Month: December, 2010
Twenty-one Conditions – V.I. Lenin
| December 31, 2010 | 10:09 pm | Readings | No comments

The Twenty-one Conditions, officially the Conditions of Admission to the Communist International, refer to the conditions given by Vladimir Lenin to the adhesion of the socialists to the Third International (Comintern) created in 1919 after the 1917 October Revolution. The conditions were formally adopted by the Second Congress of the Comintern in 1920. The conditions were:

1 All propaganda and agitation must bear a really communist character and correspond to the programme and decisions of the Communist International. All the party’s press organs must be run by reliable communists who have proved their devotion to the cause of the proletariat. The dictatorship of the proletariat must not be treated simply as a current formula learnt off by heart. Propaganda for it must be carried out in such a way that its necessity is comprehensible to every simple worker, every woman worker, every soldier and peasant from the facts of their daily lives, which must be observed systematically by our press and used day by day.

The periodical and other press and all the party’s publishing institutions must be subordinated to the party leadership, regardless of whether, at any given moment, the party as a whole is legal or illegal. The publishing houses must not be allowed to abuse their independence and pursue policies that do not entirely correspond to the policies of the party.

In the columns of the press, at public meetings, in the trades unions, in the co-operatives – wherever the members of the Communist International can gain admittance – it is necessary to brand not only the bourgeoisie but also its helpers, the reformists of every shade, systematically and pitilessly.

2 Every organisation that wishes to affiliate to the Communist International must regularly and

methodically remove reformists and centrists from every responsible post in the labour movement (party organisations, editorial boards, trades unions, parliamentary factions, co-operatives, local government) and replace them with tested communists, without worrying unduly about the fact that, particularly at first, ordinary workers from the masses will be replacing ‘experienced’ opportunists.

3 In almost every country in Europe and America the class struggle is entering the phase of civil war. Under such conditions the communists can place no trust in bourgeois legality. They have the obligation of setting up a parallel organisational apparatus which, at the decisive moment, can assist the party to do its duty to the revolution. In every country where a state of siege or emergency laws deprive the communists of the opportunity of carrying on all their work legally, it is absolutely necessary to combine legal and illegal activity.

4 The duty of propagating communist ideas includes the special obligation of forceful and systematic propaganda in the army. Where this agitation is interrupted by emergency laws it must be continued illegally. Refusal to carry out such work would be tantamount to a betrayal of revolutionary duty and would be incompatible with membership of the Communist International.

5 Systematic and methodical agitation is necessary in the countryside. The working class will not be able to win if it does not have the backing of the rural proletariat and at least a part of the poorest peasants, and if it does not secure the neutrality of at least a part of the rest of the rural population through its policies. Communist work in the countryside is taking on enormous importance at the moment. It must be carried out principally with the help of revolutionary communist workers of the town and country who have connections with the countryside. To refuse to carry this work out, or to entrust it to unreliable, semi-reformist hands, is tantamount to renouncing the proletarian revolution.

6 Every party that wishes to belong to the Communist International has the obligation to unmask not only open social-patriotism but also the insincerity and hypocrisy of social-pacificism, to show the workers systematically that, without the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, no international court of arbitration, no agreement on the limitation of armaments, no ‘democratic’ reorganisation of the League of Nations will be able to prevent new imperialist wars.

7 The parties that wish to belong to the Communist International have the obligation of recognising the necessity of a complete break with reformism and ‘centrist’ politics and of spreading this break among the widest possible circles of their party members. Consistent communist politics are impossible without this.

The Communist International unconditionally and categorically demands the carrying out of this break in the shortest possible time. The Communist International cannot tolerate a situation where notorious opportunists, as represented by Turati, Modigliani, Kautsky, Hilferding, Hillquit, Longuet, MacDonald, etc., have the right to pass as members of the Communist International. This could only lead to the Communist International becoming something very similar to the wreck of the Second International.

8 A particularly marked and clear attitude on the question of the colonies and oppressed nations is necessary on the part of the communist parties of those countries whose bourgeoisies are in possession of colonies and oppress other nations. Every party that wishes to belong to the Communist International has the obligation of exposing the dodges of its ‘own’ imperialists in the colonies, of supporting every liberation movement in the colonies not only in words but in deeds, of demanding that their imperialist compatriots should be thrown out of the colonies, of cultivating in the hearts of the workers in their own country a truly fraternal relationship to the working population in the colonies and to the oppressed nations, and of carrying out systematic propaganda among their own country’s troops against any oppression of colonial peoples.

9 Every party that wishes to belong to the Communist International must systematically and persistently develop communist activities within the trades unions, workers’ and works councils, the consumer co-operatives and other mass workers’ organisations. Within these organisations it is necessary to organise communist cells which are to win the trades unions etc. for the cause of communism by incessant and persistent work. In their daily work the cells have the obligation to expose everywhere the treachery of the social patriots and the vacillations of the ‘centrists’. The communist cells must be completely subordinated to the party as a whole.

10 Every party belonging to the Communist International has the obligation to wage a stubborn struggle against the Amsterdam ‘International’ of yellow trade union organisations. It must expound as forcefully as possible among trades unionists the idea of the necessity of the break with the yellow Amsterdam International. It must support the International Association of Red Trades Unions affiliated to the Communist International, at present in the process of formation, with every means at its disposal.

11 Parties that wish to belong to the Communist International have the obligation to subject the personal composition of their parliamentary factions to review, to remove all unreliable elements from them and to subordinate these factions to the party leadership, not only in words but also in deeds, by calling on every individual communist member of parliament to subordinate the whole of his activity to the interests of really revolutionary propaganda and agitation.

12 The parties belonging to the Communist International must be built on the basis of the principle of democratic centralism. In the present epoch of acute civil war the communist party will only be able to fulfil its duty if it is organised in as centralist a manner as possible, if iron discipline reigns within it and if the party centre, sustained by the confidence of the party membership, is endowed with the fullest rights and authority and the most far-reaching powers.

13 The communist parties of those countries in which the communists can carry out their work legally must from time to time undertake purges (re-registration) of the membership of their party organisations in order to cleanse the party systematically of the petty-bourgeois elements within it.

14 Every party that. wishes to belong to the Communist International has the obligation to give unconditional support to every soviet republic in its struggle against the forces of counter-revolution. The communist parties must carry out clear propaganda to prevent the transport of war material to the enemies of the soviet republics. They must also carry out legal or illegal propaganda, etc., with every means at their disposal among troops sent to stifle workers’ republics.

15 Parties that have still retained their old social democratic programmes have the obligation of changing those programmes as quickly as possible and working out a new communist programme corresponding to the particular conditions in the country and in accordance with the decisions of the Communist International.

As a rule the programme of every party belonging to the Communist International must be ratified by a regular Congress of the Communist International or by the Executive Committee. Should the Executive Committee of the Communist International reject a party’s programme, the party in question has the right of appeal to the Congress of the Communist International.

16 All decisions of the Congresses of the Communist International and decisions of its Executive Committee are binding on all parties belonging to the Communist International. The Communist International, acting under conditions of the most acute civil war, must be built in a far more centralist manner than was the case with the Second International. In the process the Communist International and its Executive Committee must, of course, in the whole of its activity, take into account the differing conditions under which the individual parties have to fight and work, and only take generally binding decisions in cases where such decisions are possible.

17 In this connection all those parties that wish to belong to the Communist International must change their names. Every party that wishes to belong to the Communist International must bear the name Communist Party of this or that country (Section of the Communist International). The question of the name is not formal, but a highly political question of great importance. The Communist International has declared war on the whole bourgeois world and on all yellow social-democratic parties. The difference between the communist parties and the old official ‘social-democratic’ or ‘socialist’ parties that have betrayed the banner of the working class must be clear to every simple toiler.

18 All the leading press organs of the parties in every country have the duty of printing all the important official documents of the Executive Committee of the Communist International.

19 All parties that belong to the Communist International or have submitted an application for membership have the duty of calling a special congress as soon as possible, and in no case later than four months after the Second Congress of the Communist International, in order to check all these conditions. In this connection all party centres must see that the decisions of the Second Congress are known to all their local organisations.

20 Those parties that now wish to enter the Communist International but have not yet radically altered their previous tactics must, before they join the Communist International, see to it that no less than two thirds of the central committee and of all their most important central institutions consist of comrades who even before the Second Congress of the Communist International spoke out unambiguously in public in favour of the entry of the party into the Communist International. Exceptions may be permitted with the agreement of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. The Executive Committee of the Communist International also has the right to make exceptions in relation to the representatives of the centrist tendency mentioned in paragraph 7.

21 Those party members who fundamentally reject the conditions and Theses laid down by the Communist International are to be expelled from the party.[1]

SOURCE: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/21_Conditions

Gus Hall on the “united front”, “opportunism” and “liquidating the party”
| December 28, 2010 | 10:09 pm | Party Voices | No comments

From Labor Up-Front: In the people’s fight against the crisis (page 94)

By Gus Hall

Main Weakness-Sectarianism

…for the present period the nature of the main weakness that holds us back from measuring up can be characterized as sectarianism-a deficiency that comes in many varieties-Left and Right.

The deficiency derives from both a lack of appreciation of the level and the scope of the mass trends and a lack of understanding of the new features of the mainstream and the Left current, as well as from not understanding or fully appreciating the unique and necessary contributions we Communists can and must make to these movements. So the deficiency is both an underestimation of the mass upsurge and the Party’s role in it.

When masses are not in motion, when the waves of struggle are at ebbtide, it is necessary to pursue policies and tactics that sometimes go sharply against the stream-tactics and policies of an opposition, policies that one could call sectarian, as Karl Marx once did. We have experienced such periods. This, however, is not one of those periods. In a period of high tide such policies and tactics turn into their very opposite. They do not lead. They tail events.

The struggle against sectarianism requires the conscious and consistent, never-ending seeking out and nurturing of allies, especially allies who are ready to work with us as Communists.

One of the very important features of this period, as I indicated previously, is that the number of such people on the Left is growing very fast. Increasingly such people are seeking us out and expressing the desire to consult with us. These are people who will and do disagree with us on some questions. They may be ready to work with us in only one or two areas. They will have ideological flaws of many kinds. They may have had, and may still express, anti-Party concepts and slanders. But the real truth is that if we cannot work with such people, then who the hell can we work with. The fact is that if we cannot work with such people we are not going to work with anyone-except ourselves.

In mass work, the words “working with and giving leadership to” are a very important concept. If we do not practice this concept, if we do not respect the independent character of the mass movements, we can never win their respect for our leadership. Even in mass organizations in which Communists are in leading positions they cannot be viewed or characterized as “our movements.” Only the Party is ours.
Our relationship with mass organizations and movements must be shaped by the fact that we are not out to “take over,” or to dominate administratively, because it does not serve any useful purpose. Communists must be the very best of team players. The push for Communists to run for elective office, whether in a trade union or in an ad hoc committee, must come from one’s co-workers. It must be earned.

Of course there are times when differences must be discussed. But we must always remember who is the main enemy. We must be careful in our judgments. We must always use the explanatory tone. We must always take into account the sum total of facts before resorting to criticism. We must continue to master the art of discussing-not debating or arguing-while working together as allies and friends.

We must put subjective and personal feelings on the back burner. They must not be permitted to become obstacles to working with people who may sometimes irritate us. We must always meet people more than halfway in order to win them, to convince people that it is possible, necessary and even enjoyable to work with us, even if we do not agree on everything. We must never assume that we are always right.

We must not follow the petty-bourgeois Maoist line of treating all who are not one hundred percent with us as being one hundred percent against us. We simply must not tolerate such attitudes.

In this context, for example, a policy of building only Left unity in a period when Center forces are in motion is sectarianism. Left unity is a very important concept. And in the context of building Left-Center unity it is a necessary concept. But a Left unity that rejects working with the Center forces is sectarian.
Experience in united front struggles shows that differences are lessened if the Party carries on independent propaganda on issues on which there are differences. Thus, Party propaganda in the form of leaflets, pamphlets and lectures is most necessary and very helpful in our united front work, especially if our materials are explanatory and convincing.

United front, wrote Lenin, is a method of mobilizing working people who either have no special or specific philosophy but who are for democracy, or people who are under the influence of reformist, revisionists or opportunists.

On the united front, Lenin said:

The purpose and sense of the tactics of the united front consist in drawing more and more masses of the workers into the struggle against capital, even if it means making repeated offers to the leaders of the Second and Second-and-a-half Internationals. (V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 42, p. 411)

At a recent Conference of Communist and Workers Parties (Moscow, 1969) the resolution stated:

Communists should not regard everyone who is critical of the Soviet Union or the Communist Party, or who differ on one or another issue as being anti-Communist and who must be fought and rejected as far as the united front is concerned.

In this period, when the Party is pursuing a mass policy and when the members are involved in mass movements, there are of course other kinds of problems that emerge that are of a Right-opportunist nature.

When involved in mass movements there are always pressures for Communists to act and even talk like just good old plain progressives, to talk like good anti-monopoly fighter, like good democrats, like good trade unionists, like good national liberation fighters, like good old liberals.

Now there is nothing wrong with talking and acting like good trade unionists or progressives. It becomes a weakness if our activities are limited to that level. (emphasis is admins) We have more to say about reforms than reformists do. For us tactics are related to strategic objectives. Our exposes are not limited to the boss or the corporation. We expose them as links in the system.

Some who work on the level of reformists continue to go to club meetings, read our press and quote Marxist classics. But the fact is that very often the opportunism begins to corrode the ideological and political innards. Such comrades will begin to lose their class and socialist consciousness, and in time slip into a fantasy world where they think they can get along as well and even better outside the Party. This of course is opportunism and it is also liquidating the Party.

There are warning signs of this weakness. When comrades work in mass organizations and movements and never get a subscription to the Daily World, People’s World or to Political Affairs, never recruit a new member-that is a warning signal that such comrades need help. They need political and ideological help. We cannot accept as natural that a comrade works in a shop, is a member of a trade union or a mass organization for 15, 20 and even 25 years and never recruits enough to start a club of the Communist Party. Some retire without ever recruiting anyone.

Such comrades were good old trade unionists, or good old democrats and democratic fighters for all those years, but they did not live and work as Communists-ideologically, politically or personally.
We must be clear that although working with mass movements may lead to problems of Right opportunism, that must never be permitted to become a conscious or unconscious excuse for not pursuing a mass policy, for not being involved in mass struggles. That would be like deciding not to plant a garden because you may have problems with opportunistic bugs and worms.

Gus Hall on “Opportunism”
| December 27, 2010 | 10:17 pm | Party Voices | No comments

From Working Class USA: The Power and the Movement (p. 95)

By Gus Hall

In a period of ebb in social, political and economic struggles it is not always easy to judge what are necessary adjustments in tactics. And it is not easy to separate tactics that correctly reflect the new problems, the new relationship of forces of the ebb period, from actions that are motivated by an opportunistic retreat from the difficulties of struggle of such a period. What adds to the difficulty is that there are pressures for both.

Opportunistic retreat and a shift in tactics appear simultaneously because they are reactions to the same realities. It is further complicated by the fact that in most cases the paths of opportunistic retreat starts with very necessary and correct steps of tactical adjustment. Where one ends and the other begins is at times very difficult to determine because there also are periods when one individual can reflect a mixture of both and also because the rationale for a retreat often sounds very much like the rationale for a tactical shift.

The key word in determining one from the other is “struggle.” A correct tactical adjustment is not a shift away from struggle. It is a shift of tactics for and in struggle. Tactics after all have meaning only when they are an integral part of the struggle. On the other hand an opportunistic retreat is an edging away from struggle. It is a process of giving up positions, making unnecessary concessions, and all this without struggle. A correct tactical shift is to find a new path to struggle, while an opportunistic retreat is a way of avoiding struggle, and giving up positions, thinking this will placate the enemy.

Raul Castro:Speech at the National Assembly
| December 27, 2010 | 9:04 pm | Latin America | No comments

Comrades all:

We have been meeting for several days now discussing extremely important matters
for the future of the nation. This time, in addition to our customary work in
commissions, the deputies have met in plenary with the purpose of analyzing the
details of the current economic situation, as well as the budgetary proposals
and the economic plan for the year 2011.

The deputies have also devoted long hours to the thorough evaluation and
clarification of some doubts and concerns about the Draft Guidelines for the
Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution.

Our media has given a broad coverage to these discussions in order to make it
easier for the general public to receive this information.

In spite of the impacts of the world crisis on the national economy, the
irregular rainfall patter during the last 19 months -from November 2008 until
June this year-, and without excluding our own errors, I can affirm that the
performance of the 2010 economic plan could be deemed as acceptable considering
the times we are living. We will attain the goal of 2.1 per cent growth in the
Gross Domestic Product, better known by its acronym (GDP); exports of goods and
services have increased. The annual forecast figure of foreign visitors has
already been reached when the current year is not yet at a close. Although once
again we will not be able to meet the planned revenues goals, we have
strengthened the domestic financial balance and, for the first time in several
years, we are beginning to see a favorable dynamic, still somewhat limited, in
work productivity as compared to average salary.

Withholdings of foreign transfers or, what amounts to the same thing, the
restrictions we were forced to impose at the end of 2008 on payments from Cuban
banks to foreign suppliers -which shall be totally suppressed next year- have
continued to decrease. At the same time, significant progress has been achieved
in the rescheduling of our debt with our principal creditors.

Once again I would like to thank our commercial and financial partners for their
confidence and understanding; I confirm to them our most steadfast intentions of
punctually honoring our commitments. The Government has given precise
instructions to not take on new debts without guaranteeing their payment within
the terms agreed upon.

As was explained by the Vice President of the Government and Minister of Economy
and Planning, Marino Murillo Jorge, next year�s plan foresees a 3.1 per cent GDP
growth, which should be reached in the midst of a scenario that is not any less
complicated or tense.

The year 2011 is the first of five included in the midterm projection of our
economy. During this period we shall be gradually and progressively introducing
some new structures and concepts in the Cuban economic model.

During the coming year, we shall decisively move on to reduce superfluous
expenses, thus promoting the saving of all types of resources which, as we have
said on several occasions, is the quickest and safest source of income at our
disposal.

Likewise, we shall not overlook in the least the social programs in the areas of
health, education, culture and sports; we would rather raise their quality,
since we have identified enormous reserves of efficiency through a more rational
use of the existing infrastructure. We shall also be increasing exports of
goods and services, while continuing to concentrate investments in those areas
showing the quickest return on those.

Regarding the economic plan and the budget, we have insisted that the old story
of non-compliances and overdrafts must come to an end. The plan and the budget
are sacred. And I repeat, from now on, the plan and the budget will be sacred;
they were drafted to be complied with, not to make us feel content with
justifications of any sort or even with imprecisions and lies, whether
deliberate or not, when the goals previously set are not met.

At times some comrades, although without a fraudulent purpose, contribute
inaccurate information received from their subordinates without previously
checking them and so they fall into unconscious lying. But these false data
could lead us to make wrong decisions with major or minor repercussions on the
nation. Whosoever acts in that manner is also lying, and whoever these persons
may be they must be definitively and not temporarily removed from the position
they hold and, after the analysis of the corresponding bodies, they must also be
removed from the ranks of the Party, should they be a member of it.

Lies and their harmful effects have accompanied mankind since we learned the art
of speech in ancient times, motivating society�s condemnation. We recall that
the eighth of the Ten Commandments of the Bible reads: �Thou shalt not bear
false witness or lie�. Likewise, the three basic moral ethical principles of
the Inca civilization stated as follows: do not lie, or steal, or be lazy.

We must struggle to eradicate, once and for all, lies and deceit from the
cadres� behavior at all levels. No wonder Comrade Fidel in his brilliant
definition of the concept of Revolution, pointed out, among other things: �…to
never say a lie or violate ethical principles�.

After the publication of the Draft Guidelines for the Economic and Social Policy
on November 9th last, the train of the Sixth Party Congress has taken on steam,
since now the true congress will be the open and honest discussions of said
guidelines by Party members and the entire people. This genuine democratic
exercise will allow us to further enrich that document and, without excluding
divergent opinions, achieve national consensus about the need and urgency of
introducing strategic changes in the way the economy functions, with the purpose
of making Socialism in Cuba sustainable and irreversible.

We should not be afraid of discrepancies of criteria and this instruction, which
is not new, should not be interpreted as being limited only to the discussions
of the Guidelines; the differences of opinion, preferably expressed in the right
place, time and form, at the right moment and in the correct form, shall always
be more desirable than the false unanimity based on pretense and opportunism.
Moreover it is a right nobody should be deprived of.

The more ideas we are capable of inspiring in the analysis of a problem, the
closer we shall come to its correct solution.

The Economic Policy Commission of the Party and the 11 groups which make it up,
have worked long months to draw up the abovementioned guidelines which, as we
have explained, shall constitute the leitmotif of the Congress, based on the
conviction that the economic situation is the most important task of the Party
and the Government and the basic subject of cadres at all levels.

During the last few years we have been insisting that we could not let ourselves
be carried away by improvising and hurrying in this area, bearing in mind the
magnitude, complexity and the inter-relations of the decisions to be adopted.
For that reason I think that we did the right thing when we decided to defer the
Party Congress even though we had to patiently resist the honest and also the
ill-intended protests both inside Cuba and abroad urging us to rush into the
adoption of a score of measures. Our adversaries abroad, as we might expect,
have challenged our every step, first by calling the measures cosmetic and
insufficient and now trying to confuse public opinion by prophesizing a sure
failure and concentrating their campaigns on the extolling of an alleged
disappointment and skepticism with which they say our people have welcomed this
draft.

Sometimes it seems that their most heartfelt wishes prevent them from seeing the
reality. By making their true desires evident, they blatantly demand that we
dismantle the economic and social system that we created, just as if this
Revolution was willing to submit to the most humiliating surrender or, what
tantamount to the same thing, rule its own destiny by submitting to denigrating
conditions.

Throughout 500 years, from Hatuey to Fidel, our people have shed too much blood
to accept the dismantling of what we have built with so much sacrifice.

To those who may entertain those unfounded illusions, we must remind once and
again what I said before this Parliament on August 1, 2009, and I quote: �I was
not elected President to restore capitalism in Cuba nor to surrender the
Revolution. I was elected to defend, maintain and continue improving socialism,
not to destroy it�, end of quote.

Today, I add that the measures we are implementing and all the modifications
that need to be introduced to the updating of the economic model are aimed at
the preservation of socialism by strengthening it and making it truly
irrevocable, as was stated in the Constitution of the Republic at the behest of
the vast majority of our population in the year 2002.

We have to put on the table all the information and arguments behind every
decision and also suppress the excessive secrecy to which we became used to
during these 50 years that we have lived under the enemy siege. Any State must
reasonably keep some matters secret; that is something nobody can deny. But
matters defining the political and economical course of the nation shall be no
secret. It is vital to explain, provide arguments and convince the people of
the fairness, need and urgency of any measure, no matter how tough it appears to
be.

The Party and the Communist Youth, as well as Cuba�s Workers� Central and its
unions, along with the rest of the mass and social organizations have the
capacity to mobilize the support and the confidence of the people through
debate, free from unviable dogmas and schemes that would put up a colossal
psychological barrier that we need to dismantle little by little, and we shall
do it together.

That is exactly the fundamental agenda that we have reserved for the National
Conference of the Party to be held in 2011, after the Congress, at a date we
shall set later. On that occasion we shall analyze, among other matters, the
modifications of the working methods and styles of the Party since, as a result
of the deficiencies found in the performance of the Government administrative
bodies, the Party has engaged in the exercise of functions outside its duties,
thus restricting and compromising its role as the organized avant-garde of the
Cuban nation and the top leading force of society and the State, as established
by Article Five of the Constitution of the Republic.

The Party should lead and supervise and not interfere with the activities of the
Government at no level: it is the Government that governs. Each body has its
own norms and procedures, depending on their missions in society.

It is necessary to change the mentality of the cadres and of all other
compatriots in facing up the new scenario which is beginning to be sketched out.
It is just about transforming the erroneous and unsustainable concepts about
socialism, that have been deeply rooted in broad sectors of the population over
the years, as a result of the excessively paternalistic, idealistic and
egalitarian approach instituted by the Revolution in the interest of social
justice.

Many of us Cubans confuse socialism with freebies and subsidies and equality
with egalitarianism. Quite a few of us consider the ration card to be a social
achievement that should never be gotten rid of.

In this regard, I am convinced that several of the problems we are facing today
have their origin in this distribution mechanism. While it is true that its
implementation was inspired by the wholesome idea of ensuring people a stable
supply of foodstuffs and other goods to counter the unscrupulous hoarding by
some for profit, it is an evident expression of egalitarianism that equally
benefits those who work and those who do not, or those who do not need it, thus
generating bartering and resale in a submerged black market, etc, etc.

The solution to this complex and sensitive matter is not that simple since it is
closely related to the strengthening of the role of salaries in society. That
will only be possible if, at the same time, freebies and subsidies are reduced
and the productivity of work and the supply of products to the population are
increased.

In this matter, as well as in the reduction of overstaffing, the Socialist State
shall not leave any citizen unprotected and via the social welfare system it
shall ensure that people who are unable to work will receive the minimum
required protection. In the future there will be subsidies, but not to
products, but to Cuban men and women who for one reason or another really need
them.

As is known, as from September the cigarette rations were eliminated. This
product was received only by part of the population. Obviously, due to its
harmful effects to human health, it can not be considered a basic commodity.

Next year we can not afford to spend around 50 million dollars to import coffee,
which has so far been distributed in rations to all consumers, including newborn
children. Since this is an unavoidable necessity, we intend to mix it with
peas, as we used to do until 2005, since they are much cheaper than coffee,
whose price is almost three thousand dollars per ton, while the cost of peas is
390 dollars.

If we want to keep on drinking pure, un-rationed coffee the only solution is to
produce it in Cuba where it has been proven that all the required conditions for
its cultivation exist, and where we can produce enough quantities to satisfy the
demand and even to export it with the highest quality.

These decisions, and others that we shall have to apply, even though we know
they are not popular ones, are a must in order to be able to maintain and even
improve the free public health, education and social security services for all
of our citizens.

The leader of the Cuban Revolution, Comrade Fidel himself, in his historical
speech on November 17, 2005, stated, I quote: �Here is a conclusion I�ve come to
after many years: among all the errors we may have committed, the greatest of
them all was that we believed that someone really knew something about
socialism, or that someone actually knew how to build socialism�, end of quote.
Hardly one month ago, exactly five years later, in his message on the occasion
of the International Students Day, Fidel confirmed these concepts which are
still fully valid.

I for one remember the idea of a Soviet award-winning scientist who about half a
century ago was thinking that even though the possibility of a manned flight
into space had been theoretically documented, it was still a journey into the
unknown.

While we have counted on the theoretical Marxist-Leninist legacy, according to
which there is scientific evidence of the feasibility of socialism and the
practical experience of the attempts to build it in other countries, the
construction of a new society from an economic point of view is, in my modest
opinion, also a journey into the unknown. Therefore each step must be
profoundly meditated upon and planned before the next step is taken; mistakes
are to be timely and quickly amended so that the solution is not left up to
time, which will make them grow and will and finally send us an even more costly
invoice.

We are fully aware of the mistakes we have committed and the Guidelines
precisely mark the beginning of the road to rectification and the necessary
updating of our socialist economic model.

Nobody should claim he or she has been deceived: the Guidelines signal the road
towards a socialist future, adapted to Cuba�s conditions and not to the
capitalist and neo-colonial past which was defeated by the Revolution. Planning
and not free market shall be the distinctive feature of the economy. As was
outlined in the third general guideline, the concentration of ownership shall
not be allowed. This is as clear as glass, but there is no one as blind as the
one who doesn�t want to see.

The building of socialism should be according to the special features of every
country. It is a history lesson that we have learned very well. We do not
intend to copy from anyone; that brought about enough problems to us because, in
addition to that, we also copied badly; but we shall not ignore the experiences
of others and we shall learn from them, even from the positive experience of
capitalists.

Speaking about the necessary change of mind, I shall mention one example: we
have arrived at the conclusion that large numbers of self-employed persons are
one more employment opportunity for working-age citizens with the aim of
increasing the supply of goods and services to the population which could rid
the State of those so that it could focus on what is truly decisive, what the
Party and the Government should do is facilitate their work rather than
generating stigmas and prejudices against them. Therefore it is fundamental
that we modify the existing negative approach that quite a few of us have
towards this form of private employment. When defining the features that ought
to characterize the building of a new society, the classics of Marxist-Leninism
stated, among other things, that the State, on behalf of all the people, should
keep the ownership over all the basic production means.

We turned this precept into an absolute principle and almost all the country�s
economic activity started to be run by the State. The steps we have been taking
and shall take in broadening and relaxing self-employment are the result of
profound meditations and analysis and we can assure you this time there will be
no going back.

Cuba�s Workers� Central and its respective national unions are currently
studying forms and methods to organize the provision of assistance to this labor
force, promote full compliance with the Law and the payment of taxes and
encourage these workers to eschew illegalities. We should defend their
interests just as we do with any other citizen, as long as they observe the
approved juridical norms.

The introduction of the basic concepts of the taxation system at different
levels of education becomes very important, since younger generations will
become permanently and concretely acquainted with the application of taxes as
the most universal form of redistribution of the national income, in the
interest of covering social costs.

>From the point of view of the society as a whole, we have to encourage among all
taxpayers the civic values of respect of and compliance with tax payments; we
should educate people in that discipline and culture, reward those who comply
and sanction tax evaders.

Another area where there is still much to do, in spite of the advances made, is
the attention to the different production modalities in agriculture to remove
the existing obstacles to the promotion of productive forces in our rural areas
so that, depending on the savings from saving on the import of foodstuffs,
farmers can receive just and reasonable revenues for their hard work. However
this does not justify the fixing of extremely high prices to the commodities
consumed by the population.

After two years since we started to distribute idle lands in usufruct, I think
we are in conditions to evaluate the allocation of additional areas, above the
limits regulated by Decree-Law 259 of July 2008, to those agricultural workers
who have achieved outstanding results in the intensive use of the lands they are
responsible for.

I think it timely to clarify that the ownership of the lands distributed in
usufruct belong to all the people. Thus, if these are required for uses
different from these in the future, the State would compensate beneficial owners
for their investments and would pay to them the value of the benefits created.

In due time, once we conclude the studies based on the experience we have been
accumulating, we shall submit to the Council of State the corresponding
proposals to modify the abovementioned Decree-Law.

One of the most difficult barriers to overcome in the effort to create a
different view -and we should publicly recognize that-, is the lack of knowledge
about the economy among the people, including quite a few cadres who, giving
clear proof of a supine ignorance on the subject, adopt or propose decisions
while facing customary problems without stopping for a minute to evaluate their
effects and costs, or without knowing whether there is a budget or resources
assigned to that end according to a plan.

I have not made any discovery when I state that improvisation in general,
particularly when it comes to the economy, leads to a sure failure regardless of
the lofty ends one intends to attain.

On December 2 last, on the occasion of the 54th anniversary of the landing of
the Granma, the official newspaper of our Party published an excerpt of the
speech delivered by Fidel in 1976 on that same date when we were celebrating the
twentieth anniversary of that event. Given its validity and relevance I find it
appropriate to quote it: �The strength of a people and a revolution lies
precisely in its capacity to understand and cope with difficulties. Despite
everything, we will move forward on numerous fronts and we will struggle bravely
to increase the economy�s efficiency, save resources, reduce non-essential
costs, increase exports and create economic awareness in every citizen. I said
earlier that we are all politicians; now I add that we should all be economists,
that the mindset of saving and efficiency is different from a consumer mindset�,
end of quote.

Ten years later, on December 1 of 1986, during the postponed session of the
Third Party Congress, Fidel stated, and I quote: �Many do not understand that
the Socialist State, just as any other State or system, can not deliver what it
does not have. Much less is it going to have that which it does not produce if
it gives away money without having a productive backing. I am sure that
overstaffing, excess money paid out to people, idle stocks, and wasting of
resources are all linked to the great number of unprofitable companies that we
have in our country…� end of the quote.

After 34 and 24 years respectively, from these instructions given by the Leader
of the Revolution, these and many other problems are still with us.

With his genius, Fidel was breaking through, showing the way, and the rest of us
didn�t know how to ensure and consolidate the march forward to pursue those
goals.

We were lacking cohesion, organization and coordination between the Party and
the Government. In the midst of the threats and the daily emergencies we
neglected mid and long-term planning; we did not act strong enough against the
economic violations and the errors committed by some leaders and we also stalled
in correcting decisions that didn�t have the effect we expected.

On more than one occasion I have referred to the fact that in this Revolution
almost everything has been said and that we should check which of the
instructions given by the Leader of the Revolution have been fulfilled and which
have not, ever since he made his vibrant statement �History Will Absolve Me�
until the present. We will retake Fidel�s ideas, which continue to be valid,
and will not allow the same to happen to us again.

Errors, if they are just analyzed with honesty, can become experiences and
lessons that could teach us how to eradicate them and avoid its replication.
That is precisely the great usefulness of a thorough analysis of errors. That
should become a permanent rule of conduct for all leaders.

The reality of figures prevails over all our hopes and dreams. Since our early
years in first grade, when we studied elementary arithmetic, we learn that two
plus two makes four, not five or six. You don�t have to be an economist to
understand that. Therefore, if at any given time we have to do something in the
economic and social field whose cost can not be covered by the resources
available, we should do that bearing in mind the consequences and knowing, ahead
of time, that, ultimately, bare facts shall irremissibly prevail.

Cuba has tens and tens of thousands of professionals graduated by the Revolution
in the specialties of economy, accounting and finances, just to mention some,
which we haven�t known how to make a proper use of their knowledge in the
interest of the nation�s orderly development.

We have something that is very precious, which is human capital. We must
further unite it, with the help of the National Association of Economists and
Accountants (ANEC) to take up the task of constantly and systematically
instructing our educated public and their leaders at all levels in this subject.
A large number from the ANEC National Board took part in the first seminars that
we organized to analyze these guidelines and many of their members are immersed
in the process of discussions under way.

In this regard, we should emphasize the decisive contribution made by thousands
and thousands of accountants to recover the place they deserve in economic
management which, as we well know, is an indispensable condition to ensure
success and order in everything that we intend to accomplish.

In these circumstances, nobody should lose sight of the relevance of keeping a
differentiated approach to the youth. I should emphasize the decision to exempt
new graduates fulfilling their Social Service from any overstaffing reduction
process.

Now then, we are not trying to assign them to jobs that have nothing to do with
their professional profiles, as it has occurred in the past, when they were even
employed as doormen at some work places, because that period is precisely
designed to train them in production and the provision of services, so that they
could complement the theory they learned in school with practice and cultivate
in them the love for work.

No less important is the work to be carried out by cadres and specialists
involved in the drafting and review of legal documents, along with the
modifications that are being implemented. For example, the issuance of almost
30 provisions -including decree-laws, Government agreements and resolutions from
various ministries and national institutes- have been required to create the
legal framework for two guidelines (158 and 159), referring to self-employment,
its taxation regime and the reduction of overstaffing.

Just a few days ago, a resolution issued by the Ministry of Finances that
modified the prices set by redistribution centers for a series of agricultural
products had to terminate another 36 resolutions of that same body, issued on
different dates in previous years, but all valid.

These facts give you some idea of the work facing us in the area of juridical
organization for the purpose of reinforcing the institutionality of the country
and eliminating so many irrational prohibitions that have been on the books for
years, without bearing in mind existing circumstances, creating a true breeding
ground for multiple barely legal actions that frequently give rise to corruption
in different degrees. One can arrive at a life-tested conclusion: irrational
prohibitions lead to violations and that in turn leads to corruption and
impunity; that is why I believe that the population is right in its concern over
the mind-boggling procedures associated with housing and automobile sales
between individuals, just to mention two examples that are currently under study
for an orderly solution.

At the right time, we must simplify and group together legislation in effect
which is generally rather spread out. The guiding documents are drawn up to be
mastered by those responsible for their fulfillment, not just to be filed away.
As a result, we have to educate all cadres and demand that they work with legal
provisions that govern their functions and monitor that this complies as a
requisite for suitability in occupying a determinate position.

It is worthwhile remembering, once again, that ignorance of the law is no excuse
for not following it and that, according to the Constitution, every citizen has
equal rights and responsibilities, therefore whoever commits a crime in Cuba,
regardless of the position he or she holds, whoever they may be, shall have to
face up to the consequences of their mistakes and to the weight of justice.

Moving on to another matter, also part of the Guidelines, in next year�s plan,
we have excluded 68 important investments for the country because they have not
followed the established requirements, among them funding definition, technical
and project preparation, the definition of building forces capable of
undertaking them in the set terms and evaluation of feasibility studies. We
shall not allow the wastage of resources destined for investments resulting from
spontaneity, improvisation and superficiality which, in more cases than not, has
characterized the investment process.

In dealing with these subjects I must refer to the decisive role corresponding
of Party cadres, the Government, mass and youth organizations in the coordinated
and harmonious management of the process of updating the Cuban economic model.

In the course of the gradual decentralization that we are putting forth, we have
adopted different measures in favor of increasing the authority of
administrative and business executives on whom we shall continue to delegate
powers. Simultaneously we are improving control procedures and raising to
higher levels the demands to confront manifestations of negligence, apathy and
other behaviors incompatible with public positions.

Likewise, we are fully aware of the harm caused by the �upside-down pyramid� to
the cadres policy during the years; I mean, when salaries are not paid in
relation to the importance and hierarchy of leadership positions, nor is there
adequate differentiation between some and others, all of which works against
motivation for promoting the most capable workers towards senior level
responsibilities in the companies and in the ministries themselves. This is a
basic matter that must be resolved according to what is indicated in guidelines
number 156 and 161, referring to salary policy.

The sixth Party Congress should be, as a fact of life, the last to be attended
by most of us who belong to the Revolution�s historical generation. The time we
have left is short, and without an ounce of immodesty or conceit, I think we
have the obligation of taking advantage of the power of the moral authority we
enjoy among the people to trace out the route to be followed.

We don�t think we are more intelligent or able than anyone else or any of the
like, but we strongly believe that we have the elemental duty to correct the
mistakes that we have made all along these five decades during which we have
building socialism in Cuba. To this Endeavour we will devote all the energy we
have left, which fortunately is not just a little.

We will increase our perseverance and our intransigence against wrong. The
ministers and other administrative and political leaders know they will count on
our full support when, while performing their duties, they educate and the same
time are demanding with their subordinates and are not afraid of running into
trouble.

Running into trouble for confronting the wrong is right now one of our main
tasks.

Likewise it is very clear to all of us that we are no longer living through the
early years after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, when some of those who
were appointed to government posts resigned to demonstrate their opposition to
the first radical measures adopted by the Revolution. That behavior was then
branded as counterrevolutionary. Today, the true revolutionary and honest
behavior is for any cadre to resign with dignity and without any fear whenever
they feel tired or incapable of fully performing their duties. This will always
be preferable to a demotion.

In this regard, I should refer to three comrades who occupied important
positions in the leadership of the Party and the Government. As a result of
their mistakes, the Political Bureau asked them to resign to their condition as
members of that leading body, the Central Committee and as deputies to the
National People�s Power Assembly. I am referring to Jorge Luis Sierra Cruz,
Yadira Garc�a Vera and Pedro S�ez Montejo. The first two were also released
from their positions as minister of Transportation and of the Basic Industry
respectively. Sierra took upon himself attributions he was not entitled to,
which led him to make serious mistakes in management. Yadira Garc�a�s
performance as minister was dreadful, which became particularly evident in the
poor control of the resources allocated to investments, which led to a waste of
those resources, as it became obvious during the expansion of the nickel factory
Pedro Soto Alba of Moa, in the province of Holgu�n. Both comrades
were severely criticized at the joint meetings of the Political Bureau and the
Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers.

On his part, Pedro S�ez Montejo, evidencing superficiality incompatible with his
position as First Secretary of the Communist Party in the City of Havana,
infringed upon the party work standards, something that was discussed with him
by a Political Bureau commission which was presided over by myself and made up
by comrades Machado Ventura and Esteban Lazo.

It is fair to say though that these three comrades the mistakes which of them
had made and adopted a correct attitude. That is the reason why the Political
Bureau Commission decided to respect their condition as members of the Communist
Party. Likewise, we deemed it convenient to assign them to tasks related to
their respective specialties.

Personally, the three of them will continue to be my friends but my only single
commitment is with the people, particularly with those who have lost their lives
in these 58 years of continued struggle since the coup d�etat in 1952. This has
been the procedure followed with three high level leaders, so let it be known
that this would be the same procedure to be followed by the Party and the
Government with every cadre. We will demand more from them, but at the same
time we will war them and adopt any relevant disciplinary measure if any of the
established rules are infringed upon.

As was established by the Law to Modify the Country�s Political and
Administrative Division, on January next year the new provinces of Artemisa and
Mayabeque will be created. Their respective governments will start to world
according to the new organizational and structures conceptions, which are far
more rational than the ones that exist in the present Havana province.

All functions, structures and payrolls have been already defined. We are still
working of the definitions of their attributions as well as their relations with
the Central State Administrative Apparatus, national companies and political and
mass organizations. We will follow very closely this experience so that it
could be gradually implemented on all other local government bodies throughout
the country in the course of the next five years. We very much favor the
usefulness of continuing to gradually increase the authority of provincial and
municipal governments by entrusting them with greater faculties for the
execution of local budgets, which will absorb much of the taxes generated by the
economic activity aiming at contributing to its further development.

The relations with the peoples and governments of almost every nation move on
amidst the convulsive international situation.

The world has known in amazement the scandalous revelations of hundreds of
thousands of classified documents of the US government. Some of the most recent
are about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; others deal with the most varied
topics about the US relations with tens of States.

Although everybody is wondering what is really going on and how could this be
linked to the twists and turns of the US politics, what has been revealed so far
show that that country, although pretending to practice a kind rhetoric,
essentially, it continues to implement the usual politics and acts as a global
gendarme.

There isn�t the slightest willingness on the part of the United States to change
its policy against Cuba, not even to eliminate its most irrational aspects. It
is evident that a powerful and reactionary minority that props up the anti Cuban
mafia continues to have a major influence on these issues.

The United States not only turns a blind eye to the overwhelming call issued by
187 countries asking for an end to the economic, commercial and financial
blockade against our country. In the year 2010, it reinforced its
implementation and once again included Cuba in its spurious lists, whereby they
take upon themselves the right to qualify and denigrate other sovereign States
to justify punitive actions or even acts of aggression.

The US policy against Cuba does not have an ounce of credibility. The US has no
other choice but to resort to lies to reiterate certain allegations. Some of
them stand out for being scandalously false, as the one asserting that Cuba is a
country that sponsors international terrorism, tolerates domestic traffic in
children and women for sexual exploitation, violates flagrantly human rights and
is responsible for significantly restricting religious freedom.

The US government tries to hide its own sins and attempts to evade its
responsibilities when it allows that notorious international terrorists who have
been wanted by the legal systems of several countries continue to live with
impunity in that country while maintaining our Five brothers unjustly imprisoned
for fighting against terrorism.

In its slanderous campaigns about the human rights situation in Cuba, the United
States has found the connivance of European countries known because of their
complicity with the CIA secret renditions, the creation of torture and detention
centers, for placing the burden of the economic crisis on the lowest income
workers, violently repressing demonstrators and implementing discriminatory
policies against migrants and minorities.

We will continue to struggle, together with all Latin American nations, for an
emancipating integration. In the context of the Bolivarian Alliance for the
Peoples of Our America, we will continue to work to consolidate the solidarity
and unity that will make us ever stronger.

Therefore, we will continue to support he sister nation of Haiti where our
health staff together with Latin American and Haitian doctors who graduated in
Cuba, in a selfless and humanitarian way, are coping with the cholera epidemic,
the destruction caused by the earthquake and the sequels of hundreds of years of
exploitation and plundering of that noble people that needs the international
community to grant resources for reconstruction and especially for a sustainable
development.

This is also the right occasion to convey, from this parliamentary meeting and
on behalf of all Cubans, a message of support and solidarity to the brother
people of Venezuela, who are suffering from the ravages of torrential rains
which have great human and material losses. At a very early stage, the tens of
thousands of Cuban cooperation workers who are offering their services in that
country were instructed to place themselves at the disposal of the Venezuelans
and of President Hugo Chavez for whatever might be necessary.

April next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the
Socialist character of our Revolution. In the sands of Playa Gir�n our forced
fought for the first time to defend socialism and within hardly 72 hours and led
by Commander in Chief in person, they managed to defeat the mercenary invasion
sponsored by the US government.

On the occasion of such a relevant commemoration, there will be a military
parade on April 16 with the participation of troops and combat equipment, to be
attended by the delegates to the 6th Congress of the Communist Party who will
gather on that very afternoon to begin their works, which we hope will conclude
on April 19, the day when we celebrate the Victory of Playa Giron. The parade
will be closed by tens of thousands of youths representing the new generations,
which are the guarantee of the continuity of the Revolution.

This celebration will be dedicated to our youth, which has never failed to be
faithful to the Revolution. Youth were those who died during the attack on the
Moncada and Bayamo garrisons; youth were those who rose up in Santiago de Cuba
led by Frank Pais; youth were the Granma expeditionaries who after the fiasco at
Alegr�a de P�o, founded the Rebel Army, and were joined by waves of other youths
from the countryside and the city, particularly by the reinforcement that came
from Santiago that was personally organized and sent by Frank himself; youth
were those who were members of the powerful clandestine movement; youth were
those who courageously attacked the Presidential Palace and the Radio Reloj
radio station on March 13, 1957, headed by Jose Antonio Echeverr�a; youth were
those who fought heroically in Gir�n; youth and teenagers were those who joined
the literacy campaign also 50 years ago; youth were most of those who fought
against the mercenary bands organized by the C
IA; youth were those who wrote beautiful pages of courage and stoicism in the
internationalist missions in several countries, particularly those in support of
the liberation movements in Africa; youth are our Five Heroes who risked their
lives I the struggle against terrorism and have suffered more than 12 years of
cruel imprisonment; youth are many of the thousands and thousands of cooperation
workers who defend the human life by curing diseases that have already been
eradicated in Cuba, supporting the literacy programs and disseminating culture
and the practice of sports throughout the world.

This Revolution has been the results of the sacrifices made by the Cuban youth:
the workers, farmers, students, intellectuals, military, all the youths from all
the times when they have lived and struggled.

This Revolution will be carried forward by the youth, full of optimism and with
an unshakable faith in victory.

Equally big have been both the challenges and dangers since the triumph of the
Revolution, especially after Gir�n. But no difficulty has ever bent our spirit.
We are and will be here due to the dignity, the integrity, the courage, the
ideological strength the revolutionary spirit and the sacrifice of the Cuban
people which since long ago embraced the concept that socialism is the only
guarantee to continue to be free and independent.

Thank you, very much.

Pentagon’s Christmas Present: Largest Military Budget Since World War II
| December 27, 2010 | 8:51 pm | National | No comments

Rick Rozoff
December 23, 2010
http://www.opednews.com/articles/Pentagon-s-Christmas-Prese-by-Rick-Rozoff-101223-140.html

On December 22 both houses of the U.S. Congress unanimously passed a bill authorizing $725 billion for next year’s Defense Department budget.

The bill, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011, was approved by all 100 senators as required and by a voice vote in the House.

The House had approved the bill, now sent to President Barack Obama to sign into law, five days earlier in a 341-48 roll call, but needed to vote on it again after the Senate altered it in the interim.

The proposed figure for the Pentagon’s 2011 war chest includes, in addition to the base budget, $158.7 billion for what are now euphemistically referred to as overseas contingency operations: The military occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.

The $725 billion figure, although $17 billion more than the White House had requested, is not the final word on the subject, however, as supplements could be demanded as early as the beginning of next year, especially in regard to the Afghan war that will then be in its eleventh calendar year.

Even as it currently is, the amount is the highest in constant dollars (pegged at any given year’s dollar and adjusted for inflation) since 1945, the final year of the Second World War. With recent U.S. census figures at 308 million, next year the Pentagon will spend $2,354 for every citizen of the country at the $725 billion price tag alone.

Last year’s Pentagon budget, by way of comparison, was $680 billion, a base budget of $533.8 billion and the remainder for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In July of this year Congress approved the 2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act which contained an additional $37 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Next year’s defense authorization of $725 billion compares to, according to the Center for Defense Information, a Pentagon budget of $444.6 billion in 1946; $460.4 billion in 1968, the highest yearly amount during the Vietnam War; and $443.4 billion in 1988, the highest during the eight years of the Ronald Reagan administration’s massive military buildup. (Numbers in 2004 constant dollars.) [1]

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates American military spending for 2009 to have accounted for 43 percent of the world total. Carl Conetta, co-director of the Project on Defense Alternatives, earlier this year estimated the 2010 U.S. defense budget to constitute 47 percent of total worldwide military expenditures and to amount to 19 percent of all American federal spending.

In addition, Pentagon spending has increased by 100 percent since 1998 and “the Obama budget plans to spend more on the Pentagon over eight years than any administration has since World War II.” [2]

With 2.25 million full-time civilian and military personnel, excluding part-time National Guard and Reserve members, the Defense Department is the U.S.’s largest employer, outstripping Walmart with 1.4 million employees and the U.S Post Office with 599,000. [3]

“Add in what Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and the Energy departments spend on defense and total US military spending will reach $861 billion in fiscal 2011, exceeding that of all other nations combined,” according to Todd Harrison, senior fellow for Defense Budget Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. [4]

In April Robert Higgs of The Independent Institute advocated that the budgets – in part or in whole – of the departments of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Energy, State and Treasury and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) should be calculated in the real military budget, which would in 2009 would have increased it to $901.5 billion.

“Adding [the] interest component to the previous all-agency total, the grand total comes to $1,027.8 billion, which is 61.5 percent greater than the Pentagon’s outlays alone.”

His numbers are:

National Security Outlays in Fiscal Year 2009
(billions of dollars)

Department of Defense 636.5

Department of Energy (nuclear weapons and environmental cleanup) 16.7

Department of State (plus international assistance) 36.3

Department of Veterans Affairs 95.5

Department of Homeland Security 51.7

Department of the Treasury (for the Military Retirement Fund) 54.9

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (1/2 of total) 9.6

Net interest attributable to past debt-financed defense outlays 126.3

Total 1,027.5 [5]

The above-cited Carl Conetta stated at the beginning of this year that the 2011 Pentagon budget will mark a milestone in that “the inflation-adjusted rise in spending since 1998 will probably exceed 100% in real terms by the end of the fiscal year.

“Taking the 2011 budget into account, the Defense Department has been given about $7.2 trillion since 1998, when the post-Cold War decline in defense spending ended. Approximately $2.5 trillion of this total is due to spending above the annual level set in 1998. This added amount constitutes the post-1998 spending surge.”

Based on constant 2010 dollars, Conetta further details that the Ronald Reagan administration spent $4.1 trillion on the Defense Department, the Georgia W. Bush administration spent $4.65 trillion and “Barack Obama plans to spend more than $5 trillion.”

He also compares the two previous largest post-World War Two surges in U.S. military spending to the current one:

From 1958-1968: 43 percent

From: 1975-1985 57 percent

In regards to which he said, “the 1998-2011 surge is as large as these two predecessors combined.”

His calculations also include a growth in Pentagon contract employees of 40 percent since 1989, thereby freeing up uniformed service members for more direct combat roles.

The U.S. share of global military spending grew from 28 percent during the Cold War to 41 percent by 2006 and that of NATO member states, including the U.S., from 49 percent to 70 percent in the same period.

Contrariwise, the “group of potential adversary and competitor states has gone from claiming a 42 % share to just 16 % in 2006.

“Had Ronald Reagan -” who is generally regarded a hawkish president -” wanted to achieve in the 1980s the ratio between US and adversary spending that existed in 2006, he would have had to quadruple his defense budgets.

“And, of course, since 2006, the US defense budget has not receded, but instead grown by another 20% in real terms.

“By 2011, the United States will probably account for more than half of all global military spending calculated in terms of ‘purchasing power parity’ (which corrects for differences between national economies).” [6]

The defense authorization bill passed on December 22, despite its monumental and unprecedented size, has been routinely described in the American press as stripped-down, scaled-down and pared-down because an arms manufacturer or two, their lobbyists and obedient congresspersons didn’t get every new defense contract and weapons project they desired three days before Christmas.

The December 22 vote in the House was, as Associated Press accurately described it, conducted without debate or discussion – and “without major restrictions on the conduct of operations” – particularly in regards to the $158.7 billion for the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, $75 million to train and equip the armed forces of Yemen for the counterinsurgency campaign in that country and $205 million more to fund Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield.

Regarding the first vote on December 17: “This year’s bill is mostly noteworthy for its broad bipartisan support during wartime….Unlike during the height of the Iraq War when anti-war Democrats tried to use the legislation to force troops home, the House passed the defense bill Friday with almost no debate on Afghanistan.” [7]

Aside from voting for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as a stand-alone measure, excising an amendment to allow abortions to be performed on military bases, and refusing reparations to victims of the World War Two Japanese occupation of the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam (apparently $100 million for the purpose was considered excessive in the $725 billion authorization), there was no meaningful dissent in either house of Congress.

Increasing the U.S. war budget to the highest level it’s been since the largest and deadliest war in history while no nation or group of nations poses a serious threat to the country, and to a degree where it effectively exceeds the defense spending of the rest of the world combined, is all in the proper order of things for the world’s sole military superpower.

1) Center for Defense Information
http://www.cdi.org/news/mrp/us-military-spending.pdf
2) Christian Science Monitor, March 29, 2010
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/David-R.-Francis/2010/0329/Defense-budget-After-Afghanistan-and-Iraq-withdrawal-a-peace-dividend
3) Christian Science Monitor, June 28, 2010
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/David-R.-Francis/2010/0628/Cuts-to-US-defense-budget-look-inevitable
4) Ibid
5) Robert Higgs, Defense Spending Is Much Greater than You Think
The Independent Institute, April 17, 2010
http://www.independent.org/blog/index.php?p=5827
6) Carl Conetta, Trillions to Burn? A Quick Guide to the Surge in Pentagon
Spending
Project on Defense Alternatives, February 5 2010
http://www.comw.org/pda/1002BudgetSurge.html
7) Associated Press, December 17, 2010

Houston mayor targets city worker pensions
| December 20, 2010 | 10:05 pm | Local/State | No comments

By James Thompson

HOUSTON – According to a Houston Chronicle article, Houston Mayor Annise Parker has mounted an attack on city workers pensions. Firefighters, police officers and municipal employees are the targets in a budget cutting move which follows in the footsteps of the previous Mayor, Bill White. Both White and Parker are Democrats. One of the first things White did when he took office was to slash the city worker’s pensions.

Parker will apparently take her case to the Texas legislature. The Texas legislature should be fertile grounds for her since a “supermajority” of Republicans were elected this last election cycle. Parker maintains that the firefighter pensions are “unsustainable”.

Of course, there is disagreement with the Mayor’s hysteria over worker’s pensions and some maintain that the burden on the city budget is exaggerated.

Firefighters argue that the nature of their job increases the risk of serious medical and health problems and an adequate pension is necessary to compensate the workers for the risks they take to protect the public.

Some maintain that the firefighter’s pension is the last city pension to provide a reasonable retirement.

All of this occurs in the context of the much ballyhooed Texas budget shortfall ($20 billion by some estimates) which will certainly capture the attention of the hysterical GOP supermajority which will seize control in Austin in the next legislative session.

One must wonder if Mayor Parker, while trying to emulate the “Grinch that Stole Christmas”, has considered any alternative to this robbing the poor to pay the rich scheme.

Houston is the home of some of the largest corporations in the world. The city has some of the largest neighborhoods of ultra-wealthy people in the world. The city is full of gigantic banks and mega-churches. All are reaping unprecedented profits in the current economic catastrophe.

Has anyone considered for a moment the possibility of making these corporations, individuals and organizations pay their fair share of taxes? If these parasites on the people were contributing to the good of the city and its workers, there would be no question that the valiant firefighters who risk their lives to save the leeches when their gigantic homes and office buildings are on fire would have a decent retirement.

Has anyone considered how much Texas tax dollars are being spent on slaughtering working people in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as many other places around the world? If these tax dollars were being spent on us, we would not have a budget shortfall.

Has anyone considered that the tax cuts for the wealthy only swell the budget shortfall?

Has anyone considered that the bailouts for corporations and banks only swell the budget shortfall?

Has anyone considered that rising unemployment reduces the tax base and contributes to the budget shortfall?

Perhaps the firefighters should consider reducing their efforts to save the fat cats by the same amount the fat cats reduce their pensions. Perhaps the police officers and city workers should consider such a tactic as well. As their houses burn to the ground, the wealthy might ask themselves “Maybe I should have paid a little more in taxes?”

You get what you pay for is what we have been taught all our lives.

PHill1917@comcast.net

Through the looking glass
| December 18, 2010 | 10:02 pm | Economy | No comments

By Zoltan Zigedy

http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/

Debt hysteria is undoubtedly the most disgusting, lie-infested scam since George W. Bush launched his propaganda blitz leading up to the unprovoked invasion of Iraq. Like the Bush offensive, the debt scam has drawn public attention away from the critical issues facing the world – especially working people – at this critical moment. Unlike the Bush-era deceptions, debt hysteria has thoroughly infected policy throughout the world.

It is a supreme irony that the debt fears now provoked by government deficits are construed as excessive, while the decades of growth of personal debt and speculative debt in the private sector were seen as benign. Where all government debt grew roughly 8.5 times from 1978 to 2008, US mortgage debt grew 11.5 times, non-financial business debt grew by over 10 times, and debt in the financial sector by nearly 50 times! (Estimates from Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression, Jack Rasmus, p. 33) Yet few alarms were triggered as these vast sums of debt served to sustain and grow the profit margins of monopoly corporations. As long as the debt energized profit taking, the level of indebtedness was of no consequence. All of this changed – or should have changed – after the mountains of debt accumulated in the financial sector collapsed, bringing the global economy to its knees two years ago.

It is equally ironic that a quasi-governmental body – the Federal Reserve – pumped, with no transparency, $9 trillion in loans into the private sector to rescue corporations from the consequences of their collapsing debt load, as recent revelations have shown. We now know that the private sector, primarily the financial industry, hung by a slender thread thanks to years of promiscuous borrowing to fuel scandalously risky speculation.

Despite this indictment of private sector abuse of debt, policy makers have offered few guarantees that private sector debt will not again paralyze the global economy. Nor is there any hysterical concern over private debt with the opinion makers who protest so loudly over public sector debt.

US Debt: A Dose of Terrorism

With the federal deficit reaching $1.5 trillion in 2010, it is understandable that some would react to the figure with alarm. It is formidable figure, but what does it mean?

Actually, it means very little. There have been Federal budgets that have shown more percentage growth of the deficit or more growth against other measures such as GDP. Some of these budgets have correlated with good times, some with bad times. There is no strict relationship between budgetary frugality or generosity and prosperity.

Some deficits have resulted from reduced tax revenues, some from leaps in government spending. Interestingly, some of the biggest recent boosts in government spending – the great sin of debt scolds – have occurred under the Presidential stewardship of professed archenemies of deficits (Reagan, Bush I, Bush II).

Without exploring the details of government spending, there is no factual basis for alarm with the absolute or relative size of a Federal deficit. In the case of the current deficit, there are good reasons to examine why the US deficit is growing. As Jeff Madrick points out (NY Review of Books, 12-23-10), “…almost all of the projected deficit through 2020 will be the result of three factors: the recession, the tax cuts of the early 2000s under George W. Bush, and the hundreds of billions of dollars of war spending.” I would add that the continued growth of the costs of private medical services passed on to the public sector also adds substantially to these projections. All are social evils worthy of attacking, but not because they add to the deficit.

Other liberal economists, like Dean Baker and James K. Galbraith, have demonstrated loudly and conclusively why there are no theoretical reasons to fear an expanding Federal deficit or higher levels of public debt (apart from state and municipal budgets that are limited statutorily to balancing revenues and expenditures). They vigorously dispute the inappropriate parallel with family budgets and the catastrophic consequences of individuals spending more than they make. The Federal government does not endure the pain of the profligate neighbor who runs the credit card to the limit. Instead, the Federal government can borrow extensively through the sales of Treasury securities, particularly at a time when interest rates are at an historic low. Moreover, the Federal Reserve’s QE2 program is currently attempting to drive those interest rates down further through $600 billion in Treasury purchases, but with a different goal in mind.

Sane people will find no plausible explanation for the intensifying debt scare in the US, beyond political manipulation. And crude political manipulation it is: a ruse akin to the hysteria generated by the “war on terrorism.” With fear piled upon fear, politicians and policy makers are exploiting the ensuing panic to vigorously attack both the already inadequate safety net and working class living standards.

Political elites and their minions have taken to heart the slogan “every crisis presents an opportunity” by turning it on its head through a campaign of disinformation and fear mongering. Instead of taking up the cause of the twenty-five million unemployed and underemployed, they have seized the moment to impose even greater hardships on the vast majority of US citizens.

It took very little to rouse President Obama and his Administration to join the baying dogs of debt hysteria. With the creation of the Bowles-Simpson Debt Commission, he embraced the hypocrisy of debt terrorism. And his recent freezing of the wages and salaries of Federal workers justified by deficit concerns only underlines both his dishonesty and his callousness. His sharp right turn from his already right leanings should chasten those still star-struck with “change that you can believe in…” And those who still posture Obama as a progressive champion should be boiled in oil. His recent agreement to establish a NAFTA-clone trade pact with Korea has stirred great anger in the upper echelons of the AFL-CIO, the same labor leaders who hailed his pledge to revisit NAFTA and make it more labor-friendly.

The plain and simple truth is that the debt hysteria has no sound basis in economic theory or experience. Instead, it is a political ploy to raise fears to justify imposing austerity on workers, youth, minorities and the elderly. Its quick and ready acceptance by opinion makers demonstrates a callous dishonesty.

European Debt: Plundering the Weak

The European debt fears that have brought panic to the EU leaders and a wave of austere budget cuts has a real villain, but it’s not the profligate spending and big deficits that the media shrilly reports. Instead, it is hedge fund managers and a motley crew of other powerful financial pirates – Barron’s magazine cleverly calls them “bond vigilantes” -who understand the dynamics of international debt markets and prey on the weakest players. The wondrous thing about the new financial instruments devised in the late-twentieth century is that they allow and invite as much or more money to be made betting on failure as betting on success. Moreover, the financial predators have the weight in the market to force panic and reap profit from the chaos they produce.

These vultures ply on the fact that the weaker economies in the European Union are caught in a deadly vise: they owe much of their debt to foreign banks and they have surrendered monetary powers by replacing their sovereign currencies with the euro. First, Greece came under fire beginning in the fall of 2009 with a massive campaign driving the cost of insuring debt and acquiring loans. Of course these pessimistic bets further stressed Greece’s ability to muster funds, leading to even further aggression on the part of vulture capitalism through even more pessimistic bets against Greece’s ability to repay debt. And thus the noose tightened around the Greek economy.

As a result, Greece was forced to surrender its sovereignty and economy to the leaders of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. In return for loans and guarantees that dispersed the vultures, the EU and IMF dictated an austerity program that drastically lowered the standard of living of the Greek people. Only the most militant sector of the Greek working class – the Communist Party and PAME – offered any real alternative to this devastating aggression.

The debt vultures turned next to Ireland later in 2010: same process, same result. With the EU and IMF now effectively ruling Ireland, the already shrunken Irish public sector is further squeezed with a drastic cut in jobs and public services piled onto an existing unemployment rate of 14%.

With the Greek and Irish carcasses picked clean, the aggressors are turning to Portugal, another country carrying debt and hamstrung by the acceptance of the euro as its national currency. And Spain – perhaps even Italy – is vulnerable to future attack.

In an unusually candid admission, The Wall Street Journal wrote of this insidious process in late November (Traders’ Targets: Portugal and Spain). Author Cassell Bryan-Low concedes that “hedge-fund managers are cautiously setting their sights on potential problems in countries such as Portugal and Spain…[T]hey are expecting more bad news to come, predicting that borrowing costs elsewhere will become prohibitive, potentially forcing other countries to also seek a bailout or restructure their debt.” Bryan-Low notes that some traders are a bit gun-shy because “the notion of betting against Europe’s peripheral economies has… become an emotional topic amid debate whether such moves have contributed to those countries financial woes…” Some officials “have called for the banning of certain instruments, such as derivatives…” Several fund managers are cited who confirm “bearish bets” on Spanish debt, with one stating ominously, “I don’t think those issues are going to go away, which is why the euro is going to stay under pressure.” The carnage continues…

Vulture capitalism preys on countries outside of the euro-zone as well. As I have shown previously (IMF Debt Hypocrisy: Sticking it to the Hungarians http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/2010/08/imf-debt-hypocrisy-sticking-it-to.html), the game is really not about reducing deficits or debt levels, but about imposing the will of international capital on vulnerable countries and hammering the conditions of life for working people. When the Hungarian government proposed raising taxes on banks to reduce the deficit, their international overseers became hysterical – threatening repercussions – despite the fact that Hungary would meet the targets set by the IMF. It was not defiance of debt-reduction goals that brought on censure, but the refusal to put the burden on the Hungarian people.

Since the article, the defiant Hungarian government has pledged to lower personal taxes and boost welfare spending while increasing taxes on banks, telecommunications, retail businesses and energy companies, to raise revenue by $2 billion. This defiance has brought on a severe downgrading of Hungary’s credit rating to near junk status by Moody’s credit rating service. The prime minister’s office bluntly, but accurately, characterized this move as a response to “measures that hurt the interests of international capital in the short term” as reported in the back pages of the WSJ (12-7-10). So there is another path to debt management, but one would never know it from the actions of the cowardly governments that rule in the rest of Europe. Instead, they surrender their national sovereignty with a whimper.

Today, the capitalist class leads with the debt card in its efforts to discipline and dominate the working class. The failure to understand this strategy disarms working people caught in the throes of a new offensive in the class struggle. Just as we exposed the hypocrisy of George W. Bush’s contrived invasion of Iraq, we must bring light on the hypocrisy and deceit of the debt scare.

Zoltan Zigedy
zoltanzigedy@gmail.com