Monday, March 16, 2009

My Lai massacre’s 41th anniversary commemorated

From The Voice of Vietnam :

Hundreds of local people and foreign tourists attended a flower and incense offering ceremony held in Son My village, Quang Ngai province, on March 16 to honour the victims of the My Lai massacre conducted by the US army during the Vietnam War.

US veteran Mike Boehm, a figure in the documentary “The Sound of the Violin in My Lai” directed by Tran Van Thuy, was present at the event and played the violin in memory of the victims. He has frequently attended the annual anniversary over the past 10 years.

After the ceremony, a bell tower worth VND100 million dedicated to the souls of the victims was put into use with its bell to be rung 504 times at 6am every day in commemoration of the 504 Vietnamese victims killed in the slaughter.

On the occasion, veteran Mike Boehm announced the completion of renovations and improvements to the Son My primary school building, the construction of which was made possible with VND1.3 billion in funds raised by Mr Boehm and other US veterans.
On March 16, 1968, the US army cruelly killed 504 unarmed Vietnamese citizens in the hamlets of My Lai and My Khe in Son My village, Son Tinh district, Quang Ngai province. All the victims were civilians, including women, children and old people. Many of them were beaten, tortured, maimed or sexually abused. Some were found mutilated.

Hoo Done It

Cool vid: Blade Runner - Easter Egg

music: David Byrne, Brian Eno - 'Qu'ran' (My life in the bush of ghosts)

Double standards from Iraqi judges

Opinion from the Sunday Herald :

16 Mar, 2009


Sometimes it's easier to win a war than win the peace - Iraq was the prime example of recent times. Not only did it expose the US neoconservative foreign policy as wrongheaded and downright dangerous, but it showed that the coalition had no idea whatsoever what to do with the country once the expected cheap military victory had been achieved. In place of the cheering crowds promised by Iraqi exiles wearing rose-tinted glasses, there was a sullen population which was soon up in arms against the infidel invaders.

As the country descended into chaos the only hopeful shaft of light came from the knowledge that Saddam Hussein and his henchmen would face punishment before the courts. So it proved. Once Saddam and the rest of the "most wanted" had been rounded up, they were put through the judicial process and due punishment was meted out to them; some going to the gallows the others facing hefty prison sentences. With the experience of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal to draw on, the US-led coalition wisely left the matter of punishment in Iraqi hands.

The jurisdiction of that 1945-46 court is still hotly debated. At the time, many legal experts were concerned about its legitimacy and its capacity to impose the death sentence, feeling that any trial of the vanquished by the victors could never be impartial. Just as bad, why execute one villain such as the ghastly and incurable anti-Semite Julius Streicher while giving a soft prison sentence to the feline technocrat Albert Speer, who as one of Hitler's slave masters was indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews? Far better and far safer, argued Nuremberg's critics, to provide the sentence of death in perpetual exile that Napoleon received in the previous century.

In the end, the issue was decided by the notion that however flawed the trials might have been there was a sense of catharsis in the punishments, that the evil of Nazism had to face justice in a court of law. Later, the fledgling United Nations passed Resolution 95 which enshrined the Nuremberg principles in international law, although it was not until 1993 that it was activated to deal with the war crimes in the wake of the conflict in the Balkans. That uncertain background meant that it was spot-on to give the Iraqis the right to deal with their own villains. A tribunal of five judges was appointed and their set to work with a will. Their remit was quite simple: to try those suspected of committing major crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in general during the Saddam regime.

To begin with, the judges seemed to be on the case but last week there was what might be called an Albert Speer moment. In the dock was Tariq Aziz, the silver-haired deputy who was regularly wheeled out to be the acceptable face of Saddam's regime. Worldly and a fluent English speaker, he was a familiar presence on Western television screens; it helped that he was a Christian, though that was probably less a matter of conviction than an accident of birth. In common with earlier defendants he was on trial for a specific crime, in his case the execution of 42 merchants accused of illegal price-hiking in 1992. For his pains, Aziz was sentenced to 15 years in jail, a relatively lenient punishment even though it could be terminal for a man in his seventies. There was little hard evidence that Aziz was directly involved in this shameful act which was sparked by a reaction to UN food sanctions, but few would doubt that he must have been party to it.

While a vote against any decision taken by Saddam was to invite a bullet in the back of the head, it remains true that Aziz was inextricably mixed up with Saddam's regime. He wore a Ba'ath Party uniform, was a member of the revolutionary command council and was privy to all its decisions. In the strictest legal sense, that does not make him automatically guilty, but it hardly means that he is a lilywhite innocent. Watching the proceedings, it was difficult to avoid the impression that Aziz owed the sentence to a perception that he was more cultivated than Saddam's ruffians. As evidence look no further than the death sentences handed down to Saddam's half brothers Sabawi Ibrahim Hassan and Watban Ibrahim Hassan for their involvement in the same incident.

Getting such things right is never easy. At the same time, another Iraqi court gave a harsh sentence to Muntazar al-Zaidi, the journalist who abused George W Bush during the US president's last visit to Baghdad. Three years for throwing a shoe but five times that amount for helping to destroy a country: some sentences simply don't add up.

Revisiting Rimbaud

Jannie Dresser writes in SF Poetry Examiner :

I hold poets to a high standard, which means I sometimes dismiss a great poet out of hand when I learn too much about how they conducted their lives. When I found out that Ezra Pound collaborated with the Italian fascists during World War II, Poof! there went Mr. Pound onto the bottom of my poetry shelves in spite of his literary importance. I loved Arthur Rimbaud when I was in my early 20's, then dropped him like a hot French fry when I read about his mercenary gun-running and ivory-trading actiivities in Africa.

With trepidation and some compulsion, I've found myself drawn again to Rimbaud and just finished rereading A Season in Hell, translated by Bertrand Mathieu as part of BOA Editions' French poetry series. We are attracted to certain writers for reasons not always consciously devised. Some readers follow the latest work by some new talent the critics promote; others work their way through 'must-read by the time you die' lists; and some hop-scotch through an author's entire oeuvre. I assume you are a reader, and have an interest in that petite subculture that loves poetry, so, quite possibly, you are a reader like me who follows a compulsion, a whiff of something to the forest or field that scent takes you, not knowing why. Only later do you discover why you needed to feed on a certain type of game.

Born in 1854, in Charleville, France, Rimbaud is a young person's poet, all the more because he stopped producing work at age 19. He is not the kind of poet you would expect a middle-aged American white woman would become obsessed with, yet . . . there is adolescent rage still in me, and identity confusion as I scramble to put together a new career after illness and job loss, and deep dissatisfaction at what our society deems relevant. If I was 30 years younger, and stronger, I might actually follow Rimbaud to his flea-infested flophouses, seeking adventure.

Jean Cocteau wrote "Rimbaud is a poet bent on losing in order to gain everything. Only total revolt against the trivializing familiarity with Nothingness--the most brutal and most blissful of all the angels--can release the mysteriously cunning word that will make things happen, that will 'change life.'" For boomers who haven't been shamed into thinking that the period of our adolescence--the turbulent '60s and transformative '70s--was simply an era of failed left-wing agendas, you may understand what I mean when I say we shared a cultural milieu that asserted the need to live life fully, and not limit ourselves to pursuit of career, family, and materialist acquisition. The seal-of-approval was stamped on experiencing, and led to new forms of relationships, validation of new identities, ("it's your thing, do what you want to do"), and experimentation with lifestyles as much as with clothing, music, literature and mind-altering drugs.

~ more... ~

Capitalism in crisis - Can you see the parallels with Humpty-Dumpty yet?

From Super depression: Economic crisis or systemic collapse of capitalism?

VHeadline commentarist, University of Los Andres (ULA) political sciences professor, Dr. Franz J. T. Lee writes: Is the global capitalist system breaking down? In times of severe crisis, millennia ago, Heracleitus of Ephesus (ca. 540-ca. 475 BC) gave us sapient advice for praxical understanding: Everything flows; dialectics, contradiction, is good for us; and War is the Father of All Things. Many centuries later, at the advent of bourgeois capitalist society, Hegel, the Prussian State philosopher, clarified the dialectical limits of any planetary reality, of any closed system: Everything that comes into existence merits to pass away!

Three years ago, in January 2006, we were discussing these issues, inter alia, whether after the collapse of the Soviet Union soon the Big Crash of the United States of America would follow. Now that this scientific anticipation more and more is becoming a global reality, many serious questions arise which we have to debate in the corresponding academic and political environment.

We know that the Roman Empire fell, so did the British Empire, also the 'Third Reich' and so also the very American 'Empire' will disappear. Capitalism cannot live forever, it is not an eternal, absolute God. Its laws of existence Marxists have identified and along these lines violently it is giving up the ghost. At the moment we have to clarify the following, for the sake of workers' class struggles, of socialism, of global emancipation.

    * Is this a simple 'financial crisis' caused by a few criminal bankers?

    * Are we experiencing a complex 'world economic crisis'? Eventually will we solve all problems and capitalism will live happily after?

    * At last, are we facing the end of the American Empire, that is, the total collapse of global capitalism?

    * Is this the end of the world?

None of these questions can be treated within a short commentary, but it is important to underline their possible apocalyptic answers.

At different times across the last millennia similar questions have been asked and specific answers were given. However, previous financial and economic crises were remedied or postponed, until now.  In spite of the Great Depression of 1929 including its violent, terrorist aftermath, capitalism did not collapse completely as yet. Furthermore, as we can see, for us the survivors Jesus did not come for a second time and the world has not ended as yet. Also on a world scale the proletariat has not conquered social power as yet. Concerning the total collapse of the capitalist system within the next years or decades, the answer is much more complicated, and we need profound stringent studies. Below just some delicious food for serious thought.

There is a big difference between the past recessions and depressions and the current ones. Our 'Big Crash' occurs in the epoch of globalization, at the end of full realization of the bourgeois democratic capitalist French and Industrial Revolutions. The financial and economic crises are just symptoms, appearance forms, of the total collapse of an obsolete mode of production which has become a Moloch of world destruction, and it could spell doom for life on the planet as we knew it till now.

Among other things, to understand our quo vadis, to try and answer the above questions, we need materialist dialectics, scientific praxis and philosophic theory.  We must have sound knowledge about class consciousness and struggles, political economy and sociology, also we need knowledge about the theories of imperialism, fascism, globalization and the collapse of the capitalist mode of production.

No need to be scared or defeatist ... it is the easiest thing in the world  to acquire all the above abilities and capabilities.

One just needs to live and study, to think and embrace anti-capitalism, that is, scientific and philosophic socialism,viz, to become a revolutionary, emancipatory Marxist.

Marxists have explained over and over again what is a financial crisis, what is 'finance capital' (Hilferding). Marx himself explained the 'world economic crises' in his 'Das Kapital'. Together with Engels they drew up the first 'theory of globalization' (Manifesto of the Communist Party). Lenin explained to us what is 'Imperialism, the highest Stage of capitalism'; Ernest Mandel explained what is corporate capitalism, the 'long waves of capitalism', its slumps, crashes and depressions in his 'Late Capitalism' and in other works. Rosa Luxenburg told us what the 'military and industrial complex' is all about and explained its relation to the accumulation of world capital. Modern Marxist and non-Marxist scholars have updated this knowledge.

Concerning recession, depression and 'the theory of the  collapse of world capitalism',  the Dutch Marxist Anton Pannekoek described their political essence in his work "Die Zusammenbruchstheorie des Kapitalismus," first published in The Netherlands in the review 'Raetekommunist,' No.1 of June 1934.

    * Lenin and Trotsky treated its emancipatory praxis in their theories of imperialism and permanent world revolution.

Precisely by focusing itself on the Great Depression of 1929 and on the rise of Nazism and Fascism in Europe and elsewhere, collapse and crisis theory became very topical in the 1930s in Marxist debates. The endeavor was to diagnose scientifically whether capitalist imperialism was simply in a passing crisis and would eventually recover itself, or whether the capitalist system as a result of its profound contradictions would collapse and perish. Another aspect was to analyze  whether its so-called capacity to 'adapt' itself, was not simply a postponement of its agony, which every time would become worse, more fatal, and finally would reach a stage of total collapse, a state beyond any salvation.  Precisely this discussion should interest us in the present serious depression.

Three years ago, we formulated this crux of the matter as follows: "Like today, in the 1930s, the question was whether the workers of the world should sit back, fold their arms ... cultivate class reconciliation to overcome boredom, breed reformism, participate in senseless dialogues and whether they should await peacefully the final inexorable breakdown of capitalism ... or whether by revolutionary praxis and theory they should do away with capitalism and imperialism even before its total globalization, before its own inevitable collapse."

With reference to the above, for Lenin and Trotsky it was crystal clear, that no matter how weak or how strong the capitalist economic system may become, automatically it will not breakdown by itself, it must be overthrown by conscious revolutionary workers' class struggles.

This is also our current opinion.

From Conspiracy Theories About Conspiracy Theories

I'll see your conspiracy and raise you -- an even bigger conspiracy.

Gleb Pavlovsky, a pro-Kremlin analyst who heads the Effective Politics Foundation, raised a few eyebrows last week when he told "Moskovsky komsomolets" that a small "pro-crisis party" is lurking inside the Russian elite and might be plotting "a new little coup.

Pavlovsky said this shadowy cabal -- which includes "big business, people at the summit of federal power circles in the capital, and some governors" -- is planning to stage "a farcical remake" of the August 1991 coup attempt that brought down the Soviet Union or of the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine.

What is the 'pro-crisis' party discussing? The struggle over seriously reduced resources. When there was a lot of money, any faction in power could get a cut of the money flow... But the rivers have become shallow and some people need a shake-up, which, on the one hand, will enable them to write off losses to the old regime and, on the other, to gain unrestricted access to the new one...I repeat, if one is looking for sources of social protest in Russia, seek them in the corridors of power.

The goal, according to Pavlovsky, would be to remove Russia's de facto ruler, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Enter Yevgeny Gontmakher, an economist and political analyst.

Back in November, he wrote an article in the daily "Vedomosti" warning that anti-government riots similar to those that took place in Novocherkassk back in 1962 were possible as workers in single-factory towns reeled from the economic crisis.  At the time, "Vedomosti" received a warning from the authorities that the article could be considered "incitement to extremism."

So what does Gontmakher think of Pavlovsky's assessment that rogue elements in the elite -- and not disgruntled workers and angry citizens -- might provoke anti-government protests? In remarks reported by the "Financial Times," he called Pavlovky's warning "an attempt to consolidate the elite." In other words, Pavlovsky's comments were a carefully planted diversionary leak to scare the elite and the bureaucracy into maintaining unity as the very real threat of real social unrest rises.

G-20 Bank of England reclaim the streets Party

Capitalism has been heating up our world for years, melting the icecaps, burning up the rainforests, pushing the planet to tipping point. Now we're going to put the heat on them. At the London Summit , the G20 ministers are trying to get away with the biggest April Fools trick of all time. Their tax-dodging, bonus-guzzling, pension-pinching, unregulated free market world in meltdown, and those fools think we're going to bail them out. They've gotta be joking!

We can't pay, we won't pay and we are taking to the streets

At 12 noon, April 1st, we're going to reclaim the City, thrusting into the very belly of the beast: the Bank of England.

Early a.m. April 2nd, we're going to bang on their hotel doors, @ the Excel Centre, Canning town to deliver our message of a world beyond capitalism.

From Is A Major War A Possibility In 2009? The Historical Antecedents by Dr. Frederic F. Clairmont

In these lectures I shall venture to answer some of the queries made regarding the prospects of a major war . The notes to these lectures were scribbled over time in the corner of the living room.

There are two large standing lamps that illuminate the copy book that I am using to scribble these lines. The thin light black pen is gliding effortlessly over the paper. It is one of my inseparable companions. It is Made in China as well as the copy book with squared paper.

One of my Associates raised the question the other night: is there any manufactured products that American capitalism can produce that China cannot produce better and in greater quantities and considerably cheaper?

This is not fanciful speculation. It therefore follows whether American capitalism in its current state of indebtedness, mass impoverishment and financial disintegration will be able to compete internationally. Or put it another way: how and by what means will it pay for its imports, for what it consumes? Will it be able – on present evidence it is not – to shave and ultimately to eliminate its trade deficit by exporting more than it imports? Further, can the dollar be an acceptable medium of payment and exchange given the battering to which it has been unrelentingly subjected for many years? The observation by Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Greenback is worth less than used toilet paper is ungracious, but it is shared by many leading spirits in the world of finance capitalism.

In subsequent lectures we shall explore the ramifications of these issues. Suffice it to say that it is a matter of life and death that takes us into the deepest reaches of the conflictual contradictions within world capitalism and the imperialist lethal that I have will give you more than an idea of what is meant when we say that China has become the industrial hub of our planet; as well as an idea of what we mean when we speak of financial imbalances. Of that more later.

The Ramifications

Some of you have evoked the possibility of a world conflict in the course of 2009.. I shan't say that this prediction is far-fetched; or remote. Doubtless, many of you do not mean a regional conflict as in Ossetia and Gaza . Nor do I exclude the possibility of the US / Israel on Iran . In the making of war, madness can never be excluded. Let us keep in mind that the US caste oligarchy (USCO) and its trillion dollar militarist appendage is at war on several front in areas engulfing tens of thousands of kilometers: It is pursuing a war in Gaza via its surrogate; it is pursuing a war in Iraq; and of course it is escalating its military drive in Afghanistan; it has extended its killing fields to Pakistan. Recall that Pakistan has a frontier of 2,500 kms with Afghanistan .

Such a possibility cannot be ignored. How does one approach the subject? What is the most appropriate method? I am aware that itemizing the potential flashpoints gives us individual dots but the dots are not connected. They remain separate and cannot provide an insight of the detonator. I am sympathetic to your speculation. The historian must select his facts This is a matter of personal choice. But how and to what purpose he selects his facts stems from his principle of selectivity that is a part of a process of abstraction.

His selection and his interpretation of events are thereby conditioned by his ideological and philosophical predilections. His class affiliations. His personal experience. One may itemize a list but itemizing single events does not give us a handle to comprehend these complex phenomena.. The assassination of Kronprinz Franz Josef by a young Serb nationalist was certainly the detonator but it tells us very little without disentangling the complex of nationalist convulsions and economic and dynastic rivalries that shredded the vitals of the world economy. Nor can we ignore the military naval buildup of the German empire that challenged the centuries old supremacy of the Royal Navy. As David Lloyd George - the shrewdest of imperial artisans and a paramount Hatchet man the Great War noted : “if 1914 had not come when it did it would have inevitably come later”. The key words are 'come later'. What Lloyd George had in mind was that the power politics of finance capitalism and imperialism, and the carnage it irrepressibly incubated, was inherent in the evolution of world capitalism given its ceaseless lunge for territorial and financial spheres of aggrandizement. And its wars were confirmatory.

From Flesh, flesh everywhere, Nor any morsel to eat…

"Nothing more strongly arouses our disgust than cannibalism, yet we make the same impression on Buddhists and vegetarians, for we feed on babies, though not our own." Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

"Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink" Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In Niger, a toddler´s mother shoos annoyingly persistent flies away from her precious child´s mouth and eyes in a futile attempt to ease his suffering in some way—his emaciated face and distended belly portend his imminent death. Even when she manages to find food or water and gives him a bit, he immediately vomits it back up. He will soon become another of the 15 million nameless, faceless children who will die of starvation this year.

Haitians lob Molotov cocktails, burn tires, smash windows, and pelt riot police with rocks in a desperate demand for something more than "mud cookies" to satiate their hunger. According to the World Health Organization, one third of the human population is well-fed, one third malnourished, and the other third is starving.

In the wealthiest nation on Earth, the mean-spirited "every man for himself" ethos forces lonely, forgotten grandmothers to face the grim choice of buying their medicine or putting meager amounts of food on their table and demands that single working mothers forego paying their utility bills so that their children can eat.

Such abject and profound suffering….and so unnecessary!

Yes, that´s right. We have it in our power to put UNICEF out of the business of providing for hungry children. We can render Oxfam obsolete. Feed the Children? Food pantries? There is really no need for them. We can feed the multitudes and we don´t even need a single loaf of bread nor one fish to accomplish this feat.

We have all the food we need to eradicate world hunger. We are simply too myopic, closed-minded, tradition-bound, and quite frankly, weak-willed, to do what is necessary.

Flesh, flesh everywhere, Nor any morsel to eat…..Does Soylent Green ring any bells, dear reader?

Why is Charlton Heston´s startling discovery near the end of that movie so horrifying to many who watch the film? Heston and his friend, Edward G. Robinson, lived in an over-populated, heavily polluted, food-scarce dystopia (starting to sound familiar?). So why does the possibility of Heston munching on Robinson (or any other human animal for that matter) in the form of a green wafer draw such a powerful visceral rejection from most viewers? What kind of a heartless person would want another sentient being, particularly a friend, to die of starvation rather than eating something of theirs, even a part of them, for which they had no further use?

Why the nearly inviolable taboo on cannibalism in "civilized" cultures? Why is human flesh so sacrosanct that we allow people to succumb to starvation whilst nourishing "meat" decomposes and goes to waste?

We human animals fancy ourselves to be the master species, "unique" in our "superior" cognitive and communicative capacities. Yet our most noticeable characteristic is our ability to create global havoc, devastation, and misery. Therefore we have found it necessary to hide our monstrous agenda behind "traditions," acculturated and inculcated customs that grant us license to exploit, oppress and murder with impunity while preserving our own "sacredness."

Anthropophagy, commonly referred to as cannibalism, has been vilified and condemned throughout history. Western European "explorers" annihilated millions of indigenous people in the "New World" under the pretext that they practiced anthropophagy and were better off dead or enslaved than they were living in their natural "uncivilized" state. Scholars and historians have determined that often the claims of cannibalism were greatly exaggerated or utterly fabricated. But regardless, according to "conquerors logic," we were morally superior to the indigenous folk of Turtle Island because even though we slaughtered millions of human beings, we did the "moral thing" and left their remains to stink and rot rather than eating them. Genocide in the name of imperial expansion is excusable while cannibalism is not, according to Western cultural tradition.

From The "Great Financial Crisis": A whole new kind of struggle is emerging - Interview with John Bellamy Foster by Mike Whitney

MW: The financial crisis is quickly turning into a political crisis. Already governments in Iceland and Latvia have collapsed and the global slump is just beginning to accelerate. Riots and street violence have broken out in Greece, Latvia and Lithuania and worker-led protests have become commonplace throughout the EU. As unemployment skyrockets and economic activity stalls, countries are likely to experience greater social instability. How does one take deep-seated discontent and rage and shape it into a political movement for structural change?

JBF: The first thing to recognize is that we are suddenly in a different historical period. One of my favorite quotes comes from Gillo Pontecorvo's 1969 film Burn!, where the main character, William Walker (played by Marlon Brando) states: “Very often between one historical period and another, ten years suddenly might be enough to reveal the contradictions of an entire century.” We are living in such a period; not only because of the Great Financial Crisis and what the IMF is now calling a depression in the advanced capitalist economies, but also because of the global ecological crisis that during the last decade has accelerated out of control under business as usual, and due to the reappearance of “naked imperialism.” What made sense ten years ago is nonsense now. New dangers and new possibilities are opening up. A whole different kind of struggle is emerging.

The sudden fall of the governments in Iceland and Latvia as a result of protests against financial theft is remarkable, as are the widespread revolts in Greece and throughout the EU, with millions in the streets. The general strikes in Guadeloupe and Martinique, the French Antilles, and the support given to these movements by the French New Anti-Capitalist Party is a breakthrough. In fact much of the world is in ferment. Latin Americans are engaged in a full-scale revolt against neoliberalism, led by Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution, and the aspiration of a new socialism for the 21st century (as envisioned also in Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba). The Nepalese revolution has offered new hope in Asia. Social struggles on a major scale are occurring in emerging economies such as Brazil, Mexico, and India. China itself is experiencing unrest.

The one place in the world where this world historical ferment appears to not be having telling effect at present is the United States. This can be traced to two reasons. First, the United States as the center of a world empire is a fortress of conservatism. Second, the election of the Obama administration has confused progressive forces, leading to absurd notions that the Democrats under Obama are going to create a New New Deal without renewed pressure arising from a revolt from below. Meanwhile, under Obama's watch, and with the help of his chosen advisers, vast amounts of state funds are being infused into the financial system to benefit private capital.

What is needed in the United States today, we argue in The Great Financial Crisis, is a renewal of the classic concept of political economy (with its class perspective), whereby it comes to be understood that the economy is subject to public control, and should be wrested from the domination of the ruling class. The bailing out of the system right now is going on with taxpayer funds but without the say of the public. A revolt to gain popular control of the political economy is therefore necessary.

It is possible to start with the demand for a New New Deal rooted in the best legacy of the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s, most notably the Works Progress Administration. But as Robert McChesney and I argued in “A New New Deal Under Obama?” in the February 2009 issue of Monthly Review, the struggle has to move quickly beyond that to an expansion of workers' rights along socialist principles, breaking with the logic of capital. For this to occur there has to be a great revolt from below on at least the scale of the industrial unionization movement of the 1930s that created a new political force in the country (later destroyed in the McCarthy Era). The story of this struggle is told in David Milton's classic account, The Politics of U.S. Labor, which also points out that the rising labor movement was led by socialists and radical syndicalists.

It is important, as István Mészáros explained in his Beyond Capital, that the radical politics opened up in this historical moment not be diverted into attempting to save the existing system, but be directed at transcending it. As Mészáros wrote: “To succeed in its original aim, radical politics must transfer at the height of the crisis its aspirations—in the form of effective powers of decision making at all levels and all areas, including the economy—to the social body itself from which subsequent material and political demands would emanate.”

In the United States a primary goal of any radical politics should be to cut military spending, which is the imperial iron heel holding down the entire world, while corrupting the U.S. body politic and diverting surplus from pressing social needs.

The obvious weak link of the whole political, ideological and economic structure in command in the United States today, is that the system has clearly failed to meet peoples' real needs. Rather than addressing these pressing needs in the crisis, the emphasis of the economic overlords is to bailout private capital at virtually any cost. Between October 2008 and January 2009 the federal government provided about $160 billion in capital and infusions and debt guarantees to the Bank of America, which had a total net worth in late January of only a small fraction of that amount. The rest had gone down the rat hole.

The robbing of public funds to bailout private capital is now on a scale probably never before seen. A politicized, organized working class capable of understanding and reacting to that theft, and choosing thereby to restructure society, to meet real social, egalitarian needs is what is now to be hoped for. The title of a recent cover story Newsweek declared: “We Are All Socialists Now.” As it turned out, Newsweek's editors were simply referring to the increase in public spending now taking place—hardly an indication of socialism. But the fact that this is said at all in the mainstream media points to the fact that we are in a different historical moment in which radical forces have the possibility of moving forward.

No sinking ship goes down without some optimists aboard, so here are the views of a couple:

From After the big squeeze by Irwin Stelzer

Next wrong question: Have we seen the last of unfettered capitalism? But that red-in-tooth-and-claw model never existed. Market capitalism has always been characterised by rules, or fetters. Securities can be peddled only after meeting disclosure rules; houses can be built only after satisfying planning regulations; construction workers are protected by myriad safety regulations; the quality of the air we breathe is determined by government rules. There's more, but you get the idea.

The correct question is: will capitalism survive the downturn, and the increase in the reach of government that it has engendered, not only in Britain, where the Prime Minister has undertaken the task of saving the world, but in the United States, where President Barack Obama has accepted the more modest charge of reviving the national economy?

The answer to that question is an unequivocal "yes". We are not, as Newsweek recently argued, "all socialists now". Angry British subjects and US citizens do enjoy seeing their bankers serve as piñatas to parliamentary and congressional inquisitors, the silliness of whose questions is matched only by the vacuity of the bankers' responses. But Americans still vote for middle-of-the-road candidates, and there are no demonstrations in Britain demanding the restoration of Clause Four.

The alternatives are just too grim, and anyhow no more immune to the problems the capitalist economies face. Russia, despite or more likely because of the government grab of private property and confiscation of foreign investment, is in crisis as its rouble teeters on devaluation, unemployment rises, and the new commissars who studied economics while working in the security services prove no better managers than oligarchs who made off with a large portion of the nation's wealth.

China, its economy ruled by an authoritarian regime that controls the banking system and the major means of production, is not doing much better. Despite manipulating the renminbi to keep its value at export-subsidising levels, the regime is unable to prevent 20 million workers from disconsolately heading back to their rural homes after being cast adrift in the cities, adding to the reserve army of the unemployed. This is a combustible group of the kind that Marx envisioned would topple capitalism, not riot against its communist masters.

The final alternative to the US and UK models is typified by France, its hyperactive president an unrelenting critic of the American hyperpower, and now of Gordon Brown's decision to cut VAT, a move enthusiastically applauded by Ken Clarke, whose birdwatching skills are of little use when it comes to the hard work of analysing economic phenomena. The French electorate apparently is content to accept slow growth, protectionism and high levels of unemployment in good times to avoid some of the volatility of Anglo-Saxon capitalism. And instead of allowing market forces to correct excesses, France relies on the occasional riot to force governments to do what markets do in the US and UK to correct inflation, or wage discrepancies, or too-high tuition levels.

So we are back to the capitalism of Britain and the US, which, for the purposes of discussion, we can treat as broadly similar despite Britain's more comprehensive welfare state and greater taste for regulation. That capitalism will survive, not because it is perfect, but because it has the capacity to reform in response to the demands of a democratic electorate. Theodore Roosevelt attacked "malefactors of great wealth" and passed antitrust laws that reined in the cartels and monopolies. His cousin Franklin D Roosevelt later attacked the "practices of the unscrupulous money changers", and established the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate their activities. Republican Teddy's Square Deal and Democrat FDR's New Deal reformed capitalism and restored faith in markets that had been stripped of their worst abuses. Not all abuses, nor all the future maladies that might be dreamed up by financial innovators run amok, but the worst of the day.

Which brings us to another sensible question: what form will the New Capitalism take? It is a good guess that the nationalisation of the banking systems will be reversed. Banks are eager to rid themselves of the need to trek to Downing Street or Washington in order to conduct their business, and have a huge financial incentive to buy back the preferred shares that governments have purchased and that eat up a large share of profits. The next gen­eration of auto industry executives would rather decide just what vehicles their customers want than leave that decision to America's politicians or Lord Mandelson. And as much as the electorates in both countries are appalled by the behaviour of the captains of industry, they are at least equally inclined to deny their political leaders increased control over their lives and livelihoods.

What will emerge is a new capitalism, the contours of which are already visible. It will be a system in which high incomes will be unacceptable unless they are demonstrably related to economic performance. No more golden goodbyes for executives who have brought their companies to ruin; no more huge bonuses in return for short-run, illusory profits. Yet no rules against making large fortunes; Bill Gates, who has built a company that changed the way we live, Warren Buffett, who risked his and his shareholders' capital in pursuit of profit, and the entrepreneur show-off Richard Branson have all escaped public obloquy.

From Everything written about the economic crisis overlooks its true nature

(3)  A quick summary of the situation

The crisis can be thought of as stress on the global economic machine which results in a “snapping” of links or components.  The breaking of each component increases stress on the others, leading to more damage.  Consumer demand and corporate investment decline, which in turn creates more stress leading to more snapping.

We can think of this in geophysical terms, as if God was putting torque on the world economy.  The fault line runs from

  • Asia — China, Japan, Korea
  • through North America — US, Mexico
  • to Europe — Eastern Europe and the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain).

Each of these nations is under different forms of stress.

  • China from the need for growth to maintain social stability.
  • Japan from its aging population, massive governmental debt, and weakness following two decades of fighting deflation,
  • Korea from its massive external debts and collapsing exports,
  • the US from debt deflation, massive foreign debts (fortunately in US dollars) and coming collapse of consumer spending and export income,
  • Mexico from a losing war with organized crime and the coming collapse in oil revenue,
  • Eastern Europe from its massive foreign debts (worse, they're denominated in foreign currencies),
  • and the PIIGS from a combination of the above.

The effect of other nations on the fault line cannot be reliably predicted, but offer great potential for unpleasant surprises.  To mention just one of the major unknowns, Can the European Monetary Union survive the next recession?

(4)  Missed opportunities to mitigate the damage

The opportunities to avoid the crisis lie in the past two or more decades.  At some level we knew that we must save more and borrow less, that our ever-growing trade deficits were a threat to future prosperity, etc.  We put those concerns aside, instead indulging in an orgy of consumer spending.  Larger houses, more cars per household, granite counter-tops, insane government spending for every politically powerful group — from insane defense spending to bountiful agricultural subsidies.

Now the party ends and the hang-over begins.  We fumbled our time as world hegemon and the world turns to something else — as yet unknown.

The fabric of our financial system began ripping in December 2006, as sub-prime mortgage defaults spiked up and the mortgage brokers went bust.  During the next 12 months the applied a series of bank-aids to the growing tear.  In September and October the global economy suffered a cardiac arrest, a brief but clear warning of what was to come.   Readers of the FM site had a ring-side seat:

  1. High priority report: a geopolitical sitrep on the financial crisis, 15 September 2008 — We're in the “golden hour”
  2. A new sitrep, as we move into phase 3 of the financial crisis, 19 September 2008
  3. A sitrep on the financial crisis: why has the treatment been so slow, so small?, 8 October 2008
  4. Status report on the financial crisis: we're at a critical point in time, 10 October 2008
  5. The economy is in shock. The effects of this will soon become visible, 11 October 2008
  6. Damage Reports from home and abroad, 12 October 2008
  7. The coming collapse in business spending - made visible today, 15 October 2008
  8. Miscelaneous news and thoughts about the financial crisis, 16 October 2008
  9. More reasons why the government will be taking over allocation of America's capital, 27 October 2008
  10. The US economy must go to Defcon 1, 13 November 2008

November was the last opportunity for the government to “get in front” of the crisis — taking bold proactive steps to slow the decline.  I described the measures necessary on 25 September 2008 in A solution to our financial crisis, with details in 3 subsequent posts.  These needed to be done in November immediately after the election.

We missed that exit.  The government took some (not all) of these steps during the following 4 months, in a too-small and uncoordinated manner.  The last measure, the stimulus bill and closing down of the OTC derivatives markets will take effect during the next few quarters.  The former is too late; the latter might be too late.  For more on this, see Everything you need to know about government stimulus programs (read this - it's about your money).

435 "Though Crimes" in Turkey in 2008

In 2008, 82 people were tried under Article 301, 44 under the Anti-Terrorist Law, 23 under Article 216, 47 for “insulting” and 15 for “alienating the public from military service”. Freedoms of press and expression have been damaged by political polarisation, the lack of a solution to the Kurdish issue and the intolerance of criticism.

Bıa news centre - İstanbul



In 2008, the political landscape in Turkey became more polarised and the Kurdish question was not resolved. Both government and army displayed intolerance towards criticism of their performance and questioning of rights violations. Freedom of expression and of the press both took a considerable step backwards.

In the last year, 82 people were tried under the controversial Article 301, concerned with the “denigration” of the state and state organs; 5 people were convicted.
"Insult" cases on the rise

23 people stood accused of “inciting hatred and hostility among people. 74 people, among them 4 caricaturists and 47 journalists, were tried for “insulting” others. In total, the compensation claims in these insult cases amount to 1 million 885 thousand 500 TL (around 855,711 Euros).

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become a claimant for such compensation. He has targeted the Doğan Media Group, saying in public, “Do not buy these newspapers”. Claims by him and his family have  resulted in the convictions of Perihan Mağden (Radikal newspaper), Cemal Subaşı (Tempo magazine), Mehmet Çağçağ (Leman satirical magazine); he is also claiming compensation from Melih Kaşkar (Milas Önder newspaper).

It is thus not surprising that Turkey is ranked 102nd out of 173 countries by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in terms of Freedom of the Press.

~ more... ~

Anarchists increasingly take on the system

From Greek Group That Targeted Citigroup Warns of Plan for Revolt

March 12 (Bloomberg) -- Greece's Revolutionary Struggle, the group that said it targeted two branches of Citigroup Inc. in Athens, warned it will use the global financial crisis to spur a revolt that will end capitalism.

The group targeted the branches because it wants to make Greece “hostile territory for the criminal agents of international capital, like Citibank,” according to an eight- page statement published in the weekly newspaper Pontiki today. Revolution is “our duty, here and now. This crisis should be the tomb of the system,” the group said.

The militants also threatened journalists and media groups and said it would continue “safe” attacks on random targets, “taking the appropriate measures for the safety of citizens.”

Revolutionary Struggle, which surfaced in 2003, claimed a spate of attacks on banks, international companies and police officers in the wake of riots sparked by the police shooting of Alexis Grigoropoulos, 15, in December. The only casualty in the attacks is a policeman who was hurt. There have been no arrests.

Greek press: Armoring Athens against attacks, Scotland Yard team to help

16 March 2009
FOCUS News Agency

Athens. The recent rise in crime rate in Greece is one of the major topics in Greek dailies on Monday. Last week masked youngsters raged in Athens and Thessaloniki, breaking shop windows and damaging bank offices and cars with bats and stones. In both cases the police arrived when the attackers had already disappeared.
The Ta Nea writes that police officers are discontented about the orders they received during last week's incidents because they were told not to get involved.
Eleftheros Typos says that in order to deal with the situation the police step up the security measures and armor the capital, setting up rapid reaction squads, which will be situated at key places in Athens.
Naftemporiki writes that Scotland Yard gives a helping hand in the fight against terrorism. A team of experts arrives in the Greek capital to help its colleagues.

From Russia: Anarchist professor dismissed for political views

In Russia, university teachers are dismissed for political reasons. Candidate of political sciences (Russian scientific degree equivalent to Ph.D - translator) D.E. Buchenkov, who was working for five years in the State Pedagogic University of Volga ( as a docent (lecturer) in the chair of Philosophy for five years, was dismissed in five minutes. Here is his story.

On 5th of March 2009 director of the chair asked me to visit the pro-rector. This happened during a lecture. Only director of the chair of philosophy M.M. Prokhorov was in the room. He asked if I am a member of Autonomous Action and if I have something to do with paper of the organization "Situatsiya" (Situation). I said that I am a member and that I wrote to the paper.

Then Prokhorov started to count my shortcomings - that my scientific work is not active enough for a docent. That my seminar "Political system of Russian Federation in level of local self-governance", which he participated, is "not at the level of the university".

What he said, was indeed prejudiced and biased. If I am not at the level of the university, why I was kept there for several years? Why they had to invite me during my lecture? Why they could not do that after, or just invite me to the chair?

From the very beginning it became obvious, that accusations of incompetence were just a pretext. I said to Prokhorov, that real reasons of his criticism was just my political views. I was proposed to quit "voluntarily", or a special commission will be formed which would evaluate my work, after which I would be dismissed legally with a note in my working book (working book is a soviet invention to discipline workers, which is still in use - each worker must carry a book where each employers notes period of work and reason of dismissal – translator's note).

From Leftist nutcase: Informer who prevented deaths a traitor

Byron York wrote an enlightening column about Fithian in 2005, when she worked with Cindy Sheehan in the first months of her anti-Bush jeremiad and as it expanded to embrace Hugo Chavez and the radical Left.  She helped organize the WTO riots in 1999, as well as several other notable demonstrations.  Fithian gave her philosophy on political action in her own words:

And she was a tough-minded leader, not at all a peace-and-love type. Her specialty was action; she wanted to break in, cut through fences, and shut things down. “You don't go to Fithian when you want to carry a placard,” the Times profile said. “You go to her when you want to make sure there are enough bolt cutters to go around.” Asked for a fuller explanation of her role in the protests, Fithian said, “When people ask me, 'What do you do?' I say I create crisis, because crisis is that edge where change is possible.”

That sometimes involves breaking things. In an July 2001 interview with The International Socialist Review, Fithian — who told NRO she's been arrested “probably at least 30 times” — spoke of moving beyond the tradition of civil disobedience as practiced by Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr.; her inspiration, she explained, was not so much those leaders as the anarchist movement in Spain in the late 19th and early 20th century. And that meant different ways of doing things. “Nonviolence is a strategy. Civil disobedience is a tactic,” Fithian said. “Direct action is a strategy. Throwing rocks is a tactic.”

“I guess my biggest thing is that as people who are trying to create a new world, I do believe we have to dismantle or transform the old order to do that,” Fithian continued. “I just fundamentally don't believe it will ever serve our interests as it's currently constructed.”

From Anarchist brings home the class war for his biopic

A notorious anarchist is returning to his Kentish roots to help produce a film based on his autobiography.

Class War founder Ian Bone, who became a tabloid hate figure after the Trafalgar Square poll tax riot 1990, grew up as the son of a butler in Goudhurst, near Maidstone.

Early sections of his book Bash the Rich are set in the tiny village, which Mr Bone says was where “a lifetime of shit-stirring” began.

He told Kent on Sunday: “I'd have to put the way I turned out down to how I spent my early years.

“I lived in the servants' quarters at Ladham House because my mum was a housemaid and my dad a butler.

“They had to be deferential at all times, so it wasn't as if they could swear at their employers if they saw them outside of working hours.

“My dad was always called 'Bone', even by the children, and I always found that gravely insulting.”

Part of the Goudhurst filming for Bash the Rich will be set in the 1950s, when visiting fruit-pickers were given a less than warm welcome.

From Reason Online

Anarchist Philosopher Does Not Consent to be Governed!
Crispin Sartwell on Against the State: An introduction to anarchist political theory

30 Dec, 2008

"Growing up in D.C. will turn you into an anarchist," jokes Against the State: An introduction To Anarchist Political Theory author Crispin Sartwell. "I'm expecting the revolution to emerge from Wheaton (Maryland), high schoolers in the D.C. area who are embroiled in the bureaucracy of the American state." This five-and-a-half-minute-long interview was conducted by Nick Gillespie and shot and edited by Dan Hayes.

Widely published in both popular outlets and academic journals, Sartwell teaches at Dickinson College. For more information on him, go to his website.

For a video version of this interview, go here.

And check out his October 30, 2008 appearance on the Talk Show, where he discussed anarchy, Darfur, and hip hop with the journalist Eli Lake and hosts Michael C. Moynihan and Nick Gillespie.

Meanwhile, authorities in the U.K. want jittery citizens to relax.

From Law-abiding citizens need to know the police are on their side - not with the thugs

People tackling anti-social behaviour should not  have to worry that they will be the ones who end up being prosecuted - and the Conservatives have promised to remove this fear within days of coming to power.

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve has pledged to rewrite the guidelines issued to police officers and prosecutors to safeguard those tackling unruly youngsters from themselves being targeted by the police.

He has called for a return to "common sense" policing by restoring discretion.

'History shows that if you go out and tell 10 and 11-year-olds who are misbehaving to stop misbehaving or you will call the police, they will stop,' says Grieve.

'There is also the need for police back-up, but the public have also come round to seeing the police as more likely to bite them than do something about the problems in the community around them. They also say: 'Oh well, if I try to stop that, someone will come round to arrest me.' '

A defunct anarchist group called Reclaim the Streets used to hold disruptive lawless protests which would spill over into violence and vandalism. But the irony is that the aspiration to Reclaim the Streets is really one that the decent law abiding majority yearn to achieve.

In parts of London where knife wielding gangs proprietorially claim their turf by postcode it seems a distant prospect.

23 theses on the capitalist crisis

Posted on the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center :

Wednesday 25 Feb

Since the middle of the 1990s, the real economy only grew on account of the expansion of credit. After the crisis, the floodgates were opened. In the next four years, the Fed brought more dollars in circulation than in the whole 200-year US history.


by Wildcat

[These theses are translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]


1) In 2001, real estate prices in the US ended their high-altitude flight that had continued for years. In 2007 they began to fall. There was a clear over-supply in houses and apartments. With rising interests and falling home prices, masses of heavily indebted homeowners fell into arrears in repaying their mortgages. This triggered the subprime crisis and immediately spilled over on the investment banks [1]. In March 2007 sharp exchange losses suddenly occurred on the stock exchanges of New York and Shanghai. In the meantime, we are in the greatest financial and banking crisis in the last 77 years, perhaps at the beginning of the most serious crisis in the history of capitalism.

How could a very normal pig cycle [2] (oversupply in houses) have such a tremendous effect? With falling real wages, the US working class could only maintain its living standard by running into debt. This is the first explanation. In 1995 less than two percent of all mortgage loans [3] in the US were “subprime” [4]. In 2005 that percentage had already soared to 25 percent. In the last years the indebtedness of the US proletariat has strongly increased. In 2007, Americans on average spent 14 percent of their income for the repayment of debts.

2) The second explanation lies in the expansion of credit altogether. The history of capitalism since the end of Bretton Woods in the early 1970s can be understood as capital seeking profitable investment possibilities. Capital seeks other “investment forms” because it cannot sufficiently exploit itself in productive investments in factories and the like: currency speculation, derivative trade [5] and real estate speculation (“investment emergency” in the bourgeois terminology). One of the “financial innovations” of the last decade was the trade with securities based on debt prescriptions and mortgages that were often “bundled.” These CDOs [6] allowed “rotten” credits to be rated as absolutely safe so institutional investors like pension funds, legally obliged to invest their funds in safety, could buy these securities. Through high credit shares, the profit on their own capital could multiply. With the collapse of the credit pyramid, this “leverage” becomes a boomerang. In the subprime crisis, it was revealed that through the bundling no one knew where “rotten” credits were hidden (“contamination”) or which bank was threatened with collapse. Trust in the orderly course of history is one of the material prerequisites of capital exploitation. Mistrust between the banks made a banking crisis out of “finance.”

3) Since the outbreak of the crisis, whether and how strongly the financial crisis strikes the real economy has been controversial. In reality, a downswing of the world economy (from 2007) is often intensified by financial mechanisms. The same financial mechanisms that made possible “growth” now force the collapse. Therefore the crisis appears as a financial crisis. However the core of the crisis is not embedded in the insolvency of banks or in their “liabilities” (passiva). The real problem is the “activa of the banks, the high indebtedness of the so-called real economy.”

4) The financial bubble was the foundation of the so-called “real economy,” not an avoidable malformation. Since the middle of the 1990s, the real economy only grew on account of the expansion of credit. The world gross social product only increased between 2 and 4 percent since the 1970s (in the 1950s and 1960s, it increased between 4 and 7 percent).

All floodgates were opened after the crisis [7]. In the following four years, the Fed brought more dollars in circulation than in the whole 200-year US history. The greatest expansion of consumer credits and mortgages in the history of capitalism occurred. The banks gave credits with less than 3 percent interest – below their own costs. This was a manifestation of the over-accumulation crisis (see above “investment emergency,” investments in plants and factories remained very low in these years). To repress this, the money supply M3 [8] in the US has not been statistically reported since 2005. Despite all these measures, the gross domestic product of the US since 2005 only grew on account of the real estate bubble. The boom from 2002 to 2006 worldwide was also strange: the unemployment numbers did not fall.

5) The third explanation why the subprime crisis served as a match-stick is that the US debt-financed and consumer-driven economy with an annual budget deficit of $800 billion depended on enormous capital infusions from China which simultaneously became the industrial center of the world for consumer goods. The main capital donors China, Japan and South Korea altogether hold $4 trillion as currency reserves. This machinery can be summarized as follows: Goods produced in China are consumed in the US and paid with dollars that accumulate in China. China then lends these dollars to the US government so the circulation can continue. Such a construction can only have a limited duration. In fact, since 2007 Europe has been the largest sales market for Chinese goods and no longer the US. The limits of the model were manifest – and intensify in the crisis.

The infusion of foreign capital in the US dramatically decreased in the summer of 2008. Instead of the $40 billion monthly that had to find foreign buyers in the form of government bonds, there was only $8.6 billion in July and August. In September, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were “rescued” or nationalized to keep China happy. China had invested $500 billion there.

6) In the auto industry, economic cycle, overcapacities, deficient investments, high indebtedness (both of firms and customers) and product cycle (satiated market, congested streets, “end of the petroleum age”) combine. Therefore the crisis now strikes very intensely the auto industry and its suppliers.

7) We witness an enormous monopolization process of banks and corporations on the global plane. In this process, the ruling class recomposed and declared a state of emergency (for example, “finance market stabilization law” as an “enabling act”). From their structure and from the persons who are “enabled” carte blanche, the bailout measures show the governments do not stand in the way of these developments but flank or even tighten them (Robert Scheer spoke of “finance fascism” in relation to the bailout [9] of the US government.)

8) Unemployment insurance, pension insurance and the communities are the next bankrupts in the train of the crisis and the crisis measures. On one hand, these institutions speculatively invested their funds (German pension insurance had Lehman-securities, American pension funds partly shifted their investments to “vulture funds” after the real estate- and raw material crashes [10]. Life insurances and business pensions are completely encumbered in the risk of possible bank failures.

On the other hand, governments make use of these funds (in Russia, banks were rescued with pension funds, the Argentinean government tapped the private pension fund and so forth).

The current crisis strikes community budgets like the crisis in the middle of the 1970s (New York). Many cities in the Ruhr and Freiburg areas face massive payment problems.

9) After the financial branch, whole states are now targets of bailout: Iceland, Hungary, Pakistan, Turkey, Argentina, White Russia, Serbia and Taschichistan. A domino effect is feared because the IMF needs up to a half trillion dollars for the rescue packages and does not have half of that at its disposal. That Iceland first sought aid from Russia, Pakistan from China and Argentina from Venezuela is politically significant. The money for supporting assailed countries also runs short. It is very unlikely that the financial summit at the end of November will agree on a new Bretton Woods [11].

The myth of the national economy crumbles. This myth will collapse when it gets hold of a land like Switzerland! Nationally regulated labor markets that divide the world working class in individual segments break down.


10) No “de-coupling” – whether for the EU or for BRIC-states

The BRIC-states with their mammoth domestic markets should extend the exhausted model of credit-financed consumption into the metropolises. Still the demand of the new middle classes cannot replace the consumption of the US working class in the foreseeable future. The exaggerated hopes in the BRIC-states were already an expression of the crisis. For a year, these hopes have also skidded. In Russia, for example, foreign direct investments fell almost in half in 2008 compared to 2007. Enormous re-financing problems threaten. Mass layoffs have begun.

Iceland's state bankruptcy was only a foretaste. The threshold countries form the ring of the next explosion wave of the world crisis. Far greater sums are involved here than in the subprime crisis. China cannot refuse the begging of the US and West Germany for financial aid in the crisis! A withdrawal of Chinese funds from the US would be their suicide. The survival of all regimes depends on the US financial system not imploding in the crisis.

11) The disastrous economic situation of the US after 9/11 was often described as the “twin towers of deficit”: the highest state indebtedness and the highest foreign debts in history. In a few years, a third tower had grown and collapsed: private households are indebted far above 100 percent of the gross domestic product. The capital flows necessary to maintain this fragile situation (see 5) depend on two prerequisites: the US dollar as “world money” and the military dominance of the US army. This situation has become precarious through the two unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hegemon is in the boondocks. We are not convinced that the new hegemon does us good. The revolution would be better for us. How long this will last is uncertain. While Immanuel Wallerstein recently wrote such a transition normally takes 50 years, 2008 was the year of the dissolution of neoliberalism. Such a moment raises all sorts of questions.

12) Unfortunately the debate on the left is not at the height of these questions. Many hope for a new Keynesianism and a strong state. However the foundations for a new Keynesianism are lacking. There is no national economy any more that can resist the pressure of the world crisis. Stimulating national demand does not succeed any more. On the contrary, a state that gives guarantees for “its” banks puts all other states under a “short-selling” pressure. [12] The bailout of one leads to the devaluation of other banking houses, businesses or states. How can “demand” be stimulated when both proletariat and banks hoard the money? No hegemon can enforce such a program like the US in the 1930s – in reaction to the class struggles there!


13) The core of “neoliberal economic policy” consisted in forcing down costs (including wages!). Through a policy of low interests (often negative or below the rate of inflation), the amount of credit was greatly expanded to finance consumption (both the consumption of the working class and also the “consumption” of machines, that is “entrepreneurial investment”). Thus business profits soared, income distribution drastically changed and large parts of the working class were impoverished. This strategy was basically unsuccessful worldwide with the ravages that were inflicted: real investments remained low.

14) “Development” was only possible in this framework through aggressive expansion of capital: penetration in previously undeveloped corners, recruiting migrant workers and industrialization of the “periphery.” In the last 40 years, there was a worldwide proletarianization at an unparalleled speed (see Wildcat 82). This expedient is barred today; the periphery is industrialized.

15) Neoliberalism was not a new “model” (as the gossip of “post-Fordism” wanted to make us believe) but a long drawn out crisis since 1973. The deregulated but politically managed financial system was the response to the decline of effective demand. This deregulation was another word for precarious work. The attack on the working class in the last decades is reflected in the global systemic “financial risk.” Since the 1980s this strategy was shaken by “financial crises”: debt crises in the first half of the 1980s; savings account crisis in the US in the second half of the 1980s; peso-crisis in Mexico, 1994/5; Asian crisis 1997/98; ruble crisis 1998/9 and the crisis 2000/1. But while all these crises could be limited regionally or sectorally (at the price of further expansion of credit), the long drawn ou9t crisis strikes its limit in the current collapse. Global capitalism faces the abyss in this “crisis of the crisis.”


16) Prelude to what?

“1929” was not the crisis but its announcement. The current crisis will continue a very long time and have its peak at the end of 2009. Afterwards there will be a long drawn out depression (the 1873-1878 crisis also lasted five years). The “early indicators” look pitch-black. Industrial production declines in double-digits, the oil price fell in half in three months, raw material prices fall worldwide and world trade shrivels. All these are signs for the depth of the recession. Middle-class commentators compare the current crisis with the Lisbon earthquake (November 11, 1755) in order to mark the turn of the epoch. The Lisbon earthquake is commonly seen as the prelude to the French Revolution.

17) Deflation

The ILO (International Labor organization) calculates an 11 percent increase in worldwide unemployment to 210 million in 2009. This is true as long as the crisis is not “under control.” The worldwide mass layoffs speak another language (in the Canton district of China, 2.5 million persons could lose their jobs by the end of 2009). On the other side, this means consumption will decline massive. A deflationary development is likely. A deflation has a self-reinforcing effect: falling prices depress the profit margins. Then even more people are dismissed, consumer spending declines again and profits of businesses fall. In fiscal policy, little is possible against deflation – even where the key interest in the US is at 1 percent and in Japan at 0.3 percent!

18) Reformism is impossible

The demand of Attac to rescue the real economy and let the banks go bankrupt cannot be fulfilled because the banks are indispensable for the functioning of capitalism. But the dilemma is shown in that banks either horde or spend the “bailout funds” to buy smaller banks – or even pour them out as dividends or bonuses! How can consumption be stimulated and income re-connected to productivity? The Bush plan [13] at the beginning of 2008 did not function: people used the money to repay their debts and save for the coming bad times. This economic program would only have worked if the checks were spent immediately.

Many measures against the crisis (the massive interest reductions, the availability of cheap credits, guarantees of every kind) have fueled the financial crisis – because the banks used the money for high-risk speculations to escape their losses. The injection of more money will not solve the problems but refuel them as long as the system is not regulated. But regulations as Lafontaine proposed as finance minister only function when the working class is made to work more intensively. (As the other side of the coin, Lafontaine was the first to propose abolition of unemployment assistance as converted with Hartz IV). Without a runaway victory over the working class, individual bailout attempts and regulations only intensify the tensions between competing fractions.


19) Battle for Minds

Speaking of “financial crisis” helps legitimate rescuing banks and bankers with the savings and tax payments of the proletariat. Making “speculation” and “greed” responsible for the crisis should divert from a crisis of the whole system. Bellofiore/Halevi [14] speak of the “trinity of traumatized workers, indebted consumers and manic-depressive savers and that people are forced to become actors on the financial markets.” In the propagandistic mastery of the crisis, the “little people” were also “greedy” and invested their money in foreign banks and so forth (which is also doubtlessly true).

The “greed of little people” should be a scapegoat and legitimation for intensified work coercion. In a Spiegel interview, Horst Kohler said: “In principle, everyone wants to become rich with a minimum of personal expense. One thought this happened fastest with currency trading since one did not have to work to the bone. This mentality is unfortunately normalized. If we want to understand the value of money, we should develop a new consciousness for the value of work.”

This is the accompanying music for the brutal austerity programs. But Kohler also said in the same interview: “A general suspicion could now arise that all who are `at the top' are not those `at the bottom' or `committed to the whole'.” What a chance! The crisis is a system crisis demanding fundamental clarifications. The answer to the crisis must name things by their names. Reformist projects are impossible. As soon as workers – of necessity – grapple with the basic functioning of capitalism and go to the root of things, all these questions will become burning again.

20) Technically there is already a worldwide working class.

We cooperate in production chains and are interwoven by the computer and the Internet. Electronic money races around the globe and makes possible billions of transfers of work migrants to their families. In the past, the crass wage-differences between the “global South” and the old metropolises were an important instrument of division. While social inequalities in the countries increased in the last years and even intensified in the crisis, the differences between workers in the global South and those in the North have decreased and will be increasingly smaller.

21) Divisions

Will the crises divide people or can a political re-combination become real in the crisis? The form of the crisis (“financial crisis”) strengthens class divisions (people with financial investments against people without those investments; regular workers against subcontracted workers; young against old in the question of pensions for example). The crisis could take away the basis of material divisions. Politically all themes are open. Everyone should understand epochal upheavals are on the horizon.

22) The Left

The crisis has brought a little enlightenment. Joachim Hirsch, the father of the German post-Fordist left, says: the term "post-Fordism” is a “helpful term.” This is clear in the crisis. Great, for nearly 30 years, this “helpful term” has haunted the minds of the left: no working class any more, industrial production as a discontinued model and so forth. But unfortunately the crisis brainwashes the left. Hopes are raised for Keynesians and the state. One hastens to the sickbed of capitalism to bring medicine, not with dagger in hand.

23) ..or political reconfiguration of the worldwide working class

For generations now living, the necessity and possibility for forming history were never greater. We should not rely on “impoverishment theories.” There is little evidence in history that workers can fight better when mired in distress. On the other side, there is no reason to think nothing can happen. The worldwide revolts in the spring of 2008 were only a beginning. In China, spontaneous battles against the waves of dismissal occurred in the last weeks. The question is what is arising? Do the battles reflect the drama of the world crisis?

The battles in the global South have blocked the crusades of capital (Iraq, Afghanistan, Latin America, Asia-migrant battles). The current crisis erupts in the metropolises and is really a “crisis of capital.” The working class can do nothing politically and only live as over-indebted consumers, as a thousand micro-strategists where everyone covers and entrenches himself with individual expedients and opportunism knows no limits. Regarding Germany in particular, the battles in the spring can hardly be ignored (in Spain and Great Britain, there were truck driver strikes). In Germany, there have been battles, learning processes, strikes against plant closures and mobilizations in schools and universities. In the past, all these movements ran separated. Now since the summer they face a tremendous threat scenario through the crisis. The crisis strikes individual branches very hard (auto industry, insurance- and bank employees). Since the crisis can befall anyone, solidarity gains a material foundation. The crisis creates the possibility for combining previously separated developments and promoting mutual battles.

Global crisis and global class struggle. Is a new configuration conceivable between riots in the banlieves, striking workers and student movements, the strike in the ocean of proletarianization, the battles in previously “guaranteed” sectors (financial- and insurance-systems) and initiatives against rising water- and energy-prices? Why not? Look at Argentina with its furious savers! Can a re-configuration include the battles of Chinese workers?

What we should do in every case is gather, produce, circulate and discuss information about struggles and movements all over the world.

Militant research instead of “transition programs”!

Criticism of the policy of the state of emergency (right to proletarian force) and centrality of labor!

Discover the potentials aiming at overcoming exploitation in social development, in crisis and in the battles!

The worldwide y8outh revolts, the struggles of factory workers in the North and the revolts of the proletariat in the South have blocked capitalist exploitation. The flight of capital in the fictional exploitation on the financial markets was also a flight from the new threatening revolution. With the expansion of the money supply and credit volume, governments indirectly prevented the crisis in its full rage from striking the working class. The increasing crisis of state indebtedness and the rising share of social spending in the gross domestic product are consequences of flight from the class conflict.

[1] Investmentbanken betreiben Vermögensverwaltung ihrer (reichen) Kunden, Handel mit Wertpapieren sowie Unterstützung von Unternehmen bei Kapitalaufnahmen (etwa Börsengänge). Das Geschäftsmodell »Investmentbank« ist durch die aktuelle Krise am Ende.
[2] Schweinezyklus ist ein Begriff aus der Agrarwissenschaft und bezeichnet eine periodische Schwankung auf der Angebotsseite. Bei hohen Preisen kommt es zu verstärkten Investitionen, die sich allerdings wegen der Aufzuchtzeit erst verzögert auf das Angebot auswirken und dann zu einem Überangebot und Preisverfall führen. Infolgedessen kommt es zur Reduzierung der Produktion, die sich ebenfalls erst zeitverzögert auswirkt und dann …
[3] Bei einem Hypothekendarlehen handelt es sich um ein durch ein Grundpfandrecht auf eine (oder mehrere) Immobilie(n) besichertes Darlehen. Als Grundpfandrechte kommen hierbei heutzutage weitgehend Buchgrundschulden zum Einsatz (über 90% aller neu vergebenen Darlehen).
Buchgrundschuld (im Grundbuch eingetragene Grundschuld) ist das dingliche Recht, aus einem Grundstück oder einem grundstücksgleichen Recht (beispielsweise einem Wohnungseigentum oder einem Erbbaurecht) die Zahlung eines bestimmten Geldbetrages zu fordern. Die Grundschuld ist eine der wichtigsten Kreditsicherheiten.
[4] Als Subprime-Markt wird ein Teil des privaten (also nicht gewerblichen Zwecken dienenden) Hypothekendarlehenmarkts bezeichnet, der überwiegend aus Kreditnehmern mit geringer Bonität (»Kreditwürdigkeit«) besteht
[5] Derivate sind gegenseitige Verträge, deren Preisbildung auf einer marktabhängigen Bezugsgröße (Basiswert oder Underlying) basiert. Basiswerte können Wertpapiere (z.B. Aktien, Anleihen), marktbezogene Referenzgrößen (Zinssätze, Indices) oder andere Handelsgegenstände (Rohstoffe, Devisen) sein. Derivate können auch Basiswert von anderen Derivaten (2. Grades) sein. Grundsätzlich kommen als Basiswert oder Underlying Asset auch nicht-ökonomische Größen, wie etwa das Wetter in Frage.
[6] CDO - Collateralized Debt Obligation – »besichertes Darlehn auf Schuldscheine« (siehe ausführlicher in Bellofiore/Halevi)
[7] Dot.Com-Krise , der im März 2000 einsetzende Kurseinbruch von börsennotierten Unternehmen, deren Geschäftsmodelle primär auf Internet-Technologien beruhten (sog. Dot.Coms), von denen die Mehrzahl jedoch in der Praxis keine Gewinne machte. In der Folge entstand eine Finanzierungskrise auch bei nicht börsennotierten IT-Unternehmen, die in vielen Insolvenzen mündete. Die Dot.Com-Krise brachte die sog. Dot.Com-Blase zum »Platzen« und beendete neben den überzogenen Erwartungen an die »New Economy« auch den Aktienhype, von dem viele Kleinanleger gegen Ende des letzten Jahrtausends erfasst worden waren.
[8] Geldmenge M3: Die US-Zentralbank Fed definiert M3 als: alle US-Dollar-Bar-Bestände in Banknoten und Münzen, plus die laufenden $-Girokontenbestände plus alle $-Einlagenzertifikate (z. B. $-Staatsanleihen) und alle $-Geldmarkt-Kontenbestände unter $100.000, plus alle größeren Guthaben über $100.000 (u. a. die Eurodollar-Reserven, größere übertragbare $-Wertpapierbestände, und die Dollar-Devisenbestände der meisten nichteuropäischen Länder.
[9] bail out – Schuldenübernahme und Tilgung durch Dritte
[10] »Geierfonds« (vulture fund) – geschlossener Investmentfonds (Hedge-Fonds), der auf den Kauf von Wertpapieren anderer, bspw. zahlungsunfähiger oder fast bankrotter, Unternehmen spezialisiert ist, um aus dessen Überresten Einnahmen zu erzielen.
[11] Bretton Woods - »goldhinterlegte Leitwährung der Dollar« – nach Aufkündigung der Bindung des Dollars an die Goldreserven und der Goldeinlösepflicht durch die USA 1971 brach das Bretton-Woods-System 1973 durch die Aufkündigung der festen Wechselkurse endgültig zusammen.
[12] Beim Leerverkauf (auch »short selling«) werden Wertpapiere über die Börse verkauft, obwohl der Verkäufer zum Zeitpunkt des Verkaufs die Wertpapiere noch nicht besitzt. Mit dieser Strategie kann der Verkäufer mit überdurchschnittlichen Renditen von fallenden Börsenkursen profitieren. Im Gegensatz zu Optionsgeschäften mit festen Optionsterminen handelt es sich bei Leerverkäufen um sehr kurzfristige Geschäfte, da die Wertpapiere nach sehr relativ kurzen Fristen nachgeliefert werden müssen. Beispiel: Ein Leerverkäufer (»Shortseller«) verkauft über die Börse 1.000 Aktien der »Mustermann AG« zu einem Kurs von 100,- Euro. Liefern muss er die Wertpapiere aber erst drei Tage später. Sinkt der Kurs der Wertpapiere zwischen Verkauf und Liefertermin auf 90,- Euro, kann der Leerverkäufer 10.000,- Euro (vor Transaktionskosten und »Finanzierungskosten«) Gewinn erzielen.
[13] Bush-plan – …zwischen 140 und 150 Milliarden Dollar (zwischen 96 und 103 Milliarden Euro) wurden als »Steuercheks« an die amerikanischen Haushalte ausgegeben.

zum nochmal Nachlesen:
[14] Ein Minsky-Moment? – Die subprime-Krise und der »neue« Kapitalismus [pdf]
Puzzlesteine zum Ende einer Weltordnung
Wildcat Sondernummer zum Krieg, 2003:
Im Kampfzyklus 1968-73 hatten die weltweiten Jugendrevolten, die Kämpfe der FabrikarbeiterInnen im Norden und die Aufstände des Proletariats im Süden die kapitalistische Verwertung blockiert. Die Flucht des Kapitals in die fiktive Verwertung auf den Finanzmärkten war auch das Zurückweichen vor der erneut drohenden Revolution. Mit der Ausweitung der Geldmenge und des Kreditvolumens vermieden es die Regierungen, die Krise in voller Wucht auf die Arbeiterklasse durchschlagen zu lassen. Die zunehmende Krise der Staatsverschuldung, der immer weiter angestiegene Anteil der Sozialausgaben am Bruttosozialprodukt sind Folgen des Ausweichens vor dem Klassenkonflikt.
»Zur Krise: Ein Blick in die Werkstatt« vom Mai 2000; Zirkular 56







'There is never a crisis that capitalism is incapable of resolving...

...providing it is at liberty to impose the conditions on the working class necessary for its solution'

From The politics of fightback: Capitalism's crisis and our response, part 3

The central political issue thrown up by the crisis is “who will be made to pay for it -capital or labour?” In this regard the two options that capitalist governments have been debating — market forces or interventionism — are no different. They are both designed to make the working class pay and give capitalism a new lease of life.
This does not mean, however, that the immediate impact of the two options on the working class are the same or that the opportunities that each presents for building a fight back are the same.
From this point of view socialists should welcome the 'New Deal' interventionist approach in as far as it saves some industries, saves some jobs, and gives some relief to the working class in the depth of a crisis of the system. It does of course raise as many questions as it answers. We have to demand that it goes much further than Obama or Brown, or any of the others, are prepared to go. We have to demand programmes of public works which can employ and reemploy millions of workers. It can be done. If trillions of pounds can be given to the banks the same can be done for programmes of public works. Why not? And we have to demand that such public works are directed towards establishing a more sustainable society for the future, in order that the ecological crisis is tackled at the same time.

We should welcome this approach, as opposed to that of market forces which would send the weakest to the wall and many more millions on the dole, not only because it creates the best immediate conditions for the working class but because it creates the space in which to build a fight back. The more workers are thrown into unemployment and atomised as individuals the more difficult it will be to begin to organise. On the other hand if workers remain employed or are taken on for public infrastructure work they are in a far stronger position.

8) Nationalisation

The key to developing a socialist approach to this crisis is nationalisation. It also takes the issue to the political level and there is a big opportunity in this. The perception of nationalisation, which was discredited by Labour in the 1970s and 1980s and demonised by the Tories in the same period has been transformed in the course of this crisis out of all recognition. It has gone from an issue discussed in socialist circles to a part of the mainstream debate on the response to the crisis. When leading members of the US government (first the Bush regime and now Obama) discuss how much of banking and even of industry to nationalise it's clear that something has changed.

This opens up a space for the left which to which it has a responsibility to respond. It gives the opportunity not only to demand that governments intervene into the crisis but that the framework for their intervention should be nationalisation. Nationalisation does not equal socialism, of course, but it does open a space in which socialist ideas and a wider socialist programme can be developed.

There are many things wrong with recent nationalisations of course. They are the nationalisation of bankrupt companies, carried out in order to socialise risk and bail out debt, and with the intention of handing them back at a later date. Many of them are not nationalisations in the formal sense but simply government majority shareholdings, which can be sold off at any time. Moreover there is very little control exercised over these institutions but Brown is making it clear that he does not want to exercise control if he can possibly avoid it.

It would be a big mistake, however, in the current circumstances, for socialists to say either that such nationalisations are irrelevant or that they are unsupportable. Rather socialists should welcome the nationalisation of financial and other institutions as far as they go, whatever form they take, as better than the alternative — which is to leave it to market forces. At the same time socialists should strongly oppose any adverse conditions imposed on the workforce in the course of the takeover and vigorously demand that the initial takeover is replaced by full nationalisation under democratic control.

The arguments for full nationalisation under democratic control are overwhelming and extremely popular. There has been a wide-ranging debate in the mainstream media about it. It has been a popular move. If huge sums of money are being injected into bankrupted companies it makes no sense at all to do it without full democratic control of the process and of the future development of those industries. Socialists need to put themselves at the centre of this debate. A year ago it didn't exist.

~ more... ~


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