Kshama Sawant to deliver Socialist response to State of the Union
January 28, 2014

Tweet your followers, message your friends, and call your neighbors, because Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant will be delivering tonight’s Socialist response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address!

President Obama is scheduled to start speaking around 6:00 pm (Pacific), with the official GOP response (from WA’s own Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers!) scheduled to start around 6:45 pm, followed by the Tea Party Caucus response about 20 minutes later. So Sawant will start her Socialist State of the Union around 7:15ish, give or take.

Remember to check out all of The Stranger’s SOTU coverage beginning at 6 pm tonight on Slog and on Twitter, and ending with Sawant’s live address. So much fun!

UPDATE: Turns out Sawant’s address will be streamed from the Seattle Channel’s studios—better video quality for her, fewer bragging rights for us. Ah, well. I’ll update with the new links and embed codes as soon as they are available.

Source

From the #SawantResponse Facebook eventYou will be able to watch it over at her official Seattle City Council website: http://www.seattle.gov/council/sawant/ We expect to begin between 7:30 and 8pm, more details to come!

randycwhite
To all those prepared to resist the agenda of big business—in Seattle and nationwide—I appeal to you: get organized. Join with us in building a mass movement for economic and social justice, for democratic socialist change, whereby the resources of society can be harnessed, not for the greed of a small minority, but for the benefit of all people. Solidarity.

Madrid trash collectors protest against layoffs
November 4, 2013

Trash collectors in Madrid have started bonfires and set off firecrackers during a noisy protest in one of the Spanish capital’s main squares as they prepare to start an open-ended strike.

Hundreds of street cleaners and garbage collectors who work in the city’s public parks converged on the Puerta del Sol plaza late Monday.

They were due to walk off the job at midnight in a strike called by trade unions to contest the planned layoff of more than 1,000 workers.

Madrid’s municipal cleaning companies, which have service supply contracts with the city authorities, employ some 6,000 staff.

The labor groups want the city council to intervene and halt the job cuts.

Source

Gary Younge: How America is killing the poor
November 4, 2013

During a discussion at the University of Michigan in 2010, the billionaire vice-chairman of  Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway firm, Charles Munger, was asked whether the government should have bailed out homeowners rather than banks.  "You’ve got it exactly wrong," he said."There’s danger in just shovelling out money to people who say, ‘My life is a little harder than it used to be.’ At a certain place you’ve got to say to the people, ‘Suck it in and cope, buddy. Suck it in and cope.’"

But banks, he insisted, need our help. It turns out that moral hazard – the notion that those who know the costs of their failure will be borne by others will become increasingly reckless – only really applies to the working poor.

"You should thank God" for bank bailouts, Munger told his audience. "Now, if you talk about bailouts for everybody else, there comes a place where if you just start bailing out all the individuals instead of telling them to adapt, the culture dies."

In the five years since the financial crisis took hold, people have been sucking it in by the lungful and discovering how pitiful a coping strategy that is.  In Michigan, the state where Munger spoke, black male life expectancy is lower than male life expectancy in  Uzbekistan; in Detroit, the closest big city,  black infant mortality is on a par with  Syria (before the war).

As such, the crisis accelerated an already heinous trend of growing inequalities. Over a period of 18 years, America’s white working class – particularly women – have started dying younger. “Absent a war, genocide, pandemic, or massive governmental collapse, drops in life expectancy are rare,”  wrote Monica Potts in the American Prospect last month. But this was a war on the poor. “Lack of access to education, medical care, good wages and healthy food isn’t just leaving the worst-off Americans behind. It’s killing them.”

This particular crisis, however, has also accentuated the contradictions between the claims long made for neoliberalism and the system’s ability to deliver on them. The “culture” of capitalism, to which Munger referred, did not die but thrived precisely because it was not forced to adapt, while working people – who kept it afloat through their taxes and now through cuts in public spending – struggle to survive. Given the broad framing of economic struggles in the west exacerbated by the crisis, this reality is neither new nor specific to the US. “Over the past 30 years the workers’ take from the pie has shrunk across the globe,” explains  an editorial in the latest Economist. “The scale and breadth of this squeeze are striking … When growth is sluggish … workers are getting a smaller morsel of a smaller slice of a slow-growing pie.”

A few days before the bailout was passed,  I quoted Lenin in these pages. He once argued: “The capitalists can always buy themselves out of any crises, as long as they make the workers pay.” What has been striking, particularly recently, has been the brazen and callous nature in which these payments have been extorted.

Last Friday, 47 million Americans had their  food stamp benefits cut. These provide assistance to those who lack sufficient money to feed themselves and their families. Individuals lose $11 (£7) a month while a family of four will lose $36. That will save the public purse precious little – bombing Syria would have been far more costly – but will mean a great deal to those affected. “Before the cut, it was kind of an assumption you were going to the food bank anyway,” Lance Worth, of Washington state,  told the Bellingham Herald. “I guess I’m just going to go $20 hungrier – aren’t I?”

The cut marks the lapse in stimulus package ushered in four years ago. But while the recession is officially over, the poverty it engendered remains. Government figures show  one in seven Americans is food insecure. According to Gallup, in August, one in five said they have, at times during the last year, lacked  money to buy food that they or their families needed. Both figures are roughly the same as when Obama was elected. This negligence will now be compounded by mendacity. Republicans propose further swingeing cuts to the food-stamp programme; Democrats suggest smaller cuts. The question is not whether the vulnerable will be hammered, but by how much.

The impetus behind these cuts are not fiscal but ideological. Republicans, in particular, claim  the poor have it too easy. “We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency,”  claimed former Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. “That drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.”

The notion that food “drains the will” while hunger motivates the ambitious would have more currency – not much, but more – if the right wasn’t simultaneously doing its utmost to drive down wages to a level where work provides no guarantee against hunger. In last week’s  paper for the Economic Policy Institute, Gordon Lafer, an associate professor at the University of Oregon, revealed the degree to which conservatives have been driving down wages, benefits and protections at a local level after their victory at the 2010 midterms.

He writes: “Four states passed laws restricting the minimum wage, four lifted restrictions on child labour, and 16 imposed new limits on benefits for the unemployed. With the support of the corporate lobbies, states also passed laws stripping workers of overtime rights, repealing or restricting rights to sick leave, and making it harder to sue one’s employer for race or sex discrimination.”

That’s why 40% of households on food stamps have at least  one person working. And the states most aggressive in pursuing these policies, Lafer points out, had some of the smallest budget deficits in the country.

Immediately after Obama’s election in 2008, his chief of staff to be, Rahm Emmanuel, said: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” The crisis didn’t go to waste. But it is the right that has seized the opportunity. Not content with  balancing the budget on the bellies of the hungry, it is also fattening the coffers of the wealthy on the backs of the poor.

Source

Incredible Bangladeshi garment workers hold boss hostage for promised bonuses in an act of desperationOctober 15, 2013
Minimun-wage workers in a garment factory in Bangladesh finally extracted a long-promised bonus from their boss after holding him captive in the factory for over 18 hours.
The factory boss — who was unharmed — had held back payment of worker bonuses for the Eid al-Adha holiday. Unions are celebrating the success of the bold worker action as a “positive development” in the context of a long fought labor dispute.
The workers forced their way into the office of owner Delwar Hossain and locked him in when he said no money was available.
Police, relatives of the owners and the factory owners’ group, the BGMEA, launched talks with the protesters and a police official said Hossain was released after bonuses were paid to 900 workers late on Sunday.
“I see it as a positive movement as the workers were not violent and were able to realize their demand peacefully,” said Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers’ Federation trade union.

Source

Incredible Bangladeshi garment workers hold boss hostage for promised bonuses in an act of desperation
October 15, 2013

Minimun-wage workers in a garment factory in Bangladesh finally extracted a long-promised bonus from their boss after holding him captive in the factory for over 18 hours.

The factory boss — who was unharmed — had held back payment of worker bonuses for the Eid al-Adha holiday. Unions are celebrating the success of the bold worker action as a “positive development” in the context of a long fought labor dispute.

The workers forced their way into the office of owner Delwar Hossain and locked him in when he said no money was available.

Police, relatives of the owners and the factory owners’ group, the BGMEA, launched talks with the protesters and a police official said Hossain was released after bonuses were paid to 900 workers late on Sunday.

“I see it as a positive movement as the workers were not violent and were able to realize their demand peacefully,” said Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers’ Federation trade union.

Source

Kshama Sawant is the first socialist candidate in 22 years to advance to the general-election ballot for Seattle City Council
August 12, 2013

When was the last time a Seattle City Council candidate argued there was nothing extraordinary about herself? Or volunteered details about her recent arrest? Or freely admitted she expects her opponent to raise more money — by tens of thousands of dollars?

It’s been awhile, if ever, is the safe bet, which is also the answer to yet another question about the curious campaign of Kshama Sawant: When was the last time a socialist advanced to the city’s general-election ballot?

Sawant — who last week did just that by winning more than a third of the vote in a three-candidate primary field for the Position 2 council seat — is not your conventional candidate. And that’s exactly what she’s aiming for.

“There are some things that really set us apart from your-business-as-usual, corporate election campaigns,” said the 40-year-old Seattle Central Community College economics instructor and latest challenger to four-term incumbent Richard Conlin.

“Those campaigns revolve around the single-minded goal of advancing the political career of an individual. Everything else — including the needs of the people — is sacrificed.”

In a recent interview, Sawant largely deflected questions about herself, the individual, to instead focus squarely on the collective — or what she describes as her party’s primary goals: “fighting for social and economic justice.”

“There’s nothing unique about me,” she added. “I don’t want the main ideas of what we’re fighting for to be distracted by my stuff.”

What Sawant did offer, begrudgingly, about her own background were some generalities from an immigrant’s life that helped shape her into the activist she is today.

Born in Pune, India, Sawant largely grew up in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, India’s most populous city now with some 20 million residents.

“I grew up in an apolitical family full of doctors and engineers and mathematicians,” she said. “I wasn’t exposed to any particular ideology.”

She earned a graduate degree in computer science. But rather than seeking a well-paid career, Sawant sought answers to deeper social questions that resonated during her formative years, and became more pronounced after she came to America.

“Coming from India, what was striking is that you expect that in the wealthiest country in the history of humanity, there shouldn’t be any poverty; there shouldn’t be any homelessness,” Sawant said. “ … But when I came here, I found it was exactly the opposite.”

Growing divide
The gap between rich and poor — and the social and political constructs that created it — fascinated and appalled her, Sawant said. After obtaining a Ph.D. in economics from North Carolina State University, in 2006 she moved to Seattle, where the social divide became even more stark.

“The vast majority of Seattle people are facing a city that is becoming increasingly unaffordable for them,” she said.

Sawant became active in immigrant-rights causes and with other progressive movements, before finding what would become her political party in 2008.

Formed in Europe in the mid-1980s, Social Alternative is an independent political organization that came to America with the working-class immigrants who supported it. In the 1990s, the group took root in cities with strong labor unions, including New York, Philadelphia and Seattle.

Now active in at least 15 major U.S. cities, the group denounces Republicans and Democrats as the puppets of big business. Its website declares it’s “fighting in our workplaces, communities, and campuses against the exploitation and injustices people face every day.”

In 2011, Socialist Alternative caught fire behind the “Occupy” movement, which articulated the frustrations among the politically and economically disenfranchised who blame corporate America for society’s failures.

Sawant became a key political organizer in Occupy Seattle.

“Our decision to run a candidate in 2012 came out of that experience and the prominence that Kshama played in the whole Occupy movement,” said Philip Locker, Sawant’s political director.

Sawant’s first campaign challenged Democrat state Rep. Jamie Pedersen in the 2012 primary. But she moved on as a write-in candidate to the general election in a different 43rd Legislative District race, against House Speaker Frank Chopp. She lost, taking 29 percent of the vote.

Now, in her second bid for office, Sawant advanced from last week’s primary as the runner-up in the Position 2 council race. She’ll face Conlin, who failed to crack 50 percent against two challengers.

Two decades ago
It has been 22 years since the last socialist advanced to the general election in a Seattle council race, city archivist Scott Cline said. In 1991, Yolanda Alaniz, a Freedom Socialist Party member, faced incumbent Sue Donaldson and lost badly.

Beyond Seattle, Socialist Alternative candidates are running this year in Boston and Minneapolis. But Sawant’s campaigns are hailed by her party as its most successful to date.

Although she touts her campaign results as signs of political momentum, Sawant still lost each race by double-digits.

Sawant has vowed she won’t take money from corporate executives or political-action committees but insists she can mount a legitimate grass-roots campaign against the well-financed Conlin.

Sawant’s campaigning so far has largely taken her to worker-rights rallies and other protests. In late July, deputies arrested her among a group peacefully protesting the eviction of a South Park man from his foreclosed home.

“If I’m elected, I would make my first order of business introducing an ordinance to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour,” she said. “Others may talk about it, but I’m the only candidate who’s committed to doing it.”

Sawant also said she’d seek to reform the city’s tax system to impose a fee on millionaires that would pay for public transit and would implement rent control.

She vows to “take only the average worker’s salary” — what she estimates at $40,000 — from a council member’s $120,000 of annual pay. The rest would go to social-justice causes, she said.

“It’s a scandal the City Council is paid that much,” she said.

Source

The above video is an interview with Sawant conducted by Bill Bianchi. He speaks with the Seattle city council candidate on her past and present campaigns and the state of party politics, March 24, 2013.

Socialist Kshama Sawant wins 33% - Seattle gives green light to oust Richard Conlin from city hall
August 8, 2013

Seattle voters sent a clear message to an out-of-touch political establishment yesterday that they are fed up with business as usual, and are looking for an alternative to corporate-pandering politicians like Richard Conlin. Kshama Sawant, who was recently written off by The Seattle Times as “too hard left for Seattle,” won a stunning 33% of the vote, a number that will likely rise as late ballots are counted. 

A majority of primary voters voted against 16-year Seattle City Council incumbent, Democrat Richard Conlin, who despite a massive fund-raising advantage and name recognition, received only 49%. Sawant and a second challenger to Conlin, Brian Carver, won the majority of the vote in the City Council Position 2 race. 

“Working people in Seattle have a clear political choice for a change. If you want to fight for an alternative to the status quo, join us in the struggle for a citywide $15/hour minimum wage, a major expansion of public transit by taxing Seattle’s millionaires, increased investment in affordable housing, and implementing rent control,” said Sawant. 

Sawant has earned the endorsements of The Stranger newspaper, four labor unions, and prominent community activists such as Real Change founder Tim Harris. 

Unlike Conlin, Sawant refuses to accept corporate donations. Her grassroots campaign has raised $25,000, predominantly in the form of small donations of $25 or less, and has mobilized over 125 volunteers. “We will make history by raising a grassroots army of over 300 volunteers, and run one of the biggest door knocking campaigns this city has seen to defeat Richard Conlin,” Sawant declared. 

“Conlin has made clear where he stands, with corporations and the elite. By not representing the majority of struggling working people in this city, he has made himself obsolete.” 

Please Support  Campaign: 
1) Donate on-line at www.VoteSawant.org/donate 
2) Like our Facebook page www.facebook.com/VoteSawant 
3) Volunteer at www.votesawant.org/get_involved 
4) Endorse our candidate at www.VoteSawant.org/endorsements 
5) Join Socialist Alternative!

Source

Chilean Student Movement years into the struggle and moving forward strong; things heating up big time in June
June 26, 2013

Democratic marches took to the street in mass and hooded protesters hurled Molotov cocktails at a police station in the Chilean capital on Wednesday ahead of a nationwide student demonstration.

Protesters also stoned cars, looted a restaurant to use chairs for barricades and burned tires, blocking rush hour traffic along some of Santiago’s main roads.

"They are not students, they are criminals and extremists," Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick alleged at a press conference. "They’ve acted in a coordinated and planned way to provoke these acts of violence."

Teachers, dock workers and copper miners have said they will join students in Wednesday’s national protest to demand education reform.

Chile is the world’s top copper producer and its fast-growing economy is seen as fertile ground for investors. But it is also plagued by vast income inequality and a costly education system that many say is unfair.

"This has to do with discontent that is deeply rooted in many sectors of society. But we’re the first ones to sympathize with people who are innocent victims of this violence, because there’s no way to justify these types of clashes," Andres Fielbaum, president of the University of Chile student federation told state television.

The march, timed ahead of Sunday’s presidential primaries, is aimed at demanding wider distribution of Chile’s copper wealth and reform of the education system that would put the state back in control of the mostly privatized public universities.

Student leaders want to change the tax system so the rich pay more and so that there is less social inequality in Chile.

Chilean student protests are often infiltrated by small but violent instigators alongside genuinely angry anarchists who throw rocks, firebombs and even acid, while police in riot gear respond with water cannons, tear gas and massive-scale brutality.

Two years of student marches often paralyzed Chile’s major cities and stoked expectations of change, but the dispute over education reform remains a key electoral issue ahead of the Nov. 17 presidential election.

Source

Hundreds of climate activists join hundreds of anti-capitalists (& certainly many/most are likely both) in Canary Wharf’s biggest protest
June 14, 2013

One of London’s key financial districts saw its biggest ever protest on Friday as an estimated 200 people occupied Canary Wharf to protest against public spending cuts and lack of action against climate change. Among the protesters were pensioners, children, people with disabilities, a brass band, musicians and a range of groups including Fuel Poverty Action, Disabled People Against Cuts, the Greater London Pensioners Association, No Dash for Gas and UK Uncut.

A spokeswoman for the event said: “We picked Canary Wharf because it’s a symbol of out-of-control neoliberal capitalism. It’s completely private property where protests have been outlawed. We’ve come here because we want to pull together anti-capitalist, climate and anti-austerity struggles.”

The owner of Canary Wharf has previously taken legal action and put in place security measures to prevent protests in home of some of Britain’s biggest banks. The action was part of a range of anti-G8 protests currently taking place, but unlike other events this one passed peacefully.

Protesters erected and scaled bamboo tripods – structures designed to prevent attempts to clear the area by force. An assembly, speeches and workshops were held, as well as creative activities, music and poetry performances and guerilla gardening. James Granger, of Fuel Poverty Action, who helped organize the event, said the banks and financial institutions in Canary Wharf are “bankrolling fossil fuel projects across the world which are causing climate change and fuel poverty”.

"The price of fossil fuels is increasing, which is leading to one-quarter of the UK population facing the choice between heating and eating," he said. "I’m here to say that there is an alternative – renewable energy which is cheaper and cleaner, and an economy that works for the needs of people not the needs of profit."

Betty Cottingham of the Greater London Pensioners Association said: “I’m here to protest along with the young and middle-aged people about what this lot are doing to our world. There’s going to be 3,000 extra deaths this winter because pensioners and other people daren’t turn the heating on.”

A Canary Wharf banker, who did not wish to be named, said he did not make the link between banking and the recession. “If it hadn’t been caused by banking it would have been caused but something else,” he said. “I think these people are here because they care about what’s going on out there and the recession has given them a justification to get out here and do this.”

Source

camouflage-camouflage
camouflage-camouflage:

theuppitynegras:

nezua:

culturenautique:

thepeoplesrecord:

Prison Labor Exposed: From Starbucks to Microsoft - A sampling of what US prisoners make & for whomMay 21, 2013
Tens of thousands of US inmates are paid from pennies to minimum wage—minus fines and victim compensation—for everything from grunt work to firefighting to specialized labor.
The breaded chicken patty your child bites into at school may have been made by a worker earning twenty cents an hour, not in a faraway country, but by a member of an invisible American workforce: prisoners. At the UnionCorrectional Facility, a maximum security prison in Florida, inmates from a nearby lower-security prison manufacture tons of processed beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE), a privately held non-profit corporation that operates the state’s forty-one work programs. In addition to processed food, PRIDE’s website reveals an array of products for sale through contracts with private companies, from eyeglasses to office furniture, to be shipped from a distribution center in Florida to businesses across the US. PRIDE boasts that its work programs are “designed to provide vocational training, to improve prison security, to reduce the cost of state government, and to promote the rehabilitation of the state inmates.”
And Each month, California inmates process more than 680,000 pounds of beef, 400,000 pounds of chicken products, 450,000 gallons of milk, 280,000 loaves of bread, and 2.9 million eggs (from 160,000 inmate-raised hens).Starbucks subcontractor Signature Packaging Solutions has hired Washington prisoners to package holiday coffees (as well as Nintendo Game Boys). Confronted by a reporter in 2001, a Starbucks rep called the setup “entirely consistent with our mission statement.”
Texas inmates produce brooms and brushes, bedding and mattresses, toilets, sinks, showers, and bullwhips.
In Texas, prisoners make officers’ duty belts, handcuff cases, and prison-cell accessories. California convicts make gun containers, creepers (to peek under vehicles), and human-silhouette targets.
A stitch in time: California inmates sew their own garb. In the 1990s, subcontractor Third Generation hired 35 female South Carolina inmates to sew lingerie and leisure wear for Victoria’s Secret and JCPenney. In 1997, a California prison put two men in solitary for telling journalists they were ordered to replace “Made in Honduras” labels on garments with “Made in the usa.”
Open wide: At California’s prison dental laboratory, inmates produce a complete prosthesis selection, including custom trays, try-ins, bite blocks, and dentures.
Constructive criticism: Prisoners in for burglary, battery, drug and gun charges, and escape helped build a Wal-Mart distribution center in Wisconsin in 2005, until community uproar halted the program. (Company policy says, “Forced or prison labor will not be tolerated by Wal-Mart.”)
On call: Its inmate call centers are the “best kept secret in outsourcing,” Unicor boasts. In 1994, a contractor for gop congressional hopeful Jack Metcalf hired Washington state prisoners to call and remind voters he was pro-death penalty. Metcalf, who prevailed, said he never knew.
Federal Prison Industries, a.k.a. Unicor, says that in addition to soldiers’ uniforms, bedding, shoes, helmets, and flak vests, inmates have “produced missile cables (including those used on the Patriot missiles during the Gulf War)” and “wiring harnesses for jets and tanks.” In 1997, according to Prison Legal News, Boeing subcontractor MicroJet had prisoners cutting airplane components, paying $7 an hour for work that paid union wages of $30 on the outside.
Full article

Hmmm….under these circumstances, having a large slave, oops I mean prison population is advantageous.  What an “original” idea!
Damn, it is one thing if this was about rehabilitation and helping people gain skills and get jobs when they leave prison.   Maybe pocket away some money in an account for use when a man or woman gets out of prison.  At least you could argue some type of “win/win” scenario.  Investment firms like Fidelity Investments fund companies and organizations that administrate these types of “programs.  I do not think that is what is going on here.
 It is not clear to me, at all, that rehab and helping people get back into the workforce is what is intended or going on.  I have a hard time believing that inmates net any money or receive developmental assistance that translates to smoother re-entry into non-prison life.  My mind is open and I will keep researching, but this just sounds like re-legalized slavery to me.

Yes, and the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution clearly spells out the intention. It’s absolutely disgusting how comfortable our society has become with this. It’s sickening.

I fucking hate this country

I think you people forgot these people are criminals. They are liars, killers, thieves, rapists. First you complain about how easy they get off. Then you complain that they arent treated humanely enough. Im totally cool with this. Theyre in prison for a reason. And its not so they can enjoy themselves. Its tobpay their debt to socoety. And if you “fucking hate this country” then get the fuck out. See if you can handle living somewhere else.

“Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free…I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.
This order of things cannot always endure. I have registered my protest against it. I recognize the feebleness of my effort, but, fortunately, I am not alone.” - American Socialist Eugene V Debs upon being convicted of violating the Sedition Act

camouflage-camouflage:

theuppitynegras:

nezua:

culturenautique:

thepeoplesrecord:

Prison Labor Exposed: From Starbucks to Microsoft - A sampling of what US prisoners make & for whom
May 21, 2013

Tens of thousands of US inmates are paid from pennies to minimum wage—minus fines and victim compensation—for everything from grunt work to firefighting to specialized labor.

The breaded chicken patty your child bites into at school may have been made by a worker earning twenty cents an hour, not in a faraway country, but by a member of an invisible American workforce: prisoners. At the UnionCorrectional Facility, a maximum security prison in Florida, inmates from a nearby lower-security prison manufacture tons of processed beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE), a privately held non-profit corporation that operates the state’s forty-one work programs. In addition to processed food, PRIDE’s website reveals an array of products for sale through contracts with private companies, from eyeglasses to office furniture, to be shipped from a distribution center in Florida to businesses across the US. PRIDE boasts that its work programs are “designed to provide vocational training, to improve prison security, to reduce the cost of state government, and to promote the rehabilitation of the state inmates.”

And Each month, California inmates process more than 680,000 pounds of beef, 400,000 pounds of chicken products, 450,000 gallons of milk, 280,000 loaves of bread, and 2.9 million eggs (from 160,000 inmate-raised hens).Starbucks subcontractor Signature Packaging Solutions has hired Washington prisoners to package holiday coffees (as well as Nintendo Game Boys). Confronted by a reporter in 2001, a Starbucks rep called the setup “entirely consistent with our mission statement.”

Texas inmates produce brooms and brushes, bedding and mattresses, toilets, sinks, showers, and bullwhips.

In Texas, prisoners make officers’ duty belts, handcuff cases, and prison-cell accessories. California convicts make gun containers, creepers (to peek under vehicles), and human-silhouette targets.

A stitch in time: California inmates sew their own garb. In the 1990s, subcontractor Third Generation hired 35 female South Carolina inmates to sew lingerie and leisure wear for Victoria’s Secret and JCPenney. In 1997, a California prison put two men in solitary for telling journalists they were ordered to replace “Made in Honduras” labels on garments with “Made in the usa.”

Open wide: At California’s prison dental laboratory, inmates produce a complete prosthesis selection, including custom trays, try-ins, bite blocks, and dentures.

Constructive criticism: Prisoners in for burglary, battery, drug and gun charges, and escape helped build a Wal-Mart distribution center in Wisconsin in 2005, until community uproar halted the program. (Company policy says, “Forced or prison labor will not be tolerated by Wal-Mart.”)

On call: Its inmate call centers are the “best kept secret in outsourcing,” Unicor boasts. In 1994, a contractor for gop congressional hopeful Jack Metcalf hired Washington state prisoners to call and remind voters he was pro-death penalty. Metcalf, who prevailed, said he never knew.

Federal Prison Industries, a.k.a. Unicor, says that in addition to soldiers’ uniforms, bedding, shoes, helmets, and flak vests, inmates have “produced missile cables (including those used on the Patriot missiles during the Gulf War)” and “wiring harnesses for jets and tanks.” In 1997, according to Prison Legal NewsBoeing subcontractor MicroJet had prisoners cutting airplane components, paying $7 an hour for work that paid union wages of $30 on the outside.

Full article

Hmmm….under these circumstances, having a large slave, oops I mean prison population is advantageous.  What an “original” idea!

Damn, it is one thing if this was about rehabilitation and helping people gain skills and get jobs when they leave prison.   Maybe pocket away some money in an account for use when a man or woman gets out of prison.  At least you could argue some type of “win/win” scenario.  Investment firms like Fidelity Investments fund companies and organizations that administrate these types of “programs.  I do not think that is what is going on here.

 It is not clear to me, at all, that rehab and helping people get back into the workforce is what is intended or going on.  I have a hard time believing that inmates net any money or receive developmental assistance that translates to smoother re-entry into non-prison life.  My mind is open and I will keep researching, but this just sounds like re-legalized slavery to me.

Yes, and the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution clearly spells out the intention. It’s absolutely disgusting how comfortable our society has become with this. It’s sickening.

I fucking hate this country

I think you people forgot these people are criminals. They are liars, killers, thieves, rapists. First you complain about how easy they get off. Then you complain that they arent treated humanely enough. Im totally cool with this. Theyre in prison for a reason. And its not so they can enjoy themselves. Its tobpay their debt to socoety. And if you “fucking hate this country” then get the fuck out. See if you can handle living somewhere else.

Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free…I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.

This order of things cannot always endure. I have registered my protest against it. I recognize the feebleness of my effort, but, fortunately, I am not alone.” - American Socialist Eugene V Debs upon being convicted of violating the Sedition Act

Hey y’all,

Here’s the proposed/still-in-progress agenda for the Disorientation WG meeting, which will be held at Cooper Square today from 7-9pmhttp://piratepad.net/DisorientationAgenda5-31
Feel free to add stuff as need be.  Corin, I, and probably others will be there early to account for any changes and allot timing to agenda points.
The disorientation project is really looking exciting and is picking up steam, but of course, there’s definitely still time to jump on board if you missed the first meeting!  Here are the notes from last time: http://piratepad.net/DisorientationNotes-5-22
Also, to keep the conversation moving forward, it’d be tremendous if folks could review one or two of the past disorientation guides before the meeting and distill 2-3 thoughts on design and content as well as any other info they might have found (forms and scale of outreach etc.) that are useful to us.  The past guides we’ve collected can be found here: http://piratepad.net/DisorientationGuides
Finally, it seems relatively likely that a few folks will stick around after the disorientation meeting for an hour or so to begin work on a preliminary mission statement draft, following the discussion at the Sunday meeting. Any content will  be uploaded immediately into a online pad for further and more extensive collaborative iterations. If you’d like to come only for this session, text me at 479-366-8609 before heading over to confirm that the second meeting is happening.
best,
matt
—-
From the All in the Red list serve.

Letter to ‘The Nation’ from a young radical
May 25, 2013 

When I was growing up, the dinner table in my household was full of extremes. My immigrant parents encouraged intemperate arguments. Depth of knowledge was no barrier to entry, and only one rule applied: don’t be boring. It was an easy environment in which to loudly proclaim oneself a socialist. 

Things were different at the dinner tables of my childhood friends. Maybe it was because the conversations were kept to reasonable volumes or more cutlery was used, but I found myself wishing for different convictions. The chatter would inevitably turn to politics in conventional terms: Kerry or Bush, liberal or conservative, pre-emptive bombing or targeted sanctions? There was no “none of the above” on the menu. When pressed, I would meekly call myself a socialist, all the while regretting that I couldn’t just utter the word “liberal” instead. 

“Like Sweden?” I would be asked. “No, like the Russian Revolution before its degeneration into Stalinism.” It’s a wonder I was ever invited back. But liberalism—including in the pages of The Nation, save for a few redeeming essays and columns—seemed, even at its best moments, well-intentioned but inadequate. It’s a feeling that I haven’t been able to shake. 

Maybe I wasn’t alone in looking for alternatives. A Pew Research poll from 2011 shows that more Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have a favorable opinion of socialism than of capitalism. We don’t know exactly what they mean by “socialism,” but it certainly reflects a discontent with what’s on offer in the political mainstream. 

And yet, the decay of liberal reform traditions has been nothing to celebrate. Real wages have stagnated, indebtedness is on the rise, and the deregulatory “free market” revolution has not only fostered massive new disparities in wealth and power but a historic recession. If liberalism once had teeth, that memory has faded. Many in my generation who found voice in the Occupy protests had no knowledge of the way that strong liberal administrations, backed up by vigorous social movements, forced concessions from capital throughout the last century. 

To radicals, the sad state of liberalism comes as no surprise. It represents merely the re-emergence of flaws embedded deeply in its roots, making so much of the social policy that The Nation supports difficult to revive. American liberalism is practically ineffective and analytically inadequate—and a jolt from its left is a prerequisite for its resurgence. 

Liberalism’s original sin lies in its lack of a dynamic theory of power. Much of its discourse is still fixated on an eighteenth-century Enlightenment fantasy of the “Republic of Letters,” which paints politics as a salon discussion between polite people with competing ideas. The best program, when well argued by the wise and well-intentioned, is assumed to prevail in the end. Political action is disconnected, in this worldview, from the bloody entanglement of interests and passions that mark our lived existence. 

Barack Obama’s inclination to sit the health insurance companies down at the table rather than confront them head-on is a useful example of this def iciency at work. You didn’t have to be a Marxist to realize this was a doomed strategy; plenty within the liberal ranks knew it at the time. Liberalism has evolved and incorporated views of politics that were traditionally associated with the socialist movement. But this development happened only under the influence of the left, and now the dominant currents in the liberal movement, especially in the Democratic Party, are forgetting lessons learned from radicals in the past. 

* * *

Some clarifying is in order. “Liberalism” has always been a slippery term, but to the extent that we can assign coherence to the ideology, two main camps of modern American liberalism are identifiable: welfare liberals and technocratic liberals. The former, without the radicals they so often attacked marching at their left, have not adequately moored their efforts to the working class, while the latter naïvely disconnect policy from politics, often with frightening results. 

Welfare liberals remain committed to the New Deal paradigm: equality of opportunity, collective-bargaining rights, an expanded social safety net. They call for higher marginal tax rates, want to restore union density, oppose austerity measures and support the struggles of public sector workers. More inclusive and progressive than their predecessors on social issues, they nevertheless form a continuum with the past. Elements in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, dominant tendencies within labor and much of The Nation’s output are true to this tradition.

For all their admirable qualities, welfare liberals not only fail to account for the welfare state’s crisis in the 1970s; they have struggled to imagine what political forces could return it to its previous dominance. Without strong trade unions and a visible center-left reform movement—linchpins of the New Deal coalition—austerity has been hard to resist as a solution to the current economic crisis. These measures, in turn, have further undermined the social basis for progressive politics in America. 

Unlike its center-left counterparts elsewhere in the developed world, the American reform tradition has battled to enact policy without the benefit of a labor party. Absent such a party and faced with intense corporate resistance, the bulk of the American left has been tied to the Democratic Party, a social liberal, not a social democratic, formation. Workers and trade unions were brought into the big tent, but they were never structurally connected to or put in the vanguard of reform efforts. This lack of agency and of a solid institutional foundation for combating the excesses of capitalism eventually undermined liberal programs to build a more expansive welfare state. 

The practical consequences of this failure are evident. In their 1987 study The American Perception of Class, Reeve Vanneman and Lynn Cannon showed that self-identified working-class voters in the United States, lacking a party like Britain’s Labour, often do not vote. The growth of highly organized, mass-membership political parties was a development of Europe’s late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century labor movements, starting in Germany. That the Democratic Party retains a looser political structure than its counterparts elsewhere finds reflection in its relatively inchoate, and at times contradictory, politics, and the lack of meaningful political action it inspires. 

It is, after all, only a party in the broadest sense of the word. Open to all, the Democratic Party has no ideological requirements for membership. Anyone can register, making it little more than a coalition of social forces in which various groups contest for influence under a common banner. The American left, without a natural base and condemned to support the Democratic “lesser evil,” has traditionally conceded legitimacy to forces governing in the center. 

* * *

It’s no surprise that publications like The Nation, no matter how earnest in their opposition to the worst excesses of the Clinton or Obama administrations, have been prone to paint too many segments of the diverse Democratic Party as good-faith partners with progressives. Case in point: during last year’s labor dispute, in her “Sister Citizen” column [October 8], Melissa Harris-Perry equivocated between the insurgent Chicago Teachers Union and Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Instead of closing ranks and protecting a vulnerable union during an important fight, she pitied the children stuck “between the leaders and teachers who are supposed to have their best interests at heart but who seem willing to allow this generation to be lost.” There was no deeper analysis of the stakes of the dispute or acknowledgment that the demands of the teachers—geared almost entirely toward student needs—enjoyed high levels of community support. Political conflict itself was painted as regrettable, and perhaps because Emanuel was a prominent Democratic leader, as a kind of fratricide.

But even The Nation’s bravest material has, like welfare liberalism as a whole, struggled to articulate a clear critique of the structures and social forces that have rolled back many of the social gains of the past century. Hence the room for some contributors to make battles over neoliberal education reform seem like the result of mutual intransigence and the clash of personalities rather than a broader class struggle. 

The other half of the liberal scene, technocratic liberals, best embodied by Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein, seem at first glance to have responded to the global social democratic impasse in more sophisticated ways than their peers. In a January piece, “After ‘the end of big government liberalism,’ ” Klein claimed that “the progressive project of building a decent welfare state is giving way to the more technocratic work of financing and managing it. How government is run, more than what exactly it does, seems set to be the main battleground of American politics in coming years.” 

Unlike the welfare liberals with whom they share the same political party, technocratic liberals are less nostalgic for the postwar Fordist compromise between a strong labor movement and growing corporations. They are more apt to advocate reduced government spending and the introduction of markets into previously decommodified spaces—public schools, for instance. It’s a self-consciously “realist” approach to a new historical moment.  

For technocratic liberals, sound policy has become an end in itself. But big policy changes require mobilized political actors. By acquiescing in the conservative consensus on welfare entitlements (largely transformed into “workfare” by President Clinton in 1996) and attacks on teachers disguised as education “reform” (pushed by mainstream Democrats at the local level across the country), the technocrats launch broadsides at the very people who got them elected, eroding the base from which they can enact policy. Even sharply progressive calls, like a recent one from The New York Times in favor of strengthening collective-bargaining rights, are more often than not presented as a wonkish policy program for economic stimulus, to be turned on and off at will, rather than a vehicle for working-class power and long-term progressive advance. 

Socialists would not make this mistake. And neither would conservatives, for that matter. Though there are fierce battles in their party, House Republicans bind themselves to an ideological code, enforcing a set of standards that ironically resemble that of European socialist parties: dues are paid, commitments made explicit and members occasionally expelled. Declarations like Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” unite conservatives in Congress, while a network of think tanks, political action committees, grassroots activists and organizations at the state level keep them setting the national discourse, even as the demographics continue to skew in the Democratic Party’s favor. 

The basic liberal program—a responsive government and the preservation of key social protections—is far more popular than, say, weakening child labor laws or forcing pregnant women to get transvaginal ultrasounds. But the conservative program is not only “on the agenda,” it is often enacted, and for good reason: the right is generally more confident, more ideologically consistent and better organized than those who oppose it. 

* * *

Somewhat ironically, given the history of violence and repression inflicted on the left throughout its history, the solution to liberalism’s impasse lies in the re-emergence of American radicalism. The prospects are more promising than they may seem at first glance. The present context on the socialist left is one of institutional disarray but critical vibrancy, not unlike the moment that fueled leftist milieus in the early 1960s, when journals like Studies on the Left anticipated the upsurges that were soon to come, but groups like the Socialist Party of America were in terminal decline. Current literary journals like n+1 have taken a turn toward the political through engagement with Occupy Wall Street, while radical thinkers like Vivek Chibber, Doug Henwood and Kathi Weeks are finding broad new audiences for their work. A younger cohort is emerging as well. This generation of Marxist intellectuals is resurrecting debates about the reduction of working time, exploring the significance of new forms of labor, and arguing about the ways a democratic society would harness technological advance to universal material benefit, while avoiding ecological ruin. 

It’s a big mission, but in covering these themes, Jacobin, the magazine I founded in 2010, has garnered a measure of mainstream attention and success that would have been inconceivable even a few years ago. Still, the actual political situation in the country hasn’t caught up to the hype. Ideas don’t mean much without avenues for action. 

Which is to say that the left needs a plan—a plan that must incorporate more moderate allies. American radicalism has had a complex and at times contradictory association with liberalism. At the peak of the socialist movement, leftists fed off liberal victories. Radicals, in turn, have added coherence and punch to every key liberal struggle and advance of the past century. Such a mutually beneficial alliance could be in the works again. The first step is to smash the existing liberal coalition and rebuild it on a radically different basis.

Socialists must urgently show progressives how alien the technocratic liberal worldview is to the goals of welfare-state liberalism—goals held by the rank and file of the liberal movement. The ground can be softened at the intellectual and cultural levels, but a schism will have to be forced through actual struggle. Broad anti-austerity coalitions, particularly those centered at the state and municipal levels like last year’s Chicago Teachers Union strike, point the way toward new coalitions between leftists and liberals committed to defending social goods, especially if that means standing up against pro-corporate members of the Democratic Party like Rahm Emanuel. 

A last bastion of progressive strength, public sector labor unions, will be crucial in these battles, but they will have to adopt new tactics. The teachers union’s commitment to community-wide agitation and social-movement building—a commitment that kept it in the public’s favor—is a model to emulate. And groups like the AFL-CIO’s Working America, which is currently not serving an especially radical purpose, could potentially give labor a tool to circumvent restrictive labor laws and build alliances with unorganized sectors of the population. 

These national campaigns will have local roots. The recent neoliberal turn of Democratic mayoralties, for example, has much to do with their intense budget constraints. But these isolated struggles must be tied to broader campaigns to centralize our welfare system, shifting local and state burdens onto the federal government. Such a change would allow for a deeper development of social protections and allow progressives who are elected to office to govern without having to impose austerity on workers. 

This is just one example of the kind of class politics that has to be reconstituted in America today; surely there are many others. The Next Left’s anti-austerity struggles must be connected to the environmental movement, to the struggle of immigrants for labor and citizenship rights, and even, as unromantic as it sounds, to the needs of middle-class service recipients. Baby boomers are facing retirement without pensions or private savings; they have a stake in defending Social Security. Recent college graduates are saddled with student loans and fear they won’t be able to buy homes or start families. The left must organize around these aspirations and expand its coalition until left-liberalism becomes the dominant force in American politics.

And what then? Socialists aren’t just doctors with remedies for liberalism’s ailments. We’re members of a movement with aspirations distinct from it: a society free from class exploitation, a democracy extended from political spheres to social and economic ones, a world dramatically transformed. This means pushing struggles beyond the limits of liberalism, or even the boundaries of a single nation. It means a pitched battle for supremacy within the broader progressive movement and, at the very least, a golden age of dinner-table political banter.

Read John Nichols on “How Socialists Built America” (May 2, 2011), adapted from his book The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition… Socialism (Verso). 

Source

‘Global Capitalism: A Monthly Update’ published on May 15, 2013

Economics Professor Richard Wolff publishes these monthly updates on developments relevant to capitalism around the world. His analysis is really on point. It’s long but it’s worth watching, listening to & learning from. 

Greek workers walk out to protest ban on teachers’ strike
May 14, 2013

Greek public sector workers walked off the job on Tuesday to protest against a government decision to ban a strike by high-school teachers, shutting down several schools and reducing staff at hospitals to a minimum. Invoking emergency legislation, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has threatened teachers with arrest and dismissal if they go ahead with a planned walkout on Friday that would disrupt university entrance exams, as he tries to show Greece’s foreign lenders that Athens is sticking to unpopular reforms.

The action on Tuesday was the latest in a string of anti-austerity strikes since 2010, when Greece adopted severe budget and wage cut measures as part of its international bailout. The turnout was not near someone of the movement’s larger demonstrations; turnout in demonstrations last year topped 100,000 at times. But activists insist that they are committed to fighting for humanity.

"Our message, that we fully condemn these policies, was sent, despite the low turnout," ADEDY’s general secretary Ilias Iliopoulos told Reuters. "The government must make up its mind and show that it does care about students and teachers.

The conservative-led coalition wants teachers to put in two more hours of work each week to reach the average levels of high school teachers’ working hours in Europe, and transfer 4,000 of them to remote parts of Greece to plug staffing gaps.

These measures would allow the government to dismiss about 10,000 part-time teachers when their temporary contracts expire, causing outraged unions & citizens alike to call for the 24-hour strike on Friday and rolling strikes next week.

The government responded by invoking a law that allows it to mobilize workers in the case of civil disorder or natural disasters.

ADEDY had disagreed with the high school teachers’ decision to hold a strike on the first day of exams because it would inconvenience students. However, it opposed the government using emergency laws to pre-emptively ban the action, saying this was undemocratic and violated workers’ constitutional rights. ADEDY and GSEE, Greece’s largest private sector union, are also planning a four-hour work stoppage on Thursday.

More than 1,000 high-school teachers marched to parliament late on Monday, holding banners reading: “No to the civil mobilization and this terror!” and “It won’t pass”.

GSEE and ADEDY represent more than half of Greece’s workforce, which has been shrinking rapidly during the crippling recession after years of austerity. As unemployment grows, unions may not yield as strong of turn outs as they have when they had higher membership, but the increasingly impoverished people of Greece will not tolerate limitless government oppression.

Source