Sunday, March 29, 2015

Chinese Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Upsets Washington


by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

We have always argued on this blog that the so-called diplomacy of the world’s nations is phony. It is the pretense that good intentions between states are the norm and negotiations around issues like trade or territory take place in an atmosphere of trust with a goal of benefiting all parties, the goal is harmony.

The reality is the opposite as Wikileaks has shown and why Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden,  Chelsea Manning and others like them are so despised by those participating in this diplomacy of thieves.

The fact is that capitalism is a permanent state of war. The relations between capitalist states are one of permanent war as nations struggle to gain a competitive edge over their rivals through bullying, lying, plunder and robbery under the cloak of diplomacy.  When this doesn’t work, then they resort to what they call hard power as opposed to soft and mass violence ensues.

The hypocrisy is incredible.  

Despite all the talk from the US spin doctors about wanting the rest of the world to develop, this only applies to nations that are dependent on US power and US money for their development and as long as they have valuable resources that US and western capitalism needs. Most importantly, they cannot rival US military power and global influence.

The rise of China has always been a major concern for the western powers and is particularly threatening to US imperialism and its position as the number one global power. While US imperialism’s global influence has declined somewhat it is still a power armed to the teeth, with the ability to blow us all up; it’s a deteriorating regime with the big guns.

The creation of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIID), a multilateral development bank led by China with a $50 billion kick in has war profiteers in Washington and the Pentagon all flustered.  What’s worse, the Chinese have managed to get 26 Asian countries to support the venture. And worse still, a number of important US allies are on board, including the UK, France and Germany, New Zealand, Italy.  Even South Korea has joined and Japan and Australia are considering it. Readers may remember that prior to this period of decline and stagnation, Japan was enemy number one in the world when it came to US competitors, its decline has opened up doors for the Chinese.  Allies these countries may be, but there is no honor among thieves and the US spying on their leaders, taping their phone calls and screening their e mails is not an activity that strengthens friendships. It’s not cool to get caught at this stuff. But arrogance leads to carelessness.

Reading a Wall Street Journal editorial last week I had to laugh. The leading mouthpiece of US capitalism and its plunder around the world is astonished that its allies and other would be proxies in Asia are supporting the AIID despite Washington’s protestations. “Beijing has never made a secret of its belief in checkbook politics, and in recent years it has spent vast sums in pursuit of its regional ambitions….” the WSJ editorial states. In another WSJ article on the subject, Andrew Browne writes that Washington is “…concerned that the lender will act as a tool of Chinese foreign policy, albeit it in a more sophisticate way”. (My added emphasis*

Well Browne and the WSJ do have one point; “sophisticated” is not the term that comes to mind when discussing the US bourgeois and their foreign policy.  One million dead in Iraq, a lost war that is splitting the country in to three parts and these also fragmented. Creating the Islamic State.  Failing to defeat the Taliban, provoking war in Eastern Europe, supporting every rotten regime around the world that advances Wall Street’s interests.  And, how does the conversation between Netanyahu and Obama go?:

“Barack, we’ve killed 500 Palestinian women and children, we’re running out of bullets. Can you send more?”

“No problem Bibi, we’ve got your back. Even Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth warren are on board”

 “We are wary about a trend toward constant accommodation of China, which is not the best way to engage a rising power,” a senior US official tells the UK’s Financial Times.  British imperialism, a tenth rate power these days, has really hurt some feelings among the US 1%. The British bourgeois has been one of the staunchest lapdogs when it comes to US aggression but “Appeasing China for commercial purposes…” the WSJ editorial says, is tantamount to London, abandoning, its historic “….responsibility to speak up for the freedom of its former colony Hong Kong.”

The Chinese are in every continent; they own the largest African Bank. They have built railroads, infrastructure, factories, bridges throughout Africa and Latin America which is considered by the US 1% to be their back yard. They have funded projects in Vietnam, a traditional enemy and that country has joined the AIIB. Now, one of China’s foremost Vietnamese critics, economist, Lee Dang Doanh has praised the venture as a “clever idea because it will soothe anxieties as China deploys its vast wealth around the world.” writes Browne.  Doanh also “praises western powers for “breaking ranks with Washington” and joining the bank.

This is not good for US imperialism.

Naturally, all the powerful capitalist economies pursue these goals.  The US doesn’t practice “Checkbook politics”?  This is the land of checkbook politics, ask any American. The US bribes UN representatives to vote its way at the UN. Where it can’t buy or bribe allies it will throw some violence at them as it does at home. It will use its vast wealth and huge secret spying apparatus to infiltrate and destabilize regimes that refuse to allow US capitalism access to its markets ands raw material. The same goes for any domestic resistance Wall Street. The first Americans in Vietnam were CIA operatives used to destabilize the country and deter any opposition to its polices.

The US bourgeois’ fear that behind Chinese foreign policy and the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is an attempt to increase China’s global influence is valid. But it is this Chinese sophistication that worries them, “Poor regimes willing to stay on Beijing’s good side will earn cheap loans on lax terms, but the bank will promote a version of China’s state capitalism, not transparent markets.” the Wall Street Journal warns its readers. For some, the Chinese are not tarnish with quite the same colonialist brush as the Europeans and Americans.

The Chinese bureaucracy has been fairly successful so far when it comes to running a market economy alongside a huge state owned sector.  This is the problem for the US capitalist class.  For them, everything must be privatized, education, health care, transportation, the banks, infrastructure, agriculture. As in the US, any state intervention that crowds out private capital or appears in the slightest to provide a service has to be abandoned, vilified, privatized--------the market rules and cannot be undermined as profits come first.

The Journals editorial warns,The trillions of dollars Asia needs for public works will never
source Business insider
materialize unless private investors see reliable, non-corrupt opportunities for returns. Easy public loans that perpetuate cronyism don’t help.”.
Readers should think about this statement for a minute. The US social infrastructure is a disaster, The U.S. needs to spend a staggering $2 trillion to rebuild infrastructure Business Insider wrote in 2011. Try getting that from the hedge fund managers.  US capitalism has more than two trillion dollars stashed away refusing to invest until its profitable enough to do so.  Private individuals have some $32 trillion stashed in offshore accounts avoiding taxes according to a study published in 2013, and that’s private not corporate funds. And US capitalism has received trillions in "cheap money". It grew to a great extent thanks to African slave labor that received no wages for 300 years.

The continuing decline in US living standards will continue until public control and production of social needs including infrastructure replaces the private. The journal editorial could apply to any world power but there is no doubt that among the world’s working class billions, it is the US that is feared the most, the US that is seen as the warmonger. 

It is difficult to say how far China can go along the capitalist road.  Dominant sectors of the economy including the finance sector are state run.  There are hundreds of thousands of protests and strikes every year against land grabs, environmental damage and working conditions.  There is massive overcapacity and a real estate bubble.  Whole projects have been abandoned.  Strikes have won major wage increases and we have seen the huge protests in Hong Kong.  The Chinese bureaucracy has an advantage in that they are all familiar with Marx’s economic writings for one thing.  They are trying to balance and ease the worst effects of the market.  How successful they will be remains to be seen.

There are huge clashes ahead in China as far as I can see, particularly as the economy slows.  Clashes between the aspirations of the rising capitalist class and the Communist Party bureaucrats. Clashes between the state and the massive working class, the rural workers and the urban.  And further clashes between workers and the private sector.  The environmental crisis is acute in China and there will inevitably be huge battles around this issue.

In relation to China, it is important to remember as well that if in 1985 one had asked the academic experts on the Soviet Union how long this dictatorship would last they might well have said 1000 years such was the power and crushing weight of the dictatorship, by the late 80’s it was gone.

The last point I would like to make is that these conditions of constant war, tension and conflict will never end until capitalism is overthrown; it is the modern era’s normal. The world is far more unstable today than during the cold war when two global powers had a relationship of carving up spheres of influence that brought relative calm by today’s standards. Now, the existence of nation states within an integrated world economy is emerging once again as a source of conflict on a major scale alongside the disintegration of former states, or failed states as they call them today. Capitalism is truly in deep crisis.

It is not that working class people of any nation don’t understand this in a sense, that the world and the governments of nations are rotten. But with no international working class movement and organization that can cut through the confusion and explain these developments in a political way, unite workers along economic, political and of course class lines, the tendency is for people to buckle up for the ride and take the position that better it’s our rotten bastards than theirs. This writer is no expert, just sharing my views on the subject from a worker's perspective.

It is exactly such a movement that is necessary if we are to survive on this planet. We have not yet run out of time, but we will.

* US Hard Line on Bank Sets Up Rifts: WSJ World News, 3-25-15

Friday, March 27, 2015

Pacific Steel strike Berkeley California.


by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired


Workers struck the Pacific Steel foundry in Berkeley earlier this week.  The workers are members of Local 164B of the Glass, Molders, and Pottery Union.

I was able to stop by yesterday and today for a while and talked with some of the workers.  From what they told me, production has been pretty much shut down at the company which is a rarity these days as strikes have become little more than 24 hour protests as workers walk ineffective picket lines.  More often than not, the strategy of the union hierarchy is to avoid shutting down production in order to ensure that the employers business and profits are not severely affected.  The idea is to hopefully get the bosses to agree to slightly milder concessions than they initially ask for.

Workers told me that a major issue was sick leave.  As the worker says in the video, the bosses do not recognize Dr’s slips.  Money is also an issue but as is normally the case today, disputes or strikes are always defensive battles. Pacific Steel wants workers to work 4 10-hour shifts with no overtime. The piece of paper at the end of the video was a calculation from one of the workers that working four tens without overtime pay would be a cut in wages. In the Waste Management strike here in San Leandro where low waged sorters at the dump walked off the job a few months ago, officials of the Teamsters and the Machinists accused the sorters represented by the ILWU local 6 of too high expectations.  They were earning $12 an hour and wanting $20.  Even $20 an hour  in this area is low waged. The Teamsters leadership told their members to cross the picket lines in that instance citing a dispute over protocol.

Apparently, Pacific Steel’s bosses have told the union they want to talk and most of the workers I talked to said that this is because they are feeling the heat as no work of any significance is being done.  So the management and the union are meeting tomorrow morning at 10 am (3-28-15) and a union meeting is scheduled for the following day, Sunday.  One worker told me that another impetus for the talks might have been that there is a feeling among some workers that the union is not doing enough and I was told some workers were talking about trying to join another union and that might have pushed the union leadership to get a bit more aggressive.

This occurs frequently when rank and file members feel their union is not doing enough and it happened in mine as well. The problem is that there is no easy way out, no way of avoiding a struggle within our own locals or the present leadership throughout organized labor over policies and the necessity of building militant rank and file opposition caucuses that can change the present concessionary course.  The entire trade union leadership no matter which union, is the same when it comes to this as they all support the Team Concept and that we have to compete in order to help our own employers in their struggle with their rivals for market share and profits.

Profit warning

by Michael Roberts

The final estimate of US GDP in the fourth quarter of 2014 came out today. US real GDP growth was left unrevised at 2.2% year-on-year in the final three months of the year and the figure for the whole of 2014 was unrevised at 2.4%. Mainstream economists were keen to suggest that the current quarter in 2015 ending this week could show a pick-up.

But none mentioned the really important development – that corporate profits fell in the fourth quarter, increasing the risk of a new slump in investment in 2015-16. Profits fell $30.4 billion in the fourth quarter, in contrast to an increase of $64.5 billion in the third. This seems mainly due to a fall in profits from overseas as the dollar’s strength drove income gathered in other currencies down. This meant that corporate profits are lower by 0.2% from this time last year and are down 0.8% in 2014 compared to 2013.

In previous posts, I have argued that profits drive investment; and investment leads real GDP growth in capitalist economies – the opposite, by the way, of the causal sequence claimed by the Keynesians, who see it as consumer spending and investment leading to income and thus to profits (see my many posts on this issue, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/profits-call-the-tune/
and the excellent paper by Tapia Granados
http://sitemaker.umich.edu/tapia_granados/files/does_investment_call_the_tune_may_2012__forthcoming_rpe_.pdf).
In 2014, there were clear signs that US corporate profit growth was slowing, see my post
https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/…/us-gdp-up-but-pro…/.
I argued that, when corporate profits slow, some six months to year later, so will business investment. Well in Q4 2014, profits went negative for the first time since the beginning of the Great Recession in January 2008. The time before that was at the beginning of the mild recession of 2001. Now as the graph below shows, that would suggest a new investment slump before the year is out.
US corporate profit and investment
And it is not just US corporate profits. I have been tracking corporate profits in some of the major capitalist economies, namely, the US, UK, Japan, China and Germany. Combined corporate profits growth has been slowing sharply, from 11% yoy this time last year to just 3.2% at the end of 2014. Indeed, corporate profits growth has been very weak since the end of the Great Recession compared to before and now appears to be running out of steam.
Global corporate profits
This was mirrored by the figures for China’s industrial profits, also out today for the first two months of this year. Profits fell 4.2% from the same period in 2014, the biggest drop since early 2012.
The latest updated figures for the US mean that I can also make a pretty good stab at the movement in the US rate of profit right up to 2014. I have updated the estimate using the same sources, categories and methods adopted in my paper for a ‘whole economy’ rate of profit (see my paper, The profit cycle and economic recession).

For those of you who like to know how I get my results in detail (and there are many of you!), suffice it to say, that I have used the US Bureau of Economic Analysis NIPA accounts. I get the US net domestic income (GDP less capital consumption) and employee compensation from NIPA Table 1.10 and capital stock from the NIPA fixed asset tables 6.1 (for current cost measures) and 6.3 (for historic cost measures). Also, in my rate of profit measure, I include variable capital (employee compensation) in the denominator – something nearly all other analysts do not do. I won’t explain why I differ from others on this now (there is unpublished paper on this by myself and G Carchedi); again suffice it to say that if the rate of profit is measured with just fixed assets as the denominator, it does not make a decisive difference.
US rate of profit 2014
My results show that the US rate of profit fell in 2014, whether measured on a current cost or historic cost basis for fixed assets and depreciation, for the first time since the start of the Great Depression.
In the graph, the data confirm yet again what I and many other Marxist economists have argued (contrary to Thomas Piketty, among others) that the US rate of profit has been in secular decline since the end of the second world war. There was a ‘golden age’ from 1946 to 1965, when profitability held up (at least on the current cost measure) but then there was a period of sharply falling profitability (the crisis period) from 1965 to 1980-2. From 1982 to 1997 there was a significant revival in profitability (on a current cost basis) and a small pick-up, or end to the decline (on a historic cost basis) – the neo-liberal period, if you like. From 1997, US rate of profit entered a downward phase. Since the end of the Great Recession, profitability revived from lows in 2009 but is still below the level reached in 1997. And it fell in 2014.

From the data, we can see in more detail how profitability has changed. Between 1946 and 2014, US profitability in the capitalist sector fell 21% on a current cost basis and 29% on an historic cost basis. Most of the fall in the HC profit rate took place between 1946 and 1965, whereas on a current cost basis it dropped hugely between 1965 and 1982. There was a revival between 1982 and 1997, the neoliberal era, greater on a current cost basis. Since 1997, profitability has declined.
changes in us rate of profit
As I have explained before, the closest measure to the Marxian rate of profit requires the use of historic cost measures for fixed assets and depreciation. There is an exaggerated fall and rise in the current cost measure compared to the historic cost measure, due to the current cost inflation of fixed asset prices and depreciation. But the long-term story is the same (see Basu on RC versus HC for the argument that, over a long time, the current costs and historic measures can converge.)

Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is just that. The rate of profit in a capitalist economy will tend to fall over time and will do just that. BUT there are periods when counteracting factors come into play, so the tendency to fall does not materialise in an actual fall for a period of time. Thus you can get a profit cycle of falling profitability followed by a period of rising profitability and then a new fall, all within a secular process of decline. The US rate of profit in the post-war period exhibits just that with a 32-36 year cycle from trough to trough (for more on this, see my book, The Great Recession).

Marx’s law says that the rate of profit will fall because there will be a rising organic composition of capital (the value of constant capital – machinery, plant and raw materials – will rise faster than variable capital – wages and benefits paid to the employed workforce). The US data confirm that. There is strong inverse correlation (-0.67) between the organic composition of capital and the rate of profit. The organic composition of capital rose 20% from 1946 to 2014 and the rate of profit fell 20%. In the period when profitability rose, from 1982 to 1997, counteracting factors came into play, in particular, a rising rate of exploitation (surplus value) and a cheapening of the value of constant capital that led to a fall in the organic composition. In that period, the rate of surplus value rose 13% and the organic composition of capital fell 16%. I calculate that the rise in the rate of profit from 1980 to 2014 was two-thirds due to a rise in exploitation of labour during the neo-liberal period and only one-third due to cheaper technology. Again this supports Marx’s law.

So in sum, the US rate of profit fell in 2014 for the first time since 2008 and the mass of corporate profits fell in 2014 and went negative in the last quarter. Global corporate profit growth is also slowing significantly. All this suggests that the days (years?) of the economic recovery, such as it is, may be coming to an end. The current economic cycle of boom and slump seems to be about 8-9 years. The trough of the last slump was mid-2009. That would suggest that the next trough would be about 2017-2018. And the peak before the slump is usually 12-18 months before – so about 2016-17.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Syriza, the left and capitulation. What causes it?

Interesting piece here from Professor Petras whose writings I personally enjoy.  But his conclusions lacks something for me. It's not simply that the leaders of left parties or trade unions for that matter, are middle class. If they were from working class backgrounds and solidly in working class jobs, that would not guarantee anything if in their own mind they never really had an alternative to capitalism and the market.

It's easy to talk in revolutionary language, but there are a couple of serious prerequisites if you are faced with holding power  and have to decide what to do with it. And this has to do with the consciousness of those at the helm.  If you do not accept in your own mind that the working class can lead; that the working class is the most revolutionary class and that it is the historic role of the working class to change society, then you turn to the power, that alternative power, the class that rules and their system. You fall back on what is-------on the status quo.

Of course, if you don't really accept in your own mind that the working class Will fight to change society, will rise to the occasion and try to defend it's existence, then you certainly will not accept that the working  class can govern society.

This is the main issue for me personally, not whether or not the leadership is from the middle class.

Richard Mellor

Lies and Deceptions on the Left: The Politics of Self Destruction

Greece, France, Brazil

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petras
Over the past year, what appeared as hopeful signs, that Left governments were emerging as powerful alternatives to right-wing pro-US regimes, is turning into a historic rout, which will relegate them to the dustbin of history for many years to come. 
The rise and rapid decay of left-wing governments in France, Greece and Brazil is not the result of a military coup, nor is it due to the machinations of the CIA.  The debacle of left governments is a result of deliberate political decisions, which break decisively with the progressive programs, promises and commitments that political leaders had made to the great mass of working and middle class voters who elected them.
 Increasingly, the electorate views the leftist rulers as traitors, who betrayed their supporters at the beck and call of their most egregious class enemies:  the bankers, the capitalists and the neo-liberal ideologues.

Left Governments Commit Suicide
The self-destruction of the Left is an unanticipated victory for the most retrograde neo-liberal political forces.  These forces have sought to destroy the welfare system, impose their rule via non-elected officials, widen and deepen inequalities, undermine labor rights and privatize and denationalize the most lucrative sectors of the economy.

Three cases of Left regime betrayal serve to highlight this process: The French Socialist regime of President Francois Hollande governing in the second leading power in Europe (2012-2015);  Syriza, the left regime in Greece elected on January 25, 2015, portrayed as a sterling proponent of an alternative policy to ‘fiscal austerity’; and The Workers Party of Brazil, governing in the biggest Latin American country (2003-2015) and a leading member of the BRICS.

French ‘Socialism’:  The Great Leap Backward
In his Presidential campaign, Francois Hollande promised to raise taxes on the rich up to 75%; lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 years; launch a massive public investment program to reduce unemployment; vastly increase public spending on education (hiring 60,000 new teachers), health and social housing; and withdraw French troops from Afghanistan as a first step toward reducing Paris’ role as an imperialist collaborator.

From 2012, when he was elected, to the present (March 2015), Francois Hollande has betrayed each and every political commitment:  Public investments did not materialize and unemployment increased to over 3 million.  His newly appointed Economic Minister Emmanuel Macron, a former partner of Rothschild Bank, sharply reducedbusiness taxes by 50 billion euros.  His newly appointed Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a neo-liberal zealot, implemented major cuts in social programs, weakened government regulation of business and banking and eroded job security.  Hollande appointed Laurence Boone from Bank of America as his top economic adviser.

The French ‘Socialist President’ sent troops to Mali, bombers to Libya, military advisers to the Ukraine junta and aided the so-called Syrian ‘rebels’ (mostly Jihadist mercenaries).  He signed off on billion-euro military sales to the Saudi Arabian monarcho-dictatorship and reneged on a contracted sale of warships to Russia.

Hollande joined with Germany in demanding that the Greek government comply with full and prompt debt payments to private bankers and maintain its brutal ‘austerity program’.
As a result of defrauding French voters, betraying labor and embracing bankers, big business and militarists, less than 19% of the electorate has a positive view of the ‘socialist’ government, placing it in third place among the major parties.. Hollande’s pro-Israel policies and his hardline on US- Iranian peace negotiations, Minister Vall’s Islamophobic raids in French Muslim suburbs and the support of military interventions against Islamic movements, have increasingly polarized French society and heightened ethno-religious violence in the country.

Greece:  Syriza’s Instant Transformation
From the moment in which Syriza won the Greek elections on January 25, 2015, to the middle of March, Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister and Yanis Varoufakis, his appointed Finance Minister, reneged in rapid order on every major and minor electoral program.  They embraced the most retrograde measures, procedures and relations with the ‘Troika’, (the IMF, and European Commission at the European Central Bank), which Syriza had denounced in its Thessaloniki program a short time earlier.

Tsipras and Varoufakis repudiated the promise to reject the dictates of the ‘Troika’.  In other words, they have accepted colonial rule and continued vassalage.
Typical of their demagogy and deceit, they sought to cover up their submission to the universally hated ‘Troika’ by dubbing it ‘the Institution’ – fooling nobody but themselves– and becoming the butt of cynical cackles from their EU overseers.

During the campaign, Syriza had promised to write off all or most of the Greek debt.  In government, Tsipras and Varoufakis immediately assured the Troika that they recognized and promised to meet all of their debt obligations.

Syriza had promised to prioritize humanitarian spending over austerity – raising the minimum wage, rehiring public employees in health and education and raising pension payments.  After two weeks of servile groveling, the ‘re-formed’ Tsipras and Varoufakis prioritized austerity – making debt payments and ‘postponing’ even the most meagre anti-poverty spending.  When the Troika lent the Syriza regime $2 billion to feed hungry Greeks, Tsipras lauded his overseers and promised to submit a multi-billion euro list of regressive ‘reforms’.

Syriza had promised to re-examine the previous rightwing regime’s dubious privatization of lucrative public enterprises and to stop on-going and future privatizations. In government, Tsipras and Varoufakis quickly disavowed that promise. They approved past, present and future privatizations.  In fact, they made overtures to procure new privatization ‘partners’, offering lucrative tax concessions in selling-out more public firms.

Syriza promised to tackle the depression level unemployment (26% national, 55% youth) via public spending and reduced debt payments.  Tsipras and Varoufakis dutifully met debt payments and did not allocate any funds to create jobs!

Not only did Syriza continue the policies of its rightwing predecessors, but also it did so in a ludicrous style and substance:  adopting ridiculous public postures and demagogic inconsequential gestures:

One day Tsipras would lay a wreath at the gravesite of 200 Greek partisans murdered by the Nazis during WW II.  The next day he would grovel before the German bankers and concede to their demands for budget austerity, withholding public funds from 2 million unemployed Greeks.
One afternoon, Finance Minister Varoufakis would pose for a photo spread for Paris Match depicting him, cocktail in hand, on his penthouse terrace overlooking the Acropolis; and several hours later he would claim to speak for the impoverished masses!

Betrayal, deceit and demagogy all during the first two months in office, Syriza has established a record in its conversion from a leftist anti-austerity party to a conformist, servile vassal of the European Union.

Tsipras’ call for Germany to pay reparations for damages to Greece during WW II –a long overdue and righteous demand– is another phony demagogic ploy designed to distract the impoverished Greeks from Tsipras and Varoufakis sellout to German contemporary austerity demands.  A cynical European Union official tells the Financial Times(12/3/15, p. 6), “He’s (Tsipras) giving them (Syriza militants) a bone to lick on”.

No one expects German leaders to alter their hardline because of past injustices, least of all because they come from interlocutors on bended knees.  .  No one in the EU takes Tsipras demand at face value.  They see it as more empty ‘radical’ rhetoric for domestic consumption.

Talking up 70-year German reparations avoids taking practical action today repudiating or reducing payments on illegitimate debt to German banks and repudiating Merckel’s dictates.  The transparent betrayal of their most basic commitments to the impoverished Greek people has already divided Syriza.  Over 40% of the central committee, including the President of the Parliament, repudiated the Tsipras –Varoufakis agreements with the Troika.

The vast majority of Greeks, who voted for Syriza, expected some immediate relief and reforms.  They are increasingly disenchanted.  They did not expect Tsipras to appoint Yanis Varoufakis, a former economic adviser to the corrupt neo-liberal PASOK leader George Papandreou, as Finance Minister.  Nor did many voters abandon PASOK, en masse, over the past five years, only to find the same kleptocrats and unscrupulous opportunists occupying top positions in Syriza, thanks to Alexis Tsipras index finger.

Nor could the electorate expect any fight, resistance and willingness to break with the Troika from Tsipras’ appointments of ex-pat Anglo-Greek professors.  These armchair leftists (‘Marxist seminarians’) neither engaged in mass struggles nor suffered the consequences of the prolonged depression.

Syriza is a party led by affluent upwardly mobile professionals, academics and intellectuals.  They rule over (but in the name of) the impoverished working and salaried lower middle class, but in the interests of the Greek, and especially, German bankers.

They prioritize membership in the EU over an independent national economic policy.  They abide by NATO, by backing the Kiev junta in the Ukraine, EU sanctions on Russia, NATO intervention in Syria/Iraq and maintain a loud silence on US military threats to Venezuela!

Brazil:  Budget Cuts, Corruption and the Revolt of the Masses

Brazil’s self-styled Workers Party government in power an unlucky 13 years, has been one of the most corruption-ridden regimes in Latin America.  Backed by one of the major labor confederations, and several landless rural workers’ organizations, and sharing power with center-left and center-right parties, it was able to attract tens of billions of dollars of foreign extractive, finance and agro-business capital.  Thanks to a decade-long commodity boom in agro-mineral commodities, easy credit and low interest rates, it raised income, consumption and the minimum wage while multiplying profits for the economic elite.

Subsequent to the financial crises of 2009, and the decline of commodity prices, the economy stagnated, just as the new President Dilma Rousseff was elected.  The Rousseff government, like her predecessor, Lula Da Silva, favored agro-business over the rural landless workers’ demands for land reform.  Her regime promoted the timber barons and soya growers encroaching on the Indian communities and the Amazon rain forest.

Elected to a second term, Rousseff faced a major political and economic crises:  a deepening economic recession, a fiscal deficit, and the arrest and prosecution of scores of corrupt Workers’ Party and allied congressional deputies and Petrobras oil executives.

Workers’ Party leaders and the Party’s campaign treasury received millions of dollars in kickbacks from construction companies securing contracts with the giant semi-public petroleum company. President Rousseff promised “to continue to support popular social programs”, and “to root out corruption”, during her election campaign.  However, immediately after her election she embraced orthodox neo-liberal policies and appointed a cabinet of hard-right neo-liberals including Bradesco banker Joaquin Levy as Finance Minister.  Levy proposed to reduce unemployment payments, pensions and public salaries.  He argued for greater de-regulation of banks.  He proposed to weaken job protection laws to attract capital.  He sought to achieve a budget surplus and attract foreign investment at the expense of labor.

Rousseff, consistent with her embrace of neo-liberal orthodoxy, appointed Katia Abreu, a rightwing senator, a life-long leader of agro-business interests and sworn enemy of land reform, as the new Agricultural Minister. Crowned “Miss Deforestation” by Greenpeace, Senator Abreu was vehemently opposed by the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) and the labor confederation to no avail.  With Rousseff’s total backing Abreu set out on a course of ending even the minimal land redistribution carried out in Rousseff’s first term in office (establishing land settlements benefiting less than 10% of the landless squatters).  Abreu endorsed regulations facilitating the expansion of genetically modified crops, and promises to forcefully evict Amazonian Indians occupying productive land in favor of large-scale agro-business corporations.  Moreover, she promises to vigorously defend landlords from land occupations by landless rural workers.

Rousseff’s incapacity and/or unwillingness to fire and prosecute the Workers Party Treasurer, involved in a decade long billion-dollar kickback and bribery scandal, deepened and widened mass opposition.

On March 15, 2015 over a million Brazilians filled the streets across the country, led by rightist parties, but drawing support from the popular classes demanding immediate anti-corruption trials and stern sentences, and the revocation of Levy’s cuts in social expenditures.
The counter demonstration in support of Rousseff by the CUT labor confederation and the MST drew one-tenth that number – about 100,000 participants.

Rousseff responded by calling for ‘dialogue’ and claimed to be ‘open to proposals’ on the issue of corruption but explicitly rejected any changes in her regressive fiscal policies, neo-liberal cabinet appointments and her embrace of their agro-mineral agenda.

In less than two months, the Workers Party and its President has indelibly stained its leaders, policies and backers with the brush of corruption and socially regressive policies.

Popular support has plummeted.  The right wing is growing. Even the authoritarian, pro-military coup activists were present in the mass demonstrations, carrying signs calling for ‘impeachment’ and a return of military rule.

As in most of Latin America, the authoritarian right in Brazil is a growing force, positioning itself to take power as the center-left adopts a neo-liberal agenda throughout the region. Parties dubbed ‘center-left’, like the Broad Front in Uruguay, the pro-government Party for Victory in Argentina, are deepening their ties with agro-mineral corporate capitalism.

Uninformed claims by leftist US writers like Noam Chomsky that, “Latin America is the vanguard against neo-liberalism” is at best a decade late, and certainly misleading.  They are deceived by populist policy pronouncements and refuse to acknowledge the decay of the center –left regimes and thus fail to recognize how their neoliberal political actions are fostering mass popular discontent.  Regimes, which adopt regressive socio-economic policies, do not constitute a vanguard for social emancipation…

Conclusion

What accounts for these abrupt reversals and swiftly broken promises by recently elected supposedly ‘left parties’ in Europe and Latin America?

One has come to expect this kind of behavior in North America from the Obama Democrats or the New Democratic Party in Canada . . . But we were led to believe that in France, with its red republican traditions, a Socialist regime backed (‘critically’) by anti-capitalists leftists; would at least implement progressive social reforms.  We were told by an army of progressive bloggers that Syriza, with its charismatic leader, and radical rhetoric, would at least fulfil its most elementary promises by lifting the yoke of Troika domination and begin to end destitution and provide electricity to 300,000 candle-lit households.  ‘Progressives’ had repeatedly told us that the Workers Party lifted 30 million out of poverty.  They claimed that a former ‘honest auto worker’ (Lula Da Silva) would never allow the Workers Party to revert back to neo-liberal budget cuts and embrace its supposed ‘class enemies’.  US leftist professors refused to give credence to the crass billion-dollar robbery of the Brazilian National Treasury under two Workers’ Party Presidents.

Several explanations for these political betrayals come to mind.  First, despite their popular or ‘workerist’ claims, these parties were run by middle class lawyers, professionals and trade union bureaucrats, who were organically disconnected from their mass base.  During election campaigns, seeking votes, they briefly embraced workers and the poor, and then spent the rest of their time in pricey restaurants working out “deals” with bankers, business bribe granters and overseas investors to finance their next election, their children’s private school and their mistresses luxury apartments…
For a time, when the economy was booming, big corporate profits, payoffs and bribes went hand in hand with wage increases and poverty programs.  But when the crisis broke, the ‘popular’ leaders doffed their Party hats and pronounced ‘fiscal austerity was inevitable’ while going with their begging cups before their international financial overlords.

In all these countries faced with difficult times, the middle class leaders of the Left feared the problem (capitalist crisis) and feared the real solution (radical transformation).  Instead they turned to the ‘only solution’: they approached capitalist leaders and sought to convince business associations and, above all their financial overlords, that they were ‘serious and responsible politicians’, willing to forsake social agendas and embrace fiscal discipline.  For domestic consumption, they cursed and threatened the elites, providing a little theater to entertain their plebian followers, before they capitulated!
            
None of the academics-turned-left-leaders have any deep and abiding links to the mass struggles.  Their ‘activism’ involves reading papers at ‘social forums’, and giving papers at conferences on ‘emancipation and equality’.  Political sellouts and fiscal austerity will not jeopardize their economic positions.  If their Left parties are ousted by angry constituents and radical social movements, the left leaders pack their bags and return to comfortable tenured jobs or rejoin their law office.  They do not have to worry about mass firings or reduced subsistence pensions.  At their leisure they will find time to sit back and write another paper on the how the  ‘crisis of capitalism’ undermined their well-intentioned social agenda or how they experienced the ‘crisis of the Left’.
          
Because of their disconnect from the suffering of the impoverished, unemployed voters, the middle class leftists in office are blind to the need to make a break with the system.  In reality, they share the worldview of their supposedly conservative adversaries: they too believe that   ‘it’s capitalism or chaos’.  This borrowed cliché is passed off as a deep insight into the dilemmas of democratic socialists.  The middle class leftist officials and advisers always use the alibi of ‘institutional constraints’.  They ‘theorize’ their political impotence – they never recognize the power of organized class movements.

Their political cowardice is structural and leads to easy moral betrayals:  they plead, ‘Crisis is not a time to tinker with the system’.

For the middle class, ‘time’ becomes a political excuse.  Middle class leaders of popular movements, without audacity or programs of struggle, always talk of change…. in the future…
Instead of mass struggle, they run to and fro, between the centers of financial power and their Central Committees, confusing ‘dialogues’ that end in submission, with consequential resistance.
In the end the people will re-pay them turning their backs and rejecting their pleas to re-elect them ‘for another chance’.

There will not be another chance.  This ‘Left’ will be discredited in the eyes of those whose trust they betrayed.

The tragedy is that the entire left will be tarnished.  Who can believe the fine words of ‘liberation’, ‘the will to hope’ and the ‘return of sovereignty’ after experiencing years of the opposite?
Left politics will be lost for an entire generation, at least in Brazil, France and Greece.
The Right will ridicule the open zipper of Hollande; the false humility of Rousseff; the hollow gestures of Tsipras and the clowning of Varoufakis.

The people will curse their memory and their betrayal of a noble cause.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Starbucks: Racism. Open letter to employees and customers.

by Sean O'Torrain. 

Starbucks is a huge corporation based on profit. Its profit is the unpaid labor of its workers. In the last quarter of 2014 its profits rose 82% to $983 million. If its workers were to get together and unite and fight for better wages and benefits and conditions and win better wages and benefits and conditions then these profits would fall. In spite of their talk it is not in the interests of the Starbucks bosses to have a united workforce. It would hurt their profits. A united workforce is a strong workforce. A strong united workforce can win better wages and benefits.  The first step against racism in Starbucks is to unite the Starbuck workers against racism. How is this to be done? The only way it can be done is to unite them in the fight for for better wages, benefits and conditions. This would be completely contrary to the interests of the profit addicted Starbuck corporation.They will sabotage their own campaign if it ever gets off the ground. The bosses must have been out on a wild night of drinking to ever have come up with it in the first place. 

We suggest that instead of writing "Race Together" on the coffee cups the following steps are taken. Starbucks workers write $20,00 an hour minimum wage and full benefits and better conditions for all Starbucks workers and customers on the coffee cups. At the same time organize workplace meetings to discuss the struggle for better wages and conditions. This would enormously help the struggle against racism. Remember 40% of the Starbucks workers are minorities. Such meetings would bring the very diverse workforce of Starbucks together. At the same time on the coffee cups which are handed out to customers write $20.00 minimum wage and full benefits and better conditions and suggest the holding of customer meetings to fight for these very reasonable demands. After all Starbucks coffee shops are used by bosses to discuss their activities all the time why should Starbucks customers not use the coffee shops to discuss their interests. This too would help the struggle against racism. If such a development were to take place Starbucks management and owners would fight it with everything they have. This would include the ever used tactic of the bosses of Divide and Rule. That is divide the workforce along race, gender lines. 

Therefore to win such a struggle such a struggle the workers of Starbucks would have to organize. The infrastructure for this already exists. That is the 12,000 stores in the USA and the 21,000 stores worldwide. Democratically elected delegates from these stores can be brought together nationally and internationally. At such events a democratic organization of Starbucks workers can be set up. That is a democratic union for all Starbucks workers. This is the way to fight racism and to get better wages, benefits and conditions. 

Michael Douglas Defends Zionist Apartheid.


Douglas and family in Israel. Great times, great food. No Palestinians please.
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I read the LA Times Op Ed piece that Michael Douglas wrote after his son was harassed by an anti-Semite in Southern Europe.  Apparently Douglas’ son went to the hotel swimming pool and was wearing a Star of David necklace. One report I read had him wearing a Star of David tee shirt I’m not sure which it was.

Either way, Douglas said he went to the pool and an attendant pointed out the individual who had insulted his boy. Douglas had words with the man, “It was not a pleasant discussion,” he writes.

I have not been able to find out what the man said to Douglas’ son as Douglas doesn’t mention it and after an attempt to find it I gave up.  I have no idea whether it was anti-Semitic or not.

Douglas goes on to condemn anti-Semitism and gives reasons for why it arises.  One of the root causes of anti-Semitism he writes, “ …..derives from an irrational and misplaced hatred of Israel. Far too many people see Israel as an apartheid state and blame the people of an entire religion for what, in truth, are internal national-policy decisions.”

Firstly, it is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel. Douglas has his son wear a symbol that is associated with one of the most brutal, racist regimes in the world that is indeed an Apartheid state.  His son is a victim of Douglas’ own failures.

Defenders of the Zionist regime like Douglas (I would bet he donates cash too) like to equate anger and disgust at its brutal policies with the traditional anti-Semitism that was so prominent in Europe for centuries. He points to the large Muslim population in Europe and how they have an extremist fringe that is fueling European anti-Semitism rather than teaching “respect, tolerance and love”.  But the European Muslim’s anger at Jews is not the same as traditional European anti-Semitism.
Check out the former Israeli soldier on video here

Douglas correctly points to the innocent victims in the” kosher shop” in Paris and of course such acts should be condemned.  What do they have to do, “….with Israeli-Palestinian policies or the building of settlements 2,000 miles away?”

In any situation like this, those that hate Jews simply because they are Jews will use the Zionists regime’s brutality as cover for their anti-Semitism, and some others simply confuse the two and blame all Jews regardless. 

But Douglas has some responsibility here.  Unfortunately, the Star of David has been tainted, has been made dirty as a symbol of the Zionists, their racism, ethnic cleansing and theft of land, just as the Swastika, an historic symbol of peace, good luck and other such things has been tainted by Nazism. I grew up in England, I would not have received hugs and kisses wandering around with a Union Jack tee shirt in some Catholic areas during the troubles in Northern Ireland.  This symbol has a history as the symbol of the colonizers; the Irish Republicans referred to it as the Butchers Apron such was the violence committed by those who wore it. Zionism, once a fringe movement, runs counter to centuries of progressive Jewish history.

I wonder would Douglas have suggested Nazi or Stalinist or the South African Apartheid regime’s polices were simply, “internal national-policy decisions.”

The problem here is Douglas.  It is a shame that the Star of David has become the symbol of a repressive racist regime.  Douglas, took his son to Jerusalem for his bar mitzvah last year. Perhaps Douglas should take him to the Occupied Territories or Gaza, or see if he can take him to see the Israeli prisons full of Palestinian children. He visits such a regime and keeps his mouth shut about its activities. There are many Jews inside Israel and outside it that condemn the regime’s policies and it seems that finally after the last slaughter in Gaza there are some cracks opening up among British and US Jews around support for Israel.  Israel acts in all their names and if people like Douglas want to allow that then he must accept the consequences. Douglas comes from Eastern European family and is American.  He has no defensible claim to land in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, too many powerful and influential Jews openly support and finance this regime (along with the US taxpayer) or remain silent in the face of its atrocities.  The best way to safeguard Jews in Europe and the US and throughout the world is to condemn the Zionists and their practices.  Unfortunately, silence when it comes to the Zionist regime’s practices or providing support for it or legitimizing it does have something to do with the settlements, the murder of Palestinian children and occupation of their lands.

Technically, neither Michael Douglas nor his son is Jewish as their mothers are not Jewish according to Orthodox tradition  The Nazi’s don’t make such a distinction.  But perhaps Douglas and others like him would consider some other symbol of Jewishness that doesn’t link directly to the Zionist regime.  You want to hitch yourself to that wagon you have to share the blame.

Of course, if the offender was or is a raving anti-Semite, that’s wrong. But if he were a Palestinian who had lost half of his family or lost his land to some immigrant from South Africa who took the land with god’s authority then that would be different, his anger should be understood although, in either case, it would be best not to approach a child, or approach them in a friendly and informative way.  Mind you, being in the same hotel as Douglas means you have money unless it was a worker.

Michael Douglas cannot be silent when it comes to the Zionist’s slaughter of the Palestinians, he cannot refer to its racist policies as “internal national-policy decisions.” , and not expect consequences for that posture. His son knows no better; he has been misinformed by his dad.

A couple of years ago Douglas claimed his throat cancer was caused by oral sex.  Perhaps he should stick to sex education and stay clear of politics.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ted Allen on The Invention of the White Race

People that read or follow this blog are aware that we have given some attention to Theodore W. Allen's two volume book, The Invention of the White Race.  Allen died in 2005. Before he died Stella Winston interviewed Allen on her show, Straight Up of Brooklyn Cable TV. The interview is in two parts and part two is below. The book can be ordered from Verso at 40% off. The book is a fascinating look at how the idea of the existence of a white race arose in the continental colonies of the US with savage consequences for the completely disenfranchised African American population, but ultimately to the detriment of all workers. Jeffrey B Perry has written extensively about Allen and his book.  For further reading and to learn more about Allen's book, the Socialist Hubert Harrison and their views, visit Jeffrey Perry's website at http://www.jeffreybperry.net/index.htm  Prof. Perry,  also worked for the post office for many years and was active in the union movement. There is also a presentation he did on the book on his site. Allen's book and Perry's presentation are also useful for students of Irish history.

Here is part two of Stella Winston's interview.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Longfellow. "Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad."


Sean O'Torrain. 


I was thinking about this quote by Longfellow the other day. There are many similar quotes by many writers and philosophers. The reason I was thinking about this quote and think about it regularly is this. Life on earth will be destroyed unless capitalism is overthrown. Climate change, pollution, nuclear war, mass starvation, drought, so-called natural disasters, I could go on. These are all threats, and immediate threats, as long as capitalism lasts. This reality is agreed to by such organizations as NASA, the Pentagon, the UN and over 90% of the world's top scientists. Yet in spite of this the world barrels on towards the edge of the precipice. As it does so millions of people get so desperate they take up arms in groups such as IS, blow themselves and others up in suicide bombings, arm themselves in the tens of thousands in the right wing militia groups such as exist in the US. I hate to say it but it seems to me to be just a matter of time before there is the very real possibility that some massive catastrophe such as a huge environmental disaster engulfs the planet, its huge cities sink into the sea, a nuclear war or a partial nuclear war takes place and the so-called advanced capitalist countries, including countries like the US,  get engulfed by the kinds of conflicts that already exist in the Ukraine, the Middle East, West Africa, and on and on.

So why the reference to whom the gods make mad etc. The class that rules the world, the capitalist class, all of them, not withstanding their origins have one thing in common. They believe in continuing with the way they have been operating. Only worse. They believe they must step up the capitalist offensive against the world's working class. This will make things even worse.  These people are mad. Let me repeat these people are mad.  The Cheyneys, the Bushs, the Merkels, the Putins, the lot of them, they are mad. The gods have already made them mad. And the gods that have made them mad of course are the driving raving gods of profit, power and capitalism. These are the forces/gods which have driven these people and their regimes mad. If they and their system are not removed from power they will destroy life on earth as we know it. This is an undeniable reality. This has to faced up to. We are not playing some game. The capitalism class they will destroy life on earth unless they are removed from power and crushed as a class.

So what has to be done? First to recognize that capitalism will destroy life on earth as we know it if it is left in charge. Then to recognize that capitalism has to be overthrown. Then to recognize that this will only be done by mass struggle of millions of people prepared to take up armed struggle against the present forces that be. We have to think about what is necessary and be prepared to do what is necessary. Capitalism will, and is, slaughtering tens of millions to cling on to power. It will do so even more if it is left in power. Remember US capitalism dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. It has waged non stop wars in the last decades to stay in power. It will stop at nothing.

Humanity in a different form was here before. They have just discovered a giant city with great art and monuments on the sea bed off Egypt. What civilization built these? We also have the pyramids in Mexico and Peru. We have the civilizations in what became Iraq. These all crumbled and were swallowed up by the oceans, the jungles and the deserts. They were so because the peoples of these civilizations could not take these societies forward. They crumbled and were replaced by more backward societies. This can happen again only worse this time.

Civilization today has reached a stage of science and technology which allows it to choose from only one of two roads. It can end capitalism and replace it with an international democratic society based on collective ownership and a democratic sustainable economic plan. This can take society forward and open up a new society of undreamed of plenty for all. Or the other road is this. The science and technology which allows for the first road will instead be used for the second road. That is to lay the basis for continuing global warming, pollution, drought, rising sea levels, nuclear war, mass starvation and the ending of life on earth as we know it.

The responsibility to build a movement to end capitalism above all lies with the leaders of the 200 million strong international trade union movement. But these forces are completely committed to capitalism. They are worse than useless. A new force has to be built. This is an organized cohesive revolutionary international workers force that is prepared to do whatever is necessary to end capitalism. I cannot find the quote now but was it Yeats said something to the effect of the best lacking commitment and drive and the worst being full of intensity and drive. Look at IS, a mad reactionary force which has to be absolutely opposed. But they are prepared to take on and militarily  fight the powerful forces of US imperialism and its stooges in the Middle East. But where is the progressive force in the world. Yes there many mass demonstrations internationally against the capitalist offensive but these are mainly letting off steam events. The working class has to build a movement which is prepared to take on and fight against capitalism and its stooges world wide. Remember the only time when capitalism was ended in a large country was in Russia in 1917 and this was followed by years of war against the invading imperialist forces and their home grown allies.

Let us consider in more detail, more personal terms what will happen if capitalism is not ended and replaced by international democratic socialism.  We all have children or relatives with children. We all want the new younger generations to survive and prosper. We all have feelings for our species and the species with whom we share this planet. We all can smile when we see a sea otter, or a panda, or a little dog. Let us be clear our species and just about all these species will be wiped out if capitalism lasts. Not a single working class person on this earth has the right to opt out of this reality.  We all have the responsibility to act, to study the history of the past, the victories and the defeats, the responsibility to prepare ourselves for struggle. We have to educate ourselves, we have to act. The people that are running the world, the class that is running the world is mad. Capitalism and this class has to be removed from power and crushed. Every one of us working class people has to be involved in the struggle achieve this.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tens of thousands protest against water charges in Dublin

Reprinted from the Journal IE

Tens of thousands take to the streets of Dublin to protest against water charges

Protesters marched across Dublin.

National Water Protest - Against Water
Source: sam boal/Photocall Ireland
THOUSANDS OF PROTESTERS took to the the streets of Dublin today to protest against the water charges.

Before the demonstration began, organisers said they expected upwards of 10,000 people, however, they now estimate that 80,000 to 100,000 people took part. The gardaí would not confirm the numbers of today’s protest, stating that they would not be making an estimate.

They said that the demonstration today has been peaceful with no reports of any arrests.
The march, which started at the Garden of Remembrance earlier, took protesters down O’Connell Street to the Dáil, before turning back and settling at the GPO to hear speeches.
unnamed (2)
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, South Dublin County Councillor Gino Kenny said that he had not seen such a large crowd at a protest since 2003 when people marched against the war in Iraq.
“The atmosphere great today, so many people have taken part from all over the country. This is just the start of a much larger campaign. We mustn’t lose momentum, this is when people need to stand together,” he said, adding that the numbers that turned up today are an indication that the “government are in big trouble”.
National Water Protest - Against Water
Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Open Letter to Socialist Alternative: Is more open discussion ahead?

Sarah Morken, a member of Socialist Alternative in Tacoma, Washington, has published the following open letter:

Last week I almost talked myself into attending a fundraiser for a local Democratic party political candidate. 

I almost justified this to myself, even though Socialist Alternative stands for breaking with the Two Parties of Big Business. I have been a dues paying member of SA Tacoma for 3 years. I am firmly and openly critical of the Democratic party to anyone who will listen. If I almost broke with those principles, I wonder how many other SA members/socialists/progressives were influenced by the latest move by Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant? How many other people will say, “well this democrat might help me with …… if I support their campaign,” “quietly attending their fundraiser as their friend won’t hurt anything,” “attending a fundraiser doesn’t mean I’m endorsing them."

From “What We Stand For” in SA newspaper: “Unions and social movement organizations should stop funding and supporting the Democratic and Republican Parties and instead organize independent left wing, anti-corporate candidates and coalitions as a first step toward building a workers’ party." 

Guess why I almost justified going to this democratic party candidate’s fundraiser?

A new political party recently started by some activists who I know. I was going to ask them what their orientation will be towards the Democratic Party. I am 99% sure of what their orientation will be, based on what I know about the people who created the new political party. 

But, then I thought, "do I really want to go there right now?" Do I really have a leg to stand on considering that Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant recently attended a fund raiser for one of Democratic party's "progressive" gatekeepers? She was caught on camera defensively justifying it? I did watch the video myself, but it has since been removed from the internet. 

Kshama is in the leadership of Socialist Alternative and she is the most famous “socialist" in America. Several of my fellow marxists have said that Sawant and SA have become like European Social Democrats. SA is no longer acting like a revolutionary socialist organization in my opinion.
I sent Kshama a private message regarding my concerns. 

In the last few years I have had several political disagreements with Socialist Alternative. Nonetheless I have stayed in the organization because, despite the disagreements, SA seemed like the most viable left political party that had firm principles regarding the democratic party. 

Kshama attending King County Council Member Larry Gosset’s fundraiser and her defense of him is a significant breach of principle. It just continue’s the pattern that I have observed, of SA leadership spending more time and energy trying to appeal to middle class voters and build relationships with union leadership and democratic party leadership than they do on building a base among workers, youth and the poor. 

I know that Kshama is facing a fight to keep her seat on the city council. SA is thinking they must build coalitions with people like Gosset in order to do that. Three Democrats have announced they are running against Sawant. In my opinion it would be better to remain firm on the principle of not supporting Democratic candidates. SA could emphasize to Gossett’s supporters, “Look, Gossett should leave the democratic party if he really is so progressive. His party is running candidates agains the only socialist, woman of color on the city council! “ 

Kshama Sawant is betraying our principles in an attempt to hold onto that city council seat. I have been told before by SA leadership that our political candidates are a reflection on our entire organization.

This is not what I joined SA for.

***********
Below: Resolution against the Team Concept from Afscme Local 444, Oakland CA introduced at the 33rd Afscme International Convention in Honolulu 1998.
 by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired


The letter above is an open letter from a Socialist Alternative member. I am a former member of Socialist Alternative and one of its early members when we were called Labor Militant. I was expelled along with five others in 96. In actuality, an entire branch, the most active trade union branch was shut down. The reader can find out a little more about my experience, particularly with regard to AFSCME and the CWI’s sectarian approach to the opposition newsletter and growing united front opposition we were building in that international union, an approach that
led to the newsletter's demise. Click here:   Socialist Alternative Questions and Answers. Readers should also check out: The Internal lives of Revolutionary Organizations also on this blog that includes some history of the CWI.

That Kshama Sawant attended a fundraiser for Seattle Council member Democrat Larry Gossett a Democrat, should come as no surprise. I attended last year’s $15 Now conference in Seattle and it was very evident then that in its efforts to build the $15 NOW campaign Socialist Alternative was orienting to that somewhat more liberal wing of the trade union bureaucracy. There were other signs like a speaker from the East Coast, an ATU (apparently Rank and File) member who championed his ATU local as a militant aggressive union apparently in contrast to every other union in the US. The ATU was fresh from undermining its own members out here in the Bay Area, the light rail operators and the bus drivers, both groups represented by the ATU. We had a situation when one group was helping break a strike of the other under the leadership's guidance. (read the articles under the label BART, to the left).  There was no challenge to this dishonest portrayal of union militancy from SA’s leadership or avtivists.

I have read arguments defending Kshama Sawant's warming up to Gossett because they argue,  local elections are non partisan------but they are not, These councils are dominated by Democratic or Republican party politicians.  They are often the entry point for trade union bureaucrats and others looking for a career in Democratic Party politics.

It has been pointed out also that Sawant never donated money or “officially” endorsed Gossett but that is not the point either.  SALT is a socialist organization.  It claims to stand for the independence of the working class both on the job through the rejection of the Team Concept (I have written extensively on this issue in previous blogs) and in the political arena by opposing any bloc with either of the two Wall Street Parties, particularly the Democrats, and it is clear SALT has abandoned both these fundamental principals. It has abandoned the struggle for the independence of the working class for class collaboration.   It is one thing in the class struggle to make temporary pacts with the bosses’ as the balance of class forces demands at times, but always as an independent force.

As for Gossett, he may be a decent guy; he may have done some things for workers or to alleviate the most painful attacks He may genuinely believe his road is the right road; this does not matter.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions. This issue is not about Gossett as an individual, it’s about political parties and the need for workers and our organizations to be independent of the employer’s organizations. The two Wall Street parties play this game of good cop bad cop and that’s what people like Gossett do in the Democratic Party, in many ways, they are worse than the Republicans as they portray themselves as friends of labor.  They are not; they are friends of the labor hierarchy that represents the interests of the employers in the labor movement.

How would it look to workers on the job their shop steward going to the boss’s ranch, something I was invited to do and refused , or going on vacation with them or spending most of our social time with them. They would not be trusted.

No matter who the individual is, there is no way forward for workers through the Democratic Party.

When I ran for Oakland City Council we made it clear that as an individual I could not change things, that we have never made serious gains through voting.  But we can use elections as a means to building a direct action movement that can change things and that’s what our electoral campaign was about. It's a tactic. Further reading on FFWP’s thoughts on the Sawant campaign here: Kshama Sawant: Building a Broader Movement   And here on the $15 NOW campaign

As we have explained before, the electoral success for Socialist Alternative with Kshama Sawant’s council victory and the huge increase in members for the organization brings new dangers as the leadership tries to maintain control and comes in to conflict with the influx of genuine young workers and students looking to change society. 

Hopefully, the open letter above following after previous open comments from concerned members is just the beginning of a period of healthy internal debate within SA that will bring positive changes.