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Beyond Parties, Beyond Elections


Short Version: mp3, 3.49 MBs, 4:21
Long Version: mp3, 4.33 MBs, 5:24

[Col. Recorded 8/7/04]

It's election time again, and the passions of the multitude sweep, inexorably, toward the polling places, in the hope that once, just this once, things will change for the better.

Jobs will return. The economy will rebound. Schools will actually teach the children of the poor.

Hope is almost palpable.

Every election season, there are people on the sidelines, usually leftists, Marxists, or socialists, who argue against the worth of such exercises, assuring us that both major parties are but fronts for the capitalist rulers.

I won't make that argument.

I hope to point to another reality, one rarely addressed in the corporate press, but a reality that reflects the forces underlying virtually all of the world's governments, and which are sounding the death knell to the very idea of democracy.

I speak of something that I bet neither presidential candidate will address, nor explain.

I speak of the WTO, short for the World Trade Organization, and because of various treaties and agreements, a body which has emerged as one of the most powerful groups in the world.

Why even deal with the WTO, especially now, around election time?

The WTO sets the rules that governments follow; and because they set the rules, they set them in their favor, and against global democratic forces that challenge their interests. Indeed, *that is why the WTO was organized in the first place*.

One WTO bigwig admitted as much in an article for the *Financial Times* newspaper, saying the WTO "is the place where governments collude in private against their domestic pressure groups." [Guy de Jongvieres, "Network Guerrillas", *Financial Times*, (4/30/98), p. 12.]

By 'domestic pressure groups', he meant labor unions, environmentalists, human rights activists, public health advocates, and any community or citizen's organization which tries to hold the feet of corporations to the fire of public safety, health, good wages, or the protection of the environment.

Lori Wallach, an international commercial agreements expert with Public Citizen, has written, with her colleague, Michelle Sforza, *The WTO: Five Years of Reasons to Resist Corporate Globalization* (New York: Seven Stories Press, 1999). They say:
Our purpose is to document an insidious shift in decision-making away from democratic, accountable fora — where citizens have a chance to fight for the public interest — to distant, secretive and unaccountable international bodies, whose rules and operations are dominated by corporate interests. Ironically, the U.S., with some of the world's most open, accountable policy-making procedures, is a leader in using the WTO to undercut democratic institutions and mechanisms around the world. [p. 14]
Wallach and Sforza argue that the world where corporate interests dominate everything, *even life itself*, is here:

The WTO's manic tilt toward commercial values is perhaps best highlighted by its rules seeking to commodify everything — to turn everything into a form of property — so that it can be bought and sold. For instance, the new system gives patents — and thus exclusive marketing rights — for life forms and indigenous knowledge. Consider what has happened in India, where the indigenous population has used the neem tree for medicinal purposes for generations. After a U.S. importer discovered the tree's pharmaceutical properties, multi- national companies from the U.S. and Japan sought and received numerous patents on products made from the tree, leaving the indigenous populations unable to profit from knowledge they have developed over centuries. [p. 20]
One would think that the American right, which has long been concerned about U.S. national sovereignty,and the American left, which has a tradition of caring about labor and human rights, would find common cause in the fight against the WTO and its regional cousin, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreements). Yet, in neither major, corporate party, can one find an anti-WTO position represented by the offered candidates.

Ultimately, for this reason alone, it matters little which candidate ultimately grabs the brass ring, for, as in casinos, the house always wins. No matter which guy wins, capital takes the prize, and democracy takes another blow.

Demand that each candidate state a position on the WTO.
Then decide for yourself for whom to vote, or whether to vote, at all.

Copyright 2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal


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Text © copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.