Weekly News Review Archive

Saturday, April 21st, 2001

Socialist Party, USA, Joins Thousands In Condemning Free Trade Agreement

With thousands gathering in Quebec to protest the Free Trade Agreement for the Americas - otherwise known as the latest corporate assault on working people and the environmental standards - Spectre's friends in the Socialist Party USA have issued the following statement, which we think just about sums it up:

FTAA No Way!

Here we go again. The Big Corporations, along with their bankers and trade experts in the IMF and WTO, want to turn the Americas into one giant sweatshop.

How will they do it?

The FTAA. That's the Free Trade Agreement for the Americas, an extension of the NAFTA trade agreement passed in 1994. The bankers and big businesses, supported by the Democrat and the Republican parties, want complete freedom to export good factory and office and computer jobs to really poor areas, anywhere in the Americas, and spread the poverty even farther. They want complete immunity from governments, elections, and laws. They want the FTAA because they need to increase profits as much as they can, as fast as they can.

What will happen?

With the FTAA, it won't matter what or who we vote for. Regular people, in Baltimore or Bogota, Vancouver or Vermont, Montreal or Mexico City, will have no say in what happens. The FTAA will regulate and overrule democratically decided laws on the environment, public health, labor and food safety. Toxic pollution? Sorry. Bad schools? Tough. Broke? No house? Kids sick? Can't find a job? You're out of luck.

We can't let it happen.

Instead of making regular people in Pennsylvania or Puerto Rico even poorer, we need to make sure they have the right to make a good living and a better life. They need to have their voices heard. Paychecks, schools, homes, streets, these are the things that need to get better fast. We need to stop the FTAA and the Big Corporations. And we will work with anyone who thinks the same way, to help spread the word and make some real changes. Instead of the FTAA, here's what ought to be happening:

  • Fair trade between countries, controlled by the people who grow the crops and work in the factories and offices.
  • Laws that promote local economic development, with good wages and good workplaces.
  • Environmentally safe production and practices, so we can be healthy.
  • Health care and housing for everyone. And good schools. Let's work together and stop the Big Corporations and their FTAA.

Socialist Party, USA

Solidarity With Iranian Workers

Read about the fight for a living income and the strange goings on surrounding the fixing of a minimum wage in No 16 of Iranian Workers News in English, just out. This is a side of Iran you won't hear much about in the mainstream media, simply because they don't cover it very well anywhere else, either. When not dodging Mad Mullahs Iranian people have to take on their bosses and the state just the same as the rest of us, but of course campaigns for free speech and against the dark, alien force of an ill-defined 'fundamentalism' are of much more interest to papers like the Guardian and the New York Times than are the kind of battles which would be uncomfortably familiar to the folks back home. Go to Iranian Workers News , April issue, to fill this gap.

Quotes of the Week

"The Florida election travesty looks even seamier in retrospect than it did at the time. Worse yet, as secretaries of state from across the country tell us, the crisis is national. The recent review by the Chicago Tribune of Illinois undervotes reminds us that the dark side of democracy exposed in Florida was just business as usual across America on Election Day. What would Martin LutherKing Jr. think if he heard that the Voting Rights Act had not guaranteed access to the polls for all Americans-that barriers and outright intimidation continues to deny the vote to millions? Would he agree with those who say we should move on to other legislative issues? Or would he reaffirm the centrality of the vote in a democracy and call for renewed voting-rights drives, condemning-as he did in 1963-those who prefer 'a negative peace, which is the absence of tension, to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice' "? -Editorial in the US magazine, The Nation, April 30

"With the enthusiastic support of the Bush administration, leaders of 34 nations are now gathering in Quebec to discuss the FTAA. The name of this treaty is misleading: it is not primarily about 'free trade'. In fact, this agreement will almost certainly strengthen some of the most expensive, economically wasteful, and (in the case of life-saving pharmaceuticals) deadly forms of protectionism. These are the patents, copyrights, and other monopolies commonly grouped under 'intellectual property rights.'"

- Mark Weisbrot. Read the rest of Mark's article about the FTAA on ZNet

Spectral Newsbites

Only 6% of Poles believe that their country has gained from its relations with the EU. Yet 55% still want to join.

Not a single case has been successfully prosecuted in the 7 years since the NAFTA side agreement on labour rights and working conditions was signed. The agreement supposedly allows fines to be levied on employers.

The Bush junta is to move the world a step closer to media monopoly. Federal regulators have given the go-ahead for the four big broadcast networks to buy out one of the two smaller companies left in the market.

In response to increasing pressure from all corners of the earth the group of 39 drug companies dropped their lawsuit against the South African government on Thursday. NGOs all over the world have declared this a "real triumph".

ATTAC Update

The Attac movement (Association for a Taxation of financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens) has spread quickly throughout the world during the last couple years. More recently the Nordic countries in Europe have added to the rapid development of the international Attac network.

In January, Swedes launched their own Attac group and their Nordic neighbours have been close behind. Swedish activists have invited their neighbours to Sweden to discuss the possibility of launching Attac groups in their own countries.

All of the Nordic countries have strong traditions of solidarity with popular movements and the welfare state, but each has felt the effects of their governments' pursuit of neo-liberal policies.

Sweden: the Swedes are concentrating on building up their infrastructure and developing their own internal activities and finding new members (they number around 3,500 at present). The media has continued its strong interest and the group has formed links with a variety of NGOs and trade unions.

Denmark: On 24th Feburary in Copenhagen the first meeting of Attac took place with over 1000 participants after a daily paper launched a call for an Attac group in Denmark. Media coverage was reportedly widespread and even the Prime Minister expressed sympathy with Attac.

Norway: Several meetings have taken place in Norway as efforts to launch an Attac group have been stepped up. In contrast to some other Attac interest seems to be coming more from trade unions and organisations rather than individuals. More than 100 people representing around 90 organisations attended the last meeting on the 1st of March. During the debate several participants emphasised that Attac is above all an international movement for an alternative to the globalsation of the financial markets and neo-liberalism.

Finland: January saw much activity in Finland concerning the establishment of an Attac group. The Attac group has had excellent relations with the trade union movement from the very beginning. In January at the union headquarters over 100 people attended (unionists, NGOs, popular movements, and various political activists). A workgroup was set up and have proposed to launch the group in May. In February an intitiative was taken for a parliamentary group of Attac, 20% of the members of the Riksdag (Parliament) are members. [para]To Find out about ATTAC, and see if there is an organisation in your own country, go to their website , or take a look at the Spectre News Archive to find out how the European Union makes any such tax illegal.

Borders Tighten for Free Trade Summit

With the arrival of US President George Bush and 33 other national leaders in Quebec City on the 20 April, the security forces have been put on red alert. Not content with constructing a three-mile long chain link fence around the Summit delegates to prevent the tens of thousands of demonstrators descending on the city from getting anywhere near them, the authorities have begun erecting another fence. This time, in ironic contrast to the whole logic of Free Trade and movement of goods and people, they have enforced strict border controls to select out and deny entry to anyone who might look like they might be heading to Quebec to protest. Anyone with a past history of protest is being turned away at the border but it is more selective than that anyone who looks like a likely protester is being denied entry. A group from New York City Direct Action Network were recently denied entry after background checks - although the immigration officials didn't have to look too hard. This was perhaps because two of the protesters were dressed as dollar bills and another as an enormous genetically modified tomato.

Indian Farmers Demand that Agriculture be Dropped from the WTO

The National Network of the Indian Farmers' Movement descended on the country's Parliament earlier this week to demand that the government drop agriculture from the WTO. After five years of liberalisation the results have seen serious damage to Indian agriculture. Their declaration states that "the main effect of the Uruguay round of agreements has been to forcibly open markets for the profit of transnational corporations at the expense of local and national economies, the health and security of workers, and animal and environmental welfare". The subsidies and hindrances to import imposed by the developed countries in the pursuit of "unfair trade" were also criticised. To read more about the fight against agricultural liberalisation being inflicted on poor countries, look at the Third World Network site

Compiled by Ian Kitching