Sunday, January 30, 2011

Revolution in Egypt- Solidarity from Aotearoa


YOUTUBE VIDEO from Billy Hania:



People of Auckland-New Zealand show Solidarity
and Support for the People's Revolution in Egypt 29 Jan 2011

Short Protest and speeches by Ahmed Moharram, Billy Hania - PHRC, and Mohamed Hassan, Ending with protest and the Song Biladi Biladi




People of Auckland-New Zealand show Solidarity
and Support for the People's Revolution in Egypt 29 Jan 2011

Short Protest and speeches by Kieth Locke of the Green Party, Joe Carolan of Socialist Aotearoa, Mike Treen of Unite Union, Hela Rahman of SJP, and John Minto of Global Peace and Justice.

Photos of Auckland Solidarity protests HERE

AUCKLAND:


The people of Egypt are not stopping, coming out day after day to demand change. We cannot stop either.

So Saturday Feb 5th at Aotea Square in Auckland we will gather a second time and show our support for the brave souls out on the Egyptian streets protesting relentlessly for their freedom.

Please pass this onto your friends and family. We want large numbers this time around.

Wear red or black, and bring along your flags (from any and all identities)

Invite your friends to the Facebook Page HERE

See you there!

Viva la Revolucion!

WELLINGTON:

Comrades in Wellington also organising a protest for Saturday
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=167374143308440

Time
Sat 05 February · 12:00 - 15:00

LocationMidlands park, Lambton Quay, Wellington


Solidarity with the Egyptian people supporting their struggle for democracy.
We will start outside the vodafone building midlands park and make our way past parliament to the US embassy. Bring placards, signs and banners :)

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets calling for President Mubarak to step down after his 30 year autocratic rule.

...The protesters have been met with extreme violence as Mubarak orders the police and the military to quell the street protests. Some have been killed and many more injured. Still he refuses to listen to his people.

Mubarak has ordered a complete shutdown of the internet in Egypt in order to stop protesters communicating with each other and the outside world thus leaving them unprotected.
Vodafone are blaming the internet blackout on “problems” with their service, refusing to acknowledge their total and utter compliance and therefore support of a corrupt, violent and undemocratic regime.

The USA has issued statements in the unrest in Egypt but has stopped short of actually taking any action to improve the situation or state that Mubarak step down due to Mubarak being a close ally of the US administration.

Supported by Unite union and Socialist Aotearoa.





pictures of the Revolution here-
http://australiansforpalestine.com/37590

Egyptian Revolution LIVE CHAT here
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_197632883584519

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stand in solidarity with the Egyptian people

A revolution is unfolding in Egypt and across the world: from Tunisia to Athens, London to Amman people are demanding political freedom and economic justice. The current system of US imperialism, neo-liberal capitalism and constant social crisis is incapable of meeting the peoples demands and as revolt spreads we witness the system come crashing down.

Yet the ruling class will fight furiously to maintain their wealth and power. Armies of secret policemen will attack demonstrators on the streets, global corporations like Vodafone will cut cellphone and internet access to prevent news spreading, diplomats and politicians will urge protesters to be non-violent and listen to their rulers, even after decades of violence and deaf ears by rulers like Mubarak and Ben Ali. If the US thinks that Israel is threatened if the regime in Cairo falls then they might even intervene with force to suppress the Egyptian uprising.

The wildcard in world politics has always been international solidarity between workers and oppressed peoples. South African blacks remember the 1981 anti-Springbok Tour protests in New Zealand as a turning point in their struggle against Apartheid, in the 1970s ongoing rebellion by American students and massive GI resistance in the military forced the United States to end their war in Vietnam, in 1936 when Spain was taken over by General Franco, thousands of workers from across the world, including New Zealand went to fight fascism in defence of the Spanish Republic, in 1917 the Russian revolution and an uprising in Germany ended the murderous slaughter of the First World War.

In the face of the brutality of the Egyptian military and the callousness of the US imperialists, we need to urgently organise worldwide protests to show our solidarity with the Egyptian people and to demand that the US end its military support to its puppet dictators and regimes in North Africa and the Middle East. In workplaces, schools, universities, churches and mosques we should spread information about an uprising where Christians told Muslims that they would defend them from the police and where university professors and slum dwellers stand shoulder to shoulder against the regime. As tanks and tear gas fill the streets of Cairo, people across the world must stand in solidarity with the Egyptian people.

Download the pdf here of our 2 page leaflet on Egypt.

Victory to the Egyptian Revolution- Auckland Protest today at 3pm




Protestors supporting the Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt will gather later today at the US Consulate in Customs Street, Auckland at 3pm, in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to overthrow their corrupt, Western backed governments.

Egyptian democracy activist and protest organiser Mohammed Hassan, from Heliopolis in Egypt, said-

"This is a time for solidarity and a time for unity. The people of Egypt are taking their country back with their own hands, and we as activists and as Egyptians feel that we need to be a part of this historic moment, and we give all we can, our voices."

"The chants of the protestors in all areas of the country are echoing what has been in the hearts and minds of Egyptians for decades: the desperate need for change, democracy and freedom, and from the live broadcasts from within the country, we can see that the people do not have any intention of stopping until their demands are met. Across Cairo and Alexandria, people have come out in the hundreds of thousands. Even in smaller towns and districts, people are flooding to the streets to protest what they feel they've been asking for and going unheard for years now, both by the Mubarak regime and by the international community."

"And as the hours pass, more and more reports of protesters driving back riot police, taking control of police stations and government offices. There looks to be no stopping a people once they have tasted the strength of their own voices."

"What is most astounding is how united the entire country has become. Only weeks after the devastating church bombings and tensions between Christians and Muslims, people are now marching the streets as only one thing: Egyptians."

Co-organiser of the protest, Joe Carolan from left wing group Socialist Aotearoa, said-

"The dictators of the Arab world should quake in their boots. The Israeli oppressors of the people of Gaza and Palestine should be extremely worried. From Tunisia to Yemen, the workers and the poor of the Arab Street are rising up in revolution. The historic courage and bravery of the Egyptian people yesterday has inspired millions of people across the world to fight back. NOw, hopefully, the fall of the Mubarak regime is not far off, and the Liberation of Palestine can begin".

A larger protest is also organised for next Saturday Feb 5th, starting at 2pm in Aotea Square in Auckland. Both protests are supported by Global Peace and Justice Auckland, Students for Justice in Palestine, Socialist Aotearoa and the Union movement.

For further information contact-


Joe Carolan- 021 186 1450
Muhamed Hassan from Heliopolis, 021 0221 7607

The Friday of Anger...


Our thoughts are with our Egyptian brothers and sisters, on this, The Friday of Anger.

ثورة على الفساد و الظلم والبطالة و التعذيب

A revolution against oppression, corruption, unemployment and torture




Thursday, January 27, 2011

EGYPT: THE REVOLT THAT WILL SHAKE A TYRANT

Thanks to the complicity of private companies, including Vodafone, the Egyptian people are today unable to communicate online either internally to each other or to the outside world



At least 15,000 protesters jammed Cairo's huge Tahrir Square January 25 in the biggest political demonstration seen in the Egyptian capital in more than 30 years. Tens of thousands more people turned out for demonstrations in provincial cities as well. At least two people were killed in clashes with the Egyptian state's security forces.

But rather than be intimated by police repression, protesters were able to turn the tables on Egypt's notoriously violent cops, and beat up several. And as a follow-up to the demonstration, a range of secular, democratic organizations have called for a national strike on January 26.

The movement has put a spotlight on the U.S.-backed police state ruled by Hosni Mubarak, the 83-year-old dictator despised for presiding over a society in which a tiny minority has amassed enormous wealth while more than 23 percent of the population of 79 million lives under the official poverty line. The resurgence of Egyptian workers' strikes and protests is now feeding into the pro-democracy movement.

Ahmed Shawki, recently returned from Cairo, and Egyptian-American activist Mostafa Omar spoke to Lee Sustar about the significance of the protests, and the social and political forces that gave rise to them.

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WHAT IMPACT has the uprising in Tunisia had in Egypt?

Ahmed: Everyone in Egypt is talking about Tunisia. The uprising there has brought into focus in Egypt longstanding issues about the lack of democracy, as well as economic issues.

What you have is an accumulation of grievances at all levels of society over the exigencies of daily life. Food prices are rising and will continue to rise. Then there are the high unemployment levels, homelessness and a lack of opportunity for young people. These same issues are at the center of the struggle in Tunisia, and people were inspired by the action there.

Mostafa: A number of Tunisian protesters on Facebook were giving advice to the Egyptian protesters regarding tactics.

For example, most of the protests organized by the democracy movement in the last few years numbered about 300 to 400 people. The police would usually break them up or arrest large numbers of people.

This time, things were different. There is a somewhat unified leadership, and it did some preparatory work for the demonstration. Following the advice of the Tunisians, the organizers in Cairo decided they would not meet in one place. Instead, they met in different locations and converged on a number of different government buildings, where they would then unite. As a result, they defeated the police.

In the past, the police would sometimes tolerate demonstrations, but then control them through violence or arrests. This time, they failed. Some protesters converged at the parliament building and attempted to storm it. Some turned out at the radio and TV headquarters, where they attempted to go in. The largest protest in Cairo was in Tahrir Square in the city center.

The second problem for the police was that they didn't expect the numbers. They thought the demonstration in Cairo would be a few thousand, but there were at least 10,000 in Tahrir Square, and more in other places.

WHAT ABOUT the protests outside Cairo?

Ahmed: In Alexandria, the police were very aggressive, and used rubber bullets to try to break up the crowd. But people held their ground. This is despite the fact that police are, as usual, arresting key activists and harassing their families.

Mostafa: The police did attack the demonstrations in a number of places with rubber bullets and water cannons. They allowed the demonstrations to proceed and then attacked them. But that didn't work. People actually attacked the security forces. There are a number of reports of people beating the hell out of the security forces and a fascinating video of protesters chasing the police.

The size and scale of the protests outside Cairo is the government's biggest problem. In Suez, people refused to be dispersed and fought a kind of guerilla battle with police. In Alexandria, there was a mass demonstration of tens of thousands, followed by meetings at central squares. There were fascinating scenes--people brought huge posters with Mubarak's face, and were burning them in the street. Elsewhere, in a number of cities in the Nile Delta--a very industrialized era--the demonstrations were most militant as well. It was almost like a national uprising.

In Cairo, there were a number of prominent opposition figures involved. The main one is the former candidate for president, Ayman Nour, who sat in with the occupiers in Tahrir Square.

ARE THERE any precedents for the scale of these protests? Who is leading them?

Mostafa: This hasn't happened since 1977, when Tahrir Square was occupied to protest price hikes mandated by the International Monetary Fund.

The leadership of the unified opposition comes out of the parliament elections that were completed in December. Since the vote was completely rigged to give the Mubarak regime an overwhelming majority, about 80 or 90 former members of parliament formed a shadow parliament and brought a number of opposition parties into it. These people more or less coordinated the call for the protest.

Some of the youth held a number of workshops to discuss how to prepare the action in terms of tactics. The Muslim Brotherhood--the largest opposition group in Egypt--didn't officially endorse the protests, but allowed its members to participate on a personal basis.

The demonstration was organized in about 10 days. The organizers chose January 25--Police Day, the day in 1951 when police fought the British occupiers. The organizers wanted to defame the police on a day the police were celebrating their so-called patriotic holiday. The intention, in part, was to highlight police brutality. The protest also comes close to the anniversary of the 1977 uprising against the IMF and neoliberalism.

The organizers knew that this protest would be different, however. One indication was the number of suicides in recent days as people followed the example of the martyr in Tunisia--Mohamed Bouazizi, the unemployed college graduate who set himself on fire after police shut down his fruit-vending stall.

The New York Times actually underestimated the number of suicides and attempted suicides in Egypt. Some have jumped off bridges, some jumped off buildings, and a number cut their wrists in front of the parliament building. That's how the organizers of the demonstration knew things were boiling over.

WHAT ARE the politics of the opposition?

Ahmed: The Muslim Brotherhood gave a nominal nod to the mobilization but will not actually back the demonstrations. There is, however, broad support for the protests across social classes.

Even the sections of the middle class that might be in favor of repressing the protests have a fairly hard view that Gamal Mubarak, the president's son, should not be his successor. There's a wide layer of the political class that will not allow the functioning of the state to be a family operation.

So now the protests have raised the stakes around the question of whether Mubarak will run for the presidency again. And the boycott of the parliamentary elections has left that body even more of a rubber stamp than usual. The state's reliance on emergency laws to maintain itself is clearer than ever.

Mostafa: The liberal opposition has been fighting to lift the emergency laws, to hold democratic elections, and to cut the sale of natural gas to Israel. It has been able to, at best, mobilize 1,000 or 2,000 people to protests. So the media have been saying that the January 25 protests are unprecedented.

In fact, if you take into account the number of workers who have been involved in strikes and labor demonstrations in recent years, it is around 1 million. The workers movement has been building up for a number of years, gaining steam and winning concessions from the government. The government didn't always come through. But workers won their strikes, at least on paper, and have felt more confident.

All that was building up before Tunisia. What Tunisia did--and you can't underestimate it--was change the equation. People said, "Tunisia is small country. If they can put tens of thousands on streets, burn themselves alive to send a message, and change the regime, we are going to do it, too."

You can see this by reading letters to opposition newspapers. A few weeks ago--after the parliamentary elections were rigged--there was a feeling of hope. Now, they say, there is a reason for hope--we have to have a revolution.

All this is remarkable, because there has been a popular animosity against Tunisia dating from the Sadat era in the 1970s. When the two countries play in soccer matches, there is often bloodshed--people have been killed. Now there are Tunisian flags flying all over Egypt.

WILL THE political demands of the protest merge with the economic demands of workers?

Mostafa: I'm not sure who put the call out for a national strike. But what happened on January 25 in the textile city of Mahalla is telling. A demonstration that started in the morning with 200 people had, by the end of the day, reached 45,000 people. I suspect a lot of workers who have been protesting want to continue demonstrating.

The other remarkable thing is that the Egyptian national trade union federation--led by people appointed by the government--has partially broken with the government in the two weeks following the Tunisian uprising. They want price controls, an increase in wages and a system of subsidized outlets for basic food. People can't find staples like tea and oil. For the union officials to demand this is unheard of, because these people supported neoliberalism. That is the impact of Tunisia.

Meanwhile, the conditions facing workers are growing worse. The official unemployment figure is 12 percent, but the real figure is 24 or 25 percent. Food prices are out of control. One kilo of tomatoes--a staple good--is $2; it used to be 35 cents not long ago. That's prohibitively expensive in a country where government workers make only about $26 a month. The question of hunger is real. And now the IMF is pressuring the government to remove the subsidies on gasoline prices.

That's a big reason why--and people in the West often miss this--there has been an increase in the workers' struggle over the last three years. Every day, there's a strike--and on the day of action, there were 12 major strikes. The government settled them right away by promising everything they wanted.

THE media focuses always on the supposed threat of "Islamic radicalism" in Egypt as in the rest of the Middle East. Is it a factor in this struggle?

Mostafa: Twice now, the Muslim Brotherhood has abstained from any call for a national strike or a national demonstration. First in 2006, and again this year, it didn't support the day of anger.

They are still the biggest political force in the country, but they refuse to enter into a confrontation with the government. It's really the workers' movement and the radical youth that are the driving force, not the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is still the main opposition party with the most clout, but it isn't behind this at all.

A lot of young people and workers coming into the movement in the last two weeks are open to democratic and socialist ideas. Even a lot of the young supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood are open to a different analysis--one that doesn't just see the conflict as Islam vs. the West. On one protest, for example, an obviously religious man carried a sign that said it doesn't matter if you're Muslim or Christian, join the struggle.

That's a big change from January 1, when violent attacks on Christian churches made it seem like the country was on the verge of civil war between Muslims and Christians. Last year saw more attacks on Christian churches than any time in modern Egyptian history. But today, there are many Christians who have joined in common struggle with Muslims against the police and corrupt state, even though church leaders called on them to stay away from the protests.

All this means that there is an opening for the left--especially the socialists--to grow. There is new blood in the movement, and the Muslim Brotherhood isn't fighting. It's the left that is taking up this fight, along with new radicals.

WHAT CAN supporters internationally do to assist the Egyptian movement?

Mostafa: Mohamed ElBaradei, the former international inspector of atomic weapons and a leader of the democracy movement, recently called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to stand up for human rights in Egypt and the Middle East.

But this is completely wrong. The U.S. has been a key supporter of the regime in Tunisia and by far the most important backer of the Egyptian state. The U.S. government is partially responsible for the atrocities committed by the Mubarak regime, and it doesn't really want democratic reform.

Activists, therefore, have an important role to play in demanding that Western powers end its support for the Egyptian government and its efforts to maintain its corrupt and authoritarian rule.





Bedouin Protester shot dead yesterday in Suez

Auckland Forum on the Revolution in Tunisia- Video

Video of the Socialist Aotearoa forum on the Revolution in Tunisia
with SA's Paul Brown and Muslim Anti Capitalist activist Gerald Perreira
Held In Auckland's Trades Hall, January 2011


Part One- Paul Brown


Part Two- Paul Brown


Part Three- Gerald Perreira


Part Four- Gerald Perreira

IST Statement on the Tunisian Revolution

The importance of the victory of the Tunisian masses is not limited to the successful overthrow of Ben-Ali, ending 23 years of dictatorship. The Tunisian Revolution refutes the arguments that had been disseminated by many right-wing intellectuals over the past few decades that the Arab masses are incapable of achieving revolutionary change, and that the times of revolution are over.

The wide popular anger that took over the whole of Tunisia has reaffirmed that the masses make their own history and that class struggle is alive all over the Arab world. The Tunisian Revolution has also struck a hammer blow to the chain of alliances dominated by the United States, but also orchestrated by lesser powers such as France and Britain, that keeps the Middle East and North Africa subject to Western imperialism and allows Israel to oppress the Palestinians with impunity.

The revolution has toppled a regime with close links to Israel that was hailed by Western governments and the World Bank for loyally implementing neoliberal “reforms”. The Tunisian masses have terrified the Arab ruling classes. One Arab state after another has hastily introduced material concessions to try to avoid any escalations of popular anger against them and prevent the revolution from spreading.

In Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan and many other Arab countries, people are starting to question their realities in a much clearer form. Protests have taken to the streets in support of the Tunisian people but at the same time calling for the fall of the Arab rulers and regimes. Revolution is no longer a literary concept we study in history books. It has become, thanks to the strength and determination of the Tunisian masses, a possible and reachable future. We can see the effect in the mass demonstrations that have swept through Egypt, challenging the Mubarak dictatorship.

Many try to paint the Tunisian Revolution as if it were one of the “colour revolutions” that have strengthened Western power or present it as strictly limited to public freedoms and personal liberties. They forget that the spark for the uprising came from those who could not find jobs, came from those who worked day and night but could not earn enough bread for themselves and their families. Most importantly they try to hide the fact that the main slogan of the revolution was “Bread, Education and Freedom”.

That said, the battle in Tunisia has not ended, but has only just begun. The old regime of Ben Ali is still in power and is still trying to consolidate the state under its rule, relying on a relatively intact police force and on the “official opposition”, which has for the past decades helped to legitimise Ben Ali’s oppressive regime and is now trying to manipulate popular anger to gain power.

Now the old guard of the regime, along with this “official opposition”, are trying to propagate the idea that the uprising was completely spontaneous. This disregards the role that the trade unions and the far left and other progressive forces have played in solidifying the resilience and in pushing ahead the resistance of the masses against Ben Ali’s regime.

But the Tunisian masses have managed to respond quickly to these attempts by organising more demonstrations and protests demanding the dissolution of the ruling party. Popular committees have been organised all over the country to protect the neighbourhoods from the state militias and to stop the attempts by Ben Ali supporters to create an atmosphere of terror.

We therefore believe that it is essential that the revolutionary left all around the world stand in solidarity with the Tunisian Revolution as the struggle against the remnants of the old regime continues. We call upon the Tunisian masses not to accept less than the full transformation of their country, and completely to break with the old regime, to refuse to accept to the promises of the current government and to keep on fighting until all their demands are met.

It was the masses who toppled the tyrant, and ended a history of oppression and exploitation, and it should be up to those masses to take power and to organise their society based on their needs and not on the needs and the desires of a bunch of opportunist politicians who never dared to challenge Ben Ali and his policies.

Ben Ali’s old guard will only reproduce the same system that the uprising set its mind to defeat and to eliminate. It will continue to enforce on the Tunisian people policies that had long been used to criminalise the Tunisian masses and to distance them from their brothers and sisters and comrades in the Arab world, above all the ties with the Israeli terrorist state, and the overwhelming control that the French imperialist state has had over culture and education in Tunisia.

The remnants of Ben Ali’s regime will try to use all the power they have to try to defeat or isolate the mass movement that took to the streets. They will rely on international support from Western powers and from the Arab regimes in the region, who would be most willing to help the Tunisian regime to restore order for fear that the revolutionary tide would spread to their countries.

So we call on the trade union leaders, who assumed a great role in coordinating the uprising, the revolutionary and far left, and all progressive forces in Tunisia, to continue on the side of the masses, and to continue to sustain and support the revolutionary transformation that is taking pace and shape, and to gather the utmost support for the ongoing battle for freedom from oppression and exploitation.

The transformation will require not simply a thoroughgoing purge of the state and the implementation of the broadest possible political democracy. It will demand a break with capitalism in order to carry through an economic and social programme radically to improve the material situation of the Tunisian people. Sustaining such a revolution will require active solidarity by trade unionists, socialists, and anti-capitalists, not just in the region, but all over the world.

So, on behalf of the International Socialist Tendency, we stand hand in hand with the Tunisian masses and in full support of their demands and their desire to continue their heroic revolution, and to smash their exploiters and their oppressors. History tells us that the future can only be won through struggle.

Coordination of the International Socialist Tendency

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Empire: China, the U.S. and the shape of global capitalism to come

A brief look into the future:

23 January 2019: After seven years of solid economic growth in the Republic of New Zealand fuelled by rising demand amongst the Asian middle classes for organic south Pacific meat, dairy and wool products and the expansion of off shore oil drilling in the Great South Basin, the New Zealand economy appeared strong and vibrant. Yet in 2018 a virulent and previously unencountered form of mad cow disease spread through waterborne bacteria in polluted low land waterways had decimated the country’s cattle stocks and caused a complete collapse in demand for New Zealand agricultural products. The Government at the time, a minority coalition composed of the National Party, Green Party and New Citizen’s Party moved quickly to restore economic stability as the Kiwi dollar collapsed and the Government’s debts to Persian Gulf banks were called in. The New Zealand President announced a package of economic reforms including a proposal to levy a tax on the previously untaxed off shore oil drilling operations. The Chinese oil companies operating in the Exclusive Economic Zone responded swiftly by announcing that the tax would bankrupt the industry and they would withdraw support for any political party that supported what they called a “super tax”. With the Government bankrupt and unable to raise revenues through traditional means the President met with Chinese Embassy officials to negotiate a bailout. Facilitated by the South Pacific Development Bank (SPDB), Chinese capital had been flowing south into the Pacific ever since Taiwan was annexed in 2014 and a wave of island economies dependent on Taiwanese aid had collapsed.

28 June 2019: After terms of the Government bailout were hammered out in secret between the Prime Minister and the Chinese lenders the economy began to sluggishly revive. Yet once the full terms of the structural adjustment loan from the SPDB became public after insiders leaked the text on wikileaks the mood in New Zealand turned to outrage. For what the Government had negotiated with the SPDB officials was the promise of the full privatisation and deregulation of the country’s public health system. As the Government promised a more efficient accident compensation scheme under corporate management, better health services under expensive health insurance schemes to replace universal care and the sale of the rights to childhood dental provision to multinational conglomerates, representatives from a dozen various competing Chinese-based healthcare corporates flew into Auckland to carve up the public health service between themselves.

7 July 2019: Public health unions begin an illegal 24hour strike in protest against the structural adjustment program. The President gives a press conference to declare that “there is no alternative if the country wants to return to prosperity” and calls for restraint.

8 July 2019: A massive march against health privatisation is attacked by police in Manukau City and sparks rioting. Angry workers and students led by anarchists cause extensive damage to the shopping district. Local unemployed youth join the rioting in the early evening, looting big box retailers and supermarkets. By midnight the Mayor of the Auckland SuperCity has telephoned the President calling for the army to be deployed to support an increasingly overwhelmed police force.

9 July 2019: In the morning, as the army deploys into suburban south Auckland using rubber bullets and armoured cars to enforce a 24 hour curfew and state of emergency two Green Party ministers resign from Cabinet citing the now revealed sale of two national parks to a Chinese gold and coal mining company a move too far, and the Government loses a vote of confidence in Parliament. Rioting in economically depressed towns and suburbs breaks out in the early evening and private security companies are forced to retreat in the face of crowds attacking Government property and emptying dozens of supermarkets across the country.

10 July 2019: Faced with an unprecedented political crisis in the streets and Parliament the President seeks to re-negotiate terms of the bailout with the SPDB. The Chinese officials refuse to budge and the CTU holds an emergency affiliates meeting where unionists vote for a one day general strike to call on the Government to reject the bailout and nationalise the 70% of farmland that is owned by foreign corporations and raise a hefty tax on offshore drilling. Opposition left parties announce their support for the CTU alternative economic programme and the Green Party announces a formal end to its participation in President Joyce’s coalition arrangement.

11 July 2019: At 1am a fleet of Chinese air super-transports take off from the Chinese military base in Samoa carrying nearly two thousand People’s Liberation Army rapid reaction force Marines. The super-transports land at international airports before dawn around New Zealand and immediately set up defensive cordons around the airports. Chinese nuclear powered submarines surface in the middle of five of the major harbours just after dawn. Three Chinese destroyers that were patrolling Antarctic sea lanes and guarding Beijing bound oil tankers change course to head to Wellington harbour.

As the country awakes to the Chinese military awkwardly occupying all significant ports and airports, two Chinese colonels, SAS commander William Apiata and the parliamentary leader of the New Citizen’s Party hold a joint press conference to declare the Republic of New Zealand’s constitution suspended and a caretaker administration headed by Lieutenant General Apiata in charge until the economic crisis has been resolved and fresh elections held.

By midmorning Chinese soldiers and NZ Police are conducting joint patrols in riot affected areas and four dozen union organisers and left opposition leaders are rounded up under Summary Examination Orders for allegedly co-ordinating illegal strikes.

Midday news report that New Zealand’s business leaders including the Iwi Leadership Group have met with the new administration and believe the increased security and stability the Chinese supported regime has will provide the business environment that is needed in order for the economy to recover.

As night falls Chinese helicopter gunships patrol the airspace over the Albany Export Processing Zone as striking sub-minimum wage workers are dispersed with teargas. The evening news announces the first decisions of the new administration – a suspension of all social welfare payments indefinitely, the privatisation of all ports, airports and national parks, and a cut in the corporate tax rate from 30% to 15%.

Just before midnight a group of intellectuals huddled around a laptop in the staff room at the Auckland University economics department are completely surprised when SIS agents and PLA soldiers burst into the room and arrest everyone. The SIS agent gathers the laptop in his arms. It has a pdf document open. He reads the title of the document– “Empire: China, the U.S. and the shape of global capitalism to come”- before following the cuffed dissidents down the stairs to the waiting police wagons.

------

Empire: China, the U.S. and the shape of global capitalism to come

“Yet behind the veneer of mutual friendship, a multitude of tensions lurked not just in the area of human rights but also economic competition, arsenal-building and international diplomacy.” NZ Herald, 21.01.11

“When will China become the world’s largest economy? Goldman Sachs estimates that it will happen by 2027. But, using a forecast based on purchasing power parity, the Conference Board, a research group, predicts it could happen as early as next year.” NZ Herald, 20.01.11

In case you haven’t noticed China is emerging as a global superpower in the wake of the global financial crisis faster than anyone predicted. With President Obama hosting Chinese President Hu Jianto and pledging a “new era of co-operation between their countries” it is as appropriate a time as ever to analyse trends within global capitalism that are radically transforming the economic and geo-political world in which we live.

This article seeks to give an analysis of global capitalism and Chinese imperialism in the Pacific from a radical, socialist working class perspective.

China: a wildcat capitalism

China’s internal economic miracle has been widely chronicled in all its magnitude and contradiction. Indeed it is best described as “a wildcat capitalism without restraint”, the exploitation of a vast labour resource unencumbered by autonomous unions, democratic oversight or judicial fairness that are the banes of Western capitalism.

The class composition of Chinese society is rapidly changing as working class incomes and safety nets are eroded while a new layer of Chinese billionaires emerges rapidly increasing social and economic inequalities. Meanwhile a prosperous urban and mainly coastal middle class that is the Communist Party’s main base of support has cemented its social and economic clout in recent years as a loyal, skilled and increasingly Western educated stratum of technocrats settles itself in as the country’s aspirational and motivated co-ordinator class.

In the future, when we look back at the political turbulence between 1994 and 2006, the long decade of anti-globalisation riots and rebellions, it will be clearer to see the emergence of a new brand of capitalism centred on China. The restructuring of the global economy and the rolling back of political sovereignty that saw massive protests over factory closures in the West and riots against free trade agreements in the global South has caused the emergence of a much more dynamic form of capitalist accumulation. This new global form of neo-liberal capitalism is centred on the coupling together of four different modes of production. These are; Chinese barrack capitalism – sweatshop production in undemocratic nations with little protections for the environment or workers rights; American finance capitalism – a highly deregulated finance-based economy that rewards corporate shareholders by allowing risky speculation and providing massive corporate welfare; Arabian mineral-despotism- the installation of extremely undemocratic despotic regimes in mineral rich nations that rely on almost feudal production practices and repression of indigenous populations; and Democratic consumerism- in the West corporations are shifting resources away from production into new parts of the service economy and creating an economy based on falling real incomes and increasingly inequitable distribution of wealth whilst attempting to increase consumer spending and indebtedness.

In nearly every country and certainly on every continent we find examples and variations of these four capitalist accumulation strategies being deployed by an increasingly global ruling class. These accumulation strategies are not just the most dynamic forms of capitalist accumulation but it is surprising how well they integrate with each other. Each form of wealth generation is reliant on the others. If war or social unrest in the Persian Gulf threatens oil prices then the costs of sweatshop production can spike, swiftly causing a drop in consumer confidence in Europe and leading to Wall Street stock prices to dip. This new global capitalism is highly integrated and interdependent yet increasingly vulnerable to a myriad of class conflicts that threaten to destabilise its regime.

As David Harvey has said, “At the moment as I see it there are certain power blocks emerging but they are heavily dependent upon each other. For example the US is very nervous about China and would like to really push China around but frankly it can’t because China owns a good deal of the American debt. And at the same time the Chinese can’t stop funding the American debt because this is their main market. So actually the interdependence between these potential powerblocks is really very, very strong and it would be very difficult to break that.”

“I think what we are headed towards is a slow degradation of relations across different geo-economic configurations in the world. Between for example China, India, Brazil, that kind of configuration on the one hand and on the other hand the whole kind of general category of capitalist powers that would include Japan but again there is some fragility there for instance between the United States and Europe, between Europeans and Japanese, there is a lot of breaking up going on.”

The dual nature of the geo-political crisis is clear. At the same time as China and the United States seek to flex the political independence they find themselves economically more and more interdependent. On top of this China’s internal economic and political class struggles are destabilising the Chinese regime: “China wants a quiet life on the international stage as much as it can in order that it can deal with the potential turmoil that deals inside of China.”

Noam Chomsky has little time for the argument that China is quickly becoming a country of comparable wealth to the United States and looks more to place it within the context of a dynamic global economy which is still dominated by US Capital. “In fact, China has become a factory in the Northeast Asian production system. If you look at the whole region, you will find it very dynamic. China's export volume is enormous. But there is something we have overlooked. China's export relies heavily on the exports of Japan, Korea and the US. These countries provide China with high-tech components and technologies. China is just doing the assembly, and labelling the final products as 'Made in China.'”

When we hear the word China we hear the thunderous din of the sound of a myriad of class conflicts colliding. As Antonio Negri commented, “In China there is a situation that is revolutionary in many senses, but it could be blocked and directed in a different manner if the political; elite of the country would take a different tack. At the moment in China, social development could be compared to our 1968: it’s with that tonality and strength that the question of the relation between modernization and the development of freedom is being posed, between demands to meet needs and the anxiety of the common.”

China and the United States – A tale of two empires

Chinese corporations are incredibly profitable and are able to maintain their profitability through the direct intervention of the state to maintain the monopoly of state owned companies. For example the state owned oil-company dictates petrol prices, housing market statistics are not released and cost saving tele-communications technology outlawed. In effect Chinese capitalism is capitalism without a free market.

Bill Clinton’s secretary of labour, Robert Reich, has recently written that much of the reason that China is outpacing the United States is because, “It has a national economic strategy designed to create more and better jobs. We have global corporations designed to make money for shareholders.” Critically the Chinese state is bolstering funding for universities and for research and development at the same time as the United States is implementing harsh austerity measures on its R&D and education sector.

Thus if trends continue, China won’t just be the sweatshop capital of the world but also the research lab capital too. This perhaps is the reason for much of the current commotion in the mainstream media. Although the loss of United States blue collar jobs to China is decades old, middle class white collar jobs are now at risk. Thus much of the American emanating angst over the rise of China is the worries of the squeezed American middle class (educated, home owning, job secure workers with savings or small businesspeople) that fear the loss of their jobs and incomes to an Asian middle class who will accept lower wages and less democracy from their elite.

The reality is that no matter how smart, how strong, how educated or how hard working American workers are, they just cannot compete with people who are desperate to put in 10 to 12 hour days at less than a dollar an hour on the other side of the world. After all, what corporation in their right mind is going to pay an American worker 10 times more (plus benefits) to do the same job? The world is fundamentally changing. Wealth and power are rapidly becoming concentrated at the top and the big global corporations are making massive amounts of money. Meanwhile, the American middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence as U.S. workers are slowly being merged into the new "global" labor pool.

This is what Karl Marx talked about when he described the middle classes being rolled into the proletariat, “The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay, more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If, by chance, they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat; they thus defend not their present, but their future interests; they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.”

When David Simon, the genius behind HBO’s series The Wire, said that “in this Postmodern world of ours, human beings—all of us—are worth less. We're worth less every day, despite the fact that some of us are achieving more and more. It's the triumph of capitalism.” He was just enunciating a statistical trend. All but 4% of the top 500 US companies are making profits but US unemployment remains at around 10%.

The American capitalists remain as loaded as ever. Now however they don’t need so many of their subjects. For American capitalists it is cheaper to keep a large proportion of the American working-class jobless, hungry and penned in prisons and decaying ghettos than it is to employ them.

As the global economy is restructured with the Chinese state bureaucracy negotiating with foreign multinationals the conditions of the exploitation of the Chinese people, a new class of billionaires is rising in China. These billionaires are creating wealth and generating capital out of the misery of their own people – “State media in China pointed out that 10 percent of the 400 richest Chinese in Forbes Asia's latest list get all or part of their fortunes from China's healthcare sector - evidence of how capitalists and profiteers are squeezing the population to pay for inflated medical bills and costly drugs. Private funding occupies a greater share of China's total healthcare budget than it does in the US.

In a recent book on China and democratic reform, James Mann, a former LA Times reporter in Beijing has written, “The elites need to keep Chinese wage levels low, so that the foreign investors keep on flooding into China. They have an interest in repressing political dissent so that the country looks quiet and stable to prospective investors. Needless to say, the Chinese business elites strongly support perpetuating the existing state of affairs for as long as possible. Similarly, American elites are content with the status quo. It enables American firms to shift manufacturing operations to China, where labour costs are low and corporate leaders don’t have to worry about independent trade unions.”

Thus as foreign investment and jobs continues to flow into China we can expect more and not less repression of trade unionism and worker activism. The American middle class can slowly expect to wither away as US capitalism requires less and less Americans. Statistics are against the Americans. Already, China’s middle class is about 150 million, or half the population of America.

In New Zealand the process is occurring but has been obscured to a certain extent. In the 1980s to the 2000s manufacturing has almost been wiped out in New Zealand as car manufacturers, clothing and textile plants and iconic production companies like Fisher and Paykel have all moved operations to Asia. Manufacturing continues to head offshore, primarily to Asia, and the latest round of redundancies at local forestry mills. 1500 wood processing jobs have been lost recently mostly because of the economic crisis and partially because NZ wood processing companies cannot compete with the cheap costs of processing logs overseas.

In New Zealand manufacturing jobs have been replaced by service industry jobs or more likely by a benefit. Fisher and Paykel saved $10 to $15 million per annum by offshoring 350 Auckland manufacturing jobs in 2007. For each job lost this represents a saving of between $30k-$40k per annum for the company, making any form of competition between the workforces ludicrous.

For many New Zealand workers a jobless future is a certainty. As Phil Goff pointed out, Unemployment is up by 50,000 since the National Government took office.” Yet no political party apart from the Greens and few left activists apart from Matt McCarten in his Mana campaign have articulated a coherent set of policies to end unemployment. Although political commentators complain of a lost generation, until the political will can be mustered to end unemployment and give every New Zealander a job, it’ll continue to be bailouts for the rich and jailhouses for the poor.

Right in front of our eyes capitalism is restructuring itself as a global system that is forcing the New Zealand working class into competition with our brothers and sisters in sweatshop nations who have no ability to fight for higher wages, vote or campaign for social and economic welfare. The American and New Zealand middle class and working class are being squeezed by a drive for corporate profits. For much of this century state regulation of the economy through tariffs, macroeconomic policy planning and wage and price setting had sheltered the New Zealand workforce from the global race to the bottom. With these protections removed and corporate globalisation steaming ahead, the reality that the workers of the planet face is that local economic control is disintegrating as the Chinese sweatshop economy rises to dominance.

The future of the south Pacific

As China seeks to grow it will no doubt look into the south Pacific. Just as the European powers of the 19th century carved out Pacific realms of influence and America and France in the 20th century dominated the south Pacific, we can expect China to exert a growing influence in the 21st century. China is quickly militarising and the production of Chinese aircraft carriers and anti-ship missiles while the US navy continues to shrink will in time redraw the geo-political shape of the world’s biggest ocean. Taiwan will eventually be reintegrated into the mainland and China will seek growing control over sea lanes to Africa and Europe.

If oil prices continue current trends China will in future want to control a passage to Antarctica and may very well want a military base in the south Pacific to prevent the kind of looting which last decade erupted in the Solomon Islands and Tonga and threatened Chinese businesses and citizens. It will be Chinese soldiers and not the boys and girls from Waiouru that in coming decades will be patrolling downtown Nuku’Alofa or Honiara.

In the recent Australian film Tomorrow, When the War Began based on John Marsden’s series of novels depicting an imperialist invasion of Australia by an unnamed but obviously Asian nation, the invaders are played by Chinese actors. While Marsden may have dedicated one of his books to the people of Tibet, East Timor and West Papua and the film and books have enjoyed huge popularity throughout Australasia, they have yet to spark any real debate amongst audiences about the likelihood of invasion from the Asian north.

It is disappointing that there has been no imaginative debate about the ethics of armed resistance to imperialist invasion and neo-colonialism and the need for people to stand in solidarity with those who in Timor or Papua or Bougainville are fighting for their freedom. Without this debate the films and books merely recuperate the experiences of the youthful Timorese who waged guerrilla war against the Indonesian military for the Australian film studios and global cinema corporations.

Not a decade goes by in which a Pacific Island people isn’t having to decide the very same question that Ellie and the band of Australian teenagers in TWTWB face. The question of colonisation in the Pacific is not an academic one for the peoples of Tahiti, Kanaky, Samoa, Bougainville, Papua, Aotearoa, Rapanui or a myriad of other islands.

Maori have witnessed the colonisation of their country twice over. First by British imperialism and then by trans-national corporations. As the Chinese elite eye up new markets, new natural resources and the control of more of the globes commerce it is conceivable that China will bring Aotearoa into its orbit to control our economy for its own benefit. The question is not if but when.

Already a Chinese mining billionaire called Chen Faschu is preparing to buy his way into politics with the creation of a Beijing based New Citizen’s Party to firstly contest the Botany by-election but then manipulate Asian migrants to vote for them on a conservative and reactionary law and order programme in order to secure the ability to buy up dairy farms and strategic public assets. It’s no coincidence that as the Nats ponder asset sales, cash flush Chinese capitalists are making moves downunder to get a slice of the action.

The Chinese Embassy to New Zealand recently posted on their website an interesting article, “Mutual trust is the key words of politicians of both China and the US, though they are also busy figuring out how to gain the upper hand in a military conflict should it arise.” For China military conflict will remain on the table in how it seeks to expand its economic base yet it mostly prefers to influence south-east Asian politics by buying up the support of corrupt juntas like in Burma for oil and port access or bribing south Pacific politicians in return for UN votes. Once the balance of power shifts to China in the south Pacific, military conflict could become the de facto means by which a violent domestic regime enforces its foreign policy objectives. Regime change in Australia over the resource profits super tax that brought the downfall of Rudd came in part because of anxiety from Chinese mining corporations. Increasingly the Pacific will see Chinese capitalists take a greater interest in the domestic political and economic framework of countries.

Some sections of the business community, like the NZ China Trade Association, are working hard to convince the public that Chinese ownership of agricultural land is a desirable goal. In their propaganda pieces they set up a false dichotomy between Chinese owned dairy farm and NZ owned but ultimately foreign bank mortgaged farms. The global capitalist elite is seeking to make people forget about the real question which is who should profit from agriculture in Aotearoa? This is not a national question but a class question. The question is not whether mum and dad will run the farm for the Chinese but whether global agribusiness or the people of Aotearoa will profit from the fertile earth. In China the debate over land ownership is similar in terms but a thousand times more violent and dramatic as the CCP leadership institute a policy of land seizure, privatisation and peasant dispossession to benefit global farming corporations.

The reality is that as Chinese capitalism grows it will undoubtedly turn neo-colonialist in the south Pacific. As a prominent American military think tank has said, “As the U.S. military’s “balanced” strategy foresees mostly small wars, it must also maintain high-end capabilities to deter potential Chinese aggression and maintain freedom of action in the Asia-Pacific region.” As American elites prepare to deter Chinese aggression and domination in the new century, so should the international working class.

Alternative futures

What we are witnessing in the Middle East right now as a wave of anti-capitalist, working class revolt and revolution blossoms is the formation of international class consciousness and a serious attempt by workers in the various Arab states to leverage on the revolts of their comrades in other countries. Just as it isn’t hard to imagine the Chinese imperial invasion of Aotearoa we can also imagine alternative futures. Socialism and freedom are more than just slogans – for millions of workers they are the words and ideas that will provide them with the ability to put food on the table, have a secure job, or be able to organise to protect their community from a corrupt and brutal dictatorship. The question to be posed about the shape of global politics to come is not whether Washington or Beijing will rule, but whether we want socialism or barbarism in the 21st century. The Chinese working class are fighting for their freedom and also for ours. Their struggle is our struggle and only a global socialist revolution can liberate us and them from the exploitation and degradation of global capitalism.

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Ten years from now perhaps. A small strike in a Chinese sweatshop, turns into a larger revolt against wages in the Chinese megalopolis cities. Millions of workers strike, marching and chanting “We want freedom”. In America riots break out in the rust belt. The grandsons and daughters of factory workers spraypaint slogans on walls “We want jobs”. In New Zealand workers hear of the uprisings and stage strikes and march on the Beehive, “We want homes, land and dignity”. All across the world workers begin to strike and protest and to get organised into a global union of workers to start taking on the global capitalist class. The union has no demands of the rulers. It merely asks the entire working class of the world one simple question- who should own the means of production and who should control the wealth of the world? The working class across the planet begins a general strike, “Everything for everyone” goes the chant. The capitalists are kicked out of their mansions, their executive suites and factories. A new global workers democracy is born. Some call it socialism. Some call it anarchism. Everyone calls it a revolution.

Commentary: Omar Hamed, Socialist Aotearoa.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Cost of Capitalism



a poem by Jennifer Carmichael, SA

It haunts me

Where ever I go

I see it

In every coke can

In every police car

In every national flag

The cost of living

The expense of life

Slaughtering of people

Chains too tight to escape

Hopes of a nation

Coerced into consumption

Whipped into submission

Prohibition

Forcing a nation

Underground

Into darkness

Into poverty

Into criminals

The crown takes everything

Leaves nothing

For the poor

For the sick

For the hungry

Yet they smile

They hold their heads high

In glory

The crooks of capitalism

Wave their flags in pride

As their people fall

Sick, poor, hungry

Dead

Consumerism

The dark force of the government

The evil of the world

The drug of the people

The death

Of our brothers and sisters

Our fathers and our mothers

Our children

Our children’s children

Its there

Through birth

Adulthood

To death

Destruction

With every coke can we drink

In every police car we ride

In every national flag we wave

Us, the working class

Suffer

The shallow pockets

Of nationalist

Of employers

Of councils

In their comfortable leather chairs

Of glory

And greed

And we work our fingers to the bone

Bleeding

For 5o years

For a chance to retire

Only to beg for mercy

From the rulers of our country

To live

To die

Broke

Penniless

Nothing to leave behind

And the next generation

Will suffer

As we have

As we did

So will they

The constipation of our leaders

Nothing more then a number

Nothing more then a dollar sign

Forced into submission

By prohibition

Capitalism

Consumerism

And any ism

They can find