Archive for the ‘Alienation’ Category

The last week of August marked the 50th anniversary of the (in)famous 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago.  Thousands of people turned up outside the convention to protest the war being waged by the United States, via a Democratic Party administration, on the people of Vietnam.  The Democratic Party mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, turned his cops on the protesters, hundreds of whom were injured in police assaults.  The Illinois National Guard was also turned out, to supplement the armed cops.  This party convention was yet more proof, if any was needed, that the Democratic Party is no vehicle for progressive change in the United States, any more than the Labour Party is in New Zealand (or Britain or Australia).

by The Spark

In 1968, the Democratic Party met in Convention in Chicago to nominate its presidential candidate. This is the Convention that has gone down in history – in the words of Hodding Carter, one of its participants – as the work of “a party that had lost its mind.”

For most people who still remember, the 1968 Convention is associated with the 14-minute live telecast from the streets of Chicago, showing police clubbing and viciously kicking unarmed demonstrators, people who had come to protest the U.S. war on Viet Nam and the Democrats who were carrying it out. Some of those people, bloody on the ground, were shown yelling, “the whole world is watching.”

Or people remember from inside the Convention, Chicago’s mayor, Richard Daley, yelling “fuck you” to Senator Abraham Ribicoff from Connecticut, who had criticized “Boss Daley’s” cops.

In fact, the 1968 Democratic convention should go down in history as the symbol of the inability of the Democratic Party to respond to the deep problems of this country – even at the very moment when social forces were urgently pushing those problems forward.

A Country on Fire

Opposition inside this country to the U.S. war on Viet Nam had become so strong that (more…)

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Kim Moody, On New Terrain: how capital reshaped the battleground of class war, Chicago, Haymarket Press, 2017, US$18; reviewed by Guy Miller

On November 8, 1954, US (Republican Party) President Dwight Eisenhower wrote:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. . . their numbers are negligible, and they are stupid.”

On August 3, 2018, the headline on the New York Times front page blared: “The Downside of Apple’s $1 Trillion Valuation: Income Inequality May Grow as Mega-Firms Dominate Economy.”

How we got from November, 1954 to August, 2018 is the story Kim Moody’s book, On New Terrain, tells well, and in great detail.

The Old Terrain

After being discharged from the U.S. Army, I entered the blue-collar work force in late 1967.  My fellow workers and I started with the basic assumption that decent-paying jobs were our birthright.  We also believed that our standard of living would always be on an unending upward trajectory.

Jobs were plentiful. Quit your job during the lunch hour and there was a chance you would have a new one that afternoon. We were a mixed demographic of Vietnam era veterans, young black nationalists,  counter culture youth, and older workers with the victories of the rise of the CIO still  imprinted in our memory banks.

Fifteen-minute coffee breaks routinely stretched to 25 minutes, a half-hour lunch meant 45 minutes away from work.  Assembly line moving too fast?  Simple solution: stop it by any means necessary.  Two-day weekends often ballooned into three days, thanks to the “bridge”, that is, calling off work on Fridays or Mondays.  With or without a union, we called the shots, or at least many of them.  It was almost too good to last, and it didn’t.

Shifting Terrain

As the war in Vietnam began to wind down, the American capitalist class saw itself besieged on several fronts: (more…)

Nurses have stood strong, but union head office has counselled giving up. Pic: Matthew Tso/Stuff

by Don Franks

“It is clear to all parties that there is no further additional funding available for this MECA.  The Government has made this clear repeatedly to all parties and publicly. On this basis we believe further strike action is highly unlikely to deliver any further improvements for our members.”

That’s a recommendation to union members from the NZ Nurses Organisation, just posted on Facebook by a union member who has issues with the union head office stance, Al Dietschin of the Health Sector Workers Network.

Al notes, this amounts to “(t)rying to convince us to surrender because they’d rather help the Government keep the BRR/fiscal restraint policy intact” and suggests an alternative strategy:  “If we were to strike again, aligned it with other public service/sector unions actions, and if we organised cross union pickets of Labour Party offices, we could force the purse strings open.”

I have issues myself, partly because, as an older citizen, I’m increasingly likely to require the assistance of nurses.  I want them to be properly paid so they are concentrating on the job of looking after me and are not distracted by economic discomfort.  At the moment, nurses definitely have the (more…)

by Don Franks

“Auckland’s phoney homeless make $100 a day on the streets” is a Herald piece by Amanda Saxton, about a few skid row alcoholics who assemble early each morning to sit together and drink.

A group of apparently lazy, cynical, dishonest parasites, permanently partying, preying on each other and neglectful of their own children. 

“They look homeless, act homeless, and half of them actually are homeless. But Phillip and the group’s kaumātua Sole Johnstone have houses to go home to each evening.”

“Why would we work, slaving 40 hours a week, when we can get $100 a pop sitting here? And I can get drunk at the same time.”

“On a good day, Phillip makes about $100 begging. On an amazing day, $200 – that’s on top of his benefit and his partner’s salary. He says he spends about $100 a day on beer and the odd bit of whiskey”. (more…)

Striking workers blockade a major road leading into centre of Buenos Aires, June 25. Photo: Jorge Saenz

 

by Robert Belano

A general strike across Argentina brought major industries and transportation to a halt on Monday. The major union bureaucracies — the CGT and the CTA — called for the strike but refused to mobilize workers in the streets. However, the far left parties and the most combative unions organized rallies and roadblocks in various cities. It is the third general strike that has been organized against the Macri government since the right-wing president assumed office in 2015.

Left organizations — in particular, those which compose the Left and Workers’ Front — blocked various bridges and access points to the capital city of Buenos Aires as well as cities in the interior of the country like Cordoba and Rosario. Throughout the capital, not a single bus, train or subway line was running. More than 600 flights in and out of the country were canceled. Schools, banks, ports and thousands of businesses were shuttered.

The workers’ primary demand is for an immediate increase in their salaries at least equal to the inflation rate. Inflation has surpassed 27 percent in the past year while the government is proposing salary increases of only between 15-20 percent for this year, meaning that even after the proposed increases, workers would experience a major decrease in real wages and their standard of living.

This skyrocketing inflation is compounded by the major hikes in utility bills that have been imposed since (more…)

by Don Franks

“Half the Māori prison population are gang members … whom no-one wants to see given a break.” 

Lines from Jim Rose’s article: “Extra prisoners are nearly all gang members – that’s hardly a crisis”, in Wellington’s May 29th Dominion PostScreen Shot 2018-05-29 at 7.09.47 PM

Jim Rose concludes:

“Gang members are not Māori single mums struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table who were driven to a bit of shoplifting by the legacy of 175 years of colonisation.

“They are hardened criminals pursuing a life of crime outside and inside prison. They have no excuses.”

In other words, a proportion of Maori are inherently evil, irredeemable and deserving of absolutely nothing. 

In a civilised country, how can a mainstream newspaper print Rose’s dehumanising racist agitation? Why do readers tolerate it? (more…)

May 5 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx.  Below we’re running a review of Francis Wheen’s biography of Marx.  The review was written when the bio first came out and is by a prominent British Marxist.  Its author probably did more than anyone else to re-establish Marx’s crisis theory in the English-speaking world, back in the early 1970s, and also both to re-establish the Marxist tradition in Britain on ‘the Irish Question’ and the imnpact of imperialism on the political outlook of the British working class and the Marxist approach to Labourism and the British Labour Party.  We’ve added a few more subheads and paragraph divides to break up the text.

by David Yaffe

The first short biography of Karl Marx could be said to have been produced by his great friend and collaborator Frederick Engels on 17 March 1883 in a speech heard by the ten other people gathered together in Highgate Cemetery for Marx’s funeral. It offers very clear guidelines to those who would take it upon themselves to write future biographies. Marx, said Engels, was before all else a revolutionary:

‘His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own position and its needs, conscious of the conditions of its emancipation. Fighting was his element. And he fought with a passion, a tenacity and a success such as few could rival.’

So the appearance of yet another biography of Karl Marx, this time by the former Guardian columnist Francis Wheen,1 claiming that ‘it is time to strip away the mythology and rediscover Karl Marx the man’ (p1), should put us on our guard. For Marx the man cannot be separated from his real mission in life and the dedication and commitment that invariably accompanied it.

Faint praise

A biography like any other ‘commodity’ has to have a market niche. Another tabloid-style denunciation of the man and his works would have little mileage. Neither would a revolutionary vindication of Marx. Wheen knows his punters – he wrote weekly for them in The Guardian. They rejected Thatcherism and a Labour Party gone Thatcherite. They are disturbed by untrammelled market forces, corporate domination, financial speculation and increasing stress and insecurity at work. They are alarmed by environmental destruction and Third World poverty but want well-stocked supermarkets supplied by global markets. They want to see change but not (more…)