North and South Need a New Beginning Arnoldo Garc¡a examines NAFTA's implications for social movements in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada: Solidarity across borders now! Probably not since the Mexican Revolution have U.S. and Mexican activists worked together with such determination and hope as in the fight against "this NAFTA" -- a North American Free Trade Agreement tailored to suit transnational capital. In 1911, a few months after the Mexican Revolution had begun, several hundred Wobblies (among them Joe Hill) joined Mexican revolutionaries led by the Flores Mag¢n brothers and rode into Baja California from the U.S. side. They seized control of the territory for several months, helping to consolidate the overthrow of the Porfiriato, the Porfirio D¡az dictatorship which had been in power from 1876 to 1910. What will happen now in the wake of the Chiapas uprising against the Mexican government for signing NAFTA? Eighty years ago, a challenge to Mexico's subordination to the U.S. was an integral component of the Mexican Revolution. The Porfiriato had opened Mexico to foreign capital and strategic sectors of the economy were dominated by the United States. Minerals, oil, railroads and great extensions of land were foreign owned. For the Magonistas and Wobblies, this meant cross-border organizing as part of the Mexican revolutionary struggle. Today, resistance to the consequences of global economic integration demands a new beginning for cross- border actions. Now that NAFTA has passed, we are going to have to ride across borders north and south to bring about an alternative to the agreement's corporation-shaped version of political and economic integration. TRINATIONAL NETWORKING The cooperation and networking developed by U.S., Mexican, and Canadian activists who sought alternative approaches to economic integration that would enhance labor, environmental and human rights follows in the footsteps of the Wobblies and Magonistas. It also opens a dramatic new chapter in international organizing and networking in this part of the world. The Canada Action Network and the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC) developed in opposition to NAFTA. In the U.S., various fair trade and social justice coalitions and campaigns were formed. Trinational consultations on "free trade" and its impact were held in Canada, the U.S., at the U.S.-Mexico border and in Mexico. These were grassroots movements involving trade unions, environmentalists, small farmers, social justice activists, women's organizations and religious groups. Since NAFTA negotiations began in 1990, greater awareness of the socioeconomic disparities among the three countries grew. Regular exchanges and conferences between sectors and organizations carrying on anti-NAFTA work have become commonplace. Delegations from the U.S. and Canada have gone to Mexico to observe state elections and now meet regularly with their counterparts. Independent trade unionists from Mexico and Canada tour U.S. communities. Much as when the Wobblies joined in the action of the Partido Liberal Mexicano of Enrique and Ricardo Flores Mag¢n -- anarcho-syndicalists who helped author the Zapatista manifesto that proclaimed "Land & Liberty" and "the land belongs to those who work it" -- the rise of bi-national and tri-national movements for empowerment, democracy and solidarity are a natural response to the global depravations being brought on by predatory capital. In all three countries, the battle over NAFTA has changed the political landscape. With NAFTA's passage, internationalism has become a more-urgent-than-ever imperative. This is no time for abstract sentiment or rhetorical calls for "proletarian internationalism." NAFTA forces all movements for progressive social change to focus concretely on the diverse and heterogeneous working classes which exist within each country and across their borders. Building, maintaining and strengthening cross-border alliances are not luxuries, but absolute necessities in waging battles for equality, justice and human rights. As Jorge Casta¤eda, prominent Mexican political analyst, wrote in Proceso, an independent progressive Mexican magazine, the democratic forces of Mexico (and elsewhere) must "struggle to change NAFTA and transform it into a factor of growth with justice, democracy and rule by law, of consolidating what little we have remaining of sovereignty, and to struggle against intolerable corruption that dominates the country.... This is the only path that conjugates principles and opportunity, conviction and realism." Today's cross-border organizing is also the result of parallel political developments that affected all three countries during the 1980s and have pushed everyone into the same corner. In the U.S., the rise of the Rainbow Coalition signalled a new stage in the fight for the unfinished civil rights agenda, utilizing the electoral arena. In Mexico during this same time electoral challenges to the ruling government party, the PRI, arose. Changes in the left resulted in the formation of the Mexican Socialist Party (PMS). Combined with a split in the PRI and a growing independent movement for democracy, this led to the formation of the broad National Democratic Front (FDN) that encompassed all the left parties and popular organizations. In the 1988 elections, Cuauht‚moc C rdenas was chosen as the FDN's presidential candidate; he won the election but his victory was fraudulently stolen by the PRI. In the aftermath, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) was formed with C rdenas at its head. Together with the flourishing democratic movement of NGO's, human rights groups, and independent unions, PRD supporters provided a large base for the rise of trinational networking opposing NAFTA. VIVA ZAPATA, ABAJO CON NAFTA! One of the first fruits of NAFTA was 1994's New Year's Day arrival: a new guerrilla movement. A U.S. tourist, who was cutting short his visit to Chiapas, Mexico's southern-most state, told CNN: "I thought Mexico was peaceful. But apparently this state is different." Many of the proponents of NAFTA probably thought so as well. The emergence of the Ej‚rcito Zapatista de Liberaci¢n Nacional (Zapatista National Liberation Army, EZLN) caught everyone by surprise. The EZLN declared war on the central government of Mexico and timed their uprising to coincide with NAFTA's implementation. An EZLN leader declared that "The free trade agreement is a death certificate for the Indian peoples of Mexico, who are dispensable for the Government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari." Choosing the name of Emiliano Zapata as the EZLN's namesake identifies the movement with the symbol of national liberation, of the unfinished agrarian revolution in Mexico, and of the resistance to displacement of Mexican indigenous peoples from traditional land holdings. The EZLN probably will not reach Mexico City, the seat of power, though large demonstrations in support of the group's fight for justice are now taking place there. But the EZLN is an immediate sign that widespread resistance to political and economic disenfranchisement is on Mexico's agenda. And Mexico will not be alone. From Global Pillage to Global Village -- a document endorsed by nearly 80 organizations and individuals representing working people and people of color -- declares: "The current globalizing process increasingly marginalizes and disenfranchises poor women and men, migrant workers and immigrants. The concept of citizenship and the practice of democratic rights are becoming meaningless as nation-states either lack the means or the will to regulate capital, to legalize labor mobility, and to provide access to a dignified and participatory life for great portions of their populations." For Mexico, NAFTA represents a reversal of gains initially made by the Mexican Revolution. These included the 1938 nationalization of petroleum, a measure of agrarian reform and other nationalist policies that favored Mexico's economic and social needs and provided some benefits to the millions who toiled in industry and agriculture. For the last 12 years especially, these gains have been under fierce assault. Now, with NAFTA, U.S. capital has opened up even greater access to Mexico's resources, including energy resources. Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution had forbidden foreign ownership of land and re-distributed lands seized from large-landowners as ejidos (small plots of lands communally-owned by peasants and indigenous communities that could not be sold); this Article has now been "reformed." Now private and communal land holdings can be leased out or bought by anyone. Canada's natural resources, markets and industries are also opened by NAFTA. The U.S. and Canada have had a free trade agreement since 1989, which has already cost Canadian workers hundreds of thousands of jobs. Bertha Lujan, a leader of the Mexican Workers Authentic Front (FAT), declared that "the model of integration that is being imposed on Mexico and the rest of Latin America... means dependence on a hegemonic country...the U.S., which intends to preserve its hegemony facing its Asian and European competitors." Without strong "social contract" provisions ensuring rights for workers and the weaker national economies, this will almost always be the case when "free trade" agreements are signed between countries with unequal economic clout. NAFTA does not drastically change anything overnight, but it codifies the subordination of the Mexican economy to U.S. interests; and, in combination with Canada, pools together natural resources, capital and labor to create the largest trade bloc in the world with a combined gross domestic product of $6 trillion and 362 million potential consumers. NAFTA is not a small difference in the U.S.- Mexico relations. It provides the mechanisms and guarantors to safeguard U.S. capital investment in Mexico and locks Mexico and Canada into U.S. global designs. NAFTA is also the mechanism to incorporate other countries into a "free trade zone." Mexico and the United States are already seeking free trade agreements regionally and across the Latin American continent. Mexico signed a preliminary agreement with Columbia and Venezuela; the U.S. is vigorously pursuing FTAs with Chile and the rest of Latin America. Behind this process lies the struggle among the three trade blocs represented by NAFTA, the European Community and the Asian Pacific Rim led by Japan to dominate the global economy. NAFTA did include two side agreements on labor and the environment which were the result of the multiple pressures to open up the negotiations to democratic input. In the end the side agreements were very limited, morsels designed more to defuse resistance than meet popular needs. Still they provide opportunities to apply further pressure and to demand that resources be channeled to ameliorate the impact on the least protected communities, especially along the U.S.-Mexico border. Noam Chomsky wrote that NAFTA will "impose a mixture of liberalization and protection, designed to keep wealth and power firmly in the hands of the masters of the `new imperial age.'" However, as the trinational implementation of NAFTA began January 1, 1993, those masters have their hands full. They have their agenda for shaping North-South relations -- but the popular movements have our agenda for a new beginning between North and South as well. Solidarity across borders lies at the heart of that project. On a map of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, Chiapas is at the bottom. Here's to a resurgent tri-national movement for social justice, from the bottom up.