Wednesday, May 27, 2015

If we do not agree are we mentally ill?

Mental hospitals in USA

Sean O'Torain. 
From the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders we read (see below) that there is now a mental illness called "oppositional defiant disorder." As my mother used to say: "In under god what will they be coming up with next?" Of course it is a class question. The people that run these types of manuals and clinics are paid to find a way of describing any kind of illness as having nothing to do with the affects of living under capitalism. 
Until I was in my early 1920's I was always in some kind of mental crisis or confusion, one day up the other day down. The problem was I could not find my place in the world. I could not find my role in the world. I was rescued not by any bourgeois "scientific" manual, but I was rescued by having the luck to live near Derry in Northern Ireland. In 1968 the people of the Bogside carried out their uprising against the Northern Ireland state. It sucked me in like iron filings to a magnet. I found my place in, my role in, the world. It was to organize and fight capitalism. It was to develop and base myself on my "oppositional defiant disorder." I rejoice in my "oppositional defiant disorder." And I thank the people of the Bogside for showing me the way. 
I have a problem with my memory due to the affects of transient ischemic attacks, small strokes. I was sent to see the doc in the local hospital. Luckily it is a public hospital with a high proportion of doctors who are dedicated to their science and caring for people and prepared to think outside the bourgeois box. He diagnosed me as being as "sane as himself." Then he went, now this was the doc who was testing me for my memory, and forgot to post me on the report of my memory tests. We had a good laugh about that. I gave him a copy of my book The Donegal Woman, this got him on to reading Joyce's Finnegans wake. I have not seen him recently so after Finnegans Wake I do not know what kind of a state he is in. Of course if anybody had "oppositional defiant disorder," it was wee Joyce. The man himself. And his buddy Van Gogh. Long live "oppositional defiance."
See below where the Stalinists used this crap too. It is good that Stalinism is gone. Now to end capitalism. 

From the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 
Is nonconformity and freethinking a mental illness?  According to the newest addition of the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it certainly is. The manual identifies a new mental illness called  “oppositional defiant disorder” or ODD. Defined as an  “ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behavior,” symptoms include questioning authority, negativity, defiance, argumentativeness, and being easily annoyed. 
The DSM-IV is the manual used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental illnesses and, with each new edition, there are scores of new mental illnesses. Are we becoming sicker? Is it getting harder to be mentally healthy? Authors of the DSM-IV say that it’s because they’re better able to identify these illnesses today. Critics charge that it’s because they have too much time on their hands. 
New mental illnesses identified by the DSM-IV include arrogance, narcissism, above-average creativity, cynicism, and antisocial behavior. In the past, these were called  “personality traits,” but now they’re diseases. And there are treatments available. 
All of this is a  symptom of our over-diagnosing and overmedicating culture. In the last 50 years, the DSM-IV has gone from 130 to 357 mental illnesses. A majority of these illnesses afflict children. Although the manual is an important diagnostic tool for the psychiatric industry, it has also been responsible for social changes. The rise in ADD, bipolar disorder, and depression in children has been largely because of the manual’s identifying certain behaviors as symptoms. A Washington Post article observed that, if Mozart were born today, he would be diagnosed with ADD and  “medicated into barren normality.”
According to the DSM-IV, the diagnosis guidelines for identifying oppositional defiant disorder are for children, but adults can just as easily suffer from the disease. This should give any freethinking American reason for worry. The Soviet Union used new  “mental illnesses” for political repression.  People who didn’t accept the beliefs of the Communist Party developed a new type of schizophrenia. They suffered from the delusion of believing communism was wrong.  They were isolated, forcefully medicated, and put through repressive  “therapy” to bring them back to sanity. 
When the last edition of the DSM-IV was published, identifying the symptoms of various mental illnesses in children, there was a jump in the diagnosis and medication of children. Some states have laws that allow protective agencies to forcibly medicate, and even make it a punishable crime to withhold medication.  This paints a chilling picture for those of us who are nonconformists. Although the authors of the manual claim no ulterior motives but simply better diagnostic practices, the labeling of freethinking and nonconformity as mental illnesses has a lot of potential for abuse. It can easily become a weapon in the arsenal of a repressive state. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Clinton, Atkinson, Stiglitz and reducing inequality

by Michael Roberts

Apparently Hilary Clinton, the Democratic dynasty front- runner for the US presidency in 2016 is worried about rising inequality of income and wealth in America. She has recently consulted Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel prize winner in economics, and author of now two books on the issue of inequality.

However, don’t get your hopes up too high that a US president might take action on the extremes of wealth and poverty in America. Among the top ten contributors to her campaign are JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, CitiGroup and Morgan Stanley. As secretary of state under Obama, she pressured governments to change policies and sign deals that would benefit US corporations like General Electric, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, and Boeing. Clinton served on WaltMarts board of directors from 1986 to 1992 and the law firm she worked for, Rose Law Firm, represented the corporation. During her three trips to India as secretary of state, she tried to convince the government to reverse its law aimed at keeping out big-box retailers like WalMart.

So anything that Stiglitz might have said will not gain any traction if Clinton becomes president in 2017. But it shows that inequality is still THE issue in the minds of the ‘liberal left’ and among mainstream ‘liberal’ economists. Both Stiglitz and Tony Atkinson have new books out on the subject, while the OECD has a new report out arguing that rising inequality is damaging economic recovery (http://www.oecd.org/social/reducing-gender-gaps-and-poor-job-quality-essential-to-tackle-growing-inequality.htm).
inequality-oecd-2014
The OECD sifts through 30 years of data from its predominantly rich member countries and finds that, when the Gini coefficient, a popular measure of inequality (a Gini of 0 means everyone has exactly the same income; a Gini of 1 means one person gets all the income) goes up, growth declines. But is that because inequality hurts growth, or vice versa?

The OECD uses a statistical test to conclude it’s the former. The OECD finds that higher inequality has a significant impact on relative educational attainment among different income classes. As inequality goes up, the poorest 40% of the population get fewer skills and lower quality education.

The OECD then estimates how much more education the poor may have had if inequality had not increased and plug that into a growth model that includes components such as human capital. From this, the study concludes cumulative economic growth was 4.7 percentage points lower for the average OECD country between 1990 and 2010 (that’s about $2,500 for the average American).

So the OECD suggests that rising inequality causes slower growth because the poor get worse education for better skills at work.  This is the cause that is always brought up by mainstream economics (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/inequality-of-opportunity/). 

That rising inequality might be a result of the concentration and centralisation of capital ownership and the application of neo-liberal policies to increase the rate of surplus value is ignored.

And yet economic inequality has reached extreme levels. From Ghana to Germany, Italy to Indonesia, the gap between rich and poor is widening. In 2013, seven out of 10 people lived in countries where economic inequality was worse than 30 years ago, and in 2014 Oxfam calculated that just 85 people owned as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.  In Even it up: time to end extreme inequality (cr-even-it-up-extreme-inequality-291014-en[1]), Oxfam reckoned that the gap between rich and poor is growing ever wider and is undermining poverty eradication. If India stopped inequality from rising, 90 million more men and women could be lifted out of extreme poverty by 2019.

Tony Atkinson is the father of modern inequality research (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/the-story-of-inequality/), providing the data and evidence on inequality of incomes in the major economies well before Emmanuel Saez or economics rock star, Thomas Piketty (see
http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1013/unpicking-piketty/).
Atkinson’s latest book, Inequality what is to be done  aims to look at what should be done to reduce inequality. (http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674504769)

As well as diagnosing the problem of economic inequality (especially inequality of income)—showing why it matters in advanced societies (“It does matter that some people can buy tickets for space travel when others are queuing for food banks”) and how it has changed over time, Atkinson presents a series of policy proposals for doing something about it.

Rising inequality is not some inexorable long-term process in capitalism (namely a larger rate of return on wealth over the growth in national income) as Thomas Piketty has argued. Atkinson reckons rising inequality is directly the result of neo-liberal policies introduced from the late 1970s onwards. Cuts in the welfare state probably accounted for a substantial part of that [rise in the gini inequality number].  And these could be reversed.

Atkinson makes the valuable point that what matters for inequality is who controls the levers of capital. “In the old days, the mill owner owned the mill and decided what went on [there]. Today, you and I own the mill. But who decides what goes on? It’s not us. That’s the important difference. And it doesn’t really appear in Piketty’s book, which is actually more about wealth than it is about capital.”

Yes it is capital not wealth (as Piketty thinks) that matters – but is Atkinson right to think that the owners of capital have in some way relinquished control to pension funds? The owners of capital – the billionaires – still control the means of production (http://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceupbin/2011/10/22/the-147-companies-that-control-everything/) and make the decisions on wages, bonuses, shareholdings and government policy on corporate taxes and welfare benefits (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/growth-inequality-and-davos/ ).

Atkinson seems to accept neoclassical welfare economics, namely that an economy will run efficiently and that any intervention like redistribution will make it less efficient, so there’s a trade-off. But he says this only applies to perfect competition whereas economies are really dominated by monopolies. “In that less perfect world, it’s not clear that there is any such trade-off.” But there is no trade-off in the world of perfect competition either because that is an imaginary construct of mainstream economics.

Atkinson calls for a living wage, guaranteed government employment for 35 hours, works councils to give people a say in their jobs; investment in technology for jobs, higher marginal income tax rates (up to 65%, he says); a wealth and inheritance tax with the revenues to be used to invest in pensions. All this sounds fine, although it does not deal with the very issue that Atkinson poses in his book, namely the control of the levers of capital. So his excellent reforms to reduce inequality will just bounce off the deaf ears of the likes of Hilary Clinton.

As I said earlier, Joseph Stiglitz apparently does have the ears of Clinton – for the moment. Stiglitz has just published his second book on inequality called The Great Divide, http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?id=4294987343.

In it, he stresses a range of economic and institutional changes weakening ordinary workers that serve to benefit the wealthiest in society. For example, the bonuses that Wall Street executives received in 2014 was roughly twice the total annual earnings of all Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage. Stiglitz rages at the callous ignorance of the rich: “I overheard one billionaire — who had gotten his start in life by inheriting a fortune — discuss with another the problem of lazy Americans who were trying to free ride on the rest,” Stiglitz writes. “Soon thereafter, they seamlessly transitioned into a discussion of tax shelters.”

For him, however, reducing inequality does not depend on controlling the levers of capital but on ‘more democracy’. As Stiglitz notes: “Inequality is a matter not so much of capitalism in the 20th century as of democracy in the 20th century.”

Whereas Piketty believes that extreme inequality is inherent to capitalism, Stiglitz argues that it’s a function of faulty rules and regulation. While he admires Marx’s critiques of exploitation and imperialism, he has little time for his analysis of economics. Stiglitz’s positions are essentially Keynesian and would have been viewed as fairly conventional in the pre-Thatcher and pre-Reagan era.

“My argument is that these guys – the bankers and monopoly corporations – have destroyed capitalism in some sense,” he says. “There are certain rules which are required to make a market economy work. And these guys are really undermining these rules. My book is really about trying to get markets to act like markets. That’s hardly radical, at one level. But at another level it is radical because the corporations don’t want markets to look like markets.”


Atkinson’s answer is a radical redistribution of income and wealth through tax, employment and welfare measures. Stiglitz’s solution is more regulation of the banks and monopolies by democratic governments. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a Democratic Clinton to do either or both.
for more inequality, see my Essays on Inequality

Createspace https://www.createspace.com/5078983
or Kindle version for US:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RES373S
and UK
http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/?field-keywords=Essays%20on%20inequality%20%28Essays%20on%20modern%20economies%20Book%201%29&node=341677031.

Manufacturing America's Dreams


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Buy this book here

by Gregg Shotwell

Auto companies shield their low-tech exploitation of workers behind high-tech displays of mechanical prowess. The less a consumer knows about the blood and guts of manufacturing, the easier it is to buy the dream. So how does America think all this crap gets built?

Last summer in a desperate attempt to entice young viewers to buy grandpa's dream car, General Motors ran a TV ad that featured a chorus line of robot arms dancing to techno music around a series of Cadillacs strutting like runway models on chrome plated wheels.

Fascination with robotic fabrication isn't new. Fiat glamorized the magic of manufacturing with a video of a Strada built entirely by robots in 1979. The only human touch was the baritone bellowing Rossinni's, "Largo al Factotum," triumphantly in the background. Never mind the film crew had to cross a picket line to access the factory. Advertisers can't hope to fulfill our dreams if we're troubled with the comfort of workers. Therefore, automation, not brawn or bravado, is the vaunted paramour.

Don't let yourself be seduced and deluded. The auto industry's master talent isn't robotics, it's the ability to automatize humans — including drivers.

GM teamed up with the space team at NASA to create the next generation of humanoid robots. The purpose of GM's collaboration with NASA may assist astronauts, but more significantly, it will enable the next generation of autos to relieve drivers of the task of attention. Travelers will be conveyed to their work and consumer stations in a bubble of uninterrupted complacency. Punch in your destination, sit back, and relax.  Auto ambiance will massage both body and mind with a gravity-free experience which will tranquillize resistance and maximize pliability.

For the masters of neoliberalism, it's not just about the money, it's about control: a monopoly not only of the market — where consumers serve the investing class — but of the mind, where class is demolished by trivial choices beneath a blank mask of individuality.

Slaves didn't drive pickups to the pyramids, but the law of rulers hasn't changed: to maximize power, dehumanize labor. For the master class servants should be invisible and workers should be subhuman, or better yet, inhuman.

Behind every portrayal of vehicular luxury is a factory where profit is measured on a ticker tape of minutes, not stock prices. When engineers set a picnic table full of free snacks in a work area, it's not an amenity, it's a bait pile, a time study contrived to reveal how many extra minutes are available to cram with tasks[1] . Every idle minute ticks a profit lost or a nick of time for the boss to wring another bead of sweat.

Fredrick Taylor, who invented time and motion studies in 1881, was a rube by current standards[2] . Taylor treated humans like machines without consideration for wear and tear, let alone the yoke of mental anguish wrought by automation. Taylor broke up the craft style of work — in which a skilled artisan fabricated a complete product independently at his own pace — into incremental functions which dumb-downed the craft into simple, duplicable, mechanical motions.

Under Taylorism any worker could be replaced at a moment's notice with any available body. Leave your brain at the door wasn't a joke, it was a survival tactic. Work was monotonous, but mastery of the task allowed workers time between strokes to smoke and sip and shoot the shit. Today's factories treat the brain like a muscle. Every worker is expected to be computer savvy and happily able to multi-task adroitly. New auto plants absorb fifty-seven seconds of every ambidextrous minute and the goal is sixty-one. 

Back in the day, engineers hid behind pillars with clipboards and stopwatches striving to catch a worker with time on his hands. Today, they're slyer than a Dale Carnegie grad working on commission. They come bearing gifts and award-winning grins.

At the GM warehouse where I worked in 2008, management set up televisions in the break rooms with access to NBA playoffs. Young workers raced to get done in time to catch the last half. Engineers didn't sneak and snoop. They were patient as hunters hiding in deer blinds. 

The conversion of humans into automatons demands absolute control, on the job and off. Henry Ford monitored workers' leisure as well as their labor. Random but regular inspections of workers' homes enforced Ford's moral authority: no drinking, no smoking, and church attendance, among other decrees. 

Nowadays, all new hires undergo a drug test which imposes the old autocrat's behavioral conditioning with lab coats rather than thugs with morals and matching suits. New controls in auto world — Alternative Work Schedules — are even more psychologically insidious. The company exerts dominance over sleep patterns through work schedules that subvert normal human behavior. Ten hour shifts rotate between days and nights and alternate weekends. Workers subjected to shifts that oscillate from day to night never develop a regular sleep pattern and must warp their lives to orbit the job rather than the family.

The nineteenth century movement for the eight-hour day — time "for rest" and "what we will" — is a quaint relic of working-class aspirations. After ten or twelve hours of work, an unpaid lunch, and a long commute, all time off is dedicated to recovery and preparation for return to work. Compulsive consumption becomes the mandatory reward because leisure time is a luxury only the investing class can afford[3] . Compelled to cram as much fun as they can into a short span, workers yearn to spend as fast as they earn which is a boon to Capital and a bust "for rest" and "what we will."

Management's quest for absolute control respects no bounds. The peer pressure Toyota exacted to eliminate any movement that didn't add value to the product not only reduced bossing time, it pinched pee time. The Barking Dog, a collection of rank-and-file newsletters (1997-2006) from the GM-Toyota venture in Fremont, CA which introduced lean production to North America, describes how team leaders controlled how much workers urinated by discouraging hydration.

An urge spurned is a penny earned. Last summer, a Chicago company unable to induce peer pressure tactics installed a badge swipe system that clocks bathroom breaks and penalizes workers who spend more than six minutes of work time in the washroom.

In the 1980s, my fellow workers and I gunned our engines and raced to the bar for a beer and a burger at lunch, but these days, the cafeteria, let alone the tavern, is too far away. So cafeteria workers at the GM plant in Lansing, MI deliver food direct to work stations. The Lean Production System, which strives to eliminate all unnecessary steps or expenditures of energy has turned the social pleasure of lunch into a pit stop. Food is not only fast, it's past before the next task is ready.

In old photographs of factory life we see workers elbow to elbow, face to face, a hive of frenzied activity. The UAW was born in a mosh pit of mechanized emotion. Crowded conditions gave rise to collective action[4]  — slow downs, strikes, sabotage, sitdowns.

Today, masterminds of efficiency have atomized interpersonal communication. Auto parts manufacturing is organized into cells where a worker is surrounded by machines, not coworkers. The manual laborer pivots like a robot from one machine to the next in a clockwork of continuous motion without an idle second. But autoworkers aren't the only humans forced to behave like computer numerically controlled robots. You know why the UPS guy runs to your porch and back?

Because the computer at HQ tracks time lapsed between scanning a barcode and getting the truck rolling again. Airline maintenance and cleaning crews get half the time they need to turn a plane around, because the schedule is in the computer not on the ground where the real world sweats and breathes and breaks down. Letter carriers are harassed by a GPS which shaves seconds off seconds already sliced and diced into nano-fractions. Amazon prefers humans to robots because they are more flexible and when they break you don't have to fix them. Meat packers are deported when they can no longer feel their hands. Nurses skip lunch and run between patients they don't have time to know, let alone care for. Teachers who love their students get caught juking the stats on Race to the Top test scores. Social workers are presented with human needs they don't have the resources to meet and at the end of the day they can't lift their heads off their hands until they shut off their emotions and drive home like automatons.

Televised images of automatic ease camouflage massive low-tech exploitation. Sometimes we can't see the river through the debris or perceive the allegory in the story for all the glitz and sparkle, but evidence hides, if we dispel our dreams, in plain sight.

In 2007, GM produced a commercial for the Super Bowl which featured a cute yellow robot on the assembly line. The robot drops a screw and the line stops. Everyone turns and stares. The robot is shamed and ejected from the plant. He struggles to find new employment but fails at every menial venture. He has one skill and one purpose. He is unfit for life on the outside. He feels lonely and alienated. In despair he jumps off a bridge and commits suicide. Then, he awakens from his anxious dream relieved to be back on the line and lucky to have — not just a job — but a place in life. 

In the ad GM humanized a robot to the schmaltzy tune of Eric Carmen crooning "All By Myself." Like most commercials the video conveyed a text and a subtext. The stated message was: quality is built not only into the product, but also into the mind of the employee. The unstated message was: workers are inhuman and we can program them.

The overt message of the ad was: autoworkers are incompetent, but they are dedicated to the perfection of a minute task and grateful to hold a trivial role in the corporation. The covert message was: GM sucks the blood out of autoworkers and reduces them to mindless mechanical factotums who feel "All By Myself."

Auto moguls have an obsessive-compulsive drive to control markets by micromanaging the brains of consumers, as well as workers. Today's scientists have invented  drones that can replace bees, pollinate plants, and make honey, but long ago Henry Ford had "a better idea." With the help of Frederick Taylor and a crew of violent gangsters he manipulated humans to behave like drones, labor in mechanized hives, and create for his highness oodles of money.

Ford, the exalted hero of capitalists, was a ruthless, racist, fascist tyrant, but America has always felt enamored of a gentleman with the means to manufacture her dreams[5] .

Gregg Shotwell
retired auto worker, author of Autoworkers Under the Gun, Haymarket Press

First published in May 2015 issue of Monthly Review



Monday, May 25, 2015

Let's tell the truth this Memorial Day


By Richard Mellor
source
Afscme Local 444, retired

"And I long to see the day when Labor will have the destiny of the nation in her own hands and she will stand as a united force and show the world what the workers can do." --- Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, 1830-1930

An FB friend of mine posted a piece on his Facebook page commenting on those people who can’t understand that you can oppose a war but support the troops. But the idea that you can’t support the troops and oppose the conflicts the ruling class sends them to is a trick. It is the war they want us to support.  The troops are just incidental cannon fodder.

The military of any country based on class rule is like society as a whole. The generals and top brass, the ones we see with all the paraphernalia and fancy medals on their chests in pictures—the ones that don’t do the fighting----- are all from ruling class families or linked to them through marriage, business interests and other such connections; the chances of them breaking these links are very small.  Those who put their lives on the line are from working class and poor families, some are children of the middle class, from small community businesses and the like. The rich don’t fight wars and workers and the poor are not trusted enough to lead.

Why would the children of moneyed parents or the 1% go fight some war against people who pose no threat to us whatsoever? They have too many alternatives----the family business, Harvard, Wall Street etc.  Poverty and unemployment, situations that most of these above never find themselves in is a good condition for recruiting young men and women to go fight US capitalism’s wars.  I lived near a large US base in England and my parents had many American friends. It was here that I met white workers, often rural people from the Midwest and south and African Americans, Latinos and other ethnic minorities. I never met the children of millionaires ever.

I am not a pacifist, but If my child was to die in the present conflicts that make companies like Haliburton billion dollar concerns and people like Dick Cheney and the 1% richer, I would be very angry but not at those that took his life opposing invaders, but at those that profit from it. 

I cannot with all honesty claim on this day that those Americans that have died in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else died defending us. We have not been threatened by any nation, especially not Iraqis who have seen their country destroyed and millions of their population made homeless, killed or maimed. Not to mention the sicknesses and birth defects that have occurred due to the use of depleted uranium and other agents like white phosphorous.  After losing some three million people during the predatory invasion of their country by US imperialism Vietnamese children are still being born deformed due to the spraying of dioxin on their food supply by US planes.  The US government even sprayed it on their own troops.

Some 67,000 Americans died in Vietnam.  By some accounts, the political wrangling that Kissinger and Nixon entered in to in order to make political gains over their Democratic colleagues cost an extra 20,000 US lives that could have been saved. (See Christopher Hitchens, the Trial of Henry Kissinger). When we add the widows, fatherless children and parents of the killed in action we are talking about hundreds of thousands affected, a war that decimated a whole generation of American families. A waste of lives and the orchestrator's of this carnage are free, rich and important, respected members of society.  It is the unnecessary loss of so many live we must memorialize.

We do not dishonor the dead by telling the truth, instead we free ourselves from the lies that they died for democratic principles or to protect us from a foreign invader.  I would go so far to say that to not admit that those lives lost in these corporate wars were lost in vain does them a disservice. I am angry that these young Americans lost their lives in this way. The millions upon millions of victims of these wars are victims of mass murder on a global scale.  We should not forget that US imperialism is the only force in history that has dropped massive nuclear weapons on a defenseless civilian population.

All their patriotic talk on days like this is phony. Meanwhile they deny veterans benefits, they argue like a used car salesman about which procedure is genuine and which is not in case “shady” veterans try to wrangle some extra services from the government coffers. Huge numbers of the homeless are veterans; it’s a disgrace. There’s none of that negative talk when they’re sending them out, only when they come back damaged psychologically and physically. After all, that’s money out. And people like Schwarzenegger and Stillone who make millions by exploiting war make me sick. Stillone spent part of the Vietnam war working at a girls school in Switzerland.  War is not nice, it’s not like Hollywood propaganda portrays it. John Wayne is not a hero. It’s an insult to veterans if there ever was one.

Whole generations are lost in these ventures.  US foreign policy is a disaster, Iraq is a disaster, Afghanistan is a disaster. But so is Detroit, the Bronx, West Virginia and the social infrastructure of the United States.  No matter, Warren Buffet will always have a nice home as they evict you from yours, veterans and all.

On this Memorial Day we should not fall in to the trap demanded by the propaganda of the movers and shakes at the Pentagon in their media. We must make it clear we are angry at them, that our young people sent to kill and be killed for the likes of Halliburton or Chevron, deserve a better deal.  They deserve most of all a long, secure and productive life contributing to the well being of all of us. People like Chelsea Manning and other veterans, many in Iraq Veterans Against the War are brave people, not the unpatriotic cowards that the 1%’s media try to portray them as.  And let’s not forget Pat Tillman.  He was a hero until he refused to tell the lies. Take the time to watch The Tillman Story. He is another heroic figure.

My father spent three years and nine months working for Mitsubishi as a prisoner of war. He was taken in Hong Kong in 1939 and spent the entire war in Yokohama.  We did not agree on the causes of what I refer to as “Imperialist” wars, the struggle for global market dominance between the capitalist classes of competing nations, but he never glorified, it. He never taught me to hate the Japanese. He always understood that grunts like him were dragged in to the conflict by powers greater than himself. He ran away from home at 16 and joined up to be with horses. He too had to fight the power to get what he deserved on his return.

So on this day we can pay tribute to those Americans that have died and respect that under circumstances not of their own creation they did what they could to survive.  But we must be honest that these wars are not about defending our democratic rights and ideals we hold dear, they are about profits and the global struggle for markets. For many, were there better options they would have taken a different road.  The children of the wealthy don’t have to join the military to get an education. The children of the wealthy go to Harvard instead.

Memmorial Day Massacre 1937 Source
Lastly, we should remember another Memorial Day. For this is the 78th anniversary of the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937. During the Little Steel Strike, ten workers were murdered by police at the Republic Steel factory in Chicago.  Here is a description of that event:
A dozen marchers falling simultaneously into a heap. The massive sustained roar of the police pistols lasts on the sound track perhaps two or three seconds.
. . . the police charge on the marchers with riot sticks flailing. At the same time tear gas grenades are seen sailing into the mass of the demonstrators and clouds of gas rise over them. Most of the crowd is now seen to be in flight.
. . . a number of individuals either through foolish hardihood or because they have not realized what is in progress around them remained behind . . . groups of policemen close in on these individuals and go to work on them with their clubs, hi several instances from two to four men are seen beating one man.
On the front line during the parley with the police is a female [Mrs. Lupe Marshall] not more than five feet tall . . . . Under one arm she is carrying a purse and some newspapers. After . . . the shots she turns to find that her path is blocked by a heap of fallen men. She stumbles over them . . . then she is seen going down under a . . . blow from a policeman's club . . . . She gets up, and staggers around. A few minutes later she is shown being shoved into a patrol wagon, blood cascading down her face and spreading over her clothing . . . .
The camera shifts to the patrol wagons in the rear; men with bloody heads are being loaded in. One, who has apparently been shot in the leg, drags himself . . . into the picture with the aid of two policemen. An elderly man . . . holding one hand to the back of his head clambers painfully up the steps of a patrol wagon and slumps . . . .
Far off toward the outer corner of the field, where they [the marchers] came from originally, the marchers are still in flight, with an irregular line of police seen in close pursuit, clubbing. http://libcom.org/history/memorial-day-massacre

We must take Mother Jones’ words above to heart. The most important war we face is the one at home.

Pakistan: Baba Jan contests election from jail

Baba Jan contests election from jail; Finance Appeal  


Monday, May 25, 2015
By Farooq Tariq

Baba Jan, a federal committee member of the Awami Workers Party (AWP) is contesting election for Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly seat from Hunza-6 from behind the bars. He is in jail serving a life sentence handed down by an anti-terrorism court last year for raising his voice against police brutality and for the rights of Atabad disaster hit people.

This is the first time in the history of Gilgit-Baltistan a disputed territory in administered by Pakistan.

Elections for the 34-seat rubber stamp assembly is going to be held on June 8. The provincial election commission’s decision to allow him to contest polls has surprised many and triggered an enthusiasm among the youth who consider Baba Jan, a symbol of resistance. 

Baba Jan and his group had boycotted the last general elections in 2009. The Pakistan People’s Party won the seat but has lost most of its credibility during its five years in power because of corruption.

There are now 11 candidates contesting the constituency. These include the three main Pakistani parties — the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, the Pakistan People’s Party of the Bhutto dynasty, and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, led by former cricketer Imran Khan — and the Shia political party Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen.

Prison authorities' behaviour towards Baba Jan has changed for the time being and he is being treated as an important personality.

Baba Jan is one of four activists in Gilgit Jail sentenced to life imprisonment. The others are Shukrullah Baig, Iftikhar Hussain and Mahar Ali. They were charged under anti-terrorist laws. None of them has any record of terrorist activities or promoting terrorism.

However, the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan acquitted them in one case. Due to this decision, six other activists were released.

Baba Jan was arrested in 2011 and remained in jail for nearly two years, before he was released on bail on June 27, 2013, after a massive national and international campaign. He was rearrested when an anti-terrorist court sentenced him to life imprisonment in September last year.

Baba Jan is not a terrorist. He is simply a motivated political activist who had the courage to raise his voice for the sake of his people. For this, he along with his associates was imprisoned and tortured by the authorities in Pakistan.

A massive landslide hit Atabad on January 4, 2010, which killed 19 people and blocked the Hunza river creating a 23-kilometre lake. Three villages in Gojal, 130km northeast of Gilgit were submerged rendering hundreds of families homeless. The lake also disrupted communication and trade between China and Pakistan. Baba Jan was in the forefront of agitation to seek compensation and a new life for these hapless people.

Several mass demonstrations across the valley demanded fare compensation for all those affected. The government of Gilgit-Baltistan agreed to pay some 500,000 rupees ($5000) to each family.

However, the government did not pay compensation to all those affected and people protested when the Chief Minister of GB was visiting the area. Police opened fire and killed one of the disaster-hit people and his son.

The incident triggered a massive protest against the police brute usae of force. The protest continued for four days in Aliabad, the main town of Hunza. Baba Jan organised and led the non-violent mass action. The main demand was to register a case against the police officers responsible for the killings.

Finally, a fake case paper was shown to the protesters who dispersed. This was an unprecedented mass action but the leaders were made to pay a heavy price afterwards.

Baba Jan and 100 others were arrested for allegedly ransacking a police station and torching a government office. He was charged with sedition and subjected to severe torture for three days. The police cases were withdrawn against all except Baba Jan and 11 others who refused to sign the concocted confessional statement and accept the government offer.

There were strong protests all over Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan against the arrests.

The Senate Committee on Human Rights asked the chief secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan to explain why the youth leader was tortured and kept in jail.

Progressive parties, student and youth organisations as well as human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, campaigned for the release of the 32-year-old activist who has become a symbol of struggle in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Rallies were held and protest letters submitted at Pakistan's embassies in several countries including Indonesia, France, Germany, Britain, Switzerland and Australia. Prominent intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Tariq Ali also endorsed the campaign by signing a petition.

Although in jail, Baba Jan is a strong voice against national oppression, colonial setup, bureaucratic rule over GB, New Great Game’ occupation of resources by foreign powers and companies and annexation of Kohistan and Chitral into Pakistan. Kohistan has been integrated into the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province even though historically it is part of Gilgit-Baltistan.

“People have been kept as slaves here. In order to strengthen the clutches of that slavery, outside forces and local government have instilled fear. Government is bluffing people and human rights institutions by setting up a puppet system here. This set up has no political and constitutional base,” Baba Jan said before going to jail.

The Pakistani state has created a Sunni-Shia religious sectarian divide in Gilgit-Baltistan. Baba Jan is a strong voice against religious extremism and sectarianism.

One of the main campaigns by Baba Jan while in jail was to unite the Shia and Sunni prisoners. Due to united protest, jail authorities were forced to give fresh milk, bread and meat to all prisoners and medical doctors started visiting the deserted jail hospital.

However, Baba Jan has had to pay a heavy price for uniting the prisoners. A case was registered against him for ‘inciting the prisoners’ for improving the jail condition. Anti-terrorist clauses were included in the police case.

Baba Jan has become the most popular candidate on social media in the valley. The acceptance of his nomination papers has generated great enthusiasm among young people. Several youth committees have been formed by young people who are not even members of the AWP or PYF.

Leaders of the AWP are planning to visit the valley to address public meetings for Baba Jan's election campaign. 
If he wins the seat, there will be strong pressure by the people for the release of Baba Jan and his comrades. It will result in strengthening of AWP in the valley linked with masses.

Finance Appeal

You are requested to donate funds for the campaign of comrade Baba Jan.

Funds can be submitted from any bank on the given account 

Account title: Aminullah Baig
Account no; 
0285-257140105429

Habib Metro Bank Ali Abad Hunza, Gilgit Beltistan

Religious Governments.


Sean O'Torain.

Imperialism
Leon Trotsky the international revolutionary had this to say: "There is nothing as ridiculous and tragic as a religious government."  It is useful to think of this quote from Trotsky at this time. The magnificent vote for same sex marriage in Ireland has finally brought to an end the reign of religious governments which ruled Southern Ireland since its formation. This is a wonderful event, one to be celebrated. The "tragedy" of religious government after religious government in Southern Ireland is at last on the way out. This will have a positive affect in Northern Ireland and internationally.

But in some other parts of the world the opposite is taking place. The Middle East is increasingly ruled by religious governments of one kind or another. Iraq under Hussein was one of the most secular governments in the region. But after he had outlived his usefulness to US imperialism in fighting Iran he was overthrown by this same US imperialism. Since then what was Iraq has descended into warring governments and factions based on religion. A true and massive blood letting religious tragedy is unfolding. ISIS is the most horrific of these forces. It is hard to see how ISIS will not be successful in carving out a new country for itself and a new government. Another tragedy.  It is   hard to see how religious governments will not rule much of the Middle East for years ahead.

The fault of this is imperialism. The major countries such as the US, Britain, Germany etc which carved up the Arab world and the Arab people, which overthrew and stirred against each other the different countries such as Iran and Iraq and the different factions of Islam. All this was done in the interests of divide and rule and looting the region of its oil and gas and other resource wealth. The backward religious governments are horrific. The right wing religious factions in the US are horrific. The cause of these threats to the working class of the world and to life on earth as we know it is in the last analysis imperialism.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ireland Votes for Same Sex Marriage. Facing up to my past mistakes.


Sean O'Torain.


I emigrated from Ireland in 1965. This helped me to evolve somewhat from the anti gay prejudice with which I had been brought up by Irish society. This was good. But I came back to Ireland and joined the struggle for civil rights and the socialist movement. Specifically the Militant group, now  the Socialist Party, which was and is affiliated to the Committee for a Workers International. I was the first member of that group in Southern Ireland and the first full timer in Ireland as a whole. At that time we were working in the Labor Party and in particular trying to win the leadership of the Labour Youth. The climate in the country then was very anti gay and also anti women's right to choose. Against that background I and the now Socialist Party took an opportunist if not reactionary position on women's and on LGBT rights. While we within our group, the then Militant, argued for and stood for women's right to choose we did not try to win the Labor Youth to this position as we thought this would give the Labor leadership the chance to close it down. This was an opportunist and thoroughly contemptible position. I unconditionally accept this mistake on my part. I share this experience and mistake for many reasons. One is to further consolidate within myself the approach that I am now fighting for and that is to honestly and publicly face up to my mistakes of the past and to learn from these. And the other is to help others and the movement to learn from these.

But there is another reason. While I had broken from my prejudice against gay people individually and personally, I still held reactionary views on this issue. I still did not fight for same sex marriage and full unconditional rights for GLBT people. I still did not try and win the Labor Youth to fight for these rights. In fact I argued against this both on tactical reasons, if we had done so the Labor leadership would have closed down Labor Youth, and also while I personally did not feel any prejudice against gay people, I also was not anything like sufficiently consciousness of my responsibility to fight for gay peoples rights. On top of this I did not see that not fighting for the rights of LGBT people added to the divisions in the working class and helped the capitalist class in their divide and rule strategy. As well as my own mistakes a major reason for not having the right position on this issue was the position of the CWI. It did not fight for Gay Rights. I remember one of the top leading figures of the CWI internationally explaining how women were not strong enough to do jobs such as driving buses. Incredible. In fact I had a more progressive position on LGBT rights before I joined the CWI than after I joined them.

So what is the lesson here? I remain a revolutionary socialist and a Marxist. I have long since been expelled from the CWI, not for issues relating to gay rights except in the sense that the CWI will never admit its mistakes. But the lesson here for me is not to be arrogant not to think you know everything. Instead listen to people, listen to that magnificent movement of people in Ireland and who came back to Ireland to vote yes. Ireland and Irish people and people from Irish background wherever they live will never be the same again. It is wonderful. This movement was not led by any Marxist group. Yet it was a movement such as was never seen in Ireland before. Just because you consider yourself a Marxist and have read all the books does not mean you can interpret the ideas, does not mean that you can fight for what has to be fought for. In fact what I can say is that when I joined the CWI in the early 1970's this threw me back in terms of my position on the rights of LGBT people. For opportunist reasons I  did not fight for these. Not only that, but grasping some of the basic ideas of Marxism made me arrogant. I thought I knew everything. Joining the CWI, learning the basic ideas of Marxism had a dialectical affect upon me. On the one hand it helped me understand many aspects of the world and society but on the other hand it shackled my mind on many other aspects of the world and society. I think the revolutionary left, the Marxist left, the CWI,  played very little role in this magnificent movement in Ireland for same sex marriage. It has changed Ireland forever. And not only that it is of worldwide significance, impacting Irish people and people from Irish backgrounds wherever they live. I am looking forward to my next vista to my Irish pub here in Chicago.

For those of who see ourselves as Marxists, and by the way Marx always denied he was a "Marxist", this great victory in Ireland teaches us many things. One is we have to be self critical and conditional in what we believe. But we have to go further than that. We have to see that Marx was not right on everything. In fact he was plain wrong on some issues. One was his lack of sufficient attention to and analysis of the special oppression of women. And much much more so the special oppression of LGBT people.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Irish Yes to Same Sex Marriage. A time for a real Irish celebration.


Sean O'Torain.

They poured into the voting centers. They traveled back from as far away as Australia, New York City and Britain to cast their yes votes. Huge lines formed at Dublin airport as they poured in. It is a day for the people of Southern Ireland to be proud. They have voted by up to two thirds to legalize same sex marriage. The final vote is not yet in but already leaders of the no vote have conceded defeat. Ireland will now be the first country in the world to legalize same sex marriage by referendum. This is a great victory for human rights and for all Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender people. But more than that it is a great victory for all who believe that people should be allowed to express themselves sexually as they see fit as long as it does not involve any coercion against others.

This vote shows that Southern Ireland has fundamentally changed. When I was growing up there contraceptives and divorce were illegal. It is a far cry since Southern Ireland was one of the most backward countries in the world, ruled over by an unelected undemocratic anti women Catholic hierarchy. Today Southern Ireland, with this popular vote for same sex marriage, leads the world in the rights of LGBT people. And the affects of this vote will not be confined to Ireland.

To be LGBT is illegal in around 80 countries. In some of them the penalty is death. 2.7 billion people live in countries where to be LGBT is a crime. This vote, especially because it is a popular vote, and not a vote by some politicians, will have a very positive affect around the world. It will force people to think about this issue more and also to consider the rights and feelings of LGBT people. This will especially be the case in the Irish diaspora.

There are 80 million people who claim some Irish descent worldwide. In the US alone there are 36 million. There is a strong right wing Catholic influence with the Irish American population. To be Irish tends to be thought of as to be Catholic. Now to be Irish has to take into account that the majority of the people of Southern Ireland voted by overwhelming majority in favor of LGBT rights. The vote in Southern Ireland will positively affect the Irish diaspora and force it to consider what it means to be Irish. To be Irish today it to be in favor of same sex marriage and LGBT rights.  I am so happy today. For the first time in my life I almost feel like wearing something green.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bill and Hillary: Clintons Inc.


Clinton's Inc. earned $25 million the past year
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I normally go to my local coffee shop on weekend mornings and there I enjoy doing a crossword or two with friends.  We normally relax a bit and read the headlines before we settle down and get to work on the crossword. We are literally crossword nuts.

One of my friends there is a teacher. In fact, she gave us, us being her husband myself, and her, a name if we were to ever compete in a crossword or some sort of trivia contest. We are known as the Supercilious Posers.  My friend is an English teacher and we are aware that it’s not the most complimentary name for our team but we don’t care really; it sounds good., has a nice arrogant ring to it.

Anyway, I was reading the paper and my friend happened to mention that she has quite a few papers to grade, this was Sunday morning. There is another teacher that frequents our joint and I often see her grading papers over a cup of coffee on a weekend morning.

It sort of struck a chord with me at the moment because I happened to be reading about the Clinton’s wealth. There’s a lot about the Clintons and the Bush’s in the papers at the moment as both Hillary as a Democrat and Jeb Bush, the brother of George W. Bush, two cretins if there ever were any, are in the race for president of the USA.

The Clintons earned more than $25 million over the last year the WSJ mentions, not bad for a woman who claims she is a champion of the struggling middle class, (in the US that means working class). Last week I read that Bill earned $105.5 million from 2001 through 2012.  He earned that money giving speeches sometimes getting as much as $800,000 a speech. Hillary and Bill also earned $16.7 million in 2012.

Of course, they all do this.  After serving the 1% as president of their government, former presidents attract a lot of people who want to tap in to a good source of revenue, get a nice government contract or basically bleed the taxpayer a little.  And that includes heads of states. Obama will earn hundreds of millions when he’s done as will Ben Bernanke the former head of the Federal Reserve.  All these former bankers, lawyers, investors take this route after government service. The fed of course is not exactly government service as it’s a private institution.

Anyway, Bill Clinton has taken a bit of slack for continuing to earn millions of dollars giving speeches but being who he is he came out blasting. “I gotta pay our bills” he told NBC news earlier this month, “I work hard at this. I spend hours a day just doing the research. People like to hear me speak.”  Remember, he never had sex with Monica Lewinsky and he demanded from taxpayer funded attorneys a definition of the term, “sex”.

I would go so far to say that no one reading this blog has been to a Bill Clinton speaking venue so he’s not speaking to us. But that’s not what irked me.  $800,000 a speech for doing some research?  Ever heard of Google? I say that but I don’t even believe that this is the point, we all know they’re liars, it doesn’t phase them as they are the only political game in town. I am sure Bill has a whole host of people around him that do much of this work for him.

I know that research is hard work because I do a lot of it myself.  When I was active in my union and also part of a political organization I had to read whole books and articles and papers in order to give presentations on a subject, what we called “lead offs” and I am sure Bill does less research than I do and gets paid exorbitantly for it.  I do research every day in order to post to this forum, I spend 4 to 6 hours a day on this. So it’s not the research that people pay for, it’s access to the person and through that person access to money and influence in politics and our daily lives. 

Jeb P Bush is also on the money raising trail and his wealthy friends who got their dirty little hands in the public trough while Jeb’s brother was in the White House will cough up hundreds of millions of dollars. This alone speaks to the immense wealth that can be accumulated through political activity in the best democracy money can buy. Ambassadorships and other government posts are all given with future support in mind or as a result of past donor activity.

But we are supposed to believe teachers are destroying the education system and failing our children. How many times do we hear in the mass media that they get all summer off and that they get paid at the same time etc.  The reality for teachers is different. They not only give immense amounts of unpaid time they also spend a lot of their own money on supplies. They have to deal with children that come from broken homes, drug or alcohol plagued homes or just kids whose parents for whatever reason need a babysitter during the day. All the ills of a society in decline come in to the classroom.

Grading papers on a Sunday morning is what teachers do and they don’t get paid for it. Working people have the work ethic, not bankers and capitalists. A teacher’s contribution to society, just like a firefighter, social worker or any wageworker is far more valuable than the millionaires and billionaires who will be competing against each other for the opportunity to plunder the US treasury for the next four years.