Monthly Archives: March 2011

Japan Quake: Rail Union Raps Bosses’ System of Profits First, Workers Last

JAPAN, March 24 — The reaction of Japan’s capitalist government to the disaster unfolding in that country reflects the horrors of a system that puts profits before workers, a fact that has spurred Japan’s rail union into mass protests.

While the ensuing controversy over the possibility of a nuclear disaster continues to unfold, the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) has confirmed that 27,000 people are dead or missing following the recent earthquake and tsunami that hit Northeast Japan on March 11. The  situation has become dire for over 200,000 living in temporary shelters (mostly in school gymnasiums) with limited access to hot meals, fresh water, adequate hygienic utilities or medicine, amid outbreaks of influenza and other contagious diseases. All this particularly affects the elderly who comprise a large percentage of the evacuee population.

NHK reports that many hospitals have had to move patients into shelters, which has also increased the risk of disease and death to those already housed there.

The most immediate threat is the continual decline of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which the Japanese government and the operators of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Corporation, (TEPCO) have been unable to control. A significant amount of radioactive material has leaked from the plant and into soil and drinking water within a large radius which has forced restrictions on local produce. NHK website reports, “Efforts to cool the plants are being hampered by the leakage of highly radioactive materials” which have forced rescue operators to abandon some of the reactors.

Shell Game Downplays Profit System’s Role

As local officials, the Japanese government and TEPCO play the blame shell game among each other about the possibility of a nuclear disaster little has been said about the system which has produced the problem in the first place: capitalism.

The Wall Street Journal (3/21) said the management of a nuclear meltdown was delayed to preserve “long-term investment” interests in the plants, a decision that clearly reveals the sickness of the profit-making system in which business interest is always put first, despite the possibility of mass destruction and loss of human life.

The parallel between the Japanese governments’ delayed response and capital interests is reiterated in statements by Yonekura Hiromasa, chairman of Nippon-Keidanren (Japan Business Federation). He praised the Japanese nuclear authorities, saying, “Japanese nuclear plants are tough enough to resist the greatest earthquake in a thousand years. It’s wonderful. Japanese nuclear agencies should be proud of it….The accident is going to be overcome. I’m not of the opinion that Japanese nuclear policy is coming to a corner.”

Additionally, Japan’s big banks have diverted billions of Yen to the re-financing of TEPCO, a decision sanctified by the Japanese government. The latter has also provided billions for rebuilding capitalist institutions most affected by the earthquake, rather than allotting them for building sufficient temporary housing and hospital facilities and sending adequate food, water and medicine to affected areas and shelters. This exactly mirrors the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, the Pakistan floods and basically anywhere profit is put far ahead of workers’ needs.

‘A man-made tragedy’

The Japanese Railway Workers’ union, Doro-Chiba, which has been the most critical of capitalism’s role in the current crisis, sharply condemned Yonekura’s statement and the insufficiency of the government’s response: “The reality before us is by no means a natural disaster but [is a] man-made tragedy, caused by a neo-liberal offensive on the basis of a capitalist market economy. Its real essence is nakedly exposed day by day.”

The Doro-Chiba also led a March 20 protest in Tokyo “to denounce the deceitful policy of the government and to demand disclosure of the facts on the whole development concerning the disaster.” This was to be followed by a national day of mobilization against war on March 27.

This anti-capitalist stance of Doro-Chiba needs to reverberate across Japan and the world. The international working class must fight the sickness of the profit system revamping itself in the wake of the disasters in Japan, Haiti, Southeast Asia, New Orleans — the list goes on. We need to organize workers everywhere to destroy capitalism and run the world for the benefit of all, not the select few!

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Rebels or Racist?

“Libyan Rebels Accused of Targeting Blacks, reads the headline in the March 4 Los Angeles Times. The article reports that, “Many innocent Africans and black Libyans have faced detention, beatings or intimidation while being accused of accepting money to fight for Qaddafi.” They “are actually black Libyans or Africans who have been living in Libya for years….

“Africans recently interviews in Benghazi said they had been threatened, beaten and driven from their homes by gunmen calling them mercenaries.”

“A spokesman for the rebels’ ‘military council’ said about 150 men were being held at several locations in and around Benghazi.”

Another LA Times article (3/24) headlined “Libyan Rebels Appear to Take A Leaf from Qaddafi’s Playbook” reported that, “For a month gangs of…gunmen have roamed the city, rousting Libyan blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa from their homes and holding them for interrogation as ‘suspected’ mercenaries or ‘government spies….’

“The prisoners and detainees were… [imprisoned in] dank cells that stank of urine and rot — the same cells that once housed some of the dissidents now aligned with the rebel movement…”

Not too much “democracy” here.

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Imperialism Program for Africa: Billions in Profits, Pennies for AIDS

PART II

(Conclusion. In our post the source of AIDS was traced to the holocaust-like poverty heaped on Africans through colonialism, forced labor and slavery, creating starvation conditions which impelled these super-oppressed people to kill apes for food, apes which–it later turned out–carried the AIDS virus.)

Starting in the 1960’s, African societies changed from colonialism to rule by indigenous nationalist or fascist rulers allied with imperialism. For example, the Belgian Congo became Zaire. Patrice Lumumba was assassinated by the CIA. They installed Mobuto, a worthy successor to King Leopold in greed and bloodthirstiness. South Africa and Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) remained under fascist apartheid throughout this period. Armies of male migrant workers left the countryside for the newly-crowded cities, while their wives remained behind in remote rural areas. Prostitution became a major growth industry, some European companies even setting up whorehouses near their factories for their workers. A seemingly endless series of nationalist and inter-imperialist wars sent millions of soldiers and refugees all over central Africa.

Enslaved by the global market economy, conditions created by colonialism continued and worsened in “post-colonial” African societies. HIV spread like wildfire through populations ravaged by poverty, war, famine and disease. HIV spread to Europe and the U.S., and then to Haiti and Thailand, primarily through sex tourism, often child prostitution. Prostitution and dirty needles spread it to Latin America, India and Eastern Europe, centers of new epidemics. The IMF’s (International Monetary Fund) stranglehold on poor countries caused massive unemployment, promoted prostitution, imposed cutbacks in health care and education and made life-saving drugs unaffordable.

Sexism kills, just as surely as–and combined with–racism. In Africa, traditional oppression of women has meshed with new, profit-driven forms of oppression. In southern Africa, married women often don’t dare ask their husbands to wear condoms, and are pressured by relatives to stay unprotected for maximum fertility. Husbands are expected to have many sex partners while their wives are expected to be monogamous.

Some day the HIV pandemic will be known as one of imperialism’s worst crimes. Rulers in both Africa and the U.S. claim that the situation is hopeless, and that millions are doomed. Yet the money it would take to provide effective prevention and therapy now ($100 billion yearly) is only a small fraction of what imperialists spent on wars against Iraq and Vietnam. It is an even smaller fraction of the profits they’ve made from African rubber, diamonds, gold, copper, oil and slave labor. In a few countries (like Uganda and Thailand) even simple prevention campaigns have had a big impact. So building a larger movement now, that refuses to accept rules protecting the bosses’ profits, can save many more lives. Mass production and distribution of pirated anti-AIDS drugs, in collaboration with medical workers in Africa, can prevent transmission and provide treatment for millions.

A larger movement must also lead a sharp and prolonged struggle against sexism in order to transform relationships between men, women and children, ending prostitution and sex slavery. It must fight to end the super-exploitation of migrant labor. These goals can only be achieved through the revolutionary destruction of capitalism. The experience of once socialist China in eradicating prostitution, syphilis and drug addiction (which have all returned in now capitalist China) shows that revolutionary communism can, even in poor societies, solve massive public health problems.

Sources: Hahn, B.H. et al. (2000); Korber et al. (2000); Science 287: 607 Chitnis et al. (2000), AIDS Res. Hum. Retroviruses 16: 5-8; Gao et al. (1999) Nature 397: 436-441; Hooper, E.M. (1999) The River; Schoofs (2000) “The Agony of Africa” (at http://www.villagevoice.com/specials/africa) ScientificAmerican, January 2000; New York Times, 6/28/00 and 7/9/00. Recommended background: A. Hochschild King Leopold’s Ghost; W. Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa; B. Davidson, “The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State”

 

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U.S. Rulers’ War Machine Outdoes Any Quake

On March 9, 1945, “100,000 to 200,00 men, women and children died…when the U.S. Air Force doused Tokyo with jellied gasoline; all told, in the months before Hiroshima, [conventional] bombs killed up to 500,000 in Japanese cities and left 13 million homeless.” (U.S. News & World Report, 7/13/95)

By June 1945, U.S. Air Force General Curtis LeMay complained that there was nothing left to bomb in Japanese cities except “garbage can targets.”

After these terror bombings, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey reported that, “Certainly…Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bomb had not been dropped.” (“Japan’s Struggle to End the War.”)

The L.A. Times agreed: “The hard truth is that the atomic bombings were unnecessary.” (8/5/05) President Harry Truman’s diary referred to a decoded Japanese cable indicating Japan was about to surrender unconditionally, as the “Japanese Emperor [was] asking for peace.”

Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur also agreed, the former later writing that “Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary” (“Mandate for Change”; 1963) and MacArthur also believed that the dropping of the A-bombs were “completely unnecessary from a military point of view.” (James Clayton, “The Years of MacArthur, 1941-1945, Vol. II”)

Yet, as most historians agree, Truman went ahead and dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima as a warning to the Soviet Union that the U.S. had this hugely destructive weapon, killing upwards of 150,000 civilians. And, to emphasize the “warning,” dropped still another one on Nagasaki three days later, killing perhaps another 100,000.

Any doubt that U.S. rulers are the world’s most vicious terrorists?

 

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War Over Oil Looms: Saudi Arabia, Not Libya, Main Prize for U.S. Rulers

As the U.S., France and British rulers launch air strikes at Libya, the U.S main focus is still focus on energy’s grand prize, Saudi Arabia and the greater Persian Gulf region. As important as Libya’s 46-billion-barrel reserves are, threats to far richer sources preoccupy Obama and the oil-fueled imperialists he serves.

As of March 11, dictator Qaddafi was brutally retaking key oil towns from the rebels, indiscriminately slaughtering civilians and his opponents. Leading senators — Democrat Kerry, Independent Lieberman, and Republican McCain — have called for a “no-fly zone” entailing U.S. bombardment of Libyan planes, air defenses, and runways. But, on that very day, March 11, Obama sent war boss Robert Gates to embattled Bahrain, on the Persian Gulf — not to Libya’s U.S.-backed neighbors Tunisia or Egypt.

Bahrain houses the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which polices the globally-crucial oil exports of U.S. protectorates Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, U.S.-occupied Iraq and U.S. enemy Iran.

Kenneth Pollack, a Gulf expert having worked at the CIA, the National Security Council, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Brookings Institution, wrote a book in 2002, “The Case for Invading Iraq.” Now he has written: “It is not clear that… Libya is enough of a national interest to justify…long-term military and diplomatic commitment. Just within the Middle East, there are countries of far greater importance to the United States that may well need us to invest those resources there to make sure they turn out right.” (Brookings website, 3/09/11)

Iraq, following two U.S. invasions and sanctions that killed over two million, has, for now, “turned out right” for Exxon Mobil. Consequently, the latter now enjoys access to Iraq’s West Qurna oil field, one of the world’s biggest.

U.S. Rulers, Exxon-Mobil, Won Big in Iraq War, But Could Lose All in Saudi Destabilization

Stratfor, an outfit that provides geostrategic analysis to U.S. corporations, explained Gates’s travel plans on its website (3/9): “Unlike Libya, where the effects are primarily internal, the events in Bahrain clearly involve Saudi, Iranian and U.S. interests….Bahrain is the focal point of a struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for control of the western littoral [shoreline regions] of the Persian Gulf ….[Saudi] destabilization would change the regional balance of power and the way the world works.”

In other words, upheavals in Saudi Arabia — home to more oil than any other country in the world — could end the biggest racket in the history of imperialism. Exxon Mobil, Saudi Arabia’s biggest customer and investor, today controls the lion’s share of the kingdom’s production. Through Exxon and its U.S. and British allies — Chevron, BP and Shell — entire nations are beholden to U.S. rulers’ terms for the supply of capitalism’s lifeblood.

Obama, Pentagon Boss Gates Oppose Only Those Wars Not in the Rulers’ ‘National Interest’

Obama’s “Defense” Secretary Gates opposes a “no-fly zone” in Libya only because it detracts from his imperialist masters’ larger need to secure the Middle East. Note his February 25 warning to West Point that any future war secretary advising a U.S. president to send a large land army into Asia, the Middle East or Africa, “should have his head examined.” Colonel Gian Gentile, an active-duty military fellow at the ultra-imperialist, Rockefeller-led Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), translated:

“The secretary is suggesting that, if a future secretary of defense advises an American president to send a significant land force into a foreign country to do nation building, the analysis has to show that that kind of effort… is worth the costs…. because it will be a costly and long-term endeavor.” (CFR website, 3/2/11)  Gates, hardly a pacifist, rewords Gen. Colin Powell’s “Doctrine” which clearly specified that indispensable, imperialist goals (like securing Saudi Arabia) require overwhelming U.S. military force.

The workers and youth rebelling against fascist dictators in North Africa and the Mideast have put their lives on the line in battling the police and the armies. They have struck in demanding jobs and freedom from poverty. They deserve the support of workers worldwide.

But for the working class, two deadly misunderstandings are woven into this upsurge. First is thinking that it represents “liberation.” Without militant, class-based, communist revolution, one gang of exploiters will replace another in every country involved. Secondly is the assumption that any temporary reluctance of U.S. rulers to deploy deadly force shows “peaceful” intentions. In reality, U.S. imperialism’s continuing existence depends on control of Mideast oil. Obama & Co. and their successors will fight for it to their last bullet and to the last drop of workers’ blood.

It is up to the working class, and especially to communists, to mobilize our forces wherever we are — in shops, unions, schools, within the military, in churches and community organizations — to turn the class struggle against the ruling capitalists into a fight that goes beyond the immediate one for reforms. The rulers hold state power and always can, and do, take back these reforms. Their goal of maximum profits — and their system’s inevitable crises which produce mass unemployment, racist exploitation and imperialist war — drives them to demand these give-backs from the working class.

Only a communist revolution that smashes the bosses’ state power and their racist system altogether, creating a society run by and for our class — which produces all value — can free us from the misery of the profit system.

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King Leopold’s Legacy: Imperialism and the Origin of AIDS

“I can choose to die of starvation now, or of AIDS later”—Prostitute in Harare, Zimbabwe

A continuing holocaust of mind-numbing dimensions. Fifteen million have already died. Thirty-four million are HIV-infected, including 25 million in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS will kill 67% of today’s teenagers in some African countries. Women are twice as likely as men to become infected. Thirty million African orphans are predicted by 2010, life expectancies dropping from 70 years to 30 in some countries. If neutron bombs were dropped on the dozen biggest cities of Africa, the damage could not be worse. International response to this crisis has been obscene. Bosses and politicians fight over drug prices and profits, while they spend much more on Viagra and baldness remedies ($333 million QUARTERLY earnings, according to Pfizer), than on all international HIV programs in sub-Saharan Africa ($600 million YEARLY of international aid for HIV/AIDS).

Though many see the AIDS pandemic either as a “natural” disaster or as a biological warfare conspiracy, it is actually rooted in the devastation imperialism has inflicted on African societies. This first of a series of articles on the political economy of AIDS will discuss where the HIV virus and the AIDS pandemic in Africa came from.

Scientists have recently learned much about the origin of HIV. Like influenza and rabies, AIDS is a disease transmitted from animals to humans. The closest relatives of HIV are SIVs, viruses carried by apes and monkeys. HIV-1 most resembles a chimpanzee SIV, found in rain forests of coastal West Africa. HIV-2, a milder West African virus, is nearly identical to a monkey SIV. These viruses have lived in their natural hosts for millions of years and don’t make them sick. Among scientists, the currently favored idea of how the viruses jumped into humans is that people hunted chimps and monkeys for meat, and cut themselves while butchering.

HIV is relatively new to humans. The earliest verified HIV case was in 1959, in Kinshasa, Congo; African blood samples from earlier times are free of the virus. HIV exploded in Africa during the early 1970’s, just before it spread to the U.S. and Europe. Very early cases were found near the borders of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. From there it quickly spread to Zambia and Tanzania. Before the 1970’s, AIDS was as unknown in Africa as in the U.S.

HIV evolves rapidly. Its gene sequences accumulate mutations in a steady, clock-like manner. The more differences, the more time has passed since viruses had a common ancestor. By comparing the genes of currently circulating viruses, it is possible to make an informed guess as to when the common M type of HIV-1, the one responsible for the worldwide pandemic, began. The best guess is in the 1930’s.

HIVs not only jumped from animals to humans recently; they also did so OFTEN, at least four times. This is inferred from the fact that some HIV strains are genetically more similar to SIVs than to each other. So it seems that HIV is relatively easy to catch from animals, and that no special mutations are needed to make it virulent in humans. In fact, a lab worker recently developed AIDS from a monkey SIV after an accidental needle stick.

So, if the virus jumps easily to humans, why did the pandemic not start until the late 20th century? What changed that made repeated transfer to humans more likely and explosive growth a certainty?

Until the late 19th century, most Africans farmed and lived in rural villages. Then feverish land grabs among imperialists—seeking rubber, gold, ivory and diamonds—created the largest forced labor system since African-American slavery. For example, King Leopold II of Belgium seized the Congo and ruled it for years as his personal rubber plantation. Fifteen million Congolese died in this genocidal holocaust. Forced labor was the rule in colonial Africa. Copper mines in Katanga (Congo) rounded up miners from Zambia, Rwanda, Angola and Mozambique. Colonial armies drafted millions of Africans during both world wars. During the 1930’s, the French built a railroad through coastal West Africa, drafting hundreds of thousands of African laborers from distant locations and marching them through the rain forest under appalling conditions of near-starvation. According to one theory, it is here that Africans first were exposed to SIVs, as workers made desperate by starvation had to hunt apes as food.

Another theory places the origin of AIDS in the Belgian Congo and neighboring countries. In his thoughtful book, The River, Edward Hooper argues that HIV spread to humans through racist trials of polio vaccines. During the late 1950’s, Hilary Koprowski of Philadelphia’s Wistar Institute gave an experimental oral vaccine to over 300,000 Africans, using them as guinea pigs. Hooper suggests that Koprowski may have grown vaccine poliovirus in chimp cells contaminated with the SIV ancestor of HIV. Hooper’s ideas lack solid evidence, but they are being taken seriously enough to prompt testing of remnant vaccine stocks.

Whichever theory turns out to be true, it is clear that the crossover of the virus was a result of conditions created by colonialism. But what caused HIV’s later explosive growth? (Continued tomorrow)

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How Capitalist Medicine Is Dangerous to Your Health: Three Case Histories


Good health care depends on how services are organized, facilities staffed and the attitudes of the people who provide care. “Serve the people” was the slogan of the Chinese Communists. In the first 25 years following the 1949 communist revolution, Chinese medical and public health workers brought about the most dramatic increase in life expectancy, and the steepest decline in death rates ever seen in any population in history. This stemmed from a revolution in attitudes and distribution of limited resources according to need, not because of high-tech hospitals.

In capitalist China, infant death rates among infants are rising again, now that free services have been eliminated. The following cases are from a major U.S. “public” hospital, but they could be from ANY major U.S. “public” hospital.

Case #1: Diabetes + Capitalism = Coma

A 60-year-old man was admitted with a new diagnosis of diabetes. His doctor prescribed insulin and a new diet. Ordinarily, the “Diabetic Teaching Team” (DTT) would then have seen him. The DTT is a group of nurses who go floor to floor, instructing new diabetics how to give themselves the proper dose of insulin, draw their own blood and check their own sugar level. The patient then understands how to manage the disease. But the administration eliminated the DTT two years ago, saying the floor nurses could perform this task. But the floor nurses were already overworked with other new responsibilities, all in the name of cost-cutting and “efficiency.”

After only 24 hours, the patient was sent home where he lived alone. He gave himself insulin as he thought he’d been instructed by the floor nurses. Two days later, his daughter broke into his apartment and found him unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital and into intensive care, diagnosed with dangerously low blood sugar from insulin overdose. He remained in a “persistent vegetative state” (coma) and was sent to a special hospital for long-term care.

Case #2: Staff Cuts Nearly Kill Baby

A young woman having her first baby did well in labor but had a hard time pushing the baby out. After about 2_ hours, her doctors called for a Cesarean Section, but there were no nurses because a reduced staff was busy handling trauma cases. She pushed for another two hours. When the baby was delivered, it was almost dead and had to be resuscitated. Only time will tell if there was permanent brain damage.

Case #3: Early Discharge Can Cause AIDS

A woman was admitted to the maternity unit for evaluation. An HIV test was requested. The special team handling HIV had more patients than it could handle. Her blood was drawn even though the counselors had not spoken to her. She went into labor and delivered her baby. The early discharge program sent her home before doctors discovered she was HIV-positive. She wasn’t notified until she had been home breast-feeding her baby for a week. The risk of her baby being infected with HIV, during delivery or through breast-feeding, and dying of AIDS is over three times what it would have been had the HIV result been known before delivery.

“Serve the People”

Honest self-criticism, anti-elitism and serving the working class are communist ideas. They reached a pinnacle in Chinese hospitals during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. These ideas inspired health care workers around the world.

As fascism develops in the U.S., we see the opposite. Mistakes are covered up. Decisions once made with collective input from nurses, therapists and interns, are now made in a dictatorial style by head doctors. Hospital budgets are cut to the bone and selfish attitudes are pushed.

We must fight hospital bosses who want to remove life-saving services from our patients. We must struggle against the insidious growth of anti-patient and anti-worker attitudes among health professionals. But none of those fights will lead anywhere unless they are connected to the overall fight for working class power. When the workers hold power, “Serve the People” will be the order of the day.

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Quake Exposes Capitalism’s Failures

On March 11, a massive 9.0-magnitude quake hit Northeast Japan on the east coast of Honshu, the country’s largest island, which, combined with the 33-foot waves of the tsunami it created, killed 2,800 people and ignited hundreds of fires. In the disaster’s wake, entire villages, ports and even schools vanished. Some were evacuation sites for local residents situated on the coasts.

The tsunami hit Miyagi and Iwate prefectures the hardest, obliterating everything in its path, causing the highest death tolls, which could exceed 10,000. The quake’s magnitude has led to frequent aftershocks, including a 6.0 quake on March 15 that hit Shizuoka, extending over the entire Kantou (Eastern) region.

Additionally, the quake disabled the cooling mechanisms of Japan’s oldest nuclear power plant, sparking a meltdown that has forced the evacuation of thousands surrounding the area and causing widespread fear that is being spread by the mainstream media on a 24-hour basis.

While there has been some criticism of the warning systems that gave residents little time to evacuate, most mainstream media sources in the U.S. and elsewhere emphasized Japan’s preparedness for such disasters and have praised the rapidity of rescues, evacuations and recovery efforts. As the world’s third largest economy, Japan has taken significant steps to safeguard its vulnerability against such disasters through fortification in infrastructure and the training, beginning in kindergarten, on how to react to earthquakes and other disasters. Workers in all areas hold weekly practice drills.

Workers Most Vulnerable, Suffer the Most

The protection and preparedness against such disasters, however, is more evident in the capitalist centers like Tokyo or Sendai (the largest city in the Northeastern region, which suffered significant damage), but become lax moving toward the outer regions where the damage and loss of life was the most substantial.  This is because most of the residents of these areas — like the small village of Saito in Miyagi prefecture which was totally wiped out — are predominantly working-class families: factory workers, farmers and fishermen/women, and the elderly who built homes there which are the most vulnerable to such catastrophic events. Moreover, tens of thousands of jobs will disappear, further intensifying the exploitation of the working class.

This factor connects the loss of life here to the earthquake in Haiti, or to the 2004 tsunami, which killed hundreds of thousands of local residents on the coastal regions of Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, among other areas, where they are forced to live in conditions unprotected by disasters.

Without overlooking the responsibility and culpability of the national governments in such catastrophes, their responsibility is inherently part of the overall picture of capitalism’s failure to plan for social need globally, which in this case works on a number of levels.

Firstly, while loss of life in Japan’s catastrophe is horrific, it is minimal when compared to Haiti’s quake, where the death toll exceeded 200,000, or in the 2004 tsunami, with over 300,000 deaths. Thus, under capitalism some populations are “worth” more than others, according to the hierarchy of profit: as the world’s third largest economy, Japan has a vested interest in protecting itself and its workers from such events, albeit minimally, while in “unprofitable” places like Haiti, Sri Lanka, or even the 9th Ward of New Orleans, there is no room for such planning.

This also reveals the inherent racist dimension of capitalist planning: as a “developed” capitalist country, there is much less racism directed at Japan, emphasized on CNN and other mainstream outlets in their current coverage. Furthermore, most of the discussion on NHK (Nippon Housou Koukai), the largest Japanese news broadcasting system, and on international news is the threat of a nuclear disaster, which is unfolding by the minute.

NHK has been broadcasting the levels of radiations that may leak, with some emphasis on directing the blame both at Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s administration and at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) which owns the Fukushima plant. The latter has been cited continuously for violations and is outdated in terms of equipment and meltdown-controlling mechanisms.

Corporate Profits vs. Communist Planning

The meltdown is symbolic of how corporate interests are the priority under capitalism (TEPCO being one of he most profitable corporations, according to the Nikkei stock index), and how planning and the running of such facilities is done poorly. Under communism such events could be minimized or done away, since workers would have a social and critical awareness of how to operate nuclear plants properly, for the benefit of the social need, rather than according to the drive for maximum profits.

Finally, the disaster is already being played out through the lens of inter-imperialist rivalry.  Obama reacted to the crisis by pledging “support” for Japan, including a significant aid package that most likely will entail the re-evaluation of Japanese-U.S. political and economic relations. U.S. rulers want to use Japan as a buffer against the rise of China This means increasing the pre-existing tensions between Japan and China over control of the undeveloped gas fields in the South China Sea, as well as the power to exploit the mineral-rich islands that have sparked recent disputes, resulting in the emergence of pro-nationalist protests in both countries.

Additionally, with Japan’s ongoing economic woes deepening as a result of the current crisis, there has been discussion of the “disaster capitalism” model, which would allow multi-national corporations to privatize the disaster areas and rebuild according to the priority of profit, as is occurring in New Orleans, Argentina and elsewhere.

Capitalism, Liberal Reformists, Phony ‘Communists’ No Saviors

Capitalism ALWAYS works to the detriment of workers everywhere.  Workers in Japan, who have been brainwashed by anti-communism, need to recognize that capitalism will not save them from such disasters, nor will the false hopes of the reformist parties like the Democratic Party of Japan, or fake leftists like the Japanese “Communist” Party, which are the most vocally critical of the recent catastrophe.

ALL workers need to recognize that a system based on profit will ultimately fail to provide the necessary means to rebuild the world, and in fact has been the systemic cause of the devastation and after-effects of environmental disasters. We must unite to build the internationalism and solidarity of communism, creating a global community of workers who can run the world without capitalist bosses!

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Earthquake & Aftermath in Japan Reveals Capitalism’s Failures

On March 11th, 2011, a massive 9.0 -magnitude quake hit Northeast Japan on Friday, causing thousands of deaths, hundreds of fires, and a 10-meter (33-ft) tsunami along parts of the country’s coastline, predominantly in the Northeastern (Touhoku) region.  The destruction left in the wake of the earthquake is extensive, including the vanishing of entire villages, ports, and even schools that were used for evacuation sites by local residents that had been situated on the coasts.  Miyagi and Iwate prefectures were hit the hardest by the tsunami and have the highest death tolls, which in total could reach over 10,000 in total.  Aftershocks as a result of the magnitude of the quake are frequent, including a 6.0 quake that hit Shizuoka and extending the entire Kantou (Eastern) region the morning of 3/15.  Additionally, the quake disabled the cooling mechanisms of one of the main nuclear plants in the Northeast region in Fukushima prefecture (Fukushima Dai-ichi), the oldest nuclear power plant in Japan, sparking a meltdown that has forced the evacuation of thousands surrounding the area and causing widespread fear that is being spread by the mainstream media on an almost 24-hour basis.

While there has been some criticism of the warning systems that gave residents little time to evacuate, most mainstream media sources in the US and elsewhere emphasized Japan’s preparedness for such disasters and have praised the rapidity to which rescues, evacuations, and recovery efforts have taken place.  As one of the largest economies in the world, Japan has taken significant steps to safeguard its vulnerability against such disasters through the fortification in infrastructure, the training, beginning in kindergarten, on how to react to earthquakes and other disasters, which workers in all areas also practice on a weekly basis through drills.

The protection and preparedness against such disasters, however, is more evident in the capitalist centers like Tokyo or Sendai (the largest city in the Northeastern region, which suffered significant damage), but become lax as it moves to the outer regions where the damage and loss of life was the most substantial.  This is due to the fact that most of the residents of these areas, like the small village of Saito in Miyagi prefecture which was totally obliterated, are predominantly working-class families, such as factory workers, farmers, and fishermen/women, and the elderly who built homes in areas which are the most vulnerable to such catastrophic events.  This is what connects the loss of life in the recent disaster in Japan to the earthquake in Haiti, or to the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which killed hundreds of thousands of local residents on the coastal regions of Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, among other areas, who are forced to live in conditions that are both unprotected by disasters.

Without overlooking the responsibility and culpability of the national governments in such catastrophes, their responsibility is inherently part of the larger continuum of capitalism’s failure to plan for social need globally, which in this case works on a number of varying levels.

Firstly, while loss of life in Japan’s recent catastrophe is horrific, it is minimal when compared to what happened in Haiti, where the death toll reached over 200,000, or in the Boxing Day tsunami, where over 300,000 died.  In other words, under capitalism, some populations are “worth” more than others, according to the hierarchy of profit: as the third largest economy in the world, Japan has a vested interest in protecting itself and its workers from such events, albeit minimally, while in “unprofitable” places like Haiti, Sri Lanka, or even the 9th Ward of New Orleans, there is no room for such planning.  This also reveals the inherent racist dimension of capitalist planning: as a “developed” capitalist country, there is much less racism directed at Japan, which is emphasized through CNN and other mainstream outlets in their coverage of the current situation.

Additionally, most of the discussion on NHK (Nippon Housou Koukai), the largest Japanese news broadcasting system, and international news is the threat of a nuclear disaster, which is unfolding by the minute.  NHK has been broadcasting the levels of radiations that may leak, with some emphasis on the blame being directed both at the current administration under Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) which owns the Fukushima plant, including the fact that the plant has been cited continuously for violations and is outdated, in terms of equipment and meltdown controlling mechanisms.  The meltdown is symbolic of how corporate interests are the priority under capitalism (TEPCO being one of he most profitable corporations, according to the Nikkei index), how planning and the running of such facilities is done poorly, and the extent to which such events could be minimized or done away with under communism, where workers would have a social and critical awareness of how to operate nuclear plants properly, for the benefit of the social need, rather than according to the logic of profitability.

Finally, the disaster is already being played out through the lens of inter-imperialist rivalry.  Obama reacted to the crisis by pledging “support” for Japan, including a significant aid package that most likely will entail the re-evaluation of Japanese-US political and economic relations.  The US interest in the region is to use Japan as a buffer against the rise of China, which means increasing the pre-existing tensions between Japan and China over control of the undeveloped gas fields in the South China Sea, as well as the power to exploit the mineral-rich islands that have sparked recent disputes, resulting in the emergence of pro-nationalist protests in both Japan and China.  Additionally, with Japan’s ongoing economic woes deepening as a result of the current crisis, there has been discussion of the “disaster capitalism” model, which would allow multinational corporations to privatize the disaster areas and rebuild according to the logic of profit, as we see occurring in New Orleans, Argentina, and elsewhere.

In summary, capitalism ALWAYS works to the detriment of workers everywhere.  Workers in Japan, who have been brainwashed by anti-communism, need to recognize that capitalism will not save them from such disasters, nor will the false hopes of the reformist parties like the Democratic Party of Japan, or fake leftists like the Japanese Communist Party, who are the most vocally critical of the recent catastrophe.  ALL workers need to recognize that a system based on profit will ultimately fail to provide the necessary means to rebuild the world, and in fact has been the systemic cause of the devastation and after-effects of environmental disasters.  The time is now to unite, to build the internationalism and solidarity to create a global community of workers who can run the world without capitalist bosses!

 

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Oppression and Struggle Still Mark International Women’s Day

EL SALVADOR — March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD), a day to mark the oppression, exploitation and struggles of women worldwide. But since the Triangle Shirt factory fire that killed 146 women garment workers in NYC on March 5, 1911 — which gave birth to IWD — capitalism and imperialism are still hellish for billions of women from Baghdad to Kabul to Central America. In El Salvador, women workers are not only victims of murder by criminal gangs and men won over by the bosses’ anti-women culture, but they’re also super-exploited at the maquilas (garment shops), the main source of jobs for women here.

According to an investigation ten years ago by Rosa Virginia Hernández of the Committee of Salvadoran Working Women, the Labor Ministry counted 57,000 women working in the maquilas, 65% of whom had no social insurance benefits, even though the companies deducted the payments from their wages. Things haven’t changed much since.

The maquilas were first created in the 1970’s in the free trade zone of San Bartolo, but only grew in the ’90s after the end of the civil war here. Basically they offer no real chance for a decent life for their workers.

Despite many attempts by human rights and women’s groups and some trade unions to improve conditions in the maquilas, not much has been accomplished. Now maquilas are actually hiring more male workers, raising unemployment among women even more. Today only 60-70% of all maquila workers are women compared to 80-90% a decade ago. Women working many years in a plant don’t get skilled training; the bosses prefer men, alleging “they take less days off.”

Some plants have closed, with workers denied severance pay. In 2006, there was a reduction of 11-12% among textile maquilas, reducing jobs for women.

The ARENA government (virulently pro-U.S., the only Latin American government with troops in Iraq and one of the few remaining members of the “Coalition of the Willing”) is resisting any pressure to alleviate this problem, saying it’s the employers’ responsibility. Meanwhile, a discussion in the National Assembly to change the Labor and Social Security laws (dating from 1971) is going nowhere.

The end of the civil war has brought no social peace to workers here; violent criminal gangs are rampant (many formed in the U.S.). Conditions for workers in general are horrendous. Meanwhile the FMLN (the former guerrilla group now turned into the second largest electoral party) talks and talks, just offering a “reformed-capitalism” “solution” — actually no solution at all.

We in PLP must redouble our efforts here to build a mass base among women and all workers, offering them the only way out of this capitalist inferno: communism. DESAFIO-CHALLENGE must become our ideological weapon in this battle.

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