TCS Daily


The Green-Gray Alliance

By James Pinkerton - September 15, 2003 12:00 AM

Editor's note: This article is the second of two parts.

CANCUN, Mexico -- Could the Greens take over the World Trade Organization -- by using concepts from the late 20th century and tactics from the early 20th century?

 

"Sustainable Development," "Sustainable Trade," and "The Precautionary Principle" are the hip buzzwords of anti-WTO-ers, who would like to transform the WTO from within or conquer it from without. But to succeed in their effort, they are relying on tactics that summon up such old-time phrases as "entryism" and "dual unionism." Many decades ago, those tactics guided an earlier left-wing movement, Communism, in its bid for world power. Now we will see how today's Greens, using the same tactics, stack up against yesterday's Reds.

 

Can the Greens really storm the Winter Palace -- oops, I mean take over the WTO? Will the greatest engine of international wealth creation in the history of the planet -- an organization that oversees $6 trillion a year in global commerce -- allow itself to be captured?

 

If the free traders are to resist such a coup, they will have to study the tactics of the anti-traders. And that study will require patience -- as well as a high tolerance for both jargon and acronyms -- because the other team is willing to undertake the hard work of non-freedom. The Greens may be misguided, or worse, but they are not dumb; it could be said that World Traders are confronted by a Green-Gray alliance: Green for environmentalists, Gray for brain power.

 

The Green-Grays already have a strong platform. Today, much of the European Union's bureaucracy has been Greeniated. And then there are the Grays: all those bright-eyed products of Oxbridge, the Sorbonne, and Universität Tübingen. Both groups live in their non-market paradise, sheltered from the rigors of reality, free to cook up new ideologies in their tax-funded hothouses.

 

And yet the Green-Grays have allies who are not sheltered -- or not sheltered enough for their own liking. These allies are European firms, groaning under high burdens of taxation and regulation, reeling from heightened international competition. As Alan Oxley has pointed out in his monograph, European Unilateralism: Environmental Trade Barriers and the Rising Threat to Prosperity through Trade, Euro companies are increasingly making the cynical calculation that their economic salvation is two-fold.

 

First, they seek to limit imports into the EU home market through "Green Protectionism." That's the subtext of new international instruments such as Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which seeks to restrict or abolish the movement of Living Modified Organisms, be they seeds, plants, or animals. Such restrictions address not only the unscientific and perhaps irrational psychic needs of Greens, but also the rational -- and selfish -- economic needs of inefficient farmers and related manufacturers. And as discussed in part one of this article, The Precautionary Principle (TPP), which liberates Green Protectionists from the chore of actually proving their fear-mongering assertions, makes the whole effort not only easy and legal, but also forward-thinkingly cool.

 

Second, the Green-Grays seek to persuade other countries to embrace "sustainability" as a concept. That was the purpose of the EU's "Sustainable Trade Day" on September 9, which was all about convincing, in effect, low-wage countries to imitate the ways of high-wage, high-cost countries, such as those in the EU. And high-wage outfits such as The International Institute for Sustainable Development, based in Winnipeg, Canada, and The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, based in Geneva, Switzerland, stand ready to teach Third World countries how to compete less effectively against Canadians and Swiss.

 

Needless to say, both the IISD and the ICTSD had huge presences here in Cancun last week. The ICTSD, for example, partnered with El Colegio de Mexico to convene two days of meetings just down the street from Centro de Convenciones. Some of the session-topics seemed like predictable redistributionism, to wit, "Towards a Pro-poor Agenda for the Doha round: The Role of Rich Countries and International Donors." But other topics are no doubt sneakier, such as, "Is There a Future for Family Farming in West Africa?" My guess as to the answer to this question: "Yes, but only if African family farmers are somehow insulated from the rigors of the world marketplace." And it's just a coincidence, of course, that such insulation would also insulate European farms and their costly organic ways. Support for the ICTSD's activities here, by the way, comes from 16 different entities, ranging from the Quaker International Affairs Programme to the Rockefeller Foundation to the World Bank. Which is to say, the base for the attack on the WTO has significant intellectual and financial resources.

 

In the early years of the 20th century, there was another globally ambitious movement with committed cadres: Communism. Its core locus was in Moscow, but its network agents and advocates were in every university, bureaucracy, union, and newspaper. Today, the hub has shifted to Brussels, but the network is still thick in universities, bureaucracies, unions, and media outlets.

 

Which brings us to the matter of tactics, then and now.

 

A century ago, the Communists and associated "ists" focused their attention on the labor movement; they used two takeover tactics, "entryism" and "dualism."

 

Entryism means exactly what it sounds like -- pushing one's way in. It was Old Left jargon for ruthless persistence -- plus equally fierce patience -- in the effort to take over an organization. "The Communist Party members were motivated; they would stay in the room till two in the morning to get their way" says Fred Siegel, a professor of American history at the Cooper Union for the Arts and Sciences in Manhattan. That is, is CP-ers would wait until all their rivals had gone home, or fallen asleep, and then pass a resolution, hold an election, or otherwise pave the way for the dictatorship of the proletariat. A major lefty entryist was William Z. Foster. In 1919, he created the Trade Union Educational League to subvert the American Federation of Labor; he candidly referred to his approach as "boring from within."

 

The other approach was dualism, oftentimes expressed as dual unionism. Here, the CP would mutate and metastasize new entities, seeking to confuse, outflank, and surround the class enemy. That is, if entryism didn't succeed in taking over a union local, the CP might create a rival union. The same tactics were also used on the national level. The American Federation of Labor, founded in 1886 -- in, of all places, Columbus, Ohio -- was deemed to be too conservative, so the CP-ers helped create the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905.

 

The CP was also behind the creation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations as a caucus within the AFL in 1935. So the CIO itself was a kind of entryism that became dualism in 1938, when the Commie-heavy CIO was booted out. Happily, by the time of the AFL-CIO merger, the CP and its fellow travelers had been marginalized, but as the record shows, the struggle for control of the American labor movement lasted for many decades.

 

Now let's consider the behavior of the Green-Grays as they apply brawn and brains to the task of capturing the WTO.

 

First, there's entryism. Now, as well as then, it's sometimes crude and thuggish; in recent years, anti-globalists have sometimes succumbed to violent temptations. And while white-collar Greens might abjure such tactics themselves, it'll be a cold day in Gaia before they actively condemn them. My hunch is that the Green groups see the anarchists as arm's-length allies. That is, if WTO-types don't play ball with the IISD, or ICTSD, or WWF, then there may be more trouble from, say, the Zapatistas or the something-istas.

 

But the main form of Green-Gray entryism is through force of argument. The Sustainables and Precautionaries are the first to say that their goal is to write environmental and labor standards into the WTO, to make the WTO, in effect, the WTELO -- the World Trade, Environmental, and Labor Organization.

 

For the time being, that's a bridge too far, because World Traders understand that the unique value of the WTO is its single-mindedness. As long as the World Trade Organization is about World Trade, it will fulfill its function. But WTO-ers have let down their guard against subtler forms of entry. The entryists say, "Isn't it reasonable to have 'observers' from environmental agencies in the room? Isn't it a good idea to have the political equivalent of sunshine?" Who wants to say no to "openness"? To "transparency"?

 

Gary Horlick, an American lawyer who likes the WTO the way it is, laments that "nobody fights very hard" against these Trojan-horse observerships at WTO meetings. He makes an analogy between environmentalists at the WTO and businesspersons at a session of the International Labor Organization; both are obvious instances of category-crashing. "You could make a perfectly good argument that we should have 'observerships' for business organizations at the ILO," he snaps. Why isn't that happening? Why aren't business groups demanding the same right to trespass on other people's turf, just as the Greens are doing? In the meantime, give the Green-Grays points for a successful exercise in entry.

 

Second, there's dualism. Here the idea is to engulf and devour the enemy entity. Working from their main base in Western Europe, the Greens long ago entered and gained effective control of such organizations as the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). But they haven't stopped there; they're busy creating new engulfers and devourers.

 

For example, four years ago, before the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was anywhere close to being concluded, one keen anti-globalizer saw the future value of the Protocol. Lori Wallach, a Naderite-turned-anti-NAFTA-ite-turned-anti-WTO-er, declared, "The people eating the food or living in the environment that could be affected must decide domestic policy, not some secretive WTO tribunal." Her words may sound reasonable, but of course, it's not as if countries don't already have laws concerning food quality and environmental standards. Instead, the megaquestion is whether or not the World Trade Organization should become a forum for non-trade issues. Wallach says that the answer is "yes," because she's for anything that blurs the WTO's trade focus.

 

In her 1999 book, Whose Trade Organization? Corporate Globalization and the Erosion of Democracy, Wallach identified a strategy for dualizing the WTO. Her specific emphasis was the Cartagena Protocol; she argued that if it came into being, it would be a rival to the WTO. That is, if the WTO poses a threat to Green Protectionism -- and it does, as in the 1988 beef hormone case, when the EU was thwarted from "protecting" itself against harmless American beef by the sound science of a WTO adjudicatory panel -- then it is vital that the Cartagena Protocol come into being, so as to pose an even bigger threat to the WTO.

 

So if Wallach has her way, the Cartagena Protocol, powered by TPP, will supersede the WTO on genetically modified organisms and living modified organisms. The process might begin when the Protocol-signing countries -- 59, at last count -- start blocking the agro-exports of non-signatory countries, such as the US. In other words, the strategy of creating dual organizations to duel with the WTO is well underway.

 

To be sure, trade disputes might still go to the WTO. But as the Green-Grays shape the contours of "international opinion" and "international law" through their many agencies and outfits, the task for World Traders will become all the more uphill. How long will companies and politicians keep their nerve if they find themselves protested and pilloried as "Frankenfoodsters"? And given the current Greening shift in opinion, what will happen in the WTO? By now, how many Greens have been invited -- or hired -- into the WTO's innards?

 

As an example of what happens when Greens get inside the WTO, consider the WTO's "Draft Ministerial Text, Second Revision," released late Saturday, September 13. When the reader pokes through the document and comes across Annex A, entitled, "Framework for Establishing Modalities in Agriculture." Skipping down to Paragraph 2, entitled "market access," he or she is gratified to see that the language reaffirms the WTO's commitment to "substantial improvements in market access" for developing countries. So far, so good. But then we get to Paragraph 2.2, which takes much of it back. That paragraph allows developed countries "additional flexibility" for a limited number of products to be restricted "on the basis of non-trade concerns." According to Alan Oxley, these words, if they survive into the final publication, would "give the EU the chance to keep high tariffs on certain products" in the name of TPP. And that, he says, would create an ominous precedent for the WTO, as it gives over to non-scientific justifications for the breaching of its rules.

 

The World Trade Organization has a track record of success, and the countries that make up the WTO have the wealth that accrues to success. They won't give that up without a fight. But make no mistake, there will be a fight. The Green-Gray alliance wields tactics, such as entryism and dualism, that have proved effective in the past. And like the Reds in their day, the Gee-Gees of our day are inspired by visions of a better world. Always, the gleam of glory glitters the eye and livens the brain.

 

These Green-Grays can be defeated, but only by those who are equally serious about winning--and equally willing to match them in effort and intellect.

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