Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Christian Zionist Caucus Marches On

The US is a melting pot alright.Very Diverse. Where's the Plumber, the Truck Driver, the Clerk, the Nurse
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444,retired

So the right wing Christian Zionists blocked Trumpcare, the Predator in Chief's health care bill. One of the major obstacles for them was the provision in Obamacare that prevented insurance companies from refusing coverage to people who have existing conditions. Trumpcare left it in and they wanted it out. Let's be clear what that language means, because language is complicated as we know as the Freedom Caucus is not a freedom caucus at all as far as workers, the poor women, people of color and mother nature are concerned.

What it means is that the Right Wing Christian Capitalist's Caucus believes, with much support from Jesus apparently, that if you are a sick person, lets say you have a really harsh auto immune disease, they don't believe the private sector, insurance companies, should cover you and Obamacare is some sort of communist Muslim plot for including such an unfree clause. That doesn't mean they don't believe you should get medical care bless them, they just believe the taxpayer, should pay the tab and to ensure that tab is not too high, they will cut taxpayer contributions that would assist the uninsured.

This even upset the Wall Street Journal editorial board, the main voice of US capitalism that said of the Christian Zionists that "By insisting on the impossible over the achievable, these self-styled guardians of conservative purity could become the worst friends conservative ideas and free markets have had in decades."  "The Freedom-From-Reality Caucus" WSJ Ed 3-24-17

The political crisis of US capitalism gets deeper and deeper.  The Wall Street Journal, and the dominant sections of the US bourgeois that are getting close to the end of their tether with this political crisis are afraid that the next crisis on the horizon, that will join the economic and political one is social upheaval. The WSJ is concerned that Keeping Up With the Kardashians and March Madness won't keep the masses distracted forever. In the last analysis, consciousness is determined by material conditions and the serious, more sober US bourgeois know this.

The Christian Zionist Caucus is a different kettle of fish though. They are capitalists pretty much all of them, lawyers, doctors, businessmen (practically all men and all white with a couple exceptions.) they are the enemies of all workers. But they are different in that they are ideologically driven. They base their Middle East policy for example on some 2000 year old texts we know as the New Testament. they're a sort of US Taliban.  The conflict in the Middle East, and indeed all conflict throughout the world, is the result of the struggle between this chap Lucifer and the other supernatural creature that they believe created the universe, one is good, one is evil. Given the power of God I cannot understand why he, it is a he, didn't get rid of this Lucifer guy ages ago.

The members of the Freedom Caucus are created after this creator's image and it is their job to protect its dogma if they have to destroy the rest of the world to do it. As with Islam and all religions, the Cristian God is the only true God and is said to reserve a nice place for followers in heaven.

The Republican Party, unlike their colleagues in the other capitalist party, didn't really have an army of foot soldiers that they could use during the election cycles. Universal Suffrage was a concession the capitalist class were forced to concede soften the pressure from the working class over time. After all, they have both parties so the capitalist candidate always wins. With the politically and socially disenfranchised, workers/unions, black folks, environmentalists, gays, etc., having no party at all, the Democratic Party, became the go-to alternative. Organized Labor alone provide thousands of people that campaign for Democratic candidates, walking precincts, phone banking etc.

To counter this, the Republicans drew in the more backward Christian fundamentalists who know how to organize. Many have taken political office and the rest are conned by the preachers. Also, if on the economic issues which really are the most important, both parties are pretty much the same, why not vote along moral and religious lines?

Now the old school conservatives, the WSJ and others wished to hell the Freedom Caucus would actually go there. For them, making money is primary, the capitalist system, bourgeois democracy  and the interests of the class as a whole are paramount.  Religion and the Book of Revelations, a fantasmagorical tale of demons, cherubs and who knows what else is for the masses might be entertaining reading, but for Wall Street, profit is god.

It is hard to tell where this crisis will lead. It could lead to some real positive changes but the movement that can accomplish that is not yet present, is at best in its early stages. The force that is responsible for the rise of Trump and ascendancy of this gang below, the heads of organized labor, well, they're nowhere to be found, the Dogs that Don't Bark. is an appropriate title for them. Trump's administration is in crisis and unless he can build a coalition with Democrats and moderate republicans who knows what might happen. He has just released his plan to cut $18 billion from social programs. As we say often, sometimes the working class needs the whip of the counterrevolution to wake us from our stupor.

We must not forget that in Trump's first two years, if he lasts that long it is likely there will be another major recession or slump, that will increase tensions.  There are big storms up ahead.

Here is the Freedom Caucus, from Wikepedia. One of them,  is a professor, a Professor, of Preaching if there is such a thing. I also thought there was a woman among them but she must have legged it. After all, to lead is a man's job, to honor and obey, a woman's.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Just had to get this out. (Of my system)

Terror in Britain: A poem.

After the terrible events earlier

After the terrible events earlier
by Kevin Higgins

Days like this, our very way of life
(and death) under attack we realise
we are in this together: your pet assassin, Fang,
and the mouse whose corpse
she dumped on the doorstep this morning;

the sunlit girl playing hopscotch
in the school playground, and the man
across the road watching her intently
and sweating small waterfalls into
his vastly experienced cheap grey overcoat;

the widow in the dress she’ll wear
in her own coffin and the funeral director
his head tilted to indicate
how sad he is to be taking the last of her money;

the aid agency official on an all-expenses
paid trip to Phnom Penh
and the escort struggling for her breath
under his shuddering bulk;

the senile old dear putting out her budgie, Harry,
for the night and the burglar who’s coming
to cave her skull in with a hatchet;

the supermarket majority shareholder
looking out his hotel window
at the moon over Lake Geneva
and the checkout assistant with holes in both her shoes
whose soul he quietly owns.

Though rest assured
tomorrow, or the day after,
normal will be back to its British best
every paw for its grabbing,
infected self.

Until the next outbreak
of “terrible”, “sick”, “depraved”,
when we’ll be temporarily
in this (whatever this is)
together again.

Keynes, civilisation and the long run

John Maynard Keynes
by Michael Roberts

Keynesian economics dominates on the left in the labour movement.  Keynes is the economic hero of those wanting to change the world; to end poverty, inequality and continual losses of incomes and jobs in recurrent crises.  And yet anybody who has read the posts on my blog knows that Keynesian economic analysis is faulty, empirically doubtful and its policy prescriptions to right the wrongs of capitalism have proved to be failures.

In the US, the great gurus of opposition to the neoliberal theories of Chicago school of economics and the policies of Republican politicians are Keynesians Paul Krugman, Larry Summers and Joseph Stiglitz or slightly more radical Dean Baker or James Galbraith. In the UK, the leftish leaders of the Labour party around Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, self-proclaimed socialists, look to Keynesian economists like Martin Wolf, Ann Pettifor or Simon Wren Lewis for their policy ideas and analysis.  They bring them onto their advisory councils and seminars.  In Europe, the likes of Thomas Piketty rule.

Those graduate students and lecturers involved in Rethinking Economics, an international attempt to change the teaching and ideas away from neoclassical theory, are led by Keynesian authors like James Kwak or post-Keynesians like Steve Keen, or Victoria Chick or Frances Coppola.  Kwak, for example, has a new book called Economism, which argues that the economic faultline in capitalism is rising inequality and the failure of mainstream economics is in not recognising this.  Again the idea that inequality is the enemy, not capitalism as such, exudes from the Keynesians and post-Keynesians like Stiglitz, Kwak, Piketty or Stockhammer, and dominates the media and the labour movement.

This is not to deny the ugly importance of rising inequality, but to show that a Marxist view of this does not circulate.

Indeed, when the media wants to be daring and radical, publicity is heaped on new books from Keynesians or post-Keynesian authors, but not Marxists. For example, Ann Pettifor of Prime Economics has written a new book, The Production of Money, in which she tells us that “money is nothing more than a promise to pay” and that as “we’re creating money all the time by making these promises”, money is infinite and not limited in its production, so society can print as much of its as it likes in order to invest in its social choices without any detrimental economic consequences.  And through the Keynesian multiplier effect, incomes and jobs can expand.  And “it makes no difference where the government invests its money, if doing so creates employment”.  The only issue is to keep the cost of money, interest rates as low as possible, to ensure the expansion of money (or is it credit?) to drive the capitalist economy forward.  Thus there is no need for any change in the mode of production for profit, just take control of the money machine to ensure an infinite flow of money and all will be well.

Ironically, at the same time, leading post-Keynesian Steve Keen gets ready to deliver a new book advocating the control of debt or credit as the way to avoid crises.  Take your pick: more credit money or less credit.  Either way, the Keynesians drive the economic narrative with an analysis that reckons only the finance sector is the causal force in disrupting capitalism.

So why do Keynesian ideas continue to dominate?  Geoff Mann provides us with an insightful explanation.  Mann is director of the Centre for Global Political Economy at Simon Fraser University, Canada.  In a new book, entitled In the Long Run We are all Dead, Mann reckons it is not that Keynesian economics is seen as correct.  There have been “powerful Left critiques of Keynesian economics from which to draw; examples include the work of Paul Mattick, Geoff Pilling and Michael Roberts (thanks – MR)” (p218), but Keynesian ideas dominate the labour movement and among those opposed to what Mann calls ‘liberal capitalism’(what I would call capitalism) for political reasons.

Keynes rules because he offers a third way between socialist revolution and barbarism, i.e. the end of civilisation as we (actually the bourgeois like Keynes) know it.  In the 1920s and 1930s, Keynes feared that the ‘civilised world’ faced Marxist revolution or fascist dictatorship.  But socialism as an alternative to the capitalism of the Great Depression could well bring down ‘civilisation’, delivering instead ‘barbarism’  – the end of a better world, the collapse of technology and the rule of law, more wars etc.  So he aimed to offer the hope that, through some modest fixing of ‘liberal capitalism’, it would be possible to make capitalism work without the need for socialist revolution.  There would no need to go where the angels of ‘civilisation’ fear to tread.  That was the Keynesian narrative.

This appealed (and still appeals) to the leaders of the labour movement and ‘liberals’ wanting change.  Revolution was risky and we could all go down with it.  Mann: “the Left wants democracy without populism, it wants transformational politics without the risks of transformation; it wants revolution without revolutionaries”. (p21).

This fear of revolution, Mann reckons, was first exhibited after the French revolution.  That great experiment in bourgeois democracy turned into Robespierre and the terror; democracy turned into dictatorship and barbarism – or so the bourgeois myth goes. Keynesian economics offers a way out of the 1930s depression or the Long Depression now without socialism.  It is the third way between the status quo of rapacious markets, austerity, inequality, poverty and crises and the alternative of social revolution that may lead to Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot and Kim Jong-Un.  It is such an attractive ‘third way’ that Mann professes that it even appeals to him as an alternative to the risk that revolution will go wrong (see his last chapter, where Marx is portrayed as the Dr Jekyll of Hope and Keynes as the Mr Hyde of fear).

As Mann puts it, Keynes reckoned that, if civilised experts (like himself) dealt with the short-run problems of economic crisis and slump, then the long-run disaster of the loss of civilisation could be avoided.  The famous quote that makes the title of Mann’s book, that ‘in the long run we are all dead’, was about the need to act on the Great Depression with government intervention and not wait for the market to right itself over time, as the neoclassical (‘classical’ Keynes called it) economists and politicians thought.  For “this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs.  In the long run we are all dead.  Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past, the ocean is flat again” (Keynes).  You need to act on the short term problem or it will become a long-term disaster. This is the extra meaning of the long run quote: deal with depression and economic crises now or civilisation itself will come under threat from revolution in the long run.

Keynes liked to consider the role of economists as like dentists fixing a technical problem of toothache in the economy (“If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid”). And modern Keynesians have likened their role as plumbers, fixing the leaks in the pipeline of accumulation and growth. But the real method of political economy is not that of a plumber or dentist fixing short-run problems.  It is of a revolutionary social scientist (Marx), changing it for the long term. What the Marxist analysis of the capitalist mode of production reveals is that there is no ‘third way’ as Keynes and his followers would have it. Capitalism cannot deliver an end to inequality, poverty, war and a world of abundance for the common weal globally, and indeed avoid the catastrophe of environmental disaster, over the long run.

Like all bourgeois intellectuals, Keynes was an idealist.  He knew that ideas only took hold if they conformed to the wishes of the ruling elite. As he put it, “Individualism and laissez-faire could not, in spite of their deep roots in the political and moral philosophies of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, have secured their lasting hold over the conduct of public affairs, if it had not been for their conformity with the needs and wishes of the business world of the day…These many elements have contributed to the current intellectual bias, the mental make-up, the orthodoxy of the day.” Yet he still really believed that a clever man like him with forceful ideas could change society even it was against the interests of those who controlled it.

The wrongness of that idea was brought home to him in his attempts to get the Roosevelt administration to adopt his ideas on ending the Great Depression and for the political elite to implement his ideas for a new world order after the world war.  He wanted to set up ‘civilised’ institutions to ensure peace and prosperity globally through international management of economies, currencies and money. But these ideas of a world order to control the excesses of unbridled laisser-faire capitalism were turned into institutions like the IMF, World Bank and the UN Council used to promote the policies of imperialism, led by America.  Instead of a world of ‘civilised’ leaders sorting out the problems of the world, we got a terrible eagle astride the globe, imposing its will.  Material interests decide policies, not clever economists.

Indeed, Keynes, the great idealist of civilisation turned into a pragmatist at the post-war Bretton Woods meetings, representing not the world’s masses, or even of a democratic world order, but the narrow national interests of British imperialism against American dominance. Keynes told the British parliament that the Bretton Woods deal was not “an assertion of American power but a reasonable compromise between two great nations with the same goals; to restore a liberal world economy”. Other nations were ignored, of course.

To avoid the situation where in the long run we are all dead, Keynes reckoned that you must sort out the short run.  But the short run cannot be sorted to avoid the long run.  Deliver full employment and all will be well, he thought.  Yet, now in 2017, we have near ‘full employment’ in the US, the UK, Germany and Japan and all is not well. Real wages are stagnating, productivity is not rising and inequalities are worsening.  There is a Long Depression now and no end to apparent ‘secular stagnation’.  Of course, the Keynesians says that this is because Keynesian policies have not been implemented.  But they have not (at least not fiscal spending) because ideas do not triumph over dominant material interests, contrary to Keynes.  Keynes had it upside down; in the same way that Hegel had it upside down.  Hegel reckoned that it was the conflict of ideas that led to conflict in history, when it was the opposite.  History is the history of class struggle.

And anyway, Keynes’ economic prescriptions are based on fallacy.  The long depression continues not because there is too much capital keeping down the return (‘marginal efficiency’) of capital relative to the rate of interest on money.  There is not too much investment (business investment rates are low) and interest rates are near zero or even negative. The long depression is the result of too low profitability and so not enough investment, thus keeping down productivity growth.  Low real wages and low productivity are the cost of ‘full employment’, contrary to all the ideas of Keynesian economics.  Too much investment has not caused low profitability, but low profitability has caused too little investment.

What Mann argues is that Keynesian economics dominates the left despite its fallacies and failures because it expresses the fear that many of the leaders of the labour movement have about the masses and revolution.  In his new book, James Kwak quotes Keynes: “For the most part, I think that Capitalism, wisely managed, can probably be made more efficient for attaining economic ends than any alternative system yet in sight, but that in itself it is in many ways extremely objectionable. Our problem is to work out a social organisation which shall be as efficient as possible without offending our notions of a satisfactory way of life.”  Kwak comments: “That remains our challenge today. If we cannot solve it, the election of 2016 (Trump) may turn out to be a harbinger of worse things to come.”  In other words, if we cannot manage capitalism, things could be even worse.

Behind the fear of revolution is the bourgeois prejudice that to give power to ‘the masses’ means the end of culture, scientific progress and civilised behaviour.  Yet it was the struggle of working people over the last 200 years (and before) that got all those gains of civilisation that the bourgeois is so proud of.  Despite Robespierre and the revolution’s ‘devouring of its own children’ (a term used by pro-aristocrat Mallet du Pan and adopted by the British conservative bourgeois, Edmund Burke), the French revolution opened up the expansion of science, technology in Europe. It ended feudalism, religious superstition and inquisition and introduced Napoleonic laws.  If it had not taken place, France would have suffered more generations of feudal profligacy and decline.

As we note that it is 100 years this month since the start of the Russian revolution, we can consider the counterfactual.  If the Russian revolution had not taken place, then Russian capitalism may have industrialised a little, but would have become a client state of British, French and German capital and many millions more would have been killed in a pointless and disastrous world war that Russia would have continued to participate in. Education of the masses and the development of science and technology would have been held back; as they were in China, which remained in the grip of imperialism for another generation or more. If the Chinese revolution had not taken place in 1949,
China would have remained a client comprador ‘failed state’, controlled by Japan and the imperialist powers and ravaged by Chinese war lords, with extreme poverty and backwardness.

Keynes was a bourgeois intellectual par excellence.  His advocacy of ‘civilisation’ meant bourgeois society to him.  As he put it: “the class war will find me on the side of the educated bourgeoisie.”  There was no way he would support socialism, let alone revolutionary change because preferring the mud to the fish, it exalts the boorish proletariat above bourgeois and the intelligentsia who, whatever their faults, are the quality in life and surely carry the seeds of all human advancement?”

Indeed, economically, in his later years, he praised the very laisser-faire ‘liberal’ capitalism that his followers condemn now.  In 1944, he wrote to Friedrich Hayek, the leading ‘neo-liberal’ of his time and ideological mentor of Thatcherism, in praise of his book, The Road to Serfdom, which argues that economic planning inevitably leads to totalitarianism: “morally and philosophically I find myself in agreement with virtually the whole of it; and not only in agreement with it, but in a deeply moved agreement.”

And Keynes wrote in his very last published article, “I find myself moved, not for the first time, to remind contemporary economists that the classical teaching embodied some permanent truths of great significance. . . . There are in these matters deep undercurrents at work, natural forces, one can call them or even the invisible hand, which are operating towards equilibrium. If it were not so, we could not have got on even so well as we have for many decades past.”  

Thus classical economics and a flat ocean returns.  Once the storm (of slump and depression) has passed and the ocean is flat again, bourgeois society can breathe a sigh of relief.  Keynes the radical turned into Keynes the conservative after the end of Great Depression. Will the Keynesian radicals become mainstream conservatives when the Long Depression ends?

We shall indeed all be dead if we do not end the capitalist mode of production.  And that will require a revolutionary transformation.  A tinkering with the supposed faults of ‘liberal’ capitalism will not ‘save’ civilisation – in the long run.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

My union gave me a better life. But the union is only as good as you make it.

Richard Mellor
Local 444, retired

I have been adding to my "Union" album on Facebook but I thought I would share this one here. Back in 1982 my local, Afscme Local 444, a blue collar local representing workers at a water utility in the East San Francisco Bay, had a female president.

Although we parted ways a long time ago she was an important influence in getting me active in the local as were the old guys I worked with in my yard. Most of them were  older black men, most of them migrants from the south after WW11.  I know it was hard for Kate being in the mechanics shop as a woman because we discussed these things at time. She was from the middle class I would guess and had some political history although I don't really know what but she was a strong leader and a fighter. I remember she once told me that she couldn't win, if she asked for help it confirmed she was weak and couldn't do the job, if she didn't she was a "cold bitch". Not everyone makes a woman in a job like this makes them feel this way but it occurs too mcuh. It also occurs for men too as we are not supposed to ask for help are we?

For those of us in the maintenance department, in the four service yards who fixed or replaced broken mains and services, getting out of the ditch was always a priority. The public sector is undoubtedly more humane than the private but that damn ditch takes it out of you as our bodies in later years constantly reminds us. There were only so many forepersons positions, (we called them foremen then) so becoming a backhoe operator or truck driver was also a choice. Other than that you had to join management.

I eventually got a backhoe operators job. What a relief. Any time you get more money and less manual labor that's progress.  The problem was that as a public utility, when a vacancy arose for a backhoe operator for example, the public at large could not be excluded from the test.  What would happen then is that heavy equipment operators out of Operating Engineers local 3 would take the test or other skilled operators would and it would close a door of opportunity for folks already working there.

Existing employees who might be working for a foreman that liked them, a fishing buddy or who simply wanted to help, would let some guys practice on machinery at lunch time and stuff like that. We did not have an in house training program.  Relying on the luck of the draw was unfair, discriminatory and sowed division. Black workers, simply due to the results of historic institutionalized racism were affected even more so by this process.

The union filed a grievance arguing that opportunity was lost for those already employed (I can't find the grievance at the moment). Women and other marginalized sections of the working  class in this industry were harmed. I think it was initially filed by an older black worker who actually never got a job out of it himself after we won an internal training program. He was a scab in the strike three years later chauffeuring bosses' around among other things.

The point is, that I came out number one on the test for training and it got me out of the ditch. It didn't mean one got the job, but it was a good chance you could. Some women got truck driver and operator jobs as well, as the training program included trucks and backhoes.

My local was a very democratic rank and file run local. The bureaucracy had not penetrated it and, to its credit, the national union did not interfere in the local in the way some have been known to do.

Also, for a blue collar local, women, although a minority in terms of numbers, played a very prominent role in the leadership and as stewards on the shop floor in the carpenters shop, janitorial, the machine shop, meter reading and also at SD1 the water treatment plant where all the waste in our area ended up. We had another female president and officers who were women, a number of them gay women. I know they had it difficult, but they came to be well respected by those of us who fought alongside them for the betterment of all workers. It is struggle and the class solidarity that arises through it that changes consciousness, that undermines the divide and rule ideologies of racism, sexism, nationalism.

We could never have accomplished this without organization, without a union.  I was with a buddy who was part of this process last night and we were talking about some of this history and how some of the old timers have been forgotten as no one writes the history. Old conservatives, black and white, Latino and Asian, who fought for the right to a union and a collective voice on the job. Black workers, despite dealing with prejudice in the union as well, fought against it knowing that unity with all workers increased their power and rights too. Workers united cannot be defeated as they say.

As I said in that piece I posted yesterday, those white workers that voted for Trump, those that are not Nazi's and white nationalists but simply hoping him and his gang might return them to better days are in for a rude awakening. Unfortunately their vote, and their silence in the face of Trump's racism, misogyny and xenophobia has hurt them, has increased the divide between workers of different colors and backgrounds that is crucial to building a genuine secure and productive future for them and their families. They would have strengthened the class bond between themselves and workers of color as well as all women had they voted for no one.

It's a setback but it can easily be overcome if we learn from our mistakes. We'd better learn from them if we don't want to end up paupers.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Trumka, Trump and the White Worker

Trump and AFL-CIO head Trumka
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Richard Trumka is upset. Trumka is the head of the AFL-CIO, the national trade union federation representing 12.5 million US workers. He’s mad at the “moderates” in the White House who are “starting to hijack Trump’s trade agenda.” making it hard for Trump to keep his promises. He didn’t call out China for being a currency manipulator on his first day in office as he promised. He hasn’t opened negotiations on NAFTA as he promised and he hasn’t said anything about imposing “steep tariffs on China and Mexico” as he promised.  Trumka would say he’s happy Trump didn’t lock up Clinton or fulfill his pledge to get rid of Obamacare most likely. It’s trade Trumka is concerned about, he wants the US government to force US capitalists to invest in and hire American workers.

Trumka is a protectionist.  He ignores the lessons of Smoot Hawley, the series of protectionist measures introduced to protect US industry in 1930 right after the Great Depression hit. US trading partners retaliated and Smoot Hawley made the depression and suffering worse, helping drive the move to world war. The world economy is far more integrated now than it was then and the “moderates” know that. And where does Trumka's position put solidarity across borders? How is siding with US capitalists against their foreign rivals help us build solidarity with foreign workers working for those rivals? You're right---it doesn't. What Trumka is saying is lay off Germans, lay off Japanese or Mexicans or whatever. It's a disaster, the Team Concept at the international level.

Trumka and the clique atop organized labor are picky when it comes to criticism mind you. Their buddy Obama screwed them with the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), an issue so important paid staffers around the country were touting it as the savior of the labor movement----for them. Obama abandoned the “government option” another promise, as he crafted Obamacare that has some good points as evidenced by the inability of the present gang to dismantle it; though it is completely inadequate as a health care system for a nation of 300 million people.

The union hierarchy has literally given billions of dollars over the years to the Democratic Party, that other party of Wall Street. Their candidate, Hillary Clinton received $31 million in the race against Trump. In one of those rare moments when the two most unpopular candidates in the history of US politics were on offer, the likes of Trumka and the union officialdom and most of the US bourgeois found themselves cheering for the same person.

Years of supporting the Democratic Party and offering concession after concession to the bosses’ in the hope of better days has driven millions of workers to abandon politics altogether. Why bother voting when the only result has been lower living standards? The relationship the union leadership has built with the bosses' based on labor peace and safeguarding profits, has lead many workers and union members, to draw the conclusion that their leaders are simply corrupt.

The likes of Trumka have no independent ideas of their own. They often come out of the universities and think tanks of the capitalist class where they soak up their economic policies and political world outlook like a sponge. The fact is that we live in a world economy like it or not, the laws of capitalism dictate it. Yet within this world economy the existence of nation states each with competing interests act as a constant obstacle to growth, a source of friction and eventually war. The argument for free trade on the one hand or protectionist policies on the other are different capitalist solutions to an insoluble problem, they both lead to disaster for workers.  Globalization has alleviated this problem to a degree, but only temporarily. Only a rational, collectively owned managed and planned global system of production can overcome this contradiction and open a period of genuine cooperation and peace between a global federation of democratic socialist states.

This is not an option for the heads of organized labor so they flip flop from one extreme to the other, each of them trying to protect their little corner of the labor broker market as that’s how they see themselves, they are labor brokers and its their job to provide this valuable commodity to capitalists at the best possible price under the most favorable conditions.

Before Trump’s election victory, a victory the vast majority of experts did not foresee, Trumka savaged Trump. “Trump is Trump….” , he told the Financial Times in September, “……He’s a racist, he’s a bigot, he’s xenophobic and he’s a misogynist. But most of all he’s anti-worker. He’s always been anti-worker,”  Trumka was convinced Trump would lose you see, hence the vitriolic tone.  As we say in the US, "Who's your daddy now?"

When he met with Trump in January of this year, Trumka said: “We had a very productive first meeting with the President-elect,”  Not be outdone by the Predator in Chief he rushed out a tweet: "A very honest and productive conversation this morning with @realDonaldTrump,"

Trumka and the whole lot of them that pledged to "work with" rather than "against" this degenerate and enemy of working people have to be sent packing.

Now Trumka is defending him against the moderate free traders who are “hijacking” his plan.

As I have stated before, the leadership at the helm of organized labor are responsible for the rise of Trump. They are the reason workers do not have a party of our own and the movement against the capitalist offensive has been delayed and will, as it arises, be wracked with confusion at times and periods of reaction and violence as the US working class struggles to find its feet.

Too many opportunities have been lost. Over decades, we have seen a steady decline in living standards and rising inequality as a minority of families accumulate untold wealth. The security state has grown in preparation for the battles to come. Workers’ efforts to fight back like the numerous strikes in the 1980’s and early nineties were defeated by a combination of the employers and our own leaders. Only recently, building trades leaders met with Trump and praised him as the public sector union heads accept fate and hope they can get their Democratic friends in to office in 2020. They continue to urge workers to vote for a political party they abandoned long ago.

Racism has been very effective method of dividing the working class in the US as white workers got the better jobs, better housing, education, and generally a better life. Black Americans have historically been denied an entry in to this world and all statistics bear this out. From slavery through Jim Crow and today, institutionalized racism has created two worlds here.

But it has become harder for the US ruling class to provide these benefits to the white worker. If racism was a good thing for the white worker we would have had a better standard of living in the Apartheid South but we didn't. Racism was stronger, unions and worker solidarity weaker and wages and conditions worse.

The post war blue collar jobs that were an entry in to the middle class for white workers in particular have gone. After Trump’s Nov. 8 win, Trumka said he reached out to the Trump to say he was willing to work with him on improving existing trade agreement. “Entire communities have lost their purpose and identity. And we have to fix that,” Trumka said. First off, Trump doesn't give a crap that Trumka reached out to him, he's not afraid of Trumka.  And Trumka is wrong on this jobs issue. These jobs have not solely gone to China as he wants us to believe but fallen prey to innovation and technology. These jobs are not coming back.

This and the disgust millions of workers have with the two capitalist parties and consequently politics in general was another opportunity lost. Millions of workers have given up. Others saw in Trump a rebel, not one of the Washington crowd they hate. On the left, the Democrat Sanders had the same appeal.  Many of the white working class voters that voted for Trump had previously voted for Obama.

US capitalism is forced by the system to drive down the living standards of the US working class and the white working class has not been exempt. The life expectancy of white workers without a college degree is declining. There is massive white, mostly rural poverty and as the Financial Times points out, “In 1999, white men and women aged 50 to 54 with a high school education had a mortality rate 30% lower than black Americans. In 2015 it was 30% higher.”*

This is a staggering statistic. It has only recently been raised to any significant extent and is masked to a degree by the declining mortality rate among college educated white Americans. The information is in a paper published yesterday by two economists, Anne Case and Sir Angus Deaton.  This is a generation abandoned by capitalism, a generation whose parents benefited from institutionalized racism in the US and the rise of US power in the post World War Two era.

Opioids have been a contributor to this crisis but drug addiction, the health care system and the statistics above are all a product of the so-called free market. “There was something rotten going on even before Oxycotin was introduced,….”, says Ms Case, “…people want to feed the beast (of despair). They may do that with drugs. They may do that with alcohol. They may do that with food.” I might add with stuff that looks like food and fills the belly and they may also do it with religion.

Another opportunity is lost. The conditions are ripe for an alternative in the US. Had the heads of organized labor offered one, used the resources, human and financial, and their control of an apparatus with a huge national structure to attack the source of the problem, many of the people that were drawn to Trump or Sanders would have provided the base for a real working class movement and political alternative to Trump and Clinton. One third of Sanders supporters went over to Trump from what I read. People do desperate things in desperate times.

But Trumka and the trade union hierarchy offered Clinton to the masses. The heads of organized labor are primarily to blame for the rise of Trump and his election. And now we have him, they will “work” with him. The union member has a responsibility here to remove this clique that heads our organizations.

I would like to finish with this point. I understand that many white workers that voted for Trump did so out of desperation. A lot of them voted for Obama and received no relief, millions of blacks received no relief under Obama also. Am I correct in saying only 12% of black folks turned out to vote last November? These white workers put aside, ignored the horrible racist, sexist and vicious anti-immigrant campaign Trump ran. “I’m no racist, just get me a job, I have to feed the family.”

Well not only will Trump not get them a job; he will savage them further and they are in an even weaker position now because by voting for Trump, supporting Trump in any way, not openly condemning Trump for the degenerate that he is, those white workers sacrificed unity with workers of color and women for a pipe dream. They kept their mouths shut in the hope this degenerate would help them out and in doing this they have weakened their own ability to fight back.  Ito make it openly clear we  is not difficult to overcome racial division, but we have to have working class unity to do it. And part of that is for us as white workers is to make it absolutely clear that we will not be conned in to this false unity with the white capitalist class that rule society based on a unity of skin tone. They have no love for us.

“This looks like a generation that is never going to recover from this and as they get older its going to get worse.” said Deaton, the other author of the paper.

Deaton doesn’t see the working class as a force at all in society, if he does think of it, it is likely in a negative light. But the working class will fight back and it will seek class allies in that process. Those that voted for Trump would have been in a stronger position now had they not voted for anyone. More importantly, if they had openly condemned his racist and sexist attacks on other sections of the working class. This would have changed the balance of class forces in our favor rather than divide and weaken us.

It’s never too late of course, and if we are to drive back the capitalist offensive, overcoming institutionalized racism and other forms of class division is crucial.

* White ‘deaths of despair” Surge in the US:  FT 3-26-17

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trumpcare Bill Pulled. Anothet setback for Trump

Trump Administration is in deep crisis early on
Trump: “I’ve been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do politically speaking is to let Obamacare explode…..It is exploding right now.”

Paul Ryan: “We’re going to be living with Obmacare for the foreseeable future”

The vote on the health bill that is supposed to replace Obamacare has been postponed. Trump has informed the media, the “fake media” no less, that the bill has been “pulled.” Trump asked Ryan to pull it and the Republicans headed in to an emergency session. Paul Ryan is supposed to be giving a press conference at 4 pm today.

Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee has stated that the bill is dead. 

This is a huge setback for Trump and his Administration and adds to the thrashing he got from the Wall Street Journal editorial pages three days ago.  The Wall Street Journal is the leading mouthpiece of US capitalism and its comments have to be taken seriously. This is not the gutter press, the mass media that is aimed at the masses, it is the voice of the US ruling class and meant for its members.

The WSJ editorial compared Trump to “…a drunk to an empty gin bottle...” because of his refusal to back of or apologize for his unsubstantiated claims that former president Obama and the British wiretapped Trump Tower.

“If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him?”,  the WSJ wrote.  This voice of the US ruling class also took a swipe at Breitbart, the right wing news agency once run by Trumps close advisor Steve Bannon, sometimes referred to as President Bannon.

It is becoming clear that a dominant section of the US bourgeois is losing patience with Trump. His endless double speak, lies and threats normally through Twitter, are a destabilizing factor and a hindrance to profit taking. Capital loathes instability and obstacles to the business of making money. The Journal pointed out in its editorial that Trump’s approach, his “false claims” survived the campaign as his supporters treated them as “mere hyperbole”.  This may have been true in the sense that some people may have thought Trump was just mouthing off but the fear he has instilled in people, women, blacks and immigrants especially is real as a whole section of Trump supporters took him seriously and welcomed his racist, misogynistic and nationalist tone. There was no hyperbole as far as they were concerned and the increase in racial violence and killings by white nationalists and Nazi elements are a product of Trump’s rhetoric, hyperbole or not.

But the majority of the bourgeois are nearing the end of the road as far as Trump is concerned. Their candidate, Hillary Clinton lost the election and they admit that she was not a popular alternative but, as the WSJ adds, “…. now he’s President, and he needs support beyond the Breitbart cheering section that will excuse anything”

The collapse of the health care bill is another nail in the coffin. The problem is what to do?

US capitalism is in such a deep crisis that it has been almost impossible to predict what will happen.  But it is beginning to appear like Trump will be, as some have predicted, the shortest serving president in US history.  I for one, cant’ say with certainty that he will be gone before too long but they won’t put up with him for much longer.  There are huge divisions with in the Trump Administration and the Republican Party is slipping back in to a fractious melee after a brief period of euphoria after the Trump win.

If it seems likely that Trump is incapable of showing a real sense of class solidarity and loyalty by building coalitions and reaching out to Democrats as some like McCain have said there are other options. There is still the claim by the ex British spy that the Russians have something on Trump that happened during his visit there. There are ongoing investigations by the FBI in to his and members of his cabinet’s dealings 2ith Russia that could be used as a reason to remove him. 

The US ruling class in no stranger to assassination and if they had to they would resort to that although it is highly unlikely as it would increase the already volatile and unstable environment in the US. Trump is at war with the second branch of the US government’s three branches, the Judiciary. His attacks on judges as individuals and the Judiciary as an important aspect of the state apparatus are dangerous as they undermine the credibility of the system, of class rule, what we know as Bourgeois Democracy. This concerned them all when Trump suggested he might not accept the election result if he lost.  If he could do that, so could we.

As is usually the case, the silence from the heads of organized labor is deafening.  The building trades leaders, as we are all aware by now, met with him and spent some time kissing his ass in the hope of getting a few jobs out of an infrastructure program that may well head down the same road as the health care bill. Their dream of increased revenue to keep their part of the “union business” going and their obscene salaries safe is fading along with Trump’s popularity.  Their colleagues atop the public sector unions have been whining, hoping things will change in 2020.

Things are happening so rapidly this commentary will be almost ancient news by the time it’s posted on this blog but as we remind ourselves in our weekly phone conferences, we are closer to another severe recession or deep slump. This will add fuel to the fire and give rise to more social unrest and build upon the developments we have seen with the women’s marches, the airport protests against attacks on racial and religious minorities and other developments.

Some of us, I am one of them, are grateful to Trump for giving confidence to those normally silent racists to come out in to the open. It’s better that we can see them and deal with them openly.

One last point I want to make is that I do not think we should support the state, security forces investigating or interfering with a media outlet as they are with Breitbart and others I understand from reports. It sets a dangerous precedent. Please feel free to share your views about this; we are in interesting times. There will be increased attacks on workers up ahead and, as we have said before, it is the “whip of the counter evolution” that will drive the movement from below as workers, women, people of color and all those who are savaged by the market are forced to fight back and begin to unite along class lines.   

At present, the developing movement is hugely influenced by the petite bourgeois and middle class elements. The failure of the heads of organized labor to mobilize their 14 million members contributes to this, but capitalist crisis which includes the costs of foreign wars in defense of corporate profits, will soon change this dynamic.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Arrogant US Imperialism Demands Money From Cambodia

By Richard Mellor Afscme Local 444, retired

“[The U.S.] dropped bombs on our heads and then they ask us to repay. When we do not repay, they tell the IMF [International Monetary Fund] not to lend us money,” Hun Sen said at an Asia-Pacific regional conference earlier this month.”

US imperialism, led by Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon waged an illegal undeclared war in two small countries bordering Vietnam in the early 1970’s, Cambodia and Laos. In addition to the 3 million or so Vietnamese that died in that war, the foray in to Cambodia took upward of 600,000 lives, mostly peasants and rural farmers, the US killed another 400,000 or so in Laos. The US slaughter of Cambodian and Laotian civilians was a genocidal attack by the most powerful military in the world on a defenseless, rural peasant population.

Kissinger and Nixon are war criminals, mass murderers. Nixon has since died but Kissinger, a friend of presidents and politicians, is still alive and a respected American hero. The massive destruction and loss of life in Cambodia and Laos was no accident, no “error in judgment”; it was US policy and had been carried out with gusto in Vietnam. . John Naughton, the Assistant secretary of state in 1967 said of US strategy in Vietnam that, “We seem to be preceding on the assumption that the way to eradicate the Vietcong is to destroy all the village structures, defoliate all the jungles, and then cover the entire surface of South Vietnam with Asphalt.”

As they do today, the US public is kept in the dark about the realities, consequences and decisions of the US war machine. Back then, it was the general rule to count all dead bodies as enemy soldiers. Even if that were the case, and we now know it was not, people defending themselves against aggression, as the Vietnamese were doing, does not make them enemies.

The code names for the raids in to Cambodia and Laos were, as Christopher Hitchins suggested in his book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, “…a menu of bombardment…” with such colorful names as Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner and Dessert. Between March 1969 and May 1970 3,630 raids went across the border in to Cambodia dropping more than 500,000 tons of explosives on Cambodia's countryside. In addition, the US dropped defoliants on the peasants’ food supply that, “…created a massive health crisis which naturally fell most heavily on children, nursing mothers, the aged and already infirm, which persists today.” Hitchens, The Trial…p 35.

With its use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium in Iraq the same scenario is being played out as thousands of Iraqi people are dying from cancers related to the US invasion and deformities among newborns related to the invasion are widespread.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the architects of the slaughter in Indochnina were celebrating the results of their creative activity. Chief of Staff HR Haldeman’s diary entries explain, “Kissinger’s “operation breakfast” a great success. He came beaming in with the report, very productive.” Haldeman wrote in March 1970 .

A Haldeman entry 22 April 1970 says that Nixon, following Kissinger in to a National Security Council meeting, “turned back to me with a big smile and said K’(issinger)’s really having fun today, he’s playing Bismarck.” Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger.

"Everything that flies on everything that moves"
Henry Kissinger on US policy in Cambodia.

According to Hitchens, the US Senate Subcommittee on Refugees estimated that between March 1968 and 1972 “…..more than three million civilians were killed or injured or rendered homeless.” I guess it’s hard to tell when the planes carrying the weapons of mass destruction fly at such altitudes the accuracy and extent of the damage can’t be seen. In the same period, the US dropped more than 4,500, 000 tons of high explosives on Indochina and that doesn’t include the defoliants and pesticides it poured over their food, on the people and even on its own troops.

And the US warmongers want Cambodia to repay a paltry loan it made to them that has doubled due to interest.

The staggering hypocrisy and arrogance of US imperialism.

See: The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens and;
Sideshow: by William Shawcross.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Musical Chairs in Germany

from Dan Armstrong in Germany

The last leader of the German Social Democratic Party, SPD to proclaim his humble, working-class origins, was Gerhard Schroeder. The same Schroeder who embraced neo-liberal ideas, led a frontal attack on the well-developed system of social security, savagely cut unemployment and welfare payments to "improve incentives for capital to invest and modernise" and during this process caused half a million Social Democratic workers and trade unionists to leave the party in disgust and millions more voters to abandon their traditional voice.

One incidental effect was to strengthen the nascent left reformist party Die Linke which has since then competed with the SPD for votes. On Sunday 19th March, a new leader of the SPD was elected, unanimously, Martin Schulz. While party members are euphoric  and the party's popularity has shot up to equal that of Merkel's CDU, what differences, if any, will follow from Schulz's election as party chairman and candidate for Chancellor at the September General Election?

Until recently, the share of the vote for the SPD slumped year on year several percent so that by the end of 2016 the party could only command 19 and 20%.  After a good initial showing of 11-12%, the Linke has mainly stagnated over recent years, failing to appeal to the mass of workers and left voters, unable to produce political programmes which offered little more than demanding more teachers and opposing increases in military spending. It now receives around 6-7% in many regions, more in the east, but importantly has lost parliamentary seats in numerous states and seems to be having difficulties in the elections pending in industrial Northrhine Westfalia, hovering around the 5% minimum threshold vote.

For many years, the SPD has been in government coalition in Berlin as a junior partner with the CDU/CSU. Their record has not been entirely negative. Using their few ministries, the SPD pushed through a universal minimum wage, an affordable house-building programme and so on which have been well received by workers’ organisations.

Meanwhile the German economy has been slowly struggling out of the recession of 2008 and is now performing better than most capitalist countries in the EU. The budget cuts for public services been less than in other countries but have been enough to turn the deficit into a surplus, a rare event in the EU. Leaning on the growth, a whole number of unions in metal-working and logistics industries, for example, have pushed through long-overdue wage rises of 4-5%, each success emboldening further layers of the working class.

Growth of a new right wing
The massive influx of refugees from the Middle East was met with contradictory views. Big corporations and strategists of capitalists saw the influx as a welcome potential for meeting labour shortages and, once integrated, for refreshing pensions funds etc. Smaller localised firms plus many of the depressed badly-paid layers or unemployed fearful that their conditions could worsen, resented the influx. The anti-Euro and anti EU grouping of the AfD split several times and lined up with radical rightwing grouplets whose numbers were swelled through mass anti-immigrant demonstrations so that the AfD is now looking at entering many if not all regional parliaments with 10-12%, eclipsing the Linke and often the Greens too.

Decline of Merkel's Centre
Many of the capitalist, liberal and left forces on a continental scale became alarmed at this revival of protectionism and xenophobia although many wily conservatives understand the usefulness of an ethnically divided working class. At the same time, the rightwing groups conjured up the spectre of the "threat from the east".  The CDU's sister party in Bavaria, the CSU, departed from the liberal line of Merkel and demanded an imposition of numerical limits on immigrants. Such a demand is against the German constitution which guarantees refugees the right of admission. This split inside the dual conservative party led to the growth of the AfD and also to the decline Merkel's popular support as the Mother of the Nation. Previously running at over 40% of voters, the CDU/CSU began a steep decline down to the low 30 percent.  In addition, the number of non-voters increased from election to election.

At this juncture of events, the left organised resistance in the form of counter demonstrations and public protest, usually in grassroots and ad hoc groups which have been able to come together to stage impressive public showings of a refusal to accept the rightward drift. In half a dozen countries, popular movements with vague catalogues of mostly anti-capitalist aims sprang up. In Germany there had already been quite a long history of mass antifascist blockades whenever tiny neo Nazi groups marched or held rallies. Following the British exit from the EU and several ominous anti-democratic measures taken in eastern and central Europe, millions on the left asked themselves what the future may bring - time to resist or time to retreat? The American left displayed admirable and innovative forms of protest against the rightward slide under Trump. Perhaps it was these protests which encouraged the working class movement to seek a new course in the early months of 2017. Opinion polls began to reflect this shift and the SPD began to increase its support significantly.

The arrival of Martin Schulz
And so came the change bringing in Schulz. The leading figures in the SPD hardly differ from each other in any significant way. The term of office of President Gauck was to fortuitously expire in March 2017; the SPD, embedded in a government coalition with the CDU/CSU, put forward one of its party leaders, Steinmeyer, to stand for the post. Steinmeyer, previously foreign minister was a close accomplice of Gerhard Schroeder's reactionary economic and social policies and the rightwing coalition partners could hardly object to his becoming head of state. Thus began the game of musical chairs. Steinmeier moved from the Foreign Minister to the President, the chairman of the party and putative Chancellor candidate Sigmar Gabriel was chosen to become Foreign Minister in Steinmeyer's place.

The post of party chairman and combined with it the Chancellor candidate, became vacant. Gabriel had no chance of winning and stepped down. Opinions were canvassed and a candidature of Martin Schulz for these two posts was mooted and found favour with the establishment. Week by week his popularity was stoked until a campaign for "Martin", by now called only by his first name, was in full flow. Now at the Special Conference of the SPD, a massive delegate vote has taken place and Schulz received unanimous support. Schulz, unlike any possible rivals, does not belong to the established SPD leadership. He progressed through local politics and then entered the EU parliament and although he did support Chancellor Schroeder's neo-liberal policies, this was hardly noticed because his base was in Brussels.

For the moment Schulz is riding a wave of popularity in both the party and in the general public not seen since the time of Willy Brandt in the 1970s. The SPD support rose from a weak 20% to 25 then 30, now 33%, neck and neck with the once powerful CDU/CSU. In 1972 Brandt enthused young and old, workers and students, was elected as the first socialdemocratic Chancellor under the non-political slogan: "Willy waehlen - Vote for Willy"  and the SPD became the biggest fraction in parliament for the first time ever. Brandt campaigned for a controlled decline in heavy industry and cushioned those workforces with planned redundancies and rundowns. Workers participation and a more open attitude to Eastern Europe completed the reform image.

Similarly Schulz' supporters are personalising the SPD image asking for a vote for Martin. Schulz was elected with the simplest and non-specific platform: defence of the EU, more equality, justice and respect. He scattered in a few possible promises such as free education for all from the kindergarten to the university, extension of unemployment pay, and so on.

In the hope of a fresh breeze, there is a swelling enthusiasm for the party, at the time of writing a growth in membership of 13,000 (out of 450,000). There are still six months until the General Election in September 2017. Meanwhile several regional elections will deliver a running commentary on developments. In the summer, the SPD congress will decide on its electoral programme.  So far we have heard no policies to combat temporary employment, acute housing shortages in the big cities, measures to renew crumbling infrastructure, etc. An SPD president and chancellor would embolden the labour movement to press their demands.

There is no question: an SPD revival is underway. For the first time in a generation there is a realistic hope of renewing an SPD government. The tiny Linke meanwhile is still failing to attract more support; some sectarians in its ranks are already denouncing Schulz, saying that he is no different from previous SPD leaders and that he will betray. These tiny "purist" forces sound shrill in the face of groundswell of rank and file support for the traditional party of the workers' movement.

One of the main demands of the Schulz campaign is, for example, to combat inequality. It will be a simple matter to show and explain how to combat the gulf in incomes and how to redistribute them by intervention in the large firms. By denouncing the SPD now will surely demoralise many potential supporters as they will understand this as a call to give up the fight. The left can try to extend the minimal programme of the SPD and show the need for action against the forces of capital. It will be necessary to try to gather the forces for a new left wing in the SPD and bring them together with solid working class militants in the Linke.

The views above are those of the author.