The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's new headquarters occupies 900,000-square-feet and cost $(US)500 million

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s new headquarters occupies 900,000-square-feet and cost $(US)500 million

by Sandhya Srinivasan

“There is no better place to have an impact than India.” – Bill Gates1

How much money does the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) spend in India?

urban-poverty-in-india-1

According to World Bank figures, 68% of India’s population live on less than $US2 a day

BMGF has a substantial presence in India, directly funding projects totaling at least $1 billion from 2003, when it entered, to 2012.2 Apparently, this does not include funds given to international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that run projects in India. (For example, BMGF has donated a total of almost $1 billion to a single international NGO, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), to conduct and fund various projects; indeed PATH has been described as an agent of the foundation more than a grantee.3 PATH in turn runs projects in India.) In India, BMGF’s activities are largely in the fields of health and nutrition, where it co-funds government programmes, non-governmental organisations’ activities and pharmaceutical companies’ ventures here.

However, BMGF’s funds are small compared to India’s public health expenditure. The latter was $18.3 billion in 2010-11 alone.4 Thus BMGF’s funds as such cannot make a major contribution to meeting the health needs of India. Rather, if BMGF funds were withdrawn or declined, even a small (in percentage terms) increase in allocations by the Central and state governments would more than compensate for the loss.

What are BMGF’s objectives?

Key elements of the BMGF strategy5 – as described on the Foundation website – are as follows:

(i) using partnerships to leverage public and private resources to influence policy;
(ii) using State projects as ‘incubators of innovation’; and
(iii) underscoring the role of technology.

The BMGF strategy (as described on a website page that has since been changed but is available as an archived6 page) says:

“The foundation does not invest in delivering health or education services. Instead, we identify ways to leverage systems and innovate so these services achieve better outcomes for people.
All strategies leverage our partnerships to achieve impact…
All strategies underscore the role of technology.” (emphasis added)

In other words, BMGF’s objective is to influence Government policy. The foundation’s Read the rest of this entry »

Drone1words by Don Franks, pictures by Val Morse

Last Sunday (June 29) a meaningful action took place outside the National Party conference. Participants were opposing the New Zealand state’s support for the drone, a lethal modern weapon of war.

Drones are unmanned aerial military vehicles. The US Obama administration has carried out hundreds of drone strikes against political opponents, killing thousands of Drone2civilian bystanders in the process.

Outside the National Party conference about thirty-five mostly young people in bloodstained clothes lay down and “died” on the driveway at the Michael Fowler Centre.  Above them, on a big speaker stand,  was an almost life-size USA drone. Made of cardboard but shaped and painted to look very real and menacing.

The protesters’ action was timed to coincide with Read the rest of this entry »

ayatollah-ali-khamenei_art_full

Ali Khamenei: anti-imperialist, nationalist, Islamist

by Yassamine Mather

The sharp improvement in the relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic (and subsequently between the United Kingdom and Iran) has been remarkable – Washington is seriously considering military cooperation with Iran over the civil war in Iraq.

Above all else, this is a reflection of the absence of any strategy by the western powers. All they are pursuing in the Middle East is short-term aims – a situation that goes beyond the politics of the current holders of power in Washington and London. Indeed there is unanimity regarding current tactics between Democrats and Republicans, as well as between Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats.

In 2003, at the time of the invasion of Iraq, the US claimed it would build democracy on the ruins of the Ba’athist regime – we were told that market forces would create the conditions for democracy. No other solution could be contemplated: the entire infrastructure, economic and political, together with the social fabric of the Ba’athist state, had to be destroyed to allow this new system to flourish. During subsequent years both Republican and Democrat politicians have proposed similar solutions for Syria and Iran.

Yet, more than a decade after the invasion of Iraq, we are witnessing a complete U-turn: a softening of attitudes towards Iran, an acceptance of Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship in Syria. Has anything changed in Iran or indeed in Syria to warrant this change of heart? The answer is clearly no. What has changed are immediate geopolitical priorities – the elevation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) to the position of the main enemy and the US need to ally with anyone as long as they oppose this group of jihadists.

Political commentators used to mock Kurdish organisations in Iranand Iraq for their shallow politics, for aligning themselves with the enemy of their enemy, irrespective of the consequence of such politics. Throughout the last five decades Iraqi Kurds have relied on Iranian support for fighting successive Iraqi governments and Iranian Kurds had, until the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, relied on financial and logistic support from the government in Baghdad. Yet today we seem to be witnessing a superpower, the United States, following the same type of politics in the region.

A lot has been written about Isis and its religious ideas – the forced wearing of the hijab, the attacks on Christian communities in Syria, the banning of alcohol. Of course, in opposition all Islamic groups, Sunni and Shia, are puritanical, following the rules of amr bil maroof and nahi anil munkar (‘guidance for good’ and ‘forbidding evil’). It is when they come to power, as they did in Iran more than 35 years ago, that the population finds out they can be as corrupt and hypocritical as the secular states they replace. So, as Isis brands Shia Muslims ‘apostates’ who have brought Islam into disrepute, it is worth examining the position of religion in Iran – America’s Read the rest of this entry »

US imperialismby Don Franks

Press release from Mana party leader Hone Harawira  25/2014:

“When John Key says ‘New Zealand fully supports the current steps announced by President Obama (in Iraq) 100%’ he is one step away from committing our troops simply to get a good trade deal with the USA,” said Mana Leader and MP for Te Tai Tokerau, Hone Harawira “and that should worry all New Zealanders.”

“It’s the same deal that Prime Minister Holyoake was forced to agree to by President Johnson back in the 60’s” said Harawira “when the USA told us that if we didn’t send troops to Vietnam, they wouldn’t buy our butter.”

“And all we got out of that was dead soldiers flown home in body bags, troops being abused for fighting a dirty war, and the lingering death we now know as Agent Orange.”

“The ugly thing about the current crisis is that America isn’t actually sending troops to Iraq to defend democracy. They have openly stated that they will deploy troops to defend their embassy, their assets, and the deals they struck for oil.”

“So we’d be sending NZ soldiers to defend American interests, not Iraqi people.”

“We’d be better off standing with the independent nations of the world in condemning human rights abuses in Iraq and supporting efforts to reduce violence in that area of the world” said Harawira “and spending our money on feeding thousands of hungry kids here rather than on an American crusade which has already killed thousands of Iraqi kids over there.”

It’s  not often that a New Zealand parliamentarian makes a statement opposing New Zealand troops defending US imperialism.  That being so, itg feels churlish to criticise such a statement, but that needs doing.  In several places, Hone’s statement is factually wrong.

“Committing our troops simply to get a good trade deal with the USA” is not a thing that will or can ever Read the rest of this entry »

indexby Michael Roberts

I was at the London conference of Rethinking Economics over the weekend. Rethinking Economics is an international network of economics students calling for changes in the curriculum of university departments and in the economics discipline in general (http://www.rethinkeconomics.org/). It was formed in 2012 in disgust at the failures of mainstream economics after the Great Recession and against the unwillingness of university economics departments to allow alternative courses or even pluralist critiques of the prevailing neoclassical mainstream. It is financed by George Soros’ Institute for New Economic Thinking among others.

The London conference drew a range of academics and other speakers, first, to explain why mainstream economics is unchanged, despite its failure to forecast, explain or even accept the failure of modern market economies in the light of the Great Recession. Second, the conference had speakers to discuss different strands of alternative or heterodox economics.

The conference theme of ‘alternative economics’ was dominated by the Keynesian view. In my view, Keynesian economics is mainstream, even if it is not dominant. By that I mean that Keynesians accept the existing mode of production, capitalism, as eternal and the only one possible. They differ from the neoclassical school in recognising that there are Read the rest of this entry »

Guildford 4, clockwise: Paul Hill, Gerry Conlon, Carole Richardson, Paddy Armstrong

Guildford 4, clockwise: Paul Hill, Gerry Conlon, Carole Richardson, Paddy Armstrong

Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four who were arrested in 1974 and framed up by the British state for IRA bombings in Britain and spent 15 years in jail, has died.  After being freed when the convictions were finally overturned in 1989, Gerry became a prominent campaigner for human rights.  Gerry’s case was dramatised in the famous feature film In the Name of the Father, in which Daniel Day-Lewis starred as him.  The film was nominated for 7 academy awards.

When Gerry was being held in prison in London, his father Giuseppe traveled to Britain to organise a lawyer for his son.  He too was arrested, framed up and convicted, dying in prison in 1980.  Gerry’s aunt, Annie Maguire and other members of her family were also framed up with Giuseppe (the Maguire Seven).  The Maguire Seven served their full sentences before their convictions were overturned in 1991.

In February 2005 British prime minister Tony Blair apologised to the families of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven.  He stated, “I am very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and injustice… they deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated.”  (Rather hypocritical considering his own record in relation to Afghanistan and Iraq, of course.)

Below is a moving speech (in two parts) delivered by Gerry in 2011 at the Maritime Union of Australia conference in Melbourne.  The speech details his transformation from a young lumpen-proletarian into Read the rest of this entry »

Hone-Harawira--Laila-Harre--Kim-Dotcom-at-a-launch-CORAZON-MILLEr

Internet Party CEO Vikram Kumar, pirate capitalist and Internet Party’s founder and official ‘Visionary’ Kim Dotcom, corporate-hire Internet Party leader Laila Harre (whose official blurb actually describes her as a ‘national treasure’) and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira.

The text below was written several years ago by veteran Australian Marxist John Percy.  It has appeared in several places.  The text here is taken from its most recent place of publication, the Australian journal Marxist Left Review (#5, Summer 2013), theoretical publication of Socialist Alternative (SA), the largest Marxist organisation across the ditch.  At the time John wrote the article he was a leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, a group which fused with SA in March last year.  John is now a leader of SA.

The article is particularly relevant in New Zealand where three left groups – Socialist Aotearoa, Fightback, and the International Socialist Organisation – have thrown themselves into the Mana Party, using the same rationalisations which John critiques below.  The acceptance by these three groups of the Mana/Kim Dotcom lash-up – which is the opposite of independent working class politics – shows that the consequences John talks about below are already becoming clear here.

The ‘broad party’ perspective, of course, has its defenders among Marxists.  One of the leading defenders is Murray Smith.  The latest issue of MLR (#7, summer 2014) contains a critique of Smith’s defence; the critique is written by Mick Armstrong, another veteran Australian Marxist and leading figure in Socialist Alternative.

Comrades involved in this blog don’t necessarily agree with every point made by John or Mick, but their articles are well worth reading and thinking about in relation to the examples they cover and in relation to NZ left groups’ involvement in Mana Party.

 

by John Percy

There have been “broad parties” aplenty in the past claiming to represent workers, or broader classes, or “progress” in general – parties that are sometimes mass, mostly with electoral ambitions, but with programs that are social democratic, or left liberal, sometimes “all-inclusive”, but non-Leninist and non-Marxist. Such parties are not able to bring about fundamental social change; they cannot break the state power of the capitalist class. For that we need a revolution. We know a revolutionary party is necessary to carry that out, a Leninist party.

The program of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, which used to be the program of the Democratic Socialist Party, is very clear on this question:

The working class cannot as a whole or spontaneously acquire the political class-consciousness necessary to prepare and guide its struggle for socialism. For this, it is indispensable to develop a party uniting all who are struggling against the abuses and injustices of capitalism and who have developed a socialist consciousness and commitment to carrying out revolutionary political activity irrespective of the conjunctural ebbs and flows of the mass movement…ultimately, only a revolutionary socialist party that has deep roots in the working class, that is composed primarily of workers, and that enjoys the respect and confidence of the workers, can lead the oppressed and exploited masses in overthrowing the political and economic power of capital. The central aim of the Revolutionary Socialist Party is to build such a mass revolutionary socialist party in Australia.[i]

The DSP has now ditched this program, and dissolved itself into the Socialist Alliance “broad party”, with a non-revolutionary program.

Such broad parties can and do develop outside the initiative of revolutionaries. Then it’s just a normal, standard, tactical question as to what approach revolutionaries should have towards such a party. Sometimes it’s correct to intervene, sometimes it’s not.

Of special interest to us, however, is when revolutionary Marxists elevate such broad parties into a special case, thinking that they might somehow be the replacement for revolutionary parties, or think that revolutionaries have to create such broad parties if they don’t exist, or dissolve their forces permanently into such parties.

This is what has been happening in the last 15 years or so among the Marxist left in advanced capitalist countries, so that it has become an issue in itself, the “broad party” question. It has been taken up by a number of Trotskyist currents, certainly the Fourth International, which unfortunately generalised, as it tends to do, and developed an overall strategy of “building anti-capitalist parties” in Europe,[ii] and tended to promote such tactics in other countries. The British Socialist Workers Party has also investigated this perspective, and it has been adopted by some of the parties that follow its lead, organised in the International Socialist Tendency.[iii]

This article looks at the experience of the “broad party” tactic/strategy as implemented by revolutionary socialists internationally in recent decades.[iv]

The political context

The generalised push for “broad parties” hasn’t just come out of the blue. It is related to both a crisis of political perspective due to retreats and defeats, for example the final collapse of the Soviet Union, and a mis-estimation of upsurges, the anti-globalisation movement for example, giving some false hopes.

1. The last two decades have been very much under the shadow of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the final unwinding of the gains of the Russian Revolution. There were defeats in Eastern Europe; the Chinese Revolution was unravelling in a capitalist direction; Cuba’s economy suffered special problems. The old Communist parties were dwindling before; now they declined further.

2. This was a period of imperialist cockiness, bragging about the “end of history”. The bourgeoisie was increasingly confident and aggressive; neoliberalism was rampant. Many unions and workers’ organisations were weakened or even totally smashed by this onslaught. The social democratic leadership dominant in many countries demonstrated their utter uselessness, capitulating further, or even leading the neoliberal charge.

3. This period also saw the rise of the Greens. The Green parties’ politics varied. They represented a growing environmental consciousness, and often became a political vehicle that attracted people on a range of left liberal issues. They soaked up some of the break from the more traditional “workers’ parties”, Communist parties, Social Democracy, Labor parties. Increasingly as they have consolidated, they have settled into more right wing positions.

4. This has also been a period of impressive campaigns against globalisation around the world, from the Seattle demonstration in 1999 through multiple demonstrations in Europe, and the World Social Forums initiated in Brazil and hosted in other countries also. These indicated a radicalisation of sorts, and for a while seemed a hopeful development, but politically these movements also exhibited a confusion about or hostility to the need for building revolutionary parties, with the anti-party strictures of the World Social Forum, and the NGOs and right wing parties in control.

The initial motivation when the DSP launched the Socialist Alliance in 2001 was that the tide had turned, that we were looking ahead to a period of upsurge from the end of the 1990s. The DSP experienced some growth, and was buoyed by the successful S11 mobilisation in Melbourne, surrounding Crown Casino, venue of the World Economic Forum in 2000. We looked to some seemingly successful broad parties such as the Scottish Socialist Party. The 2001 DSP Congress, 3-7 January in Sydney, still projected building an explicitly revolutionary party.[v] But soon after we’d noticed the International Socialist Organisation’s conference held in Melbourne later that month,[vi] taking note of the English Socialist Alliance and the British SWP’s participation in it and elections. We were waiting to see if the ISO here would follow the line of the SWP before tossing up the proposal for a Socialist Alliance. The Socialist Alliance was launched with meetings in Melbourne on 6 March and in Sydney on 10 April. At the DSP National Committee in April, Peter Boyle said we were “looking at the Socialist Alliance as more than an electoral tactic”. [vii]

Adopting this tactic was dependent on that upsurge, the possibility of Read the rest of this entry »