Category: class struggle
U.S. investigates disclosure of tax records on rich Americans
worker | June 9, 2021 | 8:00 pm | class struggle | No comments
https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-06-09/U-S-investigates-disclosure-of-tax-records-on-rich-Americans-10WBw1ha3o4/index.html
U.S. investigates disclosure of tax records on rich Americans
CGTN

Signage at the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 10, 2021. /Reuters

The U.S. Treasury Department has asked law enforcement authorities to investigate the disclosure of tax records cited in a media report that showed that some of America’s richest people paid little to no income taxes, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

U.S. media outlet ProPublica said it obtained “a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years.” The data indicated that billionaires including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla founder Elon Musk paid no federal income taxes during some years.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that “any unauthorized disclosure of confidential government information” is illegal.

Treasury Department spokeswoman Lily Adams said in an emailed statement that the matter has been referred to the FBI, federal prosecutors and two internal Treasury Department watchdogs, “all of whom have independent authority to investigate.”

The IRS, part of the Treasury Department, is the nation’s tax-collecting agency and many tax records are considered confidential documents. IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig also confirmed that an investigation is underway.

“Obviously we take it very seriously,” Psaki told a briefing.

ProPublica described the records as “confidential” and did not disclose how it obtained them.

President Joe Biden has sought tax increases on the wealthy to help fund proposed spending on infrastructure and social programs, including raising the top tax rate to 39.6 percent from the current 37 percent and nearly doubling the capital gains tax rate to 39.6 percent for Americans earning $1 million annually or more.

“We know that there is more to be done to ensure that corporations (and) individuals who are at the highest income are paying more of their fair share,” Psaki said.

Rettig addressed the matter during testimony to the Senate Finance Committee.

“I can’t speak to anything with respect to specific taxpayers. I can confirm that there is an investigation, with respect to the allegations that the source of the information in that article came from the Internal Revenue Service,” Rettig said.

Source(s): Reuters
‘Class cleansing’ is killing London, as poor people are removed from communities like vermin
worker | June 3, 2021 | 8:33 pm | class struggle | No comments

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/525482-class-cleansing-killing-london-gentrification/

‘Class cleansing’ is killing London, as poor people are removed from communities like vermin

Dr Lisa McKenzie
Dr Lisa McKenzie

Dr Lisa McKenzie is a working-class academic. She grew up in a coal-mining town in Nottinghamshire and became politicized through the 1984 miners’ strike with her family. At 31, she went to the University of Nottingham and did an undergraduate degree in sociology. Dr McKenzie lectures in sociology at the University of Durham and is the author of ‘Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain.’ She’s a political activist, writer and thinker. Follow her on Twitter @redrumlisa.

‘Class cleansing’ is killing London, as poor people are removed from communities like vermin
A new report has highlighted the aggressive social cleansing that is rampant in three London boroughs, and the devastating effect it has on people who are displaced. It seems the working class are not welcome in Britain’s capital.

Gentrification is not a new phenomenon but it is clear that it is out of control in London.

As with many cities, it is a process the UK capital has been familiar with for some time. Poorer communities have been moved out of neighbourhoods in favour of a ‘better’ class of people for generations, and in the early 1960s sociologist Ruth Glass coined the term ‘gentrification’ as the old Victorian properties of Islington were bought for a song by the affluent middle classes.

These once-grand houses, which had fallen into disrepair housing society’s poorest, were renovated and modernised, with the aid of local government grants, by many of the middle-class gentrifiers. What had become slums were transformed into million-pound properties and are now among the most sought-after houses in the country, with Islington firmly established as a political, media and cultural enclave. It is no coincidence that Tony Blair, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have all lived in the original gentrified borough.

The working-class residents who lived in the squalid, overcrowded conditions were moved into newly built council housing, as the consensus between political ideologies after World War II continued. Millions of social housing properties were built around the country, allowing many working-class people to live in dignity for the first time, with indoor bathroom facilities, clean running water and a sufficient number of bedrooms for children and parents to sleep separately.

Today, though, there is no political consensus to provide good, affordable housing for working-class people, just a laissez-faire attitude that it should be left to the market. In fact, we can look back to the early ’60s – with the slum clearances, the high -rises and the council house building – and think, for all the faults, that these were the good old days compared to what is happening now, as was evidenced by a report last week from the Runnymede Trust and CLASS think tank titled ‘Pushed to the Margins’.

It describes contemporary gentrification in Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Newham in London that is alarming and aggressive, with working-class people being violently displaced. And what is especially concerning is that it is working-class people from black and Asian communities who seem to be particularly affected.

They are being pushed out to the furthest points of the capital, away from transport links, meaning that if they work in central London their commute for minimum wage jobs becomes ever longer and more uncomfortable, in packed buses and tubes. Contemporary life for working-class people in Britain means longer, more expensive, insanitary commutes.

This is nothing more than what I call ‘class cleansing’. I undertook extensive research on this process in London between 2013 and 2018 – a five-year ethnography of what happens to working-class people who are being crushed by what is not now ‘gentle’ gentrification, but a horrific Manhattanisation process.

ALSO ON RT.COMThe housing market may be booming for a fortunate few, but the have-nots of Britain are still being left way behindNo longer is it the middle class gentrifying parts of Victorian London, but instead we see a global elite army of property developers – aided and abetted by local and national politicians – who are inflicting this ‘class cleansing’.

They are removing working-class people from communities as if they were vermin, with no thought or care of where they go, and there is no real economic or social solution being put forward by any of the mainstream political institutions. Meanwhile, the council estates are being bulldozed to make way for luxury towers soaring into the sky – soulless, lifeless and disconnected from the streets and the people of the city.

Four years ago, I lived in Tower Hamlets and was part of a housing movement trying to bring attention to the class cleansing occurring in London. I was contacted by a woman who worked in a private lettings agency in North Nottinghamshire, who informed me a woman from the borough of Barking and Dagenham had just turned up at her office with two Ikea bags stuffed with her belongings, and two small children.

She had been sent to Nottinghamshire with no more than an address by the housing official. Since arriving in the UK from Nigeria 10 years previously, she had never lived outside London and over the years had found it impossible to find somewhere affordable and safe to live. She had a Master’s degree, but was unable to put it to use because without a home and stability you cannot find and secure a decent job. That takes headspace and commitment, which you simply can’t have when you are living out of carrier bags, being moved around with two kids.

Barking and Dagenham Council had an arrangement with a private landlord in North Nottinghamshire to house families that London had no room for. The council had paid the deposit and two weeks’ rent upfront, and the mother and her children were housed in a flat in an old mining village that was remote and had very few services and little public transport. I made contact and visited her, and she told me she desperately wanted to get back to London – she was totally isolated. This poor mother and her children had been cleansed out of London – not good enough, not rich enough, not productive enough for Britain’s capital city.

ALSO ON RT.COMPoverty is rising fast, but it’s part of a decades-long project which the lockdowns of 2020 will only accelerateHer story did not end well – she became very ill and her children were put into care in Derbyshire, and I lost contact with her about two years ago. But this is not an isolated incident. I have met women and children who have been forced out of many ‘successful cities’ throughout the UK – it is a violent, abusive process and it is the state, local councils and bureaucrats who are inflicting this misery on working-class families without being held to account.

The former mayor of Newham, Robin Wales, summed it up years ago, when talking about a group of young mothers from the Focus E15 hostel in Stratford as it was being closed down and they were about to be cleansed out across the country. “If you can’t afford to live in Newham, you can’t afford to live in Newham.”

As temperatures soar this week and we see images of rich people floating in sky-high glass-bottomed swimming pools looking down on London, the symbolism of the gap between those at the top of society and those at the bottom has never been so stark. It is unequal, unfair and cruel. For all the talk about coming out of the pandemic and rebuilding society, are working-class people included in this vision? I doubt it.

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Wall Street capitalism is looting just like Minnesota rioters ‒ don’t let the disguise fool you
worker | April 14, 2021 | 8:35 pm | class struggle | Comments closed

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/520943-wall-street-blm-looting-same/

Wall Street capitalism is looting just like Minnesota rioters ‒ don’t let the disguise fool you

Helen Buyniski
Helen Buyniski

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23 and on Telegram

Wall Street capitalism is looting just like Minnesota rioters ‒ don’t let the disguise fool you
Looting in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota is not going to fix the problems of looting across the US, but BLM protesters are slowly picking up on reality: it’s Wall Street, not ‘white people,’ that is the enemy.

After another round of property destruction as Black Lives Matter protested over a police officer killing Daunte Wright ‒ and another round of trillion-dollar political giveaways by the Biden administration ‒ many are wondering aloud about the real looters in the US.

Many privileged Americans believed they were undergoing a racial awakening thanks to violence from both sides during last summer’s explosion of protests and riots in hundreds of cities across the nation. Some merely feared Covid-19, others the warlike atmosphere of their particular city, but most were ultimately forced to take shelter inside with a copy of the odious self-hating New York Times best-seller “White Fragility” or another self-flagellating race-consciousness tome.

ALSO ON RT.COM‘Please pass the guilt’: SJW grifters running woke dinner scam on wealthy whites are amplifying the racism they claim to fightFearing the outside world let them pretend it was a conscious choice and that they weren’t literally under siege by “mostly peaceful” types of all races wreaking havoc in the streets. They got to play the guilty party, and the angry young people outside breaking glass got to ascribe a method to their madness, having successfully vanquished the bourgeoisie for another day. The angst-ridden children of the wealthy were even able to LARP at ‘uplifting the working class’ What’s not to like?

What’s really going on is just another kind of looting ‒ a psychological variant that involves victimizing all races in a way the sociopaths who designed the Jim Crow era never would have dreamed of. Didn’t win that track race? Must be white supremacy. Get a poor grade on your test because you didn’t study? They expected too much from you because you were Asian and they’re super great at math. That guy doesn’t want to go out with you even though you asked him twice? Why, he’s a white supremacist too, the creep ‒ keeping in mind one need no longer be actually white in order to be thus smeared. One can easily see where this slippery slope goes, and it’s not something anyone needs at a time when the country is already poised to explode.

Some scholars truly believe that removing not just America’s centuries-old history but purging US history of all racial memories is the only way to reach true peace. We have seen this in recent months with calls to remove statues not only of Confederate leaders but of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, as well as other ‘Founding Fathers’ (perhaps one should say ‘Founding Parents’ now?). Only in ditching the contributions can the country come to terms with the crimes committed by their ancestors against their neighbors’ own ancestors. Only this (and a guilt-based curriculum furnished by the New York Times’ “1619 Project”) will save the children from becoming a whole new generation we have to brainwash ‒er, educate- against racism. It’s child’s play to merely insert the correct genetic history into your past, and since the children have already been programmed to feel guilty since starting school (a date most major cities leave earlier and earlier, with New York City’s kids shuffled onto the school bus at 2), who cares about a little fib here and there?

RT

The diversity frenzy couldn’t have come at a better time, financially speaking. With money totally divorced from its value and trillions being fed to the marketplace every few months seemingly just for the lulz, what could be better than heaving even more guilt onto young children who haven’t even formed their own identities yet? Diversity counselors are a dime a dozen in this recession, and many wealthy parents won’t even think of enrolling little Suzie in a school without a unit of sensitivity training. Religion has long since defected its once-central place in American lives; why not replace the hole left for Original Sin with atoning for one’s microaggressions?

This type of psychological looting far outweighs even many of the crowds of angry young people showing up to break windows, steal sneakers, and throw TVs in the back of their cars as they realize police are no longer doing their job. And even if they are caught, it’s wildly unlikely they’ll be prosecuted in most “blue” American cities.

This is the problem central to many of the “looting” and “reparations” narratives Americans are being treated to in a social-justice floorshow time after time, this idea that the real problems with racial equality stems from not having enough black members of the industries most deeply involved in maintaining that same racial inequality.

The US has been fighting a “War on Poverty” since Lyndon Johnson swept into power on the back of three real reformers’ corpses ‒ Martin Luther King, Jr., JFK, and Malcolm X. Ever the scammer, Johnson looked at a very real problem no political administration would be able to solve in just one term, and milked it for all it was worth. That problem is still being milked today, and an entire industry has been born of welfare counselors, paperwork sifters, and other bureaucratic nightmares. Try to clean these essentially useless hangers-on out of their government posts and they will resist with all their might, having forgotten, many of them, that their job is to raise other Americans out of poverty ‒ not having created the ultimate self-licking ice-cream cone. Such perpetual motion of supposed job-creation without having accomplished their supposed goals. Just as the “War on Drugs” was supposed to keep kids from experimenting with substances (only for a truly massive opioid epidemic to take hold and kill more Americans than the Vietnam war while also shredding the lives of their families and communities) ‒ and the War on Cancer, which sent medical costs through the roof without actually, you know, curing cancer, poverty has only increased as real wages go down and the average wage stays the same.

If you truly want all Americans to start out life with the same opportunities as the wealthy ‒ a noble cause and one we should all be working for ‒ stop pretending to know what’s better for them, breathing down their necks and demanding they enter the career path you believe they need. There’s an extremely parasitic industry coming into play that actually treats young children as investments to be securitized and sold just like student loans were, and like mortgages were before that (and we know how that turned out).

ALSO ON RT.COM‘Multiracial whiteness’ is the latest attention-seeking attempt by patronising white liberals to explain racism to black peopleA media-driven interest in making reparations to the descendants of slaves is sweeping the US, all but demanding white Americans sit down, shut up, and open their wallets. Store owners are justifiably upset, especially after they see the same person at the scene of the ‘crime,’ perhaps even wearing those nice sneakers they stole last time they hit the Nike store to remind them they’re above the law.

But looting comes in more ways than one, and until all Americans wake up to that fact, this chasm between the rich and poor ‒ already swollen to unnatural size thanks to the pandemic ‒ will only widen. Trillions of dollars have already been stolen from the American people over the last year as the Federal Reserve set its print speed to Mach 5 and started blanketing the office with near-worthless green paper. What happens when it all hits the fan? Some might blame “looters,” and certainly at a granular level thieves who break into shops, steal whatever they can carry, and disappear never to be seen again would fall under that category.

With the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests (shockingly!) not having accomplished enough by way of redistribution of wealth, some wealthy individuals have taken to justifying looting as ‘reparations by another name.’

Besides making it clear they live in a fortress and are thus terrified of the black lives they claim matter, this cash-grab is business as usual, according to activists who live in the cities where BLM sweeps through like locusts. The intention ‒ get each ‘side’ tearing out the other’s throat and move on to the next group considered a challenge. Asset-stripping, buy low, sell high.

And speaking of real estate, the BLM co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors has apparently developed an addiction for it. Her family has not one, not two, but four large homes ‒ just the sort of thing you’d need if the violent social movement you’d ginned up with the help of some very rich and very cynical private equity execs who’ve fanned the flames of divide-and-conquer mercilessly for a year now went south and set the suburbs on fire. From an “RV repair shop” shed to a small landing strip for planes (!), it’s clear Khan-Cullors is going to be sitting pretty if ‒ or when ‒ the revolution comes. When the cat’s away, the revolutionaries will slay, as the saying, updated for 2021, goes.

ALSO ON RT.COM‘Social justice pays well’: BLM leader ripped for ‘buying $1.4 million Los Angeles home’ in predominantly white neighborhoodThe only questions that remain, then, are who will be duped into believing any words that come out of the mouth of this insanely rich “trained Marxist” or her colleagues ‒ who will know a looter when they see one? It’s pure laziness to assume when you’ve got two men in a room, one with a stack of golf clubs at his feet and the other wearing his spotless new Nike tracksuit, no one will wonder ‒ or care ‒ at the signals they are broadcasting to fellow looters as they sip their Scotch on national TV. Appearances are everything. There’s not so much difference between the Black Lives Matter leadership, who promise the moon to the disadvantaged and deliver them crumbs (when they deliver anything at all) and exploit their family tragedies ‒ or American politicians, who insist they’ll change our national pigsty into a palace only to continue their predecessors’ mission of stripping the meat from Uncle Sam’ bones.

But what isn’t said is just as, if not more, important. Millions of dollars have been poured directly into Black Lives Matter in the past year, and now that it has an official nonprofit status, that number is likely to soar past the billions mark. The funds come from very wealthy companies that seem to be trying to cover up either their exploitation of the movement or just wrapping themselves in virtue-signal Kevlar should things go bad. The wealthy aren’t stupid ‒ they’ve been buying up bunkers in New Zealand and driving the price of RVs so high one needs binoculars to see it.

Ultimately, if reparations work ‒ or UBI, or any of the other trendy programs being served up to cure (or rather tranquilize) poverty or race/ethnic-based repression ‒ those who’ve made their lives on tearfully bloviating on how to solve the problems of the poor will be out on the street without even the luxury of the cardboard boxes once inhabited by their clients (the world has become prosperous, after all!). No one wants to work themselves out of a job.

The only ones getting screwed in this deal are the American people. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before ‒ we must start to ask if we secretly enjoy it, because this is not normal.

 

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Is the U.S. a Right to Die Country?
worker | April 26, 2020 | 9:14 pm | class struggle, COVID-19, Donald Trump | Comments closed

Is the U. S. a Right to Die Country?

Trump in his proper place

By J. Thompson

As the lunacy virus spreads at an alarming rate in the USA, it is hard for working people to decide what to do to save their own skins.

It seems the lunacy virus started in Texas with a deranged lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, who has come out with several pronouncements which have shaken even the most stalwart supporters of the neofascist movement which is overwhelming the nation. It is well documented that Dan Patrick has a history of inpatient psychiatric treatment for a serious mental illness https://abc13.com/dan-patrick-david-dewhurst-mental-health-ted-oberg-investigates/63863/ .

Recently, he called for seniors to sacrifice themselves for the economy. Of course, it is easy to read between the lines and understand that he meant for working-class and poor seniors to sacrifice themselves for the capitalist class. It is clear that he did not intend for billionaires who are seniors to sacrifice themselves for the good of the economy so that their wealth could be distributed equally to the general population. It is indeed remarkable that no one has indicted him for agitating for mass suicides.

Since lieutenant governor Patrick was on a roll, he kept going. He also pontificated that there was no reason to shut the country down because of the large number of deaths due to COVID-19. Again, there wasn’t a peep in response to his deadly analysis.

To make sure that no one misunderstood his murderous intentions, he clarified by stating, “There are more important things than living.” Again, we have to wonder if he was referring to the lives of the billionaires or the lives of poor and working people. What are these things that are more important than living? Could he possibly be referring to the profits of the billionaires?

Some years ago a physician that some people may recall named Dr. Kevorkian advocated for terminally ill patients to have access to assisted suicide. He was ridiculed and persecuted for his views. No one seems to be drawing a comparison between him and the lieutenant governor of Texas and other political leaders in the United States.

A version of the lunacy virus erupted last week in Washington. Dr. Donald Trump has been promoting a malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, as the panacea for COVID-19. Our meek, fearful scientists finally stood up to the fearless leader and declared that treatment of COVID 19 patients with hydroxychloroquine resulted in more deaths than those who were not treated with the drug. Some have pointed out that Dr. Trump owns stock in the company that makes hydroxychloroquine.

Not to be outdone by his own lunacy, Dr. Trump has now prescribed a new remedy for COVID-19. He now says that the illness can be treated with a dose of disinfectant. It was not clear the route of administration, but the fearless leader suggested perhaps it could be injected or orally administered. He also suggested that a strong light such as UV could be administered outside the body and/or inside the body. Contemplating what he meant by this boggles the mind.

Scientists and companies that manufacture disinfectant such as Lysol rushed to inform the feckless masses that such a remedy would likely result in their demise.

As the president strays off the far edges of reality, most sane people think he was on more solid ground when he suggested that the COVID-19 virus would disappear due to a miracle.

So, the state of Texas has distinguished itself as a Right to Die state. To further compound the vicious attack on the working people of Texas, Texas has also one of the worst records of providing testing for the COVID-19 virus in the United States.

When you take the pattern of a lack of ventilators, masks and the reckless behavior of citizens and politicians ignoring scientific evidence in an effort to achieve immediate gratification of their individual needs and the needs of the billionaires to increase their profits, you have the recipe for a catastrophe of biblical proportions.

The slogan of the billionaires seems to be clear, “Death to working people!”

When will working people recognize this and say with a strong, united voice, “No! We have a right to live and we won’t let you put us to death due to your negligent and murderous policies! Use the resources of this wealthy nation to come up with an evidence-based treatment of this deadly virus! Until you do this, we will not sacrifice ourselves to the interests of the billionaires! We will protect ourselves and our families! We will not let you put profit before human life!”

The butcher washes his hands before weighing the meat
worker | January 3, 2019 | 7:29 pm | Bertolt Brecht, class struggle, Fascist terrorism | Comments closed

Union of Soviet Surrealism Republics, Viktor Mogilat, 2017

The butcher washes his hands before weighing the meat

The Forty-Fourth Newsletter (2018)

https://mronline.org/2018/12/29/the-butcher-washes-his-hands-before-weighing-the-meat/#lightbox/0/

Originally published: The Tricontinental (December 28, 2018)   | 
Dear Friends,

Greetings from the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

It has been almost a year since we got off the ground. Our offices across the world humming with activity. You have received forty-four newsletters from us, eleven dossiers and one notebook and one working document. More is on the way as we enter our second calendar year.

Over the course of these newsletters, we have laid out some of the broad outlines of our concerns and our hopes. We have tried to confront the reality that we live in the Age of the Strongmen–the time of authoritarianism. The broad smiles of the neoliberals have faded. They had their moment to squeeze society and produce prosperity for the few. When the neoliberals squeezed society, wealth travelled upwards to the few and left the many bereft. It was in this condition of unbearable inequality that the Strongmen appeared. They promised jobs and an end to corruption, but what they actually delivered was social toxicity. It was easier to blame minorities for broad social problems than to actually try and solve them. The Strongmen continued the agenda of the neoliberals, but this time without a smile on their faces. They promised violence and they delivered violence. These are ugly times.

In 1935, the German Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote a short note on capitalism and fascism:

Those who are against fascism without being against capitalism are willing to eat the calf, but they are against the sight of blood. They are easily satisfied if the butcher washes his hands before weighing the meat. They are not against the property relations which engender barbarism; they are only against barbarism itself.

‘Property relations’ referred to capitalism–in which a small minority of the world’s population holds the vast mass of social wealth (land, labour and capital). This social wealth is used homeopathically to hire human beings and exploit nature not for any other reason than to make money from money, namely for profit. Concern for humans and nature does not drive the investment of this capital, greedy by its nature.

This capital stands apart from human life, eager to accumulate more and more capital at all costs. What drives the few–the capitalists–is to increase their profits by seeking higher profitability.

In cycles, capitalists find that there are no easy and safe investments that would guarantee profits. This crisis of profitability, as we showed in our first Working Document, leads to two kinds of strikes:

  1. First, a tax strike, where the capitalists use their political power to reduce the tax burden on themselves and increase their wealth.
  2. Second, an investment strike, where the capitalists cease investing in the productive sector but instead park their wealth speculatively to preserve it.

These strikes by the capitalists draw social wealth away from social use and dry up the economic prospects of very large numbers of people. With increases in automation and productivity, capitalists begin to substitute machines for workers or else displace workers by the efficiencies of the production process. In this case, investments are made–into machines and into workplace efficiencies–but these have the same impact on society as the investment strike, namely that there are less people employed and more people become permanently unemployed.

High rates of income and wealth inequality alongside dampened aspirations for a better life amongst large sections of the population create a serious crisis of legitimacy for the system. People who work hard but do not see their work rewarded begin to doubt the system, even if they cannot see an exit from the ‘property relations’ that impoverish them. Mainstream politicians who champion the ‘property relations’ and who call upon the desperate to become entrepreneurs are no longer seen as credible.

We hope to provide examples of a possible future that is built to meet people’s aspirations, share glimmers of this future that exist today. Examples of this can be found in our dossiers on housing cooperatives in Solapur (India) built at the initiative of women beedi workers and on the reconstruction of Kerala (India) after the flood. Look out for our work on the excluded workers of CTEP (Argentina) and on the cooperatives of the MST (Brazil).

The Strongmen enter where no such future seems possible. They belittle the mainstream politicians for their failed projects, but then they do not offer a coherent solution to the escalating crises either. Instead, the Strongmen blame the vulnerable for the dampened aspirations of the vast majority. Amongst these vulnerable are social minorities, migrants, refugees, and anyone who is socially powerless. The fangs of the Strongmen are flashed at the weak, who earn the anger of those who have high aspirations but cannot meet these aspirations.  The Strongmen draw on the frustrations of people without offering any reasonable exit from a situation of high inequality and economic turbulence.

One theory to explain the problem is that of underconsumption. The general tenor of this theory is that the goods being produced cannot be purchased by the mass of people, since these people do not have enough income to buy them. This is a problem of the demand-side. If there is a way to increase the money given to the mass of the people, then they can increase consumption and save capitalism from its crisis.

One approach toward this underconsumption problem is to increase the delivery of private credit to people who will then be urged–via advertisements–to live beyond their incomes. They will go into debt, but their consumption–it is hoped–will stimulate the economy out of a crisis. Eventually, these people will not be able to pay off their debts. Their debt will balloon and will create serious social problems. Governments will be forced to borrow to lift the burden off the backs of the banks–when the borrowers go bankrupt. The fact of this borrowing pushes the neoliberal governments to create further austerity programmes against social spending. The delivery of private credit to solve the problem of underconsumption typically ends up with social austerity.

A second approach toward this underconsumption problem is for the government to give an economic incentive to consumers through tax cuts or through a direct cash transfer scheme. Either way, the government turns over its money to the people and encourages them to buy goods and stimulate the economy. Once more, it is the government that goes into debt to solve capitalism. Once more, the debt will balloon, and the government will have to go into an austerity programme to appease the creditors and the IMF (when the IMF comes calling, little good results–as Celina della Croce, the Coordinator of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research makes clear in this recent article). Once more social austerity will result, and it will once more dampen the buying power of the public.

The cycle will continue.

Either individuals and families or the state go into debt so as to increase aggregate consumption and save capitalism from itself. By this method, capital itself is not asked to sacrifice anything. It is allowed to pursue the strategy of profitability.

Capital seeks to increase its profitability by various means, such as:

  1. Substitute machines for people or make people more efficient. This allows firms to hire less people, to take advantage of automation and productivity gains and to leverage their effective competition to wipe out their competitors.
  2. Transfer factories to areas where wage rates are lower and where regulations of the workplace and of the environment are suppressed.
  3. Decrease the tax burden by going on a tax strike, transferring their money to tax havens.
  4. Move capital from productive activities into finance, trade and rent-seeking activities.
  5. Buy up public assets at low costs and monetarise them for profit.

These strategies allow capitalists to increase their wealth, but at the same time impoverish other people and society.

People are asked to be patriotic. Capital is only asked to be profitable.

For the Left, this situation poses serious challenges. The first set of challenges is to find a way to organise people who find their society shattered and their expectations confounded. The second set of challenges include how to find a policy exit from this system and its limitations.

What are the challenges before us to organise the people against the intractable system?

Aspirations. Over the course of the past five decades, the capitalist media and the advertising industry have created a set of aspirations that have broken the culture of the working-class and the peasantry as well as the traditional cultural worlds of the past. Young people now expect more from life, which is to the good, but these expectations are less social and more individual, with the individual hopes often attached to commodities of one kind or another. To be free is to buy. To buy is to be alive. That is the motto of the capitalist system. But those who cannot afford to buy and who go into debt for their aspirations are also constantly disappointed. It is this disappointment that the Strongmen channel towards hatred. Can left movements channel this disappointment into productive hope?

Atomisation. State cuts of social services, the increased privatisation of social life and the astronomical increase of interaction with the digital world has increased atomisation of human interaction. Where people had previously exchanged ideas and goods, helped each other and inspired each other, now there are less and less venues for such face-to-face interactions. The fragmentation of society and the exhaustion of people to find survival has made it harder for the left to bring people together to create social change. Television and social media now dominate the world of communication. These are venues that are owned by monopoly capitalist firms. The left has always relied upon institutions of society to be its transmitters. As these social linkages fragment, the left dissolves. Can left movements help rebuild these institutions and processes, this society that is our basis?

Outsider. The Strongmen point their fingers at the ‘outsider’–the social minorities, migrants, refugees, and anyone who is socially powerless. It is against these people that the far right is able to build its strength. There can be no left resurgence without a firm and complete defence of the ‘outsider’, a total rejection of the fascistic ideas of hatred and biology that saturate society. It is harder to build a politics of love than a politics of hate. Can left movements develop a politics of love that attracts masses of people?

Confidence. Politics of the people is rooted in confidence. If the people do not feel confident in their activity to either reform or to change the system, then they will not be active. Waves of unrest often lead to increased confidence, but even here the point of emphasis is not the last person to join a protest but the first few people who built the network to build the protest. Social decay leads to a lack of confidence to make political change, particularly when the aspirational society suggests that the only necessary change is for everyone to become entrepreneurial. Can the left produce the sensibility that a future is possible and to engender confidence amongst people to fight to build that future?

Democracy Without Democracy. In societies where there is no democracy, this problem is not immediate. In such places, the immediate task is to win the fullest democracy. In those societies where democracy is the main form, or where there is at least an illusion of democracy, the oligarchy and imperialism have used many methods to undermine democracy, to dominate society without suspending democracy. The methods used are sophisticated, including to delegitimise the institutions of the state, to disparage elections, to use money to corrupt the electoral process, to use social media and advertising to destroy opposition candidates and to utilise the least democratic institutions in a democracy–such as an unelected judiciary–to erode the power of elected officials. Can the left defend the idea of democracy from this attrition without allowing democracy to come to mean merely elections and the electoral system?

Our research institute–Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research–is conducting investigations along these five lines.

Once you have organised people to push for a new world system, what is the policy framework that needs to be adopted? It is here that intellectuals must put their heart and soul into action. We need to think hard about the many creative ways to use our social wealth to solve the immediate problems of humanity–hunger, sickness, climate catastrophe. We need to find ways to uproot the basis of wars. We need to use our creativity to reconstruct the productive sector around forms such as cooperatives. We need to use social wealth to enrich ourselves culturally, making more physical places for us to interact, to produce culture and art. We need to use our social wealth to produce societies that do not force people to work to survive but that subordinate work to human ingenuity and passion.

It is cruel to think of these hopes as naïve. It tells us a lot that it is easier to imagine the end of the earth than to imagine the end of capitalism, to imagine the polar ice cap flooding us into extinction than to imagine a world where our productive capacity enriches all of us.

Our entire staff joins me in wishing you a happy new year.

Warmly, Vijay.

PS: (see below) we celebrate the birth of Manuela Sáenz y Aizpuru (1795-1856), the revolutionary who was born in Quito (Ecuador) and who would fight for Latin America’s independence alongside Simón Bolivar. After she saved his life, she was known as the Liberator of the Liberator.

This is Capitalism #5 – The world’s richest 1% took home 82% of the wealth produced by workers in 2017
worker | January 22, 2018 | 8:24 pm | Analysis, class struggle, Economy | Comments closed

Monday, January 22, 2018

This is Capitalism #5 – The world’s richest 1% took home 82% of the wealth produced by workers in 2017

http://www.idcommunism.com/2018/01/this-is-capitalism-5-worlds-richest-1.html
Eighty two percent (82%) of the wealth generated last year went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth, according to a new Oxfam report released today. The report is being launched as political and business elites gather for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
According to Oxfam,
  • Billionaire wealth has risen by an annual average of 13 percent since 2010 – six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers, which have risen by a yearly average of just 2 percent. The number of billionaires rose at an unprecedented rate of one every two days between March 2016 and March 2017.
  • It takes just four days for a CEO from one of the top five global fashion brands to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime. In the US, it takes slightly over one working day for a CEO to earn what an ordinary worker makes in a year.
  • It would cost $2.2 billion a year to increase the wages of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers to a living wage. This is about a third of the amount paid out to wealthy shareholders by the top 5 companies in the garment sector in 2016.
Jack London – What Life Means to Me (1905)
worker | January 14, 2018 | 6:00 pm | class struggle, Jack London | Comments closed

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Jack London – What Life Means to Me (1905)

https://communismgr.blogspot.com/2018/01/jack-london-what-life-means-to-me-1905.html
Jack London – What Life Means to Me.
Revolution and other Essays.
 
I was born in the working-class. Early I discovered enthusiasm, ambition, and ideals; and to satisfy these became the problem of my child- life. My environment was crude and rough and raw. I had no outlook, but an uplook rather. My place in society was at the bottom. Here life offered nothing but sordidness and wretchedness, both of the flesh and the spirit; for here flesh and spirit were alike starved and tormented.
Above me towered the colossal edifice of society, and to my mind the only way out was up. Into this edifice I early resolved to climb. Up above, men wore black clothes and boiled shirts, and women dressed in beautiful gowns. Also, there were good things to eat, and there was plenty to eat. This much for the flesh. Then there were the things of the spirit. Up above me, I knew, were unselfishnesses of the spirit, clean and noble thinking, keen intellectual living. I knew all this because I read “Seaside Library” novels, in which, with the exception of the villains and adventuresses, all men and women thought beautiful thoughts, spoke a beautiful tongue, and performed glorious deeds. In short, as I accepted the rising of the sun, I accepted that up above me was all that was fine and noble and gracious, all that gave decency and dignity to life, all that made life worth living and that remunerated one for his travail and misery.
 
But it is not particularly easy for one to climb up out of the working- class—especially if he is handicapped by the possession of ideals and illusions. I lived on a ranch in California, and I was hard put to find the ladder whereby to climb. I early inquired the rate of interest on invested money, and worried my child’s brain into an understanding of the virtues and excellencies of that remarkable invention of man, compound interest. Further, I ascertained the current rates of wages for workers of all ages, and the cost of living. From all this data I concluded that if I began immediately and worked and saved until I was fifty years of age, I could then stop working and enter into participation in a fair portion of the delights and goodnesses that would then be open to me higher up in society. Of course, I resolutely determined not to marry, while I quite forgot to consider at all that great rock of disaster in the working-class world—sickness.
 
But the life that was in me demanded more than. a meagre existence of scraping and scrimping. Also, at ten years of age, I became a newsboy on the streets of a city, and found myself with a changed uplook. All about me were still the same sordidness and wretchedness, and up above me was still the same paradise waiting to be gained; but the ladder whereby to climb was a different one. It was now the ladder of business. Why save my earnings and invest in government bonds, when, by buying two newspapers for five cents, with a turn of the wrist I could sell them for ten cents and double my capital—The business ladder was the ladder for me, and I had a vision of myself becoming a baldheaded and successful merchant prince.
 
Alas for visions! When I was sixteen I had already earned the title of “prince.” But this title was given me by a gang of cut-throats and thieves, by whom I was called “The Prince of the Oyster Pirates.” And at that time I had climbed the first rung of the business ladder. I was a capitalist. I owned a boat and a complete oyster-pirating outfit. I had begun to exploit my fellow-creatures. I had a crew of one man. As captain and owner I took two-thirds of the spoils, and gave the crew one-third, though the crew worked just as hard as I did and risked just as much his life and liberty.
 
This one rung was the height I climbed up the business ladder. One night I went on a raid amongst the Chinese fishermen. Ropes and nets were worth dollars and cents. It was robbery, I grant, but it was precisely the spirit of capitalism. The capitalist takes away the possessions of his fellow-creatures by means of a rebate, or of a betrayal of trust, or by the purchase of senators and supreme-court judges. I was merely crude. That was the only difference. I used a gun.
 
But my crew that night was one of those inefficients against whom the capitalist is wont to fulminate, because, forsooth, such inefficients increase expenses and reduce dividends. My crew did both. What of his carelessness he set fire to the big mainsail and totally destroyed it. There weren’t any dividends that night, and the Chinese fishermen were richer by the nets and ropes we did’ not get. I was bankrupt, unable just then to pay sixty-five dollars for a new mainsail. I left my boat at anchor and went off on a bay-pirate boat on a raid up the Sacramento River. While away on this trip, another gang of bay pirates raided my boat. They stole everything, even the anchors; and later on, when I recovered the drifting hulk, I sold it for twenty dollars. I had slipped back the one rung I had climbed, and never again did I attempt the business ladder.
 
From then on I was mercilessly exploited by other capitalists. I had the muscle, and they made money out of it while I made but a very indifferent living out of it. I was a sailor before the mast, a longshoreman, a roustabout; I worked in canneries, and factories, and laundries; I mowed lawns, and cleaned carpets, and washed windows. And I never got the full product of my toil. I looked at the daughter of the cannery owner, in her carriage, and knew that it was my muscle, in part, that helped drag along that carriage on its rubber tires. I looked at the son of the factory owner, going to college, and knew that it was my muscle that helped, in part, to pay for the wine and good fellowship he enjoyed.
 
But I did not resent this. It was all in the game. They were the strong. Very well, I was strong. I would carve my way to a place amongst them and make money out of the muscles of other men. I was not afraid of work. I loved hard- work. I would pitch in and work harder than ever and eventually become a pillar of society.
 
And just then, as luck would have it, I found an employer that was of the same mind. I was willing to work, and he was more than willing that I should work. I thought I was learning a trade. In reality, I had displaced two men. I thought he was making an electrician out of me; as a matter of fact, he was making fifty dollars per month out of me. The two men I had displaced had received forty dollars each per month; I was doing the work of both for thirty dollars per month.
 
This employer worked me nearly to death. A man may love oysters, but too many oysters will disincline him toward that particular diet. And so with me. Too much work sickened me. I did not wish ever to see work again. I fled from work. I became a tramp, begging my way from door to door, wandering over the United States and sweating bloody sweats in slums and prisons.
 
I had been born in the working-class, and I was now, at the age of eighteen, beneath the point at which I had started. I was down in the cellar of society, down in the subterranean depths of misery about which it is neither nice nor proper to speak. I was in the pit, the abyss, the human cesspool, the shambles and the charnel-house of our civilization. This is the part of the edifice of society that society chooses to ignore. Lack of space compels me here to ignore it, and I shall say only that the things I there saw gave me a terrible scare.
 
I was scared into thinking. I saw the naked simplicities of the complicated civilization in which I lived. Life was a matter of food and shelter. In order to get food and shelter men sold things. The merchant sold shoes, the politician sold his manhood, and the representative of the people, with exceptions, of course, sold his trust; while nearly all sold their honor. Women, too, whether on the street or in the holy bond of wedlock, were prone to sell their flesh. All things were commodities, all people bought and sold. The one commodity that labor had to sell was muscle. The honor of labor had no price in the market-place. Labor had muscle, and muscle alone, to sell.
 
But there was a difference, a vital difference. Shoes and trust and honor had a way of renewing themselves. They were imperishable stocks. Muscle, on the other hand, did not renew. As the shoe merchant sold shoes, he continued to replenish his stock. But there was no way of replenishing the laborer’s stock of muscle. The more he sold of his muscle, the less of it remained to him. It was his one commodity, and each day his stock of it diminished. In the end, if he did not die before, he sold out and put up his shutters. He was a muscle bankrupt, and nothing remained to him but to go down into the cellar of society and perish miserably.
 
I learned, further, that brain was likewise a commodity. It, too, was different from muscle. A brain seller was only at his prime when he was fifty or sixty years old, and his wares were fetching higher prices than ever. But a laborer was worked out or broken down at forty-five or fifty. I had been in the cellar of society, and I did not like the place as a habitation. The pipes and drains were unsanitary, and the air was bad to breathe. If I could not live on the parlor floor of society, I could, at any rate, have a try at the attic. It was true, the diet there was slim, but the air at least was pure. So I resolved to sell no more muscle, and to become a vender of brains.
 
Then began a frantic pursuit of knowledge. I returned to California and opened the books. While thus equipping, myself to become a brain merchant, it was inevitable that I should delve into sociology. There I found, in a certain class of books, scientifically formulated, the simple sociological concepts I had already worked out for myself. Other and greater minds, before I was born, had worked out all that I had thought and a vast deal more. I discovered that I was a socialist.
 
The socialists were revolutionists, inasmuch as they struggled to overthrow the society of the present, and out of the material to build the society of the future. I, too, was a socialist and a revolutionist. I joined the groups of working-class and intellectual revolutionists, and for the first time came into intellectual living. Here I found keen-flashing intellects and brilliant wits; for here I met strong and alert-brained, withal horny- handed, members of the working-class; unfrocked preachers too wide in their Christianity for any congregation of Mammon-worshippers; professors broken on the wheel of university subservience to the ruling class and flung out because they were quick with knowledge which they strove to apply to the affairs of mankind.
 
Here I found, also, warm faith in the human, glowing idealism, sweetnesses of unselfishness, renunciation, and martyrdom—all the splendid, stinging things of the spirit. Here life was clean, noble, and alive. Here life rehabilitated itself, became wonderful and glorious; and I was glad to be alive. I was in touch with great souls who exalted flesh and spirit over dollars and cents, and to whom the thin wail of the starved slum child meant more than all the pomp and circumstance of commercial expansion and world empire. All about me were nobleness of purpose and heroism of effort, and my days and nights were sunshine and starshine, all fire and dew, with before my eyes, ever burning and blazing, the Holy Grail, Christ’s own Grail, the warm human, long-suffering and maltreated, but to be rescued and saved at the last.
 
And I, poor foolish I, deemed all this to be a mere foretaste of the delights of living I should find higher above me in society. I had lost many illusions since the day I read “Seaside Library” novels on the California ranch. I was destined to lose many of the illusions I still retained.
 
As a brain merchant I was a success. Society opened its portals to me. I entered right in on the parlor floor, and my disillusionment proceeded rapidly. I sat down to dinner with the masters of society, and with the wives and daughters of the masters of society. The women were gowned beautifully, I admit; but to my naive surprise I discovered that they were of the same clay as all the rest of the women I had known down below in the cellar. “The colonel’s lady and Judy O’Grady were sisters under their skins”—and gowns.
 
It was not this, however, so much as their materialism, that shocked me. It is true, these beautifully gowned, beautiful women prattled sweet little ideals and dear little moralities; but in spite of their prattle the dominant key of the life they lived was materialistic. And they were so sentimentally selfish ! They assisted in all kinds of sweet little charities, and informed one of the fact, while all the time the food they ate and the beautiful clothes they wore were bought out of dividends stained with the blood of child labor, and sweated labor, and of prostitution itself. When I mentioned such facts, expecting in my innocence that these sisters of Judy O’Grady would at once strip off their blood-dyed silks and jewels, they became excited and angry, and read me preachments about the lack of thrift, the drink, and the innate depravity that caused all the misery in society’s cellar. When I mentioned that I couldn’t quite see that it was the lack of thrift, the intemperance, and the depravity of a half-starved child of six that made it work twelve hours every night in a Southern cotton mill, these sisters of Judy O’Grady attacked my private life and called me an “agitator”—as though that, forsooth, settled the argument.
 
Nor did I fare better with the masters themselves. I had expected to find men who were clean, noble, and alive, whose ideals were clean, noble, and alive. I went about amongst the men who sat in the high places—the preachers, the politicians, the business men, the professors, and the editors. I ate meat with them, drank wine with them, automobiled with them, and studied them. It is true, I found many that were clean and noble; but with rare exceptions, they were not alive. I do verily believe I could count the exceptions on the fingers of my two hands. Where they were not alive with rottenness, quick with unclean life, they were merely the unburied dead—clean and. noble, like well- preserved mummies, but not alive. In this connection I may especially mention the professors I met, the men who live up to that decadent university ideal, “the passionless pursuit of passionless intelligence.”
 
I met men who invoked the name of the Prince of Peace in their diatribes against war, and who put rifles in the hands of Pinkertons with which to shoot down strikers in their own factories. I met men incoherent with indignation at the brutality of prize-fighting, and who, at the same time, were parties to the adulteration of food that killed each year more babies than even red-handed Herod had killed.
 
I talked in hotels and clubs and homes and Pullmans and steamer- chairs with captains of industry, and marvelled at how little travelled they were in the realm of intellect. On the other hand, I discovered that their intellect, in the business sense, was abnormally developed. Also, I discovered that their morality, where business was concerned, was nil.
 
This delicate, aristocratic-featured gentleman, was a dummy director and a tool of corporations that secretly robbed widows and orphans. This gentleman, who collected fine editions and was an especial patron of literature, paid blackmail to a heavy-jowled, black-browed boss of a municipal machine. This editor, who published patent medicine advertisements and did not dare print the truth in his paper about said patent medicines for fear of losing the advertising, called me a scoundrelly demagogue because I told him that his political economy was antiquated and that his biology was contemporaneous with Pliny.
 
This senator was the tool and the slave, the little puppet of a gross, uneducated machine boss; so was this governor and this supreme court judge; and all three rode on railroad passes. This man, talking soberly and earnestly about the beauties of idealism and the goodness of God, had just betrayed his comrades in a business deal. This man, a pillar of the church and heavy contributor to foreign missions, worked his shop girls ten hours a day on a starvation wage and thereby directly encouraged prostitution. This man, who endowed chairs in universities, perjured himself in courts of law over a matter of dollars and cents. And this railroad magnate broke his word as a gentleman and a Christian when he granted a secret rebate to one of two captains of industry locked together in a struggle to the death.
 
It was the same everywhere, crime and betrayal, betrayal and crime—men who were alive, but who were neither clean nor noble, men who were clean and noble but who were not alive. Then there was a great, hopeless mass, neither noble nor alive, but merely clean. It did not sin positively nor deliberately; but it did sin passively and ignorantly by acquiescing in the current immorality and profiting by it. Had it been noble and alive it would not have been ignorant, and it would have refused to share in the profits of betrayal and crime.
 
I discovered that I did not like to live on the parlor floor of society. Intellectually I was bored. Morally and spiritually I was sickened. I remembered my intellectuals and idealists, my unfrocked preachers, broken professors, and clean-minded, class-conscious workingmen. I remembered my days and nights of sunshine and starshine, where life was all a wild sweet wonder, a spiritual paradise of unselfish adventure and ethical romance. And I saw before me, ever blazing and burning, the Holy Grail.
 
So I went back to the working-class, in which I had been born and where I belonged. I care no longer to climb. The imposing edifice of society above my head holds no delights for me. It is the foundation of the edifice that interests me. There I am content to labor, crowbar in hand, shoulder to shoulder with intellectuals, idealists, and class-conscious workingmen, getting a solid pry now and again and setting the whole edifice rocking. Some day, when we get a few more hands and crowbars to work, we’ll topple it over, along with all its rotten life and unburied dead, its monstrous selfishness and sodden materialism. Then we’ll cleanse the cellar and build a new habitation for mankind, in which there will be no parlor floor, in which all the rooms will be bright and airy, and where the air that is breathed will be clean, noble, and alive.
 
Such is my outlook. I look forward to a time when man shall progress upon something worthier and higher than his stomach, when there will be a finer incentive to impel men to action than the incentive of to-day, which is the incentive of the stomach. I retain my belief in the nobility and excellence of the human. I believe that spiritual sweetness and unselfishness will conquer the gross gluttony of to-day. And last of all, my faith is in the working-class. As some Frenchman has said, “The stairway of time is ever echoing with the wooden shoe going up, the polished boot descending.”
 
Newton, Iowa, 
November, 1905.
 
Jack London (January 12, 1876 – November 22, 1916), a giant of american literature, was a novelist, journalist and social activist. Combining his experiences with the study of the “Communist Manifesto”, London became an advocate of socialism and joined the Socialist Labor Party in 1896. He wrote several powerful works about socialism and the rights of the working class, such as “The Iron Heel” and “The People of the Abyss”.