Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Irish woman use social media to fight for their rights.

By Sean O'Torain.

Irish women use social media to fight for their rights. They are an example and inspiration and a lesson to us in all ways. See below.

Irish women live-tweet journey for abortion

The Hill: Jill Stein op-ed: In praise of WikiLeaks

We reprint this Op Ed from The Hill  Julian Assange spoke to us at the Green Party US Convention through Skype. The GPUS is commended for having Assange speak at our convention and I recall him being visibly moved by the reception he received. Clinton and other US politicians have called him a terrorist and called for his assassination or death through one of Obama's infamous drone attacks.

Stein has also defended Snowden and said she would appoint him a cabinet post whereas Clinton and her more recent open campaigner, Bernie Sanders called for his prosecution as he broke the law. Congratulations Dr. Stein and the Greens.

Getty Images
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a hero. Like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and other whistleblowers facing government persecution, Assange has sacrificed his personal comfort and safety to bring us the truth.

George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Thanks to WikiLeaks, we know that powerful institutions have been abusing their power and lying to the public. For example, redacted State Department communications published by WikiLeaks revealed that Secretary Clinton identified Saudi Arabia as a leading funding source for terrorist groups around the time she approved a whopping $29 billion arms deal with the Saudi dictatorship.

WikiLeaks courageously published the infamous “Collateral Murder” video showing an American helicopter gunning down Iraqi civilians, Viewed over 15 million times on Youtube alone, it revealed just one of the many shocking war crimes whitewashed as “collateral damage” by the US government.

WikiLeaks’ stunning revelations of how top Democratic National Committee officials conspired to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, in collusion with the media, shattered the illusion of a fair electoral process and confirmed what millions Americans already knew in their gut: we live under a rigged political system.

What WikiLeaks actually does — to political parties, the military, and other powerful entities — is pull back the curtain of censorship, spin, and deception to show the public what’s really going on. Unlike pundits in the mainstream media, WikiLeaks doesn’t tell us what to think. They invite us to read the emails, watch the footage, and decide for ourselves.

The political and economic elite, used to controlling information, see this unprecedented transparency as a tremendous threat. They have mercilessly persecuted a series of heroic whistleblowers. Chelsea Manning, convicted of leaking the Collateral Murder video among other revealing materials, was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison.

Manning, a transgender woman, has been subjected to treatment that the UN described as “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” in violation of the Convention Against Torture. Shockingly, after a recent suicide attempt, Manning faces disciplinary charges that could land her in indefinite solitary confinement.

The security state would like to make an example of Assange, as it has done to Manning and others. In fact, the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined. And the persecution of whistleblowers is often accompanied by ruthless character assassination to discredit them.

Many have asked how Greens, who count feminism among our ten key values, can support Assange when he’s been accused of rape. As a strong advocate for victims of sexual violence, I take this question seriously.

While countless media reports highlight the allegations against Assange, most people have never heard that an official UN report has declared the case against Assange to be unfounded. Three investigations have been dropped without charges ever having been filed. And the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated that Assange has been unlawfully detained and should be released. In light of these facts, it appears the allegations against Assange were a false pretext used by those who want to give him the Chelsea Manning treatment — or worse.

As the Presidential candidate of a party that has maintained principled criticism of powerful political, military and corporate institutions, I’ve gotten a first—hand look at how the establishment attacks people who challenge the status quo. These attacks are intended to brand their targets as pariahs and stigmatize anyone who dares to challenge this narrative. The truth is a frequent casualty to political vendettas.

On that note, one of the strangest developments this year has been seeing journalists attack WikiLeaks for doing what journalists are supposed to do: reveal the unvarnished truth to the public. WikiLeaks has done us an invaluable service by shining a light into the dark corners of power where corruption and wrongdoing fester.

The economic and political elite have targeted Assange not because his hands are dirty, but because he’s given us a glimpse of how dirty their own hands are. WikiLeaks’ revelations are inspiring countless people to mobilize against corruption and wrongdoing at the highest levels, and for that, Julian Assange is a hero in my book.
Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate for President.

Green Party Can Lead a Movement to Open up Debates

Jill Stein arrested tying to get in to the 2nd Presidential debate 2012
By Sean O’Torain

The US Green Party has been around for a while in this volatile and unpredictable election year environment yet the Green party, like other parties that are running candidates in the national election, is banned, censored, out of all three debates that are being held by the mass capitalist media.

The body that decides which candidates or political party the American public is allowed to see or hear in these televised debates is the CPD. CPD is not one those syndromes the drug companies invent so they can sell us their pills on TV. It stands for the
Commission on Presidential Debates and its far more deadly than the invented syndromes of the drug companies; it is a commission controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties.

Commission members are representatives of the two capitalist parties the Democrats and Republicans. So political representatives of the capitalist class have determined that to participate in the debates and have their views televised to the nation, a party must get 15% of the votes in polls.  The only political and economic views that will be expressed will be those of the capitalist class.

The idea is not hard to discern. Keep all non-capitalist, or even reformist representatives from being elected to the Presidency. This is about as blatantly undemocratic as you can get.

As a member of the Green Party I think the party should make opposition to this censorship, this undemocratic practice, a priority. Not simply a priority, the Green party should go to war over it.

US capitalism is always whining on about democracy. But the truth is that the US is the most undemocratic the most censored, the most gerrymandered country of all the capitalist countries. Look how bad it is. When the brutal apartheid regime in South Africa was crumbling, the white capitalist class tried to hang on by saying they wanted to emulate the US system. By this they meant refusing to accept one person one vote which is the present situation in the US.

Each US state no matter what its population, has the same number of senators. Two for California, with a population of 30 million and two for states that have less than 1 million like Utah. The Electoral College is rigged the same way. The entire US political system is gerrymandered against the urban working class. The apartheid regime in South Africa wanted to gerrymander the system against the black majority, separate the different races into different areas and give them all the one number of votes.

They were  prevented for doing this not by any vote in any parliament but the mass direct action of millions who took action in protest at the murder of
leading black activist Chris Hani. The US political system, elections and the Electoral College is a rigged game the same way the apartheid regime wanted to rig their dying regime to keep blacks down out. The censorship of debates, keeping Jill Stein and the Green Party out of debates is part, of this undemocratic stitch up. 

I come originally from Ireland. Northern Ireland had a similarly undemocratic system to what the USA has now. In the city of Derry where I was politically active, the Catholic two thirds majority were all corralled into one of the city's three electoral areas. Each of the three electoral areas elected one third of the city's councilors. So the two thirds of the city's population in this Catholic area could elect only one third of the City's councilors.

The one third Protestant minority on the other hand were divided between two electoral areas which could therefore elect two thirds of the city's councilors. In this way the one third Protestant minority, if voting took place along religious lines, could control, and for decades did control, the city. This was backed up by force and violence through the Protestant dominated police force. We are seeing the same thing here in the US.  This eventually led to the mass civil rights movement and eventually a thirty-year war. The US remains as undemocratic today as Northern Ireland was before the mass civil rights movement forced the changes there.

As we stressed in previous pieces on this blog, the Green Party has a golden opportunity to transform the political situation in the US if it takes the bull by the horns. If the Green Party leadership and the recently formed left caucus of which I am a member, (The Watermelon Greens) were to make opposition to the undemocratic nature of the US electoral system a priority. It would get a real echo nationally.

I would like to propose that we make this a priority and a priority for all three debates. Jill Stein took direct action to try and get into the last debate and was arrested. She has set a great example. What the Green Party can do now is to take the lead and organize mass direct action protests at these debates.  We Greens should call on all forces and parties that are locked out of the debates through these undemocratic maneuvers to join with us and ensure that the debates cannot take place without all parties.

An action like this would receive mass public support and would place the Green Party at the center of events aimed at changing the rigged game. Seattle, Occupy, the Black Lives Matter movement has had successes and we have to recognize that to be effective we have to be prepared to be arrested as our presidential candidate has.

Polls now show that more people want a different candidate from Clinton or Trump. They have the right to hear from Jill Stein and the Green Party. The Green Party must reach out to these also. We should make the point that whole system is undemocratic and rigged against us in favor of the 1%.  I think the Green Party should be aggressive with our policies on all issues. But I particularly think we should be aggressive on this issue. The ruling class in this country is always on about democracy but this is the most censored and undemocratic country of all advanced capitalist countries. The 1% is very weak on this. The US does not have one person one vote. It does not allow all candidates to participate in debates.  Only those that can muster 15% of the vote in polls can appear but without media coverage it’s hard to do that. It’s a rigged, undemocratic system, let’s call it what it is.

A powerful movement can be mobilized in a mass direct action united front to stop the censorship and to open up the debates in the capitalist media. This must be accompanied by mass rallies and the Green Party turning itself into a real membership party based on a dues paying membership and an end to the undemocratic concensus method of decision making that now exists within the party.

This mass movement can also put on the agenda that the Green Party can win the election.  The Green left caucus, the Watermelon Greens, can be transformed into the major influence in the Party through such actions and a democratic non-sectarian internal life.

If the Green Party takes these issues up aggressively we will be well down the road to becoming a mass party in the US and the real alternative to the rigged circus we see now every four years.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Marxist Economics: Returning to Gordon

by Michael Roberts

This time last year I did a post on why productivity growth in all the major economies has slowed down.

As I explained in that post, the productivity of labour, as measured by output per worker or output per hour of worker, is a very good measure of the productive potential of capitalism.  Economies can increase their national outputs by employing more people to work (from a rising population of working age) or they can do so by increasing the productivity of each worker.  With population growth slowing in most major economies and globally, productivity growth is the main method of raising global output and – given the huge caveats of inequality or income and wealth and the lack of production for the majority’s needs) – the living standards of the world’s population.

Capitalism is a mode of production that aimed specifically at raising the productivity of labour to new heights, compared to previous modes of production like slavery, feudalism or absolutism.  That’s because capitalists, in competing to obtain and control more profit (or surplus value) from the labour power of workers, were driven to mechanise and introduce labour-saving technologies. So if capitalism is no longer delivering increasing productivity through investment in technology then its raison d’etre for human social organisation comes under serious question.  Capitalism would be past its ‘use-by date’.
Growth per capita
And as last year’s post said, global productivity growth has fallen back, particularly since the Great Recession began in 2008 and shows no signs yet of recovering to previous levels.  This is vexing and worrying the ruling economic strategists, particularly as mainstream economics has no clear explanation of why this is happening.

Global labour productivity remains below its pre-crisis average of 2.6% (1999-2006)

productivity growth

Only this week, the vice-chair of the US Federal Reserve, Stanley Fischer, looked at the state of US economy.  He started by claiming the success of Fed monetary policies in achieving virtually full employment again in the US: “I believe it is a remarkable, and perhaps underappreciated, achievement that the economy has returned to near-full employment in a relatively short time after the Great Recession, given the historical experience following a financial crisis.”

However, Fischer noted that growth in output had not been so impressive.  And this is clearly due to the slowdown in productivity growth.  Most recently, business-sector productivity is reported to have declined for the past three quarters, its worst performance since 1979. Granted, productivity growth is often quite volatile from quarter to quarter, both because of difficulties in measuring output and hours and because other transitory factors may affect productivity. But looking at the past decade, productivity growth has been lackluster by post-World War II standards. Output per hour increased only 1-1/4 percent per year on average from 2006 to 2015, compared with its long-run average of 2-1/2 percent from 1949 to 2005. A 1-1/4 percentage point slowdown in productivity growth is a massive change, one that, if it were to persist, would have wide-ranging consequences for employment, wage growth, and economic policy more broadly. For example, the frustratingly slow pace of real wage gains seen during the recent expansion likely partly reflects the slow growth in productivity.”

Why is this?  Fischer presents various explanations: the mismeasurement of GDP growth; low business investment; a slowdown in new technology that could boost productivity; and/or the failure any new technology to spread to wider sections of the economy.

The first explanation has a lot of support.  The argument is that the traditional measure of output, the Gross Domestic Product, is a very poor measure of ‘welfare’ or the production of people’s needs.  This argument has been most well presented in a book by Diane Coyle. (http://www.enlightenmenteconomics.com.) called GDP: A Brief But Affectionate History .  Coyle argues that GDP is an ‘abstract’ idea (as it clearly is) that leaves out important services and benefits and puts in unnecessary additions.  Here is one example offered by John Mauldin: “If I purchase a solar energy system for my home, that purchased immediately adds its cost to GDP. But if I then remove myself from the power grid I am no longer sending the electric company $1000 a month and that reduces GDP by that amount. Yet I am consuming the exact same amount of electricity! My lifestyle hasn’t changed and yet my disposable income has risen.”

Yes, but what Coyle’s critique fails to recognise is that GDP is not designed to measure ‘benefits’ to people but productive gains for the capitalist mode of production.  Electricity on the grid is part of the market, electricity made at home is not; cleaning houses and office for money is part of the market and is included in GDP; cleaning your home yourself is not marketable and so is not in GDP.  That makes perfect sense from the point of capitalism, if not from people’s welfare.  As Mauldin says “GDP is a financial construct at its heart, a political and philosophical abstraction. It is a necessary part of the management of the country, because, as with any enterprise, if you can’t measure it you can’t determine if what you are doing is productive”.

Many have argued recently that many new technological developments are not measured in the GDP figures: “because the official statistics have failed to capture new and better products or properly account for changes in prices over time” (Fischer).  But as Fischer comments, most recent research suggests that mismeasurement of output cannot account for much of the productivity slowdown.”

That brings me to the main argument offered by mainstream economist, Robert J Gordon, in his magnum opus, The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The US Standard of Living Since the Civil WarI have discussed Gordon’s thesis before in this blog ever since he first presented it back in 2012. Gordon reckons that the evidence shows productivity growth is currently low because that it where it is usually.  There have been periods of fast-growing productivity when technical advances spread widely across economies, as in the early 1930s and in the immediate post-war period. 

Productivity growth rose from the late nineteenth century and peaked in the 1950s, but has slowed to a crawl since 1970. In designating 1870–1970 as the ‘special century’, Gordon emphasizes that the period since 1970 has been less special. He argues that the pace of innovation has slowed since 1970 and furthermore that the gains from technological improvement have been shared less broadly.

In Marxist terms, this suggests that capitalism is now exhibiting exhaustion as a mode of production that can expand to lower labour time and meet people’s needs.  The current technical innovations of the internet, computers smart phones and algorithms etc are nowhere near as pervasive in their impact as electricity, autos, medical advances and public health etc were in previous periods.  So globally, capitalism cannot be expected to raise productivity growth from here.  Indeed, there are many ‘headwinds’ likely to keep it lower, says Gordon.

So why has productivity growth slowed and will it continue?  Mainstream economics offers all sorts of explanations. The first, as we have seen, is to argue that productivity growth has not really slowed because it is not being measured properly in the modern age of services and the internet.

The second is to argue that the slowdown is temporary and caused by the global financial crash and the subsequent Great Recession.  The legacy of crash is still very high levels of debt, both private and public, and this is weighing down on the capacity and willingness of the capitalist sector to invest and expand new technologies. Noah Smith, the Keynesian blogger struggled with debt as the main cause of recessions and slowdowns.   Robert Shiller, the Nobel prize winning ‘behavioural’ economist, on the other hand, reckons that the slowdown is due to “hesitation.” “Economic slowdowns can often be characterised as periods of hesitation. Consumers hesitate to buy a new house or car, thinking that the old house or car will do just fine for a while longer. Managers hesitate to expand their workforce, buy a new office building, or build a new factory, waiting for news that will make them stop worrying about committing to new ideas.”

There is no doubt that the global financial crash has driven growth rates in the major economies down – indeed that is part of the definition of what I call The Long Depression that capitalism is now suffering (and all of us, of course, as a result).
Growth slows
And one key factor in that slowdown has certainly been the huge rise in debt, particularly corporate debt, since the end of the Great Recession.  As a recent analysis by JP Morgan economists pointed out: Corporate business, in particular, has borrowed aggressively in recent years, often using the proceeds to buy back shares. Ratios of corporate debt to GDP or income are starting to look rather high'”  Indeed US corporate debt is now at a post-war high.

And there is no doubt that capitalist companies are ‘hesitating’ about investing in new technology in a big way.  But why?  Shiller reckons that “loss of economic confidence is one possible cause.”  But that is merely stating the question again.  Why has there been a loss of economic confidence?  Shiller’s response is to suggest that nobody is willing to invest because of fears about “growing nationalism; immigration and terrorism”  So it’s all due to political and cultural fears – hardly a convincing economic thesis.

Yes, high debt and low ‘confidence’ are factors that will lead to low and even falling investment in technology and therefore in generating low productivity growth.  But they are only factors triggered, Marxist economics would argue, because the profitability of capital remains low, particularly in the productive sectors. Yes, profit rates in most economies rose from the early 1980s up to the end of the 20th century while investment growth and real GDP growth slowed.  But most of that profitability gain was in unproductive sectors like real estate and finance.  Manufacturing and industrial profitability stayed low, as several Marxist analyses have shown. 

Even mainstream economics, using marginal productivity categories, reveal something similar.  Using marginalist mainstream categories, Dietz Vollrath found that the ‘marginal productivity of capital’ fell consistently from the late 1960s.  Capitalism has become less productive ‘at the margin’.  Marxist economics can explain this as due to a rising organic composition of capital (more technology replacing labour) leading to a fall in the rate of profit (return on capital).  Post the Great Recession, the marginal productivity of capital rose because the share going to profit rose.  In Marxist terms, the rate of surplus value rose to compensate for the rise in the organic composition of capital.  Here’s Vollrath’s chart showing the time path in capital productivity from 1960 to 2013.  If you remove the effect of rising profit share, the falling productivity of capital continued (dotted line).

So the conclusion of last year’s post still holds; “Productivity growth still depends on capital investment being large enough.  And that depends on the profitability of investment.  There is still relatively low profitability and a continued overhang of debt, particularly corporate debt, in not just the major economies, but also in the emerging capitalist economies.  Under capitalism, until profitability is restored sufficiently and debt reduced (and both work together), the productivity benefits of the new ‘disruptive technologies’ (as the jargon goes) of robots, AI, ‘big data’ 3D printing etc will not deliver a sustained revival in productivity growth and thus real GDP.”

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Three Years Anniversary: Free Chelsea Manning

As readers are aware, we have given considerable time and space to the plight of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning who is serving a 35 year sentence for informing the American public and the world of the crimes committed by the US military through its illegal and predatory wars, particularly in Iraq, a nation and people that never threatened or harmed the US in  any way. Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are heroic figures and workers owe them a debt of gratitude. Rumsfeld, Bush, Obama, Wolfowitz, and all those representatives of US imperialism who have cooperated in this mass murder including spying on and undermining the rights of the American people and imprisonment of Manning are war criminals. 

The  piece below is an excerpt from The United States vs Pvt Chelsea Manning, an account of Manning's court-martial published from the transcripts by OR Books. In it she describes some of her prison conditions.  FFWP also recommends reading When Google Met Wikileaks also at OR Books and The Wikileaks Files.  This book has an introduction by Julian Assange—writing on the subject for the first time—exposes the ongoing debates about freedom of information, international surveillance, and justice.  With contributions by Dan Beeton, Phyllis Bennis, Michael Busch, Peter Certo, Conn Hallinan, Sarah Harrison, Richard Heydarian, Dahr Jamail, Jake Johnston, Alexander Main, Robert Naiman, Francis Njubi Nesbitt, Linda Pearson, Gareth Porter, Tim Shorrock, Russ Wellen, and Stephen Zunes.  RM

From The United States vs. Pvt. Chelsea Manning

The United States vs. Pvt. Chelsea Manning

A Graphic Account from Inside the Courtrom
by Clark Stoeckley



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wealth, Poverty, and Social Control in the Golden State

By Luke Pickrell

 In a capitalist society, the wealth of the working class is appropriated and hoarded by a tiny elite - the ruling class. This ruling class creates a state in its image in order to protect its wealth and ensure its continued enrichment at the expensive of all subordinates. This state, which includes the police, becomes increasingly brutal as class lines sharpen during periods of economic instability - dips, crashes, and depressions that are built into the economic system.

California, the largest and most diverse state in the U.S., is a fine example of a state in the decaying stages of capitalism, during which the misery of the many increases alongside the enrichment of the few, and the armed wing of the state polices the widening class divide with increasing brutality.


In 2015, the state of California passed in front of Brazil and France to become the 6th largest economy in the world. The top ten economies in the world are now the U.S. ($17.8 trillion GDP in 2015), China ($10.9), Japan ($4.1), Germany ($3.6), the UK ($2.9), California ($2.5), France ($2.4), India ($2.1), Italy and Brazil ($1.8 each). (The global collapse of capitalism - some predict a new collapse within the year - is reflected in the fact that only the U.S., China, California and India have growing economies). Only the U.S. (536) and China (213) have more billionaires than California (131 in 2015). The combined wealth of these individuals is worth more than the GDP of many countries. The governor of California, Jerry Brown, has a net worth of $4 million, and California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is worth a whopping $74 million (making her the 3rd wealthiest member of congress). Larry Page of Google (Mountain View, CA) and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook (Menlo Park, CA) are multi-billionaires behind corporations ingrained in the bourgeois state and its apparatuses of surveillance and control.


While a handful Californian's are incredibly wealthy, the majority are very poor. In fact, California is the most unequal state in one of the most unequal countries in the world (just as  Louisiana is the most incarcerated state in the most incarcerated nation in the world). California has the highest poverty rate in the country, with %27 of children living in poverty; in 2013, 48.8% of children in the state were poor or near the poverty line.

That same year, around one quarter of the state's total population lived in poverty. One in ten Cal State University students are homeless, and one in four go hungry. Housing prices across the state continue to rise, and many people in the Bay Area are being forced out. In San Francisco, low wages and increasing home prices ($2,795 average for a one bedroom, $4,222 for a two) are forcing hundreds of school teachers and paraprofessionals to leave. Rents have skyrocketed in Oakland, with many forced to work two or three jobs just to get by and many people, most from poorer black neighborhoods, being pushed farther and farther away. 

As the wealth gap (and therefore the life expectancy gap, literacy gap, education gap, etc.) increases, the class differences in society become increasingly pronounced. The ruling elite must maximize profit and maintain social control, and an increasingly repressive state is needed to control people as they are thrown into deeper and deeper poverty; a brutal economic system requires a brutal state to defend it. In step the police, who in California have time and time again been exposed as agents of the status quo who rape, murder, and pillage with impunity.

Social Control

 In 1966 the Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland largely in response to police brutality against working class blacks. One of the many tactics of the Panthers - dubbed public enemy number one by J. Edgar Hoover - was to police the OPD. Armed with guns, pencil and paper, and citizens' rights leaflets, Panthers would follow OPD cars, stop whenever they stopped, and make their presences known to the officers. (It’s no surprise that the nation’s first gun control laws were passed in California – with help from then-governor Richard Nixon and the NRA – to take guns away from the Panthers). Since 2000, Oakland cops have killed 90 people - 74% working class and black.

In 1996 a group of four OPD officers - the "Rough Riders" - began a spree of violence that led to $11 million in settlements and 90 cases being thrown out. In 2000, all four officers were charged with terrorizing and beating suspects, planting evidence, and making false arrests over the four-year period. (An all-white jury would later clear the four officers on eight counts and deadlock on the remaining 27). Since 2003, the OPD has been overseen by a federal monitoring board (labeled "independent" but currently led by a former Rochester police chief) and mandated to make certain reforms - changes the OPD consistently fails to make.

In 2009 Oscar Grant was killed by a shot to the back from Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer Johannes Mehserle (

Throughout 2011 Occupy Oakland protestors were routinely harassed and beaten by police, and agent provocateurs infiltrated encampments. Protestor Scott Olsen was nearly killed by a non-lethal round to the forehead (
video). Officers covered their name tags with black tape, illegally detained several reporters and protestors, and abused and denied council and medical care to many of those in custody. Settlements for police abuse during Occupy Oakland have topped $6 million, a portion of the nearly $74 million the city has spent since 1990 to settle over 417 lawsuits against officers - the largest sum spent by any police department in California.

In November of that same year, UC Davis police officers harassed and pepper sprayed protesting students (

In 2014 a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer was filmed savagely beating a 51-year-old black woman. No charges were filed (

In March of 2015 A Los Angeles cop executed Charly "Africa" Keunang with at least two "contact gunshot wounds" (muzzle of the gun pressed directly to the skin) to the chest. Keunang had been living on Skid Row, one of the most impoverished areas in the state.

On December 2 San Francisco cops executed Mario Woods firing squad style as he walked away from them (video).

In June of 2016 the OPD faced a PR setback when department practices of sex trafficking and statutory rape became impossible to hide. The now
well-known incident involved “at least fourteen Oakland police officers, three Richmond police, four Alameda County sheriff's deputies, and a federal officer.” Mayor Libby Schaaf is scrambling to keep her job.
Less than three weeks ago police in Castaic shot and killed William Bowers, a homeless white man riding a bike.


This is the reality of life in California, the great liberal Golden State - extreme wealth for the ruling class and its ilk, a sliver of mobility for a lucky few, increasing immobility for many, and dire poverty for the rest. Police officers in California have free reign to terrorize and control the majority of the state's population in order to enforce foreclosures and displacements, protect private property, and crush political dissent. While women, those gender nonconforming, and people of color are particularly vulnerable to the state's racist and divisive filth, all those who sell their labor power in order to make a living are susceptible to state violence. The lumpenproletariat and reserve pool of labor are deemed criminal and rendered vulnerable to the full brutality of the capitalist state.

As the wealth gap in California becomes more pronounced - as school budgets are further slashed, housing prices rise, medical expenses increase, social services are gutted - the police will be tasked with subduing an increasingly politicized working class. Already, the police are being given new weapons to control the masses. The battle lines have long ago been drawn around the class divisions in society, and the current mood is captured well in the advertising for
Urban Shield 2016: "Intense Training for Intense Times."

Friday, August 19, 2016

Derry Uprising pt 2

 Part 1 here

Derry Uprising pt 1

Some of our readers are aware that one of the authors on this blog, not me, is from Ireland and was involved in the Civil Rights movement that took place in the North during the 1960's. He was also on the Bogside Defense Association when the Catholic population occupied their community in 1969.

I watched a couple of these short interviews with John Throne (Sean O'Torain) again from 2007 and they are an interesting glimpse in to that period through the eyes of a participant caught up in it all.

The Catholics of the North had clearly had enough and were in many ways also inspired by the struggle of the black workers and youth in the US. A revolutionary period in a revolutionary decade.  John now lives in Chicago and his only income is from the sale of his book The Donegal Woman about his grandmother, a peasant woman hired out as a girl to a landowner through the  Hiring Fair System, a form of indentured servitude that went on until the 1930's. You can get to the book's webpage and order it in e book form by clicking the image on the right hand side of this blog.  Some people have seen them but we have a lot more visitors since we first posted them as a look at Irish working class history. I will post a couple more of the interviews covering these events over the next few days.

These events took place amid a global revolutionary period from the  US, to France 1968, the struggle in Vietnam for self determination and the colonial powers being driven from direct rule in the former colonies and the uprisings against Stalinism in Europe.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The money drenched Olympics.

LtoR Norman, Smith, Carlos

Introduction by Sean O'Torain. 

This an article from our Blog some years ago. It was about an Olympics that was no so dominated by the capitalist profit addiction of today. The uprisings of the 1960's affected those Olympics.  Compare this with today when the corporations have got a tighter grip of the Olympics and have the participants just about totally plastered with corporation symbols and saying nothing that would offend a sponsor.

And also, and this applies especially to the US team, extremely aggressive and arrogant. See the bared teeth after every medal is won, see the going's on with the swimmers who are claiming they were robbed. Compare this with the much less corporate dominated Irish medal winners who have become cult figures for their modest craft way in which they talked about their success.

Compare this also with the beautiful actions of the sprinters at the 1968 Olympics. For those also who are being dragged down the road where all is seen in race terms look at the solidarity between the Black and White athletes at the games and also when Peter Norman died. And see also how class and political sport is today. They drove the Black athletes out of the games, they ostracized Peter Norman and broke him. And the degenerate who was in charge of driving the Black athletes out of the 1968 games was a top man at the 1936 Olympics in Germany where the German athletes gave the Nazi salutes and he had not a word to say.

Here is the article:

In Honor of Peter Norman
by Richard Mellor. 
I am so lucky to have grown up during the 60’s.  What an incredible decade. The colonial revolutions were driving out direct occupation anyway.  Ten million French workers struck and occupied factories.  The music and art scene was flourishing. The Women’s rights movement was in full swing as was the civil rights movement and the Black Panthers in the US, influencing the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.

I wouldn’t say I was consciously political but even the blues that I listened to was political as while Big Bill Broonzy or T Bone Walker weren’t known as political figures, if you were black and from the US and sang about life, you sang about politics, racism, injustice, lynchings (Strange Fruit).  On of my favorite singers, Nina Simone, didn’t pull too many punches. I was just a bit juvenile that’s all, but it did sink in.

Like many young working class guys at the time though, I was a bit afraid of the likes of Malcolm X and some aspects of the Panthers, mostly because the media demonized them but I also didn’t understand the whole situation and hadn’t yet been introduced to the political ideas that would have helped me understand more.  Malcolm X didn’t help with some of his comments about white people, putting us all in the same boat. And we should not fail to recognize that Malcolm X was killed when he was moving towards working class unity and socialist ideas, not when he was attacking white people as whites---all the same.

In 1968 at the Mexico Olympics, the two hundred meters gold medal was won by the American Tommie Smith and another American John Carlos won the bronze.  Smith and Carlos were both black.  On the podium with them was the silver medal winner, the Australian Peter Norman.  Smith and Carlos had decided to make a statement at the medal ceremony.  They raised their fists in the air, wore no shoes to protest poverty and beads to protest lynchings. Smith and Carlos paid for their actions with a suspension and removal from the Olympic village. They were vilified by many who said that their actions brought disgrace on the US and they received death threats as well.  

I came to recognize them for the heroic figures they were.  But I remember back then seeing the white guy Norman standing there and I wondered what it must be like for him.  After all, wasn’t this black power salute an attack on all white people? I was sure that the black guys would never have included him in their plans. But they did. It was only recently I found out that Smith and Carlos had discussed their plan with Norman after the race. Norman suggested they wear the black gloves which is why Smith is raising his right fist and Carlos his left.

They asked Norman if he believed in human rights and if he believed in god.  He told them he would stand with them and wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on his chest in solidarity. It is one of the most powerful scenes of the 20th century, these two guys standing there, fists in the air, heads down and Norman with them. Norman said afterwards, "I believe every man is born equal."  

Smith and Carlos were demonized in the media and suffered racial abuse and name calling on top of their suspension for what they did. Norman’s solidarity cost him his athletic career. He was excluded from the Australian team at the 1972 Olympics despite running qualifying times. The Australian media airbrushed him from history despite being one of 
Smith and Carlos lead pallbearers at Norman's funeral
that country’s greatest athletes. This is how they react to a young man who said afterwards,

“I couldn’t see why a black man wasn’t allowed to drink out of the same water fountain or sit in the same bus or go to the same schools as a white guy. That was just social injustice that I couldn’t do anything about from where I was, but I certainly abhorred it.

Avery Brundage, the IOC chairman attacked these men because he didn’t agree that political statements belonged in the Olympics.  This is the man who was at the 1936 Olympics as the president of the US Olympic Committee and raised no objection to the Nazi salute.

Peter Norman died in 2006 from a heart attack.  He had suffered with depression and alcoholism. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were pallbearers and spoke at the funeral, Carlos told Australian television:

"Peter Norman let me know that regardless of what your ethnic background is it has nothing to do with your principles".

And on his treatment he said:

"I think the pressures that the nation put on him and the disrespect that they showed him, I think it wounded him. "I think he was hurting and I don't think he ever recovered from the hurt that they put upon him. Unnecessarily hurt."

In August 2012, the Australian government which had racial exclusionary laws similar to South Africa’s at the time of the famous salute, finally issued an official apology to Norman and his family who were harassed and persecuted for his actions. 

I am sure there are many people that know this already but I didn’t so I felt a need to comment on it.  I have to say as I write about this I feel very emotional about these three people.  What courage they had to do what they did. The civil rights movement and actions like the protest in Mexico halted the most openly brutal racist practises in the US including blatantly racist laws, but the institutionalized racism of the system is still very much with us.

For Norman, it would have been easy to step aside, to avoid the confrontation but he didn't, and there’s no way any of them would not have understood the response that would follow the protest.

As I think about it, all those who are not directly victims of the cause they stand up to defend but know it has to be done no matter the cost, are heroic figures.  The state and its minions have dragged an apology from Manning after years of physical and mental torture, maybe his lawyer said it might knock a few years from his sentence, I don’t know.  But he has nothing to apologize for; neither do Smith, Carlos and Norman.

There’s some good people out there.

France: Banning the Burkini is an assault on Muslim Women

I was concerned that we do not have a piece up here dealing with the banning at French beaches of the Burkini, a full body bathing suit for Muslim women that leaves only the face and hands bare. Five towns have banned them and three more are about to do so the media reports. This is occurring despite, "some of the mayors considering the bans admit to never having seen one.", the New York Times reports.

I believe workers and socialists like myself must oppose this ban. No state or religion or has the right to tell a woman/person what they must wear.  In our society the corporate media is relentless in its pressure on women and young girls telling them how they should look what they should wear if they want to be successful or get the right partner or job. We all face this ideological onslaught. Do western women wear their bikini's by choice or through media pressure? I saw some 10 year old the other day dressed like an adult woman, with makeup and all. What's free about that? I was in France before and saw monks and nuns walking around in ancient garb as well as ultra-orthadox Jews. How secular is that? This is clearly an assault on Muslim women.

I republish below a piece by Wendy that she put on this blog some time ago and it's still as relevant now as it was then.  RM

by Wendy Forrest

Lawmakers in France are very close to imposing a legal ban on the veil worn by only a few thousand Muslim women in the country.

A parliamentary panel anticipates that by the end of 2010 their recommendations will become law. What are some of these recommendations?

“Mass transport, hospitals, post offices …and all public services will be off- limits to all Muslim women wearing face-covering veils if a parliamentary panel’s recommendations become law.” (Toronto Globe and Mail January 2010.)

It gets worse! She will probably be denied state aid such as unemployment insurance, social welfare benefits and be prohibited from entering a university classroom. Another recommendation is to deny “resident cards and citizenship to women who wear all-encompassing veils.”

This just about covers it-no health care, no education, no social benefits, no mobility, no immigrant and citizenship rights-no legal status!!

If these recommendations become law the result is nothing other than an assault on the bodies, minds and emotions of these Muslim women trapped within the claws of two patriarchal prohibitions, religious and ‘secular.” I am not an apologist for the oppression of women living within and impacted severely on a moment by moment basis by any patriarchal institution, religion, custom or practice, the extreme opposite is the case-I am outraged and disgusted. Nor do I subscribe to the mantra of cultural relativism as a way of analyzing or understanding social relations, practices or institutions. But there is a huge and essential difference between how we understand “difference” regarding cultural and religious institutional practices  and how we regulate cultural and religious norms and practices-how we treat them in law.

If a Muslim woman wears the veil as an act of ‘faith,” and does not, like me, view all institutionalized forms of religion as patriarchal and oppressive to women, neither I nor any state has the right to force her to take that intellectual journey-let alone act against her faith. Too often we witness economic , religious, political and social agendas played out on the bodies and lives of women in unique ways and it is all the more destructive and dirty when concealed behind the lofty, and in this case, abstract premises of support for “enlightened secularism” and state “security.”

What a mockery of the ideas of “choice” for these women and, I will add, choice generally for all women and peoples enslaved under the ideological constructs of institutionalized religion, racism, sexism , heterosexism etc.

What do France’s lawmakers propose these women do? I believe that wearing the veil represents a deep prohibition and regulation of choice inscribed upon women’s bodies, upon their choice regarding what parts of their bodies they can expose publicly. I also believe that the wearing of burka and niqab can severely restrict women’s economic and occupational choices. Operating a backhoe, working in an auto factory or being a firefighter for instance is extremely unsafe and virtually impossible if veiled and encumbered by certain clothing proscribed by religion or culture. I also know that there are many similar prohibitions in secular societies that have a similar effect on women’s choices----prohibitions that affect women’s bodies, size, shape, mobility, sexual, social and economic “choices.” The question has never been and will never be whether or not individual women have choices regarding these restrictions and prohibitions that exclude, marginalize and even cripple them. Anyone who thinks this way is mad. The penalties for women who dare to defy all forms of oppression unique to gender are harsh and always have been.  

“Witches" were drowned and burnt because they dared challenge patriarchal laws and practices, because they dared provide women with control over their reproductive choices. Millions of women throughout the ages to this day have been and still are denied reproductive choices, including the right to abortions, and because of this they die or live lives of shame and poverty. The Catholic and Protestant religion historically have enslaved women in their homes, denied them economic freedoms, by restricting and denying women reproductive choices for centuries. In “secular” capitalist societies, eating disorders maim and kill girls and women who desperately starve their bodies in order to conform to fashion and be “desired” by men.

Young women-----just babies really------are forced into the sex trade in countries like Thailand and the Philippines to be mauled and treated like pieces of meat by men from the “enlightened secular capitalist” countries---the little money they make is sent back to their hungry poor families in the countryside, families literally destroyed by neo-liberal economic policies. The sexual slave trade and literal imprisonment of women is illegal yet still rampant and tolerated in Europe, Canada and the US. Neo-liberal economic policies force thousands of women in Chile for instance to work in the cut flower factories where they suffer miscarriages and their children are born deformed because of the use of potent pesticides designed to deteriorate as the flowers move north. The rape of women in war is a common, tolerated, sometimes promoted practice in many countries throughout history and to this day.
It is insulting to speak about individual “choice” for women in these situations.

What is a Muslim woman in France whose religion and culture requires her to wear a veil to do if these recommendations become law?  What are her choices in fact when she is caught between at least two institutional mandates---between the laws of her nation and the laws of tradition, culture and religion----all of them patriarchal? What penalties will be imposed on her if she refuses to remove or lift her veil? Will she actually be denied the right to citizenship, to use public transit, access social services, education and health care –in fact will she even be a legitimate person if she refuses to remove or lift the veil? And if she does conform to these “secular” laws, remove or lift her veil in order to survive, care for her children, receive health care and move about the towns and cities to buy food and go about the daily necessary business of life –what happens if she is forced to break the custom, traditions and laws of her religion and her culture? No one should be forced to make that choice. The argument around security and identification of women is completely bogus. Most Muslim women who wear the veil subscribe to identification protocol and there should be provision for these women to lift their veils for identification in an environment that is safe, in front of women officials only for instance. Women passing through customs are not “patted down” by male customs officers but by female officers. The same rights should be granted women wearing niqab or burka.

Will she be marginalized from her family, friends and community? Will she be excluded and subjected to know what kinds of harsh penalties in her day to day existence? How will her children fare? What sort of choices are these? No choice at all really.

This is madness and a conscious refusal to consider the complexities of women's lives; women whose choices are constrained by the practices and mandates of patriarchal religious and secular institutions-a classic dilemma with cruel implications and repercussion no matter her choice.

This is just one more example of politics being played out on the bodies and lives of women.
Are these laws even implementable? Will women who refuse to remove their veils be sent to jail? Will hospitals turn them away; will they be denied money for food and other necessities of life? Will transit drivers kick them off the subways and buses?

Women of all religions and cultures can and are forced to conform to patriarchal norms and restrictions. But we cannot and will not be “forced” to be ‘free “ of these restrictions and choices under conditions where we are not safe and comfortable to do so and where we as working women have not been permitted to make the laws and rules that govern our bodies and our lives. If the penalties for being “liberated” are as great or greater than the cost of being oppressed, if the social, psychological and sometimes even physical choices carry the risk of equal or worse abuse and oppression then this is a mockery of choice.

Muslim women in France must be allowed to collectively work towards the right to exercise genuine choice over all aspects of their lives, including whether or not to wear the veil. Can you just imagine the uproar among “secular “ women or Catholic or Protestant women if the state banned high heels.  It is estimated that there are perhaps only 2000 women in France that wear the niqab or burka. Statistics have shown that sometimes irreparable damage is caused by wearing high heels. Tens of thousands of women wear this ridiculous footwear in France. What if insurance companies or publicly funded health care refused to pay for health care for these women, whose feet are and skeletal systems are damaged by footwear whose sole purpose is to eroticize female legs and make them more attractive to men. Imagine the profits lost by the fashion industry. And what if politicians and health industry profiteers decided they simply could not afford to pay these costs and made the wearing of high heels illegal, if a woman wearing high heels could not become a citizen or receive health care or travel on public transit? A silly comparison----I think not. The objectification and restrictions imposed on women's bodies by the fashion industries who rake in billions of dollars of profit is a key function of patriarchy operative in capitalist societies. The majority of “secular” women insist on the right to choose what to wear and whether or not they objectify and constrain their bodies, sometimes even ultimately abuse and cripple their bodies. Do we force them to be “liberated?”

Defending the right of women to make choices regarding their bodies, their clothing and their “faith” does not undermine secularism. Forcing women or any group to renounce the customs and traditions of their faith or religion and penalizing them in law, denying them the rights of full citizenship, goes way beyond mere insensitivity to the complexities of women’s lives. Unfortunately none of this is about bettering these women’ lives.

The government of France is using Muslim women to deflect from deeper economic and political issues such as the economic crisis, deep cuts to the spending in the public sector, attacks on workers jobs, benefits and working conditions. They are using Muslim women to inflame more distrust and hatred of Muslim working people and immigrants at a time when they are being to rise up and protest the poverty and racism they are forced to endure.

All working people in France, trade unions and women’s organizations must fight against this and all forms of blatant racism and sexism.

How can we even begin to speak of choice here?