The following is a selection of postings from the IBT Facebook page published since the last edition of 1917.
The international outrage and mass protest at the racist murder of George Floyd has most recently found expression in the toppling and defacing of statues erected to commemorate the tyrants most closely associated with capitalism’s racist-colonialist past: cheering crowds dumping slave-trader Edward Colston in Bristol, England; burning of King Leopold II in Antwerp, Belgium; and angry protesters tearing down Christopher Columbus in Richmond, Virginia. Marxists stand in solidarity with those seeking to expose the “blood and dirt” origins from which “capital comes dripping from head to toe, from every pore” (Capital, Karl Marx). While we do not necessarily support the systematic destruction of every single monument raised in honor of the oppressors, particular actions, like those currently taking place, are entirely justified and can have great symbolic importance. As we noted in Capitalism & Racism:
“Exposing the idiocy and vileness of racist ideas is both important and necessary. But ultimately racism cannot be eradicated simply through debate or education. The ideology of race is an inextricable component of the historical development of this exploitative economic system. The fight against racism is therefore organically connected to the revolutionary struggle to up root the capitalist social system, which has created and perpetuated it, and to create an egalitarian socialist world order in which cooperation, not competition, is the norm. Only in such a society, based on the rational planned organization of production sufficient to meet the essential needs of all, will every human being, regardless of color, gender, or nationality have the opportunity to develop themselves to the fullest. Only under socialism will racial prejudice and discrimination be eliminated once and for all.”
On Friday, 19 June, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Longshore Division will be shutting down the West Coast ports for eight hours in recognition of “Juneteenth” (i.e., ending of slavery throughout the United States) and demanding an end to systemic racism, police terror and privatization of the Port of Oakland. The labor action, prompted by the outrage at the racist murder of George Floyd, is an inspiring example of the social power working people possess when they unite around common class interests, and part of a proud tradition within the ILWU of opposing racism and solidarizing with the oppressed.
Israel is set to annex Jewish settlements built on large swathes of Palestinian territory in the West Bank as part of its Zionist political project of establishing a Greater Israel in the Middle East. Dubbed the so-called “Deal of the Century” worked out between Netanyahu and Trump, the current plans for annexation will see Tel Aviv occupy areas of the Jordan Valley key for Israel’s economy and security, bring a total of 30% of the West Bank under occupation, and further entrench Israeli-imposed apartheid on the beleaguered Palestinian people as their lands are carved up into tiny Bantustans sprinkled across the West Bank. Marxists oppose the annexation, defend the Palestinians against Israeli apartheid, and fight for a joint Arab-Jewish class-struggle perspective to smash Zionism from within and seek to establish a binational Arab/Hebrew workers state as part of a Socialist Federation of the Middle East. As we wrote in Israeli Apartheid & Palestinian Oppression:
“The only way the right of self-determination can be equitably realized for both Palestinians and Jewish Israelis is through the creation of a new egalitarian economic order linking the countries of the Middle East in a Socialist Federation. This requires the overthrow of not only the odious Zionist state but also imperialism’s Arab clients and the Iranian theocracy. Only through the establishment of institutions of working-class rule—collectivized property and international planning—can the resources of the region be employed for the benefit of all the peoples of the Middle East. And only within that framework will it be possible to achieve a just division of the land claimed by both the Palestinian and Jewish Israeli nations.…
“The struggle to build a vanguard party rooted in both communities that is committed to the creation of a bi-national workers’ state within a Socialist Federation of the Middle East will be an extremely difficult one. But there is no other historically progressive solution to the poisonous morass that imperialism and Zionism have created. Only a perspective of joint class struggle by Jewish and Palestinian workers against Zionist tyranny can lay the basis for the equitable resolution of the deep-seated national antagonisms and open the road to social emancipation for all the exploited and oppressed peoples of the region.”
Thousands of workers, youth and students, and the self-employed took to the streets of Tel Aviv on the weekend to protest the cascading impact of Covid-19 on Israeli society: skyrocketing unemployment in Israel (21%), the West Bank (40%) and Gaza (50%); projections of severe economic contraction in Israel; a surge in coronavirus cases since reopening the economy in May; and lack of any substantial financial aid from the government. The protest, which comes on the heels of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to de facto annex Jewish settlements/outposts in the West Bank along with large swathes of the Jordan Valley, exposes just one of the many fault-lines (i.e., class, along with ethnicity, religion, etc.) dividing the seemingly monolithic Zionist fortress from within and points towards potentially winning over at least a section of the Jewish working class to a perspective of joint class struggle with the Palestinians and other Arab workers of the region. As we wrote in Defend the Palestinians!:
“There has been plenty of evidence during the past year that the objective interests of the Israeli working class are counterposed to those of their masters. In an attempt to reduce overheads and revive Israel’s sagging economy, which has been hit hard by the simultaneous collapse of the technology stock bubble and tourism, the Sharon government has been cutting jobs, social benefits and wages for Jewish workers. In March 2003, half a million Israeli government workers mobilized for strike action to beat back, at least temporarily, a particularly aggressive austerity package being pushed by finance minister (and former prime minister) Benjamin Netanyahu. This confrontation graphically demonstrated that Zionist chauvinism and territorial expansionism have not obliterated the profound social contradictions between Israel’s bosses and the Jewish working class.
“Another fault-line in Israeli society is between Jews of European origin and those from Arab countries. The darker-skinned Sephardic Jews, who constitute the popular base for the ruling rightist Likud Party, tend to be less educated, and are segregated into the lowest-paid jobs where they are most directly threatened by cheaper Palestinian labor. They have real grievances, but their anger has largely been channeled into hatred of Arabs, much as poor whites in the U.S. have often provided a mass base for the Ku Klux Klan.
“Shas, the National Religious Party and the other Jewish fundamentalist formations, which have often held the balance of power in the Israeli parliament, are practically as misogynist as their Islamist equivalents. They flatly reject equality for homosexuals and are opposed to co-education and to a woman’s right to abortion. They consider that Jewish women have a duty to produce as many babies as possible to populate “Eretz Israel,” which, according to their biblical maps, includes everything from the Nile to the Euphrates—i.e., a big chunk of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and all of Kuwait, Jordan and Syria.
“The settlers in the Occupied Territories, most of whom are religious fanatics, get an average subsidy of $10,000 a year. This is the source of considerable resentment among ordinary Israeli taxpayers who are not fundamentalists. The quarter of the Israeli Jewish population which is strictly secular tends to resent attempts by the fundamentalist minority to impose their religious beliefs.”
The announcement that Kamala Harris will be Joe Biden’s running mate in the 2020 presidential elections is a clear message that a Biden administration would change absolutely nothing for the vast majority of working-class Americans. While feted as the first African American woman on a major party ticket by those for whom race and gender trump class-struggle politics, Harris has a long history of defending ruling-class repression as the former “law and order” DA of San Francisco (2004-11) and AG of California (2011-17): backing the “Three-Strikes” law, criminalizing child truancy, opposing the decriminalization of marijuana, and mocking those demanding to “build more schools, less jails” and “put money into education, not prisons.” Marxists fight to break the political stranglehold of the Democrats and build a revolutionary workers’ party beholden to the American proletariat, not the financial parasites running Wall Street. See Whither America? for further analysis of the state of America and the decline of US imperialism.
A year ago, we reported on the fight to save important climate change data held in a fossil site at Foulden Maar in Otago, New Zealand. Plaman Resources, the transnational that planned a destructive mining operation at the site, has now been in receivership for 14 months, and efforts to bring the maar into public ownership have made no progress.
The scientific importance of Foulden Maar in understanding climate change continues to grow with the publication of a recent paper in the prestigious European Geosciences Union journal Climate of the Past (“Elevated CO2, increased leaf-level productivity, and water-use efficiency during the early Miocene,” Tammo Reichgelt et al, August 2020). But for the first time in five decades scientists have been refused access to the site with no reason given by the receivers.
Researchers have only just scratched the surface of the information that could be revealed at the site. Only under public ownership, which would allow scientists not to work around the goodwill (so easily withdrawn) and commercial imperatives of a privately-owned company, would the true extent of Foulden Maar’s fossil treasures and climate change data be fully realized.
Tens of thousands have participated in protests throughout Poland over the last week to oppose a near-total ban on abortion. The demonstrations emerged in response to Poland’s Constitutional Court recently ruling abortion “unconstitutional” and imposing new sweeping restrictions (i.e., abortion only in pregnancies that threaten the woman’s health or have resulted from criminal acts). The right-wing PiS (Law and Justice) government, backed by the Catholic church and far-right elements, has responded by supporting the court ruling and deploying police units to mete out state repression against those protesting. The situation confronting pro-choice abortion activists in Poland today is very similar to that of predominantly Catholic, “pro-life” Ireland when abortion was still largely illegal (i.e., prior to the significant abortion rights reforms in 2018). We wrote then in Women’s Rights in ‘Pro-Life’ Ireland:
“Women's liberation will only be achieved when the provision of the domestic services traditionally performed within the nuclear family (childcare, housework, food preparation, etc.) are socialised as the material foundations of a classless society are laid. A workers' revolution that expropriates capitalist property and opens the door to a socialist economic order requires an organisation capable of providing political leadership to all of capitalism's victims. The model for such an organisation is the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky which led the Russian working class to power in October 1917 and immediately began to lay the basis for the emancipation of women as it struggled to spread socialist revolution around the world.”
Today tens of millions will vote in the US presidential election amidst the accelerated decay of American imperialism: a Covid-19 global pandemic that has killed over two hundred thirty thousand Americans, billions in bailouts for the financial parasites on Wall St., and an upsurge of anger at racist police violence, unemployment and homelessness. Neither the Republicans (Trump/Pence) nor Democrats (Biden/Harris) represent anything approximating the political interests of the vast majority of Americans (i.e., the working class) and the election of either will not resolve any of the key issues working people face. Marxists can only disdain the “choices” available and call for a spoiled ballot (see Whither America?).
True to form, NZ Labour PM Jacinda Ardern has announced a “co-operation agreement” with the pro-capitalist Greens. The agreement will see the Greens vote for Labour in any parliamentary confidence votes, supply votes, and procedural motions, in exchange for appointments to low-profile ministerial posts (climate change and family violence). Despite stopping short of a formal coalition government, the agreement de facto establishes what Marxists call a popular-front—an ostensible workers’ party in alliance with unambiguous capitalist parties. It is precisely for this reason that revolutionaries refused a vote to Labour in 2020 (see Jacinda Ardern—no Friend to Workers and Oppressed).
The new round of Covid-related government restrictions includes a ban on all large gatherings in England, including the right to legitimate protest. There is no evidence that outdoor protests, most of which encourage distancing and mask wearing, have increased the spread of the virus. The government's chaotic and self-serving response to Covid-19 has prioritized capitalist profits, wealthy southerners, ruling class sports such as foxhunting and grouse shooting, and the dream of a perfect British Christmas. The working class, minorities celebrating Eid and Diwali, and young adults out of work or isolated in student accommodation are shunted aside. A similar story is playing out elsewhere around the world. Now, more than ever, we must assert our right to protest (as safely as possible) against racial oppression, austerity and the other evils of capitalism that this virus has thrown into sharp relief.
Our initial statement on Covid-19 back in March warned against the state misusing public health measures for purposes of suppression:
“Whatever the public health case may be for closing borders, banning meetings and ordering people to stay in their homes, it is clear that the daily announcements of sweeping new powers for governments also serve to push us further in the direction of capitalist authoritarianism.”
—A Revolutionary Response to Covid-19
The recent release of the four-year long Brereton report sheds some light on the endless horror that is imperialist occupation. While heavily redacted for names, dates, details, etc., the Brereton report exposes alleged atrocities and “war crimes” committed by murderous psychopaths of the Australian Defence Force (i.e., imperialist occupying troops) in Afghanistan between 2005–2016. The allegations include: “blooding” (senior officers prodding juniors to get their “first kill” by murdering civilians and prisoners); “throwdowns” (planting incriminating evidence on victims after the killings); “inflicting severe pain” (torture), etc. While the report damages the image of Australian imperialism, no doubt the senior military command running the ADF and their parliamentary counterparts (i.e., successive Labour and Liberal-National governments) will largely go unscathed. At the very beginning of the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan almost 20 years ago we wrote in Imperialism’s Bloody Trail:
“Ultimately, the cycle of escalating brutality that characterizes imperialist rule will only be ended by eradicating the international system that forces the majority of humanity to live in poverty. This planet can only be cleansed of violence and irrationality through a revolutionary struggle to expropriate the expropriators and create a socialist planned economy on a world scale, in which production is geared to meeting human need, rather than maximizing private profit. Today this may seem a distant goal, but we of the International Bolshevik Tendency believe that not only is it possible, but that there is no other way out for humanity.”
The struggle around Ihumātao (a proposed housing project on traditional Māori land and one of the earliest sites of human settlement in New Zealand) has entered a new phase. The Labour government will buy the land for some $30 million from Fletcher Building Ltd, with it left undecided whether the land will be used for housing or left as a reserve. A Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed between the Crown, Auckland Council and the Kīngitanga (king movement) on any future decisions regarding Ihumātao. The deal, facilitated by the Kīngitanga and being promoted as part of the “healing process,” will boost the mana (prestige, honor and influence) of the Māori king and repair somewhat the relationship between the Kingitanga and the Labour Party. While it will not fundamentally address any of the key issues posed by Ihumātao (i.e., race, class, affordable housing, capitalist “development,” etc.), it is nonetheless an unsurprising result of bourgeois class politics in Labour-led New Zealand (see Class & Mana at Ihumātao).
On 16 December, shortly after Mumia Abu-Jamal marked 39 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected a King’s Bench petition filed by Maureen Faulkner and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). Unbelievably, the King’s Bench petition (filed in February 2020) had sought to remove Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner for being too biased in favor of Mumia, and instead aimed to replace him with the more conservative and FOP-pliant Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro. While the ruling will now allow Mumia’s appeals process to continue with Krasner in place (including the release of six boxes of previously undisclosed and potentially exculpatory evidence), he is no friend of Mumia. As we noted in Important Legal Victory for Mumia Abu-Jamal:
“Far from fighting “for us,” Krasner is a tool of the Democratic Party and his primary loyalty is to defend the interests of the ruling class. While Krasner initially threatened to challenge Tucker's ruling and seek to reimpose Mumia's bogus conviction, he ultimately withdrew his appeal. Instead of a lengthy court battle to decide whether Mumia can get a new appeal, he can now proceed to legally contest his frame-up.
“While we support every possible legal path to win Mumia’s freedom, we have no illusions that the same “justice” system that put him on death row in the first place will allow a new and fair trial. Mumia is innocent and was framed. Release him now!”
For background on Mumia's case, see The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Tens of thousands have celebrated Argentina’s recent ruling allowing abortions within the first 14 weeks, only the third South American country to decriminalize abortion (after Uruguay and Guyana). While removing a total ban on abortion is a partial victory, many restrictions will remain in place in Argentina. Abortions after 14 weeks are allowed only in cases threatening the health of the child-bearer, doctors can “conscientiously object” to performing the procedure, in all other cases abortion remains illegal and punishable by up to 15 years in jail. The situation confronting pro-choice abortion activists in Argentina today is very similar to how we described Ireland shortly after the May 2018 referendum which led to a partial decriminalization of abortion (up to 12 weeks):
“This will meet the needs of many women in Ireland faced with an unwanted pregnancy, and we must support attempts to make it as far-reaching as possible, but it is clear that whatever legislation is passed will fall well short of providing free, safe and legal abortion on demand.…
“Progressive social gains, like the historic Roe v Wade decision in the United States, can also be rolled back. Despite their comprehensive defeat in the referendum, the anti-choice side will seek to take advantage of any opportunity to further their aims. The immediate battleground will be over allowing medical professionals to refuse to perform abortions due to “conscientious objection”. This would have a devastating effect on poor woman in rural Ireland with restricted choice of medical facilities, as well as young women with unsympathetic parents. Abortion must not only be legal but also be freely available where and when women want it.”
—Historic Victory for Women’s Rights in Ireland
Over the last 24 hours, social media giants Facebook and Twitter have shut down the accounts of a number of left-wing organizations and political activists (e.g., SWP/UK, SEP/ICFI, US-based antifa and anarchists). Coming in the wake of the events at the US Capitol, the bans specifically target left-wing dissidents in an attempt to deny them vital access to social media and silence their voices (see ‘Trial by Combat’ at the Capitol). We denounce this attack on freedom of expression, defend those targeted and demand their accounts be restored immediately: An injury to one is an injury to all!
Ultimately, expropriating the social media giants under workers’ control is the only way to guarantee freedom of expression and prevent similar attacks from happening in the future.
The financial fiasco involving US-based video game retailer GameStop reveals the fundamental irrationality of capitalist economics. Sections of American finance capital, and mouthpieces in the corporate mass media, have responded with demands for greater “regulation” and concern over the economic fallout. Marxists certainly shed no tears for the hedge fund managers and billionaire investors—who routinely ruin lives to turn a profit—now on the receiving end of their own corrupt and rigged system. Yet, the “short squeeze” initiated by small-fish investors that played the game and “won” offer absolutely no alternative to the madness of financial speculation on Wall Street. The working class can only look at the whole affair and long for a rationally-planned economic system based on collectivized property in which human need, not private profit, is the key metric for determining social priorities. Our Introduction to Marxist Economics analyzes the fundamental metric of a capitalist economy.