We present below an excellent video made by Studio Joho and based on the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins.
Mr Perkins lives in hope that present-day imperialism is some kind of aberration; that we can somehow ‘return’ or ‘reform’ our way to a fairer and saner version of capitalism. This, however, is not the case. The imperialism we see today is the inevitable result of the development of the capitalism of yesterday.
Marxists long ago pointed out that humanity was faced with a choice between socialism or barbarism. There is no way back: the only way out is forward to socialism.
A Bangladeshi woman survivor is lifted out of the rubble by rescuers at the site of a building that collapsed on Wednesday 24 April in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh.
In Greece, where unemployment has hit 27 percent, the fascist Golden Dawn party is helping to divert popular anger against capitalism into divisive xenophobic hatred of ‘foreigners stealing our jobs’.
When some 200 migrant agricultural labourers, mostly from Bangladesh, came to demand unpaid wages going back six months or more, at least 28 of them were shot and injured by gun-wielding thugs. Three of the foremen at the strawberry plantation in Nea Manolada where they worked are being blamed for the murderous assault.
This racist violence is the most recent in a string of similar attacks against Asian and African workers in Greece.
And as if to clarify what might drive Bangladeshis to leave their homes and expose themselves to such racist poison in the first place, the true face of imperialist superexploitation has been on shameful display in Bangladesh itself, with the death of over 1,000 textile workers, mostly women, when the Rana Plaza complex in which they worked collapsed.
Back in November, similar disregard by factory owners for the lives of their workers had been shown in the Tazreen factory fire. On that occasion workers were told it was a false alarm and ordered back to work. When they tried to escape, they were blocked by a locked fire door. That fire claimed 112 lives.
The grim conclusion is that whether Bangladeshi workers stay at home or travel abroad, the end result is the same: superexploitation at best, and at worst an early grave. The immediate owners of the collapsed factory may be justly pilloried, as may the thugs in Greece who shot the strawberry-pickers, but in neither case will the real criminal be called to account – capitalism itself.
Whatever happens to the local factory bosses, we can be sure that the monopoly capitalists running Primark and Matalan will not be required to answer for the lives of those who died stitching their garments. At least, not yet.
Poverty is often blamed on 'overpopulation', yet much of Africa, where some of the world's poorest people live, is very sparsely populated.
The following piece was written by a CPGB-ML member in order to promote discussion on the issue of population and the environment.
Marx dismissed Malthusianism as a lampoon on the human race, but while Thomas Malthus’s cockeyed musings on surplus value and rent have disappeared from memory and no longer need to be knocked down, Malthus’s ‘Law of Population’ has taken a fresh hold on the western mind and needs to be fought again, like some new, more ferocious outbreak of mental ebola.
In Malthus’s 1798 best-selling (and, depressingly, never out of print) essay on population, ‘The Dismal Parson’ (as he was nicknamed by his opponents) asserted that the food supply always increases arithmetically, while, if ‘unchecked’ by war, famine or disease, population always increases geometrically.
From that idiotic assertion, made at the tail end of the great 18th-century agricultural revolution and just before the enormous development in agricultural machinery, which would open up the previously uncultivated prairies of the USA, Malthus concluded that working-class poverty was, is and ever will be inevitable unless the working classes stopped flooding the ‘labour market’ with their own progeny. Malthus suggested working-class celibacy or very late marriage as the cure for this ‘problem’.
Seven decades on, and enter the neo-Malthusians. Whether liberals, like John Stuart Mill and Lord Amberley, or radicals, like Richard Carlisle, Charles Bradlaugh and Bradlaugh’s sidekick the execrable Mrs Annie Besant, these followers of Malthus all agreed that working-class poverty in the midst of capitalist plenty was entirely due to the constant arrival of little baby proletarians. Instead of recommending celibacy and late marriage, however, the neo-Malthusians suggested contraception – an idea that horrified mainstream Malthusians, who thought it would weaken the moral fibre of the nation.
It is interesting to note that contraception and abortion rights are now so completely seen as women’s rights issues that their Malthusian parentage is forgotten, while ‘overpopulation’ has been reinvented by changing the rhetoric away from Malthus’s original ‘flooding the labour market’ (which sounds very BNP) to ‘using up the earth’s non-renewable resources’, which sounds all green and has become the new accepted wisdom.
Green-thinking and Malthus-thinking are one and the same. Both preach that the problem is the existence of people, not capitalism, and both are equally opposed to the socialist revolution. This is not to say that some resources we use today won’t run out, or that some are not better than others, or that it’s not a bad thing to stop pollution and plastic bags are good.
It is saying that all the problems that humans encounter can be solved by humans working together – not for individual profit, but for the collective good. As for the planet being overpopulated, most of it is empty, and the vast tracts that are currently given over to such things as tobacco farming or cash-crop flowers for Valentine’s Day could be used for growing food.
Having said that the planet is not overpopulated does not mean of course that we should all give up on birth control and have a baby every year. In agricultural societies with high infant mortality, babies coming very year was a necessity (and in the world as it is, it is still a necessity in agricultural societies). But generally, in a socialist world, we might possibly aim for a smallish population rise so that we always have more people under, say, 50 than over. Younger people are extremely important for society: they have energy, strength, new ideas and enthusiasm. Older people, on the other hand, tend to have accumulated lots of experience, which means they know stuff and are wiser.
So where does this take us? Straight to the capitalist world we live in, which has absorbed so much Malthusianism in green clothing that it blames poor people’s poverty and the capitalist system’s abuse of resources on the existence of children. So much so that today many relatively prosperous people in the richer countries have come to see the very continuation of life as being somehow ‘anti-social’.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, however. In 1913 Lenin attacked the resurgence of the pessimistic ideology of neo-Malthusianism, which portrayed having children as a negative because the conditions they were being born into in pre-revolutionary Russia were so harsh.
His article is excellent, so we have reproduced it below for the benefit of our readers.
At the Pirogov Doctors’ Congress much interest was aroused and a long debate was held on the question of abortions. The report was made by Lichkus, who quoted figures on the exceedingly widespread practice of destroying the foetus in present-day so-called civilised states.
In New York, 80,000 abortions were performed in one year and there are 36,000 every month in France. In St Petersburg the percentage of abortions has more than doubled in five years.
The Pirogov Doctors’ Congress adopted a resolution saying that there should never be any criminal prosecution of a mother for performing an artificial abortion and that doctors should only be prosecuted if the operation is performed for ‘purposes of gain’.
In the discussion the majority agreed that abortions should not be punishable, and the question of the so-called neo-Malthusianism (the use of contraceptives) was naturally touched upon, as was also the social side of the matter. Mr Vigdorchik, for instance, said, according to the report in Russkoye Slovo, that ‘contraceptive measures should be welcomed’ and Mr Astrakhan exclaimed, amidst thunderous applause:
“We have to convince mothers to bear children so that they can be maimed in educational establishments, so that lots can be drawn for them, so that they can be driven to suicide!’
If the report is true that this exclamation of Mr Astrakhan’s was greeted with thunderous applause, it is a fact that does not surprise me. The audience was made up of bourgeois, middle and petty bourgeois, who have the psychology of the philistine. What can you expect from them but the most banal liberalism?
From the point of view of the working class, however, it would hardly be possible to find a more apposite expression of the completely reactionary nature and the ugliness of ‘social neo-Malthusianism’ than Mr Astrakhan’s phrase cited above.
… “Bear children so that they can be maimed” … For that alone? Why not that they should fight better, more unitedly, consciously and resolutely than we are fighting against the present-day conditions of life that are maiming and ruining our generation?
This is the radical difference that distinguishes the psychology of the peasant, handicraftsman, intellectual, the petty bourgeois in general, from that of the proletarian. The petty bourgeois sees and feels that he is heading for ruin, that life is becoming more difficult, that the struggle for existence is ever more ruthless, and that his position and that of his family are becoming more and more hopeless. It is an indisputable fact, and the petty bourgeois protests against it.
But how does he protest?
He protests as the representative of a class that is hopelessly perishing, that despairs of its future, that is depressed and cowardly. There is nothing to be done … if only there were fewer children to suffer our torments and hard toil, our poverty and our humiliation – such is the cry of the petty bourgeois.
The class-conscious worker is far from holding this point of view. He will not allow his consciousness to be dulled by such cries no matter how sincere and heartfelt they may be. Yes, we workers and the mass of small proprietors lead a life that is filled with unbearable oppression and suffering. Things are harder for our generation than they were for our fathers. But in one respect we are luckier than our fathers. We have begun to learn and are rapidly learning to fight – and to fight not as individuals, as the best of our fathers fought, not for the slogans of bourgeois speechifiers that are alien to us in spirit, but for our slogans, the slogans of our class. We are fighting better than our fathers did. Our children will fight better than we do, and they will be victorious.
The working class is not perishing; it is growing, becoming stronger, gaining courage, consolidating itself, educating itself and becoming steeled in battle. We are pessimists as far as serfdom, capitalism and petty production are concerned, but we are ardent optimists in what concerns the working-class movement and its aims. We are already laying the foundation of a new edifice and our children will complete its construction.
That is the reason – the only reason – why we are unconditionally the enemies of neo-Malthusianism, suited only to unfeeling and egotistic petty-bourgeois couples, who whisper in scared voices: “God grant we manage somehow by ourselves. So much the better if we have no children.”
It goes without saying that this does not by any means prevent us from demanding the unconditional annulment of all laws against abortions or against the distribution of medical literature on contraceptive measures, etc. Such laws are nothing but the hypocrisy of the ruling classes. These laws do not heal the ulcers of capitalism; they merely turn them into malignant ulcers that are especially painful for the oppressed masses. Freedom for medical propaganda and the protection of the elementary democratic rights of citizens, men and women, are one thing. The social theory of neo-Malthusianism is quite another. Class-conscious workers will always conduct the most ruthless struggle against attempts to impose that reactionary and cowardly theory on the most progressive and strongest class in modern society, the class that is the best prepared for great changes.
The italics in the final paragraph are not Lenin’s, but it is well to emphasise that Lenin was not opposed to reproductive rights, he was opposed to the neo-Malthusian negativity, which under capitalism makes potential parents see children as only more unaffordable mouths to feed, while a socialist sees them as hands to work, brains to think and strength to fight.
 Nicholay Piragov (1810-1881) was a field surgeon in the Crimea. Said to be the first to use anaesthetics on the battlefield, he recruited army nurses, set up field hospitals and was a generally progressive bourgeois-liberal doctor.
 The Piragov Doctors Congress was a prestigious meeting of liberal Russian doctors working in public health and sanitation held about every two years from 1885. Lenin is referring to the twelfth congress, held in 1913, where there was a well-publicised debate on abortion. By a small majority the congress voted for decriminalisation.
 Dr Lizar Lichkus, obstetrician St Petersburg maternity hospital.
 Dr Natan Vigdorchik, ‘public health’ physician in St Petersburg.
 In tsarist Russia, lots were drawn for compulsory military service. Conditions were terrible and these were dreaded.
 There were many reported cases of conscripts committing suicide.
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 21 October meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
As European leaders met for the Brussels summit on 18 October, the Greek working class staged its 20th general strike since the onset of the acute crisis.
Just how desperate that crisis has now become was summarised by Konstantinos Balomenos, a utility worker whose wage has been halved and whose two sons are without work: “Enough is enough. They’ve dug our graves, shoved us in and we are waiting for the priest to read the last words.”
The strike effectively shut Greece down for 24 hours. Ships were stuck in port, planes stranded on the tarmac, public transport paralysed, ministries and public offices closed down, traffic down to a trickle and big shops shuttered up. Many of the smaller shops, too, which had on earlier strikes stayed open, closed their doors, even down to the street kiosks.
In Athens, the communist-led popular-front union PAME mobilised 25,000 to march separately to Syntagma Square, then joining forces with other trade unionists. According to the Guardian, the two major Socialist Party-oriented federations, the GSEE and ADEDY, by their own estimation mustered only 3,000.
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 21 October meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
In Andalucia, where over 30 percent of workers are unemployed and austerity is becoming a euphemism for semi-starvation, the SAT union has responded by organising ‘expropriations’ of supermarkets, with liberated basic foodstuffs distributed amongst the poor.
According to Bloomberg Business Week, 30 union activists in Ecija stormed Carrefour and Mercadona on 7 August, piled the trolleys high with cooking oil, salt, sugar, pasta and rice, and wheeled them out.
Another raid in Cadiz stalled when staff locked the activists inside the store. A compromise was then negotiated: 12 carts of unpaid-for food and permission to leave for all. And when Angela Merkel came to Spain, activists marked the occasion by occupying Lidl.
Lacking the guidance of our brave TUC, these activists did not think to preface their actions with an Early Day Motion asking for shoplifting to be made lawful.
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress recognises that the economic and financial crisis gripping the world is a classic crisis of overproduction of the kind that Marxism demonstrates is bound to affect the capitalist world periodically because of the contradiction inherent in capitalism between private ownership of the means of production, on the one hand, and the social nature of production on the other. The private owners of the means of production (ie, ‘capital’) deploy them only for the purpose of accumulating private wealth, while the social producers – the working class – are squeezed as much as possible in order to maximise the capitalists’ profits.
However, congress further recognises that, since it is overwhelmingly the working-class masses who constitute, either directly, or indirectly through government purchases on their behalf of services such as health care and education, the market for the products of the capitalist economy, their squeezed powers of consumption cannot keep pace with the permanent need of capital to expand its production (the unquenchable thirst for expansion being forced on capitalists by the phenomenon of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, which the capitalists strive to neutralise by expansion). Hence the recurring crises of “overproduction”.
Congress affirms that it is not that more is being produced than people need – it is that more is being produced than people can afford to buy. The least competitive capitalists are wiped out, along with all their workers, who are thrown out of employment by the thousand, and then cause a general lowering of wages because there is an oversupply of workers in relation to the supply of jobs available. This in turn undermines the general market for the products of capitalism still further, and so on in a vicious downward spiral.
This congress notes that crises of overproduction appear as financial crises because the bankruptcies caused by producers being unable to sell their commodities in the quantities they had been banking on leaves these producers unable to pay their debts – most businesses being dependent on bank loans in normal times to ensure that their businesses run smoothly. To avert the economic chaos that would arise from bank failure, national governments step in to save their banks by pumping huge sums of taxpayer money into them. This, however, means that governments are forced to borrow more, pay more interest and, generally, pay increased rates of interest too as they become more of a credit risk.
Congress further notes that these huge borrowing costs have to be paid by taxpayers, which puts still more pressure on their purchasing power – aggravating the crisis rather than curing it. Therefore, in order to reduce borrowing costs, governments reduce their spending – ie, they introduce ‘austerity’ – with thousands of government employees being added as a result to the mounting numbers of unemployed, and a further twist being added to the downward spiral of the crisis. Precisely because it is no solution, even the Financial Times condemns austerity as counterproductive, leading to reduced GDP and therefore to a reduced income with which to pay all the problematic debts.
This congress recognises that the crisis of capitalism will within capitalism be resolved – and then only temporarily – when enough capital (machinery, unsaleable goods etc) has been destroyed to ensure that there is room for whatever is left to expand as it needs to. Since capitalism evolved into imperialism, which has divided the whole world into spheres of influence under the control of one or other imperialist power, economic crises have driven the various imperialist powers to world war (ie, the first and second world wars) as each of them sought to resolve its crisis at the expense of the others. These wars take place over and above the incessant wars conducted in every corner of the earth by the various imperialist powers, either directly or through local proxies, to maintain oppressed nations in subjection to the imperialist diktat.
This congress therefore affirms that the recurring crises of capitalism and its ever more destructive, inhuman and brutal wars, demonstrate that this last exploitative economic system has now by far outlived its usefulness and urgently needs to be discarded. The ruling bourgeoisies who benefit from this moribund system, and who fight tooth and nail to preserve it, stopping not even at world war, must be overthrown and the proletariat must establish socialism in order to put itself in a position to implement real solutions to the economic problems of the world.
This congress resolves that the party shall continue to do its best to spread an understanding of these economic facts throughout the working-class movement in order to help dispel the illusions in the viability of the capitalist system that have been engendered by social democracy.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 March.
A condition of releasing sufficient bail-out funds from the EU for Greece to be able to avoid default has been that even more stringent austerity measures should be implemented. The measures have been duly passed by the Greek parliament, and so the Greek people have been rising up in rage as their living standards are being mercilessly and sharply forced downwards.
As the Greek people put up a spirited fight against austerity, and opinion polls suggest that they will use their votes in April’s parliamentary elections to vote against austerity and, subject to leftist parties being able to cooperate for the purpose, perhaps even return a government that will resist the demands of Greece’s creditors, the inclination among politicians from other EU countries is developing towards letting Greece default and leave the euro. This is seen by many as the cheaper option, although others are still more worried about how much their own banks will lose if this happens and consider it is worth while attempting to turn the screw even harder on the Greek people for at least a little while longer.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 February
Russia and China continue to frustrate attempts by US imperialism to establish a no-fly zone over Syria that would be aimed at obliterating its independence in the same way as was done with Libya.
A spokesman for the Russian government said that in the case of Libya it had made serious mistakes. These lay not in backing Gaddafi but in not backing him nearly strongly enough. Dimitry Medvedev, the Russian president who made the decision to abstain on the UN vote imposing the no-fly zone on Libya, has been heavily criticised within Russia for that decision.
The Russians have made it quite clear that no amount of pleas from the Arab League, manipulated as it is by western imperialism, is going to stop it from wielding its UN Security Council veto in Syria’s interests.
In the meantime, violence is intensifying in Syria as Turks and others get themselves involved in the assaults on Syria’s sovereignty.
It has become clear even to the blind that, for the most part, the opponents of the government in Syria are not innocent people peacefully expressing their disagreement with government policy but disparate armed thugs who are unable to win any substantial internal support for their various policies and are therefore bent on destabilising Syria by whatever means, happy to court the support of imperialist countries determined to put an end to Syria’s independence
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 February
Relations between Egypt’s ruling military government and the US remain fraught, as the government has barred six US ‘human rights’ workers from leaving the country. To avoid arrest, at least three of them have taken refuge in Cairo’s US embassy, while the US threatens to withhold its $1.3bn annual military aid to Egypt unless the government stands down on its objection to so-called ‘pro-democracy’ groups from abroad operating in the country.
In the meantime, the severe economic difficulties that lay behind the Arab spring uprising have continued to worsen. Unemployment stands at at least 15 percent, (but much higher among the young), half as high again as it was when the uprising started. Tourism has declined 30 percent and construction work has come to a standstill.
To avoid a devaluation of the Egyptian pound that would send food prices spiralling upwards, the Egyptian government has been spending $2bn a month in a losing battle to prop it up. According to the New York Times, foreign currency reserves have, as a result, fallen to about $10bn, from about $36bn before the revolt. Clearly this is unsustainable. (See ‘Economic crisis adds dangers on Egypt’s new political path’ by David D Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh, 24 January 2012)
Nor is the government able to raise money from Egypt’s banks to finance its expenditure, even at an interest rate of 16 percent, because the banks are fearful that the state will be unable to repay them. Another drain on its resources are energy subsidies, which cost it $15bn a year (one-fifth of all government spending), but the government cannot afford to reduce the subsidy as to do so would infuriate the Egyptian population still further.
In the circumstances, the Egyptian government has had to go back cap in hand to the IMF to ask for a $3.2bn loan – after having refused an offer of aid of $3bn only last June because it would have excessively compromised Egyptian sovereignty. In the meantime, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party controls over half the seats in Egypt’s new parliament, has pronounced itself in favour of IMF borrowing, free markets and abolishing subsidies.
With regard to relations with the IMF, the New York Times pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood’s position was a “stunning reversal after eight decades of denouncing western colonialism and Arab dependency”. The crisis is making many such organisations reveal their true colours, which can only advance the understanding of the masses.