Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Billionaire NFL Owners Move Against Individual Freedom

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

So the NFL introduces a new rule that a team can be punished if its players don't stand for the national anthem. What if one player kneels? Will the entire team be punished as collective punishment Israeli style? Will their mum's house be bulldozed? Apparently to kneel in order to bring attention to any social issue, issue, rape, racist attacks, government overreach, war, poverty, lack of health care, education costs. the Predator in Chief calling immigrants animals and murderers, is disrespecting the anthem.

Leaving aside how a protest against police murders of unarmed citizens is "disrespecting"an anthem. Why is an anthem played at a football game at all? I personally can't stand anthems. I generally stand at them simply out of respect for workers who died fighting for what they believed was a just cause and I pick my battles. But if a person doesn't want to stand at an anthem then that's their choice. It's not my anthem. It's not a song praising the merits and history of the working class. By using it all they are doing is dragging us in to their triumphant refrain. The Internationale is the best workers' anthem. The very force behind all this nationalism doesn't give a damn about workers especially when they return from the conflicts they send our kids to.

All the flag waving is for when they leave to fight their wars. When they return, if they do, inevitably damaged, sometimes physically and always emotionally, the "patriotic" cheerleaders are short of money.
Perfectly fine. Doesn't disrespect an anthem, just women.
Some religious groups do not stand for anthems. Will they be the next targets? Also remember this; the folks that run the NFL are all billionaires, a gang of thieves if there ever was one. I saw a post the other day condemning the M-13 gang and their power. They say the same about workers organizations, that the unions have too much power, they call them big labor. The heads of the NFL, the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers and the other multiple other bosses' gangs make the M-13 look like a club from Mr. Rogers neighborhood.

I suggest folks drag themselves away from the basketball games once in a while or the other distractions they place in our line of sight and wake up and smell the roses.

Iran, China, Europe. Trump Administration Heading Down a Dangerous Path.

Just a few thoughts for today.

Historic Irish referendum on Abortion

Reprinted from Left Horizon's UK

By JD in Dublin

The referendum taking place in the Republic of Ireland on Friday the 25th May presents a clear choice for repealing the constitutional eighth amendment, and thereby enabling the government to introduce legislation to legalise abortion.

At the moment this reactionary clause in the constitution grants equal rights to the foetus, even at its earliest stages of development, as to the rights of the woman carrying that foetus. This applies no matter how much the woman might feels unable to cope with the pregnancy and even to the point whereby her health might be critically endangered by carrying that foetus.

Many readers of Left Horizon will scratch their heads wondering how this got into the Irish constitution, but that is to underestimate the traditional power of the Catholic Church in Ireland over the past 100 years. Thankfully, much has changed in recent decades with divorce and then most notably, the introduction of same-sex marriage rights two years ago following a similar landmark referendum.

The key to understanding this new ‘liberal’ enlightenment is not the persuasive powers of lobby groups and politicians but more fundamentally the transformation of the Republic of Ireland from a predominantly rural-based society to one where approximately 70 to 75 per cent of the population live in cities or urban centres.

This dramatic change has taken place in less than fifty years and, coupled with the growth of the working class, the globalisation of culture and human rights, has also undermined the influence of conservative social forces in Ireland as elsewhere. The litany of domestic and international paedophile scandals has also contributed to a marked decline in the trust of the faithful towards an institution, which claimed to have a direct line with God.

While abortion has been all but banned legally in Ireland, the need for abortions of course has continued. The solution found by the establishment is to turn a blind eye to the need for it and allow the solution to be ‘contracted out’ (metaphorically speaking) to British health service providers.

The eighth amendment doesn't prevent the occurrence of abortion. In 1983, the very year it was introduced into the constitution, 3,677 women gave Irish addresses at UK abortion clinics. By 2001, a recorded 6,673 women gave Irish addresses at UK abortion clinics. These numbers are considered not to be the full story, as many women would give the address of friends and relatives living in Britain when they have sought a pregnancy termination in the UK. Since that amendment that effectively ended abortions in Ireland, more than 170,000 women have travelled abroad for abortions!

Serious or permanent risk
What these figures make clear is that the eighth amendment did absolutely nothing to reduce the number of Irish women accessing abortion. All it achieved was to interfere with the care of pregnant women. It requires doctors and nurses – often  against their own medical and ethical beliefs – to override the wishes of a pregnant woman, even when it is clear that the pregnancy involves serious or permanent risk to her health.

When doctors and obstetricians see a woman with an underlying serious medical condition, as things stand currently they have to make decisions in a legal rather than a medical framework and indeed these decisions take place under the threat of a custodial sentence.

The result of all this is that women are forced to undergo an arduous and expensive trip overseas to procure the termination of an unwanted pregnancy, be it for family or financial reasons or indeed to end a pregnancy arising from incest, marital or date rape.  The costs incurred are often prohibitive for women on low incomes. In some instances, women with no money are resorting to induced miscarriage at home without any medical assistance.      

This absolute rigidity in the law, which criminalises women and doctors if equal rights are not measurably given to the woman and her foetus within all clinical decisions, has been found consistently to violate women’s human rights by several UN and European bodies.  There has been a campaign running for several years now to finally repeal the eighth amendment and ditch it from the Irish constitution. A National Coalition to Repeal the amendment has come together and has been to the fore in campaigning for progress on the issue.

Nevertheless, the conservative forces that have been trying to police women’s bodies for centuries are not giving up without a fight. A highly effective poster blitz and social media campaign has been orchestrated with money not just from some of the churches in Ireland, but from deep pockets in the south of the United States. Graphic images of abortion and appeals to ‘Love Both’ are making apparent inroads into the original 2-1 predictions in favour of change.  Repealing the amendment is being portrayed as ‘A Licence to Kill’ and there are claims that ‘another way’ is possible.

Trades unions and women’s groups
A clever tactic is being deployed which allows for the ‘No’ change campaigners to acknowledge ‘there is a problem which needs to be addressed,’ but that ‘the government proposals go too far…. providing for ‘abortion on demand’ and are extreme’ and that ‘a safer compromise is possible’, thereby implying that another solution is possible down the road. This maybe having an effect in that it cynically spreads the false notion that retaining the amendment is possible while prioritising the health of both mother and foetus.

This campaign of preserving the status quo also points out that the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is possible as a last resort, where it is necessary to save a woman or a girl’s life. However, that ruling did not save the life of Sapina Halappanaver in 2012, and many other women have come close to death in the meantime.

Another cynical ploy being used by the ‘No vote’ is to take the government to task for their poor record of taking care of people’s health generally, thanks to savage health cuts over the years. People are being asked to trust that this government wants to put people’s health first! It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the government is vulnerable on this one.

However, thankfully many trade unions and women’s groups have come out and called for a Yes vote to change the constitution and the legal framework around abortion provision. And it is the unions and the left who are highlighting also how procuring an abortion disproportionately hurts the low paid, particularly in the case of complicated procedures.

Friday the 25th can be a watershed day for women’s rights in Ireland.  The result could be tighter than predicted a month ago, but it is still likely that those looking to repeal the Irish Constitution will secure victory. A lot of nails will be bitten between now and the result and nothing is taken for granted. Hopefully, it will be a day to celebrate for all those who believe in trusting women to make the right decision for themselves and their families.

For  more reading on Ireland and the role of the Catholic hierarchy see:
Ireland's 1916 Uprising. The Sell Out Of Women and the Catholic Hierarchy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Greece: the spectre of debt

I’ve just got back from a visit to Greece to speak at a conference on my book, Marx 200.  While I was there I talked to several left activists and academics and it seems that little has improved for the Greek people since my last visit two years ago.  Back in 2010, Greece started to sink fast under the Aegean, hitting the bottom in 2015.  But since then, the economy has remained stuck in the mud and hardly moved.

In my book, The Long Depression I characterised the difference between a ‘normal’ slump in capitalist production and a depression.  The slump takes the form of a V in investment and output, down and then back up.  But a depression is more like a square root: down, then a small recovery but not to the previous level but staying trending below.  The Greek economy since the beginning of its crisis in 2010 fits that perfectly.

Greece’s economy grew 1.4% last year, marking the first time that real GDP growth has exceeded 1% since 2007.  But national output is still down 22% from its peak, an output collapse unprecedented in the annals of modern Europe and one that rivals the severity of the Great Depression in the United States while average real living standards (real wages, pensions, social welfare) are down 40% from the peak. Unemployment remains over 20% and youth unemployment is closer to 40%.

More than 600,000 working age Greeks have left the country seeking work.

And Greek capital remains prostrate.  Gross investment as a share of GDP is about half of its pre-crisis value.

Moreover, part of gross investment is the replacement of depreciating capital – such as replacing worn-out machines, or renovating decaying hotels. Net investment (i.e. gross investment, minus depreciation) was about 10% of GDP before the crisis, indicating that the capital stock was increasing at that time. But net investment has fallen absolutely since 2010, so the effective capital stock of the country is decaying.

Investment by the Greek private sector is constrained by low corporate profits (limiting its own funds available for investment) and weak bank balance sheet positions, as reflected by the approximately 40% share of total loans made by Greek banks that are non-performing loans (which constrains available bank lending).  Indeed, although the profitability of Greek capital has finally recovered a little, based on the liquidation of the weak and smaller businesses, huge unemployment and a reduction in real wages, the rate of profit is still below the level of 2010.

And small businesses and workers also face the huge burden of sharply increased taxes.  This is to meet the fiscal targets set by the Troika (the ECB, the IMF and the Eurogroup) imposed in a series of ‘bailout’ programmes introduced since 2010.  Greek public debt was about 80% of GDP in 2010 as the tsunami generated by the global financial crash and the Great Recession reached weak Greek capitalism.  That public debt is now around 180% of GDP.  Why?

Because the German and French banks demanded full face value repayment of the Greek government and bank bonds that they had bought before 2010 when interest yield was so high. But Greek banks could no longer service these bonds because Greek capitalists were going bust or defaulting on their bank loans.

The Greek state was also unable to bail out its banks and meet its bond obligations as the economy collapsed.  The rising cost of unemployment and welfare and falling tax revenues drove up the government budget deficit to record levels.

Austerity was now the order of the day.  Workers, as taxpayers, had to take on the burden of servicing and repaying the capitalist sector’s debt.  First, Greek conservative governments agreed with the Troika on a series of cuts in public sector jobs and services, privatisations and pension reductions to ‘stabilise’ the debt.  But despite the sacrifices, successive bailout programs failed to restore the economy. So more loans from the official agencies were conjured up, along yet more austerity.

Then the leftist Syriza party won the election in 2015 pledged to oppose any further austerity and called for debt repudiation.  And as we know, in July 2015 the Greek people voted 60-40 to reject the Troika measures.  But within days of that referendum, the Syriza government capitulated to the pressure of capital as the ECB withdrew credit and support for Greek banks and the banks were closed.  Syriza signed up for a new program that took the debt up to its current 180% of GDP.

That program comes to an end in August this year and in the next few days the Eurogroup and the Syriza government must decide what to do next. But, as a recent report by some top mainstream economists, put it: “A spectre continues to haunt Greece and no less its creditors. Under plausible projections for growth, interest rates and fiscal performance, the government’s debt is unsustainable, as its official creditors have effectively acknowledged.”  Despite never-ending ‘austerity’ in the form of annual budget surpluses, the debt level has remained undisturbed – because as fast as the government cuts spending, the loans keep rising – but not to fund government services but to repay previous loans to the IMF and the ECB!

The Syriza government has done everything asked of it by the Troika and now, with just a maximum of a year to go before new elections, it is desperate to get the Eurogroup to agree to some ‘debt relief’ to convince voters that things are finally going to improve.  The IMF agrees that debt relief is needed, along with a less severe trajectory for further austerity.  But the Eurogroup does not.  It refuses, so far, to reduce further the interest rate on its loans (already pretty low) or extend the time scale of the maturity of the debt repayments (already well into 2030).  And it certainly does not want any actual cut in the face value of the debt outstanding (a write-off), which it sees as setting a precedent that debtors can get away without paying eventually.

The Eurogroup claims that the Greeks should be able to service their debt and grow now that they have met the terms of latest program and so can return to ‘normal’ by borrowing on world markets.  The IMF and most economists disagree.  The IMF reckons the burden of the debt is too high for generations of Greeks to service through taxation and cuts indefinitely.  So the IMF supports a form of debt relief (extend loan maturities and lower interest rates).  But it also wants the Syriza government to pursue a neoliberal programme of: decimating trade union rights, deregulating markets and continuing privatisations.  As the recent IMF communique put it:“Despite progress on the structural front, Greece’s overarching challenge remains the liberalization of restrictions that impair its investment climate. Thus, the authorities should reconsider their plans to reverse cornerstone collective-bargaining reforms after the end of the program, and should instead focus on redoubling efforts to open up still protected product and service markets, so as to facilitate investment and create new jobs.”

The reality is that with the Greek economy unlikely to grow at more than 2% a year after inflation for the foreseeable future and the burden of financing the debt standing at 15% of GDP each year and rising, there is no way that Greek capitalism can escape of the spectre of the debtors prison.

At the end of 2015, 75% of Greek public debt was in the form of official loans. Bond holdings of European central banks amounted to an additional 6%, while some additional percentage was held by (largely state-owned) Greek banks. Even if Greece reaches an overall budget balance this year, new borrowing will be needed in the future. The current €16bn loan from the IMF needs to be repaid by 2021, and the €20bn bond holdings of the ECB and national central banks by 2026. The current stock of €3bn pre-2012 bonds, which were not restructured in 2012, also needs to be repaid. Repayment of the remaining €31bn bonds which resulted from the 2012 debt restructuring will start in 2023. The €53bn bilateral loans from euro-area partners granted in the first financial assistance programme will have to be repaid between 2020-2041, according to current schedule.

As the economists group put it starkly: “To achieve debt sustainability without face-value debt relief, ….would imply a large increase in the total exposure to Greece of the European official sector from currently expected end-2018 levels, that is, by 50% or more. It would also mean that Greece could still be paying off debts to European official creditors well into the 22nd century.”!

As the economy crawls along the bottom, the Syriza government can offer no relief to its voters from the grinding poverty and tax burdens they now suffer.  Indeed, on 1 January 2019, pensions, already cut heavily, face another cut of up to 18%.  The government calls for debt relief from the Troika but what is really needed is debt cancellation; proper taxation of the very rich who continue to avoid any severe measures; the public ownership of the banks and big businesses that rule Greek investment and a state plan for investment.   It was what was needed at the time of 2015 referendum when the Greek people voted down the Troika measures.  Three years later, nothing has really changed and, as a result, in the next election, voter turnout will plummet and Syriza is likely to lose and be replaced by a right-wing coalition.  The spectre of debt will remain.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Puerto Rico Teachers: Message from Mercedes Martinez

Mercedes Martinez, President FMPR
Dear brothers and sisters,

Puerto Rico is facing the biggest attack ever on public education.  Teachers, students and communities are fighting back, but as the semester is near to end, 265 schools remain on the list to be closed for next academic year.  We are requesting that you could take the time and send a video message from your organization and direct it to the Governor of Puerto Rico,  Ricardo Rosello and the Secretary of Education Julia Keleher requesting them to stop the budget cuts in education, school closures and the implementation of charters.  State that you stand with the Federacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico (Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico) and our communities.  It can be a 1 minute short video, upload it to YouTube and email me the link.  That way we can send it to them directly.  As well you can email our secretary of education and send her a letter requesting her to revoke the school closure implementation.  Her email is or  Her name is Julia Keleher and please send me a copy of the letter so we can post as well in our page.

Thanks in advance

In solidarity,

Mercedes Martinez
President of the FMPR

Here is a short video as requested. It was made quickly.

Here is a video in Spanish Sister Martinez suggested I watch. I will share it here. Sister Martinez says of it: "This is a video of our general assembly in 2008, when thousands of teachers from the Federacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico voted unanimously for a 10 day strike. It is illegal to strike in PR and we did, got a 14% salary raise then."

There is more information here including a Paypal link if you want to donate.

The Philippines Genocide 3 million Filipinos Killed

Philippines genocide 3 million killed

Facts For Working People republishes this piece from Brits in the Philippines

The Philippines Genocide is the genocide history forgot, you will find in history books the Filipino-American War of 1899-1902 but they fail to mention the genocide carried out by the United States of America on the people of the Philippines.

I first came across references to the Philippines Genocide in 2009 and since then have spent a lot of time researching it. I have discussed it with many people, it seems people in the Philippines are not taught about the genocide and very few have even heard of the Philippines genocide.

The fact that it is not taught and so few know about it did make me question if it really happened. So I dug much deeper and have come to the conclusion it did happen, but as the victors write the history books they tried to cover it up because it  was so horrific.
Counting skulls from the Philippines Genocide

Figures do not add up

What brought me to the conclusion that the Philippines genocide did happen is the figures in the history books which simply do not add up. The History books that were written by the victors claim somewhere between 200,000 to 300,000 died in that period, which is still a large number considering the population of the Philippines at the time was no more than 9 million.

200,000 to 300,000 dead just cannot be correct. A People’s History of the United States (1980) cites 300,000 Filipinos killed in Batangas alone, that alone proves the figures wrong, William Pomeroy’s American Neocolonialism (1970) cites 600,000 Filipinos dead in Luzon alone by 1902. This is backed up by General Bell himself, who said “we estimated that we killed one-sixth of the population of the main island of Luzon—some 600,000 people.”

E. Ahmed’s wrote “The Theory and Fallacies of Counter-Insurgency,” The Nation, August 2, 1971.“the bloodiest colonial war (in proportion to population) ever fought by a white power in Asia; it cost the lives of 3,000,000 Filipinos.”

Filipina historian the late Luzviminda Francisco carried out a thorough investigation of the Philippines Genocide and documented it, she arrived at the figure of 1.4 million Filipinos dead. The End of An Illusion (London, 1973). However, this only covered the period from 1899 to 1905 it does not cover the first 2 decades of U.S. colonial rule a time when the killing might have slowed but was still happening to keep the people in order, it also does not include the thousands of Filipino Muslims (Moros) that were brutally killed.

Census figures and the Philippines GenocideInspecting the dead from the Philippines Genocide

People will often ask why do Census figures not show a drop in population for that period?
There could be a few reasons for this, firstly I doubt even today population figures for the Philippines are correct as so many people live of the radar, imagine how difficult it would have been to calculate the population in the late 1890s and the early 1900s.

The methodologies used by the Spanish and the Americans were also very different. The Spaniards generally left Igorots, Aetas, Lumads, and Moro peoples alone, so it is unlikely they were included in the census.

You also have to ask if the U.S census figures showed a drop of 1.4 million or more would they publish this for the world to see?

I suspect however the U.S figures were no more than a guess based on the Spanish figures, as it was at a time of war and would have been almost impossible to collect the numbers. Or maybe the U.S did give the task of collecting the numbers but rather than going out into hostile communities that would put them in danger they made them up using the Spanish census as a guide.

The slaughter

In an article published in The Philadelphia Ledger November 1901 their Manila correspondent wrote “The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog…
Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to make them talk, and have taken prisoners people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show that they were even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses.”

Major Littletown Waller a U.S. Marine that was accused of shooting 11 unarmed Filipinos on Samar. Another Marine officer described his testimony.

The major said that General Smith instructed him to kill and burn, and said that the more he killed and burned the better pleased he would be; that it was no time to take prisoners, and that he was to make Samar a howling wilderness. Major Waller asked General Smith to define the age limit for killing, and he replied “everyone over ten.”
20 dead filipinos

Filipino did not stand a chance against the superior and overwhelming firepower of the American troops. In the first battle Admiral Dewey was firing 500 pound shells as he steamed along the River Pasig. The bodies of dead Filipinos was so high U.S. troops used them for a defensive wall.

Writer Mark Twain best known for his book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” wrote
“…I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the philippines. we have gone to conquer, not to redeem… and so i am an anti-imperialist. i am opposed to having the [american] eagle put its talons on any other land.”

On 15th of October 1900 Twain wrote the New York Times.
We have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages, and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors; furnished heartbreak by exile to some dozens of disagreeable patriots; subjugated the remaining ten millions by Benevolent Assimilation, which is the pious new name of the musket; we have acquired property in the three hundred concubines and other slaves of our business partner, the Sultan of Sulu, and hoisted our protecting flag over that swag. And so, by these providences of god — and the phrase is the government’s, not mine — we are a World Power.” Mark Twain

Mark Twain also spoke of the almost universal racism of the white American troops and politicians he called them shameless. He was deeply disturbed by the sadistic war crimes that were committed by the American troops. He suggested that the Stars and stripes on the American flag should be replaced by a skull and cross bone.

Was it American policy to kill as many Filipinos as possible? Brigadier General J. Franklin Bell wrote “With a very few exceptions, practically the entire population has been hostile to us at heart,” so there is no doubt the Americans saw every Filipino as the enemy.

The USA carried out a scorched earth campaign in burning and destroying villages, they also tuned villages into concentration camps where they burnt the land around them and built watch towers that looked over the free-fire zones, anyone trying to leave the village was shot. They called these concentration camps reconcentrados.Philippines concentration camp

The reconcentrados (concentration camps) were full of disease which caused a very high death rate the death rate in some camps was as high as 20%. One camp was 2 miles long by 1 mile wide and was the prison for 8,000 filipinos. Men were often rounded up to be questioned using torture if they gave the Americans the information they wanted or not did not matter as they were still shot.
A soldier from New York wrote

The town of Titatia was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger”

Corporal Sam Gillis wrote “We make everyone get into his house by seven p.m., and we only tell a man once. If he refuses we shoot him. We killed over 300 natives the first night. They tried to set the town on fire. If they fire a shot from the house we burn the house down and every house near it, and shoot the natives, so they are pretty quiet in town now.” Philippines killing boys

A British eye witness in the Philippines said:
“This is not war; it is simply massacre and murderous butchery.”

Why the Philippines Genocide happened

It all happened because of a prayer to god.
President McKinley was in the Whitehouse praying when he claimed it came to him that he could not give the Philippines back to Spain as that would look cowardly.

McKinley said he did not want the Philippines. But then one night in the White House, when he was down on his knees praying to God, it came to him:

That we could not give them back to Spain – that would be cowardly.

He could not let France and Germany have the Philippines as that would be bad for business.
He could not let the Filipinos rule themselves as he considered them incapable.

So he decided America should take the whole Philippines rather than just Manila which is all they had at the time, educate the people and Christianise them, something the Spanish had already done to many of the people.

So in 1899 the U.S.A. declared war on the Philippines as a way to educate, Christianise and civilise the people and the Philippines Genocide began.Philippines Genocide


While we can not be sure of the figure of 3 million that some historians claim We can be pretty sure from research that the figure of 1.4 million killed in the Philippines Genocide between 1899 to 1905 is correct, it is unlikely the killings just suddenly stopped, the reports from the time show how racist towards the Filipinos many of the American troops had become, they also show that many of the troops had come to enjoy the killing. Could you get men that had become brutal killers to suddenly stop killing? It is very unlikely, you only have to look at wars today that are nowhere near as brutal and in an age where people are more educated to realise how war affects some people. We also know the fighting with the Moros carried on.

So did the numbers killed reach 3 million? We will never know but it probably did between 1899 to 1942 when the Japanese arrived.
Boston Globe Philippines genocide

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Communist Manifesto. Have You Read It?

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
The Capitalist Pyramid

"The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere."

This short excerpt from the Communist Manifesto is important in that it explains the madness we are witnessing around us. The school shootings, the wars, the starvation. We are animals, and animals are conditioned by our environment. What this passage describes is an environment that is unhealthy, insecure and savage. Chickens on the range are chickens of one type. In the industrial farms they are chickens of another. Change the environment and you change the chicken. The same with humans. We are just chickens with an advanced consciousness. This is why Marx is demonized.

Workers can plough through pages upon pages of religious texts written millennia ago, (Millennia is not the name of Trump’s trophy wife) the Judeo Christian bible, the koran, themselves connected to older texts, the Sumerian, the Epic of Gilgamesh and who knows what else. Humans have attempted since our beginnings to explain the world around us and ancient texts are interesting, but tales nevertheless. But mention the Communist Manifesto and most will never have read it, particularly in the US.

But what of this passage above that has its roots firmly planted in reality, the material world. It is a description some 160 years ago of historical development and the human organization. Unlike religious mythology it is hated, demonized, savaged and most importantly feared by the ruling classes.

I was taught that a supernatural creature impregnated a Jewish woman without physical sex and she gave birth to its son and that's why were here.  Some time before that, this supernatural being had spoken to another man and made some sort of deal with him that promised him a territory and special favors if he did some nasty stuff to his male children. It’s a nice story but it’s not real. I know people that accept it don’t like this, but I cannot with all honesty say otherwise. I believe people have a right to believe this, and I have a right not to.  It is not that individuals accept this doctrine, it is that the state and its institutions give it credibility. Marx wrote very little about religion and for Marxists believing in a supreme being is a personal and very private matter.

I have a friend who is somewhat religious. She had broken from some of its worst trappings but we are taught that message from the minute we leave the womb so it’s hard for sure. We are terrorized with threats of retribution, pain  and suffering if we don’t toe the line. God is always watching you.  And the state and all its institutions back it up.  She has never read the passage above or the book from which it is taken, the Communist Manifesto, she cannot entirely caste off the hold the religious doctrine has over her and the prospect of being ostracized from this community in some way. Most importantly, she cannot overcome the stop in her mind, her own consciousness; she cannot liberate herself from it. 

It is a short book, not much more than a pamphlet really that attempts to explain how human society developed and each era is part of a connected process, a historical materialist view of the real world. It is not a perfect piece, but it strikingly prophetic when you look at where we are today. And what beautiful use of language. I should add that it was reading this little book that made me realize Stalinsm was not communism and Marx would not have fared well in Stalin's Soviet Union.

It doesn’t promise a heaven for good behavior and a hell for bad behavior but explains how human society develops and most importantly that things are not predestined, governed by some supernatural forces. It explains the forces at work in society gives a general outline as to how a conscious intervention in events can shape the future and how humanity organizes itself. “Philosophers have only interpreted the world…” wrote Marx, “….the point is to change it.” Heresy.

The struggle between classes based on their role in the production of the necessities of life is key. Which social grouping (class) owns the means of producing and distributing these necessities and which class, through its life activity and labor power actually makes them.

For the capitalist class (the bourgeois-- from the old term for urban communities----burghs) this little book is very dangerous. It is a key to the emancipation of humanity and a road to us developing our true human potential. We are not born sinners, evil people as Christian mythology teaches. There is not such a thing as a fixed “human nature” and a greedy one at that as we are taught.

"It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness." Marx wrote.

Every class-conscious worker should read the Communist Manifesto.

Gaza: Let Me Tell You About Them

Saturday, 19 May 2018 16:59

Let Me Tell You About Them

Let Me Tell You About Them
by Kevin Higgins

The teenagers we shot yesterday
were shot responsibly through the eye
with plain-speaking dum-dum bullets,
manufactured in Fife, or taken down
with SR 25 sniper rifles flown
heroically in from Orange County.
Many of these so-called protestors
specifically arranged to be shot in the back,
just to make us look bad.

The gas canisters our people threw
were entirely rational, and legal,
like the Boer firestorm the kaffirs
brought down on themselves at Sharpeville,
or the best-of-British ambush
that rubbish walked into at Derry.
The one rogue canister which lost
its mind and finished up in a tent
beside an eight month old baby,
who, sadly, also expired, is currently under investigation
and expects to be cleared of all wrong doing,
unlike the baby who we’ve already found guilty.

There is no such thing as Palestinians.
Just some Arabs who used to live here
and think they still do.
The keys they wave in the air
no longer open any doors.
They are a rumour you foolishly believed,
now we’ve moved our eternal capital
to what used to be
their front room.

Reprinted from Culture Matters

Kevin Higgins is a Galway-based poet, essayist and reviewer, and satirist-in-residence at the alternative literature site The Bogman's Cannon,

Saturday, May 19, 2018

French Students Protest Macron's Attacks on Education. Occupy Campuses

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Students throughout France have been occupying their campuses to protest attacks on education.  This video is interesting for those that are not familiar with the events of 1968 when the largest general strike in history took place in France.

The French General Strike did not take place in a vacuum of course. The colonial revolution was in full swing as they fought to expel direct control by the British French and colonial regimes. In the US we had the Civil Rights movement that shocked US capitalism to its core. Two of the greatest leaders on the 20th century Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were assassinated by the US state machine in this decade.

In Northern Ireland as well, the movement was in full swing as students and workers fought against the discrimination against Catholics and for unity. Ireland's events were very much influenced by the Civil Rights movement in the US and its most militant sections by the Black Panthers, Malcolm X and other socialist and left elements of the black revolt.

But in France the student movement ignited a General Strike that threatened to topple the state and capitalism itself. Some of the gains under attack today were won in 1968 as the video explains.

In 1968 the state was brought in and viciously attacked the students. Clare Doyle in her pamphlet on the French General Strike* describes it: "At the beginning of May some students from Nanterre including Daniel Cohn Bendit were to be tried in the university courts for 'disruptive behavior'. A battle between students and fascists loomed. On May 2nd  Roche, the Director, closed Nanterre University" 

"The next day students gathering peacefully with those fo the Sorbonne, were viciously attacked by the hated riot police----the CRS---and hundreds of students were arrested..."

As the state increased its repression the University teachers' union called a strike. The government banned demonstrations but the strikes spread to the secondary schools. The more repression, the more anger resulted and the working class, particularly young workers began to join the fray. There were mass demonstrations in Paris of more than one million and at its height ten million workers struck and occupied their workplaces.

The movement shocked not only the French ruling class and French President Charles De Gaulle but the ruling classes throughout the world including the Stalinist regimes that were also facing revolt in Czechoslovakia in 1968 12 years after a revolt in Hungary. In the US the student movement was fighting against the Vietnam war as were many French students. The post World War Two economic boom was coming to an end.

Contrary to the views expressed in the video, the 1968 French General Strike which was "detonated" by the student movement to be joined by the heavy battalions of the working class, threatened to overthrow capitalism itself. It was not, as the commentator in the video says, a battle between liberalism and conservatism. It became a movement to eliminate capitalism, to change the economic and political nature of society.  The workers and youth were betrayed by both the Communist and Socialist leadership that headed the French workers'' movement and things eventually returned to normal with some reforms.

That the strike was kicked off by the student demonstrations and the violent response from the state is to be expected. Workers are more conservative when it comes to moving in to struggle in a major way, have a lot more to lose. The bosses' and their politicians are aware of these dangers which is why movements are nipped in the bud using both the carrot and the stick. In the US during the Civil Rights movement they had to get the movement off the streets and in to the courts that they control introducing what we know now as Affirmative Action measures that have failed the US black population as a whole miserably. These measures were part of a conscious effort to build up a black petit bourgeois, a buffer against the revolutionary potential of the black working class holding them back, telling them that change can only come from limiting protests to within the confines of accepted norms, "look at us. The system works" .

This is just a short commentary to accompany this video but I am certain with some research the reader will see that the rise of the black middle class after the Civil Rights movement runs counter to the deepening crisis and violence affecting black working class communities. There are more black millionaires, and a few billionaires and more black politicians that has not resulted in significant changes in the conditions of life for the black working class.

The teachers strikes in the US have so far been dealt with mildly in the hope they will subside. The Democratic Party representing the liberal wing of the ruling class and the "official" trade union leadership will do their best to ensure the movement doesn't get out of hand as things did in France in 1969 and the movement of teachers doesn't spread to other protest movements that have arisen over the past period against racism, sexism, the environmental crisis etc. It took a month in France 1968 for a protest movement that was dominated by student and education reform that involved 10 million workers and a real threat to capitalism itself.

* France 1968: Month of Revolution: Lessons of the General Strike by  Clare Doyle

Note: I think Ms Doyle's brief account of the events of 1968 is an excellent introduction to this issue for workers. It is well written and easy to read giving a real feel of the explosive nature and mood in France at the time as well as the world situation as a whole. It is also available in Spanish at the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) website.   Correction: A previous posting mistakenly said that Ms Doyle was an expelled member of the CWI.

I am  a former expelled member of the CWI. One regrettable but all too common trait of  the author of this pamphlet and the self styled revolutionary groups like the CWI, is the claim that they and only they predicted any of these events and only they have the answers. Richard Mellor

Thursday, May 17, 2018

And the Architects of Death Assemble in Jerusalem

We republish this article from Mondoweiss

Dystopia: The Live Feed

Middle East
Yesterday on the TV screen, I watched a beautiful black Israeli singer of Ethiopian origin sing ‘Halleluja’ as part of the festive opening ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem. Minutes later, the funeral of a local paramedic, led by an ambulance and flanked by two fire engines, passed by my house in the western region of Gaza City. Three minutes after that, another funeral, this time of a boy, maybe 14 or 15 years old, processed towards the cemetery, accompanied by the usual chants and wails of grief. In one of the cars that accompanied the funeral, I could see a man whose face was in utter shock and whose arms and hands were thrown on his knees in a posture of complete exhaustion.

Back in my living room, Netanyahu was giving his speech about how the greatest power in the world has just moved its embassy to Jerusalem and what a great place the State of Israel therefore was. The ceremony was like a scene from a dystopian science fiction movie, where the wealthy oppressor calmly unveils his latest symbol of cosmic oppression while far away, out of sight and thought, oppressed masses are being executed.

Less than an hour’s drive away, people were literally fighting iron with bare chests. What made this gathering more chaotic than previous marches was that it was specifically timed to protest the US embassy’s relocation. Days before, a general strike had been called for; and all sides of the Palestinian political spectrum had intensified calls for greater participation just the night before. In another dystopian scene, even the mosques’ minarets were broadcasting calls for greater participation in the same rhythmic style as traditional Eid chants.

The embassy relocation was planned to take place a day before Palestinians commemorated the greatest loss in their history. What we view as 70 years of humiliation, deprivation, oppression, and slow but effective ethnic cleansing has now been rounded off with this – and our objections to it have come at a high price: 56 lives to be exact, and nearly 1900 wounded, yesterday alone. Witnesses talk of young boys running directly into the barbed wire facing live bullets – they break free from history for a moment. They feel free and in control of their own lives for moments or seconds. These young men and women are not stupid or simply emotional (although nothing is wrong with being emotional in such a context), they are simply fed up. And they can see, very clearly, what is happening around them and what has been happening around them all their lives.They know that if they don’t run for their lives, nobody will save them from a brutal force that disregards their lives and basic rights.

This scene of sheer desperation that has enveloped the Gaza fences today can only remind us of the aftermath of the mass expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948, precisely what the march is trying to turn our attention towards. When 250,000 refugees first arrived in the Strip their immediate prospect was to starve, just as Gazans have been starved of basic supplies, medicines and clean water for the last 11 years. Then, like now, Israeli militants surrounded the Strip and prevented anyone from leaving: anyone who attempted to leave was shot on the spot, or captured and then released in an unknown location in the middle of Negev desert, left to die of thirst.

The TV screens’ smiles and the decorous speeches, drizzled with victimhood, were drowned out again, a few minutes later, by yet another funeral passing by. Kushner talked of his ancestors being Holocaust survivors who had fled the Nazis to the forests of Russia. The irony was almost unbearable. Kushner and his glamorous wife seem to be sleepwalking through the snipers’ guns, currently mowing down Palestinians in Gaza, which might very well be filled with the same bullets those Nazis would have fired at his ancestors: encased in nationalism, tipped with populist appeal back home.

Outside the embassy itself, protestors were being assaulted. In the West Bank too, protesters took to the streets only to be met by teargas canisters and more bullets. Israel’s arrogance and complete disregard for human rights and international law today is only a continuation of what this colonialist state has been doing since its existence.

The opening ceremony of the embassy, as well as the nauseating tweets of Trump and Netanyahu, confirm and conclude Israel and the US view Palestinians as unworthy of the basic right to live, let alone speak. Both confirm a complete incapability of engagement in any true diplomatic discussion with anyone of us about any of the facts surrounding their embassy move. If only Palestinians were not sub-humans, if only we had hundreds of millions of dollars to compete in lobbying efforts before heading to the border to demand our rights, as human beings. The families of those who were shot dead have buried their dead and will mourn them for the rest of their lives. Those who are injured will battle through their wounds maybe for a few months and maybe for life, disappointed with what the human race has come to.

For Gaza, it was a sad day from which people woke up in shock. Our lives only too real, not science fiction.

Rawan Yaghi is a Palestinian woman from Gaza. She graduated from Jesus College- Oxford, where she studied Italian and Linguistics and at which she was awarded the first Junior Members' Scholarship, a student led initiative to fund the studies of a student from Gaza. She is a Gaza-based writer. Fiction, journalism, and languages are among her interests. Follow her on Twitter at @larawanpal