January 31, 2009
huge protests in Iceland [SHOWN] are rare and
this one has been dubbed the 'saucepan revolution'
for its use of pot banging and forcing the
PM to resign [photo:wikimedia]
A BBC report (click on post heading above) shows that young workers and students in France know how to push back. And not surprisingly, quotes like "new generation of activists", and "re-birth of the violent extreme left" inspire a new red scare. (yawn). Violence only is an equal and opposite reaction to police provocateurs, and 'plate glass revolutionaries'. Sarkozy's right wing attack on workers in such bad times has them raising hell. Is the government saying 'let them eat cake' ?
Here in Canada the Tories sure are. Everything is fundamentally fine they say, though evidence says otherwise. The budget still pretends that the rich will volunteer to save us. Harper gives our tax dollars to the banks, next to nothing for EI, students loans or social housing. CEOs may have icing, bosses cake, while we struggle to win bread for ourselves. History has proven that we have to fight for every crumb.
see photos of Russian protests.
January 30, 2009
Lives Branded with Zeal
Hearts Bonded with love
Eyes filled with fire
Our goal is the dove
Sold out to others
Give till our end
We've both seen the masses
Our lives we now lend
We've seen their sorrow
seen their pain, seen their strife
We've witnessed their hunger
seen their souls with no life
We've witnessed the dying
Been horrified by the dead
We've seen the horror
Of capital's endless bloodshed
We are a class
We are considered all cogs
And to the ruling
We are lesser than dogs
Yet to each other
We are comrades till dead
No class in our presence
Our blood is pure red
We stay united
Till death do us part
locked in the class war
joined at the heart
January 29, 2009
The political mindset has changed in Ottawa since last fall, but not nearly as much as most analysts of the Jan. 27 federal budget suggest.
This is not surprising, since Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's "budget consultations" were conducted almost exclusively with big business and right-wing think tanks. As the global economic crisis deepens, this budget prioritizes bail-outs for the banks and other lenders, and tax hand-outs to business, while ignoring the urgent needs of workers and the unemployed – further proof that the Harper minority government remains a trusted tool of the ruling class and a bitter enemy of working people across Canada. More than ever, a massive struggle by the working class and other democratic forces is needed to drive the Tories out of office.
January 28, 2009
Defeat Harper and Move On!
After debasing Parliament, expressing contempt for the majority of Canadians who do not support their policies, the Harper Minority Conservatives are now pleading for a second chance. Their repentance is phony.
Following the throne speech, initial statements by Michael Ignatieff, Liberal leader and Liberal war horse Ralph Goodale, were remarkable and contemptible showing that they may betray the NDP-Liberal Coalition and prop up a lame duck Conservative Prime Minister.
There is no basis for a national consensus under a Conservative Prime Minister. Unity can only be built around progressive economic and social programs. It can never be built on reaction and backwardness.
The Harper government needs to be swept aside for reasons that go beyond the budget. The Harper Conservatives are unrepentant far right neo-cons. They are incapable of redemption. Their time is up.
Under the Conservatives Canada has declined on all vital benchmarks. Canada has less jobs, less science, less arts, less mass participation in sports, recreation. Fewer youth can go to university and post secondary education. There is more homelessness; more poverty, less optimism and more despair.
The Harper Conservative Government is fundamentally a neo-con government of the Thatcher-Reagan-Mulroney-Bush ilk: after all the others have been consigned to the rubbish heap of history, Harper lingers on – now his time has come.
Neo-cons are slaves to the capitalist free market. They are anti-labour. Neo-cons are for privatizing the public health care system and using pension funds for private investment. They are for the militarization of the economy. They are anti-science. They oppose regulation of banks, markets, health, and all forms of industry.
Neo-cons are against pay equity for women. They oppose the legitimate demands of first nations and aboriginal people’s for the redress of all outstanding land claims and rights. They are against single desk marketing and work to abolish the Wheat Board. Neo-cons oppose universal child care. They oppose universal unemployment insurance for all. They oppose public housing. They believe in punishing the addicted and imprisoning adolescents. They are intolerant of racial minorities, immigrants and attempt to challenge the separation of church and state. They are against the CBC and all public broadcasting. They are contemptuous of creative artists, writers, public sports and recreation for all. They are penny pinching and mean and they should not be in power.
Throw them out!
Left Turn Canada!
[Mackenzie from the CCPA offers a social-democratic critique of the federal budget]
For Stephen Harper, the only thing that matters about the 2009 budget is that it meets the political imperatives he imposed on himself with his disastrous December fudgit-budget.
On that front, he and we are in the hands of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.
But for Canadians, the only thing that really matters is how effective the budget will be as a response to the biggest economic crisis to hit this country in more than 75 years.
The budget’s potential effectiveness depends on the answers to three key questions:
- Is the fiscal stimulus it offers big enough?
- Does it put the additional funding in the right places?
- How does it position Canada to participate in the inevitably changed economy that will emerge as the economic downturn reverses itself?
Unfortunately, the answers to these three key questions are: no, no, and no.
Let’s look at them one at a time.
First, is the stimulus large enough? The fiscal stimulus provided by the budget is claimed by the Government to be $29 billion. But nearly $10 billion of that amount is to be spent by provincial and local governments as a condition of receiving the Federal money.
That means that the Budget’s actual stimulus amounts to about 1.3% of our GDP – clearly in the bottom ranks among major industrial nations’ response to the recession and barely two thirds of the 2% advocated by the International Monetary Fund as an appropriate fiscal response and far less than the major initiatives announced by some governments.
In the short term, that may not matter that much. After all, our economy is so integrated with that of the United States much (but not all) of our nation’s fate is tied to the actions of the new Obama Administration.
It will mean that our economy will take a longer to recover and Canadians will go through tougher times than was necessary.
It also means other countries will come out of the recession having made substantially larger investments in their economic future.
Because budget 2009 misses the stimulus target, it turns Canada into a fiscal free rider, surfing the waves created by other nations that took the global economic crisis far more seriously. Not the image any country wants as the world emerges from a slowdown.
Second, is the money going to the right places? Part of it certainly isn’t. Practically everyone – from across the political spectrum – has stressed that broad-based tax cuts don’t make sense.
Econometric models uniformly show that the stimulus provided by tax cuts is swamped by the stimulus provided by infrastructure spending. To make matters worse, they reduce fiscal capacity permanently, thereby making it even more difficult to pull Canada out of deficit in the future. Despite that, fully $3.5 billion of the stimulus package is in the form of broadly-based tax cuts.
The biggest single failure of the Budget is in employment insurance. It was one of the many bases that was touched, but the impact will be trivial. The total value of EI improvements announced in the Budget comes to $950 million – an increase of only 6% to address the most significant recession since the 1930s. The measures announced do nothing to address the fundamental problems in EI that have emerged over the past few years – problems that threaten to untold hardship as job losses accelerate.
The government has also ignored calls for a broad-based effort to encourage employers in the manufacturing and resource industries to “keep the lights on” to ride out the recession. One of the key lessons from past economic cycles is that workers don’t get recalled to work in operations that have shut down. The Harper government doesn’t seem to have taken that lesson to heart.
Nor has it acted on the pleas for emergency support from hundreds of community-based non-profit and charitable organizations, whose work is so critical to the efforts of Canadians to get through the recession. Their traditional sources of support – individual donations and grants from foundations – have been hit hard both by the general economic slowdown and by the meltdown in financial market.
The government has announced significant investments in infrastructure. But even here, the fine print threatens to turn those investments into nothing more than repeatable news releases. Ignoring the financial realities facing provincial and local governments, the Federal Government has yet again refused to put up “first dollar” funding for infrastructure making it dependent on cash-strapped provinces and local governments for its delivery. The plan is also spectacularly unfocussed. There is no theme. There is no overarching objective. The infrastructure program is at the same time everything and nothing.
Third, how does it position us for the future? It doesn’t. It is scattered. It is backward looking. And it is supremely political.
Contrast Canada’s budget with the massive, tightly focused and forward looking measures rolling out daily from the Obama Administration.
It is brutally obvious that the Harper government has been dragged by political imperative into a set of budgetary policies that it considers to be ideologically unpalatable – a necessary evil to be pursued for its political value alone, implemented in half measures and abandoned as quickly as possible.
It is also becoming obvious that what’s good for Stephen Harper politically is not necessarily in the best interests of the Canadians he is supposed to be serving.
Hugh Mackenzie is an economist and research associate at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
January 27, 2009
Strong mobilizations of small and medium farmers with roadblocks and protests take place across Greece. The mobilizations constitute a follow-up of the peasants’ struggles during last autumn.
The Athens-Thessaloniki national highway is closed various points. Farmers with tractors have also closed from Tuesday noon the Greek borders with Bulgaria at the Promachonas frontier crossing. Blockades have been set at the the node of Nikaia, Larissa and Kastro, Serres and Egnatia Odos
The new round of mobilizations begun on 19th of January when thousands of peasants blocked with their tractors the highways in the regions of Thessalia, Thessaloniki, Amfissa, Lamia, Serres, Kavala, Kilkis, Drama and Halkidiki, protesting the CAP of the EU and the policies followed by the Greek governments that have caused despair to the small and medium farmers who denounce the prices for cotton, wheat, corn as “humiliating”. The income loss as a consequence of the CAP reaches 40%.
PASY (All Farmers Militant Rally) has put forward the following main demands:
guaranteed prices for all agricultural and livestock products
reduction of the production costs (eg petroleum price). Abolition of VAT
support to the local products and increase of the exports through inter-state agreements
Upgrade of irrigation systems and other infrastructure by the state
100% compensation in case of natural destruction
Loan freeze for 3 years
The government was obliged to resort to maneuvers and promises in order to tackle the situation. In an effort to decoy the farmers announced a special “pack” of 500 million euros, which was rejected by the farmers. The PASOK tries to take advantage of the situation while at the same time distances itself from the struggles and especially the roadblocks.
Part of this effort to divide and spread confusion is the setting up of a second initiative by cadres of ND, PASOK, SYN and LAOS that has called for separate mobilizations with completely different demands which do not address the real problems while at the same tine are very convenient for the government. It is not by chance that the government opted to invite for dialogue representatives of this initiative.
The KKE has welcomed the mobilizations of the medium and small peasantry and has called upon the workers and the urban self-employed strata to support the struggles.
KNE has also organised solidarity events and has made efforts to mobilise students of schools and universities Unions to express their solidarity with the struggle of small and medium farmers in each one of the roadblocks.
Picture this. It is the first day of school for the new semester. As usual, the teacher has written on the board. The headlines are from newspaper: December unemployment highest in 16 years. EU: Deep recession, surging unemployment coming. Child poverty grows. Youth, women suffer in latest layoffs.
The teacher turns to the class. What can we do to change this? she asks.
Last November, the YCL was talking about the need to advance a bold "people's alternative agenda," trying to shield and block as much as possible as the Harper Conservatives renewed attack, using the economic crisis as a pretext. At the time, I wrote an article in Peoples Voice partly about the positive potential of coalitions, and promised to present analysis about economic crisis, and its implications for youth and students.
Of course, since then, we've seen remarkable openings and volatility in Parliament with the temporary eclipse of emperor Harper through a coalition, all prompted by their arrogant first attempt at a budget. Now, at the time of press deadline, we're all entering into budget-process round two, and Harper looks likely to win.
I received an email from the finance minister a few weeks ago asking me for consultation on the budget process. Intrigued, not least about how some Jim Flaherty email-bot got my address, I followed the link. I was given one-to-six grading options on six vague items and the option of adding 250 characters – yes, not words but characters, just like text-messages – to add with my humble opinion.
On the left, we need to do profoundly better in terms of call for what’s needed.
Still, some people may ask: is capitalism capable of doing this job? That's another good question. The answer is clearly no. But where does that leave us? A general discussion about the merits of socialism?
As far as I'm concerned, it is case-closed on that debate – socialism is thousand times better. Speaking in his last televised address of 2008, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced that capitalism is "the immoral art, science, and technology of development of capital." If want to use this definition is it any surprise that even Hustler magazine's publisher Larry Flynt headed to the US Congress earlier this January asking for a billion-dollar bail-out for the porn industry?
Or were they asking for a stimulus package?
But seriously, why do all the stimulus packages – for those who care for comedy, YouTube search this phrase – seem to sound like the familiar broken record where the rich guys make the problem and the working folk pay for the clean-up? Lets flip this record. What would a people’s stimulus package look like? What would an economic recovery for youth and students start with?
For the youth movement, in the YCL's view, such an alternative direction might draw from the Youth Charter that the broad and powerful Canadian Youth Congress proposed, following the On To Ottawa Trek of the Great Depression.
This is no dusty idea. American youth and students are currently mobilizing around a "youth agenda" platform, as have youth students in
This is not the same as replacing the Conservatives with the Liberals, in short. It will require dynamic, broad, and visible opposition in the streets in the coming months.
So it comes down to struggle.
Where to start? What about the Canadian Federation of Students four proposals for "a broader economic stimulus package." Those proposals are: an increase to the Canada Social Transfer for post-secondary education; more graduate student funding under the Canada Graduate Scholarships; greater financial support for Aboriginal students; and a boost in student summer jobs funding.
Could a youth coalition be build around these issues, as well as the agenda for raising minimum wages that many Canadian Labour Congress youth are putting forward, and the idea of shifting money from war budgets, military recruitment and the dirty war in Afghanistan and back to the people that will be discussion of the upcoming student anti-war conference co-sponsored by the Canadian Peace Alliance? The Sierra youth coalition has also made the link between the environmental policies of the Harper Tories and the need for a new direction.
The contribution of the Marxists and the left is not in wandering around among the people proclaiming 'we told you so,' (although a glance at some of the academic left press would make you think otherwise). Our contribution is bigger, it is to help propose a way forward.
After all, we should never celebrate people's suffering. Crisis is a feature of capitalism. If there is an accompanied sustained working class offensive against the system, and progressive forces world-wide are able to grasp the moment and force through major change – that would be cause to celebrate.
ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE : Les leçons toujours actuelles de Karl Marx l'oublié
By Lucien Degoy
Karl Marx and the Lessons of "Capital" Are Back
Translated mardi 13 janvier 2009, par Isabelle Metral
Whether as a philosopher, economist, and anthropologist, the author of "Capital" and the persistent relevance of his analyses are justified by the major crisis which now defies the premises of global capitalism.
« If Marx imposes himself as one of the "unsurpassable" thinkers of our time, the reason is also, and mostly, that he was the first to detect the dynamics intrinsic to capitalism. ». These are not the words of some obscure, antediluvian follower of Marx, but the pronouncement of Alain Minc, the businessman, essayist and counsellor who has the ear of the French President, in an interview recently published in Le Magazine Littéraire . The review, which made so bold as to devote thirty pages to Marx's works, wonders about what it calls « the reasons for a rebirth ».
As the British historian Eric Hobsbawn himself humorously observes, « It is the capitalists, more than the others, who are re-discovering Marx »"– like George Soros, another financier and pro-market politician who recently confided to him : « I am reading Marx just now ; there are quite a few interesting things in what he said ! »
That Marx, who has long been dead and buried, is now back in favour may seem paradoxical. But is it so very strange ? « It is not surprising that intelligent capitalists, especially in the field of global finance, should have been impressed by Marx, », Hobsbawn observes, « since they have necessarily been more keenly aware than the others of the nature and instability of the capitalist economy in which they operated. » . Naturally, these capitalists should not be expected to give up the system that crowned them and that gives them a hold on the whole of society : they are not going to become converts to socialism any time soon. That is not in their interest – far from it – they most certainly (George Soros among them) still entertain the notion that they may turn the present crisis to to their own advantage and increase their profits, since the crisis whets their appetite for speculation even as it increases the risks…
That's the law of the system, the domination of the bourgeoisie that Marx and Engel depicted in The Communist Manifesto in 1848, long before his main work Capital (1867), as a period marked off from all previous periods by « a continuous upheaval of production », « a social system in a complete state of permanent commotion », « restlessness » and « perpetual insecurity ».
Can Marx help us see our way through the crisis ?
As economist Jean-Marie Harribey observes, the fact is « that one might draw up an impressive list of publications at the service of capitalistic interests that draw upon Marx's critique of capitalism to try and find their way through the erratic movements of their own system ». Thus, Harribey further notes, from The Financial Timesto The Wall Street Journal through The Economist and the LondonDaily Telegraph which declared that « October 13, 2008 shall remain in history as the day when the British capitalist system admitted to having failed », commentators are forced to concede that the sacrosanct « law of the market has proved incapable of guaranteeing a sound equilibrium, stability, prosperity or equity » and that, all in all, Marx had been fairly perspicacious.
« It is urgent to re-discover his thought, which is too often reduced to a few famous quotations », insists journalist Patrice Bolton, who coordinated the Marx dossier for Le Magazine Littéraire. It is once more a recourse for decrypting a globalization « that multiplies job losses and sends inequalities between countries rocketing, as well as inequalities between social classes within each country. » Not forgetting the succession of speculative bubbles that result in the impoverishment of a growing portion of the population.
In such a context, beyond the historical differences that make it illusory to transpose the situation directly from one century to the next, Karl Marx is enjoying a second youth. But « which Marx », the review asks, is it « the economist, the sociologist, the philosopher, or the political activist » ? But must we really choose ? What if it was precisely the diversity of those « hats », their superimposition and connections that made for the high topicality of his perspicacious, unclassifiable works today ?
Marx indeed attempted to decrypt the movement of history, the economy, production, value, capital, labour force, money, commodity, consumption, credit, social relations, class struggle, but also the exploitation, alienation, individualization, the possibility of emancipation and of transcending dominations as so many moments in a global movement, in a series of constantly evolving contradictions that make it possible to characterize precisely the singularity, the specificity of a mode of production at any particular time in human history. This approach to contradictions makes it possible to understand why global finance capital is now pushing the logic of profitability to a paroxysm, and why capitalism, as communist economist Paul Boccara  shows, is « exponential capitalism », a system that sets money above everything else in order to make more money to the detriment of people's lives – an irreversible system, which cannot be expected to go back to « old time capitalism ».
In an article published by le Monde diplomatique , the philosopher Lucien Sève himself notes that « if the crisis broke out in the credit sphere, its devastating power had been building up in the sphere of production owing to the increasingly unequal distribution of surplus value between capital and labour ». And he goes on to remind us of Mark's illuminating insight (in Capital, Book I) that : « All the means that are aimed at developing production are conversely as many means of domination and exploitation of the producer », or again (…) that « the accumulation of riches at one pole » has a reverse side which is « the proportional accumulation of destitution » at the other pole, from which, Sève further observes, « the premises of violent trading and banking crises will originate ».
The crisis being systemic, it can only repeat itself and get worse. That is why putting the origin of the crisis down to the excessive volatility of sophisticated financial products is of little avail. To « moralize » capitalism, to restore it to « greater transparency », as proposed by Nicolas Sarkozy, are slogans that are all just for show if the very logic of the system is left untouched, namely the dictatorship of finance, the search for maximum profit. « Faced with a system whose blatant incapacity to regulate itself has such an inordinate cost for us, our aim right now must be to transcend capitalism, and set out on the long march towards a new social organization where human beings, through novel forms of association, will all together control their own social power which has gone berserk », Lucien Sève insists. There lies yet another timely lesson still to be learned from Karl Marx, albeit out of the depths of philosophical oblivion... ______________________________________________________
This article is part of an seven-part series of short quotes Rebel Youth is issuing about class struggle, revolution, civil-war, and pa...
Letter of Condolences to the Victims of Natural Disaster in Japan World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) would like to express its...
Antoine SteMarie, Guest commentary A recent discussion with friends over facebook had me thinking about why we should consider theory i...