Tuesday, December 20, 2005

MTA Strike

Well, it's official: the Transport Workers Union. Local 100 (TWU), which works run NYC's MTA, went on strike at 3 am this morning. And as much as I'd be frustrated to commute in NYC right now (which I used to do) kudos to the TWU for standing up for their rights. A little inconvenience is nothing compared to workers fighting for fair wages and benefits. Unfortunately, because it's "illegal" for mass transit workers to strike, the 38,000 bus and subway employees will incur fines of two days pay for each day on strike.

According to New York Socialist Alternative:

On the eve of the negotiations, the MTA provocatively voted to squander $1 billion in surplus funds to make sure that there would be no money for pay increases or health and pension benefits for the workers. [On] Friday night, the MTA final proposal called for below inflation wage increases, pension and work rule givebacks and for new TWU members to pay 1% of their salary for health benefits!

Bloomberg's administration intervened in the negotiations in an attempt to intimidate and threaten the transit workers with retaliation and use of the anti-labor Taylor Law. The mayor's legal department has gone to court seeking an injunction that would impose huge additional fines on individual workers as well as the penalties on the Taylor Law against the members of Local 100. The MTA is threatening that not only union offibut alsoutalso rank and file workers would be jailed if there was a strike -- clearly a threat to bust the union!

Bloomberg, Pataki, Wall Street and the MTA bosses clearly have decided to viciously attack the transit workers as part of the overall plan to roll back the gains that workers and their unions have made in NYC in the past 70 years. As for the transit system, the aim is to fund the MTA solely through fares and interest-bearing bonds rather than taxes on businesses and transit subsidies as it used to be in the past.

Furthermore, the attack on TWU on pensions (for retirement at 62 after 30 years rather than after 25 years as is now) will open the door for what is intended to be a gutting of the public employee pensions and health benefits - with billions of dollars being funneled into the pockets of big business. Another attack is the demand for "broadbanding" (forcing workers to do additional tasks) which opens the way for the future destruction of thousands of jobs.

The transit dispute has touched a raw nerve among working people in the city who sense that this dispute is about the growing attacks on living standards, working conditions and the basic democratic rights of workers in the most unionized city in the country. Millions of workers in New York face a rising cost of living at a time when wages and benefits are under attack. It is disgusting to observe the big business media portray transit workers (or teachers, government employees or any union workers) as"overpaid" and "under-worked" while the billionaires and financial lords ofthe city are growing richer and richer.

In the 25 years since the last transit workers strike, when the system was shut down for 11 days, workers in New York City and across the country have seen the loss of millions of good jobs and a steady decline in wages and benefits.[...]

There should be a call to roll back the fare to $1 as a step toward a free transit system and for a program of massive investment to upgrade the entire transit system -- paid for by taxes on the rich and big business. This should be part of a program and movement that campaigns to put the needs of working people (healthcare, childcare, education, transportation, housing, a clean environment,) before war and corporate profits.

A clash with the 38,000 transit workers in New York City, the financial capital of the world, [pits] MTA and Bloomberg but also corporate America and the Bush administration against working people in this country. The implications [are] enormous as it could be seen as a way for all workers to resist against the corporate agenda of Bush and Wall Street in the US and internationally and could open the way for workers to build their own political party to challenge the dictatorship of big business.

Additionally disturbing is the venom being hurled at the striking workers -- regular people trying to earn a fair wage. Among the comments, found in this AP story:

"MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow called the strike 'a slap in the face' to all New Yorkers." (And yet a $2, one-way subway fare is not.)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg: "This is not only an affront to the concept of public service, it is a cowardly attempt by Roger Toussaint [TWU President] and the TWU to bring the city to its knees to create leverage for their own bargaining position."
(This position is, not surprisingly, being echoed in the strike coverage on Bloomberg's business news site, Bloomberg.com -- news coverage served with a steaming side of bias.)

"'I think they all should get fired,' said Eddie Goncalves, a doorman trying to get home to Queens after working an overnight shift." (I wonder if Goncalves is a member of Service Workers Local 32B/32J, of which a number of doormen are members.)

Join the TWU at these picket locations:

Gunhill Depot: 1910 Bartow Avenue
Pelham Barn/Westchester Sq. Yard: Eastchester Rd. & Water Street
Zerega CMF: 750 Zerega Avenue
180th Street Yard: 1151 East 180 Street
West Farms Depot: 1100 East 177th Street
Concourse Yard: 3119 Jerome Avenue
Jerome Yard: Jerome Ave. & Van Courtlandt Ave.
239th St. Barn: 4570 Furman Avenue
240th St. Barn: 5911 Broadway
Eastchester Depot: Interstate 95 at Exit 13
Yonkers Depot: 59 Babcock St.
Tiffany Iron: 1170 Oakpoint Avenue

East New York Depot/Shop: 1700 Bushwick Avenue
Flatbush Depot: Flatbush & Utica Ave.
Coney Island Yard: Avenue X & McDonald
Ulmer Park Depot: Cropsey Ave. & Bay
Jackie Gleason Depot: 871 Fifth Avenue
Pitkin Yard: 1434 Sutter Avenue
Livonia Shop: 824 Linwood Shop
Atlantic Ave/Bergen Street Shop: 1415 Bergen Street
Linden Shop: 1500 Linden Blvd.
Cozine: 50 Cozine Avenue

Fresh Pond Depot: 56-99 Fresh Pond Road
Jamaica Barn: 7815 Grand Central Parkway
Jamaica Depot: 114-15 Guy R. Brewer Blvd.
Corona Barn: 126-53 Willets Point Blvd.
Triboro Coach Depot: 8501 24th Avenue
College Point Depot: 128-15 28th Avenue
Maspeth CMF:
Woodside Electronic Shop: 33-33 54th Street

Kingsbridge Depot: 4065 10th Avenue
207th St. Yard: 3961 10 Avenue
Manhattanville Depot: 666 West 133rd St.
100th Street Depot: 1552 Lexington Avenue at 100th Street
Michael J. Quill Depot: 525 11th Avenue
West 53rd St Power/RCC: 53rd St. btw 8/9
126th Street Depot: 2460 Second Avenue

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Intellectual Property Socialism

SAP shows its true (capitalist) colors. Open source is a non-distributed model of development much akin to anarchism, which is subset of socialism. Read on:
'Intellectual property socialism is the worst that can happen to any IP-based society,' says an SAP executive

A senior executive at SAP has criticised the open source development methodology by claiming that it does not promote innovation, according to reports.

Shai Agassi, president of the product and technology group at SAP, said in a speech at a club in California that Linux is not innovative, according to an article on technology news site VNUNet this week.

"We all talk about how great Linux is," Agassi reportedly said. "But if you look at the most innovative desktop today, Microsoft's Vista is not copying Linux, it is copying Apple."

SAP will not make its software open source as it would no longer have an incentive to innovate, Agassi said.

"Intellectual property [IP] socialism is the worst that can happen to any IP-based society," he said. "And we are an IP-based society. If there is no way to protect IP, there is no reason to invest in IP."

I am currently reading a book on Enterprise Services Architecture written by SAP guys. It is very good. However, I find it very amusing that they have tried to trademark EA and SOA concepts with silly sloganeering like the Netweaver "platform." Clearly SAP in traditional capitalist fashion thinks it is fine to steal other peoples ideas and use IP law to claim them as their own. So what we see SAP doing here is executing Primitive Accumulation (or perhaps more precisely, IP-rimitive Accumulation).

As Marx explains in Capital Vol I:

This primitive accumulation plays in Political Economy about the same part as original sin in theology. Adam bit the apple, and thereupon sin fell on the human race. Its origin is supposed to be explained when it is told as an anecdote of the past. In times long gone-by there were two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living. The legend of theological original sin tells us certainly how man came to be condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow; but the history of economic original sin reveals to us that there are people to whom this is by no means essential. Never mind! Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly although they have long ceased to work. Such insipid childishness is every day preached to us in the defence of property. M. Thiers, e.g., had the assurance to repeat it with all the solemnity of a statesman to the French people, once so spirituel. But as soon as the question of property crops up, it becomes a sacred duty to proclaim the intellectual food of the infant as the one thing fit for all ages and for all stages of development. In actual history it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly force, play the great part. In the tender annals of Political Economy, the idyllic reigns from time immemorial. Right and "labour" were from all time the sole means of enrichment, the present year of course always excepted. As a matter of fact, the methods of primitive accumulation are anything but idyllic.

In themselves money and commodities are no more capital than are the means of production and of subsistence. They want transforming into capital. But this transformation itself can only take place under certain circumstances that centre in this, viz., that two very different kinds of commodity-possessors must come face to face and into contact; on the one hand, the owners of money, means of production, means of subsistence, who are eager to increase the sum of values they possess, by buying other people’s labour-power; on the other hand, free labourers, the sellers of their own labour-power, and therefore the sellers of labour. Free labourers, in the double sense that neither they themselves form part and parcel of the means of production, as in the case of slaves, bondsmen, &c., nor do the means of production belong to them, as in the case of peasant-proprietors; they are, therefore, free from, unencumbered by, any means of production of their own. With this polarization of the market for commodities, the fundamental conditions of capitalist production are given. The capitalist system pre-supposes the complete separation of the labourers from all property in the means by which they can realize their labour. As soon as capitalist production is once on its own legs, it not only maintains this separation, but reproduces it on a continually extending scale. The process, therefore, that clears the way for the capitalist system, can be none other than the process which takes away from the labourer the possession of his means of production; a process that transforms, on the one hand, the social means of subsistence and of production into capital, on the other, the immediate producers into wage-labourers. The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. It appears as primitive, because it forms the pre-historic stage of capital and of the mode of production corresponding with it.

So we see what SAP is doing. SAP wishes to transform public domain work done on EA and SOA (social production) into intellectual property or IP (capital which SAP owns). It is primitive in this context because you see above how violently SAP is behaving. Also they are not paying for this social production, they are stealing it. Seeing that it exists in the "commons" they first must destroy the legitimacy of "open source" by attacking its very nature. In this way they can transform the work into IP and get around having to honor the guardians of social production, such as GNU licenses and Creative Commons licenses.

Only by removing these safeguards can SAP "legally" lay claim to these products of social production and thereby capitalize them for their own profit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Boycott for Peace

I stumbled across this today and thought it was so great I had to repost it. The source site is the Vermont Boycott For Peace.


Since we launched the statewide boycott campaign, many people have e-mailed the Vermont Boycott for Peace seeking alternatives to the companies targeted for boycott by the international community. We have compiled the following list of businesses in Vermont and beyond that provide similar, and in some cases equivalent, services and products. Please check back periodically to look for additions to the list. To recommend a company or local business as an alternative to a boycott target, please e-mail us at info@vermontboycottforpeace.org.

Note: Those companies followed by an asterisk (*) were reviewed by Co-op America’s screening team for a variety of social and environmental criteria. In addition to applying their own standards, Co-op America drew information from many Vermont-based and national organizations, including:

Organic Trade Association (www.ota.org)
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (www.peta.org)
Sustainable Energy Resource Group (serg.uvweb.org)
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (www.vbsr.org)


Boycott all products produced by Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Instead, buy your soft drinks from one of two Vermont micro\ producers of GREAT soft drink products!

WaNu (pronounced "way-new") all-natural sodas have NO preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup, and no yeast. They use only the highest quality all-natural ingredients in their lite sodas, sports drinks, and "tritionals." WaNu beverages are made with roughly half the sugar of the average soda, but they have all the flavor, and they make some terrific-tasting varieties of the old favorites like birch beer and cream soda! Best yet -- you can buy online and get WaNu beverages delivered to your door from their online store. Click here to find out more.

WaNu Beverages
Vemront Vase Waters LLC
49 Commerce Drive
South Burlington, VT 0540

phone: (802) 863-8656

Try also the new line of Vermont microsodas produced by Pop Soda. The new company, based in Moretown, VT, has created a yummy line of all-natural, handcrafted soft drinks. Click here to find out more about Pop Soda.


Boycott the Working Assets credit card owned by MBNA

Instead, consider a Scholastic Plastic Visa from Albina Community Bank*

Albina Community Bank -- a mission-based, minority-owned, federally certified community development financial institution -- issues the Scholastic Plastic Visa credit card from which the bank donates a percentage of all purchases either to the Portland Schools Foundation or (at the cardholder’s request) to five Portland, OR, high schools to reduce the cost of after-school activities. Click here to read about the Scholastic Plastic Visa™ card. Member FDIC. Equal housing lender.

Albina Community Bank
2002 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Portland, Oregon 97212-3722

phone: (503 288-7280
fax: (503) 282-4681
e-mail: rmckean@albinabank.com

Consider supporting the Alternatives Federal Credit Union*

The Alternatives Federal Credit Union is a nonprofit community development financial institution that reinvests money in the community through innovative programs. Savings, free checking, share certificates, IRAs, and Visa credit cards available. Investors earn market rates on insured deposits. Savings federally insured to $100,000 by NCUA. Click here for more information on the Alternatives Federal Credit Union. Equal housing lender.

Alternatives Federal Credit Union
125 North Fulton St.
Ithaca, New York 14850-3301

phone: (877) 273-2328
fax: (607) 277-6391
e-mail: afcu@alternatives.org


Boycott ExxonMobil and Chevron Texaco

Buy Citgo

The overarching, long-term goal to which the Vermont Boycott for Peace is dedicated involves reducing our vast addiction to fossil fuels in favor of renewable sources of energy. In the short term, however, we boycott Exxon Mobil and Chevron Texaco in favor of Citgo gas, since Citgo does not import from the Middle East (rir: and is not owned by a gang of plutocrats).

Of the top oil producing countries in the world, only Venezuela is a democracy with a president, Hugo Chavez, who was elected on a platform of using his nation's oil revenue to benefit the poor.

Citgo is a U.S. refining and marketing firm that is a *wholly owned* subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company. When you buy your gas at Citgo, you are contributing to billions of dollars that Venezuela's democratic government is using to provide health care, literacy and education, and subsidized food for the majority of Venezuelans.


Boycott Kinkos (owned by FedEx) and UPS Stores

Buy from Conservatree*

Conservatree was first established as a paper distribution company in 1976 and today is also a nonprofit organization dedicated to converting paper markets to environmental papers. Click here to visit their website for an extensive choice of environmentally friendly papers in small quantities or large.

100 Second Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 721-4230
fax: (509) 756-6987
e-mail: paper@conservatree.org

Buy from Office Quarters* in St. Albans

Office Quarters provides a comprehensive stock of office supplies, including binders and business cases; calendars and planners; desk accessories; writing instruments; printers and accessories; art, drafting, and school supplies; and much more.

387 Lake Road
St. Albans, VT 05478
(802) 660-3013


Boycott AT&T

Sign up with Working Assets

While the Working Assets credit card is a service we ask you to boycott because it is owned by MBNA, we do encourage people to look into Working Assets as a phone service provider, since a portion of the dollars you spend every month goes toward charitable causes. Click here to visit the Working Assets website.


Peace & Justice Store: Burlington, VT

This unique, socially responsible, not-for-profit retail store is part of the Peace & Justice Center on Church Street in Burlington. The mission of the Peace & Justice Store is to promote social change through education and to provide alternative, meaningful products and educational materials that foster cooperation, equality, and a sustainable society. Click here for more information about the store and its fair trade policy, or directions.

The Union Mall: Sweatshop-free shopping

When you vote with a dollar, it always get counted! Click here to visit the Union Mall, designed to make it easy for consumers to help empower workers around the world. The site has gathered every retailer they could find that sources exclusively from union shops or worker-owned cooperatives in an attempt to change the global garment industry by creating successful alternatives to the sweatshop suppliers of retail clothing.

Co-op America’s Green Pages online

Click here to learn more about the largest directory of qualified green businesses available online! Search for more than 25,000 products and services from 2,000 green companies.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Nerds Still On Strike!

The NYU strike is still on. Specter of Marx, from Nerds On Strike! (http://nerdsforgsoc.blogspot.com/) posted the following response to Sexton's media-savvy torpedo aimed at sinking the unionization effort.
After considerable mulling, here is my intial response to President Sexton's most recent dictum (and I use the word "dictum" since this is not in truth a simple "letter" or "correspondence," as there is no comparable avenue for its intended audience to respond, comment, or engage in dialogue). Point/counterpoint style:

1) “We recognize that for some of you there is an unfortunate disparity between the ideal and the reality.”

Agreed, and these admitted disparities are exactly why GAs need union representation in our collective dealings with the university.

2) “Moving closer to this ideal, however, will be difficult without restoring an atmosphere of mutual respect and good faith within the University community.”

Strike or no strike, mutual respect and good faith between NYU and its GAs have been irreparably damaged, as has the larger sense of community at NYU. This is predominantly the fault of university administrators who have attempted to intimidate GAs with threatening and condescending memos, and who have unilaterally refused to acknowledge GAs’ democratic wishes and bargain in good faith. As President Sexton himself notes, “…the burden is on the University to create an environment of trust as we aim to achieve the ideal.” Clearly, NYU has not only failed to cultivate such a milieu in the past, but has failed to assume its "burden" altogether by blaming GAs for the strike and vilifying them as selfish and irresponsible.

3) “While we must await the Working Group’s proposals [regarding grievance procedures sans third-party arbitration], we are open to any suggestions they may have regarding how members from the academy outside the University might play a role in this process.”

I have a suggestion: allow GAs to have union representation. I would imagine that such is not a legitimate suggestion given the administration’s refusal to hear GAs’ voices over the past year, which leads me to conclude that the university’s “openness” is disingenuous. Moreover, my peers and I would be fools to sign onto a program whose details were of the “we’ll just have to wait and see” variety. As the cliché goes, the devil is in the details. This is why we are asking NYU to sit down at the bargaining table and negotiate a new union contract with us in good faith.

4) “Because graduate assistants are also our students, those on strike have continued to receive their stipends, they have continued to receive free tuition, and they have continued to receive free health insurance.”

This statement is a blatant sleight of hand, to which I take great personal and political umbrage. I have been an employee of the university for the past 2+ years, and have worked diligently as a TA for over 4 and a half semesters. My benefits, including my compensation, have not and will never be “free,” as I have given the university my labor in return. Once again, President Sexton demonstrates exactly why GAs need a union: to legitimize and defend our rights as workers in our dealings with the university.

5) “While I do not condone what has been done by those who have been striking, their actions have caused us to take a hard and unflinching look at ourselves and our practices, and these self- examinations will lead to significant, enduring improvements.”

If this is indeed true, then the strike has not only had a large, lasting, and positive effect on NYU (despite the administration’s adamant claims otherwise), but that this is testament to the power and necessity of GSOC. President Sexton claims that our “points have been made and heard,” but I would argue that they haven’t at all in light of recent events, this correspondence as written proof. “Such disruption must not continue,” Sexton states, and this we can all agree on. No, this strike should not and must not continue, President Sexton; that is why you need to assume your rightful “burden” to maintain a peaceable and productive atmosphere on campus and NEGOTIATE NOW.

SEIU Houston Janitor Victory

The SEIU organizing drive among janitors in Houston is a success! What's interesting about the victory--other than the fact that it brings in 5,000 new members in the hard-to-organize South--is the way the victory was pulled off.

Check out these two paragraphs:

The service employees, which led a breakaway of four unions from the A.F.L.-C.I.O. last summer, has used several unusual tactics in Houston, among them lining up the support of religious leaders, pension funds and the city's mayor, Bill White, a Democrat. Making the effort even more unusual has been the union's success in a state that has long been hostile to labor.

"It's the largest unionization campaign in the South in years," said Julius Getman, a labor law professor at the University of Texas. "Other unions will say, 'Yes, it can be done here.' "


Starbucks Union

Again, thanks to Sean at ToTheBarricades.BlogSpot.com:
New York, NY - 25 Starbucks baristas and supporters wearing union pins and hats surrounded the store manager at the Union Square location in Manhattan tonight to announce their membership in the IWW Starbucks Workers Union (www.starbucksunion.org). The workers, joined by union baristas from two other New York Starbucks stores, demanded a guaranteed minimum of 30 hours of work per week and an end to Starbucks' unlawful anti-union campaign. The Union will assail Starbucks with a wide array of actions until the demands are met.

One of the workers, 23 year-old Tomer Malchi, served the store manager with a document detailing the demands and several other workers directed comments at the boss to be relayed to more senior management. Suley Ayala, a mother of four who has worked at Starbucks for three years, was one of the workers who spoke. She explained after the event: "it should go without saying that we can't live on ten, eleven, or twelve hours of work some weeks. The 30 hour guarantee is absolutely necessary to make ends meet and Starbucks knows it."

The workers were motivated to organize in part because of Starbucks' status as one of the few companies in the world with no full-time employment for non-managerial employees. An initiative of Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz, the part-time scheme forces workers to contend with a constantly fluctuating number of work hours, and therefore, constantly fluctuating income. For example, a Starbucks barista could receive 35 hours of work one week, 18 hours the week after, and as low as single-digits in the following week. The world's largest coffee chain sacrifices employees' financial security in the name of cost-control and "flexibility." This comes from a company whose mission statements talks of, "provid[ing] a great work environment."

Starbucks barista Mike Velasquez spoke of the personal reasons underlying his decision to join the Starbucks Workers Union. "My daughter is my first priority period," he said. Anything that comes in the way of that is going to have a problem. Starbucks falls into that category."

Myth v. Reality

Given the reality of working at Starbucks, the company's creation of a socially responsible image is testament to its public relations prowess. The company boasts of providing health care eligibility even for its part-time workers (never mentioning that all of its retail hourly workers are part-time). The fact is that an employee must work 240 hours each quarter to become eligible for health insurance. Because of the lack of guaranteed hours, meeting the quarterly hour requirement is far from assured. For workers who do qualify there are still the premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, and these are costs extremely difficult to manage for employees making six, seven, or eight dollars an hour. Incredibly, Starbucks, the self-proclaimed leader on the issue of employee health care, will not release the number of retail hourly workers that actually receive company health benefits. Even Wal-Mart releases that number. In fact, the recently leaked memo from Wal-Mart that advocated increasing part-time employment to cut health insurance costs is ancient history at Starbucks. Howard Schultz made that move years ago- but he degraded all jobs to part-time.

The workers demanded respect for the right to organize in the face of a relentless anti-union campaign launched by the company in 2004 after the formation of the Starbucks Workers Union. The company has already been hit with a complaint from the National Labor Relations Board for threats, bribes, and surveillance in their attempt to defeat the union.

"I am so pleased to welcome the Union Square East baristas to the Starbucks Workers Union," said Pete Montalbano, a union barista at an East Village Starbucks and himself a recipient of anti-union discrimination. "Given the widespread discontent at the company, it comes as no surprise that more and more workers are making the decision to go union."

Starbucks, known for inundating neighborhoods with its stores, is an extremely profitable company. On November 17, the company announced that quarterly earnings had jumped 21% to $124 million. Chairman Howard Schultz who also owns the Seattle Supersonics is doing well too with an estimated net worth of $700 million.

The IWW's unique solidarity union structure allows any Starbucks worker to join at anytime and begin the fight for a better life at work. Since its founding, the Starbucks Workers Union has pressured the company into a .50 cent an hour wage increase, an unprecedented holiday bonus, and steps toward alleviating the rampant repetitive strain injuries among baristas.

"Companies like Starbucks, Borders, Wal-Mart, the Gap, and McDonald's have gotten a free pass from the labor movement for far too long. Retail workers at some of the world's most profitable companies deserve better than a poverty existence for our hard work," remarked Daniel Gross, an IWW member and Starbucks barista. "The only solution is a fighting union."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Nausea

I ran across the site www.thenausea.com last night while doing some research on war atrocities, specifically the Fallujah massacre. Nausea is a not-for-profit effort to document war crimes and crimes against humanity on the web. The pictures, videos and documentation is shocking. Particularly saddening (ok, sickening) to me is the documentation in the China section, especially the pre-Communist era photos. Say what you want about Mao, at least he outlawed beheadings. Not that Tiananmen is much more encouraging. Also, the pictures of the recent massacre of Muslims by Hindus in India (2,000 murdered) is unbelievable. How people can act this way to each other is beyond my comprehension.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Talking Chavez Doll

Yippie! I know what I want for Christmas!

CARACAS, Venezuela - Shoppers at Venezuela's biggest mall are snapping up talking dolls of President Hugo Chavez and a merchant says they've become popular among supporters and foes alike.

The doll sports the Venezuelan leader's signature red military beret and at the pull of a cord repeats a revolutionary slogan: "It's your dream, it's your hope, and it's your job to be free and equal."


Thursday, November 17, 2005

U.S. forces used chemical weapons in Fallujah

Sean at ToTheBarricades brings us this news. This is precisely the sort of evil that is a direct outcome of imperialism, the most advanced stage of capitalism. What can be said for a form of social organization that not only allows these things to happen, but promotes them? We are all responsible for this. Guilt will not help. Only international solidarity and an end to racist nationalism will end the attrocities of imperialism.
U.S. forces used chemical weapons in Fallujah. This was reported by unembedded journalists like Dahr Jamail long ago. It was circled on the internet, but not widely enough. It is now a big story in the global media, because a filmmaker went ahead and did their work for them. But, you guessed it, is not being discussed in the United States. They could have dropped an H-Bomb on Fallujah and it wouldn't make it past the blogosphere at this point. Maybe this story will make it somewhere off the front page in the New York Times, but it would surprise me if it got any further.


If you haven't seen the film, Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre, which is getting a lot of attention in countries with a free press, watch it here.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Socialism on Amazon

A creative way to hack the system, one which I think more progressive groups should be thinking of by the way, is being used by the "World Socialist Party of the U.S.". Try searching for socialism on Amazon.com and you will see keyword adds come up for these guys. Very nice!

It is important to note that a lot of right wing organizations have been doing keyword buys. This is a great example of progressive guerilla agitprop being used effectively. And no, not guerilla marketing either; marketing is for products and it is a capitalist concient to transform every damn thing into a commodity. Society is not just another capitalist commodity, quite the opposite, capitalism is a virus on society.

Anyhow, it would be interesting to see what comrades find when they do keyword searches on the major search engines - try "socialism" or "labor" for instance, and see what Google AdWords or Overture results you get. If you are so inclined, leave me a comment with the results.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Nerds On Strike!

As many folks know, the grad students at NYU are on strike because the administration of NYU, taking queue from the reactionary anti-labor policies of the Bush Administration, feels that they do not have to recognize nor negotiate with the union.

So, even after 4 years of contract negotiations, NYU is not recognizing the union and their president wants to "kill" the union. (shades of the horrible tactics being used against the UAW at Delphi).

Check out the NYU Grad Student strike blog: http://nerdsforgsoc.blogspot.com

NYU faculty have their own blog here: http://fdnyu.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Get Rid of These Capitalist Ways

"I believe we need to get rid of these capitalist ways," said Steven Honickel, 14.
High school students in Parsippany, New Jersy (USA) voiced their opinions on who should be the next governor of New Jersey, and selected Socialist candidate Tino Rozzo.
PARSIPPANY-- The winner of Parsippany High School's student poll for governor wasn't Republican Doug Forrester or Democrat Jon Corzine.

Socialist Party candidate Tino Rozzo, at 21.6 percent, narrowly edged Corzine and three other contenders in a survey of 270 freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors last week.

Rozzo, whose platform includes a $12-per-hour minimum wage and a "socialized healthcare system under workers and community control," would seem an unlikely favorite at a high school in relatively wealthy, Republican-dominated Morris County.

Still, he had some proud backers among students attending today's 1 p.m. debate in the high school's auditorium, with students standing in for five of the candidates running for governor.

[More...] (copyright dailyrecord.com)

There is a growing notion among all people in all nations, regardless of the constant anti-socialist propoganda, that capitalism is failing - has failed.

How is it, that people are coming out and expressing this? With constant oppression of the views of socialism, especially in the capital of Capital, the USA, how is it that high school students have an awareness that there is something fundamentally wrong with capitalism?

Personally I think that it is because the science of socialism reflects a deeper truth about human nature and the need for cooperation and desire for social good. Whether based on a strictly Marxist humanism, or the finer points of Christian teaching the result is the same and speaks to our hearts.

The dog-eat-dog world of capitalism is a failure for mankind and the only way out is democratic socialism.

(This article is cross-posted at the Uncapitalist Journal)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Eyewitness Accounts from France

"What is intolerable in a civilized society is not the revolt of those whose children, brothers and friends are hunted down and killed. What is intolerable is the arrogance of the authorities, of irresponsible police, of the State which is waging war against the poor."
Again, thanks to Sean at tothebarricades.blogspot.com, eyewitness accounts from the rebellion in France here...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Chavez Restyles Venezuela With '21st-Century Socialism'

"I'm not afraid of socialism and never have been," said Rivas Silvino, who works in a diaper factory run by workers and managers under a state co-management plan. "The world is afraid. I say, don't be afraid."
From an article by Juan Forero:
CARACAS, Venezuela - Firmly in power and his revolution now in overdrive, President Hugo Chavez is moving fast to transform Venezuela's economy by bucking free-market planning with what he calls 21st-century socialism: founding state companies, seizing abandoned private factories and establishing thousands of cooperatives and worker-run businesses.


Many of the president's grandest plans are put into practice at the year-old Ministry for the Popular Economy. Planners there have already created 6,840 cooperatives that employ 210,000 people nationwide, many producing for the state.


The new measures - which include the seizure of factories, mines and fields the government says are unproductive - are playing well domestically. Mr. Chavez has an approval rating topping 70 percent.

After 200 years of exploitation under colonialism and capitalism, Venezuela is moving in a new direction. Bravo to Chavez and the Bolivarans for striking out in a new direction and leading the way towards global emancipation.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


Sean, at tothebarricades.blogspot.com has such an excellent post on the upcoming NYU grad student strike, that I had to crosspost it (below). A call to action - contact President Sexton and demand that the NYU administration meet the demands of the union: John.sexton@nyu.edu or (212) 998-2345.

NYU Grad Students, through GSOC/Local 2110 UAW, have authorized a strike this morning which will result in a complete stoppage of work by graduate students in response to the administration's refusal to renew their contract, which expired on August 31, 2005 (the National Labor Relations Board, composed largely of apointees from a reactionary Bush administration, determined, contrary to a 2000 ruling, that universities do not have to negotiate with graduate student unions). A contract "offered" to the union by the administration in August was "little more than a public relations stunt" which acquiesced to none of the principal demands in an acceptable fashion.

The previous contract - the first given to graduate students at a private university - granted graduate students higher wages (a 40% increase), health benefits, childcare support, procedures for grievance resolution, workplace democracy, and generally improved working conditions; not, as the administration claims, to attempt to dictate academic policy or engage in other nefarious activity. The contract benefitted not only students but the entire university as students from across the country went to NYU thanks to the improved conditions obtained via the union. So, NYU's decision will ultimately hinder its struggle to compete with ivy league universities, as well.

The administration has been responding to pressure with bad faith and boldfaced lies. A recent email sent to undergraduates (which received an obscenity laden reply from myself) portrayed the union as "disruptive" troublemakers, controlled by mysterious and ill-meaning "auto workers" interfering with education, and its grievances as unwarranted petty complaints (with Sexton going as far as to say that grad students make over $50,000 a year! The actual average is around $19,000, which is roughly at the poverty line - it was much less before the contract). An excerpt:

In our opinion, the Auto Workers union is embarking on a regrettable and unfortunate course: regrettable because it fails to respect the significance of your efforts to pursue your education, and unfortunate because such an action will not result in recognition of the UAW to represent our graduate assistants. We understand that the possibility of a job action is the last thing you need at this point in the school year. We want to reassure you that the University will maintain your academic progress.

A rally, with over a thousand attending washeld on August 31st, the day the contract expired, but was met not with dialogue but with a violent state crackdown, leading to dozens of arrests. "Open meetings" with President Sexton have seen him crassly refuse to discuss union issues, claiming that "the University's decision is final." The most recent such meeting, with a strike imminent, saw him in nothing less than rage.

The graduate students and their union have the overwhelming support of undergraduate students, faculty, and the rest of the NYU community. The administration must now show what its priorities are through its response to the strike.

Below is the e-mail sent out to all GSOC members today:

Attention GSOC members:

We have voted by an 85% majority to authorize a strike. The strike will
begin on Wednesday, November 9th.

The GSOC Organizing Committee is calling for:
· All members of GSOC/UAW Local 2110 who are working this fall as TAs, RAsand GAs to withhold our labor, starting Wednesday, November 9 until the NYU administration negotiates a second contract with us. Being on strike means not teaching, grading, advising, performing GA or RA work or any other task which is part of our TA/RA/GA responsibilities.

· All GSOC members, whether working this fall or not, to join our picket line and refuse to do the work of striking colleagues.

Picket shifts and strike logistics will be announced shortly. We will be in contact regularly, and every GSOC member should stay informed via the “strike center” on our website: www.2110uaw.org. It is important that all members maintain updated contact info so that we can reach everyone quickly when necessary.

Our resounding strike vote is the culmination of months of organizing, and a demonstration of our membership’s resolve to win a fair second contract. NYU’s recent anti-union emails show that they are on the defensive and feeling the pressure of our campaign. Despite the administration’s anti-union spin, our support from the NYU community is growing daily:

· Over 200 full-time and adjunct faculty have already requested to move their classes off campus to honor our picket line.

· Over a dozen departments as well as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and
the Tisch School of the Arts have passed resolutions in support of GSOC.

· Over 250 faculty have signed a statement of neutrality, pledging to respect the right of GSOC members to strike without facing intimidation or retaliation.

· Hundreds of undergraduates have pledged support. Under the leadership of GUS (Grad/Undergrad Solidarity), undergrads are urging their professors to move classes off campus and encouraging their parents to demand that NYU recognize our union.

· The Washington Square News has repeatedly published editorials, articles and commentaries supporting our union and calling on the administration to negotiate.

· Members from other shops in Local 2110 and several members of the grad union at Yale have come to work on our strike. We have the full support of the UAW, and union solidarity will make our strike stronger.

The stronger our strike is, the more effective it will be. We urge all GSOC members to volunteer time this week and this coming weekend to help prepare for the strike. There are dozens of ways in which you can help, including making signs, helping to re-locate classes, phone banking, etc. Reply to this email or call the GSOC office at 212.387.0220 to find out what you can do to help win rights, respect and union recognition.

In solidarity,
The GSOC Organizing Committee

Voice your support! Contact President Sexton and demand that the NYU administration meet the demands of the union: John.sexton@nyu.edu or (212) 998-2345.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Call Yourself an American Socialist?

Bernie Sanders is the only Socialist in office in America at the federal level.
On January 3, 1991, when Bernie Sanders was sworn in as Vermont’s sole member of the U.S. House of Representatives, history was made. Sanders became the first Independent [Socialist] elected to Congress in 40 years. He has since been re-elected seven times and is the longest-serving Independent in the history of the House of Representatives.
If you call yourself an American Socialist, prove it and donate to Bernie's Senate campaign before November 8th.

Socialists Fight for Womens Rights

The Socialist government of Portugal was blocked in an effort to extend the reproductive freedom of women, but the struggle against the reactionaries carries on.
LISBON, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Portugal's constitutional court rejected on Friday a decision by parliament to hold a referendum on abortion this year, saying it could be held at the earliest at the end of next year, Lusa news agency reported.

The court decided that the referendum could not go ahead on Nov. 27 as the ruling Socialists wanted because of a rejection of the vote by President Jorge Sampaio earlier this year.

The Socialist government, which came to power early in 2005, promised in its election manifesto to hold a referendum on abortion in this deeply Catholic country, one of the few in Europe to still ban abortions.


The Family Planning Association has estimated there are 20,000 to 40,000 illegal abortions a year in Portugal.
As with most in the "Right to Choose" crowd, I am not a huge fan of abortion for its own sake, but and firmly and staunchly in favor of reproductive rights for women. Any other position simply plays into the hands of traditional forces that view women as property to be controlled.

Class Struggle

Class Struggle - this little gem is touted as the "World's First Marxist Board Game" having been designed by NYU professor Bertell Ollman. The object of the game is defined as follows:
"Class Struggle" reflects the real struggle between the classes in our society. THE OBJECT OF THE GAME IS TO WIN THE REVOLUTION . . . ULTIMATELY. Until then, classes—represented by different players—advance around the board, making and breaking alliances, and picking up strengths and weaknesses that determine the outcome of the elections and general strikes which occur along the way.
I ran across this some time ago and was recently reminded of it and, of course, had to blog on it. What a great concept - a Marxist board game! Games are a huge part of the media-scape these days and are fundamental to teaching children about the world we live in and how they should behave in it. The Christian right is well aware of this and we see some top selling games on the market which are themed around Christian concepts, like the "Left Behind" series.

It seems very clear to me that we need more work along the lines of Class Struggle. Bertell Ollman combines solid theory with fun playability and humor to create an inspired final product. Below is an excerpt from Ollman's book "Ballbuster," which chronicles the business venture to sell the game:
In Boston, the Real Paper arranged a celebrity match of Class Struggle between three media personalities, the GOP candidate for governor of Massachusetts, the Democratic secretary of state for education, and Mortimer Zuckerman, one of Boston's leading capitalists, who has since become publisher of Atlantic magazine. Played in the office of David Rockefeller, Jr. publisher of the Real Paper, the game took on eerie overtones when Zuckerman, who played the Capitalists, tried his best to blow up the world just as he was about to lose. "Of course, capitalists would rather be dead than give up their wealth," Zuckerman said with the air of someone who knew what he was talking about.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Save Littlefoot

What do ya'll think most Americans said when recently asked the following question by CBS News:
Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin of human beings? (1) Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, and God did not directly guide this process. (2) Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, but God guided this process. (3) God created human beings in their present form."
Well, according to CBS, 55% chose door number three, or "God created [us] in present form." Better yet, 48% said that this all happened in the last 10,000 years! I guess those folks forgot about Littlefoot and the rest of the long-necks, those insensitive bastards! I mean really, look how cute this bugger is! Er well, that ins not actually Littlefoot himself, but even a bloody T-Rex is almost cudley (don't let him near the 'fridge tho!).

Seriously however, this sort of wrongheaded thinking is truely anti-rational. It is one of the reasons that Marx spoke out so strongly against the reactionary influence of religion in society. As a social force, religion can and does act against rationality and moves us backward in time (though not past 10,000 years mind you) to an era where superstition ruled the day.

Personally I believe, like many others, that Christ was a precursor to Socialism and some radical preachers have stated firmly from the pulpit that a Communist society is the City of God here on earth.

Whether you agree with that notion or not, one thing is absolutely for certain, Christ was no fan of wealth (which the devout of the Middle Ages incorrectly interpreted as his being against money ("filthy mammon"), which is just one form of wealth) and made it quite clear in a myriad of parables and through direct action.

At the root of things I'd say that many so-called Protestant churches today work in opposition to Christ's word and teachings and in opposition to Protestant ideals. One of the fundamental tennants of Christian teaching, which make it break with the older traditions, is for people to be free thinkers and to thoughtfully and prayerfully interpret the Word for themselves.

Religion fails when it takes the parts of the Bible which suit its own purposes, whether they be to fill the coffers of the church or to aid backwards looking political movements, mysticism and superstition.

For me, these poll numbers indicate quite clearly that a large portion of the religious establishment in the US is failing.

Article cross-posted at the UnCapitalist Journal.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I Blog Because...

I blog because...
"I do not write to earn a living or to build a reputation. I write to battle enemies.

"Who are they? Every outdated traditional notion, every irrational system that stands in the way of social progress and human development, and every instance of cruelty in the face of love. These are my great enemies.

"My pen is alight and my body aflame. Until both burn down to ash, my love and my hate will remain here in the world."

- Ba Jin
More here: plawiuk.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Revered Chinese Author Ba Jin Dies at 100

Revered Chinese Author Ba Jin Dies at 100
Elaine Kurtenbach, Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — Ba Jin, one of China's most revered communist-era writers
who attacked the evils of the pre-revolutionary era in novels, short
stories and essays, died Monday of cancer in Shanghai, the official
Xinhua News Agency said. He was 100.

Best known for his 1931 novel "Family," the story of a disintegrating
feudal household, Ba Jin also translated the Russian writers Ivan
Turgenev and Pyotr Kropotkin.

Ba Jin worked well into his later years writing essays and compiling
anthologies of his work.

He was part of the young intelligentsia in the early 20th century that
looked to Western philosophies — Marxism, anarchism, and liberalism — for
solutions to China's backwardness and social inequality.
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Discuss this story at:

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Mo Internationale

This site gets a fair amount of traffic from folks looking for The Internationale, and some specific questions regarding whether it is available as a ringtone for mobile phones.

As many of you know, the ringtone business is one of the most onerous forms of capital exploitation in the modern spectacle, piggy-backed on the already exploitive cellphone business.

I thought it prudent to offer some links to truely free ways to program the Internationale on your cell phone.

This site (LA INTERNACIONAL EN TU MOVIL) offers a way to program many phones (Nokia, Alcatel, Motorola, Samsung, Sanyo, Ericsson, Siemens, Sony) to play the Internationale.

For Blackberry devices and other phones that accept MIDI files for ringtones (such as Nokia phones using the PC updater ringtone composer), visit Dave Levy's weblog here.

I've tried a few other MIDI versions with limited success. Stay tuned, I'll update this entry as I get more information and please help out by posting any information you may have.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

New Internationale MP3s

The best collection of versions of the Internationale MP3s on the web has recently gotten better. Check out http://www.hymn.ru/internationale/. They have even added my favorite version by Alistair Hulett which I encourage all to download, or better yet you can even buy his excellent 1991 album, Dance of the Underclass (e-mail me if you need help finding this). One of my other favorites in the collection over at hymn.ru is Hannes Wader's German version of the Internationale. Have fun comrades!

Was Lenin a Communist?

Today I have lost the last shred of respect I had left for the New York Times, thanks to its ridiculous character assassination article on Lenin "Russia Weighs What to Do with Lenin's Body."

C.J.Chivers does quite a stomach turning dance around facts and I'm sure is making the likes of Charles Krauthammer grin with pride. This article is the same sort of slop that Chucky dishes out, filled with innuendo and non-facts masked as real news and even sympathy.

Well C.J. congratulations on being able to string together a series of third-hand comments on and disguising it as "reporting." Generally I find it useful to actually:
  1. know something about a topic,
  2. doing real research and using accurate statistics,
  3. and
  4. actually interviewing people who have something intelligent to say and some credentials to back their comments up
Clearly you have surpassed my skills by being able to skip all these rules of thumb I find so handy.

You state in your horrid little story that "Time has been unkind to Lenin, whose remains here in Red Square are said to sprout occasional fungi, and whose ideology and party long ago fell to ruins." As it turns out, the CPRF (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) is the largest independent party (non-coalition) in Russia, holding 12.7% of the seats in the state Duma. United Russia, the ruling coalition, is the only group that holds more seats.

You close the article by asking whether Lenin was a Communist. I'm no authoritarian, but I find it amusing to imagine whether you'd have dared to write such drivel when Stalin was still in power.

Lenin made his share of mistakes, the most unforgivable in the eyes of the capitalist press of course was that he wanted to create a socialist nation free from the wage-slavery inherent in the capitalist system. Lenin was the first successful leader of a socialist revolution, and was followed by many others the world over, and many still follow his lead today. Certainly he made decisions I disagree with, and his methods were not always completely democratic. But it would be very difficult to argue that the methods of most American presidents, especially in times of war, are or were completely democratic.

No, C.J. had one mission and that was to demonize Lenin. Its a testament to Lenin's true power that the New York Times finds it necessary to muckrake the fate of a 80 year old, fungified corpse. For me this proves the old axiom that the powers that be tremble when they think of the people organizing for a better world, for they know their days are numbered. They are few and we are many! The spirit of Lenin lives!

Thanks to Counago & Spaves for brining this to my attention. This nonsense is cross-posted at The Uncapitalist Journal.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Big Government Is Back

The always excellent Texas Observer was filled with great articles this week. Specifically, a piece by James Galbraith exposing the problems of irresponsible slashing of government budgets and the capitalist cronyism that has gone with it. The results are obvious in New Orleans. But the good news is that the left press is realizing that getting rid of Bush is not the answer. The answer is to rethink the role of government and realize that its primary mission should be to organize and deploy social production for the good of the entire society.
Hurricane Katrina has suddenly ended a 30-year illusion—that the era of big government is over. This illusion began with the New York fiscal crisis in 1975 and the California property tax revolt of 1978. It was carried to the national stage by Ronald Reagan in 1980, endorsed by Bill Clinton in 1996, and brought to its apocalyptic unraveling by George W. Bush. We see its consequences in New Orleans.

So now we know. The proper government of the United States must be big, demanding, ambitious, and expensive. It requires the incessant management of environmental forces, the repair and growth of transportation networks, provision of education and health care—and planning for disasters. It is a job for dedicated, competent, professional public servants, with clear missions, big budgets, and accountability for results.[emphasis added]


George Bush is taking a beating for stocking FEMA with incompetent cronies. He deserves it. But this abuse of power is not the whole Katrina story. And replacing Bush is not a sufficient condition for progress. The ideas that Bush stands for, including many that Democrats have foolishly accepted, also stand exposed as frauds. It’s time for them to go. The era of “the era of big government is over” is over. And not a minute too soon.
To read the full article on the Texas Observer web site, click here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Big News - First Live Giant Squid Photographed!

OK, I am coming out of the cephalopod closet today to announce some really huge news, namely that on Sept 27, 2005, a Japanese team of researches released film of a healthy, live giant squid in its natural habitat. The grand Architeuthis Dux approximately 1 km below the surface was filmed going after the bait which the team had on the end of a fishing line. The squid grabbed the bait to eat it, and when it got caught on the hooks lost one arm or tentacle (the report said tentacle, but the photo of the detached appendage looked more like an arm).

This link will take you to more photos: Squid Photos

This link will take you to an article:
Squid Article

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Socialist World Map Project

With a long standing interest in interests geographic, indeed my BA from the University of Texas was achieved with a double major in Geography and Political Science, I have great pleasure in announcing my latest project.

My initial goal with this project was to better understand the claim that "capital has won"and to explore the extent of globalization and neo-liberal policies fueled by the IMF and World Bank. In fact what I found was quite the opposite.

Socialism is alive and well throughout the world and in fact is on the rise. The much touted "new world order" and "end of history" espoused by the self-deluded guardians of the spectacle are less true today than when they were spoken.

The first installment of the project is a map of the western hemisphere. The countries are categorized with regards to the degree that their ruling party have adopted a socialist program. The categories are as follows:
  • Socialist (red) - the ruling party identifies itself as Marxist or socialist and has adopted various programs of social justice
  • Social Democracy (light red) - the ruling party has adopted aggressive social welfare programs for the benefit of the people
  • Neo Liberal (light blue) - the ruling party has adopted some or many social programs but is aggressively in favor of neo-liberalism, privitization and globalization
  • Reactionary (blue) - aggressive capitalist or reactionary agenda; includes the spectrum from democratically elected conservative governments to unelected tyrants
I understand that the categories are somewhat arbitrary and I welcome comment and dialog. The research has been done primarily using Wikipedia to determine the current governing party of each country, and its program. Again I welcome comment and corrections.

Socialist World Map Project - Western Hemisphere - September 2005
Click here for the most recent version.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Be Useful Part 2

A group of folks made some interesting (if misguided :P ) comments to the "Be Useful" post of a few days ago. I had neglected to include more prominently the link to the article from which I lifted the quote.

I disagree that Chavez is authoritarian. He was democratically elected twice and beat a recall - all by popular vote. There is no evidence that Chavezista's have organized any sort of authoritarian measures, unlike the great shining hope of American Interest in neighboring Colombia, Mr. Urbide, who under the cover of a "war on drugs" funnels money to right-wing paramilitary thugs and murder countless villagers (objective evidence here).In the case of Venezuela, take the following example from a recent AP article:
"We're capitalists, consumers by nature," said 26-year-old Marbelys Gonzalez, strolling through the mall with two friends, carrying a shopping bag filled with five pairs of designer jeans.

"We're crazy about shopping. If we go out and don't end up buying anything, we don't feel good," she said, sunglasses perched atop her bleached blond hair.

I think that we can all agree that mall-rats spend their time and money in a useless fashion (not to mention how vapid they are - they think they are capitalists but in reality they simply support capitalism). And this is Chavez's point - with massive economic efforts put towards creating more and more exchange value at the expense of creating use value (e.g. the intrinsic value of an object which provides tangible, but not necessarily physical, utility for people, i.e. a sports coat has a use value that is derived from it keeping one warm and protected from the elements, but it also contains different exchange values depending on which fashion designer has his name on it).

The evidence in Venezuela is a small portion of people involved in conspicuous consumption and a large number struggling to survive. Chavez makes the correct point that society and by extension government must focus on helping ALL people, instead of protecting the wealth of the few at the expense of the many.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Be Useful

"You have to strip yourself of self-centeredness. You have to strip yourself of the yearnings for personal wealth. You have to strip yourself of egotism. You need to be, simply, useful." - Hugo Chavez

Monday, September 05, 2005

How the Free Market Killed New Orleans

The following is from a piece by Michael Parenti which was published on ZNet on September 3rd:

The free market played a crucial role in the destruction of New Orleans and the death of thousands of its residents. Forewarned that a momentous (force 5) hurricane was going to hit that city and surrounding areas, what did officials do? They played the free market.

They announced that everyone should evacuate. Everyone was expected to devise their own way out of the disaster area by private means, just like people do when disaster hits free-market Third World countries.

It is a beautiful thing this free market in which every individual pursues his or her own personal interests and thereby effects an optimal outcome for the entire society. Thus does the invisible hand work its wonders in mysterious ways.

In New Orleans there would be none of the collectivistic regimented evacuation as occurred in Cuba. When an especially powerful hurricane hit that island in 2004, the Castro government, abetted by neighborhood citizen committees and local Communist party cadres, evacuated 1.5 million people, more than 10 percent of the country’s population. The Cubans lost 20,000 homes to that hurricane---but not a single life was lost, a heartening feat that went largely unmentioned in the U.S. press.


The free market played a role in other ways. Bush’s agenda is to cut government services to the bone and make people rely on the private sector for the things they might need. So he sliced $71.2 million from the budget of the New Orleans Corps of Engineers, a 44 percent reduction. Plans to fortify New Orleans levees and upgrade the system of pumping out water had to be shelved.

Army Corps of Engineer personnel had started work to build new levees several years ago but many of them were taken off such projects and sent to Iraq. In addition, the president cut $30 million in flood control appropriations.

Bush took to the airways (“Good Morning America” 1 September 2005) and said “I don’t think anyone anticipated that breach of the levees.” Just another untruth tumbling from his lips.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Killer Kate

This afternoon I am beside myself with sadness and rage. Hurricanes are a fact of life in the US. In the incredibly wealthy peninsula known as Florida, frequent hurricanes are handled as routine events with little loss of life or property. As a country, we have the engineering, planning and organizational capacity to handle most types of natural disasters with astounding capability. Most of this infrastructure was put in place after the disaster which hit Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900, one-hundred and five years ago, which flattened the city and killed over 6,000 residents (20% of the population) trapped on the island with little warning.

An excerpt from one historical website has this account:
The criminal element began looting the dead, and the cold blooded commercial element began looting the living. The criminals were stealing everything they could with safety lay hands on, and the mercenary commercial pirates began a harvest of extortion. The price of bacon was pushed up to 50 cents a pound, bread 60 cents a loaf, and owners of small schooners and other sailing craft formed a trust, and charged $8 a passenger for transportation just across the bay from the island to the mainland.
As a result of this, the greatest natural disaster to affect the US up to that point, President Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation which formed the precursor to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). By the late 1970’s the US had established FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency, now a part of the Department of Homeland Security) as well and by any measure, the federal organizations established to predict, prevent and help victims of disasters where massive, well funded and well staffed by the best and brightest in their fields.

So given that our Great Nation has such an incredible capacity to deal with disaster, what happened in New Orleans?

I lived in San Antonio, Texas for seven years. San Antonio often got into the national headlines due to flooding problems. It was universally acknowledged that the flooding was a result of human activity – namely construction of roads and parking lots which disallowed the rain water from soaking into the soil – it had no place to go. Nevertheless, the city continued to allow developers to build unabated. Tellingly, the areas affected when the floods did come where generally the poor areas. One of the centers of old wealth in San Antonio, Alamo Heights, and the central downtown area, had long been protected by massive dams, levies and other engineering feats. But the Mexican-American west-side was more often than not submerged under several feet of standing water.

Today we see incredible suffering in New Orleans and nary a white face in the crowd. The poor, black people of New Orleans are made to suffer while their white betters have escaped to posh hotels in nearby counties or states. With no jobs to go to, no money coming into households that get by check-to-check at best, and no stores open to buy the essentials from (let alone homes to return to) many people have resorted to “looting.”
The response of the “democratically” elected governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, is to call these desperate poor people “hoodlums” and issued the following warning (as reported by the AP):
Hundreds of National Guard troops hardened on the battlefield in Iraq have landed in New Orleans.
“They have M-16s and they’re locked and loaded,” she said. “These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will.”
Instead of threatening to murder the people who are supposed be her wards, she should be in the streets manning soup kitchens. Instead of posting guards around the city disallowing people from leaving by foot, she should be ferrying people in her own car. Instead of using her platform to demonize and make other the people who need the most help, she should be doing her best to show how rampant poverty and inequality are root causes of the human disaster occurring today in New Orleans.

But instead of doing what is right, she has opted to serve her capitalist masters and demonstrate in unabashed form the high regard which the ruling classes holds for the unwashed masses. The ruling classes have opted to demonize the poor, and to mobilize the police and army to kill and contain the victims versus sending in the Red Cross and humanitarian organizations to support and diffuse the situation.

Kathleen Blanco, not hurricane Katrina, is the true “Killer Kate” of New Orleans.

This article is cross-posted at the Uncapitalist Journal.

The Containment of Hell

This post comes from The Dark Wraith:

Unfortunately it [...] happened in New Orleans: people were being kept from escaping; and the problems associated with mass movements of refugees were being abated by keeping the citizens of the wrecked city from becoming refugees.

In other words, the National Guard was actually blocking the routes into the city with checkpoints.

You know: "checkpoints" as in the ones at the old Berlin Wall; "checkpoints" as in Falluja before the Coalition attack; "checkpoints" as in the ones between Palestinian places and Israeli places; "checkpoints" as in take your pick of a thousand places where Hell is kept on the other side of machine guns and soldiers with orders to shoot.

As some of you who will read this are aware, I make no apologies for the speculations, analyses, and theories I set forth; and that will be the case for the present matter as I give you this warning:

Beware of what you are seeing in New Orleans; this is the first modern, domestic implementation of a strategy you might very well see again and again as crises come to other American cities in the months and years ahead.

The Dark Wraith welcomes you to the 21st Century.

More here...

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Threat Heard Round the World

Jesse Jackson has got to be the boldest left wing politician in the US, not that that is saying much in the larger scheme of things, but I am still very proud. Consider his statements on his current visit to Venezuela regarding US policy towards Chavez's government and comments by the likes of Pat Robertson.
"We must make it clear that talk of isolating Venezuela, talk of assassinating its leader, this is unacceptable, and it must be denounced roundly by our president and by our secretary of state," Jackson told The Associated Press in an interview shortly before meeting Chavez.
"The Pat Robertson statement was the threat that was heard around the world," Jackson said. "It reinforces ancient fears because the U.S. has had a policy of eliminating leaders in this region, in Guatemala, in Chile."

Don't forget El Salvador and Panama, to name a few (more), Jesse!

It is refreshing to see Jackson continue to take a strong left of center position (as I have previously highlighted) and renews my faith in a Socialist revival in the US.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Working Life blog has an ongoing section on the CAFTA 15, the fifteen Democrats who voted in favor of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, to the detriment of working people everywhere and specifically their own constituents.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Worth Watching

The always excellent blog Working Life posted this yesterday. Perhaps many have already seen this, but if not please view it and sign the petition.


Sunday, August 07, 2005

Wobblies! A Graphic History

This week, In These Times brought to my attention this gem, check it out:
A vibrant history in graphic art of the “Wobblies,” published for the centenary of the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World.

The stories of the hard-rock miners’ shooting wars, young Elizabeth Gurly Flynn (the “Rebel Girl” of contemporary sheet music), the first -sit-down strikes and Free Speech fights, Emma Goldman and the struggle for birth control access, the Pageant for Paterson orchestrated in Madison Square Garden, bohemian radicals John Reed and Louise Bryant, field-hand revolts and lumber workers’ strikes, wartime witch hunts, government prosecutions and mob lynching, Mexican-American uprisings in Baja, and Mexican peasant revolts led by Wobblies, hilarious and sentimental songs created and later revived—all are here, and much, much more.

The IWW, which has been organizing workers since 1905, is often cited yet elusive to scholars because of its eclectic and controversial cultural and social character. Wobblies! presents the IWW whole, scripted and drawn by old-time and younger Wobbly and IWW-inspired artists.
Order your copy today! I know I am going to!


Protesters Murdered During Anti-Pollution Demonstration

Brother Sean over at To The Barricades brings us this news:

"Cuzco, Peru - Thousands of protesters have occupied the British-run Rio Blanco copper project in an effort to close down the operation. Police have killed seven of the demonstrators while trying to drive them from their positions. Another 40 people were injured, six or eight are missing, and 32 were arrested. One police officer was shot and injured when his wrested from him. Area residents have demanded that the London based Monterrico Metals to abandon the site after they polluted area streams with toxic chemicals and in the process destroyed people's farm land. Both the Peruvian Government and the Catholic Church are attempting to end the disruption through negotiations. The mine managers say that they do not have any plans to leave the site and plan to make it the second largest mine in the country." - Original article at: Bombs and Shields

Monday, August 01, 2005

López Obrador Launches Mexico Presidency Bid

On Friday, Andres Manuel López Obrador stepped down as Mayor of Mexico City. After months of fighting charges trumped up by the Fox government to disallow López Obrador from participating as a candidate in the 2006 presidential elections, the highly regarded social democratic populist was cleared and allowed to seek the office.

Read more at the Uncapitalist Journal

Hugo Chavez Says CAFTA Is 'Perverse'

Gutemala protests CAFTAThe AP brings us this story:
CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez criticized a trade deal that eliminates barriers between the United States and Central American countries, calling it a misguided deal that will harm the region's small economies.

Chavez, a frequent critic of the U.S. government, also said he had read reports of President Bush "putting money in circulation to buy votes and to blackmail, through the so-called (U.S.) intelligence agencies, to approve an initiative which is perverse."

CAFTA should be yet another wakeup call to the masses the bourgeious democracy does not and CANNOT take into account the voice of the majority. It is a government of the business, by the business, and for the business.

Massive worker protests across Central America were supressed, sometimes violently. Guatemala has seen demonstrators killed, wounded and beaten by police officers (more...). In El Salvador, riot police attacked a student protest in San Salvador on July 5, seriously injuring several demonstrators, in a country with a less than stellar human rights record.

In the US, many Democrats and Republicans who claim to represent the working people of their districts voted to approve CAFTA (for a list, check here...), even after seeing how NAFTA has destroyed working class jobs and made manufacturing in the US a dream of the past. The US labor movement stood firm in its opposition to CAFTA and let Congress know, to no avail. Note also that there was a a lot of horse trading on the Republican side. Several Republicans were able to save face by voting no to CAFTA, but only after the party leadership was able to ensure that the deal, er legislation, would go through. These politicians do not represent the people.

Chavez calls it right - this trade pact is truely 'perverse.'

Monday, July 25, 2005

They Are Out!

The Change To Win coalition is now officially breaking with Big Labor. Will this signal a new era of militant unionism in America and internationally? Only time will tell. The always excellent Johnathan Tasini over at Working Life has the full scoop:

Well, not that this surprises anyone here but, yes, SEIU and the Teamsters have pulled out of the Federation—effective immediately (sorry for the delay—can you believe it, no wireless at the press conference!!!). And I hear from insiders that the UFCW will pull out by the end of the week. As for UNITE HERE, a senior person told me, "that the other shoe doesn't always drop on the same day."


Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Spectre Still Haunts

Tony Saunois (CWI Secretary, London) reported on Monday, July 18th that a nationwide poll in Britain asked the question "who is the greatest philosopher of all time." Thankfully George Bush was unable to vote in the poll given that his answer to this oft posed question is always "Jesus." Despite significant media pressure by major news outlets including the lofty Economist magazine, all calling for the likes of Adam Smith or David Hume (come on - are these guys actually "philosophers"?), the polls came in overwhelmingly for none other than Karl Marx, winning 28% of the vote.

Full article at The Uncapitalist Journal

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Tales from Tolpuddle

Perhaps it was a bad idea to sit out in the sun for five hours... I'm still recovering from the sunburn to my legs. Anyway, the Tolpuddle rally was a success, attendance was much greater than last year - it seems to get bigger each time. A local I was talking to during the march said that a few years ago, no one he knew in Dorset had even heard of the festival, and this time nearly everyone he knew were going. So that's good. Our coach was absolutely packed - mainly Labour Party members, students and Trade Unionists - so with the money made, hopefully it didn't cost too much to hire out for the day. I only managed to go on the Sunday this year; already I'm planning, next time, to head up on the Friday and camp the whole weekend with some friends.

The speakers were as interesting as ever. This year the theme was, of course, migrant workers. I was expressly looking forward to hearing the exiled Maung Maung, and the speaker from Colombia (who I'm very sorry to have forgotten the name of). Both of their speeches (the latter translated on stage!) were very powerful, and made the surprisingly impassioned speech of John Monks (secretary of the European TUC) all the more poignant. The positive atmosphere was as great as ever, I'm sure most people could rid themselves of their media-imposed prejudices against Trade Unions if they just spoke to a couple of their members! I saw some people I hadn't spoken to in ages, which rocked.

As ever, the various Trotskyist groups were trying to get rid of their complementary leaflets and newspapers. There were a few Anarchists and New Age types, as well. Oh, and I managed to spot at least one 80-year old Communist Party member trying to sell The Morning Star! Billy Bragg was as enjoyable as ever, but there a lot of great bands in the Marquee too (which, from the listings, must have been The Dead Plants, and Dr. Stomp & Prof. Oz - I think I'll stay around there next time, much more shade as well! The Bristol Socialist Choir was brilliant, and I had the pleasure of walking behind them during the march through Tolpuddle (during which we lost a few of our group to the Martyrs' Inn!!). I was very glad we weren't too near the samba band: talk about burst eardrums...

Anyway, it was a good time all around. There was too much going on to jot down here, even though we only went for the day. Tony Benn was signing copies of his biography after his speech, pretty much all afternoon, which was great because I spoke to him when we got a copy signed for a raffle! He's looking a little frail now, but fabulous to speak with nonetheless.

The Uncapitalist Journal

Announcing the launch of The Uncapitalist Journal.

After months of planning and organizing we are very excited to bring you a brand new community site. Here are just a few of the things you will find:

A team blog with a fantastic collection of talented writers and thinkers who are all concerned with economic and social justice

An interactive community forums in which you the reader can post your own material and join the conversation

A newswire devoted to all the UnCapitalist topics and regularly updated by all the team members

And of course the Carnival of the UnCapitalists, the traveling community blog digest that allows you to participate in the UnCJournal community right at your own blog

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Nazi Nutter Dead At Last

John Tyndall, leader of the National Front during the 1970s and founder of the far-right British National Party, has died. An anti-Semite, racist, ultra-nationalist and general idiot, he will not be missed by anyone with a brain in their head. Since the BBC announced his death, I've not seen any news sites comment on it that I can bear to add an address for, so I'll just link to Stop the BNP as a reminder that we can't wait for all of them to croak on their own terms because, somehow, a whole new generation of racists are entering the world. For now though, I'll end with this:

Suck on it, Tyndall.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Carnival of the UnCapitalists XIV

After a week off, the Carnival of the UnCapitalists is back for edition XIV (that's 14, for all you non-Romans). We have about seven contributors, with this week's edition having been assembled by Continental Op over at Red Harvest.

Check it out here comrades!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival

IN 1832, following the Reform Act of the same year, six farm labourers from the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset founded the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers, to protest the ever diminishing wages of the 1830s. In early 1884, a local landowner had the six men arrested on a charge of taking part in an illegal "secret oath" to one another. Their real offence, however, had been daring to form a trade union to defend their livelihood from their bosses. The six men were sentenced to seven years' imprisonment and transported to the penal clonies of New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land. They quickly became heroes of the growing labour movement, and the immense outcry that followed their deportation led to the granting of pardons and their return to England.

These six men, known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, are celebrated in an annual festival in their home village. Organised by the Trade Union Congress, the festival lasts an entire weekend (from the 15-17 July) and includes various activities, from music to speeches, and culminates in a march through the village on Sunday, during which Tolpuddle is filled with the banners of dozens of trade unions, all of whom owe their existance to men such as George and James Loveless, James Brine, Thomas and John Standfield, and James Hammett. This year, familiar speakers such as Tony Benn and Billy Bragg will be attending, as well as unionist representatives from across the world, from Columbian agricultural workers to Maung Maung, General Secretary of the Burmese TUC!

Whether you come for the jazz music or "Marxist magician" Iain Saville, you're sure to enjoy yourself. Speeches and stalls, food and music, plays and even socialist choirs, the weekend is absolutely packed with activities to keep you occupied. You can camp for the whole weekend, or just come for the Sunday procession - but don't miss out!