Monday, December 11, 2006

Social Corporations

Can we have Dr Yunus' "social business" or "social corporation" while society is shackled by the dictatorship of capital? Dr. Muhammed Yunus, 66, is founder of the Grameen Bank. The 2006 Nobel Peace prize was awarded 1/2 to Yunus and 1/2 to Grameen Bank for their work to fight poverty. The Grameen Bank was founded in 1976 to provide microcredit to poor people in developing nations.

From the New York Times (my comments in italics brakets):
Out to Maximize Social Gains, Not Profit

“Its lanes will be taken over by the giant trucks from powerful economies,” Dr. Yunus said during a lavish ceremony [code by NY Times writer to show how hypocritical Yunus is to talk about poverty in such settings, sacre bleu!] at which he was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. “Bangladeshi rickshaws will be thrown off the highway.”

While international companies motivated by profit may be crucial in addressing global poverty [why? Their net effect is to create poverty], he said, nations must also cultivate grassroots enterprises and the human impulse to do good.

Challenging economic theories that he learned as a Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville in the 1970s, he said glorification of the entrepreneurial spirit has led to “one-dimensional human beings” motivated only by profit.

Dr. Yunus, 66, then took a direct jibe at the United States for its war on terror, telling about 1,000 dignitaries at Oslo’s City Hall that recent American military campaigns in Iraq and elsewhere had diverted global resources and attention from a more pressing project: halving worldwide poverty by 2015, as envisaged by the United Nations six years ago [How is this a jibe? It is a simple fact that spending on war takes away from spending on other priorities. Again we see the non-objective nature of the NYT and it support for the, albeit liberal, imperialist project].

“Never in human history had such a bold goal been adopted by the entire world in one voice, one that specified time and size,” he said. “But then came Sept. 11 and the Iraq war, and suddenly the world became derailed from the pursuit of this dream.”

He said terrorism cannot be defeated militarily and the concept of peace requires broadening. “Peace should be understood in a human way, in a broad social, political and economic way,” Dr. Yunus said.

He called for legal recognition of a new category of corporation that would be neither profit-maximizing nor nonprofit. It would be a “social business,” like Grameen Bank, the Dhaka-based microcredit institution he started 30 years ago. The bank has lent nearly $6 billion to help some of the poorest people on earth to start businesses, build shelters and go to school.

Grameen Bank — with which Dr. Yunus shared the prize today — is an interest-charging, profit-making business with more than 2,200 branches. But it is owned primarily by its poor clients and run for their benefit [sounds like a cooperative to me]. Similarly structured institutions, he said, could bring health care, information technology, education and energy to the poor without requiring infusions of aid.

“By defining ‘entrepreneur’ in a broader way, we can change the character of capitalism radically and solve many of the unresolved social and economic problems within the scope of the free market,” he said [This is a GREAT point! Social entrepreneurs is a good idea insofar as it takes a familiar concept from Darwinian capitalism and morphs it, channeling ambitious behavior for the social good].

He traveled to Oslo with nine of the bank’s board members. Four of them are among Bangladesh’s nearly 300,000 “telephone ladies,” each of whom once borrowed money to buy a mobile telephone and now earns money charging rural villagers to use it.

Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes called microcredit “a liberating force” for women and Muslims, many of whom have traditionally shunned interest-charging institutions.

“All too often, we speak one-sidedly about how much the Muslim part of the world has to learn from the West,” said Prof. Danbolt Mjoes. “Where microcredit is concerned, the opposite is true: the West has learned from Yunus, from Bangladesh, and from the Muslim part of the world.”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

We are Nowhere and It's Now

We are Nowhere and It's Now
Bright Eyes
If you hate the taste of wine
Why do you drink it till you're blind?
And if you swear that there's no truth and who cares
How come you say it like you're right?
Why are you scared to dream of God
When it's salvation that you want?
You see stars that clear have been dead for years
But the idea just lives on...

In our wheels that roll around
As we move over the ground
And all day it seems we've been in between
A past and future town

We are nowhere and it's now
We are nowhere and it's now

In like a ten minute dream in the passenger's seat
While the world was flying by
I haven't been gone very long
But it feels like a life time

I've been sleeping so strange at night
Side effects they don't advertise
I've been sleeping so strange
With a head full of pesticide

I've got no plans in too much time
I feel too restless to unwind
I'm always lost in thought as I walk a block
To my favorite neon sign

Where the waitress looks concerned
But she never says a word
Just turns the juke box on and we hum along
And I smile back at her

And my friend comes after work
When the features start to blur
She says these bars are filled with things that kill
By now you probably should have learned

Did you forget that yellow bird?
How could you forget your yellow bird?
She took a small silver wreath and pinned it onto me
She said this one will bring you love
And I don't know if it's true
But I keep it for good luck

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ecuador Elects Leftist Government

Ecuador elects leftist president Rafael Correa, who calls for an end to the "long, sad neoliberal night." CBS News reports:
Ecuador's president-elect joins a wave of Latin American leaders swept into power opposing the free-market economic policies that are preached by Washington but are hugely unpopular among the region's poor.

After two decades of privatization and trade liberalization across the hemisphere, leftist leaders _ most notably Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia _ are exerting more state control over their nations' economies to promote wealth distribution.

Rafael Correa, the U.S-educated economist who will take over the presidency of this small Andean nation in January, says he will apply the same prescription in his country, where three-fourths of its inhabitants live in poverty despite Ecuador being South America's fifth largest oil producer.

Correa, 43, plans to tighten government control over the banking system and expand the state oil company's role in production and commercialization of Ecuador's oil.

He also wants to cut ties to international lending institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and has threatened a moratorium on foreign debt payments unless foreign bondholders agree to lower Ecuador's debt service by half.

[...]

In his first statements after defeating banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa, Correa criticized the free-market policies that he says have failed to improve the lives of Ecuadoreans and urged them to join him "to overcome 20 years of a long and sad neoliberal night."

[...]
Updates to the socialist map project are forthcoming.

Chavez Rides Red Volkswagen to Victory

Hugo Chavez, in a closely observed election, won 61.35% of the vote to secure his presidential bid on December 3rd, 2006. His closest rival, economic and political conservative Manuel Rosales came in with 33.38% of the vote.

Venezuela implemented what many observers regard as the most exhaustive set of electoral safeguards ever seen in Latin America. The new Venezuelan voting system includes fingerprint voter registration, electronic balloting with a paper receipt and on-line transmission of the votes to the National Electoral Council.

Hugo drove to the polls in his red Volkswagen bug dressed in his signature red shirt, black pants and white sneakers. "He dresses like he is one of us," said one of his supporters, reflecting the mood of the majority of the people in this increasingly red nation.

Chavez's social programs and structural changes in this historically divided nation have led to massive economic gains. Land redistribution, urban renewal and infrastructure projects in slum areas have all helped. Thousands of doctors from Cuba and the establishment of clinics and access to clean water and other utilitizes have been a bonanza in a country where, only ten years ago soldiers were ordered to fire on and murder protestors demonstrating for food.

The Economist magazine reports Venezuela's economy growing at an annualized rate of 10.2% in Q3 with a positive trade balance nearing $40 billion (thanks largely to oil exports). This follows consistent double-digit growth since the disasterous 2002 coup attempt and bosses strike/lock-out. The historically feudal-like economic relations in Venezuela are finally coming to an end.

In Venezuela the media is all still controlled by capitalist interests opposed to Chavez and socialism in general. All of the major newspapers and television stations were strongly anti-Chavez and pro-Morales. The same pattern was seen in Mexico, in which case the victory for the right was secured.

Chavez correctly stated in a post election speach delivered to several hundred thousand supporters that "[...] we are facing the very devil," Mr. Chavez said in one of his final speeches before campaigning officially ended. "On Dec. 3, we face at the ballot box the imperialist government of the United States of America. That is our real adversary."

Nevertheless, the liberal capitalist elite in the US is gaining ground quickly as evidenced by the toppling of Donald Rumsfeld and now John Bolton, and the increasing isolation of President George Bush. Tellingly, the US reaction to the Venezuelan elections has been positive and non-confrontational.

In a run-up to the election the right was able to mobilize hundreds of thousands of "middle class" Venezuelans for an anti-Chavez rally - the largest ever. However, this was followed the next day by a pro-Chavez rally involving over 2.5 million people!

See also Lenin's post on the Chavez victory. Long live socialism!

Friday, November 24, 2006

The return of the Sandinistas

Kevin Simpson, CWI London, reports:
As Daniel Ortega, leader of the Sandinistas, scraped home as president, thousands took to the streets of the capital, Managua, hooting car horns, sounding football klaxons and setting off fireworks to celebrate the victory.

The Bush administration was horrified. But is this the same Ortega who led the Sandinistas to power in 1979? Does this represent another shift to the left in Latin America?

The ‘thumping’ that Bush and the Republicans received in the US mid-term elections overshadowed another symbolic defeat for US imperialism just 24 hours later. This time it was south of the Rio Grande in Nicaragua where legislative and presidential elections took place. It was not a good week for the reactionary right-wing cabal heading the US superpower.

Continued: 21-Nov-2006, The return of the Sandinistas, CWI

Monday, November 20, 2006

CIA finds no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program

Just in case you were wondering:

A classified CIA analysis finds no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. It is based on intelligence collected by satellites, radioactivity measurements of water samples and plumes from industrial plants, and data gathered by high-tech radioactivity-detection devices placed by American and Israeli agents near suspected sites in Iran.

read more | digg story

Sunday, November 19, 2006

“V” Makes A Mark In DC - Vendetta Protest Continues!

En masse activist resistance takes a cue from the movie, “V for Vendetta.”

At 11:00 A.M. on Tuesday, November 14, 2006, nearly 100 men and women in “V” masks and clothing could be seen walking along different streets in downtown Washington, DC, all heading to Lafayette Park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

They protested against an unaccountable US government using tax dollars for an illegal war.

read more | digg story

Bombay Sapphire Martini

Bombay SapphireIn the comments section, this humble bloggers favorite bourgeois apologist, David Duff had this to say:
If that isn't the damnest thing! Until 5 days ago I had never heard of a "Bombay Sapphire martini" until you mentioned it and now, this very evening, reading yet another 'Crash-Bang-Wallop' (my knickname for American crime fiction to which I am addicted and which I buy by weight rather than book by book!), in this case "Black River" by G. M. Ford, and there in chapter 5 it mentions exactly that drink.

God, or historicial inevitability (I know which you prefer), is telling me something here, 'RinR', so please, tell me how this drink is made.
Historical inevitability for certain sir.

Quite simple really. The Reverend Horton Heat once said "I live my life on a layer of ice" and indeed, in my estimation, this is the key to a good martini of any sort, but most especially the Bombay Sapphire.

The key ingredient is unsurprisingly Bombay Sapphire Gin (or to the politically correct, MumbiaSapphire Gin, hehe). Also, it is well worth noting that a fine martini glass is required for maximum enjoyment. A very thin rim is preferred.

First off, fill your cocktail shaker with crushed ice.

Second, place two jiggers of Bombay sapphire Gin into the shaker.

Third, shake vigorously, until frost forms on the shaker. This breaks up the ice creating a somewhat slushy mixture which is your first key, and also fully releases the botanicals, which is your second key.

Fourth, put a pony of Martini & Rossi Extra Dry Vermouth into the gin glass. Gently swirl the martini glass to coat the entire inside of the glass with vermouth (much like you would with wine to see its "legs").

Fifth, give the gin a few more good shakes, then using the filter, pour it into the martini glass, it should come to about 1-2mm below the rim. A pleasant release of botanicals, smelling somewhat like fresh pine needles, should fill your senses. After a few seconds a layer of ice should form on the surface of the martini.

Sixth, if so inclined, drop a couple of Spanish Queen Olives into the martini.

For Christmas time, dropping two or three Peppermint Starlight Mints is a very enjoyable holiday alternative to the olives.

Voila! Enjoy!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Oaxaca Teachers Strike

Oaxaca Teacher Strike Police Repression
Some have asked me why I am socialist. I will continue to use this blog to present not only why I am a socialist but why it is in the best interest of humanity that we ALL become socialist.

Case in point, the teachers strike of Oaxaca.

Socialist press (Presa Latina) coverage:
Oaxaca Teachers Keep up Fight

The teachers in Oaxaca voiced support for local popular resistance to keep barricades up and refuse to talk with the government after the occupation.

Enrique Rueda Pacheco, Teachers Union secretary, said 80 percent of the state s schools were open amid tense calm, except Oaxaca and the periphery.
[...]

The Teachers from the union s Section 22 will get Friday their wage of two weeks plus another two for the first time in five months, following government fulfillment of agreements to restore normalcy.
[...]
Over in cartoonland, the capitalist press coverage (New York Times):
Oaxaca Youth Attack McDonald's

OAXACA, Mexico, Nov. 12 (AP) — Four youths wearing masks tossed gasoline bombs at a McDonald’s restaurant in the conflict-torn city of Oaxaca on Sunday, the police said.

The restaurant is near the university where leftist protesters set up their headquarters last month after the police drove them out of the city’s main plaza. They had occupied the plaza for five months in an effort to force the resignation of the Oaxaca governor.
[...]
Reminds me of the Phil Ochs song "Love Me I'm a Liberal" - a lesson in safe logic - the Times is a tool of capital and should never be confused as being anything but.

Although many mainstream media are saying the strike is over, the reports from alternative media say that the rank and file have rejected the truce.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Socialist Holidays

I would like to assemble a list of socialist holidays and this is a start. Please contribute or let me know if there are complete lists out there. Note these are not necessarily exclusively socialist in nature. So please, contribute anything you may have!
  • March 8th, International Women's Day - The United Nations declares this day to celebrate women and the accomplishments they have made to society. Many marches and rallies, including the "Bread and Roses" marches, have been historically held on in rememberance of this day. In the former Soviet Union, it is traditional on this holiday to present women with gifts and flowers to express appreciation for their work, love and devotion. It can be regarded as the equivalent of Mother's Day combined with some aspects of Valentine's Day.
  • May 1st, May Day - Remembering the Haymarket martyrs, May Day, or International Workers Day, is a celebration of the social and economic achievements of the international labor movement. May Day commonly sees organized street demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of working people and their labor unions throughout the world.
  • November 7th, Day of the Great Socialist October Revoution - Remembers the day in 1917 when the October Revolution toppled the Russian government and established the first socialist country in the world, changing history forever.

Holiday in the Sun

James Connolly on holidays (an excerpt from Socialism Made Easy). For some reason, reading this always makes me start humming Holiday in the Sun by the Sex Pistols.
OH, THE CAPITALIST HAS HIS ANXIETIES, TOO. AND THE WORKER HAS OFTEN A GOOD TIME.

Sure: Say, where were you for the holidays?

Were you tempted to go abroad? Did you visit Europe? Did you riot, in all the abandonment of a wage slave let loose, among the pleasure haunts of the world?

Perhaps you went to the Riviera; perhaps you luxuriated in ecstatic worship of that glorious bit of Nature's handiwork where the blue waters of the Mediterranean roll in all their entrancing splendor against the shores of classic Italy.

Perhaps you rambled among the vine clad hills of sunny France, and visited the spots hallowed by the hand of that country's glorious history.

Perhaps you sailed up the castellated Rhine, toasted the eyes of bewitching German frauleins in frothy German beer, explored the recesses of the legend haunted Hartz mountains, and established a nodding acquaintance with the Spirit of the Brocken.

Perhaps you traversed the lakes and fjords of Norway, sat down in awe before the neglected magnificence of the Alhambra, had a cup of coffee with Menelik of Abyssinia, smelt afar off the odors of the streets of Morocco, climbed the Pyramids of Egypt, shared the hospitable tent of the Bedouin, visited Cyprus, looked in at Constantinople, ogled the dark- eyed beauties of Circassia, rubbed up against the Cossack in his Ural mountains, or

Perhaps you lay in bed all day in order to save a meal, and listened to your wife wondering how she could make ends meet with a day's pay short in the weekly wages.

And whilst you thus squandered your substance in riotous living, did you ever stop to think of your master - your poor, dear, overworked, tired master?

Did you ever stop to reflect upon the pitiable condition of that individual who so kindly provides you with employment, and does no useful work himself in order that you may get plenty of it?

When you consider how hard a task it was for you to decide in what manner you should spend your Holiday; where you should go for that ONE DAY, then you must perceive how hard it is for your masters to find a way in which to spend the practically perpetual holiday which you force upon them by your love for work.

Ah, yes, that large section of our masters who have realized that ideal of complete idleness after which all our masters strive, those men who do not work, never did work, and with the help of God - and the ignorance of the people - never intend to work, how terrible must be their lot in life!

We, who toil from early morn till late at night, from January till December, from childhood to old age, have no care or trouble or mental anxiety to cross our mind - except the landlord, the fear of loss of employment, the danger of sickness, the lack of common necessities, to say nothing of luxuries, for our children, the insolence of our superiors, the unhealthy condition of our homes, the exhausting nature of our toil, the lack of all opportunities of mental cultivation, and the ever present question whether we shall shuffle off this mortal coil in a miserable garret, be killed by hard work, or die in the Poorhouse.

With these trifling exceptions we have nothing to bother us; but the boss, ah, the poor, poor boss!

He has everything to bother him. Whilst we are amusing ourselves in the hold of a ship shoveling coal, swinging a hammer in front of a forge, toiling up a ladder with bricks, stitching until our eyes grow dim at the board, gaily riding up and down for twelve hours per day, seven days per week, on a trolley car, riding around the city in all weather with teams or swinging by the skin of our teeth on the iron framework of a skyscraper, standing at our ease OUTSIDE the printing office door listening to the musical click of the linotype as it performs the work we used to do INSIDE, telling each other comforting stories about the new machinery which takes our places as carpenters, harness-makers, tinplate-workers, laborers, etc., in short whilst we are enjoying our- selves, free from all mental worry.

Our unselfish tired-out bosses are sitting at home, with their feet on the table, softly patting the bottom button of their vests.

Working with their brains.

Poor bosses! Mighty brains!

Without our toil they would never get the education necessary to develop their brains; if we were not defrauded by their class of the fruits of our toil we could provide for education enough to develop the mental powers of all, and so deprive the ruling class of the last vestige of an excuse for clinging to mastership, viz., their assumed intellectual superiority.

I say 'assumed', because the greater part of the brain- work of industry today is performed by men taken from the ranks of the workers, and paid high salaries in proportion as they develop expertness as slave-drivers.

As education spreads among the people the workers will want to enjoy life more; they will assert their right to the full fruits of their labor, and by that act of self-assertion lay the foundation of that Socialist Republic in which the labor will be so easy, and the reward so great, that life will seem a perpetual holiday.

Socialism In One Village








From EurasiaNet.org, a wonderful story of a village in Armenia where Communism is a way of life:

"Long Live Communism!," "Long Live Socialism!," "Long Live the Great October Revolution!" In the Armenian village of Lernamerdz, about 40 kilometers from Yerevan, communism and its triumphant proclamations are not a dim recollection. They are a way of life.

In Soviet times, there were reportedly only seven communists in Lernamerdz, a hamlet of over 500 residents. But the situation changed after Armenia gained independence in 1991, and began to dismantle monuments to communist leaders, villagers say.

Amidst the economic hardships and political uncertainties of independence, Lernamerdz Communist Party Secretary Samvel Mirzoyan says, the village began to see socialism as their sole support.
"They say the country has become independent, but from what?" commented villager Azat Barseghyan. "Once we were dependent on Russia, and lived well… [T]oday we depend on the whole world and are struggling to survive."

"The example of Lernamerdz is a good illustration of what great results people’s unity and rallying around a common idea can bring," said Armenian Communist Party First Secretary Ruben Tovmasyan. "The powerful ideology of socialism cannot die. It can retreat for a while, but it is certain to come back and triumph." Communist Party membership in Armenia currently stands at about 18,000 members; the party has no seats in parliament.

The lack of political muscle does little to dissuade these villagers, though. Nearly 15 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the first toast at birthday and wedding parties here is in honor of Vladimir Lenin. Unlike elsewhere in Armenia, schoolchildren are familiar with communist holidays, and can recite by heart poetry dedicated to the now much-maligned leader of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

And as in Soviet times, November 7, the anniversary of that revolution, remains cause for official celebration, with Communist Party representatives from nearby towns and the party’s national leadership on hand to congratulate villagers.

"Our leader is with us, hurrah!" ring out the cries of villagers applauding a silvery two-ton statue of Lenin that stands in the center of the village. The monument, adorned with a red banner that proclaims "Proletarians of All Countries, Unite!," arrived only in 1997. It is repaired every year to maintain its appearance.

The central government’s enthusiasm for the festivities runs thin, however. Villagers told EurasiaNet that the government had changed the principal of the Lernamerdz school and forbidden children to come to school in red scarves, or to take part in the November 7 celebration. But some still attended.

"The spirit of communism is in this village," commented Sofik Manukyan, second secretary of the Echmiadzin city branch of the Armenian Communist Party.

Even so, that "spirit" has so far done little to improve living conditions for village inhabitants. Unemployment still looms large. Some 150 people have left Lernamerdz in the past few years, said villager Barseghyan. Twenty-three houses have had their doors locked for years, he added.

Nonetheless, optimism for a better life persists. It is all just a matter of time, villagers say.

"When communism returns to Armenia, people will lead a happy life," concluded 41-year-old Rostam Avdalyan. "Everyone will be happy then and the sun will shine brightly."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Carnival of Socialism 10

The Carnival of Socialism #10 was posted on Oct 22. Sorry for the delay - I'm not quite as blogtastic as I used to be.
Carnival Number 10!
This is the tenth Carnival of Socialism and the first subject-specific one. I have had a lot of fun running the Carnival for its first ten issues but feel now that it needs a change of style and pace - so anyone who wants to take over from me should either comment or email camusfan@msn.com.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cuban Revolution

Cuba has suffered greatly both due to the fall of the Soviet Union and because of the 50 year old US blockade. The US has cut Cuba off from essential supplies including food, raw materials and fossil fuels. Lift the Cuban blockade now! In addition, the 1996 Helms-Burton law (Libertad) has shown the clear interest of the United States in Cuba and beyond. In short, it is naked hegemonic imperialism (the opposite of "spreading democracy"). Some analyses defend the law based on the premise that it is effective in its goal (e.g. imposing hegemonic imperialism)! Nevermind the millions in Cuba who have suffered. Nevermind the thousands who have been fined or detained for having the nerve to do business in or with Cuba.

One aspect of the law is that it punishes people and companies, domestic and foreign, who do business in Cuba in a certain context. More importantly, it is a setup for making "the Island" into a debt prison for the majority of its population. The law demands that "the Island" (this language shows us clearly that sovereignty is not even recognized!) return certain capital property to its former "owners" valued at approximately US$6 billion and pay interest and interest on interest, etc. in perpetuity. Variations of this model is quite effective throughout the third world as implemented by the IMF and World Bank. However, in this case we see that in fact it is a form of collective punishment against the entire "Island" in retaliation for the Revolution.

How long could such an unjust punishment last? Simply look to Haiti for your example. Since the black uprising and establishment of a freed-slave republic in 1804 the Haitian people have been punished by the international community for their hubris. In 1833 France forced Haiti to pay reparations for the revolution, which threw the country into crippling debt. Direct American military intervention began in 1915 and continues to this day. The Cuban people are well aware of this and other histories and understand their fate under neo-liberalism. The Helms-Burton law has destroyed any notion of perestroika occurring in Cuba. Any transition after Castro will very likely be brutal and bloody. It is in this context that the revolution must be maintained!

Nevertheless, the nation has reaped amazing results due to its planned economy focused on providing for human need. Cuba has one of the highest life expectancies in the world (over 70), boasts the best doctor patient ratio in the world, and one of the best teacher student ratios. Socialism Today has published an excellent survey of Cuba and its future without Castro. An excerpt is here:
Millions of working-class people and the poor, particularly in the neo-colonial world and especially in Latin America, are hoping against hope that the predictions of the imminent collapse of Cuba will prove wrong. The Cuban revolution, right from its inception in January 1959, and through its planned economy, gave a glimpse of what was possible for humankind as a whole if the straightjacket of landlordism and capitalism was eliminated. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were then, and remain today, heroic figures for many workers and youth throughout the world.

If anything, Cuba's reputation has been enhanced when set against the background of the brutal neo-liberal offensive of capitalism worldwide throughout the1990ss and the first part of this century. The achievements in health, housing and education are spectacular when compared to the dismal record of landlordism and capitalism in the neo-colonial world. Even while the bourgeoisie of the world and its hirelings seek to use the illness of Castro as an excuse to pillory Cuba and its revolution, other, more serious, journals of capitalism are compelled torecognizee Cuba's achievements.

For instance, El Pai­s, the Spanish journal, recently outlined Cuba'’s impressive performance in key fields. There are 200,000 teachers in a population of 11.4 million. This means there is a teacher for every 57 people, one of the best ratios of teachers to pupils anywhere in the world, never mind the neo-colonial world. Moreover, following the Pakistan earthquake in 2005, Cuba sent 2,660 doctors and health technicians to help in the worst areas. In six months in Pakistan, they dealt with 1,700,000 patients 73% of those affected by illness and carried out 14,500 operations. In addition to this they offered 1,000 courses to young people from the worst-hit areas to study medicine in Cuba. Thirty-two temporary hospitals were left by the Cuban government to be used by the Pakistani people to combat serious illnesses. Naturally, this raised the profile of support for Cuba in Pakistan. In Indonesia, following the earthquake in May 2006, 135 Cuban health workers attended 100,000 patients. Two hospitals were built and left by the Cubans when the medical expedition left the country. Thirty-six thousand Cuban health professionals and technicians are working in 107 different third-world countries. In addition to this, Venezuela and Cuba have announced a project, "operation milagro"’ (operation miracle), to provide six million Latin Americans with free operations if they cannot afford them over the next ten years. Cuba has also offered 100,000 places in Cuban universities to train Latin American doctors free of charge.

Socialism Today: What will happen after Castro?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mexico PRD Resistance Continues

AMLO on the move:
Mexico, Oct 12 (Prensa Latina) Leaders of Mexico s PRD (Revolucion Democratica Party) asserted Thursday that the civilian resistance continues united behind opposition leader AMLO (Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador) as legitimate president of Mexico.

Denying the "insidious" rumors that a faction has withdrawn support, PRD spokesman Gerardo Fernandez Noroña said on the contrary, they are firm that AMLO will be declared president on November 20 and that they will try to block the named elect, Felipe Calderon, from swearing-in before Congress on December 1.

He repeated that all of the PRD groups are in consensus with the agreements of September´s National Democratic Convention and that Obrador is the most important leader of the left.

The PRD spokesman also rejected Calderon s recent initiatives and long-term program for development because, "for PRD he will always be a usurper and we will continue actions to combat him with determination."
and...
Mexico, Oct 8 (Prensa Latina) Mexican opposition leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador termed important the peaceful resistance stated last July in Mexico to stop economic and social inequalities.

Lopez Obrador said in Tabasco, as part of a national tour, that the mobilization will continue as part of a fair and vital movement otherwise Mexicans will stay without a defense.

He noted the disparity in per capita distribution of incomes as 90 percent earn less than the minimum and 100 people get fortunes and concentrate national wealth.

He added that misery affects namely the indigenous population marginalized at swamps and mountains and very few know to read and write.

Lopez Obrador finally promised to devote his life to fight for those who have least.
So, many on the right have said (see the Huffington Post) that AMLO is a corrupt liar. If so, what can he possibly gain by taking this route and appealing to the poorest and most politically outcast groups of people in Mexico? Certainly a truely corrupt individual would know better where to get his bread well buttered...

Calderon is a PRI flunky. Yes is supposedly a PAN candidate. But the institutionalize Party of the Institutionalized "Revolution" just simply changed flags and slogans to throw in with the right-wing neo-liberal PAN in a bid to cling to power. Most of these charaters have been in power in Mexico City for decades first as PRI then as PAN. The only difference is that PAN has made them more socially conservative so as to appeal more to the theocratic US government.

AMLO would have brought change and new faces to the federal government. That is why he HAD to loose. The entrenched interests and long and deep ties within the 3rd estate of Mexico linked to the capitalist ruling class was severely threatened, at least in the short term, by such a power shift. Many individuals would have been affected and a lot of corruption would have been uncovered, ruining lives and causing general disruption. Ah, democracy, a nice idea but really such a bother afterall.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Takes More Than Guns to Kill a Man

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.
Says I "But Joe, you're ten years dead"
"I never died" said he,
"I never died" said he.

"In Salt Lake, Joe," says I to him,
him standing by my bed,
"They framed you on a murder charge,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead."

"The Copper Bosses killed you Joe,
they shot you Joe" says I.
"Takes more than guns to kill a man"
Says Joe "I didn't die"
Says Joe "I didn't die"

And standing there as big as life
and smiling with his eyes.
Says Joe "What they can never kill
went on to organize,
went on to organize"

From San Diego up to Maine,
in every mine and mill,
where working-men defend their rights,
it's there you find Joe Hill,
it's there you find Joe Hill!

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I "But Joe, you're ten years dead"
"I never died" said he,
"I never died" said he.

Joe Hill was an IWW organizer who worked hard to build the union for exploited copper workers in the Western US. He was framed for murder and shot by the state of Utah in 1915. His last words were "Fire!"

Saturday, September 30, 2006

On Socialisms

In response to some comments I wanted to clarify a point on what exactly socialism, and specifically Marxist scientific socialism, is. The best way to do this is by looking at the history of the use of the term. Wikipedia has this to offer:
The term "socialism" was first used in the context of early-19th century Western European social critics. In this period, socialism emerged from a diverse array of doctrines and social experiments associated primarily with British and French thinkers—particularly Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Louis Blanc, and Saint-Simon. These social critics saw themselves as reacting to the excesses of poverty and inequality in the period, and advocated reforms [and] principles for the reorganization of society along collectivist lines.

Wikipedia: Socialism
Even today there are many definitions of socialism. However there is a common thread. It is simply that socialism involves organizing society and the economy in such a way that places human need and development at the center (as opposed to, for instance, capitalism, where profit is at the center of social and economic activity). This is why anarchists on the one side, and nationalist-populists on the other can sometimes be heard calling themselves socialists. They all strive for a social order that is not governed by capital.

Marxism & Scientific Socialism

Marx in the mid 19th century defined what Engels called "scientific socialism." Marx was quite aware of all the various "utopian" socialist ideas. He was also a student of political economy (which at the time was a new form of economic thought, e.g. Adam Smith). What he was able to do in Capital was to develop a scientific model of capitalism with a scathing critique of political economy (which serves as a scientific apology for the capitalist system) from which it has yet to recover, and offer an alternative.

Many Marxists today essentially follow this concept of scientific socialism. Built on a strong understanding of capitalism, Marxism understands that the heart of capitalism is profit - which is derived from the exploitation of labor, and is the only way to create capital (which is different from capital equipment - those being the means of production). By having a rigorous understanding the material conditions of capitalism is the only way to create a society which does not share the characteristics that lead to capitalism.

We often hear the word "materialism" today as synonymous with "consumerism" or "greed." Marxemphasizedd materialism in his writings on these subjects but it is something completely different. What Marx means by materialism is the scientific definition: that observable events in nature are explained only by natural causes without assuming the existence or non-existence of the supernatural.

This is at the heart of Marxism - the ideas are based on a concrete understanding of the way the actually existing world works and presents a model on how to fix the problems. This is fundamentally different from utopian socialism(s) which ignore reality and instead rely on adeityy or other supernatural force. Marxism is fundamentally materialist and humanist, based on a scientific understanding of political and economic realities and placing Man at the center of the problem and its solution.

Capitalism, Democracy & The Market

Most people who argue against socialism often confuse these three concepts. They often serve as a sort of holy trinity which, as they are all supposedly antithetical to socialism, can be used to shoot down any reasonable arguments for socialism.

Since having silly arguments is boring and unproductive for all involved, I thought it would be useful toclarifyp exactly how these concepts differ from each other.

Democracy - rule by the people; a form of government or governance in which a wide majority of people participate, voting being one of the primary mechanisms. Democracy was first used by the ancient Greeks in 1,200 BC

Market Economy - In general, goods and services are owned and may be exchanged quid pro quo for money or other goods or services. A market does not logically presuppose the existence of "private property in the means of production" in the sense that private individuals or family households are the owners of land and capital and thus the recipients of profits, interest, rent etc. This type of system can be seen to exist in many historical periods on a limited scale, increasing in importance in the 1500s in conjunction with the rise of capitalism (as capitalism relies on private ownership of commodities and their exchange).

Capitalism - A historically specific mode of production in which capital has become the dominant means of production. Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are mostly privately owned, and capital is invested in the production, distribution and other trade of goods and services, for profit. Capital is created via commodity labor, a process unique to capitalism and one which makes capitalism unique and distinct from other economic systems before it. Capitalism is the first economic system under which workers are free to sell their labor on the open market. However, as capitalists control all the means of production, they are not free NOT to sell their labor, as they cannot produce for themselves without owning those means. Capitalism developed in England in the late 1500s.

Socialism Today

There are many types of socialists today. Social Democrats, Maoists and Trotskyites are major currents. I will close this post with a definition of socialists goals derived from the Socialist International's 1989 Declaration of Principles:
Democratic socialism is an international movement for freedom, social justice and solidarity. Its goal is to achieve a peaceful world where these basic values can be enhanced and where each individual can live a meaningful life with the full development of his or her personality and talents and with the guarantee of human and civil rights in a democratic framework of society.

Freedom is the product of both individual and cooperative efforts - the two aspects are parts of a single process. Each person has the right to be free of political coercion and also to the greatest chance to act in pursuit of individual goals and to fulfil personal potential. But that is only possible if humanity as a whole succeeds in its long-standing struggle to master its history and to ensure that no person, class, sex, religion or race becomes the servant of another.

Solidarity is all-encompassing and global. It is the practical expression of common humanity and of the sense of compassion with the victims of injustice. Solidarity is rightly stressed and celebrated by all major humanist traditions. In the present era of unprecedented interdependence between individuals and nations, solidarity gains an enhanced significance since it is imperative for human survival.

Socialists do not claim to possess the blueprint for some final and fixed society which cannot be changed, reformed or further developed. In a movement committed to democratic self-determination there will always be room for creativity since each people and every generation must set its own goals.

The concentration of economic power in few private hands must be replaced by a different order in which each person is entitled - as citizen, consumer or wage-earner - to influence the direction and distribution of production, the shaping of the means of production, and the conditions of working life.

A democratic society must compensate for the defects of even the most responsible market systems. Government must not function simply as the repair shop for the damage brought about by market inadequacies or the uncontrolled application of new technologies. Rather the State must regulate the market in the interests of the people and obtain for all workers the benefits of technology, both in work experience and through the growth of leisure time and meaningful possibilities for individual development.

Declaration of Principles of the Socialist International
As a Trotskyite I have some problems with the underpinnings of the social democratic ideology. In essence it is an ideology with collaborates with capitalism and thereby advocates a dual-power situation which ultimately undermines its other principles. Put simply, how can society achieve the goals of socialism when all the power is concentrated into the hands of the few and the economy is organized around the profit motive?

Nevertheless, the main principles and goals of democratic socialism echo those of all socialists - a desire for true freedom both political and economic, solidarity, world peace and a society based on collective social responsibility for the welfare of all.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

HUD to Reopen Public Housing in New Orleans

Read this amazing press release, and then follow the link. We need much more direct action like what these people are doing.
HUD SECRETARY ANNOUNCES ALL PUBLIC HOUSING TO REOPEN IN NEW ORLEANS

In a bold reversal of policy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that they will reopen public housing in New Orleans and embark on a bold new plan to help former residents get back home.

At The Gulf Coast Reconstruction & Hurricane Preparedness Summit, organized by Equity International (http://www.katrinareconstruction.org), HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson admitted that the agency has been headed down the wrong path
for the last year.

"Our charter, here at HUD, is to ensure access to affordable housing for those who need it the most. This past year in New Orleans, I am ashamed to say that we have clearly failed to do this," said Jackson.

The Yes Men prank HUD re: NOLA Public Housing! Yes!!!! Oh, yes!!!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Rose and Fist

The rose and fist as a symbol of progress:

In the classic rose and fist representation, red symbolizes the blood spilt by workers the world over in the fight for their emancipation and was directly inherited from the red banner flown at the Paris Commune, the original and hitherto base symbol of the workers' cause. After the 1886 Haymarket Massacre, socialists and trade unionists began wearing red roses or carnations on their lapels to show solidarity with the eight labour leaders who had been convicted of inciting to riot. Four of them were hanged. After this, a red rose was often worn during May Day marches and other socialist events. After World War II the red rose became widely adopted as a symbol of socialism. (adapted from thesocialistring.com).

The rose and the fist is used as a symbol of many Socialist and Social Democratic parties in Europe, including for instance the Socialist Party of France and the Rose in the Fist Party (Rosa nel Pugno) of Italy. In the UK the Socialist Party also uses the rose as a symbol.

Personally, and I think many of my comrades would agree, I preffer the scarlet banner. However, since I also like gardening the fist and rose could have a dual meaning.

Also of interest (to American readers) - the Fist And Rose Tendency of the SPUSA has a blog - check it out: http://fistandrose.blogspot.com/

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Challenging Capitalist Chow


Slow Food, Good Food: The Fuel of a United Working Class.

In the Devil’s Garden: Sinful History of Forbidden Food by Stewart Lee Allen, the author examines food taboos throughout history, organizing chapters by the seven deadly sins. Among other topics*, Allen discusses the tendency of a ruling or conquering class to create or reject the proletariat’s eating habits, and rigidly enforce those decisions, in order to maintain the status quo.

In the “Gluttony” chapter, Allen writes:

The practice of criminalizing foods that engender laziness first appeared in the legal code of the seventh-century B.C. Spartan civilization. The Spartans did everything they could to make dinner pure hell. Meals were served in communal mess halls and in portions designed to leave citizens hungry. Their national dish was deliberately revolting “black broth,” made of pork stock, blood vinegar, and salt. Citizens whose generous paunches suggested covert snacking were thrown out of the country. Foreign ambassadors who dined with undue elegance were also expelled. The idea behind this madness, according to Plutarch, was to stop citizens from “spending their lives … laid on costly couches at splendid tables, delivering themselves up to the hands of their tradesmen and cooks, who fatten them in corners like greedy brutes.” The code’s creator, Lycurgus, took his creed so seriously he actually starved himself to death.

It’s a notion that recurs regularly throughout Western history. The nineteenth-century English almost banned the potato for fear it would turn its working class into fornicating hobos [as Allen later points out, the potato also allowed the Irish to grow as a populace, threatening the "British land barrons who controlled Ireland." – Ed.], just as the French aristocrats outlawed soft white bread to ensure a hardy peasantry [and to clearly separate the haves from the have-nots – Ed.]. Modern America has raised this technique to technological perfection; consider, for example, “convenience foods” such as Oscar Meyer’s infamous Sack of Sauce in a Can of Meat and premade chocolate sundaes designed so that the microwave melts the sauce but leaves the ice cream intact. TV dinners. McDonald’s. Despite the technological differences between Modern America and Sparta, the principle of using diet to create an ideal working class is identical. Where the Spartans banished citizens who enjoyed eating, modern American just pays them less – about 7 percent among female workers. Both today’s fast-food outlets and Spartan mess halls are/were designed to discourage lingering over dinner and eliminate the need for people to “waste” their time cooking for the family. And, like the Spartans’ legendarily bad food, many of these convenience foods are so unpleasant they make even work look good. They’re also immensely profitable for the corporation who produce them. Perfect: American workers now pay more money for worse food so they can hurry back to jobs they hate.



You’re here for the Socialism, but bear with me for a moment. Think back to the last time you ate a fast-food French fry: did it taste as good as you imagined it might? Probably not, yet that Platonic French fry ideal keeps us going back for more. If you’re over the age of 18, your meal probably left you with a fast food hang-over: that feeling of a lead balloon sitting in the pit of your stomach, tinged with a mouth-craving for more salty, sweet, and greasy food. If you read Fast Food Nation, or even the South Beach Diet, you know that after eating such food, the body’s blood sugar rapidly rises, then precipitously drops, creating cyclical cravings. (The aroma will get you, too.)


Now, here’s the Socialism: it’s hard to think about the quality of your life, let alone start to do something about it via political change, when you’re mired in thoughts of triple-cheeseburgers and dealing with the health complications resulting from a diet of shakes and fried chicken nuggets. A number of foodie blogs espouse the Slow Food movement from a culinary standpoint. But Slow Food should also be embraced by Socialists (and other progressives) on political grounds. The creation of a good meal, using local, quality ingrediants followed by the sensual pleasure of eating such a meal not only supports local farmers and small businesses, not only provides better nourishment for the body and soul, but allows diners to time to think and talk: necessary elements in changing a power structure.

Tonight, do your body, mind, and politics a favor: cook up good meal. Bon appétit.
---
*Such as the possible reference to Louis XIV’s proclivity toward anal sex with his mistress, Madame du Barry, via her use of “chocolate.” Writes Allen:

When du Barry was repeatedly attacked for using chocolate to around unnatural passions in her lovers, it’s worth remembering that Europeans had originally called chocolate cacao but had changed the name because cacao too closely resembled the word caca, slang for feces. So when French libelles like 1878’s La Comtesse du Barry report that du Barry pulls chocolate out of her rove and ‘the decadent Parisians go crazy with a Roman orgy,’ one can reasonably wonder if this is a discreet reference to some form of anal sex. That is, after all, one of the classical Roman/Greek orgies were celebrated for back then.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Foreign Chains Around Us

A British "journalist" of the tabloid rag The Sun called it a "brutally anti-British film". That was reason enough for me to see Ken Loach's film, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, set in Ireland 1919-23 during the Tan war against the British and the subsequent Irish Civil War. Watch it. Watch it now. Seriously, turn off your computer and roam the streets until you can find a cinema prepared to show it.

Okay, those expected an entirely historically accurate representation of the conflict will be disappointed. Although I'd question using movies to learn history in the first place...

As anyone who has read Ernie O'Malley's On Another Man's Wound and The Singing Flame, on which, I've been told, the film is (very broadly) based, or indeed who has any knowledge of the period, will know, half of the Irish Republican Army were not, in fact, a bunch of raving revolutionary Socialists. The politics of Ireland at the time have been crudely revised by Loach, on account of the director's own, leftish inclinations. Not that it isn't immensely enjoyable to watch Liam Cunningham, playing the trade unionist Dan, recite these words of James Connolly to cellmate Damien (Cillian Murphy):

"If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs."

Not everyday you see that at the movies.


No, the main selling-point of the film - other than the sheer fun of watching something determined to upset the traditional version of history - is its concentration of the role of British imperialism in Ireland, and the way in which established institutions and the middle classes were exploited by the British Government to undermine and destroy any radical potential of the Irish nationalist movement. Ken Loach has also referred to the film's rather good timing, considering the devastation into which imperialism is plunging the world:
"I don’t need to spell it out, but the wars that we have seen, the occupations that we see throughout the world - people finally cannot turn away from that... Maybe if we start telling the truth about the past, we can start telling the truth about the present."
In short, it's better than watching Snakes On A Plane.

On a final, somewhat humorous note, if you manage to get to watch it, look out for some of the Loach-isms, including: the IRA guerrillas politely warning some Irish police officers to stop their repressive activities, the 'baddies' having no women amongst them and all wearing uniforms (and the 'goodies' who sell out turning in their ragged clothes for some nice uniforms themselves), and the pro-Treaty officer who has a striking similarity to Joseph Goebbels.

See here and here for good reviews of the film.

“Twas hard the woeful words to frame
To break the ties that bound us
But harder still to bear the shame
Of foreign chains around us.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

It's All Gone Wrong





I just saw this on the Alliance for Workers' Liberty site:
The Venezuelan National Guard has repressed a group of striking workers belonging to the UNT in Carabobo state, according to reports on the Aporrea website.

Workers at Alfarería Internacional (International Pottery) had their three-week-old strike broken up on 10 August by the National Guard. Two days before, seven members of the union’s executive were arrested.

Workers are members of the Unión de Trabajadores Procesadores de la Arcilla, Similares y Conexos del Estado Carabobo (Utpasca), part of the National Union of Workers (UNT), the new independent union federation in Venezuela.

The company had introduced 30 scabs to try to break the strike.

Although information is sketchy, it is at least clear that the Venezuelan military has used force to back employers against unionised and militant workers. The UNT in Carabobo is calling for solidarity.

Perhaps Chávez should heed the warning of his hero Simón Bolívar – damned is the soldier that uses force against the people.

If this is true, it is a worrying development.

Richard Gott, author of the excellent Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution, said the following during an interview published on the Venezuela Information Centre: "[Chavez is] not particularly interested in trade unions themselves becoming a significant force." Uh oh.

Gonzalo Gomez, editor of the left-wing Aporrea website, has voiced concern about the potential obstacles to the revolutionary process in Venezuela before. According to the Hands Off Venezuela campaign, "He also said that the Venezuelan government was a popular government but not a government of the workers and the people yet because the bosses were still sacking workers." Does anything more need to be said?

Unfortunately, yes. Too many people overlook the fact that the movement in Venezuela is bigger than Chavez, however impressive and welcome his government's record. The UNT has a far more radical track-record, for instance over demands for factory occupations and workers' control. It is the duty of all Socialists to support them, even when it is inconvenient.

Edit: It seems there is a precedent for this anti-union business. The Venezuelan vice-minister for energy, also the president of a private electricity company, is preparing to break a strike with scab labour - the Chavez government is allegedly content to suppress industrial disputes in the run-up to the presidential election.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Funky Zarathustra

Lebanese blogger Sarah just linked to FoOL and covers the events in Lebanon. Current post excerpt:
I came across several excerpts of Nasrallah's speech in English which were taken out of context. I've attempted a balanced translation below, followed by some notes.

The speech
His speech began by congratulating the Lebanese for what he said was a historic and heroic victory, "without exaggeration". He also saluted the "martyrs" of the party, the army, journalists, civilians...He then described the magnitude of the destruction as the worst Lebanon has witnessed in all its brushes with the Israeli army. He attributed this to an Israeli weakness. Nasrallah also remembered to thank all the sects, parties and families who housed the refugees and supported them. He also promised to pay compensation to the owners of 15000 homes lost completely.

[...]

Nasrallah, I find it hard to acknowledge, also raises a good point regarding the Sheb'a farms and the detainees. It is disappointing a better deal was not brokered which would have left HA with no excuse to remain armed.

But, I disagree with the [assertion] that HA can defend us from Israeli threat. It did not allow their forces a victory but they also did not win--they simply didn't lose. Lebanon lost.

[...]

Funky Zarathustra: Nasrallah's speech lost in translation (hero or villain?)
A Nitche and a "Lost in Translation" reference all on one blog! I guess you could say it is the uberblog. Kudos.

http://funkyzarathustra.blogspot.com/

Hope

Having sold my house today (yippie!) I thought it was safe, from a purely selfish perspective, to repost this, originally from 03-Jun-2006:

I'm sitting here in Geneva at 1:42 AM listening to a bunch of drunken elite @$holes outside my house as they celebrate their college reunion (I live in a very small city in upstate New York which, for the past 150 yrs has had a primary industry consisting of the production of elites). The location of my home and it's condition when I purchased it have given me a wonderful opportunity to experience some of the worst aspects of the material conditions of capital firsthand. Frankly, without this experience I truly believe that I would not have become a Socialist.

Currently, my wife and I are in the process of selling our house. This will allow us to escape the problems we face as we confront the petty bourgeoisie on a daily basis and instead officially join their ranks by moving to a "decent" neighborhood. I am certainly conflicted about all of this but sanction the direction in which we are moving. My primary complaint is that we have fought to maintain our basic civil rights in our current home and have been beaten by the forces of the bourgeoisie, thus being forced to move.

BUT, browsing the net I came across a wonderful article describing a rally in Cuba on May Day 2002. Over 7 million people participated consciously. For me, this is highly encouraging. An excerpt:
More than seven million of Cuba's 11 million people joined in gigantic celebrations on May Day, the largest mobilization ever in the island's history. In Havana alone, 1.2 million rallied. Cuba's May Day demonstrations were the biggest in the world honoring workers on this May first workers' holiday.
Seven million. Whereas I have a few idoits making my life miserable. I have to look at this and understand that the mass of people, when given the opportunity to choose a socialist class conciousness, are able to work together to achieve a collective responsibility to their fellow man and a higher moral standard.

Seven million. There is yet hope for mankind!

Cuba May Day

Thursday, August 10, 2006

More Hot Trot


I couldn't resist! Waxed and taxed in Le France. Maybe Alizee will be her running mate. Read on:
THE French taboo over politicians' private lives has crumbled further with the publication of photographs of Segolene Royal, the left-wing favourite to succeed President Jacques Chirac next spring, on the beach in her bikini.

Ms Royal, who is 53 next month and favourite to win the Socialist nomination later this year, is unlikely to suffer from the flattering first pictures to be published of a female politician in minimal attire.

"She looks like a star on holiday," said the daily Le Parisien in a gushing report on what it called a "sulphurous" breach of privacy.

The Australian: Socialist In a Bikini

Hot Trot

A bit of fun on the lighter side of things, God knows we need it.

The word is, Tommy Sheridan, recent leader of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) has a hot wife. Recently having come through an orgie scandal, Sheridan is not only unscathed but now a minor celebrity, thanks in no small part to his wife. One way or the other, I think we can all agree that Tommy is a stud.

The Times (UK) reports:
Most witnesses trogged into court looking like ugly Trots, but Gail Sheridan looked hot to trot. It is just a little ironic that while her husband is a hard-left socialist, she enters stage right looking less Karl Marx than Karl Lagerfeld.

Tommy Sheridan won a libel action against the News of the World — owned by the same company as this paper — after it accused him of enjoying orgies. His win owed much to Gail’s bravura trial performance. Her every leggy step said: why would my man swing when he can stay on the straight and narrow with me?

Thus crackled a glorious snatch of high summer when nipple clamps and PVC fetish uniforms fleetingly replaced the hammer and sickle as the symbols of socialism; rarely has the nation been quite so entertained, or as educated.

Tommy was astute to put Gail on the stand: ever since the case of Jeff Archer, who was also accused of wandering, this has been clear: a wife is helpful to winning such fights. Mary Archer swung it when the judge declared her “fragrant”. Gail was more: she was foxy. Lady Archer was lampooned later when it emerged Jeff had strayed. Gail, by contrast, stands vindicated as police investigate if 20-odd defence witnesses committed perjury.

It might be thought that socialists aren’t really meant to have wives bestowed with all Gail’s natural riches, but there have always been two schools of socialism: Engels enjoyed champagne, Marx didn’t. HG Wells couldn’t get enough of shagging, George Bernard Shaw could.

The Times: Foxy Gail Shows the Glamorous Face of Socialism

The Real Sides of the Conflict in the Middle East

From Commie Curmudgeon:

The three sources that I’m quoting below are very different in many ways, but they all seem to be echoing the same general idea, one which I hope will spread a little more over the Internet and well beyond it. That idea, to me, amounts to a truthful perspective on the conflict in the Middle East (not so easy to find) and points to the only effective way of opposing or even stopping these atrocities.

From Turn the World Upside Down:

...[T]he two sides in the conflict raging now in Palestine, Israel and Lebanon are:

#1. Ordinary people of all religions and ethnic groups in Palestine/ Israel/ Lebanon who want to live in peace with one another as equals (the opposite of Zionism's Jewish privilege and apartheid). This is the vast majority of people of all ethnic and religious persuasions.

#2. Those who are, or want to be, ruling upper classes, who want inequality, and who want to control ordinary people by setting them against each other along religious/ racial/ ethnic lines as mutual mortal enemies.


From Maxims and Reflections:

People will throw off this shit, nationalities and religions and all the other stickers we put on each other's kids saying it's okay to kill them, and we'll realize that there's only one enemy, the killers. The killers secure our allegiance by pretending to be enemies to each other. But the killers are playing on one team and we are playing on the other and we are losing.

And from the International Communist Current:

If all of capitalism’s peace plans are doomed to fail, what alternative is there to the imperialist disorder that dooms them? Certainly not the various nationalist/religious gangs which claim to be "resisting" imperialism in Palestine, Iraq or Afghanistan - Hamas, the PLO, Hizbollah, al Qaida… They too are entirely caught up in the logic of imperialism, whether striking out on their own or lining up directly with existing capitalist states. Their aims - whether the establishment of new national states or the dream of a pan-Middle East Islamic Caliphate - can only come about through imperialist war; and their methods - which always involve the indiscriminate massacre of the civilian population - are precisely those of the states they claim to be opposing.

The only opposition to imperialism is the resistance of the working class against exploitation, because this alone can grow into an open struggle [against] the capitalist system, a struggle to replace this dying system of profit and war with a society geared towards human need. Because the exploited everywhere have the same interests, the class struggle is international and has no interest in allying with one state against another. Its methods are directly opposed to the aggravation of hatred between ethnic or national groups, because it needs to rally together the proletarians of all nations in a common fight against capital and the state.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

We Feel Fine

This is about the coolest farking thing I've seen on the internet yet!

http://www.wefeelfine.org/

Tommy Sheridan Wins Defamation Case

Comrade Tommy Sheridan—who has been subject to lies, smears and innuendo—has won his defamation case against the News of the Screws.

In a statement, outside the court, comrade Sheridan said:
Today's verdict proves working class people can differentiate the truth from the muck.

The working class people on the jury have done a service to the people of Scotland and delivered a message to the standard of journalism the News of the World represents.

They are liars and we have proved they are liars [*].
[*] BBC transciption error corrected.

Drink Soaked Trotskyite: Sheridan Overcomes

Friday, August 04, 2006

Map of Israeli Aggression in Lebanon

Nearly every city and village and Lebanon has been bombed in the last few weeks. Over 900 dead. Who are the terrorists again?

Updates on the Aggression Against Lebanon

Demand Change

The Nation's "Moral Compass" section this week has an inspiring story from a 99 year old American activist, Elsie Fox. An excerpt:
I was a young woman living in Seattle during the Depression of the Thirties. I saw the Crash. I saw the banks close and people losing their jobs and being evicted from their houses. I saw industry stop. I saw the country stop. I saw people go hungry! I saw fear. Fear of hunger is almost as bad as hunger itself. I saw people go without health care. I saw racial discrimination among black people, immigrants, women, and the elderly. I saw unfair labor practices. Does all this sound familiar? President Hoover told us that the benefits of big business would trickle down to the people. Sound familiar?

And what did we, the people, do?

We, the people, marched from one end of this country to the other to demand change.

[...]

That's the way it happened, folks. We did it then; you can do it now!

The Nation: Take Back Our Country
As socialists, activists and progressives we do well to continue to hearken to Elsie's call. Despite the forces arrayed against us today, we must remember that the same forces were in power and just as strong generations ago and they were defeated, at least for a time, and can be defeated again. The fact that reactionaries continues to resurface proves the need for permanent revolution - a revolution both political and personal which fights for democracy, egalitarianism and equality.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Yellow Beast

What if this happened in 2004?

An estimated 1.2 million people poured into Mexico City's central square in another show of force by backers of leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who want a recount in the July 2 election that gave a narrow victory to conservative Felipe Calderon.

Sydney Morning Herald: 1.2m Now That's a Protest


Mass protests and legal challenges continue to undermine the already tenuous legitmacy of Calderon's claim to victory. Perhaps we will see the rightful victory of ALMO afterall. In other news, the Zapitistas call for a revolutionary overthrow of the entire system as the only way to achieve true social change for the benifit of the proletariat.

Monday, July 31, 2006

First Labour Union Formed at Chinese Wal-Mart Store

Illustration from DesignWorks


From the AP, via KFSM:

BEIJING -- An official Chinese news agency says the first labor union at a Wal-Mart store in China has been formed following a lobbying campaign by the country's official union group. The official Xinhua News Agency reported today that 30 employees at a Wal-Mart store in the southeastern city of Quanzhou, in Fujian province, voted Saturday to form a union.

The news agency said a 29-year-old employee named Ke Yunlong was elected chairman of its seven-member committee.


The official All-China Federation of Trade Unions has been lobbying Wal-Mart tores Inc. for two years to organize employees of its 60 stores in China. The federation had accused the company of obstructing its efforts.


Wal-Mart opened its first Chinese outlet in 1996 and says it has 28,000 employees in China. It says it plans to add 18 to 20 stores on the mainland this year. Phone calls today to Wal-Mart's China headquarters in the southern city of Shenzhen weren't answered.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Conmemoró de Salvador Allende


"El Partido Socialista conmemoró el lunes 26 los 98 años del nacimiento del ex Presidente Salvador Allende. El acto -al que asistieron unas 200 personas- se realizó ante el monumento al ex Mandatario en la Plaza de la Constitución.

La ceremonia se inició con la lectura de una carta de quienes integraron el GAP y finalizó con un breve discurso del presidente del PS, senador Camilo Escalona, quien destacó la consecuencia política de Allende el 11 de septiembre de 1973, prefiriendo el suicidio a rendirse al ataque militar. Por otra parte, el timonel del PC, Guillermo Teillier, admitió ayer que su tienda no supo defender el Gobierno de Allende, tras ser “derrotados por la intervención norteamericana y por la oligarquía de nuestro país”.

Portal del Socialismo Chileno: Salvador Allende

IRAs Enable the "Ownership Society"

The American Spectator has a "compelling" article on how American free market capitalism actually reduces racism. Some highlights below:
[...]
We saw the marginalizing effects of socialism with the favoritism shown to Great Russians in the Soviet Union. We see it again today in France, Europe's grandest exponent of continental socialism, its cities in flames because of the lack of economic opportunity exacerbated by race discrimination that is in turn enabled by its stratified and heavily regulated economy. Ireland, Europe's most market oriented economy, has no such issues.
[...]
The American Spectator: Capitalism, Socialism and Race
It is interesting that the only IRA the American Spectator (AS) seems to be aware of is the one that involves stock market equities. Indeed, it boggles the mind to see that the AS is holding up Ireland as an example of racial peace in Europe! Perhaps they think that Fox News has us all too worried about those swarthy Muslims to remember the sad saga of class driven race violence that has wracked Erie for over 100 years.

And sorry AS, the USA is not less racist than European societies and it certainly does not owe any of the dubious progress that it has made to capitalism! Today in America, among males age 25 to 29, 12.6% of blacks were in prison or jail, compared to 3.6% of Hispanics and about 1.7% of whites (from a 2004 report on the US DOJ website, also see comments and thank you for the corrections). In addition, nearly every black political leader in America has been assassinated or discredited due to the effects of institutionalized racism.

This magazine and other publications like it are examples of why it is so very important for socialists and progressives to fight to gain access to the public debate. If we do not, this sort of pseudo-journalism filled with lies and distortion will define the terrain of human thought and continue to destroy our world.

A socialist perspective gives us the context, intellectual honesty and political bravery to fight racism by addressing its root cause - capitalism.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Carnival of Socialism #7

Presenting the Carnival of Socialism #7. This edition is presented under the clouds of expanding war in the Middle East. Not surprisingly, there has been a lot of discussion of current events in socialist circles.

Humantide starts us off with an article written just before the war in Lebanon started titled Neo-Con Dreams in Ashes as War Looms in Lebanon. In this post, the global neo-con project is called into question. Eli over at Left I on the News drops some analysis on the TV Coverage of the War. Jason Miller reminds us that loyalty to nationalism is a dead end which leads to the slaughter we are currently seeing in Palestine and Lebanon. His article over at Tom Paine's Corner is titled Betrayal of the Empire or Fealty to Humanity? Andrew Rihn at And Time Yet for a Hundred Indecisions posted some comments from Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela regarding the wars in the Middle East titled Chavez Speaks. Hot off the presses for Monday, Louis Proyect The Unrepentant Marxist brings us an update on the Zionist project with the apropos title WWIII.

In other news, Jim Jay covers the latest outcomes of the G8 Summit in Leningrad (oh yeah, I mean St. Petersburg). The title of his article How free is the market? at The Daily (Maybe). Dave Semple from the blog you are currently reading Fruits of Our Labour posted an article on the sad state of money influence in British politics titled Exposing the Money Game in British Politics. Ashik Malla from United We Blog! for a Democratic Nepal posted an analysis of the current political situation after the historic revolution this spring titled Spring Thunder In Nepal...Glorious but Inconclusive.

We also have some contributions from a more theoretical perspective. Kevin Carson at Mutualist Blog posted an article on professionalism titled Professionalism as Legitimizing Ideology. Delta at Freethought Weekly delves into economics with the post On the Notion of Property.

Finally on the lighter side, we have two more contributions. Donald at thesharpener has a post on the politics of game shows titled Ant and Dec's Proletarian Poke in the Face. And Dave over at The Red Mantis posted his version of the Top 15 Socialist Rock Songs in response to the silly National Review article.

Finally, I hope folks enjoy my GIMP creation for the carnival. I took the photo several weeks ago in a famous store in Times Square. I GIMPed out the original logo within the star, changed the color to red and added the hammer and sickle. Hope you like it! There is a smaller version on the left which I used to link to the main CoS web site. Of course it is in the public domain covered by a Creative Commons license (see the bottom of the page for details).

Exposing the Money Game in British Politics

Part of the Carnival of Socialism collection.

Those of us who live in the United Kingdom and take an active interest in politics have not been strangers to the exorbitant amounts spent on US Presidential elections - for the nominating conventions and for the campaigns. In 2004, in the wake of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, contributions from individuals increased dramatically, pushing spending upwards to over double what it was in 2000. Spending was in excess of $717million. The BCR Act removed the previous cap of a $2000 limit for individual contributions - which makes for interesting reading when contributions are broken down; George W. Bush received a whopping 49% of his campaign fund from individuals contributing over $2000 dollars.

None of us are strangers to the claims that as a result of the amount of money being spent 'third party' candidates, such as Ralph Nader and David Cobb, are unable to mount a serious challenge to the existing dichotomy within the USA. Business and wealthy individuals fund the parties that don't campaign on, for example, more rigorous fuel efficiency standards in preference to those parties that do. As a socialist it is my view, naturally enough, that freedom for the flow of capital renders 'democracy' undemocratic; it is for this reason that Marxists refer to democracy as formal-democracy or bourgeois-democracy. Marketing, PR and media spin-doctoring further bias a system already biased by the fact the all the means of mass communication are held by the wealthy and the political elite. Since 'poorer' political parties can ill-afford the shock-and-awe tactics of the Republicans and Democrats it becomes irrelevant whether or not their arguments are the more rational.

I am not American however and it is not of American 'plutocracy' which I write. In the UK, thanks to the inept conniving of certain members of the political establishment, the media has been forced to report on the relationship between money and politics here. I speak of course on the subject of Cash-for-Peerages. Despite the occasional puff pieces written by the sycophantic staff of Dirty Des and the Dirty Digger on behalf of the Labour government, from whom both have exacted concessions, an increasing number of hostile editorials are appearing in the usual places; apart from the major tabloids ( Mail, Sun, Star and Mirror), the Telegraph, the Times and the Express each give the appearance that the sharks are gathering for Election 2009. Yet over both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party hangs the shadow of the events of the past few weeks.

It has been brought into broad daylight that both of the major parties actively court the most wealthy and influential members of British society, both native and foreign, in order to secure the increasing amount of money which they seem to require in order to fight elections. The case of Lord Levy being arrested for his seeming complicity in this, on the part of Labour, and the constant protestations of men like Chai Patel that their reputations are being impugned is just the icing on the cake. Labour and the Conservatives are in massive debt and no doubt these figures have been exacerbated by the pretence that the money given to the respective political parties by various wealthy individuals is a 'loan' and not, as it might have been called in Lloyd-George's day, a bribe. Whilst these figures are infinitesimal compared to the amount being spent in the US, it is still part of a worrying trend.

No one is pretending that these wealthy party donors are being promoted to a House of Lords free from corruption, avarice and brown-nosing - but nevertheless, as has been demonstrated several times this year and last, with regard to education, immigration and ID cards in particular, the Lords still forms an important part of the government. I have no sympathy for any member of that body; it is after all totally unrepresentative and undemocratic, nevertheless, it has been the House of Lords that has held up the ridiculous and civil rights-reducing plans for a unified ID card replete with biometric data that Labour seems intent on pushing through in the face of public opposition. These recent events have shown exactly what part the wealthy property-owning elite play in the shadowy backrooms of our supposedly democratically elected Houses of Parliament. One cannot suppose for a moment that such donors - and those who gave large sums but were not featured on the Queen's Birthday Honours list - do not expect quid pro quo. Philanthropy on the part of the wealthy in politics is a myth.

Yet is there an alternative? Several members of each of the political parties have come forward to demand that the state bear the brunt of party finance, alleviating the need for such hefty donations and, in theory, making politics an fair playing field. Yet the full ramifications of such a move have been ill-explored. In the United States, in 1966 and 1971, laws were passed to this effect. As can be seen several decades later with the refusal of Bush and Kerry to accept Federally mandated 'Matching Funds' and the concomitant spending limits, this has not changed politics in the US significantly. The alternative for Britain would be to ban entirely political contributions from private sources - individuals, corporations, Unions, all of it. Parties could then be funded based on the number of seats in which they were standing candidates or on the basis of their share in the vote at the previous election.

Needless to say the former of these ideas would be outrightly rejected. Parties such as the Socialist Party and coalitions such as RESPECT would immediately seek to stand candidates anywhere they could find a candidate and a couple of supporters to do the legwork - and none of the established political parties could conceivably support such an idea. The alternative would be to fund parties per share in the vote, meaning that party funding would change from year to year. Again, there's no evidence to suggest that this would be effective in curtailing private sector interests in elections; it might simply change the nature of contributions from monetary to media-based. Moreover, it would entrench the status-quo, since automatically, Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats would recieve the most money. It might also increase problems related to the West Lothian question. Conceivably the Conservatives would not want Scottish or Welsh votes to count towards Labour and Conservative funding. The Conservatives gained a small majority in English votes at the last election and, in the same manner as David Cameron wants to reduce the ability of Scottish and Welsh MP's to vote on English matters, so too might the Conservatives demand that party funding be based on English votes alone. This might be a step on the road to fracturing the United Kingdom.

One idea that might work is limiting the contributions to members, with a maximum donation amount. In my view, Labour and the Socialist Party-led Campaign for a New Workers Party should be permitted to keep their respective Trade Unions affiliations since contributions are voluntary and also because it is the only organized method by which people in Northern Ireland can contribute to Labour, since Labour does not organize any of the infrastructure associated with party politics in this part of the UK. Moreover, Trade Unions represent millions of working class people - the ordinary voters - and no one is stopping those people not part of a trade union contributing to the other parties, if they so desire.

How likely is any of this? I do not think it is at all likely - far too many industrialists, media barons, venture capitalist, pharmacorporations and other parts of the capitalist elite have an interest in ensuring that their ability to purchase the candidates and governments that they want is not curtailed in any way. British politics may be less overtly commercial than its US counterpart, but squeaky clean it is not. We simply manage to hide it better.