Sunday, November 24, 2019

"Destined For War" - A Book Worth Reading

Written by: Ned K. on 24 November 2019 

When the USSR collapsed in the late 1980s, there was one superpower remaining, the USA. Not for long though. Fast forward to 2019 and there are now two superpowers, the USA and China. One is in decline and one is rising.

US ruling class think tanks are acutely aware of this. One of their most prominent advisers, Graham Allison has written a book (first published in 2017) about it called "Destined For War - Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?"

Allison is Director of Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and an adviser to the Secretaries of Defense under Reagan, Clinton and Obama. So, his thinking is an insight into the USA ruling class dilemma of what they should do about the new superpower on the block, China.

Allison's book is intended to be a warning to his ruling class leaders, especially in the military and government, that the USA is on a "collision course for war - unless both parties take difficult and painful action to avert it". His big idea is phrased as "Thucydides's Trap".

Thucydides was a Greek historian who wrote about the rising power of the Athenian state and what he saw as an inevitable war with the existing most powerful state of Sparta two and a half millennia ago.

Thucydides explained that "...It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable."

Allison likened the current situation between China's claimed "peaceful rise" on the world political, military and economic stage and the USA 's desperation to remain the world's only superpower to Thucydides's Trap.

In 2015 Allison's "The Thucydides Trap: Are the US and China Headed for War?", published by the Atlantic, was the subject of discussion between Xi Jinping and US President Obama. Obama said "The two countries are capable of managing their disagreements". While Xi Jinping said "Should major countries time and again make the mistakes of strategic miscalculation, they might create such traps for themselves."

Allison in his book argues that an analysis of history over the last 500 years shows that in sixteen cases a rising power threatened to displace a ruling power and in twelve of those the outcome was war. In the most recent 20th Century, there were the two World Wars between imperialist powers but Allison points out, the seeming inevitability of a (nuclear) war between the rising superpower the USSR and the established superpower the USA did not eventuate. Allison points out the obvious: that under Trump, the degree of rivalry on a global scale between the USA and China has significantly increased both economically and militarily, leading him to the conclusion that "if leaders in Beijing and Washington keep doing what they have done for the past decade, the US and China will almost certainly wind up at war."
Allison's book provides evidence that China is being successful in maneuvering the USA economically into an unfavorable position from which escape is becoming impossible. China's foreign policy through economics has positioned it as the largest trading partner of 130 countries and 15% of ASEAN's current trade compared with the USA accounting for only 9%. On top of this there is China's One Belt One Road linking it to 65 countries and the equivalent to 12 Marshall Plans according to IMF economist Stephen Jen.

 Allison is acutely aware that it is the underlying economic forces and economic expansion goals that drive world powers to war in the age of what he like many other capitalist commentators call "globalization". He sees China as in front of the USA on the economic front and gives the following scenarios for USA leaders to consider:

1. Clarify vital interests
"In a struggle as epic as the one between China and the United States, American leaders must distinguish the vital from the vivid."

2. Understand what China is trying to do
"China and the US would be better served not by passive-aggressive "should diplomacy' (calling on the other to exhibit better behavior) or by noble sounding rhetoric about geopolitical norms, but by un-apologetically pursuing their national interests. In higher stake relationships, predictability and stability - not friendship - matter most. The US should stop playing 'let's pretend'"

3. Do Strategy
"In today's Washington, strategic thinking is marginalized or even mocked....this cannot be sustained when the underlying economic balance of power has tilted so dramatically in China's favor."

4. Make Domestic Challenge Central
"If the leaders in each society (USA and China) grasped the seriousness of the problems it faced on the home front and gave them the priority they deserved, officials would discover that devising a way to 'share the twenty first century in Asia' was not the most serious challenge"

Allison seems genuinely concerned about the growing likelihood of a major war between the declining US empire and the rising China. His hope for an avoidance of such a war is that both leaderships of the two world powers, but particularly the US rulers, refocus on domestic issues and restrain their global power reach. He does not see the power of people's struggle against the threat of war as having any influence on the question of whether the two world powers are "destined for war".

History also tells us that it is people's struggle and collective power that can prevent war and defeat imperialist aggressors.

This lesson of history is arguably more important than the lesson of the Thucydides's Trap.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Deliveroo: Solidarity with Gig Economy Workers!

Written by: WSA on 23 November 2019 

Recently we published an article on the political economy of Uber and the gig economy by Marxist historian Humphrey McQueen. A couple of days ago, the Victorian/Tasmanian branch of the Transport Workers Union supported Uber Eats and Deliveroo drivers when they rallied outside Deliveroo HQ in Melbourne to demand the big multinational company sign up to a delivery workers’ Charter of Rights.

Also attending the rally were members of the Worker-Student Alliance and we reprint with permission this account of the rally from their fakebook page - Editors.


(Above: Food delivery workers and supporters place demands on Deliveroo. Photo: Worker Student Alliance facebook page)

A crucial pillar of the gig economy in this modern age are up-and-coming food delivery services such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats who get away with wage theft and not compensating their workers for injuries sustained while working.

Billion dollar companies such as Deliveroo that have headquarters on the crowded end of Collins Street should not be able to give their CEOs bonuses, to pay out their shareholders and ignore the workers who make the excessive profits they make a reality.

These riders must endure peak-hour traffic, the contempt of dissatisfied customers and waiting times for meal preparation that they are not paid in recognition for.

The WSA stands with the TWU (Transport Workers’ Union) and with food delivery drivers. Many of these workers are international students who are suckered in by the rhetoric of these companies who label their work as self-employment. By this clever wording, Uber Eats and Deliveroo have sidestepped legislation such as awards and minimum wage laws that allow for workers to be safeguarded from exploitative practices by corporations, allowing them to pay workers as little as $6.00 AN HOUR.

In the face of ballooning costs of tertiary education, rent and bills, this is nowhere near enough.

They also avoid legislation on worker compensation, which is a massive deal for food delivery workers, with 1 in 4 workers suffering injuries while working such as in traffic accidents that lead to broken limbs. Moreover, according to the TWU, an average of $322 a week were ripped from the hands of these drivers and given back to their massive multinational employers! $322 is a huge deal for young adults, making the difference between living in poverty and not.

The dispute between these large multinational corporations is just another reminder of the nature of capitalism. Capitalism encourages a race-to-the-bottom in wages and conditions to make companies larger profits.

This always comes at the cost of working class people such as these food delivery drivers.

The WSA stands in solidarity with all workers in the gig economy and calls for an end to this system of massive exploitation!!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Climate Change? Change the System!

(Australia is burning. Please check  or other sources for local information on events planned for Friday November 29 – Editors.)

Written by: John S. on 22 November 2019

The world  faces an environmental emergency.

The dire environmental dangers, include:


• rapidly declining biodiversity
• depletion of non-renewable resources
• global warming
• the acidification and plasticisation of the world's oceans
• destruction of the world's forests, and the desertification of vast areas
• melting of the polar ice caps and rising sea levels
• extreme weather conditions leading to devastating bushfires, storms and disruptions to food production and agriculture.


Our current capitalist system is the major cause of the environmental crisis:


• Capitalism is based on the constant drive for maximum profit.
• The system digs up, knocks down, produces and discards whatever resources make a profit, regardless of the consequences.
• The capitalist system cannot plan economic or ecological policies or welfare because the whole system is based on the rush of capital to wherever profit can be made. This inevitably leads to over-production, booms followed by crises, and resource depletion.
• Any environmental planning and technologies are dependent on whether they are profitable, not whether they serve the interests of the people and benefit society as a whole. Environmental inventions are often bought up by big companies and suppressed because they would undermine the profitability of existing products.
• Rampant consumerism, whimsical fashions, and throwaway products with built-in obsolescence create constantly renewing and expanding markets.
• Corporations then rort any environmental protections to make profit. The Kyoto Protocol created a trade in CO2 emissions, supposedly to encourage CO2 reductions. This trade in pollution rights has expanded into another speculative industry as corporations sell their pollution rights, transfer their polluting industries to third world countries with lower or no pollution restrictions (e.g. the European paper industry, and coal-fired power stations). There are now over 10,000 registered traders in pollution certificates in Europe alone.


“The insatiable need for capital to expand has led to over-production that over-tills the land, over-grazes the pastures, over-fishes the rivers and seas, and pours fatal amounts of chemicals and wastes into ground, air, and water, causing irreparable damage to the earth.” (Pao-yu Ching)


And the parliamentary political system merely upholds this corrupt dangerous economic system:


• Politicians bend to the overwhelming power of big business, for example, when the Federal Labor government caved into the mining lobby and abandoned the mining super profits tax, and the Federal Liberal and Queensland Labor governments (spot the difference!) backed the Adani coal mine.
• The current Federal government has failed to challenge the banks over their despicable practices.
• Politicians curry favour with the capitalist media and shock-jocks, and resort to media grabs and throwaway lines in their constant game of point scoring and rivalry to get the top jobs, rather than produce strategies to really address our economic and environmental crises.
• The growing popular political pressure by people around the world on governments and corporations only results in half-hearted measures at best to protect our endangered planet. And often there is complete denial and inaction.


The capitalist system cannot and will not seriously address or solve the looming environmental disaster.


 It must be replaced.  Urgently


A Better Alternative: Socialism.


Socialism is not a few new policies patched onto the existing capitalist system. Fundamental change is required – a completely new and different system. A socialist system requires anti-imperialist independence with the assets of the big foreign multinationals taken over by the Australian people.


• A real socialist system would involve public ownership and control of the key sectors of the economy – finance, manufacturing, mining, construction, infrastructures, environmental management, big agriculture, communications, vital common resources such as water and power, and public services, such as education, health and housing. The state would own these big resources, and they would be managed by a combination of state and democratic worker control.  They would be organised and run for the common good; the benefits shared among the people, not privately seized as under capitalism.

• This publicly-owned system would plan and develop production and distribution according to the needs of the society and the environment, because the driving force and motivation would be people's welfare and environmental sustainability, not profit. 

• New political structures and institutions would be thoroughly and genuinely democratic, with guaranteed representation and active participation of all progressive sections of the population. Representatives would be elected without the manipulation of money or the capitalist media, and people could recall and replace their representatives whenever they saw fit.

• Workplaces and communities would also be managed by directly- elected representatives and bodies.

• The socialist institutions will need to be completely new creations, built from the ground up by the people, replacing all the old capitalist society institutions, which served to prop up the old regime. These institutions would include government and administration, police and armed forces, constitutions and law courts.

• The new socialist society would set about creating and supporting new socially-positive cultures to develop and support people's health and welfare.

• Socialist society would be internationalist – it would respect the rights and welfare of other peoples and countries, and, as the world steadily turns socialist, usher in a peaceful, environmentally-sustainable world, free of war, bullying and exploitation.

• Only these broad outlines of a socialist system are possible, as the exact forms and policies would be democratically determined by each people in and for their own country. We believe for Australia that independence and socialism are mutually dependent. We can’t have one without the other.


The race to save the planet is a race against time, and a race against capitalism.

 We can only save the world by building a better world.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Independent Fight of the Working Class

Written by: Nick G. on 21 November 2019 

Urgent questions face the workers of Australia.

We have seen our defensive organisations, the unions, lose much of their freedom of action.

We have seen rising unemployment disguised as  precarious work: work that is irregular, at the whim of the employer, and often coupled with spurious “self-contractor” arrangements that deprive us of long and hard fought for conditions such as sick leave, long service leave and penalty rates.

There is a culture of punishing the poor. It is as if being poor, unemployed or precariously employed is the fault of the worker.  It is as if the only people who are losing out in the class structure of society are those who won’t “have a go”, who won’t “make the effort” to get ahead. They need to be pushed into work by being kept on the starvation-level Newstart Allowance. They need to be regulated and controlled by having their social service benefits managed through a prohibitive income card. They need to be drug-tested and kept on the merry-go-round of applying for jobs that don’t exist or for which they are not trained.
Things are little better for workers in more secure employment.

Unions are subject to all sorts of restrictions and penalties. Many workers have given up on them and union density is at an all-time low. A promising campaign by the ACTU to “Change the Rules” was diverted into supporting the electoral campaign of the Labor Party at the last election.  It appears as though, with the massive loss suffered by the ALP in the elections, the steam has gone out of the ACTU’s campaign. It has now abandoned the mass grass roots campaign for workers’ rights it had mobilized to elect the ALP.

Conditions have been stripped in enterprise bargaining, penalty rates have been removed, and wages have seen no growth.

Many workers are asking when and how things will change.  They question the future of work itself given the phenomenal growth of computerisation, robotics, autonomous operations and artificial intelligence.  Parents question whether their children will be even worse off than they are themselves. There is a widespread feeling of uncertainty about the future. People question whether they can have any control over what the future may hold. This extends far beyond the world of jobs and housing to climate change and the aggressive behaviors of the world’s big powers. More people are questioning whether the planet itself can survive under capitalism..

These questions are indeed urgent.  Things can no longer go on as before.  But what can be done?

Relying on others will not help

For many years, relying on politicians and on parliamentary processes were how people found answers to their questions.

The Labor Party in particular upheld the view that political action within the institution of parliament was what was required “because,” (to quote a Labor brochure from the September 2019 climate change rallies), “in our democracy that is where policies are made”.

For over a century now, that is how many working people hoped to see their fundamental questions answered, and problems fixed.

The right to elected political representation is dear to all workers.  They know it had to be fought for – it was one of the key demands, for example, of participants in the Eureka rebellion. We would resist any attempt to restrict it or remove it – as happens in countries where the ruling class opts for open, fascist dictatorship.

However, relying on parliament whether Labor, Greens or cross-bench Independents, or the courts, only results in the continuation of the status quo and repeated disappointment. This has been the history of the Labor Party and partly explains the current attraction of minor parties and Independents.
The result is a recurring cycle of:

• hope that Labor will do the right thing by its electoral base within the working class;
• frustration and anger when it gets into office and betrays those hopes;
• a resulting electoral win for the conservatives;
• an eventual return to the hope that Labor will get re-elected and can be trusted….”this time”.

This cycle cannot go on indefinitely.  It is a cycle in which workers wait upon the actions of a party which will always act in the interest of big business and multinational corporations .  It is a cycle in which that action is seen only or mainly in its being carried out in an institution, parliament, that will never enact legislation to curb capitalism and force it to bend to the will of the people.

We need our own agenda

We can only break out of this self-defeating cycle by finding the way to develop our own independent working class agenda (that is, things to be done and ways to do them).

The actual content of that agenda, of the things to be done, will change according to the needs of the time. Demands will be raised and prioritised, additions made and wordings changed.  To that extent, the content of the agenda is of secondary importance.  (Our Fighting Program, available soon on our website  is an example of such content).

What is of primary importance is developing the forms of struggle, the organisations, and alliances with common demands and struggles for a working class agenda, not a big business agenda of exploitation and repression.

We cannot and should not overlook the existing organisations within our workplaces and communities.  Fighting for progressive leadership of unions and community groups is essential. It requires patient and skillful work at the grass roots and the development of a strong rank-and-file presence in such organisations.

These organisations are both necessary and very limited.  The top officialdom of unions is more often than not beholden to the ALP electoral fortunes, are highly paid, and unlikely to enter into any struggle beyond those allowed by legislation that protects big business exploitation and profiteering.  Those unions with a large asset base, property and investment portfolios are more reluctant to take any action that may risk their financial arrangements.

It must be our objective that unions and community groups have an independent capacity to act in their members’ interests regardless of which party holds office in parliament. The agenda must serve the needs of the people, not an electoral cycle.

That is why the main focus of organisation must be in the workplaces and communities where our real strength resides and where there is less temptation to sell out and to go soft for the sake of one’s personal or political career.

Working class demands and mass actions based in workplaces and communities, and not tied to parliamentary parties and reliance on parliament, have enormous capacity and power to organise, unite and mobilise the working class and communities to fight back the big business assault and advance the interests of all working people.

An independent working class agenda will advance people’s immediate demands for a decent standard of living for all people, workers’ rights and democratic rights and job security.  It will vigorously oppose austerity and promote taxing the profits of multinational corporations and big business to pay for public health, education, public transport, affordable housing, social and community services for all.  It will put forward an alternative vision for our country that puts the needs of the people above the electoral fortunes of politicians and parliamentary parties, and the profit interests of big business. 

The independent working class agenda will build broad unity and mobilise the working class, city and rural communities, farmers and environmentalists.   It will unite people from all walks of life who are attacked by the capitalist economic crisis. This will be an independent working class movement that cannot be turned on an off when it suits the Labor Party or the ACTU.

It will achieve all this so long as it is truly independent of parties and processes that prioritise “the exploitative capitalist economy” over the people.

That means a preparedness to break the rules, to act illegally, if need be, in the face of anti-union and anti-worker legislation. Only a real upsurge of rebellion and open defiance will return to workers and unions the initiative and confidence in the fighting capacity of the working class. The same applies to community organisations, to organisations of the First Peoples, of environmental, heritage, public housing and transport, anti-war and other arenas of people’s struggle.
Sometimes this may require placing demands on this or that parliamentary party but it must never result in passive reliance upon them, of “waiting until they are voted in…”

We must have courage and faith in  the collective strength of the working class as a whole.

We can find the answers and solutions to the great questions troubling our people.

We will find them in struggles with the people, as we learn what can be done, and when and how.

Raise the demand widely that there be an independent agenda of the working class!

Let us define the content according to what we need and in the interests of the whole working class!

Let us bravely surmount all difficulties and obstacles and break whatever legal shackles are placed on us!