Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Toyota Republicans

This piece is ripe with American nationalism, but it does offer some critical information on the "Toyota Republicans", some of the underlying struggles behind the bailout initiative for the Big 3, and the question of who owns the US South.

Toyota Republicans Should Cut Their Own Pay

By Leo Gerard

December 22nd, 2008

Campaign for America's Future


President Bush took to the TV Friday to announce that
he wouldn't walk past the financial crash of America's
Big Three automakers and do nothing to save their

Refusing resuscitation, Bush said, would be
irresponsible during the worst economic crisis since
the Great Depression.

A week earlier, 31 GOP Senators, mostly from Southern
states, voted to avert their eyes and allow American
auto companies to die. They opposed $14 billion in
federal loans for GM and Chrysler, revealing that their
loyalty lies not with America, not even with their own
states, but with South Korea and Germany and Japan.

They are Toyota Republicans.

Toyota has non-union manufacturing plants in Alabama,
Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas -- states whose senators
led the GOP quest to slay the Big Three American auto
manufacturers -- Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; Mitch
McConnell, R-Ky, and John Cornyn, R-Tx. Here's the
Republican from Mississippi, Sen. Thad Cochran,
explaining why he'd vote against the loans, "Things
have changed. It's not just the Big Three anymore," he
said, pointing out that Nissan and Toyota employ more
Mississippians than General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.
But, he said, the foreign companies would not share "in
the benefits of that automobile bailout program."

No. But Mississippi did give Nissan and Toyota more
than $650 million to entice them to locate in the
state. GM, Ford and Chrysler didn't share in those
benefits, Sen. Cochran.

The Toyota Republicans are all for helping the rich
with tax breaks and shelters, and they're all for
aiding foreign auto manufacturers with billions worth
of tax forgiveness and government-paid infrastructure

But their disdain for the working class couldn't be
clearer as they organized defeat of loans to the Big
Three under this command: "Republicans should stand
firm and take their first shot against organized

They haven't gotten the message sent out by the
electorate in November. Voters rejected politicians
prolonging the same old policy of protecting themselves
and the rich. The nation's voters want selfless leaders
who will perform in the best interests of the entire
country. They want change.

Clearly the allegiance of the 31 Republicans who
opposed the loan to save GM and Chrysler is not with
the United States of America, which would lose 900,000
jobs if just GM closed, and more than 2.1 million if
the Big Three did. Those job losses would occur during
the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
In November, the 11th consecutive month of job losses,
another 533,000 people were thrown out of work,
swelling the pool of unemployed to 10.3 million. The
Toyota Republicans were willing to increase that.

They voted against the interests of their own states as
well. Consider what would happen in a few of those
Southern States whose senators led the charge against
preserving the Big Three. If just GM collapsed,
Kentucky would lose 20,000 jobs; Alabama, 21,000;
Georgia, 23,000, and Tennessee, 29,400, according to
calculations by the Economic Policy Institute.

Sen. Cochran just didn't think it was right for the
U.S. government to aid its auto industry. But
apparently he's fine with foreign governments providing
subsidies to the transplant automakers in his state.
And, apparently, he's okay with spending state and
federal money to help foreign automakers locate
manufacturing plants in the U.S.

Korean and Japanese automakers -- including Nissan and
Toyota with plants in Cochran's Mississippi -- benefit
from manipulation of currencies by their governments, a
factor that, according to EPI estimates, reduces their
costs by between 10 and 20 percent. In addition,
nationalized health care in countries such as Japan and
Germany serves as a subsidy.

Also, the Toyota Republican opposed federal money for
American companies but supported state and federal
money for foreign auto makers estimated at $3.6

Shelby, for example, got $3 million in federal funds to
improve roads near the Hyundai plant in Alabama after
the state gave $250 million to the Korean automaker.

Shelby opposed loaning one federal cent to the U.S.
automakers, though, telling "Face the Nation" that they
should die: "Companies fail every day and others take
their place... There's not a bank in this country that
would loan a dollar to these companies."

But for foreign auto companies, his home state of
Alabama couldn't provide enough taxpayer cash -- more
than three quarters of a billion. In addition to the
quarter billion it gave the Korean automaker, it handed
another quarter billion to German Daimler for a
Mercedes-Benz plant, nearly a quarter billion to
Japanese Honda and $29 million to Japanese Toyota.

Similarly, Jim DeMint, another senator who led the
Toyota Repubicans' rebellion against the loans to GM
and Chrysler, told the "National Review" recently,
"Government should not be in the auto industry." Yet,
his state, South Carolina, got into the auto industry
with nearly a quarter billion -- $230 million -- in gifts
to a German auto company -- BMW.

The same is true in Kentucky, home of Sen. Mitch
McConnell, who said of loans for the Big Three,
"Government help is not the only option. It's not even
the best option." But government help was fine when
Kentucky was providing grants for Toyota, which got
$371 million from taxpayers since 1986.

It's clear that the real problem was not a
philosophical one. All of these lawmakers were willing
to flick free market capitalism out the car window like
a cigarette butt if their states could use taxpayer
dollars to buy a foreign auto plant. No, what really
gags them about the Big Three is that they pay good,
middle class wages and benefits as a result of
contracts with the United Autoworkers.

Repeatedly, the Toyota Republicans insisted that UAW
members bear the brunt of the cost of the bailout. The
senators insisted that UAW wages be lowered to match
those of non-union auto workers at foreign-owned
manufacturers. Toyota Republican Sen. Bob Corker of
Tennessee, wrote an amendment to the bailout bill that
would have required UAW members to accept pay cuts by a
specific date in 2009. When Republicans defeated the
bailout, DeMint blamed that on the union, saying, "It
sounds like the UAW blew up the deal."

The Toyota Republicans then conferred the American auto
industry to bankruptcy. They said they favored
bankruptcy because it would enable the Big Three to
break pledges made in labor contracts and promises for
health care and pensions made to retirees. The Toyota
Republicans want the wages of American workers pulled
down. To them, UAW members making an average of $28 an
hour, accounting for less than 10 percent of the cost
of a car, are earning just too much money.

The Toyota Republicans did not, however, make that
claim about the white collar workers on Wall Street who
got this country into the financial fiasco that led to
the dire circumstances for automakers. And not just for
American ones. Domestic car sales declined by 40
percent last month, but Asian producers' sales dropped
too -- by 35 percent.

The average salary of white collar, Wall Street
employees -- workers in "securities, commodity contracts
and investments" -- is four times that of those laboring
in the rest of the economy. Remember, these are the
guys who are so smart that they took down Bear Stearns,
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Washington Mutual, AIG and
Lehman Brothers - in less than a year -- and ultimately
required $700 billion from taxpayers to bail them out.

The top executives of Wall Street banks receive
billions of dollars in year-end bonuses. The New York
Times detailed those at Merrill Lynch in a story Dec.
17 entitled "On Wall Street, Bonuses, Not Profits Were
Real." In 2006, the firm gave its top executives
between $5 billion and $6 billion in bonuses, which
means, for example, a trader earning $180,000 a year
got a $5 million bonus.

Merrill's $7.6 billion earnings that year turned out to
be bogus. The company's losses now have exceeded all of
the profits it earned over the previous 20 years. To
prevent collapse, it sold itself to Bank of America in
September. But then, Bank of America took $15 billion
of that $700 billion in bailout money. Despite the gift
of taxpayer dollars, the CEO of Bank of American has
not publicly announced that he will decline a bonus,
and Bank of America plans to tell Merrill Lynch workers
the amounts of their bonuses beginning Friday, the New
York Times reported Thursday.

When those Toyota Republicans voted in favor of
providing $700 billion for Wall Street -- including both
of Tennessee's senators, Bob Corker and Lamar
Alexander; Kentucky's Mitch McConnell; Georgia's Saxby
Chambliss and Johnny Isakson; South Carolina's Lindsey
Graham, and Texas' Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John
Cornyn -- none asked for high-paid white collar workers
to take pay cuts or give up their million dollar
bonuses. There was a feeble attempt to limit the pay of
chief executives, but that applied only to firms that
received federal money under one particular method, and
the treasury decided not to hand out the $700 billion
that way.

And no lawmaker asked white collar workers or
executives who got billions in bonuses based on false
profits to return them.

But those Toyota Republicans want middle class, blue
collar workers who don't get year end bonuses, who
don't celebrate with five-figure dinners, to take wage
cuts. They want autoworker pensioners to lose the
monthly benefits they earned with a lifetime of labor.

And at no time did those Toyota Republicans suggest
that they should cut their own salary or top-notch,
government-paid health benefits or pensions. Like the
reckless speculators on Wall Street, Congress bears
responsibility for the crisis condition of the American
economy because it deregulated financial markets.

In 2002, during a downturn in Japan, the House of
Councillors reduced the pay of Diet lawmakers by 10
percent, and ended the transportation allowance,
portrait-painting and pension given senior lawmakers.

If the Toyota Republicans believe the Japanese way of
pay is so great for autoworkers, they should first
impose it on themselves.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Facing the Economic Crisis

Facing the Economic Crisis

December 27, 2008 By Stanley Aronowitz
Source: T h e B u l l e t

Stanley Aronowitz's ZSpace Page

The main news these days is the global economic crisis, an event ascribed by economists and most pundits alike to a "financial" meltdown caused by the irresponsibility of mainly, but not exclusively, U.S. lending institutions and consumers in offering - and accepting - "sub-prime" mortgages. The variable mortgages, initiated during the credit driven bubble of the 1990s, and welcomed by the Clinton administration but accelerated in the first six years of the new century, require home buyers to put no money down. Interest rates, which begin at 5%-9% are fated to rise within a few years, after which they could double, triple or more. In September 2008 we began to hear of massive foreclosures in almost all sections of the country as the first round of ballooning rates took effect, and the projections for 2008 and 2009 were for 2 million homes, six percent of the U.S. total to go into serious default. New home construction came to a screeching halt and commercial building suffered only slightly less pain.

In a few weeks of October, bloated with bad loans they themselves had sold, several major banks had failed, prompting the Fed to inject billions of dollars ostensibly to save them from bankruptcy and liquidation; others, like Merrill Lynch merged with more stable partners. But the historic Lehman Brothers was fated to fail when the Treasury Secretary and the Fed chair refused to extend bailout funds. Of course, goliaths like Citibank, Bear Sterns, the insurance giant AIG and a few others were deemed by the Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs executive, Hank Paulson "too big" to be allowed to go under. By the end of the month the banking system, which held trillions of dollars in "bad" paper - unredeemable mortgage, business and credit card loans - was teetering on disaster, and the crisis was widely described as a "financial meltdown." Almost all leading investment banks disappeared and those that remained were converting to traditional commercial banks.

By October, mobilized by Paulson and backed by the Fed chair, Ben Bernanke, Congress quickly passed a massive $700-billion bailout to financial institutions without scrutinizing the fine print. For different reasons, only a significant band of arch-GOP conservatives and a few liberal Democrats were prepared to let the system collapse in the hopes that either the market would self correct - the Smithians - or, in the case of the progressives, force an extensive re-regulation that had been rescinded by the Carter administration and a Democratic Congress in 1978 and followed rigorously by Democratic and Republican administrations alike. We don't like to recall bad memories, but it is useful to remember that the Clinton administration initiated a program of corporate "self-regulation" that further weakened the system and the Bush regulators simply went on a long vacation in every field, most dramatically its neglect of all manner of investment and commercial transactions that has led to the infamous Madoff scandal.

The purpose of the bailout legislation was to permit the government to purchase vast quantities of the bad securities at, or near, nominal value, in effect, a major infusion of cash into the banking/insurance systems, without imposing stringent conditions on how they must spend the money. However, within weeks of President Bush's signing the bill into law, in the wake of the banks refusal to loosen consumer and business credit Paulson announced that this strategy was being replaced by a policy of purchasing bank shares, a direct infusion of cash in return for which the government would assume a measure of temporary partial ownership of banks that chose to apply for help, but would not, as the British government did, assume outright ownership and management of the system. Nor, as it turned out, did the Federal government closely supervise the use of the funds they had so generously given. Within weeks, complaints resounded throughout the economy that the banks were not loosening their lending policies but, instead, were holding the money close to their chests. Of course, business loans were tightened, but many would-be buyers of homes, cars and other durable goods, let alone borrowers of much needed cash to pay their bills were turned away on one pretext or another, most notably because their credit rating was not top of the line.

Economic Recession and the Jobs Crisis

Meanwhile, jobless rates began their steep ascent. The November 2008 figures showed that 513,000 jobs had been lost and applications for jobless benefits soared. In fact, for at least seven consecutive months the economy had shed jobs and the official unemployment rate crept up to more than 6.5% or 10 million. In reporting the spectacular job losses, even the New York Times ran a complimentary investigative story that argued the official figures were only a fraction of the extent of joblessness. According to the Times the number of discouraged job seekers who left the labour market, premature retirees who had no prospects but to accept inadequate pensions, and recent high school and college graduates who simply did not look for work, might swell the actual figure by four or five percent. At 11% actual unemployment, the number increases from 10 to about 13 million.

By early December, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) reported that the economy had been in recession since December 2007, a year before they declared the recession "official." This revelation, which any sensible observer knew for at least a year, caused no leading politician or economist to ask why the information had taken so long to be determined and revealed. The conservative NBER explained that it often takes that long to check their calculations and come up with a definitive judgment. That they felt obliged to offer an explanation responded to the unspoken suspicion that the delay had something to do with the presidential election. Many believe that if the recession had been declared in the midst of an election season, Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama could have repaired to Hawaii for much more than a few days.

The NBER admission that the economy was in recession at least ten months before the financial meltdown, poked a huge hole in the initial view that excessive and wanton lending was at the core of the troubles and that the crisis was essentially financial in nature. Since 2002 the emerging recessionary signs were assiduously ignored by all virtually mainstream quarters. Fall 2006 witnessed the beginning of sagging economic growth, by the measure of aggregate Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which includes spurious categories within the service sector, falling housing prices that prompted a severe slowing of new housing starts and sales, and gradual increases in jobless applications.

Stagnation of manufacturing employment belied glowing reports of healthy increments in retail sales, on the premise that industrial production was no longer an important indicator of economic health. That throughout the first decade of the new century plants continued to close and reduce workforces, and not only in the Midwest but in the South as well, was not registered as signs of a slowdown in the midst of so-called "prosperity" were barely noticed in official circles. According to the conventional wisdom, the U.S. economy was "post-industrial" - well on the way to realizing the prognostication that ours was a service economy, and it was better to let others like the Chinese and Koreans to produce material goods because industrial production caused pollution, and were inconsistent with our collective aspiration to become a nation of what Bill Clinton's Labor Secretary, Robert Reich had termed "symbolic analysts." If the U.S. remained a major producer of food, armaments (for national security reasons), aircraft, heavy machinery such as machine tools, trucks and specialty steels, these were necessary to maintain our trade balances, but were not otherwise fundamental for insuring economic health. Our future lay in specializing in various forms of "immaterial" production.

So, we could afford to lose the remnants of the once huge garment and textile production industries and, in the future, the U.S. might not be the center of basic steel and car production. That foreign auto companies were locating production facilities in the Southeastern and border states was a testament to the idea that union labour, not corporate malfeasance, had produced the steep decline in manufacturing. Software, research, and the growth of higher education, both as the center of innovation and, in terms of employment and capital formation, a major industry, pharmaceuticals and other activities linked to the health care industry, and entertainment would surely fill the gap left by the demise of the "rust belt," even if some regions of the South had suffered capital flight and become a major source of foreign investment, especially automobiles. And so what if the past thirty years were times of wage stagnation and decline, we had perfected a magnificent credit system (the main spur to consumption) that seemed to know no limits.

The bare truth is that what has been taken as economic expansion since the early 1970s was a symptom that the United States (and the UK and other European countries) have survived a genuine period of economic decline by means of a dramatic increase in the creation of huge amounts of fictitious capital. Fictitious capital is money that has no material basis, but is a speculation on future economic performance. Fictitious capital is an ordinary function of the credit system. Manufacturers borrow and lend money from each other and from banks to finance purchases of raw materials and labour on the promise of a near-term repayment when the value of their respective products were realized through sales, either within the production sector or through wholesale and retail purchases. But when these loans are exchanged by banks to businesses and non-commercial consumers on a long- term basis at exorbitant interest rates, and these loans become the basis of at least 2/3 of economic activity; when consumers or business owners, some of which are banks themselves, default on a large scale on payments, and the bubble bursts the whole system reverberates collapse.

Which is exactly what happened in Fall 2008. Small producers, retailers and building contractors routinely borrowed money from banks or other lending institutions with which to purchase raw materials, rent stores or industrial facilities and hire labour on the premise that consumers who purchased their goods, and not only homes would, in turn, receive loans from lending institutions and have income sufficient to pay their credit debt on time. For nearly two decades real estate boomed, prices of all commodities - food, clothing, homes and other durables - climbed. The accumulation of debt, which underlay the fictitious accumulation of capital on a wide scale, finally collapsed like a house of cards. As Rick Wolff has argued the discrepancy between high levels of labour productivity - abetted not only by falling wages but also by labour-saving technological changes - has led to over accumulation. We have entered what Marx has termed a "realization" crisis - commodities cannot be sold at profit rates that are sufficient to stimulate further investment in plant, equipment, construction and the labour that underlies them and other affected industries. In order to alleviate their inventory glut business up and down the line is obliged to reduce prices, but this tactic may take years before capital investment on a grand scale resumes. But as long as deflation lingers new investment is bound to remain tepid. Then comes the period of layoffs, falling prices, to the point where in many cases the value of the mortgage loan, for instance, exceeds the exchange value of the home. Wallowing deep underwater this leads to foreclosures and a precipitous decline of housing starts and sales of used homes.

Another hidden fact: for thirty five years, the private sector has not produced a net increase in jobs. The growth of jobs in computer-mediated services and software production was counterbalanced by losses in manufacturing; mergers and acquisitions in the retail industry were barely matched by growth in fast food employment. In the past decade as the private sector failed to create new jobs but relied increasingly on contingent and temporary labour to meet their short-term labour requirements, the public sector - especially education and health care - became the main source of new, decent paying jobs. And as the Federal government abdicated responsibility for a variety of services, state and local bureaucracies added jobs.

Of course, besotted by the conventional neoliberal ideology that only the private sector is a job creator, economists and politicians conveniently ignored this fact and continued to insist that whatever the service, the private sector can do it better, and more efficiently. What net increases in private sector employment occurred were largely, if not exclusively, the result of contracts awarded by federal, state and local governments who adopted both the mantra and practice of privatizing public goods. Although industrial production held steady, factory jobs stagnated during the boom because computer-mediated production began to dominate key industries and, contrary to the hype that computer-based manufacturing creates more jobs than it destroys, the reverse is actually the case. And, eventually the technology sector, of which the bubble in software and communications (dot.com) companies were the leading edge, burst. As early as 2000, this sector began to experience mass layoffs, the effects of which were notices for about fifteen nano-seconds but quickly relegated to the back burner.

The Obama Administration and the Employment Challenge

Fast forward to U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's post-election series of declarations about the crisis: where five prior administrations beginning with Carter relied on monetary policy to address economic problems(reduction of interest rates were their major tool) had strenuously avoided using the tool of fiscal stimulus to address economic grief. Repeating his campaign promise, the President-Elect said his administration would create (or save) 2.5 million jobs in his first term. Immediately, he pledged to find huge funds, presumably by issuing tens of billions in treasury bills (previously known as deficit financing) that the Chinese and some American investors would buy, to address the serious deterioration of America's infrastructure - roads, bridges, urban streets, schools, public facilities, and the like. In a flash, state after state reported they had billions of dollars worth of projects "ready to go." Given the depth of the crisis, we can expect an Obama administration to inject more substantial funds that the tiny $25-billion it originally pledged. Some jobs will be created, to be sure, but we should not expect miracles.

To begin with, Obama has warned that the 2.5 million job figure is a long term projection. How much money would it take to create 1 million jobs, about 7% of current unemployment? This is a tricky calculation. Would the program(s) be contracted out to private employers or would the government be the direct employer? If contracts are let at 30% gross profits, fewer jobs would be created. And what average wage would be offered? Would the government insist on "prevailing wages" as in the current construction industry? If the new jobs paid 50% above the poverty level, for example, they would match the current national average of about $15 an hour. The sum required to create a million jobs at prevailing wages, would range from $50 to $75-billion depending on whether the Obama administration replicated the New Deal practice of government as direct employer or continued the extant policy of privatization.

We have seen almost no discussion of the real problem of job composition, particularly the relation of skilled to unskilled labour in the stimulus package, issues of training and education and the role of unions in these programs. And, of course official policy remains tied to the illusion that technology is a net job creator. For example, lost in the rush to stimulate the economy by infrastructure development is a little known fact: unlike the Great Depression era when the federal government undertook road building as a major employment program on the basis largely, of manual labour, today's road construction industry is highly mechanized. The main "forces" of construction are earth-moving machines, machine spreaders to lay down asphalt and concrete (which are produced, automatically, on trucks). Manual labour is still employed, but not nearly to the extent as the older production regime.

On the other hand, school, hospital, recreation facilities and other public buildings employ a variety of mostly craft labour: electricians, plumbers, carpenters, among other crafts and a fairly substantial corps of labourers to haul materials and perform finishing work. Facilities construction would do more for alleviating unemployment for the skilled, less for the semi- and unskilled. Then there is the question of costs: capital intensive activities are expensive, but not nearly as costly as human labour. So, unless the administration intends to build facilities as well as improve roads and such infrastructure as water treatment and waste disposal plants, the job payoff might not be as substantial as Obama believes.

Then there is the problem of contracting out these activities. During the Depression, the Works Projects Administration, a government agency, was the direct employer; today, in the era of privatization federal and state governments often contract to private companies to perform these tasks. This means that profits must be factored into all expenditures; like the privatized U.S. health care system, it is more expensive than socialized production and the job payoff is less. Moreover, under this contracting regime there are fewer controls over hiring practices; people of color tend to be shortchanged. In which case, the level of oversight would need to be much more stringent than any administration has been willing to implement. What is the warrant for believing that Clinton era appointees will be willing to reverse past practices, especially if the Obama administration wishes to reassure the private sector?

Obama promises to create millions of "green" jobs. Some of these might be included in infrastructure plans, if windmills, geothermal, solar and other alternative forms of energy are substituted for existing power stations that run on oil and coal. Capital could be raised to build or reconvert metalworking factories to produce these products; water treatment and waste disposal plants might be constructed and put on line to fulfill the "green" objective. But there will be the problem of the administration's apparent fondness for nuclear energy as a "clean" source or its flirtation with chimerical "clean" coal projects. In our haste to applaud an apparent jobs program, we need to examine what kind and how many jobs green and infrastructural activities will produce.

The most promising sources for job creation on a large scale are in services, environmental maintenance, and the arts. One of the least understood aspects of the 1930s New Deal's WPA (Works Progress Administration) was its many cultural, service and clean-up activities, all of which were labour-intensive. Youth were sent into the forests and fields to clean them up; rivers and streams were cleaned by manual labour. The federal government created a system of national parks and allocated funds for cities and towns to build playgrounds, swimming pools and sponsored a program of public housing construction. Artists, writers, theatre people, social service workers, health care workers and many other groups were put to work in local communities, some directly employed by the Feds and some employed by local governments and non-profit organizations using federal funds. Writers, musicians and artists were sent into schools to teach and to paint murals. There has been little or no discussion of this aspect of job-creation in recent times, although the Johnson and Nixon administrations did create and finance "public service" programs, some of which had training and education aspects.

A Left Challenge to the Obama Administration?

In his announcement of appointees to cabinet and key administrative posts dealing with the economy and with business regulation Obama revealed that, contrary to his campaign mantra of "change," nearly all of these crucial appointees were recruited from the alumni of the Clinton administration. From National Economic Council chair, Lawrence Summers to his appointee to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Shapiro, Obama has signaled to the financial sector that, despite brave talk about rigorous business regulation, they have little to worry about. None of his key appointees has a reputation that might inspire fear among those who have benefited from the long wave of business deregulation and bailout that began in 1976.

In mid-December, after a virtual unconditional giveaway to banks and insurance companies of $350-billion by the Bush administration, half of the $700-billion bail-out package remained to be disbursed. On December 19, President Bush announced a $17-billion bridge loan to the major auto corporations. The remaining $333-billion could be spent on assisting homeowners suffering foreclosure or its imminent threat and putting a substantial down payment on the job creation part of the stimulus program. But there is little hope that this scenario will come about unless organized labour and social movements insist on such emphasis. For this to happen, some of Obama's most fervent supporters on the Left would have to cut the assumed six months honeymoon short. They would be required to actively intervene on a number of fronts:

a set of proposals for a labour-intensive jobs program to accompany infrastructure development;

demand the governments be the direct employer, and only absolutely necessary private contracts be let for specialized services;

demand that the new jobs pay a living wage at least equal to the national average;

demand creation of labour-intensive jobs in public services and the arts;

demand enactment of the Conyers Bill HR 676 providing medicare for all. Universalizing health care would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs;

implement the Green Jobs program by re-opening and retooling abandoned auto and parts plants as well as building new plants to produce solar panels, windmills, geo-thermal machinery, water treatment technology and waste disposal products. These should be owned and operated by workers' cooperatives as well as letting contracts to existing manufacturers of these goods; and

demand rigorous oversight of employment programs to insure employment opportunities for blacks, Latinos women and the disabled.

Progressives have advanced hope that Obama will usher in a 'new' New Deal. But the New Deal of yesteryear was never intended to pull the United States out of the depression. While it did employ more than a million workers in government projects, even considering that these might have produced three times or 3 million jobs, as late as 1940, unemployment hovered at about 20% of the labour force. What the New Deal accomplished went well beyond its relatively modest economic impact; more important was its ideological and political force.

In contrast to Herbert Hoover and the first New Deal's focus on stimulating economic activity by pouring capital into business corporations, controlling prices and wages in order to foster profits and limiting its direct aid to the unemployed to feeding the hungry, the so-called "second" New Deal put money in the pockets of the jobless through public works and service programs, promised to save small farms from foreclosure through government purchases of crops and paying farmers to retire part of their growing capacity in a land bank. But it was the farmers themselves who, through direct action and mass organizing, sometimes prevented evictions, created cooperative enterprises to oppose the big processing corporations and, even before the depression became official, created their own political vehicles.

And, after the mass industrial strikes of 1933 and 1934 conducted without a legal framework for union recognition, in 1935 the National Labor Relations Act guaranteed workers the right to organize unions of their own choosing, established a procedure for official union recognition and collective bargaining, and outlawed company unions and competitive unionism within the same bargaining unit. In short, the second New Deal was a consequence of a popular upsurge, not only the brainchild of FDR and his advisors. It remains an open question as to whether the organizations at the base of the Obama administration will match, let alone exceed, the achievements of the New Deal. There is little or no prospect that, within the current framework of neoliberal, market capitalism, the deepening economic crisis can be significantly reversed. Will the Left urge direct action to address the crisis, open a dialogue about its capitalist roots and propose possible radical solutions?

Discussion on Our Future - What Next for Progressives for Obama?

Discussion on Our Future - What Next for Progressives for Obama?

An Organizing Proposal for a Left-Progressive National
Network and Clearinghouse

by Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher, Jr.


[Introductory Note: We're using some metaphors from the
language of IT and the internet here because  our old
organizing models-hubs and spokes on a wheel, pyramids
of blocks in organization charts-don't help that much
these days, given how people actually relate. Better to
use the metaphor of a large fisherman's net, with the
knots at the intersections of the strings being groups
of people, and the strings being the relations between
and among them. There's two ways of looking at a net-
seeing mainly the knots first or seeing mainly the
strings first. At the risk of sounding sexist, men
usually see the knots first; women usually see the
interconnecting strings first. Nor is the net
completely flat and even. It's rumpled and tattered,
with little peaks and valleys, and some parts in dire
need of repair. Having said all that, the IT and
internet part is still merely a tool. What's most
important are the real world face-to-face, and group-
to-group meetings, discussions and joint efforts that
need to take place in the period ahead, as it always
has been.]

How can the people brought together by the
`Progressives for Obama' project make a transition into
a broader and ongoing post-election nationwide network?
How can that network continue to serve as a left-
progressive pole within the broader alliance of Obama
activists and voters, while contributing to the
organization of the instruments for popular political
power? What follows is an outline of the organizing
tasks and components of such an effort, with an
invitation to wider discussion among our community of
supporters and activists.

Starting Points

The most important node on the new network is the base
community. This is a grassroots group of left-
progressive voter-activists situated where people live,
work or go to school.

1.      Where people live can be a neighborhood, a
township, precinct, church parish, temple or mosque, a
ward, town or city, state legislative districts or
congressional districts. It can be any combination or
variation of these, but the main point is that they
have a set of elected officials or governmental body as
a target.

2.      Where people work is important because of the
potential power of organized labor, whether their
workplace is currently organized or not.  That power is
multiplied by the direct engagement of the rank-and-
file in base organizations, committees and such.

3.      Where people go to school is important because
of the powerful role of youth as a critical force,
often serving to awaken the wider society to
injustices, local and global. School is the most common
place they come together, but faith, culture and sports
venues are also important here.

Left-progressive defines the political orientation,
essentially broad agreement with the principles of the
initial call to `Progressives for Obama', groups like
the Aurora Project, Progressive Democrats of America
and others. The main themes to focus on: Healthcare not
Warfare via HR676, Green Jobs Not War Jobs via
recession-busting infrastructure spending, Alternative
Energy Investments dealing with climate change, College
for All who want to learn for the work and study
required by the 21st Century, wider democracy through
EFCA for unions and other anti-discrimination measures,
and stopping the wars now and cutting defense to help
pay for it

The voter-activists we seek are the kind of people who
hold these politics and either already belong to mass
democratic organizations working on the above, or they
want to join them. They can be ad-hoc single issue
groups, 501C4 nonprofit groups, faith-based and
community based groups, union locals or even clubs of
political parties or the campaign organizations of
local candidates and elected officials. But it's best
if they have individual members, and see themselves
growing by getting more of them. During election
cycles, they are people who vote and work in campaigns.
Between election cycles, however, they are also active
in a variety of other mass campaigns. They have little
problem shifting from one to the other as the situation

Without these base communities, we can talk about
politics and change, but we can't DO anything about
politics and change with much impact.

Second in importance is the local cluster of similar
nodes. This means student groups getting together
across a city, a local labor council, or a citywide
meeting of peace and justice groups, and so on.

Third in importance is the local wider horizontal
network of a variety of local clusters of nodes. This
means a citywide or CD-wide alliance of labor unions,
community organization, student coalitions, peace and
justice activists, as well as others.

Fourth in importance are the broader networks of these
networked clusters reaching both upward and outward.
These are statewide or regional alliances or
federations aimed at mobilizations or longer-term
lobbying and pressure campaigns.

What Links the Networks?

First, already mentioned, is a common political
orientation mentioned above. These can be developed and
improved over time as more forces become involved and
new tasks are demanded of us. Second, and perhaps just
as important, and in some way more so, are common
platforms-packages of immediate and transitional
demands for political reform and economic development.
Immediate demands widen democracy and redistribute
wealth and resources downward. Easier voting, anti-
discrimination laws and the living wage are examples
Transitional demands alter the structure of power in
favor of those at the base-seats for unions on
development authorities, worker buyouts of failed but
still profitable firms, wider community participation
in schools.

The platforms, even though they share a common
depression-busting, popular empowerment theme, have to
be custom-designed for their localities-city, state or
bioregional. Wind farms make no sense in places with
little wind; lock and dam modernization means little to
places without major rivers. But the process of
defining and shaping the platforms of the various
levels of the network are an excellent venue in
bringing people together for an exercise in
participatory democracy. Some of these platform-
templates have already been shaped to some degree by
DC-based groups like the Institute for Policy Studies,
the Blue-Green Alliance, the Apollo Alliance, the Green
Jobs Project and others. But others will have to be
done from scratch.

Third is shared new media. The networks and clusters
need public faces. Naturally, we work to get in the
regular mass media, but one way of doing it is using
the new interactive media of the blogosphere, but
locally. The linked interactivity not only helps people
get organized, but their degree of success using it
also helps them gain entrance to the mainstream media,
locally and nationally. Luckily, the new media doesn't
cost anywhere near as much to put in operation, only
the time and talent of those setting them up and
running them.

Putting it all together

We should acknowledge two things here. First, many of
these organizations and networks already exist, have
recently emerged in the Obama campaign, or exist in
embryo to various degrees. There are many areas where
things have to be done from scratch, but many more do
not. What's needed now is for more interconnections to
be formed, and more of these components to become aware
of each other, sharing ideas, resources and mobilizing
efforts. To borrow from the old Hegelian dialectic, the
wider national network exists in itself, but is not yet
fully conscious and for itself. Second, we should
acknowledge that what we are advocating here, the
organization of a new national network and information
clearinghouse is an interim project.  We can't say for
certain yet what the longer-range organizational
outcome will be or even if there will be a single
outcome-a realigned and fully progressive Democratic
Party, a new third party or labor party, or a new
Grassroots Nonpartisan High-Road Alliance of candidates
from many parties.

`Progressives for Obama' is in a position to play a
catalytic role in moving forward in a major way. But it
should not be alone. Why? Most important is an allied
effort understanding the necessary intersection of
race, class and gender for a lasting left-progressive
alliance. It must also have a grasp on the role and
potential power of organized labor and the working
class more generally. The combination of these two
strengths is what counts.

What is required

First, `Progressives for Obama' needs some close
partners, especially those with base communities of
mass democratic organizations with individual members.
Not a lot, but those are really willing to work right
away. PDA is an obvious choice, but there are more.
Jobs with Justice and The Right to the City groups are
another. It also needs partners with resources to
share-progressive think tanks and several of the new
media projects. Some of the existing socialist
organizations that backed Obama may also be helpful
where they have a degree of strength and influence.

Second, we need some startup money. We probably should
approach individuals first, since we need to start
quickly. Then we need a development director to work
the institutional sources for funding, which take a lot

Third, we need to deploy a designated team of field
organizers, people who can move about various regions
or the entire country, to meet with groups and people,
speak publicly and find the best local area
coordinators for the project. These field organizers
will have to be paid, or at least have their expenses

Fourth, we need a designated team of new media workers,
and the funds to retain a webmaster-manager of our web
site and web-centric infoshop clearinghouse. The
webmaster should be working for the allied project, but
the others can be recruited as allies in the media
projects they are already working for. As a team, their
first task is to develop our `brand' and make a big
splash in the blogosphere, drawing the people and
groups we want to participate in the overall joint

Fifth, we need a designated governance body. Most
likely, it can be a coordinating committee with monthly
conference calls, together with a smaller and more
nimble executive that can write checks. Then main thing
is for everyone who has a stake to have a voice and
seat at the table. That will get us started, but more
formal structures are needed to receive grants.

This needs to be seen as a major new expansion of
`Progressives for Obama' and its allies - and time-
urgent as well. The crisis is unfolding and deepening
rapidly, as are the opportunities and problems related
to the new Obama administration. If we do this well, it
will make a big difference.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

RESIST! and APRN "People's Statement on the Global Crisis"

The People's Statement on the Global Crisis that is initiated by RESIST! and the Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN). RESIST! is an international campaign against neo-liberal globalisation and war. The APRN is a regional network formed in 1998 to develop cooperation among alternative research centres of NGOs, and social movements in the Asia-Pacific region and raise capacity in advocacy and education, particularly in the conduct of research, education, information and advocacy related activities.

People's Statement on the Global Crisis

The people of the world suffer the greatest from the current economic and financial crisis, the worst in a century. Supposed measures to deal with the crisis further aggravate the hardship of the world's poor and flagrantly serve to bail out and perpetuate the oppressive and exploitative system of monopoly capitalism. A radical overhaul is needed and societies must be built that deliver livelihoods, incomes, education, health and housing for the people.

 The crisis is global and the worst in a century. The global economic recession has begun with consumption and production collapsing in the advanced capitalist United States (US), European Union (EU) and Japan which amount to over half of the world economy. World economic growth is currently expected to keep falling to just 3.0% next year, which would already be the slowest in almost a decade. Yet growth estimates are adjusted downwards as often as they are made. Some estimates of the eventual financial losses have been in the order of an unprecedented US$25-30 trillion worldwide and the effects of this in the real economy will be catastrophic. The world faces the double danger of recession and deflation. The adverse consequences of neo-liberal globalisation  in the past decades will be aggravated all over the globe.

The people were exploited and thus impoverished even before the turmoil and will now suffer even more. Poverty and inequality have been worsening in the last decades.  Even if one were to use the underestimated poverty line of $2 per day, there has been a 50% increase in the number of poor people since 1980 to some three billion today out of the world's total population of 6.4 billion. Around 800 million people are jobless or otherwise still needing additional incomes and work, a billion people go hungry every day, and two billion people do not even have access to clean water. The current turmoil guarantees even more rapid increases in misery in the years to come.

Neocolonial economies are already facing falling exports, dropping commodity prices, speculative outflows and dried up capital markets. Even migration and remittances from abroad are at risk. Domestic growth is slowing and production cutbacks and layoffs are already starting. Hundreds of millions of households are struggling with increasing joblessness, declining incomes and deteriorating welfare. The people who have long suffered from the ravages of neoliberal globalization are faced with the terrible consequences of the rapid deterioration of the economy.

The current crisis is particularly severe and worse is to come in the train of recurrent crises under capitalism.Capitalism is inherently caught up in self-contradiction and is constantly imbalanced. The drive of the monopoly bourgeoisie to extract surplus value and maximize private profits is in contradiction with the social character and rise of production.  Thus keeping down wage levels relative to increasing production reduces effective demand.   This is reflected in the so-called 'boom-bust cycle', which underscores the periodic episodes of collapsing production and acute crisis. Throughout this, the incomes and welfare of the working people remain miserably low.

Over the last three decades the advanced capitalist countries have tried to keep their economies and profits growing through the neo-liberal offensive of exploiting cheap labour, seizing raw materials and dominating markets across the globe. Yet the crisis has continued to deepen. In the 1990s, they resorted more and more to financial devices: speculative profits and debt-driven consumption and production. However, the basic imbalance of capitalism remained and delaying the inevitable through inflating financial bubbles only meant an unprecedented accumulation of problems and instability.

There are limits to how far economies can be propped up by debt that is not based on any real economic values created or that could ever be created. The United States is a clear example. Unsustainable debt-driven pump-priming for its wars of aggression and unsustainable debt-driven household consumption are at the core of its financial and economic disorder.

The crisis erupted when the financial illusions and false dynamic of growth could no longer be maintained. Although manifesting first in the US, the world's most advanced capitalist power and also the most indebted and financially troubled, the EU and Japan likewise have the same problems. The big power governments are now scrambling to mobilize public resources for private monopoly benefit.

The responses proposed are principally aimed at reviving corporate profits at the expense of the people. The imperialist powers are quick to take action to save a few giant financial institutions. They mobilized or otherwise committed trillions of dollars in bailouts and support ostensibly to restore confidence in financial systems and stop a descent into even greater turmoil. There is, unsurprisingly, no such rapid and meaningful action to help underdeveloped countries or the billions of poor people even only in terms of keeping residents in their foreclosed homes at reduced rent and in New Deal or Keynesian ways such as reemploying people in public works and expansion of social services in conjunction with reviving manufacturing upon the rise of effective demand. And yet the financial lifelines to finance capital are eventually going to be borne by the people in terms of higher taxes, diminished social services, higher inflation, and greater instability.

The advanced industrial powers are further seeking greater trading and investment opportunities abroad to restore their profits at the expense of the underdeveloped countries. At the same time they are compelled to preserve control of domestic markets, as well as push down wages and the benefits of their workers. There are already efforts to revive the stalled World Trade Organization (WTO) talks and to increase the manipulative influence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB). There is also a determined push to multiply imperialist-dominated bilateral and regional free trade and "economic partnership" deals. Insofar as these consolidate economic territories, they foreshadow economic conflicts over the world's finite labor, natural resources and markets.

The most compliant underdeveloped country governments are already working to further remove trade barriers and investment controls. Neo-liberal globalisation has  destroyed domestic agriculture and industry and made hundreds of millions of peasants and workers poorer in economically backward countries. Farmers and agricultural workers around the world lost their livelihoods and were driven off the land, while factory workers were thrown out into the streets into destitution as entire industries were wiped out.

In any case, the world economy is still continuing to unravel. Capitalism is facing a prolonged recession with industrial closures, firm bankruptcies, wage repression, cutbacks in benefits, lay-offs, rural displacement and greater poverty to come. The global credit squeeze, drastic fall in demand for the raw materials and semi-manufactured exports and the depressed prices of these will aggravate and deepen the exploitation and impoverishment of the people in the Third World. There is in fact, a global depression which is becoming conspicuous as the methods of finance capital for covering deficits, funding consumption on credit and thus fabricating economic growth rates become ineffective.

Only a new social and economic order will prevent the worsening of poverty and a recurrence of crisis. The capitalist world economy is at the limits of being driven by debt, speculation, cheap labor exploitation and war. Household incomes and welfare are worsening rapidly both in the advanced centers of capitalism and in the vast backward hinterlands of the world. The current level of the crisis of monopoly capitalism has been on the make for several decades and is likely to be persistent for several years. The global bond market is expected to collapse soon.

Efforts at coping with the crisis under the current system will at best restore growth momentarily until the next bout of intensified crisis. The current global trade and investment regime promotes neo-liberal globalisation for the benefit of the world's most powerful monopoly capitalists at the expense of the people's welfare. The system itself needs to be radically overhauled with economies producing not for the profit of a few corporations but for the needs of the many for decent livelihood, goods and services. It is imperative for the people to build an alternative system that is humane, equitable and just. This alternative system is guided by three general principles: social justice and reversing age-old biases against the working people; the economy and its resources serving the needs of the general population and not the profits of a few; and national independence, genuine democratic participation and environmental responsibility. The people must eschew the anarchic economics and social exclusiveness of the phoney free market of monopoly capitalism.

There is no easy way out of the crisis and the people of underdeveloped countries are struggling to assert their economic sovereignty and strive for greater self-reliance and social justice. Among the critical measures that must be taken are:

1. Stop talks on all neoliberal multilateral, regional and bilateral free trade agreements that have grossly disadvantaged the working people and entire underdeveloped countries; and cancel all current deals. An international trade and investment regime that recognize economic sovereignty and self-reliant development and the primacy of the people's welfare must be built. Domestic economies must be freed from imperialist exploitation and must have the leeway to implement development strategies as they see fit.

2.   Oppose maneuvering by the IMF, WB and WTO to exploit the crisis and further impose neoliberal policies on the underdeveloped countries. Their opportunism necessitates the strengthening of  the people's demand for these organizations' closure.

3.  Stop speculative financial flows to underdeveloped countries that introduce instability, reckless speculation in energy and other commodities that causes undue volatility, and irresponsible speculation in food commodities that further disrupts food supplies and feeds hunger.

4.  Execute strategies to build national industry, implement true agrarian reform, realize food sovereignty, and promote gender equality and environmental sustainability.

5.  Carry out genuine agrarian reform which means immediately giving land to the tillers, providing the means to make this productive, and improving means of rural livelihood.

6. Unconditionally cancel foreign debts to stop the outflow of vital domestic resources.

7. Put in place schemes that ensure environmental sustainability, including long-term solutions to climate change that acknowledge the greater accountability of the imperialist powers.

At the same time there is an urgent need for the people to demand and obtain immediate relief against worsening social and economic distress.

 1. Immediate emergency food, expanded unemployment benefits, income and work relief through expanded public works and social services and shelter at reduced rent for people whose homes have been foreclosed.

2. A greater share for the working people of the wealth that they produce through wage increases in industry and a larger share of the agricultural produce for the peasants and farm workers.

3. Adequate and active provision of health care, public education, housing and other social services for the people.

4. Increased public spending on rural infrastructure projects that will directly improve people's livelihoods.

5. Drastic reduction of military spending and elimination of bureaucratic corruption.

6. Reduction of taxes on the poor, and increased taxation on the wealthy and corporations towards a progressive tax system.

Initial list of endorsers:

1.   RESIST!

2.   Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN)

3.   All Nepal Peasants' Federation (ANFPA), Nepal

4.   Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union -APVVU

5.   Angikar Bangladesk Foundation , Bangladesh

6.    Action, Research, Education Network of Aoteroa (ARENA-NZ)

7.    Advancing Public Interest Trust (APIT), Bangladesh

8.    Asia Monitor Resource Center (AMRC), Hong Kong , SAR

9.    Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), Hong Kong , SAR

10.  Balochistan Rural Development and Research Society (BRDRS), Pakistan

11.  Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants (CECOEDECON), India

12.  Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), Mongolia

13.  Center for Women's Resources (CWR), Philippines

14.  Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), Philippines

15.  Cordillera Resource Center For Indigenous People's Rights (CRC-IPR)

16.  Documentation for Action Groups in Asia (DAGA), Thailand

17.  DRISTI, India

18.  Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy, Fiji

19.  Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), Philippines

20.  Equitable Tourism Options (Equations), India

21.  Equity and Justice Working Group, Bangladesh

22.  Education and Research Association for Consumer (ERAC), Malaysia

23.  Farms Services Center, Pakistan

24.  Food Coalition of Mongolia

25.  Green Movement of Sri Lanka (GMSL), Sri Lanka

26.  IBON Foundation, Inc.  

27.  Incidin, Bangladesh

28.  International NGO Forum for Indonesian Development (INFID), Indonesia

29.  Institute for Global Justice (IGJ), Indonesia

30.  Institute for Motivating Self-Employment (IMSE), India

31.  Institute for National and Democratic Studies (INDIES), Indonesia

32.  Jana Chetana, India

33.  Jobs Creators Development Society , Pakistan

34.  National Network of Indigenous Women, Nepal

35.  Nepal Policy Institute (NPI), Nepal

36.  NGO Federation Nepal

37.  NISARGA, India

38.  PAIRVI, India

39.  Pakistan Institute for Labor Education and Research (PILER), Pakistan

40.  Peoples Workers Union , Pakistan

41.  Proshika, Bangladesh

42.  Roots for Equity , Pakistan

43.  Rural Women's Liberation Movement, India

44.  Rural Workers' Movement, India

45.  SAHANIVASA, India

46.  Sewalanka Foundation, Sri Lanka

47.  Sirumalai  Ever Green Multipurpose Community , India

48.  Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED), India

49.  Tamid Nadu Women's Forum , India

50.  Third World Network (TWN), Malaysia

51.  UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative), Bangladesh

52.  WAVE Foundation, Bangladesh

53.  Vikas Adhyayan Kendra (VAK ), India

54.  Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (VOICE), Bangladesh

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Crisis Update: Thursday, November 27, 2008

This week was a very critical one. In many respects, the true depth of the crisis is beginning to be revealed with the “official” acknowledgement that the US FED has committed close to 8 Trillion in the attempt to resolve it. According to the NY and Financial Times this amounts to nearly half of the US economy. I share the opinion that this 8 Trillion figure is actually a conservative one, perhaps a very conservative one.

The announcement by the US Treasury and Reserve on Tuesday, November 25th (see “US details $800 Billion Loan Plans” below) demonstrates that the bourgeoisie still does not have a grasp on this crisis. But, it also demonstrates that elements of this class are willing to spend to no end to try and resolve it. How much can the US bourgeoisie pledge to spend to address this crisis and how much paper they can print to cover it remains to be seen. What is clear is that their short term measures are primed to create many long-term contradictions – stagflation being perhaps the least of them.

Obama’s appointments this week continue confirm his right political orientation. They also demonstrate his administrations commitment to neo-liberal economic polices - thus challenging many progressive allegations that neo-liberalism has been thoroughly discredited.
On the fight back side, the “Which Way Forward for the Left in the Age of Obama & the Economic Crisis” forum held by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) and Revolutionary Work in Our Times featuring Chokwe Lumumba; Bill Fletcher, Jr.; Kate Griffiths; and Aijen Poo on Sunday, November 23 in NYC was a good example of the types of revolutionary multi-tendency discussions that have to take place during this period. An audio recording of the program can be found at http://hegemonik.wordpress.com/2008/11/24/audio- of-which- way-forward/. Many more of these types of discussions must to be held. And they need to probe deeper and deal with programmatic proposals that revolutionary anti-imperialists can collaborate on in the much needed effort to create a “Peoples' Plan” to orientate our work and struggle during this next period.

Be on the lookout for the next installment of “Navigating the Storm” within the next week as I attempt to consolidate a number of strategic demands and programmatic proposals.

Republican Committee keeps the heat on Obama”, by Peter Baker, November 27, 2008. NY Times.

Adding to the Stimulus”, November 26, 2008. The Economist.

Obama picks Volcker to head new economic panel”, by Jeff Zeleny, November 26, 2008. NY Times.

New efforts for stimulus in Europe and China”, by Keith Bradsher, November 26, 2008. NY Times.

Workers face painful wage cuts”, November 26, 2008. BBC News.

New White House and Congress hope to have bills ready for inauguration”, by Carl Hulse and David M. Herszenhorn, November 26, 2008. NY Times.

Common Ground for Defense Chief and Obama”, by Thom Shanker, November 26, 2008. NY Times.

Save the Economy, Save the Planet”, Editorial, November 26, 2008. NY Times.

US details $800 Billion Loan Plans”, by Edmund L. Andrews, November 25, 2008. NY Times.

Data shows sharper US contraction”, Tuesday, November 25, 2008. BBC News.

First World Said to Face Protracted Slowdown”, by DAVID JOLLY, November 25, 2008. NY Times.

US pledges to top $7.7 Trillion to Ease Frozen Credit”, by Mark Pittman and Bob Ivry, November 24, 2008. Bloomberg News.

On the Nov. Elections and the Next Steps in Building the AI movement in the US

On November 4, 2008, millions of new voters stepped into political life with the hope that the traditional (as many put it) rich-white-male-Christian cultural monopoly on political power would no longer determine the conditions of life in the United States. These millions who stepped forward to be counted -- young, poor, women, people of color, the wronged and abused, the falsely accused, sick and disabled, atheists, Moslems, Buddhists, and progressive Christians, displaced, evicted, and laid-off, and other “outcasts” and have-nots -- were repelled by that de facto oligarchy, which had, they felt, excluded them. The Bush regime had arrogantly and unsuccessfully led that traditional elite for 8 years of widening wars and monstrous economic crises, which drew widespread domestic and global anger and condemnation. With high hopes, the millions of new voters were joined by millions of others who were trying to find a way out of the mess that this system has been making of their lives and of the world. Black people, Latinos, other people of color, workers, and youth stepped out of the shadows of solitude and “making do” and into political life, albeit within the confines of a presidential election.

By and large, these millions are responding to the promise of access, of open doors. They bring with them the worries and concerns and angers of their lives—of the wars being waged on false pretenses, of the worsening conditions of life. These are the issues they bring with them, though solutions to these issues were not on the electoral table.

On the night of November 4, hundreds of thousands in cities around the U.S. celebrated their success in electing the first Black president and the fact that millions of whites moved past the racist fears and codewords that have habitually set the boundaries of political life.
But to move forward, celebrations must turn to sober, straight talk.

The interests around which Barack Obama and the Democratic Party leadership have coalesced, despite the campaign banner of “change”, are the interests of the rich and the privileged, even as more wars are looming and the economics of the capitalist system here and worldwide are dragging the lives of millions into deeper crisis.

In January, Barack Obama will become the 44th Commander-in-Chief of the U.S government, which controls and protects an empire of corporations, banks, military bases and occupying armies all around the world. Obama has reached this position by loyally serving this bipartisan system in the U.S. Senate and by being vetted, tested and auditioned over the past two years in running for the presidency. In the course of this, Obama convinced the majority of the U.S. capitalist class (his campaign contributions from Wall Street were twice as big as McCain's) that he was the best candidate to take the reins of empire at a time when the U.S. is bogged down in two wars in the Middle East, and is in the midst of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, with the worst effects on the lives of working people here and around the world yet to come. For them, Obama is a reliable and safe bet to protect their interests. The fact that Obama will be the first Black president is an undeniable asset for the rulers of the U.S. It symbolizes a shift in the overtly racist practices of the country, but not one substantive enough to overcome the built-in tilt and nature of the system.

In fact, while millions have stepped forward under the banner of “Change”, these millions have the challenge to shape the political terrain for the period ahead. Because if left to Obama and the Democratic Party, the base of support for imperialism will not be challenged, but broadened.

What can we expect from an Obama administration? Will Obama be a new face on the same old stuff, or will there be substantial differences?

The capitalist system requires more than a new face. From it’s new CEO and Congress, the system will require more regulation, more government intervention, more international coordination and multilateral, not unilateral, aggression and occupations. It needs more “partnerships” with compliant regimes in semi-colonies and dependent countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Therefore, we should:
Expect a U.S. military surge into the killing fields of Afghanistan to protect a government of US-backed warlords from rival fundamentalists, and another surge across the border into Pakistan. This is one promise that Obama is not likely to break.
Not expect the return of US troops from Iraq, though there will be “redeployments” and further privatizations of the military. Barack Obama has backtracked from his anti-war promises early in the campaign. He will keep tens of thousands of military advisers, trainers, contractors and bases in Iraq, with large numbers of combat troops stationed in neighboring countries. Obama will send US troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Not expect the withdrawal of U.S. troops, advisers and military
bases from the Philippines, Colombia and other global hotspots where
the U.S. imperialists have important economic and strategic interests.
Expect an Obama presidency--as he pledged to AIPAC-- to continue all-out U.S. support for the state of Israel and its brutal military occupation of the land and people of Palestine.
Not expect the dismantling of the newly formed U.S. military command for Africa (AFRICOM), which is headed by a Black general. Expect expansion of this invasive hegemonic re-colonization program.
Expect that even with a Black president at the helm, there will be no high level assault of the myriad forms of white supremacy that are woven into the capitalist system. Police brutality and the criminalization of Black youth, unemployment rates of 20% and higher in Black communities, re-segregation of schools, ICE raids and deportations aimed at Mexican and other immigrant communities--all of this will continue and even worsen no matter who is president. During his campaign, Barack Obama even denied that the system of white supremacy exists. In an attempt to prevent severe disruptions and the unraveling of the imperialist political-economic-social order, President Obama will promote a seemingly “post-racial” "multi-cultural-ism" that dismisses the profound oppression and exploitation of millions of Black and Latino people as a thing of the past—or as a product of their own making and failings. And he will couple this with a xenophobic appeal that “we’re all in this together”, and blame the crisis that “we Americans” suffer, on the people of the world.
Expect continued class polarization. Obama's support for the $700 billion bailout of banks and financial institutions is a clear indication of where his class loyalties lie. More multi-billion dollar bailouts for banks and big corporations lie ahead. With foreclosures, evictions, credit card defaults, unemployment and poverty on the rise, Obama and the Democrats are talking about palliative measures that will not even begin to address the depths of the crisis.
Expect austerity programs and cuts in social spending in the years ahead. It will be Obama's job to sell them to Black, Latino, Asian and white working people in the name of national unity and shared sacrifice.
Not expect strong support for same sex marriage or women’s rights. Barack Obama is opposed to same sex marriage. Obama supports Roe v. Wade but is trying to find "common ground" with anti-choice activists. We cannot expect Obama's nominees to the Supreme Court to be jurists who take a firm stand for a woman's right to an abortion unless there is a determined mobilization by pro-choice and progressive forces to make him and the Democrats do so.

On the positive side, this presidential campaign has swept a new generation into political life and has remade the political stage in many ways. Particularly among this new generation, the Obama campaign and election has generated great hopes and expectations, but inevitably the orientation of the new administration toward politics acceptable to the privileged will heighten the burden on the broad masses of Blacks, Latinos/Chicanos and whites, workers and youth.

As this happens, those who have indulged in uncritical exuberance at the election, will come to realize that the “Obama checks” they have written are being returned for “insufficient funds.”

In the meantime, anti-imperialists must resolve to not give the new administration a pass or a honeymoon. The times require us all to focus and develop the People’s Agenda for educating, organizing and mobilizing in the period ahead, including these issues:

The struggle against War and Empire—from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Philippines and Colombia, to ending the thousand US military bases around the world, ending the occupation of Palestine, and upholding the sovereignty of all indigenous and colonized peoples. Support people’s struggles against displacement & for the right to return—in the Gulf Coast, the inner cities, and around the world!
The struggle for Justice—from demanding privacy rights, to demanding full rights for immigrants and organizing to stop ICE raids, to ending the criminalization of youth and the massive imprisonment of millions, to defending the reproductive rights of women, the human rights of LGBTQ communities (people with all sexual orientations), and ending forever the policies of torture, indefinite detentions and rendition. Stop police abuse and racial profiling! Free All Political Prisoners!
The struggle for decent lives—demand complete and universal health care, education, housing, and decent jobs for all. Fight all layoffs, deportations, evictions, foreclosures and utility shutoffs. Demand rollbacks in the price of food, rent, and fuel. Fight for unhindered rights of access to technology, to people’s history, people’s culture, and complete and unrestricted rights to organize, to associate, to protest, to travel--and for the right to organize for self-defense against the rising “backlash” and ongoing tide of racist attacks.

Tremendous challenges and opportunities await struggling people throughout the United States. We must join together to overcome the challenges ahead and seize the opportunities to create the just world we need.

Another World Is Possible Without Imperialism!!

Collision Course Media
(a member organization of the International League of People’s Struggle)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Demand Development Documents: Compiled Monday, November 24, 2008

The Financial Crisis: Notes on Alternatives
Sam Gindin
The Bullet, Socialist Project (Canada)
November 24, 2008

Over the last quarter century, the left in most of the developed world has been marginalized as a social force. The 'culture of possibilities' for left alternatives has correspondingly narrowed. But historic changes, above all the discrediting of neoliberalism, hold out the potential of at long last reversing that earlier defeat. With the continuing financial turmoil and the global economy about to enter the worst downturn since the great depression, the desperate need
for alternatives is clear enough; the question is whether we can develop the capacity to once again be a relevant social actor.

To this point, this opening for the left has been primarily polemical. Its true of course that in the recent elections, politicians - in Canada no less than in the U.S. - continued to insist on their allegiance to lower taxes and to run from significant redistributions in income, let alone wealth or power. In the U.S., an affirmation of American patriotism remains the condition for raising even moderate criticisms of foreign policy. But neoliberal ideology is reeling and the delegitimation of freer markets as the solution to everything has already made the right more defensive on economic issues than it has been for a generation. They can no longer get away with calling for the freeing of corporations and financial institutions from regulation to 'unleash the creativity of markets,' or rejecting out of hand state involvement to address social needs.

Moreover, the depth and global scope of the downturn will leave the state with little choice but to introduce massive public expenditures. Working families, experiencing the frightening erosion of their effective savings - their pensions and home values - have already started to cut back on consumption in order to rebuild some future security. Private investors, seeing few opportunities and reacting with caution and uncertainty toward the future, are not investing. For the immediate future, neither private incentives nor freer markets, neither the easy hand of more credit nor the promise of more exports, will end the news of failing companies and rising unemployment. Only public investment has a chance of leading an economic revival.

All this is important to account for: it may even mark the end of an era. Yet, we need to be sober about how far the crisis and responses to its can, in themselves, take us. Even if the rhetoric and some of the practices of neoliberalism are modified, a good deal of the structures, power, and logic of that earlier period remain firmly in place. Globalization and free trade are not going away. The recent G-20 meeting accomplished little, but it did confirm a commitment among the participating states to avoid 'protectionism.' Barring a complete breakdown, finance will certainly have a new institutional look, but the new regulations will serve to revive and strengthen the role of a smaller number of larger private banks domestically and internationally.

Nor is the intensified competition and restructuring that has destroyed jobs and undermined workers' confidence going away. The pressures on autoworkers, for example, are about to get worse and structural adjustment programs in the third world - though they may now be more contested - will continue. And while the subprime crisis had to some support against
foreclosures, this remains narrowly separated from the roots of the problem in decades of wage restraint, poverty and the refusal to make housing into a right rather than a commodity.

As for the American state, it has certainly lost some of its sheen. But here, too, the reality is not an imminent end to the American empire and reversal of its postwar leadership role. The centrality of the American state continues: no other state can (or even wishes to) replace the U.S.; the crisis has reconfirmed the world's dependence on the U.S. financial system; and the resolution of this now international crisis rests fundamentally on the actions of the American state in leading a more or less coordinated response. Thinking About Alternatives

In trying to come to grips with what needs to be done, it is useful to begin by acknowledging our limited capacities at this time. We can challenge some of the details surrounding the resolution to the financial crisis, but we can't play much of a role in solving that crisis; our focus must be elsewhere. Abstract calls for 're-regulation,' with their assumption that states and markets stand in opposition to each other, can further confuse rather than politicize those we're trying to mobilize. As the most recent state interventions make clear, given the current balance of social forces, regulation is about finding a technical way to preserve markets in the face of their volatility, not about any fundamental reordering of relative power in society to conform to social needs. Even where the government's involvement has allowed particular capitalists to fail, the content of state intervention has revolved around reconstituting and thereby preserving, the power of financial capitalists as a class.

Similarly, looking for the answer in some broader return to the good, old, pre-neoliberal days misunderstands the connection between then and now. Neoliberalism was a response to the unsustainability of the earlier period. The crisis of the 1970s was rooted in working class pressures on corporate profits, which led corporations to slow down their investment and
threaten to shift capital abroad. At the time, some sections of the left presciently saw that the options were polarized: if there wasn't greater control over banks and corporations, along with a move towards democratic planning, then workers would be crushed in order to restore corporate power and profits - as they in fact were. To go back to that earlier period would therefore only reintroduce the previous conflict, and restore its underlying question: whether corporate power would be restored to solve the crisis, or whether a fight could be made for a democratic alternative.

There is another factor that must be integrated into our thinking about alternatives: the extent to which the working class has been integrated into financial markets. After the 1970s, with wages held down, workers of necessity turned more and more to credit as the form through which they accessed consumption. As well, they looked to a rising stock market to boost their pension funds, and those with homes cheered rising house prices because the increase in their wealth reduced the need for savings and so allowed greater consumption. In terms of class formation, this further fragmented the working class; while the struggle for wages and public
benefits depended on and built class solidarity, looking to credit (and lower taxes) to sustain their private lives led to an atrophy of collective capacities. In the current crisis, the implications of that relationship to financial markets became all too clear: in spite of popular anger over the bailout of Wall Street, there was in the end a general - if reluctant - acceptance of the bailout's necessity to 'save the system' they had become dependent on.

No less important in undermining the working class as an oppositional force is the stratification that developed over the past three decades inside the working class. That internal inequality has tended to cause resentment and divisions from both those who
seemed to be doing relatively well and those marginalized. The former were more easily isolated when corporations demanded concessions since even with concessions they would still be ahead of most workers; the latter were often blamed as the cause of rising taxes on those working hard to support those who were not.

The strategic question we now face might be restated as follows. All alternatives must begin with people's needs, but can we also structure our responses so they strengthen the capacity of the working class to act independently of the logic of capitalism, while also restricting to at least some degree the power of capital? Assuming that the financial crisis does stabilize, there will still be a major recession and a period of slower growth as the aftermath of the crisis 'unwinds.' In that context, two questions will come to the forefront of politics: who will pay for the aftermath of the crisis, and what form will the solutions to reviving the economy (and not just finance) take?

Immediate Demands

Given the impact of the housing crisis on so many Americans and the extent of the delegitimation of the financial sector, it is rather amazing how little direct resistance has occurred. No marches, no community takeovers of foreclosed homes, no mass expressions of frustration and anger. Since the financial volcano erupted in the midst of election campaigns in the U.S. and Canada, it might have been expected that the electoral process would become a catalyst for widespread discussion of dramatic alternatives, but this too has been remarkably muted. In Canada, one indicator of the popular political malaise is that voter turnout in the recent election was the lowest in a hundred years; this could not be said of the American election yet in putting so much hope in an Obama victory, foreclosure victims waited rather than acted. The first point is therefore that any specific actions in defence of working people's
homes or savings, jobs or social programs, should be actively encouraged and supported.

But what of more general demands we might raise at this potentially radicalizing moment? Three such demands which were raised by the American left in the period preceding the bailout seem to address both popular concerns and hold out the possibility of carrying a larger strategic weight: universal health care (currently being eroded though still very legitimate in Canada), the development of the public pension system, and the building of public infrastructure.

Each of these demands reduces working class dependence on markets and the private sector. In the U.S., universal health care means not losing your benefits if you lose your job and a consequent lessening of the internalized pressure to strengthen 'your' corporation, through concessions if necessary, in order to hang on to your family plan. Public pensions mean less dependence on the returns your pension or mutual fund get from growth in the stock market and security against the increasing trend on the part of corporations to gut union pension plans. Public infrastructure, especially if that includes addressing the environmental crisis, provides jobs and shifts the focus from depending on market incentives to possibly do the right thing, to directly doing it.

But more than that, each of the above reduces private control over our lives - whether that be health insurance companies, the managers of institutional funds, or the corporations that are otherwise expected to drive economic stimulus through further tax breaks and a favourable 'climate' (which generally means less favourable to popular rights). And most important, because of their focus on universal rights and collective needs, such demands tend to overcome the divisions within the working class and contribute to building class unity and solidarity.

A fourth demand, public housing, raises another crucial dimension of universal rights and gets to the contradiction that triggered the financial crisis: policies that kept people in poverty limited their ability to make mortgage payments and this could only be hidden for so long. The answer here is not only to move away from the market as a solution for the poor, but to demonstrate the broader potentials of the public provision of services: can we imagine a kind of housing that in addition to being innovative and affordable includes a new sense of community and relationship to the surrounding city - that is housing that is exemplary of the potentials of public intervention?

As for the ever-present question of who will pay, there's no better place to start than 'make the rich pay', all the more so given the fortunes that were made on the way to the present disaster. This has generally focussed on income taxes, but it should include wealth since it is wealth above all that is so monstrously distributed in both Canada and (especially) the USA. But targeting the rich is not enough. To be effective, the reach of tax increases will also have to extend into the working class, and this will mean challenging populist anti-tax sentiments which reinforce a particular kind of individualism that damages class solidarity and any vision of collective needs (It also undermines basic self-interest in that tax cuts are generally sold on the basis of passing on a few hundred dollars to workers while the bulk of the tax breaks go the rich, and the cutbacks to pay for all this fall heavily on the working class.)

Yet, redistribution alone won't solve the crisis: savings will have to be mobilized to support the major infrastructural programs. This can be financed through government bonds, much as such bonds were mobilized to pay for World War II. In today's case, given the current fear within the business community of investing in anything because of the present uncertainty, it is in fact primarily government bonds that could provide a secure outlet for their money.


Because any such reforms would be attempted in a society that is still capitalist, they would come up against inevitable limits. Growing social programs depend on a growing economy, but if growth depends on the private sector, how can you both challenge and keep private capital at the same time? Won't they refuse to invest if they aren't happy enough or leave the country for greater profitability and freedom elsewhere? In addition to asking why people are in poverty in the first place, innovative housing can't be separated from rethinking the urban spaces the housing is part of (including the need for accessible transportation, especially if the housing is outside city centres).

For social democrats, such contradictions have meant retreating into more moderate demands. This has failed and the lesson is not to lower our expectations but the need to think bigger and prepare to go further. If democracy is a kind of society and not just a form of government, the economy - which is so fundamental to shaping our lives - will eventually have to be democratized. This will have to include nationalizing the banks and turning them into a democratically run public utility that supervises the rest of the financial system and allocates national savings. If domestic or foreign-based capital threatens to move (as they will do earlier rather than later) we must be ready to put capital controls on the agenda. But if we want to channel society's savings to meet social needs - and this is of course the main reason for controlling the social surplus - the controls will have to be on domestic capital flows as well as internationally.

This ultimately raises the question of planning. If, for example, we take the environmental crisis seriously, then it's not enough to tack on some environmental projects to rebuilding the public infrastructure. Addressing the environment will mean transforming everything about what we produce and how we produce it and this can't happen through haphazard market decisions by individual businesses, which are only moved by profits and won't act if they don't know where others will ultimately go). The crisis in auto reinforces this point. A bailout alone, even if it modifies the kinds of vehicles being built, will not overcome the reality of excess capacity. Rather than closing productive facilities, why can't they be converted to produce the new or modified products an environmentally conscious economy will need? As well,
given that auto is generally concentrated in certain communities, the issue is not so much a crisis in auto as a crisis in these communities. In Windsor, for example, where thousands of autoworkers have already been laid off before the latest crisis, what's needed is a revival plan that includes auto, but also extends to public infrastructure and the range of social services that give a richer meaning to the notion of 'community.'

These issues of planning raise all kind of technical and democratic questions that should not be underestimated, but the most important issue it forces us to address is the question of power. The precondition for thinking about social change is that we develop the capacity to transform the distribution of power in our society.

It's in this context of developing individual and collective capacities that the question of work-time, which has faded from lists of working class demands, must somehow be revived. The labour movement has long advocated reduced work time as a way of sharing the better full time jobs and therefore opening up new jobs, or at least preserving existing ones. This can be very important in particular sectors and is also a valuable solidaristic principle. But its greatest
significance lies in another working class perspective that goes back to the earliest days of trade unionism: the recognition that full citizenship and political participation demands the time to do so - the time to read, think, learn, attend meetings and events, debate,
take part in strategizing, and engage in organizing others.

From Alternative Policies to Alternative Politics

There are three final points that need to be emphasized. First, the triad of immediate resistance, developing policies for broader cross-country mobilization, and raising the 'big' questions such as nationalizing the banks, are not to be understood as stages of activity. The point is not to take one step first and another more radical step later but to find ways of trying to integrate all three simultaneously. Local resistance, for example, is part of all stages; its success is both dependent on and a condition for mobilizing around larger national issues. Similarly, it would be a mistake to postpone the call for transforming the private banking system into a democratically run public utility 'until we are ready.' We will only become ready if we place it on the agenda from the very beginning and integrate it into other demands and struggles.

Second, the greatest contradiction confronting 'the movement' today lies in the gap between good ideas and the capacity to fulfil them. The main barrier we face is not so much the absence of alternative policies (though these still need a lot of filling out) as the weakness of our alternative politics. This is not simply about pooling our diverse strength. Rather, it involves recognizing that in light of past failures, a dangerous future and potential new openings, each section of the movement needs to rethink what it does and how it does it as a precondition for coming together in an entirely new way.

Third, it is difficult to imagine an alternative politics that can match what we are up against without an organization whose focus is on building the essential relationships and political capacities across sections of the movement and within them. There should, for example, be hundreds if not thousands of meetings taking place every week across the country to discuss what we currently face and what to do about it. But this simply can't happen spontaneously. How we build this kind of capacity is what the question of 'alternatives' is ultimately about.

Sam Gindin teaches political economy at York

Has Working Class Consciousness Collapsed? The "crisis of the working class subject"
by Phil Hearse
International Viewpoint undated

The crisis of working class representation is a familiar theme in the left internationally, the idea that because of the shift to the right of mass social democratic and Stalinist parties, or because of their collapse, the working class lacks a political force that can defend its interests in the national political domain.

Class consciousness: "The awareness of individuals in a particular social class that they share common interests and a common social situation. Class consciousness is associated with the development of a 'class-for-itself' where individuals within the class unite to pursue their shared interests." --Online Dictionary of Social Sciences

In many countries efforts have been made to create, or begin to create, broad left parties that can begin to resolve this crisis. However the idea of the "crisis of the working class subject" takes the analysis one step further, saying in effect that class consciousness has declined to such a degree that the overwhelming majority of working class people have no consciousness of themselves as part of a class that has its own interests other than those of the ruling class; using Lukacs' distinction the working class is a "class in itself" but no longer a "class for itself". If this is correct of course then it has big implications for socialist analysis and strategy.

We argue here that the idea that the working class is no longer a "class for itself" is an exaggeration, but like most caricatures is based on aspects of reality that socialists have to identify and integrate into their strategy and tactics. Consciousness, especially mass consciousness, is a dynamic factor that is subject to change and sometimes, in periods of crisis, is subject to abrupt shifts. So any attempt to capture and interpret mass working class consciousness is likely to be partial and one-sided. Before we get into the detail of that we have to say something about the changing structure of the working class, in Britain and internationally.

John Major in 1996 argued that "we are all middle class now"--in other words working class living standards have risen to such a degree that the difference with middle class people have become blurred. However Cumbria University academic Phillip Bond has recently argued the precise opposite-- the "middle classes" are being forced into the working class (1).

He argues, "The middle classes are no longer earning a living wage while a new global super class has over $11 trillion in off shore tax havens...Forty years ago a single skilled manual wage was enough to provide a living for a working-class man, his wife and family. Now even a middle-class couple with both partners working can't bring in enough to make ends meet.

"The golden age for the salaried worker across all the OECD countries was between 1945 and 1973, when ordinary working people gained their highest percentage share of GDP. Since then the real wages of the middle and working class have stagnated or fallen, while income for the rich has rocketed and that of the super-rich has hit the stratosphere.

"The facts are astounding. Contrary to the delusions of the free-market fundamentalists, the Thatcher/Reagan revolution has come at a great cost to the working and middle classes. In the US, the top one per cent have seen a 78 per cent increase in their share of national income since 1979 with the bottom 80 per cent of the population experiencing a 15 per cent fall.

"Far from being a tide that raises all boats, neo-liberalism has undermined the wealth and security of the majority of the working population. In Britain for example, the liquid wealth of the bottom half of the populace has fallen from 12 per cent in 1976 to just one per cent in 2003, while the top 0.01 per cent in Britain are taking a larger share of national income than at any time in modern history and have seen their incomes rise by more than 500 per cent in under a generation.

"Wage earners have coped with this structural shift by taking on unprecedented levels of debt, working more and asking their partners to join the workforce. Family life has suffered; children see less of their parents than at any time in the last 100 years and since nobody has any time, civic life has virtually vanished.

"But there are signs that the general population across the globe has had enough of this rampant inequity. According to a recent FT/Harris poll, huge worldwide majorities consider income inequality to be too great. The percentages against this global shift to the rich are remarkably consistent: 87 per cent in Germany consider income inequality to be too great, 76 per cent in Spain agree. Even in Britain 74 per cent of people believe the rich should be taxed more and the poor less. What is most striking is that 80 per cent of the Chinese concur."

While outrage at the excesses of the super rich are important and point to the likelihood of future growth in class consciousness, it is not necessarily an indication of a "class for itself" now. Indeed the very economic and social changes that Phillip Bond points to have been responsible for a decline in class consciousness. In our view the fundamental factors driving this have been:

* The experience of defeat of working class struggles in the 1980s and 1990s, which has undermined confidence in collective action and solutions, and with it greatly reduced trade union membership. In Britain the key turning point was the defeat of the 1984-5 miners strike and the Wapping strike that followed.

* As a result of these defeats and as a consequence of the restructuring of the workforce associated with them, a decline in the percentage of the working class involved in manufacturing, and thus a sharp decline in the number of large, factory-based workplaces with a tradition of working class organisation and their replacement with generally smaller service-based work places.

* In Britain especially, through the semi-destruction of the social housing stock by Margaret Thatcher, forcing people into an immense economic effort to find somewhere to live and forcing people to rely on their own capital, generally in the form of a house, to find resources for their old age.

* As a consequence of these defeats and declining confidence in collective action a general ideological retreat that finds its expression in the "dumbing down" of popular culture and the absurd cult of celebrity and the dreamworld of fame. This aspect is particularly important among young people who are likely to be apolitical and have no experience of trade unions, although there are important counter-examples, most importantly the involvement of young people in the environmental movement.

Where has the working class gone?

The basic answer to this question is: nowhere. The restructuring of production internationally has shifted the focus of manufacturing industry south and east so that China is now the "workshop of the world" and countries like India and Indonesia are increasingly industrialised. But that doesn't mean that the vast majority of the population in countries like Britain aren't working class. The latest available figures of workers by industry in Britain show this, as can be seen from the following table:

Occupation Percentage of the work force

Manufacturing 14%

Construction 9%

Public administration, education and health 27%

Agriculture 2%

Banking, finance, insurance etc 15%

Distribution, hotels and restaurants 21%

Energy and water 1.5%

Transport and communication 7%

Other services 7%

Source: Nasima Begum, Office for National Statistics: Labour Market Trends

The same study shows that something like 14% of the workforce has some managerial or supervisory role--everything from directors to checkout supervisors.

In each of these categories the overwhelming majority of the workforce are proletarians, ie people whose labour contributes to the production and reproduction of surplus value. But the subjective experience of the working class is now very different to what it was in the 1930s or even the 1960s. The "massification" of the working class has ended, with many people working in smaller work units. In larger workplaces like call centres, the workers are likely to be low paid, highly regimented and un-unionised. Working class organisation depends on struggle and the building up of organisation and consciousness over time. It would be incredible if call centres and the like had emerged fully unionised from the beginning. So the decline in unionisation is striking: from just over 13 million workers in 1979 to just over 6 million today.

But do these people, unionised or not, consider themselves to be working class? According to a survey published by the National Centre for Social Research in January 2007, 57% of people said they considered themselves to be working class, a figure that the Centre itself said was "staggering". In the light of the ideological bombardment through the media telling us we're all middle class, that someone with a mortgage and a car is middle class, 57% is an amazing figure, even if it's down about 10% since the 1960s.

Interestingly the number who consider themselves working class is far in excess of those who work in "blue collar" manual jobs. According to a BBC report of the survey, "...only 31% of people are actually employed in what are categorised as traditional 'blue collar' occupations, according to the survey. The number who consider themselves working class far outstrips this" (2). In other words, large numbers of those who work in call centres, warehouses, banks and hairdressers still consider themselves to be working class, even if they're not in a union.

So it seems that, in Britain at least, the working class still exists as an objective category and that very large numbers of them consider themselves to be working class. But does this amount to a "class for itself". Clearly consciousness of being part of a class is just a spit away from recognising that that class has its own interests but a much bigger step away from finding the means for fighting for those interests.

However two factors need to be taken into account here. First is the economic crisis which is likely to be prolonged. Like all economic crises this is a huge assault on working class living standards and conditions. Probably unemployment will be in the millions within a year or two. Price rises at something over a real figure of 10% for poorer working class families (who spend more of their income on food and energy) are catastrophic for workers whose wage increases have been held at 2% or thereabouts for several years. While growing unemployment is likely to be a disciplining factor it is highly likely that we shall see in the next period a big increase in strike action, particularly in the public sector. Already we've seen important strikes of local government workers and others this year. The likelihood is that trade unionism will grow in this period and not decline, and struggle naturally leads to an increase in levels of class consciousness not their decline.

The second factor, alluded to in the Phillip Bond report quoted above, is the growing anger many ordinary people at the huge disparity between the super-rich and everyone else. Neoliberalism has meant the ascendancy of finance capital and the swiveling of production to priotise high profit luxury goods (3). What ordinary people see is that the super rich are rewarded for incompetence and idiocy and working class people are punished for the mistakes of the rich.

The Northern Rock example is very eloquent. Former chief executive Andy Kuipers who pioneered the "lend money we don't have" business model that led the bank to become bankrupt was given more than £1m in "compensation" for having to go. Northern Rock meanwhile is making 1,300 workers redundant and leads the market in house repossessions for those who are falling behind with their mortgage.

More generally the massive profits of the energy sectors and supermarkets are obvious to everyone as is the fact that the super rich generally pay little or no tax while enjoying luxury lifestyles. An amusing take on this was the popular response of Italian holidaymakers. According to Alexander Chancellor:

"As other people have to tighten their belts, do without luxuries, and scrimp on their holidays, one wonders for how long they will put up with the arrogant ostentation of the super-rich, and when they will start to insist that they take some of the pain as well. There are signs, indeed, that the worm is already beginning to turn. Fat cats arriving in dinghies last week at Sardinia's Emerald Coast were pelted with wet sand by resentful holidaymakers trying to stop them disembarking. The flotilla of celebrities from a luxury yacht moored out at sea was led by Flavio Briatore, co-owner of QPR football club and manager of Renault's formula one team.

"Briatore, accompanied by his new showgirl wife, Elisabetta, who now spends a lot of time shopping in London, had come to inaugurate a new beach restaurant that he recently transformed from a popular bar into a heavily protected retreat for luxury yacht owners and their guests, the daytime equivalent of the nearby Billionaire night club that he also owns. Briatore and his VIP guests arrived in three motorised dinghies to a storm of protest by holidaymakers already crowding the Capriccioli beach. They screamed and swore and shouted, 'Louts, go home.' They drenched them with water from their children's buckets. They hurled wet sand at them." (4)

This little incident is indicative. As the crisis deepens impatience with the super rich and celebrity culture will grow enormously reinforcing a developing class consciousness.

The real issue: strategy and tactics

Nonetheless, anger and resentment, and the possibility of future struggles, do not a "class for itself" make--not necessarily. A huge job has to be done to rebuild working class combativity and organisation, something that will take a whole historical period. What implications does that have for socialists? Tactics are born of overall strategy and since the working class remains the only social force capable of effecting a transition to socialism, its struggles remain at the centre of socialist concerns. However at this time there is a dispersal of fields of struggle, of campaigns and issues that do not necessarily find their focus in the organised working class. But it is not, and cannot be, a question of getting involved in 101 campaigns and "waiting for the working class" to achieve a higher level of organisation and consciousness at a future time. On the contrary both in terms of issues and fields of struggle a working class orientation is immediately relevant.

Let's take first of all the issue of community struggles. Many issues of course present themselves first and foremost as a concern of the local community, for example hospital closures or post office closures. Campaigns on these issues are legion. But the leadership of them is contested or potentially so. Tories and even the BNP frequently involve themselves in these fights or give them demagogic support as a way of attacking New Labour. The answer to this is not just active socialist intervention but linking up with the local labour movement in general and in the first place with the trade unions involved--something that happens spontaneously on many occasions. Building alliances including the unions promotes trade unionism in the wider community.

Moreover taking central political campaigns into the labour movement both strengthens those campaigns and helps politicise and radicalise the movement. The environment is an obvious example here. This is a central political issue that needs the kind of social weight behind it that can only be eventually supplied by the organised working class. Here and now activist groups play a vital role and something like the climate change camps couldn't function without them. For socialists it is a question of forging alliances which centrally involve the labour movement.

Revolutionary socialists are not trade union fetishists and understand full well that a "labour movement orientation" can degenerate into getting labour movement bodies that only activists attend to pass worthy resolutions that have no implications for action. Many campaign activists are sceptical about the labour movement and understandably so. Even so, unions and working class struggle remain central to our long-term strategy and the tactics of alliance building that we pursue today.

Dangers of lumpenisation

Because of the death of social democracy as a force fighting for any kind of reform, sections of the white working class where de-industrialisation has taken place--the so-called "sink estates"--are prone to lumpenisation and the growth of the BNP. Of course the BNP is building a classic fascist alliance involving sections of the petit bourgeoisie as well as luimpensised workers. But key areas of BNP support include areas like Barking and Dagenham, Stoke-on-Trent and towns in the Manchester conurbation that are precisely areas of extreme deprivation with high unemployment, high levels of crime, drug abuse and general despair. It is becoming increasingly obvious that traditional "anti-fascist" activities of the ANL type, while remaining important, will never crack this issue in the long term. Only a rise of working class struggle and the building of a mass working class political alternative can challenge the BNP's attempt to monopolise the political vacuum the collapse of social democracy has left in these areas.

Once again however the left cannot adopt a spontaneist, wait and see attitude, hoping for a working class upsurge and the appearance by some magical process of a broad left alternative. Class politics, of the kind provided by Respect, aids the development of class consciousness and trade union struggle.

Global working class

Neoliberal globalisation has created a new, global working class. The decline of the peasantry and the rise of the proletariat globally creates the basis for a new class politics on a truly global scale. As Paul Mason documents in his book Live Working or Die Fighting (5) the emergence of a new class consciousness will be a long and complicated process. In China massive struggles happen daily, largely hidden from view, but the development of a working class consciousness and organisation is proceeding slowly. In Vietnam this year dozens of strikes (6) have occurred in factories owned by the transnational corporations and this is indicative of the likely development in many countries.

Class consciousness may have declined in Western countries, but a decline does not denote an absence. To truly become a "class for itself" the working class, in Britain and elsewhere, has not just to fight for its immediate interests but to fight for an historical alternative. This is a work in process. Socialism is not inevitable but only the working class can develop the consciousness and organisation to bring it about. That certainty remains at the heart of socialist strategy and tactics.


1. http://www.cumbria.ac.uk/AboutUs/News/Press%20Releases/2008/June/PR339.aspx

2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6295743.stm

3. See M. Chossudovsky, The Globalisation of Poverty, http://globalresearch.ca/globaloutlook/GofP.html

4. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/15/italy.globaleconomy

5. See: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Live-Working-Die-Fighting-Global/dp/0436206153

6. See "Vietnam labour strikes scare foreign companies" http://asia.news.yahoo.com/060409/afp/060409020352business.html

This article will appear in a future issue of Socialist Resistance.

[Phil Hearse writes for Socialist Resistance in Britain. He is the editor of Marxsite (http://www.marxsite.com).]

Obama's Election: Lessons for Defeating White Supremacy and Rebuilding Revolutionary Resistance
by Michael Novick,
Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror (ARA-LA/PART)

The election of Barack Obama has been greeted in a variety of ways: elation and relief (tempered by fear of a racist backlash or assassination attempt) by supporters, particularly US Africans; predictions of enhanced recruitment opportunity by organized white supremacists; doomsday predictions by conservatives. On the left there have been "exposes" of Obama's Zionism, militarism and dismissal of the particular needs of Black people or the working class. A group of DC anarchists has called for a disruption of his inaugural.

But any analysis needs to start from this reality: masses of people in the US feel they have helped make and change history by electing Obama. His victory is indeed historic in many ways. It required the largest voter turnout ever, and the highest percentage of registered voters to vote in decades. Obama gained a clear majority, the highest percentage by a Democrat since FDR except for Johnson's landslide after the JFK assassination. He ran the most expensive campaign in history. He is the first "bi-racial" (called Black or African-American) president-elect, and incidentally the first child of an immigrant, the first Hawaiian-born, one of the youngest, and by far the least "embedded," president. Moreover, his was the first victory by a self-proclaimed 'anti-war' candidate in the midst of a war. But Obama's victory hardly signals that we are a "post-racial" society, as evidenced by the self-contradictory self-congratulation of those who proclaim that "by electing the first Black president" we have shown that we are "color-blind." Exit polls showed that about a fifth of 'white' voters acknowledged that "race" was a significant factor. Interestingly, of those, 30% voted for Obama. One explanation of this is the fact that Obama's race made his intellect acceptable. US voters would never have elected a 'white' candidate as obviously intelligent as Obama. Yet they accepted and understood that a 'Black' candidate would have to be twice as smart, twice as cool, as any 'white' to have a chance to succeed.

Paradoxically but perhaps most essentially, Obama's election is also a manifestation of the extent of the radical left's weakness, irrelevance and inability to communicate. Over the past eight years of Bush misrule, what effective strategies or serious ability to develop a countervailing force or consciousness has the left or the anarchist movement manifested? In that vacuum, people made a judgment that Obama represented the best hope for the kind of change that could be achieved through electoral means. This was not merely because he was 'Black,' but because he was intelligent, calm, organized, and an effective and reassuring campaigner. McCain's charges of 'inexperience' didn't stick because Obama was attractive specifically as a relative outsider not deeply corrupted by long tenure in Washington, DC or in office. His mild centrist critique of the Iraq war made 'sense' in a context in which the anti-war movement had proven incapable of making a dent or marshaling an extra-parliamentary opposition and resistance to the war. Within the Democratic Party spectrum -- and the anti-war movement has been tailing the Democrats for years-- he was the electable 'opponent' of the Iraq war.

To imagine that a proclamation of opposition to Obama's inauguration as a capitalist, imperialist and statist will do anything to overcome the left's weakness, irrelevance and inability to communicate -- in fact, that it will do anything other than deepen and intensify those failures -- is the height of arrogance. I have a different take on what we have to do or learn in response to Obama's victory. It starts with the perspective that the greatest on-going weakness of the left strategically and politically is a refusal to recognize the nature of this society as an Empire based on white-supremacist settler colonialism. Related to that is our greatest tactical flaw, an inability to practice authentic self-criticism, through which we learn from our errors and defeats in order to eventually overcome them and win. Our failure to do that has engendered a deep defeatism in masses of people
-- manifest as accommodation to Empire and unwillingness to struggle against or even make a sharp break with the system.

One thing this election has demonstrated is how far into the past the revolutionary militance of the civil rights and Black power movements and the mass anti-imperialist opposition to the Vietnam War and domestic colonialism have receded. McCain's inability to make the Bill Ayers smear stick to Obama was because not only Obama but most of the electorate was no older than 8, or perhaps not yet born, when Ayers was an armed-propaganda radical. That period of revolutionary optimism, when the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army or the WUO were the tip of the iceberg of a massive upwelling of rebelliousness and armed resistance, is now ancient history. (Speaking of white privilege and class, Obama never would have associated with ex-BLA members, nor would any have been on the board of an Annenberg charity.) No amount of posturing could "Recreate 68" (or even 2000) in Denver for the DNC or in DC for the inaugural. 47% of high school seniors in the US today were registered to vote in time for the election, and I suspect an overwhelming majority of them cast their first ballots. They were born while the first George Bush was president! Who better to speak to them than Anti-Racist Action, which has historically been an attractor of high schoolers? Yet ARA's current ability to do outreach, education, agitation and organizing in high schools (or prisons, factories, community colleges or the military) is miniscule.

The DC call relates that anarchists opposed and disrupted the last two inaugurations, and therefore should do the same again. This flawed reasoning lacks a material analysis of the consciousness of masses of people in relation to the electoral process and the presidency. Bush's two stolen victories undermined the authenticity and legitimacy of the electoral process and of the imperial presidency. For his first inaugural, he was anointed president by the Supreme Court after having lost the popular vote. For his second, he was plagued by an unpopular war and evidence of vote flipping and vote suppression. Protesters and disrupters were speaking for millions when we denounced the inaugurals and the presidency, and our message fell on receptive ears.

The current situation is far different, and blaming it on the voters is another example of the left's lack of self-criticism and ability to grow. Obama's victory signals a new lease on life for the presidency, electoral politics and the two-party system. Obama won by a clear majority, in which voter suppression was a negligible factor and in which all minor parties together barely hit 1% of the vote, including McKinney, Nader, Barr and Baldwin combined. His inauguration, even apart from the historicity of his "Blackness," is being welcomed by the overwhelming majority of the US population as proof of the "mystery and majesty" of electoral democracy. In that context, a disruption wouldn't express the unease of the general population in a radical and uncompromising way, but would be taken as an alienating slap in the face. It wouldn't be seen as a call to a higher form of direct democracy, but as a rejection of the popular will expressed through a peaceful, honest and democratic election and transfer of power.

Now is the time for a sober reassessment of how to grapple with these new realities. Obama did not merely collect millions of dollars from hundreds of thousands of people -- he established a relationship with them. He organized effectively tens of thousands of volunteers, and turned out tens of millions of people to vote. Why has the left or the anarchist movement been incapable of inspiring, stimulating or organizing anywhere near that level of support, involvement, voluntarism or participation? How can we start to do so?

Obama accurately read the demographic, technological and ideological changes that are taking place in the U.S. and effectively offered himself and his campaign as a vehicle for implementing or realizing some of the aspirations those changes have generated. Obama seized on the opportunity of the latest and deepest capitalist economic crisis to develop a compelling narrative of how a lack of regulation, a lack of attention to the 'middle class,' and an arrogant unilateralism in 'foreign policy' weakened the economy, national security and the fiscal stability of the state. Neither the statist left nor the anarchists are anywhere close to having the intellectual, political or organizational capacity to challenge that narrative or that definition of "change."

Unless and until we engage in a thoroughgoing self-criticism and re-orientation towards an anti-colonialist politics of decolonization as the basis of an effective anti-capitalism, we will be playing with ourselves on the sidelines of history.

We need to put forward and undertake effective organizing strategies, not merely demands, for self-determined direct action against economic and environmental devastation, mass incarceration, militarism, occupation and anti-immigrant hysteria. We need to participate in building self-reliant communities of resistance. It is only oppressed and exploited people who can make revolution, and save the planet by saving ourselves. Go to the 25% of 'homeowners' who owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth and unite them with the homeless. Go to 30% of "War on Terror" veterans who report no earned wage income, and who have massive unemployment rates, and help unite them with GI resisters, with teens resisting recruitment, or with millions of prisoners and their families. Then we can begin to make some history of our own. http://la.indymedia.org/news/2008/11/222050.php

The editorial above appears in the November-December 2008 issue of "Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education," Volume 21 Number 6. A free sample copy of the entire issue is available by writing ARA-LA, PO Box 1055, Culver City CA 90232, emailing antiracistaction_la@yahoo.com, or calling 310-495-0299. (Give us your postal mailing address, please.) Subscriptions are $18 a year in the US, $28 institutional/international, payable to Anti-Racist Action at the above address. Comments and responses are most welcome. PDFs of recent back issues are available on-line at www.aratoronto.org

Theses on Hegemony and Imperialism
by Michael McIntyre
Monthly Review/MR Zine
November 15, 2008

1. Hegemony requires a durable historic bloc in control of a state.

2. Different factions of the historic bloc can compete to control a government (bourgeois democracy).

3. Regimes can change (locus of sovereignty, constitution, bureaucratic institutions) without change of historic bloc (passive revolution).

4. A historic bloc can also gradually mutate without change of regime (molecular transformation).

5. Passive revolution and molecular transformation do not necessarily preclude hegemony, but they index flaws in the historic bloc.

6. A stable historic bloc requires both material and cultural hegemony.

7. Material hegemony requires economic sacrifices of a corporate kind by the dominant class in favor of other members of the bloc.

8. Material hegemony constructs a bloc that includes the dominant class, core allies, and disposable allies.

9. Material hegemony can only be sustained if it is able to incorporate new, rising class fractions without losing core old ones.

10. Cultural hegemony is not to be confused with ideological domination, the naturalization of power, or legitime Herrschaft.

11. Culture is not to be confused with a set of agreed-upon propositions (orthodoxy) or unexamined assumptions (doxa)

12. Culture is the set of differences that make a difference, or differentiating differences.

13. Cultural hegemony is primarily a relationship within the historic bloc, not between the dominant and dominated.

14. Cultural hegemony buttresses the historic bloc's concrete phantasy of its fitness to rule.

15. Cultural hegemony requires the absence of invidious or stigmatizing differences within the historic bloc.

16. Gramsci is therefore not a theorist of dominant ideologies.

17. Nor is Gramsci a theorist of superstructures.

18. Least of all is Gramsci a theorist of the revolution manqué.

19. Hegemony is a regulatory, not a statistical norm.

20. Italy very clearly not a case of hegemony.

21. The Jacobins, against whom Gramsci measures the Risorgimento, were not successful hegemons either.

22. The Prison Notebooks appear to contain no sustained historical analysis of a successful hegemonic regime.

23. Hegemonic projects therefore usually fail. The question is how do they fail and how does that failure matter?

24. Imperialism denotes a pact of domination that asymmetrically incorporates a foreign elite or class into the pact of domination.

25. "Pact of domination" is a broader term than "historic bloc." The latter at least implies a hegemonic project.

26. "Foreign" is the trickiest word here.

27. Symmetric incorporation of a transnational dominant class is not imperialism (Robert Cox).

28. Transnational rule through capitalist institutions is not imperialism (Hardt and Negri).

29. "Imperialism" incorporates both formal and informal empire, but this distinction elides some more important distinctions.

30. The locus of sovereignty is the sine qua non of the distinction between formal and informal empire.

31. The source of political initiative is not the same as the locus of sovereignty.

32. It would be difficult to imagine the political initiative resting with the dominated country in a formal empire.

33. But it is not hard to imagine the political initiative resting with a dominant class from the periphery in the informal empire.

34. The dominant class in an imperial pact of domination need not come from the metropole.

35. In a formal empire, the imperial state always extracts revenue from the local populace, but neither the imperial state nor metropolitan capitalists necessarily exploit the local population directly through production.

36. A pact of domination is not a historic bloc when the state is nearly absent and the pact exists only to stabilize a regime of extraction.

37. A thin pact among elites to maintain a state does not incorporate a historic bloc.

38. When imperial pacts of domination include a historic bloc, they can achieve material hegemony, but not cultural hegemony.

39. Imperialism cannot exist without invidious or stigmatizing differentiating differences between the metropole and periphery.

40. Those invidious differences cut right through the historic bloc.

41. Race is the basis for imperial difference.

42. When race can no longer be spoken as the basis for imperial difference, a reified form of "culture" takes its place.

43. The most successful form of imperialism, therefore, is still a form of "failed hegemony": material hegemony without cultural hegemony.

44. Such a historic bloc can last for decades and survive regime change.

45. Such a historic bloc finds it much more difficult to recreate itself in response to changes in class formation.

46. Non-metropolitan members of this historic bloc are cast as culturally subordinate members of the bloc.

47. Their membership is justified on bases that are ad hoc, reified, and mystified.

48. This mystification draws sharp lines around the provisionally included and the reified exclusion of all others.

49. That reified exclusion cordons out new rising class fractions.

50. Old members of the bloc embrace and defend their own mystification.

51. A mystified historic bloc gives rise to a mystified resistance.

52. That resistance, conventionally called millenarian, is in fact sacramental.

53. A sacrament is a sign that accomplishes what it signifies.

54. Sacramental resistance is therefore a resistance that relies on the power of performatives and quasi-performatives.

55. Sacramental resistance can always be trumped by brute force.

56. A fundamental shift in resistance occurs when that resistance becomes rooted in the world of production.

57. The protagonists of such resistance replace the sacramental idiom with the idiom of instrumental action.

58. Resistance rooted in the world of production cannot simply be eliminated.

59. If an imperial pact of domination achieved both material and cultural hegemony, we would stop calling it imperial.

60. Nonetheless, the distinction between imperial domination and national expansion is not post festum (i.e. too late).

[Michael McIntyre is Assistant Professor of International Studies, DePaul University. "Theses on Hegemony and Imperialism" was prepared for the conference "Rethinking Marxism 2006," Amherst, Massachusetts 27 October 27, 2006 and posted on the Morbid Symptoms blog http://morbidsymptoms.blogspot.com/2006/11/theses-on-hegemony-and-imperialism.html on 2 November 2006.]
Various statements of various Communist and Workers Parties of the World prior to the 10th International meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parities