Living Marxism

Bringing Marxism to life

Archive for June 2008

South Africa and Zimbabwe

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The recent race riots in South Africa and violence around the election in Zimbabwe are being used once more to paint the picture of a backward barbaric Africa that needs to be rescued by the ‘civilized’ West. That is, invasions of imperialist corporations plundering what remains of Africa’s raw materials and labor power in the name of defending ‘human rights’.  But when we look at the causes of the race riots and the intense struggle inside Zimbabwe we see that the causes are not rooted in Africa but in the history of capitalist colonization and imperialism.

On the contrary we see that it is the ANC betrayal of the South African masses to imperialism that has left them without sufficient jobs and housing and primed them to blame the Zimbabwean and Mozambican migrant workers who have flooded into South Africa to find work. It is not the business of Western liberals to point the finger at South African workers since they materially share in the benefits of the super-exploitation of that country. This is a problem that these workers must solve for themselves. But first they have to reject all the alternative ‘democratic’ plans of the UN and NGOs for ending the race riots. These liberal human rights advocates are today’s “missionaries” preparing the ground for further imperialist incursions. The solution lies in a revolutionary leadership building an internationalist movement that mobilizes workers to root out the basic cause of the problem, capitalism and imperialism in South Africa.

Similarly, in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s restrictions on the NGOs food aid during the current election is an understandably reaction to the way imperialism, not content with imposing sanctions to ruin the economy, is using the NGOs as an internal political opposition. Like South Africa, the solution to Zimbabwe’s problems are not the business of the same Western imperialism that refused to allow that country full economic independence and used Mugabe as their agent to block any real fight for independence. Mugabe’s ‘break’ with imperialism has nothing to do with belatedly fighting for independence but everything to do with desperately holding onto power. It is the task of the Zimbabwean workers and poor peasants to throw out Mugabe, not the imperialist powers or their stooge NGOs inside Zimbabwe.

Before these workers and poor peasants can unite to overthrow the national bourgeoisies that act as a barrier between them and independence from imperialism, a revolutionary left must come into existence with a program for revolutionary struggle based on the lessons learned of what is necessary to win.

First among these lessons is recognizing the hostile class interests of the national bourgeoisies that have acted as the agents of imperialism and betrayed the hopes of workers and peasants for real independence and for economic security in an African Federation of Socialist Republics.

ANC betrays South African workers and peasants

In South Africa there can be no revolutionary that does not fight the ANC as a treacherous populist party led by the Stalinist SACP that formed a popular front government with the White racist Nationalists in 1994 to end the apartheid system! At a time when the struggle of the masses for generations had created the power to not only end apartheid but to complete the revolution, removing the white regime and imposing a workers’ and peasants’ government and planned socialist economy, the ANC did a deal with imperialism to share the administer of a non-racial capitalist South Africa between the white and black bourgeosie.

The Stalinists of the SACP were employing their historic mission of the two stage theory/program of ‘market socialism’. A national democratic revolution stage is needed to develop the economy to the point where the pre-conditions for a socialist stage can be built. In the epoch of imperialism this traps the only class that can defeat imperialism and their comprador agents into political alliance with their class enemies and enriches the new black bourgeoisie and their Stalinist bureaucratic mentors at the cost of their ongoing super-exploitation and oppression.

The result has been more than a decade of open collaboration with imperialism to super-exploit South Africa’s resources and labor-power. It is this terrible betrayal that has allowed the whole of South Africa to remain in imperialism’s grip, forcing South African workers to compete with migrant workers for slave labor jobs. Because the ANC is a popular front party that locks workers into the same party as the black bourgeoisie, there can be no rescue of the ANC as a party to lead the liberation of South African workers by means of leadership change or internal reforms.

Once this lesson has been learned, it is necessary to mobilize workers and poor peasants to unite all workers, across nationality, ethnicity, gender etc to fight for jobs, land and decent housing and social services. In the process of these struggles the proletariat will build the unity and develop the consciousness necessary to overthrow the South African pro-imperialist regime, form a Workers and Peasants’ Government and create a socialist economic powerhouse that will provide resources and inspiration for the rest of Southern Africa.

ZANU-PF betrays Zimbabwe workers and peasants

In Zimbabwe there can be no revolutionary that does not reject both wings of the national bourgeoisie that are competing for the imperialist franchise to manage Zimbabwean capitalism. The British attempted to keep Zimbabwe as a neo-colony with the British settlers ruling in tandem with ZANU-PF. This meant that the workers and peasants did not get the land or the jobs that they needed with national independence. Mugabe finally broke with British imperialism when it became clear that his faction of the black bourgeoisie would not get rich from this continued direct white settler domination.

He turned to China and other countries to back his bourgeois nationalist regime instead. British and US Imperialism then imposed drastic sanctions which have ruined the economy and sponsored a rival MDC faction of the national bourgeoisie which is prepared to collaborate openly with imperialism. But both factions of the national bourgeoisie fear the mobilization of the masses to break from imperialism because this would also overthrow their own class rule. That is why Zimbabwe’s ‘problem’ is reduced to the ‘crazy’ personality of Mugabe, itself linked back to the inevitable ‘failure’ of African nations to develop independently of imperialism.

In the face of an US and British imperialist campaign to isolate Zimbabwe and shift all the blame for its economic collapse onto the Mugabe regime, Zimbabwean workers must organize in solidarity with South African workers to build a movement to challenge all factions of the national bourgeoisie who compete to be the franchise holders and junior partners for this or that imperialist power, or in the case of China, a powerful emerging market economy.

Their program must be for occupations of land and of industry under workers and peasants control and for the socialization of the banks and all the key sectors of the economy so that the old colonial borders are removed and a Federation of Africa Socialist States can be born. The party and program that is needed must be based on the theory and practice of permanent revolution.

Written by raved

June 19, 2008 at 12:03 am

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ALBA and non-Marxist Exchange Theory

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US steps up pressure on ALBA, EU calls for ‘peace’

ALBA (Alternative Bolivariana de Las Americas) is a grouping of Nicaragua, Cuba, Dominica, Bolivia and Venezuela, that rejects Free Trade Agreements with the US. ALBA is a threat to the US control of Latin America because its left populist regimes have a policy of trying to renegotiate terms of trade and ownership shares with US (and EU) multinationals.

At a time when the US is facing a long recession that is spreading across the global economy, the US does not want to lose any control over access to cheap resources and labor in Latin America. To undermine the threat of ALBA the US and the EU are pressuring ALBA to distance itself from the FARC guerrillas in Colombia.

Tony Solo reports on the US/EU moves to use the Colombian regime of Uribe to implicate ALBA in the “drug smuggling” and “terrorism” of FARC. The famous laptop of Reyes killed by Uribe’s forces inside Ecuador that supposedly contained ‘evidence’ that Chavez was funding a ‘dirty bomb’ for use by the FARC was obviously fabricated, but it had the desired effect. US Democratic contenders Obama called on the FARC to disarm while Clinton labelled Chavez a ‘terrorist’.

The EU position is to promote a peaceful outcome to get the US off the back of ALBA. The result is that Correa of Ecuador is backing off joining ALBA until Chavez ‘rejoins’ CAN (Andean Community of Nations which includes Peru and Colombia). Chavez has responded with another statement calling on the FARC to give up its struggle, which he says is no longer ‘valid’, echoing the long held position of Fidel Castro. The Castro/Chavez position is in line with the EU position to pressure the FARC to sign a peace treaty and join in the ‘valid’ parliamentary struggle.

The pro-Chavez left supporting ALBA against the US is taking the EU line, in an attempt to play off the EU against the US. For them the EU represents a ‘lesser evil’ to the US. Venezuela and Cuba are now favoring joint ventures with EU over US corporations. They are prepared to sacrifice the FARC which has fought a 40 year guerrilla war against the US-backed Colombian ruling class, in order to prevent the US from stepping up its direct attacks on ALBA.

The same tactic is being adopted in Bolivia where the ‘left’ backs Morales attempts to negotiate a peaceful outcome to the dispute between the breakaway Media Luna ruling class and the constitutional government of Morales committed to a united Bolivia.

The problem with this strategy is that the ALBA regimes (except for Cuba which is still, just, a post-capitalist state) are populist regimes balanced between the workers and poor peasants on the one side and US and EU imperialism on the other. The more these regimes attempt to negotiate peaceful outcomes between the two protagonist classes the more that the workers and peasants are lulled into a false sense of security that such negotiated deals can preserve national unity, and the unity of ALBA against the main imperialist powers. The more they put their faith in populism, the less they organise their own independent class forces for socialist revolution.

Latin American Populism

The problem with Latin American populism is not new. It is the consequence of the struggles of semi-colonial countries against imperialism. The ‘left’ has long adopted the strategy of the ‘patriotic front’ – a front of all classes against imperialism. The theoretical prop for this strategy is the Stalinist Comintern which adopted the line that alliances with ‘democratic’ imperialism against ‘fascist’ imperialism was the best way to defend ‘socialism in one country’. In reality, this policy was to call on the Stalinist Communist Parties all around the world to form alliances with the ‘progressive’ national bourgeoisie. This ‘peaceful coexistence’ with democratic imperialism was at the price of workers revolutions that could have overthrown the imperialist ruling classes, along with the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. Instead what happened was workers were thrown into imperialist wars to kill one another, and in the Stalinist states workers were suppressed by the bureaucratic dictatorships.

It is clear that this ‘popular front’ strategy suppressed revolution and allowed the Stalinist bureaucracy to function as an ally of world imperialism. Its reward was its ability to gain material advantages from extracting privileges from the labor of the workers by making peace deals with imperialism. The popular front is therefore a counter-revolutionary strategy.

In Latin America today this this strategy is backed by the Stalinists and Castroists. They have been joined by the Chavistas and with them a whole bunch of fake Trotskyist currents. There is agreement between all these currents on the popular front between workers, peasants and ‘progressive’ elements of the national bourgeoisie against imperialism. For them, like the original Stalinists, ‘imperialism’ is of two sorts, one ‘democratic’ and one ‘fascist’. The strategy of the populist regimes of Chavez and Morales, backed by influential dependency theories like James Petras, is to side with EU ‘democratic’ imperialism against US ‘fascist’ imperialism.

As a result, populist regimes are seen as capable of renegotiating the terms of trade, or exchange, with imeprialism, and gaining sufficient control of their national resources to be able to ‘develop’ the formerly ‘underdeveloped’ countries of Latin America. Petras makes the case that Venezuela has been able to do this successfully by retaining oil profits. However, this can be seen to be an exception rather than the rule because of Venenuela’s oil wealth. Elsewhere in Latin America, populist regimes have been forced to take the terms dictated by the imperialist corporations. Petras criticises Morales for not being strong enough in reversing unequal exchange in new contracts with foreign corporations.

Non-Marxist Exchange theory

What the Stalinists, Castroists, Chavistas and dependency theorists all share is a pre-Marxist theory of capitalism. For them the problem with capitalism is unequal exchange i.e. extracting value from colonies and semi-colonies by paying less than the real value of commodities produced in these countries. They can do this because the imperialists have the state power to impose unequal exchange on smaller, weaker countries using sections of the national bourgeois as their class agents, the so-called comprador bourgeoisie. The solution is for these exploited countries to get rid of the compradors, form populist regimes of all the patriotic forces, then get together in organisations as ALBA so they have sufficient power to force imperialism to re-negotiate more equal terms of exchange.

Acting on this theory and strategy, the countries of ALBA today are trying to negotiate their way between the EU and US to get more leverage in improving the prices they get for their exports. There is no reason why ALBA and the populist regimes (and the Cuban bureaucratic regime) cannot use their national state machines to equalise exchange without mobilising the workers and poor peasants as an independent force. Under this theory/program, the masses are market fodder backing the populist regimes to put pressure on the imperialists to introduce more ‘social’ constraints on the operation of the market. Hence the logic of this program is the end goal of ‘market socialism’. The new program of the PSUV illustrates this point.

The Marxist Revolutionary alternative

Marx made it clear that capital cannot accumulate by ‘buying cheap and selling dear’. In other words Marx rejected the Ricardian theory that capitalists made their profits by underpaying the wages of labor. The reason for this is that an economy cannot grow by simply redistributing already produced value. Marx’s big scientific discovery in political economy was to recognise that historically capitalism emerged as a result of the growth of the market in commodities, but did not enter capitalist production proper until wage labor became a commodity itself. It was not Labor as such but labor-power that was the commodity that the workers exchanged for the wage. This was the only commodity that produced more value than its own value. Under averaged out conditions (with supply and demand held constant) capitalists exploited workers while paying them the full value of the wage. Therefore exploitation did not result from unequal exchange but from the expropriation of surplus value over and above the value of labor-power (the wage).

In volume 3 of Capital where Marx began to discuss the effects of competition and supply and demand, he was able to argue that unequal exchange in the real world would act as a counter-tendency to the rate of profit falling and the ‘theft’ of value for poor countries to rich countries would become a feature of imperialism. Yet, unequal exchange could not be the only or even the major contribution to accumulation of capital in the imperialist countries. Cheap raw materials and labor would add to the transfer of value to the capitalists, but the major source of increased surplus value would remain the rising labor productivity of workers in the imperialist countries.

What this meant was that the underdevelopment of the colonies and semi-colonies would be irreversible, unless such countries were large and sufficiently resourced to fight a war of independence and then protect their economies so as to develop capitalism without having to compete with the existing developed economies. The US followed this path. But by the 20th century most colonies and semi-colonies were too small, weak or backward, and dominated by imperialism to break free and develop independently. The Soviet Union tried but found itself isolated from the world economy and unable to develop beyond a certain point so that its planned economy began to stagnate. China did the same. All these ‘post-capitalist’ countries have been forced to return to the capitalist road under increased domination by the imperialist countries.

The capitalist road therefore means the imperialist road. Any attempt to negotiate with ‘peaceful’ imperialism will involve sacrificing the masses hopes to ongoing capitalist exploitation and oppression. Inequality will grow and the populist regimes will discipline and contain mass resistance as part of their agreement with imperialism. Only the independent mobilisation of the masses under a revolutionary party and program can win independence from imperialism and an end to capitalism, and open the road to workers and peasants government and planned socialist economy.

ALBA is not the vehicle for Latin American liberation, but a giant multinational popular front that traps workers in a bloc of classes compromising with imperialism at the expense of their ongoing super-exploitation and oppression. Against the peaceful road of legalising FARC and negotiating equal exchange with EU ‘democratic’ imperialism, it is necessary to raise the demand for national congresses of workers and peasants to raise programs for nationalisation of energy, land, industry, the banks and for Workers and Peasants goverments to implement a socialist plan. A socialist federation of Latin America will rise up in the place of all the FTAs and the ALBA.

Written by raved

June 17, 2008 at 6:37 am

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Bringing Marxism to life

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Lenin at Finland Station

There is a need for a blog that is up front about using Marxism as a guide to everyday life. I already do this as part of a revolutionary party and as a teacher. But there is a need for some more living Marxism in the blogsphere.

There are plenty of broadly Marxist blogs that talk about the big and small events taking place all over the world.

But these are blogs which assume a broad left audience that has some basic knowledge of Marxism. The default position of these blogs is usually a dumbed down form of Marxism that deals with social classes as if they are relations of exchange. That is, what’s wrong with capitalism is that it exploits and oppresses people by not paying full value for the commodities that they produced.

The solution is to organise to force the bosses’ to pay full value or “fair value”. It was exactly such backsliding that Marx objected to in his Critique of the Gotha Program, and when he said he was not a “Marxist” like his son-in-law Paul Lafargue who was proposing to reform capitalism.

Today, the dumbed down Marxism is common in the theories and programs of the broad left that marries Marx to all sorts of people. Chavez in Venezuela marries Marx to Jesus. Prachanda in Nepal marries Marx to the World Bank.

This dumbing down of Marxism is understandable since the 20th century gave Marxism a tough time, and today its even tougher to fight for ideas that seem to be dead, tried and failed, or plain mumbojumbo.

But the fact is that these ‘Marxists’ are bastardising Marx because it is in their interests to do so. They are bourgeois or bureaucratic ‘Marxists’ who act as agents for capitalism by fooling the masses into excepting deals where they continue to be exploited and oppressed.

Hence most ‘Marxists’ deliberately act to obscure and prevent the use of powerful Marxist concepts to make sense of everyday life to prove that the real Marx is the key to understanding their lives and what they must do to change society.

They end up as a left wing of capitalism arguing for reforms instead of revolution.

Worse, some former Marxists like the defunct “Living Marxism” now reborn as have abandoned any reference to Marxism, and end up pushing purely libertarian ideals.

I chose the name for this blog because bringing Marxism to life is too important to be abandoned in the rush to the right or to revolutionary phrases.

The Living Marxism I identify with is that of the struggle of the Fourth International to replace the Stalinist Third International in the 1930s up to the time of Trotsky’s assassination in 1940.

I’ll keep you posted.

Written by raved

June 16, 2008 at 11:19 pm

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