White House Protest Corps


Obama celebrates “jobless recovery”.
June 21, 2010, 9:04 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/jun2010/pers-j21.shtml

The Obama administration has launched a public relations campaign entitled “summer of recovery,” kicked off by Vice President Joe Biden at the White House Thursday, followed by a presidential appearance Friday at a construction site in Columbus, Ohio.

The purpose of this public relations exercise is to mask the dismal reality of mass unemployment and protracted economic stagnation, and to justify a turn to austerity policies and budget-cutting.

The “recovery” campaign coincides with the decision of the US Senate to block the extension of unemployment benefits for millions of workers, with a faction of Senate Democrats using the claimed “recovery” to justify the termination of extended benefits.

The number of unemployed workers losing benefits because of the Senate inaction will hit 1.2 million by the end of this week. An even more dramatic consequence would be the impact on state governments if the bill is not passed by June 30, the last day of the fiscal year for most of the 50 states. As many as 900,000 state government workers could face layoff under emergency measures that would be taken as a result of failure to enact the $24 billion in aid to state-run Medicaid programs.

According to the Department of Labor, nearly 7 million workers have been unemployed for more than six months. Millions have been out of work continuously for more than two years—a phenomenon virtually without precedent in the United States since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Foreclosures threaten 5.7 million families. Credit card delinquencies have jumped by 60 percent since 2005.

Young people face a future of long-term joblessness punctuated by short periods of low-paid and insecure labor. A survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that only 24.4 of 2010 graduates had secured a job before graduation, up only slightly from the 19.7 percent for the class of 2009. More than 60 percent of college students are graduating without having received a single job offer.

In their claims of “recovery,” Obama and Biden demonstrate that they are as distant from the real conditions of life for working people as their Republican counterparts. They may mock Republican Congressman Joe Barton for his abject apology to BP, but they are no less subservient to corporate America and the profit system as a whole.

Biden cited figures showing smaller monthly job losses compared to January 2009, when he and Obama took office, and an increase in Gross Domestic Product, boasting “this growth is going to be sustained at that 3 percent-plus range for the indefinite future.” Even if this scenario were to play out—highly unlikely amidst growing signs of a renewed downturn—GDP growth of 3 percent is barely sufficient to provide jobs for new entrants to the work force. It condemns the 17 million now unemployed or underemployed to joblessness “for the indefinite future.”

The vice president boasted of the number of construction projects launched under the stimulus bill enacted by Congress 16 months ago. “Last summer, we started improving just shy of 10,000 miles of highway in this country,” he said. “This summer, we’ll start and ultimately improve 30,000 additional miles.”

This is an insignificant figure. According to a report Sunday in the New York Times, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), one of the major federal agencies created by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, built from scratch or improved 650,000 miles of road—more than 20 times the scale of the present administration’s program, which will expire this fall.

The contrast with the New Deal is even more glaring, given that the WPA and other New Deal agencies like the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Public Works Administration created jobs directly, by hiring the unemployed and the putting them to work on projects to build or maintain the public infrastructure of roads, bridges, dams, buildings and parks.

The Obama-Biden program provides money to state governments to pay private contractors, a process that is both slow and cumbersome, and ensures that the lion’s share of the federal stimulus money has gone into the coffers of private business.

Biden frankly admitted that the goal of the stimulus program was to boost business profits, declaring, “the only engine that’s going to bring us back to total health is the free enterprise system and the American—free enterprise system and the business community.”

Obama’s trip to Columbus the next day was typically perfunctory for a president who can scarcely conceal his indifference to the mass suffering generated by more than two years of economic slump. He spent a grand total of 75 minutes on the ground in Ohio, and about the same length of time traveling to and from the state aboard Air Force One.

The president then devoted his Saturday Internet and radio address to the topic of unemployment, blaming Republican opposition in the US Senate for blocking passage of an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. The bill would also have provided $24 billion in aid to state governments. “If this obstruction continues, unemployed Americans will see their benefits stop,” Obama said. “Teachers and firefighters will lose their jobs.”

Passage was blocked by procedural votes on Wednesday and Thursday, but in both cases a group of conservative Democrats joined with the unanimous Republican opposition to provide the final margin. Obama said nothing about these Democratic senators, 12 on the first vote, two on the second, who helped block the extension of unemployment benefits.

Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri who sided with the Republicans in the first procedural vote, warned that extended benefits might become a new “entitlement,” and thus cut across the administration’s proposals for “entitlement reform”—slashing Social Security and Medicare benefits to reduce the federal deficit.

The Senate did take action Friday on a six-month extension of increased reimbursements to doctors who treat Medicare payments, which had been part of the larger bill. It passed easily as a separate measure, after the White House agreed to offset the $6.4 billion cost with cuts in other programs.

The legislative maneuvers and finger-pointing between the Democrats and Republicans cannot disguise the fact that neither of the two big business parties has any solution to the social catastrophe of permanent mass unemployment. Both parties agree that the private sector is to be the only source of “job creation.” In other words, the living standards of working people are being held hostage to the profit drive of the capitalist class.

The Socialist Equality Party rejects this perspective and calls on working people and young people to fight for an emergency program to provide full employment, regardless of the profit requirements of the giant corporations and banks. We demand:

* An immediate program of public works to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure and provide jobs for every unemployed worker within six months

* Outlaw plant closures and mass layoffs

* Establish a 30-hour week at 40 hours pay

* The nationalization of the banks and major corporations, under the public ownership and democratic control of the working class

* Provide trillions of dollars to expand education, healthcare and other needed public services.

Such a program can only be carried out through the independent political mobilization of the working class, in opposition to the Democrats and Republicans, and on the basis of socialist program.

Patrick Martin

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The Eco-Socialist Alternative: Capitalist Destruction or New Civilization?
May 29, 2010, 2:00 am
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http://venezuelanalysis.com/print/5394

May 28th 2010 , by Gustavo Fernández Colón – Another Green World

The most serious aspect of the crisis facing the global capitalist system is not the bankruptcy of financial corporations, or the global economic downturn, or the discrediting of its institutions of political control. The greatest threat to the continuity of the capitalist mode of production is the environmental crisis caused by the irrational destruction of nature, to the point of jeopardizing the ability of self-regeneration of the ecosystems on which our survival depends.

For many analysts, however, a new long cycle of economic growth would be able to take off thanks to the efforts of countries like China and India, now converted into more desirable markets for transnational capital because of their abundant and “unregulated” cheap labor.

What analysts often do not reveal is that the high rate of GDP growth in China is misleading if one takes into account that the figures do not include the serious environmental and social liabilities generated by the “market socialism” adopted by this nation since 1979. Indeed, since the late nineties, “the World Bank estimated that pollution cost the country the equivalent of 8% of its annual production. That is, the enviable growth in China (…) is almost offset by hidden environmental [and social] costs, such as reduced life expectancy and declining arable land.”[1]

The economies of China and India will be forced to include in their accounting, sooner or later, the huge economic losses caused by global warming and climate disasters, depletion and water pollution, deforestation and desertification of soils, chemical pollution of food, declining wild fish stocks, the mass extinction of plant and animal species, depletion and scarcity of renewable energies, overpopulation and pollution in cities, migration and pandemics. Each and every one of these environmental liabilities must be paid, on time, for all humanity.

The invoices generated by climate change, for example, have already begun to alarm some sectors of financial capitalism, such as insurance companies. In 2000 a group of researchers led by Andrew Dlugolecki, belonging to CGMU Insurance Group (the largest insurance group in Britain), published a report according to which the property damage caused by global climate change showed a growth rate of 10% annually. If this trend continues, by the year 2065 the upward curve of losses will surpass Gross World Product growth, estimated at 3% annually. This means that the magnitude of the damage caused by the greenhouse effect that year will be identical to the volume of all the wealth produced on the planet. According Dlugolecki, long before the two lines intersect, the global economy will become bankrupt.[2]

Given this evidence, there is increasing uncertainty as to the possibility that capitalism (powered by China, the U.S., or both) will reach a new cycle of expansion similar to what occurred between 1945 and 1970. Similarly, it is absurd to think that it is feasible to transform the prevailing social relations of production and build a new society that is truly equitable, participatory, and sustainable, using the same energy patterns, technology and products developed over the past three centuries by the system of domination it aims to transform.

This apparent impasse does not mean that we are doomed to barbarism or that we reject outright the entire scientific and technological legacy of modernity. What corresponds to this dilemma is to be cautious against the risk of shipwreck, which would be any alternative socio-political project, to be led by the compulsive desire for reproduction of productive forces deployed by capitalism, without a critical assessment of its ecological, social, political and cultural effects. Do not forget that the stranglehold on political democracy and workers’ management caused by giving priority to technology and arms competition with the West was one of the fundamental causes of the collapse or involution of the most important trials of the Twentieth Century socialists.

Good Living

Against this background, it is important to examine the responses to the problem of the ecological unsustainability of “progress,” generated by left-wing political movements that have recently won power in Latin America. Beyond the philosophical, programmatic and contextual differences, a first common feature of the new popular governments has been the emphasis on the role of the state to curb social imbalances aggravated by free-market policies implemented in the nineties. In practice, this has meant a greater concern for social justice, the strengthening of government services, health, and education, emphasis on economic sovereignty, and greater cooperation and integration among the countries of the region to try to escape their historical subordination to the United States.

While recognizing the merits of this effort, we note with concern that the problem of the unsustainability of our economies is still not a priority for most governments in the new Latin American left. Categories such as “development,” “progress” and “economic growth” continue to guide the public policy objectives, which continues to be understandable given the urgency to grow our economies to distribute wealth more equitably and address problems of poverty that afflicts the vast majority of our population.

But despite the dominance of the development ideology, it is fair to say that there have been some significant achievements in the fight to get rid of the legitimating myths of capitalist modernity and lay the foundations for a truly alternative political paradigm. An example is the principle of Good Living, which underlies the constitutions of Bolivia and Ecuador. Good Living or Sumak Kawsay, in Quechua, is a concept from the worldview of the native peoples of the Andes and the Amazon, which refers to community life in harmony with nature and culture or wisdom of the ancestors. It has nothing to do with modern anxiety for “better,” nor with the ideology of unlimited growth and progress. It responds to a world view totally different from the capitalist ethic which encourages us to compete with others to produce and consume more, regardless of why our fellows have to “live evil.” As Leonardo Boff says:

“On the contrary, Good Living Ethics points toward having enough for the whole community, not just for the individual. Good Living is a holistic and integrated human being, immersed in the great earth, which also includes humans, air, water, soils, mountains, trees and animals (…) in deep communion with Mother Earth.” [3]

The Good Life is one of the most original conceptions inspiring revolutionary processes taking place in Latin America. Based on this philosophy, it is possible to characterize the fundamental force lines of the transition that will allow us to save civilization from the devastation of capitalism and contribute to the flourishing eco-socialist societies of the XXI Century.

Five Dimensions of the Transition

The first dimension of this complex transition would be the end of the cycle of non-renewable and polluting energy sources (coal, oil, gas, nuclear energy) and the beginning of the era of clean and renewable energies (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal, etc.). This includes the replacement of industrial agriculture based on monoculture, the use of pesticides, and genetically modified seeds with a new agricultural model geared toward caring for biodiversity, organic farming methods, the rescue of the knowledge and techniques of traditional farmers, and indigenous and local self-sufficiency. Also, we have to proceed to replace the individual car with non-polluting public transport to facilitate reducing the size of cities, as well as fostering a culture of recycling and frugal consumption, minimizing the weight of our “ecological footprint” on Mother Earth.

The second transition would be marked by the transition from private ownership and hierarchical and authoritarian means of production, to different forms of collective ownership and participatory management of production, distribution and services. This economic dimension of the ongoing transformation has its roots in centuries of popular struggle to end poverty and exclusion caused by the “invisible hand” of the market.

The third would be the transition from representation to participation as the guiding criterion of the political organization of society. The crisis of parties and democracy delegations noted the need to build a new institutional framework to respond to the aspirations of peoples’ permanent participation in making decisions on matters of collective interest. In this context, participatory democracy and direct democracy are the trends that emerged as alternatives to the old political order in agony on the horizon of the twenty-first century.

The fourth transition is reflected in contemporary struggles against cultural homogenization imposed by blood and fire since the fifteenth century European colonization of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. This homogenization was implemented, from the Twentieth Century on, through seductive advertising strategies developed by the mass media. Faced with this attempted annihilation of popular identities, different expressions of cultural resistance arise to combat the defects of discrimination, racism and xenophobia and promote intercultural dialogue within a framework of mutual respect for differences.

Finally, the fifth transition has to do with the end of the historical cycle of dominance of patriarchal societies and the establishment of new relations of gender equity, as evidenced by the growing role of women in the exercise of roles previously reserved for men and vindicating the civil rights of sexual identities.

In short, these five trends and others which teem in the senile womb of capitalism form the context in which ecosocialism erupts as political expression of an ethic, which is both global and local, focusing on shared responsibility to preserve the continuity of life on Earth by the selection of technological and friendly energy patterns for the health of human beings and nature. An ethics to safeguard the inalienable right of peoples to travel its own path toward the common good, in accordance with the ancient knowledge and indigenous cultural identities. An ethic that makes possible the construction of a new, fair international economic order and solidarity, where poverty, exclusion and the fratricidal war become, sooner rather than later, the remains of a historic step for mankind overcome.

Notes

[1] Johnson, Ian (1998, January 2). The cities ‘bumper’ hamper migration in China. Wall Street Journal.

[2] Climate change will bankrupt the world (2000, November 1924). The Independent. Available: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20001124/ai_n14354408?tag=untagged [1]

[3] Boff, Leonardo (2009, April 3). To live better or ‘Good Living’? Fusion Magazine. Available: http://www.revistafusion.com/20090403817/Firmas/Leonardo-Boff/ivivir-mejor-o-el-buen-vivir.htm [2]

This paper was presented to the forum, “XXI Century Eco-Socialism,” in Caracas, Venezuela, in June 2009. Gustavo Fernández Colón is a professor at the University of Carabobo, Venezuela. He can be reached at fernandezcolon@gmail.com.

Another Green World


Here’s what’s new at SocialistWorker.org…
May 28, 2010, 3:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

http://socialistworker.org
________

Alto Arizona | May 29, 2010
National Day of Action Against SB 1070

Column: Sharon Smith
LAWS THAT NEED BREAKING
There is a new civil rights movement emerging today, with the goal of preventing a return to racist tyranny–this time on the backs of Mexican immigrants.
http://socialistworker.org/2010/05/28/laws-need-breaking

Comment: Eric Ruder
THE BATTLE HEATS UP IN ARIZONA
Tens of thousands of people are making their way to Phoenix for a march to condemn the state’s racial profiling law.
http://socialistworker.org/2010/05/28/battle-heats-arizona

Interview: Joel Olson
ORGANIZING AT GROUND ZERO
An Arizona activist explains how people and organizations are coming together across the state in the fight against the anti-immigrant law SB 1070.
http://socialistworker.org/2010/05/28/organizing-at-ground-zero

Statement: Nativo López
THE DREAM ACT FRONT AND CENTER
A prominent activist considers the recent protests by undocumented students fighting for the DREAM Act–and the legislation itself.
http://socialistworker.org/2010/05/28/dream-act-front-and-center
________

You’re invited…
SOCIALISM 2010
Ideas for changing the world
http://www.socialismconference.org/

Chicago | June 17-20 | Palmer House Hilton
Oakland | July 1-4 | Oakland Marriott

These conferences will feature several meetings on the fight for immigrant rights and against Arizona SB 1070 and will bring together activists organizing on the front lines of these struggles.

Meetings include:
Arizona and the Fight for Immigrant Rights | Youths Organizing for Immigrants’ Justice | Capitalism, Borders and Migration | Here Come Los Suns: Sports and Resistance to Arizona’s SB 1070

Find out more, register today:
http://www.socialismconference.org/
________

More SocialistWorker.org coverage of Arizona SB 1070 and the struggle for immigrant rights

Editorials
THIS IS A FIGHT FOR ALL OF US
A revived immigrant rights movement has the potential to turn back Arizona’s racist law, renew the push for genuine reform and inspire other struggles.
http://socialistworker.org/2010/05/26/fight-all-us

Comment: Jesse Hagopian
ARIZONA TEACHES THE FOUR R’S
With a new law that bans ethnic studies, Arizona schools will get back to the basics–Reading, ‘Righting, ‘Rithmatic and Racism.
http://socialistworker.org/2010/05/26/arizona-teaches-the-four-rs

Comment: Elizabeth Schulte
IMMIGRATION: COUNTERING THE RIGHT’S LIES
SocialistWorker.org examines the right wing’s myths and lies about immigration–and provides the facts you need to expose them.
http://socialistworker.org/2010/05/12/countering-anti-immigrant-lies

Column: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
ARIZONA’S “JUAN CROW”
Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law will create fear and intimidation–but it is also sparking resistance in the state and beyond.
http://socialistworker.org/2010/04/30/juan-crow

Comment: Dahr Jamail
DYING IN OUR BACKYARD
Even before the latest set of anti-immigrant laws, Arizona was ground zero for the federal government’s deadly war on the undocumented.
http://socialistworker.org/2010/05/20/dying-our-backyard

Column: Dave Zirin
ANOTHER REASON TO PROTEST ARIZONA
Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill that outlaws the Tucson school district’s academically successful ethnic studies program.
http://socialistworker.org/2010/05/14/reason-to-protest-arizona
________

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The unraveling of capitalism
May 26, 2010, 7:57 pm
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The unraveling of capitalism

Workers World

Workers World

Published May 26, 2010 1:38 PM
http://www.workers.org/2010/editorials/capitalism_0603/

Capitalism just doesn’t work. A recent Pew Research Center poll illustrated this reality when the results showed that fewer and fewer people in the U.S. view capitalism in a positive light, especially among the younger generation. Consider the following facts: Workers by the tens of millions are being downsized out of their jobs or never have had a job to begin with; they cannot afford health care and nutritious food; they are losing their pensions; and they are being foreclosed and evicted out of their homes, all while global warming and pollution, as the BP oil disaster reflects, run amok.

Young people in particular are losing faith in capitalism as public high schools are being closed in alarming numbers, especially in large urban areas. College tuition is out of reach for the vast majority of poor and working-class youth.

And what are the alternatives for young people when education is not an option? The economic military draft and jail. Studies show that a growing number of U.S. states are railroading more Black and Latino/a youth to prison, especially for drug convictions, than are graduating them from state universities. In reality, a whole generation of young people is being criminalized.

And since capitalism is a worldwide system that is sustained by making profits for a small clique of multimillionaires and billionaires, it needs a well-oiled repressive apparatus to try to keep the workers and oppressed disunited and disempowered. This apparatus, also known as the state, includes the mainstream media; all branches of government including local, state and federal; the prisons, jails and courts; the Pentagon and military; and much more.

The ruling class controls these repressive institutions with bourgeois laws and funds them. It uses them as a buffer between themselves — the rich — and the masses.

The most glaring repressive institution is the police. From the first day that children go to school in the U.S., it is engrained into their psyche that the police are there to “protect and serve” the people. But in reality the police as an armed body exist to serve and defend the private property and profits of the capitalist ruling class.

Just as the U.S. military and its puppets oppress the world’s people from Iraq to Afghanistan to Somalia, the police in all their forms oppress the masses at home. For immigrant workers, particularly if they are undocumented, this repression comes in the form of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and its armed border patrols carrying out raids and terror in the Southwest and elsewhere.

Millions of youth are stopped and frisked by the cops all over the country for no other reason than for being Black or Latino/a in a poor neighborhood. In New York City alone, 55 percent of the 575,000 people stopped by the police in 2009 were Black. An estimated 25 percent of the overall New York population is Black.

Aiyana Jones, a 7-year-old African-American girl, was fatally shot by Detroit cops after they threw a grenade into her home while she was sleeping with her grandmother. Two Black high school students and sisters, DeAsia and Destiny Bronaugh, were protesting against school closings in Cleveland when they were physically attacked recently by racist police and then arrested.

Ask any striking worker trying to stop a scab from crossing the picket line which side the police are on and they will nine times out of 10 answer, not theirs.

Police may have unions but workers they are not. Workers produce a product or service that is useful and necessary for the whole of society. The police serve as an armed, repressive force above the same laws that exist to keep the workers and oppressed down.

The same Pew poll showed that more and more people are viewing socialism in a less negative way. This encouraging shift in thinking within the most powerful imperialist country bodes well for forwarding the class struggle. But thinking must turn into action and organization in the radical process of replacing capitalism and its rotten class of rich parasites, root and branch, with a socialist system that will empower the workers and meet all of the needs of the people.

Only revolutionary workers’ power can realize a new society that will provide jobs, housing, health care and education as rights and bring an end to police and state terror once and for all.


Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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Hands Off Venezuela! London discusses Venezuelan revolution.
London discusses Venezuelan revolution! Print E-mail
Written by Hands Off Venezuela
Monday, 24 May 2010 15:14
Some 50 activists participated in a very intense day of discussions during the Conference of Hands off Venezuela in London, on May 22. The main guests of the Conference were Katy Jaimes and Elías Chacón, active in the Socialist United Party (PSUV) and the PSUV youth as well as the movement of occupied factories, who had travelled from Venezuela to report on the current situation of the Bolivarian revolution.

Katy Jaimes, a delegate to both the founding congress and the recently finished extraordinary congress of the PSUV, explained how the party’s aim was to be a tool “for the workers and by the workers” in order to fight for socialism. She explained how the party had initially got more than 7 million registered members (in a country of 27 million inhabitants) and how more than 2.5 million of those were participating actively and had voted in the election of the delegates to the party’s congress.Katy Jaimes

She explained the achievements of the revolution in the fields of education, health care, the launching of the Simon Bolivar communications satellite and others, but stressed that the main conquest of the revolution was that “now we have a people which has awoken, has said enough is enough and taken its future into its own hands”. The opposition and the mass media internationally constantly attack Chavez for his role in the Bolivarian revolution, but Katy Jaimes made it clear that the revolutionary movement in Venezuela goes beyond the president and that as a matter of fact it started “in 1989 with a peoples’ uprising against the austerity package of Carlos Andres Perez”, the Caracazo. Following on from this, she reminded the audience of the austerity measures being planned by the new Conservative-Liberal government in Britain and asked them “what are you going to do about it? When are you going to start the British revolution!?”.

Elías Chacón went on to explain the situation of the workers movement, including the mood of enthusiasm of the recent congress of the National Workers’ Union (UNT) which met in December 2009 and April 2010. Elías has been involved in the movement of the occupied factories, which he explained, shows in practice that the “workers can run the factories without bosses, and even improve the quality standards of production”, giving examples from INVEVAL (valve-making factory in Miranda), INAF (plumbing parts) and others.

Chacón also explained how these factories were also facing the sabotage of the bureaucracy. In the case of INAF, for instance, president Chavez had decreed its nationalisation in a public broadcast last November, but this had not yet been implemented. He linked this to the call by president Chavez to do away with the bourgeois state which still exists in Venezuela. Finally, he also stressed that the struggle for socialism has to be international and how in this the role of the solidarity movement is crucial.

We were also pleased to have Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada speaking in this session, with a presentation dealing with the outrageous campaign of media manipulation against Chavez and the Venezuelan revolution. This included not only the open and blatant lies of Fox News and others, but also the more subtle disinformation of “respectable” outlets like BBC News, he explained.

Ambassador Samuel  MoncadaMoncada explained how the United States has a long history of intervention in Latin America and how it is still today, a threat to the Bolivarian Revolution. He went into detail about the US military presence in the region, not only in Colombia, but also in the Dutch islands of Aruba and Curaçao, just off the coast of Venezuela.

A lively question and answer session, showed the interest of the audience in the most recent developments of the revolution, including the question of the ownership of the means of production, the Bolivarian militia, etc.  The morning session finished with a unanimous vote in favour of resolutions about the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution, against the threat of US intervention and in solidarity with the struggle of the occupied factories and demanding their nationalisation.

In the afternoon Conference reopened with a report from Roberto Navarrete, producer of “Inside the Revolution”, who explained the enormous interest there is in India for the Venezuelan Revolution and the call for a V International. The conference continued with a discussion with Alan Woods, editor of www.marxist.com, about Chávez’s call for the formation of a V International. He explained the importance of such a call, “the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that the question of socialism has been put firmly on the table” and argued in favour of such an international, based, as Chavez had explained on the “struggle against capitalism, imperialism and for socialism”. Alan said that in his opinion, these were broad enough points on the basis of which revolutionaries could and should unite their efforts.  He also added that there were forces, “bureaucrats and reformists”, which wanted to prevent it “from coming into being”.

There was a lively discussion on this question, dealing with the question of whether it was possible to separate the struggle against capitalism from the struggle against imperialism, about the question of diplomatic and trade alliances of Venezuela with countries like Iran (“which is not a revolutionary regime, on the contrary, a counter-revolutionary one”, Alan explained), how would this new International look like, whether there was not a danger of it being taken over by bureaucrats from different countries rather than being a genuine revolutionary body, amongst others.

Finally a resolution welcoming Chavez’s call for the V International and instructing the HOV committee to start discussions on this question within the campaign and in the wider labour movement was passed unanimously.

Amancay Colque from the Bolivia Solidarity Campaign reported back from the Peoples’ Earth Summit in Cochabamba. She explained how Bolivian president Evo Morales had made it clear that “if capitalism lives Mother Earth dies”, linking clearly the struggle for the environment with the struggle against capitalism.

Andy Higginbottom from the Colombia Solidarity Campaign reported back from the Enlazando Alternativas counter-summit to the EU – Latin America heads of state summit in Spain which he had attended the previous weekend.  Andy stressed the role that European and particularly British multinationals play in the expoliation of third world countries, the destruction of the environment, attacks on trade union rights, etc. As a case example of this he highlighted the struggle of oil workers and the communities in Casanare, Colombia (http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk/campaigns/19-bp/490-bp-in-casanare-workers-back-mobilisation-continues).

The discussion included many issues, including solidarity with the Resistance movement against the coup in Honduras which took place a year ago. Katrina Annis and José Sagaz explained the work of the Coordinadora Latinoamericana, the coalition of solidarity campaigns and Latin American workers’ groups, which HOV is a part of.

Again, resolutions were voted on solidarity with Honduras, congratulating John McDonnell’s role in supporting Venezuela and supporting his bid for Labour Party leader, reaffirming the campaign’s work with the Coordinadora, and finally a new Steering Committee of the campaign was elected.

It was a very packed day, full of information and discussion and we would like to thank all those who participated and particularly all those who worked hard to make it happen.



Fighting the Right and Defending Immigrant Rights, Seize BP Campaign, Debt Crisis in Greece
May 20, 2010, 1:08 pm
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Fighting the Right and
Defending Immigrant Rights

Anti-Nazi Rally in Los Angeles 2
Anti-fascists counter-demonstrate against
a Nazi event in Los Angeles

Plus: Seize BP Campaign,
Debt Crisis in Greece

Friday, May 21, 7 p.m.

Justice Center
617 Florida Ave. NW Washington DC


Shaw/Howard University metro – yellow/green line

Come to hear presentations and participate in a discussion:

  • Who is behind recent right-wing demonstrations and legislation?
  • What social and class forces do they represent?
  • What can we do to organize and fight back?

Plus: Seize BP Campaign
An update on the capitalist catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and
the Seize BP campaign’s nationwide May 12 actions demanding
the seizure of BP’s assets to pay the costs of the criminal
accident on the Deepwater Horizon and to compensate the victims.

And: Debt Crisis in Greece
A discussion on the debt crisis in Greece, how Greek workers
are fighting back and why these developments are important
to workers here in the U.S.

Sponsored by the Party for Socialism and Liberation
202-234-2828 –
PSLweb.org dc@pslweb.org



Socialism or Serfdom
May 18, 2010, 3:50 am
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Socialism or Serfdom

http://salem-news.com/articles/may172010/socialism-serfdom-dj.php

Daniel Johnson Salem-News.com

The medieval serfs were powerless. The American serf has potential power through democracy. But first, the American people have to quit fighting among themselves and realize how they have been divided and conquered. Therein lies hope for the future—slim as it may be.

Truth or  Die
Benjamin Franklin

(CALGARY, Alberta) – The American people have lost it; if, indeed, they ever really had it.

What is it? It’s not something that can be readily defined but, by the end of this article, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Feudalism was “the system of political organization prevailing in Europe from the 9th to about the 15th centuries having as its basis the relation of lord to vassal…” Within that system a serf was “a person in a condition of servitude, required to render services to a lord, commonly attached to the lord’s land and transferred with it from one owner to another”.

Feudalism existed in both Russia and China basically right into the 20th century, which goes a long way toward explaining why they have had such difficulty adjusting to or adopting Western democratic styles of government.

Americans have the “freedom” to say whatever they want (First Amendment) and to run around with guns (Second Amendment) by which they have been deluded into thinking they have the greatest political system ever invented. But it’s all smoke and mirrors, making it difficult for them to see their fundamental servitude. A synonym of “serf” is slave. How many times do people refer to themselves jokingly as wage slaves? It’s a grim joke and is more true than people realize.

A job is the jugular vein of life. Cut it and life as you know it ebbs away, often never to return. Goodbye credit, goodbye house and car, goodbye future. Homelessness beckons or, if people are “fortunate”, they can move in with relatives and live in crowded homes and apartments, not significantly different than the way the Russians apparently used to live in the 1950s and 1960s and Americans laughed and believed themselves to be superior. What goes around comes around.

During the medieval feudal period, all land was owned and controlled by the nobility and commoners/vassals/serfs worked on and were attached to that land. They had no freedom of movement and virtually no rights at all vis-à-vis the land or how they made a living.

Fast forward to the 20th/21st centuries. The corporations are owned and controlled by a relative handful of people (the modern day nobility) and the workers are attached to those corporations with no freedom of movement and virtually no rights at all vis-à-vis the corporation or how they make a living. You work for company A, which is sold to company B, and you become one of the assets of the new company. You have no choice.

I’m reminded analogously of what Carl Fox (Martin Sheen) said to his son Bud (Charlie Sheen) in the original 1987 movie Wall Street. He told him he shouldn’t have gone off to be a salesman.

Bud (emphatically): “I am not a salesman, I’m an account executive!”

Carl: “You get on the phone and ask strangers for money, you’re a salesman.”

From the definition of a serf above—If you are a person in a condition of servitude, required to render services to a corporation, attached to that corporation and transferred with it from one owner to another—then you’re a serf.

The serfs of the feudalistic period were isolated and powerless. So it is with the American citizen today. They’ve fallen for, and continue to fall for, the oldest strategy in the world—divide and conquer. I laugh sardonically at the American anti-union fantasy where workers are “independent”.

One of the most prominent and influential of the capitalist economists of the twentieth century was Austrian born Friedrich von Hayek (1899-1992) who was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom from president George H. W. Bush in 1991. It was actually awarded for celebration of the corporation, not the American citizen.

In 1944, Hayek published a book titled The Road to Serfdom, which, of course, was an anti-socialist, pro-individualism, pro-business book. It was condensed by Reader’s Digest in 1945 with a press run of several million copies.

The condensed version was offered as a Book-of-the-Month selection with a press run of over 600,000 copies. Look magazine produced a picture-book version which was later made into a pamphlet and distributed by General Motors. All together, the book has sold more than two million copies.

Think South Carolina with a unionization rate of about 5%—the lowest in the country. It’s an economic fact that unionized workers make more money and have more benefits than non-unionized workers. And, of course, the anti-union people, with their lower standard of living actually believe themselves to be morally superior in some cockeyed way.

During the Revolutionary period, Benjamin Franklin wrote a cartoon titled “Join, or Die”. If the concept was good enough for the colonies, it should be good enough for the people.

It may already be too late for the American people to wake up and smell the coffee. By rejecting “socialism”—uniting and cooperating—they have opted for serfdom. The only way out is to take democracy seriously and start acting as a united people, instead of a nation of serfs.

An exercise for the reader

Here is a rough ranking of medieval feudalism

Kings

The word ‘king’ derives from the German konig, meaning the leader of the kin: the tribe. Despite the great variety of political systems in the Middle Ages, most political structures were headed by a king who ruled a kingdom. The king was technically sovereign although, in reality, the power of the king depended greatly upon his ability to assure the loyalty of his dukes. Because the feudal structure involved both giving most of the land to lower-ranking nobles and putting intermediaries between the king and the knights who actually fought, kings had direct command over neither wealth nor soldiers. They had to depend on their ability to manipulate everyone else to stay on top.

Princes

The term “prince” derives from the Latin princeps, or “first citizen”, which was one of the titles bestowed on Roman Emperors. “Prince” and “princess” are the traditional terms for the children of the king, although the term was also used for children of independent dukes. Children of lesser rulers were called “lord” or “lady”.

Dukes

The use of “duke” in England dates from 1337, and English duchies were never as large or as autonomous as those on the continent. The title was often used without accompanying actual land. A duke is referred to as “Most Noble” or “His Grace”. A variant of duke was the medieval title doge, for the ruler of independent cities such as Genoa and Venice.

Margraves

A county on the border with a particularly dangerous neighbour was referred to as a ‘march’ and its ruler as a “marquess” in English or a “marquis” in French. The most common term, however, is “margrave”, which is an anglicization of the German word markgraf. Prussia and Austria both started out as marches. The wife of a marquess is a marchioness. Marquesses are addressed in the same form as counts, as the “Marquess of Wherever”. Traditionally, a marquess had far more authority than a count, being able to collect taxes and administer justice directly over their subjects.

Counts

The word “count” comes from the Latin comes, meaning “companion”. In the Roman Empire, a count was the personal retainer of the Emperor who would be granted authority over a diocese or an important province. In the Middle Ages, such ruled areas came to be called “counties”. In Germany, a count was a graf except in certain outlying areas where another title, landgraf or landgrave was created. Counts are referred to by title and area of authority: the “Count of Toulouse” would be the authority over the “County of Toulouse”—at least in theory.

Barons

Baron is the lowest rank of landed nobility, or in England the lowest rank of peerage. The term comes from Old German baro. A baron rules prescribed lands within a county, but there is no official term for that land.

Knights

The knight was the basic fighting unit of any medieval army. A knight swore allegiance to his lord, who could be of any greater rank, and was required to serve in battle on his behalf. In general, knights were understood to be at least of sufficient means that they could provide their own horse, sword, shield and armour, although sometimes hastily recruited knights would be given supplies from the stockpiles of the lord himself. Knights might or might not own land, but in either case it was a private matter unrelated to the rank of the knight.

The range in authority, wealth and prestige of knights was astonishing. They ranged from poor “country knights” who often had to garden to provide their own food, to the almost completely autonomous knights in the southern part of the Holy Roman Empire, who essentially ruled their own tiny kingdoms. In addition, knights could belong to chivalric orders, another way to gain autonomy from the lord: the largest and most powerful orders such as the Teutonic Knights, the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitalier were sovereign entities in their own rights. Knighthood was not hereditary, but any knight could confer the honour on any other man.

Gentlemen

The main distinguishing characteristic of a gentleman was that he did not work for a wage. In other words, gentlemen were non-landed individuals without a trade or occupation but with an income. In practice, this generally meant that they owned land, but this was a private matter and not official rule or governance of that land, which would most likely be ruled by a landed noble. One could also be a gentleman by the support of a stipend from a higher-ranking noble in return for services such as being a scribe, astrologer, or someone with another sort of academic skill.

Commoners

Obviously not nobility, the commoners were the bottom of the heap in feudal society, although by far the largest group. Commoners included peasants and serfs (the farmers who tilled the lands), thieves, bandits and other criminals, and merchants, as well as most artists and craftsmen in the towns. A key indicator of commoner status was that commoners generally were forbidden to bear arms. They had essentially no rights and could be controlled by law in any way.

American Feudalism

Although the argument is by analogy, the American corporate system is laid out feudalistically. Who are the kings? You could designate the richest individuals—Bill Gates ($50 billion), Warren Buffet ($40 billion), four Waltons (about $20 billion each)— (each rounded to the nearest one hundred dollars) for example.

If we look at the Forbes 400 richest Americans (total assets of about $1.4 trillion in 2009), you could examine their relative positions and power and designate who might be the equivalent of princes and dukes.

Then, within the corporate structures they control, you could see who the barons and knights are.

And once you leave the Forbes 400 and the Fortune 500 you descend to the level of the unwashed—the Commoners. You, dear reader. To think you are anywhere else in the system is simply delusional.

But here’s the difference. The medieval serfs were powerless. The American serf has potential power through democracy. But first, the American people have to quit fighting among themselves and realize how they have been divided and conquered. Therein lies hope for the future—slim as it may be.

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Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place