Wednesday, March 18, 2015

USA: Workers need a program that fights for a Clean, Planned, Socialist economy!

Image result for The Pullman Strike
The Pullman Strike was a national rail workers strike in the U.S. in 1894 by the American Railway Union (ARU) against the Pullman Company, the big railroad companies and the federal government.

Two conferences on the future of Railroad Safety were convened, first in Richmond CA on March, 14, with a follow up on the 21st in Olympia Washington. In the spectacle of the American left a list of endorsers including various syndicalist, socialist, and environmentalist NGO’s, CBO’s gathered under the banner of safety with little else to unite them. Some advocated for letter writing to politicians for better conditions, some told us “all you need is love”, while the Richmond Progressive Alliance and it leader “Third Camp” Mike Parker from Solidarity and Labor Notes, who in the last Mayoral campaign withdrew and threw his and the RPA’s support behind long term Democratic Politician Tom Butt, brought the popular front to this conference in the guise of a “non” political opening statements by the spokesperson for the Democratic Mayor. Despite advocacy for general strike and social revolution from the floor the main gist of the conference was on the issues of safety, logistics and trade union solidarity with active participation from Tesoro refinery steel workers who were still on strike.

The common sense and good trade unionist instincts of Rail Road workers long trapped in conservative craft unions has birthed the Railroad Workers United (RWU). RWU adopted the following principles of good industrial trade unionism, Unity of All Rail Crafts, An End to Inter-Union Conflict, Rank-and-File Democracy, Membership Participation and Action, Solidarity, No to Concessionary Bargaining.   The attack by the transport industry bosses on labor including the unsafe demand for one man crews, long trains and long hours has increased the other hazards inherent in rolling stock with bomb like loads of chemicals and fossil fuel products. The failure of the craft unions to united workers around their interests has resulted in back biting and general weakness by dividing the various categories of RR workers.   

In the face of the failure of the craft unions the movement toward industrial unionism that the RWU represents is progressive, long overdue, and cannot be won unless the workers embrace class struggle methods to fight anti-labor laws which prevent rail strikes, general strikes and secondary—solidarity–strikes. This requires that the rail workers unions unite and declare their class political independence from the twin parties of the bosses who indoctrinate the union leaders and the membership into submission to the anti-labor laws and into the regular political activity of supporting the “labor friendly” candidate.

Even militant industrial trade unionism cannot win unless it breaks the chains to the Democratic and Republican parties and this requires a political fight which the syndicalist IWW supporters of the RWU are dead set against. The IWW members explicitly tell RWU members that they do not need their own workers party.   Prominent IWW/Occupy leader Elliot Hughes was overheard in the lunch line telling workers they do not need a labor party. Despite the attendance from Soc Alt, Speak Out, Socialist Workers Party and the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee only the Communist Workers Group advocated for class political independence, to challenge the labor bureaucracy for leadership with class struggle methods and for a workers party that fights for a workers government, to much applause and waving red flags (IWW leader Steve Ongerth was the time keeper waving the red flag).

Read On

Monday, March 16, 2015

Worker Socialist: Lost and Disoriented, Stalinists Return to Blind A...

Defeated and isolated completely in recent past, various Stalinist parties, groups and leaders have come together to float a popular front under the banner of All India Peoples’ Forum (AIPF).
Worker Socialist: Lost and Disoriented, Stalinists Return to Blind A...: -Rajesh Tyagi/ 15.3.2015

Thursday, March 05, 2015

U.S.A. became Imperialist, what about NZ, South Africa and Australia?

Australia: a semi-colony torn between US and Chinese imperialism
Arising out of our analysis of the reasons for the emergence of China and Russia as new imperialist powers, a few other questions have arisen. If China and Russia can, why not Brazil, India, even South Africa? The answer is that semi-colonies cannot accumulate enough surplus value to become economically independent of existing imperialist powers. However, there may be one category of semi-colonies that could break out of this trap, or so some of the ‘left’ thinks. These are the European settler colonies. We think we can prove them wrong.

The epoch of imperialism arose in the late 19th century as the main European powers expanded beyond their borders to embark on colonial exploitation to escape the limits to capital accumulation. Marx in Vol 3 of Capital explained the need to find cheaper land, raw materials, and labour power to escape the limits of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall (TRPF).

At the time Lenin wrote his pamphlet, Imperialism –The Highest Stage of Capitalism, in 1915 he envisaged a world economy in the process of being divided among all the imperialist powers into rival “spheres of interest”. Competition to expand further would mean more wars unless the workers of the world rose up and overthrow their imperialist ruling classes.

Given this battle to re-divide the world by the imperialist powers, none of the colonies would be able to break free of dependency upon imperialism short of socialist revolutions. Failing that, they would remain colonies, semi-colonies or ‘neo-colonies’. Their political independence was rendered inoperative because of their economic dependency.

European Settler Colonies

One category of colonies, European Settler colonies, may be the exception to this rule. They seem to have more real political sovereignty and control over the economy than other semi-colonies. Thus the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and Israel are often held up as countries that were able to make the transition from settler colony to imperialist powers (if relatively small), while the vast majority of colonies that were not settled by Europeans, remained trapped in neo-colonial dependency.

Yet if we look at these countries, only the US was able to become a major imperialist power. The fate of the others is less clear cut. The reason for this is that the US had a complete national revolution where it broke its ties of political and economic dependence on its former colonial master, Britain. It could impose tariffs on British goods and protect local manufacturers until they were big enough to compete. It also had a Civil War that eliminated the barriers of backward pre-capitalist modes of production.

All the other countries settled by Europeans, however, did not have wars of independence against their colonial masters (except in Latin America where the wars of independence fell short of economic independence from European capitalist powers). While they had a limited self-government that enabled them to protect their domestic economies, this was insufficient to prevent imperialism from retaining a large share of national surplus-value and limiting national capital accumulation. Nevertheless, some argue that they were sufficiently ‘decolonised’ in the 20th Century to achieve economic independence and become minor imperialist powers.

We can test the proposition that political ‘decolonisation’ in the 30 years between the Great Depression and end of the post war boom enabled the former settler colonies to resist economic ‘recolonisation’ during the neo-liberal years from the 1970s to the present. That is, to what extent did national economic development enable these countries to become sufficiently ‘independent’ so as to resist neo-liberal ‘recolonisation’?

We can test this fairly easily in the case of the weakest states, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. These settler colonies very early became part of an imperial division-of-labour where they produced raw materials for export and imported finished goods from the imperialist motherland. Tariff protection enabled a degree of domestic manufacturing but this always remained relatively limited mainly based on ‘branch plants’ owned by imperialist capital and financed by imperialist banks. In other words, the ‘decolonisation’ process was largely illusory as surplus value was siphoned off by imperialism leaving these countries relatively underdeveloped and economically dependent.

NZ, South Africa and Australia

There is no question that NZ was very quickly ‘recolonised’ from the early 1970s as domestic capital sought to modernise and compete internationally. The ‘neo-liberal’ counter-revolution during the Fourth Labour Government 1984-89, virtually destroyed the basis of economic protectionism built up over 40 years within 5 years.  
NZ's Global Links gives a good picture of the surplus-value siphoned out of NZ by international finance capital. Ignoring this overwhelming evidence most of the left in NZ says that NZ is a small imperialist power on the basis of its predatory role in the South Pacific and historic high living standards.

In the case of South Africa, we have written about its dependence on imperialism, Anglo-American historically, but now increasingly that of China. We reject any notion that South Africa is imperialist by any conception. 
Nor is it ‘sub-imperialist’ in the terms of the BRIC intelligentsia which adds to South Africa’s semi-colonial dependence, measure of ‘independence’ earned by a share of the surplus for performing a ‘subcontracted’ role as manager of imperialist affairs in the whole of Africa.

Australia, however, is viewed by many on the left as a minor imperialism. This includes ourselves (CWG NZ) since the 1990s. Australia’s protected manufacturing allowed a weak national bourgeois fraction to emerge, alongside the traditional pastoral and mining bourgeoisie. Australia was more resilient than NZ to neo-liberal deregulation as it was not dependent on protected manufacturing alone and could sustain growth in the late 80s and 90s due to its booming mining industry.

However, the neo-liberalisation of Australia under Hawke and Howard saw this national bourgeoisie largely swallowed up by international finance capital. And while NZ banks were all Australian owned, the big four Australian banks became controlled by HSBC, JPMorgan, Citigroup and BNP Paridas as the shareholders. 
As one commentator puts it: 
“Both commercial and mining companies’ ownership are dominated by HSBC Nominees, JP Morgan Nominees, and Citibank Nominees as the top three shareholders of most companies. If one examines company directorships there is a tight cross-linking across commerce, banking and mining in Australia today. Commerce, banking and mining are now part of an oligopoly.”

We conclude that Australia developed behind protectionist barriers for the period from the 1930s to 1980s yet failed to achieve economic independence. Its national bourgeoisie remained weak and dependent on international finance capital. The hallmark of imperialism is the TRPF and the over-accumulation of capital that must be exported to gain access to cheap land, raw materials and labour power. 
Australia has failed to do this on its own account. Its national finance capital is dominated by EU, US and now also increasingly by Chinese finance capital. In the key growth sector of mining, the three largest “Australian” corporations, BHP Billiton is 75%, Rio Tinto 80%, and Xtrata 100% foreign owned. The monopoly rent from mining has therefore been largely siphoned off by international finance capital.

So the excess flow of FDI into Australia over OFDI flowing out of Australia reflects the dominant share of super-profits accruing to the international finance capital of the major banks and corporations. This dominance was demonstrated by the defeat of the Rudd Resource Super Profits tax that gifted $billions to the foreign owners of the mining industry.

The OECD says that Australian federal revenue from mining profits is the lowest in the world. The foreign shareholders get about half of the “value added”: “For every $100 in value added by the mining industry, state governments get $6 and employees get $20. This leaves a profit of $74. Of that amount, the federal government gets $14, foreign shareholders get $48, and Australian resident shareholders get $12.” It seems then that far from breaking out of semi-colonial dependency into mini-imperialism, Australia has been increasingly ‘taken over’ by international finance capital and Chinese monopolies.

Australia as “sub-imperialist”?

Various left groups call Australia small, minor, mini, regional, or junior imperialism. Their method is empirical in toting up the foreign investment figures and pointing to Australia’s ‘policing’ role in partnership with Britain or the US.

Ashley Lavelle, in “Who Owns Australia”, 2001, argues against the radical nationalist line that Australia is being taken over by foreign investors. Australia is an “advanced capitalist economy” as only 25% of Australian firms are owned and controlled by foreign capital. This means that the main enemy is not foreign capital, but the Australian ruling class. In the two main sectors of the economy we find 9% penetration in mining and 30% penetration in finance. Even in 2000 this is enough concentration of finance capital to dominate the Australian economy.

The Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) joins the pack yapping at the economic nationalists heels. It claims that Australia is a “small, regional imperialist power”, a “junior partner of Washington” with its own “sphere of influence” such as Melanesia and East Timor. 
Sandra Bloodworth of the International Socialist Organisation, writing in 2004, says Australia is a minor but “regional imperialist power”. Australia joined the war on terror in support of the USA and acted to fulfil its ‘regional’ policing role in the South Pacific, for example in the Solomon Islands. Australia profits from investments in this region, e.g. in Papua New Guinea mining and owns 50% of Fijian business. Another left group accuses Australia of mini-imperialism in exploiting and oppressing East Timor and seizing its oil resources in the Timor Sea.

Tom Bramble of Socialist Alternative writing in the Marxist Left Review, 2012, “Australian Imperialism and the rise of China” aligns himself with other left academics who speak of Australia and Canada as ‘secondary’ imperialisms. Bramble recognises the rise of imperialist China has major consequences for Australian trade and its relationship with the US. But China has been imperialist for some time according to the state capitalists like Bramble.

Yet Australia’s dependence on the US and increasingly China, does not cause him to challenge the prevailing Australian Cliffite (state capitalist) and DSP view on Australian junior imperialism. He does not question Australia’s obvious subordinate role to UK and US finance capital and as an exporter of minerals to China. He fails to register the significance that the Australian mining industry is largely foreign owned, increasingly favouring China. Or that Australia’s regional policing role has been overtaken by its integration under Gillard and Abbott as a forward base for the US military.

The Northite ICFI (WSWS) writing in 2014 sees Australia as imperialist despite its political subservience to US imperialism. WSWS argues that after the Global Financial Crisis and the 2010 ‘coup’ to remove Labour Prime Minister Rudd (because he was in favour of US and China friendship and the resource tax), Australia has been drawn completely into the US “pivot to Asia”.

The Abbott Gov't is even closer to the US. The result is Australia coming under direct domination by the US dictating a militarist foreign policy and an austerity domestic policy which it calls a ‘counter-revolution’. The Shorten Labor Party is also committed to war and austerity. But for the WSWS Russia and China are not imperialist, and Australia despite its dependence on the US remains a minor imperialist power.

It’s clear that while the case made for Australia’s economic independence is very weak, most of the left regard Australia as a junior partner of US capital on the strength of its imperialist policing role. Therefore, we can file the various labels for Australian minor imperialism under ‘sub-imperialist’ which is the vogue term on the BRIC left to mean a minor power that serves imperialism and is paid in a share of the subcontracted colonial tribute.

We have argued that the label “sub-imperialist” is meaningless since it represents a distributional definition of oppression which looks at shareholdings on stock markets and living standards but ignores the fundamental reality that the bulk of surplus-value produced is expropriated by international finance capital at its source, even if some of it flows back as kickbacks to the Australian capitalist class. A good example of a kickback for Australia’s military bloc with the US is Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton licence to mine public land in the US.

Reviewing the evidence of ‘takeover’ we think that we were wrong to get taken in by the flash statistics of economic independence when foreign ownership of the key economic sectors has always been British and increasingly US. With China being welcomed to buy up more mining interests and privatised state assets by the Rudd Government it seems that Australia’s economic dependence must increase. While some of the ‘left’ have noted the growing influence of China and US, this influence is not taken to its logical conclusion.

Australia’s political sovereignty is up for sale with the US FTA and the impending TPPA. China now has a FTA with Australia and is moving to invest heavily. Australia’s independent ‘policing’ role has been overtaken by US bases in Darwin and subordinated to RIMPAC in the military containment of China. It is the sausage in the sandwich as the hegemonic US and the rapidly rising China flex their muscles to contest control of the Asia Pacific region. 

Our conclusion is that for all Australia’s so-called “sub-imperialist” role as South Pacific "police" of Britain and US has always been a form of dependency and is now clearly exposed by the growing rivalry between China and US imperialism. Even hard bitten liberal journos can see that this rips the Australian political elite apart as its ruling class tries to serve two imperialist masters at the same time.

The political consequences of this reality are that Australian workers have the task of kicking out their own ruling class that acts as a client of the US and China, to take the leadership of the struggle to win national independence from both US and Chinese imperialism, and create a Socialist Republic of Australia within a Socialist United States of Asia Pacific! 

To be Continued: The USA and Canada

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Syriza: Revolutionary lessons from Russia to Greece!

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Antarsya (anti-capitalists) protest the 'accord' between Syriza and the EU. But where are their workers councils and militias for the socialist insurrection?

Mike Treen, National Director of Unite!, the NZ trade union, argues that Syriza’s success in Greece may vindicate those who claim that bourgeois parliament can open the road to socialist revolution in the 21st century. He attempts to justify this political conviction by illustrating how history proves him right. Of course we reserve the same right. We follow him through his historical examples from the Russian October to the Greek March and prove him wrong!

Mike Treen states: “The SYRIZA victory and the electoral victories of left-wing governments in Latin America over the past 15 years have placed on the political agenda the issue of whether socialists can use elections in capitalist society as springboards to a deeper revolutionary socialist transformation of society in the interests of the majority of working people.”

The Russian Revolution

We agree that this is an important question. But the examples Mike Treen uses don’t prove his point. The political tendency he once belonged to, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP-US), in the 1980s revised their view of the Bolshevik revolution claiming that while Lenin called for ‘soviets to power’ he was actually for a “democratic dictatorship” in which workers and poor peasants shared power with rich capitalist peasants! This shared power was supposedly necessary because Russia still had to complete the bourgeois tasks of national independence and overthrow the feudal landlords. The bourgeois revolution had to be completed before the socialist revolution was possible.

Lenin famously rejected the workers sharing power with rich peasants. In his April Theses he stated: 

“The specific feature of the present situation in Russia is that the country is passing from the first stage of the revolution—which, owing to the insufficient class-consciousness and organisation of the proletariat, placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie—to its second stage, which must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants.”

Yet, the SWP now claimed that Lenin, despite the April Theses, never abandoned power sharing with rich peasants in April 1917 and that the Bolshevik program remained the Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Peasantry. The implication must be that the Bolsheviks made a mistake and were premature in sending the Cossacks (rich peasant soldiers) to disband the Constituent Assembly (parliament) for which elections had already been held, and replacing this bourgeois parliament with a ‘Workers’ and Poor Peasants Government' based on soviets of workers, poor peasants and soldiers and sailors.

Mike Treen may no longer subscribe to the SWP (US) theory today, however in his blog post he infers that in practice, the Bolsheviks realised their mistake and encouraged the rich peasants to enrich themselves in a desperate attempt to bolster the economy (the New Economic Program or NEP). Stalin’s dictatorship, in reversing these market reforms and collectivising everything, led ultimately to the decline and fall of the Soviet Union.

What the SWP was actually trying to do in its revised version of the Bolshevik Revolution was to return to the pre-April Theses position that workers would share power with the capitalist peasants in a “democratic dictatorship”; that is, a bourgeois parliament that would destroy the remnants of feudalism and develop capitalism sufficiently to allow the majority of workers and working peasants to make a socialist revolution.

This was an open attack on Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution, which argued that such ‘democratic tasks’ could not be completed in a power-sharing alliance with any capitalist class whose interests firmly aligned it to imperialism. In the epoch of imperialism all democratic tasks could only be completed under the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Lenin in the April Theses endorsed this theory. It meant that henceforth, only the workers and poor peasants in power could complete the outstanding tasks of the bourgeois revolution such as national independence and the end to landlordism. It excluded all power sharing, later known as popular fronts, with the bourgeoisie, including the rich peasants.

But the SWP needed to revise the history of the Bolshevik revolution and the theory of Permanent Revolution so as to legitimate the power-sharing popular front parliamentary road as the correct revolutionary strategy for socialists today.

In reality, the Russian Revolution did not succumb to a wrong strategy on the part of the Bolsheviks. Russia faced either a workers revolution where workers led the poor peasants to power, or a Tsarist counter-revolution supported by the rich peasants. The rich peasants could only become part of the revolution if the counter-revolution was defeated and their petty capitalist interests were subordinated to the workers state.

This was proved when the Provisional Government under Kerensky allied itself to the Tsarist General Kornilov in an attempt to smash the soviets and was defeated when his troops were won over to the soviets. The October Revolution took power and incorporated the rich peasants into the socialist plan but never shared power with them.

As to the degeneration (bureaucratisation) of the revolution, this was due not to the mistaken revolutionary program of the Bolsheviks, but rather to the capitalist counter-revolution that surrounded, invaded and isolated it, and defeated the revolution in Germany. One of the results of this setback was the reliance upon the rich peasantry in the New Economic Policy (NEP).

The German revolution

In Germany, the soviets were, as Treen says, defeated by social democracy committed to bourgeois parliamentary elections. This was inevitable because the Spartacists (the German Bolsheviks) were too weak to win a majority in the workers councils (soviets) and make a proletarian revolution. Therefore the new bourgeois republic had to go through a stage of sharing power with the bourgeoisie in preparing the working class for socialist revolution. 

However, in fact, the conditions for proletarian revolution did exist as the soldiers and sailors mutinied and formed armed soviets all over Germany. What was lacking was the revolutionary leadership to guide the armed workers towards revolution.

The Spartacists led by Luxemburg and Liebknecht had only recently broken from the United Social Democratic Party (USPD) of Kautsky (which advocated a parliamentary transition) and the old Social Democratic Party (SPD - the Second International Party that voted to go to war in August 4, 1914), and did not have the influence of the Bolsheviks to win majorities in the soviets and lead an insurrection. The USPD and SPD were able to persuade the majority of workers to vote them into power in the new capitalist republic. Ebert, the SPD leader became the Chancellor.

Yet, instead of ushering in a progressive transition to socialism, these capitalist elections became the front for a counter-revolution in which the SPD, USPD led Government allied to the bourgeoisie, the aristocracy (Junkers) and the fascists smashed the armed soviets, and assassinated its leaders, including Luxemburg and Liebknecht, ushering in a long period of fascist reaction in Europe that culminated in the rise of Hitler to power. 

As mentioned above, the defeat of the German revolution isolated the Soviet Union. So it was German social democracy in league with fascism that led directly to the bureaucratic degeneration of the Russian Revolution under Stalin.

Revolution in Yugoslavia, China, Vietnam, Cuba...

The revolutions that followed in China, Cuba, Vietnam etc all followed more or less the Russian model of workers and poor peasants governments replacing capitalist governments. While the leaders of these revolutions were Stalinists or petty bourgeois nationalists who attempted to share power with the bourgeoisie (including the rich peasants), as in the “bloc of four classes” of Stalin’s famous popular front in China in the 1920s, they were always faced with armed counter-revolution, and survived only because the mass pressure from below of workers and poor peasants forced them to go all the way to socialist insurrection.

Events proved that the bourgeoisie will never share power in parliaments with the working class when that class is armed and fighting a civil war. We saw it in Germany in 1923, in China in 1927, in Italy and Germany when the fascists staged parliamentary coups. In Spain during the civil war the Republican parliaments trapped the workers in the popular fronts in Madrid and Barcelona where they were disarmed and slaughtered by the fascist army.

History shows that bourgeois parliaments are death traps disarming workers in the face of fascism, and so must be overthrown and replaced with Workers and Peasants Governments.

The defeat of the fascist regimes in Europe (mainly by the sacrifices of the Soviet Union) created the conditions for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. In Eastern Europe the Red Army kicked out the capitalists. In Yugoslavia Tito’s partisans took power. 

In China the long March led to a peasant uprising in 1949 which became a Government of poor peasants allied to the workers. In Vietnam a war of independence against the French liberated the North but was met by the armed intervention of US imperialism in the South. Cuba threw out the US mafia bourgeoisie in 1959 and despite attempts to remain on good terms with the US was attacked militarily and forced into the arms of the Soviet Union.

In each of these cases, these revolutions fell short of the Russian Revolution because the armed workers and soldiers were not in command. Such was the total blockade by imperialism, their isolation and dependence on the Stalinist Soviet Union that these revolutions were born as bureaucratised ‘deformed workers’ states.

So it was not any failure to follow the parliamentary road in these countries that led to the eventual collapse of their revolutions and the restoration of capitalism. It was armed counter-revolution, encirclement, cold war and imperialist propaganda that resulted in their bureaucratisation and ultimately to the restoration of capitalism.

In fact, the strategy of the imperialists to destroy the workers states was one of ‘democratic counter-revolution’. The capitalists sucked in most of the ‘left’ including all those who long held illusions in the parliamentary road, to propagandise the ‘parliamentary road’ back to capitalism. The ‘evils’ of ‘communism’ were portrayed as godless collectivism counter-posed the righteous capitalist democracy and free market. The bureaucratic elites in the workers states played along with ‘reforms’ ushering in ‘democracy’ and market freedoms.

In most cases the restoration of capitalism was via the ‘democratic’ road of replacing ‘One Party States’ with bourgeois democracies. However, these ‘democracies’ arose as the result of bloody invasions as in Vietnam, or of murderous ethnic cleansing as in Yugoslavia. Only where imperialist intervention failed to create a ‘democratic’ faction within the Stalinist bureaucracy to take control of the party, did restoration take the form of ‘market socialism’ as in China and Cuba.

All this proves, contrary to the ideology of the parliamentary road opening the road to socialism, that it has proved to be either a barrier to socialist revolution, or, a counter-revolutionary means of opening the door to the restoration of capitalism under the guise of ‘bourgeois democracy’.

The Bolivarian Revolution

The Bolivarian Revolution that Treen speaks of has so far failed to build soviets based on workers and poor peasants capable of taking power from the popular front capitalist governments of the Chavistas in Venezuela and the MAS (Movement for Socialism) in Bolivia. 

This is because there is no vanguard party in Venezuela or Bolivia capable of breaking workers out of their popular front parties, as Trotsky called them, the PSUV and the MAS. These are the more commonly called ‘populist’ parties which combine workers and petty bourgeoisie ‘sharing power’ with the so-called progressive national bourgeoisie, in one political party.

When Trotsky was exiled to Mexico in 1936 he was in the box seat to observe the nationalisation of the Anglo-American oil companies in 1938 by the regime of General Cardenas. He said that while workers should support these nationalisations they did not amount to the socialisation of capitalist property. The state in essence remained the state of the capitalist class and would have to be overthrown and state property turned into workers property. 

Failing that, it was easy for the capitalists, especially a coup backed by the US, to ‘privatise’ state property back into the hands of privately owned companies. Therefore, the task for revolutionaries was to break from the populist parties and their regimes, seize power, and install Workers and Peasants’ governments with the armed workers, peasants and soldiers in command.

These lessons were written into the Transitional Program that Trotsky drafted in 1938, two years before his assassination by an agent of Stalin. The first major test of this program in Latin America was in 1952 when the miners in Bolivia staged an armed insurrection against the Bolivian ruling class. 

Instead of taking power and installing a Workers’ and Peasants’ government, the miners abandoned their program (Theses of Pulacayo) and shared power with ‘progressive’ capitalist leader Paz Estenssoro in the “petty bourgeois” MNR government. This allowed the ruling class to rally and arm its supporters, and defeat the revolution.

A revolution that finishes in a “half-way house” power sharing government with the bourgeoisie is already half dead. Many such betrayals of workers in Latin America including that of Peron in Argentina, and Allende in Chile, right up to the populist party/regimes in Venezuela and Bolivia today, follow the same pattern of revolutions strangled by workers ‘sharing power’ with the bourgeoisie in popular fronts.

Therefore it is defeatist to wait for the populist leaders like Allende, Maduro or Morales to call for ‘communes’ when they actively suppress independent workers and peasants armed mobilisations. Not until armed soviets are built from below and workers split from the popular front parties will the bourgeoisie be thrown out of power and replaced by workers and peasants governments that advance the “revolutionary transformation.”

Syriza and the Greek Revolution

Syriza and Podemos have arisen to replace the betrayals of PASOK and the Socialist Party but are modelled on the Latin American popular front of class collaboration between workers and the bourgeoisie. Syriza has formed a popular front with ANEL a right wing nationalist party and is talking about nominating a former minister in the bourgeois New Democracy party as its Presidential candidate. As with all popular fronts, its purpose is to contain the demands of the masses within what is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. In this case the Germany imperialist bourgeoisie.

Thus the Syriza leadership has turned its back on the rank and file demand to repudiate the debt and end austerity and is negotiating with the banks for more favourable terms. All of the left in Syriza with the exception of the Communist Tendency accepted the bloc with the right wing ANEL, and none have protested the appointment of its leader as Minister of Defence. So much for parliamentary democracy opening the road to revolution!

Syriza’s parliamentary strategy immediately came to grief. The EU as part of the world capitalist economy is in trouble. German imperialism if facing decline as its economy stagnates and is in no position to grant Greece even minor favours. Letting Greece off even part of its debt repayment would send a message all the bankrupt fellow PIIGS. So Syriza has already betrayed its supporters in doing a deal that recycles Greek debt and delays the implementation of its anti-austerity program.

The reaction of the left wing of Syriza however, does not question the parliamentary road only that Syriza must get off the highway and take the byway in renouncing the debt and leaving the Euro.

Apart from the Communist Tendency It does not even call for a break from ANEL or for mass popular organisation to defend it against a right wing coup! Thus the left version of the popular front is still a death trap. The Minister of Defence can stage a coup from inside cabinet!

The revolutionary left in Syriza must draw the historical lessons. Workers participation in bourgeois parliaments cannot be progressive in the epoch of imperialism. This is true of workers parties forming governments which are powerless in the face of the institutions of the state including the armed forces, the bureaucracy and its paramilitaries. 

It is even worse when workers are trapped in popular front parties like the PSUV and the MAS, or workers parties enter parliamentary blocs with open bourgeois parties like ANEL. They are no more than fascist fodder. As we saw above, Bolivia, 1952, tells the truth about the popular front!

The next step towards the Greek revolution is for workers to split Syriza from its bourgeois partners in Greece, and from its imperialist masters in the EU, to unite to build a mass workers party and to form independent workers’ councils and militias to defend the class from the state and its fascist paramilitaries. Only then can it open the road to a victorious socialist revolution the formation of a Greek socialist republic within a wider Federations of Socialist Republics of Europe.

Forward to the Revolution!

Bourgeois elections can only advance the revolutionary transformation by default. That is, by dashing the hopes of the masses that support them and in the process exposing bourgeois parliaments, as in Germany 1920 and 2015, as no more than a ‘democratic’ front for the counter-revolution.

That is why it is a matter of urgency to build revolutionary parties with a program for armed soviets of workers and the oppressed in every country to resist the inevitable reactionary fascist movements that will be unleashed by the bourgeoisie to smash the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses.

State Houses for All!

Image result for Tamaki housing protest
Tenants protesting NACT government selling state houses in Tamaki a working class community in Auckland City, New Zealand.

The NACTs (National and ACT) are making a major push to sell off the state housing stock to developers, and pretending that the private providers of “social housing” will meet the need for affordable housing. Rubbish! The NACTs are kicking working class communities like Tamaki out of their houses and selling off the valuable land to their property developer mates as a ‘market solution’ to housing.

For the NACTs workers should pay out of their wages for housing in the market. Where slave wages mean workers cannot afford market rents the state relies on private charities and Maori trusts to step in.

Labour’s answer is to promise to subsidise private ‘affordable’ houses for $400k that no working class family on the minimum or even median wage can afford. The Greens promise more state houses but their middle class focus is on affordable, sustainable housing which includes more private ownership.

Mana offers to build many more state houses, but it will allow tenants to buy them! It also wants government to pay for cheap $200k houses for sale. Hone Harawira also seems to approve of Maori Trusts buying state houses in Tamaki and shifting them up to Kaitaia. So far this Trust has taken nine houses from Tamaki tenants. Hone got arrested for opposing the eviction of Tamaki state housing tenants. Is he now backing the selling off of state houses to Maori Trusts?

So it looks like there is no political party that stands on the principle of affordable state houses as a basic right to workers as part of a living wage. A major social gain that was won by workers in the 1930s depression is being destroyed and with it any possibility of workers achieving a living social wage.
What is the social wage?

NZ’s health, education, welfare and social services provided through the State are all part of the social wage. The social wage is heath, education and housing paid for out of taxation that supplements the market wage as ‘Working for Families’ does.

However, none of the political parties will tell you that the social wage is really just returning to workers part of the surplus value their labour power creates which is taken off them as profits and taxes. The buying power of the market wage plus social wage equals the real wage. So the sale of state houses is yet another cut to the social wage and therefore the real wage of NZ workers!

Social Housing providers – will be picking up the deferred maintenance and development that is required (by the state) to house the NZ population. We do not accept the “do gooder” social housing trusts taking over from the NACT government.

This divides the working class among those who are eligible under this trust scheme or that trust scheme, and those who miss out.

We say: No Sales! Not for $1 not for $0!

No social housing take-over! 
No tenants buying our houses! 
No dividing the working class!

The capitalist state is so bankrupt National is desperate to sell state assets to prop up the profits of the rich through another round of tax cuts. The temporary tax relief for the rich comes at the long term expense of the working class.

We must fight back against this asset sale and undertake to take back all privatised state assets built by the labour of the working class. For this we need a revolutionary workers’ party.

Mana movement is not that party when it leads the fight for state houses on marches to parliament, diverting the energy and resources of Mana (as a flax-grass roots movement) into the hot air and dirty politics of the parliamentary talk shop.

Our fight has to be based on mobilising those who refuse to move, and need support. We need to organise occupations in state housing areas - defend each house, each street, each neighbourhood. Build Mana as a movement on the streets and neighbourhoods – start with occupations of state houses.

Occupy! – defend and resist evictions!

Occupy! - build support for those willing to occupy against privatisation!

Occupy! - build solidarity of working class communities with trade unions ranks!

For a crash program to build state houses for rents pegged to the living wage determined by workers rent tribunals!

For the right of every working family to an affordable state house for life!