Monday, May 30, 2005

Carnival of the UnCapitalists the Ninth

Hi folks! This slightly belated edition of The Carnival of the Un-Capitalists includes a plethora of excellent posts. We have 13 submissions this week, including posts from C-un-C stalwarts and also some newcomers. So without further delay, welcome to C-un-C the Ninth Edition!

First, Commie Curmudgeon reminds us to remember the victims of class war this Memorial Day. Specifically he highlights the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937, in which over 100 steel strikers where killed or injured by hired thugs.

Over at Struggle in the Land of Corn and Soybeans, Indy Doug dives into the tight relationship between big labor (AFL-CIO) and the political establishment and its role in furthering imperialism. The post is titled Labor Imperialism.

Impasto has an intriguing post titled feed your soul to the world. In the post, we are encouraged to take control of our own bodies and food by participating in organic farming, community supported agriculture (CSA) and urban farming. Impasto asks, "Why can't we all be farmers?" Indeed...

Mr. Plawiuk over at Le Revue Gauche highlights a tragic story taking place in Alberta, Canada, where a hunger-striking 86-year old woman died while protesting staff shortages in long-term care homes.

Ever wonder what happened to "the good old days" when you could get a usurous loan you were unable to pay back without a hassle? They're back! Who Hijacked Our Country uncovers the seedy practices of the rapidly growing payday loan shark racket that is quickly planting its black roots across the United States, thanks to lax government regulation.

The Dark Wraith Forums give us an analysis for this edition, exploring the seven principles of macro-economics.

C-un-C editor Charles Todd asks the question: "What happens when the IMF and the World Bank force instruct a country to give away sell off its public assets?" - visit Freiheit & Wissen for the answer.

Speaking of editors, C-un-C's other editor, Gretchen Ross of the Green Lantern, gives a review of the hilarious and timely Grocery Store Wars, an organic food industry parody of the Star Wars movies.

One of my favorite blogs, to the barricades, brings us timely coverage of the ongoing Gas War in Bolivia. The conflict has been raging since Monday of last week and shows no signs of abetting.

Kevin at Mutualist Blog gives an overview of the pathetic Newsweek debacle and the ongoing retreat of journalistic independence.

The very popular Lenin's Tomb gives us a thoughtful analysis of capitalism and the modern state.

Ashish's Niti (where I learned that niti is Sanskrit for "policy, strategy or vision") provides us with some new ideas in how to think about social security and the manufactured debate that Mr. Bush has been peddling.

And, finally, another of my favorite blogs, Agitprop, brings us this thought: "Fast food companies are constantly thinking of new ways to advertise their junk food. What better way to entice an audience but with sexy models eating sloppy burgers that drip sauce all over their scantily-clad bodies. Nothing turns me on more than the sight of Paris Hilton eating a Spicy BBQ Burger."

So, that does it for this week. As I stare out the window of the only place I could get Internet access while on vacation (Barnes & Noble cafe) I survey the concrete wasteland of suburban shopping mall "culture" and am reminded of how lucky I am to be a part of this excellent community of thinkers at the Carnival of the Uncapitalists.

I encourage all readers to look over the excellent posts for this week and reflect on the amount of work and energy that everyone is putting into communicating and spreading the truth that you won't hear in mass media.



Friday, May 27, 2005

Call for Posts

Fruits of Our Labour will be hosting the ninth edition of the Carnival of the Un-Capitalists.

Do you have a post that you would like to feature regarding issues such as socialism, income disparity, privatization and public ownership, the corporate erosion of democracy, corporate malfeasance, workers rights, unions and international solidarity movements, free trade vs. fair trade, anti-globalization perspectives and alternatives, sustainable development, healthcare policy, etc . . .

For additional information and submission topics please refer to the submission guidelines. Make sure you email your submissions to by Sunday May 29.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Nepal's Peoples War

The people are the real creators of history.

Take a Left brought to my attention that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or CPN(M) may be on the verge of liberating that small mountain nation from the neo-fascist rule of King Gynendra Shahi.

A recent statement made to the BBC by the US ambassador, James Moriarty states "If the government and the parties do not find ways to reconcile... There is a very good chance that the Maoists could find a way to turn all of this to their advantage and ultimately end up marching in the Singh Durbar [the central government secretariat]."

On February 1, 2005 King Gynendra staged a coup, dismissing his cabinet, suspending the parliament, and putting the country under Marshall Law. Gynendra was put into power as king during a coup in 2001 in which eight of his own family members ended up murdered, allegedly sponsored by the United States and India. Indian expansionists has long wished to annex Nepal as it has with other neighbors, having annexed Sikkim in 1975, and they are in the process of doing so in Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

Marshall Law in Nepal means that it is illegal to be on the streets, telecommunications are turned off, the airports are closed, students are oppressed and murdered, and political leaders are under house arrest. A recent incident in Katmandu had undercover agents raiding the political offices of the opposition, with no warrants, beating and threatening all inside and destroying equipment and files.

Following the coup, the workers of Nepal instituted a general strike (Nepal Bandha) from February 2nd through the 4th, sponsored in part by the CPN(M). The people of Nepal have been struggling for 10 years against feudal and autocratic monarchy that has oppressed the masses for over two centuries. The stated goal of the CPN(M) is to establish a just republican state.

The capitalist classes and their imperialist institutions prefer to role back history and support a reactionary monarch of the most anti-democratic sort, rather than see the red flag fly over Nepal. Looking at the facts on the ground, it seems obvious that the CPN(M) and their allies which shall spearhead the people of Nepal to a free and democratic future.


The Resistance

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Adam Smith and the Duff Factor

Adam Smith seems to be one of David Duff's favorite theorist.

The following is a reply to David Duff's recent comments. I believe that our conversation has been very fruitful and wanted to share a bit of it:

Hi Duff. I agree that Adam Smith did not invent capitalism, however your statement that he “described what was going on around him” is incorrect. It is well known that Smith was an apologist for the capitalist and that in many ways he was performing CYA to secure his stellar academic career while he witnessed the incredibly unjust process of primitive accumulation taking place all around him, especially in Scotland.

In fact, Marx was the person who “described what was going on around him.” Additionally, compared to Smith, Marx describes in far more detail the math behind capitalism. Marx understood that capitalism produces more evil than good and further he developed a set of tools for analyzing the mechanics of how the system works. Contrary to your previous statements, neither Marx nor Marxists invented socialism, it existed previously and independently from his body of work. The Communist Manifesto was not even written until 1848, with socialist groups having formed throughout Europe as early as 1827 (and the socialist form of organization having existed since the dawn of human history).

Marx lived and documented what he came to understand as class struggle. On the other hand, your hero Adam Smith invented political economy as a discipline and labeled it a body of natural laws when in fact it is nothing more than assemblage of speculations and doctrine.

Smith is entirely deductive. Smith generalizes the laws of wealth, not from the phenomena of wealth, but from the phenomena of selfishness. He makes men naturally selfish; he represents them as pursuing wealth for sordid objects, and for the narrowest personal pleasures.

Nevertheless Smith gives us some pertinent insights, for instance: "As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce." – and my favorite “[law], is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”

Please read Marx’s analysis of Smith in Volume IV, Chapter III of Capital (Marx: Surplus Value) and tell me where Marx goes wrong. Marx understands Smith much better than you or I ever will and does a good job showing Smith’s errors.

Duff, the bourgeoisie revolution brought freedom to many people and changed the world for the better. I believe strongly in the positive results of the American and French Revolutions and the roles they played in bringing down the then-existing aristocracies. Your boogieman, Marx argued this very case many times. But what we see today is that capitalism is the tool of the new aristocracy. The wealth has been reaccumulated to the top, small sellers and buyers, freeholds, farmers, shop owners and common men have no control over their own destinies as we are all essentially slaves to wage labor. This is not what Smith nor Marx had in mind.

Socialism provides an alternative precisely because it offers an achievable system which fits with the demands of a complex society. Duff, if you believe that human nature is not consistent with Socialism, then you must believe that human nature is inconsistent with Christianity as well. I believe you are wrong. People are just as charitable as they are selfish. Given a system that leverages the modes of production for the common good, I believe that people will dedicate their labors to the common good as well. It is what we desire more than anything and ultimately the reason why another world will rise from the ashes of the one created by Capital.

Economic Hit Man

John Perkins wants us to wake-up and “shape-shift” our world.
When you look around, you know that this world of human societies was created by sleeping people, because awake, aware, conscious people would create a very different world. (Perkins,
Perkins is the author of the best selling Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (EHM for short), published in 2004 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. EHM purportedly chronicles Perkin’s early life and career with the Boston based engineering firm Chas. T Main, Inc. (MAIN). It tells the tale of a man who, at least in his early life, was wracked with insecurity and conflict and seemingly very little backbone.

After several years with the Peace Corps, Perkins joins MAIN as an economist. His basic role is to produce economic forecasts for less-developed countries (e.g. Third World, or LDCs) that exceed reality. The purpose of these reports is to allow the LDC to qualify for loans from the World Bank, IMF or other large international lending organization. The reason this is important for his company, MAIN, is that one of the restrictions of this money is that engineering firms from the developed countries (DCs) like the USA have to be hired to do the work.

In the case of MAIN the projects were all focused on US engineering firms and we see this type of scenario is very common as in Iraq and Afghanistan today. MAIN is a similar company to Halliburton, but where Halliburton largely focuses on logistics and oil field engineering, MAIN specialized primarily in power generation projects, like hydroelectric dams for instance.

The subject matter Perkins covers is well documented in other sources. Some reviewers have suggested that Perkins is a conspiracy theorist. One point he continued to highlight in the book separates him from the conspiracy crowd quite specifically, as shown by the following excerpts:
Some would blame our current problems on an organized conspiracy. […] Members of a conspiracy can be rooted out and brought to justice. This system […] is driven not by a small band of men, but by a concept that has been accepted as gospel: [that] economic growth benefits humankind and [produces] widespread benefits. (Perkins, EHM pp xii) […]

The corporatocracy is not a conspiracy, but its members do endorse common values and goals. [Its] function is to perpetuate and continually expand and strengthen the system. (Perkins, EHM pp xiii) […]

This [is] a close-knit fraternity […] with shared goals, and the fraternity’s members moved easily and often between corporate boards and government positions. (Perkins, EHM pp 26)
Perkins is describing something well know to us all, and although he labels it the corporatocracy it is in fact simply capitalism or the capitalist system or simply Capital. Many people confuse the idea of someone being rewarded for hard work with capitalism. If this where what capitalism was, a sort of meritocracy, it would probably not be so bad.

In a meritocracy people would be rewarded for being hard workers and developing their talents over time. Those with more talent and who work harder would rise to the top of society. However, anyone who possesses any senses at all (you most certainly don’t need all of them) can plainly detect that it is quite the opposite case under capitalism. The most talentless, banal, and corrupt people rise while many others fall. In fact, the people at the very top, who we rarely hear about, are among the most indolent, being paid for doing no work at all based on their accumulated capital through the continued exploitation of labor.

In his book, Perkins describes a portion of the mechanisms that make this possible, specifically focusing on how the Third World is exploited through a process of neo-colonialism (though he rarely if ever used this term). Over the past 50 years, the forces of Capital dominant in the US have used economics as a key tool of empire building. Perkins tells this story from a personal, albeit simplistic, viewpoint that is informative if not compelling.

Perhaps the most effective feature of the book is that, like Machiavelli’s Prince, it personalizes the experience of the players in the game of geopolitics. Perkins gives a personal glimpse into the lives of Omar Torrijos, Jamie Roldós and the Saud family of Saudi Arabia. He shows how personal desires and weaknesses are part and parcel to keeping the system running. He also shows that the basest motives are what drive and fuel the system.

John PerkinsReading EHM, and knowing about Perkin's background, I found myself wondering about the veracity of the narrative. I have come to understand that that issue is irrelevant. Regardless on whether this is a non-fiction narrative, or instead a well thought-out parable, the underlying truths are right on target. Considering the amount of cultural currency the book has at this time, this is indeed a very good thing.

Confessions of An Economic Hit Man can be found at (union friendly) or your local library.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Jesse Jackson Shootin' from the Left Hip

The Reverend is speaking out.

Jesse Jackson is taking Mexican President Vincente Fox to task in an old west style shootout that shakes the dust from the chronically tired Democratic rhetoric. In a recent speech, Fox said that Mexican immigrants perform jobs that "not even blacks want to do in the United States." Confronting Fox, Jackson stated, "Big business and greed manipulate the whole world for cheap labor."

In 2002, capitalist apologist Niall Ferguson stated in the Financial Times:
[M]any of the defects [Marx] identified in 19th century capitalism are again evident today. In the last 20 years, there has been a significant increase in inequality in the pre-eminent capitalist economy, the United States. In 1981, the top 1 percent of households owned a quarter of American wealth; by the late 1990s, that single percentage owned more than 38 percent, higher than at any time since the 1920s
[...]For there is no question that the bubble economy of the last decade has brought about a quite astonishing transfer of wealth from one class to another: not from the working class to the bourgeoisie, but from one part of the middle class to another. To be precise, from the sucker class to the CEO-cracy.
Jesse Jackson seems to have been reading his Marx! Huzzah! When the reactionary press and the Democrats are basically quoting Marx, then we have a situation where the capitalist system itself is being critiqued in the mainstream. I believe that it has been a very long time, perhaps since McCarthy and the Red Scare, since this has happened.

The race element of capitalist exploitation is obviously not lost on Jackson. Class struggle is becoming the theme of the day and I am excited to have a figure as dynamic as Jesse Jackson on the forefront of publicly defending the interest of the working classes.

Keep on shootin’ Sheriff Jesse “James” Jackson!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Carnival of the Un-Capitalists, Vol. 7

The Carnival of the Un-Capitalists, volume 7 is online at Lenin's Tomb. C-un-C is an ongoing project that sharing weekly compilations of thoughts on the topics of globalization, workers rights, and an equitable global economy. In Lenin's words:
It's that time of the week again: the unruly mob of uncapitalist nay-sayers are beseiging the blog-o-sphere. There will, as the ILWU president told Seattle protesters, be no business as usual today. Throw on a hoodie and keffiyeh, because this is Carnival of the Uncapitalists .
Take a look and enjoy!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Victory for Greek Comrades

Greek Anarchist comrades force the police to adhere to the law.

Indymedia Athens reports that Anarchists and their comrades have risen up to protect their rights, and have been met by violent force:
During a book presentation, policemen-bodyguards of PASOK's ex-ministers Verelis and Venizelos, were armed within the premises of the Athens Polytechnic School (NTUA) campus at downtown Athens. (This constitutes a violation of Academic Asylum laws, valid in Greece since the collapse of the military colonels' junta in 1974, mainly propelled by student uprising in November 1973 in the same campus.)

Anarchist and lefist comrades tried to make the policemen-bodyguards leave the campus and conflicted with them. The result was gunfires one of which injured one comrade, at the leg. He was transported to the Laiko Hospital.
After baring several people from leaving the University, the comrades were surrounded by over 150 riot police. However, after peaceful but tense negotiations, the government issued and apology and everyone was able to leave without further incident. A powerful portriat of the power of solidarity to effect a peaceful conclusion to a potentially explosive situation. Contrast the actions of the Greek government in this case, with those of the US government at the Branch Davidian compound in 1993. Although the story behind these events is different, the basic scenario is the same: the government has surrounded a "violent group" with massive force and holding the group under siege.[edited by author May 16, 2005]

Thank you to Sean for full story, posted at To The Barricades

Friday, May 13, 2005

Good for Laughs and Lashings of the Old Ultraviolence

ought not come as any surprise.

Wednesday's New York Times ran a story highlighting the results of a study which compares the psychological profiles of business leaders and those of psychopaths. The results show that the personality types are quite similar. Having had to actually worked with these sorts of people, I can attest to the veracity of the study...
There has been anecdotal and case-study evidence suggesting that successful business executives share personality characteristics with psychopaths. The question is, are the characteristics that make up personality disorders fundamentally different from the characteristics of extreme personalities we see in everyday life, or do they differ only in degree?

In 2001, I compared the personality traits of 39 high-ranking business executives in Britain with psychiatric patients and criminals with a history of mental health problems. The business managers completed a standard clinical personality-disorder diagnostic questionnaire and then were interviewed. The information on personality disorders among criminals and psychiatric patients had been gathered by local clinics.

In fact, the business population was as likely as the prison and psychiatric populations to demonstrate the traits associated with narcissistic personality disorder: grandiosity, lack of empathy, exploitativeness and independence. They were also as likely to have traits associated with compulsive personality disorder: stubbornness, dictatorial tendencies, perfectionism and an excessive devotion to work.
For the entire editorial click here. I first read the story here.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Paris Commune : From Rebellion to Revolution

The year 1871 is the fulcrum point of human history.

It was on March 19th of that year that the Revolution of Paris brought about the final rupture between working-class democracy and the ruling classes. Today, we must look back to the heroes of the Paris Commune and understand how important their bravery was to our changed and happier condition.

The buildup to the Revolution is as inspirational story as one is likely to read. The reactionary rulers of France and Prussia had been subjecting their peoples to a brutal war precipitated by nothing more than pride and adventurism. The people of Paris and the National Guard had been resisting Prussian forces for over six months. Finally the French aristocracy capitulated to the Prussians, and in the peace terms gave Paris over to be sacked.

To facilitate this transfer of power, the officers commanded the National Guard to lay down its arms and surrender its cannons. This was refused, and a rowdy but good natured mob of working Parisians, combined with the citizen soldiers of the National Guard, forced the French army to flee to Versailles. The people then threw up over 600 barricades throughout the city to defender her against all aggressors. In reaction, the vile and treacherous French government declared war upon the citizens of Paris, who had only wished to defend themselves against a foreign invader!

On March 28 the Paris Commune was declared, after democratic elections appointed 101 councilors as wards of the city. Of these 21 were Socialist members of the International Working Men’s Association. Among the many policies implemented, the Commune put a moratorium on unpaid rents, shut down pawnshops, separated the church from the state seizing church property, excluded religion from schools, postponed debt obligations, and abolished interest on the debts.

Local councils were formed to run the city with a high degree of worker control and cooperation. Revolutionary tendencies included anarchists, socialists, Blanquits and libertarian republicans.

Ultimately Paris fell to the treacherous forces of Versailles, who were tellingly more afraid of their own citizens than of a foreign invader. The reactionary leaders of the supposedly opposing sides even collaborated to put down the revolution, with the Prussian king releasing 130,000 French prisoners to send against the Communists. After one month of resistance, Versailles marched through the gate at St. Cloud. In the end nearly 30,000 martyrs lost their lives, men women and children, slaughtered without prejudice. These facts were gleefully recorded by the reactionary press itself, cravenly celebrating the mass murder.

The Paris Commune marks the beginning of the new world for the working classes, and the beginning of the end for class society. This was quite clear at the time to the reactionaries, and continues to be the thing which they fear most to this very day. The Commune was fueled by the moving spirit of a social revolution, a movement of the lowest classes to seize true freedom and equality for all men. The blood of the martyrs is why we raise the red flag to this day!
The history of great peoples contains startling pages which compel the admiration of posterity, and the greatest of these are not generally the records of speedy victories or obvious successes,’ but rather those terrible tragedies in which the souls of nations are rent to the very depths, and show suddenly such tremendous energies that we do not know whether they ought not to inspire us with elevation rather than fear.

Such are the memories which peoples guard as tokens of undying glory, because, in these events, their energies attain the summit of power. The intensest passion used for the furtherance of the loftiest and purest ideal — there is nothing higher than this under the sun. Therefore, the conscience of the people is not deceived herein, and it is in these passages of despair and enthusiasm that they inscribe the names of their heroes.

So, for our part, we say that the Parisians who chose to bury themselves in the smoking ruins of Paris rather than to allow Socialism and the Revolution to be befouled and degraded are as great as the greatest heroes of history.

A Short Account of the Commune of Paris of 1871. by E. Belfort Bax, Victor Dave and William Morris
See also:

Monday, May 09, 2005

Carnival of the Un-Capitalists, Vol 6

The Carnival of the Un-Capitalists, volume 6 is online at The All Spin Zone. C-un-C is an ongoing project that was launched in order to share weekly compilations of thoughts on the topics of globalization, workers rights, and an equitable global economy. This week has a focus on Latin America, and our FOL piece on Chavez is included in the digest.

In other syndication news, yours truly is publishing a weekly op-ed piece at focusing on community, labor and economic development issues in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. My previous post on the farm workers' struggle in New York state will appear as the debut piece tomorrow, Tuesday May 6th. Check it out here.

The SEIU Gets Smart(er)

The University of Iowa (UI) is in the same boat as many colleges. Namely budget shortages due to capital projects and poor spending practices by senior administrative staff, leaving the majority of staffers left holding the bill -- in the form of low wages.

Over 3,600 professional staff are saying enough is enough, with 1,100 signing on to file a petition to join SEIU Local 199. After the regents passed a wage increase of 4.5%, which I'm absolutely sure they thought was exceedingly generous on their part, the staff at UI decided it was time to take action.

UI research scientist Gerene Denning said:
"What I found was sometimes it was very hard to get the P&S staff perspective sort of heard, and I think that's part of what a union does for you," said Denning, who has been a UI professional and scientific staff member for about 25 years. "It kind of gives you an organization through which you and your peers could sort of have a voice in things."
The average pay for these staffers at UI is $50,000 per year, which is very poor indeed when you consider that the jobs often require advanced degrees, even PhDs, and that senior administrative staff make well over six-figures for largely managerial duties.

The bottom line is that the big-money alums could care less about worker's wages, and that attitude carries over throughout the senior administration. It is not a priority unless the workers make it a priority. The only way to effect that change is to organize. The alternative is to watch your paycheck degrade vís-a-vís inflation while some fat-cat slaps his WASP last name on another building that no one needs.

Read more here and here.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Chavez Carries the Torch

Hugo Chavez with daughter
Hugo Chavez has become a lightning rod for populist socialism, brashly carrying the torch for the revolutionary Left in the face of stiff opposition. He is at the forefront of a mass movement which is an inspiration to Marxists throughout the world.

The movement has been successfully bearing fruit for the masses in Venezuela. It is not Chavez's tenacity or charisma that has kept him in power, but his sincerity. He truly is a man of the people, with the ability to forge a bond between the masses, the government, and the military resulting in the unification and mobilization of the country. All of this allows Venezuela to build a better tomorrow.

Chavez has also come to realize that there is no “third way,” and that socialism is the only real alternative to neo-liberal capitalist hegemony. In an interview on April 20, 2005, Adan Chavez, Venezuela’s ambassador to Cuba, plainly states:
The President used to consider the option of the so-called “Third Way” – a way between capitalism and socialism. We examined that and, as the President said, we have realized that for the Bolivarian revolution there is no third way possible, we must choose the way of socialism. […] Socialism is a system in which man is above Capital. That is clear.
It is also clear that these ideals are spreading throughout Latin America and beyond. At least partially emboldened by the Venezuelan people's stand against imperialistic influences, people’s movements, from Mexico to Chile to Italy, are taking power under the banners of socialism and communism.

History of Oppression
Hugo Chavez with old womanThe history of Venezuela is one of an apartheid society. First, the Spanish colonized the indigenous people, forcing them to work the cocoa and coffee plantations, then importing slaves to aid in the work. After gaining independence, Venezuela remained an oligarchy ruled by the white European descendants of the Spaniards. For 200 years, the two-class society continued until the 1980s when it became clear to even the military that enough was enough. The military’s main role was to suppress mass demonstrations by hungry, dark-skinned people –- the citizen-slaves of Venezuela who could not even afford to buy food. It is out of this situation that the military was forced to break with the capitalists and throw in its lot with the working people and poor of Venezuela.

Improvements Despite the Odds
No one will argue that Venezuela has not faced tough economic hardships in recent years. Nevertheless, despite massive assaults by Capital on the domestic product of the nation through coup attempts and employer sponsored lockouts, the economy continues to improve. This trend is accelerated by the government's policy to take mothballed capital and put it into the hands of the people. By these means, factories and farmland have been revived after having lain idle for years. Additionally, the government has redirected billions of US dollars into social programs, urban revitalization, community building, and small businesses. The net result is that Venezuela’s economy has grown at a pace of 5-percent for six consecutive quarters, totaling of 17-percent for the year of 2004. Perhaps Mr. Bush could take some lessons?

In addition, the Chavistas are addressing the feminization of poverty and indigenous peoples’ rights, reducing unemployment rates drastically, raising minimum wage by 26-percent, granting land titles to peasants (currently at over 75,000) –- the list goes on. It is clear that the working people and poor of Venezuela are bearing the fruits of their hard work by seizing their just dues from the clutches of capital.

Hugo Chavez with a few million of his clostest friends
A few of Chavez's closest friends

Hugo Chavez with a few million of his clostest friends
Town hall meeting - Chavez style

Hugo Chavez with a few million of his clostest friends
The red tide rises, the symbol plain,
of human right and human gain...


Saturday, May 07, 2005

The New Realist -or- Tradition!

Political satire is alive and well, and The Daily Show with John Stewart would have you believe that they are leading the pack. Sometimes I wonder why it is allowed to be on the air - why would the US corporate media machine tolerate it and why would sponsors pay for it?

Usually I find myself watching the show and wondering -- where's the substance?

Is the Daily Show content really all that satirical or political? Is it anything close to radical detournement? When set alongside truly subversive texts like Paul Krassner's The Realist we can only answer, unequivocally, “No.”

The Realist was published as a magazine from 1958 to 1974, the content was so edgy it earned Krassner an extensive FBI file. Krassner reincarnated The Realist as a newsletter in 1985, with the final edition published in 2001. In its pages, Krassner interviewed folks from George Lincoln Rockwell (American Nazi Party) to Jerry Garcia (Dead Head and ice-cream flavor inspiration) covering a wide range of social and political topics. When you see the magazine, it's not suprising to hear that Krassner cut his journalistic teeth at Mad Magazine. In many ways, Krassner is reminiscent of the enigmatic underground comic book artist Robert Crumb (or, as he signed his artwork, R. Crumb).

Enter blogger Bachem Macuno and his brilliant I F----d Ann Coulter In the A--, hard (Warning: NSFW ). This work is sophomoric and offensive, to be sure. Yet this sort of in-your-face satire is refreshing, insofar as it shows that free speech still exists, at least in the blogosphere. Certainly Macuno's blog is offensive to a range of people, from conservatives to feminists. That, however, is what satire is all about. And given that Coulter is the essence of offensiveness (during her speech she suggested that "we oppress liberals" - it's moronic positions like this that led to the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat), albeit state-sponsored offensiveness, this work plays an important role in counterbalancing the excesses of state authority, especially in light of the ongoing assult against public free speech in America. More about the unjust arrest of a UT student can be found here and here.

More on Krassner can be found here.
More on R. Crumb can be found here.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

100 Miles for Justice

I was fortunate enough to be able to show solidarity with New York State farm workers this past Monday (May 2nd). NYS farm workers labor without the right to organize unions or bargain collectively, have no access to disability insurance, do not have the right to take an unpaid day off and do not get paid for overtime -- not to speak of a lack of health insurance! On top of this, these workers get paid an average of $7,500 per year and are forced to migrate with the crops throughout the season. Often people think that "migrant farm worker" means "illegal alien." In fact, the designation simply means that the worker must migrate throughout the year to remain employed, regardless of their home or nationality.

The New York State Assembly has passed legislation to increase the rights of farm workers, but so far the Senate has shot down all of the bills. Over the past few years, an organization called Centro Independiente de Trabajadores Agricolas (CITA), led by Rosa Rivera, has been staging actions across New York State to raise awareness and fight for workers rights. CITA's demands include "A day of rest, the right to bargain collectively, overtime pay," to which I can only ask, 'What year is this - 1890!?'

The farmers and growers (those who employ the workers) cry that they will go out of business if they have to treat the workers fairly. Strangely enough, this did not happen in California when Ceasar Chavez organized the farm workers there. The farmers complain that "the workers are asking for the same old rights, year after year" when they should be "learning English." For a moment, let's ignore the blatantly racist position these "benevolent" employers speak from and take their argument seriously. How can these farm workers take any classes (let alone English classes) if they are working 12 hour days, 7 days a week? I spoke with one Oaxacan man whose 17 year old son who works the fields with him. Neither have much energy at the end of the day for anything other than sleep. The truth of the matter is that this has been going on for decades, long before Latin American workers arrived. (Prior to the 70s, most farm workers were poor rural black Americans and guess what? They already spoke English.)

Why is it that the farmers feel they should have a special privelege when it comes to employment practices? And why is it that they seem always to choose the most vulnerable workers to employ? They claim that Americans do not want to do the work, because it is too hard (and imply that Americans are too lazy, especially those welfare bums). If they really feel this way, why then do they fail to give dignity to the people who are actually willing to do this hard work?

On May Day, CITA staged the 100 Miles for Justice March, with the workers starting their march in Albion, NY, and ending in Geneva, NY. I was lucky enough to serve dinner to the marchers at the Geneva's Methodist Church. There, I heard Rosa Rivera speak and met several of the CITA workers and their supporters. Their stories are those of hard-working people who wish only to be treated with dignity. Since this has been denied to them, they are organizing and taking matters into their own very able hands.

Read more here, here, here and here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Love Mom, Not Wal-Mart

In the struggle to unionize Wal-Mart, it seems that the momentum has swung decidedly to the side of the workers. CNTODD at Freiheit und Wissen highlights a recent article in the NY Times (read his post here). For this Mother's Day (Sunday, May 8th), The UFCW unveiled the "Mother of all Mother's Day" card; an 8 foot by 8 foot Mother's Day card which is a symbol of Wal-Mart's discrimination record against women workers.

The good news here is the sheer scale of the movement to bring Wal-Mart into check. Along with the UFCW, the SEIU has launched a campaign to help in orgainzing Wal-Mart. Members of the IWW/IU 660 Retail Workers Union have started a Wal-Mart wiki.

The overall impact is that the general citizenry and elected officials are waking up to the fact that Wal-Mart is bad for communities and bad for people. There are dozens of politicians mobilizing against the unjust interests of Wal-Mart, and Wal-Mart's sweetheart DOL deal is under increasing scrutiny (Dems with balls!).

This is a watershed moment in the history of labor activism post 9/11. Across the country and the world labor is letting managment know that they are sick and tired of the status quo and that the works will simply not take it any more.

Solidarity brothers and sisters -- and mothers!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Labor Arts

Mark Dilley's excellent blog has made me aware of the Labor Arts site, an excellent collection of labor themed artwork and exhibits. Mark linked directly to an excellent exhibit on the IWW (click here).

For those who are not familiar with the IWW, the acronym stands for the Industrial Workers of the World, a Union for All Workers. This year, 2005 is the one-hundredth anniversary of the IWW, having been founded on June 27, 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, by a congress of workers including elements from Socialist Labor Party/Socialist Trades & Labor Alliance, Socialist Party of America, Western Federation of Miners and survivors of International Working People's Association. A full cronology of the first 100 years of the IWW can be found here.

The core philosophy of the IWW is anarcho-syndicalism which can be summarized as follows (from Wikipedia):
Anarcho-syndicalists believe that workers’ organizations — the organizations that struggle against the wage system, which, in anarcho-syndicalist theory, will eventually form the basis of a new society — should be self-managing. They should not have bosses or “business agents”; rather, the workers should be able to make all the decisions that affect them themselves.

Anarcho-syndicalists believe that only direct action — that is, action concentrated on directly attaining a goal, as opposed to indirect action, such as electing a representative to a government position — will allow workers to liberate themselves.
The IWW promotes the General Strike as the ultimate direct action allowing workers to become liberated from the bonds of capital.

One of the other aspects of the IWW that makes it stand out is that it has from the beginning created media to promote worker culture. This includes art, comics, songs and poetry, to name a few. The IWW exhibit at Labor Arts explores this in detail. Many images can also be downloaded directly from the IWW here, here and here.

A list of centennial events can be found here, including a James Connolly celebration in Albany, NY on May 14th.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Carnival of the Un-Capitalists, Vol. 5

The Meat Eating Leftist hosts the special May Day (2005) edition of C-Un-C, to which FOL is a contributor this time around. Check it out!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Happy May Day, 2005!

May Day 2005 rallies around the world.

Workers around the world have marked the May Day holiday with protests calling for more rights and improved benefits, reports Al Jazeera. Worldwide celebrations and worker protests show mass solidarity in the internationalist spirit, reminding the capitalist rulers that their days are numbered. From Tokyo to Havana and across Europe and Canada, millions of workers took to the streets today in May Day rallies and marches. Some highlights include (in no particular order):
  • Australia: Thousands flocked to May Day rallies across Sunday to protest the Howard government's planned industrial relations reforms.

  • Venezuela: A major trade union initiative in solidarity with Venezuela has been launched by the Hands Off Venezuela campaign. Coinciding with the celebration of International Workers' day, Hands Off Venezuela is promoting an "Open letter to US trade unionists."

  • Japan: Over 200,000 workers rally for a global ban on nuclear weapons, in memory of the US nuclear attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

  • Bangladesh: 5,000 workers rally for a minimum wage.

  • Cuba: 1,000,000 Cubans gathered in the Plaza of the Revolution to hear Fidel Castro.

  • Germany: Over 500,000 workers took part in marches and rallies across the country, many focusing on a recent political debate accusing company executives of increasing earnings while squeezing workers' wages and slashing jobs.

  • Russia: Protestors calling for sweeping social reforms mixed with anti-government demonstrators in Moscow. Thousands of Communists rallied under pictures of Lenin and Stalin with traditional red-and-white, hammer-and-sickle banners bearing slogans like "Rise, Save Russia!" and marched down Tverskaya Street, one of Moscow's main boulevards. Radical activists from the National Bolshevik Party and the Red Youth Avant-Garde political group fought briefly with riot police.

  • France: demonstrators used May Day to voice opinions on the country's upcoming referendum on the European Union constitution.

  • China: China singled out more than 2,900 labourers -- and a few athletes -- for recognition on May Day, dubbing them "model workers," as people across the country started a week-long holiday with visits to squares and parks for kite flying and other recreation.

  • Vietnam: Nationwide celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the victory of the Vietnamese people against US imperialism (and I would argue the victory of international solidarity).

  • Spain: 25,000 workers rally in Madrid, with 50 rallies organized across Spain. Politicians from the governing Socialist party and the United Left coalition joined the people during the marches .

Absent are significant mass demonstrations in the United States. Ironically, the birth of May Day was a result of the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago and spearheaded by the IWW and other militant unions. Read more here and here. A rally in Chicago called "Take Back the Original Labor Day" attracted hundreds of workers (see the story here). Every other country -- from Pakistan to Paraguay -- had rallies, which were widely reported, including our very close neighbors, Canada and Mexico.

As it turns out, in the US during the 1930s reactionaries pushed a bill through Congress labeling May Day to be Loyalty Day in order to counter labor celebrations. This slap in the face has been reinstated by George Bush as of 2004.

Another mythology promoted in the US is the May Day pagan celebration of nature, centering on the May pole dance. The true colors of the United States are shown when the ruling elite chooses to promote paganism versus worker solidarity!