Saturday, May 9, 2015

Join the fight against police brutality!


Join the fight against police brutality!
We are reprinting here an updated editorial the Militant released after our last issue was published. We don't know where the next incident of police brutality will occur, only that it will, given the nature of capitalism and the role of the police the bosses deploy to defend their rule. Join us in this fight.
We join in celebrating the filing of criminal charges May 1 against six Baltimore policemen for the killing of Freddie Gray. We call on workers, farmers and youth to press for their vigorous prosecution.

Join the demonstrations in Baltimore. Help initiate actions where you live to protest this and other cop brutality.

Killings of African-Americans at the hands of police are nothing new. Black lives matter! What is new is the growing refusal of working people — Black, Caucasian, Latino, all of us — to accept these moral outrages without a fight.

Political representatives of the capitalist rulers — Democrats, Republicans and "independents" who trail after them — aim to divide and weaken our struggles and corral us into bourgeois politics. Obama scolds us to fight the "right way" and smears workers as "thugs" and "criminals." So does Baltimore's mayor, labeling protesters "outside agitators" to boot.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the explosion in Baltimore was "a shattering of the peace." But there is no peace anywhere cops kill and brutalize workers with impunity.

The way to stay the hands of killer cops is to build a powerful, disciplined working-class social movement. As we do, we will transform ourselves, recognizing through struggle our own worth, our own dignity. We'll gain confidence together.

More and more working people will see the need to break from the bosses' parties and build a labor party based on the unions. A party to unite workers and our allies fighting cop brutality, for $15 and a union and against capitalism's wars and social catastrophes.

We can look to the example of the Cuban Revolution, where ordinary men and women, workers and farmers like us, took power out of the hands of the U.S.-backed capitalist rulers, changing themselves in struggle, and reorganized society based on human needs not profit.

Today the fight to keep the spotlight on the prosecution of those responsible for Freddie Gray's death builds on battles against the killings of Walter Scott in South Carolina, Eric Garner in New York City and many more. The protests draw support from those demanding higher pay at McDonald's and Walmart, from rail and oil workers fighting to impose safe conditions on the job and in surrounding communities.

Each new battle reinforces others. Join us!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Scotland independence debate in UK driven by divisions among capitalists

Scotland independence debate in UK
driven by divisions among capitalists

EDINBURGH, Scotland — After months of public debate, a high turnout is expected in Scotland for the Sept. 18 vote on whether the country should separate from the United Kingdom. In response to a recent poll indicating a slight lead for independence, the British pound took its steepest dive in more than a year.
The competing pro-independence and "Better Together" campaigns are backed by rival factions of the ruling class, both appealing to the "Scottish people" for support. But neither side has anything to offer working people — Scottish or otherwise — who share common interests and concerns throughout the U.K.

The referendum is the initiative of the Scottish National Party, the governing party in the Scottish Parliament led by Alex Salmond.

The SNP announced Aug. 28 the endorsement of the "yes" campaign by 200 business leaders, who promise a road to economic prosperity. "An independent Scotland will recognize entrepreneurs small and large as the real wealth and job creators of the nation's economic future," the letter from the 200 said.

Tony Banks, chairman of Business for Scotland, commented, "Our members know Scotland's balance sheet is relatively stronger than the U.K.'s."

The factionalism is driven in part by sharpening rivalries that grow out of the worldwide slowdown of capitalist production and trade. Among the key issues is access to tax revenue from North Sea oil. "It's Scotland's oil," declares the Scottish National Party.

The three main parties of British capitalism — Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats — are united behind the "no" campaign, concerned that the breakup would accelerate the decline of British imperialism.

"Continued union offers greater certainty and stability for our business," Ian King, chief executive of aerospace giant BAE Systems, said in March, voicing the majority sentiment of the British ruling class.

Salmond has said that an independent Scotland would retain its membership in NATO, keep the Queen as head of state, seek EU membership and keep the pound sterling as its currency.

More than economic questions are at stake. "For the second military power in the West to shatter this year would be cataclysmic in geopolitical terms," former NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, a Scot, said in a speech in Washington earlier this year.

The pro-independence section of the Scottish bourgeoisie and meritocratic layers beholden to them have lost interest in maintaining the military power necessary to defend the interests of British imperialism in the world and believe they can do fine without it. The independence campaign has called for the removal of Trident nuclear submarines from their base in Faslane, Scotland, in coming years. While the United Kingdom's ruling families insist on control over strategic nuclear weapons in the event of a breakup, the prospect of relocation presents political and military problems for them.

In a TV debate, Salmond railed against benefit and health care cuts imposed by London and used the government cuts as a club against Alistair Darling, a former Labour chancellor of the exchequer and head of the "Better Together" campaign.

Meanwhile, the SNP-led government itself has been chipping away at health care and other social gains in Scotland, alongside their counterparts throughout the U.K. "Look at the cuts in my local hospital St Johns in Livingston," said Leo Thomson, a health care worker and former coal miner.

While the pro-independence campaign is dressed up in appeals to Scottish nationalism, national sentiments or grievances are much less a factor among workers and farmers than they have been in decades past. Instead, most working people are approaching the referendum from the point of view of how its outcome may affect their living standards and working conditions, under attack by the bosses and their government.

"A 'yes' vote would mean all the wealth would be taken out of the hands of Westminster," said Jamie Devlin, a pest control worker from Glasgow. "It's not about the SNP, but the Scottish people. Independence will open up change."

"I am taking home £30 [$48] per week less now than two years ago and I'm working harder on 10-hour shifts," said Jacek Kawaleca, one of 1,700 workers, many Polish, who were laid off in February last year when the Halls meat factory in Broxburn closed. Kawaleca, who is now working at a nearby meat plant, said he hadn't decided how to vote, but feared greater uncertainty with independence.

Retired worker John Murray said he'd vote "no" because he didn't want to risk losing his state pension.

Meanwhile, what workers have in common throughout the U.K. is brought into sharper focus by initial stirrings of labor resistance. On July 24, for example, 900 workers downed tools the day Prime Minister David Cameron was due to visit the Total oil company construction site for a new gas plant in the Shetlands, a group of islands 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland. Since November 2013, when 47 workers were briefly locked out, there have been ongoing protests by the workers seeking extra pay for housing and travel time.

Last October Salmond helped lead a campaign by oil bosses to pressure workers at the Grangemouth refinery into accepting a no-strike pledge under threat of a lockout and permanent closure.

We need "better than we have now, but we'd be no better off with a 'yes' vote and Salmond," said Linda McKay from Cranhill in Glasgow, who receives disability benefits.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


The class struggle in Nepal today

(Reply to a Reader column)

In the letter excerpted below, Jim Brash asks why the Militant "which is known for its internationalist viewpoint, hasn't written a single editorial about what's going on in Nepal, so readers in the U.S. can glimpse what working people and peasants are accomplishing over there."
In April 2006 working people in Nepal took to the streets and conducted a general strike against the monarchy. Mass mobilizations forced the king to reinstate the parliament, which he had dissolved in 2005.

Following months of negotiations, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)—CPN(M)—agreed in November to end the protracted guerrilla struggle it had waged since 1996, and joined a coalition of capitalist parties committed to establishing bourgeois parliamentary democracy. In April 2008 the Maoists became the biggest party in parliament.

In the wake of the electoral victory, CPN(M) leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, became prime minister. In May 2009 Prachanda resigned in protest after President Ram Baran Yadav rejected his decision to fire the head of the army. (Readers can review the Militant's coverage on Nepal in the May 8, 2006, Jan. 7, 2007, and May 12, 2008, issues.)

The end of monarchical rule and its dictatorial measures in Nepal represented an advance for working people, removing a major obstacle in their line of march toward taking political power. The CPN(M), however, is another substantial obstacle to this course.

As their name indicates, the Maoists identify with the political program of Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during its rise to power. Mao followed Stalin's course of seeking a coalition government with the bourgeois Chiang Kai-shek forces until 1947. Chiang was overthrown in 1949 by a massive upsurge of millions of peasants.

In 1950 the U.S. government invaded Korea seeking to halt the spread of socialist revolution. The Chinese government entered the war in defense of insurgent Korea. Massive mobilizations by Chinese toilers in both city and countryside, demanding land and punishment of the landlords and capitalist factory owners, compelled the CCP bureaucracy to overturn capitalist property relations.

In a similar fashion, the Nepalese Maoists' goal is to run the capitalist state as part of a coalition, not make a socialist revolution. In 2008 Prachanda told the New York Times, "We are fighting feudalism, we are not fighting capitalism." He continued, "In this phase of our socioeconomic development, it is not possible to have a socialist revolution… . We will create a conducive atmosphere to have more profit for the capitalist."

But in every semicolonial country where Stalinists have applied this counterrevolutionary course the working class has suffered major defeats.

During its drawn-out guerrilla struggle, the CPN(M) took over sections of the countryside and imposed on the peasants a policy of forced collectivization, as Mao had done in China at one point—taking land away from those who worked it and bureaucratically setting up collectives, with disregard for the will or initiative of the peasantry.

In response to the bloody counterinsurgency campaign of the Nepalese police, Prachanda, in a Feb. 20, 2000, interview in Revolutionary Worker, a U.S. Maoist paper, boasted that they had "more than 700 martyrs." He said, "We encourage for our cultural revolution this kind of sacrifice, and we glorify this kind of sacrifice."

This perspective is the opposite of the proletarian internationalist course carried out by leaders of the Cuban Revolution. Though they were prepared for a long fight, the revolutionary guerrilla war was organized with the aim of leading the working people of Cuba to swiftly take political power and reconstruct society based on the needs of the majority. This is the only course that working people in Nepal, the United States, and the world over can count on as a way forward out of the brutality of the capitalist system.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Wages, prices, and abolishing the wages system

Why winning higher pay
doesn't cause prices to rise
The article below presents excerpts from Wages, Price and Profit by Karl Marx. The pamphlet is available from local distributors listed below.


Opponents of the current fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage and unionization often argue that if wages go up, prices will too. Therefore, they contend, workers fighting for higher pay actually hurt themselves and workers in other industries.

This false claim was the subject of a debate 150 years ago in the International Workingmen's Association, led by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. In 1865, amid a strike wave and campaign to raise wages in Europe, a member of the International's General Council from England, John Weston, argued the same point. Marx answered him, tearing apart the rationalizations the bosses use to justify their entire wages system.

The resulting pamphlet, published initially in English under the title Value, Price and Profit and later under the more accurate title Wages, Price and Profit, makes for valuable reading today. It concludes with Marx offering three resolutions, which were adopted:

"Firstly. A general rise in the rate of wages would result in a fall of the general rate of profit, but, broadly speaking, not affect the prices of commodities.

"Secondly. The general tendency of capitalist production is not to raise, but to sink the average standard of wages.

"Thirdly. Trades Unions work well as centers of resistance against the encroachments of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerrilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class that is to say, the ultimate abolition of the wages system."

Value is produced by social labor
To explain why wages don't determine prices, and why workers are correct to fight for a greater portion of the wealth they produce, Marx gives a concise explanation of how the capitalist wages system works.
The value of a commodity, that is anything produced for exchange, is determined generally by "the quantity of labor necessary for its production in a given state of society." The price of that commodity will fluctuate based on supply and demand, but over time will average out to its value.

When a worker is employed by a capitalist, "what the working man sells is not directly his Labor, but his Laboring Power," Marx notes. The value of this labor power "is determined by the value of the necessaries required to produce, develop, maintain, and perpetuate the laboring power" — the worker's food, housing, etc.

In the course of each workday, a worker produces more new value than what's needed to replace their wages. Marx gives the example of a spinner in a cotton mill, who may produce the value of his wages in six hours' work. But the boss demands 12 hours work, saying he's hired the spinner for the whole day. The value produced in the additional hours goes to the capitalist. "It is this sort of exchange between capital and labor upon which capitalistic production, or the wages system, is founded."

This surplus value, produced by workers' labor, is the source of all profits, including the rent and interest that the boss may pay to the landlord and the bank.

Since the new value produced through labor is divided between the worker and the capitalist, "if wages fall, profits will rise; and if wages rise, profits will fall," Marx says, "but all these variations will not affect the value of the commodity."

Capitalist tendency is to lower wages
"The general tendency of capitalistic production is not to raise, but to sink the average standard of wages, or to push the value of labor more or less to its minimum limit," Marx notes, impelling workers to fight for higher wages.
When labor productivity rises, for example, the value of workers' wages is produced in less time, and the boss pockets more profit. "Although the laborer's absolute standard of life would have remained the same, his relative wages, and therewith his relative social position, as compared with that of the capitalist, would have been lowered. If the working man should resist that reduction of relative wages, he would only try to get some share in the increased productive powers of his own labor."

Monetary inflation often erodes the buying power of workers' wages, causing their standard of living to deteriorate unless they fight for higher pay.

The length of the working day and the intensity of labor are also fronts in the struggle between labor and capital. By fighting to limit the working day to "rational dimensions," the workers "only set limits to the tyrannical usurpations of capital," Marx says. "Time is the room of human development. A man who has no free time to dispose of, whose whole lifetime, apart from the mere physical interruptions by sleep, meals, and so forth, is absorbed by his labor for the capitalist, is less than a beast of burden."

And during downturns of the business cycle workers regularly see their wages decline. "If, during the phases of prosperity, when extra profits are made, he did not battle for a rise of wages, he would, taking the average of one industrial cycle, not even receive his average wages, or the value of his labor."

If workers didn't fight to raise wages and improve their conditions "they would certainly disqualify themselves for the initiating of any larger movement," Marx said. In these skirmishes they "are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction."

"They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economic reconstruction of society," he concludes. "Instead of the conservative motto: 'A fair day's wages for a fair day's work!' they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword: 'Abolition of the wages system!'"

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Open the Borders!

/An AWL editorial:/

After hearing news of the latest drowning of migrants in the Mediterranean sea on Saturday 18 April, Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi asked, "How can it be that we daily are witnessing a tragedy?"

Why does Renzi ask, "How can it be"? As if the 950 deaths had nothing to do with the Renzi government cancelling the Italian navy's search and rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, late last year, an operation which covered a vast expanse of the Mediterranean and in the year from October 2013 rescued 150,000 from drowning.

As if Renzi had not realised the EU replacement for Mare Nostrum would be a much smaller operation and that this would be about policing Europe's borders, not saving lives.

And did Renzi not listen to the people of Lampedusa who have been saying Frontex Triton "security" mission was pointless, as well as pitiless? As Giusi Nicolini, Lampedusa's governor, said "They don't understand who they are supposed to be protecting us from. These dramatic scenes in the Mediterranean that we have been seeing for the past 20 years are of a pure humanitarian nature. People have to be saved."

The fact is that the 950 deaths, the 400 deaths a week before, and all of the 1,750 deaths so far this year are everything to do with the European capitalist politicians. They are entirely responsible.

They didn't put the people in flimsy wooden vessels and rusty old cargo ships, but they might as well have done.

The policy of refortifying Europe's external borders led to the halting of the search and rescue operation. Their argument? The prospect of possibly not drowning encouraged migrants to attempt the journey. Cancelling the operation was, as one Daily Telegraph writer mordantly put it, about "drowning a migrant to save a migrant".

Now the politicians have been forced by the sheer horror and magnitude of the latest shipwrecks to call an emergency meeting in Luxembourg; so far much ringing of hands and an agreement to do something, if only they could all agree on what that something might be.

If Tory Home Secretary Teresa May has her way no change of tack will contradict maintaining Europe's strong borders. No softening of the line from her. Not for refugees fleeing the terror of Syria's civil war, or for Africans who for generations have lived in conditions of mass working-class joblessness, and casual employment, vastly more immense than has ever been seen in Europe; or for Eritreans escaping modern slavery.

No softening of the line when her party is in the middle of an election campaign.

No softening of the line which has seen the proliferation of technologies of control along the EU's external border in the last ten years. Aimed keeping out "irregular" migrants it has only succeeded in forcing migrants to take more dangerous routes into Europe.

What the politicians don't say is that for all their sniffer dogs, identity checks and racial profiling, border controls do not keep out all migrants. All they do is sort migrants into "legals" and "illegals", citizens and non-citizens. And capitalism, even if the capitalist politicians won't admit it, benefits from the super-exploitation of undocumented migrants. These are some of the most dehumanised people of the working class. As one Ukrainian put it in Sans Papiers, a recent investigation of life as an undocumented migrant, "I always faced crap... at work, you know. 'Why we need tractor for digging, we have illegal?'"

Probably the European powers will try to do something against traffickers in Libya and elsewhere. No one would oppose taking action against people who put so many people onto a boat it is certain to capsize or lock hundreds of people into the hold of such a boat so that they are certain to die?

But European state agencies cannot stop trafficking any more than they can hold back the strong economic and human forces which make people move across the world. A full search and rescue operation must be put in place.

But we also need a working-class and internationalist response.

In the UK, and throughout Europe, workers have powerful trade union organisations that have fought for a hundred and more years to raise the standards of life above meagre subsistence for their members. Those organisations can and should fight to do the same for the people who through absolute desperation make the risky and brave decision to leave their homes and families to come to Europe. That means fighting for the free movement of peoples and ending the conditions which make migration so dangerous.

Open the borders!