A union leader has called for greater equality in society, saying the "soar-away super-rich" are becoming cut off from the rest.
Low pay for public sector workers could also cause "simmering resentment", TUC general secretary Brendan Barber warned in his New Year message.
He urged more help for workers "at the bottom", faster progress on ending child poverty and fairer workplaces.
Mr Barber said tax loopholes should be closed so the rich pay a "fair share".
He said the "super-rich" took advantage of tax loopholes, and their lives were "cut off from the rest of us".
"This is not just bad for social cohesion, but distorts the economy.
"If the super-rich and big companies are not paying their fair share it means that the rest of us - including small and medium sized businesses are paying too much, that public services are not getting the growth they need and that we do not have the resources to end child poverty," he added.
"No-one particularly enjoys paying tax but it is the price tag for a civilised society, and it's about time that we had a proper debate about whether those who can afford it are paying their fair share."
He also criticised government plans to limit public sector pay rises to 2% per year over the next three years.
"It does not just threaten the recruitment, retention and morale of public servants but will damage an industrial relations system that has minimised conflict in the public sector."
In a gloomy outlook of the labour market for next year, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said 2008 "would be the worst year for jobs this decade and easily the worst since the Labour Government came to power in 1997".
Report author, chief CIPD economist John Philpott, said reduced hiring in the private sector and job reductions in the public sector were predicted to cause "a net rise in total UK employment of 75, 000 (0.25%) in the year to December 2008, only a third of the rise recorded in both 2006 and 2007".
Friday, 28 December 2007
"I was going to Karachi and postponed all activities planned in connection with boycott of election.
Here a short statement we issued just now
Labour Party Pakistan demands immediate resignation of Musharaf dictatorship. The dictatorship is directly responsible for the killing of Benazir Bhutto. It failed to provide security to PPP leader.
Labour Party Pakistan spokesperson Farooq Tariq and general secretary Nisar Shah in a joint statement call for a three days general strike nationwide to protest the killings and to demand the dictatorship must resign now.
Monday, 24 December 2007
Sunday, 16 December 2007
The SSP (Scottish Socialist Party) notes the arrest today of former member Tommy Sheridan.
The Scottish Socialist Party is far more interested in campaigning to improve the lives of working people in Scotland, to end the hated council tax, promote public ownership of our public services, rid this country of nuclear weapons, end the war in Iraq, achieve independence for Scotland and support workers involved in industrial action to defend their jobs, pay and conditions.
Fighting for justice for working people remains our priority.
For us, today that struggle continues.
Saturday, 15 December 2007
DON'T BELIEVE THE MEDIA SPIN!
"We will go forward and join consensus", announced US delegate Paula Dabrinsky.
And so, the Climate Change talks have ended with agreement after the US finally conceded to the wording of the document after pleas from other nations.
At least, that's how the mainstream media is reporting it!
The TRUE breakthrough, as witnessed by me, happened a few hours earlier when China and India confronted Conference organisers with threats that they were going to walk out of the talks.
They had just discovered that their Indonesian hosts were rushing through the final 'decision-making' meeting while closed-door talks were still going on with developing nations at another venue!
China and India angrily accused the organisers of manipulating the conference processes and demanded that the plenary (decision-making) session be delayed until talks with the developing nations were completed.
When this news was revealed several shocked delegates rushed out of the meeting, presumably to find out why they were being asked to make a final decision while crucial talks were still in session elsewhere.
The most important sections of the final document are: that UN scientific advice WILL be included in the agreement, that developed countries must cut emissions by the year 2020 and that clean energy technology will be freely shared with the developing world.
Where to now?
This final agreement heralds the start of two years of discussions leading to a worldwide pact addressing the problem of global warming.
The Treaty, at the end of these 2 years of negotiations, will take effect in 2012 and will replace the Kyoto Protocol.
At last, we are witnessing the birth of a Global Warming Treaty for Earth.
It's going to be a long and painful process but all the birthing instruments are in place and we are now ready to proceed with the delivery.
Vigilance and resolve will be needed over the next few years to ensure we end up with a Treaty that will save our planet.
But history will record that it was the last-minute intervention by the 2 largest developing nations that may have saved the human race!
- Klaatu out.
STAGGERING TO THE FINISH LINE.
As the Bali Climate Change talks drag into another (and probably final) day there is an air of sadness here that so much still remains to be done.
After 2 weeks and almost 1000 meetings between delegates from 187 countries there is a sense of disbelief that they could not reach consensus on the wording of a 3-page document to frame the terms of negotiations for a climate change deal after 2012 (when the Kyoto Protocol expires).
Yes, that's exactly what these talks were all about - simply to put together a 3-page Declaration outlining what should be done after the Kyoto Protocol.
So where does the blame lie?
Mostly, on the developed economies of the world (led by the US). For example - even now, in these dying hours of the talks, the US is fighting hard to stop the Declaration referring to the United Nations scientific advice. That advice states that "developed countries MUST cut emissions by 25pct - 40pct by the year 2020 to avoid global temperature rises that will cause severe climate change."
This advice is verified by climatologists worldwide, yet is only disputed by the US delegates at this conference.
Scientists have also warned that without deep cuts to emissions the world faced, WITHIN THE NEXT 50 YEARS, the possible loss of 30pct of animal and plant species, there could be as many as 50million climate refugees and 16 of the world 19 largest cities (including Jakarta and Shanghai) could be threatened by sea level rises.
Even if these numbers were halved - they are horrific figures!
The EU, for its part, has been equally inflexible from the other direction. They are insisting that ALL the scientific data be included in the final document.
Australia has been heavily criticised too, for its failure to stand with the EU and developing nations. Choosing a 'wait and see' approach while it awaits final advice from its own environmental experts (due mid-2008) before taking sides!
So, in these final hours, where do the major players stand:
AUSTRALIA: Agrees to reducing emissions by 60pct (based on year 2000 levels) by 2050. But they will not commit to 2020 targets until after their own scientific reports are concluded mid-2008.
They also will not sign the agreement on the 2020 figures for fears US and CANADA will walk away from the talks.
CHINA: Supports deep cuts by 2020 for developed nations while investing in solar energy reafforestation inside China. However, as a developING nation they are not bound by these agreements.
EUROPEAN UNION: Still arguing for binding 25pct-40pct emissions cuts by 2020 and transfer of clean technology to the developing world.
INDONESIA: Calls on developed countries to do more, will work to preserve its own rainforests, aims to reduce fossil fuels consumption from 52pct to 20pct by 2025.
UNITED STATES (with qualified support from CANADA and JAPAN): Will not support binding targets just for developed countries, insisting these commitments must be agreed by ALL countries. Does not condone the free transfer of technology to help developing countries control their carbon emissions.
(However, California has already set its own target of 80pct emission cuts by 2050!).
As one British delegate put it: "America is acting like business class passengers in a plane plummeting to the ground. What they don't realise is, we're all going to crash together."
My final (and MUCH shorter!) report before I fly out of Bali - in about 5 hours.
- Klaatu :))
SLLU member Klaatu reports direct from Bali climate change conference - plus - sign the online petition now!
Click the picture below to sign the urgent online petition to break the US/Canada/Japan deadlock on the Bali climate change talks.
Please show your support!
Now read the article from SLLU member Klaatu Congrejo who has sent this report from direct Bali:
Latest from the Climate change Conference.
Its past midnight here in Bali and the conference is continuing into the night to try and find some consensus on deadlines for carbon imission limits. The USA is, once again, proving to be the main stumbling block on the road to consensus for global emission targets - with some qualified support from Canada and Japan.
From your reporter on the ground - what is REALLY going on here in Bali?
The media is deperately trying to find a win/lose story at the moment, but the reality is that there won't be one (unless it all collapses in a big heap at the end of the day).
At this very moment (almost 1am, 15th December) talks are continuing into the night to try and achieve some kind of consensus at these talks and in all probability it looks like there will be some kind of 'draw' declared with no solid agreement on the table but with everyone still 'committed' to the process - which is quite a desperate scenario considering the urgency of the situation!
So, before I leave Bali and return home to Australia tomorrow, the talk in the corridors here is as follows.....
1. Everyone is committed to doing a deal but there are still major differences.
2. Some of the larger developing countries will talk about what contribution they can make in reducing carbon emissions, but they want meaningful talks on technology tranfers from rich countries in return. This is opposed by the US, EU, CANADA and JAPAN.
3. The US is trying to get support for its own climate talks process, outside of the UN, which involves voluntary actions by what it calls 'the big emitters'.
4. Australia appears to be weak in these discussions, despite the resolve of the new Labor administration, because it hasn't had time to communicate its new strategy. This has resulted in Australia being either silent in the discussions or moderately obstructive.
5. The Saudis are trying to insert language into the text that will allow for 'compensation' for lost oil revenue.
6. Even though the EU is taking a progressive role in the talks its feared that they will be outplayed by the US in these final hours.
7. Small (mainly Pacific) island States are demanding and begging for radical and urgent action - but it appears their pleas are falling on deaf ears!
With a little over 12 hours before my flight leaves Bali I will file another report just before take-off when I hope I will be able to relay some better news.
please sign the Climate Change petition if you haven't already done so - only requires 2 minutes of your time! and pass on the link to anyone you know who might be interested:
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
by Danielle niDhighe Danielle Ni Dhighe ( http://scanandpan.blogspot.com/ ) reviews....
Saturday, 1 December 2007
Response to "Revolutionary Communist" polemic attacking my proposal to Call Off Electoral Boycott:
Those who advocate against voting, as a general "revolutionary" line, are either fools or swine.
That is to say, they are either dupes, or outright agents-provocateur for COINTELPRO, engaging in counter-revolutionary sabotage of the movement and our society.
My purpose here is not to defend or support the Democratic Party, which has fallen on it's face too many times, in too many ways, to be considered to have any revolutionary potential, in and of itself, at this time.
My purpose here is to point out that it is necessary to tactically engage the enemy in all arenas, including the electoral, and that the first priority of any revolutionary struggle must be to defend the People, by preventing the worst fascists from seizing or maintaining the power of life and death over the People, to the greatest extent that we possibly can.
When it comes to a choice between a whole lot more death and destruction, and even a somewhat lesser relative degree of death and destruction, as we are presented in the choice between Republicans and Democrats, even a Blue Dog is "better" than a Republican pig, in most instances. And many Democrats are substantially more progressive than Blue Dogs, even if they may not be absolutely politically correct in every regard.
Even just a little bit more health care, housing, education, meaningful employment, and more equitable taxes are "better" than a whole lot less of everything, in terms of how many people are going to horribly suffer and die in the downward social and economic spiral that capitalism imposes on the general population.
Even a little bit less racism, sexism, war, eco-rape, and corporate rip off here and abroad, is "better" than a whole lot more of the same, for all Peoples, everywhere.
Is this good "enough"? Not to a revolutionary. But revolutionaries must take what they can get, in the course of the struggle for justice and peace, and must never abandon the best interests of the People, "on principle", by merely seeking some ridiculous nebulous and ephemeral supposed hegemony over the revolutionary movement with mere rhetorical posturing.
A true revolutionary has no room in their heart, nor in their analysis, for the kind of opportunism that would sacrifice the best interests of the People for some whack, formulaic,100 year old catechism of tortuously contrived "political correctness".
The People need to be able to live, on a day to day basis, in order to be able to make revolution. It's a process, and it's long term. And it's not going to happen over night, or be defeated overnight, based on whether some liberal bourgeois politician "wins" or "loses" a corrupt commercial "election".
But meanwhile, the lives of millions of people all over the world hang in the balance between whether there will be substantially more evil, or, relatively speaking, somewhat lesser evil brought down upon their heads as a result of that election.
Do you really want their blood on your hands, because you were too "principled" to vote for some grossly inadequate liberal bourgeois politician, and thus boycotted the vote, and called on others to boycott the vote (or throw away the vote in a futile gesture of protest and defiance, for a hopeless 3rd party candidate) and thus ushered into power the worst possible fascists available, by default?!
Hear me brothers and sisters! That's how Bush (and Hitler) seized power...refusal of the Left to unite, even tactically, behind the liberal bourgeoisie, to deny the fascists power. Limited, qualified, principled, selective tactical support of the most progressive available likely contenders in the bourgeois elections is only a small tactical element of a much more comprehensive and protracted revolutionary strategy.
Surrendering the power, by default, to the worst fascists, is counter-revolutionary treason against all of the Peoples (and other species) of earth.
Death to Fascism!
Engage the enemy in all arenas, including the electoral.
The Struggle will Continue, nevertheless...
The Democrats are obviously not the solution we seek...we will still have to put fire to their ass, if they "win", but.,.
Press the contradictions!
Call Off the Electoral Boycott!
Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary concept.
All Power to the People!
Submitted by Ernest Newman
Previous proposal, titled: Call Off Electoral Boycott
"Revolutionary Communist" response polemic, titled: Bosses Elections are Mystifications
By Curt Guyette and W. Kim Heron
Arms expert Scott Ritter says the U.S. plans to attack Iran.
By: Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich
America and Israel have accused Iran of intending to diversify its program - they allege that Iran is using its civilian program as a cover to build nuclear bombs. This supposition begs the question why Iran would place itself in the spotlight instead of renouncing the energy program for history has shown that having an operating nuclear power reactor is no longer a prerequisite or even a necessary condition of obtaining fissile material which can be used for the development of nuclear materials.
Set up your own peace camp - free at the lovely Isla Montevideo.
Click the sign at the landing point to receive your free tents. Then create a display of your choosing (max 25 prims) on the theme of peace. Please be respectful of the sim and other contributors.
Friday, 30 November 2007
Thursday, 29 November 2007
To Whom It May Concern:
As you know, the Student's Day (Azar 16th, December 7th) which is held every year as a protesting action in the universities of Iran,
we the communist (in farsi: azady khah va barabary talab) students of the universities in Iran are planning a "Student's Day" demonstration at the University of Tehran.
The main policies of this demonstration include these points:
1. Protest against the war in the Middle East
2. Protesting Against political and social pressures against the student, worker unions and women's rights and … activists
We want: the freedom of speech all through the society, free unions for students, workers and etc. and …
So, we are asking you to support our demonstration through you media on Tuesday,
December 4th at the University of Tehran beginning in front of the Engineering Faculty.
For more information on the details of this demonstration, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
See more information at http://azady-barabary-01.blogspot.com.
Submitted by Ernest Newman. Please contact him inworld for a chat about your view!
Proposal: Call off the Boycott of U.S. Electoral Arenas
It is hereby proposed that all revolutionary actions, political education and propaganda include a clear focus on calling off the present electoral boycott in the
1) Nobody is perfect, or absolutely politically correct
2) Even a Blue Dog is relatively "better" than a Republican Pig
3) Liberal and Progressive Democrats are outnumbered and powerless mainly due to low voter turnout, which hands power over to the worst fascists by default.
4) Statistically and historically, a vast majority of the population support liberal and progressive rhetoric and programs, which is why right wing rhetoric and actions are so hysterical and draconian, and huge resources, including covert operations, are committed, seeking to prevent, discredit, demoralize and discourage participation in the electoral process.
5) Principled. limited, qualified tactical support for bourgeois liberal politicians is not necessarily a "sell out", nor a call to jump on the corrupt commercial bourgeois electoral bandwagon like some kind of naive fool...and need cost us nothing but a slight shift in propaganda lines, and fairly minimal logistical support to facilitate electoral participation.
6) The principle reason Hitler (and Bush) rose to power was because the Left, due to sectarian in-fighting and elitist struggles for hegemony, refused to unite behind the relatively "lesser evil" of the bourgeois liberals, even tactically, within a broader revolutionary strategy, to deny the fascists power.
7) No revolutionary struggle without a broad and undeniable popular democratic mandate has any material hope of moving beyond futile symbolic defensive posturing gestures of protest and defiance. And this requires a substantial super-majority at all levels of political power, in order to be in a position to effectively and materially suppress counter-revolutionary forces in all arenas, where they will fight to the death to sabotage progressive motion, at every step and every turn.
It is therefore proposed that all revolutionary actions, political education and propaganda should include a clear focus on calling off the present electoral boycott in the
With Second Life about to erupt in demostrations against the Western Governments policies of demonising and launching war on Iran (see below), Ted Lang argues that those complicit and indeed pushing this war agenda should be impeached...
Impeach Cheney, Bush and Pelosi!
By Ted Lang
It is Pelosi who now represents Cheney-Bush's most powerful and effective enabler and supporter. Pelosi is now a vital part of the Cheney-Bush crime machine. She is an accessory before, during and after the fact. And she assuredly supports the AIPAC/Cheney-Bush crime machine's intended and unwarranted, unconstitutional invasion of Iran. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article18786.htm
Opinion from SLLU member, Ms Qunhua
Please add your comment!
Perhaps I shouldn't speak having only seen CSI:Miami's "My Nanny"
episode and solved CSI:NY's "Furry Love" mystery on SL, but I'm so
creped out that speak I must.
For those with an aversion to spoilers, you may want to stop reading now.
On CSI:Miami's "My Nanny" episode, a beautiful woman is killed by a
handsome man. The murder is even enacted with a view from inside the
victim's rib cage as the knife is plunged in. The killer shows no
remorse for his actions in the episode's final minutes.
In CSI:NY's in-world "Furry Love" mystery, the promiscuous "Miss
Kitty" is stabbed and her killer expresses pride in his actions. The
in-world video clips also have a racial overtone.
I've enjoyed reading and watching murder mysteries but this possible
trend of the male killer/hero proudly committing violence against
women is disturbing. How will this influence the domestic
relationships of CSI audience members?
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
There is a major demonstration planned for second life this Saturday. The demonstration is for people in secondlife to show their abhorrence of the present build up to war/annihilation of
Whatever your political view, no-one can say what has been done on the people of
There are different political positions represented in this demo, from conservative through to liberal to ultra-left. The SLLU is a unity group made up of left individuals and groups. We fully support this action by people across the world, and members will be part of this demonstration. Members will also facilitate this demo by contributing demo material. Placards and teeshirts made by people across sl can be found in our freebie shop- made available absolutely free to all who wish to have them.
Please contact any1 Gynoid for details on the demo, and Higgledpiggle Snoats, Plot Tracer, Eremia Woodbury, Hanni Bekkers, Trevor Caldwell, Laura Gagliano or Krisp Alexandre for details on SLLU.
PRESS CONFERENCE: 10AM SLT FRIDAY 30 NOV 2007 Commonwealth 3
DAY OF ACTION: 8AM to 6PM SLT SATURDAY 1 DEC 2007 Commonwealth 3,
Capitol Hill, CNN, Reuters, LIVE-4-U TV, and other protest venues
MAJOR PROTEST ACTION IN SECOND LIFE - STOP THE NEXT WAR: US vs.
EVENT: LAG 4 PEACE's DON'T
Protests, Poetry, and Live Music
SLLU original demonstration - http://slleftunity.blogspot.com/2007/02/sllu-demonstrate-against-us-plans-to.html
PRESSE KONFERENZ: 10 AM SLT/19.00 UHR (deutsche Zeit) Fr. 30. Nov. 07 Commonwealth 3
DAY OF ACTION: 8AM bis 6PM SLT/17.00 - 3.00 Uhr SA. 1 Dez. 07 Commonwealth3,
Capitol Hill, CNN, Reuters, LIVE-4-U TV, and other protest venues
PROTEST AKTION IN SECOND LIFE - STOPPT DEN NÄCHSTEN KRIEG: US vs. IRAN
EVENT: LAGs FÜR DEN FRIEDEN -KEIN IRAK IRAN! Day of Action, Teach-Ins,
Proteste, Poesie, und Live Musik
Kontakt: Any1 Gynoid (Second Life) oder email an .... email@example.com
Nach BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5346524.stm),
die Republikaner haben einen großteils erfundenen Bericht veröffentlicht und durch den
US Kongress verbreitet, der Bericht enthielt Kriegs- inspirierte Lügen über den aktuellen
Stand des Atom- Programms des Iran und über Aktivitäten im Irak. Die United Nation's In-
ternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verurteilten den Bericht energisch und bezeich-
nete ihn als ein Lügenpaket und widerlegten Punkt für Punkt. Letzte Woche berichtete die
IAEA, dass der Iran völlig mit den UN Inspektoren kooperiere. Ein aktueller Artikel im New
Yorker zeigte die wahren Absichten der US- Behörden, insbesondere: "Es ist eine verzwei-
felte Anstrengung von Cheney zu erkennen u.a. schnellstmöglich militärische Aktionen in den
Iran zu bringen
Als Reaktion auf diese alarmierenden Neuigkeiten, organisieren links/progressive SL-Bewohner
eine große Protest-Aktion im Second Life, für den 1. Dezember 2007 zusammen mit anderen
progressiven Gruppen und eigenständigen Personen im SL.
Über Lag4Peace (Lags für den Frieden)
Diese SL-basierende Koalition lädt die Medien dazu ein Teilnahme an unserem Protest zu
haben. Wir heißen die Beteiligung aller Gruppen oder Personen im SL willkommen, die die Welt
frei von Krieg und Tyrannei sehen wollen.
(and a sad Farewell to a great hero of the Union movement).
by Klaatu Congrejo
Before my report on the Australian elections I would like to announce the sad death (early morning 27th Nov. 2007) of Bernie Bantam - a great advocate for the union movement here who was considered a national hero when, only ten days ago and in his hospital wheelchair, he was protesting outside the offices of the outgoing health minister and delivering a huge petition demanding fair compensation for victims of asbestos-related diseases. The health minister, true to form, was not there to accept the petition - despite being informed well in advance.
Bernie contracted asbestosis through his employment with James Hardie Industries, a building & construction company and, with union support, he fought almost 30years for fair compensation for himself and other stricken workers.
A couple of months ago his illness progressed to mesothilioma, the final cancerous stages of the disease, and he was given only weeks to live.
As recently as 3 days ago, and on his deathbed, he appeared (by video link) at a court hearing against James Hardie Industries.
A fighter and true comrade to the end, Bernie will be remembered as a great hero of the union movement here.
As a journalist, I met him several times during these struggles. Even though his death was imminent I was still shocked and saddened when I received the phone call at 6am this morning. I was proud to call him a friend!
On a side note, when I heard that Bernie's days were numbered, I started setting up a block of land in Second Life to be called 'Bernie Bantam Memorial Park'. I will contact his family, at an appropriate time, to inform them of this.
More details of the opening of Bernie Bantam Memorial Park, and a detailed obituary, at a later date.....
AUSTRALIAN ELECTIONS - A FINAL ANALYSIS.
This election was often called "a contest of ideas, not ideology" - and last weekend the Australian people made sure of that.
While it is satisfying to see a Labor government in charge at last - many people are already starting to ask "so whats new?"
Well, the sad answer is that it looks likely that nothing has really changed - apart from the things that any half-decent democratic government would be expected to do.
Oh sure, Kevin Rudd (Labor party leader) promised to "tear up" workplace agreements introduced by the previous government to neutralise the unions and leave workers at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.
Sure, he's promised to "immediately" sign the Kyoto Protocol and bring Australia into line with the rest of the world on global warming discussions.
Sure, he's promised to formally "apologise" to the Aboriginal people for years of neglect under white rule since the British first settled here 222 years ago.
And sure, he's promised to revamp the health and education systems after years of asset-stripping and reduced funding by the previous government.
But, in these early days of the Rudd government, it's becoming clear that he may be just another Tony Blair.
After a hard-fought campaign (supported by huge funding from the unions) and a historic landslide victory, Kevin Rudd is already turning his back on the union movement and left-wing groups by claiming that the huge popular vote gave HIM the authority to govern on HIS agenda - and that he would not be 'pandering' to any 'special interest' groups.
Bernie Bantam, of whom I spoke earlier, would be deeply ashamed and angry to hear those words!
The left-wing parties (Greens, Social Equality Party, Socialist Alliance) all recorded increased votes in their electorates. And, under our complicated voting system, it was the 'preferences' from those minor parties that ensured Labor such a resounding victory!
Kevin Rudd will do well to acknowledge that fact in these early days of his Prime Ministership - or we may find the landslide tipping down the other side of the mountain at the next election!
After years of subjugation under the right-wing Liberal government here, I fear it may be many more years of hard work before we get a government that is truly representative of the people.
Join us in celebrating a victorious win for the left in Australia (at least we are heading in the right direction) but be prepared for many more hard struggles ahead!
- Klaatu 27 nov07
Friday, 23 November 2007
by Plot Tracer
Adbusters by HiggleDpiggle Snoats
When Bush, Cheney et al are jailed or are in the dank dungeon of history- reviled by all and are the poetic monsters of myth like the child catcher or the Thatcher, will they be harmless because life has gone on, death will have meant nothing and the rich have ensured the feathered nest of their progeny? Are they capitalisms fall guys, the men sent forth to sacrifice their place in history in order for the Reaganite/Thatcherite bastard child to grow and sew its poison in a world now so fractured and turned on its head that Orwellian prediction seems a little niave? Or will the world know them for what they are?
Not long ago in the history of western capitalism, conservatives had accepted the inevitability of "socialism". In the uk PT (Pre-Thatcher), the Tories, mostly made up of the landed aristocracy, rapacious businessmen and wage slaves suffering from "Stockholm Syndrome" knew that the UK would be a socialist economy very soon. The British Labour Party knew it and was preparing for it in stages, just as the Tories were trying to slow down its inevitability. Then came the Thatcher project. It was a way of halting the peoples progress. It was a way to seize the means of production and the resources back again. It was a way to dash hope and ensure people accepted their enslavement as inevitable. A way for the rich to get richer and for them to do so by ensuring resources were not shared. Progress. All of the people who benefited from state owned heavy industries lost livable incomes. Those who did not benefit from this social economy, that is the land owners and the greedy, then found that instead of their huge incomes and bank balances being taxed in a way that meant few UK families living in poverty, their taxes were being reduced and they were able to set up factories and businesses and were re-enabled to exploit the misery that the demolition of the social economy had bestowed upon millions of people.
In the country I live in - Scotland, nearly one in three children live in poverty. This is the country of Adam Smith and many other luminaries of economic thought. Scotland resisted Thatcher and her rolling out of the neo-liberal re-capturing of the world from the majority. Scotland paid for this dearly- receiving the experimentation of the poll tax and the total decimation of its economic base- heavy industry. In the name of progress, industries were sold off for a song and broken up and sold on again for the enrichment of the few and the impoverishment of the many. But Scotland did not forget... And Scotland voted out Thatchers party. Not that this did any good- Scotland had to put up with a voting system that means that whatever political party wins in England, rules the UK. For years, Scotland put up with the brutal regime of the Thatcherites. Then in 1997, the party who had been the hope of the poor and disenfranchised came to power. There was audible relief when the Scots, at last, were to be governed by the party they had voted for. The party who would deliver them from this Thatcherite/Reaganite/neo-liberal nightmare. But there was a problem. The Labour party had become Thatcherite in secret. Scottish poverty increased. The Labour party continued to do things people did not want. Housing stock was sold off. Schools and hospitals were closed down, prescription charges increased, whole towns became ghettos of second and third generation unemployed... Villages of the damned, damned by the greed of the monied. Damned by a government that had sold them out because of its fear of the rich who were funding it. Damned by those who could see no further than their bank balance and their own gratification. But then the Scots turned. First, the left started to rise. Radicals were elected and then the opportunity to get rid of those who sold them out came along. The scots were awakening. The Scots won't forgive their newly elected government if it continues the rush to the lowest common denominator.
People across the world are awakening. There are countries across the world awakening to the reality of what they have been sold as "progress". Countries are beginning to question the neo-liberalism of America and the imperial west. Countries from Europe to South America are beginning to murmur (and in some cases, shout) their dissatisfaction. They are finding that their wrecked community is not unique - the neo-liberal project has meant misery worldwide and that the Paris Hilton lifestyle is one that they are paying for, but not living. The rich Pete Doherty heroin addiction only destroys Doherty, but the Govan heroin addiction destroys community and pits poor against poor. The glamour of the addiction and the consumerist lifestyle only works if you have power and money. If not, it destroys. The "ordinary Bush" is actually a millionaire and has been a millionaire all his life, has been bailed out of trouble all his life by money and power rather than his life destroyed by the drink and drugs and jobloss he so casually dismisses as his past. How many people in the schemes of Glasgow or the "sink estates" of London or the projects of Harlem have all of those chances or money thrown at them to help them through?
These monied people talk about the waste of money in our education system or welfare- yet taking Bush as a role model, in order to reach your potential, you need a baseball team to destroy and thousands of pound in rehab. If everyone were to have those opportunities to waste money, and resources, to quote the Mi Kmaq peoples of North America, "mother earth will cleanse herself of the offending organism that is killing her." all of those resources spent on one man's mistakes and it was not enough. He had to turn to the state to get more resources to flush down the toilet. But unfortunately his mistakes didn't just effect his health. The solidification of the neo-liberal project is crumbling. The Gipper, Maggie Thatcher the milk snatcher, the Bush family, Blair, Clinton and all of those people who took peoples hope and sold it off to those who party on it and label the poor, neds, chavs and whitetrash... they will go down in history as those who cast millions to their deaths and to misery and to the scraps. The myths of the future will have their names synonymous with evil and greed and death and mayhem. They may go to their graves believing in their victory, but they are damned to hell with the other monsters of history. Are they fall guys? Maybe- but they have been willing and they have profited by their criminalising of millions of poor. They have profited from the misery and death in their warzones and they have profited from the pittance wage enslavement of twothirds world. They have profited from the decimation of towns and communities by unemployment and drugs. They have profited by the disempowerment of the poor. They have profited by the parcelling of the land and the resources. They have profited from the ecological disasters they have created. And they have no conscience about it. The only way these people will regret anything, is when they have to pay.
Lets reclaim the world for the many and throw this failed system on the junk heap of the past and lets warn future generations with our new mythical creatures. Bush the baby killer. Blair his henchman. And the lovers Thatcher and Reagan, the bastards who stole the hopes and lives of millions. As a friend of mine has said, “this is by no means a foregone conclusion if the world remains sleepwalking towards perpetual slavery.” If we don’t collectively wake up, then that is surely what we are heading for.
Thursday, 22 November 2007
An urgent request to NGOs’, Human Rights Organizations and political leaders:
-to increase pressure on the Govt of Pakistan to lift of the emergency, restrictions on press freedom, restoration of the constitution and reinstatement of judges:
We have had five martial laws and thirty two years under emergency in our sixty years of history. This must be some kind of a world record. The Nov.3, 2007 martial law (emergency) was to demolish a judiciary, which for the first time in the history of the country.
Human rights and civil society activists, lawyers, journalists and members of opposition political parties want an early end to the state of emergency and to get back on the path of democracy. The constitutional experts expressed their views that General Musharraf has imposed martial- law in the name of emergency.
Every Pakistani desires to see restoration of Pakistan’s constitution and independent judiciary and expresses solidarity with media condemning the assault on press freedom and judiciary. We regret, what General Musharaf imposed the emergency, suspended the constitution and enforced the Provisional Constitution Order.
According to BBC, “3,000 lawyers have been arrested. The police barged into courts premises, lobbed teargas shells and beat peacefully protesting lawyers with lathis. Never before in the history of the world have been so many lawyers been arrested. Not in the Hitler’s, Germany, Franco’s Spain, Sadam’s Iraq”.
AMP has been organizing meetings to end emergency and strongly urge to call for the immediate release who are under house arrest or in jails including members of the Bar Association, judges, and Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asma Jahangir who is released after many-days under arrest (HRCP), and an other prominent opposition leaders as, Imran Khan and Ms Benazir Bhutto.
The peasants of Military Farms, Okara, vigorously condemned and exposed General Musharraf’s human rights violations against millions of peasants. They urge that all fake cases must come to end and due to these cases thousands of peasants are underground.
AMP has decided to continue its struggle till the lifting of emergency, restrictions on press freedom, and restoration of the constitution and reinstatement of all judges who have been removed from their positions.
David Rehmat Secretary General AMP
Background Information on AMP
One million peasants including men, women and children have been struggling for land ownership rights in the Province of Punjab. They have been working on the same fields for nearly 100 years. Our ancestors first settled on arid lands in1908. Government documents and Board of Revenue records reveal that the land was given to the British Indian Army under a lease agreement in 1913 for a period of 20 years. It continued to pay the lease rent till 1943.
In 1947, the land was automatically transferred to the Ministry of Defence. The original tenants continued to till the land under the Punjab Tenancy Act 1887, but there is no record of the original lease having been renewed later on. In 1947, after partition, the Military authorities have neither paid the rent to the Punjab government since 1943, nor extended the lease period. Military Management has been receiving 50% crops forcefully but the Military Management itself has illegal possession of the farmland.
Origin of AMP:
Anjuman -e- Muzareen Punjab ( Movement of Landless Peasants of the Punjab) was formally organized in June 2000. AMP was launched when the Military authorities in Okara district took decision to change the “ Battai System” (Crops Sharing System) to a “ Contract System” (Cash Rent System). Army, Police and Rangers used excessive force to crush this movement. This new system was designed to evict these tenants from their land. Such a tenant has been projected under Punjab Tenancy Act,1887. He is mentioned in revenue record as muzare (tenant) and cannot be illegally ejected from the land who is cultivating.
Now, the land is owned by the Provincial government in 10 districts of the Punjab run by various government agencies and often by the army. A series of negotiations took place between the farmers (AMP) and government officials to solve this crisis, but the meetings did not yield any results.
The first clash took place between the tenants and the Farm Management on October 9, 2000, over the removal of pieces of woods lying in a Chak.(village) 10/4-L Okara Distt. Villagers were not allowing to carry farm’s wood under the control of farms management. The local police and Elite Force rushed to the village where woman, children and other villages in large number, resisted.
The main leadership arose from this village. This is called “revolutionary village” and became platform for surrounding areas. Another big clash took place on August 24, 2002 when an activist of AMP Sulman Patras (a young farmer of 22) was shot dead on the spot. This was followed by a number of clashes during more than six years.
In June 2002, the repression reached its culmination. Several villages were besieged by the Army, Police and Rangers for months to break the will of the tenants. All exits and entries were blocked to prevent the relatives of the peasants. Means of communication electricity and the telephone supply were cut off etc. Irrigation canals were stopped. Provisions and public services were prevented by the Rangers and law-enforcening agencies.
Many farmers already have lost their lives. Hundreds of peasants were seriously wounded and many of them have been paralyzed. Thousands of them are involved in fake cases to prevent from their real mission. As, in a war situation, by sealing off the area they prevent outside observers and journalists from interviewing the leaders and activists.
AMP demands land ownership rights and the implementation of government promises. In the past, various governments had been promising during their reign. President Pervaiz Musharraf coming to power has repeatedly promised to grant 70,000 acres of land to the peasants.
Women and children have played an important role in their struggle. They encouraged their husbands/brothers and sons. When the police came to get signature on the new lease deed the women and children stood at the first line of defence. Women formed “ Thapa Force” (Thapa in local language means a thick wooden stick used for washing clothes) One of the women said, “When the ranger and police picked our men and children, how could women remain silent spectators?
Many NGO’s, human rights and civil society organizations, political parties and Ambassadors of various countries visited the disputed area and expressed their solidarity. BBC, National and International media highlighted this issue several times. Human Rights Watch printed 57 pages report on this issue.
Now, in the current context, the peasants need strong international solidarity, in order to make their claims known and recognized. The peasants waving their red flags demonstrated their resolve to fight to the end and justify their revolutionary slogan of “Malki ya Maut” (Ownership or Death)
Sunday, 18 November 2007
Did you know that every product pictured here is owned by Phillip Morris, the world's largest cigarette company? Chances are that you've been helping to promote Marlboro cigarettes without even knowing it. You can withdraw that support by personally boycotting these products. It's like giving money to a health organization that is working to find a cure for cancer - but in this case you are taking money from a corporation that causes it. So next time you go buy food- try it. You'll like it.
Friday, 16 November 2007
A woman in Saudi Arabia who was gang raped 14 times, has had her sentence doubled to 200 lashes and a six month prison sentence because she had the cheek to appeal her original sentence of 90 lashes.
Read about it in the links on the attached notecard. Write to your elected representatives about this disgusting ruling and also write to the Saudi embassy – see notecard for links.
This is a “friendly” arab nation… one from which most of the 9/11 bombers came from.
Latin America’s Shock Resistance
By Naomi Klein
11/14/07 "The Nation" -- -- In less than two years, the lease on the largest and most important US military base in Latin America will run out. The base is in Manta, Ecuador, and Rafael Correa, the country’s leftist president, has pronounced that he will renew the lease “on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami–an Ecuadorean base. If there is no problem having foreign soldiers on a country’s soil, surely they’ll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States.”
Since an Ecuadorean military outpost in South Beach is a long shot, it is very likely that the Manta base, which serves as a staging area for the “war on drugs,” will soon shut down. Correa’s defiant stand is not, as some have claimed, about anti-Americanism. Rather, it is part of a broad range of measures being taken by Latin American governments to make the continent less vulnerable to externally provoked crises and shocks.
This is a crucial development because for the past thirty-five years in Latin America, such shocks from outside have served to create the political conditions required to justify the imposition of “shock therapy”–the constellation of corporate-friendly “emergency” economic measures like large-scale privatizations and deep cuts to social spending that debilitate the state in the name of free markets. In one of his most influential essays, the late economist Milton Friedman articulated contemporary capitalism’s core tactical nostrum, what I call the shock doctrine. He observed that “only a crisis– actual or perceived–produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.”
Latin America has always been the prime laboratory for this doctrine. Friedman first learned how to exploit a large-scale crisis in the mid-1970s, when he advised Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Not only were Chileans in a state of shock following Pinochet’s violent overthrow of Socialist President Salvador Allende; the country was also reeling from severe hyperinflation. Friedman advised Pinochet to impose a rapid-fire transformation of the economy–tax cuts, free trade, privatized services, cuts to social spending and deregulation. It was the most extreme capitalist makeover ever attempted, and it became known as a Chicago School revolution, since so many of Pinochet’s top aides and ministers had studied under Friedman at the University of Chicago. A similar process was under way in Uruguay and Brazil, also with the help of University of Chicago graduates and professors, and a few years later, in Argentina. These economic shock therapy programs were facilitated by far less metaphorical shocks–performed in the region’s many torture cells, often by US-trained soldiers and police, and directed against those activists who were deemed most likely to stand in the way of the economic revolution.
In the 1980s and ’90s, as dictatorships gave way to fragile democracies, Latin America did not escape the shock doctrine. Instead, new shocks prepared the ground for another round of shock therapy–the “debt shock” of the early ’80s, followed by a wave of hyperinflation as well as sudden drops in the prices of commodities on which economies depended.
In Latin America today, however, new crises are being repelled and old shocks are wearing off–a combination of trends that is making the continent not only more resilient in the face of change but also a model for a future far more resistant to the shock doctrine.
When Milton Friedman died last year, the global quest for unfettered capitalism he helped launch in Chile three decades earlier found itself in disarray. The obituaries heaped praise on him, but many were imbued with a sense of fear that Friedman’s death marked the end of an era. In Canada’s National Post, Terence Corcoran, one of Friedman’s most devoted disciples, wondered whether the global movement the economist had inspired could carry on. “As the last great lion of free market economics, Friedman leaves a void…. There is no one alive today of equal stature. Will the principles Friedman fought for and articulated survive over the long term without a new generation of solid, charismatic and able intellectual leadership? Hard to say.”
It certainly seemed unlikely. Friedman’s intellectual heirs in the United States–the think-tank neocons who used the crisis of September 11 to launch a booming economy in privatized warfare and “homeland security”–were at the lowest point in their history. The movement’s political pinnacle had been the Republicans’ takeover of the US Congress in 1994; just nine days before Friedman’s death, they lost it again to a Democratic majority. The three key issues that contributed to the Republican defeat in the 2006 midterm elections were political corruption, the mismanagement of the Iraq War and the perception, best articulated by Jim Webb, a winning Democratic candidate for the US Senate, that the country had drifted “toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the nineteenth century.” Nowhere, however, was the economic project in deeper crisis than where it had started: Latin America. Washington has always regarded democratic socialism as a greater challenge than totalitarian Communism, which was easy to vilify and made for a handy enemy. In the 1960s and ’70s, the favored tactic for dealing with the inconvenient popularity of economic nationalism and democratic socialism was to try to equate them with Stalinism, deliberately blurring the clear differences between the worldviews. A stark example of this strategy comes from the early days of the Chicago crusade, deep inside the declassified Chile documents. Despite the CIA-funded propaganda campaign painting Allende as a Soviet-style dictator, Washington’s real concerns about the Allende victory were relayed by Henry Kissinger in a 1970 memo to Nixon: “The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on–and even precedent value for–other parts of the world, especially in Italy; the imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it.” In other words, Allende needed to be taken out before his democratic third way spread.
But the dream Allende represented was never defeated. It was temporarily silenced, pushed under the surface by fear. Which is why, as Latin America now emerges from its decades of shock, the old ideas are bubbling back up–along with the “imitative spread” Kissinger so feared.
By 2001 the shift had become impossible to ignore. In the mid-’70s, Argentina’s legendary investigative journalist Rodolfo Walsh had regarded the ascendancy of Chicago School economics under junta rule as a setback, not a lasting defeat, for the left. The terror tactics used by the military had put his country into a state of shock, but Walsh knew that shock, by its very nature, is a temporary state. Before he was gunned down by Argentine security agents on the streets of Buenos Aires in 1977, Walsh estimated that it would take twenty to thirty years until the effects of the terror receded and Argentines regained their footing, courage and confidence, ready once again to fight for economic and social equality. It was in 2001, twenty-four years later, that Argentina erupted in protest against IMF-prescribed austerity measures and then proceeded to force out five presidents in only three weeks.
“The dictatorship just ended!” people declared at the time. They meant that it had taken seventeen years of democracy for the legacy of terror to fade–just as Walsh had predicted.
In the years since, that renewed courage has spread to other former shock labs in the region. And as people shed the collective fear that was first instilled with tanks and cattle prods, with sudden flights of capital and brutal cutbacks, many are demanding more democracy and more control over markets. These demands represent the greatest threat to Friedman’s legacy because they challenge his central claim: that capitalism and freedom are part of the same indivisible project.
The staunchest opponents of neoliberal economics in Latin America have been winning election after election. Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, running on a platform of “Twenty-First-Century Socialism,” was re-elected in 2006 for a third term with 63 percent of the vote. Despite attempts by the Bush Administration to paint Venezuela as a pseudo-democracy, a poll that year found 57 percent of Venezuelans happy with the state of their democracy, an approval rating on the continent second only to Uruguay’s, where the left-wing coalition party Frente Amplio had been elected to government and where a series of referendums had blocked major privatizations. In other words, in the two Latin American states where voting had resulted in real challenges to the Washington Consensus, citizens had renewed their faith in the power of democracy to improve their lives.
Ever since the Argentine collapse in 2001, opposition to privatization has become the defining issue of the continent, able to make governments and break them; by late 2006, it was practically creating a domino effect. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was re-elected as president of Brazil largely because he turned the vote into a referendum on privatization. His opponent, from the party responsible for Brazil’s major sell-offs in the ’90s, resorted to dressing up like a socialist NASCAR driver, wearing a jacket and baseball hat covered in logos from the public companies that had not yet been sold. Voters weren’t persuaded, and Lula got 61 percent of the vote. Shortly afterward in Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, former head of the Sandinistas, made the country’s frequent blackouts the center of his winning campaign; the sale of the national electricity company to the Spanish firm Unión Fenosa after Hurricane Mitch, he asserted, was the source of the problem. “Who brought Unión Fenosa to this country?” he bellowed. “The government of the rich did, those who are in the service of barbarian capitalism.”
In November 2006, Ecuador’s presidential elections turned into a similar ideological battleground. Rafael Correa, a 43-year-old left- wing economist, won the vote against Álvaro Noboa, a banana tycoon and one of the richest men in the country. With Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” as his official campaign song, Correa called for the country “to overcome all the fallacies of neoliberalism.” When he won, the new president of Ecuador declared himself “no fan of Milton Friedman.” By then, Bolivian President Evo Morales was already approaching the end of his first year in office. After sending in the army to take back the gas fields from “plunder” by multinationals, he moved on to nationalize parts of the mining sector. That year in Chile, under the leadership of President Michelle Bachelet–who had been a prisoner under Pinochet–high school students staged a wave of militant protests against the two-tiered educational system introduced by the Chicago Boys. The country’s copper miners soon followed with strikes of their own.
In December 2006, a month after Friedman’s death, Latin America’s leaders gathered for a historic summit in Bolivia, held in the city of Cochabamba, where a popular uprising against water privatization had forced Bechtel out of the country several years earlier. Morales began the proceedings with a vow to close “the open veins of Latin America.” It was a reference to Eduardo Galeano’s book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, a lyrical accounting of the violent plunder that had turned a rich continent into a poor one. The book was published in 1971, two years before Allende was overthrown for daring to try to close those open veins by nationalizing his country’s copper mines. That event ushered in a new era of furious pillage, during which the structures built by the continent’s developmentalist movements were sacked, stripped and sold off.
Today Latin Americans are picking up the project that was so brutally interrupted all those years ago. Many of the policies cropping up are familiar: nationalization of key sectors of the economy, land reform, major investments in education, literacy and healthcare. These are not revolutionary ideas, but in their unapologetic vision of a government that helps reach for equality, they are certainly a rebuke to Friedman’s 1975 assertion in a letter to Pinochet that “the major error, in my opinion, was…to believe that it is possible to do good with other people’s money.”
Though clearly drawing on a long rebellious history, Latin America’s contemporary movements are not direct replicas of their predecessors. Of all the differences, the most striking is an acute awareness of the need for protection from the shocks that worked in the past–the coups, the foreign shock therapists, the US-trained torturers, as well as the debt shocks and currency collapses. Latin America’s mass movements, which have powered the wave of election victories for left- wing candidates, are learning how to build shock absorbers into their organizing models. They are, for example, less centralized than in the ’60s, making it harder to demobilize whole movements by eliminating a few leaders. Despite the overwhelming cult of personality surrounding Chávez, and his controversial moves to centralize power at the state level, the progressive networks in Venezuela are at the same time highly decentralized, with power dispersed at the grassroots and community levels, through thousands of neighborhood councils and co-ops. In Bolivia, the indigenous people’s movements that put Morales in office function similarly and have made it clear that Morales does not have their unconditional support: the barrios will back him as long as he stays true to his democratic mandate, and not a moment longer. This kind of network approach is what allowed Chávez to survive the 2002 coup attempt: when their revolution was threatened, his supporters poured down from the shantytowns surrounding Caracas to demand his reinstatement, a kind of popular mobilization that did not happen during the coups of the ’70s. Latin America’s new leaders are also taking bold measures to block any future US-backed coups that could attempt to undermine their democratic victories. Chávez has let it be known that if an extremist right-wing element in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province makes good on its threats against Morales’s government, Venezuelan troops will help defend Bolivia’s democracy. Meanwhile, the governments of Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia have all announced that they will no longer send students to the School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation)–the infamous police and military training center in Fort Benning, Georgia, where so many of the continent’s notorious killers learned the latest in “counterterrorism” techniques, then promptly directed them against farmers in El Salvador and auto workers in Argentina. Ecuador, in addition to closing the US military base, also looks set to cut its ties with the school. It’s hard to overstate the importance of these developments. If the US military loses its bases and training programs, its power to inflict shocks on the continent will be greatly eroded.
The new leaders in Latin America are also becoming better prepared for the kinds of shocks produced by volatile markets. One of the most destabilizing forces of recent decades has been the speed with which capital can pick up and move, or how a sudden drop in commodity prices can devastate an entire agricultural sector. But in much of Latin America these shocks have already happened, leaving behind ghostly industrial suburbs and huge stretches of fallow farmland. The task of the region’s new left, therefore, has become a matter of taking the detritus of globalization and putting it back to work. In Brazil, the phenomenon is best seen in the million and a half farmers of the Landless Peoples Movement (MST), who have formed hundreds of cooperatives to reclaim unused land. In Argentina, it is clearest in the movement of “recovered companies,” 200 bankrupt businesses that have been resuscitated by their workers, who have turned them into democratically run cooperatives. For the cooperatives, there is no fear of facing an economic shock of investors leaving, because the investors have already left. Chávez has made the cooperatives in Venezuela a top political priority, giving them first refusal on government contracts and offering them economic incentives to trade with one another. By 2006 there were roughly 100,000 cooperatives in the country, employing more than 700,000 workers. Many are pieces of state infrastructure– toll booths, highway maintenance, health clinics–handed over to the communities to run. It’s a reverse of the logic of government outsourcing: rather than auctioning off pieces of the state to large corporations and losing democratic control, the people who use the resources are given the power to manage them, creating, at least in theory, both jobs and more responsive public services. Chávez’s many critics have derided these initiatives as handouts and unfair subsidies, of course. Yet in an era when Halliburton treats the US government as its personal ATM for six years, withdraws upward of $20 billion in Iraq contracts alone, refuses to hire local workers either on the Gulf Coast or in Iraq, then expresses its gratitude to US taxpayers by moving its corporate headquarters to Dubai (with all the attendant tax and legal benefits), Chávez’s direct subsidies to regular people look significantly less radical.
Latin America’s most significant protection from future shocks (and therefore from the shock doctrine) flows from the continent’s emerging independence from Washington’s financial institutions, the result of greater integration among regional governments. The Bolivian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) is the continent’s retort to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the now-buried corporatist dream of a free-trade zone stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Though ALBA is still in its early stages, Emir Sader, a Brazil-based sociologist, describes its promise as “a perfect example of genuinely fair trade: each country provides what it is best placed to produce, in return for what it most needs, independent of global market prices.” So Bolivia provides gas at stable discounted prices; Venezuela offers heavily subsidized oil to poorer countries and shares expertise in developing reserves; and Cuba sends thousands of doctors to deliver free healthcare all over the continent, while training students from other countries at its medical schools.
This is a very different model from the kind of academic exchange that began at the University of Chicago in the mid-’50s, when hundreds of Latin American students learned a single rigid ideology and were sent home to impose it with uniformity across the continent. The major benefit is that ALBA is essentially a barter system in which countries decide for themselves what any given commodity or service is worth rather than letting traders in New York, Chicago or London set the prices for them. That makes trade less vulnerable to the kind of sudden price fluctuations that have hurt Latin American economies before. Surrounded by turbulent financial waters, Latin America is creating a zone of relative economic calm and predictability, a feat presumed impossible in the globalization era.
When one country does face a financial shortfall, this increased integration means that it does not necessarily need to turn to the IMF or the US Treasury for a bailout. That’s fortunate because the
2006 US National Security Strategy makes it clear that for Washington, the shock doctrine is still very much alive: “If crises occur, the IMF’s response must reinforce each country’s responsibility for its own economic choices,” the document states. “A refocused IMF will strengthen market institutions and market discipline over financial decisions.” This kind of “market discipline” can only be enforced if governments actually go to Washington for help. As former IMF deputy managing director Stanley Fischer explained during the Asian financial crisis, the lender can help only if it is asked, “but when [a country is] out of money, it hasn’t got many places to turn.” That is no longer the case. Thanks to high oil prices, Venezuela has emerged as a major lender to other developing countries, allowing them to do an end run around Washington. Even more significant, this December will mark the launch of a regional alternative to the Washington financial institutions, a “Bank of the South” that will make loans to member countries and promote economic integration among them.
Now that they can turn elsewhere for help, governments throughout the region are shunning the IMF, with dramatic consequences. Brazil, so long shackled to Washington by its enormous debt, is refusing to enter into a new agreement with the fund. Venezuela is considering withdrawing from the IMF and the World Bank, and even Argentina, Washington’s former “model pupil,” has been part of the trend. In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Néstor Kirchner (since succeeded by his wife, Christina) said that the country’s foreign creditors had told him, “‘You must have an agreement with the International Fund to be able to pay the debt.’ We say to them, ‘Sirs, we are sovereign. We want to pay the debt, but no way in hell are we going to make an agreement again with the IMF.’” As a result, the IMF, supremely powerful in the 1980s and ’90s, is no longer a force on the continent. In 2005 Latin America made up 80 percent of the IMF’s total lending portfolio; the continent now represents just 1 percent–a sea change in only two years.
The transformation reaches beyond Latin America. In just three years, the IMF’s worldwide lending portfolio had shrunk from $81 billion to $11.8 billion, with almost all of that going to Turkey. The IMF, a pariah in countries where it has treated crises as profit-making opportunities, is withering away. The World Bank faces an equally precarious future. In April Correa revealed that he had suspended all loans from the Bank and declared the institution’s representative in Ecuador persona non grata–an extraordinary step. Two years earlier, Correa explained, the World Bank had used a $100 million loan to defeat economic legislation that would have redistributed oil revenues to the country’s poor. “Ecuador is a sovereign country, and we will not stand for extortion from this international bureaucracy,” he said. Meanwhile, Evo Morales announced that Bolivia would quit the World Bank’s arbitration court, the body that allows multinational corporations to sue national governments for measures that cost them profits. “The governments of Latin America, and I think the world, never win the cases. The multinationals always win,” Morales said.
When Paul Wolfowitz was forced to resign as president of the World Bank in May, it was clear that the institution needed to take desperate measures to rescue itself from its profound crisis of credibility. In the midst of the Wolfowitz affair, the Financial Times reported that when World Bank managers dispensed advice in the developing world, “they were now laughed at.” Add the collapse of the World Trade Organization talks in 2006 (prompting declarations that “globalization is dead”), and it appears that the three main institutions responsible for imposing the Chicago School ideology under the guise of economic inevitability are at risk of extinction.
It stands to reason that the revolt against neoliberalism would be in its most advanced stage in Latin America. As inhabitants of the first shock lab, Latin Americans have had the most time to recover their bearings, to understand how shock politics work. This understanding is crucial for a new politics adapted to our shocking times. Any strategy based on exploiting the window of opportunity opened by a traumatic shock– the central tenet of the shock doctrine–relies heavily on the element of surprise. A state of shock is, by definition, a moment when there is a gap between fast-moving events and the information that exists to explain them. Yet as soon as we have a new narrative that offers a perspective on the shocking events, we become reoriented and the world begins to make sense again.
Once the mechanics of the shock doctrine are deeply and collectively understood, whole communities become harder to take by surprise, more difficult to confuse–shock-resistant.
Naomi Klein is the author of many books, including her most recent, The Shock Doctrine:
The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
Visit Naomi’s website at www.nologo.org