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!


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Counter-Spin on the London Bombings

The right-wing started spinning lies from the beginning.

In case you were wondering what the Left is actually saying about the bombings, consider this statement posted today by the Socialist Worker Online:
Socialist Worker statement following London bombings

Our thoughts are with all those killed and wounded in this morning’s terrible attacks in London.

London is a centre of peace, the most multiracial city in Europe and a global centre of opposition to the war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. A majority of those killed and wounded will have opposed the war in Iraq; some will have joined the huge marches for peace.

These bombings followed the biggest ever protest in Scotland’s history against world poverty. The anti-war message was everywhere on that magnificent march.

These bombings target ordinary people travelling by bus and underground to work and study; people who oppose Tony Blair’s support for George Bush and their occupation of Iraq. They are in no way a blow against imperialism or the G8 leaders, who are ensconced in a luxury hotel 450 miles north of London.

The British government cannot avoid its responsibility for these terrible attacks, which are a consequence of its support for war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The best way to ensure that there are no more such terrible attacks is for British troops to be withdrawn from there immediately.

As a mark of respect for the dead we have cancelled the opening day of our Marxism 2005 event. We call on the international anti-war movement and the global left to rally round the people of London and, in the face of these terrible attacks, to redouble their work for global peace and justice.

Chris Bambery, editor Socialist Worker
Martin Smith, National Organiser, Socialist Workers Party
In fact, my own survey of dozens of Leftist blogs showed nothing but sympathy for the victims and outrage at the perpetrators. Shame on the Right for trying to use even this tragic event for political advantage, and God bless and protect the protestors in Edinburgh, Scotland against potential retributive police violence.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Massive Protests at G8 Summit

Over 250,000 people have converged on Edinburgh, Scotland to protest the G8 Summit. This was the largest political demonstration in the history of Scotland. Over 250 international members of the CWI and International Socialist Resistance participated in various events including the large march on Saturday.

Unfortunately, police intimidation has lead to some unfortunate events. Sean at To The Barricades (one of my favorite blogs by-the-way) brings us coverage of the G8 protests in Scotland:

During the Carnival For Full Enjoyment in Scotland today police violently attacked demonstrators (oh, I'm sorry, "clashed with" as if it is ever an even struggle) leaving 21 injured. Several fainted. Scores were arrested.


Miller Up the River

Persecution of journalists is anti-Democratic.

The persecution of Miller is aimed at silencing any critical media coverage of the government—whether it relates to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the practice of torture, kidnapping and illegal detention, the massive expansion of domestic spying, or official cover-ups of corporate criminality. - Patrick Martin, World Socialist Web Site

Cross post from Mediaocrity by Editrix:

New York Times reporter Judith Miller was sentenced to jail today for refusing to name sources to a grand jury investigating the revelation of a
covert CIA operative's name (Valerie Plame). Matthew Cooper, who was similarly prosecuted, has now agreed to testify, saying that his source has waived his/her confidentiality.

Miller will be jailed until she agrees to testify or the grand jury's term expires in about four months.

"If journalists cannot be trusted to keep confidences," said Miller, "then journalists cannot function and there cannot be a free press.

[Full post here...]

Court Enforces Justice for Sweatshop Workers

Gavin Warnock has some good news to report on his blog:
A United States court in Hawaii has sentenced the [owner] of a sweatshop factory to 40 years in jail, the most severe punishment ever imposed in a human trafficking case.

Prosecutors called it the biggest case ever of "modern day slavery" and said that the tough sentence was justified. "Justice was served, and we're glad the victims are safe," said prosecutor Robert Moossy.

The U.S. Justice Department said Lee Soo-Kil held more than 300 victims from China and Vietnam as forced labourers in involuntary servitude at his garment factory in American Samoa.

He's accused of using arrests, forced deportations and brutal physical beatings to keep workers under control.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Che's Ride

"Let the world change you... and you can change the world"

The tagline to Diarios de motorcicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries) is a message across the decades perhaps more critically received today than ever.

The Motorcycle Diaries is an amazing film, set in the early 1950's, and chronicling a cross-continental journey by a pair of young Argentine men, one of whom was Ernesto Guevara.

Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado are young medical students and decide to take a road trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Caracas, Venezuela. Ernesto is shown to be a very empathetic man who cares deeply for others. He had decided to become a doctor in order to find a cure for leprosy. At the beginning of the journey, Ernesto and Alberto are full of moxy and gusto, looking forward to their last great adventure before buckling down for their final medical exams.

Alberto has an old motorcycle the two friends cavalierly decide to use as their means of transportation for the over 13,000 kilometer trip. In a bit of foreshadowing, the bike spits black smoke and spins out of control as they leave their families behind in urban Buenos Aires. The two friends are undaunted, however, having both led rather charmed lives up to that point, with loving, stable families and bright futures, they felt invincible and very high spirited.

Their journey quickly teaches them that charm is not enough. As they ride but more often push their motorcycle across the Andes, they learn firsthand how fragile their social status is. They go from being treated as up-and-coming young doctors to being treated as vagabonds. Being put into this position allows them to see, for the first time, the world from the perspective of all the other people who have been displaced and forced to live at the edge of society.

Along this journey is when Che meets a displaced Indio couple who are forced to be migratory workers because their land was taken from them, due to their being Communists. As they travel together Che sees how these people and others like them are degraded and treated worse than animals.

This is probably the most political moment of the entire movie. In fact, if a viewer watching this film didn't know who Che Guevara was, she would not likely suspect this to be a film about a political figure.

The central character, Che, does not seem revolutionary at all. He is simply a compassionate young man who has dedicated his life to helping others in an open, loving and honest way (he is going to medical school to treat and find a cure for leprosy). I find a personal analogy in this story insofar as compassion for my fellow man and woman is what has led me to become a Socialist. The fundamental principles of the socialist international are all about compassion and striving to create a world in which all people have a place and can live as free members of a society of equals, without hatred or guns or borders.

Many critics of Che say he is a blood soaked murder. But in fact we continue to see that the true killers are the servants of Capital, who find, or more often create, their enemies as efficiently as they produce commodities. First the aristocracy, then the Church, then the Communists and now the Muslims (not to leave out the myriad other minority groups oppressed and murdered by Capital).

My point is simply that Che like many martyred comrades before him, had to fight for his ideals. He was constantly under attack by reactionaries. This is not an excuse for the battles he fought, it is a justification. He fought and killed for what he believed in, a right held sacred by all people in struggle, but one that Power reserves for itself. I reject the notion that Capital has a monopoly over this right and reject the definition of Che as a murderer. Miguel Ramirez, Cuban Ambassador to New Zealand made some clarifying comments about Che earlier this year, as follows:
[Che] was always very strict with discipline but he never tortured anyone, nor has he killed anyone except in military combat, and he was always a very humane leader. He just followed the ideals of the Cuban Revolution that was so humane with the Batista soldiers that they easily surrendered because they were sure what to expect, and that was an accelerating factor in the victory.

At the beginning of the revolution he was in charge of the prisons where the murderers and torturers of the Batista dictatorship were detained until they were tried by the Cuban people through legitimate trials and found guilty and executed. They were not dissenters, as Calder* would want us believe, but murderers.

Full New Zealand Herald article here...

*: The article was written in response to another article by Peter Calder
In a world where Right-wing fundamentalists quote Stalin's most murderous phrases when discussing their political opponents, we on the radical Left do not have to apologize for the legitimate actions of our heroes.

Also of interest is how Ernesto got the monkier Che. The word "Che" is used in several South American countries, noteably Argentina, in the same way as "dude" or "mate" is used in the US and England. It is probably derived from use in native South American languages where the word variably means "man" or "people." Also, in many South American countries, Che is used as slang for someone from Argentina. Finally, throughout Latin America Che is known as "le Che", basically, "the Dude."

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Old Glory

The cult of Old Glory came about at a time when plutocrats were terrified of losing power.

The excellent history presented below, was posted on Flag Day over at the Mutualist Blog, but is equally relevant on the eve of the 4th of July.

Mutulaist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
Since this is the High Holy Day of American Fatherland-worship, I thought I'd say something about how utterly unAmerican the Pledge of Allegiance is.

Not only is America one of a very few countries in the world where swearing a loyalty oath to the State is a regular quasi-religious ceremony in the government schools, but the Pledge is a radical departure from America's previous political culture.


Change To Win Coalition

June 15, 2005 marks a momentous day in labor history.

The Change To Win Coalition was formed on June 15, 2005, and is an embryonic formation initially made up of the five largest unions within the AFL-CIO, including the SEIU, Teamsters, UFCW, UNITE-HERE, and the Laborers. As of June 27 the Carpenters union has also joined.

The goal is to " promote coordination, cooperation and collective action on organizing, bargaining and political action on a local, national and global scale. This organization, currently named the Change to Win Coalition, would also be open to other unions, including the Carpenters, who share our goals. It will enable this group of unions to carry out innovative strategies to advance workers’ interests."

The combined unions now represent over 6 million American workers.

The coalition has put together a 43-page document outlining a series of resolutions to be presented during the upcoming AFL-CIO (of which all these unions are members) convention on July 25th. A summary of the resolutions can be found at Working Life where Johnathan Tasini (JT) has posted The Insurgent Convention Agenda.

In fact, most of this post is summarized from the Working Life blog, which is an excellent insider blog about American labor in general, and JT is a contributing writer for and the Utne Reader, as well as the author of several books.

A Real Speach About Freedom

'How does man live in denial in vain/by giving rules that prohibit and condemn?'

I am cross posting this from the blog All Spin Zone. Spainish Socialists are doing great things to advance freedom for all people and are pointing the way to a better future.

All Spin Zone said: If you haven't yet read Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's speech yet, you should. It was delivered to the Spanish parliament on the occasion of the historic passsage of Spain's gay rights legislation.

We are not legislating, honorable members, for people far away and not known by us. We are enlarging the opportunity for happiness to our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and, our families: at the same time we are making a more decent society, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members.

In the poem 'The Family,' our [gay] poet Luis Cernuda was sorry because, 'How does man live in denial in vain/by giving rules that prohibit and condemn?' Today, the Spanish society answers to a group of people who, during many years have, been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, their identity denied, and their liberty oppressed. Today the Spanish society grants them the respect they deserve, recognizes their rights, restores their dignity, affirms their identity, and restores their liberty.

It is true that they are only a minority, but their triumph is everyone's triumph. It is also the triumph of those who oppose this law, even though they do not know this yet: because it is the triumph of Liberty. Their victory makes all of us (even those who oppose the law) better people, it makes our society better. Honorable members, There is no damage to marriage or to the concept of family in allowing two people of the same sex to get married. To the contrary, what happens is this class of Spanish citizens get the potential to organize their lives with the rights and privileges of marriage and family. There is no danger to the institution of marriage, but precisely the opposite: this law enhances and respects marriage.

Today, conscious that some people and institutions are in a profound disagreement with this change in our civil law, I wish to express that, like other reforms to the marriage code that preceded this one, this law will generate no evil, that its only consequence will be the avoiding of senseless suffering of decent human beings. A society that avoids senseless suffering of decent human beings is a better society.

With the approval of this Bill, our country takes another step in the path of liberty and tolerance that was begun by the democratic change of government. Our children will look at us incredulously if we tell them that many years ago, our mothers had less rights than our fathers, or if we tell them that people had to stay married against their will even though they were unable to share their lives. Today we can offer them a beautiful lesson: every right gained, each access to liberty has been the result of the struggle and sacrifice of many people that deserve our recognition and praise.

Today we demonstrate with this Bill that societies can better themselves and can cross barriers and create tolerance by putting a stop to the unhappiness and humiliation of some of our citizens. Today, for many of our countrymen, comes the day predicted by Kavafis [the great Greek gay poet] one century ago: 'Later 'twas said of the most perfect society/someone else, made like me/certainly will come out and act freely.'

[translated by the journalist Rex Wockner]