Communist Worker

Archive of Communist Workers Group of Aoteaora/New Zealand up to 2006

Archive for the ‘social democracy’ Category

Reply to IBT: Why spoil your ballot when you aint got no bullet?

leave a comment »

The International Bolshevik Tendency criticised CWG’s call for critical support for the NZ Labour Party http://www.geocities.com/communistworker/ scroll down to ‘Vote Labour Now to Smash Capitalism Later’. The IBT article is on its website http://www.bolshevik.org/ scroll down to ‘Spoil your Ballot’
 
Labour gone awol

First, the IBT says that workers no longer have illusions in Labour as a party that represents their class interests. It is therefore no longer a bourgeois-workers party. Its program hasn’t changed but it ha lost its historic roots in the labour movement. This is the result of a rightward move of the Labour Government since 1984 and the defeats suffered by workers over that period. The Labour Party no longer embodies a class contradiction between its bourgeois program and an organised labour base.

Is it true that class contradiction no longer exists? Has there been a qualitative change in the Labour Party? The moderate unions formed the Labour Party in 1916 as a reformist alternative to the Red Fed and IWW program of expropriation. While it’s program talked about the ‘socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange etc’ this was no more than the nationalisation of some key industries like coal, transport like rail, telecom and a central bank plus some income redistribution. The ‘welfare state’ made huge subsidies to private capital reducing their risk and boosting their profits in the period of the formation of the New Zealand capitalist economy.

Thus the historic class compromise of 1930s Keynesian policies of state intervention from the 1930s onwards partially suppressed the contradiction between the bosses program and Labour’s working class supporters for another generation. Where necessary Labour could back up these reforms with emergency legislation to break strikes and lock up dissidents. Despite periodic outbreaks of dissent, economic insulation created relatively full employment and a generous welfare state to keep workers loyal to Labour right up to 1984.

In 1984 the Fourth Labour government abandoned this compromise as the bosses demanded deregulation and restructuring to open the economy to the global market. This ‘revolution’ was necessary to overcome the barriers to profitability resulting from a limited domestic market. Cutting costs to become competitive on the world market meant cutting jobs and wages. While National continued these attacks in the 1990s it fell short in its attempts to complete the new right agenda and fully open the country to free trade and foreign capital investment.

Since 1999 Labour has reforged a new Blairite class compromise to suppress the basic contradiction once again. Labour uses state intervention to steer away from a ‘quarry’ economy where MNCs rip out unprocessed commodities for the global market in favour of increased productivity in a ‘knowledge’ economy. The state picks ‘winners’ by subsidising high tech industries to ‘add value’ to exports. Of course this extra productivity is due to the rising rate of exploitation of skilled workers, as well as the deteriorating wages and labour conditions of casualised workers.

Under Labour profits and CEO incomes have continued to rise rapidly. Skilled workers in the EPMU, the PSA and education unions, and the SFWU, have been able to claw back a small part of the extra surplus value they produce. Low paid or casualised workers, and long term unemployed, have their falling incomes partially made up by income transfers and Working for Families. While this Blairite compromise continues to suppress the class contradiction, critical support for Labour is necessary to put it in power in order to activate the class contradiction.

The question of the popular front

The second IBT criticism is that critical support for Labour under MMP is not permissible because Labour (assuming it were a bourgeois workers party) must enter a popular front with bourgeois parties like the Greens or NZ First. The reason we call these parties bourgeois parties like National, is that they were not formed out of the labour movement and have no claim to represent the interests of workers. Even the Greens who try to squeeze out of monopoly capital policies that favour small business is still a bourgeois party because the tendency of small business is to become big business at the expense of workers.

The IBT correctly opposes popular fronts because bourgeois workers parties can shift the blame for failing to implement a workers’ program onto their bourgeois partners and thus still suppress the class contradiction.

Since we do say that Labour is still a bourgeois-workers party, should we refuse it critical support because it may have to form a popular front? No, we call on it to govern without bourgeois partners. Obviously Labour would need bourgeois or petty-bourgeois partners if it failed to get a majority of seats itself. That’s why we called for the maximum working class vote for Labour, and at the same time oppose workers votes for any of the minor bourgeois parties.

We did not do what the left political ‘commentator’ Matt McCarten did, which was to assume that Labour could not get a majority itself and call for votes for minor bourgeois parties like the Greens, Maori Party and NZ First to provide Labour with coalition partners. (He even called for a vote for the National Candidate in Eden to stop ACT from winning seats and increasing National’s ability to form a government).

In the event that Labour does form a government with bourgeois partners we make this fact a fundamental criticism of the Labour Party to expose the class collaboration of the popular front and condemn its betrayal of the class interests of workers. In other words, we do not run in terror from the prospect of a popular front but try to block it in advance, and failing that, to oppose it in practice to explode the suppressed class contradiction.

Why does the IBT make these criticisms?

The IBT criticizes the Anti-Capitalist Alliance failure to offer transitional demands or means of moving from the most basic democratic or immediate demands to the seizure of power and a socialist republic. Yet the IBT then falls foul of the logic of its own critique when it is applied to critical support for Labour. Rather than follow Lenin’s method from the 1920s – that of communist workers entering a united front with reformist workers – the IBT fixates on superficial ‘facts’ that workers do not ‘see’ Labour as their party, because Labour’s attacks on workers have exposed it as an open bourgeois party.

Yes, the world situation is very different today from 1920. In 1920 a revolutionary situation existed in Europe. The majority of workers had not joined the communist party and despite being much further left than today, still had illusions in the Labour Party. Lenin argued that it was necessary for the mass communist party to vote the Labour party into government to expose it in practice and split reformist workers away from its bourgeois leadership and program. The tactic of critical support was a special form of united front in which the revolutionary movement would demand that the Labour bureaucracy and the Labour Party leadership implement a revolutionary workers program. When it failed to do so, its program and leadership would be exposed and detached from its working class body of support like a “rope supports a hanged man” so that these workers would then join the Communist Party.

Critical support and democratic counter-revolution

Today no such revolutionary situation exists, and there is no revolutionary party to put pressure on Labour parties to explode the suppressed contradiction. Since 1989, global capitalism has entered a period of democratic counter-revolution. This means that its attacks on workers are typically made under the cover of bourgeois democracy. In the former degenerated workers states workers voted for capitalist restoration. Capitalism has used right-wing social democratic parties to solve its crisis at the expense of their working class base. The large majority of workers who retain any trade union consciousness still vote for social democracy to defend their fundamental gains because they are caught up in a defensive reliance on bourgeois democracy. As yet there is revolutionary situation to put pressure on social democracy, and explode the class contradiction.

However, if the world economy enters a new period of depression and the isolated revolutionary upsurges today are generalised into new revolutionary period, we can expect pressure from below to split the Labour Party. Rather than write off Labour as already bourgeois it is necessary to prepare for its revival as a barrier to rising workers’ expectations. To both activate and to take advantage of a coming revolutionary upturn it is necessary for communists to maintain the united front tactic with social democracy to split its working class base from its bosses program.

The failure to understand this, and to argue that Labour Parties have become open bourgeois parties in the last two decades is an ultra left response to the democratic counter-revolution. It rejects social democracy as necessarily counter-revolutionary when in fact it still plays the critical role of suppressing the class contradiction. It is this contradiction that will be activated first by the renewal of revolutionary movements and to ignore it is to abstain from revolutionary politics. It is a sectarian fear of becoming tainted by the almost universal opportunism, that today paints democratic imperialism as a progressive force. Instead of contesting opportunism and bourgeois democracy inside the gigantic malls where workers consume. the sectarians preach to passing workers from their boutique shop front about the picture of the revolutionary party in the window.

As we argue in our original article, workers will not break from social democracy until a revolutionary upsurge and a revolutionary program exposes the open treachery of the social democratic program and leadership, and the formation of independent working class dual power organs are in place capable of taking and holding onto power.

From Class Struggle 63 Sept/Oct 2005

THE POST 9-11 ATTACK ON DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

leave a comment »

From Class Struggle 48 December 2002/January 2003


The referral back to the House late last year of the “Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Bill 2002” signalled that the government intends to forge ahead with it’s plans to further erode our already seriously damaged civil rights. The select committee hearings on the Bill heard submissions from a wide range of individuals and groups opposed to the bill and as usual the Government chose to ignore them, proving that the whole select committee process is a complete farce and that the government had no intention of listening to any of the critics. Even some of the government’s lackeys voiced concern about the interception of citizen’s computer and telephone communications. The Privacy Commissioner, Bruce Slane, was concerned about the effect this would have on individual privacy.

S11 and ‘homeland security

Since September 11 2001, the Capitalist world has been in the grip of fear about terrorism and many western countries seem to be vying with each other to see who can strip away the most rights from the people. Not to be outdone, New Zealand has joined the cynical circus with legislation which gives the authorities vastly greater rights to spy on people. The Bill is part of an insidious package of legislation which includes anti terrorism legislation, increased powers for the GCSB (The Government Communications Security Bureau) and amendments to the Crimes Act that will make it legal for Government snoopers to hack into people’s computers. At the heart of these Bills is a desire to win the hearts and minds not of the people of New Zealand but of the imperial masters, particularly those in the US. There has been some vague talk in the last few months of us cutting a trade deal with Uncle Sam, and if it does eventuate, there is little doubt that a quid-pro-quo has taken place between the Governments of our two countries. There is also little doubt that the US will be the recipient of much of the information harvested by the New Zealand Police, SIS and GCSB.

Terrorism Suppression Act

A Select Committee held hearings in Auckland last year to hear submissions on the anti-terrorism legislation. Time was set aside to hear from left wing groups who opposed the legislation. The Workers Party, Socialist Party of Aotearoa and Socialist Workers Organisation spoke at some length to the committee about their concerns. Issues were raised such as the Workers Party association with Maoist parties in other countries and how that could be interpreted under the proposed bill. One of the provisions of the anti-terrorism legislation would make it illegal to be associated with any so-called terrorist organisation. Committee chairman, Graham Kelly, made a comment that he had been involved in the anti-Vietnam movement in the 60s and understood full well how people were concerned about civil rights but that they had nothing to fear. Essentially, Kelly expects us to trust him on the basis that he has some sort of street cred because he marched in a few demos over thirty years ago. At best he is now a cog in the New Zealand capitalist machine so his assurances count for little.

The Communist Workers Group also made submissions highlighting the despicable role played by the US in the rest of the world and raising the question of who were the real terrorists. Again, as expected, the Select Committee paid no attention to the many voices raised in concern over the direction this legislation was taking the country. One of the worst side effects of September 11 has been the way in which it has been used by the imperialists to hasten their attacks on civil rights. This attack is not new and rights were already in the process of being stripped away in countries like New Zealand. All that has happened since September 11 2001 is that the pace has quickened.

Crimes Act cyber snoops

Another example of the attack on civil liberties can be seen in changes to the Crimes Act which allows The Police, SIS and GCSB to hack into people’s computers to combat “cyber crime” and “cyber terrorism.” When asked for examples of cyber crime the supporters of the legislation cannot come up with any compelling examples and instead mumble about how criminals are increasingly using the net to commit crimes. As for cyber terrorism, evidence of this is even thinner on the ground. However, when asked for examples, the authorities can always fall back on the “I can’t reveal that information on grounds of national security” speech. This is a convenient way of side stepping the issue.

Many computer and Internet experts such as Alan Marsden of the ISP PLAnet point out that people will be able to get around the new legislation by using methods such as encryption. It is most likely that ordinary workers will be the ones spied on. A simple email containing the words ‘Bush’ and ‘kill’ will be the sort of thing that gains the attention of the spies. They won’t even have to be in the same sentence or paragraph.

Workers, activist organisations and individual dissidents will subjected to an apparelled level of surveillance and this information will then be passed on to US. Even before these offensive pieces of legislation came along organisations like the SIS and GCSB were a law unto themselves, spying on perfectly legal activism and activists such as Aziz Chowdry and David Small in Chrstchurch. We couldn’t trust them then, why should we trust them now especially since they have been given increased powers!

More Police Powers

The amendments to the Crimes Act to allow hacking are complemented by the Government Communications Security Bureau Bill which gives even greater powers to The GCSB than the police. While a police interception warrant only lasts for 30 days, the GCSB warrant lasts for 12 months and the only details made public every year are how many warrants were issued in the last 12 months. It gets even worse when you consider that some of the GCSB interceptions (such as those carried out at Waihopai) are not even subject to a warrant system. The Bill deliberately uses broad and sweeping phrases such as “New Zealand’s international interests or economic well-being.” No doubt that will mean protecting our alliances with other capitalist and imperialist powers and protecting the interests of international capitalism. The Green Party point out in their submission on the bill “a multinational company such as Monsanto, a promoter of GE Crops, is a major threat to New Zealand’s ‘economic well being’. Yet, there is no indication that the GCSB will be spying on Monsanto.” On the contrary, they will probably be spying on the “wild greens” an activist movement associated with the Green Party.

Echelon ties NZ to US War on Terror

New Zealand is one of the five partners (along with the US, Britain, Canada and Australia) in the “Echelon” electronic spying network. Echelon was pioneered by the US Intelligence agencies and is nothing less than a massive trawler of information. As one would expect with such a programme coming out of the US state, its purpose is to prop up capitalism and the imperialist order. Anything perceived as a threat to US interests would be a target. With the passage of this legislation, a blank cheque will effectively be given to our spying centre at Waihopai to conduct intrusive surveillance on not only New Zealanders but Pacific Island residents as well.

Attack on political freedoms

An example of an activist organisation that has much to fear from the GCSB Bill is the Anti-Bases Campaign in Christchurch. In light of this they too made submissions to Parliament opposing the bill. They make an extremely good point about the hypocrisy of the bill when they ask:

“The GCSB Bill would confer an aura of legitimacy on the Bureau that it simply does not deserve. How can an agency be deemed to operate under the laws of the land when it is exempted from certain provisions of the Privacy Act, when it is exempted from some provisions of the Crimes Act, when it’s methods of operation are closed secrets except to the exclusive breathern within the international intelligence community?”

Smash the police state!

They are right to ask this question, but a fear of being labelled hypocrites by their opponents has never stopped the capitalists from doing what serves their interests.Capitalist laws serve capitalist interests. We need an ongoing campaign to expose the abuses of power the state is engaging in and the real purpose behind such legislation. We must also make workers aware at every opportunity that they and their organisations are under direct threat from the spying legislation currently before parliament.

Only when people understand that these legislative attacks are part of capitalism’s grand plan for control, and that their class interests can not be defended by legislative changes but in the rejection of the capitalist system itself, will there be real change.

Workers action to defend civil rights!

For migrant defence committees!

Smash Echelon!


Written by raved

January 3, 2009 at 8:50 pm

SHOULD WORKERS VOTE IN CAPITALIST SOCIETY?

leave a comment »

Communists view elections to parliament as a democratic right that workers have won over more than a century. They won the right to form unions and to vote as part of their struggle for inclusion into bourgeois society as equal citizens. They believed that the state was ‘neutral’ and that the majority ruled. These were important victories because they created better conditions for the building of workers organisations as a step towards socialism. However, elections in themselves cannot revolutionise capitalism because the state is really the bosses’ state enforcing and protecting their private property. As Lenin might have said, elections allow workers to stop work only long enough to vote for their oppressors.So why should workers bother voting?

The reason is that workers can only come to the realisation that the state is not neutral but serves the bosses through experience of oppression. The capitalist nature of the state is not immediately obvious. The state passes itself off as class-neutral, managing capitalism for the benefit of all. In doing so it reinforces the ideology that rather than exploit workers as a class, capitalism treats all individuals as equals in the market. (1)

It was the experience that some individuals were more equal than others in the market, that led workers to first form unions. They found that striking led to their defeat at the hands of the cops, armies and scabs. So they created Labour parties in the belief that a workers’ government could reform capitalism or even create socialism. We call such Labour parties ‘bourgeois-workers’ parties because, while they have a bourgeois program to manage capitalism, they are based on the collective consciousness of trade unions or organised labour.

These Labour parties were a progressive step because they created platforms on which organised labour could raise demands that could not be met. The state’s ability to meets workers‘ needs came into contradiction with its actual role in guaranteeing profits. This is particularly true in periods of depression and war when ‘workers’ parties openly attack their trade union supporters.

Therefore to free workers from the illusion that it is possible to reform capitalism in their interests, it is necessary to vote ‘their’ parties into office until their attacks on workers destroy any remaining illusions that capitalism can be reformed through parliament. This would prove in practice that the parliamentary road was a dead end..

Critical Support

We call the united-front to vote bourgeois-workers’ parties to power in order to expose them, critical support. This means that we support their election only to destroy them in office. We never abandon our independent communist program to suggest that these parties are capable of reforming capitalism. This tactic was first developed by Lenin during the period immediately after the First World War to destroy the illusions in mass Labour parties in office and to win workers to communism. It is based on two pre-conditions.

First, the illusions that workers have in ‘their’ parties are ones that reflect a level of class-consciousness found in an organised trade union movement. It is not sufficient that individual workers have ‘illusions’ in a party. For example, some workers vote for rightwing, even fascist parties, but that is not a reflection of their class interests, rather it’s an attack on their own class. Second, we must withdraw critical support as soon as a bourgeois-workers’ party is elected and intensify workers’ attacks on the government to activate the contradiction between the bourgeois program and the workers suport to explode it.

Therefore, critical support is only justified when a party has ‘organic roots’ in the organised labour movement and is not openly attacking that movement. Critical support is never more than a tactic to destroy bourgeois workers parties and to advance the level of working class consciousness for the overthrow of the capitalist state. Much of the left has applied this tactic as if it was a strategy, entered Labour Parties and built long term uncritical support for reformist parities. This is a reversal of the tactic of critical support because it suppresses the class contradiction by adapting workers demands to what bourgeois-worker parties can deliver.

NZ Labour’s betrayals

The NZ Labour Party began as a bourgeois-workers party in NZ in 1916. It was formed by the unions after a period of bloody defeats by the state forces. Even in its early radical days, Labour’s program was one of class collaboration between workers and the industrial capitalists. Yet is was able to build a strong following in the unions on the basis of heavy state intervention in a protected economy even though this required the repression of strikes during the war and up to its defeat in 1949. It held office only briefly in 1957-60 and 1972-75 before it was returned as the Fourth Labour Government in 1984.

Despite its open attacks on workers during the period 1984-90 which drove many workers to abstain or vote for other parties, Labour retained its core support in the trades unions. There was no emergence of a left party aligned to the trades unions. The left split into the New Labour Party in 1989 did not gain much trade union support and rapidly turned into a mini popular front by aligning with bourgeois currents in the Liberals, Democrats and Greens.

The Labour movement was severely defeated by the economic and social reforms of the 4th Labour government, but Labour did this without smashing the unions. In fact Labour’s reactionary reforms were possible only because of its ‘partnership’ with the union bureaucracy.

It was National’s attack on the unions in 1991 that was designed to smash the unions by de-recognising the labour bureauracy. Workers recognised when they mobilised in their tens of thousands against the Employment Contracts Bill and in their thousands against the implementation of the ECA between May 1991 and the election in 1993. Whatever illusions that had been severely strained by ‘Rogernomics’ were quickly restored when they again voted Labour to get rid of National and its dreaded ECA in 1993. Thus the critical support tactic to return Labour to office remained the correct tactic in 1993.

In 1993 we (then Workers Power) took an ultraleft stand and refused critical support to Labour and the Alliance. We argued that Labour had abandoned workers and that the Alliance was a popular front because it included the bourgeois Liberals and Greens. Today we attribute our ultraleft posture during this period to our active participation in the high level of worker struggle which we incorrectly concluded proved that the working class was mobilising outside parliament. We were very wrong.

After 1993 we had corrected our position when it was obvious that workers were going nowhere but back to Labour. The Alliance still had bourgeois fragments in it but we thought they were weak compared with the NewLabour fraction. So in the 1996 election we called for a vote for Labour in constituencies and a list vote for the Alliance to avoid splitting the vote. We strongly opposed a vote for NZ First which went on to form a Coalition with National.

At the last election in 1999 we challenged Labour and the Alliance to govern together to live up to their promises to workers to shift away from 15 years of neo-liberalism and 9 years of open bourgeois rule.

However, we also recognised that the damage done to the organised labour movement by 15 years of neo-liberal reforms had decimated the unions so that many workers as individuals. We said that both parties would betray workers further and would move right towards Blairism.(2) The biggest test would be the Labour/Alliance commitment to rebuilding the labour movement.

In government, Labour turned into a left-centre Blairite party that openly oriented towards business (balanced budget etc) doing little for workers. It raised the top income tax from 33% to a mere 39% for those over $60,000. It abandoned its ‘closing of the gaps’ under pressure from business. Its social welfare reforms were based on the Blairite concept of individual social responsibility.Its renationalisation of ACC was opposed by the bosses but is partly paid for by charges like car registration that hit low paid workers hardest.

Most importantly, the Employment Relations Act (ERA) fell far short of reviving the conditions for a strong labour movement. Its underlying philosophy was to revive and empower the labour bureaucracy as a means of managing and regulating workers as individuals and containing union democracy and solidarity.

Margaret Wilson, its architect, is an admirer of the original Industrial, Conciliation and Arbitration (IC&A) Act of 1894 which was designed by the Fabian Socialist William Pember Reeves to use the state to prevent workers from engaging in struggle over industrial matters and damaging the ‘national interest’.At the time Harry Holland called the IC&A Act ‘labour’s leg iron’. So for Wilson, the ERA was a return to the Liberal ‘classless’ philosophy of the 1890’s and a sure sign that Labour had become a Blairite Party.

The Alliance despite its attempts at ‘social’ reforms got dragged to the right in the Labour/Alliance Coalition. Anderton and his faction was clearly bent on integrating the Alliance back into Labour. This showed up in the failure of Harre’s faction to get the employers to pay for extended Parental Leave, and the tiny amount of money put into Anderton’s regional development.

The Alliance amendments to the ERA failed to shift Labour’s liberal philosophy of class reconciliation back towards a active labour movement orientation. This was demonstrated when Harre allowed Anderton to publicly admonish her attempts to meet striking NZ Herald workers in 2001.

Therefore the point of our critical support in 1999 had been made; to vote into office and fight both parties in Government would help to expose their real bourgeois program. Both parties shifted to the right and their policies clearly showed that the needs of workers were subordinated to making profits. But does this mean that Labour or the Alliance have ceased to be a bourgeois-workers parties? Have they severed their historic organic links to the organised labour movement?

Degenerated Parties

Labour has done in office what what Labour governments have done since 1935. Labour governments have always attempted to manage capitalism in the interests of the dominant fraction of capital. This fraction is no longer the domestic manufacturers but international capital which now dominates production in forestry, energy, transport and communications. Today the revival of the unions as ‘social partners’ serves international capital by managing the provision of skilled and ‘knowledge’ labour which is in short supply.But to do this the Labour/Alliance government had to reconstitute the unions as a fully-fledged ‘‘stakeholder” or “partner” with capital. This was necessary to discipline labour and extract higher productivity and therefore higher profits.

Thus the ERA is a ‘charter’ for the labour bureaucracy. It is a legal framework that recognises the rights of unions to organise and rebuild after the massive defeats imposed on unions under the ECA. This ‘rebalancing’ of industrial relations gives union officials more powers to regulate labour but also gives the rank and file more freedom to mobilise. These includes the rights of information, of access, of joining collectives and of building multi-employer collective agreements (MECAs).

Since it is the unions alone that constitute the base organisations of the labour movement, and are the potential for ‘revolutionising’ that movement (and all oppressed peoples), we have to defend the gains that the ERA represents over the ECA and use them to build a fighting, democratic union movement. We have to turn Blairite Labour’s ‘leg-iron’ into a ‘crutch’ for reviving the labour movement.

For that reason, in drawing up a balance sheet of Labour’s record for workers, the ERA represents a clear gain in keeping alive the organic link between organised labour and the Labour party. But because this link is mediated by a labour bureaucracy (which has to organise unions so as to control them in the interests of employers) the contradiction between the working class and the bosses becomes expressed directly as a contradiction between the rank and file and union bureaucrats. (3)

So the ERA has restored the union bureaucracy (National will abolish again if it gets into power). But this is at the expense of recreating conditions in which the rank and file can rise to challenge the bureaucracy. We see this in the increase in strikes in the last two years, and most recently in the case of the PPTA where the rank and file teachers engaged in wildcat strikes against their national leadership.

This is why we argue that Labour is still a party that expresses (even if weakly) the class contradiction between workers and bosses, and that the Union leaders are the direct agents of the bosses. This means that to expose Labour’s attempts to regulate workers via the labour bureaucracy, the rank and file have to take advantage of the ERA and build a fighting, democratic union movement that can create the conditions for workers control and ultimately workers’ power.

In the process the Blairite Labour government’s attempts to regulate and contain the labour movement in a ‘partnership’ with capital will be exploded first by the renewal from below of the leadership of the labour movement, and second,by the building of a real workers party that stands on a socialist platform.

For this reason we would say that Labour as a degenerated bourgeois workers party should be returned to office until the labour movement class has the power to replace it with its own party and its own government. On that basis we urge workers to vote for Labour candidates on July 27, 2002 and prepare now to renew the fight with Labour in its second term of Government.

Alliance Mark 2

What of the Alliance after Anderton? This is a split to the left. It is the result of the rightward shift that we predicted in 1999 that created tensions between Anderton and the old NLP faction and came to a head over the war in Afghanistan.Getting rid of Anderton and the Democrats leaves the NLP and Mana Motuhake elements in control of the Alliance.

However, the fact that Harre has stuck with the Coalition Agreement and kept her job in Cabinet shows that Alliance Mk 11 still puts more stock in pressuring Labour to the left than to standing on an independent program on a union base. Harre’s Alliance shares Labour’s degeneration as a bourgeois workers’ party.

For the Alliance to become a re-generated bourgeois-workers party it has to find its own base in the trades unions. Nevertheless, as in 1999, we think that the Alliance is still a bourgeois-workers party, and call for a list or party vote for the Alliance in 2002.

Sooner or later as Labour continues to degenerate, workers will demand a new workers party to represent their class interests in parliament. They will demand that it stands on a workers platform (i.e. to express the workers needs side of the contradiction), that it stands against Labour, and does not join a coalition government with bourgeois parties, and that its MPs are recallable by the party base.The Alliance may split to become that new workers party,or a new party may be formed oout of worker-candidates that are selected directly by their unions. Either way we will fight to win such a party to a communist program to prevent that party from becoming yet another recycled bourgeois-workers party.

Workers Manifesto

For communists an election program is only a very small part of implementing a revolutionary manifesto for organising workers in their unions and workplaces to fight for jobs, living wages and adequate health, education, housing and social services and to make the rich pay for them.

Our first priority is to take this manifesto to the workplaces and into the unions to revive them as fighting democratic organisations. We know that the employers cannot deliver on these demands, so we advocate that workers push for their own control of industry and for a workers’ government and workers’ state.

Communists use elections to tell the truth. We point out that workers needs can only be met by workers taking power and forming a workers’ and working farmers’ government.

This government must defend itself from all attempts to overthrow it, and set about planning the economy to meet the needs of all workers and not just the profits of a few bosses.

A Workers’ Manifesto
1Jobs for all!For a 30 hour week for 40 hours pay.For a programme of public works to build new public housing, schooling, roads and other infrastructure.No work-for-the-dole.

2A living wage! Minimum wage of $15 per hour for all ages. No youth rates.Restore penal rates.

Smash anti-strike laws.Wages and benefits adjusted to inflation by workers committees.

3Free health and education under workers control! Free 24hr Childcare. Affordable public housing,

No user-paysfor social services.Free contraception and abortion on demand.

4Tax the rich!For a steeply graduated income tax. For a capital gains tax on companies and speculators, and confiscation of property of corporate tax evaders. Abolish the GST and all user pays taxes.

Occupy under workers control companies that close down or sack workers.

5Take back Assets!Renationalise all privatised and corporatised state assets without compensation andunder the workers control including Telecom, railways, Air NZ, oil, gas, water,forestryelectricity, TVNZ, education, health, producer boards etc.Open books to workers’ inspection under workers’ control.

6Return stolen Maori land! State financial incentives to iwi corporations that are collectively owned and operated.Nationalise capitalist land (not residential property) with leaseback rights to small farmers and financial incentives for cooperatives.Nationalise Fonterra under worker/farmer and worker control.

7Defend democratic rights!Equal rights for women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered.

Defend the rights of youth and children.Freedom from sexual and other abuse.Freedom of speech, association and assembly.Stop the Terrorism Suppression Bill.Independent Inquiry for Steven Wallace.

8Citizenship rights for Pacific Island and Asian migrant workers.Smash bosses immigration laws.

Open doors to asylum seekers.Open the borders under workers control.

Fight in the unions to build workers’ defence committees against racist attacks.

9Out of all military alliances! Take strike action to get NZ out of ANZUS. Break all military ties with Australia, the US, NATOand UK. Smash Echelon. NZ out of the UN and UN peacekeeping forces. NZ troops out of East Timor, Bosnia, the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. No nuclear ships.

10For the independent workers’ organisations.For fighting, democratic trades unions!

For workers councils and organs of self-defence. For a Workers’ Government that can socialise the banks and big business and plan the economy to meet the needs of workers rather than the profits of the bosses.

For a Socialist Republic of Aotearoa in a Federation ofSocialist Republics of the Pacific!

Notes

(1) The state appears to be everyone’s state because it sets the framework in which all are equal in buying and selling commodities at their true value. Equal market exchange. But in reality the state presides over class society and attempts to suppress the contradiction between social production and private ownership. This contradiction then gets reproduced in the state. But the state must first create capitalist social relations of production and the market before production and exchange can happen. In the process it creates not only the market but civil society and bourgeois citizens.

(2) The New Labour Party of Tony Blair has deliberately distanced itself from the unions and positions itself as a liberal party of the ‘Third Way’ between neo-liberalism and socialism. While the majority of unions still officiallysupport New Labour, this is not to advance the particular interests of the labour movement,but to endorse the shift towards a ‘new unionism’. This is the view that labour, capital and state are all stakeholders in society so that unions have no special interests. The ‘new’ unionism is a return to the ‘old’ liberalism of turning unions into citizens’ mutual aid societies. Third Way governments therefore, are ideologically committed to class neutrality, civil society, or the community. When this is the case to call for a vote for a Third-Way government is to uncritically endorse the class neutral ideology of the capitalist state.

(3) This is analogous to the role played by the bureaucracy in the former Soviet Union. Trotsky argued that the best way to understand the role of the bureaucracy in a degenerated workers’ state was to regard it as similar to the union bureaucracy in the trades unions in capitalist countries. Like the Stalinist bureaucracy, the union bureaucracy is parasitic on the working class but remains part of that class. The union bureaucracy has its own particular interests in acting as the agents ofthe bosses in the unions, but in order to do so it has to defend the unions against the bosses attempts to destroy them.

From Class Struggle 45 June/July 2002

Written by raved

June 27, 2008 at 10:29 pm

Chomsky’s blurred Vision [February 1999]

leave a comment »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Written by raved

August 26, 2007 at 10:51 pm