Sunday, August 14, 2022

Food or Profit?

 There is a shortage of bread in Lebanon and when it is available, it is very expensive. For weeks, people have been having to queue for hours at bakeries. Despite state subsidies, a package of six flatbreads officially costs 13,000 Lebanese pounds (ca. €8.50 or $8.80). On the black market, it often goes for at least twice that.

There had been a glimmer of hope when it was reported that the Razoni, the first ship to set off from Ukraine after Moscow and Kyiv struck their deal last month to establish a grain corridor, was on its way to Lebanon. However, before arriving at its destination in Tripoli, the second-largest city in the country, the ship was turned away with 26,000 tons of grain. The official explanation is that the buyer no longer wanted the cargo because it was five months too late. Furthermore, the president of the Food Import Association of Lebanon, Hani Bushali, told German news agency DPA that the country needed wheat, not corn. It appears that the corn was originally intended as animal feed.

In many countries, it is wheat that is the number one staple food. Despite this several of the subsequent ships that left Ukraine were loaded with corn or sunflower meal.

The Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) set up by the UN to facilitate the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative did not respond to an inquiry by DW as to why this was the case. In its FAQs about the initiative, the UN states: "The shipping companies decide on the movement of their vessels based on commercial activity and procedures. The Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul authorizes the movement of vessels in and out of the Black Sea based on the requests it receives from the Ukrainian port authorities." Only some of the shipments are intended for the UN World Food Program to alleviate hunger around the world, but the JCC has no say in where the rest of the grain should be delivered. Turkey, Britain, Ireland and South Korea are just some of the possible destinations.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a briefing this week that these were "commercial transactions" and it was only normal that the ships "go where the contract stipulates that they go." 

Ukraine: No smooth sailing for grain via the Black Sea | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 13.08.2022

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Hiding the Evidence

 Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, said she would not publish five reports or research on the benefit cap, deaths of benefits claimants, the impact of universal credit (UC), and benefit sanctions, and that she had no plans to publish two further reports on unpaid carers and work capability assessments although her Conservative predecessors as secretary of state had promised to publish several of the reports.

Ken Butler, a policy adviser at Disability Rights UK, said: “We’re not talking about just one report and one subject. We’re talking about a whole swathe of reports about important aspects of the system. The DWP are operating behind a wall of secrecy.” he continued, “We’re being told this isn’t a priority at the moment and basically being dismissed,” Butler said. “When you’re moving two million disabled people on to a new benefit all these issues are really relevant..."

“Thérèse Coffey has set out to minimise the evidence published by the department and a consequence of this is that public trust in the department has been badly damaged,” said Stephen Timms, the chairman of the Commons work and pensions select committee.

British minister accused of trying to hide reports on impact of Tory welfare reforms | Benefits | The Guardian


Solidarity

 


Workers at Starbucks have held over 55 different strikes in at least 17 states in the US in recent months over the company’s aggressive opposition to a wave of unionization.

The Starbucks Workers United union have created a $1m strike fund in June 2022 to support Starbucks workers through their strikes and several relief funds have been established for strikes and to support workers who have lost their jobs.

Over 75 workers have been fired in retaliation for union organizing this year, and hundreds of allegations of misconduct by Starbucks related to the union campaign are currently under review at the National Labor Relations Board, including claims of shutting down stores to bust unions, firing workers and intimidating and threatening workers from unionizing. 

Amid the wave of union elections at Starbucks, the company has rolled out new wage increases and benefits corporate-wide, but has withheld the new pay increases and benefits from unionized workers despite the calls from these workers to enact these changes for them as they push for the company to negotiate a first contract with the unionized stores.

Starbucks workers hold strikes in at least 17 states amid union drive | US unions | The Guardian

The Burden of War is on the Workers' Backs

 


Another war in Europe brings unimaginable horrors which will fall chiefly on the working people. The lessons of the  past have so far been but faintly grasped by workers. Once a war is upon us, bid farewell to civil "liberties," to the relative freedom of speech for the rule of the “patriot” is imposed and the fortunes of the profiteers guaranteed.  


Capitalism only knows the law of the jungle,“woe to the weak,” and in the fight for markets advantage is on the side of the big battalions of finance, industry and the armed forces. Capitalism is in its nature predatory and aggressive. It will always fight for markets, and in the fight it will always aggravate and exploit the differences of language, religion and custom in order to reap some economic advantage at the expense of rivals. Capitalism cannot but breed national hatreds. Not until capitalism has been abolished will world peace become a reality.


Capitalism as an economic system causes antagonism between capitalists, today organised in colossal cartels and corporations. These conflicts of economic interest often lead to war. We have seen the most senseless acts of violence and depravity on all sides in an orgy of blood-letting, fatal and otherwise, and we have lived with the foulest hypocrisy of selective condemnation on all sides — hypocrisy that is as aggressive, vicious and futile as the activities it condemns.


As socialists we recognise what passes for democracy in capitalism simply as a weapon useful to a socialist-conscious working class in the establishment of socialism; as a political condition that, from a working-class standpoint, is superior to its alternatives insofar as it permits the organisation of our class for the democratic conquest of political power and the abolition of government of people and establishment of a democratic system of such administrative controls as are required to secure the material basis of a full and happy life for all. We have no “moral” standpoint on the question — we don’t consider, for example, that a soldier, invested with the support of millions has any more “right” to use arms in the service of capitalism than has any terrorist supported by a few thousand people. Our political “morality” is based, like all political “morality”, on the needs of our class and if we reject the idea of minority violence or violence at all, it is simply because our socialist objective can only be achieved by the conscious act of a majority of socialists.


It will also be noticed that the capitalist is never at a loss for an excuse for refusing workers’ demands. If Britain were at war the excuse would be the war and the need to make sacrifices for it. As Britain is not at war then the reason is still the same,  the excuse is the need to make sacrifices for peace, for armaments for some possible future war, or to capture foreign markets.  The workers who are already suffering from a long-existing rise in the cost of living are told they must wait, pending the development of the corporative conscience. They are told that they are selfish but it will not be overlooked  that the concerns making huge profits did not have to wait, even when the workers get their promised rise, some at least of them will have to work longer hours for it. Haven’t wall heard a lot lately about the nearly extinct rich, bled white by taxation?


In Britain and the USA, parties supposedly representing the interests of working people have got to explain why they receive financial support from big business, the exploiters of the workers. There is an answer, a simple answer — complicated for the working class by the same mad social conditioning that allows them to babble idiocies about violence, that answer is socialism; the establishment of a society of production for use, a society where the resources of nature and the mental and physical skills of people will combine, not to produce things for sale and profit, but produce an abundance of the things we require sufficient to permit of free and equal access to our needs. Only in such a society will the material basis of division and dissension, that has erupted into conflict, can be finally banished. Eventually, the world’s workers will respond to capitalism’s inhumanities to the extent that they understand and desire the socialist alternative – production for use and the end of exchange relationships. Then socialist ideas will be prevalent.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Nursing homes: understaffing and neglect

Recently I watched two documentaries about conditions in nursing homes for the elderly in the United States and in Canada:

[1] VICE News, How Nursing Homes Hide Profits While Elderly Suffer;

[2] CBC News, Nursing home hidden camera investigation: Understaffed and overworked

One of the main chains of nursing homes in the US, with facilities in 28 states, is Life Care Centers of America (LCCA). Its founder, chairman, CEO, and sole owner is Forrest Preston. His net worth has been reported variously as $1.2 billion, $2.1 billion, or $3.2 billion.

How Preston has managed to make so much money is somewhat of a mystery, because all LCCA’s published accounts show only a very narrow margin between revenue and expenditure. The clue to the mystery lies in ‘creative accounting.’ ‘Expenses’ include large sums paid to other companies that also turn out to be wholly owned by Preston, who is therefore merely moving money from one pocket to another. Only secret ‘consolidated financial statements’ clearly show what is going on.

In 2006 Preston told employees to send Medicare fraudulent claims for reimbursement. In 2016, after whistleblowers exposed the scheme, LCCA settled the resulting government lawsuit for $145 million — evidently only a small fraction of the amount stolen. As usual in such cases, the company did not admit any wrongdoing. Preston never saw the inside of a prison. Prison is strictly for small-time thieves.  

In terms of suffering knowingly inflicted, however, massive theft of public funds is not Preston’s worst crime. His worst crime is the deliberate understaffing of his nursing homes in order to increase profits. Too few staff are hired. Patient-staff ratios are too high. This means that staff are overworked and prone to errors and accidents while even the most urgent needs of patients are often neglected. 

For example, patients may be left in bed for long periods in wet and even soiled diapers. Unable to get the timely help they need to continue breathing, especially at night when understaffing is especially severe, they may die alone of asphyxia. Some patients suffering from dementia are violent and delusional. They can assault other patients (and staff too). When this happens staff are rarely on hand to intervene.    

Admittedly, Preston is far from the only culprit. Such deliberate understaffing seems to be standard practice in the care industry – not only in nursing homes for the elderly but also in institutions for care of the physically and intellectually disabled and the mentally ill. And the situation in many other countries, despite varying arrangements for the provision of care, is as bad as in the United States.

In the US, provision of care, although largely funded through government programs, is ‘outsourced’ to private companies. Government regulation of such companies is in practice very weak. It is hard to imagine any arrangement more susceptible to abuse. 

In Canada, by contrast, care facilities are run directly by provincial governments. Yet there is still severe understaffing, with the resulting neglect. Understaffing may not be deliberate, but wages and conditions are just too poor to attract and keep enough staff. Basically it is a matter of allocating sufficient funds.

In Ontario workers at nursing homes came together with relatives of patients to campaign for improved staffing. In the runup to the provincial elections, Progressive Conservative governor Doug Ford claimed to support their cause, but once re-elected he evaded the issue. He did promise to expand care facilities, but in the absence of other measures this would make the staffing situation even worse. Any activists who naively took Ford at his word had forgotten his record as a politician always ready to cut social spending on behalf of his capitalist masters:

Immediately after taking office in 2018, Ford proposed to cut 3,475 Ontario teaching jobs over four years to save $292 million a year. Ford also cancelled the Green Ontario Fund residential rebate program, which included a $100 million fund for public school repair, free prescriptions for people aged under 25 years, and an initiative to add indigenous peoples content to school curriculum, and eliminated free tuition for low-income students.

Wikipedia

In a socialist society, it will be possible to devote a large share of the human energy released by automation and demilitarization to care for those who need it – both to the full staffing of special facilities and to assistance for people who choose to care for their elderly or disabled relatives at home. 

Stephen Shenfield

Nursing homes: understaffing and neglect - World Socialist Party US (wspus.org)

India and ARV shortages

 2.35 million people in India are HIV-positive. About 1.5 million people are on antiretroviral therapy, far lower than the World Health Organization’s “90-90-90 target” – under which 90% of people with HIV are diagnosed, 90% are on ARV treatment, and 90% are no longer infectious. In 2019, an estimated 58,900 Aids-related deaths were reported in the country.

India says it aims to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.

Up to 500,000 people have not been able to get hold of free ARVs from government health centres and hospitals over the past five months, they say, as the country experiences stock shortages of key drugs. 

ARVs that are available in privately run pharmacies and shops can be prohibitively expensive. Some people have been given alternative drugs, but others have stopped taking any medication.

“Does the government even realise that at least 500,000, or one-third of the patients, are affected by this? Some adults are being given 11 doses of paediatric medicine to compensate,” said Loon Gangte, president of the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), an NGO that works to improve the treatment and facilities for people living with HIV and Aids. “We only demand an uninterrupted monthly supply. This treatment is our right.”

Kedar Nath, a 30-year-old street vendor taking part in the protest, said he has not taken his ARVs on several occasions over the past two months. He cannot afford the £50 a month it would cost to buy the drugs on the open market.

“I have been taking these drugs for the last 13 years. They have helped me continue with my life despite the virus in my body. But the recent shortage has turned my life upside down since I can neither find the strength to work, nor have any savings to live off,” he said.

India’s HIV patients say shortages leaving hundreds of thousands without drugs | Global development | The Guardian

America's Labor Camps

 Further to an earlier post on the forced labor of detained immigrants, another story has emerged of inmates resisting their exploitation.

At two federal detention centers in California, more than 50 immigrant workers are on strike over unsafe working conditions and low wages. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, is currently investigating working conditions at the Golden State Annex U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility, near Bakersfield, where workers have been on strike since June 6.

“We are being exploited for our labor and are being paid $1 per day to clean the dormitories,” said strikers at a central California detention center.

Detainees at a second ICE facility, Mesa Verde, have been on strike since April 28. The facilities are operated by the GEO Group, one of the largest for-profit prison companies in the U.S. GEO also operates facilities in the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa. The company brought in $2.26 billion in revenue last year.

Detained workers, known as “housing porters,” participate in a supposedly volunteer working program while locked up. They use their earnings to pay for the exorbitant cost of phone calls and commissary items like dental floss and tortillas.

“They are compelled to do this,” says Alan Benjamin, a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council who heard directly from striking workers during a call with the labor council. “It's not voluntary; it's compulsory work, without proper sanitation and equipment.” The pitifully low pay in the detention centers “depresses everybody's wages,” said Benjamin. “In the case of these two facilities, it's just outrageous because they've eliminated jobs of cleaning personnel, and said, ‘well, we have free labor from these people. Let them do it. And [the detainees] said, no, we're not a free labor pool.”

"Raul" has been detained at Golden State Annex since December 2021. He came to the United States from Mexico at the age of five along with his parents and siblings. He told Labor Notes from behind bars that he’s striking over the paltry pay of $1 a day for eight-hour shifts and hazardous working conditions.

“The $1-a-day pay isn’t enough to eat,” he said, adding his earnings total $5 a week, which are used for commissary items and phone calls. “A video call costs about $2.50 for 15 minutes and a bag of beans is about $2.” Raul said the prices in immigration facilities are higher—and wages lower—than those of federally run prisons too. At an ICE detention center, Raul said, they’re getting paid $20 a month while at a federally-run prison they could get paid about $200 a month for their labor. “They have the same vendor for the commissary for prison and ICE, but food is cheaper in prison,” he says. “A pack of beef is $4.50, and here it’s almost $6. We want them to drop the commissary prices.”

A 149-page research report published by the ACLU last month states that inmates are paid an average minimum of 13 cents an hour and average maximum of 52 cents an hour for jobs like laundry or cleaning bathrooms. Jobs in California’s state-owned correctional facilities pay between 35 cents an hour to $1 an hour, according to the report.

As the strike continues, GEO is retaliating against the detained workers. Two strikers have been placed in solitary confinement for engaging in a group demonstration.

Another common scare tactic is threatening detained workers about how their behavior while in lock up will look before a judge ruling on their pending immmigration cases. “The judge will find out you aren’t obeying rules and if you’re not obeying rules in here what will make them think you’ll obey rules out there?” said Raul, recounting a common fear-mongering tactic used by prison guards. To combat these tactics, he and the other detainees do everything as a group to ensure no one is singled out as a ring-leader. “We all speak up and when we speak to the officers we go as a group.”

Immigrant Detainees Strike Over $1 a Day Pay, Working Conditions | Labor Notes

Haitians are Hungry

 Haiti is trapped in a hunger and security crisis. 

4.5 million people experiencing acute food insecurity (IPC3 or higher).

Haiti is currently experiencing a major economic crisis, with inflation at 26%, making it difficult for families to afford food and other essentials, or to sell crops at local markets.

Across the country, hunger is becoming a norm for children, many of whom have no idea if they will get food tomorrow. Malnutrition can cause stunting, impede mental and physical development, increase the risk of contracting deadly diseases, and ultimately cause death.

Entha, a 7-year-old girl from the southwest region of Haiti, lost her home, crops and belongings in last year´s earthquake. 

Entha explains, “When I don’t eat, I don't feel good because that makes me sad. I can't go play anymore. It's because I am hungry..."

Perpetue Vendredi, Director of Programme Operations, Save the Children in Haiti, said, “In the past 12 months we have seen a worrying trend of hunger increasing across Haiti. Increasing numbers of hunger cases is becoming a great challenge for children and their families; more help is needed...The humanitarian response is still woefully underfunded as this crisis has been largely ignored as other global events have taken over...Children and their families are in desperate need of food, nutrition, health, safe water, sanitation and hygiene, and social protection and livelihoods support to prevent widespread malnutrition, illness, starvation, and death..."

Haiti: Hunger, economic crisis stall recovery a year after devastating earthquake - Haiti | ReliefWeb

TB Patients and Patents

The World Health Organization calls the rise in drug resistance to TB one of the world’s most urgent and difficult challenges, requiring more effective treatments. 

" We're winning sometimes,” says Dr Vijay Vinayak Chavan, from the medical NGO Médecins Sans Frontières clinic in Mumbai, which specialises in treating drug-resistant TB. “But we’re a little behind, most of the time.”

India, which has the highest burden of TB in the world, wants to eliminate the disease by 2025. Its national guidelines promise free tests and treatment, and specialist antibiotics for patients diagnosed with drug-resistant TB.

However, many doctors particularly in the private sector, which treats 60% of the country’s TB patients often fail to redirect patients towards these free services, leaving many people undiagnosed, receiving inadequate care, or dropping out of treatment regimens because of high out-of-pocket costs.

“There is a huge gap between what the guidelines say and what happens on the ground in terms of access,” says Leena Menghaney, a lawyer specialising in public health. “Patients are falling through the cracks, and some of them are losing their lives in that process.”

The Joint Effort for Elimination of Tuberculosis (Jeet) project, launched in 2018, aimed to bridge this gap by training private healthcare providers to direct patients towards the free national TB programme, and help find cases in high-burden communities. As a result, the number of registered TB cases across the country increased by 30% between 2017 and 2019.

“Because there is free diagnosis, because there are free medications and many facilities are there, the uptake of diagnostic services is improving,” says Dr Vaishali Venu, of the NGO Doctors For You.

All patients with multi-drug-resistant TB should be given bedaquiline, a relatively new antibiotic. However, data acquired from the public health department in Mumbai, where drug-resistant cases are steadily rising, showed that only half of patients in the city received it.

A big reason for this is price: a six-month course of bedaquiline costs the government about $350 (£290) a patient, because of a patent held by the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. Another recommended drug, delamanid, is patented by the Japanese firm Otsuka Pharmaceutical and costs $1,200 a head.

“The government’s response to this situation of a patent monopoly is just to ration it, to give it to as few people as possible,” says Menghaney, who recommends that delamanid is taken alongside bedaquiline to ensure a complete recovery without the risk of relapses and new drug resistance. “By just offering bedaquiline in Mumbai, you could be driving bedaquiline resistance itself,” she warns.

Data from the MSF clinic in Mumbai showed a rise in multi-drug-resistant cases in people who had previously been treated with bedaquiline. This is alarming, says Chavan, because when it comes to severe cases, after bedaquiline “we don’t have any drugs left”.

Meera Yadav was first diagnosed with TB in 2013, but the treatment she was given did not work and she became drug resistant. She lost a lung, and Yadav’s husband, fearing that their infant son would contract TB, put her out of the family home. For five years she barely left her second-storey home.  Today the flat is where the 32-year-old coordinates her fight for better treatment and awareness of the disease.

“What TB patients suffer and the challenges they face has to be documented. As an activist I have to fight,” says Yadav who now campaigns for better treatment, filed a lawsuit against the government, demanding that it override the patents of the two drugs, which it can do under a World Trade Organization agreement. In cases of extreme risk to public health, national governments can issue a compulsory licence allowing local drugmakers to produce cheap generics. “If I had been given both drugs [at the beginning], maybe now my right lung would still be there,” she says.

‘Patients are falling through the cracks’: drug costs hinder India’s response to TB | Global development | The Guardian

The Cost of Energy

 Energy bills will cost more than two month’s wages next year.

The monthly take-home pay for the average worker will be £2,054 next year, based on Bank of England forecasts, while the annual cost of energy is predicted to be £4,200.

The TUC calls the cost of living crisis this winter an “emergency of pandemic scale”.

About 4 million domestic customers use prepayment meters, while their price cap is around 2% higher than for direct debit customers.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, said: “It’s outrageous that people on prepayment meters have to pay more for their energy. Why should those with the least have to pay more to heat their homes and put the lights on? This is unjustifiable and morally wrong.”

UK energy bills ‘set to cost two month’s wages’, ministers warned | Energy industry | The Guardian

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Wage levels to fall

 Pay rises could fall behind inflation by almost 8% later this year, marking the biggest fall in real wages for 100 years, according to analysis by the TUC

The TUC said a prediction by the Bank of England that inflation would jump to 13% in the fourth quarter of this year at a time when wages were expected to increase by just 5.25% meant living standards would fall by an unprecedented 7.75%.

The TUC said that workers had not suffered such a severe and prolonged decline in wages relative to inflation since the 1920s.

The TUC said  “Real pay has fallen by more on only one occasion, a decline of 13.3% in the fourth quarter of 1922 – as the post first world war pay and price inflation went sharply into reverse. The only other comparable figure was 7.2% in the first quarter of 1940.”

TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said large businesses could accept lower profits by refusing to pass on all the higher costs they face.

O’Grady said: “...Too much goes into profits and to those who are already wealthy, and too little goes into wages and to working families. To change this, working people need stronger bargaining power to get a fair share of the wealth they produce..."

,Biggest UK fall in real wages for 100 years looms, warns TUC | UK cost of living crisis | The Guardian

Organize the Unions

 


A new report from Chris Bohner, who runs the labor research firm Radish Research, has done an amazing service by systematically assembling thousands of financial records from unions over the past decade to assemble a report that gives the most comprehensive picture.

The report shows that even as union density has continued its long decline over the past decade, the financial coffers of unions have expanded. That money, however, has not been used to do the organizing necessary to prevent all of those unions from shrinking.

 Key findings: 

  • Since 2010, union density has declined from almost 12% to just over 10%, and there are more than 700,000 fewer union members as an absolute number. Yet the finances of unions are only improving: In 2020, organized labor had $35.8 billion in assets, and $6.8 billion in liabilities, leaving approximately $29.1 billion in net assets.” That figure has almost doubled since 2010. That growth has been driven primarily by increased dues income, as wages and salaries rise, as well as investment income. 
  • During the same time period, however, there has been no investment in the army of union organizers necessary to meet demand. “[Organized] labor employs 23,440 fewer employees in 2020 compared to 2010, a 19% decline in the workforce (with a steep drop in 2020 likely due to the pandemic). However, management positions within organized labor have increased by 28%, with more than 10,000 employees earning a gross salary over $125,000.” Union assets have swelled because they have not chosen to spend: As total revenues increased by 28%, total spending has only increased by 17% since 2010.”
  • As union density has declined in the past half-century, so too have the number of major strikes in America — the number of workers involved in major work stoppages has fallen from a high of 1.8 million in 1974 to just 80,000 in 2021. Just as unions have not used their surplus of money to bolster organizing, the report finds that they have also failed to invest in supporting strikes: “[Financial] filings show that organized labor paid out an average of $70 million a year in strike benefits since 2010, less than half-a-percent of net assets or revenues in most years.”
The $29.1 billion in net assets for unions, by the way, does not include the value of union pensions — which hold trillions of dollars in assets themselves. Those pension assets could and should be strategically invested with the goal of strengthening the labor movement.

 Those tens of billions, though, could accomplish a lot. Bohner, in his report, has a few suggestions: Hiring 20,000 new union organizers ($1.4 billion per year), supercharging spending on strike benefits ($1 billion per year), and funding a new $3 billion entity (or entities) that could engage in riskier civil disobedience activities, like illegal strikes, secondary boycott activities, or defying restrictive court injunctions on picketing and protest.”

The conclusion of the report is that:
 "There is no “One Big Union,” but over ten thousand union entities grouped in over 100 union affiliations. Some unions have doubled down on spending, others have run large surpluses and kept their spending lower than the growth in revenue. Unions in growing sectors have prospered, other unions have struggled to maintain relevancy in declining sectors. Nevertheless, looking at organized labor collectively, the trends are clear: over the last decade, labor has nearly doubled its net assets, run large surpluses, reduced the workforce while increasing pay at the top, and spent less than the rate of inflation–all while union membership has declined.
Rather than from leaders at the top like Shuler, change is most likely to come from the broad movement of workers striking against global corporations in defiance of their union leadership, and winning, such as at Deere and Kellog; reform movements seeking to democratize their bloated and/or corrupt union bureaucracies (such as the Teamsters and UAW); public sectors workers, many without a formal union, disobeying state bans on strikes (like the Red Ed teacher strikes); members defying the political directives of their union leadership to back left candidates offering real structural change (like the members of the Culinary Workers Union supporting Bernie Sanders in the 2020 caucus); the autonomous wildcat labor actions during the pandemic by “unorganized” workers; independent unions like the Amazon Labor Union defying conventional wisdom and winning at one of the most powerful companies in the world; and most critically, the young workers and union organizers who are impatient for change, intolerant of bureaucratic hierarchies, and far more open to consider alternatives to capitalism than a union leadership still trapped in the ideological straightjacket of the Cold War. It is this constellation of forces that could seize the assets from a labor movement that has failed to seize the moment."

Myanmar’s Spring Revolution: A Socialist Analysis

 The Tatmadaw (Myanmar's military junta) detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and took control of the government on February 1st. This recent coup is not the first in Myanmars history. Following independence, a civil war between various ethnic groups with disparate interests began to escalate. In 1962, General Ne Win, a military leader, staged a coup. He oppressed workers, students, and democracy activists to maintain his power. In 1988, a massive mass strike occurred, which the world knows as the "1988 Uprising." In 2007, the Saffron Revolution occurred against the military government as well. A pseudo-democratic election was promised by U Thein Sein's paramilitary administration in the 2010s, in which the military made up 25% of the parliament and the constitution was drafted in support of military governments. The military regime and its political influence were never overthrown, even during the NLD government's term.

Mass strike

A revolutionary-scale movement had been set in motion because of the coup. The extensive and expanding strikes as well as the protest movements that have been unleashed demonstrate how determined the general populace is to prevent the military from seizing power. Clearly, the military junta misjudged the strength of the opposition they would encounter. During the coup attempt, the military junta ensured that the electricity was turned off. Additionally, they restricted any form of communication they could think of. As soon as people noticed what was happening, they began using deceptive propaganda and false hopes to stifle the population's spontaneous revolutionary movements. The very first false information is propagated by unidentified sources, but populist pro-democracy advocates primarily share it or host it on their platforms. There was a strong reactionary belief that was prevalent on the first day following the coup. It states that "the United Nations will deploy R2P to Myanmar in order to remove the military junta if the people don't carry out the strikes within 72 hours."

However, the civil disobedience movement (CDM), started spontaneously by health professionals and students, disputed this “72-hour propaganda”. In the meantime, the FGWM, once known as the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar but now grown into a general workers' union, which has thousands of members, is credited with starting the mass movement in Yangon. Their first strike has rallied huge crowds to participate in the streets to protest against the new junta.

Unfortunately, these facts are being covered up by some prominent liberals. Instead of acknowledging a general workers' union as the first revolutionary union that started the revolution, the liberals tried to portray the workers as some sort of followers who were led by a populist politician called Ei Thinzar Maung, a center-left civil rights activist.

According to an interview Thomson Reuters Foundation featured with Moe Sandar Myint, a popular FGWM leader, its apparent that workers were already activated and spontaneous as far as the strikes and protests were concerned. During the day, she went around organising the workforce and urging them to "fight against the military government till the end." Moreover, she evaded the military authorities who raided her home at night to silence her. She, unfortunately, encountered a less aggressive response when she urged other unions to intervene, with union organisers urging restraint. However, since government employees and medical professionals began to participate in strikes, pressure from below has increased. Since the workers were ready for the strikes, a united front of multiple union organisations was forced to be created.

Meanwhile, the CDM movement was absorbed into the population along with the mass strikes. Later, the CDM movement was innovated by new ways of showing their disobedience against the military junta by a noisome new night-time ritual of banging pots and pans. Even though banging pots and pans, as well as singing anti-dictatorial songs, were not rationally effective, they acted as catalysts to raise the revolutionary motivation of the population. Street demonstrations took place in 2007 during the "Saffron Revolution," but there were not as many widespread strikes directed specifically at the military's economic interests as in the spring revolution. As a result, sections of the state bureaucracy, including the investment and transportation ministries, the tax office, and the General Administrative Department, which oversees a number of public services and governmental operations, have been paralysed by strikes. According to reports, 34% of Myanmar's civil servants are currently on strike. Entire sectors, like private banking, have been shut down, and more employees at state-run banks are now participating in the strikes. According to estimates, 60% of state electrical employees are on strike. Myanmar’s governments have faced student protests and civil rights protests in the past. But this time, it’s the working class itself that’s participating in the protests and CDM movements. The working class is the force that has the power to transform society, just as it has the power to paralyse the entire nation. The misfortune of Burma is that the working class lacks a vision that is willing to go above and beyond the demands of liberal democracy. However, if the working class managed to hold the leadership position, it could rally all the other social classes—youth, middle class, peasants, and national minorities—behind it, not only to overthrow the military regime but also to eradicate capitalism. The military-run corporations were impacted by the strikes. More than 2,000 miners walked out of a copper mine in the northern Sagaing district that is a joint venture between the Chinese state and Myanmar military. At a telecommunications firm called Mytel that the military owns in part, hundreds of engineers and numerous employees have also gone on strike. Five thousand employees in Yangon's industrial district of Hlaing Tharyar have joined the strike movement and declared that they would continue to be on strike as long as the military junta is in charge. Large numbers of bank employees have also joined the wave of strikes and joined the civil disobedience movement. One of the biggest private banks, KBZ, also had to shut down. Government salaries are paid through the state-owned Myanmar Economic Bank, but it has also been impacted. The number of workplaces that have participated in strikes is limitless.

Armed struggle

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, since Myanmar's military performed the coup, security forces have killed more than 700 people within the first two months for participating in the protests. In some cases, even children staying peacefully in their own homes were shot from the streets by the military officers. To elaborate on the inhumane and oppressive measures of the military junta, a few unique cases should be cited as examples.

The pro-democracy campaign had won the hearts of a fourteen-year-old micro-influencer, Pan Ei Phyu, who had created numerous TikTok videos of herself singing pro-democracy songs. On March 27, 2021, Pan Ei Phyu was shot while trying to open her door to demonstrators who were trying to avoid a military operation. Hein Htut Aung, a cab driver, and his wife, Ma Zin Mar, were travelling to an anti-coup demonstration on February 28. They had been on a bus to the demonstrations. However, due to gunshots, the bus came to a stop, and the passengers had to get off. Hein Htut Aung was fatally shot in the interim and taken to the hospital. But he couldn’t make it. The hatred towards the military arose as more and more people were getting killed by the military. The gun, submachine guns, and launchers were used to launch the strikes. Protesters were under surveillance and were raided at night for taking part in protests. If the protesters managed to escape from the raid, their family members, such as old people and young children, were arrested instead of them, in some cases, resulting in the death of them because of the inhumane treatments in the jail.

Out of the anger and hatred against the military, the people had no choice but to defend themselves. In Myanmar, people are not allowed to own guns. However, there are some rural areas where some people own hunting guns because they hunt for their basic needs. Hunters and people from those areas started to rile the professional-grade military army with their hunting guns. As a result, the whole villages were burned down and attacked by air strikes. Such kinds of oppressive measures remind me of the "red terror" of the Bolshevik regime. The tactics are also the same, even though the reasons are slightly different. During the Bolshevik era, pro-bandit villages were singled out. In relation to this massive terrorism, a special sentence was pronounced on these villages, in which their crimes against the Bolsheviks are enumerated. The Bolsheviks claimed they were defending the socialist values of the October Revolution, whereas the Myanmar military junta claimed they were defending the democratic values of the last election. However, both claims are as true as the theory of the flat earth.

The educated youths from the metropolitan area fled the cities and joined the ethnic armies to get military training. Some people had to sell all of their life savings in order to buy a gun. Early in April, poorly organised organisations started to appear, mostly in the hinterlands of western Chin State and the north-western Sagaing Region, where the Chin Land Defense Force (CDF) proclaimed its establishment on April 4. By mid-July, approximately 125 distinct groups in both urban and rural areas had formally announced their opposition to the State Administration Council of the military. This resistance came about because of a significant multiplication of groups with various capabilities in late April and early May. All of these spontaneous, loosely connected militias declared an alliance with each other and collectively adopted the name "People’s Defense Force." Some of them, but not all, also swore loyalty to the National Unity Government (NUG), the opposition's shadow government that was established in mid-April. The rest of the PDFs chose to struggle against the military junta on their own, without any allegiance to an exile government. Urban PDFs, based on covert cells, have concentrated almost exclusively on two main strategies: targeted killings and bombings, using primarily crude improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Most of their targets have been "soft" targets, such as local ward offices and other government buildings, civil administrators, alleged military informants, and members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the Tatmadaw's political proxies (USDP). In the remote rural areas, the PDFs have emerged more brazenly as infant rebel bands with minimal weapons. They have repeatedly attempted to repel Tatmadaw incursions into villages with ambushes by local volunteers using hunting rifles and improvised landmines, in addition to hitting many of the same soft target-sets seen in the cities and have frequently claimed to inflict significant casualties on the military. All of these military struggles were led collectively by the proletariats, peasants, and all labouring people, including mothers, unemployed social workers, and students, rather than by the NUG government.

Reconciliation or Revolution


In ethnic minority areas, rural-based operations have been noticeably more successful because newly formed PDFs have been able to work with or form relationships with pre-existing ethnic insurgent organisations like the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the Karenni Army (KA), and others. Some ethnic armed groups have decided to work with the military junta to achieve a win-win situation for their geopolitical and economic objectives over the last six decades of civil war.

ASEAN is in favour of the compromised dialogue between all the stakeholders in Myanmar's politics, including the PDFs and the military junta, which reminds me of a quote by Ghassan Kanafani of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, "a conversation between the neck and the sword".

If reconciliation is the path in post-revolution, Myanmar will be back to the neoliberal pathway to corporate capitalism where NGOs, CSOs, and some other neoliberal hypocrites will cosplay as socialists to create new political situations such as a newly created bipartisan party politics and so on. The over-privileged, rich, western-trained academia and their fellow reactionary reformists, cosplaying themselves as leftists, will drive the pathway to defend the neoliberal status quo, which in turn protects their families’ wealth, accumulated by exploiting the workers.

The need for socialist revolution

The primary objectives of most PDF components are restricted to liberal democracy and federalism, neither of which are at all critical of capitalism or the fundamental status quo of the imperialist powers. Following the revolution, neither the governments nor the capitalist class was able to influence the working class. The working class has come to understand the dignity of their labor as well as their potential for revolution. The country's GDP is drastically falling as more and more working-class people join militias and abandon the conflict area. The nation will soon become a failed state where the government's institutions, like the police and banking, are no longer able to handle the problems. All these symptoms of a failing state can only be seen once the working class and peasantry have decided to rebel against capitalist structure and its tyranny.

Liberal democracy is not a democracy; rather, it is a de facto authoritarianism that has been advertised as a pro-freedom. It is a system of representation which is anti-thesis to the grassroots democratic movements. Liberal democracy is not representing the people. Its representing the rich class and the privileged people who have enough power to influence the situations. To preserve their bipartisan politics, liberal democrats will permit wealthy individuals, well-educated professors, and opportunistic center-left activists to dress themselves as oppressed people. These woke opportunists will disregard the actual voices and demands of the genuine oppressed members of the poor working class of all races and the marginalized minority groups. Instead, they will divide the working class based on the racial, gender, and sexual lines to let them fight among themselves.

In this way, the working class will be busy fighting for the political climates that are created by these capitalists and their agent (i.e., NGOs, and CSOs) of imperialism. Thats why the class-struggle is essential to make a revolution properly. For this reason, it's crucial to have a class-based revolution. Only a socialist revolution can provide the working class, proletariat, students, and the general populace with true freedom and democracy free from capitalist wage-salaries and alienations. Its the only way where we can tackle the sexism, racism and other issue that are strongly linked with the existence of capitalism.

How do we fight for Socialism?

Here, its important to note that the only way socialism will come about is for most people on a worldwide basis to believe in the superiority of this alternative social system. Even though Arm struggle is essential for the people to defend themselves against the military junta, but majority of the people must voluntarily prefer socialism to eradicate capitalism. If socialism doesnt come from the people but from some top vanguardist tyrants, it still will be an authoritarian oppressive regime such as Bolshevik regime, Maoist regime, Titos regime, and Min Aung Hlaings military regime. Since the working class doesnt have nationality, we, the international working people, should work together to initiate a socialist revolution. We should share our struggles in solidarity with each other. Our grievance is international; our only hope is international, and our enemy is international as well. Therefore, socialism in one country theory of Stalin is irrational and contradictory with scientific socialism. Socialism in one country theory is based on the imperialism of Soviet state capitalism itself. To sum up, the fight for socialism should not be restricted to the nation in which we currently reside. To prosper together in a democratic socialist society, we must cooperate with our international working-class comrades.

HEIN HTET KYAW