Nelson Mandela Dies – will the poor of South Africa mourn?

December 6, 2013 Comments off

I’m sorry but really… that many of those who supported Apartheid are competing to deify him should in itself ring alarm bells. And why has he always been the CEO’s hero of choice anyway?

His defiant speech in court in which he pledge to die for the cause also contained a clear comitment to retain the rule of the rich: “The realisation of the Freedom Charter would open up fresh fields for a prosperous African population of all classes, including the middle class. The ANC has never at any period of its history advocated a revolutionary change in the economic structure of the country, nor has it, to the best of my recollection, ever condemned capitalist society.”

When the upsurge in strikes and rebellion in the 1980s presented the threat of a real change, Mandela was released to contain the threat. When the ANC swept to power in 1995 holding up “The Freedom Charter” (check it here) according to Anthony Samson the leadership had already promised the World Bank & the IMF “to reduce the deficit, to high interest rates and to an open economy, in return for access to an IMF loan of $850 million, if required.” The property, wealth, and commercial interests of both the white elite and international finance capital would be protected. The result, as Naomi Klein explains was a ” cookie-cutter economic program of trying to ‘grow’ the economy by pleasing foreign investors: mass privatizations, lay-offs and wage cuts in the public sector, corporate tax cuts, and the like.

The results have been devastating. Half a million jobs have been lost since 1993. Wages for the poorest 40 per cent have dropped by 21 per cent. Poor areas have seen their water costs go up by 55 per cent, electricity by as much as 400 per cent. Many have resorted to drinking polluted water, leading to a cholera outbreak that infected 100,000 people. In Soweto, 20,000 homes have their electricity cut off each month. ”

A former “terrorist” was released from prison to sell out the struggle for equality. As Trevor Ngwane, a former ANC municipal council member puts it: “Apartheid based on race has been replaced with apartheid based on class” against which another struggle will be waged – and it has already begun.

BJP Getty Images’ Jonathan Klein: “We need new economic models”

September 17, 2013 Comments off

So Mr Kleine is still crowing about the advantage a legacy oil company had in meeting the “cost of transfer” from analog to digital (yawn)- yes it gave them the opportunity to buy up 180 odd companies and form a monopoly. They weren’t the first to get high res download on the net BTW but hey.. The recent weez is to team up with an arms company (hence the new squeamishness?) and laden Getty with another 2.4b dollars of debt to facilitate more luxury consumption at the top.. but pick any of the “Big Three”, they all buy market share with low price to remove any competition,  transfer what is left of the monies earned previously by photographers to the executives at the top and in the process destroy the possibility anything but the most ubiquitous, uncritical picture..  Not a new economic model exactly but typical of the internets’ unholy marriage with big money to make monopoly work for the few..

If we do want to think about new economic models, we need to approach this very differently. How do we have professional and supported photo/journalism so crucial to a democratic and knowledgeable society when editorial production is no longer paid for by advertising?

50 years on from the March on Washington, Obama at the at the Lincoln Memorial

August 29, 2013 Comments off

King’s words had power because he articulated the experience and grievances of the oppressed, backed up by a campaign of civil disobedience. He was widening that campaign for reform to include all those impoverished by the “Gods of Money” in the US and those in receipt of foreign policy abroad, right up to the moment he was assassinated. By contrast, President Obama has transformed the hope of his election into a repetition and extension of the malfeasance of his predecessors – championing war, a truly international police state and the immiseration of the many – “unfinished business” indeed. It is difficult to resist the impression that if Dr Martin Luther King were alive now he would be locked away in the cell next to Chelsea Manning.

Blessed Margaret

April 18, 2013 Comments off

Firm Friend to Pinochet, Tireless Defender of Apartheid, Whose popularity was assured by war. Loved by (once) working class communities throughout the land- Whose policies benefitted all without favour, Whose legacy even now lives on… Oh how inane the sound bite! Yet how often repeated. How so small a talent can have so great an effect! Oh Blessed, Blessed Margaret, Patron Saint of Corruption and Greed.

On the Victory of Obama US Elections 2012

November 8, 2012 Comments off

Victory for the forces of Progress! A more sober assessment might be that despite the billions of dollars candidates (or rather their wealthy backers) spend, the truth is that millions more disillusioned Americans didn’t vote, with turnout plunging down 9.5 million to 60.5 million. Romney got even less than (2.5 million less) than John McCain in 2008. The next step for Obama will be to join with the Republicans (bipartisanship) in an offensive to slash Medicaid and other social programs, building up social tensions, exacerbating the crisis for working class and poor Americans – deepening burden of recession that rests on the shoulders of the lower orders. 1936 this ain’t! Consider a rather different re-election speech by FDR in a similar, if less severe, crisis:

“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred!”

Franklin Roosevelt’s Address Announcing the Second New Deal
October 31, 1936

The US government appears as exactly that “mere appendage” to many though the Democrats have long since dropped even FRD’s reformism. There is good news in at least the racist, misogynistic, gay bashing religious right of the Tea Party have been defeated.

Categories: politics, Recession

Suicide protest by Foxconn workers in China

January 15, 2012 Comments off

Wuhan, China January 2nd: workers spent 2 days on the roof of the factory threatening to commit suicide by leaping off in protest at the appalling working conditions and brutal treatment of the young workers by a military style of management facilitated by the Chinese dictatorship and enabling fine profits for major Western corporations. The Wuhan factory is thought to produce the Xbox 360 for Microsoft as well as Apple products.

According to the Telegraph “Foxconn, which manufactures gadgets for the likes of Apple, Sony, Nintendo and HP, among many others, has had a grim history of suicides at its factories. A suicide cluster in 2010 saw 18 workers throw themselves from the tops of the company’s buildings, with 14 deaths.” After international outrage Foxconn installed safety nets, promised to increase the low wages and improve conditions. Although no improvements materialised Foxconn are planning to  Replace workers with up to a million robots.

The Telegraph have reported that the workers were put to work without any training and paid on a piecemeal basis: The latest protest began on January 2 after managers decided to move around 600 workers to a new production line, making computer cases for Acer, a Taiwanese computer company. “We were put to work without any training, and paid piecemeal,” one of the protesting workers told The Telegraph “The assembly line ran very fast and after just one morning we all had blisters and the skin on our hand was black. The factory was also really choked with dust and no one could bear it,” he said. The workers went on strike in protest. The management gave an ultimatum to return to work or leave with a months wage for every year they had worked, only for Foxconn to renege on the deal -sparking the rooftop protest with  hundreds threatening to throw themselves to their deaths. They were eventually talked down.

Microsoft, the owner of the Xbox 360 brand, issued a statement claiming to be “committed to the fair treatment and safety of workers employed by our vendors, and to ensuring conformance with Microsoft policy.”

Corporations like Microsoft and Apple depend on the ruthless exploitation of Chinese workers in sweatshops like Foxconn’s. With the popularity of iPads and iPhones, Apple’s profit rate has risen to 30 percent in recent years, compared with 1.25 percent for Foxconn. In the first half of 2011, Foxconn recorded a net loss of $17.65 million, whereas Apple exceeded Exxon Mobil with the world’s largest market capitalisation.

Apple is the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association. The Washington-based FLA was set up in 1999 to monitor workplace environments globally in an initiative by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and its board members include Nike Inc. (NKE) and Adidas. Apple also released its annual suppliers’ audit yesterday. Van Heerden, of the FLA, said growing scrutiny of global companies by investors and consumers means they are more likely to insist suppliers introduce best practices in countries where governments are unwilling to do so. “If you’re a 16-year-old girl in a developing country, your best chance of enjoying proper rights is if you get to work at a multinational,” he said. “The power of their contract is more powerful than the power of law.” White collar criminologist William K Black writing on AlterNet says the report shows “anti-employee practices as common as iPods” Apple’s Foreign Suppliers Demonstrate Widespread Scamming and Horrific Abuse of Employees. According to Geoffrey Crothall of workers-rights group China Labour Bulletin independent monitoring is no the panacea to problems in China’s factories: “The problem isn’t whether or not they do audits, but whether workers are treated in a reasonable manner,” he said. “What the workers need is an effective voice in the workplace.”  Something the employers in China, with deteriorating exports, a collapsing real estate bubble, and tightening credit, will increasingly resist.

The Contrarian

December 18, 2011 Comments off

Some share Hitch’s contempt towards the many of us who did not cave in to the Bush agenda and who remain vehemently opposed to dictators (of whatever creed) AND the new imperialism – the invasion of Iraq would have condemned as a war crime at Nuremberg. I’m afraid the anti- imperialist Hitch that I had any respect for died around 9/11/2001. He did coin a term so useful to the narrative: though the “Islamofascism” tag is conceptually week. It can only really be used if you understand neither Fascism or Islamism- debasing contemporary and historically “ant-fascism” (and the lives lost fighting it) and which of course then fails to understand the movements in question. By “contrarian” I guess we mean one who starts out against tyranny but who ends up, maybe bit by bit, making peace with that which they once rallied against. Whilst no doubt thinking he was consistently upholding the real principles of the left, Hitch attacked former allies to justify the pursuit of greater power by the already powerful West. Whilst most recoil in horror at the bloodshed, Hitch ended up a bellicose and blundering mouthpiece for an establishment that doesn’t even seem to have been especially grateful…

US forces leave Iraq an massively impoverished sectarian mess (which now even has statutes against women’s rights and equality), a corrupt government of the 1%, widespread suffering and a very big pile of bodies. If we don’t mention oil. It shows how bombing & shooting populations until they are “free” hasn’t worked – though we should note that such “war aims” were tagged on after the justification of WMD was shown to be a lie. I know it is a view unfashionable in some quarters but I think real liberation comes from the people themselves, as Hitch once understood. The invasion was opposed by many millions and almost everyone else in the rest of the world thinks it disastrous.

Let’s hope no parents in USA or GB will be getting their children home in body bags for Christmas this year.


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