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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Chaos as an Everyday Thing"

Professor Wallerstein;

You write in your most interesting commentary [see very bottom]:

"Chaos as an Everyday Thing"

Only because unemployment, poverty, racism, starvation, lack of healthcare, inadequate education, war and occupation of other countries have become the “new normal” for so many more people across the globe.

I find it interesting you are still clinging to supporting Barack Obama even though he projects Wall Street’s policies of: anything for the sake of corporate profits--- which you don’t even mention or touch upon as if this drive for maximum corporate profits and the people be damned isn’t even a contributing influence to the “chaos” you cite. Instead, you focus on the need to increase taxes without even so much as a mention of who should be taxed more and for what purposes. Nor do you mention the huge, gross and destructive waste of resources on military spending and wars.

I find your present essay very strange for someone who is looked upon as one of the visionaries of the anti-globalization movement.

You are for sure correct in stating that the world’s states, all countries, are moving into a period of great turmoil; however, you fail to state the primary reason for this: Wall Street, Bay Street, Financial Street , The Square Mile, Frankfurt, Nihonbashi, Shanghai and Hong-Kong--- and, as a result, have hoarded all the wealth created by labor so that this wealth is now concentrated in the hands of a few capitalists which is the primary reason for this “chaos as an everyday thing.”

You imply taxation is an answer to most of the problems when private ownership of the mines, mills and factories is the major problem.

The problems have been created by the wealthy few who now expect the working class to suffer while these problems are resolved on the back of the working class. This is the cause of instability.

Never has there been a greater divide between the obscene and filthy rich and the poor.

We need a complete reordering of priorities away from war and military spending which has served to further increase corporate profits at the expense of what most people need: healthcare, housing, education and for many of the world’s peoples, simply a shirt on their backs not to mention water to drink and food to fill their empty bloated bellies.

Until this question of “ownership” of the means of production is resolved, these problems will persist and worsen with greater instability and more wars.

Redistribution of the wealth--- stolen from labor--- now controlled by Wall Street, Bay Street, Financial Street , The Square Mile, Frankfurt, Nihonbashi, Shanghai and Hong-Kong has to be our first order of business. Taxation is but one method for accomplishing this; there are many other methods needed, too; including stopping the home foreclosures and evictions, socialized health care, raising the minimum wage to a real living wage--- none of which can be accomplished as long as the Democrats and Republicans control politics the same corrupt, greedy, selfish way they have come to control the wealth created by labor.

You complain you have seen only two intelligent commentaries about the election results in the United States… part of the problem is that you continue to hold up Barack Obama as an example of “hope” and “change” when the only thing Obama represents is the greatest evil of all--- Wall Street’s most corrupt, warmongering and greedy drive for increased profits.

I am surprised you have been sucked into believing in this modern-day Elmer Gantry who is training to become this country’s leading health insurance salesman while posing as some kind of great benefactor and  supporter of “hope” and “change.”

“Chaos” has become “an everyday thing” because there is a crisis in everyday living for the vast majority of the working class across the globe. This chaos is a reflection of a capitalist system that has reached its most decadent imperialist stage. What you see as “chaos” is more about class struggle.

Come on, professor Wallerstein, help end this deception and confusion being pumped out by the mainstream media that contributes to creating this “chaos” and misunderstanding of the nature of what is going on by bringing a clear Marxist analysis into the proverbial, “public square.”

For truthful statements regarding what is taking place, and for an analysis about the election results, we are going to have to do much better than the words from the New York Time’s columnist--- Charles M. Blow, and this flim-flam man and con-artist extraordinaire who has managed to pull off the greatest hoax of the century in becoming President--- Barack Obama.

Capitalism is on the skids to oblivion dragging us all in the dark down this dangerous, curvy, bumpy and treacherous road to perdition--- if there is a stop-over in purgatory we are at this juncture right now which would account for the “chaos as an everyday thing.”

The time has come for a new kind of politics--- the politics and economics of livelihood in response to this global capitalist economic crisis.

Let us be very clear here Professor Wallerstein; the working class had no part in creating the problems resulting in the chaos you describe, and, as such, bear no responsibility in solving these problems except in making sure solution are found in the process of redistributing the wealth in a way that begins the process of needed reforms as we struggle to eliminate the source of the chaos and our problems: capitalism, now at its peak and very destructive and pernicious twilight: imperialism.

We need to think these problems through because…

Ending unemployment would contribute most toward ending this “chaos.”

 Socialized health care would be the biggest jobs creating program ever undertaken in the United States--- funded with money cut from wars and a healthy tax increase on the wealthy. No-fee/no-premium, comprehensive, all-inclusive, universal healthcare; publicly financed, publicly administered and publicly delivered is what we need instead of wars... 30,000 community-based healthcare centers spread out across the United States would create up to ten-million new jobs paying real living wages.

Professor Wallerstein, is there a reason your President Obama can’t think in terms of solving the unemployment problem by solving the health care mess we have?

Trillions of dollars bailing out Wall Street and not one single dime spent on the needs of working people.

Your President Obama has created chaos from the web of corruption spun by Wall Street--- humanity’s common enemy.

And, to add insult to injury, Barack Obama has refused to impose affirmative action as a precondition for his trillion dollar spending spree; thus assuring institutionalized racism will be strengthened rather than smashed and destroyed.

The recent International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties provided an analysis you perhaps missed… please allow me to share this sharp and clear-headed analysis with you which you might want to comment on in a future “Commentary:”

Statement adopted by the 11th International Meeting of the Communist and Workers' Parties, New Delhi, Nov. 20-22, 2009

This 11th International Meeting of the Communist and Workers' Parties, held to discuss "The international capitalist crisis, the workers' and peoples' struggle, the alternatives and the role of the communist and working class movement":

     - Reiterates that the current global recession is a systemic crisis of capitalism demonstrating its historic limits and the need for its revolutionary overthrow. It demonstrates the sharpening of the main contradiction of capitalism between its social nature of production and individual capitalist appropriation. The political representatives of Capital try to conceal this unsolvable contradiction between capital and labor that lies at the heart of the crisis. This crisis intensifies rivalries between imperialist powers who along with the international institutions - the IMF World Bank, WTO and others - are implementing their `solutions' which essentially aim to intensify capitalist exploitation. Military and political 'solutions' are aggressively pursued globally by imperialism. NATO is promoting a new aggressive strategy. The political systems are becoming more reactionary curtailing democratic and civil liberties, trade union rights etc. This crisis is further deepening the structural corruption under capitalism which is being institutionalized.

     - Reaffirms that the current crisis, probably the most acute and all-encompassing since the Great Depression of 1929, has left no field untouched. Hundreds of thousands of factories are closed. Agrarian and rural economies are under distress intensifying misery and poverty of millions of cultivators and farm workers globally. Millions of people are left jobless and homeless. Unemployment is growing to unprecedented levels and is officially expected to breach the 50 million mark. Inequalities are increasing across the globe - the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. More than one billion people, that is one-sixth of humanity go hungry. Youth, women and immigrants are the first victims.

     True to their class nature, the response of the respective capitalist governments to overcome this crisis fails to address these basic concerns. All the neo-liberal votaries and social democratic managers of capitalism, who had so far decried the State are now utilizing the state for rescuing them, thus underlining a basic fact that the capitalist state has always defended and enlarged avenues for super profits. While the costs of the rescue packages and bailouts are at public expense, the benefits accrue to few. The bailout packages announced, are addressed first to rescue and then enlarge profit making avenues. Banks and financial corporates are now back in business and making profits.
Growing unemployment and the depression of real wages is the burden for the working people as against the gift of huge bailout packages for the corporations.

     - Realizes that this crisis is no aberration based on the greed of a few or lack of effective regulatory mechanisms. Profit maximization, the raison d'etre of capitalism, has sharply widened economic inequalities both between countries and within countries in these decades of `globalization'. The natural consequence was a decline in the purchasing power of the vast majority of world population. The present crisis is thus a systemic crisis. This once again vindicates the Marxist analysis that the capitalist system is inherently crisis ridden. Capital, in its quest for profits, traverses boundaries and tramples upon anything and everything. In the process it intensifies exploitation of the working class and other strata of working people, imposing greater hardships. Capitalism in fact requires to maintain a reserve army of labor. The liberation from such capitalist barbarity can come only with the establishment of the real alternative, socialism. This requires the strengthening of anti-imperialist and anti-monopoly struggles. Our struggle for an alternative is thus a struggle against the capitalist system. Our struggle for an alternative is for a system where there is no exploitation of people by people and nation by nation. It is a struggle for another world, a just world, a socialist world.

     - Conscious of the fact that the dominant imperialist powers would seek their way out of the crisis by putting greater burdens on the working people, by seeking to penetrate and dominate the markets of countries with medium and lower level of capitalist development, commonly called developing countries.

     This they are trying to achieve firstly, through the WTO Doha round of trade talks, which reflect the unequal economic agreements at the expense of the peoples of these countries particularly with reference to agricultural standards and Non Agricultural Market Access (NAMA).

     Secondly, capitalism, which in the first place is responsible for the destruction of the environment, is trying to transfer the entire burden of safeguarding the planet from climate change, which in the first place they had caused, onto the shoulders of the working class and working people. Capitalism's proposal for restructuring in the name of climate change has little relation to the protection of the environment. Corporate inspired `Green development' and 'green economy' are sought to be used to impose new state monopoly regulations which support profit maximization and impose new hardships on the people.
Profit maximization under capitalism is thus not compatible with environmental protection and peoples' rights.

     - Notes that the only way out of this capitalist crisis for the working class and the common people is to intensify struggles against the rule of capital. It is the experience of the working class that when it mobilizes its strength and resists these attempts it can be successful in protecting its rights. Industry sit-ins, factory occupations and such militant working class actions have forced the ruling classes to consider the demands of the workers. Latin America, the current theatre of popular mobilizations and working class actions, has shown how rights can be protected and won through struggle. In these times of crisis, once again the working class is seething with discontent. Many countries have witnessed and are witnessing huge working class actions, demanding amelioration. These working class actions need to be further strengthened by mobilizing the vast mass of suffering people, not just for immediate alleviation but for a long-term solution to their plight.

     - Imperialism, buoyed by the demise of the Soviet Union and the periods of boom preceding this crisis had carried out unprecedented attacks on the rights of the working class and the people. This has been accompanied by frenzied anti-communist propaganda not only in individual countries but at global and inter-state forums (EU, OSCE, Council of Europe). However much they may try, the achievements and contributions of socialism in defining the contours of modern civilization remain inerasable. Faced with these relentless attacks, our struggles thus far had been mainly defensive struggles, struggles to protect the rights that we had won earlier. Today's conjuncture warrants the launch of an offensive, not just to protect our rights but win new rights. Not for winning a few rights but for dismantling the entire capitalist edifice - for an onslaught on the rule of capital, for a political alternative - socialism.

     - Resolves that under these conditions, the communist and workers parties shall actively work to rally and mobilize the widest possible sections of the popular forces in the struggle for full time stable employment, exclusively public and free for all health, education and social welfare, against gender inequality and racism, and for the protection of the rights of all sections of the working people including the youth, women, migrant workers and those from ethnic and national minorities.

     - Calls upon the communist and workers parties to undertake this task in their respective countries and launch broad struggles for the rights of the people and against the capitalist system. Though the capitalist system is inherently crisis ridden, it does not collapse automatically. The absence of a communist-led counterattack engenders the danger of rise of reactionary forces. The ruling classes launch an all out attack to prevent the growth of the communists and the workers' parties to protect their status quo. Social democracy continues to spread illusions about the real character of capitalism, advancing slogans such as `humanization of capitalism', `regulation', `global governance' etc. These in fact support the strategy of capital by denying class struggle and buttressing the pursuit of anti-popular policies. No amount of reform can eliminate exploitation under capitalism. Capitalism has to be overthrown. This requires the intensification of ideological and political working class led popular struggles. All sorts of theories like `there is no alternative' to imperialist globalization are propagated. Countering them, our response is `socialism is the alternative'.

     We, the communist and workers' parties coming from all parts of the globe and representing the interests of the working class and all other toiling sections of society (the vast majority of global population) underlining the irreplaceable role of the communist parties call upon the people to join us in strengthening the struggles to declare that socialism is the only real alternative for the future of humankind and that the future is ours.

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From: Commentary Subscribers [mailto:COMMENT@LISTSERV.BINGHAMTON.EDU] On Behalf Of Becky Dunlop
Sent: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 6:08 AM
Subject: Immanuel Wallerstein's Commentary No. 275

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Commentary No. 275, Feb. 15, 2010
"Chaos as an Everyday Thing"

You know you're living in a chaotic situation when (1) the mainstream media are constantly surprised by what is happening; (2) short-term predictions by various pundits go in radically different directions and are stated with many reserves; (3) the Establishment dares to say things or use words that were previously taboo; (4) ordinary people are frightened and angry but very unsure what to do. This is a good description of the past two years throughout the world, or at least in most parts of the world.

Consider the recent enormous "surprises" - the election of a Republican senator in Massachusetts; the financial collapse of Dubai; the near bankruptcy of various large states within the United States and four or five of the member states of the European Union; severe world currency fluctuations.

These "surprises" are commented on each day in the world press and by leading politicians. They don't agree at all about what is happening, and even less about what one should do to improve the situation. For example, I have seen only two intelligent statements about the election results in the United States.

One was by Barack Obama himself: "The same thing that swept [Republican] Scott Brown into office [in Massachusetts] swept me into office. People are angry, and they're frustrated." And the second was by African-American op-ed columnist in The New York Times, Charles M. Blow. He called his op-ed "Mobs rule." He said: "Welcome to the mob: an angry, wounded electorate, riled by recession, careening across the political spectrum, still craving change, nursing a bloodlust." First they elected Obama; now they're rejecting him. Why? "The mob is fickle."

What are we seeing in California, in Greece, in most of the world's governments? Government revenues are down, primarily because of reduced tax incomes, which are in turn caused by the fact that everywhere people are consuming less out of fear that their money is running out. At the same time, precisely because world unemployment is considerably greater, the demands on the states for expenditures have risen.

So states have less money to meet greater demands. What can they do then? They can increase taxes. But taxpayers are seldom in favor of having their own taxes go up. And states are afraid of the flight of enterprises. Well, then, they can cut expenditures - present ones or future ones like pensions. And then they are faced with popular unrest, if not popular revolt.

Meanwhile, the "market" reacts. But what is this market that reacts - for example, by shifting its currency preferences? It is very large corporations and financial structures like hedge funds, which are working the world financial system for very short-term but significant gains.

As a result, governments are faced with impossible choices, and individuals even more impossible choices. They cannot predict what is likely to happen. They become ever more frantic. They lash out by being protectionist or xenophobic or demagogic. But of course, this solves little.

At this point enters that greatest of world pundits, Thomas I. Friedman, to write a column entitled "Never heard that before." What had he never heard before? He heard non-Americans talking at Davos about "political instability" in the United States. He says that in his past experience such a phrase had been used only about countries like Russia or Iran or Honduras. Imagine that. People actually think the United States is politically unpredictable. And Thomas Friedman never heard it before.

There have been some people who have been writing this, and explaining this, for some forty years at least, but Thomas Friedman never heard it before. That's because he has been living in a self-constructed cocoon, that of the political Establishment in the United States and its acolytes elsewhere. Things must be really bad for them to recognize this basic reality. The United States is politically unstable - and likely to become more so, not less so, in the coming decade.

Is Europe more stable? Only somewhat. Is Latin America more stable? Only somewhat. Is China more stable? Perhaps somewhat, but there are no guarantees. When the giant teeters, many things can come down with it.

So, this is what everyday chaos is like - a situation that is not predictable in the short run, even less in the middle run. It is therefore a situation in which the economic, political, and cultural fluctations are large and rapid. And that is frightening for most people.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For rights and permissions, including translations and posting to non-commercial sites, and contact: rights@agenceglobal.com, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.336.286.6606. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write: immanuel.wallerstein@yale.edu.
These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]

Becky Dunlop
Secretary, Fernand Braudel Center

Becky Dunlop
Secretary, Fernand Braudel Center