Old times were not good times
By Gaither Stewart
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Oct 12, 2007, 01:00
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
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,
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.
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 www.Wastelandrunes.com He lives with
his wife, Milena, in Rome, Italy. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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