Category Archives: Class

The Empire Files: A call for a new political force


In 2013 Kshama Sawant became the first socialist elected to the Seattle City Council, winning reelection two years later.

And as the presidential election draws ever nearer and Hillary Clinton’s grasp on the nomination grows tighter, Sawant staked out her position in an essay for Jacobin posted Tuesday:

The racist, right-wing ideas given new life through Donald Trump’s campaign represent a serious threat to social progress in America. But the mainstream liberal strategy to stop Trump by rallying behind Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street–sponsored candidacy is only throwing fuel on the right-populist fire.

Despite Trump’s dubious distinction as the most unpopular major party nominee in history, Clinton’s neoliberal record has helped make her the second-most unpopular (likely) nominee ever — and polls show her lead over Trump narrowing.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders consistently polls extremely well against Trump. Why, then, has the Democratic establishment so fiercely and undemocratically backed Clinton if their goal is to defeat Trump?

In this era of global capitalist crisis, rising inequality, and naked corporate corruption, we can only undercut right-wing populism by building solidarity around an unambiguously pro-worker, anti-establishment movement.

Sawant, who holds a doctorate in economics, actively supports the movement calling on Bernie Sanders to run as an independent candidate should Clinton in the Democratic Party nomination [see their petition here], and in this, the latest edition of The Empire Files, host Abby Martin sits down with Sawant to discuss the petition and the need to forge an ongoing alliance to the two-party duopoly.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Fighting Hillary is How Progressives Win — Kshama Sawant

Program notes:

As the flailing Hillary Clinton camp steps-up its attacks on Bernie Sanders, her poll numbers continue to drop—and for the first time, have her losing to Donald Trump in a general election.

On the cusp of the Democratic Party Convention, millions of Sanders’ supporters are wondering what to do other than vote for a ‘lesser of two evils.’

To gain some insight, Abby Martin interviews Kshama Sawant, an open socialist who just won re-election to Seattle’s city council—who also ran an insurgent campaign against the party establishment—about her advice to the Sanders’ movement, and how struggles like the Fight for 15 can keep advancing regardless of the presidency.

Quote of the day: A time of deep disaffection


From Jonah Walters, writing at Jacobin:

This election season has activated a sprawling constituency of disaffected citizens — a bloc of voters who see the ideal of American prosperity as an unattainable fantasy and the current political system as an intolerable outrage. Two candidates are speaking to this mass dissatisfaction, and winning tremendous popular support in the process — but only one of them has a vision worth defending.

Perhaps picking up on the swelling disaffection of the electorate, pundits have stoked fears that Sanders supporters are easy marks for Trump — or vice versa — despite the utter lack of substantive political similarities between the two candidates.

Elites’ control over the limits of political legitimacy is  slipping — and they seem to know it. The Sanders defector — that hypothetical Bernie supporter sure to cast an anti-Hillary protest vote for Trump come November — seems poised to replace the “Bernie Bro” as the media’s favored anti-Sanders strawman.

But it’s true that for down-and-out workers in the post-2008 economy, the alternatives on offer are far and few between — and many people, feeling left out of the American dream, are desperate for an alternative.

Hollande cracks down on striking French workers


France’s neoliberal SINO [socialist in name only] president continued his crackdown on striking workers who had called nationwide actions to protest “reforms” rammed through by his government in the interests of corporateers and banksters.

From Agence France-Presse:

The French government fought back Friday in a bitter labour dispute with unions, sweeping away blockades at fuel depots after President Francois Hollande vowed to “stand firm” over the reform that sparked the industrial action.

A defiant Hollande said he would not give in to the unions’ demands to withdraw the measures that the Socialist government hope will free up France’s famously rigid labour market.

“I will stand firm because I think it is a good reform,” the president told reporters

>snip<

Police cleared all 15 blockades around the country, leaving only one depot still shut by a strike.

Don’t believe the IMF; it’s as neoliberal as ever


Yep, all that recent rhetoric about a “new and improved” IMF, an institution more congenial to people rather than banksters and neoliberal doctrine, is just a load of hogwash.

That’s the finding of a new study from University of Cambridge researchers who dove beneath the superficial rhetoric to find the same old beast lurking in the shallows.

From the University of Cambridge:

A new study, the largest of its kind, has systematically examined International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies over the past three decades. It found that – despite claims to have reformed their practices following the global financial crisis – the IMF has in fact ramped up the number of conditions imposed on borrower nations to pre-crisis levels.

The crisis revived a flagging IMF in 2009, and the organisation has since approved some of its largest loans to countries in economic trouble. At the same time, IMF rhetoric changed dramatically. The ‘structural adjustment programs’ of austerity and privatisation were seemingly replaced with talk of the perils of inequality and the importance of social protection.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Sociology collected archival material on the IMF’s lending operations and identified all policy conditions in loan agreements between 1985 and 2014 – extracting 55,465 conditions across 131 countries in total.

They found that structural adjustment conditions increased by 61% between 2008 and 2014, and reached a level similar to the pre-crisis period.

The authors of the study, which used newly-available data and is published today [open access] in the Review of International Political Economy, say their findings show that the IMF has surreptitiously returned to the practices it claims it has abandoned: encroaching on the policy space of elected governments by enforcing free market reforms as conditions of lending. This is despite the IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde rejecting concerns over the return of structural adjustment: “We do not do that anymore”*.

“The IMF has publicly acknowledged their objectives to include creating breathing space for borrowing countries, and economic stability combined with social protection,” said lead author Alexander Kentikelenis. “Yet, we show the IMF has in fact increased its push for market-oriented reforms in recent years – reforms that can be detrimental to vital public services in borrowing countries.”

Although the IMF claims its programs can “create policy space” for governments, structural adjustment conditions can reduce this space as they are often aimed at an economy’s underlying structure: privatising state-owned enterprises and deregulating labour markets, for example.

There’s more, after the jump. . .

Continue reading

Massive protests over labor law sweep France


We begin with a video report from euronews:

France: Strike raises stakes in showdown over labour reforms

Program notes:

With pumps at more than 4,000 petrol stations in France now partially or fully dry, the showdown between the government and the hardline CGT union over contested labour reforms intensified on Thursday.

Nationwide blockades and rallies, travel disruption and a strike at the country’s nuclear power plants are putting more pressure on Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls who insists the law won’t be withdrawn.

From Sputnik, raw footage of confrontations today in Paris between activists and police:

French Protest Against Labor Reform

Program notes:

France’s trade unions took to the streets of Paris once again to voice their opposition to French labor reform. Almost 19,000 French nationals have participated in a nationwide rally in Paris. The protest turned violent as police clashed with mask-wearing young demonstrators.

The reason for the massive action is a set of labor “reforms” imposed by the socialist-in-name-only government of French President François Hollande

BBC News summarizes the main point of the government’s new rules:

  • The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average. Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46 hours
  • Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay
  • The law eases conditions for laying off workers, strongly regulated in France. It is hoped companies will take on more people if they know they can shed jobs in case of a downturn
  • Employers given more leeway to negotiate holidays and special leave, such as maternity or for getting married. These are currently also heavily regulated

The Deutsche Presse-Agentur covers the government’s response to the strike:

[Prime Minister Manuel] Valls said there could be some changes to labour legislation, which is aimed at easing employment regulations on issues such as dismissal practices and negotiating rules. But he rejected the possibility of entirely withdrawing the reforms as national strikes drew out fuel blockages and disrupted traffic across France.

“I am always open when some aspect should be improved, but on the main lines of the text, particularly article 2, there is no question of touching it,” said Valls on broadcaster BFM-TV. “We cannot cede to a desire to make the government fold by blocking the economy.”

Article 2 of the legislation changes the labour code to give working hours agreements at company-level greater clout than those made by unions at industry-level.

French President Francois Hollande, in Japan for the G7 summit, was quoted by French media voicing his support for Valls’ position.

Members of the umbrella CGT union, one of the seven unions that called for the nationwide strike, have called for a complete withdrawal of the legislation. Secretary General Philippe Martinez called for Hollande to live up to promises he made while a candidate.

From France 24, an interview with a representative of the union organizing the massive job action:

France Labour Law strike chaos: “We want more social rights for the workers”

Program note:

Benjamin Amar, member of the General Confederation of Labour, CGT – Val de Marne, came to the studio to explain his organization reaction while the strikes and demonstrations continue in the country.

Lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: A dirty campaign’s toxic legacy


While Norbert Hofer [previously], presidential candidate of the far-Right Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs [Austrian Freedom Party, or FPÖ] lost Sunday’s election by 31,000 votes out of 4.6 million ballots cast, his campaign has left a deep stain on Austria, writes Cathrin Kahlweit of Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Her words are of exceptional relevance here in the U.S., where another candidates will lead his own party’s ticket in November’s presidential election in a campaign fueled by the same resentments, anti-immigrant fear-mongering, and Islamophobia employed so effectively by Hofer:

[R]egardless of the election outcome, the country has changed dramatically over the last several months. Sensationalist media, the FPÖ and even some in the Christian democratic and conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) have jumped on the bandwagon with hyperbolic platitudes splashed all over social networks: There is talk of an “increasing crime rate,” a belief that “women can’t walk the streets alone anymore,” and even that “foreigners are all rapists and murderers.”

Hatred and contempt are suddenly acceptable, because they’re directed at others — outsiders. That’s what Hofer suggested in his final speech, when he said foreigners who care about Austria may stay, “but those who follow ISIS, or rape women, must go.”

Gross generalization and defamation have become widespread, with hateful comments parroted back by a public that passively absorbs them. The election campaign drifted far away from its stated goal of finding the right person to represent the country, attract investors, mediate and connect.

At the end of the day, Hofer could claim victory, even if he didn’t become president. He demonstrated a clear path for how a right-wing leader can rise to power: to sweep the country “clean” with an iron broom, to set limits to the current establishment, to restore the old order. Those in Austria who still see shades of gray, and who favor a moderate approach, are lost right now.

With the ballots counted and Van der Bellen elected, the real fight for Austria has just begun.

Map of the day: Metro area income changes


And they’re mostly not looking very good.

From America’s Shrinking Middle Class: A Close Look at Changes Within Metropolitan Areas[PDF] a new report from the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Income