Category Archives: Socialism

Quote of the day: Bernie, the S-word, & unions

From labor lawyer and union negotiator Joe Burns, writing in Jacobin:

The Bernie Sanders campaign has injected socialism into the mainstream discourse for the first time in decades. Young Sanderistas have rallied behind social-democratic demands that fly in the face of forty years of neoliberal policy, and polls show that millennials are surprisingly receptive to socialist ideas.

The positive response to Sanders’s avowed democratic socialism — and to his call for a political revolution — opens the door for a discussion all but absent from today’s labor movement: the importance of socialist ideas to a successful trade union movement.

For most of the labor movement’s history, a broad socialist-minded wing fused its vision of society with a practical program for labor’s future. Whether it was the industrial unionism of the early 1900s, the CIO unions of the 1930s, or the rank-and-file anti-concession movement of the 1970s and 1980s, labor’s left offered an alternative to union decline and stagnation.

Today, however, labor unions rarely discuss class issues. Disputes are particularized, transformed into individual battles between an employer and its workers rather than a larger struggle between opposing classes.

Typically, only bitter and prolonged strikes expose workers to the class bias of the corporate media, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the courts. With industrial action at historic lows, class consciousness has been blocked from spreading throughout labor as a whole.

What’s been remarkable about Sanders has been his ability to use a presidential campaign to bring class front and center. Like Occupy’s targeting of the 1 percent, his campaign has spotlighted and lambasted those who are the true enemies of working people.

Maps of the day: Social Democrats in Europe

From the Economist, the shifting fortunes of Social Democratic parties in Europe over time:

BLOG Social dems

Unless we act soon, debt peonage lies ahead

In this, the second of a two-part interview by Chris Hedges for Days of Revolt [first part here], economist Michael Hudson looks at the future of the United States under parasitic capitalism, and it’s a chilling vision of a state totally under the thumb of the looter class with citizens reduced to a state of permanent debt peonage.

A critical turning point came after the collapse of largely unregulated banks in 2008. Referring to the Obama Administration’s Troubled Assets Relief Program [TARP] bailout for busted banks, Hudson offers this definition of the key term: “If you’re a criminal and you’re stealing from people, that’s called troubled.” In other words, the “affluenza defense” for the greatest financial crimes of modern times.

Hudson also makes a telling point about the current Greek crisis, in which that country is being forced to sell off its national assets and ruthlessly slash pension and medical assistance as the result of a mandate handed down by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

While the Greeks rightly resent the onerous conditions imposed on their nation, focusing their rage on Germany, whose banks made endless, reckless loans to Greeks, the International Monetary Fund was ready to write off the debt until U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Barack Obama demanded the debt be enforced because U.S. banks had made speculative wagers on Greek bonds they couldn’t collect if Greece were allowed to default.

Greece is still paying the cost, with the disabled the latest to face serve benefits cuts.

Oh, and where is Geithner these days? USA Today gave us an update last month:

President Obama’s first Treasury secretary, who left office in 2013, is now ready to make millions thanks to help from a big bank he used to regulate.

Bloomberg News this week disclosed that Geithner has gotten a line of credit from JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, to invest in a new $12 billion fund at the private equity firm where he works, Warburg Pincus.

The filing with the New York Department of State does not give the amount of the line of credit or the terms, but according to Bloomberg, Warburg Pincus executives are signing up for a total $800 million and Geithner, as a top officer, is probably getting a sizable chunk of that.

The markets are not growing because Americans can’t buy more real goods and services because they’re paying off the banks for mortgages, car loans, student debt, and credit card debt, along with taxes to cover the bailout.

With Americans in a condition of debt peonage, ensuring that the American worker puts in more hours for no additional pay simply out of the sense of desperation that comes from living one check away from homelessness.

And we’re headed for another crash as real estate again inflates, thanks in large measure to the refusal of Congress to impose constraints on Wall Street and ever greater costs are offloaded onto the already burdened backs of the American working class.

We are becoming, absent radical change, a nation of sharecroppers, forced to shop at the company store.

Hudson, professor of economic at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, began his career as a Wall Street analyst, and he knows finance from the inside. His latest book, Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy, dissects the rise of new form of capitalism.

From teleSUR English via the Real News Network:

Days of Revolt: Junk Economics and the Future [2/2]

Program note:

In this episode of teleSUR’s Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges continues his discussion with UMKC economics professor Michael Hudson on his new book Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy.

Quote of the day II: An American socialist in 1897

From Equality, an 1897 work of utopian science fiction by American socialist Edward Bellamy:

Now, the duty of the state to safeguard the liberty of citizens was recognized in your day just as was its duty to safeguard their lives, but with the same limitation, namely, that the safeguard should apply only to protect from attacks by violence. If it were attempted to kidnap a citizen and reduce him by force to slavery, the state would interfere, but not otherwise. Nevertheless, it was true in your day of liberty and personal independence, as of life, that the perils to which they were chiefly exposed were not from force or violence, but resulted from economic causes, the necessary consequences of inequalities of wealth. Because the state absolutely ignored this side, which was incomparably the largest side of the liberty question, its pretense of defending the liberties of citizens was as gross a mockery as that of guaranteeing their lives. Nay, it was a yet more absolute mockery and on a far vaster scale.

For, although I have spoken of the monopolization of  wealth and of the productive machinery by a portion of the people as being first of all a threat to the lives of the rest of the community and to be resisted as such, nevertheless the main practical effect of the system was not to deprive the masses of mankind of life outright, but to force them, through want, to buy their lives by the surrender of their liberties. That is to say, they accepted servitude to the possessing class and became their serfs on condition of receiving the means of subsistence. Although multitudes were always perishing from lack of subsistence, yet it was not the deliberate policy of the possessing class that they should do so. The rich had no use for dead men; on the other hand, they had endless use for human beings as servants, not only to produce more wealth, but as the instruments of their pleasure and luxury.

Dissecting the rise of parasitic capitalism

Who is Michael Hudson?

Here’s what former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and Wall Street Journal Associate Editor Paul Craig Roberts says:

Michael Hudson is the best economist in the world. Indeed, I could almost say that he is the only economist in the world. Almost all of the rest are neoliberals, who are not economists but shills for financial interests.

In addition to his jobs as research professor of economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City and research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, Hudson is a prolific writer.

His latest book, Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy, dissects the rise of new form of capitalism in which. . .well, here’s a quote from the book:

The new breed of corporate raiders and “financial engineers” pay themselves interest and produce capital gains with the profits hitherto shared with federal, state and local tax collectors. The government budget deficits deepens, and the Treasury issues more bonds (and looks to raise taxes from labor and consumers). The entire economy becomes more debt-leveraged, paying income to creditors — headed by the One Percent — instead of investing it or spending to raise living standards.

What follows is the first two interviews of Hudson by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism and activist author Chris Hedges conducted for his weekly teleSUR English show, Days of Revolt.

From teleSUR English:

Days of Revolt: How We Got to Junk Economics

Program notes:

In this episode of Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges interviews Michael Hudson, UMKC economics professor and author of Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy. In the first half of their conversation, Hedges and Hudson trace the history of classical economics and explore Marx’s interpretation of capitalism as exploitation.

The Empire Files: Marx, a philosopher for today

As the American political system splinters, with the public increasing desperate for solutions for a future that looks increasingly bleak, the ideas of a 19th Century German political economist are beginning to look increasingly relevant.

Solid, good-paying jobs complete with health insurance and company-paid pensions, enabled the Baby Boom generation — esnl included — to buy affordable homes [our first home was a three-bedroom hillside home in the pleasant community of Vista, California, cost what we made in a year, with property taxes included in a $138 monthly payment ($913 today)].

Oh, and the top income tax was 77 percent for regular income and 27.5 percent for capital gains, compared to today’s 39.6 percent for income and 20 percent for capital gains. Then there’s the whole new forest of tax shelters and dodges, played with funds rocketing around the globe at the speed of light and lawyers.

For those who went to public colleges and universities, education was cheap enough to be pay-as-you go or, for military veterans [and there was  military conscription back then] the GI bill picked most of the tab.

Over time, the rich became immensely wealthier while the rest of us gained nothing, losing job security and pensions and forced to pay for part of all of the health insurance coverage that was that was once a given in many if not most jobs.

With American youth forced to mortgage their futures with massive debt loads simply to acquire the educations that cost their parents comparatively little, housing more expensive, and jobs much less secure, folks are finding themselves looking at a very uncertain future.

Why? What’s happened?

Well, for economist Richard D. Wolff, that 19th Century German philosopher offers illuminating insights, and Abby Martin asks the right questions in this, the latest edition of The Empire Files, her series for teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Understanding Marxism and Socialism with Richard Wolff

Program notes:

Despite a concerted effort by the U.S. Empire to snuff out the ideology, a 2016 poll found young Americans have a much more favorable view of socialism than capitalism.

Though he died 133 years ago, the analysis put forward by one of the world’s most influential thinkers, Karl Marx, remains extremely relevant today. The Empire’s recent rigged presidential election has been disrupted by the support of an avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, by millions of voters.

To find out why Marx’s popularity has stood the test of time, Abby Martin interviews renowned Marxist economist Richard Wolff, Professor Emeritus of Economics at UMass – Amherst, and visiting professor at the New School in New York.

Prof. Wolff gives an introduction suited for both beginners and seasoned Marxists, with comprehensive explanations of key tenets of Marxism including dialectical and historical materialism, surplus value, crises of overproduction, capitalism’s internal contradictions, and more.

UC Berkeley student dissects a bellicose Hillary

One of the most cogent dissections we’ve seen yet of Hillary Clinton’s relentlessly militaristic and imperial foreign policy approach comes UC Berkeley doctoral student Meleiza Figueroa.

Here she is interviewed by Jaisal Noor of the Real News Network about the positions of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on Latin American immigrants and their respective foreign policy approaches:

Clinton and Sanders Spar over Coups and Deportations

From the transcript:

NOOR: And so Bernie Sanders, as you mentioned, he did raise the issue of Nicaragua and the Sandinistas, his support for Daniel Ortega, he was asked about that. And so, studio crew, just so you know, we’re going to the last [unintelligible], because this is really important history, US history, US involvement for the contras in Nicaragua, US support for basically terrorist attacks against the Cuban government which failed to materialize. Let’s take a listen to what Bernie Sanders’ response was.

ELENA SALINAS: In South Florida there are still open wounds among some exiles regarding socialism and communism. So please explain, what is the difference between the socialism that you profess and the socialism in Nicaragua, Cuba and [crosstalk] Venezuela.

BERNIE SANDERS [Interposing]: Well, let me just answer that. What that was about was saying that the United States was wrong to invade Cuba, that the United States was wrong trying to support people to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, that the United States was wrong trying to overthrow, in 1954, the government, democratically elected government, of Guatemala.

Throughout the history of our relationship with Latin America we’ve operated under the so-called Monroe Doctrine, and that said that the United States had the right to do anything that they wanted to do in Latin America. So, I actually went to Nicaragua, and I very strongly opposed the Reagan administration’s effort to overthrow that government, and I strongly opposed, earlier, Henry Kissinger and the overthrow of the government of Salvador Allende in Chile. I think the United States should be working with governments around the world, not getting involved in regime [change].

NOOR: So that’s a really remarkable thing to hear. We know Sanders has brought it up, but I think he went further in this debate than he has before. Your final thoughts?

FIGUEROA: Oh, this was an amazing exchange because, you know, for those who have known about the history of US imperialism and US interventionism in other countries around the world, you know, we never hear this on mainstream media. We never hear this on TV networks, and to hear, you know, names like Salvador Allende, names like Árbenz being mentioned on mainstream media, in terms of an entire history of US interventionism is, that’s just a remarkable feat in itself, and it’s an incredible teaching moment to the American people about, you know, what their government has done around the world, what, you know, our taxpayer resources has been spent on.

I mean, another thing I wanted to maybe mention about Honduras in particular is that, you know, not only is [this] just a question of American resources, American policy, American time, but also, you know, the human cost of this, not just in terms of children, you know one week ago was the murder of Berta Cáceres. She was an environmental activist, indigenous person, in Honduras who was murdered by the regime that Hillary Clinton helped put in power and maintain in power. Now, this has incredible impact on, again, how [are we] going to think about, you know, what the US is and what role it plays in immigration?

I mean, you know, the violence there, I’ve heard what’s happening in Honduras being described as the worst femicide of the century. Women are being killed in great numbers, and you know, no wonder people want to leave that country and migrate somewhere better. And those are, the conditions that the US government creates in other places affects not only affects incredibly, you know, people’s lives there.

And, you know. . .it blows back onto the united states in many, many ways, and so, you know, that, Bernie Sanders is pointing out the long, long history of this type of foreign policy approach, this interventionism, and that he, frankly, was, stood up and was very principled in his insistence that the United States government has no right to interfere in the affairs of Latin American countries or [to] overthrow the governments of other countries. You know, [that is] an incredibly brave stance for a politician, for a US politician to take, and is something that, frankly, has needed to be heard by the American people for quite some time.