Workers Vanguard No. 1078
13 November 2015
Down With U.S. Imperialisms Anti-China Trade Pact!
No to Protectionism! Workers of the World Unite!
On October 5, representatives of 12 countries from across Asia and the Americas signed on to U.S. imperialism’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). If it is ratified, the TPP will be the largest trade agreement in history, encompassing at least 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and one-third of all global trade. Japan and the more minor imperialist countries Canada and Australia have been cut in on the deal—and competing European powers cut out—but it is the U.S. rulers who hold the whip hand. Under the banner of “free trade,” the TPP aims to drive up the exploitation of labor across the board while increasing imperialist domination of dependent countries. Above all, this agreement targets China, escalating the U.S. bourgeoisie’s drive to promote capitalist counterrevolution there through economic pressure and military encirclement.
The TPP has been described as “NAFTA on steroids,” after the 1994 agreement that opened the door for the wholesale economic rape of Mexico by America’s capitalist rulers and their Canadian junior partners. The TPP agreement would batter down measures protecting industry and agriculture in underdeveloped countries, eliminating 18,000 taxes and other controls on U.S. companies’ goods and services. Secret tribunals, empowered to overturn the decisions of national courts, would be established to allow investors to sue any signatory country they claim undermines their “expected profits.” The bloodsuckers of America’s Big Pharma drug monopolies would have their patent rights extended, ripping generic drugs out of the hands of millions of impoverished people whose lives depend on them, including for the treatment of HIV and tuberculosis.
The bourgeois rulers of Brunei, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and other backward countries, lackeys of U.S. imperialism, signed the TPP in a bid to get their own shares of the wealth wrung from greater misery. The ruling Communist Party bureaucracy in the Vietnamese deformed workers state also agreed to the TPP’s extortionate terms, acting as labor brokers in exchange for foreign investment. At the same time, the provisions of the TPP that directly target state-owned enterprises are centrally aimed at Vietnam.
The collectivized property forms central to Vietnam’s economy are a gain of the social revolution that overturned capitalism, when Communist-led guerrilla forces defeated first the French and then the U.S. imperialists and their Vietnamese puppet forces. By demanding “fair competition” for capitalist investment, the TPP aims to undermine the workers state’s control of the economy.
China in the Crosshairs
The largest remaining country where capitalism has been overthrown, the Chinese deformed workers state is a strategic target of the imperialists. Washington pointedly excluded China from the agreement in an attempt to form an economic bloc against that country and undercut its growing economic reach. The TPP is the economic analog to the U.S.’s increasingly flagrant military provocations against China. Last spring, U.S. defense secretary Ashton Carter declared: “Passing TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier.”
In the first week of November, a U.S. aircraft carrier conducted operations near Chinese land reclamation and construction projects in the South China Sea’s Spratly (Nansha) Islands. These islands are of strategic importance to China’s military defense and its ability to protect critical shipping lanes. Threatening China’s sovereignty, Carter announced that the U.S. would make regular patrols of the area. Behind such gunboat diplomacy lies the threat of embargo and war.
To the ire of the U.S., there has been a stampede of countries, including European imperialist powers, to get in on the ground floor of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that China initiated last October. Although it has yet to begin operations, the AIIB will challenge the loan sharks who run imperialist-dominated lending institutions. While outfits like the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank dictate how countries they invest in should be governed and starve out those who don’t obey, the AIIB will reportedly offer loans for much-needed infrastructure development at below-market interest rates with no strings attached. While the ruling Chinese bureaucracy is not motivated by international solidarity, neither are its international investments driven by the relentless pursuit of profit that motivates the imperialist plunder of less-developed countries.
To counter U.S. imperialism’s efforts at containment, China is also developing a “new Silk Road.” Including multiple trading networks linking Asia and Western Europe, new Silk Road development includes pipelines, rail, air and sea routes as well as high-tech communications systems. These developments loomed large in the Obama administration’s decision to fast-track TPP negotiations. Focusing on Asia in this year’s State of the Union address, Obama argued: “As we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest growing region.... We should write those rules.”
The president’s push for fast-track authority suffered a brief setback in June when Democratic Party members of Congress voted it down, looking to boost their electoral fortunes with the trade-union bureaucracy. There was much rejoicing at AFL-CIO headquarters. The federation’s president Richard Trumka crowed that the vote “was a marvelous contrast to the corporate money and disillusionment that normally mark American politics today.” But this elation went up in smoke a few weeks later when the fast-track was voted up.
There is a burning need for internationalist proletarian opposition to the TPP, uniting the working masses around the globe in common class struggle. If the U.S. rulers succeed in the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Chinese workers state, it would mean opening China for untrammeled economic exploitation. This would be a disaster for the working class internationally, emboldening the imperialists to launch new attacks and drive down wages and working conditions not only in China, but around the world.
Raising a chauvinist hue and cry that the TPP will cost “American” jobs, the AFL-CIO bureaucrats oppose the pact because it doesn’t go far enough in creating a “strategic advantage over China” for U.S. capitalists. Against the China-bashing protectionism of the labor misleaders, which pits U.S. workers against their class brothers and sisters internationally, our opposition to the TPP is based on opposition to our “own” imperialist rulers and our unconditional defense of the Chinese deformed workers state.
U.S. Imperialism’s Loyal
The AFL-CIO’s treatise, “The U.S.-China Economic Relationship: The TPP is Not the Answer,” blames China for “undercutting U.S. manufacturers and displacing millions of U.S. jobs” (aflcio.org, undated). In reality, the decline in U.S. manufacturing and the massacre of jobs, wages and social benefits are in the purest sense “made in the U.S.A.” By tying the interests of workers to the profitability of their exploiters, the capitalist class’s labor lieutenants in the trade-union bureaucracy paved the way for these defeats. Rather than mobilizing labor’s power in a fight against the decades-long onslaught against the unions, the labor misleaders argue that the workers must “sacrifice” in order to increase the competitive edge of U.S. capitalism against its rivals. One need look no further than the ravaged remains of the United Auto Workers (UAW), once the symbol of union power in this country, for the results of the bureaucrats’ class collaboration.
Following World War II, the U.S. emerged as the dominant imperialist power in the world, its boasts of technological and productive superiority epitomized by the auto industry. By the 1960s, however, U.S. dominance was increasingly challenged by the rising economic might of West Germany and Japan. The industrial base in those countries, which had been destroyed in World War II, was replaced by new plants that were far more advanced. Faced with growing competition, the U.S. auto bosses responded with a concerted campaign to intensify the exploitation of labor through massive layoffs and giveback contracts. Beginning in the 1980s, production was increasingly moved from the unionized North and Midwest to the open shop South, as well as to Latin America and East Asia.
Obliging the bosses’ demands for concessions in the name of “saving jobs,” the UAW bureaucrats launched a chauvinist crusade to defend the Big Three against competing manufacturers. The racism at the heart of the UAW’s “buy American” protectionism was demonstrated in the murder of a young Chinese American, Vincent Chin, who was bludgeoned to death in 1982 by a Chrysler foreman who thought he was Japanese and blamed him for “stealing American jobs.” Meanwhile, non-union auto plants expanded as Japanese, German and South Korean manufacturers set up shop in the low-wage, open shop U.S. South in order to get around protectionist import restrictions.
In response, the UAW leadership has agreed to more and more concessions. While decrying “cheap labor” abroad, they helped create a pool of cheap labor in the union itself with the introduction of two-tier wages. Today, the UAW tops propose to fight the domestic “outsourcing” of union jobs to non-union auto supply plants with a program of “insourcing.” To entice auto parts suppliers in the U.S. back under the Big Three umbrella, the bureaucrats are offering third-tier wages! Thus in the name of “defending union jobs” in the U.S., the trade-union misleaders operate as cutthroat labor contractors for the bosses.
This long string of betrayals is hardly peculiar to the UAW. The same processes have reduced the industrial unions in this country to a shadow of their former selves. The pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy looks for friends in the camp of the capitalist class enemy and sees enemies and competitors in the growing ranks of the proletariat in Latin America and Asia. In fact, workers in other countries are crucial allies in the fight against capitalist exploitation. If the unions are to be effective instruments of struggle against the bosses, they must break the chains forged by the labor traitors that have shackled the workers to their exploiters. That means ousting the red-white-and-blue bureaucrats and replacing them with a class-struggle leadership whose banner will be the red flag of proletarian internationalism. The struggle for such a leadership must be tied to forging the multiracial revolutionary workers party that can lead the proletariat to victory in the “final conflict” to end the predatory rule of U.S. imperialism at home and abroad.
Defend the Gains of the Chinese Revolution!
The anti-Communist AFL-CIO misleaders have a long track record of dirty work on behalf of the U.S. rulers. At the outset of the Cold War, the predecessors of today’s labor sellouts purged the militants who led the CIO organizing battles. The AFL-CIO tops lent their services to the destruction of militant unions in Europe and Latin America, where they became known as the “AFL-CIA.” In the 1980s, the union bureaucracy channeled millions of CIA dollars to Polish Solidarność, a reactionary movement masquerading as a trade union that spearheaded the drive for capitalist restoration in East Europe. Cut of the same cloth is the AFL-CIO’s call for “free trade unions” in Vietnam, which, not surprisingly, is incorporated into the TPP.
Similarly, the labor misleaders echo their imperialist masters’ complaints that the Chinese government subsidizes state-owned industries, controls its currency, limits competition from foreign imports and offers other countries beneficial trade and investment. Yet the things they decry as “unfair” reflect gains for the working class that were won through the 1949 Chinese Revolution which drove out the imperialists and overthrew capitalism.
The core of the Chinese economy is collectivized, not privately owned by individual capitalist exploiters. State-owned enterprises dominate strategic industrial sectors, with much of the surplus they create channeled into the banks and treasury of the workers state. State control over China’s currency, the yuan, has insulated the country from the volatile movements of money capital that have wreaked havoc around the world.
Testifying to the superiority of a collectivized economy over production for profit, China’s economy continued to grow while the capitalist world was plunged into economic meltdown following the 2007‑08 collapse of Wall Street’s financial speculation. In the U.S., nine million jobs were destroyed, four million houses foreclosed on and pension funds were looted. Trillions of dollars went to bail out the banks, insurance companies and auto bosses. In contrast, China channeled massive investment into developing infrastructure and productive capacity.
The Chinese Revolution was a tremendous victory for the workers of the world. However, the workers state was deformed from birth by the rule of a nationalist bureaucracy modeled on the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. Like their Kremlin counterparts before them, the rulers in Beijing oppose the perspective of international proletarian revolution. Thus they promoted the pipe dream of building “socialism in one country” and the equally delusional notion of “peaceful co-existence” with the imperialist powers. Although the Chinese Stalinist bureaucracy’s rule depends on the existence of the workers state it seeks to prosper and maintain its status through an accommodation to the imperialist order, much like the AFL-CIO bureaucracy in this country.
In The Revolution Betrayed (1936), his analysis of the degeneration of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky observed of the bureaucracy in Soviet Russia:
“To the extent that, in contrast to a decaying capitalism, it develops the productive forces, it is preparing the economic basis of socialism. To the extent that, for the benefit of an upper stratum, it carries to more and more extreme expression bourgeois norms of distribution, it is preparing a capitalist restoration.”
Since the 1949 Revolution, China has gone from being a backward peasant country to a mostly urban one, lifting some 600 million people out of poverty and creating a powerful industrial proletariat. Nonetheless, China remains a country of extreme contradictions, with great backwardness and poverty, particularly in the countryside. In mainland China today, there is a nascent capitalist class which, along with the corruption that permeates the Communist Party regime, poses a threat of internal capitalist counterrevolution. On the other side, hundreds of millions of workers as well as poor peasants wage countless strikes, protests and riots, estimated at 500 every day, against the consequences of bureaucratic misrule.
This ferment points to the potential for a proletarian political revolution that will sweep away the Stalinist regime and replace it with the rule of workers and peasants councils (soviets). Such a government would put an end to bureaucratic corruption and arbitrariness, creating a centrally planned and managed economy under conditions of workers democracy. It would expropriate the new class of domestic capitalists and seek to renegotiate the terms of foreign investment in the interests of the working people. The elementary Marxist understanding is that the key prerequisite for a socialist society is the elimination of scarcity, requiring the development and expansion of industrial production and technology worldwide. Thus, a genuine communist leadership in China would fight to advance the cause of workers revolution internationally, particularly in advanced capitalist countries like the U.S. and Japan.
Workers of the World Unite!
Since the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, the U.S. imperialists have been riding high in the saddle as the “world’s only superpower.” Promoting the TPP, Defense Secretary Carter boasted: “I never forget that our military strength ultimately rests on the foundation of a vibrant, unmatched and growing economy.” But there’s the rub. The unrivaled military might of U.S. imperialism rests on a corroding manufacturing and industrial base. Instead of investing in expanding and modernizing industry or repairing the country’s crumbling infrastructure, in recent decades the ruling class has enriched itself through a succession of speculative investment binges.
In the early 2000s, to send a message to the world that America remained the top dog of the planet militarily, the U.S. imperialists toppled governments in Afghanistan and Iraq, creating a seething caldron of unrest in the region. In 2010, Hillary Clinton, then Obama’s secretary of state, announced a “pivot to Asia,” which would redirect U.S. forces from the Near East and Afghanistan toward the more strategic aim of destroying the Chinese deformed workers state.
Although the U.S. remains bogged down in a quagmire of its own creation in the Near East, the Obama administration has made a full-court press to get the TPP signed, sealed and delivered. Just as the workers must defend their unions against the bosses despite the bureaucratic traitors that have so undermined them, so too must they fight for the defense of the Chinese deformed workers state despite the treachery of its Stalinist rulers who likewise accommodate the imperialists.
The decades-long war against labor, the shredding of the social “safety net” for the poor and the aged, the increased immiseration of the black population—these are the domestic products of the drive by America’s rulers to reverse their declining economic weight in the world. By fighting for their own interests against the U.S. imperialist predators, workers in the U.S. also strike a blow for the liberation of the oppressed around the planet. The purpose of the International Communist League is to reforge Trotsky’s Fourth International, the world party of socialist revolution, that will bring to the fore the principle of international working-class unity in the struggle for a socialist world. As the ICL’s “Declaration of Principles and Some Elements of Program” explains:
“The victory of the proletariat on a world scale would place unimagined material abundance at the service of human needs, lay the basis for the elimination of classes and the eradication of social inequality based on sex and the very abolition of the social significance of race, nation and ethnicity. For the first time mankind will grasp the reins of history and control its own creation, society, resulting in an undreamed-of emancipation of human potential, and a monumental forward surge of civilization.”
—Spartacist (English-language edition) No. 54, Spring 1998