Sunday, January 27, 2013

NZ Labour Party: Changing the Guard?

David Shearer looks right, David Cunliffe looks left

The global capitalist crisis and NZs perilous economic situation has activated a class war inside the Labour Party such as not seen since the late 1980s over Rogernomics. The onset of crisis in 2007 and Labour’s defeat by a right-moving National -ACT-Maori Party Coalition in 2008 and 2011 has thrown the party into an internal crisis. The ‘old guard’ continue to ‘oppose’ the NACTs by competing for the same middle ground, while a ‘new guard’ has emerged dedicated to return Labour to its traditional parliamentary socialism. The scene is set for Labour to split between the ‘right’ and the ‘left’. We examine the significance of this impending split for the development of class struggle in Aotearoa/NZ.

Labour faces a right-left split

The split came into the open in the defeat of 2011. The party held contest for a new leader as Goff proposed to stand down. The ‘old guard’ never repudiated Rogernomics, still dominate the Labour Party caucus, and selected a relative newcomer to parliament, David Shearer, as candidate. The membership overwhelmingly rejected Shearer for David Cunliffe who was committed to returning Labour to its traditional values. They saw Cunliffe as the champion of a ‘new guard’ that would move left, repudiate Rogernomics, and raise policies benefitting the working class constituency. Nevertheless the old guard Caucus majority voted Shearer as Leader against the will of the big majority of LP activists.

Those activists then got major democratic changes adopted at the recent Conference that would allow more membership control of the MPs, the selection of Leader and in policy making. They got the resolution condemning Rogernomics. They got more control over policy. But most threatening to the ‘old guard’ was the new provision for a leadership challenge by 40% of Caucus that would see Caucus having only 40% of the vote for Leader, while the members had 40% and the unions 20%. This could come as early as February 2013. The ‘old guard’ could see a rerun of the previous leadership contest where Caucus could not overrule the membership and affiliates.

The Blairite ‘old guard’ immediately sprang into action. Having lost the vote to resist the changes to the Constitution, they rallied around Shearer and launched a pre-emptive strike to prevent a February leadership contest. Shearer demanded loyalty in a caucus vote or risk demotion. Despite 100% endorsement Shearer demoted David Cunliffe, then ranked No 5, to the backbench on the grounds that he was behind a leadership coup at the Conference. This was not the case as Cunliffe constantly stated his support for Shearer as leader. However because he would not guarantee his support in a February contest, Shearer took this to be disloyalty.

The ‘old guard’, aka the ABC (Anyone but Cunliffe) cabal, think that they have won the loyalty of Cunliffe’s supporters in Caucus so that he will not get the 13 MPs  he needs (including himself) to trigger a leadership contest. This may be true as the ‘old guard’ controls the parliamentary wing and can pressure, bully and bribe to get the 22 MPs Shearer needs to avoid a contest. Second, Shearer can probably manipulate the 20% union vote through control of the top officials in the Council of Trade Unions (CTU). Shearer has the support of Andrew Little, ex CTU President, and has promoted him to replace Cunliffe as economic development spokesperson. Helen Kelly, current CTU President, has publicly taken a position in support of Shearer, clearly advocating for the 20% CTU vote for him over Cunliffe. Third, the ‘old guard’ has the machinery to use Parliamentary Services to put pressure on the local LECs so that pro-Shearer resolutions are passed and delegates mandated to vote for Shearer. Some MPs, some union officials and many party members however are prepared to fight to challenge Shearer in February. It remains to be seen if these MPs, unionists and members allow the ‘old guard’ party machine to walk all over the new rules voted at Conference.

For Marxists this impending split in the Labour Party is a classic illustration of the fact that the it like all Social Democratic parties in the Western capitalist countries function to suppress a class contradiction in their internal organisation. They are led by a professional labour bureaucracy of union officials and MPs to impose a bourgeois program dressed up as parliamentary socialism onto a working class constituency. The classic line of the Labour Party leadership is that they are committed to ‘unity’ – a dead giveaway for the subordination of the working class constituency to the bourgeois program. Such parties all arose historically to divert the militant labour movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries away from industrial action onto the parliamentary road to socialism.

The Birth and Death of Labourism

The NZLP was formed in 1916 as part of a reactionary wave against the militant unions of the time. The Red Fed formed in 1908 built a militant union movement in the coal mines, railways, ships, timber and flax industries. Militant strike action culminated in the 1913 General Strike which was defeated when the military was mobilised. The war began soon afterwards. Industrial defeat and wartime jingoism saw a reactionary anti-militant sentiment sweep over the country creating the conditions for a Labour Party to be formed by moderate workers to steer socialists and syndicalists into parliament. Many militant union leaders of the prewar period became NZLP leaders.

The NZ economy was stagnant during the twenties and then plunged into depression in the 1930s. Growing support for the NZLP among workers, unemployed and poor farmers saw it elected in 1935 and stay in power until 1949. The myth of Social Democracy, or Labourism, in NZ, is based on this First Labour Government that claimed to have regulated and tamed the worst aspects of boom/bust capitalism. Coming out of the depression and war into the post-war boom entrenched this myth. In reality, Labour served to pacify the rising labour movement by taking over the management of the economy, particularly the war effort in support of British and US imperialism. Without Labour (and a tame Stalinist Communist Party) in power workers would have become much more of a threat to the social order.

Internationally the depression created widespread radicalism in the labour movement that failed to challenge capitalism only because the Social Democratic and Stalinist parties tied their supporters to popular front ‘unity’ with the ‘democratic bourgeoisie’. The embryonic socialist movement was too weak to break workers from the popular front. The war itself produced powerful partisan forces that could have taken power when the war ended without military occupations and the treachery of the Stalinist parties in Europe and the colonies were the imperialist powers continued the war to smash the partisans. Finally, the postwar boom that followed was not a progressive result of Social Democratic policies but the revival of capitalism as the result of the mass destruction of plant and machinery, and repression of the workers in war and in industry.

In other words capitalism survived WW2 not because of any victory for ‘democracy’, but because SD and Stalinism tied workers to the imperialist ruling classes. Instead of ‘uniting’ as one international working class to smash their own ruling classes, workers fought each other to defend their ruling classes, and when they finally broke free to fight for class power, they were divided and repressed by their capitalist masters.

Thus the mythology of Labourism in NZ prevailed in the post-war period until the Fourth Labour Government elected in 1984 undermined the foundations of the myth by deregulating and opening up the economy with neo-liberal economics -Rogernomics. Such was the working class anger towards Labour around a third of its membership split to form the New Labour Party (NLP) in 1989. This was a major tactical error since it removed the sharp point of the contradiction within Labour and left the Lange centrists and right Rogernomes in charge of the party. Most of Labour’s defectors returned by 1993 and even the NLP stalwarts (then in the Alliance) entered into coalition with Labour in 1999. The net effect was that the Fifth Labour Government under Helen Clark failed to repudiate its Rogernomic history and made only minor changes to reverse the social inequalities of the 1980s and 1990s.  The Clark Labour Government became widely seen as a ‘Blairite’ government that continued the neo-liberal (more market) policies dressed up as a new form of social democracy. The ‘old guard’ that has survived around Goff, Mallard, King etc are the survivors of the 1980s and the hard core of Labour’s Blairite legacy.

Crisis of Social Democracy

The onset of crisis and defeat in 2008 by a right moving NACT regime, has opened up a growing split in the Labour Party between the 'old' and 'new' guard. Laabour lost the 2008 and 2011 elections under the leadership of the ‘old guard’ steering the Party towards the centre or ‘middle class’, abandoning its traditional working class constituency. In 2011 over 800,000 voters in strong working class Labour seats did not vote bringing a massive defeat for Labour in both constituency and party votes. The ‘new guard’ in the party arose out of these defeats drew the conclusion that the party needed to to return to its core constituency, the working class. The only way to do this was for the members to take control of the party from the 'old guard' that was firmly oriented to the 'middle class'. The defeat of Cunliffe at the hands of the ‘old guard’ means that despite the NACTs facing a worsening global crisis and rising unemployment, the Labour Party will lose again in 2014 since competing with the NACTs for the ‘middle ground’ will mean continuing to ignore its mass power base among the workers who are paying the price of the global crisis.

What is at stake in the fight for the Labour leadership is not just the future of the party but of the working class itself. Under the 'old guard' Labour will continue to suck workers into ‘unity’ with the capitalist class and they will not be able to organise on an independent working class program. Many of the 'new guard' will opt for Mana or the Greens but these parties also subordinate workers to alien class agendas and the parliamentary system. The Greens are a middle class (or petty bourgeois) party committed to Green Capitalism. They promote social equality but also the utopia that capitalism can make this possible. Mana has not overcome the historic difference between pakeha and Maori workers. They won’t do it while championing for Maori in parliament alone. Mana, as we have said before, needs to fight outside parliament uniting Maori and non-Maori workers in struggle to prove that it is capable of becoming a mass workers party.

As the crisis deepens so will the resistance of the working class. Inevitably it will come into violent collision with the bourgeois austerity program and the capitalist state. Either workers in the Labour Party will kick out the ‘old guard’ and rebuild the party as a real Labour Party representing the workers who are suffering, or workers will split from the NZLP to form a new party alongside those who are frustrated by the Greens and Mana programs. There are big debates taking place around the world over the form and structure of such a broad working class party. The ructions in the NZLP signal the arrival of that crucial debate in Aotearoa.

Labour’s parting gift

The Labour Party will play a role in death that reverses that of if birth in 1916. In 1916 Labour was formed to divert workers from strikes and industrial actions into parliament. The global crisis of capitalism threatens no only the death of capitalism but of the planet. This potentially terminal crisis, combined with the looming climate catastrophe, means that we need a new Labour Party that unites workers and oppressed people in a struggle to overthrow capitalism. The Labour Party has exhausted its historical mission. It took settler capitalism from colonial farming and modernised it behind protective barriers in the name of economic nationalism and social democracy. It then betrayed that mission and deregulated the economy when global capitalism in crisis imposed its neo-liberal solution. Today it has exhausted its historic mission for capitalism. The 'old guard' who trap workers inside a neo-liberal Blairite party are under challenge from the 'new guard' and responding with typical bureaucratic repression. This means that the struggle for democracy in the party must result in a split that frees workers to form a genuine party of the working class that breaks with the bourgeois program and fights for socialist revolution. 

We can see Labour’s future already in the collapse of European Social Democracy, the most dramatic being that of PASOK in Greece. Driven to the right and rejected by growing numbers of workers, PASOK is now a rightwing rump that shares power with other centre and far-right parties. The workers who left it moved to join a new left party Syriza that is a fusion of old socialists from the Communist Party, Greens, feminists and other left parties. It came within a few votes of winning the last election. Syriza is not a party with a program to expropriate capitalism but it has been forced to take a stand against the neoliberal austerity measures because of its mass working class base. Once in power it will prove impotent against powerful German, French and British imperialism, and that experience will destroy any remaining illusions that Greek workers have in bourgeois politics. I
t will open the way for a mass revolutionary movement to put a Workers Government in power.

A similar scenario will pan out in Aotearoa. Labour left supporters will force a split from the right wing leadership. The Labour Left will form a Coalition with Greens and Mana to try to deal with the global crisis and climate catastrophe. In the process it will mobilise a powerful working class movement that realises that socialism is on the agenda and only a Workers Government in power, aligned to Workers’ Governments in other countries can avoid the collapse of the global economy and the risk of the extinction of humanity.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mobilize all of Labor to Defend Longshoremen

Obama/Solis/Government hands off the ILA!

Smash Taft-Hartley strike-breaking through

all-out working class struggle!

ILA/ILWU unite to shut down the ports on all three coasts!

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) has been in negotiations with the USMX (United States Maritime Alliance) bosses for the last several months. No contract agreement has been reached yet, but the ILA leaders have agreed to a contract extension until February 6th, thus averting a strike for the moment. As negotiations drag on, a February 6th strike is a possibility. On the West Coast, the International Longshoremen’s and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in Portland is also under attack by the bosses. There has been saber-rattling in both struggles by the bosses and their supporters. More than 100 business owners, along with Florida Gov. Rick Scott have called for Obama to impose Taft-Hartley strike-breaking. On the West Coast, Obama’s Coast Guard has been deployed for the express purpose of escorting any scab ships if it comes down to a strike or lockout, while private security strikebreakers stand in the wings.

Instead of mobilizing support for these struggles, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had all his energies focused on the fiscal cliff; propping up the Democrats and beating up on the Republicans, and in the process, not even denouncing Obama and Pelosi outright over their proposed chained CPI Social Security cost of living increase calculation (which was eventually withdrawn at least for the time being.) The fiscal cliff doom was a lot of hype to divert and scare workers while lining the pockets of corporations by protected enshrined tax dodges as the ruling class promises to go after past social gains like Social Security and Medicare in the run up to March 1st debt ceiling deadline. One other thing is real though; the working class and the oppressed are being led off a cliff by the Democratic Party sellout union tops that are unwilling to do what is necessary to defend our unions or to defend even the minimal remaining social safety net that is under attack.

The miserable fiscal cliff deal pleases no one except Grover Norquist. Obama January 1st spin was that he carried out his campaign promises to avoid unnecessary cuts to social services. However, the fiscal cliff deal is only temporary, until the automatic spending cuts take effect in March unless a new deal is reached. The State Federation and Central Labor Council layers of the AFL-CIO bureaucracy will all fall into line behind Trumka and the Democrats even as they catch fire from the rank-and-file members who are being left high and dry by this largely one-sided class war against the working class and the oppressed. And now in the direct line of fire are the Longshoremen.

To the misleaders of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations must be added the reformists of the Workers World Party and the Southern Workers Assembly who are distributing an online petition to ask Obama to abstain from imposing strikebreaking Taft-Hartley provisions on the ILA. This petition is couched in the language of disappointed Democrats not that of militant trade unionists who understand where the class line lies. This online petition came our way from Occupy Oakland Labor Solidarity and we can only hope that they have better plans for supporting the Longshore struggle and opposing government strikebreaking.

For their part, the ILA bureaucracy already has plans to conduct a potential strike with one hand tied. Their strike preparations include instructions to handle perishable goods, military cargo, automobiles, non-containerized cargo and mail. This is nonsense. Shut down the ports tight, all the cargo and all the ports!

Both the ILA struggle on the East and Gulf Coasts, and the ILWU on the West Coast are key labor battles by unions that wield enormous power and that have traditions of labor militancy. In the wake of the defeat of labor in Michigan, once a bastion of organized labor, we cannot afford many more defeats. It is time to fight! United ILA/ILWU struggle that shuts down the ports with the backing of much of the rest of organized labor and the oppressed could not only stop the string of working class defeats, but could also be mobilized to fight the attacks on social welfare.

It was the ILWU which hot-cargoed goods from South Africa during the apartheid regime, ILWU locals 10 & 19 supported the immigrant worker led May 1st Great American Boycott where Latino labor coast to coast went into the streets and reminded the American worker what May 1st is about. The ILWU local 10 initiated a political strike against racist police repression and the murder of Oscar Grant in Oakland, CA. It is reasonable to expect and correct to call upon the port communities of the oppressed to support and defend Longshore labor Action. It is correct to see Longshore labor action as a form of your own self defense.

The Communist Workers Group (CWG) encourages workers to keep a close eye on the ILA struggle along with that of the West Coast ILWU. Bring these struggles to your union and community and spread the word! An injury to one is an injury to all! Mobilize all-out support for the Longshoremen on all the coasts!

CWG January 6, 2013

reblogged from cwgusa


Friday, January 04, 2013

TPPA: The NAFTA from Hell

Mobilization of US Filipino groups against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (Apollo Victoria)

We don't know beforehand the precise fiscal cliff "deal" Obama and Boehner will strike, but all versions will fire many thousands of government employees, as whole agencies are made to disappear. This will just be a warm up for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and its secret provisions! Now that Obama is re-elected and term-limited, there is no reason anymore to simply approve a raised debt ceiling. There is no desire to owe China more money, and when the bourgeois class feels ready for world war there won't be any reason to pay their debts either. The main enemy of the American workers is their "own" capitalist class, now hell bent on a "guns, not butter" policy! Meanwhile, with the TPPA they will be able to define the precise meaning of their "new world order." It won't be a philosophical question any longer, but a plan coming together to impoverish you!

At the November N.Y. City Central Labor Council meeting the President, Brother Vincent Alvarez spent 10 minutes belabouring his point that the re-election of Obama was a great victory for labor. But scarcely were the words out of his mouth when he had to concede that we will have to fight for every nickel we get from this 'lame duck' congress. So the CLC was to lay on a demonstration against the looming cuts to every social gain 'on the table' before the twin parties as they pretend to tussle before the "fiscal cliff." Was, except the leadership didn't have a call, an hour or a place for it to give the assembled Delegates! A serene world they must live in at their pay grade. You could, yes you sure could suspect them of being completely integrated into the state and complicit in concealing the nasty surprises the lame duck Obama will spring on us, his "legacy" as the leader of the executive committee of the capitalist class.

What we're talking about are the questions wherefore the "fiscal cliff" and where does the TPPA figure in the capitalists’ plans? Just at the moment there is growth, slight growth, in the U.S. economy, but palpable and not just paper. U.S. companies are gaining orders at the expense of their European and Japanese competitors in replenishing inventories of supplies for home construction, which replenishment had to resume some time. The ratio of government debt to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product hovers between 72 and 73%, a low figure for any modern state, so the hysteria about indebtedness is almost purely a camouflage driven by ideology. The banks want to call in 'theirs' and slash new borrowing by the state because everything that characterized the 20th century U.S. government, apart from being the trough for the military industrial complex and the paymaster for support programs for racist repression, is about to be shoved off the cliff and junked. This is the domestic content of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, a NAFTA from Hell!

What is in store for us, unless we as labor and behind us the great masses defeat the T.P.P.A., is the onset of the complete triumph of capitalist anarchy. It is styled as a trade pact, but this is only a feature of what it is. Including the U.S., eleven ruling classes and counting around the Pacific Rim are serving notice to their governments that henceforth there will be a visible hand at the top, above the mere state, which will decide the claims of "investor states" where they come into conflict with the laws protecting the nationals of any country. Decide to soak the treasuries of those countries for restraining their profits with 'prevailing wage" laws, with child labor protections, with trade union rights enumerated, with product safety and consumer and food and drug protections.

Internationally the TPPA has the aspect of a showdown between the old hegemonic power of the U.S. and the rising power of Chinese imperialism. This makes life complicated for the signatories, some of whom, like Australia and New Zealand are members of the US RIMPAC treaty pact already. The New Zealand Trade Representative seems to be Washington’s errand boy at the Auckland meetings, and looks to be unperturbed at the prospect of a trade war, an investment war and then a shooting war, with the U.S. Marines poised to move on any recalcitrant government from bases nearby. It has been revealed that the U.S. has arranged that his reward will be to become the head of the World Trade Organization!* Australian representatives have some idea of these war dangers and are so far opting out of the chapters that permit the TPPA courts to rule on what the Australian tax policies will be.

The left press credits Occupy Melbourne protests for this sudden sovereignty awareness, and we don’t doubt it. They named the TPPA a “Power Tool of the 1%,” and exposure generally works against easy ratification by the bourgeois politico drones. In the broadcast cited above a lawyer for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (U.S.) spoke of the fight against the TPPA as a “class war” battle. Funny how he can say this on cable TV in New Zealand. We never hear official representatives report to the union membership in these terms, and we don’t miss many meetings! So the road ahead for this treaty is not necessarily altogether a smooth one. But a TV appearance on the far side of the planet is not a great assurance, any more than the tiny December 6 Herald Square CLC demonstration was! Class war battles are only “won” in courtrooms after the actual victories are won by mass actions of the workers. That’s history, not opinion.

The task of champions of the liberation of the international working class is to close off this road to war! The U.S. seeks to line up the workers of the Pacific Rim countries as cannon fodder with promises of more jobs. We say there is nothing in this for the worker but misery and death. Down with the TPPA! Solidarity with the Chinese workers and all Pacific Rim workers! Their battle against their bosses is the same fight as ours! We want a Socialist Federation of the Pacific!

We see the various reformist and Social Democratic tendencies freaking out over the TPPA. The reason they do so also invokes the fate of the international and domestic working class, but does not derive from the workers’ interests. For the reformist and social democrat type, the diminution of the powers of parliaments and judiciaries in favour of the U.S. Executive Branch MEANS Bonapartism, which in fact it is. Their gradualist, linear and exclusive strategy of governments peacefully reforming themselves into workers’ democracies is wrecked at one swoop by Obama and the robber barons. The TPPA puts these Bernsteins out of business, whether they realize it or not.

It gets worse! Everything activists thought they defeated in the SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act,) the PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act,) and ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Act) is brought back with a vengeance in the TPPA, the signal feature of which thanks to the 600+ top U.S. and U.S.-owned multinational corporations who dominate the exclusive sessions is that this treaty (TREATY!!!) will not be modifiable, subject to reform or repeal except by action of all the signatory countries!

It has been pointed out that this could become the world's "last trade pact," {link to Lori Wallach} since membership would be open-ended in the future. Ask yourself what ruling class would not want to be above all provisions of the pesky laws resulting from the resistance of their working class. All the "Tax the Rich" campaigners will immediately be caught on the wrong foot as millions of additional jobs will be deported to a whole Pacific rim of sweatshops like those now in the Marianas. Should Japan sign the TPPA, it will want to do so to become the world’s largest importer of US natural gas. Under provisions of the TPPA the state-by-state struggle against hydro-fracking will be obviated by the courts it establishes. State governments will find themselves powerless flak catchers. This is the American "disaster capitalism" Magna Carta of superior bourgeois right, subordinating all parliaments and coming home to roost as an invader, like a Mafia Godfather who says with justification that this is "just business."

This Act is a supremely American project and an alliance, in secret chapters, against China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This despite the spin-only, faux invitation to join the pact extended to China by Ron Kirk, the U.S. "Trade Representative," in the lead up to the December meeting of the secret membership of this capitalist cabal in a casino (!!) in Auckland, New Zealand. This alliance dovetails perfectly with the Pentagon's "Pacific Pivot" and makes a joke of the "theory" of the various neo-Kautskyans who see no special significance to the pact and believe there is now a stateless super-class of capitalists who practice a supra-imperialism. So for example, with this theory neo-Kautskyans can imagine –and do they ever! – ‘progressive governments' that will not participate in this alliance.

In New York the reformist pro-Bolivarians ignore the murders of the Marikana miners and characterize the South African government as "progressive." Internationally this anti-Leninist trend has grown to a whole constellation of sects among the "3rd worldist" petit-bourgeois currents at the fringes of the workers movement. Many of these drank the Obama electoral Kool-Aid. Reformists in Occupy Wall Street had their own reporting general assembly subset known as "Occupy Canvass," which worked to get out the pro-Obama vote, a fool's errand given how the New York tally was never for a moment in doubt.

Sadly, New York had no fighting workers' labor party to expose this Treaty in the context of what it will do to the state's ability to respond to emergencies like Hurricane Sandy or the nor'easter that followed, when corporate income taxes will also be overruled by the judges in an international T.P.P.A. court, a Grover Norquist wet dream! A fighting workers' labor party would aim at nothing less than the complete smashing and suppression of the bourgeois political power, destruction of their state and eradication of the worksite dictatorship of the capitalist class.

Brother Alvarez, like Brother Trumka, loves Obama, who is foursquare behind his handpicked "Trade Representative" Kirk. He loves Obama even though perhaps a third of the Central Labor Council Delegates are members of the AFL-CIO's "Association of Retired Americans." Think for a moment how 'Obamacare' was supposed to be a great boon to the elderly and was put up in our view for the last two years by the cynics on staff and the credulous Democrat suckers as the one accomplishment of Obama's first term. The T.P.P.A. will ban Obamacare's formulary group shopping provisions! This will be a windfall for "big pharma" and a death sentence for millions who no longer work. AIDS patients will once again feel outcast. Millions are already working indefinitely after age 65 (remember "retirement age?") to buy medicine AND eat.

In the eponymous movie the capitalist big (Mr.) Lebowski tells the Dude "Your revolution is over; my condolences. Your side lost!" This film was much funnier than anything we are likely to experience in years to come if the T.P.P.A. is ratified and becomes the law above the law. It is not funny to think of how much the actor who played the big Lebowski resembles Warren Buffett or how what he said prefigured Buffet’s remark that there is a class war and his side is winning. It is time for the working class' side to have a great deal more fun at the capitalists' expense. We can begin to win by defeating the TPPA.

First we have to trash illusions in Obama and "friends of labor" in the two wings of the bourgeois party. Obama wants to "fast track" the approval of this pact. This means he would sign for the U.S. in place of the Senate, a body that pretends it would read and debate its contents and provisions, but is itself the plaything of the same corporations and multinationals, corrupted by their "contributions" in thousands of ways and even staffed by "revolving door" corporate loyalists temporarily on the taxpayers' payroll.

Some reformists want you to continue to support this grand edifice of flimflam and simply demand that the Senate get their hands on and debate the T.P.P.A. Then of course they'll reject it. That's one pipedream. Other reformists say to stake everything on supporting Obama against those who want to drive all social gains ('entitlements,' including Social Security) over the "fiscal cliff." That's another pipedream.

The TPPA presumes a shrunken state that goes out of the business of the welfare of the taxpayer or anyone without a portfolio, a state that is a domestic and international force projector for Capital with a propaganda mystifier operation and some covert assassins on the side. Preparations for a world war to reassert U.S. imperial hegemony will pre-empt and exclude meaningful action to address global warming and its action on the environment and ecology.

Seen in this way all workers will face having nothing to lose but our chains, just like the oppressed populations the rulers try to con us to despise. It's past time to finish with all of that ignorance, to unite with and defend the oppressed, because we have a world to win, as the old saying goes from the Communist Manifesto, for now we truly have no alternative.

We like the example of the November 14th Eurozone Strike Against Austerity, as far as it went. We wish it had been planned as more than a one day, symbolic and blow-off-steam action by union leaderships who spend their days at spas with parliamentarians and the big money. But its international dimension is indeed the way to go. We see multinational Pacific Rim strikes against the T.P.P.A. as the best way to smack down this NAFTA From Hell. In the U.S. such action will immediately require rupture of the Taft-Hartley Act, which our current generation of 'labor leaders,' really just Gompers-men, have grown to think of as the absolution from class conflict handed down by Moses. They forget that even Harry Truman called it a “slave labor act” and that it was a product of the witch hunt passed over his veto! Brother Trumka spent our dues money on a movie last spring applauding all the solidarity the membership exhibited in the preceding 12 months, then putting us up to stealth Obama electoral support work, in the form of a nationwide campaign for "America Wants to Work" legislation that was forgotten almost as soon as the film was developed.

The CWG believes we will not see the Trumka leadership or any leaders of that ilk organize anything like the battle it will take to defeat the T.P.P.A. Remember EFCA? When Obama stopped mentioning EFCA so did the limousine set pie cards. Clearly we need union renovation, with new leadership rising from the rank-and-file. We will help those who try! Fighting rank-and-file caucuses that develop class struggle program and action are what we need for our unions to survive and thrive. We need a fighting workers labor party based in and upon these union caucuses, nuclei of workers’ councils and political power!

The Fight against the TPPA is a general emergency requiring general strike action because the ruling class is intent on sneaking this by in a fascist style “fatto compli.”

Obama and Boehner! Back Off! The Fiscal Cliff is a LIE!

Abolish Taft-Hartley, Victory to the Port Workers!

T.P.P.A.? No way! No U.S. Bonaparte! No W.W. 3 Pacts!

No Cuts! No Layoffs! Jobs for All!

For Labor Defense of All Class War Prisoners!

Build Labor/Community Defense Guards to protect the Communities of the Oppressed!

End 'Stop and Frisk' now and forever! Cops out of schools! Billions for union jobs for youth! Not one penny for war with China!

We must see the Chinese working class as our allies in the class war! American workers need to solidarize with Chinese workers on both sides of the pacific workers need to learn our main enemy is the capitalist class at home. Solve capitalism’s crisis with a socialist federation of the Asia-Pacific!

TPPA is a power tool of the 1% and that tool is a Chainsaw! Save your own neck: Down with the TPPA!


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Marikana Solidarity up against Centrism and Menshevism

Marikana: The man in the green blanket, later killed by police

 The treachery of Centrism

In periods of working class upheaval (like those most starkly exhibited today in MENA, Greece, Southern Africa, Spain, and China) the working class struggles to free itself ideologically, politically and organizationally from the shackles imposed by generations of reformers, class collaborationist workers’ and bourgeois-workers parties which, when given the opportunity, willingly administer capitalism’s austerities against the workers in the name of labor.  Alongside these reformist layers, the economist union bureaucracy and the labor aristocracy gathers a gaggle of “socialist” leaders, professors and academics who willingly reinforce ruling class hegemony by mis-educating, stratifying, separating, localizing, limiting, demobilizing, and turning our class toward individualist and national solutions.

 The labor fakers guide us to bloc with or directly enter capitalist political formations (e.g., the ANC in South Africa, the Democratic Party in the USA); as regards imperialism these fakers pragmatically adopt social-chauvinist campaigns (buy American, British jobs for British workers, often supporting anti-immigrant laws,) ignoring our internationalist duties and shaming our class’ credo, “An injury to one is an injury to all!”  In times of counter-revolution and imperialist war these “do-good” reformists can quickly adapt and capitulate to the most backward and vile racist, jingoist and nationalist ideologies, they show their true colors and abandon any pretence to representing working class ascendancy. 

 Social Democrats voted for war credits in August 1914 allowing WWI to commence rather than leading internationalist working class strikes to stop the war. Socialists became fascists in 1920’s Italy, the CPUSA restrained the working class with no-strike pledges, and “third camp” state department socialists refused to unconditionally defend North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front during the devastating conventional and chemical warfare which left the Democratic and Republican Parties with the blood of three million dead Vietnamese on their hands. These reformist individuals and parties still dominate the leadership of the working class and the so-called ‘left’.  They are a major impediment on the road to socialism but not the only one.

 Sometimes out in front, always claiming to march alongside yet most often tailing just behind and holding back the most militant and revolutionary workers is a layer of subjectively revolutionary yet objectively centrist individuals and organizations who spare no effort in telling us, “another world is possible,” that  “21st century socialism” is on the agenda.  In the post-capitalist economies many of the same centrists adapt to the pressures of bourgeois democratic forces and shamelessly maintain that market reforms are necessary for the growth of productive forces and thus advance the historic interest of the working class in a period while capitalist markets dominate the global economy. 

 On the plane of theory centrists gather to themselves a layer of academics who squeeze Marxism into underconsumptionist crisis theory and at times put forward aspects of program they can emphatically point towards, despite ultimately balking at class independence.  If drawn as a Venn diagram, the centrist layer would span the gamut intersecting theoretically, organizationally and programmatically with reformism on the right, with anarchism, situationism and councils communists in the middle, and revolutionary Marxism on the left.  Their “common sense,” pragmatic and often eclectic method traps them in a tug of war between the revolutionary aspirations of the most oppressed workers and adaptation to capitalist exploitation made tolerable via material benefits doled out to ever-thinning strata of workers.   In periods of pre-revolutionary and revolutionary uprisings the centrist layers, despite their best intentions, objectively act to hold back the class and disarm it in the face of counter-revolution, capitalist restoration, fascist reaction and inter-imperialist war.

 During this period, like others in the past, this dangerous and contradictory phenomenon  – centrism traps the working class in its own conundrum – despite having its hands on the levers of production, layers of the class most closely linked to the labor aristocracy and small proprietors embrace the “logic” of centrism which looks as if it intends to give capitalism its death blow but holds back the historical and theoretical lessons which the class needs to derive the political and organizational forms and programmatic direction necessary for victory.

 In the face of what may be the working class’ last chance to save the planet from the environmentally destructive anarchy of capitalist production, centrism plays possibly the most dangerous role blocking the working class from its self-liberation.  Objective conditions force workers to fight capitalism (the polls show a disaffection from abject support for capitalism especially among young workers and even in the USA,) Social Democratic treachery will drive the workers from the Reformists (Greece and Spain,) and there with open arms stand the full spectrum of centrism awaiting the disaffected workers looking for their road to power (instead, Synapismos dragged SYRIZA to the right.)

 Epoch of Wars and Revolutions

 In our epoch-that of capitalist crisis, of revolutions and counter-revolutions, of inter-imperialist wars and proxy-wars which often begin as currency or trade wars, the resolution of the contradictions driving society from one tragic episode of imperialist war and counter-revolutionary bloodletting to the next, while testing the life-sustaining limits of the planet lies only with the working class leading their allies the poor peasants, the dispossessed, the unemployed, the youth, the retirees, those dependent on social services and oppressed peoples and nations across the planet, to remake the world according to their own plan and in their own interests.  History reveals that class consciousness more often than not lags behind objective necessity and that the class as a whole is only episodically drawn into self-activity, therefore the theoretical, organizational and programmatic preparations for the working class coming to power can only be made by the class-conscious revolutionary workers–the leadership of the working class organizes into its own international combat party.  

 Internationally productive forces stagnate.   Finance capital trapped in the contradictions between the need to engage labor in order to produce surplus value (and thus add to the available reservoir of profit derived from goods production from which the biggest capitalist overlords drink) and the negative incentive, the tendency of the rate of profit to decline, inexorably  places limits on productive investment as opposed to speculative investment in financial instruments (which, while they may gather profit to their investors from the reservoir of productively produced surplus they do not add to the volume of industrial or agriculturally produced goods available for consumption.) 

 In turn internationally the workers’ share of the available produce of their own labor’s effort must be diminished for capital to rationalize the vast reservoir of fictitious capital accumulated in the speculative bubbles chased around the world markets by the big capitalists looking for investment opportunity for vast quantities of stagnating and fictitious capital.   To diminish the workers share, the austerity must be imposed for profitability to return to productive investment.   Workers conditions are attacked today by the bosses gendarme layers of enforcers of austerity, the economic hit men of the IMF and World bank, the politicians promoting “free trade” nightmares like NAFTA and TPPA, the corporate media, the political agents of the ruling class in the workers’ organizations, and when the workers push back; by the armed body of the state, i.e. the police and national guard,  citizen-council-thugs, scab herders, and as a last resort fascist gangs drawn from the most alienated of the criminal element, from the lumpenproletariat and the ruined petty bourgeoisie.

 In its struggle for ascendancy the task of building an independent international revolutionary working class party that stands above limited national programs, that unites the workers of the world programmatically and organizationally is the primary task facing the working class today.   A revolutionary international is required to unite workers across borders to mobilize, educate itself and prepare the working classes of all nations for our historic task; the formation of class-wide shop-floor/office/factory/mine and farm organs of workers’ power, service and domestic workers’ committees, their networking, the building of popular assemblies (cordones industriales) and delegated councils intent upon building socialism via the transitional tool of a workers’ government which will take action, put capitalism out of our misery by expropriating the big capitalist enterprises (the extraction industries, the major manufacturing industries, the distribution, communications, pharmaceutical, medical and financial houses including banks, credit and investment firms) and placing them under workers self-management and running them according to  plans developed by the workers’ representatives attuned to the environmental, and redistributive requirements for remediating the environmental destruction as well as the historic toll on the  billions kept in devastating poverty by capitalism.

 Holding back the advance of the working class toward the realization of its own independent and revolutionary party, the centrists across the board unite behind the work of various academics whose crisis theory befuddles the workers into the mistaken idea that radical yet modest and reasonable structural adjustments to capitalism can be accomplished transforming the workers conditions.  Underconsumptionist theory places the crisis of over-accumulation in the realm of consumption rather than production.  

 The under consumption theorists make the crisis one of falling wage share of the working class as an income class (what Marx calls ‘revenue’ classes at the end of Capital Vol. 3,) so the state becomes the site for a distributional struggle over income shares (i.e., minimum wage, duration and amount of unemployment insurance, tax burden on working class, pensions, national insurance etc.)  At the level of international relations this theory translates to supra-imperialism and in the current situation a US super-imperialism. Income shares are represented at the subjective level as apolitical, trade unionist economism. The centrist loudly declaims for revolution but practices economism. Whereas, if falling profits cause crises despite rising exploitation and independent of wage shares then the crisis of capitalism cannot be resolved by distributional ‘structural reforms’  but only by expropriation of the 0.01% and the reorganization of production by the workers for human need and by their own plan. The break from economism requires the understanding of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall 1 TRPF as Marx explains it.

 Marikana Solidarity: Our experience and some observations

 On August 16th of this year we of the CWG, together with our international co-thinkers in the Liaison Committee of Communists, proposed solidarity actions with the murdered and striking Marikana and other South African mine workers. We wrote our first leaflet and blog statements on the subject that night and spent the next day beating the Bay Area bushes for support for an ASAP demonstration of this solidarity. Before another week went by there was enough far-left agreement for a solidarity committee to “exist,” and it exists. We could scarcely say it was formed. Not only was this not a propaganda bloc, as some who have fetishized a ‘principle’ that only a revolutionary party or perhaps also its union caucuses may raise transitional demands, but the committee has so far failed to adopt a mission statement 2. There are a number of centrists who have their own reasons for preferring that the committee have only a logistical and no political agreement. Each dreams of turning this movement (!!! There’s hardly a movement) into an uncritical cheering squad for the South African political grouping of their choice, or to position her/himself to broker the support of major Bay Area union officials (a vain hope, as we said and as it turns out.) 

 One of these is the well-known spokesperson for the Democratic Left Front (DLF).  Judging by two months of what he has said and what he has not, including his articles in Amandla, the public organ of the DLF, we would have to say he has a functionally Menshevik conception of the South African revolution.  This is not merely his personal view of how matters stand, either. Was there a Lenin? Does he matter nowadays? You’d never guess from the front page Amandla article “Crisis and Alternatives” of Dec. 11 by Achin Vanaik.  He begins by playing up to the left and even seems to contradict the more usual “underconsumptionist” view expressed in Amandla, saying crisis is the natural product of capitalism.  But he drops that subject almost right away.  Was there a revolution in Russia?  He doesn’t mention it at all, and it doesn’t appear in the discussion of desirable economic organization models and examples, which is glaring given what he says the purpose of the analysis was. 

 Do you see mention of taking power?  Yes, they say you can’t fool yourself about that.  But there’s no mention of a revolutionary party, scarcely any mention of the working class, and instead we have a discussion of what “coalitions of progressive forces” can accomplish, what reforms (yes, they said it) would amount to alternatives to the capitalist crisis.  “Progressive alternative” is the big concept here, and it boils down to making finance capital a utility owned by the state; the state, but not under workers’ control, the state he finds so very useful for regulation and conflict resolution between competing capitals and international stability in the abstract.  We were just thinking about this and how it sounds like a Cliffite International Socialist Organization (ISO) fake socialist “campaign” when the Zimbabwe comrades of the Revolutionary Workers Group warned us that members of the local ISO had put out the call to form a DLF in Zimbabwe!  If none of this sounds like the dictatorship of the proletariat to you, it doesn’t sound like one to us either.

 Now of course the DLF can say this is a signed, guest article, and disown any part of the content if put on the spot. But it is in the discussion of what southern hemisphere nations (!) can do to mitigate the natural crises of capitalism and the collisions of states in competition that the author shows his true colors.  He employs indirect but nevertheless unmistakable language to propose that the states of the southern hemisphere would be better off fighting American ‘hegemonism’ by allying themselves with the economic projects of China and Russia, and he discounts as a much less likely development the rise of Chinese Asia-Pacific ‘hegemonism’ to the point of contesting U.S. ‘hegemonism.’  How is this Metternich-style combination calculus calling itself a dialectic different than the foreign policy – or is it retail advertising?- of the tri-partite Popular Front? From the “market” or “21st Century” phony socialism it is eager to embrace? Perhaps being “serious about power” as they say on their masthead logo means doing what the Popular Front only proposes to do.

 And what of the South African Popular Front? The author doesn’t mention it at all, and he is supposed to be addressing the reasons why the Southern hemisphere has not seen the masses on the streets fighting austerity the way the European masses have. He puts it all down to manipulations of national and ethnic hatreds by the hegemonic U.S.(!) and the dollar economy. Workers’ champions need to put the DLF on the spot about all of the above and accept no baloney.  How do they differ from the Kautskyians of a hundred years ago who fudged on the question of the fate of the bourgeois state to placate the reformists and for the same reason dodged on how the workers were to come to power? 

Amandla!, the journal of the DLF serves up a watered down Marxism where crises have so many contingent aspects that they can in part be managed by a broad anti-capitalist front which does not exclude popular fronts.  For example, Foster and McChesney 3, editors of the Monthly Review in an article on the global financial crisis continue the underconsumptionist school of Baran and Sweezy. Long term stagnation is caused by financialization, the “stagnation-financialization trap”.   But what caused stagnation? In last paragraph before the section on ‘The ambiguity of global competition’ we find the main point: Prices rising ahead of labor unit costs!  That is, relatively falling real wages leads to market saturation which then becomes overproduction of commodities.  Hence the classic Monthly Review school of underconsumption.

Rémy Herrera suggests underconsumptionist theory in “Reflections on the Crisis and its Effects4, also published in Amandla: This over-accumulation manifests itself through an excess of saleable production, not because there are not enough people who need or desire to consume, but because the concentration of wealth tends to prevent an increasingly large proportion of the population from being able to buy the merchandise…
…The neo-liberal regime has thus been unable to maintain growth except by doping to death the demand of private consumption while promoting lines of credit to the maximum. It is this exorbitant expansion of credit that has ended by revealing the crisis of over-accumulation in its current form. In a society where increasingly large numbers of individuals are being excluded and without rights, the expansion of outlets offered to the principal owners of capital can only delay the devaluation of the excess capital
placed on the financial markets, but it can certainly not avoid it.”

 For their part, Panitch and Gindin 5 ignore the fundamental causes of crisis and focus on different forms each time.  They think that 1970s crisis was resolved by neo-liberalism and that this “new” crisis is not caused by falling profits. They have special emphasis on the state as site of class struggle which logically lends itself to “structural reforms”.  These guys are not Marxists but empiricists.

The Democratic Left Front in South Africa and the entire layer of World Social Forumites, NGO lovers, ISO/SWPers, hand in hand with anarchists and Occupiers are drawing to themselves layers of anti-capitalist youth whom they seek to poison with anti-Leninism masked as anti-Stalinism. They appear to deny the inter-imperialist struggle and recreate the Kautskyite supra-Imperialism with the USA as the super imperial power.  Thus they make little of the inter-imperialist struggle between the US/UK bloc and the China bloc. Meanwhile Africom is preparing for a bloodbath across Africa as wars for resources proliferate. They embrace the theorists (Chomsky, Harris, Harvey, Panitch, Sangar) from whose ilk we are presented underconsumptionist crisis theory which blames the crisis on the symptoms leading them to Keynesian solutions and limiting demands (i.e., calling for nationalization of the mines but not calling for workers control and not demanding there be no compensation for the big capitalists.)  

 The Democratic Socialist Movement

 We haven’t encountered any Taffeites face-to-face in the solidarity effort to date in the U.S.  Nevertheless, who and what the “Committee for a Workers International”(CWI) is and their errors generally and those of their South African affiliate, the “Democratic Socialist Movement” (DSM) are questions we will need answers for as they attempt to fill the political void to the Communist Party’s left.  They have garnered some international attention from all the blame and denunciations (and also repressions) heaped on them lately by the Vavi leadership of COSATU, the trade union federation that is integral to the Popular Front state.  We think the DSM wants into a Popular Front government, which certainly would have to make some disagreeable anti-austerity and wage concessions to the masses to accommodate them.  How is that, you ask?

 The CWI is another anti-Leninist tendency originating in Britain, where it is an attempt to revive a Labour Party that really never was, i.e., an actual 2nd International type Socialist Party, and not the actual, and from day one, ‘bourgeois-workers party’ that is the 2nd International, pro-imperialist outfit.  An affiliate of the CWI in Eire has had some traction on a similar, if somewhat more historical basis, only neglecting that most Socialists who were not wiped out in 1916 went on to found the Irish CP.  The Irish Socialist Party has seats in the Dial Eirann.  One almost never hears from or about them over the din of continuous scandals there.  The DSM was at first a small socialist split from the African National Congress, only later rallying to the CWI.

 In South Africa what causes the migraines for the Vavi COSATU leadership is the DSM’s call for a “new mass party of labor,” i.e., an old social-democratic, Labour Party, such as they mistakenly think the British model was.  The COSATU leaders are sharing power with the ANC and have real privileges and Mercedes to lose!  Such a new party would fill seats in Pretoria and share power in coalitions, just as the actual Labour Party in the U.K. always did.  We are encouraged that they reject the Krugman Keynesian economic view that the present crisis of capitalism is “superficial” and “unnecessary” and that a macroeconomic policy of government spending in the U.S. could cure the world economy with full employment in two years.  They quote Karl Marx from the Communist Manifesto in their most recent webzine on the nature and cause of capitalist crises.  But we don’t know if they explicitly reject underconsumptionism, for a fact. 

 Knowing how to compile a list of scandals and the right capitalists to blame is useful but the indispensable remedy for capitalist crises, the politically organized armed uprising of the proletariat for the smashing of the bourgeois state and its replacement by their own self-organized power is absent from their pages.  We think the workers have to take control of their Local Unions and break with the COSATU leaders and the Popular Front.  We are for the permanent revolution!  We are for a Socialist Federation of Southern Africa, and not in the never-never land of a second stage of the revolution that never comes and for which the various Menshevisms have no actual plans. We think that forming a new parliamentary party of a type that proved everywhere to be useless and ultimately an obstacle, just because momentarily it seems to suit a mood of the masses and is therefore possible and can fit you out with perks is a terrible opportunist error.

Permanent Revolution not Centrism

The Liaison Committee of Communists warns the workers and anti-capitalist youth that the only class that can defeat capitalism is the working class, that the popular front is the consequence of the two stage theory and that workers must not be drawn into a bloc with capitalist parties or enter the capitalist government.  The workers party does not enter politics to administer the capitalist state but to bring it down and form a workers state. Any left front that does not clearly state and stand by this understanding is not left at all but a radical petty bourgeois movement which will prevent the workers from finding their road to power.

Furthermore, there is an international layer of fakers who claim not to be leaders, who claim to be listeners, who claim they will follow the lead of the “real workers” and not show up with any pre-conceived program.  Nevertheless, these fakers are actually leaders, no matter how much they deny it.  They are leaders who are today telling the workers, “you don’t need your own revolutionary party, you don’t need to maintain class independence, you don’t need to develop a transitional program to help workers advance from their minimal day to day demands to the logic of a workers government, you don’t need to understand the pitfalls of Stalinism.”  THEY ARE LEADERS BUT THEY ARE LEADING THE WRONG WAY!

To defeat capitalism workers need their own revolutionary party and a revolutionary workers’ international that unites workers of the world in the face of pending inter-imperialist wars.  The formations that oppose the building of such a party are transmitting the ideology of the ruling class into the workers movement trying to keep the workers from having their own independent and revolutionary party.  The DLF in SA runs from Stalinism but only critiques its authoritarianism and the cronyism that it has degenerated into.  It does not critique Stalinism as a social phenomenon and therefore the break of Mazibuko Jara (a DLF founder and spokesperson) and others from the South African Communist Party (SACP) is incomplete and either ignores or denies (but has not stated) that the pitfall of Stalinism is its reversion to the Menshevik two stage theory, which the SACP embraced and implemented, abandoning proletarian revolution for the “National Democratic Revolution.” 

Only the theory of permanent revolution can explain why the African revolution stagnated and has produced a continent of semi-colonial states which have not attained their independence from imperialism and which today are being prepared, by competing imperialisms, as the battle grounds over which world monopoly of essential resources and super-exploitable labor will be fought in the coming decades.  The theory of Permanent Revolution holds that the weak bourgeois classes of the semi-colonial and ex-colonial countries cannot break with imperialism and therefore cannot complete the national democratic tasks of the bourgeois revolution.  Only the working class can complete these tasks through the agency of the dictatorship of the proletariat in an uninterrupted revolution that carries bourgeois democracy to its conclusion and carries society beyond to the socialist reorganization of production for human need.

18 DECEMBER 2012