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Analysis Last Updated: Oct 12th, 2007 - 01:01:47

Old times were not good times
By Gaither Stewart
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 12, 2007, 01:00

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Globalization is by no means new. The exportation of jobs -- that is the loss of local employment that the beloved corporate word �globalization� implies -- is as old as imperialism. The Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and Romans of the ancient world, as well as the Aztecs in the New World, solved the problem of labor costs with the use of slaves, slaves both at home and in their colonies. In more recent times the euphemism of �globalization� is applied to the outsourcing of labor to places where it costs the very least, from the USA to Mexico, as from West Europe to East Europe and Asia.

In a recent issue of the Buenos Aires daily, El Clarin, appears a photograph of a 1910 shoemaker�s shop in Buenos Aires depicting the familiar scene of a master shoemaker and a barefoot apprentice of 7 or 8 years sleeping at the worktable. In this article the historian Felipe Pigna describes how children in �rich� Buenos Aires of the period began working at age 5 or 6 at extremely risky jobs for practically no pay, at a time when there were no child labor laws to protect them.

In that same period the exploitation of child labor was happening in many parts of Europe. Working people from Europe were flocking to Argentina to escape such desperate labor conditions. World opinion is aware that exploitation of child labor continues today in Asia with its soaring GNP. Together with prostitution of minors and unprotected labor, child labor and exploited labor are part and parcel of globalization: the cheapest labor steals jobs from already poor workers elsewhere. Workers of the first, second and third worlds, should wonder about the real meaning of globalization and the economic problems connected with the creation of national wealth.

Since I have been in Argentina, I have posed to myself the old question of whether or not fabled Argentina is a rich country. If not, then why not? A question that more and more Argentineans pose to themselves today. For Argentina, the Argentine, from the word for silver, was long considered the land of promise. The ramifications of the question are endless.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Argentina was widely called the �granary of the world.� But since a granary is in reality no more than a deposit, granary Argentina didn�t create jobs or add value in economic terms -- except of course for the benefit of the narrow landowner class, many of whom had acquired their land illegally by simply taking possession of it.

So the Argentine �granary of the world� created little employment for anyone. The result was -- now over a century ago -- the exportation of jobs together with the country�s cattle, sheep and wheat that went to Great Britain where they were transformed into shoes, sweaters, meat and flour that were then sold throughout the world and also resold back to Argentina, all at enormous profits.

Rich Argentina? Rich, yes, rich in land. And again for the very few! The masters of the country, the landowners, the cattle breeders, the grain barons, created an idyllic image of the nation�s grandfathers, portraying them as the austere fathers of the nation, not given to ostentation. That was the rich Argentina of myth.

The opposite is true. Instead of investing in industry and in the creation of jobs for its people, the fortunate few thought things were just fine in that early form of globalization. As their wealth became more and more fabulous, they dedicated themselves to enjoying their lives and their riches, to the building of magnificent country estates and luxurious mansions in Buenos Aires, and to travel to Europe.

While one of the �aristocratic� families built in Buenos Aires the Palacio Paz, modeled on the Louvre in Paris, at the astronomic cost of 4.5 million pesos in 1908, financed at low interest rates by banks controlled by the new �aristocracy,� the same banks denied loans to workers sacrificing their health to build the urban mansions at salaries of less than 100 pesos a month. Ironically, the magnificent Palacio Paz on elegant Plaza San Martin is today the headquarters of the Military Club of Argentina.

It was the same old story: the rich became richer; the poor poorer; and Power kept the poor in their place with the use of its own military forces. In that Argentina, too, the worst suffering of all was reserved for children. Child labor!

Just south of north -- globalization at work       

In the north of Latin America, just south of the Rio Grande, what are Mexican maize farmers to think of globalization in the form of NAFTA free trade agreements that permit subsidized US farmers to dump their corn in Mexico -- much of it genetically modified and forbidden by law in Mexico and much of the world -- driving the hapless, poor and unsubsidized Mexican corn farmer out of business, while the local price of corn flour and tortillas, the stable of the Mexican diet, skyrockets?

This aspect of globalization destroys traditional Mexican agriculture. As the editor of the Mexico City leftwing daily, La Jornada, recalls, �When Mexican corn is in danger, Mexico is in danger. Without corn Mexico does not exist. Corn comes from the gods, it is culture and religion.�

The average thinking man must reject the reductive and flowery claim that globalization is simply integration of economic, political and cultural systems across the globe, bringing with it more efficiency and well-being. As in all times and all places, it is first the exploitation of the workingman (and again the use of child labor) for the benefit of a few to the detriment of weaker economies.

Globalization is an old ideology. The rhetoric about the creation of new markets is only propaganda. Peoples of the globe need jobs, food and health care, not new markets for the industrialized world. Twist it and turn it any way you will, and describe it in glowing economic terms, globalization still results in the suppression of local economies. Globalization is not just cheap air travel and telephones for all. Such amenities are unwelcome when they eliminate jobs and put workers in the hands of the capitalist few.

Global democracy? Malarkey. For anyone with eyes to see it is apparent that globalization is above all an instrument of imperialism. And what kind of democracy does one mean? The democracy that the strong export with war? In the final analysis, globalization makes the strong, stronger, the weak, weaker.

It is widely known that inequalities in the world are growing, not diminishing. Pro capita income has fallen in 70 countries in the past 20 years while the gap in income between rich and poor is everywhere skyrocketing. Any number of statistical studies show that half the world�s population lives on less than $2 a day and millions suffer from disease and malnutrition. Globalization is not progress. It is the ideology of the narrow capitalist class in global expansion, across borders, across the oceans, into the jungles and deserts. It is the creation of modern slaves.

Modern globalization is driven by the same multinational corporations that organize today�s wars, control supplies of vital necessities for the world population and, as anyone can know, control world wealth.

While rich Argentine families once amused themselves by throwing golden tableware into the ocean on their joyous voyages to Europe, they crossed ships traveling in the opposite direction carrying, on deck or in third class, the fresh hopeful workers headed for prosperous and free Argentina, called by the rich landowners �the land of great promise.�

But from those same emigrant ships also disembarked in the port of Buenos Aires exponents of anarchism and Socialism fleeing from persecution in Europe. They brought with them the labor and political experience that would lead to the political struggles against the exploiting class and its military regimes supported by the USA that culminated in the military dictatorship of the 1970s and '80s and its 30,000 desaparecidos.

Gaither Stewart, writer and journalist, is originally from Asheville, NC. After studies at the University of California at Berkeley and other American universities, he has lived his adult life abroad, first in Germany, then in Italy, alternated with long residences in The Netherlands, France, Mexico and Russia. After a career in journalism as the Italian correspondent for the Rotterdam daily newspaper, Algemeen Dagblad, and contributor to the press, radio and TV in various European countries, he writes fiction full-time. His books of fiction, "Icy Current Compulsive Course, To Be A Stranger" and "Once In Berlin" are published by Wind River Press. His new novel, "Asheville," is published by He lives with his wife, Milena, in Rome, Italy. E-mail:

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