Archive for the ‘United States – economy’ Category

Regina Elsea and her fiance

by The Spark

Regina Elsea was killed last year when the robot she was trying to repair suddenly moved and crushed her. She was working for Ajin USA, a car parts company, earning $8.50 an hour.

Chambers County, where the company was located, offered tax breaks and other financial aid to companies to locate there. Encouraged by such free taxpayer-backed money, car companies, with their high-tech robots and technologies, started to move to the region. People were hired, but most of the wages remained very low. In addition, much of the work was supplied through staffing agencies and was temporary.

Elsea was not an Ajin employee. She was employed through a (more…)

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…)

downloadby Jim Grant

Shall the fun never end? This paper has already called the present lame-duck phase of the American political cycle the most dramatic since 1860,1 but in accordance with the laws of the Hollywood narrative arc, the stakes have been raised at the very death.

At issue, of course, is the infamous Trump dossier – 35 pages of allegations against Donald Trump and his people, ranging from the dubious to the treasonous, to the downright bizarre; all rendered in the bland, grey prose of the MI6 house style. The author is widely assumed to be a certain Christopher Steele, a former operative at the Circus gone private; he and his firm, Orbis, are merely one of a whole nexus of private intelligence firms operating in London, whose previous claim to notability consists in compiling evidence of corruption at the top of football’s governing body, Fifa, on the UK government’s dime, which issued ultimately – after the information made it to Washington – in the dramatic arrests of mid-2015 and the resignation of Sepp Blatter.

Steele’s name came up after it was admitted that the source of all these allegations is a Briton, which in the end is hardly surprising. Britain has the right combination – slavish obedience to US policy, coupled with a most hospitable environment for Russian oligarchs to stash their fortunes. No doubt there are many Russian gentlemen with ambiguous relations to the Kremlin available for a ‘private chat’ in the right sort of Mayfair club. A whole industry, it appears, has grown up around this fortuitous position, with ex-spooks very quickly replacing their income (and more) in the private sector.

There are, now we think of it, a few parallels between Blatter’s case and Trump’s: both men are sexist buffoons, for a start; and what Blatter achieved within the small circles of football’s governing elite (founding a firm and unpleasant regime on the support of more marginal constituencies) Trump aims to replicate on the grander stage of American society. They are both, above all, men who are liable to make enemies, and Blatter’s ultimately caught up with him.

While the interest of the secret state and its semi-detached private apparatchiks like Steele in the black heart of international football is merely a testament to how bizarre the distempers of the imperialist world order can get, the interest in Trump’s Russian adventures is more easily explicable. US state department doctrine in the recent period has been dominated by the objective of encircling Russia, in order to ensure ready American access from western Europe all the way to the far side of the Mediterranean and the Arabian peninsula. Such activity has increasingly clashed with Russia’s perceived interests in its near abroad – a policy that has provoked crises over Nato expansion and the recent wave of fatuous doublethink over who may be said to have liberated cities from Islamic State in the Middle East.

Compromised

Trump’s stated foreign policy represents, on this point at least, a dramatic shift. He has made no secret of his (more…)

 

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The interview below first appeared in revolution magazine (#6, May-June 1998).  Fred was a longtime shopfloor militant and Marxist in the United States, being frequently fired and suspended from jobs due to his union and political activities.  At the time of the interview Fred was living in San Francisco but retirement meant that, at a certain point, he could no longer afford to live in that city and he moved to Mexico.  Fred died in 2002.

Fred at founding conference of the Class Struggle League

Fred at founding conference of the Class Struggle League, 1972

revolution: People have an image of the 1960s as fairly wild, in terms of social experimentation and political radicalism.  How general were these trends in the US?

Fred Ferguson: In the beginning, it depended on what part of the country you were in.  The New York City and San Francisco Bay metropolitan areas have always been little social democratic and liberal islands in a sea of reaction.  The US is a very backward country, politically and culturally.

However, as time went on and one revelation after another was made of government lying, duplicity, secret vendettas against civil rights leaders and secret wars against whole countries, young people began to wake up and look around.

By the end of the war in Vietnam, even high school (and junior high school), student strikes were taking place in the most remote areas of the mid-west and rural south.

Tens of thousands of young people flocked to the two sea coasts and formed what was to become the ‘youth culture’ of the United States.  The influence was tremendous: racially, sexually, politically, in pharmacology, fashion, hair styles and even in the automobile plants of Detroit.

The combined effect of that period politically has been misnamed ‘the Vietnam Syndrome’.  But it didn’t only apply to the government’s policy in Southeast Asia – it extended to nearly every aspect of society.  The people no longer believed.

revo: Although the US lost the Vietnam War and the American ruling class appears to have been traumatised for a while by that experience, they seem to have paid very little political price domestically.  For instance, no big revolutionary organisation emerged out of the years of ferment around the war and today the US government is intervening militarily around the world again, with very little domestic opposition.  How would you assess the campaign against the Vietnam War?

Fred: The campaign against the war was headed by the social democrats and their political partners in the Communist Party and the rapidly rightward-moving Socialist Workers Party.  Sociologically, it was overwhelmingly pacifist, middle class and campus-based.  The working class was, by and large, suffering under the patriotic illusions left over from World War II and the Korean War.  The US had only just begun its long decline economically and most of the working class was doing quite well compared to the pre-war years.  That tended to give them a conservative colouration.

But by 1967 most were deeply disturbed by the war and by the pictures that were on their television news programmes every night.  The social democrats, with no base in the working class, and the CP which had pissed theirs away in the 1930s and strike-breaking during World War II, had been driven to the right by the McCarthyite witch-hunt and the need to hide in the Democratic Party.  The left-wing concentrated around the (Maoist) Progressive Labor Party and the early (Trotskyist) Spartacist League were just too small, too late and too shrill.

During the same period much of the youth became (more…)

downloadby Tony Norfield

Although it is the world’s major power, the US has found it difficult to impose its will in the past decade or so. From President Bush’s ‘mission accomplished’ speech about Iraq in 2003, to the continuing disasters in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, from US policy in Ukraine also being upset by Russian intervention in Crimea, to how the Saudis and other Gulf states have destabilised the Middle East, the US has not been getting its own way and has been unable to impose settlements that would otherwise be expected of a hegemonic power. This puts the incoming US administration under The Donald in an interesting position.

Early signs suggest that POTUS-elect Trump is taking a softer line on Russia, one different from the still Cold War-inspired position of the Obama regime. Trump has stated that he expects the Europeans to pay more for their own NATO-related defence, which might make them less willing to finance an increased build-up of military operations close to Russia’s borders. Trump has also rejected Obama’s rhetoric on Putin’s supposed involvement in Russia’s alleged cyber attack on Hillary Clinton’s emails. Perhaps most striking of all, Trump plans to appoint Rex Tillerson as US Secretary of State, that is to be the main person in charge of foreign policy. Tillerson is Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil, and is well known to have friendly relationships with the Russian government.

ExxonMobil opposed sanctions on Russia from its own business perspective, but one would have to agree that the aggression shown to Russia by the current US administration makes little economic or political sense. Russia is far from being a threat to US interests. Instead, Russia may have (more…)

51oeo6tryl-_sx329_bo1204203200_The Imperialism study group has been discussing John Smith’s Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisis. We have been fortunate to have the author join the group and lead the discussion. Below are two email discussions on the labour aristocracy from John Smith and Walter Daum.

John Smith on labour aristocracy

Guglielmo Carchedi, Behind the Crisis (2012), p262:

“Some authors see a contraposition between the notion of labour-aristocracy as an internal segmentation within the imperialist countries (for example, unionised versus non-unionised workers, as stressed by Engels) and a different notion stressing, as in Lenin, that in a way all workers in the imperialist countries benefit from the appropriation of international value. But there is no contraposition between the two theses, once it is realised that it is not those firms that appropriate international surplus-value that pay higher wages than other firms. They simply realise higher profits. Rather, the policy of higher wages is pursued by the states in the imperialist countries which appropriate (part of) that international surplus-value from those firms (for example, through taxation) and pursue pro-labour economic policies, as for example more favourable labour- (and wage-) legislation or infrastructures. Thus, it is the whole of the working class in the imperialist countries that profits from the appropriation of international surplus-value and not only privileged and relatively small sections of it. At the same time, it is also true that labour in the imperialist countries profits in various degrees from the appropriation of international surplus-value according to each imperialist country’s class-segmentation and differently in various phases of the cycle.”

This contains some very interesting insights. Among the many discussion points here, the most important concerns the role of the state. In defending my book against the arguments of Sartesian and others, I pointed out that, despite the anti-labour offensive and attempts to roll back the state characteristic of the neoliberal era, despite the austerity regimes since the 2008 that have attempted to intensify these attacks, and despite the big holes made in the welfare state and the impoverishment and destitution of a minority, so far, of workers in the imperialist countries, Government spending on health, education & transfer payments (pensions, unemployment pay etc) rose from around 25% in 1980 to 35% in 2010 in the UK, in the US by the same degree from a lower base, while in France it has increased from 35% to 45%. Similar increases are to be observed in all other imperialist countries; data for oppressed nations is far more patchy but indicates that social expenditure consumes a much smaller fraction of a much smaller GDP. As Tony Norfield argued in The China Price and as I argued in my book, much of this social expenditure is paid for by surplus-value extracted from super-exploited Bangladeshi etc workers and appropriated by imperialist states through various types of taxes.

bangladeshi-garment-workers

Bangladeshi garment workers demonstrate at the site of the Rana Plaza garment factory building collapse

At a well-attended book launch last week in Nottingham (more than 50 people attended), when I mentioned this and said that, when we hear people argue “why should we let immigrants use our health service or send their kids to ‘our’ schools,” the correct and true response should be “because they have already paid for it,” and pointed out that this is not what any section of the British left says, from Corbyn to the so-called revolutionaries – I noticed many heads in the audience nodding their agreement. (more…)