Class Struggle 98
November 2011 / February 2012
Class Struggle 98
November 2011 / February 2012
NZ: Time for decolonisation!
The debate about foreign ownership is mainly about who owns and controls NZ’s economy. It is linked to another debate about rising social inequality. For the NACTs [National/ACT Govt] and the NZ comprador ruling class NZ’s growth had always been determined by its ‘dependency’ on Britain, the US and Australia. The best NZ can hope for is to be competitive in the global economy so that ‘growth’ will enrich the compradors and buy off working class discontent. For the left the issue has always been economic independence; how to become self-sufficient and egalitarian in sharing the national wealth. But it is a myth to say that NZ has been decolonised, egalitarian and even ‘imperialist’. NZ was always foreign owned and controlled since its European settlement. Inequality in NZ cannot be understood unless you understand why NZ is a capitalist semi-colony. The colonial institutions have become semi-colonial institutions. NZ is formally a sovereign nation yet its semicolonial dependence is even more obvious today than any time in its history now that China looms as an emerging imperialist power. NZ’s decolonisation is still ahead of us. Our task is to fight for that independence, not as a capitalist nation, but as a socialist republic.
Simon Collins series of articles in the NZH provides plenty of evidence for the social effects of rising inequality in NZ. We get first hand information about the extent of poverty and its impact on health, education and on the lives of the poor. The first article reported Dr Fiona Cram’s research that shows that, despite the ravings of Michael Laws about ‘feral families’, poverty and discrimination are the main causes of ‘Maori Child Abuse’. Collins claims that inequality is recent. This is the result of historical amnesia. The post-war boom revived the myth of NZ as egalitarian, founded by the liberals in the 1890s. Fabian reformers like WP Reeves Labour Minister in first Liberal Government of the 1890s and socialists like Harry Holland, leaders of the First Labour Government in the 1930s, are cited as the epoch-making giants of social democracy that allowed NZ to abolish the evils of social classes. In reality, NZ was always an unequal society and the 1890s and 1930s were but short bursts of social reform in an otherwise bleak history of racial and class inequality. It has taken the period since the 1970s to reawaken NZ to the existence of classes, and the continued impoverishment of many working class families. This is because crises are the norm in NZ. The first was the Long Depression of the 1880s which brought the colony to virtual collapse and a Liberal Government backed by workers and landless farmers stole millions more acres of Maori land to settle the landless and expand the mines. The second was the Great Depression of the 1930s that saw the real unemployment rise to 30% and thousands of poor farmers walk of the land. This brought the Labour Party to government for 14 years on a program of economic regulation and protectionism. The current crisis began in around 1973 during the Third Labour Governments term with the oil crisis. This brought the post-war boom to an abrupt halt and proved yet again that the booms were hot air balloons in the long downturns in NZ history.
End of the Postwar Boom
But this time the downturn was more permanent. NZ had exhausted its ability to develop behind tariff barriers to protect local manufacturers from overseas competition. Local firms like Watties and Fletchers were now national monopolies and had to expand offshore or die. Foreign branch plants like Borthwicks, ICI and Lever Bros were dominant in their sectors and demanding the right to repatriate profits to their multinational headquarters. The global downturn in pastoral exports now converged with the demand by capital to open up the economy to the global market. NZ manufacturing had outgrown the local market and to survive had to compete internationally. The National Party under Muldoon had tried desperately to insulate the economy from the global crisis and globalisation. Then as if to prove that the Labourite ‘classless society’ was a myth, it was the Labour Government that was forced to undertake the shock therapy of killing off its own protectionist heritage. This proved that historically the ideal of class equality was always dependent upon the capitalist class profitability. Equality was a luxury that only the bosses could afford.
Class Struggle 98
The rise in inequality that resulted from Rogernomics, Ruthonomics and the return of National to office in 2008, proved beyond doubt that NZ remains essentially a semicolony in which the imperialist powers plunder raw materials and labour power to extract their super profits. NZs economy is devoted to ‘rip, shit and bust’ - ripping out raw materials, depositing shit across the rest of society, and going bust as it gets deeper in debt. Its role is as a provider of raw materials and food for the imperialist countries. The period between 1935 and 1970s when NZ was a ‘rich’ country is an aberration. Economic nationalism was always a temporary refuge in response to depression and war. The 100 years before 1935 and the 40 years since the oil shock of 1973 proves that in the long run NZ is a weak, dependent semi-colony on Britain, the US, Australia and now China. That’s the story. It explains why ‘protectionism’ was short-lived so that since 1973 NZ has rapidly slid down the developed OECD countries league into so-called ‘third world’ status.
November 2011 / February 2012
by the next 10 largest NZX companies in December 1987, with the notable exception of the pre-split Fisher & Paykel, are also overseasowned. These include Magnum (with its major operations Dominion Breweries and Countdown supermarkets now foreign-owned), Progressive Enterprises (Australian-owned), Wilson & Horton (Australian-owned) and INL (assets sold to Fairfax).”
The definition of a semi-colony is a country that is owned and controlled by imperialism but which is politically sovereign or independent. But what does political sovereignty amount to when the key sectors of the economy are foreign owned and controlled? It means that the nation state is nothing but the agent of imperialism and the national capitalist class a comprador class of agents of imperialism. That means that foreign capital owns the key sectors of the economy. The value that is created by the working class is largely exported as profits. The biggest drains are the Big four Banks owned by Australian banks which made $32billion in profits in 2011. Brian Gaynor reports: “The Bank of New Zealand was sold to National Australia Bank (NAB) for $1.5 billion in 1992. Since then BNZ has distributed $5.2 billion in dividends to its Australian parent and is now worth an estimated $7.2 billion based on its 2010 net earnings of $602 million and a price/earnings ratio of 12. Thus NAB paid $1.5 billion for BNZ and the latter has delivered total shareholder value of $12.4 billion to its Australian owners since late 1992. .. Telecom was sold to overseas interests for $4.25 billion in 1990 and since then has made distributions to shareholders, in the form of dividends and capital repayments, of $14.6 billion... an estimated $8.8 billion of these $14.6 billion distributions went to overseas shareholders.” Gaynor summarises the situation: “A prosperous free enterprise
economy is based on a high domestic savings rate and a strong productive sector that is well governed and mainly domestically owned. Australia and other above-average growth countries have these characteristics but New Zealand doesn't. Our low savings rate and under-investment in productive assets have hindered long-term stability and growth. For example, almost all the assets owned by the 10 largest ASX listed companies at the end of 1987, which had BHP in the top spot and Westpac at number 10, are still Australian-owned, whereas our largest listed companies at the end of 1987 were as follows: Fletcher Challenge (paper, forest and energy assets in foreign ownership), Brierley Investments, NZI (Australian-owned), NZ Forest Products (Graeme Hart-owned), Bank of New Zealand, Petrocorp (bought by Fletcher Challenge and on-sold to overseas interests), Lion (Japanese-owned), Carter Holt Harvey (Graeme Hart), LD Nathan (merged with Lion and now Japanese-owned) and Robt Jones Investments (Hong Kong-owned). Almost all of the assets owned
So it’s this foreign ownership that determines the relations between classes in NZ. Income or wealth inequality is a symptom of this. The ruling class wealth increases in relation to its role as agents of international capital which requires NZ to be competitive. This means cutting costs, at all costs. The old class of national industrialists like Fletchers, Watties, Lion Breweries, Fisher and Paykel etc have been replaced as the dominant fraction of the ruling class by the upstart vulture capitalists, notably Brierley, Fay and Richwhite, Bob Jones, Alan Gibbs, Infratil’s Morrison, and CHH’s Hart, who have asset stripped uncompetitive firms and restructured them as international corporations. The second rank comprises the financial and property parasites who speculate on already produced value. Most of their combined wealth is invested offshore and is part of NZ’s biggest exports – profits. So while NZ industry has been restructured it is mainly at the expense of the working class. Jobs, wages, taxes, social spending all have to be cut. As industry is restructured plants are closed down and many jobs are lost. Government legislates for reforms to implement these cost cuts. Thus since the deregulation of the economy under Labour in the 1980s we have seen these policies pursued by every government, cementing in the ‘openness’ of the economy. None of this was a surprise and was predicted by Marxists in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, it is an indictment of the lack of any serious political left in this country that a NZ Herald journalist Simon Collins has to rediscover the colonial causes of inequality in a series of articles. Yes it is colonisation that is the structural cause of poverty and discrimination and Maori child abuse.
Social Democracy bankrupt
That the Labour Party is now a Blairite party is evident in David Cunliffe’s comments on Collin’s articles. He criticises Collins for not coming up with solutions. Cunliffe’s solutions are a tame recycling of Blairite reformism. It boils down to NZ becoming more ‘competitive’ which means that workers have to be even more exploited. This is a recipe for increasing inequality as the share of value expropriated by the capitalists compared to that retained as wages by the working class constantly increases. Revolutionary communists argue that social democracy is being exposed as bankrupt by the global economic crisis and will split as the left leaves the bankrupt Labour Party to join a new revolutionary Workers Party. Workers of the world are ready for revolution. All we need is the revolutionary party and program that opens to road to socialism.
Class Struggle 98
November 2011 / February 2012
Auckland Port employers out to smash union
The National and Act Government's policy, like in 1951, is to smash the unions and cut labour costs to make workers pay for the bosses crisis. Maritime Union NZ (MUNZ) Local 13 is fighting contracting out to non-union labor, a world-wide trend. At the same time the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in North America is up against a major attack by ship owners to smash it and de-unionise the docks on the West Coast. Currently ILWUlocal 21 is resisting the Export Grain Terminal corporation at the port of Longview in Washington. The ILWU leadership is trying to keep the protest within the limits of the bosses' law while Occupy is building community wide pickets in support of the union. Occupy showed that by uniting with rank and file unionists it could shut down West Coast Ports on Dec 12. This is the way that MUNZ can win its fight against casualisation at the Ports of Auckland. This is the way to unite the working class internationally to make the bosses pay for their own crisis!
A Union busting fight
This is so obviously a setup to take on a key union with a strong record of militancy in NZ – the Waterside Workers Union now part of Maritime Union of NZ (MUNZ). It has all the hallmarks of the 1951 lockout which was a setup between the Holland National Govt and the US to use the ‘red scare’ to break the unions and enforce the direct rule of capital in NZ. Expect to see the NACT regime use this fight to bring in new legislation in an attempt to smash the unions as the only really effective opposition to privatisation, and return to the law of the jungle in the labour market. The reason for this attack is not the greed or bloody mindedness of the boss class, but the drive for profits in a worsening global crisis where is it necessary to force down wages and working conditions for the ruling class to survive. Their so-called financial recession was not due to corruption or bad management, but was a symptom of falling profits in industry which produced a flood of speculative fictitious capital. And having bailed out their banks, and some countries, the bosses are now forced to restructure industry to screw out more profits from the working people. So the drive to cut costs at all costs became an attack on workers wages and conditions in the name of "productivity". In reality, productivity is the capacity of workers to produce value, most of which goes in profits to the capitalist class. Increasing "productivity" then is the same as increasing the rate of exploitation of wage labour.
Grossman, who made her name by making clients pay for phone calls to claim benefits, and a new Secretary of Education whose former job in the UK was to set up Charter Schools. NZ has no shortage of right wing Think Tanks that spew out every toxic right wing concept in social services, management and labour relations. Not only that we have a Prime Minister who has direct links to Wall Street and the CEO of Ports of Auckland Tony Gibson who once worked for Maersk, the monopoly shipping line. Every policy the NACTs have in mind to attack workers living standards and cut taxes and social spending is called by the universal name the bosses give to making us pay for their crisis - "austerity". "Austerity" is what Mohamed Bouazizi faced when his fruit stall was trashed by the local authorities; what US workers face when they lose their homes to foreclosures; when their unions are smashed and unionists replaced by scab labour; when welfare cuts are blamed on welfare cheats; when student fees are bumped up; when workplaces close down and workers are sacked; when taxes and prices rise and wages fall. Austerity is what the Greek workers are facing when facing new taxes they are handing their kids over into state care. Austerity is what young Chinese workers face threatening mass suicide when their employer reneges on a wage increase. "Austerity" is simply a bullshit word to make it seem that for workers there is no alternative to the pain. TINA.
The Fightback begins
But things are now changing. The suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi sparked off the Arab Spring. The occupation of Tahrir Square was quickly followed by uprisings across the Arab world. Dictators fell. Some like Mubarak left the army in control. Others like Gaddafi used heavy weapons to put down a protest and his regime was overthrown 5 months later. Bashar el Saad in Iraq, the Saudis and the Bahraini ruling class have retained power by barbarous killings. Yet like all the other protests, repression has fuelled more resistance as the
Austerity is Global
The attack on labour is global, since the bosses crisis is global and rapidly becoming an international depression. And as usual the NACTs are following the US and Britain in imposing these attacks on workers. They import new Departmental officials from Britain to head Social Development, Janet
Class Struggle 98
fear disappears. When the Arab Spring jumped the Mediterranean to Greece and Spain, the squares filled up with Generation Zeros. Governments fell but 'austerity' regimes were voted in or appointed by coalitions to drive through more attacks on workers. Right across southern Europe from Greece to pe Ireland, the masses are primed ready for a new social movement to unite and organise a powerful resistance. But they are contained and disorganised by the traditional party and union leaderships who are in the pay of the capitalists. They are waiting for the example of how to unite the global working class as an independent force to take control of their own lives. That movement began in Egypt, continued in n Greece and then jumped the Atlantic to take the form of Occupy Wall St. From its beginnings, the Occupy movement . has signalled that it has broken with the inst institutions of the bourgeois state by virtue of the symbolic occupation of public space against the rule of private property.
November 2011 / February 2012
the docks to shut down and called on the ranks to keep their distance from the Occupy picket. The ranks replied saying as they had in Oakland on November 3 and all the West Coast Ports on December 12, that the members would observe the Occupy picket (and of course join it). So despite the strike ban law, rank and file groups are calling for wildcat strikes to hit the port owners where it hurts. This fight came to a head in Seattle on January 6th where a joint meeting of ILWU Local 21 rank and file and Occupy Seattle met to build more support for the join picket. The meeting was physically disrupted by officials of ILWU who insisted on reading out the official letter from the leadership against solidarity strikes. The response of the meeting was to ty call 'mike check' and form a physical barrier to the disruptive elements. The call then went up "repeal Taft Hartley!" So while reactionary elements were prepared to sacrifice the Longview jobs which would be a major defeat for unions as a whole, the outcome of this meeting was a huge political step forward that ended in victory. The rank and file of the ILWU and of the Occupy Movement were in accord that a mass picket to defend the jobs of the dockers cannot b leg-ironed be by the Taft Hartley Act. So now they know that the only way to 'repeal' a reactionary bosses' law is to break it!
Occupy Movement is born
This symbolic occupation became a real occupation when the state responded with police force. When Occupy Oakland was evicted by the cops it met and called for a General Strike on Nov 2 last. 30,000 people turned out to blockade the docks. Then the US West Coast Occupied movement shut down the West Coast ports on Dec 12. Occupy Oakland and other evicted West Coast Occupations began organising a mass picket at Longview against Export Grain Terminal corporation (EGT). EGT is a joint venture between three conglomerates: U.S.-based Bunge North America, Japanbased Tochu Corporation, and South Korean-based STX Pan Ocean, that wants to ‘outsource’ ILWU jobs to contracted scab workers. The rank and file of the unions immediately recognised common cause with Occupy, and rallied behind Occupy Oakland and others when they faced eviction. Jack Heyman, a militant rank and file member of the ILWU welcomed Occupy Oakland as bringing a fresh impetus to the union movement. Occupy has not learned to distinguish between the labour bureaucracy and the rank and file and faces a steep learning curve over Longview. This is because the leaderships of the unions regarded the Occupy movement as a threat to their control of the unions and their privileges of office. Initially eges they refused to back the West Coast Shutdown as interference in union business, but now facing the growing resistance to the union busting attack on Local 21 at Longview the union leadership has declared its hand.
The mass picket
Jack Heyman's words to Occupy Oakland ring more true now than ever. The union ranks and Occupy must unite to advance the struggle of the working class to smash the 'austerity' regimes the world over. The way to make this happen is for Occupy to take up the cause, mobilise the 99% and build massive community public pickets of the docks and all other workplaces where workers are under attack. In Egypt it is recognised that Tahrir square would not have been occupied without the years of strikes in that country. In Spain and Greece the sit sitdown occupations of the squares are becoming sit quares sit-down occupations of Government Departments and workplaces. The Generation Zero that is educated and unemployed is now joining with employed workers to occupy the assets of the ruling class. Occupy Oakland targeted the docks that a are owned by a Goldman Sachs subsidiary. Now that the Occupy movement has declared its support for the unions fighting for their survival a major convergence of the forces of the working class is beginning. The mass picket is now becoming a reality. It is the only occupation that the bosses really fear, he the occupation of their private property and capacity to screw their profits out of the labour of the workers.
The Dockers fight is International
The support of Occupy for dockers is no accident. Dockworkers are among the most militant and political of all ers unions shutting down the ports to protest the killing of Oscar Grant, the Israeli attack on the Peace Flotilla, Apa Apartheid South Africa, dictatorships in Chile and El Salvador, and the Iraq war etc. The ILWU is famous in the US for being the union that refused to handle cargo going to fascist regimes in the
Labour bureaucracy opposes Occupy racy
When the ILWU rank and file and Occupy joined forces to nd build a Caravan for a mass picket in defence of Local 21 the 21, ILWU leadership came out with a letter against strike action ame in solidarity that would break the Taft-Hartley Act that bans Hartley by law solidarity strikes. It therefore refused to call for all
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1930s, in the same way that the Waterside Workers Union in New Zealand refused to load scrap iron to fascist Japan when it was occupying China. During the 1951 lockout in NZ, the ILWU and other dockers unions refused to handle ships loaded by scab labour. So from the days of the Red Feds when the Wobblies sailed all around the Pacific organising workers there has been a tradition of internationalist trade unionism between dockers/wharfies unions. Keep a close eye on the big fight at Longview, Washington State, where the big shipowners and corporates are trying to smash the ILWU and bring in scab labour to handle grain shipments. It will be a showdown between the capitalist monopolies and an emerging new force in the united working class. It will make or break the unions. That is why the working class on the West Coast is rallying behind this struggle on the basis of an 'injury to one is an injury to all'. More than ever, community groups like Million Worker March and Labor Black and Brown, Oscar Grant Committee, and migrant workers groups as well as Labor Councils are joining forces as never before. Similarly, the fight at Ports of Auckland against MUNZ Local 13 refusal to accept casualisation and contracting out, is a make-or-break fight. It has all the hallmarks of 1951 and a right-wing government determined to break the union movement. You can bet that the Labour Party will sit this one out preaching "neither for nor against" as Walter Nash did in 1951. Mayor Len Brown and Opposition leader Shearer do not want to get involved in a 'class war'. Nor will support and fundraising nationally and internationally determine the outcome. International solidarity is welcome but while it works within the labour law it won’t stop the defeat of MUNZ. The ILWU refusal to handle ships loaded by scab labour in NZ didn't win the fight.
November 2011 / February 2012
The logic of the picket is that of an Occupation. By occupying a workplace you prevent scab labour from taking your jobs. By making it an Occupation you invite everyone who identifies with the Occupy movement to make the labour movement their favourite cause until we win! The immediate step is for MUNZ and Occupy Auckland to form a joint Strike Committee like that formed between Occupy Oakland the and ILWU to defend Local 21.
Defend MUNZ union workers!
What is needed is mass pickets to stop contract labour take away the jobs of the union members. That is the only language that bosses understand. The Port is owned by the people of Auckland who have seen off several attempts to flog it off. This is a more determined showdown this time over the right to unionise and the right to a job and a living wage. The capitalists and their spin doctors are using this fight to promote part privatisation. So defending the jobs of union members at POA is taking a stand against selling off public assets. It is also a wakeup call for workers to organise independently to rebuild the union movement and not rely on a so-called ‘left’ majority of Auckland Council under Brown or a future Labour Government to undo the damage. Labour is into managing capitalism by increasing 'productivity' i.e. exploitation of workers. "Independently" means organising and relying on the strength of the working class, not the media, lawyers or politicians. It means forming strike committees to build solidarity, support committees to back up and provide for a mass picket, and defence committees to protect the picket against state forces. In 1951 the military was used to break the strike, just as today the bosses are planning to use the military to break Local 21 in Longview. To build a mass picket at POA to stop the scabs is the next step. That means calling on all unions to rally to the picket.
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For a joint Strike Committee between MUNZ Local 13 and Occupy Auckland and all other working class organisations committed to the struggle! No to sackings, No to casualisation, No to contracting out, No to scabbing on the union! Solidarity with ILWU and the Occupy Movement resisting 'austerity regimes' everywhere! Build international action to hit the monopoly shipowners! Down with the bosses austerity regimes making workers pay for their crisis! We will not pay for their crisis, make the bosses pay! No confidence in Auckland City Council or Ports of Auckland who are in the pockets of the corporates! For strike action in solidarity with the MUNZ workers fight! Down with the NACT government and its anti-worker austerity policies! No to privatisation, part privatisation or PPPs of state owned assets! Whose Port! Our Port! That’s the cry of Occupy! No to privatisation, put the ports under workers management and control! For a General Strike to defeat the NACTs and for a mass Workers Party based on the rank and file of the unions! For a Socialist Aotearoa in a Socialist Asia/Pacific!
Class Struggle 98
November 2011 / February 2012
New Zealand Labour Party Turns further Right
The NZ Labour Party after suffering its lowest vote since 1932 rushed into a leadership change to ensure that the conservative Blairite rightwing stayed in power and could fight John Key for the centre ground of politics come the next election. Is this the end of Labour as a social democratic party and an era that began in 1916? Labours worst defeat since 1932
In the aftermath of its worst defeat since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Labour Party rushed into the public spectacle of a leadership contest to replace Phil Goff and Annette King. The desperation of the old guard to retain the leadership against a challenge from the left by David Cunliffe and Nanaia Mahuta was obvious in the haste to replace Goff with another centrist leader. For leader it put up David Shearer who had been in parliament for only 2.5 years and for Deputy, Grant Robertson who had been in parliament for one term of 3 years. The lack of parliamentary experience was more than made up for by Robertson's time-serving as Labour Party admin hack, and Shearer's time dodging friendly fire in Iraq. While on the face of it this was a move that took the contest out of the party back rooms into the public gaze, in effect it was a stage-managed succession of the Blairite centrist bloc to use the media to boost the 'popularity' of David Shearer as Labour's answer to National's hugely 'popular' PM, John Key. It signals a further shift of the Labour Party away from its working class roots towards an open capitalist party modelled on the US Democrat Party where the party Leaders are also Presidential candidates. While the Labour Party members attended a series of debates between the candidates, it was always going to be the 34 MPs of the caucus who elected the leadership in a secret ballot. Would they listen to their membership? In members meeting after meeting, Cunliffe won the crowd leaving Shearer looking like a non-starter. But the reality of Labour Party democracy is that party members probably had less influence on the decision than the right-wing political commentators and bloggers who mainly went for Shearer. officials treat the membership as election fodder. So the Labour Party elected David Shearer as Leader and Grant Robertson as Deputy and a lot of the leftish membership took it as a defeat. Shearer and Robertson are both members of the centrist old guard that survives the Fourth Labour Government and joined the party during the 90s and 2000s when Labour was living in the shadow of the super Blairite Fourth Labour Government's deregulation of the economy. Blairism, after Tony Blair, who when elected in 1997 famously declared that there was no longer any socialist left or neo-liberal right in the British Labour Party, only the centre (and that centre was a kinder, gentler, neoliberalism). The NZ Labour Party has beaten him to it by a decade in swallowing Rogernomics in the 1980s and shifting the goal posts so international capital could score every time. The NZ Labour Party abandoned any pretence to serving its traditional working class constituency and adopted the centrist politics of 'neither left nor right'.
Blairite centrist party
But despite its Blairite posturing, the Labour Party could only paper over the yawing crack between its historic working class base and its increasingly open capitalist economic program. The old guard around Clark and Goff pretended to undo the 'deficit' of Rogernomics, but never could undo the damage. The draconian ECA became the Blairite ERA with a few concessions made to the union leadership. They were being paid off for their willing complicity in this betrayal claiming that unions and bosses could do fair deals when all the while the workers share fell relative to profits. By pushing productivity as the holy grail of social harmony the union bosses were in reality screwing up the rate of exploitation. The global capitalist economy went into meltdown in 2007 and international finance capital made sure that it passed on the costs of the crisis to the working class. This has reactivated the class struggle internationally to a level not seen since the 1930s. In NZ Labour's rank and file began to stir and inside the Party there was pressure to move left to respond to restlessness of workers. This put the old Blairite guard on Red Alert but Labour couldn’t convince enough workers to come out and vote. It lost to the National Party in 2008 with a pathetic lacklustre campaign and no major policies to win back worker support. In fact 200,000 former Labour voters stayed at home.
It turned out that the majority of the 34 MPs were more concerned to find a leader that could win the popularity contest against John Key, than listen to the membership who clearly favoured Cunliffe over Shearer. Although to be fair, the Party has only itself to blame for having evolved over many years from a Party where MPs were mainly unionists and accountable to the rank and file membership into a Parliamentary machine where lawyers, teachers and union
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November 2011 / February 2012
party has a majority in Congress, they all sell out to Wall Street and global capitalism. Labour’s rightward trajectory going down the same road. Competing for the middle ground in parliament is 'broken'. The middle class is being squeezed downwards. The ‘self employed’ and small business people will be squeezed out of existence as the depression deepens. The working masses are looking for a social movement to reclaim their lives. This is creating a dangerous layer of combustible people who will find themselves downwardly mobile and see the working class either as their allies or their enemies. The Labour Party cannot reach out to them with a centrist program because it cannot counter the forces that are destroying the middle classes. It can win them over however with a radical program that promises jobs, living wages and economic security for all workers including the self-employed. Failing that, these layers will become fascist fodder as the NACT regime moves further to the right.
After the 2008 election defeat, Clark resigned to go to the UN leaving Goff as caretaker. Shearer flew in back from dodging bullets in Iraq! Nobody on the left apart from Te Atatu MP Chris Carter had the guts to challenge Goff for the leadership and his attempt led to his sacking from the Party. Goff tried to appeal to the middle ground by opposing asset sales, introducing a tiny Capital Gains Tax, and put up the age of retirement from 65 to 67. Labour stole the ACT Party’s policy of making workers work longer and die earlier. Again Labour's Blairism was focussed on the centre and not the working class. Such was Goff's failure to challenge National that many Labour voters switched to NZ First or the Greens in desperation to provide a few more MPs to back up a Labour led government. In a defeat even worse than 2008, a million voters stayed home, a fifth of young voters failed to register, and National won the party vote even in the historic Labour bastion of South Dunedin. Yet not until the centrists staged a coup to replace Goff immediately after the election did the left take even a minimal stand in the form of the Cunliffe/Mahuta to challenge for the leadership. Cunliffe and Mahuta drew that conclusion that Labour had to reconnect with its working class roots and made it clear how they wanted to go about it. They began talking of policies to make this happen. Cunliffe's selection of Mahuta, a Maori woman, as his deputy was itself proof that they were serious about reaching out to the Maori, Pacifika and Pakeha working class. More than that, they said that the Labour Party constitution should be changed so that the members elected the leaders of the party. The defeat of the left then is also defeat for those disenfranchised workers because the victory of the right has junked even those tentative left moves to reconnect with the working class and to give that class a democratic voice in the party.
Social Democracy is Stuffed
There is no middle ground in NZ politics where Shearer can rush in like the UN with the peacekeeping forces and refugee camps. Shearer’s expertise as a top UN aid worker is irrelevant when you have to fight a class war. As Warren Buffet famously stated, there is a class war and the bosses are winning. Either Labour goes back to its working class roots or it will find itself cannibalised by the petty bourgeois NZ First, Greens, and National in the centre, and Mana and other forces on the left. This is probably inevitable looking at the fate of Social Democracy in Southern Europe as it is replaced in Greece and Italy by the direct rule by Goldman Sachs appointees. But unless those in the Labour tribe want to go down with a moan and a whimper they should put up a fight. To fight this mantra of a ‘caucus’ united behind a Blairite centrism those on the left need to take a stand and fight for their ideas and the people behind them to regain the leadership of the Labour Party. The centrist Blairites need to be kicked out of the Party as the neo-liberal Rogernomes were kicked out in the 80s. The first opportunity will be the review of Labour's Constitution to put the democratic control of the Party into the hands of the members, so that it is the working class that is being made to pay for the crisis that will control the Party and not the self-serving parliamentarians and union bureaucrats whose privileges of office separate them from the working class.
Labour for Sale
In effect the Labour Party has been prepared for sale. It lurched to the right in the 1980s but came back to the middle in the 1990s and 2000s. But now Shearer's task is to make it presentable for sale to the mythical "neither left nor right" middle-earth NZ. This is identity politics of the Hobbit kind. Shearer will dumb down any serious attempt to re-connect with Labour working class roots and pull Labour further to the centre. When Shearer talks about ‘renewing’ Labour it’s like Tony Blair's ‘renewal’ of British Labour away from the unions towards the middle class. Under his leadership, unless challenged by the Left, the Labour Party will sleepwalk into a scenario like the United States where it doesn’t matter which
Failing that, Labour will finish its rightward shift in the post-war period and complete the transition into an open capitalist party. At that point, there will be no course open for workers but to form an independent working class party based on workers democracy within which revolutionaries will fight for a program for socialist revolution.
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November 2011 / February 2012
“The Most Dangerous Class”: Chinese Workers and Farmers Confront Chinese Imperialism
The Wukan rebellion has focused world attention on the role of the Chinese workers and farmers. In reality it is one fight among many over land that happens to have come to international media attention. It has to be seen in the light also of the many labour disputes that have broken out in recent years especially since 2008 when China recovered from the slowdown of the global recession with a massive injection of state investment in infrastructure. We will not document these struggles other than to point out that they are proof of the growing strength and militancy of workers and farmers facing the extreme pressure to increase productivity to maintain profits as the emerging imperialist Chinese economy competes with other imperialist rivals to make its workers and farmers pay for the global crisis.
The left is in disarray over China. Many think this wave of peasant and worker militancy is a pro-democracy movement against the ‘communist dictatorship’ inspired by the Jasmine Revolution. Others say labour disputes are the working class playing its role in bringing workers democracy and social equality which is lacking in China’s market socialism. Yet others recognise that China has restored capitalism and a new capitalist class is super-exploiting its workers and peasants, and then there are those like ourselves who say that China’s restored capitalism has developed into an emerging imperialism which has clear consequences for the class struggle. We propose to critique the various positions (we could call them ‘post-Marxist’ since they abandon the ‘law of value’) to arrive at the truth about China today. The key to understanding China’s recent history is to discover how it combines pre-capitalist, capitalist and post-capitalist modes of production into a new capitalist imperialism. We need to develop a Marxist critique of this uneven and combined development which can explain how China’s transition from degenerate workers state back to capitalist state has been able to assert its economic independence to escape the trap of imperialist domination as an emerging imperialist power. Without such an analysis we cannot fully explain the historic leading role of the Chinese working class and peasantry in the current world situation. "Western post-Marxists—living in countries where the absolute or relative size of the manufacturing workforce has shrunk dramatically in the last generation— lazily ruminate on whether or not ‘proletarian agency’ is now obsolete, obliging us to think in terms of ‘multitudes’, horizontal spontaneities, whatever. But this is not a debate in the great industrializing society that Das Kapital describes even more accurately than Victorian Britain or New Deal America...Two hundred million Chinese factory workers, miners and construction labourers are the most dangerous class on the planet. (Just ask the State Council in Beijing.) Their full awakening from the bubble may yet determine whether or not a socialist Earth is still possible”. China is today the “great industrialising” successor to Victorian Britain and New Deal America, where Western ‘postMarxists’ are ‘awakening’ to the class struggle. However, China has long been recognised as being more advanced than the ‘West’. To see precisely why the Chinese working class is the ‘most dangerous’ class for capitalism today we need to rewind and replay the historic scenario of its history as a revolutionary class. The Chinese working class played an important role in three revolutions, the bourgeois revolution of 1911, the workers revolution of 1925-1927, the Stalinist/Maoist revolution of 1949, and today after the restoration of capitalism it is once again centre-stage in the coming socialist revolution. Karl Marx was the first to understand that not all nations had to repeat the development of capitalism in Europe.Coming late to capitalism that was already a global system, ‘backward’ nations could rapidly make the transition from capitalism to socialism ahead of the European states in what
The “most dangerous class”
Writing in the New left Review, Mike Davis says:
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he called ‘permanent revolution’. Marx fully expected that China would rapidly catch up and surpass Europe in its bourgeois revolution. As in all ‘backward’ countries colonised by European capitalist powers, Marx expected that the national bourgeoisies would become weak and reactionary allies of imperialism and lack the capacity or class interest to unify the nation and win independence from imperialism, making it necessary for the revolutionary working class to take the leadership of the bourgeois revolution and complete it as the socialist revolution. Writing in 1850, Marx says: “Chinese Socialism bears much the same relation to European Socialism as Chinese philosophy does to Hegelian philosophy. It is, in any case, an intriguing fact that the oldest and the most unshakable empire in the world has in eight years by the cannon-balls of the English bourgeoisie been brought to the eve of a social revolution which will certainly have the most important results for civilisation. When our European reactionaries in their immediately coming flight across Asia finally come up against the Great Wall of China, who knows whether they will not find on the gates which lead to the home of ancient reaction and ancient conservatism the inscription, ‘Chinese Republic – liberty, equality, fraternity’.” What Marx was foreseeing was that once its reactionary ‘Asiatic’ mode of production was opened to the modernising force of capitalism China had the potential to break free of European domination and make its bourgeois revolution without having to repeat European history. Not only was Marx correct in this prediction, he anticipated that in China the bourgeois revolution would be completed under the leadership of the working class as the socialist revolution. Marx was here making the point later taken up by Lenin, that the bourgeois revolutionary tasks were better expressed as the ‘national revolution’ since they would be carried out by the proletariat not by the national bourgeoisie. Marx was also anticipating Trotsky who from 1906 understood that the logic of this process in the epoch of imperialism would require a ‘permanent revolution’ in which the national and democratic tasks would be completed as part of an international socialist revolution. The Bolshevik Revolution put this theory to the test and proved that the national proletariat could begin to complete the national-democratic tasks, but that the permanent revolution would only be completed by the international socialist revolution. With the failure of the German Revolution in 1923, the Chinese Revolution became the next best hope for extending the Russian Revolution to the world. Lenin lived to see the First Chinese national revolution of 1911. Trotsky survived long enough to see this revolution prove the universality of the theory of permanent revolution as the working class rapidly took the leadership of the revolution and made the Second Chinese Revolution as a workers revolution between 1925 and 1927. Trotsky, by then in opposition, fought against the Stalinist policy that betrayed
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the Shanghai workers revolution to the popular front with the Kuomintang.
Permanent Revolution Betrayed
Here was the tragedy of the Bolshevik program of permanent revolution betrayed by the Stalinists popular front. So weak was the Chinese bourgeoisie that it had to seek the authority of the Communist International and the Russian Revolution to force the Chinese Communists into a deadly political alliance with the Kuomintang which then sent its army against the revolution. Against this murderous popular front the Left Opposition program or Trotsky was for a Communist Party independent of the bourgeoisie to lead the armed struggle for the national revolution i.e. the program of permanent revolution. After the defeat of the workers revolution in 1927 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) retreated to the countryside, fought a long civil war, and ultimately led a largely peasant revolution in 1949 that defeated imperialism, expelled the national bourgeoisie, and created a Degenerate Workers State based on socialised, or workers, property. It was ‘Degenerate’ because it reproduced the Degenerated Workers State in the USSR. The CCP was led by Chinese Stalinists who held that the national revolution could be won by a ‘bloc of four classes’ (peasantry, workers, petty bourgeoisie and liberal or patriotic bourgeoisie). This Stalinist/Menshevik program was based on the theory of ‘socialism in one country’ first promoted by Stalin in 1925 to defend ‘socialism’ in the Soviet Union by making alliances with ‘democratic imperialist’ states. In exchange for their support Stalin committed the Communist Parties in these countries to form parliamentary blocs with the national bourgeoisie and renounce international revolution. Thus the Third Chinese Revolution in 1949 was one in which the Stalinist/Maoist CCP proposed to defeat imperialist occupation but remain a bourgeois republic with the cooperation of the ‘progressive bourgeoisie’. The Stalinist/Maoist leadership proposed to collaborate with the Chinese bourgeoisie but become the ruling fraction of the national bourgeoisie. However, as in Eastern Europe, the Stalinist/Maoist plan failed because the weak national bourgeoisie was much more interested in preserving its ties to imperialism than in being subordinated to a planned economy. So they declined the invitation and the Stalinist/Maoists had no choice but to expropriate the bourgeoisie. Thus the seizure of power in 1949 led to the expropriation of the bourgeoisie by 1953 and the formation of a Degenerate Workers State (DWS) committed to defending workers property. Nevertheless, Marx, Lenin and Trotsky knew that once the bourgeois revolution had begun in China the proletariat was the only class capable of completing that revolution as the socialist revolution. The advances and retreats of this ‘dangerous class’ could not be understood on the national terrain but as part of the international class struggle. Though the 1949 revolution was won on the national terrain by a peasant army under a Stalinist/Maoist leadership, it was the
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threat of the Chinese working class as part of the international proletariat that made the national bourgeoisie flee China forcing the Stalinist/Maoists to go further than they wanted, and to expropriate the bourgeoisie. Just as the Stalinists were obliged to defend workers property relations in the Soviet Union as the basis of their caste privileges, in China the Maoists were forced to create workers property relations to develop the forces of production where the bourgeoisie had failed. While the working class was denied a democratic role in the CCP and the state, its potential was as the only historic class that had the social power to produce material wealth. The proletariat is the only ‘universal’ class that can replace the weak and declining bourgeoisie and lead an international socialist revolution against the decaying capitalist imperialist system. So while workers’ power was usurped by the Stalinist/Maoist bureaucracy in China, all that was required was a political revolution, in which the workers and peasants would smash the state machine, overthrow the parasitic bureaucratic caste and implement a genuine workers democracy and socialist plan. Failing that, the stagnation and decline of the DWS would lead inevitably to the restoration of capitalism and subordination of China once more to the existing capitalist imperialist powers.
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same centralised state machine. The political revolution would therefore have to smash this bureaucratised state machine as the power base of the Stalinist/Maoist caste in order to open the road to socialism. However, with the failure of the political revolution smashed by the bureaucratic dictatorship this same state machine with its historic centralised institutions would become an important instrument the Stalinist/Maoist bureaucracy could use to transform itself into a new bourgeoisie and restore capitalism in a centralised and planned way. We argue that this historic outcome is the reality today. Against those who say China never had a socialist revolution; or that the CCP has ‘reformed’ socialism by using the market to stimulate growth in a New Economic Policy; or those who claim that the former workers state is now no more than a semi-colony of the imperialist powers; we argue that China has fulfilled all the expectations that Marx and the Bolsheviks had of the revolutionary role of the ‘most dangerous’ class; in revolution after revolution, combining modes of production to allow the economic independence of the degenerated workers state and the bureaucratised apparatus of the former workers state, to restore the law of value and make the transition to a new imperialist power. While the restoration of capitalism is a counter-revolution in the permanent revolution, Marx’s dialectical method reveals that a restored capitalist China today sharpens and condenses the contradictions of imperialism creating the objective conditions for the ‘dangerous class’ of hundreds of millions of workers to once again fight for the 'democratic' rights of ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ by taking the road to world socialist revolution!
Restoration re-opens road to Revolution
The question remains, does the restoration of capitalism in a former DWS lead inevitably to submission to imperialism as a new semi-colony. Perhaps, the unique historical combination and development of a succession of modes of production would allow the former workers state to combine the law of value (or the ‘market’) with centralised state planning capable of developing the forces of production and accumulating sufficient capital to escape semi-colonial subordination and emerge as a new imperialist power. There is nothing in Marx, Lenin and Trotsky on the question of uneven and combined development of capitalism to exclude such an historic outcome in China. In fact there is much in the Marxist tradition to point to the importance of a centralist state machine inherited from previous modes of production being ‘carried over’ to facilitate the birth of a new mode of production. While most of this commentary is about the state forms that the bourgeoisie inherited from the feudal state, there is every reason to believe that the DWSs revived bourgeoisbureaucratic state institutions. In Russia one of the criticisms of the Bolsheviks by the anarchists and left communists, was that the Bolsheviks did not smash the state machine and retained some of the Tsarist state forms. Not true! Marx wrote after the experience of the Paris Commune in 1871 that the proletarian revolution must ‘smash’ the bourgeois state to build a workers state. In 1917 the Bolsheviks smashed the Tsarist/bourgeois state machine but had no compunction in forming a centralised workers’ state machine to impose the proletarian ‘dictatorship’ of the revolutionary soviets. However when the soviets were usurped by the bureaucracy the degeneration of the workers state was facilitated by the
Marx would disown the ‘post-Marxists’
Self-proclaimed Marxists are in disarray on China. They have the advantage of outliving Marx for a century-and-a-half but the disadvantage of failing to understand Marx for the same length of time. They suffer from their own particular brand of uneven and combined development where the articulation of historically backward ideas is subordinated to bourgeois ideology. Marx raged against the bourgeois empiricism of surface appearances that separates culture and politics from the mode of production; that takes market relations for social relations; that fails to concretise the truth in any historical situation or draw historical laws of motion to explain events. In the Critique of the Gotha Program Marx already confronted the backsliding of his contemporaries towards the vulgar economics of the market and its ruling ideas. In the twentieth century the capitulation of the Second and Third Internationals to imperialism left Trotskyism as the only current that continued the revolutionary Marxism of the Bolsheviks. By the onset of the Second World War Trotsky argued that Marxism faced a crisis, and that the survival of capitalism after the War would be a major challenge to Marxism. Unfortunately the post-war Fourth International did not rise to that challenge. Not surprisingly, a more than half a
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century later, the extreme bankruptcy of capitalism in the epoch of imperialism beset by structural crisis today is matched by the extreme bankruptcy of ‘post-Marxist’ theories of capitalism dominated by the ideas of the ruling class.
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nationalised bourgeois property this represented an extension of workers property in the Soviet Union and created a new degenerated workers state. As in the Soviet Union, such extensions of workers property by means of Red Army occupations, such as in post-war Eastern Europe, must therefore be unconditionally defended as if it were part of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, such Stalinist occupations are at the expense of workers revolution internationally, and so to open the road to socialism the degenerated bureaucratic caste that rules in place of the workers has to be overthrown by a workers political revolution. On the basis of this dialectical method, Trotskyists argue that in the case of the Chinese revolution in 1949, the CCP modelled on the Soviet bureaucracy, nationalised bourgeois property, defeated the imperialists and created a new workers state albeit degenerated at birth. The state capitalists cannot explain why in China the ‘state capitalists’ have renounced its isolation from the market to join the WTO and allow imperialist penetration, and still accumulate vast amounts of capital which it is now exporting in competition with its long standing imperialist rivals in the repartition of the world. Hence the abandonment of dialectics and the LOV leads directly to postMarxist bankruptcy!
(1) STATE CAPITALISTS
State capitalists argue that the Soviet Union restored capitalism in 1929 (some say 1939) when the Stalinist bureaucracy transformed itself into a capitalist class. This ignores the key concept in Capital, the law of value, whereby the value of commodities equals the 'socially necessary labour time' (SNLT) to produce them, as capitals compete to reduce the price of production. The Law of Value (LOV) is the dynamic law that underlies all the laws of motion of capitalism. Even in the imperialist epoch when Lenin argued that the tendency of monopoly capital was to suppress the law of value, it could not be totally suppressed and reappeared at the level of inter-imperialist economic rivalry and wars. Yet in the Soviet Union prices were set by the bureaucratic plan and not by the law of value with some minor exceptions. The result was the failure to reduce labour time, increasing inefficiencies, waste, and ultimately the stagnation of the whole economy. The law of value did not reappear in the Soviet Union until Yeltsin abolished the plan and allowed the LOV to restructure Soviet industry according to global SNLT after 1992. In the case of China the state capitalists say that in 1949 the revolution in China did not create a workers state because the working class did not make the revolution. Therefore, China was state capitalist at birth. Trotsky already answered the state capitalists in the 1930s in In Defence of Marxism. First, at the level of method, Trotsky critiques the state capitalists’ rejection of the dialectical method that treats reality as a unity of opposites. The state capitalists used bourgeois formal logic and split their analysis of the state superstructure from the economic base. They argued that the Stalinist bureaucracy became a new capitalist ruling class, and invented a new theory of state capitalism to justify the failure to defend the workers property and fight for a political revolution to remove the Stalinists. State capitalists cannot show that the LOV operated in the Soviet Union. Commodities were not produced for exchange so there could be no accumulation of capital, business cycles or crises of overproduction. Instead, prices are set by the plan and production extracts a surplus that fails to meet the needs of the workers or meet the plan and so increasingly the bureaucracy cannot maintain its privileges. Attempts by state capitalists, such as Neil Davidson, to make use of Trotsky’s concept of the law of uneven and combined development to explain the specifics of capitalist development, is rendered absurd when the key element, the LOV itself, is not understood. Second, theoretically and programmatically, Trotsky argued that when the Red Army invaded Poland in 1939 and
(2) MAOIST MARKET SOCIALISTS
In China today, Maoists argue that the CCP still controls the ‘communist’ state and is developing ‘market socialism’. It approves of the Keynesian policies that boost workers wages, but not the market ‘reforms’ that transfer wealth from poor to the elite. The solution to this problem is for the working class to counter these market reforms winning regulations that redistribute the social wealth to the working masses. Independent unions are a means of mobilising workers democratically to push for socialist reforms. For example this is the strategy promoted in the China Labour Bulletin which attempts to show how the ‘communist’ state responds to workers defence of their property, rights, living standards etc., by means of reforms. For the market socialists, the upsurge of worker and farmer protests is an expression of socialist democracy. Despite the incursions of capitalism, the state remains in control. This position is very popular in the Bolivarian states in Latin America, where the ‘Chinese road to socialism’ is presented as the working class alternative to being exploited by the existing hated 'Yankee' imperialists. Cuba has recently turned also in the direction of China to mask its own restoration of capitalism behind the veil of the Chinese Road. Market socialists are essentially Mensheviks who understand capitalism in terms of exchange theory where income shares can be determined by state policies. Socialism requires the state to regulate and control the market. They are the same ‘Marxists’ that Marx himself castigated in The Gotha Program for abandoning his method in capital and backsliding to a fetishised exchange view of the capitalist market. Like all Mensheviks, the socialist revolution has to evolve in stages as the working class has the capacity to bring about the
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necessary changes to regulate the market when the conditions are ripe. The China Left Review presents this position clearly. Chinese workers are defending the rights won under ‘socialism’ in their fight against the inroads of the market. In that sense this is the prevailing Menshevik view of the proletariat as the ‘dangerous class’ forcing the market to adapt to ‘Chinese characteristics’. In China the market-socialists play the same role as social democracy in the imperialist powers. They represent the labour aristocracy and bureaucracy that collaborate with the Chinese ruling class and defend its imperialist foreign policy as ‘social imperialism’ in the name ‘state socialism’ in return for sharing the plunder of China’s foreign imperialist superprofits. As we argue below however, the contradictions are so heightened in China today that the labour aristocracy will be squeezed between the new imperialist class and the most ‘dangerous class’ as it sharpens its weapons of class struggle.
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counter-revolutionary transformation into a capitalist state. However, as we argue below, the state is not defined by the extend of 'privatisation' but by the social relations it defends. The Chinese bureaucracy has committed itself to capitalist restoration by defending the operation of the LOV in all sectors of the economy under the name of 'market socialism' and defeated workers resistance to restoration. The road to power for workers is the socialist, not the political, revolution.
(4) CHINA: CAPITALIST SEMI-COLONY
Capitalism has been restored in China, and the bureaucrats have used the state to turn themselves into capitalists. But China remains a semi-colony exploited and oppressed by imperialist powers such as US, Germany, Japan, etc. rather than an emerging imperialist power. This leads to the position of defending China in wars with imperialist powers not only in the Pacific where the US is re-asserting its hegemony, and in every continent in the world where China is competing with US and EU powers for access to scarce resources. This position is another instance of ‘post-Marxism’ which holds that a former workers state that restores capitalism must therefore remain a semi-colony while at the same time it is to be found in virtually every country in the world investing in scarce resources and extracting profits that match that of any imperialist power. As we argue in the document that we wrote challenging this dogmatic position in the FLTI, it is not credible that China acts as an imperialist in the Leninist/Trotskyist sense yet remains a semi-colonial proxy for the established imperialist powers. At the very least this would mean that China would not be accumulating capital in its own state banks and multinational corporations, but would pass this capital on as cheap inputs to its imperialist rivals. The International Marxist Tendency (IMT) thinks that China is a semi-colony of imperialism too, but makes the very important point that China accumulates surplus capital invested in property speculation and hence explains the pressure to privatise collective property. Yet it is a feature of an imperialist country, not a semi-colony, to accumulate a surplus of national capital so it seems that the IMT cannot explain the existence of surplus capital and the property boom and still hold that China is a semi-colony.
(3) A DEGENERATE WORKERS STATE
The Degenerate Workers State arose out of the 1949 revolution with the expropriation of the bourgeoisie in 1953. A number of Trotskyist currents such as the Spartacists and International Bolshevik Tendency, claim that the DWS remains intact today as the influence of the market has not yet led to a transformation in the class character of the state. The argument goes like this. The revolution dispensed with the bourgeoisie and created a degenerated (those in the Spartacist tradition use "deformed") workers state. The degeneration meant that the revolution was incomplete as the bureaucracy had state power over workers property. The plan was imposed from the top down which meant that the economy stagnated. The bureaucracy therefore responded with NEP (New Economic Policy) type reforms to introduce capitalism to stimulate the stagnating plan. The Chinese economy is still heavily dominated by SOEs, and state subsidies, so that the law of value does not yet determine the social relations. Moreover the impact of the global recession from 2008 has reversed the thrust away from capitalism back to the state owned economy. The main argument however, is the same as that of the Maoist market socialists, that the CCP is still in power, it has not been overthrown by imperialism or Chinese capitalists and that the state owned sector (and therefore the plan) dominates the economy. The workers, even if represented by a bureaucratic caste, or plagued by corruption, are still the ruling class in a hybridised or bureaucratised form of workers’ state because workers property is dominant. China has not yet had the counter-revolution. For that to happen the capitalist class has to kick out the communists and take direct control of the state so that it can free the market to operate without state regulation. This position breaks from Marx, Lenin and Trotsky’s definition of the class character of the state as defined by the property relations it defends and reproduces. It calls for political revolution and unconditional defence of the Degenerated Workers State when that state has already undergone a
All these impressionistic theories fail to trace their origins to the material reality of China today as a unique combination of historically overlapping modes of production dominated by the capitalist mode of production and the law of value. They fail to show how uneven and combined development produced in China had a national bourgeois revolution that went further and faster than most other semi-colonies, but that the bourgeoisdemocratic revolution could only be completed by overthrowing bourgeois property relations and creating workers property relations that in the unique conditions took the form of a ‘degenerate’ workers state where workers power was usurped by a Maoist bureaucracy whose
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dictatorship caused the stagnation of the economy. This forced the bureaucracy to reintroduce capitalism under the banner of ‘market socialism’ which inevitably restored capitalist social relations in the whole economy but under conditions which allowed China to escape semi-colonial servitude and emerge as a new imperialist power. Only on the basis of this understanding is it possible to explain the dynamics of class struggle in China today as the basis for a revolutionary program to guide the masses to socialist revolution.
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The 1949 revolution converted the peasants into collective farmers. The restoration of capitalist agriculture after 1978 reversed collectivisation causing a new class differentiation of the peasantry. While land was still collectively owned, land use was privatised, mainly to family farmers. Increasingly collective land was usurped by capitalist interests and family farmers dispossessed. But this process is far from complete. Poor peasants fought to retain their collective ownership and their family plots to augment meagre wages. So what constitutes the ‘peasantry’ today is an articulation of remnants of petty bourgeois, bourgeois and workers social relations, but now subordinated to restored capitalist social relations on the land, under the conditions of emerging Chinese imperialism caught in a global crisis of overproduction. Thus family farming is petty bourgeois production for subsistence and any excess is sold on the market. But land use under the pressure of emerging imperialism is privatising land on the basis of the law of capital accumulation. Hence corruption and local crony capitalism are not the defining features of excessive market influences within ‘market socialism’, but defining features of capitalist appropriation where state power and monopoly capital employs crude methods of privatising land and labour. The process of separating farming families from their means of subsistence is not to serve the greed of Hong Kong land developers and local gangster capitalists but is necessary to create a ‘free labour force’ whose labor power is then subject to the law of value in the labor market. This has been going on since 1978 with the introduction of the market into agriculture. The peasants are dispossessed as land is aggregated and land use commercialised. Those cast off their land have become a reserve army labour of 10s of millions of migrant workers for China’s massive manufacturing and service industries. What the Wukan rebellion shows is that since 2001 (when Wukan farmers first started resisting land privatisation), the countryside has been exposed to the demands of China’s transition to imperialism. Small farmers are the victims of the major restructuring of social relations in a capitalist imperialist economy facing a global crisis. So as well as the basic law of dispossessing workers of their means of subsistence, imperialism creates surplus capital which in China is redirected into capital exports but also speculation in land and property which leads to further dispossession. The land rights and basic needs of the landless farmers and migrant workers cannot be realised by appeals to the CCP dictatorship but must be based on self-organisation, strikes, and occupation of the land and means of subsistence, combined with occupations and the socialisation of industry under workers control.
Chinese Imperialism and “the most dangerous class”
China today is an imperialist nation that has a unique historical development. Marx, writing in 1850 after the 1848 revolutions failed in Europe, foresaw that China’s bourgeois revolution would be a socialist one. It was prevented from victory by the degeneration of the Soviet Union under the Stalinist bureaucracy. When the bourgeois revolution was completed it was by a Stalinist revolution from above that went further than it wanted to expropriate the national bourgeoisie and create workers property. But the working class never controlled planned production and the economy stagnated. With the collapse of the DWS in the 1980s and 1990s capitalism was restored. What no one foresaw however was that China’s national independence allowed it to restore capitalism without being subjected to imperialist oppression. Today it is emerging as the new global imperialist power competing with its rivals to repartition the world. It’s drive to expand super-exploits the semi-colonies on every continent and its own massive working class and poor farmers. These are the conditions under which workers and small farmers are fighting back today and to win they need a program that reflects and acts on that reality and transform it in a socialist revolution.
[a] SOCIAL RELATIONS ON THE LAND
Pre-capitalist China dominated by a ‘semi-feudal’, ‘Asiatic mode’ or ‘Tributary mode’ was overturned in 1911. But the bourgeois revolution was incomplete since China was dominated by warlords and imperialist partition. The Chinese bourgeoisie was weak and divided. It had to join the Comintern and use the authority of the Bolshevik Revolution to drag the workers into a popular front trap. So as the working class took the lead in the national revolution it was exposed and betrayed by the Stalinist CCP leadership and defeated by the bourgeois Kuomintang army. Relations on the land remained dominated by semi-feudal and bourgeois relations. It took the peasant revolution of 1949 to finally complete the national revolution by overthrowing the bourgeoisie, unifying the country, defeating the imperialists, and liberating the peasantry from serfdom and wage slavery. So the farmers today are not the same as the pre-capitalist or capitalist peasantry who worked as serfs or agricultural labourers.
[b] LABOUR RELATIONS
The bankrupt Marxism of state capitalism cannot explain the causes of the labour struggles other than general abstractions and empirical impressions. The Market Socialists are proud of
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China’s rising living standards even if they are critical of the authoritarian state. Yet the so-called anti-crisis Keynesian policies to boost the economy in the world crisis are only possible given surplus capital. Such capital is not merely generated by banks and state policy, but by big balance of payments surpluses. Therefore accumulation of surplus capital is a feature not of market socialism or semi-colonial capitalism, both of which are usually bankrupt, but of imperialism. We can see then that it is not sufficient to explain labour ‘unrest’ in terms of market socialism, DWS, or semi-colonial conditions. The most dangerous class in China today is the result of the emerging imperialist class structure. The conditions prevailing in China today demonstrate clearly that China has become a new imperialist power competing against other imperialist powers in a global crisis of overproduction. The differentiation of the peasantry and the proletariat as well as a growing bourgeoisie all testify to this. We will summarise the China Labour Bulletin report on the working class in China as proof of this point. The new generation of youthful migrant workers no longer see themselves as peasants. In other words they are now wage workers not dependent on subsistence on family or collective farming. As land is privatised migrant workers are forced to live entirely off their wage which means that they have no choice but to engage in labour struggles. They comprise 2/3rds of migrant workers and are the workers most involved in the waves of labour struggles in both foreign and Chinese owned manufacturing. The demands are mainly over wages which began from a very low point but have risen as China has rapidly invested in new technology to increase labour productivity. What this means is that while wages can rise and with it real living standards, the rate of exploitation is increasing and the share of new value produced is going mainly to capital as super profits. The upsurge in the period since 2008 is particularly significant. It represents the development of independent labour protests outside the official unions or party structures i.e. wildcats. The CCP has tried to revive the official union and impose state run collective contracts, but the wildcats continue. Increasing state expenditure on ‘social stability’ is unable to contain these wildcat struggles. What this means is that in China today the extreme contradiction between labour and capital is materialising in the militant class struggle of the ‘dangerous class’ the proletariat. This is not the same as the Jasmine Revolution in semi-colonial North Africa; nor the occupations of the indignados in the declining small imperialisms of Southern Europe. China’s class struggle reflects a rapid development of the forces of production by an emerging imperialist power which can only fully emerge as other imperialists decline. Not all the aspects of imperialist class structures are present. The SOE workers like state workers everywhere have lost many jobs. There is no time for the formation of a classic labour aristocracy tied to statised unions or the CCP. The labour/capital contradiction is so exacerbated in China that as the skilled workers emerge to challenge for a share in China’s super-profits they are at the same time being squeezed between the new layers of militant migrant workers and the imperialist ruling class. The most skilled and productive workers are the new educated migrant youth and that fact gives the Chinese working class more independence from the state and the employers than the older imperialist powers. These new layers of militant workers will not have the luxury of being bought off by colonial super-profits and will necessarily
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take up again the historic role of the militant vanguard of the ‘most dangerous class’. China as an emerging imperialist power competing with its established imperialist rivals has the advantage of a massive pool of labour. But as that labour force upskills, the organic composition of capital grows and so does the downward pressure on profits. The revolutionary combativity of the dangerous class that came onto the stage of history at the turn of the 20th century is a century later now approaching its appointed time and task – world socialist revolution. The objective conditions are such that with a revolutionary leadership that incorporates the program of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, the Chinese proletariat can lead the world working class on the road to revolution.
Program for the Socialist Revolution!
· Jobs for all. Sliding scale of wages and hours! A living wage for all! · For democratic, fighting unions, independent of boss and state! · For self-organisation of rural village, city and workplace soviets, coordinated into regional and national soviets! · For local workers and poor farmers militias, coordinated into regional and national militias! · For the right to self determination of all national minorities such as the Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongols. · No trust in the CCP to deal with corruption! Corruption is endemic to imperialist capitalism it cannot be reformed. We are for the workers and poor farmers in China to make a social revolution against the Maoist dictatorship! For Permanent Revolution! · For all strikes and occupations to be generalised into an indefinite general strike to take state power and replace the new imperialist bourgeoisie with a Workers and Peasants Government to implement a revolutionary socialist plan. · For the socialisation of land and its distribution to the users, the expropriation of the banks under the control of peasant representatives to finance production on the land. · For the socialisation of industry and its subordination to a socialist plan can meet the needs of workers. · China is capitalist and imperialist. We do not defend it in a war with the US, Japan or other imperialist powers. We call on the working class and poor peasants to refuse to be missile fodder in an interimperialist war. Form workers militia, split the standing army and turn your guns on your own ruling class! · Revolutionary workers, build a new revolutionary workers party in the tradition of the Bolsheviks, the Left Opposition, and a new World Party of Socialism based on the Transitional Program of the Fourth International! · For a Socialist Republic of China as part of a Socialist Federation of Asia and the Pacific!
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The 1951 Waterfront Lockout
The 1951 Lockout is one of the most important labour disputes in NZ history. It ended in the defeat of the wharfies and their allies in the labour movement, but at the same time it is a struggle that represents the best traditions of working class struggle against bosses bent on suppressing unions and destroying hard won gains. The documentary 151 Days shows how the Lockout came out of the class struggles of the depression, war and post-war period. It is based on Dick Scott’s book 151 Days. Scott was a member of the Communist Party. Jock Barnes memoir Never a White Flag is also essential reading. A more recent film 1951 takes a more liberal point of view. In developing a Marxist standpoint it is useful to critique the other competing standpoints and show which class interests they serve. The indigenous Maori standpoint did not represent any class position so we can contrast it to the class standpoints introduced by capitalist colonization of Aotearoa.
their own Maori traditions of work they were now part also of the capitalist working class. Therefore they tended to take on the radical and Marxist views of social class and class struggle (Hone Tuwhare).
Neo-liberals are usually capitalists who see the individuals as sovereign and free classes as artificial divisions in the market introduced by state interference in market forces and/or invented by liberals, radical and Marxists. Conservatives may sometimes use the term ‘class’ to mean ‘status’ or social standing. Both tend to agree that individuals will find their place in the market and there is ‘one law for all’. The only ‘class’ recognised by neo-liberals is the ‘underclass’ a category of people who have failed to compete in the market and are dependent on the state for support, whereas ideally they should be freed from dependency and those who are ‘deserving’ should be kept alive by private charity. Since individuals are free, workers who join unions introduce a labour monopoly (similar to an employers’ monopoly) into the market that prevents workers from competing for wages. Individual employers are justified in breaking this monopoly by employing other individuals to replace unionized workers. The 1951 lockout is regarded by the employers as a strike because the wharfies refused ‘normal’ overtime i.e. they broke a contract between buyers and sellers of labour. This was the stand taken by the then National Government under Prime Minister Syd Holland. Holland’s stand against the union was backed by the US which sent Secretary of State, Foster Dulles, to NZ to stress the need to take a strong stand against ‘communist’ influence in the unions. (Dulles attended a Cabinet meeting sitting at the head of the table).The ship-owners were justified in ‘colluding’ to lock out the workers and replace them with other workers. When the wharfies sought support from other unions this increased the monopoly of labour and justified the state stepping with the army to break the strike and suppress solidarity as sedition. The suspension of civil rights (banning meetings, street marches, publications, support for strikers etc) was justified to prevent the unions from halting production, distribution and exchange and therefore the threat to the property rights of the employers. The outcome, the defeat of the unions after 151 days, and the jailing and victimisation of the leaders over many years, was a victory for the employers /conservatives. It set the course for industrial relations over the next decades as the defeat of the radicals in the unions left the unions much weakened and incapable of pushing for a better share of the national income over the period up to the end of the post-war boom in the 1970s. When some of the unions recovered and began striking in the 1970s the conservatives returned to the ‘red scare’ message and political cartoons of dancing Cossacks
Marxists take the view that PreEuropean Maori society did not have class divisions between those who worked and those who lived off that work, although some other Polynesian societies such as Tahiti and Hawaii had developed classes (see Marshall Sahlins, ‘What Natives Think, about Captain Cook for example’.) However, with colonisation Europeans tried to impose a bourgeois concept of individual title onto Maori and so create a capitalist class system (Michael Bassett being a recent example). Capitalist colonisation has created ‘classes’ within Maori society, whatever Euro-standpoint you use – for neoliberals/Cons and ‘underclass’ of welfare and Treaty beneficiaries as opposed to successful individuals who have escaped dependency (e.g. Alan Duff), for liberals a residue of poor and marginalised Maori and a minority of successful professionals and businessmen and women (e.g. Mason Durie, Massey University Assistant CEO), radicals mainly manual workers, some middle class, some small capitalists and a few big capitalists (e.g. Annette Sykes) or Marxists, wage workers, petty bourgeois (self-employed) some small capitalists and a few large capitalists. (e.g. Evan Te Ahu Poata Smith). But of course each of these standpoints has a distinct concept of what class means, and therefore what impact is has on Maori society. The 1951 Lockout showed that most Maori were manual workers working on the wharves, freezing works, railways, mines and heavy construction. They made up a sizable part of the workers who became involved in the Lockout and solidarity strikes. At that point we could say that as well as
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removed Labour from its one term in office in 1975. Muldoon spent the years up to 1984 attacking ‘communists’ in the meat workers, drivers and boilermakers unions. The Fourth Labour Government’s neo-liberal reforms of the 1980s were driven through with little resistance from a weakened and moderate labour movement. National’s ECA of 1991 was able to exploit this passivity to legislate the neo-liberal dream of putting an end to collective bargaining, allowing employers and individual workers to enter into individual contracts without union involvement. By 2000 neo-liberals and conservatives could claim that employers and workers could buy and sell labour as individuals with almost no interference from the state. Classes (as monopolies) had been virtually abolished by free market forces. All that remained was the ‘underclass’ dependent on state welfare.
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1951 was the next major clash between workers and employers sparked less by economic hardship and more by the intensification of class confrontation referred to as the ‘cold war’. The hostile stand taken against the USSR by the US and its allies spread to NZ where the Holland government targeted ‘reds under the beds’ in the unions. This polarisation between strong conservative anti-communism and radicals (very few reds) in the unions, left the liberals somewhat bemused like Walter Nash in no-man’s land in the class war. The liberals’ class neutrality meant they criticised the British ship-owners use of the lockout, but they also criticised the radicals in the unions for breaking away from the moderate Labour Party-affiliated Federation of Labour to form the radical Trade Union Congress. The solution was always moderation and the video shows how even Dick Scott was critical of Jock Barnes’ leadership in keeping the dispute going well beyond the point where there was any hope of averting defeat. The liberals blame Barnes and the other ‘militants’ in the unions for abandoning conciliation and arbitration and inflicting an unnecessary defeat on the union movement from which it would take decades to recover. But Barnes, a radical syndicalist, was not going to retreat. The hard right government was demanding the union submit to compulsory arbitration and give up basic rights and conditions, that is, union breaking. Barnes was backed by 2000 wharfies in Auckland until the very end, refusing to back down and sacrifice the gains of past struggles. Ironically, the Fourth Labour government benefited from the aftermath of this defeat when it imposed its shock Rogernomic reforms in the 1980s. National followed with the Employment Contracts Act in 2001 which strengthened the power of the employers at the expense of the unions. Labour returned to government in 1999 and tried to restore a ‘class harmony’ to industrial relations with the Employment Relations Act (ERA) of 2000 and the amended ERA of 2005. Yet radicals said the workers share of wealth had still gone down and bosses gone up.
In 1951 while the Government went on the attack, there was huge support among the majority of the people for the unions up against what they saw as the monopoly of wealth and power of the ship-owners. Liberals think that the power of employers and labour should be balanced in a state of industrial harmony. The Labour Party represented by Walter Nash came out in front of a mass meeting in the Auckland Domain standing firmly in the middle as “neither for nor against” the unions. As you would expect it sought to reconcile the ‘classes’ by state negotiation and arbitration. The Labour Party and the majority of unionists were liberal. For them Aotearoa/NZ was a haven of equality and a refuge from the class-ridden UK represented by the ship-owners. Social classes only exist as a result of imbalances or monopolies of wealth and power. The state can redistribute wealth and power and ‘reconcile’ classes. These policies would create upward social mobility of workers and a ‘middle class’ country. That is why the colonial state recognised the right of workers to unionise in the 1880s as a social counterweight to the power of the employers. And then the forerunner to the Labour Party, the Liberals, following the great Maritime Strike of 1890, introduced the IC&A Act in 1894 to prevent future economic damage from industrial conflict. From henceforth the state’s Arbitration Court would ‘reconcile’ the workers and employers classes by means of wage orders that would ‘balance’ wages with profits. In practice the Court tended to favour employers and after a ‘nil’ wage order in 1907 a number of unions including miners and seafarers left the IC&A and formed the syndicalist ‘Red Federation’. This led to a period of industrial upheaval which culminated in the Waihi Strike of 1912 (see Harry Holland’s The Tragic Story of Waihi) and the general strike of 1913. The defeat of the militant unions and onset of WW 1 suppressed the militant labour movement and steered it into the newly formed moderate Labour Party until in the 1930s Depression widespread unemployment and poverty sparked worker demonstrations and the first so-called Queen St riot.
The Waterside Workers’ Union (WWU) was a bastion of radicalism. It contained many battlers from previous fights such as the General Strike in 1913 brought up with syndicalist, anarchist and socialist ideas (as were most of the first Labour Party leaders like Harry Holland). Its paper the Transport Worker (edited by Dick Scott) carried educational stories on the ‘Red Federation’. In 1951 the union officially supported the Labour Party but it was highly critical of its weak-kneed liberalism. Witness its criticism of the Fraser government’s ‘cold war’ politics (Fraser responded by calling the watersiders ‘wreckers’); its attacks on F.P. Walsh the rightwing leader of the FOL (who also owned a huge dairy farm); its political campaign to ban shipping iron ore to Japan when it invaded China; its opposition to conscription in 1949 and the All Black tours to South Africa. The union was on the left of the labour movement. It was working class conscious with
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an active social and sporting calendar involving the wives and families. Politically its program was for gender equity, subsidised housing for workers, the scrapping of Royal tours and spending on defence, and the nationalisation of key industries. The WWU politics fits the radical category of class based on ‘unequal exchange’ where bosses profit from holding down wages and conditions. Some ‘Marxists’ in its ranks also saw class in these terms. They saw the class struggle as a worldwide confrontation between employers and workers over the division of profits and wages. For example, Tom Bramble in his introduction to Jock Barnes book (Never a White Flag) talks of Dockers in East London, metalworkers in Melbourne, and carpenters in Auckland, in a common struggle with ‘workers in the Nissan factories in Japan, farm labourers in southern Italy and railway workers in France’ (18). The two main classes were at loggerheads over which class would dominate the post-war world economy. The ship-owners, the government and the right-wing Walsh leadership of the FOL were out to smash the radical unions. But the militant wing of the labour movement in NZ and elsewhere was not about to lie down and die. At the height of the dispute 22,000 thousand workers were involved in industrial action in support of the WWU. This was made of up 8000 wharfies, 7000 freezing workers, 4000 miners, 1000 hydro workers and 500 drivers. Australian, Canadian and US unions refused to handle ships loaded by strikebreakers in NZ. Class lines were drawn in the dispute. University students endorsed the government’s side, much as they had done against the ‘rioters’ of the 1930s. Academic historians like Michael Bassett and Erik Olssen (see Bramble’s Introduction) in writing about the dispute were more or less hostile to Barnes and the radicals. But Maori and women’s organisations came out in support for the wharfies showing that these members of the working class knew which side they were on. While unions in support eventually returned to work leaving the wharfies to fight alone, they did so under pressure and would have agreed with Barnes in 1972 who wrote in his review of Michael Bassett’s book Confrontation ‘51’. “We had no option as unionists and men but to fight back and make our attackers pay as dearly as possible. In this we succeeded.” The defeat of the radicals was not inevitable. They were not bound to lose. Other struggles have seen governments back down. But the stakes in this Lockout were huge. It was a test of which class controlled society. Bramble contrasts the ’51 dispute with the collapse of union resistance in ’91 to the ECA. He says the defeat of ’51 did not destroy the unions or the class consciousness generated by the struggle. It could not be held responsible for the back down without a fight in ’91 which almost destroyed the unions so that today union membership is less than 20% of the workforce.
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owners of the means of production. Exploitation does not result from unequal exchange because the workers do not own the commodities they produce. The capitalists own these commodities, including the labour-power they buy from the workers, and sell them on the market. Part of the value created by the workers is paid to the workers as the value of their labour-power, that is the wage, while the rest is retained as surplus value or profits. However, because this expropriation of value during production is hidden, workers perceive their exploitation as based on the capitalist not paying them the full value of their labour power. This is the precise point of difference between Marxist and Radicals. The WWU workers and some of the Marxists in the labour movement share the radical view. This is what led to the radical syndicalism of Barnes. It is a belief that the capitalists and their lackeys in the unions can be defeated by a mobilisation of organised labour that has the power to force parliament to improve the rights and conditions of workers including fair wages and conditions. From a Marxist standpoint we can see why Barnes and the radical unionists thought that the unions could wield enough power to make the bosses concede a living wage and decent work conditions. After all bosses are trying to get as much as they can using their state, the law and the armed forces. Workers on the other hand have the power of withdrawing their labour and halting production. It is a power struggle between those who own the means of production and those who are the producers of value. Marxists however do not see exploitation as something that can be ended by strike action to reform the state. The state is a capitalist state that serves to make sure that workers remain exploited. It passes laws that protect the capitalists’ ownership of the means of production and uses force to break the power of organized labour. For organized labour to win and end class exploitation, would mean the overthrow of that state and the capitalist system – the anti-capitalism of today. Therefore, unless the WWU had been able to break the power of the state though a general strike which won over the ranks of the military, prevented the use of scabs to do the work of the locked out and striking workers, enabled the working class to take state power and expropriate the capitalists’ property, then the wharfies would sooner or later go down to defeat. In the context of the world situation in 1951 after a major war and during a long boom in which global capitalism accumulated rising profits, the conditions did not favor the victory of the WWU. In the long run however, Marxists argue that capitalists cannot raise the rate of exploitation fast enough to maintain profits and crises follow along with depressions, devaluation of capital (restructuring), export of capital and labour to new countries, markets etc. Thus the class structure necessarily leads to periodic cycles of growing inequality, rising exploitation and ultimately crises, which bring in turn a rise in strikes, industrial unrest, or ‘class struggle’. As the crises get worse the struggle gets stronger and the working class is able to organize as an international class capable of taking power and organizing a new, socialist society.
Unlike radical, for Marxists class is defined not by exchange relations but by the relations of production; as owners or non-
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Other People’s Wars: New Zealand Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror
By Nicky Hager. (Craig Potton Publishing: Wellington, 2011)
"The 'war on terror' in Afghanistan and beyond has been the longest foreign war in New Zealand history, yet most New Zealanders know almost nothing about their country's part in it. For ten years, nearly everything controversial or potentially unpopular was kept secret, and obscured by a steady flow of military public relations stories. Based on thousands of leaked New Zealand military and intelligence documents, extensive interviews with military and intelligence officers and eye-witness accounts from the soldiers on the ground, Nicky Hager tells the story of these years." (Back cover)
Other people’s wars shows evidence of NZ state forces with blood on our hands in the recent wars of the U.S. (in its bloc with Britain, Australia, Canada) and any other allies they could gather. That is the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. His information sources are many and varied and include quotes of local “public servants” - sources inside various government and military agencies; as well as government papers, cabinet docs, briefing papers, – Army, Navy & Airforce documents: including some released under the Official Information Act and others leaked to him. The US cables on Wikileaks support the book and Hager also found links through facebook networks of spies who had served in Afghanistan together. Chapter 19 brings together Hager’s knowledge of spying capabilities with information from a pre-publication copy of a US agent’s memoirs “Operation dark heart: special operations on the frontlines of Afghanistan – and the path to victory”. The uncensored version (before the NZ government deleted any reference to the NZ agent involved) details a NZ “analyst’s” role identifying targets including in Pakistan, which US drones targeted and murdered. NZ was directly involved in identifying targets for those across the border attacks into Pakistan. The targets were unlikely to be terrorists, unlikely to be Al Queda or Taliban; most likely they were tribesmen who happened to be refugees of an earlier US offensive, who had regrouped in Pakistan and may have been pissed off enough to want to fight back against the US. All of this exposes the state forces acting outside the limits set by the NZ government on NZ involvement in Afghanistan, instead acting in the interests of US imperialism. There were a number of inside stories about how both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence bureaucratically manoeuvred behind the “public policy” of the Clarke Labour government to able to continue a foreign policy agenda that was basically the agenda of the US government – This fact was also backed by Wikileaks cables of US ambassadors comments on the NZ situation. The public was sold a “reconstruction” team. However the reality was war patrols under the commands of the US. The few reconstruction projects were token, ineffective, and overly promoted by the public relations spin from the Ministry of Defence. There was little exposure of the myth of “peacekeeping”, when the reality has been the US agenda. In fact the case of East Timor could have been highlighted as an example given that the NZ army role was to support the US-Australian imperialist grab for oil in the Timor Sea. Sold as peacekeeping to NZ public; defend the defenceless East Timorese against the Indonesian army (who until then were okay to occupy and exploit East Timor – and continue to do so in West Papua). The NZ army trialled it’s electronic surveillance systems in East Timor – under the Australian (and US) regime. Hager is empathic to the personal morality of those defence and other officials who he spoke to, too close to be dispassionately critical of their role as cogs in the US war machine – partly bought by the privileges offered to them. Although their (the inside leaks) moral disquiet clearly motivated them to exposure the rottenness of the NZ state’s role for the US (Australia Britain Canada) alliance. Similarly he reproduces the war machines self description of the departments of “military intelligence” when reality is these agents are cogs in the US machine. Hager’s book is simply a description of the reality of events with fully documented evidence. He does not analyse the information in anything near a radical or Marxist approach. In fact Hager allows the voices of his sources and the information to speak for itself than stating anything himself – it is difficult to hear his opinion at all in this work. Perhaps he was trying to be scholarly and objective or “neutral” and allow the readers to form their own opinions. He does not draw the necessary conclusions: That NZ state force have been acting as the tail of the dog of the U.S. imperialist masters. Only smashing the NZ state and starting over could we break from imperialism although he quotes an intelligence agent who says the SIS needs to be thrown away and started over.
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What We Fight For
Historically, capitalism expanded world-wide to free much of humanity from the bonds of feudal or tribal society, and developed the economy, society and culture to a new higher level. But it could only do this by exploiting the labour of the productive classes to make its profits. To survive, capitalism became increasingly destructive of "nature" and humanity. In the early 20th century it entered the epoch of imperialism in which successive crises unleashed wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions. Today we fight to end capitalism’s wars, famine, oppression and injustice, by mobilising workers to overthrow their own ruling classes and bring to an end the rotten, exploitative and oppressive society that has exceeded its use-by date.
For a Revolutionary Party
The bourgeois and its agents condemn the Marxist party as totalitarian. We say that without a democratic and a centrally organised party there can be no revolution. We base our beliefs on the revolutionary tradition of Bolshevism and Trotskyism. Such a party, armed with a transitional program, forms a bridge that joins the daily fight to defend all the past and present gains won from capitalism, to the victorious socialist revolution. Defensive struggles for bourgeois rights and freedoms, for decent wages and conditions, will link up the struggles of workers of all nationalities, genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations, bringing about movements for workers control, political strikes and the arming of the working class, as necessary steps to workers' power and the smashing of the bourgeois state. Along the way, workers will learn that each new step is one of many in a long march to revolutionise every barrier put in the path to the victorious revolution.
Fight for Socialism
By the 20th century, capitalism had created the preconditions for socialism –a world-wide working class and modern industry capable of meeting all our basic needs. The potential to eliminate poverty, starvation, disease and war has long existed. The October Revolution proved this to be true, bringing peace, bread and land to millions. But it became the victim of the combined assault of imperialism and Stalinism. After 1924 the USSR, along with its deformed offspring in Europe, degenerated back towards capitalism. In the absence of a workers political revolution, capitalism was restored between 1990 and 1992. Vietnam and China then followed. In the 21sst century only Cuba and North Korea survive as degenerate workers states. We unconditionally defend these states against capitalism and fight for political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy as part of world socialism.
Fight for Communism
Communism stands for the creation of a classless, stateless society beyond socialism that is capable of meeting all human needs. Against the ruling class lies that capitalism can be made "fair" for all; that nature can be "conserved"; that socialism and communism are "dead"; we raise the red flag of communism to keep alive the revolutionary tradition of the' Communist Manifesto of 1848, the Bolshevik-led October Revolution; the Third Communist International until 1924, the revolutionary Fourth International up to 1940 before its collapse into centrism. We fight to build a new, Fifth, Communist International, as a world party of socialism capable of leading workers to a victorious struggle for socialism.
Defend Marxism Class Struggle is the bi-Monthly paper of the
While the economic conditions for socialism exist today, standing between the working class and socialism are political, social and cultural barriers. They are the capitalist state and bourgeois ideology and its agents. These agents claim that Marxism is dead and capitalism need not be exploitative. We say that Marxism is a living science that explains both capitalism’s continued exploitation and its attempts to hide class exploitation behind the appearance of individual "freedom" and "equality". It reveals how and why the reformist, Stalinist and centrist misleaders of the working class tie workers to bourgeois ideas of nationalism, racism, sexism and equality. Such false beliefs will be exploded when the struggle against the inequality, injustice, anarchy and barbarism of capitalism in crisis, led by a revolutionary Marxist party, produces a revolutionary class-consciousness.
Communist Workers’ Group of New Zealand/Aotearoa, in a Liaison Committee with Humanist Workers for Revolutionary Socialism. Online http://redrave.blogspot.com Phone 0064 0272800080 Email firstname.lastname@example.org http://communistworker.blogspot.co m/