Saturday 29 November 2008

Making the World's Poor Pay: The Economic Crisis and the Global South

by Adam Hanieh from Socialist Voice 28 November 2008 The current global economic crisis has all the earmarks of an epoch-defining event. Mainstream economists-not usually known for their exaggerated language-now openly employ phrases like "systemic meltdown" and "peering into the abyss." On October 29, for example, Martin Wolf, one of the top financial commentators of the Financial Times, warned that the crisis portends "mass bankruptcy," "soaring unemployment," and a "catastrophe" that threatens "the legitimacy of the open market economy itself....The danger remains huge and time is short."

Workers must be protected during recession, not exploited - Maori Party

Media release Hon Tariana Turia, MP for Te Tai Hauauru 28 November 2008 The crisis of global capitalism is no excuse for business to exploit workers, according to the Maori Party. Te Tai Hauauru MP and Party co-leader Tariana Turia was responding to reports that Business New Zealand has urged the government to restrict employees’ rights, cut back recognition of unions, privatise ACC and limit environmental protections. “The Maori Party strongly opposes this response to the global economic crisis,” said Mrs Turia. “An economic recession is no excuse to exploit workers, in order to protect the profit margins and lifestyles of business owners.” “Workers, as taxpayers, are stumping up with a $7 billion economic stimulus package to keep the economy going,” she said. “There is no way the Maori Party would support these measures, if the business sector is not prepared to stand alongside the workers who are helping them out.” “It is almost obscene to hear that business lobbyists are urging the government to use the economic situation as a smokescreen to attack workers’ rights. In my own electorate of Te Tai Hauauru, hundreds of workers have already been laid off as factories and mills have closed in Foxton, Feilding, Tokoroa and Putaruru. “Communities have been decimated, and Business New Zealand wants to make it easier for others to repeat this up and down the country. “We will get through the crisis if we stand together as a nation, but we face disaster if one sector attacks another because it cannot see past its own, limited self-interest,” said Mrs Turia.

India's Leaders Need To Look Closer To Home

by Tariq Ali from Counterpunch 28 November 2008 The terrorist assault on Mumbai’s five-star hotels was well planned, but did not require a great deal of logistic intelligence: all the targets were soft. The aim was to create mayhem by shining the spotlight on India and its problems and in that the terrorists were successful. The identity of the black-hooded group remains a mystery.

Thursday 27 November 2008

History will judge the left on how we rose to the crisis

by Grant Morgan 27 November 2008 We are one year into the global economic crisis. It is two months since the narrowly averted international financial meltdown sparked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers. And guess what? At long last, leaks from within the corporate hierarchy are giving notice that, no matter what actions are taken by governments, the world will face continuing economic chaos of one sort or another. That is made clear in the article below by The Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, one of Britain's most sober mainstream economic analysts. Evans-Pritchard quotes Tom Fitzpatrick, Citibank's chief technical strategist, who in a leaked memo has this to say about the frenzied moves by governments to pump liquidity into financial corporations: "The world is not going back to normal after the magnitude of what they have done. When the dust settles this will either work, and the money they have pushed into the system will feed though into an inflation shock. Or it will not work because too much damage has already been done, and we will see continued financial deterioration, causing further economic deterioration, with the risk of a feedback loop." The only two choices on offer, says Fitzpatrick, is either inflation shock (which will swallow the pay of workers) or an even worse economic deflation (which will swallow the jobs of workers). As Fitzpatrick notes, "this will lead to political instability". In other words, the centre will not hold. There will be movements to the left and to the right away from the centre which, typically in most advanced economies today, is crowded out by the main parties of the market. How should the left in New Zealand relate to this historic global shift? First, the left must understand that market politics in this time of crisis will deliver only inflation shock or economic deflation. Second, the left must get this understanding out to the grassroots by every means possible. Third, the left must work with the grassroots on a plan to protect the people from economic crisis by rolling back the market. Fourth, the left must make sure this people's plan also tackles global warming since economic sanity hinges on ecological salvation. Fifth, the left must start now, since momentum is all-important in political warfare. In a few days time, newly elected prime minister John Key will unveil his cabinet's economic stimulus plan. Under cover of tax cuts and a "relief package" for redundant workers, Key will take his first steps towards protecting the corporate market at the expense of the grassroots majority. The left must start preparing a response. We must be ready to "go to the masses" with an alternative strategy. The crisis, not the election, is the real test for the left in New Zealand. History will judge us on how we rose to the crisis.
Citigroup says gold could rise above $2,000 next year as world unravels by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from 26 November 2008 Citibank said the damage caused by the financial excesses of the last quarter century was forcing the world's authorities to take steps that had never been tried before. This gamble was likely to end in one of two extreme ways: with either a resurgence of inflation; or a downward spiral into depression, civil disorder, and possibly wars. Both outcomes will cause a rush for gold.

Chomsky, real democracy and the NZ left

by Grant Morgan 26 November 2008 Below is Noam Chomsky's recent speech on Barack Obama's election victory and on the meaning of democracy in general. Chomsky lambasts the liberal concept of democracy current in America and elsewhere in the West (including New Zealand) whereby the masses are considered to be passive "outsiders" even when they are apparently active, like those belonging to Obama's Army. The active participants are contending groups of elites who essentially buy elections. Chomsky upholds a participatory democracy of the masses, with one of his examples being Bolivia, where grassroots movements began to change the political landscape by rising up around important issuesm creating their own plan of change and selecting from their midst their own presidential candidate, Evo Morales. This path of participatory democracy is the only way forward for the left in New Zealand. The left needs to go among the masses calling for a plan to protect the people from economic storms and from climate chaos, include thousands of people in the drafting and revision of such a plan, build on this momentum to channel the energies of grassroots movements around a common plan and, in the course of this process, select our own grassroots election candidates and rebuild our own grassroots political movement capable of successfully challenging market politics. Only such a course of action can build a new consensus around a new set of circumstances which will not only revitalise the left as a whole, but also build the tidal wave necessary to sweep away the huge obstacles to real democracy in our country. As the economic storms begin to lash New Zealand, the left has a historic opportunity to convert crisis into opportunity for the grassroots. Let us seize this opportunity with both hands. This is the real test for the left. Everything else is subsidiary at this time.
What Next? The Elections, the Economy, and the World by Noam Chomsky Transcript of recent address in Boston from Democracy Now! 24 November 2008 Well, let's begin with the elections. The word that the rolls off of everyone's tongue is historic. Historic election. And I agree with it. It was a historic election. To have a black family in the white house is a momentous achievement. In fact, it's historic in a broader sense. The two Democratic candidates were an African-American and a woman. Both remarkable achievements. We go back say 40 years, it would have been unthinkable. So something's happened to the country in 40 years. And what's happened to the country- which is we're not supposed to mention- is that there was extensive and very constructive activism in the 1960s, which had an aftermath. So the feminist movement, mostly developed in the 70s--the solidarity movements of the 80's and on till today. And the activism did civilize the country. The country's a lot more civilized than it was 40 years ago and the historic achievements illustrate it. That's also a lesson for what's next.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

The centre starts to break apart in Britain

by Grant Morgan 26 November 2008 The UK article below (by Polly Toynbee of the Guardian) talks about British Labour returning to its social democratic roots in the wake of a revival of "redistributive" fiscal policies, while the Tories revert to being the naked defenders of the ultra-rich. While the article's conclusions appear rather overblown, it does look like British Labour is veering towards a somewhat more redistributive stance, even if only driven by the worst economic crisis in living memory. Polly's article ends by asserting that both British Labour and the Tories are "abandoning their centre-ground hug of death". Again, while this end conclusion appears rather overblown, it does point to an important general truth in times of crisis: The centre cannot be held. Every crisis generates centrifugal pressures on politicians which forces them to move away from the centre, both to the left and to the right. That is one of the main points made in my recent paper Protecting the people from the market crisis. What does this general truth mean for the left? It means that our vital job is to "go to the masses" with a plan to protect the people which starts to gain a popular following and intensifies the centrifugal pressures on New Zealand's two main parties and their camp followers, so that a significant space opens up for a broad left alternative to market politics. That is the real test facing everyone on the left. Those who rise to the challenge of the times will be those who begin to exert a significant pressure on the course of history.
At last, the party of social justice has woken up by Polly Toynbee from The Guardian 25 November 2008 The New Labour era is over - welcome to social democracy. Following in Obama's footsteps, it is suddenly safe to tax the rich and spend to protect jobs. Keynes and Roosevelt are the world's spirit guides through this crisis, because in a crisis social democracy is what works. Yesterday that faith allowed Labour to shed its disguise and follow its nature in a £20bn shower of spending. Yesterday saw the Conservatives strip off their sheep's clothing too, as George Osborne tore into the "unexploded tax bombshell" with gusto, merrily defending the aspirations of the wealthy. Now we can see both parties naked as nature intended, and at last comfortable in their own skins.

Zombie Economics

by James Howard Kunstler 24 November 2008 Though Citicorp is deemed too big to fail, it's hardly reassuring to know that it's been allowed to sink its fangs into the Mother Zombie that the US Treasury has become and sucked out a multi-billion dollar dose of embalming fluid so it can go on pretending to be a bank for a while longer. I employ this somewhat clunky metaphor to point out that the US Government is no more solvent than the financial zombies it is keeping on walking-dead support. And so this serial mummery of weekend bailout schemes is as much of a fraud and a swindle as the algorithm-derived-securities shenanigans that induced the disease of bank zombification in the first place. The main question it raises is whether, eventually, the creation of evermore zombified US dollars will exceed the amount of previously-created US dollars now vanishing into oblivion through compressive debt deflation.

Colossal Financial Collapse: The Truth behind the Citigroup Bank "Nationalization"

by F. William Engdahl from Global Research 25 November 2008 On Friday November 21, the world came within a hair's breadth of the most colossal financial collapse in history according to bankers on the inside of events with whom we have contact. The trigger was the bank which only two years ago was America's largest, Citigroup. The size of the US Government de facto nationalization of the $2 trillion banking institution is an indication of shocks yet to come in other major US and perhaps European banks thought to be 'too big to fail.'

Greenhouse gas emissions keep increasing – NZ one of the worst offenders

The countries that vowed to cut greenhouse gas emissions are churning out more than ever by David Biello Original article from Scientific American 17 November 2008 The 38 countries that pledged to restrain their emissions of climate change — inducing greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide (CO2), are failing, according to new figures released today. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the body charged with overseeing global emission reduction efforts, says that, overall, greenhouse emissions — measured in terms of the most ubiquitous: carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) — dropped by 894 million metric tons between 1990 and 2006 (the latest year for which figures are available).

Venezuela’s 2008 regional elections: Another vote for the revolution and Chavez

Statement from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network 25 November 2008 The results of the elections for local mayors and state governors held in Venezuela on November 23 underlined the continuing mass support for the Bolivarian revolution led by President Hugo Chavez. In a clear vote of confidence in the project to build socialism of the 21st century in Venezuela, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) - formed just six months ago with Chavez as its president - won 17 of the 22 states in which governors were elected. The United States-backed right-wing opposition won five states with a total of about 4 million votes, compared to the 5.5 million votes for the PSUV candidates.

Clearing Up This Mess

The UN Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, U.S, 1 July 1944. The US secured its domination of the financial system through new US controlled institutions that became the IMF and World Bank.
by George Monbiot from The Guardian 18 November 2008 Poor old Lord Keynes. The world’s press has spent the past week blackening his name. Not intentionally: most of the dunderheads reporting the G20 summit which took place over the weekend really do believe that he proposed and founded the International Monetary Fund. It’s one of those stories that passes unchecked from one journalist to another.


Tuesday 25 November 2008

British government raises top tax rate and makes one year reduction to sales tax

by Peter de Waal 25 November 2008 Looks like another one of my predictions from March coming home to roost. It's difficult to fleece those you left destitute after the last crash, and Gordon Brown seems to have accepted this logic by announcing a small increase in taxes for the UK's wealthy, as part of a desperate attempt to save the UK's economy. See the Guardian story Darling unveils 45p tax on rich to fund recession package (24 Nov). I don't think it will be nearly enough, but it's long overdue. It will be interesting to see what John Key makes of this move. He has also become a born-again Keynesian of late with announcements of public works and other fiscal stimulus packages. Those who voted for a right wing government here may be bitterly surprised when their taxes also increase. But at the end of the day Key is a member of the international finance speculator class, and this class has a deep vested interest in keeping their system going. It reminds me of what George Bush (W) did after his "election" in 2000. He dropped taxes for the rich. The rich smiled. He waged war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Oil, pharmaceutical, and military suppliers did well, all other branches of capital in America went to the wall. Particularly the small capitalists. I believe Key was planning something similar for NZ, but the credit crunch has put paid to it. In addition to usual Tory hammering of those on benefits, I expect he will now turn on the smaller capitalists as he attempts to keep the banks and other central institutions going, probably sooner rather than later. Key may be the banker's poodle, but he doesn't want to pull the whole system down. Workers just don't have the cash or assets anymore thanks to the last crash, so the predators will have to move up the food chain. Part of the economic stimulus package announced by the British government is a one year reduction in the VAT sales tax (the equivalent of New Zealand’s GST) from 17.5% to 15%. The British sales tax already excludes food items. See also Who bears the tax burden - the poor or the rich? A global battleground

Results of Venezuela's regional elections

See articles from Venezuelanalysis:

France: Towards the foundation of a New Anti-Capitalist Party

by Grant Morgan 28 November 2008 An informative article about the formation of France's New Anti-Capitalist Party appears below. It is penned by respected French socialist Pierre Rousset, a leader of the left since the 1968 student revolt and general strike which almost overthrew the De Gaulle regime. After an outline of decades of failed attempts at bringing about "radical left unity" in France, Rousset outlines the apparently successful rise of a broad left party over the last 18 months. He points to a key element in this success: a bottom-up (rather than a "top-bottom") approach which taps into a general yearning for an independent left challenge to the Socialist Party, France's equivalent to the New Zealand Labour Party. It seems there are important similarities (as well as differences, of course) between the political situation of France and New Zealand. In New Zealand, a bottom-up strategy of "going to the masses" with a plan to protect the people from economic crisis by rolling back the market may well be the formative impulse for the rise of a strong broad left party.

Towards the foundation of a New Anti-Capitalist Party

by Pierre Rousset from LINKS - International Journal of Socialist Renewal The political impact of the New Anti-Capitalist Party (Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste or NPA) process is quite important. In a number places, this new political party in construction is already de facto replacing the French Revolutionary Communist League (Ligue communiste révolutionnaire or LCR)and is very active.


Wednesday 19 November 2008

FEATURE ARTICLE: Protecting the people from the market crisis

by GRANT MORGAN chair of RAM - Residents Action Movement 19 November 2008 VALUING THE MAJORITY RAM wants a society based on the values of humanity, ecology, co-operation, equity and democracy. (For fuller details, go to The RAM Plan on These are the default values of workers, Maori, leftists, ecologists, immigrants, intellectuals, pensioners, feminists, religious believers, students, small proprietors and others at the grassroots who make up the vast majority of citizens.
RAM - Residents Action Movement invites you & your friends to VENEZUELA EYEWITNESS PETER BOYLE from Australia gives an eyewitness account of his experiences in Venezuela. Its president Hugo Chavez is leading a people's revolution to build an economy and a political system which serve humanity, not corporate profits and privilege. Come and hear about the amazing transformations taking place there. 7.30pm Tuesday 9 December Auckland Trades Hall, 147 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn Contact RAM through Oliver 021 072 4647 or

Amid ongoing tensions, G-20 takes few concrete decisions

Cheers all round at the G-20 summit in Washington, but economic rivalries prevented any co-ordinated plan to tackle the worsening global economic crisis.
by Peter Symonds from World Socialist Web Site 17 November 2008 The G-20 summit to discuss the world financial turmoil concluded on Saturday after meeting for less than six hours in Washington. All of the leaders acknowledged the need for international cooperation amid the worst crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, but the joint communiqué contained little in the way of concrete measures to stabilise financial markets and reverse the rapid slide into global recession.

The Real Goal Of Israel’s Blockade

by Jonathan Cook from Countercurrents 17 November 2008 The latest tightening of Israel’s chokehold on Gaza – ending all supplies into the Strip for more than a week – has produced immediate and shocking consequences for Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants. The refusal to allow in fuel has forced the shutting down of Gaza’s only power station, creating a blackout that pushed Palestinians bearing candles on to the streets in protest last week. A water and sanitation crisis are expected to follow.

Worse Than The Great Depression?

by Stephen Lendman from Countercurrents 17 November 2008 It's a minority but growing view, including from 86-year old former Goldman Sachs chairman, John Whitehead, at the November 12 Reuters Global Finance Summit in New York. As disturbing evidence mounts, he said: "I think it would be worse than the depression. We're talking about reducing the credit of the United States of America, which is the backbone of the economic system. I see nothing but large increases in the deficit, all of which are serving to decrease the credit standing of America.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

A crucial test for Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution

Meeting of PSUV delegates in the state of Anzoategui (Aporrea). The PSUV is mobilising for Venezuela's regional elections on 23 November.
from LINKS – International Journal of Socialist Renewal 10 November 2008 While on the surface it may appear to be a simple electoral battle, something much different is at stake on November 23. On that day, Venezuelans will go to the polls to elect 22 governors, 328 mayors, 233 legislators to the state legislative councils, and 13 councillors to district committees – including indigenous representation – making a total of 603 positions.

Barack Obama’s dual mandate

10 November 2008
Millions of Americans see the election of Barack Obama as a referendum on white supremacy and today we join in their celebration. The racist campaigns launched against Obama, conducted sometimes in coded language and other times in inflammatory accusations, turned out to be amazingly unsuccessful. Yet the 2008 election also represents a dual reality that is important for socialists and activists for peace and social justice to grasp.
See also

Monday 17 November 2008

Economic crisis is beyond the reach of traditional solutions

by Paul Craig Roberts from 14 November 2008 By most accounts the US economy is in serious trouble. Robert Reich, an adviser to President-elect Obama, calls it a "mini-depression," and that designation might be optimistic. The Russian economist, Mikhail Khazin says that the "U.S. will soon face a second “Great Depression” It is possible that even Khazin is optimistic.

The worst is not behind us: Beware of those who say we've hit the bottom

by Nouriel Roubini from 13 November 2008 It is useful, at this juncture, to stand back and survey the economic landscape – both as it is now, and as it has been in recent months. So here is a summary of many of the points that I have made for the last few months on the outlook for the U.S. and global economy, as well as for financial markets:

Tuesday 4 November 2008

The RAM Song

Please forward the link to this youtube clip to your contacts:

Who bears the tax burden - the poor or the rich? A global battleground

Over the last 25 years the tax burden has been shifted from the wealthy on to the poor in NZ. Both Labour and National governments have overseen this wealth transition. Today, the conditions are emerging for a mass campaign for tax justice, which shifts the tax burden off grassroots people back on to the global rich. Removing the 12.5% GST tax on food is a battle that can be won, given the mass support that exists for this demand - and which will only increase as economic crisis starts to bite. A mass campaign to git rid of GST on food would also create the conditions to win mass support for a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) – long supported by parties of the left – that would net the international speculators and corporates who avoid and evade paying tax in NZ. As the article below makes clear, who bears the tax burden – the rich or the poor – is right now a major global battleground. Britain’s largest corporations pay no tax by Jean Shaoul from World Socialist Web Site 4 November 2008 A massive 220 firms, almost one third of Britain’s largest 700 companies, including Cadbury, Standard Chartered Bank and British American Tobacco, paid no Corporation Tax in 2006-2007.

Monday 3 November 2008

McCarten and Pierson tell readers not to vote for RAM

by Auckland union activist 3 November 2008 Steve Pierson’s in a posting on The Standard website, Vote smart: The micro parties (1 Nov 2008), writes:
Last election, 7,000 people gave their votes to very small left-wing parties that never had any chance of winning a seat in Parliament. That's 0.3% of the vote; a small but not insignificant amount. If those votes to the Alliance and Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis had gone to the Greens instead (who, after all, have 99% of their policies in common), the Greens would have won another seat. This election, there are two more micro left wing parties - the Workers' Party and the Residents Action Movement. Two parties with, as far as I can tell, identical policies and ideology that sit comfortably within the ideals of the Greens and Labour, just more extreme, but have no hope of getting elected (RAM came dead last in every local council election that it contested last year). I have a lot of sympathy for these parties and their policies. It is important to have groups that pulling the political spectrum left. But that is no reason for voters to waste their votes on them. Last election, the micro parties and the Progressive took a combined 33,000 votes, each one of them wasted when they could have been contributing to more seats for the Left. If that happens again, it may be the difference between keeping the Left in power and a National-led government. Which leads to a sad but inescapable conclusion - voting for a micro party rather than a party that will return to Parliament is like voting for a National-led government.
Pierson's comments on RAM are a distortion of the facts. He ignores the 100,000 votes that RAM received across Greater Auckland, which was a very respectable result for a left party. And RAM could still have held their one councilor on the ARC if the Labour Party dominated City Vision had not stood against RAM’s councilor in a seat they were never going to win. Despite Pierson's claim that he supports smaller parties that would drag the political centre to the left (if they can make an impact), in reality he advances an argument that will always doom the left to the shadows of the Labour Party. All that grassroots people can hope for is National-lite, a pro-market party with a handful of social policies that talks left at election time. Pierson accepts the tweedle dee and tweedle dum nightmare of Labour and National swapping positions in parliament for perpetuity. Such is the crisis of vision and imagination that still grips many people who still consider themselves to be “of the left”. Matt McCarten's dismissal of RAM in the NZ Herald (Formula for strategic voting is as clear as the Greens' policies 2 Nov 2008) also needs rebuttal. McCarten, if he is in touch with working people as he claims to be, can not be unaware that many working class people are considering voting National. When I meet these people (usually at our stalls, but also as work) and tell them of RAM they are often visibly relieved to have another choice open to them. RAM isn’t helping National win. It’s the conservative market driven Labour Party policies that are alienating working class people. McCarten is repeating the line used by the Labour Party against the Maori Party. Senior Labour Party figures have for some time been going around and accusing RAM of being right wing and helping a National party victory. I'm disapointed in Matt McCarten for not challenging this rubbish and instead supporting the growth of a party that’s unashamedly on the side of grassroots people against the corporate interests that today’s Labour Party embraces. In April 1904 at the Trades and Labour annual conference, which was held in Christchurch, a resolution was passed 16 votes to 3 that: "conference is of the opinion that an Independent Labour Party should be formed immediately." The new party put up candidates for the 1905 general election. They all got thrashed. Only one candidate got enough votes to get his deposit back. In 2008, I would rather lose with RAM than win with any of the others. This is because I know RAM are building something better. When Ralph Nader was building the Greens as a left alternative to the two party dictatorship that runs America, he was attacked in much the same way as Steve Pierson and Matt McCarten are attacking RAM. Nader mockingly asked his critics: "is it better to vote for what you want, and not getting it? Or vote for what you don't want, and getting it?" His point being, that if these so called commentators were as left as they claimed, then instead of using their pulpits in the media to attack him, they should have been giving him all the support they could.

Saturday 1 November 2008

Marx on cover of Time in Europe: Capitalism losing legitimacy

by Dan DiMaggio from Socialist Alternative (Canada) 5 February 2009 "A specter is haunting Europe..." Karl Marx made the front cover of the February 2 issue of the European edition of Time Magazine, displaying the weakening confidence of the capitalist ruling elite in their system. This is quite a striking reversal. Less than 20 years ago, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Marx’s ideas were dismissed as dead. Capitalism was seemingly triumphant worldwide. Yet with the massive and still unfolding global economic crisis, the capitalist system is losing legitimacy around the world. The same week as Marx appeared on the cover of Time, the International Labor Organization announced that 51 million jobs could disappear worldwide in 2009. On Monday, January 26 alone, major U.S. corporations announced over 60,000 job cuts. Hundreds of millions across the globe now face the loss of their livelihoods, and with it the threat of poverty, homelessness, hunger, and family and social breakdown. Yet none of this has deterred the insatiable greed of the "banksters." The big Wall Street banks, it was recently reported, handed out $18.4 billion in bonuses in 2008, the sixth largest total on record. New president Barack Obama called their actions "shameful," yet at the same time his administration just handed over another $350 billion to the banks and is preparing to dish out even more once they pass their stimulus package. Nor has it seem to have impacted the corporate titans at Exxon Mobil, which announced last week that it made a record $45.2 billion in 2008, the most ever made by any corporation (beating out Exxon’s record $40.6 billion in 2007). Around the world, illusions that capitalism can provide a decent future are fast being broken down. As Time writes, "Nobody younger than 80 has experienced such a rapid decline in global confidence and economic activity. Markets have failed, and in so doing they have destroyed the conventional wisdom about how to run an efficient economy. It's as if an intellectual fog has descended, and the global positioning system has broken down, leaving the world to grope its way out as best it can." The article goes on to quote former British Prime Minister Tony Blair: "Ask the experts what to do, and the most honest reply is 'I don't know'." Even Alan Greenspan, former head of the U.S. Federal Reserve and once commonly referred to as the "maestro," admitted "I still do not fully understand why [the crisis] happened." Trapped by the logic of the for-profit system, they can find no answers. As Marx put it in the Communist Manifesto, modern capitalism is like "the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells." Yet Marx provided a clear explanation of the causes of capitalist crises (see below for an excerpt from the Communist Manifesto). The article in Time quotes Archbishop Reinhard Marx (who recently wrote his own "Das Kapital"), writing a letter to his revolutionary namesake: "[Capitalism] lasted longer than you expected back in the 19th century, but could it be that capitalism is just an episode of history that will end at some point because the system will collapse as a result of its internal contradictions?" Marx decisively showed how capitalism was doomed to periodic crises due to these internal contradictions, specifically the contradiction between the private ownership of capital - the factories, banks, etc. - by a tiny mega-rich minority, and the socialized nature of production, in which millions toil to produce goods and profits controlled by this elite. In order to make this profit, the bosses pay workers only a fraction of the wealth they produce. This leaves workers unable to buy back all the goods they have produced, leading to crises rooted in overproduction and overcapacity. These crises can only be solved on a capitalist basis by, as Marx wrote, the "enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces... [and] by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones." This is what lies behind the plant closings and layoffs all over the world, as well as the increasing competition for markets, showcased by the anger at the World Economic Forum in Davos over growing fears of U.S. protectionism. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned in Time, if governments "are not in a position to show that we can create a social order for the world in which such crises do not take place, then we'll face stronger questions as to whether this is really the right economic system." Already we have seen mass demonstrations in many countries across the world, including a strike by one million French workers last week, as well as a series of demonstrations in Iceland, the country hardest hit by the economic crisis so far, which brought down the government there. There has been a surge of interest in socialist ideas across the world, as millions seek an alternative to the crises wrought by the capitalist system. As Time quotes Archbishop Marx, writing to the revolutionary Karl Marx, "There's a question that won't leave me in peace: At the end of the 20th century, when the capitalist West defeated the communist East in the battle between systems, were we too quick to dismiss you and your economic theories?" This is a question that will in the coming years trouble corporate and political elites and their ideologues around the globe. Increasing numbers of workers and youth will be driven to explore the ideas of genuine Marxism (not the perversion found in the Stalinist states), and will find in them a real explanation of the systemic causes of the current crisis and the need to struggle for a revolutionary transformation of society, taking power and wealth away from the tiny gang of "banksters" and corrupt elites and placing it in the hands of the immense majority, the workers of the world. Excerpts from the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: "Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones… The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe." "The bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an over-riding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him." "Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented."

Asia Economy: The Coming Fury

by Walden Bello from Foreign Policy in Focus 9 February 2009 For over 40 years now, the cutting edge of the region's economy has been export-oriented industrialization (EOI). Taiwan and Korea first adopted this strategy of growth in the mid-1960s, with Korean dictator Park Chung-Hee coaxing his country's entrepreneurs to export by, among other measures, cutting off electricity to their factories if they refused to comply. The success of Korea and Taiwan convinced the World Bank that EOI was the wave of the future. In the mid-1970s, then-Bank President Robert McNamara enshrined it as doctrine, preaching that "special efforts must be made in many countries to turn their manufacturing enterprises away from the relatively small markets associated with import substitution toward the much larger opportunities flowing from export promotion." EOI became one of the key points of consensus between the Bank and Southeast Asia's governments. Both realized import substitution industrialization could only continue if domestic purchasing power were increased via significant redistribution of income and wealth, and this was simply out of the question for the region's elites. Export markets, especially the relatively open U.S. market, appeared to be a painless substitute. The World Bank endorsed the establishment of export processing zones, where foreign capital could be married to cheap (usually female) labor. It also supported the establishment of tax incentives for exporters and, less successfully, promoted trade liberalization. Not until the mid-1980s, however, did the economies of Southeast Asia take off, and this wasn't so much because of the Bank but because of aggressive U.S. trade policy. In 1985, in what became known as the Plaza Accord, the United States forced the drastic revaluation of the Japanese yen relative to the dollar and other major currencies. By making Japanese imports more expensive to American consumers, Washington hoped to reduce its trade deficit with Tokyo. Production in Japan became prohibitive in terms of labor costs, forcing the Japanese to move the more labor-intensive parts of their manufacturing operations to low-wage areas, in particular to China and Southeast Asia. At least $15 billion worth of Japanese direct investment flowed into Southeast Asia between 1985 and 1990. The inflow of Japanese capital allowed the Southeast Asian "newly industrializing countries" to escape the credit squeeze of the early 1980s brought on by the Third World debt crisis, surmount the global recession of the mid-1980s, and move onto a path of high-speed growth. The centrality of the endaka, or currency revaluation, was reflected in the ratio of foreign direct investment inflows to gross capital formation, which leaped spectacularly in the late 1980s and 1990s in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. The dynamics of foreign-investment-driven growth was best illustrated in Thailand, which received $24 billion worth of investment from capital-rich Japan, Korea, and Taiwan in just five years, between 1987 and 1991. Whatever might have been the Thai government's economic policy preferences — protectionist, mercantilist, or pro-market — this vast amount of East Asian capital coming into Thailand could not but trigger rapid growth. The same was true in the two other favored nations of northeast Asian capital, Malaysia and Indonesia. It wasn't just the scale of Japanese investment over a five-year period that mattered, however; it was the process. The Japanese government and keiretsu, or conglomerates, planned and cooperated closely in the transfer of corporate industrial facilities to Southeast Asia. One key dimension of this plan was to relocate not just big corporations like Toyota or Matsushita, but also small and medium enterprises that provided their inputs and components. Another was to integrate complementary manufacturing operations that were spread across the region in different countries. The aim was to create an Asia Pacific platform for re-export to Japan and export to third-country markets. This was industrial policy and planning on a grand scale, managed jointly by the Japanese government and corporations and driven by the need to adjust to the post-Plaza Accord world. As one Japanese diplomat put it rather candidly, "Japan is creating an exclusive Japanese market in which Asia Pacific nations are incorporated into the so-called keiretsu [financial-industrial bloc] system." China Masters the Model If Taiwan and Korea pioneered the model and Southeast Asia successfully followed in their wake, China perfected the strategy of export-oriented industrialization. With its reserve army of cheap labor unmatched by any country in the world, China became the "workshop of the world," drawing in $50 billion in foreign investment annually by the first half of this decade. To survive, transnational firms had no choice but to transfer their labor-intensive operations to China to take advantage of what came to be known as the "China price," provoking in the process a tremendous crisis in the advanced capitalist countries’ labor forces. This process depended on the U.S. market. As long as U.S. consumers splurged, the export economies of East Asia could continue in high gear. The low U.S. savings rate was no barrier since credit was available on a grand scale. China and other Asian countries snapped up U.S. treasury bills and loaned massively to U.S. financial institutions, which in turn loaned to consumers and homebuyers. But now the U.S. credit economy has imploded, and the U.S. market is unlikely to serve as the same dynamic source of demand for a long time to come. As a result, Asia's export economies have been marooned. The Illusion of "Decoupling" For several years China has seemed to be a dynamic alternative to the U.S. market for Japan and East Asia's smaller economies. Chinese demand, after all, had pulled the Asian economies, including Korea and Japan, from the depths of stagnation and the morass of the Asian financial crisis in the first half of this decade. In 2003, for instance, Japan broke a decade-long stagnation by meeting China's thirst for capital and technology-intensive goods. Japanese exports shot up to record levels. Indeed, China had become by the middle of the decade, "the overwhelming driver of export growth in Taiwan and the Philippines, and the majority buyer of products from Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Australia." Even though China appeared to be a new driver of export-led growth, some analysts still considered the notion of Asia "decoupling" from the U.S. locomotive to be a pipe dream. For instance, research by economists C.P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh, underlined that China was indeed importing intermediate goods and parts from Japan, Korea, and ASEAN, but only to put them together mainly for export as finished goods to the United States and Europe, not for its domestic market. Thus, "if demand for Chinese exports from the United States and the EU slow down, as will be likely with a U.S. recession," they asserted, "this will not only affect Chinese manufacturing production, but also Chinese demand for imports from these Asian developing countries." The collapse of Asia's key market has banished all talk of decoupling. The image of decoupled locomotives — one coming to a halt, the other chugging along on a separate track — no longer applies, if it ever had. Rather, U.S.-East Asia economic relations today resemble a chain-gang linking not only China and the United States but a host of other satellite economies. They are all linked to debt-financed middle-class spending in the United States, which has collapsed. China's growth in 2008 fell to 9%, from 11% a year earlier. Japan is now in deep recession, its mighty export-oriented consumer goods industries reeling from plummeting sales. South Korea, the hardest hit of Asia's economies so far, has seen its currency collapse by some 30% relative to the dollar. Southeast Asia's growth in 2009 will likely be half that of 2008. The Coming Fury The sudden end of the export era is going to have some ugly consequences. In the last three decades, rapid growth reduced the number living below the poverty line in many countries. In practically all countries, however, income and wealth inequality increased. But the expansion of consumer purchasing power took much of the edge off social conflicts. Now, with the era of growth coming to an end, increasing poverty amid great inequalities will be a combustible combination. In China, about 20 million workers have lost their jobs in the last few months, many of them heading back to the countryside, where they will find little work. The authorities are rightly worried that what they label "mass group incidents," which have been increasing in the last decade, might spin out of control. With the safety valve of foreign demand for Indonesian and Filipino workers shut off, hundreds of thousands of workers are returning home to few jobs and dying farms. Suffering is likely to be accompanied by rising protest, as it already has in Vietnam, where strikes are spreading like wildfire. Korea, with its tradition of militant labor and peasant protest, is a ticking time bomb. Indeed, East Asia may be entering a period of radical protest and social revolution that went out of style when export-oriented industrialization became the fashion three decades ago. Walden Bello is a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist, a senior analyst at the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South, president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, and a professor of sociology at the University of the Philippines. Sources 1. Hisahiko Okasaki, "New Strategies toward Super-Asian Bloc," This Is (Tokyo), August 1992. Reproduced in Foreign Broadcast Information Service Daily Report: East Asia Supplement, Oct. 7, 1992. 2. "China: the Locomotive," The Straits Times, February 23, 2004.

Chávez Promises Continuation of Project to Create Socialist Democracy in Venezuela

by Tamara Pearson from 16 February 2009 After it was officially announced that the “yes” vote had won the constitutional amendment with 54.4% of the vote, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez delivered a speech from the balcony of the Miraflores Presidential Palace, his two daughters beside him. He spent most of the speech talking about what problems need to be struggled against and what needs to be done next. Celebrating, Chavez said, “Truth has won against lies, and the dignity of the people against those who disown the homeland … those who try to return Venezuela to … the Fourth Republic, have failed today and will always fail.” However, he included the opposition in the victory, saying the day was historical, as for the first time the people were consulted about such an issue. “It’s a victory for Venezuela and they are part of Venezuela.” Chavez also saw the result as a boost for the socialist project and invited the people to strengthen their effort towards the construction of true socialism. “This path doesn’t have any other name, this path is called socialism, I want to ratify my commitment to socialism and I want to invite everyone to strengthen the march towards the construction of … socialist democracy.” The president encouraged supporters to again go on a push with the “3R” campaign of “Revision, Rectification, and Revolutionary Re-launch.” Chavez announced 2008 to be a year of the 3Rs at the start of last year. He had emphasized the need to review and re-evaluate everything in order to improve general administration and day-to-day governing. “Government, party and people, I’d like us to re-take, with all our strength, in all areas of the government, that policy of the 3Rs…from this exact moment.” He said he thought such a policy would enable the government to achieve, in the upcoming “four years that remain, of this constitutional period of the government, the highest amount of efficiency in public management and the push for the National Simon Bolivar Project.” The National Simon Bolivar Project is the government’s overall plan for the rest of this presidential term, which lasts until early 2013. He also committed himself and the government to a “battle that needs to be done with more intensity and effort and above all with more results that combat the insecurity in the streets of the people, the barrios, the suburbs, in the cities.” He highlighted other issues against which the struggle needs to be intensified, “the struggle against corruption and its vile ways, the struggle against insecurity, the struggle against wastefulness, the struggle against bureaucracy and inefficiency.” “I want us to dedicate ourselves completely in the struggle against all these problems that are so harmful to the health of the people, to the health of the government and to the health of the Republic.” Chavez said the republic needs truly new institutions, with truly new men and women, and that it was also necessary to strengthen the five branches of the state: the executive branch, the legislative branch, judicial branch, citizen (or prosecutorial) branch, and electoral branch. He then congratulated the people for their participation in the campaign and said it was “a big effort and a big victory.” “Unless god stipulates something else, unless the people stipulate something else, this soldier will be a candidate for the presidency of the Republic for 2013-2019,” he said. Chavez declared his life at the service of the people, saying, “On this road now, from today, we’ll continue … constructing the homeland. On this road I devote myself and I will be consumed in this for the rest of what remains of my life, I swear it, I promise it, in front of the people and in front of my children and grandchildren.” However, he also suggested that the following week be a “week of love”, that everyone enjoy it with happiness and moderation, as a deserved rest after all the political activity. It will be a week free of political themes, and to make up for the Day of Love (Valentine’s Day) on February 14, which most would have spent in electoral campaign. Celebrations and messages of congratulations Chavez announced from the balcony that the first message he had received was from Fidel Castro, revolutionary leader of Cuba, just 10 minutes after the official results were broadcast. “Dear Hugo, congratulations to you and your people for a victory that for its magnitude is impossible to measure,” Fidel had written. Later, Evo Morales, president of Bolivia and the government of Spain also congratulated Chavez for the results. Outside the presidential palace, along Avenue Urdenata, and filling up multiple other roads across Caracas, on hearing the news, people came out into the streets to listen to Chavez and to celebrate. Likewise, around the country in main and local plazas, people waved red flags, danced, played drums, chanted political slogans and set off fireworks. Spontaneous motorcades of honking cars and motorbikes paraded through the streets.

France: Capitalist crisis and mass strike set scene for NPA

by Sam Wainwright from Green Left Weekly 14 February 2009 On the weekend of February 7-8, over 600 delegates and as many observers attended the founding conference of France's New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA), held at la Plaine-Saint-Denis in the working class suburbs to the north of Paris. Less than a week before, on January 29; around 2.5 million people took to the streets across the country as part of a nationwide strike against the efforts of the government of Nicolas Sarkozy to foist the burden of the capitalist economic crisis on to working people. The idea for the organisation was publicly proposed in August 2007 in the wake of the country's presidential and legislative elections by Olivier Besancenot, the presidential candidate of the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR). Since then 465 regional committees in support of the project were launched and over nine thousand people have joined. Besancenot's score of 4.7% surpassed that of the once mighty French Communist Party's (PCF) candidate, and with his engaging and straight talking style established his party as the most recognised and authentic anti-capitalist voice in French politics. Widely rated as France's most popular politician, "the Postie" as even the media call him recorded a 54% satisfaction rating in the latest opinion polls, his highest since the election. Besancenot's strong showing in the last two presidential elections was the immediate catalyst for the formation of the NPA; however its origins lie more deeply in important transformations in French politics over the last decade. Firstly beginning with a massive public sector strike in late 1995, there have been regular waves of struggles by French workers resisting the attempts by the employers and governments to impose the worldwide model of cut backs, casualisation and privatisation. While these struggles have been defensive and only partially successful, they have been sufficient to keep alive the traditions of struggle, left wing ideas and renew layer after layer of activists. Despite the massive rejection of the cut-back agenda by the working class, the traditional or "institutional" parties of the left have faithfully tried to implement the neo-liberal austerity program. The working class fight-back used to put something of a brake on the Socialist Party (PS), but it is now increasingly embracing the Tony Blair model. Furthermore the PS has very effectively drawn both the PCF and the Greens into its web, offering them cabinet posts (when it is in government, and still at the regional level); and electoral deals in return for their support. Their integration into PS governments has eroded the PCF's once significant base among blue collar workers and in the case of the Greens, their image as something as fresh and radical. In fact without the PS electoral deals both parties would struggle to win any national deputies. In this context the LCR tripled in size since 1995 to over three thousand members and already regrouped nearly all of France's far left, save some very schematic and dogmatic groups. It also started to develop a significant base in some of the country's industrial heartlands that had once been the sole domain of the PCF. However the LCR recognised that there existed a much wider audience for a resolutely anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, pro-worker and pro-environment political force; including many people from different political traditions such as former members of the PCF, and even more people without any previous political identification. The NPA is an attempt to reach out to those people. To guarantee the success of the NPA the LCR decided it had to completely dissolve into it; firstly to demonstrate to the rest of the NPA membership that it would be one united party of equals, and secondly to allow for new and fluid debate to take place in the new organisation. As long time former leader of the LCR Pierre Rousset explained, "One of the worst things the LCR could bring into the NPA would be its old debates." On February 5 the LCR, born of a fusion between a current of French Trotskyism and some of the leaders of the student protest movement of May-June 1968, held its last ever congress. Alain Krivine, a central leader of May-June 68 and founder of the LCR who did time in prison when the organisation was banned in the early 70s, was joined by other members of his generation at the front for an emotional rendition of the Internationale at the congress close. But the tears did not last long. The next day as the NPA congress began delegates spontaneously rose to their feet to chant "All together, all togetherŠGeneral strike!" before getting down to the practical business of adopting the raft of founding principles, policy and structures needed for the new party. As was predicted the new party decided to retain its provisional name. Plenty would admit that it was not perfect; it does not express what the party is for and how long can it keep calling itself new? However the name has already started to stick and has a resonance in a country where there are already parties carrying the name socialist and communist who are not anti-capitalist! Exciting as much interest, especially among the capitalist media, was the NPA's policy regarding possible electoral alliances in the upcoming elections to the European parliament. While these are conducted on a proportional basis, a ticket has to cross the 10% threshold to qualify for representation. Neither the NPA, the PCF nor the newly formed Left Party (PG) are likely to get this by themselves. As primarily electoral organisations both the PCF and PG were frantic that the NPA agree to deal. Congress delegates were presented with two counter-posed positions regarding the European elections. The position presented by the commission established for drafting policy on the matter declared that the NPA should be open to running on a joint ticket with these parties (and others) but on the basis of first reaching agreement on some basic common policy including an agreement not to take posts PS pro-capitalist administrations. However the PCF, while it tries to distance itself from the PS come election time, is addicted to the trappings of office and it's quite unlikely that it will break from this orientation. An amendment from members in the Clermont-Ferrand region proposed that the NPA accept in principle a joint ticket with the PCF and PG, with the precise basis of the agreement to be worked out later. However the amendment was overwhelmingly rejected, only winning the support of 16% of the delegates. For commentators in the capitalist media this was proof of the NPA's "immature" refusal to accept the "responsibility to govern". Is this a sign that the capitalist media may turn against France's favourite postman and try to transform him from charming idealist into dangerous villain? Already there has been an aborted attempt to tar him with a bogus allegation of workplace harassment. Last year listening devices were discovered in Besancenot's home. The boss of company that imports taser guns is currently being tried over the affair! Besancenot couldn't move around the conference without being followed by a media pack, yet the same media then try to diminish the NPA as little more than a media creation at his whim. However the NPA is moving rapidly to broaden its image and promote its other spokespeople. In any case the capitalist media may well find that the regeneration of the anti-capitalist left has surpassed such intrigue as the economic crisis deepens hardening opinion against the Sarkozy government. Sam Wainwright is a Co-convenor of the Socialist Alliance in Western Australia and attended both the LCR and NPA congresses as an invited observer.

Monbiot: We cannot afford to surrender

by George Monbiot 17 March 2009 from The Guardian It will be difficult and expensive to keep climate change to a minimum, but the alternative is unthinkable. Quietly in public, loudly in private, climate scientists everywhere are saying the same thing: it’s over. The years in which more than two degrees of global warming could have been prevented have passed, the opportunities squandered by denial and delay. On current trajectories we’ll be lucky to get away with four degrees. Mitigation (limiting greenhouse gas pollution) has failed; now we must adapt to what nature sends our way. If we can. This, at any rate, was the repeated whisper at the climate change conference in Copenhagen last week(1). It’s more or less what Bob Watson, the environment department’s chief scientific adviser, has been telling the British government(2). It is the obvious if unspoken conclusion of scores of scientific papers. Recent work by scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, for example, suggests that even global cuts of 3% a year, starting in 2020, could leave us with four degrees of warming by the end of the century(3,4). At the moment emissions are heading in the opposite direction at roughly the same rate. If this continues, what does it mean? Six? Eight? Ten degrees? Who knows? Faced with such figures, I can’t blame anyone for throwing up his hands. But before you succumb to this fatalism, let me talk you through the options. Yes, it is true that mitigation has so far failed. Sabotaged by Clinton(5), abandoned by Bush, attended half-heartedly by the other rich nations, the global climate talks have so far been a total failure. The targets they have set bear no relationship to the science and are negated anyway by loopholes and false accounting. Nations like the UK which are meeting their obligations under the Kyoto protocol have succeeded only by outsourcing their pollution to other countries(6,7). Nations like Canada, which are flouting their obligations, face no meaningful sanctions. Lord Stern made it too easy: he appears to have underestimated the costs of mitigation. As the professor of energy policy Dieter Helm has shown, Stern’s assumption that our consumption can continue to grow while our emissions fall is implausible(8). To have any hope of making substantial cuts we have both to reduce our consumption and transfer resources to countries like China to pay for the switch to low-carbon technologies. As Helm notes, “there is not much in the study of human nature—and indeed human biology—to give support to the optimist.” But we cannot abandon mitigation unless we have a better option. We don’t. If you think our attempts to prevent emissions are futile, take a look at our efforts to adapt. Where Stern appears to be correct is in proposing that the costs of stopping climate breakdown - great as they would be - are far lower than the costs of living with it. Germany is spending E600m just on a new sea wall for Hamburg(9) - and this money was committed before the news came through that sea level rises this century could be two or three times as great as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted(10). The Netherlands will spend E2.2bn on dykes between now and 2015; again they are likely to be inadequate. The UN suggests that the rich countries should be transferring $50-75bn a year to the poor ones now to help them cope with climate change, with a massive increase later on(11). But nothing like this is happening. A Guardian investigation reveals that the rich nations have promised $18bn to help the poor nations adapt to climate change over the past seven years, but they have disbursed only 5% of that money(12). Much of it has been transferred from foreign aid budgets anyway: a net gain for the poor of nothing(13). Oxfam has made a compelling case for how adaptation should be funded: nations should pay according to the amount of carbon they produce per capita, coupled with their position on the human development index(14). On this basis, the US should supply over 40% of the money and the European Union over 30%, with Japan, Canada, Australia and Korea making up the balance. But what are the chances of getting them to cough up? There’s a limit to what this money could buy anyway. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that “global mean temperature changes greater than 4°C above 1990-2000 levels” would “exceed … the adaptive capacity of many systems.”(15) At this point there’s nothing you can do, for example, to prevent the loss of ecosystems, the melting of glaciers and the disintegration of major ice sheets. Elsewhere it spells out the consequences more starkly: global food production, it says, is “very likely to decrease above about 3°C”(16). Buy your way out of that. And it doesn’t stop there. The IPCC also finds that, above three degrees of warming, the world’s vegetation will become “a net source of carbon”(17). This is just one of the climate feedbacks triggered by a high level of warming. Four degrees might take us inexorably to five or six: the end - for humans - of just about everything. Until recently, scientists spoke of carbon concentrations - and temperatures - peaking and then falling back. But a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that “climate change … is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop.”(18) Even if we were to cut carbon emissions to zero today, by the year 3000 our contribution to atmospheric concentrations would decline by just 40%. High temperatures would remain more or less constant until then. If we produce it we’re stuck with it. In the rich nations we will muddle through, for a few generations, and spend nearly everything we have on coping. But where the money is needed most there will be nothing. The ecological debt the rich world owes to the poor will never be discharged, just as it has never accepted that it should offer reparations for the slave trade and for the pillage of gold, silver, rubber, sugar and all the other commodities taken without due payment from its colonies. Finding the political will for crash cuts in carbon production is improbable. But finding the political will - when the disasters have already begun - to spend adaptation money on poor nations rather than on ourselves will be impossible. The world won’t adapt and can’t adapt: the only adaptive response to a global shortage of food is starvation. Of the two strategies it is mitigation, not adaptation, which turns out to be the most feasible option, even if this stretches the concept of feasibility to the limits. As Dieter Helm points out, the action required today is unlikely but “not impossible. It is a matter ultimately of human well being and ethics.”(19) Yes, it might already be too late - even if we reduced emissions to zero tomorrow - to prevent more than two degrees of warming, but we cannot behave as if it is, for in doing so we make the prediction come true. Tough as this fight may be, improbable as success might seem, we cannot afford to surrender. References: 1. Eg David Adam, 13th March 2009. Stern attacks politicians over climate ‘devastation’. The Guardian. 2. James Randerson, 7th August 2008. Climate change: Prepare for global temperature rise of 4C, warns top scientist. The Guardian. 3. Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows, 2008. Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. Published online. doi:10.1098/rsta.2008.0138 4. They are referring to stabilisation at 650 parts per million CO2 equivalent. The IPCC suggests that this would produce something the region of 4C, even before all the likely feedbacks have b een taken into account. See Table SPM6 of the IPCC’s Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report - Summary for Policymakers. 5. 6. 7. 8. Dieter Helm, 21st February 2009. Environmental challenges in a warming world: consumption, costs and responsibilities. Tanner Lecture, Oxford. 9. Oxfam, 29th May 2007. Adapting to climate change. Briefing Paper 104. 10. 11. John Vidal, 20th February 2009. Rich nations failing to meet climate aid pledges. The Guardian. 12. ibid. 13. Oxfam, 29th May 2007, ibid. 14. Oxfam, 29th May 2007, ibid. 15. IPCC, 2007b. Assessing key vulnerabilities and the risk from climate change. 16. ibid, Table 19.1. 17. IPCC, 2007b, ibid. 18. Susan Solomona,1, Gian-Kasper Plattnerb, Reto Knuttic, and Pierre Friedlingstein, 16th December 2008. Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions. 19. Dieter Helm, 21st February 2009, ibid.

Lenin on liquidationism

by Chris Slee from LINKS - International Journal of Socialist Renewal In recent years there have been a number of cases where revolutionary Marxist parties have initiated or participated in attempts at building broad left parties. Examples include the Scottish Socialist Party; the Socialist Alliance and later Respect in England; the Socialist Alliance in Australia; Papernas in Indonesia; the participation of Italian Trotskyists in the Party of Communist Refoundation; and the New Anti-Capitalist Party initiated by the Revolutionary Communist League (Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire) in France. Sometimes Marxist groups that participate in such broad formations are accused of "liquidationism". This was a term used by Lenin to refer to the policy of certain members of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party who wished to dissolve ("liquidate") the RSDLP after the crushing of the 1905 revolution. Critics of the policy of building a broad left party sometimes say that, when a revolutionary Marxist group joins such a broader formation, this amounts to the liquidation of the Marxist group. Those who argue in this way claim that building a broad left party is contrary to Lenin's policy of building a revolutionary vanguard party. How valid is this counterposition? Lenin certainly aimed to build a vanguard party that could lead a revolution. But creating such a party was a long and complicated process. The RSDLP adopted a revolutionary program at its 1903 conference. However it immediately split into Bolshevik and Menshevik factions. While the split was apparently over organisational matters, it also reflected incipient political differences. Nevertheless, in subsequent years there were periods when Lenin was willing to work with the Mensheviks, or a section of them, in the framework of a united RSDLP. For example, he collaborated with the "pro-party Mensheviks" led by Georgi Plekhanov to produce a common newspaper, Zvezda, which was published between 1910 and 1912. He built the January 1912 RSDLP conference jointly with some of the pro-party Mensheviks, and all non-liquidationist trends in the party were invited. Ultimately Plekhanov backed away from the opportunity to participate in building the RSDLP together with the Bolsheviks. But many rank and file workers who had supported the Mensheviks or had been non-aligned did join Lenin in this project. Given the diversity of those invited to participate in the January 1912 RSDLP conference, it seems reasonable to say that during this period Lenin was trying to build the RSDLP as a "broad party". But at the same time, Lenin worked to ensure that the politics of the party were not watered down. The conference adopted a clear political line: the key demands which the Bolsheviks had fought for were adopted as the basis for the party's mass campaigning. Of course, this historical analogy does not prove the correctness of any particular broad left party project today. Each must be looked at on its own merits. Liquidationism may be a real danger in some cases. This article looks at Lenin's party-building approach, with a particular focus on his struggle against liquidationism. Liquidationism was a trend that arose within the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in the years following the defeat of the 1905 revolution. The liquidators said that the RSDLP (which was an illegal party with a revolutionary Marxist program) should be dissolved (or liquidated), and that socialists should work solely through legal organisations. Some of the liquidators advocated setting up a legal labour party. But in order to have any chance of legal recognition in the repressive climate of tsarist Russia, such a party would have needed to drop key aspects of the RSDLP¹s program, including its call for the overthrow of the tsarist monarchy. Liquidationism arose within the Menshevik faction of the RSDLP. The division of the RSDLP into Bolshevik and Menshevik factions went back to the second congress of the party in 1903. The immediate cause of the formation of factions was a dispute over the composition of the editorial board of the newspaper Iskra. But there were also political issues involved. The 1903 congress adopted a program that outlined a longer term perspective of socialist revolution, but defined the "immediate political task" in Russia as being "the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy and its replacement by a republic based on a democratic constitution..." (Lenin Collected Works, vol. 6, pp. 27-28). The program also included reforms to benefit workers, including the eight-hour day, and measures aimed at "eradicating the remnants of the old serf-owning system" (LCW, vol. 6, p. 30). The congress was able to arrive at agreement on the main features of the program, despite differences on points of detail. Nevertheless, the discussion at the congress revealed the beginnings of a difference on how the "immediate political task" of overthrowing tsarism would be carried out. Should the working class, in alliance with the peasantry, aim to lead the democratic revolution (as the Bolsheviks said), or should it merely support the liberal bourgeoisie which would lead the revolution (as the Mensheviks said)? (Grigory Zinoviev, History of the Bolshevik Party, New Park, London 1973, pp. 90-92) In 1905 there was a revolutionary upsurge in Russia. Workers carried out political strikes and formed soviets, which were city-wide councils of representatives from factories. The soviets began to play the role of an alternative government to the tsarist regime. Workers began to form their own armed self-defence groups, and in Moscow armed workers fought against the tsarist troops. There were also revolts by sailors, and the beginnings of peasant revolt. The rebellious workers and sailors were crushed, partly because of the lack of political consciousness amongst the peasantry. This meant that the tsarist regime was still able to use the army, which was largely recruited from the peasantry, against the workers. (Zinoviev, p. 136) As well as using repression, the tsarist regime offered some concessions. It called elections for a sort of parliament called the Duma. However the election rules were very undemocratic, with the votes of the upper classes being worth more than those of lower classes: one landlord vote equalled three capitalist, 15 peasant or 45 worker votes. Women could not vote, and students, soldiers, agricultural workers and unskilled workers were also excluded from voting. (LCW, vol. 18, p. 622, note 89). And the parliament had little power anyway. Nevertheless, the concessions were sufficient to persuade the liberal bourgeoisie to reach an accomodation with tsarism. When it became clear that the 1905 revolution had been defeated, there was debate in the RSDLP on the implications for the party's strategy and tactics. The Bolsheviks argued that new outbreaks of rebellion could be expected sooner or later, and it was necessary to continue arguing for a democratic revolution and preparing the party to lead a new revolutionary upsurge to victory. Some Mensheviks, on the other hand, had no confidence in a new upsurge, and thought it was necessary to work within the limitations imposed by the "reformed" tsarist monarchy. They wanted to dissolve the RSDLP and work solely through legal organisations such as unions and workers' social clubs. Some of them hoped to be allowed by the tsarist regime to form a legal workers¹ party. To gain legality they were prepared to water down the politics of such a party. These people were called the liquidators. Lenin summed up the ideas of the liquidators as follows: "Liquidationism in the narrow sense of the word, the liquidationism of the Mensheviks, consists ideologically in negation of the revolutionary class struggle of the socialist proletariat in general, and denial of the hegemony of the proletariat in our bourgeois-democratic revolution in particular... "In respect of organisation, liquidationism means denying the necessity for an illegal Social-Democratic Party, and consequently renouncing the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, leaving its ranks." (LCW, vol. 15, p. 454) However, there was a section of the Mensheviks who thought it was still necessary to maintain the RSDLP as an illegal party. These people were known as the pro-party Mensheviks. Their most prominent leader was Georgi Plekhanov. Ultraleftism At about the same time as the liquidationist current was emerging amongst the Mensheviks, differences also arose amongst the Bolsheviks. An ultraleft current emerged that rejected the need to take advantage of the opportunities, however limited, that existed for legal work. One of the opportunities for legal work was participation in elections for the Duma. I have mentioned the undemocratic nature of the Duma. When the plans for the Duma were first announced in 1905, the Bolsheviks called for a boycott of the elections. They called for political strikes and an armed uprising to obtain real democracy. This resulted in the plans for Duma elections being abandoned for the time being. After the crushing of the uprising, the government was able to hold elections for the Duma. The RSDLP (both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks) boycotted the first Duma elections in March 1906. The Mensheviks soon decided they had made a mistake and wanted to participate in new elections called later in 1906 (after the tsarist government had dissolved the first Duma). The majority of Bolsheviks wanted to continue the boycott. Lenin, however, favoured participation in elections for the second Duma. He argued that the Bolsheviks had been correct to campaign for a boycott in 1905, when a revolutionary upsurge was occurring. However, conditions had changed following the crushing of the 1905 uprising. By August 1906 Lenin had concluded that that: "The time has now come when the revolutionary Social-Democrats must cease to be boycottists". (LCW, vol. 11, p. 145) As the revolutionary wave ebbed, Lenin, while remaining optimistic about the prospects for revival of the revolutionary movement, realised that this was likely to be delayed for a number of years. He concluded that it was necessary for socialists to make use of any legal opportunities, including the use of Duma election campaigns, and speeches by socialist members of the Duma, for propaganda. Some Bolsheviks disagreed. They wanted to boycott future Duma elections and to recall the RSDLP representatives who had been elected to it. They became known as "recallists" (or otzovists in Russian). This ultraleft current was also opposed to participation in legal trade unions and other legal workers organisations. Lenin advocated a combination of legal and illegal work, believing that this was the only way to maintain and strengthen the party's links with the mass of workers and peasants. Lenin referred to the ultraleftists as "liquidators on the left", because if their policies were followed socialists would be cut off from the masses and the party would decline and eventually collapse, i.e. it would be liquidated. Lenin waged a struggle within the Bolshevik faction against the ultraleftists. He eventually succeeded in persuading the vast majority of Bolsheviks that his views were correct. The hardened ultraleftists were expelled from the Bolshevik faction. They formed their own faction, which came to be known as the Vperyod group (Vperyod means forward in Russian). Lenin's tactics proved very successful in winning increased support from workers, whereas the Vperyod group remained isolated from the workers and fell apart after a few years. Pro-party Mensheviks I mentioned earlier that some Mensheviks were opposed to the liquidators. Lenin welcomed this, and was willing to work with the pro-party Mensheviks. Zinoviev in his History of the Bolshevik Party speaks highly of Plekhanov's role during the 1907-1909 period, saying that "his voice proved a great support to the Bolsheviks...", and that his support was "extremely important in the atmosphere of that period" (Zinoviev, p. 158). At that time Lenin did not view the Bolsheviks as a party, but as a "section" (we would say a faction) of the RSDLP. While polemicising against Menshevik ideas, Lenin was willing to work with the pro-party Mensheviks in building the RSDLP. For example, Bolsheviks and pro-party Mensheviks worked together on Zvezda, a newspaper produced between December 1910 and April 1912 (LCW, vol. 17, p. 588, note 24). But over time the leading pro-party Mensheviks pulled back from participation in this project, and it became effectively a Bolshevik paper (Zinoviev, p. 168). January 1912 conference In January 1912, the Bolsheviks took the initiative to convene a conference of the RSDLP. It was not intended to be an exclusively Bolshevik conference. Menshevik-led local party organisations participated in the preparations for the conference. Pro-party Mensheviks, Vperyodists and Leon Trotsky were amongst those invited. However, only two non-Bolsheviks came to the conference. Both of them were pro-party Mensheviks. But Plekhanov, the most prominent pro-party Menshevik, did not attend. The conference elected a new central committee, composed entirely of Bolsheviks (Tony Cliff, Lenin, vol. 1, p 312, Pluto Press, London, 1975). The conference is often said to have marked the final split between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. But Lenin, in the resolutions and reports he drafted for the conference, said nothing about a split with the Mensheviks in general. Rather he drew a line of division between the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party and the liquidators. He moved a resolution declaring that the liquidators were no longer party members, saying that "the Nasha Zarya and Dyelo Zhizni group has definitely placed itself outside the party" (a reference to two magazines published by the liquidators). The resolution called on "all Party members, irrespective of tendencies and shades of opinion, to combat liquidationism, explain its great harmfulness to the cause of the emamancipation of the working class, and bend all their efforts to revive and strengthen the illegal RSDLP" (LCW, vol. 17, p. 481). Lenin still wanted to keep the door open to the pro-party Mensheviks, and anyone else who might be willing to help build a united party with the Bolsheviks. A conference resolution drafted by Lenin said that: "Everywhere in the localities without a single exception, Party work is being conducted jointly and harmoniously by the Bolsheviks and pro-Party Mensheviks, as well as by Vperyod supporters in Russia wherever there are any, and by all other Social-Democrats who recognise the need for an illegal RSDLP" (LCW, vol. 17, p. 465). The implication was that Lenin hoped this joint work would continue. Unity Why did the Bolsheviks take this approach? Why did they project the January 1912 conference as being open to the whole RSDLP (not including the liquidators, who were deemed to be outside the party), rather than making it a conference of the Bolshevik faction alone? First, they wanted to involve broader forces than just those who identified as Bolsheviks at that time. They wanted to draw RSDLP members who might consider themselves as Mensheviks, or as non-aligned, into joint party-building work together with the Bolsheviks. Second, they wanted to show rank and file RSDLP members that the Bolsheviks were for unity, and make it as hard as possible for their opponents to blame the Bolsheviks for any split that might occur. Paul Le Blanc states that there were "a significant number of RSDLP members who favoured the combination of legal and illegal tactics, who maintained a revolutionary class struggle orientation, but were unalterably opposed to a split in the RSDLP". He quotes one such person as saying "I, like many others... am not a Bolshevik, I am not a Menshevik, I am not an Otzovist [ultraleftist], I am not a Liquidator -- I am only a social-democrat" (Paul Le Blanc, Lenin and the Bolshevik Party, Humanities Press, New Jersey, 1993, p. 178). Lenin had to relate to this sentiment. The fact that all non-liquidator elements of the RSDLP were invited to the conference showed that the Bolsheviks were not sectarian. The fact that most of those invited didn't turn up showed that they, not the Bolsheviks, were opposed to unity on a principled basis. As Lenin noted in a speech to the conference: "All have been invited and only those who refused to help the Party are absent" (LCW, vol. 41, p. 246). In effect, the invitation to attend the conference, and the invitation to participate in carrying out the decisions of the conference, were a test for the pro-party Mensheviks. Were they serious about building the party or not? Plekhanov failed this test. However, the Bolsheviks' efforts to bring about unity were not wasted. In the period after the conference there occurred a process which Lenin referred to as "unity from below". Writing in February 1913, he said: "The workers have already started of their own accord, from below, on the solution of the problem of unity.... "Worker Social-Democrats everywhere are re-establishing integral illegal organisations of the RSDLP in the form of factory nuclei and committees, district groups, town centres, Social-Democratic groups in all kinds of legal institutions, etc." (LCW vol. 18, p. 454). It is important to note that Lenin, in offering to work in a united party with the pro-party Mensheviks, was not proposing to water down the politics of the party. The January 1912 conference adopted a clear political line. A key question was that of overthrowing the tsarist monarchy. Although the call for a democratic republic had been included in the 1903 RSDLP program, the majority of prominent Mensheviks, especially the liquidators, had in practice dropped that demand. The conference resolved that: "Propaganda for a republic, and against the policy of the tsarist monarchy, must be given special prominence to counteract, among other things, the widespread propaganda in favour of curtailed slogans and of confining activity to the existing 'legality'" (LCW, vol. 17, p.468). The conference decided that the main election slogans for the coming Duma elections should be: a democratic republic; the eight-hour working day; and confiscation of all landed estates (LCW, vol.17, p. 468). The party which emerged from the January 1912 conference was officially known as the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. But because its political line was that which had come to be associated with the Bolshevik faction, and because its central leaders came from the Bolshevik faction, it was often referred to as the Bolshevik Party. August 1912 conference In August 1912 there was a conference of groups and individuals who rejected the authority of the January 1912 conference. The August conference brought together liquidators, ultraleftists, Trotsky and others. This conference could not agree on anything except opposition to the Bolsheviks. The so-called "August bloc" soon fell apart. Trotsky, who played a leading role in convening the conference, was later to cite it as a classic example of an unprincipled combination. Growth of the Bolsheviks Following the January 1912 conference the Bolsheviks deepened their roots in the working class. They launched a daily paper (Pravda) in April 1912. The liquidators also launched a daily paper (called Luch). However Pravda had much more support from the working class. This was indicated by the fact that four times as many workers' groups made donations to Pravda as compared to Luch (LCW, vol. 21, p. 334). Mass working-class support for the Bolsheviks was also shown when they won six seats in the Duma from working-class electorates in the 1912 elections (LCW, vol. 18, p. 515). War and revolution The real test for all groups claiming to be socialist came with the outbreak of the first world war. The Bolshevik Party (which was still officially known as the RSDLP) took a principled stand against the war. It called for "the conversion of the present imperialist war into a civil war" (LCW, vol. 21, p.34), i.e. for the workers in all countries to overthrow the governments which had led them to war. This actually happened in Russia in 1917, with first the February revolution, then the October revolution. The Mensheviks either became social chauvinists, supporting the Russian state in the war, or at best took a pacifist approach, opposing the war but being unable to organise a real struggle against it. The liquidators generally became social chauvinists. But Plekhanov, the former "pro-Party Menshevik", also became a social chauvinist. This was a sad outcome for one of the founders of Russian Marxism. Since 1903, he had vacillated between revolutionary and reformist politics. His failure to accept Lenin's invitation to help build a united party in 1912 was an important step in his degeneration. On the other hand, Trotsky moved in the opposite direction. Seeing the sellout by the Mensheviks, and the anti-war position of the Bolsheviks, Trotsky began to move closer to the Bolsheviks. During 1917 Trotsky and his supporters joined the Bolshevik Party. This fusion was based on agreement around the key political questions which had come to the fore in the new situation, including opposition to the imperialist war, opposition to the bourgeois provisional government, and the need for the soviets to seize power. Conclusion The fight against liquidationism was crucial in building a revolutionary party in Russia. At the same time, the fight against ultraleftism was also very important, to prevent the party being cut off from the masses. These two inter-related struggles helped create the mass revolutionary party that was able to oppose the war and lead the revolution to victory in 1917. Chris Slee is a long-term member of the Democratic Socialist Perspective, an Marxist organisation affiliated to the Socialist Alliance of Australia. This is an edited version of a talk he presented at the January 2007 DSP educational conference.