Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Reason for Those Saggy Pants

“The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” by Michelle Alexander, foreword by Cornel West, 2010

This instant classic is the product of a liberal black civil rights attorney who suddenly realized that she had not been paying attention to the key issue of black time – the mass jailing of hundreds of thousands of black, mostly male youth in the U.S.  This so-called ‘post-racial’ society – isn’t.  The U.S. has the highest incarceration rates of any country in the world – higher than all the ‘bad’ countries in U.S. mythology – Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Syria, North Korea.  2.3 million now sit in jail, while another 5.4 million are on parole, or in some other continued link to their time as ‘felons.’ 

Alexander clearly links indentured servitude, slavery, the subsequent forced labor regime associated with Jim Crow, and its present successor, mass incarceration, usually for ‘drug crimes’ – as natural evolutions of white supremacy.  (A history of mass convict leasing under Jim Crow, “Slavery by Another Name,” reviewed below.)   The U.S. government was set up on the basis of making accommodations to slave holders.  Hence the existence of a Senate, which reduced the influence of populous states; the electoral college, which took voting control out of the hands of the voting population; federalism, which accommodated ‘states rights,’ and the ‘compromise’ that a black person was 3/5ths of a person, as stated in Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution.  (now repealed.)  In essence, she says the U.S. was founded on white supremacy and that still is an essential part of its regime of labor and social control.  It has only changed form.

Alexander does a short tour of U.S. history and the evolution of systems of black labor control.  Only in short periods was this system disrupted - after the Civil War during Reconstruction; after the end of World War II and the return of black veterans and after the victories of the Civil Rights movement in the 60s.  She carefully notes that it was in periods of unity between black and white workers that the planters, big farmers and capitalists instituted laws against the fraternization of the ethnicities.  This happened after Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, which lead to the wholesale adoption of formal black slavery and the ending of white indentured servitude.  It also happened after the successes of the Populist movement of the 1890s to unite whites and blacks, which brought in strengthened Jim Crow laws as a response.  Roosevelt’s policies, which benefited black and white workers, also angered the segregationists, but still allowed them Democratic Party control in the South. The present hostility to black and Latino felons is the result of the successes of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, which united southern blacks with northern whites.

The response to the wave of social change in the 1960s was ‘law and order’ politics.  These politics were first mentioned by Barry Goldwater, then made weak government policy by Richard Nixon, enforced and institutionalized by Ronald Reagan with support from a majority of Democrats, and fully embraced by the Democratic Party under “new” Democrat Bill Clinton.  Alexander even calls Clinton ‘the president, more than any other, responsible for the current racial under-caste” given his passage of ‘three strikes and you’re out” and the turning of welfare into limited block grants in the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.” (an Orwellian name, if any.)  Federal money from welfare then flowed into the burgeoning prison-industrial complex instead. Clinton, of course, grew up in the segregationist state of Arkansas. The 'Drug War' is essentially the name this whole process was subsumed under, though drug use was going down when Reagan proposed it. (Read "The Marijuana Diaries," fictional books about weed, reviewed below)

This is the drug-war/law and order state we live in today, under a half-black president.  Evidently, the White House Negro does not notice.  Given U.S. history, only a class-based approach will unify blacks and whites, and break the ‘racial bribe’ paid to white workers.  Indeed it is the only thing in history that has.  This is something the U.S. Marxist and communist movements have understood very well, and which has been a basis for their organizing.

THE ROUNDUP

Alexander, an attorney, goes into case detail on the Supreme Court decisions that have made the drug war easy for the government.  “Consent” searches and ‘pretext” car searches allow cops to search numerous people and their property without cause, negating the 4th Amendment to be free of unreasonable search & seizure.  Under Reagan, money began to flow to police departments for seized goods, and the Pentagon and federal programs started providing military weaponry and massive amounts of money to start anti-drug programs.  Local SWAT teams based on Pentagon funding have grown exponentially, and are now most used in ordinary drug arrests.  The Supreme Court, in essence, has become the chief drug prosecutor.  Obama increased funding to Clinton’s federal drug programs, both COPS and the Byrne grant program, which increases payments to localities for each drug arrest.  Yes, the more you arrest, the more you get, courtesy of the federal government.

INCARCERATION

Alexander shows how the drug war is carried out against minorities, even though all statistics show white people are more liable to be drug sellers and drug users.  The media, in hand with the government, has cooperated in showing ‘crime’ and especially ‘drug crime’ to be an overwhelmingly black and Latino issue – crack whores, gang-bangers, ghetto dealers and the like.  (See review of “Bad Boys, Bad Boys” below, about television crime shows.)  Her legal approach cites Supreme Court case after case that protects prosecutors, jury selection and the court system from any accusations of racial bias except based on direct racist statements.  The public defenders offices have been defunded and most defendants who are poor plead guilty to avoid mandatory sentencing guidelines.  Police have been allowed by Supreme Court decisions to base stops on ethnic characteristics – as long as they are not the ‘only’ reason - thus justifying racial profiling.  Statistics that show black and Latino people to be the overwhelming victims of arrest, property seizure, jailing, convictions and prison time for drug offenses have been ruled inadmissible.  Since no one any longer is stupid enough to clearly state racial bias, the practice instead has been institutionalized as ‘color-blind.’ So smoking weed while white (SWWW) is far less dangerous than driving or walking while black. (DWB & WWB)

PERMANENT SECOND CLASS STATUS

After conviction, felons in many states are barred from voting, cannot serve on juries, are kicked out of federal public housing, lose food stamps, become ineligible for student loans and are forced to tell prospective employers that they are felons, thus reducing their chance of ever getting a decent job.  Picture that you are a former drug ‘felon’ and now you cannot even vote the shitbags out of office that put you there.  These votes, of course, would have turned the tide in many elections. Given this treatment once released, many turn to crime as the only way to survive.  A majority end up homeless.  Many cannot pay the large fines, costs and charges associated with probation, and end up in debt, even if they have a job; or worse, back in prison.  Alexander calls this continuing form of discrimination, which is not used in almost any other country in the world, part of the new Jim Crow.   It relegates felons to second-class citizenship in a permanent under-caste.

She both compares mass incarceration to old Jim Crow, showing the similarities and differences.  The similarities are somewhat obvious.  The differences are the criminal justice system is not openly based on racial categories, unlike Jim Crow.  White stoners can end up in jail next to black brothers (although some whites were also imprisoned in labor camps in the South during Jim Crow for the same bogus reasons as blacks…)  Her third point is that there is black support for ‘get tough’ policies, especially from black churches and upper-middle class blacks. 

Alexander discusses the shame that permeates the black (and presumably Latino community too) about incarceration.  You do not mention it in your church, your job, even your family.  Black churches especially maintain a moralistic tone that puts ‘felons’ on the outs with ‘good black people.’  This moralism has led to the growth of high-profile Republicanism among some blacks, as well as upper –middle class scolds like Bill Cosby and Barak Obama lecturing on ‘missing black fathers.’  As Alexander points out, no one wants to face the fact that all the ‘missing black fathers’ are in fact locked up in jails!  Where have all the black men gone? ask the many single black women.  Into the prison/industrial complex, my dear! 

Alexander describes ‘gangsta rap’ as a modern-day minstrel show, celebrating the very prison of oppression that has incarcerated so many black men, many times for a majority audience of whites, who see it as confirmation that blacks naturally should be behind bars, as it is part of their ‘culture.’

Alexander criticizes the modern ‘civil rights’ movement’s focus on affirmative action, which many times only benefits the black elite.  Obama ran with a prominent 'drug warrior,' Joe Biden; had Rahm Emanuel, a proponent of stricter drug laws and slashing welfare, as his Numero Uno; and appointed to the DOJ Eric Holder, who campaigned in D.C. for harsh mandatory minimum sentencing for marijuana.  (Read commentary on Eric Holder, "Fire Holder, Don't Hold Your Fire," below.) Instead, she echoes Martin Luther King’s later call for a ‘revolution’ – not piecemeal reforms of the structural racism evinced by the criminal justice system.  She describes the massive forces financially benefiting from the prison/industrial complex – private prison corporations, gun manufacturers, security firms, health providers and over a million employees working in the jail business.  She even points out that unemployment figures would be much higher if prisoners were taken into account, which they aren't.  

I will only end here with a point from Marx.  Alexander is not a Marxist, but a left-liberal disgusted by the evolution of slavery in the modern day.  The large prison population in the U.S. does not even reach the level of a ‘reserve army of the unemployed’ – as that army occasionally has a job, certainly more than many released felons.  Prisoners are almost permanently warehoused because capitalism is not just racist – it actually cannot provide jobs for its citizens. So it locks them up, using your taxpayer money.  The system of incarceration and the criminal justice system terrorizes the rest of the present black and Latino population, just as Jim Crow's prison labor laws affected all the 'free blacks' in the South.  It just took capturing a critical mass of that population to scare the rest, much as large unemployment scares the employed.  Racism is a tool it uses to divide black, white and Latino workers, and to justify incarceration, not just a 'bad idea.'  No surprise here.

But all of this is done for ultimately financial reasons, as it was under slavery and Jim Crow.  Wasting labor and talent is business-as-usual for capitalism, if it means staying in control.  Mistaking the mask for the face is what liberals do.  Yet under the hood is the local businessman and the international businessman.  Dig deeper and you see a very profitable strategy – one that has been the basis of U.S. society since the beginning.  Of course, this strategy is not confined to the U.S. but is present in every capitalist country to some extent.  Yet it is in the U.S. that this strategy has reached its apotheosis - although South Africa gives the U.S. a run for its money, and still does.

And I bought it at May Day Books
Red Frog
May 29, 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Aren't You Glad Capitalism Has Been Restored? Part III

Hungary Today

Evidently, the Fidesz government in Hungary has revised the Hungarian Constitution THREE times in the last several years.  They are attempting it again.  The Fascist Jobbik and the Rightist (Horthyite) Fidesz are in league, dominating the government with one other party.

Benjamin Atban on April 3, 2013 says: 

“More particularly, the Constitutional Court is no longer allowed to give its opinion about the content of laws and to refer to its own case law – which results in the loss of almost all monitoring power on the legislature and the executive.”

Which means that any higher lawful review is now ended, and the government is free to act in any way they please, without legal oversight.

“Only a few days ago, Orban officially decorated three extreme right-wing leading figures: journalist Ferenc Szaniszlo, known for his diatribes against the Jews and the Romani people, whom he compares to “monkeys”; anti-Semitic archaeologist Kornel Bakav, who blames the Jews for having organized the slave trade in the Middle Ages; finally, “artist” Petras Janos, who proudly claims his proximity to the Jobbik and its paramilitary militia, responsible for several racist murders of Romani people and heiress of the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party, which organized the extermination of Jews and Gypsies during World War II.”

Emerging Europe on 3/7/2013 says:

“Civil-rights groups have complained about the (May 2013) amendments that, they say, would narrow the notion of family to heterosexual married couples with children, outlaw political advertising during election campaigns, abolish the financial autonomy of universities, or allow the government to prohibit homeless people from living in the streets.

Watchdog.net says:

Hungary is no longer a democracy.  (Because of the ending of national court oversight evidently …)
President János Áder has just signed (March 2013) away the rights of all that was left of Hungary's opposition parties after years of gutting legislative powers, crippling the free press, and eliminating all mention of a "republic" in the country's constitution.


We've seen the steps Áder's taken before. We know these signs. And while the European Union continues to stay silent, the situation for women, ethnic minorities and religious groups in Hungary becomes deadlier by the second.”

The EU is not doing anything about these developments – in effect not invoking Article 7 of their Charter about the ‘defense of democracy.’ 

Al Jazeera says:

Al Jazeera published on May 22 a video, available on UTube, of the developing fascist movement in Hungary, summarizing many of the developments already reported on this site. (Type in Hungary in the Google text search box on this blog to read other commentaries.)  Note, this is a station homed in Abu Dubai, which you think would not be too upset by anti-Semitism.

The video, among other things, shows Hungarian Jewish philosopher Agnes Heller, who lost her father in Auschwitz, pointing out that Jobbik’s parliament speech calling for a listing for all Jews in Hungary was going over a line, making legitimate and public something only whispered in private.  The video reports that Laslo Csatary, the most wanted Nazi still alive, lived openly in Budapest for many years.  He was the sadistic head of the Kosice camp in Slovakia, and was only recently taken into custody last year.  10% of Hungarians are Roma (gypsies), who are the Hungarian underclass. The video reports that death squads were liquidating Roma in certain small villages; the homeless have now been criminalized; the Methodist church was not approved as an official religion; and 30% of journalists have been fired for political reasons.  All of these things have been a subject of late, yet Al Jazeera putting them all together is very interesting. 


And I saw it on the Internet
Red Frog
May 28, 2013
 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Philosophy of the 'Smarty Pants'


“The Ten Assumptions of Science,” by Glenn Borchardt, 2004

This slim volume of scientific philosophy also applies outside of science.  It is a through-going intellectual broadside against idealism and anti-materialism, in favor of materialism.  The author takes on aspects of Einstein while making fun of monkeys typing novels, un-noisy falling trees, time travel, the ‘end of history,’ creationism and the big bang.  Borchardt’s own name for these dueling dualisms are ‘determinism’ and ‘indeterminism,’ which amount to the same concepts, or, in his exact method, ‘similar’ concepts.

The U.S. is not friendly to philosophy – unless it is some version of pragmatism, which barely qualifies as an ethos.  Borchardt understands that basic hypotheses – let’s say ‘infinity’ - cannot actually be tested.  Ultimately, they are based on assumptions that underlie research, providing direction or context in regard to that research.  Borchardt does not choose his assumptions out of the blue, but based on generally accurate orientations that match the accumulating facts, as he and science understand them.    For instance, many scientists assume the ‘big bang’ is true, even though it has not been proved.  Yet, according to Borchardt, it makes sense to them because they believe in certain untested quasi-religious assumptions about time and matter.  Those are their assumptions.

Borchardt is a dialectician, and certainly a materialist, at least in the realm of science and extending into the ideas of human society.  He does not use the moniker ‘dialectical materialist’ however. These are his 10 assumptions and their dialectical opposites; thesis and anti-thesis, neatly arranged:

1.         Materialism                                         -1.        Immaterialism
2.         Causality                                             -2.        Acausality
3.         Uncertainty                                         -3.        Certainty
4.         Inseparability                                      -4.        Separability
5.         Conservation                                       -5.        Creation
6.         Complementarity                                -6.        Noncomplementarity
7.         Irreversibility                                       -7.        Reversibility
8.         Infinity                                                -8.        Finity
9.         Relativism                                           -9.        Absolutism
10.       Interconnection                                  -10.       Disconnection

As you can see, this lineup shows one of these columns to be at a disadvantage as far as science is concerned, though perhaps not at the religious charter school, the home-schooler near you or CNN.  As the decades go by, and more and more scientific information becomes available through research, idealist/indeterminist ideas become more and more questionable and pushed to the ostensible margins.  Time is on the side of materialism, evidently, unless materialism is destroyed in some way.  However, Borchardt points out that idealism still exists among the ranks of scientists themselves, which should be no surprise, given the society we live in. 

Marxists attempt to apply scientific methods too, and also closely follow developments in the arena of science. (See review of “Ubiquity” below, for more on scientific philosophy.)  This book will only bolster Marxist concepts – including those related to materialism, dialectics, constant change, spiral history, and the impulse to organization, not just disorder.  Borchardt cites Engels only once, quoting him in support of the concept of ‘matter being unthinkable without motion’ (from “Dialectics of Nature), which is part of Borchardt’s concept of inseparability. 

Borchardt is not alone in believing that assumptions underlie science.  His essay starts off with a riff on R.G. Collinwood, an idealist who also understood that scientific assumptions – metaphysics - were at the heart of much research and conclusions.   Borchardt quotes extensively from David Bohm, a philosopher-physician who shares Borchart’s views.  His overall view challenges mechanistic science of the Newtownian variety and ‘systems analysis’ of a more recent variety with an approach that puts everything in the context of a greater 'environment' that embraces all things.  I am going to sample each assumption, but reading the whole book gives you a fair view of an advanced scientific outlook.  Don’t expect the Cliff Notes version to fully make sense to you.

  1. Materialism.  The external world is not dependent on a solipsistic observer.  Ludwig Feurbach observed that ‘faiths of all kinds were derived from the material existence of the people who held them.’  Without material reality, there is no science or actual knowing.  This seems to be pretty basic, from Democritus to today.
  2. Causality.   Any effect has numerous material causes.  Since nothing is purely static, nothing is ‘uncaused.’  The motion of the earth around the sun, for instance, involves an infinite number of gravitational fields, among other forces.  Try to count them.
  3. Uncertainty.  Heisenberg’s 1927 uncertainty principal was a groundbreaking development, which rejected ultimate knowledge.  Bohm himself thinks the search for Einstein’s ‘god particle’ or ultimate law fruitless.  As Borchardt puts it, we can only know more about more, but never all about all.  “Chance’ – the favorite myth of indeterminists – is just another name for ignorance.
  4. Inseparability.  “Without Separability, souls, ghosts and gods would find no home in the universe.”  Matter and motion are one, as pointed out by Spinoza, Hobbes and Engels.  Matter never stops moving and motion is matter in action.  There is no such thing as absolute zero – in fact it has never been discovered.  The third law of thermodynamics precludes it.  Energy can never be without matter, as it is just a characteristic of matter.  I.E. ghosts don’t exist, nor does ‘space-time’ in the conventional sense, as space is really matter and time is a form of motion.
  5. Conservation.  Matter and the motion of matter can not be created or destroyed.  The Greek Aniximander and the Roman Lucretius pointed this out hundreds of years ago.  This is also the first law of thermodynamics.  Explain that to the ‘creationists’ of humans or the universe.  The universe will never disappear.
  6. Complementarity.  Matter is subject to both convergence and divergence.  Borchardt takes on the second law of thermodynamics, which predicts ultimate entropy.  He argues that there are also complementary forces in the universe that ‘organize’ matter and motion, hence the second law is incomplete without its anti-thesis.  Everything does not head towards ruin, otherwise the universe would not have existed as long as it has.  He calls this the “SLT-Order paradox.”  “Negentropy” is the word for this opposing force.  Borchardt insists that the environment to every ‘system’ actually influences that system, hence ultimate entropy is impossible. 
  7. Irreversibility.  Time travel is impossible.  Nothing happens the same way twice.  All experience burdens the future, and cannot be erased.  Time moves in one direction, not backward, not sideways, not cyclically, nor does it end.  Pretty basic also.  The second law of thermodynamics actually supports this assumption. 
  8. Infinity.  The universe is both macroscopically and microscopically infinite.  There is no edge to the universe, nor are there ‘basic’ particles.  The ‘edge’ of the universe is only that area we cannot see.  Ignorance again, like the role of God.   As science has found out, the atom and then the electron have been broken down into even smaller particles - bosons, leptons, quarks, neutrinos, etc.  There is no reason to believe there are not more or smaller ones.  As Borchart says, “Timid minds will seek shelter from the godless specter of infinity.  As always, it will be to no avail.” 
  9. Relativism.  As opposed to Absolutism.  The Greek sophists were the first relativists.  They poked holes in every logical ‘law.’  Sophism is now an insult, usually hurled by apologists for conventionality.  For instance, analogy and disparity are useful in categorizing things. However, nothing is actually ‘identical’ to something else.  As Borchardt puts it, ‘in nature there are no absolute equalities and no absolute inequalities.’  Plato was wrong, as are the long line of idealists after him.
  10. Interconnection.  Here is where we get spacey.  The world is both continuous and discontinuous, yet every single part of the universe is connected, as there are no isolated systems.  Empty space doesn’t exist – it is an idea - as is solid matter.  Only matter in motion exists - everywhere - almost as a kind of ether.  Om.

Borchardt’s book actually makes great sense and is somewhat simple to read, once you understand he is not straying from the material reality we know.  It challenges certain ideas that float in the bourgeois air we breathe, and now you know why they are fraudulent.  

And I bought it at Mayday Books,  on the recommendation of John.
Red Frog
May 21, 2013

P.S. - Oddly enough, the May 23rd Guardian has a story called "Roll Over Einstein: meet Weinstein."  Evidently Weinstein is Eric Weinstein, a former scientist and now civilian and non-academic who has been invited by one of Oxford, England's top mathematicians, Marcus Du Sautoy, to give a lecture on theoretical physics.  And, oddly enough, Weinstein proposes to solve the contradiction between relativity and quantum mechanics.  He is said to propose a 14-dimensional 'observerse' that could introduce another 150 sub-atomic particles which would 'fill in' the 95% of the universe that does not contain ordinary matter, but instead would explain 'dark matter' and 'dark energy.'  These other dimensions of the universe we cannot really 'see' yet, according to Weinstein.   As you can see, this fits in with what Borchardt said in his book about "infinity" and 'interconnection.'  However, as Borchardt points out, a mathematical construct 'can' lead to an observable event or not, unlike 'string theory,' which is a mathematical construct that has never been seen in reality.
                
 At any rate, the kicker for those who only believe in academic credentials are these quotes by Du Sautoy:
1) "I think this represents a new trend. It used to be that one had to be part of an academic hub, such as Harvard or Oxford, to produce cutting-edge research. But not any more. Part of the reason is the wide availability of scientific information on the internet. And I think this is a wonderful development, which should be supported." 
2) "I also see two lessons coming from this. The first is for the young generation: with passion and perseverance there is no limit to what you can do, even in high-end theoretical science. The other lesson is for me and my colleagues in academia – and I say this as someone who on most days takes an elevator to his office in an Ivory Tower, as it were – we should be more inclusive and more open to ideas which come from outside the standard channels of academia, and we'll be better off for it."

So all you folks in basements with computers and internet access, start your engines

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Smokin' Another Spike Lee Joint

“Red Hook Summer,” Film by Spike Lee, 2012

Spike Lee is one of those directors who’s movies always have something to offer, even if the film itself is not very strong.  That is the sign of a good director.  “Red Hook Summer” is his latest film, mostly ignored by critics.  Lee told Quentin Tarantino recently that ‘slavery was not a spaghetti western’ and that is one of the great things about Lee.  Black people are not fucking clichés.  “Django,” Tarantino’s latest, runs like a revenge fantasy comedy/melodrama.  There is so much falsity about the whole thing, you can’t help but laugh – and then get bored.  After all, it is 2.5 long hours of predictable shooting and fake blood.  Like “Tremé,” the series filmed in New Orleans after Katrina (“Tremé” is reviewed below), Lee doesn’t people his movies with black gangsters, black buffoons or many stereotypes.  Now, I do have a weakness for Madea – one of my all time favorite funny women.  (As in, “Who you callin’ a buffoon?  YOU a buffoon!  Or did you call me a baboon? You racist son of a bitch!  I should slap your lips off.”)  But the middle-class black people in the rest of the Tyler Perry cohort should go back to Cosbyville.  Perhaps Medea could send them there…

‘Red Hook Summer’ concerns a 13-year-old Atlanta boy coming to visit his grandfather in Red Hook, New York for summer vacation.  It could have been only a gauzy coming-of-age story, set in storied Nu Yawk, but instead confronts two kinds of black.  “Old-time” religious black and ‘mohawk’ middle-class youth black, wielding his iPad camera like a junior Spike.  Grandpa is a Jesus nut and never shuts up about it.  This harangue becomes claustrophobic at some point during the film even for most viewers, perhaps just the way “Flik” feels it.  Flik’s a vegan, an atheist and won’t have anything to do with Grandpa Rouse’s lunacies.  Rouse locks the vegan food that his mother sent in a cupboard, and makes him eat eggs and ham.  Yeah.  So Flik steals chips and soda from the basement of “Little Heaven” to survive, the church where Rouse is the Bishop.  Rouse makes him work around the church, hand out leaflets for church meetings and generally tries to intimidate him into religion.  Flik wants to go home and his mother tells him to just try to survive.  Your sympathies as a viewer are with the young boy Flik, though some may be with Rouse.  If so, Spike has a surprise for you.

TV comedian Kamau Bell appeared this winter at the Cedar in Minneapolis, and, among his mostly ethnic and liberal humor, made fun of atheists as being somewhere on the level of Ben Affleck. (For my take on Affleck, see review of “Argo,” below.)  Actual black radicals in the ‘60s and ‘70s were wary of the church and the pastors, as they knew they were the conservative part of the black population.  MLK, the best of the preachers, was not for ‘black power’ and supported ‘turning the other cheek’ – an event Malcolm X derided.  Many black radicals in that time became Marxists, including the Black Panther Party, Amiri Baraka, many in SNCC, Robert Williams and Detroit’s various Leagues of Revolutionary Black Workers, among others.  We won't get started on African Marxists.  Nearly all Marxists are atheists.  So evidently you can be black and an atheist too.  Not by Kamau Bell!  Well, Kamau Bell is no radical, so no surprise here.  He’s a good left-Democrat and has a show on the FX network and you don’t. 

Atheists actually can suffer capital punishment in 7 countries in the world, all Muslim ones.  6 states in the U.S. have laws prohibiting atheists from public office and juries. Atheists are more hated than gay people, at least according to U.S. surveys.  This and more is all in a 2012 report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).  So not exactly “Ben Affleck” status.  After all, Michelle Obama gave him an Oscar.   

Kamau Bell grew up in a conventional culture that is saturated with the church, and his attitude is somewhat understandable.  He’s blazingly pro-gay and some black churches are not – so he should wonder about that.  Marx called religion the ‘opiate of the people’ and nowhere is this appellation more appropriate than the black (and Latino) church.  The black church has also been a progressive institution, unavoidably I’d say, and only up to a point.  In white churches, on the other hand, so many are sunk in the ‘prosperity gospel’ or blandness that they mostly appeal to well-off whites – or those hoping to be so. (See review of “God and Wal-Mart,” reviewed below.) 

Well, for my money, Spike Lee has turned on that crazy black religiosity in this film.  The boy befriends a pretty local girl, daughter of one of the church members, and they spend the summer hanging out, even though they are different.  Her mother tells Rouse, over Rouse’s grousing, that Flik is ‘the nicest boy” her Chazz has ever met.  Flik makes an amateur bunch of shots of his experiences that summer on his iPad, and gives it to Chazz when they part.  In return, Chazz gives all she’s got – a cross necklace. 

Music is the soul of Little Heaven and the organist plays like he’s Booker T, while the Bishop preaches. The organist is Jonathan Batiste, New Orleans and now Harlem musician and educator. The little, broke congregation dances and sings, and yeah, its like a nightclub for people who don’t go to nightclubs.  Good shit.  Way better than white church music, as we all know.  Gospel was part of the birth of the blues and rock and roll, and for that we can be thankful. 

Lee gets in his digs at white homeowners and gentrifiers, the wish for making it big in the stock market, the ignoring of black poverty and the forgotten Red Hook projects.  The drunk church deacon downstairs knows the limitations of the Lord.  Lee’s political ideas are there.  And then some.  It turns out a ‘little Catholic’ bleeds into this film.  While preaching one Sunday, Bishop Rouse is confronted by a young man who accuses him of molestation years ago.  It is clear that the man is telling the truth, even to the Bishop’s friends and deacons in the church.  The Bishop forlornly admits it to Flik, while being filmed on the iPad, describing the sexual events while he worked at a church in Atlanta.  That church told him to leave when they discovered the abuse.  After this, Flik returns to Atlanta, where Flik’s mother, who is also Rouse’s estranged daughter, live.  And Rouse has to join him, as he is run out of Little Heaven.  So the point Lee is trying to make here, I think, is that people who are a bit too ‘emotionally’ over the top in their love of Jesus may be hiding something that you don’t want to know about.  Yeah, Jesus is failed by another of his fans. 

The film ends with the gauzy pastiche of the iPad patchwork shot by Flik all summer – the black and Puerto Rican people of this immortal neighborhood on Brooklyn, Long Island.  “On the Waterfront” was set in Red Hook, and so was “A View From the Bridge,” by Arthur Miller and “Memos from Purgatory” by Harlan Ellison.

While 'Red Hook Summer' doesn't hold together very well, Lee takes a stab at black religion and survives.  Perhaps Kamau Bell too should realize being black doesn’t mean being religiously conservative.  Although that might not get the laughs on FX.

And I saw it on Netflix
Red Frog
May 14, 2013

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Really Primitive Accumulation

“From Solidarity to Sellout – the Transition to Capitalism in Poland,” by Tadeusz Kowalik, 2013.

This book is an in-depth account of the counter-revolution in Poland, especially the period 1988-1991, and should stand as a classic in its genre.  Kowalik covers in detail the theoretical and programmatic disagreements among the various thinkers and formations over that period, including Solidarnosc, the ostensibly Communist Polish United Workers Party (‘PZPR’), the IMF, various foreign ‘advisors’ and the multiple shades in between.  Kowalik himself is not a communist in the PZPR anymore, having been expelled in 1968.  Instead he is a social-democrat and a fan of Keynes and Stiglitz.  He was and still is interested in turning Poland into something like Sweden, Austria or even Germany – a ‘social’ market economy.  As part of this view, Kowalik praises China and Vietnam for their slow approach to privatization and a market economy.  As he puts it, "What kind of capitalism is viable from a social point of view?"  The value of this book is that it calmly depicts how a proletarian state can be overturned, and describes the players that did it.

It is certainly significant that the Polish worker’s state could ultimately be overthrown without violence, which only goes to show that the state was based on the working-class – and when that class withdrew its allegiance, the state collapsed.  Similar things happened in the USSR and across central Europe.   It is similar to a decertification vote in a union.

Instead, the astounding thing in Poland is that, like Russia under Yeltsin, what won out was capitalist ‘shock treatment,’ otherwise known as the Balcerowicz Plan.  Balcerowicz was the prime minister in the new non-communist reform government dominated by Solidarnosc.  Ideologically, this meant adhering to the most extreme form of Friedmanite, Hayek-leaning, Reagan/Thatcher IMF capitalism.  This came about after somewhat murky, contradictory and extensive discussions in the early 1989 “Round Table” between nearly all parties, including the labor leaders around Solidarnosc like Michnik and Kuron and the PZPR.  Later, following the June 1989 election of the first non-Communist-led government since socialization in 1945, ‘shock treatment’ was officially endorsed, with participation of the PZPR.

Kowalik does not discuss entities like the nationalists or the Catholic Church, which had never been in favor of any kind of socialism or class struggle anyway.  In an interesting aside, he points out this Catholic Church is still trying to regain Polish properties it lost more than 200 years ago!

This account does not describe anyone who was for preserving the bureaucratic system in place prior to the Solidarnosc-led Gdansk strikes in 1980-81.  Even Wojciech Jaruzelski eventually resigned.  Nor does it describe anyone from a Marxist perspective who wanted the working-class to take more direct control of the economy and state, and create a truly cooperative commonwealth.  Here is the only reference I found, as Kowalik describes Gomulka’s youthful ideas: “In the early 1960s he (Gomulka) criticized really existing socialism from the position of orthodox Marxism, with a pro-worker and anti-bureaucratic orientation.  In the West such views were often classified as Trotskyite. In Poland, however, this term has negative connotations.” We might ask, ‘which’ Poland?  (By the way, “Trotskyite” is an insulting turn of phrase, used by both Stalinists and the bourgeois press. It is 'Trotskyist.')

Instead, after Jaruzelski’s martial law in 1981, all enthusiasm for versions of military socialism evaporated among the opposition, and eventually among the bureaucracy.  This is the same role the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia had in that country.  Prior to the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Army, the overwhelming majority of the Czecho-Slovak population wanted ‘socialism with a human face.’  Instead they got tanks.  As Kowalik explains it, in Poland martial law cut off Solidarnosc’s leaders from the ranks, creating an isolated and rightward-moving group of intellectuals, heading quickly towards extreme counter-revolution.

Kowalik spends a lot of time on various theories of ownership – as they are basic to the nature of an economy.  While the promoters of shock capitalism in Poland believed that state ownership was inherently inefficient – Kowalik praises various forms of cooperatives, ESOPs, kibbutz, Yugoslavian forms, employee councils, worker self-management and joint worker/owner management, as well as the sometimes beneficial advantages of state ownership.  As he points out, 85 of the top 500 corporations in the world identified by Fortune magazine (no friend of social control) were state-owned.  Capitalist fundamentalism’s hostility to state ownership certainly has played a role in the destruction of Iraq, the current civil war in Syria and the invasion of Libya by NATO.  It is also a basis for the continuing hostility to China. And so too in Poland, this ‘harmless’ theoretical point formed the basis for a huge decimation of working class wages, jobs, conditions, as well as bankruptcy and poverty for many farmers and some small businessman.

According to Kowalik, surveys from 2000 indicated that most people thought they lived better under the worker's state.  The majority of people now oppose the the policies of the Polish elite, according to him.  Part of the reason may be how capitalism was reintroduced.  "Shock therapy’ provided by the IMF and its Polish allies aimed at immediate privatization.  The shock and subsequent full capitalist rule increased unemployment to 19% from almost zero, eliminating 5 million workplaces. It stayed formally at 16% until entry into the EU, and is still among the highest in the EU, much of it falling on youth and college graduates.  Industrial output dropped by 30% in the first months.  Farm income fell by half.  State farms were sold off and the farm workers consigned to destitution even today, while large estates came into private hands. Wages fell from 46.2% of income to 29.9% of the population's compensation.  Inflation was 5 times that predicted after prices were 'freed.'  Imports and the penetration of foreign capital is higher in Poland than anywhere else in the EU.  Womens' wage inequality is the highest among the new members of the EU.  The 'gini' coefficient measuring general social inequality is also highest in the EU. The changes resulted in lowered life spans, increased class stratification, larger foreign debt and engendered massive emigration into the rest of the EU, flooding Germany and England with young Polish speakers.  Just as imperial penetration of the Mexican economy and economic oppression in Mexico send Mexicans north across the U.S. border.  The 'reform' slighted labor laws, increasing accidents, and fatally weakened the union movement.  The same union movement that started and legitimized this process in the first place.

None of the rosy public predictions of the ‘reformers’ came true.  This crude destruction of the economy provided the necessary ‘capital accumulation’ for a new ownership class and middle class in Poland – about 1 million people, according to Kowalik.  (The population of Poland is a bit over 38 million today.)  Theft of social property was the source of their riches, money and assets now flowing upward.  Truly primitive accumulation. 

That the IMF basically had its way with Polish sovereignty is most stunning.  The fact that foreign advisers like Jeffrey Sachs, George Soros, Edward Lippman and Stanislaw Gomulka became the gurus for budding Polish capitalists, and that foreign advisers were allowed to even directly control economic events in Poland is somewhat amazing.  The gigantic worker-led strikes of 1980-1981, instead of producing a “Self-Governing Republic” as Solidarnosc and KOR wanted at the time, ended up in another regime of the rich and the powerful.   Worker self-management had become ‘too socialist’ for Solidarnosc by 1988.

The role of the former bureaucracy played true to form.  As already described in the book, “Contradictions of Real Socialism” (reviewed below), Kowalik also gives evidence that the bureaucracy felt it could take over individual ownership and control of various enterprises, thus making the transition to capitalism quite handsomely.  This also played out in the USSR during their period of shock therapy.  It is happening in China and Vietnam right now, but at a slower pace.  In Vietnam, it started with the 1986 ‘Doi Moi’ program for a ‘socialist-oriented market economy’ and in China, the 1978 de-collectivization and opening to foreign capital organized by Deng Xiaoping, later followed by the privatizations of the 1980s.  In Poland, the Polish party nomenklatura had an interest in capitalist restoration because it saw it could be one of the most immediate beneficiaries, both in property and in corruption and bribes. For instance, PZPR minister and privatization head Krzystof Lis supported privatization as the only alternative to state ownership - not even supporting workers' self-management as a slogan.  The PZPR government had already laid a legal basis for transferring state enterprises to private ownership in 1987.  They, like the leaders of Solidarnosc, chose ‘fast’ over slow, and the consequences to the population were far more extreme.  Perhaps “get rich quick’ was their real, hidden slogan.

As you can see, this was not limited to former PZPR. The 'managerial elite' grew not just from the former nomenklatura, but the bourgeois technocratic and managerial class, who have vastly enlarged the government even over the Communist one, packing it with relatives, friends and allies.  Kowalik calls this 'clientelism,' and it still goes on today.

Kowalik has a long detailed section on the failure of the NIF certificate/share program, which gave ‘ownership’ of certain public companies to the Polish population as a whole.  There was much excitement at the time about this 'democratic' experiment in sharing capitalism.  Eventually most shares ended up controlled by foreign hedge funds, which extracted massive management fees and sold-off companies for profit, without regard to anything else.

Foreign firms picked up modern factories for a song.  Kowalik cites the Kwidzyn paper plant, which the International Paper Group called 'fully modern,' and purchased for far below what was put into the plant by prior governments.  The excuse of the Walesa government?  It was 'outmoded' and 'near bankruptcy.'  Other factories were bought and closed, so that foreign firms could compete in Poland without local competition.  A 2000 study by K Posnanski indicate firms were sold for 10% of their real value. The Polish banking sector, by 2003, was 75% controlled by foreign banks.  Some have labeled the Polish economy as a victim of 'neo-colonialism.'  Kowalik points out it is really a sub-contractor economy - sub-contracted to firms from the EU and the US.  However, some Polish experts want to export their model to the rest of the EU, in order to 'de-statize' it!  Their sad example, of course, will only be attractive to the most predatory capitalists.

Kowalik is fond of the phrase ‘really existing socialism’ (as Brezhnev also called it) to describe the deformed Polish workers state.  Kowalik says on page 24 of this book that the revolution in the USSR ‘degenerated.’ Then on page 25 he condemns ‘many socialists, Trotskyites and social-democrats’ for saying that Poland was a form of ‘degenerated socialism.’  Confusing?  Well, we are not here for a contradictory lecture on the definition and degradation of socialism, but to understand the facts.  Many supporters of Solidarnosc who initially supported ultra-capitalist methods later changed their minds, but unfortunately after the historical moment was over.  To his credit, Kowalik seems to be one of the few who knew this would end badly, even then.   As the present copper and coal miners in Poland who are resisting further privatization know, this story is not over.

And I bought it at May Day Books!
May 11, 2013
Red Frog

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Trapped Alive


Airports:  A Particular Kind of Hell

Whether you are a casual or a frequent traveler, airports, especially U.S. airports, nowadays bring up a certain queasiness.  No, not just the peanuts and ice.  It is a stomach churning experience, from stepping onto the concrete in front of the airport to leaving your exit airport in relief.  

There are the hoards of people with too many bags and too much crap.  Too many rookie travelers with giant bags going somewhere they won’t need all that.  I’ve seen people whose bags weigh so much they cannot lift them into the overhead bins.   People bring bags into the jet-way, only to have them ‘tagged’ for storage under the plane.  But they do it, because it is free and they just can't help themselves.  They cannot part with their stuff, even when leaving home.

The loud bellowing of the business traveler into his cell or blue tooth is constant.  Busy privatising the public space into their very own ‘office.’  Usually single white males, many suited up.  Look around and check how many people are actually reading – on the plane and even waiting.  Very few.  Not even magazines. Instead of reading or talking, there is a constant addictive fumbling with ‘smart’ phones.  Smart phones are making people dumber by the minute, it seems.  Mini DVD players whirr, tinny music plays on iPods; adult travelers play games on game consoles; iPads, tablets and laptops provide constant interaction with the internet.  No one is alone!  You have the Internet! Television shows on a 1 inch screen!  Staring into space and gobbling crappy food – everything but reading.  Are they using an Amazon-controlled Kindle to read a digital book?  Very few. 

Then there is the constant blare of government TV – ah, I mean CNN.  Hysteria about terrorism 24/7.  Hysteria about some crime, 24/7.  Warnings about your bags and other people’s bags you’ve heard a thousand times.  Gate agents that do not explain why planes are late, or give you the lying ‘happy’ news about short delays.  Purposely overbooked flights.  Late arriving assholes.  People who kick the back of your seat, or who allow their kids to do it.  1 out of 10 times you will sit next to someone who can actually carry on a conversation.  It’s a wonder when it happens.

Every bit of food in an airport costs $3 more than it would on the ‘outside.’  The airport is one of the most artificial environments created, and you are trapped there and the vendors know it, you and George Clooney.  The food quality is akin to a downscale mall.  These chain and micro capitalists are only concerned with taking advantage of their enclosed mini-monopoly.  Everything is thrown away as garbage.  Now that you can’t bring drinks through the screening – bingo!  More sales!

Of course, the worst is the screening.  The ‘hands over your heads’ naked scan.  The wanding of your genitals.   Taking off shoes, belts, hats, coats, emptying pockets, apologizing for the metal in your leg.  Agents going through your bags.  Standing in line for a long time watching people with too much stuff put it on moving belts. No one is every turned away.  No ‘terrorists’ are caught.  Little of significance is found.  I have lost an electric drill, some pocket knives, and various un-dangerous liquids to the TSA.  They destroy it or some TSA person has a whole drawer of pocket knives at home.  Everyone is a criminal until proved otherwise.  Who is the target of screening?  Al Qaeda?  No, the general population.  Don’t complain, or they will think you are a terrorist.

Except first class, who now have their own fast lane through screening, just as they own the front of the plane with its big fat seats, free booze and personal shitter.  They have the fast lane on boarding too, and on off-loading.  The class structure is blatant at an airport.  Who are these creepy people?  Usually businessmen with lots of mileage under their belts and dollars in their corporate wallets.  Figures.  Nearly every airline countenances this. 

All of this is in anticipation of the carrot of spending time in the sky, looking at the clouds, lightening or glaciers or the checkerboard of land and maze of mountains, or the twinkling lights of the cities and farms.  Like Alice in Wonderland, into the rabbit hole that is the plane jet-way, and out the other side – arriving in a distant paradise, thousands of miles away, or home.  This is the consolation prize for the airport or airports you just endured.  That is if you are a tourist.  But if you are working, more work awaits, as it never left.  How traveling salesman, town-trotting lawyers or jet-commuters do it, I don’t know.  They have to be especially inured to their surroundings, or in love with money.  Probably the latter.

(Read “A Traveler’s Tale” a commentary on travel, below.)

Red Frog
May 8, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

Infotainment at CNN Missed This One

“The Terror Factory – Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism” by Trevor Aaronson, 2013

According to Trevor Aaronson, in the years since 9/11, the FBI has apprehended a total of less than 5 actual terrorists, while claiming more than 500.  Most of those 500 were either Level 2 violations of immigration laws or lying to authorities, or in the Level 1 area, stings, entrapments and the work of agent provocateurs.  After the FBI recognized that Al Qaeda could not organize another formal strike from overseas, but would rely on propagandizing ‘lone wolves” – so-called isolated Islamic ‘jihadis’ already living in the U.S. – the FBI changed their tactics.  Like the drug sting business, they decided to use stings to catch these potential terrorists before they supposedly even did anything.  The FBI now employs 15,000 informers, nearly all in Muslim communities, to ferret out and ‘trap’ these aspiring ‘jihadis.’  This is the most unprecedented number of government informants in U.S. history, surpassing even J Edgar Hoover, surveillance of various communist organizations and Contelpro.  The FBI now has a budget of $3 billion to do this, more than that spent on any other area the FBI covers, like crime, financial crime or the Mob, etc.  The ‘terror factory’ is the FBI, according to Aaronson. 

Which brings us to a key question.  Why wasn’t Tamerlan Tsarnaev lured into one of these plots?  The FBI claims there are too many suspects to trail, but this book clearly shows the FBI works full-time, with massive resources, on pretty sad human material, scraping the barrel so to speak, to create ‘terror’ plots that they could then bust.  You’d think with a real ‘lone wolf’ lumpen like Tsarnaev they would have had no problem.  After all, he was already under surveillance.  He would have been an ideal target for a sting.  This is the question the FBI should answer.

The Boston Marathon bombing was the second successful terror attack since 9/11 by alleged ‘Islamists,’ though there have been others by American rightist terrorists.  This book was published on 1/15/2013.  The Boston Marathon bombing was on 4/15/2013.  Is there some connection?  Aaronson has been on Amy Goodman since this bombing, and made the point that chasing the wrong people might have distracted the FBI from paying attention to Tsarnaev.  But perhaps Aaronson should ask the first question. 

After getting hard Justice Department data from Eric Holder, who released it to prove the FBI could handle trials for Guantanamo, Aaronson goes into plot after plot in detail – the Liberty City 7, the Lackawanna 6, the Fort Dix 5, the Newburgh 4 and many individual ‘terror plots.’  He shows them to be full of blustery, poor, emotionally disturbed or just plain normal targets who could not have bombed anything without help from the FBI.  The FBI would provide money, weapons, fake bombs, cars, apartments, maps, you name it – to lead some poor sucker to his doom.  Some times only words were used against innocent suspects, or tricks or misdirection, or old behavior that meant nothing.  And the media – which is really an arm of the state at this point – swallowed every FBI story whole.

Aaronson, like many others, draws a clear link between Bush and Obama security policies in the ‘war on terror.’ These policies fit hand in glove – and sometimes Obama’s are worse.  While getting Muslim votes in the U.S. the Democratic Party hierarchy treats Muslim communities as if they were full of potential terrorists.  In fact, the suffocating surveillance in these communities has decreased honest information flowing to the FBI, because there are so many informers attempting to trip people up into some kind of connection with ‘terrorism.’  People in these communities avoiding talking to the FBI as they would avoid having a conversation with a gang banger.  Hence real information dries up.  Yet the ‘state’ – no matter what president is in power – goes on with its agenda.  In this case, however, there is no distance between the President and the state.

Aaronson points out the changed role of the FBI since 9/11, from fighting ‘crime’ and being oblivious about Islamic terrorism, to becoming an ‘anti-terror’ force full of anti-Islamic bigots and methods.  FBI profiling essentially says anyone watching a jihadist video, reading Al Qaeda's "Inspire" magazine, frequenting a mosque, or who spouts off, is a dangerous threat.  He details the FBI’s use of criminals and liars who work for large payouts - $100,000 is not uncommon - in order to trap disturbed or poor patsies into jail terms of 15 to 40 years.  Or their use of blackmail or deportation pressure against Muslims in order to get them to become informers on people in their own mosque or community.  Aaronson also comments on the numerous ‘taping’ failures the FBI is subject too.  They always seem to have tapes for dialog that is or ‘might be’ incriminating, but frequently forget or damage or lose or do not tape other meetings where what is said might not be legal on their part, or indicate entrapment. 

Juries have not seen through FBI entrapment tactics yet.  Just as Americans, who have rarely been exposed to danger, cheerfully sat in their houses while the police asked the whole city of Boston to stay indoors. (See commentary below, “Tale of Two Slaughters”)  Many U.S. citizens are by nature naïve and unable to grasp that their government might not be on the up and up.  Aaronson has written this book to explain to more people what is happening behind the scenes of some of the latest hysteria on CNN.    

As Aaronson points out, “…the organization responsible for more terrorist plots over the last decade ... is the FBI.”

(Another book on this subject, “Islamophobia – The Politics of Empire,” is reviewed below.  There are also several commentaries on the FBI below.)

And I bought it at May Day Books!
Red Frog
May 3, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy May Day!

Workers of the World March Today, 2013

The majority of people in the world now are in the working class. We are the majority.  The majority should call the shots, if this is a democratic world - which it is not.  Workers marched in more than 90 countries across the globe today - Lebanon, South Korea, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Venezuela were all 'in the house."

May 1 dawned first in Asia this morning with hundreds of thousands of protesting workers literally shutting down the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. They condemned the government for hiking fuel prices and eroding recent meager increases in the minimum wage.

In Manilla, the capital of the Philippines, meanwhile, thousands of exploited 'precariat' contract workers marched through the streets demanding the right to unionize.

In Cambodia, 5,000 garment workers marched for better conditions, higher wages and unions.

In Bangladesh, tens of thousands shut down parts of Dhaka over the criminal policies of the garment manufacturers and their government, asking for death to the landlord of the building which collapsed.  

In Istanbul, Turkey, police locked down the center of the city to keep out thousands of May Day protesters. The history of police violence against workers did nothing to deter the demonstrators, still mindful of the 1977 protests when police shot dozens of Istanbul workers to death during May Day demonstrations. "There are scuffles everywhere in the streets leading up to central Istanbul," said Hashim Jahelbarra, in his post on the Al Jazeera website.

The Iraqi Communist Party marched in huge May Day protests in Baghdad.

Meanwhile millions in Europe joined the global actions.

According to the U.S. Communist Party, more than 1.5 million turned out at 16 demonstrations and rallies in Moscow and around Russia.  Of course, some of the demonstrations were by Putin's own party and Russian far-rightists, but then you can't expect the CP to explain that.

In Greece, the country ground to a halt as almost everyone joined in a 24-hour general strike against austerity. Trains and ferries were stalled at their moorings as seamen walked off the job.
"Our message today is very clear. Enough with these policies which hurt people and make the poor poorer," said Ilios Iliopoulos, general secretary of Greece's public sector unions.

In Spain, where official unemployment stands at 27 percent of the workforce, unions called at least 80 major demonstrations with millions turning out. "Never has there been a May 1 with more reason than this one to take to the streets," declared Candido Mendez, head of the nation's trade union federation.

In Cuba and Nicaragua, tens of thousands marched, many celebrating the life of Hugo Chavez.  

In Chicago, U.S., the home of May Day, only 1,000 marchers showed up, according to Al Jazeera, mostly immigrant rights marchers. So the question is, did the AFL-CIO actually try to organize a May Day march there, as asserted by some?  In the past, the only unions that march in Minneapolis do so, but NOT under the banner of the AFL-CIO, but only as locals.  Which shows you the real backwardness of the U.S. labor movement.  Right now, a few activists in a few locals are our real leaders.

The revolution will not start in the U.S.... but we hope to finish it.

Red Frog
May 1, 2013