Thursday, 22 October 2009


Michael Moore's Assault on Capitalism

What is the Alternative?

Michael Moore's new film, Capitalism: A Love Story, opens with a simple message: "Capitalism is evil," and must be replaced with a system that puts the interests of ordinary people over profit.

Moore calls this movie "the culmination of all the films I've ever made." In his previous films, he focused on specific industries like health insurance (Sicko) or corporations like General Motors (Roger & Me). But in Capitalism, Moore shows how the problems we face are systemic in nature, rather than the product of a few bad apples or a handful of evil corporations.

Capitalism: A Love Story will expose to millions the realities of a system which has only one goal: the short-term maximisation of profit. The significance of this – a major filmmaker denouncing capitalism in front of an audience of millions in the most powerful capitalist nation in the world – should not be lost. While Moore does not provide a clear alternative, he forces open a popular debate on the need to transform the entire social system.

Victims of the system

Moore interviews families facing foreclosures and layoffs. He traces the devastation of Randy and Donna Hacker, as police force them from the home they built on their family farm. As Randy Hacker says, "There's gotta be some kind of rebellion between the people that's got nothing and the people who have it all… There's no in between anymore."

Moore also exposes the "Dead Peasant" insurance policy, through which giant corporations take out life insurance policies on their employees, usually unbeknownst to the workers or their families. If a worker dies, these companies collect tens of thousands – or even millions! – of dollars, while the family is left to foot the bills for medical and funeral expenses.

This is the sick logic of the capitalist system, in which human life itself is reduced to a mere commodity. Moore exposes Wall Street for what it is – an "insane casino" – and fittingly, covers it in crime scene tape.

Capitalism Vs. Democracy

At the end of the film, Moore concludes: "Capitalism is an evil, and you can't regulate evil. You have to eliminate it, and replace it with something that is good for all people." Yet, he avoids putting forward a coherent alternative.

Moore counterpoises his call for real "democracy" to the anti-democratic character of capitalism.

As he told Democracy Now, "The wealthiest 1% [of Americans] have more financial wealth than the bottom 95% combined. When…1% essentially not only own all the wealth, but own Congress, call the shots, are we really telling the truth when we call this a democracy? You and I have no say in it….. have no say in how this economy is run." (Democracy Now, 9/24/09)

While highlighting the need for struggle from below, and calling for an alternative to capitalism, Moore avoids calling himself a socialist. However, the film does highlight the growing interest in socialism among Americans, and points out the recent poll showing that among people under 30, only 37% say they "prefer" capitalism to socialism, while 33% prefer socialism and 30% are unsure. What this 30% mean by "socialism" is probably less certain.

Role of the Democratic Party

Moore's film exposes the role of both the Democratic and Republican parties in implementing policies that have benefited the top 1% at the expense of ordinary workers. This film could have been a wake-up call, arguing for a political alternative to the two-party system. This would include running independent, pro-worker, anti-war candidates in the 2010 Congressional elections and preparing for a national challenge in 2012. Unfortunately, Moore himself stops short of calling for this critical step, and at times, the film serves to mask the true role of the Democratic Party.

Obama's Role

Moore also treats Obama with kid gloves, despite criticisms of his economic team and some of his policies. In the film, he presents Obama as if he were initially a threat to Wall Street and Corporate America, who they sought to rein in by throwing tons of money at him – with Goldman Sachs his top contributor. Yet Obama never would have been able to make his meteoric rise to power had he not, from the start, been thoroughly vetted by key power brokers among the U.S. corporate elite, who he impressed with his ability to employ a soaring message of "hope" and "change" at the same time as faithfully serving the same interests who have run the show for many years.

Moore supported Obama's campaign in 2008 and even helped create false illusions in his policies. This was despite Obama's support for the bank bailouts, opposition to single-payer, and call to send tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan.

Today, as millions grow increasingly frustrated with Obama and the Congressional Democrats' policies, Moore continues to create illusions in them. In late September, he told the AFL-CIO convention, "Instead of us piling on [Obama], he needs our support… Who's got his back?" (Washington Post, 9/16/09)

Instead of "having Obama's back," the key is to mobilise, independently of the Democrats and Republicans, around the needs of working people, rather than from the standpoint of what is acceptable to the corporations and their two-party system.

Moore himself was once a proud champion of the need to break from the Democrats and build a political alternative that represents working people. He was a supporter of the Labor Party in the 1990s, founded by a number of the country's most progressive unions, and also a major backer of Ralph Nader's 2000 presidential campaign. For those who want to see real change, it's necessary to return to this spirit.

Movement Against Capitalism Needed

Moore ends the film with an appeal for people to get active in building movements against the corporate domination of our society. It is an appeal that could certainly catch on, given the anger bubbling up beneath the surface in U.S. society.

The need to struggle to fundamentally transform this system is posed more urgently now than ever before. Let Capitalism: A Love Story be a wake-up call for a new generation of activists to build struggles and link these to the struggle to fundamentally transform the system. To anyone interested in building a fight back against capitalism, we urge you to join the CWI. Join us in the fight for a world free of poverty, exploitation, war, and the tyranny of the super-rich. Join us in the struggle for a democratic socialist future.

By Dan DiMaggio, CWI USA

Wednesday, 21 October 2009



On the twentieth anniversary of 1989 the ideologues, politicians and media of world capitalism wish to reinforce in popular consciousness that the events of that tumultuous year signified just one thing: the 'final defeat' of Marxism, 'communism' and socialism itself, buried forever under the rubble of the Berlin wall. This also meant the final victory of capitalism, which 'ended history' according to Francis Fukuyama, and established this system as the only possible model for organising production and running society. An economic paradigm, abolishing even capitalism's 'boom and bust' cycles, had established a golden staircase which would lead towards an ever-increasing humane, fairer and civilised existence. The economic crisis of the early part of this decade, accompanied by the Iraq and Afghan wars, severely dented this prognosis. The current devastating 'great recession' has utterly discredited it. Moreover, it was Marxism – members and supporters of the Socialist Party and this journal – which predicted this. Yet we were supposed to have been relegated to the margins, destined never again to exercise an influence.

The outcome of the momentous events of 1989 was indeed a 'revolution', but a social counter-revolution, resulting in the ultimate liquidation of what remained of the planned economies of Russia and Eastern Europe. But this movement, which swept from one country to another, did not start out with this ultimate aim, particularly on the part of the masses. Nor did the capitalists – through their representatives like British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and French president François Mitterrand – expect or, initially, wholeheartedly welcome the mass movements that accompanied the collapse of the Stalinist regimes.

The brutal organ of American finance capital, the Wall Street Journal, commenting on the competition between capitalism and the 'communist' regimes of Eastern Europe, declared simply at the beginning of 1990: 'We Won'. A no less exultant Independent (8 January 1990) spoke of "confidence that – as a system – capitalism is a winner". The impression given then and since is that the Olympian soothsayers of capitalism foretold the events of 1989. Yet the Financial Times – the mouthpiece of finance capital then and now – wrote: "East Germany has no mass movement on the horizon yet, Czechoslovakia's leadership cannot allow the questioning of the source of its legitimacy in the Soviet invasion of 1968, Hungary faces dissidents, but not yet a proletariat aroused. Bulgaria will introduce Soviet-style reforms, without yet Soviet-style chaos or fledgling democracy, Romania and Albania are clamped in iron". This was written by John Lloyd, formerly of the New Statesman, not three decades before but on 14 October 1989, less than a month before the collapse of the Berlin wall!

Understanding Stalinism

In mitigation for this 'relapse' in 'perspectives', the late Hugo Young wrote in The Guardian newspaper (29 December 1989) that "not a single seer foresaw" the momentous events of that year. This is not true. It was precisely the Marxist theoretician, Leon Trotsky, with his 'antediluvian' methods, who more than half a century before had foretold the inevitable revolt of the working class against Stalinism (at that time confined to the 'Soviet Union'). He predicted a mass movement to overthrow the bureaucratic usurpers who controlled the state and a political revolution to establish workers' democracy. But he also wrote in the 1930s in his monumental work, The Revolution Betrayed, that a wing of the bureaucracy could preside over a return to capitalism.

This idea was not sucked out of Trotsky's thumb but was grounded in meticulous analysis of the contradictions of Stalinist misrule and the forces that this would inevitably conjure up. Karl Marx pointed out that the key to history was the development of the productive forces – science, technique, and the organisation of labour. He also said that no system disappears without exhausting all the possibilities latent within it. Capitalism, an economic system based on production for profit – the unpaid labour of the working class – as its raison d'être, rather than social need, faces a cycle of 'boom and bust', which even Gordon Brown is now forced to recognise. But, as Trotsky analysed, Stalinism – for different reasons to capitalism – by exercising a bureaucratic stranglehold, would become an absolute fetter on the further economic development of society at a certain stage.

In the period until probably the end of the 1970s, despite the monstrosities of Stalin and the regime he presided over – the purge trials, the slave labour of the gulag – industry and society did develop. At this stage, despite the colossal overheads arising from bureaucratic misrule, Stalinism played a relatively progressive role. There were some analogies with capitalism with its rise in the nineteenth century until 1914, when it became a barrier to further progress, signified by the horrors of the first world war. Faced with stagnation, regression and even disintegration, which is what occurred in the Stalinist states – particularly in Russia from the late 1970s – the regimes lurched from one expedient to another. They moved from centralisation to decentralisation and then to recentralisation in vain attempts to escape from the bureaucratic dead end.

The methods of bureaucratic rule, of commandism, could have some effect when the task in Russia was to borrow industrial techniques from the West, develop an industrial infrastructure, etc, and when the cultural level of the mass of the working class and the peasantry was still low. But by the 1970s, Russia had become highly industrialised and, even if some of the claims of success were exaggerated, an industrial rival to the USA. It did produce more scientists and technicians at one stage than even the US. But the very creation of a more culturally advanced workforce – highly educated in some senses – meant that rule from the top came into collision with the needs of industry and society. Prices for millions of commodities, for instance, were set bureaucratically in the central ministries in Moscow as the regime became more and more of an impediment. Mass discontent grew and was reflected not just in the attempts at political revolution in Hungary in 1956, Poland, Czechoslovakia in 1968, etc, but also Russia. The strikes in 1962 in Novocherkassk, for instance, showed the danger which threatened the continued rule of the bureaucracy.

Lifting the lid

It was in this situation that Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union representing a more 'liberal' wing of the bureaucracy, pledged to open up through perestroika (restructuring politics and the economy) and glasnost (openness). In subsequent historical accounts, Gorbachev has become the figure presiding over the return to capitalism in Russia and the liquidation of the former USSR. However, he did not start out with this intention. Like all ruling classes or elites, and in the tradition of former bureaucratic rulers from Stalin onwards, feeling the mass rumblings of discontent from below, Gorbachev tried desperately to introduce reforms as a means of heading off revolution. Inevitably, a slight lifting of the pressure cooker produces the result of mass revolt, which it was intended to avoid.

In commenting on 1989, capitalist representatives have dropped their usual hesitation with even uttering the word 'revolution'. This contrasts with their description – repeated ad nauseum, particularly in the recent biography of Trotsky by Robert Service – of Russia's October revolution of 1917 as a 'coup'. In describing 1989 as a revolution, they are at least half correct. There were the beginnings of a revolution – to be more precise, elements of a political revolution – in East Germany, Romania, Czechoslovakia, China with the Tiananmen Square events, and even in Russia itself, even though the mass movement did not reach the same heights. In all these countries there was an unmistakeable expression, initially, for democratic reform within the system, which was an implicit acceptance of the continuation of the planned economy. This movement swept with tremendous speed like a prairie fire from one country to another. A poster in Prague at the time read: 'Poland – 10 years. Hungary – 10 months. East Germany – 10 weeks. Czechoslovakia – 10 days. Romania! 10 hours'.

Moreover, the methods used to blow away the Stalinist regimes were mass demonstrations and general strikes – not the usual methods of bourgeois counter-revolution – with demands aimed at cutting down or abolishing the bureaucracy's privileges. In one of many reports in Militant (predecessor of The Socialist) prior to the collapse of the Stalinist regime in East Germany, the demand for democracy was evident. On 24 October, we reported: "A few thousand youth were marching through the streets. They were blocked by rows of police who linked arms. The youth marched right up to them and started chanting 'You are the people's police. We are the people. Who are you protecting?' They sang the Internationale then they started a song from the struggles against the fascists called 'The Workers' United Front'. Its words had a particular effect on the police: 'You belong to the workers' united front also, because you are workers as well'. The police simply stood and were brushed aside as the youths surged forward. In the pubs, corps of soldiers openly discussed with workers and youth. One group was discussing the prospect of the regiment being ordered to fire on demonstrators. A conscript interjected: 'They may order it but we will never fire on the people. If they do that we may turn on the officers instead'."

In Russia posters appeared: 'Not the people for socialism but socialism for the people; do away with the special privileges for politicians and bureaucrats, servants of the people should have to stand in queues'. At this stage, one opinion poll in Russia showed that only 3% would vote for a capitalist party in multiparty elections. The serious representatives of capitalism feared that the demands for a political revolution would take precedence over the pro-capitalist mood that undoubtedly existed in some layers. One, perhaps even two, million workers were on the streets of Beijing, with half a million greeting Gorbachev in May. After the bloody suppression of Tiananmen, former British Tory prime minister Edward Heath appeared on television alongside Henry Kissinger, president Nixon's notorious right-hand man in the bombing of Vietnam and Cambodia. Heath stated: "The Chinese students and workers aren't after the sort of democracy we advocate… they were singing the Internationale". Kissinger complained that it was 'unfortunate' that the mass movement had sullied the end of Chinese leader Deng Xiao-Ping's career.

For the record, both opposed the spilling of blood. But more important for them was the maintenance of trade and other relations with the Chinese bureaucracy. Sickeningly, right-wing Labour MP Gerald Kaufman – famous recently for having his hand in the till over MPs' expenses –then Labour's foreign affairs spokesperson, declared: "One could understand the Chinese government wanting to get control of the square, although they have gone immeasurably too far in retrieving control".

Alarm in the west

Thatcher also expressed alarm at events in Eastern Europe, particularly the prospect of German reunification after the collapse of the Berlin wall. Files recently smuggled out of Russia and published in The Times in September mention that Thatcher "two months before the fall of the wall… told President Gorbachev that neither Britain nor Western Europe wanted the reunification of Germany and made clear that she wanted the Soviet leader to do what he could to stop it". She stated: "We do not want a united Germany… This would lead to a change in post-war borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the stability of the whole international situation and could endanger our security".

In a meeting with Gorbachev she insisted that the tape was turned off. Unfortunately for her, notes were taken of her remarks. She did not mind what was happening in Poland, where the Communist Party was defeated in the first open vote in Eastern Europe since the Stalinist takeover, "just some of the changes in Eastern Europe". Incredibly, particularly given the subsequent bellicose statements of US president George Bush senior on the Warsaw Pact, she wanted it to "remain in place". She particularly expressed her "deep concern" at what was happening in East Germany.

Mitterrand was also alarmed at the prospect of German reunification and even contemplated a military alliance with Russia "to stop it". He was prepared to camouflage this as "the joint use of armies to fight natural disasters" used, in effect, as a warning against the East German masses going too far. On the one side, the stance of Thatcher and Mitterrand expressed the fear of a strengthened German capitalism, but also that the repercussions of these developments could trigger an uncontrolled mass movement in Western Europe and elsewhere. One of Mitterrand's advisers, Jacques Attali, even said he would "go and live on Mars if [German] unification occurred". Thatcher wrote in her memoirs: "If there is one instance in which a foreign policy I pursued met with unambiguous failure, it was my policy on German reunification".

Gorbachev and his Kremlin entourage, while flattered by the hosannas to him in western capitalist circles, were panicking at the pace and sequence of events in Eastern Europe. Gorbachev naïvely believed that by partial concessions, a refusal to prop up the Stalinist dinosaurs in East Germany (he thought Erich Honecker, East Germany's unbending autocrat, was an 'arsehole'), the masses would be grateful and call it a day. Gorbachev had no intention at the outset to 'liberalise' Stalinism out of existence. He certainly had no declared intention of ushering in capitalism. But, like the rest of the ruling Stalinist regimes, he was dragged along by events. It was not just Honecker, the Ceaucescus in Romania, the ruling Stalinist gangs in Bulgaria and elsewhere who were toppled. Eventually the movements in Eastern Europe – on the 'periphery' of Stalinism – spread to the Russian heartland. The net result was a return to capitalism throughout Eastern Europe and Russia itself.

Was capitalist restoration inevitable?

Was this an inevitable outcome? There is no 'inevitability' in history if, when conditions for revolution mature, the 'subjective factor' is present in the form of a tried and tested revolutionary leadership and party. This was clearly missing in all the Stalinist states, particularly in Russia itself. There was widespread revulsion at the untrammelled rule of the bureaucracy and demands for cutting down privileges and wide-scale corruption. There was a yearning, a searching by the masses for the programme of workers' democracy in all the states. Events, moreover, were being driven on the streets, in the factories and workplaces in the main. Prior to this, Marxists hoped and believed that it was possible that on the morrow of a mass revolt, even with a limited number of Marxist cadres, a mass party could be created. Then, with the necessary leadership, this could assist the masses in carrying through the tasks of the political revolution: maintaining the planned economy but renovating it on the basis of workers' democracy. But they were working in the dark, in the main, without roots or a real presence in the Stalinist states. Given the continued appearance of 'strong states' of a totalitarian character in the period right up to the events of 1989, serious mass work in particular was problematic.

This was less the case in Poland, where pronounced pro-capitalist tendencies had been evident throughout the 1980s, but emerged particularly strongly following the failure of the 1980-81 Solidarity movement. At that time, the elements of a political revolution existed even in the programme of Solidarity, although under the leadership of Lech Walesa it was under the signboard of religion, the Catholic church. Already coexisting alongside these elements were pro-capitalist sentiments. The military crushing of the Solidarity movement in 1981 was accomplished not by the Polish 'Communist' party – whose authority had completely evaporated by then – but by the Stalinist military-bonapartist regime of General Jaruzelski. This, allied to the economic upswing of capitalism throughout the 1980s, pushed into the background the hope of workers' democracy and the maintenance of the planned economy. Mass sentiment turned to other alternatives, particularly a return to capitalism, revealed during the visits of Thatcher and Bush to Poland in 1988. They received a mass greeting on the streets of Warsaw with the masses, naïvely as it turned out, expecting greater results in terms of increased living standards than the discredited Stalinist model crumbling around them.

This process was not as pronounced elsewhere, certainly not in Russia. There, the hope of a political revolution was not entirely extinguished amongst Marxists in Russia and internationally, even given the events in Poland. After all, the revolt of the Hungarian people in 1956 was accompanied by the creation of workers' councils along the model of the Russian revolution. This after the masses had been kept in the dark night of 20 years of Horthy's fascist terror followed by ten years of Stalinist terror. There was no dominant trend for a return to capitalism in 1956. The same was true in Poland in the same year, in 1970 and 1980-81. By 1968 in Czechoslovakia there were forces arguing for a return to capitalism but they were in a minority, with the overwhelming majority of the masses searching for the ideas of workers' democracy, summed up in prime minister Alexander Dubcek's phrase, 'Socialism with a human face'.

The crushing of the 1968 Czechoslovak 'Spring' – before it could blossom into the summer of a political revolution – dealt a heavy blow to the perspective of the idea of workers' democracy as a way out of the impasse of moribund Stalinism. History does not stand still; the death agony of Stalinism over a decade and more, combined with the seeming economic fireworks of the world capitalist boom of the 1980s, generated the illusion that the system 'over the wall', western capitalism, offered a better model for progress than the stultifying system of Eastern Europe and Russia.

Why the limited resistance?

One of the most perplexing issues confronting Marxists then and since was how little resistance there appeared to be amongst the mass of the population once Russia took steps in the direction of capitalism. However, an answer to this conundrum can be found in the history of Stalinism, particularly the different phases through which it passed. In particular, the purge trials organised by Stalin in 1936-38 represented a decisive turning point. By annihilating the last remnants of the Bolshevik party – destroying even the capitulators like Zinoviev and Kamenev – Stalin hoped to blot out the memory of the working class of the USSR. Until then, a couple of generations were still connected to the Russian revolution and its gains, in the form of the nationalisation of the productive forces and a plan of production.

There was generalised support, moreover, amongst the then developed layers of the working class internationally for the advantages and main conquests of the Russian revolution. This was despite the fact that, already in Russia in the 1930s, as Trotsky pointed out, there was widespread criticism of the bureaucratic regime presided over by Stalin. The advent of the Spanish revolution also had an electrifying effect in Russia, both in generating hopes for the triumph of the world revolution and for stirring the memory of what had happened in Russia two decades before. Stalin therefore conducted a 'one-sided civil war' to destroy the last vestiges of the Bolshevik party. But the purge trials went much further than this. He also used the situation – in the process maligning Trotsky and the International Left Opposition as the agents of a foreign-inspired counter-revolution in the USSR – to wipe out all remnants of the bureaucracy connected to the memory of the revolution. It was not just the Left Oppositionists who were murdered but hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants, including significant sections of the bureaucracy. Through these barbaric methods, Stalin had constructed, in effect, a bureaucratic machine that was in no way now connected with the heroic period of the October revolution. People like Nikita Khrushchev, Yuri Andropov and the rest who dominated the state for the next decades had not participated in the Bolshevik underground or in the October revolution and were, in this sense, 'without history', certainly Russia's rich revolutionary history. All the critical elements within the working class were also eliminated at this stage.

Despite the monstrous crimes of Stalinism – including the execution of the top military command of the Red Army, which facilitated Hitler's invasion in 1941 – the advantages of the planned economy were still a plus. Moreover, capitalism was plagued by crises, with the mass unemployment of the 1930s great depression. As Trotsky pointed out, there was mass opposition to Stalinism but the hand of the working class was stayed from overthrowing the regime by a combination of factors. Not least was the fear that when moving against Stalin and the bureaucracy, this would open the door to capitalist counter-revolution. At the same time, industry and society in gross general terms – and to a certain extent the living standards of the masses – went ahead despite the bureaucracy.

The death of Stalin, however, led to the revelations of Khrushchev at the 20th congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and his so-called 'thaw'. Khrushchev denounced Stalin and some of his crimes but, in reality, only 'admissible' doses of some truths were allowed. Even then these mixed-up partial truths with lies and did not touch the Stalinist myths and falsifications. Khrushchev feared going too far and the Russian Stalinist leaders like Leonid Brezhnev, who overthrew Khrushchev, clamped down on any further real 'revelations' of the crimes of Stalin and of the causes of Stalinism itself. Later, they even accepted his partial rehabilitation. Therefore, as the system began to come apart, no real Marxist alternative, never mind a developed mass consciousness or forces putting forward a programme of workers' democracy, existed in Russia.

It would have been entirely possible at the time of the collapse of Stalinism from the late 1980s to present a clear picture of the reasons for the purges, the trials, the causes of Stalinism and the alternative to this discredited system. But, ironically, the purge trials and the repressive machine had decimated any 'subjective factor' that could have developed and played a decisive role. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that there were no elements in Russia searching for a programme for workers' democracy – as the accompanying article by Rob Jones shows (page 17). But these were too weak to counter the pull of the capitalist west, particularly for a completely unprepared new generation, lured by the seeming abundance of consumer goods which they were led to believe was there for the asking.

Gangster capitalism

The return to capitalism put paid to any attempt to honestly investigate the roots and reasons for Stalinism, in preparation for a restoration of the planned economy on the basis of workers' democracy. The few who tried were overwhelmed by a wave of malicious anti-communist propaganda from so-called 'democratic' journals in the service of the emerging bourgeoisie. They were a bourgeois mirror image of the Stalinist school of falsification. Stalinist totalitarianism, it was argued, arose from the 'criminal' character of Bolshevism; the Russian revolution was a 'coup', etc.

What followed was an orgy of capitalist propaganda which flooded post-1989 Russia. This was accompanied by promises of what the then German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, predicted would be 'blooming landscapes' in a post-Stalinist world. Along the road of a return to capitalism, the masses in these states would eventually arrive at German if not American living standards. 'Via Bangladesh', retorted the small band of Marxists in Eastern Europe. At best, what could be hoped for the working class of Russia and Eastern Europe, we argued, was perhaps that they would sink to Latin American living standards. This, we have to confess today, was a hopelessly optimistic perspective. Russia experienced an unprecedented collapse in its productive forces exceeding in its scope and depth the 1930s great depression.

Between 1989-98 almost a half (45%) of its output was lost. This was accompanied by an unprecedented disintegration throughout the former USSR in the basic elements of a 'civilised' society, with murder and crime rates doubling. By the mid-1990s the murder rate stood at over 30 per 100,000 people, against one or two in Western Europe. Only two countries at that time had higher rates: South Africa and Colombia. Even the notoriously crime-ridden Brazil and Mexico figures were 50% lower than Russia. The US murder rate, the highest in the 'developed' world at 6-7 per 100,000, paled in comparison. By 2000, a third of Russia's population was living below the officially defined poverty line. Inequality had trebled.

The murder rate was a product and a symptom of unrestrained gangster capitalism. Ex-members of the Young Communist League, like the owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovitch, grabbed the lucrative part of former state enterprises – such as the oil industry – for themselves. A Chicago-style shootout on a national or even continental scale took place between different groups over the division of the state pie. The Russian economy effectively halved in size because of the destruction wrought by the return to capitalism. Real incomes in the 1990s plummeted by 40%. By the mid to late 1990s more than 44 million of Russia's 148 million people were living in poverty – defined as living on less than $32 per month. Three quarters of the population were on less than $100 a month. Suicides doubled and deaths from alcohol abuse had tripled by the mid-1990s. Infant mortality fell to third-world levels while the birth rate collapsed. In a mere five years of 'reform', life expectancy fell by two years to 72 for women and by four years to 58 for men. Incredibly, for men this was lower than a century previously! If the death rate had continued the Russian population would have collapsed by a million per year, falling to 123 million, a demographic collapse not seen since the second world war when Russia lost 25 to 30 million people. At the end of 1998 at least two million Russian children were orphaned – more than in 1945. Only about 650,000 lived in orphanages, while the rest of these unfortunate waifs were homeless!

The new bourgeoisie, in what has been described as a hellish free-for-all of 'grabification', in effect stole everything they could lay their hands on. They plundered the nation's wealth and natural resources, sold state-owned gold, diamonds, oil and gas. The horrors of the industrial revolution – the birth of modern capitalism – described graphically in Marx's Capital was as nothing compared to the monstrous crimes with which the new Russian bourgeoisie celebrated its entry into the world. This hell on Earth abated somewhat towards the end of the 1990s with a growth in national income fuelled mainly by the export of oil and gas which, in turn, was on the back of the world capitalist boom and has now juddered to a halt. Politically, the chaos of the 1990s was replaced by the 'order' of Vladimir Putin and now Dmitri Medvedev. But Russia has still not reached, in manufacturing production at least, the level of 1989-90. This is a devastating indictment of the 'rebirth' of capitalism in Russia. Compared to the healthy robust child of the industrial revolution at the birth of capitalism the modern Russian equivalent is still struggling to breathe, let alone walk and run. Truly the masses of all the ex-Stalinist states carry a terrible burden for the return of capitalism.

Far-reaching consequences

The working class internationally has also paid a heavy price. The collapse ushered in by 1989 was not just of the Stalinist apparatus but, with it, the planned economies, the main gain inherited from the Russian revolution itself. The social counter-revolution which has turned back the wheel of history in these states also decisively changed world relations for a period. Alone amongst Marxists, the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) recognised just what this reverse represented. It was an historic defeat for the working class. Before this an alternative model for running the economy – despite the monstrous distortions of Stalinism – existed in Russia, Eastern Europe and, to some extent, China as well. That was now eliminated. Fidel Castro compared the demise of these states as equivalent to 'the sun being blotted out'. For Marxists, these societies did not represent the sun. But they did, at least in their economic form, represent an alternative which, on the basis of workers' democracy, could take society forward.

While recognising what had taken place, we also showed that this defeat was not on the scale of the 1930s, when Hitler, Mussolini and Franco crushed the workers' organisations, thereby laying the basis for the catastrophe of the second world war. The defeat at the end of the 1980s was more of an ideological character which allowed the capitalist ideologues to jeer at any future socialist project.

Nevertheless, while the collapse of Stalinism was largely an ideological blow to the working class internationally, it also had serious material repercussions. It led to the wholesale political collapse of the leaders of the workers' organisations, who abandoned socialism even as a historic aim and embraced capitalist ideas in one form or another. Not just in Britain, with the advent of New Labour, but internationally the former workers' parties imploded into capitalist formations. They only differed from openly bourgeois parties in the same way as 'radical' liberal capitalist parties did in the past and still do in the USA, in the form of Democrats and Republicans – different sides of the same capitalist coin. In the trade unions, the leaderships in the main abandoned any idea of an alternative to capitalism. They therefore sought to accommodate themselves to the system, bargaining between labour and capital, rather than offering a fundamental challenge.

If you accept capitalism, you accept its logic, the laws of capitalism, especially the drive by the capitalists to maximise the greatest profitability on behalf of the bosses to the detriment of the working class. This goes hand-in-hand with 'social partnership'. This can lead to 'business trade unionism', which limits any militant movement of the working class for more than the bosses can allegedly give. In fact, the development of tame trade union leaders, accommodating to the limits of the system, together with the abandonment of the historic aim of socialism by the leaders of the workers' organisations, enormously bolstered the confidence and the power of the capitalists. This facilitated – without real resistance from the trade union leaders – the massive income disparity on a scale not seen since before the first world war. Unbridled capitalism has not been checked by the trade union leaders. On the contrary, it has given full scope to them to remorselessly squeeze the working class for greater output – with a smaller and smaller share going to wages – all on the altar of a revived capitalism.

Testing the left

The events of 1989 and their aftermath were tests for Marxists and those who claimed to stand on a Trotskyist position. With the exception of the CWI, the reaction of most Marxist organisations was found wanting to say the least. The Morenoites in Latin America (the International Workers' League, LIT) sought to bury their heads in the sand, refusing to recognise that capitalism had been restored. They only changed their position when events struck them on the nose and it was no longer possible to deny reality. The 'state capitalists' – the leadership of the International Socialist Tendency, including the British SWP – believed that Russia and Eastern Europe were not deformed workers' states but were state capitalist. The return to capitalism was not considered a defeat but a 'sideways move'. In East Germany, the IST supported the reunification of Germany on a capitalist basis. This approach was accompanied by the disastrous theory that nothing had fundamentally changed in the world and that, therefore, the 1990s were favourable to Marxism because it was the '1930s in slow motion'. Unfortunately, the adherents of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International also drew pessimistic conclusions. Their main theoretician, Ernest Mandel, confessed to Tariq Ali just before his death that the 'socialist project' was off the agenda for at least 50 years!

All of those who predicted the colossal extension of the life cycle of capitalism, accompanied by the burying of socialism for generations, were answered in theory in the arguments and ideas put forward by genuine Marxism in the last two decades. But the impact of events has been the biggest answer to the sceptics, particularly the present devastating world crisis of capitalism. The economic intervention of capitalist governments worldwide has managed to avoid an immediate repetition, perhaps only temporarily, of the world depression of the 1930s. At the same time, the consciousness of the working class of the gravity of the situation has not yet caught up with the objective situation. This partially restored the previously shattered confidence of the spokespersons of world capitalism who dreaded that mass upheavals challenging the very foundations of their system would develop on the back of this crisis.

In general, human thought is very conservative; the consciousness of the working class always lags behind events. This is reinforced when the working class has no mass organisation which can act as a point of reference in the struggle against capitalism. The right, even the far-right, seem to have been the first major political beneficiaries of this crisis. This is not unique or exceptional in the first phase of an economic crisis. Something similar also developed in some countries in the 1930s, as the British political commentator Seumus Milne pointed out recently in The Guardian. However, he was too sweeping in giving the impression that this was the immediate reaction in all countries then. The 1930s crisis also witnessed a political radicalisation amongst the working class to a much greater extent than has yet developed in this crisis.

Out of the 1930s crisis, it is true there was the strengthening of the Nazis in Germany. But also the Spanish revolution began to unfold and the masses moved into action belatedly but decisively in France from 1931 onwards. The factor that was present, although imperfect, in the 1930s and not yet present today, was mass socialist and communist parties and organisations of the working class that, formally at least, stood in opposition to capitalism. Even in the US during the crisis of 1929-33, while the working class was paralysed industrially, significant sections were radicalised politically and even the Communist Party, for instance, filled out with new members. That this has not yet happened on a significant scale is largely the result of the absence of even small mass parties of the working class, the creation of which remains an urgent task for socialists, Marxists and the labour movement. However, even then, as the attempts to create such organisations have already underlined, without a firm Marxist core providing the theoretical backbone for these formations, many of these new developments could falter, some could be stillborn and even collapse. Nevertheless, a fundamental task remains to create the basis of such formations in the next period.

1989 was a turning point in general and also for Marxism. As the most optimistic but also the most realistic trend within the labour movement, we recognised what had occurred was a significant setback for the workers' movement. But we were not thrown off balance. The collapse of Stalinism did not eliminate the inherent contradictions of capitalism. True, the system was given a boost, furthering the process of globalisation through the supply of cheap labour, a new source of exploitation, even super-exploitation by capitalism. But the very weakness of the labour movement encouraged the confidence, indeed the overweening arrogance of the ruling class, which overreached itself in the bubble economies of the last two decades. Hubris has been followed by the nemesis of this crisis. The landscape of world capitalism is not at all 'blooming' but is littered with millions of discarded unemployed workers and the growth in the army of the poor.

The working class is stirring and is fighting back. Marxism, relegated by capitalist ideologues to the margins, by squarely facing up to this situation has demonstrated its viability in this difficult period. But it is not only in periods of defeat that its advantages are shown through a sober analysis. Its programme and policies, through the Socialist Party and the CWI, in this new period of increased mobilisation by the masses against capitalism, will also come into their own. 1989 did not bury socialism or Marxism. It temporarily blurred the vision of the working class, which is now being cleared through the present crisis and the incapacity of this system to solve even the basic requirements of the mass of the peoples of the planet.

Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales)

Wednesday, 7 October 2009



 Semenjak Najib menjadi Perdana Menteri pada April tahun ini, beliau menggunakan dua pendekatan untuk memperkukuhkan UMNO dan BN yang terumbang-ambing akibat kekalahan teruk dalam Pilihanraya yang ke-12. Pertama, beliau mengumumkan beberapa pembaharuan dalam pentadbiran kerajaan dan menggariskan beberapa langkah untuk merangsangkan ekonomi negara yang yang tidak tentu arah akibat kejatuhan ekonomi dunia semata-mata untuk menambat semula hati rakyat. Kedua, kerajaan beliau menggunakan muslihat tertentu seperti tuduhan-tuduhan rasuah, politik wang dan sebagainya dengan mempergunakan jentera kerajaan seperti polis, mahkamah dan Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM) untuk mencemarkan dan seterusnya melemahkan Pakatan Rakyat.


Selepas kekalahan memalukan dalam pilihanraya yang lalu, Najib dan BN terdesak dan tertekan untuk menyelaraskan beberapa polisi-polisi kerajaan dan terpaksa menyahut beberapa hujah populis 'Agenda Ekonomi' Pakatan Rakyat yang mendapat sambutan pengundi dalam pilihanraya yang lalu. Ini adalah semata-mata untuk memulihkan kepercayaan rakyat ke atas kerajaan dan meningkatkan kredibiliti BN.

Tetapi, persoalannya, berapa jauh Najib mampu berlangkah dengan agenda "reformasi"nya. Perlaksanaan langkah-langkah tersebut amat bergantung kepada pemulihan ekonomi Malaysia akibat ketidaktentuan ekonomi global. Oleh kerana ekonomi Malaysia berlandaskan kepada ekspot, maka kondisi-kondisi luaran merupakan enjin yang melancarkan ekonomi Malaysia yang amat bergantung kepada status ekonomi dunia, pasaran kewangan dan harga barangan komoditi.

Dalam lima bulan pertama tahun ini, jumlah Pelaburan Langsung Luar Negara hanya RM4.2 billion berbanding RM46 billion pada tahun lalu. Ini kerana syarikat-syarikat negara luar telah mengurangkan modal dan pelaburan mereka di Malaysia. Maka, Najib tiada jalan lain melainkan menliberalisasikan beberapa perkhidmatan kewangan semata-mata untuk bersaing dengan negara-negara lain untuk menarik pelaburan asing. Justeru itu, Najib telah memansuhkan beberapa peraturan yang selama ini telah memastikan supaya syarikat-syarikat multinasional memenuhi kuota 30 peratus pemilikan bumiputera. Ini sekaligus, telah menamatkan polisi berusia 40 tahun yang telah dilancarkan oleh Bapa Najib, Tun Razak Hussein yang juga Perdana Menteri Malaysia yang kedua. Langkah-langkah tersebut adalah semata-mata untuk memberikan lebih kemudahan dan ruang untuk kapitalis-kapitalis antarabangsa untuk mengeksploitasi sumber-sumber alam dan kuasa buruh di negara ini. Namun demikian untuk membolehkan Pelaburan Langsung Luar Negara mampu masuk ke Malaysia, permintaan dan prestasi ekonomi di negara-negara seperti Amerika, Jepun, China dan Eropah masih merupakan faktor penting.

Walaubagaimanapun, pada realitinya, "reformasi" ekonomi Najib masih tidak memansuhkan sistem penaungan dan langkah-langkah perlindungan yang telah dipraktikkan oleh kerajaan untuk melindungi kapital-kapitalis nasional dan syarikat-syarikat (seperti Petronas, TNB, MAS, Simedarby, Proton dan lain-lain) yang terikat dengan kerajaan. Tindakan-tindakan penaungan seperti pemberian kontrak-kontrak tertentu kepada krono-kroni UMNO diteruskan tanpa sekatan. Sebab itulah, tiada banyak tentangan daripada ahli-ahli UMNO ke atas tindakan liberalisasi ekonomi Najib. "UMNO perlu menuruti polisi menliberalisasi ekonomi kerajaan tetapi UMNO masih perlu memastikan supaya masyarakat Melayu setia menyokongnya," hujah Ibrahim Suffian, pengarah Merdeka Center, sebuah badan pengkritik bebas. Selain daripada mewujudkan kelas kapitalis Melayu, kontrak-kontrak kerajaan juga merupakan 'habuan' untuk lebih 30,000 kontraktor, yang mana kebanyakannya adalah ketua-ketua bahagian UMNO yang menjadi landasan sokongan kepada pemimpin-pemimpin dalam UMNO.Oleh yang demikian, kapitalis Melayu dan juga Syarikat-Syarikat yang terikat dengan kerajaan akan terus mendapat perlindungan walaupun liberalisasi ekonomi tersebut dilaksanakan.

Namun demikian di belakang tabir, BN terus mempraktikkan politik "pecah dan perintah" dengan terus menerus mempelopori sistem naungan. Pada masa yang sama, mereka terus mengkaburi rakyat biasa dengan mempropagandakan konsep "satu Malaysia", dengan omong-omongan bahawa setiap rakyat Malaysia tanpa mengira kaum mempunyai hak yang sama. Kini, slogan Najib- "Satu Malaysia, Rakyat Didahulukan, Pencapaian Diutamakan" – telah menjadi 'ayat suci' yang dipropagandakan melalui setiap media dan jentera kerajaan. Retorik tersebut diolah terutamanya untuk menambat semula sokongan masyarakat bukan-Melayu yang kebanyakannya pada masa kini menaruh harapan kepada Pakatan.

Setelah mengharungi 100 hari sebagai Perdana Menteri, Najib mengumumkan beberapa langkah-langkah populis untuk mendapatkan semula sokongan rakyat dengan menjanjikan bahawa pentadbirannya "akan memberi keutamaan untuk membendung jenayah, membasmi rasuah, memperbaiki sistem pendidikan, meningkatkan pendapatan rumah-tangga, meningkatkan perkhidmatan di kawasan luar bandar, dan meningkatkan pengangkutan awam untuk memastikan setiap insan di Malaysia mendapat manfaat". Janji-janji sedemikian bukanlah satu perkara yang baru kepada rakyat Malaysia. Ketika pentadbiran Tun Abdullah Badawi janji-janji sedemikian ditaburkan sehingga ianya mengkuburkan masa depan politik beliau apabila rakyat biasa mendapati beliau "cakap tak serupa bikin".

Janji-janji lain Najib, seperti mengusulkan undang-undang dan pembaharuan untuk memperkasakan sistem kehakiman dan sistem Polis masih lagi "hangat-hangat tahi ayam". Manakala rasuah dan penyalahgunaan kuasa terus bermaharajalela. Pada masa yang sama skandal RM12 billion Zon Bebas Pelabuhan Kelang, di mana projek pembangunan pelabuhan tersebut dianugerahkan kepada kroni-kroni politik UMNO dan MCA tanpa sebarang proses tawar-menawar yang terbuka, dan isu pengulingan kuasa di Negeri Perak, masih tidak ada sebarang penyelesaian yang adil. Semua tindakan-tindakan sedemikian menggambarkan Kerajaan Najib tidak banyak bezanya daripada pentadbiran-pentadbiran sebelum ini, iaitu hanya penuh dengan retorik, tetapi bankrap dalam perlaksanaan.

Konsep 'satu Malaysia' Najib hanyalah satu lagi retorik politik, dan tidak akan berjaya untuk membahagikan kekayaan negara secara saksama dan adil tanpa mengira kaum, selagi wujud penindasan dan prasangka kaum yang dipelopori oleh kerajaan pro-kapitalis. Hak dan keperluan kelas pekerja dan rakyat biasa terus menerus ditindas dan dianaktirikan di bawah sistem ini yang hanya bermotifkan kepada keuntungan maksima.

Sekalipun, semenjak Pilihanraya yang ke-12, Pakatan telah memenangi kesemua pilihanraya kecil di Semenanjung Malaysia, tetapi kekuatan sebenarnya masih tidak teruji di kubu kuat Barisan di negeri-negeri seperti Johor, Melaka, Pahang dan di Sabah dan Sarawak. Jadi, sama ada Pakatan berupaya memenangi Pilihanraya Umum yang akan datang masih tidak jelas disebabkan faktor-faktor seperti: situasi ekonomi negara, prestasi Najib dan Kerajaan Barisan dalam memenuhi janji-janji mereka dalam satu atau dua tahun yang akan datang, dan sama ada Pakatan boleh memperkasakan gabunganya sebagai pilihan jelas kepada BN.

Walaubagaimanapun, pengundian rawak yang dilakukan oleh Merdeka Center pada bulan Julai menunjukkan bahawa sokongan kepada kerajaan Najib telah meningkat kepada 65 peratus daripada 42 peratus sebelum beliau menjadi Perdana Menteri di ambang tuduhan pembunuhan dan rasuah oleh Pakatan. Peningkatan sokongan tersebut adalah akibat kegagalan Pakatan dalam memberikan alternatif konkrit untuk menyahut dan menjelaskan retorik dan polisi Najib. Selama ini, Pakatan juga tidak berupaya mengusulkan pilihan jelas untuk mencabar sistem yang dipelopori oleh kerajaan BN yang hanya berlandaskan kepada keuntungan, untuk meningkatkan taraf hidup dan seterusnya melindungi demokrasi dan keperluan rakyat biasa.


Adalah tidak dapat dinafikan, semenjak Najib mengambil alih kuasa pentadbiran, beliau bersama Barisan telah merancang untuk mencemarkan dan melemahkan Pakatan dan pemimpin-pemimpinnya dengan menggunakan berbagai taktik kotor dengan mempergunakan jentera-jentera kerajaan seperti polis, mahkamah, undang-undang dan lain-lain. Tuduhan kes sodomi kedua kerajaan terhadap Anwar Ibrahim, menunjukkan kerajaan Najib bersedia menggunakan apa jua kaedah untuk menjahanamkan reputasi Anwar dan menghadkan penglibatan politik beliau. Ini secara tidak langsung adalah untuk memecah-belahkan Pakatan yang selama ini telah bersatu di bawah kepimpinan Anwar untuk mencabar BN dan memenangi Kerajaan Persekutuan.

Selain itu, kerajaan BN juga cuba mempergunakan muslihat-muslihat jahat dengan mengumpan ADUN dan MP untuk melompat ke pangkuan Barisan untuk mengucar-kacirkan kerajaan-kerajaan negeri yang dikuasai oleh Pakatan.

Mereka telah berjaya dengan taktik sedemikian di Negeri Perak dan sekarang sedang cuba mempergunakan kaedah yang sama di Negeri Kedah dan Selangor.

Kematian Teoh Beng Hock, seorang pembantu politik kepada seorang Exco Kerajaan Selangor, ketika di bawah siasatan Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM), telah menaikkan kemarahan rakyat biasa dan sekaligus telah menjatuhkan kredibiliti SPRM. Serangan berterusan ke atas ahli-ahli politik Pakatan menunjukkan muslihat jahat Barisan untuk melemahkan Pakatan. Pada masa yang sama, ahli-ahli politik UMNO dan BN yang korup dan menyalahgunakan kuasa tidak disiasat atau dituduh oleh SPRM.


Ini menunjukkan politik Malaysia tidak memberikan hak saksama kepada pembangkang, di mana BN sentiasa mempunyai kelebihan berbanding dengan pembangkang. BN sudah berkuasa lebih 50 tahun dan pemerintahannya terus menerus memenuhi keperluan kapitalis-kapitalis tempatan dan antarabangsa untuk memaksimumkan keuntungan. Di dalam proses tersebut, hak-hak demokratik dan keperluan rakyat biasa dihadkan dan ditindas. Akibatnya, rakyat biasa tanpa pilihan lain terpaksa berjuang untuk mempertahankan hak dan keperluan mereka.

Walaupun Pakatan menentang tindakan-tindakan tidak demokratik kerajaan BN, tetapi pada masa yang sama terus-menerus menyokong sistem pasaran bebas kapitalisma yang sewenang-wenangnya mancabul hak dan kebajikan rakyat biasa.

Sifat penindasan sistem kapitalisma menggalakkan kerajaan mempergunakan tindakan-tindakan kotor untuk memenuhi keperluan keuntungan kapitalisma. Ini menunjukkan kerajaan hanyalah alat kepada kapitalis-kapitalis untuk memaksimumkan keuntungan. Oleh itu, perjuangan untuk hak-hak demokratik mestilah bersama dengan perjuangan untuk merubah sistem kapitalisma.


Pakatan, pada Pilihanraya yang lalu telah mempergunakan beberapa slogan seperti "Agenda Ekonomi untuk pengagihan kekayaan yang adil", "Gaji minima RM1500", "Negara Berkebajikan", "Ekonomi Rakyat", "Pemansuhan DEB (Dasar Ekonomi Baru)", "Pemulihan Pilihanraya Kerajaan Tempatan" dan sebagainya untuk meraih sokongan rakyat biasa yang telah muak dengan politik perkauman BN. Hakikatnya, setelah lebih setahun mentadbir beberapa negeri, rakyat biasa tidak nampak perubahan-perubahan yang dijanjikan oleh Pakatan. Ini kerana, Pakatan dengan retorik 'Kuasa Rakyat' tidak mempunyai perspektif untuk memperkukuhkan hak dan kebajikan majoriti rakyat biasa- kelas pekerja, anak muda, pelajar, petani miskin dan lain-lain yang ditindas oleh kerajaan BN dan sistem kapitalisma-, tetapi hanya melaung-laungkan ketidakpuashatian mereka terhadap serangan politik yang tidak demokratik oleh kerajaan BN terhadap mereka. Pada masa yang sama, perspektif dan penyelesaian kepada isu-isu sosial dan ekonomi seperti inflasi, gaji rendah, perumahan dan sebagainya yang mencetuskan kemarahan rakyat biasa ketika Pilihanraya ke-12, terus-menerus diabaikan oleh Pakatan.

Anwar dan pemimpin-pemimpin Pakatan yang lain hanya berupaya untuk berucap bahawa, "Kita akan buktikan bahawa kita akan menjadi kerajaan yang lebih baik apabila kita mengambilalih kerajaan persekutuan". Pada dasarnya mereka cuba mendorong kepada sistem dua parti untuk melindungi kapitalisma seperti yang diamalkan di Amerika (Parti Democrats dan Parti Republicans) dan di Britain (Parti Labour dan Parti Conservative).

Ini menunjukkan bahawa untuk kelas pekerja, anak muda dan rakyat biasa umumnya, tiada pilihan jelas. Barisan dan Pakatan dengan terus terang menyokong sistem pasaran bebas kapitalisma dengan hanya sedikit berbezaan di antara mereka, di mana Pakatan melaungkan kepada perlunya satu kerajaan yang telus dan bebas daripada rasuah. Walaubagaimanapun dalam kebanyakan isu, kerajaan-kerajaan negeri Pakatan terpaksa tunduk kepada desakan kapitalis-kapitalis ( seperti pemaju dan pelabor) daripada memperjuangkan hak dan keperluan rakyat pekerja dan golongan tertindas.

Isu Kampung Buah Pala di Pulau Pinang, merupakan salah satu isu yang menunjukkan sifat pro-kapitalisma Kerajaan Pakatan. Lim Guan Eng, Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang, telah menunjukkan ketidakupayaan beliau untuk melindungi tanah dan perumahan warisan masyarakat Buah Pala akibat pengkhianatan yang dilakukan oleh Kerajaan BN sebelumnya, daripada dirobohkan oleh pemaju . Di dalam konflik tersebut, Lim hanya menunjukkan bahawa beliau hanya berupaya menjadi seorang perantara yang baik di antara masyarakat Buah Pala dan pemaju, tetapi akhirnya rundingan tersebut menyebelahi kehendak pemaju yang rakus untuk menggondol keuntungan berbillion-billion ringgit. Lim dan kerajaan Pakatan telah membuktikan bahawa mereka tidak berdaya untuk mencabar kehendak pemaju untuk melindungi budaya dan warisan sejarah yang beratus-ratus tahun seperti yang dikehendaki oleh masyarakat Kg Buah Pala.

Sebaliknya, di dalam isu yang seakan-akan sama di Bukit Cina dalam tahun 1980an, apabila Lim adalah pembangkang kepada kerajaan BN negeri Melaka, beliau telah berjuang bersama masyarakat di situ untuk melindungi hak mereka sehingga berjaya menyelematkan Bukit Cina daripada diruntuhkan oleh Kerajaan BN. Di majlis ulang tahun ke -20 'Selamatkan Bukit Cina' pada tahun 2004, Lim menyatakan bahawa, " Perjuangan ini menunjukkan betapa pentingnya untuk melindungi warisan budaya dan sejarah daripada projek-projek pembangunan yang hanya berlandaskan kepada keuntungan. Kedua-dua BN dan MCA hanya melihat tanda ringgit apabila mereka mencadangkan untuk meruntuhkan tanah perkuburan yang tertua di Malaysia untuk membina perumahan, kedai dan pasaraya".

Salah seorang penduduk Kg. Buah Pala dengan marah berkata: "Apabila Pakatan tiada dalam kerajaan mereka berkata mereka bersama rakyat, tetapi apabila mereka jadi kerajaan mereka tidak buat apa-apa untuk melindungi hak rakyat biasa !". Isu tersebut membuktikan sifat tidak berpendirian parti-parti pro-kapitalis yang tunduk kepada kehendak kapitalisma apabila mereka menjadi pemerintah. Akibatnya, rakyat biasa tiada pilihan lain daripada berjuang dengan kekuatan mereka untuk mempertahankan hak mereka.

Politik Pakatan yang tidak konsisten dan hipokrit boleh melemahkan sokongan rakyat yang diterima olehnya dalam pilihanraya yang lalu. Ini boleh dilihat dalam beberapa isu yang melibatkan parti PAS.

Baru-baru ini, PAS menuntut agar SIS (Sisters in Islam) - sebuah NGO yang memperjuangkan hak-hak wanita Islam yang tertindas akibat undang-undang Syariah dan polisi kerajaan BN- diharamkan, dan pada masa yang sama ia terus melaungkan hak bersuara dan demokrasi. Manakala beberapa pemimpin PAS pula cenderung untuk berkerjasama dengan UMNO untuk memperkuatkan dominasi politik Melayu atau Muslim, walaupun PAS merupakan aggota Pakatan yang mendorong kepada politik pelbagai kaum.

Slogan PAS, "PAS untuk Semua", adalah bertujuan untuk mengumpan pengundi-pengundi bukan Melayu. Tetapi pada masa yang sama, PAS cuba menyemarakkan isu-isu sensitif masyarakat beragama Islam semata-mata untuk memelihara sokongan masyarakat Melayu, dan ini menaikkan kemarahan masyarakat bukan Muslim . Tindakan-tindakan sebegini menimbulkan konflik di antara PAS dan DAP yang boleh melemahkan kredibiliti Pakatan.

Ini menunjukkan betapa pentingnya bagi pejuang sosialis dan kesatuan sekerja untuk mengambil posisi tidak memihak kepada parti-parti pro-kapitalis untuk memelihara posisi bebas kelas pekerja. Pada masa yang sama mereka harus kritikal terhadap retorik-retorik populis dan sifat hipokrit Barisan dan Pakatan untuk memperkasakan perjuangan kelas serta membangunkan organisasi kelas pekerja dan anak muda.


Pertaruhan kuasa di antara Barisan dan Pakatan, menjurus kepada serangan peribadi dan ini amat mengecewakan rakyat biasa. Rakyat biasa menaruh harapan tinggi untuk meningkatkan hak dan keperluan asas mereka, tetapi kedua-dua Barisan dan Pakatan tidak mewakili hasrat kelas pekerja dan anak muda.

Beberapa pihak berhaluan Kiri, aktivis sosial dan juga pemimpin-pemimpin kesatuan sekerja menaruh harapan kepada Pakatan di mana apabila ianya berkuasa, hak dan ruang demokrasi yang lebih baik boleh dimenangi. Jika Pakatan membentuk kerajaan persekutuan, ada kemungkinan perubahan-perubahan dan hak demokratik tertentu dilaksanakan atas desakan kelas pekerja dan rakyat biasa yang menuntut perubahan. Tetapi, ekonomi Malaysia yang berlandaskan kepada ekspot bergantung kepada ekonomi pasaran bebas, yang bermakna kerajaan yang pro-kapitalis juga akan didominasi dan ditekan untuk tunduk kepada keperluan-keperluan keuntungan sistem kapitalisma. Dalam keadaan sedemikian, kapitalis-kapitalis selalunya lebih berkuasa daripada kerajaan itu sendiri, maka hak-hak demokratik tertentu yang diperolehi pada suatu peringkat masa boleh diambil balik jika ianya tidak selaras dengan sistem keuntungan kapitalisma.

Baru-baru ini, beberapa pemimpin HINDRAF melancarkan parti untuk memperjuangkan hak masyarakat India selepas mempertikaikan bahawa Pakatan gagal untuk memperjuangkan hak masyarakat India yang tertindas. Mungkin mereka mempunyai hujah yang berasas, tetapi melancarkan sebuah lagi parti perkauman tidak akan menyelesaikan isu-isu sosial dan ekonomi kelas pekerja dan rakyat miskin masyarakat India.

Kebanyakan isu yang dipertengahkan oleh HINDRAF, seperti golongan India dianaktirikan daripada pembangunan adalah berpunca daripada polisi-polisi pro-kapitalis dan agenda neo-liberal kerajaan BN, dan Pakatan pula gagal untuk menggariskan penyelesaian ke atas isu-isu tersebut. Kebanyakan isu-isu tersebut juga sedang dialami oleh kelas pekerja dan anak muda daripada masyarakat Melayu dan Cina. Kesimpulannya, kelas pekerja dan anak muda tanpa mengira kaum dan agama sedang berhadapan dengan 'musuh' yang sama, iaitu kezaliman sistem kapitalisma.

Justeru itu, pembinaan parti atau organisasi politik dengan posisi bebas berlandaskan kepada kelas pekerja adalah perlu untuk menyatukan pekerja, anak muda, pelajar dan golongan lain yang tertindas akibat politik pro-kapitalisma. Hanya inilah satu-satunya pendekatan untuk memperjuangkan hak dan membina masa depan kita. Semakin ramai warga pekerja dan anak muda yang sedar telah hilang harapan dengan Pakatan dengan agenda pro-kapitalisnya dan menyokong idea untuk membangunkan organisasi politik alternatif untuk kelas pekerja dan anak muda. Alternatif ini seharusnya berlandaskan kepada idea dan perspektif sosialis sebagai penyelesaian kepada kezaliman sistem kapitalisma. Inilah satu-satunya langkah ke hadapan untuk membina masyarakat yang adil, demokratik dan saksama :- masyarakat sosialis untuk memenuhi keperluan majoriti-kelas pekerja, anak muda dan golongan tertindas-tanpa mengira kaum, agama dan jantina.


Thursday, 1 October 2009



It is an especially nervous Communist Party (CCP) regime that presides over the 60th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the People's Republic of China on 1 October. The regime is increasingly dependent on Olympic-style pageantry to shore up its support, and despite decades of record-breaking economic growth now faces mounting discontent from workers, farmers and youth.

Mao Zedong, who led the CCP to power 60 years ago, is hailed as founder of the nation, but today's official view is that his policies were 'ultra left' and needed to be corrected by the pro-market turn of his successor Deng Xiaoping in 1978. To learn China's true revolutionary history we must look elsewhere.

The CCP did not come to power at the head of a working class movement. With its Stalinist outlook and methods it initially stood for a relatively limited agenda to establish a 'new democracy', while keeping a capitalist economy. But almost despite itself, the CCP was thrown forward by one of the mightiest revolutionary waves in world history.

It was this mass revolutionary fervour, within the international framework that emerged following the Second World War, that pushed Mao's regime to introduce changes that fundamentally transformed China.

China had long been known as the 'sick man of Asia' - it was poor even by the standards of Asia at that time. With its huge population (475 million in 1949) China was the world's biggest 'failed state' for almost half a century.

From 1911 to 1949 it was torn between rival warlords, with a corrupt central government, and bullied by foreign powers. Ending the humiliating foreign customs houses and the stationing of imperialist armies on Chinese soil was just one of the many practical gains of the revolution. Mao's regime also introduced one of the most far-reaching land reforms in world history - not as big as Russia's but encompassing a rural population four times as large.

Agrarian revolution

This agrarian revolution, as the historian Maurice Meisner points out, "destroyed China's gentry-landlords as a social class, thus finally eliminating the longest-lived ruling class in world history and one that long had stood as a major impediment to China's resurrection and modernisation".

In 1950, Mao's government enacted a Marriage Law that prohibited arranged marriages, concubinage and bigamy, and made divorce easier for both sexes. This was one of the most dramatic governmental shake-ups in the field of marital and family relationships ever attempted.

When the CCP took power four-fifths of the population were illiterate. This was reduced to less than 10% by 1976, when Mao died. Reflecting its crushing backwardness, there were only 83 public libraries in the whole of China before 1949 and just 80,000 hospital beds. By 1975 there were 1,250 libraries and 1.6 million hospital beds.

Average life expectancy, just 35 years in 1949, was raised to 65 years in the same time-span. Innovations in public healthcare and education, reform (simplification) of the written alphabet, and later the network of 'barefoot doctors' that covered most villages, transformed conditions for the rural poor. These achievements, at a time when China was much poorer than today, are an indictment of the present day crisis in healthcare and education, the result of marketisation and privatisation.

The abolition of feudalism was a crucial precondition for launching China on the path of modern industrial development. At first, Mao's regime hoped for an alliance with sections of the capitalists, and left significant sections of the economy in private hands. By the mid-1950s though, it had been forced to go all the way, expropriating even the 'patriotic capitalists' and incorporating their businesses into a state plan modelled on the bureaucratic system of planning in the Soviet Union.

Compared to a regime of genuine workers' democracy, the Maoist-Stalinist plan was a rather blunt instrument, but it was an instrument all the same, incomparably more vital than enfeebled and corrupt Chinese capitalism.

Given the low base of China's economy at the start of this process, the industrialisation achieved during its planned economy phase was truly astonishing. From 1952 to 1978, industry's share of GDP rose from 10% to 35% (OECD Observer 1999). This is one of the most rapid rates of industrialisation ever achieved, greater than Britain in 1801-41 or Japan in 1882-1927. In this period China created aircraft, nuclear, marine, automotive and heavy machinery industries. GDP measured in purchasing power parities increased 200%, while per capita income rose by 80%.

Comparing revolutions

The two great revolutions of the last century, the Russian (1917) and Chinese (1949), did more to shape the world we live in than any other events in human history. Both were the result of the complete inability of capitalism and imperialism to solve the fundamental problems of humankind. Both were also mass movements on an epic scale, not military coups as many capitalist politicians and historians claim. Having said this, there were fundamental, decisive differences between these revolutions.

The social system established by Mao was one of Stalinism rather than socialism. The isolation of the Russian Revolution following the defeat of revolutionary movements in Europe and elsewhere in the 1920s and 30s, led to the rise of a conservative bureaucracy under Stalin, which rested upon the state-owned economy from which it drew its power and privileges.

All elements of workers' democracy - management and control by elected representatives and the abolition of privileges - were crushed.

Yet, as Leon Trotsky explained, a planned economy needs workers' democratic control like a human body needs oxygen. Without this, under a regime of bureaucratic dictatorship, the potential of a planned economy can be thrown away and ultimately, as was proved two decades ago, the entire edifice is threatened with destruction.

Yet it was this Stalinist model that the CCP adopted when it took power in 1949. While this was a far cry from genuine socialism, the existence of an alternative economic system to capitalism, and the visible gains this entailed for the mass of the population, exercised a powerful radicalising effect on world politics.

China and Russia, by virtue of their state-owned economies, played a role in forcing capitalism and imperialism to make concessions, particularly in Europe and Asia.

The Chinese revolution increased the pressure on the European imperialists to exit their colonies in the southern hemisphere. It also caused US imperialism to sponsor rapid industrialisation in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea and use these states as buffers against the spread of revolution, which it feared following China's example.

While both the Russian and Chinese revolutions were led by mass communist parties, there were fundamental differences between them in terms of programme, methods, and above all their class base. The 1917 Russian Revolution was proletarian in character - a factor of decisive importance.

This invested it with the political independence and historical audacity to launch upon a never-before tried road. The leaders of that revolution, above all Lenin and Trotsky, were internationalists and saw the revolution as the overture to a world socialist revolution.

By contrast, most CCP leaders were in reality nationalists with just a thin laminate of internationalism around this. This corresponded to the peasant base of the Chinese revolution. Lenin commented that the peasantry is the least international of all classes. Its scattered and isolated conditions of life imbue it with a parochial outlook, not even aspiring to a national perspective in many cases.

Rather than a mass workers' movement and elected workers' councils - the motor forces of the Russian revolution - and the existence of a democratic Marxist workers' party, the Bolsheviks, in China it was the peasant-based People's Liberation Army (PLA) that took power. The working class played no role, and even received orders not to strike or demonstrate but to await the arrival of the PLA into the cities.

While the peasantry is capable of great revolutionary heroism, as the history of the Red Army/PLA's struggle against Japan and the dictatorial Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) regime showed, it is incapable of playing an independent role. Just as the villages take their cue from the cities, politically the peasantry supports one or other of the urban classes - the working class or the capitalists.

In China, rather than the cities moving the countryside, the CCP came to power by building a mass following among the peasantry and then occupying the largely passive, war-weary cities. The class base of the revolution meant that it could emulate an existing societal model but not create a new one.

Stages theory

The CCP's peasant orientation developed out of the terrible defeat of the 1925-27 revolution, caused by the 'stages theory' of the Communist International under Stalin's leadership. This held that because China was only at the stage of bourgeois revolution, the communists must be prepared to support and serve Jiang Jieshi's bourgeois Nationalist Party (Guomindang). The CCP's young and impressive working class base was brutally smashed.

But while a significant Trotskyist minority formed shortly after this defeat, drawing correct conclusions that the working class and not the capitalists must lead the Chinese revolution, the majority of CCP leaders held to the Stalinist stages concept, although ironically they broke with it in practice after taking power in 1949.

In the late 1920s therefore, the main group of CCP cadres, drawn mostly from the intelligentsia, went with these mistaken pseudo-Marxist ideas to wage guerrilla struggle in the countryside. Chen Duxiu, the CCP's founder and later a co-thinker and supporter of Trotsky, warned that the CCP risked degenerating into "peasant consciousness" - a prophetic judgement. By 1930, only 1.6% of the party membership were workers compared to 58% in 1927.

This class composition remained almost unchanged up until the party won power in 1949, flowing automatically from the leadership's focus on the peasantry and rejection of the urban centres as the main arena of struggle.

In tandem with this was the increasing bureaucratisation of the party, the replacement of internal debate and democracy by a regime of commands and purges, and the cult of personality around Mao - all copied from Stalin's methods of rule.

A peasant milieu and a mainly military struggle are far more conducive to the growth of bureaucracy than a party immersed in mass workers' struggles. Therefore, whereas the the Russian Revolution degenerated under unfavourable historical conditions, the Chinese Revolution was bureaucratically disfigured from the outset. This explains the contradictory nature of Maoism, of important social gains alongside brutal repression and dictatorial rule.

War of occupation

When the Japanese war of occupation ended in 1945, US imperialism was unable to directly impose its own solution on China. The mood to 'bring the troops home' was too powerful. Therefore the US was left with no other option than to support Jiang Jieshi's corrupt and breathtakingly incompetent regime with massive amounts of aid and weaponry.

That Washington had little confidence in the Guomindang was shown by President Truman remarking some years later: "They're thieves, every damn one of them. They stole $750 million out of the billions we sent to Jiang".

For the masses, the Nationalist regime was unmitigated disaster. This is largely forgotten today and hence we have the grotesque phenomenon in China of the Guomindang regaining mass support especially among youth and the middle classes.

In the last years of Guomindang rule there were reports from several cities of "starving people lying untended and dying in the streets". Factories and workshops closed down due to lack of supplies or because workers were too weakened by hunger to operate them. Summary executions by government agents and rampant crime by triad gangs was the norm in big cities.

Alongside the land reform introduced in areas it liberated, the CCP's biggest asset was the hatred of the Guomindang. This also led to mass desertions of Jiang's troops to the side of the Red Army/PLA. From the autumn of 1948, with some few exceptions, in most cases Mao's armies advanced without serious opposition.

In city after city across the country, Guomindang forces either surrendered, deserted, or staged rebellions to join up with the PLA. In effect, Jiang's regime rotted from within, presenting the CCP with exceptionally favourable circumstances. Subsequent Maoist-guerrilla movements (Malaya, Philippines, Peru, Nepal) that have tried to reproduce Mao's success have not been as fortunate.

Workers' strikes

With A genuine Marxist policy, the overthrow of the Guomindang could almost certainly have been achieved more quickly and less painfully.

From September 1945, following Japan's military collapse, until late 1946, workers in all major cities staged a magnificent strike wave, with 200,000 on strike in Shanghai. Students too poured onto the streets in a nationwide mass movement that reflected the radicalisation of society's middle layers.

The students demanded democracy and opposed the Guomindang's military mobilisation for the civil war against the CCP. The workers demanded trade union rights and an end to wage freezes.

Rather than give a lead to this movement the CCP applied the brakes, urging the masses not to go to 'extremes' in their struggle. At this stage, Mao was still wedded to the perspective of a 'united front' with the 'national bourgeoisie' who should not become agitated by working class militancy.

The students were merely used as a bargaining chip by the CCP to exert pressure on Jiang to enter into peace talks. The CCP did its utmost to keep the students' and workers' struggles separate.

The inevitable laws of class struggle are such that this limitation of the movement produced defeat and demoralisation. Many student and worker activists were swept up in a wave of Guomindang repression that followed. Some were executed.

A historic opportunity was missed, prolonging the life of Jiang's dictatorship and leaving the urban masses largely passive for the remainder of the civil war.

After the revolution

In keeping with the Stalinist stages theory, in 1940 Mao wrote: "The Chinese revolution in its present stage is not yet a socialist revolution for the overthrow of capitalism but a bourgeois-democratic revolution, its central task being mainly that of combating foreign imperialism and domestic feudalism" (Mao Zedong, On New Democracy, January 1940).

In order to achieve a bloc with the 'progressive' or 'patriotic' capitalists, Mao limited the land reform (as late as autumn 1950 this had been carried out in only one-third of China). Also, while the businesses of 'bureaucratic capitalists' - Guomindang officials - were nationalised immediately, private capitalists retained their control and in 1953 accounted for 37% of GDP.

A crucial test came with the Korean War that broke out in June 1950. This brought a massive escalation of US pressure, economic sanctions, and even the threat of a nuclear attack on China.

The war and sharply polarised world situation that accompanied it (the 'cold war' between the Soviet Union and US) meant Mao's regime, in order to stay in power, had no choice but to complete the social transformation, speeding up land reform and extending its control over the whole economy.

The Chinese revolution was therefore a paradoxical, unfinished revolution, that brought monumental social progress but also created a monstrous bureaucratic dictatorship whose power and privileges increasingly undermined the potential of the planned economy.

By the time of Mao's death, the regime was deeply split and in crisis, fearing mass upheavals that could sweep it from power.

Discontent rising against Mao's successors

When China's present leaders view the huge military parade on 1 October, their thoughts may be on the growing problems they face as the global capitalist crisis bites. The government's top think-tank says 41 million jobs were lost in the last year in China as exports fell (down 23% this year). Labour struggles are up 30% this year.

The regime's jitters are shown by its decision to limit the participants in these National Day celebrations to 200,000 - a million took part 20 years ago. Beijing also banned provincial ceremonies and parades. The reason? It is terrified these events can be exploited or give rise to anti-government protests. It is not just in the Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang where the regime is increasingly running afoul of mass opposition (both Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese, for opposite reasons, have staged angry anti-government protests recently).

Students at two of Beijing's universities have boycotted the rigorous training schedule for the official 1 October ceremony and some have even burned their ceremonial outfits. A popular anti-government comment on internet sites reads: "It's your birthday, what's it to do with me?" Many youth have become hardened anti-communists, supporting global capitalism, believing this is somehow an alternative to the current regime. Others have turned to Mao's legacy, which they feel has been completely betrayed by the present regime. Within this rising social and political turbulence, genuine Marxists are trying, through the website and other publications, to win support for worldwide democratic socialism as the only way forward.

Vincent Kolo,