Saturday, May 29, 2010

An exceedingly perceptively written review and overview of E.P.Thompson's "The Making of the English Working Class" can be read here.

For those interested in the origin, development, and reproduction of class consciousness. Capital fights this class consciousness tooth and claw. And in the US it seems to have attained a great measure of success in this endeavor.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

For the past year or so I've been reading increasingly negative and bitter diatribes against Obama. Like other informed observers I didn't bother voting for the bum and had no expectations of him. In fact I didn't bother voting at all since I don't want my participation to legitimise a farcical system that is corrupt to its core. As Emma Goldman said a century back, if voting could change anything, they'd have abolished the ballot box a long time ago.

In area after area -- military policy in Afghanistan, a bellicose stance towards Iran, the carte blanche afforded to the financial sector, the sluggish and ineffectual response to the environmental disaster in the Mexican Gulf -- commentators are recording their dismay and bitterness with the Obama administration. So just to clarify what this buffoon's job description really is:

1) Look sombre (GWB could never quite manage it, always threatening to break into a smirk).
2) Make grave speeches full of hot air.
3) Express righteous anger when required.
4) Dance to the tune of the financial overlords, who are the real permanent government of both the US and the Western world.

Next time you vote for a president, remember it's akin to betting on a fight where both boxers are owned by Don King.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It looks like the book, "The Global Economic Crisis," edited by Chossudovsky and Marshall, has just been released. Mayday should order eight or ten copies of this title. I'll take one myself when I pop into the store next month.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Hear You ‘Knockin’ But You Can’t Come In!

FBI Secrets – An Agent’s Expose, M Wesley Swearingen, 1995

It has been awhile since some internal source in the FBI spilled the beans. The COINTELPRO exposures in the ‘80s were the last time our very own KGB got their pants pulled down. M. Wesley Swearington was part of this take-down. The retarded fucks in the FBI didn’t know that someone among their own number was taking notes. And he was not alone, as other agents helped him with his story. They too were repelled by the dishonesty, laziness and criminality of the FBI leadership and their local sycophants. Swearington considers this a story of the Hoover FBI. However, any activist will tell you that the story did not stop at the COINTELPRO hearings.

The FBI has the money, guns and legal backing to pull almost anything they desire. And they did, for many years. Hoover got his start deporting communists and anarchists during the Palmer raids in 1919, right after the Bolshevik Revolution. As he become ensconced in permanent power, he made a deal with the Mob/Costa Nostra to leave them alone, because they had evidence he was a cross-dresser and homosexual. Swearington says this was common knowledge in the FBI. While this seems hysterically stupid – remember – this is J Edgar Hoover we’re talking about here. The Roy Cohn of the FBI. In a sense, Hoover left the Mob alone to build cities like Vegas, until the advent of that ‘do gooder,’ Robert Kennedy. Of course, we know what happened to Robert Kennedy – and his brother, the one who appointed him. CIA and FBI finger-prints were all over those assassinations.

Swearington comes into the story in the 50s, following members of the Communist Party in Chicago. At the time, he was a straight-laced, honest, “good American.” He made the arrest of Claude Lightfoot on violation of the Smith Act, which shows you he was no clerk. His secret job, however, was to tail Communists and then conduct hundreds of ‘black bag’ jobs on Communists and other activists. These ‘jobs’ were illegal under US law. The existence of black bag jobs was first covered up, then undercounted by FBI representatives testifying before Congress. After all, when has the FBI ever told the truth? They actually are incapable of it. Lying is part of the modus operandi. They were hiding their own illegal activities, directly authorized by Hoover.

Swearington began to have doubts about the FBI in Chicago, but his questions and comments were ignored by local FBI bureaucrats. Later he found out from a friend that the FBI had helped kill Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, Black Panther leaders in Chicago, in the 60s. The FBI informant gave the Chicago police a map of Hampton’s apartment, and the Chicago police did the rest, lead by States Attorney Ed Hanrahan. The FBI rarely gets their hands directly dirty. They hire or ‘lead’ other people to do the hits.

Swearington ended up in Los Angeles in the 60s, and heard about numerous continuing black bag jobs in that city, against the Black Panther Party, the Weatherman, and any local activists Hoover didn’t like. The FBI was above all a political police, and Swearington makes this very clear. One dodge of the FBI was to claim they had informants that they did not. Each FBI agent was supposed to have 5 informants, but most were so lazy they just made the informants up. They also spent massive amounts of tax-payer dollars on bogus stake-outs that went nowhere. One informant they did have testified against Panther Geronimo Pratt. Pratt was sent to jail for a life sentence on the frame-up testimony of the FBI informant. Swearington saw this agent’s informant file, while even today the FBI denies the testimony was by an FBI informant. The FBI technically dropped him as an ‘informant’ during the trial, in order to say he was ‘not’ an informant. Then he returned to work.

Swearington has hard evidence that FBI informers in the “Slaves” gang killed a number of key members of the Black Panther Party. He has successfully testified for the SWP in their suit against the FBI; for a suit brought by victims of Chicago black bag jobs against the FBI and Chicago Red Squad; with Charles Gerry in his lawsuits against the “Agency,” and for Geronimo Pratt. Only the latter testimony was unsuccessful in freeing Pratt. The FBI claimed it destroyed surveillance files related to some of these organizations, but Swearington saw the same files ‘renamed’ and still in existence.

The lesson here is that the FBI was totally without scruple regarding law and action. They lie with impunity. In fact, anything they say must be considered a lie. While the image of the present FBI is different, it has only gone into deeper hiding. A new mass movement which results in a rejection of the American ruling class and the rich will bring the FBI right back into the thick of things. Every single activist group is under surveillance right now, and agents and police continue to infiltrate activist organizations. Welcome to ‘democratic’ America.

And I bought it at Arise Books at their final sale.
Red Frog, 5/19/2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Case for Socialism

"The Case for Socialism" by Alan Maass is the kind of book Mayday would probably order a few copies of. In the unlikely event that Craig hasn't already ordered it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

More bilgewater from that prince of scumbags, Thomas Friedman:

“After 65 years in which politics in the West was, mostly, about giving things
away to voters, it’s now going to be, mostly, about taking things away. Goodbye
Tooth Fairy politics, hello Root Canal politics.”
Now if memory serves, Mr. Friedman lives in a $9m mansion (there are some advantages to being a whore for the ruling class). Class war is now being waged throughout the Western world. Now that the elections are over (here in Britain), the ruling coalition will, like the Greek government, be wielding an axe. Public sector redundancies are expected to be about 500,000 over the next five years. For honest assessment from a ruling-class perspective I mostly read the Financial Times these days and that's where I get these figures from.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Elsewhere in Europe - Like Greece

I attended a packed meeting at MayDay with Peter Gelderloos, the author of "How Non-Violence Protects the State," a book many people like, as did I. Most came to hear him talk about this issue, but he mostly talked about the 'war on terrorism' and what that means. Gelderloos seemed to want to talk for hours, and had difficulty with answering questions - perhaps he doesn't do that, of course. Chugging water nervously, he gradually ground to a halt. He did talk about anarchist events in Barcelona and ... Greece. In Greece, one pro-anarchist neighborhood does not allow police to even go into it. Fine and good.

However, given recent events in Greece, I can't help bringing this up. During a massive demonstration of the Greek labor movement, some anarchists lit a Marfin bank on fire and three bank workers died. Dispatches from the Greek left said some leftists in the demonstration helped the Greek bank workers get out of the burning building, or aide them after they did.

Now I don't know about you, but I know people that work in banks, or for banks. I work for a bank. And they, and we, are not all billionaires. Some bank workers in France are even in unions. Most tellers and clerks make pretty low wages, and my guess is the 3 dead in Greece are not billionaires, or even millionaires. So I have to ask the appropriate 'anarchist' comrades who might 'herald' this sort of thing (and I am fully aware that there are pro-capitalist anarchists, lumpen anarchists and pro-working class anarchists, among others) how they think killing bank workers might advance the struggle? I know there are certain kinds of anarchists who don't want to work, and don't. They live by stealing things (even books, as I have carefully observed, from non-profit bookstores) - which we in the Marxist movement call 'lumpen' behaviour. Now this activity played into the hands of the capitalists quite clearly by blackening the left and working class movement against austerity and the banking system. And encouraging police action. Not to mention killing three people in our class. Now the Marfin bank was also responsible for forcing people to work on the day of this mass demonstration, and of course, it is ultimately the PSOK and the Eurozone polity and banking system responsible. But that does not change what happened.

So I'll tell you what. You try to light a bank on fire that I happen to be working in at that particular moment? And I get out? I will find your skinny ass ... and make sure your anti-working class attitude gets NO traction except in-traction. OK?

Meanwhile, in Europe

Well, we had our general elections last Thursday. As is my wont, I didn't bother voting. All 2.5 parties (Conservatives, Labour, and Liberal Democrats) have more or less the same economic policies (kowtowing to the City bankers and speculators) and the same foreign and military policy (kowtowing to the US). The media tried to pump some excitement into the proceedings, and there were three "debates" (I use the term rashly) among the three party bosses (Brown, Cameron, and Clegg). About 40% of the population felt as I did and didn't bother voting. There is also evidence emerging of electoral fraud. No party succeeded in commanding an overall majority, making a coalition mandatory. The markets have been jittery -- not so much because of uncertainty about who will lead (a moot point as all three parties have roughly the same policies) but because the apathy and lack of overall majority mean there is likely to be widespread social unrest as the new government tries to implement draconian spending cuts.

As my friends across the pond doubtless know, it's the same story here in Britain (and Europe generally) as it is in the US: the poor are going to be stripped of what little they have to ensure that the fictitious capital of the rich does not go up in smoke. The European bailout package of 700 billion euros, announced yesterday, is to ensure that the banks of the rich European countries get paid. More can be found here. In addition, Michael Hudson has written an instructive essay, which will repay careful reading. I won't both pasting an excerpt but recommend it in the highest possible terms. Also, in another essay published today, it appears the "markets" are already sceptical about the European bailout package: a trillion dollars might not do the trick (it was in any case only meant to buy time as the structural imbalances remain in place).

This is essentially a class war being waged by high finance against, well, just about everyone else. Here in Britain, one pound in four that the government spends is now being borrowed. There are plans afoot for cuts of a savagery not seen for decades. Somehow the government could stump up hundreds of billions of pounds of aid to banks -- which aid is now on the public balance sheet. But when it comes to public sector spending directed at the majority of the population, everything is fair game.

Finally, let me quote from a recent essay by Greg Moses:

Arcane financial instruments called the Credit Default Swaps (CDS) are finally
explainable on these terms. Invention of the CDS by JP Morgan in 1995 was
a symptom that the system as a whole had gone debt-aholic. The CDS was
the class consciousness of debt pushers acting out
, insuring each other
against the prospect of their junkie clients collapsing from under the weight of
delivered services.

It seems that as finance has assumed central position ontologically, and as everything else now has a dubious and shadowy character, we cannot even understand the world we inhabit without understanding the intricacies of credit default swaps and interest rate derivatives. This is a version of the "hyperreality" Baudrillard spoke of.

Depressing times we live in. I won't engage in cheap moral outrage -- complete waste of time by armchair radicals and spineless liberals lacking the courage of any true conviction.

I may be back in the United States in a month or two. Britain is now a poorer and more backward version of the USA.

Monday, May 10, 2010


“Tar Sands – Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent,” By Andrew Nikiforuk, 2008

While we watch the BP Keystone Kops try to control the Gulf oil leaks that they claimed were totally “unpredicted”; a government that continues to exempt deep ocean drillers from environmental and safety plans; an administration that joined Sarah Palin in exclaiming “drill, baby, drill;” an environment of deep sea water containing methane explosions, ice crystals and massive pressure, unlike any oil drilling environment on the surface of land – we are witnessing the world of peak oil. We have dead oil-rig workers and dead coal miners, victims of this world of profit’s peak - just in time for Workers Memorial Day, April 28. There will be more damage, unless sustainable production and planning take over from profiteering and uncontrolled environmental mayhem.

Of course, the march of 10,000 unionists and others on Wall Street on April 29 was as invisible as Workers Memorial Day to the bourgeois media like ‘reasonable’ CNN. When the massive immigrant's rights march happened, it was invisible to these same censorious 'journalists.' Just like they never celebrate International Women’s Day, but go on endlessly about Mother’s Day, they ignore Workers Memorial Day for Memorial Day. Since dead soldiers are the only ones to mourn.

The Gulf oil spill is an introduction to this book. Canada is now the largest source of foreign oil in the U.S. and the reason is the massive tar sands above Edmonton, Alberta. These sands are the leading source for gasoline used in Minnesota. A large pipeline from Alberta is being planned through the northern part of the state, into Superior, Wisconsin, and on to the oil processing plants at the bottom of Lake Michigan. This is the ‘on-land’ face of peak oil – massive environmental destruction in the woods, air, wildlife, humans and water of northern Alberta, in one of the biggest watersheds in North America, the McKenzie River basin.

Nikiforuk is a journalist living in Calgary, Alberta, and believes that there is a reasonable, capitalist solution to this mess. He hopes that rational men and women can come together and figure out that the unrestrained rape of the environment, for a short-term gain of profits and oil, is a really bad mistake, and will reasonably decide that we have to slow down this process, or stop it all together. Let me know when that happens, will ya?

As a good journalist, Nikiforuk details the many ways the tar sands rush, like a ‘gold’ rush, is damaging Alberta. There are cancers downriver. The sludge ponds are leaking into groundwater. The ponds will never be returned to nature. There will not be enough fresh water to process the tar sands or bitumen, as the tar itself gets harder and harder to extract as time goes on, and needs more and more water. Nor is there enough natural gas to run the melting process central to the extraction of the oil from the bitumen. Multiple nuclear reactors have been proposed to ‘cleanly’ process the sand instead. The air turns black. The water gets sick. Massive forests are falling to the axe so the open-pit mines can proceed, replaced with a moonscape. Alcoholism, drug addiction, traffic accidents, mental illness, family breakups, ridiculous real estate prices, failing health, dead fish, dead animals, no government regulation, lordly politicians, corporate control of government, scandalously tiny taxes on oil companies, high carbon output and stupidly high wages all afflict the people of Fort McMurray and the small communities around the oil sands. Nikoforuk likens it to any ‘petro-state’ in the world, where the quick or profitable extraction of minerals or oil change the culture for the worse. Sort of like the foundation of the State of Texas, except with trees.

While we have a somewhat rosy view of the government of Canada – and in some things they certainly rank high above America – in the matter of tar sands they resemble our policy to mountain-top removal. Their regulators – like those in the US Minerals Management Service - are in bed with Exxon, BP, Chinese oil companies and others. The Alberta Provincial government – which used to be stronghold of the Labour Party – is now the most right-wing in the nation. Their un-audited and careless treatment of oil sands taxes puts them below nearly every other country and state in the world, including Texas AND Alaska, in that matter. The Alberta tar sands are the reason that energy usage and carbon emissions have gone UP in Canada, and made Canada fail to meet even the meek targets of Kyoto.

And this is all taking place to provide, not Canada, but primarily the United States, with oil. Much of the sludge will even be shipped to the US to be processed, thus robbing the Canadians of even that profit – making them a pure extractive economy. Like China, Canada is being used as a milking station for the profits of the oil giants and an out-of-control production system based only on scum-sucking profits. Nikiforuk, while proposing idealistic and wonky solutions, nevertheless makes the damage the tar sands are doing inescapable.

And I bought it at Mayday Books!
Red Frog, May 10, 2010