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Hands off the Solomons!

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Most of the media coverage of recent events in the Solomon Islands has focused on the sensational details of riot and disorder: burning buildings, beaten-up cops, and looted shops have all been paraded across our screens. Explanations of the reasons for the riots in Honiara have been hard to find. Some commentators like Russell Brown have resorted to racist stereotypes of an uncontrollable ‘communalist’ people; others like the NZ Herald’s Audrey Young have ventured the slightly more sophisticated opinion that the riots were caused by resentment of Chinese and Taiwanese interference in Solomons politics

It’s about imperialism

Missing from the mainstream media has been any sort of account of the role that the United States, Britain and their South Pacific deputy sheriffs Australia and New Zealand, have played in creating and maintaining the manifold problems of Solomon Islands society. The Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) has faced various criticisms of its handling of the riots, but no one has suggested that the Mission and the regional powers that back it are part of the Solomons’ problems, not their solution.

When mainly Australian and New Zealand troops occupied the Solomons under the banner of RAMSI in 2003 the country was in the grip of a crisis that had been manufactured in the offices of the International Monetary Fund. Under pressure from the Australian and New Zealand governments, the Solomons government had implemented IMF ‘reforms’ that devastated its economy and profoundly destabilised its society.

After gaining independence from Britain in 1977, the Solomons found itself with a primitive infrastructure and an economy fashioned by the selfishness of colonialism that preferred plunder to sustainable economic development. Always heavily dependent on the prices it could get for exports of its raw materials, in particular timber and gold, the Solomons economy took a big hit when the ‘Asian flu’ of 1997 led to a drop in demand in its key export markets. In 1998 alone, the GDP of the country declined by 10%.

Pressured by Britain, Australia, and the US, the government of Bartholomew Ulufa’alu responded by implementing a programme of drastic economic ‘reforms’ drawn up by the International Monetary Fund. The country’s currency was devalued by 20%, and hundreds of public employees were sacked. Conflict between the country’s different ethnic groups followed, and at the beginning of 2000 a coup put Ulufa’alu into ‘protective custody’. Continuing violence left the country’s economy in ruins.

Instead of admitting the role that IMF policies had played in the collapse of the Solomons, the Howard government in Canberra used the chaos in its neighbour to demand even more brutal ‘reforms’ as the price of humanitarian aid. In November 2002 the government of Sir Allan Kemakeza began a new programme of spending and job cuts, sacking a third of public sector employees. Even worse, Kemakeza was forced to cede control of his government’s Finance Ministry to Lloyd Powell, the Australian head of a New Zealand-based multinational company called Solomon Leonard. At a conference held in Honiara in June 2002, the IMF had demanded Powell’s appointment as Permanent Secretary of Finance as the price of any new financial aid to the Solomons.

The second round of IMF reforms had predictable consequences. Even rudimentary health and education services collapsed in the slums of Honiara and in the provinces; power blackouts became frequent even in the capital; law and order broke down as police and judges went unpaid; and competition for scarce government funds renewed conflict between ethnic groups.

Howard rides in as US deputy sheriff

By the middle of 2003 it was clear that the reform of the Solomons economy by imperialism could only take place at gunpoint. The Howard government had become the US’s most loyal ally in the Asia-Pacific region, having just participated in the invasion of Iraq. Proclaiming the Solomons a ‘failed state’ that like Iraq could become a base for terrorists and the cause of regional instability, Australia organised a force of 2,500 troops to occupy the country.

The real reason for the invasion was two-fold. In the first place, Australia and New Zealand feared that the chaos in the Solomons could damage their own economies, by ruining the many Australian companies that do business in the islands. In the second place, the Howard government’s masters in Washington had become alarmed that the government of the Solomons might turn either to China or to France for aid money and help restoring security. With colonies in New Caledonia and French Polynesia, France still maintains a strong presence in the Pacific, and early in 2003 it had offered military aid to the Solomons government. Neither the US nor Australia wanted to see an expansion of French influence in an region they considered their own backyard. After the formation of RAMSI was announced in July 2003 the French offered troops for the force, but were brusquely turned down by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

With its economy booming, China is seeking energetically to expand its influence in the Pacific. The country’s drive to build trade and diplomatic ties has become particularly urgent since the government of Taiwan began using ‘chequebook diplomacy’ to bribe small countries with votes in the UN and similar international bodies to recognise the government in Taipei rather than the government in Beijing. With its view of China as an emerging rival superpower and potential medium-term military foe, the Bush government was concerned by the possibility of increased Chinese involvement in the Solomons. 

NZ follows as the Deputy’s Dog

The government of New Zealand had extra reasons of its own for involving itself in the occupation of the Solomons. After tacking away from Australia and the US by siding with France and China over the invasion of Iraq, the Clark government was desperate to assuage anger in Canberra and Washington by proving that it could ‘play ball’ in the South Pacific. In addition to making up with its old allies, the Labour government believed that it could moderate the unilateralist tendencies of Australia and the US. Clark and her Foreign Minister Phil Goff trumpeted the multinational makeup of RAMSI and the consent of the Kemakeza government to RAMSI’s intervention as triumphs of multinationalism over the ‘Iraq approach’. In reality, the RAMSI force was dominated by Australia, and the Kemakeza government had already been stripped of most of its ability to make independent decisions. The Australian government treated the vote of the Solomons’ parliament as a fait accompli: it had dispatched some 2,000 troops to Honiara before the vote had even been taken.

In the two and three quarter years it has occupied the Solomons the RAMSI force has made it abundantly clear that it acts on behalf of the Pacific’s big states and international capital, not on behalf of the people of the Solomons. Like the army occupying Iraq, RAMSI’s soldiers are exempted from prosecution or even investigation under Solomons law. They have authority over the Solomons’ own police force. Soon after landing in the Solomons RAMSI had begun making sweeping arrests – by the anniversary of the occupation it had detained 700 people, most of whom had not faced any sort of trial. In August 2004 eighty prisoners of RAMSI staged a rebellion at Rove Prison in Honiara. After breaking out of their cells and overpowering guards, the prisoners shouted slogans condemning their inhuman treatment’. Most had been held in solitary confinement for a year. Despite the protest, hundreds of people are still detained without trial in the Solomons.

RAMSI has also felt free to intimidate the population of the Solomons and over-rule the country’s government whenever it has felt the interests of international capital have been threatened. In March 2004, for instance, the Solomons’ remaining public sector workers voted to stage a national strike to demand a pay rise. In an effort to avert a strike, the Solomons government announced a meagre increase of 2.5%. RAMSI’s response was swift: the head of the Solomon Islands Public Employees Union was summoned by RAMSI staff to the Australian embassy, where he was warned that he was ‘destabilising’ the country. Shortly afterwards a RAMSI representative handed the same union leader a written warning that if he did not revoke the pay claim Australian aid to the Solomons would be suspended. Eventually the union capitulated.

Riots legacy of imperialism 

The riots that have destroyed large parts of Honiara in the past week can only be understood against the backdrop of the history of imperialism’s exploitation of the Solomons. The underdevelopment left by British colonialism has been exacerbated by brutal IMF policies which Australia and New Zealand have shown themselves prepared to implement at the point of a gun.

The rioters have accused Taiwanese and Chinese businessmen and diplomats of interfering with the electoral process by bribing key politicians, and condemned the new Prime Minister Snyder Rini as corrupt. But it is imperialism and RAMSI’s occupation of the Solomons which has created the environment for such corruption. The arbitrary, arrogant, and self-interested behaviour of RAMSI has created an atmosphere in which corruption can flourish. IMF policies and RAMSI occupation have greatly weakened the institutions of the Solomons state and cowed the trade unions, which might have acted as watchdogs against corruption. The Chinese and Taiwanese dealmakers and chequebook diplomats have stepped into the economic vacuum created by the failure of IMF policies and Australasian businesses to deliver prosperity.

The Australian and New Zealand governments have responded to the riots in Honiara by sending more troops to prop up RAMSI. Alexander Downer expressed the contempt of the Howard government and RAMSI for the sovereignty of the Solomons when he said last week that:

“The situation there is inherently unstable and our police will have to remain there for a long time to come and we will have to be prepared from time to time to send in military reinforcements if it’s necessary just as it is at the moment.”

Campaign for Australian and New Zealand forces to be withdrawn from the Solomons just as we call for their immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.

From Class Struggle 66 April/May 2006

Written by raved

January 8, 2012 at 10:55 am

The "Bolivarian Revolution" expropriates the workers’ struggle!

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Caracas: Meeting of the 6th Counter-revolutionary World Social Forum

From the 24 to the 29 of January the Sixth annual meeting of the counter-revolutionary international the World Social Forum met in Caracas, Venezuela. The LOI of Argentina, a member of the Leninist Trotskyists Fraction, gives its verdict.

The WSF, along with the “left” of the US Democratic Party, was responsible for betraying the US national ‘day of absence’ against poverty, racism and war called for the 1st of December by a Committee of more than 700 worker and antiwar organisations. This was the first time for years that militant elements in the US working class had coordinated a counter-offensive against the Bush government and the US capitalist class.

It is this same collection of social democrats, Stalinists, “Greens”, Castroites, Maoists, and fake Trotskyists – all associated with the WSF – that have mobilised to contain the awakening US working class in response to the crisis of the Bush administration, such as we saw in the Transit strike in New York, to make sure it remains subordinated to the Democratic party of US imperialism.

At the Sixth WSF were all those dedicated to the suppression of US workers struggles and all the mass struggles in Latin America in the name of the much heralded ‘Bolivarian Revolution’.First up was Chavez declaring “it is necessary to go forward to 21st Century Socialism”, speaking of “socialism or death”, shamelessly singing the ‘Internationale’ to close the meeting, and taking photo opportunities with Cindy Sheehan – the mother of the US soldier killed in Iraq who fights for the return of US troops – while at the same time he continues to sell the US regime the oil it needs to occupy Iraq and kill its people!

Or course Chavez never calls on the oppressed workers of Iraq, or the mothers, wives, or daughters of the thousands of Iraqi resistance fighters killed by the invaders, to organise for the military victory of Iraq and the defeat of Anglo-Yankee imperialism!

Following Chavez were all the supporters of Evo Morales, the new president of Bolivia, just finished appointing to his cabinet millionaire industralists like the ministers of Defense and Public Works, and ex-state employees of the former government of the murderer Goni overthrown in a popular rebellion in 2003, as well as peasants, miners and ex-union leaders.

In other words, the Sixth WSF was a meeting for all those backing the class collaboration of Morales who has already announced that he will respect and defend private property, allow the private exploitation of the Mutún mine (the largest manganese deposit in the world), made deals with the Santa Cruz bourgeoisie (home of most of Bolivia’s oil and mineral wealth), with the Spanish firm Corona, and with the oil monopolies, to contine to plunder Bolivia’s gas wealth.

After the Morales cheerleaders were the supporters of the current Ecuadorian government of Palacios such as the Maoist MDP, the Pachacutik and the CONAIE. They had tried to prevent the removal of his predecessor, Lucio Gutiérrez, who fell at the hands of a revolutionary mass uprising. Today these same forces are once more trying to stop the new uprising of the workers and poor peasants led by students, who have been fighting for two weeks against the the signing of a FTA between the Palacios government and the US.

These same leaders went to the WSF to embrace Chávez, who only months ago openly lent millions of barrels of oil to Palacios, thus sabotaging the strike and a political uprising of the workers and farmers of the Ecuadorian provinces of Sucumbíos and Orellana against Oxy and other imperialist oil companies. With the aid of his friend Chávez, Palacios used the Ecuadorian army to fiercely repress the people and to militarize these two provinces.

They can both count on the support of the Cuban bureaucracy of Castro – as can Morales – which also comes to the rescue of the US client regimes of Lula, Kirchner, Tabaré Vázquez, Bachelet and Co., as it prepares to complete the restoration of capitalism in Cuba.

Not to be left behind, there were four ministers of the Brazilian government, representing Lula and the PT (Workers Party), one of the most servile lackey governments of the US (like Kirchner, who has paid off the billions owed to the IMF in cash) which allows its troops along with those of Argentina and Chile, to occupy Haiti in the service of the imperial master.

The Argentine delegation included the Kirchnerites of the FTV, Barrios de Pie, bureaucrats like Yasky of the CTERA and Gutiérrez of the UOM – today a supporter of Kirchner in parliament. During the WSF a number of workers were attacked and jailed by the police and local politicians in Tartagal and Mosconi (in the North of Argentina), while in Caracas the state servants of Kirchner, the ally of Bush, Repsol and the IMF, met with the union bureaucrats and pro-government officials of the piqueteros (unemployed workers movement), bosses’ politicians like Mario Cafiero, the mst, and Nestor Pitrola of the Workers Party which voted for the popular front government of Evo Morales.

Playing a key role in the WSF are the fake Trotskyists who destroyed the Fourth International and became reformists. Today, all are fervent defenders of Chávez, Morales, the Castro bureaucracy, and the “Bolivarian Revolution”. They have openly broken with the struggle for the workers and socialist revolution, and have adopted the old class collaborationist policy of “revolution by stages” of Stalinism, telling the workers to put their hopes in the “good”, “progressive” bosses, the “anti-imperialist” military, and the “democratic” and “pacifist” imperialists.

So the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’, the ‘star’ of the Sixth World Social Forum, is no more than a cover to disguise the sordid deals the national bourgeoisies make with each other and with the imperialistic monopolies, to decide who gets what share of the profits, according to what resources are available, and how each country is slotted into the global capitalist division of labor. It is also a cover for the politics of the Castro bureaucracy that wants to restore capitalism in Cuba and to re-invent itself as a new bourgeoisie.

Socialist revolution is the triumphant insurrection of the workers and poor peasants that seizes the power, overthrows the bourgeoisie and expropriates the imperialistic monopolies and all the bosses. That is the only way that the anti-imperialist struggle can be carried through to completion, breaking with the imperilialists and their national bourgeois junior partners and making a planned socialist economy possible.

That is why there are only two roads for the working class and the exploited masses of Latin America: either the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ in which the proletariat submits to the continued exploitation, misery, massacres and imperialistic sacking of our nations; or, the struggle for a victorious workers socialist revolution on the road to the Socialist United States of Central and South America which can plan production where the gas, iron and managnese of Bolivia, the meat and the soyabean of Argentina, the copper of Chile, the minerals of Peru, the oil of Venezuela, the industry of Brazil, etc., are all used to meet the needs of the vast majority of the exploited and oppressed workers and poor peasants.

Today the most important step along the socialist road for all workers and poor peasants of the continent is the fight for the victory of the heroic revolution of the Bolivian workers and peasants which the popular front goverenment of Evo Morales, backed by the counter-revolutionary WSF, is today trying to destroy.

  • Against the WSF, expropriator of the struggles of the masses! 
  • For the Workers’ and poor Peasants’ Revolution! 
  • For a Socialist United States of Central and South America!

Translated and condensed from Supplement to Democracia Obrera 3rd February 2006

From Class Struggle 65 Feb/Mar 2006

Imperialism: policy option or death drive?

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When anti-war activists blame US imperialism or ‘globalisation’ as the cause of wars they usually mean the ‘power elite’ – the ‘neo-cons’ etc who are backed by the oil and arms industry. Imperialism and its wars are ‘bad’ policy options on the part of the US as a ‘world power’ which can be countered by world public opinion – the ‘second world power’’, or the ‘movement of movements’ as the World Social Forum has been called. For Marxists this conception of imperialism as ‘bad policy’ open to reform by an electoral alliance of workers, peasants and ‘good’ capitalists is a reactionary utopia. It is a utopia because imperialism needs wars to survive. It’s on a death drive and cannot be pacified. It is reactionary because it disarms the masses in the face of inevitable destruction and dooms the struggle for socialism. Real anti-imperialism for us does not mean making ‘good’ ‘bad policy’, but terminating the terminator.

There are a number of theories that have arisen in recent years claiming that the Marxist/Leninist concept of imperialism as the highest and final stage of capitalism is wrong.

They argue that the main forces that Lenin saw as driving imperialism to inevitable wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions, do not exist. The rise of finance capital, capital export, the growth of monopolies etc that doomed capitalism to destruction, have been surpassed by new developments such as the new economy that have rescued capitalism and made unlimited growth and the sharing of wealth possible. If this were true, then Marxism would cease to be relevant. Lenin’s theory that class politics is the extension of class economics would be empty phrases. Social classes would not longer exist and socialism as a post-capitalist dream would be made redundant by a just and benign capitalism.

These theorists say that globalisation has replaced imperialist contest between rival capitalist powers. Multilateral agreements between imperialist powers subordinate national interests to the global market and make national conflicts a thing of the past. It was easier to argue this during the 1980’s when the major powers were all allied to the US led ‘cold-war’, and the 1990’s when the UN and NATO officially fronted the wars against Iraq and Serbia. Whatever word is used to describe this ‘consensus’, national differences are now all accommodated under a US global hegemony where all states, including the US as the world’s biggest debtor, are dependent upon one another. Indeed some radicals, like Hardt and Negri in their book Empire published in 2000, say that the US is now so economically weak that it is no longer ‘hegemonic’.[1]

But what if the underlying strength of the US economy is in terminal decline?

What if to survive the US needs to turn its back on international agreements and attack its former allies? What if the US economy is in such a deep crisis that it is forced to revert to naked imperialist aggression on any state that threatens its ‘national interests’. A reversion to unilateral aggression is exactly what has happened since 9-11 under the Bush regime when the ‘world changed’. So the question must be asked: is this reversion an aberration? An aggressive militarist policy option driven by the narrow interests of one section of the US ruling class, the oil barons and arms industries? Or is this return to military occupations and recolonisations driven by a more deep-seated desperation on the part of US capital to survive at all costs? The answer to this question is critical because the solutions offered to this post 9-11 crisis depends on the perceived causes.

The globalisation theorists explain post-9-11 as an aberration. Already they say, the world has passed on. The new knowledge economy has created more wealth across national borders that can be redistributed in rising living standards in the developing world. The new capitalism in the US, Japan and EU does not need wars to make profits, but rather new technology and increasing labour productivity. The dynamic growth areas of the world economy are driven by multinational firms that invest, produce and sell in an integrated world market.

This ‘aberration’ must therefore be caused by a rogue element of the US ruling class that has taken power and used the military to grab scarce resources such as oil and natural gas to make big profits. For example, Chalmers Johnson’s recent book the Sorrows of Empire argues that the military have taken over the US state for this purpose. Chomsky’s analysis of US power is similar; the power elite uses its control of the media to manipulate public opinion to accept an aggressive foreign policy. If these arguments about the US as a ‘rogue state’ are correct, then mass mobilisations that reclaim control of the media and democratic institutions can theoretically regain control of the state for the people. But what if these arguments are not correct and imperialism is not a policy option but a death drive.

The reality is that imperialism is in a life or death crisis.

In the 1970s the world economy experienced a classic crisis of overproduction due to falling profits. Profits fell not because they were squeezed by rising wages but because the corporates could not increase the rate of exploitation fast enough to return a profit on the massive investments that went into plant, machinery and raw materials.[2] To restore profits it was necessary to drastically cut the price of wages (variable capital) and raw materials and machines (constant capital) by whatever means. In the 1890s and 1930s the world economy revived only because depressions and wars drastically cut the costs of plant and machinery and of labour.[3]

In the years since the 1970s ‘crash’, the US economy has failed to revive its economy to outcompete its rivals. The new economy has seen some increases in output and profits, but not sufficient to outperform Japan in cars and China in consumer goods. The recent ‘jobless’ upturn is less to do with new technology replacing jobs than with fewer workers working harder and longer (i.e. increased hours and intensity of work). There has been no massive reduction in the costs of wages or raw materials and the economy has been kept afloat by state borrowing and spending. The money borrowed from its rivals, particularly Japan, means that the US is now heavily in debt. Therefore the US economy is experiencing a deepening crisis of insufficient profits from which it can only survive by embarking on open imperialist wars to recolonise other nations, plundering their raw materials and attacking workers wages and rights at home and abroad to reduce labour costs. As Marxists say, the bosses’ crisis is being solved on the backs of the world’s workers.

It is not the policy of a militarist fraction of the US ruling class that causes war, but that of the whole US ruling class. Imperialism is not an aberration but a necessary result of capitalist crisis today.

So how does the whole ruling class benefit from war? Some corporates benefit directly, while others benefit from the flow-on effects. Of course the military and war industries do gain directly from imperialist wars, but production of arms and munitions is consumed unproductively (apart from R&D spin-offs in other sectors e.g. satellites, jeeps etc) and cannot revive the US economy as a whole. The Bush family and prominent members of the cabinet like Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice profit as shareholders of corporations that supply the military, and the workers in the arms industry earn wages that enter into the GDP – a sort of ‘military Keynesianism’.[4] But military expenditure does not otherwise add value to the economy. A good analogy would be to say that war benefits some bosses like the production of luxury items such as fast cars and jewelry. Theories such as the Permanent Arms Economy promoted by the Cliffites to account for the post-war long boom are fundamentally flawed in failing to recognise this fact.[5]

However unlike luxury cars, planes and tanks can be used to invade and occupy other countries and expropriate their resources and labour supply. The US has seized Iraq’s oil wealth and created hundreds of military bases in the Middle East and central Asia to oversee the plunder of natural resources. In its own poodle-like fashion, the UK has rechristened Gaddafi the former ‘terrorist fiend’ as the west’s ‘loyal friend’ in order to get access to Libya’s oil and gas fields.[6] While the military and oil magnates get the biggest share of this colonial bounty, the flow on effect of the war to the whole US and UK economies will be a vital supply of oil and gas at cheap prices that will lower the price of constant capital (fuel for industry) as well as variable capital (gas for workers cars) not available to their EU and Japanese rivals.[7] At the same time the US can create client states like Bolivia, or protectorates like Bosnia, Kosovo[8] and Iraq, impose the US dollar as the main currency, and threaten to bomb any state that wants to switch from the dollar to the Euro or yen as a rival to the ‘petrodollar’.[9]

We see that the imperialist states’ militarist policies are dictated by the interests of all capitalists.

The big banks and corporations all benefit from imperialist wars and plunder. What Lenin identified as finance capital was the big banks fusing their interests with the big corporations, and becoming monopolies, that is, combines or cartels that dominated whole industries. The monopolies were vertical (like Rockefellers Standard Oil or Carnegie’s Steel Corporation in the US) or horizontal (like the big German cartels) conglomerates that bought up their rivals and set the prices of production in that industry. Because they were national monopolies they had to compete with their rivals in other nations backed by their states. It was this rivalry that led to the export of capital to colonies to gain cheap raw materials and labour and the inevitable wars to divide and rule the whole world market. In what sense do today’s multinational corporations remain monopolies dominated by finance capital which look to their nation states to go to war in their interests as the ‘national interest’?

Monopoly finance capital is now centralised mainly in the hegemonic imperialist power, the USA.

First to the question of finance capital, then that of monopoly, then the question of national interest to show that state monopoly capitalism is alive, but not well.

At the heart of monopoly is finance capital. After Lenin’s death 20th imperialism created state capitalism to survive. Private banks became regulated by the central banks which took over the management of money capital to rescue the corporate sector. Without massive state intervention and ‘military Keynesianism’ after WW1, the big US corporations would have collapsed. The ‘new deal’ like the Keynesian welfare state’ was mainly about benefits to business.[10] Therefore we can say that far from being outdated, finance capital is even more concentrated and centralised today than it was in Lenin’s day.

Today the giant US Federal Bank along with World Bank and International Monetary Fund monopolises global finance capital through the bond market and international credit. The ‘Fed’ creates dollars which are pumped into US business which it then borrows from its rival EU and Japanese money markets in the form of US bonds. But the cost of its debt is offset by the advantages of the dollar as the main international currency. Private monopoly banks, such as Morgan/Chase, BOA and Citibank, are the biggest shareholders in the World Bank and IMF and dominate the loans made to the ‘‘third world’. But such is the crisis of overproduction, most ‘capital’ today is not invested in production but in speculation as ‘fictitious capital. Not only is finance capital concentrated into giant monopolies in the form of central banks and a few giant corporate banks they are all centralised in heart of the US imperialist state. Therefore what became known as ‘state monopoly capitalism’ in Lenin’s day is still the dominant reality in the global economy.

The crisis of overproduction manifests itself as the ‘risks’ associated with anarchic capitalism destroying the forces of production. Capitalism’s quest to plunder the third world is now in its final phase of world domination –exhausting the resources of the former soviet bloc. The end of the Soviet Union has opened up central Asia. There and elsewhere, the race for scarce resources is hotting up the competition between the imperialist powers.

Today capitalist production is highly dependent on non-renewable resources, notably oil, whose supply is rapidly running out. The big corporations are oil pushers, enforcers, or oil junkies.[11] Those who control these scarce resources benefit from ‘rent’ i.e. that is the premium that can be extracted from those who do not own this resource. Capitalism today is an asset-stripping death machine. The risks associated with this drive to survive explains the behavior of all the players.

The US finances its military machine and arms industry to win control in the rent-seeking war game. This is the case in Iraq, Central Asia and Latin America. These are all military fronts in the war for oil, gas or other vital resources. But even such looting of vital resources and the massive military subsidies of the imperialist states, does not make them cheap enough to restore rising rates of surplus value and return acceptable profits on the vast capital stockpile awaiting investment in production. As capitalism drives down its path of destruction it cannot save itself.

There are inherent limits to the gains from capitalist production which is simultaneously destroying the forces of production.

The recent controversy about the US ‘jobless recovery’ illustrates this point. While thousands of migrants flood into the US to fill menial service jobs, productive industry shifts over to ‘lean production’ by exporting jobs to cheap labour countries. In Mexico or China, wage goods (clothes, white goods, electronic goods, cars etc) are produced more cheaply because of low wage costs combined with global lean production methods (cast-off production lines e.g. Korean or Indian cars). This is the same export of capital recognised by Lenin. But now it is up against more fundamental limits set by rock bottom wages as well as productivity caps.

The crisis of the period from 1914 to 1945 was hugely destructive in terms of the devaluation of variable and constant capital. Only out of such a destructive firestorm could the post-war boom emerge. But that boom was limited to the imperialist world and did not extend to the third world and the gap between ‘north and south’ widened dramatically. The accumulation of capital at the centre is now so huge that only a massive destruction of capital on a world scale will restore a return to profitable production. Windfalls like the collapse of the Soviet world extended the capitalist market to its full global reach. But while it created huge chunks of ‘new capital’ to add the world supply, it did not create sufficient means of making sufficient profits on that capital.

Thus early 21st century imperialism is unable to generate enough super-profits to keep pace with its rising capital stock. All the ‘t-shirts in China’ cannot sustain sufficient profits in the US let alone rising living standards of labour in the US. With the decline in new surplus-value from production, potential money capital becomes merely footloose money that devalues unless new sources of ‘value’ can be found. Increasingly finance capital ceases to be the productive investment that drives the development of industry and instead becomes ‘fictitious’ capital which is valueless because it cannot exchanged for commodities and must be gambled away on the prices of commodities. Take the derivatives market of ‘casino capitalism’.
Morgan/Chase the biggest international bank now has 84 times its real capital assets (stockholders funds) gambled on ‘derivatives’.

‘Derivatives’ are bets on future prices. Derivatives are a form of insurance to cover risks of production in a high-risk, unstable, crisis-prone anarchic market. That’s why 80% of such bets are on future interest rates (the price of money). For example futures brokers ‘borrow’ company shares for a fee, sell them to create cash and agree to sell the shares back at a given price. They use the money to speculate on currencies etc, and hope that the shares will be worth less when they buy them back so they can make a profit. This creates huge amounts of debt with no share asset backing. The instability in the market is itself greatly increased by the billions of hot money gambled on future prices every day.

Moreover it is workers that stand to lose most in the casino economy. For every George Soros who may lose billions of fictitious capital there are millions who lose their life savings. The finance mafia bets the savings of the ‘new middle class’ held in pension funds and bank shares. Marx talked about joint stock companies borrowing from small savers as a form of ‘socialising the costs’ of capital. Small savers would always be wiped out in any credit crash. Soros lost millions in 1998 when Russia defaulted on its debt. Morgan/Chase was similarly exposed to the Argentina collapse in 2001 even though the government froze the accounts of small savers (ahoristas) while at the same time allowed the big banks to take their money out of the country.

Such financial crashes destroy the jobs and savings of those workers who have savings. 19th and 20th century imperialist powers justified their smash and grab expansionism by selling it to their working class as a defence of the national interest. Britain had its ‘civilising mission’ and the US had its defence of the ‘free world’. All used ‘international relations’ to pacify and buy off the rising working class challenge to the power of capital. Marx, Engels and Lenin recognised the importance of colonial super-profits, which when trickled down to the ‘new middle class’ bribed it to support imperialism and to turn organised labour into cheerleaders for imperialist wars. Now 21st century imperialism cannot afford to buy off its workers and runs the ultimate risk of eliminating its support base in the ‘labour aristocracy’.

21st century imperialism cannot afford political buyouts so funds patriotic panics.

While it can’t afford to buy patriotism anymore imperialist states appeal to ‘national values’. Foreigners are blamed for taking jobs and cutting wages so that the labour movement becomes geared up to support wars against enemy aliens at home and abroad. As imperialist rivalry hots up trade protection becomes national protectionism in which workers are enlisted to fight the ‘enemy’. But as the costs of imperialist crises and wars become thrust onto the backs of workers (workers welfare axed while corporate welfare – especially oil and war industries – climbs, jobs and wages lost, workers in uniform lose their lives in the war for oil etc) the political class consensus that drove the post-war boom and which has been kept intact from the victory of capitalism over ‘communism, now becomes fractured at home and abroad. Workers and peasants see themselves as pawns in a US corporate war game for world domination. The level of anti-US sentiment outside the US is rising to massive proportions. And the class conflicts in the outside world are now being reproduced inside the US and the other imperialist powers.

This means that resistance in many forms is beginning to emerge. The WSF is a sort of ‘good cop’ imperialism that promotes the illusion that imperialism as a bad policy option that can be globally challenged and reformed. Hardt and Negri’s concept of Empire provides a popular version of this ideological position. There is a reformist labour international around Castro, including Chavez and Lula that promotes social democratic regimes coming together as an international counter-weight to US rogue imperialism. But the severity of the crisis imposed on the masses is rapidly surpassing the capacity of the reformists and their leftwing cheerleaders in the WSF to strangle the exploding resistance movements. Castro, Lula and Chavez attempts to negotiate with imperialism can only be at the expense of their worker and peasant supporters. Once we can see that 21st century imperialism is on the road to destruction, then we understand that only a world working class mobilisation for a global socialist society can offer an alternative. The cost of anarchic date-expired capitalism in the 21st century will be more wars and destruction unless it is replaced by socialism! 

From Class Struggle 55 April-May 2004

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January 6, 2010 at 8:06 pm


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From Class Struggle 51 July-August 2003

The recent invasion of the Solomon Islands by a force led by Australia and New Zealand represents a new stage in the recolonisation of the Asia-Pacific region. Like Iraq, the Solomons has been occupied in the name of humanitarianism, but in the interests of imperialism. The Facilitation of International Assistance 2003 legislation provides the 2,000-strong military force with both wide-ranging powers and immunity from prosecution under local law.

The legislation was drawn up not in Honiara but in Canberra and Wellington. Such was the contempt in Canberra for the parliamentary deliberations in Honiara that the documents were leaked to sections of the Australian media before they were even tabled in the Solomon Islands. The invaders have tried to argue that their actions are legitimate because they are backed by the people of the Solomons and by the Pacific. But the Solomons parliament which approved the invasion is notoriously corrupt and unrepresentative, and the invaders are lying when they say that other Pacific governments are united in support of their actions.

Green Party MP Keith Locke’s disgraceful speech to parliament justifying the invasion showed up the hypocrisy of the pro-invasion left. Locke argued that the invasion was justified because Solomons political leaders like Prime Minister Kamakeza supported it…then went on to acknowledge the corruption of the Solomons political system and to urge its reform!

While corrupt MPs voted for invasion, the Fijian-based Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC) pointed out that the invasion flatly contradicted the wishes of the National Peace Conference held in August 2000 by representatives of dozens of organisations drawn from many sectors of Solomons society. This conference had called for the demilitarisation of Solomons society, not an invasion led by an Australian army recently responsible for war crimes in East Timor and Afghanistan. The PCRC recognised the blatantly imperialist nature of the invasion, condemning plans for “a governing council of about 12 people led by a chief executive with a light infantry company on standby, a judicial team of 20, prison staff, a group of accountants and other financial managers to administer the economy”.

Others have pointed to the presence of small numbers of Fijian and Tongan troops in the invasion force as ‘evidence’ for Pacific peoples’ consent. It’s true that, desperate to avoid being the next targets for intervention, Fiji and Tonga have joined the invasion force, but neither of these countries can be called even a bourgeois democracy – one government runs an apartheid system, and the other is an absolute monarchy! Proponents of the invasion do not mention the deep uneasiness of Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, larger countries with closer ties to the Solomons and traditionally more independent foreign policies.

It’s about imperialism

In ‘An Un-Natural Disaster?’, an article in Class Struggle #48, we exposed preparations for the invasion in the mass media, the Australasian political establishment, and Australia’s intelligence services. We also pointed out that the social crisis in the Solomons has been caused by the super exploitation of the islands by imperialism, and by the intensification of this super exploitation over the past few years by the ANZAC suits who run the IMF in the South Pacific.

Last November, at the insistence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Solomon Islands government sacked 1,300 employees – that’s about 30 percent of the public sector workforce. The number of government employees had already been halved from 8,473 to 4,337 between 1993 and 1999.

As part of last November’s ‘reforms’, the Solomons government gave control of its finances to an Australian, Lloyd Powell, for whom the post of Permanent Secretary of Finance was created. Powell is the executive director of the New Zealand-based company Solomon Leonard, which has a proven track record in overseeing austerity programs in the Cook Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga.

Is it any wonder that the slash and burn policies of the IMF and Powell have created economic and social crisis in the Solomons? John Howard and Helen Clark are now using the crisis as an excuse to force neoliberalism on the Solomons at the point of a gun.

Humanitarian Aid – for ANZAC profits

The attempt by the Australian government and media to dress up the Solomons intervention as an act of humanitarian charity is a sham. Australia and New Zealand are interested in the Solomons for economic and strategic reasons.

In a pro-invasion ‘analysis’ called ‘Our Failing Neighbour’, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute noted: “Prior to the 2000 coup there were about 100 Australian companies doing business in Solomon Islands, with about 30 having operations there. Since the breakdown in law and order this has declined to only a handful having operations on the ground. This amounts to significant economic loss for Australia.”

Howard and Clark are also worried about instability spreading west from the Solomons to the mineral-rich island of Bougainville, where ANZAC troops only recently helped quench a decade-long independence struggle.

Anti-war movement, unions should act

The movement opposing imperialist war and occupations in the Middle East must focus some of its attention on the invasion of the Solomons. If we can’t oppose imperialism on our own doorstep, then we have no chance of helping to defeat it farther afield.

The anti-war movement should demand that all foreign forces stay out of the Solomons, and that Lloyd Powell and the rest of the IMF be kicked out of the country. The New Zealand and Australian governments should forgive the debts they are ‘owed’ by the Solomons, and should fund the recreation of the public sector jobs that the IMF destroyed last year.

The people of the Solomons have a right to defend themselves against the ANZAC invaders. Because of its isolation and underdevelopment, the Solomons lacks a strong workers’ movement, and has no socialist movement at all. Opposition to the invaders may be led at first by tribal or religious forces, but this will not make it illegitimate.

The anti-war movement in wealthy countries like New Zealand has no right to condemn oppressed people in super exploited nations who turn to religious ideas and tribal organisation in an effort to understand and combat their oppression. It is up to the left and the workers’ movement of Australasia to aid the people of the Solomons, and in doing so advance progressive and pro-worker ideas in the country.

The Australasian union movement has a shocking record of support for ANZAC imperialism in the Asia-Pacific region. In 1999, for instance, Aussie trade unionists gave money and labour to build the walled compound that became the headquarters of the UN army of occupation in East Timor. It was from these headquarters that ANZAC thugs launched attacks to crush workers’ and students’ protests with guns and batons, once the reality of occupation had set in for the ‘liberated’ East Timorese.

Today Australasian unions should aid the victims of imperialism, not the bullies. Strikes and blockades should be organised to stop the movement of supplies and reinforcements to ANZAC troops in the Solomons. The struggling trade unions of the Solomons should be aided, so that they can defend their members against continued IMF cuts and the restrictions on civil liberties which the ANZAC occupiers will introduce.

Khaki Greens hail invasion

Across Australasia, the anti-war movement while united in opposing a US invasion of Iraq is divided over a US-backed invasion far closer to home. The Green and social democratic politicians who tried to dominate the movement against an invasion of Iraq are amongst the loudest supporters of John Howard’s latest military adventure. Bob Brown, the leader of Australia’s Khaki Green Party, has actually criticised Bush and Howard for not being keen enough, saying that the invasion of the Solomons was ‘long overdue’.

Here in New Zealand, the Khaki Greens have shown similar enthusiasm. Greens Foreign Affairs spokesman Keith Locke gave pre-emptive backing to the invasion in a July the 1st speech to parliament. Locke told MPs that he was “not really concerned about the New Zealand troops operating in an insensitive way because they have a very good record internationally”. Does Locke know anything about history? Does he think that the murder of civilians in Vietnam and Korea and the mass execution of POWs in North Africa counts as ‘very good’? Locke went so far as to identify the Greens with the National Party’s attitude to the Solomons, saying “I think Bill English was right” in a reference to the National leader’s earlier statement to parliament.

Like his friend Bob Brown, Locke has spent years urging the Australasian political establishment to launch an invasion of the Solomons. He’s also been a cheerleader for military intervention in Bougainville, East Timor, Kosovo, and (under UN auspices) Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s doubtful whether any other sitting MP has been such a wide-ranging advocate of the use of New Zealand armed forces overseas as Keith Locke.

Impressed by the size of protests against the invasion of Iraq, some people have argued that the anti-war movement is also an anti-capitalist movement. But the pro-war position of many ‘peacenik’ liberals and Greens and the gutless silence of the Alliance tell us otherwise.

How can we understand the pro-invasion stance of the Greens? Are they contradicting themselves by opposing New Zealand occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan but supporting a New Zealand occupation in the Solomons? We don’t think so. The Greens are a pro-capitalist organisation rooted in the least efficient section of the New Zealand capitalist class – struggling and small businesses that have nothing to gain from the continued globalisation of the New Zealand economy supported by their more prosperous cousins who back National and ACT.

But the Greens’ business backers oppose globalisation because of their bottom line, not out of concern for workers at home or the Third World. They disagree with Helen Clark not over support for imperialism, but over where exactly and under what banner the army should repress workers and peasants and help extract superprofits. The Greens’ patrons have no chance of competing with the hotshot multinationals carving up the Middle East under the banner of the US (as opposed to the French and Germans), so they naturally opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and called New Zealand military support for these wars a waste of money. It is in the Asia-Pacific region that the green capitalists hope to mark their mark.

The invasion of the Solomons has exposed the politics of the Green Party just as surely as the war on Afghanistan exposed the Alliance. To be sure, the Greens have some honest, hardworking pro-worker rank and file activists, but this doesn’t change the class location of the bulk of the party’s membership and class nature of the politics their leaders push. By its very nature the Green Party is a futile avenue for pro-worker activism. Now’s the time for lefty Greens to get out of this rotten organisation and become full-blooded reds!

Instead of busting their guts for careerists like Locke, they should join the revolutionaries around the world and mobilise the working class to take direct action against the wars of recolonisation which are the survival-mechanism of capitalism in the twenty-first century. The anti-war movement can only develop an anti-capitalist backbone if it attracts the support of the organised working class. Unlike their local capitalists, workers do not have an economic interest in wars of recolonisation.

Keith Locke’s pro-invasion speech is online at

Written by raved

January 6, 2009 at 8:03 pm


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From Class Struggle 48 December 2002/January 2003

Argentina goes from IMF ‘show case’ of economic development to’ basket case’. Is the same fate in store for New Zealand/Aotearoa? Here we put forward some ideas in the hope of stimilating a debate on this question. We make some further comparisons with Australia and South Africa which have similar origins. The solution we come up with is for Socialist Federations of the Pacific, Latin America and Southern Africa! We welcome feedback from readers aboiut where they think New Zealand/Aotearoa is going.

Some History

Some basic facts: Argentina 40 million people. NZ 4 million people and 40 million sheep. Both settler semi-colonies; dependent development based on pastoral exports in 19th and early 20th centuries and post WW2 economic insulation. NZ’s competitive advantage is agricultural – dairy production, meat processing, woool –textiles etc. The semi-colonial problem is dependence on exports to maintain imports of primary and secondary manufactures. NZ’s development was limited to import-substitution secondary manufacturing (eg car assembly, whiteware, electronics etc to serve local market)

Argentina has competitive advantage in pastoral production. Its balance of payments problem was lessened by protection. Argentina was able to substitute some heavy manufacturing, such as steel, petrochemicals etc. But it never became a big regional exporter of these commodities. Argentina’s heavy industry was highly protected and uncompetitive. Thus Argentina’s dependent-development was somewhere between that of NZ (which did not substitute heavy industry) and South Africa and Australia (who produced cars, electronics etc for regional markets). We suggest that the limits to dependent-development in each case are set by the extent to which a country has competitive advantage in the manufacturing of heavy machinery (i.e. capital goods).

Semi-colonial development and crisis

Dependent-development reaches its fullest extent with the export of a limited range capital goods on the world economy. Yet competitive advantage exists only during the periods of boom and fails during recessions as regional markets contract and the small-scale economies and higher costs in the semi-colonies cannot sustain competition.

Enter the MNCs to concentrate and rationalise production globally. This has been the story of so-called globalisation. In SA and Australia, the biggest operations were internationalised. In SA most of the major industries are Multinationals. In Australia minerals (BHP) General Motors Holden/Ford etc have been globalised.


In the case of Argentina where capital goods production could be integrated profitably it survived. But most was not competitive so Argentina was de-industrialised and its import substitution capacity in heavy steel and petro-chemical industry lost. Thus import volumes rose. Import prices were reduced as the peso was pegged to the dollar, but export prices rose with the US dollar, so that overall the trade deficit increased. The balance of payments was plugged with IMF borrowing until this exceeded the capacity of exports to pay and debt mounted.

So the crisis of a re-colonised dependent economy means bankruptcy and devaluation of assets which are then sold off cheaply to multinationals and big banks. Argentina’s plight is that of all semi-colonial economies whose capacity to develop independently has been destroyed by globalisation. But the severity of the crisis is directly proportional to the depth of restructuring in the primary industry sector. How does NZ compare?

New Zealand compared

NZ’s primary sector always involved foreign investment through banks and loan agencies and the export of profits. In agriculture (dairy, meat, textiles etc) production depended heavily on imported capital, technology and machines. New Zealand never substituted for heavy industry except in isolated, exceptional cases (NZ Steel based on Iron sands).

Thus NZ was always exposed to chronic balance of payments crises. The postwar development of import substitution in secondary manufacturing for consumer goods was a weak attempt to solve the ongoing dependency of the economy. This insulation reached its limit as soon as protected industry outgrew the local market.

So, unlike SA, Australia or Argentina, the neo-liberal reversal was less deep because it affected only the post-war import substitution in the secondary sector of the economy. De-industrialisation did not hit primary production as it was already partiallly globalised. Pastoral production has always been technologically advanced, and continues to be so. The primary agricultural sector (e.g. meat, dairy, wool etc) has become more internationalised with the giant dairy monopoly Fonterra, now a multinational in its own right. The problem with this however is that little of the rent from agricultural value-added production is available for redistribution inside NZ but falls into the hands of international capital.

To complete the comparison, Argentina was able to insulate itself from extreme economic dependence by setting up internal capital goods manufacturing. In some ways similar to the situation in SA where apartheid was like the military dictatorship in regimenting social production based on super-exploitation. Like SA, when the crisis came in the early 90’s, Argentina fell further and was more severly affected by the neo-liberal crisis measures than Australia or NZ.


Argentina’s dependency, more like Australia and SA, is acute. Yet all these are relatively large economies with a broad resource base where there is the potential to resolve the crisis by socialising the economy. In Agentina the collapse of industry leaves the majority of the population out of work or underemployed. Half are under the poverty line. 20% are hungry or starving.

The most similar case is SA, and it is no accident that in Argentina the masses are frightened of becoming “Another Africa”. Like SA, nationalisation without compensation under workers’ control of the large businesses and banks is the way to revive the economy and feed the people. This has to become linked to revolutions in the rest of the region, to establish a Federation of Socialist Republics of Southern Africa, and of Latin America, to create potentially powerful regional socialist economies.

NZ’s dependency is chronic

NZ is in reality a tiny US and Australian dominated semi-colony. Its capitalist future will see it integrating with Australia as part of a larger US client state. Even that won’t buy much time for the bosses. Australia is in a similar position to Argentina. Marxism is not an exact science and predictions have to be reviewed constantly. But we would suggest Australia’s prospects over the next tens years are that it is likely to suffer a similar economic decline to Argentina.

If this is correct, NZ’s relation to Australia will see it sucked into this vortex. Therefore, workers in NZ must prepare to unite with Australian workers for the nationalisation under workers control of the assets of all the big banks and businesses and to socialise the economy as part of a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Pacific.

Written by raved

January 3, 2009 at 9:30 pm


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Mass protests against the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in Quebec in April continued the upsurge of the anti-globalisation coalition around the world. The target this time was the re-colonisation or ‘dollarisation’ of Latin America. We assess the prospects for turning this rising populist protest into a revolutionary movement.

Seattle, Washington, Davos, Prague, Melbourne, Nice, Quebecand the list goes on to Barcelona, Genoa and beyond. These are the locations of past or future anti-capitalist protests of meetings of the world’s rich organisations and clubs such as the WTO, IMF, and World Economic Forum. At every protest a coalition of left groups, greens, anarchists, populists, and NGO’s have joined forces with some elements of the unions to physically confront and attempt to prevent these meetings of the rich going ahead.

Quebec was the most recent. So what happened in Quebec that made a difference? The authorities put up a wire fence and succeeded in keeping the protesters away from the venue. But the media focused upon the protesters and not the agenda of the rich club. We learned that the purpose of the meeting of all the Finance Ministers of North and South America (except Cuba which does not meet the US definition of ‘democracy’) was to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas or FTAA.

The FTAA is modeled on NAFTA which was set up in 1992 to link Mexico, Canada and the US in one common market. Since 1992 the effects of NAFTA are clear. Mexico and Canada have been re-colonised by the US. NAFTA allows US firms to take Mexican and Canadian Governments to court if they pass legislation that limits profits. For example Metalclad Corporation got US$16 million from the Mexican Government because it was not allowed to dispose of waste and cause a public health hazard! FTAA will be the same only more. Today the US has a 75% share of the economy of the Americas. Under the FTAA it will gain an even larger share. The whole of the America’s will now become “Amerika”.

This means that as the US turns of the screws by re-colonising the America’s the class struggle will also become united across “Amerika”. Workers in the North and South will now fight alongside one another in one big class, rather than be divided by nationalist politics which weakens and destroys all progessive movements.

Already there are numerous examples of the formation of anti-free trade union and NGO alliances in the Americas. The first Summit of the Peoples of the Americas was held in Santiago Chile in April 1998. Since then many networks and coalitions have been built. Recently a top level coalition the Hemispheric Social Alliance was formed. However, these forces are still mainly international alliances of national organisations.

This is the legacy of the nationalist reformist politics of the post-war period. On the Left the legacy has been to tail bourgeois nationalism. That is why the deadly patriotic front tradition of Stalinism, Maoism, and Guerillaism that accompanied the nationalist politics of the post-war period must now be countered by an increasingly internationalist struggle that has always at the centre of the Trotskyist movement. For not only is the FTAA an instrument for re-colonising the America, under the WTO, World Bank and other agreements, globalisation brings the same free trade regimes to Asia and Africa. The potential for a global anti-capitalist movement to fight to unite workers in many countries is now a real prospect.

This is a big happening. Most of the left has become caught up in the enthusiasm of this struggle. The SWP thinks it’s the biggest thing to hit the class struggle since the Vietnam War. The SWP has split from its sister organisation the ISO in the US because it claims the ISO does not recognise the importance of the anti-capitalist phenomenon.

The SWP thinks that this “new, new left” opens up the opportunity for a rapid regroupment of the left. To prove this is possible the SWP is having talks with the LCR in France, part of the International Secretariat, the main ‘Trotskyist tendency’. Both are prepared to ‘sideline’ their differences over the defence of the former SU and focus on the main tasks of today.

However, neither of these tendencies has a record of struggle that gives us confidence in their leadership of a new regroupment of the revolutionary left. They both have a history of jumping onto bandwagons and calling them new ‘vanguards’ to replace the traditional labour movement. The current bandwagon of the anti-capitalist movement is a ‘youth bandwagon’, which has come around several times before in the post-war period. Each time youth were backed as more revolutionary than workers. The most famous was the ‘new left’ of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

The ‘new left’ was more liberal than Marxist. Arising out of the post 1956 de-Stalinization it was a pacifist, humanist socialism, based mainly in the educated youth of the US and Europe. It protested the Vietnam War and rampant consumer capitalism, but it never joined forces with the conservative, established labour movement. Neither survived the austerity of the 1970’s nor the neo-liberal attacks of the 1980’s and 1990’s as a force for change. Some of the more colourful leaders of the new left became establishment figures but most dropped out of left politics.

If the new left failed to unite with workers and build a revolutionary party at a time when labour was relatively strong, what will the new new left achieve at a time when labour is weak, and the power of the US hegemonic apparatus is on the rise? The weakness of the old new left will be compounded by the absence of any strong labour movement and left politics to graft onto the new generation of youth who have no history of class struggle. As Trotsky said of the late 1930’s the crisis of capitalism is the crisis of revolutionary leadership. Today the crisis of capitalist globalisation is even more acutely the crisis of revolutionary leadership.

The class basis of resistance has to be re-created from the base up. The anti-capitalist bandwagon cannot side step rebuilding the labour unions by taking a cyberspace detour. Without the unions there is no ‘school for revolution’ (Trotsky). This is because only by fighting capital in the space of production is it possible to bring workers’ power to bear on capital.

Taking on the state machine on the streets and barricades can only win when workers control the military and state forces. This will not happen until workers build militia to defend their workplaces from strike breaking and state repression. Hyperreal fictions that reality is anywhere but production are scenarios for disaster.

So today as never before, the anti-capitalist movement needs revolutionary Marxist theory and practice. The new generations need to learn the lessons of successful revolutions and failed revolutions. That is why we have no confidence in the SWP or LCR as a new leadership. Both tendencies never learnt the lessons of the Bolsheviks and liquidated themselves as vanguard parties in the post-war period. The SWP rejected the defence of the SU the supreme test of Bolshevism. The IS rejected the working class vanguard for a number of non-worker vanguards. Neither can claim to even recognise the roots of their problems. So they cannot learn from their mistakes.

The basic lessons are:

class agency; class independence; and the democratic centralist party. Lets briefly define each of these.

  • Class Agency: only the working class can lead an anti-capitalist revolution. This is because the working class produces surplus-value and can use its power to stop production. Thus workers must build workplace organisations and united unions across international borders to control production.
  • Class Independence: the working class must lead all other oppressed classes (e.g. peasants) and groups (poor, unemployed, gay etc) in the struggle for socialism without making any concessions to the bourgeoisie or other hostile classes. The united front is counter-posed to the popular front.
  • Democratic centralist Party: the working class becomes an agency for revolution only when it is led by a revolutionary vanguard party organised on a democratic centralist basis. Democratic centralism in Lenin’s view allows the party to unite theory and practice in the struggle and constantly test its program for revolution.
  • Each of these lessons/principles of Bolshevism can be applied to the anti-capitalist movement today in the following way:

  • Class Agency: Many in the anti-capitalist movement do not see capitalism as about classes. They see it as a coalition of social movements that cut across classes. (e.g. the famous reference to the Zapatistas being viewed as gay, feminist, union, indigenous, black etc depending upon which aspect is identified with by any given social movement.) This pluralist concept of oppression/social movements has be critiqued by class analysis and a coalition built based upon working class leadership.
  • Class Independence: Working class independence becomes the basis for building the movement. Instead of confronting MNC capital at conventions and on the streets, workers should unite internationally to fight capitalism on the job. The target of free trade can then be replaced by the target of the MNC’s plants in a number of countries. Instead of entering popular or patriotic fronts (eg Mexico) to fight ‘free trade’ (which is only a symptom of the weakness of workers to reject low wages and conditions) international united fronts to win concessions from MNC’s in every country can be formed.
  • Democratic Centralist Party: Within the united fronts in which workers organisations take the lead, there has to be a no holds barred fight among revolutionary tendencies to create a revolutionary party on the model of the Bolshevik party. Patriotic frontists, reformists, nationalists, opportunists, ultralefts etc. have to be confronted and defeated in the struggles in the same way the Bolsheviks defeated the Mensheviks and ultralefts.
  • Turn the anti-capitalist movement into a
    Revolutionary Communist International!
    From Class Struggle, No 39 June-July 2001

    What’s wrong with APEC? [February 1999]

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    The recent APEC meeting in Malaysia was notable for its failure to push free trade in the face of the so-called Asian crisis. Instead it got into a spat about “Asian values” and “human rights”. NZ’s Jenny Shipley joined with the US vice president Al Gore to attack Dr Mahathir’s jailing and prosecution of his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim. Since the US is the world’s worst offender on human rights, what really motivates Gore’s attack is Dr Mahathir’s retreat to economic nationalism to protect the Malaysian economy from the harmful effects of economic liberalisation. Yet neither free trade nor economic nationalism in any combination can end human rights abuses. Both are against the interests of workers. We explain why.

    APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Council) is widely seen to be a threat to workers everywhere. This is because APEC is designed to extend ‘free trade’ among the Asia Pacific states. Free trade is seen to be in the interest of the major powers and against the interests of the ‘developing’ states because it will drive down prices and wages in these states. It is also feared that APEC will reinforce regulations like the MAI that put severe limits on the ability of weaker states to protect and benefit from their own resources.

    The alternative is posed as economic nationalism – i.e. to reject ‘free trade’ and to regulate trade and capital flows for the national benefit. This means breaking from the model of APEC and following the example of China in tightly regulating Direct Foreign Investment (DFI). Malaysia is today seen as opting for this alternative after having its economy destabilised by volatile capital flows. Japan too has turned its back on demands to free up trade in timber and fish. In a recent article in the New Left Review #231, Robert Wade and Frank Veneroso argue that the Chinese model is now seen as the solution to the so-called “Asian Crisis” by insulating the region from the worst ravages of chaotic world capitalism. The Asian economies provide half of the world’s savings so they don’t need to agree to the destructive free trade policies of the IMF or World Bank in order to get funds.

    Like the Korean students we call for the IMF to get out! We are against IMF austerity and debt for equity measures as the means by which US capital gains control of semi-colonial and weaker imperialist economies. However, we do not see a retreat to economic nationalism as the real answer because it does not change the root cause of the problem – capitalism. We argue here that both free trade and protection are merely different ways of managing capitalism and that neither of these ‘alternatives’ is in the interests of workers. What we want is workers control and a planned economy that is integrated into an international socialist economy where production is for need and not profits.

    What’s wrong with free trade?

    The fear of free trade is well founded. The large protests that have met APEC meetings since its start, sure to continue in New Zealand in 1999 testify to this real fear. (See article on ‘APEC Security threatens democratic rights’). ‘Globalisation’ is the swear word that expresses this fear. Under the capitalist world economy, NAFTA, the WTO, MAI and APEC, are all designed to regulate super-exploitation and unequal exchange between the imperialist powers and the poor colonies and semi-colonies. Free trade under these rules disadvantages the poorer commodity producers who have almost no control over prices of exports or imports.

    What is produced is determined by competitive advantage under the ownership and control of MNCs. If costs are competitive DFI will flow in and super-profits will flow out. While this arrangement has the advantage of cutting costs of production, it also depresses living standards and expands the surplus population of unemployed or under-employed. Any attempt to deregulate or interfere with these arrangements will lead to punitive law suits for breach of contract, and/or economic sanctions, and ultimately political and military intervention. The fate of Iraq during and after the Gulf War is a good example.

    Is Economic Nationalism any better?

    Most of the left, especially the eco-left and the Maoist left, advocates national economic controls against free trade. That is, instead of the free reign of MNCs, nation states must impose social constraints on DFI and the extraction of profits. Usually this means some form of tax on DFI that can fund a social dividend to subsidise the social downside of globalisation.

    Despite its apparent progressive thrust, there are some clearly reactionary political aspects to this. Any attempt to appeal to nationalism against globalisation runs the risk of subordinating the working class to the national bourgeoisie. That is, it isolates workers in each country, separates and alienates them from their working class brothers and sisters in other countries, and gives priority to an alliance between workers and bosses in which bosses are dominant.

    Logically the downside of globalisation cannot be defeated by national solutions without reimposing trade and capital barriers that lead to trade wars and ultimately military confrontations in which workers kill workers.

    Second, this ‘solution’, unless it breaks free of the capitalist world economy, can be easily sucked back into the ‘new’ state form widely promoted as the ‘new middle’ (see ‘Who Runs the German Economy? Economist, November 21), the ‘third way’ or the ‘radical centre’ (See article on the ‘Smart, Wired, Zero Sum State’ in Class Struggle #24).

    Under this model the local state becomes a direct agent of globalisation, as the manager of investment, and of social control. Yet because the social fund available to correct the social downside cannot be more than a token contribution without raising taxes and driving out DFI, there is no real counter to the harmful effects of globalisation upon society.

    Workers internationalism

    So it seems that neither alternative can escape the effects of globalisation upon the masses of workers and peasants in the ‘less developed countries’ or those impoverished sections of society in the ‘developed’ world. The answer then must be to transform those progressive struggles to limit the negative impact of globalisation on local populations, into a successful transition to socialism.

    How to do this? First, we have to recognise that free trade is contradictory. It has both progressive and destructive aspects. The trick is to neutralise the destructive aspects by advancing the progressive aspects. Under the free reign of the MNCs, ownership and control is rapidly concentrated into the hands of a few powerful MNCs and their imperialist states. This amounts to a progressive ‘socialising’ of the means of production as the world economy becomes increasingly interdependent.

    In that sense the world economy becomes internationalised, and along with it, the working class. So while on the one hand MNCs that span a number of countries can attempt to evade attempts at nationalisation in any one country by capital flight, on the other, MNCs cannot evade a potentially powerful international labour movement if it is organised and united.

    Therefore instead of trying to break up MNCs by nationalising them in any one country, which can only lead to isolated struggles and defeats at the hands of sanctions and military offensives, it is important for the international labour movement to ‘socialise’ them further. This means giving up on the reformist idea that the capitalist state can be used in the transition to socialism, and taking up the idea that workers integrated into the global division of labour unite internationally to progressively ‘socialise’ these massive combines. By this we mean imposing the interests of labour onto the owners by extending workers control over production and planning. The solidarity that has emerged around the recent struggles of Korean workers and the Australian ‘wharfies’ is a sign of what could be possible once workers recognise that their strength in unity is must be turned into international solidarity.

    Progressive nationalism?

    This does not mean that some of the more progressive demands of economic nationalism should be junked. Privatised assets should be re-nationalised without compensation, and all state assets put under workers control. Similarly, progressive taxes on profits and speculation should be increased to fund social spending. Taxes on profitable industry rather than subsidies to unprofitable industry should be the basis for funding social spending. Where these social costs drive capital out of the country, capitalist property should be socialised and put under workers control.

    Such demands upon the capitalist nation state would meet with rejection by the capitalists on the grounds that they would destabilise the economy by threatening the rights of private property. That’s why to be successful these measures would require a much higher level of political organisation of workers capable of supporting a Workers’ Government based on workers militia. Moreover, the success of a Workers’ Government in any given country to resist attempts by imperialist states to smash it would depend upon the strength of the international workers movement and the capacity of workers in the imperialist countries to put a halt to such armed interventions.

    So whichever way you look at it, there can be no successful transition to socialism without overcoming the reactionary nationalisms that divide and rule the international working class, and putting the development of the progressive socialisation of the world economy that is rapidly occurring under globalisation, under workers’ control.

    NZ out of APEC!

    For Workers Internationalism!

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

    Written by raved

    August 26, 2007 at 10:36 pm