The WTO is a Symptom, the Disease is Capitalism

On the WTO Millenium Round in Seattle, Nov. 27, 1999 - Statement of the IBRP

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in Seattle has become the focus for what the Financial Times has called:

a worrying level [of] public unease with capitalism and globalisation.


Protestors include Friends of the Earth and Christian Aid, trades unions, anarchists and left wingers, as well as small farmers and traders from the world's poorest countries. Their demands vary from a change in the WTO rules so that there will be "fair trade for the benefit of all" to getting rid of the WTO all together so that the monstrous gap between rich and poor that capitalism has created over the last twenty years can be reversed. Some even claim that getting rid of the WTO is tantamount to getting rid of capitalism.

It's true that the WTO is part of the club run by the richest capitalist powers and their multinationals. Its purpose is to oversee the pulling down of any national barriers that might impede the creation of a truly global economy for today's giant monopolies desperately fighting to increase market share, cut costs and keep up profit levels. The areas that come under WTO supervision show that virtually every aspect of life is being drawn into the capitalist profit network - turned into a commodity to be bought and sold at a profit by ruthless multinational conglomerates. From plants and seeds to human genes, there is no limit to what can become the money-spinning property of monopoly capital. Public service contracts from school cleaning to hospital management are destined to be sold to the lowest [global] bidder. Any “local” obstacle: not just tariffs but health and safety regulations, or whatever will be classed as an illegal barrier to trade. Implicit in all this of course is that working conditions and wages must also be levelled down in the global economic playing field of capitalist competition.

But all these trends are part and parcel of the globalisation of capital which has been accelerating since at least the beginning of the Eighties, long before the WTO came into existence [1994]. Globalisation springs deep from the heart of capitalism. It is not a product of WTO corruption but a response to the crisis of falling profit rates which has dogged world capitalism since the end of the post war boom (around 1971). The present day ruthless drive of capitalism cannot be reversed by making this instrument of capitalism more “democratic” or less “faceless”. Sadly, the protests at the WTO talks will no more stop capitalism in its tracks than the attempt to "stop the City" for a day did in London last spring. Gone are the days when capitalism - at least in the richest countries - could afford to have a caring face and play according to the rules of job security, annual wage rises, universal welfare services , and so on. Trade unions like the AFL-CIO in the US and leftist political groups like Scargill's SLP in the UK who pretend that abolishing the WTO would help turn the clock back and bring back job security at home are trying to mobilise workers behind reactionary, nationalist protectionism. This has nothing whatsoever to do with "resisting capitalism".

One thing is for sure though - WTO or not WTO, global capitalism is creating the basis for a worldwide resistance. Never before has the gulf between the richest and poorest been so great. Never before have so many human beings been without the bare necessities of life. Never before has capitalism been so centralised and the reality of capitalist exploitation of wage labour laid so bare. Never before has it been so apparent that the condition of the working class is essentially the same the whole world over. The Financial Times is right to be worried. Even if they are misguided, the fact that many of the anti-WTO demonstrators are protesting against capitalism shows that ruling class propaganda about the present order being the natural state of things is wearing a bit thin. And not before time!

While the number of unemployed grows day by day workers with jobs are working harder and harder for lower and lower wages. All this in a world where enough food is produced to adequately feed everyone, where the cost of providing drinking water for the 1.5 billion who are without it would be a drop in the ocean of dollars for the likes of Bill Gates, where in truth the world is awash with consumer goods and in a rational society everyone could have a comfortable existence.

Once the people who produce capitalism's wealth begin to wake up to the fact that there is an alternative to capitalism and that it lies within their grasp:

not fair trade for multinationals but the free distribution of goods produced communally to satisfy human needs, then protests like today will fade into insignificance.

Then to be sure capitalism will attempt to use all its force to stop the movement. But a world working class organised in its own self-governing bodies, ready to take political power and fighting consciously to implement the communist programme will once again make the ruling classes tremble.

Communism is not an impossible utopian dream as our rulers would have us believe. In this world of global capital it is more than ever the only solution.

The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
Workers of all countries unite!