Welcome to the November 2013 issue of Fightback.
In mid-October, the Walk Free Foundation released the first Global Slavery Report. Drawing data from UNICEF and the US State Department, the report estimated that around 30 million people are enslaved world-wide.
No report is unbiased, and it is worth noting that the Walk Free Foundation was founded by Andrew Forest, an Australian mining magnate who has made billions through exploitation and ecological degradation. The report defines slavery as “the condition of treating another person as if they were property — something to be bought, sold, traded or even destroyed,” and also includes forced labour defined as “work taken without consent, by threats or coercion.” Arguably the threat of poverty and starvation works as a coercive measure even in cases of legal wage labour, as practiced by Forest in the mining industry.
However, just as no source is unbiased, it’s important to draw from a range of sources. The report is illuminating from a socialist perspective.
The highest-ranked nations were majority-world nations, exploited by the minority world. India, China, and Pakistan are the highest-ranked in absolute terms. Contrary to narratives of abolition and progress, the United States has as many as 67,000 slaves.
Aotearoa/NZ also entered the spotlight for slavery at sea, with foreign ships (contracted to local companies) using slavery and forced labour. This approach by employers ultimately works undermines conditions for all workers, and can only be overcome by demanding full rights for all workers; including local and migrant workers.
With 30 million enslaved worldwide by the Walk Free Foundation’s definition, and the majority of the world’s population enslaved by a revolutionary socialist definition, the global situation looks pretty dark. It’s worth noting the irony of one glimmer of light in late October, celebrity Russell Brand calling for revolution on a widely circulated Jeremy Paxman interview (available on YouTube).
Critics have noted Brand’s record of sexist behaviour, (discussed further on P8-14) and sexism must be opposed along with all forms of oppression. However the significance of Brand’s challenge is in its resonance with thousands of people; over 10,500 people liked the Facebook page “I Support Russell Brand’s Call for Revolution” within a couple of days.
A Facebook page is not a revolution, but it captures a social moment. Capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction, and Fightback aims to play a part in that creative destruction.