Tag Archives: Capitalism

Contact Tracing or How governments try to justify the expansion of their spying powers

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by Kurt Young

In the 2010’s a new technology called Near Field Communication (NFC) rolled out for public use. This is the technology behind the tapping feature of credit and debit cards. Many privacy advocates believed this technology would be used to monitor the movements of people. They believed that NFC chips would be placed in personal identification cards.  By installing a device in locations across a city the government could monitor people’s movements. Fast forward to 2020.  That fear is now a reality. However, it is not taking the form that privacy advocates originally imagined.

Our cell phones are a powerful tool that allows us to stay connected. Through Wi-Fi we are able to access the internet. This is how we’ve been apprised of police crimes during the current mass protests, as well as incidents that led to this moment.

But cell phones are devices that we carry everywhere we go. Contrary to the fear around NFC technology, it is not the government installing monitoring devices to track our every movement.  Faceless corporations install software to fulfill this role. GPS technology enables the current location of a cellular device to be monitored. However, in the mid 2010’s Google and Apple installed a feature on cell phones called WIFI Scanning. This feature scans all the Wi-Fi routers in your vicinity and it uploads the unique identifying serial number of the routers called a MAC Address, along with the GPS location of that router. This enables tracking of every location where you have ever been. Now, in the throes of an epidemic fright, we have new spying features enabled on our cell phones, called Contact Tracing.

Google and Apple present this feature as one from which you can opt in or out. They claim that all identifying serial numbers are random and that they are not transmitted to the corresponding company servers. This is not a claim we should take at face value. One reason is that the source code for the Contact Tracing has not been publicly shared. Without going into detail about source code, this means that privacy advocates and programming specialists cannot scrutinize these applications to verify that those claims are true. Secondly, one cannot remove these features from your phone. These two points combined mean that you cannot verify that this feature is being enabled on your phone, unknown to you.

The fact that these three features are now a staple of modern cell phones means that Google and Apple know where you are, everywhere you have been and every cellphone that you have passed by (and potentially every person). This is an authoritarian government’s dream. It is time to admit that most western liberal democracies are equipped to be police states. All the information that Google and Apple collected about us through our cellular phones is, beyond doubt, within reach of governments around the world.

U.S. police are now using the contact tracing information on phones to apprehend looters. The Panopticon (the all-seeing eye) is nearly complete. With the inclusion of closed-circuit cameras, we now live in a world where every movement in public spaces, in every metropolitan area worldwide, can be tracked. Even using low quality video, as long as one individual within a crowd can be identified every individual can be identified. The idea of privacy in public spaces is a delusion.

Governments claim that contact tracing has been enabled to aid the fight against COVID-19.  Who believes that once we have successfully overcome this virus that contact tracing will be curtailed? Who believes that governments or corporations, once they enhance their spying powers, would relinquish them?

The unceasing quest to monitor our every movement has led to the creation of devices designed by privacy advocates. There are several options, but few are readily available. Several companies are releasing what is known as Linux phones. Based on the principal of FOSS (free and open source software) Linux phones will provide users with complete control over the applications they have running on their phone.  Two companies are releasing phones (the Librem 5 and Pinephone) with physical switches to enable people to turn off the radio, microphone and camera of their phone. However, these phones are still not in full production. Another option is the use of a custom ROM on an android phone to remove Google services from your phone — which enable Wi-Fi scanning and contact tracing. Again, there is a caveat. The phones capable of implementing this are few and far between.

Regardless whether those options are within reach of everyone around the world, this is not a solution. It is only a tool that we may ultimately need to use to achieve a genuine solution — revolution. Only socialist revolution can free humanity from the chains forged by the oligarchs, the corporations, and the corrupt governments that serve them. As is evident from all the great protests now occurring around the world, the moment of revolution cannot come soon enough.

 

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.

 

The facts on Climate Change Demand A Radical Solution

by Evan Engering

The latest book of Naomi Klein, the influential Toronto-based journalist, author and activist, may live up to its ambitious title “This Changes Everything”. In it, Klein turns her thorough, eye-opening brand of investigative journalism to the topic of climate change. The book is a surprising achievement for a mainstream author. Her call for a new grassroots movement to rise up and defeat neo-liberalism and halt climate change has been publicized on television and in book stores across Canada and around the world.

Continue reading The facts on Climate Change Demand A Radical Solution

Public Forum – DISARM THE COPS!

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Youth for Socialist Action

presents a public forum –

DISARM THE COPS!

The July 27 police killing of 18-year old Sammy Yatim, another in a long string of unarmed victims shot to death by Toronto cops, raises questions: What is the root cause of these murders, often of immigrant, working class, and visible minority youths? Should street patrol cops be disarmed? Can police in capitalist society ever be held accountable to the majority? Whose interests are served by the cops, the courts, the military and the entire capitalist state apparatus? What should youths, racialized minorities and working people do about this? Join us for a panel of speakers, followed by an open discussion.

Speakers:

Tyler Mackinnon, YSA chairperson, Ryerson U. student, recently returned from Greece where he visited a ‘cops-free’ neighborhood in central Athens.

Ben Rostoker, YSA secretary-treasurer and U of Toronto student activist.

Wangui Kimari is an organizer with the Network for Pan-African Solidarity and the Network for the Elimination of Police Violence.

An open Q & A, and discussion period will follow the presentations.

Thursday, August 29 7 p.m.

OISE, 252 Bloor St. West, Room 2-211

(above the St. George Subway Station)

Everyone is welcome. $2 donation requested, or PWYC.

This event is endorsed by Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste. For more information,

e-mail: socialistactioncanada@gmail.com

visit the SA web site at: http://www.socialistaction.ca

or call   647-986-1917  or 416-461-6942

Photo (the featured picture): Tony Smith / CBC.ca