Monday, June 24, 2019

Horrific, Inhuman Conditions for Immigrant Children in US Concentration Camps.

Detained immigrants, economic refugees El Paso Texas. April 2019. Image not with post below.

Below is an excerpt from a report of the conditions at a migrant detention center in the US. It was broadcast on PBS News Hour in the United States. Here in the UK I have met numerous young people and young children in particular who dream of coming to the Unites States. "Is it true that crossing the road in the US you can meet a famous person?" one young girl asked, swayed by the powerful US media and movie industry. Not only are there millions of people poverty stricken and with little hope of escaping it in the US, these are the horrific conditions young immigrant children are being kept in as the war against economic refugees by the US government continues.  The assault on economic refugees has existed for a long time, Obama was known as the Deporter in Chief, but it has intensified under Trump as a means of diverting attention from his disastrous policies and to appeal to the right wing racist, nationalist section of his base. The full report can be watched and read here.

Editor's Note: After our broadcast, CPB responded to our request for comment with the following statement:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) leverages our limited resources to provide the best care possible to those in our custody, especially children.  As DHS and CBP leadership have noted numerous times, our short-term holding facilities were not designed to hold vulnerable populations and we urgently need additional humanitarian funding to manage this crisis.  CBP works closely with our partners at the Department of Health and Human Services to transfer unaccompanied children to their custody as soon as placement is identified, and as quickly and expeditiously as possible to ensure proper care.
All allegations of civil rights abuses or mistreatment in CBP detention are taken seriously and investigated to the fullest extent possible.

The Associated Press details grave conditions inside a Texas migrant detention facility where 250 infants, children and teenagers were being held without adequate food, water or sanitation during a recent visit. Warren Binford, a law professor at Willamette University, joins William Brangham to share her firsthand account, what Border Patrol agents think and what's next for these children.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:
    But first, a new report is again casting a spotlight on the harsh conditions for migrant families and children who are being detained by the U.S. government near the Mexican border.
    William Brangham gets a firsthand account about what some children are dealing with at a detention facility southeast of El Paso.
  • William Brangham:
    That's exactly right, Judy.
    The Associated Press detailed conditions inside a Customs and Border Patrol detention center in Clint, Texas, were, allegedly, 250 infants, children and teenagers are being held.
    According to the AP, there's not adequate food, water or sanitation inside. The report describes teen mothers and other younger kids being asked to care for infants and toddlers on their own, with little or no help from any adults.
    Warren Binford is one of the lawyers that visited that Texas facility and spoke with the children being held inside. She's a law professor at Willamette University in Oregon.
    Professor Binford, thank you very much for being here.
    As I mentioned, you were inside this Texas facility. Can you just give us some sense of what it is you saw inside?
  • Warren Binford:
    Basically, what we saw are dirty children who are malnourished, who are being severely neglected. They are being kept in inhumane conditions. They are essentially being warehoused, as many as 300 children in a cell, with almost no adult supervision.
    We have children caring for other young children. For example, we saw a little boy in diapers — or he had no diapers on. He should have had a diaper on. He was 2 years old. And when I was asked why he didn't have diapers on, I was told he didn't need it.
    He immediately urinated. And he was in the care of another child. Children cannot take care of children, and yet that's how they are trying to run this facility. The children are hardly being fed anything nutritious, and they are being medically neglected.
    We're seeing a flu outbreak, and we're also seeing a lice infestation. It is — we have children sleeping on the floor. It's the worst conditions I have ever witnessed in several years of doing these inspections.
  • William Brangham:
    What you're describing is really hard to sort of put our heads around, that this is inside a U.S. government facility.
    I wonder, what do we know about, where are these children's parents? Were they coming across the border alone? Did they come with their families and separated? How did they get there?
  • Warren Binford:
    Almost none of the children that we interviewed had come across the border themselves alone.
    Essentially, they came across the border with family. And they are trying to be reunited with family who are living in the United States. Almost every child that I interviewed had family, parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, siblings here in the United States who are waiting for them and are ready to care for them.
  • William Brangham:
    We know the American Academy of Pediatrics, among many others, as you are testifying, said, these are not the kinds of facilities for children.
    And my understanding is that, under federal law, these children are supposed to only be kept for about 72 hours, and then transferred to Health and Human Services facilities elsewhere. Is that going to happen with these children? Would that be a better outcome for these children? What do you know about their future?
  • Warren Binford:
    You know, the goal for all of these children is eventually to place them with their family.
    The facilities that you're saying they're supposed to be transferred to, those are not required by law. That's just the way that the administration is doing it. These children can be placed with their families immediately, if we wanted to do that.
    And so, basically, what we're doing is, we're taking children away from their family at the border. We're putting them in inhumane conditions in Border Patrol facilities, where they shouldn't be at all, not even for a few hours. And that 72 hours, that's the maximum that someone is supposed to be kept there.
    And the children are supposed to be moved through these facilities as expeditiously as possible.
  • William Brangham:
    We asked CBP for a comment, and we haven't gotten one yet.
    But we have heard government officials say, we were just caught flat-footed on this. We built these facilities, as you said, for single men, and now we have this influx of children. We simply don't have the capacity or the staff or the funding to properly care for these children. And Congress needs to pass more money, so that we can do our job better.
    Is that your sense of what's going on there?
  • Warren Binford:
    That's exactly what I'm hearing from the Border Patrol officers who spoke to us privately in the hallways. They are on our team. They don't want the children there.
    They — many of them are parents themselves. They know that these children don't belong there and they need to be with their families. They're saying that ORR and ICE are not coming to pick up these children and process them, so that they can be reunited with their families.
  • William Brangham:
    All right, Professor Warren Binford of Willamette University, thank you for your time. And thank you for coming forward with this.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sudan – women at the heart of mobilizations


Women have played a key role in the protests in Sudan since December 2018, and continue to do so since the fall of the dictator al-Bashir in April 2019. Shared from Alliance of Middle Eastern and North African Socialists.

The level of women’s participation and their role in organizing daily struggles is unprecedented in the country’s history. The presence of women on the streets and on demonstrations is massive. They are also involved in workers’ organizations, including the Sudanese Professional Association, and opposition parties within the Coalition of Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change (FDLC) that are leading negotiations with senior military officials.

Two feminist groups are also involved: the No to the Oppression of Women initiative and the Civil and Political Feminist Groups, whose influence is clearly visible in the coalition’s agenda. It is reflected, for example, in the presence, among the coalition’s main demands, of a demand for a 40% quota reserved for women in the legislative assembly and an end to all discrimination against women and equality.

We should remember that the regime, combining military and Islamic fundamentalism, has targeted women in particular in recent decades and since the beginning of the popular uprising. Under the Bashir regime, Sharia, or Islamic law, was the source of legislation leading to, inter alia, the flogging of women for “indecent behaviour”, prison sentences or fines for women accused of wearing “indecent clothing” or “immoral behaviour”. Sudanese women’s rights NGOs report that more than 15,000 women were sentenced to flogging in 2016 in Sudan. The objective of the regime was to limit and control the presence of women in the public sphere by strengthening moral and criminal laws against them.

Since the beginning of the mobilizations in December, women have been specifically targeted by the security services, who have not hesitated to imprison, intimidate and sexually harass them. Detained demonstrators also had their hair completely shaved. Sexual repression and assault measures are a weapon intentionally used against women demonstrators to weaken mobilization.
Sudan has a long history of women’s activism, but the current revolutionary process goes beyond the women’s mobilizations of the past. The massive participation of women in the organization of popular struggles sheds light on the depth and radical nature of this popular uprising, which is far from having said its last word.

On 3 June 2019, the Sudanese regime launched a deadly crackdown on demonstrators who had been occupying the square in front of the headquarters of the Transitional Military Council for several weeks, killing more than 100 people and injuring hundreds. In response, the Alliance for Freedom and Change (ALC), the spearhead of the protest movement, called for “a total and indefinite strike and civil disobedience”, “peaceful marches and processions in neighbourhoods, cities and villages”, and “the overthrow of the Military Council”.

Joseph Daher
Article published originally on International Viewpoint

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Capitalism Starving the NHS Amid a Sea of Cash

NHS March on the Isle of Wight Source
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

“The need for care was rising so fast amid acute staff shortages that the progress of the NHS towards providing better care had stalled and in some ways was going backwards.” (Guardian UK 6-21-19)

The National Health Service (NHS) is Britain’s public health care system, a major social service introduced in1948 and one of the important social reforms following the end of World War 11. There is no doubt that the mood among the general population and returning troops must have placed considerable pressure on British capitalism to reward the working class for the sacrifices made over the war years.

But like any social services in capitalist society, permanence is not an option.  In the neo-liberal era, all that was won by the working class in the previous 70 years is under assault as the global crisis of capitalism is shifted on to the backs of workers and the poor.

A new survey of 76,000 patients found that “The proportion of people who were satisfied with their care fell last year for the first time in six years.”  (Guardian UK 6-21-19) The reason for the decline according to “experts”, is that the NHS is “…so hamstrung by shortages of staff and money.”

The NHS is one of the great treasures of British society and revered by many, especially the few that can still recall the dark days without it. And this attitude to the NHS still exists today. It is this consciousness that has to be broken. My father was a conservative who spent all of World War Two as a guest of the Japanese, first in Hong Kong and then in Tokyo working for Mitsubishi. For him, the NHS was untouchable, it was out of the question to even consider shifting to a market based for profit system like we have in the US.

With the present global capitalist offensive, all the social gains made in the post war era are under assault; not just in Britain but in the US and also in the traditional social democracies like Germany, Sweden and so on.

There is no shortage of money as the quote above implies. "Between 1989 and 2018, the top one percent increased its total net worth by $21 trillion,"  writes Matt Bruenig, founder of the left-wing think tank People's Policy Project adding that, "The bottom 50 percent actually saw its net worth decrease by $900 billion over the same period."

The reality is that the NHS is being starved of funds, in other words, the British capitalist class is consciously undermining it. This is being done piecemeal because waging a frontal attack on this treasured social service would generate massive resistance. Trump, (in brain out mouth) made that mistake claiming the NHS would be “on the table” in any trade negotiations with Britain. The response was so swift, right wing Conservative Party politicians, eager to move to a US based market system at the root of most personal bankruptcies in the US, had to push back. 

In the US and led by Trump, a section of the US bourgeois has become overconfident, has pushed too hard too fast and is forcing some sections of US society to resist. We have seen this with the recent strikes and protests in education occurring in right to work Republican (red) states and not generally led by the established trade union leadership.

I was traveling in the UK with a friend two years ago and we witnessed the massive fire at the Grenfell Towers flats. Grenfell Towers is in the same borough of London as Buckingham Palace; the victims were working class and poor people, many of them immigrants. Those killed in the Grenfell Towers fire were murdered by capitalism; we must be clear about that. This is not some joke here. It was not an accident, it was not an act of religious terrorism, Islamic Catholic or otherwise. It was not arson------capitalism killed them. The NHS is also being destroyed by capitalism. The staff shortages, the funding, the one in six that claimed they “definitely” waited too long to get a bed or the 33% who claimed the staff weren’t doing enough to “control their pain” or the 59% who said they couldn’t “always” get a member of staff to help them, are all victims of the so-called free market and the ruling class that governs that system. If you starve a car of gas it won’t run and that’s what British capitalism is doing to the NHS.

In the US, we face an even more ferocious assault from capitalism as the working class has no history of having our own national political party. The death and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina was market driven, not an “act of God” as these catastrophes are often called. Climate change is a capitalist disaster.  The collapse of our infrastructure (there is no money we are told) the horrendous situation with homelessness, health care, drug addiction are part of the capitalist offensive. The two million people incarcerated in the US are overwhelmingly workers and poor people capitalism has abandoned; people of color are disproportionally represented in the prison population and in all other aspects of US capitalism’s failure to provide the basic necessities of life for millions of Americans.  The never-ending US wars are driven, as all wars are, by capitalism. War, starvation, millions dying from diseases long ago cured are all a product of the so-called free market, are integral to it.

Racism, on the basis of color in particular, has been the dominant “divide and rule” policy to maintain social control and weaken working class unity in the US. But while the Predator in Chief Trump has encouraged racist elements and brought them out in to the open, the overall mood to return to America’s brutal racist past is not there. Trump and the section of the US bourgeois that supports him are overconfident; US society is an explosion waiting to happen. It is worth noting that the life expectancy of whites, an historically privileged group, is declining. This helps to undermine the racist white ruling class attempts to draw white works to their banner on the basis of white identity and their claim that color is a race.

The problem is that there is no real social power to turn to. The trade union leadership is wedded to the market and capitalism and offers no real alternative, in fact is silent on most major issues while acting in all cases to bail capitalism out when it goes in to crisis. One can imagine the difference in the class composition and the leading figures in the massive women’s marches had there been a real union presence with union banners and working class women from all works of life involved.  Wages, housing, health care, education, all these social issues would have been front and center along with sexual abuse and women’s oppression in the home and at work. In workers’ struggles, identity politics, so prevalent here in the US will not have the same character.

Lastly, some of us around the Facts For Working People Blog have been thinking (and talking) about our responses to this crisis of capitalism.  In the UK there is a similar situation and while the development in the Labor Party and the rise of Corbyn is a positive thing, he is failing to grab the bull by the horns. In the US it is similar. By this I mean that the right wing, Trump, Boris Johnson, Macron, in France, Orban in Hungrary, Erdogan in Turkey, Bolsonaro in Brazil not to mention the racist Netenyahu are quite willing and open about their politics. They want to smash the working class and all that we have won over a century or more. They openly boast about their views, about the defense of capitalism and its importance as the only system of production. Social reformers like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Sanders, not socialists by any means but supporters of a kinder gentler capitalism are vilified in the capitalist media but it has forced the big business media to address the issue and articles attacking socialism or trying to explain it are much more common.

Left forces, whether it’s the new left in the Democratic Party represented by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Sanders and others or Corbyn,in the UK are all treading lightly. There is a difference with Corbyn who, as far as I can tell, is calling for the re-nationalization of certain industries and of course, organized labor has a strong presence inside the British Labor Party, but in the US, despite radical rhetoric and fiery speeches, the solution on the table is a return to FDR’s New Deal and like Corbyn, they all want to make capitalism fairer. As Elizabeth Warren, perhaps the most sincere and thoughtful Democratic Party candidate for president says, she wants capitalism with rules.

The capitalist class is not afraid to speak its mind and state its intentions boldly. They are proud to be capitalists they remind us. For socialists though, is it possible we are being too timid, too cautious?   We must be careful we do not appear too conservative and underestimate the mood and anger that exists in society, not so much beneath the surface any more. In the case of the continued assault on the NHS in Britain is it not time to call for the public ownership of the health industry under the democratic control and management of the working class as producers and consumers. The NHS, just like the postal service in the US is efficient, they are proof that society can be organized differently and of the market’s failure.

Millions of young people consider capitalism a miserable failure, would they not respond favorably to calls for the pharmaceutical industry as well as the financial industry that controls access to and the allocation of capital in society to be taken out of private hands?

I think the answer to that is yes.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Catholic Church faces crisis in Poland

Order this book here.
By John Pickard, Brentwood Labour Party
June 19, 2019

One of the crucial elements in the upcoming elections in Poland, where the governing ‘Law and Justice’ Party is regarded as an upholder of traditional ‘Polish values’ may well be the role of the Catholic Church.

A recent TV programme on child abuse in the Church has created shock waves in Poland. The programme, Tell No One, has had a huge impact on the population of what is considered the most religious country in Eastern Europe. There are very harrowing scenes, including one in which a woman confronts a priest who had abused her when she was only seven years old. Now released on YouTube, it has been viewed more than 22m times, the overwhelming majority of these from Poland, where the population is only 38m.

Predictably, some right-wing politicians and clerics have denounced the film, calling it an attack on the right wing and on the Church, but others, including even leading figures in the Church, have publicly admitted the existence of an abusive Church ‘mafia’. The Polish primate, Archbishop Wojcciech Polak has apologised for ‘every wound inflicted by people of the Church’ but this has not stopped calls for a separation of Church and state in Poland. Other politicians are calling for a public inquiry. The new film on child abuse follows an earlier film called Clergy, which also showed priests in a very damaging light and which became the third most ever watched film in Polish cinema.

In March the Polish Church published its own report into abuse, identifying abuse cases involving nearly four hundred priests and over six hundred children between 1990 and 2018, although critics have suggested that this considerably understates the scale of the abuse. As it has been the practice in Ireland, the USA and everywhere else there has been abuse, the common practice among Church officials was to cover up abuse and to simply move abusive priests from one parish to another.

During the period of Poland’s domination by Russia prior to 1989, the Church was seen as one of the bulwarks of Polish national identity and resistance to Stalinism. The ruling regime found it difficult to directly suppress movements that were based on the Church or to ban meetings held in Church premises. As a result of those opposition movements and the perceived role of the Church, Catholicism received a boost around the period of the collapse of Stalinism and shortly afterwards. That is beginning to change now, however.

As it was in the Republic of Ireland until recently, the overwhelming majority of the population regard themselves as Catholic and the Church pervades all aspects of civil and political life. But there is a growing gulf between the young and the old. While 55 per cent of adults over 40 attend Church regularly, just over a quarter of those under 40 do so. ‘The discourse of the Church has become less and less adequate for young people’, according to Marta Kolodziejska, an academic at the Polish Academy of Sciences. (Financial Times, June 17).

It is difficult to say how much this scandal will affect the coming elections. In rural areas priests have openly called for votes for the Law and Justice Party, but their appeals may not cut much ice among younger voters, or even, as was the case in Ireland, with older voters. The Vatican has sent its chief child-abuse investigator, Archbishop Charles Sciluna, to Poland to paper over the cracks in the Church edifice, but it might be too late to prevent the slide of its influence and the ‘Irelandisation’ of the Church in Poland.

The film Tell No One is available on YouTube (with English subtitles) here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Global Capitalism: Strikes in the Long Depression

by Michael Roberts

Jorg Nowak, a fellow at the University of Nottingham, UK has just published Mass Strikes and Social Movements in Brazil and India:: popular mobilisation in the Long Depression.  Nowak argues that in the 21st century and in this current long depression in the major economies, industrial action is no longer led by organised labour ie trade unions, and now takes the form of wider ‘mass strikes’ that involve unorganised workers and wider social forces in the community.  This popular mobilisation is closer to Rosa Luxemburg’s concept of mass strikes than the conventional ’eurocentric’ formation of trade unions.

The nature of global labour struggles against capital and the changing forms of class conflict is important.  But what also interested me was Nowak’s chapter on the political economy of mass strikes in the current global capitalist crisis – and in particular the section on strikes and economic cycles (pp113-117).

In that section, Nowak develops the argument that the intensity of class conflict between labour and capital varies with stages in the economic cycle of capitalist economic upswings and downswings.  He cites various authors who seek to show that when capitalism is in a general upswing in growth, investment and employment, class conflict as expressed in the number of strikes rises, particularly near the peak of the upswing.

Nowak surveys the work of those authors (including my own) that assert evidence for a Kondratiev-type cycle or wave in capitalist expansion. The mostly likely length of a full Kondratiev cycle is put at 64-72 years (longer than traditionally claimed).  If that K-cycle is broken down into ‘seasons’; first there is the ‘spring’ period of recovery from depression, with rising profitability of capital and a revival of labour organisation; then there is a summer period of falling profitability and strong labour forces.  Those two seasons complete the K-cycle upswing.  Then in the downswing comes autumn (rising profitability but weakened labour) and finally winter (economic depression).  Nowak reckons that the two periods of most intensive class conflict are at the cusp of spring through into summer seasons (as in 1964-82, for example).  Then there are weaker more local struggles towards the end of the downswing in the winter season. Nowak presents two case studies based on India and Brazil in the period 2010-14 to argue for this theory and to generalise it internationally.

Back in 2006, in my book, The Great Recession (2009), I also argued that K-cycles could be correlated with the intensity of class struggle.  I developed this further in my book, The Long Depression (2016).  More recently, I wrote a chapter on the UK in World in Crisis (2018) in which I outlined the trajectory of the UK rate of profit since 1855 and how it matched broadly the ‘seasons’ in the K-cycle.

In 2017, I took this scenario further in a paper to the Capital:150 conference held in London to commemorate the publication of Marx’s Capital Volume One.  In that paper, I attempted to map out the class struggle in relation to the movement in the rate of profit for the UK.

When Marx was writing Capital, the UK economy was experiencing a boom in profitability and growth and British capital was ruling the world and at its zenith.  However, from the late 1860s, profitability turned down and the UK, along with other major economies entered a long depression through the mid-1880s (longer in the US).  Depression weakened the old unions and class struggle faded.  After the crushing of the Paris Commune in 1871, the first international was dispatched to retirement in New York by Marx.

If we look at the history of British capital after Marx’s death in 1883, I think we can link the profitability of capital to the intensity of class struggle as defined by the level of strikes.  In the period from the 1890s to WW1, we find that strikes were initially high as new mass unskilled unions formed as British capital recovered some profitability after the end of the depression of 1880s.  But strikes dropped off after the late 1890s as profitability rose and wage demands were met.  However, from the 1900s profitability of capital began to diminish and in the years leading up to the war, strong unions and a rising labour movement engaged in more intensified struggle.

After the end of the war, that struggle resumed.  But with the defeat of the transport unions in 1921 and the general strike in 1926, UK profitability jumped up and intense class struggle dropped away through to the end of the WW2.

The post-1945 period started with high profitability and growth (after 1946), leading to a recovery in trade unions (in new industries).  Strikes rose a little but class struggle was generally ameliorated by concessions and wage increases.  However, from the mid-1960s, UK capital entered a long profitability crisis (as in other economies).  Capital needed to reverse this by crushing labour power.  Strong unions took on capital in the most intense class battle since the early 1920s.  Two big slumps and other neo-liberal measures eventually defeated union power and the class struggle subsided.  The neoliberal period ended in the 2000s and capitalism entered a long depression after the Great Recession.  There has been no recovery in the labour movement or class struggle (at least as measured by strike rates).

This map of the class struggle in Britain implies that only a sustained recovery in profitability in capital that also allows labour to recover its organised strength in new industries and sectors can create the conditions for intensified struggle when profitability eventually drops back again – as it will.  That suggests a generation ahead before we can see intense class struggle as experienced in the 1910-26 period or in the 1970s.  This is a similar conclusion reached by Nowak (p115).

Nowak considers two case studies of mass strike waves in the winter season of the current cycle – the Long Depression.  I presented a paper to the Society of Political Economy in Brazil last year (The rate of profit and class struggle) that also looked at the Brazil experience using macroeconomic data.  Noronha et al. (1998) conducted a study about the evolution of strikes in Brazil, identifying some key characteristics observed from the end of decade of 1970s and until the beginning of decade of 1990[i].

According to those authors, the phenomenon of Brazilian strikes began around 1978 in the main industrial area of the country and identified three major cycles of strikes: first cycle had an upward trajectory, ranging from 1978 to 1984, where the organization of unions began in Sao Paulo and spread to other regions in the country; the second cycle occurred between 1985 and 1989 and presents a flat evolution path; finally, the third cycle was characterized by a decline in stoppages after 1990.[ii]  Thus a rise in strikes matched a period of falling profitability from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s.  Strikes flattened out with the flattening out of profitability up to the end of the 1980s. The rise in the rate of profit in the 1990s and the adoption of neo-liberal policies saw a decline in class struggle.

In Brazil, unionization rates experienced a small decline during the 1990s, yet between 2000 and 2006 this trend was reversed.[iii]  The number of strikes nearly tripled between 2002 (298 strikes) and 2012 (873) while the number of working-hours lost more than tripled in the same period. According to Brazil DIEESE’s estimates, in 2002 working-hours lost due to strikes amounted to around 116.6 million while in 2012 it was around 381.7 million.

The profitability of capital in Brazil peaked in the late 1990s and early 2000s on the measures above.  But Brazil’s labor movement strengthened in the early 2000s, so when profitability began to fall again and employers applied pressure to control the cost of labour, there was a class reaction through increased strikes.  The Great Recession did not affect Brazil’s economy severely until the commodity price boom collapsed in 2011.  The strike wave faded in the initial period of the global crash but started to rise again from 2010 – up to 2016 according to Nowak.

So it seems that class struggle (as measured by strikes) tends to be more intense in the summer ‘season’ of the K-cycle, when profitability has been falling but the labour movement and workers’ confidence has not yet been crushed.  Eventually, labour defeats and economic slumps usher in a period (neo-liberal) when class conflict is subdued.  This continues in the ‘winter’ period of low profitability and weak growth, although Nowak provides evidence that there can also be a strike wave towards the end of this period (2010-14), perhaps from new sectors of the economy that had not been in action before.

Noronha, E. G;. Gebrin, V.; Elias Jr. J. Explicacoes para um Ciclo Excepcional de Graves: o Caso Brasileiro. XXI Congresso internacional do LASA, Latin American Studies Association, 1998.

Aricieri Devidé Júnior, José Raimundo Carvalho,Strike Duration after Collective Bargaining Legislation Changes: A Reappraisal of the 1988 Brazilian New Federal Constitution with Better Micro Data

Walter Arno Pichler, Giovana Menegottol, Union membership and industrial action in Brazilian public sector in the 2000s

Friday, June 14, 2019

For Labor Notes. The Labor Leadership Does Not Exist.

Union members show support for UAW Drive
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I have just read the most recent Labor Notes article about the UAW union drive at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga Tennessee. I have to say that the first thing just jumps out at me, is there is not one mention of the UAW leadership in this organizing drive. In fact, there is as far as I can see, no mention of the UAW leadership at all. It appears that the UAW only has members.

I do not have a lot of time at my disposal but I am compelled to respond to this article, written by Chris Brooks, a staff writer at Labor Notes. Brother Brooks includes many quotes from workers about the horrible conditions a the Chattanooga plant going in to great detail and this is useful information although it is not new information for those workers in non-union workplaces as well as those in organized ones. Most workers are well aware that company doctors are, yes. Company doctors and protect the interests of the employer.

Brother Brooks also refers to the failed organizing drive at the plant in 2014. No mention at all about the UAW leadership’s role in this defeat.  But in the 2014 drive the UAW leadership’s strategy is one of the main reasons for the defeat. In 2014, the UAW leadership signed a neutrality agreement with Volkswagen.  They also refused to join with local union and community activists preferring a go it alone approach as Micah Uetrich explains in his excellent al Jazeera piece on the election.

I wrote at the time: “It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that coming in to the notoriously anti-union South to unionize workers would be made a lot easier by joining with local folks and community organizations. But it get’s worse. In the deal with the VW bosses, the UAW hierarchy and their staff were given permission to visit VW workers on the job in the break rooms. In return they agreed not to visit workers in the privacy of their own homes without a prior invitation. Uetrich points out the importance of home visits compared to break room visits:”
“But house visits from union organizers to workers are essential to successful union drives. There is a process of telling stories, answering questions and overcoming fears that has to take place through genuine relationship building long before workers are ready to vote for a union. Those relationships are built through a level of intimacy and frankness in conversation that can't be replicated in a passing conversation in a break room. The UAW organizing staff surely knows this; but why they decided not to push back against VW’s insistence on no house visits is a mystery.”

I would differ here with this author in that there is no mystery. The reason the UAW leadership didn’t push back, or push at all, is the same reason the entire leadership atop organized labor doesn’t push back. To push back means a struggle. It also means organizing the membership, the community, the rest of the labor movement, the unorganized etc. To mobilize this potential power against this capitalist offensive can only lead to chaos as far as they are concerned. They have no alternative to capitalism, no place to take this movement and when push comes to shove they capitulate. There is nothing the present labor leadership fears more than a mass conscious movement of their own members.

The successes of the teachers strike/protest movement is due to it being a rank and file led movement  that basically by-passed the official leadership, and that the movement was more than willing to violate laws. The entire organizing strategy that in most cases reached out to other workers in education to janitorial and other staff, and even to Charter School teachers is the polar opposite to what the trade union hierarchy has been doing in the past period. A strategy that has led to one defeat after another. The established leadership in these recent education struggles did, in some cases,  offer important support, but clearly tailed the rank and file. And while they cannot ignore this movement and are forced to now claim that "strikes" work, why they worked in this instance is not stressed.

Posts on the education struggles can be found by going to the education, teachers, and public education tags on the right of this blog.

So Chris Brooks, who is a labor organizer for Labor Notes, mentions the failed union drive of 2014 yet says nothing about why it failed. And as in the article mentioned here, he doesn’t just absolve the UAW leadership of any responsibility for the defeat, he doesn’t mention them at all.  This is staggering to say the least.  So his comments are really a review of events. I don’t know Chris Brooks and have nothing personally against him but I am very familiar with Labor Notes and many of the people behind it and I know many of them claim to be socialists and this is not enough for individuals or organizations that make such claims, including the need to transform our unions.  At best, Labor Notes' approach  is simply to report on or write reviews of events.

Brother Brooks comments on Boeing and how that company and others have relocated to the South. But Boeing is another example of how the union hierarchy crushes any movement from below that threatens the relationship they have built with the bosses based on labor peace. There are too many examples to consider here but whether it’s the UAW, the SEIU, the Steelworkers, the Hormel and other strikes of the 1980’s any of them, when the bosses, or to be clearer, capitalism enters in to crisis and moves to shift that crisis on to the backs of the working class, in this case, their own members, they help them out.

We have commented many times on this blog about the difference in approach to union work between those of us around Facts For Working People and other forces in organized Labor like Labor Notes and as it stands at the moment, the leadership of the Democratic Socialists of America of which I am a member. It is not possible if an individual or organization claims to stand for the transformation of our unions in to the serious, rank and file led militant organizations they need to be without being drawn in to a conflict with the present leadership. It is not an accident that Labor Notes rarely, if ever, and in this example, Chris Brooks, writes about a major dispute between an employer and a labor organization and never mentions the leadership of that organization. It is not a mistake. It is a conscious decision to avoid getting in to an open conflict with the present union hierarchy. This in itself is a failure of leadership.  One of the major problems is that the vast majority of full time staff at Labor Notes is union officials in one way or another. The reader should ask what are they doing as officers (many of them are) in their own unions?

Unfortunately, the leadership of DSA has contracted out its union work to Labor Notes and others that have this approach. It leaves the rank and file member disarmed. It fails to help the rank and file member that wants to reverse the disastrous course that the present leadership has chartered so far based on class collaboration and concessions. It doesn't help the rank and file build a real fighting alternative.

Labor Notes should be congratulated for its organizational efforts and bringing together thousands of rank and file workers at meetings and conferences. But that is not enough.  To think that we can change the present situation, build a serious fighting labor movement with a fight to win strategy and the labor hierarchy will sit back and do nothing, is nothing less than utopian and to be honest, a betrayal intentional or not. The road to hell is paved with good intentions as the saying goes.

Here is an article about one of the struggles at Boeing:

Here are some articles explaining the differences (that we should discuss openly and in a comradely fashion) in the approach to union work between Facts For Working people and left forces like Labor Notes, the leadership of DSA and others.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The heroes of finance and Powell’s put

by Michael Roberts

At the weekend G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers in Japan, the world’s finance leaders tried to put a brave face on the situation.  Tension over the intensifying trade war between China and the US was the biggest talking point at the meetings. Officials also wrangled over wording for a final communique on how to describe their concerns for world growth. While they flagged that it appears to be ‘stabilizing’, they also warned that the risks were tilted to the downside. “Most importantly, trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified. We will continue to address these risks, and stand ready to take further action”, the communiqué said.

But where is this action to avoid a new global recession going to come from? The world’s central banks, it seems. “Central banks are heroes,” OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria told Bloomberg Television in an interview during the meetings. “The question is: how much armoury do they still have, how many bullets, particularly silver bullets?”

In other words, what monetary policy weapons do the major central banks have left after ten years of keeping policy interest rates near or even below zero, and after massive injections of money through ‘quantitative easing’, buying up all the debt of governments and corporations from banks in order to encourage them to lend for investment?

Well, we are about to find out in the US.  The Federal Reserve led by Jay Powell, having gradually raised its policy rate for the last four years, is now indicating that it will reverse this policy and take its rate down again in order to boost the American and world economy. Powell told markets and the G20 ministers that the Fed stood ready to cut interest rates, saying it would “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion”.

A put is financial jargon for betting on a rise in financial assets in futures markets.  In the mid-1990s the then Fed chair Alan Greenspan reduced interest rates to boost the stock and property markets.  The Greenspan ‘put’ ‘took the stock market to a new peak in 2000, (but it was followed by the huge ‘’ bust).  We are about to have the Powell put to do the same.  Financial markets are now betting that the Fed will cut rates and keep the cost of borrowing really low in order to speculate further in financial markets. Jay Powell is set to be the new hero.

Thus the fantasy world of financial markets may be extended.  But will cutting interest rates avoid a recession in the ‘real’ economy?  Everywhere the ‘hard data’ are showing a sharp slowdown in economic growth, a collapse of the world car industry, and outright slumps in many large so-called emerging economies.  Above all, there is a significant a contraction in world trade as the trade and technology war instigated by the US against China hots up.

US economic growth had accelerated (from 2% to 3% a year) in 2018 after the Trump corporate tax cuts boosted profits – and unemployment dropped to post-war lows.  But last Friday’s May employment growth figures were the lowest in years and wage growth that had been accelerating also dropped off.  So there are signs that Trumponomics has been exhausted.  Now Jay Powell must step up to the proverbial baseball plate (after being ‘encouraged’ by Trump).

Elsewhere in the world, two key G7 economies continue to show a significant slowdown in economic growth. German industrial production plunged 1.9% from a month earlier in April.  That was the biggest drop in output since August 2015.  Year-on-year, industrial production dropped 1.8% over April 2018, following a 0.9% fall in March. Manufacturing output dropped 3.4% over the year!. Both German exports and imports fell.  German growth is now the slowest in five years. As a result, the German Bundesbank central bank cuts its GDP growth forecast for this year to just 0.6%, down from 1.6% at the beginning of 2019.

At the same time,the G20’s host, Japan announced that wages had fallen for the fourth consecutive month and overall household spending slowed sharply. Unemployment, currently at record lows, was now set to rise.  And most important, China’s economic growth rate is at its lowest level in over a decade – even if the rate of 6%-plus is around three times the average in the rest of the G20 economies.

In its semi-annual report on Global Economic Prospects, the World Bank cuts it forecast for global economic growth (that’s all countries including China and India) for this year by 0.3% percentage points to 2.6%. “There’s been a tumble in business confidence, a deepening slowdown in global trade and sluggish investment in emerging and developing economies,” said new (Trump-appointed) World Bank President David Malpass, “Momentum remains fragile.”

World trade growth is expected to fall to its lowest level since the global financial crash of 2008. The bank also warned that risks are skewed “firmly” to the downside, citing reignited trade tensions between the U.S. and China, financial turbulence in emerging markets and sharper-than-expected weakness in advanced nations, particularly Europe. Hidden in the back of its report, World Bank economists reckon that “A sharper-than expected deceleration of activity in systemically large economies—such as China, the Euro Area, and the United States—could also have broad ranging repercussions. The probability of growth in 2020 being at least 1 percentage-point below current projections is estimated at close to 20 percent. Such slowdown would be comparable to the 2001 global downturn.”

Another sign that the world capitalist economy is turning sour is what’s happening in the smaller G20 economies.  Growth in the Australian economy fell to its weakest rate in almost a decade in the first three months of this year. The economy grew by just 1.8 per cent year on year in the first quarter, and down from 2.3 per cent year on year in the preceding fourth quarter. This is Australia’s worst quarterly growth showing since the end of 2009.

Among the so-called BRICS (Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa), it is looking even worse. The South African economy is now suffering its worst slump in a decade. Output in Africa’s most industrialised nation dropped by an annualised 3.2 per cent in the first quarter, its largest quarterly fall since 2009. Power-intensive industries such as manufacturing and mining recorded the biggest drops in activity in the quarter. Mining activity fell by more than 10 per cent while manufacturing dropped 8.8 per cent.

Turkey went into a recession earlier this year under Turkey’s Trump, President Erdogan.  Argentina was already in a slump in 2018 under the governance of the right-wing administration of President Macri.  The country is now experiencing vicious austerity measures at the behest of the IMF which is bailing out the Macro government with the biggest loans in its history.

But the likely trigger of a new recession is the ongoing and intensifying trade and technology war between the US and China.  Neither side appears to be ready to back down and, as a result, world trade growth is diving while there is the prospect of increased tariffs and protectionist measures that will hit world growth.  Bloomberg economists reckon that if tariffs expand to cover all US-China trade in the next few months, then global GDP will take a $600bn hit in 2021. With 25% tariffs on all bilateral trade, GDP would be down 0.8% for China: 0.5% for the US and 0.5% for the world economy compared to no trade war.  That spells global recession.

And Trump seems bent on widening the trade war to other economies.  He has just temporarily delayed introducing a range of tariffs on Mexican imports, including imports of car and car parts that American companies make inside the Mexican border with the US.  The world car industry is already in major crisis driven by the end of diesel and slowing demand in China, Europe and Japan.  Now American car companies face new problems with Trump’s plans.

Thus while financial markets may be set to boom with the Powell put, that’s likely to have little effect on the struggling world economy.  The recovery since the Great Recession ended in mid-2009 has reached its tenth year, making it the longest from a slump in 75 years.  But it is also the weakest recovery since 1945.  Trend real GDP growth and business investment remains well down from the rate before 2007.

The trade and technology war is settling in for the long haul.  What makes it likely that the trade war will not be resolved amicably to avoid a global recession is that the battle between the US and China is not just over ‘unfair trade’, it is much more an attempt by the US to maintain its global technological superiority in the face of China’s fast rise to compete. The attack on Huawei, globally organised by the US, is just the start.

US investment bank Goldman Sachs has noted that, since 2010, the only place where corporate earnings have expanded is in the US.  And this, according to Goldmans, is entirely down to the super-tech companies.  Global profits ex technology are only moderately higher than they were prior to the financial crisis, while technology profits have moved sharply upwards (mainly reflecting the impact of large US technology companies).  And now it is just this sector that will suffer from the technology war.

The risk of a new recession, as measured by various methods, continues to rise.  Here is the New York Fed’s index of the probability of a recession based on analysing financial market and economic data.

Then there is the supposedly reliable indicator of the inverted yield curve in bond markets.  Normally, the interest rate of long-term bonds (ie 10 years or more) is much higher than the short-term interest (less than one year). So the ‘curve’ of interest rates from 3m to 10 years is up (or steep).  But when the 10-year rate drops below the three-month rate, this has invariably heralded a new recession within a year.  Why?  Because it implies that investors are so worried about the future that they want to hold ‘safe’ assets like government bonds rather than invest, to the point that long-term interest rate on these bonds falls below even the rate set by the Federal Reserve for short-term loans.

The yield on benchmark U.S. government bonds hit new 2019 lows near 2% before the G20 meeting.  Yields on 10-year bonds in both Germany and Japan were below zero!  About $11 trillion of bonds around the world, concentrated in Europe and Japan, carry negative yields, now account for about 20% of all debt world-wide.

And US yield curve has now inverted. The inversion has only just happened and it needs to continue for a few months to justify its reliability as a recession indicator. So watch this space. Maybe the central bank heroes can save the day.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Labor's Leadership Failed Teachers Parents and Youth in Kentucky

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
Member, DSA

I want to add that my knowledge of the actual composition of the more combative Jefferson County group is something I'm not fully aware of including its own internal differences. I would also like to add (and I'll put a couple of links up with more information.) that we should not underestimate the courage it took for some of these teachers in Jefferson County (and I understand there were others) to defy the deal made by the leadership of the KEA, KY120 and the state to not shut down the schools by calling in sick. After they did and the schools were shut down once again, the state sought to get the names and addresses of the teachers that did and threatened them with retribution; in other words, they applied good old fashioned economic terrorism. Jefferson County are the people that the leaders of the labor movement in Kentucky and nationally should have rallied around if they were at all serious about transforming the present balance of class forces.

I have spoken to a teacher in Jefferson County KY since I made this video and she made an interesting point about the situation in Jthere regarding the unions. In the video above I make reference to how the trade union officialdom goes to war in the competition for members. I recall here in California before CNA affiliated to the AFL-CIO, there were major disputes between competing unions including my own, Afscme International and SEIU in particular competing for CNA's members.  The union hierarchy looks at it as a revenue gain, bring in a union or association with 50,000 members and that’s 50,000 times $75 a month for example. When they do bring them in, there’s no huge democratic debate among the members in the union halls and on the job but an agreement between the two leaderships. A deal is struck that benefits both parties and that’s it. I raise this competition in the video.  But in the case of Jefferson County KY from what my friend tells me, things were similar but at the same time different.  In this example, the heads of what would be competing unions got together and rather than go through a nasty competitive war in a state where the unions are relatively weak, a “gentleman’s agreement” was made and they divided up the pie.

The Teamster got the drivers, the NEA the teachers, the Cafeteria workers SEIU, and Afscme the secretaries. Secretaries are often in management unions or non-represented as they have access to information that the bosses’ don’t want us to have.

This might seem like a good idea but we can see how divisive it is if we watch the press conference that the Jefferson County Teachers Association (KEA/NEA) called inviting the Teamster\SEIU, and Afscme leadership along to attack the Jefferson County folk. A cursory glance at union history will reveal that in the decades of declining membership due to the very same leadership’s class collaborative policies, as well of course, through de-industrialization, innovation in the auto and other industries etc., the union leaders' approach is to poach any members they can from other unions and cross jurisdictional lines all the time. The UAW represents university grad students, the Teamsters represent teachers and hotel clerks etc.

Just because they make these “Gentlemans” agreements as a means to save money and time doesn’t alter the fact that their policies are harmful to union members and workers as a whole.

The role of the trade union leadership in Kentucky and the approach of some left forces in our movement (read the picket line rules the IUOE leadership issued during the crane operators strike last year) is one small example of the differences some of us around Facts For Working People have with some left currents in the labor movement on how to approach this question. The main issue is that we do not believe the role of the labor leadership can be ignored by individuals or groups whose claim it is that they want to transform the trade union movement from accommodating capital to confronting it. This is our difference with the leadership of Labor Notes, the TDU (and they are connected) as well as the leadership of the Democratic Socialists of America who have contracted out the DSA's labor work to these forces. We can and should have an open, comradely debate about how we relate to the present trade union hierarchy. Facts For Working People has shared these differences publicly on this blog:

If one wants to transform the labor movement it will inevitably mean a conflict over policy with the trade union hierarchy; they will not sit idly by and allow this. To ignore their role is to support them.

It is my personal belief, that this is why these forces have not paid the same attention to the war the teachers, parents and allies have fought in Kentucky, because it would bring them in to direct conflict with the union hierarchy in the area that have openly attacked the most forward thinking elements. This leads them, intentionally or not, it doesn't matter, to act as a cover for this right wing bureaucracy. I was at a DSA meeting here in Oakland of some 250 people and made this point.  The trade union hierarchy cannot ignore the tremendous success of the teachers/educators struggles, the word "strike" has even become quite popular. Yes strikes can be won---if they're run right; if they are designed to actually win. But what is left out by the trade union leadership and the leadership of DSA and Labor Notes, is how they won. They violated the law. They by-passed the official leadership and they reached out to all workers in education, even charter school teachers.

This is a complete break from the losing strategy of the trade union hierarchy for the last last half century. Watch the presentation below by Rebecca Garelli, a teacher from Arizona and you get a real sense of the difference and how we can make some real progress.

Here's some links to more on Kentucky and education:

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The International Working Class. The Only Alternative to Capitalist Disaster

Download a PDF version

Here is an excerpt from this document explaining how the international working class can build a new society. The reader can download the PDF version in its entirety here.

“The international working class, through its own organizations, the democratic workers’ councils, linked together worldwide, and working with the peasants’ councils where they existed, would take owner ship of the dominant forces in the world economy, the major corporations and finance houses and natural resources. In doing so and communicating through its workers and peasants councils network, the working class, the working people of the world, would be able to calculate what resources existed in the world’s collectivized economy. In the same way it would be able to calculate what were the needs of society worldwide. Who better to know this than the working class and peasantry who produce and consume the world’s resources and products?

These councils would link together on a world scale, sharing this knowledge, using the new communications technology it would be possible to work out what resources were available and what needs existed and with this knowledge it would be possible to draw up a democratic, international, socialist, sustainable plan to use the existing resources and to satisfy the existing needs. No more the anarchy of capitalism, of private ownership and the nation state and non-stop wars but the democratic international socialist sustainable plan.

The new methods of communication would make this possible as never before. Different parties would exist which would discuss and debate the priorities for this new international socialist world. No more capitalism, no more private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, no more falling rate of profit and the continual internal contradictions, wars and slaughters, an end to massive wasteful spending on military and weapons.. We can finally end the destruction of the environment, climate change, and the extinction of the world’s species.

No more nation states, no more a tiny ruling class spewing out divide and rule to divide the majority it is exploiting so it can stay in power. These evils would be ended because they are rooted in private ownership and capitalism and nation states, so when these are ended then the basis for ending the evils that flow from them would be created. The present capitalist system that is destroying the planet would be replaced by an international, democratic, collectively owned, planned and sustainable world economy.

Given the new technology and communications systems, all the people of the world would be able to be involved in the discussions to draw up this international democratic world economy and plan. This plan could then be broken down economic sector by economic sector, industry by industry, workplace by workplace, community by community, worker by worker. Everybody would have a voice in assessing what resources were available, what needs existed and what were the priorities for production and distribution.

Everybody would have a voice in drawing up and implementing a democratic, international, sustainable plan. This is how the threatening catastrophe of climate change would be discussed and decisions made. It would be discussed on a world scale, in the interests of the working class and peasantry internationally, that is in the interests of the majority of the population of the world and the planet and life on the planet. Decisions would no longer be taken by the anarchistic conflicted capitalist minority, no longer be made in the interests of private ownership, profits and control, but in the interests of the population of the planet and of the health of the planet. More than any other problem, climate change and its threatening catastrophe can only be resolved on an international basis by ending the private ownership based and profit motivated capitalist system and its nation states.   Only the working class through the democratic structures of workers’ and peasants councils can build an international collectively owned economy based on the needs of the people and the planet. Capitalism, in spite of appearances to the contrary, the European Union for example, cannot overcome the barriers of the nation state

This network of workers and peasants councils worldwide would be a democratic decision making structure through which everybody would know what was possible, what was needed, what work they themselves had to do every day if the objectives of the democratic plan were to be reached.  They would also know what would be possible once the objectives of the plan were met, such as a shorter working day, better food and water, more and better housing, more resources for health care, education, the arts, the better life for all that would be possible.

Working in this way, consciously discussing and deciding on the day-to- day work and life of society through its democratic workers’ council structure, an international network could be created. What would come into action as the central, conscious entity deciding how the world would work, would be the collective power and the collective brain of the working class. This collective brain working through the network of workers councils and where they existed, peasant councils would decide how society would be run. Not a few billionaires running things, not some bureaucratic apparatus, not some billions of individuals trying to influence things on an individual basis, but the great collective, democratic human brain, the great collective brain of the working class determining how things would work. Like all brains in all creatures the collective brain of the working class would not be some grey uniform entity but would be one living brilliantly colored organism in continual living activity and creative explosive interacting thought and adjustment and decision-making.

This will be the future if there is to be a future for the human species and for life on earth. What a vision, what a step forward, the collective power, the collective human brain of the world’s working people, the collective power of the working class of the world, this is what would run things. And of course in multi-color and in interacting and clashing thought.”

Here is a quote from Bernie Sanders:

 “We must change the current culture of unfettered capitalism in which billionaires have control over our economic and political life. We need to revitalize American democracy and create a government and economy that works for all…… I am calling for a true democracy, one that abides by the principle of one person one vote, and that does not allow billionaires to buy elections. FDR did it. We can do it again”. 

There is no talk of socialism here.  Not only that, but his quoting of  Franklin Roosevelt is revealing. FDR stated that his policies were “to save capitalism from itself”. This is what Sanders wants to do. “Fetter” capitalism a little to save it from itself. FFWP Admin.