PGA Bulletin 1 March 97 / 2. Peoples’ Global Action Manifesto (1/2)


Richard Moore

PGA Bulletin
Number 1, March 1997


          Table of contents:

               1. Letter from the Geneva Welcoming Committee
               2. Peoples' Global Action Manifesto
               3. Plans of action


[2]. Peoples' Global Action Manifesto (1/2)


(Working draft - deadline for submission of comments and amendments: 30
April 1998. Mail your comments, if possible in English and Spanish, to
•••@••.••• or fax them to +41-22-344 4731))

We cannot take communion from the altars of a dominant culture
which confuses price with value
and converts people and countries into merchandise.
Eduardo Galeano

If you come only to help me, you can go back home.
But if you consider my struggle as part of your struggle for survival,
then maybe we can work together.
Aboriginal woman

          Part 1

          Economic globalisation, power and the "race to the
          Exploitation, labour and livelihoods
          Gender oppression
          The indigenous peoples' fight for survival
          Oppressed ethnic groups
          Onslaught on nature and agriculture
          Knowledge and technology
          Education and youth
          Migration and discrimination

          Part 2




     We live in a time in which capital, with the help of international
     agencies like the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the
     International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and other
     institutions, is shaping national policies in order to strengthen
     its global control over political, economic and cultural life.

     Capital has always been global. Its boundless drive for expansion
     and profit recognises no limits. From the slave trade of earlier
     centuries to the imperial colonisation of peoples, lands and
     cultures across the globe, capitalist accumulation has always fed
     on the blood and tears of the peoples of the world. This
     destruction and misery has been restrained only by grassroots

     Today, capital is deploying a new strategy to assert its power and
     neutralise peoples' resistance. Its name is economic
     globalisation, and it consists in the dismantling of national
     limitations to trade and to the free movement of capital.

     The effects of economic globalisation spread through the fabric of
     societies and communities of the world, integrating their peoples
     into a single gigantic system aimed at the extraction profit and
     the control of peoples and nature. Words like "globalisation",
     "liberalisation" and "deregulation" just disguise the growing
     disparities in living conditions between elites and masses in both
     privileged and "peripheral" countries.

     The newest and perhaps the most important phenomenon in the
     globalisation process is the emergence of trade agreements as key
     instruments of accumulation and control. The WTO is by far the
     most important institution for evolving and implementing these
     trade agreements. It has become the vehicle of choice for
     transnational capital to enforce global economic governance. The
     Uruguay Round vastly expanded the scope of the multilateral
     trading system (i.e. the agreements under the aegis of the WTO) so
     that it no longer constitutes only trade in manufactured goods.
     The WTO agreements now also cover trade in agriculture, trade in
     services, intellectual property rights, and investment measures.
     This expansion has very significant implications for economic and
     non-economic matters. For example, the General Agreement on Trade
     in Services will have far-reaching effects on cultures around the
     world. Similarly, the TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property
     Rights) agreement and unilateral pressures, especially on
     biodiversity-rich countries, are forcing these countries to adopt
     new legislations establishing property rights over forms of life,
     with disastrous consequences for biodiversity and food security.
     The multilateral trading system, embodied in the WTO, has a
     tremendous impact on the shaping of national economic and social
     policies, and hence on the scope and nature of development

     Trade agreements are also proliferating at the regional level.
     NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is the prototype of a
     regional legally-binding agreement involving privileged and
     underprivileged countries, and its model is sought to be extended
     to South America. APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) is
     another model with both kinds of countries involved, and it is
     being increasingly used to force new agreements into the framework
     of the WTO. The Maastricht Treaty is of course the main example of
     a legally-binding agreement among privileged countries. Regional
     trade agreements among underprivileged countries, such as ASEAN
     (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), SADC (Southern African
     Development Cooperation), SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement)
     and MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market), have also emerged. All
     these regional agreements consist of the transfer of
     decision-making power from the national level to regional
     institutions which are even more distant from people and less
     democratic than the nation-state.

     As though this was not enough, a new treaty is being promoted by
     the privileged countries, the Multilateral Agreement on
     Investments (MAI) to widen the rights of foreign investors far
     beyond their current positions in most countries and to severely
     curtail the rights and powers of governments to regulate the
     entry, establishment and operations of foreign companies and
     investors. This is currently also the most important attempt to
     extend globalisation and "economic liberalisation". MAI would
     abolish the power and the legitimate sovereign right of peoples to
     determine their own economic, social, and cultural policies.

     All these institutions and agreements share the same goals:
     providing mobility for goods, services and capital, increasing
     transnational capital's control over peoples and nature,
     transferring power to distant and undemocratic institutions,
     foreclosing the possibility to develop community-based and
     self-reliant economies, and restricting peoples' freedom to
     construct societies based on human values.


Economic globalisation, power and the "race to the bottom"

     Economic globalisation has given birth to new forms of
     accumulation and power. The accumulation takes place on a global
     scale, at increasing speed, controlled by transnational
     corporations and investors. While capital has gone global,
     redistribution policies remain the responsibility of national
     governments, which are unable, and most of the times unwilling, to
     act against the interests of transnational capital.

     This asymmetry is provoking an accelerating redistribution of
     power at global level, strengthening what is usually referred to
     as "corporate power". In this peculiar political system, global
     capital determines (with the help of "informal" and extremely
     influential lobby groups, such as the World Economic Forum) the
     economic and social agenda on a world-wide scale. These corporate
     lobby groups give their instructions to governments in the form of
     recommendations, and governments follow them, since the few that
     refuse to obey the "advice" of corporate lobby groups find their
     currencies under attack by speculators and see the investors
     pulling out. The influence of corporate lobby groups has been
     strengthened by regional and multilateral agreements. With their
     help, neo-liberal policies are being imposed all over the world.

     These neo-liberal policies are creating social tensions at global
     level similar to the ones witnessed at national level during the
     first stages of the industrialisation: while the number of
     billionaires grows, more and more people around the world find
     themselves in a system that offers them no place in production and
     no access to consumption. This desperation, combined with the free
     mobility of capital, provides transnational investors the best
     possible environment to pit workers and governments against each
     other. The result is a "race to the bottom" in social and
     environmental conditions and the dismantling of redistribution
     policies (progressive taxation, social security systems, reduction
     of working time, etc). A vicious circle is created, wherein
     "effective demand" concentrates increasingly in the hands of a
     transnational elite, while more and more people cannot meet their
     basic needs.

     This process of world-wide accumulation and exclusion amounts to a
     global attack on elementary human rights, with very visible
     consequences: misery, hunger, homelessness, unemployment,
     deteriorating health conditions, landlessness, illiteracy,
     sharpened gender inequalities, explosive growth of the "informal"
     sector and the underground economy (particularly production and
     trade of drugs), the destruction of community life, cuts in social
     services and labour rights, increasing violence at all levels of
     society, accelerating environmental destruction, growing racial,
     ethnic and religious intolerance, massive migration (for economic,
     political and environmental reasons), strengthened military
     control and repression, etc.


Exploitation, labour and livelihoods

     The globalisation of capital has to a very significant extent
     dispossessed workers of their ability to confront or bargain with
     capital in a national context. Most of the conventional trade
     unions (particularly in the privileged countries) have accepted
     their defeat by the global economy and are voluntarily giving up
     the conquests won by the blood and tears of generations of
     workers. In compliance with the requirements of capital, they have
     traded solidarity for "international competitiveness" and labour
     rights for "flexibility of the labour market". Now they are
     actively advocating the introduction of a "social" clause in the
     multilateral trading system, which would give privileged countries
     a tool for selective, one-sided and neo-colonial protectionism,
     with the effect of increasing poverty instead of attacking it at
     its root.

     Right-wing groups in privileged countries often blame "social
     dumping" from underprivileged countries for the rising
     unemployment and the worsening labour conditions. They say that
     southern peoples are hijacking northern capital with the help of
     cheap labour, weak or non-existent labour and environmental
     regulations and low taxes, and that southern exports are forcing
     northern producers out of the market. While there is a certain
     degree of relocation to underprivileged countries (concentrated in
     specific sectors like textiles and microelectronics), the teenage
     girls who sacrifice their health doing unpaid overtime in
     transnational sweatshops for miserable salaries can hardly be
     blamed for the social havoc created by free mobility of goods and
     capital. Moreover, most relocation happens between rich countries,
     with only a fraction of foreign investment going to
     underprivileged countries (and even some investment flowing to the
     north from countries traditionally considered as
     "underdeveloped"). And the threat of relocation to another rich
     country (by far the most usual kind of relocation) is as effective
     in blackmailing workers as the threat to relocate to an
     underprivileged country. Finally, the main cause of unemployment
     in privileged countries is the introduction of "rationalisation"
     technologies, over which underprivileged peoples certainly have no
     influence at all. In short, increasing exploitation is solely the
     responsibility of capitalists, not of peoples.

     Many advocates of "development" welcome the free movement capital
     from privileged to underprivileged countries as a positive
     contribution to the improvement of the living conditions of the
     poor, since foreign investment produces jobs and livelihoods. They
     forget that the positive social impact of foreign investment is
     limited by its very nature, since transnational corporations will
     only keep their money in underprivileged countries as long as the
     policies of these countries enable them to continue exploiting the
     misery and desperation of the population. The financial markets
     impose extreme punishments to the countries that dare to adopt any
     kind of policy that could eventually result in improved living
     standards, as exemplified by the abrupt end to the shy
     redistribution policies adopted in 1981 by Mitterand in France.
     Also, the Mexican crisis of 1994 and the recent crises in East
     Asia, although presented by the media as the result of technical
     mismanagement, are good examples of the impact of a corporate
     economic rule which gains strength every day both in
     underprivileged and privileged countries, conditioning each and
     every aspect of their social and economic policies.

     Those who believe in the beneficial social effects of "free"
     market also forget that the impact of transnational capital is not
     limited to the creation of exploitative jobs. Most of the foreign
     direct investment (two thirds according to the United Nations) in
     both privileged and underprivileged countries consists of
     transnational corporations (TNCs) taking over national
     enterprises, which most typically results in the destruction of
     jobs. And TNCs never come alone with their money: they also bring
     foreign products into the country, sweeping great numbers of local
     firms and farms out of the market, or forcing them to produce
     under even more inhuman conditions. Finally, most of the foreign
     investment provokes the unsustainable exploitation of natural
     resources, which results in the irretrievable dispossession of the
     livelihoods of diverse communities of indigenous peoples, farmers,
     ethnic groups etc.

     We reject the idea that "free" trade creates employment and
     increases welfare, and the assumption that it can contribute to
     the alleviation of poverty. But we also very clearly reject the
     right-wing alternative of a stronger national capitalism, as well
     as the fascist alternative of an authoritarian state to take over
     central control from corporations. Our struggles aim at taking
     back control of the means of production from the hands of both
     transnational and national capital, in order to create free,
     sustainable and community-controlled livelihoods, based on
     solidarity and peoples' needs and not on exploitation and greed.


Gender oppression

     Globalisation and neo-liberal policies build on and increase
     existing inequalities, including gender inequality. The gendered
     system of power in the globalised economy, like most traditional
     systems, encourages the exploitation of women as workers, as
     maintainers of the family and as sexual objects.

     Women are responsible for creating, educating, feeding, clothing
     and disciplining young people to prepare them to become part of
     the global labour force. They are used as cheap and docile labour
     for the most exploitative forms of employment, as exemplified in
     the maquilas of the textile and microelectronics industry. Forced
     out of their homelands by the poverty caused by globalisation,
     many women seek employment in foreign countries, often as illegal
     immigrants, subjected to terrifying working conditions and
     insecurity. The world-wide trade in women's bodies has become a
     major element of world commerce and includes children as young as
     10. They are used by the global economy through diverse forms of
     exploitation and commodification.

     Women are expected to be actors only in their households. Although
     this has never been the case, this expectation has been used to
     deny women a role in public affairs. The economic system also
     makes use of these gender roles to identify women as the cause of
     many social and environmental problems. Hence, women having too
     many babies (rather than the rich consuming too many resources) is
     seen as the cause of the global environmental crisis. Similarly,
     the fact that women get low wages, since their remuneration are
     supposed to be only supplementary income for the household, is
     used to blame them for the unemployment of men and the reduction
     in their wage levels. As a result, women are used as scapegoats,
     declared guilty for creating the same misery that is oppressing
     them, instead of pointing at the global capital as responsible for
     social and environmental havoc. This ideological stigmatisation
     adds to the physical violence suffered on a daily basis by women
     all over the planet.

     Patriarchy and the gender system rest firmly on the idea of the
     naturalness and exclusivity of heterosexuality. Most of the social
     systems and structures violently reject any other form of sexual
     expression or activity, and this limitation of freedom is used in
     order to perpetuate patriarchal gender roles. Globalisation,
     although indirectly contributing to the struggles for women's and
     sexual liberation by introducing them in very oppressive
     societies, also strengthens the patriarchy at the root of violence
     against women and against gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

     The elimination of patriarchy and the end of all forms of gender
     discrimination requires an open commitment against the global
     market. Similarly, it is vital that those struggling against
     global capital understand and confront the exploitation and
     marginalisation of women and participate in the struggle against
     homophobia. We need to develop new cultures that represent real
     alternatives to these old and new forms of oppression.


The indigenous peoples' fight for survival

     Indigenous peoples and nationalities have a long history of
     resistance against the destruction provoked by capitalism. Today,
     they are confronted with the neo-liberal globalisation project as
     an instrument of transnational and financial capital for
     neo-colonisation and extermination. These new actors of the
     globalisation process are violently invading the last refuges of
     indigenous peoples, violating their territories, habitats and
     resources, destroying their ways of life, and often perpetrating
     their genocide. The nation states are permitting and actively
     encouraging these violations in spite of their commitment to
     respect indigenous peoples' rights, reflected in diverse
     declarations, agreements and conventions.

     Corporations are stealing ancient knowledge and patenting it for
     their own gain and profit. This means that indigenous people and
     the rest of humanity will have to pay for access to the knowledge
     that will have thus been commodified. Furthermore, the indigenous
     peoples themselves are being patented by pharmaceutical
     corporations and the US administration, under the auspices of the
     Human Genome Diversity Programme. We oppose the patenting of all
     life forms and the corporate monopolistic control of seed,
     medicines and traditional knowledge systems and human genomes.

     The fights of indigenous peoples to defend their lands (including
     the subsoil) and their forms of living, are leading to a growing
     repression against them and to the militarisation of their
     territories, forcing them to sacrifice their lives or their
     liberty. This struggle will continue until the right of indigenous
     peoples to territorial autonomy is fully respected throughout the


continuned in 2/2