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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

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Venezuela and the Cuban road to ‘socialism’

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At this year’s World Social Forum the cry was raised “Lula No! Chavez Si”! This chant captured the politics of the young and old radicals alike who look to Chavez as the best yet hope for socialism. CWG attended a session of the Asia-Pacific International Solidarity Conference in Sydney over Easter on the Venezuelan revolution. When we and others argued that Chavez was not capable of leading the Venezuelan workers to socialism, we were met with claims by the Democratic Socialist Party members that Chavez was a “Marxist” and was following the Cuban road to ‘socialism’. What’s up with Chavez?

Chavez in his closing speech before a full stadium in Porto Alegre, sported a Che T-shirt and was given a rapturous reception. Once more he talked about the need for socialism to achieve the goals of the Bolivarian revolution. On the face of it this sounded like Chavez was prepared to break with US imperialism and nationalise the property of the imperialists and local capitalists. Those whose hopes had been attached to Lula and his Worker’s Party Government in Brazil two years ago, and were now disillusioned by his attacks on workers and his sacking of left wing parliamentarians, now saw Chavez as picking up the mantle of the socialist cause of Castro and Che Guevara.

The Democratic Socialist Party of Australia is an example of a former Trotskyist group that has become an open cheerleader for Castro. In the recent APISC conference in Sydney, CWG members were told by a DSP militant that their ‘co-thinkers’ in Latin America were the Cuban Communist Party. When we said the Castro was restoring capitalism in Cuba and was a betrayer of the Latin American revolution, this comrade said that Castro was now fighting restoration and that the articles of Celia Hart showed that it was possible for Castroites and Trotskyites to be allies in the class struggle.

Celia Hart is the daughter of a two leading revolutionaries in Cuba. She has recently written about the need to adopt Trotsky’s view of permanent revolution in Cuba and Latin America. What she means by this is what Che Guevara meant when he said “either socialist revolution or a caricature of revolution”, that the Stalinist view of two revolutionary stages, first national, then socialist, must be abandoned. Chavez has also realised that Venezuela cannot be independent short of socialism. But what does socialism mean?

The fact is that Celia Hart’s ‘rediscovery’ of Trotsky is like the post-modernists ‘rediscovery’ of Marx. This ‘Trotsky’ is a museum exhibit like the mausoleum of Lenin. Celia Hart says that Trotsky’s ideas should be discussed like those of Gramsci and Mariategui! This is a dead Trotsky, whose politics have been transformed into their opposite. Instead of an uncompromising fight for working class independence, this ‘Trotsky’ calls a bourgeois president a ‘Marxist’ or even ‘Trotskyist’. Even serious ‘Trotskyists’ like the el Militante tendency of Alan Woods gives critical support to Chavez. This only confuses workers by presenting Chavez as capable of defending the revolution instead of warning workers that only they can defend their class against a counter-revolution. For example, Celia Hart recognises that a US attack on Venezuela will come, but instead of calling for soviets and workers militias now, she talks of an ‘international brigade’ like in Spain to come to the rescue of Venezuela!

Objectively Chavez is the President of a bourgeois state that defends private property. There is a huge gap between his ‘socialist’ rhetoric and his actions protecting Venezuelan capitalism. Towards the end of his speech at the WSF, Chavez defended Lula’s Government for facing up to the difficult task of defending the masses against imperialism. This was an indirect admission by Chavez that he too has to negotiate and make concessions to imperialism and sometimes attack workers directly, as he did at Sidor, on the ‘road to socialism’!

Those on the left who defend Chavez as a ‘Marxist’ or even a ‘Trotskyist’, are in effect liquidating the independent role of the revolutionary party in transforming a national revolution against imperialism into a socialist revolution. Instead they are substituting as the workers’ ‘vanguard’ a fraction of the national bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie, or Castroite bureaucracy, who all try to use the state and mass support to negotiate better terms with imperialism. Chavez has come to understand that he will sooner or later face a US blockade and end up going further than he formally intended. And rather than follow Allende, his model is clearly closer to Cuba where Castro was forced by the US blockade to go further than he intended and proclaim ‘socialism’.

But Cuba under Castro has never been socialist. It’s revolution was not based on a mass movement but upon a petty bourgeois national democratic independence movement. The class character of the Cuban revolution remains petty bourgeois and bureaucratic caught between the Latin American proletariat and imperialism. Its role is not to encourage revolution but to moderate the class struggle and negotiate a class compromise like Stalin did. Castro acted like Stalin in every Latin American revolution from the 1960s onward. In Chile he backed Allende’s refusal to arm the workers for fear it would provoke imperialism. Disastrous betrayal! In Nicaragua he backed the Sandinista’s attempts to negotiate with the US rather than mobilise mass resistance. Disastrous betrayal! Today, his advice to Latin American leaders is to follow Cuba’s current path in negotiating a deal between the market and ‘socialism’ –something called ‘market socialism’ – betrayal again!

However, despite its counter-revolutionary role in Latin America, Cuba did expropriate the imperialists and national capitalists. Therefore it must be supported and defended from imperialism and capitalist restoration. But the only way to prevent capitalist restoration is to remove the Castroite bureaucracy and install a workers’ and small farmers’ government in its place. We say the same with Chavez and the Bolivarian movement. We support his regime unconditionally against imperialism. But we cannot give him the slightest political support. Why? Because Chavez is the President of a bourgeois state balanced between the Venezuelan masses and US imperialism. Like Castro, who is gradually accommodating imperialism by allowing it to buy up state assets in Cuba, Chavez is reluctant to directly confront imperialism by nationalising imperialist assets.

This fact is clear from the one and only nationalisation of a factory that has taken place so far. Venepal, a paper-making plant owned by a US corporation, was recently nationalised and put under joint government/worker co-management. The workers occupied the plant over a year ago calling on Chavez to nationalise it, but Chavez did so only when he satisfied that the owners were closing it down and it could be nationalised under the Constitution as ‘unproductive’. What results is a state-owned corporation in which the workers compete with capitalist firms in a capitalist economy. The program the workers need is not piecemeal nationalisations but wholesale expropriation not only of bankrupt factories, but of all major profitable factories, farms and banks without compensation to the bosses and under workers control as part of a planned economy!

The Cuba model is wrong for another life and death reason. Unlike Cuba, there are no Soviet missiles to ‘protect’ Venezuela. Castro’s bureaucratised worker state survived because of the Cold War standoff between imperialism and the degenerated workers states. Venezuela would not survive an imperialist counter-revolution and invasion without armed workers and farmers militia. Chavez may declare his loyalty to the interests of the masses, but his actions expose the masses to a terrible historic defeat. Any illusions that Chavez can defend workers in the event of a US sponsored civil war (e.g. invasion from Colombia) can only disarm the workers and lead to their defeat.

What is needed is not pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric about the ‘Marxist’ Chavez leading the way on the road to socialism, but the organisation of the Venezuelan workers, peasants and soldiers into armed Soviets capable of mobilising a ‘Red Army’ to defend the national revolution from the counter-revolution and to go on to seize the power in the name of a workers’ and peasant’s government.

For a national congress of the CNT and workers and peasant organisations in struggle!
For the expropriation of land, industry and the banks without compensation and under peasant and worker control!
For soviets and workers and peasants militias and soldiers committees!
For a Workers’ and working Farmers’ government! 

From Class Struggle 60 March-April 2005


Written by raved

January 11, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Leaflet for the 5th World Social Forum, Porto Allegre, January 2005

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The 5th meeting of the WSF prepares new sellouts of the Castroite restoration bureaucracy and US imperialists.

The World Social Forum (WSF) – meeting in Porto Allegre in January 2005 for the fifth time, has an ominous significance for the organizations and the struggle of the workers of Brazil, Latin America and of the world. It mystifies and confuses with its reactionary strategy of class conciliation, suppressing the direct action and revolutionary politics of the masses. The WSF unites the worlds reformists (social democracy, stalinism, and pseudo-Trotskyism), such as the PT [Workers Party of Brazil], the petty bourgeoisie, the NGOs, the church, the CUT [pro-Chavez bureaucratized union movement of Brazil] and leadership of the MST [movement of landless workers]. “Another World is possible”, in the after life in the sky; here and now the WSF adapts to the declining capitalist State and its barbarism.

The 5th WSF takes place at a time of intense class struggle with the US offensive against the Iraqi people. The re-election of President Bush and the election of Abu Mazen in Palestine demonstrate that imperialism will ruthlessly pursue its objective to exploit, dominate and oppress the Iraqi and Palestinian people, in a wild drive to sack and plunder the natural wealth of the Middle East. Oil, vital to the survival of North American industry, is what made it go to war to loot and plunder Iraq which has the 3rd largest reserve. As well as oil, the US war industry also profits from the war.

The United States must exercise its world domination by the use of the force, occupying Iraqi territory, and trampling on every principle of national sovereignty, supported hypocritically by the international organisms of the bourgeoisie, like the UN, and the class collaborationist line of the World Social Forum. Yet the occupation of Iraq has fallen far short of what the Pentagon wanted because despite the huge and escalating cost of suppressing the Iraqi resistance it has not yet forced the Iraqi people to accept the occupation. Already, the US has had more than 1,500 casualties (according to the bourgeois media). Another test of the hypocrisy of the US is its insistence on holding elections in Iraq, a farce which is designed to legitimize it domination military behind a screen of bourgeois democracy.
 
All this proves that the use of ‘revolutionary terror’ by the Iraqi masses against the US occupation is totally legitimate, and that the calls for peace and condemnations of the use of violence by Iraqis is a demagogic conspiracy by the bourgeoisies, the petty bourgeoisie and their agents designed to suppress the peoples’ instinct to defend their country. All the gangsters are united internationally in the defense of the ideals and security of the capitalist society and their state regimes, that have as their ‘mission’ the exploitation and the domination of the semi-colonial nations by imperialism and “the legitimate” defense of imperialistic super-exploitation and oppression.

For that reason the servile lackeys of imperialism and defenders of capitalist exploitation daily condemn the use of the revolutionary violence of the Iraqi people, since this is the one true, real threat to the power of the imperialistic bourgeoisie and its accomplices. If the opposition to violence was grounded in the interest of the working class, why do these pacifists not condemn the reactionary violence of the US that almost daily drops their bombs on thousands of innocent civilians, young and old; that daily destroys public buildings, historical and cultural treasures, houses, hospitals and schools, causing indiscriminate and immeasurable genocide? Why do they shut up before the tortures inflicted on the Iraqi militia in the prison of Abu Graib and the prisoners of Guantánamo? Or perhaps these do not constitute forms of violence? The only violence condemned by the lackeys of imperialism, is that directed against bourgeois hegemony.

Bourgeois and petty bourgeois pacifism condemns the violence of the exploited against the exploiters, organizing themselves globally to legitimize the violence of capitalism including of state fascism, as is the case of the politics of the World Social Forum. Thus it disarms the proletariat of its militant ideas and reinforces the oppression and domination of imperialism and capitalism in decline.

The WSF is an initiative of the global reformists (social democracy, Stalinism, and the pseudo Trotskyism), of the Workers Party (PT), the petty bourgeoisie, the NGOs, the church, the CUT (Workers Union Central of Brazil) and direction of the MST (union of landless workers of Brazil) all are financed by the governments and international organisms of imperialism, to put pressure on the imperialistic bourgeoisies (that meet at the World Economic Forum at Davis) to give more breadcrumbs to the poor countries. The main organizers are ABONG (Brazilian Association of non-Governmental Organizations), ATTAC (Action by the Taxation of Financial Transactions to the Citizens), CBJP (Brazilian Commission of Justice and Peace of CNBB), in addition to CUT, MST, UJS, UNITES, CMP and others, all related to national and international governmental organs. Indeed because the FSM arose to make a counter-pressure to the Economic Forum of Davis, their meetings always precede it. (Leaders of the WSF like Lula, also go to the WEF).

The WSF announces that “Another World is possible”, without violence, shared by all, with justice, without social exclusion, and of equality between all peoples. It recycles as its principles and justification, old clichés long used to suppress the independent struggle of the working class from the time of the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels that first said that “the liberation of the workers will be work of the workers”, that is, that liberation will only come from the victory of the proletarian revolution, nationally and internationally. Thus, the World Social Forum orates at the funeral of the workers who are made to wait for a better world after their death.

Another method used to mystify the unions and workers struggle: the NGOs penetrate these movements with their humanitarian, pacifist and ecological ideologies, trying to replace the method of direct fight against capitalist exploitation, in all its forms, with the method of the pacific appeals and voluntary aid (alms, something typical of the religious mentality). They say, that the proletarian method of direct action, armed or not, is ineffective in the transformation of the capitalist society into a world of social equality. They say that the proletariat organized as a class to fight Capitalism, does not bring about any improvement in the lives of the workers and the people. For that reason they try to sell to the governments their assistance projects (especially in the poor countries) which they claim can provide solutions to the social evils of prostitution, unemployment, violence, illiteracy etc.

Therefore, the WSF is promoted and justified by the strategy and world-view of the petty bourgeoisie desperate to survive as a class that lives on the dregs and the breadcrumbs of the bourgeoisie. It is most damaging because it infects the movement of workers of Brazil, Latin America and of the world, with a conformist, stingy and anti-proletarian ideology. More importantly, the WSF is supported by the treacherous leaders of the masses, whose objective is to strangle the proletarian struggle on a global level and, in the case of Latin America, the revolutionary struggle of the workers and the exploited masses, like yesterday in Central America, today in Bolivia and Venezuela, and soon in Ecuador and Argentina, to subjugate them at the feet of the bourgeoisies.

In this fifth World Social Forum the NGOs and the churches are a key element, where they play the role “of mediators” sprinkling holy water on the revolutionary struggles of the masses, to bless those that were the key figures at previous WSF meetings, including its predecessor, the Forum of San Pablo, that are all today participating in bourgeois regimes and governments, or openly supporting them.

There is colonel Gutiérrez, leading the government of Ecuador, who presented himself in the previous meetings of “the patriotic” WSF as an “anti-imperialist”, but selling out to the plans of the IMF, and preparing to sign a free trade agreement with the Yankees, and starving and repressing the workers and the farmers.

There are the old Sandinista commanders of Nicaragua and those of the FMLN of El Salvador, founders of the old Forum of San Pablo next to Chacho Alvarez of Argentina, the bourgeois red Cardinal of the PRD of Mexico, Aristide of Haiti, friend of Fidel Castro and killer of his people -, administering declining semi-colonial Capitalism in those nations and as mayors and parliamentarians, ‘dolarizing’ El Salvador, applying the plans of the IMF and making deals for imperialist re-colonization.

There we see the supposedly “anti-imperialist” Chávez who continues selling petroleum to Bush and the Yankees, who use it to fuel the military machine to massacre the Iraqi people.

There, in that Forum, are the communist parties of Latin America which hold their “World Seminar” every year to agree on their counter-revolutionary politics before traveling to the meeting of the WSF. They are the stalinists and Castroists in all its variants, that all openly support the US lackey Kirchner in Argentina, as demanded by Fidel Castro when he visited that country in 2003; that like the Peruvian CGTP supports the hated government of Toledo; that in Bolivia, along with Solares and Quispe, support Mesa with their truce; that in the case of Castroite bureaucracy is prepared to complete the capitalist restoration in Cuba.

There, also in that Forum, are the communist parties and the union bureaucracies that in Europe have led the working class, as in Spain, Germany, Britain, into the governments of the social-imperialist parties who create the illusions of French-German-Spanish ‘democratic imperialism’. There also is the union bureaucracy of the US AFL-CIO that yesterday supported Bush and marines in Afghanistan and Iraq, and today wants the US working class prostrate at the feet of the imperialistic killers in the Democratic Party.

Against this den of liquidators of the proletarian revolution and expropriators of the workers struggles, the members of the Committee of Connection counter pose the struggle for an International Conference of principled Trotskyists and revolutionary international workers organizations, fighting to regroup the healthy forces of Trotskyism to recreate a World Party of the Socialist Revolution. For that reason, we commit ourselves to confront and to fight against that treacherous Forum, and to mobilize all our forces and energies, to defeat social democracy, stalinism, the labor aristocracies and bureaucracies of all types, and the liquidators and renegades of Trotskyism, who are dragging in the mud the name, the program and the flag of the 4th International.

The revolutionaries who have signed this declaration, follow the Transitional Program of the 4th International, and repudiate and fight uncompromisingly against popular fronts and all political groups who hang onto the aprons strings of the bourgeoisie; our task is the abolition of the capitalist domination; our objective, socialism, our method, the proletarian revolution.

We must make this fight with all our forces, because the international proletariat needs to raise a spotless flag, a program based on the international experience of the proletariats fight for the freedom of all oppressed peoples of the world; that is the flag of the Trotskyism.

For that reason, we are not part of World Social Forum, nor do we support it in any way. On the contrary, we are here to denounce the farce called for WSF before the worldwide activist vanguard who are gathered here, the mass union movements, students’ movements, and unemployed people etc., who believe in the goal of socialism. The World Social Forum is an anti-proletarian den. For that reason, we denounce it before the poor people of the world; we say that its politics does not serve the interests of workers; we denounce its organizers as parasites that live off the taxes paid by the exploited labor power of the people.

The greatest violence that humanity imposes on the oppressed is capitalism itself (private ownership of the means of production) and the crises of overproduction that are inherent in that system, (the minimum wage does not correspond to 10% of working families’ necessities). According to bourgeois sources: the number of poor people in the world has risen to around 307 million. The Report of the Conference of the UN Committee for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published recently, shows that in the last 30 years the number of people who live on less than one US dollar a day has doubled. It predicts that by 2015, the poor countries will have 420 million people living below the poverty line. In some regions, mainly in Africa, part of the population already live on less than US 57 cents, while a Swiss citizen spends US$ 61.9 per day. In the 1970s around 56% of the African population lived on less than a dollar a day. Today, this proportion is 65%. Poverty is increasing, not diminishing. The workers and youth in general are at the mercy of this absolute violence, of hunger, misery, unemployment, prostitution, drugs etc..

The remedy for the violence of the capitalism that social science reveals, is the international socialist revolution, the expropriation of the expropriator, the socialization of the means of production.

· Out with the imperialistic troops of Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Haiti!
· For the military defeat of all imperialistic troops occupying Iraq!
· For the victory of the heroic resistance of the Iraqi masses!
· For the triumph of the Latin American working class and the world socialist revolution!
· Long Live the struggle on the workers and exploited people of Bolivia who lead the way!
· Imperialism out of Bolivia! Down with the government of Mesa, break the truce made by Evo Morales, Solares of the COB, and Quispe of the CSUTCB!
· For a national Congress of delegates of rank and file of the COB and the farmers unions, for a political general strike, with barricades, pickets, workers militias and committees of soldiers, that can overthrow Mesa and the regime of the mine-owners, imposing a revolutionary provisional government of the COB and the farmers unions, supported by the armed, independent organizations of the masses!


Signed by FTI-CI (Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia), CWG (NZ), FT-PV (Brazil) and CLA (Australia)

From Class Struggle 59 January-February 2005

Written by raved

January 8, 2010 at 8:57 pm

For a Workers’ Revolution in Venezuela

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In April 2002 the Venezuela workers won a victory which echoed around the world. Pouring in their hundreds of thousands into the streets of Caracas, they defeated a US-backed coup against the elected government of Hugo Chavez. Today Chavez survives only with the backing of armed workers. The time has come for to organise workers’ councils and militias’ to defeat imperialism and make a socialist revolution.

Before April 2002, no CIA-organised coup has ever been defeated, and the US has not given up on the task of ousting Chavez’s government. The CIA has continued to fund right-wing opposition to Chavez, including a national lockout which nearly paralysed the economy at the end of 2002 and beginning of 2003, and the Pentagon has used counter-insurgency operations in neighbouring Colombia as an excuse to cross Venezuela’s border and attack Venezuelan troops. Just last May, a plot of Colombian death squads to assassinate Chavez and send his head to Castro was discovered.

Today, soaring oil prices caused by the debacle in Iraq make Venezuela an even more tempting target for US ‘intervention’. It’s more important than ever that the victory of April 2002 be remembered and analysed, by Venezuelan workers and workers around the world.

A lot of leftists, in the West especially, believe that Chavez is a socialist committed to using his state power to overturn capitalism and establish a planned economy. For example, the film The Revolution will not be Televised which is making the rounds, like much of the left-wing media coverage of Venezuela takes a quite uncritical attitude towards the government of Chavez, treating him as the guiding light of a ‘Bolivarian revolution’ which is moving Venezuela away from servitude to US imperialism which has blighted so many countries in South America and around the world.

Chavez is a national capitalist

The reality is that Chavez is a national capitalist. Venezuela is a semi-colony of US imperialism. Chavez wants to reduce this dependence on imperialism by strengthening Venezuelan capitalism. Traditionally it has been dependent on the export of raw materials – agricultural products and oil – to the West. At the mercy of the ups and downs of world prices for these exports no real industrial base has been built. What industry does exist is in many cases owned by multinational companies, which are able to make big profits because they pay very low wages for labour and very low prices for raw materials and refuse to pay high taxes to enable the government to fund social services. Despite being one of the biggest exporters of oil in the world, Venezuela sees 80% of its population living below the poverty line.

Since coming to power in 1999, Chavez has tried to deal with Venezuela’s problems by encouraging the growth of a strong capitalist class. Chavez showed his capitalist credentials early on. In his first year in office he cut public spending by 20% to please the International Monetary Fund. Chavez actually kept on the Finance Minister of the previous right-wing Caldera government. Instead of nationalising assets or increasing funding for health and education, Chavez used a new Banco Popular to put money into credit schemes for small and medium-sized businesses. A ‘Buy Venezuela” policy was begun to boost the profits of local manufacturers.

Chavez’ policies were actually applauded by advocates of the ‘Third Way’ in the West. Blairite academic Julia Bruxton, for instance, wrote that: “In addressing his country’s development crisis and vulnerability in the globalised economy, Chavez took the middle road…a middle ground can be chartered between state-led development and [neo-liberal] orthodoxy”. The new constitution Chavez gave Venezuela is often praised by Western leftists but it only institutionalised the national capitalist politics the Chavez regime had been following since 1999.

Reforms not anti-capitalist

Most of the reforms Chavez has introduced can be understood not as attempts at socialist transformation, but as efforts to strengthen local capitalism, in opposition to US imperialism. Chavez’ land reform and reform of urban property ownership have created much interest in the West. Chavez has legislated to give urban slum dwellers title to their houses, and has provided for the distribution of rural blocks to farming families. But Chavez has shown little willingness to set up collectivised agriculture or to nationalise housing – rather he is distributing land and house titles to individual families. This is consistent with wanting to create a stonger national capitalist sector.

Chavez has introduced laws banning capital flight, and halted the privatisation of many industries, including the oil industry. But the ban on capital flight is designed to prevent ‘unpatriotic’ Venezuelan capitalists taking their money offshore, rather than investing in business inside the country. Likewise, the halt to privatisation is designed to stop the US buy-up of Venezuelan assets, and the consequent draining of the profits they make from the country. Chavez has no objections to Venezuelan capitalists taking over public assets.

Chavez’ vision of a strong national Venezuelan capitalism is matched by his vision of a South American bloc of capitalist economies challenging the power of US imperialism in the continent. Chavez is close to Presidents Lula of Brazil and Kirchner of Argentina, who share this vision. All three leaders are part of a new breed of social democratic leaders who are trying to ride a new wave of class struggle and anti-imperialism to power in South America and around the world. The World Social Forum founded by Lula’s Brazilian Workers’ Party is an organising tool for these ‘new’ social movements.

Chavez failed vision

Chavez and his friend have no chance of success. The history of social democracy shows that when a government comes into power and under pressure from workers tries to enact left-wing reforms, it quickly creates a crisis. If it wants to get enough money to pay for the reforms, it has to challenge the foreign companies that have a stranglehold over the economy. These companies don’t want to see their profits threatened, and they are backed by the governments of the imperialist countries in which they are based. They resist attempts to make them pay more taxes or to nationalise their assets by getting imperialist governments to destabilise and if necessary overthrow the regimes that threaten their profits and property.

The story is no different when left-wing governments like Chavez’ increase democratic rights by, for instance, making it easier for free trade unions to operate. Workers tend to use their new liberties to organise strike action to win higher wages and better conditions from their employers, who are usually directly or indirectly multinational companies. Since higher wages and better conditions cut into profits, the companies and their imperialist backers start to destablise the government which gave workers greater freedoms, in the hope that these freedoms can be rolled back.

Time and time again, left-wing reforming governments have run into the brick wall of the domination of poor semi-colonies by imperialist money. In Guatemala in 1954, in Chile in 1973, and in Fiji in 1987, reforming governments have been ousted when the companies they have alienated have turned to the imperialist powers for support. In Chile in 1973, the Allende government angered the US-based multinationals which its plans to nationalise key areas of the economy like the mining sector. Nationalisation meant the end to super-profits, so the multinationals conspired with the CIA and the US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to organise the military coup that put General Pinochet in power, killed thousands of leftists and unionists, and made sure that the economy staying in US hands.

Role of the army

Chavez has struggled to convince the Venezuelan capitalists to buy into his project. This is because they are mainly comprador bourgeoisie, used to administering and living off US imperialism. They are alarmed by the decline in relations with the US that and Chavez’ policies have provoked, and they continue to conspire with the CIA to bring down the Chavez regime.

Because most Venezuelan capitalists have sold out to imperialism, and there is no existing class of ‘patriotic’ national capitalists to take control of the economy, Chavez has to rely upon the state to run the economy. He has turned to the army as a sort of substitute bourgeoisie. They army is used as a sort of stop-gap measure in a huge variety of contexts – it helps bring in harvests, repair infrastructure, and so on. The army has also been integrated into the grassroots working class organisations of Venezuela, the Bolivarian Committees. Chavez recently called for the arming of these Committees under the supervision of the army.

But for all its populist claims, Chavez’ army is still a bourgeois army. It exists to defend capitalist property and will always side with capitalism against working class revolution. April 2002 showed this fact clearly: while the coup leaders took control and Chavez was transported to an island prison, even the pro-Chavez sections of the army sat on their hands. Only the mass mobilisations on the streets and the spectre of civil war succeeded in splitting the army and defeating the coup. It was the independence of the Venezuelan working class from Chavez’ state, and in particular his army, that defeated the coup.

The victory of 2002 showed that there is no social base for the Bolivarian revolution other than the working masses, and that only they have the ability to break with imperialism and Venezuelan capitalism. When the workers set up grassroots ‘Bolivarian circles’ to defend Chavez against the coup, he responded by trying to close down these circles from challenging the power of ‘his’ army and police. When he called recently for the arming of the neighbourhoods this was under the control of the army.

Even worse, Chavez has used the ‘peoples’ army’ to crush the factory occupations which have broken out spontaneously in parts of Venezuela in opposition to the bosses’ complicity in the coup attempts. After the 2002, for instance, Chavez sent the army to break up a workers’ occupation of the Pepsi Cola factory in Caracas. In an action which perfectly symbolises his politics, Chavez ordered the army to ‘confiscate’ thousands of cans of Pepsi and distribute them to the poor of Caracas as spoils of his ‘anti-imperialist’ struggle. The next day Pepsi was back under the control of the imperialists.

Chavez should be defended from the CIA counter-revolution, but workers should organised themselves into militias independently of him. Rather than having illusions in him or his army, or being part of a political alliance with him, workers should make a ‘military bloc’ with him against imperialist coups and subversion only. For example, now that Chavez has agreed to the rigged recall referendum, workers should turn out to defeat the opposition vote, but be prepared to defend themselves arms in hand from the coup that will inevitably follow.

Workers need to be independent of Chavez so they can get rid of him when he becomes an obstacle to the socialist revolution, which alone can actually achieve the improved living standards and democratic rights Chavez promises. What is needed right now is a revolutionary Marxist party and program that can arm the workers ideologically and organisationally to break with the Bolivarian movement and create workers councils, or soviets, everywhere!

Defend Chavez from an imperialist coup!

For workers councils and militias!

Build a Revolutionary Marxist Workers Party!

For a Workers and Peasants government!

For a union of Socialist Republics of Latin America! 

From Class Struggle 56 June-July 2004

Written by raved

January 6, 2010 at 9:01 pm

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


Written by raved

January 6, 2010 at 8:06 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