Workers Vanguard No. 1116
25 August 2017
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
A View From The Left-Down With NAFTA, U.S. “Free Trade” Rape of Mexico!
Mexico: For a Workers and Peasants Government!
Down With NAFTA, U.S. “Free Trade” Rape of Mexico!
The following article is translated from Espartaco No. 47 (August 2017), newspaper of our comrades of the Grupo Espartaquista de México.
On top of insisting that Mexico would pay for his anti-immigrant wall, the racist demagogue Donald Trump spent a large part of his presidential campaign spewing that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) “has benefited Mexico more” and that he would pull the U.S. out of the “worst treaty in history.” On April 26, the now Commander-in-Chief of U.S. imperialism announced that instead he seeks to “renegotiate” the treaty to make it even more advantageous for the U.S. [The first round of talks to revamp NAFTA began on August 16 in Washington.] The truth is that in a little more than two decades, NAFTA has meant an increase in profits and power for the American rulers and their lesser Canadian business partners, intensifying the superexploitation of workers and the misery of peasants in Mexico. After the White House announcement, the lackey [Mexican president] Enrique Peña Nieto congratulated himself, bragging, “Today we have a great window of opportunity to update this free trade agreement and we will try to do it for the benefit, growth, development and competitiveness of North America.”
With the misfortune of sharing a border of more than 3,000 kilometers with its northern neighbor, Mexico is the main neocolony of the U.S. Mexico is a manufacturing exporter because it is an enormous importer of capital. In 2015, American investments in Mexico reached almost $93 billion. In 2016, trade between the two countries totaled an estimated $580 billion—a figure surpassed only by U.S. trade with China and Canada. The famous U.S. “trade deficit” with Mexico ($55.6 billion in 2016), which Trump keeps prattling about, is mainly due to exports by American companies with operations in Mexico. This includes Ford and General Motors, huge monopolistic corporations which take their enormous profits back to their own country. The Mexican economy is also tied to the imperialists through government loans: by 2015, the combined repayments of and interest on foreign public debt (together more than $516 billion) totaled seven times the amount of this debt in 2000. We say: Repudiate the debt!
The fundamental purpose of NAFTA was to allow the U.S. imperialist bourgeoisie to recover some of its competitiveness vis-à-vis its more thriving rivals, Germany and Japan (with which, as an aside, the U.S. has even bigger trade deficits than with Mexico). Facing an economic decline in the U.S., Trump is attempting, among other things, to restrict some exports to the U.S.; to further reduce the Mexican public sector in favor of private imperialist capital; to submit disputes to U.S. courts; and to restrict the ability of participating countries from devaluing their currency. As seen in the example of Greece and other dependent countries within the European Union’s bloodsucking imperialist consortium—tied to the euro for the benefit of German capitalists—this last measure would be a blow by the U.S. to Mexico’s sovereignty and would threaten the exploited and oppressed masses with even greater hunger and misery.
Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, is widely perceived in Mexico as an ally and counterweight to the deranged Trump. But Canada is an imperialist power in its own right, although of less magnitude and subordinate to the U.S. The brutality and greed of the Canadian mining industry, especially in Latin America, exposes the complete fraud of Canada as a benevolent power on the world scene. Its “multicultural” pretenses are nothing but a facade to cover the fact that anglophone Canada, with Trudeau at the head, forcibly subjugates francophone Quebec, a whole nation, inside its borders. And NAFTA allows both the American and Canadian bourgeoisies to increase exploitation of their own working classes, dividing the workers of different nations by telling them demagogically, “They are stealing our jobs.” What is needed is internationalist working-class struggle: For joint class struggle against the capitalist governments of the U.S., Canada and Mexico! Independence for Quebec!
Interimperialist Rivalries and Neocolonial Plunder
Imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, characterized by the formation of monopolies, the export of finance capital and the redistribution of the world among a handful of powers with their armies and flotillas defending their interests—including through wars to redivide the world. As V.I. Lenin taught us:
“Typical of the old capitalism, when free competition held undivided sway, was the export of goods. Typical of the latest stage of capitalism, when monopolies rule, is the export of capital....
“As long as capitalism remains what it is, surplus capital will be utilized not for the purpose of raising the standard of living of the masses in a given country, for this would mean a decline in profits for the capitalists, but for the purpose of increasing profits by exporting capital abroad to the backward countries.”
— Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916)
The signing of NAFTA was part of a worldwide imperialist offensive sparked by the counterrevolutionary destruction of the USSR in 1991-92, a huge defeat for workers that shaped the world in which we live today: a world in which arrogant U.S. imperialism views itself as omnipotent and circles the world, missiles in hand, confident that it will find no real opposition. Absent the USSR, the once powerful “common enemy,” economic rivalries among imperialist powers have come to the fore.
From the beginning, we Spartacists have opposed NAFTA. It is not enough to “renegotiate” it; what is needed is to bring it down! At the start of the treaty’s negotiation under the government of [Mexican president] Carlos Salinas and George Bush senior in 1991, the Grupo Espartaquista de México, the Spartacist League/U.S. and the Trotskyist League of Canada, sections of the International Communist League, issued an internationalist declaration in opposition (printed in Espartaco No. 2, Summer-Fall 1991). [See “Stop U.S. ‘Free Trade’ Rape of Mexico,” WV No. 530, 5 July 1991.] The declaration explained:
“Far from ‘freeing’ trade internationally, the pact is aimed at setting up a private hunting preserve for the American imperialist bourgeoisie, their Canadian junior partners and their lackeys in the Mexican ruling class. Already at the time of the First World War, Lenin noted that the narrow limits of the capitalist nation-state had become a fetter on the development of the productive forces, producing a struggle over redivision of the world. The various ‘common markets’ in no way overcome this, but instead intensify interimperialist rivalries. We Trotskyists, communists, struggle for the economic integration of the world on a socialist basis. But the FTA [NAFTA] is a reactionary move toward global trade war (and from there to a shooting war). The trade pact with Mexico is U.S. imperialism’s answer to the Fourth Reich and Japan Inc.”
The Devastation of the Mexican Countryside
There are approximately 20 million peasants in Mexico. Of the 5.4 million agricultural production plots, only 0.3 percent are considered “dynamic companies,” that is, large, modern capitalist farms. These kulaks [Russian term for well-off peasants], mostly in the north of Mexico, are part of a tiny handful of Mexican capitalists who have become rich thanks to NAFTA. More than 80 percent of peasants live in misery, mostly producing for subsistence, without sufficient financing, with obsolete and even ancient production techniques. On top of this, a large part of their land is not fit for farming.
As we said more than 23 years ago, the opening of trade between a backward country like Mexico and the U.S., with its technologically advanced, highly productive and subsidized agricultural industry (in 1994, American agricultural productivity was ten times higher than Mexico’s), could only mean starvation for thousands of peasants. NAFTA brought more devastation to the already impoverished Mexican countryside. In fact, Mexican agricultural products, such as tomatoes, have lost their competitiveness in the U.S. market, including compared to countries that do not have free trade with the U.S. The Mexican government, as part of its unrestrained openness to imperialism, has eliminated subsidies to small rural producers and urban consumers. Today, Mexico imports basic foods such as corn and other grains, pork and beef, as well as fuel, causing a skyrocketing increase in the cost of living. Unable to compete with modern agribusiness, millions of poor peasants have been forced to abandon their land, migrating to the cities and condemned to poverty, street hawking or prostitution, or fleeing to El Norte.
Now a U.S. Congress subcommittee has approved $1.6 billion to build the wall with Mexico—but of course it will be beautiful, transparent and ecofriendly with solar panels! Trump has emboldened the forces of anti-immigrant terror, from the border patrol to racist vigilantes and open fascists. But his policies are merely a more grotesque expression of those of his Democratic Party predecessors—without the “humanitarian” rhetoric. It is worth recalling that Obama deported more people than any other president in history. While NAFTA meant a steady increase in immigration, from 2007 on that safety valve closed. After the 2008 recession, anti-immigrant measures implemented by the Democratic Party government made immigration drop drastically.
Capitalism Creates Its Gravedigger
“Free competition” with the U.S. requires Mexican capitalism to carry out an increasing austerity campaign to achieve “competitiveness,” i.e., a permanent war against unions and workers’ gains. For 30 years, following demands from imperialist organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank, the Mexican capitalist government has launched an assault of “structural reforms,” seeking to extract the last drop of sweat and blood from the workers. And it is precisely the cheap labor costs and brutal working conditions in Mexico that attract the voracious capitalists from the U.S., Canada, Germany and other powers. With the recent privatization of the Mexican energy sector—whose nationalization we Trotskyists defended as a basic measure of semicolonial Mexico’s self-defense—oil has become one of the targets of “renegotiation.”
Mexico is a country of combined and uneven development, where the most primitive forms of small peasant production coexist with the latest trends in large industrial production. The auto industry has become the main source of foreign currency in Mexico ahead of oil, remittances and tourism, representing more than one-third of exported manufactured goods. Mexico is today the seventh-largest producer of motor vehicles in the world, the fourth-largest exporter of automobiles and the sixth-largest producer of auto parts. The importance of the auto industry is even greater because of its broad links with other sectors: intermediate consumer goods (steel, metal, glass, rubber, energy, etc.); vehicle distribution and sales; maintenance shops; technological research and development, etc. This has brought about a positive development, strengthening a key sector of the proletariat with enormous social power. Capitalism creates its own gravedigger.
In contrast to the peasantry—a social stratum with an interest in land as private property—the working class has no objective interest in preserving private property. Having only its labor power to sell, its interests are in the collectivization of the means of production. At the same time, the proletariat collectively produces the wealth of society, which gives it enormous social power. The working class, given its relationship to the means of production, is the only class with the social power to champion the oppressed masses—in particular poor peasants—in the struggle to overthrow this system of exploitation.
Permanent Revolution vs. Populist Nationalism
In the context of Trump’s rabid protectionism, the bourgeois PRD [Party of the Democratic Revolution] has tried to position itself as the greatest defender of NAFTA. One of its leaders and founding members, Carlos Navarrete, declared: “When we opposed NAFTA last century we didn’t anticipate what that could mean—and, today, what a paradox—I think the left has to defend the validity of NAFTA.” Leaving aside the idea of the PRD being supposedly “left,” this party never opposed NAFTA but only wanted agriculture renegotiated to make it less unfavorable. This is also the basic position of Morena [Movement for National Regeneration], the party of Andrés Manuel López Obrador [AMLO]. Although conceding that NAFTA is not a “panacea” or “salvation” of Mexico, AMLO has made it clear that he favors free trade and would lead the renegotiation of the treaty if he became president. Morena is a bourgeois party that wants to be seen as an alternative for change in the face of the discredited PRD and the growing discontent of the poor masses.
The PRD and Morena represent a nationalist wing of the Mexican bourgeoisie seeking to return to an old version of populism under the PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party]. They want to lean on the proletariat in order to renegotiate the terms of their own subordination to imperialism. In underdeveloped capitalist countries such as Mexico, the weak national bourgeoisies are incapable of breaking with the imperialists, to whom they find themselves tied by a thousand threads. Nationalist populists and craven neoliberals disagree only on how to administer the system of capitalist exploitation they are committed to defending. Above all, the bourgeois nationalist politicians fear the force that is capable of putting an end to the imperialist yoke: the working class.
Bourgeois nationalism—the notion that everyone in the same nation should unite to “advance” the country—is the ideological glue used by capitalist politicians and their trade-union lieutenants to keep workers tied to their exploiters. But the bourgeoisie and the proletariat have counterposed interests. Bourgeois nationalist ideology seeks to separate Mexican workers from their real allies: workers in the rest of the world. Break with the bourgeois PRD and Morena!
We Spartacists base ourselves on the perspective of Leon Trotsky’s permanent revolution, vindicated by the events of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The aspirations of workers and peasants for democratic and national rights and social emancipation can only be fulfilled through a proletarian revolution that destroys the bourgeois state and establishes the dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the peasantry—a workers and peasants government—based on the collectivized means of production. The revolution must be extended internationally, especially to the advanced countries. An international planned economy is the only way to eliminate the scarcity and misery faced by the overwhelming mass of humanity today.
For a Class-Struggle Union Leadership!
Trade unions are the necessary first line of defense against capitalist attacks. Unions in Mexico—which organize powerful sectors of the working class, but encompass only about 13 percent of the workforce—have been weakened by a series of defeats. Many of these defeats took place without a fight being waged, notably the destruction of the SME electrical workers union. Unions are also divided by the loyalties of their leaderships, which are bound to different, competing bourgeois parties. Today’s union leaders are the transmission belt of bourgeois ideology, tying the workers to their class enemies and spreading the suicidal lie that the bourgeois state—which exists to defend an exploitative and oppressive system—is an impartial agent.
It is not necessary to elaborate on the craven PRI union bureaucracies. As for the supposedly “independent” bureaucrats of the National Union of Workers (UNT) and the New Confederation of Workers (NCT), linked to the PRD and/or Morena, they signed an oh-so-moving statement with American and Canadian unions asking for a trade agreement that would lead “to a sustainable development, tenable and widely shared in all North America.” Their goal is to “achieve a new trade model that puts the people of the world and the planet above corporate profits.” But, as Lenin wrote in Imperialism, “If capitalism did these things it would not be capitalism; for both uneven development and a semi-starvation level of existence of the masses are fundamental and inevitable conditions and constitute premises of this mode of production.”
Since the beginning, the U.S. AFL-CIO bureaucracy has denounced NAFTA from the point of view of protectionist chauvinism, mobilizing against Mexicans who “steal American jobs.” On June 12, the AFL-CIO issued a statement in favor of the complete renegotiation of NAFTA and presented to Trump’s government its own “recommendations.” Among these, they ask that the “Buy American” policy be respected and call for sanctions against the “manipulation” of currency and for strengthening “rules of origin” for automobiles and auto parts. Therefore, these venal and racist bureaucrats direct their attacks against Mexican workers instead of directing them against the imperialists, the ones responsible for the exploitation and oppression of the American working masses. In fact, the AFL-CIO trade-union bureaucracy is a key component of the Democratic Party and calls to vote for this capitalist party, which is just as imperialist as the Republicans, instead of mobilizing the class struggle necessary to defend the living standards of workers.
As communists, we struggle to strengthen the organization of the working class, for the unionization of all workers and for the defense of existing unions against any attack by the bourgeois state. The political independence of the workers movement against the bosses’ state and parties is our guiding principle in the fight to replace the current pro-capitalist leaderships with class-struggle ones. While union struggle can beat back assaults on workers’ conditions, it cannot on its own put an end to exploitation. To win this war, the fight must be for workers power under the leadership of a revolutionary party that arms the proletariat with the understanding and consciousness of its own class interests as part of the struggle for the emancipation of the working class and all the oppressed from capitalist slavery.
For Proletarian Internationalism!
In Mexico many wrongly see the U.S. as one reactionary and imperialist, homogeneous mass, a view derived from bourgeois nationalism. But the United States is a class-divided society. The working class and the oppressed in Mexico and the U.S. have a common interest in socialist revolution. Our comrades in the U.S. fight to mobilize the multiracial working class, with its powerful black and Latino components, in opposition to the designs of Yankee imperialism. They struggle for full citizenship rights for all immigrants as a concrete way to create bonds of solidarity between U.S. and Mexican workers, with the perspective of class struggle against the bourgeois Republican and Democratic parties. The fight of the Mexican proletariat against its domestic capitalist exploiters and neocolonial plunder is necessarily intertwined with the fight for workers power in the United States, the heart of world imperialism with millions of workers. The International Communist League strives to build national sections of a reforged Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution, that will organize and educate the working class in the spirit of intransigent hostility to imperialist depredation and capitalist rule.