We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Unpicking the lessons of our occupation, means recognising its realities

by Jo Casserly from UCL Occupation.

The British students at University College London (UCL) are fighting back against tuition hikes and cutbacks. They are using the new social media and incorporating the revolutionary experiences of previous generations with new ideas of organizing from the bottom-up. Their thinking is evolving into some big ideas that sees their struggles as a part of a class war, and a war that they intend to win. 

The article follows with more discussion and contains some important links to other sources of information.

Democracy's failures, 2010

by Priyamvada Gopal from the Guardian

She reviews recent events in the UK and the world to find that "representative democracy" is losing its democratic facade to reveal something which she can only hint at--a naked class war. Well, this might represent real progress.

Resort Report: Being Nouveau Riche is Terribly Out of Style This Year

by Jamie Johnson from Vanity Fair

It is time for our Saturday visit to the lives of the rich in America. Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, offers us once again a brief glimpse of what their lives are like so that we may better understand those who rule over us. 

In a country which pretends that everyone is "middle class", it is rather ironic that in actuality Americans make all kinds of social distinctions. I guess we need to maintain our egalitarian, democratic myths in order to keep from revolting. 

But we are, indeed, a class structured society.  To illustrate this point, Johnson explains to us today that even within the rich there are layers of distinctions--primarily two main ones: the old rich and the nouveau riche. He writes:
If there’s one thing that old-fashioned members of resort society fear, it’s the nouveau riche.
If you would like to learn more about the class of people who rule the US, I highly recommend Jamie Johnson's film entitled, "The One Percent". Being of that class, he has rare access to the rich and powerful who otherwise are rather obsessive about avoiding any public exposure.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Spain: Beyond the general strike

by the Editorial Team of the Catalan ID Group from The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy.(Fall 2010)

In contrast to Americans, our European brothers and sisters have been actively fighting on the streets of Europe against the cuts in public services and social supports. This Inclusive Democracy chapter in Spain recognizes the limited aims of this activism and their inherent weaknesses. In this article they review a necessary strategy to overcome these limitations in order to build a genuine democratic movement that, in contrast to revolutions from above, is the only kind that can lead us out of the growing oppression of the capitalist nightmare. Such discussions are an absolutely necessary starting point in order to develop tactics in support of a strategy to win the battle of survival. Out of these discussions arose the Barcelona Assembly to implement this strategy.
This initiative to launch an autonomous and truly combative movement, organized outside the trade unions, that goes beyond a single day of striking and to become an outcry against the ruling elites and their socioeconomic cutbacks, was a very important step in bringing power back to the people from the various bureaucracies controlling it.

2011: A Brave New Dystopia

by Chris Hedges from TruthDig.

The author uses the themes from both Huxley and Orwell to show how both function to lead us down to a "Brave New Dystopia".
The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression?
Either Hedges has a morbid fascination with the totalitarian nightmare that he sees ahead of us, or else he is compulsively trying to awaken most of us who are sleeping to the reality that this is no mere nightmare. It seems to me that this endless focusing on the horrific trends he so often, and correctly, points out serves mostly to immobilize people. I would rather see him and others spend more time in constructive efforts such as offering ideas as to how we can prevent these dystopias from happening, how we can move from here to something resembling a utopia, how we can begin to replace the systems of oppression with systems of liberation.

The Shadow Banking System: A Third Of All The Wealth In The World Is Held In Offshore Banks

from The Economic Collapse
The super wealthy and the international banking elite think that it is really funny that our paychecks are constantly being drained by federal taxes, state taxes and Social Security taxes while they literally pay nothing at all.  These incredibly rich elitists make a ton of money doing business in wealthy western nations and then they transfer virtually all of their profits offshore where they don't have to contribute any of it in taxes.  It works out really great for them, but it sucks for the rest of us.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Impact of the Crisis on Women in Eastern Europe

by Ewa Charkiewcz from CADTM.

This rather formalistic, academic, and lengthy piece (you can skip many of the details) focuses on the impacts of neo-liberal policies in Eastern Europe with particular emphasis on the consequences for the lives of women. Women always bear the primary responsibilities of "social reproduction" by which is meant all the tasks related to the maintenance of families. the rearing of children, etc. The impacts have been felt most dramatically in these countries due to the fact that under previous "socialist" regimes there existed considerable governmental supports for families. Thus, under neo-liberal policies everything that incurs costs for the capitalist sector is being removed and the effects are often devastating for the lives of ordinary people, often literally killing them.

Although the author focuses on Eastern Europe and on women, the political strategies of neo-liberalism used there can be seen here in the US as well; and her delineation of these strategies are useful for an understanding of what is happening here. She argues that the economic situation can no longer be described as a financial crisis because...
bailed out banks and subsidized investors are doing well. All countries in the region used anti-crisis measures to strengthen investors and businesses at the expense of protecting households. Now the increased budget deficits and growth in public debt are treated as an excuse to continue neoliberal public sector reforms.
And what she refers to as "public sector reforms" means drastic cuts to all social programs like health, education, welfare, childcare services, etc.

But now the solution to solve this former financial crisis is being "shifted to people, who are reconstituted as major cause of the crisis. How it is done?"
  • Step one has been to put the the spotlight on budget deficits, while the causes of the budgetary deficits (bailing out falling banks) are removed from the agenda.
  • Step two has been to reconstitute budget deficit and public debt as major causes of crises that need to be addressed with a variety of social austerity measures. In this way spending on people (or in other words on social reproduction) is constituted as the cause of the crises that is being addressed.
  • Step three: with crises reinvented, what actually caused it: neoliberal governance with its mantra of deregulating social rights in the name of facilitating business growth, cutting public spending and privatizing social sectors is brought back as the solution to the problems that contributed to the crisis in the first place. 
Does this sound familiar?

Dollars for Docs Payments Approach $300 Million

by Charles Ornstein , Tracy Weber and Dan Nguyen from Pro Pulblica.

Corporate capitalism corrupts everything it touches; and nowadays it touches nearly all aspects of our lives, even into such critical areas as our health-care. 
ProPublica launched Dollars for Docs in October, creating the most accessible accounting yet of pharmaceutical payments to doctors for speaking, consulting and other duties.

Smell Something Rotten?

from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting

FAIR's once-a-year's release of the worst examples of journalism in the US. Another way to put it--US corporate media's best efforts to dis-inform, obscure, distort, and manage information and analysis in support of the Empire's ruling class.

WikiLeaks is not shielding Israel

by Linda S. Heard from Online Journal

This provides a good update on the WikiLeaks' controversies.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

World Tired of Paying Bill for US Military [10:09m video]

Interview with Michael Hudson from The Real News

Hudson offers his explanation of why the working and middle classes in the US are being sacrificed to fund the Empire's military and wars.

As the core of the Empire, that is, the NATO countries, experience increasing competition from the BRIC countries, the latter are seeking more independence. This, however, does not in any way comfort me. This is just more inter-capitalist rivalry--like we saw in the 20th century--which can be very dangerous for working people and for world peace.

Where are the jobs? For many companies, overseas

from Associated Press

Welcome to the globalization phase of capitalism. The article illustrates how economies directed by capitalist ruling classes (what economies aren't nowadays?) dictate that investments should only be directed toward areas of the globe where short term profits can be realized. If you like capitalism, then you must love what is happening in today's world. If you own stocks in any of 96% of the top 500 US corporations, you must love corporations and the system that created them. 

Jobs (in the US)? Who among those who rule the world like jobs. They are a cost of doing business and therefore cut into profits. Hence, if you are a capitalist, you go where people will work for the lowest wages. What could be easier to understand than that? What is so difficult to understand is why working people put up with this arrangement and believe all the lies they are told by capitalist media. See this

Two, Three, Many Colombias

by Kevin Young from Foreign Policy in Focus.

For those of you who know that the purpose of capitalist media organs is to manipulate American public opinion to support the Empire's goals of total planetary control and exploitation, this article will be of little interest. It will only confirm what you already know--we have, once again, been lied to. However, it does serve to illustrate where the thinking of American liberals and many progressives are situated. They are increasingly aware that there is a ruling class who have interests separate from most Americans. This writer hints at what is a glaring fact to us:
Given the current constellations of power in the United States and Latin America, a substantial demilitarization of policy would simply incur too much elite resistance and deliver few political rewards.
Well, that is progress! But, whether it is enough progress to keep this class of people from destroying the planet for human habitation remains to be seen. Unfortunately, he seems to think that there is nothing we can do about changing such policies because the "elites" wouldn't like it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

De-growth – is not enough [a must-study article]

by Ted Trainer from The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy Vol. 6, No. 4 (Fall 2010). 

This article is fairly lengthy, but because it deals with the most serious issues in this age of multiple crises, it certainly deserves the additional time it takes to understand it fully. In my opinion, this article along with the other articles from the ID Journal represent the leading edge of progressive thought in the world today. (There appears to be a few obvious errors in the article which could have benefited from more proofreading before publication.)

At least at the present time I favor Ted Trainer's writings which I feel are much more accessible than those of Fotopoulos who is the founder of ID thought. I find that the latter's writing style is a bit off-putting due to his frequent use of rather convoluted, complex sentences and obscure terms. The latter may be due to the fact that English is a secondary language for him, and more of a European English than American. Also, I find that Fotopoulos tends to be too argumentative for my taste. I really don't think that there are any really significant differences between these two writers. But that is only my opinion, and I encourage you to explore the other articles in this issue of the Journal Vol. 6, No. 4 (Fall 2010).

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Dream Of Democracy

by Ralph J Dolan from Global Research

This Vietnam veteran sees the existing problems as due to a "global ruling class", but, so far, does not see this class in relation to a system. Hence, in his view, only the class needs to be changed. This is about as far left as progressives in this country have gone. Most do not yet see the underlying system upon which the ruling class is constructed. Still, after so many years of believing in democratic fairy tales, this represents progress among progressives in the US.
Asserting that a totalitarian political and economic ideology still dominates our world suggests that there exists a ruling class.  How can it be denied?  From country to country one sees ruling families, juntas, crony capitalism, brutal regimes, fat oligarchs amidst vast squalor, domination of the political and economic mechanisms by small, wealthy, entrenched, ruthless, privileged groups.

This is the global ruling class.  They are an elite club.  They look out for each others' political and economic interests.  They lead double lives.  They are all double agents.  They pretend to serve one master but actually serve an entirely different master.  They wear masks.  In public they sing of the glories of the idea of democratic governance, of the march toward the liberation of the human race from tyranny and oppression.  In private they ridicule such notions, despise the people and seek to manipulate the dumb masses to augment their own power, wealth and prestige.
Likewise, looking at only the prospect of removing the ruling class leaves us only with the prospect of a new ruling class.
It is true that in this vulnerable time some new tyrant may come and take the place of the old tyrant.
This concerns me. I fear the possibilities that exist if progressives in the US fail to move beyond this type of thinking. When people become desperate for change, they may go in any direction to achieve it--much like what happened during the Wiemar Republic in Germany in the 1930s.

I Will Not Participate In the Journalism of Appeasement

by David DeGraw from Amped Status

The author is getting exasperated with some of his fellow journalists, and is about to start packing. I am not sure this is a great option. Where can one go in the world that is beyond the reach of the Empire? I think it is far better to stay here and collaborate in figuring out how to create a system free of privileged private interests. 
If you are not calling for revolution or organizing, you are either unaware of what’s happening around you, horribly naïve or a fascist sympathizer. If we continue to let our politicians and wealthy members of society live in comfort, free from the consequences of their actions, we are complicit in our own demise.

So are we going to start fighting back, or should I just move my family to another country? Most everyone who understands our economic and political situation are having this debate now and contemplating moving outside the country. Is that what we should do? Should we just leave the country and let it collapse?
Still, I think that the author has a ways to go to understand that it is the capitalist system itself that needs to be dismantled, and then needs to come up with ideas about a new system that insures social justice, peace, and living in harmony with nature.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Four articles regarding the false hopes in minority leaders

I've come across four articles that relate to disappointment in leaders identified with minorities. Most of these leaders are in Latin America, but the same phenomenon exists here in the US regarding Obama.  Here they are:

Rethinking Imperialist Theory by James Petras. In his review of global political trends during the past decade, he makes this observation:
...between 2000-2005 major popular upheavals and mass mobilizations took place, overthrowing incumbent neo-liberal client regimes, calling for the renationalization of privatized firms, the renunciation of the foreign debt, radical agrarian reforms and income redistribution. Neo-liberal ideology was totally discredited and US foreign policy was subject to a thorough discredit.  Anti-imperialist — if not anti-capitalist — ideology held sway among broad sectors of the working, middle and even elements of the political class.

This radical moment, however, did not lead to a break with the capitalist system.  Instead a series of ‘center-left’ regimes took power and favored by extraordinarily high commodity prices, proceeded to stimulate an economic recovery, and a marked improvement in social conditions.  These policies led to the de-radicalization of the social movements and a modicum of normalization of relations with Washington, albeit with greater autonomy.
Venezuela: Capitalist Revolution versus Human Emancipation by by Franz J.T. Lee. He expresses his disappointment with the Bolivarian Revolution this way:
One thing's for sure, something is going wrong and has to be corrected urgently. To begin with, the glaring difference between the political program of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and the reality on the ground, the ideological wedge of what politicians say or write and what they actually do, has to be eliminated. Only when this is done, only when the dialectics between praxis and theory has been established, can we hope to once again grasp the imagination, fantasy and unconditional enthusiasm of the Venezuelan workers, just like in the years 2002/2003 when for a brief time-span our emancipatory ideas transformed themselves into a material, liberatory force. The absence of theory and praxis and the nefarious presence of ideology and practice, where one thing is said and another thing is done, is the major reason why the Bolivarian ship of state is getting stuck in the Caribbean doldrums.
The Techno-Fantasies of Evo Morales: The Consequences of Modernization  by Chellis Glendinning. She writes this:
...President Morales has made zero use of the perspectives drawn by such voices -- who curiously share with him a fundamental critique of capitalism and the dominant civilization, as well as respect for the traditional wisdoms of indigenous cultures. Not to mention the myriad intellectuals, social-movement comrades, and indígena thinkers within Bolivia, many of whom have become cynical about that glorious hope surging through the Plaza de los Héroes in 2006. ...his sister, water activist Marcela Olivera, claims she is witness to two different Evo Morales’: the one who makes international eco-proclamations and the one, at home, who is pushing dams, uranium excavation, cell towers, and mega-highways.
Who is the real Barack Obama? by Lawrence Davidson.
This president has lost his way. And we have, at least for the foreseeable future, lost important aspects of our constitutional rights. What does this tell us? Those who seek success in politics are rarely fundamentally principled people. They are folks whose principles are associational and that lets them move freely in a world where opportunism is thought to be survival trait. And, it would seem, it is in the modern democratic milieu that this way of politics has been brought to a fine art. 
As you can see, the leaders all have been identified with exploited minorities. However, this doesn't really apply to Obama. The fact that it has been, demonstrates the extreme naiveté of progressives in the US. Obama was mostly raised by his white banker grandmother. His mother worked for USAID and the Ford Foundation in Indonesia, both organizations are often used as fronts for the CIA. His schooling in Hawaii was in elite private schools. Then he went to Harvard. The fact that he has black skin has meant very little in the shaping of his values and perspectives.

The other articles refer to the lack of people empowerment in Latin America and the continuing development of capitalist enterprises, especially in Venezuela and Bolivia, but to some extent in Brazil and Argentina. Both Chavez and Morales had humble, minority origins and were brought to power by widespread popular support. Both use the rhetoric of popular power, but both have done very little to implement it. 

It seems to me that the lack of progress in Latin America is due to the fact that the leaders were not brought to power through organized revolutionary movements, but through the normal political structures of capitalist societies. Leadership means nothing without being incubated, nourished, and brought to maturity through a fundamentally radical organization, one that has built into it real people power from the grass roots upward.  Otherwise all the tools of the corrupting influence of the capitalist class come into play--co-optation, group-think, temptations of power and affluence, etc.--to transform these leaders into servants of the system.