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On “The Making of Global Capitalism”

2:46 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

 

From Diomedes77 and Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up

Cover of On the Making of Global Capitalism

A Marxist look at global capitalism.

As a first group diary, this will be fairly narrow in scope and ambition. There have already been numerous excellent reviews of The Making of Global Capitalism, and a symposium over at Jacobin. It’s a bit too late at this point for me to try to compete with any of that, so I thought I’d just intro one of the most important books of the last decade, in hopes that it might spark debate here.

Leave it to the Canadians to get things right — or left, as the case may be. Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin are both Canadian professors, socialists, and schooled in Marxism, but unlike their American peers, not subject to automatic censure and scorn. As this group is no doubt aware, socialists and/or Marxists in America are pretty much shut out of public discussion, demonized without a hearing, and absent from debates in a field they should dominate. No “school” of economic thought comes close to the rigor, objectivity, depth of analysis or independence of the Marxians, and no analysis is more needed in our day. But in America, the system and its willing executioners have effectively silenced them.

Again, this is not the case in Canada, or Europe, where a far healthier, but still less than optimum diversity exists.

The book in question is exhaustively researched. It’s nearly overwhelming in its breadth and detail, and makes for an excellent pairing with Piketty’s recent Capital, which I have but have not yet read beyond its introduction. This is not a beach book. This is not a casual, page-turning barn-burner. But it is a serious work of scholarship, and in my view, deserves at least three adjectives — which should be rarely used:

definitive, classic and indispensable.

The reasons for that are pretty simple for me. Panitch and Gindin have mapped out American economic history so we can connect the dots. Like the best scholars, they rarely interject their own conclusions into the mix, and leave that up to the reader. But, unlike other attempts along these lines, the book reads as something inevitable, a process toward logical conclusions, with each section reinforcing this along the way. From their preface:

This book is about globalization and the state. It shows that the spread of capitalist markets, values and social relationships around the world, far from being an inevitable outcome of inherently expansionist economic tendencies, has depended on the agency of states and of one state in particular: America. Indeed, insofar as the relationship between the American state and the changing dynamics of production and finance was inscribed in the very process that came to be known as globalization, this book is devoted to understanding how it came to be that the American state developed the interest and capacity to superintend the making of global capitalism. In this respect, this is emphatically not another book on US military interventions; it is about the political economy of American empire. In this quite distinctive imperial state, the Pentagon and CIA have been much less important to the process of capitalist globalization than the US Treasury and Federal Reserve. This is so not just in terms of sponsoring the penetration and emulation of US economic practices abroad, but much more generally in terms of promoting free capital movements and free trade on the one hand, while on the other trying to contain the international economic crises a global capitalism spawns.

The trick for governments, as they demonstrate, is to walk the tightrope between allowing the most free rein possible for Capital, while avoiding, or delaying inevitable crises. Toward the end of the book, the authors show how the American state moved from an attempt to prevent economic catastrophe, to simply trying to manage or contain them after the fact. This reader connected the dots from that and the preceding pages to note that the more freedom the state gives to capitalism, the bigger it needs to be in order to bail it out, defend it, prop it up, keep it going. Which points to one of the rare weaknesses of this account, in my view. I think the authors don’t give enough weight to military intervention on behalf of Capital. But given the overall brilliance of their analysis, I can live with that.

Contrary to right-wing myths about “big gubmint” and capitalism, there is a paradox in place. The more we privatize and commodify existence, the greater the need for governments. The more we extend market integration, the more likely local disasters become global, as we saw most recently in 2007/2008. As in, the more “successful” the American state is in spreading the gospel of Supply Side Jesus, the more likely we are of having Armageddon after Armageddon, until, finally, governments no longer have the resources to begin anew. Capitalism will be its own death, but it’s unlikely to happen because workers finally have that much needed epiphany, find true solidarity with each other, and throw off their yokes. It is far more likely that capitalism dies of its own irrationality and unsustainable nature, its Grow or Die trap.

As an ardent anti-capitalist, I long for the day of its death. But not that way. Not the way of final, worldwide economic catastrophe. Too many people will suffer, and it’s actually far more likely, in my view, that the replacements will be right-wing dictatorships, rather than the first modern day attempt at true socialism, real democracy, and actual emancipation. To get there, we need a democratic revolution, a non-violent revolution, and to provoke that we need to show the best route to “limited government” is without capitalism, which requires massive government to keep it alive. The Making of Global Capitalism provides mountains of evidence for the toxic, centuries-old marriage between State and Capital. It’s time for a divorce.

*A good C-Span discussion by the authors here.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Misogyny and Capitalism

2:47 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Recent Supreme Court rulings highlight the persistent presence of misogyny in the US.

Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, expressed her anger over the Supreme Court’s message that “women are second-class citizens, not capable of making our healthcare decisions without the interference of our bosses and complete strangers on the street,” and she encouraged the crowd to send a message back.

Supreme Court Nominee Under Scrutiny
This was the most striking language in the buffer zone ruling, to me:

petitioners are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives.

Unbidden strangers given the rights of “counselor.” Since when is anyone who wants to talk to me considered my counselor? Why is the word “consensual” in that sentence? Patients haven’t consented to this counseling. They are hounded by it. This kind of distortion of someone’s behavior and giving it a title which then affords them rights, when they are really just harassing people would never happen if the recipients of said counseling were white males. Where is the autonomy of the woman in this interaction? This is codified misogyny.

In a country which claims to be “democratic” and to believe in “liberty”, how is it that autonomy is not fully respected for all people?

It would seem that something overrides our belief in the respect of the individual which should be inherent to a democracy and our commitment to privacy when it comes to personal liberty. Could that be capitalism?

Will you join me for an exploration of the linkages between capitalism and misogyny?

***********

author’s note:
For understanding my communications, please know that I distinguish sexism from misogyny, just as I distinguish bigotry from racism. Sexism and bigotry are personal expressions of seeing a demographic group as somehow inferior to oneself. Misogyny and racism are larger cultural systems and atmospheres which serve to keep certain demographics oppressed for the benefit of other demographics. I give an example at the end of the diary.

I want us to explore not only what it is we experience as the actuated reality of a country which worships the concept of capitalism, but what it is we would want in the country of our dreams. Toward that end, I have a question at the end of the diary which I hope sparks some fun and creative conversation. What lies between here and there is simply leading to that.

An Imperfect Metaphor
So, we in the US claim to believe in democracy and personal liberty, yet when we look at our behaviors both as a nation and culture, we see those principles betrayed quite often. I’d like us to think of the country as an organism. A living, breathing entity with a complex set of biological systems. Our principles or values are the heart – the source of our vision and mission, our laws are the brain – directing how we carry out the mission, our populace is the gut – it’s responses and reactions reveal the harmony or disharmony between the heart and the brain. The political and economic systems are the arms and legs with which we walk through the mission and feed the internal systems.

If there is discord and suffering, let’s see it as an illness. Something in the system isn’t serving all the parts of the system. Things are not stable. It won’t be a perfect metaphor, but it can help us to think about how things can move in an unhealthy direction without anyone consciously steering it there.

This is an easy metaphor for me, as I live with a chronic illness. I know many people who do. Often, there were signs of things going wrong earlier than we acknowledged. For me, it was persistent exhaustion. I would complain about how no amount of sleep rejuvenated me. People around me would say that I was stressed and not handling it well. I believed that and kept pushing myself. Once more serious symptoms such as cognitive decline, temporary loss of vision, debilitating pain and seizures presented themselves I finally went to the doctor. Still, it took two more years to get a diagnosis. Why?

It took that long because I had contracted the disease long before and it didn’t look as expected, now. I had an “advanced” version. Something far worse than the original disease. We still had to address the disease, but that would not fix everything. The disease is now pernicious and will return if I’m not vigilant about it. Worse, it had ravaged my body so badly that my systems got messed up and couldn’t recognize healthy cells from destructive ones. My body now attacks itself. I must consciously tend to myself all the time, if I am to have any quality of life. The minute I am lax about it, I lose more functionality.

You see where I’m going here? A society can contract a disease and not realize it. It can start to show a symptom and be in denial about having the symptom and then about recognizing where the symptom comes from. It can live with the disease for so long that it end up not being able to tell the difference between healthy cells and destructive ones. It can begin to perpetuate the symptoms of the disease all on it’s own. One has to work hard to consciously recognize the symptoms and address both the disease and the resulting disorders.

If you build a democracy based on the tenets of individual liberty and equality, how can you have slavery and misogyny and genocide? Those are symptoms of an infection. Likely, something you are not conscious of.

In a healthy organism, the heart and brain and gut and arms and legs are all working together in harmony doing the right thing to keep things running smoothly. If they are fighting with one another, or one of the systems is suppressed, something is wrong.

An Infection Read the rest of this entry →

A-C Meetup: Part 2 on the Need for Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism by Galtisalie

2:46 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Things are certainly going to crapola for many poor Central American children these days. But at least they are not having their lives ruined by elected socialists. Barbarism is so much better. Somalian freedom anyone? Where, oh where, have I read about this before? Some murdered democratic revolutionary internationalist perhaps.

The Political-Economic Basis For Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism

We must refuse to separate morality from economics, to ignore the historical and political dimensions of economic justice, and to narrowly define “justice” as the head-in-the-sand enforcement of U.S. laws. (According to a good Jesuit who mourned for those dying in Central America, including his owns priests, justice should be in the service of love.) For instance, when we receive reports about Latin American children in flight to the U.S., we must be mindful that the U.S. has spent generations undermining Latin America efforts to achieve economic justice.

Every once in a while, the U.S. gets a stark example of international blowback. But what if the projectiles involved in this scenario are small defenseless human beings? Does the U.S. learn from its mistakes and attack the underlying problems? No. Instead, in the case of international blowback, as with domestic blowback, we simply blame and harass the victims.

In a detailed report, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees has explained the need for international protection for unaccompanied children from Central America and Mexico. (http://www.unhcrwashington.org/sites/default/files/UAC_UNHCR_Children%20on%20the%20Run_Full%20Report.pdf.) But coming from the UN, it is ignored by the U.S. government.

The politically-expedient way of dealing with blowback, if you are a supposedly compassionate U.S. president, is to look at legal minutia with a view to stepping up deportation, rather than seeing the big picture and your actual legal authority.

It is easy to see why a president concerned about mid-term elections might cower. After all, Cuban Canadian USian Senator Ted Cruz has our backs. Unfortunately, the helpless young human beings who are on the run and are receiving an unjust response to the blowback their fleeing constitutes only understand their own desperation. So, for a U.S. president to act compassionately using his legal authority risks losing mid-term elections, and that is just that. But what does that say about U.S. voters, particularly those on the likely winning side in mid-term elections?

It is a cruel sanctimonious voter, and hardly one who holds up to timeless standards of decency, who would be swayed to vote against helping the innocent and helpless. Many of these voters follow a religion that claims, if they will excuse the lack of the King James Version, “el señor protégé a los forasteros; sostiene al huérfano y a la viuda.” (Salmo 146.) But perhaps God only speaks English. (But wasn’t that Psalm written in Hebrew?)

The U.S. in its international relations discourages economic justice because it smacks of socialism. Socialism, of course, sounds good to me. However, the U.S. will not even ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights signed by President Carter. This unkind refusal to recognize standards of material decency does not sound good to me at all.

But there is much more to the story. A Latin American government going to the left risks being toppled by its U.S.-funded military. The U.S., under pressure from Republican Cuban Americans concerned about making leftist dominos fall, assuming it was not, as claimed by a Zelaya minister, directly responsible for the reactionary coup, will happily move on to the illegal replacement “president,” who ironically will have been put into power because the leftist was wanting the people to have greater control over their democracy and constitution. The UN General Assembly unanimously condemned the 2009 military coup of Honduras’s elected president.

Shame on the elected president of a Central American country for moving left and seeking some measure of economic justice. That, the U.S., or more importantly, U.S. transnational corporations, simply cannot abide.

The coup’s legacy is the very violence that is forcing children to flee for their lives, with an able assist from the failed U.S. drug war, which turns Central America into a drug transit zone. And then we complain about the foreign orphans who have no choice but to flee.

Ultimately, what can end this immigrant-bashing and “border pressure”? Anti-capitalist democratic internationalism of the type I think Luxemburg and Marx, not to mention Eugene V. Debs and Reinhold Niebuhr, could endorse.

I suggest that there are two principal political-economic reasons why truly compassionate USians must support anti-capitalist democratic internationalism. One is a “prophylactic” reason and the other is a “stimulative” reason. Both are interrelated, and the distinctions I draw are not absolute but illustrative.

The first/prophylactic reason is that, as the desperation of Central American children reflects: the U.S. is not isolated unto itself, as the border zeitgeist would indicate, but is instead the senior partner of global capitalist imperialism, creating destruction and exploitation of people and the environment all around the world.

The second/stimulative reason is that the workers of the U.S. themselves need socialism and are unlikely to get what they need from domestic, plutocrat-controlled political “democracy” alone, which will require outside stimulus. And, circling back to the first reason, if the U.S. does not itself become socialistic, it is unlikely that the cancer of capitalism will cease expanding and re-expanding around the planet until no more profits are to be made and the planet has been thoroughly cooked. Hence, outside stimulation of the U.S. to become socialistic is necessary both for the good of the U.S. and for the good of the rest of the planet, if one cares about it.

On the first reason, I will briefly turn to Rosa Luxemburg. On the second, I will briefly turn to Marx. I am no scholar of either, and many of the people who read this will be scholars of both. I look forward to their corrections and additions to the extent I misconstrue anything. I am not trying to win an academic, much less a dogma, fight but merely to suggest that these two thinkers gave good guidance worth considering on the topics to which I am assigning them. The “reasons” I am giving are ultimately my own interpretations of reality and potential reality, as opposed to the referenced works of the authors, so please do not blame anyone else, including Luxemburg or Marx, for any interpretative failings I am making.

Capitalists Gobbling Up Conditions of Accumulation

I am using as my reference Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital, 1913. There is a reason that the U.S. supports free trade outside its borders and outside of any international social compact, and this is that capitalism requires this for its own continuation. Thus, capitalism ever seeks to control society and to resist society controlling capitalism. “[A]part from the observation of price fluctuations there is no social control – no social link exists between the individual producers other than the exchange of commodities.” (Ch. 1)

In contrast to every other form of society, including “a primitive communist agrarian community” and “an economic system based on slave labour or corvée,” with a capitalist society:

in certain periods all the ingredients of reproduction may be available, both labour and means of production, and yet some vital needs of society for consumer goods may be left unfulfilled. We find that in spite of these resources reproduction may in part be completely suspended and in part curtailed. Here it is no despotic interference with the economic plan that is responsible for the difficulties in the process of production. Quite apart from all technical conditions, reproduction here depends on purely social considerations: only those goods are produced which can with certainty he expected to sell, and not merely to sell, but to sell at the customary profit. Thus profit becomes an end in itself, the decisive factor which determines not only production but also reproduction. Not only does it decide in each case what work is to be undertaken, how it is to be carried out, and how the products are to be distributed; what is more, profit decides, also, at the end of every working period, whether the labour process is to be resumed, and, if so, to what extent and in what direction it should be made to operate.
(Id.)

And profit generation requires both ever-increasing markets and ever-increasing places to accumulate capital. This is a problem even larger than the problem of booms and busts: “cyclical movement of boom, slump, and crisis, does not represent the whole problem of capitalist reproduction, although it is an essential element of it.” (Id.) Other than squeezing the workers of the world, capitalists can only stay in business by expanding:

Expansion becomes in truth a coercive law, an economic condition of existence for the individual capitalist. Under the rule of competition, cheapness of commodities is the most important weapon of the individual capitalist in his struggle for a place in the market. Now all methods of reducing the cost of commodity production permanently amount in the end to an expansion of production; excepting those only which aim at a specific increase of the rate of surplus value by measures such as wage cutting or lengthening the hours of work.
(Id.)

Section Three of Luxemburg’s master work details “The Historical Conditions of Accumulation.” In contrast to most of Sections One and Two, it is readily understandable to the layperson. I would recommend that all anti-capitalists read it. It will tick you off. Luxemburg describes capitalist exploitation of humanity in clear terms sure to raise your blood pressure.

Simply put, capitalism, if it stays as the global economic system, is hard-wired to maximize exploitation of the workers of the world and the other physical and chemical resources of the world until profits can no longer be made. Honduras and the rest of the world are merely places for capitalists to make money. All of these varying places will be sought out, to varying degrees and in varying ways, and as much as possible any vestiges of decency eliminated, until every bit of profit can be soaked out or capitalism or human life itself ends.

Political Democracy’s Limitations and Potential in the U.S.

The U.S. is far from a perfect place, and that of course includes its political system. In my spare time, I operate a one-person volunteer website with a simple post on Reinhold Niebuhr’s Constructive Criticism of Democracy that is, as far as my obscure website goes, frequently read. I think that on some level religious people want to receive permission from a theologian like Niebuhr to express their doubts about democracy.

By the same token, I would like to use Karl Marx to “give” leftists permission to hold out some hope for U.S. democracy, but only under certain circumstances where it receives outside stimulation to be much deeper. If the democracy of the U.S. does not assert extensive control over the U.S. economy, its democracy will continue to be stagnant and the workers of the U.S. and the world will continue to suffer under the capitalist hegemony which the democratic communist Luxemburg so well documented.

In a short 1872 speech, Marx famously held out hope that the U.S. could undergo a non-violent revolution:

You know that the institutions, mores, and traditions of various countries must be taken into consideration, and we do not deny that there are countries — such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland — where the workers can attain their goal by peaceful means. This being the case, we must also recognize the fact that in most countries on the Continent the lever of our revolution must be force; it is force to which we must some day appeal in order to erect the rule of labor.

But later in the speech he made a qualification which applies to the U.S. and every nation:

Citizens, let us think of the basic principle of the International: Solidarity. Only when we have established this life-giving principle on a sound basis among the numerous workers of all countries will we attain the great final goal which we have set ourselves. The revolution must be carried out with solidarity; this is the great lesson of the French Commune, which fell because none of the other centres — Berlin, Madrid, etc. — developed great revolutionary movements comparable to the mighty uprising of the Paris proletariat.

So far as I am concerned, I will continue my work and constantly strive to strengthen among all workers this solidarity that is so fruitful for the future. No, I do not withdraw from the International, and all the rest of my life will be, as have been all my efforts of the past, dedicated to the triumph of the social ideas which — you may be assured! — will lead to the world domination by the proletariat.

Yesterday, I did a diary in Hellraisers Journal on Henry O. Morris’s Waiting for the Signal. Written 25 years after Marx’s speech, the novel suggests that by the end of the 19th century many U.S. socialists had given up hope of a non-violent revolution in the U.S.

How can Marx’s and Morris’s competing views be reconciled? The critical ingredient for the U.S. achieving a non-violent socialist revolution seems to me for the workers of the U.S. to be in solidarity with the other workers of the world. As long as we each view ourselves as competitors as opposed to brothers and sisters, we will be highly susceptible to divide-and-conquer. Yet, workers in the U.S. are in bad shape, having lost much of the manufacturing sector to China and other low-wage nations in the worldwide capitalist race to the bottom. To me, a central focal point of all workers of the world needs to be recognition of a global social compact. With such recognition, non-violent pressure from abroad, and not just blood pressure, might yet build for the U.S. to become an economically just nation for its own workers and those of the world.

Laissez Fairyland — Making the Intangible Less Tangential

3:01 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

by Annieli

Here we present a simple solution to see that a fad is the result of the same type of behavior that causes any other good to be purchased. It is the characteristic of the good, and the interaction of the various agents with their neighbors that causes the peculiar pattern of behavior that is called fad.

ReaganomicsIs Reaganism such a good and as a commodity is its commodity fetishism available for analysis beyond its intangible assets. Yet Reaganism is tangible and attempts to memorialize the commodity extend materially far beyond the cinematic and the televisual nature of the Great Communicator. The fad of VooDoo(sic) Economics is a useful example of how to discuss intangible assets as forms of virtual capital. The production and reproduction of the Reaganist myth is its own market. Its production of character/reputation and trust/reciprocity is of course legendary and its diffusion to the North American form of teabaggery continues with the institutional support of right-wing venture capital like the Kochs.

In the United States, commentators frequently equate supply-side economics with Reaganomics. The fiscal policies of Ronald Reagan were largely based on supply-side economics. During Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, the key economic concern was double digit inflation, which Reagan described as “Too many dollars chasing too few goods,” but rather than the usual dose of tight money, recession and layoffs, with their consequent loss of production and wealth, he promised a gradual and painless way to fight inflation by “producing our way out of it”.

An example of fad economics occurred in 1980, when a small group of economists advised Presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan, that an across-the-board cut in income tax rates would raise tax revenue. They argued that if people could keep a higher fraction of their income, people would work harder to earn more income. Even though tax rates would be lower, income would rise by so much, they claimed, that tax revenues would rise. Almost all professional economists, including most of those who supported Reagan’s proposal to cut taxes, viewed this outcome as far too optimistic. Lower tax rates might encourage people to work harder and this extra effort would offset the direct effects of lower tax rates to some extent, but there was no credible evidence that work effort would rise by enough to cause tax revenues to rise in the face of lower tax rates. … People on fad diets put their health at risk but rarely achieve the permanent weight loss they desire. Similarly, when politicians rely on the advice of charlatans and cranks, they rarely get the desirable results they anticipate. After Reagan’s election, Congress passed the cut in tax rates that Reagan advocated, but the tax cut did not cause tax revenues to rise.

As against this, the commodity-form, and the value-relation of the products of labour within which it appears, have absolutely no connection with the physical nature of the commodity and the material relations arising out of this. It is nothing but the definite social relation between men themselves which assumes here, for them, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy we must take flight into the misty realm of religion. There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. I call this the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities. — Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I

As one can perhaps see, the transgressive role of the State in the struggle among classes will become the key problem for making this critique work as will the impending institutional arrangements making that State ubiquitous and global.

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. — Ronald Reagan

Reaganism was a political perspective in the United States based on a friendly-seeming, grandfatherly-type ex-actor telling us that government could do no good, and then proceeding to become the head of the executive branch of the United States government, drastically expanding the public debt as he saw fit. Why anyone believed it is beyond us.

Prominent lies promoted by Mr. Reagan include:

  • The “free market” is always more efficient than the government at providing solutions to problems. (See universal health care)
  • The “government” is incapable of solving a country’s problems (See Hurricane Katrina)
  • Some woman somewhere on welfare had a Cadillac and a color TV. (He made this up).
  • Hardworking blue collar Americans should hate suffering poor Americans for eating their tax dollars instead of working their asses off for giant corporations themselves. (See trade union)
  • The “rich” are a beleaguered and overtaxed suffering demographic. (Who pay well for political campaigns!)

In Britain, there was a very similar political movement referred to as “Thatcherism,” named for the Iron Lady who advocated the same principles. The impact of this was slightly less than that of the States.

In Marxist philosophy, however, the term Cultural Hegemony describes the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of the society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class

We live in a Tea (Party) service economy

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War Profiteers Ecstatic at Middle East Mess

4:55 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

by Justina

Major General Smedley D. Butler warned us War Is a Racket

In 1935, US General Smedley Butler detailed, in his War is a Racket, the World War I racket he had served. It is now much, much worse.

Vice-President Richard Cheney and his fellow Neo-Cons originally lit the barn fires with their factually unjustified invasion of Iraq in 2003. Bush-Cheney then torched the secular but Sunni-based ruling Baathist Party and applauded the decapitation of its brutal, but anti-al Qaeda leader Saddam Hussein. (Saddam himself had originally been put in place by the US CIA in a coup, but thereafter fell out of favor with the US government because he dared to assert exclusive control of Iraq’s oil industry.)

Up to his ouster, Saddam had successfully kept the radical jihadists out of Iraq, which even the US intelligence agencies have admitted:

There was no al Qaeda-Iraq connection until the war; our invasion made it so. We have known this for nearly a decade, well before the murderous ISIS even appeared. In a September 2006 New York Times article headlined ‘Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat,’ reporter Mark Mazetti informed readers of a classified National Intelligence Estimate representing the consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled ‘Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’ the analysis cited the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology: ‘The Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,’ said one American intelligence official.’

Now jihadis even more extreme than Al Qaeda, the ISIS, are an hour outside of Baghdad, threatening the capitol city and its Shia sect residents. Its Sunni sect population, a minority in Baghdad, is seemingly terrified of the reaction of the Shiite majority as well as the blatantly brutal, although Sunni ISIS. Likely everyone there is arming. (The NRA must be delighted.)

Upon dissolving Saddam’s army, the US then paid its private defense industry contractors billions to build a new Iraqi army in addition to building all the infra-structures for the US’s own army in Iraq, along with providing both all their attendant services. (Chaney’s Halliburton company did very, very well.)

But we went into Iraq to stop its “weapons of mass destruction” build-up (of which they had none) and end its supposed connection to Al Qaeda (which didn’t exist), right?

The oil and military industries, having lost their main justification for charging US tax payers for armaments and related oil profits with the dissolution of the USSR, then turned for solace to the independently bellicose neoconservatives within the Bush-Cheney administration to sever its connection with al Qaeda terrorists (which did not exist) cheer-leading for their disastrous (for human beings) invasion of Iraq. After all, Iraq had the oil that their industries coveted.

(Did Cheney and the other oil and armaments profiteers have the malevolent foresight to see that the invasion of Iraq could set the stage for continuing war among the mid-east’s religious and political sectarians for their further enrichment in the endless future? Or was that merely a lucky coincidence?)

Idle Hands Holding Guns and Bombs.

The disbanded Sunni military members left their jobs taking their arms, ammunition and bomb-building skills with them. A portion of these now unemployed Sunnis, put their skills to work blowing up Iraqi civilians in market places in Shiite neighborhoods as well as US soldiers in their multiple new and expensively constructed bases for the next few years.

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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: These are a few of my least favourite things by NY Brit Expat

2:28 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

It’s been one of those weeks where so many things have come to light that I simply do not know where to begin writing first. I sit there and think, which of the various things that I have been listening to or reading about have actually annoyed me to the point of actually writing about. I have realised that I am just generally annoyed.

When I thought about it more, I concluded that the underlying theme of these various stories is a complete and utter contempt by bourgeois governments (that lay claim to being utterly democratic) of the vast majority of people that they govern. Whether they govern competently or not, whether there is anything resembling a democratic mandate or not; it is the utter contempt in which they hold the majority of the population that has really gotten my goat.

I also realised that this is not only confined to governments, it is a view shared by the leadership of religious authorities, by arms of the state (police, armies, etc.) and even by the heads of sporting associations. This contempt is a reflection of the fact that those in power think/know that when push comes to shove, they know who they serve and it is not the vast majority of people; it is a tiny elite hiding behind the word “democracy” while actually not even slightly being accountable to that majority. It is the abuse of power by those that have it wielded against those that view themselves as powerless. Having just spoken to my postman about my frustration, he agreed and said “this is a long term problem, what can you and I do about it”?

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Some of it is actually ironically and accidentally funny. So, in a week where a purported attempted takeover of Birmingham’s schools by so-called Muslim fundamentalists is met by a cry for the teaching of “British Values” of democracy by the education secretary Michael Gove, we see the purchase of water cannons for use against protestors in London and the agreement that they will be used by British police; note this refers to the mainland as they have been used in Northern Ireland for quite some time. The irony it burns.

“We want to create and enforce a clear and rigorous expectation on all schools to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs,” department officials explain (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27784747).”

One needs to ask how important democracy is in Britain when they are prepared to use water cannons against their own population. It is not only the water cannons, the actions of the police against anti-Fracking protestors have been atrocious; so what, is democracy fine as long as we do not try to stop the actions of politicians in modern society? So what about individual liberty and mutual respect?

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Under a government whose view of housing policy is the creation of a housing bubble (which has even gotten the IMF a bit worried), refusal to regulate private rentals and protect tenants, the attempt to sell off what little social housing remains and, of course, the social cleansing of inner London due to reduction of amount of housing benefits given to those whose income is insufficient to pay rents (which has not been alleviated by their squeeze on wages and the undermining of conditions of work), and the fantasy that private housing will simply be built and will be accessible for those on lower income, we now are being treated to a policy of spikes being put outside buildings in London to keep the homeless from lying on spaces hitting the news. Read the rest of this entry →

A-C Meetup: Part 1 on the Need for Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism by Galtisalie

2:54 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

[Note: This is my version of light summer reading (but my nickname's not "Buzzkill" for nothing). Hey, I'm even breaking this diary into two parts. It's not healthy to read while you eat but if you do, have a nice sandwich (better make that two), chew slowly, and by the time you're to the pickle, maybe you'll be done. I want to present in bite-size easily digestible pizzas my vision of a peaceful deep democratic revolution. I'm not there yet. I enjoy all the rabbit trails that make up the whole too much and mixing metaphors like a ... concrete mixer. (Do similes count?--see, I do know the difference.) Below all bad writing is my own and unintentional.]

No pressure, but in late 2012 Kyle Thompson at The Other Spiral wrote:

I think the most important thing at this point in time is for the left to reclaim three areas: 1) Internationalism 2) The vision of the future and 3) Economic legitimacy. Without internationalism each struggle feels isolated and localism will never be anything more than localism. … Similarly the left needs to reclaim the future. If all we can imagine for the future is dystopia we will never be motivated enough to build socialism. This is basically the work of artists, conjuring up an image of what might be …. Finally the left must fight to achieve at least a niche of respectability in economic discourse.

I’ll up the ante and say that together we must constantly work to combine all three into a new praxis, one that learns from the past but also is willing to modify or even Jetson imagery that unnecessarily divides us. But, we’ve caught a break: in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of capitalist imagery has worn thin. Ecology and unemployment are biting capitalism on the buttock, just as our side predicted. When I was a kid, I was counting on one of those glass-topped space sedans to zip me around town one day. I’m beginning to doubt that’s going to happen. The caution yellow Pinto with shag carpetting on the dash that zipped me to my first job has long since finished rusting to nothingness, and only the bondo I liberally applied during those bong-heady times remains at the bottom of some landfill.

The future is with us, and that’s scaring the bondo out of the oligarchy, but our side’s still dazed and confused, and the oligarchy wants to keep its party going until the polar ice cap has gone and every last carbon chain has been broken to fuel the Pintos of the 21st century we will purchase to drive to the jobs we won’t have. I’m no artist and have no credentials for economic discourse. That leaves me with a possible niche of utility if not respectability researching internationalism. But since I’m writing from the Deep South of the U.S., home of a widely-held theory about the U.N. involving the mark of the Beast, I’d better toss in some revolutionary ever-modern art to get things started, and, in Part 2, follow-up with Luxemburg, who gives the political-economic basis for anti-capitalist democratic internationalism. If Rosa’s not respectable and respectful enough for the dismal scientists they can kiss my grits.

When El Lissitzsky created “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge” he made a conscious decision to use the forms of the unrepresentational feelings-based suprematist school he had helped found to focus on their artistic opposite: the material world as he perceived it. This professional betrayal was motivated by a higher duty: universal morality. As a Russian Jew who’d lived most of his life under the Czar’s antisemitism, he wanted to use the best tools that he could muster to help beat the reactionary White Army. Nothing could have been more literal in the minds of the populace who viewed the poster and others like it in the Russian Civil War. Yet the use of geometric shapes and a limited palette brings a discordant transcendence so that even now when one looks at the poster it appears relevant– or so would have said two kids I showed it to if they used big words. Subconsciously, it is up to the individual viewer to decide where he or she fits among the objects, while pining for something missing from this divided two-dimensional incomplete but sadly accurate plane.

What tools do we have to muster and for whose cause should we be mustering them? Key questions of the 20th century and always.

I write this on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when humanity did not need national banners to know that Hitler’s eliminationist ethnic nationalism was so inhumane it had to be defeated. (But humane posters are always useful.) Capital “F” Fascism has a way of reemerging on our one planet, and we rarely on this day consider why that is in our justifiable remembrance of the lives that were lost on those bloodied shores of Normandy. I am sure that millions of D-Day-themed posts and comments in blogs and on Facebook pages will be published before this one comes out on Sunday night, June 8, 2014. Rather than add to the digital pile, I am instead going t
o focus on the war to end all wars that came one generation before WWII, the choices that are involved in warring, and the political-economic reasons we keep doing the wrong thing as a single human species.

Interesting, “national” banners. They pop up, as with the U.S. Civil War, before ethnic armies that are not even nations. Two passed me night before last as I was walking my dogs in the Deep South: the rebel flag flying proudly on the right of the back of an old imported pick-up truck with its windows down driven by a “white” man with the Libertarian “Don’t Tread on Me” flag on the left. The skinny bearded great American working class Confederate man calmly smiled and nodded at me inclusively, assuming I was part of his team, like we were about to go over together and kick the dead Yankee bodies at Bull Run just for grins, or perhaps attend a lynching and pass the bottle (not spin the bottle mind you, 100% virile straight man fun stuff). I was wondering if he heard my loud “Booooo,” particularly when he began to slow down about thirty yards past me. (At least I thought it was loud, but not so loud as to upset the dogs–but pretty darn loud people.) I thought he, likely packing, was turning around to come back and tread on me or worse, but he turned right, fittingly. Maybe he had second thoughts about murder or maybe it was his muffler problem that allows me to write these words. How do we get him out of the white circle and in the natural polychromatic sphere of life, not pictured here? I think he’s hopeless, so mostly I ignore him, but, if and when he waves his hateful flags in my neighborhood or yours, I propose confrontation, red wedge wielded. And somewhere, those flags are always waving. And innocent kids are being raised to be in the white circle.

Forward, MARCH. But how and when? Human solidarity is our journey and our destination. The capitalist interests that prevent humanity from recognizing the economic, social, and cultural rights of all human beings should not be deciding our individual and collective fates. To be sure an international cooperative needs to be established with the means to stop genocide. But that international cooperative also needs to be democratically-controlled by the citizens of the world as such.

Any assemblage of nationalist banners is highly suspect. Sometimes all the banners that are flown are evil. Other times, for a brief period of time, some of the banners can actually recruit humane cooperation. Better for humanity to reorganize itself to take down all of the banners, put them in museums, and democratically flesh out the details of justice in the service of love without wasting innocent flesh. That worldwide revolution to true democracy of, by, and for humanity is our war. If we open our individual minds to our rights as human beings we can begin to begin again, and the revolution can be as peaceful as possible.

100 years ago this month, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were murdered by Serbian nationalists, and I don’t feel so good myself. The world is still gripped by capitalism and its junior partners imperialism and nationalism. It is safe to say that the great democratic international communist Rosa Luxemburg did not feel that the cruel act necessitated world war and the expenditure of the blood of the workers killing each other over the alliances of their respective nation states. Not their fight.

A few years later, after the world had fought that awful imperialist war, the red wedge beat the White Army. After that came a lot of awful things in the Soviet Union Luxemburg sadly predicted. The workers of the Soviet Union, under totalitarianism, were forced to forget their rights. Stalin led a “real” “socialism in one country” debacle of his own inhumanity, and mass injustice and coerced stupidity occurred. He forgot that socialism is the fight for worldwide justice in the service of love in his quest for industrial state capitalist supremacy over market capitalist supremacy.

These days the workers of the world are even less likely to know our fights. Meanwhile, our legally-recognized rights, if any, are more and more circumscribed to non-economic matters. Coping strategies abound.

If we are unemployed, we can still sometimes find temp jobs killing each other.
Fine-tuning misdirection, in the U.S., with its endless drug war, workers like my mom’s kin are also much more likely to kill each other or ourselves through self-prescribed medicines far less ennobling than the killer weed Maureen Dowd sampled in Colorado for journalistic integrity. If we are employed, we are more and more likely to be working two or more minimum wage part-time jobs, if we can find them. The “free” market for consumer goods, virtual or otherwise, also dictates that the workers break the tenth commandment, coveting our neighbor’s ox if not his or her ass. Thus (not to be the Southern Baptist prude I was raised to be), the collective consciousness is expected to be on the level of a Super Bowl halftime show, with revolutionary levels of sex mania.

I would not dare begrudge anyone their jollies, and I know many loins are tender, and who does not want a hunka hunka burning love, but please, when your singin’ group is named after a dead alliterative archduke and you borrow Lissitzsky’s imagery, light your fire for the whole worker and not just the private parts.

I can attest from my own family history that, a dozen years before the Ferdinand assassinations, many workers in the U.S., including the brown cigarmakers of Hillsborough County, Florida, were at least as manic about their economic rights and their grounding in the international socialist movement as they were about their libidos. Yes, I am particularly fixated on when my great-great-uncle Francisco had his own brush with death–enunciating these very rights and that very movement under the direction of the workers themselves:

The Milián Affair

On Saturday, November 1, 1902, West Tampa was rocked by an almost unbelievable story. Francisco Milián, popular mayor of West Tampa and lector at the Bustillo Brothers and Diaz factory, was adducted, beaten, and forced out of town by the Tampa police chief and an unidentified mob under a threat of death if he returned.

This episode was the culmination of a series of actions against Milián. The owners of the factory where he served as reader to the workers had earlier charged him with being a radical labor agitator because the selections he read represented Marxist and anti-capitalist viewpoints. Although Milián read what the workers had selected, he was held responsible for inciting the workers. …

Mendez, Armando, 1994. Ciudad De Cigars: West Tampa, pp. 93-94. (Florida Historical Society.) (emphasis added).

Critical about this is not the fact that this was my relative (but did I tell you that this was my relative?), or even that he was reading Marxist and anti-capitalist viewpoints, but that the frickin’ everyday workers in Florida over a century ago were asking to be read these frickin’ viewpoints.

I don’t want to leave you hanging in the middle of the story:

As he left West Tampa City Hall on November 1, Milián was approached by the Tampa police chief and another man, who asked him to accompany them to another location in order to identify someone. They left in a carriage, and made their way to Six Mile Creek. Milián was told that because he was a labor agitator and a dangerous character, he was going to be punished. He was kept under guard until a number of men arrived. Milián was then stripped and beaten. Warned that he must leave Tampa and never return, he protested that he could not leave his family in West Tampa. Despite his protests, Milián was taken to the Port of Tampa and put aboard a steamer bound for Cuba. With a final admonition that he faced death if he returned, the men watched as the steamer took Milián south.

When the steamer docked in Key West, Milián sought friendly workers and told them his tale. Workers in Tampa were notified, and they went to the Hillsborough County sheriff to demand protection for Milián when he returned. A delegation also went to Tampa and West Tampa City officials with a threat of a long general strike if Milián was harmed.

On November 12, the Olivette, the Plant Line steamer, arrived in Port Tampa with Milián on board. Two sheriff’s deputies and 200 supporters were on hand to protect him.

When he arrived in Tampa, another 400 greeted him. From Tampa, Milián was escorted to the International Cigarmakers Union Hall on 6th Avenue for a reception. More than 2,000 people queued up to shake his hand.

This display of support was enough to stay the hand of the owners, and Milián was allowed to return to West Tampa and take up his job as lector and mayor unmolested. …

No charges were ever filed nor any arrests made in this bizarre incident despite the testimony of Milián.

Did you see those two words, “general strike,” in a writing centered on the then leading industry in the state that most recently elected he-who-must-not-be-named as governor?

Could this happen again? Could workers in Florida and the other 49 U.S. “states,” including the Deep South, get back our mojo? Not IMHO if we’re only thinking about the microcosm of our own specific struggles, however valid and critical. Labor mojo is synonymous with solidarity, which is all about viewing each of ourselves as part of something bigger than ourselves. But that “bigger something” cannot and does not stop at national boundaries! Never did, and certainly does not now. We need general strikes, and the more general the better, Taft-Hartley Act and its foreign legal equivalents be damned. Let’s, for instance, feel justified to democratically violate en masse unjust labor laws until they are stricken down one way or another–because this is justified. Let’s love each other as workers of the world, and demonstrate this with all the tools we can muster.

Where do laws come from in the U.S.? What truly democratic institutions do we have? Laws are to be in the service of justice, with justice being in the service of love. When we begin to think deeply about our own rights–not those written up in constitutions given to us by the powerful but those that should be written in our hearts because they can be logically derived by our minds and certainly encompassing the meeting of our basic human needs–we begin to recognize how irrational it is to think that these rights should or even can stop at national boundaries.

So, I say, let’s set the goal that by the 100th anniversary of Rosa Luxemburg’s murder by German nationalists who would soon become known as “Nazis” (January 15, 1919) that an overwhelming majority of the workers of the world will once again at least know our full spectrum of deep democratic rights as citizens of the world. We each as workers have to know our rights to peacefully fight for them.

Wearing my buzzkill hat, although I am a mere “ethical” democratic socialist I have to concede to the “scientific” socialists that to fail to know our rights is to invite a perpetuation of capitalist economic crises and worldwide environmental collapse. I do not want that outcome. So (as if you aren’t doing plenty already), let’s roll up our sleeves and describe for ourselves the proactive, non-fatalistic tasks that taken together will bring about an acceptable level of international justice, beginning with teaching ourselves our international rights as human beings.

Right now I think I will be coming back to our shared rights as citizens of the world in more and more detail in future ACM diaries until I feel that I have exhausted the topic, group administrators willing. I expect that this series will be done this calendar year. I hope it will not get too boring. And there are plenty of great writers in this group if I am not your cup of tea, so read their diaries if not mine. As I look deeper at these issues, I will hopefully be able to pass on some coherent thoughts on the subject for you to criticize. I am not predicting utopia, and I do not expect you to always agree with me.

I’m on the quest to find the holy grail of a reasonably good and systematic view of how to actually bring about loving “system change” lovingly, including the likely benefits of every worker (including every ally of workers, however one technically defines “worker”), with all of our varying abilities and circumstances, having a recognized constructive and consciously-revolutionary role to play, however small it seems. Others are focusing on what the anti-capitalist alternative should look like and the specific battles in which we should be engaged in the ugly austerity-filled interim. I worship your work. It is vital. I am your comrade, and, if it weren’t un-socialistic to say so, your loyal servant. I want to see your vision come true and will do anything I can do to help. I think that I can best help by being focused on the art of winning as peacefully as possible, with justice ever being in the service of love.

Observed the editors of Monthly Review on its 65th Anniversary last month, after quoting the socialist William Morris’s Signs of Change (1888):

To advocate for revolution … not as a fear but as a hope, obviously does not mean a rejection altogether of the process of legal reform, but rather the abandonment of the usual limited, non-starting, counterproductive reforms, offered up by the system, which are meant to close off the future and to defend the existing order, making real change impossible: what in socialist theory is known as reformism. All actions initiated by popular forces today should rather be aimed at “a change in the basis of society.” Revolution, as Rosa Luxemburg observed, is distinguished from reform not so much in representing a different method of change, or in occurring over a different duration, but rather in its constituting a distinguishing moment of the struggle.

My working theory is that lots of small acts, including consciousness raising, may end up with workers in everyday places around the world, such as West Tampa, once again agitating in multiple ways to make our collective rights a reality! Let’s begin again and party like its 1914, with an unmistakably internationally-focused praxis that rejects capitalist warring! We have learned so much in the ensuing century, much of it unpleasant, which we must never forget–including the fact that while capitalism and its love of money is the root of all evil, divide-and-conquer nationalism has been its strategic mercenary.

We may be able to collectively lead ourselves to a better world if we learn not to be overly dependent on “leaders.” Leaders will come and go, but we should each learn how our efforts can best fit together locally, nationally, and internationally. We, including both leftists and left liberals, need to respect each other because we all have key contributions to make. We all need to know how “it all” fits together strategically in order to feel the comforting breeze of emerging solidarity. Hell, we may even find something realistic yet strategically important for religious leaders of good will like Pope Francis to do! Heaven can wait. I have one very important idea that I am going to spring on Francis hopefully by year’s end, as I’m sure he reads my posts–just kidding! (Whoa! Slow down Francisco, aka Galtisalie, too many exclamation points!)

In the meantime, the next time I post for ACM (possibly in July) in Part 2 of this two-part diary on the need for anti-capitalist democratic internationalism, I want to describe the political-economic need for looking at these rights not only from an anti-capitalist perspective but also from an international, as opposed to a national, perspective. For that I will heavily rely on the above-mentioned Rosa, with an assist from Karl (the influence not the colleague). I like to think that I am channeling some of those radical cigarmakers who gave their dimes and quarters to my namesake, Tio Francisco. Like MrJayTee said last Sunday in his wonderful diary, I am no scholar. A penny for your thoughts.

[One final note: You may say to yourself, "I wish Francisco would stop being so self-referential and personal in his diaries. What a weirdo." As some of you know, I came out of a fundamentalist Christian background where personal "testifying" was part of the subculture. I made the decision last year to begin personally "testifying" about democratic socialism, not out of some sick social pressure like I grew up with but because it is truly what I believe in as an independent-thinking species-being. In fact, when I started gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com (which is just a little volunteer website, and which does not collect a dime or a quarter by the way), my first act at the website was publishing a lengthy autobiographical political pamphlet that, beginning at page 20, includes 27 or so pages on the very topic "Support and Recruitment for Granma’s Next Voyage: Why I Write Personally and Plainly About Democratic Socialism." Here is the page at gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com that gives the link to the pamphlet. I don't expect you to read it. Hardly anyone has! But at least you know where to go to read my self-justification for self-revelation! (Darn exclamation point key stuck again!!!!)]

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Toward a Leftist Program for Working Class Consciousness by MrJayTee

3:05 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The original title of this diary was to be “Toward a Leftist Program by the Working Class, for the Working Class”, an neat, academic-sounding title reflecting an admirable goal: how can we, whatever our class background or position on the left, understand the needs and goals of working people in the United States and help to catalyze the development of a political program that reflects those needs and goals, one ideally led by the working class itself?

Looking at the critical ingredients of such a program, the lack of one especially stands out to me: the paralyzing absence of any significant consciousness among American workers of themselves as a class apart, one locked in a harrowing and historic struggle with the ruling class for the control of their lives and futures. The purpose of this diary, then, is to consider this problem in general programmatic terms using the thoughts proffered below as a point of departure.

Before going further, I hasten to note that I am not an academic, theorist, or long-time activist, just a working class guy and ecumenical socialist who was lucky enough to get a broad education. I am intent on understanding how my own class, so numerous and possessing a proud history of action and achievement, can embrace and use its own enormous power and what, if anything, the serious left can do to catalyze revolutionary working class consciousness.

First, some basic definitions. By “working class”, I mean agricultural workers and people working for wages in industrial, manual, and service occupations. By “left” and “serious left”, I mean the anti-capitalist left, including, for example, left anarchists, democratic socialists, orthodox socialists, and communists. “Revolutionary” means tending to the significant disruption and subversion of capitalism and its structures with the aim of its replacement by a leftist order. Finally, I am explicitly proceeding on the assumption that working people’s collective self perception as an oppressed but potentially powerful class is an indispensable component of the machinery of radical change.

To be effective, it’s important to be realistic about the scale of the change we’re working for and the speed at which we can accomplish it. If our goal is to nurture working class power to the point of profound social change, we must understand that we are not starting a project, but continuing one. We represent the current generation of a struggle that has been going on at least since the beginning of Industrialization. Thus, our task is to gather the threads of the struggle so far and pull them forward. But while we’re taking care to be realistic about the long time line of our struggle, it’s also important to understand that we have advantages, too.

As labor history shows us, we need not win over the entire working class, or even a majority, to further working class power. Periods of revolutionary change, whether for better or worse, are often sparked by an activist minority surrounded by a discouraged or indolent majority. Victories by key worker organizations in key industries drove the Gilded Age into the Progressive Era and then, after WWI and the Depression, into the period of worker militancy that brought about the New Deal. To use this advantage, what we might call activist leverage, we must identify where worker consciousness is at its greatest today and encourage it, while identifying where it is weak and strengthening it.

Here we come to a profound divide, but also to another advantage. My statement above about the paralyzing lack of class consciousness is really only true of the white majority. Among People of Color, an ever increasing proportion of the population, there is both current militancy and a history of militancy. Today, Latinos and African Americans lead the most visible and successful elements of working class opposition to capital and its systems of oppression, from Moral Mondays in the South to the movement to raise the wages of Fast Food and service workers nationally. In terms of boots on the ground, these movements are overwhelmingly Latino and African American and are significantly so in their leadership.

The Working Class of Color is building on a preexisting, ethnicity-based consciousness of itself to achieve economic and political goals. This demographic is growing, unstoppably it seems, as the white population ages and dwindles. It is significant for the stability and strength of this movement that both African Americans and Latinos already understand, given their histories, that radical change is not achieved without overcoming state repression, including state violence. One of the great disappointments of the Occupy Movement was how little resistance from the state was needed to force it’s dormancy. Black and Latino Americans, on the other hand, long ago understood the nature of their adversary, and have been able despite state oppression to credit themselves with the victories of the Civil Rights and Farm Workers’ Rights movements.

What does the left do here? Where there are active worker-oriented movements, get in behind the workers of color leading the charge and beside the rank and file in the street. Speak, write, and donate, of course, but get out into the street and make it clear we offer not just our mouths and checkbooks, but our dedicated physical presence. Embrace a leftist perspective dedicated to listening and learning from workers of color and pursuing their goals with the secondary purpose of modestly offering a systematic leftist perspective when appropriate and possible.

And what of the contemporary white working class? Particularly since the neo-liberal backlash, this decreasingly organized bloc has functioned more as a self-policing organ of capital than as a class with its own critical interests, something the ruling class has exploited to the hilt. Still, the recent downturn has increased white consciousness of class inequality, even if it hasn’t sparked a movement. Nevertheless, I believe white workers are more open to our message now than they have been in decades, both for direct economic reasons but also because younger working class whites are more accustomed to diversity and less indoctrinated to form a identity based on being “white”, i.e., a certified part of the ruling class.

Here, the task of promoting class consciousness is harder because we must penetrate the ideology that positions the left as alien, or at best irrelevant, to the working class. As with workers of color, the core principles take precedence: listening, learning, and working beside in order to promote working class accomplishment and to build trust and understanding.

We must also reconnect present workers to the achievements of past workers who can serve as models for activism in the present day. Of course the history I speak of is ethnically diverse, but workers of color already have recent and compelling examples of how working people like themselves changed history. We need to reconnect the white working class to their history, to the mine workers of Appalachia and the West, and to the steel and auto workers of the Midwest, people whose sacrifice and bravery changed America radically.

This is not to say we should–or need to–shy away from theory or intersectionality, but that to be effective among working people in general, especially among those so strongly indoctrinated against us, we must break decisively the persistent perception of the left as cold, distant, impractical, and exclusive. We must connect the left and its ideas to issues of direct, here-and-now economic importance to working people. We cannot influence people who simply do not see us.

Many thanks to you all for your attention. I’m not much of an essayist, but I hope this modest piece will bring our some useful conversation.

AC Meetup: Jill Abramson vs. School Safety Officers Vs. Minimum Wage Workers by Geminijen

3:06 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The firing of New York Times CEO Jill Abramson for filing a law suit against the Times for gender based pay discrimination has been one of the main stories on twitter the last couple of weeks.

It is plain that the abrupt departure of executive editor Jill Abramson, the first woman ever to hold that position, was related to the fact that she protested that she was paid less than her male predecessor in one job and her male successor and subordinates in another. According to the New Yorker and the Daily Beast, her starting salary as executive editor was more than $100,000 lower than the salary of the man before her—and precisely $100,000 lower when she had earlier become Washington bureau chief.

The New York Times, however, with a straight face, stated that her firing was not related to any such issue but due to the fact that her leadership style was “inappropriate,” that she was too “difficult and demanding”.

Sex, Race and Class Dynamics Among the 1%.

As the Daily Beast noted, there have been similar complaints for years about powerful women like Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Mikulski and Hillary Clinton. Qualities that earn praise for men in office—being tough, holding subordinates and colleagues alike to high standards—invite blame for women in a culture that believes that even those professionals who manage to break the glass ceiling should nonetheless know their place (what’s an extra $100,000 a year?) Could it actually be that such women have managed to be so successful precisely because they are assertive and demanding? The Times won eight Pulitzer Prizes during Abramson’s brief and successful tenure.
Fuel was added to the twitter fire when it turned out that the narrative included an added tidbit of gossip about squabbling among two token groups –white women and black men. Apparently there was some dispute when Abramson tried to bring in a second managing editor. Dan Baquet, an African American male, who was at that time the sole managing editor objected and, following the firing of Abramson, became her successor and the first African American to be elevated to the CEO position.

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Sex, Race and Class Dynamics Among the Rest of Us.

While we all seem to enjoy a little voyeurism into the lives of the rich and famous, we are now going to turn to another pay discrimination case occurring in the same time frame which received much less media attention, but which we maintain is potentially much more important.

In New York City’s you may have seen protests outside of City Hall recently supporting the 5,000 school safety agents who have signed on to a class action lawsuit accusing the city of violating the federal Equal Pay Act by paying them less than the special security officers who perform similar work at homeless shelters and hospitals.

Approximately 70 percent of school safety agents are female, but they make about 20 percent less than special security officers, who are predominantly male. A special officer’s top salary is about $42,000 a year, compared to about $35,000 for a safety agent, the article reports.

School safety agents are responsible for patrolling buildings, intervening in altercations between students and ensuring that visitors are authorized. They confiscate knives and witness gang activity as well. They act as peace officers under New York state law, so they – as well as the special officers – carry handcuffs, make arrests and use deadly force, if necessary, to perform their jobs.

Safety agents are hired and trained by the police department; special officers work for the Health and Hospital Corporation, as well as six mayoral agencies including the Department of Homeless Services, the Human Resources Administration and the Administration of Children’s Services.

During Mayor de Blasio’s campaign for Mayor he promised to address this issue.
While the city’s law depart confirms that it is evaluating the case, the DOE refused to comment at this time and the city’s lawyers are currently in the courts trying to delay this case while de Blasio finishes his budget negotiations with city workers.

One reason why de Blasio might want a delay would be that if the lawsuit wins, de Blasio will have to budget up to $35 million dollars more per year just to bring this one group of workers up to pay equity– and there are millions of similar pay discrepancies around the country and the world, especially when the criteria is that the work must be the same in skills and qualifications (comparable worth)but not necessarily the same exact job. To rectify Abramson’s pay discrepancy, on the other hand, will only cost the New York Times $100,000 a year plus back pay and perhaps similar adjustments for the small percentage of workers in the rarified 1%). If the safety agents win, it will, bring hundreds, perhaps thousands of women workers out of poverty.If all workers who were underpaid in comparable jobs it would increase wages as a whole by 13.5%. So the stakes are pretty high.

One area where progress in raising women’s wages is being made is in the fast food industry where 2/3 of the workers are women, many with children, many making minimum wage. Beginning in November 2012, a series of almost spontaneous one day strikes began culminating on May 15, 2014 in simultaneous strikes in 158 cities and solidarity actions in 93 international cities across 36 countries, demanding that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour. This past week 101 workers got arrested outside the McDonald’s shareholders meeting. This vibrant movement has recently been supported by the SEIU Union.

A number of cities and states have already responded and raised their minimum wages (Hawaii, Sante Fe, Minnesota plus at least 12 others)and it looks like other states will follow. President Obama now supports a $10.10 federal minimum wage. It is interesting, however, that this struggle has not been based specifically on gender pay inequity but raising workers as a whole out of poverty.

What Do We Need to Do to End Sex Discrimination in the Workplace?

According to the Equal Pay Act of 1963: Read the rest of this entry →

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Dark Green by Northsylvania

2:39 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The purpose of the Dark Mountain project is to collect the work of like minded artists, poets, and essayists to generate new myths.

During a rant about the latest Tory scheme of putting a price on the world and everything in it, another Kossack, James Wells, pointed me toward works by Paul Kingsnorth and, by extension, other Dark Mountain Project participants. He and his followers believe, given runaway consumerist capitalism, burgeoning population growth, and negligence by governmental authorities, that it may futile to participate in the environmental movement as it stands. On the whole, I disagree, but can understand their frustration and, having read their manifesto and the first of their published books, will continue to read subsequent volumes. The conversations between those who believe they have an existential obligation to continue the fight despite the possibility of failure, and those who feel that it is time to prepare for the worst, are conversations worth having.

“You look at every trend that environmentalists like me have been trying to stop for 50 years, and every single thing had gotten worse. And I thought: I can’t do this anymore. I can’t sit here saying: ‘Yes, comrades, we must act! We only need one more push, and we’ll save the world!’ I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it! So what do I do?”

Paul Kingsnorth

The quote above is from a recent New York Times article referred to by Wells in reply to a comment I made about the recent governmental push toward generating an environmental marketplace in the UK, something I had read about both in George Monbiot’s articles in the Guardian, and more explicitly through a revolted Facebook friend who is involved in the department overseeing it. This scheme proposes to offset environmental damage done by development in one place by modifying habitat in others. Using a hypothetical example: Lord Browne’s company wants to cut down ten acres of old growth woodland in Somerset for the purpose of oil exploration, and pay the Duke of Norfolk a to offset the damage by planting ten acres of trees on his estate. Monbiot points out that commodifying nature in an “ecosystem market” has its dangers:

All those messy, subjective matters, the motivating forces of democracy, will be resolved in a column of figures. Governments won’t need to regulate; the market will make the decisions that politicians have ducked. But trade is a fickle master, and unresponsive to anyone except those with the money. The costing and sale of nature represents another transfer of power to corporations and the very rich.

Monbiot often writes about the finer points of neoliberal capitalism and its environment. As someone who regards the natural world as something that has value in and of itself, aside from the uses to which we put it, I agree that “natural capital” is an oxymoron, and appreciate that Monbiot is advising his readers of how this will affect the countryside. However, current politics in the UK sometimes makes those of us who fight against the privatization of everything, from the postal service to disability evaluations and child protection, more than a little frustrated. Direct action against fracking has had some success here, but much of our environmental movement has devolved into arguments over what does and does not constitute sustainable development, while badgers are gassed in their dens in a mistaken attempt to halt bovine tuberculosis. Some environmental activists, such as Paul Kingsnorth have decided to take another tack. His position is that climate change is inevitable and environmental movements, such as Bill McKibben’s 350.org, give their supporters a false sense of control and blind them to the inevitable.

They’re saying, ‘If we take these actions, we will be able to achieve this goal.’ And if you can’t, and you know that, then you’re lying to people. And those people . . . they’re going to feel despair.

Recent news about the imminent collapse of the West Antarctic ice shelf, which will still come about, even if carbon emissions stopped tomorrow, seems to bear out his position. He violently disagrees with ecopragmatists such as Whole Earth Catalogue founder Stewart Brand, who advocates the use of nuclear power, GM foods, and intense urbanization to ensure the continuance of civilization. Kingsnorth even criticises large windfarms and solar arrays as being part of a “Faustian bargain” to subdue what is left of the natural world to our purposes.

So what kind of action would Kingsnorth advise? Ultimately, he believes that we should consider the root cause of our dilemma: the stories we tell ourselves about the society in which we live. We should begin to “uncivilise” ourselves by refusing to participate in the processes of Western civilization, something he sees as inherently unstable, as it was built on a myth of eternal progress. The purpose of the Dark Mountain project is to collect the work of like minded artists, poets, and essayists to generate new myths. In the Dark Mountain manifesto, he states:

Hubris has been introduced to Nemesis. Now a familiar human story is being played out. It is the story of an empire corroding from within. It is the story of a people who believed, for a long time, that their actions did not have consequences. It is the story of how that people will cope with the crumbling of their own myth. It is our story.

“Uncivilisation” begins with the admission that we have set ourselves apart from nature when we should think of ourselves as a part of nature. As a species we have been responsible for extinctions that possibly go as far back as the large Pleistocene mammals, and are in the process of obliterating everything from elephants to bees. By attempting to bend nature to our will through increasing applications of technology, we deny our nature as one animal among many. Kingsnorth believes that where politics and activism has failed, artists and writers must step in to provide better narratives than the one of unlimited progress,

To ‘unhumanise’ our views a little, and become confident / As the rock and ocean that we were made from.’ This is not a rejection of our humanity — it is an affirmation of the wonder of what it means to be truly human. It is to accept the world for what it is and to make our home here, rather than dreaming of relocating to the stars, or existing in a Man-forged bubble and pretending to ourselves that there is nothing outside it to which we have any connection at all.

Other activists, like Naomi Klein see a troubling abdication of moral responsibility in the Dark Mountain project. Klein says, “We have to be honest about what we can do. We have to keep the possibility of failure in our minds. But we don’t have to accept failure. There are degrees of how bad this thing can get. Literally, there are degrees.”

George Monbiot, one of Kingsnorth’s oldest friends is even more forceful. In their open correspondence, printed in the Guardian, Monbiot paints an even bleaker scenario, if possible, making the points that humans are much more resilient and, if history is the judge, civilisation’s collapse inevitably lead to mass starvation, authoritarian political systems, and violence. Whatever remains of the natural world that survives would be severely diminished and unlivable for a large proportion of humanity.

This is why, despite everything, I fight on. I am not fighting to sustain economic growth. I am fighting to prevent both initial collapse and the repeated catastrophe that follows. However faint the hopes of engineering a soft landing – an ordered and structured downsizing of the global economy – might be, we must keep this possibility alive. Perhaps we are both in denial: I, because I think the fight is still worth having; you, because you think it isn’t.

The background of Monbiot and Kingsnorth are surprisingly similar. Both led privileged early lives, were educated at private schools and attended Oxford. However, both have taken their responsibility as part of the Western elite seriously. They were active in anti-globalist and environmental movements, and occasionally have put themselves in personal danger on account of it.

Most of us have never been in this position, and while many of us are concerned about subjects such as carbon levels, fracking, and extinction of ever-greater proportion of our biosphere. Many of us correctly point out that unhindered Capitalism and consumerist culture is the toxic system that encourages profits over what remains of the wondrous planet we have inherited. However, we have not examined in any detail what the global ramifications of taking sides in this argument might be, or what ethical duty we might have to those for whom this is more than an intellectual exercise.