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“Strike” From Chile to Lebanon: Working class offensive sweeps the globe! by WSWS.Org

26 Oct

Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)

 

The past week has seen a new stage in the eruption of the global class struggle, with mass protests bringing two seemingly disparate countries to a halt over what are undeniably similar grievances that are rooted in the historic and systemic crisis of the global capitalist system.

In Chile, the announcement by the right-wing government of President Sebastián Piñera of a 4 percent rise in mass transit fares ignited an uncontrollable wave of mass protests that have created a crisis of capitalist rule. The government’s response, reflecting the fears of the Chilean bourgeoisie, has been to impose a state of emergency and curfew, deploying 20,000 troops in the streets of Santiago and thousands more across the country. According to official figures, 18 people have been killed since the protests began, hundreds wounded and at least 5,000 arrested. The criminal methods of the US-backed Pinochet dictatorship have been resurrected, with reports of disappearances, torture of prisoners and sexual assaults against women detained in the protests.

This naked repression has only succeeded in swelling the protests. According to figures from the Chilean Interior Ministry, 424,000 people participated in 68 separate marches and demonstrations across the country Wednesday. Undoubtedly, the real figure is far higher. A general strike continued into its second day on Thursday, with hundreds of thousands more taking to the streets.

 

 

Meanwhile, Lebanon has also been rocked by mass protests over the past week, bringing an estimated one quarter of the country’s 6 million people into the streets. The immediate trigger was the government’s attempt to impose yet another gouging austerity measure aimed at making the country’s working class pay for its deep economic crisis—a $6-a-month tax on WhatsApp messages. As in Chile, attempts to use the army to break up protests have only inflamed popular anger.

Both Piñera in Chile and his Lebanese counterparts, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun, attempted to allay the popular upheavals with statements of contrition and offers of minimal economic relief measures. In both countries, the masses in the streets dismissed these cynical gestures as too little, too late, and are demanding the downfall of the regimes.

In both countries, the driving force behind the mass protests is the ceaseless and malignant growth of social inequality. The richest 1 percent monopolize 58 percent of the wealth, while the poorest 50 percent own less than 1 percent, in Lebanon, long-considered the region’s “free enterprise” haven for capitalist investment. In Chile, recently touted by Piñera as a regional “oasis” for finance capital, the richest 1 percent gobble up 33 percent of national income, according to World Bank data from 2017.

The New York Times, a principal voice of the US ruling elite, has taken note of the eruption of mass protests in Chile, Lebanon and other countries, commenting in a front-page article that “experts discern a pattern: a louder-than-usual howl against elites in countries where democracy is a source of disappointment, corruption is seen as brazen, and a tiny political class lives large while the younger generation struggles to get by.”

 

 

Strangely missing from this review of what the article’s headline describes as “popular fury across the globe” is what is happening in the United States itself. It quotes one of the “experts”, Vali Nasr, who recently left his post as dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, as commenting: “In countries where elections are decisive, like the United States and Britain, skepticism about the old political order has produced populist, nationalist and anti-immigrant results at the polls. In other countries, where people don’t have a voice, you have massive protests erupting.”

Are the Times editors genuinely oblivious to what is happening in the US, or are they just whistling past the graveyard? They publish this as 48,000 autoworkers have been on strike against General Motors for 40 days and 32,000 teachers and school workers in Chicago are entering the second week of a walkout that has shut down the country’s third-largest school district. The number of workers in the US on strike last year—over half a million—was the highest in more than three decades.

All the conditions that the Times describes in other countries—profound social inequality, corruption and a political system that is utterly indifferent to the interests of masses of working people—find stark expression in the US, the center of world capitalism, where the top 1 percent hoards roughly 40 percent of total wealth, and a social explosion is also on the agenda.

Thursday’s Times also carried an editorial titled “Chile Learns the Price of Economic Inequality”. Noting that Chile’s “protesters’ rage is born of the frustrations of everyday life,” it goes on to state: “Chileans live in a society of extraordinary economic disparities … Santiago’s prosperity is undeniable. Viewed from the top of the tallest building in South America, which stands in the middle of a financial district called ‘Sanhattan,’ neighborhoods with luxury apartments, private hospitals and private schools stretch as far as the eye can see.

 

 

“But Santiago’s poverty also is striking: crumbling public hospitals, overcrowded schools, shantytowns that sit on the outskirts of the metropolis.

“And farther from Santiago are cities untouched by the recent boom.”

Substitute United States for Chile, and Manhattan for “Sanhattan” and little of this depiction of a country dominated by social inequality would need to be changed.

The Gini coefficient, the most commonly used statistical measure of income inequality, places the United States, at 41.5 barely less unequal than Chile, at 47.7.

The Times editorial attributes Chile’s crisis to the government’s “unsustainably narrow conception of its obligations to its citizens,” which it in turn blames upon the Pinochet dictatorship, which ruled the country from 1973 to 1990, for dictating policies based upon “free-market competition”. What it neglects to mention is that these policies were drafted by the so-called “Chicago Boys”, bourgeois economists trained by the University of Chicago’s “free market” godfather, Milton Friedman.

The same essential policies have been introduced by successive US governments—Democratic and Republican alike—depriving millions of essential social services ranging from health care to food stamps and retirement income, while leaving 40 million people living below the absurdly low official poverty rate of $25,000 for a family of four.

A striking feature of the protests in both Chile and Lebanon are the statements by demonstrators in both countries that the latest austerity measures are merely the straw that broke the camel’s back, and that they are fighting against an unequal social order that has been built up over the past 30 years. In Chile, these three decades began with the end of the military dictatorship, and in Lebanon, with the end of the civil war.

 

 

This also is an expression of a global shift. The social relations created over the past 30 years, began with the Stalinist bureaucracy’s restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. They have been based upon the suppression of the class struggle, the uninterrupted growth of social inequality and financial parasitism and the vast transfer of wealth from masses of working people the world over to a tiny wealthy elite. Today, this social order is rapidly unraveling under the weight of a resurgence of struggle by the international working class.

Objective events are exposing the complete political bankruptcy of the pseudo-left organizations and so-called “left” academics who wrote off the working class and the struggle for socialism. Nothing in their perspective, based on nationalism and identity politics, foresaw the emerging global eruption of class struggle.

These events, however, were substantially anticipated by the World Socialist Web Site and the International Committee of the Fourth International in both their theoretical analysis and practice.

In its 1988 perspectives document “The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International,” the ICFI explained why the class struggle would inevitably assume a global character, based upon the “massive development of transnational corporations and the resulting global integration of capitalist production have produced an unprecedented uniformity in the conditions confronting the workers of the world.”

The document stated: “It has long been an elementary proposition of Marxism that the class struggle is national only as to form, but that it is, in essence, an international struggle. However, given the new features of capitalist development, even the form of the class struggle must assume an international character. Even the most elemental struggles of the working class pose the necessity of coordinating its actions on an international scale.”

This now becomes the most urgent and concrete political question. The current mass social protests and strikes are the initial expression of a growing revolutionary struggle of the international working class to put an end to capitalism and reorganize the world economy to meet social needs, not private profit.

Bill Van Auken

Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) wsws.org

 

 

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WATCH: This Viral Video of Ocasio-Cortez Explaining “Fundamentally Broken” US Democracy Has Been Viewed More Than 16 Million Times

8 Feb

Lawmaker “exposes just how much ‘bad guys’ can get away with”
byAndrea Germanos, staff writer

 

 

In a critique of campaign finance laws that has now gone viral, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) this week showed how the United States has “a system that is fundamentally broken” due to the pervasive influence of corporate money that infects every aspect of the nation’s democracy.
The take-down—which took just under 5 minutes—occurred Wednesday during a hearing held by the House Oversight Committee. To make her point, she played “a lightning round game” with the watchdogs on the panel, including Common Cause’s Karen Hobert Flynn, CREW’s Walter Shaub, and Brennan Center for Justice’s Mehrbani Spitzer.
With her creative attack, said Common Cause, the freshman lawmaker “exposes just how much ‘bad guys’ can get away with under the shameful state of our campaign finance laws.”

 

 

Reacting to her comments, Ocasio-Cortez’s policy advisor Dan Riffle said, “This was all her. She did this on the fly. She is very good at this, folks.”
Actor Ken Olin, meanwhile, mused, “No wonder the right is terrified of her. It’s not her politics, it’s her intelligence. She’s fierce, she’s focused, she’s real, and she’s got lots of time to rock their world.”

 

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Releases Green New Deal Outline

7 Feb

The Green New Deal legislation laid out by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey sets goals for some drastic measures to cut carbon emissions across the economy. In the process, it aims to create jobs and boost the economy. February 7, 20195:01 AM ET Amr Alfiky/NPR

 

Whether it’s a deadly cold snap or a hole in an Antarctic glacier or a terrifying new report, there seem to be constant reminders now of the dangers that climate change poses to humanity.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., think they have a start to a solution. Thursday they are introducing a framework defining what they call a “Green New Deal” — what they foresee as a massive policy package that would remake the U.S. economy and, they hope, eliminate all U.S. carbon emissions.
That’s a really big — potentially impossibly big — undertaking.
“Even the solutions that we have considered big and bold are nowhere near the scale of the actual problem that climate change presents to us,” Ocasio-Cortez told NPR’s Steve Inskeep in an interview airing Thursday on Morning Edition.
She added: “It could be part of a larger solution, but no one has actually scoped out what that larger solution would entail. And so that’s really what we’re trying to accomplish with the Green New Deal.”

What is the Green New Deal?
In very broad strokes, the Green New Deal legislation laid out by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey sets goals for some drastic measures to cut carbon emissions across the economy, from electricity generation to transportation to agriculture. In the process, it aims to create jobs and boost the economy.

 

 

In that vein, the proposal stresses that it aims to meet its ambitious goals while paying special attention to groups like the poor, disabled and minority communities that might be disproportionately affected by massive economic transitions like those the Green New Deal calls for.
Importantly, it’s a nonbinding resolution, meaning that even if it were to pass (more on the challenges to that below), it wouldn’t itself create any new programs. Instead, it would potentially affirm the sense of the House that these things should be done in the coming years.
Lawmakers pass nonbinding resolutions for things as simple as congratulating Super Bowl winners, as well as to send political messages — for example, telling the president they disapprove of his trade policies, as the Senate did in summer 2018.
What are the specifics of that framework?
The bill calls for a “10-year national mobilizations” toward accomplishing a series of goals that the resolution lays out.
Among the most prominent, the deal calls for “meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.” The ultimate goal is to stop using fossil fuels entirely, as well as to transition away from nuclear energy.

 

https://apps.npr.org/documents/document.html?id=5729033-Green-New-Deal-FINAL

 

In addition, the framework, as described in the legislation as well as “FAQs” from Ocasio-Cortez’s office, calls for a variety of other lofty goals:
“upgrading all existing buildings” in the country for energy efficiency;
working with farmers “to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions… as much as is technologically feasible” (while supporting family farms and promoting “universal access to healthy food”);
“Overhauling transportation systems” to reduce emissions — including expanding electric car manufacturing, building “charging stations everywhere,” and expanding high-speed rail to “a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary”;
A guaranteed job “with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations and retirement security” for every American;
“High-quality health care” for all Americans.

Which is to say: the Green New Deal framework combines big climate-change-related ideas with a wish list of progressive economic proposals that, taken together, would touch nearly every American and overhaul the economy.
Are those ideas doable?
Many in the climate science community, as well as Green New Deal proponents, agree that saving the world from disastrous effects of climate change requires aggressive action.
And some of the Green New Deal’s goals are indeed aggressive. For example, Ocasio-Cortez told NPR that “in 10 years, we’re trying to go carbon-neutral.”
According to Jesse Jenkins, a postdoctoral environmental fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, that may be an unreachable goal.

“Where we need to be targeting really is a net-zero carbon economy by about 2050, which itself is an enormous challenge and will require reductions in carbon emissions much faster than have been achieved historically,” he said. “2030 might be a little bit early to be targeting.”
Similarly, removing combustible engines from the roads or expanding high-speed rail to largely eliminate air travel would require nothing short of revolutionizing transportation.
Likewise, some of the more progressive economic policies — universal health care and a job guarantee, for example — while popular among some Democrats, would also be very difficult to implement and transition into.

 

 

On top of all that, implementing all of these policies could costs trillions upon trillions of dollars.
Altogether, the Green New Deal is a loose framework — it does not lay out guidance on how to implement these policies.
Rather, the idea is that Ocasio-Cortez and Markey will “begin work immediately on Green New Deal bills to put the nuts and bolts on the plan described in this resolution.”
And again, all of this is hypothetical — it would be tough to implement and potentially extremely expensive… if it passed.
So did the idea of a Green New Deal start with Ocasio-Cortez?
Not at all.

While the Green New Deal has in the last year or so grown central to progressive Democrats’ policy conversations, the idea of a Green New Deal itself is well over a decade old. Environmentalists were talking about it as far back as 2003, when the term popped up in a San Francisco Chronicle article about an environmentalist conference.
It gained traction with a 2007 New York Times column from Thomas Friedman, where he used the phrase to describe the scope of energy investments he thought would be necessary to slow climate change on a large scale.
The phrase was also used around President Obama’s 2009 stimulus, which had around $90 billion worth of environmental initiatives.
While the idea gained some currency in Europe and also in the Green Party, it wasn’t until after the 2016 election that it really gained broad popularity on the left in the U.S. (Vox’s Dave Roberts has a more thorough history here).
This latest iteration is different both in the political energy that it has amassed and the grand scope it is taking. While it was a product of the progressive activist community, Ocasio-Cortez has been perhaps the most visible proponent of the plan, and has helped it gain nationwide attention.
So will it pass?
That looks unlikely.

 

 

Yes, there’s some energy for it on the left — some House Democrats have already said they will support the bill. However, there are indications House leadership isn’t prioritizing the idea as much as those more liberal Democrats would like — Speaker Nancy Pelosi frustrated Green New Deal proponents by not giving them the kind of committee they wanted to put the policies together.

In addition, it’s easy to see how the bill could be dangerous for moderate House Democrats, many of whom come from swing districts and may be loath to touch such a progressive proposal.
Among Republicans — even those worried about climate change — the package, with its liberal economic ideas, will also likely be a nonstarter.
“Someone’s going to have to prove to me how that can be accomplished because it looks to me like for the foreseeable future we’re gonna be using a substantial amount of fossil fuels,” said Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., co-chair of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, speaking to NPR before the Green New Deal’s text was released.
For his part, Rooney is in favor of a carbon tax, a policy he helped propose with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in November. Information from Ocasio-Cortez’s office says that the Green New Deal could include a carbon tax, but that it would be “a tiny part” of the total package of policies.
Meanwhile, there’s little chance of a Green New Deal getting a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.
If it’s not going to pass and it’s not even binding, why is it worth even talking about?
It’s worth talking about because it already is a politically powerful idea among Democrats.

Already, presidential candidates are being asked whether they support the idea of a Green New Deal, meaning it’s easy to see the issue becoming a litmus test for some voters in both the 2020 congressional elections and the presidential election.
To more liberal Democrats, the prospect of such an ambitious economic and environmental package at the center of the 2020 campaign may be particularly energizing.
“I think it’s like a really weird instinct that the Democratic Party develops to not be exciting intentionally,” said Sean McElwee, co-founder of the progressive think tank Data for Progress. “Most of politics is getting people excited enough to show up and vote for you. And I think that a Green New Deal and Medicare for All — these are ideas that are big enough to get people excited and show up to vote for you.”

For her part, Ocasio-Cortez says that a policy like the Green New Deal could get voters excited enough to pressure their Congress members to support it.
“I do think that when there’s a wide spectrum of debate on an issue, that is where the public plays a role. That is where the public needs to call their member of Congress and say, ‘This is something that I care about,’ ” she told NPR, adding, “Where I do have trust is in my colleagues’ capacity to change and evolve and be adaptable and listen to their constituents.”
That said, it’s easy to see how a Green New Deal litmus test could backfire on that front, endangering some Democrats — particularly in swing districts.
But, it’s not just about national politics. The national-level energy for a Green New Deal could boost efforts in cities and states. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for example, has been pushing a Green New Deal in his state.
Aside from the politics, of course, there’s the fact that climate change remains an impending threat — one for which the world has yet to come up with a fix.
“It’s a big legislation because it’s a huge [expletive] problem! We’re all going to die,” said McElwee. “Every week it seems like the the risks of climate change become more real, and the amount of devastation it is going to wreak upon humanity becomes larger, and that means we have to do bigger things.”

 

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