Monday, June 20, 2016

The French Labor Movement and Marxism

[Cf. NYT article after comment]
"The Communist Party and Mr. Martinez share a view of class struggle and unending worker exploitation, according to several experts on French unions." I can't help but think that if we had the level of class consciousness of the French we would not have to choose between HRC and Trump, and Sanders ( whose views have been likened to those of an Eisenhower era liberal Republican) would have been a shoo-in.
["I'm no more socialist than Eisenhower" -- Bernie Sanders, Time Magazine 11-15- 2015 online] Do we even have a Left left?
Thomas Riggins

Commitment to Class Conflict Drives Leader of French Labor Unrest

PARIS — All up and down the boulevard, store windows were smashed — at a Starbucks, a supermarket, a handbag store. Young men clambered on top of bus shelters. Even a children’s hospital was attacked. The police brought out tear gas and a rarely used water cannon.

Even for a country used to unruly labor protests, the violence on the streets of Paris on Tuesday was a shock. But days later, the man behind the antigovernment protests that have rippled across France was barely apologetic. If anything, he promised more.

Philippe Martinez, the mustachioed boss of one of France’s biggest labor unions, the General Confederation of Labor, known as C.G.T., has mobilized tens of thousands of workers and sent them coursing through the streets of French cities for weeks.

This past week, it was Paris’s turn. Mr. Martinez — 55, stocky, pugnacious and combative — ordered over 600 buses to ferry union protesters from the provinces to a march here, which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators on Tuesday.

The protests are aimed at stopping a government push for a new labor law that would make it slightly easier to hire and fire workers. But they are also part of a struggle between competing visions for France’s future, experts on French unions say.

For unions, the government’s proposed labor law is another step by President François Hollande to move France to the center in order to address the challenges of a global economy. Mr. Martinez, those familiar with him and his union say, has a different vision, shaped by decades of close ties between his union and the French Communist Party, of which he was a longtime member.

The Communist Party and Mr. Martinez share a view of class struggle and unending worker exploitation, according to several experts on French unions. Mr. Martinez, a Renault car factory worker, declined to be interviewed.

“He agrees that class struggle is the watchword of history, and that workers are necessarily in combat against bosses,” said René Mouriaux, a leading historian of the French union movement. In Mr. Martinez’s view, he added, between bosses and workers “there can be compromises, but no definitive agreements.”

Three weeks ago, Mr. Martinez’s workers went on strike to block the printing of France’s national newspapers for a day after newspapers refused to publish a commentary he had written. The Communist newspaper L’Humanité was the only one to print it.

“Philippe Martinez, the man who wants to bring France to its knees,” read a recent headline in the right-leaning newspaper Le Figaro. An article in the left-center newspaper Le Monde called him “the Lider Maximo of the protest movement.”

On Friday, Mr. Martinez angrily denied that the protest had been connected to the violence at the march through Paris, which left the Boulevard du Montparnasse, a main artery of the city’s Left Bank, looking like a war zone.

“The hooligans are there to discredit our movement,” he told journalists in the courtyard of the Labor Ministry, vowing to continue the marches until the government gives up its labor law.

But despite Mr. Martinez’s belated disavowals, violence, including serious injuries, has been a constant feature of his union’s protests over the past few months.

Paris’s police prefect has released photos of union members ripping up paving stones to be used as projectiles. Mr. Martinez said they had simply been defending themselves.

Philippe Martinez, center, the head of the General Confederation of Labor, at a protest against a proposed labor law last month in Paris. Credit Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters
Shocked by the smashed windows at the children’s hospital, Mr. Hollande said a ban on future demonstrations was possible, provoking outrage among some members his own Socialist Party.

“There’s no reason for us now to back down from our days of mobilization,” Mr. Martinez told reporters on Friday after a fruitless meeting with the labor minister to end the standoff. “For three months, the government has been counting on us to lose steam. It’s been a bad bet.”

Mr. Hollande’s government is equally unlikely to back down. It is pinning its hopes of denting France’s chronically high unemployment on a law that would only slightly relax negotiating conditions between workers and management.

The change is considered mild by most economists, but has been deemed hopelessly pro-capitalist by Mr. Martinez’s union and even by members of Mr. Hollande’s party.

Months of protests have weakened the proposed law, and it no longer includes a mechanism to cap payouts to fired workers. The law would also define more precisely how companies could lay off workers — currently an arduous process in a country where workers are highly protected.

But the part of the proposal that most infuriates C.G.T. and a few other unions would allow labor agreements negotiated by individual companies — over such issues as hours worked, paid holidays and bonuses — to take precedence over agreements negotiated at the occupational sector level.

That change would weaken the power of unions such as C.G.T., and it has made Mr. Martinez see red. “You’ve got to respect the hierarchy of norms,” he told reporters on Friday, while leaving the door slightly open to possible exceptions.

Yet with each new burst of violence in the streets, the government is increasingly dismissive of Mr. Martinez and his motives. Some government officials say that the violence will backfire and put the French on the side of the labor law, and that Mr. Martinez is using the violence to shore up his base.

If so, the union leader is doing a good job. France has among the lowest rates of unionization in Europe, and C.G.T., which represents train workers, metalworkers, public sector workers, miners and others, has been losing members for years. Between 1975 and 1993, it lost nearly two-thirds of its members, and now stands at about 686,000.

Today it is made up of mainly hard-core militants, analysts say. The old-fashioned language of class struggle was much in evidence among the crowds at Tuesday’s march, underscoring how many of France’s contemporary struggles are rooted in both the language and facts of its history.

“I Am in the Class Struggle” was a sticker sported by many protesters. “Work Is a Crime Against Humanity,” read another. “Victory in Chaos,” someone had scrawled on a building. “The Struggle Is About Class Against Class,” read one billboard.

Mr. Martinez moves easily among these views. His father fought in the Spanish Civil War in the International Brigades against the fascists, and his mother was a housekeeper.

C.G.T. was founded in 1895, and its “explicit aim was to bring down the state,” said another historian of French labor, Nick Parsons of Cardiff University in Wales. “It still has that anticapitalist orientation.”

“This is a guy who was brought up in that sort of atmosphere,” Dr. Parsons added. “He’s imbued with that history and culture.”

Mr. Martinez has shown a willingness to compromise in negotiations as a metalworker representative in preceding decades, Dr. Parsons noted. But that side is not evident now, with polls showing that most French people are still opposed to the labor law.

The class struggle continues.

“It shouldn’t be called the ‘law on work,’ but the ‘social dumping law,’” Mr. Martinez yelled during a recent speech at a factory in southern France. “We’re not close to giving up. The stakes are high — for today’s workers, for the young, for our country.”

Sunday, June 19, 2016

U.S. Should Ally With Russia To End Fighting in Syria

[Cf. New York Times report after the following comment.]
Like it or not the Syrian government is the internationally recognized legal govenment of that nation and is a fellow member of the UN with the United States (the UN was founded so that member states would not attack one another). It is outrageous that the U.S. is funding mercenaries trying to overthrow that government. The civil war would have long been over and peace restored if the U.S., Saudi Arabia and their allies were not funding the so-called rebels and keeping the war going as an excuse to feed money into our own military industrial complex. ISIS exists as a by product of U.S. and its puppet NATO's interference in the Middle East.
If the U.S. is serious in ridding the world of the baleful influence of ISIS it will call off the dogs of war it is funding in Syria and join with Russia to knock out ISIS and the NUSRA FRONT and other anti-Syrian govenment jihadists posing as "moderate" Islamists. The U.S. and Russia can then work with the Syrian government and the United Nations to rebuild that ravaged nation and help the millions of displaced and immigrant families to return to their homes. The major threat to the peace of the world, as everyone except Americans seem to know, is the U.S. drive to maintain world military supremacy and political hegemony over all other nations. All the conflicts going on in the Middle East (Including Israel/Palestine), the Korean peninsula, the South China Sea, Africa, and Central and South America, and our own streets for that matter, stem from this insatiable drive for economic domination backed by military threats and interventions. That fact we are about to elect HRC who is a firm believer in all of the above including a conflict with Russia over a no fly zone in Syria will put the American people at odds with the people of the world at large. We are digging our own graves if we can't create a political movement to counteract the imperialist dreams of our ruling class.
Thomas Riggins


U.S. Tells Russia of ‘Strong Concerns’ About Strikes on Syrian Rebels

Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, second from the left in the back row, visited the Russian air base in Syria on Saturday. Credit Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, via Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Senior American and Russian defense officials held what the Pentagon described as an “extraordinary” videoconference on Saturday to discuss Russian airstrikes that days earlier hit a garrison manned by Syrian rebels backed by the United States.

The Russian strikes hit Syrian opposition fighters on Thursday at the al-Tanf crossing, which lies on Syria’s border with Iraq. The rebels there are battling the Islamic State, the Pentagon said, and are also supposed to be covered by a partial cease-fire that the United States and Russia brokered in February.

During the videoconference on Saturday, Pentagon officials “expressed strong concerns about the attack” on forces that are fighting the Islamic State, Peter Cook, the Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement.

American officials told the Russians that their strikes had continued even after they were officially informed of allied air support underway for the rebels and that this had “created safety concerns for U.S. and coalition forces,” the statement said.

Though fighting has tapered off in many areas since the cease-fire went into effect in February, there have been fierce clashes in recent weeks in areas of northern Syria where the Islamic State and the Nusra Front are strongest. American officials have accused Russia of failing to stop the forces of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, from violating the cease-fire and attacking rebel groups backed by the United States.

There was no immediate word on how Russian officials responded to the concerns expressed by American officials on Saturday. But the videoconference took place as Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, met with Mr. Assad in Damascus and visited the Russian air base in Syria, The Associated Press reported.

Since the Russian air campaign in Syria began in September, it has helped Mr. Assad’s forces reclaim territory, reversing the fortunes of a regime that at this time last year appeared to be in an increasingly perilous position.

American-backed rebel forces, in contrast, have continued to struggle on the battlefield against both Mr. Assad’s forces and the Islamic State, and more than 50 State Department diplomats recently signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria.

The memo pressed for American military strikes against Mr. Assad’s government to stop what it said were persistent violations of the cease-fire. American policy has been “overwhelmed” by the violence in Syria, the memo said.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Saudis and 9/11

To some, a classified section of an inquiry into the terrorist attacks points to Saudi involvement, while the country’s foreign minister says, “There is no there there.”
"To some, a classified section of an inquiry into the terrorist attacks points to Saudi involvement, while the country’s foreign minister says, “There is no there there.”"

Well, if there is no there there make public the 28 classified pages -- Snowden where are you? By the way, there is more evidence in this NYT report of Saudi complicity in 9/11 than there was of Iraq's (0 evidence) or Afghanistan's (0 evidence). We invaded Afghanistan because its government refused to "hand over" bin Laden not because it knew about or participated in 9/11. The NYT article makes it clear that Saudi govenment officials fed and housed and aided 2 of the highjackers. The Saudi government also sends money and material to the jihadists in Syria that we are fighting against! Some ally. So why does the US coddle and defend the Saudi's when every finger of suspicion that they were part of the 9/11 attack is pointing at them? Because fighting "terrorism" is just a lot of bunk that the US leaders (Democrat or Republican) feed to a gullible and ignorant American people to hide what is really going on -- namely a fight to control the world's oil and other resources and justification to spend billions, even trillions, of dollars on the military industrial complex -- i.e., the private corporations that the US military has been created to defend (normally referred to as "us"). We are now about to have a great election where "we" will choose one of two puppets of that complex to rule over us. Oops -- actually only one is a puppet -- Trump has upset the applecart, he is not part of the traditional Republican/Democratic military industrial complex -- this is why the Republican leadership is running around like a chicken with its head cut off -- they lost control. Clinton will be the next president: the Republicans have failed to serve their masters but the Democrats have proven their loyal submission to our rulers (they rejected  Sanders overturning their applecart ) and demonstrated that they are still capable of keeping the people's eyes covered with wool. Unfortunately for us Trump represents a crypto-fascist (maybe not so crypto) mass movement, which shows that, with the abominably low educational levels and political consciousness of our people, fascism has a better chance than socialism of coming to power.
Thomas Riggins

Monday, June 13, 2016

Andrew Cuomo's attack on the First Amendment


Andrew Cuomo’s Anti-Free Speech Move on B.D.S.

In trying to support Israel, the New York governor is restricting people’s rights.

Authoritarian attacks on the Consitution and Bill of Rights are not the sole preserve of Republicans and Donald Trump and his supporters; Andrew Cuomo, a so-called liberal democrat has launched his own war against freedom of speech and expression by issuing an executive order to use state power against those who advocate boycotting Israel to pressure its government to make peace with the Palestinians and withdraw from the West Bank. This is a massive violation of First Amendment rights and had Donald Trump advocated it the Democrats would be howling in protest about dictatorship (while at the same time praising Israel and condemning the boycott, they would not have ignored the illegality of the use of state power to deny citizens the right to express their opinions nor passed up the opportunity of exposing Trump's antidemocratic tendencies: will they protest against one of their own?)
Thomas Riggins

Friday, April 29, 2016

"The Sanders Campaign and the Next Stage of Socialist Agitation" Remarks

The Sanders campaign and the next stage of socialist agitation

Click on the above for an interesting article from Liberation News. Below are some remarks about this article:

What's right and what's wrong with this analysis? I think it is certainly correct about the class nature of the forces backing HRC (she represents the interests of the 1% more faithfully than either Trump or Cruz could do) but she is also subject to mass forces from the working class and can be pressured to support progressive reforms and allow more space for left wing political action. It is true that Trump is not leading a fascist movement and the capitalist class is rejecting him because they fear he will arouse more popular resistance than is warranted from their point of view. But the article overlooks the fact that with an unpredictable economy, and another depression lurking around the corner, fascist tactics may be needed to forstall the growth of a serious anti-Wall Street mass fight back. The author discounts the new left forces that have manifested themselves within the Democrati Party due to the Sanders movement and thinks the DP is unreformable. He ignores the possibility that a quantitative change in the base of the DP could lead to a qualitative change in its leadership and positions (this is what has happened in the Republican Party driving it far to the right and out of control of its traditional establishment leaders) or that the left of the DP could breakaway and join with millions of progressive independents and form a third viable political party or fuse with the Green Party making it a truly mass party. His call to break with the DP completely and support a microscopically small Marxist grouping in the coming election is politically unrealistic as there are many Congressional and local races that progressive Democats should be supported in so that truly reactionary Republican politicians can be turned out of office; and while HRC is no friend of the working class she is less reactionary domestically than any Republican running against her and advancing the goals of the working class will easier under a DP administration than a RP one. The duty of Marxists is to give critical support (where warrented) pointing out why she is the best of a bad lot and at the same time independently agitate to organize a progressive class conscious opposition within the DP against the neoliberal consensus of the current party leadership. If we do that we can make leftist lingo mean something even the White House (if not the Oval Office).
Thomas Riggins

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Obama, Putin and the U.S. Election

Thomas Riggins

Why is  Obama deliberately stirring up old Cold War tensions with Russia by ordering saber rattling by the Pentagon and our puppet military alliance Nato? Professor Steven Cohen, writing in The Nation (2-29-16) says Obama is escalating the tensions with Russia in an unprecedented manner not seen since the days of Nazi Germany. These hostile actions are being basically ignored by the mass media and none of the presidential candidates in either party have addressed them in the debates except indirectly (Sanders and Clinton supporting NATO, Trump mentioning he wants to make a "deal" with Putin).

The issue is Obama's decision to increase by 400% military expenditures and deployments on or near the Russian border by the U.S. and NATO. Such a huge concentration of Western military power on the Russian border has not been seen in modern times -- not even at the height of the Cold War. Cohen says Russia will have to respond by its own build up including the positioning of advanced missiles. Thus the whole of Eastern Europe will become a tinderbox increasing the probability of a regional war or  worse if some minor incident flares up.

This is, I might add, wholly unnecessary and reckless behavior on the part of Obama and his generals (the type of behavior a future President Cruz or Rubio are characterized of being capable of initiating). Why is this coming at the very time Russia is trying to de-escalate tensions with the U.S.?

The Russians have cooperated with the U.S. on the Iran deal and in trying to bring about a truce in Syria (their intervention was provoked by CIA "covert" weapons deals with jihadists against their ally Assad the legally UN recognized government), and in calming down the situation in Ukraine by a cease fire (another intervention initiated by the U.S.- E.U. role in overthrowing the legally elected government in that country and the installation of an ultraright wing antiRussian

Cohen says the mass media in the U.S. attributes all these international problems to Russian aggression and to Putin's megalomania ["Putin's Russia"]. So while we play around with farcical political debates and a news media that misinforms rather than informs Obama stealthily builds up the aggressive capabilities of U.S. imperialism and, consciously or unconsciously, further endangers the peace of the world and the future of humanity.

The Left is falling down on the job of warning the working class of the dangers it faces in the coming election. HRC has wrapped herself in the Obama legacy and will no doubt continue the march towards more wars and military adventures that the U.S. has embarked upon ever since Korea. The Republican candidates are no different in this respect. Whoever wins in November the big losers will be the working class and the minorities who will continue to be abused and exploited by the U.S. ruling Establishment. 

The Left has, however, done its duty in one respect. There is a slight possibility the dire consequences enumerated above could be avoided or alleviated and that would be the election of Bernie Sanders as president. This event would open up progressive political action outside of the control of the Establishment and could lead to a democratic renaissance in the U.S. The Left - Progressive movement has solidly backed Sanders (aside from some fringe elements).  Unfortunately, the Left cannot agree on a Plan B. HRC's election would be a victory for the Establishment and there is no Third Party that the Left is willing to unite behind. 

This military build up is part of the profit generating foreign policy of the Military Industrial Complex. It justfies the transfer of billions of dollars in "defense" spending to the private coffers of the 1%.  What are the chances that HRC will adopt a pro peace agenda and come out against the U.S.- NATO build up in Europe? Sanders is also weak on this issue but he can be more easily pressured to change as cutting the military budget frees up money for the progressive changes to reduce income inequality that he favors and he is not beholden to the Establishment. What is to be done?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hillary Clinton on Cutting Drug Costs (Kick the Poor off Medicare)

Thomas Riggins

Forbes magazine ("the capitalist tool") doesn't  always paint a rosy picture  of capitalism, except (as does The Wall Street Journal) in its editorial and opinion fluff. But capitalists want the actual lowdown on how the system is working and where it's going and Forbes' job is give them the info they need to place their bets.

Working people and progressives can bet the capitalists are not betting on Bernie Sanders, the money bag crowds are betting on Clinton (with few exceptions) all the way. Some of Clinton's ideas are even too pro-capitalist for Forbes!

The magazine recently held a "healthcare summit" as big capital is aware the cost of drugs is getting out of hand and is ultimately unsustainable. They certainly don't want some social democratic president mucking around with their system so they want to control the proposals that will have to be made to make the system work for more people and still allow them to reap ill gotten gains.

Hillary Clinton has two proposals on the table which Forbes doesn't particularly like because while they make modest changes in the health care system they end up giving poor people the short end of the stick and benefit the rich. But that is the very problem that has to be solved! Creating a system that doesn't let people die because they are poor. As usual Clinton's supporters don't really understand whose side she is on, they are the same as Trump supporters in this respect; even some of those on the authentic Left -- Communists and Socialists -- don't understand she represents the interests of monopoly capitalism better than any Republican could.

Well what are her proposals to better the system (she totally rejects the Medicare for all ideas of Sanders)?. Her position is not "Medicare for All" but "Medicaid for More." Medicaid is cheaper and doesn't have all the benefits of Medicare so health care won't cost so much if poor senior citizens who are on Medicare due to their ages are switched over to Medicaid leaving only the wealthier seniors on Medicare. That's right folks, the first would be female U.S. President is a grinch!

Here is how Forbes puts it: "How do we fix pharmaceutical pricing? Hillary Clinton's idea of making drug firms pay a tax if they don't spend enough on R&D probably wouldn't lower prices. And her other idea of making seniors who are eligible for both Medicare (health care for seniors) and Medicaid (the program for the poor) take Medicaid would result in savings, but it could also mean giving rich people better health insurance than poor people." Forbes is being nice in using "could" for "would."

So there it is: Clinton the "progressive," the "realist," proposing the same old same old; let's "solve" our drug pricing problems by tossing the poor under the bus and not bothering the rich. Wake up dupes! We have one chance this year to actually make a change in the system and that's to vote for someone 90% of the political class and the corporate media oppose, the ONLY candidate that actually represents the vast majority of the American people and is not a cat's paw for then wealthy 1%. It's time for all unions and people's movements to turn their backs on their faux progressive leaderships who have sided with Clinton and the 1% and support Bernie Sanders -- your grandchildren will be grateful for having a future.