Archive | Socialism RSS for this section

Morning mashup: Army vs. SWP

Nothing illustrates the similarities between the army and the SWP like a good ol’ fashioned student union societies fair. Both parties (I use that term in the loosest sense) stand around looking awkward/serious, trying to convince gullible or foolhardy 18 year olds that they should sign up to fight for the winning team. The main difference of course being that the SWP have beardy silver-haired men who will treat you to a tirade of nonsense about who said what and in which sentence Trotsky picked his nose during the Third International (was it the 4th or 7th? – nobody knows) and that the army have a bunch of blank-faced robots in army jumpsuits standing around trying to pretend that they remember what it means to sit down and relax, who will treat you to a tirade of nonsense about how it is “fun” and “educational” to shoot stuff and kill things.

swap soldier

An entertaining game of Spot the Difference can then ensue… The two both pursue the same tactic – recruit shamelessly and a) hope the revolution will come and that their ideology (or lack thereof) will be shown to be the bestest or b) hope there will be another war and that nobody will notice that they need fresh meat to replace the ones that got sent to Afghanistan last year, hail them as unsung heroes and hope that their ideology (or lack thereof) will be shown to be the bestest. It’s also interesting that as soon as you challenge this tactic – based solely on recruiting enough people so that the revolution will arrive/recruiting enough people so the government will give them more money for death toys – they have no idea where to go. They are left dumbfounded when confronted with someone who sees through this tactic – yes but what do you have to offer in the meantime? How are you going to orchestrate a revolution, when all you seem to do is bitch amongst the 429 platform/splinter sects about which line of which paragraph is more important to the Marxist dialectic? OR: How can you justify recruiting kids (because that’s what they are) to come and have what I assume must be a fair amount of outdoorsy fun, judging by the level of uptake, in the hope that some of them will be a) foolish enough to either think the army is actually like that, or b) that they will absorb some of the rhetoric, start to believe the ideology, and actually willingly become cannon fodder for an army that defends the rights of capitalist, imperialist governments and kills innocent civilians and members of the global working class? Anyone who claims to have all the answers is obviously bullshitting, or the next lefty Jesus, but it’s clear that it is virtually impossible to please everyone. Despite all of this, I think it’s worth noting that the Left is scrappy as fuck, and all the infighting is utterly puerile – there should be a united approach (of course we’re not capable of that, but then again, neither is the EDL) if anything resembling a revolution is likely to manifest itself. So, to sum up: I am mostly joking, but also not. I am secretly crying on the inside.


Electric Highwaymen


Jumping the meter wall in Phase 3

 During my trips to Payatas I learned a lot about something which is at best a sideline in my research, but which goes far deeper than it superficially appears. Illegal electricity abstraction is fairly common in certain areas of Payatas, particularly closest to the dumpsite, and in Phase 3. ‘Jumpers’ who connect wires to the grid cables to extract electricity run the risk of electrocution, house fires and death – the month before we were there someone died from fixing a dodgy connection. The need to connect to an electricity supply in order to be a part of the modern world is just that – a need, albeit produced by globalisation (which is extremely visible in the Philippines). It is not exactly like the appliances people use are decadent – a single light bulb to illuminate what are often dark houses because they are all built so close together; an electric fan to move the sweltering air and keep the mosquitoes away; a TV to feed the desire to consume and reinforce the inequality that is already so huge; a fridge to reduce the drudgery of living literally hour-to-hour, day-by-day. All of this of course if they can afford it. The electric company that supplies Payatas, Meralco, already has most expensive rates in the country, and there are no alternatives in the area except home-generation, which precious few people can afford in the city, let alone in Payatas. Furthermore, they have specific conditions about what type of buildings they will connect to the grid; namely that a dwelling must have a discernible kitchen and C.R. (bathroom). However, the poorest people often live in poor-quality housing that does not satisfy these conditions, making them ineligible for a legal, metered electricity supply. To access the modern world in even the most minor of ways these people must therefore obtain their electricity via a profiteering intermediary, who charges extra for an illegal sub-metered connection to a legal mother-meter, held under a Meralco account. Of course these intermediaries may also be victims of the system of poverty themselves – not racketeering but merely scraping a subsistence wage – but their existence simultaneously perpetuates the system whereby the poorest are charged the most for electricity, and is a symptom of it. It is a clear expression of what Oscar Wilde and Robert Tressell called “altruism” and “philanthropy”, respectively, describing the wage-slavery of the British working classes at the turn of the last century. The poorest people are charged the most money for energy, their money lining the pockets of fossil fuel magnates and corporations in a country that still has an ongoing problem with corruption. This, while the richest ex-pats and elites in their gated sub-divisions and third homes avoid fully paying taxes and electricity rates via creative accounting, reporting and golden hand-shaking. The system that allows companies to enforce poverty by only providing energy to those who are considered to be living in ‘proper’ dwellings, while depriving those very people of such decent housing is itself corrupt, and moribund. The ‘jumpers’ and the middlemen may be doing something illegal in ‘stealing’ electricity in the eyes of the legislature that upholds the status quo, but they are truly victims of an immoral and deformed system; a system that is stealing from them.

This is my attempt at being objective and diplomatic.

May first is symbolic in many ways. As well as representing the beginning of spring, it is International Workers’ Day, prompting demonstrations of solidarity across the world every year. This week was no different, with demonstrations taking place in the North America, Asia and Europe. Thousands of people took to the streets of cities like Bologna, Napoli and Madrid to protest against austerity measures and record levels of unemployment throughout Europe, which stands at 27% in Spain. Some demonstrations ended with frustration turning to violence, such as in Istanbul, where police used teargas and watercannon against protesters, who were said to have thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at police lines. Public and private sector strikes were called in Athens, bringing services like hospitals and banks to a standstill, and causing major disruption to transport services.

Similar scenes were seen in Seattle, the location of the 1999 ‘Battle of Seattle’ anti-globalisation demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation. Peaceful rallies of trades unions, students and labour activists marched throughout the day, but a small “non-permitted” demonstration caused damage to property during the evening, after the march. Police were quick to dispel the situation, with mayor Mike McGinn justifying their response by connecting the situation to the Boston bombings earlier this month, which is still fresh in the minds of many Americans.

The collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh earlier this week sparked May Day protests in Dhaka, where demonstrators demanded factory owners be held to account for the disaster which killed 402 people and injured around 2500.

May Day is a celebration of the strength and solidarity of workers all over the world, and many marches showed exactly that. The sporadic violence that erupted illustrated the anger and frustration felt by workers in exploitative situations such as in Dhaka, where workers were paid just £32 a month.

RIP Chavez

Kind of to be expected after the lack of sightings in recent months, but a pretty sad day.

Evo Morales:

“El mejor homenaje al hermano y compañero Chávez es unidad y unidad, unidad para luchar por la dignidad, unidad para luchar por nuestra libertad, unidad para trabajar por los pueblos del mundo”

Chávez vive, la lucha sigue.


A day late, but..

Santiago de Chile, 11 September 1973, 9:10 A.M.

This will surely be my last opportunity to address you. The Air Force has bombed the antennas of Radio Magallanes. My words have neither bitterness but disappointment. They should stand as a moral castigation of those who have been traitors to their oaths: Chilean soldiers, titular commanders-in-chief, Admiral Merino, who has designated himself commander of the Navy, even more señor Mendoza, the cringing general who only yesterday manifested his fidelity and loyalty to the Government, and who also has named himself Director General of the Carabineros. In the face of these deeds it only falls to me to say to the workers: I shall not resign!

Standing at a historic point, I will repay with my life the loyalty of the people. And I say to you that I am certain that the seed we have surrendered into the worthy conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans, will not be able to be reaped at one stroke. They have the power, they can make us their vassals, but not stop the social processes, neither by crime nor by force. History is ours and is made by the people.

Workers of my Nation: I want to thank you for the loyalty you have always had, the confidence you placed in a man who only was the interperter of great yearnings for justice, who pledged his word to respect the Constitution and the law, and who did so. In this final moment, the last in which I will be able to address myself to you, I want you to take advantage of the lesson: foreign capital, imperialism, united with reaction, created the climate for the Armed Forces to break their tradition, that which they were taught by general Schneider which was reaffirmed by commander Araya, victims of the same social sector that today will be be expecting with an alien hand to reconquer the power to continue defending their profits and their privileges.
I address myself to you, above all to the modest woman of our land, to the campesina who believed in us, the mother who knew of our concern for the children. I address myself to the professionals of the Nation, to the patriotic professionals who continued working against the sedition overseen by their professional academies, classist academies that also defended the advantages of a capitalist society.

I address myself to the youth, to those who sang and who brought their happiness and their spirit to the fight. I address myself to the man of Chile, to the worker, to the campesino, to the intellectual, to those who will be percecuted, because in our country fascism has now been present for several hours; in the terrorist assassinations, blowing up the bridges, cutting the railways, destroying the oil and gas pipelines, in the face of the silence of those who had the obligation to behave.

They are in jeopardy. History will judge them.

Radio Magallanes will surely be silenced and the tranquil metal of my voice will no longer reach you. It is not important. You will continue to hear it. I will always be together with you. At least my memory will be that of an upright man who was loyal to the Nation.

The people ought to defend themselves, but not sacrifice themselves. The people ought not let themselves be subdued or persecuted, but neither should they humble themselves.

Workers of my Nation, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will go beyond this gray and bitter moment when treason tries to impose itself upon us. Continue to know that, much sooner than later, we will reopen the great promenades down which free men pass, to construct a better society.

Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!

These are my last words and I have certainty that my sacrifice will not be in vain, I have certainty that, at the least, I will be a moral