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Socialism is about workers, not wealth funds

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 04:47

via the Monthly Review

by Adil Mughal

I have seen some conversation begin around the proposal for an American Sovereign Wealth Fund, published by the People’s Policy Project, and I want to provide some useful commentary on the plan in light of the dearth of critical analysis it has received. This attempts to be an exhaustive review of the proposal specifically, leaving out wider questions of the Universal Basic Income, delving too deeply into the “shareholder economy,” or defining what socialism is.

I also recommend that everyone also read the great first substantive response to the piece by Frank Little and published by the Boston Political Education Editorial Committee, and the questioning of the financial dimension of the dividend by Habeas Quaestus.

Pitched as a form of 21st century socialism, the American Solidarity Fund, a sovereign wealth fund for the United States, is a long term project proposed by the People’s Policy Institute to redefine and reorient the socialist movement to, in their view, take control of capital. To them this project is “the definition of socialism,” as it focuses on ownership and deviates from more traditional social democratic methods. The PPP see the proposal as democratic socialism reaching a “wonky” perspective and made more practical than any alternative. That is an ambitious goal, but ultimately the PPP cut corners on their definition of socialism and try to find the same easy answers that many social democratic movements found when they compromised on class struggle and commitments to internationalism. Because of this, socialists cannot take this proposal seriously and if it gains steam, it is essential for us to critique it vocally.

We need to take a closer look at the underlying politics and reality of what the men who made this report are proposing. This is actually the second time Matt Bruenig, the author, has suggested this. He is more succinct, in fact, in his New York Times article (every detail of the plan quoted is accurate to the report as well).

The federal government would create and run a new investment fund, and issue every adult citizen one share of ownership. The fund would gradually come to own a substantial and diverse portfolio of stocks, bonds and real estate. The investment return that the fund generates would be paid out to each citizen in the form of a universal basic dividend…

The goal of the policy is that, “over time… the social wealth fund [comes] to own one-third of the country’s wealth…”  Clarifying what is being suggested: the federal government would “simply” gain control of 30 trillion dollars (if Bruenig doesn’t include corporate wealth in his calculations and using the present, much lower, estimate) without interruption, resistance, or serious economic upheaval. If we are successful in taking control of as much wealth as the one percent has, we would be able to fund a basic income of about “$6,400 paid to all adults” with no reinvestment in the fund. Reading the report, it is clear that this is meant to take decades.

The most frequently offered up examples of such a fund are Norway and Alaska. The Norwegian wealth fund has contributed to a lot of misconceptions about the country of Norway, where even though the government only owns two thirds of their state oil company, the company makes up the majority of the country’s state ownership and the fund the majority of its state assets. That is how the PPP is able to claim that Norway has peacefully gained control of their “means of production,” and is supposedly the socialist model for the DSA. This glosses over a few key facts, such as how only ten percent of Norway’s workforce works for the government or state firms, and how most of the principal of the Norwegian Fund came directly from the Statoil company which actually operates in over 30 countries, to the frustration of many. The report also doesn’t look too closely at Norway Pension Fund-Global itself or its smaller domestic sister fund, which is quite clear in its company documents about its overarching philosophy: “The Highest Possible Returns Over Time.” And in one recent Nordic Nanovector shareholder vote they voted against an employee compensation plan that would include stock options, saying that “Folketrygdfondet therefore considers that the scheme has an excessive scope and may entail an excessive transfer of value from the shareholders to the company’s employees.”

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Is Student Activism Enough?

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 04:41

via Black Rose Anarchist Federation

By Patrick St. John

Freddie DeBoer has a blogpost up at Jacobin, titled “Student Activism Isn’t Enough.” It’s classic Freddie: write an entire essay shitting on student activism, then closing it by saying actually, student activism is pretty great and important, keep it up!

DeBoer claims “the university can’t be the key site of left-wing (or any other) organizing.”

A reasonable response is wait… who says that it is, or should be? It’s a straw man argument. The best he can muster as an opponent is the Port Huron Statement: a 55-year-old student manifesto written by students so hopelessly campus-centric that they write, “the university system cannot complete a movement of ordinary people making demands for a better life,” and so cut off from labor organizing that it was written at a United Auto Workers retreat.

That said, he makes several points to support his claim. Unfortunately, they are hardly unique to higher education, and could easily be used to make the argument that, say, the workplace “can’t be the key site of left-wing (or any other) organizing.” Let’s look at each.

  • There’s not a lot of people on campus? It’s true! But look to any other sector of the economy and you won’t find the “vast majority” DeBoer suggests we aim for. Hell, only half of the U.S. population is actually employed at all.
  • Campus activism is seasonal? Also true! But of course, so is a significant proportion of low-wage jobs, particularly in the agricultural and service sectors. Workplaces without summer breaks see lulls in momentum, and even most unionized firms see a noticeable downtick in worker activity between contract fights.
  • College students are an itinerant population? Surely. It’s hard to organize anywhere with significant turnover. Like, say, the average American workplace. In 2016 the average annual turnover rate across all industries was almost 18%. At least on campuses the turnover is steady and predictable, which makes planning a lot easier.
  • Town and gown conflicts can make local organizing difficult?Definitely. Though the workplace-community divide is just as real, even (and at times especially) when both sides are well-organized and see their immediate interests as unrelated, or in conflict.
  • Students are too busy to devote too much time to organizing? Doesn’t this apply to pretty much everyone trying to scrape by today?
  • College students have a natural and justifiable first-order priority of getting employed? And as DeBoer does note, employees have a natural and justifiable first-order priority of staying employed. What’s worse: having social media posts about campus protest actions in your history, or having your previous employer warn prospective bosses that you’re a union-organizing malcontent? Sure, employees can build up “social capital,” but you would have to have quite a bit to weather the storm once right-wing trolls start calling your boss.
  • College activism can either be a low-stakes place where students learn and grow safely, or an essential site of organizing — but it can’t be both? It’s a truism that the newly-organized and politicized will make mistakes. That’s hardly the sole domain of college campuses. Almost 1 in 3 union elections fail, not to mention the countless organizing drives that never make it that far. Blunders, overreaches and miscalculations are made. Ask any seasoned labor organizer about the first workplace they tried to unionize, and if they acted differently when they organized their tenth. Organizing is best learned by doing, and the higher the stakes the stronger the lessons are. Low-stakes and high-stakes organizing happens all the time, sometimes simultaneously, both on campus and in the workplace. The small group of workers who push their employer for a better break room are, win or lose, learning the skills that will serve them well when they decide to unionize.
  • Organize the campus’s workforce according to labor principles? This is the odd one out: it’s the normative claim in his self-described list of empirical claims. DeBoer states that campuses should be organized “according to labor principles, not according to any special dictates of academic culture,” which I suppose means something like organizing a faculty union instead of a faculty senate? And that does make a lot of sense. But it leaves unaddressed the very topic of his blogpost: students, many of whom, as he points out, are also workers. The particular web of material relationships between students, faculty, and administration — all mediated by larger systems of capital and the state—defy the easy importing of organizing frameworks developed elsewhere, to the point where “labor principles” as a phrase becomes too vague to be helpful.

A better title for his post would be “Student Activism is Hard,” because that’s the only case he manages to make. All sites of struggle are difficult to organize. But its difficulty is hardly a reason to dismiss it. Indeed, there are very good reasons why the left should concern itself with student organizing and include it as a component of any grand strategy for organizing the working class.

Consider the role of universities within contemporary capitalism, and the structural position students occupy within it. Universities are important nodes within local, national, and global economies, not least due to their research output and the sheer size of their endowments (half a trillion dollars in the U.S.). They are uniquely vulnerable to popular pressure in ways many other large institutions are not. The best kinds of student organizing, like that done by United Students Against Sweatshops and Student/Farmworker Alliance, leverage those pressure points to great effect. Universities raising worker compensation have contributed to upward wage pressures far beyond campus. And the way universities structure their endowments can have profound effects: student and faculty organizers, having spent many hard years pressuring University of California to divest its funds from South African firms, were personally thanked by Nelson Mandela for their role in the struggle against apartheid.

Consider the role of universities and students within the history of left organizing and revolution. Contrary to DeBoer’s portrayal of them as job-seekers first and foremost, students often have the least to lose and are most willing to, through their actions, create openings for wider class-wide organizing and resistance. Students and young people have played critical, and usually inciting, roles in social upheaval in the West stretching back to the Middle Ages. It was with a student protest march that the 1956 Hungarian Revolution kicked off. It was student organizers who formed SNCC and built one of the most important civil rights organizations in American history. It was student fraternization with workers that so frightened officialdom on both the right and left in France in 1968. It was a student strike’s expansion into a generalized revolt against austerity and precarity that toppled Québec’s increasingly authoritarian government in 2012.

And even when students are organizing campaigns primarily for student benefit, identifying collective interests based on their material position within a system seems like a good thing to pursue if we want a reinvigorated class politics. When done right, organizing for student power is just a hop, skip, and a jump from organizing for worker power.

Extracting significant concessions from capital will require us to organize and seize the initiative across multiple sectors of the economy. But instead of embracing an ecumenical spirit, DeBoer wraps up his blogpost with a false dichotomy: “it is the organization of labor, not of students, that must be the primary focus and goal of the American left.”

If the left were to draw a sharp line between student organizing and the larger project of organizing labor it would only harm both sides, as well as isolate and stunt the growth of the very student activists DeBoer loves to scold. The conditions around us and the tasks before us demand more from the left than tidy categories dividing the working class. The forces of capital are complex and nuanced. We have to be too.

Patrick St. John is a former student organizer who lives in the Burlington, Vermont area and is a member of Black Rose/Rosa Negra. This piece has been republished from his blog.

If you enjoy this piece we recommend, “Now More Than Ever: Lessons for Rebuilding the Student Movement in the U.S. Today.”

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Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 04:26

via The Guardian

by George Monbiot

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?

Inequality is recast as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

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The Brett Kavanaugh case shows we still blame women for the sins of men

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 04:17

via The Guardian

by Rebecca Solnit

We have been here before. We have been here over and over in an endless, Groundhog Day loop about how rape and sexual abuse happen: offering the same explanations, hearing the same kind of stories from wave after wave of survivors, hearing the same excuses and refusals to comprehend from people who are not so sure that women are endowed with inalienable rights and matter as much as men – or, categorically, have as much credibility. We are, with the case of Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s nominee for the US supreme court, who has been accused of sexual assault, revisiting ground worn down from years of pacing. Kavanaugh denies Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that he forcibly held her down and assaulted her when both were at high school. We have only the accounts of the participants, and these, it seems, will always contradict each other. The allegation and the denial put us back in a familiar scenario.

The last five years have been an exhaustive and exhausting crash course in how abusers and rapists (and attempted rapists) and their victims behave, and how they are perceived and treated, but the learning curve of the wilfully oblivious resembles the period at the end of this sentence.

We know that there is virtually nothing that a straight white man can do to discredit himself

We know why victims don’t report rapes. We know that a minority of rapes are reported; and of those, a small percentage result in arrests; and of those arrests, a small percentage result in prosecutions. Only a very small percentage result in convictions and sentences. We know that the woman who accused the basketball player Kobe Bryant of rape years ago received death threats and extensive character assassination, as did some of Judge Roy Moore’s accusers, one of whom had her house burned down after she spoke up.

We know that women have been portrayed, ever since Eve offered Adam an apple, as temptresses, more responsible for men’s acts than men themselves are, and that various religions still inculcate this view, and in recent times various judges and journalists have acceded to it, even blaming female children for “seducing” their adult abuser.

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Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” Aims Not at Trump But at Those Who Created the Conditions That Led to His Rise

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 03:10

via The Intercept

by Glenn Greenwald

“Fahrenheit 11/9,” the title of Michael Moore’s new film that opens today in theaters, is an obvious play on the title of his wildly profitable Bush-era “Fahrenheit 9/11,” but also a reference to the date of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 election victory. Despite that, Trump himself is a secondary figure in Moore’s film, which is far more focused on the far more relevant and interesting questions of what – and, critically, who – created the climate in which someone like Trump could occupy the Oval Office.

For that reason alone, Moore’s film is highly worthwhile regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum. The single most significant defect in U.S. political discourse is the monomaniacal focus on Trump himself, as though he is the cause – rather than the by-product and symptom – of decades-old systemic American pathologies.

Personalizing and isolating Trump as the principal, even singular, source of political evil is obfuscating and thus deceitful. By effect, if not design, it distracts the population’s attention away from the actual architects of their plight.

This now-dominant framework misleads people into the nationalistic myth – at once both frightening and comforting – that prior to 2016’s “Fahrenheit 11/9,” the U.S., though quite imperfect and saddled with “flaws,” was nonetheless a fundamentally kind, benevolent, equitable and healthy democracy, one which, by aspiration if not always in action, welcomed immigrants, embraced diversity, strove for greater economic equality, sought to defend human rights against assaults by the world’s tyrants, was governed by the sturdy rule of law rather than the arbitrary whims of rulers, elected fundamentally decent even if ideologically misguided men to the White House, and gradually expanded rather than sadistically abolished opportunity for the world’s neediest.

But suddenly, teaches this fairy tale as ominous music plays in the background, a villain unlike any we had previously known invaded our idyllic land, vandalized our sacred public spaces, degraded our admired halls of power, threatened our collective values. It was only upon Trump’s assumption of power that the nation’s noble aspirations were repudiated in favor of a far darker and more sinister vision, one wholly alien to “Who We Are”: a profoundly “un-American” tapestry of plutocracy, kleptocracy, autocracy, xenophobia, racism, elite lawlessness, indifference and even aggressive cruelty toward the most vulnerable and marginalized.

This myth is not just false but self-evidently so. Yet it persists, and thrives, because it serves so many powerful interests at once. Most importantly, it exonerates, empowers, and elevates the pre-Trump ruling class, now recast as heroic leaders of the #Resistance and nostalgic symbols of America’s pre-11/9 Goodness.

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Shell and Exxon’s secret 1980s climate change warnings

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 02:44

via The Guardian

One day in 1961, an American economist named Daniel Ellsberg stumbled across a piece of paper with apocalyptic implications. Ellsberg, who was advising the US government on its secret nuclear war plans, had discovered a document that contained an official estimate of the death toll in a preemptive “first strike” on China and the Soviet Union: 300 million in those countries, and double that globally.

Ellsberg was troubled that such a plan existed; years later, he tried to leak the details of nuclear annihilation to the public. Although his attempt failed, Ellsberg would become famous instead for leaking what came to be known as the Pentagon Papers – the US government’s secret history of its military intervention in Vietnam.

America’s amoral military planning during the Cold War echoes the hubris exhibited by another cast of characters gambling with the fate of humanity. Recently, secret documents have been unearthed detailing what the energy industry knew about the links between their products and global warming. But, unlike the government’s nuclear plans, what the industry detailed was put into action.

In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions. In 1982, for example, Exxon predicted that by about 2060, CO2 levels would reach around 560 parts per million – double the preindustrial level – and that this would push the planet’s average temperatures up by about 2°C over then-current levels (and even more compared to pre-industrial levels).

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The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 23:34

via Toward Freedom

by Benjamin Dangl

Reviewed: The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Final Public Speeches of Subcommander Marcos. By Subcommander Marcos. Introduction by Nick Henck. Translation by Henry Gales. (AK Press, 2018).

Beyond the city streets and markets of San Cristóbal de las Casas, steep roads wind into the misty mountains of Chiapas, past the Mexican state’s military outposts, and toward the autonomous communities of the Zapatistas, a movement which erupted onto the world stage on January 1st, 1994. That day, they proclaimed their resistance to centuries of exploitation and abuse, and denounced Mexico’s entry into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

As Zapatista Subcommandante Marcos explained then, “NAFTA is a death sentence for the indigenous people.”

Fourteen years later, in one of Marcos’ final public speeches, he said “we ask those who look up” to those in power for answers, “at least for a moment, to put aside your readings of The Economist, The New Yorker, People, and Al Gore’s keynote speeches; to put to rest for a few minutes your ghosts of the Gulag and the Berlin Wall; to put out for a moment the candles lit for the ‘lesser evil’ former candidate…”

These words are a fitting invitation to step outside of capitalism and politics as usual and into The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Final Public Speeches of Subcommander Marcos, a new collection of the pipe-smoking rebel’s thoughts on social theory, Mexican politics, Zapatista history, and anti-capitalist organizing from below. Of course, scattered throughout the book are Marcos’ jokes, anecdotes of life in La Realidad, and children’s stories with hidden revolutionary meaning, such as The Pedagogy of the Machete and other anti-patriarchal parables.

The bulk of Marcos’ speeches gathered here are from international gatherings and conferences in 2007 and 2009 in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas at the Indigenous Center for Integral Training-University of the Earth, a grassroots educational center with long-standing ties to the Zapatistas. The Center promotes ecological sustainability, self-sufficiency, and community empowerment.

Marcos presented his speeches at these gatherings alongside other notable intellectuals such as world-systems analyst Immanuel Wallerstein, Mexican social scientist Carlos Antonio Aguirre Rojas, British art critic John Berger, Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, prominent leftist Mexican thinkers Gustavo Esteva and Pablo González Casanova, and many others from around the world. The introduction to the book helpfully contextualizes Marcos’ speeches alongside those of other presenters, as well as introduces the Zapatistas and their struggle, from the initial uprising in 1994, through the “Other Campaign” to Marcos’ farewell speech in 2014, when he stepped down from the public role as Zapatista Subcommandante.

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The Best Evidence That the NFL Effectively Banned Colin Kaepernick? His Name Is Eric Reid.

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 23:11

via The Intercept

by Shaun King

Colin Kaepernick should have an NFL job right now. He’s arguably better and more accomplished than half of the starting quarterbacks currently in the league. He’s better and more accomplished than every backup. Let’s not even talk about third-stringers. The notion that Kaepernick is not one of the top 100 quarterbacks in the league is preposterous.

Just for argument’s sake, though, let’s work from the premise that Kaepernick is not in the NFL right now for purely football reasons. Let’s start at the position that every quarterback in the entire league is better, more skilled, more capable, more accomplished than he is. All of them. And that he’s been out of the NFL for over 500 days simply because it has been determined on football grounds that he would not make a single team better. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single current or former NFL player to agree with such a position, but let’s just put all that aside for a moment.

Now explain why Pro Bowl safety and defensive back Eric Reid doesn’t have a job.

Reid is 26 years old and injury-free. He can play multiple positions and is an ethical, generous leader on and off the field. His rookie contract just expired, and he is widely known as a coachable, team-first athlete. Try to make the argument that he doesn’t belong on an NFL roster for football reasons.

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New global study reveals the ‘staggering’ loss of forests caused by industrial agriculture

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 04:12

via Science magazine

By Erik Stokstad

A new analysis of global forest loss—the first to examine not only where forests are disappearing, but also why—reveals just how much industrial agriculture is contributing to the loss. The answer: some 5 million hectares—the area of Costa Rica—every year. And despite years of pledges by companies to help reduce deforestation, the amount of forest cleared to plant oil palm and other booming crops remained steady between 2001 and 2015.

The finding is “a really big deal,” says tropical ecologist Daniel Nepstad, director of the Earth Innovation Institute, an environmental nonprofit in San Francisco, California, because it suggests that corporate commitments alone are not going to adequately protect forests from expanding agriculture.

Researchers already had a detailed global picture of forest loss and regrowth. In 2013, a team led by Matthew Hansen, a remote-sensing expert at the University of Maryland in College Park, published high-resolution maps of forest change between 2000 and 2012 from satellite imagery. But the maps, available online, didn’t reveal where deforestation—the permanent loss of forest—was taking place.

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Facebook Job Ads That Let Employers Exclude Women Are Clear Civil Rights Violation, Says ACLU

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 01:11

via Common Dreams

by Jake Johnson

“Facebook is violating federal civil rights law. Period.”

So declared the ACLU on Tuesday after announcing it has filed charges against the social media giant and ten other employers for illegally “excluding all women and non-binary” Facebook users from job advertisements.

Submitted on behalf of three female workers, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the hundreds of thousands of female workers CWA represents, the ACLU’s charges “allege that Facebook delivers job ads selectively based on age and sex categories that employers expressly choose, and that Facebook earns revenue from placing job ads that exclude women and older workers from receiving the ads.”

“Targeting job ads by sex is unlawful under federal, state, and local civil rights laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the ACLU continued.

Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, pointed out in a statement that advertising discrimination on the basis of gender “has historically been used to shut women out of well-paying jobs and economic opportunities.”

“We can’t let gender-based ad targeting online give new life to a form of discrimination that should have been eradicated long ago,” Sherwin said.

BREAKING: We’ve filed charges against @Facebook and 10 employers for using the platform to target their job ads — for positions in male-dominated fields — only to younger men.

Facebook is violating federal civil rights law. Period.

— ACLU (@ACLU) September 18, 2018

While Facebook proclaimed in response to the ACLU’s charges that discrimination is “strictly prohibited in our policies,” the social media giant has long been accused of letting advertisers exclude specific racial, religious, and ethnic groups from their ads.

“Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers,” ProPublica noted in a 2016 investigation of Facebook’s practices. “That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays.”

Though Facebook has made a number of policy changes ostensibly geared toward putting a stop to such rampant and harmful discrimination, critics have argued that the changes didn’t go nearly far enough.

According to the ACLU’s charges, Facebook’s discriminatory practices are alive and well.

“Despite the progress we have made, stereotypes and biases clearly still influence corporate hiring strategies,” Sara Steffens, secretary-treasurer of the CWA, concluded in a statement on Tuesday. “Shame on these employers for targeting ads based on gender, and shame on Facebook for facilitating this practice.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

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The Mythology of Work

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 00:05

by CrimethInc

Eight Myths that Keep Your Eyes on the Clock and Your Nose to the Grindstone

What if nobody worked? Sweatshops would empty out and assembly lines would grind to a halt, at least the ones producing things no one would make voluntarily. Telemarketing would cease. Despicable individuals who only hold sway over others because of wealth and title would have to learn better social skills. Traffic jams would come to an end; so would oil spills. Paper money and job applications would be used as fire starter as people reverted to barter and sharing. Grass and flowers would grow from the cracks in the sidewalk, eventually making way for fruit trees.

And we would all starve to death. But we’re not exactly subsisting on paperwork and performance evaluations, are we? Most of the things we make and do for money are patently irrelevant to our survival—and to what gives life meaning, besides.

This text is a selection from Work, our 376-page analysis of contemporary capitalism. It is also available as a pamphlet.

That depends on what you mean by “work.” Think about how many people enjoy gardening, fishing, carpentry, cooking, and even computer programming just for their own sake. What if that kind of activity could provide for all our needs?

For hundreds of years, people have claimed that technological progress would soon liberate humanity from the need to work. Today we have capabilities our ancestors couldn’t have imagined, but those predictions still haven’t come true. In the US we actually work longer hours than we did a couple generations ago—the poor in order to survive, the rich in order to compete. Others desperately seek employment, hardly enjoying the comfortable leisure all this progress should provide. Despite the talk of recession and the need for austerity measures, corporations are reporting record earnings, the wealthiest are wealthier than ever, and tremendous quantities of goods are produced just to be thrown away. There’s plenty of wealth, but it’s not being used to liberate humanity.

What kind of system simultaneously produces abundance and prevents us from making the most of it? The defenders of the free market argue that there’s no other option—and so long as our society is organized this way, there isn’t.

Yet once upon a time, before time cards and power lunches, everything got done without work. The natural world that provided for our needs hadn’t yet been carved up and privatized. Knowledge and skills weren’t the exclusive domains of licensed experts, held hostage by expensive institutions; time wasn’t divided into productive work and consumptive leisure. We know this because work was invented only a few thousand years ago, but human beings have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. We’re told that life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” back then—but that narrative comes to us from the ones who stamped out that way of life, not the ones who practiced it.

This isn’t to say we should go back to the way things used to be, or that we could—only that things don’t have to be the way they are right now. If our distant ancestors could see us today, they’d probably be excited about some of our inventions and horrified by others, but they’d surely be shocked by how we apply them. We built this world with our labor, and without certain obstacles we could surely build a better one. That wouldn’t mean abandoning everything we’ve learned. It would just mean abandoning everything we’ve learned doesn’t work.

One can hardly deny that work is productive. Just a couple thousand years of it have dramatically transformed the surface of the earth.

But what exactly does it produce? Disposable chopsticks by the billion; laptops and cell phones that are obsolete within a couple years. Miles of waste dumps and tons upon tons of chlorofluorocarbons. Factories that will rust as soon as labor is cheaper elsewhere. Dumpsters full of overstock, while a billion suffer malnutrition; medical treatments only the wealthy can afford; novels and philosophies and art movements most of us just don’t have time for in a society that subordinates desires to profit motives and needs to property rights.

And where do the resources for all this production come from? What happens to the ecosystems and communities that are pillaged and exploited? If work is productive, it’s even more destructive.

Work doesn’t produce goods out of thin air; it’s not a conjuring act. Rather, it takes raw materials from the biosphere—a common treasury shared by all living things—and transforms them into products animated by the logic of market. For those who see the world in terms of balance sheets, this is an improvement, but the rest of us shouldn’t take their word for it.

Capitalists and socialists have always taken it for granted that work produces value. Workers have to consider a different possibility—that working uses up value. That’s why the forests and polar ice caps are being consumed alongside the hours of our lives: the aches in our bodies when we come home from work parallel the damage taking place on a global scale.

What should we be producing, if not all this stuff? Well, how about happiness itself? Can we imagine a society in which the primary goal of our activity was to make the most of life, to explore its mysteries, rather than to amass wealth or outflank competition? We would still make material goods in such a society, of course, but not in order to compete for profit. Festivals, feasts, philosophy, romance, creative pursuits, child-rearing, friendship, adventure—can we picture these as the center of life, rather than packed into our spare time?

Today things are the other way around—our conception of happiness is constructed as a means to stimulate production. Small wonder products are crowding us out of the world.

Work doesn’t simply create wealth where there was only poverty before. On the contrary, so long as it enriches some at others’ expense, work creates poverty, too, in direct proportion to profit.

Poverty is not an objective condition, but a relationship produced by unequal distribution of resources. There’s no such thing as poverty in societies in which people share everything. There may be scarcity, but no one is subjected to the indignity of having to go without while others have more than they know what to do with. As profit is accumulated and the minimum threshold of wealth necessary to exert influence in society rises higher and higher, poverty becomes more and more debilitating. It is a form of exile—the cruelest form of exile, for you stay within society while being excluded from it. You can neither participate nor go anywhere else.

Work doesn’t just create poverty alongside wealth—it concentrates wealth in the hands of a few while spreading poverty far and wide. For every Bill Gates, a million people must live below the poverty line; for every Shell Oil, there has to be a Nigeria. The more we work, the more profit is accumulated from our labor, and the poorer we are compared to our exploiters.

So in addition to creating wealth, work makes people poor. This is clear even before we factor in all the other ways work makes us poor: poor in self-determination, poor in free time, poor in health, poor in sense of self beyond our careers and bank accounts, poor in spirit.

“Cost of living” estimates are misleading—there’s little living going on at all! “Cost of working” is more like it, and it’s not cheap.

Everyone knows what housecleaners and dishwashers pay for being the backbone of our economy. All the scourges of poverty—addiction, broken families, poor health—are par for the course; the ones who survive these and somehow go on showing up on time are working miracles. Think what they could accomplish if they were free to apply that power to something other than earning profits for their employers!

What about their employers, fortunate to be higher on the pyramid? You would think earning a higher salary would mean having more money and thus more freedom, but it’s not that simple. Every job entails hidden costs: just as a dishwasher has to pay bus fare to and from work every day, a corporate lawyer has to be able to fly anywhere at a moment’s notice, to maintain a country club membership for informal business meetings, to own a small mansion in which to entertain dinner guests that double as clients. This is why it’s so difficult for middle-class workers to save up enough money to quit while they’re ahead and get out of the rat race: trying to get ahead in the economy basically means running in place. At best, you might advance to a fancier treadmill, but you’ll have to run faster to stay on it.

And these merely financial costs of working are the least expensive. In one survey, people of all walks of life were asked how much money they would need to live the life they wanted; from pauper to patrician, they all answered approximately double whatever their current income was. So not only is money costly to obtain, but, like any addictive drug, it’s less and less fulfilling! And the further up you get in the hierarchy, the more you have to fight to hold your place. The wealthy executive must abandon his unruly passions and his conscience, must convince himself that he deserves more than the unfortunates whose labor provides for his comfort, must smother his every impulse to question, to share, to imagine himself in others’ shoes; if he doesn’t, sooner or later some more ruthless contender replaces him. Both blue-collar and white-collar workers have to kill themselves to keep the jobs that keep them alive; it’s just a question of physical or spiritual destruction.

Those are the costs we pay individually, but there’s also a global price to pay for all this working. Alongside the environmental costs, there are work-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths: every year we kill people by the thousand to sell hamburgers and health club memberships to the survivors. The US Department of Labor reported that twice as many people suffered fatal work injuries in 2001 as died in the September 11 attacks, and that doesn’t begin to take into account work-related illnesses. Above all, more exorbitant than any other price, there is the cost of never learning how to direct our own lives, never getting the chance to answer or even ask the question of what we would do with our time on this planet if it was up to us. We can never know how much we are giving up by settling for a world in which people are too busy, too poor, or too beaten down to do so.

Why work, if it’s so expensive? Everyone knows the answer—there’s no other way to acquire the resources we need to survive, or for that matter to participate in society at all. All the earlier social forms that made other ways of life possible have been eradicated—they were stamped out by conquistadors, slave traders, and corporations that left neither tribe nor tradition nor ecosystem intact. Contrary to capitalist propaganda, free human beings don’t crowd into factories for a pittance if they have other options, not even in return for name brand shoes and software. In working and shopping and paying bills, each of us helps perpetuate the conditions that necessitate these activities. Capitalism exists because we invest everything in it: all our energy and ingenuity in the marketplace, all our resources at the supermarket and in the stock market, all our attention in the media. To be more precise, capitalism exists because our daily activities are it. But would we continue to reproduce it if we felt we had another choice?

On the contrary, instead of enabling people to achieve happiness, work fosters the worst kind of self-denial.

Obeying teachers, bosses, the demands of the market—not to mention laws, parents’ expectations, religious scriptures, social norms—we’re conditioned from infancy to put our desires on hold. Following orders becomes an unconscious reflex, whether or not they are in our best interest; deferring to experts becomes second nature.

Selling our time rather than doing things for their own sake, we come to evaluate our lives on the basis of how much we can get in exchange for them, not what we get out of them. As freelance slaves hawking our lives hour by hour, we think of ourselves as each having a price; the amount of the price becomes our measure of value. In that sense, we become commodities, just like toothpaste and toilet paper. What once was a human being is now an employee, in the same way that what once was a pig is now a pork chop. Our lives disappear, spent like the money for which we trade them.

Most of us have become so used to giving up things that are precious to us that sacrifice has become our only way of expressing that we care about something. We martyr ourselves for ideas, causes, love of one another, even when these are supposed to help us find happiness.

There are families, for example, in which people show affection by competing to be the one who gives up the most for the others. Gratification isn’t just delayed, it’s passed on from one generation to the next. The responsibility of finally enjoying all the happiness presumably saved up over years of thankless toil is deferred to the children; yet when they come of age, if they are to be seen as responsible adults, they too must begin working their fingers to the bone.

But the buck has to stop somewhere.

People work hard nowadays, that’s for sure. Tying access to resources to market performance has caused unprecedented production and technological progress. Indeed, the market has monopolized access to our own creative capacities to such an extent that many people work not only to survive but also to have something to do. But what kind of initiative does this instill?

Let’s go back to global warming, one of the most serious crises facing the planet. After decades of denial, politicians and businessmen have finally swung into action to do something about it. And what are they doing? Casting about for ways to cash in! Carbon credits, “clean” coal, “green” investment firms—who believes that these are the most effective way to curb the production of greenhouse gases? It’s ironic that a catastrophe caused by capitalist consumerism can be used to spur more consumption, but it reveals a lot about the kind of initiative work instills. What kind of person, confronted with the task of preventing the end of life on earth, responds, “Sure, but what’s in it for me?”

If everything in our society has to be driven by a profit motive to succeed, that might not be initiative after all, but something else. Really taking initiative, initiating new values and new modes of behavior—this is as unthinkable to the enterprising businessman as it is to his most listless employee. What if working—that is, leasing your creative powers to others, whether managers or customers—actually erodes initiative?

The evidence for this extends beyond the workplace. How many people who never miss a day of work can’t show up on time for band practice? We can’t keep up with the reading for our book clubs even when we can finish papers for school on time; the things we really want to do with our lives end up at the bottom of the to-do list. The ability to follow through on commitments becomes something outside ourselves, associated with external rewards or punishments.

Imagine a world in which everything people do, they do because they want to, because they are personally invested in bringing it about. For any boss who has struggled to motivate indifferent employees, the idea of working with people who are equally invested in the same projects sounds utopian. But this isn’t proof that nothing would get done without bosses and salaries—it just shows how work saps us of initiative.

Let’s say your job never injures, poisons, or sickens you. Let’s also take it for granted that the economy doesn’t crash and take your job and savings with it, and that no one who got a worse deal than you manages to hurt or rob you. You still can’t be sure you won’t be downsized. Nowadays nobody works for the same employer his whole life; you work somewhere a few years until they let you go for someone younger and cheaper or outsource your job overseas. You can break your back to prove you’re the best in your field and still end up hung out to dry.

You have to count on your employers to make shrewd decisions so they can write your paycheck—they can’t just fritter money away or they won’t have it to pay you. But you never know when that shrewdness will turn against you: the ones you depend on for your livelihood didn’t get where they are by being sentimental. If you’re self-employed, you probably know how fickle the market can be, too.

What could provide real security? Perhaps being part of a long-term community in which people looked out for each other, a community based on mutual assistance rather than financial incentives. And what is one of the chief obstacles to building that kind of community today? Work.

Who carried out most of the injustices in history? Employees. This is not necessarily to say they are responsible for them—as they would be the first to tell you!

Does receiving a wage absolve you of responsibility for your actions? Working seems to foster the impression that it does. The Nuremburg defense—“I was just following orders”—has been the anthem and alibi of millions of employees. This willingness to check one’s conscience at the workplace door—to be, in fact, a mercenary—lies at the root of many of the troubles plaguing our species.

People have done horrible things without orders, too—but not nearly so many horrible things. You can reason with a person who is acting for herself; she acknowledges that she is accountable for her decisions. Employees, on the other hand, can do unimaginably dumb and destructive things while refusing to think about the consequences.

The real problem, of course, isn’t employees refusing to take responsibility for their actions—it’s the economic system that makes taking responsibility so prohibitively expensive.

Employees dump toxic waste into rivers and oceans.

Employees slaughter cows and perform experiments on monkeys.

Employees throw away truckloads of food.

Employees are destroying the ozone layer.

They watch your every move through security cameras.

They evict you when you don’t pay your rent.

They imprison you when you don’t pay your taxes.

They humiliate you when you don’t do your homework or show up to work on time.

They enter information about your private life into credit reports and FBI files.

They give you speeding tickets and tow your car.

They administer standardized exams, juvenile detention centers, and lethal injections.

The soldiers who herded people into gas chambers were employees,

Just like the soldiers occupying Iraq and Afghanistan,

Just like the suicide bombers who target them—they are employees of God, hoping to be paid in paradise.

Let’s be clear about this—critiquing work doesn’t mean rejecting labor, effort, ambition, or commitment. It doesn’t mean demanding that everything be fun or easy. Fighting against the forces that compel us to work is hard work. Laziness is not the alternative to work, though it might be a byproduct of it.

The bottom line is simple: all of us deserve to make the most of our potential as we see fit, to be the masters of our own destinies. Being forced to sell these things away to survive is tragic and humiliating. We don’t have to live like this.

The post The Mythology of Work appeared first on Infoshop News.

Hurricane Florence Relief, Solidarity and Mutual Aid Guide

Wed, 09/19/2018 - 17:28

Hurricane Florence devastated the coastal areas of North Carolina and South Carolina in September 2018. This guide is for people interested in organizing assistance for those affected and for those interested in supporting people and groups engaged in assistance. Many people are still displaced at this time. There is massive flooding. Damage is extensive and many lives are uprooted.

You can use Charity Navigator to research aid and solidarity groups and projects.

This guide should not be construed as any kind of political endorsement or label of groups or those helping people affected by the hurricane.

News

Updated September 19, 2018

Relief Organizations and Projects

Cajun Navy Relief – The Cajun Navy Relief and Rescue is here to help those in need.

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief – Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is a grassroots network whose mission is to provide disaster relief based on the principles of solidarity, mutual aid, and autonomous direct action. By working with, listening to, and supporting impacted communities, especially their most vulnerable members, to lead their own recovery, we build long­term, sustainable and resilient communities.

27,956 lbs of supplies were sent to the coast yesterday on these airplanes. Bought or given second-hand through ya’lls donations. This isn’t counting what came in by ground. We are listening, loving, fighting, and utilizing our skills, networks, and quickly beating hearts to get supplies to Indigenous, Black, migrant farmworker communities, and others historically neglected and ignored by the state and non-profit industrial complex, standing shoulder to shoulder, working for a #JustRecovery, proving #WeKeepUsSafe, and reiterating that our hope for a livable future rests, now and always, in each other’s hands.

River City Medic Collective

One of our awesome medics, Vanessa Bolin, is down in Lumberton, North Carolina doing relief work for the indigenous community, and will be travelling around NC and SC as needed. We need your help!

She is a total force to be reckoned with, and we are proud that she is representing us down there.

@Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice has graciously agreed to be our fiscal sponsor, along with several other autonomous relief teams.

PLEASE donate to them on FB here: https://www.facebook.com/…/a.16104649623…/1859392524156434

On their website at https://www.iacjva.org/give

Or you can even Venmo them @InterfaithClimateJustice. Please tag any donations as “hurricane relief.” Every little bit counts!

We need funds for flashlights, candles, food, water, gas, rescue gear, and much much more.

Thank you so much everyone!
RCMC

The post Hurricane Florence Relief, Solidarity and Mutual Aid Guide appeared first on Infoshop News.

When Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Hits Home

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 12:51

via Teen Vogue

by Ruth Hopkins

Olivia Lone Bear, a 33-year-old member of the Spirit Lake Tribe, lived among relatives on the oil-rich Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. On July 31, she was found dead, joining a long list of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The mother of five had been missing for nine months, last seen on October 24, 2017, driving through New Town, North Dakota.

Those searching for her used boats with sonar to discover her remains, which were in a submerged truck with broken windows in Sanish Bay on Lake Sakakawea, according to Inforum. With no arrests made, the FBI is working on the case but is also not providing any updates to its status.

“At least 20 to 40 people passed over her [on boats] per day since the water thawed. It’s a shame someone else didn’t find her sooner.” Lissa Yellowbird-Chase, a volunteer who helped search for Olivia, tells Teen Vogue. Yellowbird-Chase is the founder of the Sahnish Scouts of North Dakota, a volunteer organization that actively searches for missing Native men, women, and children. Along with Olivia’s family members and other volunteers, she never gave up looking for her. “The community really stepped up and came together to assist,” she says.

Read more

The post When Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Hits Home appeared first on Infoshop News.

The Attica Prison Riot in 1971 Serves as a Reminder of the Dangers of a Failing Prison System

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 02:59

via Teen Vogue

by Shammara Lawrence

In September 1971, nearly 1,300 inmates in the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York shook the nation to its core. The bloodiest prison riot in recent American history, the four-day uprising turned the spotlight on living conditions in state penitentiaries, widespread human rights abuses committed behind bars, and the realities of incarcerated peoples. The riot created a media firestorm initially, but since then, the historic moment, often credited as birthing the modern-day prisoners’ rights movement, has largely been left out of public discourse.

Leading up to the insurrection, there was a considerable outcry from inmates about the state of the prison and the staff’s behavior. According to The New York Times, at the time, prisoners in New York state received one roll of toilet paper monthly and were allowed only one shower a week. In addition, as a rule, inmate letters written in foreign languages were discarded by overseers before reaching their intended recipients, and Islam was deemed an illegitimate faith. Moreover, in Attica specifically, the guards — most of whom were white — were said to be deeply hostile toward inmates. “I was conscious of the racial prejudice. The guards — they were vicious. They had no qualms about calling you nigger. The prison ran on anger. It ran on fright,” one of the rioters, Carlos Roche, explained in a BBC news special.

That summer, inmates drafted a list of 27 grievances, which would be resurrected in September, and sent the list to the state’s commissioner of correctional services, Russell Oswald, in an effort to make their concerns known and campaign for better overall living conditions. Their concerns went unaddressed.

Read more

The post The Attica Prison Riot in 1971 Serves as a Reminder of the Dangers of a Failing Prison System appeared first on Infoshop News.

Post-Anarchism on the State – An Anarchist Critique

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 02:34

by Wayne Price

Response to Saul Newman, “Anarchism, Marxism, and the Bonapartist State”

A review of the nature of the State as understood by anarchists, especially as proposed by the tendency called “post-anarchism.” This is done through a review of the opinions of Saul
Newman, a leading proponent of post-anarchism, in his work, “Anarchism, Marxism, and the
Bonapartist State.” The post-anarchist view is opposed by the class theory of the state,
versions of which are raised by traditional, revolutionary anarchists and by Marx.

A key question for any political theory is its conception of the state. This includes the
view of the state by the trend calling itself “post-anarchism.” This name does not refer
to being “after” or “beyond” anarchism. Mainly it refers to attempted integrations of
anarchism with the philosophical views of post-structuralism and postmodernism, as
developed by certain French philosophers (May 1994; Russell & Evren 2011). According to
Ruth Kinna,”Anarchism’s third, post-anarchist, wave[is]usually dated to the rise of the
alter-globalization movement in the late 1990s….” (Kinna 2017; 25) It was not so much a
change in organizing strategies as a new theoretical approach. “Post-anarchism is not only
one of the most significant currents to emerge within contemporary anarchist thought in
recent years, it also has ‘evident affinities’ with small-a anarchist movement politics.”
(36) In this paper, I am looking at the post-anarchists’ political thinking and not on
their background philosophies (in philosophy, I prefer a radicalized version of John
Dewey’s pragmatism; Price 2014).

One of the most prominent post-anarchist theorists is Saul Newman. He has written a number
of important books and essays on the subject. One essay (Newman 2004) concentrates on the
nature of the state. It directly confronts the class theory of the state (also called the
“materialist” or “historical materialist” theory of the state). This is a subject on which
I have recently written (Price 2018). His is different from many other post-anarchist
writings which emphasize that the state is not the only source of power, but that power is
created in many places. “Foucault argues that the state is a kind of discursive illusion
that masks the radically dispersed nature of power….” (Newman 2004; 23) Newman does not
quite agree with this. He takes the state seriously. Whether or not a network of power is
a useful model of society, the state still exists and needs to be analyzed. For this
reason, I think it would be useful to examine this particular post-anarchist work.

In his essay, Newman never actually defines what he means by the state. I have found the
same to be true in other post-anarchist writings. Let me then define the state as a
bureaucratic-military social machine, composed of specialized officials, bureaucrats, and
armed people, separate from and standing over the mass of people. This is a different
matter than just any possible social system of coordination, policy deciding, dispute
settling, or even defense from anti-social aggression. All these things existed for
thousands of years among humans before the state arose and will exist after it is
abolished. It is the state as an elite socially-alienated bureaucratic-military
institution which is connected to the capitalist system and all other systems of oppression.

Anarchism and Marxism on the Class Theory of the State

It would be easy to contrast anarchism with Marxist-Leninism, that is, with the recent and
current Stalinist states of the USSR, Maoist China, North Korea, etc. These states were
founded by people calling themselves “Marxist” and supposed champions of the “working
class.” Yet they were state-capitalist, mass-murdering, totalitarianisms. But Karl Marx, a
radical democrat, would have been as horrified by such states as are anarchists. The issue
is to show what there was about Marxism which led to such results, despite Marx’s
intentions. Consistent with that focus, Newman directs himself primarily to Marx’s views,
with little to say about post-Marx Marxism (just a few comments on Lenin).

Still, the paper presents itself as a dispute between anarchism and Marxism. In part, this
binary is modified by some indications that anarchists have found aspects of Marxism
useful. “For anarchists, Marxism has great value as an analysis of capitalism and the
relations[of]private property which it is tied to.” (19) “Bakunin perhaps represents the
most radical elements of Marxist theory.” (17) (10) Newman himself repeatedly expresses
appreciation of the “post-Marxism” of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, whose work comes
out of the Marxist tradition.

However, the main problem with Newman’s anarchism-versus-Marxism approach is that the
traditional anarchist movement also had a class theory of the state. Peter Kropotkin, the
great theorist of anarchism, wrote, “The State has always interfered in the economic life
in favor of the capitalist exploiter. It has always granted him protection in robbery,
given aid and support for further enrichment. And it could not be otherwise. To do so was
one of the functions-the chief mission-of the State.” (Kropotkin 2014; 193) In Kinna’s
view, Kropotkin thought “political institutions reflected the nature of economic power,
which was fundamental….The state was designed to protect the strong against the weak,
the rich against the poor, and the privileged against the laboring classes….Bourgeois
government[was]a special vehicle for the protection of commercial and industrial class
interests.” (Kinna 2017; 86-88) “Bakunin had advanced the same argument, crediting Marx
with its most sophisticated scientific articulation.” (86)

Newman’s attack on the class theory of the state is not only an attack on Marxism but also
on the traditional mainstream anarchist view
.
Newman seeks to deny this. For example, he cites Bakunin’s support for the class theory of
the state but then tries to turn it on its head. “Bakunin…takes Marx seriously when he
says that the state is always concomitant with class distinctions and domination. However
there is an important difference….For Marx the dominant class generally rules through
the state, whereas for Bakunin the state generally rules through the dominant
class….Bourgeois relations are actually a reflection of the state, rather than the state
being a reflection of bourgeois relations.” (Newman 2004;17)

This acknowledges that Bakunin, the principal initiator of the movement for revolutionary
anarchism, believed that “the state is always concomitant with class distinctions and
domination.” That is different from seeing the state as distinct and autonomous from the
class structure. Actually, Bakunin saw the state as interacting with the economy, in a
back-and-forth, dialectical, manner. The modern state causes capitalism and capitalism
causes the modern state.

This is similar to Marx’s concept of “primitive (primary) accumulation,” in which the
state played a key role in initiating capitalism. The state expropriated the British
peasants from their land, conquered and looted foreign countries, supported slavery, and
defended theft from the environment. Theses actions accumulated capital on one side and
propertyless workers on the other, the essentials for capitalism. In Capital, Marx wrote
of “the power of the state, the concentrated and organized force of society, to hasten,
hothouse fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the
capitalist mode….Force is…itself an economic power.” (Marx 1906; 823-4) Kropotkin
criticized this “primitive accumulation” only because it may imply that this is a passing
phase, understating the continuing influence of the state in maintaining capitalism.
Recognizing that “Force is itself an economic power”is not a rejection of the class theory
of the state.

Newman presents two alternate views: “the state represented the interests of the most
economically dominant class-the bourgeoisie.” (Newman 2004; 6) This is ascribed to Marx.
Or: “Anarchism sees the state as an autonomous institution-or series of institutions-that
has its own interests and logic.” (9) “It is independent of economic forces and has its
own imperative of self-perpetuation….Anarchism sees the state, in its essence, as
independent of economic classes….” (14) This last view is his opinion, that of
post-anarchism, but not that of the “classical” anarchists.

Bonapartism

Newman points out that Marx developed his concept of the state further. This was expressed
in his analysis of the French dictatorship of Louis Napoleon III in his 1852 The
Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (Marx 2002). He developed a concept of
“Bonapartism,” which was also expressed in Engels’ and his writings on Bismarck in Germany
and on other historical states (Draper 1977). They noted that the state balanced among
various class forces. Even within the upper class there were fractions of classes and
agents of fractions of classes, which put conflicting pressures on the state. They saw
that the state had its own interests as an institution and so did its bureaucratic,
political, and military personnel. Sometimes the bourgeoisie had mostly direct control of
the state, as under parliamentary democracy. At other times, they were shut out, as under
Louis Bonaparte’s “Empire” or under Nazi totalitarianism. But even without democratic
rights, the bourgeoisie continued to exploit their employees and accumulate profits. This
“right” was still defended by the dictatorial state! “According to Marx…the Bonapartist
state served the long term interests of the capitalist system, even if it often acted
against the immediate interests and will of the bourgeoisie.” (Newman 2004; 7)

There is a tendency for the state-especially its executive branch-to develop increased
independence relative to the rest of society, even under bourgeois democracy, but which
reaches its height under political dictatorship. In Newman’s terms, cited above, it may be
acknowledged that “the state has its own interests and logic…and has its own imperative
of self-preservation.” But it is not true that the state is “independent of class forces.”
Rather it balances among them and still maintains the overall interests of the
bourgeoisie. This has been referred to as the state’s “relative autonomy.” (5)

Newman claims that anarchists (or at least post-anarchists) took the concept of
Bonapartism to its rightful extreme. “Anarchism took Marx’s notion of the Bonapartist
State to its logical conclusion, thus developing a theory of state power and sovereignty
as an entirely autonomous and specific domain….” (38-39)

Does this make sense? Does not the state, as an institution with a drive for
“self-preservation,” have an absolute need to keep the economy going? Under capitalism
this means the continued accumulation of capital; it means the exploitation of the working
class to produce ever increased amounts of profit. Without this, there is no state, no
society, and none of the other oppressions of race, gender, etc. Can there be “an entirely
autonomous” state, unrelated to economic oppression? Neither Bakunin nor Kropotkin
believed that. I quoted Kropotkin above as believing that protecting capitalist exploiters
“was one]of the functions-the chief mission-of the State.” Not the only function or
mission, but ‘one of the functions” and “the chief mission.”

If we look at the state as a “specific domain,” then it has a great many social forces,
economic and otherwise, class and non-class, pushing on it. (Non-class forces include
racial tensions, gender conflicts, not to mention organized religion.) Yet these forces
are of differing strength and impact. The class theory “involves a claim that the
capitalist class is able to wield more potent power resources over against pressure from
below and the capacity for independent action on the part of the state itself….The
political sway of the capitalist class[is]not exclusive but predominant.” (Wetherly 2002;
197) Even the most autonomous of totalitarian fascist states still must take into account
the needs of its capitalist class-or it will not survive. Even the bureaucratic Stalinist
states of the Soviet Union, Maoist China, etc.-which had entirely disposed of their
stock-owning bourgeoisie-still had to maintain the exploitation of the workers and the
accumulation of capital: the capital-labor relationship.

Summarizing the most mature and sophisticated views of Marx (and traditional
anarchists)-with which he disagrees-Newman writes, “Rather than saying that, for Marx, the
state is the instrument of[the]bourgeoisie, it may be more accurate to say that the state
is a reflection of bourgeois class domination, a institution whose structure is determined
by capitalist relations. Its function is to maintain an economic and social order that
allows the bourgeoisie to continue to exploit the proletariat. ” (11) Or, for the
Stalinist states, for someone “to continue to exploit the proletariat”-in this case, the
collective bureaucratic class (until it collapsed back into traditional capitalism).

I think that this makes more sense than either a view of the state as a passive puppet of
the bourgeoisie (should anyone hold such a crude theory) or as “entirely autonomous” and
“independent of class forces.”

Political Implications

Political analyses have no meaning unless they lead to differences in strategy or tactics.
“A difference which makes no difference is no difference,” as the saying goes. Newman
contrasts the differing potential “revolutionary strategies” that go with the alternatives
of the “neutral” or “autonomous state” or the (class) “determined state.” He discusses
which (theorized) state should be seen as the “tool of revolution” and which as something
“to be destroyed in revolution.” (8) Rather than summarize his discussion, I will go
through the issue as I see it.

(1) The idea that the state was integrally tied to the capitalist class and could not be
otherwise, led to the revolutionary belief that this state had to be overturned, smashed,
dismantled, and replaced by alternate institutions. In a new preface to the Communist
Manifesto, Engels quoted Marx, “One thing especially was proved by the[Paris]Commune,
viz., that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and
wield it for its own purposes’.” (Marx & Engels 1955; 6) This did not deny the value of
fighting for reforms, but the ultimate goal was a state-destroying revolution.

But two different conclusions were drawn. One was that the working class, when overturning
the capitalists’ state, also needed its own class state, a “workers’ state,” the
“revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat”-if only for a while, until a fully
classless society could be instituted. This could be interpreted as an ultra-democratic
state, similar to the Paris Commune or the early soviets, which would “immediately” start
to “wither away” -which is how Lenin presented it at the beginning of the Russian
revolution. Or, alternately, as the justification for an increasingly authoritarian,
one-party, police state, which is what Lenin developed over time. This soon evolved into
Stalin’s state-capitalist totalitarianism.

On the other hand, anarchists argued that the state, by its very structure (as I defined
it above), was an instrument of the capitalist class, or of some other exploiting class.
Throughout history, ruling minorities needed a state to maintain their rule over the big
majority; a self-managing majority would not need it. If a new state were to be created
after a revolution, it would only put a bureaucratic class in power, ruling over a state
capitalist economy. (As we know, these warnings came true.) Instead, anarchists argued for
networks and federations of workplace councils, neighborhood assemblies, and voluntary
associations. The workers and all the oppressed needed to replace all states with the
self-organization of the emancipated people.

(2) The alternate theory of a neutral and wholly autonomous state was (and is) championed
by reformists, liberals, and social democrats. The state, they claimed, was a machine
which could be used by anyone, capitalists or workers, white supremacists or People of
Color, oppressors or oppressed. Therefore radicals should fight to take over the existing
state and use it to do good. (This is the view of Laclau and Mouffe, the “post-Marxists”
whom Newman admires.)

But post-anarchists argue that the state has its own drives for oppression, regardless of
the class system it is associated with at any time. To use it to get rid of one system of
exploitation would only leave the field open for the state’s own oppressive dynamics. It
would only replace capitalism with some other method of exploitation, such as the rule of
a bureaucratic class. Therefore the state must not used to make a revolution nor to
solidify a new society after one.

Those who identify with the revolutionary anarchist tradition do not really disagree with
the last argument. The state has authoritarian and oppressive tendencies which make it
unusable for a genuinely popular, democratic, revolution-from-below. However, I do not
separate these tendencies from the state’s essential attachment to the rule of a minority
exploiting class. These are not distinct dynamics.

Which leads to a response to the question of why Marx’s Marxism led to Stalinist
totalitarianism, despite Marx’s own democratic-libertarian tendencies. At least one part
of it was his program of replacing the bourgeois state with a new state of the working
class and its allies, if only for a time. This transitional state was supposed to
expropriate the capitalists and centralize all their property into its own hands. No
matter how democratic, popular, and temporary in conception, the use of a socially
alienated bureaucratic-military state machine was bound to lead to a new form of
exploitation and oppression. This was argued by Bakunin, Kropotkin, and other
revolutionary class-struggle anarchist-socialists at the time of Marx and immediately
after, and has repeatedly been proven true, alas.

Whether Saul Newman is for revolution cannot be told from this essay (it may be clearer in
other works). Most of the other post-anarchists, like the “new” or “small-a” anarchists,
advocate building alternate institutions, small scale actions, and different lifestyles,
without focusing on an ultimate goal of direct popular attack against the capitalist class
or the state. (Price 2016) The post-anarchists usually justify this by arguing that the
state is not the only source of power in society, but merely one among many. Therefore
anarchists do not need to focus on the state as the main enemy. It can be worked around,
chipped away, or just ignored. The capitalist class is seen as a disjointed, pluralistic,
entity, with society overall best understood as a network of forces without a center. All
of which leads to a rejection of overturning the state as a main goal. In fact
“revolution” is usually regarded as the fantasy of a single (bloody) upheaval which would
immediately change society-which is rejected as the nonsense it is (and is not a model
held by serious revolutionaries). However, revolutionary anarchists regard as a dangerous
fantasy the idea that the capitalist class and its state would permit a peaceful, gradual,
transformation of society-in which they would lose their wealth and power-without
attempting to crush the people (through savage repression, fascism, civil war, etc.).

No Working Class Revolution

Whether Newman is against revolution, he is against working class revolution, because he
is against a focus on the working class. He would deny that the “proletariat” is the
necessary (but not sufficient) agent to transform society, or even that it is one of the
three to five most important potential forces.

Newman repeatedly merges the idea of the working class with the idea of the Leninist
vanguard party, objecting “to the central role of the proletariat-or, to be more precise,
to the vanguard role of the Party.” (37) But revolutionary anarchists who looked to the
working class did not advocate such authoritarian, elitist, parties. Among Marxists, Rosa
Luxemburg rejected Lenin’s concept of the vanguard party, and there is a long history of
libertarian-autonomist Marxists who orient to the aspects of Marx’s work which are
radically democratic, humanistic (anti-alienation), proletarian (anti-bureaucratic), and
scientific (anti-scientistic). This trend, neither social democratic nor Marxist-Leninist,
does not share a concept of the elitist vanguard party. It has raised libertarian
socialist politics which can be in dialogue with revolutionary anarchism (Prichard et al
2017).

The post-anarchists have been criticized for their negative approach to class concerns and
how they deal with them. An “emerging critique is that the post-anarchists have given up
on the notion of ‘class’ and have retreated into obscure and intoxicating academic
diatribes against a tradition built of discursive straw.” (Rousselle, in the Preface to
Rousselle & Evren 2011; vii) Indeed, Newman’s rejection of a working class orientation is
sometimes on a rather high plane of abstract post-structuralist philosophizing. He
denounces “the perspective of a universal epistemological position-such as that of the
proletariat….” (37)

At other times, Newman raises empirical problems, which I think are the real issue. He
refers to “…the empirical reality of the shrinking of the working class…” (32) and to
the “concrete social conditions of the shrinking working class in post-industrial
societies….” (29)

It is true that there are fewer industrial workers in the U.S. (although still a big
minority), but the population is overwhelming working class. That is, most adults are
employed by capital or the state, producing goods or services for pay, without supervising
others. Blue collar, white collar, pink collar, in construction or slaughterhouses,
cleaning houses for others or waiting tables, writing code or teaching children, in
animation or accounting, this is the modern proletariat. The class, in addition to waged
workers, includes their children, full-time homemakers, adult students, and those
unemployed and retired. Meanwhile one reason for the decline in industrial jobs in the
U.S. is that many jobs have been sent overseas. There has been an enormous expansion of
industrial workers throughout the “Third World,” for this and other reasons. This is not a
proof of the irrelevance of the working class.

It is also an empirical fact that most workers and their families are not
revolutionary-and many are even reactionary. This is cited by post-anarchists (and others)
as disproving a supposed prediction that the working class must inevitably become
revolutionary. Actually the “prediction” is only that the working class is potentially
revolutionary, and able to shake the whole society when it is. This is evidenced by a
two-centuries long history of workers’ struggles and upheavals. In any case, it is not
that we could reject the (currently) non-revolutionary class for some other grouping which
is revolutionary. Since such a large proportion of the world’s population is working
class, the non-revolutionary consciousness of most of the working class means that most of
the general population is not revolutionary, that most women are not revolutionary, nor
are most People of Color, nor is any other category we could name. For now.

Perhaps Newman’s major discontent with a working class perspective is his belief that it
would suppress all other sources of discontent and rebellion. “Radical political struggles
can no longer be limited to the proletariat alone, and must be seen as being open to other
classes and social identities.” (33) “The movement…rejects the false universality of
Marxist politics, which denies difference and heterogeneity and subordinates other
struggles to the central role of the proletariat….” (37)

There is no doubt that there have been wooden Marxists and wooden anarcho-syndicalists who
have denied the importance of everything but the class struggle. (There have also been
feminists who have subordinated all issues to that of women’s freedom, and Black activists
who have put everything aside but Black liberation. But that is not the question here.)
However this is not an inevitable result of a class perspective. On the contrary, it can
be seen as strengthening the class struggle if the revolutionary workers support each and
every struggle of oppressed people. The socialist Daniel DeLeon once said (quoting from
memory) that socialists’ support for women’s liberation could unify the working class and
split the ruling class.

To cite an authoritative (and authoritarian) Marxist, Lenin opposed “economism,” the
strategy of only supporting bread-and-butter labor union issues. Instead he argued that
socialists should defend every democratic concern, no matter how apparently far from
class. This included supporting big groups such as peasants, women, and oppressed nations,
but also students, draftees, censored writers, and religious minorities. “To imagine that
social revolution is conceivable without…a movement of the… masses against oppression
by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, etc. – to
imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. So one army lines up in one place and
says, ‘We are for socialism’, and another, somewhere else and says, ‘We are for
imperialism’, and that will he a social revolution!” (Lenin 1916) I cite this sarcastic
comment even though Lenin was not a libertarian-autonomous Marxist, to demonstrate that
even such a Marxist as Lenin could advocate that working class socialists should give
support to all popular struggles against oppression-by all classes, on all issues. (In any
case, the problem anarchists have with Lenin is not that he gave too much support to
democratic struggles.)

“The Global Capitalist State Order”

Newman sees a model of the kind of radical movement he wants in “the emergence of what is
broadly termed the ‘anti-globalization’ movement….” (Newman 2004; 36) He describes this
movement as distinct from either a “universalized” working class or from a bundle of
unrelated identity-based struggles. The distinct struggles are linked to each other and
have a common enemy, which turns out to be….capitalism! and the capitalist state! “The
‘anti-globalization’ movement[is]a protest movement against the capitalist and neo-liberal
vision of globalization….” (36) The movement “puts into question the global capitalist
state order itself….It problematizes capitalism….targetting specific sites of
oppression-corporate power and greed, G-M products, workplace surveillance, displacement
of indigenous peoples, labor and human rights abuses, and so on.” (37) This only makes
sense if we realize that these issues, overlapping with each other, are all directly or
indirectly due to capitalism and enforced by the state. (For example, environmental,
energy, and climate problems are due to the insatiable drive of capitalism to accumulate
and grow quantitatively, regardless of the need of the ecosystem for limits and balance.
The anarchist Bookchin explored this before the present ecological Marxists.)

“We are living in a historical moment…dominated by capitalism, the most universal system
the world has ever known-both in the sense that it is global and in the sense that it
penetrates every aspect of social life and the natural environment….The social reality
of capitalism is ‘totalizing’ in unprecedented ways and degrees. Its logic of
commodification, accumulation, profit-maximization, and competition permeates the whole
social order….” (Woods 1997; 13)

If the problem is ultimately capitalism, then what is capitalism? (Newman does not define
it any more than he defines the state.) Capitalism is the capital-labor relationship in
the process of production. Capital commodifies everything it can, including the ability of
the workers to labor. Capital buys this labor-power and squeezes out as much surplus
wealth (value) from the workers as possible, accumulating profits and expanding
production. All the other issues and struggles against aspects of oppression are real and
must be addressed, but the central issue of capitalism as such is its exploitation of the
workers. And who will oppose capitalism? Is it in the immediate interests of the rich, the
managers, the police, or various indeterminate “citizens” to revolt against capitalism? No
one has a greater immediate interest in fighting capitalism than those who directly
confront it day by day. No one has a greater potential ability to fight it, with their
hands on the means of production, distribution, and services.

That is what makes the class struggle-if not “universal”-then central to the fight against
“the global capitalist state order.” It is central, and necessary-but not sufficient by
itself, since all sections of the oppressed need to be mobilized, on every issue, “against
the capitalist and neo-liberal vision of globalization.”

Conclusion: The State Serves the Class Enemy

In recent years there has been a bitter and vicious class war, on an international scale.
It has been waged by the capitalist class, using all its resources, most especially its
state. There has been a remorseless attack on the working class in both the industrialized
(imperialist) nations and in the rest of the world. Hard-won welfare benefits have been
slashed, austerity has been enforced, and unions have been cut in number and power. As
part of this class war, there has been an attack on the rights of women, of
African-Americans, of immigrants, and of LGBTQ people. For the sake of profits, the
environment has been trashed and looted, until the survival of civilization (even such as
it is) is threatened.

This is hardly the time to deny that capitalist exploitation is at the center of all
issues. And that, while the state is intrinsically oppressive, it serves the class enemy.

References

Draper, Hal (1977). Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Vol. 1; State and Bureaucracy. NY:
Monthly Review Press.

Kinna, Ruth (2017), Kropotkin: Reviewing the Classical Anarchist Tradition. Edinburgh UK:
Edinburgh University Press.

Kropotkin, Peter (2014). Direct Struggle Against Capital; A Peter Kropotkin Anthology
(Ed.: Iain McKay). Oakland CA: AK Press.

Lenin, V. I. (1916). “The Discussion On Self-Determination Summed Up.”
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/jul/x01.htm

Marx, Karl (1906). Capital; A Critique of Political Economy; Vol. 1 (Ed.: F. Engels). NY:
Modern Library.

Marx, Karl (2002). “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (Trans.: T. Carver). In
Cowling, M., & Martin, J. (eds.). Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire; (Post)modern
Interpretations. London: Pluto Press. Pp. 19-109.

Marx, Karl, & Engels, Friedrich (1955). The Communist Manifesto. (Ed.: S.H. Beer).
Northbrook IL: AHM Publishing Co.

May, Todd (1994). The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism. University Park
PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Morris, Brian (1993). Bakunin; The Philosophy of Freedom. Montreal/NY: Black Rose Books.

Newman, Saul (2004). Anarchism, Marxism, and the Bonapartist State. (Originally published
in Anarchist Studies, 12, 1; 2004.) Retrieved on 2011.
https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/saul-newman-anarchism-marxism-and-the-bonapartist-state.a4.pdf

Price, Wayne (2014). “Anarchism and the Philosophy of Pragmatism.” The Utopian.
https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/wayne-price-anarchism-and-the-philosophy-of-pragmatism

Price, Wayne (2016). “In Defense of Revolutionary Class-Struggle Anarchism.” Anarkismo.
https://www.anarkismo.net/article/29243?search_text=wayne+price

Price, Wayne (2018). “An Anarchist View of the Class Theory of the State.”
Anarkismo. http://www.anarkismo.net/article/31082?author_name=Wayne+Price&

Prichard, Alex; Kinna, Ruth; Pinta, Saku; & Berry, David (eds.). (2017). Libertarian
Socialism: Politics in Black and Red. Oakland CA: PM Press.

Russell, Duane, & Evren, Sureyyya (eds.) (2011). Post-Anarchism: A Reader. Pluto Press/
Fernwood Publishing.

Wetherly, Paul (2002). “Making Sense of the ‘Relative Autonomy’ of the State.” In Cowling,
M., & Martin, J. (eds.). Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire; (Post)modern Interpretations. London:
Pluto Press. Pp. 195-208.

Wood, Ellen Meiksins (1997). “What is the ‘Postmodern’ Agenda?” In In Defense of History;
Marxism and the Postmodern Agenda. NY: Monthly Review Press. Pp. 1-16.

*written for www.Anarkismo.net

https://www.anarkismo.net/article/31126

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McDonald’s ‘greenwash won’t hide animal suffering’

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 02:18

via The Ecologist

by Pru Elliott

McDonald’s has gone great lengths to paint itself as an ethical company in recent years. But does it need a refresher animal welfare course?

Keith Kenny is McDonald’s Vice President, Sustainability. He has been working for McDonald’s for nearly 30 years.

As part of this role, he is responsible for ensuring products are responsibly sourced, and that the company’s policies and business practices align in order to have a positive impact on society.

Supersized chickens

In a recent post on the business networking site LinkedIn, he said: “Given our size and reach as the world’s largest restaurant company, McDonald’s has the responsibility and opportunity to take action on some of the most pressing social and environmental challenges in the world today.”

Keith Kenny and other McDonald’s executives hold a great deal of power over the present and future global agricultural landscape.

And indeed, the company has gone great lengths to appear ethical in recent years, using only free-range eggs and organic milk, and phasing out the use of plastic straws in the UK.

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Abolish ICE! End the Wars!: 9/11 17 Years Later

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 04:14

via C4SS

by Logan Marie Glitterbomb

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, many began to grow increasingly skeptical of the state’s response. Even many of those who were not in the anti-war movement ended up questioning the Bush administration’s reaction. While the official story placed the blame at the hands of al Qaeda who were currently hiding in Afghanistan, our military was sent on a side mission to Iraq based on unprovable claims concerning weapons of mass destruction and lies about their ties to the 9/11 attacks.

It wasn’t just the needless warfare that upset the population, but also the increasing encroachment on our basic civil rights, namely the right to privacy. Between wiretapping scandals, the PATRIOT Act, and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, people started to grow increasingly distrustful of their government.

However 17 years later and the anti-war movement has barely gone anywhere. Sure we can thank Edward Snowden for the National Security Administration leaks. In response there were everything from Restore the Fourth rallies to efforts like Reset the Net. Despite pushback against the PATRIOT Act it mostly survives intact, extended via legislation with equally Orwellian names such as the USA FREEDOM Act.

The Iraq War may have officially ended in 2011 but private mercenary work still continues on Iraqi soil under the authorization of the american government, the War in Afghanistan still rages on, and we have expanded to War on Terror across the Middle East, influencing the creation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Two years after 9/11 launched the creation of the Department of Homeland Security which took the recently formed Transportation Security Administration under its banner. But while the TSA garnered huge amounts of public attention and scrutiny, one of its other branches which was created in 2003, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, went largely unnoticed by all except those directly affected by its existence. But recently the tides have turned.

Occupy ICE is still going strong, even after many of the physical occupations have been evicted. Many groups, including various chapters of the Industrial Workers of the World’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, and Occupy Prisons have thrown their weight behind the Dream DefendersGEO Cages divestment campaign which targets GEO Group, one of the largest profiteers behind ICE.

Abolishing ICE is becoming an increasingly mainstream battlecry. But let’s expand that battlecry and call for the abolition of the entire DHS, the repeal of the PATRIOT Act in all its updated forms, and a complete end to the War on Terror.

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Puerto Rican ‘Anarchistic Organizers’ Took Power Into Their Own Hands After Hurricane Maria

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 03:58

via Newsweek

In August, nearly one year after Hurricane Maria wrecked Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and plunged its 3.4 million residents into darkness, island officials heralded a milestone: The lights were back on. The state-owned electric company even tweeted a photo of a smiling family it said was the last to receive power.

But Christine Nieves, an activist in Mariana, didn’t celebrate. She and her small mountain community near the southeastern coast had already restored electricity—on their own. Tired of waiting on the government’s halting repairs, she worked with a band of self-described “anarchistic organizers” from the mainland to install a small solar grid, one of more than a dozen like-minded efforts across Puerto Rico. By the time electric workers showed up, Mariana was two months ahead of them. (The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority declined to comment for this article.)

The power uprising over the second largest blackout in world history provides a window into the civic and political landscape in a place where government institutions, saddled by bankruptcy and a federally appointed management board, failed in devastating ways. It also underscores a sobering reality a year after Maria: Many Puerto Ricans are, to some extent, still on their own. For eight months after the storm, Mariana residents lived without stable means of lighting, refrigeration or laundry. “People were on the verge, psychologically and physically,” says Nieves.

She and her partner established Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo, or Project for Mutual Aid, to coordinate clean-up efforts, prepare meals and check on locals after the storm. The initiative attracted the attention of a mainland group called Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, whose founding members did disaster relief work in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. To MADR co-founder Jimmy Dunson, Nieves’s efforts echoed his own group’s “anarchistic organizing”—revolution with more purpose than protest. MADR volunteers were already in Florida, helping in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, when family and friends alerted them of the dire situation in Puerto Rico. They pooled their own money and solicited donations to purchase water purifiers, solar power equipment and plane tickets to the island.

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Illustration: Molly Crabapple, 2017

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Thanks to Obama Bailouts and Trump Tax Cuts, Five Largest US Banks Have Raked in $583 Billion Since 2008 Crash

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 17:19

via Common Dreams

by Jake Johnson, staff writer

The 2008 financial meltdown inflicted devastating financial and psychological damage upon millions of ordinary Americans, but a new report released by Public Citizen on Tuesday shows the Wall Street banks that caused the crash with their reckless speculation and outright fraud have done phenomenally well in the ten years since the crisis.

Thanks to the Obama administration’s decision to rescue collapsing Wall Street banks with taxpayer cash and the Trump administration’s massive tax cuts and deregulatory push, America’s five largest banks—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs—have raked in more than $583 billion in combined profits over the past decade, Public Citizen found in its analysis marking the ten-year anniversary of the crisis.

“With no jail time for executives and half a trillion in post-crisis profits,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, “the big banks have made out like bandits during the post-crash period. Like bandits.”

Using data from the Federal Reserve, Public Citizen also calculated that America’s the banks now hold a combined $9.7 trillion in assets.

“In the aftermath of the Great Recession, American families continue to struggle. A new report by the Urban Institute finds that nearly 40 percent of Americans had trouble paying for basic needs such as food, housing or utilities in 2017,” Public Citizen notes in its report. “The banks, on the other hand—with more than half a trillion dollars in profits over the past decade—are doing just fine.”

If recent earnings reports are any indicator, big banks are on track to continue shattering profit records thanks to President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. Big banks are also expected to see a boost from a recently passed bipartisan deregulatory bill that analysts argue significantly heightens the risk of another crash.

“Wall Street’s grip on Washington is painfully evident in the corporate tax giveaways and deregulatory favors that Congress routinely bestows to this bonus-besotted industry,” Bartlett Naylor, financial policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, said in a statement.

According to a Washington Post analysis published on Saturday, many of the lawmakers and congressional aides who helped craft the Democratic Congress’ regulatory response to the 2008 crisis have gone on to work for Wall Street in the hopes of benefiting from big banks’ booming profits.

“Ten years after the financial crisis brought the U.S. economy to its knees, about 30 percent of the lawmakers and 40 percent of the senior staff who crafted Congress’ response have gone to work for or on behalf of the financial industry,” noted the Post‘s Jeff Stein.

Meanwhile, Main Street Americans who lost their homes, jobs, and savings as a result of the greed-driven crash are still struggling to get by on stagnant or declining wages, even as unemployment falls and the economy continues to grow at a steady clip.

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Wanting It Badly Is Not Enough: Real Problems For Creators Deserve Real Solutions

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 16:59

via boingboing

by Cory Doctorow

As the European Parliament prepares for tomorrow’s vote on the new Copyright Directive with its provisions requiring mass-scale filtering of all public communications to check for copyright infringement (Article 13) and its provisions requiring paid permission to link to the news if you include as little as two words from the headline in your link text (Article 11), a dismaying number of “creators groups” are supporting it, telling their members that this will be good for them and their flagging financial fortunes.

The real incomes of real creators are really important (disclosure: my primary income source comes from writing science fiction novels for Tor Books, a division of Macmillan). Improving the incomes of the creators who enliven our days, inform, shock, delight and frighten us is a genuine Good Thing.

And creators are not faring well: as both the entertainment industry and tech industry have consolidated, our power to negotiate for a fair slice of the pie has been steadily eroded. While it’s never been the case that the majority of people who wanted to be artists managed to make a career out of it, we’re also at a very low point in how much of the money generated by artists’ work finds its way into artists’ pockets.

Enter the Copyright Directive. Under Article 11, tech platforms are expected to send license fees to news companies, and the journalists whose work appears on news sites are presumed to get a share of these new profits.

But this will not happen on its own. A tax on linking means that smaller news sites — where writers are paid to analyse and criticise the news — will be frozen out of the market. They will face legal jeopardy if they link to the news they are discussing, and they will be unable to pay expensive linking fees geared to multinational tech platforms. Publishers have little incentive to negotiate licenses with small players – particularly if those writers wish to criticize the publisher’s work. Meanwhile, experience has shown that in the absence of competitive or legal pressure, news proprietors are more apt to disburse profits to shareholders, not journalists. The most likely outcome of Article 11 is fewer places to sell our work, and a windfall for the corporations who have been slicing our pay for decades.

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