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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Post Occupy Analysis by Diane Gee

3:55 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This essay is in part a reply to AoT’s “No, you don’t want another OWS”- I agree we don’t need another, but not entirely with the author’s reasoning why…)

People who were involved with Occupy Wall Street have an understandable emotional attachment to what they experienced within the movement. In fact, for many in this age of electronica and isolation, it was their first experience in ground level activism and social work. People cooperated, they exchanged food, medical services and felt unity. By sheer numbers, they managed to enter the concept of the one percent versus the rest of us into the National dialogue. That cannot be underrated.

In any discussion of what is next, we have to look with an unemotional, analytical eye at whether or not Occupy was or was not a success.

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AoT: “The problem is that the things that made OWS successful are exactly the things people are calling to change.”

Occupy Wall Street did come up with an official statement from its onset, a litany of valid complaints – with the disclaimer that the complaints were not all-inclusive.

What it did not do, is offer any solutions, any demands, any formula for what to prioritize and how to change it. You cannot change generic drugs, student debt and make everyone a vegan at the same time. Hell, you cannot even get people to agree on meat consumption in any group.

I will, for clarity’s sake provide the list and a comment on each, but if you are time constrained, scroll past it with the observation that not ONE of these complaints were addressed, and not ONE of things changed for the 99% in any way:

Read the rest of this entry →

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: We Aren’t Crazy. Capitalism Is. by Diane Gee

2:36 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Simple Reasons Capitalism Isn’t Your Friend

I realize our group here in the halls of orange-land are small. I think most dKos readers are truly interested in the general betterment of humankind. Most of the problem is that Capitalism has always sold itself as a merit system. Its really not. I am going to try and show you why.

First and foremost, the most basic thing Capitalism is, is an EXTRACTION SYSTEM. Buy low, sell high. Make cheap, price at the highest the “market” will bear. These are the common sense adages we have been taught since birth. How else can you make a dollar, right? Without money, how in the world would anything work; buying a place to live, food, clothing, and any amenities we enjoy for leisure time.

Yet, if you think about it – the collapse of the market, and the austerity being imposed on the people while the rich make record profits is no aberration. Its the system doing exactly what it is supposed to do. What it always does. It extracts from the bottom to fill the top. What they told you is a lie to make you work against your own interests.

John Kozy © 2010:

The Western commercial system is extractive. It exists to extract more from consumers than it supplies in products and services. Its goal is profit, and profit literally means to make more (pro-ficere). Its goal has never been to improve the human condition but to exploit it. It works like this:

Consider two water tanks, initially each partially full, one above the other. One gallon of water is dumped from the upper tank into the lower one for each two gallons extracted from the lower tank and pumped into the upper tank. Over time, the lower tank ends up empty and the upper tank ends up full. The circulation of water between the tanks ends.

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Extraction Capitalism is real, and it is you they are extracting from.

The Business Insider just reported “Profits Just Hit Another All-Time High, Wages Just Hit Another All-Time Low.

You may, or may not have seen the viral video about income inequality. People generally think they would like to make more. But somehow they have convinced us the system is fair. Worse? They have kept it where few of us have any idea what is really going on.

Think too, about this little factoid while you view the below. Koch Brothers’ Wealth Grew By $33 Billion in 3 Years As America’s Schools Report 1 Million Homeless Kids.

“In one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression, the billionaire Koch brothers who habitually rail against government’s unfair burden on the wealthy, have almost doubled their net worth to a combined $64 billion.”

How much do they really need? They could give every kid a cool Mill, and still be the fattest cats on the block. But they won’t. They are Capitalists.

Its not just “broken at the moment.” It always has been.

Some of you may remember the kinder, gentler Capitalism that Workers demanded after the 1st Depression. But it is also plain to see the cycle began anew. In history, Empires always fall because people get tired of serving Elites. And every gain made by workers has been violently opposed by the PTB – and won with the blood of the workers.

Remember too, that while “regulation” may have been highest in the 1970′s and wages the most fair, there was still a broad segment of our society that has always endured poverty. Urban blacks, Appalachian whites, recent immigrants all have had to live on the most meager of wages because in order for profits to work, somebody has to make next to nothing. Miners. Railroad builders. The people in the fields that pick your food for you. Textile workers. Sweat shops.

There has never been a time there were not slums in this country. It is NOT because some people “don’t work hard enough.” It is not because “some people are inherently less suited to succeed.”

It really is obvious that wealth begets wealth, and poverty begets poverty. The American Dream they sold you is largely myth. It is not only the lower education system being “locally tax based” thus inherently inferior in low income neighborhoods; but higher education is economically slated to be accessible only to those with high incomes, or those who borrow from those with high incomes (bankers) and are willing to enrich them even more in both interest rates paying off that loan, and as lower level lackeys working for them to pay it off. Its more. There is a class cronyism involved.

If perhaps you have ever been, or been privy to the Upper Middle Class’s affairs: Country Club meetings, high end Golf Outings, perhaps a Gallery Opening… you understand it is who you know more than what you know. Consider that there is an almost exponentially tighter cronyism in the Millionare’s club, and the Billioniare’s? You can’t get within a “billion” miles of it.

They share opportunities among themselves, like builders in the UMC share contracts among themselves. No matter how good a architect or builder your low income cousin is? He will never get the city contract to create the new stadium unless he knows someone. Classes really help keep the next layer down, which serves the top just dandy.

This brings up a sub-point to this section. In the US the white middle to lower middle class uses the same cronyism to exclude people of color, except hiring them for the very lowest wage jobs. For extraction capitalism to work? Racism (and sexism) is part and parcel of the mechanics of it.

We have always had a caste system here, the dots are as just as indelible, but painted with the supposedly invisible ink of racism and classism. The land of opportunity keeps opportunities rare for the poor.

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The Myth of Repression.

The myth says we have the “greatest system on Earth” and “no other system can work!” We hear it all the time: Look at how repressive Russia was, how evil China is, how it brings dictators and loss of personal freedom. Those were never truly non-capitalist states, they just became state capitalists with different elites. I’ll let the scholars argue that one. This is just you and I here, regular people, considering the sanity of thinking Capitalism sucks.

I’m not going to bore you with why I think they failed. I’ll just plant one idea. If I started a company in Michigan to give away free electricity, how long do you think I would last before somehow my company imploded by outright sabotage, bad press, failed inspections via payola, if not assassination attempts on me? Nothing happens in a vacuum – and to a whole world of Elites living large? There was nothing more dangerous than the idea of sharing the wealth. They were up against that.

Now, instead? Think of the worst human rights violators in recent history. For me, Saudis come to mind. Women are stoned for being raped. The poor have their hands cut off for stealing a loaf of bread. That place is as Capitalist as they come. The rich sell the oil and live in Palaces, the poor starve.

Pinochet who killed and tortured bazillions of his own? Not only a Capitalist, but OUR Capitalist!

I’m sure if you think about it – you can think of many more.

You really cannot have a Dictator without Capitalism – because it needs an untouchable Elite with the military might to keep people from rising against it. If people are free enough to control their own destinies, they would never vote for their own oppression.

(until here and now….)

Nothing Else Can WORK!

I know, for most of you, hearing the wisdom of dead guys from a time that is nothing like what we live in now makes your eyes roll back in your head. I get it. I’ve been reading some Marx, and if nothing else he was a dry and pedantic fucker who always took a thousand words to say what could be said in few. Yet, for his time, he was brilliant and comprehensive.

Without getting all economic professor and mathy? Its pretty simple. I figure we ourselves not only create ALL wealth, we ARE wealth. Or value, or both. You get what I mean, even as an average Joe. They haven’t got shit without us.

If you light your grill with a matchstick? Hours of work went into making it, and chances are only a couple people are getting rich off of it. But matchsticks don’t grow on trees, they are made from them. Someone cut the wood, someone else milled it down, someone trucked the raw materials, someone ground the toxic chemicals for the burn tip, someone ran the machine to dip them in, someone boxed it and someone shipped them out.

A lot of hours in that puppy, which lasts only seconds. POOF! Matches are cheap, but trust me, even with mechanization, all kind of hands are on that match before you touch it. And the companies that make them make a good profit, or they no longer would.

Now the CEO of that company probably takes in 500k a year. He didn’t invent it. He didn’t design the machines. He doesn’t run the machines. He never even touches them. All he does is find ways to pay less to make the matches, and make more off of selling them. He is rewarded solely for screwing the people who make them, and the consumers into paying more than they are worth. He doesn’t “work.” He is paid for being a predator. You see, there are only 2 materials more or less (simplifying for example) so there is little budge room on that – the money is made on the fact matches don’t exist without human labor. There is no product without us; hence we are really the real producer of all wealth. All of it. We just don’t get to keep it.

So, the “greatest system on Earth” is one in which we work our asses off to get a few guys rich, while begging to be paid enough to live on while creating the products that make them rich? It doesn’t reward by merit and hard work. Really. It rewards whoever is the biggest greedhead.

Ponder it for a second: If every time you had another couple over for dinner, they raced to get the biggest steak, power-slammed your beer, ate all the dessert before your kids could even have a tiny slice… I guarantee you would not invite the assholes over again. Yet this is who we willingly serve with our work. Greedheads. Dig?

But competition is healthy!

Ahhh, the John Wayne theory of rugged individualism and the hardy pioneer. They competed, the Indians died, and they “deserve” our respect for becoming ranchers and farmers. Cue the cattle drive rushing to be the 1st to get your cattle to market! Lets be faster, tougher, smarter, work harder! Which all sounds fine and dandy until you are hungry and reaching for that biscuit you cooked, and some overstuffed idiot snatches it quicker than you, and you go hungry. That is what competition is, what Capitalism does.

Actually, deep down, you know this is bullshit. Sharing is good. You learned it in kindergarten. Thats why we donate to charities. But wouldn’t it be nice to eliminate poverty instead? We can’t get there by making more greedheads, that is, lifting the world into our aggressive form of industrial competition. To have winners, someone HAS to lose.

Here’s a thought. Maybe work isn’t the sainted ethic you think it is. Maybe we could work way less and no one would go hungry. Maybe all this work and consume, make crappy products that wear out so you have to buy more, and work to have the money to buy more is illusion – simply to keep the money pouring upward into that tower of which we spoke above.

We are in an age of extreme pollution, overpopulation and quickly dwindling resources. The Capitalist model would rather have your local grocery chain throw out half their produce every week than lower prices. Heck, some places have made it illegal to collect rainwater, and certainly Monsanto wants it to be impossible to grow your own food. Remember Victory Gardens? They were before my time – but now you couldn’t plant one to feed your kids without paying someone royalties. Does this seem sane to you?

We have the technology to produce lasting products, to create free renewable energy. We have the capacity to not only grow, but deliver food to every person on Earth. Picture buying a car or refrigerator than never broke. A battery that would last forever. Less landfills, no payments. There is a reason we cannot have these things. There is no profit for the very few in it.

There is a reason in the US, we send jobs to places like Bangledesh and let them toil for pennies in factories that kill them. More profit for the few.

Here’s a question. When garments were made in the US by Unions, they were still cheaper than they are now made for pennies. Where did the “value” of their abuse go? To you? Hell no. To the rich, and we enabled it on their blood.

Socialism means Too Much Government

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The government you have now? Or the government by and for the People? I see nothing wrong with using our collective pool of money (and that is what taxes are supposed to be) to serve ourselves the things we could not have alone.

No one but the insane would want more of their already dwindling money to pay for taxes, right? Yet, it is true that places with the highest taxes have the highest happiness ratings. They never worry about illness – they have free healthcare. They get free education. They have no homelessness, while we now have more empty foreclosed upon homes than homeless here.

Right now, nearly every Social agreement we have has been PRIVATIZED – and we are doing worse than ever. How is that “market” working out for you? Not only that? The profits – are theirs alone (private gains) while we bail out their losses! (publicize loss) What a rip off!

You are not getting your money’s worth now for a reason. The rich not only aren’t paying taxes, they are taking the lion’s share of our collective bank account out in subsidies and overblown contracts, all abetted by the Politicians they have purchased.

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This what Capitalism does. It funnels to the top, then uses that money and power to codify laws to keep the power and money flowing to the top.

Socialism is DEMOCRATIC. It does not allow for a system where private, self-interested people can accrue that much power. Now, it doesn’t make you nationalize your small flower shop. It does create laws where you have to pay fairly and caps profits to a reasonable level. It does nationalize the things that meet our basic needs: BANKING, (so it cannot be predatory) utilities, education, health and housing.

To ever get to a more Communist world, Socialism is a necessary step. People need to feel safe enough and become educated enough to create their own systems of cooperative effort. I know, I know, the Capitalists are cringing and the pure Marxists are annoyed by that. This is my opinion. While the idea of people taking over factories is good, and owning their labor and sharing the fruits of what they create is grand – Marx was working toward Industrialization as a goal. We need to become post-industrial. Once we are, there will be less need for a Centralized Goverment.

Once we have a system that is more green, based on stability and sustainability, owning production would be a natural result. Instead of “making a profit” for town A and competing for the market with town B – the goal should be providing said product A for their area and receiving product B in return for our own.

Still? Less is more. There is no reason in the world that people need to work more than 20 hours a week – either in a field of their “calling” or as rotating voluntary service to keep infrastructure running. While no model will ever cover the shoe fetish of some, nor the video-game addiction of others? These extras could be “paid for” with labor.

I realize this is simplistic – but my goal here is to open eyes to the possibilities of another way, not argue to dust the minutia of implementing it.

But what of the lazy leeches?

“I want to do nothing when I grow up!” ~ said no child ever.

Prior to the industrial age, people had what I lovingly dub “callings.” Healing, mechanical, building, music, art, a love of animals, or growing things. I don’t think anyone ever wanted to be a miner. But think – the need to dig in the earth for fossil fuels would be gone, and the value of rocks for pretty things – gold, diamonds, etc – all symbols of classology – would become far less valuable. In a better world, who are you and what have you done to improve the world would be the bastion of esteem over what trinkets you own.

Sure, there will always be less desirable jobs. Garbage removal. Sewer maintenance. Cleaning. Those should be either paid a premium, or be mandatory volunteer for a short period in everyone’s life to access the benefits of society. If you think that is ridiculous, the model of restaurant management makes sure that to be hired to that position, you do every job in the place for weeks before you get to manage it. You have to have hands on empathy and the ability to provide the service to run a restaurant. Mostly done in case someone calls in? It has created respect for the people they manage.

If you are using the public education system to be a brain surgeon? Wonderful. It won’t kill you to have to serve as janitorial staff for a semester part time while starting in your field. See how that works? Everyone begins to have mutual respect for the shoes of others.

Most people who do not work would prefer to. They are just ill-fitted or ill-suited for the dehumanizing, unappreciated work they do. Marx called this alienation. I call it round peg in square hole syndrome. I would love to teach teenagers science, but never had the money for college. I love working as a gardener, though it doesn’t pay well. I have enjoyed working in inventory management and tool repair for the big three. I am now too old and sore, but rocked out waitressing. I hate cubicles and offices – I am entirely unsuited for sedentary work. I prefer to have to move around during my day. I used to love to work on cars, and can fix nearly everything.

Yet? I cannot find work that will provide for my son and I in any of those fields. Capitalism made them all too low paying. Again, it’s what it does.

Instead, most of us are related to producing or selling crap we don’t need to people who can’t afford it, who in turn have to do the same. All to never really be SECURE in our homes or food or illness – so some few can be Bazillionaires.

A safety net for the infirm or those with special needs is a wonderful thing. Is a person born with disabilities less worthy of food than you?

Its Capitalism that is crazy, not we, the Anti-Capitalists.

Consider two water tanks, if you will, sharing an endless cycle of refreshing one another.

Thats what we are about, really.

Its not scary.

Its not rocket science.

Its not un-doable, though those in the top tank would love you to think so.

Its having security, self-worth, cooperation, more free time and a greener planet.

Its about never, ever stamping someone into poverty to get ahead.

We have to end this insane extraction system and unify to “all of us”.

Join the Anti-Capitalist Group.

Here be Sanity!

Working Class Self-Activity III: Walmart Workers Rising & the Prospects for Radical Politics

3:56 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Walmart Strike in Seattle, November 15, 2012.

Written by Le Gauchiste

“The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself.”

- Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, 1879

On November 6, an electoral coalition made up mostly of working class Americans prevented the election victory of a reactionary party and slate of candidates whose policies would have wreaked untold misery on working people, including the poor, and wrecked the macro-economy as well. But the working class’s real political move this November has occurred not in voting booths but in Walmart parking lots across the country, where Walmart workers protested their wages and working conditions, even as, halfway around the world in Bangladesh, more than 100 textile workers making clothing for Walmart were killed by a fire caused by unsafe working conditions.

We have global capitalism, but have we a global working class or not?

The ongoing grassroots labor activism at Walmart in the U.S. reminds us that while the election is over the class struggle is not, and that class politics moves now from the voting booth to the workplace and the streets. For any Progressive whose political imagination extends beyond the narrow ideological confines of today’s two-party discourse, that is good news indeed. For those of us who consider ourselves socialists or radicals, it is essential, because those confines have rendered electoral politics basically irrelevant to advancing working class interests, as opposed merely to defending them.

Part I: What’s Going On?

Starting in June, Walmart workers have unleashed an unprecedented wave of labor unrest that has shaken the retail behemoth and its global supply chain. The ongoing protests reached one peak on so-called “Black Friday,” when 1,000 strikes and protests were held across the country and at least 500 Walmart workers walked off their jobs, making it the largest U.S. strike in the history of Walmart.

The Black Friday walkout was organized by the “Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart” (OUR Walmart), a year-old group of Walmart employees sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW). OUR Walmart and its allies the Warehouse Workers United Union and the National Guestworker Alliance are pushing for an end to unsafe working conditions, a living wage, benefits, and an end to corporate retaliation against employees for organizing activity.

Notice what is missing: There is no demand, or even request, for the formation of a union. Whatever the current Walmart activism is, it is not a union organizing drive, at least not formally and not today. The reason for that lies in the fact that an organizing drive at Walmart at the present time would lose spectacularly, setting back labor organizing in the retail branch of the service sector of the economy by a generation.

In any union drive, there are three basic elements: the workers, the company and the law, and in the case of Walmart all three elements work against labor, at least for now: If asked today Walmart employees would vote heavily against a union; Walmart corporate is ideologically anti-union, once actually closing a store (in Quebec) after its workers voted in a union; and the law is so heavily tilted in favor of employers and against unions that formal organizing drives are virtually a thing of the past.

So OUR Walmart instead emphasizes respect for employees and the problem of wealth inequality within the Walmart company. A low-level Walmart employee averages $8 an hour and won’t get a pay raise until after 6 years of committed employment. And even then, the raise only brings the worker’s pay to $10.60 an hour or $22,048 a year, still below the national poverty line for a family of four in 2012. Low wages force many Walmart employees to rely on food stamps and other government assistance to provide for their families.

Of course, this being capitalism, this poverty is by no means shared equally across the company. In 2011 Walmart’s net income was $15.7 billion, and the net worth of the Walton family totaled $89.5 billion in 2010, as much as the bottom 41.5 percent of U.S. families combined.

Part II: What Does It Mean?

“This struggle about the legal restriction of the hours of labor raged the more fiercely since, apart from frightened avarice, it told indeed upon the great contest between the blind rule of the supply and demand laws which form the political economy of the middle class, and social production controlled by social foresight, which forms the political economy of the working class. Hence the Ten Hours’ Bill was not only a great practical success; it was the victory of a principle; it was the first time that in broad daylight the political economy of the middle class succumbed to the political economy of the working class.”

- Karl Marx, 1864

The Walmart activism, limited as it is both in word and deed, is remarkable because of the significant role–both practical and symbolic–that Walmart plays in the political economy of the 21st century U.S. Walmart’s business model, based as it is on a philosophy of intrusively authoritarian management, payment of the lowest wages possible, and intransigent hostility to unions, is the epitome of neo-liberal business theory. Based in right-to-work Arkansas, Walmart has stayed almost entirely union-free for most of its existence.

The point is that Walmart, with its global supply chain and network of stores, is today’s equivalent of U.S. Steel or General Motors–what we used to call the “commanding heights” of the capitalist system of production. Scaling those heights is the most difficult and most crucial task, for just as the successful organizing drives at GM and USS helped lead to waves of organizing of heavy industry, so too could victory at Walmart open up the service sector to unions.

The company has never before dealt with coordinated labor protest on this scale. Dan Schlademan, director of Making Change at Walmart, another organization backed by the UFCW which works closely with OUR Walmart, explains the significance.

“In the past, Wal-Mart would fire people, would threaten people … and that would be enough to stop people in their tracks. The difference now is workers are using Wal-Mart’s own tactics to challenge the company and not backing down. Really, for the first time in Wal-Mart’s history, the tools that are used to keep people silent and under control are now being used against them. That’s significant.”

“Here is what’s so significant about this: this strike was about sending a message to Walmart that these workers won’t be silenced. This wasn’t a strike to try to cripple Walmart’s operation. This wasn’t a strike to impact their Black Friday sales. This was an unfair labor practices strike to send a message to Walmart that your retaliation is going to get a response like this: it is going to get publicized, and a tool they’ve been using is going to be used against them.”

Although, as noted above, OUR Walmart isn’t pushing for union representation, Schlademan explained why OUR Walmart. “All the other things that are the heart and soul of the labor movement and of workers’ organizing are there, which is collective action, workers pulling their resources together so they have a bigger voice, and utilizing the public to educate and build power to change the company.”

Schlademan said that OUR Walmart is in it for the long haul.

“It’s gotta start somewhere. … Workers are having enough. You look at the sit-down strike, you look at the civil-rights movement, you look at the women’s rights movement, you look at anything, you look at Occupy, right? It started off with a few people sleeping in a park, and it grew,” Schlademan said. “So this is a process—people are building a movement inside of Wal-Mart, and they’re building a movement outside of Wal-Mart. What was in October was the beginning. What’s gonna happen on Black Friday will be a continuation of that … and this will just continue to build.”

The number of union-related work stoppages involving more than 1,000 workers, which reached an all-time low of just five in 2009, rose to 13 this year as of October. And unions aren’t done yet.

Nurses are striking this week at hospitals operated by Sutter Health in California; workers voted against concessions at Hostess Brands Inc., forcing the company’s hand; pilots at American Airlines are wreaking havoc on the airline’s schedule as it tries to cut pension and other benefits.

Julius Getman, a labor expert at the University of Texas, points out that labor activism tends to snowball.

“There’s a lot of agitating going on, people are unhappy. They feel that they’re not being well-treated. There is a swelling of annoyance at the rich. If there really is turmoil at Wal-Mart on Friday, it will set in motion a lot of other protests. There will be a sense of, ‘Well, they did it, why shouldn’t we?’”

Photo by OURWalmart under Creative Commons license.