With the growing calls for austerity in mind here is a two part spot The RealNews Network did on the role of hedge fund king Pete Peterson in galvanizing the ruling class to push through more cuts in social infrastructure, including the biggest victory of all: the privatization of social security.
I am posting an excellent essay by Michael Hureaux Perez from Black Agenda Report. I can really relate to this piece because he lives right down the street from where I lived for two years, in West Seattle where I still work and organize. Hureaux Perez and I are both teachers. I work at an alternative program for youth who dropped out of high school or skipped and need to catch up on their credits. I bet we’ve had some of the same students. In his piece he tells the story of Marleney, a young woman who could very well end up in my class because of all the issues she is facing. She’s behind in credits, her husband is undocumented and can’t find work, and she is also unemployed.
Marleny’s situation is not unusual. The other day in class I showed my students the 2000 census maps for West Seattle. Most of them come from White Center (Marleny and Hureaux Perez’s hood), Delridge, and High Point neighborhoods. When you look at the maps of Black, Latino, and Asian-Pacific Islander unemployment rates, these neighborhoods are like dark dots in a sea of white. 35th Avenue runs through West Seattle dividing the employed, white, college educated middle class from the unemployed and working class people of color. It’s like Seattle’s 8 Mile. When my students saw these maps they were beefing. And these were made before the economic crisis; it’s only getting worse now. I asked my students what should be done about this. A few said we should go rob the people living on the other side of 35th. Others said we should riot.
One of my former students decided to channel this anger into productive action. He and I did a study group over the summer and we just recruited our friends to start a new group called Employment Justice Action. We are demanding jobs, especially for unemployed youth of color who are hardest hit by the economic crisis. We’re starting by demanding that the local Walgreens hire more people from the neighborhood. They take money from the neighborhood; if folks can’t work there, why should we shop there?
Continue reading Fighting Unemployment, Not Each Other
By fatima and Will
Just as in the US, where capitalists have been straining their eyes looking for green shoots in the stock market, while ignoring the deepening recession among ordinary people, economists consider the relatively stable GDPs of countries like China and India as a sign that people in those countries are not as affected by the economic crisis. They even go so far as to say that working people in the third world have “safety nets” to fall back on during hard times.
As the article below from New Left Review points out, the IMF and co. promote the informal sector as a way to be self reliant until the economy improves. If true, that would be nice, since these same people contributed to rolling back any job security and collective bargaining rights that workers had fought for. Or they say that returning to the rural farm that people had originally migrated from will serve as a temporary solution. The article asks the obvious question, “Why did they leave in the first place?” Continue reading Economic Crisis in the Third World
The rallies, strikes, marches, organizing meetings, and occupations that occurred on September 24, 2009 across many campuses in the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems were the product of the profound economic, political, and social crisis we current face. This crisis is deep in California where the state has cut billions from public education. UC administrators have used the state budget crisis as cover to quickly and thoroughly implement privatization measures through staff furloughs, layoffs, huge tuition increases, and cuts in services from the health center to trash removal and other campus safety measurers.
In California and throughout the United States, we are experiencing a structural adjustment; public services funded by our tax dollars are cut to the bone and privatized to the highest (or most well-connected) bidder. This is not unlike IMF/World Bank economic austerity measures imposed upon African, Asian, and Latin American countries over the past 30 years. These programs hollowed out public infrastructures there. Our rulers have no qualms imposing the same neo-liberal economic measures they use to support their imperialist agendas abroad as they do against working people in America. The two are in fact linked. So given the speed and devastation California state officials and UC management has acted with, what does the response by students and workers look like? This piece seeks to analyze the organizing efforts at UC Berkeley since summer 2009 to see how far we’ve gone, and how far we need to go.
One of the most militant strikes in the current crisis has been the occupation of Ssangyong Motors in South Korea.
The strike failed to win its main demand of no lay-offs, however, it blazed a light in a murky time of reactionary offensives by the rulers and defensiveness by the oppressed that characterizes much of the current moment. There is a lot that we can learn from these heroic auto-workers.
Loren Goldner, who was in South Korea during the occupation, has a comprehensive interview here about the strike.
Also, here is a summary of Goldner’s conclusions taken from the Libcom archive.
Ssangyong motors strike in South Korea ends in defeat and heavy repression
by Loren Goldner
The Ssangyong Motor Company strike and plant occupation in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, ended after 77 days on Aug. 5. For the 976 workers who seized the small auto plant on May 22 and held it against repeated quasi-military assault, the settlement signed by Ssangyong court receivership manager Park Young-tae and local union president Han Sang-kyun represented a near-total defeat. Worse still, the surrender was followed by detention and interrogation of dozens of strikers by police, possibly to be followed by felony charges, as well by a massive ($45 million) lawsuit against the Korean Metal Workers’ Union and probable further lawsuits against individual strikers for damages incurred during the strike. The hard-right Korean government of Lee Myong Bak is signaling with these measures—its latest and most dramatic “take no prisoners” victory over popular protest in the past year and a half– its intention to steamroller any potential future resistance to its unabashed rule on behalf of big capital.
The Ssangyong strike echoed in many ways the dynamic seen in the recent Visteon struggle in the UK and in battles over auto industry restructuring around the world. Involving, on the other hand, an outright factory seizure and occupation, and subsequent violent defense of the plant against the police, thugs and scabs, it was the first struggle of its kind in South Korea for years. Its defeat—one in a long series of defeats extending over years—does not bode well for future resistance.
Continue reading What can the Ssangyong strike in South Korea teach us?
The US has been in the most severe recession since the Great Depression from late 2007 till now. Ben Bernake and a host of other economists have declared that the economy has entered the process of recovery. This is a remarkable statement considering the actual conditions of working people in the U.S. Michigan has an unemployment rate above 15% and California, the eighth largest economy in the world is at around 12%. Meanwhile, the national average is at 9.8%, clearly on track to break the psychologically devastating double-digit marker. Radical economists argue national unemployment is closer to the 17-20% range and that in places like Detroit it is hovering somewhere in the 30% percent area.
I have thrown a lot of numbers at people in one paragraph and at times these numbers can hide the human dimensions of how devastating unemployment can be for a person and their family. This takes on psychological, emotional, racial, and gendered aspects which alter peoples lives. Marriages are broken; people lose faith in themselves and throw their life away to drugs and crime, neighborhoods are destroyed, and dreams are vanquished. This is made worse by the pronouncements of Bernake that a recovery is here. What does it mean for a person who cannot get a job during a recovery?
Thousands of University of California students, faculty and staff gathered in Berkeley Thursday for one of many rallies held statewide to protest how the system’s Board of Regents has dealt with reductions in state funding.
A noontime rally brought more than 5,000 people to UC Berkeley’s Upper Sproul Plaza, according to Tanya Smith, president of the Berkeley chapter of the University Professional and Technical Employees-Communication Workers of America union Local 9119.
Among other protests in the state, hundreds of people also gathered at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, where state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, criticized how the UC system was being run.
The rallies were a response to recent moves by the UC Board of Regents, which approved a plan in July to institute employee furloughs along with other cuts and fee hikes. UC President Mark Yudof also announced this month a plan to increase student fees by another $2,514 over the next year.
Continue reading California Students, Workers and Teachers Walk-Out
Two days ago senator Max Baucus revealed the Senate Finance committee’s health care bill. Baucus had delayed this bill for months in an attempt to get what he had promised as moderate Republican support. Baucus, who is heavily funded by the health care industry, has strong links with industry lobbyists, many of whom are former staffers in his office. His attempt to get Republican support for a centrist bill have collapsed in his face. In the end, Baucus’ plan has failed to build consensus among the political elites.
This is significant because Obama embraced a strategy that hoped to avoid the mistakes of the Clinton administration’s health care disaster by hitching his ride to Baucus and the finance committee to come up with a centrist plan. This contradicted his earlier positions as both a Senator, when he backed a universal single-payer system, and as a presidential candidate, when he retreated to a commitment to a public option. As support for Obama fades quickly there is no better contrast between the hopes of millions of people who were key to his election victory and the realities his actual politics expose about bourgeois democracy.
But Obama also has a problem with the House Democrats who, along with liberal talking heads, columnists and the “netroots”, pushed back against him at the end of August after he said he was willing to drop support for a public option. House Democrats and the liberal section of the Senate have staked out their own position around the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s bill that emerged in July. This bill is similar to one in the House.
The main difference between the two Senate bills is the public option. Where the HELP committee’s bill contains it, Baucus has purged it from the Finance committee’s plan. If the public option is apparently a source of tension between centrists and liberal wing of the Democratic Party, then what is the public option composed of?
Continue reading Obama and Health Care “Reform”
Despite some important examples of struggles in this country in response to the effects of the economic crisis, it is the capitalist who have carried out a consistent offensive.
The devastation from unemployment is the worst since the 1930s, and the real percentage of which is above 16%, with over 20% in some areas. But the recession isn’t effecting all people the same way. Black and Latino unemployment is nearly double that of whites. One of the reasons is that the recession isn’t just attacking skilled labor, which is more white, but it’s blitzing unskilled labor. As more skilled labor takes up unskilled jobs to pay the bills this adds to the effect.
After the mini-recession of 2000-2001 there was a jobless recovery. But Black people saw faster rates of unemployment after the relative “boom” time of the 1990s at the same time the class divide in Black communities has expanded. But even considering that, in historical perspective black male unemployment has officially shifted between 15 and 10 percent from the 1980s and 1990s.
Dedrick Muhammad spoke recently on Democracy Now about this, touching on Black unemployment and Latino unemployment as well as the role of predatory lending by the banks that has lead to a loss of 70-90 billion dollars in home-value wealth for Black and Latino people.
Although we should realize they are talking about the working class and not the middle class, in the following article, taken from the Institute for Policy Studies, Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad address some of the details.
The Destruction of the Black Middle Class
By Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad
To judge from most of the commentary on the Gates-Crowley affair, you would think that a “black elite” has gotten dangerously out of hand. First Gates (Cambridge, Yale, Harvard) showed insufficient deference to Crowley, then Obama (Occidental, Harvard) piled on to accuse the police of having acted “stupidly.” Was this “the end of white America” which the Atlantic had warned of in its January/February cover story? Or had the injuries of class — working class in Crowley’s case — finally trumped the grievances of race?
Left out of the ensuing tangle of commentary on race and class has been the increasing impoverishment — or, we should say, re-impoverishment — of African Americans as a group. In fact, the most salient and lasting effect of the current recession may turn out to be the decimation of the black middle class. According to a study by Demos and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy, 33% of the black middle class was already in danger of falling out of the middle class at the start of the recession. Gates and Obama, along with Oprah and Cosby, will no doubt remain in place, but millions of the black equivalents of Officer Crowley — from factory workers to bank tellers and white collar managers — are sliding down toward destitution.
Continue reading Not a Recession, but a Depression for Black workers