Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Michael Jackson: This Is It ***1/2

This is really it for Michael Jackson.

I reluctantly attended a screening of This Is It, the new documentary about the rehearsal process for his, what would have been upcoming tour. With all of MJ's personal problems, and physical frailties, I expected literally the skelton of his past greatness. I enjoyed every song, and the production values that went into creating them.

Most interesting is MJ's artistic process. He doesn't think in terms of song only. He is one with music, dance, set design, the backup singers and dancers. All is part of the whole.

The concert if it went on the road, would be the musical event of this period.

You will not get insight into his scandals in this movie. So be it.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

In Defense of Theory-or Ignorance Never Yet Helped Anybody

Written by Alan Woods
Thursday, 15 October 2009

In 1846 Weitling complained that the “intellectuals” Marx and Engels wrote only about obscure matters of no interest to the workers. Marx angrily responded with the following words, “Ignorance never yet helped anybody.” Marx’s response is as valid today as it was then.

Read the rest of the post here.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Presenting Maria Tecce

I found Maria Tecce surfing Youtube. I think you'll like her.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Marxists Must Stand Firm Against Ahmadinejad

July 12th 2009, by Maziar Razi - London Progressive Journal

Open letter to the workers of Venezuela on Hugo Chávez's support for Ahmadinejad.

Honourable workers of Venezuela,

The Revolutionary Marxists of Iran are aware of your achievements as part of the Bolivarian Movement and have always supported this movement against the widespread lies and the open and covert interference of imperialism. In order to defend your invaluable movement and to confront the attacks and interference of US imperialism in Venezuela, labour and student activists in Iran have set up the ‘Hands Off Venezuela' campaign in Iran and during the past few years have stood together with you in confronting the imperialist attacks. It is obvious that your achievements were gained under the leadership of Hugo Chávez and, for this reason, you reserve deep respect for him.

In terms of his foreign policy, however, Chávez has made a mistake. With his support for Ahmadinejad he has ignored the solidarity of the workers and students of Iran with your revolution, and in a word, made it look worthless. Most are aware that two weeks ago Ahmadinejad, with the direct support of Khamenei, committed the biggest fraud in the history of presidential elections in Iran and then, with great ferocity, spilt the blood of those protesting against this fraud. You just have to take notice of the international media reports to be aware of the depths of this tragedy. All over the world millions of workers and students, and also those of Marxist and revolutionary tendencies (which mostly are the supporters of the Bolivarian revolution), protested against these attacks.

In of spite this, Chávez was one of the first people to support Ahmadinejad. In his weekly TV speech he said: "Ahmadinejad's triumph is a total victory. They're trying to stain Ahmadinejad's victory, and by doing so they aim to weaken the government and the Islamic revolution. I know they won't be able to do it." And that "We ask the world for respect." These rash and baseless remarks from your President are a great and direct insult to the millions of youth who in recent days rose up against tyranny. Some of them even lost their lives. Many of these youths came out on the streets spontaneously and without becoming infected with the regime's internal disputes, or becoming aligned with the policy that US imperialism is following for taking over the movement. In addition, the remarks of your President are an insult to millions of workers in Iran. Workers whose leaders are today being tortured in the prisons of the Ahmadinejad government and some of them are even believed to be being punished with flogging. Workers who were brutally repressed by the mercenaries of the Ahmadinejad government for commemorating May Day in Tehran this year are still in prison.

So far Chávez has travelled to Iran seven times and each time he has hugged one of the most hated people in this country and called him his "brother". He does not realise that the economic, social and political situations of Venezuela and Iran are going in opposite directions. Although both countries have seen a similarly significant boost to their oil (and gas) revenues the contrast between the ways in which this extra money has been used by the two governments could not be more marked. In Venezuela this income is used for building hospitals, schools, universities and other infrastructure of the country, but in Iran it is used for lining the pockets of just a few parasitic capitalists.

On the one hand, in Venezuela, we have seen the nationalisation of an increasing number of companies and factories, the free provision of healthcare, education, civil liberties and so on. By contrast in Iran privatisation is on the government's agenda, even at the cost of trampling on Article 44 of the Constitution of the country and using the excuse of inefficiency and low productivity of state companies and factories. All these advances of the workers and the poor in Venezuela have given them greater control over the way they work and the way they live. Most importantly, the expropriation of factories and the encouragement of workers' control and participation have transformed the character of the workers' movement in Venezuela, advancing it by many stages. The Bolivarian movement and the policies of the government have brought about a huge shift in the balance of class forces in Venezuela in favour of the working class. Not only has the government encouraged the Venezuelan workers to build the Unión Nacional de los Trabajadores as an alternative to the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV), but the workers have become involved in running and managing factories and other enterprises. The whole world knows that your government has even drawn up a list of 1,149 closed-down factories and given their owners an ultimatum: re-open them under workers' control or the government will expropriate them.

In Iran, on the other hand, on top of the lack of many basic democratic rights, the workers are also without any independent trade union rights. Today the workers of Iran do not even have a confederation like the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela. All they have are the Labour House, the Islamic Labour Councils and other anti-working class bodies tied to the state.

But this has not always been so: the overthrow of the Shah brought about many freedoms for workers including, in some cases, control over production and even distribution. Then, however, through repression the Islamic hierarchy managed to take back all the workers' gains. The leaders that your President hugs killed thousands of workers, destroyed the workers' movement and pushed it back by several decades. In Iranian society even the ‘yellow' pro-boss unions - that the Shah had tolerated - became and remain illegal. Even a CTV-style trade union confederation is illegal in Iran.

In Iran the official (and underestimated) unemployment rate stands at 10.85 per cent, with unemployment among the youth (15-24 year-olds) standing at 22.35 per cent. Even when workers are employed they are often not paid - in many cases for more than a year. Even those who get their wages face an impossible task in paying for the basic necessities of life, because their wage is not enough for living costs. For example, with the rent for a two-bedroom flat at $422 a month, a civil servant on $120 wages, or a teacher on $180, or even a doctor on $600 a month struggle to survive. It is no wonder that some 90 per cent of the population live below the poverty line.

The capitalist government of Iran has no fundamental disagreements or contradictions with US imperialism. It is in a ‘cold war' with America and when it receives enough concessions, it will quickly enter into political dealings with the US and will turn its back on you. Indeed, the Iran regime has already helped the Americans in their military invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq - and installing the puppet regimes of Karzai and Maliki through significant trade, security and other deals. The capitalist government of Iran, despite the current apparent differences, is busy in close negotiations with the Obama government on resolving the problems of Afghanistan. This government, despite the "anti-imperialist" rhetoric, is heading towards re-establishing old links with the US. Ahmadinejad's selection demonstrates the final turn of the regime towards resolving its problems with imperialism. Despite all the "enmity" and "anti-imperialist" gestures the regime is ready to resolve all its differences with America. The government of Iran wants to turn Iran into a society like Colombia (in Colombia thousands of trade unionists have been killed so that multinational companies can exploit workers and plunder the country's natural resources without any obstacles). It is not without reason that the Iranian government has been implementing the bankrupt neo-liberal prescriptions of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and counting the minutes until it joins the World Trade Organisation.

The close and regular links of your leader, Chávez, with the leaders of this regime will eventually make the Iranian masses turn their back on the great lessons of the revolutionary process in Venezuela. Winning the hearts and minds of the masses in Iran and similar countries is the best long-term solution to breaking Washington's stranglehold on Latin America. Your leader's closeness with the capitalist government of Iran, a government that has the blood of thousands of workers and youth on its hands, shows that his anti-imperialist foreign policy has a major flaw. Being close to reactionary regimes will never be able to bring the anti-imperialist foreign policy to a successful conclusion. Only the unity of the real representatives of the workers and toilers can confront imperialism.

Stand together with the Iranian workers and condemn the foreign policy of your leaders. Support for Ahmadinejad means support for the repression of Iranian workers and youth. Challenge the flawed positions of Chávez and reject them. Support for the government of Ahmadinejad, especially after the recent events, is at worst an open betrayal of the toilers of Iran and at best a political blunder in foreign policy.

London Progressive Journal


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ralph Nader Throws his Hope in with Enlightened Billionaires

By Matthew Rothschild, September 28, 2009

I saw Ralph Nader yesterday, indefatigable as ever.

He was on tour for his new book, and his first work of
fiction, "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us."

The plot is about how seventeen famous billionaires,
like Warren Buffett and Ted Turner, all of a sudden
come to their conscience and spend some of their money
to bring about the anti-corporate and pro-democracy
changes that Ralph Nader has spent his life campaigning

This is a Hail Mary pass for progressive change, and it
is an expression of Nader's frustration-even
desperation-at our inability to tackle what he rightly
calls "the permanent corporate government" in

His approach, in the book, is about as top-down as you
can get, though he says it's top-down, bottom-up-the
billionaires spend the money so that people at the
grassroots can effectively organize.

He seems to have lost hope in the labor movement and
the environmental movement and the citizen's movement
and the broad civil rights movement getting together or
a new progressive movement rising up organically.

Throughout most of his career, Nader acted on a theory
of social change that centered around establishing
citizen groups in Washington and across the country
that could act as a counterforce to the corporate

Then, when that didn't succeed, and when the Democratic
Party became increasingly corporatized, Nader ventured
into third party presidential politics.

In 2000, he ran as a Green, and talked of establishing
that as a durable third party that could act as
centrifugal force against the Democratic Party moving
ever rightward. But Nader became disenchanted with the
Greens, and decided to go it alone the last two times.

And in a sense, he's going it alone this time in this

Rather than rely on the citizen's movement, rather than
rely on the labor movement, or a unified progressive
movement, Nader is relying on the George Soroses of
this world to save us, as the title says.

"The progressive movement is good at documenting
corporate power," he said in his talk in Madison,
Wisconsin. "It's good at diagnosing. It's good at
coming up with proposals. But that's the end."

The problem, he says, is one of resources. "You cannot
fight trillions of dollars in big business money with a
few millions and expect to win."

The citizen movement, he said, is "totally amateurish"
compared with how well organized and funded the
corporations are. "This mismatch is a disaster," he
said. "The progressive movement is going nowhere if it
does not address the problem of resources."

Nor does he have hope in a new youth movement.

Nader was addressing a couple of hundred people in a
classroom at the University of Wisconsin, but there
weren't many students there. Maybe that was a good
thing, since he was harshing on them.

"If people are too busy updating their personal
profiles on their facebook page," they won't engage in
civic action, he said.

"The screen is the opium of the masses," he said. He
added that we have a whole generation living a virtual
existence, and we haven't come to grips with the
negative consequences of that.

He also criticized today's students for their weak
grasp of U.S. history. For them, "The Vietnam War is
like the Peloponnesian Wars."

Nader had some sharp criticism for Barack Obama, too.
"It's very sad to see the continuity between Obama and
Bush," he said, rattling off "Afghanistan, renditions,
No Child Left Behind, and the faith-based initiative."
But he's not surprised that Obama is doing the bidding
of the corporate establishment. "In 100 ways, he
signaled he was their man" during the campaign, Nader
said. "Did ever talk about corporate crime, even when
Wall Street was collapsing?"

Nader said Obama "learned too much from Bill Clinton"
about the need to compromise with corporate power. And
he said that Obama's personality is not right for the
times. Unlike FDR, Obama "does not like conflict," he
said. Instead, he wants to please.

There is a poignance in listening to Ralph Nader these
days. Here is a man who, for the last 45 years, has
hurled his body at the engine of corporate power. He's
dented it more than anyone else in America. But he
knows it's still chugging, even more strongly than

Nader understands that he's losing. He understands that
we're losing-we who believe in democracy, we who care
about justice.

But if our only hope is with a handful of billionaires,
we're in a lot worse shape than I thought.



Tuesday, October 06, 2009

India: Where is it going?

Written by Umar Shahid in Sialkot,
Pakistan Monday, 05 October 2009

History never repeats itself in exactly the same manner. Whenever it does repeat, it always does so on a higher plane. Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, they have been manufacturing a new history, fabricating it on a colossal scale. The media and the dominant intelligentsia wish to impose on the psychology of the masses the idea that this system is the final destiny of humankind, or as Francis Fukuyama put it, this is the "end of history". This idea has been propagated by the bourgeois means of communication and a so-called "public opinion" has been created around it by the ruling elites.

Indian Social Conditions and the Myth of “Progress”

Views about the progress of India range from the pollyannaish "India Shining" to the messianically-distorted view of India's Maoists who continue to see India as a "semi-feudal, semi-colonial" nation. The past neo-liberal policies of the Congress-led UPA alliance have only benefitted the upper classes of Indian society.

A large number of Indians live in appalling conditions, like in this slum in Bombay near a dump yard. Photo by mckaysavage on flickr.

The widening gap between rich and poor is growing at an alarming high rate. The 'State of World Population 2008' report, prepared by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), shows that India lags behind its neighbours also in terms of life expectancy. Indian males have a life expectancy of 63.3 years and women of 66.6 years. More than half of India’s women are classed as anaemic, which means that capitalism is daily damaging their very bodies.

As India “progresses”, more people fall into vicious circle of poverty. 230 million people are undernourished and 40 per cent of children under three years of age are underweight. The slums are increasing at a drastic rate on outskirts of Mumbai, Bangalore and other cities otherwise considered as “modern”.

For the past four decades, the child male to female sex ratio statistics in the 0-6 age group reveals a continuous decline. The census figures illustrate that it is in some of the richer states of the country where the problem is most acute and these states include the Punjab which had only 798 girls (per 1,000 boys), Haryana 819, Delhi 868 and Gujarat 883 girls per 1,000 boys in the 2001 Census. Similarly according to a United Nations survey conducted in 2007, an estimated 2,000 unborn girls are illegally aborted every day in India.

There is always money to be made out of poverty; and the capitalists are so cruel that they are now selling poverty in order to maximize their profits. Recently, the Oscar winner movie “Slumdog Millionaire” broke box-office records by propagating the slum poverty and projecting it to world. It was a farce with the suffering, pain and miseries of the poor on display.

The promises of the ruling politicians and their policies have brought nothing but increasing despair among the poor and more people are falling into the death trap of poverty. Now about 78 % of the population spends less than Rs. 20 a day, while the wage rate of workers in the organized industrial sector is among the lowest in the world.

There was a projection of high growth rate of the Indian economy in the past, but 40 percent of its people continue to merely subsist on less than a dollar a day and children are denied basic education. The number of Indians with a higher education is a mere seven percent. But this only one side of the picture: now a large part of the rich in the world are from India. People like Laxmi Mittal, Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, etc., are from India. Mukesh Ambai who lost $28.2 billion gambling on the Stock Exchange is still India’s richest person with $20.8 billion.

Now that economic turmoil has hit the world, the rich continue to enjoy a life of luxury while the masses suffer even more. The bailouts at the expense of public money are being carried out to maintain the status quo of the rich and protecting them from falling into the mass of poor. From the owners of multinational companies to bureaucrats, they are all enjoying the luxuries during the downturn at the expense of taxpayers’ money.

And as the suffering of the masses gets worse, the luxuries of the rich are ever growing. Recently, an airship “Air Force One”, worth Rs 2450 million, was purchased and included in the Indian Air Force. Yes, there is money for such luxuries, bailouts and the buying of weapons, but there is no money for the ordinary public.

For the 2009-10 fiscal budget India's defence expenditure increased by 10 %, which adds up to Rs.1,056 billion ($26.5 billion) for buying military hardware in order to kill people. Also Rs.33 billion have been allocated to the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in order to find new ways of spreading destruction and killing people. However, for the Social Services, such as Health, Education and the broadcasting services, only Rs. 302730 Millions have been allocated.

The agrarian question has not yet been solved and farmers continue to commit suicide and woman sell their bodies, children and even parts of their bodies, just to be able to eat bread & butter twice a day. According to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau, as many as 16,632 farmers, including 2,369 women, killed themselves in the year2007, constituting 14.4% of the total number of suicides in the country. That means an average of 46 farmers commit suicide every day in India and if we take data for the past decade, the farmer suicides in the country since 1997 now total 182,936. This is what we find in the annual report of the NCRB, although the actual figures may be even higher.

A country rich in natural resources, skilled manpower and with huge potential for growth is condemned by this horny capitalism to be a failed society, a failed state. It is a tragedy created by the system, which has one motive, to increase their rate of profits at the cost of human life.

India, the world’s largest food grain producer, also has the world’s largest hungry population -- over 200 million. It ranks a poor 66th among 88 developing and transitional countries according to the 2008 Global Hunger Index (GHI-2008) report released by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Recently, in some parts of India people faced drought-like conditions on the basis that there were no food grains available for them. Three crore [30 million] tonnes of food grains lie in the godowns [Indian warehouses] but the suppliers are not releasing enough onto the market in order to maintain a profitable price. They have created an artificial shortage so that supply is reduced and thus prices go up.

Uneven and Combined Development

The current crisis of India is also rooted in the peculiar development of its capitalism. The dream of capitalism on a classical basis in India is still a dream. But now this dream is more painful for the masses because they are now suffering even more. Capitalism has failed to fulfil any of its historical duties, such as solving the national question, the separation of religion from state, etc. Hence, what we see is that the two different “phases” are combined into one.

Throughout its history, capitalism has absorbed one country after another into its orbit; and in doing so it increased their dependence upon one another. But during this process of interdependence it does not mean that they have followed the same paths; in each part of world the evolution of capitalism has separate characteristics. In this process they drew countries closer together economically and yet with profound differences among them. Their national development in many respects did not proceed along parallel lines, but at angles to each other, and sometimes even at right angles.

Historically, the Indian bourgeoisie came late into the world capitalism. The period after the Second World War was one when capitalism had already entered its highest stage of “Imperialism”. Hence, the development of Indian capitalism came about under the law of “uneven and combined development”. The law of uneven and combined development asserts that once the world market has swallowed up all countries in the world, these come under the direct domination of finance capital.

Thus, now the world has already been divided into major imperialist blocks, and it is impossible for any backward nation to follow the “evolutionary” path. Once imperialism has been shaped, the wealth and power of the great powers is maintained only by the continued exploitation and misery of the former colonies. The dominance of international financial capital has added fuel to the strength of the monopolies of developed nation. And in their search for sources of cheap labour and raw materials, the imperialist powers distort and stunt the development of culture in the former colonies. The misery of these backward nations is on the other hand a source of advancement for the developed nations.

In India we see the same phenomenon. Indian capitalism is so weak that it has to rely on the financial capital of imperialism. And now that finance capital has penetrated even more into the backward nations, the Indian bourgeois are the slaves of imperialism and thus they cannot wage any independent anti-imperialist struggle.

In Trotsky's words:

“Unevenness, the most general law of the historic process, reveals itself most sharply and complexly in the destiny of the backward countries. Under the whip of external necessity their backward culture is compelled to make leaps. From the universal law of unevenness thus derives another law which, for the lack of a better name, we may call the law of combined development – by which we mean a drawing together of the different stages of the journey, a combining of the separate steps, an amalgam of archaic with more contemporary forms. Without this law, to be taken of course, in its whole material content, it is impossible to understand the history of Russia, and indeed of any country of the second, third or tenth cultural class.” (Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, volume 1, chapter I, Peculiarities of Russia’s Development.)

Crisis of Leadership

In India all the parties ‑ with different labels of left, right, nationalist or centrist ‑ have the same economic programme. Their programme is based on the idea of building a strong national state through foreign direct investment. The Indian market, as a source of cheap labour and favourable conditions for the capitalists, has attracted the multinationals who seek a greater degree of exploitation and thus greater profits.

Now, however, we see that capitalism is a “failed system” for the whole of humankind, as it has entered into a blind alley. It cannot deliver anything other than destruction, pain and misery to the billions of ordinary people worldwide.

Unfortunately, even the Communist Parties have adopted an outlook based on the idea that the market dominates. Photo by souravdas on flickr.

Unfortunately, even the Communist Parties have adopted an outlook based on the idea that the market dominates. They in fact abandoned the genuine ideas of Marxism long ago, preferring to adopt the “two-stage” policy. This outdated theory, which was pursued by the Russian bureaucracy in order to save its own privileges, led to the defeat of many revolutions around the world. The bureaucracy choked the essence of what is a revolutionary organization, and at the same time wasted the revolutionary potential of workers, leading to many bloody defeats. These bloody defeats of the workers’ movements ushered in counter-revolutionary movements from that of Hitler to that of Suharto. Generations have had to pay for the crimes of the Stalinist leaders.

In the recent elections in India we saw how the communist parties paid for their past policies. They have attempted to carry out policies within the confines of capitalism. This means they have not been able to carry out policies in the interests of the workers and peasants. The Indian bourgeois media presented the election results as representing a move away from the left. In reality, the reason for their defeat is to be found in the fact that the leaders of the communist parties did not present a programme in any way fundamentally different from that of Congress. Indeed, the only real difference was on the labels. But this should not surprise us, as under the capitalism there is no real freedom, no genuine democracy and no welfare for the overwhelming majority of the people. As Lenin in his speech to the First Congress of the Communist International put it, “The workers know perfectly well, too, that even in the most democratic bourgeois republic 'freedom of assembly' is a hollow phrase, for the rich have the best public and private buildings at their disposal, and enough leisure to assemble at meetings, which are protected by the bourgeois machine of power. The rural and urban workers and the small peasants – the overwhelming majority of the population – are denied all these things. As long as that state of affairs prevails, 'equality', i.e., 'pure democracy', is a fraud.” (Theses on bourgeois democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat,, 4 March 1919)

What Next?

In the recent past, the boom benefited only a small minority. Now, when we are in recession and facing economical turmoil, the rich continue to enjoy the luxuries of life while the poor have to labour to guarantee the rich their luxuries. The coming period will be characterised by dramatic and sudden turns.

Marx once remarked “Revolutions are the locomotives of history”, and the present conditions in India are preparing the revolution of the future. Sooner or later Congress will stand exposed in the eyes of the masses and more avenues will open for the Marxists of India. Trotsky is now being read in India and people are looking for a solution. The penetration of Trotskyist ideas in Indian society is a symptom that the people and even genuine rank and file workers in the Communist parties are looking for a way out. They have experienced the Communist parties in government, and from this they are beginning to draw conclusions. They seek a way out on the left and that can only be found in the ideas of Trotsky. However, as internationalists we understand that the destiny of the Indian proletariat is inextricably tied up with that of the proletariat in the neighbouring countries, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The whole South Asian subcontinent is burning and from Islamabad to Dhaka, Calcutta to Katmandu, everywhere frustration and anger are palpable. The only way forward in such conditions is the Socialist Revolution! Only through such a revolution can the scourge of poverty be removed. The wealth is there, but it is in the wrong hands. Forward to a Socialist Federation of South Asia!


Friday, October 02, 2009

Michael Moore Presents Capitalism: A Love Story ***1/2

Written by Socialist Appeal
Thursday, 01 October 2009

A year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers set off a financial avalanche, the US economy remains in a mess. Official unemployment is steadily creeping toward 10%, as forty-two states lost even more jobs in the last month, bringing the total losses since the recession began two years ago to nearly 7 million. The number of people forced to work part-time jobs due to not being able to find full-time work has risen by over 50% in the past year to 8.8 million. In just one month, 25,000 more manufacturing jobs were lost in Michigan alone. The state now has an unemployment rate of 15.2%.

Health care remains the number one issue facing working Americans, as the average premium for family health insurance offered through an employer surpassed the $13,000 mark this year, far outpacing increases in wages and inflation. Fewer employers offer coverage and those that do are passing greater costs along to their workers. And those are the lucky ones. If you lose your job, forget about it.

The National Academy of Science has developed a new formula to more accurately classify poverty, and found that 15.3% of all Americans live in poverty, up from the 12.5% estimated under the old guidelines. That’s 45.7 million people -- the equivalent of the entire population of Spain. Among the most affected are the 6.8 million elderly Americans who live below the poverty line -- so much for the “Golden Years!”

But for a handful of Americans, it is the “Golden Years” -- Goldman Sachs, that is. This monster financial powerhouse, whose former executives hold key positions at the Department of the Treasury (including Obama-appointed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner), recently set aside $11.3 billion to hand out in bonuses -- just months after receiving $10 billion in taxpayer bailout money. No wonder ordinary Americans who have never really doubted the system are starting to ask some questions!

Mark Benson, a 39-year old restaurant manager from Chicago, was recently quoted by Reuters: “I guess I ended up in the wrong career. It must be nice to work on Wall Street, when you profit you get a bonus, when your company fails you get a government bailout then a bonus. I’m all for free enterprise, it’s what built America. But when Wall Street screws up so badly that the government has to print money to bail them out, I confess the bonuses they’re still paying themselves make me feel sick.”

Annie Phillips, a 48-year-old housewife from Nashville had this to say: “Out here in the real world, people are unemployed and hungry and those bankers and the other big shots don’t give a damn.”

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says that the worst of the recession is almost certainly over, and if you look only at corporate profits and overall economic growth, there may be a grain of truth to it. But this slight improvement is the result of massive deficit financing by the government and fewer workers doing more work while millions of others rot away on the unemployment line. Wall Street may be back “in the money,” but ask any ordinary worker, and you will get a different answer. In fact, a recent poll by the Associated Press found that 80% think the economy is doing badly and worry about whether or not they can make ends meet. 70% of Americans lack confidence in the ability of the government to prevent another financial industry meltdown. Just 17% believe the government stimulus package has done anything to improve the economy.

Judy Purkey, a 57-year-old grandmother from Morristown, TN was quoted as saying: “I know a lot of people who don’t have health care and really can’t afford it. The economy is so bad. You’ve heard the expression getting blood out of a turnip? -- Well, that’s what’s going on.”

As for who’s to blame for the mess, Americans are still giving President Obama the benefit of the doubt, with just one in five condemning him for this situation. Not surprisingly, over 50% blame former President Bush. Congress gets its fair share of the blame as well. But perhaps most revealing is the fact that that 79% of those polled blame the banks and lenders -- i.e., the capitalists.

It is against this volatile background that Michael Moore premieres his latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story. The fact that a film with such broad distribution even openly calls out the system by name is a tremendous step forward, a reflection of how far Americans’ consciousness has come since the dark days of September 2001. The film is a remarkable exposition of the realities of the system we live under. He exposes capitalism for what it is: a system based on the ruthless exploitation of the many by the few, who shamelessly loot millions of people’s lifelong savings, the public treasury, and kick millions out of their homes. By the end of the film, capitalism stands roundly condemned, and the viewer inevitably has to ask: why is it that in the richest country on earth we cannot provide jobs, health care, housing, and education for all. Moore effectively combines humor, heart-wrenching tragedy suffered by working people, irony, music, and reams of clearly presented facts and figures to provide an answer: capitalism is the problem.

Although Moore has long been a champion of working people and a “liberal” in the broadest sense of the word, his new film is definitely his most politically audacious yet. Not only the film, but his publicly stated views have become increasingly radicalized, as he has become emboldened by the rising anger against the excesses of the system. As he said in a recent interview:

“It’s been a year [since the collapse on Wall Street], and I haven’t seen a single talk show or single edition of ‘Meet the Press’ or an op-ed in the New York Times where they’ve allowed a voice to state the following: ‘The real capitalism itself.’ It’s an economic system that doesn’t work. It’s not fair, it’s not democratic, it’s not just and it’s got to go. I know I’m not the only person who feels that way, so why haven’t I heard it, why haven’t I read it, why is that part of the debate removed from the discourse? Capitalism is a beast. It will never stop. It has an insatiable desire to make money. You can put as many strings or ropes around it as you want but it will break through. There’s no such thing as enough with capitalism.”

This is incredibly bold and refreshing stuff. However, Moore is less clear as to what he is actually for. He clearly understands that the system can’t be reformed, that it must be replaced. Or, as one of the priests interviewed in the film puts it, “capitalism is evil, and you cannot regulate evil; you have to eliminate it.” However, it seems that Moore is still unwilling to draw the necessary conclusions -- or at least he is unwilling to state this openly.

The Workers International League thinks it is important to state what is: capitalism is the problem, and socialism is the solution. Socialism isn’t a dirty word and revolution isn’t a shadowy conspiracy carried out by a minority. The socialist revolution means nothing more nor less than bringing about a fundamental change in how society is structured and administered, through the direct, democratic, and conscious participation of the vast majority of society.

Moore, on the other hand, prefers to call for “democracy,” and draws on recently discovered film footage in which FDR -- the savior of capitalism during the Great Depression -- calls for a “Second Bill of Rights.” In this speech, FDR calls for the right to a good job, universal education and health care, and an end to racism. Now, whether he raised these points purely demagogically in order to rally the flagging spirits of the country behind the war effort, or whether he truly thought such reforms could come about within the limits of capitalism, we cannot know. But the fact is, capitalism has not been able to guarantee any of this to the entire population.

So we must ask ourselves: if it was unable to provide these basic demands during the long post-war boom or the recent capitalist bonanza, how can it possibly give us even a tenth of this during the current crisis? The Marxists are in favor of all of these things, however, we believe that they can only become a reality by fighting for socialism. Not the totalitarian caricature of Stalinism and Maoism, but democratic socialism, in which the workers democratically control the means of production, distribution and exchange, in harmony with the environment.

And although Moore skewers and exposes the Democrats throughout the movie, he gives Obama himself a pass. He presents the Obama election as a kind of rapture for suffering humanity. It is clear that Obama’s ascent to power was propelled by the heartfelt aspirations of millions of ordinary men and women, especially Blacks and other minorities. However, as a supporter of the effort to form a Labor Party in the late 1990s, Moore should know better: just as capitalism cannot be reformed, neither can the Democratic Party be reformed. Unfortunately, when Socialist Appeal asked Moore at a preview screening of the film whether or not he thought it was time for the unions and workers generally to break with the Democrats, he said that while he supports third party efforts, his advice was that it would be easier to reform the Democrats from within. This is akin to asking a lamb to go tidy up a wolves’ den!

Nonetheless, from his expose on how major corporations make millions by taking out life insurance policies on their employees (referred to as “Dead Peasant Insurance” in internal memos), to the footage from inside the factory occupation at Republic Windows and Doors, Moore relentlessly hammers the capitalist system and draws attention to the power of ordinary people if they organize.

The profound hope for change that swept the country after Obama’s election contains within it the embryo of a real force for change -- the working class majority itself. After a roller coaster of images and emotions, Moore calls on the viewing audience (which will number in the millions) to get organized and mobilize to bring about real change. The film then ends with a swing jazz version of the “Internationale.” Is Moore’s reluctance to call openly for socialism a calculated move to avoid being red-baited, demonized and discredited by the rabid right? Or is it because he is still unclear and unwilling to truly make a break with the system? Either way, Capitalism: A Love Story will open the eyes of millions in a way never before seen in a film with such a broad audience. Whether he calls it “socialism” or “democracy,” Moore seems sincere about wanting to end this system and replace it with something better. With the AFL-CIO now calling for single-payer health care and Moore’s new movie sure to inspire thousands to get organized and fight back against the attacks of the capitalists, there has never been a better time to fight for a mass party of labor and learn more about the ideas of revolutionary socialism and Marxism.

Louis Proyect's Review

Michael Moore's Website


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Jonathan Cook: Gaza peace protester is prisoner in own home

Taken from here

Lawyers denounce Israeli police crackdown

(Nazareth) -- Nine months after he helped to organize protests against Israel's attack on Gaza, Samih Jabareen is a prisoner in his home in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, an electronic bracelet around his ankle to alert the police should he step outside his front door.

The 40-year-old actor and theatre director is one of dozens of Arab political activists in Israel who have faced long-term detention during and since Israel's winter assault on Gaza in what human rights groups are calling political intimidation and repression of free speech by the Israeli police and courts.

A report published last week by Adalah, an Arab legal rights group in Israel, said 830 Israeli demonstrators, the overwhelming majority of them Arab citizens, were arrested for participating in mostly peaceful demonstrations during the 23 days of the Gaza operation.

According to the report, the police broke up protests using physical violence; most protesters were refused bail during legal proceedings, despite the minor charges; the courts treated children no differently from adults, in violation of international law; and Arab leaders were interrogated and threatened by the secret police in a bid to end their political activity.

This month's report by the UN inquiry into Gaza, led by Judge Richard Goldstone, dedicated a chapter to events inside Israel, concluding similarly that there was wide-scale repression of political activists, non-governmental organizations and journalists in Israel.

The goal, the committee said, was "to minimize public scrutiny of [Israel's] conduct both during its military operations in Gaza and the consequences that these operations have had for the residents of Gaza".

Abir Baker, a lawyer with Adalah, said the police and legal system had resorted to mass arrests and a declared policy of "zero tolerance" as the most effective way to suppress peaceful protests.

According to Adalah's statistics, a third of all those arrested were people under the age of 18, and, in a break with normal legal procedure, 80 per cent were refused bail for the entire period of legal proceedings. Detention is usually reserved for people considered a danger to the public. Most charges related to participation in a prohibited gathering, disturbing the peace or assaulting a police officer. Some children were charged with stone-throwing.

Ms Baker said it was telling that all the detainees in northern Israel, where most of Israel's 1.3 million Arab citizens live, were kept in detention throughout proceedings, while in Tel Aviv, where joint Arab-Jewish protests were held, all those arrested were quickly released.

She said: "The police used the power of arrest not to punish criminal behavior, but as a weapon to deter the Arab population from staging entirely lawful demonstrations. This is a tactic we have seen used before in Israel, particularly in the first and second intifadas."

She noted that there were echoes of events in October 2000, at the start of the second intifada, when Arab citizens held demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians in the occupied territories. Thirteen unarmed Arab demonstrators were shot dead and hundreds were beaten and arrested.

A later state inquiry castigated the police for treating the Arab minority, a fifth of Israel's population, as an "enemy". Unlike in 2000, however, police commanders on this occasion did not resort to rubber bullets or live ammunition.

Mr Jabareen, a prominent political figure in Jaffa, said that during the Gaza assault he had been put under a three-day house arrest and faced a series of interrogations where he was warned he would be jailed.

Three weeks after the Gaza assault ended, at a small demonstration in northern Israel, he said the police set a "trap" for him. "When I arrived, the police commander clearly knew who I was. He immediately had seven officers surround me. I was soon on the ground and they were beating, hitting and kicking me."

Mr Jabareen was jailed for three weeks and has been under house arrest ever since.

Ms Baker said of his case: "The police commander accused him of assaulting him and yet they have produced no video footage, even though they filmed the entire demonstration, and no medical evidence that the commander was ever harmed."

Mr Jabareen said his treatment contrasted with that of the ultra-Orthodox in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem who have been clashing with police for months to prevent the opening of a car park on the Sabbath.988888

"They are shown on TV throwing punches at the police and hurling stones at them. A few arrests have been made, but despite the high levels of violence, they are almost always released the same or next day. How can I still be under house arrest for eight months? It is clear that different legal standards are being applied."

Ms Baker said the police had created new offences during the Gaza operation, such as "protests detrimental to public morale".

Adalah found that a new directive was issued to police commanders about how to handle the protests, though the police have refused to divulge its contents. Ms Baker said she would petition the attorney general for the information.

The Goldstone Committee noted widespread intimidation and humiliation of community leaders. Saleh Bakri, a public figure who participated in a silent candle-light vigil on January 1 in Haifa, was arrested and forced to stand motionless facing the Israeli flag for half an hour as police officers filmed him.

The committee also recorded that at least 20 Arab leaders were forced to attend illegal interrogations by the Shin Bet where they were asked about their political activities. Student activists were asked to collaborate with the authorities and threatened with arrest or harm to their studies if they refused.

Police demanded Amir Makhoul, the head of the Ittijah co-ordinating body for Arab organizations in Israel, attend an interrogation following a speech he gave on December 29 in Haifa. After he refused, he was forcibly escorted to a police station where he was interviewed for four hours.

"They told me I would be thrown in jail if I continued my political work and that they could arrange for me to be dumped in Gaza. Their main concern seemed to be that I was urging the younger generation to be more politically active," he said.

The Arab minority is staging a general strike on Thursday to protest the increasingly harsh climate and to mark the failure to prosecute any of the policemen responsible for the 13 deaths in 2000.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilizations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair" (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (, published in Abu Dhabi

Marxist from Lebanon