9-11 five years ago was the excuse the US needed to launch the ‘war on terror’. This was a front for its imperialist oil wars to re-conquer the world. It opened up a new period of competition between the rival imperialist powers. 9-11 then, proved that we are still living in the epoch of imperialism. Here we explain how NZ’s role as a semi-colony supporting US imperialism’s War on Terror in order to get a ‘piece of the action’ is shaping the class struggle in this country.
Lenin famously defined imperialism as the rule of finance capital, that is industrial and banking capital concentrated into the form of large investment banks. This is still the case today.
The capitalist world is now being driven by the competition between US and Euro imperialism. Japan and Britain are minor imperialist powers that are allied with the US to get some of the rich pickings. Italy, Spain and Australia are small, weak imperialisms queing up for the leftovers. Russia and China are emerging powers that want to be imperialist but remain semi-colonies of the existing imperialists, especially the US and EU.
The US used 9-11 and the War on Terror to rally its allies around its leading role in recolonising ‘failed states’ to grab the oil and other vital resources at the expense of its main rivals. So while it forced the EU to use NATO to take over the occupation of Afghanistan, it is US big oil that will benefit from the oil grab in the region. In Iraq, the ‘coalition of the willing’ occupation grabbed control of the oil and cancelled Saddam’s deals with EU big oil.
Lebanon: a new front in the oil wars
In this issue of Class Struggle we highlight the latest front in the WOT, Lebanon. Bush and Olmert attacked Lebanon for one reason – to weaken the resistance of the Arab and Iranian nations to the WOT. Both Bush and Olmert claimed that Hizbollah was controlled by the Syrian and Iranian Shia-led regimes. So Israel’s attack on Hezbollah was meant to escalate the WOT to defeat the Iraqi resistance and open the road for an attack on Iran. All three forces had to be defeated for the WOT to reach its objective –US dominance of the oil in the region.
NZ workers must oppose this new front in the WOT. We have to stop the Labour Government from backing Bush and sending troops as part of the US ‘peacekeeping’ force in the South of Lebanon. We argue that NZ’s involvement would mean that the Labour-led government would be joining in Bush’s imperialist invasion. Worse, because NZ is not an imperialist country, and has a reputation for acting only with the authority of the UN, it would be giving credibility to the UN fig leaf being used in Lebanon to cover up the naked ambitions of US imperialism’s/Zionism’s War for Oil.
But to win workers to this position it is necessary to explain why the Labour Government has played the role of UN cover in the WOT since 9-11. A recent debate inside GPJA in Auckland showed how. CWG argued it was necessary to take a stand against NZ troops as ‘peacekeepers’ because this was creating illusions that the UN was a democratic, peaceful alternative to naked US agression.
First, it is necessary to point to the role of the UN as a front for US imperialism. In the FLT statement on Lebanon we reprint in this issue, we expose the hypocrisy of the role the UN has played in smashing resistance to imperialism, especially in Bosnia and Kosovo.
In these places the ‘blue helmets’ collaborated in ethnic cleansing by disarming the resistance and allowing the killers free reign. It will be no different in the south of Lebanon. Bush has gone to the UN to create a buffer zone in the south to disarm Hizbollah and protect its key ally Israel.
The ‘smart state’ produces ‘smart bombs’
A second argument is that in NZ, Labour’s support for the UN in the WOT is the price it pays to get NZ business funded by imperialist finance capital and to do deals with the US for some of the crumbs of recolonisation.
What could contradict Labour’s ‘peacekeeping’ front more than the fact that its prize winning poster child high tech corporate, Rakon, supplies quartz GPS guidance systems for the US and Israel’s ‘smart bombs’. Rakon, part funded by the NZ states Super fund delivers ‘peace’ to the Middle East in ‘pieces’ (body parts).
This is proof that the Labour Government’s strategy of smart state subsidies for high tech and high potential corporate starts must be profitable for imperialism! It guarantees these profits by carrying the losses as in the case ofAir NZ. Or it provides massive subsidies.
In the case of CHH there is a massive state subsidised forest sold off to US pension funds to refinance Hart’s Australasian asset stripping. In the case of Feltex, the ANZ (one of the four Australian owned big banks) has pulled the plug because it wasn’t profitable enough. It will be viable only if finance capital (ANZ or some other bank, or state subsidies) can restructure the company by sackings and speedups to make it superprofitable under smart management. In the case of Fonterra, massive state subsidies of infrastructure, plus farmer cooperative ownership, ensures that surplus value is milked in marketing deals with finance capital that controls its joint venture partners like Nestle. In sum, the state acts as the agent of finance capital in the NZ semi-colony to attract foreign nvestment in high value-added super profits for imperialist monopoly capitalism.
Labour’s strategy is not driven by its concern for ‘peace’ or full-employment, or a devotion to workers since it supports the US-Zionist killers in the south of Lebanon. It is driven by the obligation to deliver super-profits to imperialist monopolies. It is a one of two strategies available to states in semi-colonial countries that lack finance capital. The first is to abandon any controls over the economy and allow the country to be re-colonised as a south Pacific tax haven for rich expatriates – the Barbados of the South Pacific. The second is to try to use the state to fill the void of finance capital and to subsidise new starts in the hope that more of the value added is retained in the country – the PPP (public-private partnership) paradise.
“Hollowing out NZ”: Barbados of the South or PPP Paradise
At a recent high profile seminar National and Labour spokesmen put forward their ‘solutions’ to the problems of NZ semicolonial capitalism – an outflow of surplus value and the migration of labour to the nearest imperialist country. This is given the fashionable term ‘hollowing out’ –mean ‘gutting’ of value.
On the one hand National’s John Key blamed the flight of capital and labour to Australia on high taxes. He says that NZ is losing about $3-4 billion in net capital outflow every year. So what is new? His solution is to cut taxes and turn NZ into a sort of tax haven like Barbados, or closer to home, Vanuatu or Nauru. These countries have few if any trade or investment controls and are wide open to imperialist monopolies to avoid taxes 100 times greater than the notorious Cook Island’s ‘wine box’ tax scam.
In other words, NZ would be a sort of retreat for wealthy US capitalists, celebrities or rock singers who would, like Julian Robertson, create luxury resorts to attract more wealthy expatriates. The capital inflow would fund an army of serfs and servants to keep the rich happy in their 'rest and recreation' from the WOT.
But while the Nats want NZ to be a safe haven for rich WOT and climate-warming refugees, Labour are smart social capitalists. They want the state to play the substitute role for weak NZ capital to seed corporates in their infancy to the point where they are attractive to imperialist finance capital. In the process Labour hopes that more of the value added inside NZ stays here.
That’s why it is subsidising a US internet firm to stay here. That’s why it’s planning for the SOEs to extend their operations offshore and into new areas of production. Its model is the PPP -the Public Private Partnership -that wants the SOEs ( state owned corporatiions) to spin-off new firms in partnership with the private sector, like the University spin-offs in biotechnology and health technology. As John Key points out however, this is just dripfeed privatisation.
The PPP is the sole surviving material basis of Labour’s long term economic nationalism. In the days of the post-war boom Labour stood for industrial capitalism protected from finance capital (UK banks) by tariffs and exchange controls. Today its protectionism is in smart subsidies to seed winners to retain more value for NZ capitalism. It plans to fund small scale to medium size firms and lauch the ‘knowledge society’. Here is the narrow economic base from which it defends NZ being relegated to No 7 state of Australia, just as Aussie laborites are opposed to being downsized to US state no 51.
But what about the workers?
But what about the workers? ‘Hollowing out’ is more like ‘gutting’ the economy. More and more of the value workers’ create is ‘gutted’ and exported. For workers the two main 'models' of development being debated by the bosses both mean a future of increased exploitation and a growing gap between a highly skilled minority and a wage slave majority. In reality both options co-exist.
So while Rakon sells itself as a trendy, progressive multicultural corporate (its newletter is called ‘Lock On’ – i.e. to the white racist imperialist crusade against ‘Islamic fascism’) it has only few hundred high tech jobs. There is no way that Labour’s smart growth strategy can produce more than a few thousand ‘knowledge’ jobs producing super-profits for imperialism.
Nor can the few Kiwi ‘peacekeeper’ mercenaries used by the US do do its ontract killing in the WOT in the Middle East and Asia create more than a few hundred jobs. The article in this issue on the US Zionist secret war shows how tiny nations like Tonga (and Fiji) are forced to prostitute their people to the WOT for a fistful of dollars.
The hightech sector of the economy is grounded on a low-tech wage slave service sector. The current dispute between NDU workers and Woolworths show that. NZ is a low-wage semi-colony and the imperialist monopolies that invest here are not interested in anything but super-profits. They pay low wages and charge high prices. As Australasian monopoly corporates, Woolworths and Toll Holdings (which has swallowed up Patricks who tried to smash the MUA in 1998) are forced to attack the unions in Australiasia to cut their costs and compete with their bigger US and EU rivals who are investing in othe mucn poorer semi-colonies like China and Mexico.
Whether they use collectives or individual contracts depends on which is best legal route to super-exploitation. They regard Australia and NZ as one market, if not one country. They take no responsibility for workers familes hit by their super-exploitation and oppression. The cuts in social sevices and the social problems of crime and family violence that flow from capitalism are dealt with by using Murdoch-type media machines to foment right wing anti-social reactionaries who blame workers for these problems and call for more police, tasers, vigilantism, anti-terror clampdowns etc.
Labourite economic nationalism defeatist
In the face of this imperialist attack on workers in NZ, the CTU response is to work within Labour’s ideology of economic nationalism (that is workers putting their faith in NZ capitalists to do good deals) and the legal straightjacket of the ERA. This is defeatist. It is not that Woolworths is ‘Australian’ or has a tough CEO in NZ that explains its attack on its workers –Graeme Hart is just as ‘ruthless’ as Woolworths. Its behaviour is explained by its character as an imperialist monopoly driven to make super-profits from slave-wage labour in NZ. We have seen the the material basis of NZ nationalism today is the supply of state subsidised labour and technology to imperialism; that means super-exploitation for workers in both hightech and slave labour sectors with all the negative social consequences.
Nor is the CTU strategy of confining disputes within the ERA able to defeat these attacks. The ERA flows from Labour’s economic nationalism. It assumes that both NZ capitalists and workers can unite as ‘kiwis’ in the ‘national interest’ and arrive at some class compromise.
But when the boss locks you out for asking for a collective for 500 workers and uses scabs in clear defiance of the law, it’s clear that the industrial law cannot offer any protection from imperialist monopolies. The ERA may provide a minimal protection but as soon as workers organise independently the ERA will be used to stop workers defend their jobs, rights or their survival against monopoly capitalism.
Nor can any reform of the industrial law provide that protection. 'Workers Charter' and the 'Workers Party' are both calling for the legal ‘right to strike’. But no bosses will agree to any right to limit their profits. They will concede some profits only when forced to by militant, mass labour organisation; such ‘rights must be won by industrial action not by votes in parliament.
The rank and file of the unions in dispute have to break from the capitalist state and mobilise generalise and extend their strike action to all sites of production to close down their industry and open the way for workers control of industry. The same strategy of generalising strike action into a general strike to bring down the government that is being advocated by the revolutionary left in Australia against Howard’s Work Choices has to be adopted in NZ against imperialist monopolies and their state protector, the Labour Government.
All around the world, the struggle to stay alive in the wage slave labour sector shows there is no future for workers under either ‘model’ –smart social or crude market-capitalism. Independent workers movements coming into existence to fight for their survival are forced to take on capitalist ownership and control of the economy, a movement which some are calling ‘21st century socialism’.
Whose 21st century socialism?
In other semi-colonies where the process of imperialist ‘gutting’ has gone much further than NZ, workers have had to stand up and fightback or starve. Facing growing underemployment, poverty and destitution, and the social destruction that follows from that, workers have taken back workplaces, jobs and some control over their lives.
In Latin America mass social movements in Bolivia, Equador, Argentina and Venezuela have brought about big changes. The focus of these struggles is the nationalisation of resources, the occupation of workplaces and the fight for workers’ control of production. Along with these come demands for the nationalisation of industry, land and the banks. These are the same demands that NZ workers have to raise in their struggles against imperialist attacks on their jobs, rights and living standards.
The demand for nationalisation of industry under workers control should be raised in every dispute. Workers labour power built the assets that have been stripped in this country. Workers labour power makes the superprofits of the multinationals. Workers labour power pays the taxes that subsidises the smart economy. These assets should be taken back without compensation. Only in this way will workers come to control the means of production and defeat the destructive, superexploitative rule of imperialist finance capital.
However, as the article on Cuba in this issue shows, workers insurgency in Latin America is being held back by the fake leaders of the labour movement, who like the Labour government in NZ sow illusions in nation states doing deals between national capitalism and ‘democratic’ (today European!) imperialism. As we have seen, ‘imperialist democracy’ is an oxymoron: its democracy for the rich and death for the poor.
These misleaders are using the national state apparatuses to contain the insurgent labour movement. More alarming, this dog collar is being applied with the approval of Chavez and Castro and the forces organised around the World Social Forum. Neither of these ‘socialists’ have had bad words to say about Kirchner and Lula, who are open class collaborationists doing the dirty work for the capitalists. By giving these client regimes of imperialism a ‘progressive’ label, such‘socialists’ are once more turning socialism into a dirty word.
So we have to make sure that ‘21st socialism’ is not merely the recycled ‘market socialism’ of the Russian and Chinese bureaucrats looking for a way to become a new bureaucracy . We have to break from the capitalist state and the WSF left bureaucracy! For independent rank and file struggles! For horizonal coordination of workers struggles locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to smash capitalism globally! For a world party of socialism!
From Class Struggle 68 August/September 2006