Is Critical Marxism relevant?

5 Nov

Let us note that Marxism failed as a political philosophy, yet its specter lives on as a force of criticism of society. I’ve decided that Marx was wrong about certain things, but I’d have to do more research to find out about the ‘reform capitalism,’ movement. Marx arrogantly asserted, in the “manifesto,’ that all other forms of socialism would be ‘toast,’ in comparison with the Marxist version.

So.. if you still want to read my old essays, here goes:

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Marxism is principally an analysis of society. We cannot change society without first having some form of understanding of society. Hence, Marxism is a branch of sociology, as well as of history and economics.

The mass media exist to provide the populace, especially the working-class, with ‘false consciousness.’ It’s quite ingenious. The proletariat (working-class and the poor) is continually subjected to the false images of the capitalist marketplace. Purportedly this affects them, both as workers and consumers, to lust for the material objects shown on their shiny TV sets. The products used by the wealthy are shown on TV and in the movies, in the faces of the poor, who keep working harder and harder, unable to afford to buy them. If the poor steal, they wind up in prison, but if they buy these products, they avoid paying for the things they really need: food, housing, and clothing. That is ‘false consciousness’ in a nutshell. The mass media exist to keep the workers deluded; yet every day, they feel their oppression as all-too-real. This is why America’s permissive society tolerates drugs, alcohol, and vice in general. The working-class has to have an outlet. When that fails, the Establishment gives them something even worse: War.

Critical Marxism is still relevant because it reveals to us that there is a structure to society:

At the top of the heap are the owners of the means of production are: the rich, the industrialists.

The bankers and the politicians are their employees.

The police are their only real protection from a mass uprising of the working-class.

The military and the jails gobble up a significant portion of the working-class, so that the middle class can experience a little less competition from below.

Religion was developed as an idea-system, that would keep the workers from attaining a truer understanding of society. They would get their reward in some nether world.

The media spread false consciousness. The products of the capitalist marketplace are dangled before the salivating mouths of the have-nots, and this keeps them on the treadmill of hard work.

The educational system exists to keep the class-system in place. University for the well-off; vocational school for the poor.

The middle-class has emerged in postwar America, but it is being taxed heavily in order to pay for the sins of the rich and the poor alike.

Capitalism leads mankind to war after war; and who dies in these largely pointless conflicts? Mainly the children of the working-class! And who brings them these wars? The ruling class!

Marx saw societal stability differently from Adam Smith. He believed that money and industry hold the status quo in place. As long as the upper class keeps the lower class happy enough in their oppressed state, the rich will become richer and the lower class will accept their inferior position in life.

Analyze and protest capitalism!
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*Sidenote: We need a “Social democratic” alternative to Orthodox Marxism. Marxism was revised by Bernstein and others. Europe developed socialism, a better alternative to hardline Marxist-Leninism, which concentrated all power in a few hands.

America has followed a Liberal Progressive model in terms of FDR’s reforms during the “New deal,” which is precisely what Romney-Ryan were attacking.
Nov 9, 2012

Haldane on “Reformation of finance.”

4 Nov

Bank of England Executive: Occupy Movement Was ‘Right’

Arguments of anti-banking movement ‘loud and persuasive’

– Common Dreams staff
Published on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/10/30-2
http://occupywallst.org/

A senior executive at the Bank of England on Monday said the Occupy London Stock Exchange was “loud and persuasive” and helped prompt a “reformation of finance.”

Bank of England executive Andrew Haldane said Monday that Occupy London Stock Exchange protestors helped prompt a “reformation of finance. (Photo courtesy The Independent.) Andrew Haldane, executive director of financial stability for the bank, said the protestors attracted public support because “they are right,” The Independent reports.

Occupy London Stock Exchange spokesman Ronan McNern said Haldane’s comments were “definitely welcome,” but he added, “They could have done something about this a lot faster.”

While some argue that the group’s efforts have been “long on problems, short on solutions,” and others that the financial system remains “essentially unaltered … and reform has failed,” Haldane said, “I wish to argue both are wrong.”

He continued:

Occupy’s voice has been both loud and persuasive and that policymakers have listened and are acting in ways which will close those fault-lines. In fact, I want to argue that we are in the early stages of a reformation of finance, a reformation which Occupy has helped stir … You have put the arguments. You have helped win the debate. And policymakers, like me, will need your continuing support in delivering that radical change.

Barclays and Lloyds seek to change their “sales-oriented culture” and return to their Quaker roots, the BBC reports Haldane said. “There is the quiet, but unmistakable, sound of a leaf being turned. If I am right and a new leaf is being turned, then Occupy will have played a key role in this fledgling financial reformation. You have put the arguments. You have helped win the debate. And policymakers, like me, will need your continuing support in delivering that radical change.”

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essays on the sorry state of things in the USA.

23 Oct

essay #1
America: an analysis of a sick society——–

Part One

It is American bourgeois society that is responsible for war, which is caused due to the conflicts inherent within the capitalist system.

The middle class seeks to segregate itself in suburban communities from the lower classes, and is aware that it isn‘t ‘good enough‘ to become the upper class; the lower classes are trapped in their miserable, overworked lives and bear long-held resentments towards the classes above them; the upper classes are threatened by taxes and media scrutiny of ‘white collar crime‘.

*Twenty percent of the budget goes to the Department of Defense, which needs a war every few years in order to justify the expense to maintain a gigantic standing army. The money spent on the military is not returned to civilian society and is largely used to create new weapon-systems that will only be discarded and replaced continuously – or used up in ‘wars of convenience‘. Who pays? The common man and woman pays.

The rich avoid both military service and taxation, in order to prop up their style of living and bribe the congressmen who purport to represent everyone, but whose legislation is usually directed against the working classes. The only way for the working class to escape this vicious cycle is to join the very military half their taxes are paying for.

It is the very structure of society that leads to conflict after conflict with the ‘external enemy‘, in order to avoid reforming itself to deal with the structural inequities produced by Kapitalism. Television and radio exist to produce 24 hour propaganda and whip up hysteria over the supposed enemy. The continual barrage from the mass media represents a kind of brainwashing or thought-control.

The whole US system is held together with televised pablum and misinformation, corrupt government, and the police-state euphemistically called the ‘criminal justice system‘. American jails are bursting at the seams with prisoners because their low-income work does not give them opportunities to improve themselves or pay for the consumer goods they’re led to believe they need to buy. Society is being flooded with minorities who are then blamed by politicians for the problems of society; in truth, they are allowed in by a change in immigration law (1965 Immigration Act); this will help drive down wages and prevent the emergence of a unified proletariat demanding higher wages and union representation.

America is utterly riven with internal social conflicts; hence the need for an ‘external enemy’ and the continual drumbeats of war on “communism“, “terrorism“,“drugs,“ you name it — which serves as the glue that keeps society from reforming itself.

The opiate of the masses, television, exists mainly to keep people brainwashed and cow-content and afraid of the ‘criminals’ they are constantly showing on detective shows to scare the middle classes into accepting right-wing policies of ‘law and order‘; this helps maintain the status quo, keeps the police busy, and prevents the working-class from protesting. The most grotesque crimes occur thanks to society‘s sickness. The complete mockery of democratic ideals that is the existing social order cannot be criticized openly because of society‘s hatred of dissent.

Part Two

The attacks on “Nine-Eleven” proved that government gives priority to military over civilian needs. One suspects that civilian society exists largely to support the military and the State, and not the other way around. The government was unable or unwilling to protect the Pentagon and the World Trade Center despite a military budget of $665 Billion dollars.

*Twenty percent of the US budget goes to the Department of Defense. To add insult to injury, private contractors profit from no-bid contracts forged behind closed doors between senators and their old-boy network friends; and line the pockets of multimillionaire or billionaire politicians who seem very eager to send your son or daughter into harm’s way while their kids get private education and Ivy League treatment. Thus, the average US citizen must play at being the “Policeman of the World”.

Bridges collapse; the Southern border grows increasingly porous; civilian train infrastructure lags decades behind Europe’s; crime flourishes; people die from a lack of affordable health insurance — and why? Because fat, corrupt senators of both parties keep voting for military spending priorities over civilian ones.

In the absence of a threat from “communism“, a new threat called ‘terrorism’ has been manufactured, thanks to the government’s prior sponsorship of Bin Laden (Afghan resistance, 1980‘s “Mujhahadeen“). Although the government claims that the astronomical spending on military technology saves lives during wartime, the Dept. of Defense skimped on spending on helmets in 2003!

The American secondary education system compares poorly to that of many Asian and European nations and produces armies of semi-educated young people. The cost of tuition at colleges and universities continues to skyrocket out of control; Washington does little or nothing to help students pay for it because they want young people to serve in the military. This will help prevent them from thinking independently at a young age, thus leaving real education only for the well-off.

The incredible amount of money being spent on the military’s exigencies and the decline of our now crime-ridden, corrupt society are directly related. Why is US military spending five to six times that of Russia’s in the absence of a Cold War threat? That represents money that will never go into textbooks, affordable housing or other useful services. The poor continue to suffer from an absence of social services, medical insurance, and a safety net; they are being deprived of their human rights.

American workers, stripped of their union rights in order to support the profits of the business class, can barely make ends meet or see any real gains or derive any pleasure from their often low-wage, monotonous work; they are driven into debt in order to pay for consumer goods, and are forced into competition with foreigners who are willing to work for less. The stresses of modern life cause people to age prematurely and die from lack of healthy living in order to achieve the horror of waste that is the “American way of life.”

Television continues to poison the human spirit with soul-destroying, mindless drivel. News shows purport to inform society yet serve often as little more than mouthpieces of faceless corporate behemoths and political parties that serve those private, moneyed interests rather than the public good.

The gasoline crisis continues, enriching the supporters of terrorism; war and violence flourish without end; and mind-boggling levels of political corruption come to be seen as tolerable. Meanwhile, the sheep-like, cowed population refuses to protest.

The “United States” is a misnomer; the “disunited states” would be more apt. The real goals of politicians are to serve multinational corporations that don’t give a damn about communities, providing stable ‘living wage’ jobs, or supporting ‘democracy’, per se. People work fifty, sixty, eighty hours a week to afford things beyond the reach of their checkbooks. The whole ideology of American bourgeois society is fallacious; when people cease believing in it, perhaps there will be room for real ‘change’. In the interim, there will be ‘class warfare’ between the haves and the have-nots.

We are living under the dictates of a National Security State (NSC-18). The military-industrial complex and the State forged a convenient alliance during the emergency that was World War Two, which was quickly revamped for the relatively unnecessary wars of Korea and Vietnam – conflicts that were never won despite the enormous amount of blood and treasure spent on them.

In the United States, 2.3 million people languish in prisons, many for drug and property crimes. Police use illegal tactics and unnecessary force in order to obtain evidence to facilitate the ‘criminal justice system.’

Denmark, by contrast, has 4,200 people in prison; they have socialized medicine; beautiful cities; and a near absence of corruption; tolerance for other peoples’ rights; and a high quality of life marred only by high rates of taxation. All that too is beginning to change thanks to the influx of unwanted Muslim immigrants.

This is the end result of market-driven government-sponsored capitalism. Ten percent own 48 percent of the country’s wealth; that means that ninety percent are fighting over 52 percent remainder of the pie. If the pie isn’t expanding, well, you can see what the results are yourself: crime, chaos, and divided government unable to accomplish anything useful.

Part three

To add further insult to injury, anyone who is critical of society is scorned and maligned. The media propaganda-machine parrots the Administration, thus helping to ‘prevent thought’, which as Orwell wrote, was the very purpose of propaganda. To maintain people’s belief and acceptance of ‘society’ is its purpose; its modus operandi is to limit the capacity for thought of the human mind and constrict it to the ideology of the social order. To further debilitate human intelligence, drug and alcohol abuse are tolerated to the extent that they help keep society ignorant. All that matters is the prevention of a mass uprising against the status quo, for to control society is government’s purpose, not to educate or improve it.

It’s increasingly obvious to the whole world that America cannot live up to its high-flown and outdated rhetoric about ‘democracy,‘ and that modern society produces more ills than it can solve. “Materialism” has become a way of life. Although there exists such luxuries as the Internet, on it is to be found every variety of filth, pornography, spam, and misinformation. Although there are one to two automobiles per suburban family, there is also a high level of debt, high rents, bankruptcies, divorces, drug usage, long commutes, conflicts between employers and the workers, noise pollution, violent arguments, and abysmal traffic. There is also an ongoing breakdown of families and communities that helps fill up the prison system with the less fortunate.

America’s inner cities are becoming sewers of corruption, crime and drug-infested neighborhoods where despair, violence and the after-effects of centuries of racismprevail. Much of America’s problems are systemic in nature, caused by racism, classism, sexism, crime, overpopulation, corruption, bad government, the destruction of the natural environment, as well as uncontrolled mass immigration from third-world countries. In other words, chaos –leading to cries for ‘more police‘ protection for the suburban bourgeoisie. Welfareis grudgingly given to the ghettoized minorities, who are then blamed for their own socio-economic troubles caused by an anti-egalitarian stratification of wealth. America’s economic growth seems to be ‘unsustainable’ and the fear exists that government will succumb to authoritarian solutions if social disorder results.

This is the end result of the country’s growth not into a ‘democratic republic’ –but an Empire, fostered by “Reagonomics,“ corporate greed, and Republican-sponsored class warfare of the ultra-rich against everyone else.

America, the Utopian promise of the world, is in practice a disaster.
Oct 23, 2012.

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essay 2

The persistence of poverty amidst plenty, that is capitalism. Film can SHOW PEOPLE the failures and inequity of Capitalism.

We are all privileged prisoners in a fool’s paradise. Television was invented to distract a sheep-like, complacent public. T.V. shows represent carefully-crafted illusions for the public to imbibe the capitalist message with its eyes. America is the nation in which the rich flagrantly celebrate their wealth, and the poor, behind closed doors must bite the proverbial ’grapes of wrath’ unseen.

Let us acknowledge that there is a privileged class that will fight for its possessions.

America has not yet succeeded in ending poverty nor in giving everyone ’equal rights.’ What meaning can such rights have when there aren’t any economic rights? The ideology of the state is belied by the reality of life under capitalism, a life of debt and penury for millions of people. In the gap between perception and perceived object lies the truth.

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essay 3

Corporate Plutocracy:

An investment banker now makes one million times what a teacher makes.

The corporations have influenced the state and school boards to ‘dumb down,’ the textbooks, because neither corporations nor schools want young people to think for themselves. They saw the educated classes dump on the State during the Vietnam War period, and they applied their lessons well.

The Occupy Wall Street movement in some sense represents a continuation of that kind of principled protest against the dreaded status quo.

Occupy Wall St represents for millions the end of an illusion, namely the uncritical blind faith in capitalism, and the demand for immediate social reform of institutions.

TV, drugs, rock, religion, beer: they all represent the same thing, the attempt to keep the better part of the masses ignorant and happy.

Mankind is separated into socio-economic classes, and it is imperative that the working-class remains ignorant as such. Educated people aren’t going to do the grunt work that the common man must do in order to survive.

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Walter Lippman, Harvard University, wrote, “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”

The dollar rises about .13 times per year, and wages rise about .12 times per year every year. But the cost of living rises. This keeps millions of people working harder and harder for nothing.

Capitalism means,

a) the collapse of the social contract

b) unrestrained exploitation of the environment

c) war on Unions

d) wal-mart wage-slavery

Detroit now pays $14 an hour when less than a few years it paid $28 an hour, thus plunging millions of workers in poverty.

ALEC means corporations which fund right-wing Republicans: BP, the Koch Brothers, Comcast , duPont, Altria, Ford, Dow Chemicals, Exxon Mobil, SPR, Bayer, UPS, Amazon, Shell Oil.

American politicians now support a permanent Gulag of for-profit, big-profit states: NY, IL, CA, TX, and Fla. Soon it will be all fifty states in the so-called, “Land of the free.” Is this what they died for on the beaches of Anzio and Normandy? The emprisonment of millions of people, just so that the state governors can declare the unemployment level to be lower than what it really is? Just so that corporations can keep wages low, and create a permanent class of wage-slaves?

The Treasury and the Fed over-looked the corruption of Libor, the scandal in which investment bankers manipulated the interest rates in order to profit from the suckers who are ‘born every minute.’

FIGHT GANGSTER CAPITALISM.

essay 4

Three million jobs were lost between 2000-09, when US manufacturing died at the hand of the corporate class and the political class, its paid puppets.

The Fortune 500, not the people, control American ‘democracy.’ They demonstrated their contempt for the people by getting W elected over the peoples ‘ choice. They not you control this ‘democracy’ America sends your sons and daughters to die for in endless, undeclared, un-winnable wars while they receive tax-payer bailouts.

American capitalism means FRAUD.

Thanks to corporate America, the entire USA is now a Company town, which is how they always wanted it. It is a Banana Republic in which even the basic human need for access to medical care is being thwarted by certain members of the political class.

Thank you for reading this.
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Notes: “The price of Inequality,“ Stiglitz, Book tv.

Ivy League is producing mainly ‘financiers.’

Human capital goes into ‘investment banking’ rather than productive work.

America has the least ‘equality of opportunity.’

The top one percent grabs 20 percent of the income and 40 percent of all the wealth.

There has been a ‘hollowing out’ of the Middle-class.

Reaganomics redistributed wealth to the top.

Poverty is everywhere increasing.

Technology; off-shoring of manufacturing; and illegal aliens permitted to enter the country.

There is Justice for those who can pay, the Haves.

The people in the top tier of the economic ladder have greedily grabbed more and more of the economic pie for themselves, while the ranks of the poor increase as the workers fail to cope with the rising cost of living.

Lobbying in DC; speculation on Wall Street; the failure of investment in jobs and infrastructure; the weakening of democracy; disenfranchisement; the decline in all standards including the rule of law, thanks to the USA Patriot Act; collusion between Wall St and DC: these aspects of capitalism are leading millions of people to question finally the nature of this ‘democracy.’

Six members of the Walton (WalMart) family now own more than the wealth of the bottom 30 percent of the population. Naturally, they will use that wealth to buy politicians who will help keep that wealth in their hands, and out of the state’s.

The self-protecting phony blue-blood elites of the Ivy League have rigged the educational system to benefit themselves.

The failure to ensure health care rights for millions of people makes a mockery of American claims to truth, goodness and right.

*Twenty percent of the US budget goes to the military. (corrected. Source: Fox news, Oct. 23, 2012).

Capitalism, means, ‘property-owning,’ rent-seeking.’

Capitalism tends toward the monopolization of power and wealth in the hands of the subsidized few.

Corporations now run every aspect of our lives.

The average tax rate at the top is 15 percent, and they’re in tears!

Wall St has positioned itself against the interests of Main Street in true banana republic fashion.

What are the living standards now for the worker?

Corporate welfare leeches off an out-of-date tax code.

Drug companies ripped off the government, ie the taxpayers.

Laws support ‘market capitalism,’ and that too is rigged by the capitalists, to stifle competition.

Bankruptcy laws support derivatives and the bailout of banks, leading to an unstable economy.

Progressive transfers are needed to equalize population wealth.

15 percent on capital gains which are taxed lower than the 35 tax rate for hard-working people.

The middle-class struggles to pay for its standard of living while trying to live like the upper-class.

Meanwhile the people at the top avoid taxation, and the people at the bottom are preyed upon with sales and other taxes.

Alan Greenspan (Fed) wanted to control the economy, which he couldn’t do if all the debts were paid off.

‘Campaign finance reform’ is thwarted at every turn.

Derivatives are favored by the tax code.

American capitalism has created a divided society. ‘Where the poor are many, and the rich are few,’ Aristotle said, ‘nations are gradually ruined.’

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essay five

Obama is Goldman Sachs. Investment houses pressed Congress to abolish Glass-Steaghall, or Depression-era regulations and restrictions.

‘Crony capitalism’ is what David Stockman calls it. The Fed gave trillions in secret loans to large banks and corporations.

The two parties, according to Jesse Ventura, are bought and paid for by corporate and banking interests.

The middle-class is in decline.

Hedge-fund managers get mediocre returns yet they still get rich.

The minimum wage is stuck at the 1950’s level.

Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley all profited from the mortgage boom after 9-11.

In 1950, manufacturing comprised 27 percent of US GDP. Now it is down to 12 Percent of US GDP.

The living wage has declined, sending millions of people into poverty.

Tax revenue as a percentage of the economy has dropped to 1950 levels.

Libor is the key interest-rate sent by big banks in collusion, to better cheat the consumers, borrowers and other suckers.

Capitalism necessarily segregates people by economic class, the bourgeoisie, or middle-class; the upper class; and the working class and the poor. The system feeds on the labor of the working -class, and the police exist in order to keep it in line. The co-ordination of people’s minds in line with their overlords.

Panem et circunem: bread and circuses. That’s how the Romans ruled the many, by giving them welfare (bread) and entertainment (the Coliseum). Later they found Christianity to be a useful tool in order to keep the minds of the workers busy.

American Capitalism isn’t even efficient. The USA lost twelve trillion dollars in only three years.

THE RAVAGES OF CAPITALISM:
UNEMPLOYMENT
WAR
GREED
CORRUPTION
SOCIAL DECLINE
THE POLICE STATE

WAGE-SLAVERY

Is Capitalism sustainable? A series of brief essays. Revised.

23 Oct

Summarize critical Marxism, in one page. Then criticize Marxism!

I. Capitalism, according to Karl Marx, means the historical struggle between capital and labor. Sometimes this struggle is latent, and at other times it manifests itself in open conflict in the streets, in the workplace, and in the political system.

a. Capital, meaning, the rich, the bankers, and the corporations– in other words, those who own the means of production and the money to invest or lend.

b. Labor, meaning those who must work for a daily wage– in other words, the working-class, or Proletariat.

The goal of the capitalist is to own the means of production: the company, factory or shop. From this, the capitalist makes a profit. The capitalist seeks to produce things at the cheapest possible price — even if this means the underpayment of labor‘s daily wage. This is a central tenet of Marx. The capitalist exploits the members of the lower class, the workers, and the renters. He pays the politicians to protect his investment, and if necessary, to bust the unions. He makes higher education expensive, in order to keep the working-class down. The protection of the private property-system is in the basic interest of the capitalist. Unfortunately, this system produces class warfare.

The state is the means by which the capitalist achieves this. Its goal is to protect property and life, and create laws that set the rules by which capitalism can best be served.

a. The military and the police are largely drawn from the ranks of the working-class, and are set against them in the event of a violent social confrontation.

b. The politicians are drawn from the ranks of the educated bourgeoisie.

II.

a. The middle-class, means the petit bourgeoisie. The shopkeeper, the tradesman, and the merchant.

b. The bourgeoisie, means the higher middle -class, which emulates the wealthy. These are the professionals: the doctors, the lawyers, the priests, the journalists, the teachers and professors. They support the ideology of capitalism, and are the cultured class. They manipulate ideas and language in order to protect the social order, with the wealthy on top, naturally.

In order to obscure true social relations, religion was developed thousands of years ago. Religion is in Marx’s terms, the ‘opiate of the masses.’ A belief-system that keeps labor from questioning the social order, and which prevents the workers and the poor from rebelling. In addition, religion functions in the social organism by assuaging the conscience of the bourgeoisie.

III. The basic argument of Marx is easily comprehended: the capitalist drive to lower wages and cheapen the costs of production will end up having an unintended consequence: of swelling the ranks of the poor, while concentrating more and more power in the hands of the rich. If the middle class disappears, then this will create a violent confrontation between the workers and the capitalists. The working-class will inevitably win such an upheaval, and will lead the world toward socialism. After the revolution, there will be no more exploitation of the working-classes, and the state will protect their interests.

Q: There are of course objections to the Marxist theory. It fails to protect human rights, as it was practised under the Stalinist Soviet Union. Liberal bourgeois democracy did make gains for the workers for a period of time, as Labor in Britain asserted itself. Marxist doctrine that property is the source of social discontent led capitalist society toward reforms during the “Progressive” part of the Twentieth Century. The conditions of the workers improved during FDR’s New Deal, in America, and the 40 hour workweek was instituted by law.

After WW2, the middle-class grew for numerous reasons, including the GI Bill, and high rates of taxation during the Eisenhower era.

Nevertheless, analytical, critical Marxism remains a vital argument today, as millions of people seem to be falling behind and as the right-wingers (Romney-Ryan) attempted to eviscerate the public sector and the welfare state. Capitalism as a system fails much of the working class, due to the persistence of wage-slavery; and since this has remained the case, then capitalism must be critiqued.

As for Marxism, as practiced in the Soviet Union, it became a dogmatic form of Stalinism which few today would advocate. The problem with Marx is that he believed that he had solved the problem of history, and once a Marxist regime had gained power, it would not have to continue to find means of further cultural and economic growth. In other words, it was not ‘progressive.’ It may turn out that Marx was a better critic of capitalism than he was a planner for a future class-free society. Marxism only held on for a brief period of time, historically. It is being rejected now in China, much as it had been in the West and the Soviet Union. A Marxist system failed to allow for humans to develop their full potential, intellectually, morally, spiritually; in other words, it was guilty of stasis. It failed to produce a dynamic society. Marxism itself became an article of faith both within and without the Soviet Union, rather than a just critique of society, which it has remained in the Western bourgeois liberal world. Marxism today must acknowledge some form of revisionism, as Bernstein had advocated. Instead the Marxists followed Lenin, Trotsky, Kautsky, and other heavily criticized historical figures. It may turn out that Hugo Chavez will be the last great Marxist believer.

So is Marxism then 1. a dream 2. a form of social science 3. a critique of capitalism 4. a failed order for a new society? Or perhaps all of these. Unfortunately Dr Marx and his ally Engels were never able to revise their ideas, but dogmatically insisted on the ‘fall of capitalism.’ The truth is that thanks to progressive reformers like the Roosevelts, capitalism survived and succeeded. Now it is in a moment of crisis, thanks to the failure of the Bush era and 9/15/08, the near collapse of the world financial system. We cannot help but feel that the American system is falling apart.

Hence I would argue that Marxism is still relevant.

Lenin criticized the utopians as ‘idealists’ and dreamers in his book, “What is to be Done?” But the fact remains that the Marxist dream eventually did not succeed for more than a few generations; then it fell apart. The people were repressed and felt stifled under it, and it did not flower into a democratic form of socialism.

The spectre of Marxism remains, however, in terms of the necessary critique of recent developments of Capitalism, which allied with the State and the Military, have given us two bloody wars. Most people today don’t accept the necessity for the Iraq war, and the Afghan war has floundered. American attempts to create a democracy in regions that have NEVER known democracy have largely failed.

We may have to await a new formulation of a democratic critique of postwar American capitalism, which seems to have supplied us with endless unwanted wars; failed gov’t policies; and boom and bust cycles of capitalism, which plunge millions of people into poverty. We are living in the midst of a social, economic and environmental crisis.

Despite Marx’s pronouncement that “heretofore the philosophers have merely interpreted the world; the point is to change it,” Marxism today remains vital and relevant as a critique of society and the social order, rather than as a blueprint for a new society, freed from capitalistic struggle and labour strife.
WalMart’s attacks on the wage-workers is one point of departure for those of us who criticise capitalism itself.

Marx for us remains a great, bold thinker, but Marxism needs updating and rethinking if it is ever again to capture the intelligence and imagination of the enlightened part of the world. Marx remains an inspiration, but he may end up as a name in the history of sociology, rather than as the best articulator of the doldrums of capitalism.

revised, Dec. 26, 2012

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“War is peace, peace is war!”

1. America’s internal peace comes at the price of unending, unwinnable wars.

2. A credibility gap exists between the State and the people.

3. Conflict between the haves and the have-nots erupts. On the one side, the well-off, the upper middle-class, the ostentatious people, and on the other hand the oppressed working-class and the poor. The middle-classes begin to feel solidarity with the poor and hatred of the classes above them.

4. Hence, class warfare is inevitable.

5. Crony capitalism, exposed. The combined power of Wall Street and the state leads to corruption.

6. Capitalism entails that greater and greater profits be squeezed from people who are working harder and harder. No matter how hard they work, they never really ‘get ahead.’

7. Our culture in decline, standards being driven downwards, intentionally! The system fears the spark of intelligence that might lead to solidarity among the classes, which would result in a potential rebellion or revolution.

8. Television, the other “opiate of the masses.” God said “Let there be light,” and the Devil said, “let there be television.”

9. “The idea of socialism” must be brought to the working-class so they will storm, yes “storm the bastions of capitalism” [Isaac Deutscher].

10. Throughout history, the wealthy have translated economic power into political power, making a farce of so-called “Democracy.”

11. Globalization: meaning that they sent manufacturing from the US to 3rd World countries intentionally, to vitiate America‘s working-classes!

—————–
On Capitalism. An essay.

In every state of the Union, the wealthy lord it over the so-called middle class. The working class and the poor must suffer. We live under a ‘class system,’ in which most of society’s wealth has been distributed upward to the few.

The state has created a class of people dependant on welfare because the minimum wage is entirely insufficient for human sustenance. The rich want to prevent real wealth redistribution by the State via taxation, which might create a more democratic free society, and they wish to control the harnesses of political and media power.

We are presently witnessing a phony ‘crisis of capitalism.’ The system thrives on cheap labor, so the corporations, the rich, the powerful, the banks, have fundamentally rigged the political system in their favor. Thus they can attack the unions; they can lower educational and work standards. They manipulate the currency, control the mass media, and fund both political parties so that they are almost one and the same. They ship jobs overseas, and then import cheap products made by near-slave labor in the Third World back to the US. They lull people’s minds to sleep via the television, second-rate education, and they promote phony religion.

America today, after years of Reaganomics, a bloody swindle which enriched the privileged few and corporate America, is a virtual ‘banana republic.’ The average person will never live as well as the Bush family or the Rockefellers, but they very well might slide into a lower socioeconomic status. They might see Johnny shipped to the military to fight futile, unwinnable wars, and watch their society slowly being ripped to shreds before their very eyes. Entire towns go under, industries are shipped abroad, and meanwhile corporations make record profits and skimp on paying taxes, thus preventing states from funding things like social services to the extent necessary.

We must ask, what is capitalism? According to Marx, it is a system in which the owners of capital and the means of production wage nearly unrestricted economic warfare against the have-nots. The control of the economic pie by the few is the essence of American democracy.

Capitalism, historically, tends toward the creation of monopolies.

Take for instance, the Rockefellers. They are on the board of Exxon mobil, Rockefeller center (where NBC produces its shows), coal mining in West Virginia, and have countless other shell companies in order to protect their indescribable wealth. Whoever controls the mass media can best influence public discourse and public policy. They were involved the development of the Manhattan Project, ties to Latin America, the development of television, and the Republican Party ‘s liberal wing. Rockefeller was both Gov. of NY State and VP of the USA. He was instrumental in the construction of the trade towers. Hence, why not just call NY, ‘Rockefeller’s playground?’ That is basically what is has become, the backyard of a handful of people where unimaginable wealth stands in stark contrast to the growth of slum-ridden welfare-dependent neighborhoods. Rockefeller built up NY state in order to better control it! Hence the development of SUNY, the NY State Highway System, mass transit, et cetera.

How can anyone claim that NY is anything but a ‘corporate plutocracy?”

======
an essay on the crisis of capitalism

Capitalists are in perpetual conflict with organized labor. Workers working on their own never seem to get ahead, for the dollar loses value every year and the cost of living rises. They can never buy the chic goods of the marketplace, the products and services presented in commercials, except on credit, thus enriching the banks. When jobs disappear, then the members of the working-class fight with one another or are militarized, institutionalized, or imprisoned. The working-class supplies society’s labor power, yet paradoxically it is entirely voiceless. The policeman exists to keep him or her in a state of fear. The bosses of capitalism seek cheap labor, and the right to fire and hire at will. The State obliges them. Hence capitalism means “class warfare of the rich against the poor.” The banks, the corporations, the state, exist to keep the oppressed down, and the mass media supplies them with stupid entertainment.

Capitalism’s crisis is caused by a rising cost of living while wages for the workers stagnate. This leads to social disorder. The bosses crack down on labor unions, keeping the workers in a state of fear. When the members of the upper and middle classes join at last in SOLIDARITY with the members of the lower-classes, then you will have a season of revolt. Since big cities promote an increasingly unattainable, materialistic lifestyle to the poor and the workers, and since banks and firms are located within these cauldrons of alienated labor, it is inevitable that class conflict will openly play out on the streets of cities.

The members of the oppressed classes must become “class-conscious“. The rich associate with one another in their yachts, country clubs and manors; the middle-classes aspire to be like the rich and fear sinking down to the level of the poor, so they also try to segregate themselves in their subdivisions. The rich can see the class-system at work within their own households since they usually have servants of another race or nation feeding them. Hence it is fair to say that “Property“ causes class-divisions to arise. Debates about the inequities of the system emerge at the dinner-tables of all classes. The State cannot afford to ignore the welfare of the poor, so the debate continues onto the floors of Congress and the White House.

Sociologists are needed to analyze the nature of the social system. There is a war between the haves and the have-nots. The rich must protect their own interests, which they translate into political power. They may be sympathetic to the plight of the poor, but they cannot reform the system. The poor and the working classes must translate their power into organized political power with a demand for a “living wage“. Union bosses will cooperate with the capitalists and the state when wars break out, but in times of peace they are all too timid in pressing for reforms. Class warfare inevitably erupts because of the lack of real social democracy. The class divide, thus, is everywhere.

The police and the military, the armed wings of the state, imprison a portion of the working class, on the one hand, or send them into harms ‘ way on the other. This also helps revolution from erupting openly. The alternative to this failed situation is Solidarity. The intelligensia and the students, sons and daughters of the working and middle-class and the rich, are aware that ‘education’ is no real solution, because the system is designed to remain the same! Nothing changes. If some move up or down the ladder, others will take their places. It is only when the classes join with the oppressed and the poor, and take their protests out on the streets that the media’s attention will be captured. The SPARK of consciousness helps to ignite the much-needed rebellion or revolution.

An economic pyramid is the essence of the class system.

The poor, the working-class, the immigrants and migrants are the proletariat.
The lower-middle-classes and the middle-class are the petit bourgeoisie.

The upper-middle-class, educated and often well-traveled, are the bourgeoisie.

The rich and the super rich are the superior classes.

——–
The American class system, analyzed:

How can one deny that there is such a thing as a class system? It is as clear as daylight. The rich, the corporations, the banks are among the top two percent who rule the classes below them. They grab more and more of the economic pie, which seems to be diminishing, leaving the middle-class with the tax bill, student loan debt, higher and higher costs of living, and more and more agita. The lower middle-classes, the working poor and the hopelessly poor below them find themselves increasingly ghettoized and alienated from the system, with few legitimate escapes open to them.

It is the spark of consciousness that is needed in order for social solidarity to emerge, such as we are now seeing in the protests on the streets of cities! We support OWS.

=======================

on the Obama -Romney “Debate”

8 Oct

source: Common Dreams.

Charles Ferguson, director of the documentary Inside Job, ‘America’s duopoly of money in politics and manipulation of public opinion’; The Guardian:

Neither of [the candidates said] a serious word about the causes of the financial crisis; the lack of prosecution of banks and bankers; sharply rising inequality in educational opportunity, income and wealth; energy policy and global warming; America’s competitive lag in broadband infrastructure; the impact of industrialized food on healthcare costs; the last decade’s budget deficits and the resultant national debt; or the large-scale, permanent elimination of millions of less-skilled jobs through both globalization and advances in robotics and artificial intelligence.

In a time of pervasive economic insecurity, with declining incomes and high unemployment, four years after a horrific financial crisis, how can all of these questions be successfully ignored by both candidates?

As it turns out, their behavior is entirely rational, though for disconcerting reasons. The answer lies in the combined effect of three related forces: America’s deepening economic problems; the role now played by money in politics; and the emotions of a scared, increasingly cynical, economically insecure electorate.

Amy Davidson, ‘Seven Chances Obama Missed’; The New Yorker:

President Obama did badly in his first debate—by his standards, by those of his supporters, and in comparison to Mitt Romney. As Ann Romney said recently, this is hard; it’s easy to criticize from home. (Jim Lehrer, the moderator, who all but announced at the end that he’d lost control, might borrow that line.) But the loss is especially striking when one considers the openings Romney gave him, both before and during the debate.

Karen Dolan,‘The Biggest Losers: Big Bird and the American People’; Institute for Policy Studies:

Lehrer proceeded to let the candidates run roughshod over him, then lost us all when he said “we’ve lost a pod” as he reprimanded the candidates for taking too long. In an evening devoted to domestic issues, none of the three men ever mentioned women’s rights, civil rights, immigration, poverty, climate change, or any other environmental issue.

Most importantly, nobody dared to breathe the truth, lest it actually get out — America Is Not Broke.

That’s right, the debate was an exercise in ridiculousness that produced no insight, no plan, no inspiration, no leadership, no truth. We are rich. We have enough money to put nutritious food on the tables of the one in five U.S. kids who are hungry and undernourished. We have enough money to help the laid-off moms and dads make ends meet until they get another job.

We have enough money to keep grandma, sister, and even every child (“future people,” as I believe Romney put it) taken care of through their hard-earned benefits of Social Security and Medicare. We have enough money to help the down-and-out in times of sickness and emergency through Medicaid and help low-income families through refundable tax credits and the last shreds of welfare available to some.

We do. We’re a rich country. We’re not broke. Not only are we not in an economic position, recovering from the Wall Street-induced Great Recession to be able to tolerate the austerity trumpeted by Romney and half-conceded to by Obama, but we don’t need to resort to it.

Richard Kim, ‘Jim Lehrer Gets Pwned’; The Nation:

I’ll leave it to the horserace pundits to decide who won tonight’s debate and to the voters to decide who will win the election. I know who lost: Jim Lehrer, PBS, old media and the myth of the “sensible center.” Tonight’s moderator, Jim Lehrer, got utterly, totally, savagely pawned. The Lehrer/PBS school of moderation is fundamentally unequipped to deal with the era of post-truth, asymmetric polarization politics—and it should be retired. Time and time again, Romney deviated from the positions he took to win the GOP primary, and neither Lehrer nor Obama was able to effectively press him on it. Obama at least tried, at times.

The gulf between political reality and mainstream media mores has never seemed so wide and unbridgeable. Frankly, I came away with one new opinion, and that was to agree with Mitt Romney that PBS should go. (Big Bird, I’ll rethink this in the AM.)

But beyond the numbing boredom and bewilderment that tonight’s debate format and moderation caused, there are real costs. Not necessarily to the candidates—the media has called the debate for Romney, but I don’t think it will move the needle enough for Romney to win—but to democracy.

Gary Young, ‘Romney edges a presidential debate light on zingers’; The Guardian:

Barack Obama […] appeared nervous, distracted and unprepared. After four years in the Oval Office, he’d lost his voice. Gone was the charisma, the optimism and the eloquence. Defensive, halting and verbose – he looked tired and that made his presidency look tired. Both campaigns set low expectations, but only Obama met them. If you were watching without knowing who was the president, you wouldn’t have guessed it was him.

Poorly moderated and often wonkish, the debate frequently got swamped in the kind of detail that few could follow and with charges and counter-charges that few could immediately verify.

Robert Kuttner, ‘First Round to Romney’; The American Prospect:

Romney’s strategy, as it has been throughout the campaign, was to lie, and for the most part Obama failed to call him on it. Romney essentially disavowed the tax and budget plan he has been running on for eighteen months, claiming that it was possible to cut tax rates and make up the difference by closing loopholes. Obama correctly pointed out that the arithmetic didn’t work. But Obama failed to challenge Romney to identify just which loopholes he would close.

On Social Security and Medicare, Romney gave Obama another opening that the president failed to maximize. Romney said that nobody at or near retirement age needed to fear any changes. The obvious implication is Social Security and Medicare cuts for younger people. Obama had a nice one-liner—”If you are 54 or 55, you might want to pay attention.”—but he failed to drive the point home.

On Dodd-Frank, Romney told one whopper after another. He claimed that the law protects banks that are “too big to fail.” What Dodd-Frank actually does it to authorize, for the first time, how to shut down such banks.

For the most part, Obama was operating on Republican territory—he admitted that his health plan was a copy of Romney’s; he was for tax cuts, too; for small business, too; for budget balance, too.

To hear Romney, he would preserve America’s social safety net, not cut taxes on the rich, and make sure that Medicare was preserved for America’s seniors. All this flies in the face of what the Romney campaign claimed for 18 months, but for the most part Obama let Romney off the hook.

Robert Reich,‘The First Presidential Debate’; RobertReich.org:

In Wednesday night’s debate, Romney won on style while Obama won on substance. Romney sounded as if he had conviction, which means he’s either convinced himself that the lies he tells are true or he’s a fabulous actor.

But what struck me most was how much Obama allowed Romney to get away with: Five times Romney accused Obama of raiding Medicare of $716 billion, which is a complete fabrication. Obama never mentioned the regressiveness of Romney’s budget plan — awarding the rich and hurting the middle class and the poor. He never mentioned Bain Capital, or Romney’s 47 percent talk, or Romney’s “carried-interest” tax loophole. Obama allowed Romney to talk about replacing Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act without demanding that Romney be specific about what he’d replace and why. And so on.

David Corn,‘”We Have a Horse Race Again”‘; Mother Jones:

Throughout the campaign, Obama has tried to depict the election as a choice between two visions of how the nation should move forward. At the start of the debate, he pitted his “economic patriotism”—in which the country together invests in education, innovation, and infrastructure to ensure a solid economy in the years ahead—against what he called Romney’s “top-down” economic policies that are premised on the belief that if taxes are cut for the rich and regulations are lifted on corporations, the economy will rev up. But he never seemed to place Romney on the defensive on this mega-theme. On other occasions, Obama has presented this case much more effectively.

Turning Obama’s choice message on its head, Romney basically agreed, Yes, there are two choices: what you got now, or what I’ll give you. And promises are easier to sell than actualities—particularly when they are not bound by facts.

At the start of the campaign, the conventional wisdom was that Obama could have a difficult time winning reelection, given the lousy economy and polls indicating widespread public unease. Yet Romney’s liabilities ensured a competitive race. This first debate showed how challenging the fundamental dynamics are for Obama.

With the president failing to bring his A-game to Denver—and neither he nor moderator Jim Lehrer referred to Romney’s 47 percent rant—Romney took full advantage of the occasion. But given there are so few undecided voters at this point, Romney’s strong performance in a debate that didn’t generate much news or memorable exchanges may not move the needle much. (How many undecideds watched this wonkish debate?) But now that the pundits are once happily declaring, “We have a horse race again,” the Obama crew will have to make sure the president sharpens his case. In a way, he’s always had the tougher sell. This first debate was a painful reminder of that.

Joan Walsh, ‘Those old Obama debate blues’; Salon.com:

A subdued, deferential, over-prepared President Obama ceded the first debate to Mitt Romney on style and substance. Democrats had to look at historical evidence that debates don’t change election outcomes for comfort Wednesday tonight.

Romney shook his Etch-a-Sketch and lied his way through the entire debate with no challenge from moderator Jim Lehrer. He simply denied he has proposed a $5 trillion tax cut. He insisted he wouldn’t cut the education budget or Pell Grants, when he will. He claimed the Affordable Care Act raised taxes by a trillion dollars. He essentially revived the idea of death panels by saying Obamacare established “a board that will tell people what kind of treatment they’re going to get.”  Yet the president didn’t call him on any of it.

In fact, Obama let Romney off the hook on a range of toxic topics, from Social Security to the tax deductions he’d eliminate to make his tax-cut plan “revenue neutral.” Some omissions seem like political malpractice. The president had many opportunities to ask Romney exactly what loopholes he’d close and which deductions he’d eliminate – child tax credit? Mortgage interest deduction? Charitable deductions? – and help Romney commit political suicide. But he never did; he went straight to the wonky idea that there are not enough loopholes to close or deductions to balance his tax cuts for the rich. He had the chance to ask Romney for his deduction-elimination plans directly, even if only rhetorically, even if Lehrer didn’t follow up. But Obama never did.

 
“The rich are different from you and me.” “Yes, they have more money.”

 

Military-industrial complex: GD, NG, Raytheon, Boeing, Cessna, GE, DuPont, ExxonMobil.

 

Hartford, Conn.

 

Alec, right-wingers, legislators.

Cheney, Koch Brothers. WalMart.

Paul Weyrich, right-winger.

Says Van Jones.

Coke and Pepsi pulled their funding from Alec.

NRA sponsors leg in 20 states, including Fla, for the ‘stand your ground’ fiasco.

 

Capitalism is a disaster. It does not meet human needs well. Everything is subjected to the profit motive.

Nine-tenths of the population is fighting over fifty percent of the US pie.

 

Diebold in Ohio helped to elect W.

 

Nixon devalued the dollar, ruining us all.

 

Gleichshaltung, or co-ordination of the population to the regime. We live under a soft version of authoritarianism in America. Everyone lives in fear. Fear of policemen; fear of gangsters; fear of petty criminals; fear of government; fear of not enough government; fear of drugs; fear of corporate malfeasance. America is really a blight, despite the media-generated images of a happy folk. There is a rise in the cost of living; there are defense cutbacks; there is corruption on Wall Street and in government; there is a kind of mass-hysteria in America, which finds its outlet in war, crime, street violence and sports. TV brings this socially-acceptable level of fake violence into peoples’ living rooms. The main thing is that people should work, work, work harder just to stay afloat. It is imperative that the people don’t understand what’s really going on: the rewards of society going to fewer and fewer people. The big lie is that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ but in truth, the Reagan-era saw most of the economic rewards going to the big banks, corporations and the rich. The middle-class could barely stay afloat during this period of hard-right capitalist takeover of the budget. The military budget exploded in order to fund Reagan-Bush led wars. The truth in the final analysis is that we live under the capitalist system, and government exists to protect it. The rewards will always go to the haves, not to the have-nots.

 

There are now 47,545 total US wounded in 2 wars.

32,223 in Iraq and 15,322 in Afghanistan.

 

Human life has no meaning to the capitalists, only the profit motive. Oil is what is vital to protecting America’s ‘national interest.’

 

The system doesn’t work for the benefit of the ordinary people.

 

US and Red China now control 16 percent each of the world’s economy.

 

In America there is a “Misery index”, comprised of inflation, the value of the dollar, the rise in the Cost of living, the rise in the cost of oil, and government ineptitude.

several articles on social democracy, peace, crisis of capitalism, DNC

8 Sep

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 5, 2012
5:52 PM

CONTACT: Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

Alan Barber, (202) 293-5380 x115

Share of Bad Jobs Has Risen Since 1979

WASHINGTON – September 5 – Almost one-fourth of U.S. workers are in a bad job, according to a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). Despite substantial increases in the education, age, and quantity and quality of technology over the last three decades, the share of workers with a “bad job” has risen since 1979, the CEPR researchers concluded.

The report, “Bad Jobs on the Rise,” defines a bad job as one that pays less than $37,000 per yeardoes not have employer-provided health insurance, and lacks some kind of retirement plan. The $37,000 figure (which translates to about $18.50 per hour, full-time) is equal to the inflation-adjusted earnings of the typical male worker in 1979, the first year of data analyzed in the report. The new report complements earlier CEPR research documenting the decline in good jobs over this same period.

By this definition, in 2010, 24 percent of the workforce had a “bad job,” up from 18 percent in 1979.

Compared to the end of the 1970s, the typical worker today is almost twice as likely to have a four-year college degree, is about seven years older, works with about 50 percent more physical capital, and uses much more advanced technology. Despite this, the share of bad jobs has grown.

“The increase in the share of bad jobs has little to do with the Great Recession,” said John Schmitt, a senior economist at CEPR and one of the report’s co-authors “Almost all of the increase we document had already occurred by 2007, before the downturn.”

The main driver of the rise in bad jobs, the report argues, was the systematic decline in workers’ bargaining power since the end of the 1970s.The reports’ authors point to the fall in the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage, the decline in union representation, trade deals, and high unemployment as some of the key factors reducing the bargaining power of workers relative to their employers.

The full report can be found here.

###

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people’s lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.


Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Links:

HomePress Center

 
 

from Yahoo news:
Elizabeth Warren expresses our frustrations:

CHARLOTTE, N.C.–In her speech to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren said that the American system of government is “rigged” against the middle class.

People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: they’re right,” Warren said in her first address to a party convention. “The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them. Anyone here have a problem with that? Well I do.”

Warren is running against Republican Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who won the seat in a 2010 special election following the death of former Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Her full remarks:

 

Thank you! I’m Elizabeth Warren, and this is my first Democratic Convention. Never thought I’d run for senate. And I sure never dreamed that I’d get to be the warm-up act for President Bill Clinton—an amazing man, who had the good sense to marry one of the coolest women on the planet. I want to give a special shout out to the Massachusetts delegation. I’m counting on you to help me win and to help President Obama win.

I’m here tonight to talk about hard-working people: people who get up early, stay up late, cook dinner and help out with homework; people who can be counted on to help their kids, their parents, their neighbors, and the lady down the street whose car broke down; people who work their hearts out but are up against a hard truth—the game is rigged against them.

It wasn’t always this way. Like a lot of you, I grew up in a family on the ragged edge of the middle class. My daddy sold carpeting and ended up as a maintenance man. After he had a heart attack, my mom worked the phones at Sears so we could hang on to our house. My three brothers all served in the military. One was career. The second worked a good union job in construction. The third started a small business.

Me, I was waiting tables at 13 and married at 19. I graduated from public schools and taught elementary school. I have a wonderful husband, two great children, and three beautiful grandchildren. And I’m grateful, down to my toes, for every opportunity that America gave me. This is a great country. I grew up in an America that invested in its kids and built a strong middle class; that allowed millions of children to rise from poverty and establish secure lives. An America that created Social Security and Medicare so that seniors could live with dignity; an America in which each generation built something solid so that the next generation could build something better.

But for many years now, our middle class has been chipped, squeezed, and hammered. Talk to the construction worker I met from Malden, Massachusetts, who went nine months without finding work. Talk to the head of a manufacturing company in Franklin trying to protect jobs but worried about rising costs. Talk to the student in Worcester who worked hard to finish his college degree, and now he’s drowning in debt. Their fight is my fight, and it’s Barack Obama’s fight too.

People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: they’re right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.

Anyone here have a problem with that? Well I do. I talk to small business owners all across Massachusetts.

Not one of them—not one—made big bucks from the risky Wall Street bets that brought down our economy. I talk to nurses and programmers, salespeople and firefighters—people who bust their tails every day. Not one of them—not one—stashes their money in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

These folks don’t resent that someone else makes more money. We’re Americans. We celebrate success. We just don’t want the game to be rigged. We’ve fought to level the playing field before. About a century ago, when corrosive greed threatened our economy and our way of life, the American people came together under the leadership of Teddy Roosevelt and other progressives, to bring our nation back from the brink.

We started to take children out of factories and put them in schools. We began to give meaning to the words “consumer protection” by making our food and medicine safe. And we gave the little guys a better chance to compete by preventing the big guys from rigging the markets. We turned adversity into progress because that’s what we do.

Americans are fighters. We are tough, resourceful and creative. If we have the chance to fight on a level playing field—where everyone pays a fair share and everyone has a real shot—then no one can stop us. President Obama gets it because he’s spent his life fighting for the middle class. And now he’s fighting to level that playing field—because we know that the economy doesn’t grow from the top down, but from the middle class out and the bottom up. That’s how we create jobs and reduce the debt.

And Mitt Romney? He wants to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. But for middle-class families who are hanging on by their fingernails? His plans will hammer them with a new tax hike of up to 2,000 dollars. Mitt Romney wants to give billions in breaks to big corporations—but he and Paul Ryan would pulverize financial reform, voucher-ize Medicare, and vaporize Obamacare.

The Republican vision is clear: “I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.” Republicans say they don’t believe in government. Sure they do. They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends. After all, Mitt Romney’s the guy who said corporations are people.

No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people. And that’s why we need Barack Obama.

After the financial crisis, President Obama knew that we had to clean up Wall Street. For years, families had been tricked by credit cards, fooled by student loans and cheated on mortgages. I had an idea for a consumer financial protection agency to stop the rip-offs. The big banks sure didn’t like it, and they marshaled one of the biggest lobbying forces on earth to destroy the agency before it ever saw the light of day. American families didn’t have an army of lobbyists on our side, but what we had was a president—President Obama leading the way. And when the lobbyists were closing in for the kill, Barack Obama squared his shoulders, planted his feet, and stood firm. And that’s how we won.

By the way, just a few weeks ago, that little agency caught one of the biggest credit card companies cheating its customers and made it give people back every penny it took, plus millions of dollars in fines. That’s what happens when you have a president on the side of the middle class.

President Obama believes in a level playing field. He believes in a country where nobody gets a free ride or a golden parachute. A country where anyone who has a great idea and rolls up their sleeves has a chance to build a business, and anyone who works hard can build some security and raise a family. President Obama believes in a country where billionaires pay their taxes just like their secretaries do, and—I can’t believe I have to say this in 2012—a country where women get equal pay for equal work.

He believes in a country where everyone is held accountable. Where no one can steal your purse on Main Street or your pension on Wall Street. President Obama believes in a country where we invest in education, in roads and bridges, in science, and in the future, so we can create new opportunities, so the next kid can make it big, and the kid after that, and the kid after that. That’s what president Obama believes. And that’s how we build the economy of the future. An economy with more jobs and less debt. We root it in fairness. We grow it with opportunity. And we build it together.

I grew up in the Methodist Church and taught Sunday school. One of my favorite passages of scripture is: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40. The passage teaches about God in each of us, that we are bound to each other and called to act. Not to sit, not to wait, but to act—all of us together.

Senator Kennedy understood that call. Four years ago, he addressed our convention for the last time. He said, “We have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world.” Generation after generation, Americans have answered that call. And now we are called again. We are called to restore opportunity for every American. We are called to give America’s working families a fighting chance. We are called to build something solid so the next generation can build something better.

So let me ask you—let me ask you, America: are you ready to answer this call? Are you ready to fight for good jobs and a strong middle class? Are you ready to work for a level playing field? Are you ready to prove to another generation of Americans that we can build a better country and a newer world?

Joe Biden is ready. Barack Obama is ready. I’m ready. You’re ready. America’s ready. Thank you! And God bless America!

 
 
Published on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 by Earth Island Journal

Politics and Plutocrats: A Parade of Inequality

America is currently engaged in the most expensive presidential contest in world history. In the United States, money doesn’t just talk – it dictates. How can we hope to make progress on the path to sustainability when the road is blocked by barricades of bullion backed by battalions of billionaires? How do we break through the political gridlock?

Dave Brower’s wife, Ann, once put a wise spin on this dilemma. “What we need,” she said, is “a cure for greedlock.”

Earth’s richest 1,000 individuals now control as much wealth as the poorest 2.5 billion people on the planet. This super elite uses its vast wealth to control the media, influence politicians, and bend laws to their favor. In the US, the wealthy dominate our government: 47 percent of US representatives are millionaires, as are 67 percent of US senators. The Center for Responsive Politics reports Congressional wealth has increased 11 percent between 2009 and 2011.

Not only is our economy out of balance with nature, our economy is also out of balance with the practical limits of physical and fiscal reality. As the Occupy movement has indelibly framed it, we are now a society divided not only by haves and have-nots, but we are a nation – and a world – divided into the 99 percent and the 1 percent.

Imagine if a tree were engineered like the US economy – with half of its mass centered in the top 10 percent of its height and 40 percent of its mass concentrated in the very topmost branches. Whether redwood or oak, such a tree would not be stable in a windstorm. It would be destined to topple. Of course, nature has better sense.

In 2011, the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) published a report called Outing the Oligarchy designed to focus public attention on “the ultra-rich individuals who benefit most from – and are most responsible for – the growing climate chaos that is destabilizing global ecosystems.” It defined them as “a small elite of powerful billionaires who profit from polluting the atmosphere by promoting government policies that support an unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels.”

The IFG report illustrated the growing rich-poor gap by visualizing a parade in which all the residents of Canada ambled down a city street on a single day. Let’s translate that vision to the US.

Imagine if everyone in America was invited to parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. Imagine if the parade took just one hour. Imagine if the march began with the poorest people in the lead. Imagine if all the marchers’ income levels were indicated by their height. Here’s what such a parade would look like:

For the first 10 minutes, the lead marchers (those who survive on only a few thousands dollars a year) look like toddlers, barely a foot tall. Around 15 minutes into the parade, the marchers are not quite so poor: They now stand about three feet tall. This tide of half-sized adults continues for the next 25 minutes. Only after more than two-thirds of the population has surged down the parade route do we begin to see normal-sized marchers (those making an average income). For the next 10 minutes or so, the spectacle resembles a normal parade. Then things start to get really strange.

In the final 10 minutes, we start to see marchers who are wealthier than average: people who are seven, even eight feet tall. In the last six minutes, the marchers loom more than 14 feet tall. With 25 seconds left, the minority of super-rich marchers looks down from a height of more than 30 feet – nearly six times the size of the average marcher; 30 times the size of those who made up the first quarter of the parade.

In the closing seconds of this parade of wealth, the shoulders of some marchers extend thousands of feet into the sky – these are the plutocrats. Finally, bringing up the rear, in the very last second of the march, are the most powerful and dominant members of the power elite – a select band of Godzilla-like oligarchs who look down upon everyone else from an astonishing altitude of 8,000-plus-feet. No wonder the superrich seem so removed and aloof.

Just like the banking system, when something is “too big to fail” it becomes a danger to itself and others. Nature would never tolerate such a system. Nor should we.

Note: This column originally appeared in the Autumn print edition of Earth Island Journal and appears at Common Dreams with permission.

© 2012 Earth Island Journal
Gar Smith

Gar Smith is co-founder of Environmentalists Against War and Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal.

 
 

Published on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 by Common Dreams

Wall Street South March on the DNC: Good Cop, Bad Cop

Police officers observe protestors marching in the ‘Wall Street South March’, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012, in Charlotte, N.C. Demonstrators are protesting before the start of the Democratic National Convention. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

I was initially surprised at the demeanor of the police in Charlotte during the Wall Street South March on the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Even though I lived in North Carolina for 14 years, I always relish the cordiality when I return. But friendliness by cops at a protest?

Last fall I had witnessed aggressive Oakland police in full riot gear during countless occupy marches, club-bearing University of California-Berkeley police attacking students, and I was even arrested by nervous and edgy mall cops while videotaping a Black Friday protest in Raleigh. So today I was taken aback by the police officer who stopped to help me pick up some things I dropped and who was one of a dozen police officers who interacted with me using kind words.

Explaining this behavior isn’t simply a question of southern hospitality. While police officers, yes, are people, too, and are facing cutbacks like many public employees across the country, the Charlotte effect was more than that.

First, cops could afford to be friendly. Literally. The DNC poured in 50 millions of dollars to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police. This helped fund the nifty bicycles and helmets they wore as they escorted protesters. But it also funded countless security cameras and Spot Shotters. But they also could afford the pleasantries because police seemed to outnumber protesters, so there was no threat to their power. An estimated 1000 protesters marched on September 2, but their numbers paled in comparison to the police presence, which included city police from around the state, as well as county and federal law enforcement.

Second, however, the kind behavior didn’t last. As the march began to approach the city center, the finance capital hub of the city and much of the country, the smiles faded. The cops on bikes lining the parade route changed to metal barricades. For a moment, I stepped off of the street protest to walk a bit faster on the sidewalk, but that proved problematic. The police would no longer let anyone into the march nor let anyone out. I was told that because I wasn’t “credentialed,” I couldn’t get in, but I witnessed several mainstream media journalists trapped as well. Yes, trapped. With the metal barricades and police officers lining every inch of the curb, activists and journalists inside were “kettled.” This means that the people inside would have had no escape if an incident triggered police use of teargas or other means of assaulting protesters. It also meant that people couldn’t join the march. One couple, with baby in tow, expressed frustration at not being able to participate in the march. “We kept trying to get in at various parts of the march but kept being turned away by the police,” said the mother.

In effect, the barricades – both human and metal – were protecting the financial interests lining this part of the parade route, such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Both sides understand the target of the protests. And the banks won’t play nice, either.

—-
wikipedia:
Hjalmar Branting was elected the first Social Democratic Prime Minister in 1920

The Partys first chapter in its statutes says “the intension of the Swedish Social democratic Workers Party is the struggle towards the Democratic Socialism.” The ideology of socialism was founded in the New Testament, Acts (Apostlagarningarna) chapter 4, verse 32-35, where the basics are told for the paroll: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” [ Karl Marx[ Since the party has held power of office for a majority of terms after its founding in 1889, the ideology and policies of the Social Democratic Party (SAP) have had strong influence on Swedish politics.[11] The Swedish social democratic ideology is partially an outgrowth of the strong and well-organized 1880s and 1890s working class emancipation, temperance, and religious folkrörelser (folk movements), by which peasant and workers’ organizations penetrated state structures early on and paved the way for electoral politics. These movements had influence on political formation in Sweden, at least in part because they experienced less state repression than similar working-class organizations have, for example, in early twentieth century Russia. In this way, Swedish social-democratic ideology is inflected by a socialist tradition foregrounding widespread and individual human development.[12] Gunnar Adler-Karlsson (1967) confidently likened the social democratic project to the successful social democratic effort to divest the king of all power but formal grandeur: “Without dangerous and disruptive internal fights…After a few decades they (capitalists) will then remain, perhaps formally as kings, but in reality as naked symbols of a passed and inferior development state.”[13] However, so far this socialist ambition has not materialised.[citation needed]

 Liberalism

Prime Minister Tage Erlander at a TV debate in 1967

Liberalism has also strongly infused social democratic ideology. Liberalism has oriented social democratic goals to security, as where Tage Erlander, prime minister from 1946 to 1969, described security as “too big a problem for the individual to solve with only his own power”.[14] Up to the 1980s, when neoliberalism began to provide an alternative, aggressively pro-capitalist model for ensuring social quiescence, the SAP was able to secure capital’s co-operation by convincing capital that it shared the goals of increasing economic growth and reducing social friction. For many social democrats, Marxism is loosely held to be valuable for its emphasis on changing the world for a more just, better future.[15] In 1889, Hjalmar Brantingleader of the SAP from its founding to his death in 1925, asserted, “I believe…that one benefits the workers…so much more by forcing through reforms which alleviate and strengthen their position, than by saying that only a revolution can help them.”[16] Some observers have argued that this liberal aspect has hardened into increasingly neoliberal ideology and policies, gradually maximizing the latitude of powerful market actors.[17] Certainly, neoclassical economists{Adam Smithites} have been firmly nudging the Social Democratic Party into capitulating to most of capital’s traditional preferences and prerogatives, which they term “modern industrial relations“.[18] Both socialist and liberal aspects of the party were influenced by the dual sympathies of early leader Hjalmar Branting, and manifest in the party’s first actions: reducing the work day to eight hours and establishing the franchise for working-class people.

While some commentators have seen the party lose focus with the rise of SAP neoliberal study groups, the Swedish Social Democratic Party has for many years appealed to Swedes as innovative, capable, and worthy of running the state.[19] The Social Democrats became one of the most successful political parties in the world, with some structural advantages in addition to their auspicious birth within vibrant folkrörelser. At the close of the nineteenth century, liberals and socialists had to band together to augment establishment democracy, which was at that point embarrassingly behind in Sweden; they could point to formal democratic advances elsewhere to motivate political action.[20] In addition to being small, Sweden was a semi-peripheral country at the beginning of the twentieth century, considered unimportant to competing global political factions; so it was permitted more independence, while soon the existence of communist and capitalist superpowers allowed social democracy to flourish in the geo-political interstices.[21] The SAP has the resource of sharing ideas and experiences, and working with its sister parties throughout the Nordic countries. Sweden could also borrow and innovate upon ideas from English-language economists, which was an advantage for the Social Democrats in the Great Depression; but more advantageous for the bourgeois parties in the 1980s and afterward. While the SAP has not been innocent of repressing communists,[22] the party has overall benefitted, in government coalition and in avoiding severe stagnation and drift, by engaging in relatively constructive relationships with the more radical Left Party and the Green Party. The early SAP had internal resources as well, in creative politicians with brilliant tactical minds, and similarly creative labor economists at their disposal.

[] Revisionism

Among the social movement tactics of the Swedish Social Democratic Party in the twentieth century was its redefinition of “socialization” from “common ownership of the means of production” to increasing “democratic influence over the economy.”[23] Starting out in a socialist-liberal coalition fighting for the vote, the Swedish Social Democrats defined socialism as the development of democracy—political and economic.[24] On that basis they could form coalitions, innovate, and govern where other European social democratic parties became crippled and crumbled under Right-wing regimes. The Swedish Social Democrats could count the middle class among their solidaristic working class constituency by recognizing the middle class as “economically dependent”, “working people”, or among the “progressive citizens”, rather than as sub-capitalists.[25] “The party does not aim to support and help [one] working class at the expense of the others,” the Social Democratic congress of 1932 established. In fact, with social democratic policies that refrained from supporting inefficient and low-profit businesses in favor of cultivating higher-quality working conditions, as well as a strong commitment to public education, the middle class in Sweden became so large that the capitalist class has remained concentrated.[26] Not only did the SAP fuse the growing middle class into their constituency, they also ingeniously forged periodic coalitions with small-scale farmers (as members of the “exploited classes”) to great strategic effect.[27] The SAP version of socialist ideology allowed them to maintain a prescient view of the working class: “[The SAP] does not question…whether those who have become capitalism’s victims…are industrial workers, farmers, agricultural laborers, forestry workers, store clerks, civil servants or intellectuals”, asserted the party’s 1932 election manifesto.[28]

While the SAP has worked more or less constructively with more radical Left parties in Sweden, the Social Democrats have borrowed from socialists some of their discourse, and decreasingly, the socialist understanding of the structurally compromised position of labor under capitalism. Even more creatively, the Social Democrats commandeered selected, transcendental images from such nationalists as Rudolf Kjellen (1912), very effectively undercutting fascism’s appeal in Sweden.[29] In this way, Per Albin Hansson declared that “there is no more patriotic party than the [SAP since] the most patriotic act is to create a land in which all feel at home,” famously igniting Swedes’ innermost longing for transcendence with the idea of the Folkhem (1928), or People’s Home. The Social Democratic Party promoted Folkhemmet as a socialist home at a point in which the party turned its back on working class struggle and the policy tool of nationalization.[30] “The expansion of the party to a people’s party does not mean and must not mean a watering down of socialist demands,” Hansson soothed.[31]

“The basis of the home is community and togetherness. The good home does not recognize any privileged or neglected members, nor any favorite or stepchildren. In the good home there is equality, consideration, co-operation, and helpfulness. Applied to the great people’s and citizens’ home this would mean the breaking down of all the social and economic barriers that now separate citizens into the privileged and the neglected, into the rulers and the dependents, into the rich and the poor, the propertied and the impoverished, the plunderers and the plundered. Swedish society is not yet the people’s home. There is a formal equality, equality of political rights, but from a social perspective, the class society remains, and from an economic perspective the dictatorship of the few prevails” (Hansson 1928).[32]

 Social democracy

The Social Democratic Party is generally recognized as the main architect of the progressive taxationfair trade, low-unemployment, Active Labor Market Policies (ALMP)-based Swedish welfare state that was developed in the years after World War II. Sweden emerged sound from the Great Depression with a brief, successful “Keynesianism-before Keynes” economic program advocated by Ernst Wigforss, a prominent Social Democrat who educated himself in economics by studying the work of the British radical Liberal economists. The social democratic labor market policies (ALMPs) were developed in the 1940s and 1950s by LO (Landsorganisationen i Sverige, the blue-collar union federation) economists Gösta Rehn and Rudolf Meidner.[33] The Rehn-Meidner model featured the centralized system of wage bargaining that aimed to both set wages at a “just” level and promote business efficiency and productivity. With the pre-1983 cooperation of capital and labor federations that bargained independently of the state, the state determined that wages would be higher than the market would set in firms that were inefficient or uncompetitive and lower than the market would set in firms that were highly productive and competitive. Workers were compensated with state-sponsored retraining and relocating; as well, the state reformed wages to the goal of “equal pay for equal work”, eliminated unemployment (“the reserve army of labor”) as a disciplinary device, and kept incomes consistently rising, while taxing progressively and pooling social wealth to deliver services through local governments.[34] Social Democratic policy has traditionally emphasized a state spending structure whereby public services are supplied via local government, as opposed to emphasizing social insurance program transfers.[35]

These social democratic policies have had international influence. The early Swedish “red-green” coalition encouraged Nordic-networked socialists in the state of Minnesota, in the U.S., to dedicate efforts to building a similarly potent labor-farmer alliance that put the socialists in the governorship, ran model innovative statewide anti-racism programs in the early years of the twentieth century, and enabled federal forest managers in Minnesota to practice a precocious ecological-socialism, before Democratic Party reformers were transferred from the U.S. East Coast to appropriate the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party infrastructure to the liberal Democratic Party in 1944.[36] On the other hand, policies comprising the Nordic model have often been depicted, in American conservative circles and the American press, as wreaking havoc upon Swedish society.

 

Social democratic leader and Prime Minister Olof Palme in the 1970s

Under the Social Democrats’ administration, Sweden retained neutrality, as a foreign policy guideline, during the wars of the twentieth century, including the Cold War. Neutrality preserved the Swedish economy and boosted Sweden’s economic competitiveness in the first half of the twentieth century, as other European countries’ economies were devastated by war.[39] Under Olof Palme‘s Social Democratic leadership Sweden further aggravated the hostility of United States political conservatives when Palme openly denounced US aggression in VietnamU.S. President Richard Nixon suspended diplomatic ties with the social democratic country.[citation needed] In 2003, top-ranking Social Democratic Party politician Anna Lindh–who criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as well as both Israeli and Palestinian atrocities, and who was the lead figure promoting the European Union in Sweden—was assassinated in public in Stockholm. As Lindh was to succeed Goran Persson in the party leadership, her death was deeply disruptive to the party as well as to the campaign to promote the adoption of the EMU (euro) in Sweden. The neutrality policy has changed with the contemporary ascendance of the bourgeois coalition, and Sweden has committed troops to support the US and UK’s interventions in Afghanistan. Under Social Democratic governance relatively strong overseas humanitarian programs and a comparatively well-developed refugee program have been implemented, and frequently reformed.[40]

 Rehn-Meidner Macroeconomics to Neo-liberalism

Because the Rehn-Meidner model allowed capitalists owning very productive and efficient firms to retain excess profits at the expense of the firms’ workers, thus exacerbating inequality, workers in these firms began to agitate for a share of the profits in the 1970s, just as women working in the state sector began to assert pressure for better wages. Meidner established a study committee that came up with a 1976 proposal that entailed transferring the excess profits into investment funds controlled by the workers in the efficient firms, with the intention that firms would create further employment and pay more workers higher wages, rather than increasing the wealth of company owners and managers.

[41] Capitalists immediately distinguished this proposal as socialism, and launched an unprecedented opposition—including calling off the class compromise established in the 1938 Saltsjöbaden Agreement.[42]

The 1980s were a very turbulent time in Sweden that initiated the occasional decline of Social Democratic Party rule. In the 1980s, pillars of Swedish industry were massively restructured. Shipbuilding was discontinued, wood pulp was integrated into modernized paper production, the steel industry was concentrated and specialized, and mechanical engineering was digitalized.[43] In 1986, one of the Social Democratic Party’s strongest champions of egalitarianism and democracy, Olof Palme was assassinated. Swedish capital was increasingly moving Swedish investment into other European countries as the European Union coalesced, and a hegemonic consensus was forming among the elite financial community: progressive taxation and pro-egalitarian redistribution became economic heresy.[44] A leading proponent of capital’s cause at the time, Social Democrat Finance Minister Kjell-Olof Feldt reminisced in an interview, “The negative inheritance I received from my predecessor Gunnar Sträng (Minister of Finance 1955 – 1976) was a strongly progressive tax system with high marginal taxes. This was supposed to bring about a just and equal society. But I eventually came to the opinion that it simply didn’t work out that way. Progressive taxes created instead a society of wranglers, cheaters, peculiar manipulations, false ambitions and new injustices. It took me at least a decade to get a part of the party to see this.”[45] With the capitalist confederation’s defection from the 1938 Saltsjöbaden Agreement and Swedish capital investing in other European countries rather than Sweden, as well as the global rise of neoliberal political-economic hegemony, the Social Democratic Party backed away from the progressive Meidner reform.[46]

The economic crisis in the 1990s has been widely cited in the Anglo-American press as a social democratic failure, but it is important to note not only did profit rates begin to fall worldwide after the 1960s,[47] also this period saw neoliberal ascendance in Social Democratic ideology and policies as well as the rise of bourgeois coalition rule in place of the Social Democrats. 1980s Social Democratic neoliberal measures—such as depressing and deregulating the currency to prop up Swedish exports during the economic restructuring transition, dropping corporate taxation and taxation on high income-earners, and switching from anti-unemployment policies to anti-inflationary policies—were exacerbated by international recession, unchecked currency speculation, and a centre-right government led by Carl Bildt (1991–1994), creating the fiscal crisis of the early 1990s.[48]

Göran Persson was a prolific Social Democratic leader, holding the office of Prime Minister for ten years

When the Social Democrats returned to power in 1994, they responded to the fiscal crisis[49] by stabilizing the currency—and by reducing the welfare state and privatizing public services and goods, as governments did in many countries influenced by Milton Friedman, the Chicago Schools of political and economic thought, and the neoliberal movement. Social Democratic Party leaders—including Göran PerssonMona Sahlin, and Anna Lindh—promoted European Union (E.U.) membership, and the Swedish referendum passed by 52–48% in favor of joining the E.U. on 14 August 1994. Bourgeois leader Lars Leijonborg at his 2007 retirement could recall the 1990s as a golden age of liberalism in which the Social Democrats were under the expanding influence of the Liberal Party and its partners in the bourgeois political coalition. Leijonborg recounted neoliberal victories such as the growth of private schooling and the proliferation of private, for-profit radio and television.[50]

 21st Century

However, many of the aspects of the social democratic welfare state continued to function at a high level, due in no small part to the high rate of unionization in Sweden, the independence of unions in wage-setting, and the exemplary competency of the feminized public sector workforce,[51] as well as widespread public support. The Social Democrats initiated studies on the effects of the neoliberal changes, and the picture that emerged from those findings allowed the party to reduce many tax expenditures, slightly increase taxes on high income-earners, and significantly reduce taxes on food. The Social Democratic Finance Minister increased spending on child support and continued to pay down the public debt.[52] By 1998 the Swedish macro-economy recovered from the 1980s industrial restructuring and the currency policy excesses.[43] At the turn of the twenty-first century, Sweden has a well-regarded, generally robust economy, and the average quality of life, after government transfers, is very high, inequality is low (the Gini coefficient is .28), and social mobility is high (compared to the affluent Anglo-American and Central European countries).[44]

The Social Democratic Party pursues environmentalist and feminist policies which promote healthful and humane conditions. Feminist policies formed and implemented by the Social Democratic Party and the Left Party and the Greens (which made an arrangement with the Social democrats to support the government, while not forming a coalition), include paid maternity and paternity leave, high employment for women in the public sector, combining flexible work with living wages and benefits, providing public support for women in their traditional responsibilities for care giving, and policies to stimulate women’s political participation and leadership. Reviewing policies and institutional practices for their impact on women had become common in social democratic governance.[53]

The legacy of Social Democratic Party governance in Sweden is widely regarded as increasing the quality of life, naturally among those who benefit directly from an affluent, low-inequality society, but even among the wealthy. One Volvo executive admitted that a strong social welfare state, like the Swedish, helps finance a quality of life that low individual taxes cannot. When faced with the question, “Why don’t you leave (Sweden)? Certainly, you would pay a lot lower taxes and probably also have a higher salary in the U.S.”, he responded, “Yes, of course, I would have a lot more money in my pocket. But I would also almost never get home before 7 o’clock and I certainly would not have the vacations everyone has a right to here… and you know what else, I would have to spend a lot more money on insurance, college for my kids, and travel back home to my family. In the end, I’m not really sure I would be any better off.”[44]
 

Hjalmar Branting accepted Eduard Bernstein‘s revision of Marxism and became a reformist socialist, advocating a peaceful transition from capitalism towards socialism. He believed that if workers were given the vote, this could be achieved by parliamentary ways. Branting supported the February Revolution in Russia in 1917. He was pro-Menshevik and defended the government of Alexander Kerensky, who he even personally visited in Petrograd.

When the October Revolution broke out the same year, Branting condemned the Bolshevik seizure of power. 1917 saw a split in the Swedish Social Democratic Party on this question, and the youth league and the revolutionary sections of the party broke away and formed the Social Democratic Left Party of Sweden, headed by Zeth Höglund. This group soon became the Swedish Communist Party. Zeth Höglund later returned to the Social Democratic Party, and wrote a two-volume biography about Hjalmar Branting.

As Prime Minister he brought Sweden into the League of Nations and was personally active as a delegate within it. When the question of whether Åland should be handed over to Sweden after the independence of Finland from Russia was brought up, he let the League of Nation decide upon the issue. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921 for his work in the League of Nations

2 articles: War resister to be deported from Canada; Nader on Living Wage

4 Sep

Published on Thursday, August 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

Canada Orders War Resister to Be Deported Back to US

Kimberly Rivera must leave Canada by Sept. 20

– Common Dreams staff

A war resister who has been living in Canada for the last five years has been ordered deported back to the U.S., an immigration board said Thursday.

Kimberly Rivera is seen with her family in this undated photo. Courtesy of Resisters.ca. Kimberly Rivera, reported to be the first female U.S. war resister, had served in Iraq in 2006 but sought refuge in Canada in 2007.

Rivera is the mother of four children, the two youngest born in Canada.

She must now leave the Canada by Sept. 20.

Courage to Resist, a U.S.-based war resister support organization, reported on Rivera’s story and why she had sought refuge in Canada:

“While in Iraq losing soldiers and civilians was part of daily life. I was a gate guard. This was looked down on by infantry soldiers who go out in the streets, but gate guards are the highest security of the Forward Operation Base. We searched vehicles, civilian personnel, and military convoys that left and came back every hour. I had a huge awakening seeing the war as it truly is: people losing their lives for greed of a nation and the effects on the soldiers who come back with new problems such as nightmares, anxieties, depression, anger, alcohol abuse, missing limbs and scars from burns. Some don’t come back at all.”

“On December 21, 2006 I was going to my room and something in my heart told me to go call my husband. And when I did 24 rounds of mortars hit the FOB in a matter of minutes after I got on the phone…the mortars were 10-15 feet from where I was. I found a hole from the shrapnel in my room in the plywood window. That night I found the shrapnel on my bed in the same place where my head would have been if I hadn’t changed my plans and gone to the phone.”

She began questioning everything: “Why am I here? What am I giving my life for? How am I helping my comrades and Iraq’s people? What harm do I see here that would affect the safety of my family back home? Is what I am doing self-defense or aggression?”

That night an Iraqi civilian friend of Kimberly’s was badly wounded. “All I know is she was in very bad shape. The shrapnel hit her in her mid section and she was put on life support. That’s the last I heard from her sisters before I left.”

The following Saturday she watched as an Iraqi father came to the base with a little girl about 2 years old to put in a claim for loss due to Army negligence. The little girl was shaking very hard. “You could see tears of trauma running down her face. No weeping, no whining, just tears. . I was seeing my little girl. I wanted to hold her so bad, but I was afraid of scaring her more and I didn’t want to do that.”

———————————-

Published on Thursday, August 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

Challenging Big Labor to Fight for a Living Wage

by Ralph Nader

“Why should I listen to anything Harry Kelber says?” exclaimed a visibly indignant Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

Maybe because Kelber, 98 years young, has been honestly fighting for labor rights as a worker, union organizer, pamphleteer, author, professor and overall hairshirt of the moribund organized labor movement for 78 years–or 15 years before Trumka, the former coal miner and United Mine Workers’ president, was born.

Kelber writes and speaks about what is on the minds of millions of union workers and non-union workers. Why aren’t organized labor’s leaders more aggressive in addressing the plight of American labor by challenging big companies and their political allies? Why didn’t the AFL-CIO leadership hold Barack Obama in 2009, 2010, and 2011 to his specific 2008 promises to press Congress for a $9.50 federal minimum wage by 2011 and, when under control of the Democrats, get Congress to pass the “card check” that would give millions of workers a chance to organize in Walmart, McDonalds and other companies that employ low-wage labor and provide few benefits?

How can the AFL-CIO’s “policy of silence and secrecy… serve the interest of union members?” Kelber criticizes the Federation for its top-down control, its aversion to any democratic process for its elections, and for not taking full advantage of the Wall Street crash, the taxpayer bailouts, and U.S. corporations sending jobs to repressive dictatorships abroad.

Kelber wants the AFL-CIO and its member unions to fight against this strip-mining of the American economy and work closely with labor unions from other countries with the same corporate employers.

In truth, to outsiders, Trumka’s labor federation appears a defeated giant in its great white headquarters on Washington, D.C.’s 16th Street, across from the White House. To be sure, it confronts formidable external trends which include a declining union membership, right wing Governors attacking its pensions, faster automation, corporate globalization, huge corporate slush funds to buy or rent politicians and anti-worker laws such as the notorious union-blocking Taft-Hartley Law of 1947 now in its 65th year of damage.

The old saying, however, is that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. That is not happening. Trumka delivers “give ‘em hell” speeches against corporate abuses, but gives the cowardly Democratic Party and its elected officials a pass. Consequently the Democrats take campaign money from unions and, led by a President who would not have been elected president without them, take the AFL-CIO support for granted.

Recently, Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. and other Representatives introduced HR. 5901 (The Catching Up With 1968 Act of 2012) to enact a $10 minimum wage to benefit 30 million workers languishing between the present $7.25 minimum wage and $10. So far the AFL-CIO hasn’t put any muscle or part of its multi-million dollar television ad buys behind it.

Inside an AFL-CIO’s executive council meeting one day, Trumka criticized President Obama and incurred the displeasure of one labor baron who said there should be no criticism even in their private meeting. Trumka objected to that request for self-censorship.

Meanwhile, the corporate barons in the nearby U.S. Chamber of Commerce building go after Obama with hammer and tongs, even though the President has gone out of his way to coddle them, to walk over and speak to them last year – something he has not done to his AFL-CIO neighbors.

Worse, Obama appointed Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of the net job-exporting, no federal-tax-paying, anti-union, very profitable General Electric, head of the White House’s Jobs Council. Mr. Trumka sits with him and never urges the repeal of Taft-Hartley while he listens to the corporatists demand more and more deregulation, tax breaks, subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare.

Kelber has pointed out the financial distress enveloping the AFL-CIO itself. So strapped is the AFL-CIO budget that it is selling its affiliates visionary 47 acre labor campus in suburban Maryland where it is reportedly losing about $6 million a year. Why? The Federation is not about to explain its budgetary priorities to its rank and file.

There are good people inside the labor headquarters. They are muzzled. Trumka will say he has his hands full with the heads of member unions who, he has implied, are not exactly progressive or aggressive for change. Here he has a point. While Trumka and John Hiatt control the staff, he has to deal with a fractious group of member unions, most of which want to stay beneath the radar and avoid notice.

Unless they have nothing to hide, union leaders generally avoid the spotlight. They remember too many prosecutions of their forbears. Don’t rock the boat. Even on Labor Day, they do not come forward prominently to dominate the news with major events and announcements. The Labor Day parades are either extinct or a diluted shadow of their earlier years.

Yet, this upcoming Labor Day, as I wrote President Obama, there is a great opportunity for collaboration between him, union leaders, workers and social justice organizations to take a stand for the $10 minimum wage that is favored by 70 percent of the people. It would be a leading media event that is the long overdue right thing to do, both morally and economically.

Even Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, until the latter waffled earlier this year, have long favored a minimum wage keeping up with inflation. Isn’t it time for 30 million hardpressed American workers to receive what workers got in 1968?

Obama has not replied to my suggestion. Nor has the AFL-CIO. Kelber is right. It is time for a new labor federation of, by and for the workers. See Kelber’s http://www.laboreducator.org and participate. He vigorously welcomes you and your views.

articles on protest and politics

4 Sep

Heywoud Broun

American Newspaper Guild

The reason for giving this sketchy biography was because of a quote I found by Heywood Broun from May, 1936. His thoughts were on what must have seemed even then the unavoidable war in Europe and the rise of the fascists in Italy and Germany.

“I am quite ready to admit that the word Fascism has been used very loosely. Sometimes we call a man a Fascist simply because we dislike him, for one reason or another. And so I’ll try to be pretty literal in outlining some of the evidence which I see as the actual danger of Fascism in America. First of all, we need a definition.

Fascism is a dictatorship from the extreme Right, or to put it a little more closely into our local idiom, a government which is run by a small group of large industrialists and financial lords. Of course, if you want to go back into recent history) the influence of big business has always been present in our federal government. But there have been some checks on its control. I am going to ask latitude to insist that we might have Fascism even though we maintained the pretense of democratic machinery. The mere presence of a Supreme Court, a House of Representatives, a Senate and a President would not be sufficient protection against the utter centralization of power in the hands of a few men who might hold no office at all.

Even in the case of Hitler, many shrewd observers feel that he is no more than a front man and that his power is derived from the large munitions and steel barons of Germany. … Now one of the first steps which Fascism must take in any land in order to capture power is to disrupt and destroy the labor movement. … I think it is not unfair to say that any business man in America, or public leader, who goes out to break unions, is laying foundations for Fascism.”
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Score another victory for RootsAction.org and our allies. 49,763 of us signed the petition at StarsEarnStripes.org protesting NBC’s war-is-fun “reality” show co-hosted by former general Wesley Clark.

Activists in New York have held a weekly protest and delivered the petitions. The bad press has been voluminous, while the viewership has plummeted. It’s safe to say there’sScore another victory for RootsAction.org and our allies. 49,763 of us signed the petition at StarsEarnStripes.org protesting NBC’s war-is-fun “reality” show co-hosted by former general Wesley Clark.

Activists in New York have held a weekly protest and delivered the petitions. The bad press has been voluminous, while the viewership has plummeted. It’s safe to say there’s no immediate future for this show. It ends tonight.

TV viewers may be spared Wesley Clark for a while as he’s been dropped by both NBC and DNC. Turned down in his offer to speak at the Democratic National Convention, Clark will speak at another event in Charlotte tonight.

But even with the former NATO commander out of sight, the warfare state drags on.

Take this moment to ask the DNC to drop its support for war and war preparation.

This year people are celebrating Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday. One of his less-known songs is “I’ve Got to Know.” — The RootsAction.org team

P.S. Our small staff is supported by contributions from people like you; your donations are greatly appreciated.

———–

This Labor Day, as politicians make speeches recognizing the contributions of American workers, they will also try to convince voters that their vision for restoring the middle class is best.

Voters know the state of the economy. We know that the middle class is eroding. We know that what is happening now is the result of decades of policies that favor the rich and corporations.

This November presents a choice between President Obama and other candidates who stand with working people, and candidates like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, who back a platform that destroys public services and envisions a future in which the rich and big corporations get even richer.

Right-wing Republicans across this country share a common record of campaigning against working people. We saw it last year in Wisconsin, where busting unions became a policy objective. We saw it earlier this year in Alabama, when Republicans passed one of the country’s most outrageous anti-immigrant bills instead of focusing on the state’s job crisis and faltering education system. And today, we are seeing it in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and every other state where right-wing legislatures passed voter identification laws in an attempt to keep low-income people, youth and communities of color from the polls.

It is meaningless for elected leaders to deliver empty rhetoric about working people’s contribution on Labor Day — or any day — without using their power in Washington to create an economy that works for all.

Let us know how you can help us win for the 99% in November.

In Solidarity,

Mary Kay Henry
President, Service Employees International Union

P.S. SEIU will be fighting for the 99% Agenda at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. all this week. Click here to sign up for updates from the Convention.

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Published on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 by Common Dreams

Meteorologists Adjust Official Stance: Human Activity Causing Climate Change

New language removes ambiguity from group’s previous statements on global warming and extreme weather

– Common Dreams staff
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Earth First! Blockades Florida’s Dirtiest Power Plant on the Heels of Romney’s RNC Acceptance Speech

APOLLO BEACH, FL – August 31 – In the climax of the 2012 Republican National Convention, protestors with Earth First! on Thursday blocked access roads to TECO’s Big Bend coal plant on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay. The environmental action group is citing corporate influence in politics and ecological impacts of fossil fuel dependency as reasons for the disruption.

This year’s RNC was funded by an estimated $55 million in corporate pay-offs, with corporations including the Tampa based-TECO Energy, along with Chevron, Duke Energy and Exxon Mobil.

According to a report by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) last year, Florida is among the dirtiest states in power plant pollution. NRDC found TECO’s Big Bend plant to be in the state’s, “top three most polluting smoke stacks.”

Earth First! activists chose their protest in order to highlight Mitt Romney’s plan to expand what the group calls the “energy empire” which favors the interest of big donors in oil, gas and coal industries.

Romney’s top energy policy advisor is the wealthiest oilman in the country and according to data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics, Romney has already raised more from mining interests than Bush or McCain raised from these industries in their entire campaigns.

Locally, TECO’s Big Bend plant has a long history of pollution. Along with being declared Florida’s number one dirtiest power plant by Florida Consumer Action Network, they were also documented discharging waste into Cobia Bay in Apollo Beach in years past.

But that’s not all. TECO has been called one of the nation’s worst offenders when it comes to mountaintop removal coal mining. In coal mining regions of the Appalachian Mountains, TECO has ruined entire communities to maximize their profits. Kentucky coalfield resident Doug Justice worked in the coal mines for 22 years and said “I have never seen an outfit treat a community the way TECO Coal has done us.”

In response to the devastation from floods caused be TECO’s mining in 2002, Granville Burke of Letcher County, Kentucky, had this to say: “I wish TECO had never started mining above our home. Protection for families like ours is supposed to come from the state and federal regulatory agencies, but instead they look the other way as coal companies destroy entire communities for the sake of profit.”

“Dirty energy becomes dirty politics. We can’t afford to stand by and watch it anymore. We have to fight back.” Said Rachel Kijewski, an organizer with the Earth First! movement in Florida.

——–

Corporations: Yes, We’re Moving Abroad to Get Lower Tax Rates

– Common Dreams staff

U.S. corporations are continuing tax dodging practices to boost their profits by the millions by reincorporating abroad, an article The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday shows.

(photo: d*unit / Flickr) John D. McKinnon and Scott Thurm describe how 10 companies have moved or have announced plans to move their incorporation address oversees since 2009 in an effort to lower their effective tax rate.

Alexander Cutler, chief executive of Eaton, a Cleveland-based company that has reincorporated in Ireland, said, “We have too high a domestic rate and we have a thoroughly uncompetitive international tax regime.” The move is saving the company $160 million a year.

Another company that moved is Ensco, now saving more than $100 million a year in tax dodging.

Yet while companies complain of a burdensome corporate tax rate of 35% and say that was a motivating factor behind their reincorporation oversees, very few companies actually pay that rate.

A Reuters report from May describing the Eaton reincorporation lays this out as well:

The top U.S. corporate tax rate is 35 percent, the highest in the world, though few companies actually pay that much due to abundant loopholes that lower their effective rates.

The Eaton-Cooper deal comes as the U.S. Congress inches toward a broad corporate tax code overhaul. The deal could add momentum to that effort, with Republicans arguing that high U.S. tax rates can drive companies to drastic measures.

In what could be a painful drain on the Treasury over time, at least seven U.S. companies in recent months have chosen through acquisition or merger to renounce their U.S. corporate citizenship by relocating to Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland or other lower-tax countries.

“There have been more of these in the last two months than in the five years before,” said Bob Willens, an independent tax analyst and publisher of The Willens Report.

The Eaton-Cooper deal will lead to $160 million in annual tax savings for the combined company, even though Eaton in practice already pays far less than 35 percent. That is thanks to its foreign subsidiaries, many of which are already in low-tax countries such as Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands.

In fact, many companies are paying a negative tax rate, as data from Citizens for Tax Justice show.

While there has been talk of the deficit at the Republican National Convention going on now in Tampa, there has been no talk of the impact closing corporate tax loopholes would have on the deficit.

“These big, profitable corporations are continuing to shift their tax burden onto average Americans,” said Citizens for Tax Justice director Bob McIntyre. “This isn’t fair to the rest of us, it makes no economic sense, and it’s part of the reason our government is running huge budget deficits.”

“Getting rid of corporate tax subsidies that cause such widespread tax avoidance ought to be a key part of any deficit-reduction program,” said McIntyre. “As a bonus, revenue-raising corporate tax reform would make it much easier to fund the investments we need to improve education and repair our crumbling roads and bridges — things that would actually help businesses and our economy grow.”
=-===============

Published on Friday, August 31, 2012 by The Sacramento Bee

Raising Minimum Wage Can Yank Millions Out of Poverty and Jump-Start Economy

by Mark Weisbrot

The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour and hasn’t been raised in three years. But a raise is much more overdue than that. If we look at the minimum wage 44 years ago, and simply adjust it for inflation, it would be more than $10 today.

This is another ugly symptom of what has gone wrong in America over the last 35 to 40 years. From 1979 to 2007, about 60 percent of the income gains have gone to the now infamous 1 percent at the top, with the majority of those gains going to the top 0.1 percent – people who made, on average, $5.6 million per year.

But some of the worst effects of giving more to those who have the most have affected people toward the bottom of the income ladder, and there is no excuse for it.

Productivity – the amount that a worker produces in an hour – has more than doubled over the last 44 years. When the minimum wage doesn’t rise, or falls in terms of its purchasing power, it means that these millions of low-income workers are not sharing in the gains from improved technology, knowledge and organization.

There is currently legislation before Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour to $9.80, over three years. After that it would be indexed to inflation.

Contrary to prevailing myths about who would benefit from a proposed increase in the minimum wage, 88 percent of the 28 million workers affected are not teenagers.

As the Economic Policy Institute has shown, the majority are full-time workers, and on average they earn about half of their families’ income. And 28 percent of the nation’s 76 million children would have a parent who would benefit from the raise.

Another oversize myth promoted by the fast-food industry and other low-wage employers is that raising the minimum wage hurts workers by increasing unemployment. Although it is theoretically possible to raise minimum wages enough to cause employers to hire fewer workers, there is hardly any indication from economic research that the proposed increase in the minimum wage would have this effect.

Employment in the overall economy depends on aggregate demand or spending, which is determined – especially in our currently weak economy – by macroeconomic policy, including the Federal Reserve, and fiscal policy.

And raising the minimum wage doesn’t only cut into profits, it also increases demand in the economy by moving income to workers who spend more than those who receive profit.

The EPI estimated that the proposed increase in the minimum wage would actually increase employment.

In Brazil, the minimum wage was raised by 60 percent in real terms by the country’s most popular president, Lula da Silva – a former metal worker and union leader – as Brazil’s economy moved toward record low levels of unemployment. Across South America, other governments including Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela have significantly reduced inequality while increasing economic growth.

What a shame that the hemisphere’s richest country, where it would be so much easier to lift-up the working poor, has moved in the opposite direction.

It means that the U.S. political system is actually more corrupt and less democratic in very important ways than those of our developing country neighbors to the south.

The vast majority of Americans would favor an increase in the minimum wage, as well as restoring the rights of labor to organize unions. But our financial elite have a veto over what we want to vote for, in large part because of our system of legalized bribery – aka, the financing of political candidates’ elections.

Raising the minimum wage is about the minimum that we could do to reverse America’s retreat from civilization at home.

© 2012 McClatchy Tribune Services

on Dissent , by Chris Hedges.

20 Aug

Published on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 by TruthDig.com

Criminalizing Dissent

by Chris Hedges

 

I was on the 15th floor of the Southern U.S. District Court in New York in the courtroom of Judge Katherine Forrest last Tuesday. It was the final hearing in the lawsuit I brought in January against President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. I filed the suit, along with lawyers Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran, over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We were late joined by six co-plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg.(Photo by CTJ71081 CC-BY)

This section of the NDAA, signed into law by Obama on Dec. 31, 2011, obliterates some of our most important constitutional protections. It authorizes the executive branch to order the military to seize U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists or associated with terrorists. Those taken into custody by the military, which becomes under the NDAA a domestic law enforcement agency, can be denied due process and habeas corpus and held indefinitely in military facilities. Any activist or dissident, whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, can be threatened under this law with indefinite incarceration in military prisons, including our offshore penal colonies. The very name of the law itself—the Homeland Battlefield Bill—suggests the totalitarian credo of endless war waged against enemies within “the homeland” as well as those abroad.

“The essential thrust of the NDAA is to create a system of justice that violates the separation of powers,” Mayer told the court. “[The Obama administration has] taken detention out of the judicial branch and put it under the executive branch.”

In May, Judge Forrest issued a temporary injunction invalidating Section 1021 as a violation of the First and Fifth amendments. It was a courageous decision. Forrest will decide within a couple of weeks whether she will make the injunction permanent.

In last week’s proceeding, the judge, who appeared from her sharp questioning of government attorneys likely to nullify the section, cited the forced internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II as a precedent she did not want to follow. Forrest read to the courtroom a dissenting opinion by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson in Korematsu v. United States, a ruling that authorized the detention during the war of some 110,00 Japanese-Americans in government “relocation camps.”

“[E]ven if they were permissible military procedures, I deny that it follows that they are constitutional,” Jackson wrote in his 1944 dissent. “If, as the Court holds, it does follow, then we may as well say that any military order will be constitutional, and have done with it.”

Barack Obama’s administration has appealed Judge Forrest’s temporary injunction and would certainly appeal a permanent injunction. It is a stunning admission by this president that he will do nothing to protect our constitutional rights. The administration’s added failure to restore habeas corpus, its use of the Espionage Act six times to silence government whistle-blowers, its support of the FISA Amendment Act—which permits warrantless wiretapping, monitoring and eavesdropping on U.S. citizens—and its ordering of the assassination of U.S. citizens under the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, is a signal that for all his rhetoric, Obama, like his Republican rivals, is determined to remove every impediment to the unchecked power of the security and surveillance state. I and the six other plaintiffs, who include reporters, professors and activists, will most likely have to continue this fight in an appellate court and perhaps the Supreme Court.

The language of the bill is terrifyingly vague. It defines a “covered person”—one subject to detention—as “a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.” The bill, however, does not define the terms “substantially supported,” “directly supported” or “associated forces.” In defiance of more than 200 earlier laws of domestic policing, this act holds that any member of a group deemed by the state to be a terrorist organization, whether it is a Palestinian charity or a Black Blocanarchist unit, can be seized and held by the military. Mayer stressed this point in the court Wednesday when he cited the sedition convictions of peace activists during World War I who distributed leaflets calling to end the war by halting the manufacturing of munitions. Mayer quoted Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ dissenting 1919 opinion. We need to “be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe,” the justice wrote.

The Justice Department’s definition of a potential terrorism suspect under the Patriot Act is already extremely broad. It includes anyone with missing fingers, someone who has weatherproof ammunition and guns, and anyone who has hoarded more than seven days of food. This would make a few of my relatives in rural Maine and their friends, if the government so decided, prime terrorism suspects.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Torrance argued in court that the government already has the authority to strip citizens of their constitutional rights. He cited the execution of Nazi saboteur Richard Quirin during World War II, saying the case was “completely within the Constitution.” He then drew a connection between that case and the AUMF, which the Obama White House argues permits the government to detain and assassinate U.S. citizens they deem to be terrorists. Torrance told the court that judicial interpretation of the AUMF made it identical to the NDAA, which led the judge to ask him why it was necessary for the government to defend the NDAA if that was indeed the case. Torrance, who fumbled for answers before the judge’s questioning, added that the United States does not differentiate under which law it holds military detainees. Judge Forrest, looking incredulous, said that if this was actually true the government could be found in contempt of court for violating orders prohibiting any detention under the NDAA.

Forrest quoted to the court Alexander Hamilton, who argued that judges must place “the power of the people” over legislative will.

“Nor does this conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power,” Hamilton, writing under the pseudonym Publius, said in Federalist No. 78. “It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both; and that where the will of the legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter rather than the former. They ought to regulate their decisions by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are not fundamental.”

Contrast this crucial debate in a federal court with the empty campaign rhetoric and chatter that saturate the airwaves. The cant of our political theater, the ridiculous obsessions over vice presidential picks or celebrity gossip that dominate the news industry, effectively masks the march toward corporate totalitarianism. The corporate state has convinced the masses, in essence, to clamor for their own enslavement. There is, in reality, no daylight between Mitt Romney and Obama about the inner workings of the corporate state. They each support this section within the NDAA and the widespread extinguishing of civil liberties. They each will continue to funnel hundreds of billions of wasted dollars to defense contractors, intelligence agencies and the military. They each intend to let Wall Street loot the U.S. Treasury with impunity. Neither will lift a finger to help the long-term unemployed and underemployed, those losing their homes to foreclosures or bank repossessions, those filing for bankruptcy because of medical bills or college students burdened by crippling debt. Listen to the anguished cries of partisans on either side of the election divide and you would think this was a battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. You would think voting in the rigged political theater of the corporate state actually makes a difference. The charade of junk politics is there not to offer a choice but to divert the crowd while our corporate masters move relentlessly forward, unimpeded by either party, to turn all dissent into a crime.

© 2012 TruthDig.com

 

 

 

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph

provisional essay on Capitalism and socialism

8 Aug

One:

Below are two analyses of capitalism, by me.

Q: How do we explain the co-existence of poverty and great wealth amassed in the hands of fewer and fewer hands here in Amerika? If we know one thing about capitalism, it is that it tends toward the creation of monopolies. Corporations compete with one another in order for the stronger ones to devour the less strong ones. Meanwhile the real needs of the poor for work, housing, education and food, go increasingly unmet, as their false artificially-constructed wants are exploited by the members of the superior class. In the final analysis, we don’t really need the technological wonders which have been created in order to foster the ends of the capitalists; what we really need is that which we need in order to survive the present social order.

a) The essential social question is that of property. It is property and its private ownership that creates the fundamentals of the system of capitalism. The bourgeoisie is the property-owning class, which has constructed legal, social, and educational systems in order to further its own ends.

b)The working-class, also known as labor, is predicated on the social fact of ‘wage-slavery.’ Everywhere in America one sees the end result of wage-slavery, which is poverty. The worker, the waiter, the clerk, the cab driver, the prostitute — all are the social products of capitalist division of mankind into classes: the rich, the middle-classes, the workers, the immigrants, and the poor.

Society is a legitimate object of study, and sociology is forced to concede to the Marxists the insights into the nature of the social order, which have opened our eyes to what is there before our eyes but is dimly understood: “The We.” Enforcing this social order in every society is the police and before it lies armies of teachers, academics, priests, preachers, social workers and government workers: in short, the bourgeoisie‘s intellectual representatives.

The police don’t exist in order to solve crimes, but to frighten the working-class into not rebelling  against the system! Therein lies the genius of the capitalistic class in protecting its self-interest insofar as it seduces the self-declared neutral members of society into serving the system that primarily benefits the rich. Anyone for tennis, the capitalists ask, while society burns. Conspicuous consumption, not the fair allocation of resources, is what the predatory capitalists aim at. This only further alienates the poor and the proletariat, or working-class, which when it attempts to form itself into legitimate unions, is only stymied at every turn by the political hacks of capitalism.

If academics, intellectuals, the disaffected members of the upper and upper middle-class, the students, the poor, the working-classes, the emprisoned, the poor disused soldiers, and others, were to recognize their common interest in changing the social order, then there would be the makings of a major public rebellion against the system of oppression, called capitalism. This order, which consigns millions of people to poverty and near poverty, is not natural but is entirely man-made. In it is to be found the vast underpaid army of the unemployed, the wage-slaves, the discriminated-against minorities, the vast underclass of the uneducated, and the disaffected members of all classes. Yet, one asks, why don’t the poor rebel against the system?

If these classes of society were to understand the false, criminal, and fundamentally unjust nature of capitalism — then there would be the forging together of a class of mankind in solidarity, a melting away of differences of opinion, and a consensus that capitalism is inherently rotten and must either be reformed immediately or be destroyed from within, to be replaced by a more just social order. Capitalism has a stale date which is rapidly approaching us. The dust-bin of history awaits it eagerly.

That is the nature of the protest that must break out against the current socio-economic system under which we live and against which we must consign ourselves spiritually, physically, morally in the name of the coming struggle. This struggle against the falsity of the capitalist system and the cultural and political system built upon social injustice will end with the victory of the proletariat. The many — the eighty or ninety percent– will prevail against the upper classes. But it will not be easy.

Capitalism cannot survive without the exploitation of labor,

the cheating of millions of workers by underpaying them for their labor. Upon this appropriation of underpaid labor-wealth, an entire social order has been constructed, with a great deal of phony religion overlaying it in order for the capitalists to avoid scrutinizing their own conscience for indulging themselves in this vast criminal enterprise. We to this process as ‘expropriation’ of labor-time from the laborer.

Thus, the system thrives ultimately on fear — fear of the police, fear of the father, fear of the priest, fear of the superior powers. Fear keeps the working-class from organizing collectively and challenging ‘the status quo.’ Fear of the landlord keeps the underclass high and drunk half the day.

The system we live under is a monster, devouring its own children. Ultimately its children will devour it — and will construct a new, humanistic order designed to serve man and woman’s needs rather than exploiting them with false wants — all for profit. What a great gift it is to tyrants, said a famous one, that the people do not think! Well, he underestimated the will of the working-class to its self-education and self-defense. Now all it needs to do is to link hands with the intellectual class which must reject the seductions of the capitalist market-place and either reform the corporate plutocratic system — or see it  ultimately destroyed.

The working-class is what the upper  class most fears. The self-educated, self-organized working-class which no longer has blind faith in the system which oppresses them. They see all the gains and wealth going to the privileged few. Even the educational system in America is organized in order to keep the working-class hands from being idle.

——

 

—————

A brief summation of Marx, the thinker:

Marxism is principally an analysis of society. We cannot change society without first having some form of understanding of society. Hence, Marxism is a branch of sociology, as well as of history and economics.

The mass media exist to provide the populace, especially the working-class, with a ‘false consciousness.’ It’s quite ingenious. The proletariat (working-class and the poor) are continually subjected to the false images of the capitalist marketplace, in order so that they will function both as workers and consumers.The products used by the wealthy are shown on TV and in the movies, right in the faces of the poor, who keep working harder and harder, unable to afford to buy them. If the poor steal, they end up in prison. But if they buy these products, they avoid paying for the things they really need: food, housing, clothing. That is ‘false consciousness,’ in a nutshell.The mass media exist to keep the workers deluded; yet every day, they feel their oppression as real.

There is a structure of society:
The owners of the means of production are: the rich, the industrialists.

The bankers and the politicianss are their employees.

The police are their only real protection from a mass uprising of the working-class.

The military and the jails gobble up a significant portion of the working-class, so that the middle class can experience a little less competition.

Religion was developed as an idea-system, that would keep the workers from attaining an understanding of society.

The media spread false consciousness.
The educational system exists to keep the class-system in place. University for the well-off; vocational school for the poor.

Capitalism leads mankind to war after war; and who dies in these largely pointless conflicts? Mainly the children of the working-class! And who brings them these wars? The ruling class!

Marx saw societal stability differently, believing that money and industry hold the status quo in place. As long as the upper class keeps the lower class happy enough in their oppressed state, the rich will become richer and the lower class will accept its inferior position in life.

NEW:
We cannot ignore Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as thinkers, despite the problems caused by Communism. Where I disagree with the Marxists was in their demand for a violent overthrow of Capitalist bourgeois society. We need to figure out how to REFORM capitalism, before it’s too late. Feminism, environmentalism, peace protestors, and critics of capitalism should come to an understanding that the system we live under needs to be reformed. Marx’s call for a violent revolution led only to the failures of Communism, as a system. Even Red China today is basically a capitalist country, but one that has repeated America’s mistakes, and is not reformed.