Not long after I was out of college I worked at a nursing home where the stories residents shared with me turned out to be my true education.
One woman told me about her daddy, who dared to talk in whispers about a union to his fellow coal miners. Others who’d talked that way had been killed. One night, goons hired by the company showed up at the door of their shack. The girl was only 8 or 9 years old. She knew they were coming for her daddy. When they knocked at the door her mother answered, baby in her arms and children gathered around her skirts. She said her husband wasn’t home. They wouldn’t listen.
But this girl had already rushed back to the kitchen and hid her daddy’s plate in the oven while her daddy hurried to hide under the porch. When the men pushed their way into the shack they saw only the right number of plates to feed mother and children. Only then did they believe her lies that her husband wasn’t home. The coal mine was never unionized, but her daddy survived to raise his nine children. Her brothers all went to work in the mines around the age of 13 to 14.
This is one example of why we celebrate Labor Day.
There is no hope for America, as most of its population is so dumbed down by ideology that they end up putting the likes of Trump at the helm. Most of these “educated” Americans cannot even spell Marxism without a spell check and yet they have opinions on it?
A longtime economics professor argues that capitalism is accountable for the shortages, economic downturn, and vast spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States.In a variety of recent public statements, economist Richard Wolff argues that “the catastrophe we are living through was caused by a capitalist system that could not anticipate, plan for, or cope with the coronavirus.”Wolff has been an economics professor for more than 50 years and has taught at Yale and the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is currently a visiting professor at the New School University in New York City. Often described as a “Marxian economist,” Wolff was named in Jacobin magazine as one of the “greats of contemporary Marxian political economy.”
In a March 31 YouTube video titled “Capitalism is making a mess of the coronavirus crisis,” he argued that “private companies have no incentive to produce test kits and store them in a warehouse for years before there’s a crisis. It’s not profitable.”
Wolff told The College Fix that economic systems have a duty to look after public health, something that would have occurred under socialism.
“A socialist system would much more likely have required production of all the needed supplies (tests, ventilators, beds, etc.) and stockpiling them around the country,” he told The Fix via email.
Asked whether China, a prime example of centralized government, had a role in instigating the pandemic, Wolff said that “whatever the Chinese did or did not do, it is the job of all other societies — their private sectors and their governments — to prepare for and cope with viruses that can come from anywhere anytime.”
A recent visit to Cuba reminded me that Soviet-style state planning is no way to run a healthy economy.
So it’s safe to say the New Hampshire primary win by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — who has variously referred to himself as a socialist and a democratic socialist — is not a request by voters for Cuba’s crumbling buildings and shortages of consumer goods.
Socialism means different things to different people, and for many older North Americans conditioned by years of Cold War rhetoric, it is a trigger word for fears of creeping communism.
While there are plenty of economists who disdain Sanders, others who believe that capitalism is the hands-down winner in making ordinary people rich, healthy and happy are also convinced that right now U.S. capitalism needs someone like him.
Perhaps none have made that clearer than the French bestselling economist Thomas Piketty, currently doing the media rounds in advance of the English version of his newest book, Capital and Ideology.
The Nobel Prize-winning Piketty himself was labelled a Marxist by opponents when he made a splash with his 2013 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century that some say accurately foreshadowed the populist win by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Piketty’s case in that book was that unless capitalism was adjusted in favour of the poor, we should expect a nationalist backlash by those who were losing out and blamed global capitalism for all their problems.
To some critics, the movement in favour of Sanders is just a kind of populism from the other side, a sort of anti-Trumpism, to Make America Great by bringing down the evil rich.
The kind of ideology celebrated in books such as Winners Take All, by former New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas, has become a key part of the U.S. political opposition that supports Sanders.
Sanders ‘not radical’
There are plenty of credible U.S. economists who agree with the need for capitalist reform. But for dry, intellectual analysis of why capitalism needs the kind of metamorphosis that only someone like Sanders can provide, it is hard to find a better source than Piketty.
In advance of the English version of his new book, the economic historian did two fresh interviews this week, one on the business news service Bloomberg, and one by the Financial Times in the tweeted link below.
“I think, first, that [Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth] Warren and Sanders are not radicals,” said Piketty in response to one interviewer’s question. “They are moderate social democrats by European standards.”
Looked at in historical terms, said the French economist, even by the standards of the U.S. — a country that in another era was the world leader in progressive taxation — raising taxes on the rich from their current low levels is hardly radical. History is filled with examples of ideological shifts away from inequality far short of revolutions that made countries’ economies stronger.
He offers the example of Sweden, which we now think of as a healthy social democracy. But as recently as the early 1900s the country was controlled by a wealthy elite, where only the richest 20 per cent had voting rights and where richer people got a greater number of votes. And he said the new Swedish ideology propelled the change with minimal economic disruption.
Piketty sees a parallel in the United States, where the poor and lower-middle class don’t vote because they know the government will inevitably only represent the better off. Perhaps a new Sanders-led ideology could change that.
‘Broad participation’ needed
Like many other economists, Piketty insists that, as happened in Sweden, sharing wealth more broadly will make the U.S. economy stronger, not weaker, and richer overall. He says the evidence from the past 30 years shows that the low-tax ideology that made the rich richer as a way of boosting the economy is “not convincing.”
“I think the level of inequality we have today is not only unfair but it is also not efficient for the working of the economy,” he said. “We need broad participation by a very large group.”
There is no question that Piketty is himself a socialist. He is also a believer in capitalist economics and sees no conflict between the two. But the type of socialism matters.
In Cuba, years of economic planning means everyone is now literate. Socialized medicine means life spans are equivalent to those in the United States at a tiny fraction of the cost. But it is increasingly clear that the only vigorous parts of the otherwise tattered economy are in places where market forces have been permitted to develop.
There is a palpable feeling of ideological change in the air. Perhaps, as in China, Cuba’s long period of relative equality will act as a platform for a market-based rebirth.
According to the Piketty model of economic history, a social democratic Sanders is also riding a wave of changing national ideology, one that will keep the capitalism motor running while sharing the wealth to make the entire country richer.
Whether a majority of U.S. voters will be comfortable with the kind of ideological shift that Sanders represents is yet to be seen.
Don Pittis was a forest firefighter, and a ranger in Canada’s High Arctic islands. After moving into journalism, he was principal business reporter for Radio Television Hong Kong before the handover to China. He has produced and reported for the CBC in Saskatchewan and Toronto and the BBC in London. He is currently senior producer at CBC’s business unit.
Up yours stupid capitalist Trump mofo supporters. The best nations on the planet are all socialist. The so-called greatest country on the planet cannot come close to what these nations are accomplishing.
Considering the booming economy, dropping unemployment numbers and the return of many once-emigrated young Portuguese citizens, it seems Portugal is on the rise. Facing the policies of socialist Prime Minister António Costa, which include properly supporting the welfare state and investing in the public sector instead of austerity measures, right wing populists don’t stand a chance.
Not too long ago, Portugal stood on the brink of catastrophe: harsh austerity policies and the erosion of labour rights pushed by the conservative government lead to significant rises in poverty and unemployment. The economy dwindled due to the lack of peoples’ spending power.
Today, everything has changed:
“Nowadays, Portugal is considered a prime example among European countries: the economy is booming, unemployment is dropping and investments are rising.”m
What are the reasons for this turnaround? What makes Portugal special when compared to other countries?
Turning point 2015: Famous Lisbon mayor Costa is elected prime minister
The first major change occurred during the general election 2015. This was time when the right wing conservative government dismantled the social welfare state piece by piece, which resulted in a furious population voicing their dissatisfaction in the voting booth – causing the conservatives to lose 11 percent of their previous electoral votes.
Lisbon’s former mayor António Costa, a socialist, won by a landslide and brought in 32 percent for the Partido Socialista after being elected frontrunner a year prior and uniting the entire city of Lisbon during his time as mayor.
At first, Portugal was said to have made a grave mistake
It’s been more than four years since the socialist party assumed the reins of government. The scepticism of the early days has virtually vanished. The entirety of Europe seems impressed by the success story of António Costa:
The Portuguese economy has been booming for 4 years. 2017 marked the largest national economic growth of the century.
The Portuguese are not only showing the feasibility of socially conscious policies, but demonstrating the significant potential for success.
“The budget deficit has dropped to its lowest ever since the change to a democratic system in 1974 – simply because the government re-established and strengthened the social welfare state, leading to the Portuguese people having more money to spend.”
The socialists raised the once slashed wages and pensions, reintroduced paid vacations and retracted many tax raises, all while raising wealth taxes which affect only the rich parts of the population. The government also introduced a property and real estate tax designed not to target the homes of average citizens. Costa’s socialists also put an end to the catastrophic privatizations that were once instructed by the EU and resulted in selling state assets at absurdly low prices.
“The assumption that one could save the economy by aggressively cutting wages and excessively attacking welfare programs was clearly a misconception”, Costa said about his predecessors.
Social Democrats reach 37 percent in parliamentary elections
Portugal’s swift rise from a nation in shambles to prime example is remarkable. Costa gave hope and pride back to the people after the country was shaken to its foundation by the EU’s austerity programs and the failed previous government.
The newfound optimism also influenced the outcome of the 2019 parliamentary elections
His Socialists (PS) won the parliamentary elections in Portugal with 37 percent – well ahead of the conservative Social Democrats (PSD). They finished second with 28 percent of the vote, Costa won over 4 percent and came first. The number of socialist MPs rose from 86 to 108, with the socialists winning 15 out of 20 constituencies – 8 more than in the 2015 general election.
A nation without right wing populists
In the current political climate, which is full of optimism, the Right cannot get a foothold –patriotism as is claimed by the Left.
“If young Europeans are radicalized in city districts that were economically left behind, we have to answer with social policy measures”, Costa summarized his agenda in an interview with the german newspaper „Spiegel„.
Young Portuguese citizens abroad are being brought back
Nowadays, the political and economic climate under the socialist government is attractive enough to make citizens abroad consider returning to Portugal. When the conservatives were in power, tens of thousands of young citizens – some of whom were very well educated – left the country due to a lack of jobs and perspectives.
“My predecessors caused the greatest wave of emigration ever since the 1960s”, Costa stated.
The economy crashed, almost half of the young Portuguese was unemployed – setting a sad record. Portugal was facing the risk of losing an entire generation.
By now, 2.3 million Portuguese live abroad, but the government led by Costa is set on bringing them back. “This is the only way to combat the demographic decline, revitalize our economy and securing the continued existence of our social welfare programs”, the state secretary responsible says. To ensure this, the government organized programs and created networks abroad. Additionally, temporary tax breaks for returning citizens are planned.
The high rate of unemployment among the general population hovering at 17 percent under conservative rule was reduced by a staggering 10 percent, and it continues to drop.
20 billion Euros are being invested
The remarkable economic growth of the past years is to be only the beginning. Under socialist rule, the economy grew so significantly that the money made is now set to be invested and returned to the general population. Portugal’s government plans to use the rising public sector revenue to transform the nation into a more just and modern one, after the conservatives destabilized the infrastructure.
Costa presented a nation-wide investment proposal and surprised many once again: 20 billion Euros is considered an incredible amount of money for a country the size of Portugal. 60 percent of the funds is to go towards public transportation. The remaining money will be invested in the energy sector and environmental projects.
New subways, new trains
The much-used railway line connecting Lisbon and Porto is to be modernized, urban subway networks are to be expanded and public transportation in rural areas is to be invested in. This will generate new jobs, revitalize the economy and lift public transportation onto a state-of-the-art level. Furthermore, Portugal will become more eco-sensitive in the process. And Portugal did all this with a solid budget – in 2019 it even achieved budget surpluses.
Electorate is deeply divided as UK braces for snap poll called to break political deadlock over Brexit.
From left: Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the Conservative Party, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrats leader [Reuters]
Britons will head to the polls on Thursday, December 12 for a snap general election, which is hoped to end the country’s Brexit impasse.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s Conservative Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s main opposition Labour Party present widely different proposals for solving the political crisis, which continues to rumble on after 52 percent voted to leave the European Union in a June 2016 referendum.
Voters in 650 constituencies across the United Kingdom will elect a minister of parliament to the lower chamber House of Commons via the first-past-the-post system.
To win a seat, candidates need more votes than any of their competitors.
A party needs to win 326 seats in order to secure a majority in the House of Commons.
Parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords, is unelected, and rather nominated by some main parties.
If no party achieves a majority, there will be a hung parliament. The party with the largest vote share may form a minority government, seek out support from smaller parties for a “confidence and supply” arrangement, or try to build a formal coalition.
Brexit is the main issue for voters, but a slowing economy, creaking health and social care provision, the unfolding climate crisis, and law and order are among other key concerns.
On polling day, voting opens at 7:00 GMT and ends at 22:00 GMT. Final results are expected to be declared in the early hours of Friday, December 13.
Forty-three percent of voters say they would vote Conservative if an election were held tomorrow, according to a recent YouGov poll.
That could translate into the Conservatives winning 359 seats in the Commons, according to YouGov, compared with 211 for Labour.
Among the smaller parties, the pro-European, centrist Liberal Democrats are predicted to win 14 percent and 13 seats in Parliament. The Scottish National Party (SNP), which only fields candidates for the 59 constituencies in Scotland, is projected to win 43 seats, but only 3 percent of all votes cast.
Johnson has promised to “get Brexit done” and pass his withdrawal agreement through Parliament by the end of January if the Conservatives scoop a majority.
However, even if Parliament passes the existing withdrawal agreement by that deadline, a potentially gruelling negotiation over the UK and the EU’s future relationship will begin as the transition period comes into effect.
If Labour wins, it will ask the EU for another Brexit extension to allow time to renegotiate the current withdrawal agreement. Corbyn wants a softer divorce deal based on a new UK-EU customs union and closer EU single market alignment.
Labour’s reworked agreement would be put to a legally-binding second referendum within six months, alongside an option to remain in the EU.
Abby Martin sits down with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges to discuss the ignored reality behind Trump, the bipartisan road from neoliberalism to fascism, how the Democratic elite are an institution of corporate power, and how there’s no way out through the #2020election without destroying the system.
Democrats and liberals, particularly some of the more high profiles ones running for president, tend to like the word “free.” Free tuition, courtesy of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Free health care, courtesy of Elizabeth Warren.
But Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), as the young progressive firebrand she is, is instructing her colleagues and fellow Democrats to start using a new phrase to describe their lofty goals.
“It’s not that we deserve it because it’s a handout,” Ocasio-Cortez explained at a town hall over the weekend. “People like to say, ‘Oh, this is about free stuff.’ This is not about free stuff.”
Public education, libraries, & infrastructure policies (which we‘ve had before in America and elsewhere in the world!) are not “free stuff.”
They are PUBLIC GOODS.
And they are worth investing in, protecting, & advancing for all society and future generations.
From yesterday, @aoc had a Green New Deal for public housing townhall in the Bronx. “I don’t want to hear the term free stuff ever again…I am already hearing from some of these neoliberal folks who are trying to flip the script on us.”
“These are public goods,” she continued. “They’re public goods. So I never want to hear the word or the term ‘free stuff’ ever again … because I’m tired of already hearing some of these neoliberal folks who are trying to, like, flip the script on us.”
She equates Medicare for All and free tuition with libraries and roads, suggesting they should each be easily accessible. In other words, this is just another attempt to push socialism.
One of the biggest problems in society at the moment seems to be the lack of correct cognitive models of the socioeconomic situation. I am on the internet quite a lot and read people’s comments about money, about billionaires, about poverty, about the failing social services, the benefit system, the failing NHS and very rarely do their ideas about these issues match mine. So I try to explain where some of the problems lie and it is difficult because we don’t even have the language to refer to correct cognitive tokens to talk about the correct relationships between things. Occasionally I attempt to describe some of the underlying issues to create a perspective that enables a different interpretation and understanding about some aspect of all this.
But broadly speaking we are struggling to coordinate our communication to make collective sense of various issues. A simple example would be that people complain that Tesco should pay their taxes as if Tesco is an immoral entity doing harm to the world. Tesco is a fine company and does a lot of good. But I can’t say that because, according to those people who interpret Tesco as doing evil, it puts me on the wrong side in their model of the world. Most people who simply think Tesco is great are generally thinking about it in limited terms and are supporting the economic model in which it exists. The thing about Tesco is it is the emergent manifestation of the underlying socioeconomic interpretations currently in existence in the collective mind of the people operating in the system. In other words Tesco is a successful and productive company in the current dynamics of how we operate. If there is something wrong – and there certainly is – then it is the mechanisms by which we are operating.
Noam Chomsky makes an important observation that many of the world’s most serious problems could be solved by simply abiding by the law. He doesn’t go on to make the point, but I will, that the significant issue is consistency. In other words it doesn’t matter what those laws are, what matters is that they are followed consistently. That way, if things aren’t working out then you can alter the laws. So if you have a plan you have to stick to it. Not ad infinitum but whilst you are enacting the plan you have to stick to it. If it isn’t working out then you don’t breach the plan and carry on because then, when things are not working, you don’t know if it is your breaching of the plans or the plans that are at fault. The approach of attempting to fix the situation by breaching the plans gives rise to that well known frustration that “it is one law for them and another law for us” scenario. Very often those breaking the law in high places perceive what they are doing which breaks the law as acting to prevent the strict adherence to the law creating a negative result. The problem with Tesco is we need more appropriate plans and laws.
So why did the Tories underfund the NHS? It strikes me as most interesting that the Tories did not need to underfund the NHS to achieve the plan to privatise the health service. In fact, it may be the very thing that scuppers their plans. And so it is ironic that their underfunding has at least highlighted that something is wrong in the minds of the population. Whilst the cognitive model of how the NHS operates is not understood by the general public then they perceive it as underfunding and it makes sense for people to agree it needs more funding. It probably doesn’t.
It is the restructuring of the NHS in line with the neoliberal cognitive model that is causing the majority of the problems we see. I will point out that I have just used the term “neoliberal” which is only just floating into the collective cognitive model enough that I can sometimes use it as a cognitive token without having to explain in detail what it is. Without the word “neoliberal” I would need to write an essay on neoliberalism before I could carry on. The restructuring of the NHS from a service provided by the collection of people it serves to a pyramid marketing system to incentivise people to work in the industry for profit in order to render a service we collectively desire is fundamentally self contradictory and cannot work. So, even without underfunding, the NHS would be in crisis because a lot of the money currently supplied from the ‘government’ is paid to independent corporations who are in it for the sole purpose of rendering a profit for shareholders.
Say the NHS transport costs 100 per annum then they put it out to tender and a company offers to provide the transport for 90 then the ‘NHS’ appears to be getting the same service for 10 less than it used to and this is understood to be more economically efficient. Then the private company needs to keep 10 for profit leaving 80 to pay for the transport. The private company is not being bad, these are simply the rules of the system. Now, in simple terms, you get 80% of the transport you once had for 90% of the cost. There are two simple ways that can be employed to render what looks like the same service. One is to not invest in the infrastructure by, for example, not servicing the ambulances as often or not purchasing new ones when they are needed, and the other is to pay the workers less for the same job. The private companies don’t mind because when the system needs investment they simply don’t tender for next year’s contract. They did some work and they gained some profit – that is what they are about. But the whole system begins to collapse.
The American insurance-based health care system costs about six times as much for the same product as the NHS. And it is not even provided for all the population. But for those that get it, the service is of a high quality akin to the service previously supplied by the NHS. The NHS has been restructured to fit the American model. Had the Tories not underfunded it we would see the same degradation but it would have been over a longer time frame. They, presumably with the corrupt disaster capitalism paradigm, perceived the mechanism of underfunding as accelerating the point at which the offer of insurance-based health care would appear to be a solution. They have run up against a very tight line whereby they may have alerted the public to the crime a little too early.
Jeremy Corbyn (as representing the grass roots comprehension and cognitive models) is the only politician to make it clear that, not only does he understand it is the structural changes that are the problem, but has confirmed this interpretation by pointing out that Labour will repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012 because it is the initial and primary point at which the NHS was structurally reorientated to fit the American insurance based model. No amount of increased spending by government would fix the underlying problems that are being introduced under the neoliberal cognitive model of how things work. Obviously immediate benefits would be seen by injecting more cash but the long term disaster would simply be staved off in the short term. It is important to stave off the disaster but it is virtually ineffective with respect to solving the real problem.
We need to change the direction of politics in the UK.
Labour might not solve all our problems but they are turning the ship decisively from the imminent catastrophe and towards a serviceable future.
And whoever thought it was a good idea to ask politicians if they would press the Nuclear Button as a measure of whether we are safe in their hands when the consensus cognitive model is insane enough to interpret our survival as being dependent on the willingness to destroy the world?
Of all the ludicrous aspects of the Cold War, among the most ridiculous was the notion that Cuba posed a threat to U.S. “national security.” For some 30 years, the U.S. deep state (i.e., the Pentagon, CIA, and NSA) maintained that Cuba was a communist “dagger” pointed at America’s neck and, therefore, was a grave threat to “national security.”
Through it all, hardly anyone ever asked a very simple but important question: What did they mean when they said that Cuba was a threat to “national security”?
Did they mean that the Cuban army was about to invade Florida, conquer the state, move up the Eastern Seaboard, and end up forcibly taking over the reins of the federal government, thereby enabling it to control the IRS and HUD?
If so, that’s absolutely ridiculous. Cuba has always been an impoverished Third World country, one with a very small military force. Even if it could have scrounged up a few transport boats to get a few dozen troops to Miami, they would have been quickly smashed by well-armed private American citizens. Anyone who really thinks that Cuba could have invaded and conquered the United States needs a serious dose of reality.
So, then what did they mean when they repeatedly told us that Cuba was a threat to “national security”?
Maybe they meant that Cuban leader Fidel Castro would export socialist ideas to the United States, where they would then infect the minds of the American people.
If so, that’s ridiculous because socialism was already taking over the minds of the American people, and long before Fidel Castro took power in Cuba. That’s what President Franklin Roosevelt’s Social Security scheme was all about — bringing socialism to America. That was some 25 years before Castro came to power!
Let’s not forget, after all, that Social Security did not originate with James Madison or Patrick Henry. It originated among German socialists near the end of the 1800s and then came to the United States in the 1930s. That’s why the Social Security administration has a bust of Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor of Germany, prominently displayed on its website. Bismarck introduced Social Security to Germany. He got the idea from German socialists.
When President Lyndon Johnson enacted Medicare and Medicaid into law in the 1960s, it would be safe to say that he hadn’t gotten the idea from Fidel Castro. Socialism was gripping the minds of Americans independently of what was happening in Cuba. The fact is that the entire world was moving toward socialism.
What about the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Castro invited the Soviet Union to install nuclear missiles in Cuba aimed at the United States? They were defensive in nature. The Pentagon and the CIA were pressuring President Kennedy to wage a war of aggression against Cuba, with the aim of installing another pro-U.S. dictator into power, such as Fulgencio Batista, the brutal and corrupt Cuban dictator who preceded Castro. A prime example was Operation Northwoods, the false and fraudulent scheme that the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously presented to Kennedy after the CIA’s Bay of Pigs disaster, with the aim of securing regime change in Cuba. (To Kennedy’s everlasting credit, he rejected it.)
To deter another U.S. attack or to defend against such an attack, Castro sought assistance from the Soviets. If the Pentagon and the CIA had not been pressuring Kennedy to attack Cuba, Castro would never have invited the Soviets to install those missiles. This was confirmed by the fact that once Kennedy promised that he would not permit the deep state to attack Cuba again, the Soviets took their missiles home.
Today, 30 years after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. deep state steadfastly maintains that Cuba continues to pose a threat to U.S. “national security.” That’s what the decades-old economic embargo that targets the Cuban populace with impoverishment and death is all about.
But the fact is that Cuba has never posed a threat to U.S. “national security,” whatever definition one puts on that nebulous, meaningless term. The truth is that it has always been the U.S. government that has posed a threat to Cuban “national security,” as manifested by such illegal and wrongful actions as the CIA invasion at the Bay of Pigs, the decades-long cruel and brutal economic embargo against the Cuban people, the false and fraudulent Operation Northwoods, state-sponsored assassinations attempts against Castro, and acts of terrorism and sabotage within Cuba.
The truth is that the entire decades-long anti-Cuba campaign has always been nothing more than a fear-mongering racket by the U.S. deep state, one designed to assure ever-increasing budgets and power for the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.
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Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch.
Shortly before the coup against Bolivia’s Evo Morales, his government announced plans to nationalize the highly profitable lithium industry and to deal directly on the international market instead of exporting it at bargain prices to the West.
Global demand for lithium, used to make cell phone batteries, parts of laptops and electric cars, is expected to triple in the next 15 years and guess where the largest reserves in the world are?
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales was overthrown in a military coup on November 10. He is now in Mexico. Before he left office, Morales had been involved in a long project to bring economic and social democracy to his long-exploited country. It is important to recall that Bolivia has suffered a series of coups, often conducted by the military and the oligarchy on behalf of transnational mining companies. Initially, these were tin firms, but tin is no longer the main target in Bolivia. The main target is its massive deposits of lithium, crucial for the electric car.
Over the past 13 years, Morales has tried to build a different relationship between his country and its resources. He has not wanted the resources to benefit the transnational mining firms, but rather to benefit his own population. Part of that promise was met as Bolivia’s poverty rate has declined, and as Bolivia’s population was able to improve its social indicators. Nationalization of resources combined with the use of its income to fund social development has played a role. The attitude of the Morales government toward the transnational firms produced a harsh response from them, many of them taking Bolivia to court.
Over the course of the past few years, Bolivia has struggled to raise investment to develop the lithium reserves in a way that brings the wealth back into the country for its people. Morales’ Vice President Álvaro García Linera had said that lithium is the “fuel that will feed the world.” Bolivia was unable to make deals with Western transnational firms; it decided to partner with Chinese firms. This made the Morales government vulnerable. It had walked into the new Cold War between the West and China. The coup against Morales cannot be understood without a glance at this clash.
Clash With the Transnational Firms
When Evo Morales and the Movement for Socialism took power in 2006, the government immediately sought to undo decades of theft by transnational mining firms. Morales’ government seized several of the mining operations of the most powerful firms, such as Glencore, Jindal Steel & Power, Anglo-Argentine Pan American Energy, and South American Silver (now TriMetals Mining). It sent a message that business as usual was not going to continue.
Nonetheless, these large firms continued their operations—based on older contracts—in some areas of the country. For example, the Canadian transnational firm South American Silver had created a company in 2003—before Morales came to power—to mine the Malku Khota for silver and indium (a rare earth metal used in flat-screen televisions). South American Silver then began to extend its reach into its concessions. The land that it claimed was inhabited by indigenous Bolivians, who argued that the company was destroying its sacred spaces as well as promoting an atmosphere of violence.
On August 1, 2012, the Morales government—by Supreme Decree no. 1308—annulled the contract with South American Silver (TriMetals Mining), which then sought international arbitration and compensation. Canada’s government of Justin Trudeau—as part of a broader pushon behalf of Canadian mining companies in South America—put an immense amount of pressure on Bolivia. In August 2019, TriMetals struck a deal with the Bolivian government for $25.8 million, about a tenth of what it had earlier demanded as compensation.
Jindal Steel, an Indian transnational corporation, had an old contract to mine iron ore from Bolivia’s El Mutún, a contract that was put on hold by the Morales government in 2007. In July 2012, Jindal Steel terminated the contract and sought international arbitration and compensation for its investment. In 2014, it won $22.5 million from Bolivia in a ruling from Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce. For another case against Bolivia, Jindal Steel demanded $100 million in compensation.
The Morales government seized three facilities from the Swiss-based transnational mining firm Glencore; these included a tin and zinc mine as well as two smelters. The mine’s expropriation took place after Glencore’s subsidiary clashed violently with miners.
Most aggressively, Pan American sued the Bolivian government for $1.5 billion for the expropriation of the Anglo-Argentinian company’s stake in natural gas producer Chaco by the state. Bolivia settled for $357 million in 2014.
The scale of these payouts is enormous. It was estimated in 2014 that the public and private payments made for nationalization of these key sectors amounted to at least $1.9 billion (Bolivia’s GDP was at that time $28 billion).
In 2014, even the Financial Timesagreed that Morales’ strategy was not entirely inappropriate. “Proof of the success of Morales’s economic model is that since coming to power he has tripled the size of the economy while ramping up record foreign reserves.”
Bolivia’s key reserves are in lithium, which is essential for the electric car. Bolivia claims to have 70 percent of the world’s lithium reserves, mostly in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats. The complexity of the mining and processing has meant that Bolivia has not been able to develop the lithium industry on its own. It requires capital, and it requires expertise.
The salt flat is about 12,000 feet (3,600 meters) above sea level, and it receives high rainfall. This makes it difficult to use sun-based evaporation. Such simpler solutions are available to Chile’s Atacama Desert and in Argentina’s Hombre Muerto. More technical solutions are needed for Bolivia, which means that more investment is needed.
The nationalization policy of the Morales government and the geographical complexity of Salar de Uyuni chased away several transnational mining firms. Eramet (France), FMC (United States) and Posco (South Korea) could not make deals with Bolivia, so they now operate in Argentina.
Morales made it clear that any development of the lithium had to be done with Bolivia’s Comibol—its national mining company—and Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB)—its national lithium company—as equal partners.
Last year, Germany’s ACI Systems agreed to a deal with Bolivia. After protests from residents in the Salar de Uyuni region, Morales canceled that deal on November 4, 2019.
Chinese firms—such as TBEA Group and China Machinery Engineering—made a deal with YLB. It was being said that China’s Tianqi Lithium Group, which operates in Argentina, was going to make a deal with YLB. Both Chinese investment and the Bolivian lithium company were experimenting with new ways to both mine the lithium and to share the profits of the lithium. The idea that there might be a new social compact for the lithium was unacceptable to the main transnational mining companies.
Tesla (United States) and Pure Energy Minerals (Canada) both showed great interest in having a direct stake in Bolivian lithium. But they could not make a deal that would take into consideration the parameters set by the Morales government. Morales himself was a direct impediment to the takeover of the lithium fields by the non-Chinese transnational firms. He had to go.
After the coup, Tesla’s stock rose astronomically.
This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Strategic Culture Foundation conducted the following interview with American professor of politics Colin S. Cavell on the seeming emergence of a more leftwing agenda among some Democratic politicians and a more radical consciousness among ordinary American citizens for social and economic equality.
Republican President Donald Trump has made frequent condemnation in speeches of “evil socialism”, as if betraying a fear among the American ruling class of such a popular turn towards socialism arising.
Democratic presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard are openly calling for progressive increased taxation on wealthy Americans and corporations – reversing decades of neoliberal policies. American voters are rallying behind calls for more radical wealth re-distribution and policies that challenge the skyrocketing inequality in the US where a handful of billionaires now own more wealth than half (160 million) of the entire population.
Professor Cavell gives his views on current developments in American politics with a historical perspective on socialist movements in US society. He warns, however, that the political establishment and a pro-capitalist corporate news media are working assiduously to thwart any movement towards a more just, democratic society. He also says that the legacy of the Cold War has stunted development of socialism in the US, but there are signs this baleful anti-communist legacy is being overcome.
Q: Democratic Party presidential contender Bernie Sanders seems to be getting a lot of support from working-class Americans for his policies of medicare-for-all and progressive taxing of the rich. Do you think this portends an awakening among ordinary Americans for a socialist government?
Cavell: Most US citizens, to my understanding of the average perspective delineated by many surveys and depictions in newspapers, texts, and on the mainstream media, have little understanding of what socialism is, only a fear of what it is described to be by designing capitalist politicians.
Q: Why is that?
Cavell: After a century of anti-communist and anti-socialist propaganda by the capitalist state and its supporters, “socialism” in the minds of most US citizens is a totalitarian hell with fire and brimstone where an evil Satanic dictator commands all to slave incessantly towards his own demands, all to the detriment of the body politic as well as to the diminishment of individual freedom and personal felicity.
Q: Do you see any change in this general misunderstanding about socialism among the US population?
Cavell: After ceaselessly perpetuating such blather for now ten decades, the American people within the United States have begun, over the last few decades, to see through this smokescreen and, given the stagnant condition of their wages and living conditions in most cases and reversals in others since the 1970s, have concluded that the repeated mantra of the beneficent aspects of capitalism only benefit a small section of that class and not the great majority of the citizenry; hence, they are open to the voices of those like Sanders and other more leftwing Democrats, who are calling for the implementation of universal health care or medicare-for-all, or what traditionally has been referred to and disparaged by past US presidents and politicians as “socialized medicine.” What most US citizens in favor of this term understand is that medical costs will either be reduced or free of charge.
Q: What about policies for a wider socialist economy?
Cavell: As for any other aspects of “socializing” the economy, most are not clear about this, though there is generally strong support for extending access to education free-of-charge to institutions of higher education, that is, colleges and universities, as the student loan debt crisis is currently over $1.5 trillion and affects at least one-sixth of the US population, about 43 million adults. And, given that more education still holds out in the minds of many people the promise of a “better job”, meaning one with more pay and benefits, there is an inclination to advance oneself through the acquisition of more formalized education and degrees.
Q: How about the concept of social classes. Do Americans think of their society and economic inequality in class terms?
Cavell: Class consciousness is present amongst most citizens, although it is seldom articulated, at least not in the public media; instead, the US is still said to be a nation free of classes where merit will ensure that all who are worthy and who work hard will rise and be able “to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps”. Moreover, most US citizens believe they are members of the “middle class” despite the fact that the overwhelming majority live from paycheck-to-paycheck and have little to no savings should an emergency arise. So, no, what is not present is a working-class conscious of its own existence, functionality, strength, and power. What is not present is a working-class conscious of its historic role to forcibly overthrow capitalism if it is to enjoy any real sense of freedom. What they enjoy as consumers of products is what they equate with freedom, for example, having a cellphone, a car, an apartment, clothes, gadgets, food of some sort. As long as the capitalists are able to satiate the public with what the Romans referred to as “bread and circuses”, their rule is protected. Thus, at the current moment, ordinary US citizens are open to the possibility of medicare-for-all (free health care) and education-for-all through college and university (that is, free education); beyond that, only a failure of the US economy to provide sufficient jobs (that is, more than 5% unemployment rate) will engender the average US citizen to entertain what a socialist government and society may look like.
Q: What are the precedents for popular socialism in the US over the decades, for example, Eugene Debs and the Haymarket Martyrs?
Cavell: While utopian socialist communities existed in the US in the early nineteenth century, it was the worker demonstrations in Chicago, Illinois, on May 4, 1886, which ended with eight anarchists convicted of conspiracy and seven workers sentenced to death – the Haymarket Martyrs – which gave rise to the power of labor and a force to be reckoned with. Out of this attack on a peaceful organizing by workers arose International Labor Day to be commemorated on May 1, International Labor Day or International Workers Day, around the world each year to demand the legal establishment of the 8-hour work day, the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.
Q: That is quite a remarkable American legacy for international socialism, despite its subsequent suppression in the US. How about the legacy of Eugene Debs who ran for the presidency as a self-declared socialist candidate over a century ago?
Cavell: Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs ran as a candidate for the presidency on the socialist party ticket in 1900. Debs continued to run as a candidate for the US presidency on the Socialist Party of America ticket in 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920, with the latter campaign seeing Debs garner nearly one million votes, even though Debs was behind bars in prison at the time. By 1919, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) adopted the leading mantle of a Marxist-oriented communist party and would play a leading role in the labor struggles of the trade union CIO until the McCarthyite repression instituted by organized capital from 1950-1954 began the slow but steady repression of the Communist Party and all who supported it, ending with the merger of the CIO with the AFL in 1955. Socialist ideas, while informing labor and political activists from the 1950s to the 1990s, were largely retained by academics, one of the few areas that had some degree of freedom within US society. While specialized newspapers, journals, and websites are supported by a number of worker-oriented political parties today, mainstream capitalist media ensures that their rhetoric and arguments are largely absent from popular political debates.
Q: So much for America’s much-vaunted claims of free speech and independent media. Do you envisage the near possibility of Americans voting for socialism?
Cavell: Though my desire is for such a possibility to become reality, it is my candid assessment of US politics and the powers that enforce it which dissuades me from entertaining such a prospect. The capitalist class, if it has demonstrated anything over the past century, is ready and willing to crush any socialist or communist alternative to capitalism.
Q: Is Bernie Sanders a credible socialist prospect for president? Who else if not Bernie, Tulsi Gabbard or Elizabeth Warren?
Cavell: In my opinion, if a presidential election were held in the USA today without the usual interferences and obstructions of both the Democratic and Republican Parties, the mainstream media, etc., then Bernie Sanders would be an easy winner. This, however, will never come to pass, as the capitalist class and all of its mechanisms will ensure that Bernie never reaches the nomination of the Democratic Party and thus will not be a candidate in the General Election of 2020 for the presidency.
NOTE: Colin S. Cavell is a tenured Full Professor of Political Science at Bluefield State College, West Virginia. He earned his Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2001. He has previously taught at several academic institutions across the US and internationally.
In a nation that has prided itself on the “American Dream” – the dream that anyone can become wealthy if they work hard enough and make the right decisions – it’s probably a shock to learn that a lot of folks no longer believe in capitalism.
But the shock goes even deeper than that. A report from the Cato Institute that examined Americans’ opinions on wealth and the wealthy says that 47% of American socialists believe that “taking violent action against the rich may be justified.”
About the report
The Cato Institute is a think tank that performs independent, non-partisan research into a wide range of issues related to personal liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace. You can learn more about the Cato Institute here.
The new report is entitled What Americans Think About Poverty, Wealth, and Work.
The survey…investigates attitudes toward the rich and the poor and examines what Americans believe about work, welfare, and social mobility. (source)
Many of the results seem to be right down party lines and in this political climate, are frighteningly predictable.
Let’s take a look at the findings.
Socialism vs. Capitalism
Opinions have taken a shift since 2016.
In 2016, Democrats were about as favorable toward capitalism (58%) as socialism (56%). But after President Donald Trump took office, Democrats became more favorable toward socialism. Today, 64% of Democrats have favorable opinions of socialism and 45% are favorable to capitalism. Republicans continue to have overwhelmingly favorable views of capitalism (77%) while only 13% have favorable views of socialism. (source)
Why did this shift occur?
According to half of the Democrats surveyed, President Trump caused them to dislike capitalism and lean more toward socialism.
At the same time, 44% of Democrats say that Trump has not influenced their views on capitalism vs. socialism. 72% of independents and 64% of Republicans reported that President Trump has not influenced their views on the economic model.
Overall, 59% of Americans favor capitalism and 39% favor Socialism.
Thoughts on Wealth
Opinions on wealth were varied. Here were some of the findings:
84% of Americans believe “there is nothing wrong with a person trying to make as much money as they honestly can.”
61% want to raise taxes on anyone who makes more than $200,000.
53% want to raise taxes to a whopping 70% on those who make more than $10 million.
65% of Americans over age 60 oppose the increased tax on people making more than $10 million, while 62% of those under 30 support the increase.
A worryingly slim majority of Americans do not believe that wealth should be redistributed from the rich to the poor.
62% oppose the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. (Where do they intend for that 70% millionaire tax to go?)
Down party lines, here’s who believes in wealth distribution: 58% of Democrats, 36% of Independents, and 15% of Republicans think that money should be taken from the rich and given to the poor.
More than half of Americans (55%) believe that the distribution of wealth in this country is “unfair.” This is divided by age and political philosophy.
79% of Democrats find the distribution unjust.
55% of Independents find the distribution unjust.
67% of Republicans find the distribution just.
70% of people under 30 think the current distribution of wealth is unjust
61% of people over 65 think the current distribution is just.
However, it might be consoling to note that when a similar survey was undertaken in 1978, more than half (54%) of Americans under 30 believed that wealth should be redistributed from the rich to the poor. The young people who were 18-29 then are 59-70 now, and you can see how their opinions have changed. That should provide some hope that the attitudes of current young people will change as they become more mature and have more life experience.
People have wildly varying views on how rich folks became wealthy.
One of the biggest points of disparity was opinions on how rich people attained their money. Liberals and conservatives are completely at odds regarding this.
Strong liberals say the top drivers of wealth are family connections (48%), inheritance (40%), and getting lucky (31%)
Strong conservatives say the top drivers of wealth are hard work (62%), ambition (47%), self-discipline (45%), and risk-taking (36%)
Strong Liberals say the top causes of poverty are discrimination (51%), an unfair economic system (48%), and a lack of educational opportunities (48%)
Strong Conservatives say the top causes of poverty are poor life choices (60%), a lack of work ethic (52%), breakdown of families (47%), and drugs and alcohol (47%) (source)
With these differences in perspective, it is easy to see how difficult it would be for liberals and conservatives to come to a consensus regarding policy to “fix” the poverty in America.
What attitudes most influenced people’s points of view?
According to this report, there are two major factors that influence people’s points of view regarding capitalism vs. socialism: resentment and compassion. The report says:
Statistical tests find that resentment of high achievers has about twice the impact as compassion for the needy in predicting hostility toward capitalism and support for raising taxes on the rich. However, compassion is a better predictor of support for increasing welfare benefits. Both resentment and compassion predict support for socialism. (source)
At the same time, 69% believe that billionaires became wealthy by creating value for others, and 65% believe that the nation is better off when people become wealthy because they, in turn, will invest in businesses that create jobs.
Most Americans (82%) believe that people should be “allowed” to become billionaires. However, this really breaks down in the Democratic party, where 54% of them believe that billionaires are a “threat to democracy.” Unsurprisingly, 65% of socialists believe that “allowing” billionaires is immoral.
And this is where things get kind of scary.
There are more people than you might think who believe that “citizens taking violent action against the rich” is acceptable. Here are the people who believe that it is acceptable in some situations to be violent toward the wealthy.
17% of Americans in general
47% of socialists
36% of liberals
35% of those under 30
One must wonder what they mean by “violence.”
Do they mean that violence should be used to expropriate the wealth or violence should be used just for the sake of harming the wealthy for the audacity of being financially well-to-do? Do they want to use guillotines like the people in the French Revolution to enforce their goals of wealth distribution?
At this point, there’s a hard push toward socialism in this country.
Most folks who believe in socialism don’t see the correlation between those policies and the collapse of Venezuela for example. They don’t understand that every time in history that food production was collectivized, people died of starvation. On the other hand, a lot of the vocal people who are against socialism have views that appear to be condescending and judgmental, neither of which is going to win over hearts and minds.
As someone who has been dirt poor despite my very hard work, I find the opinions that cite laziness and drug use to be downright offensive. As someone who managed to dig myself out of poverty, I find the concept of having the results of my hard work “redistributed” to be equally offensive.
Also note: this article is based on the Cato Institute’s statistics – this isn’t an opinion piece.
What do you think of the results of this survey? Do you believe there will be violence against the wealthy? Do you think the push for socialism will continue until we no longer recognize the United States as the land of opportunity?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the findings. Do they seem accurate to you? Do you have any personal experiences that support or contradict the survey? Please share those stories in the comments.
And try to keep it civil – this only has to be volatile if we allow it to be.
Please visit The Cato Institute to read more details of this survey on the state of our union, and share your thoughts in the comments.
We all know that Agent Orange is an idiot, a windbag, and a hypocrite : “Iran will become “a cautionary tale of what happens when a ruling class abandons its people and embarks on a quest for personal power and riches,” Trump warned, seemingly blind to how applicable his words were to his own country.”
US President Donald Trump had harsh words for socialism, Venezuela, Iran and China in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly – but many of his criticisms were best applied to his own country.
Warning of the “divide between those whose thirst for control deludes them into thinking they are destined to rule over others, and those people and nations who want only to rule themselves” – and implying the US falls into the latter category – Trump proceeded to boast about how the US is the most powerful nation in the world, and said, “hopefully we will never have to use this power.”
One can only wonder what countries like Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq – plus the countries the US has “merely” sanctioned instead of bombing – would have to say about this magnanimous American restraint. Repeatedly lambasting Iran for its “menacing behavior” later in his speech, Trump seemed to have forgotten that he’d opened his own remarks by menacing the entire General Assembly with the world’s “most powerful military,” now “rebuilt” with $2.5 trillion in taxpayer dollars.
“One of the greatest threats facing peaceful nations today,” said the Commander-in-Chief of a military whose forces occupied 70 percent of the world’s countries in 2016, “is the repressive regime in Iran.” Iran’s citizens deserve a government that doesn’t “steal their money to fund and massacre abroad and at home,” declared the leader of a country where more than half of federal discretionary spending goes to fund the government’s military adventures.
Socialism, Trump said, wheeling out his favorite ideological punching bag, is not about a better standard of living for the poor – it’s about “power for the ruling class.” He reiterated his vow that America would never be a socialist country, even as a growing number of Americans are at least curious about how socialism might favorably compare to the current system in the US, where income equality is at an all-time high and the richest three men have more money than half the country combined. Socialism, Trump lamented, was the only thing stopping Venezuela from receiving the “vast quantities of humanitarian aid” the US had in store for it – if only it would “restore democracy” and embrace an unelected, US-backed leader from Venezuela’s own ruling class.
Iran will become “a cautionary tale of what happens when a ruling class abandons its people and embarks on a quest for personal power and riches,” Trump warned, seemingly blind to how applicable his words were to his own country. The American ruling class’s abandonment of its people has been a running theme in the last two election cycles – it’s arguably what put Trump in power, and some of his Democratic opponents are betting on it to secure their own victories in 2020.
“The US does not seek conflict with any other nation,” Trump declared, after bashing the countries the US uses all its financial and military clout to undermine. The message was heard loud and clear: uphold your country’s sovereignty, unless it conflicts with our interests.
Inequality in the United States has reached such levels lately that even members of the “one percent” have started worrying.
Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates hedge fund who is ranked 57th wealthiest person in the world by Forbes magazine, quipped in a recent interview that capitalism is denying “equal opportunity for the American dream”. He said that he was “a byproduct of capitalism when it also gave equal opportunity”, adding “I was very lucky to live the American dream by having the proper care and the proper public school education … A number of things have changed.”
Former Starbucks CEO and prospective presidential candidate Howard Schultz, who prefers to be called a “person of means” rather than a billionaire (ranked 617th by Forbes), recently observed that “the vast majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck” and declared that the next US president must urgently address inequality.
CEO of JP Morgan Chase Jamie Dimon(ranked 1,717th) also noted earlier this year that: “A big chunk of [Americans] have been left behind […] Forty percent of Americans make less than $15 an hour. Forty percent can’t afford a $400 bill, whether it’s medical or fixing their car. Fifteen percent of Americans make minimum wages, 70,000 die from opioids.”
Indeed, the growing impoverishment and despair that are plaguing our country are hard to miss. The US also has the highest rate of income inequality among Western nations, with the top one percent claiming 40 percent of US wealth in 2016, in contrast to a 25 to 30 percent share in the 1980s. According to the rather conservative estimates of the US Census Bureau, around 14 percent of the population or 45 million live in poverty. According to the UN, 8.5 million of them face extreme poverty and 5.3 million suffer in “Third World conditions of absolute poverty”.
But in reality, many more Americans struggle to secure a dignified life for themselves and their families. A damning report published by the UN in 2018 found that: “High child and youth poverty rates perpetuate the intergenerational transmission of poverty very effectively, and ensure that the American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion. The equality of opportunity, which is so prized in theory, is in practice a myth, especially for minorities and women, but also for many middle-class White workers.”
Perhaps parts of the American “one percent” are finally ready to admit that socioeconomic inequality has reached unprecedented levels and that the current status quo is unsustainable because just like South African billionaire Johann Rupert, the prospect of the poor masses rebelling is keeping them “awake at night“. They are now saying that capitalism “needs work” and are proposing various “fixes” – mainly “trickle-down philanthropy”. Some have gone as far as suggesting that social provision should be enhanced and that the wealthy should be taxed.
Yet all of them are quick to outright reject “socialist policies”. In a recent interview for NBC, Melinda Gates, cochair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and wife of the second richest man in the world, echoed the thoughts of many of the super-rich, saying that: “What I know to be true is I would far rather live in a capitalistic society than a socialist society.”
But Gates is wrong. The current system in place in the US is not capitalism, but rather “socialism for the rich” which favours the “one percent” by granting it ever-increasing subsidies, exorbitant tax breaks, deregulation and executive bonuses. The rest of the population lives in an unfair system of inequality and segregation, struggling to make ends meet under severe austerity and erosion of labour rights. It is a system of “survival of the fittest”, which privileges some over the others based on race and gender.
Economic growth now only “uplifts” the rich, who are able to control the distribution of wealth by influencing the government and making sure it serves their interests and maintain their power. Through the US system of legalised corruption, the wealthy funnel billions of dollars in donations to election campaigns.
Unsurprisingly, the stop-gap fixes that people like Gates, Dimon, Schultz and Dalio are proposing are unlikely to work because they are designed to maintain the current system in place so they can continue to accumulate wealth unrestrained. The only viable solution that would prevent a major socioeconomic disaster in the US and subsequent social upheaval would be to overhaul the system.
Solutions to economic inequality and the excesses of American capitalism are necessary to save capitalism from itself, or better yet, to save people from capitalism.
There is an increasing number of dramatic proposals for economic justice that look promising. These include Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, which envisions a national mobilisation to eliminate carbon emissions and transform the US economy, boosting economic growth and job creation, while seeking economic and racial justice for vulnerable communities. Ocasio-Cortez has also called for a 70 percent marginal tax rate on earnings above $10m.
Congresswoman Elizabeth Warren has a plan to wipe out $1.5 trillion in student loan debt by levying a surtax on the ultra-rich, while Congressman Bernie Sanders has put forward a proposal for universal healthcare. The idea of reparations for slavery, which could help alleviate some of the racial inequality in the country, is also gaining ground.
Although conservatives attack proposals promoting economic justice and equity as dangerous because they could lead to a totalitarian socialist system, such policies have long been a part of the US system. After all, the Green New Deal is named after the New Deal, which was introduced during the Great Depression to protect the poor, strengthen labour rights and impose strict regulation on the financial system.
At the same time, Americans are increasingly in favour of a major overhaul of the system, due to the problematic and corruptive nature of the current one. Existing and proposed government programmes of economic redistribution and equity are popular. Socialism is also gaining popularity, even surpassing capitalism among Democrats, particularly millennials. Such policies, which translate into more democratic ownership and control over the government and greater public accountability, most certainly frighten the wealthy for their effectiveness and political popularity.
If members of the “one percent” truly care about the widening wealth gap, they should not resist the implementation of these policies. An overhaul of the system might make them less wealthy, but ultimately will not be to their detriment. A profit can still be made if workers are paid dignified salaries, provided proper healthcare, and granted social and labour rights.
Indeed the choice of the “one percent” is reduced to either living in a more equal and just society or facing the wrath of angry impoverished masses.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
As the presidential election of 2020 approaches and socialism is used to characterize the ideas and platforms of some of the candidates, a relatively large number of explanations of the concept have appeared in the press.
Most of these explanations are really non-explanatory. Whether written as a list or in a more discursive form, they are little more than descriptions of some social democratic order, usually in a Northern European country such as Sweden. Their “explanations,” in other words, are not explanatory, they do not go beyond portraying how, for example, health care, education, public transport and similar institutions work in these countries, mostly as state organizations. Political theorists who have contributed to discussions of socialism have avoided its philosophical grounds and instead given an account of its history and, depending on their own political views, its successes or failure.
Most of these non-explanatory articles draw on familiar tropes in the American political imaginary about socialism, describing it, for example, as a form of redistributionism through state institutions to undo inequalities. Or, they define socialism as public ownership of the means of wealth. However, the state, as the agency of equality, and collective ownership of the means of production are only instruments of socialism. They do not explain its underlying philosophy. To understand socialism, one has to go beyond descriptions of its agencies and engage its philosophical principles.
The text is a critique of the evolutionary tendencies among some socialists and the reformism that underlies the manifesto for a party conference in Gotha.
Here Marx writes that socialism is an historical state of in-between-ness: the transitional period from capitalism to communism. It is therefore a hybrid condition in which a residual capitalism is mixed with an emerging communism.
Marx’s main point is that although socialism, as the first stage of communism, is an advance over capitalism because it abolishes classes, the socialist right to equality remains an abstract right, and as such, it produces inequality.
Under socialism, people contribute to society through their labor and, in return, receive from society an equivalent amount of labor in the form of the “means of consumption.” People’s earnings are equivalent to their labor; no one has income from owning the means of producing wealth or capital, and labor is no longer exploited for profit.
However, in the exchange of labor for labor, socialism reproduces the logic of commodity exchange in the capitalist market, which is the main source of inequality.
The socialist “equal right” is, therefore, an empty right because people are not equal: one person is different from another in physical or mental abilities and is able to offer more labor during the same time and thus receive more in return for her or his labor. Socialism implicitly acknowledges the right to “natural privileges” that lead to economic inequality.
Bernie Sanders, who is identified with (democratic) socialism, seems to accept such “natural” inequalities. He wants a just society in which (in)equalities are proportional to people’s own work.
But justice and equality are part of the seemingly timeless rights such as liberty, individuality, free market and property that now ground capitalist democracies. While they are represented as universal, they are actually ideological. These “rights” essentially stabilize capitalism by normalizing its class antagonisms as individual differences. In contrast, a society without class conflicts is beyond this narrow sense of justice and equality. As Marx writes, “Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and the cultural development conditioned thereby.”
In a post-socialist society therefore, human “rights” are superseded by human “needs,” and the socialist principle—”from each according to their ability, to each according to their work”— is left behind. Different people have different needs. Fulfilling their “needs” frees them from “necessity” beyond which, Marx argues, begins “that development of human energy which is an end in itself, the true realm of freedom.”
Freedom from necessity (not “freedom of speech),” emancipates people from the social relations of exchange and wage labor: humans return to themselves “as social beings” and their existence and essence become one.
Bernie Sanders mostly talks of socialism as the freedom of working people. Socialism, however, is the first phase of building a society based onfreedom from work itself—a society that will “inscribe on its banner”: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.”
Mas’ud Zavarzadeh has written Seeing Films Politically and several other books. He is a retired professor of critical theory at Syracuse University. They are co-writers of Class in Culture and their new book, “Subtractive Interpretation,” is forthcoming from Routledge.
Teresa L. Ebert is a professor of Cultural Theory at the State University of New York at Albany. She is the author of The Task of Cultural Critiqueand other books.Mas’ud Zavarzadeh is a retired professor of Critical Theory at Syracuse University. He is the author of several books includingSeeing Films Politically. Ebert and Zavarzadeh are co-authors of Class in Culture and the forthcoming The Poverty of (Post)Humanities.
After spending most of my adult life in various Eastern and Western European countries, I returned to the US just before the turn of the twenty-first century. I had spent several periods here in previous decades, always wondering why Americans were the only highly developed people who were told nothing about the democratic socialism that reigned across the Atlantic — and in most other parts of the world. I continued to wait, but the word socialism continued to be absent from the media.
It wasn’t until Bernie Sanders defied custom to declare himself a democratic socialist in the 2016 election, that most Americans first heard the notion praised: Sanders was prevented from being the Democratic candidate by more or less blatant Party maneuvers in favor of Hillary Clinton, ensuring the arrival in the White House of a man now accused of white supremacy and mob behavior.
While information about socialism and even social-democracy has continued to be withheld since Trump’s inauguration more than two years ago, within days of the president’s failure to condemn white supremacy after 50 Muslim worshippers were gunned down in New Zealand by a man who admitted being inspired by him, the widely watched ‘Morning Joe’ invited a highly credentialed figure to reveal the realities of democratic socialism to its audience. None other than Jeffrey Sachs, the economist who directs Columbia’s Earth Institute for Sustainable Development, was brought in to reveal the truth to its upscale audience.
He told them in no uncertain terms that the top-ranking countries on the World Happiness Report, produced by the U.N Sustainable Development Solutions Network, are once again the Nordic countries. (The report ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens consider themselves, based on economic wealth, life expectancy, social support and freedom to make life choices.) Americans have often heard of the Nordic countries with respect to overall well-being, but their daily reality has never been spelled out — anymore than the fact that all of Europe, and many other parts of the world, long ago adopted social-democracies basic principals: single payer medical care from cradle to grave, plentiful vacations, and many other supports that enable populations to keep stress at a minimum.
While most Americans get two weeks off a year, with a few stingy ‘sick days’ thrown in, and are only now being exposed to the idea of ‘Medicare for All’, which dares not expel for-profit insurers from the health-care market, Sachs revealed that social benefits they can only dream of have been taken for granted basically since the end of World War II in Europe. (When I lived in Italy in the late fifties, most workers could look forward to a ‘thirteen month’, an extra thirty days of vacation on top of the mandated month.)
It was the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt a few months before V-Day, that determined America’s trajectory, and interestingly, the invitation to Jeffrey Sachs came barely a week after the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, declared himself to be a social democrat and a follower of FDR.
Since 1917, except when the four-term American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt referred to his Russian ally as ‘Uncle Joe’, equity has been the bone of contention between the US and Russia, and the Presidential Election campaign that follows ‘Russiagate’ revolves around this separation from the rest of the world. What happened was that Roosevelt’s untimely death delivered US foreign policy into the hands of the right-wingers who had forced on Roosevelt as his running mate for his exceptional fourth termHarry Truman (in the midst of a two-front war), a hat-maker from Missouri, instead of the Progressive former Republican Henry Wallace that he wanted. That switch sealed the fate of American socialism for 75 years.
In his State of the Union of January 6, 1941, almost a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor that finally brought the US into World War II against Germany, Japan and Italy, Roosevelt sought to establish a fair basis for the sacrifices the population would be called upon to make. It became known as the Four Freedoms speech (freedom of speech freedom of worship,freedom from want,freedom from fear),however, in the 80 years since, only the first two freedoms, which are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, have been guaranteed. Want and fear have continued to characterize the American population, enabling aggressive wars that consume the money needed for single payer health care.
“a free nation has the right to expect full cooperation from all groups,” Roosevelt told business leaders they must lead the war effort. “However,since men do not live by bread alone, do not fight by armaments alone. ….they must have the stamina and courage which come from an unshakable belief in the way of life they are defending. The mighty action we are calling for cannot be based on a disregard of all things worth fighting for. These are:
Equality of opportunity
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privileges for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.”
To make sure his point was understood, Roosevelt added: “These are the simple, basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.”
And he delivered, making more citizens eligible for retirement and unemployment benefits, widening the opportunities for adequate medical care and improving opportunities for work. Taking the bull by the horns, he admitted that his program implied higher taxes, adding: “Taxes in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.”
And he didn’t stop there: translating freedom from fear into what he called ‘world terms’, he recognized that it requires a world-wide reduction of armaments “to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor anywhere in the world.” Four years before Eleanor Roosevelt founded the United Nations, her husband declared that: “The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.” Eighty years after this ground-breaking speech, having fought a dozen aggressive wars and used color revolutions and drones to ensure that the world’s people serve the few, the United States continues to disown not only socialism, but Russian President Putin’s and Chinese President Xi’s call for ‘a multi-polar world’.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years. She can be reached at Otherjones. Especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
The subject of wealth inequality has been on my mind ever since I started writing Slope fourteen years ago. I’ve written countless posts on it, and even dedicated a SocialTrade page to it, but a quick summary of my disposition could be boiled down to a few personal points:
Although I didn’t know it at the time, my childhood was in an era of relative wealth equality in the United States, pretty much the most even playing field in its history;
Average folks like my Dad made $35,000 per year; the “rich” people in town made $50,000;
The houses of the average and the rich were pretty much the same, although the rich had Buicks instead of Fords and could afford maids who came to clean the house each day; but that was about it.
My own adulthood, of course, is like a different universe. Normal people live in $7 million houses. Rich people live in $25 million houses and have other residences scattered around the planet. The difference between rich and poor in my youth was a short hop; in my current life, it’s a chasm.
My view is that the increasing disparity between rich and poor has, for decades, largely been non-disruptive to society as a whole, principally because the lower classes have been placated enough, by way of the proverbial bread and circuses, not to cause any waves. Sure, there have been little movements here and there, such as Occupy Wall Street, but they have attracted fringe groups and fizzled out in weeks, if not days.
The aforementioned SocialTrade page is packed with charts like the one below, which shows just how hosed the lower classes are, but again, the rich are pretty much getting away with it with no consequence.
There are rumblings going on, however, which suggest to me that the next time something like 2008 comes along, the outcome is going to be very different. And if there’s one word I want to be emphatic about with this thought, it is this one: context.
What I mean by that is we are living in an era of (ostensibly) great prosperity and extremely low unemployment. These days, whenever I see an able-bodied man on the side of the road with a cardboard sign, I’m not exactly flooded with sympathy, because virtually every retail store and food outlet I go to has signs BEGGING for people to apply for jobs. I have honestly never seen so many companies desperate for human labor.
And so when you see someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez get so much attention (including, recently, her face on the cover of Time magazine) in the context of an environment when there should be so little “want” in the United States, you have to figure something is going on below the surface.
Think about the political atmosphere right now which is railing against the rich. Such things as………
Elizabeth Warren’s widely-received proposal to have an annual tax on wealth (not income, mind you, but family assets);
The national rage-fest against the rich and powerful caught up in the college admissions scandal;
The strong interest in such socialist programs as Universal Basic Income and the Green New Deal
Hundreds of thousands of jobs are being cut;
The press runs more and more stories about how many hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes the rich have saved from the 2017 tax cut;
Public interest in exposing “privilege” and “access” (a supersized version of the admissions scandal) increases;
The whisper-thin financial cushion of the lower 40% swiftly pushes people to welfare, handouts, and EBT cards
Can you imagine the backlash against the rich THEN? I suspect it would be absolutely enormous.
The danger, I believe, is that the political soil will be fertile and loamy for the already-planted seeds of socialism to thrive. That’s exactly what the Russian Revolution and Chinese Revolution were about. The wealth of the upper classes was utterly confiscated by the state, and rich people weren’t just subjected to unkind stories in the press – – they were imprisoned, tortured, or killed. Simply stated, the underclasses took decades of rage and resentment and went batshit crazy with it.
So here, and now, in the gentle suburb of Palo Alto, if there can be a headline story about how rich people are already afraid of having the handcuffs slapped on their wrists, just think of what they’ll be worried about when it feels the entire nation has turned against them. It seems to me the pieces are going to be in place for something very ugly to emerge, coupled with a tremendous political swing to the left.
All the old ideas for uprooting the status quo have failed. I point this out not to depress people, but to persuade them to stop twisting on locked doorknobs. The old ideas don’t work, so we need new ones.
The political process has failed. Capitalism has failed. Socialism has failed. Libertarianism has failed. Marx has failed. Populism has failed. Anarchism has failed. I say this not because of any glaring flaws in any of those ideas (in theory any of them could potentially work in an alternate universe), but because we are hurtling towards extinction in the fairly near future, and none of them have saved us.
“But Caitlin!” you may object. “My particular favorite ideology would have saved us long ago if only everyone had gotten on board with it!”
Okay. But they didn’t. And now we’re on the brink of armageddon. That means it has failed. It doesn’t work.
We are well on our way to extinction via climate collapse or nuclear holocaust, and even if we miss those by some miracle we are headed toward an artificial intelligence-led tech dystopia in which our consciousness is permanently enslaved by a propaganda network that is far too advanced for there to be any hope of escaping into truth.
Our ecosystem is very fragile and rapidly fading, and the difference between the ability to survive without it and our current scientific capability is the difference between flying and jumping. Which won’t matter if one of the many small, unpredictable moving parts in the steadily escalating new cold war with Russia results in a nuclear weapon being deployed as a result of misunderstanding or miscommunication and sparking off the annihilation of every organism on earth, as nearly happened during the last cold war on more than one occasion.
This is where the status quo has gotten us. All attempts to overthrow it have failed. The time is up, and the results are in.
The political process doesn’t work.
I say this not because the political process can’t work, due to some technical failure in the way it has been applied. I say this because it doesn’t work, as evidenced by the fact that we’re on the cusp of the apocalypse with no signs of steering clear of it. Attempts to uproot the status quo via political engagement and voting does not work.
“But Caitlin!” you may object. “The only reason the political process doesn’t work is because it has been hijacked by corrupt powers with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo! If we can extract those corrupt powers, we can make the political process work!”
Okay. But you didn’t. You were unable to extract the corrupt powers, and now we’re on the brink of extinction. Your strategy has failed.
Capitalism doesn’t work.
I say this not because capitalism can’t work in theory, I say this because it doesn’t work in practice. How do I know it doesn’t work in practice? Because the planet is dying and we’ve all got doomsday weapons pointing at our heads that may go off at any moment. The results are in. Capitalism doesn’t work.
“But Caitlin!” you may object. “What we’ve tried hasn’t been real capitalism! The free market hasn’t been given a chance to solve all our problems, because of the artificial interference and regulations of Big Government. If we can get rid of Big Government, we can solve all our problems!”
Okay. But that never happened. And now here we are at the end of the world, watching our planet ripped to shreds by status quo power structures. Capitalism failed. It doesn’t work.
Socialism doesn’t work.
I say this not because socialism can’t work in theory, I say it because it doesn’t work in real life, as evidenced by the fact that our world is on fire, our time is up, and we are all about to die. Socialism failed to save us. It doesn’t work.
“But Caitlin!” you may object. “Socialism hasn’t worked because it’s never had a chance to work! If the capitalist imperialists would just stop sabotaging socialist experiments, it would thrive and replace the status quo! We’d all be saved!”
Okay. But we’re not. The worldwide populace has not answered the call of socialism in sufficient numbers to overthrow the interests which oppose it, and now we’re at the end of days. The plan was to unite the working class against the elite oppressors around the world and implement socialism, and it failed. It is a strategy which does not work.
Libertarianism doesn’t work.
We could do this all day, with any number of ideologies. Perhaps libertarianism could work under the right circumstances, but attempts to rally the public around it have utterly failed, and now we’re staring down the barrel of extinction. You can object and make excuses, or you can acknowledge that the strategies for implementing your preferred status quo-challenging ideology don’t work, and find new ones.
It’s easy to isolate yourself within a particular ideological echo chamber and create the illusion for yourself that your pet ideology is making progress. Oh look, Russiagate was disproven. Oh look, Jeremy Corbyn did well in those last elections. Oh look, the Democratic Socialists of America gained a few thousand members. But if you step out of that echo chamber and look at the big picture, you see a futile tug-of-war between feuding ideologies with no gains made anywhere near the scale that would be necessary to avert the massive threats on our horizon.
My point here is that we may have found an ideological standpoint that really resonates with us, and that ideology itself may be intrinsically worthy and vastly superior to the status quo. But the strategies for implementing that strategy have failed spectacularly. If you can’t implement your strategy, you’re just diddling cutesy ideas while the world burns. It’s just a nice identity for you to hold onto and make your feely bits feel nice.
“I’m a Marxist!”
“I’m an anarchist!”
No you’re not. You’re an ideological LARPer dressing up in an identity and pretending to change the world, while the world itself tumbles into the abyss.
Again, I say this not to create a sense of hopelessness, but to get people to stop wasting time and energy pushing on locked doors. Stop trying strategies that people have been trying for decades with essentially zero ground gained, and try something else instead. Stop hanging out in your little echo chambers and thinking that anything’s changing just because you are surrounded by people who agree with you. Sure, hold onto your beliefs about what kind of system would most benefit the world if you like, but be acutely aware that those beliefs in our current situation are completely meaningless.
The reality is that as long as powerful people control the dominant public narratives, no ground will be gained in steering our species away from the status quo trajectory that’s killing us, because you won’t be able to awaken mainstream consciousness to what’s going on. The only thing that has any hope of prying the oligarchic hands off the steering wheel is the mainstream public seeing what they’re doing and using the power of their numbers to force drastic change in a wildly different direction. If we can’t make that happen, we’re all just banging on locked doors while the curtain closes on humanity.
We all need to do better. I include myself in this. We need to try new things. Many, many new things. We need new ideas. What kind of new ideas? I don’t know, that’s why I’m telling you. I’m just one woman, and I put as many ideas out there as I can, but it’s not enough. Clearly it’s not enough, because here we are.
In my opinion the obvious way to open up a path for dissident ideas to replace the status quo is to kill the public trust in the stories they were told in school and continue to be told by the mass media about the kind of world and country they live in, but so far that hasn’t happened. My own ideas for advancing that agenda which I’ve been seeding into the world have been inadequate, and so have everyone else’s. So we need more new ideas. Lots and lots of new ideas.
What we’ve tried up until now hasn’t worked, so if there’s anything that might work it’s going to come from a wildly unanticipated direction, from way outside the failed mental processes which have accompanied us to this point. We need to open ourselves to that kind of idea.
That’s basically all I’ve got to offer today. A helpless but sincere plea for humanity to try something new, spat out onto the internet in the Hail Mary hope that it might plant some seeds and loosen the soil for something unprecedented to open up in human consciousness. Sometimes that’s all that we can do.
The attempt by foreign powers to impose regime change in Venezuela has failed, ex-Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters has said, adding that final victory over the “evil empire” was on the horizon.
In a short video posted to Twitter, the famed English rock star and activist expressed disgust with those who supported Venezuela’s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido and his attempt to push President Nicolas Maduro out of office. “We were right about #RUSSIAGATE we’re right about VENEZUELA,” he wrote in a message accompanying the video clip, likely in reference to Robert Mueller’s special investigation finding no “collusion” between US President Donald Trump and the Kremlin.
To see a great experiment in Bolivarian socialism taking place in a great country like Venezuela, and to watch the evil empire destroy it, is sickening. It’s failed. The coup failed. Guaido can go back to being a thug on the street, or whatever it was that he did.
He mocked the Western assertion that Maduro was a coldhearted dictator, noting that in a real totalitarian state, Guaido would have been detained and executed. Instead, he’s allowed to travel freely between Venezuela and Colombia.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone