Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Pig at the Feast

LemmingsLeap 28- Pigs at the Feast

It’s not really a difficult concept to understand. You are at a feast with 99 other hungry people. The table is set with tons of food of all description. Your mouth is watering as are the mouths of the other people there. The scent of all your favorite edibles floats on the air and the table looks perfectly beautiful. There seems to be enough for everyone.
Then someone hands out the plates as people line up to serve themselves from this sumptuous buffet. The first person in line is given a plate nearly the size of the table the food is on. Subsequent diners are handed plates about the size of a coffee cup saucer. By the time the first person has filled up their plate, the amount of food on the table has been reduced considerably, so much so that there is nothing left for the last ten people.

Let’s carry this on a little farther. The person with the plate loaded with more than they could ever possibly eat, finds that they cannot carry the plate by themselves. In the mean-time, some of the other diners are getting a bit restless. Others are quite angry. Others just don’t know what to do. The owner of the large plate sees this and instead of sharing from his plate so that all present can be sated, he offers three of those who got nothing on their saucer two saucers worth of food if they will carry his food away. They demand six saucers worth and settle for three.

Seeing that his caravan of food might be attacked and taken, he assesses the rest of the group and, due to their divisions, correctly figures that all he needs is an army of eight to control the situation. He offers the other seven who did not get anything five saucers worth of food to be his army and he offers one of those who got something on their plate ten saucers worth to lead the other seven. After his deals are made, he surveys his stocks and finds that he still has most of what he started out with.

This is a really simplified version of what’s going on right now in the world. There are some questions we need to ask ourselves about this scenario in order to make sense of present events. Does the one person have the right to nearly all of the food, even though they will never be able to eat it all? Perhaps they were faster, stronger, more impatient or smarter, but does that give them the right to the largest share? If we take from this one person and divide it among the rest, are we taking away the rights of that person? What weighs more, the rights of that one person who has it all or the rights of the rest who need it to survive? Your answer to these questions will determine the kind of world you would like to live in: a world of inequality, racism, wars, famines, and a small population of very rich rulers dominating the globe or a more democratic world operated for the survival and enrichment of all humanity.

There are some who will indignantly say that those who do not work do not deserve anything. Others will claim a “birthright,” as if some of us are more privileged because of the circumstances of our birth. The fact is that most of the world’s wealth is passed on down family lines. It is also a fact that those with the most work the least. There is also the fact from a recent online article that 0.00025% (that’s 400 people) of the US owns more than 150 million Americans . If we are going to allow wealth in our society, in our world to be distributed this way, we are allowing the kings and queens and their kingdoms that were mostly eradicated in WWI to exist again in all their not so glory. The increase in wealth concentration takes wealth away from those who need it most.



I saw a meme today that said something to the effect that if we took all the billionaires’ money, it wouldn’t be enough to solve our problems. Politicians are the problem. This is something too many Americans believe and it is demonstrably incorrect. First of all, billionaires own everything: the money, banks, factories, mines, transportation, all media, and politicians. If billionaires own politicians, it follows that they control what they do. So if the billionaires own everything how can it be just the politicians’ fault that we’re in this mess? We don’t even need billionaires. We have rights and some would say others have rights to be billionaires but that’s not exactly true. Our rights are dependent on not interfering with the rights of others. The problem with billionaires is they seem to have more rights than the rest of us and that’s not right. They also exercise their rights in such a way as to destroy our environment which belongs to all of us not just a few with money and power.  Billionaires also disrupt governments as they use their money and influence to get laws that will increase their fortunes. One billion is never enough. If we allow billionaires to exist, then we continue our oligarchy, we continue to be ruled by kings and queens.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Seattle General Strike: a 100-Year Legacy


Posted By Cal Winslow On February 8, 2019 counterpunch

There will be many cheering and there will be some who fear.
Both of these emotions are useful, but not too much of either.
We are undertaking the most tremendous move ever made by LABOR in this country, a move which will lead – NO ONE KNOWS WHERE!
We do not need hysteria.
We need the iron march of labor.

– Seattle Union Record, February 6, 1919

Thus, Anna Louise Strong, writing on behalf of the strikers, announced the 1919 Seattle General Strike.

“Labor,” she wrote, “will feed the People… Labor will care for the babies and the sick… Labor will preserve order…” And indeed, that it did, for five February days. There had been nothing like it in the US before, nor since.

At 10 am, February 6, 1919, Seattle’s workers struck, all of them. In doing so they literally took control of the city. The strike was in support of shipyard workers, some 35,000, then in conflict with the city’s shipyards owners and the federal government’s US Shipping Board, the latter still enforcing wartime wage agreements.

Seattle’s Central Labor Council (CLC), representing 110 unions, all affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), called the strike. The CLC’s Union Record reported 65,000 union members on strike. Perhaps as many as 100,000 working people participated; the strikers were joined by unorganized workers, unemployed workers and family members. Silence settled on the city’s streets and waterfront, “nothing moved but the tide.”

The strike rendered the authorities virtually powerless – there was indeed no power that could challenge the workers. There were soldiers in the city, and many more at nearby Camp Lewis, not to mention thousands of newly enlisted, armed deputies – but to unleash these on a peaceful city? The regular police were reduced to onlookers; the generals hesitated.

Today, this strike is largely forgotten, or worse, when remembered, dismissed as a long lost cause, sometimes reduced to a “disaster” – that is, a near fatal setback for Seattle’s working people.[1] It was neither.

Seattle in 1919 was a city of 300,000. A prosperous and progressive city, it had won women’s suffrage, prohibition and planning. Its prosperity was built largely on its port, its municipal piers were state-of-the art, pride of the city’s reformers. Seattle was terminus of the northern railroads, gateway to Alaska, and it was two days closer to China than its rival, San Francisco.

Seattle had long been a working-class destination, for the adventurous as well as the victims of the squalid East. Free-thinkers and utopians had encamped nearby in the 1890s, intent on founding an industrial democracy. Socialists, including Eugene Debs, had encouraged settling in Washington, “the most advanced” state in the union. Seattle’s unions were allies of reform. They supported women’s suffrage, endorsed public ownership, but were divided on prohibition. Nevertheless, they steadily shifted to the left in the 1910s, driven by widening conflict with the employers and in keeping with the new syndicalism and the national strike wave that began with and intensified during the war. Then, too, the international revolt – culminating in 1919 with rebellion in Germany, Hungary, Egypt, the Irish war of independence, the fate of the revolution in Russia still unknown.

Seattle’s socialists, many Socialist Party members, were advocates of industrial unionism; they sat at the helm of the city’s unions. Seattle was also home to the Industrial Worker, the western paper of the Industrial Workers of the World’s (IWW).It had become the basecamp for radical workers throughout Washington, also Alaska, as well as Oregon and the mining towns of Montana.

When the US Commission on Industrial Relations met in the city in 1914, John R. Commons, Wisconsin’s labor specialist attended, observing that in Seattle he “found more bitter feeling between employers and employees than in any other US city.”[2]

Western Washington timber continued to dominate the regional economy, and in few industries was conflict more intense. IWW organizer James Thompson, testifying before the Industrial Relations Commission, reported the loggers “breathe bad air in the camps. That ruins their lungs. They eat bad food. That ruins their stomachs. The foul conditions shorten their lives and make their short lives miserable.”[3]

When winter rains made work in the woods impossible, loggers settled in Seattle, sleeping in Skid Road’s flophouses, seeking relief in its brothels and cheap saloons. There they were joined by migrant agriculturalists, redundant railroad workers and blacklisted miners. They also mingled with Seattle’s radicals, including the rapidly increasing ranks of shipyard workers – it was an explosive mix. Seattle’s organized labor movement grew in these years, though not evenly. The bitter 1916 waterfront strike was lost. The strike of shingle weavers in nearby Everett was broken, brutally and in the end only with bloody murder. In early November, 1916 250 unarmed IWW’s boarded the steamships Verona and Calista in Seattle, setting sail to support their embattled Everett fellow-workers. There they were met and surrounded by gun packing deputes and vigilantes who opened fire from both sides on theVerona as it docked. Six Wobblies were killed, two deputies, the later in the crossfire. Seventy-four survivors were charged with murder.

The reception in Seattle of the news from Everett was first shock, then bitter recognition of the terrifying events, these so near to home.The massacre was seen as an assault on free speech, fair play and the very notion of ‘rights.’ Disbelief then anger coursed through Seattle’s working-class districts. In an act of collaboration increasingly common among competing unions, Seattle’s CLC joined in the defense of the victims.

The IWW made the Everett catastrophe its cause celebre. When, the Wobblies were acquitted, it was cause for celebration; Wobbly membership soared, setting the stage for the general strike in the woods which followed that June. Some 50,000 loggers struck; the strike stretched into the next year. Ultimately, in part due to federal intervention, it was won – the eight-hour day, dramatically better conditions in the camps, child labor banned. But not without cost; the employers, the lumbermen, the authorities responded with savage repression – for the loggers, the Red Scare, the Palmer Raids as well, began in Washington’s woods, culminating in Centralia in November, where Wesley Everest, veteran, logger, IWW member, was lynched. In the city, CLC secretary James Duncan, called 1917 “a red-letter year in the history of organized labor A dozen new unions have been organized and all of Seattle unions are flourishing.”[4] These included large numbers of women workers, 1,100 “telephone girls,” hundreds of laundresses, and hotel maids. The CLC, unlike many counterparts, understood the “vital importance of the [AFL] Pacific Coast movement’s campaign to organize women workers in all industries.”[5] Organized labor in Seattle grew by 300 percent in 1917, the closed shop the rule.

In 1919, the war behind them, Seattle’s workers were well organized and itching for a fight. It was a city, wrote Anna Louise Strong, who had become main stay at the Union Recordin the time of the strike, “divided into two hostile camps.”[6] Class lines had hardened. The solidarity of Seattle’s workers was, by any standard, staggering; workers from barbers to boilermakers would cease work. There would be no pickets – as there were no strikebreakers. Still, qualifications need be made. Seattle and the Puget Sound country were not immune to anti-Chinese movements of the 1880s and 1890s. Thus, by 1919, the Chinese in Seattle were few, and the experience of the Japanese, then the city’s largest minority, was likewise one of discrimination and exclusion. [7]

The historian Katsutoshi Kurokawa, however, has revealed change. In his study of Japanese immigrants in Seattle, Kurokawa writes, “The IWWs appeal for unity of workers of all countries, and its opposition to racial discrimination was genuine. The Japanese community in Seattle understood this fact.” Moreover, “In the late 1910s,” he writes, “progressive and radical activists who had no racial prejudice increased their influence in the Seattle labor movement.” Kurokawa points to Duncan’s inauguration as a “milestone.”[8] There were others; Seattle’s best- known socialist, the workers’ “Joan of Arc,” Kate Sadler was a fierce opponent of Asian exclusion. “Kate took to the streets to oppose it, from the skid road up and down.”[9] Strong, prior to settling in Seattle, had traveled to Japan, then as a child welfare advocate.

On the eve of the strike, the Japanese unions approached Duncan, offering support. This was accepted, they joined, contributing conspicuously, if somewhat symbolically, to the euphoric solidarity of the day. In the great meeting convened to sanction the strike, “A Woman Who Was There,” reflected on the “high rhetoric, great emotion, even tears…” In the strike itself, she recalled, “The Japanese and American restaurant workers went out side by side. The Japanese barbers struck when the American barbers struck and were given seats of honor at the barbers’ union meeting that occurred immediately thereafter.”[10]

TheUnion Record, in its first strike edition, concurred: “Even in the midst of strike excitement, let us stop for a moment to recognize the action of the Japanese barbers and restaurant workers who, through their own unions, voted to take part in the general strike. The strike here in Seattle is proving the biggest demonstration of internationalism that has yet occurred in this country. The Japanese deserve the greater credit because they have been denied admission and affiliation with the rest of the labor movement and have joined the strike of their own initiative. We hope that this evidence of labor’s solidarity will have an influence on the relations between the two races in the future.” [11]

Kurokawa reports these events resonated widely throughout the Japanese population. Then, too: “Thus the action of Japanese unions toward the General Strike helped to change the attitude of organized labor to Japanese workers.” [12]

The general strike as tactic was widely identified with the IWW. Yet, the CLC had used the threat of a general strike as a bargaining chip half a dozen timesas a bargaining chip in fights for wages and benefits, as well as in its insistence that the closed shop prevail. But for Kate Sadler, the general strike was about far more—the power of workers to transform society: “We will progress to the full knowledge that no man is good enough to be another man’s master. That the private ownership of things used in common must go, and social ownership take its place.” [13]

When the shipyard workers, on strike since January 21, appealed to the CLC for support, there was no opposition to speak of. The workers, union by union, elected the strike’s leadership, a strike committee comprised largely of rank-and-file workers. The strike committee elected an executive committee. These bodies, meeting virtually non-stop, ensured the health, the welfare and the safety of the city. Garbage was collected, the hospitals were supplied, babies got milk – the people were fed, including some 30,000 a day at the strikers’ kitchens. There may have been no other time before or since, when no one went hungry in the city.

The streets were safe – rarely safer – patrolled by an unarmed labor guard. It was reported that crime abated. Off the streets, Seattle was a festival – inthe union halls, the co-op markets, “feeding stations,” and neighborhood centers where workers and their families gathered. On the Saturday night there was a dance. And a massive Monday night strike rally in Georgetown – the crowd was so large, the building, “settling,” had to be evacuated. The meeting reconvened, and with “great enthusiasm…it was decided to make the meetings a regular weekly event… it was unanimous that the strike should continue until a living wage had been obtained by the shipyard workers. …Many of those present expressed the opinion that the scope of the meetings should be enlarged to include the wives and daughters of the workers, and to make them real community gatherings.”[14] In all these places the strike was the topic – it was analyzed, criticized, extolled and debated and thus when these workers representatives packed the rowdy, emotion-filled Strike Committee meetings they came prepared – they were making history and they knew it.

The Seattle Star asked, “Under which flag? – the red, white and blue or the red.” The Post Intelligencer, hysterical ,appealed for federal soldiers. The Mayor, Ole Hanson, well-knowing this was not the case, proclaimed a revolution underway. The AFL joined in, denouncing the strikers and sending out from the East and Midwest staff in hundreds. The strike lasted through the weekend, five working days. Then singly, then in small batches, unions began returning. On Tuesday, the strike was pronounced off. Much is made of this, the splintering of the strikers and the “early” end to the strike. Duncan, sensibly, would have preferred all to go back together, but the truth was that there were others, many, who favored staying out. The authorities, however, stubbornly resisted negotiation, solidarity strikes failed to materialize, and the majority, voting with their feet, felt they had made their point. “We did something in this strike which has never been done before,” explained Ben Neuman of the Hoisting Engineers, a leader of the strike committee.[15] “Most of the men went back to work in good spirits,” observed “the woman who was there,” “realizing, not indeed that they had won the recognition of the shipyard workers which they had asked for, but that perhaps they had done something bigger.”[16]

How to assess this? The dailies pronounced, “The Revolution is Over.” Hanson took personal responsibility for breaking the strike and embarked on a nationwide speaking tour to boast of this. Samuel Gompers at the AFL joined in extolled the “revolution” defeated and pledged to rid the unions of the radicals. But it had not been a revolution nor was it intended to be one. It was a strike to support the shipyard workers, though a very radical strike, with, in fact, a “revolutionary spark” inside it.[17]Hardly a “disaster,” far from quashed, it remains, borrowing from Rosa Luxemburg, a link in the great chain of historic events, which is the pride and strength of international socialism. Well worth celebrating.

Seattle’s workers, their unions intact, would live to fight another day. In the meantime, the IWW was satisfied that Seattle had shown the general strike to be indeed a useful weapon in labor’s “arsenal.” The New YorkCall explained the strike as an indication that capital’s days were numbered. And Max Eastman, the Greenwich Village intellectual, spoke for many when he judged that Seattle “filled with hope and happiness the hearts of millions of people in all places of the earth…[it] demonstrated the possibility of that loyal solidarity of the working class which is the sole remaining hope of liberty for mankind.” [18]

Notes.

[1] Robert Friedheim, The Seattle General Strike (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1964 ) 154..
[2] Seattle Municipal News, August 22, 1914.
[3] Final Report, US Commission on Industrial Relations (Washington, 2015) V,4236-4237.
[4] SeattleDaily Call, September 3, 1917.
[5] Union Record, July 24, 1917.
[6] Anna Louise Strong, UW Special Collections, Box 10, Folder 1.
[7] There were perhaps 2,000 black workers, many of these imported as strikebreakers in the longshore strike, though these were welcomed into both the ILA (in 1918) and the CLC unions in the aftermath of the strike. Black workers tended to support the strike, while Black opinion was divided on the strike itself, Its papers, the Searchlightsupported the strike, the Republican Cayton’s Weeklyopposed it. Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community, Seattle’s Central District from 1870 Through the Civil Rights Era Seattle:University of Washington Press, 1994) 52. SeattleUnion Record, February 27, 1919.
[8] Katsutoshi Kurokawa, The Labor Movement and Japanese Immigrants in Seattle(University Education Press, 2006) 39.
[9] Harvey O’Connor, Revolution in Seattle(New York: Monthly Review Press, 1964) 141-142.
[10] “When is a Revolution Not a Revolution,” Liberator,Vol 2, No. 4, April 1919. 24.
[11] Union Record, February 8, 1919.
[13] International Socialist Review, Vol 15., July 1914.
[14] Union Record, February 11, 1919.
[15] O’Connor, 141-142.
[16] “When is a Revolution Not a Revolution.” Liberator, April 1919.
[17] O’Connor, 145.
[18] Union Record, February 10, 1919.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

REMINDER For those wanting to attend the Feb 17th Pendleton Democratic Socialists meeting, agenda below, please remember its a pot luck and so bring a some food to share, your own plates and silver ware if your are able -- otherwise come anyway -- george

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

(per George Winter)

Socialism Hasn’t Failed Venezuela, Economic War Has
By Tulio Moreno Alvarado Translated for Axis of Logic by Arturo Rosales
Saturday, Oct 6, 2018

There has been a constant assault on the Venezuelan people over the past four years but it really started in 1999 when Hugo Chavez came to power.

The very same strategy has been implemented in other countries such as Chile and Cuba, and can be understood as those mechanisms used by major capitalist powers as partners or allies of local political factors that are manipulated by the US. The US appears when it feels that the interests of the capitalist model are being threatened.

When a nation seeks to create an egalitarian society or moves towards socialism, economic actions are taken that usually do not occur in a vacuum. They are accompanied by a media war peppered with false economic facts that seek to divert attention and mislead as is currently happening today with the Venezuelan government.

The media campaign serves to create conditions for violence and to divert responsibility for it on to the government and away from capitalism and its local business partners. It creates the conditions for attacks and sabotage against the Venezuelan people, who at the same time suffer the stress of a psychological war. This is thesis of Pasqualina Curcio Curcio, a leading Venezuelan researcher and academic and a voice essential in understanding the process of the economic war being waged against Venezuela.

She is a graduate of the Faculty of Economics & Social Sciences of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) in 1992; she holds a Master's degree in Public Policy gained at the Institute of Economics and Advanced Studies (IESA-Venezuela) in 1995 as well as a PhD in Political Sciences at the Universidad Simon Bolivar (USB-Venezuela) in 2003. She is currently Lecturer at the Department of Economic and Administrative Sciences of the Coordination of Postgraduate Political Science at the Universidad Simon Boli­var and a member of the Steering Council of the Foundational Institute of Advanced Studies (IDEA). Most of her research is related to the area of Social Policy and the Economics of Health.

Why an economic war?
She explains that Chavez himself, in what in Venezuela is known as the Plan of the Fatherland, warned that economic aggression was coming because the historical antecedents already existed against Salvador Allende. The researcher recalled that in 1973, Henry Kissinger said that they (the United States Government) had to be careful that other countries in Latin America did not realize that there was an economic war being waged against Chile. In reality, she points out, that it is more than an aggression against the economy as against the people because they distort the mechanisms of distribution and food production as a means of achieving a political objective. That is,aiming to have an impact on the political or voting preferences of Venezuelans.

This war began back in 1999 and "in 2002 we had a coup and sabotage of the oil industry as well as a lock-out by entrepreneurs that affected production levels and the economy as a whole. At that time the associations of entrepreneurs had no qualms about appearing on television. Now, however, they have changed tactics because they are doing so covertly and anonymously, taking care to say that there will be no corn flour, using a tactic very similar to that practiced in Chile, but different to the blockade of Cuba.”

The Venezuelan case can be understood from the three mechanisms put into practice since 2003. The first is to plan the shortages of basic commodities by scheduling and selecting them. The plan does not exclusively affect economic goods, therefore, it is different from what happens is a war rather than in a crisis. If it were the case of a war, it would be the failure of the model and as a result there would be shortages of other products.

We have seen how in Venezuela there are long lines to buy medicines,food and other imported and industrial products - but there have been no shortages of fruit or vegetables that farmers and smallholders produce with little capital investment. Therefore, when we speak of a crisis, the farmers would be the first to be affected by a tottering model without financial backing.

However, Curcio Curcio pointed out that the precooked flour, which is the main staple consumed by this nation, is produced by two large companies controlled by transnational capital, which in turn also sell rice, pasta, cooking oil, coffee and sugar. Such supplies have been missing because these companies have more than 60 percent of the market under their control, "and as monopolies decide when to deliver or remove products from the market, and thus cause shortages.

The economic war has yielded results because the monopolies control the products of very high consumer demand and which are found in every Venezuelan household. All of them are needed because they are associated with health and life and are difficult to replace culturally. Moreover, such capacity to control causes multiple effects and impacts on many levels.

Medicines
In Venezuela, 85% of food is produced locally and the rest is imported, but is concentrated in those monopolies mentioned above.This is not the case with medicines that are mainly imported by large pharmaceutical corporations. For example, a story that has dominated international media is a shortage of toilet paper, sanitary napkins,diapers for babies, among other products of high consumer demand.These are supplied by two companies, Procter & Gamble and Johnson &Johnson, which control 90% of the market.

This dependency makes us highly vulnerable. The shortage is scheduled,as is the case with flour, and these practices are intensified when elections are due, worsening the conditions for political conflict with violent actions seeking the resignation of the President."Induced inflation
Curcio Curcio notes that the second aspect is the phenomenon of induced inflation that was artificially increased in 2013 because it is not a direct result of a fall in production. Although it has diminished due to the decline in the price of a barrel of oil, it is an integral part of the framework of this economic war. "Its effect is due to the manipulation of the value of the currency made by individuals, because the Venezuelan economy also depends on imports,and those who actually import are the big monopolies.”

The linchpin is the foreign exchange cost because 95% of foreign currency comes from oil exports and although this currency exchange has been controlled by the State since 2003, because as an economy living off oil income there was a risk that it might be appropriated by international capital. Almost immediately a parallel exchange rate market appeared which in the last four years has manipulated the illegal exchange rate to such an extent that it has damaged the economy and induced inflation.

This exchange rate exists in web portals where rates for the bolivar are quoted that do not correspond to the country's economic reality,but its fluctuations respond to political and not economic criteria,and the increases vary sharply whenever an election comes around.

What is the mechanism used with this parallel exchange rate?For example, if someone produces silver or any other product and has a truck that might need a spare part, this is imported by a private corporation which buys foreign currency from the State at 10 bolivars per dollar. The preferential exchange rate that the government grants for importing essentials such as the spares from abroad might be for 100 dollars, and therefore the spare should be sold based on the same exchange rate in bolivares plus tax and profit margin of approximately 1400 bolivares.

This is what happens with virtually all supplies that are brought from abroad, because imports are set based on that preferential exchange rate. But the parallel rate is much higher and is constantly moving on the web portals that quote it and recently reached 25,000 bolivares/dollar. Thus, in the case of the spare that cost 100 dollars or basically 1000 bolivares to buy abroad, it could be sold for 250,000 bolivares by applying the parallel or black market exchange rate. This is a 17,750% speculative profit for the importer or distributor and it is this sort of practice that has fuelled inflation in the last ten years.

Curcio Curcio explained that this not the real value of the currency and is an arbitrary value subject to non-state business interests,because it affects and inflates domestic prices in the economy. "That mechanism is not new because they did in Chile damaging the exchange value of the currency and then in Nicaragua, based on political rather than economic criteria which drove inflationary levels up to 10 thousand per cent. This is the format used by a floating dollar imperialism and has been proven to affect the economy as it was also applied in the Argentina of Cristina Kirchner."

The effects
The negative effect of these manoeuvres hits 97% of Venezuelans who suffer from decreased wages and purchasing power; it damages the economy and also generates the problem of a shortage of banknotes and coins. It is a clear problem when there is limited cash, because with inflation so high you need much more cash to buy any product and therefore there are long queues to get bank notes. In the worst case scenario, people pay commissions to get cash, especially if they do not have bank account with debit card.

2013: The start of the economic blockade against Venezuela
In addition to this artificial control of the economy are financial constraints. "From 2013 and in a covert manner, we are being blockaded because pressure is exercised on other nations not to enter into financial transactions with Venezuela. Access to loans from international agencies is limited, because we are the country “with the greatest financial risk in the world, with 3,600 points of risk - an index created by the Rating Agencies that at the same time and coincidentally belong to the world’s major banks.”

This means that for every 100 points of risk "they take 1% more interest, so if we are going to the international market for loans we have to pay 30% interest! Financial consortia block our access to dollars saying that we are a high risk country, but it turns out that Citibank, for example, while closing the doors to the Venezuelan government, has kept them open to grant individuals loans.
"It is worth asking what is riskier in terms of liquidity, the government of a country with the largest oil reserves in the world,the second in gold as well as vast natural resources which almost no other nation of the world has, or entrepreneurs and individuals that obviously have fewer assets?”

This is not new. From 2012 onward pressures built up in a circus full of contradictions where production increased or was maintained while shortages grew. When the black market flourished accompanied by queues to buy products or acquire bank notes.

As a researcher, Curcio Curcio reflects that monopolies have altered the distribution systems because they do not deliver consumer goods efficiently and that allows them to be diverted into the black market."The deception can be seen as companies maintain their production levels, including the pharmaceutical companies in Venezuela that have increased their sales. They also say that the state has not authorized or given preferential dollars to companies and that as a result there are shortages or falls in production.

However, they do not mention that from 2013 more than 300 billion dollars have been issued to pay for imports.

Shortages increase during election cycles
Remember that in 2003 Venezuelan employers organized a national strike against Chavez and consequently lowered production as an electoral process was approaching. From that point on and systematically,scarcity and shortage were increased at each election. At that juncture in December 2007 there was no coffee, sugar or milk in the market; at the conclusion of the 2007 referendum, which incidentally Chavez lost, all those products re-appeared on the shelves.

Such manoeuvres are exemplified in the increase in the price of precooked corn meal that rose 3,700% (from 19.00 bolivars per kilo in March 2016 to 700,00 bolivars in December) “an increase that far outstripped the annual inflation rate. The owners of the flour mills,upon seeing customers in long queues waiting to buy their brand,responded by cutting production of corn flour by 80% saying that there was no raw material available.

Inflation
Inflation has remained in double digits since 1998, even with the lockout of 2003 and the international financial crisis of 2008, but in 2013 it was as if the country had entered into an armed or conflict or suffered a huge natural disaster. It was caused by a manoeuvre that was clearly induced, by placing a level of illegal exchange rate that directly impacted inflation.

Curcio Curcio explains: "When the IMF warns that in Venezuela is going to have an inflation of the 1,700%, it is not because are good forecasters, but calculate the movement of the exchange rate needed and manoeuvre it so as to reach that level that is necessary to have an adverse political effect on the government."

Thus, the variation of the exchange rate has nothing to do with the economy, but it moves whenever there are elections, and at the same time, desperately seeks the resignation or ouster of Maduro as happened in the last three months of 2016. In that scenario, the money men manipulated the exchange rate to such an extent that it caused alack of cash, hunger and scarcity of many products. In such a scheme of financial pressure, Curcio Curcio added the issue of external debt as the country paid 60 billion dollars in debt servicing but the result is that “the more we pay, the more we owe.”

The Chilean experience comes to Venezuela
Such a model was delineated by the US Senate that in 1975 made a study of the covert action in Chile that was revealed in declassified documents. These documents recognized that actions were organized to overthrow President Allende by means of financial pressures on the government, by financing opposition parties and right-wing organizations and by penetration and co-option the armed forces. In other words, U.S. Senators supported the establishment of the dictatorship of Pinochet to overthrow democracy. They said we had to overthrow a dictator like Allende and are applying the same discourse to Maduro.

Democracy and dictatorship
It is the discourse that justifies the actions of Trump. They say that the government generates a humanitarian crisis and thus seek to justify intervention. There have been 22 electoral processes since Chavism came to power in 1999 and the opposition won two of them - in 2007 and 2015. For the upcoming 15 October elections there are 226 candidates in 23 States of the country. All of them from the opposition and Chavism "and they still keep up the discourse about the Venezuelan dictatorship. They contradict themselves since the fact that there is mass participation in terms of both candidates and voters implies the recognition of democratic institutions, but the opposition and international discourse tries to indicate that the opposite is true".

Humanitarian crisis
"They are justifying intervention, but how can you justify that there is a crisis if we have been living like this for four years? Despite this, Venezuela has a high Human Development Index (HDI) which increased. Even ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America & the Caribbean) argues that we are the least unequal country in Latin America despite the economic war.”

Therefore arguing that if the country were in a humanitarian crisis,inequality would be greater and indices of human development would not be at current levels, endorsed by this organization, ECLAC. With the fight to reduce structural poverty progressing due to government policies, since subsidies are maintained for transport,food, basic services "and all this has been done despite the economic war".

Economic model based on the human being
When we speak about the economy it is just that - the economy -  but in Venezuela it is part of the human model, whether it grows or not."What is important is what happens with health, poverty, education,therefore to measure the results we did not depend on the economic indicators.

"There are government policies that focus attention on the human being and this allows the economic war to be resisted, in such a way that despite everything all the human indicators were consolidated. ”Curcio Curcio demonstrated this with mortality from malnutrition that she said had declined substantially and that unemployment rates declined by 66% in line with production.

She reflected that even taking everything into account, the fall in the price of oil by 2015 and the IMF maintaining the same trend for four years which highlights the financial crisis of Venezuela, Maduro’s government critics forget to add that despite the economic war, with a virtual siege and a manipulative media, that the per capita income of the Venezuelans is 9% higher than in the last 30 years.

But in addition, Curcio Curcio reports that one million 700 thousand decent houses and apartments have been built, as government policy to revive the economy, which contrasts with the induced contraction of the private sector in the past four years compared to the increase in the public sector.
Failure of the socialist model?

They say that the socialist model has failed, but for whom? If production in Venezuela increased the GDP and many people came out of poverty? Unlike government policies which in the 80s were neoliberal, inequality was higher and capital was concentrated in major sectors.But with the arrival of President Chavez national wealth was distributed more widely, with better housing; the privatization of health and education services was reversed, and pensions of senior citizens increased.

When high inflation appears, poverty increases, but in a regime with human consciousness, from 2003, inflation rose but poverty did not.Then there began a disproportionate economic attack and thereby, while poverty rates increased in terms of income, structural poverty did not. It was even reversed by the policies of a socialist model that is at odds with the policies of international capital.
Curcio Curcio argued that the struggle for the implementation of a neoliberal capitalist model in her country feels naturally threatened by the consolidation of a socialist alternative government in a country with vast reserves of gold, diamonds, oil, and and strategic geographic location.

"Since Chavez said in 2005, we are going to socialism, we became a threat to capitalism. They say that historically socialism has failed,but we are still being besieged and boycotted with an image in the media that seems that we have indeed failed, but the reality is; "we are still standing and advancing.”

Agenda for February 17th meeting

(thanks to Andrea Brobst and help...)

Group Song, led by George
  1. Reports
    1. Review of Women’s march in Walla Walla from attendees (500,mutually supportive diversity, powerful DSA chanting core)
    2. Review of Umatilla Democratic Meeting (was almost half of a small meeting, talked about what we should say to Walden to reveal what and who he represents or whether that was the best approach).
    3. Review of Eoc3 meeting (fairly good review of what people were doing and what needed to be done about the ecological crisis)
      1. Review Green New Deal
    4. Walden Town Hall meeting was canceled again
    5. Carol will not accept monetary donations (discuss what to do with money)
  2. Meet and greet with Walla Walla DSA (introductions made by George)
  3. Discuss Venezuela and opinions.
  4. Discuss any upcoming meetings and dates
    1. EOC3 monthly meetings will start up again in on March 19th at the Prodigal Son
    2. Democrats of Umatilla meeting (I am unsure of when this is happening again or if it is anytime soon) [Reorganization meeting March 11th 6PM, City Library Comm. Room].
  5. Find out who is interested in reading A People’s History
  6. Steering committee or some type of structure. Discuss what we want from this group and get organized.
  7. Wrap up
  8. Clean up

Saturday, February 9, 2019


PUTTING THINGS IN SOCIALIST HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE --george

tomato can geography
the can’s tin from high
in the Bolivian mountains
from the mountain that was all silver
where colonial Spain got rich
and the miners still die young
coughing up their blood from the dust
now the gringo investors get rich
and that’s how tin gets onto the tin plate
that’s rolled into the can
that holds our tomato sauce
along the way there’s been some iron
that comes the Earth and miners and truck drivers 
of Venezuela 
that comes on some of the same ships
manned by the same sailors
along the way there’s a whole history
a whole geography of Earth and Labor
that gets put into the can of tomato sauce
the smelters and steel workers get taken for granted
the rail road workers get taken for granted
and so do the Mexican farm workers
who bend in the hot California sun
picking the tomatoes
dropping the truck loads
into the water bins from which the conveyors
bring the fruit up on the sorting belts
where the Chinese women work
and then to the fillers
the seaming machines
the cookers
all these people, all these lands

before it comes out on your spaghetti
This is one "set of eye glasses" through which to define socialism -- george

HONOR LABOR  
There's the class that  owns the means of production and then there's the rest of us who do the work It's we who put the food on the world's tables and clothing on people's backs.  It's we who wash the dishes, clean the house and get the rest of the family off to work and off to school. And we are the builders, the transporters, the miners, the harvesters and repair people. We're essentially in charge of taking care of ourselves and the rest of the world because we do the work.
          Now who disagrees with that?
We take care of our homes and children and often enough the homes and children of others. There's nothing wrong with being a maid, a janitor or caretakers of children except often we're doing it for people who ought to be doing it for themselves. Essentially we're in charge of raising the next generation.  
        Now who disagrees with that?
We are the producers of the luxuries that only the rich can enjoy. Without our labor there'd be no time and materials  for the professionals,  the intellectuals and artists, there'd be no profits for business, no dividends for stock holders, no interest for banks and no taxes for government.
        Now who would disagree with that?
So why shouldn't we, why couldn't we run this world our labor is taken to produce?                        

        You got a second hand rich man's excuse?

        and a second question, do we really think that we can have democracy without democracy                   in the work place or with the capitalists owning the wealth and power 

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