The TPP and Capitalist Globalization: This World for Whom?

October 7, 2016

There is a plan in Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in the near future. TPP is a trade agreement that has been negotiated using U.S. forward operating bases as a lever to create a U.S.-dominated free trade zone around the Pacific. The agreement encompasses 12 countries that are projected to account for 40% of the world’s economy. 

“Free trade” agreements like the TPP are promoted by the capitalists’ ideology of the so-called “free market.”  “Free market” ideology is the fairy tale which claims that capitalism affords every individual “equal opportunity.”  Thus it insists that every individual must fend for herself/himself and that those who “make it” do so through their “hard work and intelligence” while those who do not “make it” have only themselves to blame. Thus those thrown into the unemployment lines or whose low wages deprive them of the right to decent housing are cursed as “lazy.” Children born into poverty are labelled as “illegitimate.”  The people are blamed in order to cover over the contradictions and inhumanity of the capitalist social system.

The theory of “free market” economics claims that if the capitalist owners, each pursuing the selfish aim of maximizing profit, are left to their own devices, then the “invisible hand” of the market will create an equilibrium of supply and demand in such a way as to stimulate all-around economic development. But in truth this logic is used to justify slashing social programs and privatizing public services even while the capitalists themselves rely on the state to regulate the economy in favor of their own class interests. Today in the U.S., the government accounts for about a third of the country’s GNP. Through the military budget, through interest payments to the big bankers, through billions spent providing big corporations with research and development grants, and through other means, the government actively intervenes in the economy, further re-distributing the wealth of society in favor of the capitalists and orienting the economic life of the country to insure maximum profits for the big monopoly groups. Despite all the “free market” propaganda decrying “big government,” the monopoly capitalists are unwilling to leave their profits to chance or the “invisible hand.”

And still, the rich are not satisfied. The monopoly capitalists and their government keep shifting a greater burden onto the people – cutting wages and imposing new forms of exploitation on the workers, slashing investments in social welfare and privatizing the public sectors of the economy. Guided by their “free market” ideology, the capitalists want our entire country put at their disposal and look on the workers as no more than beasts of toil, with no human rights that society or government must recognize and guarantee. So too, new laws as well as recent court decisions and regulations imposed by government labor boards attack the right of the workers to unionize and to wage strikes or other actions. “Free market” ideology denies altogether the right of the workers to band together and come out collectively. The capitalists want each and every worker to remain an isolated individual with no power to struggle against capitalist exploitation.

Along these lines, the TPP is advertised as a program for further eliminating restrictions to the “free flow” of goods and capital throughout the “global marketplace.”

But such advertisements for “globalization” and the “free flow of capital” cover over the main thing. Today, capital is a social relation in which the means of production – the very tools needed by human beings to secure their material existence – are owned by a few while the vast majority of people are reduced to the status of wage-slaves for these capitalist owners of the means of production.

Capitalist globalization has produced a worldwide economic crisis. Nearly 50% of the world’s population lives in depression conditions; poverty and hunger stalk hundreds of millions of people.

“Globalization” arises from the struggle of the biggest monopolies and capitalist states to extend these social relations of exploitation and domination – their ownership of the means of production – over the entire world. “Globalization” means that countries and continents are put up for barter and domination. The demand for the “free flow of capital” is a demand for the surrender of economic and political sovereignty, is the program of international finance capital for gobbling up the resources, the economic infrastructure and the very lives of the peoples of other countries. Today, in the conditions of deepening economic crisis, the “free flow of international capital” is part of the program of the big monopolies to come out on top – to continue their ferocious struggle for the economic domination of other countries as well as to defeat their competitors. In fact, as history shows and present reality confirms, capitalism can only “resolve” the struggle of competing capitalists for domination through war.

The fact is that today humanity stands at a crossroads. On the one hand, the U.S. monopoly capitalist class continues its counter-revolutionary offensive, stripping away the rights of people at home while imposing super-exploitation and domination on the peoples of other countries. U.S. imperialism’s program of “globalization” is a program of exploitation and reaction at home, domination and war abroad.

Yet humanity has reached a point that puts us on the threshold of bringing in a new era of freedom and emancipation for the peoples. Economically, we already have created all the productive forces needed to guarantee the rights and well-being of everyone. But these vast productive forces remain owned by a few – by the capitalist class. And it is the capitalist class and its political power which is preventing the people from asserting their rights, winning their emancipation and taking control over their lives and the direction of society. 

“Globalization” has brought all the contradictions of the world capitalist system to the bursting point. At its root the problem is this: Centuries of civilization and the very socialization of economic life have put vast productive forces at the disposal of humanity – productive forces capable of guarantying the economic well-being of everyone. But the economic lifelines of humanity remained owned and controlled by a tiny handful of capitalist monopolies. In the midst of abundance, billions of people are denied their elementary economic and human rights.

Thus, “globalization” confronts the workers and people with the question: “The economy for whom? This world for whom?” Will human society remain a jungle in which the rich and powerful prey on the masses of people or will the workers and people take a giant leap forward from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom by taking control of the productive forces they themselves have created?

The key thing in advancing the struggle against capitalist exploitation, in asserting the rights of the people and creating that new world already envisioned by the people is building up the independent political movement of the working class and people – a movement which aims at putting the power in the hands of the people and building the new socialist society.