Saturday, April 16, 2016

Karl Marx and the myth of "fair shares"

Image result for Karl Marx and income distribution

The Panama Papers have caught the 'global rich' with their blind trusts exposed and this is supposed to tell us something, but what? Are the tax cheats just greedy parasites wanting to shirk their social responsibility of paying their 'fair share' of taxes? After all are not all citizens obliged to pay their 'fair share' to pay for the state and all its services to keep the system going?

If you think 'greed' is the problem you haven't been paying attention for the last 150 years during the rise and fall of capitalism.

Taxation is based on the myth that under capitalism everyone is equal. But some bourgeois citizens are inherently more equal than others. Most work for a living while those who own the means of production live off that work.

So inequality under capitalism has nothing to do with greed and everything to do with class. One class creates the wealth, another expropriates part of it as profit. How can that be "fair".

Marx prescribes a steep "progressive income tax" in the Communist Manifesto but does not mean that taxation has anything to do with "fairness". At best it makes the capitalist forfeit some small part of his profits in order to preserve the profit system.

That is because Marx see taxation as part of the distribution of income that results from the "unfair" class relations where one class produces and the other expropriates the wealth.

So while Marx definitely calls for "Taxing the Rich" in today's language, this is part of a program to prove to workers that it is futile to expect that capitalist exploitation can be remedied by progressive taxes.

Exposing "blind trusts" to the daylight can only help erode the blind trust that workers have in the "fairness" of capitalism.

But for that to happen workers have to fight for 'progressive' taxes and not submit to the deliberate strategy of capitalists to increase the rate of exploitation in part by paying no, or token, taxes. Technically, this means that while all taxation comes out of the value productive workers produce, the burden of taxation can influence how much goes to wages and how much goes to profits.

That is why the bosses always use their state apparatus to shift the burden of taxation from profits to wages, increasing their share of the total value produced by labour.

By resisting this strategy workers learn that tax evasion is not about bosses greed but about survival of the system itself. The bosses fear taxes as the harbinger of their own class expropriation. They are driven to hide their incomes as the rate of profit falls and risks a meltdown in the world economy.

Here is the proof that tax evasion is not about greed but about survival. When surplus capital that cannot be invested productively to create more value, capitalists have to resort to gambling on existing commodities to the point where gambling becomes more and more risky and ends up in global busts.

Stock markets plunge as profits fall and dividends evaporate. Desperate attempt to prop them up by firms and states buying up their own shares just creates more debt with no prospect of being paid off.

Money is hoarded rather than invested when interest rates are negative, and bond yields are nil. So if you are going to hoard money where better than secret offshore tax havens where the value of you money erodes less rapidly because you pay no tax?

Capitalism is collapsing as the hoarded profits created by generations of workers are now under threat of going 'poof' like a bonfire of paper. This is not going to be pretty.

So when we cheer at the exposure of tax cheating bosses we should reflect that this is only a small step in exposing the rotten, corrupt, destructive society that is capitalism today.

That is why we should take Dr Marx's prescription, that the solution to capitalist inequality cannot be the mythical "fair shares" of the tax burden but the expropriation of all the past surplus value of workers hoarded by the capitalist 'elite' that secretes its piles of wealth in offshore havens and makes ready to flee the inevitable rise of a workers revolution bent on expropriating their wealth.

Expropriation of capital will allow a socialist society to produce and distribute wealth according to the only "fair share" principle: "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need".

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

UBI - magical thinking in the age of capitalism

Image result for Marx on a living wage 

As the New Zealand Labour Party ponders the 'Future of Work', the discussion focuses on the Universal Basic Income (UBI) to "guarantee income security and dignity". This is another attempt to rewrite Labour's historic mission to convince workers that it knows best what workers want under capitalism. This is another con. 

Not until bosses give back their profits to the generations of workers they stole them from will any redistribution of income be more than a subsidy to the bosses. Notice how all the discussion around the fashionable UBI is limited to what the bosses can afford to pay. This is magical thinking. No way will capitalist corporations and banks agree to pay for full employment and a living wage let alone a UBI. Both have to be sacrificed in the impending global crash to restore the rate of profit.

This magical thinking has always been the fatal flaw of social democracy – the illusion that there is a peaceful, gradual road to socialism by means of bosses agreeing to 'fair shares' in the distribution of income. To question this assumption is to risk exposing the real truth of capitalism; that all income originates from the labour power of productive workers. 

If that truth was our starting point the question would be: why does capital have the right to exist and define the terms of debate around how wages are determined when it lives off the expropriation of surplus-value?

In this light it’s easy to see that the UBI is another big con to divert the class struggle away from fighting for control of jobs and a living wage in the workplace and into the dead end of parliament. 

If unions are too weak to win a living wage now they won’t be able to force a living UBI out of the parliamentary talkshop. Parliamentary reforms that benefit workers are concessions won from the bosses only when they fear being over-run by militant labour.

The reason the UBI has been dragged off the top shelf as a ‘reasonable’ demand by academic liberals, social democrats and union bosses is because the bosses are scared a global economic crash will spark rising worker opposition to paying for the bosses crisis and threaten the fragile hold the ruling class has over the ‘dangerous’ class – the international proletariat.

The parties of the ‘center-left’ (Labour, Greens and Mana) are all run by a clique of pro-capitalist bureaucrats whose pay rests on the legal fiction that they represent the interests of the working class. This means that these parties are internally divided between a worker base and the bureaucratic leadership. The internal class divisions widen as such parties are torn between two class programs – to serve the top 10% and their lackeys, or the bottom 90% expected to pay for the crisis with their lives and livelihoods.

A new mass workers party is needed arising out of a split between the working class supporters of these parties and their union affiliates and the rotten labour bureaucracy that act to tie their worker organisations to the bosses state machine. 

Strong fighting, democratic unions that throw out their pro-capitalist leaders are the only way to begin the claw back of the surplus expropriated from workers and build a power base capable of taking on the ruling class and implementing a Transitional Program (TP) that takes workers all the way to socialism.

The TP puts up immediate economic demands that all workers need and are willing and able to fight for such as: Jobs for all! A living wage! Solve unemployment by sharing work hours without loss of pay! These are immediate demands but they are also ‘transitional’ because they cannot be won without workers control of work. 

So rather than waiting passively for a Government cargo cult that will drop a living UBI from the sky even while an economic crash looms and global warming escalates exponentially, fighting democratic unions will defend every job with strikes and occupations against their employers. Because such struggles threaten the bosses’ control of work they will be met with inevitable state repression which will in turn force workers to develop new organisations and tactics to advance the defence of our class.

Inevitably employers backed by the state will try to deny workers defence of economic rights to work and a living wage by using the state forces to close down on freedom of expression, assembly, strike etc. When bosses use the labor laws to call in the cops the workers response is to break the law with occupations defended by picket lines.

Furthermore, strike action to win in any worksite has to be generalised to involve all militant workers in struggle in every sector of the economy. In that way workplace committees, strike committees and workers defence guards, become coordinated locally, nationally and internationally.

Building unity around these demands and the organisations they throw up empowers workers to take another big step and organise a political general strike aimed at defeating the employers and their state machine and imposing workers ownership and control of the means of production. 

Thus the Transitional Program begins with immediate economic and political demands and leads necessarily to workers empowering themselves to the point where they can overthrow of the capitalist state and create a Workers’ Government able to implement a planned socialist economy - where the myth of the capitalist UBI is a dim memory for those whose social equity is based on the principle: 

"From each according to their ability, to each according to their need".

Monday, March 21, 2016

For a Socialist Aotearoa!

It's no surprise to Marxists that the TPPA 'Treaty' is a fraud. It signifies the continuation of the NZ's colonial history from the Treaty of Waitangi (TOW) signed in 1840. To know how to fight the TPPA today we need to understand why the struggle to 'honour' the Treaty of Waitangi has proven futile. The only true honour is the mana of the united working people of the Pacific!

There is no 'honour' in any Capitalist Treaty 

 The original Treaty was imposed by colonial Britain at the height of its powers. Its purpose was to annex NZ without war if possible. The Treaty promised Maori control of Maori land and equal citizenship. But capitalist society demanded the destruction of Iwi-based ownership to enable private ownership of property and the separation of Maori from their land as a wage labour force. How could a fraudulent Treaty be honoured on the basis of a fiction of equality of subjects when Maori were deprived of most of their land? This is the capitalist equality where everyone is free to sleep under a bridge.

War was inevitable because Maori society resisted land theft and proved more successful economically than the fragile capitalist society brought by the settlers. This was no isolated event. The United States was formed by the destruction of the indigenous peoples. So were other settler colonies from South Africa to Israel.

Even while the Treaty was being signed here, China was resisting a Treaty with Britain which led to an armed invasion and the opium wars. This situation was not reversed until China had its national revolution in 1911 and began the long struggle to be free of imperialist rule.

The Treaty that left Maori with little land and a fictional equality can never be honoured short of restoring the land to collective ownership. The attempts by Maori in the land wars to retain collective ownership led to military defeats culminating in the sacking of Parihaka in 1881.

On the basis of this historic defeat all the Treaty settlements since are belated and cynical attempts to turn Iwi leaders into capitalist elites who buy shares in NZ's colonial role of providing cheap labour to produce raw materials for its imperialist masters. Such a co-optation, far from 'honouring' the Treaty proves it was always a fraud, no more than a mechanism for implanting capitalism to enrich the few and impoverish the many.

Those who struggled for generations to 'honour' the Treaty know that the TPPA is another such asset-grabbing fraud - only this time on a much greater scale and posing the destruction not only of what little Maori assets remain, but a wholesale smash and grab raid on the whole Pacific peoples who are forced to submit to its terms.

The original colonial power, Britain, created its settler colonies in the process of creating its imperialist domination of the world. Today it is a decrepit shadow of its former imperialist glory. The US took its place as the dominant power after the Second World War but now faces a terminal decline.

The TPPA is therefore 100 times more destructive in today's conditions where the US is using the Treaty to prop-up its economic decline in the last desperate neo-liberal assault on the Pacific peoples to plunder their labor and resources, destroy their ecology and drive the region to war with China.

TPPA against socialist expropriation

What the TPPA Treaty is doing is a continuation of the original Treaty, this time not to establish capitalist property, but to prevent the socialising of capitalist property. The US monopoly corporates know that their wealth can be expropriated if mass movements rise up and challenge the capitalist states. They seek to put up international laws and institutions to legitimize the rights of capitalist property and impose draconian sanctions on attempts by populist governments to nationalise or collectivise private assets.

Just as British imperialism submitted Maori to the 'sovereign' property rights of capitalist ownership against collective ownership, US imperialism via the TPPA will attempt to submit NZ citizens to the 'sovereign' rights of monopoly corporates backed by US state power to prevent the socialisation of capitalist property.

We have seen that no Treaty with the capitalist ruling class can 'honour' its promises to guarantee equality on the basis of capitalist property. Every capitalist state exists to legitimize capitalist property. National sovereignty is nothing more than exercising state power to defend private property.

Capitalist Treaties from 1840 to 2016 are frauds implemented by a colonial nation state to meet the demands of the imperialist states of the day. The 'sovereignty' of the NZ state was always to administer the sovereignty of the imperialist master, Britain or the US. Therefore, opposition to the ruling class 'Treaties' designed to subordinate the masses to imperialism can only succeed by resisting and defeating imperialism.

As the protests against the TPPA show, a broad working class (in the sense of those who work for a living) is uniting into a mass movement in the name of defending NZ's 'sovereignty' from US imperialism and its NZ client regime, the NACTs. The majority of this movement still believes that the NZ state can act in the 'national' interest of all NZ people, rich and poor and legislate to reject or renegotiate the TPPA. A minority of anti-capitalists who know that this cannot work and the only answer to the TPPA has to be a revolution against capitalism and its state, and the creation of a socialist republic within a Pacific federation of socialist republics. 

A Socialist Aotearoa in a Socialist Pacific-Asia

While the majority are not yet ready for revolution, events can bring about rapid change in politics. Political struggle is about knowing the enemy. As a mass movement seeks to raise political demands against the fraudulent TPPA, the parliamentary process will become increasingly diversionary. 

A Labour/Green/NZ First/Mana opposition will be powerless to reject or even amend the TPPA given the massive pressure exerted by the US Empire on its path to destruction. 

The blind alley of parliament will encourage more to engage in direct action against the destructive effects of the TPPA and demand to break from all imperialist control over NZ. 

This will lead to organising and coordinating local action committees which agree on a Transitional Program of demands that goes from a living wage today to the fight for a Workers ' Government tomorrow to nationalise the land; socialise the property of the imperialist corporates and the big capitalist cronies in NZ under workers control; create a socialist plan based on production to meet need not greed, and to fight catastrophic climate change and nuclear meltdown.

The only true honour is the mana of the united working people of the Pacific!
For a Socialist Republic of Aotearoa as part of a Socialist United States of the Pacific!
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