Monday, September 28, 2009

Capitalism in Crisis: Iran

This post is a segment of essays by Alan Woods called The Crisis of Capitalism And The Tasks of Marxist. This is the section on Iran

By Alan Woods
Monday September 28, 2009

What happened in Iran took most people by surprise. It appeared to fall like a thunderbolt from a clear blue sky. But sudden and sharp changes of this sort are implicit in the situation. As a matter of fact these events were predicted in advance by this International, not now, but ten years ago, at the time of the first movement of the students.

At that time I wrote an article called The First Shots of the Iranian Revolution. And now we see the second chapter. Comrades, what a marvellous movement this was! It was an inspiration. After thirty years of the most savage and brutal dictatorship, a monstrous regime, based on a combination of extreme reaction and religious fanaticism, using extreme repression, murder, kidnapping, torture, we saw the explosive entry of the masses on the scene of history.

This is the final answer to all the cowards and sceptics, the cynics, the ex-Marxists, the ex-communists, and all the others who questioned the possibility of revolutionary movements in the present epoch. Despite all the terrible repression there were one million people on the streets of Tehran, maybe two million. It was an astounding revolutionary movement. And yet you have so-called left wingers, so-called Marxists, like James Petras, who have just made a very small error: they’re not capable of seeing the difference between revolution and counterrevolution.

Lenin explained the four conditions for a revolution. We’ve mentioned them before but we’ll mention them again. The first condition is a split at the top, a split in the ruling class: that the ruling class will not be able to rule with the methods they’ve used in the past. For 30 years the people of Iran have languished under this vicious rule, which is oppressive down to the smallest detail of people’s lives. The Mullahs try to control how people think, how people live, what people do, what people wear. Iran is a very young country, and it’s a very big country and 70% of the population are under thirty years of age, they have never known any other regime than this. And after thirty years, the masses are fed up with the Mullahs.

The Ayatollah Khomeini presented the image of Mr. Clean, as against the ghastly corruption of the Shah and his pro-imperialist gang. By the way, what stinking, disgusting, hypocrites the so-called democrats of the West are. In 1953, when there was a bourgeois democratic government, the only time in the history of Iran when there was such a government, led by a liberal called Mosaddeq, these imperialist gangsters wanted to take control of the oil wealth of the country. The British, the Americans, the CIA overthrew Mosaddeq and imposed a brutal dictatorship of the Shah, which was one of the bloodiest dictatorships known in the whole of the 20th century.

The regime of the Shah was disgustingly corrupt. People in this oil rich country were hungry, and the Shah engaged in public spectacles of the most obscene luxury. The Shah had a huge repressive apparatus, one of the biggest armies of the world, the secret police was known as the Savak, which had control over every aspect of life, they were very efficient, like the Gestapo. They had very pleasant little customs like roasting people to death with an electric fire. That was the regime that was put into power by the British and the Americans and supported until the end by the British and the Americans.

That ended in a revolution in 1979, in which the Iranian workers played a key role. They confronted the repressive apparatus in the streets. They armed themselves, because the soldiers deserted en masse, handing their weapons over to the people. It is not generally know that the Iranian workers set up soviets, known as the shoras. Power was within the reach of the working class. Unfortunately the Iranian Communist Party didn’t want to take power. They helped the gangster Khomeini to take power. And Khomeini said, thank you very much and illegalized the Communists and put them in jail.

The price paid by the Iranian people was this monstrous, fundamentalist dictatorship for thirty years. But now this regime is finished. The only thing that maintains it is fear, and as you see the fear is disappearing. Now there’s always a comical side to politics, politics has got an amusing side. And you see this here; it’s quite amusing to see what happened. Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, was so confident that he allowed a relatively free election campaign. He was confident because he was going to rig the elections. The top Mullahs vetted all the candidates, and they eliminated 400 candidates, and since the four candidates who were left were all men of the regime, there was not a problem. Or so it appeared…

But then a strange thing occurred. Hegel said, and Lenin often repeated it, necessity expresses itself through accident. This Mousavi was an accidental figure; he was part of the regime. He was the prime minister during the war with Iraq. But then they had some debates on television and the question of the economy was raised, and this is at the basis of the situation of Iran, as oil prices have fallen. So there was a lot of discontent and a lot of interest in these debates.

By the way, it is true that Ahmadinejad did give some reforms. He could afford it, as he had the money from the oil. He gave subsidies, particularly to the poor peasants in the villages, so he has a certain support among these sections. But that support is increasingly being eroded, the conditions of the masses are getting worse and there has been a wave of strikes in Iran. Therefore, a strange thing happened in this election campaign. In the past people were not interested in the elections, mostly they didn’t bother to vote. But in these elections there were huge rallies in Tehran. This fact already indicated a change in the mood of the masses.

Although Mousavi didn’t represent any real opposition, he was seen by the masses as the opposition candidate and therefore it was seen as an opportunity to give the regime a kick. Most observers were convinced that Mousavi was going to win the election. It is impossible to say what the figures were, we will never know, but here the regime made a mistake. Ahmadinejad immediately came on television and announced he’d won by a huge majority. Even in an advanced capitalist country it takes some time before the final results are announced. Iran is a very big country with quite a primitive infrastructure in the rural areas. So how could he make this announcement immediately?

If he had said, “I won by a small difference” maybe some people would have believed it. But instead, they announced a huge victory, and people didn’t believe it. There was an immediate reaction. People came on the streets: students (it was mainly students in the beginning), also middle class people, and teachers – people who in the past would have supported the regime. The women played a huge role, since the women are some of the main victims of this regime.

Let’s remind ourselves of the conditions Lenin put forth, the four conditions for revolution:

The regime is split; there is a crisis in the regime.

The middle class is wavering between the revolutionary forces and the ruling class.

The working class is ready to fight and make the greatest sacrifices.

The existence of a revolutionary party and leadership.

The regime in Iran is split from top to bottom. This always happens at the beginning of any revolution all throughout history. It happened in France in 1789 and in Russia in February 1917. When a regime enters into an impasse, it is reflected in two factions at the top. One faction says we must reform from the top to prevent a revolution from below. And the other faction says no, if we start reforming from the top there’ll be a revolution from below, keep things as they are. And both of them are right.

As for the second point, the middle class was not wavering, but actually took the side of the revolution. There was some participation of the workers, like the Teheran bus drivers. There was even talk of a general strike, but this failed to materialize, precisely because of the absence of the last factor: a revolutionary party and leadership.

These were the biggest movements of the masses since 1979. They took the regime by surprise. They took Mousavi by surprise. They took the Americans by surprise. The argument that the CIA is responsible for this movement is a monstrous invention. Mousavi did everything in his power to block this movement. Every day he would say: “don’t go on the streets, you’re going to be killed, I want to save your life.” Every day he said this and every day more people came onto the streets. Not just students and middle class people.

The Economist described the people that were on these demonstrations: there was a mixture, students, middle class people, women, a lot of women, but also poor people from the poor districts of Tehran, women dressed in the head covering and poor people, and even mullahs. This was a colossal movement. It’s the kind of movement you’d expect at the beginning of every genuine revolution which stirs up society to the depths. The authorities tried repression; people were beaten up by the Basiji. They were beaten up, imprisoned, and some people were killed. But nothing could stop it. At one point, there were even indications that cracks were opening up within the police.

These demonstrators were extraordinary because nobody organized them. I suppose if ever there was an argument for anarchism, this would be it. It was spontaneous, by word of mouth. The youth used mobile phones and all the other modern technology which is now available.

The regime tried to block the internet and block mobile phone transmission, and still they found ways around it. How do you stop a movement when there’s no leadership, there’s no one to arrest? That’s why they couldn’t stop this movement. The anarchists are doubtless delighted by all this. But we must point out to the anarchists that while the lack of leadership was, in one sense, a strong point, it was also a weak point.

In the end the movement failed in its objectives. We must ask why. There were two fatal weaknesses in this movement. In the first place, it was precisely the weakness of spontaneity. There was no leadership, no plan, and no strategy. It is impossible to keep masses of people on the streets without such a plan. Eventually, the movement will dissipate, just as steam dissipates in the air unless it is concentrated in a piston-box.

Above all there was no participation by the organized workers. That was the second and decisive weakness. This again shows the limitations of the workers’ leaders in Iran. There have been many strikes in Iran in the last period, but in the decisive moment, where was the leadership? Unfortunately, the so-called workers’ vanguard failed to support the movement and did not call on the workers to join it.

I have the impression that these so-called vanguard workers are either ex-Stalinists, or demoralized elements of the older generation who are under the influence of Stalinist ideas. Whatever they are, they behaved very badly. There’s a marvellous article by Trotsky written in 1930, which has got a direct reference to what is happening in Iran. It is called The Spanish Revolution and the Tasks of the Communists. At that time there were big student demonstrations, and Trotsky insisted that the Spanish workers and the Spanish Communists must support these demonstrations and put forth revolutionary democratic demands.

Unfortunately in Iran the workers’ leaders boycotted the election and boycotted this movement, which is a very bad way to behave. An indefinite general strike would have finished this regime, especially if it was accompanied by the setting up of soviets, or shoras, to use the Farsi word. The idea of a general strike was floating in the air, and even Mousavi made some vague references to it. All that was required was to name a day, and that would have been enough. But this demand never came forward.

We pointed out in the articles on the website, that you cannot have a situation where you’re calling people out on the streets saying, demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate, without any perspective. People are going out on the streets every day and getting their heads cracked, and there’s no perspective. And therefore what happened was inevitable. I said in my first article: if it carries on like this it will go down. And that is what happened.

On the surface it seems that the regime has regained control but that is not the case. Nothing is solved and the splits in the regime now are wide open. There have been splits on the left (if you can call the reformists the left).and splits on the right also. Particularly interesting is the conduct of Rafsanjani, who is one of the main gangsters in the regime - a very rich gangster, and a very clever gangster. Now he has gone over to the opposition.

Rafsanjani held a Friday prayer meeting about ten days ago, a Friday prayer meeting in one of the main Mosques in Tehran. This is not a new thing; the leaders do this quite often. Ahmadinejad did it quite recently. But at the most in a big rally (for that is what it is), you woud get no more than 50,000 people. How many went to this prayer meeting with Rafsanjani? One million people! Now it may be that one million people suddenly developed a burning interest in praying to Allah. It’s possible, but I don’t think so. This was a mass political demonstration. And this same gangster, this Rafsanjani, gave a very militant speech in the Mosque.

I don’t think he said a lot about Allah, what he did say was to call for democracy, he said that the elections were rigged, he said it was impermissible to use violence against the people of Iran and he called for the release of everyone who had been arrested. This is astonishing. And even more interestingly he was supported by leading clerics from the city of Qom which is the main religious centre in Iran. I think at least four or five Grand Ayatollahs came out in support of Rafsanjani. This means there is an open split and it seems Khamenei is losing control.

Khamenei is the Supreme Leader, not only of the religious questions, he’s the Supreme Leader of the state, he controls the army, the police, the judiciary, and he’s been publicly challenged by Rafsanjani. Even more significant, the night before that meeting, on Thursday night, 24 top army officers were arrested. Two of them were generals. Why were they arrested? They went to this prayer meeting with their uniforms, and this was a serious act of rebellion.

Therefore, all the conditions Lenin put forth for a revolution are present in Iran except one, or to be more accurate, one and a half, because the proletariat, again through the fault of the leadership, has not played the leading role that it should play. Lenin wrote in 1905 that in a situation like that, the proletariat must put itself at the head of the nation. The proletariat and its Party must fight for the most advanced revolutionary democratic demands, which can appeal not just to the workers but to the middle class, the students, the youth, and the women.

These democratic demands must be summed up with one slogan, for a nationwide general strike and soviets (shoras). If they did that, this regime would be finished. Now just think what that means. Just imagine the effect of a revolution in Iran. Imagine the effect it would have on all the countries in that area, regimes like Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, they would fall, one after the other. Why do you think the imperialists have been so quiet around this business in Iran?

You ask me what form the new government would take. I answer: if there was a Bolshevik Party (even a party of 8000, as the Bolsheviks were in February 1917), you’d be talking about a classical proletarian revolution in Iran. But there is no such party. Therefore it’s almost certain that the Iranian revolution will have to pass through a phase of a bourgeois parliamentary regime of some sort, as happened in Spain after 1931. But under conditions of economic crisis, that will not be a recipe for peace any more than it was in 1931 Spain.

The overthrow of the regime has only been postponed till the next crisis, which may be in six months, twelve months or a couple of years. But it is inevitable. And it will open up a very stormy period in Iran. We can’t be precise about the nature of the regime that will emerge. But I will tell you what it will not be: there cannot be anther fundamentalist Islamic regime in Iran, not after the last 30 years. That’s finished. And therefore the Iranian revolution, for the first time, will cut across all this madness of fundamentalism that exists in the Middle East.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Food and Blogging: Watergate Summer Edition

I asked several bloggers, to send me recipes; preferably easy to prepare, common ingredients, ethnic etc. In addition if I print the recipe, I'll plug your blog. Send recipes to me at the email address at my profile. I was going to print them all in one post, but I acquired too many. Political agreement doesn't matter. Atleast every month I'll continue this series. Leave comments about food, the blog, restaraunts etc. Everyone who sent recipes, will eventually have them published. I'm going in random order.

It's been two years since I've received this recipe. I do publish eventually what I receive. Our recipe today comes from blogger Enigma4ever, who is that. I've always liked her blog Watergate Summer. My political views differ with hers, mostly about the Democratic Party, still her views are consistent and principled. When its election time or a big event, the open threads at her blog, are a good source for info. Enigma describes her blog; I am a wandering refugee intuitive truthseeking scorched whistleblower mom nurse. I am a newsjunkie,research fiend.Most of my heroes are gone- MLK,Robert Kennedy,Ghandi, Marley,Lennon and Peter Jennings, and George Carlin.Change has come to America,let's see where we can take this Country Now.

Get to the food:

Jiffy Cornbread Mix

1 can creamed corn
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
1 tablespoon Coca Cola
1 tsp. Baking soda
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Coffee Creamer
1 half stick butter
sprinkle in pumpkin pie spice,cinnamon,nutmeg
mix until smooth
put in greased loaf pan

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.


Chicken ( which goes great with the cornbread)

Chicken Legs&thighs
Mix Ingredients:
One Quarter Cup Ketchup
Catalina Salad Dressing-half cup
1 Half cup Coca Cola
1 cup water with Chicken Boullion
French Mustard Squirt on the chicken
Maple syrup ( half cup)
spring onions -cut small
one yellow onion- cut small bits
sautee the onion in boullion on the stove,
and add 2 tablespoons of garlic paste ( comes in a tube)
( OR you can chop fine 5 small garlic cloves)
Pour the mixture of liquids on over the Chicken...
with the onions and garlic-
When the Chicken is lying in the pan with all
liquids bathing it-
Sprinkle MrsDash, and Old Bay seasonging across, with
some ground pepper.

Put Foil over and bake at 350 degrees for about 50-60 minutes.

( I also serve with Orange/Onion/Rommaine Salad with raspbery vinegrette dressing and
with Raspberry Mint Sun Tea.....and I make Lemon Strawberry Cheesecake for dessert....)

Bon Appetite....( Southern Women put Coca Cola in Everything....and sometimes

Watergate Summer.

Keep sending recipes


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mel Zelaya Back in Honduras! Now Mass Action Needed to Overthrow the Coup!

Written by Jorge Martín Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Yesterday morning it was confirmed that Mel Zelaya was in the capital Tegucigalpa. He made an appeal to the people to come out to protect him. The masses responded by the tens of thousands. The next few hours will be decisive. The balance of forces is on the side of the masses. They can deal the last blow to the coup regime and start the building of a new political regime based on the organisation of the masses.

On Monday morning, September 21, at 11am it was confirmed that Mel Zelaya, the legitimate president of Honduras, was in the capital Tegucigalpa, hosted by the Brazilian embassy. President Zelaya made an appeal to the people to come out to protect him, and they responded by the tens of thousands. He had been overthrown by a military coup carried out by the oligarchy on June 28 and for 86 days the workers, peasants and youth, the people of Honduras, had maintained an heroic struggle against the coup facing repression, selective assassinations, mass arrests and a media blockade. It was only the resistance of the masses, led by the National Front of Resistance Against the Coup, which made possible Zelaya's return to the country on September 21. It was neither the diplomatic manoeuvres, nor the pressure of the different international bodies (which was at best very mild) on the regime.

Zelaya's return took the regime completely by surprise. First they denied reports that the president was back in the country. But pictures of him at the Brazilian embassy had already been published by the world's media. Thousands were already gathering outside the Brazilian embassy and Zelaya had addressed the crowd with the battle cry of "Motherland, Restitution or Death!" For more than five hours there was no official response from the Micheletti regime. At 5pm local time Micheletti came out in a press conference, surrounded by representatives from the capitalist class and demanded that Brazil hand over Zelaya to face trial. He had already announced that a curfew would be imposed from 4pm until 6am the following morning (which he then extended to 6pm Tuesday). This provoked panic as workers in the public and private sector left their jobs and rushed home.

The regime is clearly attempting to use repression to stop the movement. The Armed Forces in a separate statement announced that they would defend "constitutional order" (that is, the illegitimate coup), "even if it means the loss of life". Mobile phone networks were cut off, opposition radio stations had power cut off and had to be taken off the air, and the army took over the country's four airports and closed them down.

But the enthusiasm created by Zelaya's return after 86 days of mass resistance cannot be stopped by repression. We are likely to be witnessing the last days of the coup. By the end of the evening a massive crowd estimated at 50,000 people, defying the curfew, were already gathering around the Brazilian embassy and Zelaya was meeting with the leaders of the resistance. The mood was jubilant and the streets were full of laughter, joy and celebration. In the working class neighbourhood of Kennedy, three thousand people also defied the curfew, marching until midnight. Similar scenes were repeated all over the country.

However, a word of warning must be said. The struggle is not yet over. The coup plotters are still in power and control the state apparatus (including the Army and the Police). If the coup is overthrown by a popular insurrection they have a lot to lose and therefore they could resort to desperate measures to stay in power.

On the other hand, sections of the oligarchy and above all US imperialism will be keen to try to reach a negotiated settlement, to save whatever they can. Washington has already insisted that the way forward is the San José "Accord", which as we have already explained, would tie Zelaya hand and foot and give the oligarchy what they wanted to achieve through the coup. This must be rejected! There should be no amnesty for the coup plotters. The will of the people must be expressed democratically in free and democratic elections to a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly, not the rigged elections the coup plotters are preparing for November 29.

Already at the OAS emergency meeting called to discuss the events, a resolution was passed reaffirming the San José Accord. However both Nicaragua and Venezuela voted against and registered their protest. The Nicaraguan ambassador said that he had talked to Zelaya and that Zelaya was also rejecting the San José agreement, which he had previously accepted. This is correct and should be applauded. Other Latin American governments should be put under pressure to follow the same line (starting with Bolivia, El Salvador and Ecuador).

In the next few hours we can expect to see frantic negotiations to save capitalist legality and the heads of the most prominent coup plotters and their supporters in the capitalist class, combined by attempts to put the movement down with repression.

The masses have to deal the last blow to the regime. The National Front has made an appeal for a national march on the capital which could be even larger than the historic march in early July when Zelaya attempted to return by plane. This should be accompanied by a general strike with workplace occupations. The workers must become the masters of the situation. If the regime cuts off power from radio stations, the workers must reconnect them. If the regime cuts off mobile phone coverage, the telecommunication workers must restore it. The teachers unions have already called for an all out strike starting on Tuesday morning. The neighbourhood, local and regional committees of the Front should take control of the situation and coordinate their actions through democratically elected representatives, so that an alternative power can be set up to that of the illegitimate coup regime.

There should also be a clear appeal to the ranks of the Army and the police not to follow orders. Zelaya has already called them to turn their weapons against their officers. This must be backed up by the mass pressure on the streets and outside the military barracks. At the same time the movement must defend itself against provocations and repression. Barricades have already been erected outside the Brazilian embassy. Armed defence squads should be organised as well.

The next few hours will be decisive. The balance of forces is on the side of the masses. They can deal the last blow to the coup regime and start the building of a new political regime based on the organisation of the masses. A revolutionary constituent assembly called under the authority of the National Front of Resistance is the way forward that can satisfy the aspirations of the masses.

Down with the coup!
General strike, march on Tegucigalpa and peoples' insurrection!
For a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Great Recession: Is It Over?

Written by Michael Roberts
Thursday, 17 September 2009

For the capitalists, this Great Recession could be more or less over, but the level of spare capacity in industry and construction together with the level of debt still owed by businesses, government and households alike mean that this recovery may be stunted. Every major capitalist economy now finds that it has more than 30% more capacity than it needs to meet demand. That is a record high of overcapacity in industry.

For the capitalists, this Great Recession could be more or less over. The pace of decline in the major capitalist economies slowed in the second quarter of this year. Indeed, in some major economies like Germany and France, national output rose. And in some smaller ones like Australia and Norway, there was a small pick up in growth.

There is light at the end of the tunnel for capitalism - perhaps. Photo by scottog on flickr.

At the same time, the big less mature capitalist economies like India and Indonesia continued to grow, while China also maintained positive growth. Indeed, in Asia’s less developed capitalist economies, which contribute about 10-15% of global output, industrial production is up sharply.

Measures of business confidence have turned up – they may not indicate much growth but they do indicate a bottom. The stock markets of the major economies have experienced a massive rally in prices. From lows in March, there has been a 50% rise in stock prices across the board, led by the financial sector and bank shares.

The epicentre of the crisis that triggered it all was the housing market, particularly in the US, but also in Europe and other capitalist economies. Prices of the average home in the US have plummeted by 30% from their peak, and similar falls have been experienced in the UK. Sales transactions and mortgage applications have fallen over 75%. But in the last few months, there has been a stabilisation of sales and even a small increase in prices in certain countries. The bottom of the housing bust is nearly there, even though prices could fall further yet as unemployment rises and more people default on their mortgages.

The OECD and other economic forecasters have now upgraded their estimates of growth in national output for the major economies. They now expect GDP to rise in the US and Europe in this third quarter of 2009, with the UK lagging behind and not recovering until Christmas. But recovery it is for 2010 across the board.

The OECD now forecasts that the Great Recession that officially started in 2008 will have fallen 3.7% in the top seven capitalist economies this year. That follows a 4% plus decline in 2008. So this recession will mean that the top seven economies will have lost 10% of their national output in less than 18 months. But it is even worse than that if you take into account the loss of potential output that should have been achieved by these capitalist economies of say 3% a year. In effect, 15% of output has been lost forever.

Also staggeringly, we have seen a fall in world trade of about 15% in real terms since the start of the Great Recession – the whole capitalist world has been involved. But now it looks as though trade will recover in 2010.

As for the global financial system, the IMF puts the total loss from the credit crunch at $4.1trn, or 6-7% of world GDP, lost forever. The IMF reckons that the US banks have suffered about 60% of their ultimate losses, while the European banks have admitted about only 40% of theirs. The ECB says Eurozone banks face another $300bn in further losses.

The key question now is whether the banks and other financial institutions (insurance, pension funds and hedge funds) have raised enough capital to cover future losses (assuming that these institutions can also make profits from here on to help restock capital reserves).

The latest data show that globally financial institutions have raised less in new capital than their losses. This suggests that, unless governments are prepared to come in with another bailout, banks globally will be unable to expand credit for some time ahead as they try to raise reserves and capital to meet capital adequacy levels. This is the real hit to future economic growth globally.

So the banks will not help economic growth for the next two years at least unless they can raise more capital and that implies more state funding of perhaps $200-$500bn, an unlikely outcome.

That’s because, governments in developed countries have already put up $11trn of taxpayer funds, or one-fifth of global output, to support the financial sector. This involves the biggest input of taxpayer’s money since the Second World War.

The Great Recession has been hugely damaging to capitalism. But economic recovery is now ahead – there is light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps – for capitalism.

But for the working class, the Great Recession has a long way to go yet. Unemployment is rising sharply. In the US, it has hit 9.7%, the highest level for 26 years and is expected to rise above 10% by the end of the year. If you include all the people receiving some form of benefit, there are 15m Americans now looking for work.

About 4.3% of U.S. homes, or one in 25 properties, were in foreclosure in the second quarter, the Washington-based Mortgage Bankers Association said last month. That’s the most in three decades of data, and loans overdue by at least 90 days, the point at which foreclosure proceedings typically begin, rose to 7.97 percent, the highest on record.

America’s working class have taken a huge hit. There was an average $2,000 decline in real household income in 2008, the largest annual drop in 40 years! Real incomes for average Americans are now back where they were 12 year ago.

Such is the inequality of income and wealth in the US that for the bottom 20% of households, the fall has been even worse. Just 25 years ago, the top 20% of American households had 45% of all income; by 2008, that share had reached more than 50%.

The burden of meeting debt repayments remains at record levels – around 18-19% of average income. According to a recent survey by ACNielsen, Americans are “among the most cash-strapped people in the world”, with 22% having no money left after having paid for essential living expenses. Out of 42 top capitalist nations, Americans saved the least.

The big disaster has been the loss of wealth tied in the value of the homes that Americans have bought and in the value of the shares they own through their retirement accounts. Since the start of the Great Recession, household wealth has plummeted by 20% with $14trn being lost in value; $5trn from the value of homes; $6trn in the stock market and another $3trn from other investments.

It is the same story in the UK, where the HBOS bank estimates that an average of £31,000 per household has been lost in wealth because of the Great Recession: £422bn from falling house prices and £393bn from lower share prices. This is the first fall since 2001. British workers have tried to reduce their debts accordingly and been forced to default on their mortgages. Even so, net wealth (after reduced debt) fell 10% in 2008.

So what sort of recovery can we expect now that the Great Recession has bottomed? The optimists of capitalism hope that it will be V-shaped. That means they expect that the sharp fall in global output and profits will be mirrored in reverse by a sharp recovery. The losses suffered during the Great Recession will be quickly recovered and it will be business as usual for capitalism.

This is the ‘natural’ sort of recovery under capitalism and was experienced, for example, after the big slump of 1974-5, after which followed five years of strong economic growth before capitalism dropped into an even deeper slump in 1980. But it may not happen this time.

In the natural recovery, the recession reduces the cost of production and devalues capital sufficiently to drive up profitability for those capitalist enterprises still standing. Unemployment drives down labour costs and bankruptcies and takeovers reduce capital costs. Businesses then gradually start to increase production again, and eventually begin to invest in new capital and rehire those in the ‘reserve army of labour’ without a job. This boosts demand for investment goods and eventually workers start buying more consumer goods and recovery gets under way.

But such is the overhang of spare capacity in industry and construction this time and such is the level of debt still owed by businesses, government and households alike that this recovery may be stunted. After all, every major capitalist economy now finds that it has more than 30% more capacity than it needs to meet demand. That is a record high of overcapacity in industry. Production is going to have to rise some way before new investment will be considered.

It could take the form of a U-shape: what is called a jobless recovery as we saw after the recession of 1991-2. In the early 1990s, businesses renewed investment slowly and held back from rehiring workers for several years. So economic growth was slow in resuming.

It could even become W-shaped. There would be a double-dip. The weight of overcapacity and debt would be too much to allow the revival of consumer spending and investment, so the economic recovery would be short lived and the major capitalist economies would slip back into recession. That is what happened in 1980-82. It took two recessions to get thing going finally.

Even worse, the recovery could take an L-shape. As in Japan after the collapse of the great credit bubble there in 1989, the economy remained in the doldrums for a whole decade. Huge debt has piled up in the banks and rather than write these off and cause major bankruptcies and a banking crisis, the Japanese government used taxpayer’s money to bail the banks out with loans and guarantees. The banks in turn sat on their debts, but did not lend money for new investment. This sounds similar to the current environment.

But probably, the recovery will be more like a square root sign. The big fall in output is over. Now there will be an upturn. But it will fall short of restoring the rate of economic growth achieved before the Great Recession. Instead of 3-4% a year, output in the major economies will be closer to 1-2% a year. That will not be good enough to restore profitability to previous levels. The capitalist system will thus face the risk of a new slump further down the road.


Monday, September 14, 2009

The Badder Meinhof Complex ***1/2

I will be seeing this film tomorrow, and will write a note than. A look at Germany's Red Army Faction (RAF), which organized bombings, robberies, kidnappings and assassinations in the late 1960s and '70s. Based on Stefan Aust's best-selling nonfiction book.

Update 09/15/2009: Tonight I was able to view the film.

I thought the film captured, the evolution of a group of middle class radicals, from activism to terrorism and death.

Politics wasn't explained in even as much detail as the Che movie. The reason was is because the New Left had poor ideological foundations. The key aspect of the middle class adventurism, is contempt for workers as the vanguard.

From my memories of the period, the terrorist cadres, were something outside the experience of most antiwar activists, who come from pacifism and moral outrage.

See this roller coaster of an experience movie.

Later this week I'm seeing a screening of Michael Moore's new film, with him there in person.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Venezuela: Economic Crisis and Imperialist Attacks Pose New Challenges For The Revolution

Written by Patrick Larsen
Thursday, 10 September 2009

The coup in Honduras and the stepping up of a US military presence in Colombia are serious warnings to the masses of Latin America. On top of this the present world economic crisis is having an impact on the Venezuelan economy. All this is posing very sharply the need for a turn to a genuine revolutionary programme on the part of the Bolivarian movement.

In the last couple of months events in Venezuela and other Latin American countries have enormously sharpened the contradictions between revolution and counter-revolution. First there was the coup in Honduras at the end of June, which acted as a warning for the masses in El Salvador, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Then there was the announcement of the plans to upgrade the US military presence in Colombia, which has provoked a severe diplomatic crisis between Venezuela and Colombia and a state of alert among the Bolivarian masses. Most importantly, however, the world economic recession has had profound effects on the situation in Venezuela, where workers are now facing ferocious attacks from the bosses.

The US Military Bases in Colombia

After the shock which the coup in Honduras represented for the masses, the signing in July of an agreement between the USA and the Colombian government allowing the former to use military bases in Colombia, has provoked a new social earthquake across Latin America. According to military experts, the most important of the seven bases that the US military is now allowed to use is Palanquero, which will allow them to retain full control over the Pacific coastline. The American government has invested 46 million US dollars in Palanquero alone.

The reaction of Chávez was swift. All diplomatic relations have been broken with Colombia and so has all commercial exchange between the two countries. Ecuador and Bolivia have also firmly opposed the Colombian-US agreement. Indeed Colombian president Álvaro Uribe found himself completely isolated at the recent UNASUR encounter in Bariloche, Argentina, where one left-wing president after another ‑ at least in words ‑ rejected the agreement.

The aim of the military bases is clearly not to “counter drug-trafficking”, but rather to keep any revolutionary movement in Colombia and other Latin American countries in check. Over ten years Colombia has increased its military budget from 2.5% of GDP to 5%. In fact, Colombia is now the country that spends most on its military budget as a percentage of GDP, only exceeded by Israel and Burundi. This new agreement with Colombia was reached after the contract for the US military base in Manta, Ecuador, expired and was not renewed by president Correa.

Despite Obama’s smiles and the apparent new line of dialogue with the Latin American presidents, no one should have any illusions. The US remains an imperialist power and needs to strengthen and reassert its presence in the region, which it considers as part of its spheres of influence. As a representative of US imperialism, Obama is obliged to defend US interests in Latin America. The sharpening of the class struggle and the spreading of revolutionary movements across the whole of Latin America is putting the US imperialists in a position whereby they must find a way of curbing the process. That is what this new treaty with Colombia represents.

Venezuelan Economy in Crisis

While Venezuela enjoyed significant rates of growth in the period 2004-2007, the latest figures clearly demonstrate that the country's economy has now definitely been hit by the effects of the world crisis. In the second quarter of 2009, GDP fell by 2.4%. The figure for the first quarter was a minimal growth of 0.5%.

In the second quarter of 2009, Venezuelan GDP fell by 2.4%.

Part of the reason for this is the lack of private investment in industry and manufacturing. According to the Central Bank of Venezuela, private economic activity dropped by 4% in the second quarter of this year. A recent study revealed that the Venezuelan bourgeoisie has closed 4,000 large or medium-sized enterprises during the last ten years.

One should also add to this the huge fall in state income from oil production. In the second quarter of 2008 the state earned US$28.597 million from oil production compared to only US$13.576 million in the same period of 2009. This represents a drop of 51.9%. This is particularly bad in a country where income from oil exports accounts for 30% of GDP and for 50% of the state budget. World market prices of other raw materials that Venezuela exports, such as aluminium and iron, have also fallen.

Together with other Latin American countries, Venezuela has also been hit by the effects of the overall fall in FDI (Foreign Direct Investment). Already in 2008, in the period January to October, FDI fell by 18% compared to the same period in 2007. All these factors have contributed to worsening the situation the Venezuelan economy finds itself in.

Representatives of the reformist wing within the Venezuelan government, such as Alí Rodríguez, Minister of Finance, hope that oil prices will recover quickly and thus provide some new oxygen for the Venezuelan economy. However, although in the past couple of months we have witnessed a small recovery in the economy, it is not at all guaranteed that this will continue in the next few months. Actually OPEC is predicting a fall in total demand for oil in 2009 compared to 2008.

Whatever the immediate prospects are, any possible slight recovery of oil income cannot make up for the serious problems that the Venezuelan economy is facing; such as the strike of capital, sabotage, speculation and hoarding, on the part of the bourgeoisie. To the normal effects of the economic cycle, in Venezuela we need to add three other factors which are affecting the economy. One is the fact that there is a revolution unfolding and the ruling class does not feel confident to invest. The second is the conscious campaign of economic sabotage on the part of the oligarchy. And finally, the fact that all the attempts on the part of the reformists to regulate the market economy only serve to create further economic dislocation.

The crisis has already had direct consequences on the situation being faced by the Venezuelan working class. Recently General Motors, which supplies Venezuela with 40% of all its vehicles, closed all its production plants for three months and with the effect that thousands of workers were temporarily laid off. In Barcelona, we witnessed the illegal, and politically motivated, bosses’ lockout at Mitsubishi which put more than 1.400 jobs in danger. The lockout, whose aim was clearly the smashing of the revolutionary trade union the workers had organised, was defeated by the decisive and militant action of the workers. Similar events could unfold in factories across Venezuela and thus bring about new explosions in the class struggle. Already the unemployment figures show a rise from 7.8% in June to 8.5% in July.

PSUV and the Setting up of Workers' Patrols

In the Socialist Party, PSUV, significant events have taken place over the last few months. Chávez has given the go ahead for the setting up of “patrols”, a new type of party branch that will allow a greater participation of the rank and file. Around two million people have registered to be active in the patrols. Even more significantly, Chávez has advocated the creation of “workers' patrols”, i.e. PSUV party branches to be set up inside the factories. Workers in many factories have taken up this call. In factories such as Mitsubishi, Vivex, Inveval and SIDOR, PSUV branches have been set up with significant numbers of workers participating.

The national congress of the party was scheduled for this coming October, but will most likely be postponed by the leadership to November or December. Whatever the date will be, the party congress – which is supposed to coincide with a congress of the PSUV Youth – will be the scene of new and probably quite harsh clashes between the right and the left, between revolution and reformism. With the setting up of numerous party branches in the factories, it is possible that the working class will exercise a much more decisive influence within the party and this can be very dangerous from the point of view of the bureaucracy. The scene is set for new critical debates with the PSUV.


After various attempts at open counter-revolution, the right-wing (or at least the most decisive sectors) seems to have adopted different tactics. What they are now aiming at is more akin to the tactics adopted by the counter-revolution in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Their aim is to slowly but surely undermine the social conquests of the revolution, intensify economic sabotage and thus undermine the revolutionary morale of the masses.

In the recent demonstrations against the LOE (New Education Law) there were indications that there has been some growth in the Opposition's forces. Although the Bolivarian masses achieved bigger turnouts in their pro-LOE demonstrations, we cannot underestimate the fact that the Opposition this time was able to mobilize significant numbers.

In December 2005 they made a big mistake by boycotting the elections to the National Assembly. Thus they were left without a single MP. Only with the betrayal of PODEMOS (a social-democratic party that used to support Chavez but jumped ship to join the Opposition in 2007) were they able to obtain a small parliamentary representation. But this time they will certainly not make the same mistake. Through their slow but painstaking work they will probably be able to present a serious threat in the upcoming February elections to the National Assembly.

Their goal is clear: to win a significant number of MPs and use them in their ongoing campaign of pointing the finger at the deficiencies of the government, bureaucratic mismanagement, food scarcity, etc. In this manner they wish to build up of a mood of opposition against the government among the middle classes and one of apathy within the working class and among the poor. That is the kind of social environment they require to get rid of Chávez and strangle the revolution, be it by parliamentary or extra-parliamentary means.

The masses of workers and poor, who have defended the Venezuelan revolution time and again over the last 10 years, will not let the counter-revolution get on with these plans without a fight. But after 10 years of revolution and now with a worsening economic situation, many of Chávez's supporters are getting tired of the slow pace of the revolution, of the talk about socialism, but with no decisive action to back it up and with the lack of any real radical change.

The masses, beginning with the most advanced layers, are beginning to understand that the revolution cannot be carried to a successful end without destroying the source of the oligarchy's power, i.e. private ownership of the means of production. This idea is already being discussed by activists in the trade union movement, the PSUV and the PSUV-Youth. This is an important development. Life teaches, as the saying goes, and the experience of the Bolivarian revolution over the past decade is full of lessons. If the advanced layers within the movement were to adopt a genuine Marxist programme they would be able to win over the masses to such a programme. Only by such means will the success of the Socialist Revolution be assured in Venezuela. There is no middle way!


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Quinton Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds ****

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds" are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds soon cross paths with a French-Jewish teenage girl who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers.

The above description of this movie, hardly will prepare you for what the movie presents. This is easily Quinton Tarantino's best movie. It has all of his trademarks; good music, dialog, violence, great casting, etc, without the self indulgences.

Again Tarantino shines with casting. Brad Pitt is like Charles Bronson reincarnated. The heel Christoph Waltz has an Oscar nomination coming. Melanie Lauent is another Cardinale.

Tarantino calls this movie a spaghetti western, against a WWII framework. Much of the movie's score is by Ennio Morricone.

The movie is divided into chapters. The first chapter Chapter 1: Once Upon A Time...In Nazi Occupied France, is an example of perfect filmaking, you'll ever see. The slow burn in action.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Capitalism Versus Science

Written by Mike Palecek
Wednesday, 12 August 2009

We are constantly bombarded with the myth that capitalism drives innovation, technology, and scientific advancement. But in fact, the precise opposite is true. Capitalism is holding back every aspect of human development, and science and technology is no exception.

We are constantly bombarded with the myth that capitalism drives innovation, technology, and scientific advancement. We are told that competition, combined with the profit motive, pushes science to new frontiers and gives big corporations incentive to invent new medicines, drugs, and treatments. The free market, we are told, is the greatest motivator for human advance. But in fact, the precise opposite is true. Patents, profits, and private ownership of the means of production are actually the greatest fetters science has known in recent history. Capitalism is holding back every aspect of human development, and science and technology is no exception.

Main slab of the Darwinius masillae holotype fossil. Photo by Jens L. Franzen, Philip D. Gingerich, Jörg Habersetzer1, Jørn H. Hurum, Wighart von Koenigswald, B. Holly Smith.

The most recent and blatant example of private ownership serving as a barrier to advancement can be found in the Ida fossil. Darwinius masillae is a 47 million year old lemur that was recently “discovered”. Anyone and everyone interested in evolution cheered at the unveiling of a transitional species, linking upper primates and lower mammals. Ida has forward-facing eyes, short limbs, and even opposable thumbs. What is even more remarkable is the stunning condition she was preserved in. This fossil is 95% complete. The outline of her fur is clearly visible and scientists have even been able to examine the contents of her stomach, determining that her last meal consisted of fruits, seeds, and leaves. Enthusiasts are flocking to New York’s Museum of Natural History to get a glimpse of the landmark fossil.

So what does Ida have to do with capitalism? Well, she was actually unearthed in 1983 and has been held by a private collector ever since. The collector didn’t realize the significance of the fossil (not surprising since he is not a paleontologist) and so it just collected dust for 25 years.

There is a large international market for fossils. Capitalism has reduced these treasures, which rightly belong to all of humanity, to mere commodities. Privately held fossils are regularly leased to museums so that they may be studied or displayed. Private fossil collections tour the world, where they can make money for their owners, instead of undergoing serious study. And countless rare specimens sit in the warehouses of investment companies, or the living rooms of collectors serving as nothing more than a conversation piece. It is impossible to know how many important fossils are sitting, waiting to be discovered in some millionaire’s office.

Medical Research

The pharmaceutical industry is well known for price gouging and refusing to distribute medicines to those who can’t afford it. The lack of drugs to combat the AIDS pandemic, particularly in Africa, is enough to prove capitalism’s inability to distribute medicine to those in need. But what role does the profit motive play in developing new drugs? The big pharmaceuticals have an equally damning record in the research and development side of their industry.

AIDS patients can pay tens of thousands of dollars per year for the medication they need to keep them alive. In 2003, when a new drug called Fuzeon was introduced, there was an outcry over the cost, which would hit patients with a bill of over $20,000 per year. Roche's chairman and chief executive, Franz Humer tried to justify the price tag, “We need to make a decent rate of return on our innovations. This is a major breakthrough therapy… I can't imagine a society that doesn't want that innovation to continue.”

But the innovation that Mr. Humer speaks of is only half-hearted. Drug companies are not motivated by compassion; they are motivated by cash. To a drug company, a person with AIDS is not a patient, but a customer. The pharmaceutical industry has a financial incentive to make sure that these people are repeat-customers, consequently there is very little research being done to find a cure. Most research done by the private sector is centered on finding new anti-retroviral drugs - drugs that patients will have to continue taking for a lifetime.

There has been a push to fund research for an AIDS vaccine and, more recently, an effective microbicide. However, the vast majority of this funding comes from government and non-profit groups. The pharmaceutical industry simply isn’t funding the research to tackle this pandemic. And why would they? No company on earth would fund research that is specifically designed to put them out of business.

Similar problems arise in other areas of medical research. In the cancer field an extremely promising drug was discovered in early 2007. Researchers at the University of Alberta discovered that a simple molecule DCA can reactivate mitochondria in cancer cells, allowing them to die like normal cells. DCA was found to be extremely effective against many forms of cancer in the laboratory and shows promise for being an actual cure for cancer. DCA has been used for decades to treat people with mitochondria disorders. Its effects on the human body are therefore well known, making the development process much simpler.

But clinical trials of DCA have been slowed by funding issues. DCA is not patented or patentable. Drug companies will not have the ability to make massive profits off the production of this drug, so they are not interested. Researchers have been forced to raise money themselves to fund their important work. Initial trials, on a small scale, are now under way and the preliminary results are very encouraging. But it has been two years since this breakthrough was made and serious study is only just getting underway. The U of A’s faculty of medicine has been forced to beg for money from government and non-profit organizations. To date, they have not received a single cent from a for-profit medical organization.

The lack of research into potential non-patentable cures does not stop at DCA. There is an entire industry built up around so-called alternative natural remedies. Many people, this author included, are skeptical about the claims made by those that support alternative medicines. Richard Dawkins is quick to point out that “If a healing technique is demonstrated to have curative properties in properly controlled double-blind trials, it ceases to be alternative. It simply...becomes medicine.” But this black and white view does not take into account the limitations placed on science by capitalism. The refusal to fund the testing needed to verify non-patentable alternative medicines has two damaging effects. First, we are kept in the dark about potentially effective medications. And second, the modern-day snake oil salesmen that peddle false cures are given credibility by the few alternative treatments that do work.

Technology and Industry

The manufacturing industry in particular is supposed to be where capitalist innovation is in its element. We are told that competition between companies will lead to better products, lower prices, new technology and new innovation. But again, upon closer inspection we see private interests serving as more of a barrier than an enabler. Patents and trade secrets prevent new technologies from being developed. The oil industry in particular has a long history of purchasing patents, simply to prevent the products from ever coming to market.

Competition can serve as a motivator for the development of new products. But as we have already seen above, it can also serve as a motivator to prevent new products from ever seeing the light of day. Companies will not only refuse to fund research for the development of a product that might hurt their industry, but in some cases they will go to extraordinary lengths to prevent anyone else from doing the same research.

The 2006 documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car" goes into great detail about the role of big oil companies, auto manufacturers, and the US Federal Government in preventing an alternative vehicle from hitting the road. The filmmaker claims that auto companies would lose out if an electric vehicle was ever produced because of the simplicity of their maintenance. The replacement parts side of the auto industry would be decimated. Oil companies would see a dramatic reduction in the demand for their products as the world switched to electric vehicles. It is claimed that hydrogen fuel cells, which have very little chance of being developed into a useful technology, are used as a distraction from real alternatives. The film maker blasts the American government for directing research away from electric vehicles and towards hydrogen fuel cells.

But the most damning accusations are against major oil companies and auto manufacturers. The film suggests that auto companies have sabotaged their own research into electric cars. What’s worse, is that oil companies have purchased the patents for NiMH batteries to prevent them from being used in electric vehicles. These are the same batteries that are used in laptop computers and large batteries of this type would make the electric vehicle possible. But Chevron maintains veto power over any licensing or use of NiMH battery technology. They continue to refuse to sell these batteries for research purposes. Some hybrid vehicles are now using NiMH batteries, but hybrid vehicles, while improving mileage, still rely on fossil fuels.

While the purchasing of patents is an effective way of shelving new innovations, there are certainly other ways the capitalist system holds back research and development. The very nature of a system based on competition makes collaborative research impossible. Whether it be the pharmaceutical industry, the auto industry or any other, capitalism divides the best engineers and scientists among competing corporations. Anyone involved in research or product development is forced to sign a confidentiality agreement as a condition of employment. Not only are these people prevented from working together, they are not even allowed to compare their notes!

Peer review is supposed to be an important piece of the scientific method. Often, major advancements are made, not by an individual group researchers, but by many groups of researchers. One team develops one piece of the puzzle, someone else discovers another and still another team of scientists puts all of the pieces together. How can a system based on competition foster such collaborative efforts? Simply stated, it can’t.

The governments of the world clearly recognize this as a problem; every time they are met with a serious crisis, they throw their free-market ideals out the window and turn to the public sector. It has been argued many times that World War Two was won by nationalization and planning. Capitalism in Britain was essentially put on hold, so that the war effort could be effectively organized. In the United States, such large scale nationalization did not take place, but when it came to research and development, the private sector was not trusted to handle it on their own.

Fearing that the Nazis were developing the atomic bomb, the US government initiated a massive public program to ensure they were the first to wield a weapon of mass destruction. The Manhattan project succeeded where private industry could not. At one point, over 130,000 people were working on the project. The world’s best and brightest were brought together into a massive collaborative undertaking. They discovered more about nuclear fission in the span of a few years, than they had in the decades since the first atom was split in 1919. Regardless of what one thinks of the atom bomb, this was doubtlessly one of the greatest scientific advancements of the 20th century.

Science, Technology and Economic Planning

Sputnik 1 was the first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite. It was launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957. Work by Gregory R Todd.

The ultimate proof of capitalism’s hindrance of science and technology comes not from capitalism, but from the alternative. While the Soviet Union under Stalin was far from the ideal socialist society (something which we have explained extensively elsewhere), its history gives us valuable insight into the potential of a nationalized planned economy. In 1917 the Bolsheviks took control of a backwards, semi-feudal, third world country that had been ruined by the First World War. In a matter of decades, it was transformed into a leading super-power. The USSR would go on to be the first to put a satellite into orbit, the first to put a man in space, and the first to build a permanently manned outpost in space. Soviet scientists pushed the frontiers of knowledge, particularly in the areas of Mathematics, Astronomy, Nuclear Physics, Space Exploration and Chemistry. Many Soviet era scientists have been awarded Nobel prizes in various fields. These successes are particularly stunning, when one considers the state the country was in when capitalism was overthrown.

How were such advancements possible? How did the Soviet Union go from having a population that was 90% illiterate, to having more scientists, doctors and engineers per capita than any other country on Earth in just a few decades? The superiority of the nationalized planned economy and the break from the madness of capitalism is the only explanation.

The first step in this process was simply the recognition that science was a priority. Under capitalism, the ability of private companies to develop science and technology is limited by a narrow view of what is profitable. Companies do not plan to advance technology, they plan to build a marketable product and will only do what is necessary to bring that product to market. The Soviets immediately recognized the importance of the overall development of science and technology and linked it to the development of the country as a whole. This broad view allowed them to put substantial resources into all areas of study.

Another vital component of their success was the massive expansion of education. By abolishing private schools and providing free education at all levels, individuals in the population were able to meet their potential. A citizen could continue their studies as long as they were capable. By contrast, even many advanced capitalist countries have been unable to eliminate illiteracy today, let alone open up university education to all who are able. Under capitalism, massive financial barriers are placed in front of students, which prevent large portions of the population from reaching their potential. When half of the world’s population is forced to live on less than two dollars a day, we can only conclude that massive reserves of human talent are being wasted.

The soviet government immediately tore down all the barriers on science that strangle innovation within the capitalist system. Patents, trade secrets, and private industry were eliminated. This allowed for more collaborative research across fields and a free flow of information between institutions. Religious prejudices that had long held back rational study were pushed aside. One only has to look at the ban on stem-cell research under the Bush regime to see the negative effects religious bigotry can have on science.

But it wasn’t all good news under Stalinism. Just as the bureaucracy hindered the development of the economy, it also hindered certain areas of study. While the many barriers of capitalism were broken down, in some cases new ones were erected as the direction of scientific study was subjugated to the needs and desires of the bureaucracy. In the most extreme cases, certain fields of study were outlawed entirely and leading scientists were arrested and sent to labour camps in Siberia. One of the most outrageous cases was Stalin’s contempt for chromosomal genetics. The study of genetics was banned and several prominent geneticists, including Agol, Levit and Nadson were executed. Nikolai Vavilov, one of the Soviet Union’s great geneticists was sent to a labour camp, where he died in 1943. This ban wasn’t overturned until the mid 1960s. These crimes were not crimes of socialism, but of Stalinism. Under a democratically planned economy, there would be no reason for such atrocities.

Today, it is the task of those interested in science and socialism to learn the lessons of history. Science is being held back by private interests and industry. A lack of resources for education and research keep doors closed to young aspiring minds. Religious interference locks science in a cage and declares important fields of study off-limits. The chains of the free-market prevent meaningful research from being done. Private companies refuse to let new technologies out of their back rooms. Private collectors hold unique and important specimens for their own personal amusement. Potential cures for deadly diseases are tossed aside to clear the way for research into the latest drug to cure erectile dysfunction. This is madness. Capitalism does not drive innovation, but hinders it at every step.

Humanity today is being held back by an economic system designed to enslave the majority for the benefit of a minority. Every aspect of human development is hindered by the erroneously-named free-market. With the development of computers, the internet and new technologies, humanity stands at the doorstep of a bright future of scientific advancement and prosperity. We are learning more and more about every aspect of our existence. What was once impossible, is now tangible. What was once a mystery, is now understood. What was once veiled, is now in plain sight. The advancement of scientific knowledge will one day put even the farthest reaches of the universe at our fingertips. The only thing that stands in our way is capitalism.