Tag Archives: Occupy movement

Bernie Sanders: Campaign Will be ‘A Movement of Millions’

BY ANDREW RAFFERTY

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders formally kicked off his underdog White House bid on Tuesday, promising to build a grassroots movement of millions ready “to stand up and fight back.”

“Here is my promise to you for this campaign. Not only will I fight to protect the working families of this country, but we’re going to build a movement of millions of Americans who are prepared to stand up and fight back,” Sanders said in the first major speech of his campaign. “We are going to take this campaign directly to the people – in town meetings, door to door conversations, on street corners and in social media.”

Read more » NBC News
See more » http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/bernie-sanders-campaign-will-be-movement-millions-n365001

Elizabeth Warren on Fighting Back Against Wall St. Giants

In Oklahoma, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and her brothers grew up in “an America that invested in kids like us and helped build a future where we could flourish.” But, as she writes in her memoir, A Fighting Chance, “Today the game is rigged – rigged to work for those who have money and power… The optimism that defines us as a people has been beaten and bruised. It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Warren, a former Harvard Law School professor, is an expert on how Wall Street and the banking industry are destroying the middle class. She’s put that knowledge to powerful use on Capitol Hill, rapidly becoming the most authoritative and articulate voice of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. Many are urging her to run for president.

Continue reading Elizabeth Warren on Fighting Back Against Wall St. Giants

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/

Canadians increasingly cynical about state of democracy: Hepburn

Voters are losing trust in the way Canada’s democracy works.

By:

EDMONTON—In findings that should disturb every politician across the country, a series of new national surveys suggest record numbers of Canadians are fed up with the state of our democracy.

Worse for elected leaders, more and more Canadians believe that politicians, regardless of their party affiliation, don’t listen to them, don’t care about the issues that really concern them and aren’t willing to act to preserve and improve our democratic institutions and traditions.

Indeed, the surveys indicate Canadians are more cynical now than at any time in recent history about politicians and how our democracy is working.

“There is an eroding confidence in government, in our political institutions,” pollster Keith Neuman of the Environics Institute said at a conference in Edmonton last week sponsored by the Montreal-based Trudeau Foundation.

The conference — entitled “The Common Good: Who Decides?” — attracted 350 participants, including politicians, government bureaucrats, academics and public policy experts.

Neuman told the delegates that growing numbers of Canadians are disillusioned with elected officials and have now turned to supporting grassroots citizen actions, such as the last fall’s Occupy Movement, the B.C. referendum on the HST and this summer’s Quebec student protests, as a way to make their voices heard.

On the eve of the conference, the Trudeau Foundation released a survey by the Environics Institute that indicated Canadians are placing less confidence in the ability of politicians to solve the country’s problems and balance competing interests when there are big differences on key issues.

Importantly, almost as many people (39 per cent) said they place greater faith in citizens taking grassroots actions through protests and other means as the best way to get action as those who said they still have confidence in politicians (45 per cent) to settle issues with competing interests.

Another survey released two weeks earlier by the Environics Institute found “clear evidence” of a decline in approval of political institutions since a similar poll in 2006.

The AmericasBarometer, which examined public opinion relating to democracy in Canada and 25 other countries in North and South America, indicated trust in Parliament and our politicians is at abysmally low levels.

Only 17 per cent of Canadians trust Parliament and only 10 per cent trust political parties.

A third poll, which is to be released on Dec. 3 by Samara, a non-profit group devoted to promoting citizen engagement, is expected to reinforce the view that the level of Canadians’ satisfaction with our democracy and in particular with our elected politicians is in free fall.

Continue reading Canadians increasingly cynical about state of democracy: Hepburn

Protest turns violent in Germany at European Central Bank opening

By Holly Yan, CNN

(CNN) A massive anti-austerity rally in Germany turned violent Wednesday when protesters clashed with police at the opening of the new European Central Bank headquarters.

Frankfurt police said they used water cannons to disperse protesters after attacks on officers, firefighters, a police station and the Old Opera House.

At least 88 officers have been wounded, police said. Eight suffered head injuries after stones were thrown at them, and 80 were hurt when an unknown substance was poured over them.

The damage included at least seven police cars that were set on fire.

Officers arrested five people for violent acts against police and detained another 500 people for questioning, Frankfurt police spokeswoman Tessa Koschig said.

The protest movement, dubbed “Blockupy,” comes amid criticism of austerity measures from the Greek finance minister, who said his country is suffering under the ECB’s policies.

“We want the European Central Bank to stop the austerity (policies) in Europe that is responsible for mass joblessness … people don’t have enough to eat,” Blockupy spokeswoman Songa Winter said. The European Central Bank is tasked with ensuring price stability in the eurozone, and it targets inflation levels just below 2%. The region has been suffering from depressed economic activity, and unemployment remains near record highs.

“What we’re seeing, I think, in Frankfurt is a reaction you see across the eurozone for many people who have said it’s just been too painful, too much, and it’s been going for too long,” CNN’s Jim Boulden said.

Read more » CNN
See more » http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/18/europe/germany-european-central-bank-protest/

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

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

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

Bulgaria Day 160 of ДАНСwithme Anti-Government Protest and OccupySU Students Joined by Bulgaria’s largest trade union CITUB.

An estimated 4,000 Bulgarian workers protested on Wednesday against low wages and a lack of jobs, a sign that opposition to the Socialist-led cabinet may be spreading beyond its student base. Wednesday is the 160th consecutive day of protests, which were triggered by a controversial cabinet nomination in June.

Wednesday’s protesters, led by Bulgaria’s largest trade union CITUB, marched through the capital Sofia to demand a 10 percent increase in public sector salaries and reforms in the inefficient and corruption-prone healthcare and energy sectors.

We want to see the economy turned to the problems of the workers. We want decent pay and jobs. If the government do not take note now, our next move will be to go to strike,” said CITUB leader Plamen Dimitrov.

The centre-left government has faced almost daily protests since taking office in May. Corruption was the main cause of disgruntlement at the outset of the demonstrations, which had until now been led by students and relatively well-to-do urban professionals who account for a small proportion of Bulgaria’s population. Their daily protests in front of parliament have focused less on bread-and-butter issues and more on what they say is the poor governance that still blights Bulgaria more than two decades after the fall of communism and six years after it joined the European Union.
Read more » Revolution News
http://revolution-news.com/bulgaria-day-160-anti-government-protest-and-occupysu-students-joined-by-bulgarias-largest-trade-union-citub/

Switzerland limits CEOs one month pay

A Proposal To Limit Swiss Executive Pay To 12 Times That Of Low-Paid Employees Has Fat Cats Worried

By Adam Taylor

On Nov. 24, Swiss voters will go to the polls to vote on a radical new idea — limiting the monthly pay of the highest earners in Swiss firms to no greater than the yearly pay of the lowest earners. It’s being called the 1:12 Initiative — and it sure has some people worried.

To understand the context of the vote, you need to know two things about Switzerland. First, the country has a relatively unique system of direct democracy — if 100,000 people sign a proposed change to the constitution, or “popular initiatives,” a referendum is held. If a majority of voters and cantons (Swiss states) agree with the proposal, the change can become law.

The second factor is how these Swiss initiatives have been used recently. Earlier this year Swiss voters agreed to an idea proposed by entrepreneur Thomas Minder that limited executive (in his words, “fat cat”) salaries of companies listed on the Swiss stock market. On the other end of the spectrum, a proposal to give every Swiss adult an unconditional income of $2,800 a month recently gained enough signatures to be voted on.

The 1:12 Initiative lies somewhere between these two extremes in terms of its radical ambition, but its core idea comes from the same place — an angst in Switzerland, a country most famous for centuries of private banking, that executive pay and income inequality are out of control.

To understand the thought process, Business Insider called David Roth, the leader of the youth wing of Swiss party the Social Democrats, and one of the architects of the plan. Roth explained that high executive salaries only became a big issue in 2002 or so, and by 2006/7 they became a public issue. The preparation for the 1:12 Initiative began in 2009.

Continue reading Switzerland limits CEOs one month pay

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

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/

Brazilian Revolt Claims Second Life as Violence Erupts

By Joshua Goodman, Raymond Colitt & David Biller

Brazil’s swelling street rebellion claimed its second fatality in the largest and most violent protests yet, as 1 million demonstrators rallied for better public services and an end to corruption

Marches took place in hundreds of cities across Brazil last night in what began as a peaceful protest. Violence later erupted with police battling mobs trying to storm the Foreign Ministry in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro’s city hall.

In the northern city of Belem, a 54-year-old street cleaner died today after having a heart attack during the protests there, local health officials said. Yesterday an 18-year-old was killed when a vehicle accelerated into a crowd in the city of Ribeirao Preto, the military police said. The Free Fare Movement that helped organize protests in Sao Paulo said today it wouldn’t call new protests for now.

President Dilma Rousseff, who has been struggling to get in front of the mass movement, met with cabinet members today to discuss emergency measures to help quell violence and prepare proposals on education, health and other demands of protesters, a government official aware of her agenda said.

The movement triggered by an increase in bus fares this month has spread amid a groundswell of discontent among Brazil’s middle class. While faster economic growth helped lift 40 million people out of poverty over the past decade, a recent slowdown and faster inflation threaten to erode social gains.

Read more » Bloomberg
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-21/brazil-protests-persist-after-cities-revoke-fare-increase.html

Brazil erupts in protest over services and World Cup costs

Some of country’s biggest ever rallies sweep major cities as bus fare rise is last straw in spiral of high costs and poor services

By in Rio de Janeiro, guardian.co.uk

Brazil experienced one of its biggest nights of protest in decades on Monday as more than 100,000 people took to the streets nationwide to express their frustration at heavyhanded policing, poor public services and high costs for the World Cup.

The major demonstrations in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasilia, Belem, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and elsewhere started peacefully but several led to clashes with police and arson attacks on cars and buses.

The large turnout and geographic spread marked a rapid escalation after smaller protests last week against bus price increases led to complaints that police responded disproportionately with rubber bullets, tear gas and violent beatings.

Coinciding with the start of the Confederations Cup – a World Cup test event – the rallies brought together a wide coalition of people frustrated with the escalating costs and persistently poor quality of public services, lavish investment on international sporting events, low standards of healthcare and wider unease about inequality and corruption.

In Rio images and video posted online showed vast crowds.

While the vast majority of demonstrations were peaceful, several police were injured in clashes at the city’s legislative assembly, at least one car was overturned and burned and windows were smashed in the offices of banks and notary offices.

The unrest escalated during the night as a large crowd set several fires outside the legislative assembly, smashed the building’s windows and daubed graffiti on the walls proclaiming “Revolution”, “Down with Paes, down with Cabral [the mayor and state governor]” and “Hate police”. Police inside responded with pepper spray and perhaps more – the Guardian saw one protester passed out and bleeding heavily from a wound in the upper arm.

The causes pursued by the protesters varied widely. “We are here because we hate the government. They do nothing for us,” said Oscar José Santos, a 19-year-old who was with a group of hooded youths from the Rocinha favela.

“I’m an architect but I have been unemployed for six months. There must be something wrong with this country,” said Nadia al Husin, holding up a banner calling on the government to do more for education.

At a far smaller rally in Brasilia demonstrators broke through police lines to enter the high-security area of the national congress. Several climbed on to the roof.

In Belo Horizonte police clashed with protesters who tried to break through a cordon around a football stadium hosting a Confederations Cup match between Nigeria and Tahiti.

In Port Alegre demonstrators set fire to a bus and in Curitiba protesters attempted to force their way into the office of the state governor. There were also rallies in Belem, Salvador and elsewhere.

In São Paulo, which had seen the fiercest clashes last week and the main allegations of police violence, large crowds gathered once again but initial reports suggested the marches passed peacefully.

Read more » Guardian.co.uk
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/18/brazil-protests-erupt-huge-scale