My blog is late because I indulged myself by waiting up to see New Zealand win the Rugby League World Cup Final. Unfortunately they didn’t and were walloped 32-2 by Australia. So much promised by so many for such a very bad result.
And thinking about unfulfilled promises at 5 in the morning got me thinking of Fran O’ Sullivan, that worthy recipient of the Milton Friedman TINA Award, as she has laid in to one and all who have found any fault in the promises of great and unrivaled future prosperity by the adherents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).
In particular she has wielded her neo-liberal broadsword against academics, trade unionists, the Labour and Green Parties and Neanderthal lefties in general who dare to even suggest that the TPPA, or what has been leaked about it, may have some downsides.
Signing the TPPA, says Fran, will bring the Promised Land .We will be led to it by John Key, Tim Groser (such an apt name at times!) and a band of angels. Academics like Professor Jane Kelsey who ask why if it is such a great deal the details are kept from the great unwashed are ordered by Fran to wash their mouths out. The Labour Party conference was flayed as a band of unregenerate head-in-the –sand leftists for having the temerity to resolve that no deal be signed until the provisions of the TPPA are made public and the national interest ruler is applied.
Fran is counting on Phil to get David to find a way to bin all of this nonsense and get Labour to be realistic and sign up to the inevitable. Those of us who belong to the great unwashed are relying on David to stay the course and implement what the Labour membership has resolved.
This will give us a Labour Party that is worth voting for because it has at last figured out that in the end principle and honesty in politics gain the respect of the public not opportunism and contempt for the base of the Party. It is worth remembering that the public moved past Labour leaderships on issues such as the war on Vietnam, racist rugby tours, nuclear weapons and Rogernomics as proof for this important political fact.
As Fran’s articles have become more and more shrill in demanding acceptance of the TPPA warts and all in order to give John Key and Tim Groser a happy Christmas ,I thought I might send her some early festive reading. She will be surprised that some very senior lefties have actually praised free trade while stressing, unlike Fran, that it has its limits and drawbacks.
I have underlined some of the text in the tract that I will send to Fran:
“[Capitalism] … has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country…it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All-old established industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed .They are dislodged by new industries , whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations , by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw materials , but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed not only at home but in every quarter of the globe…in place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency , we have intercourse in every direction , universal inter-dependence of nations…The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.”
But the authors of this paean of praise to globalisation and free trade, unlike Fran, also look at the downsides:
“It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put on its trial… the existence of the entire bourgeois society. In these crises a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed…there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity – the epidemic of over-production.”
The obviously lefty authors whom Fran would automatically, before reading them, have pigeon holed as outdated anti-free traders and nationalists will continue to surprise her as they sing the praises of globalisation and free trade:
“National differences and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing. Owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world-market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto.”
But having got this far Fran, I am afraid, will be disappointed in these lefties.
Having recognised that the enormous productivity released world-wide by capitalism can create abundance and prosperity the writers don’t think that it is a good idea to leave it to well-heeled elites but to have democratic control so that these new productive forces and the trade in the goods and service produced will be at the service of humankind and not result in destructive crises in world markets through over production. The authors contended that a rational world trade could be achieved through the cooperation of the productive workers .
The latter, in their view, in every land should run the show not a very small elite who today have more wealth individually than the vast majority of people on the planet:
“United action of the leading civilised countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat…In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another is put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes, within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end.”
However, I don’t think that Fran will, judging from her horror at even the slightest part of a market economy being subject to democratic controls , be persuaded that Marx and Engels when they wrote the above for the Communist Manifesto in 1848 were on the money so to speak.
And the Labour leadership may not want to go so far as to accept that a world of fair trade beneficial to all will be achieved through the programme set down in the Communist Manifesto. But when countries as disparate as Malaysia and Canada are baulking at provisions that will allow foreign investors to tie them up in litigation when they pursue social goals, make illegal generic medicines that undercut the pharmaceutical giants, weaken environmental provisions crucial to battling climate change and in general make a nonsense of the term “free”: before “trade”, then maybe they too will agree with Karl and Fred that not all is rosy in the garden if free trade rules the roost.
In contrast Marx and Engels merely noted that the benefits of free trade become benefits for all when the decisions on how to trade and under what terms become the decisions of the vast majority in open public forum. That it seems to me is all that the Labour Party conference was asking for.
I hope Fran enjoys her Christmas reading.