Please note I have a new phone number...

512-517-2708

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...

http://peaceandsocialjustice.blogspot.com/2013/03/a-progressive-program-for-real-change.html


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...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Minnesota State Legislators have decided to give themselves a pay increase as the rest of us suffer the austerity measures these politicians impose on us.

So; Minnesota State Legislators are going to raise their own pay... hmmmm. And what have they done to deserve a pay increase?

I assume other politicians across the country are looking to raise their own pay, too? Shouldn't all workers have the right to decide if they are entitled to a pay increase?

Maybe we, as tax-payers, should figure out what we need to do to "lock-out" politicians just like employers are doing when their employees seek better pay and benefits?

What is most interesting is that all of these politicians no matter which party are so "concerned" about tax-payers when they are running for office but after getting elected what do they do? They raise their own pay which is going to cost tax-payers money; but when it comes to:

1. Raising the minimum wage to a real living wage for all workers which would not cost tax-payers one single penny these same politicians get miserly and cheap.

In fact, this would add new revenue since workers employed at real living wages would be paying more in taxes.

2. Anti-scab legislation wouldn't cost tax-payers one single penny.

In fact, this would save tax-payers a lot of money as far as not having to provide food stamps, etc.

3. Anti-lockout legislation wouldn't cost tax-payers one single penny.

In fact, employed workers add revenue to state coffers; save in policing, etc.

4. The enforcement of Affirmative Action wouldn't cost tax-payers one single penny.

Politicians raising their own pay like the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party state legislators are proposing will cost tax-payers a bundle.

The bottom line is this:

What have Minnesota State Legislators done to improve our lives, our livelihoods and the general well-being of Minnesotan and our living environment to deserve a raise--- should legislators' pay be based on "merit" what would these politicians be worth to their bosses... Minnesota tax-payers?

I bet most tax-payers would say these politicians aren't worth what they are already being paid.

Minnesota State Legislators are working for the mining, forestry, power generating, banking and big-agribusiness industries--- yet none of these industries are getting tax increases to cover the pay of the politicians who work for THEM instead of US--- we the people.

If Minnesota politicians want a pay increase, let them increase the pathetically low present taconite tax on the mining industry and stumpage fees on the forestry industry to pay for their pay increases.

We have to remember that every time these politicians give themselves a pay increase we are taking pay cuts because their pay increases come right out of our pay-checks.

Do you want to take a pay cut so a bunch of worthless and corporate bribed Minnesota state legislators who don't give two-hoots as to whether or not you:
* have a job?
* have a decent home to live in?
* your children get a quality public education?
* you have adequate health care?
* have healthy and safe air to breath and clean water to drink? 

Like with funding these dirty wars, there is always enough money for politicians to give themselves a raise.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Stalin, Herbert Romerstein and the Chechens.

Given all the publicity around the Boston Marathon bombing it seems one spin-off has been the creation of sympathy for "the poor abused Chechens" who had their lives uprooted by the big bad Stalin.

Well, here is my response:

What do you think of Roosevelt "re-locating" Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II? I would think Stalin had a more legitimate reason in trying to disband Nazi Chechen sympathizers.

And how did Churchill handle Nazi collaborators in England? Bang, in the middle of the night.

Do you trust Nazi sympathizers and Nazi collaborators? If you do you should welcome the Boston Bombing because the FBI and CIA have been allowing these Nazi sympathizers and Nazi collaborators into this country for many decades.

By the way, it was Roosevelt who turned away at least one boat load of Jews who were forced to "re-locate" by Hitler along with millions of other Jews and Gypsies who Hitler was forcing to "re-locate" to concentration camps--- with silence from the West.

Quite frankly, I think Stalin and the Red Army did us a favor in using the ten cent solution and the hangman's noose as they pushed into Nazi occupied regions.

This guy, Herbert Romerstein, has been the mastermind who used billions of our tax dollars to help these Nazi sympathizers and Nazi collaborators and even outright Nazi butchers find homes and good-paying jobs in this country as they have secretly plotted to re-establish fascism:



http://www.iwp.edu/faculty/facultyID.9/profile.asp

The fact of the matter is, many of these Chechens want the "right" to set up their own little fascist dictatorship based on the Hitlerite "model," and apparently the FBI and CIA have been helpful to them in supporting their "aspirations."

Speaking of being uprooted; my Dad, my uncles and millions of other people from all over the world had their lives uprooted and moved into the fields of battle having to fight these Nazi bastards--- that the United States government has given them haven and refuge makes me sick especially since over 80 members of my family were uprooted and re-located from their homes in Poland and re-located to concentration camps from which they never returned.

None other than Franklin D. Roosevelt, after meeting with Stalin, was forced to admit that "Stalin isn't such a bad guy considering the problems he was faced with from Hitler's fascist hordes"... which included many of these Chechen collaborators of which these two "sweetheart" Boston Bombers were from such a family and had been indoctrinated and fed Hitlerite hate. Figure it out, if these "two normal Boston Boys" hadn't been raised on the most vile hate how would they ever have come up with the idea to hurt so many innocent people? Such demented minds aren't created in a few days or even several months--- it takes years "nurturing" such hate. Like Hillary Clinton is so fond of saying--- "... it takes a village."

Yes; one is either raised in a village respecting love and peace or one is raised in a village promoting hate, bigotry, racism and war.

If these two "sweethearts" are typical of the "Boston normal" in the neighborhoods where they were raised, Bostonians should all hang their heads in shame.

By the way, we saw the hate spewed from all these little sects of Nazi collaborators re-located to this country by the FBI and CIA with the help of Herbert Romerstein where they found homes in Boston when Boston public schools were integrated and racist hate exploded like a bomb.

I'm wondering why as much emphasis isn't placed on the "re-location" of First Nation's Peoples to Indian Reservations?

Kate Middleton shows off baby bump

Well, the Brits are going to have another parasite to support:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/kate-middleton/10008761/Kate-Middleton-shows-off-baby-bump-in-Mulberry-coat.html

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The FBI could infiltrate Occupy Wall Street to destroy the voice of the people and while they were wasting resources trampling on the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights they gave these "sweethearts" two years to plot the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Earth Day 2013

I remember the first Earth Day. I spoke at four rallies in four different cities in Michigan on the same day. In each speech I pointed out that "... labor with quite a little help from Mother Nature creates all wealth with capitalists, in the process of exploiting labor and raping Mother Nature destroying our living environments..."

Things haven't changed for the better since that first Earth Day back in 1970 and the source of our problems remain the same. Wall Streets greedy drive for maximum short-term profits is the primary source of our problems and the Wall Street merchants of death and destruction with their insane militarism and dirty imperialist wars are leaving behind the largest carbon footprint of them all.

The history of Earth Day is often distorted as Earth Days more and more become controlled and manipulated by the corporate community boasting of how "green" they have become with very few environmental activists aware of the environmental problems workers have to confront in their workplaces and and in the communities where they live.

I can remember the first Earth Day workers speaking about the terrible conditions in their workplaces with dangerous chemicals, all kinds of noxious and deadly fumes and the health hazards of second-hand smoke.

The first Earth Day had a very strong class component as well as exposed the special hazards to women, infants, children and the very racist aspect of many environmental health hazards in the workplace and communities.

Because of corporate sponsorship, many of the foundation-funded environmentalists refuse to discuss the class aspects relating to environmentalism on Earth Day or any other day--- this needs to be challenged and changed because if an industry is contaminating and polluting the environment chances are, the workers in those places of employment are suffering the worst health consequences.

Two-million casino workers are employed in the hideous Indian Gaming Industry in smoke-filled casinos across this country and chances are good environmentalists will not have the decency or the moral and political courage to address this issue.

Silence because the Democrats get hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the Indian Gaming Industry.

Even the Green Party is not immune from this corruption as we have seen in northern Wisconsin where Green Frank Koehn works hand in hand with the Indian Gaming Industry yet remains silent when it comes to casino workers being forced to work in smoke-filled casinos in his own back-yard with his "Waters Edge" environmental project funded by the Indian Gaming Industry promoting "sky blue waters and clean fresh air."

Gaylord Nelson wasn't afraid to speak up for the rights of workers to be employed in health working environments at work or in the working class communities where workers live.

Look at this pathetic, shameful and disgusting corporate-sponsored "history" of Earth Day--- not one single mention of environmentalism in the workplace:

http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement

In fact, it was in 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, that the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) was created.

And 43 years later, casino workers are employed in loud, noisy smoke-filled casinos where OSHA isn't even enforced!

I have in front of me, "The Environmental Handbook," which was used to organize the first Earth Day from which Wall Street was a no show.

Today Wall Street is manipulating and controlling Earth Day the same way it manipulates and controls the politics of our country through the Democratic and Republican parties--- and even some elements in the Green Party.

Wisconsin's United States Senator Gaylord Nelson must be twisting and turning and screeching in his grave knowing that the very Wall Street culprits responsible for polluting and contaminating our places of employment and the communities where we live which combined are taking us on the road to the hell which is in store for us we barrel down this road of smoke-filled casinos, global warming and climate change.

The "man from Clear Lake" would be deeply disappointed with the corporate sponsorship of Earth Day 2013 and the foundation-funded environmentalists who craft their words and their actions in anticipation and preparation for getting their next grant.

I wonder what the "man from Clear Lake" would have to say about United States Steel naming its deadly brew of toxic waste held in its tailing pond in Mountain Iron, Minnesota the "Clearwater Reservoir?"

From Governor Gaylord Nelson to Governor Scott Walker... with Wall Street in charge the world is going the way of Wisconsin... Am I the only one who is fed up?

April 22nd is upon us once again...

Happy Earth Day!

If we want our children and grandchildren participating in Earth Days we sure as heck better intensify our struggles to be free from capitalism because the only "green" these Wall Street vultures know about is money "green."

Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Looks like the "ladder out of poverty" Obama handed to the poor is missing a few rungs.

Looks like the "ladder out of poverty" being provided to the poor by Obama and the Democrats is missing a few rungs:


Interesting; Finland has top notch health care (free) and top notch education (including through university all free). Too bad Finland also has mega multi-national Pory (http://www.poyry.com/) advising the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan DNR's on power generating, mining and forestry issues when we should be learning about health care and education from Finland. Perhaps the politicians being bribed by Poyry could at least ask them for connections about how to solve poverty, better our schools and reform health care? 

I wonder what percent of their budgets Iceland and Finland spend on militarization and wars?

Perhaps when Van Jones comes to town he will have some comments on this Minnesota Arms Spending Alternative Project:

http://www.mnasap.org/

I wonder why Democratic Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton hasn't taken the initiative to get all the Governors together to tell Obama we need a war on poverty not drone wars killing poor children?

I wonder where child poverty stands in relation to these other Nations for the sovereign Indian Nations? Probably would be way off the chart.

Wouldn't it be something if we could see countries rated on where they stack up when it comes to "democracy?" No doubt the United States and Canada would be tied for first place. Too bad boasts of "democracy" can't fill the bellies of hungry children.

Something to think about:

Poverty wages and racist discrimination in employment cause poverty.

-- 
Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell: 651-587-5541

Primary E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

The time is now for the creation of a National Public Bank.

The Obama-loving foundation flower Amy B. Dean is claiming the "far left" and the "far right" agree that the big banks should be busted up.

It is interesting to note that Amy Dean considers Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown to be "far left."

What a convenient way to write off the ideas of real liberals, real progressives and real leftists by calling Sherrod Brown "far left."

What foundation flower Amy B. Dean is also doing in writing off real liberals, real progressives and real leftists by calling Sherrod Brown "far left" is writing off what many of us liberals, progressives and leftists propose as the solution to the banking crisis brought on by corruption and a collapsing international capitalist economy--- nationalizing the entire banking industry by bringing the banks under public ownership.

Foundation flower Amy Dean and her "far left" buddy Senator Sherrod Brown--- along with conservative George Will and a bunch of right wing members of Congress--- propose busting up the banks in the way "Ma" Bell Telephone was "busted up: "bad for workers and bad for consumers and bad for society.

Ma Bell should have been nationalized and brought under public ownership; not busted up into uncontrollable and unmanageable rackets now ripping off consumers and driving down the standard of living of workers employed in the industry.

What we need is a National Public Banking System similar to the State Bank of North Dakota with corresponding State Banks as proposed by our friend Virg Bernero during his campaign for Michigan Governor.

United States Postal Outlets could become the branch offices along with automated banking machines in all public facilities and everyone would have convenient access to banking through their home computers. This is not some kind of sci-fi dream; in the United Kingdom the private banking industry is already operating this way through their postal system so there would be no problem with a public banking system providing the same kind of services.

I addition, we would be getting a handle on the real wealth created by workers now being horded by these Wall Street banksters and financial parasites.

We simply don't need these "money managers;" put them to work at a teller window in the United States Post Office or put them in jail where they really belong.

It would be foolish and stupid to bust up the banks and create even more of these crooked and corrupt banksters and allow them to feed like parasites of the wealth created by workers as they manage an expanding corruption of their creation of our political and economic system.

Union pension funds, Social Security, Rail Road Retirement, veterans and unemployment benefits as well as food stamps and Medicare/Medicaid and all kinds of government funds could be the financial foundation for a National Public Banking System--- why would we want to bust up the banks making it even more difficult to gain control over the wealth created by the working class?

To begin with, Congress should pay back the more than three-trillion dollars it has stolen from the Social Security Trust Fund--- this public capital could then be used to build a National Public Health Care System and a National Public Child Care System and unlike the money stolen from the Social Security Trust Fund which these "far right" and "far left" Republicans and Democrats have squandered on wars for which we get not one single penny in return, "we the people," would at least be left holding two universal social services of benefit to everyone instead of the body count from wars.

The "Peace Dividends" derived from electing a real liberal, progressive and left electoral coalition backed by a "People's Lobby" bringing an end to these unending dirty imperialist wars being waged in our name and paid for by our tax-dollars and the blood of so many innocent people in other lands would constitute the largest deposit in the National Public Banking System which could then be used to fund everything we know we need as a people for the benefit of society instead of using tax-dollars trying to bolster and salvage the "free market economy." 

Let Amy B. Dean and her fellow foundation flowers wilt on the stem so we can pick off the dead-heads and properly dispose of the diseased seeds so they don't get carried off by corrupt political winds like Monsanto's genetically modified seeds.

If we as real liberals, real progressives and real leftists begin to advance these kinds of ideas and organize for real change we will grow a political and economic system worthy of being branded as "democracy."

A National Public Banking System will pave the way for a real "people's recovery" from this economic mess Wall Street has saddled us with that is wreaking so much havoc in the lives of working people.

Wall Street gives us the shaft while shoving austerity measures down our throats--- thus making huge profits each way using the private banking system to carry out its reactionary agenda.

When public infrastructure goes private

Mr. Hiltzik,

I found your article very interesting:

http://articles.latimes.com/print/2013/apr/12/business/la-fi-hiltzik-20130412

What I don't understand is why, after bringing the U.S. Postal Service into this discussion, you fail to advocate the obvious...

The United States Postal Service should be providing us with internet service which would result in lower rates for users while providing revenue the U.S. Postal Service needs and it would have the advantage of saving and creating jobs.

A publicly owned national fiber-optic data network is what we really need.

Alan L. Maki

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Will the hypocrisy of environmentalists and greed and corruption of the Indian Gaming Industry bring ruin to the Penokee Hills in northern Wisconsin?

There is so much hypocrisy in the environmental movement which is headed up by muddle-headed middle class intellectuals who make their livings from foundation grants and who have no concern for working people.

The fact of the matter is, these "philanthropists" who contribute to the foundations which are funding most of the environmental organizations like Save the Waters Edge are the very robber barons who derive their profits exploiting workers and raping Mother Nature as they lord over the mining, forestry and power generating industries along with the Indian Gaming Industry.

Take a look at the environmental movement underway to save the Penokee Hills in northern Wisconsin.

A very noble effort is being made to protect the environment and ecosystem from destruction by an iron ore mining project.

What I don't understand is why the same scientific methodology, logic, reasoning, facts and empirical evidence don't apply to the second-hand smoke and noise levels in the casinos in the Indian Gaming Industry like the Bad River Casino at the base of the Penokee Hills where workers are forced to work for poverty wages and without any rights especially when the solutions are so simple:

1. Put up "No Smoking" signs. (Cost: $50.00 for "No Smoking" signs.)

2. Turn down the volume. (Cost: $0.00. Just turn down the volume controls.)

It seems where profits are at stake, being the mining industry or the Indian Gaming Industry, profits always come before human health and the environment.

Does the environment in the workplace matter to environmentalists?

Does it make any sense to protect people from the predicted pending environmental catastrophe this iron ore mining would supposedly pose to human health and the environment only to kill the very people being protected from iron ore mining in smoke-filled casinos?

Does it make any difference if a worker goes deaf because of loud noises in a casino or working on a crusher?

I predict the environmentalists will fail to halt the iron ore mining in northern Wisconsin's Penokee Hills because their own hypocrisy will be used by the proponents of iron ore mining to discredit them.

I spend a lot of time fly-fishing the trout streams of the Penokee Hills but how could I possibly work with these "environmentalists" whose leader is a Green Party politician--- Frank Koehn--- who is in the pocket of the Indian Gaming Industry, and other such hypocrites who have no concern for the health of workers in the Indian Gaming Industry?

The epitome of this hypocrisy is Mike Wiggins, Jr. who is the Chair of the Bad River Indian Nation who says he is concerned that iron ore mining in the Penokee Hills will adversely affect air and water quality when he is the one responsible for subjecting casino workers to second-hand smoke and the sewage problem resulting from the waste created from the casino is polluting the rivers and lakes because he is too cheap to put in the proper sewage system.

Everyone knows the only reason Mike Wiggins, Jr. is opposing the iron ore mining is because the union wages paid to iron ore miners would force Wiggins to pay casino workers a higher wage... Wiggins obviously doesn't care about clean air or clean water or else he would clean up his own act.

I guess I'll have to find a new place to fish... the poor fish are going to die just like casino workers.

The environmentalists are already crying for the fish without shedding any tears for casino workers dying from second-hand smoke created cancers, heart and lung diseases and complications second-hand smoke causes to people suffering from diabetes.

Mike Wiggins, Jr. says he is concerned for future generations should iron ore mining take place in the Penokee Hills. Wiggins can't be all that concerned about future generations because most of the workers employed in the Bad River Casino are young women of child-bearing years and science has proven second-hand smoke is very hazardous to the health of pregnant women, unborn children and nursing mothers and their infants.

Will the hypocrisy of environmentalists and greed and corruption of the Indian Gaming Industry bring ruin to the Penokee Hills in northern Wisconsin?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Obama's drone wars condemned in Canada at New Democratic Party Convention by socialists.


Wary of China, Companies Head to Cambodia

The time has come to talk about the "ownership" question.

Should Wall Street investors be allowed to own the mines, mills and factories or is it time to talk about nationalization under public ownership of the mines, mills and factories?


Alan L. Maki


See response by Immanuel Wallerstein following the article.



Link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/business/global/wary-of-events-in-china-foreign-investors-head-to-cambodia.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

New York Times

Wary of China, Companies Head to Cambodia


  • Thomas Cristofoletti for The New York Times

  • Thomas Cristofoletti for The New York Times

  • Thomas Cristofoletti for The New York 
Workers, many of whom come from surrounding provinces, enter the main gate of the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Tiffany & Company is quietly building a diamond-polishing factory in Cambodia, a country popularly associated more with killing fields and land mines than baubles.
Multimedia
Some of Japan’s biggest manufacturers are also rushing to set up operations in Phnom Penh to make wiring harnesses for cars and touch screens and vibration motors for cellphones. European companies are not far behind, making dance shoes and microfiber sleeves for sunglasses.
Foreign companies are flocking to Cambodia for a simple reason. They want to limit their overwhelming reliance on factories in China.
Problems are multiplying fast for foreign investors in China. Blue-collar wages have surged, quadrupling in the last decade as a factory construction boom has coincided with waning numbers of young people interested in factory jobs. Starting last year, the labor force has actually begun shrinking because of the “one child” policy and an aging population.
“Every couple days, I’m getting calls from manufacturers who want to move their businesses here from China,” saidBradley Gordon, an American lawyer in Phnom Penh.
But multinational companies are finding that they can run from China’s rising wages but cannot truly hide. The populations, economies and even electricity output of most Southeast Asian countries are smaller than in many Chinese provinces, and sometimes smaller than a single Chinese city. As companies shift south, they quickly use up local labor supplies and push wages up sharply.
While wages and benefits often remain below levels needed to provide proper housing and balanced diets, the manufacturing investment — foreign direct investment in Cambodia rose 70 percent last year from 2011 — is starting to raise millions of people out of destitution. “People along the Mekong River are being lifted out of poverty by foreign investment inflows driven by higher Chinese wages,” said Peter Brimble, the senior economist for Cambodia at the Asian Development Bank.
Only a smattering of companies, mostly in low-tech sectors like garment and shoe manufacturing, are seeking to leave China entirely. Many more companies are building new factories in Southeast Asia to supplement operations in China. China’s fast-growing domestic market, large population and huge industrial base still make it attractive for many companies, while productivity in China is rising almost as fast as wages in many industries.
Foreign investment in China nonetheless slipped 3.5 percent last year, after rising every year since 1980 except 1999, during the Asian financial crisis, and 2009, during the global financial crisis. Still, at $119.7 billion, foreign investment in China continues to dwarf investment elsewhere.
By comparison, investment in Cambodia rose to $1.5 billion. But last year was the first time since comparable recordkeeping began in the 1970s that Cambodia received more foreign investment per person than China.
“People are not looking for exit strategies from China, they’re looking to set up parallel operations to hedge their bets,” said Bretton Sciaroni, another American lawyer here. Among Japanese makers, Sumitomo is making wiring harnesses for cars, Minebea is assembling parts for cellphones and Denso is about to start production of motorcycle ignition components.
Foreign investment also jumped last year in Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines.
As companies compete for employees, working conditions in the region are improving. Pactics, a Belgian-run company that is the world’s largest maker of microfiber sleeves for luxury sunglasses, has introduced employee benefits that were previously rare in Cambodia, like medical insurance, accident insurance, education allowances and free lunches.
Because costs are extremely low in Cambodia, where a visit to the doctor may cost only a couple of dollars, overall compensation for each worker is still less than $130 a month. At the company’s factory on the outskirts of Shanghai, workers doing the same tasks earn $560 to $640 a month, including government-mandated allowances, said Piet Holten, the company’s president.
Cambodian workers sew 15 to 30 percent fewer sleeves per day than their Shanghai counterparts, but productivity in Cambodia has been catching up.
“I will never get it up to China, but the cost is less than a third of China’s, and China only gets more expensive,” Mr. Holten said.
Overall monthly compensation for industrial workers has increased as much as 65 percent in the last five years in Cambodia, although from such a low base that workers here remain among the poorest in Asia. A decade ago, workers flocked to newly opened factories in Phnom Penh that posted hiring notices, but “today, you put a notice on a factory and you don’t have anybody come,” said Sandra D’Amico, the managing director of HR Inc. Cambodia, a human resources company.
Strikes this winter temporarily crippled numerous Taiwanese-owned garment factories in eastern Cambodia producing simple garments like bathing suits after Japanese factories moved in to make more sophisticated products like business suits and gloves — and offered higher pay and benefits.
At the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone here in central Cambodia, Minebea is trying to attract workers by building a modern, four-story dormitory for 2,000 people with six beds to a room and a large recreation hall — a big change from the plywood houses with thatched roofs in which millions of Cambodians still live. The Laurelton Diamonds unit of Tiffany has already driven pilings for a modern, 95,000-square-foot factory across the street to polish small diamonds, and is seeking international “green building” accreditation for the project.
Employment at the zone is doubling this year, to 20,000 workers, and is projected to redouble to 40,000 in the next several years, said Hiroshi Uematsu, the zone’s managing director.
Skeptics like David J. Welsh, the Cambodia representative of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s Solidarity Center, say that rising food and housing costs prevent many workers from fully benefiting from rising wages. Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said that his industry needed to resist workers’ demands for further pay increases to preserve international competitiveness.
Tatiana Olchanetzky, a manufacturing consultant to companies in the handbag and luggage industry, said that she had analyzed the costs in her industry of moving operations from China to the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. She found that any savings were very small because China produces most of the fabrics, clasps, wheels and other materials required for the bag trade, and these would have to be shipped to other countries if final assembly moved there.
But some factories have moved anyway, at the request of Western buyers who fear depending exclusively on a single country.
While moving to a new country with an unproved supply chain is a risk, Ms. Olchanetzky said, “They think there’s a risk in staying in China, too.”

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Question of Socialism (and Beyond!) Is About to Open Up in These United States

This is a really interesting, enlightening, thought-provoking and educational read; anyone who is open-minded would do well to read this and use this article as a basis for further discussion even though much about real socialism is ignored just like some of the most successful co-operative enterprises are not brought forward and discussed--- perhaps because they are a little too close to real socialism and the Gar Alperovitz  fails to mention the success of the Red Finn Cooperatives and the International Workers Order. And it is interesting universal social programs are not broached like a National Public Health Care System and a National Public Child Care System--- apparently out of fear of challenging the capitalist "market system" for which Alperovitz must think humanity can't do completely without.

But, this is worthwhile discussing. 

Additional reading might include "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific" since some of this being advocated borders on the utopian and even anarchistic side:
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/index.htm


Check out my blog for further information about socialism:
http://socialismtheoryandpractice.blogspot.com/


Alan L. Maki

    


The Question of Socialism (and Beyond!) Is About to Open Up in These United States

Friday, 12 April 2013 00:00By Gar AlperovitzTruthout | News Analysis

Capitalism Crisis.(Photo: Shira Golding Evergreen / Flickr)With Americans' interest in socialism rising, we need to seriously consider alternative designs to the current system, argues Alperovitz, in this practical critique of some known models.
Little noticed by most Americans, Merriam Webster, one of the world's most important dictionaries, announced a few months ago that the two most looked-up words in 2012 were "socialism" and "capitalism."
Traffic for the pair on the company's website roughly doubled from the year before. The choice was a "kind of no-brainer," observed editor at large, Peter Sokolowski. "They're words that sort of encapsulate the zeitgeist."
Leading polling organizations have found converging results among younger Americans. Two recent Rasmussen surveys, for instance, discovered that Americans younger than 30 are almost equally divided as to whether capitalism or socialism is preferable. Another Pew survey found those aged 18 to 29 have a more favorable reaction to the term "socialism" by a margin of 49 to 43 percent.
Note carefully: These are the people who will inevitably be creating the next American politics and the next American system.
As economic failure continues to create massive social and economic pain and a stalemated Washington dickers, search for some alternative to the current "system" is likely to continue to grow. It is clearly time to get serious about a different vision for the future. Critically, we need to be far more sophisticated about what a meaningful "systemic design" that might undergird a new direction (whether called "socialism" or whatever) would entail.
Classically, the central idea undergirding various forms of "socialism" (and there have been many, many forms, some of which use the terminology, some not) is democratic ownership of "the means of production," or "capital," or more simply, "productive wealth." Quite apart from questions of exploitation, systemic dynamics (and "contradictions"), the core idea is simple and straightforward: Those who own wealth - and the corporations that operate it - have far more power to control any system than those who don't.
In a nation in which a mere 400 people own more wealth than the bottom 180 million together, the point should be obvious. What is new in our time in history is that the traditional compromise position - namely progressive, or social democratic or liberal politics - has lost is capacity to offset such power even in the modest (compared, for instance, to many European states) ways the American welfare state once represented. Indeed, the emerging direction is to cut back previous gains in many areas - not to sustain or enlarge them. Even Social Security is now on the table for cuts.
Perhaps the most important reason for the decline of the traditional reform option is the decline of labor: Union membership has steadily decreased from roughly 35 percent of the labor force in 1954, to 11.3 percent now - a mere 6.6 percent in the private sector.
Along with this decay, and give or take an exception here and there, major trends in income and wealth, in civil liberties, in ecological devastation (and the release of climate-changing gases), in poverty and many other important indicators have been "going South" for several decades.
It is, accordingly, not surprising that dictionary look-ups and polls show interest in "something else." If, as is likely, the trends continue, that interest is also likely to increase. But what, specifically, might that "something else" entail? And is there any reason to hope - even as interest in the word "socialism" grows in the abstract - that we might move from where we are to "some other system" that might nurture equality, liberty, ecological sustainability, even global peace, more than the current decaying one we now have?
New Models of Socialist Structures
The classic model of socialism involved state (national) ownership of most large-scale capital and industry. But it is now clear to most observers that the concentration of such ownership in the state also commonly brings with it a concentration of political power as well; hence, the model can be detrimental to democracy as well as liberty (to say nothing, in real world experience, of the environment).
Alternative places to locate ownership have been suggested by different traditions: in cooperatives, in worker-owned firms, in municipalities, in regions, even in neighborhoods. Some of the advantages and challenges involved in the various forms are also well-known:
Starting at the ground level, there appear in virtually all studies to be very good reasons - for small and medium-size firms - to arrange ownership through cooperatives and worker-owned and self-managed enterprises. This is where direct democratic participation is (or can be) strongest, where a new culture can be developed and where a very different vision of work can evolve. Very solid proposals have been offered in such books as John Restakis' Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital and Richard Wolff's Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism (on what he calls "worker self-directed enterprises").
On the other hand, for larger, significant-scale enterprises, worker-ownership may not solve some critical problems. When worker-owned large firms operate in a market-based system (as proposed by some progressive analysts), groups of workers in such firms may develop narrow interests that are not necessarily the same as those of the society as a whole. (It may be in their interests, for instance, to pollute the community's air and water rather than pay cleanup costs - especially when the firm faces stiff competition from other private or worker-owned companies.) Studies of worker-owned plywood companies in the Northwest found that all too easily workers developed narrow "worker-capitalist" attitudes (and conservative political views) as they competed in the marketplace. Nor does such ownership solve problems of inequality: Workers who "own" the garbage companies are clearly on a different footing, for instance, than specific groups of workers lucky enough to "own" the oil industry.
Often here - and in several other variants of socialist ideas - it is hoped that a new culture (or ideology) or progressive forms of taxation, regulation and other policies can offset the underlying tendencies of the models. However, there is reason to be skeptical of "after-the-fact" remedies that hope to counter the inherent dynamics of any model, since political power and interest group influence often follow from ownership irrespective of good intentions and the hope that progressive political ideals, or ideology, will save the day. If the attitudes nurtured by the plywood co-ops turn out to be the norm, then new worker-owned companies would likelynot generate strong support for regulations and taxation that help society at large but restrict or tax their own firm.
Let me stress that we simply do not know whether this might or might not be the case. It is, however, a mistake to assume either that socially responsible regulations can be "pasted on" to any institutional substructure (especially if they create costs to that substructure), or that institutions will automatically generate a sufficiently powerful cooperative culture and institutional power dynamic in favor of regulations and taxation even if it adds costs to their own institution and is detrimental to the material interests of those involved.
To get around some of these problems, some theorists have proposed democratically managed enterprises that are nonetheless owned by the broader society through one or another structural form. Although workers in the "self-managed" firm could gain from greater efficiency and initiative, major profits would go to the society as a whole. Still, note that in such cases, too, the incentive structure of the competitive market tends to create incentives to reduce costs - for instance, by externalizing environmentally destructive wastes. Also, when there are economies of scale, market-based systems generate very powerful pressures to adopt new technologies and prioritize growth (or lose out to other firms that also are under pressure to grow and adopt new technologies) - and this dynamic, too, runs counter to the needs of an ecologically sustainable future.) John Bellamy Foster's The Ecological Revolution, among other efforts, gives depth to the ecological foundational arguments further systemic designs must consider.
Designing for Community
We are clearly at the exploratory stage in connection with these matters, but the really important question is clearly whether a new model might inherently generate outcomes that do not require "after-the-fact" policy fixes or attempted fixes it is hoped the political system will supply. Especially since such "fixes" come out of a larger culture, the terms of reference of which are significantly set by the underlying economic institutions, and if these develop competitive and growth-oriented attitudes, the outcomes are likely to be different from those hoped for by progressive proponents. Lest we jump to any quick conclusions, it is again important to be clear that no one has as yet come up with a serious "model" that might both achieve efficiencies and self-directed management - and also work to create an equitable, ecologically sustainable larger culture and system. All have flaws.
Some of the problems and also some of the design features of alternatives, however, begin to suggest some possible directions for longer-term development:
For instance, a third model that has traditionally had some resonance is to locate primary ownership of significant scale capital in "communities" rather than either the state or specific groups of workers - i.e. in geographic communities and in political structures that are inclusive of all the people in the community. (By definition geographic communities inherently include not only the workers who at any moment in time may only include half the population, but also stay-at-home, child-rearing males or females, the elderly, the infirm, children and young people in school - in short the entire community.)
Community models also inherently "internalize externalities" - meaning that unlike private enterprise or even worker-owned companies that may have a financial interest in lowering costs by not cleaning up environmentally destructive practices, community-owned firms are in a different position: If the community chooses to continue such practices, it is polluting itself, a choice it can then examine from a comprehensive perspective - and in a framework that does not inherently pose the interests of the firm against community-wide interests.
Variations on this model include the "municipal socialism" that played so important a role in early 20th century American socialist politics - and is still evident in more than 2,000 municipally owned utilities, a good deal of new municipal land development and many other projects. "Social ecologist" Murray Bookchin gave primary emphasis to a municipal version of the community model in works likeRemaking Society: Pathways to a Green Future, and Marxist geographer David Harvey has begun to explore this option as well. (As Harvey emphasizes, any "model" would likely also have to build up higher level supporting structures and could not function successfully were it left to simply float in the free market without some larger supporting system.)
Current suggestive practical developments in this direction include a complex or "mixed" model in Cleveland that involves worker co-ops that are linked together and subordinated to a community-wide, nonprofit structure - and supported by something of a quasi-planning system (directed procurement from hospitals and universities that depend in significant part on public financial support). An earlier model involving joint community and worker ownership was developed by steelworkers in Youngstown, Ohio, in the late 1970s.
The Jewish theologian Martin Buber also offered a community-oriented variation based on cooperative ownership of capital in one geographic community. He saw this "full cooperative" (and confederations of such communities) as an answer the problems both of corporate capitalism and of state socialism. Buber's primary practical experimental demonstration was the Israeli cooperative commune (kibbutz), but the principle might well be applied in other forms. Karl Marx's discussion of the Paris Commune (and of the Russian village commune or mir) is also suggestive of possibilities in this direction.
In the various community models there is also every reason to expect that specific communities will develop "interests" that may or may not be the same as those of the society as a whole. (Again think of communities located on top of important natural resources versus others not so favored.) The formula based on community ownership, however, may have a potential advantage that might under certain circumstances - and with clear intent - help at least partly offset the tendency for any structural form to produce narrow interest-group ideas and power. This is the simple fact that a fully inclusive structure that nurtures ideals of "community" - as opposed to ideas of individual ownership, on the one hand, or worker-group ownership of specific firms, on the other - may offer greater possibilities for building a common culture of community, one in which norms of equal treatment and common interest are inherently generated by the structural design itself (at least within communities and possibly beyond.)
To the extent this is so, or could be nurtured, a systemic design based on communities (or joint worker-community ownership) might both allow for decentralization and also for the generation of common values. A subset of issues also involves smaller scale geographic community ownership, in the form of neighborhoods. And such a model might also include a mix of smaller scale worker-owned and cooperative forms, and even (larger scale) state and nationally owned public enterprise as well - a structural form that is now far more common and efficient in many countries around the world than is widely understood.
Questions of Scale
Social ownership by neighborhoods, municipalities, states, and, of course, nations (all with or without some formula of "joint" worker ownership) are not the only models based on the fact that geography is commonly inherently inclusive of all parties - and therefore potentially capable of helping nurture inclusive norms and inclusive cultures. A final formula (for the moment) for significant scale and ultimately large industry is also based on geography, but at a different level still. This attempts to resolve some of these problems (and that of genuine democratic participation) by defining the key unit as a region, a formula urged by the radical historian, the late William Appleman Williams, as especially appropriate to a very large nation like the United States. It is not often realized how very different in scale the United States is from most European nations: Germany, for instance, can be tucked into a geographic area the size of Montana. Nor have many faced the fact that our current 315 million-person population is likely to reach 500 million over coming decades (and possibly a billion by the end of the century, if the US Census Bureau's high estimate were to be realized.) During the Depression, various regional ownership models like the Tennessee Valley Authority were proposed, some of which were far more participatory and democratic in their design than the model that is currently in place. Legislation to create seven large-scale, publicly-owned regional efforts was, in fact, supported by the Roosevelt Administration at certain points in time.
Many other variations, of course, also have been proposed. The Parecon model, for instance, would attempt to replace a system of market exchanges with a system in which citizens would iteratively rank their preferences for consumer goods along with proposed amounts of proffered labor time. Proposals, like that of David Schweickart in After Capitalism, pick up on forms of worker self management, but also emphasize national ownership of the underlying capital. Seth Ackerman, in arecent essay for Jacobin, urges a worker-controlled model, but stresses the need for independent sources of publicly controlled investment capital. Other thinkers, like Michael Leobowitz in his book, The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development, have taken inspiration from Latin America's leftward movement, and especially from Venezuela, to articulate a participatory vision of socialism rooted in democratic and cooperative practices. Joel Kovel in The Enemy of Nature argues that the impending ecological crisis necessitates a fundamental change away from the private ownership of earth's resources.
And, of course, the question of planning versus markets needs to be put on the list of design challenges. Planning has its own long list of challenges - including, critically, who controls the planners and whether participatory forms of planning may be developed drawing on smaller scale emerging experience and also on a much more focused understanding of what needs to be planned and what ought to be independent of public direction. (Also how the market can be used to keep a planning system in check.)
As noted, there is also the question of enterprise scale - a consideration that suggests possible mixes of different forms of social ownership: where to locate the ownership and control of very large scale firms is one thing; very small another; and intermediate still another. Most "socialist" models these days also allow for an independent sector that includes small independent capitalist firms, especially in the innovative high-tech sector.
Related to all this is the question of function: The development and management of land, for instance, is commonly best done through a geographic institution - i.e. a neighborhood or municipal land trust. Public forms of banking and finance tend also to be best anchored in (though operated independently of) cities, states and nations. Though medical practices must be local, social or socialized health systems tend to work best in areas that include large populations - i.e. states or nations. In some cases, quite apart from efficiency considerations, ecological considerations make regions especially appropriate. (One of the rationales, originally, for the Tennessee Valley Administration had to do with managing a very challenging river system.)
On the Ground Now
Finally, there is much to learn from models abroad - particularly Mondragon, on the one hand, and the worker-cooperative and other networks in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, on the other. The first, Mondragon, has demonstrated how an integrated system of more than 100 cooperatives can function effectively (and in areas of high technical requirement) - and at the same time maintain an extremely egalitarian and participatory culture of institution control. The Italian cooperatives have demonstrated important ways to achieve "networked" production among large numbers of small units - and further, to use the regional government in support of the overall effort. Though the experience of both is extraordinary, simple extrapolations may or may not be possible: Both models, it is also important to note, developed out of historical contexts that helped create intense cultural and political solidarity - contexts also of extraordinary repression by fascist regimes, Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy. Finally, although the Emilia Romagna cooperatives are effective in their use of state policy, both models are best understood as institutional "elements" that may contribute to a potential national solution. Neither claims to, or attempts to, develop a coherent overall "systemic" design for a nation.
These various abstract considerations come down to earth when one realizes that there is far more going on, practically, on the ground related to the ownership forms than most people realize - a great deal that is not covered by the increasingly hobbled and financially constrained press. For a start, around 130 million Americans - 40 percent of the population - are members of one or another form of cooperative, a traditional collective ownership form that now includes large numbers of credit unions, agricultural co-ops dating back to the 1930s, electrical co-ops prevalent in many rural areas, insurance co-ops, food co-ops, retail co-ops (such as the outdoor recreational company REI and the hardware purchasing cooperative ACE), health-care co-ops, artist co-ops and many, many more.
There are also many, many worker-owned companies structured in ways different from traditional co-ops - indeed, around 11,000 of them, involving 10.3 million people, in virtually every sector, some very large and sophisticated. Technically, these companies are structured as ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans) - and in fact 3 million more individuals are involved in worker-owned companies of this kind than are members of unions in the private sector. (Though there have been a variety of problems with this form, there has also been evolution with greater worker control and also experiments with unionization that in the future might suggest important additional possibilities.) Finally and critically, the United Steelworkers have put forward a new direction in union-worker co-ops.
There are also thousands of "social enterprises" that use democratized ownership to make money and use both the money and the enterprise itself to achieve a broader social purpose. By far the most common social enterprise is the traditional Community Development Corporation, or CDC. Nearly 5,000 have long been in operation in almost every US city of significant size. For the most part, CDCs have served as low-income housing developers and incubators for small businesses. Early on in the 50-year history of the movement, however, a different, larger vision was in play - one that is still present in some of the more advanced CDC efforts and one that suggests additional possibilities for the future.
Still another form of democratized ownership involves growing numbers of "land trusts" - essentially neighborhood or municipal corporations that own housing and other property in ways that prevent gentrification and turn development profits into support of low- and moderate-income housing. One of the best known is the Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, Vermont, which traces its modest beginnings to the early 1980s and now provides accommodation for more than 2,000 households. Hundreds of such collective ownership efforts now exist, and new land trusts are now being established on an expanding, ongoing basis in diverse contexts and cities all over the country.
Since 2010, twenty states have also considered legislation to establish public banks like that of North Dakota, which has operated with strong public support for more than nine decades. Approximately 20 states have considered legislation to establish single-payer health-care plans. Nor should we forget that the United States government de facto nationalized General Motors and AIG, one of the largest insurance companies in the world, during the recent crisis. It started selling them back once the profits began to roll, but in future crises, different outcomes might be ultimately achieved if practical experiments at the local and state level begin to create experiences that might be generalized to national models when the time is right - especially if the current system continues to decay and deteriorate. (Many of the national models that became the core programs of the New Deal were incubated in the state and local "laboratories of democracy" in the decades prior to the time national political possibilities opened up).
At this stage of development, there is every reason to experiment with many forms - a "community-sustaining" direction that I have suggested might be called a "Pluralist Commonwealth" to emphasize the plurality of common or democratized wealth-holding efforts.
Getting Serious
I obviously do not hope in this brief sketch to try to offer a fully developed alternative. My goal is much simpler: First, to suggest that the questions classically posed by the word "socialism" that is now coming back into public use need to be discussed and debated by a much broader group than has traditionally been concerned with these issues; and second, to suggest further that if one looks closely there is evidence that some of the potential real world elements of a solution may be developing in ways that might one day open the way to a very American and very populist variant (whether called "socialist" or not). It is time, accordingly, to discuss the deeper design issues carefully and thoughtfully and in ways that involve a much larger share of the very large numbers of people, beyond the traditional left, who the polls and dictionary inquiries suggest may be interested in these questions.
Even as we learn more and more about the various forms and their positive and negative features and tendencies, hopefully we can engage in a far-reaching and thoughtful debate about how a new model might be created that is both systemically sophisticated and also appropriate to American culture and traditions - a model that nurtures democracy and a culture of inclusiveness and ecological sanity. Many serious and committed people on the left have been struggling with these issues and keeping the critical questions alive for decades. Even though the way forward, politically, is obviously daunting, difficult and uncertain, it is time to widen the dialogue in ways that include the millions of Americans who now seem increasingly open to the challenge.
Nor should the pessimism of the moment undercut what needs to be done: Anyone looking at Latin America 30 years ago might easily have been judged foolish to think change could occur - and that debate concerning these kinds of questions was important. Yet even during and through the pain - and the torture and dictatorship - new beginnings somehow were made in many areas and by many people. Our own course may be difficult, but easy pessimism is an all-too-common escape mechanism to avoid responsibility. It is also comforting: If one buys the judgment that nothing can ever be done, that it is impossible, one has an excuse not to try and also not to try to reach out to others. The fact is the failings of the present system are themselves forcing more and more people to explore new ideas and develop new experiments and new political efforts.
The important points to emphasize are three: [1] There is openness in the public, and especially among a much, much broader group than many think, to discussing these issues - including even the word "socialism;" [2] It is accordingly time to get very serious about some of the challenging substantive and theoretical issues involved; and [3] There are also many on-the-ground experiments, and projects and developments that suggest practical directions that are under way, but also that a new politics (whatever it is called) might begin to build upon them if it got serious.


GAR ALPEROVITZ

Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative, is the author of the forthcoming What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About The Next American Revolution (Chelsea Green, May Day 2013).

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