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Freedom Rider: Oligarch Jeff Bezos

jeu, 01/18/2018 - 23:26

via Black Agenda Report

by Margaret Kimberley

“Republicans and Democrats alike are willing to turn over government coffers to Bezos and his ilk and the rights of the people be damned.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a net worth of $105 billion and is the richest man in the world. But he is not just the richest man at this moment in history. He is the richest person who has ever lived. As of 2017 he and seven other billionaires had a collective net worth equal to that of the poorest 3.6 billion people on earth.

These figures have been in the news of late but without much useful analysis. The corporate media refuse to state what is obvious. Namely that inequality is worse around the world precisely because these super rich people demand it.

While pundits and politicians go on breathlessly about oligarchs in Russia, they seldom take a look at the wealthiest in their own back yard and the control they exert over the lives of millions of people. When Amazon announced it would choose a site for its new headquarters cities across the country began a furious race to the bottom. Amazon is not alone in the thievery department. Major corporations like Walmart always request and receive public property and public funds in order to do business.

“Boston offering $75 million to Amazon while Houston is willing to part with $268 million.”

Some 235 cities have put themselves in the running for this dubious venture. Chicago is willing to give Amazon $1.3 billion in payroll taxes that prospective employees would ordinarily pay that city. If Chicago wins this booby prize Amazon employees would pay taxes to their employer and not to the government. This is truly cutting out the middle man and makes real the rule of, by, and for the wealthiest.

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The Alarming Rise of Virgin Care – and Branson’s threat to the NHS

jeu, 01/18/2018 - 18:06

This article was published on 11 January 2018 by the SolFed group in Manchester.

Good old Sir Richard Branson has once again managed to get himself to the front of the queue for state handouts. Having spent years channeling public money into massive profits at Virgin Rail, he is now turning his attention to milking the NHS. Figures released in January 2018 show that his company, Virgin Care, won a record £1billion worth of NHS contracts in 2017.

Added to already existing contracts, this means that Virgin Care now has over 400 separate NHS contracts. Funny how these arch free market capitalists, such as Branson, seem to be able to swallow their anti-state principles when it comes to claiming state subsidies. Good old Sir Richard even took this to the extent of suing the NHS in 2017 when Virgin Care lost an £82million contract. In the process he won an undisclosed sum that otherwise would have been wasted on treating sick people.

However, try not worry, capitalist pin up boy Branson’s love of the state does not extend to paying UK taxes. All his companies come under a single parent company, Virgin Group Holdings, based in the Virgin Islands, which just happens to be a tax haven. He has moved on since being prosecuted for tax evasion in 1971, learning quickly that it is OK not to pay taxes in the UK just as long as you wealthy enough and well enough connected.

Perhaps we are being a bit too cynical here; after all, when it was first disclosed that good old Sir Richard pays no UK taxes, he explained that he lived on his private Caribbean island, Necker Island, for health rather than tax reasons. No doubt he will bring this concern for health the NHS to ensure that Virgin Care runs its contracts in the same way Virgin Rail runs trains. The difference, however, is that the “customers” will pay the cost, not in terms of overcrowded and continually late trains, but rather in terms of damage to their health.

Nor should we run away with the idea that Branson’s failings are limited to Virgin trains. Behind the winning smile and easy manner, the country’s favourite entrepreneur has a long history of failed businesses. Virgin Cola, hailed by Branson in 1994 as the inevitable successor to Coca-Cola, has practically disappeared. Virgin Clothes, launched on the stock exchange in 1996, folded with losses to shareholders. Virgin Money was launched with a glitzy advertisement featuring Branson emerging naked from the sea, but did not deliver the expected big financial rewards. Then came Virgin Vie, Virgin Vision, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Wine, Virgin Jeans, Virgin Brides, Virgin Cosmetics and Virgin Cars, none of them fulfilling their creator’s inflated dreams.

Virgin Express, an airline based in Brussels, was intended to rival easyJet, but the original investors on the stock market lost their money. Similarly, the McCarthy brothers, who invested over £30m in V2, Branson’s second music company, lost all their money and faced personal bankruptcy. Australians who invested in the 2003 flotation of Virgin Blue, a no-frills airline, rewarded Branson with over £200m for a stake of his original investment. Initially the airline was successful, but soon after Branson pocketed the money, shareholders watched the share price fall. Similarly, plans in which GPs would be paid or, more accurately bribed for referring NHS patients to private Virgin services were abandoned in June 2008. The BMA warned that the plan would “damage clinical objectivity”, as there would be a financial incentive for GPs to push patients toward the Virgin services.

Nor is the problem limited to the fact that the only way good old Sir Richard seems able to make companies successful is by ripping off either the taxpayer or the investors. Over the years he has been involved some “underhanded business practices” – we can never use the term “criminal activities” when discussing what rich people get up to. For example, in 2006 competition authorities in both the UK and US investigated price-fixing activities by Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. British Airways was fined £271 million over the allegations while good old Sir Richard received no fine, which the Office of Fair Trading defended as being in the “public interest”, as Virgin Atlantic had cooperated in helping to prosecute British Airways.

Given good old Sir Richard’s dodgy record, you might be wondering why the Tories are handing over NHS contracts to Virgin. Well, there is a bit of a problem here. The Tories, for ideological reasons, hate the NHS; in fact they hate just about any human activity not motivated by greed and narrow self-interest. But they face a British electorate that steadfastly refuses to accept the free market orthodoxy that the level of health care received should be determined by the size of a person’s purse. Knowing that outright privatisation would result in electoral suicide, the Tories have embarked on a two stage privatisation. They are running the NHS into the ground by starving it of funds while, at the same time, slowly selling off the NHS a piece at a time.

The first part of the strategy is well underway with the NHS in a state of almost permanent crisis. At the time of writing, we are in the middle of the annual “winter crisis”. The aim of this state of permanent crisis is to slowly erode confidence in the NHS until a point where people feel there is little choice but wholesale privatisation. We are now constantly being told that the nation can no longer afford the NHS. The second part of the strategy is also beginning to pick up a pace. The figures for 2017 show that £3.1bn of NHS contracts were won by private sector companies, which represents more than two fifths (43%) of a total of £7.2bn in contracts tendered by the NHS, and outstrips the £2.55bn (35%) of tenders won by NHS trusts. Meanwhile, that other privatisation Trojan horse, the “not-for-profit” sector, won £1.53bn (21%) of contracts. Given this scale of privatisation, it is only a question of time before the NHS becomes a minority provider of health services.

In going about privatisation, the Tories have learnt a trick or two from that close friend of good old Sir Richard, good old Tony Blair, by keeping services free at the point of use while slowly privatising the service providers. The problem is that these privatised service providers often make a complete hash of things. There are numerous examples to choose from: Serco ended its contract to provide out of hours GPs after staff falsified data about its performance while Coperforma’s £63.5m takeover of non-urgent patient transport to hospital ended shambolically after patients awaiting dialysis and chemotherapy missed vital appointments. The point here is that, if the Tories’ privatisation plans are to work, you cannot have companies that take over NHS services continually fucking things up.

Enter man of the people and all round Mr Nice Guy, good old Sir Richard. Though his reputation may have been tarnished of late, the one thing Branson is good at, apart from making money, is public relations. A few well placed, well publicised donations to the right causes, along with the backing of the media, and it is not hard to see him regain his status as a national treasure, a national treasure at the head of an increasingly monolithic private health provider kept afloat by public subsidies and capable of challenging the dominance of the NHS. This, in other words, is a Tory wet dream, which might explain why Virgin Care won just under a third of the total number of NHS contracts awarded to the private sector in 2017.

As anarcho-syndicalists, we have many criticisms of the way the NHS works, not least its totally undemocratic structures. Though we favour a community controlled and run health service, we find the prospect of people’s health being handed over to the tender loving care of the likes of Branson utterly appalling. So be aware, if privatisation is not stopped and you are unfortunate enough to get ill, you may be faced with having to look at giant pictures of the smiling face of good old Sir Richard in the ambulance, in the hospital, in the operating theatre and, well, just about everywhere. Some might think death would be more preferable. Let’s hope for better luck next time good old Sir Richard crashes his hot air balloon!

http://www.solfed.org.uk/manchester/the-alarming-rise-of-bransons-virgin-care-and-the-threat-to-the-nhs

We’re Not Done Here

jeu, 01/18/2018 - 18:00

via Long Reads

by Laurie Penny

Oh, girls, look what we’ve done now. We’ve gone too far. The growing backlash against the MeToo movement has finally settled on a form that can face itself in the mirror. The charge is hysteria, moral panic, hatred of sex, hatred of men. More specifically, as Andrew Sullivan complained in New York magazine this week, “the righteous exposure of hideous abuse of power had morphed into a more generalized revolution against the patriarchy.” Well, yes. That’s rather the point.

Sullivan is far from the only one to accuse the MeToo movement of becoming a moral panic about sexuality itself, and he joins a chorus of hand-wringers warning that if this continues — well, men will lose their jobs unjustly, and what could be worse than that, really? The story being put about is that women, girls, and a few presumably hoodwinked men are now so carried away by their “anger” and “temporary power” that, according to one piece in the Atlantic, they have become “dangerous.” Of course — what could be more terrifying than an angry, powerful woman, especially if you secretly care a little bit more about being comfortable than you do about justice? This was always how the counter-narrative was going to unfold: It was always going to become a meltdown about castrating feminist hellcats whipping up their followers into a Cybelian frenzy, interpreting any clumsy come-on as an attempted rape and murder. We know what happens when women get out of control, don’t we?

Charges like this are serious. Too serious to dismiss out of hand. I don’t mean to do so, not least because I am a queer person, and I do not take the notion of sex panic lightly. Why, then, are so many people so anxious to believe that this is one? There is at least one simple answer. It is easier — much, much easier — to manufacture an attack on sexuality than it is to imagine an attack on patriarchy.

Sex is not the problem. Sexism is the problem, along with the upsetting multitudes of men and women who seem unable or unwilling to make the distinction. An attack on sexuality, however, will always find recruits from across the political spectrum as well as from armies of amoral keyboard droppers who just want to read about what celebrities get up to in hotel rooms. An attack on patriarchy, male supremacy, and sexual oppression — that is far harder to accept. It is far harder to allow. Easier to transpose it into a key of prurience and wait for the whole thing to stroke itself into exhaustion. But — forgive me — if you think this movement has blown its load already, you’ve no idea how women work, and you’ve no clue what’s coming.

***

Alright, ladies, you’ve had your fun, and you’ve given us all a fright — but that’s enough now. If we relegate this all-out revolt against male sexual entitlement to the kitchen shelf where it belongs, everyone would be a lot more comfortable — at least, the men in the room would be, and we all know that’s what really matters.

Just look at what happened to poor old Aziz Ansari. They warned us that this sort of thing was coming, and we didn’t listen. A famous and successful man in his 30s goes on a date with an unfamous woman in her 20s, they go home together, he pesters her for a shag, she isn’t strong enough to say no or slap him away like a real woman ought to, like women used to do back in the day, so like the snowflake she is, she gets upset and goes home — and we all know how this one goes. He wins an award, and she decides to take revenge. She goes to the press, the press report the encounter in cringeworthy suck-by-blow detail, the feminazi #MeToo hive-vagina takes over, the hysteria mill rattles into overdrive, and boom — just like that, his career is over. Now everyone’s calling the poor guy a monster and a rapist. He’s blacklisted from every network. He’ll never work again. Another fallen soldier in the sex wars. Predictable. Tragic. Just goes to show how weak modern women really are, how much they hate men and sex, how they always take things too far, how they never miss a chance to play the victim.

At least, that’s what it might’ve gone to show if any of that had actually happened. What actually happened was quite different.

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Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan

jeu, 01/18/2018 - 17:50

via CounterPunch
by Jonah Raskin

An associate professor of history at Georgia State University in Atlanta, with degrees from Michigan State and Columbia, John  McMillan is the author of the best book about the underground press. Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America (Oxford University Press) looks at the past though the lens of the present and the present though the lens of the past.

Written with panache and a keen appreciation of rebel journalists and reporters, McMillan’s book has appealed to both students and teachers and elicited praise from Tom Hayden, Susan Brownmiller—the author of a distinguished memoir about the Sixties —and Todd Gitlin, the author of the classic, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage.

This spring, Columbia University hosts a series of events to commemorate, memorialize and perhaps even abuse 1968. Fittingly, Professor McMillan kicked off the series with a talk in Butler Library in January titled “The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America.” The festivities at Columbia culminate April 27-28, with the return to campus of former student rebels including Mark Rudd. The following interview with McMillan was conducted by email just as he was preparing his talk.

Q: Has it struck you that the phrase “the underground press” was a misnomer since the newspapers weren’t produced, published and distributed clandestinely?

A: Yes, the “underground press” was a bit of a misnomer. The overwhelming majority of “underground newspapers” sold openly, at bookstores, newsstands and on the street. Some publications better deserve the underground label. GI publications during the Vietnam War were often published and distributed clandestinely. Fuck You! (A Magazine of the Arts), was a crudely mimeographed, poetry-centered magazine that Ed Sanders published and distributed secretly, in NYC’s East Village, from 1962-1965. You could get it from behind the counter at just a handful of stores.

Q: What do you think the phrase “underground press” initially meant to those who worked for it and those who relied on it for information?

A: The first underground papers—the Los Angeles Free Press, the Berkeley Barb, and the East Village Other— appealed to self-styled cultural outlaws, radical intellectuals, beatniks, eccentrics and artists. Underground papers could seem genuinely subversive, openly flouting society’s conventions and, by the late 1960s, they championed the revolutionary overthrow of the U.S. government.

Q: Some papers, such as The Oracle, seemed to care as much if not more about the look than the content. The design and the artwork made them a challenge to read and understand. Perhaps that was intentional since the papers were aimed at the cognoscenti. 

A: Yes, many of the papers associated with the counterculture produced very creatively designed layouts. Prose could be fitted around swirling drawings, and photo collages. And some of the papers used split-fountain printing techniques, which allowed them to blend colorful inks and create beautiful rainbow effects on their pages (no two of which were ever exactly alike). It was rumored that The Oracle received funding from Owsley Stanley, the infamous LSD chemist.

Q: I enjoyed The Seed and The Great Speckled Bird, for example, more than The Rat. Do you think it helpful to say that some papers where aimed at “freaks” rather than “hippies”?

A. I found the The Rat very interesting, when I was exploring radicalism on NYC’s Lower East Side, which is where The Ratwas produced. But it often had an ugly, angry, macho energy.

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Of “Shitholes” and Liberals

jeu, 01/18/2018 - 17:38

via Counterpunch

by Andrew Day

President Trump’s reported comment that the U.S. should block immigration from “shithole countries” was vile, and the outraged response is warranted.

But liberals have – not for the first time – utterly misfired in their counter-attack. One gets the impression that Trump’s remarks were repulsive because they were “vulgar,” and that his proposal would have been more digestible had it been palatably phrased.

Sensing this critique’s deficiencies, technocratic liberals explained that we should welcome Haitians because immigrants contribute to our wealth. Analyses of this sort tacitly assume we should outsource the crafting of immigration policies to neoliberalism itself, reducing human beings to arithmetical marks on a cold, cost/benefit ledger. More sentimental liberals have opined that individuals from troubled nations are ipso facto strong-willed, and so should be treated warmly. This is too ludicrous a psychological theory to be entertained by thinking people, and implies that immigrants who are frightened, vulnerable, and unable to cope without assistance should be denied our help on that basis.

So what is vile about the President’s remarks?

Consider the plight of Haiti, the Western hemisphere’s poorest country, which Trump singled out during his tirade. Haiti is not a “shithole,” but that hasn’t stopped the U.S. and other Western powers from crapping on it for centuries. Perhaps no single country better exemplifies the destruction wrought by Western Empire than Haiti. That sordid history is impactful, contemptible – and ignored.

After landing on Hispaniola in 1492, Christopher Columbus and his men all but exterminated the native population. Spain and later France thus had to import African slaves to cultivate the island’s plantations. In 1804, the Republic of Haiti was born from a black slave revolt in Saint-Domingue, against France, after centuries of colonial domination. Haitians designated their new nation a refuge for enslaved peoples everywhere, at a time when the U.S. president was a slaveholder who had repeatedly raped and impregnated his daughter’s fourteen-year-old chambermaid. Because white Americans feared their own slaves might get bad ideas, the U.S. refused to recognize Haiti’s legitimacy.

Under Woodrow Wilson, U.S. marines invaded Haiti to protect American business interests. The brutal occupation lasted until 1934, when President Roosevelt succumbed to Haitian opposition and allowed a military withdrawal. The U.S. retained a measure of control over its neighbor’s economy, ensuring Haiti’s national resources would primarily benefit its industrial interests. In the tumultuous decades since, Haiti has oscillated between democracy and military rule. It is a shameful fact that during Haiti’s years of tyranny and deprivation, the U.S. refused entry to Haitian refugees fleeing oppression, torture, and murder.

This heartlessness is not ancient history. In 2009, a year following the Clorox food riots (“named after hunger so painful that it felt like bleach in your stomach”) the Haitian Parliament unanimously raised the minimum wage to five dollars a day. This was unacceptable. Diplomatic cables reveal that Haiti bowed to intense U.S. diplomatic pressure to roll back the new wage, carving out an exception for textile manufacturing. Though the American embassy remained displeased that so exorbitant a wage was ever conceded to “the unemployed and underpaid masses,” the crisis was averted, and Haitian workers in garment factories today are paid a fourth of what Haitian families need to subsist. Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, Levi’s, Dockers, and Nautica benefit handsomely from U.S. interventionism. Haitians, however, do not.

Such uncomfortable details problematize the liberal reaction to Trump’s hateful comments. Consider the response from Hillary Clinton, who led the State Department during the U.S. assault on rising wages. Clinton sanctimoniously lamented that Trump’s comments were “ignorant,” and called on America to affirm its “commitment to helping our neighbors.” If “neighbors” refers to the people who live in Haiti, rather than to the sweatshop owners who serve U.S. interests, it is not clear what “commitment” she is referring to. Clinton has her own reasons to cover the history of U.S – Haiti relations in the warm glow of American exceptionalism. Others should not follow her lead. Trump’s proposal to deport Haitian refugees to their decimated home country is unacceptable precisely because we have not been very neighborly.

The Pollyanna response of liberals to the President’s crudity is consistent with the general myopia of anti-Trumpism. The standard liberal critique of Trump is primarily aesthetic, utterly eliding the historical admixture of racism, corporatism, and imperialism that constitutes the state he now heads. To more effectively oppose Trump’s anti-immigration agenda, we should begin to take responsibility for our role in immiserating Haiti and other countries. By doing so, we can more credibly show that it is the underlying rationale of Trump’s “America First” program – not his illiterate attempts to describe it – that deserves our contempt and opposition.

Andrew Day is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science and an Instructor of Chicago Field Studies at Northwestern University.

Manarchy Response, From the Authors

jeu, 01/18/2018 - 05:03

Our article from a few weeks ago entitled, “Stick It To
The Manarchy”
generated a lot of response
and enthusiasm. We have a response to the criticism,
clarifying a few points along with our analysis
of the dialogue.

People offered both positive and negative criticism, and
we have learned through this process. We
feel this dialogue is a vital element of a movement
dedicated to challenging oppression. We do not
claim that we are the most knowledgeable on these
issues, and we certainly haven’t escaped the
oppressive mindsets the system is based on. We make
assumptions that contribute to oppression,
but we are actively working to first recognize and then
change these assumptions in ourselves. We
are not claiming authority, or insisting that we are
right. Rather, we are sharing our thoughts in order
to engage in a learning process that
involves the greater community. This is why response
is so important. This is not a process we can
do alone.

Our criticism of manarchy and its implications is our
way of contributing to the dialogue.
Competitive, aggressive, elitist, and exclusive behavior
is contrary to our understanding of anarchist
ideals and practice. “Manarchy” is the term we use to
describe this behavior because it exemplifies
traditional male gender roles. Many people are
uncomfortable with the use of this word because it
suggests, contrary to our understanding, that only/all
men exhibit manarchist behavior. Because we
are not saying that manarchist behavior is inherent to
any particular sex, some people have
questioned the importance of associating it with a
specific gender. However, the conduct we
describe is the same behavior that men have
traditionally used to hold and justify their positions
of
power in a patriarchal society. The word itself is not
central to our point, and we are happy to hear
suggestions for alternatives.

MANY NOT ALL

People frequently pointed out that women can act
militantly. We agree. There are many dedicated
women who effectively use militant tactics.
Simultaneously, women are not exempt from what we
call “manarchy.” In our previous article, we should
have made this more clear.

People’s criticisms were based on our lack of clarity as
well as a more obvious mistake. After
quoting Slip’s analysis about “no compromise”, we used
the “universal” pronoun “his” for an
ungendered quote. This word choice reinforces the very
sexism and exclusion that we are trying to
dismantle. We are thankful that Slip responded, and
pointed out that we “are trapped in [our] own
confines of maleness as well.” We apologize and will
strive to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

We do not believe that militant behavior is specific to
men, nor any category of age, race, or
economic status. However, many people misinterpret our
message. For example, in Dave Hill’s
response he
quotes us as saying, “many women, people of color,
young and elderly do not have what it takes
[to participate in the manarchist revolution].” A few
sentences later he asks, “Is it productive here to
take all women, people of color, young and elderly out
of your analysis of ‘manarchy’? are
‘manarchists’ only white men?” (NYC Indy Media). Dave
takes our “many” and reinterprets it as
“all.” This word switch significantly changes our
intention by taking an observation and turning it
into a generalization about sex, race, and class and
it’s relationship to behavior. As we said above,
anybody can act militantly. In our previous article,
after our discussion of the term “warrior”, which
the dictionary defines as “a man”, we say “we urge the
warrior to direct his or her negative energies
at the system.” Yet, we’ve seen that most people who
act exclusive, competitive, and macho at
mass actions – the people who direct negative energies
towards other people in the movement – are
white, male, and often middle class. This is why we use
the word “many”. This belief could be
because of our backgrounds and we invite people to share
their observations.

A few responses questioned our criticism of the term
“warrior”. We recognize that the term can be
used in an empowering way. On the other hand, as one
collective writes, “As to your views on
‘manarchism’, they seem to correspond very closely to
our general criticism, discussed and
elaborated more than a decade ago, of the development of
the so-called ‘street-fighter’ political
(sub)culture, its roots, interdependencies
and consequences. We also call it ‘anarchist Ramboism’,
and identify its roots partly, just like you,
in the macho culture of the bourgeois society,”
(e-mail). The question is, are we reclaiming
“warrior” and revolutionizing its meaning or is
“warrior” merely a way to justify manarchist
behavior?

WE DO NOT OPPOSE MILITANCY

When we were writing the article we defined who we are
in order to show where we are coming
from. Among other things, we said that we are
anarchists, march in the Black Bloc, and are
supportive of direct action. This way, readers would
understand that we are writing a critique from
within the movement. We also felt pressured to “prove”
ourselves by listing our militant history, but
this would have fallen into the same trap that we are
criticizing. Because we didn’t dwell on our
militant history, many people who responded assumed we
are pacifists, “fluffy,” and/or against
militancy, despite our saying, “we are not critiquing
militant tactics, nor are we critiquing people who
use them.” Some not only assumed things about us, but
judged us according to those assumptions.
We wonder how our argument would have been received if
we had said that we’ve collectively
been to jail 4 times for 13 days, hit with batons 17
times, pepper-sprayed 5 times, tear-gassed
once, de-arrested 5 of our comrades, broken 2 windows,
led 1 police charge, and told a cop to
“fuck off” at least 212 times.

We support aggressive tactics if they are strategically
useful. We are fully aware of and endorse
tactical purposes of the black bloc including obscuring
identities and supporting those who are
willing to break the law. However, we do see a problem
when people use aggressive tactics and
then hold them up as trophies in order to claim
authority, or in order to indulge their own self-image
as better radicals. Our definition of manarchy includes
“acting macho, holier-than-thou, and elitist,”
but it is possible to be militant without being
manarchist. As we said, we have observed a specific
type of militancy that displays manarchist behavior and
is based on “battle wounds”, “toughness,”
“purity”, “insulting allies”, and not acting in
solidarity with people who use different tactics.
However, we agree with Slip that there is a “need of
militancy, defiance, and fundamental
subversion of the system.”

To clarify our position on no-compromise, we feel that
no one should compromise one’s ideals. If
you think you can survive without compromising
tactically, then do it. However, don’t ostracize
others for their tactical choices. We’re skeptical that
anyone can “not compromise.” How are we
going to get to the next mass action without
compromising? Train-hopping, stealing gas, bio-diesel,
and bicycling are not options for everyone. This is why
we question the abundant declaration of
“no-compromise”, and this is why we need a movement that
supports tactical diversity.

TOWARD A TACTICAL CRITIQUE

Constructive criticism is an integral part of building a
large, effective, and revolutionary movement.
Dialogue is important because it forces one to
reconsider one’s beliefs as well as learn about other
perspectives, evolving the politics of our movement.
One should consider what the specific critique
accomplishes and aim to not only improve the politics of
our movement but to also increase its
numbers. There are some potential problems in this
process; one wants to speak one’s mind, but
doesn’t want to alienate people. Thus, one must frame
criticisms carefully in ways that don’t
compromise the message and at the same time don’t insult
potential allies.

We also want to point out that although self criticism
is very important, the movement should not get
so caught up in it that we lose sight of our goals and
targets. While building a society without
oppression, we need to find a balance between internal
dialogue and actually changing the
structures of society.

In reading responses, we found our emotional reaction
was often determined by the way others
framed their argument. Many criticisms enabled us to
seriously consider whether aspects of our
position were flawed. On the other hand, many insulted
us. In these cases, there’s a part of us that
gets mad and wants to dismiss the entire response. It’s
difficult to be told that we are wrong and or
to be discounted as if we are not committed to anarchist
ideology. We are doing our best to not get
offended, to admit our faults, and work to improve
ourselves.

Through this process, it became clear to us how
important it is to clearly outline and explain
criticisms to each other. For example, we were told
“how dare you pontificate from the privallige
of your college room about the actions taken by those
most affected by the brutallity of everyday
living under capitalism,”(email). Referring to our
status as college students does not address the
actual content of the respondent’s criticism, and we
feel it is not constructive to invalidate our entire
argument because of who we are. Similarly, one person
responded by signing: “go to hell,” (nyc
indymedia). We understand our position may anger
people, and while we support self-expression,
insults do not help us reach an understanding of each
other’s convictions.

We also received several sarcastic messages. For
example, “Heretoo!,” at NYC-Indymedia,
mockingly writes, “We must exclude all manly men from
the movement. We must establish quotas
for inclusion of feminized males. All males seeking
entry into the movement must either prove their
femininity, or be administered adequate amounts of
estrogen until such time as that they can prove
that they are as wise, intelligent and all knowing as
oracles who penned this article. All males
presently in the movement must begin a self flagellation
process on the basis of their gender
immediately.” While such responses may be attempting to
give a useful critique of our article, they
result in alienating us from their messages. From the
sarcasm, we understand that “Heretoo!” does
not like what we say, but we don’t come to a deeper
understanding of the differences between our
perspectives.

Moreover, insults create an air of aggression and
hostility. This encourages a climate where we not
only tell allies to “fuck off” but generally dismiss
people and consider them unimportant. One
correspondent writes “The snarky responses your piece is
getting on Indymedia are just more
evidence of the need to challenge the entrenched
machismo of many activists” (e-mail). Our critique
of manarchy is like our critique of sarcastic and
purposely insulting feedback. We find them to be
alienating, divisive, and counterproductive. With this
dynamic, being in a consensus meeting, doing
jail solidarity, and putting our bodies on the line in
order to protect people is nearly impossible.

In addition to the way we were criticized, we sometimes
had a hard time understanding the
criticisms. “Methree” writes: “And some of the
aforementioned perpetrators were not only male
but white too! Oh the horror! Yes! ‘WHATEVER WORKS’
Right on.! What doesn’t work:
‘politically correct racism’ and stagnating the movement
with outmoded ‘identity politics.” (NYC
Indymedia). We understand that “Methree” takes a
different position than we do, but we don’t
understand what s/he’s talking about. In order to
improve we need to know what it is we are doing,
why it is bad, and how we can fix it. For example, it
would be useful to have identity politics
defined, see evidence of our “politically correct
racism,” and hear arguments against or for
“whatever works.”

More disturbing are the responses that deny our
experience that manarchy exists. In these cases,
critics reinterpret the examples we give. Anarchocommie
writes:

As to the person who claimed that anyone who is not
willing to get beat up, should not be in a
black bloc… I do not believe I was at whatever meeting
you are referring to, yet I suspect that the
rationale behind this persons statements were as
follows: the point of a black bloc (from a tactical
perspective) is to protect the identities of those who
are in them, since most people there are more
willing to engage in actions outside of the constraints
of the law, and which can generally be
described at confrontational…I think this was the
speakers point, not that we should all want to get
beat up, simply that we must recognize it as a
possibility and be willing to protect each other and at
the same time, engage in those confrontational actions”
(Indymedia).

Anarchocommie discounts our experience of manarchy and
responds as if we are inventing this type
of behavior, but our examples are based on first hand
experiences. We’ve seen this behavior in
people we work with as well as ourselves. However,
Anarchocommie finds it hard to believe that
manarchist behavior exists. Thus, in pure speculation
s/he reinterprets a quote from a meeting that
s/he knows nothing about. S/he takes our experiences
and makes it sound as if we couldn’t
possibly understand what the activist at the meeting had
said, discounting our experiences. Judging
from the responses to the article, we aren’t the only
ones who witness manarchist behavior. We
are certainly prepared to debate whether the examples we
give are accurate, but that is not our
point. We are saying that manarchy occurs and we want
to stop it. The examples are as much to
explain what we mean by manarchy as to expose the flaws
of specific behavior. If people
dogmatically discount the existence of our examples,
they are simultaneously ignoring our message.

We are pleased to have found such a large forum to
discuss these issues. As a movement, we must
be self-critical as a means of growth. We are excited by
the opportunity to dialogue with many new
people. We do not think that public discussion should
replace one on one conversations.
Unfortunately, we have not had time to personally
respond to the majority of comments that were
emailed to us. We appreciate the personal responses and
hope to be emailing people soon.

Let’s keep this discussion going.

In Solidarity,
Maggie, Rayna, Michael, and Matt,
The Rock Bloc.
c/o Student Action Collective
Annandale, NY 12504-5000
bardsac@riseup.net

The original article along with comments can be found at the following sites:
http://www.indymedia.org/display.php3?article_id=26866
http://nycap.indymedia.org/display.php3?article_id=213
http://nyc.indymedia.org/display.php3?article_id=2566
In order to protect the identities of people who emailed
us, we did not give their names.

Women would lose $4.6 billion in earned tips if the administration’s ‘tip stealing’ rule is finalized

jeu, 01/18/2018 - 03:53

via Economic Policy Institute

By Heidi Shierholz, David Cooper, Julia Wolfe, and Ben Zipperer

The Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed a rule that would make it legal for employers to pocket their workers’ tips, as long as they pay those workers at least the minimum wage. The proposed rule rescinds portions of longstanding DOL regulations that prohibit employers from taking tips.1 We estimate that if the rule is finalized, every year workers will lose $5.8 billion in tips, as tips are shifted from workers to employers.2 Of the $5.8 billion, nearly 80 percent—$4.6 billion—would be taken from women who are working in tipped jobs.3

DOL has masked the fact that this rule would be a windfall to restaurant owners and other employers—out of the pockets of tipped workers—by making it sound as if this rule is about tip pooling. Of course, once employers have full control of tips, one of the things they could do with those tips is distribute them to “back of the house” workers like dishwashers and cooks. But the proposed rule does not require employers to distribute the tips, so employers would be no more likely to share tips with back-of-the-house workers than they would be to make any other choice about what to do with a business windfall, including using the money to make capital improvements to their establishments, to increase executive pay, or to line their own pockets.

Many employers pocket tips even now, when it is illegal for them to do so (for example, research on workers in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York found that 12 percent of tipped workers had tips stolen from them by their employer or supervisor).4 The fact that illegal tip theft is so prevalent underscores that when employers can legally pocket tips, many will. And basic economic logic dictates that it is highly unlikely that back-of-the-house workers will get more pay. There is currently no limit to what these workers can be paid, so employers are already paying their back-of-the-house workers what they need to pay to attract workers willing to work in those jobs. If employers do share some tips with them, it will likely be offset by a reduction in their base pay, leaving their take-home pay largely unaffected.

The economic effects of this rule are as follows: (1) tipped workers will lose $5.8 billion a year in tips, (2) the take-home pay of back-of-the-house workers will remain largely unchanged, and (3) employers will get a $5.8 billion a year windfall. The $5.8 billion is 16.1 percent of the estimated $36.4 billion in tips earned by tipped workers annually and amounts to more than $1,000 per year on average across all tipped workers.5

Table 1 breaks down the $5.8 billion by gender and by race/ethnicity, and Table 2 breaks down the $5.8 billion by state.6 Table 1 shows that women working in tipped jobs would lose $4.6 billion annually as a result of the rule, while men working in tipped jobs would lose $1.2 billion. In other words, nearly 80 percent of the tips that would be taken by employers as a result of this rule would come out of the pockets of women and their families. (The specific share, calculated from unrounded numbers, is 78.7 percent.) Because women are both more likely to be tipped workers and to earn lower wages, this rule would disproportionately harm them.

Table 1 also shows that white non-Hispanic tipped workers would lose $3.5 billion, black non-Hispanic tipped workers would lose $480.2 million, Hispanic workers of any race would lose $1.4 billion, Asian workers would lose $382.5 million, and tipped workers who are of another race would lose $102.4 million. The differences among these groups can be attributed to several broad factors, including differences among the groups in number of tipped workers, amount of tips earned, and share of tips earned at or above the minimum wage (the last factor matters since, under the proposed rule, employers must pay workers the full minimum wage before they can legally take tips).7 There are likely many root sources of these underlying differences, including differences in job opportunities and pay, discrimination in tipping, and different concentrations of groups in states that allow employers to take large tip credits.

Read more

Welcome to the New Infoshop News Blog

jeu, 01/18/2018 - 03:20

We welcome you to the re-designed Infoshop.org and Infoshop News websites. We are still working on some loose ends and adding content, but we hope that you like our new look and fresh content. After 22 years of being one of the oldest, continuously publishing online news websites, we felt that it was time for a new look and other changes that will serve our readers and enable us to publish more. You can expect to see more content posted daily and more original journalism, analysis, and opinion published in the near future.

This blog will be a space for us to publish updates, musings, a few memes, and links to interesting stories being published around the Internet. Like many other publishers in 2018, we are shifting our focus away from corporate-controlled social media to publishing our own content on the open Internet.

Link-o-Rama

The Enigmatic Anarchist

mar, 01/16/2018 - 21:21

via Jacobin

An interview with Jacqueline Jones

Interview by Arvind Dilawar

ucy Parsons is often lionized as a pioneering black radical, a powerful writer and orator who championed workers’ emancipation through organizations like the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), while flouting racist conventions with her white husband, Albert Parsons.

But while this sketch carries the patina of truth, it is, like so many aspects of Parsons, rife with contradictions. Throughout her life, Parsons hid her background as an African American and a former slave, instead claiming she was of Mexican and Native American descent. She refrained from denouncing the plight of black workers, focusing almost exclusively on an urban working class composed primarily of European immigrants. And despite being a delegate at the founding convention of the IWW in 1905, her involvement with the radical union thereafter was minimal.

Yet her journey from slave to nationally recognized radical voice, her tireless advocacy for workers, and her undeniable bravery in the face of murderous state repression made her stand out in an era full of notable leftists.

Parsons largely faded from the popular imagination following her death in 1942. It wasn’t until 1976 that the first biography of her, Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary by Carolyn Ashbaugh, was published. The second — Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical by Jacqueline Jones — was just released by Basic Books. Jacobin recently spoke with Jones, a renowned historian at the University of Texas, about Parsons’s political evolution, her lifetime of tribulations, and her many, many faces.

The development of Lucy Parsons’s political ideology was entwined with that of her husband, Albert Parsons. As a teenager, Albert served in the Confederate Army, but he lacked any principled commitment to the Southern cause. After the war, Albert returned to Waco, Texas, and became active in the Republican Party. He played a major role in helping freedmen register and vote, and urged them to seize their rights as free and equal citizens. It was during this period that Albert realized he possessed considerable talent as a powerful, even fearless, orator. Gradually, he developed political ambitions, as evidenced by his attempt to curry favor with prominent Republicans in Texas.

He and Lucy married in 1872, when Republicans controlled the state government and (at least in some areas) approved of interracial marriage. The Democrats regained control of the state the following year, prompting the couple to flee to Chicago, where they settled in a German immigrant community. He worked as a printer, and she set up shop as a seamstress.

Albert and Lucy partook of German immigrants’ radical sensibilities and embraced socialism. Just as Texas Republicans challenged the powerful Democratic Party and its commitment to slavery, so Chicago socialists challenged both major political parties and their commitment to capitalism.

Read more

 

Could decentralized systems replace Google?

mar, 01/16/2018 - 20:24

via The Next Web

by AJ Agrawal

The internet is ruled by a small number of massive corporations. Roger McNamee, Co-founder of Elevation Partners on CNBC, says, “Google, Facebook, Amazon are increasingly just super-monopolies, especially Google … The share of the markets they operate in is literally on the same scale that Standard Oil had … more than 100 years ago—with the big differences that their reach is now global, not just within a single country.”

Google now owns over 90 percent of the search engine market, and many fear the growing possibility of monopolistic oppression. Free of competition, internet search is essentially wholly controlled by Google, which enables them to operate in an opaque, “do as they wish” manner.

Chrisjan Pauw talks about this reality in CoinTelegraph, describing how it is often hard for consumers to realize that “whenever we browse the internet, a lot of our personal information is tracked and logged in some shape or form. This information is then used in various ad campaigns that businesses pay huge sums of money for to be part of. These campaigns are translated into the invasive pop-up ads.”

Clearly, from the perspective of privacy and control, this is a negative user experience. The problem at a higher level is that we as a society default to trusting Google with our most important and confidential information. Centralized data-management networks, akin to today’s internet, place too much accountability on a single position of power, widening the threat of abuse, corruption and hacking.

As Ben Dickson writes in VentureBeat, “If the servers of these entities go down, we lose access to vital functionality. If they get hacked, we lose our data. If they decide to monetize our data in unlawful ways or hand it over to government agencies, we likely won’t learn about it. If they decide to censor or prioritize content based on their interests, we won’t be able to do anything about it.”

As a result, emerging blockchain technology, which effectively decentralizes large systems, has begun to attract attention as the potential answer to this privacy nightmare. Specifically, technologists are optimistic that the next generation of the internet could entirely supplant today’s infrastructure, bringing the benefits of distributed-powered networks to the masses. This decentralized web, dubbed Web 3.0, would spread the internet’s power load across a number of independent machines.

Read more

World accumulation & Planetary life, or, why capitalism will not survive until the ‘last tree is cut’

mar, 01/16/2018 - 16:22

via PM Press

By Jason Moore

Why does it seem easier to imagine the end of the world than to see the end of capitalism? Part of the answer turns on a rift between radical economic and ecological thought.

How does capitalism work through the web of life? How can we begin to understand capitalism not simply as an economic system of markets and production and a social system of class and culture, but as a way of organising nature?

I’ve argued that this is a co-produced relation, that capitalism makes nature and the web of life makes capitalism. But how do we come to terms with planetary ‘state shifts’ like climate change – dramatic, abrupt, and irreversible moments of planetary change?[1] That is, how do we understand the tendency towards both planetary crisis and accumulation crisis as two moments of a self-forming whole. We have an immediate problem because the way of thinking about these questions in the modern world, after five centuries of colonialism and scientific revolution and everything else, puts society in one box and nature in another. They interact – sort of – but they are very much in different spheres. The answer to these fundamental questions has to begin by acknowledging that the planetary state shift recognised by earth system scientists requires an intellectual and political state shift: a radical shift in how we think about the relations between humans and the rest of nature.

Capitalism and the ‘four cheaps’

Crucial to my thinking has been a family of ideas that seek to show how capitalism, from its early modern origins, has been not only a mighty producer of changes in the web of life, but also a product of that web of life, and of the totality of transformations between what is usually called society and nature. This means that modernity never masters or possesses nature. Capital not only never subsumes nature, but it has few effective mechanisms for managing its own nature in any given era. The web of life is unruly, rebellious, and has a way of continually upsetting the best laid plans of states, of capitalists, of scientists and engineers.

This is important because the new liberal craze for turning over global natures, including human natures, to market-oriented management represents an important break in the history of capitalism. Longstanding patterns of state and imperial governance of nature have produced a set of conditions of production which I call Cheap Nature. The Four Cheaps – labour power, food, energy and raw materials – are necessary to launch and sustain great bursts of capital accumulation. Today, capital is seeking profitable investment opportunities in a world in which there are really no more significant frontiers of Cheap Nature. These are not significant enough, in my view, to relaunch another golden age of capitalism.

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Why Is It So Hard for Americans to Get a Decent Raise?

mar, 01/16/2018 - 14:28

via Slate

By Jordan Weissmann

If you were a delivery van driver searching for a new job any time between the years of 2010 and 2013, chances are, you wouldn’t have found many businesses competing for your services. In Selma, Alabama, there was, on average, just one company posting help wanted ads for those drivers on the nation’s biggest job board. In all of Orlando, Florida, there were about nine. Nationwide the average was about two.

The situation for telemarketers wasn’t great either. In any given city or town, approximately three companies were trying to hire for their services. Accountants only had it a little better: Roughly four businesses were posting jobs for them.

Those numbers are based on the findings of a new research paper that may help unlock the mystery of why Americans can’t seem to get a decent raise. Economists have struggled over that question for years now, as wage growth has stagnated and more of the nation’s income has shifted from the pockets of workers into the bank accounts of business owners. Since 1979, inflation-adjusted hourly pay is up just 3.41 percent for the middle 20 percent of Americans while labor’s overall share of national income has declined sharply since the early 2000s. There are lots of possible explanations for why this is, from long-term factors like the rise of automation and decline of organized labor, to short-term ones, such as the lingering weakness in the job market left over from the great recession. But a recent study by a group of labor economists introduces an interesting theory into the mix: Workers’ pay may be lagging because the U.S. is suffering from a shortage of employers.

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MLK’s Advice on Strike Strategy Still Relevant Today

mar, 01/16/2018 - 05:47

via Labor Notes

by Rand Wilson

Toward the end of his life, Martin Luther King Jr.’s thinking about poverty evolved from racial equality to more of a class perspective. He proposed a Poor People’s Campaign to challenge the government to end poverty and a broad coalition to support it.

But building a coalition to back his program for economic justice proved more difficult than he imagined. It made his funders and even his closest advisors nervous. A proposed national march on Washington had to be postponed, and King was growing frustrated.

Sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, had been trying to get organized and win recognition from the city for years without success. After two workers were crushed to death in one of the garbage trucks, a majority of workers struck on February 12, 1968, for union recognition and a contract.

The strike had been going on for over a month with growing frustration. Incidents of violence were increasing, mostly provoked by the racist and brutal Memphis police.

King recognized that the strike provided an opportunity to demonstrate how the civil rights and economic justice movements could come together at the local level. He proposed bringing the Poor People’s Campaign to Memphis.

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What the “Santa Clausification” of Martin Luther King Jr. Leaves Out

lun, 01/15/2018 - 20:29

via The Intercept

by Zaid Jilani

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated annually on a federal holiday on the third Monday of January. Politicians across the political spectrum put out statements praising his life’s work, and children in classrooms across America are told the tale of a man who stood up defiantly against racism and helped changed civil rights law.

But what they don’t mention is that King was not just a fighter for racial justice, he also fought for economic justice and against war. And as a result, he spent the last years of his life, before being assassinated in 1968, clashing not just with reactionary Southern segregationists, but with the Democratic Party’s elite and other civil rights leaders, who viewed his turn against the Vietnam War and the American economic system as dangerous and radical.

This “Santa Clausification” of King, as scholar Cornel West calls it — the portrayal of King as a celebrated consensus seeker asking for common sense racial reforms rather than as an anti-establishment radical — downplays the risks one of America’s most revered activists took to live according to conscience.

The Backlash Against King’s Opposition to the Vietnam War 

While working alongside Democratic President Lyndon Johnson on civil rights issues, King was also increasingly disturbed by the war in Vietnam, and he would raise the issue privately with Johnson in White House calls and meetings. In April 1967, King decided to publicly denounce the war and call for its end. He gave a speech at Riverside Church in New York City where he called the U.S. government the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world” and denounced napalm bombings and the propping up of a puppet government in South Vietnam. He also called for a total re-examination of U.S. foreign policy, questioning capitalist exploitation of the developing world.

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NASA just made a stunning discovery about how fracking fuels global warming

lun, 01/15/2018 - 20:23

via Think Progress

by Joe Romm

A new NASA study is one final nail in the coffin of the myth that natural gas is a climate solution, or a “bridge” from the dirtiest fossil fuels to low-carbon fuels like solar and wind.

NASA found that most of the huge rise in global methane emissions in the past decade is in fact from the fossil fuel industry–and that this rise is “substantially larger” than previously thought. And that means natural gas is, as many earlier studies have found, not a climate solution.

Natural gas is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas. And methane emissions are responsible for about a quarter of the human-caused global warming we’re suffering today.

Read more

The Postmodern Left and the Success of Neoliberalism

lun, 01/15/2018 - 04:24

by Scott Jay

The rise of neoliberalism across the globe for decades, and its continued resilience since the 2007-2008 financial crisis in particular, forces us to ask why there has not been a more successful resistance against it.

We might start with the changing structure of the working class, especially in the West, and that would be worthwhile, but it is not as though neoliberalism has abolished working class resistance entirely. It is not as though there have not been multiple general strikes in Greece, for example. Additionally, the United States just recently saw a series of urban rebellions against police killing Black people, with buildings set on fire and police cars destroyed in revolt against the conditions imposed upon them by the state. Many of the participants have since been convicted of arson and other crimes and are now serving out years-long prison terms.

The problem is not that militancy is not possible or even at times imminent. Working class people in the US have shown great courage against police terrorism, and in Greece refused to accept yet another round of austerity even with European capital holding their economy hostage.

The alternate question to ask, then, is why has the Left specifically failed to resist neoliberalism?

Uncomfortable truths

We might answer this question in dozens of ways, one answer for each Left that exists. But the failure of SYRIZA in Greece to resist yet another wave of austerity measures-in fact to embrace austerity-sharpens and clarifies the problem, posing uncomfortable truths.

That is, perhaps the Left hasn’t failed to resist neoliberalism. Perhaps it has not even tried.

Wasn’t SYRIZA a decade-long project to build up an alliance of radicals in response to the collapse of social democracy into neoliberalism? It certainly seemed so at the time, probably to its participants most of all. And yet the entire project collapsed so immediately and so spectacularly, going from the cutting edge of the international Left to the symbol of all that is wrong with it, in less than a week.

The defining moment of SYRIZA and of the international Left of the current generation occurred in the early morning hours of July 11, 2015. Many histories will forget this detail as just one of many parliamentary sessions, yet this was by far the most significant. In this moment, just days after the spectacular “Oxi” vote by the Greek people rejecting austerity, their parliamentary representatives chose to embrace it. With 149 seats in parliament, only two members of the radical coalition of the Left dedicated to ending austerity found themselves voting “Oxi” along with the people they claimed to represent. It was a stunning moment that no radical should forget for the rest of their life, unless they simply want to repeat these exciting failures over and over indefinitely.

Certainly, the votes improved later in the month, but the collapse of July 11 should not be so easily forgotten. For a brief moment we saw the crux-or one of the cruxes-of the problem of the international Left.

In short, these members of SYRIZA were more committed to the image of SYRIZA as a united coalition of the radical Left than they were in actually opposing austerity when the opportunity to do so was right in front of them. They recoiled from reality and its consequences and embraced the image of what they had built instead. This is the Postmodern Left in practice.

In the face of unrelenting neoliberalism, the international Left has embraced postmodernism, not in theory but in practice, putting style over substance and feel good moments and flashy leaders over the brute reality of resisting capitalist exploitation. The Postmodern Left does not reject metanarratives or objective reality in theory. In fact it embraces the metanarrative of its own centrality to altering the course of history, but when it finds itself at the center of historical development, then history is treated like an ethereal, formless blob that nobody can make any sense of. It simply happens, and no options are possibly available that can shape it. Once the Left is placed in the driver seat, there is no alternative other than to passively participate in the machinations of the system. Anything else is just too difficult

The Postmodern Left avoids building actual power among the poor and the oppressed, instead focusing on self-promotional spectacles which feel like struggle and power but are entirely empty.

The Postmodern Left talks about “class struggle unionism” then carries out pension reform in the name of a balancing the budget and then insist that they never supported any such thing because words are meaningless and have no relationship to objective reality.

The Postmodern Left is detached from reality because it makes its own reality.

The Postmodern Left does not believe in postmodernism. The Postmodern Left is postmodernism.

The material roots of Postmodern Leftism

The Postmodern Left is not the result of the declining relevance of objective reality. On the contrary, it has a solid material base from which it arises, and to which it is shackled, specifically in the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) form. Under neoliberalism, the destruction of social welfare programs and other sources of stability for working class people have been replaced by services granted by NGOs, funded by foundations and governmental grants as well as directly from corporations. This organizational form has extended beyond the service sector and into the Left itself, where protest movement organizations can build up an infrastructure of full-time staff members through many of these same grants. The problem for NGOs, then, is to challenge the status quo without challenging the elite sources which fund the operation. This has proven to be an impossible problem to solve, and instead NGOs have served to reproduce neoliberalism rather than challenge it.

A few examples will illustrate this.

The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung is a global network of organizations based in Berlin and New York that celebrates the life of Rosa Luxemburg, a Polish revolutionary best known for her role in the German socialist movement as a critic of its support of electoral reformism and imperialism. She was later killed by her reformist comrades when they came to power. Meanwhile, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung has taken her name while supporting the the United Nations and hailing the electoral victory of Alexis Tsipras after he embraced austerity. Her name has become little more than a tool for garnering funding.

DeRay McKesson is an activist who rose to prominence during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, especially in Ferguson, MIssouri. While he is known as an activist, few people can point to what he has accomplished beyond amassing an enormous Twitter following and gaining the accolades of the corporate media. McKesson was also a school administrator associated with Teach For America, a pro-corporate school “reform” organization which weakens teachers’ unions by supplying schools with inexperienced, low-cost and temporary teachers fresh out of college. More recently, McKesson quit his job to become a “full-time activist” working with the Democratic and Republican parties, Twitter and other corporate sponsors to host presidential debates. In short, DeRay McKesson is not really a left-wing militant, but at times he sure looks like one. The problem is, there are so many McKesson’s on the activist scene, typically much less tied to corporate interests than he is, that it can be difficult to discern the difference between a “real” militant and “fake” one.

A group of non-profit organizations recently held a housing and tenants rights conference in Oakland, California. This is a city where two-bedroom apartments regularly rent for $2,000 or more and the Black and Latino working class is rapidly being displaced. One of the sponsoring organizations was recently bargaining with the City of Oakland over a $320,000 contract to oversee Oakland’s Day Laborer Program, which supplies low wage immigrant labor to various employers. Meanwhile, one of the speakers at the conference plenary session declared the enemy to be no less than the capitalist system itself. Recently deposed mayor Jean Quan, who was sitting in the audience and maintains a close alliance with many of the organizers, did not bat an eye at such a statement, and neither will anybody in Oakland City Hall, because this is all just window dressing to create the illusion of radicalism. Nobody who takes $320,000 from the city is going to threaten the political alliances that helped them garner it, no matter how loudly they proclaim their opposition to capitalism.

The Left exists in the general milieu of NGO activism created by such organizations. That is, not all radicals have to succumb to the NGO form, they merely need to adapt to the activism led by NGOs, which is the appearance of militancy, in order to build up a base of support and win reforms, without the substance of militancy, in order to avoid embarrassing important funding sources and allies. In short, the image of something that seems fundamentally revolutionary-Rosa Luxemburg, and the urban rebellions against police terror-can be used by people whose aims are totally compatible with neoliberalism.

The Postmodern Left does not need to take money from the City of Oakland, or even have a tax-free status. It merely needs to confuse such activism as a challenge to the system without identifying its severe limitations. And why would anybody do that? Because this sort of activism is so exciting! And everybody else is doing it. And being the sole figure in the room who says there is something wrong here is a terribly lonely place to be, especially when you are attempting to build a base or recruit people or just mobilize people around anything at all in the hopes that something will be a basis for future struggle. But instead of struggle we get the performance of struggle.

Anybody who attended one of the larger meetings of the British Socialist Workers Party in the past will be aware of the performative aspects of this organization. Having failed to build a workers party during its decades of existence, it must create a performance as though it is a workers’ party, otherwise workers won’t join it, capped off with chanting “The workers united will never be defeated!” Who they are chanting to is unclear. There are no bosses nearby, so it is more likely directed to the workers in attendance, or perhaps just to the party faithful to remind themselves of their commitment to the working class. It is not as though they are not committed-they certainly believe they are-rather the problem is that their commitment is a performance. Rather than build a workers party, they simulate one in the hopes that the workers will join it.

The Postmodern Left is the simulation of a Left, with all of the chants, banners and other paraphernalia of a militant Left with few to none of the acts of resistance. It simulates struggle, basks in the glorious imagery, then wonders why it never achieves victory, which is impossible unless there is an actual battle. Most of the time these battles will end in defeat, so the Postmodern Left accepts the happy illusion over the sad reality. Of course, working class people cannot ignore the bitterness of their own lived reality, but the Postmodern Left generally does not inhabit this world so it is not a problem for them.

On the one hand, Postmodern Leftism has completely failed to challenge neoliberal austerity measures. On the other hand, we can see that full-time staff of the Postmodern Left has done a spectacular job of staving off austerity once we realize that the only jobs they are committed to protecting are their own.

Postmodern social movements

Arun Gupta discussed the postmodern method behind many social movements, describing the People’s Climate March in 2014, a stunning victory of style over substance. He noted that there were “no demands, no targets,and no enemy. Organizers admitted encouraging bankers to march was like saying Blackwater mercenaries should join an antiwar protest. There is no unity other than money.”

How could a march of hundreds of thousands be made so powerless? Because it was run by NGOs committed most of all to continuing their own stream of revenue. All that was necessary was the image of a mass march, the feeling that we are doing something. That this was entirely inadequate to the problem at hand-saving the planet from destruction by capitalism-is not so much a problem if your real goal is to get donations, sell books and set up speaking engagements. In other words, this is not struggle but merely marketing in the form of struggle. It is merely a simulation.

Or, as Gupta described the logic:

Branding. That’s how the climate crisis is going to be solved. We are in an era or postmodern social movements. The image (not ideology) comes first and shapes the reality. The P.R. and marketing determines the tactics, the messaging, the organizing, and the strategy.

One of the most blatant current examples of illusory struggle is the Fight for Fifteen campaign, particularly at the national level, which has led thousands of low-wage workers in strikes against fast food employers. Or have they? One participant describes her experience: “In Miami, I’ve attended Fight for $15 demonstrations in which the vast majority of participants were paid activists, employees of NGOs, CBOs (Community Based Organizations), and union staff seeking potential members.” In fact, many people who have attended these actions will look around and ask, who is really on strike here? There are certainly people who risk their jobs to participate, but in many cases the hundreds of people who attend one of these “strikes” are simply supporters of the idea of low-wage workers striking. The striking workers are far and few between, with a small handful designated as media spokespeople and none others identified at all.

Jane Macalevy is a former staffer with the Service Employee’s International Union (SEIU), the union which runs the Fight for Fifteen in the background, but quietly in order to maintain the image of a worker-led campaign. She has described how illusory this campaign really is: “The problem is that there isn’t any depth to the Fight for 15 campaign. We call it the Berlin Rosen campaign: one hot-shot media firm that’s gotten something like $50 to 70 million from SEIU to paint, through social media, the illusion of a huge movement.”

Berlin Rosen is a public relations firm employed not only by SEIU but also by the current Mayor of New York City and was involved in the bankruptcy of Detroit, the belly of the beast of neoliberalism. They were also employed by the leadership of the United Auto Workers to convince Chrysler employees to accept a contract after these same employees rejected an earlier one that did not go far enough in cancelling the two-tier wage system. In this case, postmodern activism and neoliberalism are one and the same. Berlin Rosen proves, if nothing else, that there is good money to be made in postmodern social movements.

SEIU has since endorsed Hillary Clinton, who does not support a $15 per hour minimum wage. Meanwhile, the most recent Fight for $15 strike ended with appeals to get out the vote in 2016-we can imagine for whom-and has shifted its campaign slogan to “Come Get My Vote.” That is, the movement is being openly positioned to being co-opted by the Democratic Party. This is not usually how a national workers’ rebellion plays out, but might be how a simulated one could be directed.

Richard Seymour described the empty, feel good activism, in which the good feelings of people finally able to express their opposition to the horrors of neoliberalism overcomes the question of what can we do to actually stop these things. Why ask these difficult questions when it feels so good just to finally be marching?

It was, indeed, a joyous occasion[Seymour writes of a march against austerity]. The people thronged into streets barely big enough to contain them, and chanted and sang in notes of cheerful defiance. Those who claim that such events are ‘boring’ are wrong in point of fact, and give the impression of political thrill-seeking. We all had a lovely time. And this was precisely the problem.

A minimum condition for sentience on the left is an awareness that this protest is itself evidence of at least five years of catastrophic failure. There is something powerfully and stunningly incongruous in the subjectivity of a left marching as if in recreation, when we know we are also mourning for the casualties and the dead. It suggests that we don’t really mean business. It suggests that, rather than wanting to shake the walls and pillars to the earth, we want to grab some ice cream and go home.

What Seymour describes is the problem posed by February 15, 2003, the high point of postmodern activism, when millions around the globe marched against the war in Iraq in possibly the largest day of demonstrations in world history. Millions of people flooded the streets and for many it felt like the most empowering moment of their lives, and yet how little power we actually had. Of course, millions of people have an enormous amount of power, but not when they just stand there on the street, even if they are carrying a banner or wearing a political t-shirt. The Postmodern Left can still be heard, from time to time, saying how we nearly stopped the war in Iraq. Nothing could be further from reality, but reality does not bother the Postmodern Left.

“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living,” wrote Marx in the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. In this case, it’s more like a daydream, a fantasy of struggle with all the imagery of resistance and none of its substance. If this is all we can do, and no more, then we are utterly lost.

Some people have been grappling with the problem posed by February 15 for the last decade. Others are perfectly content to repeat this same process over and over again, as it allows them to continue selling books, booking speaking engagements, recruiting people to their organizations and funding their non-profit organizations. These machinations can continue indefinitely and are entirely compatible with the capitalist system. One can make can make quite a satisfying career and lifestyle as a revolutionary of sorts, so long as it is all within the confines of the Postmodern Left.

SYRIZA’s Postmodern Neoliberalism

If this is the age of illusions, then the rise of SYRIZA in Greece must be the penultimate illusion. Sadly, but predictably, the SYRIZA bubble has been popped and we have all been forced back down to reality. Since SYRIZA’s acceptance of austerity, former SYRIZA Central Committee member Stathis Kouvelakis has written a number of autopsies of what was once the SYRIZA dream. In one especially revealing statement, he notes how so many moves by SYRIZA were so contrary to what any radical Leftist would accept.

For example, he notes the acceptance of an early agreement on February 20, 2015, to extend the bailout, well before the July capitulation:

Its first and most immediate consequence was to paralyze the mobilization and destroy the optimism and militancy that prevailed in the first weeks after the January 25 electoral victory. Of course, this downgrading of popular mobilization is not something that started on January 25 or February 20, as a consequence of a particular governmental tactic. It is something that was preexistent in Syriza’s strategy.

This is the exact opposite of what was supposed to happen, but the facade had to be maintained. Kouvelakis then notes the rapid decline of internal democracy in SYRIZA in the last few years.

What we saw being constructed after June 2012 – step by step but systematically – was a party form increasingly leader-centered, centralized, and detached from the actions and the will of the membership. The process went entirely out of control when Syriza went into government.

None of this should be unexpected. These are the well known consequences of electoral strategies, which Marxists have been aware of for a century, since the capitulation of European Social Democracy to World War One and repeated many times since. Yet, eager Marxists the world over looked to SYRIZA as something different, but it was merely the illusion of something different. In the end, it was exactly the same sort of radical electoral strategies of the past, but the appeal that these plucky Marxist intellectuals and activists could take on the European powers was far too seductive. In SYRIZA, the international Left saw itself, and could not imagine that it, too, might collapse in much the same way under similar circumstances.

The problem is that these strategies appeal to a certain brand of Leftist occupying a certain social position-specifically, intellectuals and NGO leaders-including those who have spent their careers explaining the limitations of electoralism. The appeal of electoral glory is simply too great for these people to be withstood against a rock-solid critique of reformism.

After July 11, no serious Leftists can ever, for the rest of their lives, look a prominent left-wing figure in the eye and take their promises at face value. We just cannot take ourselves seriously if we continue to pretend that lofty promises from self-important, self-selected leaders can be trusted. And yet, this is precisely what the Postmodern Left will continue to do, assuring everybody that no, this next project is not an other SYRIZA, even though they almost certainly said the some sort of thing about SYRIZA itself.

Greece has had dozens of general strikes over the last few years and some even predicted that the working class might rise up in response to SYRIZA’s capitulation. There was even a one-day general strike of public sector workers carried out the day that the first round of austerity was approved by the Greek parliament on July 15. Surprisingly, this general strike seemed to have no impact whatsoever on parliament. “The fight is now on,” heralded one breathless commentary announcing the impending strike. “It is not off: it’s the period of shadow boxing that is over.” The strike came and went, but the mere shadow boxing continued.

We are left to wonder whether or not working people can challenge their own governments if even a general strike cannot alter the course of history. There is, of course, an alternate explanation, which is that at least some of these may have been mere simulations of general strikes, turned on and then turned off by the union leadership with little threat of disrupting much beyond halting a days’ work, after which order was fully restored, if it was ever even threatened in the first place.

If we cannot tell the difference between simulation and reality, we risk descending from a healthy pessimism over the current state of affairs into believing that working class struggles can have no impact simply because it deceptively appears that they don’t.

Simulation hits reality

SYRIZA played out like a simulation of Marxist theory. The collapse of social democracy required a new electoral force to take its place. In stepped SYRIZA, an electoral alliance that assured everyone that they were actually going to take on the financial powers in Europe. Marxists around the world who have documented in detail how social democracy has flailed and decayed for decades suddenly believed that yes, this electoral reform project would succeed, and no, there was no reason why it was any different than the failures of the past. Without a “fake” Marxist Left-the Stalinists, reformists and other revisionists of the past-the “real” Marxist Left stepped in to take its place, heralding the dawn of a new age in Europe, for a few exciting months anyway.

It can seem impossible at times to tell the difference between the real and the fake, the simulation and reality, but ultimately we do not live in a postmodern world. We simply live in a world where so many on the Left act as though it is. Nonetheless, all of these simulations do eventually confront the brute material forces of reality, and suddenly the complete inadequacy of the simulated Left-not just in SYRIZA but across the board-is laid bare for all to see. Eventually, a Ferguson or a Baltimore revolts and the irrelevance of the Postmodern Left to the project of organizing working class resistance is made completely clear.

If there is any way out of this rut, it is to reject the spectacle and the simulation in favor of substantive material resistance. The feel good moment of triumph with a hollow center, the exuberant meetings and chants that people remember for the rest of their lives, just might be an obstacle toward building something with actual power. The image of revolt, and even talk of socialism and-hold onto your seats!-“political revolution” coming from the Bernie Sanders campaign for President will go nowhere. It is the courageous act of resistance and the rein of terror that it must face in response from the neoliberal state that transforms a class into a force for rebellion.

In short, if social movements do not directly hurt the people in power-and not just mildly embarrass them-or empower the exploited and oppressed-and not just temporarily mobilize them-then it may not be a worthwhile strategy. It may simply feel like one.

In other words, if it feels good, don’t do it.

We may struggle to see past the illusions from our current vantage point. No doubt, we will find ourselves in the trenches of class war, only to look outside and realize that the entire spectacle has been constructed by a charlatan. This will continue to happen, so long as neoliberal capitalism provides career opportunities for charlatans, as it no doubt will.

There is a great need, then, to breakdown the facade, to no longer allow the false images of resistance that surreptitiously enable neoliberalism and distract from the fundamental project of resistance. The SYRIZAs of the world will insist that this is counterproductive to their project. And that is exactly the point.

Scott Jay is an independent socialist living in Oakland and was previously active with Occupy Oakland. Republished from libcom.org.

If you enjoyed this piece then we recommend “A Blueprint for a Party of an Old Type” also by Scott Jay and “A Socialist on City Council: A Look at the Career of Kshama Sawant” by Micheal Reagan.

http://blackrosefed.org/postmodern-left-neoliberalism/

What Abbey’s ‘Desert Solitaire’ means in these trying times

lun, 01/15/2018 - 04:05

via High Country News

Fifty years ago, Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire was published to decent reviews but little fanfare. “Another book dropped down the bottomless well. Into oblivion,” wrote a disheartened Abbey in his journal Feb. 6, 1968.

Yet it has remained in print for a half-century and created a devoted following. As President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke carved 2 million acres out of Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase-Escalante national monuments, both in the heart of “Abbey Country,” Desert Solitaire remains more relevant today than ever.

An account of Abbey’s time as a ranger in what is now Arches National Park, Desert Solitaire is both memoir and a passionate defense of our nation’s last unspoiled land. In spirit, though, his book resembles a 1960s nonfiction novel. Sometimes howlingly funny, it compresses the two postwar decades Abbey spent in Utah and Arizona into a single “season in the wilderness.”

“Do not jump in your automobile next June and rush out to the canyon country hoping to see some of that which I have attempted to evoke in these pages,” he famously wrote. “In the first place, you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail, you’ll see something, maybe. Probably not. In the second place most of what I write about in this book is already gone or going under fast. This is not a travel guide but an elegy.”

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Climate Change Made Me Do It: Activists Press The `Necessity Defense’

lun, 01/15/2018 - 03:59

via Forbes

by Daniel Fisher

On Sept. 23, 2016, a group of protesters blocked a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train carrying coal in Spokane, WA, to prevent the earth from warming up. From a scientific standpoint, the action was absurd: Stopping a single trainload of coal could hardly have any more impact on global climate change than the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings in Tanzania.

As a piece of a political theater, it may have been more effective. The blockage by Rev. George Taylor and other members of groups called Veterans for Peace and Raging Grannies garnered widespread press coverage.

And the protest may trigger a legal revolution as well. In a hearing tomorrow, a judge in Spokane is expected to hand down a written ruling allowing Taylor to argue he had no choice but to stop the train.

Judge Debra Hayes has already indicated she’ll allow Taylor, a Lutheran pastor, to present the so-called “necessity defense” to defeat state charges of criminal trespass. Her formal order would clear the way for him to bring in NASA scientists and other climate experts to try to convince a jury he had no reasonable alternative to halt human-induced global warming.

The Spokane trial is one example of how activists are retooling the centuries-old necessity defense to justify increasingly aggressive protests designed not just to raise awareness of the risks of burning fossil fuels, but to prevent their movement across the country. An old doctrine, the necessity defense allows defendants to argue they broke the law to prevent a greater harm from occurring, like the captain who ordered a customer’s cargo thrown overboard to prevent his or her ship from sinking.

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America is spiritually bankrupt. We must fight back together

lun, 01/15/2018 - 03:14

via The Guardian

by Cornel West

We live in one of the darkest moments in American history – a bleak time of spiritual blackout and imperial meltdown. Exactly 25 years ago, in my book Race Matters, I tried to lay bare the realities and challenges to American democracy in light of the doings and sufferings of black people. Back then, I reached heartbreaking yet hopeful conclusions. Now, the heartbreak cuts much deeper and the hope has nearly run out.

The nihilism in black America has become a massive spiritual blackout in America. The undeniable collapse of integrity, honesty and decency in our public and private life has fueled even more racial hatred and contempt.

The rule of Big Money and its attendant culture of cupidity and mendacity has so poisoned our hearts, minds and souls that a dominant self-righteous neoliberal soulcraft of smartness, dollars and bombs thrives with little opposition.

The escalating military overreach abroad, the corruption of political and financial elites at home, and the market-driven culture of mass distractions on the internet, TV, and radio push toward an inescapable imperial meltdown, in which chauvinistic nationalism, plutocratic policies and spectatorial cynicism run amok.

Our last and only hope is prophetic fightback – a moral and spiritual awakening that puts a premium on courageous truth telling and exemplary action by individuals and communities.

The distinctive features of our spiritual blackout are threefold.

First, we normalize mendacity and naturalize criminality. We make our lies look like the normal order of things. And we make our crimes look like the natural order of things. We too often say Wall Street is a good servant – rather than a bad master – of the common good. Then we look away from the criminal behavior of big banks because they are too indispensable to prosecute.

We deny that drone strikes are killing innocent people abroad. Then we overlook killing lists on Terror Tuesday at the White House, when a president and his staff can decide to kill people without any legal procedure, including, sometimes, US citizens.

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El Salvador’s Worst Shitholes Are ‘Made in America’

lun, 01/15/2018 - 02:00

via Latino Rebels

by Roberto Lovato

My journalist’s hiking boots still have leftover feces and dirt from the ultimate shitholes of El Salvador: its mass graves. Many of the thousands of graves that my sources there have mapped were dug by U.S.-trained and funded security forces in the 80s. Most of the rest were dug more recently by L.A.based-gangs steadily deported to El Salvador by U.S. immigration authorities since the 90s.

President Trump’s characterization of Africa, Haiti and El Salvador as “shitholes” disturbed me, but I wasn’t sure why. The comments were made during a discussion about the temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands of Salvadoran, Haitian and other immigrants Trump had just rescinded. In search for an answer, I went home and pulled out and studied my boots , which were tattered after too many visits to mass graves, mass graves with the remains of Salvadorans—in El Salvador, in Mexico and in the deserts of south Texas. Wearing my hiking boots during visits to numerous sites along this chain of devalued life led me to the conclusion that mass graves were the ultimate shitholes.

What made me most uncomfortable was less about Mr. Trump’s choice of word than how he used it: he mistook the shithole part for the whole country. Trump’s rhetorical fallacy feels like a cover-up, a distraction from the fact that El Salvador’s mass graves contain fingerprints and other evidence that point to the United States as an accomplice to the mass murder and violence that created them. Viewed from this perspective, Trump’s “shithole” comment said in words what all US presidents have said with their policies towards countries like Haiti and El Salvador.

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Protest against US involvement in the Salvadoran Civil War in Chicago, Illinois, in March 1989 (Linda Hess Miller/ Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

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