Friday, December 30, 2011

Top Five Regrets of The Dying

Here is a wonderful reminder by Bronnie Ware to be faithful to one's life...

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.  
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them. Read the rest of the article

(here they are in summary...
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. the article anyway.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Published on Monday, May 3, 2010 by Indian Country Today
Christian ‘Doctrine’ Fueled Dehumanization: UNPFII Report

by Valerie Taliman

NEW YORK - A groundbreaking report examining the roots of Christian domination over indigenous peoples and their lands was released this week at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Getting out A(nother) Story of Dispossing a People

Sharing a story  by Lucine Kasbarian, author of Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring People (Dillon Press) and The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale (Marshall Cavendish).

Elixir in Exile

If Ponce De León could search for the Fountain of Youth, could an Armenian daughter demystify the elusive Iskiri Hayat?
Hidden away in my parents’ home in New Jersey is an extraordinary liquid in a glass decanter shaped like Aladdin’s lamp.
Tinted like a carnelian gem and with a spicy, musky, transporting scent, this exotic liquid seemed destined to be applied like perfume rather than consumed like a beverage....Read on  >>

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pix and an Open Letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports

An Open Letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports...

We are the front-line workers who haul container rigs full of imported and exported goods to and from the docks and warehouses every day.
We have been elected by committees of our co-workers at the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York and New Jersey to tell our collective story. We have accepted the honor to speak up for our brothers and sisters about our working conditions despite the risk of retaliation we face....
Read the entire letter.

Pix from Dec 12, 2011 Occupy the Ports
14th / Broadway, Oakland: Preparing to Shut down Port of Oakland. Dec 12. Photo: Susan Galleymore
14th / Broadway, Oakland: Preparing to Shut down Port of Oakland. Dec 12. Photo: Susan Galleymore

Hanjin Shut down at Port of Oakland. Dec 12. Photo: Susan Galleymore
Hanjin Shut down at Port of Oakland. Dec 12. Photo: Susan Galleymore
Driver describing the life of a trucker to Occupiers. Read the letter, link above. Photo Dec 12, Susan Galleymore

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Audacity, and More Audacity

by Samir Amin
December 6, 2011

This article, while long, is well worth reading.(Read here or link to the article online.

The historical circumstances created by the implosion of contemporary capitalism requires the radical left, in the North as well as the South, to be bold in formulating its political alternative to the existing system. The purpose of this paper is to show why audacity is required and what it means.
Why Audacity?

1. Contemporary capitalism is a capitalism of generalized monopolies. By this I mean that monopolies are now no longer islands (albeit important) in a sea of other still relatively autonomous companies, but are an integrated system. Therefore, these monopolies now tightly control all the systems of production. Small and medium enterprises, and even the large corporations that are not strictly speaking oligopolies are locked in a network of control put in place by the monopolies. Their degree of autonomy has shrunk to the point that they are nothing more than subcontractors of the monopolies.

This system of generalized monopolies is the product of a new phase of centralization of capital in the countries of the Triad (the United States, Western and Central Europe, and Japan) that took place during the 1980s and 1990s.

The generalized monopolies now dominate the world economy. ‘Globalization’ is the name they have given to the set of demands by which they exert their control over the productive systems of the periphery of global capitalism (the world beyond the partners of the triad). It is nothing other than a new stage of imperialism.

2. The capitalism of generalized and globalized monopolies is a system that guarantees these monopolies a monopoly rent levied on the mass of surplus value (transformed into profits) that capital extracts from the exploitation of labour. To the extent that these monopolies are operating in the peripheries of the global system, monopoly rent is imperialist rent. The process of capital accumulation – that defines capitalism in all its successive historical forms – is therefore driven by the maximization of monopoly/imperialist rent seeking.

This shift in the centre of gravity of the accumulation of capital is the source of the continuous concentration of income and wealth to the benefit of the monopolies, largely monopolized by the oligarchies (‘plutocracies’) that govern oligopolistic groups at the expense of the remuneration of labour and even the remuneration of non-monopolistic capital.

3. This imbalance in continued growth is itself, in turn, the source of the financialization of the economic system. By this I mean that a growing portion of the surplus cannot be invested in the expansion and deepening of systems of production and therefore the ‘financial investment’ of this excessive surplus becomes the only option for continued accumulation under the control of the monopolies.

The implementation of specific systems by capital permits the financialization to operate in different ways:
  •     the subjugation of the management of firms to the principle of ‘shareholder value’
  •     the substitution of pension systems funded by capitalization (Pension Funds) by systems of pension distribution
  •     the adoption of the principle of ‘flexible exchange rates’
  •     the abandonment of the principle of central banks determining the interest rate – the price of ‘liquidity’ – and the transfer of this responsibility to the ‘market.’
Financialization has transferred the major responsibility for control of the reproduction of the system of accumulation to some 30 giant banks of the triad. What are euphemistically called ‘markets’ are nothing other than the places where the strategies of these actors who dominate the economic scene are deployed.

In turn this financialization, which is responsible for the growth of inequality in income distribution (and fortunes), generates the growing surplus on which it feeds. The ‘financial investments’ (or rather the investments in financial speculation) continue to grow at dizzying speeds, not commensurate with growth in GDP (which is therefore becoming largely fictitious) or with investment in real production.

The explosive growth of financial investment requires – and fuels – among other things debt in all its forms, especially sovereign debt. When the governments in power claim to be pursuing the goal of ‘debt reduction,’ they are deliberately lying. For the strategy of financialized monopolies requires the growth in debt (which they seek, rather than combat) as a way to absorb the surplus profit of monopolies. The austerity policies imposed ‘to reduce debt’ have indeed resulted (as intended) in increasing its volume.

4. It is this system – commonly called ‘neoliberal,’ the system of generalized monopoly capitalism, ‘globalized’ (imperialist) and financialized (of necessity for its own reproduction) – that is imploding before our eyes. This system, apparently unable to overcome its growing internal contradictions, is doomed to continue its wild ride.

The ‘crisis’ of the system is due to its own ‘success.’ Indeed so far the strategy deployed by monopolies has always produced the desired results: ‘austerity’ plans and the so-called social (in fact anti-social) downsizing plans that are still being imposed, in spite of resistance and struggles. To this day the initiative remains in the hands of the monopolies (‘the markets’) and their political servants (the governments that submit to the demands of the so-called ‘market’).

5. Under these conditions monopoly capital has openly declared war on workers and peoples. This declaration is formulated in the sentence ‘liberalism is not negotiable.’ Monopoly capital will definitely continue its wild ride and not slow down. The criticism of ‘regulation’ that I make below is grounded in this fact.

We are not living in a historical moment in which the search for a ‘social compromise’ is a possible option. There have been such moments in the past, such as the post-war social compromise between capital and labour specific to the social democratic state in the West, the actually existing socialism in the East, and the popular national projects of the South. But our present historical moment is not the same. So the conflict is between monopoly capital and workers and people who are invited to an unconditional surrender. Defensive strategies of resistance under these conditions are ineffective and bound to be eventually defeated. In the face of war declared by monopoly capital, workers and peoples must develop strategies that allow them to take the offensive.

The period of social war is necessarily accompanied by the proliferation of international political conflicts and military interventions of the imperialist powers of the triad. The strategy of ‘military control of the planet’ by the armed forces of the United States and its subordinate NATO allies is ultimately the only means by which the imperialist monopolies of the triad can expect to continue their domination over the peoples, nations and the states of the South.
Monopolies Declare War

Faced with this challenge of the war declared by the monopolies, what alternatives are being proposed?

First response: ‘market regulation’ (financial and otherwise). These are initiatives that monopolies and governments claim they are pursuing. In fact it is only empty rhetoric, designed to mislead public opinion. These initiatives cannot stop the mad rush for financial return that is the result of the logic of accumulation controlled by monopolies. They are therefore a false alternative.

Second response: a return to the post-war models. These responses feed a triple nostalgia: (i) the rebuilding of a true ‘social democracy’ in the West, (ii) the resurrection of ‘socialisms’ founded on the principles that governed those of the 20th century, (iii) the return to formulas of popular nationalism in the peripheries of the South. These nostalgias imagine it is possible to ‘roll back’ monopoly capitalism, forcing it to regress to what it was in 1945. But history never allows such returns to the past. Capitalism must be confronted as it is today, not as what we would have wished it to be by imagining the blocking of its evolution. However, these longings continue to haunt large segments of the left throughout the world.

Third response: the search for a ‘humanist’ consensus. I define this pious wish in the following way: the illusion that a consensus among fundamentally conflicting interests would be possible. Naïve ecology movements, among others, share this illusion.

Fourth response: the illusions of the past. These illusions invoke ‘specificity’ and ‘right to difference’ without bothering to understand their scope and meaning. The past has already answered the questions for the future. These ‘culturalisms’ can take many para-religious or ethnic forms. Theocracies and ethnocracies become convenient substitutes for the democratic social struggles that have been evacuated from their agenda.

Fifth response: priority of ‘personal freedom.’ The range of responses based on this priority, considered the exclusive ‘supreme value,’ includes in its ranks the diehards of ‘representative electoral democracy,’ which they equate with democracy itself. The formula separates the democratization of societies from social progress, and even tolerates a de facto association with social regression in order not to risk discrediting democracy, now reduced to the status of a tragic farce.

But there are even more dangerous forms of this position. I am referring here to some common ‘post modernist’ currents (such as Toni Negri in particular) who imagine that the individual has already become the subject of history, as if communism, which will allow the individual to be emancipated from alienation and actually become the subject of history, were already here!

It is clear that all of the responses above, including those of the right (such as the ‘regulations’ that do not affect private property monopolies) still find powerful echoes among a majority of the people on the left.

6. The war declared by the generalized monopoly capitalism of contemporary imperialism has nothing to fear from the false alternatives that I have just outlined.

So what is to be done?

This moment offers us the historic opportunity to go much further; it demands as the only effective response a bold and audacious radicalization in the formulation of alternatives capable of moving workers and peoples to take the offensive to defeat their adversary's strategy of war. These formulations, based on the analysis of actually existing contemporary capitalism, must directly confront the future that is to be built, and turn their back on the nostalgia for the past and illusions of identity or consensus.

Audacious Programs for the Radical Left
I will organize the following general proposals under three headings: (i) socialize the ownership of monopolies, (ii) de-financialize the management of the economy, (iii) de-globalize international relations.
Socialize the Ownership of Monopolies

The effectiveness of the alternative response necessarily requires the questioning of the very principle of private property of monopoly capital. Proposing to ‘regulate’ financial operations, to return markets to ‘transparency’ to allow ‘agent's expectations’ to be ‘rational’ and to define the terms of a consensus on these reforms without abolishing the private property of monopolies, is nothing other than throwing dust in the eyes of the naive public. Monopolies are asked to ‘manage’ reforms against their own interests, ignoring the fact that they retain a thousand and one ways to circumvent the objectives of such reforms.

The alternative social project should be to reverse the direction of the current social order (social disorder) produced by the strategies of monopolies, in order to ensure maximum and stabilised employment, and to ensure decent wages growing in parallel with the productivity of social labour. This objective is simply impossible without the expropriation of the power of monopolies.

The ‘software of economic theorists’ must be reconstructed (in the words of François Morin). The absurd and impossible economic theory of ‘expectations’ expels democracy from the management of economic decision-making. Audacity in this instance requires radical reform of education for the training not only of economists, but also of all those called to occupy management positions.

Monopolies are institutional bodies that must be managed according to the principles of democracy, in direct conflict with those who sanctify private property. Although the term ‘commons,’ imported from the Anglo-Saxon world, is itself ambiguous because always disconnected from the debate on the meaning of social conflicts (Anglo-Saxon language deliberately ignores the reality of social classes), the term could be invoked here specifically to call monopolies part of the ‘commons.’

The abolition of the private ownership of monopolies takes place through their nationalization. This first legal action is unavoidable. But audacity here means going beyond that step to propose plans for the socialization of the management of nationalized monopolies and the promotion of the democratic social struggles that are engaged on this long road.

I will give here a concrete example of what could be involved in plans of socialization.

‘Capitalist’ farmers (those of developed countries) like ‘peasant’ farmers (mostly in the South) are all prisoners of both the upstream monopolies that provide inputs and credit, and the downstream ones on which they depend for processing, transportation and marketing of their products. Therefore they have no real autonomy in their ‘decisions.’ In addition the productivity gains they make are siphoned off by the monopolies that have reduced producers to the status of ‘subcontractors.’ What possible alternative?

Public institutions working within a legal framework that would set the mode of governance must replace the monopolies. These would be constituted of representatives of: (i) farmers (the principle interests), (ii) upstream units (manufacturers of inputs, banks) and downstream (food industry, retail chains) and (iii) consumers, (iv) local authorities (interested in natural and social environment – schools, hospitals, urban planning and housing, transportation), (v) the State (citizens). Representatives of the components listed above would be self-selected according to procedures consistent with their own mode of socialized management, such as units of production of inputs that are themselves managed by directorates of workers directly employed by the units concerned as well as those who are employed by sub-contracting units and so on. These structures should be designed by formulas that associate management personnel with each of these levels, such as research centres for scientific, independent and appropriate technology. We could even conceive of a representation of capital providers (the ‘small shareholders’) inherited from the nationalization, if deemed useful.

We are therefore talking about institutional approaches that are more complex than the forms of ‘self-directed’ or ‘cooperative’ that we have known. Ways of working need to be invented that allow the exercise of genuine democracy in the management of the economy, based on open negotiation among all interested parties. A formula is required that systematically links the democratization of society with social progress, in contrast with the reality of capitalism which dissociates democracy, which is reduced to the formal management of politics, from social conditions abandoned to the ‘market’ dominated by what monopoly capital produces. Then and only then can we talk about true transparency of markets, regulated in institutionalized forms of socialized management.

The example may seem marginal in the developed capitalist countries because farmers there are a very small proportion of workers (3-7 per cent). However, this issue is central to the South where the rural population will remain significant for some time. Here access to land, which must be guaranteed for all (with the least possible inequality of access) is fundamental to principles advancing peasant agriculture (I refer here to my previous work on this question). ‘Peasant agriculture’ should not be understood as synonymous with ‘stagnant agriculture’ (or ‘traditional and folklorique’). The necessary progress of peasant agriculture does require some ‘modernization’ (although this term is a misnomer because it immediately suggests to many modernization through capitalism). More effective inputs, credits, and production and supply chains are necessary to improve the productivity of peasant labour. The formulas proposed here pursue the objective of enabling this modernization in ways and in a spirit that is ‘non-capitalist,’ that is to say grounded in a socialist perspective.

Obviously the specific example chosen here is one that needs to be institutionalized. The nationalization / socialization of the management of monopolies in the sectors of industry and transport, banks and other financial institutions should be imagined in the same spirit, while taking into account the specificities of their economic and social functions in the constitution of their directorates. Again these directorates should involve the workers in the company as well as those of subcontractors, representatives of upstream industries, banks, research institutions, consumers, and citizens.

The nationalization/socialization of monopolies addresses a fundamental need at the central axis of the challenge confronting workers and peoples under contemporary capitalism of generalized monopolies. It is the only way to stop the accumulation by dispossession that is driving the management of the economy by the monopolies.

The accumulation dominated by monopolies can indeed only reproduce itself if the area subject to ‘market management’ is constantly expanding. This is achieved by excessive privatization of public services (dispossession of citizens), and access to natural resources (dispossession of peoples). The extraction of profit of ‘independent’ economic units by the monopolies is even a dispossession (of capitalists!) by the financial oligarchy.
De-Financialization: A World Without Wall Street

Nationalization/socialization of monopolies would in and of itself abolish the principle of ‘shareholder value’ imposed by the strategy of accumulation in the service of monopoly rents. This objective is essential for any bold agenda to escape the ruts in which the management of today's economy is mired. Its implementation pulls the rug out from under the feet of the financialization of management of the economy. Are we returning to the famous ‘euthanasia of the rentier’ advocated by Keynes in his time? Not necessarily, and certainly not completely. Savings can be encouraged by financial reward, but on condition that their origin (household savings of workers, businesses, communities) and their conditions of earnings are precisely defined. The discourse on macroeconomic savings in conventional economic theory hides the organization of exclusive access to the capital market of the monopolies. The so-called ‘market driven remuneration’ is then nothing other than the means to guarantee the growth of monopoly rents.

Of course the nationalization/socialization of monopolies also applies to banks, at least the major ones. But the socialization of their intervention (‘credit policies’) has specific characteristics that require an appropriate design in the constitution of their directorates. Nationalization in the classical sense of the term implies only the substitution of the State for the boards of directors formed by private shareholders. This would permit, in principle, implementation of bank credit policies formulated by the State – which is no small thing. But it is certainly not sufficient when we consider that socialization requires the direct participation in the management of the bank by the relevant social partners. Here the ‘self-management’ of banks by their staff would not be appropriate. The staff concerned should certainly be involved in decisions about their working conditions, but little else, because it is not their place to determine the credit policies to be implemented.

If the directorates must deal with the conflicts of interest of those that provide loans (the banks) and those who receive them (the ‘enterprises’), the formula for the composition of directorates must be designed taking into account what the enterprises are and what they require. A restructuring of the banking system which has become overly centralized since the regulatory frameworks of the past two centuries were abandoned over the past four decades. There is a strong argument to justify the reconstruction of banking specialization according to the requirements of the recipients of their credit as well as their economic function (provision of short-term liquidity, contributing to the financing of investments in the medium and long term). We could then, for example, create an ‘agriculture bank’ (or a coordinated ensemble of agriculture banks) whose clientele is comprised not only of farmers and peasants but also those involved in the ‘upstream and downstream’ of agriculture described above. The bank's directorate would involve on the one hand the ‘bankers’ (staff officers of the bank – who would have been recruited by the directorate) and other clients (farmers or peasants, and other upstream and downstream entities).

We can imagine other sets of articulated banking systems, appropriate to various industrial sectors, in which the directorates would involve the industrial clients, centers of research and technology and services to ensure control of the ecological impact of the industry, thus ensuring minimal risk (while recognizing that no human action is completely without risk), and subject to transparent democratic debate.

The de-financialization of economic management would also require two sets of legislation. The first concerns the authority of a sovereign state to ban speculative fund (hedge funds) operations in its territory. The second concerns pension funds, which are now major operators in the financialization of the economic system. These funds were designed – first in the U.S. of course – to transfer to employees the risks normally incurred by capital, and which are the reasons invoked to justify capital's remuneration! So this is a scandalous arrangement, in clear contradiction even with the ideological defense of capitalism! But this ‘invention’ is an ideal instrument for the strategies of accumulation dominated by monopolies.

The abolition of pension funds is necessary for the benefit of distributive pension systems, which, by their very nature, require and allow democratic debate to determine the amounts and periods of assessment and the relationship between the amounts of pensions and remuneration paid. In a democracy that respects social rights, these pension systems are universally available to all workers. However, at a pinch, and so as not to prohibit what a group of individuals might desire to put in place, supplementary pension funds could be allowed.

All measures of de-financialization suggested here lead to an obvious conclusion: A world without Wall Street, to borrow the title of the book by François Morin, is possible and desirable.

In a world without Wall Street, the economy is still largely controlled by the ‘market.’ But these markets are for the first time truly transparent, regulated by democratic negotiation among genuine social partners (for the first time also they are no longer adversaries as they are necessarily under capitalism). It is the financial ‘market’ – opaque by nature and subjected to the requirements of management for the benefit of the monopolies – that is abolished. We could even explore whether it would be useful or not to shut down the stock exchanges, given that the rights to property, both in its private as well as social form, would be conducted ‘differently.’ We could even consider whether the stock exchange could be re-established to this new end. The symbol in any case – ‘a world without Wall Street’ – nevertheless retains its power.

De-financialization certainly does not mean the abolition of macroeconomic policy and in particular the macro management of credit. On the contrary it restores its efficiency by freeing it from its subjugation to the strategies of rent-seeking monopolies. The restoration of the powers of national central banks, no longer ‘independent’ but dependent on both the state and markets regulated by the democratic negotiation of social partners, gives the formulation of macro credit policy its effectiveness in the service of socialized management of the economy.
At the International Level: Delinking

I use here the term ‘delinking’ that I proposed half a century ago, a term that contemporary discourse appears to have substituted with the synonym ‘de-globalization.’ I have never conceptualized delinking as an autarkic retreat, but rather as a strategic reversal in the face of both internal and external forces in response to the unavoidable requirements of self-determined development. Delinking promotes the reconstruction of a globalization based on negotiation, rather than submission to the exclusive interests of the imperialist monopolies. It also makes possible the reduction of international inequalities.

Delinking is necessary because the measures advocated in the two previous sections can never really be implemented at the global scale, or even at a regional level (e.g. Europe). They can only be initiated in the context of states / nations with advanced radical social and political struggles, committed to a process of socialization of the management of their economy.

Imperialism, in the form that it took until just after the Second World War, had created the contrast between industrialised imperialist centers and dominated peripheries where industry was prohibited. The victories of national liberation movements began the process of the industrialization of the peripheries, through the implementation of delinking policies required for the option of self-reliant development. Associated with social reforms that were at times radical, these delinkings created the conditions for the eventual ‘emergence’ of those countries that had gone furthest in this direction – China leading the pack, of course.

But the imperialism of the current era, the imperialism of the Triad, forced to retreat and ‘adjust’ itself to the conditions of this new era, rebuilt itself on new foundations, based on ‘advantage’ by which it sought to hold on to the privilege of exclusivity that I have classified in five categories. The control of:
  •     technology
  •     access to natural resources of the planet
  •     global integration of the monetary and financial system
  •     systems of communication and information
  •     weapons of mass destruction.
The main form of delinking today is thus defined precisely by the challenge to these five privileges of contemporary imperialism. Emerging countries are engaged in delinking from these five privileges, with varying degrees of control and self-determination, of course. While earlier success over the past two decades in delinking enabled them to accelerate their development, in particular through industrial development within the globalized ‘liberal’ system using ‘capitalist’ means, this success has fueled delusions about the possibility of continuing on this path, that is to say, emerging as new ‘equal capitalist partners.’ The attempt to ‘co-opt’ the most prestigious of these countries with the creation of the G20 has encouraged these illusions.

But with the current ongoing implosion of the imperialist system (called ‘globalization’), these illusions are likely to dissipate. The conflict between the imperialist powers of the triad and emerging countries is already visible, and is expected to worsen. If they want to move forward, the societies of emerging countries will be forced to turn more toward self-reliant modes of development through national plans and by strengthening South-South cooperation.

Audacity, under such circumstances, involves engaging vigorously and coherently toward this end, bringing together the required measures of delinking with the desired advances in social progress.

The goal of this radicalization is threefold: the democratization of society; the consequent social progress achieved; and the taking of anti-imperialist positions. A commitment to this direction is possible, not only for societies in emerging countries, but also in the ‘abandoned’ or the ‘written-off’ of the global South. These countries had been effectively recolonized through the structural adjustment programs of the 1980s. Their peoples are now in open revolt, whether they have already scored victories (South America) or not (in the Arab world).

Audacity here means that the radical left in these societies must have the courage to take measure of the challenges they face and to support the continuation and radicalization of the necessary struggles that are in progress.

The delinking of the South prepares the way for the deconstruction of the imperialist system itself. This is particularly apparent in areas affected by the management of the global monetary and financial system, since it is the result of the hegemony of the dollar.

But beware: it is an illusion to expect to substitute for this system ‘another world monetary and financial system’ that is better balanced and favorable to the development of the peripheries. As always, the search of a ‘consensus’ over international reconstruction from above is mere wishful thinking akin to waiting for a miracle. What is on the agenda now is the deconstruction of the existing system - its implosion - and reconstruction of national alternative systems (for countries or continents or regions), as some projects in South America have already begun. Audacity here is to have the courage to move forward with the strongest determination possible, without too much worry about the reaction of imperialism.

This same problematique of delinking / dismantling is also of relevance to Europe, which is a subset of globalization dominated by monopolies. The European project was designed from the outset and built systematically to dispossess its peoples of their ability to exercise their democratic power. The European Union was established as a protectorate of the monopolies. With the implosion of the euro zone, its submission to the will of the monopolies has resulted in the abolishment of democracy which has been reduced to the status of farce and takes on extreme forms, namely focused only on the question: how are the ‘market’ (that is to say monopolies) and the ‘Rating Agencies’ (that is to say, again, the monopolies) reacting? That's the only question now posed. How the people might react is no longer given the slightest consideration.

It is thus obvious that here too there is no alternative to audacity: ‘disobeying’ the rules imposed by the "European Constitution" and the imaginary central bank of the euro. In other words, there is no alternative to deconstruct the institutions of Europe and the euro zone. This is the unavoidable prerequisite for the eventual reconstruction of ‘another Europe’ of peoples and nations.

In conclusion: Audacity, more audacity, always audacity.

What I mean by audacity is therefore:

    For the radical left in the societies of the imperialist triad, the need for an engagement in the building of an alternative anti-monopoly social bloc.
    For the radical left in the societies of the peripheries to engage in the building of an alternative anti-comprador social bloc.

It will take time to make progress in building these blocs, but it could well accelerate if the radical left takes on movement with determination and engages in making progress on the long road of socialism. It is therefore necessary to propose strategies not ‘out of the crisis of capitalism,’ but ‘out of capitalism in crisis’ to borrow from the title of one of my recent works.

We are in a crucial period in history. The only legitimacy of capitalism is to have created the conditions for passing on to socialism, understood as a higher stage of civilization. Capitalism is now an obsolete system, its continuation leading only to barbarism. No other capitalism is possible. The outcome of a clash of civilizations is, as always, uncertain. Either the radical left will succeed through the audacity of its initiatives to make revolutionary advances, or the counter-revolution will win. There is no effective compromise between these two responses to the challenge.

All the strategies of the non-radical left are in fact non-strategies, they are merely day-to-day adjustments to the vicissitudes of the imploding system. And if the powers that be want, like le Guépard, to ‘change everything so that nothing changes,’ the candidates of the left believe it is possible to ‘change life without touching the power of monopolies’! The non-radical left will not stop the triumph of capitalist barbarism. They have already lost the battle for lack of wanting to take it on.

Audacity is what is necessary to bring about the autumn of capitalism that will be announced by the implosion of its system and by the birth of an authentic spring of the people, a spring that is possible. •

Samir Amin is director of the Third World Forum. A selection of his books is available from Pambazuka Press.
1. Samir Amin, Sortir de la crise du capitalisme ou sortir du capitalisme en crise, Le temps des cerises, 2009.
2. Samir Amin, Ending the crisis of capitalism or ending capitalism, Pambazuka Press 2011
3. Samir Amin, Du capitalisme à la civilisation, Syllepse, 2008.
4. Aurélien Bernier, Désobéissons à l’Union Européenne, Les mille et une nuits, 2011.
5. Jacques Nikonoff, Sortir de l’euro, Mes mille et une nuits, 2011.
6. François Morin, Un monde sans Wall Street, Le seuil, 2011.

Calls from Home

Every year for the last 12 years Thousand Kites has produced CALLS FROM HOME, the voices of prisoner families, former prisoners, poets, musicians, and everyday citizens to the airwaves. The broadcast consists of holiday greetings from family members to their loved ones behind bars and the over 2.4 million people incarcerated in the United States.

Get involved with a national campaign to address the cost of prison phone calls and find out about special tools you cn use with Calls from Home.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The People versus The Wall Street Bull***!

(Published in Commondreams as "The People versus San Francisco's Wall Street Bull")
The golden bull glitters outside Wells Fargo Bank where marchers stopped protest the bank’s foreclosures.
Photo: Susan Galleymore, December 2, 2011.
San Francisco Labor Council attracted several hundred protesters to march from the Federal Building on Mission Street to the financial district – with spirited stops outside Wells Fargo Bank (king of foreclosures), Verizon (obscene disparity in salaries between executives and workers) , and the Embarcadero Hyatt (egregious treatment of workers, especially women). Seniors and wheelchair-bound protesters were especially evident at this event to protest cuts to social security and medical care and health insurance companies’ business practices.
“Roger” – he still works in the insurance industry – agrees with the effort to “tax the rich” and “no cuts to health care benefits and social security.”
“Over the last twenty-years I’ve become increasingly discouraged as we, as a nation, have moved away from our values. Then I found the 99% group, people of action trying to change things for the better.”
Roger is plump, 57-year-old “white guy” who has never before in his life participated in public protest. His face glowed with pleasure when I used his camera to photograph him with a Vietnam vet holding a sign stating that more than 5,000 war veterans have lost their homes to foreclosure.
Roger once worked for a health insurance company. “Honestly, I agree with these protesters that health care insurance is an extremely corrupt field. The industry has ways of making money that hurts the average person. The company I worked for had deductibles for families and if one family had more health problems than another family working for the same corporation they’d raise the deductibles for the corporation making it more expensive for the corporation to keep that family on…and that gave it an incentive to fire that employee.”
Like many other Americans around the country who’ve never protested before, something about this protest, this message (despite mainstream media’s claim that there isn’t one) touches something deep within Americans like Roger; they know intuitively that it’s the right time for these protests. And Roger has taken to the Occupy movement like he was born to it. Joyfully he explains that he takes boxes of donuts each morning to the Occupy encampment at Justin Herman Plaza. “Sure, they’re donuts, not the healthiest things around but I do it as we all enjoy eating ‘em and talking things over.”
And, yes, Occupy San Francisco is back! Evicted last week, the camp – larger than ever -- was in full swing this week. Campers, protesters, ferry commuters, and tourists joined in as singer/protest song writer Dave Rovics encouraged his audience to join his refrain that “we’ll stay…right…here!”
There are lingering fears throughout the camp that SFPD is planning another action to clear the camp. But, for now, the plaza looks like America: youth, middle-aged, able-bodied seniors and those on walkers and in wheelchairs, singers, poets…and insurance agents… understand that We, the 99% are not gonna take it anymore and we plan to “stay right here”!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Spiders Seek Higher Ground...

This astonishing photo came from a Facebook friend, Iara Lee: Activist & Filmmaker who writes:

EXTRAORDINARY PHENOMENON: The Silver Lining, The SPIDER WEBS! millions of spiders climbed up into the trees to escape the rising floods. Because of the scale of the flooding and the fact that the water has taken so long to recede, many trees have become cocooned in spiders webs. People in this part of Sindh have never seen this phenomenon before. They report that there are now far fewer mosquitoes since they are getting caught in the spiders' web, reducing the risk of malaria, which is one blessing for the people of Sindh, who face so many other hardships after the floods...!

unThanksgiving, Alcatraz Island

Hopped out of bed at 3:33am Thursday and prepared to meet a friend, Smadar, at 4:30am for the drive to Pier 33. It was dark, damp, and drizzling when we reached the Embarcadero. Judging by the limited parking, many more people than we expected were heading to Alcatraz and the Sunrise Ceremony. 
It was still dark and the rain still fell when, about 45 minutes later - car stowed safely at Art Academy parking lot - we joined the by-now much longer line of people waiting to purchase tickets, then waiting for a ferry to Alcatraz.
An hour later we were still the rain...waiting for a ferry; by now the sky was much lighter and both Smadar and I were wet through. Clearly we'd missed the sun rising - it was light when we finally landed on Alcatraz but we caught the last dance...and found some tobacco to throw into the sacred fire with thousands of others.
The Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Ceremony, aka unThanksgiving Day has been held annually on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay since 1975. It honors and promotes the rights of indigenous peoples of the Americas and also honors the 1969 protest when Alcatraz-Red Power Movement (ARPM) occupied the island.

Dancing in the sacred circle.

Detail of head-dress...

Looking toward San Francisco

Skeletons of the past against the morning sky.

(All photos, above, Susan Galleymore, Nov 24, 2011.)

Listen to audio: Clyde Bellecourt on Alcatraz 2011

Other photographs, same day, different photographer(s).

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Council of Elders stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street

 Occupy Oakland may be down but it ain't out... We had our own Council of Elders meet last night. Here's an overview vid of some of them..
The Council of Elders stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.

(And, sorry for the embedded Google Ads...but, what else can a girl do to scratch together enough $$s to live in this day and age?)

A Month in the Life of Occupy

General Strike, Port of Oakland, November 2
Estimates of the crowd size run from 20,000 to 30,000 (SF Chronicle)

Below: Oakland City Council meets to discuss Councilmember Nadel's resolution to Support Occupy Oakland. More than 140 members of the public spoke, the vast majority FOR support. The City Council delayed the decision...then Mayor Quan ordered the encampment removed.

Raising Sand Radio Audio clip from speakers at Oakland City Council meeting after the first, violent attack by police on Occupy Oakland encampment,
Day after police removed Occupy Oakland for the second time, Occupy supporters convene at Oakland Public Library to strategize.

November 16, actions by students from UC campuses in Berkeley, Davis, and Santa Cruz  discourage UC Regents from meeting.
Above: Snow Park, Occupy Oakland.

November 19, Preparing to march before occupying private park on 19th and Telegraph, Oakland.
Anticipating re-occupation of Ogawa/Grant Plaza, city workers run sprinklers full time to keep the ground too soggy for tents.

Undeterred, Occupiers create a vegetable garden to one side of plaza.

• On Sunday afternoon, Police, private security & DPW workers destroyed the garden planted in Oscar Grant Plaza during the Saturday Day of Action

More info regarding the attack on Occupy Oakland’s new community garden from the gardening working group:
We wanted to thank every person for their support and presence yesterday at the garden party. It felt so amazing to see all of your faces and to see the motivation! We wanted to write an email to you this evening telling you the garden was still up. A member went to the plaza around 2pm this afternoon and the garden was still looking beautiful! We were very excited to send out the email tonight with that in mind, however, we returned to the garden at 4pm this afternoon to find city workers and police throwing all the veggie starts, dirt and planter boxes into a dump truck.
There were members of the community already present who moved all the potted plants away from the scene, so those were saved. A few members sat next to the remaining box, so we saved those starts too. Some people tried to talk to the police during and after the truck left, and NO officer was willing to speak on behalf of the disrespectful decisions the city made.

Occupy San Francisco at Justin Herman Plaza the night before police clean out the encampment.
Occupy San Francisco, Justin Herman Plaza
(all photos Susan Galleymore's cell.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Exposing Cultural Myths at Occupy Oakland

Published in CounterPunch, Nov 15, as "Re-Occupy, ASAP": Exposing Cultural Myths at Occupy Oakland
And in Truthout, Nov 16.

What a welcome relief the Occupy movement’s trend of “leaderless” groups! True, this seemingly contradictory concept is difficult to absorb in a culture the promotes a leadership style that models the strongest, loudest, most persistent, and most vocal monopolizing the microphone – both physical and its cultural equivalent.
But, as Americans know well, repeat something often enough and it becomes part of the cultural vernacular. So, despite the difficulty politicians, media, and many Americans have in grasping this new paradigm, Occupy movements across the country continue as leaderless groups.

After the Oakland camp’s most recent tossing by police word-of-mouth convened about 1,000 people at the main library to strategize. Then they marched the four blocks back to City Hall for the 6 p.m. General Assembly.
There are refreshing and humorous moments at GAs when a random person from the crowd hops the line of speakers, commandeers the mic, and rambles on about the CIA commanding “us all through the fillings in our teeth”, that we’re at the “end times”, or that aliens are watching from outer space and waiting to invade. Then, the mic is retrieved, gently, and GA business continues.
Last night, the group reiterated its commitment to non-violence; anyone unable or unwilling to practice non-violence will be escorted, gently, from the group. It also consensually agreed that Saturday, November 19 is the next major gathering in Oakland for those aching for a different system of governance, society, and relationship to one another.
These peaceful and informal GAs belie the myths perpetuated by local government and the media about epidemics of violence at Occupy sites.
Then again, the movement is exposing other cultural myths and morality tales for what they are, too: formulae for shaming generations of wage-earners into silent compliance.
Presidential hopeful Herman Cain recently reiterated a classic:  “If you're not rich, don't blame Wall St, blame yourself.”
Variations on the theme include:
The rich have what they have because they “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps”.
“God” shows His approval of the righteously hard-working by endowing them with material wealth.
The unemployed have given up or are too lazy to seek jobs.
“The American Dream” is there for the taking by anyone willing to work for it  
Education ensures success.
The planet is a treasure trove of natural resources for bold risk-takers to tap.  
Indeed, even the myth that police maintain social order for business is evaporating in the face of reality.
Jesse Smith lives in downtown Oakland and, at first, he was skeptical of the Occupy movement’s manifestation in his neighborhood. After he reconnoitered, talked with Occupiers, and understood that they echoed his grievances about our country’s direction, he joined the camp's business liaison group.
Yesterday, he stood in the sunshine at the police barricades erected after the police raid early that morning and explained that the business liaison group had surveyed some 100 businesses in a 2 block radius around City Hall.
“We collected data that no one else seems to have: around one third of the business owners report neutral impact on their business by the occupation; another third, owners of convenience stores and pizza joints, report a positive impact – business has gone up; the rest, places negatively impacted, are the attractive retail outlets that tend to be chain stores.”
Most business owners note that the police actions are “the only detriment that they experience to their bottom line.” They say their vendors call and ask them, ‘Is it safe to come to downtown Oakland?’ There's an impression outside of Oakland that there's been a need for a constant police line and that raids and violent police actions are imminent. This, if anything, is what is killing commerce here.”
Dorothy King is the owner of the sixty-year-old Oakland-based family business Everett and Jones barbeque.
“People say small business owners in Oakland suffer because people don’t spend money here. No, if the small business owners who live and work in Oakland suffer it is because the big banks take our money out of our community and do not invest in our city.”

In the sunshine, a protester near Jesse Smith patrolled the police barricades behind which municipal workers picked up debris from the for-now demolished encampment. One side of the sign he carried urged, “Mayor Quan, City Council, how about a little imagination?” The other side read, “Re-Occupy asap.”

Judging by how the majority of people conduct themselves in Oakland these days, peacefully and with determination, it is only a matter of time before the latter comes true. 

(Photos: Susan Galleymore, Nov 14, 2011)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Communicating via People Pedal Power

One single bicycle – and many pedaling people -- powers Occupy San Francisco’s media center: three laptops, a handful of cell phones, and wi-fi hotspots.
It is fitting that, on the day when as many of five thousand protested outside Wells Fargo Bank, something as simple, sustainable, and ubiquitous as a bicycle video-streamed and communicated the goings-on to the rest of the country and the world.
This people pedal power demystifies electricity and sends a hopeful message: if one bicycle and a few batteries enable world-wide communication how dependent are We the People on centralized coal and nuclear power plants?
People pedal power encourages the person in the street intuitively to grasp an emergent urban story: each of us is capable of creating decentralized solutions that still allow us to run our beloved electronic equipment. Perhaps we really can outwit and work around the corporations and financial institutions at the heart of OWS movement’s dissatisfaction.

There’s nothing special about the bicycle that was donated by Bay Area business Rock the Bike. It is stationary and rigged to stand about six inches from the ground. When pedaled, the spinning rear wheel, attached to a small motor, transmits people power to a “box” that is connected to a battery…that is connected to inverters… that plug into equipment that requires 12 volts, or 115 AC, or even 5 volts for cell phones.
Kames Cox-Geraghty, one of the Occupiers working on a laptop on Market Street near the Embarcadero BART station, said, “Right now these things are definitely basic but we're getting there; we have people who really want to help build the system who come down here to advise us.”

Earlier in the occupation, the encampment had a generator but police stated organizers needed to apply for a permit from the fire department. According to police, however, the encampment had “too many personal items lying around that constitute a fire hazard” and it was unlikely to be granted a permit. 
“So, at the moment,” Cox-Geraghty explained in a recent Raising Sand Radio interview, “we don't have backup. Instead, we have somebody on the bike almost 24/7. It's an intense system; we go for maybe five minutes without it, then we do a big shout out, ‘I'm done. Who wants to go next?’”

The shout out, also known as the “human microphone,” is another example of a work-around that has become common at occupation sites where “necessity is the mother of invention.” Activist/author Naomi Klein and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Sizizek are among the speakers who have popularized this ingenious urban call and response system that obviates the need to apply for a permit for sound amplifying equipment. Speakers break sentences into staccato sound bites that members of the audience repeat and pass through the crowd. It works for immediate needs – recruiting cyclists to generate pedal power – and it also works to educate and connect the dots between the OWS movement and world events.
One such moment occurred at Occupy San Francisco when someone shouted, “How many… American deaths…. in Iraq and Afghanistan?”
A response popped up and was amplified through the crowd, “About nine thousand.” (A number that includes military contractors killed.)
Then another voice shouted, “What about… the deaths… of people not American?”
There was no answer to that but that the question was asked raises awareness about the terrible swath of war beyond America borders. (The answer? Approximately one-and-a-half million Iraqis. Afghans? Unclear; the American military doesn’t “do body counts”.)

A longtime activist, Francis Coombs, said, “When the husks of the old world fall away we will see that new growth has already taken root.”
The world-wide Occupy movement shows all the signs of new growth taking root as engaged human beings collaborate to create renewable people power.