Wednesday, December 05, 2007

War on Terror in New Zealand

Operation US$8 Billion Dollars!

In the aftermath of Operation 8, which cost around NZ$8 million, we argue that it was designed to guarantee the security of around US$8 billion in profits a year to US corporates. Anti-terror legislation is state repression of working class militants who are fighting back against US imperialism solving its crisis of falling profits by attacking the living standards and lives of NZ workers. Against the bosses’ terror workers must organise and unite internationally to meet the bosses’ offensive with our own workers’ offensive.

Operation 8 million!

On October 15, under what they called ‘Operation 8’, the police and intelligence services raided a number of homes and arrested 17 political activists in an attempt to charge them under the Terrorism Suppression Act [TSA]. Police sources claimed that indigenous Maori activist Tame Iti and 16 others had been conducting 'military-style training camps' in the remote Ureweras (mountainous and heavily forested region on the East of the North Island of New Zealand). Most of those arrested were denied bail and kept in jail while the police collected evidence to press charges under the TSA.

The reformist and so-called socialist left in New Zealand blamed these arrests on police 'over-reaction' in using the anti-terrorist legislation enacted as part of the US-led 'war on terror'. They tried to pressure the Labour Coalition government to release the prisoners and repeal the TSA. The Communist Workers Group was the only organisation to state clearly that these arrests were a deliberate move by the NZ state to suppress the rise of working class resistance to US imperialist attacks on NZ workers to pay for the global economic crisis. It was no accident that the main target of these arrests was land rights activists who were fighting US, EU and Japanese corporate exploitation of the NZ economy to extract super-profits. The CWG called for workers to go on the offensive to oppose US imperialism and its Labour Government lackeys in NZ.

On Thursday, November 8, the Solicitor-General (top state legal officer) said that the evidence the police brought was insufficient to prove that the 16 “intended” to commit terrorist acts, and suggested that the Labour Government “review” the TSA since it was not able to be used against New Zealand- based terrorist groups. The charges against them will now be under the Arms Act for possession of unlicensed firearms carrying less serious penalties. On Monday November the 12th the last of the 16 jailed political activists (one of the original 17 is on cannabis charges only) were released on bail.

Thus the first use of the TSA had for the moment ended with the failure to bring any charges under it. This did not stop the Government from rushing through the TSA Amendment Bill however. While the Government also agreed to send the TSA to the Law Commission for review, the amended law can continue to be used to counter ‘terror’ in NZ. The

TSA was first enacted in 2002 in response to the UN resolution following 9-11. It is designed primarily to be used against terrorist groups designated by the UN such as Al Qeda, Taliban, Hamas, etc. It shares the same features as the US Patriot Act. Suspects can be arrested and held without bail for as long as it takes to present evidence. Accused may never see the evidence used against them for 'security' reasons. However, in response to the Solicitor-General’s decision on the present case, the state will move quickly to close any loopholes in the TSA.

Tougher on Terrorism?

The enactment of the Amendment Bill makes the Prime Minister, currently Labour's Helen Clark, responsible for designating terrorist groups, including in New Zealand, and removes the necessity for the state to prove that any accused must 'intend' to commit a 'terrorist act'. Thus the Prime Minister will now become responsible for hearing appeals and not the Court of Appeal. This means that the Executive branch of government increases its powers to oversee state security, which makes the rights of citizens before the courts very much more limited. It is an indication that the New Zealand semi-colonial regime is under pressure from US imperialism and is prepared to abolish bourgeois democratic rights and concentrate power in the Executive.

Labour is intent on proving that it is tougher on terrorism than National. Its populist 'brand' differentiation requires that it brings the 'left' –the unions affiliated to it and the Centre-left Maori Party and Greens –along with the openly bourgeois parties of Peters and Dunne. Labour is letting its attack dogs, Peters and Dunne, off the leash to mobilise the racist redneck constituency against the 'wreckers and haters', just as Muldoon fed an earlier generation of attack dogs on the meat of the anti-Springbok Tour protest movement.

This is what Labour has to do to “lock in” its cross-class majority and get the endorsement of the Bush government and the powerful imperialist ruling class in the United States. We can see how, in the US, the interests of the ruling class can govern with either the Democrats or the Republicans. However, in a period of crisis when the ruling class must go onto the attack and cut workers’ living standards, it prefers a government that will tie the hands of the workers and contain their struggle within the bounds of bourgeois parliament. The Democratic Party is able to do this so long as it has the support of the union bureaucracy as one of the collection of lobby groups which go from the big unions all the way to the Southern Blue Democrats that are more racist than NZ First. Thus the role of the Democrats is to keep the labour movement subordinated to the program of US imperialism by keeping alive the illusion of a ‘democratic’ imperialist alternative to the Republican neo-cons.

Popular Front to contain the workers

The NZ Labour Party performs a similar role. However, Labour Parties such as the British Labour Party under Blair and Brown, the NZ Labour Party under Clark, and European Social Democratic parties like the French Socialists and German SDP, were founded as parties of the trades unions for the specific purpose of tying the unions to parliament. With the end of the post-war boom Labour-type parties have moved to the right to stay in power and developed ‘right’ wings hostile to union influence. Today they are becoming mre like the US Democratic Party and treat the unions as just another 'lobby' group.

In NZ, the Labour Party almost overnight jettisoned its union connections during 1984-1987 when it enacted its neo-liberal reforms. It had regained much of this union base by 1993 but much of its ‘right’ wing defected to other parties in the centre or the far right ACT party. While Labour had rebuilt most of its links to the unions with the repeal of the anti-union ECA in 2000, this base does not guarantee a majority of votes to govern. That is why, under the MMP proportional representation system [modelled on that in Germany], Labour has had to compete with National to win the centre ground to prevent National from forming its own coalition government.

Under MMP, since 1999 the NZ Labour Party has led governments that depend on coalitions with parties to its right. In its first term it relied on the Greens in the centre and the Alliance on the left for a majority. In 2002 it made and agreement with Dunne’s United Future centre-right party. In 2005 it made agreements with United Future, Winston Peters’ New Zealand First and the Greens. In effect, these coalitions are shifting popular fronts between the labour movement, the Centre-left of the Greens and the Centre-right of Peters and Dunne.

The result is a 'populist' coalition government –i.e. a popular front –that tries to reconcile the class interests of the working class with the petty bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie. The pivot in this class collaboration is the labour bureaucracy in the unions and in the parliamentary party. The tradition of union officials becoming Labour MPs is a long one that goes right back to Labour's foundation in 1916. The leaders of the Labour Party have always come out of the union movement to facilitate the unions’ subordination to the state. Today the recipients of this latest award for treachery are EPMU national president Don Pryde who is lined up to take over Benson-Pope’s Dunedin seat, and EPMU national secretary Andrew Little who is talking himself up to standing for Labour.

Trouble is that the EPMU is widely held to be a Labour Party stooge in the labour movement, being an early advocate of the 'partnership' of unions and the Labour Party, notoriously quiet on the Employment Contracts Act in 1991, drafter of the Employment Relations Act as the 'bureaucracy's charter', and a predator on smaller unions, whose policy is to always negotiate behind the backs of the membership to cut done deals.

If the Labour Government is to fulfil its mission as a popular front it has to have a more attractive bait than the EPMU to lure the new layers of militant workers who are beginning to stand up to the leg-iron of the ERA. This is the task of the 'left bureaucracy' of the ex-Stalinists, ex-Maoists and fake Trotskyists who now dominate the leadership of the National Distribution Union, Unite and Service and Food Workers Union.

Left Bureaucracy

The Left Bureaucracy's existence is required to contain those workers who want to fight US imperialism and the Labour Government. On the one hand, the left bureaucracy claims to be hostile to the ‘official’ labour bureaucracy and the Labour Government. But like the Alliance the Greens (many of whom came out of the Alliance) its strategy is always to push Labour to the left by doing deals at the top between the CTU and the Government.

Just as the Alliance proposed to push Labour to the left in parliament to counter the centrist agreements with the Greens, NZ First and United Future, today the remnants of the Alliance who are in control of the NDU, SFWU and Unite are proposing to use the revival of the unions to pressure Labour to the left. Here it follows the political strategy of the World Social Forum of ‘globalisation from below’.

On economic issues, the Left Bureaucracy is anti-neoliberal. Its model is based on the populist regimes of Venezuela and Bolivia where leftwing populist governments are renegotiating terms of trade etc with imperialism to role back neo-liberalism and promote economic nationalism. This means that the majority can take over the state and use it as the instrument of popular power. Thus state power can be transformed by harnessing popular pressure from below to transform the capitalist state into a people’s state.

This was the strategy of the Labour Left dominated Civil Rights Defence Committee in Auckland against the arrest of the Urewera 16. Marches, petitions, pressure on Labour from the union bureaucracy to drop the charges, repeal the TSA etc. This led to an entirely unnecessary blow up at the Labour Party conference between Jill Ovens and Len Richards who have joined the Labour Party to pressure it to the left, and their former Alliance and Green allies who are pressuring the Government from the outside. The irony is that those outside relied on those inside who got the CTU to vote to repeal the TSA in October, to call on the unions to sign a petition asking the Governnent to drop the charges, stop the passage of the Amendment Bill and repeal the TSA.

The Left Bureaucracy, then, is the slightly wobbly left leg of the popular front carefully containing the militancy in the labour movement to put 'pressure' on the Labour Government. In this the role of the SW-NZ and the Workers Party is to provide a splint to strengthen the wonky left leg. The SW-NZ has almost liquidated itself into what it hopes will become a 'new left' party in NZ i.e. a 'united front of a special kind' such as Respect in Britain or the PSUV in Venezuela.

But such a 'new left' party is inherently a popular front and the role of the SW-NZ is to camouflage this front with its supposed 'socialist' politics. The Workers Party performs a similar role to the SWP. It attracts militants pissed off with Labour but at the same time stops them from breaking with the left bureaucracy the ERA.

Break from the Left Bureaucracy!

In New Zealand, the CWG is the only party on the left that practices revolutionary Marxism. We are Trotskyist-Leninists! Our tradition and our program prepares us in the face of the popular front. We are part of an international grouping - the Leninist-Trotskyist Fraction (FLT - Fraccion Leninista-Trotskista) which has cadres fighting in most of the countries of Latin America against the gigantic popular front of the World Social Forum. For the FLT, populism in all its forms, is a life and death question since it ties the hands of workers while the fascists prepare to smash them as we see in Bolivia today (see Editorial). For that reason most of our energy is devoted to exposing the role of the Left Bureaucracy internationally in acting as a 'left cover' for the popular front in countries like Bolivia and Venezuela. Here we find the populist regimes of Morales and Chavez supported by a left leg of ex-Trotskyists, Maoists, Castroists and old Stalinists. In New Zealand, then, recognising the Labour Coalition as a popular front with its wobbly left leg strengthened with a fake Marxist splint comes easy to us. We have been kicked many times by that same left leg.

In New Zealand the Left Bureaucracy acts to perpetuate illusions in the Labour Government, not by operating inside the ERA and putting pressure on Labour by itself, but by preventing the struggle from developing outside parliament. If the TSA is seen to be 'unnecessary' and not part of a global bosses' offensive against indigenous and workers rights, then it can be reformed. If the Labour Government has 'over-reacted' for some reason; or the police and/or SIS were 'out of control'; or the US was imposing its 'war on terror' in an 'excessive' manner; then a bit of pressure from the ‘left’ can correct for this.

Revolutionaries, however, don't share such illusions. US imperialism needs its anti-terrorist laws to smash working class resistance to its crisis-driven plundering of land, labour and resources around the world. Therefore the purpose of a united front against 'Operation 8' is to mobilise workers to take up this struggle in the unions to prove that only rank and file control of the unions can defend workers against state terrorism and the imperialist crisis driving it. Class against class!

The way to break workers from trade union economism [a fixation on parliamentary solutions] is to rally the rank and file to take charge of their economic disputes and to break out of the leg-iron of the ERA.

Only strong, fighting, democratic unions run by the members can defeat the bosses' attacks on our living standards and our lives. Let us not forget that every day workers die in this country from the 'complications' of capitalism - poor health, old diseases like TB, rampant epidemics like Diabetes, poverty and homelessness, and young people's lives destroyed by alienation, and as the French say, 'precarite'.

The way to break workers from the populism of Labour and other reformist parties is to build fighting, democratic unions to strike against state terror and to occupy and expropriate capitalist property, through nationalisations under workers control without compensation to the capitalists.

Return stolen land to Maori!

Return Foreshore and Seabed resources to Maori control!

Nationalise Fonterra under working Farmers and Workers Control!

Re-nationalise privatised state assets like Air NZ, rail, forestry, fishing!

Re-nationalise state corporations like power companies and privatised assets like Airports and Ports!

Nationalise capitalist assets in land, forestry, industry, transport and finance, with no compensatio, and under workers control!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

“Stop the State and Paramilitary repression in New Zealand!"

Statement of Bolivian workers

"The Bolivian Workers affiliated to our central organisation, the Central Obrera Boliviana, and regionally belonging to the Central Obrera Departmental condemn the brutal deliberate repression of the state and Government of New Zealand against the workers and indigenous Maori people.

The repression unleashed on 15 October against fighters for liberation and sovereignty in this semi-colony dominated by Australia and Britain, satellites of American imperialism, is intended to protect the economic interests of the privileged minority that exists in any capitalist country in the world, including Bolivia, who subject the majority of the people to the most miserable social and economic conditions .

The struggle of the brother and sister workers and people of New Zealand is not alone and has the backing and solidarity of the oppressed of the world. The epoch of the abuse and plunder that imperialist capitalism has enjoyed has led inexorably to the differences between this minority and the poor in the world to become more and more abysmal and inhuman.

We have no alternative but to replace the corrupt and degenerate world capitalist system with a system where the majorities have the right to decide their future by redistributing wealth among all the peoples who are its inhabitants –a system where human rights are fundamental and not for the profits of an irrational and unlimited capitalism. This system can not be anything less than socialism, inspired by the the most human and patriotic sentiments. The dilemma facing humanity is Socialism or the reign of Barbarism"

Oruro, November 9, 2007
!Long live the struggle of the people of New Zealand against re-colonialism!
!Long live the struggle of the peoples of the world against degenerate capitalist society!
!For the victory of the socialist revolution and construction of the new society and the new man!

For the Central Obrera Deparamental In Oruro
C.O.D. Founded 1st May 1953. Affiliate of the C.O.B. Oruro – Bolivia

FSTMB, Oruro (Miners); FED FABRILES (factory workers); FUSTCO (office workers); FED. Constructores (construction workers); FED. SALUD (Health workers); FED. MAG. URB (Teachers city); FED MAG. RURAL (rural teachers); FESTRATEV (Transport workers); RED. RENT. JUB. (retired workers); FUL. (University students); FES (Secondary students); FED. EST. NOL (Teachers College Students); CASEGURAL (Local govt workers); SIND. OOPP (taxi drivers); SIND. MUNICIPALES; ENTEL (telephone); ECOBOL; SINTRAUTO; COTEOR; DIM.ENASA; SELA; ASOC. RED. MIN (retired miners); PRENSA (media); DESOCUPADOS (unemployed) SEPCAM and ACMPD (campesinos).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Free the Political Prisoners!

Class Struggle Special Issue October 2007
Workers Answer to State Terror

State uses Terrorism Suppression Act

On Monday 15 October the NZ state sent 200 armed police to apply the Terrorism Suppression Act (2002) against a handful of Maori nationalists, including the well known Tuhoe activist, Tame Iti, as well as a small number of anarchist and environmental activists. 17 individuals in total were arrested using warrants issued under the TSA, bail has been denied and the prisoners are being kept in jail indefinitely while the prosecution gathers the evidence to bring charges under the TSA.

What links those arrested is their direct action against the state. The acts of shooting the flag, chaining oneself to railway tracks, physically confronting police lines to try to stop weapons and free trade conferences all have one thing in common. They are acts of civil disobedience that break the law to challenge the ruling class and its state forces. It is no coincidence that the police began their surveillance called 'Operation 8' around the time Tame Iti blasted the union jack with a shotgun. But who was behind the decision to launch this operation, why has it led to arrests now, and what are its implications? A good review and summary of events so far.

The police say that they have acted on their own authority in the interests of 'public safety' and that the accused have all been involved in 'military style training camps' in the Ureweras. The Government and its supporters are claiming that the police will have had good cause to use the TSA rather than other well tried legislation, and that it is up to the police to proceed on the evidence. Labourite Chris Trotter fuels this alarmist hysteria by speculating about plans for ‘armed struggle’. A well known Labour Left blogger 'Bomber’ Bradbury claims he has inside information that the charges can be substantiated by the police. However, the Minister of Maori Affairs, Parekura Horomeia, admitted that he did not think that Tame Iti was a 'terrorist'.

The civil rights and reformist left broadly sees these arrests as a crude attempt to test the TSA in court and intimidate the rights of peaceful protesters. They see this as the result of NZ following the US in introducing anti-terror legislation after 9/11/2001 at the expense of civil liberties. Those who have been arrested are obviously not armed terrorists even under the current definition of the TSA. Paul Buchanan a 'security expert' who is ex-US intelligence, points out that none of those arrested has done any more than direct action against property and have not harmed 'innocents'. Former hard-nosed top cop Ross Meurant has gone on TV to claim that the police have fallen foul of a racist subculture that has inflated possible minor weapons offences into terrorist threats. Yet the arrests have been made and under TSA warrants. If it was a mistake why has the Labour Government given the go ahead?

A number of reasons have been put forward. The arrests may been an attempt by the Labour Government to win favour with the US in its campaign for a Free Trade Agreement with the US. They coincided with the reporting back to Parliament of the TS Amendment Bill that will insert much tougher measures into the TSA. [Box on Police State below].

They may have been linked to pressure from the National Opposition that has accused Labour of being 'soft' on terror. The Government was badly embarrassed by the Ahmed Zaoui case and has introduced a new Immigration Bill to toughen up on the rights of political refugees.
['Immigration Bill' Class Struggle 74] The PM has not designated one terrorist group in NZ while Australian PM Howard has designated over 80! Facing these mounting pressures it may well have been a gamble Labour took to arrest its declining support as the National Opposition is now 10% points ahead in the polls and the PM is neck and neck with the Leader of the Opposition in the popularity stakes.

Many on the radical left see the Government's complicity in the arrests as evidence of NZ's continuing colonial subordination to the US 'empire'. [box on War on Terror below] The arrests under the TSA are more evidence of an attempt by the NZ bourgeoisie to clampdown on any rise in radical opposition to the 'neo-liberal' policies of US imperialism.['NZ Sold' Class Struggle 74 ].

This view recognises that the NZ economy is highly dependent on the US dominated global economy and that the US is able to impose its interests on NZ. For example:
  • Maori nationalists are angry about the Labour Government's sellout of the ownership and control of the Foreshore and Seabed to the multinationals. The Maori Party sees the Tuhoe Nation's claims for land and sovereignty as a just cause, but they don't endorse armed struggle.
  • The Green Party and other left nationalists campaign for a return to economic nationalism against growing foreign control (CAFTA and Campaign NZ NOT FOR SALE).
  • The 'socialist' left that supports the anti-imperialist bloc of Hugo Chavez against US and EU imperialism, look forward to a new 'internationalism' in which populist regimes like that of Chavez in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia join forces to defeat imperialism. In other words, none of these groups have a program to 'overthrow' the state other than by a majority vote.
The ‘socialist’ left is correct as far as it goes. NZ is a weak, dependent country in a global economy dominated by the US. But how do we explain the extremity of this attack on the reformist and radical left? How to explain the bizarre picture of armed police raiding deserted hunting camps in the bush, pulling middle aged protestors out of bed, 'ninjas' jumping on school buses and storming the grungy flats of a few stroppy anarchists and environmentalists? As Rawiri Taonui puts it: "Guerrillas in our Midst? No!"

NZ part of US global imperialist crisis

NZ is a 'semi-colony' of the US and its economy is dominated by US imperialism. The key sectors of the NZ economy are now owned by Australian and UK corporations as well as US direct investment. NZ is thus a 'semi-colony’ of Australia and the UK. However, these weak imperialist states are dominated by the US and are politically subordinated as ‘poodle’ and ‘deputy sheriff’ of the US. This subordination can only increase as the US attempts to pass on the costs of its crisis to its weaker rivals.

In the current crisis facing the US dominated world economy, the US is looking to make the emergent manufacturing and mineral rich export semi-colonies like China and Russia pay for the crisis. These countries however are now part of a rival international economic block to the US and will not be easily pushed around.

Other semi-colonies such as those in Latin America that are experiencing commodity export booms (Venezuelan oil) and have alternative markets can use ‘joint venture’ deals to gain a small degree of temporary independence from imperialism.

NZ, by contrast, is a semi-colony dependent on exporting agricultural commodities with no economic power to resist imperialist domination. But this does not mean that NZ Governments always follow the dictates of the Washington, London or Canberra. As long as the imperialists can extract its super-profits from the NZ economy, there is no strong pressure to dictate policy to the NZ state. US earnings from the NZ are high.

There is no immediate obvious threat of instability to endanger imperialist investments. NZ's economic position has declined relative to Australian imperialism. This is understandable when you account for the extraction of Australian super-profits from NZ. NZ has experienced stronger growth in the 2000s than in the previous 20 years. Income gaps are widening and real wages on average have not risen above the mid 1980s. Yet there is no observable militant mobilisation of organised labour.

  • Union membership is climbing slowly from a very low point. The few strikes that take place are settled within the labour law of the ERA and usually for wage increases less that the rate of inflation. NZ workers are among the most exploited by long hours and low pay of all the so-called developed OECD countries.
  • In response to the launching of the US 'war on terror' in 2001, the NZ anti-war movement has failed to get off the streets into the workplaces and break away from the Labour Government.
  • The 'anti-globalisation' movement subordinates its street actions to demanding that the Government rejects a FTA with the US.
  • The Maori nationalists that launched the renewal of land rights protest in the 1970s have largely joined the middle class like Rebecca Evans, gone into business like Donna Awatere, or gone into parliament like Hone Harawira. The outrage that met the Governments 'confiscation' of the Foreshore and Seabed was mainly motivated by a Maori middle class angry at lost business opportunities. That’s why we said at the time, “for workers occupations!”
  • The radical residue of these pacifist, moderate and lawful campaigns, is a small hard core of committed workers, Maori and youth militants. But in no way do they represent any realistic threat to the security of imperialist investments, let alone the class rule of the bourgeoisie.

Stuffup or bosses’ crisis?

If the US, UK and Australian imperialism are ripping off NZ workers on a grand scale and taking billions of dollars offshore every year and the working class is not putting up a strong resistance, why does the Labour Government need to launch an apparently unnecessary and extreme attack on such an enfeebled class? There are two explanations possible for this apparent 'over-reaction'. The first is the 'stuff-up' or fiasco theory, the second is the bosses’ crisis facing US imperialism.

The stuff-up theory says that the police and the SIS have bungled and over-reacted and Labour has gone along to arrest its failing popularity. How likely is this? PM Clark, unlike Bush, is not stupid. She is not run by the US, the SIS or the police. The use of the TSA is a calculated win/win situation for Labour. It can claim independence from the police if they fall on their face in the bush, but claim the credit if they can make some charges under the TSA stick.

Whatever the outcome, Labour can build racist red neck support out of this attack whether or not the charges stick. It can try to intimidate the far left by locking them up in jail for years awaiting trial. It can use the attack to get the Amendment Bill with its tougher measures passed. So the 'stuff-up' is not an adequate explanation in itself. It begs the question of why the NZ state has mounted this attack on democratic rights and why it has been sprung now?

The only explanation that accounts for the apparent 'over-reaction' of the state is the crisis facing US imperialism which is being transmitted via the global economy to the NZ semi-colonial state.

Some important history lessons

Since the start of the 20th century we have been living in an epoch of imperialist crises, wars and revolutions. The capitalists’ attacks on workers during this epoch were not bloody minded acts motivated by greed for yet more profits. They were made necessary to overcome crises of falling profits and to restore profitability. Equally necessary was the use of state terror.

The Labour Party was formed during the First World War to divert militant union struggles from a Bolshevik-type revolution into parliament. The first Labour Government used reactionary legislation against 'terror' or 'sedition' in the 1930s. During the Second World War it used strike breaking regulations and after the war it enacted more anti-strike legislation. The huge 1951 Lockout saw the Labour Party remain 'neutral' while the National Party smashed the union movement.

When falling profits brought the post-war boom to an end in the 1970s the global capitalist economy entered a long wave of stagnation. National Governments under Muldoon tried to isolate NZ from the growing global crisis. They failed and when Labour became the Government in 1984 it became the spearhead of 'neo-liberal' reforms in NZ. The effects of the 'neo-liberal' reforms and the restoration of capitalism in the former Degenerated Workers States gave the world economy a ‘triple bypass’ and kicked off a period of upturn in the 1990s and 2000s.
Today, however, US imperialism faces growing threats to its 'dollar hegemony'.
[ 'Are we Heading for World Depression?' Class Struggle 74 ].

To restore falling profits, US imperialism must cut its costs at all costs. This includes waging wars for oil and invading and recolonising nations to plunder and control raw material resources such as in Afghanistan and Iraq. Because the imperialists always try to solve their crises by making their imperialist rivals and the working classes of the weakest nations pay with the livelihoods and their lives, a new round of attacks on the NZ working class will bring about a growing militancy which must be met with state repression.

Fight US Re-colonisation!

To get a handle on the ruling class’s ‘wish list’ read the NZ Business Round Table's publications or those of the Maxim Institute etc. Their catch cry "One law for all" is the law of the bosses, the law of private property. Ironically this is the same law that the Tuhoe is appealing to, without much hope, to get their confiscated land returned. After all this is the same law that was invoked by the state to prevent Maori asserting traditional 'ownership' of the Foreshore and Seabed through the courts.

However all such indigenous land claims, and continuing state ownership of assets in NZ, are barriers to the further privatisation of assets and the free flow of US finance capital investments and super-profits. The FTA the US wants NZ to sign up to is to free up access to private assets and to secure investments, to allow the outflow of super-profits, as well as to outsource the costs of pollution. There is why corporate bosses dominated by US Equity fund investors are opposed to the token Carbon Trading Scheme just announced by the NZ Government ['the Carbon Scam', Class Struggle, 74]

US imperialism, then, is demanding total freedom of access for investment and profit extraction via a FTA etc. to boost their falling profits at home. They are making the workers pay for this by tax cuts and real cuts in health, education and housing, living and health standards. Low wages, long hours and casualised work drives down the cost of labour power and increases the rate of profit.

But these 'neo-liberal' policies are all very unpopular with the majority of New Zealand workers. The big majority are opposed to privatisations. They have already lost many of the gains won in historical struggles for social welfare, free health and education. Now few can afford to buy homes. Real wages are falling behind inflation.

On top of this the threat of US imperialism to re-colonise NZ to plunder its natural resources on the land and sea and take back all of the hard won past gains will spark off a strong opposition. The current restraints on industrial action of the legal leg iron of the ERA will burst open. Inevitably new militant layers of workers will take up the struggle. They will fight back. And they will break the labour law and engage in civil disobedience.

This prospect has forced the right-wing Blairite NZ Labour Party even further to the right in a preventative attack on the democratic rights of workers to contain the resistance. Blair and Howard showed the way. Break the historic ties with the unions. Impose new anti-worker laws. Cut and privatise social services. Bring in anti-terror legislation to give police powers to shoot suspects on sight. Lock up refugees and terrorist suspects on the basis of secret spy dossiers.

It is because NZ is a semi-colony dominated by Australia the UK –which are in turn dominated by the US –that the TSA is being used to make a preventative strike against working class resistance to the "re-colonisation" of NZ. Arrest the most militant leaders of the workers movement, disorient and intimidate the rest. State terror under the TSA is the policing of the bosses solution to their crisis. Make the workers pay and suppress them when they fight back.
The workers answer to state terror is to organise and unite their ranks to build their own organisations independently of the state to fight and defend their democratic rights. Make the bosses’ pay for their crisis!

Free the Political Prisoners!

Like Bush, Blair and Howard, the NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark is now threatening to use the post 9/11 anti-terror legislation to remove the basic democratic rights of working class resistance to US imperialism solving its current crisis at the expense of weaker imperialist powers, and at the expense of workers, by attacking workers rights, livelihoods and lives.

The workers answer is not to put their hopes in the Greens or Maori Party to stop the Bill or repeal the Act. The political prisoners cannot be freed by appealing to a semi-colonial state dominated by the US to break from US imperialism. NZ has no economic wealth to allow a populist regime to strike a bargain between the US and the NZ working class and to buy back the political freedom of the prisoners.

These prisoners are like those locked up in Guantanamo by Bush, or the concentration camps of Howard, an integral part of the international working class imprisoned by the US-sponsored ‘war on terror’. To free all these prisoners, it is necessary to organise the international proletariat to make the imperialists and their local lackeys pay for their own crisis, and to organise the working class to fight to end the capitalist system and build a socialist society.

For a United Front to free the political prisoners, drop the charges, smash the Act and the Amendment Bill!
  • Free the Political Prisoners now!
  • Drop the Charges under the TSA.
  • Abolish the TSA.
  • Abolish the SIS and police surveillance.

For a United Front with Maori to reclaim land stolen by the colonists. Unconditional support for land rights!
  • Return the confiscated land, and land stolen by legal and illegal means!
  • For occupations of land claims, including Forshore and Seabed claims under the control of workers and farmers committees.
  • For re-nationalisation of former state assets without compensation and under workers control.
  • For the nationalisation of capitalist land, forestry, mines and banks without compensation and under workers and farmers control.

For a united offensive of the international proletariat to free all the prisoners of the ‘war on terror’!
  • ·Free the political prisoners of Guantanamo
  • Free the prisoners of Howards concentration camps
  • Free the prisoners of the Burma Junta
  • Free Mumia Abu Jamal

For international proletarian support for the national liberation fighters against imperialist wars and invasions!

  • Defend the Palestinian liberation struggle
  • Defend the Iraqi liberation struggle
  • Imperialists hands off Iran

For a transitional program of demands to fight the imperialists attacks to make workers pay for their crisis!

  • For fighting democratic unions to win a living wage and shorter working week.
  • Formation of workers councils to unite all struggles, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
  • Workers’ self-defence committees to defend workers’ struggles from state and paramilitary repression.
  • No to individual and group adventurist actions that isolate and split the workers’ struggles.
  • For a Workers' and working Farmers' Government to expropriate capitalist property and plan a workers’ economy.

For a revolutionary socialist international that can unite the vanguard of the working class and poor peasantry in one global struggle!

Box: Police State? No; Capitalist State!
  • The threat of the TSA is a gag on dissent. People will not engage in actions for fear of arrest for causing 'terror', damage to infrastructure or risk loss of life. This can be interpreted by police to be any minor civil disobedience. There is already widespread unease if not fear as well as anger at the attempt to use a law that is arbitrary, without appeal and carries a maximum life sentence! This police action is designed to rouse middle NZ and get the Amendment Bill to the Terrorism Suppression Act passed with even tougher amendments if the government thinks it necessary. National has put in its minority report on the new Bill accusing the Government being soft on terror. As its stands the Amendment Bill will make the existing law worse. In the Bill a new wider definition of 'terrorist act' is introduced. Under the existing law there must be an intention to 'induce terror' and be a risk to the economy or to the lives of others. This defence goes under the Bill. Belief that you were supporting groups committed democracy and human rights is no longer a defence. Under the TSA you can be charged with terrorism and never see the secret evidence against you. This will not change. But under the Bill the right to appeal to the High Court after 3 years is replaced by appeal to the PM! The PM is already minister in charge of the SIS, has the power to define who is a terrorist, can sack the Minister of Police, and the Attorney General who must approve charges, and will now become the person who reviews 'terrorist' convictions. The P.M. who is the CEO of the government, will control the whole process, from overseeing police operations, to defining who is a terrorist, to reviewing terrorist cases. So we have political definition of 'terrorism', secret evidence, no obligation to prove intent, no appeal to a higher court, and all this under the P.M.s arbitrary power with no check – isn’t that the definition of a Police State? No it’s a capitalist state under a right wing social democratic government. A ‘police state’ implies that the state us acting illegally and can be corrected by democratic checks and balances. A capitalist state is the state of the capitalist class and cannot be reformed. It has to be overthrown!
Box: Timeline for NZ's War of Terror
  • 9-11 2001 and War on Terror launched.
  • 2001 TSA Bill introduced, NZ's 'patriot Act'. Labour govt proves its subservience to US imperialism by sending SAS to Afghanistan.
  • 2002: Bali Bombing raises fear of Islamic terrorism in South Pacific. Australia's Howard takes hard line on terror and migrants. He accuses refugees of killing throwing the children on the Tampa overboard for the dramatic TV footage. He sends them to Nauru puts others in camps in the Australian desert. NZ Anti-war movement is spirited but never reaches critical mass in labor movement. The strategy of building a pressure group to get Labour to break with the war on terror fails.
  • 2003 March: Iraqi invasion. NZ abstains and waits for UN fig leaf. Then sends in engineers to reconstruct. Anti-war movement falters and fades. Labour joins with Howard to form RAMSI and police the Solomons. Joint mission for ‘regime change’ in East Timor.
  • 2004 March: Issue of ownership of Foreshore and Seabed arises. NZ denies Foreshore and Seabed rights to guarantee joint ventures with MNCs. Government faces a massive hikoi, the formation of the Maori Party and loss of Maori seats.
  • 2005: Tuhoe land rights claims sees Tame Iti charged with discharging a firearm. Iti gets off, Crown Appeals and looses. NZ has its own mini Zapatista uprising. US losing war in Iraq threatens to invade Iran. Venezuela, China, Russia and Iran form anti-US bloc. US ups the ante on Islamic terror with new anti-terror laws.
  • 2006: US tells NZ to amend the TSA to toughen it up. Police begin Operation 8 to pin terrorism charges on Tuhoe activists and supporters. US imperialism under attack and economy slackens. National in the Select Committee demands NZ toughen up on terrorism and designates terrorists in NZ. Labour condemns Fiji coup and imposes economic and political sanctions. Labour sends in police and legal officers to charge those arrested for sedition by the Royalist regime in Tonga.
  • 2007: Labour's popularity plummets and gap opens to 10% points. Key level pegging with Clark as preferred PM. Tame Iti travels to Fiji to congratulate Bainimarama. Labour Government seizes on the reporting back of the TSAB to parliament to launch a wave of arrests of political activists. This will kill several birds with one stone.(Clark consulted, Key consulted). Bainimarama goes to South Pacific Forum, is welcomed by the SPF heads and Clark is forced to meet him. Tame Iti retires for a good nights sleep. The rest is history. 17 arrested in public fanfare with prepared Police press releases and TV 3 in attendance. All denied bail and remanded while police find evidence of 'terrorist act' to take to the Attorney-General to get approval to charge the 17 accused.

Class Struggle, Special Supplement, October 2007. Communist Workers Group, member of the Leninist-Trotskyist Fraction. PO Box 6595 Auckland, New Zealand.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A new crisis of the global capitalist economy has begun!

Emergency Declaration of the Leninist-Trotskyist Fraction (FLT)

We present the emergency declaration of the FLT at the start of a new crisis of the rotten imperialist world capitalist system. In the next edition of the “International Workers Organizer” of the FLT we will publish the theses, articles and contributions of the member organizations of the FLT, elaborating the causes of the crisis, its consequences, and the tasks of revolutionaries in working together to unmask the ‘secrets’ of the world political economy to the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat.

A new world crisis has begun

This follows the onset of several heart attacks hitting international finance capital such as stock exchange falls, the rising cost of debt in the semi colonial countries, bank collapses in many countries, all signifying the prospect of a massive devaluation of capital, exposing the parasitic character of capitalism in its imperialist epoch.

This new crisis puts in question the political, economic and military equilibrium of 2003 resulting from counter-revolutionary wars for oil; the abortion, strangulation or diversion of revolutionary upsurges by the popular front in Latin America; the imposition of the capitalist division of labor and new markets following the restoration of capitalism after 1989, in Russia, China, etc.; and huge expenditure on the destructive forces – US$ 500 billion a year spent on the industrial-military apparatus of the US – and finally, the counter-revolutionary role of the treacherous leaders of the workers that isolated snf contained the uprisings of the masses in the semi-colonial countries, and the struggles of the workers in the imperialist countries.

This crisis opened with the falls of the stock market of China and its banks in February-March which was an indication of the fall of the rate of profit in the branches of production of consumer goods re-localized there by the multinationals to export to the world market. There was another convulsion when the Australian central bank (and NZ to a lesser extent) had to buy dollars to prevent the value falling with the hasty exit of speculators in the Australian dollar. When the yen increased in value, many speculators were forced to sell the Australian currency. More than $US150 million had that to put the Australian state to save its currency from devaluing.

At the same time, about US$500 billion had to be pumped into reserves by the imperialist central banks to help its banks face mounting bad debts. As the run on the Northern Rock bank in England and the “blockade” of the Paribas of France show, more than 40% of the assets of these European imperialists banks were involved in the parasitic speculation in real estate ‘bubble’ that is now burst in the United States.

Imperialism will make workers pay for the crisis

The crisis from deepening and spreading on a world scale, the United States, as dominant power, will try to make its imperialist rivals pay the full cost of the crisis. Trade wars will intensify between the imperialist powers, so that only the strongest will win.

But more than that, each imperialist power will pass on the cost of the crisis to its workers, and in particular the most oppressed layers of workers, especially in the semi-colonies. As this crisis develops, the national bourgeoisies in these countries will pass on the costs of the bad debts of parasitical imperialist finance capital with savage attacks on the wages of the exploited, cruel increases to the cost of living, and higher interest rates on debts etc.

As finance capital starts ot move to new branches of production in search of a higher rate of profit, the continuous rise in the price of oil – reaching over $80 a barrel in September –along with the prices of commodities for the new investments in biotechnology and bio-fuel, means that the real the purchasing power of the masses and the world working class will decline further.

The war drums are already sounding. The talk of ‘peace conferences’ and withdrawal of Anglo-US troops from Iraq are lies. The reality is new threats of aggression to make Iran submit. China and Russia, as countries dependent on imperialism, will be subjected to an aggressive re-colonization process to reduce them to the status of colonies.

The crisis that has begun is proof that the world capitalist system can only lead to the destruction of human civilization. But by itself capitalism cannot collapse. The revolutionary proletariat that rises to meet the crisis will have the last word on how the crisis is resolved. But first the crisis of revolutionary leadership must be overcome. The proletariat lacks a revolutionary leadership. Without that leadership the working class cannot smash the rotten capitalist imperialist system.

The FLT calls on the proletariat to take the offensive

The FLT calls on the world working class to prepare itself for the new attacks that will come. We call on the workers of the imperialist countries to join in the struggles of the Palestinian and Iraqi masses, and join the fights of the of the workers and poor peasants of the semi-colonial countries of Latin America, Asia, Africa and Eurasia.

Under these new conditions, the treacherous leaders of the reformists will find the earth slipping under their feet. The concessions they can make to tempt the workers to accept ‘reforms’ are few and are getting fewer. Every day the crumbs they offer the masses from the table of the rotten parasitical capitalist imperialist system are getting smaller.

These new conditions will create opportunities for the international Trotskyists to defeat the counter-revolutionary leaders of the World Social Forum. As the imperialist countries prepare for new wars and colonial adventures they will have to turn their blows also on their own proletariat. This will expose the pro-imperialist role of the reformists in the EU, USA and Japan. As the workers begin to break from the reformists this will expose the rotten role of the treacherous ex-Trotskyists who use trample on the legacy of socialism and the 4th International of 1938 in order to deceive the workers and prevent them from completing this break from the bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie.

The FLT is committed to the struggle for an International Conference of Principled Trotskyists and revolutionary workers organizations, to build a new Zimmerwald and Kienthal of revolutionary internationalists, on the way to a new world socialist party of revolution.

As the new conditions of crises, wars and revolutions unfold with incredible rapidity, the offensive of the proletariat and the forging of a new world party of revolution becomes the order of the day. More than ever, the current crisis proves yet again, that for the proletariat to live imperialism must die.

18 of September of 2007.

International Coordination and Action Secretariat (SCAI) of the Leninist-Trotskyist Fraction, comprising:

Red October Internationalist (ORI) of Bolivia, Trotskyist Fraction (FT) of Brazil, LOI (QI) – Workers’ Democracy of Argentina, Internationalist Trotskyist League (LTI) of Perú, Communist Workers Group (CWG) of New Zealand, Internationalist Workers Party (POI-QI) of Chile

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Peoples' Power in Venezuela?

An overexcited Socialist Worker/NZ has publicly disagreed with its sister organisations in declaring the Venezuelan revolution the "most important leap forward for the workers' cause since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution". It likens Chavez new party of socialist unity to Lenin's Bolshevik Party. CWG replies to this view of the Bolivarian revolution and argues for a different and revolutionary politics based on the conception of Chavez as a 'Bonapartist' figure balanced between the working masses and international capitalism whose regime has to be overthrown by a workers revolution to form a workers and peasants state.

The revolution is in the balance

While the political developments in Venezuela do have 'global significance' we see this as rather different from the SW/NZ or its sister organisations. The SW/NZ is caught up on a wave of enthusiasm on the left for '21st century socialism' that offers positive hope to workers all around the world in a period of crises, wars and genocides. [1] But as Alex Callinicos, on behalf of the ITC puts it, the centre of the struggle against imperialism is in the Middle East, especially the war and resistance in Iraq. Events in Venezuela, while very important, are in part the result of the US being bogged down in its 'war on terror' and unable to effectively intervene against Chavez. So while the SW/NZ wants to jump onto the new bandwagon of the 'socialist unity' party formed by President Chavez, its sister organisations are more cautious. For one, they disagree that there is a 'dual power' situation in Venezuela.[2] There is as yet no 'bottom up' independent workers power that is arrayed against the power of the bourgeois state. Nor is Chavez' new party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), a "mass socialist party". [3]

Yet, despite these differences over how far the revolution has gone, they all agree that the formation of the PSUV offers an opening for workers to move towards political independence and create genuine organs of workers power - soviets or workers councils and militias. In this they join forces with most of the ex-Trotskyist left like the Australian Green Left and the international Grant/Woods Tendency. They all characterisie the PSUV as a broad 'workers' party in which revolutionaries can enter and fight for a program of workers to power. To this end they say the UNT should join and lend its weight to a mass rank and file membership that can take advantage of Chavez' promise to hold democratic elections for delegates to found the party, and force a break from the Bolivarian state bureaucracy that wants to limit the revolution to a form of Venezuelan state capitalism.

But this assessment makes the fatal mistake of failing to see that the PSUV is a 'popular front party' where the state bureaucracy acts as the 'shadow' of the national bourgeoisie which is in an alliance with imperialist capitalism. More important, the PSUV is the ruling party of the state Bolivarian regime which includes Chavez Presidency. This regime we characterise as 'Bonapartist' following Trotsky's analysis of populist leaders in Latin America in the 1930s. A 'Bonaparte' is a bourgeois leader who balances between the main antagonistic classes in the name of national unity in order to contain the masses when the ruling class itself is too weak to destroy the popular movement. In this sense then, the PSUV is not a broad workers party but a popular front party created by Chavez to help contain the contradiction that he faces daily in balancing between the insurgent masses and international capital. The PSUV, then, is not on opening on the road to revolution, but rather a dead end that leads to the defeat of the revolution.

Here we argue that the popular front cannot work unless a treacherous fake left leadership seduces the workers into joining it on the bosses' terms. In doing so they tie the workers hands behind their backs and prepare to lead them to historic defeats. Whereas in the 1930s the Stalinists performed this role, today after the restoration of capitalism in all of the former degenerate workers states except Cuba and the DPRK, Castro plays an important role in seducing workers into the popular front. But this is insufficient, because the new layers of radicalised workers, peasants and youth can see that Cuba has long been following the path of the other former Stalinist states and is making its peace with capitalism. Therefore, to contain the most advanced layers of the workers who want to fight for socialism, the centrist Trotskyist groups have taken over the role of acting as the left wing of the popular front to lock workers into a political 'unity' with the bourgeoisie.

The Popular Front in Latin America

The crucial problem in Latin America is that, membership of ruling parties, and voting for ruling parties that are part of popular front governments, contains and ultimately betrays, the independent development of workers organisations. This is because in a popular front, workers parties are in a coalition with bourgeois parties so that the workers parties become subordinated to petty bourgeois or bourgeois parties by electoral agreements that are in the bosses' class interests.

If the unions and workers parties are inside these popular fronts, this has the effect of limiting their independent action. More than that it prevents them from organising as armed independent class forces to prepare for counter-revolution. Peron in Argentina built a system of state patronage that tied the unions via his party machine to his regime. This destroyed their independence and left them exposed to the dictatorship. This system still exists today with Kirchners' left Peronist regime incorporating the unemployed unions as the administrators of work schemes and the dole.

Lula did the same in Brazil. The unions and the workers party were forced to swallow Lula's agreement with his bourgeois partners and imperialism, leading to splits in his party and the formation of breakaway unions and the Party of Socialism and Freedom (PSOL) who are repeating the same failed strategy to build a party on the left wing of the popular front regime to push it to the left.

PSUV is a Popular Front Party

The situation is slightly different in Venezuela as Chavez' regime came first and built a union base and is now forming a united party to support it. But the result is the same. The united party will combine all classes in support of the bourgeois government and constitution. Chavez wants the UNT to join the PSUV. This will subordinate organised labour to the party of a popular front regime via a labor bureaucracy.

PSUV is not politically independent of the state. It will be the governing party after all. Moreover it is what Trotsky called a 'popular front party' comprising left bourgeois, petty bourgeois and working class elements. If the UNT joins the PSUV then it will not be independent of the state. It has since joined.

Fight for independent unions, independent armed workers councils (soviets) everywhere, and and an independent Marxist Party with a program to form a workers and peasants government and expropriate imperialist and capitalist property.

We need to understand the signficance of the PSUV as a popular front party. Its significance is that the popular organisations, AK47s and all, remain part of a political bloc dominated by the bourgeoisie, and so are hampered in forming politically independence class organs such as workers councils and workers militias. Many on the left don't understand that the bourgeoisie can be represented in a popular front by a very small section, even by a petty bourgeois party. They object that the national bourgeoisie in Venezuela is hostile to Chavez, so how can it be represented in the PSUV?

The Bourgeoisie or its "shadow"

However, a popular front (or popular front party) does not need to have a strong representation of the bourgeoisie, and certainly not the traditional bourgeoisie in Venezuela. The most famous popular front of all that of 1935 in France was a front between the Communists the Socialists and the Radicals. The Radicals were a party of the petty bourgeoisie and small capitalists, not the big bourgeoisie or its hegemonic fraction. In Spain in the 30s the popular front contained small bourgeois fragments around a few individuals which Trotsky called the 'shadow of the bourgeoisie'. That was enough to ensure that the Stalinists and anarchist leaders kept within the framework of a bourgeois parliament.

The important thing is that the workers party (or working class elements) in a popular front are constrained by deals done by their leaderships to appease the interests of the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie, or its 'shadow' - in the case of Venezuela the state bureaucracy that uses the regime to defend the bourgeois constitution and the defence of private property.

What is happening in Venezuela is not unique, it follows a very similar course to Mexico in the 1930s under Cardenas who formed a 'popular' united party, the PRM, nationalised the oil industry (far more than Chavez has done)and controlled the unions via his state machine which he then used to repress the workers. The PRM (and we think the PSUV) are forms of popular fronts common in Latin America created by elected strong presidents as 'populist parties' sometimes referred to a 'patriotic fronts', to bury the independence of the labour movement in a 'bloc of four classes'. e.g. workers, peasants, petty bourgeois and 'patriotic' capitalists.' The PRM was called a 'peoples front' by the Mexican CP and analysed as such by Trotsky who coined the term 'popular front party'.

Are popular front parties the same as bourgeois labour parties?

It could be argued that a popular front party is no different from the more common bourgeois workers parties such as the British or New Zealand Labour Parties. In both cases the bourgeoisie is not directly represented. For example the New Zealand Labour Party grew out of the right wing (reformist and bureaucratic) of the Labor movement with the support of small farmers. Its policies benefited the national manufacturing bourgeoisie without their direct representation (apart from the co-optation of people like businessman James Fletcher during WW11).

Both popular fronts (including parties) and bourgeois-workers (Labour or Social Democrat) parties suppress the basic class contradiction of workers representation against the bourgeois program. In Labor parties the workers can challenge the leadership when it betrays its own program. In a popular front however, the workers leaders make agreements with the bourgeois party or parties and use this agreement to discipline any attempt by the ranks to break out of the popular front. The strategy of the bourgeoisie, using the labor bureaucracy then, is the same in both forms of government. The question is what tactics to apply to break with the bourgeoisie and the labor bureaucracy?

Lenin's tactic of critical support for BW parties is well known (if not well understood). It means using the BW parties constitution to fight inside for a workers program, and getting them elected to expose their bourgeois program. Thus entry into a Labour Party activates the contradiction when the revolutionaries fight to expose the reformist program of the BW Party when it becomes the government. The the case of the popular front the tactics to break with the bourgeoisie have to be applied in such a way as not to sow illusions in the popular front. It is necessary to critically support the Workers Parties in a popular front, but only in order to break them away from the bourgeoisie.

The debate among Trotskyists about tactics towards the popular front

Some say it is impossible for workers to mobilise inside the PF to activate the suppressed contradiction because the leaderships have already made their agreements with the bourgeois, petty bourgeois, or labor bureaucratic partners. The contradiction can only be activated from outside, and so to join a popular front as the POUM did in Spain in 1936 is a betrayal because it effectively suppresses the contradiction.

Others argue that it may by possible to activate the contradiction by short term specific entry or critical support before the PF becomes elected. They point to the fact that the Trotskyist party in France in 1935 put up candidates only in electorates where the Radicals were not standing candidates. This in effect is saying to workers "vote Socialist and Communist and then demand that they break from the Radicals". That is, it may be possible to win enough representation to activate the mass movement to break the popular front if it becomes the government. This almost succeeded in France in the great strike of 1936.

In the case of popular front parties such as the PSUV where there is no direct representation of the bourgeoisie but rather its 'shadow', the state bureaucracy, the tactical question of activating the contradiction depends first on having an independent force outside the PSUV that could build support for such tactics and act as a fulcrum to exert leverage to break workers from the popular front in government.

Is the formation of a left party outside the PSUV by the LIT, PO and PTS such an independent force?

No, like the PSOL in Brazil it is not designed to mobilise the masses, but rather to form a bloc to the left of the popular front to 'pressure' it to the left. This was the policy of Pivert in France in 1935. These 'centrists' use revolutionary phrases about not joining Chavez' party to keep their 'independence'. But they capitulate to the popular front all the same by failing to tell the masses that they are trying to push a popular front party to the left when it is already subordinated to the bourgeoisie, in the case of Venezuela, through its shadow, the state bureaucracy. Thus, as in the 1930s the centrists are on the extreme left operating 'outside' the popular front to corral any maverick uprising of the masses, back into the popular front.

What is the role of revolutionaries?

Therefore the role of revolutionaries is NOT to tell the UNT to join the PSUV and fight for a revolutionary program inside to push the popular front to the left. This is a fatal mistake that led to historic defeats of the Socialist Unity in Chile 1973 and MNR party in Bolivia 1952 to name only the worst defeats. This is what the SW/NZ is advocating. Increasing the membership of unionists in the PSUV, they say, will counteract the bureaucrats, and other anti-worker interests and push the regime to the left. No, it will not, it will tie the hands of the UNT to Chavez' discipline of 'unity' and weaken the revolutionary development of the working class to face the counter-revolution that will follow when imperialism decides to act against Chavez regime, or when Chavez himself acts to repress the working class.

Against this capitulation to the popular front, the correct strategy is to build united fronts around occcupations, workers defence etc to create armed workers councils or soviets that are politically independent of both the UNT and PSUV. Tactical interventions inside the UNT and the PSUV should be made to form class fractions for a revolutionary workers party and to break up the popular front. But these tactics can only work as part of a strategy to build an independent working class politics led by a revolutionary party and program.

Revolutionary Tactics

Trotsky's position in relation to the popular front was to build united fronts of the workers organisations that were being trapped inside the popular front in order to break the base from the treacherous left leaders as a first step to breaking with the bourgeois partners and program. Clearly voting for the candidates of workers parties that propose to join a popular front government and that stand for election separately might have this effect. It might therefore be argued that in the formation of the PSUV there is an opportunity for class struggle candidates to be put up by the class struggle tendency of UNT for election that would take a revolutionary fraction program into the party to break up the popular front party. This could be one way of trying to activate the class contradiction in the PSUV.

But its success would depend on the strength of the independent workers mandate (i.e. independent workers candidates standing on the same program outside the PSUV) and how strictly the delegates were held to it in the face of the 'unity at all costs' discipline that is behind the formation of the PSUV. If this fraction was suppressed then that would be a clear indication that the contradiction was suppressed in the PSUV.

Revolutionaries must fight inside the organs of the working class to form communist fractions and cells. That means actively building revolutionary platforms in the UNT and inside any political formations arising out of the working class such as the Trotskyist centrist bloc being formed in Venezuela They should call for the formation of workers councils and workers militias of all the class struggle tendencies in the working class.

Inside these formations revolutionaries would fight to expose the PSUV as a popular front party, and the Chavez regime as a bourgeois Bonapartist regime. At the same time they would form a military bloc with all those defending the regime from imperialist destabilisation, invasion and overthrow, while stating clearly that only the armed and centralised militias of the workers and poor peasants are capable of defeating imperialism and its agents in Venezuelan society and state, and that only a workers and peasants government that creates a planned socialist economy can fulfill the demands and needs of the masses


1. Socialist Worker-New Zealand regards the unfolding revolution in Venezuela as of epochal significance. With the US military bogged down in Iraq, there is more space for Venezuela's socialist Chavistas to seriously challenge capitalism right on Washington's doorstep. This challenge has profound implications for the world's socialists. The deepening revolution in Venezuela is an historic opportunity for socialists everywhere to spotlight a real-life alternative to capitalism's inequality, eco-chaos and war. Is the unfolding Venezuelan revolution the most important leap forward for the workers' cause since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution? The answer from delegates at Socialist Worker-New Zealand's recent national conference was a unanimous "yes". VENEZUELA'S REVOLUTION IS GLOBALLY SIGNIFICANT 05 Jun 2007 from the UNITYblog

2. SW/NZ claims: “There is, at present, a dual power scenario in Venezuela where opposing class forces are "balanced out". While this state of affairs has lasted for quite a while, it is inherently unstable and cannot last forever. Either one class coalition or the other will win the war over whether Venezuela will move beyond capitalism to socialism. In this war the impact of global events will play a pivotal role, since the Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet Union in the 1920s showed that "socialism in one country" cannot forever withstand the pressures of world capitalism.”

3. SW/NZ say: “It would be utopian to think that the PSUV could be an instantly homogenous party of revolutionaries. It will, however, be a mass socialist party with organic connections to grassroots people who support the unfolding revolution. The process of building the PSUV will challenge the reformist wing of the Bolivarian movement and precipitate a "battle of ideas" in which the masses will participate. While the initiative for the PSUV came from Chavez, it will be built "from below". Socialist militants, who played a key role in mobilising the Chavista vote during the 2006 presidential election, have become the "promoters" of the new mass socialist party. They are going out to the people to register members, who will be organised into "socialist battalions" of 200 people each. The aim is to organise 20,000 of these "battalions" across Venezuela, from which delegates will be elected to attend the PSUV's founding conference in August 2007.”