'Fast Track' Opposition Reflects Growing Movement for Democracy

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By Paul Garver

Throughout the spring, liberal Democrats and some Tea Party Republicans, aided by a coalition of labor, environmental, and progressive groups, joined forces against a massive corporate power grab known as “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) only to see it narrowly pass the House by a 218-208 vote in early June. TPA and the accompanying Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bills were signed into law by President Barack Obama on June 29. 

Polls show that a majority of American voters oppose “trade deals” that endanger workers’ jobs and environmental regulations. But the political game is rigged. Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority, which allows U.S. trade representatives to negotiate agreements in secret (retroactively in the TPP case), is not really about “free trade.” Such authority would cement the current inequitable structure of the global economy by enacting three sweeping investor protection treaties (Trans Pacific Partnership [TPP], Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [TTIP], and the Trade in Services Agreement [TISA]). Together these treaties would make it almost impossible for any political authority in any nation to enforce serious protections for workers, communities, or the environment. 

Capital plans to ensure perpetual corporate dominance through the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism for enforcing these treaties. Corporations that claim losses in their expected profits as a result of any governmental action that protects a country’s citizens can sue for monetary damages by taking it to a private and secretive panel of corporate lawyers. However, labor, environmental, or consumer organizations have no direct access to ISDS. The rulings of ISDS panels cannot be challenged in any court. Corporate ISDS claims under previous trade treaties are already threatening governments with massive damages for environmental and consumer protection regulations. For instance, Philip Morris has sued the governments of Uruguay, Australia, and the United Kingdom because those countries require very clear warnings on cigarette packages.

The struggle against these treaties has led to a massive and coordinated global resistance. The “Alliance of Teamsters and Turtles,” prefigured in the 1999 Seattle demonstrations, is becoming an organized coalition capable of driving a deep wedge into the current U.S. two-party system. A key leader of this coalition, former CWA president Larry Cohen, citing Hillary Clinton’s belated and equivocal comments on Fast Track and the TPP, endorsed and will work for Bernie Sanders, a fierce opponent of these corporate-driven trade deals.

Top-secret TPP treaty provisions will become accessible to congressional scrutiny two months before the accelerated debate under Fast Track can begin in Congress. This minor but useful delay is the single concrete achievement of the opposition to date.

Movements in Europe are gaining traction against the TTIP. The struggles in the streets for racial justice, campaigns for improving the lot of low-income workers, for rescuing democracy from the stranglehold of money, for divesting universities from fossil fuel investments are rising...and converging. The comprehensive political revolution advocated by democratic socialist Bernie Sanders may not result in his winning the presidency, but its strong appeal to many activists reveals the deep hunger for genuine political change.

 PaulGarverAID_100.png  Paul Garver, a retired international union organizer, is a member of DSA’s National Political Committee and co-editor of Talking Union, DSA’s labor network blog (talkingunion.wordpress.com), where you can follow trade issues as they unfold.

This article originally appeared in the fall 2015 issue of the Democratic Left magazine.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

 

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 46 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 55 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 52 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.