Thursday, August 25, 2016

Barack Obama, in the driving seat of the capitalist offensive

  1. The Green candidates stood their ground against the enemy.
Note: I am responding here to an article in Counterpunch that was posted in a Facebook group I'm in. It is too long which is why I put it here.

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I am opposed to racism and all forms of discrimination. But what is lacking here in is any mention of capitalism or a class analysis at all. He refers to the mouthpiece of US capitalism, Chris Cuomo attacking Green Party Vice President candidate Ajuma Baraka, for calling Obama an Uncle Tom. I expect nothing less from this individual as the Green ticket is a threat to capitalism. He even attacks him on the grounds that he is racist. I could tell a story about work with regarding to that but later.

Mr Draister writes: “Does anyone doubt that, from a purely objective perspective, President Obama has indeed abdicated his responsibility to improve the political, economic, and social lives of Black Americans?”

Of course not. But why would the author think that Obama had any responsibility to black people? Obama is a slick representative of US capitalism and the deterioration of the conditions among the black population in the US as well as the conditions of women, men and all workers, including workers in Europe and around the world, is part of the global offensive of capitalism, and Obama is a leading figure in that offensive.

But capitalism doesn’t exist at all for Mr, Draitser. 
It’s as if black people are exempt from class relations and there's no black capitalist class. The black population in the US is already suffering additionally for reasons that are obvious, centuries of racism and exclusion not to mention a few centuries of labor that received no wages. It's a given that the capitalist offensive hits them harder.

I defend Ajuma Baraka against any attacks from a mouthpiece of the white racist capitalist class like this Cuomo character despite his phony demeanor. I do not know a lot about Baraka's politics but he a black man in the US and I am aware he has publicly savaged the brutality and hypocrisy of US society. He will face a racial assault for this from their media and its flunkies like Cuomo. But Obama is a consummate bourgeois politician doing his job. He is not a beaten down defeated individual seeing only subservience to white masters, he is leading politician of the ruling class and will defend his class interests.

Obama is not passive and subservient at all. And he does not kill Iraqi’s because they are black or brown; it is a political question. Ireland was a semi colonial country until the late 60’s due to British colonialism. The Irish have white skin. They were not invaded and occupied for 500 years (including today in the 6 northern Counties) because they’re Catholic, attacking their religion was a means to colonizing the land and its wealth and oppressing the native population using violence and resting on Protestants it settled there. Ireland was the first country British capitalism colonized as it brutalized its own peasantry and removed them from their means of subsistence.

The author uses the term imperialism and words like this and then explains wars and occupations as being based on white people not liking brown or black people. Most thinking workers see how racism, sexism, and in the other cases, religious sectarianism is used as a tool to dominate and maintain social control of the exploited population. It’s somewhat childish to be honest to portray history in the way Mr. Draitser does, but most importantly he is wrong claiming Obama has some obligations to black people?

And I’d like to ask Mr. Draitser. Does he, or brother Baraka for that matter, agree with Malcolm X when he said (and he chose his words carefully), “you can’t have capitalism without racism”? I agree with this statement. If we agree with this statement from a man who is arguably one of the greatest revolutionaries of the 20th century, then we must surely draw the conclusion that we cannot eliminate racism without eliminating capitalism. And we can't eliminate capitalism without uniting the working class.

But capitalism doesn’t seem to exist for Mr. Draitser.

That’s what I think.

More on the Minimum Wage

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

A business owner in my community responded to my previous article onthe minimum wage. I explained that community businesses should join the movement for a living wage and the workers’ movement should join with community businesses in freeing them from the grasp of the corporations insurance companies and other leeches. In other words, the fight for a minimum wage is also a fight against the banking system, the system of land ownership, the taxation system, the class system, agribusiness, the domination of big business etc.

Unfortunately, this business owner spoke against raising the minimum wage and began his opening remarks to me with a lecture about the failure of Stalinist totalitarianism (he called it “Russian style communism” as if there is a national brand of communism) but then went in to more detail.

He rejects collectivism as it, goes against human nature”, and not sustainable. He does make some exceptions, “education, insurance and social safety nets”, he writes, can be provided by society. In other words, all those other minor details like health care, Medicare, unemployment pay, education and who knows what other social necessity that the private sector cannot provide in society can be provided by the taxpayer through the state.

He writes further that, It is this human spirit and drive for personal gain that has created the many luxuries we take for granted today.”  This statement confirms that simply because someone asserts something doesn’t make it so. He goes on to make the claim that it is a person’s desire for a better life is what lifts all boats as they say. This is the age-old argument of course and is bogus. All history proves him wrong as modern history is the struggle of the exploited against the exploiter.  Slaves against slaveowners, serfs against feudal lords and the British peasantry as I pointed out recently were dragged kicking and screaming off the common land and in to the marketplace in a process that lasted three centuries.

The natives of the “New World” went through a similar process, dragged from their ancestral lands as did the people of West Africa who undoubtedly resisted kidnapping and also their enslavement in a far away land. Their struggles as all our as struggles for emancipation and the ending of the purchase of human beings and the use of our life activity for personal gain, continue to this day.

Every freedom we have today was one through collective action, from the masses collectively confronting the oppressing power.  The history of all human society is this way.

What this person’s argument amounts to is that his view of freedom as a business owner is to pay as little as possible in wages that deny his employees’ children a college education so his kids can get one.  “We mustn't force higher wages on small business owners and kill their incentive to be in business.”, he writes. Well, his incentive is a better life, an incentive we all have but to do that he has to make profit and that profit comes from the labor power of his workers. By keeping wages as low as possible it will allow him and his family to live in a safer neighborhood, a nicer home, bigger car etc. In other words, his more secure existence is secured through denying it to others. This is his philosophy in a nutshell.

As I wrote in my earlier commentary, So what happens when an employer can’t pass the cost of a forced wage increases on to the consumer?  Where do the increased wages come from? Well, their profits of course; the income of the business owner. But they are not going to say, “I can’t pay higher wages because I will have less for myself” or “I have to raise prices because I live in a nice neighborhood and will have to move if I don’t.”  By saying that they will have to lay people off which means the worker accepts a lower wage or no wage, or increase prices which means the business goes under and there’s no job and no service, the motive seems egalitarian as opposed to self serving. This is not always intentional, sometimes the system works behind the backs of its participants.”

The community business has many other expenses. There is the landlord, the insurance company, and in no way should a community business hiring a few workers be responsible for providing them with health coverage. A universal health care system is what must do that. Medical care should not be a business. But they take the easy way out and either lay workers off, cut their wages or raise prices if the market will bear it.

A minimum wage should be presented as a basket of goods. Everyone should receive a wage that covers what is needed for them to live a decent and secure life, a percentage of this basket for shelter, food, entertainment etc.

Instead of taking the easy way out (for them) the small business owner should join with the worker and direct the fight at the people with money, the billionaires big landlords (the largest landlords in the country are capital management companies), they must challenge the system. Their existence as a small business owner business is not secure as anyone in this situation knows.

But in the last analysis as the example we give here shows, the private sector has not and never will provide a decent life for the vast majority of Americans. For the rest of the world, capitalism means starvation and disease; it’s that simple.  The author says as much when he says, communistically I might add, that the necessities of life musty be provided by the state.

Capitalism never provided a secure life for most people here in the US even during the Post War Boom from 1950 to 1970 where the material conditions for the so-called “American Dream” were present.  We must not forget as well, that a brutal and violent Apartheid system existed in a fifth of the country during that so-called dream. And mass consumption and excess living has turned in to a nightmare for both humans and nature. 
Big Business lies to avoid higher pay and keep their profits up*
I repeated a quote from a book I read the other day that explained that the US never invaded the tiny island of Grenada to corner the nutmeg trade. US capitalism doesn’t demonize Chavez and Castro because they are dictators, good grief, the US has supported and sheltered some of the worst despots in modern history and is home to some of the world’s most infamous mass murderers including Henry Kissinger.  It opposes these regimes because they show that the private sector is not so efficient when it comes to our needs as human beings. It undermines their argument that the market is the answer to all things when a little island like Cuba, blockaded for a half century by the most powerful nation ever existing has a life expectancy equal to the US and an infant mortality rate fare better. All due to a socialized medical system

The ideological war against the collective form of anything except a collective formed and directed under their guidance and with their goals in mind, is what US capitalism wages war against including here at home as it privatizes public property and services and eliminates decent public sector jobs.

The workers’ movement must reach out to that section of the petty bourgeois, those community businesses that are open to struggling with us for the end to corporate power and landlordism and the dictatorship of capital over human life. And as I said before, if they claim they can’t pay the wages people need, open the books and let the movement decide.

But when small business or the private sector refuses or cannot pay a wage that workers can live on, the public sector must.

Here is the comment to my last commentary on this subject.

Communism is a failed system Richard Mellor. Even the great Marx and Lenin couldn't pull it off.

Look how Russian style communism failed it's people. How did the eastern communist countries thrive compared to their counterparts in the West? The fact is Richard Mellor , collectivism beyond education, insurance and basic social safety nets is not sustainable because it goes against human nature. People want and need more than equality of outcomes.

The freedom to succeed or fail drives them to dream of a better life and to create it. Take incentive away and you destroy human spirit and drive.

 It is this human spirit and drive for personal gain that has created the many luxuries we take for granted today.

I believe that in a great country like ours, no one should be homeless, starve or be refused medical care because they are poor. I also believe our government officials need to get out of the pockets of the powerful oligarchy. But we mustn't throw out the baby with bathwater and ruin our democracy because some people are struggling.

We mustn't force higher wages on small business owners and kill their incentive to be in business. This only forces more workers into the clutches of the major chains and franchises who's profits go to Wall Street and the politicians who enable their crimes.

 No Richard Mellor, your ideology does not work. What we should do collectively is to start buying more from small business owners in our own communities. If they had more customers, they would surely share the success with their employees and at the same time, create more jobs.

* Marx explained the issue of wages and prices 15 years ago and it's still worth reading

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sanders' Movement Resignations: Green Party Must reach Out

Sanders did not end up here by accident. He knew what he was doing
Statement From Facts For Working People

From the word go, the organizers of this Blog which is the Blog of  Facts For Working People, opposed supporting Sanders and his campaign to be the Presidential nominee of the capitalist Democratic Party. Download our early statements on this here and a slightly different version here in pdf form that we handed out at Bernie events during the nomination campaigns.

We also said that when Sanders would be seen to be supporting the right wing militaristic capitalist Clinton, there would be a break in the situation with large sections of his supporters looking for an alternative. Despite our very limited resources, we saw it as part of our responsibility as socialists to try and help provide this alternative. Looking at the existing political situation at the time we came to the conclusion that the Green Party was the only viable alternative.  Not only that, we believed that a considerable section of Sander's supporters would be prepared to join the Green Party. 

As long as a year ago those of us around Facts For Working People, after much discussion with some young people in the Sanders’ campaign, saw that the Green Party, with its national presence, would be the Party that many of the former Sanders supporters who wanted to continue in political struggle would look to. So we joined and called on others to join the Green Party. We did not say people should vote for the Green Party and that was it. We advocated that the Green Party stand firmly on its own political two feet and reach out to the Sanders people and seek to convince them not only to vote for the Green Party but to join and build the Green Party. Yes, interact with the Sanders' base, but not support Sanders. Explain what Sanders would do, explain they were making a mistake and advocate they should join the Green Party and build the Green Party.

But we didn’t leave it there. We argued that members of the Green Party, both old and new, should seek to move the Green Party to being an openly eco socialist party. This has now been done as at the recent convention the Party adopted an eco socialist and anti capitalist plank in its platform. The task now is to see that this plank is aggressively fought for. We also argued that the people who saw and were seeing through Sanders should not only join the Green Party, but that they should organize within the Green Party and with other Green Party members, and in a non sectarian manner, a left current to lead the fight for eco socialism in the Party, and also to advocate that the Green Party become a workers Party.

Another issue we stressed was for the GPUS to become a proper membership dues based party where decisions are made on the basis of one person one vote with the minority always having the right to put forward their views openly. This was a correct position. Those who supported Sanders, those who did not support Sanders but who talked in an abstract way about building a new party were mistaken. But it is not too late to make amends. In fact the situation is more ripe now than before. 

This is because the break in the Sanders movement is becoming even more acute. It began when Sanders supported Clinton. Now it has developed even more rapidly and thoroughly with the recent resignations of eight out of the 13 staffers who were working for what Sanders called "Our Revolution." This "Our Revolution" was what he said was going to carry on the work of his campaign, what he saw as maybe keeping together some of his base, or at least covering up his betrayal of his base. This organization was to have over 2,300 house parties this week.

Now "Our Revolution" has half its staffers resigning including the core of its organizing and digital teams that were the two pillars of its structure. The right wing Jeff Weaver has been put in charge and the top leadership team are all white men from Vermont. Sanders promised some of the staffers that Weaver would not be involved but he did not keep his word. Weaver is more for using the huge email and data base list for raising money from rich people and spending this on Democratic Party candidates rather than building a movement. 

As we have said many times on this Blog, Sander's talk of revolution was irresponsible and unrealistic and dishonest. It amounted to no more than getting more people out to vote for the capitalist counter revolutionary Democratic Party. Tragically it won the support of many young and not so young people who wanted a genuine change. Sanders has to take responsibility for this betrayal. People like the organizers of this Blog knew what would happen from the get go and pointed out what would happen from the get go. We warned our readers not to be taken in. Sanders has a big responsibility on his shoulders. 

But it is not only Sanders who is to be blamed for this. The left groups, especially such groups as Socialist Alternative, but also other left groups and individuals, who supported Sanders are also to blame. And the lefts who stood on the sidelines calling for a new party are also to blame. What was necessary was what this Blog advocated. No support for Sanders. Join and build the Green Party as an eco socialist party. Build the Green party as a workers party. Change the internal life of the Green Party from the present undemocratic consensus method to one of honest and open discussion and decision making with the majority view being the party policy but with the minority views being heard at all times. Build in a non sectarian way a left current in the Green Party to work to build the Green Party in this manner. We ask all those who are interested in these ideas and working in this way to contact us at this Blog and let us work together. 

Sanders' house parties, an opportunity for Greens to reach out to his supporters
But we also have another appeal that we think is very urgent. It is to our own Green Party leaders. Sanders has been calling what has come out of his campaign - "Our Revolution." He has announced that "Our Revolution" will hold over 2,300 house parties this week throughout the country. This is a serious development. And it is taking place against the background of two other processes. One is the increasing divisions in the Sanders movement itself as Bernie Sanders and Jane Sanders and Jeff Weaver take it further to the right and away from its rank and file base. The other process is the increasing support for the Green Party and the increased coverage of Jill Stein as its presidential candidate.

There is real opportunity here for the Green Party. Jill Stein has clearly upped the ante in the wake of the Sanders’ betrayal. She is aggressive, she is in their face and she has taken them up on foreign policy and other issues better than any Democrat. The leadership of the Green Party, the Green National Committee (DNC) must act immediately. It must initiate discussions with the people who are resigning from the Sanders movement and appeal for them to join the Green Party along with the many others who are now increasingly questioning the Sanders movement.

As part of this the GNC must seek to mobilize our own Green Party base to, in a diplomatic and democratic way, attend these more than 2,300 house parties and ask to be allowed to put our views and our case as to why the people who formerly supported Sanders should now join the Green Party.  

It is no time to miss opportunities. The two main parties of capitalism are in serious crisis and fragmenting.  Decisive, imaginative and audacious action is what is necessary. And if it is taken the results can be very surprising. There is a big responsibility now on the shoulders of the leadership of the Green Party.  As one GP member said recently,  “this is the big time now”.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Irish woman use social media to fight for their rights.

By Sean O'Torain.

Irish women use social media to fight for their rights. They are an example and inspiration and a lesson to us in all ways. See below.

Irish women live-tweet journey for abortion

The Hill: Jill Stein op-ed: In praise of WikiLeaks

We reprint this Op Ed from The Hill  Julian Assange spoke to us at the Green Party US Convention through Skype. The GPUS is commended for having Assange speak at our convention and I recall him being visibly moved by the reception he received. Clinton and other US politicians have called him a terrorist and called for his assassination or death through one of Obama's infamous drone attacks.

Stein has also defended Snowden and said she would appoint him a cabinet post whereas Clinton and her more recent open campaigner, Bernie Sanders called for his prosecution as he broke the law. Congratulations Dr. Stein and the Greens.

Getty Images
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a hero. Like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and other whistleblowers facing government persecution, Assange has sacrificed his personal comfort and safety to bring us the truth.

George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Thanks to WikiLeaks, we know that powerful institutions have been abusing their power and lying to the public. For example, redacted State Department communications published by WikiLeaks revealed that Secretary Clinton identified Saudi Arabia as a leading funding source for terrorist groups around the time she approved a whopping $29 billion arms deal with the Saudi dictatorship.

WikiLeaks courageously published the infamous “Collateral Murder” video showing an American helicopter gunning down Iraqi civilians, Viewed over 15 million times on Youtube alone, it revealed just one of the many shocking war crimes whitewashed as “collateral damage” by the US government.

WikiLeaks’ stunning revelations of how top Democratic National Committee officials conspired to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, in collusion with the media, shattered the illusion of a fair electoral process and confirmed what millions Americans already knew in their gut: we live under a rigged political system.

What WikiLeaks actually does — to political parties, the military, and other powerful entities — is pull back the curtain of censorship, spin, and deception to show the public what’s really going on. Unlike pundits in the mainstream media, WikiLeaks doesn’t tell us what to think. They invite us to read the emails, watch the footage, and decide for ourselves.

The political and economic elite, used to controlling information, see this unprecedented transparency as a tremendous threat. They have mercilessly persecuted a series of heroic whistleblowers. Chelsea Manning, convicted of leaking the Collateral Murder video among other revealing materials, was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison.

Manning, a transgender woman, has been subjected to treatment that the UN described as “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” in violation of the Convention Against Torture. Shockingly, after a recent suicide attempt, Manning faces disciplinary charges that could land her in indefinite solitary confinement.

The security state would like to make an example of Assange, as it has done to Manning and others. In fact, the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined. And the persecution of whistleblowers is often accompanied by ruthless character assassination to discredit them.

Many have asked how Greens, who count feminism among our ten key values, can support Assange when he’s been accused of rape. As a strong advocate for victims of sexual violence, I take this question seriously.

While countless media reports highlight the allegations against Assange, most people have never heard that an official UN report has declared the case against Assange to be unfounded. Three investigations have been dropped without charges ever having been filed. And the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated that Assange has been unlawfully detained and should be released. In light of these facts, it appears the allegations against Assange were a false pretext used by those who want to give him the Chelsea Manning treatment — or worse.

As the Presidential candidate of a party that has maintained principled criticism of powerful political, military and corporate institutions, I’ve gotten a first—hand look at how the establishment attacks people who challenge the status quo. These attacks are intended to brand their targets as pariahs and stigmatize anyone who dares to challenge this narrative. The truth is a frequent casualty to political vendettas.

On that note, one of the strangest developments this year has been seeing journalists attack WikiLeaks for doing what journalists are supposed to do: reveal the unvarnished truth to the public. WikiLeaks has done us an invaluable service by shining a light into the dark corners of power where corruption and wrongdoing fester.

The economic and political elite have targeted Assange not because his hands are dirty, but because he’s given us a glimpse of how dirty their own hands are. WikiLeaks’ revelations are inspiring countless people to mobilize against corruption and wrongdoing at the highest levels, and for that, Julian Assange is a hero in my book.
Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate for President.

Green Party Can Lead a Movement to Open up Debates

Jill Stein arrested tying to get in to the 2nd Presidential debate 2012
By Sean O’Torain

The US Green Party has been around for a while in this volatile and unpredictable election year environment yet the Green party, like other parties that are running candidates in the national election, is banned, censored, out of all three debates that are being held by the mass capitalist media.

The body that decides which candidates or political party the American public is allowed to see or hear in these televised debates is the CPD. CPD is not one those syndromes the drug companies invent so they can sell us their pills on TV. It stands for the
Commission on Presidential Debates and its far more deadly than the invented syndromes of the drug companies; it is a commission controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties.

Commission members are representatives of the two capitalist parties the Democrats and Republicans. So political representatives of the capitalist class have determined that to participate in the debates and have their views televised to the nation, a party must get 15% of the votes in polls.  The only political and economic views that will be expressed will be those of the capitalist class.

The idea is not hard to discern. Keep all non-capitalist, or even reformist representatives from being elected to the Presidency. This is about as blatantly undemocratic as you can get.

As a member of the Green Party I think the party should make opposition to this censorship, this undemocratic practice, a priority. Not simply a priority, the Green party should go to war over it.

US capitalism is always whining on about democracy. But the truth is that the US is the most undemocratic the most censored, the most gerrymandered country of all the capitalist countries. Look how bad it is. When the brutal apartheid regime in South Africa was crumbling, the white capitalist class tried to hang on by saying they wanted to emulate the US system. By this they meant refusing to accept one person one vote which is the present situation in the US.

Each US state no matter what its population, has the same number of senators. Two for California, with a population of 30 million and two for states that have less than 1 million like Utah. The Electoral College is rigged the same way. The entire US political system is gerrymandered against the urban working class. The apartheid regime in South Africa wanted to gerrymander the system against the black majority, separate the different races into different areas and give them all the one number of votes.

They were  prevented for doing this not by any vote in any parliament but the mass direct action of millions who took action in protest at the murder of
leading black activist Chris Hani. The US political system, elections and the Electoral College is a rigged game the same way the apartheid regime wanted to rig their dying regime to keep blacks down out. The censorship of debates, keeping Jill Stein and the Green Party out of debates is part, of this undemocratic stitch up. 

I come originally from Ireland. Northern Ireland had a similarly undemocratic system to what the USA has now. In the city of Derry where I was politically active, the Catholic two thirds majority were all corralled into one of the city's three electoral areas. Each of the three electoral areas elected one third of the city's councilors. So the two thirds of the city's population in this Catholic area could elect only one third of the City's councilors.

The one third Protestant minority on the other hand were divided between two electoral areas which could therefore elect two thirds of the city's councilors. In this way the one third Protestant minority, if voting took place along religious lines, could control, and for decades did control, the city. This was backed up by force and violence through the Protestant dominated police force. We are seeing the same thing here in the US.  This eventually led to the mass civil rights movement and eventually a thirty-year war. The US remains as undemocratic today as Northern Ireland was before the mass civil rights movement forced the changes there.

As we stressed in previous pieces on this blog, the Green Party has a golden opportunity to transform the political situation in the US if it takes the bull by the horns. If the Green Party leadership and the recently formed left caucus of which I am a member, (The Watermelon Greens) were to make opposition to the undemocratic nature of the US electoral system a priority. It would get a real echo nationally.

I would like to propose that we make this a priority and a priority for all three debates. Jill Stein took direct action to try and get into the last debate and was arrested. She has set a great example. What the Green Party can do now is to take the lead and organize mass direct action protests at these debates.  We Greens should call on all forces and parties that are locked out of the debates through these undemocratic maneuvers to join with us and ensure that the debates cannot take place without all parties.

An action like this would receive mass public support and would place the Green Party at the center of events aimed at changing the rigged game. Seattle, Occupy, the Black Lives Matter movement has had successes and we have to recognize that to be effective we have to be prepared to be arrested as our presidential candidate has.

Polls now show that more people want a different candidate from Clinton or Trump. They have the right to hear from Jill Stein and the Green Party. The Green Party must reach out to these also. We should make the point that whole system is undemocratic and rigged against us in favor of the 1%.  I think the Green Party should be aggressive with our policies on all issues. But I particularly think we should be aggressive on this issue. The ruling class in this country is always on about democracy but this is the most censored and undemocratic country of all advanced capitalist countries. The 1% is very weak on this. The US does not have one person one vote. It does not allow all candidates to participate in debates.  Only those that can muster 15% of the vote in polls can appear but without media coverage it’s hard to do that. It’s a rigged, undemocratic system, let’s call it what it is.

A powerful movement can be mobilized in a mass direct action united front to stop the censorship and to open up the debates in the capitalist media. This must be accompanied by mass rallies and the Green Party turning itself into a real membership party based on a dues paying membership and an end to the undemocratic concensus method of decision making that now exists within the party.

This mass movement can also put on the agenda that the Green Party can win the election.  The Green left caucus, the Watermelon Greens, can be transformed into the major influence in the Party through such actions and a democratic non-sectarian internal life.

If the Green Party takes these issues up aggressively we will be well down the road to becoming a mass party in the US and the real alternative to the rigged circus we see now every four years.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Marxist Economics: Returning to Gordon

by Michael Roberts

This time last year I did a post on why productivity growth in all the major economies has slowed down.

As I explained in that post, the productivity of labour, as measured by output per worker or output per hour of worker, is a very good measure of the productive potential of capitalism.  Economies can increase their national outputs by employing more people to work (from a rising population of working age) or they can do so by increasing the productivity of each worker.  With population growth slowing in most major economies and globally, productivity growth is the main method of raising global output and – given the huge caveats of inequality or income and wealth and the lack of production for the majority’s needs) – the living standards of the world’s population.

Capitalism is a mode of production that aimed specifically at raising the productivity of labour to new heights, compared to previous modes of production like slavery, feudalism or absolutism.  That’s because capitalists, in competing to obtain and control more profit (or surplus value) from the labour power of workers, were driven to mechanise and introduce labour-saving technologies. So if capitalism is no longer delivering increasing productivity through investment in technology then its raison d’etre for human social organisation comes under serious question.  Capitalism would be past its ‘use-by date’.
Growth per capita
And as last year’s post said, global productivity growth has fallen back, particularly since the Great Recession began in 2008 and shows no signs yet of recovering to previous levels.  This is vexing and worrying the ruling economic strategists, particularly as mainstream economics has no clear explanation of why this is happening.

Global labour productivity remains below its pre-crisis average of 2.6% (1999-2006)

productivity growth

Only this week, the vice-chair of the US Federal Reserve, Stanley Fischer, looked at the state of US economy.  He started by claiming the success of Fed monetary policies in achieving virtually full employment again in the US: “I believe it is a remarkable, and perhaps underappreciated, achievement that the economy has returned to near-full employment in a relatively short time after the Great Recession, given the historical experience following a financial crisis.”

However, Fischer noted that growth in output had not been so impressive.  And this is clearly due to the slowdown in productivity growth.  Most recently, business-sector productivity is reported to have declined for the past three quarters, its worst performance since 1979. Granted, productivity growth is often quite volatile from quarter to quarter, both because of difficulties in measuring output and hours and because other transitory factors may affect productivity. But looking at the past decade, productivity growth has been lackluster by post-World War II standards. Output per hour increased only 1-1/4 percent per year on average from 2006 to 2015, compared with its long-run average of 2-1/2 percent from 1949 to 2005. A 1-1/4 percentage point slowdown in productivity growth is a massive change, one that, if it were to persist, would have wide-ranging consequences for employment, wage growth, and economic policy more broadly. For example, the frustratingly slow pace of real wage gains seen during the recent expansion likely partly reflects the slow growth in productivity.”

Why is this?  Fischer presents various explanations: the mismeasurement of GDP growth; low business investment; a slowdown in new technology that could boost productivity; and/or the failure any new technology to spread to wider sections of the economy.

The first explanation has a lot of support.  The argument is that the traditional measure of output, the Gross Domestic Product, is a very poor measure of ‘welfare’ or the production of people’s needs.  This argument has been most well presented in a book by Diane Coyle. ( called GDP: A Brief But Affectionate History .  Coyle argues that GDP is an ‘abstract’ idea (as it clearly is) that leaves out important services and benefits and puts in unnecessary additions.  Here is one example offered by John Mauldin: “If I purchase a solar energy system for my home, that purchased immediately adds its cost to GDP. But if I then remove myself from the power grid I am no longer sending the electric company $1000 a month and that reduces GDP by that amount. Yet I am consuming the exact same amount of electricity! My lifestyle hasn’t changed and yet my disposable income has risen.”

Yes, but what Coyle’s critique fails to recognise is that GDP is not designed to measure ‘benefits’ to people but productive gains for the capitalist mode of production.  Electricity on the grid is part of the market, electricity made at home is not; cleaning houses and office for money is part of the market and is included in GDP; cleaning your home yourself is not marketable and so is not in GDP.  That makes perfect sense from the point of capitalism, if not from people’s welfare.  As Mauldin says “GDP is a financial construct at its heart, a political and philosophical abstraction. It is a necessary part of the management of the country, because, as with any enterprise, if you can’t measure it you can’t determine if what you are doing is productive”.

Many have argued recently that many new technological developments are not measured in the GDP figures: “because the official statistics have failed to capture new and better products or properly account for changes in prices over time” (Fischer).  But as Fischer comments, most recent research suggests that mismeasurement of output cannot account for much of the productivity slowdown.”

That brings me to the main argument offered by mainstream economist, Robert J Gordon, in his magnum opus, The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The US Standard of Living Since the Civil WarI have discussed Gordon’s thesis before in this blog ever since he first presented it back in 2012. Gordon reckons that the evidence shows productivity growth is currently low because that it where it is usually.  There have been periods of fast-growing productivity when technical advances spread widely across economies, as in the early 1930s and in the immediate post-war period. 

Productivity growth rose from the late nineteenth century and peaked in the 1950s, but has slowed to a crawl since 1970. In designating 1870–1970 as the ‘special century’, Gordon emphasizes that the period since 1970 has been less special. He argues that the pace of innovation has slowed since 1970 and furthermore that the gains from technological improvement have been shared less broadly.

In Marxist terms, this suggests that capitalism is now exhibiting exhaustion as a mode of production that can expand to lower labour time and meet people’s needs.  The current technical innovations of the internet, computers smart phones and algorithms etc are nowhere near as pervasive in their impact as electricity, autos, medical advances and public health etc were in previous periods.  So globally, capitalism cannot be expected to raise productivity growth from here.  Indeed, there are many ‘headwinds’ likely to keep it lower, says Gordon.

So why has productivity growth slowed and will it continue?  Mainstream economics offers all sorts of explanations. The first, as we have seen, is to argue that productivity growth has not really slowed because it is not being measured properly in the modern age of services and the internet.

The second is to argue that the slowdown is temporary and caused by the global financial crash and the subsequent Great Recession.  The legacy of crash is still very high levels of debt, both private and public, and this is weighing down on the capacity and willingness of the capitalist sector to invest and expand new technologies. Noah Smith, the Keynesian blogger struggled with debt as the main cause of recessions and slowdowns.   Robert Shiller, the Nobel prize winning ‘behavioural’ economist, on the other hand, reckons that the slowdown is due to “hesitation.” “Economic slowdowns can often be characterised as periods of hesitation. Consumers hesitate to buy a new house or car, thinking that the old house or car will do just fine for a while longer. Managers hesitate to expand their workforce, buy a new office building, or build a new factory, waiting for news that will make them stop worrying about committing to new ideas.”

There is no doubt that the global financial crash has driven growth rates in the major economies down – indeed that is part of the definition of what I call The Long Depression that capitalism is now suffering (and all of us, of course, as a result).
Growth slows
And one key factor in that slowdown has certainly been the huge rise in debt, particularly corporate debt, since the end of the Great Recession.  As a recent analysis by JP Morgan economists pointed out: Corporate business, in particular, has borrowed aggressively in recent years, often using the proceeds to buy back shares. Ratios of corporate debt to GDP or income are starting to look rather high'”  Indeed US corporate debt is now at a post-war high.

And there is no doubt that capitalist companies are ‘hesitating’ about investing in new technology in a big way.  But why?  Shiller reckons that “loss of economic confidence is one possible cause.”  But that is merely stating the question again.  Why has there been a loss of economic confidence?  Shiller’s response is to suggest that nobody is willing to invest because of fears about “growing nationalism; immigration and terrorism”  So it’s all due to political and cultural fears – hardly a convincing economic thesis.

Yes, high debt and low ‘confidence’ are factors that will lead to low and even falling investment in technology and therefore in generating low productivity growth.  But they are only factors triggered, Marxist economics would argue, because the profitability of capital remains low, particularly in the productive sectors. Yes, profit rates in most economies rose from the early 1980s up to the end of the 20th century while investment growth and real GDP growth slowed.  But most of that profitability gain was in unproductive sectors like real estate and finance.  Manufacturing and industrial profitability stayed low, as several Marxist analyses have shown. 

Even mainstream economics, using marginal productivity categories, reveal something similar.  Using marginalist mainstream categories, Dietz Vollrath found that the ‘marginal productivity of capital’ fell consistently from the late 1960s.  Capitalism has become less productive ‘at the margin’.  Marxist economics can explain this as due to a rising organic composition of capital (more technology replacing labour) leading to a fall in the rate of profit (return on capital).  Post the Great Recession, the marginal productivity of capital rose because the share going to profit rose.  In Marxist terms, the rate of surplus value rose to compensate for the rise in the organic composition of capital.  Here’s Vollrath’s chart showing the time path in capital productivity from 1960 to 2013.  If you remove the effect of rising profit share, the falling productivity of capital continued (dotted line).

So the conclusion of last year’s post still holds; “Productivity growth still depends on capital investment being large enough.  And that depends on the profitability of investment.  There is still relatively low profitability and a continued overhang of debt, particularly corporate debt, in not just the major economies, but also in the emerging capitalist economies.  Under capitalism, until profitability is restored sufficiently and debt reduced (and both work together), the productivity benefits of the new ‘disruptive technologies’ (as the jargon goes) of robots, AI, ‘big data’ 3D printing etc will not deliver a sustained revival in productivity growth and thus real GDP.”

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Three Years Anniversary: Free Chelsea Manning

As readers are aware, we have given considerable time and space to the plight of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning who is serving a 35 year sentence for informing the American public and the world of the crimes committed by the US military through its illegal and predatory wars, particularly in Iraq, a nation and people that never threatened or harmed the US in  any way. Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are heroic figures and workers owe them a debt of gratitude. Rumsfeld, Bush, Obama, Wolfowitz, and all those representatives of US imperialism who have cooperated in this mass murder including spying on and undermining the rights of the American people and imprisonment of Manning are war criminals. 

The  piece below is an excerpt from The United States vs Pvt Chelsea Manning, an account of Manning's court-martial published from the transcripts by OR Books. In it she describes some of her prison conditions.  FFWP also recommends reading When Google Met Wikileaks also at OR Books and The Wikileaks Files.  This book has an introduction by Julian Assange—writing on the subject for the first time—exposes the ongoing debates about freedom of information, international surveillance, and justice.  With contributions by Dan Beeton, Phyllis Bennis, Michael Busch, Peter Certo, Conn Hallinan, Sarah Harrison, Richard Heydarian, Dahr Jamail, Jake Johnston, Alexander Main, Robert Naiman, Francis Njubi Nesbitt, Linda Pearson, Gareth Porter, Tim Shorrock, Russ Wellen, and Stephen Zunes.  RM

From The United States vs. Pvt. Chelsea Manning

The United States vs. Pvt. Chelsea Manning

A Graphic Account from Inside the Courtrom
by Clark Stoeckley


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wealth, Poverty, and Social Control in the Golden State

By Luke Pickrell

 In a capitalist society, the wealth of the working class is appropriated and hoarded by a tiny elite - the ruling class. This ruling class creates a state in its image in order to protect its wealth and ensure its continued enrichment at the expensive of all subordinates. This state, which includes the police, becomes increasingly brutal as class lines sharpen during periods of economic instability - dips, crashes, and depressions that are built into the economic system.

California, the largest and most diverse state in the U.S., is a fine example of a state in the decaying stages of capitalism, during which the misery of the many increases alongside the enrichment of the few, and the armed wing of the state polices the widening class divide with increasing brutality.


In 2015, the state of California passed in front of Brazil and France to become the 6th largest economy in the world. The top ten economies in the world are now the U.S. ($17.8 trillion GDP in 2015), China ($10.9), Japan ($4.1), Germany ($3.6), the UK ($2.9), California ($2.5), France ($2.4), India ($2.1), Italy and Brazil ($1.8 each). (The global collapse of capitalism - some predict a new collapse within the year - is reflected in the fact that only the U.S., China, California and India have growing economies). Only the U.S. (536) and China (213) have more billionaires than California (131 in 2015). The combined wealth of these individuals is worth more than the GDP of many countries. The governor of California, Jerry Brown, has a net worth of $4 million, and California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is worth a whopping $74 million (making her the 3rd wealthiest member of congress). Larry Page of Google (Mountain View, CA) and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook (Menlo Park, CA) are multi-billionaires behind corporations ingrained in the bourgeois state and its apparatuses of surveillance and control.


While a handful Californian's are incredibly wealthy, the majority are very poor. In fact, California is the most unequal state in one of the most unequal countries in the world (just as  Louisiana is the most incarcerated state in the most incarcerated nation in the world). California has the highest poverty rate in the country, with %27 of children living in poverty; in 2013, 48.8% of children in the state were poor or near the poverty line.

That same year, around one quarter of the state's total population lived in poverty. One in ten Cal State University students are homeless, and one in four go hungry. Housing prices across the state continue to rise, and many people in the Bay Area are being forced out. In San Francisco, low wages and increasing home prices ($2,795 average for a one bedroom, $4,222 for a two) are forcing hundreds of school teachers and paraprofessionals to leave. Rents have skyrocketed in Oakland, with many forced to work two or three jobs just to get by and many people, most from poorer black neighborhoods, being pushed farther and farther away. 

As the wealth gap (and therefore the life expectancy gap, literacy gap, education gap, etc.) increases, the class differences in society become increasingly pronounced. The ruling elite must maximize profit and maintain social control, and an increasingly repressive state is needed to control people as they are thrown into deeper and deeper poverty; a brutal economic system requires a brutal state to defend it. In step the police, who in California have time and time again been exposed as agents of the status quo who rape, murder, and pillage with impunity.

Social Control

 In 1966 the Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland largely in response to police brutality against working class blacks. One of the many tactics of the Panthers - dubbed public enemy number one by J. Edgar Hoover - was to police the OPD. Armed with guns, pencil and paper, and citizens' rights leaflets, Panthers would follow OPD cars, stop whenever they stopped, and make their presences known to the officers. (It’s no surprise that the nation’s first gun control laws were passed in California – with help from then-governor Richard Nixon and the NRA – to take guns away from the Panthers). Since 2000, Oakland cops have killed 90 people - 74% working class and black.

In 1996 a group of four OPD officers - the "Rough Riders" - began a spree of violence that led to $11 million in settlements and 90 cases being thrown out. In 2000, all four officers were charged with terrorizing and beating suspects, planting evidence, and making false arrests over the four-year period. (An all-white jury would later clear the four officers on eight counts and deadlock on the remaining 27). Since 2003, the OPD has been overseen by a federal monitoring board (labeled "independent" but currently led by a former Rochester police chief) and mandated to make certain reforms - changes the OPD consistently fails to make.

In 2009 Oscar Grant was killed by a shot to the back from Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer Johannes Mehserle (

Throughout 2011 Occupy Oakland protestors were routinely harassed and beaten by police, and agent provocateurs infiltrated encampments. Protestor Scott Olsen was nearly killed by a non-lethal round to the forehead (
video). Officers covered their name tags with black tape, illegally detained several reporters and protestors, and abused and denied council and medical care to many of those in custody. Settlements for police abuse during Occupy Oakland have topped $6 million, a portion of the nearly $74 million the city has spent since 1990 to settle over 417 lawsuits against officers - the largest sum spent by any police department in California.

In November of that same year, UC Davis police officers harassed and pepper sprayed protesting students (

In 2014 a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer was filmed savagely beating a 51-year-old black woman. No charges were filed (

In March of 2015 A Los Angeles cop executed Charly "Africa" Keunang with at least two "contact gunshot wounds" (muzzle of the gun pressed directly to the skin) to the chest. Keunang had been living on Skid Row, one of the most impoverished areas in the state.

On December 2 San Francisco cops executed Mario Woods firing squad style as he walked away from them (video).

In June of 2016 the OPD faced a PR setback when department practices of sex trafficking and statutory rape became impossible to hide. The now
well-known incident involved “at least fourteen Oakland police officers, three Richmond police, four Alameda County sheriff's deputies, and a federal officer.” Mayor Libby Schaaf is scrambling to keep her job.
Less than three weeks ago police in Castaic shot and killed William Bowers, a homeless white man riding a bike.


This is the reality of life in California, the great liberal Golden State - extreme wealth for the ruling class and its ilk, a sliver of mobility for a lucky few, increasing immobility for many, and dire poverty for the rest. Police officers in California have free reign to terrorize and control the majority of the state's population in order to enforce foreclosures and displacements, protect private property, and crush political dissent. While women, those gender nonconforming, and people of color are particularly vulnerable to the state's racist and divisive filth, all those who sell their labor power in order to make a living are susceptible to state violence. The lumpenproletariat and reserve pool of labor are deemed criminal and rendered vulnerable to the full brutality of the capitalist state.

As the wealth gap in California becomes more pronounced - as school budgets are further slashed, housing prices rise, medical expenses increase, social services are gutted - the police will be tasked with subduing an increasingly politicized working class. Already, the police are being given new weapons to control the masses. The battle lines have long ago been drawn around the class divisions in society, and the current mood is captured well in the advertising for
Urban Shield 2016: "Intense Training for Intense Times."