July 22, 2002

Noam Chomsky: A World Without War (World Social Forum, Feb 2002)

The importance of protecting the public from information was revealed dramatically at the April Summit. Every editorial office in the US had on its desk two important studies, timed for release just before the Summit. One was from Human Rights Watch, the second from the Economic Policy Institute in Washington; neither organization is exactly obscure. Both studies investigated in depth the effects of NAFTA, which was hailed at the Summit as a grand triumph and a model for the FTAA, with headlines trumpeting its praises by George Bush and other leaders, all accepted as Gospel Truth. Both studies were suppressed with near-total unanimity. It's easy to see why. HRW analyzed the effects of NAFTA on labor rights, which, it found, were harmed in all three participating countries. The EPI report was more comprehensive: it consisted of detailed analyses of the effects of NAFTA on working people, written by specialists on the three countries. The conclusion is that this is one of the rare agreements that has harmed the majority of the population in all of the participating countries. 

The effects on Mexico were particularly severe, and particularly significant for the South. Wages had declined sharply with the imposition of neoliberal programs in the 1980s. That continued after NAFTA, with a 24% decline in incomes for salaried workers, and 40% for the self-employed, an effect magnified by the rapid increase in unsalaried workers. Though foreign investment grew, total investment declined, as the economy was transferred to the hands of foreign multinationals. The minimum wage lost 50% of its purchasing power. Manufacturing declined, and development stagnated or may have reversed. A small sector became extremely wealthy, and foreign investors prospered.

Interview with Robert McChesney

One thing that's crucial is that we're not going to win anything in this struggle without popular support. Having all the best arguments in the world so you can win all the debating society awards isn't going to get you anything in this debate, cause you're going up against spectacular organized money. And what we need to fight organized money, as Saul Alinsky says, is organized people -- we've got to be organized. We'll have people in Congress, but they're going to be at the end of the process, or at the middle of it.

posted by dru in good_articles