All posts by Farooque Chowdhury

Venezuelans Prepared to Defend their Bolivarian Revolution

People in Venezuela shall defend the Bolivarian Revolution. To defend the land, the people are prepared for battle. This is the promise by the people in the land the revolution is moving forward with its transforming process.

Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, said: Venezuela is “prepared for battle” if the US imposes quarantine. “We are all prepared for battle if anyone tries to impose a quarantine or blockade on Venezuela.”

“Not Venezuela! is my message to criminal imperialism,” said Maduro.

“Donald Trump says that he is considering imposing a quarantine against Venezuela meaning that no vessel enters or exits. It is a blockade.”

Maduro has instructed Samuel Moncada, Venezuela’s permanent representative to the UN, to tell the UN Security Council about, as Maduro said, “the illegal and criminal threat by Donald Trump to introduce a sea blockade and a quarantine against Venezuela.”

Maduro said Trump voiced his threats because of Washington’s despair in the face of Venezuela’s dignity.

Maduro was speaking at an event in the state of La Guaira on August 2. He was responding to a remark made on August 1 that Trump was considering a blockade of Venezuela due to “foreign involvement”.

“I am telling Donald Trump that criminal imperialism will not cope with Venezuela. The waters of Venezuela will be free, sovereign and independent. We will sail there the way we chose to. Get ready for a fight if you want to introduce a quarantine against Venezuela,” said the Venezuelan president.

After imposing grinding sanctions on Venezuela, Trump has said that the next step for the US could be increasing pressure on Venezuela by imposing a blockade or quarantine. It was the first time Trump expressed the idea of imposing blockade of Venezuela.

Trump made the off-hand remark after a reporter asked him at the White House lawn if the US president has been considering a blockade or a quarantine of Venezuela “given the amount of foreign involvement from Russia, China and Iran.”

“Yes, I am,” the US president responded, without elaborating. The response prompted the journalist to ask again, only for Trump to triple down: “Yes, I am. Yes. Yes, I am.”

The issue of “foreign power” in Venezuela is not new to the US, which itself is a foreign power in Latin America.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, in late-July called on “every foreign power” to leave Venezuela.

With the words “foreign power,” he meant Russia, China, Iran, and Cuba. But he denied seeing meddling of the US in the internal affairs of Venezuela, and in other countries.

In an interview to Argentina’s Infobae website on July 19, 2019, Pompeo said the countries that continue to stand by Maduro should “leave”. At that time, Pompeo was on a four-day tour of Latin America.

“We hope every foreign power will leave. We want the Venezuelan people to control their own destiny”, said Pompeo when asked about the role that Russia, China, and Iran play in the region.

A strange logic formed! The US openly interferes in the affairs of Venezuela. The most powerful country in the world openly and repeatedly demands political and constitutional measures to be taken in Venezuela, selects political leaders to represent Venezuela; and through these stances, it stands above the people of Venezuela, and the constitution the people there have formulated. Now, it demands “foreign powers” – the countries extending assistance including medical equipment and medicines – to leave Venezuela. Wolves weave this logic. This pattern of logic is found in cases of other countries also. But, with a sense of dignity, it’s impossible to accept this logic.

Pompeo said: “They need to leave Venezuela, and then we can begin to do the work to rebuild that country democratically, with free and fair elections, in a way that will truly restore the greatness that Venezuela once had.”

History of imposing imperial democracy and rebuilding countries is full with sad and sadistic stories, now known not only to audience of alternative media, but also to broader audience of mainstream media.

And, with the word “we”, he meant the US, the only country in the world with “all legitimate authorities” to dictate all in the world, to define democracy in all countries.

“In the end, I think the Cubans are going to have a very difficult decision to make,” Pompeo said in the interview. “They have propped up this regime for an awfully long time. They need to leave. They need to go back.”

Cuba is always a “troubling” factor to imperialism. Because, the island-country has never surrendered its dignity and honor. Many states owned by resource-rich ruling elites have done the job – surrender everything called dignity.

Speaking on the ongoing talks between the Maduro government and the Venezuelan opposition in Barbados, Pompeo said that any conversation “can only be about one thing, that Maduro must leave.”

Juan Guaido, the puppet of imperialism and self-proclaimed “interim president” having no constitutional legitimacy, after agreeing to the talks, said the same – Guaido only wanted to “negotiate the departure of the dictatorship.”

These are the positions imperialism and its puppets have taken. These stand as illogical, inflexible, and contrary to logic of negotiation. How can one decide an outcome of negotiation before the negotiation ensues? Isn’t it imposing a pre-condition? And, the pre-condition is designed in such a pattern that the negotiation doesn’t move even to table. The pre-condition provokes one to reject the negotiation step. That was the original design.

Maduro rejected US attempts to interfere in Venezuela’s political dialogue. He said agreements that might be signed in Barbados, the place negotiations between the government and opposition is going on, could only be “absolutely sovereign.” Maduro said, “Venezuela will not give in to blackmail from the side of the US and EU.”

The US imperialism’s intolerance with and intransigence to Venezuela is now a well-known fact.

Imperialism is openly calling and taking steps for regime change in Venezuela, which regularly takes toll with lives from the Venezuelan people. Its imposition of scores of sanctions is crippling the Latin American country’s economy, and the people’s suffering there in the country is increasing while imperialism is openly backing its puppet.

The puppet tried to implement imperialism-planned conspiracy after conspiracy, all of which turned out as caricature. The output of those conspiracies made the master – imperialism – and its puppet laughingstocks. Despite the failures, imperialism is feeding its puppet.

Citing officials and an internal memo circulated by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Los Angeles Times reported, the US is increasing its funds to boost up Guaido with $41.9 million diverted from humanitarian aid to Central America.1

“The memo, dated July 11 and obtained by The Times, is a notification to Congress from the US Agency for International Development that the money is going to Venezuela in response to an ‘exigent’ crisis involving U.S. ‘national interest.’”1

USAID says the money is “necessary due to unforeseen events and exceptional circumstances.”

The memo, as cited by the LA Times, says part of the sum would be used to pay Guaido and his entourage’s salaries, airfare, and to provide the opposition with “good governance” training, propaganda and technical support for “democracy building” projects.

“Some of the organizations that will be used to oversee the spending are the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, the memo said.” The organizations mentioned are known as long hands of imperialism. Interests these organizations market have been documented scores of times by serious studies. The interests are only imperialistic.

The memo that notifies the House of Representatives of the plans to repurpose some $41 million of about $370 million in aid it permanently diverted from the Northern Triangle countries – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – is the first step in the process of getting it to Guaido and his band.

However, the Guaido gang’s corruption with money has already been exposed.

And, the LA Times report cited Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin America program at the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington: “The danger is that the Venezuelan opposition becomes perceived as Made in the USA.”

Made in the USA – the fact is also known to all. Yet, neither the puppets nor their masters feel shy! Puppets are shameless and shapeless, and puppet-masters don’t care shame and dishonor.

The “aid” diversion was confirmed by Trump. In March, Trump himself told journalists that he “ended payments to Guatemala, to Honduras, and to El Salvador. No money goes there anymore.”

“Things” don’t cease here. There’s Cuba, Venezuela’s closest ally, and the country imperialism can’t tolerate at all. Imperialism is continuously pressuring Cuba to break ties with Maduro-led Venezuela.

Imperialism has blamed Cuba for failure of imperialist puppet’s political gambles; and has imposed a number of new sanctions on Cuba. Imperialism denies seeing inefficiency of its puppets and the objectives condition within which its puppets operate with mirage like hope.

Cuba is undaunted.

Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, the Cuban president, has said: “Imperialism proposes that we betray Venezuela, showing shameless cynicism they resort to blackmail.

“Ignorant of history and the Cuban Revolution’s foreign policy principles, they propose to negotiate a possible reconciliation with us, in exchange for abandoning the course chosen and defended by our people. They suggest betraying friends, throwing 60 years of dignity into the trash bin.

“No, imperialist gentlemen, we do not understand each other.”2

By blaming all, but self and allies, and by punishing peoples in lands with sanctions imperialism claims its “authentic” right to restore “democracy” in countries including Venezuela – an imperial dream, no doubt.

But, imperialism’s “initiatives” with “democracy” is over-exposed with inner-stories of those “projects” – plunder of those lands, blood soaking those lands, and failure in governance. Character of the “democracy” it imposes is also over-exposed. All are for, of and by imperialism – securing imperialist interest, exploiting all resources of victimized countries, pauperizing the intervened societies. History bears evidence after evidence.

The present day world is witnessing a lot of imperialist “dramas” in a number of theaters. Not just a single factor is pushing these “dramas”. A number of factors are propelling these “dramas”.

One of the factors is the imperialism’s domestic politics – election, factional fight of the ruling elites, troubling serious social problems, etc. Another factor is its economy – the war economy. Tension and war feed the war economy producing “logic” to pump money into the machines producing guns. War economy always gulps money to create war or war-like environment. That’s profitable for owners of the war machine. The factors of hegemony to loot, exploit resources, control strategic locations, competition, etc. are there as usual.

Venezuela is one of many victims of that system bent on robbing all gains the people there have so far made. Because of Venezuela’s march with the Bolivarian Revolution, it has become one of the first targets of imperialism. Because, imperialism doesn’t like examples favorable to people.

Cuba already has experienced a blockade. That was decades ago. Other measures against Cuba are continuing, which in essence, is an economic blockade. But Cuba is thwarting those, and upholding the flag the country unfurled decades ago. Venezuela shall march through the same path, and foil all those measures as long as the flag of the Bolivarian Revolution keeps people politically mobilized there.

  1. Trump administration diverts Central America aid to U.S.-backed opposition in Venezuela,” LA Times, July 16, 2019.
  2. Cuba does not betray its friends or its principles,” Granma, July 30, 2019.

Marta Harnecker, the Fighter

Marta Harnecker

Comrade Marta Harnecker passed away of cancer on June 15, 2019, in Canada.

A relentless fighter, comrade Marta Harnecker (1937 – 2019) made valuable contributions in the areas of theory related to revolution for socialism in the broader Latin American perspective.

Her struggle was for a humane world.

Marta Hernecker was not an adventurist-head and not an adventurist-voice, which made her a leading theoretician for people of her time. Rather, years of learning from struggles helped her take an approach linking to reality and perspective, alignment of classes and balance of power of hostile classes. This led her to say:

We need a left that realizes that being radical does not consist of raising the most militant slogan or carrying out the most extreme actions — with which only a few agree, and which scare off the majority — but rather in being capable of creating spaces for the broadest possible sectors to meet and join forces in struggle. The realization that there are many of us in the same struggle is what makes us strong; it is what radicalizes us. We need a left that understands that we must obtain hegemony, that is to say, that we have to convince instead of imposing. We need a left that understands that, more important than what we have done in the past, is what we will do together in the future to win our sovereignty — to build a society that makes possible the full development of all human beings: the socialist society of the twenty-first century.1

It’s a lesson to be taken into consideration.

“Radical […] raising the most militant slogan or carrying out the most extreme actions” mean nothing, but simply a juvenile effort to establish self as the “hero”, in real sense a zero, the character class enemies of the exploited prefer most.

The sociologist, political scientist, and activist from Chile was a close comrade of Hugo Chavez, the Bolivarian revolutionary leader of Venezuela and one of the most hated figures to the imperialists.

To Marta, today’s Venezuela is a laboratory of the Bolivarian revolution. By type of a number of works, she was also a journalist. But, her work took her away from the political fight of people for a humane world. She was not without any idea which is devoid of political action.

Marta writes:

In order for political action to be effective, so that protests, resistance and struggles are genuinely able to change things, to convert mass uprisings into revolutions, a political instrument capable of overcoming the dispersion and fragmentation of the exploited and the oppressed is required: one that can create spaces to bring together those who, in spite of their differences, have a common enemy; that is able to strengthen existing struggles and promote others by orientating their actions according to a thorough analysis of the political situation; that can act as an instrument for cohering the many expressions of resistance and struggle.2

It’s an essential line of approach today; because the bourgeoisie are fragmenting the exploited with different colors – the tact that weakens the exploited and strengthens the exploiters.

The theoretician was always at the front-line, from country to country.

She summarized lessons from successful revolutions:

The history of triumphant revolutions clearly demonstrates what can be achieved when a political instrument exists that is capable of raising an alternative national program to unify the struggles of diverse social actors behind a common goal […]3

And, she emphasized:

[…] actions be carried out at the right place and the right time, always seeking out the weakest link in the enemy’s chain.3

It’s the same lesson Lenin taught through the Great October Revolution: right place, right time, enemy’s weakest link.

Marta talks about political instrument:

The political instrument is like a piston in a locomotive which transforms steam power into the motion that is transmitted to the wheels, driving the locomotive forward, and with it, the whole train. Strong organizational cohesion does not alone provide the major objective capacity for acting, but at the same time, it creates an internal climate that makes possible energetic interventions into events, profiting from the opportunities these offer. It must be remembered that in politics, one does not only have to be right but one must also be timely and rely on strength to achieve success.

Her idea of political instrument of today is in the context of existing reality.

She admits:

This task needs time, research and knowledge of the national and international situation. It is not something that can be improvised overnight, much less so in the complex world in which we live. There are “heroes” who don’t have time to learn and research but have more than enough time for slogan-mongering, and have enough time to indulge in ignorance. But, Marx, emphatically said: Ignorance brings no good. Rather, ignorance compresses one into anarchism, and encourages to declining looking at social process. The bourgeoisie want super-production of ignorant “heroes” spewing only slogans, and no effort for spadework, and no humbleness to learn. For these “heroes”, the point Marta raises is a lesson, if they like.

Marta doesn’t ignore the question of political organization:

The initial preparation will always have to be done by the political organization […].

Political organization should take the lead. For spearheading people’s political struggle, whoever dreams of relying on NGOs, rights organizations and organizations submerged into marginal forces missing the class question should take into consideration Marta’s point – political organization.

There are questions of strategy and tactics. So, Marta writes:

The political instrument is necessary, not only to coordinate the popular movement and promote theoretical thinking, but also for defining strategy.

All successful revolutions correctly defined the question of strategy and tactics.

However, Marta doesn’t forget the aspect related to broader spectrum. She writes:

[…] I believe we must be very mindful that, as it progresses, this project should be enriched and modified by social practice, with opinions and suggestions from the social actors because, as previously stated, socialism cannot be decreed from on high, it has to be built with the people.

Therefore, there’s no scope for sectarianism.

Marta discusses the question of popular struggle with specific characteristics and specific context:

[…] at this time in our countries, the popular struggle is developing in very different circumstances from those of czarist Russia. But it is also obvious that Venezuela is not Cuba nor Nicaragua, nor is Bolivia the same as Ecuador. In each country, there are different circumstances that mediate the strategy and modify the forms of popular struggle. Consequently, I do not believe it is useful to propose a template with a formal structure that the revolutionary instrument would have to be.

Thus, it appears, she was free from dogma, free from the machine-made-theory approach for all countries.

Marta Harnecker participated in the revolutionary process of 1970-1973 in Chile. After studying with Louis Althusser in Paris, she returned to Chile in 1968, and joined the Socialist Party of Chile.

In 1973, after the overthrow of the government of president Salvador Allende by the US-backed coup d’état led by General Pinochet Marta was forced into exile in Cuba.

She has written extensively on the Cuban Revolution. She also lived in Caracas and was a participant in the Venezuelan revolution.

Marta Harnecker was the director of research institute Memoria Popular Latinoamericana (MEPLA).

In 2002, Marta interviewed Chavez for fifteen hours, the longest interview Chavez has given since 1997, before he was elected president.

One of her famous books is A World to Build: New Paths toward Twenty-First Century Socialism.

Marta’s Fidel: la estrategia política de la victoria (Fidel: The Political Strategy of Victory) discusses the revolutionary process in Cuba.

Marta was entrusted the editing and indexation of the booklet El nuevo mapa estratégico (The New Strategic Map), a collection of speeches by Chavez in November 2004. This booklet contains the condensed doctrine of the Bolivarian Revolution.

In Haciendo posible lo imposible: la izquierda en el umbral del siglo XXI (Making Possible the Impossible: the left on the threshold of the 21st century), initially published in Cuba and later in Chile, Colombia, México, Portugal and Spain, Marta presents a wide view of popular movements Latin America.

Marta discusses the question of hegemony of different types:

Popular movements and, more generally, the different social protagonists who to-day are engaged in the struggle against neoliberal globalization both at the international and national levels reject, with good reason, attitudes that aim to impose hegemony or control over movements. They don’t accept the steamroller policy that some political and social organizations tended to use that, taking advantage of their position of strength and monopolizing political positions, attempt to manipulate the movement. They don’t accept the authoritarian imposition of a leadership from above; they don’t accept attempts made to lead movements by simply giving orders, no matter how correct they are. Such attitudes, instead of bringing forces together, have the opposite effect. On the one hand, it creates discontent in the other organizations; they feel manipulated and obligated to accept decisions in which they’ve had no participation; and on the other hand, it reduces the number of potential allies, given that an organization that assumes such positions is incapable of representing the real interests of all sectors of the population and often provokes mistrust and skepticism among them. But to fight against positions that seek to impose hegemony does not mean renouncing the fight to win hegemony, which is nothing else but attempting to win over, to persuade others of the correctness of our criteria and the validity of our proposals.4

Her practical proposal was:

If we want to truly be radicals and not just radicals in name, we must immerse ourselves in the daily work of constructing a social and political force that permits us to bring forth the changes that we want. How much more fruitful would it be if those who spoke out were those who were committed to this daily militancy instead of those who practice their militancy from a desk. (“Interview with Marta Harnecker: In the laboratory of a revolution.5

Facebook “revolutionaries” – persons deluging Facebook with revolutionary slogans and undisciplined statements and arguments, and doing no elementary work essential for building up people’s organization and struggle – may learn from this statement: “immerse ourselves in the daily work of constructing a social and political force.”

On building up a counter-position to capitalism in Latin America, Marta said:

We are beginning a new cycle of revolutionary advancement and we must accelerate the construction of the subjective factors that circumvent new historical frustrations. Unfortunately, there are few countries where the social and political forces of the left work harmoniously reinforcing each other. Egoism and political ambition usually prevails among their leaders. They have not sufficiently understood that power is in unity and that unity is constructed by respecting each other’s differences. They have not sufficiently understood that the art of politics is to construct a political and social force capable of making that which appears impossible today, possible in the near future; that in order to construct political strength you must construct social strength.

Here is a statement that should be taken seriously:

We are beginning a new cycle of revolutionary advancement. However, there are a few theoreticians in the camp of the people, who only see rise of the right, only see a rightward tilt of the time – “victory” of neoliberalism. They miss the dialectics – people’s struggles are building up in countries, imperialism is finding its tactics are failing in countries at times, imperialism’s assessments are turning wrong at times, a few theories imperialism asserted with are turning outdated in regions.

So, with revolutionary spirit, Marta lives, lives in places far away from those timid scholars.

Marta Harnecker is author of more than 60 books that include:

– The Basic Concepts of Historical Materialism
– The Left after Seattle
– Hugo Chávez Frias: un hombre, un pueblo, Venezuela: Militares junto al pueblo and Venezuela: una revolución sui generis A World to Build (Monthly Review Press, 2015)
– Ideas for the Struggle, (Socialist Interventions Pamphlet Series, 2010)
– Haciendo posible lo imposible: La izquierda en el umbral del siglo XXI, (Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 429 Seiten, 1999)
– América Latina, izquerda y crisis actual: Izquierda y crisis actual, (Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 305 Seiten, 1990)
– La Revolución Social: Lenin y América Latina, (Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 307 Seiten, 1986)

Comrade Marta Harnecker’s march along people will not cease as the people are building up and intensifying their struggles in countries in Latin America, as political activists in countries go through her works to chart a respective path of revolution – the path to emancipation and freedom.

  1. “Latin America and Twenty-First Century Socialism: Inventing to Avoid Mistakes,” Monthly Review, July-August, 2010.
  2. “A Political Instrument Appropriate for Each Reality”, The Bullet, January 25, 2019, The Socialist Project, Toronto, Ontario.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “Ideas for the Struggle, pamphlet, Socialist Project, Toronto, Ontario, August 2010, notes omitted.
  5. Cuba Diglo XXI.

Timir Basu focuses on Labor in India

Labor around the world is facing a hostile situation to the extent and intensity unprecedented in labor’s history. At the same time, labor in the Global South and Global North is theoretically, organizationally and politically unarmed. In this perspective, Timir Basu, a revolutionary once organizing the poor peasantry, and after passing hard time behind bars, organizing the labor, and delivering his tasks as editor of Frontier, the radical weekly from Kolkata, for decades, focuses on labor in India, a large economy in the Global South, in the following interview. The interview was taken in April 2019 by Farooque Chowdhury.

*****

Farooque Chowdhury: You were actively involved with organizing the poor peasantry along revolutionary lines. That was days of organizing armed struggle, years ago. Then, after getting out of prison, you actively got involved with organizing unions. You were simultaneously writing on labor and unions/labor movement in two famous weeklies – Economic and Political Weekly and Frontier. Later, over the years, as editor of Frontier, you keenly observe the labor and labor movement in India. What’s the present condition of (a) the labor, and (b) the labor movement in this south Asian country?

Timir Basu: Labor has been on the defensive everywhere since the 1990s, more precisely since the beginning of ruthless aggression of neo-liberalism. And, the South Asian region is no exception.

As for India, labor here is doubly disadvantaged because of a backward manufacturing process inherited from the British colonial rulers. Indian big business houses never tried to modernize their industry despite tremendous advance in technological up-gradation in manufacturing in Europe and America. Indian business tycoons are industrialists with feudal mindset. Also, they never tried to explore and expand market beyond a certain point. Unlike the Chinese capitalists who are latecomer in the race, they remained satisfied with captive market. They were always apprehensive of losing control over their family business empires in case of expansion. But with rapid march of globalization, technological up-gradation became the buzzword in new corporate culture dominated by Ambanis and Adanis, in place of old Tatas and Birlas. They began to automate their production lines with the sole purpose of cutting labor cost, not the improvement in quality of products. This is the main reason why Indian goods are not competitive in international market despite the advantage of cheap labor. Indian economy is not immune to global recession. Despite pompous claim of high growth rate and fairy tale of GDP, joblessness remains the perennial headache of all governments irrespective of color. Barring services sector the much-touted organized sector has been witnessing systematic killing of jobs.

Trade Union movement in general even in the organized sector finds it increasingly difficult to arrest the falling membership and boost the sagging morale of workers who are in constant threat of losing job. They work under the state of fear-psychosis, always encountering uncertainty and insecurity. The old way of placing charter of demands with major thrust on wage revision and compensatory allowance in proportion to rise or fall in consumer price index no longer works. Labor offensive in the form of strike in isolation here and there, quite often fails due to lack of solidarity support.

The phenomenal growth of services sector has created a new generation of employees who are essentially footloose, and May Day has very little meaning to them unless they are politically motivated. They are not interested in the past but what they fail to grasp is they protect their future without knowing the past. Labor movement in the era of digital economy looks more fragmented and the “cybertariat” is yet to stand on its own feet.

FC: What’s the major hindrance – theoretically or politically or organizationally or assault by capital/opponent classes – the labor movement in India is facing now?

TB: For the decline of labor movement what is theoretically valid for workers in the West is equally valid for workers in India. The collapse of Soviet Russia gave employers, more precisely corporate employers, extra leverage to curb their bargaining power. The model of’ socialist societies’ where workers used to enjoy better living standards and social security was no longer there. Socialism itself became a dirty word. The post-Soviet situation also helped right-wing forces organize trade unions under their banner of reactionary and backward ideology. Reversal in China gave them extra teeth to coerce labor and brakes on trade union rights.

Tragically, most workers in the organized sector came under the sway of political right while the left continued to wander in ideological wilderness. In truth, they are still in search of an appropriate strategy in the changed context. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) controlled Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and [Indian National] Congress controlled INTUC together control most organized membership of unions and don’t allow workers to go on strike even in case of gross violation of workers’ rights.

FC: Which class dominates the labor movement in India?

TB: The middle class as a whole dominates Indian labor movement. It doesn’t matter whether unions are left-controlled or rightist led, leadership always comes with middle class background. Communist and socialist outfits deploy whole-timers to organize trade unions. Right-wing forces too do the same. This tradition has been continuing since beginning of trade union movement in the 1920s. For economically sound big unions, trade union bureaucracy is a nightmare to ordinary workers. The trade union bureaucracy is part of the management now. In the name of maintaining industrial peace, this leadership sometimes openly works against the interests of workers. It’s not that leaders from the working community are rare. But in course of time, they too acquire the status of middle class. Once P C Joshi, the secretary of undivided Communist Party of India, made a unique observation – “workers being promoted to leadership become babus”, the well-off Indian middle class. Declassed in reverse order!

The system of “recognized unions” is a nice device to corrupt TU leaders who do nothing in workplace, but provide consultancy to management. Their sole job is to keep vigil on aggrieved workers on behalf of management and pacify workers at the time of unrest.

FC: Divisive/sectarian politics by factions of the dominating capital is a crucial issue in this big economy. This divisive/sectarian politics of the dominating capital produces an equal and opposite reaction – concentrating on issues in the way, which is also essentially divisive/sectarian, and increasingly confining into another form of divisive/sectarian slogans. Both of these are acting as a tool in the hands of the dominating capital, and harming unity of the working classes, the wage-slaves, the exploited. Do you find slogans – program/demand/movement – from the labor that stand against all forms and colors of divisive/sectarian politics irrespective of appearance and sound, and stand on class line?

TB: It is the basic weakness of labor movement in India that even the far-left, not to speak of official left, does raise the question of class. Nor do they educate wage laborers on class line. Frankly speaking, they consciously keep trade unions free from politics. As a result, it is no problem for capital to divide workers by manipulating divisive and sectarian issues through their paid agents when it is necessary. When the ruling parties spread war hysteria, no protest emerges from workers’ platform as if workers are not affected by such propaganda.

In India one major problem affecting workers and workplaces is caste. Despite toiling for decades side by side in an establishment, workers remain vulnerable to caste and religious prejudices. They remain immune to progressive ideas – no change in their outlook. They come with prejudice and they go back with prejudice. Management encourages prejudice and obnoxious religious practice as Marwari businessmen would patronize in building up Hanumana, the monkey-chief who was an ally of Ramchandra during Rama’s Lanka expedition, temple inside factory premises so that their workers could worship there.

Despite encounter with modern urban life, workers assiduously nurse feudal values. Once a permanent worker in Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation’s mains department summed up the situation nicely: “the parcel that came from Bihar went back to Bihar after retirement without being opened”.

FC: Should the labor with a heroic history of trampling divisive/sectarian politics tolerate and give space to a seemingly pro-people, but fundamentally divisive/sectarian politics as an answer to the divisive/sectarian politics of the dominating capital/factions of the ruling classes in this economy with many competing components/regions/sections?

TB: As workers are not politically trained, they sometimes get swayed by divisive maneuvering of capital. Workers talk politics not at factory gate. No doubt, they discuss elections but they do it as common people, not as workers. So the working class perspective is totally missing in their discourse in roadside teashops or shanties where they live.

FC: The country with its geo-strategically important position and vying for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council is a hot bed for meddling/cajoling/pressure by imperialism. What impact is this making on the labor?

TB: Labor being apolitical they do hardly bother about India’s quest to get a permanent seat in UN Security Council. For one thing, they definitely take interest in Pakistan-bashing. Jingoism is a time-tested tactic to divert public attention. Again, leftists don’t counter it from their workers’ platform.

FC: Do you find the so-called NGOs, which are, in essence, longer and informal arms for implementing parts of foreign policy of a number of powerful states, influencing/intervening/organizing unions?

TB: Yes, NGOs are operating throughout the country. Most people, not to speak of workers separately, do hardly question NGO’s source of funds and NGOs’ action program. But their influence among workers, particularly in TU movement is negligible. It’s basically a middle class enterprise trying to have their presence felt among rural people and marginalized communities.

FC: How are the radical unions reacting to the imperialists’ moves at different levels of life in India including the areas of manufacturing and trade?

TB: Radical Unions’ response to global capital’s anti-national activities and naked interference in some cases is too inadequate to be taken seriously. One area that is totally neglected by radical unions and their rightist counterparts as well is ecology and climate. Imperial capital means unlimited plunder of natural and human resources, and in the process, they destroy ecological balance, inviting climatic catastrophe and engendering future generations. Tragically enough, radical unions don’t consider destruction of ecology as a serious threat to humanity. They talk about it very casually. It’s not on the agenda of their party. Nor is it on their TU agenda. In this area, some NGOs work in their own way and highlight climate change and its adverse impact on society and economy. But their target audience is educated middle class. So workers in Vedanta’s aluminum smelting plant are least bothered about the disaster brought about by their company in indiscriminate mining of alumina bearing hills. However, these mining activities are displacing thousands of tribal inhabitants and killing small rivulets and streams, which sustain life in the hilly region.

FC: Suffering of the farmers chained to credit capital, and their protests in India are now widely known. Bollywood, it should be Mullywood, has produced at least one feature film on this suffering. How is the labor in the industrial part of the economy reacting to these suffering and protests; i.e., expressing solidarity, joining the marches, etc. or having a position of onlooker, indifferent, no move to build up an alliance, etc.?

TB: Communist parties have been propagating the concept of worker-peasant alliance since their inception. But in practice they do precious little. It’s just a theoretical proposition to be discussed in party congresses and conferences. Jute workers struggle against retrenchment and arbitrary shutdown, but plight of jute growers is not their headache.

The idea of worker-peasant alliance cannot grow in isolation. Political parties and unions they control never try to chalk out any common program, which can be practiced jointly. Workers at best are onlookers, rather passive onlookers even when farmers march in thousands in scorching sun. Communists formulate this worker-peasant alliance strategy by borrowing from classical Marxist literature, but what they practice in the field will never succeed in building worker-peasant alliance. In the recent farmers’ long march to Mumbai, many middle class people showed sympathy to marchers – but no central TU came forward with a clear-cut strategy to support their cause. That TUs are asking workers to withdraw labor even for a day to protest farm suicides is unthinkable.

FC: What are the major (a) successes, and (b) failures of the main part and radical part, if identified in this way, of the labor movement in this country?

TB: Some labor welfare schemes have been incorporated in some labor acts. These are successes. But the present dispensation is trying to take away these hard-earned rights under the garb of “labor reforms”. And here unions of all shades, including unions owning allegiance to the ruling parties, are protesting rather half-heartedly. Here they fail miserably to put up a united fight without which workers are going to face medieval tyranny.

The development of an ever more technological complex manufacturing process is root cause of re-skilling of labor force. What they call fourth industrial revolution is all about maximization of automation. Maybe, automation has reached its limits after massive introduction of robots, negating physical presence of labor that was unthinkable at the beginning of the 20th century. Trade unions yet have no answer to automation beyond a certain point. They cannot oppose technological up-gradation. Nor can they resist the advent of labor-eating process even in areas where labor-organizing could have made decisive impact on the broader aspect of bargaining.

FC: Do you like to suggest/propose any step – ideological question, political struggle, relation between unions and radical political party of labor, leadership, inner-union democracy, political education of union members, literature – to the radical part of the labor movement in India?

TB: Well, in the organized sector, TU bureaucracy must be fought out. Even radical unions are not free from this virus. It acts as a brake on labor movement. TUs must raise political issues frequently at workers’ meet, even at plant level, instead of agitating to achieve sectarian goals. Unless TUs educate workers on political lines, this apolitical approach will lead to a more complex situation in which labor will find itself more powerless than ever before.

Capital is global. But now, labor’s resistance is strictly localized, failing to cross the national boundary and make solidarity movement a reality even at regional level. Thus, unions become powerless despite prolonged strike in some work facilities. Gone are the days of international federations and regional or industry-wise groupings. So May 1 is one more ritual, having no lasting impact on the wretched of the earth. Internationally, both left-wing and right-wing labor consolidations hardly make any news these days; they are in limbo. Only revival of socialist outlook internationally can give boost to rebuilding international labor federations without which corporations cannot be confronted effectively.

FC: Thank you for the interview discussing issues related to the labor in India.

TB: Thanks. I like to express my hope that the spirit of May 1 will mend many loose ends that stand in the way of building up powerful labor solidarity across the world.

A Fully Automated Society is Science Fiction

May Day is one of the most important days to the exploited people. Michael D. Yates, director of Monthly Review Press and former Associate Editor of Monthly Review magazine, focuses on US labor and its movement in the following interview from April 2019 by Farooque Chowdhury. Professor Michael Yates, whose academic fields are labor economics and the relationship between capital and labor, also discusses labor’s new initiatives at grass roots level, defying and contesting “official” labor leadership.

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Farooque Chowdhury: You have been closely associated with labor in the United States for more than 30 years. You have worked as a labor educator, as negotiator representing unions, as union organizer, and as labor activist. Moreover, you have covered labor widely in your articles and books. Based on these interactions and experiences, please tell us about the present state of labor in the US.

Michael Yates: If we look at some data, we see that, from a numerical standpoint, the U.S. labor movement is weak. Union density (the fraction of wage and salary workers who are in unions) is low. In January 2019, it was 10.5 percent. In 1983, the rate was 20.1 percent. And although the rates are not perfectly comparable for earlier years, when the data collection was not the same, at the time of the merger of the country’s two largest labor federations, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO), in 1955, the fraction of workers in unions was much higher, probably in the neighborhood of 33 percent.

Thus, we see that there has been a long-term decline in union density, and this in a country that has historically had much lower percentages of union membership than almost every other rich capitalist country (by comparison, Scandinavian nations have rates in excess of 60 percent, with Iceland over 90 percent.) Even the absolute number of union members has been in decline over the past few years. What is more, the current union density hides the division between private-sector and public-sector workers. In private employment, a mere 6.4 percent of employees are unionized (lower than it was more than 100 years ago), while in the public sector the fraction is 33.9 percent.

However, even in public employment, rates have been falling, and there is a widespread effort, led by capital, to make it difficult for public employees to unionize or maintain membership in existing unions. Public-sector unions typically had contract clauses that compelled those who refused to join the union to still pay a “dues equivalent” to the union, since they too would benefit from whatever the union won in the collective bargaining. Capital waged a long campaign through the courts to nullify such contract clauses. Employers achieved success when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that compelling non-members to pay dues was unconstitutional.

One last point with respect to public-sector workers is that among the highest union densities is that for “protective service” employees. These are police, prison guards, and the like, persons who only by a stretch of the imagination should even be included in the working class, given that their social role is to suppress workers. These employees overwhelmingly serve capital, unlike, for example, public school teachers, transit workers, and so forth.

Another measure of the strength of the working class is the incidence of strikes. There has been a marked decline in the number of strikes involving 1,000 workers or more (these are called “major work stoppages” by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is the source of the data I have been citing). In 2017, there were 7 of these, involving 25,000 workers, slightly higher than the all-time low set in 2009, when there were a mere 5 such strikes, with but 13,000 people out on strike. The trend in major strikes has been markedly downward. The last time there were more than 100 major strikes was in 1981. And the last year in which more than one million workers participated in major strikes was 1979. Compare these numbers to earlier years. Between 1947 and 1979, there was only one year with fewer than 200 major strikes, and years with at least 300 of these strikes were not that uncommon. Also, between 1947 and 1979 (32 years), fewer than a million workers walked off the job in only 7 years.

The year 2018 did see a bit of an upsurge in major strikes, due mainly to the aggressive actions of public-school teachers in the states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona, and California. These strikes and a few others (mainly by healthcare workers) have shown that the strike tactic can still yield positive results, as the strikers won significant wage and other increases. The victories by teachers were the result of efforts by the rank-and-file to involve their communities and win their support for demanding better schools and education for the children of people in the communities. What these actions give us is a bit more hope for the revival of a labor movement in the United States.

Yet, overall, we are a long way from any sort of revival. At the top of the internal hierarchies of most unions, we have career bureaucrats interested mainly in their own advancement and security. High salaries abound, democracy is a rare commodity, and statements of principles (much less action on any set of principles) rarer still. Unions are wedded to the Democratic Party, which is at heart as much a party of capital as the utterly reactionary and proto-fascist Republican Party. Unions cannot even come to strongly support the Green New Deal that the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party supports as part of an effort to come to grips with the destruction of Mother Nature now so well underway. What is more, the union chiefs are still supportive of U.S. imperialism. I am afraid it will take more than rank-and-file protests to change things dramatically and in the direction of radical change.

FC: What’s the present condition of the U.S. labor movement?

MY: My answer to Question 1 provides my overall view. I will add here that the U.S. working class, like those everywhere in the world, is suffering from rising insecurity in employment (fueled by many things, including outsourcing of work, laws and court rulings, and sophisticated mechanization), stagnant wages, diminishing benefits such as health care, pensions, and paid leaves, seemingly endless speed-up at work, invasive monitoring/surveillance and drug-testing, unhealthful and unsafe working conditions, and rising temperatures that make working outside increasingly dangerous. Workers feel politically impotent, and all too often, the unions they do have ignored them or, worse, collaborated with employers and engaged in corrupt practices.

We see the unhappiness of workers reflected in several trends. Remarkably high percentages of young persons (ages 22-37) tell pollsters they are more favorable toward socialism than capitalism, and many even identify themselves as democratic socialists. Much of this is due to the success that Senator Bernie Sanders, who identifies himself as a democratic socialist, had his run for the Democratic Party’s nominee for president of the United States in 2016. This was followed by the election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 of several persons, mainly women and ethnic minorities, who also declared themselves democratic socialists. In addition, a political organization, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has grown very rapidly over the past two year and now has in excess of 50,000 members, impressive in a country such as the United States. DSA members have supported many working-class efforts, including strikes, housing struggles, and environmental efforts that would greatly benefit workers, such as the Green New Deal.

It must be noted that what most mean by socialism is not what was envisioned by Marx and Engels and millions of radicals throughout the world ever since the two great communists wrote and worked. Rather, it is the social democracy that has marked mainly the Scandinavian countries, that is, a well-developed state-financed social welfare system buttressed by strong labor unions. Hopefully, as social democracy is found to be no longer possible, as it is faltering even in those nations where it has been strongest, working people will come to see that more radical struggle is needed. There are some groups in the U.S. that do have a radical perspective, such as Philly Socialists (“Philly” is slang for the city of Philadelphia), and they are deeply embedded in working class communities. Hopefully, these organizations will grow and flourish.

Unfortunately, there are workers who are too demoralized to do anything political or even to form labor unions. Depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide are growing more common, and among working-class white workers, life expectancies are falling. Anger and resentment also find an outlet in neo-fascist politics, as evident from the fact that some workers avidly support the criminal and thoroughly anti-working-class administration of President Trump. Trump has used his racism, sexism, and xenophobia to fuel widespread hatred for the “other,” whether the “other” be Black Americans, women, or immigrants. This rightward trend is troubling, and the labor movement, such as it is, must address this forcefully. Unfortunately, top labor union leaders met with Trump soon after he took office, and by no means all labor officials are as hostile to Trump as they should be.

FC: Which parts of the working class dominate the labor movement in the US, and what’s the reason?

MY: In terms of power within the national labor federation (the AFL-CIO), the most conservative unions, mainly in the construction trades, have power that belies their relatively small numbers. These unions typically oppose anything that might threaten the jobs and high pay of their (mainly white and male) members, such as the various oil pipeline schemes so detrimental to the environment. They oppose any sort of Green New Deal as well. Several large industrial, service, and catchall (many kinds of members, from various sectors of the economy) unions have influence based on their relatively large memberships. These would include the Teamsters union, the Service Employees Union, the American Federation of Teachers, and United Autoworkers. They might support more liberal policies and politicians, but they are mired in bureaucracy, hostile to the members’ interest, full of careerists, and often enough corrupt.

The real issue here is that there is no real labor movement to speak of. Plus, overall membership is so low relative to the number of workers in the country, that most laborers have no representation at all. And even where there are specific working-class movements, such as the effort to win at least $15 per hour for fast-food workers, the leaders of such movements are all too often tied to the same bureaucratic and corrupt unions. The only real hope, it seems to me, is for the mass of workers to forge new kinds of organizations. See the question below on what unions should do for more details.

FC: There are initiatives at the grassroots level in the US to go beyond or rise above the “official”/“establishment” labor movement or labor leadership. These seem to be sporadic and isolated. Most of these can’t go that far, but another part thrives. What are the reasons behind all of this – rise of new movement at grassroots level, failures of a part of these, and moving forward by the rest?

MY: The rise of new organizations and movements is due to the overall suffering of the mass of workers and the inadequacy of the current labor movement. These are, indeed, often isolated, but some like workers’ centers, operating inside communities and usually built by immigrant workers, have succeeded. Examples are the Chinese Staff and Workers Association in New York City, the New York Taxi Drivers Alliance, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida. The last is an organization of farm workers, mainly immigrants. In these examples, we find dedicated leadership, a model based upon active members and real democracy, careful planning of strategy and tactics, and strong community support, built up over longer periods of time. The same rules for success apply as well to worker-managed cooperatives and urban farming ventures. An example worth studying is the Cooperation Jackson movement in the city of Jackson, Mississippi. Here is what I wrote about this organization in my book, Can the Working Class Change the World?:

“The movement in Jackson is called Cooperation Jackson (CJ), and it grew out of various efforts by blacks to build a socialist community in the heart of U.S. capitalism. The rallying cry of the people who began Cooperation Jackson — one of the most notable of these was black radical Chokwe Lumumba, who eventually became Jackson’s mayor, something remarkable in its own right — was ‘Free the Land.’ After doing some preliminary organizing in the area, they acquired land and began to develop an ambitious plan of eco-socialist production, distribution, and education. In the South, global warming is going to inundate low-lying areas with water. This fact and the disaster in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina made these leaders grasp that any scheme that doesn’t take ecology seriously cannot hope to change the world. Therefore, CJ maintained from the beginning that whatever they did had to be based upon the principle of sustaining the environment.”

“The CJ project has four goals: gaining black working-class control of the means of production in Jackson and the area close to it; building and advancing the development of the ecologically regenerative forces of production; making the working class the agent of combining the means of production into socially useful outputs; and democratically transforming Jackson, and then the state of Mississippi, and outward to the entire South. CJ has started cooperatives, a cooperative school, training center, union, and bank. Farms and grocery stores are an integral part of cooperative production. There is much more to CJ, including the use of technologies like 3D printers to make useful goods, the development of substantive political democracy, and eco-friendly public infrastructure. The industrialization plan is particularly ambitious. It can be criticized as not feasible, but in any conceivable future, goods will have to be made using one technology or another. CJ, by beginning to conceptualize this and then implementing it, will help show the way forward.”

Movements such as Cooperation Jackson may hold the key to the building of a radical labor movement in the United States, one concerned with all aspects of working class life and willing to engage in militant collective self-help activities.

FC: What obstacles do these grassroots movements of labor in the US face?

MY: There is the problem of funding. It is best to have members fund activities whenever possible, with solicitations from ordinary people supplementing the group’s treasury. Reliance on existing labor unions or NGOs is usually a mistake because such monies never come without strings attached. There is also the problem of antagonism from capital and the state, which will become worse the more successful the grassroots movement is. There is the problem of developing grassroots experts for all the technical work and organizing that has to be done. There is the problem of burnout from long hours and poor living conditions. There is the problem of turnover in the membership as people move away out of economic necessity, deportations (in the case of undocumented workers), and the like. There is the problem of internal ideological differences, which can split a group apart. Finally, any grassroots efforts must show some results quickly, so that workers benefit. And they must find ways to protect members from capital’s efforts to destroy what they are doing.

FC: What should be done now, in this perspective, by labor at grassroots level, and by writers of labor literature?

MY: I have addressed this above when I wrote about what needs to be done to have a chance at success. What writers can do is publicize all such efforts, writing for those involved and not just about them. Also, coalitions with other similar organizations are necessary, and certainly, education must be a primary component of any grassroots effort. A membership that has learned its history, the nature of the political economy, the struggles needed and the obstacles that will be faced, is more likely to succeed and more likely to have a radical perspective.

FC: What impact has monopoly finance capital, which has been identified and analyzed by John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff, made on labor in the US?

MY: Well, monopoly finance capital has certainly increased the overall power of capital, and this, by definition, will inevitably harm the working class. Specifically, two things come to mind. First, as businesses are taken over by finance capital, they are seen merely as collections of assets, to be squeezed for maximum immediate return. Debt will be piled up and assets stripped for money. When as much money has been extracted as possible, the corpse left will be left to rot. All of this will result in shrinking employment, lower wages, reduced or eliminated benefits, and more unsafe working conditions. Finance capital works much like gangsters, who do the same things when they use direct violence to take over a business. Second, monopoly finance capital has meant the elimination of whatever autonomy the states of capitalist countries once had. States are now adjuncts of finance capital, and states are now run according to strict market principles. The state’s assets are stripped too, the result being a diminution of both public employment and public services. Everyone is presumed to be on his or her own, and no one will offer help. The rich will continually get richer and workers will suffer more and more. Good reasons for the working class to finally develop a radical consciousness and get rid of this insidious system once and for all.

One more point bears consideration. Monopoly finance capital, with its relentlessly short-term horizon, acts in such a way that financial bubbles become inevitable, as witnessed by the housing bubble and crisis that struck the United States and then much of the world, in 2007. These bubbles, when they burst, generate economic slowdowns, which now have become deep recessions, that wreak havoc on working-class life.

FC: Has capital’s capacity in the US to bribe workers eroded? If it has eroded, has monopoly finance capital played a role in the erosion? If not, then, is the bribing going on as usual?

MY: It is not so much that this capacity has eroded. What has happened (and see the previous question) is that capital no longer has to bribe labor, which in the past it did from the super profits extracted from workers in the Global South. Profits abound for capital in the Global North. However, labor is now so weak and disorganized, and capital so strong that workers do not have to be bribed to support Northern capital, as they, in effect, were in the past. Some workers support capital without any monetary advantage, and the rest are so habituated to the system that they do not know how to mount an attack on capital. Super profits have always helped to finance the states in the Global North (through taxation), but now even the state offers labor no protection. Tax revenues can be and are used to buttress capital’s profits and power. This situation will continue to prevail until such time as there is a united, global, and radical labor movement to challenge it.

FC: Automation is creeping in. Unionization rates are falling. What’s the impact of automation on labor in the US?

MY: Automation (robotization and other types of mechanization) always lowers employment, at least in the sectors most immediately affected, and thus increases the reserve army of labor. This reserve is now global in scope and mechanization occurs everywhere in the world. This reserve puts downward pressure on wages and every other condition of employment, and it generates some new (and old) types of employment that rely heavily on labor (as in service employment and work done from home). Automation also divides the working class into a tiny elite of scientific workers and everyone else, causing growing wage inequality, which itself impedes labor solidarity. Often enough, just the threat of automation (like the threat of moving operations to other countries) is enough to pressure workers into submission. Automation, by allowing for greater surveillance of workers and building what was once employee knowledge into the machines themselves, greatly enhances managerial control in the workplace.

At the same time, however, automation may make production more sensitive to disruption, just as complex supply chains and logistics do, but this requires that workers understand this, are organized, and willing to disrupt production. The irony is that, under a different, socialist system, more sophisticated technology, developed for the people rather than against them, could greatly ease the burden of many kinds of onerous employment and give rise to much shorter working hours. And freedom for each of us to fully develop our capacities.

I might add that profits derive from the exploitation of living labor and not from machines themselves. Given this, the idea of a fully automated society is science fiction. Machines would have to build and program machines! And there would be, in the end, no living labor to exploit. Automation would automatically end capitalism! This is an unlikely scenario.

FC: Are trade war(s) making any impact on labor?

MY: Trade is always a matter of politics and never just a matter of obvious and shared economic advantage. Thus, given that almost all governments, and certainly that of the United States, are now servants of capital, trade agreements will always benefit corporations and hurt workers. Such was the case with the North American Free Trade Agreement, which harmed workers in all three signatory nations: The United States, Canada, and Mexico, although, no doubt, Mexican workers (and peasants) suffered most. President Trump has begun trade wars with many countries, in part to satisfy his anti-immigrant and xenophobic base. These may upset markets and in that way damage workers in affected industries. Ironically, they also might hurt the bottom line of those economic sectors impacted most by tariffs and quotas. For example, trade wars with China mean that soybean farmers in the central United States will lose lucrative export markets. So far, Trump has always backed away from doing the damage he could do, no doubt because of protests from powerful capitalists. His base is largely ignorant of the nuts and bolts of this, so he can always claim he acted tough with the foreign countries he claims are out to get the United States. Full-scale trade wars can lead to real wars, so there is always a danger of that. And it is still true that corporations are headquartered and protected in the United States, so there is competition among national capitals, despite the fact that production is now so global. So, states will always be keen to protect their national capitals. From a working-class perspective, the struggle should be for as much worker-controlled and localized production as possible, if for no other reason than that trade is very damaging to the environment and wreaks havoc on the poorest workers and peasants worldwide.

FC: Factional fights within the US ruling class are surfacing, sometimes in ugly, crude, and dangerous form. The fight, at times, is questioning the credibility of a number of very essential institutions of class rule. The factions engaged in intra-class conflict are questioning its news-information-views media – the mainstream media or the imperialist media, in whatever way these are identified. Its external adventures, interventions, and aggressions in other lands are facing debacles. Its credibility and that of its media are declining. Today, its audience accepts little of whatever the MSM report. Is there any impact of these on the labor in the US?

MY: I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on ruling class splits. Of course, there are capitalists opposed to Trump. However, in the end, they will accept him because he has been good for their profits (tax cuts, for example, which overwhelmingly benefit capital the most). The situation may be different in other countries, but here I don’t see any segments of capital ready to revolt. In addition, as the Democratic Party has shifted significantly to the right, the center of political gravity overall in the United States has also shifted dramatically to the right, given that the Republican Party is to the extreme right. Trump is an evil maniac, without a shred of morality or compassion, and he is doing things most of us, naively I think, couldn’t imagine happening. And yet, the mainstream media have profited mightily from Trump’s insanity, with ratings going up every time they report on a new Trump scandal. The real danger is the rise of neo-fascism, with its inherent drive to annihilate the “other.” It is possible to imagine that this will continue with or without Trump. The capitalist class is facing unprecedented crises, foremost among them, ecological catastrophe. It faces constant wars too, although capital has never vehemently opposed wars, including the War on Terror. There will soon enough be hundreds of millions of climate (and war) refugees seeking shelter. Beset by unprecedented inequality (which they don’t mind for now, given that they have gotten so much money as wealth and income move from the bottom to the top), the rich will find it hard to hide. What will they do? Demand more democracy and better media? A more educated population? I don’t see this. They will want the state to crack the whip, and they will (and are now) build private, fortified and heavily policed enclaves for themselves. A society run on market principles must have violence at its beck and call. This is really what fascism is all about. Only an aroused working class, allied with peasants, has any chance of stopping this.

FC: The US ruling class is vigorously marketing divisive/sectarian/medieval politics. What’s the impact of this on labor in the US, and what’s to be done by the labor movement?

MY: The working class in the United States is divided along many dimensions: skill, location, education, wage rates, religion, gender, ethnicity, country of origin, and race, among others. Among these, gender, ethnicity, and race are most important. The capitalist political economy here has been patriarchal and racist from its beginning. The latter is the result of a vicious slavery that built the economy, not just through the production of cotton but from the slave-generated money that helped to fuel, and, in fact, led, the country’s industrial revolution. The unpaid labor of women in the home has been a gift to capital. And women could be drawn into market-based production when needed and discarded when not. Employers soon discovered that race and gender could be used to split workers, fomenting competition rather than solidarity among them. This has been done by the allocation of job, with racial and ethnic minorities and women given the worst jobs and white men the best. This along with constant racist and sexist propaganda soon gave rise to the notion that these groups deserved their fate. I have written much about this and refer readers to Can the Working Class Change the World? Here, however, consider some of the results of racism: “A brief look at some data from the United States shows the remarkable disparities between black and white members of the working class. Median black family income is barely 60 percent that of whites, a little more than ten percentage points higher than it was in 1949. Black median household net worth is just 5 percent that of whites. Blacks earn less than whites at all levels of education. Astonishingly, ‘a $10,000 increase in the average annual wage of an occupation is associated with a seven-percentage-point decrease in the proportion of black men in that occupation.’ Besides earnings, when we consider poverty, unemployment, health, education, housing, life expectancy, infant mortality, or the criminal justice system, we must conclude that ‘having a black skin, in and of itself, is a grave economic and social disadvantage, while having a white skin confers considerable advantage.’”

There have been forces within the U.S. labor movement that have actively combated the divisions in the working class, sometimes with success. Usually, these forces have been radical; the Communist Party in the 1930s is a good example. The left-led labor unions, purged from the CIO during the anti-communist hysteria of the late 1940s, often did the same. However, much more needs to be done. Statements of principles of no toleration for racism and sexism by the AFL-CIO and all individual unions are essential, as is action to back these up. Collective bargaining agreements with strong “no discrimination” clauses and a willingness to strike, picket, and boycott over employer violations are necessary. Support for feminist and anti-racist groups in the larger society is a must, as is active participation in the protests and actions of Black Lives Matter and similar groups. Promotion of caucuses of women, Black workers, and ethnic groups, as well as LGBTQ workers, could give these groups of oppressed workers a strong voice in every labor organization. Militant actions on the political front, are badly needed. General strikes to support immigrants, oppose the rise of fascist groups, and the like would show a real commitment to equality.

FC: Is there any impact of the present condition of and trends within the labor movement in the US on the labor movements in other countries?

MY: Historically, U.S. organized labor has been, all too often, an adjunct of U.S. foreign policy, opposing left-wing unions and movements around the world. Therefore, it has been rare for the U.S. labor movement to have a positive, much less a radical, impact on workers’ movements in other countries. Anti-imperialism and opposition to U.S.-led wars on poor countries has never been very strong in the U.S. labor movement. This is still the case. Things may change as workers, especially younger ones, are drawn to social democracy. However, even in social democratic organizations, a U.S.-first view is common and a neglect of what is going on in the rest of the world is as well. Another positive development is the greater radicalism and willingness to organize and join unions of newly-arrived immigrants into the United States. Hopefully, these immigrants will, along with Black and other oppressed workers, succeed in building a labor movement with an international working-class perspective.

FC: What are your suggestions/proposals to labor as a whole and to the labor defying “official” leadership, to deal with the reality that you have pictured in the answers above?

MY: Here is a long quote from my book, Can the Working Class Change the World?, that I think answers this question:

“Labor unions have been a principal response by workers to capital’s exploitation. They are necessary defense agents, and as long as capitalism exists, they will form.

If unions mirror corporations in their structures, which all too many do, there isn’t much hope that they will confront capital. And this is all the more the case if they have entered into a compact with employers that views the two sides as cooperators interested primarily in the profitability of the owners’ businesses. This strategy has failed, the proof being in the deteriorating working conditions and life circumstances of union members and the sharp drop in union densities during the period in which partnership has marked much of the labor movement worldwide. To begin to reverse course, then, labor unions must become democratic, run by the membership, and they must abandon labor-management cooperation schemes. Since it is unlikely that current leaders will seek to do either of these things, the only way forward is to get rid of the leadership. In the United States, a perusal of the magazine Labor Notes shows that there have been frequent attempts by rank-and-file activists to take control of their unions and put them on a democratic and militant path. A few have been successful, most have not. No doubt, the fear of such insurgencies has made some unions willing to mobilize members and take on the companies with strikes, picketing, and boycotts. But reform has proved a daunting task, similar to efforts by political advocates to move the Democratic Party to the left. Those in power seldom want to relinquish control, and they will be as ruthless as necessary to beat back rivals. Still, labor rebellions have been successful, at all levels of unions. Corrupt criminal leadership was defeated in both the Teamsters and the United Mine Workers, for example, and though the rank-and-file victors were subsequently defeated or weakened, neither union is as awful as it once was. In addition, sometimes revolt has taken the form of a new union, one that breaks away from the parent organization. Or, if a group of workers have no representation and no existing union is willing to help them organize, they might establish an independent union. Again, in the United States, an example of the former is the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). Tired of the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) top-down management, its embrace of labor-management cooperation and sweetheart deals with employers, its frequent impositions of trusteeships (the national union takes over the running of a local union) on recalcitrant locals with rebellious and independent leaders, and outright corruption, the NUHW broke away from SEIU in 2009.

Before asking what a democratic union looks like and what it should do, it is proper to say that there are now unions that work in a democratic manner. In the United States, the best example is the United Electrical Workers, an independent labor union that has the distinction of being kicked out of both the AFL and the CIO. Its national office and locals rest on the will of the members. It does not make deals with employers, and it has never been tainted with corruption. Officer salaries and expenses are strictly controlled, and its constitution is a model of democratic principles that the union has adhered to through good times and bad. Other U.S. unions have served their members well, too. The overall trajectory, however, has been toward bureaucratic, undemocratic structures and an increasingly unwarranted faith in labor-capital compromise.

Democracy means more than voting. The structure of the union must be democratic. There should be direct ballot casting by all the members for any office, as opposed to convention delegates, usually chosen by the leadership, voting for those same leaders, as is common in many U.S. unions. Term limits for officers are essential. No advantage of any kind should be proffered to incumbents seeking reelection. Strict limits should be placed on the salaries of union officers, and a careful open audit of expenses should be routine. The rank and file should participate in all union activities, from planning for negotiations, setting demands, strike preparation, and the striking and picketing. Union meetings should be open to all members, especially those with home responsibilities (almost always women), and also held at convenient times. Meeting discussions should be open, and criticisms should be welcomed and debated. Special attention should be paid, in all aspects of the union, to the concerns and needs of racial and ethnic minorities, as well as LGBT members. Retirees should be encouraged to take part in all union actions.

If a rank-and-file uprising is successful, a breakaway union is founded, or an independent union is created, and even if these result in more democracy, it is still necessary to ask: Democracy for what? What are the principles and goals of the organization? The NUHW lists these as its core beliefs:

  1. A strong union is led by its members.
  1. Worker power is the foundation of a just society.
  1. Quality patient care requires that caregivers have a voice in their workplaces and are protected from retaliation.
  1. Healthcare is a human right.

This is a good preliminary set of principles. But more needs to be said and done. First, education must be a priority. Compulsory classes should greet new members, teaching them about the union’s history and that of the labor movement as a whole. And regular short courses, summer schools, and longer learning experiences should be made available, with at least some courses required to maintain membership. In these classes, the construction of a broader array of principles and aspirations can be developed. Several come to mind:

  1. An examination of racism and patriarchy. The objectives here are ending discrimination in the union, building greater solidarity, compelling the employer to behave in a nondiscriminatory manner, and leading the union to play a positive role in combating these divisions in the community and society.
  1. A study of imperialism and militarism. For unions in the Global North, the purpose of this would be to build an understanding of the role of their governments and employers in subjugating the peoples of the Global South, and of the past complicity of unions in this. A radical labor movement cannot become a reality unless it is adamantly opposed to imperial wars, arms production and sales, the infiltration of the military into local economies and daily life, the patriotism of flags and national anthems, the mantra that we must all support the troops. In the Global North, nationalism is a disease that impedes the global working-class solidarity essential for human liberation. Unfortunately, it is so deeply embedded in the institutional structure of capitalist society that the task of eliminating it is formidable. Yet, if the effort isn’t made, there is no hope of the working class changing the world.
  1. A serious discussion of the multiple environmental crises we face. If these aren’t working-class issues, what are? Global warming is a workplace issue. Ecology professor and writer Andreas Malm writes:

    Physical labour makes the body warm. If it takes place under the sun or inside facilities without advanced air-conditioning systems, excessively high temperatures will make the sweat flow more profusely and the bodily powers sag, until the worker suffers heat exhaustion or worse. This will not be an ordeal for the average software developer or financial adviser. But for people who pick vegetables, build skyscrapers, pave roads, drive buses, sew clothes in poorly ventilated factories or mend cars in slum workshops, it already is; and the bulk of exceptionally hot working days are now anthropogenic in nature. With every little rise in average temperatures on Earth, thermal conditions in millions of workplaces around the world shift further, primarily in the tropical and subtropical regions where the majority of the working population — some four billion people — live their days. For every degree, a greater chunk of output will be lost, estimated to reach more than a third of total production after four degrees: in this heat, workers simply cannot keep up the same pace.’

    Given the magnitude of impending disasters, labor must make the environment a major concern. This means opposing all corporate and public actions that exacerbate global warming, the poisoning of air, soil, and water, and the extinction of species, among others. When construction unions lobby for ruinous shale oil pipelines, as happened in the United States, other unions must speak out and condemn such self-serving deeds.

    As democratic unions strengthen and their principles and goals become more class-conscious, they will naturally ally themselves with like-minded unions and community groups. In this way, a labor movement worthy of the name can begin and grow, one concerned with the entirety of the working class, including those in the reserve army of labor and the informal sector.

    A union’s most important immediate concern is with its members’ welfare. Here the question of “democracy for what?” can take concrete form. Labor-management cooperation should be immediately and permanently rejected, replaced by an adversarial relationship that makes no concessions to management. Instead, the union makes demands that challenge capital’s control of the workplace. Higher wages are always on the table, but so must be shorter hours, more paid time off, full parental leave for both parents (for at least a few months), a safe and nontoxic work environment, active union participation in decisions related to both technology and work intensity, an unrestricted right to strike over any issue, a shortened grievance resolution procedure (with rank-and-file participation at all levels), the right not to cross picket lines while on employer-related business, and high monetary penalties for plant closures and relocations. Whatever makes laboring less alienated and weakens capital’s control should be vigorously and relentlessly pursued. Unions should never allow the employer to play one plant off against another, much less cooperate in this, as the United Auto Workers has done. Strong protections for women and racial and ethnic minorities should be part of every contract. When a union faces a multi-plant employer, or more than one employer, it should organize coordinated communications and tactics among the officers on the shop floor, office, or store. Solidarity must be more than a word, and an injury to any worker should anger every sister and brother.

FC: What do you suggest to read/study to learners like me interested to know about labor?

MY: Two of my books might be useful: Can the Working Class Change the World? and Why Unions Matter. Others that are good are: any book by Kim Moody. His last is titled On New Terrain. Steve Early is an excellent analyst of U.S. labor. A google search should give many results. Save Our Unions is good. Paul LeBlanc’s A Short History of the US Working Class is a very good introduction. Joe Burns Reviving the Strike and Strike Back! Show the necessity and usefulness of strikes. Jane Slaughter’s A Troublemaker’s Handbook has great advice for making trouble for the bosses. Labor Notes, the magazine Jane helped to found, is devoted to reporting on strikes and rank-and-file efforts to democratize their unions, as well as the overall state of the U.S. labor movement. Priscilla Murolo’s From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend is good, with much material on women’s labor. Robin Kelley has written excellent books on Black workers, including Hammer and Hoe and Race Rebels. On immigrant farm laborers and their union efforts, read the exceptional Trampling Out the Vintage by Frank Bardacke.

FC: Thank you for the interview with contemporary issues concerning the labor in the US.

MY: You are very welcome. And let me offer solidarity to the workers of the world on this May Day!

May Day 2017: Trample All Forms of Sectarianism

One hundred years ago, the proletariat in Petrograd celebrated the historic May Day in jubilation and honor. “Thousands of people turned out for the 1917 May Day parade. They carried […] banners and posters, which became the main elements of the decorations in Petrograd.”1

“One of the leading artists of the World of Art movement, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, wrote, ‘[W]e have witnessed the birth of a new era: on the First of May we artists finally took our revolutionary banners out onto the streets […]!’”2

That was a crucial hour of proletariat’s political struggle in Russia. The proletariat was positioning to attain an epoch-making victory within months. And, sectarian trends within politics were losing foothold as whirlwind of proletariat’s political fight was getting powerful although the bourgeoisie and tsarist elements were trying utmost to fan hatred and sectarianism among the working people.

Today, around the world, working people in millions are observing and celebrating the May Day. On streets and squares in cities, workers are struggling state with violent force, in industrial areas, work stoppages are declaring labor’s power, in towns and urban areas, toilers’ demonstrations are demanding rights, and city centers are turning vibrant with working people’s marches and celebrations. And today, capital is drawing lines of divisions among the working people in countries and societies.

And, yet, condition of the proletariat is precarious. Capital’s onslaught on labor is in full force now as capital is scrambling to get out of crises it has created. The onslaught has taken forms as capital struggles to socialize its burdens it is failing to bear and profit from: from austerity measures, budget cuts, re-locating of factories and manufacturing plant, so-called out-sourcing, espionage and demobilizations to wars and interventions with varying types, from spreading of sectarianism, Nazi ideas with different appearances, “democracy”- and “rights”- mongering, defending medieval ideas and practices to seeding of confusion in the ranks of the working people. To keep labor subjugated, ultra-advanced capital is forming alliance with backward forces. Advanced capitalist countries, matured bourgeois republics are in the forefront in their business of the hour. Media carry reports of these onslaughts every day.

A news report from Wheeling, US, said:

Almost 23,000 retired coal miners and their dependents [recently] received official notification that they could lose their health care benefits by April 30.” United Mine Workers of America president Cecil Roberts said: “They will now have to begin contemplating whether to continue to get medicines and treatments they need to live or to buy groceries. They will now have to wonder if they can go see a doctor for chronic conditions like black lung or cancer or pay the mortgage.” Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said: “Ohio coal miners have spent decades underground to power our country, provide for their families and retire with dignity. But the promise they were made for their backbreaking work is in jeopardy, and thousands nationwide will lose the benefits they earned in weeks.3

An AP report said: “Congress is close to a deal to extend health benefits for more than 22,000 retired miners and widows whose medical coverage is set to expire Sunday”.4 There, political struggle is casting shade of cloud over the issue of miners.

There are many other similar cases of uncertainty with health care and other essentials of life in the same country. In another country, on the other side of the Atlantic, another news-report shows state’s role against labor.

A BBC report said:

Former miners in Wales are calling for a review of their pension fund, arguing they should be awarded a larger share of surplus money.

Currently, the UK government takes 50% of any surplus earned by the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme (MPS) from its investments as part of a guarantee.

[….]

About 25,000 miners are thought to be in receipt of the MPS in Wales […]

When the coal industry was privatized in 1994, the UK government agreed to guarantee the total pension would not fall in cash terms, and that if there was a surplus it would be shared 50/50 with the scheme’s members.

[….]

Since the deal was struck, the UK government said it had received £3.35bn from the scheme.5

Isn’t the state gaining 50% of surplus capital appropriated from labor? The “seed money” – miners’ contribution – was part of necessary labor, which was miners’ bare necessity for survival, and the “seed money” invested somewhere gained more “money” to have surplus from some other source, which was originally appropriated from labor in somewhere else.

The BBC report said:

Ex-miner Ken Sullivan, 64, of Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent, claimed some miners are on less than £10 a week.

Less than £10 a week means slightly more than £1 or slightly less than £2 a day. How much demand is made by bread, potato and their “colleagues” daily? Forget about clothes and shoe. Theater, movie, sports, picnic? Toilers’ brains “can’t” consume those elegant “things” reserved only for the bourgeoisie! The miners, even, “don’t” possess that heart! Let them “get” lost!

Capital’s antagonistic role is evident in working people’s immediate survival areas. To capital, pensioners are not essential for regeneration of capital; so, capital likes to forget pensioners’ consumption: bread, tea, flask, shoe, blanket and some other “minor” items and expenditures including burial expenses.

There’s another story related to labor.

On June 18, 1984, a Thatcherite-time, thousands of police and striking miners clashed violently at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire, UK. It’s known as the Battle of Orgreave. On a page of The Guardian, historian Tristram Hunt characterized the clash as “a brutal example of legalized state violence.”6

A BBC report said:

The Thatcher government feared a ‘witch hunt’ if a public inquiry were held into policing of the 1984-5 miners’ strike, declassified files show.

Minutes of a meeting in 1985 show Leon Brittan, then home secretary, wanted to avoid ‘any form of enquiry’ into policing of the picket lines.

Miners say the files show successive governments ‘never wanted the truth to come out’ over the events.7

Eighteen files have been released after home secretary Amber Rudd promised that 30 unreleased files connected with the strike would be published. The files, as the BBC report said, show:

At a meeting held in 1985, […] Leon Brittan said he believed the ‘government should not encourage any form of enquiry into the behavior of the police’, as it would ‘turn into a witch hunt’ with an ‘anti-police bias’

The permanent secretary of the Home Office Sir Brian Cubbon, in 1984 wrote ‘internal questions’ needed to be asked about how ‘the Home Office relay(s) to the police service the political influence on operational policy which was wanted in the early days of the (miners) dispute’

“Local government representatives told the Police Advisory Board in 1986, that the Association of Chief Police Officers, ‘were concerned less with what actually happened during the miners dispute than with what might happen in the future’

[….]

Ex-miner Frank Arrowsmith, who was on the picket line during the year long strike, said ‘the suspicion is never going to go away that those in Number 10 [Downing Street, prime minister’s official residence] and the home secretary decided to use the police as a battering ram to defeat the miners’.

[….]

Nicholas Jones, who covered the strike as the BBC’s industrial correspondent, said: ‘These documents really open the window on what the government and the police were thinking in 1985.

‘There is no sign of any feeling of remorse in these files, in fact the police are quite dismissive about the event’.

[….]

‘I find it worrying that there were immediate efforts from the very top of government to shut down any enquiry into the miners’ strike’, said Labour MP Andy Burnham who has campaigned on behalf the Hillsborough families.

The files may unfold a part of the inner-working of that “legalized state violence”. State, yes, it’s state and state violence under the cover of law.

There’s the issue of transparency within the proud bourgeois democracy, a political question, part of an agenda capital considers a no-man’s land for the working masses. Capital and the democracy it practices are never transparent with exceptions of moments facing pressure either from its factional-fight, or in need of legitimacy and acceptability, or from the masses engaged in political action.

The sources of the information cited above are not the political literature of the proletariat, but the mainstream media; and at least a part of capital and its political power come out under sunlight from these reports.

Further look gives further findings.

On the shores of the Indian Ocean, labor’s condition is not good.

The South African mining sector has, for more than 100 years, been […] using physically demanding manual drilling methods with blasting and cleaning on a stop-start basis, predominantly in narrow reef, hard-rock mining for gold, platinum and chrome.

Working conditions are generally characterised by abrasive rock, steep gradients and seismicity. And with increasing depth, the virgin rock temperature continues to rise. On the Witwatersrand Basin, which is host to the world’s largest gold resource, the virgin rock temperature at depths of 2,000 meters below surface can be as high as 40ºC. On the Bushveld Complex, which is host to 80% of the world’s platinum reserves, these temperatures are even higher, reaching 70ºC.8

“Stupid” labor, with a “cursed” life, goes down to the hot-depth daily, works for hours throughout an entire working-life, and there pulls up riches from that depth. Labor has “no” way at the moment. It’s now chained by starvation and fear. Michael Yates, in his “Class: A personal story”9 essay explains in an excellent way the issue of fear in working people’s life.

What follows beastly toil in the mines?

In July 2016, UNCTAD report Trade Misinvoicing in Primary Commodities in Developing Countries: The Cases of Chile, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia pointed to a systematic practice of mis- and underinvoicing among mining companies in these countries. It alleged that the mining industry has been engaging in this practice with the direct objective of avoiding taxes, or at the very least reducing tax burdens in producing countries.

The report stated:

Mining and oil companies have misappropriated 67% of export revenue in the countries studied.

For South Africa, the report calculated cumulative underinvoicing over the period 2000-2014 to have amounted to US$ 102.8 billion (2014 US dollars): US$ 600 million for iron ore; US$ 24 billion for silver and platinum; and US$ 78.2 billion for gold.

Key conclusions of the report include “substantial export misinvoicing − both underinvoicing and overinvoicing – in all five countries, with a clear preponderance of export underinvoicing, except for copper exports from Chile”.

However, an “independent” review by a Johannesburg-based firm “narrowed the gap in measuring exports […] from USD 78.2 billion to USD 19.5 billion”, and found “most of the USD 19.5 billion discrepancy can very likely be attributed to errors in the reported gold imports of South Africa’s trading partners, not in South Africa’s reported gold exports.” (Letter of the managing director of the firm, February 7, 2017) The review claimed that the UNCTAD report’s methodology was flawed. [Findings of the report still stand even if it’s accepted that the entire S A-business was miscalculated as there are other countries.]

However, UNCTAD in an “Accompanying note for the revised version of the Report” said: “The revised report provides a more detailed exposition of the methodology and the concepts used while further stressing the main messages from the analysis.” (December 23, 2016)

The reality for labor appears in full “bloom” with the information cited above: hard labor in inhuman condition, uncertain life, deception, non-transparency, trick, a wage difficult to live on, in cases, less than £10 a week, and billions of dollars “miscalculated”, a “simple error”. Deep in mines workers have to option to err, as that’s a question of their life and death, which demand a small sum of dollar. It’s also a question of profit and loss for mine owners: amount of gold and size of diamond extracted at the cost of “cheaply expendable” lives to build up mountains of profit.

The reality that gets constructed makes labor perish here and there. A glimpse finds: how cheap is labor’s life! It’s like How Green was My Valley. Labor’s lost life is not always properly counted, even.

A methane gas explosion in a coal mine in Ukraine killed at least eight miners. There was confusion over the exact number of miners killed.10

In a collapsed coal mine in Jharkhand, death toll rose to 10. The cave in buried at least 23 miners.11

A gas explosion killed 18 coal miners in China.12

Similar death-news are many. Number of deaths increases as tomorrow replaces today, misinvoicing multiplies, profit proliferates.

The rate of fatalities, injuries, disease, and potential effects of acid mine drainage present the gruesome face of a killing industry. For example 69,000 mineworkers were killed due to mine incidents between 1900 [and] 1993 [while] one million had been injured in this period. [….] An Oxford led [study] suggested that the mining industry in Africa could possibly be linked to almost 760,000 new TB infections per year […].13

Sometimes capital needs dead bodies for political, propaganda, etc. purposes, but not always. Today’s Venezuela is a burning example. But, “confusion” with number of miners dead is a case of “error” with miners’ life as it was also an “error” with billions of dollars! The former is related to cost and investment while the later is related to profit. The fact is: with a “soft” touch of err minimum wage can’t reach the “dangerous” ceiling of $15, but billions of dollars are “erred” as the $15 is needed by a starving stomach of a disorganized laborer while the billions of dollars are demanded by powerful persons in Copenhagen and Zurich. Substantial amount of dollars still remain in chests of the misinvoicers even after subtracting the “erred” amount of dollars. It’s part of profit, and the profit was created by labor only to be appropriated by capitalists, the mine-owners, the bankers, and their cousins and nephews. So, the amount mirror a part of the size of surplus labor produced by working at depths of 2,000 meters below surface with 40ºC-70ºC temperature for hours, for days, for an entire working-life, for generations. It’s not only the story from mines in five countries the UNCTAD report mentioned; it’s the story of all mines, of all manufacturing plants, of all artisanal industries and the “loving” SME – small and medium enterprise – in all lands.

Average earnings of miners come out to $21.55 per hour in the US, a coal miner earns an average wage of $23.04 per hour. A miner in South Africa earns an average salary of R221,610 per year.14 The average salary for mining jobs in Wales, UK is £42,500.15 In countries in the periphery, the wage figures are unloveable and crude joke. Living wage? Minimum wage? All. In comparison to price index? Not comfortable. A harder life it’s. A life turned intolerable. Look at the wage laborers in India or Myanmar, in Indonesia or Pakistan, in Senegal or Jordan, Brazil or some other country tangled in the world capitalist system.

Are these figures related to wage comparable to the “erred” figures of billions of dollars? And, are both of these figures, of wage and of “error”, comparable to the figures related to death of laborers? Mainstream mentors have the answer, probably.

With this condition of labor, a wave of sectarianism in the name of opposing sectarianism is gaining ground. Certain “rights” activists are over-active in voicing “rights” of only one sect as if rights of the rest are not denied and violated. These sound like a South Africa-story, like a Nazi-story.

Luli Callinicos in her famous A People’s History of South Africa details:

The mine-owners were careful not to give the black and the white workers a chance to act together against management. One mine-owner wrote: “The combination of the working classes will become so strong as to be able more or less to dictate, not only on the question of wages, but also on political questions by the power of the vote.” Mine-owners felt it was important to distance white miners from the black workers, and to place one above the other. Most white South Africans were brought up to believe that they were better than another. Racism was used by the mine-owners. Few black workers felt any sympathy for the whites’ struggle for trade union rights. It was like “We are fighting our own battles and the white man is fighting his own battle. He does not consider us and we do not consider him in this respect.”16

These tactics were to safeguard profits and system of labor control, observes Luli Callinicos.

Who was gaining from this division among the toilers? The coterie of writers presenting sectarian, communal arguments with progressive-posture to facilitate capital’s divisive tact know answer to the question. Yet, they carry on their divisive propaganda. Capital needs pals in its days of crises. Concern of these chums of capital is not the entire working people, but only a single group as if no other people are facing onslaughts by capital and state. It’s a completely hatred-filled, divisive Nazi-tact.

Today, that divisive tact is being steamed. So, the present situation requires the task of trampling all forms of sectarianism as it harms working people’s struggle. On this May Day, toilers have to intensify this task as unity of all the working people crossing all types of delimiting lines is in their interest, as unity of the working people takes away all steam from engine of reactionary, factious politics, and the politics will lose the biggest chunk of its present constituency. So, the toilers are to trumpet: Workers of the World, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

  1. Natalia Murray, “Feast in a time of plague, May Day celebrations of 1917-1918”, Baltic Worlds, vol. VI, no. 1, April 2013, Sodertorn University, Sweden.
  2. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, “Bomba ili khlopushka: Razgovor mezhdu dvumia khudozhnikami”, “A bomb or a firecracker: a conversation between two artists”, Novaia Zhizn, no. 83, 1918-05-04, quoted in Murray, op. cit.
  3. The Intelligencer & Wheeling News Register, “Nearly 23,000 coal miners to lose benefits, miners, families notified via letter”, April 26, 2017.
  4. The Pantagraph, IL, “The latest: White House blasts Dems on spending bill”, April 26, 2017.
  5. Miners’ pensions ‘should not be used as a cash cow’”, November 16, 2016.
  6. The charge of the heavy brigade”, September 4, 2006.
  7. “Miners’ strike policing inquiry ‘would have been witch hunt’”, March 9, 2017.
  8. Chamber of Mines of South Africa, Modernisation: Towards the Mines of Tomorrow, Fact sheet 2017.
  9. Monthly Review, vol. 58, issue 3, July-August 2006.
  10. AFP, “8 killed in gas explosion at Ukraine coal mine”, March 2, 2017.
  11. AFP, “10 Dead in Jharkhand mine cave-in, many still missing”, December 31, 2016.
  12. AP, “Rescuers try to find 15 still trapped by mine blast in China”, November 1, 2016.
  13. Mike Fafuli, Genocidal Effects of Dereliction of Duty by Mining in SA, National Union of Mine Workers, May 3, 2012.
  14. updated March 25 and 24, 2017 respectively, www.payscale.com.
  15. www.totaljobs.com.
  16. shortened, vol. I: Gold and Workers 1886 – 1924, chapter 17, “The Divided Workers”, Ravan Press, Johannesburg, 1980.