Month: October, 2010
Amnesty International report on the Cuban Five
| October 31, 2010 | 9:18 pm | Cuban Five | No comments

Check out this article from Amnesty International on the Cuban Five

http://mltoday.com/en/subject-areas/cuba/amnesty-international-report-the-case-of-the-cuban-five-984.html

The Empire from the Inside
| October 31, 2010 | 9:01 pm | Analysis | No comments

Check out this article by Fidel Castro at

http://mltoday.com/en/subject-areas/cuba/the-empire-from-the-inside-988.html

Meetup with Jarvis Tyner, Executive VP, CPUSA
| October 28, 2010 | 9:09 pm | Local/State | No comments

Come meet with
Jarvis Tyner
Executive Vice Chair CPUSA
On 11/14/10
From 1pm to 4pm
At
The Houston Institute for Culture
708C Telephone Road
Houston, Texas 77023
Sponsored by
CPUSA Houston

Jarvis Tyner will discuss with us the 2010 elections and their impact on working class progress with a particular focus on the struggle for African American equality and the fight against racism. Mr. Tyner is currently Executive Vice Chair of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and is a member of the national coordinating committee of the Black Radical Congress. He ran for Vice President of the USA in 1972 and 1976 with Gus Hall on the CPUSA ticket. Raised in Philadelphia, he was a member of the Amalgamated Lithographers and Teamsters Union there. He has authored numerous articles and pamphlets on issues of civil rights, peace and working class struggles.

For the US, a spectacularly embarrassing vote at the UN
| October 28, 2010 | 9:00 pm | Latin America | No comments

La Alborada – October 27

After last year, it seemed that the annual vote at the UN could not get worse for the US. This year, it did just that: the vote was 187 against the blockade, two in favor. Palau, a Pacific micro-island that has supported the US in the past, decided to abstain, following the prior example of its neighbor Marshall Islands. Taking that stand is no small matter for an isolated nation in a commonwealth with the US.

The two votes in favor were the US itself and Israel. The latter had no choice but to go along, as it depends entirely on the US –militarily, economically, and diplomatically– and is joined at the hip with the US in a common strategy to reshape the entire Middle East. Israel is now the only nation in the world that officially supports the US in the blockade against Cuba.

The vote yielded the most spectacularly embarrassing outcome against the US blockade since 1992, when, as a result of the Torricelli law, other nations decided that enough was enough, and began to vote increasingly against the blockade. After all, the Torricelli law was advertised as a sure-fire way to implode the Cuban economy, as was its successor Helms-Burton law of 1996 –but neither one succeeded, and the blockade made less sense with every passing year. Why –asked the other nations– should they be forced to obey a US law with which they disagreed and which ran counter to their own commercial and diplomatic interests?

Barack Obama presents himself as the president of multilateralism. It is true that the US has been effective in building coalitions of the so-called willing for specific purposes concerning the wars in the Middle East. In the case of Cuba, however, it is clearly, notoriously, and obstinately deaf to the opinion of the nations of the world. Now, only one other nation is willing.

Still, it persists in a failed policy enshrined in legislation. Still, it continues to demand that Cuba change itself radically at the direction of the US before it will consider whether to begin to dismantle different aspects of the blockade. Still, it depends on hunting down banks and corporations that can be strong-armed into compliance irrespective of their own national laws. After more than half a century, it continues to hope for an economic collapse in Cuba that will allow it to claim victory and save face: You see? We knew it would work!

But it hasn’t worked, and the US hardly saved face at the UN this October. Probably, it will endure a replay next year.

African American Youth Joblessness and the “New Normal”
| October 23, 2010 | 10:33 pm | Economy | No comments

By Carl Bloice – BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board
Black Commentator
October 21, 2010

http://www.blackcommentator.com/398/398_lm_joblessness_new_normal.php

It’s possible that I just didn’t see it but one of the
most significant and alarming statistic in the nation’s
September employment report seems to have gone mostly
unnoticed. So here it is. The unemployment rate for
each of the major demographic groups remained about the
same last month, some even declined a tad. However, the
seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for African
Americans between the ages of 16 and 19 reached 49
percent, up from 45.4 percent in August and 41.7
percent for the same period last year.

It used to be that when people concerned with the
matter commented on the black teenage jobless rate,
they would put in a line about half, or nearly half, of
the young people were without work in major urban
centers. Now it’s the case from Boston to Bakersfield.
Is this the “new normal” we hear so much about?

Pointing to a somewhat different set of statistics,
here is what David Rosnick of the Center for Economic
and Policy Research wrote October 8:

The economy lost 95,000 jobs in September – 77,000
of which were temporary Census positions – while
the unemployment rate held at 9.6 percent.
Including downward revisions in payroll employment
for July and August, there are 110,000 fewer jobs
than reported one month ago.

Though the overall rate of unemployment did not
change in September, different populations were not
similarly affected by employment changes. The
employment-to-population ratio was unchanged at
58.5 percent. While white adults saw relatively
little change in their EPOPs (-0.1 percentage
points for men, 0.1 percentage points for women),
the EPOP for black men aged 20 and over fell 0.5
percentage points in the month and 2.6 percentage
points for African-American teens.

The fall in the latter is particularly striking as
only 16.2 percent of black teens were employed as
recently as May. Ten years ago, 29.5 percent of
black teens were employed compared to 11.7 percent
in September.

This cannot be considered acceptable. The Congress and
the White House should be told that this is
unacceptable. Those people out there trying to rally
the “hip-hop vote” ought to take the lead in saying
this situation cannot endure.

There is already far too much pain and economic
insecurity in the African American community which has
taken a big hit economically because of the system’s
most recent crisis. If it remains almost impossible for
a couple of generations of young women and men to earn
a decent living, it is calamitous for black people and
the country. They cannot become the personification of
the “new normal.”

And we don’t need to hear anymore misleading claims
that these young people have been “left behind by
history,” victims of technology and globalization.
Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke said the other day
that the country’s current jobless level reflects the
state of the economy, is not what some refer to as
“structural” and that little of it can be traced to
people having the wrong skills or being in the wrong
location. This view was echoed last week by labor
market expert Peter Diamond, recipient of this year’s
Nobel Prize for Economics.

The New York Times said editorially last Sunday that as
soon as the November election is over the President
“needs to fight harder for big stimulus projects – in
infrastructure or alternative energy. He has to keep
pushing until Congress and the public understand that
without more stimulus the best that can happen will be
years of only limping along.” For these unemployed
minority youth it’s much worse than limping along.

Last week, President Obama took questions from an
audience of young people, in person and by way of
Twitter, during a session streamed live on the Web. At
one point a young black man complained that despite all
the government recent spending “our unemployment rate
still rises” and that even though he is a college
graduate he’s having trouble finding a job. The
President responded with his now stock answer: the jobs
were lost before I was elected and the Administration
kept the country out of a real depression. These kids
know what a real depression feels like. It’s having
empty pockets in a madly consumerist society. It’s
being unable to plan for a family and things like
having children and sending them to school.

The question is where do we go from here?

The President recently laid out a proposal for a
moderate stimulus program involving a reasonable
project to see to the country’s real infrastructure
needs. But we didn’t hear much about it after that and
the trifling Congress adjourned to go home and try to
save their collective butts.

At the beginning of the year, the Economic Policy
Institute projected that unemployment for African
Americans would reach a 25-year high of 17.2 percent
this year with the rates in five states exceeding 20
percent. Three quarters into the year it stands at 16.1
percent, up from 15.5 percent a year ago. “These
sobering data show us that the nation must do more to
address the ongoing human tragedy brought on by this
recession,” EPI researcher Kai Filion commented at the
time. “There is no reason why we should tolerate such
outcomes – elected officials can and must put millions
of Americans back to work with bold, targeted job
creation policies.”

Among the consequences Filion predicted is a staggering
poverty rate of 50percent for African American
children.

When the International Monetary Fund met in Washington
October 9, its managing director, Dominique Strauss-
Kahn, issued a sobering warning. “We face the risk of a
lost generation,” he said. “When you lose your job,
your health is likely to be worse. When you lose your
job, the education of your children is likely to be
worse. When you lose your job, social stability is
likely to be worse – which threatens democracy and even
peace. So we shouldn’t fool ourselves. We are not out
of the woods yet. And for the man in the street, a
recovery without jobs doesn’t mean much.”
_________________

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice
is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National
Coordinating Committee of the Committees of
Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and formerly
worked for a healthcare union.

_____________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest
to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

The Paradox of Capitalism
| October 23, 2010 | 10:28 pm | Readings | No comments

by Prabhat Patnaik

Original URL: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/patnaik221010.html

John Maynard Keynes, though bourgeois in his outlook, was a remarkably insightful economist, whose book Economic Consequences of the Peace was copiously quoted by Lenin at the Second Congress of the Communist International to argue that conditions had ripened for the world revolution. But even Keynes’ insights could not fully comprehend the paradox that is capitalism.

In a famous essay “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren”, written in 1930, Keynes had argued: “Assuming no important wars and no important increase in population, the economic problem may be solved, or be at least within sight of solution, within a hundred years. This means that the economic problem is not, if we look into the future, the permanent problem of the human race” (emphasis in the original).

He had gone on to ask: “Why, you may ask, is this so startling? It is startling because, if instead of looking into the future, we look into the past, we find that the economic problem, the struggle for subsistence, always has been hitherto the most pressing problem of the human race. . . . If the economic problem is solved, mankind will be deprived of its traditional purpose.” He had then proceeded to examine how mankind could fruitfully use its time in such a world.

True, after Keynes had written there was the Second World War, but thereafter mankind has had six and a half decades without any “important war” of the sort that could interrupt what he had called the “era of progress and invention”. And the rate of population growth has also not accelerated to a point that can be considered to have invalidated Keynes’ premise. And yet if we take mankind as a whole, it is as far from solving the economic problem as it ever was. True, there has been massive accumulation of capital, and with it an enormous increase in the mass of goods available to mankind; and yet, for the vast majority of mankind, the “struggle for subsistence” that Keynes had referred to has continued to remain as acute as ever, perhaps in some ways even more acute than ever before.

To say that this is only because not enough time has passed, that over a slightly longer time period Keynes’ vision will indeed turn out to be true, is facile. The fact that the bulk of mankind continues to face an acute struggle for subsistence is not a matter of degree; it is not as if the acuteness of this struggle for this segment of mankind has been lessening over time, or that the relative size of this segment has been lessening over time. We cannot therefore assert that the passage of more time will lift everybody above this struggle.

Dichotomy Structurally Inbuilt in Capitalism

Likewise, to say that, while enormous increases have taken place in the mass of goods and services available to mankind (the increase in this mass being more in the last hundred years than in the previous two thousand years, as Keynes had pointed out), its distribution has been extremely skewed and hence accounts for the persistence of the struggle for subsistence for the majority of the world’s population is to state a mere tautology. The whole point is that there is something structural to the capitalist system itself, the same system that causes this enormous increase in mankind’s capacity to produce goods and services, which also ensures that, notwithstanding this enormous increase, the struggle for subsistence must continue to be as acute as before, or even more acute than before, for the bulk of mankind.

Keynes missed this structural aspect of capitalism. His entire argument in fact was based on the mere logic of compound interest, i.e. on the sheer fact that “if capital increases, say, 2 percent per annum, the capital equipment of the world will have increased by a half in twenty years, and seven and a half times in a hundred years”. From this sheer fact it follows that output too would have increased more or less by a similar order of magnitude, and mankind, with so much more of goods at its disposal, would have overcome the struggle for subsistence. The reason Keynes assumed that an increase in the mass of goods would eventually benefit everyone lies not just in his inability to see the antagonistic nature of the capitalist mode of production (and its antagonistic relationship with the surrounding universe of petty producers), but also in his belief that capitalism is a malleable system which can be moulded, in accordance with the dictates of reason, by the interventions of the State as the representative of society. He was a liberal and saw the state as standing above, and acting on behalf of, society as a whole, in accordance with the dictates of reason. The world, he thought, was ruled by ideas; and correct, and benevolent, ideas would clearly translate themselves into reality, so that the increase in mankind’s productive capacity would get naturally transformed into an end of the economic problem. If the antagonism of capitalism was pointed out to Keynes, he would have simply talked about state intervention restraining this antagonism to ensure that the benefit of the increase in productive capacity reached all.

The fact that this has not happened, the fact that the enormous increase in mankind’s capacity to produce has translated itself not into an end to the struggle for subsistence for the world’s population, but into a plethora of all kinds of goods and services of little benefit to it, from a stockpiling of armaments to an exploration of outer space, and even into a systematic promotion of waste, and lack of utilization, or even destruction, of productive equipment, only underscores the limitations of the liberal world outlook of which Keynes was a votary. The state, instead of being an embodiment of reason, which intervenes in the interests of society as a whole, as liberalism believes, acts to defend the class interests of the hegemonic class, and hence to perpetuate the antagonisms of the capitalist system.

Antagonisms in Three Distinct Ways

These antagonisms perpetuate in three quite distinct ways the struggle for subsistence in which the bulk of mankind is caught. The first centres around the fact that the level of wages in the capitalist system depends upon the relative size of the reserve army of labour. And to the extent that the relative size of the reserve army of labour never shrinks below a certain threshold level, the wage rate remains tied to the subsistence level despite significant increases in labour productivity, as necessarily occur in the “era of progress and innovation”. Work itself therefore becomes a struggle for subsistence and remains so. Secondly, those who constitute the reserve army of labour are themselves destitute and hence condemned to an even more acute struggle for subsistence, to eke out for themselves an even more meager magnitude of goods and services. And thirdly, the encroachment by the capitalist mode upon the surrounding universe of petty production, whereby it displaces petty producers, grabs land from the peasants, uses the tax machinery of the State to appropriate for itself, at the expense of the petty producers, an amount of surplus value over and above what is produced within the capitalist mode itself, in short, the entire mechanism of “primitive accumulation of capital”, ensures that the size of the reserve army always remains above this threshold level. There is a stream of destitute petty producers forever flocking to work within the capitalist mode but unable to find work and hence joining the ranks of the reserve army. The antagonism within the system, and vis-à-vis the surrounding universe of petty production, thus ensures that, notwithstanding the massive increases in mankind’s productive capacity, the struggle of subsistence for the bulk of mankind continues unabated.

The growth rates of world output have been even greater in the post-war period than in Keynes’ time. The growth rates in particular capitalist countries like India have been of an order unimaginable in Keynes’ time, and yet there is no let-up in the struggle for subsistence on the part of the bulk of the population even within these countries. In India, precisely during the period of neo-liberal reforms when output growth rates have been high, there has been an increase in the proportion of the rural population accessing less than 2400 calories per person per day (the figure for 2004 is 87 percent). This is also the period when hundreds of thousands of peasants, unable to carry on even simple reproduction, have committed suicide. The unemployment rate has increased, notwithstanding a massive jump in the rate of capital accumulation; and the real wage rate, even of the workers in the organized sector, has at best stagnated, notwithstanding massive increases in labour productivity. In short our own experience belies the Keynesian optimism about the future of mankind under capitalism.

But Keynes wrote a long time ago. He should have seen the inner working of the system better (after all Marx, who died the year Keynes was born, saw it), but perhaps his upper-class Edwardian upbringing came in the way. But what does one say of people who, having seen the destitution-“high growth” dialectics in the contemporary world, still cling to the illusion that the logic of compound interest will overcome the “economic problem of mankind”? Neo-liberal ideologues of course propound this illusion, either in its simple version, which is the “trickle down” theory, or in the slightly more complex version, where the State is supposed to ensure through its intervention that the benefits of the growing mass of goods and services are made available to all, thereby alleviating poverty and easing the struggle for subsistence.

But this illusion often appears in an altogether unrecognizable form. Jeffrey Sachs, the economist who is well known for his administration of the so-called “shock therapy” in the former Soviet Union that led to a veritable retrogression of the economy and the unleashing of massive suffering on millions of people, has come out with a book where he argues that poverty in large parts of the world is associated with adverse geographical factors, such as drought-proneness, desertification, infertile soil, and such like. He wants global efforts to help these economies which are the victims of such niggardliness on the part of nature. The fact that enormous poverty exists in areas where nature is not niggardly, but on the contrary bounteous; the fact that the very bounteousness of nature has formed the basis of exploitation of the producers on a massive scale, so that they are engaged in an acute struggle for existence precisely in the midst of plenitude; and hence the fact that the bulk of the world’s population continues to struggle for subsistence not because of nature’s niggardliness but because of the incubus of an exploitative social order, are all obscured by such analysis. Keynes’ faith in the miracle of compound interest would be justified in a socialist order, but not in a capitalist one.

——————————————————————————–
Prabhat Patnaik is an Indian economist, who has achieved international acclaim with his incisive analyses of various aspects of economics and politics. He is a professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning in the School of Social Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Patnaik is currently Vice-Chairman of the Planning Board of the Indian state of Kerala. This article was first published in People’s Democracy (5 July 2009); it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.

Communiqué of the Sept. 26, 2010 Regional Meeting of the Middle East Region of the World Peace Council
| October 23, 2010 | 9:56 pm | International | No comments

On 26th September 2010 the Regional Meeting of the Middle East region of the World Peace Council took place successfully in Cairo, Egypt. The meeting was attended by the peace movements of the region, in particular from Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Palestine and Syria and by guests from the Movements of India, Sudan, Cyprus, Turkey and Greece along with the Executive Secretary of the WPC and a delegation from the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO) which hosted the meeting. The Regional Meeting was preceded on the 25th September by a successful regional Seminar jointly organized by WPC and AAPSO under the title: “The Peace & Solidarity Movement of the region and the ‘New Middle East’ ”

After a fruitful exchange of views and information and the discussion of the Report by the regional coordinator the participants of the Regional Meeting agreed and issued the following communiqué:
The participants of the Meeting salute the peace loving peoples and movements in the region with the most imperialist aggressions, cases of occupation and threats to peace and security and expressed their solidarity with the struggles of the peoples for their just causes, in their struggle for Democracy, peoples’ and workers’ rights, for prosperity and social justice.

While working people world wide and in the region are facing the consequences of the capitalist economic crisis with brutal social cuts and growing unemployment, the participants of the meeting observed the growing military expenditure and aggressiveness of imperialism and the immense profits of the multinational corporations and monopolies.

The situation in the broader area is explosive.
The Palestinian Tragedy is continuing for more than 60 years without indications for a near end. Israeli occupation and annexation of territories, settlements, separation wall, invasions, demolishing of houses, arrestment of people and assassination is a daily policy, while more than 50 – 60 percent of Palestinian people are refugees. The ongoing slowly genocide against the Palestinian people is a result also of the full support by the USA and the EU to the Israeli occupation. We demand the immediate lifting of the Israeli siege and blockade of the Palestinian Gaza strip, where the people live in inhuman conditions.

The ongoing occupation and destruction of Iraq, the killing more than 110000 of Iraqi people, religious and ethnic wars for its division and control of the oil reserves is brutal evidence for the unchanged strategy of the US administration and its willing allies which maintain 50.000 troops of occupation in Iraq, threatening at the same time neighbour countries and peoples. The meeting expressed its solidarity to the Iraqi people in its desire to liberate their country and their right to resist their occupiers.
The Israeli aggression against Lebanon in 2006 and the recent incident at the border area underlines the aggressive attitude of Israel which failed due the heroic resistance of the Lebanese people which refused to accept the division of their country.

The meeting denounced the use of phosphoric and cluster bombs as well as other internationally prohibited weapons in the Israeli military operations against civilians in both Gaza and Lebanon. Up to one million unexploded cluster bombs remain in south Lebanon after the 2006 aggression, posing a continuing risk to civilians and environment.
The participants of the meeting observed the pressure and threats against Syria with the Israeli forces attacking its territories while it is accused for cooperation with terrorists aiming at international isolation of Syria due to its anti-imperialist policy.

The systematic campaign against Iran organized by Israel, USA and its European allies on the nuclear issue creates tension and is preparing the public opinion in their countries and in the countries of the region for a new aggression. The WPC regional meeting is opposed to the imposition of economic sanctions by the UN Security Council against Iran and any further punitive sanctions by the E.U. and supports the right for the peaceful use of Nuclear Energy for its country.

The attendees of the regional meeting expressed their solidarity with the peace loving forces in Iran in their complex struggle for peace, democracy and social justice. They emphasised the inherent link between the struggle for democratic rights and freedoms of the working people and the potential of the campaign to develop a popular and effective peace movement to resist the threats from the US- led world imperialism.

The Regional Meeting rejects the Imperialist “New Middle East Plan” which has in its core the geostrategical interests of the USA and its allies from political, economical and military point of view. Through cooperative or submissive governments in the region, business for the oil and other multinationals are being secured. The military and political domination is secured through the Occupation and exploitation of Iraq and Afghanistan, placing at the same time threats to other countries through the huge military presence in and around the region.

The participants of the meeting denounced the new reactionary strategic concept of NATO which leads to a role as “World Sheriff” wherever the interests of imperialism are at stake.

The participants of the meeting reiterate their position for universal and complete nuclear disarmament emphasizing in the Middle East at the Nuclear Program of Israel which constitutes a threat to the peoples of the area.
The regional meeting notes with concern the growing religious fundamentalist tendencies in the region, which are being used by imperialism for their plans.
The Peace movement and peace loving forces can win in joint struggle with the struggling people in the world, with the WPC and other democratic, anti-imperialist international Organisations who played a significant role during the last 60 years supporting the just causes of the people all over the world especially in the Middle East.
Therefore the meeting concluded demanding:
• The Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied in the 1967 war, the West Bank with East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Sheba farms.
• Establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the borders of 1967 and with East Jerusalem as its capital
• The complete and immediate withdrawal of all foreign occupation forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and the right to establish their free, democratic and sovereign states
• A firm rejection of every threat against Iran and the support full support for the struggle of the Iranian people and their progressive forces to find solutions for the internal problems faced by the country on the basis of preserving the sovereignty and independence of Iran and without any external interference, denouncing any plan for a military attack on Iran under whatever pretext.
• Ensuring equal rights for all Arab citizens in Israel. On this respect, the WPC rejects the idea of recognizing Israel as a “Jewish State”
Today this meeting in Cairo shall be a boost for the further strengthening of the WPC in the Middle East. As stronger the WPC will be in the Middle East as stronger will be the resistance of our peoples to the imperialist plans.
Cairo 26th September 2010 the Regional Meeting Middle East of the WPC

The attended Organisations are the following:
Palestinian Committee for Peace and Solidarity, Syrian National Peace Council, Lebanese Peace Council, Jordanian Peace and Solidarity Council, Committee for the defence of Iranian people’s Rights, Egyptian Peace Committee, Israeli Peace Committee, Iraqi Peace and Solidarity Council from the Middle East.

Guest Organisations were present from the Peace Association of Turkey, All India Peace &Solidarity Council, Cyprus Peace Council, Greek Committee for International Democratic Solidarity, Sudan Peace& Solidarity Council as well as a delegation from AAPSO and the WPC.