Archive for the ‘United States – economy’ Category

The increasingly parasitical nature of capitalism today is reflected today in a number of ways.  One is the artificial nature of share ‘values’ and how workers’ jobs, pay and conitions are affected by this.  Below is a piece dealing with the latest round of massive layoffs by GM in the United States and how these layoffs reflect the increasingly parasitical forms of capital/ism today.  It is the editorial from the latest set of fortnightly workplace bulletins produced by The Spark, a US Marxist workers’ current.

General Motors is closing down five plants and laying off 14,500 workers.

That announcement – shocking because it comes in the midst of so-called “good times” – was justified by one lie after another.

No one wants cars, says GM. Not true. In 2018, six million cars will be sold. The problem isn’t car sales. The problem for GM and the other two “American” companies is that cars produce less profit than do trucks and SUV’s. GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have now decided to hand over the car market – except for the biggest, most profitable luxury models – to Japanese companies.

Remember, the three companies did this once before, when they ceded the market for small cars to Japanese and German automakers.

Ford, GM and FCA are now throwing away the whole car market. They don’t give dealers many choices, and they push consumers to “step up” to an SUV or even a truck – all the while counting out more profit.

GM expects these job cuts to provide it with 4.5 billion dollars (US) more profit by the end of 2020.  But, says GM, the auto industry is changing rapidly, and GM needs to accumulate more profit to invest in electric cars and self-driving vehicles.

Well, if that were the issue, GM already could have been investing – and many times that much. It had the money, but instead GM gave it away to Wall Street. Over the last three and a half years, GM bought back stock to the tune of 10.6 billion US dollars, and put in motion plans to buy back almost four billion more – 14.5 billion US dollars.

Stock buy-backs do nothing but (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…)

by The Spark

Every day, Trump hogs the spot light.  He uses summits to attack US allies, like Canada and NATO.  He takes aim at women leaders, insulting British prime minister Theresa May and German chancellor Angela Merkel.  He walks in front of the elderly Queen of England, almost tripping her up.

Then he rubs it in.  He pretends to be best buddies with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

The news media goes crazy.  “This is not a normal president” and “We’ve never had a president like this before,” they say.

That’s music to Trump’s ears.  He is playing a game to keep his base behind him.  He doesn’t mind shocking the others to do that.  It reinforces his play to look ‘tough’.

Trump poses as the champion of the (more…)

Dunedin: Otago Socialist Society presents
Marx’s theory of capitalist crisis

Why is capitalism plagued by regular economic crises? Can capitalism avoid these crises or are they inherent in the system? What did Marx see as the fundamental cause of these crises, regardless of whether they appear first in the ‘real’ economy or the financial sector? In particular, what is ‘the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall’? What political conclusions follow from Marx’s crisis theory?

Speaker: Philip Ferguson
6pm, Monday, July 30
McNab Room,
3rd floor, central city library,
Moray Place, Dunedin

 

Christchurch: Canterbury Socialist Society presents
Harlan County USA

This award-winning film – it even won an academy award! – documents a major struggle between coal miners in Harlan County (Kentucky) and coal bosses in the 1970s.  These workers provide an inspiring example of how to fight.

7.30pm, Tuesday, August 7
The Space Academy,
371 St Asaph Street, Christchurch

by The Spark

Since the spring (NZ autumn – Redline), the Trump administration has imposed a wave of tariffs on 1,102 imported goods, from aluminum and steel, that is, the building blocks of basic industry, to consumer items like washing machines, solar panels, and LED lighting.

Do these tariffs signal a real change in U.S. trade policy? Or are they one more instance of Trump grandstanding, playing to the chauvinism of his America First voting base?

For all the furore Trump’s rhetoric has produced, it is much ado about little. Even if the tariffs that Trump has announced take full effect – which is doubtful – they will hit only a very small portion of the roughly three trillion dollars a year in imports into the U.S. As Stephen Gallagher, managing director of Société Générale, explained, “… right now it’s more of a temper tantrum on trade, as opposed to a real war” (Wall Street Journal, June 19) although, as Gallagher points out, there is always the risk that it could develop into something much bigger.

But Trump’s tariffs have already produced a (more…)

Thousands of high school workers protest in Phoenix, Arizona for pay rises and increased school funding. Photograph: Ross D. Franklin/AP

by The Spark

State-wide teacher strikes are rolling across the United States. What started in West Virginia has spread to Kentucky, Oklahoma, and now Arizona and Colorado. In every one of these states, all or most of the school districts in the state have been closed for periods of up to nine days. Tens of thousands of teachers, support personnel, and other school workers have descended on the state capitals in massive demonstrations of determination and solidarity.

In every one of these states, the teachers have made it clear that they are not just demanding pay raises or pensions for themselves. The fight has included demands for pay raises and protections for all school employees and even other public sector workers.

Broader demands

And in every state, the fight has included demands for increased school funding to improve the quality of education for the students. Striking teachers and other school employees have reached out to the students, the parents and the communities, making it clear that this is a fight of ALL working people for a better education and a better life.

These revolts follow two decades of (more…)

by Guy Miller

“The beating heart of the labor movement.” That’s how the moderator of the Friday evening April 6th plenary session of the 2018 Labor Notes (LN) Conference introduced six West Virginia school teachers. The teachers were fresh from a historic victory in their unauthorized – and unexpected – strike. The same could be said about the conference itself: it represented the beating heart of American labor. The record 3,200 activists who attended the three-day Chicago conference were living, fighting proof of that

History of Labor Notes

Labor Notes was founded in 1979, just as the attack on the American working class was about to shift into high gear. The three founders – Jane Slaughter, Kim Moody and Jim West – were members of the International Socialists(1), one of several American groups tracing their roots back to Trotskyist origins. Slaughter, Moody and West realized that just creating a “front group” for the IS would result in a dead-end for their project, so they sought from the beginning  to create an organization that would support and encourage rank-and-file activity in the trade union movement.

1979 was the year that Paul Volcker, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, set the Fed’s interest rate to a record high, bringing on what is often called the Volcker Recession. The double dip recession that ensued saw the loss of over a half a million manufacturing jobs, at the same time bringing the number of strikes to a screeching halt. This was under the presidency of (Democrat) Jimmy Carter; things only got worse under the following (Republican) Reagan administration. In 1981 Reagan broke the national Air Traffic Controllers’ strike and smashed their union as well. Meanwhile, the leadership of the AFL-CIO – equivalent of the CTU in New Zealand – essentially sat and twiddled their collective thumbs. The long, slow Thermidor of American labor had begun.

The height of organized labor in the U.S. had been reached in 1954 when 35% of the workforce belonged to a union. The absolute number of union members, however, continued to grow, reaching 21 million in 1979. However, by 2017 the percentage of unionized workers fell to an (more…)