Mayday 2011 marks a major step forward for workers internationally in its struggle against the imperialist ruling classes. It is the year of the Arab Spring that will soon become a European and Asian summer. Today capitalist imperialism is experiencing a major structural crisis that may turn out to be a terminal crisis. This is a crisis of falling profits as the extraction of value from workers fails to keep up with investment. This leads to the vast build-up of surplus capital that cannot be invested profitably in production that is then forced to speculate in existing values of commodities including food and fuel, driving up their prices.
The great recession that began in Wall St in late 2007 was a crisis of collapsing housing debt as workers could no longer pay their overpriced mortgages. The effect nearly caused the breakdown of the capitalist system. The ruling classes only survived because they forced through state bailouts to pay for enough bad debts to allow the major banks and corporates to survive. Private debt was turned into public debt so that the cost of paying for this debt became a terrible austerity forced on workers everywhere as wages, jobs and social services are cut back to allow tax cuts for the capitalists. The near collapse of the markets was a massive loss of legitimacy for capitalism. The Empire had no clothes. Workers have now shown that they will not pay for the bosses’ crisis; “enough is enough” say the outraged lost generation of youth, who are rising up and fighting for an end to rising prices, austerity, dictatorship, corruption and war imposed by imperialism. “We are not commodities to be bought and sold by the banks”.
New Zealand semi-colony
Will NZ become part of the Arab Spring? Will there be a South Pacific ‘winter’? In the imperialist epoch (which is the final stage of capitalism that began around the beginning of the 20th century) a few imperialist powers have grown stronger and now monopolise the world economy dominating smaller countries as neo-colonies. The US is No 1 imperialist but it is being challenged by China as a rapidly rising imperialist power. Capitalist crises in this epoch lead to wars between the imperialist powers to grab part of the globe off one another. Since the 70’s capitalism has experience a long crisis which has had ups and downs but which today threatens to go from global recession to global depression.
For NZ, a neo-colony (strictly a semi-colony) dominated by the US and Australia, and increasingly China, its fate is to be fought over by these imperialist countries for cheap labour and cheap resources and assets. Most big business in NZ is owned by Australian and the US bosses but Chinese bosses are making a late run under the FTA with NZ to buy up land and assets in the agricultural sector. The US is countering with a TPAA to try to buy up cheap assets in new technology and services. As NZs economic standing has fallen in the period since the 80s, 100s of thousands of workers have moved to Australia. Economically speaking the biggest influence on the NZ economy is the fact that it is integrated into the Australian economy and increasingly into the Chinese economy.
That is why it helps to start by thinking of NZ as Australia’s Eastern Territory (because the NZ state will soon have about as much sovereign autonomy as the Northern Territory) or China’s Great South Islands, part of its sphere of influence in the South Pacific. One could add that NZ bosses have outsourced our ‘cultural’ – read entertainment – sphere to Hollywood so that if the TPAA comes into effect, our creative ideas will become the intellectual property of USA's cultural heartland – hence the capital being renamed appropriately Wellywood. The only question is whether workers will remain passive and see NZ slotted into a Greater Pacific division of labour where Labour and Capital mobility is unrestrained, or whether workers wake up and rise up to join the uprising internationally to demand basic democratic rights and a living wage, and then find out that they have a social revolution to make these possible.
At the moment the Arab revolution is pinned down by NATO in the West and Israel to the North East and Saudi to the East. In Libya NATO's intervention has co-opted the revolutionary fighters behind the TNC. Israel is preparing for its worst nightmare, that the Egyptian masses split the army and join forces with the Palestinians. So it is preparing the ground for a new invasion of Gaza. Alarmed, Fatah and Hamas factions are trying to quickly do a 2 state deal to keep the lid on a new intifada. To break the stalemate, the Egyptian revolutionaries have to open the borders between Egypt and Libya and Egypt and Gaza. This would bring to bear the most populous Arab masses in direct confrontation with US/NATO and its chief gendarme in the Middle East, the Zionist state of Israel, and the Saudis.
But to do this the revolutionaries in Egypt have to renew their revolution, mobilise the working class in a general strike, split the army, win over its ranks, remove the dictatorship of the Mubarak high command, and create a popular militia that can join forces with the Libyan revolutionaries in the West and open the gates to Gaza and unite with the Palestinians against the Zionist regime. The advance of the revolution in this way would be met by a massive armed intervention by NATO that would bring the world's workers onto centre stage against their imperialist ruling classes to defend that revolution. Revolutionary Trotskyists must seize the time to expose and defeat the bureaucratic reformist misleaders of the workers. (See Europe Rising)
Cuba is on the brink of capitalist restoration. Can it be stopped? One could say that Cuba has dressed up restoration in the same language as that used for the Chinese model of 'market socialism' e.g. actually existing state capitalism. It converges with the much vaunted Chavista '21st century socialism'. This would explain why Cuba is about to complete a historic counter-revolution by the Chinese method of many defeats and repressions of workers over the decades and then sealing the historic defeat by containing the Latin American workers behind the Bolivarian popular front with Chinese imperialism. We cannot stress this enough. Chavez and Castro are part of an 'anti-imperialist' bloc with China and semi-colonial semi-fascists like Gaddafi and Assad to stop the new wave of workers uprisings against the global crisis which would also break up Chavez' popular front and the fake Chinese 'market socialism' that ultimately serves imperialism. (see Cuba for Sale).
So will the Cuban bureaucracy succeed in completing the restoration process before the world revolution destroys the Stalinist/fake Trotskyist barrier and brings a political revolution to Cuba? It depends on whether the Arab revolution deepens and spreads into the rest of Africa, into Europe, Asia and Latin America, to break the strangle hold of the Stalinist/Menshevik popular front which ties the workers to imperialism is destroyed. Only if the worlds’ workers break with the popular fronts, with social democracy, and advance the international revolution, will Cuban workers win the support they need to overthrow the Castroite bureaucracy and take political power to defend workers’ property.
Aotearoa Election Year
The crisis of the NZ semi-colonial economy is one of restructuring labour and capital assets (see the analysis of restructuring in Disaster Capitalism Downunder) too meet the needs of international capital. This means driving down wages further and offering state assets cheap to international capitalism. In NZ the international sector of capital represented by Alan Gibbs and members of the Business Roundable has grown impatient at the slow pace of market reforms to create opportunities for profitable investment. MMP created parties of the centre-right and centre-left that had to build coalitions that tended towards the centre. Parties on the left and right moderated their agendas so as not to lose the centre. That ‘middle NZ’ was the middle class of self-employed, small business and better paid workers. But something has changed. ACTs right wing coup is now matched by the emergence of the Te Mana Party on the left which sees a return to the open politics of class struggle.
As we have seen since 2008 the global economic crisis has polarised the capitalist ruling class efforts to solve the crisis at the expense of the masses of ordinary people, and those people who are getting angrier and starting to put up a fight. NZ is not isolated from this growing global class antagonism. So the centre no longer holds as Brash on the right is boosting ACTs claim to urgent policy reforms that can restore capitalist profits by a return to Rogernomics Mk 2, smashing union power, flogging off state assets, tax cuts for the rich, low wages, non-existent welfare etc.
Te Mana Party
On the left, the split in the Maori Party along class lines has seen the launch of Te Mana. Maori Party is left with the rump of the anti-worker iwi elites and their patronage system of hangers on. Te Mana will attract a healthy minority of those Maori and non-Maori workers who are starting to stand up and fight the right wing assault on living standards, jobs, the welfare state, the unions and ownership and control of state assets. ACT will pull National to the right while Te Mana will pull Labour to the left. But both will stay firmly committed to the global capitalist class and its profit system. National because it represents the NZ capitalists whose profits depend on further attacks on workers. Labour because its existence is devoted to promising to extract more productivity from workers.
So those who genuinely fight to defend the working class in Te Mana will soon realise that parliament is a bosses’ talk shop that masks a state machine dedicated to suppress workers. They will organise outside parliament to build strong, democratic fighting unions to take on the bosses where it hurts most, the workplace, by striking, occupying and taking control of the productive system to produce for need and not profit. In this they will not be alone as all around the workers are standing up like the Egyptians, fight back like the Palestinians, Libyans and Syrians, and opening the revolutionary road. This creates the opportunity for revolutionaries to convince the masses that the only road to freedom is the road to socialism and that there is no ‘half-way house’ of bourgeois parliament on that road.
While the Arab revolution is the reawakening of the national revolution, lots of Western Trotskyists have not woken up and tail the Stalinists and semi-colonial regimes calling for Constituent Assemblies as democratic ‘half-way houses’ on the road to socialism. This is to follow the Stalinist stage theory of national roads to socialism and the anti-imperialist united front with the national capitalists. This so-called ‘left’ backs ‘progressive’ national capitalist leaders because it has no faith in the working class as the revolutionary class. It actively blocks the revolutionary independence of the working class by locking it into popular fronts with the bourgeoisie. This is true of the Chavez Bolivarian popular front that ties the hands of the Latin American masses behind the Chinese imperialists in the name of ‘21st century socialism’. No wonder that Chavistas and the Castroites regard the dictators Kaddafi, Assad and Ahmadinejad as their allies. They are all bourgeois autocrats who start off as fake ‘socialist’ leaders of patriotic fronts only to become more and more open servants of imperialism.
Marxists begin with the revolutionary class, the working class, and have a program to advance its struggle. A revolutionary program needs a revolutionary party to implement it in practice. An international program needs an international party to unite the struggles of workers all over the world. A party is only as good as its program. The program is tested in the hot points of the struggle. That is why we are for the Permanent Revolution in North Africa and the Middle East which wins national liberation only by a workers revolution and workers government in power; for the political revolution in Cuba and North Korea that overthrows the Stalinist bureaucracy to stop it becoming a new capitalist class; and for socialist revolution in all the imperialist countries, including China, to expropriate the tiny dictatorships of the bourgeoisie and replaces it with the ‘dictatorship’ of the mass working class. We stand by this program and are confident it will stand the critical test in the hands of the revolutionary proletariat.