Thursday, July 29, 2010

Release Sergeant Bradley Manning - War Hero!

The release of the Afghanistan 'war logs' that blew the secrecy surrounding the inhuman war in Afghanistan have been traced by the Pentagon to Bradley Manning - bradass87 - (photo above) an intelligence officer based in Iraq. The logs that expose the ongoing conduct of a brutal, murderous war against the people of Afghanistan are likely to fuel a new wave of anti-war opinion against the war.

While Wikileaks role in facilitating the publication of the logs is to be welcomed, the real hero of this scandal is bradass87 who was arrested in May and has spend two months in jail in Kuwait. We say the workers of the world must demand the immediate release of Brad Manning as a war hero!

Manning was dobbed in to the army by a former hacker Adrian Lamo. According to the Guardian:
It was not until late May that the Pentagon finally closed in on a suspect, and that was only after a very strange sequence of events. On 21 May, a Californian computer hacker called Adrian Lamo was contacted by somebody with the online name Bradass87 who started to swap instant messages with him. He was immediately extraordinarily open: "hi... how are you?… im an army intelligence analyst, deployed to eastern bagdad … if you had unprecedented access to classified networks, 14 hours a day, 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?"
For five days, Bradass87 opened his heart to Lamo. He described how his job gave him access to two secret networks: the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, SIPRNET, which carries US diplomatic and military intelligence classified "secret"; and the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System which uses a different security system to carry similar material classified up to "top secret". He said this had allowed him to see "incredible things, awful things … that belong in the public domain and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … almost criminal political backdealings … the non-PR version of world events and crises."
Bradass87 suggested that "someone I know intimately" had been downloading and compressing and encrypting all this data and uploading it to someone he identified as Julian Assange. At times, he claimed he himself had leaked the material, suggesting that he had taken in blank CDs, labelled as Lady Gaga's music, slotted them into his high-security laptop and lip-synched to nonexistent music to cover his downloading: "i want people to see the truth," he said.
He dwelled on the abundance of the disclosure: "its open diplomacy … its Climategate with a global scope and breathtaking depth … its beautiful and horrifying … It's public data, it belongs in the public domain." At one point, Bradass87 caught himself and said: "i can't believe what im confessing to you." It was too late. Unknown to him, two days into their exchange, on 23 May, Lamo had contacted the US military. On 25 May he met officers from the Pentagon's criminal investigations department in a Starbucks and gave them a printout of Bradass87's online chat.
On 26 May, at US Forward Operating Base Hammer, 25 miles outside Baghdad, a 22-year-old intelligence analyst named Bradley Manning was arrested, shipped across the border to Kuwait and locked up in a military prison

Lamo's reason for informing on Manning to the military was that the log could identify and expose military in the field. Perhaps this was as the result of the first Wikileak from Manning, the video of the massacre of civilians:

... on 5 April, Assange held a press conference in Washington to reveal US military video of a group of civilians in Baghdad, including two Reuters staff, being shot down in the street in 2007 by Apache helicopters: their crew could be heard crowing about their "good shooting" before destroying a van which had come to rescue a wounded man and which turned out to be carrying two children on its front seat.
This obscenity led to a scramble to find the perpetrators, not of the assassination but of the leaks. Lamo tries to throw dirt on Manning's motives:

Lamo, 29, who lives in Sacramento, said that the Afghan war documents are "basically a large dump of battlefield intelligence systems that Manning had access to."
He said, however, that Manning lacked the technical expertise to obtain and transmit all the data and received help from people who worked with WikiLeaks. "There was overlap between people who were his friends and people working with WikiLeaks," Lamo said.
"They made him feel real cool by putting him in touch with Assange," he said. "They were WikiLeaks' 'shopper' for classified information. There are at least two people in his social circle who are in contact with WikiLeaks."
Lamo said he does not know how Manning's friends came to know or work with WikiLeaks. "At some point he was either induced, or of his own volition, decided to contact [WikiLeaks]," Lamo said.
So Manning is risking the lives of his fellow soldiers because he wants to feel 'cool' by associating with WikiLeaks? But it doesnt really matter if Manning felt 'cool' or not, he jeopardised his career, his freedom (he could face 50 years in jail) and possibly his life by acting on his beliefs that the war was "criminal". If Manning's posts on his address and his support for wikileaks role in 'climategate' are any indication, Manning may have right-wing libertarian politics.

A blogger says that Manning was screaming "look at me, I'm a hero waiting to happen".

I can't say if this has harmed the security of our troops. But I don't think it's advanced the cause of peace. This information gives us a measure of insight into what it's like on the ground of a massive war - but how much did we need that, and what cost was it worth paying to obtain? As far as I can see, two things have been satisfied by this leak: bradass87's desire for notoriety, and our need for voyeurism.
So bradass87's actions that can lead to a courtmartial and years in jail are motivated by nothing more than a 'desire for notoriety' to feed our need for 'voyeurism'.

Whatever Manning's motives and whatever our reaction, the truth about the war can only bring about stronger actions to end this imperialist war and the capitalist system that makes it necessary.
Manning's case is proceeding within the military justice system, with the Army Criminal Investigation Command leading the probe. The next step is a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to recommend a court-martial, Lapan said. If individuals not connected to the military are found to be involved in the leak, "then that's when Justice and the others would potentially get involved," he said. 
Here we see the military rushing to suppress the truth and punish the whistleblowers and of the 'messengers' such as Wikileaks. 

The world's workers must defend whistleblowers against imperialist war!

As for the argument that the truth be suppressed for the sake of the lives of the military personnel, we say bring on the truth, more truth and nothing but the truth.  A recent case of the photo of NZ SAS soldier on duty in Afghanistan, Willie Apiata, (photo below) when published in the corporate media, met with condemnation by the RSA (Returned Services) who said it put him at risk. We say more photos please.

Postcript on Lieutenant Timothy O'Donnell

On August 4th NZ time the first NZ casualty of the war in Afghanistan occurred. The dead soldier was Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell (photo below) aged 28, a member of the NZ Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan Province. A decorated career soldier who also served in East Timor, O'Donnell was killed when his convoy hit a roadside bomb. The irony is that the war in Afghanistan is lost, the COIN of McCrystal and Petreus (counterinsergency operation) has failed, and Obama is looking to do a deal to get out leaving a massive US base at Bagram. Not only that, the people of Bamyan do not want the Reconstruction Team as there is no nation building possible in a middle of a war. Yet the death of this soldier becomes a cause for national mourning in New Zealand. As communists we do not mourn his death, nor do we welcome it. As a professional soldier and an officer O'Donnell was prepared to risk his life to wage an oppressive war. His death is part of the defeat of imperialism in Afghanistan.

Monday, July 26, 2010

India: Bourgeois Takes to Offensive Amidst Maoist Calls for Reconciliation

by Rajesh Tyagi/ 24.7.2010

On July 2, the Intelligence agencies of the Centre assisted by the Andhra Police, eliminated one of the top Maoist leader and spokesperson of CPI (Maoist), Cherukuri Rajkumar Azad in the forests of Adilabad, in Andhra Pradesh.

With killing of Azad a major revelation was made. Maoist leadership was negotiating peace in a backroom dialogue with the central government, on the back of its own cadres. The state forces taking advantage of the moment to locate the top Maoist leaders, eliminated one of them.

The dialogue was going on between the Maoist leaders and the Home Minister P. Chidambaram, with mediation of Swami Agnivesh, saffron clad religious leader. Till the time Azad was killed three letters were exchanged between Chidmabaram and Azad through Agnivesh. Swami who led a peace march from May 6-8 between Raipur and Dantewada had initiated the process.

On 11.5.2010, Chidambaram wrote letter to Swami, which was delivered to Azad. On 31.5.2010, Azad gave reply to Swami, which was again delivered to Chidambaram. On 26.6.2010, Chidambaram again wrote letter to Swami, which was delivered to Azad. On 2nd July Azad was caught and eliminated by the security forces. Amazingly, while the text of first two letters has been made public, the third one is suppressed by the Maoist leaders as well the Government.

The backroom dialogue between the Maoist leaders and the Central Government came as a surprise for everyone, above all the Maoist cadres and sympathisers. Maoist leaders who were publicly vowing to overturn the state ‘even before 1935’, were in fact seeking peace through negotiations with the government, has come as a bolt from the blue for advocates of Maoist politics. The demands of Maoists were lifting the ban from CPI(Maoist), release of its leaders and cessation of hostilities.

However, as was proved later by killing of Azad, Maoists were under illusions but not the bourgeois state. The Central Government was clear in its view- it never intended to negotiate the politics or power with Maoists. It sought dictatorship for its class, the class of bourgeois and landlords and firmly moved in that direction without any if’s and but’s. It deceived the Maoist leaders only to break their spine.

Long before in our writings, criticising the Maoist politics, we had predicted that sooner than later, Maoist leadership would be longing for a peace deal with the bourgeois, in return for very limited demands. Tribals and rural peasantry, whose interests Maoists echo, cannot wage an irreconciliable struggle on their own against the rule of bourgeois; it vacillates between war and peace with the bourgeois and so its representatives, the Maoists.

It is not only proletariat but many other sections and groups in the society, who are repressed, tortured, humiliated, exploited and ruined by the ruling bourgeois and thus are forced to rise in opposition to the bourgeois rule at one or the other time. But except proletariat, none of these sections is capable either to wage a consistent struggle against the rule of bourgeois on its own, nor they are interested in that. They may liberate themselves from repressive rule of capital only by following the lead of the working class. Tribals and peasantry, to which the Maoists take to, are such social formations.

Peasantry can realise its radical character only by following the lead of urban working class, the only class in history which stands in genuine opposition to the bourgeois and seriously interested in its overturn. But Maoists come to stand at the head of backward sections of peasantry, while turning their back to the working class, and prevent the working class, the advance guard of the revolution, from taking to the leadership of backward mass, especially the peasantry. Forming themselves into bureaucracy under the banner of a party, the Maoist leadership with urban petty bourgeois origins, thus insulates the rural mass from urban working class. It achieves successes to an extent in the times of general defeat and retreat of the working class and is defeated with rising of the proletariat.

Maoists remain tied to bourgeois through so many strings, including the common friends and take to armed struggle merely to force the bourgeois to negotiate a deal with them. This is what we had seen recently in Nepal and more recently in India. They consciously strive for peace with bourgeois in exchange for petty reforms and concessions. Struggle for them is the road to settlement in one form or the other.

Yesterday the Maoists found a progressive bourgeois in Mayawati, and then in Shibu Soren, today they find common friends with Chidamabaram in Swami Agnivesh. Their propaganda glorifies bourgeois democracy, by talking of democracy in abstract form. Instead of addressing the working class to overturn the rule of bourgeois, Maoists appeal to the bourgeois to stick to the norms and standards of bourgeois democracy set by itself. They call for set of rules and even for an umpire in the struggle against the bourgeois.

While bourgeois strives for its exclusive rule, its class dictatorship, Maoists mislead themselves, the workers and the youth and behind them more backward sections of tribals and peasantry with honeyed phrases of democracy, at each step seeking collaboration with bourgeois, to realise this ‘democracy’. The more bourgeois takes to offensive against the working and toiling people, the more Maoists strive for conciliation with it.

Elimination of Azad at the hands of security forces at a time when Maoists were on the verge of entering a ceasefire with the central government , clearly reveals the inherent weakness of political perspective of Maoists, their illusions in democracy and their unrealizable program of ‘new democratic revolution’ as opposed to the proletarian dictatorship. While bourgeois remains clear in its political aim-to maintain its dictatorship- and demonstrates its readiness to whatever is necessary to be done for that, Maoists dupe themselves with sedatives of ‘peace’ and ‘democracy’.

Alike Stalinists, the Maoists are also avowed enemies of the theory of ‘permanent Revolution’. They retain a misdirected faith in two stage theory of the revolution- democracy today, socialism tomorrow. This false notion of democracy for them is the platform for collaboration with the sections of bourgeois. While the united bourgeois continues to crush the working class and toilers, in association with imperialists and landlords, Maoists seek national and progressive sections in the bourgeois to fight against medievalism and imperialism. They seek ways and means to negotiate a peace with ruling bourgeois.

Reprinted from newwave  with permission.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Smash NACTs Austerity Attack

                                                        John Key and Wen Jiabao

How to defeat NACTs austerity attack

The NACT governments new package of labour reforms is designed to improve 'productivity' and 'create jobs' says John Key. This is the neo-liberal language for increased exploitation of workers under worse conditions to restore profits. Under the new law workers will have fewer rights than they had under the ECA in the 1990s. This is why the CTU has been forced to call for street protests. However, like the social democrats in Greece and Spain, where the EU is imposing tough austerity measures, the CTU will use street protests to try to pressure the Labour Party to the left and defeat the NACTs at the next election. But Labour will not challenge capitalism and imperialism. Its purpose has always been to reconcile workers to capitalism. We say that the working class must organise independently of the Labour Party and fight for a revolutionary party and program to socialise the economy and plan production for need and not profit.

What drives the NACTS?

The NACTs have shifted up a gear to declare an open class war on workers in this country with a series of attacks on work rights (90 days fire at will for all new jobs) beneficiaries (toughening work tests for sickness benefits, DPBs) ACC (denial of sexual abuse counselling) savings (reducing employers Kiwisaver contributions), cuts to health, education, privatisation of social services, tax increases (GST) and so on ad nauseum. The whole point is to force down wages and to cut the social wage to shift more value produced by workers to the bosses and increase their profits.

The rise in violent crime is a direct result of the crisis and the call to arm the police is to up the level of state force to clamp down on workers and suppress refusal of workers to pay for the crisis. It is not a policy option for the NACTS, rural rednecks or bloody minded fascists as some think.

And it certainly can't be fixed by a Labour Government that Sue Bradford is calling for. It is a specific response by the NZ ruling class to the immediate crisis of profitability in the export oriented sectors. Resistance to the NACTs which merely aims to get Labour into government in 2011 will fail miserably as we explain below.

Chinese semi-colony?

The NACTs represent international capital in NZ facing a serious global crisis of falling profits that is heading for another great depression like the 1930s. NZ is a weak, low-wage semi-colonial producer of bulk commodity exports. Its a price taker and not a price maker in the world market which means that the NZ capitalist class has to drive down the costs of production to get any share of the profits from agriculture, mining, tourism and education etc., that have historically flowed to  British, US, and Australian imperialism. Today that value is increasingly flowing to Chinese imperialism. The national share of profits, wages, taxes and social services in Aotearoa depends on the profits retained from the value of export earnings of these commodities, and today it is the relationship with China that is critical to this distribution of the national income. 

To keep the whole economy buoyant the prices for commodity exports (agriculture, tourism, tertiary education etc) have to be held up by increasing demand in these imperialist and other economies. They want cheap milkpowder, cheap ironsands, cheap honeymoons and cheap degrees. This means competing with other semi-colonial exporters by driving down the prices of production including labour costs (fire at will, performance pay for teachers in schools and unis, workfare) environmental costs (gutting the RMA, cutting ETS obligations) and energy costs (privatise water, privatise national parks, foreshore and seabed, make workers subsidise corporations (eg RioTinto-formerly Comalco, electricity, and billions in ETS subsidies).

The main demand for such commodities at the moment is being driven by China which is rapidly overtaking the other imperialist powers as NZ's main trading partner. This explains the NACT's subservience to Chinese imperialism and NZ's weakening ties with its traditional trading partners - apart from Australia which is a weak imperialist power dependent on China for its growth and NZ's main trading partner.

The opposition to selling land to Chinese corporations and the growing Chinese migrant population reflects this increasing influence. China is the only large dynamic capitalist economy whose rapid growth is so far preventing the global economy going into a complete slump. That is why in the last analysis the NACTs policies are those of a NZ semi-colonial ruling class forced to serve the interests of Chinese imperialism.

Strategy for fight back

Understanding the class enemy then, is the key to fighting back. The NACTs represent a subservient, largely parasitic, NZ ruling class that is becoming the lackey of Chinese imperialism. They have no room to manoever but have to cut production costs to meet the demands of Chinese imperialism. Key signals this when he agreed to joint ventures with Chinese corporations in third countries. He is acting for NZ bosses seeking a stake in the profits from China's ability to super-exploit third world countries. Such pressure to outsource NZ production will grow if costs at home are not cut drastically.

This is the new template that shapes NZ politics. We can call it the Chinese century. Its excludes the possibility of reforms since these raise capital's costs and harm NZ's competitiveness. Whatever the antics of the NZ ruling class they are driven by this necessity. And NZ workers do not have the clout of Chinese workers who are winning higher wages from a very low base. The only alternative for NZ workers is to fight for a socialist Aotearoa.

Socialism needs a revolution

The make this absolutely clear, by socialism we mean the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by a socialist, planned economy democratically administered by the working class. We do not mean some fake socialism  which can be won by a 'progressive' bloc between workers and national capitalists benefitting from the relationship with China.  Much of the left models its brand of socialism on market socialist reforms. Parliamentary socialism is the  Standardista brand. The there is the Chinese brand which advocates a form of market socialist state that acts to 'develop' rather than 'colonise' the semi-colonial world. This is the Chavista or Bolivarian brand espoused by the Australian Green Left and local mimics.

We have discussed the danger for workers of these left reformist positions at length elsewhere. We argued that China is no different from the US or EU imperialists in Asia, Africa or Latin America, where it extracts super profits like all imperialist powers, even if its methods differ. We conclude that there is no possibility of the NZ working class being able to follow some imaginary Fabian, Chavist or Chinese road to market socialism.

Therefore, the fight for a socialist Aotearoa is not just against the NACTs, but also against the Labour Party backed by the CTU union bureaucracy which thinks that it can reform capitalism in the new Chinese Century because NZ's relationship with China is 'progessive'.

Aotearoa socialist republic

In its essence the fight for socialism is the not to kowtow to China but to join forces with Chinese workers to fight to expropriate imperialism and the NZ ruling class who are the junior partners of imperialism.

By socialism we mean collective ownership and also collective consumption of value as the product of labour. Nationalisation can become collective property only if workers take control and prevent the privatisation of value as profits (eg stop private mining of national parks). This means defending state owned assets not only from privatisation but also from private appropriation of value by putting them under workers control. This means nationalising under workers control all land and landbased resources, the key sectors of industry, and the banks,  as steps towards socialism.

How do we get there?

 The Maori struggle to regain customary ownership of the Foreshore and Seabed is one avenue. It would tie up land and sea-based resources as common property that opens the way to end private profits. However, in itself it does not stop profiteering by corrupt bosses or by capitalist partners (such as Maori held fishing quota in JVs with Japanese corporations).

But we have no confidence in the Maori Party brand of iwi communalism. It would see customary land benefitting iwi capitalists rather than Maori workers. It would copy the Chinese 'Communist Party' capitalists. Land in China is state owned, but the capitalists  are able to make profits from the labour value extracted from workers on that land. To stop this Maori customary land would have to be democratically administered by the majority of Maori workers to ensure that the rent (value) produced was also collectively used to meet the needs of the masses and not the private greed of any class of shareholders. Maori workers have a common interest in this with Chinese workers to socialise nationalised property!

Land Nationalisation

This is the model for the agricultural sector. Here the demand for land nationalisation should not be based on opposition to foreign ownership (the CAFCA and Green Party and some Maori nationalists line) but collective working class ownership which requires class alliances with foreign workers. Agricultural workers would call for a class alliance with working farmers in NZ and poor peasants in China. And since nationalisation in itself does not prevent profiteering, the workers in this sector need to demand land nationalisation under workers and small farmers control.  This would remove the costs of servicing mortages as one major flow of rent from the land to a parasitic class or rentiers. Similarly the attempts by Fonterra to create shares that can be traded on the stock exchange is designed to allow international finance capital to profit from the labour of working dairy farmers.

It is interesting that the NACTs are opening up to Chinese imperialist investment in Agriculture while Alan Hubbard who offers interest-free loans to young farmers is seen as a threat to the profits of the corporates. Hubbard proves that farmers can benefit from their own labour without being mortaged to the big banks. Socialism however, cannot be built on Christian philanthropy. In exchange for land nationalisation farmers would have interest free state loans and access to state R and D to develop their land and retain the product of their labour.

Action Program

In this situation where NZ's economic role is that of a semi-colony to Chinese imperialism facing a global crisis, no trust can be put in the National or Labour parties that both subordinate workers to the capitalist class and to imperialism. In every sector where the new employment reforms are designed to drive down wages and conditions, such as in agriculture, mining, tourism, education, etc., to allow Chinese and other imperialists to reap super-profits from Aotearoa, workers have to fight for what they need now and not what the local or Chinese capitalists say they can 'afford' to pay.

Jobs for all on a living wage! Reduce hours and share the work. Benefits tied to the living wage!

For unions on every jobsite under the control of the membership with recallable delegates!

For rank and file control of the unions. For union independence from the state. Break with the union bureaucracy!

No sackings under the 90 days act! All for one and one for all!

Equal rights for all workers by age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality!

For workers committees and assemblies in every city.

For a national Congress of workers assemblies.

For a general strike to smash the NACTs austerity program!

No to privatisations! For nationalisation of the land and key sectors of the economy under workers control with no compensation!

For a socialist Aotearoa/New Zealand!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

US: The Deepwater Horizon Disaster: Oil Spill Shows Capitalists Unfit to Rule

During the OPEC oil embargo of 1973-74, war criminal Henry Kissinger is reputed to have quipped, "Oil is too important to be left to the control of the Arabs". We have a different perspective: Oil is too dangerous to be left to the control of the capitalists!

As we go to press in late June 2010, the oil spill (read: gush) into the Gulf of Mexico from British Petroleum‘s exploded oil rig Deepwater Horizon has already become the worst oil spill disaster in world history, far exceeding the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, and even the 1979 Ixtoc disaster off the coast of Mexico – and there is no end in sight.

Since April 20, when the actions of BP and its contractors set off the initial explosion that sank the oil rig – the deepest offshore oil drilling operation in the U.S., if not in the world –  tens if not hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil have gushed out each day into the Gulf of Mexico, and onto the coastlines of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. In Florida, the oil has reached the pristine white beaches, many of the tourists are gone, and many thousands have lost their jobs. The same coastal areas of the Gulf that were pounded by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and left to rot by the Bush administration, have been hit hardest by the oil spill, and have been left to rot by Obama, the Democratic 'environmental' President.

Time has come and gone for stopping the gusher and cleaning the spill, but the government has merely pretended to put Obama's boot on BP's throat, all the while canalizing and damming up the righteous fury of the Gulf Coast residents with all the power of the Washington spin machine. Over and over, the true picture has been suppressed by BP spokespersons, government experts, the police, and compliant editors and publishers in the mainstream press. The Coast Guard has put force behind the spin, raising false hope in each of the parade of fixes, killing priceless time and guardingthe prerogatives and property of BP until two relief wells come to the rescue (maybe) in August. A million gallons of crude oil are being burned off on the surface daily, yet we see no mention of any possible effects on public health in the region, or on climate change, and neither OSHA nor the EPA has attempted to intervene.

The vast area of ocean covered by the oil spill approaches 4000 square miles, the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.[1] In combination, the crude oil from the well plus the toxic chemical dispersants used by BP now pose a major public health danger to the coastal populations of the Gulf – as with Hurricane Katrina. At the same time, oil from the BP spill has begun to enter the ocean currents of the Gulf Stream. This could carry dangerous pollutants along the coast of Florida and the East Coast towards Europe and the rest of the world – where the toxic plumes could destroy entire fish populations around the globe. Hurricane season has already started, and severe storms pose a threat of even greater dispersal of the toxins and carcinogens now floating in the Gulf in vast quantities.

Almost all the public statements made by BP and the Obama administration about the spill have been nothing but an endless barrage of lies. BP and the government have done the bare minimum to stop the spill and clean it up, in order to minimize the damage to BP's profits. Initially, official estimates by both BP and the U.S. government put the figure for the size of the spill at between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels per day (at 42 gallons to the barrel).

However, this proved to be at least five times less than the measurements made by university scientists and environmental groups, who severely criticized BP's mathematical analysis and arrived at figures that put the size of the blowout at a minimum of 70,000 barrels per day. And the numbers just keep on rising. After BP was forced to provide a high quality video of the spill, independent scientists estimated that it was releasing at least 25,000 barrels per day – and possibly as much as 100,000 barrels per day![2]

In stark contrast to the lies by BP CEO Tony Hayward in May 2010 that the impact of the spill would be "very, very modest", Deepwater Horizon is one of the worst oil spills in history. It  amounts to nothing less than a monstrous crime against nature by capitalism, specifically U.S. and British imperialism. The only way humanity can prevent such hellish environmental catastrophes in the future is for the working class in the U.S. and around the globe to rise up and get rid of capitalism, once and for all, through the socialist revolution. The earth's ecosphere will not survive more than a few decades unless the working class takes power and establishes socialism on a worldwide scale.

The explosion and fire that sank the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 workers. One of the last workers to escape the explosion was Mike Williams, a technician working for Transocean, the company that leased the oil rig to British Petroleum. In a television interview broadcast in May 2010, Williams exposed the central role played by BP executives in creating the conditions that led to the massive blowout of crude oil from the well.

Immediately before the spill, BP executives arrived at the rig to oversee the completion of drilling by Transocean and the plugging of the well by Transocean‘s contractor, Halliburton. At a management safety meeting held on the rig, Transocean managers proposed to insert three concrete plugs into the well and keep down the massive pressure by using heavy drilling fluid called mud. According to Williams, the BP manager responded, "Well, my process is different, and I think we‘re going to do it this way".[3] [4] What BP management wanted was to begin removing the mud before the last plug was set, and so speed up the operation to save money. Of course BP got their way, and what resulted was a massive blast of methane gas that set off the entire disaster.

From the very beginning, BP's attempts at closing off the gushing oil well have been halfhearted at best, and token at worst. Much like any other capitalist corporation, every single step BP has taken since April 20th has been motivated by its bottom line, the protection of its sacred super-profits ($6 billion in the first quarter of 2010). This included its decision to put off a costly 'top kill' operation to close off the oil well until well over a month after the spill – only to find that it did not work after all. In this regard, BP is not especially greedy, anti-environmental or evil – especially in comparison to American corporations! BP is simply obeying the laws of capitalism's 'free' market in extracting (and often spilling) oil solely for the pursuit for profit – and not to satisfy real human or environmental needs.

Oil slicks from the BP spill have already reached the Gulf wetlands and beaches, killing thousands of birds, fish, marine mammals, and oyster beds, as well as plant life. Still, BP continues to deny the existence of oil plumes. Plumes are huge curtains of oil that remain deep in the ocean and may note even be detectable from its surface. For example, just one plume has been measured at 3 miles across and 1,500 feet thick, at a depth of 3,600 feet below the surface of the ocean.[5] Plumes like these have the potential to kill hundreds of dolphins and whales, and millions of fish and other marine organisms. If this situation continues for another month or two, huge sections of the Gulf of Mexico could well become a dead zone.[6] This could bring dire consequences for the ecology, the fishing industry, and tourism, not only in the U.S. states that border on the Gulf, but also in portions of the Caribbean.

Thousands of Gulf Coast fishermen and shrimpers who were made jobless by the BP spill have volunteered to become involved in the oil cleanup. But BP has not been willing to hire more than a small number of them – and only on condition that they first renounce their right to sue the company. These fishermen are likely to lose their livelihoods for many years, and BP offers them $5000 each! This barely pays the interest on their insurance costs. Most of them have received nothing as of yet. BP also refused to supply the fishermen with protective equipment, and now many of them have become sick from exposure to the crude oil and dispersants. To add insult to injury, BP threatened to fire workers in clean-up crews who turned up for work wearing protective respirators. EPA tests have shown that the combined effect of crude oil and dispersants, in the form of small airborne particles, is even more toxic than they are separately.[7] This may also explain why five offshore rigs were shut down soon after the spill when rig workers fell ill.

While a lot of attention has been focused on the role of the BP corporation and its executives, the liberal and environmental left in the U.S. has tried to downplay or ignore the close ties between BP, and the oil industry generally, and the Obama administration. Obama was the recipient of huge financial contributions from BP-controlled PACs and PB employees during the 2008 election.[8] BP continues even now to expend millions of dollars to lobby top Democrats in Washington, including Democrats close to Obama himself.

During the first two weeks of the BP spill, many even in the mainstream media commented on how Obama and BP seemed to be speaking with one voice. On April 2, 2010, just weeks before the spill, Obama stated that "I don't agree with the notion that we shouldn't do any [offshore drilling]. It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced"[9] These remarks were made in response to a question about Obama's speech declaring hisintention to open up large areas of the U.S. coastline to offshore drilling.[10]

The administration continued to stand by this decision for two weeks after the rig exploded, and asserted that the disaster would in no way lessen its support for the lifting of a moratorium on offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast. As White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs maintained to reporters a few days after the rig explosion, "In all honesty I doubt this is the first accident that has happened and I doubt it will be the last. We need the increased production. The President still continues to believe the great majority of that can be done safely, securely and without any harm to the environment."[11] [12]

Even as late as mid-June, Obama's Interior Secretary stated that it was his hope that the moratorium prohibiting offshore drilling would lass less than six months! Obama continued to defend BP even in the face of scandals involving the Minerals Management Service, the department of the federal government responsible for regulating offshore drilling and other industrial activity of the oil industry in the U.S. While issuing 'safety alerts' to BP and other oil companies to activate back-up switches on oil rigs (an option of last resort to prevent crude oil blowouts), the MMS did nothing to enforce its regulations. The director of MMS stepped down after the spill when it was revealed that MMS staff had accepted 'gifts' from oil companies, such as tickets to sports events, lunches, and even sex parties with industry-hired prostitutes.

Opinion polls published in the first month after the BP spill showed that the vast majority of those surveyed were critical and even angry at the Obama administration's response to the disaster – almost to the same degree as they were at BP. Even fellow Democrat James Carville of Louisiana pleaded with Obama a month after the spill, "Man, you got to get down here and take control of this, put somebody in charge of this thing and get this moving," he said. "We‘re about to die down here."[13] While the pressure of public opinion caused Obama to shift his position and extend the moratorium on new offshore drilling permits – to a token six months – he has adamantly refused to budge on his insistence that BP remain in charge of shutting down and cleaning up the spill.

Like his Republican predecessor, Obama and his administration are 100% committed to supporting the industrial production of the oil companies, including offshore drilling, regardless of the destructive results to the environment. If supporting the oil industry was not on Obama's agenda, why would his administration have spent billions, if not trillions, of dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? The truth is that U.S., European, and now Chinese imperialism are all absolutely dependent on oil to fuel their economic exploitation of the planet and the working class around the world.

This is even more true today, because the world is experiencing the worst capitalist economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Oil has become the lifeblood of modern day imperialism, and it is precisely for this reason that the Middle East and the ex-Soviet republics in central Asia are such critical areas of the world to imperialism. At the same time, the oi lcompanies and other powerful multinational corporations, which are at the heart of the U.S. capitalist economy, depend for their very existence on the continuation of highly dangerous processes and unchecked pollution. The oil and petrochemical industries are one of the main sources of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and global warming.

The capitalists who own the means of energy production (such as offshore oil rigs, refineries, coal mines, and the like) are incapable of defending the environment and protecting humanity from the effects of environmental damage or climate change. This is because of capitalism's commitment to production for the sake of profit. In the market, need is measured not in terms of hunger, sickness or pollution, but in terms of profit. The capitalists of BP and other the oil companies have no reason whatsoever to avoid the pollution of the environment if this impedes the production of their profit. It is the job of Obama and the politicians of the twin ruling class parties, the Democrats and Republicans, to protect the interests of the oil companies and make sure that nothing does indeed impede their production of profits.

The recent observations by environmental scientists that oil from the spill has begun to enter the Gulf Stream, and that the BP oil gush has released huge amounts of methane into the Ocean, underlines the urgency of this environmental catastrophe. Modern day imperialism has created the potential to destroy the whole global environment. Already the ice covering the Arctic Ocean has begun to disappear as a result of global warming. If the frozen methane that lies beneath the Arctic Ocean begins to thaw, it will release a greenhouse gas (methane-air mixture) that is 26 times worse than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming effect. In other words, what the catastrophic oil spill highlights is the urgency of the environmental crisis created by global capitalism.

The widespread destruction of fish populations by oil pollution carried by the Gulf Stream, and the other threats posed by climate change from greenhouse gas emissions, means that now more than ever, our planet is facing a dire environmental emergency. To avoid the further destruction of this planet, all offshore drilling must stop now.

Workers at home and abroad must combine their struggle against the economic crisis of the capitalist system with environmental consciousness. The working class must fight for workers' control of the oil industry and of all industries that emit greenhouse gases. Workers must control heavy industry so we can implement the emergency measures needed to transform our current industrial technologies into green, environmentally friendly, sustainable technologies.

What this means today, in the aftermath of the worst oil spill in U.S. history, is that the oil and energy industries must be nationalized under workers‘ control, with no compensation to the bosses. To pay for the clean-up operations, we must demand hundreds of billions of dollars from the oil and energy companies who are responsible for the destruction of the environment in the first place. At present, despite all their promises, Obama and BP have hired ridiculously small crews of workers to clean up the vast areas of contamination of wetland, beaches, and open ocean in the Gulf of Mexico.

We can already see that the serious cleanup objectively called for would require an international emergency effort on the scale of that undertaken during the World Wars. We demand that as part of an environmental public works program, millions of the able-bodied unemployed be hired at union wages and benefits, trained, housed, fed, and equipped with proper protective equipment, and deployed to scour the waters, the wetlands, the islands, and the beaches; to clean and rehabilitate injured wildlife; and to dispose of the waste in an environmentally sensitive manner.

The clean-up must be placed entirely under workers' control and carried out by workers' organizations in conjunction with independent scientists and engineers. Much more could be done through the creative use of existing technology and resources. For example, the trucks used to remove waste from portable toilets can be used to clean up oil spills by sucking oil into their holding tanks. The armed forces, with all their technology and equipment, can be put to much better use in cleaning up the oil spill than in killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The operations aimed at plugging the well must be also be placed under the control of the oil and energy workers. Independent scientists from the oil industry and the government should coordinate the efforts, and all BP personnel must be subordinated to these independent scientists, who in turn must be accountable and under the control of oil and energy workers.

Finally, an investigation of this monstrous crime against nature and humanity must be carried out by committees of workers in the oil industry, working with scientists and engineers accountable to the working class. We call on the International Trade Union Conference, the AFL-CIO, and the United Steelworkers (now home to the former Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union) to form an independent, international workers' commission of inquiry into this totally preventable disaster. We would want them to interview everyone who ever worked on this project, and every living victim of the explosion and its results, and to gather information not only on the immediate environmental and economic effects of the disaster, but also on the long term health effects to cleanup workers and Gulf residents, and other indirect consequences.

We call for a Workers' Militia to accompany them in their  investigation, so that they will suffer no interference, obstruction, or obfuscation by BP or any government body. The Workers' Commission of Inquiry should report to an international workers' tribunal, primarily made up of workers from the Gulf Coast states, as well as affected workers in other areas such as Mexico and the Caribbean, but also representing local fishermen and the unemployed. A workers' tribunal would establish culpability and bring charges, but also publish findings and assess true costs – including losses to the pension funds that invested in BP, representing the retirement dreams of many millions of workers.

In the end, only workers' control of the means of production can prevent the recurrence of such environmental catastrophes in the future. The entire energy industry, including the oil corporations and the Wall Street investors and banks that finance them, must be expropriated without compensation – that is, nationalized under workers control – and defended by a workers' government. In reality, this goal can only be achieved if the working class in the U.S. and around the globe rise up, and get rid of capitalism once and for all through the socialist revolution.
  • Hands off the workers helping in the clean up; no gag orders on participants; no interference with media access to BP personnel, cleanup workers, and Gulf area residents and locations!
  • Immediate, full replacement of wages and benefits for all those who lose work as a result of the disaster, directly or indirectly! Billions of dollars to fund retraining and create millions of jobs in remediation!
  • Provide appropriate protective equipment for all cleanup personnel. Provide health care for all, especially for cleanup workers and those affected by the spill. Provide multilingual health warnings at all affected beaches and fishing areas.
  • No cap on BP’s obligation to pay for every penny of the cleanup cost and all damages to Gulf Coast workers, fishermen, and their families. Prosecute all BP executives and regulators whose decisions contributed to this disaster!

Reprinted with permission from International Trotskyist, vol 1 no 2 Summer 2010.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Class Struggle 89 May-June 2010

Wairoa – meat workers under attack

Capitalist freezing works Affco has effectively locked out meat workers early at the Wairoa works. Sheep chains, which usually continue processing until September, have been threatened with early closure and the night shift is locked out already.
Day shift workers had been given ultimatum to increase workload (process more meat) and lose their overtime, or face shutdown early (essentially being locked out of their jobs). We heard the employer has threatened that workers showing any fight back would never work there again. First Affco layed off 70 workers; then they locked out the last 130 from the sheep meat chain. Only about 100 jobs remain on the beef chain.
The union leadership fails to lead a fight against this rotten capitalist attack. They say Affco’s ultimatum given to the workers was a breach of the workers' contract. So all they do is take it to the lawyers - heading to the Employment Relations Authority.

Stay in the Union –dump the union officials, and elect fighting officials.


Bosses abuse migrants

Telecom’s use of sub contracting and battle against the Engineer’s Union (EU) in Auckland got to the point where Telecom (like many capitalists), used migrant workers to scab against the union. Why? because the capitalist immigration laws leave migrants vulnerable to being thrown out of the country if they don’t have a job! For migrants to strike with the union or be locked out by the employer– then technically (by immigration law) they have no job so their work permit is void. Their job that they have to have to apply for permanent residency has gone!

The capitalist immigration law must be defeated to protect migrant workers and defend working class jobs wages and conditions. Defend migrant workers against deportations.

Tuhoe Urewera

CWG support Maori occupation of and working on their traditional (stolen) lands. We don’t have illusions in Tuhoe being able to develop modern production on the lands of the Ureweras. However there are existing resources such as the power stations built under / downstream from Lake Waikaremoana. CWG supports Tuhoe control of the Urewera’s with Department of Conservation workers, Council roading workers and Genesis energy workers.

No public money for private profits: against privatisation!

This government is gifting public money to private capitalists. Privatisation costs us more: the PSA “last time the ACRP was privatised it cost the government more than what it did when it was publicly run. Between 2000 and 2005 it cost the Australian company managing the remand prison $43,000 per inmate to run it. During the same period Corrections’ operating costs per remand prisoner were $36,000.”

Since capitalists continue to lock up a larger section of the working class, they have to build more prisons. We are against the capitalist legal system which lets the rich off, and locks the poor up. Most crime is property related and the criminal- justice system is the capitalist method to control the working class. Still they let white-collar fraudsters go free. They lock up political prisoners and refugees in these same prisons.

While prisons are publicly run, the management remain state “neutral”. In the US, prison companies have become a lobby group that back longer sentences and donate a fraction of their profits to those political lobbies which will continue to support privatised prisons. It would not surprise me if overseas private prison companies were already meddling in NZ politics.

Nat-Act government just announced that 1000-1500 beds male prison at Wiri is to be designed, built and operated as a “Public Private Partnership” (PPP). They claim that the PPP could save 10 to 20 per cent in costs over the 25 to 35-year life of the proposed contract - more likely it will cost 20 to 40 per cent extra costs.

The Maori party are as guilty of selling out workers. Their consent for Nat-Act’s programme of PPPs is easily bought with promises of Maori participation in management and Maori lead prisoner re-integration programmes. The Maori managers will exploit working Maori who take on the real work.

This Nat – Act government is giving out lollies to their mates the capitalist class with these public private partnerships. Private companies have to cream a profit for the capitalists. They build poorer quality and provide poorer quality services as their profit motive drive them to the bottom lines, rather than public services which hold an ethic of public good (in spite of government cost costing).
There will be PPP’s for roading developments such as the Transmission Gully route into Wellington. Nat - Act are rewriting the Education Bill for PPP to be used on state schools. Of course Nat-Act are preparing super-sized Auckland for sale to private interests: water, roading, transport, and every other council is under the same pressure.

End corporate welfare dependence.
Make the Capitalists pay for their own crisis.
Defend public jobs –no contracting out.
For a Workers’Tamaki Makaurau!
For a Socialist Super City, in a socialist Aotearoa, in a Socialist Federation of the South Pacific!

Auckland Supercity fight is Class War

John Banks, prospective NACT- backed candidate for mayor of Auckland Supercity with his NACT mate, Prime Minister, bankster John Key.

China Foxconn: Capitalism in a nutshell

This tells us all we need to know about Capitalism today. In order to make a profit in selling media hardware devices, the MNCs like Apple, Sony and HP try to get the biggest profit margin they can. This means using cheap, skilled and pliable labor, working long hours for low pay.

Israel has no National Rights

The outrage of world public opinion towards the IDF attack on the peace flotilla has once again focussed on the extreme behaviour of the colonial settler state of Israel, labelling it a 'rogue' state, or a 'fascist' state. The problem with this reaction is in the assumption that Israel can be a normal, even a democratic state with national rights.

US: Neither Health Care Nor Reform

Health care will not be won in the halls of Congress; it will be won only in hard-fought battles at the point of production. This will require mass strikes, coordinated across industries.

China in Africa: The Real Story

There is a lot of confusion about the role of China in Africa. Everyone can see that China is making giant leaps in Africa. But why? Is China the lastest fashion in colonisation or some fairy godmother giving back more than it takes from Africa?
Deborah Brautigam’s book The Dragon’s Gift: the Real Story of China in Africa helps us find the answers. China’s role in Africa during its period as a so-called ‘communist’ country was to collaborate with national liberations struggles and form SOEs with the new leaderships. But with the return to capitalism in China since the mid-80s it’s interest has shifted towards commercial investments. Today China’s role in Africa is that of a rising capitalist world power.

pdf file Class Struggle 89

China in Africa: The Real Story

There is a lot of confusion about the role of China in Africa. Everyone can see that China is making giant leaps in Africa. But why? Is China the lastest fashion in colonisation or some fairy godmother giving back more than it takes from Africa?

Deborah Brautigam’s book The Dragon’s Gift: the Real Story of China in Africa helps us find the answers.

China’s role in Africa during its period as a so-called ‘communist’ country was to collaborate with national liberations struggles and form SOEs with the new leaderships. But with the return to capitalism in China since the mid-80s it’s interest has shifted towards commercial investments. Today China’s role in Africa is that of a rising capitalist world power.

Without saying so in as may words, Brautigam describes China as a newly emerging imperialist power that is deliberately following the same model of capitalist development that succeeded in China itself. It recognises that African economies have to develop and the best way to do this is to invest in infrastructure to increase productivity and skills so that it in the long run China will profit from its ‘cooperation’ in Africa’s development. Brautigam expands on this theme in her blog.

On the surface, nothwithstanding China’s arm trade and deals with regimes like Zimbabwe, Sudan and Guinea, this looks very different from the classic imperialist methods of ripping out raw materials and leaving Africa underdeveloped and mired in poverty.

For example many on the left are convinced that China's investment in massive infrastructure projects in schools, hospitals, railways etc means it is not copying the old colonial super-exploitation of imperialism. Surely China is aiding the development of Africa so must be doing something progressive? 

Brautigam addresses this question. She points out two things that show China doing this for profit. First, building infrastructure is linked to developing physical access to resources and also getting payment in resources in countries already facing big debts. Second, much of the construction work goes to Chinese firms: Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea, China Eximbank has provided very large, very competitive, but still commercial-rate loans to finance infrastructure, with payment guaranteed in oil (or other resources). Doesnt this show that it really is about oil (you can substitute copper, iron ore, timber, etc)?
Resources matter, but China's "mutual benefit" approach is about generating business. African resources are definitely part of this. But there is much more. Exports, for example: the Chinese exported more than $50 billion worth of equipment, consumer goods, adn machinery to Africa in 2008. China's single largest Africa investment to date has been Industrial and Commercial Bank of China's purchase of 20% of South Africa's Standard Bank for $5.6 B. Contracts for infrastructure are hugely important. In 2007 alone, Chinese construction companies earned revenues of $12.6 billion and signed contracts for more than $29 billion in Africa. China's telecom firm Huawei, constructing phone systems across Africa, earned more revenues than any other Chinese engineering company world-wide in 2007. As a Nigerian diplomat told me in Beijing: "The Chinese are trying to get involved in every sector of our economy. If you look at the West, it's oil, oil, and nothing else."
(The Dragon's Gift, 279).

So while China's methods are different to the crude resource extraction we associate with colonisation, closer analysis reveals that it is merely applying the lesson that it learned at home as a late entrant into the imperialist stakes. The new Chinese bourgeoisie found that it was possible to use a powerful state apparatus inherited from the bureaucratic ‘communist’ state to outmanuver its old imperialist enemies and become the rising world power.

Applying this lesson in Africa, China is making sure that it can create the conditions for African development from which its new imperialist ruling class will hugely profit and so steal another march on its imperialist rivals. Of course this is not confined to Africa. Bolivia's dream of capitalist development is being bankrolled by China.

Those on the 'left' who think that China is some kind of progressive capitalist power, if not a socialist system actively aiding the 'third-world', are blind to China's real interests of advancing its own imperialist sphere of interest at the expense of its more established rivals.
They are creating illusions in the ability of capitalism to find a way out of its crisis through a Chinese model of 'market-socialism' rather than a full scale socialist revolution.