Sunday, February 23, 2020

G20 and COVID-19

by Michael Roberts

The finance ministers and central bankers of the top 20 economies in the world met this weekend in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  The G20 finance summit had a lot to ponder.  First, there was the coronavirus epidemic.  Would it turn into a pandemic?  Would the impact of global growth, trade and investment be so severe as to tip the world economy into recession in 2020?  Also, what is to be done about curbing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the world’s temperatures continuing to rise towards an increase above that set by the last international climate change agreement?  Finally, is there nothing to be done about high and rising inequality of wealth and income and continued shift of profits by multi-nationals and rich oligarchs into ‘tax havens’?

The Saudi Arabia G20 communique provided no answers to any of these questions.  At Riyadh, IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, having previously announced a reduction in IMF forecasts for global growth to just 2.9%, now added a further reduction due to COVID-19.  She reckoned that the epidemic will likely cut 0.1% from global economic growth to 2.8%, the lowest rate since the end of the Great Recession over ten years ago.  And it would drag down growth for China’s economy to 5.6% this year from 6.0% previously forecast.  “In our current baseline scenario, announced policies are implemented and China’s economy would return to normal in the second quarter. As a result, the impact on the world economy would be relatively minor and short-lived,” she said. But even that could be optimistic.  “But we are also looking at more dire scenarios where the spread of the virus continues for longer and more globally, and the growth consequences are more protracted,”

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in Riyadh. “The question remains open whether it will be a V-shape with a quick recovery of the world economy, or whether it would lead to an L-shape with a persistent slowdown in world growth.” He said the V-shaped scenario was more likely.

As the ministers met, the latest data on COVID-19 suggested that China was getting the epidemic under control.  It reported a sharp fall in new deaths and cases of the coronavirus, but world health officials warned it was too early to make predictions about the outbreak as new infections continued to rise in other countries.  “Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for COVID-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.  The U.N. agency is calling for $675 million to support most vulnerable countries, he said, adding 13 countries in Africa are seen as a priority because of their links to China.

The Chinese authorities put on an optimistic air.  Chen Yulu, a deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said policymakers had plenty of tools to support the economy, and were confident of winning the war against the epidemic. “We believe that after this epidemic is over, pent-up demand for consumption and investment will be fully released, and China’s economy will rebound swiftly,” Chen told state TV.

Other commentators are less convinced that China can recover quickly from shutting down industry, stopping tourism and keeping millions at home.  Zhu Min, a former deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, reckoned that COVID-19 could slash US$185 billion off China’s economy in January and February.  Dips in tourism and consumer spending could reduce first-quarter growth by three or four percentage points, according to Zhu Min, While online spending – particularly on education and entertainment services – would offset some of the losses, the total drain on the economy over the period could be as much as 1.38 trillion yuan, said Zhu. Based on figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, that would represent about 3.3 per cent of the country’s total retail sales in 2019.

Car sales, fell by 20.5 per cent year on year in January, their largest monthly dip in 15 years, according to figures from the China Passenger Car Association.  And sales in the first two weeks of February fell 92 per cent from the same period of 2019, mainly due to showroom closures. Over the whole of 2020, the coronavirus epidemic could cost China 1 million car sales, or about 5 per cent of its annual total, the industry group said. “The falling consumption in the first quarter could knock down growth by three or four percentage points,” Zhu said. “We need a strong rebound, and that needs 10 times as much effort.”

Chen Wenling, chief economist at the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, a Beijing-based think tank, said this week that even if national production returned to 80 per cent by the end of February, first-quarter growth would still be less than 4.5 per cent. By comparison, China’s economy grew by 6.4 per cent in the first three months of 2019.

What to do?  At Riyadh, Japan’s answer was to call for increased government spending.  Finance Minister Taro Aso called on G20 countries with ‘fiscal space’ (like Germany) to ramp up spending to help the global economy.  “I told the G20 ministers that the spread of the coronavirus epidemic … could have a serious effect on the global economy,”  Aso pointed out that Japan has deployed fiscal spending quite a bit, so wants other countries with fiscal room to do the same.  This is ironic when it is realised that Japan’s permanent annual budget deficits do not appear to have saved the economy from dropping into recession, even before the effects of COVID-19 epidemic hit.

But don’t worry. Aso claimed that Japan continued to recovery moderately as a tight job market and rising household income offset some of the weaknesses in exports and output. “At this stage, I don’t think risks to Japan’s economy have suddenly heightened sharply.”  That is wishful thinking.

As I have argued in many posts before, fiscal stimulus is likely to have a negligible effect on achieving economic recovery once a slump sets in and the capitalist sector stops investing and consumers stop spending (as much).  That’s because government spending outside of welfare transfers is no more than 10% of most economies’ GDP and government investment (as opposed to spending on public services) is no more than 3% of GDP compared to 15-20% of GDP invested by the capitalist sector. It will take a huge increase in government investment to have an effect.

Moreover, the ability and willingness of governments to resort to such huge fiscal injections are limited.  Gavyn Davies in the FT is sceptical: “the next global recession may result in a merging of what has traditionally been viewed as the two separate wings of macro policy, fiscal and monetary. It is a difficult question of political economy whether the central bank or the treasury is better placed to lead the design of an effective policy response in this environment. Japan has been in this position for several years and has so far failed to cut the Gordian knot.  Policymakers in the US and Europe should be thinking well in advance about how they can co-operate both internationally and domestically to produce a better outcome. There is no sign of this happening yet.”

Perhaps only one country is capable to doing that.  Given the size of the state sector and government control in China, a fiscal boost can have much more effect, as it did during the 2008-9 Great Recession, when China continued to grow while virtually every other economy went into a slump or slowed drastically.  The Chinese government is ready to spend and invest big time to turn things round once the virus epidemic fades.



Even so, if China’s growth slows sharply for a couple of quarters, that will only add to the woes of the major economies.  The latest economic activity indexes for the major advanced capitalist economies make sombre reading.  Japan’s business activity indexes in February showed a significant fall below the stasis level of 50. Japan’s manufacturing PMI dropped to 47.6 in February 2020 from 48.8 in the previous month. The latest reading was the steepest pace of contraction in the manufacturing sector since December 2012. And the services PMI declined to 46.7 in February from 51.0 in the previous month. This was the steepest contraction in the service sector since April 2014, So the overall index fell to 47.0 from 50.1 in January. Again, this was the steepest contraction in private sector activity since April 2014. Japan is clearly in a slump.



Eurozone private sector activity showed a slight improvement in February. The overall ‘composite’ PMI in the Euro Area increased to 51.6 in February from 51.3 in January. This slight improvement was due mainly to German manufacturing, which is still contracting – but at a slower pace. The Eurozone is still growing, but at a snail’s pace.

The UK’s manufacturing activity in February jumped into mildly positive territory, up to 51.9 from 50.0 in January. This was a ten-month high, which is not saying much as the index was over 55 three years ago. The services sector index weakened a little in February but still showed modest growth at 53.3. So the overall ‘composite’ index was unchanged at 53.3. That means the UK economy is growing but very modestly in the first quarter of 2020.

But the big shocker was the US.  The US economic activity indicator went below 50, signalling a contraction in the economy for the first time since the PMI survey began in 2014. The overall ‘composite’ indicator fell to 49.6 in February from 53.3 in January. The manufacturing index also fell to 50.8 from 51.5 in January. But the real bad news was the fall in the larger services sector, which dropped to 49.4 from 53.4. It seems that the US is joining Japan and the Eurozone in stagnating or even contracting in Q1 2020, and China has yet to report on the full economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.



Other G20 economies are also on the cusp.  Australia’s index was below 50 in February; South Africa too.  We await data on the others.

In my last post on the nature and impact of COVID-19, I commented: “it could be a trigger for a new economic slump because the world capitalist economy has slowed to near ‘stall speed’. The US is growing at just 2% a year, Europe and Japan at just 1%; and the major so-called emerging economies of Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Argentina, South Africa, and Russia are basically static. The huge economies of India and China have also slowed significantly in the last year and if China takes an economic hit from the disruption caused by 2019-nCoV, that could be a tipping point.”

Up to now, the world’s stock markets have ignored this risk, convinced that zero or negative interest rates for borrowing and speculating would continue, thanks to the US Federal Reserve, and also in expecting the epidemic to dissipate by the end of this current quarter, so the ‘business as usual’ can be resumed.  But with the outbreak picking up outside China and the likely slow economic recovery by China, the stock fantasists may be overoptimistic.  And remember, global corporate profits are stagnant along with business investment, the main cause of the global slowdown.

As for the other issues discussed by the G20 ministers: climate change, inequality and tax havens, forget it.  Nothing was agreed.  For the first time, the final G20 communique included a reference to climate change “to examine the implications of climate change on financial stability”.  It was ok to worry about the impact on financial assets and stock markets, but the US vetoed any mention of the impact on the world economy and people.

Nothing happened on inequality because the European countries could not agree on a common tax strategy on global tax avoidance.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Brutal Reality of Stop and Frisk

A very powerful first hand account of what Stop and Frisk meant in the real world. It was open season for the racist cops in NY City Richard Mellor

From Jeremy McLoyd

Back in 2013, I was a victim of the Bloomberg-supported Stop and Frisk policy. It was a Sunday afternoon, one of my first at my new apartment on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. I went out to get something to eat. I'm walking down the stairs, and suddenly a random man points a large silver gun at me, and instructed me to lay face down next to my buddy, some other guy I'd never seen before.

I thought I was getting robbed. The young black boy that had been on the ground was openly weeping. Apparently he had a dime bag of weed on his person. He kept saying he was sorry, and that he didn't want to go to Rikers. That's when I realized that, I'm not being robbed, these are police officers.

At no point did the man identify himself as a undercover officer. He zip tied my wrists together and a female officer, who also failed to identify herself, appeared out of nowhere. She picks me up off of ground and rifled through my pockets, presumably for my wallet. He tells her to search me for drugs, and make sure to check under the balls and in my butt.

As she searched my private parts, the male officer started grilling me about why I was there. I said I live upstairs, and I was going out to get food. He stopped in his tracks, what apartment? 4C. He asked me if I knew the kid on the ground, I said no. The female officer had finished groping me, and she announced that I was clean. The male officer then told me to show him my key. He told me if this key didn't unlock 4C, I was going to Rikers.

Every one came upstairs with me, my wrists were still tied, so the officer got my key and stuck it in the lock. Of course, it opens. I had enough presence of mind to say that I am not inviting you to enter. He untied my wrists and said I was lucky. I told him that he just violated all of my human rights. All of the officers openly laughed at me. I went inside and cried.

A few hours later, I realized that I never got anything to eat. So I try my luck again, go downstairs. All of the officers were clustered around 1A, (a drug raid) the actual reason they'd been in my building in the first place. As I walked by, they snickered at me again.

That was easily the most dehumanizing thing that has ever happened to me.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Sexual Violence: Victims of abuse want Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church to Come Clean

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

It seems the Boy Scouts of America, the once revered institution that showed young boys how they could grow up to be real men is, much like the Catholic Church, a haven for pedophiles.

The Boy Scouts organizations were founded by the upper class British military officer Robert Baden Powel or 1st Baron Baden Powel to give him one of his many titles. Powell was on the front lines in the spread of British colonialism and fought in India and Africa. The female equivalent in my youth in the UK was the Girl Guides. I suppose their purpose was to “guide” the young boys along the path to becoming the men, the rugged individualists and warriors for Jesus that would make the world a safer place for European colonial power and Christendom. The famous three C’s was their goal to be honest, Christianity, Civilization and Commerce. Cecil Rhodes, Rudyard Kipling and Livingston were big fans of the three C's.

We see this today with the continued virus like spread of Evangelic Christianity out of the US in to the former colonial world. Most of the relatively few US Americans I met in Northern Queensland were missionaries from the US heading to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to save the natives. When I think of this I am reminded of the Diego Rivera mural of the conquest of Mexico with the Conquistador, sword in hand held above a native and behind him the priest with the crucifix, the twin weapons of colonial power.

The Boy Scouts of America is in bankruptcy proceedings in order to protect its assets against some 275 law suits from victims of sexual abuse. There are also thousands of others whose claims have not yet been filed, some as young as five years old.

The bankruptcy proceedings are not only an effort to protect billions of dollars in “…land, buildings, cash and investments….”, the Boy Scouts of America owns, it is also an attempt to keep the internal findings of the organization closed to the public. Lawyers for the victims are pushing for  a list of more than 7,800 “alleged pedophiles” that the organization has in its internal files and wants to keep private. Adding to the already known cases are those who were sexually abused that the Scouts knew about and did nothing.

As this is occurring, the cases against the abuse of boys in the Catholic Church are ongoing. The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg PA has also filed for bankruptcy after Pennsylvania’s state attorney general released a grand jury report that detailed decades of sexual abuse of young children. The Wall Street Journal reports that since the release of the grand jury’s report, hundreds more have come forward with claims of sexual abuse by priests.

Money plays a huge role in all of this perversion and the cover up. The football scandal and abuse of young boys was another example. There was so much money involved people had too much too lose, the pressure too great

The reports we read about in the mass media about sexual abuse of children is surely the tip of the iceberg. The family is perhaps the greatest source of child abuse and infanticide as it is safe to a great degree as the family is some sacred social unit blessed by the religious authorities, corrupt and rotten institutions themselves. Violence against women is also protected to a great degree by the supposed sanctity of the patriarchal capitalist family structure. The family is an economic unit and while women, in western society anyway, have made great progress and achieved some financial independence from men, money and in the US especially, ownership of property, plays a huge roll in maintaining the family unit long after the love or what one thought was love has gone.

It amazes me how people can question why women waited for years before coming forward in the Harvey Weinstein case. The reasons they give are so obviously valid;, everything you have worked for can be taken away. The same in all the examples of sexual abuse like those working class women who came forward to expose the rapist and friend of Trump Roy Brown of Alabama fame. And there are many women that have accused the degenerate in the White House. What's happened there? And you wonder why they keep their mouths shut. Then there is the shame, the guilt. 


I worked in a fairly safe workplace compared to the private sector but sometimes it was impossible to get some “tough guys” to sign a damn petition to defend someone from harassment. One of them was a right wing character who said that if the government came after his guns he’d take his “piece” or all of his pieces, and head up to the mountains. What on earth is this macho, Rambo nonsense? You can’t even sign a petition to support a co-worker your afraid of reprisal. And as that comedian said recently, if you support the Second Amendment because you're afraid of the government you don't know how tanks work.

There is that ancient riddle, I can’t remember the source, but it asked what first walks on four legs, then on two then on three. The answer is the human; first as a baby, (four) then as an adult (two) and then as an old aged person with a cane. Children and the aged are among the most vulnerable in society and often the most abused. As I get older I look back on my youth and how it was drummed in to my head to respect older people. You got up from a seat when an older person needed one or a pregnant woman or the disabled. Someone robbing a person in a wheelchair would have been almost unheard of. How times have changed. Capitalist ideology, naked self interest, individualism, personal gratification with no concern for others, and the break up of community and the sheer desperation and poverty people find themselves is at the root of this. Taking advantage of the weak and having that type of personality is a virtue and the road to success. There will be great shocks out of which a powerful working class movement will arise in the US and it is through these struggles the collective consciousness of the working class will express itself.

The Boy Scouts of America has seen a huge decline in membership over the past decade and the credibility of the Catholic Church, once the official church of the European Feudal Aristocracy and then Capitalism has hit rock bottom. Society would be better off were both these institutions to take the path of the Dodo.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Teamster Leader Rome Aloise Facing Charges Again


Jimmy Hoffa Jr and Rome Aloise. Source: TDU
Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Back in 2017 Facts For Working People covered a strike at Waste Management in San Leandro CA. The strikers were mostly Latino low waged sorters of waste materials, members of ILWU Local 6. Unfortunately, due to bureaucratic squabbles over jurisdiction and organizational details, disagreements between leaderships that are most often taken up despite the harm to union members and the working class as a whole, both management and Teamster officials that represent the higher paid drivers, ushered Teamster members through the picket lines.  At this time Rome Aloise a prominent Teamster official, was brought up on charges. You can read about this here.  Rome Aloise was suspended for two years for this activity on December 22nd 2017. On February 14th 2020 Joseph E. diGenova an Independent Investigations Officer recommended that the Teamsters General Executive Board file charges against Rome Aloise for similar violations committed during the time of his previous suspension. It is my view that this sort of activity (if Aloise is guilty) while extremely harmful for organized labor is not as widespread as the government and the capitalist mass media present it. When it comes to corruption, graft and bribery, organized labor doesn't come close to the private sector, the institutions of capitalism and the US government.

Here is the IIO's introductory statement:

MEMORANDUM



TO:
Members of the IBT General Executive Board
FROM:
Joseph E. diGenova, Independent Investigations Officer
DATE:
February 14, 2020
RE:
Proposed Charges Against International Vice President At Large, Joint Council 7 President, and Local 853 Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise

I.               RECOMMENDATION

Pursuant to Paragraphs 30 and 31 of the Final Agreement and Order, the Independent Investigations Officer (“IIO”) refers the below report to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (“IBT”) General Executive Board with the recommendation that charges be filed against Rome Aloise (“Aloise”), International Vice President, President of Joint Council 7, and Secretary Treasurer and principal officer of Local 853, for bringing reproach upon the IBT and violating his membership oath by: knowingly harming a fellow member, interfering with and inducing others to interfere with the performance of the Union’s legal obligations, unreasonably failing to cooperate fully with a proceeding of the Independent Review Officer (“IRO”), retaliating and threatening to retaliate against members for exercising rights under the IBT Constitution, and committing an act of racketeering; all in violation of IBT Const., Article II, Section 2 (a); IBT Const., Art. XIX, Sections 7 (b) (2), (5), (10), and (11); IBT Const., Art. XIX, Sec. 14 (a); and 18
U.S.C. §875 (d); to wit:
In September and October of 2018, Aloise used his purported influence over IBT entities in California to threaten financial harm to charitable organization, Instituto Laboral de La Raza (“La Raza”), in order to interfere in that organization’s internal affairs to the detriment of a fellowmember. Notwithstanding the acquiescence of the La Raza board to his demands, Aloise’s actions did in fact cause financial harm to La Raza and harmed his fellow member. Aloise’s actions were made in retaliation for the fellow member’s good-faith efforts to comply with an Order of the IRO. The IIO also recommends Aloise be charged with bringing reproach upon the IBT and violating his membership oath by: interfering with and inducing others to interfere with the performance of the Union’s legal obligations, and unreasonably failing to cooperate fully with a proceeding of the IRO; all in violation of IBT Const., Art. II, Sec. 2(a) and IBT Const., Art. XIX,
Sec. 7 (b) (2), and (5), and IBT Const., Art. XIX, Sec. 14(a); to wit:

Throughout the period of his suspension, Aloise interjected himself in the affairs of IBT Local 853, Joint Council 7, and the IBT, despite the prohibitions against his Union activity. He engaged in a pattern of misconduct and utter contempt designed to circumvent the restrictions placed upon him by the IRO on December 22, 2017, as restated on January 19, 2018 and November 1, 2019.

The IIO also recommends Aloise be charged with bringing reproach upon the IBT and violating his membership oath by: interfering with and inducing others to interfere with the performance of the Union’s legal obligations, unreasonably failing to cooperate fully with a proceeding of the IRO, retaliating against other members for the exercise of their rights under the IBT Constitution, and obstructing and interfering with an investigation conducted by the IIO; all in violation of IBT Const., Art. II, Sec. 2 (a), and IBT Const., Art. XIX, Sec. 7 (b) (2), (5), (10), and (12) and IBT Const., Art. XIX, Sec. 14 (a); to wit:

During the period of his suspension, Aloise threatened and publicly labeled fellow Teamsters as “rats” or “snitches,” based upon his belief that they were cooperating with an IIO investigation and/or in retaliation for their good-faith attempts to comply with the IRO’s December 22, 2017 Order. The reader can follow this link for a PDF of the IIO’s report and recommendations.
                                             **************
Organized Labor has a crisis of leadership and it is the role of the rank and file of the unions to handle our internal affairs and specifically to determine the leadership and its role. Facts For Working People opposes government interference in the internal affairs of the trade union movement. This does not mean criminal activity should not be prosecuted. We will comment further on these events.
 
Rome Aloise has responded to the charges. He wrote on his Facebook Page:


Statement on IIO Charges
In the last few days, I was informed that Joseph diGenova, the Teamsters Independent Investigations Officer (IIO), has brought charges against me, falsely accusing me of violating the terms of my recently concluded suspension that prevented me from serving as a Teamsters official. The charges are false and politically motivated. I will vigorously defend myself (and our Union) and prove my innocence.

Obviously, I am devastated by this news and feel persecuted by the process, which is biased, unfair, uses unsubstantiated information and is based on an alleged "investigation" brought on by my political opponents. Not once during the IIO's allegedly "neutral" investigation did the IIO ever ask for my explanation. Not once did the IIO ever try to interview any Teamster who the IIO now claims were controlled by me. To the best of my knowledge, no other person(s) were interviewed by the IIO except those who stand to gain from my demise as a Teamster official. Using diGenova's own words concerning President Trump, this is nothing more than a political witch hunt.

These actions against me and our Union are touted by TDU, an organization that seems to work hand-in-hand with the IIO to undermine the Teamsters union and our political and democratic processes. Point in fact, TDU posted diGenova's charges even before they were released to the public.

I am not the only one who finds it outrageous that someone like Joseph diGenova - who has recently "disappeared" from Fox News reportedly due to his outrageous crackpot conspiracy theories and his on-air anti-Semitic comments - has once again been able to degrade the Teamsters Union and concoct a series of convoluted charges against me. Your hard-earned dues have paid diGenova millions of dollars to sit in judgement over us and our deeds, all the while representing foreign organized crime figures and employing recently indicted agents who have been implicated in President Trump's Ukrainian scandal.

This latest round of "charges" against me, replete with diGenova's conspiracy theories, comes as we at the Teamsters are entering into our election cycle. DiGenova's apparent cooperation with TDU is, once again, demonstrating diGenova's and the Independent Disciplinary Office's (IDO) attempts to influence IBT elections by charging me, a candidate in the upcoming elections. It is truly unbelievable and reprehensible.

DiGenova's "witch hunt" has been going on for more than 5 years. It has involved my fellow officials, rank-and-file members and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as a whole. His obsession has had a devastating effect on my family, my finances and my reputation. While I accepted full responsibility for my actions that resulted in my suspension - noting many times in public settings that I was suspended and unable to speak on behalf of, or do any work for the Teamsters - I now have to defend myself again.
I intend to offer an honest and vigorous defense against this type of treatment that threatens not only me and my family, but thousands of hard-working rank-and-file Teamsters and officials who are subject to being ridiculed, charged, smeared on social media, and removed from office based on unfounded and politically fueled baseless accusations.

I am thankful for those who believe in me and continue to support me against this insidious and incessant violation of my rights as an individual and Union member by Joseph diGenova, a man who exemplifies and supports everything that I have fought against my entire Teamster career.
There is strength in numbers and standing up to those who denigrate and undermine trade unions is a principle that has guided me throughout my many years as a Teamster. I am confident that it will lead to my vindication.
In solidarity,
Rome

TDU
Teamsters For a Democratic Union (TDU) has commented on these charges and you can read that here. The Final Fall of Rome

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Zionism Will Accept Nothing Less than the Obliteration of all Remnants of Palestinian Life

We share this article from +972 Magazine for the interest of our readers. See the link at the end to read it in Hebrew.


 Yes, Israel wants peace — after it gets rid of the Palestinians

Billboards posted across Tel Aviv showing Palestinian leaders blindfolded and on their knees reveals what many Israelis think.



Over the last week, pedestrians and drivers in Tel Aviv caught a glimpse of an especially disturbing billboard that had been posted across the city. The billboard, erected by the far-right group, Israeli Victory Project, showed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh blindfolded and on their knees on a backdrop of destruction. The caption read: “Peace is only made with defeated enemies.”

By Sunday morning, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai had ordered the billboards taken down, saying the images “incited the kind of violence reminiscent of ISIS and the Nazis.” But what was actually disturbing about the billboard was not the incitement. Israel does not need cheerleaders when it comes to the violence it metes out against the Palestinian people. What is particularly nauseating is the way in which the billboard lays out for all to see the darkest, sickest aspects of Israel’s collective gaze vis-à-vis our neighbors.

Firstly, the text itself. “Peace is only made with defeated enemies.” Anyone who hopes to bring his enemy to his knees (and blindfolded, no less) has no interest in a peace deal — he is solely interested in submission. That is the bitter truth at the heart of all the “peace talks” and negotiations with the Palestinians: Israel wants to bring Palestinians to their knees and force them to accept disgraceful deals of defeat, all while thanking the Israelis for the “painful concessions” we have been forced to bear.
That Abbas is seen raising his hand in defeat, like something out of an execution scene, reveals yet another truth: Israel has never truly distinguished between the various Palestinian political streams or their approach to the Israeli occupation. To Israel, there is no real distinction between the leader of a movement that believes in armed struggle and one who ensures the continuation of security coordination with Israel in order to prevent buses from blowing up in the heart of Israeli cities.

The truth is that everyone must be brought to their knees. All must submit.

After 50 years of brutal military occupation and over 70 years of oppression, what is the significance of the defeat that the Israeli Victory Project believes Israel must aspire to? The total destruction in the background provides the hint. Defeat means the Palestinian people must wallow in death and decimation while the “most moral fighter jets” in the world circle above them. This, according to the sign, is Israel’s strategic goal. And if this is the goal, then the valley of death that Israel has established in Gaza is a resounding success.

And yet the Palestinian people refuse to submit and continue to fight for their liberation. At what point, then, does Israel decide that the Palestinians have been defeated enough to “make peace?” And how does one achieve this final, absolute defeat? Is it through the ongoing murder of unarmed protesters near the Gaza fence? By continuing the policy of home demolitions? By accelerating ethnic cleansing in the West Bank? By multiplying the number of Palestinians in administrative detention? By continuing to destroy the Palestinian economy? How many more Palestinian children have to sit in Israeli prisons — some without trial — so that Israel can officially announce the defeat of the Palestinian people? How many more Palestinian children must lose their eyes for us to bask in the defeat of the enemy?

Palestinians take part in the ‘Great Return March’ demonstration at Israel-Gaza fence, near the Shuja’iyya neighborhood in Gaza City, October 4, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)
Palestinians take part in the ‘Great Return March’ demonstration at Israel-Gaza fence, near the Shuja’iyya neighborhood in Gaza City, October 4, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

When absolute defeat is the goal, all means are justified. This was precisely what settler leader Uri Elizur had in mind when he wrote his now infamous article — in which he essentially advocated the genocide of the Palestinian people — and which Ayelet Shaked, who was only months away from being appointed Justice Minister, shared on her Facebook page in 2014:
The Palestinian people has declared war on us, and we must respond with war. Not an operation, not a slow-moving one, not low-intensity, not controlled escalation, no destruction of terror infrastructure, no targeted killings. Enough with the oblique references. This is a war. Words have meanings. This is a war. It is not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. These too are forms of avoiding reality. This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people… What’s so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy? Every war is between two peoples, and in every war the people who started the war, that whole people, is the enemy. A declaration of war is not a war crime. Responding with war certainly is not. Nor is the use of the word “war”, nor a clear definition who the enemy is. Au contraire: the morality of war (yes, there is such a thing) is founded on the assumption that there are wars in this world, and that war is not the normal state of things, and that in wars the enemy is usually an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.
After we get rid of an entire people — including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure — perhaps then we will conclude that they have been “properly defeated” and we can finally make peace.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Monday, February 17, 2020

There is no need for cuts. Society is awash with cash.


Source: Zero Hedge
Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
2-17-20

The Virginia Company was an English investment company given a charter by the state. The investors of the Virginia Company financed the expeditions to the “New World” and the first permanent English settlement in Jamestown in 1607. The capitalists and members of the English ruling classes that led these expeditions had a hard time of it, but not as hard as the English, Irish, German, Scots, Africans and poor of the world that were pressed, dragged, coerced and violently brought along to do the work.

Tobacco played such an important role in the economy of the colony. Fines could be paid in it and it was the major export. The colonial project was a mono-culture, life and death depended on this crop. For the few it made them very rich. When the investors did not receive the returns agreed to for financing the project, they were given land as compensation. We are talking about the early 16th century here so the theft of the land on this continent by a colonial power started real early. It was not stolen from other individual owners of course, as the land, was owned collectively it was part of the natural world like the people on it.

The capitalist system of production cannot exist without free labor. In other words, those that own no capital but lived off the land and owned their own instruments of labor had to be set free from these encumbrances, or more accurately liberated from them. A human being that could produce their own food, their own clothes, their daily needs, would have no need to work for a capitalist. The British peasants were driven from their common land for the same reason. It was the inability of the new system to absorb all this labor power in its early stages that led to the horrors of the work houses and the introduction of capital punishment for vagrancy, begging or poaching for food. Marx talked of the Dutch introducing capitalist relations in to Java and the terrible decline in the population that resulted, “Sweet Commerce” wrote Marx sarcastically.

The English capitalists control of the slave trade in the coming decades brought more riches until slavery was abolished forcing English capitalism to enter the African continent and plunder more directly. The Treaty of Berlin between the European colonial powers was an attempt to temper the war among thieves for Africa’s riches.

If the capitalist class that arose from the womb of feudal society thought investing in tobacco 3,000 miles from home was a great deal it was because back then they couldn’t imagine the riches that time and plunder would bring.

As the image shows, last year there were five hedge fund managers that made more than one billion dollars each in 2019.  Hedge funds are pools of money that are managed by firms and are open only to what they call sophisticated or accredited investors and cannot be offered or sold to the general public. These are a very exclusive and private gang, finance houses banks and so forth. You won’t hear Trump attack this gang like he does the MS-13 or desperate economic refugees who he calls gangsters, criminals and murderers. What difference are these financial parasites, coupon clippers, to the Mexican drug cartels other than they are legal.

And we should not lose sight of the fact that the hedge fund manager is merely the guy that manages the investments of this pool of capital. We will never be told, willingly anyway, who the owners of this capital are and how much they collectively rake in over time.

Perhaps they are investors in mining in Bolivia or East Timor. Apparel companies in Cambodia, Bangladesh or Vietnam. They are the leading parasites of the world. Trump will not ask these people to pay for his wall because they would soon put a stop to such nonsense. The US taxpayer shouldn't either.

Maybe some of them invest in moneylending outfits that suck the lifeblood out of working people after they have already been ripped off through the labor process.

They never pass an opportunity to make money without working for it. Productive labor is alien to them. The moneylender is having a good time so far so investing in their vehicles. The credit card industry is a particularly good deal. Outstanding credit card debt hit a record high of $880 billion last September as interest rates on balances also hit a two decade high which was good for the credit card companies earning $179 billion in revenue from interest and fees. Bloomberg claims card companies will earn the highest returns in banking this year as credit card debt is rising faster than any other consumer debt (Housing, auto, etc.) Isn’t money lending frowned upon in the Bible?

Marx pointed out one of the main contradictions of the capitalist system, in that it produces too much, its productive power so great so that it reaches a point where it threatens the system itself. Workers as consumers are unable to buy back the goods that capitalist society produces and the system hits its limits as a functioning economic system. The problem is that the source of the capitalist’s wealth is contained in the commodity that must be sold, it contains within it, labor power that the capitalist paid for and labor power he didn’t. That’s the goose that laid the golden egg.  One way it overcomes this is debt, debt allows capitalism to go beyond its limits but like any sort of debt, at some point it has to be paid and the system goes in to crisis. It has been described as like an elastic band that stretches in order to function but at some point snaps back to it original length. That’s what happens with the capitalist system, workers are throw on the dole pile, value in the form of bricks and mortar and machinery are destroyed or idled.

Perhaps the best quote of the first quarter is from the credit card company, Capital One that states that “Acting in the best interest of our customers is our paramount consideration” when it comes to credit lines.

Yes, Capital One is a corporation that be quoted because a corporation is classified as a person with the rights thereof.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Bloomberg: Have the Democrats Found Their Man?


You have to hold your nose at this one. Source: Guardian.com

Richard Mellor

Afscme Local 444, retired
2-15-20

Here we go again in the topsy turvy world of US (bourgeois) politics. As I pointed out in an earlier post, if Donald Trump has accomplished anything good at all it is that politics, the political parties, the 2020 election and, gasp! Socialism is being talked about everywhere. Trump is so toxic, such a wrecking ball, that for some it’s unbearable to imagine waking up on November 6th with this degenerate still in the White House.

The complete bankruptcy and rottenness of the US political system, the end of the era during which the two parties of US capitalism ruled unchallenged, is coming to an ignominious end and we can thank Trump for helping that process along; not through sheer brilliance but just by being Trump.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, the Democrats can hardly be called an “opposition” party. It is, we must not forget, the most powerful capitalist party on the planet and along with its Republican cousin, the reason some 100 million U.S. voters refused to participate in 2016. But this former party of the slaveocracy will not go quietly.

The process of elimination for the Democrats has begun and the first two, Iowa and New Hampshire, states hardly reflective of US society, have put the Social Democrat Sanders and the small town mayor Pete Buttigieg in the spotlight.  I think we can say that Biden is finished, and Elizabeth Warren did not fare well either although she’s not out.

Desperate to keep Sanders from being the party’s candidate in November the Democratic National Committee, the party’s governing body, finds itself between a rock and a hard spot. Outside of Sanders and a lesser extent Warren, the Democrats have little to offer the US electorate and, like the Republicans, is mistrusted by the vast majority of US workers and middle class.  Any maneuver to keep Sanders out would undermine the party and the system further even if it was legal. What’s trending now in today’s parlance is “Vote Blue No Matter Who”. The Democrats color is blue, Republican red. This is how bad it is.

But within the space of a few days I think that the Democrats have found their candidate in the billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City. Bloomberg is worth some $62 billion and is financing his own campaign.  He is a former Republican so he will have many connections among the old school Republicans who want Trump out of the way as he’s so disruptive and bad for business, As Peggy Noonan, a more sober representative of US capitalism says, “…a New York Republican is essentially a Democrat with boundaries.” I’m not sure Giuliani fits that description but no matter. Noonan goes on to praise Bloomberg  in the Wall Street Journal while Holman Jenkins goes after him a little reflecting some serious tensions among the Republicans

The DNC cannot abide a Sanders nomination at the party conference in July, although some polls have indicated that he could beat Trump, and they don’t believe Warren could. It’s hardly likely that Buttigieg will do well among black folks given his history and Klobuchar is not likely to last. I reckon they think Bloomberg is their best chance to get them in to the White House in November. Bloomberg has deep pockets. He has donated $300,000 to the DNC and has spent $90 million on House Democratic races in the last year and a half and has no doubt contributed to many officials, mayors and other Democratic Party figures’ campaigns who make up the superdelegates.

Another important pointer is that the DNC has changed the rules that make candidates eligible for the next round of debates. The party scrapped what was referred to as the grassroots donor threshold, which has required candidates in every other debate to receive donations from tens of thousands of supporters to participate as well as have a certain percentage in the polls. This would have excluded Bloomberg because he is financing his own campaign and plans to spend $1 billion maybe more. He spent some $300 million in the first month or so of his year.

Despite spokespersons for the DNC claiming the change in rules has nothing to do with Bloomberg, the US voting public and the vast majority of Americans in general will not believe it. It will confirm the already existing view that the US has the best democracy money can buy.

Bloomberg’s previous support as Mayor of New York City for “Stop and Frisk”, that gives the police increased power to harass and target youth of color in the streets, is a bit of an obstacle but it is likely that will be overcome. A prominent Black Christian leader, AR Bernard,senior Pastor at the Christian Cultural Center, had Bloomberg at his church where he apologized for his support of this racist legislation and his remark when asked about it Bloomberg responded saying,  “Yes, that’s true. Why do we do it?  Because that’s where all the crime is. And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them.”.

I read this morning (I started this last night) that some major Obama donors will be holding a fundraising event for Bloomberg on February the 18th and addressing the gathering will be Steve Benjamin, the first black mayor of Columbia South Carolina and Kimberly Peeler-Allen who heads Higher Heights described as a “…national organization building the political power and leadership of Black women from the voting booth to elected office.” Surely Oprah will join the fray at some point. Bloomberg will woo his class allies in the black community, the small black bourgeois and the petit-bourgeois seeking to strengthen their position in capitalist society. Whether he can beat Trump of course is another matter.

In actuality, Bloomberg is the Democrat’s perfect candidate except he’s Jewish of course, not the problem it once as. Being a Zionist is also OK with the Democrats. With the absence of an alternative, an independent left alternative or party of the working class based on the unions, our communities and other working class organizations, marginalized sections of US society have used the Democratic Party as the only vehicle open to them. It is also the political party of the trade union officialdom that will most likely continue to support it. “now is not the time” “We must get rid of Trump then we can ….”. and so on.

If I am correct that Bloomberg is the man, this will intensify the division inside the party and hasten a split that should have occurred long ago. Sanders is hugely responsible for that failure along with organized labor’s leadership and the leadership of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) that has thrown the organization behind Sanders who, if he stays true to his word, will support a Bloomberg candidacy. I was talking to a few youthful members of DSA last week and the confidence that bordered arrogance of these mainly white these middle class youth was too much even for me. There was very little understanding of politics, the unions, and an overestimation of the their ability to take over the Democratic Party, a Wall Street machine, and make it work for working people.

I have said in discussion with friends and co-workers over the years that the Democratic Party came to be seen and has been to some extent, the party that cares more for workers and the poor etc. But in my view, is it not simply that the Democratic Party was in power during the two greatest social upheavals of the US working class in the 20th century, the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and industrial unionism, and the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s that followed that gave it this role?  The Black Revolt showed the real face of Apartheid America and its brutal racist regime to the world, something had to be done, concessions made. At the same time, the colonial revolutions were taking place as British direct rule was being evicted from its colonies in Africa and Asia.  In other words, the working class internationally and at home is the force that brought political concessions and in the U.S. that meant opening some previously closed doors to a section of the black population strengthening the black middle class.

I feel the need to make one comment about preachers. All groups in society have class divisions and we know this in our gut despite the obsession with identity politics aimed at suppressing the class question. There are no workers here, just middle class, rich and poor.

Among the black population just like every other, there is class division. There is a chasm between the preachers and heads of religious organizations that will support Bloomberg and receive healthy rewards for it and the working class black churches. In the black communities there are thousands of small churches that have working class congregations. When I ran for Oakland CA city council I spoke at a couple of them; I am not religious but I felt at home and welcomed there. In my workplace two of the leading fighters in the union were also preachers or very active in their churches. Bloomberg will not be seeking their endorsement and the best of them wouldn’t give it. Just like any organization, the unions included, there are con men and women, but not all.

I could be wrong in my views here but if objective conditions, the facts on the ground change, then it is important we change with them, Being right all the time is not a virtue.

Friday, February 14, 2020

British Jews in the Labor Party Stand up to Zionist Bullying


This is a powerful letter to the British Labor Party by a Jewish member in response to the ten pledges that contenders for the new leadership position have been asked to sign, part of which makes criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. Also read the other letter that this is in response to. These are principled people. The letters were originally printed in MondoWeiss   Richard Mellor

My life’s work as an anti-racist and anti-Zionist activist makes me an antisemite according to Labour
Prof. Haim Bresheeth

Jennie Formby
The Labour Party
Southside
105 Victoria Street
London SW1E 6QT

11/2/2020

Dear Jennie Formby,

I am writing you in the wake of recent events – the expulsion of Jo Bird and the excellent letter by Natalie Strecker, as I would like to ask you to kindly refer me to the Compliance Unit, for ‘antisemitism’ – for the reasons I detail below.

I would like to tell you about my background, in order to support my request. I am an academic, author and filmmaker, an ex-Israeli Jew who has been active for over five decades as a socialist, anti-Zionist and anti-racist activist. My parents were Polish Jews, survivors of Auschwitz and other camps. They ended forced onto death marches to the Third Reich after the Auschwitz camp was vacated by the SS in Mid-January 1945. My mother was freed by the British forces in Bergen-Belsen, and my father was freed by the US forces in Mauthausen. I was born in a Displaced Persons Camp in Italy, and arrived in Israel as a baby, during June 1948, as no European country would then accept Holocaust survivors.

I served in the Israeli Army (IDF) as a junior infantry officer, and took part in two wars, in 1967 and 1973, after which I turned into a committed pacifist. I came to study in Britain in 1972, and a short while afterwards I have learnt much about Zionism which I did not while in Israel, thus becoming an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights, and an anti-Zionist activist. I was an active supporter of the Anti-Apartheid Movement as a Labour member in the 1970s and acted against racist organisations throughout my life. My films, books and articles reflect the same political views outlined here; these include a popular book on the Holocaust (Introduction to the Holocaust, with Stuart Hood, 1994, 2001 2014), among others, a BBC documentary film (State of Danger, with Jenny Morgan, BBC2, March 1988) about the first Intifada, and a forthcoming volume on the Israeli Army (An Army Like No Other, May 2020).

I have re-joined the Labour Party after decades, when Jeremy Corbyn was elected to the leadership, as I regained hope in promoting a progressive agenda for the party, after years of Blairism.

It is evident that my background qualifies me as an antisemite according to the Labour coda based on the flawed IHRA ‘definition’ of antisemitism, or rather, the weaponised version of Zionist propaganda aimed against supporters of the human and political rights of Palestinians. But I would like to add some more damning evidence, so as to make the case watertight, if I may.

Over the decades, I took part in hundreds of demonstrations against Israeli brutalities and acted against the atrocities committed by of the military occupation, in various countries – Israel, in Europe and the US. I have published articles, made films and contributed to many books and have spoken widely in a number of countries against the Israeli militarised colonisation of Palestine, the denial of any rights to most Palestinians, the severe violations of human and political rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the brutalizing impact of the IDF on Jewish Israeli society. I have also analysed the false nature of the IHRA campaign in a recent article, written from an anti-Zionist, human rights perspective. I am active in a number of political groups affiliated or close to the Labour Party, who support Palestinian rights – Jewish Voice for Labour, and Jewish Network for Palestine, of which I am a founder member.


I am aware that according to the Labour Party rules, all the above constitute what you define as antisemitism.

Personally, it is clear to me that such accusations are false and sickening, but no one asked the members on the adoption of the IHRA definition and its examples. The adopted definition makes Israel the only state in the world which one may not criticise, unless they wish to court accusations of antisemitism. To criticise the British Empire, for example, is not anti-British, and, as we speak, still allowed by Labour Party rules. To criticise the US government for its attacks on Iraq in 1991 and 2003 is not anti-American, and still allowed by US regulations. To criticise Israeli apartheid colonialism is not anti-Israeli, neither is it antisemitic, of course. What is antisemitic and racist are the current regulations of the party, and until they are changed, Jews and others who support Palestine have no reason to support a party which treats them in this way.

The Labour Party regulations are what they are; However, I have no intention of stopping my activities, toning them down, or abandoning my principles in order to satisfy the twisted logic of the Labour Party. I insist on my right, indeed, on my duty as an ex-Israeli, as a Jew, as a citizen, as a socialist and last but not least, as a human being, to openly act against and criticise Israeli Apartheid and injustices, for as long as I am able to. I also believe that as a party member of what I believed to have turned into a progressive political organisation, this should be my right and duty; but I realise that my activities are against Labour Party dogma, regulation and current interests, so am accusing myself openly through this letter, and asking you to refer me to the Compliance Unit, so that justice may be done, and that I would be treated equally to my many friends who found themselves in the same predicament – Prof. Moshe Machover, Jackie Walker, Elleanne Green, Tony Greenstein, Glyn Secker, and many others faced with the Stalinist inquisitorial system developed by the Labour Party.

If you are to separate the ‘good Jews’ from the ‘bad ‘ones, please include me in the latter group, as nothing in my academic output, teaching history, publication record, or political activity can support the claim that I am not an antisemite according to your rules. I demand that justice be done.

I trust that my request will be taken seriously and acted upon, with the same combination of dispatch, bigotry and prejudice showed towards other members already accused of this offence. Failure to do so will be tantamount to evidence that the criteria for judging the existence of antisemitism are not uniformly applied.

I am ready to provide all evidence which may be required by the investigators of the Compliance Unit, to prove my guilt. Please do not hesitate to ask for assistance on points which remain unclear.

Regards,

Prof. Haim Bresheeth

Haim Bresheeth
Prof. Haim Bresheeth is a Professorial Research Associate in the SOAS School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Director of Camera Obscura Films. Other posts by Haim Bresheeth.