Sunday, May 13, 2018

May Day! Workers of the World Unite to Smash Fascism and Imperialism! End Capitalism and Build Socialism to Stop Climate Catastrophe!


Happy International Workers Day 2017 Wishes Quotes Images ...
 
Comrades, International Workers Day, or Mayday, has been celebrated since 1886, three years after the death of Marx. But what are we celebrating? This year is 200 years since Marx’s birth, 180 years since the Communist Manifesto, 100 years since the Russian Revolution and 80 years since the foundation of the Fourth International. There is plenty to celebrate. But where is the ‘spectre of communism’ haunting the bourgeoisie today? True, the bourgeoisie fear communism. They fear the revolutionary proletariat as their ‘grave diggers’. But we, the international workers, have yet to turn that fear into the reality. Mayday has become less than a celebration of victorious revolutionary advances and more of a ritual occasion for the bureaucratic leaderships of the labour movement to hold ‘Sunday speeches’. Meanwhile the masses resistance to the rise of counter-revolution and fascism all over the world is isolated, and defeated.
 

We should remember that ‘Mayday’ is also an international emergency call sign. This is how we should ‘celebrate’ Mayday, by disrupting the ritual and calling for international workers to unite in action to overcome a global emergency of climate collapse and human existence. Everywhere capitalism is in crisis. It can no longer rule in the same old way. In fact every day capitalism survives only by destroying humanity and nature. And workers will no longer submit to extreme exploitation without fighting back. There is no way out for the bourgeoisie other than destruction and barbarism. To survive as a dying mode of production, capitalism is thrashing about destroying everything that has been won over centuries. It threatens to destroy humanity and nature unless stopped by the global socialist revolution. It is clear that for workers to live and humanity to survive, capitalism must die. But where is the international proletariat rising up to smash capitalist imperialism, and to build world socialism?

Syria: Revolution or fascist genocide



This is no more obvious than in Syria, the Paris Commune of the 21st Century, where the promise of the Arab Spring has been driven back to near defeat by the combined forces of counter-revolution. The bosses fear more than anything the spread of a victorious Arab Revolution setting an example to the rest of the worlds workers – the imperialist powers and their murderous client regimes have resorted to fascist genocide. Whole cities and regions have been turned into bloody rubble because the Syrian Revolution has been ignored and isolated from any campaign by the international working class to join the revolution arms in hand. Most of those who claim to be international socialists have turned out to be social chauvinists and social imperialists. They condemn the popular Arab Revolution as a counter-revolution against Western democracy. The two imperialist blocs led by the US and by Russia have combined forces to smash the leading armed edge of the Arab and international revolution, by propping up a fascist dictator, and the servile Western ‘left’ has provided a ‘left’ cover for genocide.

This Mayday we are into the 8th year of the Syrian civil war and the approaching defeat of the revolution which will be a defeat also for both the Arab revolution and the world revolution. So we must ask what are the prospects for the international revolution right now. Let’s reject Mayday as a ritual ‘celebration’ and make it a call to a global emergency. Then we can act to overcome that emergency by organising international workers as a revolutionary force able to defend every basic democratic right being destroyed by imperialism in its death throes and rebuild the ‘world party of socialism’ called for by Trotsky in 1938 based on the Transitional Program.

This means fighting for a Marxist program that can guide workers in every fight for their most basic rights and needs, across the bridge to the formation of soviets and militias, all the way to socialist insurrection and a world federation of workers states. For example, in Syria we need an international party strong enough to mobilise military support for the revolution for basic freedom and link it to all other Arab resistance. It means uniting the Palestinian revolution to defeat the Zionist settler state with the workers movements in every other country. We need international brigades in Syria, and militant uprisings against the imperialist ruling classes threatening world war.

In other ‘hot points’ where the crisis is bringing workers to their feet to fight, that new international party has to have the forces to intervene with a program that works to advance the revolution against the counter-revolution and make it ‘permanent’. The forces of counter-revolution are the imperialist ruling classes, their client states ruled by national bourgeoise factions and their political parties, and the treacherous fake ‘left’ of all shades that always sides with the bourgeoisie against socialist revolution.

Under today’s crisis conditions, the imperialists and their client lackeys are exposed as naked class enemies. The fake ‘left’ however provides a left cover to fool the workers. They are the most dangerous enemies. We must expose and defeat these bosses’ agents in our ranks. In every revolutionary situation where workers are mobilising they are on the side of the class enemy, demobilising the masses. Let’s illustrate this by using examples that demonstrate the way forward in both semi-colonies and imperialist nations.


Zimbabwe, South Africa and Africa


The African continent alongside other semi-colonial continents like Latin America and Asia (a from Japan and China) have been hard hit by the double burden of capitalism and imperialism. The over reliance on the export of raw materials and trapped as cheap labour havens causes acute suffering for the workers and the common poor. The dictatorial and openly ruthless regimes in most African states make it difficult for the common masses to fight for their interests and against dictatorship, poverty, capitalism and imperialism. So, as we celebrate International Workers day or May Day it is important to appreciate that workers, poor peasants and the poor oppressed and exploited masses can conquer a good life only through socialism which must inevitably come through the strategy of permanent revolution.

Two countries can help illustrate the condition of the working class and poor masses in Africa. In Zimbabwe the workers are under intense attacks by the post-Mugabe pro-austerity bourgeois regime that is delicately balancing between western and eastern imperialism. A 2016 Supreme Court judgement, despite nominal ‘reversals’, has made it easier for employers including the government to fire workers without compensation or real chances of redress. Over 30,000 workers have lost their jobs as a result of this ruling championed by the current President of the main opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC Alliance). As a result of the judgement and the intransigence of the bosses, workers have been forced to resort to militant actions such as those at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and Grain Marketing Board (GMB) where workers staged prolonged protests at the companies headquarters. Workers at the Hwange Colliery and ZESA (a public utility power company) are currently engaged in a vicious struggle to get their overdue wages and allowances. But most importantly, the strikes by doctors and nurses has brought to the fore the true colours of the regime, despite claims that this is a “new era”. Nurses were summarily dismissed before being reinstated. In a clear show of what workers have to expect from this government it displays for imperialism its willingness to continue Mugabe’s alliance with imperialism and to crush workers struggles.

In South Africa the situation is even more delicate. The formal political independence of 1994 has failed to change the lives of the poor masses that are still faced with exploitation and poverty. The reformist African Nationalist Congress (ANC) party and its partners have failed to resolve the key aspects of apartheid which include subordination of the masses to the interests of imperialist investment enforced by the state, racism and exploitation of local and migrant labour as well as the continued plunder of natural resources. Despite a constitution that was hailed by imperialism and their middle class and petit bourgeois surrogates, the material conditions of workers and the poor masses has remained dire forcing workers, communities, students and poor peasants to rise in revolt. The most notable and watershed revolt of the suffering masses was the Marikana strike which resulted in the murder of workers by the state in collaboration with capitalist mine owners. The fight for a living wage, better working conditions and the unfettered right to strike has taken centre stage in the class dynamics of the state. The strike by bus drivers has dragged into the third week as workers reject slave wages and attempts at dividing the working class.

Zimbabwe and South Africa to a large extent reflect the current situation in most African states in relation to the conditions of the workers, poor peasants and poor masses. Slave wages, land privatisation, commodification of education and services, plunder of local resources, rampant corruption and dictatorial regimes are the hallmarks of African societies. May Day gives us the opportunity to take stock of our position as workers and the common poor and be able to chart a way forward that ensures a better life for the masses. Only independent mass action of the working class and oppressed can win a better life. For this to happen workers have to be militantly organised and armed with a revolutionary strategy and program.


Brazil and Latin America


In Brazil and Latin America, considered a “backyard” by US imperialism, the workers and oppressed people resisted neoliberal policies with militant class struggle in the streets. The reformist Left channeled this fight into parliamentary socialism or “socialism of the XXI century”, placing in power several populist Popular Front governments which continued to apply neoliberal policies and the dictates of imperialism.


The global crisis of capitalism has hit Latin America, and Brazil in particular, shaking governments that attack the working class as a way to resolve the crisis. The economic instability, political and social, is growing. Far from meaning “stability”, the return of the traditional rightist governments in Argentina and Brazil is met with the growing discontent of the working class, with their living conditions deteriorating, being hit by unemployment, “reforms” that remove their rights, and repression.

Unable to mitigate the economic crisis in Brazil, the ruling capitalists could no longer afford the luxury of the popular front.Thus Lula and the Workers Party (PT) suffered a “coup” by their bourgeois allies. Vice President Temer, in power today now has low approval ratings, faces protests, strikes and occupations of workers and social movements in the struggle for better conditions of life and work and against the “reforms” that remove rights such as the pension reform. The PT, even suffering the maneuver that led to the impeachment of Rousseff and Lula in prison, continues to defend the popular front and acts in the labor movement through the Unified Workers Central (CUT) and trade unions, demobilizes workers (as in the dismantling of the general strike against the welfare reform) and channels the struggle into bourgeois democracy and the elections in October. The Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), in alliance with the reformist leader of the MTST (Homeless Movement) entered into the Popular Front, along with PT and the “democratic” bourgeoisie in the struggle for “democracy” and “sovereignty” during the government attacks and the growth of the extreme right and fascism.

The solution for the workers and oppressed peoples of Brazil and Latin America is the independent political struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie and imperialism. We must build the revolutionary party that fights for the organization of rank and file committees of all kinds: grassroots, factory, tenants’ and price committees, neighborhood committees, and workers self-defense guards that prepare the General Strikes to win in the struggle for the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and a true socialism. The Popular Front does not fight fascism, it paves the way for fascism. The so called left-wing governments in Latin America apply the imperialist policy and harshly attack the working class. Conflicts with the US government like Venezuela’s do nothing to break with imperialism, and the linkage with the increasing imperialist bloc of China/Russian no way means “sovereignty” or “anti-imperialism.”

Latin American workers need to break with the reformist leaderships, which divide workers, prevents class solidarity, as is shown by the isolation of the Syrian masses’ revolution against Al Assad’s regime and how the restoring of capitalism in Cuba supports the repressive government of Venezuela. The Popular Frontists all together denounce as “C.I.A. agents” the workers in Nicaragua fighting against the government’s pension reform, just like Assad labels his revolutionary opponents agents of the west. This same “left” defends the Popular Front in Brazil against the right and the threat of dictatorship.


USA


Every “disaster capitalism” calamity visited upon the world by the federal government is an index of the decline of U.S. imperialism. The seldom seen side of ‘populist nationalism’ is its inherent autarchy. The retreat from such minimal world consensus as is represented by the Paris Accords is a pennant on the Titanic smokestack! The missile attack by the U.S., Britain and France on Assad’s empty facilities only highlights the growing ineffectuality of the U.S.-led bloc while Trump on more typical occasions calls for U.S. withdrawal, leaving Syria to Russia. Crooks of the new “swamp” have more personal interests to satisfy and are getting theirs while those “qualified” to look out for U.S. imperial interests are fired by Trump. Ideologues replace professionals and the U.S. loses market share. This results in trade war, the prelude to world war. And Trump floats the idea of becoming a Bonaparte for life after hearing of Xi’s lifetime appointment. Nothing Trump says or tweets is a joke, but signals that he knows the various reactionary options. The Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall has U.S. imperialism by the short hairs.

Bourgeois talking heads won’t tell you the real effects of a 10% drop of stock market prices in the U.S. These losses have taken place post tax cut, i.e. THIS YEAR. They take place while investment lags and almost all economists say corporations are hoarding cash. Trump threatens protectionism while flip flopping on TPPA and NAFTA. None of his moves hide the fact that the recovery is an empty shell that keeps tens of millions of working poor people and their families in an endless cycle of poverty while wages have stagnated for decades. Workers often need to take two or three jobs just to pay the rent, while the ruling class continues it assault on meager and humiliating public assistance programs. The institutional hatred and state repression of the working poor and people of color is magnified by environmental racism and housing costs which trap people in zones of danger to their health. The lead poisoning of the water in Flint Michigan is just the tip of the iceberg of industrial pollutants toxifying life sustaining elements of the environment. Meanwhile, it is only a harbinger of the environmental threat the survival of capitalism inescapably poses to human and other species’ survival in the near future. The capitalists prepare for World War III, yet insanely retail the ICBMs of North Korea and reactors in Iran as the gravest dangers facing humanity to those who follow their kept media. They incite the MAWAs (Make America White Again mob) against immigrants and jail refugees while putting the recovery of Puerto Rico from a century event hurricane on rations, and all the “friends of labor” have to say is vote for us in November. Workers need our own party now, not some day!

Some recognition that piles of money sit idle has resulted in revolts of the base in some organized sectors, revolts the bureaucrat/Democrats have so far been able to run around in front of. Thus the United States has seen outbreaks of social and class struggles. The 2011 Wisconsin struggle, followed by Occupy and the Longshore ILWU EGT struggles, the Ferguson stand off, the self-defense actions of the Black and Brown communities nationwide that launched #BlackLivesMatter, the fight of the First People’s Water Protectors against the Dakota Access Pipeline, pre and post Charlottesville mobilizations against alt-right fascists, the women’s marches and #MeToo movement, the broad defense of immigrants with social-media-organized spontaneous direct actions at the airports against the Muslim Ban and against torture committed at San Francisco Airport by Homeland Security, and the spread from state to state of teachers strikes and a growing resurgence in class struggle organizing and strike action by nurses and airline workers as we march on May Day.

While Zionism doubles down in its daily war against Palestinian lives, Israel can no longer count on the unconditional support from Americans of Jewish heritage who seek out and march in solidarity with their Palestinian comrades. Yet a blood oath is still required of the labor bureaucracy which is tied to the imperialist Democratic Party’s projects including unwavering support for Israel, Saudi Arabia and the ruling class’s never-ending wars against workers abroad and at home, both overt and covert. Likewise the labor bureaucracy is do-or-die committed to the idea that police are workers and not the slave patrols who daily terrorize Black and Brown communities. Today’s struggles provide a glimpse of what could be, except at every turn they are limited or derailed due to lack of revolutionary leadership. The pro-capitalist trade union bureaucracy behaves as if the power of the workers and the oppressed is small and has negligible possibilities beyond legalistic self-defense. And everywhere the bureaucrats are willing to sacrifice your right to healthcare, even in otherwise victorious strikes!

They permit no self-consciousness about how successful their strategy has been. It is a free fall cataclysm. The rights of the midwest labor movement which used class struggle methods to build the Teamsters and the CIO are mostly history now, ignored by labor officialdom and contained among arcane academics and nostalgic Reds. This is exactly because class struggle methods of combating the exploiters are treated as impossible to carry out today.

Not only the strategy but the psychology the bureaucracy projects is a supine weakness! The Trump administration teeters legally even as it carries out the real bourgeois program of “disaster capitalism,” slashing every protection the masses have won since the 1870s and now even threatening the existence of public education. Trump’s presidency really is only sustained at this point by public relations. Both parties are guilty of defending it with faint damnation: it becomes clearer all the time that Democrats are not interested in impeaching Trump this year, talking increasingly that they will not seek to impeach him next year, while many echo the former FBI chief and now celebrity Comey who wants the voters to sort Trump out in 2020. This talk is fine with leaderships of central labor councils who never have struggled for impeachment, despite Nixon lawyer John Dean calling the present crisis “Watergate on steroids.” They organize labor walks for Democrat candidates. And the Democrats’ entire project is now transparently the co-optation of the masses’ self-defense movements!

The masses are hungry for direct action, but this is constantly used for politically limited pressure street protests and election campaigning. The “socialist” left is not able to contest for leadership. They refuse to fight for a workers party, as they tail after, or like the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), outright support Democratic Party liberal politics and the labor bureaucracy. The worst of them, the Assad/Putin socialists, also abandon the Marxist program for world socialist revolution as they gush over the brutal Syrian dictator Assad and promote Syrian conspiracy theories that would make Alex Jones blush. The fake left therefore loses whatever credibility it ever had with American workers and oppressed people and could not mobilize any real numbers of them in the April “anti-imperialist” actions following Trump’s missile attack stunt.

The revolutionary fight to defeat U.S. imperialism at home and abroad, the main enemy of the international international working class, also means linking up to the workers struggles in the Middle East and everywhere in the fight for world socialist revolution, not abandoning them to their own brutal comprador bourgeoisie. As for the anarchists, they are largely mute on smashing the state as they engage in “propaganda of the deed” militant but non-violent street actions, thinking they will eventually replace the capitalist state by building democratic assemblies and a utopian alternate society within the current capitalist system.

The leadership of the class is up for contest as demonstrated in the rank-and-file-led actions of the teachers in right to be enslaved states. To defeat the ruling class and fight for socialism, we have to defeat the fake leaders of the working class who keep driving us back into the Democratic Party in our unions and in our mass movements.The fight for working class political independence leads through the formation of rank and file class struggle committees in the unions challenging to bring class struggle methods back.

The present moment is a rare historical opportunity for workers to organize their own party, to see colossal corruption and perfidy for what it is and to see that what is required is uncompromising class struggle and the fight for a revolutionary socialist political program, the understanding of the class-for-itself political tasks of fighting for humanity’s future.


Socialism is the last, best and only hope against the drive for imperialist war and climate destruction!

For a New Revolutionary Workers International Based on Trotsky’s 1938 Transitional Program : the World Party of Socialist Revolution!


LCC May 1 2018

Revolutionary Worker No 4, May 2018.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Zimbabwe: Revolutionary Workers Group statement on Dismissal of Nurses

Why Zimbabwe needs its nurses despite high rates of unemployment

GOVERNMENT HANDS OFF NURSES! REINSTATE ALL FIRED NURSES NOW! ALL GOVERNMENT WORKERS STRIKE! FORWARD TO A GENERAL STRIKE!

Yesterday, the eve of the independence celebrations, the government through the Vice President and former army general announced the dismissal of all striking nurses. In an opaque statement the government tried to shift the blame to the workers who are justly and legally fighting for their rights. The main reason for the dismissal was that the government view the action as political hence the measures.

The nurses have been on strike for about a week now demanding better working conditions, payment of overdue allowances and a review of their salaries and all legal procedures relating to the strike were followed. The real reason for the dismissal is to instill fear in other civil servants especially teachers who are set to strike when schools open on May. In essence this is the logic of class warfare which must be met with equal force.

The post Mugabe military based coup government is intent on attacking workers to lay the basis for renewed investor confidence and protection of the interests of capitalists. They want to send a clear message that indeed Zimbabwe is open for business and they can guarantee massive profits for their masters. In contrast to the workers and poor masses living from hand to mouth, the bosses and their surrogates are living large and can afford to charter planes for routine medical checkups whilst the masses die due to lack of medicine, proper facilities and money.

The Revolutionary Workers Group of Zimbabwe (RWG-Z) salutes the gallant nurses who are fighting a class war on behalf of other workers in government and generally against austerity and slave conditions. We salute the nurses union for remaining resolute in the face of such attacks and also support the call by the main trade union federation for a general strike. The nurses must be defended. We call on all nurses not to bow down to this intimidation and instead intensify the strike. Workers should support the picket lines to stop scab labour. All government workers must down tools in support of the nurses and send a clear message to the government. A general strike is now a must if the working class is to survive.

We further call for:
  • The immediate and unconditional reinstatement of all dismissed nurses!
  • An all-out strike and solidarity action to defeat the government!
  • Payment of all outstanding allowances and timely payment of allowances!
  • The opening of all books of the medical services for public view!
  • A living Wage! Workers fight for a living wage and better working conditions through mass action controlled by ordinary workers!
  • Against the ever rising prices and inflation we demand a sliding scale of wages!
  • Against unemployment and destitution we demand a sliding scale of working hours to provide decent jobs for all through massive public works programs to provide housing, education and medical care for all!
  • Organise the unorganised! Form unions of the unemployed as fully affiliated unions!
  • Workers take back your unions!
  • Militant workers to form class struggle caucuses in the unions to fight for this program!
  • The government must stop the attack on the vendors!
  • Workers to form strike committees to lead the resistance to the growing attacks on the wages and working conditions of the poor and the livelihood of the majority poor!
  • Workers to form workers defence guards for defence against state violence!
  • A national strike committee to organise and plan for a general strike!
  • For a workers government on the basis of the armed people to implement decisions that benefit the workers and the poor!
  • Nationalisation of all companies without indemnification to the big shareholders under workers control!
  • Land to be distributed to all poor peasants together with a state bank to provide inputs to all small farmers!
  • A workers state that defends workers, peasants and the poor masses against the local and foreign capitalists!
  • An African socialist revolution as part of the international revolution that alone can guarantee a better life for all!
  • A new WORLD PARTY of socialist revolution based on the TRANSITIONAL PROGRAM of 1938 to lead the revolution to end capitalism and open the road to socialism!
Revolutionary Workers Group of Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe section of the Liaison Committee of Communists)
18 April 2018
Harare

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

NZ: Labour fails 100 Days in Government Test

10 reasons why NZ will still get a Labour-NZ First-Green government | Asia Pacific Report
Shaw, Ardern and Peters, the different faces of the Caring Capitalism popular front


We take a look at the promises from the Labour party when campaigning and on taking office – what will these really deliver for working people? As we argued in previous issues of Class Struggle, Labour forming a Coalition with openly capitalist parties means it cannot claim anymore to be a party that represents workers. It has an excuse to betray its working-class voters by trading any real gains for workers in exchange for becoming the government. 

That is why our balance sheet of wins and losses for workers in the first 100 days is boringly predictable. Once Labour signed the fiscal responsibility deal with the Greens it meant it can’t even adopt Keynesian spending to stimulate economic growth (boost profits) let alone spend on what workers need (living wages). 

And to win Peters to form a government, Labour and Greens had to trade away some of its promises to appease his populist, conservative supporters.The result is that Labour now openly betrays workers on behalf of predatory, parasitic, international finance capital - most dramatically by signing the TPPA11! Labour is fully exposed as a open bourgeois party. We need an independent mass workers party!

Cash trickle downs to profits
Tertiary fees will be dropped a year at a time. But fees themselves are less of a barrier to poorer families accessing tertiary education than living costs. Raising student allowances by $50 a week will be pocket money for some students able to access a student allowance, the rest will have to increase their student loans, or continue to work part time to survive. The rent subsidy has gone directly into rent rises.  

  • Only a free, universal education from pre-school to tertiary paid for by taxing profits and rents can deliver the education we need!

Increasing the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour is an insult to low paid workers. We need a living wage for all workers. And even $20 is not enough! 

  • Only workers and students organising union-based wages and prices committees can decide what wage, allowance or benefit they need to live on!

Tinkering with Workplace Law
Labour’s tinkering with the workplace law doesn’t even undo the worst of the last National government’s attacks in favour of employers. And doesn’t help most workers employed by small businesses with 20 or fewer workers. They still face the 90-day fire at will scenario. Labour’s workplace policy is based on the ideology of fair shares between labour and capital. Yet global capitalism’s terminal crisis can only be solved by capital at the expense of cutting wages. To defend wages and conditions we advocate strikes and occupations. 

  • Putting people before profits means expropriating the means of production under workers control!

Fiddling with the Housing Crisis
Labour proclaimed a housing crisis when attacking the National government, but what do they actually deliver? Nothing substantial. Subsidising private landlords instead of taxing capital gains means that the cause of the crisis is left untouched. The market cannot solve the problem. This just perpetuates property speculators parasitic on workers’ wages. 

  • We are for minimum standards for all houses, homes, apartments, accommodation (boarding houses, motels, lodges, etc) to be set by working people. Increase secure tenancy for tenants to have longer term guarantees.

Banning overseas ‘speculators’ from buying existing houses will reduce demand but it won’t stop speculation in new builds whether the landlords are Chinese or Kiwis. We are stuck with workers making speculators rich. Why not tax the speculators? The tax working group cannot address this as their terms of reference exclude it. Too many MPs owning multiple rentals to allow Labour to entertain this radical solution. 

  • We say a 100% capital gain tax on all speculative rental profits to drive the parasites out of business!

State Houses for all who need them!
Gov’t will stop the state house sell-off. Should we be happy? Not when there is no serious attempt to replace those sold off by previous Governments. We are against “social housing” as a thinly veiled return to capitalist philanthropy and a quasi-market substitute for state housing. 

  • A state house with rent pegged to 20% of income should be a right for all those who need it! 

The “KiwiBuild” programme cannot produce affordable homes when the building industry is beset by profiteering monopolies like Fletchers, exploitation of subcontractors, terrible health and safety records, poor employment records (including super-exploitation of illegal migrants, cash jobs –tax free) which have driven up the costs and made housing unaffordable to most workers. So, Labour dodges the issue and sets up another committee - the “Affordable Housing Authority”.
Obviously Labour refuses to put working people before profits. It won’t challenge the property-owning democracy where land grabbing and speculation has always been a shortcut to wealth. Driven by the banks, property speculation will remain a fact of life enriching landlords and banks.  

  • We say we need a massive public works scheme to provide jobs for unemployed youth in the building trades and a crash program in state house building until the demand for rental houses is met.

Fiddling with Family Incomes
Working families get a few crumbs.  Paid parental leave, and $60 per week for the following year is too little, and if it has to be applied for, then it won’t reach those who need it. A winter energy bonus is welcome relief to some, but a stopgap in the absence of warm and healthy homes. So, in effect it is a bonus to (privatised) energy companies.
Child poverty. Labour expresses liberal concern. Sets a child poverty reduction target and budget reports on child poverty statistics. Goals are good but where is the action?  

  • We can’t solve child poverty without full employment, a living wage, and decent, affordable, healthy housing. So, we are back to the spending constraints of fiscal responsibility!

Mental Health, Prisons and Cannabis
Mental ill-health is a symptom of capitalist society that is broken and is alienating of the majority of the people. We know that most of the prison population have mental health problems or are in for drug offenses. Labour wants to cut the numbers in jails but won’t look at the obvious measures to achieve this. So far it plans to build the Mega prison at Waikeria. We say No Mega Prison! One alternative to new prisons is legalising cannabis. That would cut the prison population by half at least. But the deal done with NZ First will put decriminalisation or legalisation to a binding referendum only in 2000. 

  • We say legalise cannabis now! Close the prisons! Rehabilitate offenders in socially useful work or training on union pay rates!

Climate catastrophe
The “nuclear issue of our age”? Oh please. Zero net carbon emissions goal by 2050. We will all be dead or dying by then. Capitalism is the cause of climate change.  

  • We say the alternative facing us is survival socialism or human extinction!

Global capitalism is in its terminal crisis and all Labour can do in its first 100 days is tinker and fiddle. We get more committees, reports and talk shops: a Ministerial Inquiry to fix our mental health crisis, an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care, a Tax Working Group, a Clean Waters Summit, an independent Climate Commission, an Affordable Housing Authority.
But talk shops don’t create change especially when they fiddle with symptoms and don’t touch the real causes of these problems. For example, tax evasion by the rich, profiteering at the cost of substandard housing and damaging the environment are all symptoms of capitalism in its terminal decline.  

  • We say Destroy capitalism before it destroys us!

TPPA11 cancels all the 100 days hype
The signing of the TPPA11 (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) is a sell-out of NZ workers to the global monopolies like Google, Microsoft or Apple who have the power to sue governments that tax or regulate their profits. What to do? We say national sovereignty means nothing if the working people do not control the economy. The profits from the TPPA11 will go into the pockets of the foreign and NZ capitalist class, the losses will empty the pockets of the workers.
Therefore, against the power of Big Pharma or Big Tech to monopolise patents and supply we say:

  • ·         Socialise the health and communications industries under workers control to provide full access and free health and communications for all!

Against the power of monopolies to dictate economic, social and environmental policy by refusing to pay taxes on capital gains and profits we say:

  • ·         Repeal the Fiscal Responsibility Act and tax profits and capital gains to pay for free comprehensive health, education and welfare!

  • ·         Organise workers committees and councils to determine economic, social and environmental policy to meet our needs!

  • ·         Nationalise without compensation the big four private banks and turn Kiwi Bank into a single State Bank under workers’ control!

  • ·         Nationalise without compensation all foreign and NZ corporates that sack workers or close down!

We are for an independent workers party with a program for a Workers Government to expropriate capitalist property, socialise the economy and plan production for need and not profit!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Busting the Cannabis Madness Myth

 cannabis causes psychosis

The Green's Bill to extend access to Medical Cannabis came up for a vote to send it to Select Committee on 31st January. It was voted down 73 to 47. A majority for the Bill would have sent it to Select Committee - a relatively democratic forum to challenge the myths surrounding cannabis without the debate being dominated by the hysteria of the corporate media and the lobbyists for Big Pharma. It would have forced the health bureaucracy to defend their 'scientific evidence' about the 'harm' of cannabis against serious criticism. Its defeat proves that there is entrenched opposition in parliament to liberalising Medical Cannabis, especially the right to grow and supply outside of the control of Big Pharma. 

Clearly the 'refer madness' myth hyped for decades remains the main barrier to reform. Our target has to be the pseudo scientific and bureaucratic devotion to the myths underlying prohibition that has stymied all genuine cannabis reform in NZ. The biggest lie is that cannabis causes psychosis.
Progress with cannabis law reform is cripplingly slow. Why? A century of stigmatisation and prohibition has embedded a reactionary ‘harm’ mythology from the days of ‘reefer madness’ to today’s ‘cannabis psychosis’ in the popular culture, health science and medical practice. The mythology claims that cannabis is addictive, leads to ‘harder’ drugs, makes you anti-social, dumbs you down, makes you fail in education, perform poorly at work, and in the end, it makes you mad. These are myths that conveniently blame individuals as ‘dope fiends’ rather than the victims of the alienating capitalist society into which they are born.

We won’t make any headway towards the liberalisation of cannabis and other drugs until we debunk these ‘harm’ myths, and understand the nature of capitalism and its effects, inequality, poverty, social breakdown etc, as the real cause of drug use, and that drug abuse is a consequence of a policy of prohibition. But let's skip the historical lecture and go straight to the misuse of science to bolster a hysterical prohibition culture.

NZ Misuse of Drugs Act and the myth of ‘harm’

The NZ Misuse of Drugs Act makes cannabis use a crime (unless waived by Ministerial approval) rather than a health need, on the grounds that it causes harm to health. Even if Cannabis were ‘decriminalised’ the assumption of ‘harm’ requires a ‘least harm’ approach to law reform by the Ministry of Health (MOH) which considers that cannabis ‘contributes’ to 32 deaths per year in NZ.

The NZ Drug Foundation (NZDF) rejects the MOH method of arriving at 32 deaths. It adopts a more moderate approach; that harm does not arise from “toxic overdoses”, but the “long-term effects” of use.

Cannabis does cause harm, but the harm comes from heavy long-term use and is mostly linked to mental health – lasting physical harm is unlikely, while poisoning or death is unheard of.
So, the NZDF proposes ‘decriminalisation’ of cannabis use by 2020 combined with heavy state regulation and licensing to minimise ‘harm’. It seems that the Drug Foundation is trying to steer the public debate for law reform down the path of least resistance. Yet that resistance seems to be coming mainly from the Government and Health bureaucracy rather than in the general population.

This conflict between ‘harm’ and ‘health’ is evident in the Drug Foundation itself. On the one hand, the NZDF Executive Director Ross Bell argues that the District of Columbia (US) legalisation of use, but not trade, might be best for NZ:

Mr Bell looks to the District of Columbia which changed its approach towards marijuana as recently as last year. It legalised its use, but not the trade in it, so under a new law, people can grow it, use it and give it away, but they can't sell it. This is most closely in line with how Kiwis use it, Mr Bell said, suggesting it could be a starting point for discussion here. “If you think of the way Kiwis use cannabis, often they're not getting it from the tinny house. It might be the first thing we allow is for people to grow and give.” 
However, the Drug Foundation’s official new reform proposal repeats the ‘cannabis causes harm’ mantra.
We know that the majority of people use cannabis without serious harm.However, a small proportion experience negative impacts such as anxiety, depression, memory loss and mood swings. Those who use cannabis long term may face health risks such as respiratory disease (if smoked) and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, at least for those who may be predisposed.Cannabis impairs driving, especially when combined with alcohol. It also carries the risk of dependency in around one in 10 users. Heavy use by young people has been linked to poorer outcomes in education and employment as well as a reduction in IQ points, though the research on this is mixed.Our verdict? Cannabis can be harmful, so our law should focus on minimising harm, especially to young people. The best way to minimise harm is to tightly regulate use.” 
The evidence for and against ‘harm’

The evidence contests the ‘harm’ myth. It shows that the “negative effects” attributed to cannabis such as anxiety and depression, mood swings and even memory loss are are widely experienced in society by many who don’t use cannabis, and when they occur among the few users who 'overdose', this like any drug overdose, is largely the result of prohibition which works against safe and controlled conditions for drug use.

Dependency is another word for addiction and this claim is widely disputed, notably by Carl Hart, not only for cannabis, but for other ‘hard’ drugs as well (to his own surprise). He finds that when offered choices between drugs and money his experimental subjects will often reject drugs and take the money proving that drug addiction is learned behaviour in situations where you don’t get to choose money.

And the familiar story that cannabis ‘abuse’ by youth harms their schooling, college prospects and can lead to suicide, and so on, is probably the effect of prohibition. When kids who are expelled from school, denied financial support and criminalised explains much of the risk of suicide. 


But the biggest driver of the 'minimal harm' orthodoxy in the NZDF model reform relies on the Canterbury Study led by David Fergusson. Take the link between smoking cannabis and the risk of lung cancer. A US study using a large sample, done by Tashkin, showed that the 'normal, moderate’ level of cannabis smoking had no measurable link to lung cancer. Not only that, cannabis smoking was better than non-smoking for some people! This study, however, was contradicted by the NZ study which did find a ‘correlation’ between heavy smoking and lung damage.

Tashkin says,

The largest epidemiologic (case-control) study of the association between marijuana use and lung cancer failed to demonstrate that marijuana increases the risk of developing lung (or, for that matter, upper airway) cancer.” He notes that a much smaller, recent study from New Zealand did claim to find a link, but only in very heavy users. He says, “The authors’ interpretation of their data can be faulted because of the small numbers of their subjects exhibiting such heavy use, which rendered their estimates of risk imprecise." [My emphasis] 
The Scientific American, however, is more precise:
… looking at residents of Los Angeles County, the scientists found that even those who smoked more than 20,000 joints in their life did not have an increased risk of lung cancer. [my emphasis]
Tashkin is saying that the Canterbury study cannot claim to have found that heavy smoking of cannabis causes lung damage. His Los Angeles sample of heavy users found no significant correlation. The NZ sample of heavy smokers was too small to exclude all other factors that may explain the correlation between cannabis and lung damage. Therefore, the positive correlation in the NZ study between cannabis use and lung damage may be a consequence of lung damage caused by some other unmeasured cause.

While very heavy smoking of cannabis causing lung damage may be ‘common sense’, Tashkin's large study was able to control for confounding factors and did not find any correlation, or causal link. If there are doubts about the Canterbury project’s results on lung damage, perhaps the NZDF concern about a studies 'suggesting' a causal link between cannabis use and ‘psychosis’ in adolescents should be also be re-examined.

Cannabis and Psychosis: Search for a causal link…

One of the reviews of studies (7, one of which was the Christchurch study) into this link by Le Bec PY et. al. (2009) found that “cannabis may be an independent risk factor” for psychosis:

Together, the seven studies were all prospective cohorts and represented 50,275 human subjects. There were three European studies (from Sweden, Holland and Germany), one from New Zealand and one from Australia. Only one study of the seven did not show a significant association between cannabis consumption and increase of the risk of developing a psychosis. However, this study had some bias, such as low level of cannabis use and the lack of evaluation of cannabis use after inclusion. For the six other studies, data show the existence of a significant association between cannabis use and psychotic disorders (with an increased risk between 1.2 and 2.8 in Zammit et al.'s study), particularly among vulnerable individuals (that is with a pre-psychotic state at the time of inclusion). Therefore, all the studies that assessed a dose-effect relationship showed this link between cannabis use and the emergence of psychosis or psychotic symptoms. The fact that all causal criteria were present in the studies suggests that cannabis use may be an independent risk factor for the development of psychosis. Results seem to be more consistent for vulnerable individuals with the hypothesis that cannabis use may precipitate psychosis, notably among vulnerable subjects. In particular, early onset of cannabis use during adolescence should be an environmental stressor that interacts with a genetic predisposition to induce a psychotic disorder. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19748375 [my emphasis]
Note that the closest that this review comes to finding that cannabis may be a cause of psychosis, is that, “…cannabis use may be an independent risk factor for the development of psychosis.” The strength of that suggestion comes down to what are referred to as “all causal criteria” being controlled as potential confounders, that is, alternative causes. So, what is the strength of this claim in the Christchurch study? In their 2004 paper Fergusson et. al. addressed the problem of testing ‘causal linkages’ to eliminate other explanations. I will summarise their paper.

Fergusson et. al. (2004) describe how their statistical method allowed them to control for ‘confounders” (i.e. other possible causes) both, “fixed” influences, such as age, gender etc that did not change over the time-frame of the data, and “time-dynamic” influences, such as education, employment etc., that did change over the time-frame and could ‘confound’ the association between cannabis use and psychosis. By testing the association among all confounders, against cannabis use, and against psychiatric symptoms, the study concludes that there is still a residual association between cannabis use and psychosis, ‘independent’ (with its own causal effect) of the influence of all confounders, that justifies treating cannabis as a contributory cause.

The second important conclusion was that the study was able to compare the subjects scores on all the relevant variables over a time frame between 18, 21 and 25 years of age, and data collected at those three points showed that the “direction of cause” was from cannabis to psychosis, rather than the reverse. 

How does one include all possible alternative causes in a longitudinal cohort study with a relatively small sample size, so that cannabis stands out as the ‘independent’ cause? Note that for the sake of the argument about 'cause' I am not challenging the validity and reliability of the data such as 'psychiatric symptoms' at this point. Nor am I competent to assess the statistical methods used to perform these ‘tests’ in the Christchurch study. However, an assessment of such statistical methods was included in the review of the field by Ksir and Hart in 2016. They reviewed the evidence in support of two competing theories (hypotheses) between cannabis and psychosis; the “contributing cause” view held by the Christchurch study, and the “shared vulnerability” view held by the review authors.

Cannabis and Psychosis: Critical Overview of the Relationship.

 

According to Ksir and Hart (2016)
Interest in the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis has increased dramatically in recent years, in part because of concerns related to the growing availability of cannabis and potential risks to health and human functioning. There now exists a plethora of scientific articles addressing this issue, but few provide a clear verdict about the causal nature of the cannabis-psychosis association. Here, we review recent research reports on cannabis and psychosis, giving particular attention to how each report provides evidence relating to two hypotheses: (1) cannabis as a contributing cause and (2) shared vulnerability. Two primary kinds of data are brought to bear on this issue: studies done with schizophrenic patients and studies of first-episode psychosis. Evidence reviewed here suggests that cannabis does not in itself cause a psychosis disorder. Rather, the evidence leads us to conclude that both early use and heavy use of cannabis are more likely in individuals with a vulnerability to psychosis. The role of early and heavy cannabis use as a prodromal [symptomatic of an attack or disease] sign merits further examination, along with a variety of other problem behaviors (e.g., early or heavy use of cigarettes or alcohol and poor school performance). Future research studies that focus exclusively on the cannabis-psychosis association will therefore be of little value in our quest to better understand psychosis and how and why it occurs. [my emphasis]
In other words, the authors conclude that cannabis cannot be shown to be a cause of psychosis, and the best interpretation of the limited evidence is that it suggests that cannabis may be part of a “shared vulnerability” where those ‘vulnerable’ to psychosis may use cannabis along with other substances as a means of self-medication.

The policy conclusions that flow from this conclusion are to reject cannabis as a cause of psychosis on the basis of a weak claim of “contributory causation”, and to address the common social and genetic factors that cause this ‘shared vulnerability’ associated with cannabis use. This shifts the focus away from the prevailing model of “harm” towards a model of “preventative health”.

That this is a highly politicized area is attested to by the debate between Ksir and Hart and the authors of one of the studies they reviewed, over why a correlation cannot as a rule be a cause, and whether the the appropriate policy response is the legalization of cannabis and other drugs or continued prohibition.


The significance of these policy options is clear if the most obvious cause of ‘harm’ is prohibition itself rather than the ‘harm’ attributed to cannabis. For example, the US study referred to above claiming that cannabis use led to school dropouts, failure to attend college, and more suicide attempts, could easily be explained as the effects of prohibition. The author advocates that prohibition should be replaced by prevention.

Conclusion: Prohibition causes the harm attributed to cannabis

The reform debate therefore comes down to one of two approaches. First the ‘harm’ model. Modest and incremental change via decriminalisation leaves the growth, sale and consumption, regulated and licensed, redirecting drug policy from prohibition towards state control and regulation. This is the moderate road which makes the assumption of ‘harm’ an excuse to protect individuals from harming themselves. The question of what constitutes ‘harm’ is reviewed, and the myths that cannabis is a 'gateway drug', that overdoses are 'toxic' and can even cause death, are rejected. Nevertheless, cannabis is still held to cause ‘harm’ among youth, long-term heavy users and those genetically or socially at risk of mental illness. For that reason law reform must be gradual, based on ‘best science’ and guided by the medical model of ‘least harm’.

The second approach is that cannabis is a harmless natural plant, used as a preventative and palliative medicine over millennia. Cannabis and our endocannabinoid system have co-adapted over our history of evolution. It is not only ‘harmless’ it is ‘harm-killing’ with many (including as yet undiscovered) health benefits. These include pain relief replacing opioids, stopping spasms in MS, and seizures in epileptics and pain in advanced cancer etc. And coming over the horizon is the prevention and elimination of diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, etc. In assessing these health benefits, we should combine all sources of evidence: anecdotal, medical, laboratory research, epidemiological, as well as the ‘gold standard’ clinical trials, to understand fully the important role of cannabis in our lives.

We conclude that the ‘harm’ associated with cannabis is mainly caused by the policy of prohibition that reflects the objectives of powerful groups and class interests in society, and is reproduced in research assumptions and media sensationalism. It is not an attribute of cannabis itself but of politically loaded economic and social policies. We can see this clearly in the benefits that have accrued in many nations such as Portugal and Paraguay, and in those US states where decriminalisation or legalisation has occurred. Medical Cannabis has now been approved by WHO. But we still have to overcome the fear of THC as the cause of ‘reefer madness’ and prove that in a safe, legal environment, CDB cannot be separated from THC and the other components of cannabis without losing the full health benefits of the herb.

We can make a start as capitalism goes into its terminal decline and fall, but only fully reap the benefits of cannabis as part of the socialisation of production for need and not profit in a socialist society that has returned to nature in time to avoid human extinction.
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