Saturday, December 17, 2011

Book Review - Revolutionary Youth and the New Working Class: Lost Writings of SDS


cover-front-revyouth Edited by Carl Davidson,

Changemaker Publications

Pittsburgh PA, 2011

By Jerry Harris

Carl Davidson has done a tremendous service to anyone who studies the history of social movements or anyone interested in the 1960s rebellion. This "lost" collection of papers reveals the depth and richness of radical thinking coming out of the student movement as the war raged in Viet-Nam and militant protestors marched through the streets of America.

The most important document is the "Port Authority Statement," by SDS members David Gilbert, Robert Gottlieb and Gerry Tenney. Although at the time not widely circulated, it offers great insight into the thinking and analysis of SDS as it turned to revolutionary theory and debate. This is an impressive document. Detailed in statistical and economic analysis, grounded in revolutionary social theory, and innovative in its thinking and insights.

One of the most important sections of the paper was its class analysis with its focus on the new working class and the relationship of students to an economy shifting from manufacturing to services and technology. The documents notes that, "Modern American capitalism is characterized by rapid technological change with scientific knowledge growing at a logarithmic rate." This will result in the "elimination of unskilled labor (as) the blue-collar sector will decrease (and) jobs that require high degrees of education and training" will increase. (pages 88-89)

That analysis was made in 1966. Now read a recent article by Edward Luce from the Financial Times: "the middle-skilled jobs that once formed the ballast of the world’s wealthiest middle class are disappearing. They are being supplanted by relatively low-skilled (and low-paid) jobs that cannot be replaced either by new technology or by offshoring – such as home nursing and landscape gardening. Jobs are also being created for the highly skilled, notably in science, engineering and management. (12/11/11) Decades later the paper's main thesis still holds up.

Continuing its class analysis the Port Authority document examined the capitalist class and the debate over ownership and control. The authors focused attention on the growing trend towards paying executives with large stock rewards, merging management and ownership. Again we can turn to a recent article published in the December 2011 Monthly Review that reads, "More recently, David Harvey has argued that ownership (share holders) and management (CEOs) of capitalist enterprises have fused together, as upper management is increasingly paid with stock options." (Richard Peet) This "recent" argument now being made by a leading Marxist trails Port Authority by some 45 years.

Although the authors grasped the sweeping impact that technology would have on American workers, what they could not see would be globalization and the advent of neo-liberalism as a governing ideology. As the paper notes at the time, "Corporate liberalism implies that the dominant economic institution is the corporation and that the prevailing political and social mode is liberalism." (page 68) Of course it's understandable how such changes would be all but invisible in 1966; it's also a good reminder why political tactics and strategy must remain flexible and activists should always be willing to reevaluate their analysis.

The above are but a few of the enticing insights that are contained in page after page of these documents. As new social movements gather force throughout the world, a look into the thinking of activists from the last great social movement can help give direction to coming future battles. I would highly recommend this book to all activists and academics interesting in building a better world.

Jerry Harris, National Secretary of the Global Studies Association and author of "The Dialectics of Globalization."

Read more!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Do They Really Want 'Specific Demands' from the Occupiers?

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

I’m getting fed up with pompous pundits lecturing the ‘Occupy!’ movement for not having a set of specific demands.

A case in point: New York Time financial columnist Joe Nocera quoted at length in a story by Phoebe Mitchell in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on Nov 29.  He was speaking at the Amherst Political Union, a debate club at UMass Amherst.

Nocera starts off with the now usual tipping of the hat to the protestors:

“Nocera believes the anger caused by income inequality, a divisive issue across the country in this prolonged economic downturn, is the fuel for both popular uprisings. ‘If we lived in a country that had a growing economy and where the middle class felt that they could make a good living and had a chance for advancement and a decent life, there would be no tea party or Occupy Wall Street,’ he said.”

But we don’t live in such times, and the more interesting story is that OWS and its trade union allies are displacing the Tea Party, and energizing the progressive grassroots. Nocera, however, makes OWS the target.

“He believes that for the Occupy Movement to be successful, it must frame clear demands that outline a plan for creating jobs and refashioning Wall Street to benefit the entire country and not just a select few wealthy investors. Without a solid plan for moving forward, he said, the Occupy protestors will be continued to be viewed by Wall Street supporters as little more than “a gnat that needs to be flicked from its shoulder blades.”

A ‘gnat’ indeed. In due time, a progressive majority may well come to view our dubious ‘Masters of the Universe’ on Wall St as bothersome gnats to be flicked away.

But to get to the main point, Nocero knows perfectly well that there is any number of short, sweet and to the point sets of demands aimed at Wall Street finance capital and the Congress it works to keep under its thumb. Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO has been hammering away at his six-point jobs program—one point of which is a financial transaction tax of Wall Street as a source of massive new revenues to fund the other five.

The United Steel Worker’s Leo Gerard has been tireless for years working for a new clean energy and green manufacturing industrial policy that could create millions of new jobs and get us out of the crisis in a progressive way.

So what happens when these demands are put forward? With our Wall Street lobbyists working behind the scene, the best politicians money can buy declare them ‘off the table.’ Nocera and others of like mind in punditocracy put the cart before the horse. OWS arose as a result of a long train of abuses, year after year of sensible, rational, progressive demands and programs swept off of Congress’s agenda like so many bread crumbs from a dining table. Not even brought to a vote. OWS and a lot of other people are fed up with being dismissed.

The pundits should watch what they wish for. The demands and packages of structural reforms will be back, much sharper and clearer, and with the ante upped by hundreds of thousands in the streets, as well as millions turning out for the polls. In fact, the solutions have always been there for anyone with ears to hear. We’ll see if our voices are loud enough to crack the ceiling at the top, and let some light shine through.

Read more!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Wins: ‘We Shall Not Be Moved!’

Victory cheers in Zuccotti Park, 6am, Oct 14

Blocking Evictions, Fanning the Flames:

A Report from Occupied Wall Street

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

Riding the New York City subways in a rush hour is always an adventure. But experiencing the crowds of people on the downtown train to Wall St at 5:30 am, Friday Oct 14, 2011 was a special treat. The closer we got to the financial district, the more workers with union jackets poured into the cars, in a militant and upbeat mood, ready to assert their power.

I was in town for a speaking engagement at a union hall the night before, when our small group got the word of an email blast from the national AFL-CIO, "Everyone who can, get down to Wall Street by 6 am. We're going to block the Mayor Bloomberg's attempt to evict the protestors with the police." The after-meeting chatter ended quickly, since we knew we need to get some sleep for a long day ahead.

It was still pitch dark as we climbed out of the Wall St station. We could hear the noise from Zuccotti Park, but batches of cops were everywhere, putting up barricades as a kind of obstacle course. I was with Pat Fry and Anne Mitchell, both SEIU staffers and leaders of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.

"Goodness, look at all the media," said Pat, noting the hundreds of reporters, together with vans and cranes erecting their cameras. When we got to the park it was jammed packed with more than 1000 young people, mostly sitting in the dark with arms linked. The incoming thousands of supporters from labor and the general public began encircling the park until they were about three deep in front of the wall all around it. Anne spotted an open space on the wall. "Let's get up here," she said, as we each got a hand lifting us into position.

From our vantage point, even in the darkness, we could see an inspiring but intense scene unfolding. The police had paddy wagons and empty buses for mass arrests trying to find positions, but getting blocked by traffic. Every few minutes, hundreds more emerged from the subway stations as additional trains rolled in. You could tell who was there from the jackets, caps and T-shirts-Teamsters, SEIU, the Transit Workers Union and many more.

"No way there's going to be an eviction," I said to my partners. "The cops are way outnumbered and outmaneuvered. All they can do is teargas the entire plaza, but then what? That would create a fight shutting down the entire financial district. They're not ready for it yet."

Inside the park, an amazingly ordered but still spontaneous 'General Assembly' was underway.  The 'human microphone' was in play, a technique developed to counter situations where amplified sound equipment was banned. A speaker would shout out a relatively short statement, and then it would be re-shouted in turn by the dozens around him or her, and reshouted again by much of the crowd, aiming their voices out into the streets. The only limitation is that you have to speak and pause as if you're being translated, but it's English-to-louder-English.

The speeches were intermixed with call-and-response chants. "Tell me what democracy looks like?" was met with the return roar, "This is what democracy looks like!" When someone wants to speak from different part of the park, they yell out "Mike check!" and when it gets repeated loudly enough by 20 or so people, they get their turn, and at any given spot, there will be a 'stack' of people lined up with something to say, managed by a 'stackeeper.' For this dramatic period at least, it worked beautifully.

Finally one speaker yelled out, "We've finally got the official word. At a meeting just a few hours ago, the city agreed to postpone the eviction. We've won!" The occupiers were jubilant--and even a good number of cops seem relieved. Soon after the announcement, one speaker was a member of New York's City Council. "You need to hear that you have more friends than you know about inside the council!" In other words, the mass pressure from below forced a split, and now there was a crack in the ceiling to be taken advantage of by the occupiers.

We stood on the wall for another hour or so, listening to a few speeches but mainly talking with friends and comrades who spotted us on our perch. Jay and Judith Schaffner, retired unionists, had driven in from the Poconos, and reported on what was happening even in the small towns of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Many activists with New York City's Labor Left Project stopped, as did people we knew from the Democratic Socialists of America and the Communist Party, USA. A good number of veterans from the old SDS of the 1960s came up and said hello: "We're everywhere!" I noted with a smile. I also had a surprising number of young people I've never met come up and say, "Hi! I'm one of your Facebook Friends!" The new media seemed to be working well.

By this time the gray light of dawn arrived. Some people were leaving the square to go to work while more were still arriving. "I don't know about you guys, but I need some coffee and a serious breakfast," said Anne. We agreed, jumped down, made our way through the police lines to one of New York's ubiquitous coffee shops. Over our eggs and sausage, we discussed the meaning of it all before Pat and Anne had to get to work.

In choosing Wall Street as their target, and taking direct action defined by moral clarity against a range of injustices, the young occupiers had opened up a new public sphere. It was a dynamic and flexible political space open to all whose issues, demands, hopes and dreams had been swept 'off the table.' An arrogant and dismissive ruling class, determined to impose more neoliberal austerity and longer wars, were in for a rude awakening. If those at the top thought the bottled up frustration and rage of millions at the bottom 'had nowhere to go,' they were now facing this new insurgency in the streets.

Young people in the 1960s had acted as a critical force, holding up a mirror to the rest of society, prodding it to respond. The Black student sit-ins in the Deep South were a prime example, as were the antiwar students on the campuses and the young alienated GIs returning from Vietnam.

But this new insurgency was different in important ways. First, the 'long wars' had fed a deep crisis abroad, feeding both the Arab Spring 'square' occupations and a long-frustrated antiwar majority at home. Second, the financial crisis had alienated millions in the working class and other strata in a deep way. The labor upsurges in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio revealed an angry discontent in the U.S. heartland. So instead of taking years of 'critical force' protests to create and awaken a progressive majority, the young occupiers rather quickly found that they had large and important allies.

That was evident in the rapid support they received from Leo Gerard of the Steelworkers, from Richard Trumka speaking for the AFL-CIO, from the 20,000 workers mobilized by New York's unions in a solidarity march a week ago, and finally, from this morning's dramatic intervention blocking the eviction. An important new alliance between a radicalizing youth movement and the more progressive wing of organized labor has been forged in the streets-and it was ongoing and open-ended.

It also didn't stop with labor. A number of city councils across the country, themselves suffering at the hands of Wall Street-imposed neoliberal cutback policies, passed resolutions and spoke up in defense of the occupiers. Others equivocated, and tried to restrict and disperse the actions, resulting in nearly one thousand arrests across the country. Electoral groups like the Progressive Democrats of America urged its members to go 'all out' in support of the occupations, and PDA's allies-Bernie Sanders in the Senate and the Progressive Caucus in the House-also spoke up. Even Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, gave her support. And while President Obama didn't go that far, he tipped his hat to the effort, acknowledging the validity of 'their concerns.' '

A New Popular Front Emerging

The implications of all this are deep, complex and strategic.  A new popular front against finance capital, encompassing a progressive majority of the country, is beginning to take shape. It is emerging against the neoliberal intransigence on Wall Street, against the GOP-dominated Congress and against a White House that too frequently conciliates with the right wing of both parties. It brings together many demands, many voices and several contending platforms, but all aimed against a common adversary-the "99 percent versus the one percent," the most popular theme in the protests that sums it up.

After breakfast, I headed back to the park to spend a few hours talking to people and taking it all in. There was a lot of activity re-assembling the different facilities of the occupiers that had been taken down the day before to sweep and scrub the occupied zone. The mayor had been using the sham excuse of 'unsanitary conditions' as to why he was going to clear the area. "If the mayor was serious about this," said one young guy with a broom, "he'd give us the portajohns and dumpsters we've been asking for since we started. But they're still refusing, so we do the best we can."

tired out The cleanup was actually very good. A large number of young people were also by now sleeping in the various sections of the park. They had covered their spaces with tarps and folded cardboard signs that doubled as sleeping pads for their sleeping bags. They had been up all night and were exhausted. All the sleeping was out in the open since the city had banned tents in the area, as well as amplified sound.

Not that the sound restriction mattered all that much. On the west end on the square was a huge drummer's circle with about a dozen people beating out a constant background of rhythms. The styles changed as one cultural grouping took over the drums from another-African American, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, women, white rockers, and various mixtures of all sorts. The drone was actually a pleasant background, giving off an energized atmosphere.

You could tell that many protestors were from a new and fresh layer of young activists. The reason? Four huge American flags were constantly being waved over the drummers. There were also a few red flags, and Earth flag and several rainbow flags-but in a more seasoned left event, especially with a large proportion of anarchists, the American flags would not likely be there. The youth also seemed quite diverse among themselves. There was one small 'Class War' corner with several dozen kids dressed mainly in black, other areas with kids mainly in tie-dyed shirts, and even one young man, very busily engaged in cleaning up the area, was dressed in his full Eagle Scout uniform, complete with all his merit badges.

The Matter of ‘Demands’

The media pundits had been criticizing Occupy Wall Street (OWS) for not having a set of specific demands. Rather the occupiers were simply underscoring vast inequalities and demanding a new world. What the pundits ignored was the fact that one reason the movement was resonating so deeply with wider circles of people was that all decent demands made over the last few years-ending the wars, Medicare for all, full employment legislation, and especially the demand to fund all reforms with a financial transaction tax on Wall Street speculators-had all been rejected, declared 'off the table' and not even allowed to come to a vote in Congress and any other government bodies. In any case, OWS actually had come up with a long list of indictments, which was widely circulated on the internet, even if it was ignored in the higher circles of power.

I spotted two students standing on the wall holding up a cardboard sign, "Education with Debt Is Not Justice! It Never Will Be!", and struck up a conversation. They were burdened with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and weren't nearly finished with school yet. "What’s the difference between then and now?" one asked me, about being a student in the 1960s. My tuition at Penn State, I explained, was about $1500 a year and I could survive for a term on $500 for room and board, which I could make with my campus job as a janitor. If I took off to run around the country organizing against the war, no one's mortgage was at stake. Today's students have to deal with $15-20,000 per year, a severe hardship for many, and a strong motivator behind the 'Occupy!' movement.

discussion group But the occupiers were interested in everything, not just their own situation. There were several discussion circles of a dozen or so people going on simultaneously. Stopping by one, the topic was radical movements in Latin America. At another, the subject of militarism and the defense budget was being dissected. At still another, a small group of Ron Paul libertarians were trying to hold up under a barrage of friendly criticism.

Once you had an overview, it was clear that everything was fairly well organized. Right in the middle of the park were two long black chalkboards, propping each other up back to back. On one side was the entire schedule for housekeeping tasks-cleanup, food, dealing with the media, medical issues and so on. On the other side was a timetable for various events and speakers, workshop times and topics, and the times of the daily General Assembly.

Next to the schedule blackboards was the food pantry. At the center was a can for money donations, along with a suggestion to bring canned goods and fresh fruit. One might get an odd variety of things to make up a meal, but if you were broke, the price was right. All along one side of the park also was a line of lunch wagon trucks selling a variety of things. "What's best?,' I asked someone who looked like he had been there a while. "The guy with the falafel truck. Awesome!"

dishwashing The cleanup section, logically, was next to the food. Here were four large plastic bins with soapy and clear water to keep utensils and dishes sanitary. Lugging the water in and out was a chore, but it otherwise worked fairly well. Finally, next to that, was the first aid station, with a variety of bandages and such. "What's been your most serious medical problem?" I queried. "Pepper spray burns by far, after the confrontation with the cops last week."

The Struggle Continues

In the days ahead, the flexible plan seems to be to send out forays of marching demonstrators, of varying sizes, to assorted targets around the city, but keeping Zuccotti Park as a more secure base area. Today one relatively small group headed further south toward Battery Park, taking over the center of a street, but got dispersed by the cops, and a few were arrested. The following day, Saturday, saw a huge victory rally of tens of thousands in Times Square. One group, trapped on a side street by irate cops who wanted it cleared, ended up with about 70 being arrested. But the kids are becoming more streetwise, now avoiding situations like last week where about 700 got trapped in a police net on the Brooklyn Bridge and were carted off to jail.

What happens next will depend a lot on vigilance, organizing skill and the relation of forces. One ominous report in the news revealed the gradual buildup of a huge encampment of militarized police, with different sub zones encircling the entire Wall Street area. But through their determination, planning and audacity, fanning the flames of discontent, OWS has already scored a tremendous victory. Similar actions are now taking place in over 500 cities around the world, and in nearly every major city and state capital in the U.S. In one month, they have changed the political conversation in all sectors, putting finance capital on the defensive at least tactically. The latest opinion polls show a majority of Americans are supporting them to one degree or another, revealing the deep class divide between Main Street and Wall Street. If there's any attempt to shut down any of the hundreds of occupations by force, a much wider and deeper solidarity effort is likely to emerge.

[Carl Davidson is a national co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a national board member of the Solidarity Economy Network,  a writer for Beaver County Blue, the website of PA’s 4th CD Progressive Democrats of America, and a members of Steelworkers Associates. He is the author of several books, including ‘New Paths to Socialism’ available online. If you like this article, make use the PayPal button above.]

Read more!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Champion of Jobs, Justice and Peace


Photo: Dwan Walker of ‘One Aliquippa’ with Rep. Conyers at award dinner

Rep. John Conyers Honored at Labor's

Human Rights Dinner in Beaver County

By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue

Over 400 labor and human rights leaders and activists gathered at The Fez in Beaver County's Hopewell Township Oct. 8 to honor John Conyers, the Congressman from Detroit Michigan, now serving his 23rd term as a long-time champion of labor, civil rights and civil liberties.

Sponsored by the Beaver-Lawrence Central Labor Council, the annual human rights banquet drew local labor unions, the NAACP and African American churches, and activist groups such as the 4th CD Progressive Democrats of America. The elected officials present included County Commissioners Joe Spanik and Tony Amadio, row officers Carol Fiorucci and Nancy Werme, as well as Dwan Walker and his 'One Aliquippa' organization. Walker's recent primary victory has position him to be the town's next mayor. The event was also honored by the attendance of several youth ambassadors from Aliquippa's Council of Men and Fathers.

conyers-pda-table1 "There's a high level of energy here," said Tina Shannon, PDA's president and a member of the dinner's organizing team. "Many of us have already worked together for years on Medicare for All, and in the recent 'One Nation' mobilization in Washington, DC. We've built a strong unity by working together, and it's reflected in the turnout here tonight. It'll continue as we fight for jobs"

Conyers was an excellent choice for the labor council's award. Not only is he known worldwide for his leadership in the House Judiciary Committee as a staunch defender of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, he is also responsible for introducing some of the most progressive Bills in Congress.  HR 676 'Improved and Expanded Medicare for All' has been widely promoted here in Beaver County by Unions and Progressive Democrats, including the first Citizen's Hearing on the Bill conducted in Aliquippa featuring Dennis Kucinich as convener. The Beaver County Commissioners and the Beaver/Lawrence Labor Council have both passed resolutions endorsing the Bill. Conyers has also recently drafted another groundbreaking bill, HR 870 Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act, to be funded by a financial transaction tax on Wall Street speculators.

Read more!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

‘Street Heat’ vs. Finance Capital and the Right

Solidarity Time: Young People Occupying

Wall Street Are Standing Up for All of Us

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

The actions of thousands of young people in New York City's financial district, simply calling themselves "Occupy Wall Street," is now entering a second week, with many camping out overnight in the area's parks. How long its will continue and whether its numbers will swell is anyone's guess, but the response of the NYPD in arresting and otherwise restricting them is already banging heads with our First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble.

"At Manhattan's Union Square, police tried to corral the demonstrators using orange plastic netting," reports the Sept 25, 2011 Washington Post. "Some of the arrests were filmed and activists posted the videos online. One video appears to show officers using pepper spray on women who already were cordoned off; another shows officers handcuffing a man after pulling him up off the ground, blood trickling down his face."

Most of the youth are students, but many are also unemployed and underemployed young workers. And a small but important grouping of staffers and activists with NYC's trade unions have also made their way downtown to spend a few hours helping out.

The students certainly have a just cause. While the denizens of Wall Street have bailed themselves out and paid themselves huge bonuses with trillions from the public treasury, these young people are saddled with a degree of crushing debt to pay for their educations that would have been unthinkable 40 years ago. If they manage to graduate, they face a financial burden large enough for a home mortgage-all before they start their first full-time jobs, assuming their lucky enough to find one that pays a living wage.

But these youth and students are fighting for more than their own immediate concerns. They have raised a whole range of demands-Medicare for All, defending social security, for passing the various jobs bills in congress, opposing racism and sexism, ending the wars, and abolition of the death penalty in the wake of the recent unjust execution of Troy Davis.

They are the cutting edge of a new popular front against finance capital.

Young rebels often manifest a moral clarity that awakens and prods the rest of us. Through their direct actions, they become a critical force, holding up a mirror for an entire society to take a look at itself, what it has come to, and what choices lay before it. The historic example is the four young African American students that sat at a lunch counter and ordered a cup of coffee in Greensboro, North Carolina back in 1960.

The Wall Street protests are thus a clarion call to the trade unions and everyone concerned with economic and social justice. While the youth are clearly a critical force here, when all is said and done, they are not the main force. That power resides in labor and in the wider communities. It's in the hands of everyone that's part of an emerging progressive majority for peace and prosperity, everyone that wants a U-Turn against the country's current path to more wars and deeper austerity.

It's time to exercise that power and lend a hand with active solidarity. More actions are in the works, including an occupation and encampment on Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC starting Oct. 6, following the 'Rebuild the Dream' DC conference focused on a renewed labor-community coalition for the 2012 election.

It's going to take more than votes to push back the right wing and its Wall Street allies. It's going to take some serious 'street heat' as well.


[Carl Davidson is a national co-chair of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a national board member of the Solidarity Economy Network, and a member of Steelworker Associates residing in Beaver County, Western PA.

If you like this article, make use of the PayPal button at  His books are available at]

Read more!

Friday, September 16, 2011

New Book: ‘…The Lost Writings of SDS’

This is a fascinating new collection of 12 essays and documents from the New Left of the late 1960s, gathered and commented on by Carl Davidson, a national leader of SDS at the time.

‘Revolutionary Youth and the New Working Class’ contains key sources illuminating a critical transition period in the American left, as well as a number of ideas still relevant.

Most important is the ‘Port Authority Statement’, actually titled ‘Toward a Theory of Social Change, and written by Robert Gottlieb, Gerry Tenney and David Gilbert. Passed around in mimeographed form, only about a third of it was ever put into print in SDS’s newspaper, until factional struggles set it aside. Meant to replace the Port Huron Statement, it is remarkable for many insights still holding up today.

The collection includes other ‘Praxis Papers,’ including three by Davidson, the Revolutionary Youth Movement documents that replied to the Weatherman faction, and the original ‘White Blindspot’ documents. About half the content has been scattered across the internet, but much of it has been newly digitized and now available in both e-book and paperback form from Changemaker Publications. Go to the site for the full contents, and contact the editor at for bulk rates.

Read more!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Far Right Exposing Its Own Class Hatreds

Shameless Opposition to the Jobs Bill Reveals

The GOP's Deep Hatred of the Working Class

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

If you want to have your class consciousness raised a few notches, all you have to do over the next few weeks is listen to the Republicans in Congress offer up their shameless commentary rejecting President's Obama's jobs bill.

This week's doozy came from Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who was outraged that capitalists were being restricted from discriminating in hiring the unemployed, in favor of only hiring people who already had jobs elsewhere. I kid you not. Here's the quote:

"We're adding in this bill a new protected class called 'unemployed,'" Gohmert declared in the House Sept. 13, 2011. "I think this will help trial lawyers who are not having enough work. We heard from our friends across the aisle, 14 million people out of work -- that's 14 million new clients."

One hardly knows were to begin. 

First, the Jobs Bill does no such thing as creating a 'new protected class.' It only curbs a wrongly discriminatory practice.

Second, so what if it did? Americans who uphold the Constitution, the 14th Amendment' equal protection clause, and the expansion of democracy and the franchise generally, will see the creation of 'protected classes' as hard-won progressive steps forward from the times of the Divine Right of Kings.

Third, if Gohmert had any first-hand knowledge of the unemployed, he'd know they usually can't afford lawyers, especially when the courts are stacked against them.

Fourth, to create even more confusion, Gohmert raced to the House clerk to submit his own 'Jobs Bill' before Obama's, but with a similar name. Its content was a hastily scribbled two-page screed consisting of nothing but cuts in corporate taxes.

What's really going on here is becoming clearer every day. The GOP cares about one thing: destroying Obama's presidency regardless of the cost. They don't even care if its hurts capitalism's own interests briefly, not to mention damaging the well being of everyone else.  Luckily, Obama is finally calling them out in public-although far too politely for my taste.

The irony will likely emerge if and when they ever do take Obama down. I'd bet good money that a good number of the GOP bigwigs would then turn on a dime and support many of the same measures they're now opposing.

But most of them, especially the far right, would still likely press on with their real aim, a full-throated neoliberal reactionary thrust that repeals the Great Society's Medicaid and Medicare, the New Deal's Social Security and Wagner Act, and every progressive measure in between.  Their idea of making the U.S labor market 'competitive' and U.S. business 'confident' is to make the whole country more like Texas, with its record volume of minimum wage work and poverty, and then Texas more like Mexico-the race to the bottom. They're not happy with 12% unionization; they want zero percent, where all of us are defenseless and completely under the thumbs of our 'betters'.

In brief, prepare for more wars and greater austerity.

If you think I'm exaggerating, over the next months observe how the national GOP is trying to rig the 2012 elections in Pennsylvania, Michigan and a few other big states. Our Electoral College system is bad enough, but they are going to 'reform' it to make it worse by attaching electoral votes to congressional districts, rather than statewide popular majorities. This would mean Obama could win the popular vote statewide, but the majority of electoral votes would still go to the GOP. Add that to their new 'depress the vote' requirements involving picture IDs, which are aimed at the poor and the elderly, and you'll see their fear and hatred of the working class.

We've always had government with undue advantages for the rich. But just watch them in this round as they go all out to make it even more so. We have to call it out for what it really is, and put their schemes where the sun doesn't shine.

Read more!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jobs Programs: The Right and Wrong Turns

The Hot Potato Too Many Beltway Wonks Avoid:

The Need to Tie Job Creation to Industrial Policy

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

If you want to be a good policy advocate for jobs these days, two starting points will help you a lot. One is to take off your national blinders and see the economy globally. The second is to grasp how the need for revenues to finance the creation of new jobs can best be filled by increasing taxes on unproductive wealth.

A good example of the problem is Robert's Samuelson's 'Job Creation 101' op-ed column in the Sept 12 Washington Post. If we simply follow his lesson plan, we would end up creating new jobs in the third world--and doing so mainly at the expense of the wrong people at home.

Samuelson begins his argument wisely enough by stressing how increasing demand for goods and services creates jobs, and government has to have a hand in it. But then he goes astray:

"If government taxed, borrowed or regulated less, that money would stay with households and businesses, which would spend it on something else and, thereby, create other jobs. Politics determines how much private income we devote to public services.

"To this observation, there's one glaring exception. In a slump, government can create jobs by borrowing when the private economy isn't spending."

On the first point, tweaking taxes so both people and businesses have more cash to spend glosses over the matter of where and how the money is spent. Using extra income to pay down your Visa Card doesn't help job creation much. And if you spend it at Wal-Mart or other big box stores, you'll create some demand to hire more workers in China or Malaysia, but not much here.

On the second point, it's not always wise to create jobs simply by borrowing. It certainly adds to the revenues of the banks and bondholders.  But it's much smarter to go after unproductive pools of capital with progressive taxation. The proposal for a financial transaction tax on Wall Street speculators is an excellent example.

The rule-of-thumb is to tax activities you want to discourage, such as unproductive gambling in derivatives, while subsidizing efforts you want to encourage, such as new green manufacturing startups. It's called 'industrial policy,' and it's why some countries that have one, like China and Germany, are weathering the economic storms better than others.

If Obama's new jobs program is going to be thwarted by a hostile Congress anyway, those politicians who are serious about creating jobs would do well to fight for the best options-direct government programs that fund increasing local demand for local labor and raw materials.  If we had every county in the country funded to build a wind farm or solar array as a public power utility, it would be a good start. So would the building of the new and massive 'Smart Grid' power lines for clean and green energy.

When finance capital's opposition in Congress rears its head to crush something that makes perfect sense to everyone else, then we'll learn exactly who is part of the problem and who is part of the solution. If we get political clarity here in a massive way, we'll be in a much better position to assemble the popular power required to get what we really need.

Read more!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

1000s at Labor Day Focus on Plight of Unemployed

Photo: Aliquippa's SOAR Contingent in Parade

By Kaitlynn Riely
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Labor Day was a day off work for many, but for Shawn Wygant, it was one more day he didn't have a job.

In May, Mr. Wygant, 37, of Forest Hills, was laid off from his job as a washing machine operator for Sodexo. Since then, he has been searching for work, without success.

He uses unemployment benefits to pay his bills and makes large pots of spaghetti to feed his wife, her sister, her brother and a niece and nephew.

Frustration sets in when he sees news reports that say the job situation may not improve for years.

"I can't wait that long," he said. "We need people to start standing up for us."

On Monday morning, he stood in the rain on Freedom Corner in the Hill District as he prepared to march in the Pittsburgh Labor Day Parade. He was one of about 70,000 who participated in the Downtown procession.

On the annual observance of the contributions of workers, Mr. Wygant's story was similar to those of millions across the country who have found themselves unemployed or underemployed in the economic downturn.

Nationally, the unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, and in Pennsylvania, it is 7.4 percent.

Jack Shea, president of the Allegheny County Labor Council, and Frank Snyder, the secretary-treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, called attention to the plight of the jobless at a news conference before the parade Monday.

For the unemployed and the underemployed, the dreary holiday weather was another chapter in a bleak period of their life.

"For the past two years, it's not been that happy of a Labor Day as they've not been able to find work," Mr. Snyder said.

At this year's Labor Day Parade, one of the largest in the country, Mr. Snyder said he and other leaders of Pittsburgh's labor community wanted to focus on putting people back to work.

That focus includes both union and non-union workers, he said.

"Unemployment does not discriminate," he said. "Union members as well as non-union members, Democrats, Republicans, no affiliation, find themselves unemployed on this Labor Day."

Dave Ninehouser, the Pittsburgh coordinator for PA Wants to Work, said his group was using Labor Day to ramp up its efforts to help the jobless gain access to resources and to spur the creation of jobs.

"This parade is a perfect example of what we need to do," he said. "Come together, stick together, stand together and fight back."

The parade began at 10 a.m. and lasted almost three hours. Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Bishop David Zubik joined union members ranging from postal employees to Teamsters as they marched from the Civic Arena to the Boulevard of the Allies.

A steady rain fell throughout the morning, but there was a fair turnout, particularly among parade participants.

It was, for many parade participants, a bittersweet Labor Day.

About 5,000 members of the Pennsylvania State Education Association have been laid off from their jobs due to education cuts in the state budget, said Michael J. Crossey, president of the association. As the school year starts, they are out of work instead of in the classrooms, he said.

"We need to start doing the positive things that will move the economy forward," Mr. Crossey said. "This cuts budget doesn't work."

More than 50 people came out in support of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said Mike Plaskon, the executive vice president for Branch 84.

Part of their aim in marching in the parade, Mr. Plaskon said, was to urge Congress to find legislative solutions for the U.S. Postal Service's funding crisis.

"Our job is, we are going to get the facts out there, let the public know that they don't need to close post offices," he said. "They don't need to eliminate Saturday delivery. They just need to fix the funding."

Therese Kisic of Morningside has never been in a union but has family members who have, and she watches the parade every year.

This year, she said, she wished the labor movement would take its jobs message to Congress.

"I want to move this parade to D.C.," she said.

Although the parade had a definite message -- of supporting organized labor, providing access to health care and promoting job creation -- it was still a parade, with bands and banners and a few people throwing candy and other prizes to the umbrella-wielding bystanders.

Sandy and Andrew Pszenny of Franklin Park sat in lawn chairs on the sidewalk outside the DoubleTree Hotel, Downtown, and watched for their daughter Amanda, a piccolo player in the North Allegheny marching band.

They sought cover under their umbrellas as rain fell. It was their daughter's first time marching in a downpour, they said.

"But she's a tough kid. She likes the weather," Mr. Pszenny said.

Kaitlynn Riely: o

Read more!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

No Shame When It Comes To ‘Fracking’

The Low Road to Ecological Perdition:
Greed Tries Turning Natural Gas 'Green'

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

It's hard to decide who has less shame, the Pennsylvania legislature's GOP-led majority or the natural gas industry.

The question is raised by a Sept. 2, 2011 report in the Pittsburgh Business Times headlined, "Gas as alternative energy? New PA bill says yes."

So we're now faced with yet another sweetheart deal concocted jointly by our two local big-time political hustlers. They want to declare natural gas as a 'tier two alternative energy' to get their hands on tax credits earmarked for real green startups. To add insult to injury, both are also blocking any extraction tax on the gas released from the Marcellus shale by the environmentally dangerous 'fracking' underground explosions.

That's like someone picking your pocket with one hand while attaching your paycheck with the other.

Let's get this straight. Taking any form of carbon from under the ground, burning it, and putting the resulting carbon dioxide in the air is not an 'alternative energy.' Claiming so puts you in the running for the George Orwell 1984 'War is Peace' award.

There's only one rational, strategic way to burn carbon for energy: set aside part of the profits from this decidedly un-green process to create the investment fund for true alternative energy systems. Over time, this will help phase out the burning of carbon as a primary energy source altogether.

Here's something most kids learn in their high school Earth Science classes, even if our paid-off politicians and short-sighted and carbon-addicted business leaders are in denial:

Alternative energies, for the most part, derive from the interplay of the Earth, Sun and Moon. That's solar cells and solar collectors, wind turbines, hydro power and wave generators taking advantage of tides and other ongoing movement of water. The few exceptions are geothermal sources, tapping into the heat below the Earth's crust. All these are practically inexhaustible and leave a relatively low ecological footprint. That's why they're called 'renewable' and 'green'.

When brought to scale and with the proper technology--almost all of which is already invented and in use in many parts of the world--renewable energies can provide almost all our needs, from running heavy industry and powering land-based transportation to turning on your porch lights. We'll still need a small amount of hydrocarbons to power aircraft, but even that can be reduced with electromotive high-speed rail.

What's more, making the transition to clean and green energy requires a massive but productive increase in modern high-tech, high-value-added manufacturing and the jobs that go with them. That's why Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers has been hammering away at their importance for years now.

That's also the high road to economic and energy development for creating new wealth here at home.  But our legislature or at least a majority of it, along with the speculators bound up with the Marcellus Shale, want to take us down the low road to less sustainable low-wage growth and disaster-threatening ecological perdition.

This bill is simply the latest case in point. It's time for the Blue-Green alliance and a job-building, progressive-minded majority to expose these shenanigans, get rid of the shale-related corruption and organize the independent political clout to put us on a proper clean and green course.

Read more!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Why Neoliberals Have Trouble Telling the Truth

Media Wars and Manufacturing Consent:

Getting People to Vote Against Themselves

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

"Newt Gingrich: Obama's 'Bureaucratic Socialism' Kills Jobs" is one of many similar headlines appearing on dozens of web-based news portals in this 2012 election season. This one keeps popping up, and I'm getting sick of seeing it.

The reason? It manages to pack several major lies, each of which you could write a book about, into just five words-and hardly an editor anywhere takes a blue pencil to it.

Don't get me wrong. I've got no problem with 'socialism.' My shoot-from-the hip response when someone spits the 'S' word out in a political argument is, "Socialism? I've been a socialist all my life, and proud of it. We should be so lucky as to have some socialism around here. Unfortunately, we're not even close."

First of all, Barack Obama is not a socialist. Even back in his more youthful years in Illinois, at best on a good day, he was simply a neo-Keynesian liberal with a few high tech green ideas. Keynesians believe, among other things, that when markets fail, government has the task of being the consumer of last resort, even hiring people directly to build infrastructure and put people to work,

But these days, surrounded by a 'Team of Rivals' largely from Wall Street, Obama has set aside any earlier Keynesian policies he held and has been, wittingly or not, sucked into the black hole of the prevailing neoliberal hegemony.

What's 'Neoliberal hegemony?' That's a shorthand phrase for the current domination of our government by Wall Street finance capital. It simply wants to diminish any government initiatives or programs, except for those that line their own pockets.

Keynesians and others, in and out of government, have opposed the neoliberals. They've advocated a range of reasonable proposals for getting us out of the current crisis-ending the wars, Employee Free Choice Act, Medicare for All, the People's Budget submitted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. John Conyer's HR 870 Full Employment Bill-but they all keep getting declared "off the table" by the neoliberals.

On Gingrich's second charge, far from being 'bureaucratic,' Obama, wisely or not, has actually reduced the number of federal employees, and made other cuts that will cause the states to do likewise.

On the third charge, far from 'killing jobs,' Obama's initial proposals regarding employment have actually created a few jobs, but not nearly enough. Why? Because of the real job-killing votes of Gingrich's Republican allies in the House.

It doesn't take a chess champion to figure any of this out. Any decent checker player could make an honest call of the false moves in the 'socialist job killer' gambit of Gingrich and other GOP presidential pretenders running the same rap.

But why distort the truth this way? Newt Gingrich is a smart man. He knows that Keynesianism is designed to keep capitalism going, and that socialism is something quite different and has very little to do with this debate. So why does he keep this 'Big Lie' business up?

It's a smokescreen. At bottom, Gingrich, the GOP and the far right are promoting a grand neoliberal project to repeal the New Deal and the Great Society, the primary past examples of liberal government dealing with market failure.

The right's problem is too many things that came out of those periods had some success and are still popular with a majority of voters-the elderly like Medicare and Social Security, labor likes the Wagner Act and the right to bargain collectively, Blacks and other minorities like the Voting Rights Act, and women like Title Seven. To take them all down, which is what the neoliberal-far right alliance wants, means you have to attack them indirectly, rather than directly.

So how does it work? You have to start with what most people fear most-losing their jobs-and then combine it with the darker demons of our past, such as anti-communism, racism and sexism. Next you mush all your potential adversaries--the socialist left, the liberals and progressives, and the FDR-loving moderates--into one huge combined bogey man. You make it into a hideous package that's going to scare voters into casting ballots against themselves. To put a fancier term on it, it's called manufacturing consent to combine with outright coercive force in getting you to submit to a renewed hegemonic bloc.

That's what Newt is doing here. In short, it's when they get you to think all your neighbors and co-workers are your enemies, while all the guys on Wall Street are your friends. You're going to hear a lot of it over the next year. Don't fall for it.

Read more!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Time to Get Serious About Full Employment

Yes, We Need a Jobs Program, But One

That Doesn't Tinker Around the Edges


By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

Our regional daily newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, to its credit, came out with an editorial today, Aug. 22, 2011, urging President Obama to push for a substantial jobs program over Republican opposition.

"Action on jobs: Obama must push hard to get people back to work" is the headline, and a key point stresses "Mr. Obama now needs to offer proposals equal to the size of the problem. That means bold strokes, not half-measures. If his Republican antagonists in Congress are determined to stand in the way of getting Americans back to work, the president must say so publicly -- and then go over their heads to enlist the nation in his effort."

Terrific, a good framing of the question. Unfortunately, however, once you get into the substance of the piece, it turns into a muddle. The Post-Gazette offers up a hodgepodge of proposals that tinker around the edges of the problem-more tax cuts and credits for jobs created, more unemployment benefits, and oddly, more trade deals, even though these deals mostly result in net job losses.

Here's the heart of the matter. In a down economy, jobs are created by increasing demand, by more customers with bigger orders coming to a firm's doors. The problem is that consumer demand has taken a nose dive when the credit bubble burst. People don't have money to spend. They're cutting back on everything, and trying to unload their debt. This means business-to-business orders shrink as well. Companies may be cash-rich and have high profits, but with no increase in orders or customers at their door, they aren't likely to hire people to do nothing just to get a tax credit.

This is where government has to become the key customer. It has to make huge productive purchases for local work and local materials to build productive infrastructure-county-owned green energy plants, new and improved schools, modernized locks and dams, Medicare for all, investment in young students and veterans like we did with the GI Bill, investment in research in new industries, and so on.

Most important, to work well, it can't be nickel-and-dimed to death. It has to be on the scale of the expenditures for World War 2. That's when the 'multiplier effect' can kick in, and related growth in manufacturing can take off in turn. And it has to be paid for by going to where the most appropriate money is, imposing a financial transaction tax on unproductive and destabilizing speculation by Wall Street.

The best the P-G does on this matter is to support Obama's proposal for an 'Infrastructure Bank,' but urges him to find a way to bypass a GOP roadblock in Congress.

But even that is too passive. It says, in effect, here's a small pot of money. If you want to repair some roads, come and get some.

What we really need is something like the New Deal's Tennessee Valley Authority and Works Progress Administration, but on steroids, a TVA-WPA-CCC 2.0. We need to pass John Conyer's HR 870 Full employment Bill. We need the Dept. of Energy and the Dept. of Labor to go to every county in the country with a fully funded proposal to build new green energy wind farms and solar power arrays as public energy utilities, hiring local workers at union scale, with no obstacles to a union election. And that's just for starters.

Yes, we need a serious jobs program. But it's time for everyone who utters that phrase to get serious themselves. Why? Because it's going to take a massive upsurge in class struggle to get it by removing those standing in the way.

[Carl Davidson is a Steelworker Associate and a retired computer technician living in Beaver County.  His 'Keep On Keepin' On' column appears in Beaver County Blue, website of the 4th CD Progressive Democrats of America.]

Read more!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Progressive Cynicism and Misplaced White Anger

The Far Right's Two Magic Weapons for 2012

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

If you want a Republican sweep in the 2012 election, follow this simple formula: Keep blaming the White House alone as the main cause of every problem the country faces, and ignore the Tea Party as overblown has-beens.

That's not advice from me. That's from Richard Viguerie, who some might remember as the think-tanker  and skilled pollster of the 1970's New Right that helped usher in Reagan and the era of neoliberal hegemony we've suffered under ever since. That's what he hopes the center and left will do over the next year.

An Aug, 10, 2011 syndicated column by Viguerie reminds us that presidential elections don't require a majority of popular votes, but only a majority of votes in the Electoral College.

"The Aug. 8 Gallup tracking poll shows that Obama is at 50 percent or better approval rating in only 16 states, the majority of which are normally considered Democratic bastions. Those 16 states represent 203 electoral votes of the 270 needed to win the presidency." Then he adds: "Key states, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida that contributed to Obama's 365-to-173 blowout of the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008, are in play at this time. It gets better. The states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, which are now in play, were three of the top states where the tea party wave swept new constitutional conservative members into Congress."

Viguerie goes on to discuss the role of the Tea Party insurgency in Michigan and California among angry white voters. He adds an astute point: if the GOP puts up a 'moderate' like Romney, Obama wins narrowly. But if it plays its 'wild cards' like Bachmann and Perry, the far right's  activist base is energized-and at a time when Obama's strategy is dissing his own left-progressive base for the wimpy and ever-narrowing 'center.'

In short, keep the left inactive, the progressives and the center divided, and the Tea Party energizer bunnies get their 270 electoral votes.

It's not a bad projection for the prospects of a neoliberal alliance with proto-fascists, with the latter in the driver's seat. The alternative view is that the majority of serious Wall St finance capital is circling the wagons around Obama. They're not interested in the wilder instabilities that would be fueled by Bachmann or Perry White House.

Maybe so. Serious money matters in American politics. But the far right has some serious money too, and they can combine it with an army of insurgents.

Therein lays our problem. At the moment, we have no candidate for peace and prosperity at the top of the ticket. But we need candidates of that sort at any level if we are to unite and mobilize a left-progressive base in 2012. We have the negative motivator of a possible Tea Party win, but only if we take them seriously. But we need more than that. We need candidates that will fight positively for what working-class people need, not what Wall Street needs. The People's Budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is a good starting point. We'll have some candidates who will back it, but we'll need them placed in the states with clout in electoral votes. We don't have enough at the moment.

Don't expect much help from the Blue Dog and upper crust Democrats. No matter how you slice it, it's going to be a tough fight. So organize your co-workers and neighbors independently, and prepare for some fierce battles.

Read more!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More Taxes for More Wars?

Scrambled Brains in High Places

Photo: Wasted War Junk in Iraq

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

Members of Congress had best be careful. If it hasn't already done so, the 'deficit madness' virus circulating in those hallowed halls will turn your brains into scrambled eggs.

That's the conclusion to draw from the latest bright idea from Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass) reported in the Aug 16 Washington Post-a new tax surcharge on taxpayers across the board to pay for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"These wars ought to be paid for and not put on a credit card so that our kids will have to pay for this in the future," McGovern said in a recent telephone interview. It's morally wrong for members [of Congress] to call for support of our soldiers and then not ask the rest of us to pay for it .?.?. or have it left to the poor and middle-income and seniors to bear the sacrifice along with our soldiers and their families. That's wrong."

McGovern wants the 'Super-Congress' Deficit Commission to take it up.

Only the last phrase about putting the burden on the poor contains any sense, especially since the overall costs, not to mention lives lost on all sides, is approaching $3 trillion. The rest is just screwy.

But I have a better idea. First, end the wars immediately, and only allocate enough money to get all our troops and contractors back home lickety-split. Second, pass a bill to pick up the tab by doing away with the oil depletion allowances and all other tax breaks on the oil companies. If that's not enough, put a tax on transfers of oil stocks and the profits of military contractors. And if they try to jack up the price of gasoline to cover their war expenses, nationalize them. After all, they're the only ones really benefiting from these foreign policy disasters.

Once that's out of the way, we can turn to the more strategic solution: a job creating financial transaction tax on all Wall Street gambling to fund the clean energy and green manufacturing revolution we need to move away from fossil fuels altogether. There are all sorts of places to begin, from 'shovel-ready' low-skilled jobs repairing the locks and dams on our rivers, to higher skilled jobs building and installing county-owned wind and solar generators as public power utilities.

In short, 'Jobs, Not War!' and 'Windmills, Not Weapons' are much better alternatives every which way than more taxes to pay for more wars. Back to the drawing board, Congressman McGovern.

Read more!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

London: ‘Shock Doctrine’ as a Two-Way Street

The Approaching Winter of Our Discontent

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

Watching the rebellions of the young and poor continue in London and now spread to other industrial centers in the UK raises an interesting question: Will the Arab spring and the European summer lead to a fall and winter of discontent here in the USA?

All the makings for it are here. We have impoverished communities of the unemployed where there are huge numbers of young people who have never had a regular job of any sort. Now that any form of taxing the rich for funding a jobs program like that proposed by Rep. John Conyers’ HR 870 has been declared ‘off the table,’ it doesn’t appear likely to change, either.

Add to that the GOP’s ‘Shock Doctrine’ (with an assist from the White House) of creating a neoliberal deficit hoax to take from the working class and give to Wall Street, and you spread deeper misery across all of Main Street.

Now the AFL-CIO, thank goodness, is calling for a new round of mass actions against austerity and in defense of the tattered safety net. Add to that the project, where the peace and justice movement is planning to camp out in downtown DC’s Freedom Plaza until all the troops are brought home from the wars.

It’s a perfect storm shaping up.  Hopefully, many of our young unemployed and under-employed will be drawn to these events. But any police outrage could set off a chain reaction like those in London-we’ve seen this many times in our history.

We have a few decent politicians facing up to the problem, like the 80 votes of the Congressional Progressive Caucus behind the People’s Budget. But our top political class has declared their efforts ‘off the table,’ too.

In brief, they’re telling us our views don’t count and we have nowhere to go.

That’s what the bigwigs in London thought, too. Now they’re all in a tizzy about riots and violence. In contrast, in one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:

“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you? Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

Of course, many small shops and working-class homes, unfortunately, are being harmed in the UK events. Street heat is best when the target is narrowed on the upper class, and you keep the moral high ground. That way you can draw even more millions into relatively peaceful assembly with powerful and lasting implications. But when long-ignored social dynamite explodes, things don’t always work out that way, with the well-controlled niceties of a tea party, no pun intended.

It is right to rebel against outrages and unjust conditions imposed from above. The ‘Shock Doctrine’ is a two-way street, and once it erupts, more than you might think will know which side of the barricades to gather on.

Read more!

Monday, August 08, 2011

‘City of Steel’ by Jasiri X, Our Own Rapper

By Jasiri X and Paradise Gray

According to the New Pittsburgh Courier, “The average homicide victim in 2010 was a 33–year-old Black male with four prior arrests, most likely shot on the North Side, in the Hill District or the East End with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol in the early morning hours of a Saturday in July. The average shooter was a 29-year-old Black male with four prior arrests. The motive was likely retaliation. And according to the clearance-rate data, there is a 46 percent chance that he is still at large.”

This is why we decided to dedicate our latest video to the problem of violence in our community.

“City of Steel” was filmed on Pittsburgh’s Northside at, Northview Heights housing project, Allegheny County General Hospital, Zone No.1 Police Station, Union Dale Cemetery, and the newly reopened state prison, SCI Pittsburgh.

“City of Steel” was produced by Rel!g!on and directed by Paradise Gray.

This is the third video, in the four video series entitled “The Pittsburgh Press”, which was made possible by a generous Seed Award from the Sprout Fund.

In Pittsburgh PA you’ll get served each day
You’re either fiending or you’re tryin to be the Kingpin

In the late hours thugs dream to take power
baked powder cocaine entry in the dope game
X or the Big H reps come from big weight
you can catch a big break graduate to biggate
you can catch a big case graduate to triple max
affidavits, eye witness, warrants for official taps
legal fees cripple stacks, ya funds is limping
with your money on crutches you can’t run from prison
now it got ya gums itching, now you’ve begun snitching
saying you’ve become Christian no more drugs and women
but the press leaked ya name so 44 guns is spitting
no more tongues is flipping you got slugs in ya system
ain’t no happy endings in this coke opera
just broke coppers and dope poppers, bodies found in coat lockers
hope nada you’ll get ya folk shot up
only guarantee is they’ll be another boat with product, here

In Pittsburgh PA you’ll get served each day
You’re either a customer or hustler

In Pittsburgh PA you’ll get served each day
You’re either fiending or you’re tryin to be the Kingpin

In the early morning when ya barely yawning
thugs is carry on and what they carry is long and
sound like cherry bombs and will cherry ya garment and
bury ya squadron
for that cash stash that’s buried in your apartment
be wary of a cartridge
that’s loaded and fired by legendary marksmen
dead on with dead eyes dead weight cause dead guys’
don’t tell the Feds lies therefore the lead flies
In Pittsburgh PA you’ll get served each day
we stay on the fast lane of the freeway
each day’s a replay no room for delay
he say she say he spray she lay
on the pavement she’s going away with
her virginity in tack because she said she’d save it
till the day she got married but that day will never come
cause she died at 16 so she’ll stay forever young, here

In Pittsburgh PA you’ll get served each day
You’re either a customer or hustler

In Pittsburgh PA you’ll get served each day
You’re either fiending or you’re tryin to be the Kingpin

Read more!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Jobs and GOP ‘Dialectics’: Turning Things Into Their Opposites

By Carl Davidson

Beaver County Blue

People sometimes either groan or laugh when they hear the term ‘dialectics,’ a word which some people use to bamboozle others into thinking they know something when they don’t.

But here’s a great ‘laughing out loud’ example inspired by a few lines for Mike Hall’s current post on the AFL-CIO blog today, Aug. 2:

“The 4,000 furloughed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) workers and 90,000 workers on airport construction projects stalled by the Republican shutdown of the FAA are worrying about how they will pay their bills in the coming weeks.

“But the only worry House Republicans have is how they are going to spend their six-week summer vacation. House Republicans leaders adjourned the House last night until Sept. 7 without taking action on reauthorizing an FAA bill so the agency—shutdown since July 22—could reopen and construction funds move down the pipeline again.”

So here’s a great example of Republican ‘dialectics’, their ‘Jobs Plan’ of turning real jobs into their opposites, non-jobs. It’s easy to laugh at, if it didn’t mean so much suffering for so many working-class families. I suppose we could say there’s a ‘unity of opposites’ there, too.

One thing that burns me up more than GOP nonsense, though, are many of the mainstream media pundits who don’t have any idea on how to ask a decent follow-up question. When our right wing lawmakers (and their White House allies) go on at length about cutting this and slashing that, taking money from low-income and middle-income workers and giving it to the super-rich, there always comes a point where they assert, ‘and this will create jobs!.’

Back in my youth I taught logic for a year at the University of Nebraska. Full disclosure here: I actually appreciate real dialectics, and other rules of argument. But one point I often made to my students: An assertion is not an argument.

Now why can’t our media pundits say, ‘Wait a minute here, Congressman (or other policy wonk). You’re cutting both spending and jobs, reducing overall demand. Then you assert this creates jobs? Can you tell us exactly how that works? Especially when it’s mainly demand that creates jobs? An assertion is not an argument.”

If I heard it just once on CNN, it would make my day.

My logic course back in 1965 was for incoming freshman. Wouldn’t it be great if news anchors could at least reach that level, even if it’s too much to expect of Congress and the White House? All the more reason we have to rely on our own labor-oriented blogs and news services. We know how to make use of decent dialectics, and put a spotlight on the foolish versions of our adversaries.

Read more!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Save Us from the ‘Business Guy’ Candidates

Mitt Romney at Screen Machine in Ohio


By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue

Some things just drive you nuts.

Take Mitt Romney. Yesterday the GOP's presidential wannabe toured Screen Machine, a factory in Pataskala, Ohio, just outside Columbus.  The plant make heavy construction equipment, rock crushers to be exact.

Romney and the owners, Doug and Steve Cohen, held a typical photo-op. Mitt took the occasion to blast both Obama and 'government' as 'bad for business.'

Really? What did Mitt have in mind? A wimpy stimulus package? A failure to build more infrastructure? In that case, he might have a point.

But no, the real problems are environmental regulation, labor safety codes and health care. In other words, with more pollution and more unsafe conditions at work, and less health care to deal with the consequences, business could surge ahead.

There's not any truth to that claim, but that's not the worst of it.

First, there's the irony that Obama's health care plan is basically a national version of Romney's Massachusetts Plan. If we could scrap both and replace them with 'Medicare for All,' yes, it would be better for both workers and business--save for the health insurance firms.

But the real clincher is the story of Screen Machines, where Mitt, the tough-minded, pragmatic business guy candidate, was delivering his words of economic wisdom. Here's the Washington Post on the topic:

"Yet it's been the government - and Obama's policies in particular - that has helped propel Screen Machine's growth at its sprawling new headquarters here, even during the recession. The company, which builds heavy-duty crushing and screening machines used in construction, mining and recycling, received four stimulus awards totaling $218,607. It is also benefiting from a 10-year deal with local and state governments to not pay taxes on its property, equipment or inventory, according to public records."

We need to make a minimum requirement of all elected officials that they at least have the ability to blush when feeding us a lot of nonsense. Of course, that might wipe out most of Congress, and a few in the White House, too. But then we'd have some open slots for politicians who count voters rather than dollars.

Read more!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Marcellus Shale’s Bigger Picture

Clean Water, Green Energy and the Big Blue Marble

By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue

A Reuter's story this morning about the rising threat to the water supplies of 12 East Coast cities connected a few dots for me. The threat comes from burning carbon and climate change, which will raise sea levels and wreak havoc in numerous ways.

"Rising sea waters may threaten U.S. coastal cities later this century, while the Midwest and East Coast are at high risk for intense storms, and the West's water supplies could be compromised, "the story led off. "These are among the expected water-related effects of climate change on 12 cities across the nation over the remainder of the century, according to a study released on Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environmental group.

"A lot of people think of climate change in the global context, but they don't think about the local impact climate change might have, particularly on water-related issues," said Steve Fleischli, a senior attorney with NRDC's water program."

Perhaps it's because my daughters and grandkids live in New York City that the story caught my eye. 'We'll have to make room for them here in Beaver County,' up in the hills on the west slope of the Alleghenies, I first thought.

But what about the Marcellus shale fracking by the gas drillers? We might not have any decent water here, either.

Read more!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Unemployment: Lies, Blue Smoke and Mirrors

Lies, Blue Smoke and Mirrors: The Neoliberal-Tea Party Jobs Plan at Work
By Carl Davidson
File this under the ‘Why is Anyone Surprised Dept?’ 
This morning’s Pittsburgh news media lets us know that more and more Pennsylvanians are unemployed. Particularly,  it’s in ‘Unemployment rate up in Pennsylvania’ in the Pittsburgh Business Times by Paul J. Gough.
What’s interesting is how it gets spelled out:
“Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate rose slightly in June as the Commonwealth followed an upward trend of national jobless data that has been rising since the spring.“The state’s unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in June compared to 7.4 percent in May, according to data released Thursday afternoon by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. That translated into a net of 2,600 jobs lost to a total 6.3 million people employed in Pennsylvania. Specific data for Pittsburgh won’t be released for several weeks, but unemployment increased in Pittsburgh to 7 percent in May, the most recent month where data is available.“Much of the decreases were due to 7,800 jobs cut in education, health and social services. Also losing jobs were financial (2,000 jobs), leisure and hospitality (1,400 jobs), and professional/business services (1,700 jobs).”
What this means is that our GOP governor’s plan is working as designed. He and others of his ilk are determined to slash government spending on social services and the work force that provides them.  Now if we combine this with taking money from low-income and middle-income workers, and give it to the superrich as tax cuts, we can help the ‘recovery’ of the wealthy by reducing consumer demand from the rest of us.
Now put these two planks together, and you have the GOP-Blue Dog-Tea Party plan for employment, and as we can see, it’s working rather well.
Of course the numbers are going in the opposite direction from what they’ve been claiming will happen. Maybe we just need even more layoffs and even less spendable income at the bottom, and then we’ll really see things take off!
Now Obama’s problem is buying into this. But if he’s going to sell it beyond the business press, it’s going to need a sales team with a lot of lies, blue smoke and mirrors.

The Neoliberal-Tea Party Jobs Plan at Work

By Carl Davidson

File this under the ‘Why is Anyone Surprised Dept?’

This morning’s Pittsburgh news media lets us know that more and more Pennsylvanians are unemployed. Particularly,  it’s in ‘Unemployment rate up in Pennsylvania’ in the Pittsburgh Business Times by Paul J. Gough.

What’s interesting is how it gets spelled out:

“Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate rose slightly in June as the Commonwealth followed an upward trend of national jobless data that has been rising since the spring.

“The state’s unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in June compared to 7.4 percent in May, according to data released Thursday afternoon by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. That translated into a net of 2,600 jobs lost to a total 6.3 million people employed in Pennsylvania. Specific data for Pittsburgh won’t be released for several weeks, but unemployment increased in Pittsburgh to 7 percent in May, the most recent month where data is available.
“Much of the decreases were due to 7,800 jobs cut in education, health and social services. Also losing jobs were financial (2,000 jobs), leisure and hospitality (1,400 jobs), and professional/business services (1,700 jobs).”

What this means is that our GOP governor’s plan is working as designed. He and others of his ilk are determined to slash government spending on social services and the work force that provides them.  If we combine this with taking money from low-income and middle-income workers, and give it to the superrich as tax cuts, we can help the ‘recovery’ of the wealthy by reducing consumer demand from the rest of us.

Now put these two planks together, and you have the GOP-Blue Dog-Tea Party plan for employment, and as we can see, it’s working rather well.

Of course the numbers are going in the opposite direction from what they’ve been claiming will happen. Maybe we just need even more layoffs and even less spendable income at the bottom, and then we’ll really see things take off!

Now Obama’s problem is buying into this. But if he’s going to sell it beyond the business press, it’s going to need a sales team with a lot of lies, blue smoke and mirrors.

Read more!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Turn the Tables on a Rigged Game

By Carl Davidson

Beaver County Blue

Our local conservative newspaper, the Pittsburgh Business Times, carries an instructive story this morning, July 21, 2011, about how to solve our revenue problems, only it fails to make the critical point. So I’ll lend a hand. It says:

“Pennsylvania casinos brought in $81.4 million in tax revenue from table games during the fiscal year that ended last month, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Of that, about $71.3 million went to the state’s general fund and another $10 million went to local municipalities and counties that host the state’s 10 table game casinos.

“The Rivers Casino on the North Shore was responsible for $8 million in state tax revenue and $1.2 million in local payments through its table games operations during the past fiscal year.”

It goes on to break the numbers down even more.

Now I can enjoy a day at the Casino. I recently took my Mom and stepfather, a retired J&L worker, to the Rivers for his 84th birthday. I hit the nickel slot for $1.50 on my first try, but ended up leaving $5 in the hole.

Read more!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

‘Gang of Six’ and the Neoliberal Deficit Trap

What Happens When You Accept a Neoliberal Frame — or How Obama Joined the ‘Gang of Six’ and Became a Reverse Robin Hood

By Carl Davidson

  1. Only one of the Gang of Six pictured above has done something positive recently, Illinois’s Dick Durbin, when he blurted out that ‘the banks own the place’ in reference to Congress

    Otherwise, this crew just cooked up a deal, under a false flag, that claims the US economy is going to recover by taking from the poor and giving to the rich—and now Obama has signed on to it.

    It all follows from the false frame, that our main problem is ‘deficits.’

    No, there’s plenty of money if you go after it in the right places, and our main problems are lack of jobs, unjust tax codes and the lack of a progressive clean energy and green manufacturing industrial policy.

    But neoliberal finance capital has suckered our political class, with some exceptions, into its false framework.  Once you accept the notion that there’s no money, that deficits can’t be corrected without cuts, and that tax cuts create jobs in a down economy, you’re on the road to perdition. Jobs are created by increasing demand, and these measures just decreased demand from both consumers and government. Ask your local deficit hawks to explain how decreased demand creates more jobs, and then try to keep from laughing out loud before they finish.

    The ‘exceptions’ just noted in our political class are the 70+ votes in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and the real solution to the crisis is in the ‘Peoples Budget’ they have promoted to counter both the White House and the GOP-far right alliance. Be sure to help them win in 2012, and to their ranks.

    Progressive Democrats of America is the main group supporting the good guys here, speaking truth to power and calling mass meetings locally around left-progressive solitions. Go to and hook up. We need to grow its size tenfold.


Read more!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Is Wider Unity on the Shale Issue Possible?

A Stronger Steelworkers’ Voice Is Needed

in the Marcellus Anti-Fracking Movement

A Stronger Steelworkers’ Voice Is Needed
in the Marcellus Shale Anti-Fracking Movement

By Carl Davidson

Beaver County Blue

There’s a specter haunting Western PA. It’s the prospect of a working class divided by a fear of water pollution destroying the property values of small homeowners on one side, and on the other side, by the promise of new wealth from the exploitation of natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale deposits.

A similar fear divides West Virginians over ‘mountaintop removal’ mining. Little towns are split between those who want food on the table and those fearful of poisoning their children.

Steelworkers can certainly see the problem in our own terms. It takes a lot of steel pipe to drill down two to four miles, then drill out a horizontally for another mile in a dozen directions. The tube mills are getting the orders and steelworkers are back to work. On the other hand, steelworkers know the dangers of poisoning the ground and the rivers better than most. Read more!

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Paths to Socialism by Carl Davidson

How can the Mondragon Cooperatives, the Solidarity and Green Economies, with an assist from Gramsci and Marx, clear pathways to a new socialism of the 21st century?

Get a copy of Carl Davidson’s new book on the topic:

 New Paths to Socialism


  • The Mondragon Cooperatives and 21st Century Socialism
  • Mondragon Diaries: Five Days Studying Cutting-Edge People and Tools for Change
  • 'One Worker, One Vote:' US Steelworkers to Experiment With Factory Ownership, Mondragon Style
  • Green Party Mayor of Richmond, California Signs 'Letter in Intent' with Spain's Mondragon Coops
  • There Is An Alternative: Market Socialism with Radical Democracy
  • Green Jobs Meets the Solidarity Economy: A Dynamic Duo for Changing the World
  • Green Jobs and Class Struggle: A Memo for the Working Class Studies Association
  • Alinsky vs. Arizmendi: Redistribution or Control of Wealth In Changing the World
  • Eleven Talking Points On 21st Century Socialism
  • Jossa: Gramsci, Economic Theory of Worker Cooperatives and the  Transition to a Socialist Economy
  • Jossa: Excerpts from ‘Marx, Marxism and the Cooperative Movement’
  • Schweickart: Is Sustainable Capitalism Possible? The Case of China
  • $15 from Changemaker Publications.
Read more!

GoStats web counter