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TBF's Journal
TBF's Journal
May 1, 2014

May Day rallies held around world -

Tear gas fired in Istanbul as May Day rallies held around world - live updates

Turkish police fire water cannon and tear gas at protesters
Government banned demonstrations in Taksim Square
Rallies in Moscow, Kuala Lumpa and Phnom Penh

Mark Tran
theguardian.com, Thursday 1 May 2014 08.11 EDT

Photos and comments here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/01/may-day-rallies-around-the-world-live-updates

April 30, 2014

Millionaires Unite to Defeat Minimum Wage

Satire from Facebook this afternoon:

Andy Borowitz
Wednesday, April 30 at 2:31pm ·

Millionaires Unite to Defeat Minimum Wage

WASHINGTON - A broad-based coalition of millionaires converged on Washington today to defeat a bill that would have increased the minimum wage for American workers to $10.10 an hour. Leaving their mansions and yachts behind, the millionaires were motivated by what they saw as an existential threat to the country, said Mitch McConnell, a spokesman for the millionaires. "People who've tried to pin a 'do nothing' label on us are dead wrong," McConnell said. "When it comes to stopping workers from being paid more, we spring into action."

April 30, 2014

Looking to history for inspiration -

This is currently my favorite publication on the web - Jacobian. Today's featured story:

The Early Modern 99%
by Harry C. Merritt
Battles against today’s ruling class might look back to the movements of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for inspiration

When Occupy Wall Street suddenly appeared in Lower Manhattan in September 2011, many commentators began searching for a genealogy of the movement: Seattle in 1999, European anti-austerity protests, the Arab Spring. But perhaps we should reach farther back — to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the social movements that rose up to challenge the emerging capitalist world order.

In this context, Ben Wheatley’s latest film, A Field in England, is an intriguing cinematic experience. Set in 1648, it follows a cowardly alchemist’s assistant named Whitehead who flees an English Civil War skirmish along with some other deserters. They encounter the cruel O’Neill in the middle of a nondescript field, who through threat of force and the administration of hallucinogenic mushrooms conscripts them into finding the treasure he believes to be buried there. Long shots in black-and-white linger on the field and the motley group within it, illustrating this ordinary field’s transformation into an arena for elaborate mind games.

But cannon and musket fire periodically intrude. Reverberations of battle are the soundtrack to developments in England at the time, where King Charles I would be executed the following year and his kingdom transformed into a commonwealth. During the course of the film, the educated and principled Whitehead is forced into labor together with the alcoholic Jacob and the simpleton Friend by O’Neill, a rogue Irishman seeking self-enrichment.

The abuses suffered by these Englishmen under O’Neill seem to allude to the actions of Sir Felim O’Neill, an Irish noblemen responsible for massacres of English and Scottish colonists during the Irish Rebellion of 1641. Occult references abound, from a fairy circle within the field to O’Neill’s scrying mirror he uses to divine the truth; this period coincides with the peak of witch hunting in England. And from their independent streak and the disdain they hold toward noblemen and the rich, one could easily imagine that Jacob and Friend would make fine Levellers or Diggers. Not just England was in turmoil at this time — much of Europe and the growing number of territories it ruled across the globe experienced extraordinary upheaval during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Though the “General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century” thesis originally developed by Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm has since been challenged and amended, a number of broad themes can still be distilled. Religious dissent and political radicalism challenged the authority of both the Catholic Church and monarchs who ruled by the grace of God ...

Much more here: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/04/the-early-modern-99/

April 30, 2014

Piketty’s “Capital In The 21st Century”

Has anyone here read it yet?

Top 4 radical conclusions from Piketty’s “Capital In The 21st Century”
by: John Case
April 17 2014

French political economist and author of "Capital In The 21st Century" Thomas Piketty is making a groundbreaking book tour of U.S. policy and academic centers armed with mounds of data that is shaking up economic prognosticators. Nearly every economist of any reputation must now deal with the stunning evidence behind the inequality trends Piketty illuminates. Even Robert Solow, Nobel Prize-winning economist, famed for discounting the dangers of excessive inequality over the "the long run" in market economies, was ready to dialog with Piketty at the Economic Policy Institute's forum this past week. His book, which draws on massive data retrieved from previously untapped tax reporting resources, is literally shaking the foundations of even liberal economic thinking because of four principal conclusions:

1. Increasing concentration of wealth (primarily returns to capital) in the U.S. and Western Europe is returning to its historic dominance in the capitalist system after a brief 35-year period of relative shared prosperity. Economic surveys defining the "top" incomes as the top "20 percent" disguised the rate of concentration in recent years. When looking at the top 1 percent and higher the actual travesty of inequality is uncovered. Standard government economic data collection missed this. ...

Much more here: http://peoplesworld.org/top-4-radical-conclusions-from-piketty-s-capital-in-the-21st-century/

April 30, 2014

Can We Have More Jobs and Less Work?

Can We Have More Jobs and Less Work? These folks seem to think so --

Act Locally » April 30, 2014
In an age of overwork and unemployment, economists look at novel ways to solve both problems.
BY Jessica Stites

Few would argue that 2014 is a great time to be a waged worker in the United States. The unemployment rate remains high, and that’s not accounting for the droves of people who have dropped out of the workforce entirely. The jobs that do exist are often low-paid and precarious. Workers work longer hours and are more productive than ever before, but wages still have stagnated.

One solution proposed by two progressive economists—Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economics and Policy Research, and Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities—has been “getting back to full employment” (which is the title of their 2013 book, a follow-up to their 2003 book, The Benefits of Full Employment). Full employment doesn’t mean completely eradicating joblessness, but Baker and Bernstein argue that if the government can decrease unemployment to an equilibrium such that everyone seeking work can find it relatively quickly, it will stanch the fiscal pain of the unemployed and help boost workers’ bargaining power—resulting in not just more jobs, but better ones.

Another influential economic thinker, Kathi Weeks, a women’s studies professor at Duke University and author of The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries, has made the case that any solution to our current crisis of work must address the fact that work has consumed our lives. She calls for a radical “anti-work” politics that recognizes the social, economic and personal value of the things we do in our off-hours. To this end, she advocates for implementing policies like fewer work hours and a universal basic income.

Much more here: http://inthesetimes.com/article/16550/more_jobs_less_work

April 29, 2014

Rwanda Twenty Years Later -

Rwanda: Between Memory Work and the Desire to Live

http://www.humaniteinenglish.com/ (about the source: L'Humanité (pronounced: [lymaniˈte], French for "Humanity&quot , formerly the daily newspaper linked to the French Communist Party (PCF), was founded in 1904 by Jean Jaurès, a leader of the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO). The paper is now independent, although it maintains close links to the PCF.)

Translated Tuesday 29 April 2014, by Henry Crapo

Rwanda is learning how to live with its ghosts. The nation commemorates the 20th anniversary of the genocide of the Tutsi. The French authorities are absent, fleeing their responsibilities.

Rwanda is rising from the terrible ordeal of the genocide. In two decades, reconstruction has changed the face of this landlocked country in the heart of the Great Lakes. The youth dreams of a country in which hatred between the communities and "ethnocentric" divisions, inherited from colonialism, will be banished.

Rwanda, by 
Special Envoy

The ochre waters of the Nyabarongo river tear away at the sumptuous green landscape dominated by the hills of Kigali. This river, one of the sources of the Nile, still carries the history of atrocities committed during the genocide of Tutsis started April 7, 1994 by Hutu extremists in the aftermath of the attack against the airplane of President Juvenal Habyarimana. This is the bridge spanning the river, a few kilometers east of the capital, from which were thrown mutilated bodies or heads of victims of the racist outburst. By their instructions to throw the bodies into the water, the ideologues of genocide meant to convey the message to "Send the Tutsi back to Abyssinia," the land that the sorcerer’s apprentices of the colonial era and of the racist regime had invented as the Tutsi land of origin.

Twenty years after the "Apocalypse", as most survivors call it, Rwanda wants to offer, despite the ghosts of the past, the face of a new country in which the ’ethnocentric’ distinctions and ideas of hatred and division would be banished. Like so many warnings, the stigmata of the last genocide of the twentieth century are everywhere. At the heart of this memory work undertaken by the country, the genocide memorial in Kigali reflects the many years of hate-mongering that led to the worst. A word chanted during the visit, which slaps as the symbol of a business-like extermination, methodically planned: ’Inyenzis!’ cockroaches in the Kinyarwanda language. In this way the theorists of ’Hutu Power’ referred to Tutsi. We remember here that moment when ’the world backed away’, the passivity of the international community, the complicity of France, which armed the genocidal regime, trained killers, and covered their escape. Outside, among the rose gardens, the vast gray mass of graves barring the hill reminds us of the scale of the massacres: 268,000 victims in Kigali, nearly a million across the country. The Tutsi, many children, but also Hutu Democrats opposed to unbridled hatred. "Periods of commemoration always revive injuries. All survivors retain psychological sequelae. In fact, the entire Rwandan society is affected: the survivors, witnesses, children of executioners. Even those who were born after the genocide are still traumatized because of family stories or what remains unspoken. We live with the weight of this story and all its consequences. This is very heavy", says Naphtal Ahishakiye of the association Ibuka, which brings together the associations of genocide survivors.

Economic success

From this terrible ordeal, however, the Rwanda is rising. In two decades, the reconstruction is adorned with insolent success. This small landlocked country in the heart of the African Great Lakes shows a growth rate of 8% on average over the past ten years. Momentum barely hampered by the suspension of financial aid decided by donor countries after the publication of the report by experts of the UN accusing Kigali of supporting the rebellion of M23 in the eastern neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

These economic successes, combined with a resolute fight against corruption, have helped to change the lives of people with unprecedented investments in the areas of health, education, and infrastructure. Birthplace of Kigali, Nyarungenge Hill, bristles with towers and gleaming buildings that give the Rwandan capital of false air of Johannesburg. The new class of consumers presses upon Union Trade Center, the commercial center with shops, supermarket and trendy café ...

Much more here: http://www.humaniteinenglish.com/spip.php?article2465

April 29, 2014

From sexism to social reaction: contradictions within capitalism

From sexism to social reaction: contradictions within capitalism
Monday, April 28, 2014

On March 27, the IPEA (Institute of Applied Economic Research), a Brazilian public foundation, released a survey on “social tolerance and violence against women” that provoked massive outrage – especially across social movements. According to the survey, almost two-thirds of respondents (65 per cent) believe that provocative clothing and certain behavior justify rape and violence against women.

The reaction was instantaneous: individuals and groups of activists united in anger against the strong machismo and violence against women illustrated by the survey results.

However, it not true that all of these respondents are rapists or defend rape. What is most shocking is that the majority of the respondents who answered affirmatively were women. What does this research, and these alarming statistics, tell us?

The root of women’s oppression

We cannot begin to analyze or understand people’s behavior in isolation from the socio-economic system in which we live: capitalism. The oppression of women is linked to the development of capitalism.

Women first lost their power to take decisions in society thousands of years ago, when primitive accumulation began and out of which developed class society. Once there was a division of labor in accumulating a surplus and then a surplus to control, women were subjected to men and effectively lost their power to make decisions, their right to choose, and their freedom. The material basis of patriarchy was reinforced through inheritance laws, which imposed monogamy on women to ensure children were of genuine lineage.

Much more here: http://www.workerspower.net/from-sexism-to-social-reaction-contradictions-within-capitalism

April 28, 2014

The Collapse of Obama’s Diplomacy

One of the websites I rely on for alternative points of view is http://www.watchingamerica.com/News/. Some are pro-USA, some more critical.

The Collapse of Obama’s Diplomacy

By Eric Leser

The American administration has given up the role that the United States has traditionally played in world affairs for the last 70 years. The extent of the consequences is yet to be seen, even if they are already felt from Kiev to the China Seas.

Translated By Simon Wood

17 April 2014

Edited by Brent Landon

Is diplomacy made up of good intentions and great speeches? No. And one doesn't have to read Sun Tzu, Thucydides or Machiavelli to know this. We have been reminded once again of the disaster that is the foreign policy of the Obama administration.

Obama has, however, delivered some nice speeches. In July 2008, having just assumed office, in front of an ecstatic crowd of 100,000 people in Berlin who came to acclaim him, he promised “to rebuild the world.”* In June 2009 in Cairo, the president of the United States announced a “new beginning” in the relations between America and the Arab-Muslim world and offered a “greeting of peace.” In September 2009, this time in front of the United Nations General Assembly, he affirmed, “No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation.” And a few days later, Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

Less than five years later, these good intentions lie in the dungeons of history, swept aside by setbacks, concessions, humiliations and forgotten promises. The instances of weakness make a long list for an America that remains the biggest economic and military power in the world. We had almost forgotten ...

Much more here: http://watchingamerica.com/News/237344/the-collapse-of-obamas-diplomacy/

April 28, 2014

What is going on with Mondragón?

Mondragón and the System Problem
Friday, 01 November 2013 09:04 By Gar Alperovitz and Thomas M Hanna, Truthout | Op-Ed

As America moves more deeply into its growing systemic crisis, it is becoming increasingly important for activists and theorists to distinguish clearly between important projects and "institutional elements," on the one hand, and systemic change and systemic design, on the other. The recent economic failure of one of the most important units of the Mondragón cooperatives offers an opportunity to clarify the issue and begin to think more clearly about our own strategy in the United States.

Mondragón Corporation is an extraordinary 80,000-person grouping of worker-owned cooperatives based in Spain's Basque region that is teaching the world how to move the ideas of worker-ownership and cooperation into high gear and large scale. The first Mondragón cooperatives date from the mid-1950s, and the overall effort has evolved over the years into a federation of 110 cooperatives, 147 subsidiary companies, eight foundations and a benefit society with total assets of 35.8 billion euros and total revenues of 14 billion euros.

Each year, it also teaches some 10,000 students in its education centers and has roughly 2,000 researchers working at 15 research centers, the University of Mondragón, and within its industrial cooperatives. It also actively educates its workers about cooperatives' principles, with around 3,000 people a year participating in its Cooperative Training program and 400 in its Leadership and Team Work program.

Mondragón has been justly cited as a leading example of what can be done through cooperative organization. It has evolved a highly participatory decision-making structure, and a top-to-bottom compensation structure in a highly advanced economic institution that challenges economic practices throughout the corporate capitalist world: In the vast majority of its cooperatives, the ratio of compensation between top executives and the lowest-paid members is between three to one and six to one; in a few of the larger cooperatives it can be as high as around nine to one. Comparable private corporations often operate with top-to-median compensation ratios of 250 to one or 300 to one or higher.

Although it has been criticized for violating its cooperative principles through somewhat "imperial" control of some of its foreign operations, for its use of non-cooperative labor, and for a less-than-active concern with environmental problems, in recent years Mondragón has begun to address deficiencies in these areas ...

Much more here: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/19704-mondragon-and-the-system-problem

April 22, 2014

Celebrating Lenin's 144th birthday --

Lenin's Popularity Highest in Years on Revolutionary's 144th Birthday

The Moscow Times
Apr. 22 2014 16:33
Last edited 16:33

Support for the legacy of Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin is on the rise, a poll published on the eve of the 144th anniversary of his birth showed.

Asked what they thought about Lenin's contribution to Russian history, 38 percent of Russians said his influence had been "mostly positive."

The survey, conducted by the independent Levada Center pollster and published Monday, showed a steady increase in Lenin's popularity since 2006, when only 29 percent rated his influence as mostly positive.

The figure had risen to 36 percent by 2012 ... more here: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/lenins-popularity-highest-in-years-on-revolutionarys-144th-birthday/498708.html

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