CPGB-ML » Posts for tag 'poverty'

Spanish workers take the initiative against austerity

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.

Economic crisis: a product of capitalism

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.

Land of the free is a prison of nations

Mumia Abu Jamal

Mumia Abu Jamal

Download this article as a leaflet

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The United States puts itself forward as a ‘democracy’; it calls itself the ‘land of the free’; it considers that it has the right to police the world, the right to label other countries as ‘undemocratic’ or lacking in freedom; it imposes sanctions and wages wars in the name of ‘human rights’.

And yet the US state, along with its fellow imperialist vultures in Britain and elsewhere, is the worst violator of human rights in the world.

By waging unjust wars for economic and geo-political advantage, the US and its allies deny millions of people the most fundamental human right: the right to life.

Through its economic stranglehold over the third world, imperialism is responsible for the extraordinary poverty that leads to the death of 13 million children a year from malnutrition-related diseases.

Prison state

Despite the US government’s ostensible love of ‘freedom’, the US increasingly resembles a fascist state, with repressive laws, political prisoners and a massive prison population.

- Over 1 percent of the adult population is incarcerated – a massive 2,319,258 people. The US leads the world both in absolute numbers and in the proportion of its population behind bars.

- The US population accounts for approximately 5 percent of the world population, but its prison population accounts for 25 percent of the world total.

- The US incarceration rate is 3.4 times higher than that of Iran and 6.3 times higher than that of China – both countries about whose ‘human rights record’ the imperialist media (and their liberal hangers-on) bang on incessantly.

- One in 15 black men and 1 in 36 Hispanics over the age of 18 are in prison, as opposed to 1 in 106 white males.

- Whereas African Americans comprise only 12.2 percent of the US population and 13 percent of its drug users, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug offences and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offences.

Why are so many US citizens in prison? Because of the dedication of its ruling class to ‘freedom’: the freedom to exploit and the freedom to own vast amounts of private property.

Even in the richest country in the world, the system of exploitation means that while a handful of people are living in Dallas-style luxury, millions more live in abject poverty.

- The US is the richest country in the world, and yet, such is the disparity of wealth that almost one in eight US citizens lives in poverty.

- According to the US Department of Agriculture, about 11 million people suffer “very low food security”.

- The poverty rate for blacks was 24.3 percent in 2006; for whites it was 8.2 percent.

- The unemployment rate for blacks was 8.4 percent in November 2007; for whites it was 4.2 percent.

The job of the capitalist state is to protect the private property ‘earned’ through exploitation, and so hundreds of victims of capitalism, driven to crime through a desperation aggravated by consumerism promoted by capitalism in the interests of enhancing the profits of the rich, are thrown into prison in order to maintain capitalist order.

Political prisoners

In addition to imprisoning petty criminals, the US is also in the habit of using the prison system in an attempt to silence discontent.

It has a long history of politically-motivated frame-ups, including those of Huey Newton, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

- Mumia Abu-Jamal has been in prison since 1981 and on death row since 1983.

- There is clear evidence that Mumia was the victim of a police frame-up.

- Mumia is behind bars because he is a journalist and political activist. He was an influential member of the Black Panthers, a talented organiser and publicist. The state tried to silence him by framing and locking him up.

Much like the British state, the US state does not respect civil liberties.

Under the guise of fighting against terrorism, the US has introduced laws that allow state agencies access to emails, telephone conversation recordings, medical records, financial records, etc. These laws are being used to clamp down on those who oppose the injustices of imperialism.

International human rights abuser

- The US is by far the most aggressive state in the world. Since the end of WW2, it has been involved in dozens of large-scale military actions: Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Cuba, Congo, Panama, Dominican Republic and Lebanon, to name but a few. These are illegal, ruthless and unjust wars, fought solely for the economic benefit of the US ruling class.

- The invasion of Iraq, led by the US and fully supported by Britain, has been a disaster for the human rights of the Iraqi people: well over 1 million have been killed, over 2 million are refugees abroad, another 2 million are internal refugees. There is chronic malnutrition, minimal access to clean water and electricity, unemployment is well over 60 percent, and most schools and hospitals are defunct.

- The US has dozens of secret prisons around the world, where it tortures its victims as far away from the public eye as possible. Britain is wholly complicit in this (and, of course, has its own extensive record of prison torture).

- More than six years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the US is still holding over 350 people prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. These men have been given no trial and have been subjected to routine torture in complete violation of international law.

- Conscientious objectors in the US are put in prison. For example, Kevin Benderman, a US Army sergeant, served 12 months for refusing to deploy to Iraq.

Nobody in their right mind could label the US as the ‘land of the free’.

Only socialism will bring us real rights

Ultimately, the working class and the oppressed masses have no lasting political rights under capitalism. To the extent people enjoy democratic rights under capitalism, it is only in so far as the rule and privileges of the super-rich – the bourgeoisie – are not under threat.

Only socialism will bring real human rights for all: the right to live, the right to work, the right to education, the right to health care, the right to participate in the running of society, the right to be free from exploitation, the right to develop as an individual.

Free Mumia! Free all US political prisoners!
No freedom while imperialism lives. Forward to socialism!

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Leaflet issued by the CPGB-ML in April 2008.

Sadly, the only change since we wrote the article above is that the situation has got worse - and there are two more criminal wars to add to the charge-sheet. The war against Libya and the war against Syria.

The graphic below shows just how many US citizens are locked up - and who benefits from their incarceration.

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No Justice For All

No let-up for the people of Haiti

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 1 October

Under the tender care of US imperialism, Haiti is having a hard time recovering from the January 2010 earthquake that destroyed much of the country.

So little has been done to alleviate the conditions in which the people are having to live that a major cholera epidemic has broken out in a rural area north of Port au Prince. The cause is thought to have been contamination of the Aritbonite river by a seepage of sewage from an encampment of UN ‘peacekeepers’.

No fewer than 420,000 people have been infected, of whom at least 6,000 have died so far. Yet it is not particularly expensive to provide clean water and/or cholera inoculations. It would seem, however, that much of the ‘aid’ to Haiti goes in providing ‘peacekeepers’ to restrain the anger of the population rather than to addressing the causes of that anger!

Cuba rejects intervention in Libya

Cuba categorically rejects any attempt whatsoever to take advantage of the tragic situation created in order to occupy Libya and control its oil

Statement by Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs to the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, 1 March 2011, via Granma

Mr President:

Humanity’s conscience is repulsed by the deaths of innocent people under any circumstances, anyplace. Cuba fully shares the worldwide concern for the loss of civilian lives in Libya and hopes that its people are able to reach a peaceful and sovereign solution to the civil war occurring there, with no foreign interference, and can guarantee the integrity of that nation.

Most certainly the Libyan people oppose any foreign military intervention, which would delay an agreement even further and cause thousands of deaths, displacement and enormous injury to the population.

Cuba categorically rejects any attempt whatsoever to take advantage of the tragic situation created in order to occupy Libya and control its oil.

It is noteworthy that the voracity for oil, not peace or the protection of Libyan lives, is the motivation inciting the political forces, primarily conservative, which today, in the United States and some European countries, are calling for a Nato military intervention in Libyan territory. Nor does it appear that objectivity, accuracy or a commitment to the truth are prevailing in part of the press, where reports are being used by media giants to fan the flames.

Given the magnitude of what is taking place in Libya and the Arab world, in the context of a global economic crisis, responsibility and a long-term vision should prevail on the part of governments in the developed countries. Although the goodwill of some could be exploited, it is clear that a military intervention would lead to a war with serious consequences for human lives, especially the millions of poor who comprise four fifths of humanity.

Despite the paucity of some facts and information, the reality is that the origins of the situation in North Africa and the Middle East are to be found within the crisis of the rapacious policy imposed by the United States and its Nato allies in the region. The price of food has tripled, water is scarce, the desert is growing, poverty is on the rise and with it, repugnant social inequality and exclusion in the distribution of the opulent wealth garnered from oil in the region.

The fundamental human right is the right to life, which is not worth living without human dignity.

The way in which the right to life is being violated should arouse concern. According to various sources, more than 111 million people have perished in armed conflicts during modern wars. It cannot be forgotten in this room that, if in World War I civilian deaths amounted to 5 percent of total casualties, in the subsequent wars of conquest after 1990, basically in Iraq, with more than one million, and Afghanistan with more than 70,000, the deaths of innocents stand at 90 percent. The proportion of children in these figures is horrific and unprecedented.

The concept of ‘collateral damage’, an offense to human nature, has been accepted in the military doctrine of Nato and the very powerful nations.

In the last decade, humanitarian international law has been trampled, as is occurring on the US Guantánamo Naval Base, which usurps Cuban territory.

As a consequence of those wars, global refugee figures have increased by 34 percent, to more than 26 million people.

Military spending increased by 49 percent in the decade, to reach $1.5tr, more than half of that figure in the United States alone. The industrial-military complex continues producing wars.

Every year, 740,000 human beings die, not only on account of conflicts, but as victims of violent acts associated with organised crime.

In one European country, a woman dies every five days as a result of domestic violence. In the countries of the South, half a million mothers die in childbirth every year.

Every day, 29,000 children die of hunger and preventable diseases. In the minutes that I have been speaking, no less than 120 children have died. Four million perish in their first month of life. In total, 11 million children die every year.

There are 100,000 deaths a day from causes related to malnutrition, adding up to 35 million a year.

In Hurricane Katrina alone, in the most developed country in the world, 1,836 people died, almost all of them African Americans of few resources. In the last two years, 470,000 people died throughout the world as a result of natural disasters, 97 percent of them of low income.

In the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti alone, more than 250,000 people died, almost all of them resident in very poor homes. The same thing occurred with homes swept away by excessive rainfall in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil.

If the developing countries had infant and maternal mortality rates like those of Cuba, 8.4 million children and 500,000 mothers would be saved annually. In the cholera epidemic in Haiti, Cuban doctors are treating almost half of the patients, with a mortality rate five times lower than those being treated by physicians from other countries. Cuban international medical cooperation has made it possible to save more than 4.4 million lives in dozens of countries in four continents.

Human dignity is a human right. Today, 1.4 billion people are living in extreme poverty. There are 1.2 billion hungry people, and a further two billion are suffering from malnutrition. There are 759 million illiterate adults.

Mr President:

The Council has demonstrated its capacity for approaching human rights situations in the world, including those of an urgent nature which require attention and action on the part of the international community. The usefulness of the Universal Periodic Review, as a means of sustaining international cooperation, of evaluating the undertakings of all countries without distinction in this context has been confirmed.

The spirit which animated our actions during the review process of this body was to preserve, improve and strengthen this council in its function of effectively promoting and protecting all human rights for everyone.

The results of this exercise express a recognition of the Council’s important achievements in its short existence. While it is true that the agreements reached are insufficient in the light of the demands of developing countries, the body has been preserved from those whose aim was to reform it to their convenience in order to satisfy hegemonic appetites and to resuscitate the past of confrontation, double standards, selectivity and imposition.

It is to be hoped from the debates of the last few days that this human rights council will continue constructing and advancing its institutionalism toward the full exercise of its mandate.

It would be very negative if, on the pretext of reviewing the Council’s institutional construction and in abuse of the dramatic juncture which is being discussed, it should be manipulated and pressured in an opportunist way in order to establish precedents and modify agreements.

If the essential human right is the right to life, will the Council be ready to suspend the membership of states that unleash a war?

Is the Council proposing to make some substantial contribution to eliminating the principal threat to the life of the human species which is the existence of enormous arsenals of nuclear weapons, an infinitesimal part of which, or the explosion of 100 warheads, would provoke a nuclear winter, according to irrefutable scientific evidence?

Will it establish a thematic procedure on the impact of climate change in the exercise of human rights and proclaim the right to a healthy atmosphere?

Will it suspend states which finance and supply military aid utilised by recipient states for mass, flagrant and systematic violations of human rights and for attacks on the civilian population, like those taking place in Palestine?

Will it apply that measure against powerful countries which are perpetrating extra-judicial executions in the territory of other states with the use of high technology, such as smart bombs and drone aircraft?

What will happen to states which accept secret illegal prisons in their territories, facilitate the transit of secret flights with kidnapped persons aboard, or participate in acts of torture?

Can the Council adopt a declaration on the right of peoples to peace?

Will it adopt an action programme that includes concrete commitments guaranteeing the right to alimentation in a moment of food crisis, spiraling food prices and the utilisation of cereal crops to produce biofuels?

Mr President:

Distinguished ministers and delegates:

What measures will this Council adopt against a member state which is committing acts that are causing grave suffering and seriously endangering physical or mental integrity, such as the blockade of Cuba, typified as genocide in Article 2, Paragraphs B and C, of the 1948 Geneva Convention?

Thank you very much.

Translated by Granma International

Time to expose Labour’s racism at home and abroad

Bectu members received the following email from their union today:

I am writing to let you know about EXPOSE, a new campaign of media workers and students – journalists, technicians, designers, musicians and actors – that is dedicated to exposing the British National Party as the racists, homophobes, anti-Semites, women-haters and fascists that they are.

BECTU are working with our colleagues from the NUJ to support the launch of ‘EXPOSE’, a campaigning group set up to provide well-researched information and background briefings for reporters, news editors and others in our industry in order to challenge the BNP’s statements and spokespersons, and the racism and criminality at the heart of their organisation.

Below is how one member responded:

It’s not the BNP, but the Labour party that needs exposing. Everyone knows what the BNP is about. And it is Labour’s racism that has created the conditions in which the BNP has grown and thrived.

Labour has dehumanised and massacred millions of innocent people in the Middle East. Labour has demonised British muslims. Labour has built concentration camps for immigrants. Labour has brought in ‘anti-terror’ legislation that it uses against peaceful demonstrators and the entire muslim community. Labour has dismantled British civil liberties. Labour has given billions to the failed banks, while encouraging working people to believe that it is immigrants who are to blame for the lack of health care, child care, education, jobs, pensions and houses. Labour continues to use anti-trade union legislation to crush working peoples’ attempts at resistance to cuts in their pay and conditions.

All these things have helped the BNP to grow. Labour has the blood of millions on its hands and yet our unions try to tell us that voting Labour is the only option if we want to ‘keep the Tories out’ or ‘keep the BNP out’. This campaign has less to do with exposing the BNP, who are already fairly well exposed, than with trying to save the electoral chances of the current government of Labour war criminals. Meanwhile, the side effect is that you will give lots of publicity to the BNP!

The fact is that the capitalists are more than happy for people who feel abandoned by and disillusioned with Labour to turn to the BNP, since the BNP further encourages racism and division between working people. This division is the very thing that keeps workers weak and at the mercy of big corporations and the state. As far as the capitalists are concerned, the BNP is a perfectly acceptable ‘alternative’ vote, since it doesn’t threaten their ability to continue to plunder and exploit at home or abroad. They see it merely as a safety valve in times of economic crisis, when people are becoming more militantly disaffected.

But, despite all the publicity it receives, and the recruiting work that the Labour party and corporate media does for it, the BNP is not currently anywhere near to power. The real threat to working people right now is the Labour party. And the best way to explain that, and to keep people away from the BNP too, is to ditch Labour and become part of a real workers’ movement against the failed system of capitalism and for socialism - the only system that is capable of abolishing all forms of inequality and putting workers’ interests and needs first.

With the bank crisis fresh in people’s minds and the prospect of a fresh assault on workers’ jobs, houses, pay and pensions after the election, no matter which party of capital wins, there has never been a better time to get involved in the real struggle for workers’ rights: the anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist struggle for socialism. On the other hand, there is no better way to reveal our uselessness than to go flogging the same old dead horse of trying to bring people back into the Labour party fold, and tie them to the system that has created all the problems we see today: economic meltdown, a gap of 100 times between Britain’s richest and poorest, criminal genocidal wars, stealth privitisation of essential services, spiralling unemployment, racist and anti-immigrant hysteria, the increasing criminalisation of protest, etc.

As media workers, we should be looking a bit closer to home in our battle to fight all this. The propaganda that fuels support for criminal wars and anti-terror and anti-immigrant legislation and demonisation couldn’t be put out without our members’ cooperation. Journalists write this rubbish to order. Technicians print and broadcast it. How about a campaign to stop helping the capitalists to make us complicit in their crimes?