The Predators of the World Trade Organization

Revolutionary Worker #1035, December 19, 1999

As the tear gas cleared in the streets of Seattle, some big questions hung in the air. What is the World Trade Organization (WTO), what is imperialism, and how do we get rid of it?

One common view among the protesters in Seattle--and more broadly among progressive and revolutionary-minded people--is that the WTO is controlled by multinational corporations and acts against the interests of individual nation states, including the U.S. In this view, the WTO and other global institutions have become "supranational"--standing above the governments of particular countries.

This is linked to a more overall view--that capital mobility and the globalization of financial markets are eroding national state formations as basic units of the imperialist world economy and making the nationality of capital less meaningful. According to this theory, vast flows of capital across national borders, the emergence of the "global assembly line" and the "transnationalization" of financial capital have led to a "footloose" capital operating outside the grip of authority of nation states. Capital no longer has loyalty to any state. Operating globally, huge capitalist corporations have gained leverage over nation states and undermined their ability to regulate and manage economic affairs.

Do institutions like the WTO, World Bank and IMF really stand "above" imperialist states? It is true that the IMF and World Bank sometimes act as virtual governing boards in oppressed countries when they impose strict and sweeping conditions in exchange for loans. And the WTO has made some decisions that contradict the laws of particular countries. But these institutions are acting as instruments of imperialist states. There is no global institution with the degree of authority, resources and power that make them into a kind of an "international" state. The IMF represents an "operating fraternity of imperialists"--dominated by one national capital formation, U.S. imperialism. The WTO is a vehicle for forging and regulating trade and investment rules that facilitate further imperialist penetration of Third World countries--and it is also an arena of inter-imperialist rivalry.

As Maoist political economist Raymond Lotta points out, "From its very beginnings, capitalism has had a global character. The rise of capitalism in Europe and North America was bound up with the slave trade in Africa and with the plunder of Asia and Latin America. The industrial revolution in England was bound up with and stimulated the extension of world trade. Capital tends in its motion and development to create a single economic world. Why? Because it is driven by the force of competition to expand, to extend itself, to exploit wage labor on an ever wider and more mechanized the quest for profit and more profit."

Capitalism became fully internationalized with the rise of imperialism at the end of the 19th century. Through a process of expansion and integration, imperialism enmeshed the world in a global network of capitalist production and exchange. And over the course of the 20th century, especially after World War 2, capitalism has more deeply penetrated the economies and societies of the Third World.

Today, there is a new wave of globalization leading to an even more highly integrated world economy. But this is taking place within the same system of imperialism--with the same economics of exploitation and politics of domination.

As Raymond Lotta analyzes, increased globalization has not made imperialist nation states obsolete: "Imperialist capital has a global reach--but it remains rooted in national markets (U.S., Japan, Germany, etc.). The `home market' is the `strategic base of operations' for imperialist capital. This is where the largest share of output is produced, where research and development is concentrated, where control and ownership are centered. And to carry out global investment and expansion, transnational capitals cannot do without the economic-political-military support and protection of their national imperialist states. This contradiction--between capital which is highly internationalized but which has a national foundation--gives rise to rivalry, to conflict, and to war between the imperialist powers."

The imperialists talk of an economically and technologically "interconnected world." But with all the economic integration and technological advances, this is still a world with deep and basic fault lines. It's a world divided into conflicting classes. A world of contending imperialist capitals. A world split into oppressor and oppressed nations. A world of haves and have-nots.

Revolution--Hope of the Hopeless

Maoists understand that there is an alternative to the madness and suffering under the world imperialist system. We believe that world proletarian revolution is the real hope of the hopeless.

The world proletarian revolution consists of two streams of struggle. One stream is the anti-imperialist new democratic revolution waged by the nations and peoples subjugated by imperialism. The other stream is the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and its allies for socialism in the imperialist citadels.

We see the need for people's war in every country--against the imperialists and their local enforcers. This is because those dominating politics and economics today cannot change their basic class nature, and they will not give up their power willingly. They must be overthrown by the armed struggle of the masses of people. Maoist people's wars are now being fought in a number of areas of the world--in Peru, Nepal and the Philippines.

In the midst of confrontation and struggle in Seattle, people raised their sights to the possibility of a new and beautiful world. And as RCP Chairman Bob Avakian says: "If you can conceive of a world without America--without everything America stands for and everything it does in the world--then you've already taken great strides and begun to get at least a glimpse of a whole new world. If you can envision a world without any imperialism, exploitation, oppression--and the whole philosophy that rationalizes it--a world without division into classes or even different nations, and all the narrow-minded, selfish, outmoded ideas that uphold this; if you can envision all this, then you have the basis for proletarian internationalism. And once you have raised your sights to all this, how could you not feel compelled to take an active part in the world historic struggle to realize it; why would you want to lower your sights to anything less?"

For more on globalization and the world situation, see "Imperialist Globalization and the Fight for a Different Future" by Raymond Lotta--available online at Also, look for the pamphlet soon to be published by RCP Publications: "Notes on Political Economy: Our Analysis of the 1980s, Issues of Methodology, and the Current World Situation."

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