Month: October, 2012
Why Canadians must block the war threat
worker | October 30, 2012 | 9:01 pm | Action | Comments closed

By Darrell Rankin, People’s Voice, November 1, 2012

The question of war or peace in the Middle East is at a critical moment. The people and sovereignty of Iran and Syria could not be in greater danger. A small spark could set off a huge war engulfing many countries, including the NATO military alliance.

Backed by the corporate media and joining other Western powers, the Harper government is imposing sanctions and cutting diplomatic ties as a cover for its own war preparations. Adding to the problem, it is hard to find disagreement on this issue between Harper and the main opposition parties.

We need millions of Canadians to understand that Harper’s war drive must be stopped. We need to explain the reasons behind Harper’s role on the world stage and his government’s growing isolation from the world majority on the issue of peace in the Middle East.

We need to pressure parliament to make Canada a voice for peace and disarmament in the region. Working people in Canada would lose from such a war, as any party that represents workers should know.

Trade unions and other popular organizations in Canada need to help build the anti-war movement. This would be the greatest act of solidarity with working people of all nations and religions in the region, because a new war would kill workers of all kinds.

We need to understand the motivations why the corporate ruling class here and in the Middle East is moving towards war. Only a small handful of people would benefit, especially the arms dealers. To them, a new war is useful as a tool to blind workers and prevent their unity for better world.

The Harper Tories have the foolish expectation that a new war would place Syria and Iran under the reactionary control of Turkey and Saudi Arabia and give more time for Israel to tighten its grip over the Palestinian people.

Like masters at the chess board, Western powers want to alter the Middle East balance. Colonial attitudes that support regime change in Arab countries are alive and well in Ottawa and other Western capitals. But wars do not always reach the desired end.

For the West, the usual reason for Middle East wars – oil – is receding to the background. There is a growing anti-popular, reactionary purpose to the latest war drive.

According to Prime Minister Stephen Harper the “hopeful spring of democracy” has given way to an “angry summer of populism… (R)arely has the free and democratic world been less secure.”

These are convenient words for a true imperialist. They paint the world as full of threatening chaos and danger, a world we must bring under our control for the danger to disappear.

The words are a well-used ruse employed by apologists to justify the drive to dominate other nations. They are used to conceal the danger and chaos created by imperialism in the first place, through sanctions, the arms race and open bellicose threats.

At first, a war might remove power and democracy from the people. War might help the most reactionary circles in the West who continue to use workers as pawns and cannon fodder. These corporate global overlords intend to crush the democratic, popular character of the Arab Spring and stop it from spreading.

As emphasized by Harper’s own words, hatred of the popular movements is a prominent motivation behind the threats facing Iran and Syria. War is a desperate measure by the West and its allies in the region to crush the popular movements and the hopes for global anti-imperialist unity.

Even more serious, another Middle East war could easily grow into a world war pitting the West against China and Russia.

Intense military preparations in several global hotspots are putting realistic solutions to hunger and climate change on the back burner, where the big oil and grain corporations want them to be. Militarism guarantees that the jobless will continue to go hungry.

Communist and workers parties have long stated another world war can be stopped by a very broad anti-imperialist alliance. A new Middle East war would complicate building this unity.

From that perspective, it is vital to block a new war against Iran or Syria. At home and globally, the peace movement has much work ahead of it to explain the democratic alternatives to war.

We need to build broad, popular support for comprehensive, mutually agreed and verifiable disarmament in the Middle East and for the right of the Palestinian people and all nations in the Middle East to decide their future.

This means ending arms shipments into Syria that violate its sovereignty. Canada needs to end arms sales to regimes that are violating Syria’s sovereignty, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States.

One thing has not changed about the escalating war threat. The wallets of the Western arms corporations are growing fat off the Middle East.

This is a war we must stop!

On Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit to Winnipeg
worker | October 30, 2012 | 8:18 pm | Action | Comments closed

October 30, 2012

To Marxists, the last president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, provides a sad spectacle every time our corporate elite trot him out as role model for young impressionable minds. It is a sad image because of the harm he inflicted on the working class of this world, especially the workers of his own country.

Yet there is no denying the genuine love of our local establishment in Winnipeg for Gorbachev. He is loved because of his established record of concealing troubling matters from the minds of our young. You won’t hear him talk much about the festering sores of capitalism, about how to create good-paying jobs, solve injustice to Aboriginal peoples, end tuition, end poverty, or prevent war, but you will hear him say that youth have a great future if they work hard.*

Gorbachev is being used as an ideological tool to trump reality and actual history.

Not more than a decade after Russia’s counter-revolution, the average male life expectancy dropped to 57 years, a decline of close to 15 years. A rapacious class of entrepreneurs – many former communists like Gorbachev – looted Soviet Russia’s public property, creating misery and early death for their fellow citizens.

Outside Russia, the capitalist world was triumphal and arrogant. The world fell under imperialist diktat, epitomized by the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1993. People with a lingering desire for social change were told “there is no alternative” and “history has ended.” It has taken two decades for people to emerge on a global scale from the confusion caused in large part by Gorbachev’s surrender to capitalist ideology.

The reawakening of dread about the future offered by the “development” of world capitalism is reflected in popular movements such as the Arab Spring, the left’s gains in Latin America, the European resistance to the financial oligarchy, a leap in strike action by Asian workers, and the occupy movement in our own back yard.

When Gorbachev surrendered to capitalist ideology more than twenty years ago, capitalists promised humanity an end to the heavy burden of the arms race, a “peace dividend.” They promised stability and a rosy future for workers. Neither promise has been kept. Instead working people face a very shaky economic future and the threat of permanent, global war. Furthermore, capitalism’s heedless profiteering threatens nature on a scale that could result in the loss of billions of people.

Locked into an endless race to make more profit, our capitalist overlords are ignoring the warnings of our best scientists about the need to develop realistic alternatives that put nature ahead of private profit. These alternatives include an end to militarism, oil sands development and reliance on fossil fuels, yet these enterprises all produce enormous profits for the one percent.

We are all doomed unless our guide is “best science,” not the best practice to make some fast money. As much as the apologists may try, capitalism will not evade political responsibility for the growing economic crisis, more militarism and war, and environmental catastrophe.

So why did Gorbachev depart from Marxism? Gorbachev was elected to the highest positions in the Soviet Union at a time of dramatic nuclear war tensions. An enormous anti-war movement developed to demand nuclear disarmament, which even U.S. president Reagan began to accept in 1987 with the US-Soviet Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Reagan realized that his party would lose the election because even in the United States a growing number of people realized imperialism was the source of the nuclear war danger. He started holding summits with Gorbachev. Yet this is precisely when Gorbachev began to yield ideological ground, especially with his idea that universal values would now guide humanity’s future.

Gorbachev blessed U.S. imperialism with the grace of being guided by universal values and not the rapacious appetite of the military-industrial corporations. This was of great assistance to Reagan’s successor, the first George Bush, but it produced not one disarmament treaty.

More importantly, in Russia itself the idea that capitalism was no longer such a dangerous and corrupt social system was the greatest assistance to people, often in powerful positions, who ended up betraying socialism in 1991. Gorbachev merely followed a long line of people who try to confuse people that socialism is no different than capitalism with a human face.

In Gorbachev’s words, “We are entering into a world of new dimensions, in which universal human values are acquiring the same meaning for all and in which human freedom and well-being and the unique value of human life must become both the foundation and basis for universal security and the supreme criterion by which we measure progress.”**

These are fine-sounding words, but what do they actually mean? Are ideas of freedom and human values consistent with the capitalist world we see today, which is in a state of permanent war and other crises? Can socialism compete with capitalism using only such concepts, or did the Soviet Union also have to rely on tanks and artillery to defeat the Nazis in the Second World War?

“Freedom” can mean different things to different people; for example, in today’s capitalist world, for the Nazis in the 1940s, and for socialists. Workers faced with a demand for a wage freeze would view it as unreasonable, while the capitalist believes the freeze is common sense. To capitalists today, the freedom to make a private profit is the highest noble aim, but for socialists this is just silly and a growing health risk.

So Gorbachev’s idea was never rooted in reality. It was an attempt to impose his mind on reality. Reality won, as it often does when you forget that social classes tend to bury ideas that may harm their interests – for as long as they are able. As Harper’s arrest of more than 1,000 people at the 2010 G8 summit shows, working people will need more than just noble ideas to win their freedom.

Gorbachev ended up becoming a liberal, not a Marxist. His view that capitalism and socialism would become a happy couple was nothing more than a regurgitated “convergence” theory advanced by bourgeois academics, notably since the 1930s and 1970s as a way to hide capitalism’s growing failures and the success of Soviet policies that actually were creating a more fair society, while defeating the fascists.

A better way to understand capitalists’ occasional embrace of “human rights” is to realize that they are a response by capitalism to the successes of socialism and the working class, or a way to hide capitalism’s failures, like starting two world wars. For example, the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany led to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter. The massive strike wave in Canada in the 1970s (the greatest hurrah of the militant unionists who came out of the Depression and War) led to Trudeau’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Another example is the Liberal Party’s 1919 promise to establish medicare in Canada, soon after the Russian revolution created medicare in that country.

Today, as their profit-making meets larger impasses, capitalists are rapidly losing their enchantment with human values. The rise of fascist and far-right political forces across the capitalist world shows this to be true. This may embarrass Gorbachev, but it is supremely dangerous for working people.

The two world systems never converged, but capitalism gained the temporary upper hand. Universal values have done nothing to remove the spectre of nuclear war from humanity’s future. Marxists were never fooled into thinking that these universal values would give us peace and paradise as long as capitalism ruled the roost.

Gorbachev’s universal values have never refuted Marxism’s understanding that we are in the historic epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism, and that workers still have a world to win, at least for a while.

Darrell Rankin
Manitoba office, Communist Party of Canada
(204) 586-7824

Where have all the profits gone?
worker | October 28, 2012 | 9:59 am | Action | Comments closed

By Zoltan Zigedy

Mid September marked the fourth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, widely viewed as the final trigger of the global economic collapse, a shock that remains the dominant factor in global economic life. Friday, October 19 brought a dramatic drop in US equity values, caused, commentators speculate, by dismal reports of US corporate earnings. The most observant of these commentators did not fail to point out that Friday was also the twenty-fifth anniversary of the largest US one-day percentage drop in stock values. The fact that such an anniversary came to mind reflects a general and widespread fear that more economic turbulence is forthcoming.

The growing gloom overshadows the glowing September report of retail sales released earlier in the week. Despite stagnant or slipping incomes, the US consumer turned to the credit card to boost purchases at retail stores, online, and in restaurants. Signs of an improving housing market also fueled optimism.

Opinions change quickly. A week earlier—Tuesday, October 9—the International Monetary Fund released its World Economic Report. While raising fears of a global downturn, the report cut the probability of a US recession by nearly a quarter from its April forecast!

Taken together, the sentiments of the last two weeks demonstrate widespread confusion and uncertainty.

Big Problems, Little Ideas

Most of the conversation about the global economy, about capitalism, is shaped by ideological bias, academic dogma, distorted history and wishful thinking.

The global economy has never “recovered” from the shock of 2008. Nor does it teeter on the edge of another recession. In fact, it is fully in the grip of a profound systemic crisis, a crisis that has no certain conclusion. In this regard, the crisis is very much like its antecedent in the 1930s. The popular picture of The Great Depression as a massive collapse followed by the New Deal recovery is myth. Instead, like our current economic fortunes, it was like climbing a metaphorical grease pole— repeatedly advancing a few feet and then slipping down. Serious students of the Great Depression understand that its “solution” was World War II, with its state-driven, planned, military “socialism.”

Of course war itself is no solution, but the organized, collective, and social effort that capitalism only countenances for violence and aggression is a solution. Similarly, the success of the People’s Republic of China in sidestepping the harsh edges of the 2008 collapse is due to the remaining features of socialism—public ownership of banks, state enterprises, and economic planning. Never mind that much of the PRC leadership hopes to jettison these features, the advantages are there for all to see. Yet few see.

Distorted history begets foolish theory. The two ideological poles that dominate economic discussion—classical liberalism and Keynesianism—both owe their claimed legitimacy to favored, but mistaken views of the source and solution to the Great Depression. While expressions of these poles are found across the political policy spectrum, classical liberalism—often called neo-liberalism—is generally associated with the political right.

Political liberals and the left, on the other hand, often advocate for the analyses and prescriptions of the school associated with the views of John Maynard Keynes.

Since classical liberalism has been the dominant economic philosophy governing the global economy for many decades, common sense would dictate that, after four years of economic chaos and general immiseration, neo-liberalism would be in disrepute. But thanks to the tenacity of ruling elites and the profound dogmatism of their intellectual lackeys, the market fetish of neo-liberalism still reigns outside of Latin America and a few other outliers.

But Keynesianism—broadly understood as central government intervention in markets—enjoys a growing advocacy, particularly with liberals, leftists, and, sadly, “Marxists.” Centrist Keynesians advocate intervention in markets from the supply side, most often through credit mechanisms and tax cuts that encourage investment and corporate confidence. Liberal and left interventionists argue for stimulating economic recovery and stability by generating consumption and expanding demand from government-funded projects or government-funded jobs.

The panic of 2008 turned most policy makers toward flirtation with supply-side intervention and generally meager demand-based stimulus, a fact that liberal Keynesians like Paul Krugman are fond of pointing out. Only China adopted a full-blown demand-oriented stimulus program. Yet that tact also brought a host of new contradictions in its wake.

Austerity versus Growth

Pundits like Krugman and politicians like Francois Hollande posture the theoretical divide as one between austerity and growth, a choice between rational growth stimulation and the irrationality of shrinking government spending to reduce debt. In an idealized classless world, this point would be well taken—austerity is an enemy of growth. However, it is naïve and misleading to fantasize such a world.

In our era of global capitalism, the idea of cutting government spending and lowering taxes makes all the sense in the world to the ownership class. The resultant transfer of value counts as a significant element in restoring profit growth and expanding accumulation. In a real sense, the popular and apt anti-austerity slogan– “we will not pay for your crisis”– tells only half the story. The other half should be “we will not pay for your recovery.”

In the end, it is profit that determines the success and failure of the capitalist system. Accumulation of economic surplus—the value remaining after the bills are paid–is the engine of capitalism, necessary for its motion and its trajectory. The dramatic drop in the Dow Jones industrial stock averages resulting from poor earnings this past Friday only underscores this point. Those who see consumption as the critical element in growth and recovery should recognize that this loss of momentum is independent of, as well as more decisive than, the September report of strong retail demand.

The Tendency of the Falling Rate of Profit

The central role of profit, its growth and momentum in understanding capitalism and its recurrent structural crises has been overshadowed, even among most Marxists, by the infection of left thought with Keynes’ crisis theory. Theories of crisis that rest on underconsumption, overproduction, or imbalances reflect this infection and reduce political economy to the study of business cycles and avoidable and terminable economic hiccups—consumption can be expanded, production can be regulated, and balance can be restored. These are the assumptions of social democratic theory and what divides it from revolutionary Marxism.

Marx saw crisis as fundamentally embedded in capitalism’s structure. Processes in the capitalist mode of production unerringly bring on crises. And he locates the most basic of these processes is the mechanism of accumulation, a process that tends to restrain the growth of the rate of profit.

While it is good to see a rebirth of interest in and advocacy of Marx’s law of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, most of its worthy supporters remain needlessly confined to Marx’s expository formulae that serve well in revealing the anatomy of capitalism, but less so in exposing its disorders.

Yet the intuition behind Marx’s law is easily grasped. When unmediated by the encroachment of working class forces, the capitalists’ accumulation of surplus results in the extreme concentration of wealth, a concentration that reduces the opportunities to gather the expected return in the next and each successive cycle. Whether restrained by the physical limitations of workers, the potential length of the work day, diminished return on physical investment, rapacious competition, super-inflated investment reserves, or the myriad other possible forces or factors, the rate of profit is under constant and persistent duress.

Leading up to the 2007 economic slowdown that presaged the 2008 collapse, the enormous pool of capital available for profitable investment was acknowledged by all reporters. Its sheer volume alone depressed interest and profit rates in the face of limited productive investment opportunities. The desperate search for a rate of return drove investors toward riskier and riskier ventures that generated the financial collapse which has been well documented. It was the pressure on profits—an expression of the tendency—that drove the investor class to a lemming-like indulgence in arcane financial wizardry.

The neglect of Marx’s tendential law since the popularity of Keynes and underconsumption/overproduction crisis theories has retarded Marxist and Communist understanding of capitalist crisis while bolstering reformist policies within the Communist movement. Happily, there is a renewed interest in Marx’s law, though a full and satisfactory understanding of its application to and operation within contemporary capitalism is yet to be given.

At any rate, the decline of earnings now emerging in the latest financial news indicates that counter-crisis and counter-tendency measures are now exhausted in the US. Despite the euphoria of rising consumption spending and housing sales, the profit-driven engine of US capitalism is slowing, likely allowing the US economy to drift closer to the whirlpool already drowning the European economies.

Tough times are ahead, but a fertile period to plant the seeds of socialism.

Zoltan Zigedy

Syriza’s underhanded trick and the reality
worker | October 24, 2012 | 7:49 pm | Action | Comments closed

Check out this link:

PAME publication
worker | October 16, 2012 | 7:53 pm | Action | Comments closed

Check out this link for the publication of the Greek union PAME

Click on the image of the magazine on the lower left side to view this publication.

Venezuela: The oligarchy is defeated
worker | October 14, 2012 | 7:48 pm | Action | Comments closed

En Marcha #1596

Organ of the Central Committee of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador

October 12 to 18 2012

The announcement of the National Electoral Council (CNE) of Venezuela confirming the victory of Hugo Chavez, with more than 54% of the votes over the candidate of the right and the oligarchy, showed the popular support that the project led by the Bolivarian President enjoyed.

This no doubt was an election between two diametrically opposed government programs; that of Hugo Chavez, which focuses on the role of the State as regulator of the means of production and consumption; investment in social programs; a greater popular participation in public institutions; Latin American integration; the driving force for free health care and education programs; for housing; and, what disturbs the right most: state control of oil production. On the other extreme, Henrique Capriles, although he says he is in accord with the right of the popular sectors to better living conditions, does not deny that he represents the Venezuelan oligarchy that yearns to regain control of the public enterprises through their privatization and, therefore, does not deny that they oppose many of the social programs of the present government. It is also in favor of private, national and foreign capital resuming control of the Venezuelan economy.

James Petras, a respected political analyst is clear in pointing out this antagonism: “Chavez is with Latin America, he is opposed to U.S. imperialism where it shows itself and is an unconditional defender of self-determination and Latin American integration.” Capriles Radonski is in favor of free trade agreements with the U.S., he opposes regional integration, he supports the U.S. interventions in the Middle East and is a staunch defender of Israel.” And that difference is what the Venezuelan people have evaluated.

With this result the right has not been defeated. With the power that it maintains over the banks and the media, they managed to convince a large sector to support their openly neoliberal thesis. According to the first report of the CNE, with 90% of the votes counted, Chavez obtained 7,440,082 (54.4%) and Capriles Radonski, 6,151,544 votes (45%).

With Chavez’s victory, the popular sectors have won, those millions who benefit from the programs and missions that allow them to live a dignified life. The thesis of the neoliberal and privatizing oligarchy, of the banks, of transnational oil and gas corporations that yearn to go back to the past of opulence and corruption was defeated together with the U.S. Embassy and the United States Department of State.

Tribute to Woody Guthrie
worker | October 9, 2012 | 8:35 pm | Action | Comments closed

Check out this link to a tribute to Woody Guthrie