No Image

Fixing up the world – GATT and the World Trade Organisation

1st March 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: March 1998

By Alan Freeman

Think of the world economy, and two household words come to mind: the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the two supranational bodies created by the Bretton Woods Treaty of 1947 when the allied powers constructed the post-war economic world order. It is less well-known that these two have been joined by another. The World Trade Organisation (WTO), formed in 1994 as a result of the 1986 ‘Uruguay Round’ of negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), has emerged as the third pillar of the post-war economic order. Although generally presented as a simple continuation of GATT, it has in fact inaugurated a fundamental change in the organisation of world trade.

The GATT has been transformed from an ineffectual chamber of commerce into a powerful device for restructuring the world market in the commercial and financial interests of the leading powers, the core requirement being to maintain the supremacy of the US economy in the face of the largest trade deficit in world history.

No Image

Which class will organise an international economy?

1st January 1995 Socialist Action 0

First published: January 1995

The most important strategic debate in the international labour movement since Marx and Engels was that which took place between Stalin, Bukharin and Trotsky in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. The fundamental issue at the core of that debate was Stalin and Bukharin’s strategy of ‘socialism in one country’. Although Stalin resolved the debate by liquidating his opponents, he could not liquidate the real contradictions which gave rise to the conflict. Those remain the fundamental driving forces of the crisis which has unfolded in Russia since Yeltsin came to power in August 1991. As the Russian working class faces a struggle with capital today as desperate as 1917 and 1941, the starting point for a theoretical understanding of that struggle remains the issue of socialism in one country.

The issue of ‘socialism in one country’ is the most fundamental question of socialist strategy in the twentieth century. Trotsky regarded this issue – not, for example, democracy or the popular front – as the fundamental point of divide between Stalin and Bukharin; between what he called ‘national reformism’ and Marxism.

Figures 1 and 2

How the United States, Japan and Germany are crushing the EEC

1st May 1993 Socialist Action 0

First published: Spring 1993

The electoral collapse of the French and Italian Socialist Parties signals the demise of Euro-socialism, the dominant current in the West European labour movement for the last decade. This is simply the latest symptom of the crisis of the European Community. The EEC is being ground between the external competitive pressure of the United States and Japan, and the internal dominance of the unified Germany. Rather than offering reforms, Maastricht proposes to dismantle the welfare state in Western Europe. The rise of the extreme right and the collapse of Euro-socialism are logical results.

In Europe imperialism is suffering its first substantial reverses since Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union. At the beginning of 1992 imperialism recorded an historic triumph with the installation of a capitalist government under Yeltsin in Russia. But a year later Yeltsin had lost his majority in the Congress of People’s Deputies. George Bush failed to secure re-election in the United States, Japan faced financial crisis and the European Monetary System came apart at the seams. Thus the re-charged imperialist system, which delivered Washington’s triumphs at the end of the 1980s, has started to exhaust itself.