Latest News and Comment

The resource curse is, essentially, the idea that countries with lots of mineral wealth tend to have lousy economic development. A wee few in a resource-rich country will become very affluent themselves, while the masses live in crushing destitution.It's not unique to Africa, but the resource curse seems to apply especially well to the sprawling land mass that's the cradle of our species and home to about 15 per cent of humans but only two per cent of global GDP.The continent has 40 per cent of the world's gold reserves, 15 per cent of petroleum reserves, 80 per cent of platinum reserves, and much of the planet's diamonds and copper, yet the economic reality for the masses living in African countries flush with those sought-after commodities is rather bleak.Consider Angola as an example. The former Portuguese colony has an abundance of oil, sizable diamond mines and impressive economic growth that has outpaced China's in some of the 13 years since a protracted civil war ended there. Yet three in four residents of Angola's capital city, Luanda, live in crime-ridden slums without reliable supplies of electricity, and 40 per cent of Angolans live in what the World Bank defines as "extreme poverty."It's a similar story in oil-endowed Nigeria, where two-thirds live in extreme poverty, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) with its vast wealth of gold, cobalt, copper, diamonds and tantalum. Extreme poverty is reality for about nine out of 10 people in Congo.In these and other sub-Saharan countries, having great volumes of minerals and gems in the ground has not at all meant economic security for the average citizen.Africa is being looted by indigenous elites in concert with powerful multinational corporations.And the big foreign companies aren't just European and North American anymore. China has wedged its way into the racket in a modern colonial-type system that revolves around unholy alliances between "unaccountable African rulers" and rapacious foreign capitalists and India now wants its share of the spoils 
11 hours 5 min ago
   On Saturday four members set up an election stall in Folkestone, including the local SPGB candidate Andy Thomas and Max Hess who will be running in the local council election, which is held on the same day as the general election. The town was very busy, and the comrades were assisted by a nearby street trader who, unprompted, announced their presence over his public address system.
14 hours 5 min ago
   On Saturday four members set up an election stall in Folkestone, including the local SPGB candidate Andy Thomas and Max Hess who will be running in the local council election, which is held on the same day as the general election. The town was very busy, and the comrades were assisted by a nearby street trader nearby who, unprompted, announced their presence over his public address
17 hours 6 min ago
The following is an abridged and adaptation of an insightful article at the TruthOut website on migrant domestic workers by Arianne Shahvisi, a professor of philosophy at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. Sociologist Arlie Hochschild describes the migration of domestic labor from poorer countries to wealthier countries as a global heart transplant. Women workers from a few
17 hours 6 min ago

Perhaps the greatest obstacle we face in creating a new socialist world is the enormous capacity capitalists have acquired to shape and control what people think, and how they see the world and the events taking place in it. Not only has there been the church and the education system conditioning our way of thought but the mass media has become a great weapon in the hands of any ruling class. Given all this it is hard to see how an autonomous, oppositional consciousness could ever emerge, much less survive the system’s attacks if it did emerge. Nevertheless, capitalist control of consciousness and culture is not total. Opposition movements continue to be born even now. There are cracks through which human beings find outlets to prove that we have not been totally brainwashed by the doublespeak of capitalist ideology and assert our own values and perceptions. This is our hope.
ReformismWe can’t destroy capitalism by running for office and instituting various reforms through legislative acts. It won’t be done because governments don’t have the last say, they don’t control society. Capitalists do. The government doesn’t control capitalists; capitalists control the government. Modern government (i.e., the nation-state system) is an invention of capitalists. It is their tool, and they know how to use it and keep it from being turned against them. Capitalism goes rolling on no matter who controls the government. The only method is to build socialist  political parties, then using those parties to win elections and get control of the state-machine to abolish capitalism, dismantle the state and establish socialism.
Single-Issue CampaignsWe cannot end capitalism through single-issue campaigns, yet the great bulk of a great many radicals’ energy is spent on these campaigns. There are dozens of them: campaigns to defend abortion rights, to prohibit pollution, stop police brutality, stop union busting, abolish the death penalty, to protect the environment, outlaw genetically modified foods, stop the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, and on and on. What we are doing is spending our lives trying to fix a system that generates evils faster than we can ever eradicate them. Although some of these campaigns use direct action, for the most part the campaigns are aimed at passing legislation to correct the problem. Unfortunately, reforms that are won in one decade, after endless agitation, can be easily wiped off the books the following decade, after the protesters have gone home or a new administration comes to power.
These struggles all have value and are needed. Could anyone think that the campaigns against global warming, to aid asylum seekers ought to be abandoned? Single-issue campaigns keep us aware of what's wrong and sometimes even win gains. But in and of themselves, they cannot destroy capitalism, and thus cannot really fix things. It is utopian to believe that we can reform capitalism. Most of these evils can only be eradicated for good if we destroy capitalism itself and create a new civilization. We cannot afford to aim for anything less. Our very survival is at stake. There is one single-issue campaign we wholeheartedly endorse: the total and permanent eradication of capitalism.Many millions of us, though, are rootless and quite alienated from a particular place or local community. We are part of the vast mass of atomized individuals brought into being by the market for commodified labor. Our political activities tend to reflect this. We tend to act as free-floating protesters. But we could start to change this.  We could attack the ruling class on all fronts. There are millions of us, plenty of us to do everything.
 Politics is PersonalThe social movements, based on gender, racial, sexual, or ethnic identities, cannot destroy capitalism. In general, they haven’t even tried. Except for a tiny fringe of radicals in each of them, they have been attempting to get into the system, not overthrow it. This is true for women, blacks, homosexuals, and ethnic groups, as well as many other identities - old people, people with disabilities, mothers on welfare, and so forth. Nothing has derailed the anti-capitalist struggle during the past quarter century so thoroughly as have these movements. Sometimes it seems that identity politics is all that remains of the Left. Identity politics has simply swamped class politics.The mainstream versions of these movements (the ones fighting to get into the system rather than overthrow it) have given capitalists a chance to do a little fine-tuning by eliminating tensions here and there, and by including token representatives of the excluded groups. Many of the demands of these movements can be easily accommodated. Capitalists can live with boards of directors exhibiting ethnic, gender, and racial diversity as long as all the board members are pro-capitalist. Capitalists can easily accept a rainbow cabinet as long as the cabinet is pushing the corporate agenda. So mainstream identity politics has not threatened capitalism at all.The radical wings of the new social movements, however, are rather more subversive. These militants realized that it was necessary to attack the whole social order in order to uproot racism and sexism - problems that could not be overcome under capitalism since they are an integral part of it. There is no denying the evils of racism, sexism, and nationalism, which are major structural supports to ruling-class control. These militants have done whatever they could to highlight, analyze, and ameliorate these evils. Unfortunately, for the most part, their voices have been lost in all the clamor for admittance to the system by the majorities in their own movements. There have been gains, of course. The women's movement has forever changed the world's consciousness about gender. Identity politics in general has underscored just how many people are excluded while also exposing gaps in previous revolutionary strategies. Moreover, the demand for real equality is itself inherently revolutionary in that it cannot be met by capitalists, given that discrimination and division are two of the key structural mechanisms for keeping wages low and thus making profits possible.
LeninismLeninism cannot destroy capitalism by taking over the government by capturing the state apparatus by force of arms. This has been the most widely used strategy by national liberation movements during the past century in countries on the periphery of capitalism. Dozens of "revolutionary parties" have come to power all over the world, but nowhere have they succeeded in destroying capitalism. In all cases so far, they have simply gone on doing what capitalists always do: accumulate more capital. They inevitably become in spite of their intentions just another government in a system of nation-states, inextricably embedded in capitalism, with no possibility of escape. Generations devoted their lives to this strategy but now, after nearly a century of trials, it's painfully clear that the strategy has failed, and more and more people have come to this conclusion. The few remaining die-hard Leninists/Trotskyists/Maoists, who are still struggling to build a vanguard party to seize state power, are definitely and thankfully a dying breed. National liberation movements in colonial countries in order to capture the governments there is a form of Leninism. Capitalists have learned how to defeat it. Capitalists have been delighted to have a new enemy - namely, "terrorists" now that "communists" are gone. But more importantly as a tactic for socialism it will not work because it doesn’t contain within itself the seeds of the new civilization.
SyndicalismNor can we destroy capitalism by seizing and occupying the factories and the farms as the syndicalists advocate we should do. Syndicalism (federations of peasant, worker, and soldier councils) did have a faint chance of success, and even came close in the Spanish Revolution in the 1930s. Unfortunately, that revolution was defeated. In fact, all syndicalist revolutions have failed so far. But again there are serious flaws inherent in the strategy itself. For one thing, the syndicalist strategy excludes old people, young people, sick people, prisoners, students, welfare recipients, and millions of unemployed workers. To think that a revolution can be made only by those people who hold jobs is the sheerest folly. Perhaps immediately after syndicalists seize the factories and make a revolution, this exclusion could be overcome by having everyone join a council at home or in school, but this is no help beforehand, during the revolution itself. The whole image is badly skewed.Moreover, syndicalists have never specified clearly enough how all the various councils are going to function together to make decisions and set policy, defend themselves, and launch a new society. In the near revolution in Germany in 1918, the worker and soldier councils were for a few months the only organized power. They could have won. But they were confused about what to do. They couldn’t see how to get from their separate councils to the establishment of overall power and the defeat of capitalism. In the massive general strike in Poland in 1980, factory, office, mining, and farm councils were set up all over the country. But these councils didn’t know how to coalesce into an alternative social arrangement capable of replacing the existing power structure. They even mistakenly refrained from attacking ruling-class power with the intent of destroying it. Instead, the councils merely wanted to coexist in some kind of uneasy dual structure (perhaps because they were afraid of a Soviet invasion; but a strategy that has not taken external armies into account is badly flawed).Workplace associations would have to be permanent assemblies, with years of experience under their belts, before they could have a chance of success. They cannot be new forms suddenly thrown up in the depths of a crisis or the middle of a general strike, with a strong government still waiting in the wings, supported by its fully operational military forces. It is no wonder that syndicalist-style revolts have gone down to defeat.Finally, syndicalists have not worked out the relations between the councils and the community at large, and to assume that workers in a factory have the final say over the allocation of those resources (or whether the factory should even exist) rather than the community at large, simply won’t do. Nor have syndicalists worked out inter-community relations. Syndicalism, in short, is a strategy that has not been capable of destroying capitalism, although it has been headed in the right direction.
General StrikesThe weapon often promoted by the syndicalists and the industrial unionists – the General Strike cannot destroy capitalism. There is an upper limit of about six weeks as to how long they can even last. Beyond that society starts to disintegrate. But since the general strikers have not even thought about reconstituting society through alternative social arrangements, let alone created them, they are compelled to go back to their jobs just to survive, to keep from starving. All a government has to do is wait them out, perhaps making a few concessions to placate the masses. This is what Charles de Gaulle did in France in 1968.A general strike couldn't even last six weeks if it were really general - that is, if everyone stopped working. Under those conditions there would be no water, electricity, heat, or food. The garbage would pile up. We couldn't go anywhere because the gas stations would be closed. We couldn't get medical treatment. Thus we would only be hurting ourselves. And what could our objectives possibly be? By stopping work, we obviously wouldn't be aiming at occupying and seizing our workplaces. If that were our aim we would continue working, but kick the bosses out. So our main aim would have to be to topple a government and replace it with another. This might be a legitimate goal if we needed to get rid of a particularly oppressive regime, but as for getting rid of capitalism, it gets us nowhere.
StrikesStrikes against a particular corporation cannot destroy capitalism. They are not even thought to do so. The purpose of strikes is to change the rate of exploitation in favor of workers. Strikes have only rarely been linked to demands for workers’ control (let alone the abolition of wage slavery); nor could capitalist property relations be overcome in a single corporation. The strike does not contain within itself any vision for reconstituting social relations across society, nor any plans to do so.In recent years, strikes have even lost most of the effectiveness they once had for gaining short-term benefits for the working class. More often than not strikers are defeated: their union leaders sell them out; the owners bring in scabs, or simply fire everyone and hire a new work-force by out sourcing or exporting jobs abroad; the owners move their plants elsewhere; and/or the government declares the strike illegal and financially cripple the union. Strike breaking is a flourishing industry. Decades of anti-union propaganda by corporate-controlled media has destroyed a pro-labor working-class culture, which in turn helps management break strikes. Nowadays, for strikers to get anywhere at all, entire communities have to be mobilized, with linkages to national campaigns. Even so, strikers are still aiming only at higher wages, health benefits, and the like; they are not anti-capitalist. So however important strikes are, or once were, in the unending fight over the extraction of wealth from the direct producers, they cannot destroy capitalism as a system.Although unions were created by workers to help protect themselves from the ravages of wage slavery, they have long since lost any emancipatory potential. They were easily co-opted by the ruling class and used against workers as a disciplinary tool to prevent strikes, to prevent job actions, to drain power from the shop floor, to stabilize the workforce and reduce absenteeism, to pacify workers, to water down demands, and so forth. Many unions have been "business unions," working in cahoots with capitalists to manage "labor relations." In recent years there has been a movement to rebuild unions. In some developing countries there are some strong union movements, arising in response to the industries that have moved there or to the appearance of sweatshops. With rare exception, these unions are not anti-capitalist. Naturally, it's important to fight for better working conditions, higher wages, shorter hours, and health benefits. Such struggles do often highlight the evils of the wage slave system as well as improve the lives of workers. But something more is needed if we want to get rid of capitalism. Even if current labor activists succeed and rebuild unions to what they once were, can we expect these newly refashioned unions to accomplish more than previous ones did, at the height of the unionization drives of a strong labor movement - a movement that was embedded in communist, socialist, and anarchist working-class cultures that have now been obliterated? Hardly.
To The Barricades Insurrections cannot destroy capitalism. You can rampage through the streets all you want, burn down your neighborhoods, and loot all the local stores to your heart’s content. This will not go anywhere. Blind rage will burn itself out. When it’s all over, these insurrectionists will be showing up for work like always or standing again in the dole line. Nothing has changed. Nothing has been organized. No new associations have been created. What do capitalists care if they lose a few city blocks? They can afford it. All they have to do is cordon off the area of conflagration, wait for the fires to burn down, go in and arrest thousands of people at random, and then leave, letting the "rioters" cope with their ruined neighborhoods as best they can. Maybe we should think of something a little more damaging to capitalists than burning down our own neighborhoods.
Civil DisobedienceActs of civil disobedience cannot destroy capitalism. They can sometimes make strong moral statements. But moral statements are pointless against immoral persons. They fall on deaf ears. Therefore, the act of deliberately breaking a law and getting arrested is of limited value in actually breaking the power of the rulers. Acts of civil disobedience can be used as weapons in the battle for the hearts and minds of ordinary people, assuming that ordinary people ever hear about them. But they are basically the actions of powerless persons. Powerless individuals must use whatever tactics they can, of course. But that is the point. Why remain powerless, when by adopting a different strategy building strategic associations we could become powerful, and not be reduced to impotent acts like civil disobedience against laws we had no say in making and that we regard as unjust?
DemonstrationsWe cannot destroy capitalism by staging demonstrations and protest marches. As a rule, demonstrations barely even embarrass capitalists, let alone frighten or damage them. Demonstrations are just a form of petition usually. They petition the ruling class regarding some grievance, essentially begging it to change its policies. They are not designed to take any power or wealth away from capitalists. Demonstrations only last a few hours or days and then, with rare exception, everything goes back to the way it was. If demonstrations do win an occasional concession, it is usually minor and short-lived. They do not build an alternative social world. Rather, they mostly just alert the ruling class that it needs to retool or invent new measures to counter an emerging source of opposition. But even if demonstrations rise above the petition level, and become instead a way of presenting our demands and making our opposition known, we still have not acquired the power to see that our demands are met. Our opposition has no teeth. In order to give some bite to our protests we would have to re-organize ourselves, re-orient ourselves then when we went off on demonstrations to protest ruling-class initiatives and projects there would be some strength behind the protests, rather than just shouted slogans, unfurled banners, hoisted placards, street scuffles, and clever puppets. We would be in a position to take action if our demands were not met. Then when we chanted, "Whose Streets? Our Streets!" our words might represent more than just a pipe dream.Demonstrations are not even good propaganda tools because the ruling class, given its control of the media, can put any spin it wants to on the event, and this interpretation is invariably damaging to the opposition movement, assuming the event is even reported since the latest approach to these events is simply to ignore them. This is quite effective.And what are the gains? An issue can sometimes be brought to the attention of the public, even if only a small minority of the public. Also, more people can be drawn into an opposition movement. For those participating, a demonstration can be an inspiring experience. In many cases, though, this high is offset by a sense of dispiritedness on returning home. Demonstrations can thus contribute to building an opposition movement. But are these small gains worth it? Large national demonstrations drain energy and resources away from local struggles. And even local demonstrations are costly, requiring time, energy, and money, which are always in short supply among radicals. Are demonstrations worth all the work and the expense they take to organize? No matter what, they remain just a form of protest. They show what we're against. By their very nature, demonstrations are of limited value for articulating what we are for. We are against the World Trade Organization, but what are we for?Rather than taking to the streets and marching off all the time, protesting this or that (while the police take our pictures), we would be better off staying home and building up our workplace, neighborhood, and household associations until they are powerful enough to strike at the heart of capitalism. We cannot build a new social world in the streets.
BoycottsBoycotts have always been an extremely ineffective way to attack the system, and are almost impossible to organize. They almost invariably fail in their objectives. In the rare cases where they have succeeded, the gains are minor. A corporation is forced to amend its labor policies here and there, drop a product, or divest somewhere. That’s about it.In recent years, boycotting has become a way of life for thousands in the environmental movement. They publish thick books on which products are okay to buy and which must be boycotted, covering literally everything from toilet paper to deodorant, food to toys. All these activists have succeeded in doing is to create a whole new capitalist industry of politically correct products. They have bought into the myth that the "economy" will give us anything we want if we just demand it, and that it is our demands that have been wrong rather than the system itself.It’s true that it is better to eat food that hasn’t been polluted with insecticides, to wear clothes not made with child labor, or to use makeup not tested on rabbits. But capitalism cannot be destroyed by making such life-style choices. If we are going to boycott something, we might try boycotting wage slavery.
Dropping OutWe cannot destroy capitalism by dropping out, either as an individual, a small group, or a community. It’s been tried over and over, and it fails every time. There is no escaping capitalism; there is nowhere left to go. The only escape from capitalism is to destroy it. Then we could be free (if we try). In fact, capitalists love it when we drop out. They don’t need us. They have plenty of suckers already. What do they care if we live under bridges, beg for meals, and die young?  Even more illusory than the idea that an individual can drop out is the notion that a whole community can withdraw from the system and build its own little new world somewhere else. This was tried repeatedly by utopian communities throughout the nineteenth century. The strategy was revived in the 1960s as thousands of new left radicals retired to remote rural communes to groove on togetherness (and dope). The strategy is once again surfacing in the new age movement as dozens of communities are being established all over the country. These movements all suffer from the mistaken idea that they don’t have to attack capitalism and destroy it but can simply withdraw from it, to live their own lives separately and independently. It is a vast illusion. Capitalists rule the world. Until they are defeated, there will be no freedom for anyone.A number of radicals established free schools and even a free university or two, and there was a fairly strong and long lasting modern school movement among anarchists. But these are long gone. The notion that “libertarian” education is the path to change and the way out of the mess we're in is like the tail wagging the dog. We must not think that the capitalist world can simply be ignored, in a live-and-let-live attitude, while we try to build new lives elsewhere.
LuddismAs wonderful as Luddism was, as one of the fiercest attacks ever made against capitalism, wrecking machinery cannot in and of itself destroy capitalism, and for the same reason that insurrections and strikes cannot: the action is not designed to replace capitalism with new decision-making arrangements. It does not even strike at the heart of capitalism - wage slavery - but only at the physical plant, the material means of production. Although large-scale sabotage, if it were part of a movement to destroy capitalism and replace it with something else, could weaken the corporate world and put a strain on the accumulation of capital, it is far better to get ourselves in a position where we can seize the machinery rather than smash it. (Not that we even want much of the existing machinery; it will have to be redesigned. But seizing it is a way of getting control over the means of production.)Moreover, Luddites were already enslaved to capitalists in their cottage industries before they struck. They were angry because new machinery was eliminating their customary job (which was an old way of making a living, relatively speaking, and thus had some strong traditions attached to it). In current terms, it would be like linotype operators destroying computers because their jobs were being eliminated by the new equipment. Destroying the new machinery misses the point. It is not the machinery that is the problem but the wage slave system itself. If it weren’t for wage slavery we could welcome labor-saving devices, provided they weren’t destructive in other ways, for freeing us from unnecessary toil. We can draw inspiration from Luddism, as a fine example of workers aggressively resisting the further degradation of their lives, but we should not imitate it, at least not as a general strategy.
ConclusionWe must never forget that we are at war. It is not a war in the traditional sense of armies and tanks; it is a class war fought on a daily basis, on the level of everyday life, by millions of people. It is a war nevertheless because the accumulators of capital will use coercion, brutality, and murder, as they have always done in the past, to try to block any rejection of the system. They have always had to force compliance; they will not hesitate to continue to do so.
Capitalism must be explicitly refused and replaced by something else. We do not call for reforming capitalism, for changing capitalism into something else. It calls for totally replacing capitalism with a new civilization. This is an important distinction because capitalism has proved impervious to reforms as a system. We can sometimes, in some places, win certain concessions from it (usually only temporary ones) and some (usually short-lived) improvements in our lives as its victims, but we cannot reform it piecemeal. We can overthrow slavery and live without working for a wage or buying and selling the products made by wage slaves (that is, we must free ourselves from the labor market and the way of living based on it), and we can embed ourselves instead in cooperative labor and cooperatively produced goods. Destroying capitalism requires an awareness that we are attacking an entire way of life and replacing it with another, and not merely reforming one way of life into something else.
Adapted from an article Getting Free: Creating an Association of Democratic Autonomous Neighborhoods by James Herod



?alt=rss
20 hours 6 min ago