Monday, July 31, 2006

First Labour Union Formed at Chinese Wal-Mart Store

Illustration from DesignWorks

From the AP, via KFSM:

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Conmemoró de Salvador Allende

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

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

Portal del Socialismo Chileno: Salvador Allende

IRAs Enable the "Ownership Society"

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Carnival of Socialism #7

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exposing the Money Game in British Politics

Part of the Carnival of Socialism collection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 21, 2006

Call for Articles

Sunday July 23rd will see the next edition of the Carnival of Socialism here on FoOL. I have received a handful of articles thus far and am asking that all interested parties submit new or existing articles or posts for inclusion in the next edition. Please make your submissions via this link: Carnival of Socialism HQ

Alternately you may e-mail me submissions at

What is to be Done?

Israel's disgusting and massively disproportionate assault on all its neighbors must be universally condemed. From the Peak Oil site:
Lebanon is mired in a terrifying labyrinth of death and destruction. Beirut's airport is bombed. Israel has imposed a sea blockade. Other than privileged Westerners who are being evacuated by air or sea, people have overnight become refugees. They are plunged into an exodus of hundreds of thousands crammed on rickety rural trucks, overcrowded buses, Red Crescent convoys and even Mercedes with Saudi license plates on a mad dash through Lebanese back roads to Syria.

Israel's lethal bombing is ubiquitous - raining hell over family homes in the Bekaa Valley, over the Liban Lait milk factory on the road to Baalbek, over a Greek Orthodox church, over civilian trucks carrying rice and sugar near the Christian village of Zaleh, over a civil-defense building in Tyre, over a paper mill, over a packaging firm, over a pharmaceutical plant, over the Lake Qaraoun dam, over bridges, water reservoirs, electric plants, gas stations, ambulances, even over Beirut's main Christian neighborhood.

Peak Oil: Lebanon Left for Dead
Information Clearing House: Uncensored photos from Lebanon
To quote V Lenin, "What is to be done?" The CWI's Kevin Simpson has released an extensive analysis on this topic with the following conclusions:
Undoubtedly the prospect of further conflict and war fills workers and young people around the world and particularly in the Middle East with dread because of the terrible suffering it could mean. However, capitalist wars and conflict will see further working class struggles against privatisation and attacks on workers living standards which have already taken place in countries like Iran, Egypt and Israel. Such movements will come to the fore again but with a different consciousness – one that is imbued with a desire for an end to bloodshed and a new society where the mass of the population control the huge wealth that exists in the region.

This perspective is based on historical experience. At the height of the internecine Lebanese Civil War in 1988, Lebanese workers across the sectarian divide took strike action against the collapse in the value of the minimum wage as a result of the galloping inflation caused by the conflict. Along the "green line", which divided Christian and Muslim Beirut, joint demonstrations took place on this issue. During the same period between half and one million Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv against the IDF invasion in Lebanon.

However, socialists and activists cannot simply sit back and wait for these developments in the future. A movement for revolutionary socialist change needs to be built, as a matter of urgency, across the region.
  • No to the mass terror of the Israeli regime against the Lebanese people. End the bombing of Lebanon. Build mass international opposition to ‘collective punishment’ of the Lebanese people
  • For the right of the Lebanese working class and poor peasantry to defend themselves against Israeli state aggression. No to indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilian areas. For the setting up of cross-community, armed defence committees under the democratic control of the Lebanese masses. No to the concept of collective punishment of innocent civilians
  • Release all political prisoners and captives. All imperialist forces out of the region
  • For a mass movement of Arab and Palestinian workers, poor peasants and young people to overthrow the capitalist system which breeds war, poverty, mass unemployment and neo-liberal attacks in the Middle East. For a socialist confederation of Arab states based on a democratically planned economy, under workers’ control and management
  • For a mass movement of Israeli Jewish workers to overthrow the Israeli capitalist regime which means endless wars and attacks on living standards. For a socialist Palestine and socialist Israel as part of a socialist confederation of the Middle East in which workers and poor peasants and not corrupt leaders will decide how society is run and where the national, religious and ethnic rights of all minorities will be guaranteed
Socialist Alternative: Israeli regime’s air invasion of Lebanon

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

European Left: To Stop Israel, To Work For Peace

The EL issued this statement on the 14th:
The Party of the European Left expresses its firmest condemnation of the ongoing military attacks and the now started war by Israel on Lebanon.

Destroying civil infrastructures, killing innocent people and putting the whole Middle East region on the brick of war is by no way an acceptable reaction to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers - being only a pretext for the military aggression. This [action] clearly violates international law.

The EU having been [one-sided] during all these years to the Palestinian issue and with its silence only encouraging Israel [to go] ahead with its current policy, has now to take full responsibility for bringing about an immediate cease-fire and stopping the Israeli aggression on Lebanon and Gaza.

It is [high time] to change this attitude and to make a serious effort for a restart of the peace process. It is even more clear today: Europe and the EU can no longer ignore its political responsibility for guaranteeing peace to all people in the Middle East region.

Therefore the EL calls on the EU authorities and all European governments to act respectively in the scheduled meeting of the UN Security Council.

The European Parliament and all the political groups and parties have to take control over the next steps of the EU General Council and commission towards immediate ending the war and taking away the reasons for the permanent restarting of the spiral of violence in Palestine: Israel’s occupation and settlement policy [read Zionism kids! - RiR].

We, the European Left call on all democratic forces to mobilize in these days for peace and against war.

Tavira – Brussels, 14 July, 2006
Peace for all! An end to the bloodshed wrought by Zionism, a system that is aggresion by design!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

2005 German Socialist Victory Anniversary

It is the one year anniversary of the Left Party victory in Germany. From Wikipedia:
In 2005 the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) formed an electoral alliance the Labor and Social Justice Party (WASG), a leftist faction of dissident Social Democrats and trade unionists, with the merged list being called the Left Party. In the 2005 federal election the Left Party received 8.7% of the nationwide vote and won 54 seats in the German Bundestag.

Wikipedia: Left Party Germany
The CWI is active in the WASG and has fielded several Trotskyist candidates through WASG.
However, when the WASG was set up last year, the party agreed not to participate in any coalitions or governments that carried out social cuts and privatizations. But the leadership is now proposing a merger with the PDS, which has taken part in regional coalition governments with the SPD in Berlin and elsewhere that have carried out major attacks on the working class. The PDS in Berlin has already declared that it intends to continue in a coalition with the SPD.

Justice: Fighting for Socialist Ideals Worldwide
Nevertheless, I think it is a wonderful and encouraging thing to see a socialistic party winning significant representation within a major capitalist power.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Blogger k-punk gave a very good response in a recent debate on populism including Bat at Lenin's Tomb, Jon at Posthegemonic Musings, Le Colonel Chabert and Kenneth Rufo at Ghost in the Wire:


Defences of populism typically trade on an equivocation between populism and the popular. But as I argued in the last post, an unpopular populism is not only conceivable, it is the form which Capitalist post-politics takes in both Britain and the US at the moment. Conversely, and this is crucial, popular movements are not necessarily populist. Populism is, rather, the entrapment of popular movements within an already-existing representation. The masses are invited to rally under an ready-made image of themselves arising from lowest-common-denominator thinking. So my problem with populism is not, as Kenneth Rufo suggests, that it is not 'popusist enough' but that it has too little faith in the ways in which popular movements can exceed the circumscribed horizons of the populist.

It is not the demand itself which is characteristic of populism. It is stopping with the demand (and/or its satisfaction). All of which is why I don't have any problems with Bat's rather elegant overturning of situationist wisdom in the following passage:

'Here I'd suggest that the answer lies in the direct converse to the famous (and eminently hysterical) situationist graffito "Be realistic, demand the impossible!". Rather than formulate realistic but impossible demands, our "demands" must be unrealistic but nevertheless possible. And moreover they should be addressed diagonally, ie to both the ruling elite and the popular movement simultaneously, or more precisely, they should formally pose a demand addressed to the elite, but actually raise a slogan that engages and resonates with the movement – mobilising it and thereby subjectivating it from within.'

k-punk: Left hyperstition 2- Be Unrealistic, Change What's Possible
The main dialectic of the debate revolved around whether populism is pro-fascist or proto-communist. I would argue that it is neither and both. populism is an expression of grassroots political power. It can evolve in many directions. Both fascism and communism are possible outcomes, as history shows us. Is populism on the measure a force of progress or reaction? It is the project of the revolutionary vanguard to ensure that it is the former.

Wal-Mart On the Decline

From TPM House of Labour, check this out:
Even more to the point, the number of regular shoppers at Wal-Mart has fallen significantly. At the beginning of 2005, 69% of the population shopped at the company at least once or twice a month. That dropped to 51% by November.

Here's the shocking finding-- progressives have been able to create a significant shift in public opinion and shopping habits, a testament to the strong coalitions built in the last year.

Wal-Mart Loosing the PR War

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Intifada, Intifada!

Basically, I have come to the understanding that Israel is totally in the wrong with regards to its treatment of Palestinians. It shocks me that it has taken so long.

A long time friend of mine, Daniel McGowan, asked me for help with his web site Deir Yassin Remembered about 12 years ago. I designed a nice site for him and put up all the content. I thought it was cool that Casey Kasem of American Top 40 fame was a Palestinian.

Over the years I've read about what was going on in Palestine and the various scenarios to "fix" the "problem." I learned about Zionism and its problems. I watched as the US began its massive anti-Muslim campaign. I followed Rachael Corrie's story and read her writings.

Not until Socialism 2006 during a rally where we chanted "Intifada! Intifada!" in response to the horrible treatment of the Palestinians by the world community as punishment for their electing Hamas (go democracy!) did I come to the political position in favor of Intifada and against Zionism.

Even during the chant I felt uneasy and nervous, seditious I suppose. But when I thought about the thousands who die each year because of their national identity, and I looked into the faces of those around me, it made me think of the Phil Ochs line from Day of Decision "You can do what's right, or you can do what you are told." Zionism is wrong and is killing innocent people - standing up against it is the right thing to do. Even by bourgeois standards what is happening in Palestine is wrong and evil. Collective punishment of civilian populations is against UN law.

As socialists we cannot be in favor of the reactionary politics of Hamas, Hezbollah or any other theocratic movements (Islamist, Christian or other). We are however compelled to recognize that the reason that regular Palestinians voted for Hamas is because of the genocide being visited upon them by Israel and the neo-liberal agenda. What is necessary is working-class solidarity of Israelis and Palestinians to overthrow the racist nationalism on both sides of the "security wall" and the establishment of a socialist democracy that protects the rights of all people, eradicating race hatred.

One of my favorite bloggers, BionicOc had this to say in a somewhat recent post:
The ongoing global abandonment of an occupied, brutalized people, the utterly disingenuous scapegoating of Hamas as the source of the current untenable situation, and most of all the deeply racist characterization of Palestinians as a pariah people devoted to the infamous 'cult of death', dedicated to the extermination of Jews, and the primary authors of their own misfortune: these are crimes in which we may be complicit or against which we can fight. There is no neutral position. Victory to the Intifada.

Bionic Octopus: Happy Catastrophemas
All are highly encouraged to read BionicOc's entire excellent post.

I will close with a definition:
Intifada: انتفاضة : Arabic word stands for shaking off or shivering because of fear or illness. It also means abrupt and sudden waking up from sleep or unconcerned status. Politically; The word came to symbolise the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation. The word also stands for the weakness of the Palestinian people and their suffering under the Israeli occupation

Mexico Election Corruption

The Texas Observer on June 30, obviously before the Mexican election "results" were announced ran an excellent piece on the election spectacle that has been going on. John Ross detailed an amazing number of dirty tricks, media manipulation and outright corruption used by the PAN to engineer their victory.

The New York Times last week ran stories talking about the "victory" for PAN candidate Felipe Calderón and even parroted the rhetoric of "healing the nation" and accepting the results and just "letting everyone move on."

Do the journalists at the Times really think that the bourgeois Mexicans who would vote for PAN have any way to fairly out vote the vast majority of Mexicans who are poor or working class (70 million below the poverty line) who would vote for PDR candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (ALMO)?

Do they forget that in 1988 PDR presidential candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas had multiple assistants assasinated? That after the election over 500 PDR activists and elected officials were murdered?

Perhaps they do not forget, maybe they never knew and they are lazy and only print press releases from PAN as if it were investigative journalism. Or maybe they do know but wish to cover up inconvenient truths.

The PAN and conservative parties around the world (Austarlia comes to mind) are all working hand-in-hand with the neo-con/neo-liberals whatever you want to call them in Washington and using the exact same techniques to gain and maintain power.

John Ross writes:

Not long ago we stood on the edge of Mexico City’s great plaza, the Zócalo, as the debate was about to begin. We eyed the dark thunderheads pushing up from south of the city. “Ojalá compañero,” sighed Luis, “It doesn’t happen again.”

Texas Observer: Deja vu in the D.F.
Unfortunately it has happened again. For instance, yesterday the copper giant Grupo Mexico fired ALL of its workers at La Caridad in order to break up a strike, no doubt feeling they have the green-light from PAN. Hopefully the end results this time around will be far less bloody and perhaps even justice will be served.

Tags: , , ,

Alice Cooper's Most Famous Line?

The Nation is running an obit of Frank Zeidler, 93, who served three terms as the Socialist (Socialist Party) mayor of Milwaukee, from 1948 to 1960.

John Nichols writes:

"Socialism as we attempted to practice it here believes that people working together for a common good can produce a greater benefit both for society and for the individual than can a society in which everyone is shrewdly seeking their own self-interest," Zeidler told me in an interview several years ago. "And I think our record remains one of many more successes than failures."

On a Friday afternoon in the spring of 1999, the contribution that Zeidler made to Milwaukee and to the world was honored by people who well understood the significance of what this American socialist did and what he continued to do as someone whose activism slowed only slightly as he passed through his 80s and into his 90s.

The Nation: The Last of the "Sewer Socialists"
Despite the horrible title (the Nation has to make sure no one thinks they are Socialists I guess), the obituary is very good, positive and gives both an excellent historical and personal perspective on the life of a man who "kept the red flag flying" in the US.

Some will remember that his tenure is immortalized in pop culture via the following exchange from Wayne's World:
Wayne Campbell: So, do you come to Milwaukee often?
Alice Cooper: Well, I'm a regular visitor here, but Milwaukee has certainly had its share of visitors. The French missionaries and explorers began visiting here in the late 16th century.
Pete: Hey, isn't "Milwaukee" an Indian name?
Alice Cooper: Yes, Pete, it is. In fact, it was originally an Algonquin term meaning "the good land."
Wayne Campbell: I was not aware of that.
Alice Cooper: I think one of the most interesting things about Milwaukee is that it's the only American city to elect three Socialist mayors.
Wayne Campbell: [to the camera] Does this guy know how to party or what?
In any case, whatever the intention of the script writers, when the red flag is flying again over Milwaukee and the entire world, history may look back and consider this to be Alice Cooper's most famous line.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Spectre Haunts Columbia / Socialism 2006

A spectre haunts Columbia University, and the spectre is socialism!

This sister was very energetic during the rallies, as you can see.

Comrades raising their fists in solidarity, note the smiles.

This brother was on his feet the entire time and sparked the crowd.

Comrades dancing and chanting after singing the Internationale.

Why the Left should disown Irish Republicanism

I was checking through several of the links to the right of this page and discovered one linking to Starry Plough, an Irish Republican website claiming to advocate the establishment of an independent Irish socialist republic. I thought it fitting that I should dedicate an article to having this link removed from our site and to dedicate an article to the education of any who still have romantic notions about the realities of Irish Republicanism.

First, with regard specifically to this website, the owner is a terrorist. I refer to his own words, "the last person to say for life to me was Seebag-Shaw. And that was for blowing up bits of England." I imagine this is a flippant comment, nevertheless it clearly denotes a departure from the mass ideologies of the left and the endorsement of individual terrorism, so calumniated by VI Lenin and those other historical figures who have sought revolution. We on the left should not be associated with anyone remotely involved with the campaign of Irish Republicanism for a 'United Ireland.'

On more general matters, there is abundant material to warrant the disavowal of Irish Republicanism as a left movement. I should of course explain that I was born and bred in Northern Ireland, the son of a Protestant father and a Catholic mother. I was brought up Catholic amidst a Catholic nationalist family from Andersonstown in Belfast. I am, in case anyone has missed this, an atheist Marxist and it is from this point of view that I proceed.

Allow me to begin with Sínn Féin, the primary party of Irish Republicanism and the second largest voting bloc in the Northern Irish Assembly, after the Unionist DUP. This party claims the same mantle as 'Starry Plough,' i.e., the legacies of Padraig Pearse and James Connolly, the self-serving socialist rhetoric of Bobby Sands and the leadership of the fight for a United Irish Socialist Republic. As if there was ever anything socialist about Sínn Féin. Never has this been more clear than when SF delivered into the hands of capitalist land development barons the green belt land in the Fingal Council region (Dublin North). After campaigning alongside Socialist Party, Green Party and the Labour Party for council seats based on an environmental platform, SF went back on their election pledges to vote with the mainstream parties.

This is nothing compared to the radical rewrite of economic policy in which SF has been indulging for the past twenty years. In 1979 an Eire Nua document declared that Sínn Féin wanted the Irish economy to be controlled by collectives of farmers, fishermen and factory workers. Today, SF have reneged on all of that and have even sunk below the level of the (virtually anti-socialist) Fine Gael-Labour coalition of 1994-7 in declaring that capital gains tax should not be restored to 40%. These people were never socialist but have now gone as far as to reject protectionist capitalism in favour of the free market - the very thing their youth division, Ógra hSínn Féin, are constantly attacking in order to get members.

In the Americas, no one should read this with any surprise given the banquets that American corporations such as Coca-Cola have thrown for SF representatives. The effect on Sínn Féin has been noticeable; in the Students Union at Queen's University, SF representatives blocked moves to condemn Coca-Cola for their anti-trade unionist activities in Colombia. In the Northern Irish Assembly, SF, in alliance with the SDLP, the UUP and the DUP, approved the Water Tax in a white paper submitted by the British government.

This double taxation (since water is already paid for through rates) on top of an increase in rates is unbelievable from any party claiming to represent the left, particularly since it would hit working class families hardest. All of these parties have since opportunistically changed their tune after fighting coalitions based in the major estates of Belfast threatened to turn into a mass movement, led by the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (much as the last bunch are also opportunistic buggers).

Of course I am not so simplistic as to suggest that all Irish Republicans are like SF; saying that would be like saying all Labour supporters are fans of Tony Blair. It's patently not true. Nevertheless, the most difficult question of all finds all Irish Republicans firmly on the wrong side of workers' interests - in fact that question shows just how sectarian Irish Republicanism is. The national question clearly demonstrates that Republicanism is an ideology of the ruling class, perpetuated by well-educated members of the ruling class to divide workers. Repeated calls for a United Ireland merely serve to alienate Protestant and Catholic workers and to strengthen the hand of the reactionary political parties with their tribalism and some of them with their fundamentalist Christianity. So far that has been the only contribution of Irish Republicanism to Northern Irish politics.

The only way forward for politics in Northern Ireland is based on co-operation between workers of all religions. This is a self-evident truth shown by the effect that proletarian unity has had on the ruling class during the history of this divided little state. In the 1920's, the Catholic Church and the 'official' Unionist Party and Orange Order fell over themselves to divide a burgeoning labour movement. These moves were repeated in much more violent fashion in the 1960's, with the result being thirty odd years of bloodshed. Campaigns on behalf of workers, such as the anti-water charges campaign, make religion irrelevant to the political questions - but the pro-establishment political elites cannot advocate such an approach as it is anathema to them. They are the representatives of capital, charged with representing the interests of business over the interests of workers, and reconciling that to the people they are employed by; the average tax payer.

The deaths of the Troubles notwithstanding, we should reclaim the title socialist from these people. Ultimately they are what keep a strong left wing movement from emerging in one of the most economically depressed parts of the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Paedophilia and the Criminal Justice System

Currently in the British media the argument is raging about "Sarah's Law", about the sentencing handed down to paedophiles by British judges and, as ever, about the rampant criminality that exists behind the forbidding facades of British prisons.

"Sarah's Law," dubbed such by cynical hacks in the News of the World, is named after Sarah Payne. She was a seven year old who disappeared in the summer of 2000. Her body was discovered some weeks after her disappearance. The occasion was marked by a media frenzy - something the tabloid media seem to embark on every other summer with regard to cases such as these. The law was initially demanded by 'News of the Screws' hacks and it would give parents of young children access to the Sex Offenders Register. This register contains a list of the names and locations of every citizen convicted of a sex offence, ranging from indecent exposure to rape and child abuse.

The timing for such opportunistic right wingers couldn't be better. Front and centre is the debate over Craig Sweeney and the sentence passed upon his conviction for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a three year old girl. Sweeney was awarded a life sentence, with a minimum serving time of five years and 108 days. Subsequent media coverage led the Home Secretary, John Reid, to demand that the Attorney General allow an appeal to increase the minimum sentence. The Attorney General has, naturally, refused.

My line of inquiry runs as follows. Okay, we know politicians are parasitic opportunists who will jump on any bandwagon that might boost their popularity or that of their government. Clearly this is why Dr Reid decided to attack the position of the Attorney General. The question must be asked of Reid, what good would keeping this character in prison do?

Having decided to engage in a sexual assault upon a defenceless child of three, we can hardly imagine that Sweeney will play Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov and go through the remainder of his life haunted by the incident until he is cleansed of his guilt by the love of a woman and by serving his time. Moreover, our prisons are, one might suspect this is redundant, full of criminals!

This opinion has recently been reinforced by the publication of the review of Risley prison. The review concludes that gangs are operating with impunity, that contraband substances are easily obtainable - including mobile phones! - and that 5,000 security 'instances' are just the tip of the iceberg. This is one prison! Even if we are to assume that it is the worst, and there is no evidence to suggest that, the British prison system is clearly not working. Over 1% of the population are currently in prison. To what end?

Relating this to paedophilia, certainly, for the duration of their incarceration that particular paedophile cannot reoffend; yet that doesn't deal with the crux of the matter. New paedophiles are constantly emerging; this is something with which our society has to deal. Fifty years ago, this country threw homosexuals into prison - but that did not prevent the emergence of homosexuality as a widely accepted sexual preference. The differences between the two are obvious, the main one being that homosexuality involves a choice by a person who, one expects, feels capable of deciding for him or herself. Paedophilia is an adult forcing himself on a minor with horrendous repercussions for the minor, if not death. The point is that prison is not going to make this go away.

A small fraction (between 2 and 10 %) of so-called paedophiles are estimated to have a sexual reason for their crime. The remainder are opportunistic or 'regressed' offenders who acted out of the same concatenation of reasons which cause people to shoot up their school or work place in the United States or to, as I read today, kill four members of their extended family with a club, here in the UK. Such stresses are a factor in every day life and can be treated, to render a person no danger to society. It's by no means that simple of course - and a holding area is a necessity while medical staff can ascertain that treatment is effective, but a prison, with all the goings-on already mentioned, is hardly the correct environment for people with a tenuous grip on themselves who are trying to overcome the reasons for their regressed offence.

As for the remaining 2-10 %, this is the 21st Century. If we've learned nothing else from our past, particularly in Ireland, this last bastion of Catholic repression, can we not agree that those things considered sexually deviant only become so much more harmful when forced underground by society? Child pornography and child prostitution are great blights on our civilization - but there are solutions which don't involve the traditional answer of the right (i.e. more policemen and harsher laws). The first step must be the silencing of the sensationalist media, with its bloodthirst.

With that step we have the chance for a rational debate between the majority who want to see their children protected and a tiny minority who are born with paedophilic sexual preferences - which, as with homosexuality, is not classed a mental illness by the World Health Organization. No one disputes that children should not be pawned by their parents out of socio-economic needs but neither does anyone dispute that for as long as there is a market for child pornography and child prostitution, there will be those who will do so. Yet we can eliminate child pornography entirely; we have computers capable of generating lifelike pictures and the sooner society accepts that some people are born paedophilic, the sooner we'll see sexual repression decrease - and with that will decrease the incidences of assault by these people.

Of course the right wing will positively scream that it's a slippery slope and that those who are permitted to use such pornography will gradually want to experience their sexual fantasies for real, through child prostitution. Well, first of all, not everyone who uses normal pornography goes to a prostitute, why should it be different for those with paedophiliac preferences? Second of all, if society is more accepting of this problem there would be medical programmes widely available to counsel those afflicted by this sexual preference, which, as I've already stated, is a threat to children and their physical and mental health.

In conclusion, I do not think it displays a correct awareness of the subject to declare that one is 'against' paedophilia, in the same way that one can hardly be 'against' homosexuality. Such preferences are facts of life and how we deal with them is the key. I am not convinced that 25 years in prison will serve any purpose in the long run.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fight to Build a Progressive Media Alternative

This is an elaboration of a point I made on the comment page for a post on Union-Firms-Markets titled "Losing Hearts & Minds or Lack of Political Power."

The premise of the post is that the right is able to take over any debate and turn it to their own ends. The conclusion seemed to be that the left will continue to loose group by defending so-called failed social programs that came out of the New Deal.

I disagree. We fight for and defend these programs because they are good and have good material results for the masses and the poor. We are good people, and we fight to defend programs which bring good into the world. To cede more ground to the right is defeatist and counter-revolutionary.

We must understand that the "debate" that happens on television, in the newspapers, radio and all other mass media is simply the sound of one hand clapping. It is, in the words of Guy Debord in Society of the Spectacle:

[The spectacle's] means are simultaneously its ends. It is the sun which never sets over the empire of modern passivity. It covers the entire surface of the world and bathes endlessly in its own glory.
Therefore the project of progressives must be to develop a counter cultural media. We must educate people to simultaneously divorce themselves (as much as possible) from the media spectacle AND develop an informed critical eye of the spectacle so as to read between lines. Understanding what is omitted or maligned from within the media torrent reveals what the ruling classes fear the most - namely, a socialist working class consciousness.

The media spectacle omits, distorts, retards and alienates. Its purpose is to keep us afraid, weak, unorganized and alienated from each other, in our social relationships, our personal relationships and even in our relationships with our own bodies and minds. It teaches us to hate and fear and to feel disempowered.

It is clear from the history of the mass media and especially the internet media sphere including the blogosphere that another media is possible - one that does not conform to Marx's declaration that (in the German Ideology, 1845): "[the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas]."

Like our brothers and sisters in previous "epochs" we must today build a true alternative to the mass media and introduce the ideas of the working class to the broadest possible audiences. The fascists of all classes know this, it is time progressives learn it as well for the stakes are indeed very high.

Social Prevention Better Than Prosthelytizing

On Wednesday, July 5th, the New York Times ran a story by Jessica Kowal titled "Homeless Alcoholics Receive a Permanent Place to Live, and Drink," covering a program in Seattle which provides living space for homeless alcoholics. This program allows residents to live in the home without any strings attached, for instance, they do not have to go to church or AA meetings as a condition, nor do they have to stop drinking.

Many of the residents are chronic drunks, people who have been known to "beg, drink, urinate or vomit" in public. Conservatives have called the program "Bunks for drunks - [...] a living monument to failed social policy." Interesting choice of words. I would argue that chronic alcoholism is a living monument to a failed society - that is a society based on capitalism which creates the alinated conditions of existance that lead many to turn to alcohol as a solution - a solution which is all to available for all strata of society.

The Seattle program is based on a "housing first" philosophy which meets the essential material needs of people, such as housing, food and saftey, instead of trying to prosthelytize them as a starting point. This makes sense. Even management gurus such as Abraham Maslow tell us that biological (e.g. material) needs must be met first before people can begin to develop self-actualization needs such as spirituality. Maslow's "Heirarchy of Needs" was developed in the 1940s based on extensive scientific research, and correlates with the materialism analysis Marx made of society in general 50 years earlier.

The evidence is clear in this specific case as well. The program costs $13,000 per year for each resident. In 2003, Seattle tax payers paid over $50,000 for each resident for shelters and emergency room treatment, among other things. This as a direct result of the homeless having to live on the streets which inevitably leads them to far more dangerous situations. Not only that, but street living creates the material conditions for a particular type of individual conciousness which is highly alienating and abusive and invariably leads to more alcoholism or worse.

As socialists we should hail the Seattle program as a scientific step in the right direction. Giving people the fundamental foundations to rebuild their lives is essential to improving their lives and society as a whole. Giving people the proper material living conditions - food, shelter and medical - is the first step to reintegrating them into society. At the same time the streets of the urban landscape feel safer and more welcoming. This is a sharp contract with the so-called conservative position that people must sink or swim, and if they want any charity at all they must minimally pay lip-service to some sort of belief system.

Carnival of Socialism

Fruits of Our Labour will be hosting the 7th Carnival of Socialism coming this Sunday, July 23rd. This week's 6th Carnival of Socialism is hosted at the Red Baron.

The main site for the Carnival of Socialism contains links to previous carnivals, how to submit posts to be included, and how to get involved with spreading the good word of socialism through the blogging medium.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Redwatch and Freedom of Speech Issues

The website Redwatch has long been a place for socialists to have a bit of a laugh. The site is run by fascist ex-members of the British National Party. Originally it was associated with the terrorist organization Combat 18 which published in newspaper format the information contained on the site. Its goal is to publish the details (names, addresses, contact details and photographs) of anyone working with the labour movement, the socialist movement or within racial equality circles, so as to lay these people open to attack.

As a socialist and former member of the CWI, myself and my comrades regularly checked this site to see if we'd made it to the hall of fame - and many of us in Northern Ireland have, at one time or another. Recently Redwatch was shut down - it's unclear by whom but the site itself and all its mirrors ceased to function for several weeks between May and July. The site is now operational once more. I think it fitting to take this occasion to write an article discussing the relationship between the far right and freedom of speech, and the attitude which I feel all socialists should adopt.

All too often, Marxist-Leninists get attacked for their support of democratic centralism as the means whereby to organize a revolutionary party. In support of this, many (in my view ill-educated) people subsequently point to the degeneration of the Bolsheviks (later Communist Party) into the machine which Stalin used first to kill or exile the Left Opposition and then to repress all other dissenters. While this is not the question with which I currently grapple, nevertheless, it deserves a robust response and there is no better response than that of Lenin himself.

"Everyone is free to write and say whatever he likes, without any restrictions. But every voluntary association (including the party) is also free to expel members who use the name of the party to advocate anti-party views. Freedom of speech and the press must be complete. But then freedom of association must be complete too. I am bound to accord you, in the name of free speech, the full right to shout, lie and write to your heart’s content. But you are bound to grant me, in the name of freedom of association, the right to enter into, or withdraw from, association with people advocating this or that view."

Lenin, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume X, pages 44-49.

That said, I feel justified in progressing on to the major point - one of freedom of speech whilst a privileged elite still has control of all the major means of mass communication.

Consider, for example, newspapers. Whether it is the most left wing of the mainstream media (The Guardian) or the most right wing (The Daily Mail or The Sun), the same principles apply. These papers report not that which is news, but that news which they see fit to report. In no part of the media is this more clear than in those parts related to literary, televisual and cinematic reviews. I read The Sun very occasionally but even I noticed the fulsome praise lavished upon the most recent endeavour of husband of Editor Rebekah Wade (Ross Kemp) - which rebounded spectacularly when it flopped in ratings. Anyone who is familiar with the magazine Private Eye will be more than up to speed on the incestuous little world that forms the media.

Freedom of speech results in Nazis making headlines across the country any time there is a riot in Oldham - and frequently the newspapers will use this as opportunity to push a right wing agenda. The old favourite is of course anti-immigration. Never mind that on balance even the Prime Minister (who is trying to look tough on immigration) admits that immigrants are good for the British economy - the media isn't interested in facts. It is sensationalist nonsense - but the best thing about the media is that they have even developed their own political ideology to justify what they do. Pluralism.

I could go upstairs and pull out textbooks and cite definitions but here's the quick capsule review; pluralism is the idea that everyone buys a specific newspaper or watches specific TV programmes because they enjoy them. I don't know about you, but the people I know who buy The Sun don't buy it for the crap that the columnists write, they buy it because the broadsheets don't have huge sports sections and they believe the sports pages aren't made up - not a safe assertion as it turns out. On the flipside, this is the same reason why Londoners buy The Morning Star (the daily of the Communist Party of Great Britain). The difference is one of the above mentioned newspapers lies about everything. The famous series of Wayne Rooney stories - where subsequently it was revealed by the management of the England team that The Sun consulted nobody for their articles, which were, it turns out, nonsense.

The other chestnut I particularly enjoyed was from the New Labour Daily (aka The Daily Mirror) which ran sensational claims all over the front pages that the father of a Big Brother contestant had applied for gender reassignment (to you and me, sex change). The apology for not having consulted any member of that family and for running utter lies was contained in the paper the following day. The bottom line is that these people cannot be trusted to report the news. The divide between what is defined as 'local' news and what is 'national' news highlights this.

In local news, the extent to which many district and borough councils are under investigation for embezzlement, nest-feathering and ripping off the tax payer by not putting contracts out to tender is astonishing. This never reaches the national news. It might actually shock people out of their complacency. Everyone is happy to go to a Live 8 Concert run by big celebrity names who get the politicians some popularity and then fade into the background - but until people sit up and realise the corruption endemic to the system, not to mention the bureaucratic obfuscation, the degree to which our civil rights are under attack and the extent to which this government intends to annihilate what remains of the public sector, we're not going to get anywhere.

When I say free speech is a bad thing, I'm not criticising the absolute right to say what you believe. Free speech in this society should come caged in inverted commas because it is not free speech when a section of the ruling elite decide what to show on Television and what to print in the papers. The most free form of communication available is the internet - and guess what? Money, for the most part, determines what search results you get every time you type a keyword into Google. Free speech doesn't exist, and to relate this back to the issue with which I began this article, free speech for the far right is tantamount to providing a platform for ideas which the media will leap on in order to scare the liberal-left into moving right - which is exactly where New Labour is now.

In conclusion, state sanction is not the answer. Legislation increasing the power of the State is dangerous to all those who wish to see the overthrow of capital, since the State is simply an arm of the capital elite. Direct action is the answer. Comrades in University College, Dublin protested the Students Union until BNP speakers had their invitation to a debate rescinded. Comrades in Coleraine and from across Northern Ireland converged on the site of a racist leaflet drop and march (illegal in this country) to confiscate flags and leaflets designed to encourage harm to the already-persecuted Filipino immigrants who work as nurses here because no one else will. This is not making us authoritarian or 'as bad as the fascists'; it makes us defenders of the organized working class.

That is who these people harm when they inflame race hatred; when they encourage white people to think of Jamaicans or Pakistanis or Indians as the reason for poor wages, they take the focus off the real people responsible - and those people are, in this country, overwhelmingly white males. By curbing their so-called freedom of speech, we level the playing field just a little.

I leave the reader with the following;

"We must say to you bourgeois individualists that your talk about absolute freedom is sheer hypocrisy. There can be no real and effective "freedom" in a society based on the power of money, in a society in which the masses of working people live in poverty and the handful of rich live like parasites. Are you free in relation to your bourgeois publisher, Mr. Writer, in relation to your bourgeois public, which demands that you provide it with pornography in frames and paintings, and prostitution as a “supplement” to “sacred” scenic art? This absolute freedom is a bourgeois or an anarchist phrase (since, as a world outlook, anarchism is bourgeois philosophy turned inside out). One cannot live in society and be free from society. The freedom of the bourgeois writer, artist or actress is simply masked (or hypocritically masked) dependence on the money-bag, on corruption, on prostitution."

V.I Lenin, ibid.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Cowards and Traitors

Several of my American friends celebrated their Fourth of July with fireworks and so on - though in certain parts of Colorado I'm told there was a ban because of the risk of bush fires. In the spirit of celebrating what parts of living in a specific country one enjoys, or what parts of the history of that country one celebrates, I thought I would take the time to note down something that struck me today whilst reading the Guardian.

On page 11, there is a headline "Welfare bill plans to take 1 million [people] off incapacity benefit." The basic story is that John Hutton, the Work and Pensions secretary, is spearheading the PR campaign to justify legislation that will radically alter Social Security in this country. The first thing that I have to ask is this; why the hell is this story on page 11? The government is announcing sweeping and contradictory changes that will drastically affect the lives of one million people in this country. It gets put on page 11, whilst page 1 is yet more scaremongering about nuclear power.

Anyway, that isn't the crux of the issue; allow me to reproduce the paragraph by Westminster Correspondent David Hencke that really caught my attention.

"The government also intends to change housing benefit payments to private landlords so that claimants get a flat allowance rather than the full rent charged by the landlord. This may dampen down the buy-to-let market, where landlords rely on renting out property to benefit claimants and the low paid."

I didn't believe how utterly callous that paragraph is, in fact I had to read it several times to make sure I understood it correctly. People, who are out of work, might be denied a place to live through this move and the columnist thinks this is important because it might dampen the buy-t0-let market? The buy-to-let market is driven by, amongst other things, the high and increasing need for mobility in the workforce. It is driven by each year a million students moving out of home, whether to acquire somewhere near to a job or to be closer to university.

The bottom line is that, regardless of whether there is government support or not, people still need a place to live. If no government aid is forthcoming, it means those people must find alternative means of support. For the out-of-work, this is an obvious problem. Under Jobseekers Allowance rules, evidence already has to be provided that you are seeking work, or else they will cut your benefits - so this scheme will hit the unemployed the hardest.

The upshot of all this is crime, for those right wing idiots out there reading this and saying "Tut tut, another liberal do-gooder letting people sponge off the fat of the land." If people can't supplement themselves with government income, they will turn to crime. All this is to say nothing of the property, decimated by Thatcher, Major and Blair, which used to be government-owned housing for such people as could not afford rent - particularly in urban disctricts where rent is extortionate.

Age Concern has already come out in criticism and some readers may now be wondering where the title of this article came from. General Secretary of the PCS, Mark Serotkwa, simply claimed the danger is that people are going to be forced into jobs unsuitable for the long run. Yes, because that's the foremost danger in a country where homelessness is endemic.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

4th of July

Dave at the Red Mantis put up this post relative to patriotism and the Fourth of July. Here is a snippet:
However, I wish to offer this thesis: Patriotism and nationalism are two separate ideals, the latter being the more extreme and subsequently more dangerous of the two. Nationalism should be rejected by American citizens whereas we ought to embrace and reclaim the true definition of patriotism.


[Patriotism is] to simply be thankful that we live in a nation where as a citizen you have inherent rights, is patriotism. Patriotism isn't completely identifying yourself with your country, nor is it to pledge undying loyalty to it's leaders or decisions, nor is it the willingness to give your life for it. It's simply to be thankful that you live in a place where you have some degree of freedom and rights inherent to you as a human being.

The Red Mantis: On Patriotism; or Happy Fourth of July!
I agree with Dave that we should all be very thankful for any freedoms and liberties we may possess. We should also be thankful that the democratic revolution that happened in America in 1776 was a watershed moment in world history, ushering in the age of democracy. However, patriotism is indeed an expression of nationalism.

As socialists it is very important to understand how patriotism contrasts with internationalism. In 1914, Mary Marcy wrote the famous words "You Have No Country!" This was in an article for the International Socialist Review (ISR) titled "The Real Fatherland" from which the following passages are gleaned:
Patriotism means the love of the land in which you were born — that and nothing more. And why should you love that land any more than any other?


The land of your birth has done nothing for you. Conditions in Germany, France, Austria, England, Russia, and America are practically the same. Everywhere you
will find the workers earning barely enough to live on. Everywhere you will find thousands of men hunting jobs and no jobs. Everywhere you will find the rich protected and the poor driven out.

You have no country! Every national flag in the world means protection for the employing class, who appropriate the things produced by the workers. It has no message for those who toil.

There is only one flag worth fighting for and that is the red flag, which means universal brotherhood of the workers of the world in their fight to abolish the profit system.


This is the real Fatherland and this is Socialism!

Mary Marcy, The Real Fatherland
So we should be sure to enjoy the good feelings we get when we feel patriotic but more importantly extend them in brotherhood to all citizens of the world. The celebration must be about what makes us similar and brings us together, not about defining what makes us different, better or stronger than others. Happy 4th of July!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Socialism 2006 Media, Ed. 1

Attached is a video of part of Lynn Stewart's speak at Socialism 2006. I found this part particularly interesting. She was talking about the recent arrest of 7 Middle Eastern men in Florida and linking it with past attempts to smear folks who do not agree with the Government.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

AdWords for Socialism!

I have recently added a "donate" link to my blog and want to explain why. I have been experimenting with Google AdWords as a way to put socialist "text ads" into rotation. I have noticed that when one does a search for "socialism" or "Marxism" on Google, Technorati or any of the search engines you get a lot of anti-socialist propaganda.

I see this as an utter failure of socialist agitprop and wanted to see what options there are to combat this misinformation. I have a lot of experience building and marketing web sites with over 300 projects under my belt. Therefore I have used various labor based methods to get this site into the search engines. But my AdWords experiment has been by far the most successful. AdWords puts "text ads" onto Google searchs and onto "content providers" sites who participate in the network.

Here are the results of 1 week of using AdWords to promote socialism (and the link of course comes to this blog):
  • 41,568 IMPRESSIONS
  • $14.10
Of course I cannot afford to spend $15 a week on this by myself so for now will reduce my spend rate per day until (if) any donations come in.

But this is an excellent lesson for socialist organizations that a low cost way to promote their sites and spread positive messages about socialism exists and should be taken advantage of immediately.