Sunday 29 January 2012

Resolution of 2012 conference of Socialist Worker

The defining event of our times is world capitalism’s historic slide towards collapse under the chaotic, intersecting and escalating pressures of five terminal crises:

• profitability,
• ecology,
• resources,
• imperial leadership,
• legitimacy.

This is the context for this resolution of Socialist Worker’s 2012 conference:

1. Push forward focused outreach work on global capitalist collapse, including the formation of a broad left Forum composed of people who see system collapse looming, leaving room for a range of views on how that might express itself.

2. Help consolidate an eco-socialist network open to a variety of issues and campaigns important to the 99%.

3. Wind up Socialist Worker:

• (a) in favour of members getting involved in the above two strands of activity, as well as interfacing with other leftists in unions, campaigns, iwi, Labour, Greens, Mana, Maori Party and so on,

• (b) with all members encouraged to financially support either or both the capitalist collapse Forum and the eco-socialist network.

4. The Socialist Centre in Onehunga, Auckland to be renamed the eco-socialist centre, which will:

• (a) host the capitalist collapse Forum and the eco-socialist network, and

• (b) house a good portion of the books of the Red Kiwi Library for the use of the capitalist collapse Forum and the eco-socialist network, and

• (c) require funding from friends of the eco-socialist centre to maintain this important resource of the left.

Co-moved by Grant Brookes, David C and Grant Morgan.
Passed with 2 abstentions.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Will your savings be frozen?

E S S A Y   I N T R O D U C T I O N

The essay below deals with important topics:
  • The New Zealand state is installing networked computer systems to instantly freeze bank savings if any bank gets into trouble. The systems will be up and running by the end of 2012.
  • There is a rising risk of problems with New Zealand banks. Their main asset base consists of household mortgages, and many highly indebted homeowners could be tipped into default by even a moderate economic downturn.
  • China is suddenly experiencing a plunge in the housing and financial sectors, which is certain to hurt Australia. Since these two countries are key trading partners of New Zealand, this country’s economy will get a double hit.
  • The world economy has been totally colonised by Big Money. Global financial activities last year were 22 times greater in dollar value than world GDP, a measure of the “real” economy. In effect, the planet’s 99% are being held hostage to a global Ponzi bubble, which will burst unless the people accept increased austerity.
  • The inevitability of a bursting of the global Ponzi bubble intersects with world capitalism's four other existential crises: ecology, resources, imperial leadership and legitimacy. Together, these crises are shoving world capitalism towards collapse.
  • It’s essential for leftists of all shades to come together and forewarn the people about capitalism’s slide towards collapse. A people forewarned is a people prepared and mobilised to overcome the disasters that a collapsing system will bring.
  • To this end, a proposal is being made to establish an inclusive membership organisation of collapse educators. Its working title is Forum on Capitalist Collapse, although that name may change as other leftists express their opinions. All leftists in New Zealand, and globally, are invited to respond and participate.
Thank you.

Grant Morgan
Auckland, New Zealand

Will your savings be frozen?

With the global financial system nearing breakdown, the New Zealand state is preparing to freeze our bank deposits. Meanwhile world capitalism’s ecology, resources, leadership and legitimacy are withering away. Welcome to the new era of capitalist collapse. How can the 99% turn certain chaos into promising prognosis?

by Grant Morgan
18 January 2012

If you have a bank account in New Zealand, watch out! Your savings will soon be at risk of expropriation by the capitalist state in the shape of the Minister of Finance and the Reserve Bank.

Any time your bank gets into financial strife, a state-actioned computer keystroke will soon be able to freeze a portion of your savings, perhaps forever. How big a portion? That depends entirely on the size of your bank’s loss. Theoretically, close to 100 percent of your savings could be swallowed up, although the Reserve Bank likes to pluck a much lower example out of thin air. And how many “mum and dad” depositors know about this risk? Probably close to zero percent.

Since March 2011, with backing from National’s finance minister Bill English, the Reserve Bank has been working quietly with banks in New Zealand to “pre-position” retail accounts (overwhelmingly opened by grassroots depositors) so part of their funds can be frozen in a second to offset bank losses.

To make out that nothing really new is happening, English says the “option” of freezing bank deposits has been “available to the Reserve Bank for a number of years”. But this “truth” hides a bigger lie. Up till now, the Reserve Bank has lacked the technical means to put this option into operation.

That technical blockage is, however, being rapidly overcome by the installation of networked computer systems. “By the end of 2012”, predicts the Reserve Bank, the “systems” will be in place for “full implementation” of the deposit freeze plan. From that point onwards, the Reserve Bank will be able to “recommend” to the Minister of Finance that any troubled bank(s) be put under state control and a portion of deposits frozen. Only a brave minister would refuse such a “recommendation” from New Zealand’s banking gurus to authorise Open Bank Resolution.

Open Bank Resolution? Yes, that’s the friendly-sounding name the state mandarins have coined for the legal looting of our savings.....


Monday 16 January 2012

Towards Ecosocialism

by Grant Brookes

[A contribution to Socialist Worker's Pre-Conference Bulletin, January 2012]


“The method of rising from the abstract to the concrete is only the way in which thought appropriates the concrete, reproduces it as the concrete in the mind.” So said Marx, in the Grundrisse of 1859.

Some sixty years later, Lukacs expanded upon this dialectical theme, of the relationship between the abstract whole and concrete parts: “Dialectics insists on the concrete unity of the whole…

“Only in this context which sees the isolated facts of social life as aspects of the historical process and integrates them in a totality, can knowledge of the facts hope to become knowledge of reality...

“All the isolated partial categories… can really only be discerned in the context of the total historical process of their relation to society as a whole...

“Thus dialectical materialism is seen to offer the only approach to reality which can give action a direction... The facts no longer appear strange when they are comprehended in their coherent reality, in the relation of all partial aspects to their inherent, but hitherto unelucidated roots in the whole: we then perceive the tendencies which strive towards the centre of reality, to what we are wont to call the ultimate goal... Because of this, to comprehend it is to recognise the direction taken (unconsciously) by events and tendencies towards the totality. It is to know the direction that determines concretely the correct course of action at any given moment.”

This is why discussion at Socialist Worker national conferences begins by considering the abstract totality, the global system as a whole.

But as events in Christchurch have reminded us, the historical movement of massive systems can be seen in isolated events at specific points along a fault line.

What specific events, on systemic fault lines, are currently revealing the movement of world history as a whole?

- 2011 was the warmest La NiƱa year since records began in 1850. The volume of Arctic sea ice is the lowest ever recorded.
- Oil prices remained over US$100 a barrel, despite decline at the heart of the world economy.
- The World Bank said that global inequality has reached its greatest level in human history.
- The US withdrew its last combat units from Iraq.
- Iran’s nuclear facilities came under a series of “black ops” attacks.
- NATO bombs finished Gaddafi, but could not produce a stable pro-Western Libya.
- The White House approved Taleban plans to open a diplomatic post in Qatar, paving the way for a negotiated retreat from the Afghan quagmire.
- Speculation mounted about the future integrity of a 28-member European Union.
- China launched its first aircraft carrier, while the US announced that marines are to be sent to Northern Australia.
- The inaugural summit of the 33-nation CELAC regional bloc was held in Caracas.
- Greens secured gains in some Western nations, but faith in established parties from Labour or social democratic traditions continued to ebb as they clung to neoliberalism.
- The historic erosion of Western democratic institutions continued.
- Riots swept England.
- Time magazine named their “person of the year” as “The Protester”.
- In the wake of the 2008 “kitchenware revolution”, Iceland voted to default on a € 4bn debt and an elected Assembly of citizens drafted a new Constitution.

A new kind of paper (and a new kind of organisation?)

by David Colyer

[A contribution to Socialist Worker's Pre-Conference Bulletin, January 2012]

Socialist Worker members have been advocating an Eco-Socialist Network for some time. Recently a network promoting the capitalistcollapse analysis has also been proposed. I support both networks, but I think there remains a need for a distinct revolutionary socialist / marxist voice.

A ‘collapse’ network would not be exclusively socialist, it should involve all those who recognise the looming reality of collapse. Likewise, the Eco-Socialist Network should be as broad as possible, including those unconvinced that capitalism will collapse. The broadness of these networks will be one of their great attractions.

Effectively promoting both the likelihood of capitalist collapse and an eco-socialist response, and relating this to current events and day to day struggles, will likely require a higher level of political agreement and organisation than broad networks will initially have.

What kind of organisation?

While most Socialist Worker members appear to agree that the ‘Leninist’ model is no longer the way to go, a central feature of that tradition – organising around a publication – remains useful.

Beyond this, a new socialist grouping would recognise that its members will be involved in a range of campaigns, parties and other organisations as individuals (not representatives of the group). It would not seek to be the main organiser of member’s activism.

The demands on members would therefore be comparatively low: agreement with a statement of aims or principles, and the commitment of a little time and/or money for the production and distribution of the publication.

With other socialist groups also reassessing the way they organise, such a loose form of organisation could open space for future cooperation or regroupment.

First steps: a new publication

A publication freely distributed online and in printed form could be the first step towards a new socialist grouping.

I envision it made up of short articles, in sections less than 1000 characters (Facebook update length), which could be posted on the internet as they are written, then each month (or week) laid-up on an A4 or A3 page for distribution as emailed pdf and printed leaflet.

Reporting on campaigns, protests, industrial action, the publication would build practical solidarity with struggles, while linking together the people waging them, fostering a sense of common cause across many diverse areas of resistance.

Locating struggles within a wider context, it would encourage an understanding of how day to problems relate to capitalism’s crisis, and an eco-socialist response.

Finally, it would unite eco-socialist activists in the collective work of promoting their shared ideas to a wider audience.

Goodbye Lenin?

by Daphne Lawless

[A contribution to Socialist Worker's Pre-Conference Bulletin, January 2012]

“... we are each given the experiences we need and I do not regret the craziness of those initial years, even though I know now that much of my energy and actions was misplaced.”

- Llewellyn Vaughan Lee

This paper is an exploration of ten years experience as a member of a revolutionary socialist organisation, and a question about what happens next.

Since 2005 at least I have been attempting to reconcile the Leninist political tradition I was trained in with my personal experience of alienation and oppression (as a queer woman with extensive academic training, a medium-sized income in the publishing field and a long-undiagnosed cognitive abnormality) ; with my humanities training with its insight into mass psychology, ideology and “memetics”; and with my own, highly idiosyncratic vision of what a world which worked properly for human beings would be like. And this is where I have come to, so far.

The political is personal...

I have often talked to people about why I cannot simply do the kinds of things that I could do in my first years as a political activist. I used to be able to sell a socialist newspaper to my workmates, or at least try to; man a political stall and hold discussions with passers-by; participate in demonstrations; even recruit to the organisation. I castigated myself for a long time, blaming myself for “cowardice”, “lack of will”, etc. Any Marxist or feminist would recognize the effects of internalised oppression if this were in the capitalist workplace; it seems very wrong that we tend to resort to blaming of individuals for feelings that arise from our own movement.

But finally, and most simply, the thought struck me: I no longer believe. I no longer see, in other words, the essential relationship between these kinds of actions and bringing about the kind of social revolution that we need to preserve human civilisation and the integrity of the biosphere.

And let me be more precise. I still believe in “revolutionary politics”. Marxian political economy still seems to me to be the only intelligent way to describe the off-the-cliff trajectory of today's financial capitalism, and the effects of alienated labour and oppression on the collective social and mental health of working people are clearly obvious. It's also clearly obvious that the only way out is a social revolution which expropriates the ruling classes and their media/ideological enablers and puts real decision-making power and cultural capital into the hands of the working masses.