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Understanding ACTA

ACTA from a marxist point of view

Thursday 2 February 2012, by mond

The opposition against ACTA if finally getting some momentum, but it seems most of the critique focuses on its impact on the internet. While this is an important aspect this is buy no means the only problem with ACTA.

In order to really understand ACTA we need to look at the economic side of it. Who would profit from its implementation? This is, we should look at it from a marxist point of view [1].

How Capitalism Works

Capitalist society works by exploiting social relations, or more precisely social difference. One class holds the means of production (= owns the factories) and another class has nothing more then to sell their labor power in order to survive. Capitalists compete with one another on the market and thus they are driven to make there products as cheep as possible. So they will not be able to pay their workers much more then they need to survice (or else they risk to go out of bussiness). This setting takes care that this social relation stays the way it was: The working class will stay poor and the capitalist will get richer.

Higher Profits through Outsourcing

Now the less the capitalist has to pay to the worker the higher his/her profit. So outsourcing production to countries with a lower level of wages brings higher profits. (And the competition on the market ensures that those who do not make use of this will go out of business).

But there is a problem here. Unlike in the setting above it is much more likely that the outsourced production will create new competition: Lets say a few people who used to work in one of the sweatshops decide to take matters into their own hand. They get some sponsoring (maybe from local capitalists or the local government) to build up a factory that produces on their own and tries to directly market their products without the intermediary.

Keep up the Difference

So in order to keep up the wage difference and to keep up the profits the capitalist needs some way to ensure that know-how of the production does not disseminate and also to prevent the access to the markets for the new competitors. This is where trade agreements like ACTA come into play.

While dissemination of knowledge can not be easily stopped, these so called “Intellectual Property” laws can at least make it illegal to use.

Why ACTA is bad

From the analysis of the last paragraph it is already easy to understand why ACTA is bad:

- The better the protection of the so called “Intellectual Property” there more there is motivation for outsourcing: How ACTA kills your job
- The better the restriction of trade works the easier it is to keep the poor countries poor while exploiting them.

Each year about 10 Million people have to starve even thought there would be enough food to feed everyone on this planet. Buy keeping the poor countries poor this treaty will be responsible for this continued killing. A disgrace to mankind.

here is a scientific study that analysis the effect of ACTA on poor nations. It labels it as “Collateral Damage”. But from the marxist point of view we see that this damage is not “collateral” at all: Keeping the poor stay poor is the first and foremost intention of ACTA!

A lot of people point out how ACTA will impact ACTA the access to medicines in developing countries, but it is not just medicine. It is knowledge, technology, food, clothes, houses,... What kind of right do we have to deprive these people from the access to anything?

But lets take a look at

the History of ACTA

First: the rich nations (which are all under regimes that are completely corruped and bribed by big corporations tried to impose their IP-regime through the WTO-TRIPS negotiations onto the poorer countries. This worked for a while but soon the developing countries recognized that it was not in their interest to be forced to pay licensing fees to access know-ledge that could otherwise be free and beneficial to all mankind. So the negotiations for TRIPS+ (the successor of TRIPS) got stuck. The tactics of backroom deals and bullying did no longer work. This is was the moment when the richer nations decided that they had to start enforcing their IP-Regime against without the consent of the oppressed. This is when the ACTA negotiations started.

This is a really bad precedent! We must never allow the rich countries to design and implement global rules against the will of the poorer countries! The only possible answer to ACTA is an international solidarity!

Policy Laundering

Now no one is surprised that they tried to have the negotiations of this treaty that runs completely against all public interests where held in complete secrecy and we where only informed by the negotiations due to leaked documents.

In this, ACTA is a perfect example of Policy laundering: Countries negotiate important rules on an international level. Then they bring those rules home and pretend that this was the best “possible compromise” and that they are not happy with it but they have to sign it anyway. This way national parliaments and other democratic institutions are bypassed.

So if we allow the ruling elites to get this through then they will continue this strategy to further bypass our parliaments. It is important here to notice: In order to avoid the mechanism of policy laundering it is not enough that the finial documents is made public after a negotiation in secrecy: It is necessary that every step of the negotiation is made public: Who demands what and why? (Else everyone will blame that the bad parts of the treaty where demanded by the other side).

In a democratic society, if we want to hold our elected representatives accountable for what they do, we must not allow any treaty that was negotiated in secrecy!

Some interesting observations

Have you ever noticed how horrible slow the international negotiations are when it comes to protecting our environment, reduce greenhouse gases, closing down tax havens, establishing minimum standards for labor rights or find some decent measures to solve the financial crisis? They go from one summit to the next and all they have for us is hot air. But when it comes to negotiate something such highly controversial like this there is suddenly no problem and within just a few years they have a treaty ready for signing!

This is one of the points where we can see how deeply corrupted our political system is. As long as it helps the maintain the profit of the 1% all the world leaders, wether social democrats [2], conservatives, democrats or republicans they are all in for it.

To Sum it up: why we have to stop ACTA

- ACTA will destroy the freedom of the internet
- ACTA will keep the poor countries poor and thus will kill people. (10 Million/year already starving)
- ACTA will promote outsourcing and offshoring: it kills your job
- ACTA was negotiated without and against the less developed countries. We must not allow a precedent for such kind of negotiations. Global trade must not be regulated against the will of the smaller countries.
- ACTA was negotiated in secrecy. We must now allow this kind of policy laundering.

Franz Schäfer — January 2012

(Image Copyright by Richard Stallman CC Attribution Noderivs 3.0 unported)

Update: 11-Mar-2012: Also see this Article byThijs Markus - in the end it comes down to: “Why? Well, to take Nike for example, they figured that if they could produce and bring a shoe to a store for $5, and sell it for $150, they get a whooping $145 profit margin


[1This is one of the basic principles of marxist view: Take a look at the economic basis side of things that determines the superstructure (Laws, Ideologies, Myths...)

[2It is especially disappointing to see how Obama is fostering the IP regime

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