Archive for the ‘Poverty & Inequality’ Category

indiacontrastby Manali Chakrabarti

According to the World Bank, India’s nominal GDP crossed the $ 2 trillion mark in 20141, and is slated to grow at close to 8 per cent annually in 2016 and 20172. To put this in perspective: In 1991, the year the Indian economy was opened up and we embraced neoliberal policies, the Indian GDP was about $275 billion, which by the turn of the century had doubled to $481 billion. But the really rapid growth of the Indian economy has been in the last 15 years, which saw GDP increase by almost four-and-a-half times. One needs to remember that these include years which saw the greatest global recession since the 1930s. Thus, for the economy as a whole the promised ‘achche din’ seem to be happening and there are numbers to prove it. The policymakers who have been rooting for further opening up and freeing of the economy have been justifiably sporting a smug expression with this quantitative endorsement of their position.

However, one vexing question for them is that some people continue to claim that all this growth has not translated into alleviation of poverty–the ‘poor’ have been stubbornly (more…)

Fight the boss, not other workers

by Louise O’Sheaflagtrump-1

US capitalism was a disaster for the majority of the country’s residents, and for the majority of the world’s population, well before Donald Trump came along. And now it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

Four decades of ruling class attacks have created one of the most unequal societies in world history. The billionaire and multi-millionaire class has grown in number year after year while real wages have been stagnant. Entire sections of the country are Third World status.

The economic shocks of neoliberal restructuring* have left dilapidated infrastructure in both city and town. The financial crisis and recession from 2008 made things even worse. In many cities, there are blocks of shuttered shops, even totally empty or decaying suburbs. In total, 43 million people live in poverty. And 20 million live in trailer parks.

More than 2 million people, disproportionately Black and Hispanic, are locked (more…)

14212646_1447524148591892_5975073272711408028_nby John Smith

The attack on organised labour and working people in Europe, Japan and the USA, through intensification of labour, wage repression and cuts in social spending, was on its own nothing like enough to allow capitalism to escape from the systemic crisis of the 1970s. The most important contribution to the resumption of capitalist accumulation in its heartlands was the surplus-value extracted from hundreds of millions of workers in the export-oriented industries of the Third World (or Global South) and captured by imperialist transnational corporations (TNCs) and their suppliers as profits and by imperialist states through taxation. Once again, systemic crisis propelled capitalism along an imperialist trajectory.

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Increased competition

By exposing workers in imperialist countries to increased competition with workers in low-wage countries, outsourcing, even the threat of it, has proved to be a powerful weapon against organised labour, which could not resist because its leaders failed to heed Marx’s prescient warning: “In order to oppose their workers, the employers either bring in workers from abroad or else transfer manufacture to countries where there is a cheap labour force. Given this state of affairs, if the working class wishes to continue its struggle with some chance of success, the national organisations must become international” (Marx, 1867).

The employers’ offensive in the imperialist countries in the decades before 2007 was most intense in the United States, where the median real wage has barely changed since the late 1970s and where the social safety net has been shredded.(1) Since wage inequality sharply increased during this period, it is evident that broad layers of the US working class have experienced declining wages. In contrast, most workers in most European countries experienced a slow but steady advance in real wages since 1980—including in the UK, despite Thatcher’s onslaught on unions. The major exception is Germany, where, according to the OECD, between the mid-1990s and 2008 real incomes of the poorest 30% of German households declined and those of the next 30% barely moved (Fredrikson, 2012).

The  German reunification in 1990, which exposed West German workers to competition from lower-paid workers from East Germany, and the eastern expansion of the European Union, which exposed them to competition with workers across central Europe, ended the era when (more…)

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The following article first appeared in issue #6 of revolution magazine, May-June 1998.  Although nearly 20 years old, the article – which is actually based on talks given between 1995-97 – unfortunately remains highly relevant.

by Philip Ferguson

Over the last few years the term ‘political correctness’ has started to enter the vocabulary here.  Originating with a layer of liberals and leftists in the United States, politically correct practices and outlooks have gained a hold among elements of the professional classes in New Zealand.  The Anna Penn case in 1993, in which a trainee nurse was expelled from the nursing course at Christchurch Polytech for allegedly being “culturally unsafe”, and several cases in other nursing schools and social work courses, have garnered widespread media coverage.

In many ways, political correctness is stronger in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world.  It has become an important industry, with lucrative financial rewards, for a host of touchy-feely middle class liberals.  We have a range of counsellors now operating in most spheres of human problems, along with various consultancy agencies and individuals doing very nicely for themselves advising establishment institutions on how to be “culturally sensitive” to the people upon whose oppression these institutions depend.

In a real sense, political correctness in New Zealand has become the new (more…)

images-2by Sarah Black

Art critic, novelist, writer and academic John Berger died last week, aged 90. Amid the media accolades, Suzanne Moore writes an opinion piece for The Guardian entitled ‘I do not recognise the stereotype of John Berger as a dour Marxist – his work embodied hope’. Though the headline is provocative, Moore’s piece does remember the man as kind, interested and warm.

Berger originally trained as a painter at the Chelsea School of Art, but stopped painting in the late 40s, as the post-war images-1nuclear threat seemed to him to render his work trivial. Instead he threw his energies into writing. He managed to enrage the art and media establishment by his pro-Soviet stance, as well as his criticism of big figures in the art world, such as Henry Moore, Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso (whose work he felt further mystified art). Berger wrote extensively throughout his career – not just criticism, but fiction and other non-fiction works. In 1972 he won the Man Booker prize for his novel, G. His 1975 book, The seventh man, focuses on the plight of the urban poor.

Berger’s warmth comes across in his most well-known work,Ways of seeing. Unlike contemporary programmes of the time, this 1972 BBC four-part series of films-turned-essays was not presented by a stuffy old man in an art gallery with a suit and a pipe. Filmed in an electronics workshop, Berger, sporting an Aztec-patterned shirt, talks to the viewers at home in a laid-back, conversational manner – the aesthetics of the production have a dynamism that transcends the very 1970s look. Berger places advertising images next to still lifes and soft porn beside nudes, in order to make the viewer interrogate the image, the artist and the subject. His aim was to demystify western European painting from its holy status (where criticism’s purpose was to help us pray) and instead find a different way of (more…)

The piece below first appeared as the editorial in revolution #6 (May-June) 1998.  The trends it pointed to were very strong at the time and, sadly, remain very strong.

downloadby Philip Ferguson

The left was once synonymous with freedom.  This was particularly so during the ‘radical’ 1960s.  Freedom from the moral restraints of the austere and conservative 1950s, freedom for sexual experimentation, for viewing pictures and reading books that had been banned, and freedom for oppressed peoples in the Third World and in the advanced capitalist countries like New Zealand were exclusively the preserve of the left.

A great deal has changed since then!  Much of the ‘60s generation has grown up, gained a ‘stake in society’ and become the new, liberal prudes and social controllers, as fearful of freedom as they once were enthusiastic about it.  These days it is difficult to think of any activity which is not subject to concern or regulation by some middle-class snob or do-gooder.  From anti-smoking campaigns[1] to attempts to censor the internet to moral purity feminism, the grown-up flower children of the ‘60s would now prefer not to let a hundred flowers bloom.

There are, however, two ‘freedoms’ that are not included in their desire to control and constrain.  One is the freedom of the (more…)