Karl Marx: The real meaning of "free trade"
Karl Marx exposed the real meaning of "free trade" at a public lecture in 1848 — more than 150 years ago. "What is free trade under the present condition of society?, he asked. "It is freedom of capital. When you have overthrown the few national barriers which still restrict the progress of capital, you will merely have given it complete freedom of action. "So long as you let the relation of wage labour to capital exist, it does not matter how favourable the conditions under which the exchange of commodities takes place, there will always be a class which will exploit and a class which will be exploited. "It is really difficult to understand the claim of the free-traders who imagine that the more advantageous application of capital will abolish the antagonism between industrial capitalist and wage workers. On the contrary, the only result will be that the antagonism of these two classes will stand out still more clearly. "Do not allow yourselves to be deluded by the abstract word `freedom'. Whose freedom? It is not the freedom of one individual in relation to another, but the freedom of capital to crush the worker. "All the destructive phenomena which unlimited competition gives rise to within one country are reproduced in more gigantic proportions on the world market. "One other thing must never be forgotten, namely, that just as everything has become a monopoly, there are also some branches of industry which dominate all others, and secure to the nations which most largely cultivate them, the command of the world market... "Do not imagine ... that in criticising freedom of trade we have the least intention of defending the system of protection ... "The protectionism system is nothing but a means of establishing large- scale industry in any given country, that is to say, of making it dependent upon the world market, and from the moment that dependence upon the world market is established, there is already more or less dependence upon free trade. "In general the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point The demonstrators in the streets of Quebec who join the massive demonstrations in many other cities around the world against corporate greed and corporate dictatorship, are living out the forecast of Karl Marx.