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Venezuela: Congress of the Nation Workers’ Union (UNT)

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We reproduce here an edited version of the FLT statement on the recent UNT(1) 2nd Congress held in May.(2) What could have been a major step towards working class independence from Chavez ended in a split between several factions, all competing to be the best Chavistas. Most significant, it is clear that the so-called Trotskyist groups in the UNT are not fighting for political independence from Chavez. This confirms our analysis that the ex-Trotskyists in Venezuela are acting as they are in other countries as the left wing of the popular front in Latin America.

Workers struggle sacrificed to the petrodollar bourgeoisie

Between last May 25-27 at the Army Officer’s Club in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, the second congress of the National Union of Workers (UNT)(3), was held. The UNT is the most important workers union in Venezuela with more than 2000 delegates representing a million or more Venezuelan workers.[i]

The resolutions of the 2nd Congress were of crucial importance for the working class not only of Venezuela, but of all Latin America. It offered the possibility of raising an independent working class program against the bourgeois government of Chavez.(4) Such a program would have been a hard blow against the politics of class collaboration which ‘expropriates’ the anti-imperialist struggle of the Venezuelan masses, strangles the Bolivian and Ecuadorian revolutions, and subordinates workers before the bourgeoisie of the whole continent.

But its resolutions, once more, put the masses at the feet of the exploiters and tied the hands of the Venezuelan and Latin American working class. It was also one more confirmation – if such were needed – of the complete bankruptcy of the fake Trotskyists who are “running a race” to see who can be a better Chavez than Chavez himself. Let’s see what happened in the Congress of the UNT and make some conclusions about the role of the fake Trotskyists organisations in Argentina.

“Ten million votes to re-elect Chavez!”

In the Congress, a minority led by Marcela Maspero, broke from the Congress and left the UNT. This sector, dominated by cadres and leaders of the old Bolivariana Force of the Workers (a failed attempt to build a Chavista central Workers Union), and adherents of Chavismo, refused to allow the election of UNT officers in September, arguing that the main priority was the campaign for “ten million votes for Chavez” to win the presidential election in December.

The leaders of the majority (headed by Orlando Chirinos of the UIT(5) to which both factions of the MST in Argentina belong (6) proposed elections in September, but they put as a condition the first resolution had to be… that the UNT and the workers must guarantee first of any other thing 10 million votes for Chavez. Moreover, these leaders denounce in their press a “provocation” by the minority, who set up the ridiculous argument that most of us, the majority delegates don’t support Chavez”. This they say is “a lie”. (Alternativa Socialista N° 431).(7)

Shamelessly, after urging the workers to vote that their main task is to guarantee the re-election of a bourgeois government, they then urged them to vote that “the UNT is a autonomous union, independent of the government”. What do these fake Trotskyists understand by “an independent” union federation? That “the re-election of president Chavez and the independence of the UNT must be simultaneously supported so as to criticize (Chavez) whenever it is necessary…” (ídem).

Imagine that the left groups were leading the Argentinean CGT (8) in 1973 and had launched a campaign for supporting the Peron-Peron slate. What would every class-conscious worker have said? A betrayal of the proletarian cause!. Exactly! The heroic working class militants of the Cordobazo (9), the Vivorazo (10), Sitrac-Sitram (11), the Villazo (12), would have said exactly what we say about the fake Trotskyists: Servants of the bourgeoisie! Enemies of the proletarian revolution!
 
There is no doubt. Today the fake Trotskyists in Venezuela are the UNT bureaucracy, playing at the same time the role of Stalinism and that of the treacherous union bureaucracies in the other countries of Latin America. Politically they support Chavez, that ally of Kirchner and Repsol.

MAS and PO: working to get ten million “critical” votes… for Chavez

It is impossible to deny that so far, the leaders of the UIT are winning the race to see who is the most “Chavista”. But stepping on their heels are all the other fake Trotskyists, for example the MAS in Argentina and its sister group inside the Venezuelan PRS (the Petare current).

The MAS says it wants to stand “independent worker candidates” but, as the PRS is not legal this “is not possible”. Besides, “most of the workers are politically Chavistas”, and that this cannot be ignored, in so far as “the vote is (something) tactical”. (Socialismo o Barbarie N° 80) (13). For that reason, it ends up calling for a “critical vote”… for Chavez, so that this bourgeois government is re-elected… “critically”.

On the other hand, the PO in Argentina tries to hide it is for “the critical” vote for Chavez. Thus, while it says that voting in the congress of the UNT for “the re-election of Chavez as an strategic policy shows that, despite the differences, the Workers Central Union is under the influence of bourgeois nationalism”, it ends up agreeing with the MAS, in that the vote “is tactical”. Moreover it declares: “it is not a question of our preference for one or another candidate, this is (merely) a tactical issue. It cannot become the main subject matter of a strategic campaign” (Prensa Obrera N° 950, June 15, 2006).(14)

At the end of the day, MAS and PO’s positions could be summarised in a single slogan: “For ten million critical votes… for Chavez”.

PTS: “Spoil your ballot”… sit on the fence, do not face Chavez even in the election

The PTS and its sister group in Venezuela –also a member of the PRS –criticizes those who call for a vote for Chavez as giving in to “bourgeois nationalism”. They prefer to “raise a workers and socialist perspective” by asking people to be very bold, and… spoil their votes.

But the spoiled vote has nothing to do with class politics in the context of bourgeois elections. Moreover, most of the pro-imperialist and pro-coup bourgeois opposition parties and groups will be campaigning for abstention or a blank vote in December elections. The PTS itself already called for a vote for Chavez in the August 2004 referendum; now in order not to appear as openly “Chavista”, it has decided to go for a blank vote. This formula has overall the “virtue” of letting them avoid a confrontation with Chavez. They also reneg on the obligation of telling workers “do not vote for him because he is a bourgeois”.

The politics of class independence in the Venezuelan elections

First we have to expose the deception of “tactical voting” used by the fake Trotskyists. They use this to justify setting up popular fronts or to support “progressive” bourgeois candidates. For revolutionaries, tactics in bourgeois elections are like all tactics, revolutionary tactics. They have to advance the proletarian principles and strategy: in the first place, the elementary principle of class independence. That is to say, it is possible to vote tactically for a workers party or workers candidate, but never for a bourgeois party or candidate.

Second, it is pure deception to call for a ‘tactical vote’ because “there are no conditions” that allow for independent worker candidates in Venezuela, when the UNT exists, a union federation with great authority among the workers! Here was a congress with 2000 worker delegates, one of them could have been chosen as candidate for president. Here is a workers organization which has all the authority to make a campaign for 10 million votes for a UNT worker president and a vice-president from the poor peasants. Such a campaign would have opened the road to a workers and peasants’ government able to break completely with imperialism, solve the land problem and meet the needs of the workers and the exploited people! No doubt that if this resolution had been passed by a show of hands in the congress of workers delegates of the UNT, no legal obstacle could have prevented that campaign for a workers candidacy from going ahead!

An independent working class program

Such a class campaign that raised with clarity a program and an independent workers strategy would had aroused the enormous enthusiasm of the Venezuelan, the Latin America and the United States working class:

· Not even a drop of Venezuelan oil to the US exploiters, slave-traffickers of Latin American immigrants!

· No oil to massacre our Iraqi brothers and sisters, and the workers and exploited from New Orleans!

· For the complete re-nationalization, without compensation and under workers control of oil, and the rest of privatized companies!

· Expropriation without compensation of all the large estates and land for distribution among the poor farmers!

· For decent jobs and living wages for all, with the sliding scale of wages and working hours!

· Minimum wage set at the level of the family shopping basket and indexed according to inflation!

· Down with all the antistrike laws!

· Free quality public Health and Education, on the basis of the expropriation of the private schools and hospitals, the repudiation of the external debt and the application of progressive taxes on the “31 families” (15) and the monopolies!

· A class campaign for a program that calls on the workers and the exploited to vote for a presidential candidate of the UNT, that is, not to vote for Chavez!
Who can doubt that this would galvanize the embattled Bolivian working class that has begun to resist Morales repressive government! It would also inspire the Argentinean working class that refuses to accept the miserable wages and work conditions imposed on them by the union bureaucracy. It would motivate the US working class which today begins to wake up only to be told by the WSF to kneel at the feet of the Democratic Party of Clinton and the Kennedys, so praised by Chavez!

None of the currents of the UNT or of the left in Venezuela want a class program

The ex-Trotskyists that lead the UNT know well that this is possible. But they want to avoid it at all costs. They have demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate, that they are the faithful subjects of Chavez; self-confessed reformists whose role is to prevent any move towards class independence by the workers, and to make the latter subservient to the “progressive” bourgeois and the “patriotic” military.

We are not then dealing with “a tactical” problem, but one of principles: because what these currents say to the working class is that the liberation of the workers will not be the work of the workers themselves, but of bourgeois leaders like Chávez.

The ex-Trotskyists supporting Chavez are the same tendencies that in Brazil called for a vote for the popular front of Lula-Alencar, and who are now supporting the class collaborationist government in Bolivia. They are the “theoreticians” who preach the need to create “worker parties based on the unions”. But then where they lead a union federation as the UNT in Venezuela, they refuse to put up a workers candidate for the presidential elections!

As Trotsky said, whoever gives even the slightest political support to a bourgeois government, renounces its revolutionary overthrow by the masses. That is, they renounce the workers’, socialist revolution. These servants of Chavez have deserted the proletarian revolution.

International Coordination Secretariat of the Leninist Trotskyist Fraction

Notes

(1) Workers National Union

(2) This statement first appeared in the paper of the Argentine group Workers Democracy.

(3) The UNT was born of the rank and file revolt against the pro-coup, pro-imperialist CTV, the old Workers Central of Venezuela, with a notoriously corrupt and bureaucratic leadership affiliated to Accion Democratica, once the most important bourgeois party, and totally subservient to the establishment.

(4) We say that Chavez is a ‘Bonapartist’ leader of a bourgeois state with a bourgeois constitution, balancing between imperialism, the national bourgeoisie and the working masses. Despite Chavez ‘left’ persona, the Venezuela state defends bourgeois property and ‘nationalised’ property remains that of the bourgeois state. Nevertheless we support Chavez in a united front against imperialism, arguing that only a revolutionary workers movement is capable of defeating imperialism and the Venezuelan national bourgeoisie.

(5) The UIT is one of the international fractions that came out of the Morenoist LIT-CI after the Argentinean MST split the MAS. The UIT was until recently the international organization of the MST and its “sister” groups.

(6) The MST now has split in two irreconcilable fractions, the fraction”2” (led by Pedro Soranz) has just taken control of the UIT, expelling the fraction “1”.

(7) Socialist Alternative.

(8) CGT: Central General de Trabajadores, or Workers Central Union federation. In 1973 it was led by the Peronist bureaucracy (and most of the second half of the 20th century). In 1973 the Peronist Party made the then president (also a Peronist, but of a somewhat left-leaning wing) resign, so that there could be new elections, and to allow General Peron to run for his third presidency. His wife Isabelita Peron ran as vice-president.

(9) Cordobazo: On May 29, 1969, and as a part of the worldwide revolutionary wave that was sweeping almost every country in Latin America and most of the world, there was a semi-insurrection in Cordoba, Argentina’s second city, and a main industrial center at the time. Having been preceded by very combative and persistent student revolts in several Universites all over the country, the Cordobazo began as a protest against the elimination of the so-called ‘English Saturday’ (any time over the half day was paid as time-and-a-half – 50% more) and ended with the defeat of the police that had been called to repress the demonstrations and marches that the workers the owners of Cordoba had made for two or three days. The police had to quit the city and the army was called to replace it. It is important to remember that in 1969, there was a military dictatorship in charge of the government. The Cordobazo opened way to a revolutionary period in Argentina and Latin America that came to an end with the bloody dictatorships of Videla and Co. in Argentina, Pinochet in Chile, etc.

(10) The Vivorazo was another semi-insurrection some time after the Cordobazo, that put Rosario (the third largest Argentinean city, also a main industrial center and the second port of the country) in the hands of the workers for a time.

(11) Sitrac and Sitram were two factory unions (initially set-up as “yellow” unions by the bosses and the bourgeois government to divide and defeat the auto-workers who were affiliated to the SMATA, or Autoworkers United Union). But they shot themselves in the foot. The young workers of the two most important factories in Cordoba –FIAT Materfer, that manufactured electric motors and electric train wagons, and FIAT Concord, that manufactured big electric motors for power stations, dams, etc.- in 1970 defeated the “yellow” bureaucracy in each factory, united the two unions, creating the SITRAC-SITRAM Union, and immediately called for a “working-class nationwide congress of the rank and file, with mandated delegates of every workplace in the country” to vote a working-class program to find a breakthrough for the crisis-ridden Argentina. The two congresses that were held under the name of “Classism”, convened hundreds of militant delegates. “Classism” as a phenomenon was very important, because up to that time, and from the late forties, the previous generations of workers had been mainly Peronist. Unfortunately most the ‘classist’ vanguard that it created were recruited to the various guerrilla currents inspired in Cuban ‘guerrillasim’ (including fake-Trotskyist ones). There were other centrist currents too, as well as left-Peronists, Stalinists, etc. All of them did their utmost to frustrate the opportunity for the workers to take the country in their hands.

(12) Villazo, a semi-insurrection in Villa Constitucion, one of the industrial towns that form the industrial belt running from Buenos Aires City (with its Great Buenos Aires Area) up to Rosario City, some 400km of factories, steelworks, oil refineries, ports, etc., along the coast of the rivers Parana and Plate. The Villazo was the last and most important semi-insurrection of the industrial workers taking a city and a series of big factories in their hands, before the military coup that put Videla and Co. in power. It was brutally repressed, in spite of the support and sympathy from the Argentine workers and students, thanks to the union bureaucracy leaving it isolated, and the left vacillating and capitulating to the pressure of the Stalinists, the Peronist bureaucracy, etc. The centrists in those years did not want to be labeled “guerrillas”, so they never raised slogans about self-defense, workers’ armed militia, etc., tending to raise mostly economic (unionist) slogans plus abstract socialist propaganda.

(13) Socialism or Barbarism

(14) Workers Press.

(15) “31 families”. Name for the richest group of Venezuelan families. They were closely intertwined with imperialist interests for centuries. Most of their members do not even live in Venezuela.

 
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Appendix

Unite! Organiser enthusiastic about Chavez and Morales

Auckland Unite organiser Mike Treen recently returned from a visit to Venezuela and Boliva. He spoke in Auckland to a meeting organised by GPJA. Treen was ethusiastic about Chavez. “He is ahead of the workers and is leading the revolution”. The same with Morales in Bolivia. “The revolution will not happen without Morales”. This is the Australian Green Left position.

In reponse to a question from a CWG comrade who stressed the need for the working class to be armed and politically independent of Chavez and Morales, Treen rejected the need for the independence of workers from Chavez and Morales. Despite the splits in the UNT recent congress, Treen said it was good that they all supported the re-election of Chavez.

A Socialist Workers speaker at the meeting spoke of a ‘sort of dual power’ in Venezuela. If this term is being used in the Leninist sense, this can only mean that the SWO thinks that Chavez represents the workers in the state, rather than representing the bourgeois in containing and suppressing the workers revolution.

Whatever their apparent differences, both Treen and the SWO speaker substitute Chavez and his political machine for the working class. This confirms our view that Unite and SWO, who have combined to form the Worker’s Charter in NZ, are following the Australian Green Left closely as a cheerleader for the Boliviarian Revolution and left wing of the popular front in Latin America. (see article above).

From Class Struggle 67 June/July 2006

Written by raved

January 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Chavez, Venezuela, oil and workers control

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 Nationalize Big Oil, Trade with Venezuela!

Even before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast of the US the oil companies had put their prices up. Oil rose to over US$70 a barrel. It is a finite, non-renewable source of energy. Intense competition for oil is behind the invasion of Iraq and the instability in central Asia. It underlies the tension between Venezuela and the US. So the crisis over peak oil is symptomatic of capitalism in deep shits. Capitalism cannot solve this crisis without massive destruction. It is necessary to work out a strategy for the socialization of oil and other privately owned resources so that a global socialist planned economy can arise to rescue humanity and the planet from total destruction.

The Oil Crisis is Capitalism’s Crisis

Oil is a key input into industry and necessary for the survival of capitalism. No substitute is capable of stepping into the role oil plays without a huge jump in the cost of production. Therefore the imperialist countries driven by Big Oil will pursue increasingly aggressive policies to get control of this diminishing supply. We face a future of rapid decent into wars and destruction of whole populations such as Iraq (and on a smaller scale working class New Orleans) unless we challenge the ownership and control of capitalism.

The future alternative to capitalism is socialism. But it is unlikely to come in one sudden rush. We need to look for ways to make the transition to socialism by first regulating and controlling the market, and then moving progressively toward the nationalization and socialization of the major resources, industries and banks under the ownership and control of workers’ governments.

In Latin America we can see a level of resistance to capitalist globalization and its destruction that points the way towards this alternative socialist future. In Argentina in 2001 the population rebelled against neo-liberal austerity and threw out the government forcing a default on the national debt. In Bolivia the masses are in a state of almost permanent revolt against oil companies exploiting the gas resources. In Brazil the government of Lula is in crisis because it has not met its promises to its worker supporters. In Chile there has been mass resistance to the FTA with the US.

Venezuela creates an opportunity

Most significant, in Venezuela there is a left populist government able to use its oil wealth to force through some changes to the global oil market. Chavez has introduced cheap oil for the Caribbean and other Latin American countries, and done a bilateral deal with China. He has also made some of the oil companies change their contracts and enter joint ventures on terms more favorable to Venezuela.

While these are important steps in the attempt to find alternatives to the dominance of the oil majors, they are as yet small steps. The states concerned are not directly challenging the fundamental interests of the oil companies –their ability to set the prices and profits of the oil industry even though they may not technically own the oil fields. That is, Venezuela’s oil may be nationalized but it is not yet socialized in the hands of the masses of workers and peasants of that country.

Nationalization is not Socialization

Nationalized property remains the property of the capitalist state and the capitalist class as a whole. That’s why nationalization often acts to subsidize private profits against workers interests. This can be seen from the fact that Chavez continues to supply oil to the US which can use it for its military machine in Iraq. Chavez has also recently offered oil to make up the loss of production resulting from a strike by Ecuadorian state oil workers, drawing a rebuke from Venezuelan state oil workers. And in order to guarantee production Chavez backs no-strike legislation against state workers in Argentina and at home. Similarly, Iraq’s oil remains nationalized, but that does not stop the oil majors from raking off massive profits through controlling the production and marketing of Iraqi oil, and of running the oil fields under military occupation.

The goal in Venezuela (and Bolivia, Brazil, Iraq etc) must be to support the nationalization of oil and an increase in the share of oil wealth being retained for distribution to meet the peoples’ needs, as a platform for the fight for the socialization of oil under the control of the workers and peasants’ organisations and revolutionary governments. This cannot happen in one country alone. An alternative common market made up of all countries exploited and oppressed by imperialism has to be built so that there is an economic base for the construction of a world socialist movement to carry the struggle to its completion. This means in each country we need to work out a series of steps to further this international strategy.

Solving New Zealand’s oil crisis

New Zealand’s oil crisis results from a lack of its own oil and dependence on Big Oil. We need to start first by removing petrol taxes and shifting the tax burden onto business which gains most from subsidized roading. Then we need to nationalize the oil industry under workers’ control and import oil from Venezuela in exchange for agricultural commodities and technology. We can repeat this with other countries breaking free from the dictates of the global market. For example, gas under the control of Bolivian workers and peasants could be shipped to NZ in exchange for agricultural expertise to convert coca to some other economic crop. To do this we (and of course our trading partners) would have to repudiate all Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and WTO agreements that limit the actions of the sovereign national state to ‘expropriate’ foreign investments, as well as the punitive financial regimes of the IMF and World Bank.

Instead of signing an FTA with the ‘Blairite’ Lagos government in Chile which gives multinational capital freedom to trade and invest with few national constraints, NZ could target its expertise to develop agriculture in exchange for industrial goods like copper. Or in Brazil provide technical advice to develop agriculture resulting from land reform. To make this possible aggressive multinationals such as Fonterra which (with its partner Nestle) plans to dominate the Latin American dairy industry, would become a joint venture between its farmer owners and the NZ state to cooperate in the development of this industry in partnership with the peasant owners in similar cooperative/state ventures.

No capitalist party in NZ would be willing to take these steps so it is necessary to build a socialist movement in NZ that can join in the international struggle to make sure that expropriations are put under workers control and socialized as the basis of a planned global socialist economy and society. But as a first step along this road we must raise the demand now for the nationalization of the oil industry and for barter trade with Venezuela!

NATIONALISE THE OIL INDUSTRY!

TRADE OIL FOR FOOD WITH VENEZUELA!

SMASH THE FTAs, WTO, IMF AND WORLD BANK!

FOR A UNITED SOCIALIST STATES OF THE PACIFIC!

 
 

15th World Youth and Student Festival August 2005
Chavez on the ‘peaceful road to socialism’?

The mounting US attack on Venezuela by Condoleezza Rice, Rums field etc and Pat Robertson’s death threat against Chavez etc – raises the red bogey of Chavez conspiring with Castro to make a socialist revolution in Bolivia that can spread to the rest of Latin America. Many of the 15,000 who attended the recent World Youth and Student Festival in Caracas think it is true.

While Chávez was in Argentina, [see article below] the “16th World Festival of Youth and Students” was opened in Venezuela. It was organized by the World Social Forum. One of the guest ‘stars’ was Evo Morales of Bolivia. This was no coincidence. In this festival Evo Morales was held up as the next president of Bolivia. At the same time the ‘power ring’ [i.e. the economic, political and military containment of the Bolivian revolution] was strengthened.

Thus the WSF used its Youth and Student Festival to organize its continental politics of strangling the Bolivian revolution. At the same time, it instructed its ‘left wing’ –the liquidators of Trotskyism – to hold another ‘encounter’ in La Paz on 12-14 August, so that it could collaborate with the Lula labor bureaucracy of the CUT of Brazil, and Solares (Castroite leader of the COB –union central – in Bolivia) etc, to add its weight to the containment of the Bolivian revolution.

In the La Paz meeting, held in secret and behind the backs of the masses of the revolutionary workers vanguard of El Alto, (working class city adjoining La Paz) this collection of treacherous fake Trotskyists and bureaucrats resolved to put up a reformist workers party under the name of the “political Instrument of the Workers” to participate in the elections of December.

They buried the resolutions of the 8 June of the COR (regional COB) El Alto; aborted the reconvening of the national congress of delegates of the Originary Popular Assembly (Indigenous and Popular Assembly) and tried to isolate and confuse the vanguard that fights for workers and peasants soviets and centralised militias. In effect, this ‘encounter’ backed Morales’ truce with President Rodriguez and the bourgeois regime.

While some of their delegates went to the encounter in Bolivia, at the Festival in Venezuela were the currents of Alan Woods, the MST of Argentina and other groups of the UIT-CI, among others. There, not surprisingly, they put themselves under the authority of Chávez and Fidel Castro, the Castroite bureaucracy, and the imposter Celia Hart Santamaria of the supposed ‘Trotskyist wing’ of the Cuban Communist Party. Just as Stalinism in the ‘80s organized the ‘Coffee Brigades’ to support the policy of the Castroism and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, today the renegades of Trotskyism take the lead in organizing support for Chávez.

Celia Hart, on May 1st 2005, in its article called ‘A ghost crosses America’, called for the “unity of revolutionaries”, to found a “continental communist organization” combining “sectarian” groups and “socialist or ant capitalist organizations” into an “organization of organizations”. In other words, she called on the left including the liquidators of Trotskyism, to unite under the control of the Cuban Communist Party, as the “left wing” of the World Social Forum.

The WSF needs a class collaborationist ‘left wing’ to play the leading role in containing the masses because the original promoters of the WSF are today increasingly discredited. They are implicated directly in pro-imperialist governments and bourgeois regimes attacking the masses, like Lula in Brazil, Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay, Lagos in Chile; or open supporters of these regimes like the CTA (state workers union) and Castroism which backs Kirchner in Argentina; or getting ready to play this role in government, like Evo Morales in Bolivia. Moreover, the WSF has already lost its “poster boy”, Colonel Gutiérrez, at hands of the masses in Ecuador. [see article on Ecuador]

In the case of Chávez, they need him so they can maintain the bourgeois state behind the painting of the ‘Bolivarian revolution’. And in the case of the Castroite bureaucracy, they need the ‘left wing’ to hide their betrayals of the Latin American revolution and its policy of capitalist restoration in Cuba.

So today, in the Festival of Youth in Venezuela, the task of coordinating and centralising the ‘left’ road block stopping the revolution is being carried out by the traitors to Trotskyism. Celia Hart Santamaría could not come to the Festival, so her role was filled by her lieutenant and official guest, Alan Woods of the ‘Trotskyist’ International Marxist Tendency. Next to him appeared Ricardo Alarcón, president of the National Assembly of Cuba; Shafik Handal of the FMLN of El Salvador and Daniel Ortega of the FSLN of Nicaragua – the main leaders, after Fidel Castro, of the Central American revolution in the ‘ 80s -, as well as Evo Morales, Felipe Quispe and other ‘personalities’ of the Bolivian ‘left wing’.

The Argentinean MST-UIT newspaper Socialist Alternative N° 409, in an article signed by its Youth, recognises cynically that the Festival “does not take in any sense a class perspective”, and yet endorses its purpose. It then states that “the most important aspect of the festival is the political space that is going to unfold. With the arrival of Lula’s government [for which their current in Brazil called for a vote while in a popular front with bourgeois parties! Editor] and the acceleration of the experience of the Latin American masses with the centre-left governments, has created the most important reformist space in recent last years: the Forum of Porto Alegre. In this way it opens a space so that the revolutionary organizations can engage in a dialogue with sections of the masses no longer bound to the centre-left parties, and allows us to influence and advance their politics.”

On this basis, they support, under the suggestive subtitle “To advance without sectarianism”, participation in the Festival for “achieving much more unity among all those that fight against imperialism and who think that the capitalist model is exhausted completely. Knowing that the task of confronting this system will not happen unless led by Trotskyists, it is more important that ever to arrive at clear agreements on as many points as possible, among organizations, groups and personalities on various aspects of world politics.”

They finish by saying that they will take this proposal from the Festival in Venezuela to the international level: “to create an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist international coordination, that can arrive at points of agreement and to make united political campaigns in support of the workers and popular sectors in struggle”. Likewise, Alan Woods dedicated himself to the concrete task of creating that “continental organization” with Celia Hart.

Thus, the delegations, the Venezuelan CMR, the Communist Party of Venezuela, Felipe Quispe of Bolivia, the M-28 and Fogata of Venezuela, the Front of University Students and the front of Colombian Secondary Students, the MRTA of Peru, the “Continental Current Bolivariana” CCB) etc., all agree with the politics of Celia Hart Santamaría. And not by chance: as Allan Woods of the IMT, the UIT-CI and its section MST of Argentina are all part of this third batch of Menshevism and as the betrayers of Trotskyism form the ‘left wing’ of the World Social Forum, a true counter-revolutionary international. 

 
Abridged from Workers Democracy 19 August 2005


Chavez visited Argentina to sign off on a deal to build two new oil tankers. Here’s a commentary on Chavez attitude towards the Santiago River shipbuilders.
CHÁVEZ VISITS THE SANTIAGO RIVER SHIPYARDS (ARS)

On 11 of August, the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, visited Argentina to sign the agreement for the construction of two oil tankers at the River Santiago Shipyard (ARS), giving a boost to the government campaign of Kirchner and Solá (State Governor) for the creation of a thousand new jobs. In a speech to the workers Chávez called on them to support the government of Kirchner which he praised saying “They have changed things in this country since this man arrived at the Pink House (Presidential Palace)”.

Like a demagogue he also praised the ARS as a “shipyard with dignity” because “imperialism did not own it” because the workers had “resisted the neo-liberal aggression”. But that sweet talk did not last long, because immediately afterwards he told the workers that they must “finish the ships quickly” so they could get more work.

It seems that Chávez did not come to the ARS because he is a good employer sharing the interests of the Argentine workers. He came because he could get cheap manual labor where the wages are constantly reduced by inflation. For Chávez it is excellent business building the ships in the ARS because the wages are on average $1100 (US$380) instead of $2000 to $3000 dollars a month in Spanish shipyards.

And like all bosses, Chavez wants to shorten the time of production to the maximum, because he knows that the faster the ships are built, the faster he will be able to export Venezuela’s oil. The chavista bourgeoisie wants sell more oil to Bush and US imperialism at $70 dollars a barrel, even though this allows the US to keep its military machine operating in Iraq and the Middle East.

And to guarantee that the workers will work harder and not go on strike, the Provincial governor Sola has passed a law to limit the right of strike. This is nothing new. It copies the law proposed by Chavez that workers in state companies, such as the PdVSA, [state oil] who go on strike can be sent to jail for years.

No strike laws are to prevent any problem or delay in the expansion of the oil industry. For those workers who protest: jail! Chávez wants to enslave manual labor in the ARS, and he imposes tough conditions of work so that workers do not have the right to complain, let alone ask for better conditions!

Chávez and Solá get their way in the ARS through the efforts of the collaboration of the union bureaucracy of Ate-cta. The same bureaucrats who have isolated the striking health workers at Garrahan [see article below] organised the meeting with Chavez at ARS so that nobody dared to ‘boo’ Chavez during his speech.

In order to police the meeting the bureaucrats brought some “pro-government piqueteros” of the FTV-CTA and Barrios de Pie who threatened physical violence against ARS workers. They make sure that the workers accept the bosses’ terms so they can be better exploited.

Shamefully, the internal commission of the ARS (combined unions) to which the PTS, PCR and the MST [centrist Trotskyist groups) belong, kept quite during the visit of Chavez and Sola, and the actions of the ATE-CTA bureaucracy. Although it is not a member of the internal commission of the ARS, the PO limited its criticisms to demanding that the 1000 jobs to be created be under the control of the organizations of unemployed people.

None of these currents, who call themselves revolutionaries called on the ARS workers to challenge Chávez’ deception, or alerted them to the plans of Sola and Kirchner to make them work like Chinese laborers. Or point out that if they strike for better wages they will be jailed or beaten up by the thugs of the FTV and Barrios de Pie – as they have done in Tucumán and Rosario – with the excuse that the ships being built for Chavez and his “Bolivarian revolution” cannot be delayed.

We know that the workers of the ARS want to work. We understand their joy and enthusiasm to know that the construction of the Venezuelan ships will guarantee work for them for some years. But we warn them that Chavez is a bourgeois employer who with Solá prepares the workers for super exploitation. In order to oppose this it is necessary to unite with the thousands of unemployed workers of the Berisso and Cove region (30% unemployed) and tell the employer’s association of Chávez, Kirchner and Sola:

“If you want these ships faster, there is no problem. It is necessary to employ more workers to produce, to distribute the working hours between all the workers available, reducing the working day and with a basic wage of $1,800 a month!”

The solution is to unite with the workers of the Garrahan (Hospital workers on strike) who are in a struggle for a basic wage of $1,800 for all state employees. It is necessary to call on the TIES and the CTA to launch a national strike until our demands are met.

But in all this there is still a big problem. The oil tankers that are being built for Venezuela, may be used to transport the oil used to fuel the US military machine that massacres the Iraqi workers who are our class brothers and sisters. We cannot allow it!

The workers of the ARS have the duty to call on the Venezuelan workers to fight to prevent any oil being shipped for use in imperialist wars. And simultaneously to call them to fight together to stop the oil monopolies like Repsol or Texaco (which Chávez granted the oil rights to the Orinoco river basin) from plundering the hydrocarbons of our Bolivian class brothers and sisters!

Workers Democracy Argentina No 9 July 2005.

Asserting their independence of Chavez, here is a report of a message of solidarity of Venezuelan oil workers to Ecuadorian oil workers!
“We Are With You: Jósé Bodas, leader of Fedepetrol, the oil workers’ union of Venezuela, expresses solidarity with Ecuadorian strikers:

By Nelson Gámez, Thursday, 25/08/05 06:29pm

The national leader of Fedepetrol, José Bodas, from Puerto La Cruz, sent a declaration to the communications media of that city, in which [the Venezuelan oil workers] express solidarity with the Ecuadorian oil workers who have been carrying out a just struggle for two weeks in defense of their rights and of the communities of the Amazonian jungle area.

The communiqué says:

“Just as the Ecuadorian oil workers supported us three years ago in order to defeat the bosses’ sabotage of PDVSA, we are reciprocating that gesture of solidarity, by telling the workers and communities of the Ecuadorian Amazonian jungle that we support them unconditionally, that we reject the savage repression by the government of Alfredo Palacios, and we lament the fact that President Chavez has decided to send petroleum to that country, since with that action, in fact, the just strike movement of the workers and the inhabitants is being broken.

“We are pained to learn that the high-level commission of the Ecuadorian government, which will sign the accords with the Venezuelan government, is composed of people committed to the interests of the multinational [corporations], and that from their positions and functions for three years now they have not moved a finger to help us from Ecuador to overcome the offensive of the imperialists and coup-plotters against Venezuelan sovereignty, attacked by Fedecamaras, by the parties of the oligarchy, and by imperialism.

“We certainly do not expect that the representatives of the multinationals will take any action expressing solidarity with the peoples and workers of the world.

Their actions will always be determined by profits, so we are not surprised by the declarations by the US government, nor those of the European governments, which have saluted the deal by President Chavez to avoid the Ecuadorian oil crisis.

With that same fervor with which they defend their interests, they maintain their criminal silence in the face of deranged declarations of “reverend” terrorists, who call for the assassination of President Chavez through the US communications media.

“We wish to inform the public, that for our part, as workers, revolutionaries and socialists, we will never support the enemies of the workers, and we will never take any action that contributes to the defeat of the struggle of the workers anywhere on the planet.

Our place is in solidarity with our class brothers in Ecuador, who are fighting for better conditions in their lives and for resources to meet the urgent needs of communities that live in conditions of extreme poverty in the Amazonian jungle.”

The communiqué ends:

“[we appeal] to all the Venezuelan workers, to the UNT, to the organizations of peasants, indigenous peoples, students, and the popular masses, to make known our solidarity with the Ecuadorian oil workers. Their struggle is our struggle, just as the struggle of the Bolivian workers and people in defense of their hydrocarbons is our struggle.”

http://www.aporrea.org/dameverbo.php?docid=65078

 
From Class Struggle 63 Sept/Oct 2005

Written by raved

January 6, 2012 at 11:33 am

Socialist Republic(s) of Australasia?

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The Australian ruling class is making a play to takeover its poor cousin kiwi capitalists. Aussie corporations already own large chunks of the NZ economy and dominate banking, energy, transport and retail sectors. But last month the Qantas chief headed a joint conference of business, government and academic bigwigs calling for a common currency and further economic integration. What’s going on? And where to workers fit into these plans? The Communist Workers Group has not got fully worked out position on these questions. So Class Struggle opens up a debate among workers on Australasian Union.

NZ the seductive semi-colony

The drive to integrate the two economies has been going on for 200 years. NZ began its colonial life as part of NSW, and was a self-governing colony within Australia until 1901 when it refused to go into the Australian federation. There is still a clause in the Australian federal constitution that allows NZ to join as a state of Australia.

The colonial capitalists in NZ led by then Prime Minister Dick Seddon had delusions of grandeur, of beating Australia as the “Britain of the south seas’’ with plans to rule the Island states to the north on behalf of the British Empire. From 1901 to 1984, NZ applied a policy of economic nationalism. This was the social democratic ideal that NZ was an independent nation whose economy could be controlled for the benefit of all. It tried to insulate its economy from Britain and Australia so that it could keep as much of the wealth generated in NZ as possible. And depending on which political party ruled this wealth was to be distributed among the various productive sectors in NZ.

However, the weakness in this national plan was that to develop industry internally, NZ had to turn to investment, technology and marketing agreements with overseas firms. So by the 1980s economic insulation had not stopped Aussie and UK (and increasingly Japanese and US) firms acting as the Trojan horses of globalisation and setting up ‘branch plants’ behind the protectionist barriers, and from sneaking profits offshore by ‘transfer pricing’.

Studies of foreign ownership since the early 80’s show that NZ was no longer run by a bunch of local families and the British banks, but that UK firms like Unilever, Aussie firms like Comalco, Japanese companies like Nissan and US corporations like Mobil had a dominant stake in the economy. NZ was still overseas owned but that ownership and control had shifted so that NZ was now, according to Bill Sutch, NZ’s foremost economic nationalist, only a ‘book entry’ in the accounts of the Multinationals.

Globalisation whacks home

What the century up to 1984 proved was that capitalism could be implanted and thrive under state protected hothouse conditions only until the local firms got too big for the domestic market. Once the biggest firms outgrew the market protectionist barriers had to come down, the economy deregulated and opened up to the global market. Barriers to trade and investment were largely removed and the NZ economy was now up for sale to the highest bidder.

Overseas companies moved in to buy out poor performers or undervalued companies or state enterprises (some already carved up for sale by asset strippers like Brierley and Alan Gibbs) like NZ Rail, Telecom, BNZ, Air New Zealand, NZ Steel etc. Ownership and control of homegrown industry rapidly passed from local and state hands into Australian, British, Japanese and US corporate hands.

CAFCA which documents trends in foreign investment produces statistics which back this up. Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) grew rapidly after 1984. By 1995 DFI in NZ had reached nearly 47% of GDP, and made about half the total profits. (Bill Rosenberg, Foreign Investment in NZ: The Current Position). Rosenberg showed that the overseas corporations tend to be the biggest, but employ fewer workers and pay less tax (25% average). They accumulate profits of the order of $30,000 per worker a year (compared with $20,000 for local firms). Today the foreign domination of the economy is higher still. Between 1994 and 2003 foreign corporations made over $42 billion in profits. http://www.canterbury.cyberspace.org.nz/community/CAFCA/keyfacts.html

What all of this proves is that the NZ economy has been integrated into the global capitalist economy so that the main industries are owned and controlled by large monopoly corporations with their bases in the Australia UK, US, EU, Japan and the rest of Asia. China too, looms on the horizon as a major economic force in NZ. This is all part of the globalisation of production under the influence of the monopoly corporations (to say it is no longer imperialism is so much globalony). What motivates the corporations is access to cheap resources and labour and the lowest cost barriers imposed by national governments (taxes, environmental and labour laws etc) as possible. This explains the drive to free trade and investment agreements allowing global capital free movement in search of lowest costs and biggest profits.

Aussie bosses own a third of New Zealand

Of all the overseas countries to increase its stake in NZ, Australia now dominates. It owns 100% of the trading banks, NZ Rail, NZ Steel, major road transport companies, shopping malls and supermarkets (Westfield).

To facilitate the smooth operation of Australian capital to further its ownership and control of NZ capital, the bosses are now making a play to remove all the barriers to form a common market like the EU. What is planned is a common currency which would be run by the Australian Reserve Bank, a single stock market, and a common border for citizens and travellers. This would certainly reduce the compliance costs for Australian capital.

But Australian capital is itself dominated by US (and to a lesser extent Japanese) capital. The Australian-US free trade agreement has opened up Australia to US investment. So an Australian-NZ common market would facilitate the ability of US capital to piggyback into NZ and increase its holdings and profits. The US (along with its Canadian partner-state in NAFTA) already owns a large slice of key industries such as merchant banking, power and communications, forestry, tourism etc.

Australia and NZ as ‘Pacific Powers’

Jane Kelsey’s recent paper “Big Brothers Behaving Badly” (http://www.arena.org.nz/)

attacks Australia’s and New Zealand’s role in forcing free trade onto the small Pacific nations. In particular she accuses them of bullying these nations to remove tariffs, export subsidies and any protectionist measures for agriculture, so they can sell more goods. As Kelsey points out in the case of Tonga’s agreement to remove $6 million tariffs on NZ meat exports (mainly mutton flaps) will be a cut of 40% of state revenue for services to a people made up of 80% subsistence farmers!

Behind all this is the plan of Australia to subordinate NZ and the rest of the South Pacific into its ‘EU-style’ Pacific Economic Community in the interests of Australian imperialism. NZ grandiose delusions of 100 years ago that it could be a junior imperialist power in the South Pacific are now fully deflated. Via its subordination to Australia, NZ, along with the rest of the South Pacific, is being further incorporated into the US imperialist bloc as a semi-colony of US imperialist finance capital.

What’s it got to do with the workers?

But this is the way the capitalism operates. It doesn’t matter which country owns capital, workers are still exploited. The question is: what is the workers position on the future of NZ as a semi-colony exploited by imperialism? And in particular being dominated by its nearest imperialist big brother, Australia? Should we fight to remain economically independent of both Australia and the US? Or should we fight to speed up the move towards a united states of Australasia in preference to union with the US? Then, maybe we should remain neutral in what is like a game of musical chairs where it doesn’t matter which boss sits down on us when the music stops, we still get shat on?

Our starting point has to be to distinguish between our interests as workers and those of the bosses. We fight for our interests and oppose those of the bosses. We fight against the bosses measures to make us boost their profits and pay their debts whatever the nationality of the boss. Our basic fight has to be the defence of our jobs and conditions. Without these the working class becomes divided and demoralised. Regardless of the nationality of the companies that own industry we demand nationalisation without compensation. Any closure or sacking of workers has to be met by occupations under workers’ control.

Because the Aussie and NZ bosses are heavily integrated, struggles against them must obviously unite NZ and Aussie workers – but not at the expense of foreign workers. For example we should fight for a common border to allow free movement of workers. But the common border has to be an open border. We don’t beg our bosses to legislate to protect our jobs at the expense of foreign workers. On the contrary we unite with the workers of all countries against the global corporations that exploit and oppress them, so that the demand for nationalisation becomes socialisation on a global scale.

Workers’ control means workers’ planning

How would this solidarity between Aussie and Kiwi workers operate? If we take those sectors where Australian and NZ capitalist ownership is most integrated, the unions should also be integrated. In Banking, NZ workers cannot fight the Aussie banks without the support of Aussie workers. As soon as we get into wage and job negotiation the boss plays one off the other. We need to call for the nationalisation of the banks under workers control. The division of the banks assets between Australia and NZ workers would automatically raise the need to unify the two countries.

Same with NZ Steel, 100% owned by BHP the largest mining corporation in the world. BHP jointly owns the huge Cerrejon Zona Norte coal mine in Colombia where it ‘manages’ its relations with the indigenous Wayuu and the unions by using the notorious paramilitaries to kill their leaders – the same death squads that recently entered Venezuela to kill President Chavez. http://www.thewest.com.au/20040607/business/tw-business-home-sto126156.html

The US United Mine Workers and United Steel workers unions have taken solidarity action with the Colombian miners. Australian and NZ workers need to demand the nationalization under workers control of BHP!

Same with Toll Rail that now owns NZ Rail. Nationalising Toll Rail under workers control would call for workers in both countries to exercise ‘joint control’ and pose the question of a single shared planned economy. Automatically the demands for workers control mean workers planning and a workers state. Would this be a single socialist republic or a union of socialist republics? We can’t say until workers have come to power and decided democratically what workers states would look like.

For Occupations and Nationalisations without compensation under workers control!

For a workers’ planned economy!

For a Socialist United States of the Pacific! 

From Class Struggle 56 June-July 2004


WORKERS’ BAN ON CAPITALIST GENETIC ENGINEERING

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Our position on GE is like that on Nuclear power. It is not safe under capitalism! We do not trust the bosses to do anything that affects workers lives because they are motivated solely by profit. We do not trust our health and safety on the job to the bosses, so why should we trust them or their state to regulate GE? This does not mean that we think that GE is necessarily bad. Under a socialist state where informed workers can democratically regulate GE many social benefits are possible. But we need socialism before we need GE! We reprint below a short excerpt from an article by Chris Wheeler responding to the Royal Commission’s Report based upon his experience of 20 years of monitoring the failure of Government environmental ‘controls.’

“…The Commission’s report in favour of GE has now become an effective tool for beating the GE opposition and the Green Party in Parliament around the head – probably the only reason for this whole $NZ6.5 million taxpayer-funded farce in the first place! As PM Helen Clark, her parliamentary colleagues and the GE industry are now saying all across the NZ media: “You got what you asked for – a complete and comprehensive review of GE policy and science. The expert view resulting from the Royal Commission’s deliberations is that GE is an essential part of New Zealand’s economic survival and a leading aspect of our new ‘Knowledge Economy’ and must be allowed to go ahead with the minimum of restrictions. Now shut-up. Stop complaining, and accept the majority opinion.”

Of course there are some derisory “controls” being recommended in the Royal Commission report, but in my past 20 years of direct involvement in agriculture issues and membership of official bodies deliberating on environmental control strategies in New Zealand, I have yet to see effective legislation or regulation controlling ANY aspect of the agrichemical abuse that New Zealand is notorious for in informed world environmental circles and GE abuse will fare little better. The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) cited in the Commission’s report as the responsible agency overseeing GE trials and releases has been controlled from the first day of its establishment several years ago by powerful industry lobby groups with the necessary financial resources to fight any environmental group’s submissions to a standstill.

For 20 years I have been involved in various attempts to place effective controls over the profligate application of carcinogenic pesticides by New Zealand farmers, which contributes to New Zealand’s record levels of breast, prostate and bowel cancer, childhood leukemia and birth defects, and have met with continual official apathy and obstruction, particularly from official regulatory agencies. I and the knowledgeable anti-GE community in New Zealand have absolutely no faith in the new GE review apparatus being suggested by the Commission because we know that just as with appointments to the food regulatory Australia New Zealand Food

Authority (ANZFA) and ERMA, membership will be heavily weighted with GE industry stooges and political appointees guaranteed to preserve the status quo…”

GE run by the bosses? No Way!

Class Struggle No 40, August-September 2001

Written by raved

August 28, 2007 at 9:01 pm

SAY NO TO RACIST ATTACKS ON MIGRANT WORKERS!

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If recent comments by NDU (National Distribution Union) Secretary Mike Jackson regarding police and immigration raids on work sites employing ‘illegal’ Asian workers are anything to go by, then it is time to root out such racist and nationalist flag waving attitudes that serve to reinforce chauvinist divisions through the working class.

Former Socialist Unity Party member Jackson was recently quoted as saying that “illegal immigration is a problem for NZ industry in that it drags wages and conditions down, making it harder to develop skills which end up going across the ditch (Tasman Sea)”. Such sentiments are not new. The fear of loss of jobs and conditions to ‘foreign workers’ has become a mantra trotted out by the right wing and phony left of the union movement.

The phony is left represented partly by the neo-Stalinist S.P.A. (Socialist Party of Aotearoa) whose President and second in command are NDU President Bill Andersen and Mike Jackson respectively. As adherents of the doctrine of ‘socialism in one country’ (see box below) it is hardly surprising that the non-internationalist position taken by such leaders is to the fore on the illegal immigration question.

Labour parties by their very nature try to con workers into believing that the bosses’ state can protect their jobs. The labour bureaucrats have taken a protectionist line in guarding the local conditions of workers not as a benevolent measure in the workers’ interests but as a means of putting the lid on any attempt by workers to rise up in the event of crises affecting their work conditions.

This is done first by ensuring that all key union positions are occupied by social democratically minded or phony left leaders. Their only interest is to guard their bureaucratically controlled high perches where they stand as intermediaries between bosses and workers. This union bureaucracy was called the labour lieutenants of capital by Trotsky because they control the workers as “troops” for the bosses.

The other measure which is being called for by the top union leaderships is the reintroduction of trade tariffs which amount to nothing more than a subsidy (profit top up) that goes into the bosses’ pockets and not the workers. More importantly tariffs act as barriers that stand between the workers internationally and can escalate into wars were workers are sent to fight workers to defend their bosses profits.

Rare international solidarity actions such as the MUA (Maritime Union of Australia) ban on handling military supplies to Indonesia over East Timor and the US Longshore Union support of the MUA over the struggle against scab labour on Australian wharves, are exceptions. But they were still limited by their bureaucratic leadership who continue the national chauvinism that stifles true internationalism.


‘Socialism in One Country’.

The defunct and discredited Stalinist concept of ‘socialism in one country’ bears responsibility for a large part of the current union attitude on illegal immigration. It recognises that imperialism holds predominance in the world today as it did in the days when Stalin dreamed up the whole idea after the failure of the revolution in Germany in 1923. By cutting deals with the imperialists who threatened to invade the Soviet Union, Stalin promised that socialism would not spread beyond its borders. In order to demonstrate this and appease the imperialists, he systematically eliminated all communist opposition including most of the Bolshevik central committee. Any attempt outside of the Soviet Union to organise workers was crushed. Marxist internationalism was replaced by flag waving nationalism placed under a workers banner to sell the illusion to workers that they had strength against imperialism. Many in key positions in unions today still hold to this conservative idea, particularly in the NDU and AWU (Amalgamated Workers Union) where Stalinists and their social democratic lackeys still hold sway.


A recent internal memo distributed by the Amalgamated Workers’ Union dated March 2000 continues the nationalist line. It states “Remember every illegal immigrant who takes a job is prohibiting somebody you know from working…We must continue to pursue this matter in the interests of NZ workers.” The AWU’s total defence of NZ workers hinges entirely on the 1987 Immigration Act which states that employers who knowingly employ illegal workers shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding NZ$2,000.

A paltry sum says the AWU. In fact the only thing paltry is its bureaucratic credibility when it fails to realise that by subordinating the unions struggle to a statute of bourgeois law it removes any pretence of being in charge of workers’ interests. The AWU bureaucrats rely upon the bosses’ state to defend “our” jobs from illegal aliens.

But to rely on the bosses to protect jobs puts one in the camp of the class enemy. To polarise workers around nationalism only serves to lend comfort to racists and bigots whose attacks on ‘legal’ immigrants have been on the increase in recent years. Fuelled by populist politicians like Peters and Prebble and the ratings driven tabloid media, the union bureaucrats have dragged themselves and the movement into the invidious position of being bedfellows with these low life reactionaries. The chauvinist defence of jobs and wages against foreign workers which relies on alliances with national bosses ultimately leads to wars were workers are sent to kill other workers in the interests of their bosses.

Without an international perspective and without support of the so-called ‘illegals’, the chance is lost for building sympathy and solidarity with foreign workers who are now all in the same global economy being exploited by the same multinational bosses. Solidarity with ‘illegal’ Asian workers in NZ could forge important links with the Asian masses are engaged in major struggles such as in China, Korea and Indonesia.

Bosses not workers cause low wages.

On the question of ‘illegals’ taking jobs and lowering wages and conditions, the bureaucratic line needs to be studied more closely. It turns out that it is not ‘illegal’ immigrants forcing down wages, but the failure of workers to join forces to stop the boss paying low wages that is the problem. Lets take the example of the market garden workers.

A former market garden worker recalls 20 years ago while working for one of the biggest vegetable growers in the Pukekohe region of South Auckland, wages and conditions were so low that most of the garden workers could not afford to pay even the minimum market rent for housing and so were forced to stay in company owned accommodation units on the garden work sites.

These dwellings were very often poorly maintained by the bosses whose only interest was to have a cheap workforce immediately on hand at short notice. At the time, with the exception of the boss and managerial staff, the vast majority of workers were Maori, but for the sake of argument, local. Their poor wages and conditions could hardly be blamed on ‘illegal’ immigrants. Poor wages and conditions have always existed in certain work sectors and always at the bottom end.

To fill the jobs at the bottom end bosses have historically had to rely on migrant workers who form a ‘reserve army of labour’ who are tapped into when needed and thrown on the scrap heap when surplus to requirements. 50 years ago it was Maori moving into the cities. 40 years ago it was Pacific Islanders looking for work. 20 years ago Maori working in the market gardens began to be replaced by seasonal and ‘illegal’ migrant workers. Today bosses are using ‘illegal’ migrants in the clothing and building industries because they are able to get away with paying low wages and bad conditions.

By employing workers from ‘third world’ or underdeveloped countries who do not meet the entry work requirements, bosses are able to use threats such as withholding passports to force them to work for low pay and substandard work and safety conditions. ‘Illegal’ workers are almost slaves as they have no normal rights as citizens. They are driven out of desperation to live and work under such conditions and cannot be the cause of any threat to NZ jobs, wages and conditions.

The AMU bureaucrats are right on one thing. A NZ$2000 fine is paltry compared with the large profit margins being made employing migrant workers. The bosses couldn’t care less about ‘illegal’ workers. Laws against foreign workers were enacted in the past by the bosses as part of deal with the unions where the bosses got industrial peace in return for keeping foreign workers out. This was the “White NZ” immigration policy that largely restricted official migration to skilled British workers.

Both unions and governments turned a blind eye to illegal migrants from the Pacific after World War 2 when jobs were plentiful, but when unemployment hit in the 1970’s both turned on these same migrants and labeled them ‘overstayers’. In other words the bourgeois state is forced to act on the issue of illegal migrants on pressure from the unions engineered by the union bureaucrats who play on workers fears that their jobs are under threat.

The situation got much worse under the ECA (Employment Contracts Act) of 1991 which had a huge impact on union membership driving it down to around 20% of the workforce. This has prompted a large part of what motivates the union bureaucrats drive against ‘illegals’. In order to show that it is fighting for the rights of local workers, it is running a campaign internally to encourage its members to act as eyes and ears against ‘illegals’, in the hope that the results would impress workers who are not members of unions to join up.

Work sites have been ‘targeted’ by unions who have called on their members to act as police spies reporting to immigration and police resulting in raids that have led to mass arrest of the ‘illegal’ workers, victims of the bosses. When occasionally the bosses are prosecuted this does not stop the practice. By using unionists in this way the bureaucrats are pitting local workers against foreign workers (‘illegals’) in support of the very state forces that have been, and will be again, used to crush workers struggles at home. This cynical attitude of the bureaucrats makes a mockery of the international workers slogan – “Workers of all countries unite!”

Because of its diminished support base, the union bureaucracy seeks to use its crude and underhand drive against ‘illegals’ to consolidate its position of privilege as the ‘labour lieutenants’ of the bosses by sacrificing the integrity of the workers’ movement. The rank and file must be made aware that what is being done in their name serves only to destroy them in the end. The NDU call last year to wage war on illegal workplaces in defence of ‘legitimate’ jobs in ‘legitimate companies’ backs the call that it supports an ‘illegitimate’ system.

This is part of the CTU “good boss/Bad boss” syndrome. But in reality the ‘sweatshop’ label being applied to the so-called illegal work places, should also be applied to the so-called ‘legitimate’ work places as local workers are forced to work longer hours for less pay by both NZ and foreign-owned companies. So while the bureaucrats set about looking for new definitions of legal and illegal workplaces, it is time for the rank and file to rise up and take their rightful place at the head of the workers’ struggle against the whole rotten system.

Workers answer to exploitation is international solidarity

At the dawn of a new century the rank and file must be made aware of the importance of their place in the international struggle in order to appreciate the need to support workers who have been labelled ‘illegal’ by the state and the union bureaucracy. Workers must debate among themselves the need to organise themselves into rank and file structures based on the principles of democracy and international solidarity.

This means that among the rank and file, the most lowly skilled worker has as much say during a debate or argument about union policy as the more highly skilled. This is on the clear understanding that the democratic decision arrived at on the basis of an informed vote must be accepted totally by all to ensure that the union acts as one to implement its policy.

The most fundamental groundwork of these structures has to take place on the worksite itself. Workers must organise to form a union were these do not exist and elect delegates who represent them and are held accountable to them. The delegates should be the best unionists with the ability to do the job well.

As communists we fight to get elected as delegates standing on a programme that links the unions to the struggle for socialism. This means that the site delegate must take responsibility to inform workers of the need for a revolutionary angle on all matters affecting workers’ conditions, especially the world situation that for most workers don’t appear to play any part in their lives. By so doing, this raises the level of their international understanding, thus better preparing them for the task of international solidarity action in the event that should crises arise anywhere both here and abroad, the response would be immediate and automatic.

So while the delegate acts to represent the views of the rank and file, the delegate should also be prepared to act as a leader until the rank and file becomes more politically aware and eventually class conscious. The rank and file will then become actively part of the wider revolutionary movement. That is why Trotsky called the trades unions “schools for revolution”.

In the meantime, the site delegate has the valuable task of making links with his or her counterpart in other worksites fighting for the rebuilding of the unions based on the principles of rank and file democracy and international solidarity. It is important to state that the rank and file movement is representative of ‘all’ workers irrespective of the industrial relations law which creates a charter for the union bureaucracy to exclude the rank and file (see article on the new Employment Relations Bill). This, and not any social democratic legislation, is the key to real workers strength in crushing the cycle of misery brought about by the capitalist system that has long outlived its use-by date.

The rank and file movement is a start to revolutionising the unions. There are signs that this has begun in Australia where some key positions in the Community and Public Sector Union (equivalent to the PSA) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, have been taken over by militants. But unless this movement is led by communist delegates around a revolutionary programme, it cannot hope to gain any significant strength beyond the laws of the land that it currently yields to. Yet it is a concrete first step that workers in Aotearoa/NZ can follow and eventually begin to make links with on the road to workers of all countries uniting in a new revolutionary communist international.

Designate all worksites as sweatshops.

No! to all anti-immigrant police raids.

For solidarity with all workers designated “illegal”.

No! to the bosses’ immigration laws.

Workers of all countries unite.

From Class Struggle No 32, April-May 2000

Written by raved

August 27, 2007 at 2:47 pm

Workers answer to APEC [June 1999]

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In the last issue we covered some of the history and background of the APEC forum now we look closely at the imperialist character and further develop a workers approach to such international groupings.

The APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation) forum is dominated by the imperialist interests of the U.S. and Japan. These are both competing for access to resources (raw materials, cheap labour) in the member countries.

Meanwhile the big union ‘worker’ leaderships try to get a social clause into APEC. A social clause means some minimal labour rights, ‘justice’, and doesn’t exploit the workers too obviously.

CTU begs at the APEC table

The CTU (Council of Trade Unions) has further revealed just how rotten it is. Angela Foulkes (CTU secretary) has lined up for the Prime Minister’s promotions team to hype APEC. The media over-kill is business as usual. They paid Sean Fitzpatrick to “hock the family silver” (in the promotion of the sale of the Auckland International Airport).

The CTU obviously thinks that it can ‘reform’ APEC with these proposals so that it is not hostile to workers interests. But it is naive of the CTU to think it can tame capitalism by participating in APEC. However, it is not surprising given the rightward drift of the whole traditional Labour leadership. For example, just remember the so-called “Labour” Party showed itself as a bosses’ party between 1984 to 1990. Another example was the CTU’s refusal to lead a fight against the Employment Contracts Act.

However as workers we remain tied into these rotten leaderships, and one of our first tasks has to be to show up these mis-leaders so they can be removed and replaced by accountable representatives. Then workers will be able to strike out in a progressive direction.

For democratic fighting unions: Unions that are run by the members and fighting to defend wages and conditions, in the first instance.

We also need a party of communist workers to provide a lead to militant workers. Otherwise, the union movement will remain tied by the “labour bureaucracy” to the capitalist class. The labour bureaucrats are the paid workers of a union. Their interests are to protect and preserve their own wages and privileges. Therefore, they do not raise a challenge to capitalism; their role invites them to negotiate with capitalism.

TUF oppose APEC

The Trade Union Federation (TUF) is working in opposition to APEC under the slogan; “Fair trade before free trade”. TUF have a set of demands, some of which are worth supporting, and are part of the opposition to APEC.

The Trade Union Federation says:

APEC does not represent the interests of democratic governments in the region but of Trans-National Corporations. The lack of democratic structure and process in APEC supports the dominance of a narrow and destructive business agenda.

1) Aotearoa/New Zealand should withdraw immediately from APEC.

2) Aotearoa/New Zealand should call for the dissolution of APEC.

3) The Government should provide a full and objective National Interest Analysis of existing trade and investment policy, to be subject to further submissions before the select committee and full parliamentary and public debate.

4) Aotearoa/New Zealand should advocate the establishment of a properly constituted forum on regional economic co-operation and development comprised of member nations. This forum would produce a constitution based on the promotion of democratic control, social justice and self-determination amongst member states. It would consider the impact of globalisation and World Trade Organisation initiatives on member states in the light of these principles, including such questions as the relationship between investment flows and trade barriers, the equitable distribution of income both between and within member states and the role of trade in the national development of member states. Its first priority would be to commission a comprehensive empirical study of the impact of trade liberalisation over the last twenty years in the Asia Pacific region and assess the evidence of this study in terms of a wide range of social and economic criteria.

5) That the Government immediately adopts a policy of national economic development. That should include the specific goal of moving the Gross National Product to the level of the Gross Domestic Product within the next three years.

6) That the Government immediately announces the freezing of 1998 tariff levels until the year 2005 and a review of all other APEC “commitments

However, “fair trade” like the promise of a “level playing field” is bullshit and the TUF won’t get “fair” trade under capitalism. Trade is based on the sale of commodities produced by labour and unless all the value of the commodity goes to the labourer or producer there can be no “fair trade” any more than exploitation can be “fair”.

So what is wrong with “free trade” is not hat it is unfair but is based on the same lie as the “free market” under global capitalism. There is nothing “free” about the market when one group of sellers, wageworkers are forced to sell their labour to be exploited or else starve. TUF’s position on “fair trade” implies that it thinks that exploitation results from “unfair” wages that can be corrected by state legislation.

The overall character of the TUF opposition is liberal. In effect it wants an international body (global government?) to set the rules for capitalism. They only want it to be a little easier for working people. They have the classic liberal mission before them; to humanise the capitalist system (eg they call for “social justice” and “self-determination”). We say that is impossible under capitalism. Capitalism is an economic system that reduces humans to the profits it wants to extract from us. There is no true “free trade” under Imperialism, and “fair trade” is impossible while the capitalist system of exploitation remains. We need to overthrow capitalism and build a new system.

Build a workers fightback

Workers cannot deny the realities of capitalism eg. concentration and centralisation of capital in giant Transnational Corporations. We know this because it hits out at workers. Whole industries have been shifted offshore, and workers have had to travel to gain a job. In other industries (eg. wood) workplaces have closed or been “restructured” and workers laid off.

Another reality of “free” trade under capitalism is that capital can move more freely (than workers). The TNCs can ship entire plants to whichever economy they wish to site it in, eg. Kenson industries shipped machinery out within days of shutting the workers out.

Against this capitalist programme we say workers need to occupy factories or plants threatened with closure. That forces the question to be asked; is the plant the boss’s machines or the workers? It is built and operated and practically lived-in by workers. Or, is it machines, the capitalists’ property” which produces value? We would expect that capitalists will defend their property rights with all their might – i.e. the state forces. Then we would need workers self-defence militia.

We also fight for open all borders for all working people: No bars on workers migration. As capital is mobile and does not have to obey immigration laws, so should workers be free to go where there are jobs. We fight for the rights of migrant workers to equal conditions and citizenship. This gives effect to the reality that workers have no country and are part of an international labour force and cannot defend their interests by lining up behind their nationalist bosses to fight trade wars and military wars.

The Struggle against Imperialism

The imperialist powers can trade more freely than smaller (semi-colonial) nations. The size of their companies means they have an advantage, and can reap a super-profit. We describe weak economies as semi-colonies where they are controlled, owned, or otherwise dominated by international capital.

We say that NZ is a semi-colony as the economy is super-exploited by imperialism. Apart from the already high and growing level of direct foreign investment in the privatised state assets in energy (see article on Power to the Powerful), resources (e.g. Timber – International Paper) services (TELECOM, NZ RAIL etc) media (Murdoch and O’Reilly etc) which allows super-profits to be repatriated overseas, NZ is faced with high trade barriers.

A good example is the barrier to NZ lamb going to the US. The US has force NZ to totally remove subsidies from farming, yet it subsidises its own farming industry which is inefficient to buy farmers politically conservative (land-owners often are) votes. Farmers are therefore quite a significant support for the ruling class’ so-called democracy.

A second example is the barriers put up against NZ timber going into Japan. When the Asian markets crashed, and the commodity price for timber fell the Japanese protected their own timber plantations by putting a tariff on any imported timber. This clearly shows the major economies of APEC protecting their own inefficient primary production at the cost of a weak semi-colony.

A more recent development is the push by US based TNCs to break up of the NZ Dairy Board. The object is to bring key primary produce export industries to even more under their direct ownership and control (as is already the case in the ownership of Meat and Timber industries).

Dairy industry

Dairy cooperatives are under pressure from world capitalism. The interests of international capital would like to reap a super-profit from this highly efficient industry. They want to buy up sections of the dairy cooperatives and turn them into fully capitalist enterprises. That means they will run them for the TNC owners profits and not for the working farmers shareholders who get a return on the value produced by their own labour.

The industry in NZ has been undergoing a process of concentration of capital into larger and larger cooperatives. We call for a defence of the “cooperative” ownership structure in the dairy industry. Where the cooperatives are growing, working farmers need to fight for the democratising of the cooperatives. The interests of the (smaller) working farmers are being overtaken by those of the larger scale corporate capitalist owners. This means farm managers, share-milkers and labourers are set up to become exploited as cheap labour.

Nationalism

Some of the capitalist class of semi-colonies like NZ may be under threat from foreign capitalists. This may appear to temporarily align their interests with the interests of workers in opposing imperialism. Some layers of workers and capitalists are attracted to a strategy of economic nationalism or protectionism especially as this appeared to work in the interests of workers during the post-war boom.

But this is a deadly trap as national capitalists are unable to survive in the globalised economy without super-exploiting their workers also.

Therefore, despite an apparent common interest in opposing imperialism especially against trade barriers and military attacks, workers need to organise separately, because even while our immediate interests may temporarily coincide, our class interests demand the overthrow of capitalist property relations at home.

Some layers of workers have interests that coincide with the interests of national capitalists in a destructive way. For example, the workers who supply the US and its allies with arms and weapons. Their immediate interests are with the US as global “police” / war-mongers. However their long-term class interests are not.

A recent local (NZ) example of this was the Engineers Union. The executive (bureaucratised leaders) of the Engineers Union wanted the “ANZAC” frigates project. Why? – because they wanted their members to build the frigates. As long as they are paid, and collect union dues, nothing else really matters. They don’t mind wasting labour, on building floating targets/tombs for the NZ state forces to sit in. The last edition of “Metal” celebrated the growth of jobs (from 120 to 300+) at “Safe Air”, a branch of Air New Zealand. The EU proudly (on the front page) declares that the company as taken over the NZ Air Force maintenance team and contracts. They are proud to be servicing the military of the Asia-Pacific region, Philippines and Australia.

Many workers would be happier if they were building anything other than weapons, but work because they need a wage to survive. Other privileged workers would fight for their owners, to defend their wage-slavery and privilege. At the core of the issue is class. The working class is made up of workers because we need to work in order to survive. If we happened to live in a privileged nation state, our lifestyle may be more comfortable. However privilege cannot stop the capitalist economic crisis hurting us also.

Workers internationalism

We are for the construction of international trade unions. Not just at the level of agreements between union leaders, but also at the membership level. Members would need to fight in their unions for the programme of international unions to take up a progressive struggle.

This will be seen to differ from the programmes drawn up by bureaucratic leaders. The bureaucrats only motive is to try to defend the jobs of their current members, since these members are the source of their salary.

Current international agreements are often based in an imperialist nation or on a privileged (comparatively) workforce. Union leaders are too slow in considering expanding to cover other nations who could be a source of either cheaper labour, or if it came down to class struggle with the bosses, a source of scab labour for the bosses. Workers need to recruit these workers to unionism before the bosses can divide workers and continue to rule with ease.

Trade unions members have an interest in recruiting workers to unions, and building their awareness that our only strength as workers is our ability to take united action. Through truly international unions we can build workers solidarity.

International unions could defend workers jobs by fighting for equal wages and conditions across international borders. This could organise workers in semi-colonies, against super-exploitation by international capitalists. This would begin to improve the wages and conditions of workers in the semi-colonies. At the same time as proving the strength of workers united organisation.

Following from the above progressive moves, it becomes clear why we need to fight against barriers to workers migration. Since international unions would create the opportunities for workers to travel and work with much more protection than migrant workers get at present. This would also allow the spread of workers education in union principles across an international workforce.

The whole thrust would be for the building of worker solidarity, raising labour rights, organising non-union workers and the growth of healthy international trade unionism.

An example is the Seafarers Union. The Seafarers response to the threat of international competition on the seas was to align their interests with the nation state and the stronger Australian union. In NZ they were protected against competition on internal shipping routes through NZ state law. Internationally they had signed an agreement with their Australian counterparts (the MUA- Maritime Union of Australia) protecting trans -Tasman shipping routes.

The above were defensive, protective deals. They show that the trade unions are at most “reformist”, trying to reform capitalism for their self-protection. This puts them onto the parliamentary reformist path, where they place their hopes in a new (Labour oriented) government changing the shipping rules.

Protectionist deals are no match for the already global capitalist organisations (the bosses class). What is needed is an international view, which only a truly international organisation can build, and even this would need the revolutionary communist method of Marx.

Fletchers paper mills

Lets take a look at how workers might collaborate internationally within a TNC. Fletcher Challenge was seen as NZ’s main TNC (it is now half-owned offshore). Fletchers has had major strikes and lockouts of paper mill workers in a number of countries. However they have been able to continue production by isolating the industrial dispute to one country. For example the mills in Canada were out but the NZ mills carried on running. Internationally pulp and paper workers were not organised beyond appeals for financial support. If they had taken strike action at the same time, in solidarity, them they would have shown their united strength.

For workers control of all branches of TNCs!

From Class Struggle No 27 May-June 1999

Written by raved

August 26, 2007 at 11:01 pm