Monday, April 23, 2018

Korean Peninsula in Historic Peace Talks

This video is from The Real News

It is Korean activists — not Trump — who brought about this historic breakthrough, by impeaching right-wing President Park and bringing in a more left-wing government that was open to peace negotiations. Trump and Pence tried to sabotage the peace process. Ben Norton.

Richard Mellor

We don't hear much about it here in the US and my guess is that it is not foremost in the consciousness of American workers that South Korea is not in charge of its own military. Historically this has been called what it actually is by the North, an occupation of the southern part of the Korean Peninsula by a foreign power. Most Americans are also probably unaware that the US dropped 37,000 tons of Napalm on North Korea a "wonder weapon" I believe they called it. It's my personal view that having the US at the table is not helpful, the unification of this peninsula is not in its interest unless it's an extended US occupation to the Russian and Chinese borders. This book on the right is a good introduction to the history of this conflict. Opposing US imperialism in this part of the world does not mean support for either the southern or northern regimes, it simply means endorsing the right of the Korean people to control of their destiny.

Below is an excerpt from a previous blog posting on this issue.
Order here
February 2018

As many have pointed out, the US imposed division between North and South Korea we know as the 38th Parallel is not a border between two countries. The Korean War was not a war between countries any more than the Vietnam War was. These were civil wars in which the US took a side. In Vietnam the US backed a regime that could barely get elected by its own people as US imperialism wanted to replace French colonialism that the Vietnamese people drove out. In Korea, US capitalism wanted a foothold in the Korean Peninsula in order to hold back the Chinese revolution so it sided with the elements that were remnants of the brutal Japanese occupation of Korea from 1911 until 1945. With Japan occupied, Korea would be another foothold.

The US had complete control of the skies in Korea much like in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, other countries where carpet-bombing and napalm were favored methods of repelling resistance. Bruce Cumings describes it “…..the unhindered machinery of incendiary bombing was visited on the North for three years, yielding a wasteland and a surviving mole people who had learned to love the shelter of caves, mountains, tunnels……..a subterranean world that became the basis for reconstructing the country and a memento for building a fierce hatred through the ranks of the population.” 

The air superiority of US imperialism in its war against small colonial nations had devastating affects. Laos is another example, more mole people and the decimation of a centuries old culture in the face of massive carpet bombing. Laos? Where’s Laos?

The US has urged South Korea to take control of its military in the event of a war with the North. But that was when more right wing, pro-US elements were in power. They were more reliable stooges of US imperialism and as part of the beefing up of their military would be spending lots of cash with US defense contractors.

With Moon Jae in who has popular support it’s a different matter. It’s clear to any sensible person that the South Koreans must be terrified having the US with its finger on the trigger, especially given that the US has one of the most dysfunctional governments with an unpredictable moron at the helm. It is Koreans who will die by the millions if the US and the North resort to nuclear conflict and we should remember, the US wanted to use nuclear weapons on North Korea and China and actually used them on Japan. We are talking about capitalism in decay here------a wounded rat is a dangerous animal when it has nuclear weapons.

The Wall Street Journal points out that “Seoul’s first left leaning government in a decade, loath to be dragged by the U.S. into what it may see as an unnecessary conflict…” . Who could blame them?   US capitalism, despite anti-government feeling being quite strong at home, gets a free pass as long as American lives are not lost to any great degree. That’s why drone warfare and other technology is so important, US workers wouldn’t be so passive I don’t think if we were dying in any significant number. Not having one’s own communities being blown to bits is a plus too.  The burden of US capitalism’s numerous offensive ventures are being borne by a small number of families.

Many South Koreans feel somewhat humiliated and embarrassed that their military is under the control of a foreign power. The North Koreans often point to this claiming the South is but a puppet state of the US. They are not off the mark on that one. South Korea, Afghanistan even Japan when you think about it are puppet states of the most powerful capitalist regime on earth.

I was talking to a Korean friend the other day and he felt that there would be a chance of some stability if the US were out of the picture. It was his view that the US does not want stability in the region, it wants a united Korea under US control and other than that a state of permanent tension that requites its presence to "keep the peace". That the Chinese would not tolerate a united Korea under US control on its borders is understandable. The US has some 800 military installations in the world and troops in hundreds of countries making the world safe for international capital.  Despite being the world’s most armed power with the ability to blow us all up, US imperialism is a weakened imperialism, threatened economically on all sides by Russia, India and especially the Chinese. With the present administration and this degenerate moron in the driver’s seat, it is slowly losing any credibility it once had.

Israeli Jew Talks to Young Palestinians in Gaza

This is from 972 Magazine and it's a heartwarming interview with four Palestinians locked in the largest outdoor prison in the world, Gaza.  The young Israeli Jew talks with them and shares his thoughts as well.  Watching two of them, a young Palestinian man telling him his grandparents are from the town the young Israeli was born in and a young woman telling him she is from the town he is living in presently, Jaffa (Tel Aviv). Neither can go there of course. Imagine being expelled from your home town and not being able to return as foreigners settle there.

Marx 200: Carney, Bowles and Varoufakis

by Michael Roberts

As the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth gets closer, a host of conferences, articles and books on the legacy of Marx and his relevance today are emerging – including my own contribution.  The most interesting was a speech last week by the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney in his homeland of Canada.

In his speech at a ‘Growth Summit’ to the Public Policy Forum in Toronto, Carney set out to be provocative and headline catching with a statement that Marxism could once again become a prominent political force in the West.  “The benefits, from a worker’s perspective, from the first industrial revolution, which began in the latter half of the 18th century, were not felt fully in productivity and wages until the latter half of the 19th century. If you substitute platforms for textile mills, machine learning for steam engines, Twitter for the telegraph, you have exactly the same dynamics as existed 150 years ago (actually 170 years ago –MR )– when Karl Marx was scribbling the Communist Manifesto.”

Just as the first industrial revolution in early 19th century Britain led to the collapse of traditional jobs and held down real wages for a generation in the first two decades of the 19th century, so in this current Long Depression globally, with the advent of robots and AI, a new industrial revolution threatens to destroy human labour and livelihoods.

In 1845, Engels wrote, The condition of the working class in England, which exposed the misery and poverty engendered by the replacement of manual skills with machines and kept real incomes stagnant.  Now, says Carney, Marxism might again be relevant with a new burst of ‘capital bias’ (ie a rise in machines relative to human labour power).

Automation may not just destroy millions of jobs.  For all except a privileged minority of high tech workers, the collapse in the demand for labour could hold down living standards for decades.

In such a climate, “Marx and Engels may again become relevant”, said Carney.
Without realising it, Carney was reiterating Marx’s general law of capitalist accumulation outlined in Volume One of Capital (Chapter 25), written some 160 years ago, that capitalist accumulation will expand and promote machines to replace human labour but this will not lead automatically to higher living standards, less toil and more freedom for the individual, but mostly to downward pressure on real incomes, not only of those losing their jobs to machines, but in general.  It would also lead to more not less toil for those with jobs, while leaving millions in a state of ‘precarious labour’ – a reserve army for capital to exploit or dispense with as the cycle of accumulation demands. (see Capital Volume One p782-3 and my new book, pp32-37).

Carney’s view of the robot revolution leading to massive job losses has much empirical backing.  However, as Marx pointed out in Capital, it is not a one-sided collapse in jobs.  Technology also creates new jobs and raises the productivity of labour and, depending on the balance of forces in the class struggle between capital and labour over the value created, real incomes can also rise.  This happens in periods when profitability is improving and more labour comes into the market.

Of course, this ‘happy’ side of capitalist accumulation is the one that mainstream economics likes to promote, contrary to Carney’s worries.  For example, Paul Ormerod, commented on Carney’s view of the relevance of Marx. You see, Marx was completely wrong on a fundamental issue.  Marx thought, correctly, that the build up of capital and the advance of technology would create long term growth in the economy.  However, he believed that the capitalist class would expropriate all the gains.  Wages would remain close to subsistence levels – the “immiseration of the working class” as he called it.”

In fact, says Ormerod, “living standards have boomed for everyone in the West since the middle of the 19th century.  Leisure hours have increased dramatically and, far from being sent up chimneys at the age of three, young people today do not enter the labour force until at least 18.”  Apparently prosperity is the order of the day: “every single instance of an economy which enters into the sustained economic growth of the market-oriented capitalist economies, from early 19th century England to late 20th century China.  Once this is over, the fruits of growth become widely shared.”

There are several points here that I have taken up in many previous posts.  First, Marx did not hold to a theory of ‘subsistence wage levels’.  As for the argument that capitalism has taken everybody out of poverty and reduced toil and misery, it is full of holes.  Note that Ormerod talks of “everyone in the West”, thus giving the lie to billions outside ‘the West’ that remain in poverty by any definitions.  See my detailed posts on the level of poverty globally here.

And contrary to Ormerod’s view (as that of Keynes before him), the rise of technology under capitalism has not led to much reduction in toil.  I have shown that most people in “the West” continue to have working lives (in hours per year) much as they did in 1880s or the 1930s; they may work less hours per day on average and get Saturdays and Sundays off (for some), but they still put in over 1800 hours a year and work longer overall (50 years or so).

Ormerod also argues that inequality of incomes and wealth is not getting worse and labour’s share in national income has stopped falling, contrary to Carney.  Well, there is a wealth of evidence that wealth and income inequality is not improving, both globally between nations and within national economies.

Ormerod is right, however, to question Carney’s one-sided model of capitalism.  Labour’s share of total value created can rise and fall in different periods depending on the balance of class forces and impact of accumulation; and Carney’s own graph shows that real wages did not just stagnate in the first industrial revolution or now, but also in the 1850s and 1860s; and in the first quarter of the 20th century.  So there is more to this issue than technology.  The current stagnation in real wages in the UK and the US is more a product of the Long Depression of the last ten years than robots or AI, which have hardly started to have an impact yet (labour productivity growth is low or slowing in most economies).  The profitability of capital itself and the strength of labour in the battle over value created are more relevant.

Unfortunately it is not just mainstream economists who either distort or dismiss Marx’s economic theory.  In an article for Vox, eminent and longstanding Marxist economist Sam Bowles writes on the legacy of Marx’s economic ideas in order to dismiss them.  He agrees with Keynes’ view that Capital is “an obsolete economic textbook [that is] not only scientifically erroneous but without interest or application to the modern world” (Keynes 1925). And he agrees with 1960s mainstream economic guru, Paul Samuelson’s judgement that “From the viewpoint of pure economic theory, Karl Marx can be regarded as a minor post-Ricardian…and who in turn was “the most overrated of economists” (Samuelson 1962).

Bowles considers that Marx’s labour theory of value was “pioneering, but inconsistent and outdated”. According to Bowles, Marx’s labour theory of value as a representation of a general system of exchange and his theory of the tendency of the profit rate to fall “did not resolve the outstanding theoretical problems of his day, but rather anticipated problems that would later be addressed mathematically.”  Bowles reckons that mainstream economics, in particular neoclassical marginalism, went on to sort out Marx’s failures by replacing his value theory.  And this has also led to dropping the idea of social ownership of the means of production to replace the capitalist mode. “Modern public economics, mechanism design and public choice theory has also challenged the notion – common among many latter-day Marxists, though not originating with Marx himself – that economic governance without private property and markets could be a viable system of economic governance.”

Apparently, all that is left of Marx’s legacy is what Bowles calls “despotism in the workplace”, the exploitive nature of capitalist production; which is not due to the exploitation of labour power for surplus value; but the ‘power structure’ where moguls and managers rule the roost over the worker serfs.  Thus we are reduced to a political theory (and even that is not much in common with Marx’s political theory for that matter) as Marx’s economic ideas are ‘outdated’ or false.

Well, all Bowles arguments (and those of Keynes and Samuelson) have been taken up by me in various posts in the past, and more thoroughly in my new book, Marx 200.  In short, we can show that Marx’s value theory is logical, consistent and backed empirically.  It even provides a compelling explanation of relative price movements in capitalism, though that is not its main aim.  Its main aim is to show the particular form that the capitalist mode of production takes in exploiting human labour for profit;  and why that system of exploitation has inherent contradictions that cannot be resolved without its abolition.

Moreover, the Marxist critique of capitalism is based on economics and leads to revolutionary political action; so it is not (just) a moral critique of ‘despotism’ in the workplace or anywhere else.  The market economy (capitalism) cannot deliver the full development of human potential because despotism in the workplace is a product of the exploitation of labour by capital.

Yanis Varoufakis recognises this in his long article on Marx and Engels’ Manifesto of the Communist Party to promote his new introduction to that masterpiece.  Varoufakis writes a colourful, if over flowery, article emphasising one great message of Marx and Engels’ CM: that capitalism is the first mode of production that has become global.  Varoufakis sees this process as only being completed with the fall of the Soviet Union and other ‘communist’ states that blocked globalisation until then. That is probably an exaggeration.  Capitalism from the start aimed to expand globally (as Marx and Engels explain in the CM).  After the end of the depression of the 1870 and 1880s, there was startling expansion of capital worldwide, now named imperialism, based on flows of capital and trade.

While correctly recognising the powerful (happy?) effect of capitalism globally, Varoufakis also emphasises the dark side: of alienation, exploitation, imperialism and despotism: “While celebrating how globalisation has shifted billions from abject poverty to relative poverty, venerable western newspapers, Hollywood personalities, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, bishops and even multibillionaire financiers all lament some of its less desirable ramifications: unbearable inequality, brazen greed, climate change, and the hijacking of our parliamentary democracies by bankers and the ultra-rich.”

And, contrary to the conventional mainstream view, Varoufakis argues that Marx and Engels were right that class struggle under capitalism can be boiled down to a battle between capital and labour.  “Society as a whole,” it argues, “is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other.” As production is mechanised, and the profit margin of the machine-owners becomes our civilisation’s driving motive, society splits between non-working shareholders and non-owner wage-workers. As for the middle class, it is the dinosaur in the room, set for extinction.”

And he sees that capitalism must be replaced, not modified or corrected for its faults.  “It is our duty to tear away at the old notion of privately owned means of production and force a metamorphosis, which must involve the social ownership of machinery, land and resources.   Only by abolishing private ownership of the instruments of mass production and replacing it with a new type of common ownership that works in sync with new technologies, will we lessen inequality and find collective happiness.”

Varoufakis recognises the ‘irrationality’ of capitalism as a system for human progress and freedom, but this self-confessed ‘erratic Marxist’ does not present the material explanation for this irrationality, apart from growing inequality and inability to use new technology to benefit all.  Capitalism also suffers from regular and recurrent crises of production that destroy and waste value created by human labour.  These crises are of ‘overproduction’, unique to capitalism and regularly throw human development backwards.  This aspect of capitalism’s irrationality is missing from Varoufakis’ article, although it was expressed vividly by Marx and Engels in the CM.  See the striking passage in CM where Marx and Engels start by explaining “the need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe” and finishes with “paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises and diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented”.

And a theory of crises is important.  People can live with rising inequality, with relative poverty even, even wars etc, as long as, for them, things improve gradually each year without break.  But gradual improvement in living standards is not possible because capitalism has regular and recurrent slumps in production, investment and employment built into its system, which can last for a generation in depressions – as Carney’s graphs show.  That is a fundamental character of capitalism’s irrationality.

Marx’s economic theories are often trashed or disputed – fair enough in a debate for truth.  But when each critical argument is analysed, it can be found to be weak, in my view.  Marx’s laws of motion of capitalism: the law of value; the law of accumulation and the law of profitability still provide the best and most compelling explanation of capitalism and its inherent contradictions.  And I am leaving out the great contribution that Marx and Engels made to the understanding of human historical development – the materialist conception and the history of class struggle – that lie at the basis of human actions. “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

As the Manifesto says (and Varoufakis echoes in his article), capitalism has taken the productive forces of human labour to unprecedented heights, but dialectically it has also brought new depths of depravity, exploitation and wars on a global scale.  Marx’s legacy is to show why that is and why capitalism cannot last if human society is to go forward to the “free development of each” as the “condition for the free development of all”.  Marx’s ideas remain even more relevant in the 21st century than the 19th.  But understanding is not enough.  As the epitaph on Marx’s tomb in Highgate cemetery, London inscribes from Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it”.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Some Thoughts on Space and Time

Image Not with the Original Text
I read these brief comments written by a comrade in response to a person who claimed proof of "god". I found it sort of interesting although I have to admit, I don't really understand it, but I know some will.  I'm also aware that with subjects such as these there will be some controversy and different opinions. I am not referring to controversy between religious doctrine (idealism) and science but within the scientific community itself. Anyway, read away.

On the matter of "God" and "creation" (I just posted elsewhere):

Dave Parks, Exeter UK

The Friedmann solution to the Einstein equations of General Relativity is something I studied in my 2nd year at University. For simplicity here I will describe the closed model solution - this is where there is enough matter in the universe for it to eventually collapse under it's own gravity. A bit like a rocket shot directly upwards but without enough speed to escape the effects of Earth's gravity - eventually it decelerates and falls back to Earth.

First thing this is a 4-D model. There are two assumptions the universe is homogeneous and isotropic. Basically made of the same stuff throughout and in a symmetric or equal way in all directions. Any localised clumping or asymmetry evens out on a grander scale. Evidence from microwave background radiation suggests this is a highly reasonable if not accurate assumption for the early universe.

It is almost impossible for us humans to visualise 4-D - so we use analogies. For the closed Friedmann model that analogy is the surface a 3D sphere representing the whole history and expanse of 4D space-time. The North pole of this sphere represents T=0 (the Big bang). Time (1D) is represented by longitude, 3D space is represented by latitude. At this point the radius of the universe is the extent of the latitude of the sphere at that point which is also zero. As longitude increases as you move away from the north pole the size of the universe increase until it reaches a maximum at the equator. From then on the universe stops expanding and starts contracting back down to zero size - a "big crunch".

All points in space and time throughout the entire history and expanse of the universe are represented on the surface of this 3D model. This is a finite and bounded model. There is no "edge" - if you could travel around it you would not fall off the edge. If you could somehow approach the north pole you would find the region "smooth" no edges or boundaries. To speak of a minus time here is meaningless. There is no minus time or time "before". This is to abstract "time " as a concept separate from relativistic space-time. It is hard to understand for those who have not studied the maths and physics of Riemann geometry - non-Euclidean geometry is the reality of the Universe we live in. Talk of creation and "gods" have to be understood in that context.

Barbara Bush a "Force for Civil Rights"? Please.

This pouring of admiration and sympathy around the death of Barbara Bush is nauseating. Bloomberg Business Week writes of her: "While generally declining to discuss policy, she was a force in supporting civil rights. And she liked to walk her dog in her bathrobe." No, Martin Luther King was a "force" supporting civil rights, Barbara Bush was not. An example of the "policy" she chose to keep her mouth shut about was the attacks on civil liberty at home. An increase in state security services. The illegal arrest and detention of people without trial. An unprovoked attack using chemical weapons on a Middle East country that forced hundreds of thousands in to refugee status including to Syria and the deaths of more than a million people.

Lying to the American people and the world.

What is there to respect about this matriarch of one of the world's most ruthless, barbaric and powerful ruling class families? And what is so sacred and why should we honor this ridiculous saying that we should not "speak ill of the dead". This matriarch of a ruling family who wandered around with her dog in a bathrobe, a habit the pimp Hugh Hefner was fond of with somewhat different motivations, possesses no qualities a working class person should respect or admire. Please teach your kids not to end up like that.

A friend and I always used to say of our kids, like if one of them was a Jeffrey Dahmer for example, that we'd never disown them, they would always be our son. But we'd say lock him up, he's, sick, he's a threat to society. We would not keep our mouths shut. The war criminal standing next to Barbara Bush killed a lot more people than Dhamer and did it for political and economic gain. He's far worse. And he had the support of all his family.

We could learn a thing about class solidarity from this gang. In that way we should be more like them.

Friday, April 20, 2018

He Shot a Hobo in the Back

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

As if being homeless isn’t bad enough, those of us that end up living in the streets due to market failures and/or mental illness in a society that pays no serious attention to mental illness other than filling the jails with its victims, is repeated attacks and abuse from the general public that often result in death.

At one point in time about one third of the homeless were Vietnam Veterans, working class people that survived a devastating war perhaps with physical damage but certainly with severe emotional trauma.  The Hollywood propaganda wars of John Wayne, Silvester Stillone and others are simply nationalistic garbage. Neither of these two characters faced what so many ordinary young workers have. They are despicable individuals, an insult to those who actually experienced the true horror of war.
Homeless camp Oakland CA. Source East Bay Times

In the years I have lived in the East San Francisco Bay Area, I have seen homelessness mushroom. There are entire tent cities now all over the place; under freeways, in wooded areas, or out in the open along sidewalks. I worked in the streets of Oakland and the surrounding area for 30 years so I know this is the case.

The highly censored mainstream media doesn’t delve too deeply in to this subject, after all, if the homeless had made better choices they wouldn’t be homeless. We all know that if you work hard in America, you will succeed; if you’re poor, it’s your own damn fault.

The US is the worst of the advanced capitalist economies to be poor in. Last year homelessness was on the rise again, particularly on the West Coast, perhaps because of our weather. Gentrification, housing costs and rents are another driver of homelessness. A two bedroom apartment in my small town can cost $2500 a month, when one considers that to get in to a place one needs to fork over a first and last month and a deposit, getting in to a basic place could cost $6000. Beyond the most desperate, there are many people that sleep in their cars and still keep a low waged job not earning enough to get in to a regular place. The working poor are perhaps the most numerous as without a car, having a dismal transportation system can make it hard getting to work and at least a car can function as a makeshift home as well.

Those living on the streets are the most vulnerable and fall prey to racists, masochists and other types of sociopathic elements. Homelessness is in a crisis situation for Native Americans and they are among the most vulnerable to attack. Just writing these words presents me with a bizarre thought in that those whose land this was, who roamed free on it for the most part, suffer the most and are often homeless, separated from decent housing and the land. The genocidal wars, driving them from their lands and herding them in to camps has had catastrophic consequences for the Native people.

Last month, in Albuquerque New Mexico, two teenage boys shot and killed a 50-year old homeless Native American man. According to reports, he was shot a dozen times, four times in the back as well as in the forehead and temple. The suspects, one 15 the other 17, apparently shot the man “for fun” according to the police and the 15 year old boasted to a friend at a party he attended after the murder, that he shot a “hobo in the back” They even returned to the scene of the crime and saw that their victim Ronnie Ross, was still alive, so the older kid pumped four more bullets in to him to finish the job.

As a handful of Americans continue to accumulate massive wealth in to the billions, coupon clippers basically, and we fork over close to $800 billion a year in order to defend US corporations’ profits abroad, living standards and basic social services decline and homelessness continues to grow.

Native Americans are about 4 percent of Albuquerque’s population but 44% of people living in the streets and some 75% of them have been physically assaulted according to a 2014 survey. Ross’ brutal murder occurred three months after the body of Audra Willis was found east of the city---Willis had been decapitated. Back in 2014, two other Native men were beaten to death with cinder blocks at a homeless encampment by three teenagers.

There’s no doubt that there is a mindset that homeless people are less than human, and therefore fair game, but in my mind it is inconceivable that racist motivations are present as well in most cases. As the Guardian pointed out last year, “….out of frame and ignored, a Brooklyn-sized housing crisis has languished in the 617 American Indian and Alaska Native tribal areas and 526 surrounding counties where 2.5 million of this land’s first peoples live. There, Native men, women and children occupy the most severely overcrowded and rundown homes in the United States.”

I once spoke to a tribal official at the Pine Ridge Reservation some time ago and she told me that the living conditions when teenage girls, unemployed men, and alcohol are thrown together under one roof, trouble arises in the form of violence and sexual abuse. The same Guardian article points out, The 11,000 members of the Northern Arapaho in Wyoming, for example, share just 230 reservation homes. A staggering 55% are considered homeless because they’re couch surfing. In the Navajo Nation, 18,000 homes or roughly 40% of total Navajo housing stock lack electricity or running water.”

And in 2005, “….a CDC Prevention report found 11.7 percent of deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives were tied to alcohol. Over 60 percent of those who died were younger than 50. In the general population, by comparison, alcohol related deaths were 3.3 percent.” Indian Country Today

Native Americans are not the only homeless people of course, and it’s quite likely that European Americans are the majority as they are most likely the majority of the poor population because there’s more of them. But it’s the overall crisis and percentage of certain marginalized groups that is staggering. After centuries of racism and in the case of the Native people, a genocidal war on them, the savagery of the market economy and crisis of capitalism has taken its toll. It is not necessary to look to Syria or the underdeveloped world to see massive poverty and social crises, we have it right on our doorstep.

A significant aspect of the offensive of capitalism that has such destructive repercussions is the ideological offensive. Outside of lip service paid to the noble Natives, the dominant ideology in society---bourgeois ideology----maintains that the resources are there to change ones condition if only one makes the right decisions. History is but a blip on the radar screen. The institutions of capitalism will never alter this thinking or approach history from a perspective of understanding it fully, laying bare the economic and political forces behind it and are today incapable of rectifying past horrors. The system must not be undermined.

What must it be like for Native people to see that mountain with the “New World’s” new rulers carved in to it, those responsible for the genocide?  It’s similar to black folks having to walk post those statues of racist heroes of the Apartheid South. Amherst in Massachusetts is named after an English colonial aristocrat who responded to one of his colleagues who suggested infecting Native people with Typhoid and referred to them as “Vermine” that, “You will Do well to try to Innoculate [sic] the Indians by means of Blankets, as well as to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race. I should be very glad your Scheme for Hunting them Down by Dogs could take Effect, but England is at too great a Distance to think of that at present.”

No doubt there would be an outcry at the suggestion Amherst change its name but it would be a small gesture a recognition of wrongs, especially if the demand came from working class people and our organizations.

Things are changing though and the  U.S. is reaching a boiling point as more and more people are being driven in to poverty. Insecurity and the fear of being cast aside is everywhere as social services and basic social needs are eliminated in order to pay for the crisis of capitalism.  Millions of Americans live a life of fear, fear of losing ones shelter, the fear of getting sick and being without adequate health care and being priced out of a decent education or the fear of losing one’s life. What sickness must exist in US capitalist society with all it’s supposed freedom and wealth that 15 year olds murder homeless people, or beat them to death with cinder blocks then boast to their friends about it?

Capitalism makes us sick, destroys our humanity. Here in the belly of the beast, Citizens of the United States currently consume 85 percent of all the antidepressants in the world

Gideon Levy, the Israeli journalist, thanked Trump in a recent speech for lifting the mask off of the faces of those Israeli politicians who for years have pretended that they want peace with the Palestinians, the indigenous people whose land they stole. It is an excellent speech about what it is like to live in Israel and readers can watch it here. And we can say the same thing about Trump here at home. He is the “whip of the counterrevolution” that will force the US working class to recognize that their backs are being pushed against the wall, they have no alternative but to fight.

There have been numerous responses to the outright brutal treatment that marginalized sections of society experience, Black Lives Matter in response to police murders and the conditions in these communities in general as well as obscene incarceration rates. We had a near civil war as Native people at standing rock and their allies fought the corporations and security forces assault on the land. Since Trump we’ve had millions of women marching in the streets, some 4 million in one day by some accounts. We had the science marches, the occupations of airports in response to attacks on immigration and campaigns against polluted water and land.

Coming on the heels of these developments there has been an unprecedented illegal strike wave as teachers, particularly in the southern states, have made it clear they have had enough. Teachers struck in West Virginia, a state where strikes are illegal and they won a 5% increase for themselves and for all other state workers. They did this by overcoming their conservative pro-capitalist leadership who for years have told us that we can’t break the law. Next week, Arizona teachers are going on a statewide strike and these actions continue to spread. 

The affect of these developments cannot be understated as millions of workers will be watching. The conservative trade union hierarchy that has suppressed any movement from below that threatened their relationship with the bosses’ based on cooperation and concessions fear nothing greater than a victory that undermines their worldview.Victories inspire.

We are in anew era that is witnessing the end of the domination of the two capitalist parties over US political life and the likelihood of all sorts of developments arising from this.  The intense anger and hatred of the system and those that run it will rise to the surface as this process unfolds and the numerous isolated and separate struggles against a common enemy come together.  Facts For Working People wants to play a part in helping this movement grow and, more importantly, win.

Puerto Rico Teachers in the Front Lines

Mercedes Martinez
Puerto Rico news from Mercedes Martinez teachers union leader. FFWP hopes the translation is accurate and apologizes for our linguistic limitations. We hope to keep folks up to date on these developments in Puerto Rico.

Siete verdugos, nombrados por el Congreso de EEUU para imponer medidas de austeridad severas sobre nuestra gente acaban de votar a favor del Plan Fiscal.
Siete miembros de una Junta que no fueron electos por nosotros. En cualquier país a eso le llaman dictadura, pero aquí no...aquí le llaman democracia.
Una junta que acaba de aprobar
Despidos de maestros, oficinistas, secretarias, conserjes, empleados de comedor en el DE, cierres de 307 escuelas, elementales con 330 estudiantes y secundarias con 700.
Eliminación de bono de Navidad para empleados públicos y privados, eliminación o reducción de la aportación patronal al plan médico a empleados públicos.
Eliminar el sistema de pensiones vitalicios y pasar a TODOS los maestros a un sistema de aportaciones definidas 401k, recortar las pensiones de 10 a 25% a nuestros jubilados.
La pregunta es: ¿nos vamos a quedar golpeados, o vamos a luchar?

Seven executioners, appointed by the U.S Congress to impose severe austerity measures on our people, have just voted in favour of the fiscal plan.

Seven members of a board who were not elected by us. In any country they call it dictatorship, but not here... here they call it democracy.

A board you just approved

Layoffs of teachers, clerks, secretaries, janitors, dining-room employees, 307 schools with 330 elementary students and 700 middle school students.

Elimination of Christmas bonus for public and private employees, disposal or reduction of employer contribution to the medical plan to public employees.

Remove the life pension system and move ALL teachers to a defined 401 k input system, cut pensions from 10 to 25 % to our retirees.

The question is: are we going to get beaten, or are we going to fight?

Tonight is a sad night in our island. The dictatorial Oversight Control Board approved its fiscal plan. A plan that creates draconian measures against the working class and retirees of our country:
$466.5 million dollar cut in the DOE's budget progressively from 2019-2023
$124.5 million dollar in savings, through lay offs of secretaries, janitors, cafeteria workers and other workers from the DOE.
$194.5 million dollar saving in teacher lay offs
$14 million dollar saving in 283 school closures
elimination of the Christmas bonus
elimination of the pension system and transfer all active public workers to a 401k system
cut from 10 to 25% of the current pensions of retirees
The government approved Law 85, which will allow charters and vouchers.
They want our people to pay a $72 billion odious debt, that was not created by us.
They want to use our kids for profit through the charter and voucher systems.
They approved the privatization of PREPA
They approved to reduce the minimum wage for youth workers of 25 years of age or less
This is what disaster capitalism in steroids looks like!
We have no way out
But fight fight fight!!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Barbara Bush. Katrina "Worked Well" For the Underprivileged.

The Architects of Death

 Barbara Bush on Katrina

Like the British Royals, the matriarchs and patriarchs of the ruling families in the US often live long lives. With the best health care, housing, and all other requirements for leading a healthy life including an absence of unhealthy working conditions while having to maintain a family as well.They generally do no productive labor at all and we could say that they have what socialism can provide but they don't want it for the rest of us.

I did not wish Barbara Bush dead. But I don't mourn for her. Why would I? She is part of a family group that has blood on its hands. She is the matriarch of one of the dominant ruling class families of US capitalism. Her husband has blood on his hands with the interventions and assassinations the CIA has carried out in South and Central America (See The Panama Deception). He bombed the tiny country of Panama when his friend Noriega got a bit too independent. Her son, the imbecile president before Obama is a mass murderer and war criminal responsible for the destruction of Iraq as a nation state, a country that never threatened the US in any way. He is responsible  for the death of some one million people. Her other offspring are crooks and wasters in one way or another. As a bourgeois woman she has a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of her sex. As a bourgeois and a willing partner in the exploitation, massacre and destruction of workers and working class lives, she is as guilty as the rest of them.

Her comments on Katrina above show how detached people from her class are.

She has not condemned the war criminal Madeline Albright who said on US television that the death of some 500,00 Iraqi's due to the US imposed sanctions was "worth it." These deaths were mostly women and children. Why should workers not have anything but contempt for a representative of the ruling class who, in an unguarded moment said ‘Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? It’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?’ when talking about the news and the unpleasant consequences of one of her family's wars. Yes, the news is distressing. Her son went on to kill a million or so people after that comment and eventually rounded up their old friend Saddam Hussein and had him killed too.

I remember a scene in that excellent film Gosford Park  about the British class system set in the 1930's and directed by the American Robert Aldrich. A British factory owner throws a weekend shooting party and many influential guests attend with their maids. This scene showed two of the maids rooming together and talking about their owners. The maids were often the means by which the wealthy------a mixture of industrialists and feudal aristocratic landowners with very Victorian attitudes------found out about the private lives of their equally wealthy and socially connected competitors.  The ruling class was quite conservative except when it came to impregnating working class women that worked for them and when a pregnancy arose, shipping the product of the rape off to the workhouse. But what these maids were talking about was how they lived their lives through their owners. Their lives had no meaning except when they were talking about their owners.

It was as if they had no life but work.

The maids were talking about their owners and one of them raises this, that their lives are so constructed, so controlled in a way that as maids they live their life through the people they served. This is the same with the likes of the Bush's the Obama's and even more so with celebrities whose sex lives and dress tastes dominate the media.

We can see the class solidarity from all sections of the US ruling class at the death of one of their own, the matriarch of an old Anglo Saxon ruling family, a murderous bunch if we just think for ourselves for a moment. All kissing each others asses and united when it comes to exploiting workers at home and abroad.

The Obama's were full of praise, "the rock of a family dedicated to public service." the Obama 's said according to the media, I guess they both spoke at the same time. 

"We'll always be grateful to Mrs. Bush for the generosity she showed to us throughout our time in the White House," they continued, "but we're even more grateful for the way she lived her life – as a testament to the fact that public service is an important and noble calling; as an example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit."

We don't need to wish the death of our most powerful enemies as individuals, we want to rid humanity of the system that produces them; that they govern. Socialists and all workers wanting to change society aren't driven by personal hatred or revenge. A friend of mine ignorant of my motivation for my political views accused me of "hating people with money" because I criticized a family member of one of the Arabian Shiekdoms who owns Manchester City football club. In the process of a workers' revolution and the struggle to build a democratic socialist society some of these people can be reformed and some will join with us; the rest, we'll fight.

Think about what Barbara Bush said above about working class people, almost entirely people of color who suffered under the market driven katrina disaster, a catastrophe that could have been avoided and her son could have avoided it. It will take great events to rehabilitate someone with that mindset.

No, we don't gloat at the death of a prominent member of the global ruling class, but we don't mourn either.

A Toilet Can Be a Precious Thing. It's Not a Rest Stop

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Well here's a little bit of information for you. What struck me when I first came to the US 44 years ago was the absence of public toilets. Here I was in New York City in 1973 and they were very hard to find. Another thing that really pisses me off is restaurants that ply you full of food and beverages, coffee and the like and have one toilet
for 80 or more patrons. I use this term "toilet" as we don't "rest" "bathe" or generally "powder" anything in there. 

This has become more of an issue with me in my later years. You see, when we get older, our muscles are not as strong. Muscles are an important tool of the human body including in the elimination of waste. I know this is not a very sexy subject my young friends with the holes in your jeans, phones in hand and pants a sagging.  And while I may be a very sexy individual, I am not owning up to any leakage here that I can't control under healthy conditions, but I sure as hell can't control things the way I used to.  It's more common for me these days to have about 20 minutes, 30 max,  from the first tender moment the need is brought to my attention to the final crescendo. And I can share this with confidence------I am not alone, in fact, I am one sole example of millions.

I know this as like anything in life, when something happens to us personally we had never given a second thought to, we start finding out that there's lots of people in the same boat.  I'll often be talking about some person for whatever reason and might say "You see that old lady over there" and then it dawns on me that I'm the same age or older---but I never think of myself as old until my body or some other external event like looking in a mirror reminds me.

But back to the toilet.

I was having breakfast a few weeks ago and was chatting with my friend over coffee after the food had gone down, and my body began giving me some early warning signs. As we do when we're young and involved in something, we put such signs off for a bit but that's not such a good idea these days. I got up and went to the toilet but there was a line outside and the guy in there was on a long visit.  After about 10 or 15 minutes I began to get a bit desperate.  

There was a table next to where I was standing and there was a party of 6 or so sat around it, all old folks come from church looked like. I was becoming somewhat agitated and as anyone who knows me can testify, when I am afraid, shy, agitated, concerned, I verbalize. I started complaining like I do about a place that feeds 80 people but only provides one toilet; "They have no problem encouraging me to put food or liquid in but very stingy on providing me a way of getting it out. " I said. That's because there's no profit in it you see. A toilet takes up space and that means a table where a commodity is sold has no place to go. Toilets hurt profits for businesses unless they charge to use them.

So these other old folk started complaining about it too. One guy waxed eloquent about almost losing it one day (not literally) because of the lack of a toilet, it made me realize how prevalent this issue is and how such a demand is crucial in organizing. I worked in the streets and sometimes finding a toilet was impossible if businsses wouldn't let you in.  I couldn't wait any longer and walked up to the counter and told the manager if he doesn't find a toilet for me I'm going to crap my pants in his establishment. Turns out the employees have one upstairs and they sent me up there. What a relief.

I came back down and agitated a little with the other aforementioned older folks and we all agreed how age discrimination is so prevalent in our society. In all aspects of life, including homelessness, the aged suffer more than most except infants. 

This is a political question like everything else in life. It is more accurately an economic one as well. There are laws that determine whether an eating establishment, bakery, coffee shop has to have a toilet, a waste elimination plant. It's probably based on how many tables, customers or whatever. These laws are passed by capitalist politicians in capitalist parties who are bribed by associations representing the restaurant industry. We often hear talk about "big labor" in relation to the national federation of organized labor, the AFL-CIO. But structurally, big labor is minuscule (not in the potential power of workers organized or not) when compared to the thousand upon thousand of organizations representing various branches of industry. And of course, they control the state and the two capitalist parties represent their interests.

I do not believe a small local business serving  food and drinks should have to provide toilets for the public at large any more than I believe that health care for employees should be their responsibility. But if they serve food and beverages they should provide adequate toilet facilities. Public toilets are another matter and like any other crucial social needs, access to good health care for example, should be provided by society at large through the state, we have the money, resources and ability to do so.

Don't get me wrong. I prefer being older than the alternative. I don't want to die yet and few people do want to die plus as an atheist I am not concerned with heaven or hell and I am happy after 1000 years or so, a pope says hell doesn't exist. Of course, we knew that all the time and so did they.  I love life and the beauty of nature, the wonderful potential of humanity and of course, beer.

Speaking of beer, I gotta go.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Pakistan and Human Rights: Press Release

Pakistan Human Rights Activists Protest Disappearance of Bloggers. Source
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has issued a press statement on the present state of affairs in that country. Reprinted here from the Socialist Pakistan News Group* It has some useful information in it.

Highlights " State of Human Rights in 2017" Launched on Monday, 16.04.2018 at Islamabad.

Press release

HRCP asks if Pakistan can fulfill its commitment to human rights

Islamabad, 16 April 2018. 2017 was the year Pakistan was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is ‘responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.’ While this was deemed a ‘diplomatic success’,the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has observed that the country’s disappointing third Universal Periodic Review is cause for serious concern.

At the launch of its flagship annual report, State of Human Rights in 2017—dedicated to the late Asma Jahangir—HRCP’soffice bearers underscored the rising incidence of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings,and the extension of the jurisdiction of military courts.False accusations of blasphemy and the ensuing violence, the number of children engaged in labour under hazardous conditions and unabated violence against women remain grim markers of the last year. An overarching concern is that, even where the protection of legislation exists, the prosecution and conviction of perpetrators has remained at a very low level.

Against this backdrop, the realities that unfolded during 2017 have raised doubts about whether Pakistan’s commitment to human rights can be fulfilled. HRCP reports that, of 868 cases of ‘enforced disappearances’ received in 2017 by the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances,555 were disposed of—but the real numbers are likely far higher.

Deaths linked to terrorism may have decreased, but the ‘soft targets’ of religious minorities and law enforcement agencies continue to bear the brunt of violence. In an environment where ‘innocent until proven guilty’ carries no weight, an accusation of blasphemy leads to a lynching by a zealous mob. A child employed for arduous domestic work is tortured. A young boy and girl are electrocuted by their own families on the orders of a tribal council, over a matter of ‘honour’. A rights activist disappears overnight without trace. Single tales that tell a collective story.

Murder, rape, acid crimes, kidnappings, domestic violence and so-called ‘honour’ killings, persist and, in the main, go unreported. Indeed, more than 5,660 crimes were reported against women in Pakistan’s four provinces during the first 10 months of 2017.Children are subject to all forms of violence despite the enactment of several child protection legislations in recent years. Similar legislation in favour of the transgender community has not ended the violence and discrimination against them.

Journalists and bloggers continue to sustain threats, attacks and abductions, and the blasphemy law serves to coerce people into silence. The people’s right to sociocultural activities is curtailed by intolerance and extremism, and authorities are lenient for fear of a political backlash.

Pakistan still has the most absolute number of children out of school anywhere in the world and spends considerably less on health than the 6 percent of national GDP recommended by WHO. The shortfall in housing is now up to 10 million units.

Countless offenders are not brought to justice, yet the jails are overcrowded, and the courts are overwhelmed with a backlog of cases. In 2017, there were 333,103 cases pending in the country’s courts.The overhaul of the judicial system, recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur and promised in the National Action Plan, has yet to start in earnest.

Pakistan’s bid to stand tall among the international defenders of human rights may be well-intentioned, but simply enacting legislation will not suffice. The national human rights institutions need adequate authority, independence and resources to carry out their mandates effectively. Without that, the only recourse left to the unrepresented and the disadvantaged is through the activists and human rights defenders who risk their own freedom to speak out on their behalf.

Read the HRCP report on pdf here.

*Socialist Pakistan News (SPN) is managed by supporters and members of Awami Workers Party (AWP)