Category Archives: Socialism

Fidel Castro is gone, the man the U.S. tried to kill


In the end, the killer was one that awaits us all, humanity’s finite lifespan.

From the New York Times:

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday. He was 90.

His death was announced by Cuban state television.

In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.

Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.

More from the Guardian:

Castro’s younger brother Raúl, who assumed the presidency of Cuba in 2006 after Fidel suffered a near-fatal intestinal ailment, announced the revolutionary leader’s death on television on Friday night.

“With profound sadness I am appearing to inform our people and our friends across [Latin] America and the world that today, 25 November 2016, at 10.29pm, Fidel Castro, the commander in chief of the Cuban revolution, died,” he said.

“In accordance with his wishes, his remains will be cremated.”

Raúl Castro concluded his address with the famous revolutionary slogan: “Onwards to victory!”

On Saturday, the Cuban government announced that Fidel Castro’s ashes will be interred at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba on 4 December. The cemetery is the resting place of 19th century Cuban independence hero José Martí and numerous other leading figures in the country’s torrid history.

Hundreds of assassination attempts foiled

Castro lived a charmed life, surviving hundreds of would-be assassins, many of them dispatched by a U.S. government outraged that a revolutionary regime could challenge its hegemony and flourish just 90 miles off its shore.

Powerful U.S. corporations had seen their lucrative Cuban assets nationalized, and the mob lost its casinos, infuriating syndicate heads in Chicago, Miami, and New Orleans, as well as notorious money launderer Meyer Lansky, who lost his own casino.

Other governments as well loathed Castro for his backing of revolutuonary regimes and dispatched their own killers.

And all of their attempts failed, as documented in this 2013 report from Britain’s Channel 4 News:

638 Ways To Kill Castro

A noteworthy legacy

So we bid farewell to Fidel, who created a national healthcare system that’s one of the world’s best [the island nation’s infant mortality rates are much lower than those of the U.S., a fact the CIA acknowledges], and where the U.S. sends troops to maintain its dominance over the globe, Cuba sends doctors to heal folks in some of the world’s poorest lands and assist when disaster strikes.

Barred by a trade embargo from importing food from the U.S., Cuba developed the world’s best system of agroecology, raising crops without pesticides and an over-reliance on synthetic fertilizers, while turning vacant lots into rich urban farms.

While the American right has long demonized Castro as a despot, the truth is that he accomplished much good for the Cuban people and countless numbers of the sick and the afflicted in other lands.

And now we bid him farewell, a man whose legacy is — like that of all of us — mixed, but one that is far better than so often portrayed in the U.S. media.

Quote of the day: Oscar Wilde on agitators


From his essay, The Soul of Man Under Socialism:, and a repost from 8 March 2011:

I can quite understand a man accepting laws that protect private property, and admit of its accumulation, as long as he himself is able under those conditions to realise some form of beautiful and intellectual life. But it is almost incredible to me how a man whose life is marred and made hideous by such laws can possibly acquiesce in their continuance.

However, the explanation is not really difficult to find. It is simply this. Misery and poverty are so absolutely degrading, and exercise such a paralysing effect over the nature of men, that no class is ever really conscious of its own suffering. They have to be told of it by other people, and they often entirely disbelieve them. What is said by great employers of labour against agitators is unquestionably true. Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community, and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilisation.

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.

Zinn, Chomsky, and a talk about hope and despair


A pleasant weekend diversion in the form of an unusual discussion featuring two unusual men.

The occasion was a 20o4 fundraiser for Spare Change News, which describes itself as “the nation’s oldest street newspaper. Since 1992, we have been covering issues other Boston media often ignore—inequality, homelessness, culture and resistance.”

Held at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, the gathering offered the two speakers, long-time friends and supports of the paper since its founding, to let down their hair a bit.

They touch on a wide range of issues, including the real nature of American elections, the long and venerable history of American socialism, the dark side of the drafters of the Constitution, and much more.

The discussion is also interesting in light of events of the intervening years.

So enjoy. . .

From Argus Fest:

Noam Chomsky & Howard Zinn “Is There Hope in This Desperate Time?”

Program notes:

This event was a fundraiser for Spare Change street paper and the Homeless Empowerment Project. Recorded on September 27, 2004

Greek tragedy and dreams of a Star Trek future


Yanis Varoufakis is a political hybrid, perceived as so a dangerous radical by the financial powers of Europe that they forced his ouster as finance minister in the supposedly radical leftist government of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who had be voted into power precisely to resist that Troika of European Central Bank, the IMF, and the European Commission.

His term in office lasted less that six months, from 27 January to 6 July of 2015.

Varoufakis now serves as Professor of Economic Theory at the University of Athens and as private consultant for Bellevue, Washington, video game  development and software distributor Valve Corporation. He’s also a prolific blogger and Twitterpater.

In a 3 August 2015 profile by Ian Parker of the New Yorker, Varoufakis described one incident during his brief tenure a Greek money manager:

At the White House, Varoufakis repeated a line that he had used at Brookings: “Mr. President, my government is planning, and I am planning, to compromise, compromise, and compromise, but we’re not going to be compromised.” (“He liked that,” Varoufakis recalled.) Varoufakis told him, “Mr. President, of course one has to suffer costs in order to get the benefits, but the question is the balance. There has to be a positive balance.” He went on, “We are being asphyxiated for trying to simulate what you did, right?”

Obama showed more solidarity than Varoufakis was expecting. “I know — austerity sucks,” Obama said. (“He used those words. Very un-Presidential.”) According to Varoufakis, the President was referring less to austerity’s unpleasantness than to its ineffectiveness. Obama meant that austerity “doesn’t work — it creates misery, and it’s self-perpetuating, and it’s self-defeating.”

Varoufakis told Obama that he hadn’t felt quite the same comradeship when speaking with the U.S. Treasury Secretary. “Jack Lew is not toeing the Obama line,” he said.

Lew’s views prevailed.

In the following interview for The Real News Network by Canadian lawyer, journalist, and environmental activist Dimitri Lascaris, Varoufakis details the pressure on Greece and the reasons he abandoned his office:

Yanis Varoufakis: How The Greek People’s Magnificent “No” Became “Yes”

From the transcript:

LASCARIS: Let’s talk a little bit about the future, what the future holds for Greece in particular. As you know, I’m sure all too painfully, the Syriza government has been implementing a series of so-called reforms at the insistence of the Troika, which many regard as being harsher than the terms previously dictated to the right-wing New Democracy-led government. And recently Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, expressed the view that 2016 would mark the beginning of the end of the economic crisis in Greece. Do you think that that’s a realistic assessment in light of the nature and harshness of the austerity measures being implemented?

VAROUFAKIS: Dimitri, a simple one-word answer: no. Look. This program that was agreed in August, and which I voted against in Greek parliament, was designed to fail. There is precisely zero probability that it will succeed. The prime minister himself, Tsipras, said so back in August. He described the treaty that he signed, the agreement that he signed on [I think] the 13th of July, as a document that was extracted from him by coup d’etat. These were not my words. These were his.

Now, the great disagreement we had, we had this personally, as well, in a very comradely and friendly way, but it was nevertheless a strong, intellectual disagreement, was this. He said to me, and he said to the parliament, and he said to the public, that we have to accept this toxic, failed program that is never going to work, because if we don’t then the banks will never open again, and we’ll then have blood on the streets, more or less.

Well, what he intended to do was to introduce a parallel program, legislative program, comprising his own, his own government’s agenda for looking after the weak, sustaining those on very low pensions and income. A parallel program, he called it. So there is the [proposed] failed program, which is the price we have to pay according to Prime Minister Tsipras, for the surrender, the defeat. But we introduce a parallel program which justifies why you are staying in power to implement the toxic program.

Now, it is indeed the case that Prime Minister Tsipras and his government tried to do that. In early–late November, early December, they did table in Greek parliament the parallel program. Two days later, the president of the Euro Working Group, which is the effective functionary of the Troika, it came out and said, uh-uh, you have to withdraw that. And a Greek minister humiliated himself and the Greek government by making it sound as if it was his own idea that they should withdraw this parallel program. So this parallel program now has been withdrawn by the Greek government itself, at the behest of the Troika.

So even by the logic of the prime minister, the answer to your question is no.

If you’re curious about Varoufakis’s political and economic beliefs, here’s a December TED talk in which he expounds of a set of ideas that he believes is simultaneously libertarian, Marxist and Keynesian, via his post on Social Europe:

Why Capitalism Will Eat Democracy

Program notes:

Have you wondered why politicians aren’t what they used to be, why governments seem unable to solve real problems? Economist Yanis Varoufakis, the former Minister of Finance for Greece, says that it’s because you can be in politics today but not be in power — because real power now belongs to those who control the economy. He believes that the mega-rich and corporations are cannibalizing the political sphere, causing financial crisis. In this talk, hear his dream for a world in which capital and labor no longer struggle against each other, “one that is simultaneously libertarian, Marxist and Keynesian.”

A transcript of the talk is posted here.

Curious numbers of the day: What’s with Iowa?


Those pinko Iowa Democrats.

From the Washington Post [emphases added]:

A little-noticed data point in the new Selzer & Co. Iowa poll, in fact, shows that 43 percent of likely voters in the Feb. 1 caucuses say they would use the word “socialist” to describe themselves.

And to be very clear, this question was not whether they would vote for a socialist or sympathize with socialism; it’s whether they consider themselves socialist.

The 43 percent of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers who self-identify as socialist is actually more than the number who identify themselves as capitalist — 38 percent.

Podemos: Seen on the brink of a breakthrough


Podemos, a political movement born on Span’s college campuses 22 months ago out of anger of the extreme austerity measures immiserating Spain’s young people, because the third most powerful political force in the country in elections 20 December, capturing 21 percent of the national vote, one point behind the Spanish social democrats [PSOE], and just eight points behind the ruling neoliberal Popular Party.

Their rise to big numbers effectively ended Spain’s long duopoly and gave organizational form to the demands expressed by the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards who took to the streets for the marches of the 15-M Movement in 2011.

Writing in the 17 December issue of the London Review of Books, Dan Hancox examines the party’s origins:

The roots of Podemos lie in the huge 2011 indignados protests against the Spanish political system in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008. The crisis left a quarter of Spanish families living below the poverty line, and a majority of the rest earning no more than a thousand euros a month; 400,000 families were evicted over the next few years, while more than three million homes lay empty. Unemployment rose above 26 per cent, and above 60 per cent for 16-24-year-olds; a significant proportion of Spain’s graduates left for the US and Northern Europe. In 2012, under the guidance of the Troika, the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, who has led the PP since 2004, made deep cuts to public sector jobs and public spending while also introducing labour reforms to make it easier to sack employees.

The Spanish establishment, meanwhile, thrived. The market for luxury goods soared, and rates of corporation tax plummeted: revenues dropped from €40 billion in 2007 to €22 billion in 2012, while income tax revenue rose by €10 billion. Spain’s nightly TV news was dominated by corruption scandals affecting both of the main parties, the judiciary, the unions, the royal family and any number of private sector corporations. Few of these scandals have been prosecuted, let alone ended in convictions. It is unsurprising that a new political formation emerged to challenge the complacency and corruption of the politicians, bankers, royals, media barons and judges: the political and economic establishment Podemos refers to as ‘la casta’.

To get a better sense of what drove this dramatic rise, the Guardian’s Owen Jones, himself a Podemos supporter, traveled with the party’s leaders on the day of their last pre-election rally.

From the Guardian via Journeyman Pictures:

Podemos: On The Path To Election Success

Program notes:

[The] Spanish general election saw anti-austerity party Podemos win 69 parliamentary seats, and 21% of the vote. This report followed Podemos and their leader Pablo Iglesias during their pre-election campaign, up to the surprising results.

“We are experiencing in the city councils in Spain, in the very small margins of the state, of the administration, it is possible to change many things” said Pablo Iglesias, the party’s secretary-general in an interview last week. During the last week of their campaign before the general election strong support is evident, with 13,000 people attending a Valencian rally. Does this signal the collapse of the two party system in Spain? As Ada Colau, Major of Barcelona explains “The nation-of-nations approach that Podemos has articulated is an authentic revolution in this country.”

Just what impact Podemos will have in the short term is still unclear, though the Popular Party, as the leading vote-getter, is trying — still unsuccessfully — to form a coalition government.

The PSOE has rejected a coalition with the Popular Party and instead has announced plans to call for a coalition of the Left should Prime Minister and Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy fail to forge a coalition.

On thing is certain: Things are going to be interesting.

Greek economist announces Euro leftist alliance


We begin with a report from Deutsche Welle:

German socialist newspaper “Neues Deutschland” reported Sunday that Greece’s former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who rose to fame after being given the ministerial position by the left-wing Syriza party last year, is planning to launch a movement which he hopes will reform European Union institutions.

The Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 – or DiEM 25 – will be presented in February by Varoufakis at Berlin’s Volksbühne theater, according to the organization’s website.

The theater mentions within its program that Varoufakis will be attending the February 9 event to introduce DiEM25 “with ‘collaborators’ from across Europe to present concrete ideas on how to democratize Europe and how to avoid its creeping fragmentation.”

In an October interview, Greece’s former finance minister said his familiarity with tough Eurogroup meetings – held to discuss the country’s third bailout package – had shown that the European Union was not autonomous and that transparency was urgently needed.

Varoufakis is an interesting figure, a Marxist with a libertarian bent.

He won election to the Greek parliament, gaining the most votes of any candidate, in the January 2105 elections that passed the reins of government from a coalition led by the conservative New Democracy into hand of a coalition led by the leftist Syriza party under Alexis Tsipras, who became prime minister with the Varoufakis as finance minister.

Syriza won power because of the parties strong opposition to the harsh economic regime installed by the Torika of the European Union,, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

When it became apparent that more draconian measures would be required before the Troika would extend another bailout, Syriza called for a 5 July national referendum in which Varoufakis played a leading role. When 61.5 percent of Greeks backed the anti-Troika measure, the Troika apparently handed down a mandate: Dump Varoufakis or nor further help.

Two days later he was gone and the Troika subsequently approved the bailout, including mandatory selloffs of more of the already gutted Greek commons.

By way of background, here’s a fascinating interview of the former finance minister by German journalist Dirk Pohlmann for KenFM:

Yanis Varoufakis Candid Interview: Shocking Disfunction and The Power Of Oligarchs

Amazon’s paper fires last U.S. labor columnist


Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos has been a bitter foe of Unions from the start, as Wikipedia notes:

Amazon has opposed efforts by trade unions to organize in both the United States and the United Kingdom. In 2001, 850 employees in Seattle were laid off by Amazon.com after a unionization drive. The Washington Alliance of Technological Workers (WashTech) accused the company of violating union laws, and claimed Amazon managers subjected them to intimidation and heavy propaganda. Amazon denied any link between the unionization effort and layoffs. Also in 2001, Amazon.co.uk hired a US management consultancy organization, The Burke Group, to assist in defeating a campaign by the Graphical, Paper and Media Union (GPMU, now part of Unite the Union) to achieve recognition in the Milton Keynes distribution depot. It was alleged that the company victimized or sacked four union members during the 2001 recognition drive and held a series of captive meetings with employees.

And now that Bezos has bought the Washington Post, it comes as no surprise that the paper has dismissed Harold Meyerson, the last remaining journalist on a major newspaper to devote his fulltime energies to the labor beat.

From Talking Union, the labor blog of the Democratic Socialists of America [Their website is down at the moment, but you can read the fukll post at the blog of the Sacramento Progressive Alliance]:

Fred Hiatt, the Washington Post’s editorial page editor, has fired columnist Harold Meyerson, one of the nation’s finest journalists and perhaps the only self-proclaimed socialist to write a weekly column for a major American newspaper during the past decade or two.

At a time when America is experiencing an upsurge of progressive organizing and activism — from Occupy Wall Street, to Black Lives Matter, to the growing movement among low-wage workers demanding higher minimum wages, to Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president — we need a regular columnist who can explain what’s going on, why it’s happening, and what it means.

More than any other columnist for a major U.S. newspaper, Meyerson provided ongoing coverage and incisive analysis of the nation’s labor movement and other progressive causes as well as the changing economy and the increasing aggressiveness of big business in American politics. He was one of the few columnists in the country who knew labor leaders and grassroots activists by name, and who could write sympathetically and knowledgeably about working people’s experiences in their workplaces and communities.

Since Steve Greenhouse retired last year as the New York Times’ brilliant labor reporter, no other major paper has a reporter who covers unions and working people on a full-time basis. Now with Meyerson’s firing, there’s not one weekly columnist who understands the ins and outs of organized (and disorganized) labor.

Back when esnl began his life in newspapers, most newspapers had a labor beat, either as a full time assignment or as a major emphasis of a general assignment report.

Those days are long gone, and with newspaper ownership now mostly in the hands of a few giant corporations and, increasingly, investment funds, labor is a beat that doesn’t suit the interests of owners.

It’s rather ironic that as, for the first time in nearly a century, a socialist candidate makes a strong showing in public opinion polls, the last socialist newspaper columnist is sacked, and the era of full time labor beats has come to an end.

But then, as that great media critic A.J. Liebling famously wrote, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

H/T to Undernews.

The School of the Americas: Evil unleashed


There is no institution more symbolic of the arrogance and violence at the heart of U.S. foreign policy than the School of the Americas, or as it was rebranded following revelations about the bloody deeds of its graduates, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. And do catch the logo, most notably the Crusader Cross on the right, symbol of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, one of the two leading monastic military orders during the Crusades [the other being the Knights Templar]:

BLOG SOA

The School of the Americas, by whatever name, has served as the Western Hemisphere equivalent of a Nazi SS leadership training school, turning out an elite crew of highly trained butchers eager to serve the interests of the rich and of U.S. corporations threatened by democratically elected Left-leaning Latin American governments.

Unsurprisingly, hundreds of thousands of citizens of countries governed by SOA graduates have fled, and they now comprise the leading source of undocumented immigrants to the U.S., the very immigrants railed against by those very same politicians who can be relied upon to fund the SOA’s damnably dirty deeds.

All of which brings us to the latest edition of Abby Martin’s The Empire Files, her weekly series for TeleSUR English:

Empire Files: The U.S. School That Trains Dictators and Death Squads

Program notes:

On November 22, thousands gathered at the gates of Fort Benning, GA at the 25th annual protest of the School of the Americas to memorialize the tens of thousands of people who lost their lives at the hands of the U.S. Empire’s brutally repressive juntas it used to rule Latin America by force.

The dictators and death squad leaders, who committed acts of genocide, were trained within the gates of Fort Benning, at the School of the Americas – otherwise known as the “School Of Assassins.”

Abby Martin investigates this notorious school that is largely hidden from the American public; it’s crimes around the world, it’s star graduates, why it exists and the movement to shut it down.

Featuring interviews with School Of the Americas Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois and other SOAW leaders. [Follow @SOAWatch and visit SOAW.org for more info on the movement]

Quote of the day: An old American tradition


Dr. Cornel West, speaking to the Story County Democratic Party annual fall barbecue in Ames, Iowa, via Esquire:

“Brother Bernie [Sanders] and I come from a great tradition,” West continued, his tone rising and falling in the familiar cadence and modulation of the pulpit. “The tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Albert Einnnn-stein. The tradition of Helen Keller and Ella Baker. The tradition of John Dewey, who is the founder of pragmatism, but he was a democratic socialist, too. Reinhold Niebuhr! And my dear brother, one of the greatest folk I’ve ever met in Iowa, his name is Reverend Gil Dawes, who’s a Methodist minister, who has been struggling for fifty YEARS and still on fire for justice! The point is that, you see, democratic socialism is not some kind of alien element. It’s organic and indigenous in the history of this nation. Don’t allow the ‘ism’ get in the way of the love of poor people, the love of working people, the love of people of color, the love of gay brothers and lesbian sisters, the love of the elderly and the children and the physically challenged. It’s a question of what kind of human being do you want to be.”

Bernie Sanders: Not a real socialist, but. . .


Socialism means the social ownership of the means of production, and by that standard, Sen. Bernie Sanders isn’t a real socialist.

Sanders instead belongs to that strain of Western European politics we might call ameliorism, in which the state creates institutions designed to protect the weakest from the worst ravages of unrestrained predatory capitalism.

“Social democracy,” as the political movement is called, arose as a compromise between the pulls of radical socialism and anarcho-syndicalism on the Left and nationalistic capitalists on the Right.

A key role in its formation were the events in Germany at the end of the First World War when socialism split as revolution swept the country after the deposition of Kaiser Wilhelm I. German socialism was doomed the moment Social Democratic President Friedrich Ebert called in the military to repress the workers and soldiers of the Left, granting the military impunity for their subsequent violent repression — including the murders of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.

Ebert’s moves both doomed the German socialist movement and paved the way for the subsequent rise of the Nazi Party.

Modern European social democracy took form in the wake of the Second World War, and was created, in part by and with the active assistance of the Central Intelligence Agency, which sought to create an alternative Left to counter the influence of the Soviet Union.

Bernie Sanders is an exemplar of the American version of social democracy, best exemplified by the programs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who convinced his friends in the economic elite that without social relief programs, Americans might well opt for communism over the brutal conditions of daily life in the Great Depression.

That said, the Roosevelt version of social democracy is far better for most Americans that the frankly oligarchic and theocratic mischief peddled by most GOP and Democratic Party candidates.

Which brings us to this discussion from the Left of the politics of Bernie Sanders.

Featured are Paul Jay of The Real News Network and Doug Henwood, a widely published writer, founder and editor of the Left Business Observer, and host of KPFA’s’ Behind the News.

From The Real News Network:

Sanders Defines his Social Democracy

Program notes:

Doug Henwood and Paul Jay discuss the speech by Bernie Sanders explaining his vision of what social democracy means in the U.S. today.

Richard D. Wolff: An antidote to capitalism


Economist Richard D. Wolff [previously] emerged as a leading voice from the left during the Occupy Wall Street movement, a cause that fused his passion for workplace democracy with the years of classroom podium experience he’d gained during his years teaching at the State University of New York and currently at the New School in Manhattan.

An eloquent, passionate, and concise speaker, In this address Wolff address an audience at the University of Washington in Seattle, giving a superb account of the nature of modern capitalism, the boom/bust cycles inherent in its very nature, and its long history of suppressing rational alternative modes of organizing society.

From TalkingStickTV:

Richard Wolff – Economic Justice, Sustainability and Transition Beyond Capitalism

Program notes:

Talk by Richard D. Wolff on “Economic Justice, Sustainability and Transition Beyond Capitalism” recorded October 27, 2015 at the Communications Building, University of Washington, Seattle.

A radical take on the Democratic debate


The Bay Area’s own Abby Martin, who hosts a weekly series for Telesur English produced by Paul Jay of The Real News Network, assembled a panel to provide a critique from the left of the Democratic presidential debate.

Much of their commentary focuses on the contrasts between Hillary Clinton, the hedge fund manager’s candidate of choice, and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. The most notable dissent from Sanders’ take came to his declaration that he would support whichever Democrat emerges victorious — though all agreed that Sanders’ rise points to a growing rank-and-file disaffection with the business of business as usual.

From The Empire Files:

Debate The Debate: Post-Democratic Debate Panel with Abby Martin

An excerpt from the program notes:

Abby Martin, the renowned U.S. journalist and presenter of teleSUR’s The Empire Files, hosted a live analysis of the Democratic Party debate Tuesday on teleSUR . You can watch it below if you missed it. Here is our round up of both the presidential debate and our post-debate analysis.

To dissect the five candidates battling it out for the Democratic nomination for presidential candidate, Martin was joined by politician Jill P. Carter, who represents Maryland’s 41st legislative district of Baltimore City in the Maryland House of Delegates; Jared Ball, assistant professor of communication studies at Morgan State University, who is also a host and producer at the Real News Network; Kamau K. Franklin, the South Regional Director of the American Friends Service Committee who has also helped develop community cop-watch programs; Bhaskar Sunkara, the founding editor and publisher of Jacobin Magazine; and journalist Sarah Jaffe, who co-hosts Dissent magazine’s “Belabored” podcast.