APEC 2018: US Threatens New Pacific War

Papua New Guinean indigenous dancers welcome delegates to the APEC summit in Port Moresby. Image from Sputnik International

APEC 2018: US Threatens New Pacific War

24-11-2018 – Asia Pacific Economic Co-Operation (APEC) meetings are usually straight forward affairs, full of feel good rhetoric about “free” trade and co-operation. This year it is a different story, with no traditional joint communique able to be cobbled together amongst the 21 member states.[1] The corporate media offer the vapid analysis that this was due to tensions between the governments of the United States of America (US) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In reality, this year’s APEC summit was one in which the US rulers threatened, yet again, to launch a catastrophic war against Red China.  If triggered, such a war could annihilate millions of innocent human beings. As usual, Washington is backed to the hilt by vassal Canberra politicians, recklessly endangering the entire Asia-Pacific.

Manus Island military base?

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the development of the Lombrum naval base, along with the US military at the APEC summit. The Lombrum naval base is on Manus Island, and has not been used as a US base since World War II. The Manus Island  Papua New Guinea (PNG) governor, Charlie Benjamin, stated that the naval base is only in the interests of the US and Australia, not PNG locals.[2] It is the cruelest of ironies, that the base could be expanded on Manus Island, which the Australian government has made notorious by using it as a location for the inhuman torture of refugees and those seeking a safe place to live. To be both a base for the illegal and unjust detention of innocents, as well as a staging post for the potential launching of US led imperialist war, condemns the systems which allow it. The Australian ruling class has already allowed the US to use Darwin as a rotating training ground for thousands of its marines, but Manus Island would be a beach head significantly closer to their target – mainland China.

The language from PRC President Xi Jinping was conciliatory and offered cautious warnings, whereas the language from US Vice President Mike Pence was almost inflammatory. President Xi defended the trillion dollar One Belt One Road (New Silk Road) infrastructure development project as one which has no hidden political agendas, and which targets no one. Vice President Pence, on the other hand, claimed that the US offers its partners no coercion, no drowning countries in a sea of debt, and no compromises on their independence.[3] The US spokesperson retailed bald faced lies when referring obliquely to China’s mutual assistance projects it undertakes throughout Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific. The fact is that the US, mired in a capitalist economic crisis of its making, is not in a position to offer the development assistance that China’s huge state led economy can. The US rulers know that the longer they sit back, the more they will be overtaken by the PRC. Unable to countenance coming second to anyone, let alone an Asian country which 70 years ago was mired in Third World conditions, Washington’s only chance to prevent being overtaken is to launch a cataclysmic war – regardless of the costs.

Socialism versus capitalism

Mainstream media reports of China and the US refer to “rivalry” and “tensions” between two superpowers, where they sometimes admit that the US is past the peak of its power, whereas China is rising. What they cannot say is that China versus the US today is a case of socialism versus capitalism. Yes, the socialism in China is distorted, imperfect, and sometimes politically misled internally and internationally by the Communist Party of China (CPC). Despite this, China’s rapid advance over the last 30 years clearly demonstrates the superiority of the socialist mode of production, based predominantly on public ownership of the means of production, vis-à-vis the capitalist mode of production based on private ownership of the means of production by a tiny handful of obscenely wealthy elites, as in the West. While world capitalism entered the “Third Slump” in 2008 and has barely recovered, China’s economy powers along, outstripping the West even despite not being able to yet match Western labour productivity overall.

China ended the “century of humiliation” at the hands of the colonial powers in 1949, with the final victory of its socialist revolution. Today, China’s stupendous economic growth is driven by the workers’ state which emerged out of this victory, in which hundreds of millions of workers and peasants overturned feudal and capitalist rule. In the PRC, the banks, transport infrastructure, telecommunications, electricity, shipping, defence industries, space industries, robotics, aircraft and train manufacturing, media, cinema and computer chip manufacturing, amongst other things, are all state owned or majority state owned. And they are all supervised and controlled by the government to ensure they stay within the limits of the five year plan. This has led to stunning breakthroughs by Chinese made technology, with, for example, China leading the way in the production of supercomputers,[4] and being the first country to effect a soft landing on the dark side of the moon.[5]

The capitalist economies of the US, Europe, Japan and Australia, on the other hand, remain mired in effective recession. In Australia, wages in terms of purchasing power have never been lower in history. All governments routinely slash public spending on healthcare, education, public transport, pensions, aged care etc., and funnel it directly to the private sector. This has little effect, the rate of profit continues to fall, and working people suffer the consequences. Poverty and homelessness is skyrocketing in Australia and also the United Kingdom (UK). These governments then try to divert the backlash – onto China!

Working people should not fear China but defend it, in the process of struggling to achieve socialism on these shores. Infrastructure development, decent public transport, banks which provide a low cost service, affordable housing, indeed – a better life – all this and more awaits if workers can prevent Washington and Canberra from launching a calamitous war in the Pacific.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO Box 66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://postcourier.com.pg/happens-undeliverable-apec-2018-png-communique/ (24-11-18)

[2] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-21/manus-governor-slams-australia-over-naval-base-plans/10515910 (24-11-18)

[3] https://mothership.sg/2018/11/chinese-president-xi-jinping-us-vice-president-mike-pence-2018-apec-summit/ (24-11-18)

[4] https://www.datacenterknowledge.com/supercomputers/world-s-10-fastest-supercomputers-pictures (24-11-18)

[5] https://bgr.com/2018/08/16/china-moon-rovers-dark-side-launch-2018/ (24-11-18)

Brazil: “Trump of the Tropics” Assisted into Power

Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro at a rally in Rio De Janeiro. Image from The Guardian

Brazil: “Trump of the Tropics” Assisted into Power

17-11-2018 – Fascism has arrived in Brazil. Or so we are told. Jair Bolsonaro, who won the Presidential candidacy of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) after only joining that party at the beginning of the year, won the second round of Presidential elections on the 29th of October. The ultra-right Bolsonaro secured 55.1% of the vote[1], over the Workers Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad. Bolsonaro has made a string of ultra-conservative and fascist-like statements, from openly supporting military dictatorship, the use of torture by the authorities, to overtly sexist, racist and homophobic comments. Bolsonaro even once stated that former Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet “should have killed more people”.[2]

Working people should be clear. Fascism has not “arrived” with the election of Bolsonaro. An ultra-right wing, ultra-conservative has won electoral power, which has created conditions which may lead to fascism – the mobilisation of dissatisfied and despairing workers and small business people combined with the forces of capitalist state power enabling the physical crushing and dispersal of Unions, socialist parties and anyone suspected of being left-wing. Ironically, labelling Bolsonaro “fascist” may even spur his popularity even further, and backfire still further on politically progressive forces.

PT betrayals

The sad truth is that the ultra-right “Trump of the Tropics” was handed power by the “left” – principally the PT, but also by other left parties trailing in its wake. Thirteen years of betrayals by the PT in government,, from 2003 to 2016, first under President Luis Inacio Da Silva (known as “Lula”), and then under President Dilma Rousseff, where the PT moved so far to the right so as to be almost indistinguishable from actual conservatives – led directly to the working class switching their allegiances even further to the right. It mirrored the combination of political circumstances that led to the US working class ultimately opting for Trumpism, convinced that something, anything, that appears to be outside standard establishment politics – is worth a try. The working class as a whole, which by no means endorses or agrees with all ultra-conservative political positions, was willing to turn a blind eye to the excesses of Bolsonaro, convinced that nothing could be worse than the PT governed status quo.

In the same way that Obama and Clinton paved the way for Trump, Lula and Dilma paved the way for Bolsonaro. Also, in both cases, the capitalist left (the Democrats in the US, the PT in Brazil) was aided and assisted by the extra-parliamentary left parties, who ultimately could not break from “lesser evilism”, and thus remained as activist adjuncts to the “left” in government. No matter how right wing the Democrats and the PT became, these left parties in practice played the role of establishing an effective permanent popular front. A popular front is usually where ostensibly pro-working class organisations and parties link themselves to a “progressive” capitalist party, in a “broad front” against the right. But what this automatically entails is the working class chaining itself directly to the “left” wing of the ruling class, completely disempowering it. The popular front can raise no demands whatsoever that are not acceptable to the capitalist class as a whole – and thus the working class as a whole understandably sees it – and mistakenly the “left” – as no different to the entire system which makes their lives harder to endure.

It’s true that the PT in government carried out some minor reforms. The Progama Bolsa Familia (PBF) was introduced by Lula in 2003, and gave cash transfers to poorer families in return for ensuring children attended schools and were vaccinated. It led to a reported 28% reduction in poverty overall.[3] Between 2003 and 2010, the years of the Lula presidency, the Brazilian minimum wage steadily increased, and in fact quadrupled.[4]  There was also the creation of 14 million formal sector jobs, which led to an impressive Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 7.5% by the time Lula left office[5], when he handed over to Dilma Rousseff. These redistributive practices, and the resulting surge in apparent economic growth, led to Brazil joining the US Empire challenging BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) economic and political bloc.

PT corruption

However, these measures did little to counter the overall fiscally conservative economic policies of the PT government. There may have been a hope, when the PT was first elected in 2003, that it might be immune to the widespread corruption of the Brazilian capitalist political system, which pre-dated the election of the PT by decades. But it wasn’t long before the PT, and Lula himself, was implicated in overtly corrupt practices. In 2006, the PT was investigated by federal police for spending 1.7 million reais (the Brazilian currency) on a “proof of corruption” file against a political rival to the PT running for governor of Sao Paulo. Lula denied any involvement on his part, but the then PT president was forced to resign.[6]

While Lula left office in 2010 still retaining some personal popularity, the corruption scandal which engulfed the PT in 2013 probably ended any chance of the PT rehabilitating itself in the eyes of the masses. The Lava Jato (“car wash”) scandal involved large sums of money being paid to several political parties – including the PT – through the state owned oil company Petrobras. Huge demonstrations erupted in 2015 against the ongoing corruption of the PT administration, and against Dilma Rousseff as leader. Although some of this opposition included middle class opposition to some of the PT’s mild redistribution of some state funds, large parts consisted of workers fed up with corruption in combination with other austerity measures.[7] As in many parts of the world, the working class is usually “tolerates” a certain level of corruption amongst politicians, but at a certain point a tipping point is reached. The PT themselves presided over this period when Brazilians said “Enough!”

It was the PT in power when extensive protests over increases in public transport fares broke out in 2013.[8] It was the PT in power when deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon – the “lungs of the earth” – virtually reached the “point of no return”.[9] It was during the time of the PT in power when Brazil’s prisoners revolted over the relentless overcrowding of prisons.[10] It was the PT government that did little to address concentrated land ownership in Brazil, and even favoured corporate agribusiness against landless peasant farmers, a reported 200 000 of whom still have no plot of land to till.[11] In fact, it was the Dilma led PT government which classified roadblocks and land occupations – protest measures used by landless peasant farmers – as “terrorist” crimes.[12]

It was the Lula led PT government which sent Brazilian troops to occupy Haiti in 2004, and where they remained for 13 years. Reportedly the Brazilian troops as part of the United Nations Mission for the Stabilisation of Haiti (Minustah), took part in the terrorisation of the poor and students in the favelas of Haiti, in which some Haitians perished.[13] These practices were repeated against poor Brazilians who rose in revolt against the millions spent by the PT led governments hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

Very early in the Lula PT government, from around 2004, the PT’s open attacks on the pension system aroused bitter indignation from Brazil’s workers. The age of eligibility for the age pension was jacked up to 60 for men and 55 for women. Today this may sound modest, but in fact the eligibility age for the pension at the time exceeded average life expectancy, which then stood at 59.[14] There was a wave of workers’ strikes in response. In short, the PT led a capitalist government in Brazil from 2003 to 2016, whose actions engendered bitter hostility and enmity from Brazil’s vast working class.

Identity politics repels workers

Much is made of Bolsonaro’s seemingly open embrace of racism, sexism and homophobia. Make no mistake, the working class movement for socialism cannot be successful unless it combats racism, sexism and homophobia in the process of its struggles against capitalism. The problem, however, is that today, the liberal left harps on about these issues in isolation from a political offensive against the ravages of the free market system. The liberal left also excuse the capitalist left – the PT in the case of Brazil – from their targeting. They assume that the words of capitalist parties such as the PT means that the PT actually genuinely opposes racism, sexism and homophobia. While the rhetoric of the PT may rail against these things, the PT does not attempt to confront the system of private production for private profit – which produces the racism, sexism and homophobia in the first place.

In the 1960s and 1970s, at least in the West, there was a working class upsurge against the imperialist war on Vietnam waged by the US government. This led to the famed ‘radicalisation’ of politics at that time, with many working class people identifying with socialism. This partially enabled other sectors to politically radicalise, as they were given momentum by the vast anti-war movement – but also by an extensive trade union and workers’ movement. This was the time of the “second wave” of feminism, which made strides towards women’s liberation. It was the time of expansive anti-racist movements, with the civil rights movement involving African-Americans in the US. And it was the time of the initial breaking through of movements for lesbian and gay liberation. These were vital political steps forward, and they had great political impact because they were linked to large scale progressive working class movements such as the anti-Vietnam war movement and a strong trade union movement.

Fast forward to today, and we unfortunately find that the Union movement is probably at its weakest point in a century. And unfortunately there is scarcely an anti-war movement at the very time when the world is threatened by a new cold war. In fact, much of the Western left actually came behind the imperialist wars on Libya and Syria. So when workers see the liberal left engaging in loud campaigns against racism, sexism and homophobia – but are almost silent during imperialist wars AND during years of ruling class attacks on living standards – understandably some workers come to view the left as being of very little help. In fact, some workers can come to see the “left” as part of the problem.

In addition, workers do not take kindly to being lectured on racism, sexism and homophobia – especially from a left which has offered them no assistance in dealing with things such as the skyrocketing cost of living. Workers especially resent being lectured if it is implied that they themselves are racist, sexist and homophobic. With a “left” continually moralising about these issues, and also being tied to the capitalist left – it is understandable that some workers will reject the “left” altogether, and look to the right, even the fascist far right. Workers are not inherently racist, sexist or homophobic, and they can be won to fight against such scourges, but only when connected to a struggle for their own (class) interests.

Liberalism cannot fight fascism

If indeed Bolsonaro does start a fascist movement in Brazil and in Latin America, one thing is certain – the liberalism that produced Bolsonaro will never be able to defeat him. Liberalism is not counterposed to fascism, and has little interest in fighting it. One could argue that fascism is the end product of liberalism.[15] Liberals see people as individual voters for a strong state, whereas fascism simply dispenses with formalities and unites everyone – against the left – to form a strong state. Under a fascist state some liberal politicians may miss out on jobs *as politicians*, but that is about it. In reality, their connections with big business means that they will scarcely miss out altogether.

Potential fascism in Brazil can thus only be fought if the working class makes a complete political break with the capitalist left – the PT – and also the liberal left which united into an electoral popular front with the PT, which includes PSOL (Party of Socialism and Freedom) and the PCB (Brazilian Communist Party). This is the only way to start reaching the workers and young people who turned to Bolsonaro after seeing and experiencing the betrayals of the PT in government. A genuine Marxist party, speaking to workers’ direct needs, will be required to lead both Brazil and Latin America away from an abyss.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO  Box  66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2018/oct/28/brazil-election-2018-second-round-of-voting-closes-as-bolsonaro-eyes-the-presidency-live (10-11-18)

[2] https://jacobinmag.com/2018/10/jair-bolsonaro-quotes-brazil-election (10-11-18)

[3] https://www.centreforpublicimpact.org/case-study/bolsa-familia-in-brazil/ (10-11-18)

[4] https://countryeconomy.com/national-minimum-wage/brazil (10-11-18)

[5] https://chi.org.za/wp/blog/2018/05/10/a-high-road-scenario-creating-our-lula-moment/ (10-11-18)

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/sep/22/brazil.mainsection (11-11-18)

[7] https://www.opendemocracy.net/alfredo-saadfilho/debacle-of-workers%E2%80%99-party-in-brazil (11-11-18)

[8] https://www.marxist.com/struggle-against-fare-increase-puts-brazil-on-the-path-of-protest-movements-aroudn-the-world.htm (11-11-18)

[9] https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/it-too-late-save-amazon-rainforest-scientists-say-it-reaching-point-no-return-1663575 (11-11-18)

[10] https://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2017/01/30/brazil-prison-violence-overcrowding (11-11-18)

[11] http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/02/rousseffs-brazil-no-country-for-the-landless/ (11-11-18)

[12] https://ediciones-ineditos.com/2018/10/29/the-proletariat-of-brazil-was-defeated-by-democracy-not-dictatorship/?fbclid=IwAR2wHzVB-Xz3cKqyeZLP9U1LTCePVSGQ5vo1gXz-LY6FJLO1EKhFQqo0HTM (11-11-18)

[13] https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2017/09/05/brazil-withdraws-troops-after-13-year-occupation-of-haiti/ (11-11-18)

[14] https://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/archives/oldsite/2004/Brazil-818.html (17-11-18)

[15] https://www.globalresearch.ca/why-fascism-won-in-brazil/5659649 (17-11-18)

Break Anti-Union Rules!

Break Anti-Union Rules!    Statement of the Workers League

20-11-2018 – The Australian labour movement has a long and proud history, which has won substantial gains for working people for over 100 years. Weekends, public holidays, four weeks annual leave, leave loading and many other basic working conditions were won through powerful and well organised Unions since the 1890s. But it is no secret that the Union movement has never been under greater attack than it is now. The capitalist financial crisis which began in 2008 has barely let up, resulting in the “captains of industry” pushing to remove hard won working conditions that many had taken for granted. The right of Union staff to enter workplaces to speak with workers is restricted and in some cases completely absent. Decent penalty rates – the right to be compensated for working weekends and public holidays –  have been removed for hospitality workers, and if there is no fightback, will inevitably be removed from other industries one by one. Employers only need argue in a court which is already stacked in their favour, that there is little reason why they should pay them when other employers are not.

Change the Rules = elect the ALP

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is currently pushing the “Change the Rules” campaign, with rallies taking place in many cities around the country throughout November. It is purported that this campaign aims to change the Industrial Relations (IR) laws, which now are heavily tilted in favour of employers, to IR laws which guarantee basic rights and entitlements for workers. But the “Change the Rules” campaign is a gigantic scam, a common ruse to elect the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to federal government. The ALP in government, however, from 2007 to 2013, barely changed the “Work Choices” legislation of the Howard Liberal government, putting in place an Orwellian named “Fair Work Australia”. The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) – a body designed almost wholly to take down the power of the building and construction Unions – remains. It has been joined by the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) – a government body which has the power to de-register Unions, and even decide who can be an official of a Union. Needless to say, the ALP has given no undertaking that it will make any move whatsoever against these anti-Union arms of the state.

The corporate employer class is already getting away with murder – in the case of the construction industry, sometimes literally. Unpaid overtime is widespread through several industries. Outright wage theft, where workers are being paid way below what they are legally entitled to, is rampant. In areas where there are different classifications and thus different pay levels, employers are often simply giving workers jobs which are above their classification, and expect them to be done without any extra pay. Health and Safety in many industries is regarded as a cost by employers, which can be ignored regardless of the dangers posed to workers, or even the public. Casualisation is now at unprecedented levels, with around 40% of the workforce in temporary or contract employment. Not only does this mean casual staff have no right to any paid leave, they are almost powerless to demand basic workplace rights, due to the very real threat of being removed from the workplace at the drop of a hat. Wages themselves, are the lowest they have ever been in Australian history, in terms of purchasing power.

Win by breaking unjust rules

The business and employing class clearly feel no compunction for blatantly breaking industrial laws, many of which were written for their benefit. In fact, many employers’ actions are lawless as a matter of routine, with reckless regard for the consequences. In response, the only chance workers and Unions have of winning back the rights that have been stripped, and holding the employers to account for the laws that they flagrantly breach, is to openly defy the laws which allow this to occur. This means taking strike action – whether or not the “rules” allow for this. If any worker or Union is taken into custody for taking strike action – then the strike in response must be expanded further and further. In fact, it will be necessary to strike for the right to take strike action. Almost all gains won by Unions in this country were won through the use of the strike weapon. No rules were ever changed by pleading with the rule writers to change them – and this is especially going to be the case for industrial laws.

Standing as a clear obstacle to this perspective is the conservative Union bureaucracy, chock full of careerist Union officials – many of whom are actually members of the ALP. With a few exceptions, the Union officials, from the ACTU down to local Union secretaries, have a material interest in herding workers within the bounds of what is acceptable to the profit system. Thus they consciously attempt to imbue workers with an outlook which is in stark contrast to their basic needs. If the business class says that penalty rates must go, or livable wages must go, or basic health and safety conditions must go, or the right to permanent employment must go – then workers must respond by saying that if this is the case, it is capitalism itself which must go!  This basic defence of working people is anathema to the Union officials, who are handsomely paid to shepherd workers behind the parliament, and/or, the Labor Party.

The truth workers need to know is that, in fact, the IR “rules” are doing precisely what they are intended to do – to ensure the flow of obscene profits to private capital, in an era of profound international crisis for the capitalist system. The “rules” ensure that workers pay the price through the destruction of manufacturing, the privatisation of public services and the disappearance of secure employment. To turn this around, what is required are the building of rank and file networks throughout all Unions which exclude officials and paid Union staffers. Within these rank and file committees, class struggle militants and socialists need to push for a complete break with the Labor Party and all arms of the employers’ state – arbitration commissions, courts, parliaments, the lot. A class struggle leadership of the Unions would fight for a shorter working week with no loss in pay, for permanent jobs for all, and for Union control of hiring and training. This is bound up with efforts to forge a genuine workers party. Such a party would fight for a socialist order which abolishes the entire system of wage slavery via the rule of workers councils and public ownership of the major means of production. BREAK ANTI-UNION RULES!

 

WORKERS   LEAGUE

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

www.redfireonline.com

PO  Box  66    NUNDAH  QLD   4012