Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Crunchtime for Sanders nears. What then?

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

That section of the capitalist class represented by the Democratic Party is getting a little edgy as the party nomination process nears completion. Their candidate, the war criminal Hillary Clinton, has the nomination wrapped up through the undemocratic way the process functions but Clinton’s main challenger, Bernie Sanders, will not yet throw in the towel. Sanders himself is no peacenik. He voted to send the Zionists more ammunition after supplies dwindled during the savage assault this regime waged against the Palestinians of Gaza. His recent concession to the people of Gaza claiming the assault was a little excessive arises out of necessity as so many of his young supporters support the Palestinian cause.  He supported the F 35, and while he has attacked defense spending at rallies, according to Jeffrey St Clair of Counterpunch, “Since he always “supports the troops,” Sanders never opposes any defense spending bill.  He stands behind all military contractors who bring much-needed jobs to Vermont.”

He now finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having stirred up a hornet’s nest that is dividing the party along class lines and he can’t put the genie back in the bottle quite so easily.

In the last analysis, liberals like Sanders, what we might call an FDR Democrat although while there are similarities there are differences as well, are no real threat to the system. They support capitalism and the free market; they simply want a friendlier, more humane capitalism. For the liberals, it was FDR’s policies of the new Deal that saved capitalism, that “put people back to work”. The reality is different of course; the slump of 1937 was an even deeper one than 1929. It was US war production that led to the destruction of the productive forces of whole nations and the death of more than 50 million people that saved capitalism from the history books.

Sanders, along with other political representatives of the liberal wing of US capitalism like Elizabeth Warren and Robert Reich, have voiced the concerns of millions of Americans who have seen their living standards decline drastically over the past 40 years. They have tapped in to the anger that lurks beneath the surface of US society and above all, want to give it expression through the Democratic Party.

This doesn’t mean that many of their issues shouldn’t be supported. Why would they not be, they are in response to a mood that they clearly know exists. Their greatest fear is that both the public’s desires and anger could lead to social unrest and worse, an independent political party based on workers, our organizations and our communities. The Democratic Party is the 1%’s political safety valve. It is, as the saying goes, the graveyard of social movements.

Apart from his support for a murderous anti-worker US foreign policy which should prevent any class conscious worker from supporting his candidacy, even if he ran as an independent, it is Sanders’ misguided view that capitalism can protect workers’ rights, build an egalitarian society and avoid environmental catastrophe that should be a warning to us all. For Sanders, the vehicle for this magical transformation is the other party of the billionaires, the Democrats.

It’s not that class conscious workers or socialists shouldn’t work with liberals on issues, as the struggle for reforms is important.  It’s whether or not these struggles are to save capitalism or replace it. The liberals have no alternative but the market and capitalism with a friendlier face as it doesn’t occur to them that the working class can actually govern society in its own interests. They just want things to be fair. They want Warren Buffet and other friendly billionaires to help us and they’ll convince them it’s the right thing to do. But we’ve been here before.

Dan Arel,
quoting from Danny Katch’s book, Socialism…Seriously gives an example of the difference between how liberals and socialists see the struggle for reforms under capitalism, Katch writes:

“Liberalism can agree with socialism that some things about capitalism should be reformed, and socialists often work alongside liberals to win those changes. Where we differ is that liberalism views reforms as ways to preserve capitalism while socialism sees them as steps toward replacing it.”

Liberalism/reformism has a history of failure. Even during the post World War 2 boom when US capitalism as early as 1950 had some 52% of world trade and a global market open to its goods, in the west at least, it could not provide the basic necessities of life to millions of its citizens as a brutal Apartheid system flourished in the South and as it imposed Armageddon on former French colonial subjects in South East Asia--- a brutal war that ended in its defeat.

The Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency in the Carter years and during the first two years of the Clinton Administration. Carter used the Taft Hartley against the miners in 1978 and began the deregulation of industry taken up by Reagan. Clinton brought us NAFTA and threw working class women off welfare. Clinton and Gore savaged the public sector and Clinton promised to “make a lot of millionaires” as he lavished praise on Wall Street. Sanders also supported Clinton’s bombing of Kosovo and the breaking up of a sovereign nation.

Sanders I am sure has been shocked at the support he has given expression to. This week, he won some organizational concessions from the power in the Rich man’s party as some of his supporters will get a seat on committees, most notably Cornell West on the platform committee. The party power will ensure even these organizational concessions will mean minority posts and the bankers rule will not be undermined.  As a friend wrote to me today, “The platform, as they say, is what's left behind when the train leaves the station.”

Even if concessions of a more political nature are offered, some aspect of his program for example, the usual road blocks will be erected to that.  Every tax reform introduced by legislators to halt the loopholes used by the rich have accomplished nothing.
I wrote about this some time back.

Numerous Democratic Party bigwigs and supporters have been pressuring Sanders to back off. But he’s got pressure coming at him from both sides. Some notable liberals are saying he’s damaging their ability to beat Trump.  Markos Moulitsas of the liberal news outlet,
Daily Kos attacked him for not coming out strongly enough against his supporters’ behavior in the Nevada delegate convention, as did the Senate Minority leader Harry Reid.

Coupled with the criticism, Reid also urged Democrats to back off Sanders and points out that Sanders has supported Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold’s Senate run telling the media that he, "I'm very happy that Sen. Sanders is supporting him bigtime."   The idea that Sanders would run as an independent is practically ruled out in my opinion and as the
Philadelphia Enquirer reported today “Backing Feingold could reassure other Democrats about his intentions and party loyalty.”, strengthens this view I believe.

The end of the road is near and the question of what will happen to his supporters arises. When will the supporters fracture? It seems inevitable to me that much of his base will end up supporting Hillary Clinton. She is qualified, ruthless and is the safest choice for the few unelected people that manage USA Inc. There are others, including women who will not vote for her under any circumstances and some of those will drop out of politics, some will turn to the Greens as myself and others on this blog have pointed out before. There are many Greens who are involved in the Sanders campaign who will return to the fold for the presidential election. They are basically Democrats and do not stake the Green Party seriously or even attempt to build it as a possible alternative.

Were the thousands of people who have involved themselves in the campaign of the Democrat Sanders to have joined the Greens from the beginning and campaigned within this party for a socialist platform and also for a more general orientation to workers, our communities and our organizations, there would be much more of a panic among the Democratic power brokers; a genuine alternative could have been on the table early on.  The Green Party is not, in my opinion, a capitalist or a workers party but its platform is more representative of workers’ interests and its likely candidate, Jill Stein, has a better platform than Sanders including calling for the nationalization of certain sectors of the economy and an end to the present US foreign policy. Its environmental record is far superior.

Instead, following Sanders, they have led the march down the Democratic Party road that has proven time and time again that there is nothing at the end of it but quicksand. This former party of the slaveowners, the only party to have dropped nuclear weapons on civilian populations, is a party of the US ruling class and cannot solve the crisis of capitalism.

*I have not read this book so I can’t give an overall opinion of it. It also matters how revolutionary socialists approach workers with the view that reforms under capitalism either cannot be realized in general or are at best very temporary in nature. In the present epoch, the former is more likely. Revolutionary socialist have not the best record when it comes to explaining these issues outside of an academic setting.

Greece: the never-ending circle

by Michael Roberts

The next stage in the never-ending tragedy that is the Greek economy takes place today. The Greek government meets with the EU leaders and the IMF to discuss what to do about the current ‘bailout’ programme of credit and its public sector finances.

Over the weekend, the ‘leftist’ Syriza government in Greece got through parliament yet another range of severe cuts in public spending, increased taxes and a programme of extended privatisations, in order to meet the demands of the Troika (the EU, the ECB and the IMF). In return, the Greek government will receive another tranche of funding as part of the third ‘bailout’ package designed to get Greece to repay its pubic sector debts and ‘recapitalise’ its banks.

The funds will be used partly to cover the arrears of payments to the health service and schools that the central government had run up in order to make its own books balance. But most of it will be used to pay back existing loans and interest owed to the ECB and the IMF. So more money is being borrowed from the Troika to pay the Troika in a never-ending circle of madness!

The Greek public debt burden arose for two main reasons. Greek capitalism was so weak in the 1990s and the profitability of productive investment was so low that Greek capitalists needed the Greek state to subsidise them through low taxes and exemptions and handouts to favoured Greek oligarchs. In return, Greek politicians got all the perks and tips that made them wealthy too.

This weak and corrupt Greek economy then joined the euro in 2001 and the gravy train of EU funding was made available.  German and French finance came along to buy up Greek companies and allow the government to borrow and spend. The annual budget deficits and public debt rocketed under successive conservative and social democratic governments. These were financed by bond markets because German and French capital had invested in Greek businesses and bought Greek government bonds that delivered a much better interest than their own. So Greek capitalism lived off the credit-fuelled boom of the 2000s that hid its real weaknesss.

But then came the global financial crash and the Great Recession. The Eurozone headed into slump and Eurozone banks and companies got into deep trouble. Suddenly a Greek government with 120% of GDP debt and running a 15% of GDP annual deficit was no longer able to finance itself from the market and needed a ‘bailout’ from the rest of Europe.

But the bailout was not to help Greeks maintain the living standards and preserve public services during the slump. On the contrary, living standards and public services had to be cut to ensure that German and French banks got their bond money back and foreign investment in Greek industry was protected.

So through the bailout programmes, foreign capital was more or less repaid in full, with the debt burden shifted onto the books of the Greek government, the Euro institutions and the IMF – in other words, taxpayers and citizens. The Greek people were ultimately committed to meeting the costs of the reckless failure of Greek and Eurozone capital.

Last summer 2015, the ‘Greek crisis’ came to head. The newly-elected leftist Syriza government appeared to refuse to accept the austerity measures demanded by the Troika. Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis went into the lion’s den of the Eurozone group meetings to call for debt relief and a rejection of the austerity measures. Eventually, Syriza leader Tsipras called a referendum of the people to say yes or no to the terms of Troika, amid the cutting off of credit to the Greek banks by the ECB, the imminent threat of financial and economic collapse and dire threats from the German leaders and the Eurozone group. The Greek people amazingly (including Tsipras) voted by 62% to say no to these threats and austerity. The No side won every constituency in Greece and Tspiras had a mandate to reject the Eurozone demands.

But he and most of the other Syriza leaders backed down. They could not see any alternative but to accept the Troika demands. As they saw it, otherwise, credit would be cut off, Greece would be thrown out of the Eurozone and the economy would plunge even deeper into depression. They decided to agree to Troika terms in return for the vague promise that, some time later, the EU leaders would agree to ‘debt relief’. This presumably meant that Greece would have to pay less back to its creditors (now mainly the EU official loans) and so would have some ‘fiscal space’ to end austerity and get the economy going again – on a capitalist basis.

This is what I wrote last August on the news that Syriza had agreed to the terms of the third bailout: “The economic uncertainty is whether, even if the Greeks follow the deal to the letter, it will work to reduce Greece’s public sector debt burden, restore economic growth and reduce unemployment and reverse the drastic fall in living standards.  The answer to that question is clear.  It won’t”

“The IMF is not prepared to provide any further credit as part of this bailout because it does not think that Greek public sector debt can be stopped from rising as a share of GDP and that the Greeks can ever service it by borrowing from the market.  In other words, the debt is ‘unsustainable’.”

Now here we are, getting on for a year later, and Greece remains in economic recession.  The Greek economy contracted 0.4 percent on the quarter in the first three months of 2016 after growing by a meager 0.1 percent in the previous period. Compared with the same period a year earlier, the non-seasonally adjusted GDP shrank for the third quarter in a row by 1.2 percent, accelerating from a 0.7 percent fall in the last three months of 2015. So, since the Syriza government backed down, Greece has fallen back again into recession.
Unemployment remains well above 20% and is double that for youth unemployment. Average real wages are still falling; pensions have been cut yet again and public services remain in tatters. And Greece is taking the brunt of the influx of refugees from Syria and the Middle East.

The Syriza government has done everything it has been asked of by the Troika in making the Greek people pay for the failure of Greek capitalism. And yet the EU leaders have still not agreed to ‘debt relief’. Indeed, they are talking of only considering it once the austerity measures in the latest bailout have been implemented in full and the programme comes to an end in 2018. In the meantime, the Greek government is supposed to run a budget surplus (before interest payments on loans) of 3.5% of GDP a year for the foreseeable future. That is a level way higher than any other country in the EU and way higher for so long than any other government has achieved ever!

No wonder the IMF considers this approach as unsustainable. The IMF executives have a mandate not to lend money to any country that it does not think can pay it back – simple. And the IMF analysts reckon that applies to Greece. (http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2016/cr16130.pdf)
“Even if Greece, through a heroic effort, could temporarily reach a surplus close to 3.5% of GDP, few countries have managed to reach and sustain such high levels of primary balances for a decade or more, and it is highly unlikely that Greece can do so considering its still weak policy making institutions and projections suggesting that unemployment will remain at double digits for several decades.” IMF.

So the IMF wants the EU leaders (who own most of the debt) to agree to ‘debt relief’. The EU leaders stubbornly refuse as they think it would set a precedent for Eurozone governments to get away from ‘honouring’ their obligations and would look bad in particular to the German electorate with a general election only 18 months away and the Eurosceptic parties there gaining ground.  This is an irony considering that in 1953 Germany was allowed to write off the debt it owed to the Allied Powers after the second world war.  That was done to get Germany to return to the capitalist fold and allow economic recovery.  But not for Greece in 2016.

Today, the IMF and the EU leaders meet with the Greek negotiators. The IMF has repeated it would take part in Greece’s €86bn bailout only if its European partners could prove “the numbers add up”.

The IMF reckons that without debt relief, Greece’s public sector debt to GDP ratio (the measure everybody follows) would not fall even with further austerity. Indeed, it would rise from around 180% now to nearly 300% by 2060 – in a ‘snowball’ effect where debt is repaid with more debt and interest payments keep rising on top.

Greece’s gross financing needs, or GFN, (the money it would need to service its debt pile) would soar to 67.4 per cent of total economic output. That compares to financing needs of just 18.5 per cent today. With sufficient ‘debt relief’, Greek public debt could finally start to fall, the IMF claims. Even so, the debt ratio would still be above 100% over 40 years from now!

And what is this ‘debt relief’. Well, the IMF suggests “payment deferrals” until 2040 – which would mean Greece would pay none of the costs of servicing any of its bonds or loans for the next 24 years. This would mean extending the grace period on its existing European Financial Stability Fund loans by another 17 years, ESM loans another 6 years, and loans owed to member states by 20 years. In total, these measures would help reduce the country’s payments bill by 4.5 per cent of GDP over the next 24 years, according to the IMF.

An additional proposal is to extend the life on the loans owed to Greece’s fellow member states (known as the Greek loan facility) by 40 years, from their current maturation date of 2040 to 2080 instead. And loans issued by the eurozone’s emergency bailout fund – the European Financial Stability Facility – would be extended by 24 years from 2056 to 2080 and from the permanent European Stability Mechanism (Greece’s largest single creditor) by another 20 years, also taking them up to 2080. Combined, the IMF calculates such measures would help keep the cost of servicing Greece’s total loans below 20 per cent of GDP by 2060.

The IMF also proposes that Greece should pay no more than 1.5 per cent of its GDP every year to service the costs of its ESM/EFSF loans until 2045. The fund proposes this be done by swapping current expensive short-term bonds with higher interest rates, with longer term paper with lower repayments.

All these ideas are not really debt relief in the sense of actually writing off the debt. Such a move is taboo. Greece must honour its ‘debts’. In reality, these proposals would mean that the debt would be perpetually ‘rolled over’ to the future and interest payments would be reduced to the minimum. The IMF wants these measures of debt relief to start now while the Euro leaders, led by Germany want to push them back to after 2018.

But even these measures of debt relief won’t work unless the Greek economy starts to grow again.  How can the Greek economy be made to grow? I posed three possible economic policy solutions last summer. There is the neoliberal solution currently being demanded and imposed by the Troika. This is to keep cutting back the public sector and its costs, to keep labour incomes down and to make pensioners and others pay more. This is aimed at raising the profitability of Greek capital and with extra foreign investment, restore the economy. At the same time, it is hoped that the Eurozone economy will start to grow strongly and so help Greece, as a rising tide raises all boats. So far, this policy solution has been a signal failure. Profitability has only improved marginally and Eurozone economic growth remains dismal.

The next solution is the Keynesian one. This means boosting public spending to increase demand, cancelling part of the government debt and for Greece to leave the euro and introduce a new currency (drachma) that is devalued by as much as is necessary to make Greek industry competitive in world markets. The trouble with this solution is that it assumes Greek capital can revive with a lower currency rate and that more public spending will increase ‘demand’ without further lowering profitability.

But the profitability of capital is key to recovery under a capitalist economy. Moreover, while Greek exporters may benefit from a devalued currency, many Greek companies that earn money at home in drachma will still be faced with paying debts in euros. Many will be bankrupted. Already over 40% of Greek banks loans to industry are not being serviced. Rapidly rising inflation that will follow devaluation would only raise profitability precisely because it will eat into the real incomes of the majority as wages failed to match inflation. There would also be the loss of EU social funding and other subsidies if Greece is also ejected from the EU and its funding institutions.  This solution has been rejected by the Greek government and most of its people too.

The third option is a socialist one. This recognises that Greek capitalism cannot recover to restore living standards for the majority, whether inside the euro in a Troika programme or outside with its own currency and with no Eurozone support. The socialist solution is to replace Greek capitalism with a planned economy where the Greek banks and major companies are publicly owned and controlled and the drive for profit is replaced with the drive for efficiency, investment and growth. The Greek economy is small but it is not without an educated people and many skills and some resources beyond tourism. Using its human capital in a planned and innovative way, it can grow. But being small, it will need, like all small economies, the help and cooperation of the rest of Europe.

This solution has never been posed by the Syriza leaders.  So the EU leaders and the Syriza government will continue trying to meet the demands and targets of the Troika in the vain hope that European capitalism will recover and grow and so allow Greeks to get some crumbs off the table.

There may be some deal on ‘debt relief’ from the discussions. But it will still mean that Greece has an unsustainable burden of debt on its books for generations to come, while living standards fro the average Greek household fall back below where they were before Greece joined the Eurozone. And another global recession is fast approaching.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Socialists aren't exempt from sexual violence

We  share this piece that was originally published at LivesRunning.com We hope it stirs some discussion on the issue of sexual violence in left organizations, more importantly, how it is dealt with. Facts For Working People commented on these events as they occurred and we did not then nor do we now, do so out of any hostility to the British SWP, for sectarian reasons or to gloat at the failings of the SWP.  We do so in order to continue to direct our concern over this issue and the failure of the left and socialist organizations, including the CWI, the group from which we were expelled, to correctly address it. It is a scourge that will not go away on its own and ignoring the sexism and undemocratic top down life of revolutionary organizations will make things worse. The attempts to slander the victims and those that support them or criticize these failings brings shame on revolutionary socialism.

Why I don’t buy Socialist Worker

You weren’t a member, you tell me, in 2013 when the arguments happened. You’ve heard, of course, there was some controversy but you have been told that the people who left were sectarians. That’s true, isn’t it, they had some grievance with the SWP and they used a disagreement about the SWP’s internal procedures as an excuse to leave? Hadn’t they been planning to leave for years? 

In 2010 a man called Martin Smith (“Comrade Delta”) was the National Secretary of the SWP, its day to day leader, the person who employs the other party workers. In July of that year, a 19 year old woman (“Comrade W”) complained that he had mistreated her. She didn’t use the word “rape”, but the people who met her and heard her knew what she was talking about.

From the start, Smith’s supporters (including Weyman Bennett, who worked with him on the SWP’s anti-fascist campaign) put pressure on the women who helped Comrade W, calling one of them a “traitor”, ostracising and dismissing them and forcing them out of the SWP.

The complaint was investigated by Charlie Kimber, who is now the editor of Socialist Worker. He met comrade W, told her that he believed her and that disciplinary action would be taken against Martin Smith. The extent of the punishment was as follows: Smith was demoted from his position as National Secretary but remained in the SWP’s full-time leadership on its Central Committee.

Smith’s demotion was eventually explained to the membership at the SWP’s 2011 conference, where it was introduced by Alex Callinicos who complained about outside forces reporting on internal difficulties within the SWP. He said there was a complaint, he didn’t explain its seriousness and he said that Smith himself had asked to be moved to a different role. The session ended with delegates clapping, stamping their feet in Smith’s defence and shouting, “The workers united will never be defeated.”

In 2012, W, taking at face value the SWP’s recent involvement in anti-rape campaigns, decided to rejoin. She was still traumatised by what had happened, suffering flashbacks and was tearful, and eventually she asked the SWP’s disputes committee (“DC”) to investigate. This time, she did describe what had happened to her in 2010 as rape.

The investigation was loaded: a majority of those investigating were Smith’s friends and appointees. He was given sight of her written statement (which the SWP has always refused to publish). She was not allowed to read his.

A second complainant came forward: at this stage, the DC heard but refused to investigate her complaint.

By a majority, they decided to take no action against him. One person who dissented was the chair of the committee, who found that there probably had been improper sexual conduct – “sexual harassment” – and that Smith’s behaviour was incompatible with membership, or leadership, of a left-wing party.

At the start of 2013, the SWP conference narrowly approved the disputes committee report; from then on large parts of the organisation operated a loyalty test: if you were willing to back Smith, you could remain in the party. if not, you were told to leave. The atmosphere, at its worst, was as hostile as could be. Members of Smith’s personal anti-fascist bodyguard, men in the late 40s, spat in the faces of a woman in her 20s who disagreed with them. Smith’s supporters threatened to beat up another young, male critic. People were silenced, jeered, told to their faces to leave.

The second complaint was eventually heard. It was in writing. It too, has never been published. In careful, painful detail, it described further improper sexual conduct by Smith. This time, and for the first time in the entire scandal, the SWP’s leadership decided that a degree of damage limitation was necessary. A fresh panel was convened and Martin Smith resigned rather than face investigation.

In the SWP, you will be told that Martin Smith was vindicated. He wasn’t. The last panel to investigate his complaint found that there was enough evidence of sexual harassment that if he was to ever seek to rejoin he would have to explain his conduct.

In the SWP, you will be told that the leadership’s critics were a few malcontents, people who were on the verge of leaving the organisation anyway. They weren’t. At least 700 people left, or around a quarter of the SWP’s subs-paying membership. Among those who left were people who had given twenty, thirty, even fifty years of their lives to that organisation. 

In the SWP, you will be told that this incident belongs to history, that the SWP has learnt from its mistakes. It hasn’t, the men and women who attempted to cover up a crime are all still in its leadership.

Eating Jim Crow, the poison fruit.

Great quote from MLK. This columnist used it at an ACLU forum yesterday.

“And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man,”

This Mr. Pitts ( see below) is absolutely correct in my opinion. The white liberals on the other hand make a similar mistake in supporting the Democratic Party and it's representatives, Clinton is the most obvious, but then there is this former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. Steyer once worked at Goldman Sachs and has fine words to say about former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, another Democrat. Steyer graduated from Yale where he learned about capitalist economics. That and the connections these representatives of the ruling class earn over time has allowed him to accumulate close to $2 billion. His history enabled him to raise lots of money from the moneylenders and other speculators for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and has had fundraisers at his house for both of them. 

Many white (and workers of color) workers, not just conservative ones, recognize that there is no future hanging their hat on people like Steyer or other "liberal" representatives of the 1%. They are not fooled and millions withdraw from politics, some descending in to resignation and apathy becasue they are presented only with these two options, a left and right wing of the ruling class. 

Those white liberals that correctly criticize white workers that support politicians and causes that are against their economic self interest (and racism is against their self interest) need to look in the mirror. I am not familiar with Leonard Pitts and agree with his comments completely, but I am familiar with the know it all superior attitude of the white liberals and their criticisms don't hold much water with me when their "radicals" are former billionaire hedge fund managers and speculators. And they call conservatives stupid. It's more com0licated than that.

The labor officials who hang on to the coattails of the Democratic Party are as bad, offering no serious way out for workers, only a slightly slower death. The message to the white worker from the liberal wing of capitalism is it's your turn to be poor now. Like millions of other workers in this country, I will fight for my class, for other workers to get a job, but not mine.

Steyer and his Harvard wife are no friends of working people and most workers know it. Steyer is seen as a possible lefty savior and Democratic Party player.  Any worker with an ounce of class consciousness would wonder how a billionaire money trader and speculator could be one of ours. Steyer uses the general mood of concern over the state of the environment to boast his liberal credentials.  Yet his general direction and life activity and of those like him is what is destroying the world in which we live. We should not be fooled by his phony claims that capitalism can head of environmental destruction, it is the root cause of it. He's the other side of a nasty coin.

The divide and rule racial tactic must be rejected. Without class unity we cannot defeat the likes of Steyer or Trump. Without class unity we cannot rid ourselves of a social system that will destroy life as we  know it. We have an obligation to our children  (white workers) to heed Mr. Pitts words and fight racism whenever it rears its head. History has hurt us too.

We share the piece below for the interest of our readers it was originally published at: LJWorld.com
Richard Mellor


Columnist Leonard Pitts tells Lawrence crowd it’s time for white Americans to ‘stop eating Jim Crow’

Journalist Leonard Pitts, Jr., delivers the keynote address at the 2016 Free State Forum hosted by the ACLU of Kansas at Abe and Jake's Landing, 8 E. Sixth St.
Journalist Leonard Pitts, Jr., delivers the keynote address at the 2016 Free State Forum hosted by the ACLU of Kansas at Abe and Jake's Landing, 8 E. Sixth St.

May 21, 2016
Pulitzer-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. addressed a crowd of about 350 people at the ACLU of Kansas’ first Free State Forum on Saturday, calling for a realization that people “don’t need common blood to reach common ground.”

Much of Pitts’ talk, held at Abe and Jake's Landing in downtown Lawrence, focused on issues of race in America, and how those concepts are playing a role in the presidential election. He quoted a lesser-known speech from Martin Luther King Jr. to explain the concept of “eating Jim Crow” — how white southern aristocracy during the Reconstruction era symbolically fed the white underclass.

“And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man,” Pitts said, quoting the speech King delivered at the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March on March 25, 1965.

Pitts said these words were a succinct summary of what he believes is the greatest con in American history: rather than provide poor white Americans a living wage, affordable housing, quality schools or health care, the money and political interest in the country has given them “whiteness.”

Historically, Pitts said, when the white underclass would complain about working conditions, the “money” would respond with threats to bring in black workers for less pay. Today, he said, the same principle is still being applied in order to prevent the underclasses from uniting into a powerful force for change, regardless of party lines and other differences, or even imagining the possibility of doing so.

“For a visceral example of this, you need look no further than the presidential election of 2016, in which Republican voters have fallen in love with a preening, narcissistic bully who doesn't even represent the things they’ve always said that they value,” Pitts said, referring to the presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, who Pitts said has “routinely insulted and alienated Muslims, African-Americans, Hispanics and women.”

“How is it that the party of religious conservatism is swooning for a man who cannot name a Bible verse?” he asked.

Pitts also discussed disproportionate rates of incarceration, traffic stops and police frisking of African-Americans, despite statistics showing that a majority of drug users and dealers in this country are white, and that whites are more likely to be found carrying contraband. He also named nine individual black men and boys who have recently died as a result of police use of force, including Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Sean Bell.

Pitts concluded his talk emphasizing the importance of the election.

“Six months from now we will find out if the greatest con job in history will take a serial liar and open bigot to White House,” he said. “... We are long overdue for a moment of reckoning in this country, a moment of truth on race and class. It is long past time that we begin to call that con job for what it is and help people to see the intersection between their misery and the misery of those other people who don’t look like them on the other side of town, because Jim Crow is a pitiful excuse for a meal.”

Labour’s new economics – not so new

by Michael Roberts

Over 1000 people packed into a London college to take part in a day of analysis of the state of the British economy.  And hundreds had been turned away.  This was a conference called by the new left-wing leadership of the opposition Labour party in Britain.  The hardworking and dedicated activists within the Labour party that had backed Jeremy Corbyn, the new leftist leader, had turned out in droves to discuss with due intent what is wrong with capitalism in Britain and what to do about it. It was an unprecedented event: the leadership of the Labour party calling a meeting to discuss economics and economic policy and allowing party members to discuss.

Labour’s finance leader, John McDonnell opened the conference by saying the aim of the various sessions was to see how Labour could “transform capitalism” into delivering a “fairer, democratic sustainable prosperity shared by all”.  We needed to “rewrite the rules” of capitalism to make it work for all.  He argued the British capital was failing to invest for growth and jobs.  We needed to break with the ‘free market’ ideology of the neo-liberal agenda and “reshape the narrative” with “new economics”.

What was this new economics?  Well, I’m afraid it was not new but really a rehash of old Keynesian arguments and policy proposals.  As McDonnell said, the aim was to “transform capitalism” with new rules and state intervention, not to replace it.

The key note speaker at the conference was left Keynesian Cambridge University economist Ha-Joon Chang.  He delivered an entertaining and amusing presentation, the gist of which he had already written in an article for the British liberal Guardian newspaper that week.  Chang presented a compelling argument that the strategy adopted by previous right-wing and Labour governments of weakening manufacturing and industry in favour of finance, property and other unproductive services (in other words, turning Britain into a rentier economy) was a big mistake.

British capitalism was failing to compete in world markets with a record high deficit on trade with the rest of the world – see graph below (all graphs in this post have been researched by me and are not those of any speaker).
And its people had seen no rise in real incomes for eight years since the global financial collapse.  British economic strategists reckon that the UK economy did not need a thriving industrial base and could rely on its financial services – just like Switzerland.  The irony was that Switzerland is actually the most industrialised economy in the world, as measured by manufacturing output per person (see below).
manuf peer head
In contrast, British manufacturing has been in fast decline as a share of total output among major capitalist economies.
uk manuf
Chang reckoned Labour should aim to boost industry, R&D and investment, because those sectors can raise productivity for all sectors and incomes.  But he did not expand on how that was to be done in an economic world where banks and hedge funds rule, loans are made for property, while businesses hold back from investment.

In the finance workshop, the poverty of analysis and policy was very evident.  The main speakers were Frances Coppola, who has worked as an economist in many banks and now runs a blog on economics; and Anastasia Nesvetailova, who is a professor at the City of London university on finance and has spoken before at the series of ‘new economics’ meetings run by the Labour party.

Both speakers basically told hundreds before them that the regulation of the banks  would not avoid a future financial crash – indeed by making regulation ‘too tight’, it was strangling the ability of the banks to lend.  A financial transaction tax would not work either in controlling risk-taking by banks, particularly in new finance areas outside regulation.  Breaking up the big banks or separating their speculative operations from basic banking would not work either. Indeed, nothing would work to avoid yet another crash in the future: “we just had to prepare for one”!

So our finance experts had not a clue what to do. Staring them in the face was the obvious answer.  If the big banks are still engaged in risk activities, in greedy laundering and in paying grotesque salaries to their top executives, despite regulation, why not take them into public ownership under democratic control so that banking becomes a public service for the people to help investment and growth? This policy move was never even considered by these banking experts and yet Britain’s own firefighters union have produced an analysis showing why it was the best way forward, which was formally approved by the trade union federation.  I was told that state-owned banks would not work because they are corrupted by politicians – sure, as opposed to privately-owned banks that are as pure as snow.

At least in the session on fiscal and monetary policy, Michael Burke provided a coherent account of how the weak economic recovery in the major economies including the UK was not due to a lack of consumer demand as the Keynesian ‘experts’ keep arguing, but to one major factor: the failure of business to invest. The graph below for the UK shows how it was investment that collapsed in the Great Recession not consumption. It was the same story in all the major economies.
investment and concumption
The large companies were hoarding cash, small business were just hanging on and governments were cutting back on public sector investment.  Indeed, British capital has the lowest level of investment to GDP of the major capitalist economies (see black line in graph below).
investment to gdp
Weak and even falling investment had lowered growth rates and so held down incomes.  The answer was a new plan for growth based on public investment.

The conclusion of the day’s conference screamed out to me.  The capitalist sector had caused the crash, not the public sector.  But the public sector had to pay with increased debt and a reduction in the role of the state as support for growth and as a safety net for those who lost their jobs, homes and incomes.

So instead of trying to “transform capitalism”, Labour needs to develop a programme to replace capitalism by bringing into public ownership the major banks and business sectors under democratic control to be integrated into a plan for investment in people’s needs not profit.  Instead, Labour’s advisers and experts offered just some old ideas that had been tried and failed before to direct or regulate capitalism to make it work better.  No new economics there.

Friday, May 20, 2016

For Laura Kuenssberg: A poem by Kevin Higgins

Kevin Higgins
Laura Kuenssberg is the BBC’s political editor. She was appointed in 2015 and is relentlessly hostile to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labor Party in general. She has, “displayed a level of bias against Labour in recent months, and certainly her attacks on Corbyn's leadership have been verging on hysterical….” Writes Huff Post UK’s Political blogger Ian Middleton. She is from the middle and upper middle class and her maternal grandfather, Lord Robertson was a high court judge. Her great uncle was the last British Colonial Governor of Nigeria. It’s somewhat Ironic, a pure bred pedigree like Kuenssberg joining the BBC, a news outlet referred to in some US circles during the war in Iraq as the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation.

Ireland's Kevin Higgins has devoted a few lines to this daughter of the British upper crust.

for Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor

Civilisation sometimes means
rubbing hot peppers in the murderous
eyeballs of teenage internees, or
regretfully introducing their bare backs
to whips embedded with bits of iron.

A chap aiming his rifle
at unarmed Punjabees
until the ammunition runs out
is understandable in the context
of it having been a Saturday.
Those women and small ones
who drowned hiding down a well
would’ve eventually died anyway.

Sometimes a fellow,
during the course of one
excellent lunch, has to partition
India. You cannot know
what that’s like until such responsibility
has been laid out on the table in front of you.

In the opinion of many,
giving handouts to the starving
would’ve made the potato famine
worse, made them come back
asking for more.

When no alternative presents itself,
making detainees sit naked on a metal pole
is understandable in the context
of it being then and them being brown.

When thoughts such as these
take root and royally flower,
words will wing out of her mouth –
chattering parakeets disguised as exquisite owls –

she will tell you, and you will know,
why those born to rule must do
what rulers must.


DNC Throws Sanders a Bone. But Will his Supporters accept it?

"Two sources familiar with the situation say the DNC plans to offer Sanders a "concession" in the form of seats on a critical convention committee tasked with crafting the party's platform, per the Washington Post. The goal: to bridge the growing gap between the two camps. It's become what US News frames as a "family feud," most recently fueled by chaos at last weekend's Nevada Democratic Convention, when Sanders supporters were said to have thrown chairs and become hostile toward organizers. Some Sanders devotees have also accused the party of rigging the nomination process to ensure Hillary wins.
Sanders has called for the party to "do the right thing" and embrace his supporters, some of whom have warned there may be protests at the convention if their concerns aren't heard. He also penned a letter to DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz earlier in May asking for seats for his own people on three important convention committees—the platform group, as well as one for rules and one for credentials. For the 15-person platform committee, Sanders wanted it split right down the middle between his people and Hillary's, with one "neutral" rep of Wasserman Schultz's choosing. The unnamed Post sources say a final decision should come shortly and expect that while Sanders likely won't get the seven seats he's seeking, he'll end up with more than what the DNC originally allotted him." Source: Newser

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
It is coming to a head here.  The Democratic machine is being forced to make some concessions to Sanders due to the pressure of his base.  What will it mean if he wins California, something that is unlikely but if we have learned anything over the past year or two it is that we can't say for sure. What other concessions might he be offered?

What are Sanders' alternatives?  He could accept these, and further organizational concessions and call on his supporters to vote Hilary as he has pledged all along barring a huge victory for him in California. "We've had a good run, democracy has spoken" and all of that.  He could find himself unable to control the left wing of his base if he isn't aware of that already and be backed in to a corner facing a choice of breaking with them or breaking from the Party and forming a left pro-capitalist alternative which again appears unlikely. Could a disenchanted section of the base without Sanders form a left alternative as the base splits along class lines? Again, this is not likely and if occurred would most likely be inconsequential in my opinion.

If and when he calls on support for Clinton this will not sit well with that section of of his base that while pleased with some organizational reform will not support her and wants some of Sanders political and economic platform front and center. Where will they go? It is inevitable that some will turn to the Green Party which they should have done from the beginning refusing to support Sanders as a pro-capitalist politician, a supporter of US foreign policy etc. Read what we wrote on this here. *
In fact, many Greens switched to vote for Sanders, a practice the Green Party needs to address and put a stop to.  The Green Party is infiltrated by Democrats in that sense, people who are not serious about building the Green Party.

Others will hold their noses and vote for Clinton, the lesser of two evils approach to stop Trump.  This approach has been used and failed for decades to stop Reagan, Mondale, Bush, another Bush, etc. Workers have continued the downward spiral under both Republican and Democratic administrations. And there will be others who will withdraw from political activity in disgust.

Who is the choice of big business, the 1%, more directly, the ruling class in the US? At this point it is clearly Hillary Clinton. She has the skills, the experience, and the ruthlessness to carry out the policies of US capitalism at home and imperialist policies abroad. She is trusted by them as being able to steer their party in the right direction and look after their interests; she is a war criminal of some note. The majority of the ruling class, at this point anyway, believes she is the only person that can defeat Trump.  Clinton will get the African American vote, the Latino vote. She will win the vast majority of women and the labor bureaucracy will not break from this party's machine decisively for someone like Sanders. 

As we pointed out on this blog earlier, two of the  most prominent global war criminals and representatives of the US bourgeois met with Trump this past week in order to feel him out and see if he can be relied on to act more collectively in the interests of their class and that he is not simply an uncontrollable maverick. These would be Henry Kissinger and James Baker.  For Trump it could be too late given the racist, misogynistic statements he has made but more important for the US capitalist class is differences on trade and economic questions. 

Facts For Working People has pointed out that both Cheney and Charles Koch have made statements favorable to Hillary Clinton as the candidate and even the hard core misogynists among them will choose her over Trump or anyone else if their economic interests are secured and Clinton is the most favored to accomplish this as was Obama.

One thing is certain is that the Democratic Party cannot be reformed, cannot become an independent party of workers and the middle class. Even sanders doesn't think so. What he is seeking is a more democratic Democratic Party and capitalism with a human face. In that sense he is no threat to the 1% or the Wall Street power behind the Democratic Party at all. But it's like any similar situation,  not unlike the trade union officialdom that refuse to mobilize the potential power of their 12 million members. It's one thing to bring these forces together, it's another to control what they want and what they will do to get it. 

Sanders is faced with a similar dilemma. Can he control his supporters?

These are just some of the issues we have been discussing in our weekly conferences here at Facts For Working People. One thing we have learned is that we cannot be sure about a lot of things. We are in a special period, the situation is quite volatile and we are seeing developments in both of the big capitalist parties that threaten to split either one or both of them.  One reality is that the bourgeois still rule society and despite its competing sections with varying ideas of how they should rule, it is a given that ferocious discussions are taking place among the elite about how to manage this situation. It's a pesky thing conceding the right to vote to the masses, even if you have two political parties and the people have none, sometimes, like the Palestinians in Gaza, they don't vote for the people the ruling power wants them to.

* We should add that this is not a statement fixed in stone and with resources we would have undoubtedly taken objective developments in to account and revised it accordingly.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

In memory of Malcolm X. And Thank You.

 Sean O'Torain. 

Thank you Malcolm X for your struggle and your words. You inspired me when I was growing up in rural Ireland to take up the struggle against injustice and capitalism. I am disappointed when I see the middle class mainly university based student movement here in the US leave out your most important statements. That is the statements you made against capitalism. 

Below I print some here on this day which would have been your birthday if the US capitalist class, seeing how your were moving toward working class unity and anti imperialism and anti capitalism, murdered you. Malcolm X, you were a hero. 
Malcolm's Words.

"It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck. Capitalism used to be like an eagle, but now it's more like a vulture. It used to be strong enough to go and suck any body's blood whether they were strong or not. But now it has become more cowardly, like the vulture, and it can only suck the blood of the helpless. As the nations of the world free themselves, the capitalism has less victims, less to suck, and it becomes weaker and weaker. It's only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse completely."

"We won't organize any black man to be a Democrat or a Republican because both of them have sold us out. Both of them have sold us out; both parties have sold us out. Both parties are racist, and the Democratic Party is more racist than the Republican Party."

“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”

"It is impossible to have capitalism without racism." 

"You show me a capitalist and I will show you a blood sucker."   

It should be noted that when Malcolm X says (above) you cannot have capitalism without racism, this means that you cannot end racism without ending capitalism. All those capitalists, capitalist supporters, middle class academics and know all's and liberals who say they oppose racism but do not oppose capitalism are either hypocrites or lacking in understanding of how the world works. It should also be noted that before the US capitalist class murdered Martin Luther king he also had come out for the US to move to democratic socialism and had moved against the Vietnam war and US imperialism. 

Steph Curry's Elbow.

Seen this before?
By Richard Mellor
Afscme local 444, retired

I know this is going to bring me a little heat. It’s going to make me a little unpopular with Warrior fans and I am going to be accused of being “negative”.  It’s the same when one criticizes a contract or points to weaknesses or failings in the negotiating team’s strategy at the table. No one wants to hear anything but good news.

I am talking about Steph Curry’s knot in his elbow.  He had a great night last night, scoring 15 points against the Thunder in a two-minute period. There’s the video, a very short clip showing one of Curry’s great three pointers, and he doesn’t even see it go through the hoop as he turns around as it’s in mid-air. He’s not selfish it seems.

The video below that one has Curry showing the huge knot in his elbow and smiling, AND he did it all with this HUGE knot on his shooting elbow. No big deal. Curry smiles in the face of adversity.” Writes Alysha Tsuji at USA Today Sports

I can’t help reacting to this. Let’s get real here if we’re talking about adversity. Curry has lived a fairly privileged life. He is a millionaire and, barring a career ending injury, will earn millions of dollars more in the years to come mostly through selling clothes, sneakers and other junk on TV most likely. Even if he does suffer an unfortunate injury that shortens his career, he will be in great demand. He has a great life ahead of him.

It’s not that Curry isn’t a nice person. He appears to be. He might be generous and kind and a loving husband and paren’t. This is not about Curry. It is about sports as a commodity and its ownership by a few wealthy individuals. Humans have always played competitive games, it’s a natural part of human culture.

Athletes generally make more money selling shoes, clothes and such than they do from playing sport.  At one time, Michael Jordan, who is worth $1.14 billion according to Forbes was being paid $20 million a year by Nike for advertising its products.  He is not alone of course, but he is one of the most famous Americans.  Naturally, the conditions in Nike’s factories are horrendous and when one Asian Nike worker on tour in the US tried to meet with Jordan and Nike head Phil Knight in 1996 she was snubbed. Knight is worth $24.5 billion according to Forbes.   These sweat shops that have made Knight and Jordan billionaires are notorious for beatings, rapes, and forced labor, that’s adversity.  It’s ironic that Forbes refers to billionaires like these as “self made” men. Why would I have any respect for Jordan or Knight?

I have spent my life as a blue collar worker in two of the world’s top advanced capitalist economies. I have been fortunate, especially since arriving in the US 43 years ago. But knots like the one on Curry’s arm I’ve seen on co-workers a thousand times and they still come to work; they still use the jackhammer, the shovels the tools we used and they still use that elbow.  Despite the propaganda that workers are always trying to get out of work and trying to fake injuries, I found as a union steward for years, that it was always a struggle trying to get my co-workers to actually go see the doctor about their injuries never mind file a workers’ comp claim. A lot of this reluctance has to do with coercion and losing out on opportunities if you complain but it’s also due to the strong work ethic. I’ll tell you who profits from workers comp, doctors and lawyers.  Working people don’t respect shirkers, that’s why they’re not so fond of bosses and we have nothing but utter contempt for brown nosers.

It’s just not blue collar workers either is it. We work alongside each other, nurses, teachers (talk about adversity) clerical workers who suffer severe eye strain, carpal tunnel and other such side affects.  Others work with chemicals and toxic substances that over 25 or 30 years take their toll, printers breathe in bad stuff their entire lives. Oh, and there’s that little detail called black lung that they’re trying to say isn’t caused by mining. In my case, all my co-workers my age have structural problems, their hands, arms; in short, their bodies are messed up. They didn’t just get these problems, they more often than not came to work and did a good days work for years despite having these problems and the pain they bring.

There’s too many examples to cover but every worker can tell this story.

Sport as a ruling class tactic for social diversion rather than a healthy aspect of human culture is nothing new. The English historian Christopher Hill wrote of the tumultuous Century of Revolution and how “James 1 in 1618 and his son in 1633”  encouraged Sunday sports in order to prevent, among other things, the population from going, “…in disgust to ale houses, and there indulge in ‘a number of idle and discontented speeches”.  Another religious official was worried that without sports “to occupy them on Sundays they might meet for illegal religious discussion.”  Better that they engage in sports the Duke of Newcastle claimed as it, “Will amuse the people’s thoughts, and keep them in harmless action, which will free your majesty from faction and rebellion.” *

The diversion was not sufficient to keep the coming English revolution at bay that would cost Charles his head and the aristocracy some of their social power.  Despite the sophistication that exists today, it won’t work forever here either.

I am thrilled by the Warriors successes. I am happy for my community and especially Oakland, the city my son was born in and a city with great working class history.  I know money can’t bring happiness, there’s never a truer adage than that.  So I am happy also for Curry and his teammates.  The issue for me is that Curry’s talent, the team’s successes and the pleasure people get form watching sport is not dependent on sport being a commodity, an industry linked to the clothing, apparel alcohol and entertainment business.**  If they were all amateurs as track was when I was young, we would still be as thrilled. The owners of sports as a commodity are hedge fund managers, speculators, investors and other parasites who can’t bear any gathering of human beings taking place without them taking a buck out of it.

Cheer the team on but let’s not lose perspective here. Sports figures are totally owned by corporations like walking bill boards. Look at your co-workers, friends, neighbors. Think about your parents who worked all their lives to give you a better one. There’s a lot of adversity all around us and we should be awed by the average human being’s ability to weather it despite great personal sacrifice. The fact that a single working class mother, or father can work and raise children is adversity in the extreme. Let’s not lose track of the fact that a small group of wasters are conning us all here. The players are exploited too, they’re just paying them $3 million dollars more than they would you for a bump on the elbow.

The first step in eliminating oppression is recognizing it exists.

*The Century of Revolution 1603-1714  Christopher Hill

**In 1990, Jesse Jackson and the civil rights group Operation PUSH commented that Nike sold more than 40% of its shoes to members of the black and minority communities. Who knows what it is now. One has to wonder if that is the best way to keep youngsters well shod.