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“I See What You’re Doing”

Here’s one of the pieces I’m going to show at “Art Mama Moves”, a group show opening next week in Fort Lauderdale. The details are here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1485781201518746/

And I’ve been working on a  statement to read there. Here’s what I’ve got…
***
I appreciate so much anyone who speaks out against any kind of abuse, and right now, all the women currently speaking out against sexualized abuse in the workplace. Just naming it for what it is, is a huge accomplishment. We were silenced for far too long.

When I was in my teens and twenties, 30+ years ago, workplace sexual harassment (as well as “date rape”) weren’t even socially recognized concepts. So when they happened, the only way to deal with it was on an individual basis, with little or no support. At work, choices were limited: do we confront the creep, which might put us in a perpetual state of war with him and maybe also everyone else in the place, get us labeled as a troublemaker, and risk losing the job? Or we could try to avoid being alone around him, but stay in a constant state of anxiety and silent rage, and leave if it got worse. Or we could normalize it, convince ourselves that nothing’s wrong, and start drinking too much.

 

When I was 19, at one job interview I was told straight out that the job included sex with the owner, and if I had a problem with that I shouldn’t even bother applying. Back then, the only option I saw was to leave in disgust. Hell, even as recently as a couple years ago, one of my clients decided to parade around in only a towel during a work meeting. I dropped him as a client, but never confronted him about it. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to seem intolerant. Like many women, I was so conditioned in codependency that I dreaded making him feel uncomfortable more than I cared about my own discomfort — how twisted is that???

But there is courage and strength in numbers. With back up, we can do so much more. We can crush those creepy fuckers. I hope this new spirit of defiance spreads to every workplace in the whole damn world.

The fact that these accusations are spreading like wildfire, forces society to name this abuse for what it is, and acknowledge its pervasiveness. There’s no longer any excuse for saying it’s no big deal. There’s no longer any excuse for not backing up your coworker who makes a complaint.

The only way to stop abusers is to make them face extremely unpleasant consequences. They only stop when they’re forced to. Until now, being a workplace predator usually didn’t entail consequences for him; only for his victims. But today we have the chance to say: you’re done. Your career is over. Everyone fucking hates you. This time it’s not MY life being ruined – it’s YOURS.

The spotlight on this issue may seem sudden, but it’s the culmination of many years of patient organizing and speaking out with little result. Now a tipping point has finally been reached. Organizers around many issues – homophobia, civil rights, police brutality, ecocide – toil for decades before crimes finally become widely seen as such, and can no longer be ignored. This doesn’t mean they’re resolved – far from it – but it’s a necessary step toward that possibility.

The “me too” movement makes me think about what other kinds of normalized systemic abuse might come to be seen for the crimes they are, might reach that tipping point and suddenly become unaccepted. If we’ll one day say to some corporate polluter: you really fucked up, your career is ruined, you’re never going to work again. That we’ll say: you put a cancer-causing chemical in people’s food, you cut down trees to build a mall for your own profit, you crafted a law against distributing food to homeless people, you denied someone health care, you threatened humanity with nuclear annihilation – you’re going DOWN!

How far could this go? Let’s dream big. Why not go for taking down the entire fucking capitalist system, the root of so much misery and oppression?

To make that possible, another normalized workplace violation needs to be exposed for the crime that it is, so that, too, it can no longer be ignored, excused, or tolerated. That crime is profiting off the labor of others. That crime is exploitation.

Imagine if we heard people on TV saying: “I was denied the means to obtain food or shelter unless I agreed to do whatever business owners asked of me for eight or ten or sixteen hours a day, and when I complied, I was only paid a small fraction of the value that I produced, and they stole all the rest for themselves.” And then imagine that instead of everyone going, “Eh, that’s just how it is, deal with it,” that mass outrage spread like wildfire. And then imagine that everyone subjected to these criminal acts began refusing to accept it, and that a majority of the population supported their resistance. Imagine the exploiters disgraced, isolated, driven from our midst. The way that everything humanity produces would have to change. Think about what else could melt away once that happened: wealth inequality, imperialism, ecocide. The control that capitalists currently have over the world would be broken.

Today, workers who speak out against exploitation are not generally listened to. They’re labeled complainers and troublemakers. They’re told that their abuse is not a problem, but a normal and necessary function of human society. They are told to suck it up and take their heartache to the bar on the weekend.

Sound familiar?

But we should consider it a badge of honor to be a troublemaker against abuse and exploitation. Let’s all be troublemakers. Let’s stop protecting or being loyal to our oppressors, our exploiters, our enemies. Call out their crimes for what they are, name the abusers and their violations against us, and stand up for each other in increasing numbers until justice can no longer be denied – until we can deprive predators of every systemic structure that has allowed them to exist.

Continue reading “I See What You’re Doing”

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Some things I learned in 2016:

* Beliefs may change. Principles don’t.
* Some weeds shouldn’t be allowed to establish themselves.
* True love and happiness are real and possible, if we stay open and attentive and daring and lucky.
* Past conditioning can be overcome.
* It’s ok to just have fun sometimes, in spite of concurrent global catastrophes etc.
* It’s not ok to avoid communicating that something is wrong, when it is.
* A build-up of contradiction, if not mitigated, will burst.
* Letting go is a necessary part of transformation and renewal.
* Death is everywhere, and inevitable, and so is life.
* To non-workers, the working class is virtually invisible, and most non-workers like it that way.
* Capitalism is ultra-scary and dangerous, but the people are smart and brave and creative and resilient.
* Anything can happen. What we do is the only part of that equation that we have any control over.

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If Workers Take Power:

ifcolor– Instead of the small class of capitalists controlling society, we can make our own decisions about work and social life.

– Instead of some of us being forced to work too many hours while others are unable to find a job at all, the work can be divided so everyone works a reasonable amount.

– Instead of competing against one another for scarce jobs, everyone can do meaningful and useful work that contributes to society.

– Instead of capitalists pitting us against each other by fostering racism, sexism, nationalism and other forms of oppressive ideologies, we can unite for the common good.

– Instead of the fruits of our labor enriching the few while the majority is kept in poverty, it can be distributed to provide food, shelter, medical care, household goods, education and recreation for everyone.

– Instead of destroying the environment for higher profits, we can implement sustainable ways to meet the needs of humanity and the planet.

– Instead of sacrificing our safety and health to cut costs, our well-being will be prioritized.

– Instead of half of the world’s food being wasted because it’s not profitable to sell it, we can eliminate hunger.

– Instead of being forced to wage wars of conquest for capitalists, the workers of the world can cooperate in peace.

Workers already provide all the goods and services for society. The global working class can decide together what we need, and how it is produced and distributed. Power is in our hands – if we organize, rise up and take it!

[Originally appeared at http://workers-power.org/2016/11/29/if-workers-take-power/]

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4 raisons de s'énerver contre les ONG et la gauche caviar sans but lucratif

[Translated at Tlaxcala: http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=17028]


4 Reasons NGOs & Leftish Nonprofits Suck
By Stephanie McMillan
Translated by Nicolas Casaux
Edited by Fausto Giudice Фаусто Джудиче فاوستو جيوديشي

151013ngosFrench Il y a une vingtaine d’années, lors d’une conversation avec un organisateur bangladais, nous avons abordé le sujet des ONG*. Il a craché avec dégoût : « Je déteste les ONG». À l’époque, je n’ai pas vraiment compris pourquoi il était si véhément sur le sujet. Je savais que les ONG avaient des aspects négatifs, comme le fait qu’elles détournent une partie de l’énergie révolutionnaire des masses, mais je croyais encore à moitié leurs affirmations selon lesquelles leur travail était plus utile que nuisible. Ne fallait-il pas être une espèce de crétin dogmatique pour dénoncer les soins gratuit et les programmes de lutte contre la pauvreté ? Je ne comprenais pas encore à quel point elles sont en réalité une catastrophe.

Depuis cette conversation, les ONG ont proliféré comme des champignons dans le monde entier. D’abord déployées dans les formations sociales dominées par l’impérialisme, elles occupent aujourd’hui aussi la scène politique des pays qui sont la base du capitalisme. Elles sont devenues la nouvelle forme à la mode d’accumulation du capital, avec une portée mondiale et des milliards de revenus. Tout se prétendant « à but non-lucratif », elles servent de source de revenus importants pour ceux d’en haut, tout en gavant de larges couches de la petite bourgeoisie, leur permettant de s’étaler sur la classe ouvrière comme une couverture chauffante humide, mettant ainsi en sourdine ses revendications.

Après beaucoup d’observations et d’expériences directes et indirectes, je comprends aujourd’hui et partage la haine de cet organisateur d’autrefois envers les ONG. Quel est leur degré de nuisance ? Permettez-moi d’énumérer quelques réponses :

1-Les ONG sont une des nombreuses armes de domination impérialiste

Aux côtés des invasions militaires et des missionnaires, les ONG aident à ouvrir les pays comme on craque des noix, en préparant le terrain pour des vagues d’exploitation et d’extraction plus intenses, comme l’agrobusiness pour l’exportation, les ateliers de misère, les ressources minières et les sites touristiques.
Continue reading 4 raisons de s'énerver contre les ONG et la gauche caviar sans but lucratif

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What is Surplus Value, and Why Should Anti-Capitalists Care?

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This first appeared in Skewed News.

Capitalism is an ever-expanding, extremely destructive mode of production that has come to dominate the world; pretty much all social production has been integrated into its framework.

The ways capitalism presents itself to most of us is through its many wretched effects: ecocide, oppression, imperialism, poverty and so on. Any or all of these may motivate us to oppose it. When we decide to organize against capitalism, we often tend to go after these effects. We protest and resist them. And they absolutely must be protested and resisted.

But I’m going to argue that if that’s all we do, we may be able to mitigate some of these miserable conditions that way, but we aren’t going to be able to get rid of capitalism, the system that causes and maintains them. We won’t even harm it. We not even touching it.

To destroy capitalism, we need to understand exactly what it is and what drives it.

Capitalism is a mode of production, that is, it is an ensemble of social relations that shape how the society as a whole reproduces itself, how we meet our needs, how we get from one day to the next. Every mode of production includes an economic foundation or base, which generates and is in turn supported by a political and ideological superstructure.

While we must attack capitalism politically and ideologically, these alone will not destroy it. Our strategy needs to go beyond addressing the superstructure and gets at the economic core of how capital reproduces itself. We need to destroy the production and accumulation of capital.

Continue reading What is Surplus Value, and Why Should Anti-Capitalists Care?

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Beyond Feminism and Other Defensive Battles: To End All Oppression, We Must Destroy Capitalism!

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This first appeared in Skewed News.

What does ending the oppression of women look like? How will we know when we’ve achieved it? When we’re allowed to get free abortions whenever we want? When we no longer have to fear or experience rape? When we stop sex trafficking? When we all feel positive about our bodies and minds? When all girls in the world are educated? When we achieve equal pay?

We want all these things, of course. We need them. They’re essential. But are they enough? Don’t we need more than that? I’m going to suggest that if we focus our energy only on these specific issues, then we’re setting our sights too low.

If we fight around them directly, we may get some victories. But these victories will be temporary, partial, and incomplete. Because as long as we live under capitalism, we will never get the whole package. We will never be truly free.

If we achieve equal pay, we’re still wage slaves. If we’re taught to read, the material we have access to is still determined by others. All our relationships—every kind of relationship—are still distorted and deformed by market forces. We’re still caught in the nightmare, still under the domination of the capitalist class, those few bloated parasites living off the blood and sweat of the vast majority of humanity.

Continue reading Beyond Feminism and Other Defensive Battles: To End All Oppression, We Must Destroy Capitalism!

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Why NGOs and Leftish Nonprofits Suck (4 Reasons)

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This originally appeared in Skewed News.

About 20 years ago, in a conversation with a Bangladeshi organizer, the topic of NGOs* came up. He spat in disgust: “I hate NGOs.” At the time, I didn’t really get why he was so vehement about it. I knew NGOs had negative aspects, like siphoning off some revolutionary energy from the masses, but I also still half-believed their claims that their work was more helpful than not. Didn’t you have to be kind of a dogmatic asshole to denounce free health care and anti-poverty programs? But I didn’t yet fully appreciate how terrible they really are.

Since that conversation, NGOs have proliferated like mushrooms all over the world. First deployed in social formations dominated by imperialism, they’ve now taken over the political scene in capital’s base countries as well. They’ve become the hot new form of capital accumulation, with global reach and billions in revenue. So while ostensibly “non-profit,” they serve as a pretty sweet income stream for those at the top, while fattening up large layers of the petite bourgeoisie and draping them like a warm wet blanket over the working class, muffling their demands.

After much observation and experience both direct and indirect, I now understand and share that long-ago organizer’s hatred of NGOs. Just how terrible are they? Let us count the ways:

 

1) NGOs are one of many weapons of imperialist domination.

Along with military invasions and missionaries, NGOs help crack countries open like ripe nuts, paving the way for intensifying waves of exploitation and extraction such as agribusiness for export, sweatshops, resource mines, and tourist playgrounds.

Continue reading Why NGOs and Leftish Nonprofits Suck (4 Reasons)

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A Communist Theory of Love

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This first appeared in Skewed News.

1) How we love one another is determined by our ideology, our view of how the world works. This is historically determined and based in our material conditions. If we are to emancipate love from its current generally strangled and damaged state, it will be in the process of the transformation of society overall.

2) In any class-divided society, each class has its own ideology, and thus its own theory of love, with its corresponding practice. Under capitalism, there is capitalist love and working class love, corresponding to the two fundamentally antagonistic classes that exist in that mode of production.

3) When working class love is practiced by communists (militants striving toward proletarian-led revolution with the ultimate aim of breaking down all class divisions), it can be considered communist love. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that we can’t know what love will look like or what forms it will take under communism, until we get there.

Continue reading A Communist Theory of Love

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A Little Story About You, the Capitalist (Capitalism Can’t Be “Less Greedy” – The Greed is Baked In)

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[This first appeared in Skewed News]

[Note: This is written after several people have recently asked me to explain why I always say that capitalism can’t be fixed. One specified: say it in a way that isn’t boring or difficult to understand, and even a little bit funny.]

More people lately are identifying capitalism as the underlying cause of our current global troubles and crises. That’s certainly positive: the first step toward cure is a proper diagnosis. But most of the approaches being offered to treat the problem are placebos, an endless supply of ineffective remedies to “fix” or reform it, to make it “less greedy.”

Getting the greed out of capitalism is impossible, and we’ll just waste precious time by trying. All capitalism’s problems are baked in, integral to the way it works. Capital must expand, buy up or destroy competitors, reach into every corner of society to try to squeeze money out of it. It naturally accumulates, concentrating wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the many. That’s not a mistake. That’s what it does. There’s no other way it works. The problem isn’t extreme capitalism, corporate capitalism, or greedy capitalism. It’s just capitalism.

Let’s try a thought experiment to make this more concrete. Let’s take you through the process of becoming a capitalist. But because you’re a nice person and not a greedy motherfucker like other capitalists, you’re going to be different.

Continue reading A Little Story About You, the Capitalist (Capitalism Can’t Be “Less Greedy” – The Greed is Baked In)

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Dear Capitalist, Leave Me the Hell Alone on My Day Off

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This first appeared in Skewed News.

It’s apparently not enough that you consume all our hours and energy, squeezing us so hard that we turn into miserable wrecks just so you can stuff your face with gourmet food and pay your golf club membership. It’s not enough that we that we work so hard at your crappy jobs that we become dry exhausted husks at the end of a working day, barely alive enough to pop a microwave burrito and zone out to “Mr. Robot” before bed.

After being exploited all day by your greedy ass, did we think we could have at least a few hours or a couple days to call our own, to recover and get our own shit done? Did we plan to catch up on all the errands and housework we’re too tired to do during the workweek? Or even try to squeeze in something fun, relaxing, and social, perhaps take our kids to the movies? Ha ha, joke’s on us—you want that too. You want it all.

Continue reading Dear Capitalist, Leave Me the Hell Alone on My Day Off

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Buck Up, Revolutionary Soldier

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This originally appeared in Skewed News.

Last week an alcoholic stood up in a sweltering meeting hall and promised his fellow workers that he’d stop drinking, so he could participate more effectively in the class struggle. He asked them to hold him to account, and they agreed to do so.

The pain of living under capitalism is bad. The eviction notice, the shocking price of food, the backstabbing among so-called friends, the humiliation at work, the pavement-melting heat, sadistic badge-wearers, torn screaming bodies, and so much blood.

For those who take on the battle against it, it can get worse. Revolutionaries always know they’re on borrowed time. Every moment not dead or in prison is to be used wisely, for these may be limited.

Meanwhile there is trouble, heartache, loneliness. We get fired. Our spouses leave us. Our kids go without. Our mothers fret.

We know that numbing our pain is self-destructive, but sometimes the choice feels like self-medication or breakdown. Still, even as we lift the bottle or pop the pill, we can’t help being aware that these temporary escapes help the capitalists disorganize and dominate us. We’re never more thoroughly pacified than when we’re out of our right minds, perceiving reality in a distorted fashion and unable to marshal a coherent response to it.

When we can, we face our fears and sorrows with clarity. Moments of resolve contend with moments of weakness, over and over and over in a constant internal struggle.

Mutual support allows us to make progress, and collective political practice offers transcendence. Like the Coup lyric goes, “power is the most effective anti-drug.”

That’s how it gets better.

A few days ago after discussing the recent decades of setbacks, the degeneration of the left and the absence of an autonomous workers movement, someone asked me: “What keeps you going?” The answer is simple: It’s the hand of a comrade from the distant past, still reaching toward a classless future. It’s the millions of us who are everywhere, getting ready. It’s Fred Hampton saying he’s not going to die by slipping on a piece of ice. It’s the stubborn refusal to submit. It’s that one worker in that meeting hall, suffering dependency, making the decision to emancipate himself in order to better serve the interests of his class as a whole.

Tensions are tightening between what is and what needs to be. Many of us sense it: a period of intense battles is at hand. We need to gather our strength, set aside distractions, wean ourselves from addictions, make ourselves fit to face the coming firestorm.

The worker who cast off his liquid crutch last week doesn’t know me, but perhaps he will read this: Comrade, your example strengthens us all. May we help keep you strong in turn. Our hands are joined in common cause.

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Robots, Step Aside: The Gravediggers of Capitalism are Still Flesh and Blood Workers

This first appeared on Skewed News.

When they’re not terrifyingly militarized Terminator-style, robots are marketed as amazing and cool, even cute and cuddly. The prevailing myth was that they’d perform tasks and chores we don’t enjoy while we’d sit by the pool sipping margaritas. But what no one told us was that our lives of leisure would be spent without any money to pay the rent, and a pronounced absence of fancy frozen drinks.

First they came for the factory workers. Then they came for grocery cashiers. Now airline pilots and even sports writers are looking nervously over their shoulders, spotting LCD screens looming in the rearview mirror, flashing pixelated hearts from their creepy fake eyes as they come to steal our jobs.

RT America discussed a new report by Forrester Research called “The Future of Jobs, 2025: Working Side-By-Side with Robots” (which I didn’t read, since the thing costs $499, damn!) that says 16% of US jobs could be automated by 2025. The RT article includes videos of robots making and serving food, and assisting retail customers.

A 2013 Oxford University report by was even more dire, predicting that 47% of US jobs may be lost to automation within ten or twenty years. Advances are being made to automate even work generally resistant to automation, like garment manufacturing.

Many leftists (who nowadays are usually not workers themselves) are citing automation and other global shifts in production to construct theories of the disappearance of the working class and the denial of workers’ historical role as capitalism’s destroyers. There has been a widespread shift of the locus of struggle away from the working class to cross-class social issues, and a dangerous populist insistence on “the people vs. the rich” or “the 99% vs. the 1%” to displace the fundamental contradiction specific to capitalism: labor vs. capital.

The working class may indeed be on the ropes—dispersed, atomized, ideologically led astray, difficult to organize. But spite of all projections, predictions, and exaggerated reports of our death, WE ARE STILL HERE.

Continue reading Robots, Step Aside: The Gravediggers of Capitalism are Still Flesh and Blood Workers

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U.S. Workers: Don’t Be Anti-Immigrant Chumps for Capitalists

This first appeared on Skewed News.

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“There should be a law…to keep all them I-talians from comin’ in and takin’ the bread out of the mouths of honest people.”
– Irish woman in the US, 1892.

“we just don’t like you illegal bitches coming to our home trying to fuck it up like you did Mexico.”
– Facebook comment by a scaffold builder in Texas, 2015.

Same shit, different day.

A construction worker in the Midwest remarked to me that white workers at his jobsite often express hatred for Mexican workers. When he hears it, he pipes up: “They need to make a living just like you,” but hesitates to take it further for fear of isolation and losing his job.

Nationally, political candidates are whipping up a social base for fascism, unifying potential voters on the basis of xenophobia.

The anti-immigrant sentiment is grounded in the fear of unemployment. We’re told that jobs are scarce and that we have to compete for them, viciously if necessary. We’re set against one another in every way we can be divided: white against Black, American-born vs. immigrant, unionized vs. non-unionized, men against women, younger vs. older.

This is not by accident. Capitalists always want one thing above all else: to pay lower wages. When an Iowa fertilizer plant fired 1,480 local workers and turned around to advertise those same jobs in Texas, one commenter noted the reason: “you can all be replaced … for half the price.”

For capitalists, it’s a pain in the ass (and expensive) to force workers to accept lower pay through overt violence. They figured out a long time ago that it’s easier if they can get us to undercut each other and blame other workers (instead of them) for our misery. So while exploiting everyone, they’ll allow one group to receive some minor extra privilege or benefit that’s denied to another, in a method of “divide and rule” that’s as old as oppression itself.
Continue reading U.S. Workers: Don’t Be Anti-Immigrant Chumps for Capitalists

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The Capitalist Pincer Strategy: Smothering the Working Class Between Two Butt-Cheeks in the Same Rotten Pair of Pants

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First appeared in Skewed News.

The stagnation of the global economy is structural. Everything capitalists do to try to overcome it just makes it worse. From Greece to Puerto Rico to China to the US to many other places, its weakness is spreading.

Easing credit has failed to spur growth, as has the lowering of interest rates to almost 0%. An executive I chatted with randomly while traveling invoked the well-worn but evocative metaphor of “pushing on a string” to describe these futile efforts. Investors aren’t motivated to pull their end of the string. The generally low return on investment is keeping many capitalists waiting on the sidelines, hoping the game improves.

The capitalists have been trying to save their collective asses with some massive structural changes, imposed over the last few decades. Elements include increased austerity, deregulation, free trade agreements, slave labor, underemployment, debt, and imperialist conquest. All this brings massive pain to the vast majority. Capitalists know we can only take so much of their assaults, and that odds are increasing for broad and sustained social upheaval.

Thus far workers have not coalesced into an autonomous movement, but capitalists know there’s a chance the working class will wake up like a lion roaring for blood. They’d rather prevent this, because if workers organize, they will be the one social force that could take down capitalism altogether.
Continue reading The Capitalist Pincer Strategy: Smothering the Working Class Between Two Butt-Cheeks in the Same Rotten Pair of Pants

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Violent Extremists in the US Kill 150 People Every Day! For Capitalists, Workers’ Lives Don’t Matter

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First appeared in Skewed News.

Every year, domestic terrorists of various reactionary ideological stripes kill an average of about five people. Cops kill many more than that: at the rate they’re going, 1,100 people will die at their hands this year alone.

But there is another group of despicable and ruthless killers in the United States that no one ever talks about: capitalists. 4,585 people every year are killed on the job, and an additional 50,000 people are killed slightly more slowly from occupational diseases. That’s 150 people EVERY DAMN DAY.

In addition, capitalists subjected nearly 3.8 million workers to injuries and illnesses. Those are just the reported cases; unreported ones could be as high as 11.4 million per year.

Largely because of fracking, North Dakota is currently the deadliest place to work. Its death rate, 14.9 per 100,000 workers, has more than doubled since 2007. Wyoming (9.5) and West Virginia (8.6) took second and third place. Texas has highest total number of workers killed on the job: 493 in 2013. The deadliest occupations there are construction and land transport.

Some might think I’m going too far by blaming capitalists and accusing them of killing workers on purpose. After all, business owners and investors aren’t marching onto jobsites and gunning people down; these are considered accidents.

But is it an accident that on freight trains, some carrying highly flammable crude oil, crews are being cut from two people to one? Is it an accident when construction sites have unprotected sides and edges or when guardrails are left off scaffolding platforms? Is it an accident when we breathe in toxic chemicals that we don’t even know we’re being exposed to? Is it an accident when farm workers are transported without seat belts?
Continue reading Violent Extremists in the US Kill 150 People Every Day! For Capitalists, Workers’ Lives Don’t Matter

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Unions Seek Lower Pay for Workers—WTF?

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First appeared at Skewed News.

The entire purpose of a union is to assert and defend the interests of its members. The reason that workers organized themselves into unions in the first place was because we can assert more social power collectively than individually. Historically, unionized workers have fought heroically and righteously for the 8-hour (as opposed to the 16-hour) day, for overtime pay, for safety measures, for better working conditions, and most importantly for higher wages. This is what unions are for, what they’re all about.

So how are we to interpret the current spectacle of unions demanding the right to bargain for lower wages for their members? Is today “opposite day”? Has the world gone mad?

Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, proposed an exemption to the new $15 minimum wage for union members. He wants LA businesses to be able to pay union members less than other workers.

This may seem insane, but he has his (self-serving) reasons. It’s not the first time unions have done this.
Continue reading Unions Seek Lower Pay for Workers—WTF?

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The U.S. Presidential Election 2016: a Clusterfuck of Candidates

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First appeared in Skewed News.

A Bunch of Clowns Stuffed into a Volkswagen

What’s behind the mind-boggling mess of candidates running for President this electoral round, ranging from the ultra-reactionary Trump all the way across the spectrum to the pseudo-left populist Bernie? We’ve never seen such a mad chaotic rush to power, with so many squabbling bullshitters in one place ever.

Each one claims to have a unique approach and program with which they wish to lead America into a better tomorrow. But their better tomorrow is not ours. For us, they’re all just trouble.

Politics is a Reflection of Economics

Politics is a mirror that reflects the goings-on in the economy. When we see clusterfuckery in the political field, we can usually point to clusterfuckery in the economic field as the cause. Financialization has pushed the economy deep into a pit of debt mixed with toxic bubbles of false wealth inflated through speculative gambling. Not just individual enterprises, but capitalism as a whole is experiencing rapidly intensifying crisis. Each candidate is attempting to offer a special brand of snake oil as a cure, but each formula has side effects negating any medicinal properties it might have. Everything they do to try to mitigate the crisis only ends up making it worse.
Continue reading The U.S. Presidential Election 2016: a Clusterfuck of Candidates

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So-Called “Post-Capitalism” is Just Another Crappy Capitalist Snowjob

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First appeared on Skewed News.

Every day we’re being dragged deeper into the capitalist nightmare. While workers are the only ones directly exploited by capital, many others such as the petite bourgeoisie (the “middle” classes) are also subject to its terrible effects: economic crisis, wars of conquest, oppression, poverty, police-state terror, global warming, suicidal thoughts, Febreeze ads and all the rest.

Academics, content-providers and the staffs of nonprofits are among those sounding the alarm ever more vehemently, seeking to soften the pain of the accelerating horror. But because these people don’t directly face capital in the workplace (as workers do in the process of production), they can’t lay hands upon it to combat capitalism directly. So instead they employ their professional skills (corresponding to their economic role as circulators of capital) to solve the problem—they market and sell new ideas to re-design, re-engineer, re-boot the system.

First they offer reassuring-sounding it-won’t-be-that-bad schemes like “cradle to cradle,” “conscious capitalism,” “social entrepreneurship,” and “green capitalism.” But these are quickly revealed to be the same old crap in prettier packaging.

Then they decry capitalism’s “excesses” by defining the problem not a capitalism itself, but as errors within an otherwise acceptable economic system. They add qualifiers: crony capitalism, disaster capitalism, corporate capitalism, blah blah blah. They build stellar careers as public intellectuals by offering the comforting thought that if we could simply eliminate its worst elements, the system might yet be saved. But this formula sounds increasingly hollow, as people figure out that the worst aspects of capitalism aren’t a mistake. They’re inherent to it.
Continue reading So-Called “Post-Capitalism” is Just Another Crappy Capitalist Snowjob

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Imperialist Gangsters on the Prowl

First appeared at Skewed News.

(Please note: all quotes are paraphrased).

They scan the horizon constantly, seeking the next target. Cuba looks soooo tasty. They bide their time, dreaming of the day their advances will inevitably be accepted, however reluctantly.

It starts out with a sympathetic glance, an offer of help.

“I’ll teach your children to read,” murmurs Saudi Arabia to Bangladesh.

First they soften you up with missionaries and non-profits, offering free education, health care, economic assistance.

“Here are some pharmaceuticals to end the scourge of malaria,” purrs Bill Gates to Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique.

You don’t want to seem like a jerk to these self-proclaimed idealistic do-gooders and innocent servants of God, and your people could certainly use the help, so you accept these gifts. Some of it fucks you up though, like the food aid that floods the market and drives your own farmers out of business. Also you have this bad feeling: have they tested these medicines before giving them to your kids, or are they testing them on your kids? But your benefactor insists that it’s all offered in kindness. Refusing would insult their generosity, not to mention make it look like you don’t care about the welfare of your people.
Continue reading Imperialist Gangsters on the Prowl

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Non-Jobs Don’t Count: The Working Class Perspective on the Unemployment Rate

150707Unemployment

First published at Skewed News.

Last week there was some debate over how many Americans are actually out of work, i.e., the “real” unemployment rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, an agency within the US Department of Labor, put the official number at a laughable 5.3%, down from 6.1% the previous year. (When counting those who have given up but say they still want to work, and part-timers who want to work full-time, they admit the number should be raised to 10.4%). Political clown Donald Trump estimates it at 18%. Former Reagan administration Budget Director David Stockman puts it at a more realistic 42.9%

But none of those bloodsuckers are counting it right. They can’t, because they take for granted their own capitalist definitions of “employment,” “underemployment,” and “unemployment.” This is like snakes describing the reality of horses. Those who should define those categories are the ones living them. For working people it is not a numbers game, but a deeply problematic social relationship.

For capitalists, workers are a necessary inconvenience. To make a profit in the productive sector, they must purchase our labor power. (They’d prefer go robotic or full-financial—moving money around rather than selling goods or services—and not have to deal with pesky workers. Sadly for them, robots aren’t everywhere yet. They still need us—without exploiting us, their whole economy falls apart.) For them, the employment rate is not determined by what society needs; it’s determined by how much money they can accumulate. If it’s not profitable to employ us, they throw us in the street.
Continue reading Non-Jobs Don’t Count: The Working Class Perspective on the Unemployment Rate

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Obama Administration Throws Workers an Overtime Crumb — We Want the Whole Cake

Originally published in Skewed News.

overtimeColorA new rule being proposed by an Obama Administration executive order will update salary regulations frozen since 1975. 5 million salaried workers who’ve been bullied and coerced to provide countless hours of overtime labor without compensation are now (well, next year) supposed to actually get paid for work they do that exceeds 40 hours a week.

Currently, workers who are considered managers or supervisors have to make less than $23,660 to qualify for overtime pay—less than the official poverty level for a family of four. Many employers have taken advantage of this by giving fake “Manager” titles to workers to force them to work extra hours for free. The new rule would adjust that threshold to $50,440, basically restoring it to what it was in 1975 in real purchasing power. The new threshold will not be tied to inflation though, so we’re back at square one, and the price of food is still going to rise faster than our paychecks.

Getting paid for our work: what a concept! The fact that this is portrayed by some as a great victory for labor is pathetic. (And let’s not even mention those who argue that we shouldn’t even get this much). Getting paid for our work should be an obvious, expected base line.

It is not a gift. We earn it every day. So let’s not embarrass ourselves by being grateful to our oppressors and exploiters.
Continue reading Obama Administration Throws Workers an Overtime Crumb — We Want the Whole Cake

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Boeing Poisons Flight Attendants

Originally published in SkewedNews (a division of ANewDomain.net).

BoeingColorFlight attendants for Alaska Air have filed a lawsuit against Boeing for allowing toxic air into the cabins of the airplanes it manufactures.

According to the complaint, the air used to maintain cabin pressure gets sucked into the planes through the engines. When the air is exposed to heated engine oil, it becomes toxic. (That means if you travel on one of their planes, you’re breathing that shit too).

“By reason of Boeing’s design decisions, the environmental control system on the subject aircraft lacked filters which would have purified the cabin air and prevented the subject flight attendant crew from being exposed to toxic fumes,” the lawsuit says.
Continue reading Boeing Poisons Flight Attendants

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The Deadly Reign of the Animate Object: Capitalism and Sociopathy

Stephanie McMillan, 11/23/14
(Presented at Earth at Risk conference, San Francisco)

[also posted by Burnpile Press: http://burnpilepress.org/uncategorized/the-deadly-reign-of-the-animate-object-capitalism-and-sociopathy/

We all know that capitalism is killing the world. In order to stop it, we can’t just keep resisting its effects. Capitalism doesn’t care if we protest on street corners a thousand times; that just proves how tolerant and democratic it is. The solutions are not to be found within its framework. They are even less to be found at the individual level. We don’t actually have power as consumers – they would like us to think we do, but we can’t buy, or not buy, our way out of it. It is a social system, a class system, and can only be addressed at the level of collective, organized class struggle. We need to understand capital, how it works, the mechanisms that keep it in place, and the core of its functioning.

Capitalism is a mode of production based on the exploitation of labor in the generation of surplus value. This means that workers are paid a certain amount of wages for a day’s work, but what they produce is worth more than that. The extra value is called surplus value, and the capitalist just steals it. This is what all profit is based on. This is what private property is all about – its considered normal for the social means of production, the factories and land that produce the things we all use, to be privately owned, and for those owners to simply take whatever is produced with them.
Continue reading The Deadly Reign of the Animate Object: Capitalism and Sociopathy

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NGOs are Cages

2013-02-14-pay-youWe really need to understand the methods used by NGOs* to undermine radical political organizing efforts and divert us into political dead ends. The People’s Climate March is a good case study because it’s so blatant.

In South Florida, we saw the exact same process after the BP oil spill. Once the NGOs came in to the organizing meetings and were given the floor, all potential resistance was blocked, strangled, and left for dead. NGOs will descend on any organizing effort and try to take it over, dilute it, and bring it eventually to the Democratic Party. We can also see an identical set-up with the established labor unions and many other organizations.

If organizers are being paid, usually they are trapped in this dynamic, whether or not they want to be. While combining a job with organizing to challenge the system sounds very tempting and full of potential, it’s overwhelmingly not possible. They are two fundamentally incompatible aims, and those funding the job definitely do not have the aim of allowing its employees to undermine the system — the very system that allows the funders to exist, that they feed off of. Capitalists aren’t stupid, and they know how to keep their employees chained to a post, even if the leash feels long. With NGOs, capitalism has set up a great mechanism for itself both to generate revenue, and to pacify people who might otherwise be fighting to break the framework. “The unity of the chicken and the roach happens in the belly of the chicken.”
Continue reading NGOs are Cages

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To defeat capitalism and imperialism, we need to organize!

If we are to have any hope of winning, we need to build a powerful mass movement capable of asserting and fighting for the interests of the masses. To become strong enough to defeat the capitalist class, we need to become even more powerful, more organized than them. We outnumber them, so it will be possible, if we do the work. It’s hard work, but there’s no other way. If we sincerely want to end capitalism and imperialism, and not just pay lip service to that goal, not just cry and drink and pray and protest symbolically, then we need to dedicate our lives to organizing a movement that can be effective and WIN. It is the most meaningful and important thing we can do.

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Congo: They Play Workers Like Football

http://onestruggle.net/2014/05/18/congo-they-play-workers-like-football/

An Interview with Mutombo Nkulu-N’Sengha

Mutombo Nkulu-N’Sengha is an Associate Professor at California State University, Northridge who joined the Religious Studies Department in 2003. Dr. Nkulu-N’Sengha teaches courses in African religions, Americans’ religious diversity, and comparative religion.

The interview was conducted by Marlon Stern (artist and activist in the Los Angeles area, who also transcribed the interview), and Stephanie McMillan (cartoonist/writer and organizer in South Florida).

SM: Would you tell me a little bit of the background on your projects in the Congo — about the general conditions, the toxic waste dumping, mine conditions and worker conditions, how imperialism is affecting the country?

MN: Democratic Republic of Congo is a country in Central Africa with almost 70 million people now. DRC is very important and interesting to study in terms of the effects of globalization. This is not a poor country. There is no desert. There is no reason why people should be starving or waiting for rice to come from Europe. Congo, as you know, is well endowed in terms of natural resources, but it is one of the poorest countries in the world in terms of lifestyle of people. Congolese have a joke, they say, “We have become capitalists without capital, nationalists without a nation.” They put it this way, and sorry for this joke, “Our tragedy is to be rich, Continue reading Congo: They Play Workers Like Football

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A Garment Worker in Bangladesh Speaks Out

http://onestruggle.net/2014/05/17/a-garment-worker-in-bangladesh-speaks-out/

by Stephanie McMillan

Mina* was 15 years old last year when she started working at Pretty Group, a garment factory in Gazipur, a suburb of Dhaka, Bangladesh. She spoke of her situation: “We suffer a lot because they don’t give us enough salary. I receive 5000 taka (less than $65) per month. They don’t pay overtime.” This is actually higher than the minimum wage of 3000 taka ($38.72) per month, but is still not even close to being enough to live on, confirmed Faiezul Hakim Lala, the President of the Bangladesh Trade Union Federation. The BTUF is an autonomous (non-NGO-affiliated) workers organization established in 1978. It organizes rickshaw pullers, construction workers, informal laborers, railway, jute mill and garment workers, rice farmers and others.
Continue reading A Garment Worker in Bangladesh Speaks Out

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Why Environmentalists Should Support Working Class Struggles

[This piece appeared, among other places, in Counterpunch: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/18/why-environmentalists-should-support-working-class-struggles/]

This is to specifically address class struggle as it relates to the ecological crisis. It will not address all the other (many!) reasons that working class struggle must be waged and supported.

First, we must recognize the fact that global capitalism is driving ecocide.

The problem reaches much farther back than capitalism itself. The combination of an early gendered division of labor with the adoption of agriculture and corresponding formation of permanent settlements set the stage for class divisions and the private accumulation of surplus wealth. Maintaining this arrangement required the development of states with armies, social oppression and repression to weaken internal opposition, and ideologies to make it all seem normal and pre-ordained. And as land was degraded and resources used up faster than they naturally replenished themselves, expansion became imperative, leading to conquest and forced unequal trade. These intertwined and matured over time into an ever-more complex tangle, culminating in late-stage capitalism: the all-encompassing, all-devouring, spectacular horror that is our current global social living arrangement.
Continue reading Why Environmentalists Should Support Working Class Struggles

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Artists & Writers Support Haiti Wage Campaign!

http://onestruggle.net/2013/11/18/artists-writers-support-haiti-wage-campaign/

In just one week, 90 artists, musicians and writers from all over the world — including four Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonists — enthusiastically offered their support for the struggle in Haiti for a rise in the minimum wage to 500 gourdes ($11.50) per day! For their statement and list of signatories, read more…

This statement will be sent to workers’ organizations in Haiti by Nov. 25, 2013.

***
Artists & Writers in Solidarity with Garment Workers in Haiti:

Raise the Minimum Wage!
Continue reading Artists & Writers Support Haiti Wage Campaign!

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Notes on defining the working class

victoriaFB
(5/3/2013)
It’s important to make a distinction between workers who produce surplus value and service employees, because the entire capitalist economy rests on the surplus value generated in the production of commodities. This is the only new value produced in capitalist society, and it is generated in the labor process itself, as the worker is making physical commodities that can be bought and sold. That’s what exploitation is: taking this value produced by the worker.
Continue reading Notes on defining the working class

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Translating the Language of Imperialism

http://onestruggle.net/2013/05/01/translating-the-language-of-imperialism/

by Stephanie McMillan

“That country is poor.”

Translation: Your country had bountiful natural resources until we beat the hell out of you and stole everything.

“Their government is incompetent. They are unable to govern themselves.”

Translation: We invaded you, killed a bunch of you and set the rest at each other’s throats, and installed a dictator who’s helping us steal everything. But it’s your own fault that your country is a mess.

“The US helps people all over the world.”

Translation: If you don’t want our products or loans because they’ll ruin your economy, we’ll twist your arm until you take them. We’ll charge you for interest, inputs and maintenance far beyond the value of our original ‘assistance,’ and label ourselves saints and you ungrateful.
Continue reading Translating the Language of Imperialism

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“Stop Earning This Huge Profit on Blood”: An Interview with Anu Muhammad

“Stop Earning This Huge Profit on Blood”: An Interview with Anu Muhammad about the Tazreen Fashions Factory Fire in Bangladesh

http://onestruggle.net/2013/05/01/stop-earning-this-huge-profit-on-blood/

Conducted by Stephanie McMillan

Anu Muhammad, an anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist activist and Professor of Economics at Jahangirnagar University (Dhaka, Bangladesh), is the author of more than 20 books. He is the editor of the website Meghbarta.info.

The fire occurred on November 24, 2012 in Savar, Bangladesh, killing more than a hundred workers. The factory produced clothing for a number of US corporations including Walmart, Disney, ENYCE and Dickies.

Stephanie McMillan: We are all very upset and outraged about what happened.

Anu Muhammad: Yes, we all are. You have seen the photographs?
Continue reading “Stop Earning This Huge Profit on Blood”: An Interview with Anu Muhammad

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Students Resist FAU Selling Out to Private Prison

[Printed by One Struggle and Salty Eggs]

By Stephanie McMillan

GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut) is a private firm that runs more than a hundred for-profit prisons, youth and immigrant detention facilities, in which captives are beaten and raped. One judge called one of their juvenile jails in Mississippi “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions.” (1)

The GEO Group runs three facilities in Florida, and wants to expand. A potential new $75 million, 1,500-bed ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) center in Broward County still may be pursued, in spite of a battle that residents of the Town of Southwest Ranches believed was resolved against it. (2)

Angling to be Florida’s major privatize prison provider, CEO George Zoley (an FAU alumnus and longtime Trustee) offered the prestigious Florida Atlantic University $6 million to name the school’s new sports stadium. Nothing erases one’s bloodthirsty perpetuation of (and profiting off of) a racist, abusive, corrupt and oppressive system better than a nice gift to a beloved sports team. The university president, Mary Jane Saunders, accepted the tainted money with simpering gratitude, calling it “delightful.” “We’re very, very proud to be partnered with them,” she added, in case her position wasn’t clear the first time. (3)

fau1
(Students sit in the lobby of the university President’s office)

fau2
(Students confront President Saunders)

A number of students didn’t like the idea of their school being used as a billboard for atrocities, and formed the Stop OwlCatraz Coalition. About 50 of them had a protest on February 25, joined by others including a couple of Earth First!ers, an ACLU attorney, FL Immigrant Rights Coalition, various members of the media. I attended as a member of the anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist collective One Struggle. We were all excited to see students in South Florida standing up against injustice.
Continue reading Students Resist FAU Selling Out to Private Prison

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Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, But Don’t Stop There

Here’s an article I wrote for Salty Eggs.

http://saltyeggs.com/stop-the-keystone-xl-pipeline-sure-but-we-cant-stop-there/

Our worst nightmares reverberate with the prediction of respected scientist James Hansen: if we don’t stop TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, then it’s “game over” for stabilizing the climate. With final US governmental approval (or not) to complete the pipeline looming, struggle over it is intensifying.

In late January, representatives from more than 25 First Nations in what is currently known as Canada and the US met in South Dakota to pledge mutual support in halting all Alberta tar sands oil production projects, including specifically the Keystone XL pipeline.

On February 17, tens of thousands rallied in Washington, DC, to demand that the Obama administration reject the XL pipeline. Even the members of the Sierra Club were sufficiently alarmed that the staid ENGO had to lift its 120-year ban on civil disobedience.
Continue reading Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, But Don’t Stop There

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Capitalist Food Production: A Leading Cause of Hunger, Illness, Ecocide, Exploitation and Imperialist Domination

[Originally appeared at Salty Eggs]

By Stephanie McMillan

Capitalism is a dysfunctional economic system that benefits a few while exploiting and neglecting the majority. But it’s not only that. It’s also a social relationship of domination, where a small class of capitalists exerts power over the whole society through the private ownership of the means of production. Under capitalism, the purpose of all commodity production (including food) is not to meet the needs of the people; but to make a profit. Food production has become a massive profit center, as well as a tool of domination, both domestically and globally.

Nearly all food production on the planet has been industrialized, and is controlled by giant monopolies. The largest include Nestle, PepsiCo, Unilever, and Kraft. Monsanto and DuPont control much of the world’s seeds and other farming inputs. ADM and Cargill control much of agriculture and animal feed. Dole is the world largest fruit company.

Monsanto vice president (and Bill Gates Foundation board member) Rob Horsch said “He who controls food, controls the world.”
Continue reading Capitalist Food Production: A Leading Cause of Hunger, Illness, Ecocide, Exploitation and Imperialist Domination

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TakePart: Haiti’s Garment Workers Join the Worldwide Fight Against Sweatshop Abuses

Op-Ed: Haiti’s Garment Workers Join the Worldwide Fight Against Sweatshop Abuses
Labor organizers from Port-au-Prince to Ouanaminthe are sewing your underwear and agitating for international solidarity.

December 05, 2012 By Stephanie McMillan

http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/12/05/op-ed-haitis-garment-workers-look-america-solidarity

Members of Batay Ouvriye protest the occupation of Haiti by blocking the entrance to the MINUSTAH (U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti) base. (Photo: Sarah Cruz)

The garment industry is a global web of nightmares, where suppliers compete to offer their products at the lowest possible cost to stores like Walmart, The Gap and JCPenney. The cutthroat competition can mean starvation wages and unsafe conditions for the people working in sweatshops, the people who stitch, press and fold the T-shirts, pants and dresses that wind up on the shelves of U.S. stores.

This past October, several members of One Struggle (an anti-imperialist collective with chapters in South Florida and New York) traveled to Haiti to meet with workers who produce clothing for familiar brands, including Cherokee and Hanes.
Continue reading TakePart: Haiti’s Garment Workers Join the Worldwide Fight Against Sweatshop Abuses

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The Class Struggle of Science

[Appeared in Salty Eggs]

by Stephanie McMillan

Economic systems are in dialectical (mutually interdependent and contradictory) relationship with the political structure and prevailing ideas of each society as a whole, with the economy being the dominant or determining aspect. This is not to say that influence doesn’t go the other way, but economy has a stranglehold on everything else, shaping its nature (both bending all other elements to its needs, while at the same time generating its own opposition). Though we are told (by the ruling class) that science is “neutral,” it is no less a product of class domination than any other set of ideas.

Pre-capitalist conceptions of science were less reductive and acknowledged a living world—the German “Wissenschaft” once referred to a broader notion of scientific knowledge that incorporated philosophy and spirituality. (Not coincidentally, Germany was until relatively recently not a nation, but a fragmented collection of feudal domains, while England had entered its colonial period by the time Francis Bacon declared his intention to extract nature’s secrets through torture.) As capitalism emerged in Europe (concentrated in England and France), science was harnessed to march in step with it, to solidify a mechanistic and utilitarian view of the world.
Continue reading The Class Struggle of Science

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Theory: everybody has one

by Stephanie McMillan

[printed in Salty Eggs]

Whether we’re aware of it or not, we each live our lives according to our own personal internalized philosophical theory—a more or less contradictory jumble of assumptions, beliefs, intentions, and hypotheses about the nature of the universe and our place in it. Each of us has ideas about the nature of existence, motion, and relationships. They come from everywhere and blend together: experiences, conversations, reading, mass media, advertising, teachers, family, friends and foes.

We can think through these theories, try to break them down and understand them, experiment with putting them into practice to determine what is correct and incorrect. As we learn to apply theory, we are able to increasingly align our actions with our thoughts.

The other option is to passively accept the premises and outlook that we’ve been trained in since birth (which, since they are products of the system‘s ideological hegemony, lead to spontaneous total identification with the system), and meekly follow the path our enemy has laid down for us: school, work, unemployment line, prison, FEMA camp, nursing home, death. Continue reading Theory: everybody has one

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Take Part: The Activist Cartoonist’s Creed: Keep Laughing All the Way to the Revolution

The Activist Cartoonist’s Creed: Keep Laughing All the Way to the Revolution
Graphic novels, comic strips and caricatures all have the power to draw real live humans to action.


http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/11/27/op-ed-comics-force-social-justice

by Stephanie McMillan

A good cartoon makes one simple, concentrated point. The artist must decide what idea to convey and pare this down to its essence; otherwise the cartoon will lack clarity, and fail artistically. The particular combination of images and simple textual messages makes a cartoon uniquely accessible, more easily understandable than either images or text alone.

A cartoon commands visual attention, and is the first thing a reader’s eyes are drawn to on a page, on paper or online. When done well, a cartoon reaches the reader’s consciousness with instant clarification, turning a previously complex or obscured concept into something suddenly obvious.
Continue reading Take Part: The Activist Cartoonist’s Creed: Keep Laughing All the Way to the Revolution

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A Conversation: Imperialism and Resistance in Bangladesh and Haiti

Posted in One Struggle: http://onestruggle.net/2012/11/05/a-conversation-imperialism-and-resistance-in-bangladesh-and-haiti/

Also posted in Mukto-Mona: http://mukto-mona.com/wordpress/?p=1515

Following is a conversation between Anu Muhammad (an organizer with the National Committee in Bangladesh, which works against resource extraction and imperialism), two members of One Struggle (Daniel and Stephanie McMillan), plus Irtishad Ahmad and Swapan Majhi. It took place at FIU (Miami), in October 2012.

Anu Muhammad: Tell me about your organization.

Stephanie McMillan: One Struggle actually started 20 years ago against the US occupation of Haiti and the forced return of the people who were leaving the Cedras regime. It first started out only focused on Haiti, and then it became a more internationally focused anti-imperialist group. And it disbanded after a while. But we recently, two years ago, decided to restart it because there was a need— and it seemed like there was a basis— to organize an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist group.

And then the Occupy movement started a year later. We didn’t want to get sucked into that so much that we lost our identity and our autonomy. So we worked within it, but we didn’t want to become the Occupy movement. We went there and formed an anti-capitalist caucus within Occupy in South Florida. And we also have a New York chapter starting, and people in different places who are interested.

Four of us just traveled to Haiti and met with workers organizations who are mostly garment workers, but also some agricultural workers fighting against the multinational corporations and factories and imperialist domination overall. I know you’re (Anu) focused on the extraction of natural resources, like coal and natural gas, and they have a similar problem where entities like the Clinton & Bush Foundation are buying up a lot of land on the coast of Haiti to build hotels and…
Continue reading A Conversation: Imperialism and Resistance in Bangladesh and Haiti

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A Brief Definition of Imperialism


http://onestruggle.net/2012/10/15/a-brief-definition-of-imperialism/

By Stephanie McMillan

The historical development of capitalism drives inexorably (though not uniformly) toward the concentration of capital. This is expedited by increasing the scale of production, dominating markets, and improving technology. Concentrations of capital form monopolies that can exert proportional power (control) over the economic and political arrangements of the social formations they dominate.

When capital, ruled by its growth imperative, inevitably reaches limits to the accumulation of surplus value within the territory (nation, or social formation) it already controls, it must expand beyond its borders to conquer other areas. It uses the state(s) of its home base(s) to wage politics (up to and including war, the most extreme form of politics) on other social formations—to subjugate the ones it can, as well as to compete with others over how to carve up the world.
Continue reading A Brief Definition of Imperialism

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"Everything for Everyone" presentation, Seattle

Capitalism has a growth imperative, on a scale more unimaginably massive than any other mode of production that has existed historically. Others expanded only at a rate to feed a growing population, but capitalism has no limits. This is because its sole purpose is the accumulation of surplus value, and because of its driving force: competition. Its momentum is perpetuated by the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and the need for each individual capitalist to get the most before all the others. (Example: industrial fishing).

Capitalism starts with primary accumulation, in other words the theft of land and other natural resources. It is a production process that extracts surplus value (or profit) from human labor power during in the conversion of the natural world into commodities. The point is not to provide for the needs of society, nor is it the commodities. The entire point and purpose of production under capitalism is for capital to reproduce itself. Each capitalist strives to expand more than all others, or risks being swallowed up by them.
Continue reading "Everything for Everyone" presentation, Seattle

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Land Defense and Class Struggle: Building Alliances to Defeat Capitalism

This is the text of the talk I gave at the Left Forum last weekend in NYC:

* * *

Environmental destruction is the most urgent and immediate problem we face. If we don’t solve it, nothing else will matter. I would argue that it’s the principle contradiction of the current period. Through it, the common ruin of contending classes is becoming increasingly likely, but as the economic and ecological crises converge, the possibility of liberation and social transformation also opens up. But only if we organize to make that happen.

The problem is accelerating because of capital’s constant need to expand into new areas. They have entered a period of extreme extraction, on a scale never before seen: fracking, oil from tar sands and deep sea drilling, mountaintop removal. Because of the falling rate of profit, capitalism can never economically catch up with itself and must constantly break through its limits in a vain attempt to resolve its own inherent internal contradiction.

Feudalism and all forms of class society have had internal contradictions that drove them to expand. But capitalism has taken this to a new level, because instead of just requiring more resources to continue existing (to feed an expanding agrarian population, for example), it requires constant growth of production to expand for its own sake. The needs of the population aren’t the point, and commodities aren’t even the point — accumulating surplus-value to expand capital itself is the entire point. This is what pushes it to exceed limits on a scale previously unimaginable.
Continue reading Land Defense and Class Struggle: Building Alliances to Defeat Capitalism

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Toward an Anti-Capitalist/Anti-Imperialist Mass Movement: Organizing at the Intermediate Level

Issued by One Struggle, September 2011
http://onestruggle.net/2011/09/02/toward-an-anti-capitalistanti-imperialist-mass-movement-organizing-at-the-intermediate-level/

Mass movements can not be conjured from thin air or willed into being, no matter how correct our ideas or determined our hearts. They arise in response to intolerable social problems, congeal through collective practice and theoretical work, and harden through continuous, escalating struggle.

In the U.S., as in many parts of the world, the 1960s saw the birth of a radical mass movement with revolutionary currents running through it. It didn’t burst onto the scene fully formed, but developed through twists and turns, suffering painful lessons, betrayals, mistakes and defeats on the way. It also celebrated victories which, like waves pushed by storm winds, grew ever larger and more powerful until the idea of revolution rose in the public consciousness as a tangible possibility.

As the movement found its footing, participants became skilled in tactics and honed their strategies. Small and vague collectives coalesced and matured into national, multi-level, unified fighting machines.
Continue reading Toward an Anti-Capitalist/Anti-Imperialist Mass Movement: Organizing at the Intermediate Level

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One storm, two responses

In 2005, Hurricane Wilma crossed over South Florida. The destruction was substantial. A telephone/electric pole lay across my back yard, its transformer trailing wires. Most of a large tree had come down on my neighbor’s roof. Branches were everywhere. Bits of the corrugated fiberglass roof of a plant nursery littered the ground ten blocks away. The electricity stayed off for eleven days. The municipal water supply stayed off for three.

I still had to go to work. As I made my way around town on my bike in the following days, I saw a difference in the way the people of my neighborhood and the people of the next neighborhood over handled their respective difficulties.

In the best of times, my neighborhood – mostly populated by short-term renters who were only around when not out working on boats for weeks or months on end – enjoyed little-to-no social cohesion. Few people even recognized each other as neighbors. Each was generally on his or her own.

Residents made a rather pathetic scene as they used soda cans to scoop water from street puddles into plastic kitchen garbage bins, to use for flushing toilets. The general mood was testy. It was hot and humid. Everyone was sweaty, with no showering in the foreseeable future, and food was rapidly spoiling. A fight broke out at a nearby gas station over ice.
Continue reading One storm, two responses

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Why are there so many small groups on the Left?

People coming into political motion often take a look at the field of activity on the Left and shake their heads. “Why are there so many small, disunited groups?” they ask. “Why can’t they get along and work together?”

Line differences within groups have come from practice, or responses to the practice of others. At certain points in history the line differences are worth splitting up over, because they lead to qualitatively different further practice. Sections of groups part ways because each believes their way is correct and the other way is going to lead to failure.

But most of the sects that exist today emerged out of a previous era of struggle, and their differences are rooted in the past. Many of the questions that were once crucial and defining, are irrelevant to people coming into political life today. They don’t want to (and shouldn’t have to) go through a long list of historical verdicts and ideological points that they have to agree with to join a group. It’s too hard – what if they agree on 60% or 80% but can’t come to agreement on the rest? Then they’d either have to suppress their differences and join anyway, or would have to form another sect with that minor difference as the distinction between them.

Instead, now people are seeking to organize new groups from the ground up, with people who generally agree on current issues and basic goals, and are willing to figure out the rest as needed.

This is why, I think, there are so many small collectives starting everywhere. People coming into political life for the first time, or getting back into it after a long break, or coming out of some of these sects, are figuring out what they think about our current conditions. They are putting aside the impulse to form verdicts on historical questions, and starting over.

This doesn’t mean they don’t learn from previous struggles. People are studying — not to just appropriate a finished system of thought in the abstract, but creatively, in order to see how others approached similar problems in different times and places, and to find solutions and methods that can help today. It’s great that they’re starting fresh, because when people define their own theories, ideologies and political lines, then they’re rooted in their own experiences, observations, and emotions. The ideas become an integral part of the people, who then become an integral part of a movement, in a way that can’t happen if they come in and rely solely on the previous work of others. The creative process of articulating beliefs and forming principles, incorporating what makes sense from past lessons, and testing what parts of the new mix works and what doesn’t, is part of the liveliness of an emerging movement.

The people coming into motion today don’t see the need to divide themselves along the same lines, or down to the same level of detail as those who have been around a long time — though divisions are still there based on very broad historical verdicts and deep scars. For example, in recent decades I haven’t noticed anyone refuse to work with someone who has a different opinion on Enver Hoxha’s break with Mao. Most people don’t know or care about it. On the other hand, many anarchists still feel betrayed by communists because of the Spanish Civil War and other blunders and won’t even consider working with them, or will only with extreme wariness and some expression of regret on the part of the reds.

Splits form along new lines: anarchists are splitting over being vegan or omnivore. Deep green environmentalists demarcate themselves from technotopians. Anti-war activists congeal into mutually frosty camps around whether or not to express support for the rulers of countries being attacked by the U.S.

So the splits and divides are more (not always, but much more) based on issues and events that are occurring and relevant today.

It’s like ecological succession. The groups that emerged from the 1960s are mature, solid, complex organisms. They’ve been through a lot and grown into big trees. The new collectives emerging everywhere are pioneer species, like the small plants that spring up on damaged ground, fast-growing and highly adaptive, but fragile and less formed. Some will be short-lived and not very well-defined. They’ll prepare the ground for stronger plants to take root and become established.

A revolutionary situation will require a lot of different kinds of forces working in tandem. Like in an ecosystem, there is strength in diversity, and a particular role for all of these types of groups in relation to the others. We should cooperate as much as possible. The elders of the movement have experience and wisdom. The new people have fresh views and energy. We should appreciate both, and all be learning from one another.

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50 Ways to Prepare for Revolution

[edited 5/10/11: added #42, combined #23 & #26. Edited again 5/13: added #31, combined #26 and #27, changed wording of #35]

by Stephanie McMillan

The people of the United States are currently unprepared to seize a revolutionary moment. We must fix that.

How can we raise our levels of revolutionary consciousness, organization and struggle?

Raise consciousness

1) Raise consciousness with the purpose of building organization and raising the level of struggle.

2) Investigate before forming opinions. Research how the world and the system function.

3) Read foundational and historical works about revolution, by those who have participated in and led them.

4) Analyze the system’s current condition and trajectory.

5) Learn about the resistance, uprisings and revolutions going on in the world today.

6) Read the material that currently active groups are issuing and discussing.

7) Continuously develop, elaborate upon and refine principles, theories and strategies for our movement.

8. Raise our voices. Articulate revolutionary ideas, and give them a public presence.

9) Listen and speak in the spirit of mutual clarification.

10) Participate in discussion, to develop our ideas and hone our skills in expressing them, and to help others do so.

11) Figure out how to use all our various talents, positions, energy and resources as effectively as possible, to expose the system’s evil, irredeemable and unreformable nature.

12) Analyze and explain the many ways the system dominates and exploits.

13) Stand with the dominated, exploited, invaded, colonized, threatened and oppressed.

14) Display a revolutionary spirit and celebrate it in others.

15) Exercise patience in winning over reluctant potential allies and supporters.

16) Ridicule and discredit the enemy.

17) Create revolutionary culture. Make videos and art, speak, sing, and write blogs, books, comments, leaflets, rhymes, stories, and articles about the enemy s crimes and the people s resistance.

18) Exchange ideas locally, nationally and (within the law or safe channels) globally.

19) Encourage others to participate in the revolutionary process.

Organize

20) Organize as a way to raise consciousness more broadly and to build struggle.

21) Start with people we know.

22) If our friends discourage us, make new friends.

23) Network sensibly with people online. Find local people online who express similar ideas, and meet with them.

24) Find a group that we basically agree with. Work with it.

25) If there’s no local group we want to work with, start one.

26) Write a leaflet with contact info. Pass it out in public to find potential comrades.

27) When we meet people, assess our points of agreement. If we agree on basic essentials, decide how to work together. If not, say goodbye for now.

28) Build strong ties locally and nationally, and build solidarity globally.

29) Define allies according to overall outlook and goals.

30) Don’t let secondary differences prevent cooperation. Handle differences between allies non-antagonistically.

31) Do not tolerate oppressive (sexist, racist, homophobic etc.) dynamics within the movement. Confront their expression and put a stop to it.

32) Refrain from saying anything aloud, on the phone or electronically that we wouldn’t want to hear played back in court.

33) Keep illegal drugs away from our political life.

34) Research and practice good security culture.

35) Prioritize the wellbeing of our organizations over personal benefit.

36) Ready our ranks to seize on any breaks in the legitimacy of the system.

Struggle

37) Use struggle to spread revolutionary consciousness and build organization.

38) Collectively determine what we want, and declare our demands.

39) Act as far as possible within our capacity, not either beyond or below our capacity.

40) Continuously strive to expand and consolidate our capacity and strength.

41) Assert our rights and our responsibilities.

42) Bring our revolutionary perspective into struggles already occurring.

43) Defend, support, and encourage our allies.

44) As opportunities arise, weaken the enemy and its ability to rule.

45) Obey the small laws. Don t get taken out of the game for something unworthy.

46) For illegal acts, make sure you can trust your comrades with your life and the lives of everyone connected to you.

47) Avoid being distracted and diverted into symbolic action-for-action’s sake.

48) Don t expect the enemy to act against its nature. It has no mercy and can not be reasoned with.

49) Turn every attack by the enemy into an opportunity to speak out, organize, and grow more powerful.

50) Be willing to work hard. Be smart. Be brave. Remember we re all in this together.

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Fight Our Common Enemy: Global Industrial Capitalism

Global capitalism is the economic system that dominates the planet. It runs on the exploitation of human labor to turn the living world into dead commodities, for the profit of a few. The small, powerful minority who own the means of production enforce their dominance through their control over political and cultural institutions, and their monopoly on force. They create a situation of dependency – forcing us to work for them to obtain basic needs like food and shelter. They annihilate those who resist or refuse to assimilate.

This system values profit over life itself. It has been built on land theft and destruction, genocide, slavery, deforestation and imperialist wars. It commits numberless atrocities as a matter of routine daily functioning. It kills 2.4 million children worldwide under age 5 each year by withholding adequate nutrition. It kills 100,000 people annually in the US by denying decent health care. More than 54% of the US discretionary budget is spent on perpetrating imperialist aggression, and recent casualties include more than a million civilians in Iraq, and more than 46,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Aside from outright murder, the economic and psychological violence wrought upon the world’s inhabitants is so extensive and comprehensive that it’s effectively all-encompassing.

The system is killing the entire planet, the basis for all life. It’s converted 98% of old growth forests into lumber. 80% of rivers worldwide no longer support life. 94% of the large fish in the oceans are gone. Phytoplankton, the tiny plants that produce half of the oxygen we breathe, have declined by 40% since 1950. 120 species per day become extinct.

Industries produce 400 million tons of hazardous waste every year. Recently, the water in 89% of US cities tested has been found to contain the carcinogen hexavalent chromium. To feed capitalism’s insatiable need for economic expansion, increasingly dangerous methods of energy extraction are being perpetrated: deep sea drilling, oil extraction from tar sands, fracking. No matter the consequences, no matter what the majority of people may want, those in power insist on (and enforce) their non-negotiable right to poison the land, water and air in pursuit of maximum profit.

The threat to our common existence on Earth is accelerating and intensifying. This is a situation of extreme urgency.

Clearly, a global economic system based on perpetual growth is unsustainable. A system characterized by oppression and coercion is pure misery for the majority. The obvious conclusion is that we need to get rid of it, and change to a way of life that doesn’t involve exploitation and ecocide. But first we must face one hard fact: this system won’t stop unless it’s stopped. It can not be escaped, reformed, redeemed, cajoled, abandoned, or rejected. It must be fought, defeated and dismantled.

The global economy is currently falling deeper into a convergence of deep crises. This presents us with a rare opportunity to build resistance. More than an opportunity, this is also a necessity, and our responsibility. This situation is crying out for action.

Yet our movement is weak and fragmented, unable to adequately respond. Our habitual modes of opposition (like protests and demonstrations) no longer seem to work in the ways they once did, and we are unsure how to best proceed. Currently there is no organizational formation that is capable of engaging this situation on the scale that is required. Yet there are countless individuals and small groups who, though we may disagree on much, share the desire for a sustainable, classless alternative to this omnicidal system.

If we are to survive, we must develop ways to work together to combat global capitalism and its crimes, and ultimately bring it down. Individually we are weak and ineffective; together we can be strong. We must build a movement that embraces our political and ideological diversity, and our independent autonomy, while creating mechanisms for common and complementary action. The struggles to end all forms of domination, oppression and ecocide are intertwined. If we can unite our energies, we will increase our chances for success.

Let’s unite and organize to destroy global capitalism, before it destroys us.