Monday, January 31, 2011

The Pike River Mine Disaster

This was not a national disaster but a disaster for the 29 workers who died in the mine explosion on November 19, 2010, and their families. PM Key’s class of banksters and profiteers are facing a financial hit but hardly a disaster. They are using the same approach to the failure of this mine as the failure of South Canterbury Finance. Inside traders get paid in full by the state for investing in a state bailout. The banksters get away with murder while posing as national leaders in national disasters. There is only one national disaster and that’s the NACT frontier capitalist neo-colonial lackey regime that serves the interests of Australian, US and Chinese imperialism!

NZ Oil and Gas would have been happy to pay their $500,000 conscience money, recover the bodies and after a decent interval reopen the mine. Even if they were found responsible for the disaster they could hide behind a cowboy government into strip mining and a greedy petty bourgeois class wanting its share of the spoils. As soon as the explosion died down there was already a campaign underway to blame the disaster on the difficulties of ‘surgical mining’ forced on the company by the ban on opencast mining on Conservation land. Even though the company pointed out this was technically impossible this hasn’t shut the cowboys up.

But as it played out, the company, the NACT regime and big business, closed ranks and played the disaster for sympathy to create a smokescreen over any company or Govt negligence. And now the mine is closed and the bodies are unrecovered, the Official Inquiry will have to speculate on what went wrong and why.

Well we won’t allow this frontier boss rule politics to shift the blame from the operation and management of the mine onto the miners, the contractors, the Greens or some freak accident. After all it was Coasters that started coming out with ‘blame’ comments right after Friday, November 19. Former mine workers commented on safety defects in the mine. Then the MSM got into the act. They had their reasons (keeping the disaster movie interesting) but they did hit some pay dirt. Investigate Magazine summarised most of this information in its January, 2011 Issue. As was immediately evident at the time of the explosion, and with plenty of warning signs, the mine exploded because it was a ‘gassy’ mine without an adequate ventilation system.

Investigate Magazine puts a lot of emphasis on reports that contractors tampered with the methane sensors so that they would not lose pay in the event of gas leaks causing a shut down. But the possible failure of gas sensors, sabotaged or not, is not the main cause. Even if it was the immediate cause, it reflects company policy to use casualised contractors rather than company employees who would be paid for down time. Moreover, it’s damning of both the company and the union that what was reported as a common practice was not acted on and stopped. However you read the safety problems the mine faced, it is the history of deregulation of health and safety requirements and inspections over the last 20 years allowing the mine to operate without sufficient margins of safety that is to blame for the explosion. And clearly for that both National and Labour Governments must be held accountable. 

Similar mines in the US now have failsafe ventilation systems since if the ventilation system fails in ‘gassy’ mines explosions are almost inevitable. Disasters in the US today are due to owners’ negligence. So it’s no use talking about Pike River as the ‘latest’ or 'most advanced' of such mines. Peter Whittall, the mine manager, while developing Pike River, himself reported that the Mining regulations needed updating and there was a shortage of mine inspectors. What he failed to mention, however, was that only in NZ was a ventilator fan installed inside the mine where it could not be reached in an explosion, rather than at the top of the ventilator shaft where it could be protected from the blast.

Both the Labour Party and the EPMU which covers most of the miners knew about a report critical of lack of inspection made in 2008 but they did not act on it. Pike River even had a dangerous build-up a few days before the explosion and workers were out for the 20 hours it took to clear the gas. At that point the EPMU should have stepped in and insisted that the cause of the build-up be investigated and better ventilation put in place.

Of course we won’t know the full facts even when the Official Inquiry is completed. The mine is closed, and important evidence is lacking. So if the Inquiry was always going to whitewash the Company and Govt this is now certain. Meanwhile our solidarity should be for the workers families and not for the parasites that turned this disaster for the miners and their families into a face-saving exercise for the ruling class and their NACT regime.

The west coast miners have a proud tradition of unionism that led the way in the fight to win improved conditions not only in the mines but in all workplaces in NZ. The west coast miners stood firm with the wharfies in 1951 until the navy was sent to scab on the miners. Today it is a scandal that the miners’ union, the EPMU, should be included along with the company and the Government as contributing to the conditions that led to the Pike River mine disaster. Workers in this country should make it their duty to revive the west coast unions along with the rest of NZ union movement in the tradition of the militant unionism of the Red Fed and take charge of health and safety monitoring so that such a disaster never happens again! 
From Class Struggle 92, November 2010-January 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East: The Permanent Revolution Unfolds!

The National Revolution revives

This statement was originally written during the early days of the Tunisian revolt and does not attempt to deal in detail with the quick moving escalation of revolutionary events in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East occurring today.

Two and a half years since the onset of the world imperialist crisis, we are seeing a revolutionary development in the Arab world that resembles the generalized revolutionary upsurge that accompanied and followed the final days of WWI.  These uprisings are developing in many countries in the North Africa and the Middle East. In Egypt we see the toilers climb on the tanks hug the soldiers, carry them on their shoulders and ask them for their participation in the revolution.  We saw similar fraternization in Tunisia. 

We are not surprised that revolutionary uprisings in which the workers and the impoverished toilers throw themselves bravely against the batons, shields and armored vehicles of the police, are not happening in Europe but rather in North Africa where American and European imperialism has driven down the masses livelihood to nothing; and has, for decades, crushed the inspiration to fight imperialism and the Zionists via the brutal services of the most vicious puppet dictators. Now the masses flow by the tens of thousands into the streets fighting to overthrow the dictatorships installed, armed and defended by imperialism.

The goal of overthrowing these dictators and the class of comprador capitalists with them, expresses the democratic nature of this re-opening of the national democratic revolution.  The masses of North Africa and the Middle East despite their de-colonization struggles have never gone through the experience of bourgeois democracy and its associated illusions (that democratically administered capitalism can provide the greatest good for the most people). 

Naturally many of the people in the streets believe that by overthrowing the dictatorships and creating a democracy, under the control of the masses, or with the support of the army, their basic needs will be met. Yet, this “democratic” re-opening of the national revolution will be crushed if it aims only at the creation of a parliamentary democracy and does not develop over into a workers’ revolution spreading across the Arab world and ultimately Europe.

The national and the democratic character of the revolution combine and cannot be separated. Imperialism divided the Arab world into many countries in order to divide and control the masses.  The national question in the Arab world cannot be fully answered unless the revolution becomes international and creates one Arab nation.  This was understood by different left Bonapartist dictators in the region who tried several times to create one unified Arab nation.  The most famous of which was Nasser’s project with the Ba’athist regime in Syria to create an Arab nation from north to south.  The betrayal of this pan-Arab nationalist project of Nasser and the Ba’athists by the national bourgeois lackey’s of imperialism and the Stalinist parties contributed to decades of defeats in the Arab countries and passivity of the masses. 

Now the democratic and the national questions are back on the agenda.  This time the masses are the sole driving force behind it.  The events, in Egypt and Tunisia showed that the nationalist pan-Arab unification is not yet a serious concern of the masses.  Their focus today is the economic question. Like in the Russian revolution the demands today are for bread, jobs and the end of the dictatorships who have failed to provide them.  However these economic and democratic aspirations of the masses cannot be resolved by ignoring the national question, since without defeating imperialism these neo-colonies cannot win true national independence.  

Therefore in order to succeed, the revolution must be unified across borders and this can be done only if the masses struggle to complete the democratic tasks of the national revolution carries over into the socialist revolution. A revolution that will defeat the imperialists and their agents, not only the dictatorships but the national bourgeoisies in all these countries, and  create a federated socialist Republic of North Africa and the Middle East.  This is the only progressive way to resolve the national question. 

Yet since the masses emphasize the question of democracy and their economic conditions, the national question, at the moment, is important only insofar as it encourages the spread of the revolution across borders to make it permanent and socialist.  The economic yoke of imperialism has enriched a small comprador bourgeoisie at the expense of the masses who are now wary of solutions that maintain these elites in power.

Imperialism will seek to resolve this crisis by imposing a democratic façade, either coalitions or ‘patriotic’ popular front governments of ‘national salvation’, with or without Constituent Assemblies, to protect the rights of capitalist property.  In the interim, left Bonapartist officers' coups may arise to manage the transition to ‘democracy’. But ultimately these cannot meet the masses needs and imperialism will, if it is necessary, conspire with the military high command to unleash counter-revolutionary coups to crush the masses as we have seen recently in Honduras.  If local 'democratic' solutions or home grown military solutions are not sufficient to contain the masses, then imperialism will not hesitate to send NATO or Zionists dogs to crush the revolutions.  That is why it is critical for the Palestinians, Syrians, Jordanians, Yemenis, Iraqis etc to join the North African uprisings and unite with the masses to drive imperialism and Zionism out of the Middle East.

The Tunisian Revolution 

It’s clear that the Tunisian uprising has sparked off a re-opening of the Arab national democratic revolution. There are now demonstrations going from Algeria to Jordan and the West Bank and Yemen. The massive revolutions erupting throughout the Arab world express the fundamental character and contradictions of the following revolutionary aims:  The struggle for national independence, agricultural reform, control of foreign trade, control of national resources, expansion of workers and poor farmers wages and rights  (relative to those enjoyed under imperialism and neo-colonial dictatorial rule); these are all goals which can be achieved only by the leadership of the working class pushing the struggle on to the  formation of a workers’ state. 

These lessons from which the theory of permanent revolution was derived have been played out over and again in countries across the colonial world where the working class has been prevented from taking power into their own hands.  During the post colonial period, in wars and struggles for liberation, a weak comprador bourgeoisie subservient to imperialism came to hold the reins of power, often using revolutionary rhetoric but ultimately acting in the interests of imperialist finance capital and a small homegrown crony capitalist class.  Without the rapid emergence of a revolutionary workers’ party capable of leading the masses to create democratic organs of worker’s power, the consolidation of power in the hands of the counter-revolutionary comprador bourgeois will strangle the revolution. 

Today, the Tunisian, the Maghreb and North African working class is faced with the necessity of accomplishing the national and democratic tasks of the bourgeois revolution, which today, can only be done through the formation a workers’ and farmers’ state. The bourgeoisie of Tunisia has proven too weak and too corrupt to carry the revolution against the dictatorship through to full independence from imperialism, neither can they advance and sustain democracy nor overcome the structural constraints imposed by French and US imperialism through the IMF over the decades.  The largest sector of the elite is a crony class in the worst sense. 
Researcher Juan Cole reports that 50% of the financial elite are tied to the Ben-Ali family’s financial empire.  The petty bourgeois layer of lawyers and civil servants have taken to the streets, joining the most oppressed who have no faith in the oligarchy or the Ghannouchi interim government. The inability of the local capitalists to liberate the nation places those tasks squarely in the hands of the proletariat which will come to see its own economic liberation as tied to the unfinished tasks of the national revolution of the whole region – the defeat of imperialism and its national bourgeois lackeys.  

The driving force in the revolution so far has been the working class, the youth and the unemployed.  Any governmental solution short of a workers’ state will perpetuate the economic crisis because the bourgeoisie has no choice but to maintain subservience to imperialism.  The class character of the uprising and revolutionary process is therefore proletarian.  

However, for lack of a revolutionary leadership, mass organizations of workers, unemployed councils, and neighborhood committees have, to the extent they have begun forming, not become true organs of workers power or generalized as of yet. Therefore, true dual power, which is a necessary stage to complete the proletarian revolution, has not yet developed. In this vacuum the grave danger is that the formation of a popular front, coalition bourgeois government, or left Bonapartist ‘officers’ coup’,  would be a setback for the revolutionary process and would set Tunisia up for a solution to the crisis much like Haitian masses received following the ouster of “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

Only the working class can lead 

Immense pressure from the spontaneous outrage of the masses has already resulted in the release of many Tunisian political prisoners, and a relaxation of the curfew. The revolution requires the end of all restrictions on assembly and the freedom of all political and economic prisoners. Pitched battles between the military and the counter-revolutionary militias followed the ouster of Ben-Ali.   The violence of the counter-revolution has been met with by the formation of neighborhood committees and to a large extent has been rooted out (for now).   Reports of battles with the police mix with reports of some police coming over to join the demonstrators creating cracks in the state power structure. 

The neighborhood defense committees are not controlled by any left or other organizations. They are truly spontaneous controlled by the workers in their areas. We don't know what's going on inside them or if they are trying to connect nationwide.  This is the task of the vanguard to build the councils, spread their influence and coordination. According to a few sources the committees so far have no ideology or direction, representing ‘anarchism’ or ‘chaos’. But this is not true. The street protesters are part of the rising defense committees across the country that wants to overthrow the 'coalition' government and in particular all those forces linked to the dictatorship seeking to maneuver a foothold in the new administration.  This populist anger has already forced the prime-minister and president to distance themselves from the hated (former) ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD).  It has also pressured representatives of the UGTT to withdraw from the first attempt at a popular front.   

But this has not stopped these treacherous labor bureaucrats from endorsing the second proposed cabinet. The UGTT has long associated itself with the regime and the rabidly anti-communist International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. During the build up of the movement the UGTT did not take a leading role.  Rather they appealed for calm, at first tried to distance the organization from the uprising with a call for a council for a national dialogue. As the masses ran out in front of the UGTT they tried to catch up calling a two-hour strike on January 14th, all the while hoping the masses would forget its treacherous role over the decades and in the first stages of the uprising - find a crowd and jump in front of it - an old technique but one the masses would not stand for. As noted when the UGTT maneuvered into the first attempted coalition government with the RCD they felt the heat of the uprising and backed out.  The masses have nothing to expect but conciliation from the UGTT leaders who would be happy to participate in a popular front to stop the revolution. The UGTT will maneuver to create a popular front ‘unity’ government that includes ‘progressive’ bourgeois parties but with sufficient trade union Ministers to ‘push the popular front left’.

The revolution must go around, over or through this obstacle to democratic workers’ mobilizations and self organization.  Members of UGTT must oust the leadership which is tainted with this collaborationist history and build rank and file democratic organizations in defense of the revolution.  Today the UGTT threatens strikes in defense of the revolution but we can see this is only hot air as they have not dared to call for indefinite General Strike until all the demands are met and the old guard of the government is driven out.  

Liberals are returning to Tunisia and without a doubt will try to either convince the masses to accept a "reformed" version of the coalition or call for a bourgeois government without the elements of the corrupt regime. None of this is acceptable to advance democracy or the revolutionary process. 

Vanguard workers need to counter-pose the power of the spontaneous organizations of workers, unemployed youth, and students who organized the revolutionary uprising as the bread the butter protest developed; these organizations need to link with the street defense committees to form an incipient workers councils.

These forces should be linked to newly formed rank-and-file action committees within a revitalized UGTT, the factories and the army.  Thus such workers councils will rise as a challenge to the capitalist regime in a dual power situation.  We have already seen the soldiers (who are mostly short term conscripts with close ties to the working class) hesitate in suppressing the masses; the short next step to opening the armories to incipient workers militias must have imperialism and its local lackeys sweating. If North Africa falls to armed workers’ revolution, the workers and youth of Southern Europe will take the struggle into the heart of Imperialist Europe.

The Madagascar experience from 2009, of soldiers arming the workers must be popularized in the workers discussions in the coming weeks. Workers’ militias are needed to defend the revolutionary process and to unite the workers with the neighborhood committees and the soldiers who break rank and come over to the revolution.  Soldiers must be pressed to open the armories to the workers to defend the revolution through the formation of a popular worker’s militia.

To defeat imperialism this revolution must spread 

Defense of the revolution by necessity is a confrontation with imperialist forces and that confrontation has begun.  Imperialism will first try to undermine the revolution from within.  If their coalition governments and popular fronts, or military putsches, are not successful we can expect to see US, French, Zionist, NATO or UN imperialist troops arrive to ‘restore order’.   Internationalist workers and anti-imperialist fighters must take action to demand:

 No to Imperialist or Zionist intervention! Prepare to stop shipments of troops and supplies!  Internationalist dock workers prepare to tie up the docks! French and US workers: build general strikes to stop imperialist intervention!

The forces arrayed against the Tunisian working class far outweigh its own isolated power necessitating an internationalist perspective in order to advance the revolution and drive out imperialism.  Already this uprising has the imperialist overlords and bourgeoisie of the Maghreb and the entire Arab Middle East trembling, as the masses realize the dictators are paper tigers and the forces of theocratic control (militant Islam) cannot be counted on to contain the masses.  But imperialism has too much to at stake knowing full well the internationalist implications of a victorious revolution.  For the Tunisian revolution to be victorious it must spread past boarders and reignite the Arab workers revolution. Today we see Egypt in flames, the masses are taking to the streets in all the major cities. Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and even Albania are all feeling the ripple effect. The occupied masses of Palestine and Iraq are lifting their eyes in hope towards these events.  A wave of revolutionary fervor is awakening the oppressed masses. For the Tunisian revolution to be successful it must spread and break out of its national and regional isolation.  

We have seen the terrible consequences of the isolation of the revolutionary process to one country.  First, with the USSR which through isolation had its revolution overturned by the Stalinists who made their peace with imperialism, selling out world revolution, engaging in pacts with Hitler and later at Yalta with Churchill and Roosevelt.  Isolated, invaded and outspent militarily the revolution was destroyed from within.  Now in Cuba the PCC rapidly restores capitalism as socialism on one island could not survive without the advance of socialism in the Americas.  Tunisia’s revolution will either be corrupted and reintegrated into imperialism’s structures or will be the spark that ignites revolutions that initiate and sustain the world revolution. 

Events are moving fast yesterday the call was to free political prisoners today many are free and the demand to free all remaining political prisoners must not be forgotten.

In the next days and weeks we say 

  • Generalize the neighborhood committees unite with workers committees in the factories and form workers assemblies where the demands of the revolution can be debated and voted on. Rise up worker’s councils, soldier’s councils, student and unemployed councils. These are the embryonic organs of duel power and the workers state.
  • Demand the immediate sacking of the officer corps and the disbanding of the army into a popular soldiers and workers’ militia with elected officers.
  • Demand the immediate expropriation of the property of the imperialists, and of the Tunisian and Egyptian ruling classes that serve imperialism
  • Repudiate the foreign debt!
  • Nationalize the land! Distribute land to the peasants.
  • Nationalize major industry without compensation to the imperialist and comprador bourgeoisie. Take the planning and direction of these industries under democratic workers control!
  • Expropriate the banks and form of one state bank controlled by the workers representatives.
  • For the formation of workers food and transport commissions to administer just distribution.
  • No to coalition governments of the bourgeoisie! No to popular fronts between capitalist parties liberals or and the UGTT! For an independent workers government!
  • For a workers, soldiers and farmers Government!
  • Reverse the structural adjustment privatizations!
  • Bread for all, jobs for the unemployed and land for the poor farmer.
  • Stop all capital flight demand return of all stolen wealth to the people!
  • Immediate suspension of debt to the IMF!
  • For full employment!  To provide a job for every unemployed youth and worker we fight for thirty hours work for forty hours pay at full union scale.  For an immediate implementation of sliding scale of wages and prices.
  • Solidarity with the workers of Algeria, Morocco Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Palestinel. Rise up only together can we defeat imperialism.
  • Solidarity with the workers of Southern Africa! US, European and Chinese imperialism have turned the continent into a blood bath over your resources.  Your oppressors are our oppressors rise up to defeat all imperialisms, together we can build a rich and united federation of democratic workers states of Africa!
  • Solidarity with the workers and students of Europe.  We have watched you fight from Greece, across Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and event into England where your youth attack the Prince!  Your dying system which has enslaved us for centuries can no longer share its wealth and elevate European worker far above our plight.  Our present conditions are your future unless you join us to defeat your own bourgeoisie. Only a socialist United States of Europe can stand with the African workers to remake a just and viable world.
  • Solidarity with the workers and students of America!  Your empire is crumbling; we know our oppressors and your exploiters sit on the same boards of directors.  This makes us family, the family of the exploited.  We see your millions in prison.  We see your multimillions out of work.  You have more people out of work than Tunisia has people.
  • We see your cities, counties and states collapsing.  We see your financial bulwark is a house of cards.  Brothers and sisters blow it down!  Join the oppressed and super-exploited of the world stop giving your sons and daughters to imperialism’s military.  Stand down any attempt to crush our revolution; the best way to support the revolutionary process is to defeat your own ruling class.  A successful socialist revolution in the US will guarantee the victory of socialism in North Africa.
  • Brothers and sisters, learn the lessons of the revolutionary history. Unite to form a World Revolutionary Party that draws on the tradition of struggle of the previous communist internationals, based on the Trotskyist program of 1938, to coordinate and lead the international revolution to a victorious socialist revolution!

January 29, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

We are not all Zapatistas!

The age old bogey of the left, 'do we need leaders?' has reappeared again (having never gone away) following the massive student protests in the UK. Once again the left is split between those who want to have a 'democratic' victory without Bolsheviks or Communists imposing their 'topdown hierarchy', and those who insist on the party leaders running the show. That we have this debate constantly every time a major spontaneous struggle bursts out just shows how lacking is our understanding of revolutionary history.

There are two kinds of democracy in capitalist society. Bourgeois Democracy and Workers Democracy. Bourgeois democracy arose historically when the bourgeoisie came to power and offered workers the vote to convince them that they were equal citizens to their bosses. A sort of parliamentary front to hide the fact that behind the scenes the bosses organise everything very undemocratically so that Bourgeois Democracy is a front for Bourgeois Dictatorship.  Most on the left understand this consciously or instinctively but at the same time defend Bourgeois Democracy as a life line to freedom to organise, mobilise, and express opposition to mounting bourgeois state repression.

What is not seen in this struggle is that Bourgeois Democracy is the expression of a deepseated bourgeois ideology of individualism that is generated by capitalist production itself. Wage workers have their surplus labour expropriated as surplus value which then takes on the benign appearance of value inherent in commodities. The members of the exploited proletariat become transformed into the isolated bourgeois individuals whose value is equal to the value of the commodities he or she consumes. Such individual consumers are then dignified as citizens who are all 'equal under the law'. Bourgeois Democracy then, is a ideological fiction that represents an inverted, false picture of capitalist class exploitation as the equal rights of citizens.

Necessarily then, opposition to Bourgeois Democracy spontaneously takes the form of a defence of it as a pure or anarchist form of Bourgeois Democracy against its abuse by capitalist elites. Noam Chomsky's huge popularity reflects this standpoint.  If the bosses deny the right of the majority to rule collectively, then the majority asserts that right and real democracy ensues. This is the common underlying anarchist position that we find in all social movements today from the Zapatistas to the recent student protests. If the majority expresses its democratic will bourgeois state power will dissolve. But this democratic will becomes a reactionary utopia because in rejecting the struggle for power it succumbs to it.

The fate of the Zapatistas proves the point. The Zapatistas won the minds of the new left in 1994 but failed to lead it anywhere since then. The result is that such pacificism in the face of the bourgeois state has seen social movements smashed or coopted everywhere. At the end of 2006 the uprising in Oaxaca ended in defeat because it pinned its hopes on mass pacifist protest defeating the armed Mexican state. Meanwhile sub-commandante Marcos was absent touring other parts of Mexico on his motorscooter. The spontaneous resistance of youth using home made rocket launchers and barricades was rejected by the indigenous teachers as futile gesture of resistance to power. Yet the defeat that followed saw all the leaders of the Commune arrested and jailed in other parts of Mexico.

Everywhere it is not passive resistance but armed resistance that reveals the weakness of the ruling class. The Oaxaca youth, the French youth of the Banlieus, the Greek Youth on the streets, and the Council Estate youth who fought back against the cops in London recently, point the way towards the only means of defeating Bourgeois Democracy - Workers Democracy. But in itself spontaneous mass anger and mobilisation on the streets cannot defeat Bourgeois Democracy (Dictatorship). At best it unites masses of individuals in crowds, now formed instantly by means of cell phones and social media. What it lacks is a democratic leadership. The loudest voice or the most bureaucratic party hacks, colonels or subcommandantes can impose an unrepresentative leadership in the absence of true Workers Democracy which Lenin called 'Democratic Centralism'.

Contrary to the bogey language of those who caricature Leninism as 'hierarchy' it is nothing of the kind. Lenin argued as early as 1902 in What is to be Done, that mass spontaneous uprisings could not break with Bourgeois Democracy unless they became class conscious and rejected the false consciousness of bourgeois ideology. Such class consciousness would not emerge politically until the class had fought hard battles on the production line where their power as workers was pitted against the power of the bosses. The tragedy of 1905 in Russia proved this. The industrial struggle would teach workers to unite, form their own organs of power such as soviets or workers councils, and begin the fight to take power. The women workers of the St Petersburg textile mills took this first step in February 1917. Workers Democracy would then become and expression of both the democratic decisions of the workers collectively to act against the ruling class, together with the election of leaders to implement their decisions but who were accountable and recallable by them if they failed in their delegated tasks.

Such revolutionary lessons of history are vital if the world proletariat is going to defeat the bosses crisis today. 2011 will be the year in which the leadership of the workers movements everywhere is contested. The outcome will decide if we win or lose and whether defunct capitalism is swept away or survives to destroy humanity and nature. Against those misleaders who try to keep workers inside the straight-jacket of bourgeois ideology and spontaneous, anarchist actions, we must fight for Workers Democracy, calling for councils of action where workers can unite, organise collectively, debate and decide on courses of action, as well as elect leaders who prove themselves able to lead, or be thrown out and replaced by those who can. Those leaders who succeed will be those who are class conscious and capable of taking the struggle for proletarian world revolution forward to victory.

Mohamed Bouazizi: Political Suicide as a Revolutionary Act

The self-immolation of Mahomed Bouazizi in Tunisia that sparked off the uprising in that country last week ousting the dictator, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has been followed by others in North Africa, such as Algeria and Egypt, posing the question of the significance of political suicide as a revolutionary act in opening up revolutionary uprisings.

While these acts of self-immolation are ones in which individuals act in relative isolation it should not be overlooked that political suicide can mean any revolutionary act that is met with state violence. The Jihardist suicide bombers against US invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan, or those in Pakistan and India, are no different from the many acts of heroism of militants confronting state forces in revolutionary uprisings. These were not new as all revolutions are heralded by the actions of martyrs who are killed by counter-revolutionary forces.

We can also see the suicides of those in the imperialist occupying armies as politically motivated.The US military has lost more soldiers to suicide in its invasions of Iraq and Afganistan  in 2009 and 2010 than it lost in combat. These suicides are just as much the result of political oppression and repression as those of the freedom fighters of the resistance movements they are sent to fight.

The question we need to ask is: if revolution is about the struggle for freedom, is it necessary that the revolution has its martyrs? Is death the price of freedom?
Yes, it is a necessary price in such a struggle because revolutions begin with the acts of heroism of its most committed militants before the mass support sufficient to overthrow the reactionary regimes has developed.  This means that such militants are isolated and face death since the ruling classes see political assassination of militant leaders as necessary to stop revolutions from gaining momentum. But their martyrdom often becomes a catalyst in mobilising that mass revolutionary support.This is also true of suicides in invading armies since the demoralisation and rejection of war, suffering fatique, PTSD and other health problems that motivates such acts, are also the inevitable product of weakness of individual soldiers trapped in an imperialist army, yet can serve as a spur to more widespread resistance.

Currently Bradley Manning, accused by the US military of being a whistle blower who released US secrets to wikileaks, is on suicide watch in solidary confinement in the Marine jail of Quantico. The authorities are using solitary confinement to torture Manning into confessing and implicating Julian Assange of wikileaks as a war criminal. If Manning is driven to suicide in jail this would be a clear case of political assassination and again prove the point that suicide for political reasons is a revolutionary act.

Suicides are therefore political acts used in situations where resistance is weak and there is no organisation to turn individual self-destruction into a collective armed struggle to defeat and destroying the oppressor.

This is especially true when we are talking about states in which the mass movement has been repressed for a long period and when the revolutionary forces are weak or where their leaderships betrayed them. In the colonial revolutions that won independence after WW2 each revolution had its martyrs. Gandhi, Lumumba, Fanon, Biko to name a few. But these revolutions only began the process of decolonisation as national bourgeosies came to power in the service of imperialism. The national revolutions remain trapped, or frozen by neo-colonialism.

When popular movements rose up against neo-colonialism, as in Latin America, Asia and Africa, imperialism adapted to maintain control. They resorted to popular fronts or patriotic fronts of all classes (Peron, Allende, Chavez) and when these fail to contain the masses, dictatorships follow. Where national leaders went against imperialism, coups or invasions were imposed to restore compliant national leaders (e.g. Vietnam 1955, Iran 1956, Indonesia 1965, Nicaragua 1979 etc). Sometimes these coups and invasions failed or were reversed (China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq). At every revolutionary or reactionary turn, thousands of militants are martyred.

Today, facing the global crisis of capitalism, the masses are once again moving against imperialism and its national neo-colonial lackeys, and again a wave of uprisings sparked by martyrdom is evident. At the same time the suicide rate in the imperialist armed forces is on the rise. What we see here is the initial imbalance of forces where the oppressed do not yet have organised mass support to express their opposition to oppression as mass action. Such individual acts, even when copycatted, will continue until such time as collectively the international proletariat takes on its shoulders the task of socialist revolution.

The task today then is to recognise the heroism of martyrs but at the same time to use their heroism as inspiration to build a mass revolutionary movement and revolutionary program that is able to complete the socialist revolution and make it no longer necessary for the best fighters to die for freedom, but rather to create the conditions that will allow death to take its natural course within the realm of freedom.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Free Bradley Manning and Defend Wikileaks!

 Capitalism trains its own gravediggers

Marx observed that capitalism had to create its own gravediggers. It had to empower its working class in order to exploit it and so its fate was sooner or later sealed. But capitalism doesnt just roll over and die leaving only the need for a burial. Workers are not handed socialism on a plate they are propelled towards it by the whole of capitalist history which begins with a revolution to overturn feudalism, then the rapid development of its incredible productive forces, before ending its life as a parasite living off the blood of its workers and of nature. The gravediggers are the working class which becomes an organised revolutionary class because it is enmeshed into a total global labour force which has to free itself from the shackles of capitalism or die. Marx even referred to this global capitalist labour force as 'socialised'.

Nothing expresses the extent of its global 'socialisation' at this point in history more than the role of the internet and cyberspace. While century-old capitalist imperialism is locked into its need to maximise profits, it now makes its biggest profits by speeding up the circulation time of capital via the new digital techology of the internet. And it competes with its rivals by speeding up communications, espionage and warfare via cyberspace. Its like the old man going out on a dose of adrenaline or viagra. He has had several bypasses and at least one heart transplant (China) but is more an more exhausted. Who will administer the final rites of passage? China?

China is no way out for capitalism

China cannot despite being the dynamic new imperialist power that has stopped a full slide into global depression.  The new Chinese imperialism is winning the battle for the global economy and its rivalry with the US is becoming increasingly hostile. But China will not replace the US as the hegemonic power for some years, and meanwhile its own working class is emerging as the most powerful and dynamic section of the global labour force. Thus the China/US rivalry may spill over from proxy wars such as in the Sudan to regional wars and even wider nuclear destruction, but the global working class, which now includes a billion Chinese workers, has the power to stop these wars before it is buried along with capitalism in a nuclear catastrophe.

The death rites of imperialism are now being prepared as the global working class moves stage center. Cue the awakening of the world proletariat to the reality of the brutality and barbarism of capitalism in its dying days. When ordinary enlisted soldiers break ranks to blow the whistle on mass murder; when the middle class libertarians use their advanced computer skills to home in on the US as the NO 1 threat to human rights; when hundreds of thousands are risking their lives engaged in spontaneous street protests, general strikes and occupations; then capitalism's days are numbered.

Death sentences for cyberwarriors

Private Bradley Manning, the international working class hero of 2010, risks his life (did he do it, or didnt he?) because US imperialism must make an example of an enlisted whistleblower who disregards orders and leaks its military secrets while listening to Lady Gaga. The US ruling class has no sense of humor. Manning is now incarcerated in a US marine prison at Quantico in solidary confinement for one reason only, to break him and make him confess to conspiring with wikileaks boss Julian Assange to reveal the secrets that expose US imperialism as a giant mafia with millions of hired killers on its payroll. While Assange has to answer the rape charges made against him, we are opposed to his extradition to Sweden if this is likely to result in his 'rendition' to the US.

Such is the fear of the US ruling class that exposure of its lies and secrets will threaten its 'legitimacy' and lead to socialist revolution, that its natural impulse is to extend its many global wars, occupations and missile rings, into the total surveillance of cyberwars.  They will try to lock up Manning for 50 years, and if they can cook up a story that Assange is a spy, they will try to get him lynched under the 1917 US Espionage Act. The clear intent of the US to kill those who blow its military secrets will politicise another mass layer of anti-US imperialist militants, bringing the end of US hegemony even closer. If the US goes down this road expect a mass worker uprising that will unleash the full repressive state apparatus on its head.

The emperor has no clothes

So US imperialism since 9/11 has been forced to expose its open hypocrisy in destroying bourgeois democracy in order to save it. Since it cannot win the battle for the hearts and minds of even its own working class majority that opposes its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it must resort to force to suppress the rise of a militant working class. It will try to divide and rule the militant working class. It will have to turn the Tea Party into a fully fascist militia. This will raise the stakes and lead to sacrifices such as those of the youth in North Africa who have burned themselves alive to to prove they are prepared to die to live. These state forces are made up of working class or peasant ranks and can be split from their officers who represent the ruling class. Armed workers, peasants and soldiers militias will deprive capital of its state forces allowing the working class majority to take power and remove all barriers to socialism.

The class war has never stopped. But today the ongoing global crisis of capital has shifted the many fronts from the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan into cyberspace. Drones are now the US weapon of choice, and computer viruses are used to destroy the enemies' weapons control. We are approaching Starwars where the evil empire is surrounded and undermined by miriads of subversives and freedom fighters who are not only at home on the streets but in the internet and cyberspace. The old man is dosed up on adrenaline and all dressed up to kill but has nowhere to go.

Free Bradley Manning!
Defend Assange and Wikileaks from state repression!
Defeat US and Chinese and all other imperialisms!
For international class struggle across borders!
For a Revolutionary World Party of Socialism!
For Workers' and Peasants' Councils and Militias!
For rank and file soldiers councils to overthrow their officers!
For general strikes to unite the working class and take power!
For Workers' and Peasants' Governments everywhere!