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Bread and Circuses: The US ‘show’ elections

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Most workers in the US vote for one or other of the bosses’ parties. Why when the whole electoral machine is corrupted by bosses’ money and fraudulent practices should we take it seriously? Even if workers are allowed to vote what do we gain? After all an election, as Lenin said, is the right to vote every few years for our oppressors? So what’s the point? There is a point, but only if revolutionaries use the elections as a platform to raise their revolutionary program! Otherwise elections are no more than ‘bread and circuses’.

Bush exploits fear

The fact is that many workers are deluded into believing that the US is the great benefactor of the world, the defender of democracy and human rights. The bosses’ media has scared them into voting for Bush to defend their country from the threat of ‘terrorism’. The ‘alternative’ media that produces critical views of the Bush administration and its economic interests, like Fahrenheit 9-11, Outfoxed and The Corporation, still reach only a minority audience.

Many of these workers are the better paid ‘labour aristocracy’ who have benefited from decades of US domination of the world market. There are also lower paid migrant workers who put their hopes in a strong US to protect their jobs. The US economic crisis is cutting the wages and conditions of well paid as well as poorly paid workers to restore the bosses’ profits. The bosses’ shift the responsibility for the crisis by inciting workers to blame migrants or workers in other countries for stealing their jobs. This economic insecurity is manipulated by the bosses into support for aggressive US policies against other countries such as Iraq. In this way the ‘war in terror’ becomes a test of the patriotism of US workers in support of the US ruling class to dominate the world economy.

We say to these workers that Bush is not defending your interests. Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Bush is making you pay for these wars with your jobs, your wages, your rights and the lives of your children, draft or no draft. The ‘terrorists’ in Iraq or Colombia are largely the poor and oppressed people of those countries invaded and plundered by US imperialism over generations who are now fighting back with whatever means available.

Bush is using the ‘war on terror’ to fight a never-ending terrorist war against the poor workers and peasants of this world to re-colonise their countries to ‘smash and grab’ the oil, gas, and other vital resources. Now he is making war against the poor inside the USA. Voting for Bush will bring more ‘terror’ at home not less. Bush’s ‘homeland security’ will take away all your union and civil rights, including your right to vote for anybody but Republican. Siding with Bush puts you offside with the vast majority of the poor workers and farmers of the world!

Bush lite

But will voting for Kerry make a difference? The democratic party presents itself as a more liberal bosses’ party. Yet it drew on racist southern democratic support for years. Under Clinton the Democrats introduced policies of workfare taking away the welfare rights of millions. It is supported by the main union organisation the AFL-CIO –the same organisation that supported Bush’s invasion of Iraq and of Haiti.

Kerry claims he does not endorse the extreme militarism of the New American Century faction of the US ruling class which calls for the US to invade any country where it has a vital interest. (http://www.newamericancentury.org/). But this policy was already the hallmark of US foreign policy in the 19th century and continued in the 20th century under Democrat leaders like Roosevelt and Kennedy. Kerry pretends that the US can continue to rule the world without ‘going it alone’ and splitting with the other major powers. He may not have invaded Iraq knowing that Saddam did not have WMDs or connections to al Queda. But like the last Democrat president, Clinton, he would have bombed Iraq and Kosovo to enforce UN resolutions.

Leftists for Kerry

Many prominent ‘left’ intellectuals are supporting a Kerry vote as the only way to get rid of Bush. Some, like Noam Chomsky, say that this is necessary in the ‘swing’ states were a few hundred votes may make the difference. Yet it seems that it will be the lawyers hired by the Democrats that make the difference, not the followers of Chomsky et al.

The leftists for Kerry use a ‘lesser evil’ argument that says that US imperialism can be more humane and democratic under Kerry. It is a view echoed by prominent ‘Eurocommunists’ like Tony Negri who says that Bush’s leadership is a retreat from a multilateral world Empire back to a unilateral US imperialism. Others, like former right-winger Chalmers Johnson in his book the ‘Sorrows of Empire’, say that the rise of US militarism is because the Pentagon now controls the state.

Return to ‘ultra imperialism’?

All of these ‘lesser evil’ arguments promote the belief that the US can conduct itself without going to war to defend its leading role in the world economy. This is a return to Kautsky’s theory of ‘ultra-imperialism’ at the time of WW 1. Kautsky claimed that the big corporations and big banks no longer had an interest in fighting wars since their assets were now distributed across many countries and would be damaged by war. Today, with the rise of the global economy, the power of finance capital and trans-nationals spanning the world market, these Kautskyites claim that national rivalries are even more anachronistic.

What these apologists for the big corporations overlook is the fact that the current crisis of world capitalism does not allow the US and its imperialist rivals the luxury of collaborating peacefully. They are each driven to compete to win larger shares of trade and control of vital resources at each other’s expense. Whatever the minor policy differences between Bush and Kerry these will quickly disappear. Under the impact of the deepening economic crisis it is impossible for US imperialism to collaborate with its main rivals in the scramble for scarce resources such as oil and gas.

Therefore we say to all those who call for a vote for Kerry to get rid of Bush, that this is promoting the illusion that Kerry will be better for workers than Bush. We say that this election is a ‘show’ election where the victor will be whoever has the biggest budget, the dirtiest tricks, and the power to delude the masses that they can be secure from the threat of ‘terrorism’. Voting for Kerry will only contribute to these illusions and delusions, rather than challenging workers to organise against the interests of an imperialist ruling class that hides behind the ‘bread and circus’ elections. A good example of this is the AFL-CIO sabotage of the recent Million Man March as a ‘diversion’ from the Kerry election campaign.

Million (50,000) Man March

According to Martin Schreader, editor of Appeal to Reason:: “On October 17, the Million Worker March was held in Washington, DC. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the main dockworkers’ union on the west coast, initiated the event, and organised it with the assistance of local unions and leftwing organisations across the country. The march put forward a series of concrete demands ranging from universal healthcare and abolition of restrictive anti-labour laws to democratic control of the media and the economy.

The immediate goal of the MWM, according to organisers, was to “gauge where workers are” – to see how many workers were open to a radical-democratic and socialist platform. The ultimate goal would have been to use the march as the basis for beginning to build a new political party of working people.” (Weekly Worker 549 Thursday October 21 2004).

But this rally was sabotaged by the AFL-CIO now so attached to the Democratic Party that not only did it refuse to allow its member unions to participate in a march against the administration in Washington, but it collaborated with the Homeland Security authorities to have busloads of workers stopped and questioned on the way to the rally. Many buses were turned around and only 50,000 rallied to the march. This open betrayal can only add fuel to the rallying call for independent unions and a mass Workers’ Party.

Nader is a left Democrat

Against the open collaboration of left intellectuals and the labour bureaucrats of the AFL-CIO with the Democrats, several small left reformist parties are putting up their own candidates. Do these parties offer an alternative for the workers’ vote? Nader, the Greens, the Socialist Workers Party, Workers World Party, among others, stand on platforms opposing both Republicans and Democrats.

Nader would replace the US ‘coalition’ troops in Iraq with UN troops. He demands more state spending on education, welfare etc. But his real position is to provoke the Democrats to offer a more left alternative to the Republicans. His agenda is a return to some ideal concept of a democratic, humane, welfarist, but still social-imperialist, USA. That is, his reforms for US workers would be paid out of the super-profits extracted by US imperialism in its colonies and semi-colonies. This is a left bosses’ program not very different from the Labour parties and Social Democrat parties in Europe, where sometimes revolutionaries give critical support to get these parties elected and exposed as anti-worker. Does Nader quality for critical support? No way!

The difference between Nader and social democracy is that Nader has no backing in the organised working class which sees in him a party that represents its interests. Therefore to call for a critical vote for Nader would be to sow illusions in the possibility of the Democrats reforming themselves into a social democratic alternative to the Republicans. For the same reasons that workers should not vote for Kerry, they should not vote for Nader or the Greens who also promote reformist illusions about ‘greening’ and ‘humanising’ capitalism. Nevertheless, this has not stopped many small so-called Trotskyist groups from endorsing Nader-Camejo, e.g. International Socialist Organisation (ex-Cliffite-or SWP (UK) and SWO (NZ); Socialist Alternative (CWI or Socialist Party (UK) Left Party/Solidarity etc.

Socialist alternatives?

A number of socialist groups today see the US under any fraction of the ruling class –left, right or center –as incapable of delivering real democracy. Martin Schreader of the Debs faction in the Socialist Party sees the victory of Bush in 2000 as marking the end of the 2nd Republic (which began with the victory of the northern bourgeoisie against the southern slaveowners in the civil war of the 1860s). Similarly, a leader of the Communist Party of Great Britain says that because the elections are rigged by those with wealth and power, the US needs a ‘third’ democratic revolution. The CPGB would join with Schreader in voting for the Socialist Party (US) candidates.

For all of these groups this proposed democratic revolution will require the mobilisation of the working masses to replace those with wealth and power with a genuinely democratic republic. Their programs are therefore limited to immediate and democratic demands for civil rights, union rights and economic welfare such as jobs, health, education, welfare rights, women’s and migrants rights, repeal of homeland security, opposition to the war on Iraq war etc.

Good as far as they go, but not nearly far enough! All of these demands are raised on the premise that workers can build an electoral majority and return a workers’ party to Congress and the White House to complete the national revolution.

But standing candidates on such reformist programs creates a trap for workers because it reinforces the illusion that a parliamentary majority can make capitalism democratic, when every historical example of such programs have been defeated by reactionary anti-democratic counter-revolutions, from Germany in 1919 to Chile in 1973. As we will see below the Bolsheviks avoided this trap only because they rejected the Menshevik theory that the workers led by progressive bourgeois intellectuals can force capitalism to deliver democratic demands and economic welfare.

Unlike most of the other US left parties which evolved out of Stalinism or social democracy, the Socialist Workers Party (US) is standing candidates on this Menshevik policy as a result of consciously rejecting the Leninist/Trotskyist ideological weapon used to destroy the argument of the Mensheviks in 1917 –the concept of ‘permanent revolution’.

Socialist Workers Party and Cuban ‘socialism’

The SWP candidates take a position very similar to others on the socialist left – calling for workers to complete the bourgeois revolution in the US. But their program is more credible to militant workers because of their past association with Trotsky. The SWP are the party strong influenced by Trotsky when he was in exile in Mexico in the 1930’s. Today, having broken with Trotskyism the SWP has the dubious distinction of holding up the Cuban revolution as a model of how the democratic revolution can be completed in the US.

Castro defeated the colonial power (US) and its landowning agents (Bastista etc) and put revolutionary nationalist intellectuals into power in 1959. This was a democratic national revolution in which the workers and peasants backed a left bourgeois leadership. It went beyond a national revolution only when the counter-revolution of the US and its local agents forced Castro to expropriate capitalist property. The SWP does not recognise that Castro is part of a Stalinist bureaucracy that controls the economy, which has to be removed by a ‘political revolution’ to open the road to socialism.

According to the SWP, the Cuban revolution proves that it is possible for petty bourgeois intellectuals to complete the stage of a national revolution, and then go on to make a socialist revolution. Instead of recognising that Cuba is a bureaucratic workers state where the Castroite leadership must be overthrown, the SWP elevates the Castroites to the role of the vanguard of the Menshevik two-stage transition to socialism.

Translated to the US election today, the SWP presidential candidates, like the other left reformist candidates, call for the first stage of this transition, the ‘democratic dictatorship’ of the workers and farmers i.e. a radical democratic bourgeois republic. The second, socialist, stage will only become possible when further conditions are present, in particular, mass support for the expropriation of capitalist property.

But to suggest that it will be possible for US workers to complete the bourgeois revolution short of socialism is to reject the revolutionary program of Lenin and Trotsky that made the Russian revolution possible. In taking this position the SWP rejects Trotsky’s program of Permanent Revolution and substitutes the Menshevik program of 1917 and of the Cuban revolution.

Permanent Revolution

Revolutionaries cannot call for workers to vote for any of the reformists left candidates because they delude workers into thinking that a mass workers movement can make capitalist democracy work. This was a theory rejected by Lenin in his April Theses of 1917. Until that time he and the rest of the Bolsheviks thought that Russia was not ripe for socialist revolution. Russia needed a bourgeois revolution to prepare the conditions for a socialist revolution. But the Russian bourgeoisie were too weak to overthrow the Tsar. It would be necessary for the workers and the peasantry to join forces to do what the bourgeoisie could not do. This was called the ‘democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’.

But it became increasingly obvious that to prevent the return of the Tsarist regime workers and peasants would have to take power from the bourgeoisie who would rather ally with Tsarism and imperialism than allow workers to take power. And once workers took power, what would be the point of limiting their program to the bourgeois constitution in defence of private property. After Lenin returned to Russia, he and Trotsky joined forces to win over the Bolsheviks to their position of ‘permanent’ or ‘uninterrupted’ revolution.

It proved to be the case that only the Bolsheviks could muster the workers, peasants and soldiers to defeat the Tsar, the Russian bourgeoisie and the imperialist forces. In doing this they created a workers state, expropriated capitalist property and defended the revolution from counter-revolution. In Germany, where a Bolshevik party did not exist, the revolution failed to break from the bourgeoisie and was disarmed by the reformists’ promise of a ‘democratic’ republic. The new Weimar republic contained the revolutionary upturn of the masses and paved the way for the rise of fascism in Germany to smash the working class.

A Trotskyist program for the US election

Working class history written in blood reveals why revolutionaries do not give political support to any bourgeois parties but must call instead for the independent political organisation of the workers. The only program that revolutionaries can raise in the US elections is a revolutionary program. By definition such a program cannot be realised by completing the democratic revolution. On the contrary, the democratic revolution can only be completed as part of a socialist revolution.

Therefore an electoral program must be a transitional program that includes not only the most basic immediate and democratic demands but also socialist demands such as the formation of independent working class organisations like parties, councils and militias, capable of seizing power and creating a workers’ and small farmers’ state.

For the formation of a mass Workers’ or Labour Party!

For rank and file control of the unions independent of the state!

For a 30 hour working week on a living wage to combat unemployment!

For a program of public works, state-funded health, education and housing, all paid for by taxes on the rich!

For civil rights and citizenship rights for all minorities and migrants!

For the nationalisation of all capitalist property, including the banks, without compensation and under workers control!

A mass workers party based upon independent unions raising such demands will quickly come up against the reactionary state forces and propel workers to form soviets, militias, and national organs of workers power preparatory to the seizure of state power and the creation of a Workers and small farmers State as part of a federation of socialist republics of the Americas!

From Class Struggle 58 October-November 2004

Written by raved

January 8, 2010 at 3:50 pm

The Social Re-Forum of Aotearoa

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From Class Struggle 52, September/October 2003

The Social Forum Aotearoa is meeting in November at Porirua to gather together those ‘social movements’ in NZ that are broadly anti-globalist and anti-capitalist.  The fundamental problem with these WSF currents is that they are reformist, believing it possible to overcome the defects of capitalism internationally without overthrowing it. The reason for this is that the gurus who dominate the WSF like Naomi Klein, George Monbiot, Noam Chomsky and Walden Bello, say that capitalist exploitation is caused by unequal exchange driven by powerful elites who can be replaced by more powerful masses.  We agree that a ‘A New World Is Possible’. But this must not be the old world order in new clothes, but a new socialist world.
The purpose of this article is to explain why this understanding of capitalism is wrong and why it leads to such disastrous consequences. Some anti-globalists like Monbiot argue that globalisation can only be resisted by an international civil society developing out of the institutions like the UN. This tendency is theorised in the book Empire by Hardt and Negri. Others seek to reclaim national sovereignty from these globalising forces. In NZ, ARENA, the Alliance, some Greens, and academics like Jane Kelsey, take this position (see article on Trade Wars).  These two positions overlap considerably, but can become somewhat antagonistic at the extremes.
We shall show that logically both of these approaches are two sides of a false coin which wrongly mistakes globalisation for a ‘transnationalisation’ of the location of power and wealth.  That is, international capitalism has centralised its power by undermining and then transcending the power of nation states. The question then becomes how to match this global power on an international level, and/or how to fight to reclaim national sovereignty at the local level?
Both strategies result from a common conception that the capitalists use their power to enforce unequal exchange between capital and labour. This inequality can be corrected at either global or local level by mobilising the counter-power of the masses to take over the capitalist state. For example, the ‘anti-globalisation’ movement adopts the strategy of attacking the global headquarters of multinational capital, while others favour the strategy of organising and linking local resistances to globalisation.  
Market fetishism
The key to understanding the different currents of the WSF is to see where they go wrong in their theory of capitalism.  They misunderstand the nature of capitalist political power. They see capital as exploitative because capitalists use their power to extract surplus from producers by underpaying them for their labour during the process of exchange. For them what is wrong with capitalism is the unequal exchange in the market that robs the producers and enriches the bosses.  Therefore exploitation can be resisted by workers mobilising their power and struggling until wages become equal to their value, and by nationalising the wealth accumulated from their past unpaid wages. This is political logic of the exchange theory of David Ricardo the foremost classical political economist critiqued by Marx in Capital.
The problem with Ricardo’s theory of capitalism was that he took the exchange relations of capitalism to be the basis of exploitation.  He equated capitalism with the market rather than with a set of historically unique social relations. 
For Marx, what distinguished the capitalist market from the earlier development of the market was the way it turned everything into commodities which exchanged more or less at their values (the socially-necessary-labour-time –SNLT, or the normal hours of workers using typical machines –required to produce them).
However, Ricardo could not explain why the value of one ‘commodity’, labour, which he agreed created the value in commodities, was paid less than this value. As Marx pointed out, Ricardo failed to understand that capitalism had created a new form of exploitation by making labour-power into a commodity. The capitalist bought the worker’s labour-power in order to create value. Labour-power was the only commodity capable of producing more value than its own value. Its own value was the socially necessary labour-time (SNLT) required to produce the commodities workers needed to consume to replenish their labour-power (i.e. the workers consumption). Because Labour was equal to the value of the product of labour-power the two could not be equated.
By forcing workers off the land and into industry capitalists could buy this labour-power at its value, produced by workers during part of the working day –necessary labour time –but also force workers to work for a longer period –surplus labour time –to extract surplus value and hence profits.  (Marx said if capitalists actually paid workers the full value produced by their labour they were idiots and would soon go out of business.)
Marx discovered this because he used a method of analysis that looked beneath the level of market exchange to the underlying social relations of production. For Marx then, it was necessary to explain how capitalism falsely presents production relations as exchange relations so that workers could become conscious of the need to revolutionise the relations of production.
Marx’s theory therefore reveals to workers how production relations come to be fetishised (re-appear falsely in another guise) as exchange relations. This happens because workers do not see the underlying mechanism of surplus-value production and assume that profits are deducted from wages.   This fetishised ideology of the marketplace where individuals appear as actors exchanging their commodities is the material base of the bourgeois ideology of the state representing individual citizens who can mobilise electoral majorities and reform exchange relations. 
From this ideology flows the concept of class exploitation at the level of exchange, of workers participation in parliamentary politics in popular fronts (all those who are in some way exploited by unequal exchange including small capitalists and even national capitalists) and reformist policies of wealth ‘re-appropriation’ or ‘redistribution’ back to the producers as the property or income of all those ‘exploited’ by capital – e.g. the rationale for Hardt and Negri to replace class with ‘multitude’ i.e. all those exploited by unequal exchange.
But more than this, neo-Ricardian theory becomes a practical application of bourgeois ideology when it is actively used by the petty bourgeois agents of capital as social democracy or reformism. This political doctrine tries to eliminate the risk of revolution by putting ‘socialism’ on the ‘installment plan’. Socialism becomes achievable in easy, progressive stages of equalising exchange, first by means of exhausting the potential of the bourgeois state for reforms such as land reform, nationalisation, social welfare etc. so that at some indeterminate point in the future these reforms  will compound into full-blown socialism. But in effect all that is being ‘revolutionised’ here is the fetishised form of capitalist production relations – exchange relations.  Thus even this reformist agenda pre-supposes getting and using state power step by step to defeat the capitalists.
The problem is that capitalist state power is only incidentally a means of determining the value of wages. That is overwhelmingly the role of the labour market. The state’s real purpose is to organise the interests of the ruling class as a state force to guard against any threat to capitalist productive relations.  The ruling class will not concede any state power if it results in their expropriation.
Therefore capitalist state power has to be taken by force and replaced by workers state power to transform capitalist social relations into socialist relations.  But as long as reformists and their exchange theory socialism continue to dominate the labour movement capitalist state power and capitalist social relations will not be challenged and overthrown. Or worse, any challenge will be defeated because workers are not prepared to take power. 
Global anti-capitalism
This is why those who adopt the strategy of global reforms to take power and equalise exchange are wrong. Hardt and Negri are a good example. They say that the enemy is no longer organised into national capitalist classes, but is united into one global Empire. The bosses’ power is now concentrated in global institutions like the IMF, WB, WTO and the big multinational firms. Since these are no longer located within any one nation state, then the anti-global and anti-capitalist forces must also be organised ‘transnationally’. The struggle that results will allow the ‘multitude’ (or the ‘new proletariat’) to become global citizens, win a ‘social wage’ (i.e. a guaranteed income) and assert its right to re-appropriate’ of capital.
S11 and the war on terrorism proves this theory wrong. The enemy is still imperialism organised on a national basis. US imperialism is based on US national territory and its government and military are violently advancing its interests with the war on terrorism and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.  Hardt and Negri have been forced to explain the post-S11 imperialist war and growing rivalry between US and EU as a regression of US imperialism back to nationalistic politics. But instead of seeing that this is neither a regression nor something confined to the US alone, they pronounced EU multilateralism as a more progressive stage of transnational capitalism, or Empire, and the UN as the body that represents the reformist potential of transnational government that can made to deliver on the masses’ demand for global citizenship, social wage and re-appropriation.
S11 has therefore knocked down, along with the twin towers, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, the reformist illusion that transnational capital is no longer located in rival imperialist powers. On the contrary, the conflict between the US and EU was not about the US breaking from its multinational obligations, but rather the naked re-emergence of rivalry between US and EU imperialism for control of territory, resources and markets.  Far from reflecting a victory of the ‘new proletariat’ in Europe to pressure Empire to concede its demands, EU imperialism is busy driving down workers living standards, cutting their social wage and ‘re-appropriating’ the gains of past workers struggles.
Therefore if there is no transnational location of power which determines production of surplus, there can be no transnational location of resistance to take power and reclaim the surplus.  This leaves the global anti-capitalists in their millions, reading Monbiot, marching without direction on the streets, incapable of organising anti-imperialist movements to defeat the military power of the imperialist states, and incapable of forming military blocs with oppressed states under attack from imperialism.  Worse, they are diverted from the elementary task of rebuilding independent organisations capable of mobilising workers to combat the deadly popular fronts of the reformist left with the bourgeoisie, religious extremists etc in the name of ‘civil society’. So maybe those who say that the better strategy to fight globalisation is that of reclaiming national sovereignty have a point?
National anti-capitalism
The nationalists at least recognise that power is not globally located outside national borders. Therefore they are usually on the side of oppressed countries against imperialism. But they make the same mistake of fetishising the power of nation states (as opposed to transnational states) to overcome unequal exchange. They think that reclaiming political sovereignty at the national level will allow them to regain control over their economies and the distribution of wealth.
To refute the nationalist position all we need to do is point to the history of social democracy. Whenever mass social democratic parties have become the government and attempted to use state power to radically redistribute wealth or equalise exchange by nationalisation etc, they have been overthrown by imperialist-backed coups or imperialist invasions. The high point of post WW2 social democracy was the 1970s when Chile, Portugal and Nicaragua all attempted to introduce radical social democratic reforms and were all overthrown by right wing coups.
After such defeats, including the fall of the Soviet Bloc, social democracy retreated a long way to the right and adopted neo-liberal policies imposing the costs of imperialism’s crises on the backs of workers and peasants. Where social democrats have won elections, as today in Latin America, not only can they not roll back neo-liberalism and win any substantial reforms, they are forced to attack their working class supporters. For example, Lula’s Workers Party in Brazil, the most left wing party in power in Latin America, is forced to govern in a popular front with the big boss party of Alencar and implement the World Bank’s policies. Lula is now busy suppressing rising opposition within his ranks.
This means that the same state power that the reformists claim can be taken over to win back sovereignty and protect the economy, is inevitably used against them by international capital. The state is the agency of imperialisms’ crisis policies and the means of repressing all challenges to its rule. The reformists dream turns into the workers’ nightmare.
The only power that can win control over the economy is the workers’ power used to overthrow the state and to impose a workers government and socialist plan. And that will not happen unless the domination of the labour movement by reformists in the WSF is exposed as grounded in a petty-bourgeois neo-Ricardian theory of unequal exchange. Not until revolutionary Marxists in the workers movement can build a class conscious vanguard party with a genuinely revolutionary theory and program to leader the masses will the prospect of workers power become real.
 Conclusions
As we have seen,  the problem with the global and local strategies being debated in the WSF movement is not that one fights at a global level and the other at a national level, but that both are incapable of winning state power and taking control of, and planning,  the international economy.  This is because they fail to understand to real nature of capitalist production and the capitalist state.
By taking the fetishised forms of capital as real, the anti-globalisation strategy of the internationalists becomes a diversion from the real struggles that must initially be located within nation states. S11 has shown that faith in building an international social democracy on the basis of the UN or even the EU is utopian and dangerous.  It deludes those layers of workers and youth who are idealistically opposed to the effects of imperialism into the dead end of de-territorialised and directionless struggle against a non-existent transnational state. Instead these kids get beaten or shot by US, Italian or German cops and military.
On the other hand, while the nationalists are at least fighting on the ground where the worst effects of globalising imperialism are felt, their strategy is to sow illusions in social democrats winning state power from the capitalists without an armed struggle. As the history of Latin America demonstrates and today again shows, state power will not be conceded to the workers. It has to be taken by force and used by the masses to create workers governments that can take control of the national economies and begin to build federations of socialist republics and economic cooperation between countries.
The task of revolutionaries is to explain to those who are attracted to the WSF solution to capitalist imperialism that it is an adaptation to imperialism not a solution. We say that the WSF is a forum for the promotion of a reformist politics grounded in a fetishised ideology of capitalism. We say the leadership of the WSF hides their reformist politics behind a façade of ‘democracy’ that in effect denies workers’ democracy. The WSF leadership refuses to allow political parties to affiliate because it knows that this would invite serious debates leading to exposure and challenge of their reformist agenda.
As revolutionaries we want to break the rank and file participants in the WSF from its reformist agenda. The way to do this is to demand freedom of speech and organisation within the WSF. In this way those who see the necessity to expose and defeat the reformist agenda can challenge the WSF to take positions on the important questions of our time – the defence of Iraq against imperialism; against Lula’s popular front in Brazil; for workers occupation and control –without compensation –of factories like in Argentina etc.  CWG will do so on the basis of the 21 principles contained in the document calling for a conference of principled Trotskyists and revolutionary workers. As we say in that document, our urgent task is to refound a new world party of socialism that can unite the theory and practice of revolutionary Marxism in a program to overthrow capitalism and build socialism.

World Social Forum vs Principled Trotskyism

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 From Class Struggle 51 July-August 2003

The urgent task facing revolutionaries today is to confront and destroy all those forces that try to convince workers that they cannot overcome capitalism and imperialism, but rather must adapt or accommodate to it. We say that most of these forces are gathered today in the World Social Forum (WSF). Against the WSF we seek to build a new revolutionary international. Here we explain why the WSF seeks to adapt workers to capitalism. We make a ‘call’ to all the healthy forces of Trotskyism and revolutionary workers organisations to unite to build that new revolutionary international that can destroy the WSF, and with it, capitalism.

In NZ today an Oceania Social Forum is being organised and will meet in Wellington in October this year.The Oceania SF is a spin-off from the WSF that has met three years in a row at Porto Alegre in Brazil.On the face of it this ‘movement of movements’ seems harmless enough. After all a wide range of political views are presented at each meeting, it has no clearly defined program, and its organisation is ostensibly very open and democratic.
But is it harmless? As we pointed out in earlier Class Struggles, [Class Struggle # 43, 48, 49.] the WSF is run by a narrow group of trustees based in the Brazilian Workers’ Party of President Lula, the French ATTAC (itself a front for the so-called Usec 4th International soon to be joined by the Cliffite International Socialist Tendency) and some reformist intellectuals associated with Le Monde Diplomatique and Z Mag. It promotes the trendy left humanist ideas of Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, Walden Bello and others.

The WSF is dangerous for workers.It is a very sinister movement because it is linked politically to actual governments such as those of Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil. This means that these countries are promoted as examples of how popular governments can resist imperialism and improve the lot of the workers and peasants. Much is being made of Lula being able to balance the interests of his working class supporters and the World Bank! 

[Many workers internationally look to Lula as a turning point in working class history. For example, the IRSL (Iranian Revolutionary Socialist League says, “…the left-wing movement in Iran…prescribe this as a model for Iran. They purposely disregard the truth and the reality of the anti-revolutionary and anti-working class nature of such a movement and describe such an amalgamation as a ‘modern’ version of the working class struggle against global capitalism.”See article at: http://www.kargar.org/english/brazilian_workers_party12.htm]

Second, some of the left democratic politicians (and right wing ex-Trotskyists like the Usec who have Euro MPs and MPs in Lula’s government) associated with the anti-globalisation movements claim to be part of the WSF giving them left credentials while they embark on openly anti-worker policies.
Third, the WSF is linked politically with the remnants of the Stalinist parties that in some countries have a long history and still carry some credibility. Despite its role in helping Allende disarm the workers before Pinochet’s coup in 1973, the Chilean Communist Party today leads Latin American Stalinists in alliance with the WSF. In Iraq today the Communist Party despite serious oppression still survives, has a representative in the US’s puppet government, and is playing a role in organising workers behind a peaceful transition to a new bourgeois regime. (See our article on Iran for evidence of the same in that country).

Fourth, widely supported by the Stalinists, the authority of Fidel Castro in the WSF is strong, particularly in Latin America, because, despite its deficiencies and the sell outs of Stalinist bureaucrats like Castro, the Cuban revolution has survived all attempts so far to destroy it. Castro’s Cuba lends its authority to the reformist model of ‘market socialism’ that goes down the same road as ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’ to the World Trade Organisation, and in Brazil today with President Lula goes all the way to the Free Trade Area of the Americas!

[Our position on Cuba is that it is a degenerate workers’ state which must be unconditionally defended against capitalism, but which needs a political revolution to replace the bureaucracy with a democratic workers government before Castro allows capitalism to be restored.The model of ‘market socialism’ is the view that socialism can coexist with the capitalist market put forward by those who seek to restore or adapt to capitalism under the cover of ‘modern’ socialism.]

Fifth, all of these currents join together in supporting the United Nations as an organisation that acts for so-called ‘democratic’ imperialism. Like Castro, they called for the UN to complete its inspections for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, opposing the US unilateral invasion in the name of multilateralism. Like Castro they backed the UN in its propping up of Israel, its sanctions against Iraq, and its ‘peacekeeping’ in Bosnia and East Timor. Today they back the UN going into Iraq to cover for the US invasion by taking responsibility for ‘peacekeeping’ and ‘rebuilding’.

Finally, and most important, the WSF now includes in its ranks so-called Trotskyists who are to the left of Stalinism and Castro and whose ‘street cred’ is significant in drawing into the WSF new layers of workers in struggle so they can be contained in this reformist international.For example, recently in Argentina, pseudo-Trotskyists united with Lula, Chavez and Castro to welcome the election of the populist Peronist Kirchner as an ‘anti-imperialist fighter’!

When we sum up all of these influences we can see that combined together as a world wide tendency, the WSF is a counter-revolutionary international that unless challenged and destroyed will lead workers and peasants everywhere to defeat and disaster. It is precisely to build a revolutionary opposition to the WSF that the ‘group of five’ have produced the following document calling all the healthy forces of Trotskyism and revolutionary workers’ organisations to a conference of Principled Trotskyists.

These principles can be the first step in uniting those forces that can go on to build a new revolutionary international communist party capable of not only destroying the WSF, but of leading workers everywhere in the struggle for socialist revolution.

Written by raved

January 6, 2009 at 8:49 pm

THE WORLD SOCIAL FORUM AND LULA LAND

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From Class Struggle 49 March/April 2003

The Big Boys have taken over the World Social Forum, says anti-globalisation guru Naomi Klein. Boo hoo! What did she expect? Lula turns up at Porto Alegre and has 75,000 adoring fans who complain when he leaves for the World Economic Forum in Davos. He’s the boss. The WSF is really a reformist ‘movement of movements’ that wants to replace neoliberalism with democratic socialism. But the grassroots enthusiasms of the anti-globalisation troops post-Zapatistas and post-Seattle were always directed from above.It was a small group of PT (Brazilian Workers’ Party) leaders, Le Monde Diplomatique intellectuals and ATTAC ‘activists’ who set the WSF agenda in 2000.


Z Net editor and activist Michael Albert said as much. He found that as a member of the International Council the big decisions about what the forum was about, who would speak , and who would attend, were already made. The big issues, neo-liberalism and how to fight it, and how to make’ another world possible’ were already shaped by the politics of these reformist organisations.

The WSF was the child of the PT, and now the PT leads a Popular Frontgovernment with its main leader, Luis Inacio de Silva, ‘Lula’ for short, the newly elected President of Brazil. So it’s not the WSF but the main attraction that has changed. The WSF still attracts the bevy of left-wing celebrities like Chomsky, Michael Albert, Arundhati Roy and Samir Amin, but the stars are now clearly the strong men of Latin American social democracy, with Lula, Chavez and Ecuadorian leader Guiterrez at their head and Castro as elder statesman (there were 50 Cuban Communist Party leaders headed by Castro’s daughter at Porto Alegre 2003). The fate of the WSF hangs on Lula’s political fate which itself turns on the balance between the US ruling class and his mass working class constituency.

Movements of Movements

Now that it is obvious that Porto Alegre mark 3 was a PR job to get progressive world opinion lined up behind Lula, let’s see how he can deliver on the promise that “another world is possible”.Ignacio Ramonet, a lead writer of Le Monde Diplomatique, reacted to Lula’s election enthusiastically. For Ramonet, Lula’s election marked “the beginning of a new historical cycle in Latin America. The preceding cycle began at the end of a dark period of military tyrannies, repression and armed uprisings, and lasted two decades, since 1983” (what about the Brazilian military coup of 1968 that lasted 20 years, Pinochet’s coup1973 that also lasted nearly 20 years,and the military regime in Argentina from 1976 to 1983?!).

Ramocet says Lula’s electioncrowns a string of left wing victories: the election of Chavez in Venezuela in 1998, the overthrow of President Mahaud in Ecuador in January 2000, the ousting of Fujimori in Peru in December of 2000, the downfall of de la Rua in December 2001, and the election of Colonel Gutierrez in Ecuador in November 2002. Are these regime changes signs of the end of ‘neo-liberalism’ and the opening up of a more democratic period?

Despite the US drive to war, both Chomsky and Roy see signs that grassroots democracy represented by many struggles around the world is ‘confronting the Empire’. They endorse the concept of a ‘movement of movements’. This is the idea that local movements such as the landless in Brazil, the peasants in Colombia, the piqueteros in Argentina, the Kurds in Turkey, the people of Cochabamba in Bolivia, and the poor farmers of India, will join their struggles together to make one big movement. Not only that, Chomsky thinks that the unprecedented and growing majorities opposed to the war on Iraq in Europe and before long in America, before any war has taken place, show that the ruling US and European elites are being threatened from below by a new mass resurgence of peoples’ democracy.

In her speech at Porto Alegre, Arundhati Roy echoed these themes.She asked: “How do we resist ‘Empire’ and make another world possible? The good news is that we are not doing too badly”.She listed a string of victories – Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, and so on – and pointed to the collapse of some of the world’s biggest corporations, like the notorious Enron, Betchtel, WorldCom, and Arthur Anderson. “We may not have stopped ‘Empire’ in its tracks – yet – but we have stripped it down. We have made it drop its mask, we have forced it into the open. It now stands before us on the world’s stage in all its brutish, iniquitous nakedness.”Like Chomsky, however, democratic resistance is a rather abstract tool with which to ‘lay siege to Empire’. Roy wants us to “To deprive it of Oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different to the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe”.

The problem here is that the stories that come out of the WSF are not very different to the ones that some sections of the imperialist elites tell us. ‘Empire’ here means the US out of control – Chomsky’s rogue state. According to Metzaros, in this new age of ‘global hegemonic imperialistic capitalism’ only the US is imperialist. That sounds like the French and German politicians trying to mask their rapacious oil concessions in Iraq as humanitarian aid. Painting the US as ‘fascist’ makes them look ‘democratic’. ‘Imperialism’ means the greed and power of a US elite which takes the form of neo-liberalism and globalisation. But this can be resisted and overturned by ‘movements’ fighting against injustice and greed. ‘Democratic’ countries can gang up in the UN to fight imperialism. This vision is boosted by Toni Negri’s view that the US represents a reactionary imperialism that has to be contested by …yes, the European states and the UN!And if ‘imperialism’ is open to reform by the movement of movements, then maybe capitalism can be reformed from below by means of ‘market socialism’. The tell-tale mark of reformists is their belief that a majority can rule the state and reverse the sign of the zero-sum society from rich to poor. Same old story.

Market Socialism

What do all the currents in the WSF have in common?It is the belief that capitalism is a zero-sum society based on unequal exchange that can be reformed by an alliance of workers, petty bourgeois and‘democratic’ capitalists (and/or progressive military leaders like Chavez) in cross-class governments. In ganging up against ‘fascist’ imperialist America, the European bourgeoisie can pose as democrats and mask their own imperialist interests.Entering governments and alliances with the democratic bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeois intelligentsia and the Stalinist and Castroist bureaucracy that dominate the labour movement claim that these governments are controlled by workers, when they are anything but! This is how they try to mask their service to the bourgeoisie in containing workers’ struggles.They have to claim that workers get the best of the deal with a shift from neo-liberal austerity to ‘market socialism’. To paint the politics of betrayal in rosy colours the WSF gets ‘revolutionary’ credentials by its association with a bunch of academic Marxists like Samir Amin and James Petras who dress up with revolutionary phrases reformist policies of socialism on the installment plan.

When such ‘Marxists’ endorse Lula they provide him with an alibi. They blame those who want to mobilise the working class to take power for frightening off the EU imperialists, or for provoking a US counter-revolution. They peddle illusions that workers can benefit from some ‘new deal’ that will alleviate their poverty and suffering!Already in Argentina, the left bureaucracy has turned the administration of poverty into an art form where they are paid by the state to oversee ‘work for the dole’ schemes.

Lulaland

But now we face the truly historic test of Lula’s promise to deliver ‘market socialism’ in Brazil. The election of Lula threatens to repeat the whole history of betrayals in Latin America in the name of the Brazilian PT!Lula wants to negotiate with the IMF and World Bank using his working class voters as electoral fodder.Ramocet praises Lula with no reservations. Lula gets a rapturous welcome in Porto Alegre.But how can Lula deliver to his supporters, the poor workers and landless peasants, unless he repudiates the national debt, nationalises the banks and renationalises privatised state industry?And he cannot do that without arming the workers and peasants to stop a military coup and US counterrevolution succeeding like it did in Chile in 1973.

Whatever the idealism of the WSF ‘story of stories’, or models of a ‘socialist’ utopia, these noble thoughts cannot measure up against the actual struggles on the ground. Story tellingdoes not arm workers and peasants against the military might of imperialism. Not unless one is telling the stories that explain the lessons of the bloody history of workers struggles in the 20th century – stories that say that unless workers take state power they cannot participate in the economy as equals and managers.Or that workers cannot plan a socialist economy unless they expropriate the private property of the capitalist owners.Or that what is needed is a workers’ government and a socialist plan.

We already have clear evidence from Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ecuador, Argentina, Venezuela, and Colombia, that workers must occupy their factories or workplaces, must make military alliances with the landless peasants, must arm themselves to defend themselves, must organise a general strike, must break with the bureaucrats, must win over the rank and file of the army and seize state power, before any real challenge to imperialism is possible.None of this is possible without the building of an international revolutionary party and program to lead workers along the road to revolution.Failing these measures, imperialism has, can, and will stage armed counter-revolutions and smash all resistance. But with these measures workers and poor peasants can create a United Socialist States of Latin America.

Written by raved

January 3, 2009 at 10:13 pm

WHY THE PEACE MOVEMENT CAN’T STOP THE WAR

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Polemic

Bush’s determination to go to war in Iraq is the next step in the US drive to dominate the world economy. It is a war for oil but much more than that. Saddam’s dictatorship, like al Quada’s terorism is the supposed target. But this war is really to assert US dominance over the Middle East and Central Asia over its rivals the EU and Japan, and potential rivals, China, Russia and India. While on the face of it, this is the US flexing its superpower muscles, underneath the surface US imperialism is experiencing a deep crisis at the heart of its capitalist system of production. Yet the failure to recognise the deep roots of the causes of war means that the ‘peace movement’ that is growing in the West can never succeed in bringing about peace. The anti-war movement needs to become anti-capitalist. To help this process along lets demand a Referendum on the War!

The Rogue State

It is the nature of capitalism and imperialist rivalry that makes war inevitable. It is this basic cause that makes all the superficial explanations for US warlike behaviour inadequate. The anti-war movement in the West has recently mobilised hundreds of thousands on the streets. But this opposition is to the US as a ‘rogue state’ breaking the same international legal and moral rules that it imposes unilaterally on others. It is the blatant hypocrisy of the only nation that has used nuclear weapons and which backs Israel’s nuclear arsenal, about to invade a country that even US experts say has no weapons of mass destruction, that has sparked such widespread opposition.

The question then becomes; why is it that the US considers itself above international law? Why is it prepared to risk condemnation acting as a rogue state? It is in breach of UN resolutions. It is even in breach of its own Constitution!

The most common explanations look for the most obvious causes like the greed and power mania of one section of the US ruling class – the oil barons and arms manufacturers. They have clear motives for going to war in the Middle East. At stake is 2/3rds of the world’s oil and a land bridge to Central Asia where there are further large reserves of oil.

But if it is just the greed and power of a bunch of rich oil magnates then surely the answer is to mobilise ordinary decent Americans and peaceloving citizens around the world to exercise their democratic right to enforce international law. This is the position of the famous ‘liberatarian socialist’ critic of US foreign policy, Noam Chomsky.

Chomsky and Pilger on the causes of war

Chomsky accuses the US corporate elite of hypocritically using its power to impose its own brutal interests around the world in the name of ‘democracy’. He accuses the US of being a terrorist state already indicted by the World Court for illegal actions in Nicaragua. Rogue power is the corporations that are a law unto themselves. Chomsky calls these corporations ‘totalitarian institutions” . But their rule can be challenged by a worldwide campaign for democratic change that opposses these their policies. He points to the Zapatista uprising and the anti-globalisation movement as steps towards such an international campaign (Latin America p.92)

Chomsky’s view is shared by prominent left liberals such as journalist John Pilger who defines ‘imperialism’as the rule of the rich and powerful over the poor and weak. Writing just before the massive 28 September demo in London, Pilger said: “A great many people believe that democracy has been lost in this country. Today, true democracy will demonstrate its resilience on the streets of London…The credibility of the British parliamentary system is at stake”.For Pilger, Blair is behaving like an absolute ruler or a Hitler. Riding roughshod over democracy and international law and sacrificing the lives of millions of Iraqis for the ‘price’ of oil. Why? Bush and his extreme right cabal are ‘criminals’ and ‘fanatics’. They have used nuclear weapons before and threaten to again. All to boost their wealth and power.

So what’s the answer. For Pilger it’s ‘street democracy’ and ‘the great tradition of dissent’ that must be reactivated. He looks back for inspiration to the civil rights movement and the anti-war campaigns of the 1960s which led to the end of the Vietnam war and nuclear treaties. “Today is another date in September to remember, and perhaps celebrate – as the beginning not of endless war, but of our resistance to it.”

This certainly helps, but was this the answer back in the ‘60’s? The Vietnam war was won by the Vietnamese. The nuclear arms race was stopped by the USSR’s inability to keep up. And if it was just a matter of the peaceloving majority asserting democratic control over a power mad rich elite, why hasn’t this happened yet?

Chomsky et al have their own answer to this. The rich and powerful dominate the media and use their power to indoctrinate, divide and rule the masses.

This is clearly correct as far as it goes. The post September 11 world is one in which the US ruling class and their allies everywhere have used the media and their governments to try to impose their pro-Western views and their warlike solutions. So US workers supported Bush going to war against terrorism rather than see the US as the biggest state terrorist in the world. Anyone who questioned this view was faced with a barrage of new ‘patriotic’ laws, police state surveillance, labelled the ‘enemy’, and in many cases slammed in jail. Now it’s enough to threaten strike action to be called a terrorist as the ILWU longshore workers found out.

So what future for ‘democracy’?

By now most people who are opposed to the war must realise that it is extremely difficult to use capitalist democracy to change the system when the system is taking away any real democratic space in which you can fight it. A truth begins to emerge. ‘Democracy’ in the West cannot be the model for the rest of the world to follow. Democracy is a façade for the rule of the rich and powerful.

For example, the US Constitution is far from an ideal model of democracy. The Constitution was designed to defend the rights of private property owners That’s why it is the radical right who arm themselves against a state as usurping their property rights with laws, taxes, etc. When the radical left like the Black Panthers arm themselves they are killed by the state. Even Chomsky himself is very clear on the original purpose of the US Constitution, to keep the masses out of politics (Profit over People p 47). For him real democracy would mean a new constitution.

But if bourgeois democracy is only for the rich, why is there so much faith in ‘democracy’? A second truth begins to emerge. The liberal left presents the problem of Bush’s war as the rogue-like deviant behaviour of a rich and powerful so they can point to the ideal of a normal, just, humane and peaceful capitalism. One that is democratic, allows dissent and defends human rights. One that allows them to claim that capitalism can be ‘pacified’. OK if this is the ideal capitalism lets put it to the test.

Demand a Referendum on war

Let’s demand that no war can start without first a national debate and referendum. That would be a true test of captalist democracy. We challenge the liberal left like the Greens to make this demand. We are pretty sure that a referendum on war would not be allowed by the ruling class. This would be a clear repudation of democracy. But if public pressure did force a referendum on the capitalists, the level of public debate that would follow would surely expose the real causes of war – that of capitalist exploitation itself.

We are also pretty sure that liberal intellectuals will not demand a referendum seriously because they fear the awakening of the masses. The left liberal peaceloving people defend bourgeois ‘democracy’ but they fear the power of the working class more. They are convinced that ‘socialism’ went bad in the USSR and many think socialism is worse than Bush and Co. Lurking beneath this fear is the conviction that socialism is the will to power of the masses and once it is unleashed then there is no future for liberal democracy. That’s why the peace movement against the war in Iraq is not interested in getting rid of the real causes of war. It does not want to get rid of itself and the ‘democratic’ capitalism that justifies its existence.

For us, the end of liberal democracy will be the birth of workers’ democracy.

Written by raved

June 29, 2008 at 1:40 pm

PALESTINE: CHOMSKY’S NON-SOLUTION

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As Israel steps up its war with Palestine it is important to see this as a continuation of US policy in the region that has been building up for decades. The US backs Israel as its own client state in the region to control the Arab masses and ultimately to hold onto access to oil. It writes the rules so that Palestine has not national rights, cannot defend itself without being labeled terrorist, while Israel’s right to exist is guaranteed along with its right to attack its neighbours is fully backed by the US. With Bush in the Whitehouse and the world economy facing a recession, US policy is today even more belligerent towards its ‘enemies’ in the Middle East and the Far East. The crucial question is why? We critique Noam Chomsky’s argument that the US is a’ rogue’ state and can be ‘tamed’ by ‘democratic’ institutions and argue that only permanent revolution can bring an end to capitalist imperialism.

US Role

In a talk to MIT students on 14 December 2000 titled “THE CURRENT CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST. WHAT CAN WE DO?” Noam Chomsky gave his views on why the US continues to call the shots in the Middle East. He argued that the ongoing Intefada that followed Sharon’s visit to Jerusalem on Sept 29 was the latest in a long history of opposition to US/Israel domination of the Middle East. For 50 years the US has backed Israel as its ‘proxy’ in the Middle East in order to retain control of the regions resources. In this process the US has willfully ignored UN resolutions, and continually refused to allow Palestinian national rights will militarily backing Israel’s right to use force to defend it’s right to exist.

“The U.S. role is highly significant. That’s always true throughout the world just because of U.S. power, but it’s particularly true in the Middle East, which has been recognized in high level planning for 50 years (and goes back beyond that, but explicitly for 50 years) as a core element in U.S. global planning. Just to quote documents from 50 years ago, declassified documents, the Middle East was described as the “strategically most important region of the world”, “a stupendous source of strategic power”, “the richest economic prize in the world”, and, you know, on and on in the same vein. The U.S. is not going to give that up. And the reason is very simple. That’s the world’s major energy reserves, and not only are they valuable to have because of the enormous profit that comes from them, but control over them gives a kind of veto power over the actions of others for obvious reasons, which were recognized right away at the time. So, that’s a core issue. It’s been the prime concern of U.S. military and strategic planning for half a century. The gulf region, the region of major energy reserves, has always been the target of the major U.S. intervention forces, with a base system that extends over a good part of the world, from the Pacific to the Azores, with consequences for all of those regions because they are backup bases for the intervention forces targeting the gulf region, also including the Indian Ocean.”

Sometimes the US and Israel miscalculate in their actions:

“There have been mistakes in the past and the United States and Israel have certainly learned from them. So in 1996 for example, when Shimon Peres launched yet another attack on Lebanon, killing large numbers of people and driving hundreds/thousands out of their home, it was fine and the U.S. was able to support it and Clinton did support it, up until one mistake, when they bombed a UN Camp in Qana, killing over a hundred people who were refugees in the camp. Clinton at first justified it, but as the international reaction came in, he had to back off, and Israel was forced, under U.S. orders in effect, to call off the operation and withdraw. That’s the kind of mistake you want to avoid. So, for those of you going into the diplomatic service, you can’t allow that kind of mistake to happen. You want low level atrocities, fine-tuned, so that an international response is unnecessary.”

Danger of Over-reaction

This creates the danger of an overreaction on the part of the nations the US is trying to dominate. The key involves trying to maintain peace between Israel and the Arabs:

“Back in 1994, Clinton’s National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake, described what he called a paradigm for the post cold war era, and for the Middle East. The paradigm was what’s called “dual containment”, so it contains Iraq and Iran, but as he pointed out, dual containment relies crucially on the Oslo process, the process that brings about relative peace between Israel and the Arabs. Unless that can be sustained, the dual containment can’t be sustained, and the whole U.S. current policy for controlling the region will be in serious danger.”

“The governance in the Arab world is extremely fragile, especially in the crucial oil producing region. Any popular unrest might threaten the very fragile rule of the U.S. clients, which the U.S. would be unwilling to accept. And it might, equally unacceptably, induce the rulers of the oil monarchies to move to improve relations (particularly with Iran, which, in fact, they’ve already been doing), which would undermine the whole framework for U.S. domination of the world’s major energy reserves.”

“Well, how dangerous is that? Turn to another expert, General Lee Butler, recently retired. He was head of the Strategic Command at the highest nuclear agency under Clinton, STRATCOM. He wrote a couple of years ago that it’s dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East, one nation has armed itself, ostensibly with stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the hundreds, and that inspires other nations to do so as well, and also to develop other weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent, which is highly combustible and can lead to very dangerous outcomes.

All of this is still more dangerous when the sponsor of that one nation is regarded generally in the world as a rogue state, which is unpredictable and out of control, irrational and vindictive, and insists on portraying itself in that fashion. In fact, the Strategic Command under Clinton has, in its highest level pronouncement, advised that the United States should maintain a national persona, as they call it, of being irrational and vindictive and out of control so that the rest of the world will be frightened. And they are.

And the U.S. should also rely on nuclear weapons as the core of its strategy, including the right of first use against non-nuclear states, including those that have signed the Non-Proliferation treaty. Those proposals have been built into presidential directives, Clinton-era presidential directives, that don’t make much noise around here, but it is understood in the world, which is naturally impelled to respond by developing weapons of mass destruction of its own in self-defense. But these are prospects that are indeed recognized by U.S. intelligence and high-level U.S. analysts.

About two years ago, Harvard professor Samuel Huntington wrote an article in a very prestigious journal, Foreign Affairs, in which he pointed out that for much of the world, he indicated most of the world, the United States is considered a dangerous rogue state, and the main threat to their national existence. And it’s not surprising, if you look at what happens in the world from outside the framework of the U.S. indoctrination system. That’s very plausible even from documents, and certainly from actions, and much of the world does see it that way, and that adds to the severe dangers of the situation.”

“Actually U.S. relations with Israel developed in that context. The 1967 war was a major step forward, when Israel showed its power and ability to deal with Third World radical nationalists, who were, at that time, threatening, particularly Nasser. Nasser was engaged in a kind of proxy war with Saudi Arabia, which is the most important country, that’s where all the oil is, and the Yemen. And Israel put an end to that by smashing Nasser’s armies and won a lot of points for that, and U.S. relations with Israel really became solidified at that point. But it had been recognized 10 years earlier and the U.S. intelligence had noted that what they called the logical corollary to opposition to radical Arab nationalism is support for Israel as a reliable base for U.S. power in the region. And Israel is reliable because it’s under threat, and therefore it needs U.S. support, which has another logical corollary, that for the U.S. interests’, it’s a good idea for Israel to be under threat.”

UN Resolution 242

Such an attempt to establish ‘peace’ and settle down the region was UN Resolution 242 of November 1967 which required Israel to pull back from the territories overrun in the 1967 war, but in the process it did not recognise the national right of Palestine:

“UN 242 called for – the basic idea was full peace in return for a full withdrawal. So, Israel would withdraw from the territories that it just conquered, and in return, the Arab states would agree to a full peace with it. There was kind of a minor footnote, that the withdrawal could involve minor and mutual adjustments. So, for example, regarding some line or curve, they could straighten it out, that sort of thing. But that was the policy, and that was U.S. policy – it was under U.S. initiative. So, full peace in return for full withdrawal…But UN 242 was completely rejectionist. It offered nothing to the Palestinians. There was no reference to them, except the phrase that there was a refugee problem that somehow had to be dealt with. That’s it. Apart from that, it was to be an agreement among the states. The states were to reach full peace treaties in the context of complete Israeli withdrawal from the territories. That’s UN 242.”

“What can we do”?

Chomsky then goes on to ask, “what can we do”? To do anything the public must be informed of the real interests that like behind the US Middle East policies.

“Well, if we decide on the latter choice, which is always open here and elsewhere, there’s a prerequisite. The prerequisite is that we know what’s going on. So you can’t make that choice, say to stop providing military helicopters (and you know the helicopters are just an illustration of a much bigger picture) unless you know about it. Again, the grave responsibility of the intellectual world, the media, journals, universities, and others, is to prevent people from knowing. That takes effort. It’s not easy. As in this case, it takes some dedication to suppress the facts and make sure that the population doesn’t know what’s being done in their name, because if they do, they aren’t going to like it, and they’ll respond. Then you get into trouble.”

The most important facts are first, that the US has repudiated UN 242 in practice and backs Israel’s occupation of the territory gained in 1967; second the US and Israel do not recognise the national rights of the Palestinians; third, this means that there is no right of Palestinian resistance which becomes defined as ‘terrorism’; fourth, this allows Israel the right to attack its Arab neighbours on the pretext of responding to ‘terrorism’.

“But, contrary to propaganda, almost the entire series of U.S./Israeli attacks, certainly in the occupied territories, but in Lebanon as well, were not for any defensive purpose. They were initiated. That includes the 1982 invasion, and that’s no small matter. I mean, it’s not considered a big deal here, but during the 22 years that Israel illegally occupied Southern Lebanon in violation of Security Council orders (but with U.S. authorization), they killed about maybe 45,000 or 50,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, not a trivial number. This included many very brutal attacks going on after the Oslo accords as well, in 1983, 1986, and so on.”

More than this, the right to attack can be turned into permanent occupation by proxy troops:

“Israel and the United States had made a rather serious error in the occupied territories. It’s not a good idea to try to control a subject population with your own troops. The way it is usually done is, you farm it out to the natives. That’s the way the British ran India for a couple of hundred years. India was mostly controlled by Indian troops, often taken from other regions, you know like the Gurkhas and so on. That’s the way the United States runs Central America, with mercenary forces, which are called armies, if you can keep them under control. That’s the way South Africa ran the Black areas. Most of the atrocities are carried out by Black mercenaries, and in the Bantustans, it was entirely Blacks. That’s the standard colonial pattern and it makes a lot of sense. If you have your own troops out there, it causes all kinds of problems. You know, first of all they suffer injuries, and these are people who don’t like to feel good about killing people, and their parents get upset and so on and so forth, but if you have mercenaries or paramilitaries, you don’t have those problems. So, Israel and the United States were going to turn to the standard colonial pattern and have the Palestinian forces, who in fact mostly came from Tunis, control the local population – control them economically and politically, as well as militarily.”

Peace ‘front’

So the US has managed to maintain a front of ‘peace’ by redefining UN 242:

“UN 242 now means what the United States says it means, as do other things, that’s the meaning of power. It means withdrawal, insofar as the U.S. and Israel determine, and that’s what it’s meant ever since. So when Palestinians or Arab states now complain that Israel isn’t living up to 242, they are just choosing to ignore the historical record and blindness

is not a helpful position if you are in world affairs.

You might as well have your eyes open. UN 242 since February 1971 does not exist. It exists only in the Kissingerian sense. Now, here you have to be a little nuanced, because officially the U.S. continues to endorse UN 242 in its original sense. So you can find statements by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, or you know speechwriters, and George Bush, saying yeah, we insist on 242 in its original sense. You can’t find statements by Clinton. Clinton, I think, is the first president not even having given lip service to it. But the fact is that the lip service is pure hypocrisy, because while they are adhering to it for public purposes, they are also providing Israel with the wherewithal, the funds, the military support, the diplomatic support, to violate it, namely to act to integrate the occupied territories within Israel, so the endorsement of it is hypocritical and you should compliment Clinton on having the honesty simply to withdraw it, in effect.”

Palestinians fate

Meanwhile the fate of the Palestinians has been to be an oppressed semi-colonised people:

“Right through the occupation from 1967 to 1993, Israel was making sure, and again, when I say Israel, I mean the United States, was making sure that there would be no development in the occupied territories. So, right after 1993, when Israeli journalists who had covered the territories were finally able to go to Jordan, they were shocked by what they saw and they wrote about it in the Hebrew press. Jordan is a poor country, and Israel is a rich country. Before the 1967 war, the populations in Jordan and the Palestinian populations were pretty comparable, in fact, there was more development in the West Bank.

By 1993, it was totally different. In the poorer country Jordan, there were agricultural development, universities, schools, roads, health services, all sorts of things. In the West Bank there was essentially nothing. The people could survive by remittances from abroad, or by doing dirty work in Israel, but no development was allowed, and that was very shocking to Israeli reporters, and it is also backed up in the statistics.

The most important work on this topic, if you want to learn about, is by Sara Roy, a researcher at Harvard who has spent an awful lot of time in the Gaza Strip. Just to give you a couple of her figures, current ones, in 1993 electric power usage in the West Bank and Gaza was two thirds that of Egypt, half that of Jordan – and those are poorer countries, remember. Israel is a rich country. Sanitation and housing in the West Bank and Gaza was about 25 percent for Palestinians, 50 percent in Egypt, and 100 percent in Jordan, and the figures run through that way. GDP, per capita, and consumption per capita declined and then it got worse. After 1993, it’s been the worst. So GDP, per capita, and consumption per capita have dropped, according to her, about 15 percent in the West Bank and Gaza since 1993 – that’s even with large foreign assistance pouring in, from Europe, mostly.”

“It’s gotten worse in other respects. Up until 1993, the U.S. and Israel permitted humanitarian aid to come into the territories. UN humanitarian aid was permitted into the West Bank and Gaza. In 1993, that was restricted. This is part of the peace process. After Oslo, heavy customs duties were imposed, lots of other restrictions were imposed, you know various kinds of harassment. Now, it’s blocked. Right now, humanitarian aid is blocked. The UN is protesting, but it doesn’t matter. If the UN protests the blocking of humanitarian aid, and it doesn’t register here, it doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t register here because it’s not reported.

So, they can say, yeah the Israelis are stopping humanitarian aid from coming in, and people are starving, and so on, but what does it matter as long as people in the United States don’t know about it. They can know in the Middle East, they can know in Europe, but it makes no difference. These are our choices again. For the Palestinians themselves, they are under a dual repression, very much like the Bantustans again, the repression of Israel and the United States, and then the repression of the local mercenaries who do the work for the foreigner, and enrich themselves. It’s again a standard, colonial pattern. Anyone who has ever taken a look at the Third World sees it.”

“As for the population, it’s kind of hard to improve on a description by Moshe Dayan about 30 years ago. He was in the Labor Party, and among the Labor Party leaders, he was one of those most noted for his sympathetic attitude towards Palestinians, and also his realism. And he described what Israeli policy ought to be, U.S. policy as well. He said the Palestinians should live like dogs and whoever wishes may leave, and we’ll see where this leads. Reasonable policy, and that’s U.S. policy as well, and it will continue that way as long as we agree to permit it.”

[Transcription of full text by Angie D’Urso http://www.media.mit.edu/~nitin/mideast/chomsky.html]

Chomsky’s solution?

Chomsky’s solution is to inform world opinion to act against the US as a ‘rogue’ state. Once people realise how bad the US treats other states, they will mobilise to stop it. So far so good. But is a campaign to recognise Palestine’s right to exist enough? No! This has already been granted to ‘dogs’ to live in poverty in occupied ’bantustans’. Will the US and Israel ever allow Palestine to exist on equal terms? No! Chomsky has illusions in the democratic processes in the US if he thinks that the US will ever voluntarily give up its dominant role in the Middle East and meekly accept UN resolutions.

Chomsky does not understand what drives the US to world domination. He thinks that it is the result of bad capitalists who flout human rights out of greed. For him capitalism does not need to adopt such inhuman behaviour to survive. Therefore it can be reformed to allow its ‘human face’ to prevail. In reality, the US and its Israeli puppet occupy the Middle East to prevent the Arab masses from rising to take control of their own economic resources because if they do not US economic wealth will suffer a serious decline and Israel’s very survival is at stake.

The only way that this will change is when the Arab masses reject US/Israeli domination and fight for national self-determination. To succeed in this they must be backed by workers in the US/Irael and NATO countries whose task is to overthrow their ‘own’ capitalist/imperialist states. In this way resistance to national oppression can become the catalyst for permanent revolution on a global scale.

From Class Struggle No 38 April-May 2001

Written by raved

August 27, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Chomsky’s blurred Vision [February 1999]

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Noam Chomsky recently visited New Zealand as a guest of the Peace Foundation. He spoke to overflowing audiences eager to hear his critique of the US role in imposing the neo-liberal New World Order on the rest of the world. While Chomsky has a long track record in exposing the lies and hypocrisy of the US in its exercise of power, he cannot explain why the US behaves like this. Nor can he explain where we go from here, or what to do. We argue that Chomsky’s vision is blurred.

The core of Chomsky’s argument is the US drive to dominate the world in the post-WW2 period by subordinating the rest of the world to its global plan. fact the beginnings of globalisation. The world was partitioned so that the developing countries would serve as suppliers of raw materials and labour for the developed countries. This exploitation of the third world required political policies that did not allow the populations in these countries to opt out of this global plan. The IMF and World Bank and its more recent offspring NAFTA, WTO the MAI etc, were the instruments of this plan. Against this third world nationalism backed by the Soviet Union was identified as the main enemy. US backed coups and the cold war to isolate and ultimately destroy the Soviet Union were the tactics designed to keep this global plan on track. Chomsky’s writings over the last 30 years are really no more than documentation of the application of these policies in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

In a recent article in the New Left Review (No 230 July/August 1998) Chomsky develops this analysis further. He argues that the mechanisms for imposing this global plan are increasingly secret and outside democratic control. NAFTA and the MAI are examples of new agreements designed to force small states to accept trade and investment on the US terms that were conceived in secret. Resistance to these agreements only arose after their existence was ‘leaked’. On the MAI Chomsky states: the MAI “would constitute a major attack on democracy; it would shift the decision-making power over social and economic affairs even further into the hands of private tyrannies that operate in secret, unaccountable to the public. Corporations had been granted the rights of immortal persons by radical judicial activism early this century; but the MAI grants them the rights of states” (p.25).

Chomsky concludes: “The long-term goal of such initiatives is clear enough to anyone with open eyes: an international political economy which is organised by powerful states and secret bureaucracies whose primary function is to serve the concentrations of private power, which administer markets through their internal operations, through networks of corporate alliances, including the intra-firm transactions that are mislabeled ‘trade’. They rely on the public for subsidy, for research and development, for innovation and for bail-outs when things go wrong. They rely on the powerful states for protection from dangerous ‘democracy openings’. In such ways, they seek to ensure that the ‘prime beneficiaries’ of the world’s wealth are the right people; the smug and prosperous ‘Americans’; the ‘domestic constituencies’ and their counterparts elsewhere.” (p.27)

But what causes this power surge, and what do we do about it? Where do we go from here? Chomsky is a radical democrat; some would say an anarchist or libertarian socialist. He is certainly hostile to Marxism and Communism, which he associates with the Soviet Union. His solutions are to rally the citizenry to the cause of democracy and to bring these power plays under the control of the people. “There is no reason to doubt that it (this excessive power) can be controlled, even within existing formal institutions of parliamentary democracy (my emphasis). These are not the operations of any mysterious economic laws; they are human decisions that are subject to challenge, revision and reversal. They are also decisions made within institutions, state and private. They have to face the test of legitimacy, as always; and if they do not meet that test they can be replaced by others that are more free and just, exactly as has happened throughout history.” (p.27)

Chomsky’s logic is classic social democrat. Once the masses are informed, and reject the exercise of arbitrary power, then they can use the institutions of bourgeois democracy to “challenge, revise and reverse” such power. Here Chomsky detaches the state (and private) institutions from the ‘political economy’. Lenin said that politics is concentrated economics. Chomsky reverses the power flow from ‘political’ to the ‘economic’. There are no ‘mysterious economic laws’ he says. There is just the zero-sum game of a struggle for scarce resources. Who wins this struggle has the power. Therefore economics becomes reduced to politics – to decisions taken in secret, that can however be exposed and made public. So economic problems can be resolved by means of realising the ideal of parliamentary democracy.

What’s missing from this analysis is any understanding of the economic social relations that motivate the power struggle. Already under capitalism, social relations exist depending upon whether one owns the means of production or not. Therefore power flows from the ownership of private property that enables the capitalist class to force wage-labour to work and produced surplus value, to politics. This power relationship cannot be reversed or revised by parliament. In fact parliament functions to defend this power relationship by defending private property. Parliament can respond to democratic demands only when private property is not challenged. But once workers become ‘informed’ i.e. class conscious, and begin to ‘challenge, revise and reverse’ existing power relations, the threat to the property relations, upon which such power rests, will ensure that the state renounces its democratic trappings and imposes direct rule upon its subjects.

That’s why in the postwar period that Chomsky documents, no successful challenge to US power by means of parliamentary institutions has occurred inside or outside the US. The only successful challenges, all of which failed ultimately, arose from the exercise of non-democratic challenges; that is challenges that did not result from the existence of parliamentary democracy. They arose either from undemocratic elite opposition, such as that of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, or from mass struggles that by-passed the trappings of formal parliamentary democracy – street protests or civil disobedience in the US, or popular uprisings and mass movements such as in Cuba, Vietnam, Palestine, etc. Nor can it be argued that these social movements have succeeded in ‘renewing’ parliamentary democracy. The fate of the ex-SU and other so-called ‘socialist’ states proves this fact. Whatever the failings of so-called ‘socialist’ regimes – their non-democratic and bureaucratic nature etc – the return to ‘democracy and free markets’ is an unmitigated disaster; unmitigated by any exercise of democratic rights in moderating the devastating impact of the market.

The failure of these radical movements which threatened to overturn bourgeois states is not due to their non-democratic form, but due to their suppression by the military might of imperialism in the name of ‘democracy’. Therefore, it is naive and ultimately self-defeating for popular movements to have illusions in parliamentary democracy. The foundation of ‘actually existing capitalism’, as Chomsky calls it, is not an aberrant concentration of power that can be corrected by democratic process. No it is the underlying property relations, defended by the capitalist state, which can only be “challenged, revised and reversed” by extending the struggle for democracy to socialist revolution. Smashing the capitalist state, and creating a planned economy in which production is for need and not profits.

From Class Struggle, No 25, Dec 1998-Feb 1999


Written by raved

August 26, 2007 at 10:51 pm