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Junk the WTO! Resist Imperialist Plunder and War!
Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International League of Peoples' Struggle
14 December 2005

I am deeply pleased and honored to be given the task of opening this forum on Trade and War. Let me congratulate the Hongkong People's Alliance for successfully organizing and holding this People's Action Week on the occasion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) 6th Ministerial Conference. I extend warmest greetings of solidarity to the alliance and to all participants in this forum and in the week of protest actions here in Hongkong.

The theme of this forum, "Junk the WTO! Resist Imperialist Plunder and War" most appropriately encapsulates the demand and tasks of progressive forces all over the world with respect to the WTO. The people of the world, especially the toiling masses, must unite to demand the dismantling of the WTO and to resist imperialist plunder and war.

Historical Background

The very essence of capitalism is the exploitation of labor in the process of commodity production. The capital in the hands of the capitalist class is congealed labor, originally taken away and alienated from the working class to further exploit it. New material values can be produced only by new inputs of living labor and not by "dead labor" in the form of capital. The capitalist class is driven to extract profits by minimizing wage costs, maximizing the surplus value over the wage costs and accumulating capital. This leads to the crisis of overproduction relative to the shrinkage of the market, as a result of the loss of jobs and incomes.

In a growing industrial capitalist society, the social wealth created by the working class is appropriated by the capitalist class. But the capitalists themselves compete and try to gobble each other up. From this process within "free competition capitalism" emerged and grew the monopolies in the latter part of the 19th century. The winning enterprises in the competition countered the tendency of the rate of profit to fall by resorting to the export of surplus goods and capital and the acquisition of cheap sources of raw materials and labor. Thus, the era of monopoly capitalism or imperialism began at the onset of the 20th century.

It was in the nature of the industrializing countries to consolidate their national markets and compete for economic territory beyond these. Upon the advent of modern imperialism, the world beyond the national borders of the capitalist powers had been completely divided as colonies, semi-colonies or dependent countries. Conflicts easily arise among the capitalist powers because they always seek to expand economic territory at the expense of others. War erupts when they can no longer settle their differences amicably. Any number of capitalist powers can start war when they use their political and military strength to forcibly seize territory and thus redivide the world according to changes in the balance of economic and politico-military strength.

The series of capitalist crises in the last quarter of the 19th century gave rise to industrial-financial monopolies that gained control over entire economies, shifted the balance of power among the highly industrialized countries, and led to a scramble for territories at the end of the 19th century that was ultimately decided by wars (e.g. Japanese-Russo War, Boer Wars, and the Spanish-American War), and ushered the era of imperialism. These were followed by the most destructive wars in the history of mankind, the two successive world wars within the first half of the 20th century.

As history has proven, it is in the nature of modern imperialism to plunder natural resources and the social wealth created by the working class and the entire people of the world, to engage in repression and fascism and to unleash war either to subjugate entire countries and peoples or settle the conflicts of the imperialist countries over sources of raw materials, markets, fields of investment, spheres of influence and strategic points of control. Direct wars and proxy wars have arisen among imperialist powers after some periods of arranging their respective shares of the world.

The US emerged practically unscathed from the second world war and with its industries intact and greatly expanded was in the position to profit the most from postwar reconstruction. It became the No. 1 imperialist power in terms of economic and military power. It assumed the role of perpetuating the world capitalist system, containing the socialist states and opposing or coopting the national liberation movements. However, contrary to the wishes of the monopoly capitalists, the global wars considerably contracted the capitalist market as it had given rise to the socialist USSR, the East European states, the People's Republic of China, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. By mid-20th century, the socialist system had encompassed one-third of the world population.

During World War II and shortly thereafter, the US economy was boosted by a large amount of public spending on war production that further expanded and fattened the military industrial complex. To justify further war production, the US embarked on the Cold War. This consisted of at least two major wars (Korea and Vietnam), several more proxy wars (especially in the Middle East and Africa), hundreds of military interventions and pocket wars in the entire third world, global troop and bases deployment and an expensive arms and space race with the USSR (especially nuclear ICBM systems) to contain the socialist challenge, suppress national liberation struggles and prop up fascist dictatorships and other repressive regimes.

Economic Relations After World War II

The economic relations among countries and nations take form through trade (the exchange of goods and services) and finance (investments, loans, "aid" and other financial transactions). The legal fiction is that these are carried out on terms that are mutually agreed upon by equal and sovereign nations, and therefore mutually beneficial. In fact, the terms of trade and finance are always dictated by the stronger country to its advantage and invariably to the detriment of the weaker country.

After World War II, the US was determined to direct and control the world capitalist system through the Bretton Woods Agreements. It wanted to build an alliance of all the capitalist countries against socialist countries and to coopt the newly-independent countries and national liberation movements. It used a comprehensive range of political, economic, trade, financial and security policies for the purpose. To stem the wave of nationalism in the colonies and divert the anticolonial struggles from the socialist path, the imperialist powers led by the US granted nominal independence to their colonies but secured their semi-colonial or neocolonial hold on them through various lopsided economic, security and other treaties and arrangements.

The US plan in 1948 to establish the International Trade Organization was frustrated when the European powers objected to provisions that patently favored the US. In the absence of a global trade organization, trade issues were discussed and settled multilaterally through successive rounds of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Under the pretext of social and economic development, underdeveloped countries were pushed to avail of massive lending under the auspices of the IMF and World Bank. But the loans carried conditionalities that effectively stunted the growth of local industries and consigned the economies to a chronic state of backwardness, all the better to serve as sources of raw materials and cheap labor and as dumping ground for surplus products and capital. Thus were third world countries mired in chronic depression and debt and the resulting devastation of domestic productive sectors further deepened their dependence on monopoly finance capital.

The need for the imperialist powers to set up the WTO arose from the intensifying and insoluble crisis of overproduction. Average world GDP growth declined from 5.1% in 1945-70 to 3.8% in the 1970s (and only 3.1% for the industrialized countries). Stagflation as a consequence of huge federal state spending for the military and import-based consumerism had become a chronic phenomenon in the US since the full reconstruction of Japan and Western Europe in the late 1960s and the US accommodation of so-called newly industrializing economies (Taiwan, Brazil, etc.) with some manufacturing and exports to the US market in the 1970s and 1980s. These would steer the US towards lessening its manufacture of tradeable goods, overborrowing from abroad and becoming the world's biggest debtor from the 1980s onwards.

Keynesianism had been credited for helping monopoly capitalism to cope with the Great Depression in the US and the continuing crises in most capitalist countries after WWII, More than New Deal pump priming, it was at first production stimulated by exports of supplies to the hungry war building industries of Japan and Germany and then full-blast participation in the war effort of the Allied Powers against the Axis Powers that brought the US out of the depression. Even then the civil works of Keynesianism could not solve fully the basic problem arising from the monopoly capitalists' drive to increase profit by reinvesting heavily in new machinery to increase productivity while pushing down wages, consequently contracting the market and resulting in overproduction. But Reagan and Thatcher in the 1980s blamed the crisis instead on rising wages and government spending on social benefits and services, and led the capitalist economies away from Keynesianism to monetarism and "neoliberalism".

Neoliberalism is anachronistic and deceptive. Its claim of "free market" globalization misrepresents monopoly capitalism as "free competition" capitalism. After the collapse of the Eastern European regimes in 1989-91 and the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, the monopoly capitalists carried out an ideological, political and economic offensive, proclaiming the "end of history" with the triumph of capitalism over socialism, and heralding an era of world peace, progress and prosperity with the full integration of the world into a single capitalist system.

The WTO was conceived, formed and operated as a major instrument in the hands of the imperialist powers to dictate on and dominate the weaker states and allow the monopoly capitalists to extract more superprofits from the world's toiling peoples. The WTO, more than any other prior imperialist device short of military intervention and wars of aggression, blatantly compels the weaker countries to accede to the negation and violation of their political and economic sovereignty. Since its establishment in 1995, it has been the main instrument for propagating the myth of "free market" globalization and pushing unequal trade agreements chiefly at the expense of the underdeveloped countries.

The WTO, currently encompasses 98.8 percent of the world population, with 147 member countries plus the European Union and 33 observer countries, including Russia and Vietnam, that are due to accede within five years. It purports to be a democratic institution where member states discuss and decide trade issues by consensus on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, mutual respect of national sovereignty and independence. In reality, the few imperialist states, acting in behalf of their respective monopoly capitalists, compel the weaker states to further open up their economies to imperialist plunder and they subject them to arm-twisting, blackmail and bullying. They use economic as well as political sanctions on states for non-compliance with unequal "agreements". In this way, the biggest monopolists aim to overcome the chronic crisis of overproduction by shifting the burden of the crisis to the people of the world.

The WTO serves as a mechanism for the dominant imperialist powers to compel the underdeveloped countries as well as the retrogressive countries (the erstwhile newly-industrializing and socialist countries) to desist from upholding their economic sovereignty and protecting their economies from the assaults of foreign monopoly capitalism. Since the 1990s, some 130 countries have amended their constitution and enacted laws to further accommodate imperialist demands affecting labor, trade and other economic aspects. On the other hand, the US, Europe and Japan continue to use protectionist measures (prohibitions, restrictions, high tariff walls and subsidies) to develop and overdevelop their economies but prohibit other countries from using these to develop their own economies.

The main thrust of so-called free market globalization is the denationalization of the underdeveloped economies. The "neoliberal" policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization have destroyed national barriers to the flow of imperialist trade and investments. They have removed government subsidies, antitrust laws, and social regulations to protect labor, women, children, the aged and the environment. They have delivered public assets and other resources to the foreign monopolies and their big comprador accomplices for privatization, private profitmaking and capital accumulation.

Rapid advances in high technology since the 1960s and 1970s (due to massive investments in R&D and retooling with the use of state monopoly capital, e.g. war technology -- laser, nuclear, electronic, fiber optics and information technology) and the private appropriation and utilization of such technology in an environment of WTO-facilitated neoliberal "globalization" have further aggravated the inherent contradiction between the increasingly social character of production and the extremely rapacious monopoly capitalist appropriation of profit.

This has accelerated the overconcentration and overcentralization of capital in the advanced imperialist centers, chiefly in the US. Only 300 multinationals and big banks account for 70 percent of all foreign direct investments. The 100 biggest companies now control 70 percent of world trade. The 50 largest banks and financial companies control 60 percent of all global capital. The total assets of the three wealthiest persons in the world are greater than the GDP of the 48 poorest countries with a total population of 600 million.

While the imperialist powers conspire and collude to dominate and exploit the weaker economies, they cannot avoid intensifying their own conflicts within and outside the WTO, despite its supposed function to promote harmony among nations with respect to trade, by averting trade and shooting wars through the "rule of law", negotiations, consensus, settlements, and whenever necessary through a system of hearing grievances and imposing sanctions. But there is no escaping the laws of motion inherent to the capitalist system. The rules of the WTO can only mitigate for a while but cannot override the objective workings of these laws.

The Trend After the Collapse of the US "New Economy"

In most of the 1990s, especially in the latter half of the decade, the US appeared to have established a "new economy" that was supposedly propelled by high technology and characterized by inflation-free full employment. It seemed as if the US would be able to override any crisis by being at the commanding heights of global high-tech production and finance as well as by being the sole global superpower. But eventually in 2000, the crisis of overproduction hit high-tech production in the US. The stock market collapsed at the head of a financial meltdown.

Like the rest of the world capitalist system, the US is economically recessive and stagnant. All types of products (including raw materials, basic industrial products, machine tools and high-tech products) are in relative oversupply. The economic and financial crisis has devastated and depressed the global economy. The US is suffering from huge trade and budgetary deficits and debts. Just as it did in the past, during the Great Depression, the two world wars and the entire Cold War period, US imperialism is now stepping up war production under the notion of military Keynesianism, promoting state terrorism on a global scale and unleashing wars of aggression.

Using the September 11, 2001 attacks as pretext, the US imperialists launched their so-called "war on terror". They accelerated their blatant acts of aggression and military intervention on a global scale. The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the restructuring, upgrading and redeployment of the US armed forces, skyrocketing defense spending and the revival of costly defense programs such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Program and the Space Program, are all part of the "Project for a New American Century", hatched by US neoconservatives to consolidate US global hegemony by seizing strategic resources and territory, deterring, preempting and eliminating opposition and long-term rivals. In the process the US flagrantly violates international law, tramples on the rights of sovereign nations and peoples, wreaks havoc and destruction on civilian population centers and on the environment.

After nearly 11 years, the World Trade Organization has achieved exactly the opposite of what its proponents - the imperialist powers led by the US -- claimed it would. It has aggravated poverty and misery instead of bringing progress and prosperity to the world's peoples. It has deepened instead of lifted the poor countries from their state of underdevelopment and exploitation. It has forced weaker countries to open up their economies to plunder by the stronger countries, instead of promoting equality and mutual benefit among nations. It has exacerbated the rivalry and competition among the imperialist powers and abetted aggression and war, instead of ushering in an era of harmony and world peace.

People's Resistance

History shows that the people resist imperialist oppression and exploitation. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the world's peoples have stood up and fought against imperialist plunder and war. The working class has built political parties and trade union movements to realize immediate and long-term aims. It has led the people in national democratic and socialist revolutions on a global scale. Peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America have waged wars for national liberation, either resulting in revolutionary victories or compelling the colonial powers to shift to semicolonial or neocolonial rule. Today, there is a forward interaction between the popular struggles in the imperialist and dominated countries.

Patriotic movements have arisen to uphold national and economic sovereignty against foreign intervention. Various social movements advocating people's rights, including self-reliant economic development, environmental protection, gender equality, cultural diversity and so on, have proliferated and exerted significant pressure on governments while raising the awareness of the public on various issues. Propelled by revolutionary movements as well as by legal protest and advocacy movements, countries have stood up to assert national sovereignty and independence against flagrantly one-sided impositions and onerous conditions and all sorts of threats and intimidation by the US and other imperialist powers.

The people of the world have established historically a certain high level of resistance against imperialism and reaction. Consequent to the betrayal of socialism by the modern revisionists and the disintegration of revisionist-ruled states, it would seem as if the US and other imperialists had scored a permanent victory over the socialist cause and all movements of national and social liberation. But the intensification of oppression and exploitation under such policy stresses as "free market" globalization, repression and fascism and imperialist wars of aggression drive the people to recall their revolutionary legacy, muster their capabilities, act on their current needs and demands and rise up resolutely to fight for their rights and interests.

We should avail ourselves of all forms of struggle in exposing and opposing imperialist plunder and war. We should do all we can to frustrate, if not defeat the schemes of the imperialist powers to pursue the Doha Round negotiations for further reducing agricultural and nonagricultural tariffs and other nontariff protection in third world countries, expanding the coverage of GATS to the service sector and thus privatize such social services as education, health, communications and water, and pursuing the Singapore issues relating to investments, competition policy, government procurement and trade facilitation. We must demonstrate our resolute opposition to imperialist plunder through the WTO.

Whatever is our success in exposing and opposing the objectives of the 6th Ministerial Conference, we should build on our gains to pursue further the long-term struggle against the WTO and neoliberal "free market" globalization by raising the consciousness of the world's peoples against imperialism and by organizing and mobilizing them for various anti-imperialist struggles. The struggles against WTO, against "neoliberal" globalization and against imperialist wars enhance and compliment each other. They combine naturally and most effectively within the framework of anti-imperialism.

The imperialists can and will continue to maintain the WTO and implement the neoliberal policies and measures of liberalization, deregulation, privatization and denationalization for some time as the crisis of overproduction worsens. They anticipate and react to the resistance of the people. And they increasingly use coercive force as deception fails to stop the advance of the people in their struggle for national and social liberation.

The US imperialists, their allies and puppets are hell-bent on unleashing state terrorism and wars of aggression for the purpose of attacking anti-imperialist social movements, national liberation movements and countries that assert national independence. It is therefore important and necessary that we strive to build international solidarity against imperialism and reaction and the broadest possible people's anti-imperialist united front in every country and region.

The epochal struggle between imperialism and the people is once again intensifying. Imperialism is bound to weaken further as the people of one country after another break free from the chain of imperialist exploitation and oppression. We are confident that we shall win greater victories in the struggle and rise to a new and higher level of revolutionary struggle and social achievement against imperialism and reaction. Ultimately, total victory belongs to the people. ###

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