Class Struggle #48 December 2002/February
Notes and Comments:
Stopping the Imperialist war/Firefighters lead the way/Train drivers stop arms shipment/
Unions time to walk the talk/Why wait for Nuke ships?/With Friends like these/
Uncle Sam's Ears downunder/US locks up 100's of 'Islamic' terror suspects/Free Ahmed Souai!/
From Zimbabwe to Ngawha
[Reprinted from Internationalist Bulletin # 2
Workers around the world have been inspired by the strikes by the British firefighters and their supporters. The firefighters are demanding a 40% wage rise. But to the horror of British bosses and newspapers, a working class scarred by long decades of Thatcherism and Blairism is exploding into life on a thousand picket lines from Scotland to Cornwall. The Labour Party is in turmoil, as long-dead branches revive to fight Blair’s attempts to use troops and Thatcherite laws to break the strike. Bureaucratised, fossilised unions are suddenly hosting militant, mass meetings in support of the firefighters. Rank and file support committees for the firefighters have sprung up around the country. Kiwi workers can easily see the importance of the firefighters’ example to their own union movement, as it faces the second term of a Blairite Clark Labour government determined to hold wages and conditions down and cut real spending on public services like health and education.
But the firefighters’ strikes are more than a lesson in how to take on a penny-pinching government – it shows how workers can stop a powerful war machine in its tracks with direct action. Even Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, the chief of Britain’s defence staff, admits that a continuing strike by UK firefighters seriously undermines the possibility of military action against Iraq.
Soon after the first eight-day firefighters’ strike began, Boyce held a press conference to say that he was “extremely concerned” by the impact on military effectiveness of having troops used for firefighting. “I do not have a box of 19,000 [soldiers] standing by for such duties so they must come from operational duties,” he said. Boyce then insisted, “The armed forces should not cross picket lines.” Boyce’s warning was described by The Times newspaper as being close to mutiny. Boyce knows that the British army cannot invade Iraq, with the firefighters forcing them into action on the ‘home front’.
Blair's attempt to play down Boyce’s warning was contradicted by a second senior commander, Admiral and First Sea Lord Sir Alan West, who said that the deployment of service personnel as firefighters was damaging the navy's operational effectiveness, and that its impact would get "progressively worse".
In the short time they have been on strike, the firefighters have done more to challenge the drive for war on Iraq than a thousand peace marches. When we say this, we don’t mean to belittle the contribution the huge marches in Britain and other countries have made to the anti-war cause. Strike action is not an alternative to marches – it is the next step that the anti-war movement has to take, if it is to be successful.
Some people in the movement, including in New Zealand the leaders of the Green Party and the Alliance, say that the United Nations and ‘international law’ can stop the war, but history shows that imperialist war is only stopped when workers and their supporters ditch the politicians and take things into their own hands with strikes, mutinies, and the takeover of military bases and facilities. The First World War was was brought to a halt by strikes and mutinies in Germany, and in Russia by a revolution, not by international diplomacy. The Vietnam War was ended by the resistance of Vietnamese workers and peasants and their supporters around the world, not by the United Nations.
It’s no wonder that many in the international anti-war movement are beginning to demand more than demonstrations. In Britain, the opposition of the firefighters’ and railway workers’ (see next story) to the war means that their strike action is about much more than pay and conditions. Rank and file tube workers are talking about stopping London’s trains when the B 52s take off. A recent picket of Flyingdales Air Base in Britain hinted at the possibilities for direct action to close down military installations. CoBas, the Italian rank and file union that organised a general strike in April, has called for political strike action to stop the war, and gotten a warm response from many larger unions.
Not every worker is in a position to strike against the war, especially in isolated and conservative countries like New Zealand. But we can all agitate for the maximum disruption of the capitalist system – we need workplace meetings, posters and leaflets and bulletins, union banners on demos, refusals to perform work related to the war effort. All of this is needed to prepare for mass pickets and blockades of the frigates and the Orions to prevent them from going to join the war against Iraq!
Train Drivers Stop Arms shipment
The Guardian Thursday January 9, 2003
“Train drivers yesterday refused to move a freight train carrying ammunition believed to be destined for British forces being deployed in the Gulf. Railway managers cancelled the Ministry of Defence service after the crewmen, described as "conscientious objectors" by a supporter, said they opposed Tony Blair's threat to attack Iraq...
Leaders of the Aslef rail union were pressed at a meeting with EWS executives to ask the drivers to relent. But the officials of a union opposed to any attack on Iraq are unlikely to comply...
Dockers went on strike rather than load British-made arms on to ships destined for Chile after the assassination of left-wing leader Salvador Allende in 1973. In 1920 stevedores on London's East India Docks refused to move guns on to the Jolly George, a ship chartered to take weapons to anti-Bolsheviks after the Russian revolution...
Lindsey German, convener of the Stop the War Coalition, said: "We fully support the action that has been taken to impede an unjust and aggressive war. We hope that other people around the country will be able to do likewise." Full article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,870967,00.html
Unions like the PPTA have talked the talk, but now they need to walk the talk. The rank and file must take the lead, and get feet on the street. If they need inspiration, they only have to look to Britain, where anti-war marches have seen huge union contingents, and the firefighters have linked their strike action to opposition to any invasion of Iraq.
Poll after poll shows a majority of Kiwis oppose the War of Terror, but protests here against Bush’s crusade have so far been fairly small, with hundreds rather than thousands of people in the streets. Many Kiwis have put off hitting the streets because they feel that the Labour government is not as ‘involved’ in Bush’s war as its allies in countries like Britain and Australia. Helen Clark’s government seems like a ‘good cop’ to ‘bad cops’ like Howard and Blair, who sound louder and prouder of their pro-US policies.
In reality, New Zealand is a loyal soldier in Bush’s war, sending troops and ships to the Middle East and hosting US military and spy bases in the South Island. And, with every passing month, the devotion of the Labour government to its ‘very, very, very good friend’ America becomes more apparent. The recent sending of the frigate Te Kaha and 244 more military personnel to join the build-up for war with Iraq has shocked many workers who looked the other way when Clark and co. sent SAS troops to join the invasion of Afghanistan last year.
Now there are signs that New Zealand’s nuclear-free status, the last fig leaf of neutrality and independence, is about to be removed by a Labour government desperate to sign a free trade deal with Bush. When Finance Minister Michael Cullen returned from trade talks he suggested that a ‘debate’ should be held on whether the country’s nuclear-free status should be sacrificed for a trade deal. Then former World Trade Organisation boss and Labour Prime Minister Mike Moore wrote an article for the New Zealand Herald echoing Cullen’s thoughts, and criticising ‘knee-jerk’ anti-nuclear views.
Now National’s Gerry Brownlee has launched an attack on party leader Bill English on the issue, and ACT politicians have picked up on Labour’s dilemma, and are preparing the way for a repeal of anti-nuclear legislation with speeches up and down the country.
TVNZ political analyst Garth Bray recently predicted a Labour move to bring US nuke ships back to New Zealand:
“Helen Clark is unlikely to admit Labour has also been polling the issue, but if you were a gambler, you'd bet your last dollar it has...Wait until the trade deal is on the brink, announce a flashy drawn-out process headed by a judge and assisted by a scientist and a reformed anti-nuke campaigner to add credibility...then weave through the rocks finding a cautious case for allowing nuclear propelled shipping, so long as it carries no weapons.”
A return to nuclear ship visits would be a brutal shock to those Kiwis who over the years since 1985 have convinced themselves of their country’s ‘neutrality’ and ‘independence’. With some justification as the original ban on nuclear ships resulted from the staunch actions of mass protests like those of the ‘Peace Squadron’ –boaties who took to the water in their hundreds in the early 1980s to try and blockade nuclear ships like the cruiser USS Thruxton and the submarine USS Pintado.
That’s why we say don’t wait for the return of the monsters to get into protest mode – we should be on the streets now, campaigning against the War of Terror and the invasion of Iraq, and showing Labour that we want to get rid of the presence of the US military, not add to it. Stopping war in Iraq is the best way to stop the return of the nuclear monsters.
What can we make of reports like these? In just six months US imperialism has taken us from vague talk of a "new world order" to the threat of nuclear war in the event of "surprising military developments". And Labour wants to be ‘very, very, very good friends’ with these bastards!
The Waihopai electronic intelligence gathering base is located in the Waihopai Valley, near Blenheim. Its two satellite interception dishes (shielded from public view by giant domes) intercept a huge volume of telexes, faxes, e-mail and computer data communications. It spies on our Asia/Pacific neighbours, and forwards the material on to the major partners in the UKUSA Agreement, specifically the US National Security Agency (NSA). Its targets are international communications involving New Zealanders, including the interception of international phone calls. The codename for this – Echelon – has become notorious worldwide, as the vast scope of its spying has become public.
The Anti-Bases Campaign (ABC) invites
people from around the country to join us for the weekend of
anti-war protest at this spybase January 24-26 2003. More information at- cafa@ chch.planet.org.nz http://www.converge.org.nz/abc
Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand
The Independent December 19, 2002
“Hundreds of Middle Eastern and North African men, some just 16, have been hauled into custody across southern California in the past few days, enraging civil liberties groups and drawing comparisons with the internment of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during the Second World War.
The round-ups in Los Angeles, San
Diego and suburban Orange County were part of a counter-terrorism initiative
by the Bush administration, requiring men and teenagers from specific countries
to register with the immigration authorities and have their fingerprints
taken. Several thousand citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Sudan –
many of them
accompanied by lawyers – willingly came forward across southern California to meet Monday's deadline.
However, as many as a quarter of them – estimates vary between 500 and 1,000 people – were arrested on the basis of apparently minor visa violations and herded into jail cells under threat of deportation.
Lawyers reported that some detainees were forced to stand up all night for lack of room, that some were placed in shackles, and others were hosed down with cold water before being thrown into unheated cells. They said the numbers were so high that authorities were talking about transferring several hundred detainees to Arizona to await immigration hearings and deportation orders.
Both the lawyers and the southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union denounced the round-up as an outrage that did not advance the fight against terrorism one inch and very possibly hindered it. At a public demonstration in Los Angeles on Wednesday, at least 3,000 protesters waved signs saying "What next? Concentration camps?" and "Detain terrorists, not innocent immigrants".
*Internationalist Bulletin is produced by the Anti-Imperialist Coalition, Auckland 025 2800080
Asylum-seeker Ahmed Zouai has now been locked up for more than a month in Pareremoremo Prison, and branded a ‘terrorist’ in the mainstream media. While we have no sympathy for Zouai’s Islamist politics, we oppose the imprisonment and vilification of a man who has not been proved guilty of any crime, let alone a crime against humanity. Zouai’s conviction in Algeria for terrorism means nothing to us, because we know that Algeria’s courts are controlled by a Western-backed military dictatorship that is itself a major perpetrator of terrorism.
Without offering a scrap of evidence, Murdoch’s pets in the media have accused Zouai of plotting terrorist acts in South East Asia. But the biggest terrorist threat in Asia is not the ‘shadowy group’ Zouai supposedly belongs to but the goverment of the United States, and its local allies like Australia and New Zealand. It is the U.S., Australia and New Zealand which are deeply implicated in the killing of 750,000 Indonesian and East Timorese in a thirty year spree by their pet Suharto regime. If the Clark government was serious about fighting terrorism it would call an independent public inquiry into real terrorist acts like these, instead of locking up Zouai.
The Western campaign against Zimbawe has reached another fever pitch, with Tony Blair and John Howard taking time out from their preparations for war on Iraq to accuse the Mugabe government and the land occupation movement of terrorism. Blair and Howard don’t like the way that landless Zimbabweans have been seizing the big properties of the four and a half thousand whites who for a hundred years have controlled the country’s best farmland. They blame Mugabe for stirring the natives up. For its part, the Clark government has been one of the most enthusiastic backers of the anti-Mugabe, anti-occupations campaign. Clark unsuccessfully urged the expulsion of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth last year, and is now backing British and Aussie calls for cricketers to boycott the Zimbabwe leg of the upcoming World Cup.
We all know that governments which oversee the slaughter of thousands of civilians in one semi-colonial country are hardly likely to be genuinely interested in human rights in another. Making war in Afghanistan and Iraq doesn’t square with defending human rights in Zimbabwe. What, then, lies behind the anti-Zimbabwe campaign?
We think that the Clark government’s hatred of the land reform movement in Zimbabwe is motivated as much by internal as external concerns. Clark is worried, in particular, that the Zimbabwean land occupations will inspire Maori to direct action in their struggle to recover stolen land and to win reforms like better housing and more jobs.
But what exactly is going on in Zimbabwe? Let’s be clear: Mugabe is no friend of socialists. He is a nasty bureaucrat who rode the anti-colonial struggle to power by cutting a deal with the British that prevented socialist revolution and real land reform in Zimbabwe, and for many years, through the 80s and most of the 90s, he loyally followed the dictates of the International Monetary Fund. Mugabe has been forced to move to the left and take on imperialist powers like Britain by the strength of Zimbabwean anger against white farmers, the IMF, and the imperialist governments that bleed Africa dry.
Faced with a popular desire to seize land, Mugabe decided that it would be too dangerous to take the side of the white famers and imperialism. Like Chavez in Venezuela, he is trying to ‘ride the tiger’ of popular protest. He has been forced to undertake certain leftist reforms, like the nationalisation of the food distribution network, but he has also acted wherever he can to compromise with imperialism and to undermine the occupation movement. He has installed his wealthy henchmen on many of the occupied farms, and he has promised multinational companies that their factories in Zimbabwe will be safe from occupation. We should be careful, then, not to believe the mainstream media when it tells us that Mugabe and the land ocupations movement are one and the same. The occupations movement in Zimbabwe started without Mugabe, and it needs to get rid of Mugabe if it is to succeed.
So what does
all this have to do with Aotearoa?
Since December 7 a noho (occupation) by Te Whanau o Ngawha of Ngati Rangi, Ngapuhi and supporters has been blocking the construction of a jail on whenua tapu (sacred land) at Ngawha Springs. A Marae, a Kohanga Reo, gardens and a wharekai are being established on the occupied land. The occupation follows the May arrests of 37 anti-prison protesters at Ngawha. Labour ministers have condemned the Ngawha protesters are irresponsible troublemakers, using language that recalls the Maori-bashing of Muldoon twenty years ago.
The government is worried that Ngawha will be the beginning of a new wave of occupations, as Maori get fed up with the failure of political correctness, ‘Maoricorp’ capitalism, and kissass Maori MPs to address burning issues of land, housing, GE, and jobs. The example of Zimbabwe terrifies Labour MPs who know about the linked history of anti-imperialist struggles in Aotearoa and Southern Africa.
In the 1970s, the decade of Bastion Point and the Land March, strong links existed between the Maori struggle and the anti-apartheid struggles in Rhodesia and South Africa. Many Maori were inspired by the guerrilla war waged by the Zimbabweans against the Smith regime in Rhodesia, and by the Soweto uprising staged by South African students and workers in 1976. In 1981 the struggles in Southern Africa and Aotearoa overlapped when many Maori joined protests against the Springbok tour. South African political prisoners rejoiced when protests forced the cancellation of the opening tour game, and sent messages of solidarity to imprisoned Maori protesters.
Later in the 80s and through the 90s the struggles in Aotearoa, South Africa and Zimbabwe were all sold out by a leadership which set itself up as a neo-colonial capitalist class. Mugabe, Mandela, and Maoricorp leaders like Robert Mahuta all tried to build national or tribal capitalism, acting as the agents of global capitalism which continues to colonise the economy even after formal political colonialism is abolished. Now the rank and file workers and farmers who Mugabe rode to power are revolting against economic colonialism, and Maori can be inspired by their example.
Stop Te Mana going to War!
No UN ‘peacekeeping’ missions!
Close down Waihopai Spy base!
Helen Clark and her Labour government have committed the frigates Te Kaha and Te Mana, along with an airforce Orion, to the Persian Gulf. This will free up other US allies to take direct part in an attack on Iraq. The Clark government is already supporting an ongoing war against Iraq. In the 12 years since the last gulf war, NZ troops have been part of the low intensity war of sanctions and bombing of ‘no fly zones’ against Iraq. Over a million Iraqis have died as a result.
US imperialism needs war
Now the US is going to war against Iraq again to re-assert its military and economic control of the Middle East and Central Asia –aka Yankeestan! The pretext that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction is proven a hollow sham as the US inspectors come up with no ‘smoking gun’ week after week. This will not deter the US from seizing control of the largest remaining oil reserves in the world. It needs this oil to keep its economic machine operating and the profits flowing.
The vast majority of the people in the oppressed countries see clearly that this is a war for economic domination of the world. They are not fooled by Western propaganda even though they have no love for dictators like Saddam Hussein. Many in the West are coming to this realisation also. However, the majority is not yet willing to take action to stop war.
Governments won’t stop war
‘Western’ governments like the US, UK France, Germany, Japan etc and their client states Australia and NZ, are all implicated in this war because they expect some share in the proceeds of war. Some hide behind the Security Council and talk of peace and democracy. But they are all motivated by the need for oil for profits. Appealing to these governments will not bring any change. They will participate in the war some way or other. Where a semi-colonial government like that of Chavez in Venzuela stands up against the war it is threatened with a coup or worse.
Yet as the Venezuelan workers showed last April it was only their mass action that prevented the US-backed coup from succeeding. This proves that the working people have to come up with their own answers to imperialist war. We need to convince the people of this course of action. In Britain and elsewhere there are calls for mass civil disobedience and a general strike against any new attack on Iraq.
Workers’ war against imperialist war
The anti-war, anti-capitalist forces need to coordinate their actions to build a nation-wide united front to block NZ’s military involvement in the Gulf. All those, inspired by Pilger or Chomsky, such as peace groups and the Oceania Social Forum, who hope to reform capitalism by public pressure, must see that anti-capitalism, anti-globalisation, or anti- imperialism means first stopping the war against Iraq -now!
Workers’ Strikes and Blockades
Civil disobedience, work stoppages and road-blocks can mobilise people against war, but only workers direct action against the military machine, and strikes to halt war production, can stop war. Following the example of militant workers in Britain, Italy, Japan, etc we have the power to stop imperialist war by blockading the production of war materials, and by striking against governments that support such wars. In New Zealand we must mount a workers opposition to NZ’s military involvement.
Stop the Te Mana from replacing the Te Kaha in the Gulf by mobilising the mana of the working people of Aotearoa!
Stop the Orions from joining in the war.
Political strikes to stop the war.!
Close down the Waihopai Spy Base!
Smash the Echelon spy satellite system!
As anti-imperialists, in a war between the US/UK/EU and UN imperialists and Iraq, we are for victory to Iraq and the defeat of the imperialists and their allies like New Zealand. This is because a victory for imperialism would be a defeat for the world’s workers. It would lead to another dictator or client state imposed in Saddam’s place, and Iraqi workers would be as powerless as they are under Saddam. We want to see Iraqi workers overthrow Saddam, and replace him with a workers republic. But they can only do that by first defending Iraq against imperialism, retaining their armed independence from Saddam’s army, and then turning that war into a class, or civil, war replacing Saddam Hussein’s regime with a workers’and poor peasant’s government.
Meanwhile, workers in the imperialist countries and their allies like Australia and New Zealand, must stop their governments going to war by mobilising the working class to organise against the military machines. By making political strikes against war, workers turn the imperialist war into a civil war between the bosses and workers. In this way the main cause of imperialist war, the rule of the capitalist classes in the imperialist countries, can be challenged by the mobilisation of workers power, by the formation of workers’ councils and workers’ defence committees which have the potential to replace that bosses state with a workers’ state.
The referral back to the House late last year of the “Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Bill 2002” signalled that the government intends to forge ahead with it’s plans to further erode our already seriously damaged civil rights. The select committee hearings on the Bill heard submissions from a wide range of individuals and groups opposed to the bill and as usual the Government chose to ignore them, proving that the whole select committee process is a complete farce and that the government had no intention of listening to any of the critics. Even some of the government’s lackeys voiced concern about the interception of citizen’s computer and telephone communications. The Privacy Commissioner, Bruce Slane, was concerned about the effect this would have on individual privacy.
S11 and ‘homeland security
Since September 11 2001, the Capitalist world has been in the grip of fear about terrorism and many western countries seem to be vying with each other to see who can strip away the most rights from the people. Not to be outdone, New Zealand has joined the cynical circus with legislation which gives the authorities vastly greater rights to spy on people. The Bill is part of an insidious package of legislation which includes anti terrorism legislation, increased powers for the GCSB (The Government Communications Security Bureau) and amendments to the Crimes Act that will make it legal for Government snoopers to hack into people’s computers. At the heart of these Bills is a desire to win the hearts and minds not of the people of New Zealand but of the imperial masters, particularly those in the US. There has been some vague talk in the last few months of us cutting a trade deal with Uncle Sam, and if it does eventuate, there is little doubt that a quid-pro-quo has taken place between the Governments of our two countries. There is also little doubt that the US will be the recipient of much of the information harvested by the New Zealand Police, SIS and GCSB.
Terrorism Suppression Act
A Select Committee held hearings in Auckland last year to hear submissions on the anti-terrorism legislation. Time was set aside to hear from left wing groups who opposed the legislation. The Workers Party, Socialist Party of Aotearoa and Socialist Workers Organisation spoke at some length to the committee about their concerns. Issues were raised such as the Workers Party association with Maoist parties in other countries and how that could be interpreted under the proposed bill. One of the provisions of the anti-terrorism legislation would make it illegal to be associated with any so-called terrorist organisation. Committee chairman, Graham Kelly, made a comment that he had been involved in the anti-Vietnam movement in the 60s and understood full well how people were concerned about civil rights but that they had nothing to fear. Essentially, Kelly expects us to trust him on the basis that he has some sort of street cred because he marched in a few demos over thirty years ago. At best he is now a cog in the New Zealand capitalist machine so his assurances count for little.
The Communist Workers Group also made submissions highlighting the despicable role played by the US in the rest of the world and raising the question of who were the real terrorists. Again, as expected, the Select Committee paid no attention to the many voices raised in concern over the direction this legislation was taking the country. One of the worst side effects of September 11 has been the way in which it has been used by the imperialists to hasten their attacks on civil rights. This attack is not new and rights were already in the process of being stripped away in countries like New Zealand. All that has happened since September 11 2001 is that the pace has quickened.
Crimes Act cyber snoops
Another example of the attack on civil liberties can be seen in changes to the Crimes Act which allows The Police, SIS and GCSB to hack into people’s computers to combat “cyber crime” and “cyber terrorism.” When asked for examples of cyber crime the supporters of the legislation cannot come up with any compelling examples and instead mumble about how criminals are increasingly using the net to commit crimes. As for cyber terrorism, evidence of this is even thinner on the ground. However, when asked for examples, the authorities can always fall back on the “I can’t reveal that information on grounds of national security” speech. This is a convenient way of side stepping the issue.
Many computer and Internet experts such as Alan Marsden of the ISP PLAnet point out that people will be able to get around the new legislation by using methods such as encryption. It is most likely that ordinary workers will be the ones spied on. A simple email containing the words ‘Bush’ and ‘kill’ will be the sort of thing that gains the attention of the spies. They won’t even have to be in the same sentence or paragraph.
Workers, activist organisations and individual dissidents will subjected to an apparelled level of surveillance and this information will then be passed on to US. Even before these offensive pieces of legislation came along organisations like the SIS and GCSB were a law unto themselves, spying on perfectly legal activism and activists such as Aziz Chowdry and David Small in Chrstchurch. We couldn’t trust them then, why should we trust them now especially since they have been given increased powers!
More Police Powers
The amendments to the Crimes Act to allow hacking are complemented by the Government Communications Security Bureau Bill which gives even greater powers to The GCSB than the police. While a police interception warrant only lasts for 30 days, the GCSB warrant lasts for 12 months and the only details made public every year are how many warrants were issued in the last 12 months. It gets even worse when you consider that some of the GCSB interceptions (such as those carried out at Waihopai) are not even subject to a warrant system. The Bill deliberately uses broad and sweeping phrases such as “New Zealand’s international interests or economic well-being.” No doubt that will mean protecting our alliances with other capitalist and imperialist powers and protecting the interests of international capitalism. The Green Party point out in their submission on the bill “a multinational company such as Monsanto, a promoter of GE Crops, is a major threat to New Zealand’s ‘economic well being’. Yet, there is no indication that the GCSB will be spying on Monsanto.” On the contrary, they will probably be spying on the “wild greens” an activist movement associated with the Green Party.
Echelon ties NZ to US War on Terror
New Zealand is one of the five partners (along with the US, Britain, Canada and Australia) in the “Echelon” electronic spying network. Echelon was pioneered by the US Intelligence agencies and is nothing less than a massive trawler of information. As one would expect with such a programme coming out of the US state, its purpose is to prop up capitalism and the imperialist order. Anything perceived as a threat to US interests would be a target. With the passage of this legislation, a blank cheque will effectively be given to our spying centre at Waihopai to conduct intrusive surveillance on not only New Zealanders but Pacific Island residents as well.
Attack on political freedoms
An example of an activist organisation that has much to fear from the GCSB Bill is the Anti-Bases Campaign in Christchurch. In light of this they too made submissions to Parliament opposing the bill. They make an extremely good point about the hypocrisy of the bill when they ask:
“The GCSB Bill would confer an aura of legitimacy on the Bureau that it simply does not deserve. How can an agency be deemed to operate under the laws of the land when it is exempted from certain provisions of the Privacy Act, when it is exempted from some provisions of the Crimes Act, when it’s methods of operation are closed secrets except to the exclusive breathern within the international intelligence community?”
Smash the police state!
They are right to ask this question, but a fear of being labelled hypocrites by their opponents has never stopped the capitalists from doing what serves their interests.Capitalist laws serve capitalist interests. We need an ongoing campaign to expose the abuses of power the state is engaging in and the real purpose behind such legislation. We must also make workers aware at every opportunity that they and their organisations are under direct threat from the spying legislation currently before parliament.
Only when people understand that these legislative attacks are part of capitalism’s grand plan for control, and that their class interests can not be defended by legislative changes but in the rejection of the capitalist system itself, will there be real change.
Workers action to defend civil rights!
For migrant defence committees!
In the last issue we argued that pacificism could not stop war. We said that war is a necessary result of imperialist crisis and that the only way to stop war was to overthrow capitalism with a socialist revolution. In this issue we try to explain this position further by going into the key concepts in more depth. These concepts are capitalism itself, crises, capitalist state, imperialism, war, revolution, party. If we can convince you that capitalism is a crisis-ridden system that relies on the state to protect it and to go to war to defend it, you should conclude that it is necessary to overthrow capitalism to stop war. Then we have to persuade you to join a revolutionary party.
Capitalism likes to present itself as the best of all possible worlds. For most of the 20th century capitalism was associated with greed, depression and war. It became a dirty word. The only people who used it were anti-capitalists. Most others used the term liberal democracy when they really meant capitalism – albiet one that had been tamed by the welfare state.
In the 1980’s the new right rehabilitated this word as a badge of pride. Capitalism in freeing up market forces would liberate individuals from the tyranny of state socialism and take its place in history as the best of all societies. This model of capitalism is one of a self-correcting market that meets the needs of all without state intervention. But this is far from the real world capitalism of crises, wars and revolutions that manifests itself periodically in depressions and wars. The model capitalism of social harmony and peace on earth cannot live up to its PR image.
The cause of crises
Why can’t capitalism deliver on its promises? The problem isn’t excessive state interference, or anarchy of the market, but a failure to extract enough surplus value from workers to prevent profits falling. The problem with capitalism is the antagonistic class relations between capital and labour. Capital can only exist by expropriating surplus value from the labour of workers. Capitalism cannot be a stable, harmonious system. There is a constant conflict between the class that produces and the class that exploits.
As Marx explained, competition among capitalists drives them to innovate in order to increase labour productivity. This usually means building new machines that allow workers to produce more commodities in a shorter period of time. Machines don’t create value so the captital invested in them can only be recouped by further increasing labour output, by investing in more machines, and so on and on… The result is a tendency for the rate of profit to fall and an excess of commodities and capital flooding the market causing depression (devaluation of companies and wages) in order to restore the rate of profit. This is where the state helps out.
It is not immediately obvious that the state acts in the interests of the capitalist class. This is because it appears to represent all citizens equally. This perception is false. It is based on the way capitalism presents itself as equal in the marketplace. Everyone is as equal as the commodities s/he can buy. Value appears as a built-in property of commodities rather than a property of the labour that is required to produce them. Marx called this capitalist ideology ‘commodity fetishism’. So while the state acts to treat everybody as equal citizens in the market it actually creates and reinforces the unqual class (or social) relations of capitalism – the capitalist class that owns most of the private property and expropriates the labour of the working class.
Not surprisingly when the workers try to get back some of their expropriated wealth through strikes, factory occupations etc., the state steps in with its legal and military apparatuses to protect the capitalists’ right to private property. This requires the state to subsidise profits and find ways to expand the national market overseas. That’s why Marx called the capitalists the ‘ruling class’ and capitalist ideology the ‘ideas of the ruling class’, and the state the capitalist (or bourgeois) state.
Imperialism is what happens when crises of falling profits in the more developed capitalist countries force the capitalists and their state to expand the market to find new profitable investments. The leading capitalist states colonise the non-capitalist world to get cheap labour, resources and find new markets for their products. They don’t do it because they ruling class is greedy or bloody-minded but because they have to. By colonising new countries capitalism can lower its costs of production.
The first historic period of European colonisation was motivated by the drive to establish capitalist production in Europe. From the late 15th century European powers colonised the Americas, and chunks of Asia and accumated the wealth to allow capitalism to develop in Europe. Only in the late 19th century, when capitalism had become Europe-wide (had outgrown Europe) and needed to expand globally to survive, did the Age of Imperialism proper arrive. By the early 20th century capitalism had reached its imperialist stage and had conquered most of the continents of the world, forcing pre-capitalist societies into making commodities for profit.
The race by rival imperialist powers to colonise the world led to the First World War. As they fought to colonise Africa, Asia and the Pacific in the late 19th century, the great powers used their armies and navies to defeat their opponents. Soon they were fighting over the Balkans, the Far East, the Russian empire and central Europe itself. Not only were their workers exploited for profit, now they were expected to go to war and kill workers of other countries.
Some workers benefitted from the wealth extracted from the colonies. This layer of better-paid workers in the imperialist countries (called by Engels ‘bourgeois workers’ and Lenin the ‘Labour Aristocracy’) went to war to protect their high wages. But many workers rejected killing their fellow workers, mutinied, fraternised with the enemy, or used their weapons to resist the war. This was especially true of the more backward countries like Russia or semi-colonies like Poland.
The result was that war intensifed the class conflict between workers and capitalists by raising the levels of exxploitation and oppression to intolerable levels creating widespread sympathy for revolution. This was true not only of backward countries, colonies and semi-colonies where workers and peasants began to resist imperialist rule, but of the developed European powers too.
In each step of the argument made here, capitalism is shown to be a society that exploits, oppresses, and destroys by means of depressions and wars. Not because capitalists want to but because they have to. At one pole the pile of riches mounts up. The current war for oil is to concentrate the ownership of oil in the US. At the other pole, disease, starvation and genocide pile the bodies high. The death toll of the ongoing war for oil adds to this body count daily.
There is no hope that capitalism can be reformed in the interests of the vast masses. The crucible of war, revolution and counter-revolution in Germany between 1918-1923 proved that. There can be no state intervention that will persuade capitalists to voluntarily hand over their expropriated wealth. That’s why Nestle is giving back only a fraction of its profits extorted from the Ethiopian people as aid. There is only one way for humanity to survive and that is to expropriate the expropriators! This will not happen until a class conscious layer of workers understand this and forms a revolutionary party to convince the rest of the working class of the necessity for socialist revolution.
If you want to be part of the fight for socialism join us in the struggle against the barbarism of war and the destruction of the wealth of society and nature that today can be harnessed for the benefit of all humanity..
No war for oil!
No oil for the Juggernaut!
Fight for Socialism!
One year after the momentous Argentinazo of December 19 and 20, workers and poor people flooded once more to the Plaza de Mayo in the centre of Buenos Aires. Unlike last year where the state forces killed 33 mainly young people and the level of protest forced the resignation of the De la Rua government, this year there was no confrontation and Duhalde’s government did not fall. A temporary stalemate exists. The bosses are relying on the union bureaucrats and so-called socialist parties to divide and rule the workers struggles. However, the forces on the militant left wing of the movement are regrouping around the occupied factories to defend the most important conquest of the revolution and to unite workers on a revolutionary action program. A member of CWG just back from Argentina reports on the prospects of the continuing revolution.
Argentina December 20 2002
The mass rally on December 20 this year (100,000 in Buenos Aires and 100,000 in the rest of Argentina) shows that a temporary stalemate exists between the two main classes in Argentina. On the one side Duhalde’s government was not challenged. It was able to pay the IMF $20 billion, make another 500,000 workers unemployed, and still rely on the union bureaucracy to buy off the majority of unemployed with US $40 a month. On the other side, an increasing number of the ranks of unemployed, employed and students are becoming angry at the treachery of the bureaucracy and the ‘left’ parties, and are openly looking for ways to break from their control and find an independent working class solution to the bosses’ crisis.
While the bosses were able to prevent the workers from using December 20 to make another Argentinazo, what was significant about this years rally, was the emergence of a class struggle left wing of the mass movement that marched separately and that broke openly with the control of the official union bureaucracy of the CTA/CCC and the unofficial ‘left bureaucracy’ that has emerged in the last year to administer the unemployment schemes. Instead of of falling into the trap of trying to bring down Duhalde with street fighting, these as yet small forces rallied behind demands for strike action, for defence of the factory occupations, and for general strike leading to national workers congress in the new year.
On balance it seems that the stalemate continues but that the current situation opens the way for a deepening and widening of the revolution, to overcome the splits in the mass movement, and to break from the bureaucracy by mounting mass defence pickets of the factory occupations by all the sectors in struggle.
Brukman and Zanon leading the fight
The most visible sign of this healthy development was that of the Brukman and Zanon occupied factories leading their own column, closely associated with two other colums, that of the FTC and that of the combined forces of the RSL, SC and DO. All of these columns marched behind the banners of strike and take the fight to the streets on D 19/20 (instead of a stagemanaged ‘commemoration’ organised by the bureaucracy); to fight the union bureaucracy; for a general strike to bring down Duhalde and “get them all out”; for all factories to be nationalised without compensation and under workers control; and for a 3rd national workers congress of mandated delegates for every 100 employed, unemployed workers and popular assembly members.
It was important that Brukman led the way. Brukman is the factory that represents the most politically advanced workers who are calling openly for the nationalisation of their factory without compensation and under workers control. For this reason the bosses are determined to re-take this factory to destroy it as an example of how socialism can work.
Zanon is another leading example. Zanon is a large ceramics factory in Neuquen in the far west of Argentina whose workers are running it at 80% capacity and providing jobs for unemployed. Zanon was recently visited by Hebe de Bonafini a leader of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Dissappeared) who immediately saw that workers were in control and were capable of producing without bosses. She reported that Zanon was proof that workers could run society not only in Argentina but the whole world.
In an important symbolic act, on December 20 itself, another factory occupation took place. This was ISACO a factory that made car parts, at one time employing over 200 workers, and which shut down in December 2000. It was finally declared bankrupt on 24 November this year. When the sacked workers heard this they decided to camp outside to prevent the factory being stripped of machines. They reoccupied the factory at 7 am on the 20th with plans to restart production under workers’ control. They took this decision conscious of the many other occupations that have already taken place.
Almost all attempts by the bossses to get the police, the justice and the union scabs to retake these factories have so far failed. The recent retaking of the Halac medical clinic at Cordoba on the 17 December succeeded only because the numbers defending the clinc were too small to stop the police. The lesson being drawn is that all of the sectors in struggle have to unite to form mass defence committees against the bosses’ attempts to retake the occupied workplaces. Hence the common columns marching on the 20th put up the demand for unity to defend the occupations, clearly against the bureaucrats’ measures to divide the movement.
The second lesson is that as well as these defence committees, the rest of the sectors in struggle (unemployed, employed, and members of PAs) have to unite behind a general strike to bring Duhalde down. They take seriously the demand raised spontaneously last December 20: “out with them all, not one must remain”. But instead of organising another Argentinazo to bring Duhalde down, the union bureaucrats are conducting negotiations with Duhalde and the IMF to do a deal to rescue the Argentinean economy and avoid a popular revolution. They are jockeying to contest the April elections, or they are taking a fake left line and calling for elections for Constituent Assemblies as if these would solve Argentina’s crisis. That is why the class stuggle tendency in the movement united behind Brukman and Zanon puts the demand on the bureacuracy for a general strike to bring down the government now, and a National Congress of employed, unemployed and Popular Assemblies.
‘Workers to Power’
The third lesson is that is all very well to bring down a government, but who will rule in its place? Again the experience of the unemployed movement that has called for “workers to power” for more than a year, combining with the lessons of the factory occupations, that the bosses’ property must be nationalised without compensation under workers control, all points to one solution – a workers’ revolution. That is why these class struggle currrents have united around the demand for ‘workers to power’ and for a 3rd national congress of workers early in 2003 that can become the basis of a workers’ government.
Today the revolutionary situation in Argentina that was opened over a year ago by workers looking for their own solution to the crisis has been met by opposition from all the political currents across the spectrum of Argentina’s class structure top to bottom. Most workers have lost faith in any of the Bourgeois parties including the left Peronists like Duhalde (or De la Rua who is waiting in the wings with the retired General Rico as a running mate).
Nor are they enthusiastic to vote for left reformists like De Ellia and Zamora who promise ‘popular governments’ modelled on the popular front of the World Social Forum or on Lula’s government in Brazil. Hopes are being placed in Lula’s ability to help solve the Argentine crisis. As the pesos devaluation has restored the competitiveness of Argentina’s exports, the reformist left is looking to a revival of trade with Brazil to rescue the economy. But there is no way out of the crisis for workers via the bourgeois state. The most that can happen is that Argentina’s crisis will become joined with Brazil’s own ongoing crisis. This demonstrates clearly that the WSF is a reformist or ‘menshevik’ international that has to be confronted internationally by revolutionaries.
The most treacherous of all are the self-proclaimed ‘workers’ parties and the left bureaucracy that put forward the solution of the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly is a bourgeois parliament that represents all classes. As we argued in Class Struggle No 43, the call for a Constituent Assembly when revolution is building is to reject the theory of Permanent Revolution. This theory makes it clear that in colonies and semi-colonies fighting imperialism, there can be no break with imperialism unless the working class leads a socialist revolution. The national bourgeoisie are completely dependent upon imperialism and workers alone have the class interest and class power to lead a revolution to expropriate the imperialists.
While the appeal of the elections to a popular front and the various Constituent Assemblies are being pushed non-stop, as yet none of these attempts to divert the revolution has won the support of the class struggle wing of the movement where the instinct is for ‘workers to power’. The situation is ripe for a revolutionary leadership to thrust itself to the fore and to take the lead in building organs of workers power against the union bureaucracy and against the bourgeois state.
Where to from here?
The current situation in Argentina is poised to break the stalemate and to develop in one of two directions. The bosses may succeed in dampening down the revolutionary situation with a new round of elections as a trap for the majority of workers, and the systemmatic repression of the factory occupations and militant wing of the mass movement. This would allow them to impose a solution to the crisis on the backs of the masses and avoid the threat of revolutionary upheaval.
But for this to succeed the workers revolution has to be strangled. The revolutionary situation that has opened up in the last year has demonstrated the necessity for the unity and coordination of all the sectors in struggle around the factory occupations to break with the union bureaucrats and launch a general strike to bring down the government and put a workers government in its place. The class struggle wing is now drawing these lessons and embarking on that road and building united fronts across the country. But that will not be sufficient. There needs to be a revolutionary party and program to lead the way forward.
The single crucial factor that will make the difference in which direction Argentina goes is the existence a revolutionary party. The instinctive struggle for ‘workers to power’ cannot happen spontaneously. It has to be built, defended and extended by creating organs of dual power. The occupations are the starting point because only they seriously challenge capitalist property rights. The intervention of the revolutionary left in the occupations is the test of their leadership. Here we see the vanguard of the workers testing out the revolutionary ideas of the more healthy parties. Some like the PO or PTS, who try to contain the struggle for sectarian or oppportunist reasons, are being exposed. Those parties like the DO, the CS and RSL, and other militant workers that fight for the vanguard to adopt a revolutionary action program and for organs of workers power, will become the core of the Argentinean revolutionary party, and part of a new world party of revolution.
Venezuela has become the latest Latin America country to enter a revolutionary crisis,
as the United States works hard to overthrow left-wing President Chavez.
We reproduce parts of an article written by supporters of Chavez, then outline the
Trotskyist response to the crisis in Venezuela.
Venezuela's 'National Strike'
by Justin Podur at Znet
The 'general strike' in Venezuela is the fourth called by the opposition over the past year, including the failed coup attempt in April.
The economy is suffering. On December 3, the anti-Chavez forces stopped a bus, doused it with gasoline, and set it on fire earlier
today to enforce the strike-only the driver was inside, and he escaped unharmed. On the fourth day of the strike the captains of the
oil tankers began a blockade on the transport of oil to and from Venezuela.
The 'Bolivarians', who support Chavez and his reforms, are fighting back. On December 10, they surrounded the TV stations,
a natural tactic in a country where the mass media is openly for the oligarchy and against the poor. On December 7, a peace march
brought 2 million out in support of the government, an event barely covered by the media. A week later workers at a Pepsi-Cola plant
in Aragua, Venezuela, took it over against the wishes of management in order to not join a national strike. Their slogan is "Fabrica
Cerrada - Fabrica Tomada", or 'Close the Factories? We'll take them over!" The government has sent troops to take over the oil
installations and there are reports that oil workers in some parts of the country are working. But the strike has slowed oil production
and the economy in general.
Much of this struggle is about oil. Venezuela is the world's fourth largest oil producer and its oil industry is critical to its economy.
Chavez's 'bolivarian revolution' argues for a role for the state in the oil industry, the redistribution of oil income, and the use of revenues
from this resource to build economic independence. But since 1974, the oil industry has been moving in the opposite direction. At that
time, the state-run-oil company kept 20% of its revenue in operating costs and turned 80% over to the state. In 1990 it was 50-50 and
in 1998, when Chavez was elected, the company kept 80% and turned 20% over. What the neoliberals had in mind in the late 1990s
was full privatization-not a reversal of the trend of the previous 20 years. Added to this, the administration of the oil industry is in the
hands of anti-Chavez forces, making it possible for them to go on strike in order to promote privatization.
What are Chavez's other crimes? Severance pay was restored in the constitution of 1999, after being eliminated in 1997. Social
security was set to be privatized in 1998, but was also impeded by the constitution of 1999. The Land Law, passed last year, was an
agrarian reform law that tries to make rural life viable for Venezuelans and slow rural-urban migration at the expense of large plantation
owners and real-estate speculators.
What is going on in Venezuela is a reversal of the situation in most of the countries of the world. Elsewhere, governments quietly
pass neoliberal laws, privatize state assets, and undermine agrarian reforms under the direction of local elites. The people-and quite
often the employees of the state organs to be privatized-protest, and are repressed by the government. In Venezuela, the neoliberals
tried and failed to take over the government in April 2002. Their remaining weapons are the strike, the media, and the dream of external
Many analysts believe that a US intervention in Venezuela shouldn't be ruled out, and that Colombia's civil war will offer a pretext
for such an intervention. While the US has made it clear that it would recognize a Venezuelan government that successfully overthrew
Chavez, reparations for a direct military intervention do not seem to be in the works in the short term.
Marta Harnecker, a Chilean sociologist, has been following events in Venezuela closely and recently interviewed Chavez for 15
hours. Just two weeks ago she stated her belief that "if Chávez wanted to lead an insurrection today, he would have the strength
to do it. That is, the people and the army at this moment would permit a victorious insurrection. The problem is what will happen
tomorrow. I think he's sufficiently mature to understand the correlation of forces in which he finds himself and to understand that
insurrection would not be the solution." The solution, instead, is to continue with democracy, to continue to struggle honourably
against opponents who fight dirty. Venezuelans should not have to face this battle alone.
The Trotskyist Perspective
Trotskyists defend Chavez from U.S. coups and CIA-backed subversion, but deny that he can bring the improved living conditions
and wider democratic rights he has promised to Venezuela. Why do we take this position? Let’s have a look at the backdrop to the
Venezulean crisis in an attempt to get an answer to this question.
Despite their talk about a Chavez ‘revolution’, those who give wholehearted support to Chavez tend to seem him as a left-wing
reformer who can, if given the opportunity, gradually increase the scope of democratic liberties in Venezuela, as well as gradually
boost living standards and the quality of social services like education and health. If the US would only leave him alone, the argument
goes, Chavez would be able to get on with improving the lives of Venezuelans. What this argument ignores is the way that it is the very
existence of limited democracy and some limited left-wing reforms that have created the crisis in Venezuela.
Venezuela is a poor semi-colony, which means that most of its wealth is drained by multinational companies based in imperialist
countries like the United States. These companies are able to make such big profits because they pay very low wages for labour and
very low prices for raw materials. Because of this domination by foreign companies, not enough money is available in Venezuela for the
government to tax and spend on social services. When a government comes into power and under pressure from workers tries to enact
left-wing reforms, it quickly creates a crisis. If it wants to get enough money to pay for the reforms, it has to challenge the foreign
companies that have a stranglehold over the economy. These companies don’t want to see their profit rates threatened, and they are
backed by the governments of the imperialist countries in which they are based. They resist attempts to increase tax rates or to
nationalise their assets by getting imperialist governments to destabilise the regimes that threaten their profits.
The story is no different when left-wing reforming governments like Chavez’s increase democratic rights by, for instance, making it
easier for free trade unions to operate. Workers tend to use their new liberties to organise strike action to win higher wages and better
conditions from their employers, who are usually directly or indirectly multinational companies. Since higher wages and better
conditions cut into profits, the companies and their imperialist backers start to destabilise the government which gave workers greater
freedoms, in the hope that these freedoms can be rolled back.
Time and time again, left-wing reforming governments have run into the brick wall of the domination of poor semi-colonies by
imperialist money. In Guatemala in 1954, in Chile in 1973, and in Fiji in 1987 reforming governments have been ousted when the
companies they have alienated have turned to the imperialist powers for support. In Chile in 1973, the Allende government angered
U.S.-based multinationals with its plans to nationalise key areas of the economy like the mining sector. Nationalisation meant an end
to superprofits, so the multinationals conspired with the CIA and with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to organise the military
coup that put General Pinochet in power, killed thousands of leftists and unionists, and made sure that the economy stayed in U.S.
Like Allende thrity years ago, Chavez is running up against the ‘wall’ that keeps poor semi-colonies in their place. The only solution
in Venezuela is to break out of the global capitalist system by socialising property, abolishing the market, and establishing a planned
economy that runs according to the needs of working class and poor Venezuelans, not the dictates of multinationals and the global
market. To get rid of imperialist domination and secure democratic rights, poor semi-colonies have to go all the way to socialism.
Trotskyists call this process a ‘permanent revolution’.
Chavez will never lead such a revolution: His interests are tied to the national bourgeoisie and his ‘radicalism’ amounts to a demand
for a greater share of Venezuelan wealth staying in the hands of the national bourgeoisie. This ‘Chavista’ bourgeoise is trapped and
powerless to alter the situation. There are only two courses open: US-backed coup, or socialist revolution.
Only the workers of Venezuela have the ability to make a socialist revolution. Already, they have been organising themselves in
grassroots ‘Bolivarian circles’ to defend Chavez against coup attempts and CIA-backed right-wing protests. But Chavez has attempted
to stop the Bolivarian circles from taking to the streets in large numbers, because he is worried they will start to challenge the power
of ‘his’ army and police.
Chavez should be defended from the CIA's counter-revolution, but workers should organise themselves independently of him - rather
than having illusions in him, or being part of a political alliance with him, workers should make a ‘military bloc’ with him to defend him
against imperialist coups and subversion only.
Workers need to be independent of Chavez so they can get rid of him when he becomes an obstacle to the socialist revolution,
which alone can actually achieve the improved living standards and democratic rights Chavez promises. The win that independence
they need a revolutionary party and program which offers them a clear view of the road to socialist revolution.
HANDS OFF VENEZUELA!
BREAK FROM THE CHAVISTA BOURGEOISIE
BUILD WORKERS AND POPULAR ASSEMBLIES
BUILD WORKERS AND POPULAR MILITIAS
Support an international trade union appeal to defend Venezuela from imperialist coups and subversion.
To find out more, visit the following website http://www.marxist.com/appeals/hands_off_venezuela.html
The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, better known in the West as ‘North Korea’, is much in the news lately. It has pulled out of the Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty and is taking a tough stand against US attempts to bully it into submission. The latest attempt by the US to conciliate the DPRK with food in exchange for nuclear disarmament was met by a firm rejction. The US offer of food was likened to “wheat pie in the sky”.
Understanding 'North Korea'
Is the US right to label the DPRK a ‘pariah’ or ‘terrorist’ state? Whatever the North is, it is the result of a century of imperialist invasion, occupation and partition of Korea, first by Japan who ruled Korea as a colony from 1910 to 1945, then by the US, which fought a war in 1950 to force the partition and isolation of the North.
Today the U.S. continues to occupy South Korea, keeping 37,000 troops in a network of bases across the country.
What is the DPRK, if it is not a ‘pariah’ or ‘terrorist’ state? Trotskyists call the DPRK a degenerated workers’ state because property has been socialised and the law of the market has been ditched in favour of a planned economy, but a caste of bureaucrats have political power that should belong to the workers. These bureaucrats use their control to strike deals with imperialist countries like the U.S. and Japan. They are like the union bureaucrats who use their control of rank and file unionists to make deals with bosses.
Trotskyists want to get rid of union bureaucrats, but not at the expense of the unions that the bureaucrats have captured. In the same way, we want to get rid of Kim Jong Il and his regime, but we don’t want to see the privatisation of state assets and restoration of the market that U.S. intervention is aimed at bringing to the North. Deciding the future of the DPRK is a job for the workers of all Korea, not George Bush jnr.
What about the North’s nuke programme? If the North has nukes, does that justify a U.S. invasion, or at least U.N. sanctions? Nobody should be surprised that the North has tried to develop nuclear weapons, because it has had to live its entire existence in the shadow of the threat of nuclear annihilation at the hands of the U.S. During the ‘Korean’ War General McArthur, leader of the U.S. forces, lobbied Washington for permission to drop ’30 to 50’ nuclear bombs across the middle of the Korean peninsula. Several times during the war the U.S. came close to using a nuclear bomb. In 1951 the US flew a lone B 52 bomber over the Northern capital Pyongyang in a successful attempt to create panic about a Hiroshima-style strike. From 1957 to 1991 the U.S. kept an arsenal of nuclear weapons on the southern edge of the demilitarised zone that divides North and South. To this day, the U.S rehearses for a nuclear bombing strike on the North.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that the DPRK bureaucrats feel the need to get some nukes of their own, so that the U.S. will think twice before attacking them. Nobody seriously suggests that the DPRK has more than a handful of nukes, and the North’s leadership knows that using them pre-emptively would mean certain destruction. The U.S. on the other hand is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons in war, has publicly signalled its willingness to use them pre-emptively if its interests are threatened, and today has 9,000 of the things, including bombs, missiles, torpedoes, and mortar shells. We suggest that the middle class peaceniks who have joined Bush in condemning the North’s nuclear programme get their priorities right.
Because they are bureaucrats not socialists, the leaders of the North can’t see that it is not nukes but workers who are the best defence against U.S. imperialism. Hatred of the U.S. and its continued military occupation of the South is common to Koreans on both sides of the border. Even right-wing South Koreans hate U.S. occupation more than the ‘communist’ state to their north. Young South Korean men especially hate the two years’ compulsory military service which forces them to act as dogs bodies on U.S. bases.
In New Zealand alone, scores of them live in exile rather than serve the U.S. It was mass protests by workers and students that helped force the U.S. to pull its nukes out of the South twelve years ago, and in recent months regular protests by tens of thousands have followed the unpunished killing of two Korean teenagers by U.S. troops. Unionists have marched in huge contingents, chanting anti-U.S. slogans, and squads of students have attacked and sabotagued U.S. bases around the South Korean capital of Seoul.
Protests like these point toward a solution to occupation in the South and bureaucratisation in the North. This solution is the reunification of the peninsula on a socialist basis. In the South the new President, Roh Moo Hyun, is pushing ahead for re-unification, but on the terms of global capitalism that will see the North remain an underdeveloped region in a US client state. The North is also moving in this direction, with Kim Jong Il and his mates looking to follow the ‘Chinese model’ and convert themselves from bureaucrats to capitalists.
But in the decades since the division of their country many Korean workers, students, and peasants have been inspired by a very different vision of reunification. In the late 40s and early 50s, for instance, workers and peasants inspired by the abolition of capitalism in the North staged a series of insurrections against the U.S.’s puppet regime in the South. In Cheju, the southernmost province of South Korea, a revolutionary government survived for two years before being betrayed by the bureaucratic leaders of the North and crushed by Southern troops in 1949.
Today left-wing workers and students in the South are again taking up the cause of re-unification within an anti-imperialist framework. By protesting the U.S. occupation in the South and the North’s refusal to demand that Japan pay reparations for its occupation they challenge both imperialism and Stalinism. Challenges like these can succeed, if they are backed by the anti-imperialist strike action of workers in the North and South, and by the solidarity of workers in Japan, the U.S., and U.S. allies like New Zealand. Predictably, the Clark government is already trying to earn brownie points with the U.S. by sounding off about the ‘danger’ presented by the DPRK. Kiwi workers should beware any attempt by Clark and co. to follow Bush into a confrontation with the DPRK.
Directed by Michael Moore, 120 Minutes
Director Michael Moore is well known for his previous documentary “Roger and Me” and his television programme “The awful truth.” In both of these he has essentially taken on un-caring corporate greed in the USA. More recently he has written a book (“Stupid white men”) which takes a broader approach examining such issues as America’s foreign policy and the rigged election which led to Bush being in the White House.
` In Bowling for Columbine he takes aim at the American obsession with guns and why tragedies such as the Columbine High School Massacre occur.
The film begins with Moore opening an account with a bank that gives away a free gun when you join up. This sets the tone for what is largely a light hearted romp through gun crazy USA looking at the question of why so many people die by the gun (over 11,000) every year compared to other countries (such as Canada which had less than 200 guns deaths last year).
Along the way he interviews a wide variety of people including Marilyn Manson, Charlton Heston (head of the National Rifle Association) and Barry Glassner (author of The culture of Fear.).
The music of Marilyn Manson was popular with the boys who murdered students at Columbine High and so he became an obvious target of blame, particularly from the Religious Right. The interview with Manson is one of the highlights. He articulates the view that there exists in America a culture of fear that contributes to a gun toting public and tragedies such as the one that occurred at Columbine. This theme is expanded on in the interview with Barry Glassner.
The interview with Charlton Heston was another highlight and has to be seen to be believed.
To his credit, Moore resists the trap fallen into by many liberals in the US to pin the problem solely on gun availability. He is in fact a member of the National Rifle Association himself and won a junior marksmanship award when he was younger.
He is not afraid to look into the role that poverty plays as a factor in gun deaths and examines the ways black people are demonised in the media and on programmes such as “Cops.”
He looks behind the scenes at the death of a 6-year-old girl in his native Michigan, shot by her 6-year-old classmate. He points out that the boy who shot the girl was a victim of poverty. His mother was forced to bus 80 miles a day under Michigan’s tough work-for-welfare laws and still couldn’t make enough to pay the rent. As Moore eloquently puts it she bussed 80 miles a day to serve fudge to rich people. She was evicted from her house and it was while staying with an uncle that the boy found a gun, which he took to school.
Drawing these links makes the film what it is: a powerful statement about some of the causes of violence and fear in the world. It is good to see the film is getting widespread praise and attention around the world. Hopefully, some people who go to see it will leave the theatre more enlightened about the issues raised.
Moore can in no way described as a Marxist. At best he is left wing or liberal. However, as a Marxist, I thoroughly recommend this film to all who are concerned with issues of social justice and gaining a better understanding of the causes of violence in all societies, not just the US.
Argentina goes from IMF ‘show case’ of economic development to’ basket case’. Is the same fate in store for New Zealand/Aotearoa? Here we put forward some ideas in the hope of stimilating a debate on this question. We make some further comparisons with Australia and South Africa which have similar origins. The solution we come up with is for Socialist Federations of the Pacific, Latin America and Southern Africa! We welcome feedback from readers aboiut where they think New Zealand/Aotearoa is going.
Some basic facts: Argentina 40 million people. NZ 4 million people and 40 million sheep. Both settler semi-colonies; dependent development based on pastoral exports in 19th and early 20th centuries and post WW2 economic insulation. NZ’s competitive advantage is agricultural - dairy production, meat processing, woool –textiles etc. The semi-colonial problem is dependence on exports to maintain imports of primary and secondary manufactures. NZ’s development was limited to import-substitution secondary manufacturing (eg car assembly, whiteware, electronics etc to serve local market)
Argentina has competitive advantage in pastoral production. Its balance of payments problem was lessened by protection. Argentina was able to substitute some heavy manufacturing, such as steel, petrochemicals etc. But it never became a big regional exporter of these commodities. Argentina’s heavy industry was highly protected and uncompetitive. Thus Argentina’s dependent-development was somewhere between that of NZ (which did not substitute heavy industry) and South Africa and Australia (who produced cars, electronics etc for regional markets). We suggest that the limits to dependent-development in each case are set by the extent to which a country has competitive advantage in the manufacturing of heavy machinery (i.e. capital goods).
Semi-colonial development and crisis
Dependent-development reaches its fullest extent with the export of a limited range capital goods on the world economy. Yet competitive advantage exists only during the periods of boom and fails during recessions as regional markets contract and the small-scale economies and higher costs in the semi-colonies cannot sustain competition.
Enter the MNCs to concentrate and rationalise production globally. This has been the story of so-called globalisation. In SA and Australia, the biggest operations were internationalised. In SA most of the major industries are Multinationals. In Australia minerals (BHP) General Motors Holden/Ford etc have been globalised.
In the case of Argentina where capital goods production could be integrated profitably it survived. But most was not competitive so Argentina was de-industrialised and its import substitution capacity in heavy steel and petro-chemical industry lost. Thus import volumes rose. Import prices were reduced as the peso was pegged to the dollar, but export prices rose with the US dollar, so that overall the trade deficit increased. The balance of payments was plugged with IMF borrowing until this exceeded the capacity of exports to pay and debt mounted.
So the crisis of a re-colonised dependent economy means bankruptcy and devaluation of assets which are then sold off cheaply to multinationals and big banks. Argentina’s plight is that of all semi-colonial economies whose capacity to develop independently has been destroyed by globalisation. But the severity of the crisis is directly proportional to the depth of restructuring in the primary industry sector. How does NZ compare?
New Zealand compared
NZ’s primary sector always involved foreign investment through banks and loan agencies and the export of profits. In agriculture (dairy, meat, textiles etc) production depended heavily on imported capital, technology and machines. New Zealand never substituted for heavy industry except in isolated, exceptional cases (NZ Steel based on Iron sands).
Thus NZ was always exposed to chronic balance of payments crises. The postwar development of import substitution in secondary manufacturing for consumer goods was a weak attempt to solve the ongoing dependency of the economy. This insulation reached its limit as soon as protected industry outgrew the local market.
So, unlike SA, Australia or Argentina, the neo-liberal reversal was less deep because it affected only the post-war import substitution in the secondary sector of the economy. De-industrialisation did not hit primary production as it was already partiallly globalised. Pastoral production has always been technologically advanced, and continues to be so. The primary agricultural sector (e.g. meat, dairy, wool etc) has become more internationalised with the giant dairy monopoly Fonterra, now a multinational in its own right. The problem with this however is that little of the rent from agricultural value-added production is available for redistribution inside NZ but falls into the hands of international capital.
To complete the comparison, Argentina was able to insulate itself from extreme economic dependence by setting up internal capital goods manufacturing. In some ways similar to the situation in SA where apartheid was like the military dictatorship in regimenting social production based on super-exploitation. Like SA, when the crisis came in the early 90’s, Argentina fell further and was more severly affected by the neo-liberal crisis measures than Australia or NZ.
Argentina’s dependency, more like Australia and SA, is acute. Yet all these are relatively large economies with a broad resource base where there is the potential to resolve the crisis by socialising the economy. In Agentina the collapse of industry leaves the majority of the population out of work or underemployed. Half are under the poverty line. 20% are hungry or starving.
The most similar case is SA, and it is no accident that in Argentina the masses are frightened of becoming “Another Africa”. Like SA, nationalisation without compensation under workers’ control of the large businesses and banks is the way to revive the economy and feed the people. This has to become linked to revolutions in the rest of the region, to establish a Federation of Socialist Republics of Southern Africa, and of Latin America, to create potentially powerful regional socialist economies.
NZ’s dependency is chronic
NZ is in reality a tiny US and Australian dominated semi-colony. Its capitalist future will see it integrating with Australia as part of a larger US client state. Even that won’t buy much time for the bosses. Australia is in a similar position to Argentina. Marxism is not an exact science and predictions have to be reviewed constantly. But we would suggest Australia’s prospects over the next tens years are that it is likely to suffer a similar economic decline to Argentina.
If this is correct, NZ’s relation to Australia will see it sucked into this vortex. Therefore, workers in NZ must prepare to unite with Australian workers for the nationalisation under workers control of the assets of all the big banks and businesses and to socialise the economy as part of a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Pacific.
The way ahead for workers is clear. Demand that Lula breaks with his popular front. Demand that Lula sacks his bourgeois government partners. If he doesn’t do that, demand that the PT gets out of the Government. Fight in the CUT (Brazil’s major trade union federation) to break with the Government and the PT if it remains in the popular front. Demand that the PT is reconstituted on an action program that includes the formation of a workers’ and poor peasants’ government!
Revolutionaries must also reject the politics of the World Social Forum that is meeting again at Porto Alegre in Brazil from January 20th. The PT sponsors the WSF along with reformist organisations like ATTAC, and Fidel Castro. This is an international popular front that sucks the fighting workers into alliances with the left bourgeoisie for reforming the IMF, World Bank, WTO etc to create a world civil society of ‘social peace’ for all classes!
For a workers’ United Front and action program!
For a new Bolshevik-Leninist revolutionary international !
The New Zealand Herald had egg on its face after suggesting that Cyclone Zoe had killed hundreds of Solomon Islanders over the New Year. When aid workers reached Tikopia and Anuta Islands, they found, of course, that Zoe had failed to claim a single victim, despite causing massive property damage.
Instead of apologising for its alarmist reporting, the Herald launched into an attack on the government and people of the Solomons, suggesting that a mixture of incompetence and callousness held up the arrival of aid to Tikopia and Anuta. The Herald mocked the Solomons’ inability to pay for fuel for an aid supply boat, and presented as a bureaucratic nonsense the requirement that the Solomons government give prior approval to any foreign intervention in the aftermath of disaster. If it wasn’t for the sheer kindness of Australia and New Zealand, the Herald suggested, aid wouldn’t have gotten to the islands at all.
Why was the Herald so keen to see a catastrophe in the Solomons, and why did it show such contempt for the response of Solomon Islanders to Cyclone Zoe? Last year the Herald ran a series of feature articles on the Solomons, articles that presented the islands as a ‘failed state’ in dire need of Australian and New Zealand ‘intervention’. In these articles and in its response to Cyclone Zoe, the Herald advanced the agenda of the Australian and New Zealand governments, and disguised the real source of the problems of the Solomons.
Late last year, after holding one of their regular meetings, Foreign Minister Phil Goff and his Australian counterpart Alexander Downer issued a joint communique in which they described the Solomons as a ‘failed state’ that might become a ‘haven’ for terrorists like Al Qaeda. Neither Goff nor the Herald tells the public that the human suffering in the Solomons is in large part due to the exploitation of that country at the hands of the West, an exploitation that is ruthlessly enforced by Australia and New Zealand, and which has been stepped up over the past year.
At a key meeting of representatives of the IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and major donor countries in the Solomons capital Honiara last June Prime Minister Allen Kemakeza was forced to agree to an extraordinarily harsh IMF programme. Kemekeza had begged for loans, but the donors refused to provide any funds unless he moved to reduce government spending and jobs. An incredible 1,300 state sector employees, or 30% of the state sector workforce, have been laid off since that meeting. Kemakeza was also forced to name Lloyd Powell, who is executive director of the New Zealand-based company Solomon Leonard, as ‘Permanent Secretary of Finance’ for the Solomon Islands. Solomon Leonard has overseen austerity programs in the Cook Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga, as well as Jamaica, and Powell’s appointment brought the Solomons even closer to outright recolonisation.
It is the IMF programme forced upon the Solomons by Australia and New Zealand that has made the country too poor to buy fuel for an aid boat, let alone finance the building of airstrips on islands like Tikopia and Anuta. Goff and Downer point to the breakdown in law and order amid inter-ethnic fighting in parts of the Solomons as a point of concern, and a possible trigger for military intervention.
The cause of this disorder, though, is the breakdown of the Solomons economy, a process that has been hastened by the IMF programme forced on the Solomons last year. With electricity supplies failing, unemployment soaring to 45%, and health and education services in disarray it is no wonder that the Solomons has become a ‘failed state’. What Goff and Downer are really worried about is not the danger social disintegration poses to the average citizen of the Solomons, but the possibility that lawlessness might threaten the profitability of foreign-owned business on the islands and spread to Bouganville, the Solomons’ mineral-rich neighbour.
Australia and New Zealad have only recently finished defanging the national liberation struggle that closed down Bouganville’s mines for much of the 90s, so Goff and Downer are in no mood to see instability return to the island. And, as the Herald surely knows, large-scale natural disaster would make the perfect cover for any military intervention to quell instability in the Solomons.
 Some instances of class struggle forces at least partially breaking with the bureacracy were; in Neuquen, Workers Democracy broke with the left bureaucracy demand to bring down the state governor and for a provincial Constituent Assembly, and called for a break with the ‘multisectoral’ popular front and for a Congress of workers that could lead to a Workers’ Government. At the Plaza de Mayo, the MTD Anibal Veron (named after the first piquetero martyr in Salta) marched to the Plaza but left rather than particpate in the union bureaucrats ‘commemoration’ of 2001; the joint column of the CS, RSL and DO, after marching to the square along with the FTC and Brukman/Zanon contingents, left to go to the Obelisk at Republic square to honour the fallen comrades.
 The Frente Trabajadores Combativos (FTC) is a class struggle formation of unemployed, employed and left groups and individuals who have broken from the bureaucracy. Socialist Convergence (SC) is a fraction of the Morenoist LIT (Workers’ International League) in Argentina with members in Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and the Carribean. The Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL) is another ex-Morenoite group taking a non-sectarian approach to party building in Argentina. Democracia Obrera (DO) is a 1998 split from the PTS (Socialist Workers Party) committed to building reforging the 4th International and playing a leading role in building class struggle united fronts in Argentina.
 On December 21 the night after D20, Brukman hosted an adaptation of the Brecht play “The Mothers”, a homage to the women in the 1905 revolution in Russia. It also showed a documentary film on the life of Argentininan revolutionary film -maker Raymondo Gleyzer who ‘dissappeared’ during the dictatorship in 1976. The working class audience fully participated in this cultural act joining in the production and celebrating the links between these outstanding examples of revolutionary art and the living revolution in Argentina.
 On November 24 the police raided Brukman and arrested the workers at gunpoint. They were charged with breaking machines in the factory. They were released on a technicality and returned to find the factory in the ands of the boss and scab workers and guarded by police. With the support of hundreds of other workers who rallied in their defence they broke through the police lines and re-occupied the factory. Late in December they were issued with another court order demanding they vacate the factory. They are rallying support for another attempt by the state and the boss to remove them in January.
 At a recent meeting the ‘interbarrial’ of San Martin (North Buenos Aires) as well as student and teachers’ unions decided to join in a festival on the 11th in the factory to build support for a return to production but under workers and not the bosses’ control.
 Contesting the April Presidential elections is conceding now that Duhalde cannot be brought down by other means. Demanding a Constitutent Assembly, a new bourgeois parliament elected by all adult citizens, now, as the PO (Workers’ Party) does, concedes that dual power organs like workers councils or soviets cannot be built now. However, if Duhalde is not brought down and dual power organs are not created before April 2003, then both contesting the elections and calling for a Constitutent Assembly may be tactical options that can be used to advance the workers’ struggle.
 ‘Menshevik’ refers to the majority of the Russian Communist Party after 1902 that held that history occurs in a series of stages. The WSF and the Brazilian PT follow this ideology and this traps them into forming governments with ‘progressive’ capitalists to defend bourgeois democracy on the Lula model rather than fight outright for a socialist revolution.
 The PTS argued against the DO’s proposed demands for December 20 at two recent meetings in Brukman and were defeated. This did not stop the PTS bringing 20 workes from Zanon to try to reverse this vote. They failed and had to march behind banners that called for a break with the bureaucracy. The PO recently lost 300 of its supporters in La Matanza (a working class suburb of Greater Buenos Aires) because it is administering the work plans and taking money from the state.