreclosed on, working-class living standards are being steadily ground down--and then there's the specter of ecological catastrophe, present in everything from the frightening outbreak of a new strain of swine flu to relentless climate change.
All this confirms the strongest, and yet simplest, argument for socialism--the reality that capitalism is incapable of meeting the needs of the majority of people in society.
(Full article here)
|Will Doha, like Dracula, Come Back from the Dead?|
By Walden Bello and Mary Lou Malig*
Like the good Count of Transylvania, the so-called Doha Round of trade negotiations of the World Trade Organization collapsed twice--the first time during the Cancun Ministerial Meeting in September 2003, the second during the so-called Group of Four meeting in Potsdam in June 2007--only to come back from the dead. But has the silver stake that will render Doha truly and really dead finally been driven through its heart by the unraveling of the most recent “mini-ministerial” gathering in Geneva?
Stampeded into the WTO
When the Uruguay Round that established the World Trade Organization (WTO) was negotiated from 1986 to 1994, the developing countries were largely bystanders. Governments that had been members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) were dragooned into its successor organization by the threat that if they did not come in on the ground floor, they would be subjected to a painful accession process should they decide to join it later. In the meantime, they were told, they would, like North Korea, become isolated from global trade. Preferring the devil they knew to the devil they didn’t, most members of the GATT signed on a document that subordinated all dimensions of a nation’s economic life to the goal of expanding international trade.
Most had not had the time to really absorb the fine print of the 500 plus pages, something that was evident in the case of Indonesia. When the Indonesian government declared in 1997 that it would build up its car industry by applying the so-called “local content” policy, or mandating the sourcing of a growing portion of a car’s parts to local industries, the US, EU, and Japan—the home countries of the big car corporations—informed it that this would be a violation of the Trade-Related Investment Measures Agreement (TRIMs) of the Uruguay Round and that they would haul Indonesia to a WTO dispute-settlement court. Smaller countries than Indonesia, with minuscule trade bureaucracies, were even more disadvantaged.
From Seattle to Doha
In any event, by the time the Third Ministerial of the WTO rolled around in late November 1999, developing countries had come to a collective realization that they had bargained away significant space for development in signing on to the Uruguay Round and thus were in no mood to agree to launching another round to liberalize global trade, as the big trading powers demanded. At the same time, farmers, environmentalists, workers, anti-HIV-AIDS activists, and other sectors of civil society globally were up in arms against the doctrine of “trade uber alles”--as Ralph Nader described it--that was enshrined in the WTO. It was this synergy between the massive protests in the streets and the rebellion of developing countries at the Sheraton Convention Center that resulted in the spectacular collapse of the Third Ministerial Meeting in Seattle.