Tag Archives: Idle No More

Occupy The White House

By Justin Akers

The Revolution

Bernie Sanders is a socialist who has somehow managed to land a spot in the US Senate, the most deliberative, prestigious body of government in a nation that is at the helm of a globe and space-spanning capitalist empire. It is an act of political genius for someone to have accomplished such a feat in an era of neoliberal hegemony. He is obviously astoundingly good at politics, but he conceals his political skill with a gruff, grandpa-next-door demeanor.

A zealot is someone who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their ideals. Sanders is a socialist zealot. If you take the time to watch him speak, you will quickly come to realize that he is passionately driven by socialist ideals. That is to say, he is passionately devoted to justice.

Never before in the history of the United States has such a prominent, establishment political figure espoused such a radical economic philosophy in such a sustained and public manner as what you are about to witness in the months ahead.

The Bernie Sanders campaign is incredibly significant, and it is revolutionary.

There are some socialists and radicals out there who want to count all the ways that Sanders is not a “true” socialist. They say he isn’t radical enough. But the purists are missing the point entirely: Sanders is openly socialist, he is already in the Senate, and he is aiming for the Presidency. Socialism is out now, on the Presidential campaign trail.

Read more » Films For Action
See more » http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/occupy-the-white-house/

Tens of thousands march in London against coalition’s austerity measures

An estimated 50,000 people in London addressed by speakers, including Russell Brand, after People’s Assembly march

By  and agencies

Tens of thousands of people marched through central London on Saturday afternoon in protest at austerity measures introduced by the coalition government. The demonstrators gathered before the Houses of Parliament, where they were addressed by speakers, including comedians Russell Brand and Mark Steel.

An estimated 50,000 people marched from the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in central London to Westminster.

“The people of this building [the House of Commons] generally speaking do not represent us, they represent their friends in big business. It’s time for us to take back our power,” said Brand.

Read more » The Guardian
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/21/protest-march-austerity-london-russell-brand-peoples-assembly#start-of-comments

Thomas Piketty’s Capital: everything you need to know about the surprise bestseller

The radical economist’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has angered the right with its powerful argument about wealth, democracy and why capitalism will always create inequality. Not read it yet? Here’s what it means

By The Guardian

That capitalism is unfair has been said before. But it is the way Thomas Piketty says it – subtly but with relentless logic – that has sent rightwing economics into a frenzy, both here and in the US.

His book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has shot to the top of the Amazon bestseller list. Carrying it under your arm has, in certain latitudes of Manhattan, become the newest tool for making a social connection among young progressives. Meanwhile, he is beencondemned as neo-Marxist by rightwing commentators. So why the fuss?

Piketty’s argument is that, in an economy where the rate of return on capital outstrips the rate of growth, inherited wealth will always grow faster than earned wealth. So the fact that rich kids can swan aimlessly from gap year to internship to a job at father’s bank/ministry/TV network – while the poor kids sweat into their barista uniforms – is not an accident: it is the system working normally.

If you get slow growth alongside better financial returns, then inherited wealth will, on average, “dominate wealth amassed from a lifetime’s labour by a wide margin”, says Piketty. Wealth will concentrate to levels incompatible with democracy, let alone social justice. Capitalism, in short, automatically creates levels of inequality that are unsustainable. The rising wealth of the 1% is neither a blip, nor rhetoric.

To understand why the mainstream finds this proposition so annoying, you have to understand that “distribution” – the polite name for inequality – was thought to be a closed subject. Simon Kuznets, the Belarussian émigré who became a major figure in American economics, used the available data to show that, while societies become more unequal in the first stages of industrialisation, inequality subsides as they achieve maturity. This “Kuznets Curve” had been accepted by most parts of the economics profession until Piketty and his collaborators produced the evidence that it is false.

In fact, the curve goes in exactly the opposite direction: capitalism started out unequal, flattened inequality for much of the 20th century, but is now headed back towards Dickensian levels of inequality worldwide.

Continue reading Thomas Piketty’s Capital: everything you need to know about the surprise bestseller

BBC News – The curious survival of the US Communist Party

By Aidan Lewis BBC News, New York

Like fellow movements around the world, the US Communist Party suffered a crippling blow with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But a small group of die-hard members persevered.

Not far from Wall Street, on the seventh floor of an elegant eight-storey building on West 23rd Street, is the headquarters of an improbable political survivor – the Communist Party USA.

The office is bright and modern. On one wall are black-and-white photo portraits of major figures in the party’s history. The works of Marx, Engels and Lenin are stacked in bookshelves.

The building was bought to house the party in the 1970s before the surrounding neighbourhood of Chelsea became fashionable. “We got a great bargain on it,” says secretary-treasurer Roberta Wood.

In a concession to capitalist reality, all but two floors are now rented out. The revenue supports People’s World, an online publication that is the direct descendent of the party’s long defunct newspaper, the Daily Worker.

Continue reading BBC News – The curious survival of the US Communist Party

The New York Times – A Return to a World Marx Would Have Known

Doug Henwood is editor of Left Business Observer, host of a weekly radio show originating on KPFA, Berkeley, and is author of several books, including “Wall Street: How It Works and For Whom” and “After the New Economy.”

I don’t see how you can understand our current unhappy economic state without some sort of Marx-inspired analysis.

Here we are, almost five years into an officially designated recovery from the worst downturn in 80 years, and average household incomes are more than 8 percent below where they were when the Great Recession began, and employment still 650,000 short of its pre-recession high.

Though elites are prospering, for millions of Americans, it’s as if the recession never ended.

How can this all be explained? The best way to start is by going back to the 1970s. Corporate profitability — which, as every Marxist schoolchild knows, is the motor of the system — had fallen sharply off its mid-1960s highs. Stock and bond markets were performing miserably. Inflation seemed to be rising without limit. After three decades of seemingly endless prosperity, workers had developed a terrible attitude problem, slacking off and, quaintly, even going out on strike. It’s no accident that Johnny Paycheck scored a No. 1 country hit with “Take This Job and Shove It” in 1977 — utterly impossible to imagine today.

This is where Marx begins to come in. At the root of these problems was a breakdown in class relations: workers no longer feared the boss. A crackdown was in order.

And it came, hard. In October 1979, the Federal Reserve began driving interest rates toward 20 percent, to kill inflation and restrict borrowing, creating the deepest recession since the 1930s. (It was a record we only broke in 2008/2009). A little over a year later, Ronald Reagan came into office, fired the striking air-traffic controllers, setting the stage for decades of union busting to follow. Five years after Johnny Paycheck’s hit, workers were desperate to hold and/or get jobs. No more attitude problem.

The “cure” worked for about 30 years. Corporate profits skyrocketed and financial markets thrived. The underlying mechanism, as Marx would explain it, is simple: workers produce more in value than they are paid, and the difference is the root of profit. If worker productivity rises while pay remains stagnant or declines, profits increase. This is precisely what has happened over the last 30 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity rose 93 percent between 1980 and 2013, while pay rose 38 percent (all inflation-adjusted).

The 1 percent got ever-richer and more powerful. But there was a problem: a system dependent on high levels of mass consumption has a hard time coping with the stagnation or decline in mass incomes.The development of a mass consumer market after Marx died, with the eager participation of a growing middle class, caused a lot of people to say his analysis was obsolete. But now, with the hollowing out of the middle class and the erosion of mass purchasing power, the whole 20th century model of mass consumption is starting to look obsolete.

Borrowing sustained the mass consumption model for a few decades. Non-rich households borrowed to buy cars, buy food, pay medical bills, buy ever-more-expensive houses, and so on. Conveniently, rich households had plenty of spare cash to lend them.

That model broke apart in 2008 and has not — and cannot — be revived. Without the juice provided by spirited borrowing, demand remains constricted and growth rates, low. (See also: Europe.)

Raising the incomes of the bottom 90 percent of the population through higher wages and public spending initiatives — stifled since Reagan starting putting the squeeze on them — could change that. But the stockholding class has resisted that, and they have a lot of political power.

And an extraordinarily lopsided economy is the result. We didn’t expect that the 21st century would bring about a return of the 19th century’s vast disparities, but it’s looking like that’s just what’s happened.

Courtesy: The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/03/30/was-marx-right/a-return-to-a-world-marx-would-have-known?smid=fb-share

Thousands in Paris and Rome protest austerity measures

A demonstration in Rome turns violent when protesters throw rocks and firecrackers at police

Anti-austerity protests took over parts of Paris and Rome on Saturday, with one demonstration in Rome spurring violence when protesters threw rocks, eggs and firecrackers at police, with at least one person injured.

Tens of thousands of people took part in protests in central Paris and Rome, organized by hard-left parties opposed to government economic reform plans and austerity measures.

Police in Rome armed with batons charged members of a large splinter group — many wearing masks and helmets — and also used tear gas to push back the crowd, with protesters fighting back with rocks and firecrackers. One man lost a hand when a firecracker exploded before he could throw it.

Read more » AlJazeera
http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/12/rome-paris-anti-austerityprotests.html

CANADA – Idle No More protesters stall railway lines, highways

idle5-hour blockade of railways between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal

By CBC News

First Nations demonstrators stopped passenger railway traffic lines between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal today, while others stalled major highways and rail lines in parts of Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick and Ontario as part of the Idle No More Movement’s national day of action.

Protesters also gathered in Windsor, Ont., near the Ambassador Bridge to Michigan, slowing down traffic to North America’s busiest border crossing for several hours, the CBC’s Allison Johnson reported.

Activities including rallies, blockades and prayer circles were staged across the country Wednesday as part of the grassroots movement calling for more attention to changes that were contained in Bill C-45, the Conservative government’s controversial omnibus budget bill that directly affected First Nations communities.

Read more » CBC
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/idle-no-more-protesters-stall-railway-lines-highways-1.1303452

Bosnia rocked by third day of anti-government unrest

By Dado Ruvic, TUZLA, Bosnia

(Reuters) – Protesters set fire to a government building and clashed with riot police in Bosnia on Friday in a third day of unrest over high unemployment and two decades of political inertia since the country’s 1992-95 war.

Demonstrators smashed windows and set fire to the offices of the local government in the northern town of Tuzla, while in the capital, Sarajevo, police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse a crowd of several thousand.

Protests were called for Friday in towns and cities across Bosnia, in a sign of growing anger over the lack of economic and political progress since the country broke from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and descended into war. More than one in four of the country’s workforce were out of a job in 2013.

Read more » Reuters
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/07/us-bosnia-unrest-idUSBREA160UU20140207

A Rare Elected Voice for Socialism Pledges to Be Heard in Seattle

SEATTLE — People are used to liberals running things around here. But nobody reckoned with Kshama Sawant. Ms. Sawant, a 41-year-old economics teacher and immigrant from India, took a left at liberal and then kept on going — all the way to socialism.

When she takes a seat on Seattle’s nine-member City Council on Jan. 1, representing the Socialist Alternative Party, she will become one of the few elected socialists in the nation, a political brand most politicians run from.

But Kshama Sawant (pronounced SHAH-mah sah-WANT) heartily embraces the label. Ask her about almost any problem facing America today, and her answer will probably include the “S” word as the best and most reasonable response. Socialism is the path to real democracy, she says. Socialism protects the environment. Socialism is the best hope for young people who have seen their options crushed by the tide of low-wage, futureless jobs in the post-recession economy.

“The take-home message for the left in general is that people are looking for alternatives,” she said in an interview, discussing her victory over a veteran Democrat by a margin of 3,100 votes of about 184,000 cast in a citywide contest. “If you ask me as a socialist what workers deserve, they deserve the value of what they produce.”

Read more » The New York Times
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/12/29/us/a-rare-elected-voice-for-socialism-pledges-to-be-heard-in-seattle.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&rref=us&hpw=

Noam Chomsky: We’re no longer a functioning democracy, we’re really a plutocracy

By Travis Gettys

The world faces two potentially existential threats, according to the linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky.

“There are two major dark shadows that hover over everything, and they’re getting more and more serious,” Chomsky said. “The one is the continuing threat of nuclear war that has not ended. It’s very serious, and another is the crisis of ecological, environmental catastrophe, which is getting more and more serious.”

Chomsky appeared Friday on the last episode of NPR’s “Smiley and West” program to discuss his education, his views on current affairs and how he manages to spread his message without much help from the mainstream media.

He told the hosts that the world was racing toward an environmental disaster with potentially lethal consequence, which the world’s most developed nations were doing nothing to prevent – and in fact were speeding up the process.

“If there ever is future historians, they’re going to look back at this period of history with some astonishment,” Chomsky said. “The danger, the threat, is evident to anyone who has eyes open and pays attention at all to the scientific literature, and there are attempts to retard it, there are also at the other end attempts to accelerate the disaster, and if you look who’s involved it’s pretty shocking.”

Chomsky noted efforts to halt environmental damage by indigenous people in countries all over the world – from Canada’s First Nations to tribal people in Latin America and India to aboriginal people in Australia—but the nation’s richest, most advanced and most powerful countries, such as the United States, were doing nothing to forestall disaster.

“When people here talk enthusiastically about a hundred years of energy independence, what they’re saying is, ‘Let’s try to get every drop of fossil fuel out of the ground so as to accelerate the disaster that we’re racing towards,’” Chomsky said. “These are problems that overlie all of the domestic problems of oppression, of poverty, of attacks on the education system (and) massive inequality, huge unemployment.”

He blamed the “financialization” of the U.S. economy for income inequality and unemployment, saying that banks that were “too big to fail” skimmed enormous wealth from the market.

“In fact, there was a recent (International Monetary Fund) study that estimated that virtually all the profits of the big banks can be traced back to this government insurance policy, and in general they’re quite harmful, I think, quite harmful to the economy,” Chomsky said.

Those harmful effects can be easily observed by looking at unemployment numbers and stock market gains, he said.

“There are tens of millions of people unemployed, looking for work, wanting to work (and) there are huge resources available,” Chomsky said. “Corporate profits are going through the roof, there’s endless amounts of work to be done – just drive through a city and see all sorts of things that have to be done – infrastructure is collapsing, the schools have to be revived. We have a situation in which huge numbers of people want to work, there are plenty, huge resources available, an enormous amount to be done, and the system is so rotten they can’t put them together.”

The reason for this is simple, Chomsky said.

“There is plenty of profit being made by those who pretty much dominate and control the system,” he said. “We’ve moved from the days where there was some kind of functioning democracy. It’s by now really a plutocracy.”

Chomsky strongly disagreed with Smiley and West that he had been marginalized for his views, saying that he regretfully turned down dozens of invitations to speak on a daily basis because he was otherwise engaged.

He also disagreed that a platform in the mainstream media was necessary to influence the debate.

“If you take a look at the progressive changes that have taken place in the country, say, just in the last 50 years – the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, opposition to aggression, the women’s movement, the environmental movement and so on – they’re not led by any debate in the media,” Chomsky said. “No, they were led by popular organizations, by activists on the ground.”

He recalled the earliest days of the antiwar movement, in the early 1960s, when he spoke in living rooms and church basements to just a handful of other activists and they were harassed – even in liberal Boston – by the authorities and media.

But that movement eventually grew and helped hasten the end of the Vietnam War, and Chomsky said it’s grown and become so mainstream that antiwar activists can limit wars before they even begin.

He said President Ronald Reagan was unable to launch a full-scale war in Central America during the 1980s because of the antiwar movement, and he bitterly disputed the idea that antiwar activists had no impact on the Iraq War.

“I don’t agree; it had a big effect,” Chomsky said. “It sharply limited the means that were available to the government to try to carry out the invasion and subdue the population. In fact, it’s one reason why the U.S. ended up really defeated in Iraq, seriously had to give up all of its war aims. The major victor in Iraq turns out to be Iran.”

Despite these limitations, he said the Iraq War had been one of the new millennium’s worst atrocities and had provoked a violent schism between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that had sparked regional conflicts throughout the Middle East.

“The United States is now involved in a global terror campaign largely against the tribal people of the world, mostly Muslim tribes, and it’s all over. The intention is to go on and on,” Chomsky said. “These are all terrible consequences, but nevertheless they’re not as bad as they would be if there weren’t public opposition.”

Courtesy: The Raw Story
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/27/noam-chomsky-were-no-longer-a-functioning-democracy-were-really-a-plutocracy/

Pope says he is not a Marxist, but defends criticism of capitalism

Pope Francis says trickle-down economics do not help the poor, in a wide-ranging interview with Italian daily La Stampa

By in Rome, The Guardian

Pope Francis has rejected accusations from rightwing Americans that his teaching is Marxist, defending his criticisms of the capitalist system and urging more attention be given to the poor in a wide-ranging interview.

In remarks to the Italian daily La Stampa, the Argentinian pontiff said that the views he had espoused in his first apostolic exhortation last month – which the rightwing US radio host Rush Limbaugh attacked as “dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong” – were simply those of the church’s social doctrine. Limbaugh described the pope’s church reforms as “pure Marxism”.

“The ideology of Marxism is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended,” Francis was quoted as saying.

Defending his criticism of the “trickle-down” theory of economics, he added: “There was the promise that once the glass had become full it would overflow and the poor would benefit. But what happens is that when it’s full to the brim, the glass magically grows, and thus nothing ever comes out for the poor … I repeat: I did not talk as a specialist but according to the social doctrine of the church. And this does not mean being a Marxist.”

Read more » The Guardian
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/15/pope-francis-defends-criticism-of-capitalism-not-marxist?CMP=fb_gu

Italy hit by wave of Pitchfork protests as austerity unites disparate groups

Demonstrations point to frustration with traditional politics, with minister warning parliament of a country in ‘spiral of rebellion’

by in Rome, theguardian.com

They blocked roads and stopped trains,occupied piazzas, clashed with police and closed shops. From Turin and Milan in the north to Puglia and Sicily in the south, Italy was hit this week by a wave of protests that brought together disparate groups and traditional foes in an angry show of opposition to austerity policies and the government.

They [politicians] have brought us to hunger; have destroyed the identity of a country; have annihilated the future of entire generations,” read one poster from the “December 9 Committee”, an umbrella organisation urging Italians to rise up against the euro, Brussels, globalisation and, primarily, Enrico Letta’s government. “To rebel is a duty.”

In a loosely formed movement which has gone largely by the name of I Forconi (the Pitchforks), lorry drivers, farmers, small business owners, students and unemployed people staged protests venting their fury at a political class which they blame for Italy’s longest post-war recession and want to “send home”.

But they were not alone. Alongside them were anti-globalisation groups, members of the Veneto Independence movement, elements of the far right and – for good measure – football “ultras”. Among the sights “rarely seen before”, reported the Turin-based daily La Stampa, were supporters of arch-rivals Juventus and Torino standing “side by side”.

Although the protests had been publicised, especially on the internet, their scale and occasionally violent nature – particularly in Turin, a historic city of protest – appeared to take many by surprise.

In a country struggling to exit a two-year long recession, in which unemployment is at a record high of 12.5% and one in 10 children is thought to be living in absolute poverty, the causes of the unrest are hardly unfathomable.

Read more » The Guardian
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/13/italy-pitchfork-protests-austerity-unites-groups

Pope Francis Calls Unfettered Capitalism ‘Tyranny’

by Joshua Holland

Earlier this month, Laurie Goodstein reported for The New York Times that Pope Francis’ softer rhetoric on hot-button social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage were causing conservative Catholics no small amount of chagrin.

It looks like they can expect more cognitive dissonance, according to this report in The Guardian

Pope Francis has attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny”, urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money” and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare”.

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

In a sense, the new pope is just grappling with the reality he faces. Polls show that American Catholics, at least, agree with the pontiff’s position that the church focuses too much on social issues. And Francis recently commissioned a survey of Catholics around the world to see where they fall on these questions.

Meanwhile, Dominic Barton, the Managing Director of McKinsey & Co., writes in today’s Wall Street Journal: ”In 2012, the top 1% of earners in the US collected 19.3% of the country’s total household income–an all-time high… The disparity is growing rapidly as well. Incomes of the top 1% grew by 31.4% from 2009 to 2012, compared to just 0.4% for the remaining 99%.

Continue reading Pope Francis Calls Unfettered Capitalism ‘Tyranny’

Who would have thought this is possible in the USA? Socialist wins seat on Seattle city council

Socialist wins seat on Seattle city council

Kshama Sawant, an Occupy Seattle member, hopes to raise minimum wage to $15 and levy a ‘millionaire’s tax’

Seattle voters have elected a socialist to city council for the first time in modern history. Kshama Sawant, a member of the populist Occupy Seattle movement, ran on a platform of raising Washington State’s minimum wage to $15 and levying a “millionaire tax” to pay for mass transit and public education.

Read more > aljazeera
http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/11/16/socialist-wins-seatonseattlecitycouncilfirstinnearly100years.html

Occupy Wall Street’s debt buying strikes at the heart of capitalism

In buying debt so cheaply and writing it off, Occupy has revealed the illusory and circular nature of owing money

By

Across the United States, 2,693 people have received a letter in the last few months, which identified a debt and read: “You are no longer under any obligation to settle this account with the original creditor, the bill collector, or anyone else.” This is the work of the Rolling Jubilee project – a non-profit initiative which buys personal debt for pennies on the dollar in the secondary market (where debt is sold to companies who then resell it to collection agencies) but then simply cancels it.

When the Occupy movement came into being in the summer of 2011, its critics said that a lack of identifiable objectives and strategy for achieving them meant it was doomed to fail. This was a monumental underestimation of its potential impact. Two years on, the debate about the ethics of corporate capitalism in its current form, the fairness of the remuneration of those at the top, the widening wealth gap and the morality of tax avoidance is alive and well. The concept of the “99%” is now part of the collective consciousness. All this is, in no small part, down to the fuse lit by the Occupy movement.

However, another significant aspect of the movement – dismissed as being woolly – was that it brought like-minded people together and allowed a dialogue which identified common strands. This appears to have evolved into several focused and practical initiatives. One of the most significant, and perhaps the most threatening to the status quo, is the Strike Debt group, of which the Rolling Jubilee project forms part.

The idea is that, those freed from debt and those sympathetic to the movement, then donate into the fund to keep it “rolling” forward; hence the name. The fund has already raised $600,000 and has used $400,000 of this to purchase and cancel an astonishing $14.7m of debt, primarily focusing on medical bills. This strikes at the very heart of the system, not only by using its own perverse rules against it, but critically by revealing the illusory and circular nature of debt.

Capitalism requires a layer of cheap, flexible labour to operate optimally. It is not a coincidence that the most successful global economy, by any traditional capitalist measure, is an authoritarian quasi-communist state. Many, myself included, have been arguing that our current predicament is not crisis-consequent austerity, but a permanent adjustment. David Cameron on Monday confirmed as much. The great lie, peddled by Thatcher and Reagan, was the idea that we could all be middle class, white-collar professionals within a neoliberal economy. It was simply not true.

Continue reading Occupy Wall Street’s debt buying strikes at the heart of capitalism

Russell Brand: ‘Revolution Is Coming… I Ain’t Got a Flicker of Doubt’

British comedian goes off on failed paradigm, talking egalitarianism, consciousness, and filthiness of profit with the BBC

– Jon Queally, staff writer

The British left weekly New Statesman has taken a chance on an up-and-coming rogue editor, but the actor-comedian and newly welcomed progressive-minded firebrand Russell Brand seems so far to be a brilliant and elegant choice.

Tapped to guest-edit the magazine’s ‘Revolution’ issue this week, Brand is making waves both for his feature-length essay on the topic but also with a televised interview that aired Wednesday night on the BBC with veteran Newsnight anchor Jeremy Paxman.

Read more » Common Dreams
https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/10/24-6

Alternatives to Capitalism

There Are Good Alternatives to US Capitalism, But No Way to Get There

Jerry Mander’s new book explores the fatal flaws of the “obsolete” capitalist system and strategies for change.

By Jerry Mander

The following is an excerpt from Jerry Mander’s new book The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System (Counterpoint, 2013):

Which Way Out?

Let’s start with some good news. There is no shortage of good alternative ideas, plans, and strategies being put forth by activist groups and “new economy” thinkers in the United States and all countries of the world. Some seek to radically reshape the current capitalist system. Others advocate abandoning it for something new (or old). There is also a third option, a merger of the best points of other existing or proposed options, toward a “hybrid” economic model that can cope with modern realities.

Continue reading Alternatives to Capitalism

The relentless crisis — Lal Khan

Occupy Islamabad LahoreThe huge bubbles of speculative investment in housing, InfoTech, petroleum products and others sectors have now burst

After the 2008 crash of the world economy, there was an unprecedented turbulence in the world markets and economies. In the advanced capitalist economies most regimes, social-democratic or conservative, carried through severe austerity and cuts that started the process of dismantling the welfare state, mainly in Europe. All those gains achieved through intense struggle by the working classes of these countries were being reversed. Still the US and European economies could not come out of the recession after five years of brutal recipes to put the burden of the crisis of capitalism onto the shoulders of the working masses. There is a seething revulsion against the ruling classes. A popular catchphrase doing the rounds in Europe say it all: “Bankers are slightly less popular than paedophiles and serial killers.”

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries, the so-called emerging economies that were expected to give a new lease of life to capitalism with high growth rates, have failed to do so. Their growth rates shrank and the nature of the socioeconomic development in these countries, where the tasks of the bourgeois revolution have not been accomplished, have resulted in severe social contradictions that have now begun to explode on the political plane. Instability, uncertainty and disillusionment are now stalking these lands. The eruption of mass revolts from Turkey to Brazil are thus not accidental. They reflect a growing discontent and a sense of revulsion amongst the masses who are being inflicted by the severe trauma of this crisis that is crushing their livelihood.

It seems as if happiness has become elusive for the ordinary people in the advanced capitalist countries, not to speak of the oppressed working classes of the underdeveloped world.

After the Second World War, even if the revolutions were defeated in several European countries mainly due to the betrayals of the leaders of the Social Democratic and Communist parties, yet the upswing enabled these traditional leaders of the mass organisations to carry out reforms. Reforms are always introduced from above to stop revolution from below, but at least at that stage capitalism in the developed countries had the capacity to create a social welfare state. In Britain, education became free and the Labour Party introduced a health system where even foreign visitors could get treatment at a minimal cost.

People had hope for a better future and that created a blissful atmosphere and relatively prosperous societies. Now that optimism in life in Europe seems to have evaporated. People have lost hope in a future that promises only a grim life. A social malaise has set in. It is astonishing that this situation has developed in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, Eastern European Socialism and the capitalist restoration in China. After these events the bourgeoisie gained access to a huge market of more than two billion. At that time in the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, there was euphoria amongst the strategists of capital. The bourgeoisie on a world scale were dizzy with success. Yet it has turned out to be a hoax.

Dialectally it turned into its opposite and today we see capitalism mired in its most severe crisis, unprecedented in its 200-years history. This exposes the historical redundancy and the organic sickness of capitalism. Even with such a massive expansion of the market, it has failed to develop society and improve the living standards of the working class even in the advanced countries. The growth we saw in the last 20 to 30 years was through a greater labour intensive mechanism where all or most members of the household were working, many workers working overtime and of course, a gigantic expansion of credit.

The huge bubbles of speculative investment in housing, InfoTech, petroleum products and others sectors have now burst. But what triggered the crash of 2008 was the overextension of credit that accumulated in the corporate sector and through personal loans in the previous three decades. The banking default in 2007 led to the sovereign default in 2010. Ever since the economies of most European countries and the US have been reeling from a chronic crisis with no end in sight.

According to the Financial Times, it could take at least 20 years to solve the European crisis! It goes on to say, “Europe raises the spectre of an ungovernable world.” The usually boastful The Economist had to concede, “The way to recovery is long and dark.” If these most staunch strategists and spokespersons of capitalism are in such gloom, the reality of this system’s recovery must be much starker.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 crash, there was a sense of shock amongst the workers of the advanced capitalist countries. However, as various regimes embarked upon severe austerity programmes, retaliation began to emerge from the workers and the youth. The revolution in Tunisia that ignited the Arab revolution in the spring of 2011 took its inspiration from the mass demonstrations and protests in France in the autumn of 2010. The lightning strikes of the students in Britain in December of that year also had a huge impact on the youth, especially in Egypt. After the Arab Spring we saw the European summer with mass protests not seen in two decades in most countries of Europe. Then we saw the American Autumn with the sudden rise of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the US with huge implications worldwide.

These movements also had important repercussions on the political plane. After 19 general strikes we saw the collapse of the traditional political party of the workers in Greece, PASOK. The meteoric rise of SYRIZA in Greece also shows that the working classes at a certain point can overcome the burden of their traditions and move ahead to a more radical solution.

Read more » Daily Times
http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20137\21\story_21-7-2013_pg3_5

Average America vs the One Percent

By Alan Dunn, Contributor

If the Occupy movement does nothing else, it has at least introduced a new set of terms into the American vocabulary to talk about the distribution of wealth in America. Until recently, most average people had no idea how wealth was distributed in the country; most people had a vague idea of a wealthy minority, but they rarely grasped the full extent of income disparity between classes. Now, most people are aware of the notion of the 1 percent, although they still may not know exactly what it means or how that unequal distribution of wealth applies to the rest of the country.

Unequal wealth distribution is hardly a new or uniquely American problem. In fact, it’s been prevalent throughout society since humans first built civilizations: A small minority of aristocrats has always wielded the most power throughout history. In modern times, America lags behind nearly every other first-world nation in closing the gap between the classes. In fact, we’re making it worse.

The Distribution of Wealth Between Americans

Before you can talk about the 1 percent, it’s important to put the figures into perspective by understanding exactly what that figure means. The average annual income of the top 1 percent of the population is $717,000, compared to the average income of the rest of the population, which is around $51,000. The real disparity between the classes isn’t in income, however, but in net value: The 1 percent are worth about $8.4 million, or 70 times the worth of the lower classes.

The 1 percent are executives, doctors, lawyers and politicians, among other things. Within this group of people is an even smaller and wealthier subset of people, 1 percent of the top, or .01 percent of the entire nation. Those people have incomes of over $27 million, or roughly 540 times the national average income. Altogether, the top 1 percent control 43 percent of the wealth in the nation; the next 4 percent control an additional 29 percent.

It’s historically common for a powerful minority to control a majority of finances, but Americans haven’t seen a disparity this wide since before the Great Depression — and it keeps growing.

The Fallacy of Hard Work

It’s a common belief in America that all people have the same opportunity for success as the top 1 percent. Most people consider success to be a by-product of hard work, and hard work is something that Americans are extremely familiar with. In fact, Americans have increased productivity by 80 percent since 1979; unfortunately, their income hasn’t risen accordingly, if at all.

The average worker in an American company makes substantially less than supervisors and executives. In fact, corporate executives make 62 times more money than an average worker in bonuses alone, not counting the executive’s actual salary. For every corporate bonus, the company could have paid 62 employees. In fact, incentive pay actually rose 30 percent from years before the recession.

A Difference in Lifestyle: Americans and the 1 Percent

It’s no surprise that people in different classes spend their money differently. A person’s priorities change when he becomes wealthy, and certain expenses don’t vary much from one class to the next. The cost of food, healthcare and other expenses remains constant between classes, while the relative income may vary substantially.

For example, all Americans pay an average of a third of their incomes for housing. The second highest expense of top earners in America is transportation; the rich spend about 17 percent of their income traveling for business and pleasure. On the other hand, the lower classes spend about 17 percent of their income on feeding their families.

Read more » Forbes
http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneywisewomen/2012/03/21/average-america-vs-the-one-percent/

Protests Expand in Brazil, Fueled by Video of Police Brutality

By ROBERT MACKEY

As my colleague Simon Romero reports from São Paulo, more than 200,000 Brazilians filled the streets in cities across the country on Monday to protest the high cost of living and lavish spending on soccer stadiums ahead of next year’s World Cup, in demonstrations that have intensified as images of police brutality against peaceful protesters spread on social networks.

While the dynamic of heavy-handed police tactics, like the use of pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets, intensifying rather than quelling protests echoes recent events in Turkey — not to mention those in the Unites States, Spain, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia in 2011 — one difference is that some of the images of the police crackdown in Brazil that stirred the most anger were captured by reporters for local newspapers and television stations, not just protesters or foreign correspondents.

One striking account of the violence used on protesters last week in Brazil’s largest city, captured in a video viewed more than a million times on YouTube, was narrated by Giuliana Vallone, a reporter for the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, who was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet at point-blank range by one of the police “shock troops” deployed against the protesters.

Read more » The New York Times
http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/18/protests-expand-in-brazil-fueled-by-video-of-police-brutality/

Capitalism Becomes Questionable – by Richard D. Wolff

The depth and length of the global crisis are now clear to millions. In the sixth year since it started in late 2007, no end is in sight. Unemployment rates are now less than halfway back from their recession peak to where they were in 2007. Over 20 million are without work, millions more limited to part-time work, millions have been foreclosed out of their homes. Those who retain jobs suffer declining real wages, fewer benefits, reduced job security, and more work. This year of “austerity” began with an increase in the payroll tax rate for over 150 million wage-and-salary earners from 4.2 to 6.2 per cent (a 48% increase from 2012) — a far more significant tax event than the trivial — but wildly hyped — increase of taxes on those earning over $450,000 annually from 35 to 39.6 per cent (a 13% increase from 2012). Austerity deepens as Republicans and Democrats negotiate merely details of their agreements to cut government spending on social programs helping working people.

Between the crisis and today’s austerity policies lie the bailouts — a bought government’s program to aid mega-finance and other large corporations with unlimited funds unmatched by anything comparable for the mass of working people and smaller businesses. The bailouts worked for them, for the large corporations who secured them for themselves. For that reason, “recovery” blessed them while it bypassed everyone else. Now austerity policies shift onto the general population major portions of the costs of the crisis and the bailouts. The situation is so bad and US government complicity with capitalists at the people’s expense so exposed that the capitalist system is becoming questionable. Criticism challenges the last half-century’s treatment of capitalism as the absolutely best possible economic system, beyond any need for discussion or debate, justifiably implanted around the world by military force, etc.

First of all, this deep and long crisis undermines decades of confident assurances and predictions that another deep capitalist depression was no longer likely or even possible. Capitalism’s inherent instability overwhelmed and thus proved the futility of efforts to prevent its crises. Moreover, both conventional and extraordinary monetary and fiscal policies failed repeatedly to bring Europe, Japan, and the US out of the crisis. Central banks, international agencies, and national executives charged with economic responsibilities have, since 2007, spoken with assurance and met often, posed for media photos, puffed and threatened, made a few last-minute, stop-gap agreements, resolved to meet again and do more at the next meeting. However, the crisis continued for most people. In many places it has gotten much worse. All this challenges glib notions that capitalism’s highest authorities have the system “under control.”

Implicitly, at first, millions of people began to question whether capitalism does still “deliver the goods” as its defenders so long insisted. In the US, declining economic conditions for parents coupled with rising school debts and declining job prospects for their children suggest rather that capitalism “delivers the bads.” The widening inequalities of wealth and income that contributed to the crisis have in turn been further aggravated by it.

Continue reading Capitalism Becomes Questionable – by Richard D. Wolff

Steal bread, go to jail, steal a billion $, get bailed out

*Bank of America Bombshell: Whistleblowers Reveal Orchestrated Coverup and Massive Borrower Harm

Obama promised justice to abused American homeowners. Have they gotten it?

By Yves Smith

Editor’s Note:  In his 2012 State of The Union address, President Obama spoke of American homeowners abused by unscrupulous banks and financial institutions. Have they gotten justice? What follows is the first in a new series examining foreclosure settlements and the disturbing patterns of incomptency, malfeasance, and conflicts of interest which have marked their execution. Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism takes a deep dive into the mire of America’s mortage industry and investigates the continued suffering of the public at the hands of greedy predators.

On January 7, 2013, ten servicers entered into an $8.5 billion settlement with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, terminating a foreclosure review process which was set forth in consent orders issued in April 2010. Borrowers who had had foreclosures that were pending or had completed foreclosure sales in 2009 and 2010 could request an investigation by independent reviewers, selected and paid for by the servicers but subject to approval by the OCC.

Continue reading Steal bread, go to jail, steal a billion $, get bailed out

Idle No More movement gets sympathy from ‘Occupy’ protestors

It’s been widely reported that the Idle No More movement is getting international attention.

Media from around the world have covered the movement, and the January 11th global day of action drew rallies in at least 6 different countries.

Well…INM is now getting attention …

Read more » Yahoo News
http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/canada-politics/idle-no-more-movement-gets-sympathy-alleged-american-214955487.html

Idle No More Movement – The plight of Natives in Canada.

Chief on hunger strike demands action within 72 hours

BY: GLORIA GALLOWAY

OTTAWA — Canada’s native leaders have petitioned the Prime Minister and the Governor-General to gather three weeks from now to discuss perceived failings in the treaty relationships – but an Ontario chief on a hunger strike to force such a meeting says she can’t wait that long.

Theresa Spence, the chief of the impoverished community of Attawapiskat, who has been fasting for 24 days to demand the face-to-face discussion, has told her supporters and other native leaders that a meeting must occur within the next 72 hours, and she will not start eating until it has begun. Raymond Robinson, an elder from the Cross Lake First Nation in Manitoba, is forgoing food along with her. ….

Read more» The Globe & Mail
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/chief-on-hunger-strike-demands-action-within-72-hours/article6894436/

Idle No More rallies held across Canada as movement grows

By: CTVNews.ca Staff

The national Idle No More movement showed no signs of slowing Friday as activists and protesters across Canada brought their call for protection of First Nations rights to the streets.

Peaceful gatherings took place in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Ottawa, Saskatoon,Toronto and Nova Scotia.

Manitoba First Nations groups rallied Friday morning at the Winnipeg International Airport, circling in cars, honking their horns and hoisting placards, one reading “Shame on you Canada.”

The group planned to join an Idle No More rally at the legislative building. A demonstration along Highway 102 in Truro, N.S. caused delays for about eight kilometres but was otherwise peaceful.

Hundreds also braved a snowstorm to march through the streets of Ottawa to denounce what they say is the systematic destruction of indigenous rights.

First Nations leaders say Ottawa’s policies toward First Nations are oppressive and they are concerned that federal government is preparing to siphon power from band councils.

Particularly concerning, activists say, is the recently passed Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill that according to movement organizers will fasttrack the process for aboriginals to surrender their reserve lands. Organizers also protest the new law because it includes clauses they say will slash the number of federally protected waterways and jeopardize lands they rely on. First Nations groups say they were not sufficiently consulted on the legislation.

At a panel discussion Friday, Nova Scotia aboriginal activist Shelley Young said the government is ignoring the plight of the First Nations. She said the Idle No More movement has “spread like wildfire.”

“We’re not just speaking up for ourselves, we’re speaking up for the rest of Canada,” she said. “We know that our treaty rights protect the waters and waterways. We want to do something about it.”

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/idle-no-more-rallies-held-across-canada-as-movement-grows-1.1088765#ixzz2Fn5koC5O