Nationwide, the count of America's poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession. While poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics are nearly three times higher, by absolute numbers the predominant face of the poor is white.
More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation's destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.
Sometimes termed "the invisible poor" by demographers, lower-income whites generally are dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America's heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.
Buchanan County, in southwest Virginia, is among the nation's most destitute based on median income, with poverty hovering at 24 percent. The county is mostly white, as are 99 percent of its poor.
Teachers around the country are part of something that’s beginning to look like a real movement. Teachers in Portland felt connected to Chicago when the strike happened there. Teachers in St. Paul, Ricker says, came to her excited to hear that issues in Portland were so similar to their own. Conversations that happened online, at conferences, and in face-to-face meetings are helping teachers to connect across the country, to become part of something bigger.
“We need to be looking at issues related to poverty and education and class all together,” Thiel says, “and making huge coalitions that don’t treat each of these issues as separate fights but part of a much bigger goal of creating more equality for everybody.”
Renewed public sector strikes in Germany
Thousands of public sector workers in Germany have taken further strike action. The employees, members of the Verdi union, held a one-day nationwide strike last week. They are seeking a 3.5 percent pay increase. Those taking part include rubbish collectors, bus drivers, teachers and nurses.
Monday saw strikes in Brandenburg, whilst on Tuesday there were strikes in the Rhineland area; other parts of the country were due to take action later in the week. Further negotiations are due to take place on March 31 in Potsdam.
German airport workers walkout
Airport staff covering freight handling, maintenance, administration and security were due to strike Thursday. They are seeking a 3.5 percent pay increase and a one-off €100 ($138) payment. They are represented by the Verdi union. Airports affected will include Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart.
Ambulance staff in UK Yorkshire region hold further protest
Ambulance staff employed by the Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) and members of the Unite union, held a five-hour strike on Monday with another planned for Saturday, March 31.
They have held several such short duration strikes this year. They are protesting YAS plans to introduce longer shift patterns with no meal breaks. Ambulance staff say this would compromise patient safety. Unite represents only a minority of ambulance staff employed by YAS, the major union being Unison. YAS does not recognise Unite.
Care workers in Doncaster, England hold second seven-day action
Around 100 people working for Care UK in Doncaster returned to work Wednesday after staging a second seven-day strike. Care UK has a contract with Doncaster council to provide care to people with learning disabilities in the area. They are members of the Unison union. Care UK want to implement changes to evening and weekend pay rates that the workers say will cut their wages by up to a half.
Care UK employees have vowed to fight on with a third seven-day strike planned in April.
London University cleaning staff hold third walk-out
Cleaners employed by ISS Facility Services, which provides cleaning and janitor services to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, held a one-day strike last Friday. This is the third day of action since the beginning of the year.
The staff members of the union Unison are seeking parity of conditions, pension rights and sick pay in line with staff carrying out similar roles but employed directly by SOAS.
n the Hunger Games-esque world of online journalism, everyone is looking for ways to cut costs and increase traffic. Unfortunately, industry giant Entertainment Weekly has hit on the most depressing and shameful strategy for doing just that: Exploiting hundreds of aspiring professional writers for a new platform called "The Community," which will rely on a base of "community contributors" — the vast majority of whom will be paid absolutely nothing for their work.
You can ignore Entertainment Weekly's spin about "passion and unique voices." This is is a deeply cynical decision that feeds off the dreams of inexperienced writers who are hoping to make a name for themselves in entertainment journalism. According to a story in Digiday, The Community will be made up of bloggers discovered "through social media and J-schools." Let's call that what it really is: Entertainment Weekly taking advantage of young writers who want to launch their careers, but aren't sure where else they can be published.
So what are those writers getting in exchange? They'll be "compensated in the form of prestige," says Digiday, without any apparent irony. (If you can find a landlord that accepts prestige in lieu of a monthly rent payment, let me know.) But the already negligible value of that "prestige" is already dropping. Entertainment Weekly is kicking off the beta version of The Community with "20 or 30 bloggers," but wants as many as 1,000 to begin writing for it in the months to come. How much is all that "prestige" going to be worth when there are 999 other writers vying for space on the landing page?
And how can any magazine possibly maintain a basic standard of quality with so many writers to edit? The answer is the only one that makes sense: it can't. Despite touting the benefits of "access to the brand's editors," Entertainment Weekly concedes in the very next paragraph that the long-term goals for The Community will "require spending on technology to automate the editing process and monitor posts for Federal Trade Commission-mandated disclosures." In Entertainment Weekly's ideal scenario, The Community's articles won't even require editors: they'll generate traffic without a single paid writer or editor ever touching them.
This is a trap — a major brand leveraging its well-known name to get boatloads of free content from writers without the clout to demand more for their work. Of course, Entertainment Weekly will be making plenty of money on the deal — if it wasn't, it wouldn't be doing it — but its contributors haven't been deemed worthy of even the smallest slice of that pie.
With Walmart’s and Amazon’s business model, the workplace practices that raise employee productivity to very high levels also keep employees off balance and thus ill placed to secure wage increases that match their increased output. The “cult of the customer” preached by both corporations is a scented smoke screen thrown up to hide this fact. Apart from the model’s intensive use of IT, there is not much to distinguish its methods from those of the primitive American and European capitalism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. On both sides of the Atlantic, these excesses were harbingers of the rise of the labor movement and the political Left, both revolutionary and democratic, with the movements strongly focused on relations between capital and labor as the central issue of politics and society.
In the United States and the United Kingdom, the parties of the center Left, the Democrats and the Labour Party, have today lost this focus, and the labor movements in both countries are in long-term decline. But in Germany the labor movement remains strong, and on workplace issues the mainstream political parties, the Christian Democrats as well as the Social Democrats, are well to the left of their American and British counterparts. This became apparent following the scandal at Amazon’s Bad Hersfeld depot in 2012, when security guards allegedly forced their way into dormitories housing temporary Amazon employees and intimidated them. Amazon faced what Der Spiegel called a Shitstorm and was strongly criticized by the federal minister of labor, the prime minister of the state government of Hesse, the head of the Labor Office in Hesse, as well as the Social Democratic Party opposition in the federal and state parliaments.
Amazon was on the defensive, and in an interview with Spiegel Online that followed the scandal, Amazon’s local CEO, Ralf Kleber, distanced himself from the managerial absolutism of Bezos and Onetto in saying that he would welcome the setting up of more work councils (Betriebsrat) at Amazon depots. The services union, Ver.Di, was also a beneficiary of the Amazon Shitstorm. The union’s goal is to organize the whole Amazon workforce in Germany, negotiate wage increases with Amazon management, improve the working conditions of temporary employees, and blunt Amazon’s more oppressive workplace practices. In a German political and social context, it has a good chance of succeeding. Such success would, however, raise issues of ethics and economics that apply equally in a US and UK setting.
Union success would unquestionably raise Amazon’s costs and slow the growth of employee productivity. Wages would begin increasing in line with employee productivity, and productivity growth itself would slow as the union and the Betriebsrat together blunted Amazon’s practice of pushing employees to the limit and beyond. We can be sure that at this point, Amazon would play the “cult of the customer” for all its worth and would do the same in an American setting if faced with the same challenge. So customers would have to start paying more for their packages and could no longer be absolutely certain of receiving delivery of them the very next day.
In this raging class war, communist capture emerges as a counterpoint to the impasse presented by the government. This deadlock consists in the government’s enforcement of elite interest through a monolithic national agenda and a refusal to pursue peace negotiations in order to clinch a slavish approval from its American imperialist master. The same deadlock functions as an ideological capture enforced by the state to reinforce its moral and intellectual leadership.
But something else is happening. The capture of communists Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon confronts us with another kind of ideological capture. They are charged with crimes and are facing the monstrous threat of prisoner abuse and torture. Yet they offer a concrete alternative to the deadlock of elite rule in this country. This other kind of ideological capture is communist capture. It breaks new ground, opening up spaces for constructing new forms of social awareness and living against an anarchic order of elite rule.
Flocked by the media for sound bites at their inquest proceedings at Camp Crame, Benito Tiamzon reportedly shouted “Tuloy ang laban!” (The fight continues!) while Wilma Austria greeted the NPA for its 45th anniversary this coming March 29: “Binabati ko ang Bagong Hukbong Bayan sa ika-45 anibersaryo nito. Patuloy na lumalakas sa buong bayan. Hindi matalo-talo ng AFP!” (I greet the New People’s Army on its 45th anniversary. It continues to gain strength nationwide. The AFP continually fails to defeat it!).
The arrest of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, with five of their comrades, is being presented by government forces as a victorious moment in its war against the communists. Yet the above quoted declarations possess an uncanny effect that pierces through the government’s claim to victory. Facing uncertain fate for their imprisonment, Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria exhibit a certain sense of persistence and invincibility, which continues to be.
How is it possible that they are able to maintain a composed sense of dignity despite the terrifying consequences of their incarceration? How can they continue to challenge a force that coerces them to bow down and accept defeat? How is it possible that political struggles continue to explode even after a series of failures? Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon give representation to impossibilities that happen, as though telling us, “Now let the communists speak.”
- See more at: http://bulatlat.com/main/2014/03/25/of-captured-communists-and-communist-capture/#sthash.lILVHDrT.CYdlGN6U.dpuf
The party proper—i.e., the Communist Party—may be in its early gestation, but this formation can only be verified after-the-fact. The party as such can only emerge through an extensive rupture with the present system, which is to say: through revolution. This point from Endnotes bears repeating: “the party […] is always the party of rupture.” (Endnotes 3, p. 240)
For Bordiga, this means that
in order to achieve victory, it will be necessary to have a party, worthy at the same time of both characteristics, those of historical party and formal party, i.e. to have solved in the reality of action and history the apparent contradiction […] between historical party, then as far as the content (historical, invariant programme) is concerned, and contingent party, that is relating to the form, operating as a force and a physical praxis of a decisive part of the struggling proletariat.
The party itself is thus seen as the fusion of the historical and the formal. When they are severed, even in the era of the “rebirth of history,” the separate components constitute the pre-history of the party. But this itself could mean different things.
Are formal and historical synthesized into a single alloy, in which any attack on the future party constitutes an attack on the class as such? Or do they retain degrees of independence from each other, with the historical capable of severing from the formal and vice versa, as in the “mass line” of Maoist theory? Does the formal absorb the historical like a dinosaur sponge, as so many of today’s “pre-party formations” believe? Or does the historical absorb the formal, as so many anarchists and autonomists might have it?
I suspect that none are true—which is to say that none are valid presumptions for the only viable direction of the party-process today. The party is not the absorption of the formal by the historical, nor the absorption of the historical by the formal, nor the “relative autonomy” of historical from formal, nor the melting of historical and formal into the single alloy of the state. The party process, with the “(non-)subject” as its motive force, necessarily takes a different form in a generalized crisis of reproduction.
This is worth emphasizing: The party is the name for a processof increasingly generalized war against the material community of capital. This process is punctuated by abrupt discontinuities between its various components and stages, and this process does not result in the synthesis of its pre-figurative elements into a unified, flattened “human community” that stands contra the community of capital. The revolution is not a Manichean struggle between the “death” that composes capitalism and the seething, rhizomatic “life” of communism. It is instead the suspension of both terms through their absolute negation.
This means that the party process in the crisis of reproduction is not the simple coordination and unification of disparate demands or identities, but their constitutive abolition—which is to say their generalization without unification. Again, the formal does not absorb the historical, nor vice versa, nor do they simply merge or retain “relative autonomy.”
The party is a centralizing process, and thereby subsumes the competition, antagonism and dispersion inherent in the historical and formal parties. But the centralization of the party is one that bears little resemblance to the centralization common to imperial armies or arcane bureaucracies, which subsume such antagonism under a seemingly disintegrating unity that, in reality, generates also its own shadow—in the form of the secret society, the royal debauch, the criminal syndicate, the “mindless” rabble, and all other forms of “sin” that constitute themselves through (and in fact feed on) the terms of the “law.”
The party is neither the centralization of the law—in the form of the state or the holy text—nor is it the subterranean, decentralized dispersion of sin—in the form of “counterpower,” or “rhizomatic” resistance. The party is instead the centralization of love, which negates law and sin absolutely. In its destructive capacity, this is the centralization of combustion—the wildfire drawing all into itself and extending outward to leave a hollow, black ring at its core. And in that core we find this centralization in its productive dimension, as seeds germinate. The party centralizes its most chaotic, generative capacity in the same way that the plant centralizes its meristem (the undifferentiated tissue, capable of transforming into any type of cell) at its points of extension into the world.
Communism is, fundamentally, a tension—a tension created by the necessity of the generation of something new through the destruction of the present and the seeming impossibility of the creation of anything other than the present—and the party is the form that this tension takes when embedded in highly variable, highly contingent local situations. But there is also a profound difference in this process when it is nothing but a spark or a seedling—more potential than actual. The formal party and the historical party are the party in this highly potential form, while the party of order and the anti-party are attempts to extinguish it before it begins to actualize. The rupture or revolution names the punctuation that begins the actualization of the party proper—not an end to the process of building the party, but one fundamental discontinuity within it. This discontinuity is fundamental simply because it is only in rupture that is becomes possible to speak of joining, building, or being a member of “the party” without sounding like a jackass.
- See more at: http://kasamaproject.org/threads/entry/tomorrow-s-parties#sthash.qhMZ47Lc.zKepUF16.dpuf
In a recent paper, the New York Fed economists Richard Deitz and Jaison R. Abel looked back more than two decades and found that young graduates typically took a while to settle into careers, no matter the economic conditions.
But what they end up settling for has changed. They are more likely to work part time or in low-wage jobs like retail or restaurant work. “Things have gotten tougher for recent college graduates,” Mr. Deitz said.
Capitalism’s capricious economic cycles also contribute to stress. The body responds to threats with agitated alertness, especially when there is a coinciding belief that taking action is necessary to avoid being hurt. In trauma lingo, we refer to this as a state of hypervigilance, or the need to continually scan the environment for the possibility that past threats will reemerge and once again endanger one’s survival. Living in a capitalistic and globalized economy seems to require hypervigilance and constantly scanning for potential job loss and devaluing retirement accounts, if not the decimation of entire market sectors and local economies.
For the most financially precarious (an ever-widening sector of the population), capitalism creates a state similar to the psychological domination that can occur when people are held in captivity. Psychological domination is more likely when 1) the threat is unpredictable and 2) there are periods of relative safety amid the chaos and abuse. Psychologist Judith Herman observed, “The ultimate effect of [psychological domination] is to convince the victim that the perpetrator is omnipotent, that resistance is futile, and that her life depends upon winning his indulgence through absolute compliance.” Certainly the psychological impact of capitalism fails to reach the severity of a person whose basic right to freedom from harm is taken away. Rather, my argument is that capitalism is more precarious than reliable, creating conditions that are often inhumane and that lead to traumatic stress.
In his book On Deep History and the Brain, Daniel Lord Smail makes a connection between global capitalism, social hierarchies, and the body’s reaction to threats. Smail argues capitalism exploits the body’s survival responses (i.e., freeze, fight, flight, and submission) by creating the conditions of psychological domination as well as providing relief from the feelings of powerlessness that capitalism and social hierarchies engender. According to Smail, capitalism generates stress through its unpredictability and hierarchical power structures, but it also alleviates stress by producing an economy organized around the production and circulation of addictive substances and practices. Smail notes that, from its inception in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, global capitalism was organized around creating and feeding addictions. The first imports to Europe from Africa, the Arab World, and the Americas were coffee, sugar, chocolate, tobacco and “spirits” — all mood-altering substances. During this time, the term addiction gained its modern meaning as a self-inflicted behavior rather than the state of being indebted to another (e.g., serfdom) that previously distinguished the addict. With this shift in understanding of addiction, also came a new organization of society away from a focus on managing external forms of control to a focus on internal ways of responding to dominance by self-medicating its effects.