Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Brittany "Bree" Newsome's heroic stand for humanity

We are reprinting this interview with Brittany “Bree” Newsome that was published at Blue Nation Review. It is a powerful statement from an powerful and beautiful human being. In all honesty it is difficult for me to write I am so moved emotionally by it. It reaches out to us with a lifeline that we must all grasp.  Thank you Brittany "Bree "Newsome and those who are with you for fighting for us all. Now we must beware those, not so much our enemies but hose who pose as our friends who will do their utmost to coopt a historic moment in history. Facts For Working People Admin.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Over the weekend, a young freedom fighter and community organizer mounted an awe-inspiring campaign to bring down the Confederate battle flag. Brittany “Bree” Newsome, in a courageous act of civil disobedience, scaled a metal pole using a climbing harness, to remove the flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol. Her long dread locks danced in the wind as she descended to the ground while quoting scripture. She refused law enforcement commands to end her mission and was immediately arrested along with ally James Ian Tyson, who is also from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Bree Newsome arrest feature
Earlier this week, social justice activist and progressive blogger Shaun King offered a “bounty” on the flag and offered to pay any necessary bail bond fees. Newsome declined the cash reward, asking that all proceeds go to funds supporting victims of the Charleston church massacre. Social media users raised more than $75,000 to fund legal expenses. South Carolina House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, a renowned defense attorney, has agreed to represent Newsome and Tyson as they face criminal charges.

Newsome released the following statement exclusively to Blue Nation Review:

Now is the time for true courage.

I realized that now is the time for true courage the morning after the Charleston Massacre shook me to the core of my being. I couldn’t sleep. I sat awake in the dead of night. All the ghosts of the past seemed to be rising.

Not long ago, I had watched the beginning of Selma, the reenactment of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and had shuddered at the horrors of history.

But this was neither a scene from a movie nor was it the past. A white man had just entered a black church and massacred people as they prayed. He had assassinated a civil rights leader. This was not a page in a textbook I was reading nor an inscription on a monument I was visiting.

This was now.
This was real.
This was—this is—still happening.

I began my activism by participating in the Moral Monday movement, fighting to restore voting rights in North Carolina after the Supreme Court struck down key protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

I traveled down to Florida where the Dream Defenders were demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, who reminded me of a modern-day Emmett Till.

I marched with the Ohio Students Association as they demanded justice for victims of police brutality.

I watched in horror as black Americans were tear-gassed in their own neighborhoods in Ferguson, MO. “Reminds me of the Klan,” my grandmother said as we watched the news together. As a young black girl in South Carolina, she had witnessed the Klan drag her neighbor from his house and brutally beat him because he was a black physician who had treated a white woman.

I visited with black residents of West Baltimore, MD who, under curfew, had to present work papers to police to enter and exit their own neighborhood. “These are my freedom papers to show the slave catchers,” my friend said with a wry smile.

And now, in the past 6 days, I’ve seen arson attacks against 5 black churches in the South, including in Charlotte, NC where I organize alongside other community members striving to create greater self-sufficiency and political empowerment in low-income neighborhoods.

For far too long, white supremacy has dominated the politics of America resulting in the creation of racist laws and cultural practices designed to subjugate non-whites. And the emblem of the confederacy, the stars and bars, in all its manifestations, has long been the most recognizable banner of this political ideology. It’s the banner of racial intimidation and fear whose popularity experiences an uptick whenever black Americans appear to be making gains economically and politically in this country.

It’s a reminder how, for centuries, the oppressive status quo has been undergirded by white supremacist violence with the tacit approval of too many political leaders.

The night of the Charleston Massacre, I had a crisis of faith. The people who gathered for Bible study in Emmanuel AME Church that night—Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson and Rev. Clementa Pinckney (rest in peace)—were only doing what Christians are called to do when anyone knocks on the door of the church: invite them into fellowship and worship.

The day after the massacre I was asked what the next step was and I said I didn’t know. We’ve been here before and here we are again: black people slain simply for being black; an attack on the black church as a place of spiritual refuge and community organization.

I refuse to be ruled by fear. How can America be free and be ruled by fear? How can anyone be?
So, earlier this week I gathered with a small group of concerned citizens, both black and white, who represented various walks of life, spiritual beliefs, gender identities and sexual orientations. Like millions of others in America and around the world, including South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and President Barack Obama, we felt (and still feel) that the confederate battle flag in South Carolina, hung in 1962 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, must come down. (Of course, we are not the first to demand the flag’s removal. Civil rights groups in South Carolina and nationwide have been calling for the flag’s removal since the moment it was raised, and I acknowledge their efforts in working to remove the flag over the years via the legislative process.)

We discussed it and decided to remove the flag immediately, both as an act of civil disobedience and as a demonstration of the power people have when we work together. Achieving this would require many roles, including someone who must volunteer to scale the pole and remove the flag. It was decided that this role should go to a black woman and that a white man should be the one to help her over the fence as a sign that our alliance transcended both racial and gender divides. We made this decision because for us, this is not simply about a flag, but rather it is about abolishing the spirit of hatred and oppression in all its forms.

I removed the flag not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally in 2015, including the ongoing ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic. I did it in solidarity with the South African students who toppled a statue of the white supremacist, colonialist Cecil Rhodes. I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free.

To all those who might label me an “outside agitator,” I say to you that humanitarianism has no borders. I am a global citizen. My prayers are with the poor, the afflicted and the oppressed everywhere in the world, as Christ instructs. If this act of disobedience can also serve as a symbol to other peoples’ struggles against oppression or as a symbol of victory over fear and hate, then I know all the more that I did the right thing.

Even if there were borders to my empathy, those borders would most certainly extend into South Carolina. Several of my African ancestors entered this continent through the slave market in Charleston. Their unpaid toil brought wealth to America via Carolina plantations. I am descended from those who survived racial oppression as they built this nation: My 4th great grandfather, who stood on an auction block in South Carolina refusing to be sold without his wife and newborn baby; that newborn baby, my 3rd great grandmother, enslaved for 27 years on a plantation in Rembert, SC where she prayed daily for her children to see freedom; her husband, my 3rd great grandfather, an enslaved plowboy on the same plantation who founded a church on the eve of the Civil War that stands to this day; their son, my great-great grandfather, the one they called “Free Baby” because he was their first child born free, all in South Carolina.

You see, I know my history and my heritage. The Confederacy is neither the only legacy of the south nor an admirable one. The southern heritage I embrace is the legacy of a people unbowed by racial oppression. It includes towering figures of the Civil Rights Movement like Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers and Ella Baker. It includes the many people who rarely make the history books but without whom there is no movement. It includes pillars of the community like Rev. Clementa Pinckney and Emmanuel AME Church.

The history of the South is also in many ways complex and full of inconvenient truths. But in order to move into the future we must reckon with the past. That’s why I commend people like Sen. Paul Thurmond for having the courage to speak truth in this moment.

Words cannot express how deeply touched I am to see how yesterday’s action inspired so many. The artwork, poems, music and memes are simply beautiful! I am also deeply grateful to those who have generously donated to the defense fund established in my name and to those who have offered to cover my legal expenses.

As you are admiring my courage in that moment, please remember that this is not, never has been and never should be just about one woman. This action required collective courage just as this movement requires collective courage. Not everyone who participated in the strategizing for this non-violent direct action volunteered to have their names in the news so I will respect their privacy. Nonetheless, I’m honored to be counted among the many freedom fighters, both living and dead.

I see no greater moral cause than liberation, equality and justice f­­or all God’s people. What better reason to risk your own freedom than to fight for the freedom of others? That’s the moral courage demonstrated yesterday by James Ian Tyson who helped me across the fence and stood guard as I climbed. History will rightly remember him alongside the many white allies who, over the centuries, have risked their own safety in defense of black life and in the name of racial equality.

While I remain highly critical of the nature of policing itself in the United States, both the police and the jailhouse personnel I encountered on Saturday were nothing short of professional in their interactions with me. I know there was some concern from supporters on the outside that I might be harmed while in police custody, but that was not the case.

It is important to remember that our struggle doesn’t end when the flag comes down. The Confederacy is a southern thing, but white supremacy is not. Our generation has taken up the banner to fight battles many thought were won long ago. We must fight with all vigor now so that our grandchildren aren’t still fighting these battles in another 50 years. Black Lives Matter. This is non-negotiable.

I encourage everyone to understand the history, recognize the problems of the present and take action to show the world that the status quo is not acceptable. The last few days have confirmed to me that people understand the importance of action and are ready to take such action. Whether the topic is trending nationally or it’s an issue affecting our local communities, those of us who are conscious must do what is right in this moment. And we must do it without fear. New eras require new models of leadership. This is a multi-leader movement. I believe that. I stand by that. I am because we are. I am one of many.

This moment is a call to action for us all. All honor and praise to God.
#TakeItDown #BlackLivesMatter #FreeBree

Monday, June 29, 2015

Rethinking economics: value, irrationality and debt

This is a really interesting report from Marxist economist, Michael Roberts.  In my personal view, Roberts writes about economics in a way that can keep the attention of interested workers and anyone else who gets no relief from dry mainstream economics.  Part of that is due to Marx or course but messages are not always delivered in a way the intended reader can read them. Roberts is due credit for that.  Richard Mellor.

Rethinking economics: value, irrationality and debt

by Michael Roberts

I had to cut short my attendance at this year’s Rethinking Economics conference in London (http://www.rethinkingweekend.org/).  That was because of the surprise developments in Greece which required my attention under the instructions of the God Mammon.

So I was deprived the opportunity of attending a number of presentations and seminars.  Here is the agenda of the two-day conference
Also, here are my previous posts on last year’s London and New York conferences.

Rethinking Economics is an international organisation of academics and graduate students in economics seeking to develop an alternative and pluralist economics discipline beyond the stifling orthodoxy of mainstream neoclassical theory that dominates nearly all economics departments in universities and colleges.

This year’s looked well attended to me.  The opening contribution was by France Coppola, an economist from the financial sector who regularly blogs at http://coppolacomment.blogspot.co.uk/
Coppola treated us to a short lecture on value theory.  She criticised Adam Smith’s distinction between use value and exchange value from his famous example of water having great use value but no exchange value and diamonds having low use value but high exchange value.  She pointed out that the use value of water is much lower in Scotland which is abundant with water than in the Sahara where water is scarce.  Thus the degree of scarcity will affect the level of use value and also the exchange value, as the cost of water has been rising faster than the value of gold in recent years.
Coppola sought to expose Adam Smith’s value theory in this way and thus presumably pose more heterodox alternatives.  The problem with this is that scarcity is not Adam Smith’s value theory.

Smith held to a labour theory of value, as did all the classical economists.  The diamond-water example is, in a way, exceptional to the classical or Marxist approach to value, namely that, under capitalism and market forces, the value of something depends ultimately on the labour time expended to produce it.  It was the neoclassical counter-revolution in economics that turned this objective theory of value into a subjective psychological one of marginal utility (or use value) based on individual consumer ‘preferences’.  I’m not sure Coppola was helping the audience on this question with her approach to value.

Talking of the psychological approach to economic behaviour, the conference was honoured to get Daniel Kahneman, the veteran Nobel prize winning behavioural economist, to speak at a plenary session.  Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist, notable for his work on the psychology of judgement and decision-making. His empirical findings challenge the assumption of human rationality prevailing in modern economic theory. In 2015, The Economist listed him as the seventh most influential economist in the world.  Thinking, Fast and Slow is his best-selling book, which summarizes research that he conducted over decades.

Kahneman developed what he called ‘prospect theory’ in criticising the traditional utility theory of value promoted in all the mainstream economics textbooks.  Kahneman’s research has shown that people do not behave as mainstream marginal utility theory suggests: namely making ‘rational’ choices.  Instead people have ‘behavioural biases’.  For example, they are more likely to act to avert a loss rather than look to achieve a gain in any investment or spending decision.  In other words, people have higher utility in avoiding losing than in winning; there is not equal utility, as marginalist theory assumes.

Kahneman argues that there is “pervasive optimistic bias” in individuals.  They have an irrational or unwarranted optimism.  This leads people to take on risky projects without considering the ultimate costs – again against rational choice assumed by mainstream theory.  In an echo of the famous saying by George W Bush’s neo-con defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, Kahneman reckons that people usually just make choices on what they know (known knowns), sometimes even ‘known unknowns’, but never consider unknown phenomena, ‘unknown unknowns’, like a financial crash.  People do not consider the role of chance and falsely assume that a future event will mirror a past event.

Kahneman’s work certainly exposes the unrealistic assumptions of marginal utility theory, the bedrock of mainstream economics.  But it offers as an alternative, really a theory of chaos, that we can know nothing and predict nothing.  This was a ready excuse used by the bankers and monetary policy officials to explain the global financial crash in 2008. The official leaders of capitalism and the banking ‘community’ then fell back on the argument of Nassim Taleb, an American financial analyst, that the crisis was a ‘black swan’ – something that could not have been expected or even known until it was, and then with devastating consequences: an ‘unknown unknown’.

Before Europeans ‘discovered’ Australia, it was thought that all swans were white. But the discovery in the 18th century that there were black swans in Australia dispelled that notion.  Taleb argues that many events are like that. It is assumed that something just cannot happen: it is ruled out. But Taleb says, even though the chance is small, the very unlikely can happen and when it does it will have a big impact.  The global credit crunch (and the ensuing economic crisis) has been suggested as an example of the Black Swan theory.

From a Marxist dialectical point of view, the Black Swan theory has some attraction. For example, revolution is a rare event in history. So rare that many (mainly apologists of the existing order) would rule it out as impossible.  But it can and does happen, as we know. And its impact, when it does, is profound. In that sense, revolution is a Black Swan event. But where Marxists would disagree with Taleb (and Kahneman?) is that he argues that chance is what rules history. Randomness without cause is not how to view the world. This is far too one-sided and undialectical. Sure, chance plays a role in history, but only in the context of necessity.

The credit crunch and the current economic slump could have been triggered by some unpredictable event like the collapse of some financial institution or the loss of bets on bond markets by a ‘rogue trader’ in a French bank. And the oil price explosion may have been the product of the ‘arbitrary’ decision of President Bush to attack Iraq.  But Marxists would argue that those things happened because the laws of motion of capitalism were being played out towards a crisis. Similarly, the recent spout of natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes, flooding etc are not an act of God.  Global warming is man-made.  The current economic crisis was no chance event that nobody could have predicted.

Kahneman’s work leads to that of behavioural economists like Nobel prize winners, Robert Shiller and George Akerlof.  This school argues that changes in a capitalist economy can be best explained by changes in the unpredictable behaviour of consumers and investors.  This is the inherent flaw in a modern economy: uncertainty and psychology.  It’s not the drive for profit versus social need, but the psychological perceptions of individuals. Thus the US home price collapse came about because consumers have a bias towards precaution and savings as debt mounted – just like that.
Shiller argues that investors and economic agents are so irrational that speculation, ‘herding’ and uncertainty can lead to instability and economic crisis. He wrote a book with George Akerlof, called Animal Spirits, the Keynesian term for investment motivations.  Akerlof is married to Janet Yellen, the successor to Ben Bernanke as head of the US Federal Reserve (see my posts

What worries me with the ‘irrational exuberance’ theory of crises is it leaves economics in a psychological purgatory, with no scientific analysis and predictive power.  Also, it leads to a utopian view of how to fix crises.  Shiller says markets can get out of line and then cause busts.  This is due to the irrational behaviour of human beings, not to the drive for profits by private capital.  The answer is to change people’s behaviour; in particular, big multinational companies and banks need to have ‘social purpose’ and not just want to increase profits.  That is really like asking a lion if he would keep his claws in while stroking the lamb (see my recent post on Inclusive capitalism, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/lady-rothschild-thomas-piketty-and-inclusive-capitalism/).

In contrast, in another keynote session, Will we crash again?, Professor Steve Keen, now head of Kingston University economics, presented an objective and empirically testable theory of crises based on the excessive growth of private sector debt.  Keen is noted for his strong post-Keynesian critique of mainstream marginalist equilibrium economics in his excellent book, Debunking Economics and also for being one of the few economists to predict the 2008 crash (I would claim to be another – but that is another long story!).

Keen went through the conditions that led to the current crisis and showed that the conventional wisdom got the crisis back to front – in effect, they blamed the symptom for causing the disease. The real cause – the bursting of a private debt bubble – still hasn’t been addressed and lies in waiting ready to cause the next crisis in the next 2-5 years. To escape, economists need to embrace unorthodox thinking and so must policymakers, but the odds are that they will not.
I have written on Keen’s views in several places on my blog.  See

Keen’s focus on the growth of private sector debt as a key trigger of financial crashes (following the work of Hyman Minsky), is very relevant.  Take the new evidence going back to 1870 on where the dangerous concoction of excessive debt and asset price bubbles can lead (http://conference.nber.org/confer/2015/EASE15/Jorda_Schularick_Taylor.pdf).

However, both the Keen-Minsky debt school and the behaviourist ‘animal spirits’ school have one thing in common.  They see the flaws of capitalism in the financial sector only. In contrast, Marx posits the ultimate cause of capitalist crises in the capitalist production process, specifically in production for profit.  That does not mean the financial sector and, in particular, the size and movement of credit does not play any role in capitalist crises.  On the contrary, the growth of credit and fictitious capital (as Marx called speculative investment in stocks, bonds and other forms of money assets) picks up precisely in order to compensate for the downward pressure on profitability in the accumulation of real capital.

And that’s the point. Capitalism only grows if profitability is rising.  In the US, with profitability declining after 2005, the huge expansion of credit (or what Marx called fictitious capital) could not be sustained because it was not bringing enough profit from the real economy. Eventually, the housing and financial sectors (the most unproductive parts of capitalist investment) stopped booming and reversed.

Rethinking Economics is a very good development, opening the doors to more heterodox thinking in academic economics.  But all the conferences that I have attended have been dominated by the views of orthodox Keynesians (Robert Skidelsky was there this year) or post-Keynesians (Keen, Ann Pettifor etc).  The views of Marxist economics were notable by their absence.

Charlie Daniels has other options. He can influence people.

It less about what this means to you Charlie than what it means to others
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I don’t know too much about Charlie Daniels, but I do like his music. I know he’s from the South and proud of it.   Mr. Daniels has weighed in on the controversy around the Confederate Flag, the Southern Cross) in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on a black church in Charleston South Carolina that killed nine people.

I think Mr. Daniels makes some important points in his column and would like to offer my own thoughts on it. I think he is speaking from his heart and being completely honest when he writes, “The Confederate battle flag was a sign of defiance, a sign of pride, a declaration of a geographical area that you were proud to be from. That’s all it is to me and all it has ever been to me.”  (My added emphasis). But he is not thinking about this in depth.

This controversy is not about what the flag means to Charlie Daniels and perhaps many working class people from the South whose ancestors fled poverty and oppression in Europe. It's about a bankrupt racist, terrorist regime. The Irish, Scots, Germans that came and settled there were more likely escaping poverty themselves, driven from their lands that they loved. The Southern plantation owners needed labor and that labor came from both Africa and Europe and the chief industry was agriculture, producing commodities like cotton, sugar and tobacco.

Ultimately, the wealth of the planter class rested primarily on the backs of chattel slavery, and the chattel slavery of people with black skin, people of African descent. In this system, a human being with black or dark skin was owned in total and received no wages for their labor power. The Confederacy fought to maintain this system. And we must not forget that Abraham Lincoln had no interest in freeing the slaves in states that rejected secession. In his inaugural Address in 1861 he assured the Southern Slave owners that he had no intention of interfering with their right to own slaves, “I have neither the power nor the desire to do so” he assured them.* The issue for him was secession, and maintaining the Union. This was a struggle between two ruling classes atop two different systems of production, the Industrial capitalists of the North freed from the restraints as former colonists, and the Slave owners of the South. It was the war to unify the nation state which is an aspect of all emerging capitalist nations.

Many northern capitalists saw that they could not compete with a system that paid its workers no wages and many workers couldn’t either.  In the North, workers were free in the sense that they could sell their labor power to the owners of capitalists as technically they owned it, they were free. The southern black worker didn’t even own their own labor power. 

There were rebellions in early US history where the poor and oppressed of all races and backgrounds united against their exploitation. This was a huge threat to the planter class. So, in order to maintain this system and undermine opposition to it, the Southern ruling class, Europeans with white skin, conferred on all other white people, similar privileges that their power and position as a ruling class gave them.  They created this idea that there is a white race. No person of color could testify against a white man for example. The British had similar laws in countries they colonized like Ireland and China.

If a white man raped a female slave, even the poorest of poor whites and there were many poor whites, it was not a crime like a felony for example, but a “mere trespass on a master’s property” The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in 1851 that the killing of a “negro” was also not a felony but damaging an owner’s property for which they should receive compensation. ** If a Southerner, accompanied by a slave he owned traveled to a Northern state where slavery was illegal he demanded the right to do so as no person should have his property confiscated by another state. This is states’ rights expressed. This is the system that the forces symbolized by the Confederate Flag fought a war for.  For more information about these events also check out, The Developing Conjuncture on Jeffrey B Perry's website.

So despite the privileges with regard to the black population that the white ruling class had conferred on all white people, not all white skinned Europeans were the same with regard to social status. The term “White Trash” most likely originated among the white elite who wanted to make sure they weren’t associated with the poor whites, and became fashionable among some sections of the black population able to look down on people who were somewhat worse off than them. But even to this section of the white population, having white skin gave them rights above the most prestigious black member of a community.

Mr Daniels, like many writers have in defense of the flag, is basically saying that it is part of his Southern heritage.  I am not familiar with Mr. Daniel’s class background, I assume he’s not from one of those ancestral Southern families that owned plantations. But I would argue it is not a part of a Southern working class person’s heritage and he should reject it for what it is, a symbol of slavery, class oppression, white supremacy and violence. Had the system that this symbol represents won the Civil War, white workers would have been denied democratic rights, trade unions, suffrage etc.

Having fond memories and close ties for places we grew up, is not the same as worshiping a national heritage that also has extremely oppressive, racist and violent aspects to it. I don't worship British colonialism. I have to admit that I didn’t separate these different histories adequately growing up.  I was, as are most of us, somewhat conditioned by nationalism. Even though I was raised as a Catholic and am of Irish ancestry, I never felt Irish in any way and although going to Catholic schools where many a lay Irish teacher as well as nuns taught, I don’t recall the history of the British occupation of Ireland being described in depth. Being culturally English I could not see the vicious role of English/British capitalism there, nor in the colonies that followed, my nationalist sentiment wouldn’t allow it; I had to break from this national identity linked with British capitalism. The idea that a system based on class exploitation and the nation in which it operates is “one nation undivided” is a con game.

I have strong feelings about the place where I grew up. I love the beauty of the English village that has changed little in 1000 years despite being one of the millions of people who couldn’t afford to live in one.  I miss the pub life, the social institution that was in many small towns and villages the center of social life when I was young. I love London, that great old city where the Romans first erected a bridge over the Thames more than 2000 years ago.  I love its cosmopolitan character and that some 50% of its residents are foreign born, I’m proud of that not afraid of it. I am grateful to my Indian friends here in the US who suffered such nasty racial prejudice when they first came to England’s shores and who are now my link to back home. They have helped liberate me to an extent. I have no fondness and I won't defend the way British society treated the Irish,  Indians and the immigrants that came from other colonial possessions of British capitalism.

As for the Queen and her offspring, they can go get a job.  I had a natural dislike of the rural landowners and remnants of aristocratic rule and didn’t worship the entrepreneur or shipping magnate as someone whose position I should strive for, even those of us with limited class consciousness knew well enough that they weren’t our friends. I am proud of the miners that fought that pig Thatcher. And I am proud that I once belonged to an organization that contributed to her downfall. This is my history.
I came to appreciate and love the history of my own class and reject the “official” history of those whose ancestors sent children and whole families in to the belly of the earth to dig coal and built financial empires through plunder and violence; people who were “English” like me; people with white skin. Queen Victoria was made Empress of India by the British parliament, unfortunately the Indian people had no say in that.  When I visited Iraq as a young man in the early 1970’s I made it clear to the Iraq’s I met that I may look like those who came and occupied their lands, I drink tea like the Queen and speak the same language, (with a different class accent) but the similarity ends there, they are not my people. I can speak of the beauty of England and what Britain means to me without identifying with the sons and daughters of Harrow or Eton who are more often the face of a nation like Cheney, Bush, Obama or Clinton are here---representatives of the 1%.  The British working class has, like the American, the Irish or the workers of any state, a rich, vibrant history.

So Mr. Daniels can have strong feelings for his Southern home, the land and environment that nurtured him. But he should reject the heritage and culture of the class that ruled it and continues to do so. And he should recognize that due to being offered certain privileges as white skinned people, the Southern white worker has played the most reactionary role. The Christianity practiced there as well as the role of trade union leaders in the US contributed to this reactionary nature.  

The other side of it that we are all products of our time and we could all be said to be guilty of apathy in the face of injustice. The US capitalist class and its government is the most violent and destabilizing force on earth. Its actions are the source of anti-American feeling. It has killed millions of people throughout the Middle East and at least three million in Vietnam, a people (the list is long) a population on which it sprayed the poisonous substance Dioxin in the form of Agent Orange. Who knows who they drugged, hooded, and sent to Guantanamo? Americans en mass distrust their government. Yet so many of us go about our business day to day fearful to question in case we are forced to engage in the struggle to change things. Or with some, blinded by religious fervor, the chief component of uncritical thinking. 

People fear the costs, job losses, isolation, slander.  I’m not making excuses for apathy that might exist now, nor for white silence in the South, but the price for whites standing in unity with blacks against the slaveocracy and the Jim Crow terrorism that followed Reconstruction  was high as Lerone Bennett points out in his book, The Shaping of Black America:

“The whole system of separation and subordination rested on official state terror. The exigencies of the situation required men to kill some white people to keep them white and to kill many blacks to keep them black.  In the North and South, men and women were maimed, tortured, and murdered in a comprehensive campaign of mass conditioning. The severed heads of black and white rebels were impaled on poles along the road as warnings to black people and white people, and opponents of the status quo were starved to death in chains and roasted slowly over open fires.  Some rebels were branded others were castrated. The exemplary cruelty, which was carried out as a deliberate process of mass education, was an inherent part of the new system.” CH. 3 P74

This is the Southern heritage the flag represents.  John Brown, although not a Southerner, is the heritage we should all be proud of. The right side won the Civil War.

I also sympathize strongly with Mr. Daniels’ criticism of these corporations who have now come out against the flag. The power behind them cares nothing about black or white workers and their traditions, their motivation is purely profits; it's a business decision. Does Mr. Daniels realize that the same motivation drive the US wars in the Middle East and its support for the Apartheid Zionist regime.

Mr. Daniels also spoke of the nasty way that southerners are portrayed in the mass media and US society as a whole. I agree with this criticism and condemn it. He writes that the “South was looked upon by what seemed to be a majority of the Northern States as an inbred, backward, uneducated, slow-talking and slower-thinking people, with low morals and a propensity for incest.”

This is how the English ruling class characterized the Irish and their own working class as well. It is not the Southern aristocratic ruling class that is portrayed this way, it is workers and the poor. Things can be said and jokes can be told about southern white workers and poor people in the mass media that would cause a national furor if they were said about Jews or blacks. I met a guy recently and found out he was from the South. I couldn’t tell and asked him where that lovely accent was. He told me that he got rid of it when he got to California because people assumed he was a racist and stupid.  That’s oppression.

However, I dismiss Mr. Daniel’s references to Satan and God and the implication that Roof’s action was in some way caused by the balance of power between these two dueling forces.  And the championing of good Christian Southern folk doesn’t hold much water either as the white skinned European Christian American population were anything but an ally of their black Christian “brothers” during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. Many of them, most perhaps, were on the side of those who supported separatism and the white skinned privilege conferred on them by the Southern white ruling class.  This evangelical Christian mythology is one of the fundamental obstacles to understanding the world as it really is.

I would ask Charlie Daniels that he should include in his love of his Southern Heritage the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and his Southern black brothers and sisters heroic centuries old struggle against racial oppression and violence that the Confederate Flag represents. It helped to liberate those with white faces also.

And finally he writes, The bottom line is that the flag in question represents one thing to some people and another thing to others.”

It does indeed, and Charlie has to make a choice; with which “others” he stands?

* Quoted in British Labor and the American Civil War, p 25 by Eric Foner

** Theodore Allen The Invention of the White Race pages 46 and 47.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Greece: Syriza, the Troika and the ironies

by Michael Roberts

The ‘impossible triangle’ for the Syriza government was 1) reversing austerity 2) staying the Eurozone; and 3) Syriza staying in power (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/syriza-the-economists-and-the-impossible-triangle/). The Troika prepared to break that triangle. What the Troika wanted was a Greek government carrying out a full programme of austerity (running a government budget surplus in the middle of a depression) and ‘structural reforms’ (ending labour rights, deregulating services and finance and privatising state assets). The previous Samaras government got bailout funds in return for such ‘conditionalities’. When Syriza wanted to change those conditions, not only did the Troika not concede, it actually tried to impose even harsher ones on Syriza.

This is partly because the Greek economy and government revenues have deteriorated during the five-month bailout extension. But it is also because the Troika wants to break Syriza and end a government pledged to oppose fiscal austerity and neo-liberal reforms. This is to ‘encourage’ the others.

The most forceful exponents of applying these even harsher measures include the IMF (which wants its money back); the German finance minister, Schauble, some small Eurozone states which are poorer than even Greece; and conservative governments in Portugal, Ireland and Spain which have imposed severe austerity on their electorates and now face anti-austerity movements at home. All these forces outweighed any forces for compromise that came from the French, the Italians and the European Commission.

And remember the cruel irony is that all these tortuous negotiations were designed not to provide help to the Greek people, but simply to release funds so that the IMF and the ECB would be repaid without any default. Over 90% of all the loans made by the Troika in the last five years have merely been siphoned back to Greek government creditors without touching the sides of the Greek economy – see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/greece-third-world-aid-and-debt/.
And these creditors were mainly French and German banks and hedge funds who got the value of their speculative purchases of Greek government bonds repaid with only a small ‘haircut’ in 2012. After that, the Eurozone, the IMF took on the debt while the Greek pension funds were stripped of their reserves.

The Syriza government went very far in dropping all its commitments which originally were: cancelling the debt, then halving the debt, reversing austerity, opposing privatisations etc. Eventually, to get a deal, the Syriza government even proposed a tax increase to annual incomes above $33,000 (thus suggesting that individuals in that income bracket rank among the wealthy). Basic food items and services were to carry a 23% VAT. The special VAT rate on Greek islands, which is so crucial for the tourist sector of the economy, was also to be removed. The early retirement age was to be increased as of the start of 2016 and a benefit for low-income pensioners was to be gradually substituted, beginning in 2018.

But on 25 June, the Christine Lagarde/Wolfgang Schäuble duo (IMF chief and German finance minister) wanted the benefit for low-income pensioners to be completely eliminated by 2017. If this proposal for overhauling the nation’s pension system were to be accepted by the Greek government, it would mean that a person who today receives a monthly pension for the amount of, say, 500 euros ($560) – close to 50% of Greek pensioners receive pensions below the official poverty line – would be deprived of nearly 200 euros ($223). This was one step too far for Tsipras and the Syriza leadership.

To understand why is to hear from Greeks themselves in various media reports. Here are the reactions gleaned from the media of Greeks living in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city.

Michalis Nastos, 54, runs a clothing stall selling €10 jeans, €6 shirts and an array of cheap summer dresses, has seen his profits fall by more than 50% after years of crisis, unemployment and tax hikes. Nastos said his main fear was the proposed rise in VAT — an indirect sales tax that would push prices up and indiscriminately affect all shoppers, most of whom are already struggling with the effects of previous tax hikes. “Of course I’m against VAT rises, it’s already very high, it will have a knock-on effect. It’s the little details that will really affect people. The price of bread would go up — that’s important because people in Greece still eat a lot of bread, so you could see the price of a sesame-seed loaf rise from say 50 cents to 70 cents, that would really have an impact. Packaging costs will rise, energy, basics like pasta. Low-income people won’t be able to afford to buy and more and more people won’t be able to make it.”

Michalis Hadji-Athanasiadis, 84, a former police officer who had retired aged 50, said his pension had shrunk from €1,600 a month to €1,000 a month, and his extra benefits had been cut. But his pension was still far higher than the shrinking salary of his 52-year-old daughter who was a high-school teacher and who, like her brother and his wife, still lived with their parents to make ends meet. He said: “People are hungry. For five months it seems there has been no progress and business is down everywhere, a lot of shops have closed. Income is down, with VAT going up everything you need to buy becomes so much more expensive.”

Near the market, one woman in her 50s, who said her main income came from selling black market Balkan cigarettes, described how customers used to buy five or six packets but were now only buying one or two. “It feels like life is over,” she said. “We can barely manage to feed ourselves.” Her adult children, who had lost their jobs as shop-assistants during the recession both lived with her. She adds: “It feels like they’re going after the little guy, all the high-income people got away with it and got their money out of the country.”

The next irony
was that the IMF knows that Greece can never repay a €300bn debt equivalent to 180% of GDP and rising. Greece asked for ‘debt relief’ in return for agreeing to more austerity. And it asked for a long-term package. The Troika refused. It refused to consider debt relief and only offered ‘bailout’ funds for another five months in dribs and drabs, thus keeping Greece in the grip of depression and poverty.

So we have a referendum. Greeks will be asked to vote on a complicated set of proposals put forward by the Troika. The question put is whether they will accept the Troika package or not. If they vote YES, then presumably the Syriza government will return to Brussels saying that they accept any terms offered. If the Greeks say NO, then the Greeks face the prospect of no more funding to pay their government debts and the cutting off of credit by the European Central Bank, which is currently financing the Greek banks to meet the increasing demands of depositors withdrawing their cash by the billions.
Greek bank deposits
The government will have to impose capital controls to stop the flight of money (most of the rich and companies have already taken theirs already); it will possibly have to issue IOUs to pay its government workers and pensioners. These ‘euro IOUs’ will quickly devalue, as ‘real’ euros become scarce.

There are two more ironies here
. The first is that if the Greeks vote yes to the Troika package, there will be no package to agree to. The current bailout programme ends on 30 June. After that, a completely new package will have to be negotiated and the Troika is talking about the impossibility of working with Syriza. They are looking to remove Syriza from power so they can negotiate with an amenable government.

The second is that if the Greeks vote no and the Greek economy is then cut off from euro credit by the ECB and Greece defaults on all its debts, there is no actual procedure for removing a member state from the Eurozone. Under the rules, a member state must ask to leave; it cannot be ejected. This is clearly uncharted waters for Merkel, Hollande and the Euro leaders.

The criticism of the pro-Troika parties in Greece was that Tsipras is using the referendum to avoid taking the decision himself. He is hiding behind the electorate. There is some truth in this but it is not the whole truth because Syriza will campaign for a no vote.

But what if it gets it? Surely, the government must move to end this tortuous mess. It must refuse to recognise the ‘odious’ Troika debt.  It must impose capital controls; it must nationalise the Greek banks; and bring the commanding heights of the economy under the control of labour. The Greek people can start to turn round this depressed economy. But the Greeks cannot do this alone; it requires the combined efforts of European labour to break the grip of capitalist forces on economic policy and investment.

In another post, I shall try and analyse the state of the Greek economy and what could be done to turn it around within a plan for Europe.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Not such a smooth ride home: for some.

SF Bay Area's light rail system
Cynthia shared her experience during her commute yesterday on FB, and said we could share it here. It seems a democratic collective voice doesn't carry much weight these days.

Riding home on BART yesterday in the early afternoon before rush hour, was a sleepy, calm, uncrowded ride. The train stopped at Lake Merit and 4 BART police stormed into our car. They demanded to know if there was any trouble on our train.

The few of us on the train all piped up, "NO!" One of them then awoke a peaceable sleeping, likely homeless, man by roughly shaking him and yelling "It's the police!" in his face. The startled man looked TERRIFIED. Another cop demanded from the rest of us whether the sleeping man was causing trouble. We all said no. They demanded of the man where he was going and told him to get off the train. When he said a San Francisco station, they made a circle around him as he got himself shakily up and walked out. Why 4 armed police felt entitled to bully a sleeping man, I have no idea.

They left the car and then came back in and demanded of all of us whether anyone was starting fights on our car. We all yelled, "No!" They left again. They then returned to our car and demanded that the only dark black person - a young woman in her 20s - come with them off the train. She asked why; they did not answer.

They escorted her off the train and one officer returned to our car, demanding to know whether she was starting fights. We all yelled back, "NO!!!!" A few minutes passed and the young woman returned, sat in her seat and started to cry, head down, mortified. The police then left and the train started. Wtf?

BARTing while Black or poor.....

Friday, June 26, 2015

Lady Rothschild, Thomas Piketty and inclusive capitalism

Lady Rothschild (left) at her English estate
by Michael Roberts

A curious conference took place in London today. It was called Inclusive Capitalism, the brain-child of Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Chief Executive Officer, E.L. Rothschild, the exclusive London investment company with investments in media, asset management, energy, consumer goods, telecommunications, agriculture and real estate worldwide. http://www.inc-cap.com/

Lady Rothschild has been promoting Inclusive Capitalism through a series of conferences in which the great and the good present speeches to assembled groups of “world’s most influential asset owners, asset managers and corporate CEOs” in order to persuade them that capitalism must go “beyond financial performance only, in an effort to enhance the value of environmental, human, ethical and social capital”.

The London conference was ‘graced’ with the presence of Bill Clinton; Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England; Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church of England; and, to cap it all, Prince Charles of the British monarchy. These eminences were out to tell the world that capitalism is a great and good thing and can be made even better if we can reduce inequality and poverty, end global warming and wars, and operate in a moral way.

Such an ‘inclusive capitalism’ is, of course, an oxymoron, just as previous talk of ‘responsible capitalism’ is (see my posts, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/ed-miliband-and-responsible-capitalism/
and https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/irresponsible-capitalism/.

Lady Rothschild argues that “Capitalism emphasises the importance of the other forms of capital too – most particularly human, social and natural capital. This reflects the inter-dependencies and relationships both inside and outside the firm that enable it to operate and create profit. Inclusive Capitalism holds that by taking a broader view of the firm – its purpose and its stakeholders – it is more likely to prosper over the long term. But this is only possible if investors extend their investment time horizons, overcoming the myopia of short-term financial metrics.”

Lady Rothschild was quick to tell the conference that Inclusive Capitalism would also include the interest of the ordinary workers that the assembled CEOs in the City of London Mansion House employ. “The imbalance of capital and labour” must be acted upon. How was not clear.

There a serious blast of irony here, when, as Prince Charles opened the conference, the US Economic Policy Institute announced a study that showed CEO pay at US’s largest companies was up 54% since recovery began in 2009. While America’s CEOs have seen their compensation soar in the past six years, the average annual earnings of employees haven’t budged. CEOs at the 350 largest companies in the country pocketed an average of $16.3m in compensation each last year. That’s up 3.9% from 2013, and a whopping gain of 54.3% since the recovery began in 2009.  On the other hand, the average annual earnings of employees was only $53,200. And in 2009, when the recovery began? Well, that was $53,200, too. In other words, while the CEOs have seen their compensation soar by 54%, the typical worker’s pay hasn’t budged.

Right now, the average CEO compensation package is 303 times the size of the average earnings of their employees. In 1978, when the idea of giving a CEO the majority of his compensation in the form of stock was almost non-existent, that CEO earned about 30 times what his average employee did. By 1989, when the idea of stock-based compensation was gaining traction (and activist investors and corporate raiders were taking aim at corporate managers they considered fat, lazy and unmotivated to increase returns for shareholders), the figure was closing in on 60. By 2000, getting a significant portion (or most) of one’s compensation in stock, option grants or deferred grants of equity was standard, and the gap was 376, according to the EPI.

The more affluent you are, the more likely you are to own stocks – and to have participated in the post-2009 stock market rally, and to have become wealthier from your investments, even if your salary was stagnant. Studies have shown that these phenomena have resulted in the top 1% getting richer, and doing so at the expense of the rest of us.  Prince Charles and others who addressed the 0.1% in the audience said nothing about this.

In another coincidence, the Financial Times published an interview with Thomas Piketty, the rock-star economist, whose book, Capital in the 21st century, exposed the rising inequality of wealth and incomes in modern post-war economies (see Unpicking Piketty – SASE). Piketty has done great work in exposing these inequalities, but in a sense he is also goes no further than Lady Rothschild and Prince Charles in arguing that capitalism must sort itself out. As Piketty put it in the interview: “I believe in capitalism, private property, the market” — but “how can we tackle inequality?” http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7ca6cfc2-1b39-11e5-a130-2e7db721f996.html

Piketty’s answer is a global wealth tax which he admits is a “utopian” dream. So he says a confiscatory tax rate of more than 80 per cent on earnings exceeding $1m would work. In fact, he continues, such a rate was in place for five decades before the presidency of Ronald Reagan, and would curb exuberant executive pay without hurting productivity. “It did not kill US capitalism then — productivity grew the fastest during that time,” he notes. “This idea, according to which no one will accept to work hard for less than $10m per year . . .  It’s OK to pay someone 10, 20 times the average worker’s salary but do you really need to pay them 100 or 200 times to get their arses in gear?”

Lady Rothschild said that Inclusive Capitalism “is a journey not a destination – a set of evolving practices not an end point. It holds that with properly structured incentives, meaningful stakeholder engagement, supportive governments and effective business leadership, firms can generate broad and sustainable prosperity in a manner that respects our communities and our environment for generations to come.”

I leave the reader to decide what that guff means. But it seems that Lady Rothschild wants to get shareholders in companies to take a stand on CEO compensation and on the ethical and environmental policies of the companies they own. But all the evidence shows that this is also utopian claptrap. Unlike the employees stuck with wages that have flat-lined, stockholders are enjoying profits from soaring stock prices. As one 2005 academic study found, investors – whose representatives on the board of directors have the final say on CEO compensation – seem to become complacent during bull markets, indifferent to how rich CEOs, too, are getting, as long as they are sharing in the riches.

And this sort of ‘financial engineering’ to boost profits while holding down wages is not productive in any way. Mark Carney spoke on behalf of the City of London at the conference. But his deputy, Andy Haldane, has shown elsewhere the unproductive nature of finance capital. Finance “could [not] be said to boost overall economic activity or productivity in the economy. They re-allocate risk in the system but do not fundamentally change its size or shape. For that reason, statisticians do not count these activities in capital markets as contributing to activity or welfare. Rightly so.” https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/the-value-of-banking-according-to-mark-carney-and-alan-greenspan/.

Both Lady Rothschild and Thomas Piketty believe in capitalism. Both reckon that capitalists can be made to or persuaded to act to reduce inequality, create a better environment and adopt moral policies in investment. Piketty wants more and higher taxes to do this; Lady Rothschild wants shareholder power. But ‘responsible’ or ‘inclusive’ capitalism won’t and can’t deliver.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Charleston: Tip of America's racist terrorist culture.

Sean O'Torain.

There is no doubt about it. The massacre in Charleston was a racist terrorist act. The murderer specifically said he was there to kill African American people, not people, but African American people. He said it himself he his actions were racist. He was also acting as a terrorist. He also stated this. He said he was there to drive African American people out of the US. That is, to terrorize African American people into leaving the USA.

This contemptible degenerate is a racist terrorist. There must be no talk about him having psychiatric problems and so on and so on. This is garbage. He is a racist terrorist and has to pay for his actions. But hateful and all as this degenerate is, the more important question is this: In what soil did this poisonous weed grow? The answer is not hard to find.  He grew in the racist terrorist culture of US capitalism. And not only in the South. But US capitalism as a whole.

For 300 years African American people were forced through terror, mass murder, lynchings, kidnappings, rape, to work for no wages. I would ask any working person who is reading this to use your imagination. Think about it. How would you feel about being forced through terror to work for nothing? Even for a single day? Anybody who does not have this at the center of their understanding of US society and US capitalism and racism is evading reality and is part of the problem.

For 300 years African Americans worked and did not get paid. Some studies estimate that African Americans are owed twenty trillion dollars in unpaid wages. Some estimates are much much more. US capitalism accumulated immense amounts of capital in this way. This capital along with the unpaid labor of the working class as a whole laid the basis for US capitalism. With this capital it stepped out on to the world and became the world's number one imperialist power. It has close to 200 military outposts around the world today and more weaponry than all the rest of the world put together and it takes military action wherever it thinks its interests are threatened and it can get away with it.

But back to the US. To hold its grip on power US capitalism has to control the working class in the US itself. I was recently talking to an African American man about how the US capitalists exploited the US working class. In an imprecise remark I said:"Its not about color you know." I meant it was about profits and making the working class as a whole accept that it did not get paid for the full value of its labor. This man turned to me and said:"Nah, its about color alright." And rubbing his forefinger and thumb together in the universal symbol for money he said: 'Green." How right this man was. And that is the soil in which the racist terrorist degenerate in Charleston grew. The racist divide and rule policies of the US capitalist class which they use to accumulate their profits.

The US capitalist class are a tiny minority in society. To rule they must divide the working class which is the huge majority. They do this first and foremost through racism, they also do it through gender, women's rights, sexism, documented or undocumented status, sexual orientation, and any other way they can stir up division. This is what is at the heart of the racist terrorist culture which was and still is at the heart of US capitalism. This divide and rule strategy pursued by the US capitalist class is what created this degenerate murderer in Charleston.

Do not be fooled by the racist terrorist capitalist politicians and mass media and bosses who are now stampeding to pretend they did not support the flag of slavery, racism and terrorism. Where were they a month or two ago? Before they got their s... together and realized that this was something very big, and could destabilize their whole divide and rule strategy, and they would have to perhaps do more than they had done in the past to calm things down.

It was in this brief few hours after the massacre that the governor of South Carolina made her speech. In this she praised the "section of the good people of South Carolina" who saw the flag of slavery and terror as one of "heritage" and she said these people and this view had to be "respected." Then the explosion of anger from South Carolina, especially African Americans, but not only African Americans, and not only in South Carolina, hit her and her class. Suddenly they were jumping ship, the racist slave terrorist flag, like there was no tomorrow. Ones that  a few weeks before had been for the flag of slavery were now suddenly against it.

"The whole thing was a mystery. It was a revelation. If only we had known." The governor was suddenly silent. Of course there are a few exceptions who have genuinely been made conscious of what is right and wrong. But let us be clear the shift that we see has been caused by the explosion of rage against the racist terrorist massacre in Charleston. And when we are thinking about this do not miss that this has affects worldwide. In every country US imperialism goes and tries with its weaponry and pious lying talk of democracy the events of Charleston and the killings of all the murdered African Americans in South Carolina will rise up before it and further discredit it. John Kerry will have a lot less authority now when he bullies and bribes his way round the world. Those he will be trying to lecture will laugh behind his back.

The African American population have responded with mass marches and talk of forgiveness. This is welcomed by the majority of the white capitalist class. Why would it not? This white capitalist class  are the perpetrators of the racist terrorist society and the racist terrorist degenerate whose name I cannot mention I am so full of rage. Of course this class are all now for forgiveness. After all, they were and are the criminals, they created the racist terrorist culture that created the racist terrorist weed. They want to be forgiven. Let me say this just to be clear. I am not for forgiveness and I am a European American of Irish background. I am not for forgiveness. But my lack of forgiveness is not confined to the racist terrorist murderer. I also do not forgive US capitalism which consciously created the US racist terrorist culture and state which produced the degenerate weed who massacred the people in Charleston. No forgiveness, the racist capitalist system and the racist capitalist class and its weeds must be pulled out by the roots.

But let me say a word to all working people. Especially to European American workers, Latino American workers, Asian American workers, Native American workers, you have a responsibility here also. Whenever racist ideology is spouted you must speak and organize against it. Whenever divide and rule is used you must speak and organize against it. Staying quiet while racism is used on the job and in the union is not acceptable. Staying quiet while African American or any section of workers are discriminated against is not acceptable. The stronger racism the weaker the working class and the stronger the capitalist class. Fleeing to the suburbs is not acceptable. Nor is repeating half assed excuses to "explain racism" or repeating the open racism of the talk show degenerate alike Limbaugh. No, all workers have to stand up here. The union leaders could have mobilized their 15 million members around their 1,000 labor councils. But what did they do? Issued a pathetic statement. The owner of one of the sports teams in the State put up $100,000 to pay for the funerals. In spite of the racism of his class and system he did more than the unions. I am ashamed of the role played by the union leaders.

The African American elites, the church leaders and politicians, are playing a dangerous game. Just when the anger and outrage is greatest they are saying forgive. This is not the time for that. This is the time to drag slavery out onto the table and force US society to discuss it and its crimes and point the finger at the class and elites who benefited from it. And to make change happen. Even though the US capitalist class fought a civil war against the slave system of the South it also gained from the wealth that was accumulated under slavery and the racist culture that it produced. And after slavery was ended it drove the African American people back into the position of cheap labor which they still hold today. And they did so with the terror and racism of the KKK and the US racist state which still exits to this day. Ferguson. Baltimore. Charleston. I could go on and on.

As every day goes by there will be more backsliding on talk about taking down the flag of slavery and terrorism. If as is likely the flags and emblems are not taken down other forces will step forward, especially the African American youth. They will say look where your talk of forgiveness and healing got us. Here they will say,  this is what is needed and they will point to the mass street fighting in the 1960's which made some small improvements. The young generation will say this is what we need again,  not talk of forgiveness. The memory of the Deacons for Defense will surface again. The memory of the Panthers. This time also the memory of what the white capitalist class did to MLK and Malcolm X will also surface. A new phase in the fight against racism has begun. For it to be successful a united working class movement to end racism and capitalism has to be built.

Project For a Working People's World

Download a pdf of this flier
Some of us around this blog have come together as part of a struggle to learn lessons from our past activity in the left and workers' movement.  Those of us that started this blog were expelled from Socialist Alternative, (then Labor Militant) in the mid nineties. Both were affiliated to the Committee For a Workers' International. While we recognize the positive aspects of the CWI we have drawn the conclusion that the left has failed in building a serious left current within the working class and is in fact isolated from the working class in the main.  In this period it is important to scrutinize our history and learn from the past.

We are committed to recognizing our own mistakes and learning from them in particular rejecting and fighting openly both Sectarianism, opportunism and ultra leftism.
We call ourselves, Project for a Working People’s World.

We believe the most important issue facing us today is helping build a mass working class movement, an alliance of any groups confronting austerity and against the offensive of the 1%. Such a movement will arise regardless as workers and youth, women and specially oppressed minorities, are forced to struggle against the system and against austerity. At some point, the 12 million workers in the trade unions will also move in to struggle. This will have a huge affect on the movement as a whole. This potentially powerful force is presently held back by the pro-business pro-austerity policies of its leadership.

It will take millions of workers internationally to throw back this offensive. The 1% will, as they always have, use sexism, racism, nationalism and religious sectarianism and other divide and rule tactics to undermine this movement.

The Project for a Working People’s World, is committed to a democratic socialist future. However, we stand for this alliance to unite on the program in the flier linked to below and based on mass direct action tactics. We do not advocate that this alliance be socialist. To do so would be to divide the movement. It would be ultra left. And we are committed to fighting ultra leftism, sectarianism and opportunism that has plagued the left and working class movement. While building the alliance we also build a socialist current within that alliance. In the last analysis the demands we fight for, the program of the alliance above, cannot be achieved under capitalism.

We are orientated to the many new groupings that are moving in to struggle. There will be many activists in these who will be looking for a way to organize, that seek to draw the lessons of the past.  The PWPW is doing this. All of us will have a struggle to adapt further, which would likely include making “principled” compromises, but we are on the way. Part of moving forward in the immediate period will be the regular, hopefully weekly/bi-weekly conference calls and also hopefully regular meetings where we have the resources.

Folks associated with the PWPW in Chicago are meeting on Sat June 27th at 3:30 at the Next Door Café

The graphic above is a jpeg image of the flier, The pdf of the flier is here: ProjectFor a Working People’s World  It gives a short explanation of who we are and our purpose, some of which I have touched on here. We recognize that while we base ourselves on certain principles, new fresh layers driven in to political action will revitalize and help those of us who have spent decades in struggle. We are in a new period.

We urge readers to download the flier and feel free to distribute it at school, workplace, union hall or on announcement boards in your local coffee shop if you frequent one.

If you agree with the general goals laid out in the flier and want to get involved with us please contact us through this blog via the e mail on the right. We are also on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/FactsForWorkingPeople and can be contacted there. The flier also has contact information on it.

In Northern California contact Richard at: aactivist@igc.org
In Chicago, Sean at: loughfinn@aol.com or Stephen at sperkins828@yahoo.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

US corporate news media We're so lucky to have it.

Breaking News
Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired.

I just tuned in to “World News Tonight” on ch 7. I am taking advantage of the ads to write this. The ads are where companies that pay for the news get to sell their wares.  I just caught the tail end of a story about two American Football players on trial for rape but the case has been thrown out because a juror lied, never told them he was a victim of sexual abuse.  The two burly guys come out of the jail with bracelets on “bibles in hand” says the newscaster. There’s to be a new trial.

 “More World News” after this, the news reporter says before the ads.  We’re back now and this World News shows me one story about a doctor who made fun of a patient and other derogatory remarks while the patient was under. Apparently the patient left a recording device on. The doc had to pay $500,000 for that.

After selling erection pills and other drugs, this one is called Tanzeum and we’re always told to talk to our doctor we’re back on the news. A doctor friend of mine once told me she got a call from a patient who had a disease she’d never hear of. The patient heard about it on TV. This is illegal in other countries.

Now we’re back and I am finding out about Whitney Houston’s daughter who is “in gods hands” apparently.  There’s one more story about whole foods but we’re heading back to the ads again as this news I am told is brought to me by Cialis which can give you quite the hard on, an erection that could last more than fours hours. I am told I must get medical help right away if that happens.

Here is the newsman again. A clip of a person at the ball game that catches a ball at a game with the ball in one hand and the baby in the other, “the bottle never left his mouth” said the newscaster.  They interviewed the parents and the staff at Wrigley Field.

Ok that’s the end of World News.

I love freedom. There’s nowhere else in the world you can hear such informative news about the world we live in. I have a friend who is going to Canada for a couple of weeks, she’ll get quite a shock finding out there is actually a different country to the north.

Wikileaks cables reveal extent of US spying on French officials

Julian Assange
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

When accusations of rape were made about Julian Assange those of us writing on this blog were not convinced that the accusations were valid. The Capitalist class were after him for revealing the atrocities carried out by US imperialism in Iraq and throughout the world. Bradley, now Chelsea Manning was found to be the source of the leak and was arrested and tortured.  Bradley Manning is serving decades in prison and another heroic figure, Edward Snowden who revealed to American citizens and the world the extent of the US spying program directed at its own citizens sought foreign exile and is presently in Russia.

Assange was given sanctuary by at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has remained for some 5 years. At the time, there were some that supported his extradition to Sweden where his alleged crimes took place. Assange always argued that he was willing to answer questions about the case but would not return to Sweden as the Swedes might pass him on to the US government. In the US there was a barrage of abuse leveled at Assange with some politicians calling "Mullah" like for his execution. Yes, some US politicians issued a Fatwah against Assange.

We had a serious discussion about our position as some groups were calling for Assange to face the music.  Some felt he should have been extradited to Sweden or the US. It was the position of this blog that under no circumstances should Assange been turned over to any capitalist court or capitalist tribunal as there was no doubt in our mind that the US bourgeois would have executed him if they could. Here is what we said with regards to this back in December 2010.
Edward Snowden

The latest cables that Wikileaks have published reveal that the US has been spying on at least the last three French presidents including listening to their phone conversations.  The revelation wasn't mentioned on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and instead tucked away in a small 4 by 2 column at the bottom of page 6.  This is why Assange, Manning and Edward Snowden are being persecuted and vilified by the mouthpieces of capitalism and why the rest of us must defend them. If you haven't seen the video that Manning and Assange enabled the rest of us to see you can watch it here.

Many people say that the news that the US has been spying on its so-called friends (In a capitalist world system there is no such thing as friendships between nations) is nothing new.  This might be true in the abstract, although I'm not so sure the extent of the spying on its own citizens didn't come as a surprise to most people, but when it is revealed in writing to be true, and against the wishes of the culprits, that is a bit of a different matter-----it become a social fact.  Besides the Wall Street Journal, my local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle doesn't mention the episode at all in its main section.  The French government, a major US ally apparently, has been called in to a special session to discuss the American government spying  on major government figures and it's not mentioned in a mass US paper.

Chelsea Manning
If it was of no significance we'd hear about it. The front page of the Chronicle today has a piece on farmers and their attempt to block water rate cuts, one on legislation to help people end their lives with doctor prescribed drugs, one on the drought and another on a legislators attempts to allow black license plates for cars from the late sixties. Enthusiasts who have the cars don't feel quite right with white license plates which are today's requirements. In the sixties they were black.

We've got important stuff to think about here in the Bay Area.

We should demand a pardon and an apology for Edward Snowden and the immediate the same for Chelsea Manning as well as her immediate release. Perhaps they could receive the Medal of Honor.  Julian Assange should be free to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in the UK immediately.

 Here are some other blog posts concerning Wikileaks and Assange.