Category Archives: Global

Boom and Bust – the Capitalist Curse

by Barry Weisleder

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is basking in the reflected ‘glory’ of the Canadian economy. The GDP is up. Unemployment is down. Housing starts are on an upswing. However, before popping a champagne cork, consider the following. The growth in exports is weak. Trade is in deficit territory. Wage improvements are the slowest since 1998. In fact, the past 40 years have seen a virtual wage freeze, except for the top 1 per cent of the people, each of whom makes more money in a day than most workers do in a year.

In order to pay their bills, millions of working people go into debt. This is encouraged by low interest rates, and by a selfish desire to eat and sleep under a warm roof. More about debt in a moment, but first…

Do the ups and downs of the so-called free enterprise economy seem like a merry-go-round (except for the merry part)? Well, that’s due to the very nature of the market economy. Despite the fact that giant monopolies dominate it, the system is chaotic, unplanned and quite irrational. It puts human needs at the bottom of the list, well below profit, the so-called bottom line. For proof, just look at how bankrupt firms, like Enron, Stelco, Target and Sears, treat their retired workers.

Capitalism is characterized by generalized commodity production. That means production for profit, not for use. When sales of goods and services slow down, assembly lines slow, or grind to a halt, and workers are laid off. Is that because there is no work to be done? No. It’s because too many commodities were produced to generate high profits. Viola! An overproduction crisis occurs. Often, it involves the overproduction of useless things. Bombs, not homes. Industries are periodically over-capacity. Machines sit idle. Workers’ incomes decline, many to the point of impoverishment and desperation.

Over-production crises are a mainstay of capitalism. The decline in the rate of profit is also a feature of the system. It results from the growing reliance of capitalism on machines, increasingly on robots. The rate of exploitation of labour can be increased. But machines cannot be squeezed to produce more surplus value (profit).

The threat of workers’ revolution prompted some 20th century liberals to propose ‘solutions’ to these deep-seated problems. One experiment, proposed by British economist John Maynard Keynes, seemed to work for a while. Government expenditure (based on tax revenues, deficit spending, and some money-printing) created public projects, social services and jobs. But a by-product of such currency creation, deficits and public spending is inflation. Inflation can quickly get out of control. Eventually debt mushrooms, and becomes bad debt. Then the bubble bursts. Remember 2007–2008? Of course, the government comes to the rescue… to the aid of the biggest banks and corporations – not to the rescue of heavily indebted workers.
Is there any ‘conventional’ way out of the boom-bust syndrome, given the physical limits of global resources and the world market?

Yes. But it’s very risky and very bloody. Imperialist war destroys the competition. It also kills millions of people and devastates the natural environment. Conquest by war lays the basis for a new round of capital accumulation and production for profit. This works like a charm for the ruling rich if wages and benefits are slashed as a result of the smashing of workers’ parties and labour unions by fascism and war.

Some countries, due to exceptional circumstances, can avoid one or another aspect of the destruction. But no capitalist country can escape the booms and the busts, the very temporary nature of the ‘solutions’, and the persistent social misery of poverty and injustice.
There is only one way out of this mess, that is, in the interests of the working class and the dispossessed. Break the stranglehold of monopoly capitalism! To do that it is necessary for working people to take hold of the commanding heights of the economy (not the corner grocery store or barber shop, but the big banks, mines, mills and factories) and run it according to a democratically decided plan. The notion, entertained by some liberals and social democrats, that capitalism can be ‘regulated’ to be in harmony with nature, and to put an end to periodic crises, is pure illusion. Nationalization of a few large firms (with or without compensation, with or without workers’ and community control), will not be sufficient to break, permanently, the dynamic of private capital accumulation and the anarchic organization of production. Only public ownership and a planned economy can replace the waste and brutality of capitalism with a cooperative commonwealth.

Canada is not presently on the verge of an economic transformation. But that day is surely coming as capitalism continues to wreak havoc on people and the environment. Radical change will be hastened as socialists step up efforts to explain the necessity and viability of it. Hopefully, the transformation will occur before catastrophic climate change makes political action a tragically belated, academic exercise. As Rosa Luxemburg famously observed, “Socialism or barbarism” is the choice facing humanity.

 

International Labour Defense: “An Injury to One, is an Injury to All”

by Bob Lyons, ILD Coordinator

PepsiCo Argentina: PepsiCo, one of the world’s largest producers of snack food, including Lays potato chips as well as the iconic drink, has faced fierce opposition from the 691 workers it has tried to lay off at its north Buenos Aires facility. Arriving to work in June, the workers were met with a locked gate and a notice that read that the plant was being closed.

The workers responded on 20 June with a plant occupation. Led by the factory stewards’ committee, shop floor reps elected directly by the workers began to popularize their struggle across the country and internationally.

On July 27, the day after the workers were violently evicted from the plant by police, the Argentina labour tribumal ruled that the layoffs were illegal, and that PepsiCo Argentina had to immediately reopen the plant as there was no economic reason for its closure. PepsiCo has refused to abide by the court ruling, and the workers continue their mobilization, despite repeated roadblocks put in their way by the Macri government.
Nadia Shoufani: After a yearlong battle against the attacks of right-wing Zionist organizations like B’nai Bríth Canada, the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Canada, Nadia Shoufani, the Peel-Dufferin (just west of Toronto, Canada) Catholic School teacher accused of promoting violence and terrorism, and suspended for a month with pay by her employer, has been cleared of the charges leveled against her.

Posting on September 8 on Facebook, Shoufani said: “Ä victory for myself, for the Palestinian solidarity movement, for the freedom of expression”. The Zionist organizations have lost another battle to silence those who criticize the Israeli apartheid state and its genocidal policies towards the Palestinian people. Shoufani not only kept her job and defeated the attempts to silence her open support for the Palestinian liberation struggle and its political prisoners held by the Israeli state, her and her supporters, which included her Union, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association have scored an important victory against the Zionist lobby and its attempt to chill speech against criticism of the apartheid policies of the Israeli and international Zionist political movements.

Santiago Maldonado: The international campaign for the disclosure of the whereabouts of Mapuche indigenous rights activist Santiago Maldonado, kidnapped by the national police near Chubut in Patagonia, southern Argentina, has spread to Europe and the Middle East. Palestinian activists staged a group demo demanding to know his whereabout. In Madrid, Spain, hundreds of activists marched through the downtown in a militant display of international solidarity demanding to know: Where is Santiago Maldonado?

Maldonado is one of hundreds of Mapuche people organizing to defend their territory against imperialist encroachment on their traditional territories. The Mapuche people of Patagonia, have a traditional territorial connection which encompasses both Argentina and Chile. They have a history of unremitting resistance to colonialism and imperialism, and have suffered great repression for it.

The international dimension of the campaign around the kidnapping of Maldonado has created a political crisis for the Argentinian government, who first tried to dismiss the claims of kidnapping. Now, in its latest manoeuver, the government is trying to lay the blame for the disappearance of Santiago at the foot of five policemen. The policemen in their turn have said they were just following orders from their political bosses.

The immediate cause of the action, a blockade of the roadway leading to their lands, which precipitated the kidnapping, was an attempt by international clothing corporation Benneton to seize the Mapuche land with the connivance of the Argentine government. The colours of Benneton run red with the blood of Santiago Maldonado.

International Labour Defense believes that the campaign for the disclosure of Santiago Maldonado’s whereabouts represents a start to the building of the type of international united front campaigns in defending the prisoners and victims of the class war. Like its namesake, ILD believes that the motto of ‘An Injury to One is an Injury to All’ can serve as a basis of agreement of all of the non-sectarian left and progressive forces globally to act in a coordinated way. The lives we save, may be our own.

Photo: Thousands demonstrated in Santiago Maldonado’s name in Buenos Aires on 11 August. Source: EPa via BBC

Poles Protest Attack on Judiciary

by Barry Weisleder (dateline: Warsaw, July 23)

At the end of a mid-summer bus tour of this eastern European country, replete with feudal relics, perogies and déclassé intellectuals moon-lighting as tour guides, we encountered a truly massive protest in Warsaw.  It was dusk on July 22.

The ultra-conservative regime of President Andrzej Duda sparked a wave of demonstrations, nationwide, by pushing a law through the two chambers of Poland’s parliament (Sejm) that would enable the government to control the Supreme Court.  This crude power play by the anti-immigrant, anti-abortion Duda was performed in three acts:  1. Securing the right to fire the heads of lower courts.  2. Taking control of the body that appoints judges.  3. Forcing all Supreme Court judges to step down, except for those retained by Poland’s president.

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