Thursday, July 28, 2011

Zimbabwe: Revolutionary Workers' Group Launched

The National Coordinating Council (NCC) of the International Socialist Organization of Zimbabwe(ISO-Z) met on the 28th of June for the sole purpose of launching an Organization whose name reflects our detachment with the International Socialist Tendency as well reflecting our evolved ideology and program. The Revolutionary Workers Group is the logical successor of the ISO that split in 2009 and withstood a high jacking attempt in 2010 after the initiation of the reconstitution agenda in 2008 when a new leadership was elected.

Through discussions and debates both internally and externally and interfacing with our collective experience we managed to evolve from a semi-Trotskyist to a Trotskyist platform that utilizes the theory of Permanent Revolution as its political framework on the basis of a Transitional program that guides workers for the sole purpose of seizing power and laying a dictatorship of the proletariat. Central to this is the application of the dialectic as the best tool for social diagnosis and prognosis and provide a revolutionary program that differs from those of a variety of reformist and fake Trotskyist groupings whose main aim is to hijack the revolutionary fervent and channel it into a cynical reformist alley that has brought so much misery and sorrow for generations of the toiling masses.

Our program has as its basis the needs of the masses and the best way of mobilising them as well as exposing their class enemies elements including:
  • a sliding scale of wages and prices, price controls on all goods and services
  • nationalization of all key sectors of the economy
  • redistribution of land to the poor peasants
  • state projects to employ the unemployed
  • a working peoples convention of rank and file organizations of workers to write a new constitution.
  • a workers government on the basis of the armed masses to implement all this.
  • building a Trotskyist organization as part of a revolutionary center.
  • no to reformism and Stalinism.
  • national revolution (in Southern Africa) as part of a regional onslaught on capital.
  • no to US and Chinese led imperialisms.
The various so called leftist or socialist organizations in Zimbabwe as a reflection of the international situation have reduced themselves into sectarian, reformist and centrist formations with nothing in common with the revolutionary tradition and agenda. Since the election in 2008 and especially since our special congress in August last year we made a deliberate effort to clarify our outlook and political tools before attempting to claim to be seriously championing the interests of the workers. This launch marks the end of that period as we now focus on political work in view of the impending clash between the workers and capital that is represented by the inclusive government.

Zimbabwe is limping from a position of a semi-colony under economic siege in a degenerating capitalist system that is forced to resort to brutal wars in order to guarantee some stability in a perspective of impending collapse for a system that has ruined livelihoods and survives thanks to the betrayals of the so-called workers leaders. With the working class demoralized and betrayed by these so-called leaders the national end game is now firmly in the hands of the two poles of imperialism as witnessed by the so-called 'u turn' by SADC on Zimbabwe which is nothing but a logical outcome of a managed transition that excludes or manipulates the masses of any nation. China has decided to sacrifice its interests in Zimbabwe for those of South Africa which can be threatened by a shift of political ground in that country and it is also probable that the US promised not to threaten the interests of China.

Internally but to a minor extent Zanu has managed to retain control of the National Bourgeoisie and thereby pitting it against imperialism though the true nature of the relationship still has to be verified. Zanu will definitely lose any election that is to be held in accordance with a strict adherence to an agreed roadmap as this will more or less be a repetition of March 29 2008 though this time both the MDC and its handlers are cleverer. Any election that is not endorsed by SADC or has elements of what the US and its allies call an unfair poll will be disastrous for the regime as this will provide the political grounds for imperialism to intervene. The splits in Zanu as to the holding of the election is testimony of how the party has been manipulated by the West as a basis for an internal crisis necessary for invasion and its probable that the same is true for the military despite its public utterances.

We would like to extend our revolutionary gratitude to the Liaison Committee comprising the HWRS of USA and CWG of New Zealand for their comradely support during this difficult time and we look forward to developing our relationship into one that ensures the revolutionary coordination of struggles in the different regions we come from. This is only the start for our role as the vanguard of the working class to whom we lay all our efforts and gifts as we embark on this historic mission. This to all intents and purposes is the launch of the first Trotskyist organization in this country and probably in the region and we are prepared to share our experience and struggles with our brothers in the region as we prepare for a revolution in Southern Africa as part of the African and world revolution. Despite the institutional challenges that we face we posses the most critical elements for any revolutionary body worth its name that is ideological and political clarity as well as a committed membership.

We still face a challenge in setting up a fully functional office as well as producing a workers paper and we appeal to all working class organizations and individuals who share our objectives of smashing the capitalist system to help. Indeed the global imperialist system is facing a deep crisis that today is threatening key countries like Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Even in the heartland of America the protests by workers is taking on a political character not to mention the aggressive and brutal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya over natural resources. The recent revolts in the Arab countries clearly shows the limitations of the capitalist system in its decaying phase.

Closer home the protests last year in Mozambique and South Africa and the recent ones in Swaziland as well as the current struggles on Botswana proves the inability of this system to play any progressive role.

30th June 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

REVIEW: The Great Wrong War: New Zealand Society in WW1.

By Stevan Eldred-Grigg. (Random House NZ)

Future generations of New Zealanders may well thank Stevan Eldred-Grigg for setting the record straight about many aspects of WW1 crucial to understanding its true nature and its adverse impact on NZ society. His book proves beyond reasonable doubt that New Zealanders were misled into the war in both senses of the word “misled”. (i) The chauvinistic leadership of the country by the Reform/Liberal coalition government was irresponsibly inept in that it failed in its duty to rationally consider the consequences of NZ’s involvement, and (ii) it misled our citizens about its real reasons for involving them at all.  Above all he exposes the big lie that the war was fought to defend freedom, justice and democracy. It is better described as an aggressive war of imperialist expansion in which any properly informed and genuinely freedom loving populace would be ashamed to participate.

Amongst the relevant historical facts of which this reader was hitherto unaware, and for which he is grateful to Eldred-Grigg for having brought to his attention are that even while British propaganda was fabricating stories of German atrocities in Belgium British troops were massacring peaceful protesters in Nigeria; while Britain supposedly went to war because it was bound by treaty to defend Belgium’s neutrality. a similar treaty supposedly guaranteeing the neutrality of African colonies was also violated- not by Germany, but by Britain. And had German or Turkish occupying armies treated civilians in the way that New Zealand occupiers treated Egyptians and Palestinians, the Entente’s propaganda machine would certainly have accused them of barbarism.

That such facts have not hitherto been widely known is undoubtedly due to their having been suppressed because they nullify the state’s claim to be fighting in defence of freedom, democracy and civilisation against unfreedom and barbarity.

At the outset of the war the claim to be defending freedom and democracy was suspect to the class-conscious workers on account of the alliance with the Tsarist autocracy in Russia. (It was already suspect to most Maori who had experienced colonialist “justice” in the Land Wars and their aftermath.)  Eldred-Grigg shows that after the fiasco in Gallipoli became exposed-not by any candid admission of defeat by the government, but by the undeniable facts of the numbers of horribly mutilated troops returning from the campaign. The wider working class became increasingly sceptical and derisive of government war propaganda, and increasingly reluctant to volunteer for the armed forces. Having no popular mandate to wage war and unable to meet its commitments with volunteers the government imposed conscription in 1916. Opposition to the war thereafter manifested itself mainly in protests resistance to conscription, and politically in increasing support for the Labour Party, which in its youth was socialist and internationalist in outlook. The Federation of Labour also opposed conscription.

Eldred-Grigg relates many instances of resistance to the draft by individuals and anti-conscription leagues, and the severe penalties imposed, both on the draft dodgers and those who assisted them with practical acts of solidarity.

Eldred-Grigg says there is no way to accurately estimate the extent of opposition. However with general elections suspended until after victory, the only elections held were by-elections, and theses were all won by anti-conscription candidates.

Beyond being grossly wasteful of life and limb, which has long been widely acknowledged, the war had a corrosive effect on free thought and democratic institutions. With the co-option of the parliamentary opposition the war “in defence of democracy’’ increasingly became an assault on democracy within, with the criminalisation of dissent, the censorship of the press, the passage of laws restricting freedom of speech and movement, the introduction of passports, the spying on citizens, and the indefinite postponement of elections. Had Eldred-Grigg’s book been written under Massey’s government it would have been banned and its author charged with sedition and sentenced to years of hard labour.

The demand for wool and meat to clothe and feed the armies at the front meant the after the initial dislocation of world trade farmers and merchants prospered greatly during the war.

Although wages also nominally also rose, the inflation caused by government requisitions and borrowing and its printing of money far exceeded wage rises, and the families of unskilled workers and disabled returned soldiers suffered considerable hardship. The government financed its war effort by internal and external borrowing from the middle class. It is a measure of the magnitude of the surplus extracted from the working class that it was able to do so. The effect of this policy was to place a burden on the working class for years to come.

According to Eldred-Grigg, before the war a large and increasing share of NZ’s wool exports were going to Germany and German shipping lines were poised to enter the trade with NZ.  But for the war NZ could have become a global trader sixty years before the UK joined the EEC. Instead it became totally dependent on the British market and at the mercy of the British shipping monopoly.

Other aspects of the war that Eldred-Grigg covers comprehensively are the connections of the 'elite' with the UK, the class composition of the officer corps, the annexation of Samoa and Nauru ,the persecution of “aliens” and  the transformation of women’s role from domestic to industrial worker. Also the global influenza epidemic that was incubated in the front lines of the Western Front and devastated NZ and its newly acquired colonies.

Far from forging New Zealand's nationhood WW1 intensified New Zealand’s colonial dependency both economically and psychologically. Far from being a war to defend freedom and democracy it was an aggressive war of imperialist expansion which extended the territories coming under the colonial yoke, and New Zealanders were active in the conquest. Far from being the source of pride New Zealanders’ participation in the war should be a source of profound regret, insofar as which it was coerced, and of deep shame insofar as it was voluntary.

Eldred is to be congratulated for a book which so effectively demolishes the pervasive and longstanding myths about New Zealand’s participation in Great Imperialist War.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Draft Action Program for Europe Rising

The revolution will not be twittered says a facebook friend. To which we answer: #tahrir #spanishrevolution #Libya #Yemen #Syria #italianrevolution #frenchrevolution #palestine etc. What is happening in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, France and elsewhere in Europe, is the opening of a social revolution promoted by social media, inspired in part by the Arab Spring, the pro-democracy revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East, and also by the 'outrage' sparked by the treacherous role of social democracy. But all of these uprisings have their roots in the resistance of the labour movement to capitalist austerity coming up against dictatorships as in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the failure of institutionalised social democracy to stop austerity, as in Spain, Portugal and Greece.

This has led to the mobilising of unemployed and educated youth by means of facebook and twitter against these austerity regimes. In MENA the unions have been outlawed or repressed by the dictatorships. In Europe the unions have been tied to social democracy to act as barriers to mass mobilisations. Ostensibly, these uprisings take the form of democratic revolutions rejecting the political system and main political parties that are ‘owned’ by the banks, or by corrupt dictators. There is a common opposition to being mere ‘commodities – bought and sold by the banks’ with no political rights. 

A moment’s reflection shows that rejection of fraudulent politics ‘owned’ by banks and corrupt politicians is objectively targeted at the heart of capitalism at a time when to survive it has to force young workers to work for slave wages to pay for its structural crisis. We can therefore see that the content, if not the form, of these uprisings are in fact the opening shots of potentially anti-capitalist and socialist revolutions. This seems to be taken for granted on the streets and is reported in the mainstream media. What is not yet widely understood, is that these revolutions that are beginning, to meet the demands of the youth and other working people, must become openly socialist to succeed, and failing that they will subside into defeat and worse, counter-revolution.

So what has to happen to make these revolutions succeed? There are many competing theories and programs on offer each putting forth a program for success but we can roughly put them into three categories, liberal, radical and Marxist.

Liberal Reform

If we start with the liberal reformists such as Democracia real Ya! their program asks for no more than making capitalists pay their fair share of austerity rather than imposing it upon the youth and other workers. Their understanding of capitalism is how capital presents itself at the level of distribution of income shares. They don’t want to be bought and sold by the banks, but do not object to fair wages paid by fair employers. So these street reformers have rejected the institutionalised reformists such as the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, who they see as ‘owned’ by the banks, but they are not opposed to the masses creating new parties or backing more radical parties, to challenge the excess power of the finance sector. They are not yet anti-capitalists. This is the stage that the Egyptian revolutionaries have reached. They are negotiating with the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to prevent the old parties, notably the PSA of Mubarak, and the Muslim Brotherhood, from dominating politics and open the elections to the new forces for change. Its reformist objectives embrace both secular and liberal Islam currents.

These street reformists will quickly find their liberal assumptions are put to the test as they come up against the class character of the state which is to manage exploitative class relations on behalf of the ruling class. So if the European uprisings that we are now seeing spreading from Spain and Portugal to Greece, Italy and France etc., are in part inspired by the MENA revolutions, then the reformists will quickly learn the lessons of those revolutions as the struggle to make even the most minimal changes to the existing ‘system’. The reformists will be radicalised as anti-capitalists.

Radical Reform

The second grouping is of the anti-capitalist radicals who speak of the need to make a revolution to overcome capitalist exploitation and oppression but without taking state power. This includes a range of modernist political currents from anarchist, autonomist to indigenous and Islam. They view really existing capitalism as exploitative at the level of exchange. This means they are still stuck at the level of the appearance of inverted production relations as exchange relations. It appears that to get profits bosses pay workers less than the value of their labour. The state is totally complicit in its legal backing of this unequal exchange. Typically, Radicals think they can defeat the power of the capitalist state by non-violent mass movements that refuse to play by the rules of existing institutions. Therefore to break with the state and the law mass resistance is necessary in refusing to work as wage slaves. The state will try to smash resistance to work by bringing out the police etc, but resistance on the street and workplace will destroy the state’s legitimacy so its moral authority will dissolve and with it the employers ability to enforce unequal exchange.

The pitfalls of this radicalism all flow from its fetishised exchange analysis. The masses cannot impose a radical reform that equalises exchange without a social revolution that overthrows the capitalist state and capitalist social relations. The capitalists and their state are not constrained by a morality that acknowledges unequal exchange. They think they have the total right to impose their property rights on workers and to force them to work, and will use the state to smash resistance unless it is organised as a revolutionary power capable of defeating capitalist state power in an armed struggle for socialism. The danger of radical anti-capitalism is that young workers won’t learn these lessons until they have been defeated. To avoid this danger it is necessary for Marxist revolutionaries to use the conditions for intense ideological struggle and debate to convince reformists, radicals, and non-Marxist socialists that they need a Marxist program for revolutionary socialism.

Marxist Revolution

While the liberals think that capitalism can be reformed to produce a fair distribution of income, and radicals think that capitalism can be reformed to produce equal exchange of value, Marxists understand that capitalism is based on fundamentally unequal production relations that have to be overthrown before social equality is possible. But this is not a consciousness that can be arrived at spontaneously by camping in the city square or even by heated ideological debates. Capitalism is able to hide its exploitation at the point of production by turning production relations on their head as exchange relations which makes it appear that individuals can be made equal by getting paid the full value of commodities they produce. Marx called this commodity fetishism because instead of labour-time being understood as the measure of value, value now presents itself mysteriously as inherent in the commodities themselves. Marx discovered that while workers got paid the full value when they sold their labour power for a wage, that unique 'queer' commodity is able to produce more value than its own value.

The result is the expropriation of surplus value from the working class in the production process. Surplus value is the source of profits, and when insufficient surplus value is produced profits fall. When profits fall capital is not invested in production but in speculation in existing values. This causes price bubbles in excess of values that must go bust. Capitalist crisis therefore begins at the point of production not in the banks which must go bust when the speculative bubbles burst. Thus the role of Marxist revolutionaries in the revolutions that have begun in MENA and Europe is to critique liberal and radical reformist politics as unable to confront the basic cause of capitalist crisis and austerity – capitalist social relations and the state which exists to reproduce and enforce those relations. Marxists explain what causes the ‘outrage’ and ‘indignity’ and also what must be done to eliminate that cause by means of socialist revolution.

What Must Be Done!

Commodity fetishism means that workers do not become spontaneously revolutionary. Things are not as they appear. It is necessary to go from surface appearances to the essence of capitalist production relations. Marxism is a revolutionary critique of capitalism that penetrates this essence and exposes the fundamental contradiction between use value and exchange value as the basis of class struggle - the motor of history. Marxist revolutionaries intervene in these uprisings of the outraged and indignatos to resolve the basic contradiction by overthrowing capitalism and creating a socialist revolution. Our method is the transitional method of Trotsky.

Trotsky’s method is called transitional because it starts with what is necessary to resolve the contradiction, not what seems to be possible. We start with what we need to live, not what the bosses can afford: that is, immediate democratic and economic demands. We recognise that we are in a structural crisis that has two possible outcomes – either the bosses’ need to defeat the uprisings and make us pay for the survival of their rotten system, or we need a make a revolution to expropriate the expropriators and create a socialist society. By raising these demands we prove that in fighting for them worker must then ‘cross the bridge’ to fight as an independent class prepared to take state power. There is no halfway house. For the working class to survive, capitalism must die!

Democratic and immediate economic demands:

Jobs for all by cutting working hours!

Living wage and basic income!

Freedom of speech and assembly!

Equal rights on basis of nationality, gender and sexual orientation!

Revolutionary leadership is necessary to transform ‘peaceful’ demonstrations in city squares from Egypt to Spain into armed working class revolutions. Our demands are designed to take workers consciousness from liberal pro-democracy to the proletarian dictatorship through the process of ‘fighting and learning’ how to become an independent class. Class independence means a total break from the bourgeoisie and its class state. We can prove that the state is not class neutral by fighting for ‘bread’ and ‘freedom’; being the best defenders of bourgeois democracy when the capitalists cannot afford it. We can expose the union bureaucracy as the agents of the bosses’ by demanding they take sides. We can unmask Social Democracy as bourgeois parties run by the labour bureaucracy to impose austerity. We demonstrate that popular fronts which trap workers in political alliances with the bourgeoisie are in fact counter-revolutionary disarming workers preparing the way for fascists to smash the working class. We prove beyond doubt that the armed forces of the state exist to defend the class interests of the capitalists when they attack peaceful demonstrations. We do this by praxis - saying and doing. Our main tool for this revolutionising of proletarian consciousness is the Political General Strike.

Class independence demands

Break with the bureaucracy! Rank and file control of unions!

Break with bourgeoisie! No to Social Democrat traitors! No to popular fronts!

Down with the Officers caste in the Military!

Smash the Fascists, no quarter!

The Political General Strike

There is an almost universal vagueness in talking about the General Strike. That's because it has been debased by reformists to mean days of action to pressure bourgeois governments. But revolutionary Marxists regard the Political General Strike as a political strike to take power. We strike until we win state power. For that reason the demand should never be raised unless we also state what must be done to prepare for a successful General Strike. A General Strike concentrates workers power by taking control of production, and by splitting the army and winning over of the rank and file so that a ‘dual power’ situation is created. .But it can only do that if it is armed to defend itself from state forces, paramilitaries and fascist thugs. There is never a peaceful transfer of power from a ruling class to a revolutionary class. Only a revolution that is armed can defeat the armed counter-revolution.

In Egypt the revolution is currently contained by the SCAF. This is because those who rose up to remove the Mubarak regime had illusions in the army and the bourgeois state as class neutral. To win, the revolution must now unite the youth rebels with the unions and prepare a general strike to split the army and create a dual power situation. In Greece where the pro-democracy revolutions are most advanced in Europe, the same demands are necessary. Workers have to prepare for a Political General Strike by forming strike committees, councils, militias and the national coordination of these organs to win the strike and take power, smash the state and impose a proletarian class dictatorship, or Workers Government.

Workers Power Demands:

Build workers councils!

Form defence committees and workers’ militias!

Unite workers’ councils nationally and internationally!

For an Indefinite Political General Strike!

The Workers Government

The crowning demand of a revolutionary program is the seizure of power and smashing of the state. This was the only major change that Marx and Engels made to The Communist Manifesto after the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871. The crisis of Marxism and of revolutionary leadership in the period since WW2 has forced a retreat from the Marxist/Bolshevik position on the proletarian dictatorship. Reformists of all colours have baulked at the use of this term and watered down the question of taking power to one of a peaceful evolutionary transition from bourgeois democracy to workers democracy. But Marx proved in 1871 that bourgeois democracy is only a mask for bourgeois dictatorship and that a revolutionary class must be a dictatorship to defeat the reactionary class. The Bolsheviks confirmed this in practice in 1917. For the first time in the history of class societies, however, socialist revolution can create the conditions for the revolutionary proletariat to end classes and with it the need for a class dictatorship.

So when Trotskyists talk about a Workers Government, we do not mean that in Egypt workers will vote for a party where the working class majority is represented. Or that in Spain or Greece a new workers party will successfully defeat Social Democracy and resolve the contradiction between use-value and exchange-value peacefully. That is a reactionary utopia that can only lead to the defeat of the revolutions that have begun. Our revolutionary utopia is based on the real prospect that capitalism has prepared the way for socialism. The working class is the revolutionary class, the vast majority. It is proving every day that it is ready, willing and able to fight. All that is lacking is a revolutionary Marxist party that can intervene with a revolutionary program as a guide to socialist revolution, to transform the necessary fight for survival into the utopia of a socialist future.

For a new World Party of Socialist Revolution based on the 1938 Transitional Program!

For Socialist Federations of North Africa, Middle East and Europe!

Worker of the World Unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains!

Victory to the international working class revolution!