Friday, November 13, 2009

Communist Party vice chairman speaks at MU

This is the "Letter to the Editor" I submitted in response to this article:

Regarding your article, "Communist Party vice chairman speaks at MU."

Jarvis Tyner stated:

"He's only the beginning,I think he's a transitional president. I think somebody else is going to come in and take it even further."

Tyner only speaks for a very few Communists in stating this.

Such thinking is very dangerous because it leads people to think that Obama is some kind of friend of working people when he is nothing of the sort. Barack Obama's agenda is now very clear; his main priority is Wall Street profits; working people pay the bill and suffer... this is "the new normal"--- Wall Street made this mess and the coupon clippers brought in Barack Obama to help them profit some more from solving their problems on the back of the working class.

The Associated Press pointed out in an article, "Obama wants domestic spending cuts in next budget." These cuts are sure to hurt working people on the bottom the worst.

The article continues:

"The flow of red ink has been increased by war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, recession-fighting stimulus and bank bailout spending and by reduced tax revenues from high unemployment and reduced personal and business income."

Obama can create all the "green" jobs he wants to but if those jobs continue paying working people nothing but poverty wages the economic mess our country is in is going to worsen.

Obama has even refused to enforce longstanding affirmative action policies leaving people of color and women who are already suffering horrible poverty to fend for themselves.

Obama is not a liberal, nor is he progressive; he is no friend of working people... he has refused to provide the change people thought they were voting for.

Barack Obama has shown himself to be nothing other than a slick talking insurance salesman.

Sounds to me like Jarvis Tyner is a member of the Democratic Party out on the stump campaigning for Barack Obama's second term when he should be leading the struggles for peace and for improving the lives of working people.

Tyner should be holding Obama accountable by telling him:

No peace; no votes.
No single-payer universal health care; no votes.
No living wage jobs; no votes.

Alan L. Maki
Another long-time Communist
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Communist Party vice chairman speaks at MU

Friday, November 13, 2009

COLUMBIA — Jarvis Tyner, executive vice chairman of the Communist Party USA, spoke at MU on Thursday and said the election of President Barack Obama opens the door for the left wing, which he feels has allowed itself to be pushed to the sidelines and overcome with progress-impeding cynicism, to mobilize.

"He's only the beginning," Tyner said. "I think he's a transitional president. I think somebody else is going to come in and take it even further."

Tyner spoke to an audience of about 70 people at MU's Ellis Auditorium. He focused on the transitional phase he feels the United States is in because of Obama's election.
Although the president is neither a communist nor socialist, his administration marks the country's movement away from the right-wing governments that have been dominant in the U.S. since the Reagan administration, Tyner said.

He said that while the Democratic Party is not without blame, the Republican leadership has been the source of the nation's problems that include an increase in poverty, a ruined economy, the continuation of global warming, impeded scientific research and the destruction of public schools by No Child Left Behind.

Tyner said he and his party are not completely satisfied with the work Obama has done since taking office, listing the need to withdraw troops more quickly from Iraq, for initiatives to end nuclear weapons and to re-establish trading relations with Cuba.

However, Tyner praised the public option in the recently passed House health care bill, saying Americans need to put massive pressure on the Senate to pass the legislation with the option intact. He also felt there should be public options for the auto and housing industries and for student loans.

A Communist Party USA member for more than 50 years, Tyner joined the party as a young worker in Philadelphia. He was the party's vice presidential nominee in1972 and 1976. Also a founding member of the Black Radical Congress, Tyner has fought for racial justice and workers' rights since the 1960s when he became active in the Civil Rights and Labor movements.

He said the next step for the Communist Party USA is to move more into the mainstream.

"We're not ready to run for president, but we are ready to run for City Council, school boards. And we're going to do that more," Tyner said.

MU senior Alaina Boyett, who attended the event, said she was already familiar with much of the material Tyner discussed because of a Marxism class she's enrolled in. She liked that he made a point to separate the Communist Party and ideals from what she felt they are associated with in the mass media.

"I thought he was fair in his criticism of Obama and the right-wing talking heads," Boyett said.

MU's Karl Marx Reading Group, which meets to discuss communist texts and how their arguments apply to political action today, organized the event because members were interested in hosting a speaker. Leadership in St. Louis suggested Tyner.

"I thought Jarvis would be a good spokesman for what we're all about because he's been fighting for social justice for so long and a party member for so long," said Jack Buthod, the group's president.

Buthod, who joined the group as a sophomore, said it has been around for a few years but wanted to bring a guest speaker in to draw attention and generate new membership. Although he identifies himself as a Marxist, he said not everyone in the group does.

"I'd say it's definitely a mix. There's multiple communists in the group, but there's also people more interested in talking about the ideas from different perspectives," he said.

A group of seven MU students set up a mock-gulag in Speakers Circle on Thursday evening as a reaction to the Tyner event, a demonstration referencing the Soviet labor camps used to imprison political dissenters as well as criminals.Gulags were at their most prominent during Joseph Stalin's reign. One protester dressed up as a Soviet guard and held three others captive in a white metal canopy surrounded by barbed wire. Others handed out flyers and spoke to passersby.

One protester held a cardboard sign that said, "This is the Communism Jarvis Tyner is promoting."

The group hoped the demonstration's proximity to Ellis Auditorium would attract the attention of attendees of Tyner's speech and lead them to come ask questions, although they said they were protesting communism in general and not Tyner specifically.

MU senior Eric Hobbs, who played the role of guard dressed in a forest green button-down shirt and trousers and a Soviet-style hat with earflaps, decided to protest when he saw a flier for Tyner's speech on campus Monday.

"I thought communism's message was going to be spread, and I thought it would be good to spread the message communism isn't that good," Hobbs said, who believes the governing philosophy leads to government abuse of power and oppression.

"The main goal of the protest is to most importantly remind people of the damage of communism, what can happen when the government has too much power," Hobbs said, giving the examples of the Soviet Union and Communist China.

MU sophomore Megan Roberts organized the mock-gulag, modeling the demonstration after one at Washington University in St. Louis, which students held Monday to commemorate the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Roberts, who was out of town Thursday night, said she anticipated that Tyner would either talk about the evils of capitalism or the glories of communism and wanted the protest to remind attendees, as well as Tyner himself, of the oppression and deaths caused by the philosophy.

"Communism is a very idealistic thing, and I think people lose sight of its evils and what it's done to humanity," Roberts said.

This is the "Letter to the Editor" I submitted in response to this article:

Regarding your article, "Communist Party vice chairman speaks at MU."

Jarvis Tyner stated:

"He's only the beginning,I think he's a transitional president. I think somebody else is going to come in and take it even further."

Tyner only speaks for a very few Communists in stating this.

Such thinking is very dangerous because it leads people to think that Obama is some kind of friend of working people when he is nothing of the sort. Barack Obama's agenda is now very clear; his main priority is Wall Street profits; working people pay the bill and suffer... this is "the new normal"--- Wall Street made this mess and the coupon clippers brought in Barack Obama to help them profit some more from solving their problems on the back of the working class.

The Associated Press pointed out in an article, "Obama wants domestic spending cuts in next budget." These cuts are sure to hurt working people on the bottom the worst.

The article continues:

"The flow of red ink has been increased by war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, recession-fighting stimulus and bank bailout spending and by reduced tax revenues from high unemployment and reduced personal and business income."

Obama can create all the "green" jobs he wants to but if those jobs continue paying working people nothing but poverty wages the economic mess our country is in is going to worsen.

Obama has even refused to enforce longstanding affirmative action policies leaving people of color and women who are already suffering horrible poverty to fend for themselves.

Obama is not a liberal, nor is he progressive; he is no friend of working people... he has refused to provide the change people thought they were voting for.

Barack Obama has shown himself to be nothing other than a slick talking insurance salesman.

Sounds to me like Jarvis Tyner is a member of the Democratic Party out on the stump campaigning for Barack Obama's second term when he should be leading the struggles for peace and for improving the lives of working people.

Tyner should be holding Obama accountable by telling him:

No peace; no votes.
No single-payer universal health care; no votes.
No living wage jobs; no votes.

Alan L. Maki
Another long-time Communist
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Is The Global Recession Over?

This is a very interesting and important question being posed here. The same question is being posed in a variety of publications ranging from conservative to the left.

Here we get an interesting take from one of the largest, most powerful and influential communist parties in the world.

However, noticeably absent is any reference to what these huge debts being incurred in the name of "economic stimulus" are really doing to nations and people.

This accumulation of debt may be having some short-term results as far as alleviating the problems associated with the collapsing capitalist economy which is certain to negatively impact all the countries the United States is trying to use to shore up its own economy.

But, there can only be one consequence of this huge accumulating debt aimed at trying to save the capitalist system, not just from complete collapse, but saving the system itself... we are already well into a full-blown depression.

What is the consequence of all this debt that is not considered in this article? Poverty. Massive poverty will be the result of these huge accumulations of debt. Masses of people who have never experienced poverty will be experiencing poverty and everything that goes with such poverty.

One need only examine what the western imperialist governments and their bankers did to socialist Poland to figure this out.

Debt equals poverty... massive debt equals massive poverty.

Recession, depression or whatever happens with the capitalist economy this massive, massive, massive debt is going to result in the most devastating and massive world-wide poverty the human race has ever experienced.

Something to think about and ponder as you gather around the dinner table... you might also contemplate how much longer you will have food to put on the dinner table for your family...

The leading capitalists, headed by Wall Street, are taking advantage of this depression as capitalists always do--- using this economic depression to drive down that standards of living of working people across the globe.

It is no wonder so many working people are turning to Karl Marx for answers... one only has to read the very short Chapter 26 from Volume One of Marx' "Capital" to understand what is taking place in the world today... if you have never read or studied Karl Marx before, I would urge you to get to your nearest public library and check out Volume One of "Capital" and give it a good, thorough read because what the bankers did to Poland they are now doing to the entire world... the United States included.

Alan L. Maki

People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 25

June 21, 2009

Is The Global Recession Over?

C P Chandrasekhar

FINANCE ministers of the G8, meeting at Lecce in Italy during the latter part of week ending June 14, were cautiously optimistic. The final communiqué noted that in the aftermath of efforts at financial stabilisation and fiscal stimulation “there are signs of stabilisation in our economies, including a recovery of stock markets, a decline in interest rate spreads, (and) improved business and consumer confidence”. But, the ministers cautioned “the situation remains uncertain and significant risks remain to economic and financial stability”.

There were two elements of the communiqué that pointed to a compromise between the differing perceptions of the US and UK, on the one hand, and Germany and France, on the other, regarding the principal problems and tasks at hand. The first of these elements was the reference to the persistence of “significant risks” which was not there in the original draft of the communiqué, and was ostensibly inserted by those countries (UK and US) who feel that it is not yet time to decide that the recovery is here and the stimulus provided thus far has been adequate. Moreover, the mention of “encouraging figures in the manufacturing sector” that figured in the draft was dropped, since it went against the evidence that industrial production in the eurozone area had fallen by 21 per cent in April, relative to the corresponding month of the previous year.


The second element of the communiqué of interest is that it pushes for going beyond thinking of recovery and formulating national level “exit strategies” “for unwinding the extraordinary policy measures taken to respond to the crisis.” The reference here is to the huge budget deficits and high levels of public debt that many countries, especially the US, have accumulated in the wake of the bail-outs and the stimulus packages they have put in place. Though the US and UK have played down this aspect of the discussions, there is clearly a difference in emphasis among the leading powers on where the world economy stands and what is the immediate priority in terms of action.

The difference hinges, quite clearly, on the extent to which different sections believe that the worst is over. The reason for uncertainty regarding a potential recovery is that the figures are yet to point to a definitive revival. As of May 2009, nearly two years since the financial crisis broke and a year-and-a-half after the onset of the global recession, the economic scenario remains uncertain, if not bleak. The rate of unemployment in the US, which stood at less than 5 per cent in the first quarter of 2008, had risen to 8.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2009 and is estimated to have touched 9.4 per cent in May 2009—its highest rate for the last 26 years. This possibly explains US pessimism. It is true that the unemployment rate in the European Union had also risen from 6.8 to 8.1 per cent between the first quarters of 2008 and 2009. But the higher base level may be making the problem appear less alarming to ruling governments there than in the US, influencing their perceptions.

Output growth too gives no cause for optimism. Quarter-on-quarter growth rates of US GDP (as measured relative to the corresponding quarter of the previous year) had declined sharply in the last quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009 across the G7. This decline was even sharper in the UK and the EU, than the US). The crisis had clearly not gone away by the beginning of April, despite signs of recovery in the stock market. The disconcerting element is that this situation prevails despite huge infusion of funds by G7 governments. According to one estimate, the US Federal Reserve had by April 2009 offered about $12.7 trillion in guarantees and commitments to the US financial sector, and spent a little over $4 trillion in combating the crisis. As a result the federal deficit has risen to more than 12 per cent of GDP, frightening fiscal conservatives who predict the onset of stagflation. The big thrust seems to be over and the recovery is still not in sight. What it has possibly done, and even that is not certain, is prevent the recession from turning into a depression.


Despite this evidence relating to the period till the last full quarter for which numbers are available, speculation that the downturn has bottomed out and the developed world is on the verge of recovery proliferates. This optimism is based on still tenuous evidence, including evidence that the rate of decline of economies is slowing. The most important of these is that the monthly decline in employment in the US is down sharply. In May 2009 nonfarm payroll employment fell by 345,000, which is around half the average monthly decline over the previous six months and well below the close to 750,000 fall in January this year. Associated with this fall in monthly employment declines is a fall in new unemployment claims. Economist Robert Gordon of Northwestern University in the US, a respected analyst of growth and productivity trends in the US, has found that past recessions came to an end four to six weeks after new unemployment claims peaked, which they have now done. So he conjectures that the business cycle will find its trough in May or June (Financial Times, June 3, 2009). While these developments are reassuring, we should view them in the light of the fact that the unemployment rate is at record levels and new unemployment claims are still above the figures they touched in the worst months of the last recession.

A second cause for optimism is that US producers may be reaching the phase of their inventory cycle where an increase in production is inevitable. By April, wholesale inventories had fallen for the eighth month running as firms cut back production to clear the excess inventories generated by falling demand. Having made those adjustments, it is argued, firms are now in a position where they would have to step up production, especially if demand begins to stabilise. In other words, the argument is that since things are so bad, they can only get better. But the figures do not support even this position. Thus, after seven months of decline, inventories in April fell 1.4 per cent relative to the year before and 6.4 per cent relative to the corresponding month of the previous year. That was because sales fell by 0.4 per cent in April, led by automobiles and parts. Sales of durable goods too were down 1.9 per cent during the month and 23.4 per cent over the year.

The third potential cause for comfort is the sign that relative to previous months the decline in production is slowing. The available evidence shows that the decline in GDP relative to the immediately preceding quarter, which was rising till the first quarter of 2009, seems to have bottomed out in the US and to a lesser extent in the EU. What is more, this trend seems to be reflected even in the month-on-month annual growth rates of industrial production, with the rate of decline in April 2009 relative to the corresponding month of the previous year showing signs of reversing its hitherto continuous increase in the US, UK and EU.

While this third factor may be adequate reason for optimism for some, there are two reasons why we should not read too much into this data. To start with, even if the downturn is touching bottom in terms of the stabilisation of the rate of decline, the decline could persist and the economy could “bounce along the bottom” as some analysts reportedly speculate. That is, there is no “statistical” reason why a stable rate of decline should automatically lead to lower rates of decline and positive rates of growth in the coming months or quarters.

Further, it is unclear whether there would be adequate alternative stimuli to sustain the recovery when the effects of the already implemented fiscal stimulus wane. Governments could hold back on providing any fresh stimulus because of arguments of the kind espoused by conservative economists, representatives of the financial sector and even some European governments, which emphasise the dangers of inflation. If that happens, recovery would depend on the return of the consumer to the market.

But here too the prognosis is not all too happy. Fears generated by the recession and rising unemployment and the increased desire to save to make up for the decline in the values of accumulated housing and financial assets is encouraging savings even in the US. According to a recent estimated of the Federal Reserve, the net worth of US households had fallen 2.5 per cent or by $1,300 billion in just the first three months of 2009. This comes on top of the 18 per cent fall in the previous year which was the worst since the Fed began estimating household wealth in 1946.The net result is that household savings rates in the US are rising and consumer spending was falling in March and April this year.

In the event many still remain sceptical. The Financial Times quotes Martin Feldstein as saying that “it is possible but unlikely” that the recession is over. “I think it is a more likely scenario that we are seeing the favourable effects of the fiscal stimulus,” he reportedly said. “That, for a while, will offset the general diminished trend we have seen over the past two quarters, but it is a one-shot thing.” Put otherwise, there could be more bad news ahead.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Friday, May 1, 2009

Harry Targ

Sketching Today’s Global Political Economy

During the latest phase of monopoly and finance capital (1945- to the present) enormous changes occurred in the global political economy. First, the United States emerged as a superpower and in an effort to crush the threat of socialism around the world committed itself to constructing a “permanent war economy.” This permanent war economy would create the military capacity to destroy alternatives to global capitalism, stimulate and maintain a high growth manufacturing economy, justify an anti-communist crusade to crush the left in the United States, and co-opt and/or repress working class demands for change. In addition, the permanent war economy would occasion the perpetuation of racism and patriarchy in public and private life.

As the years passed corporate rates of profit began to decline as a result of rising competition among capitalist states, over-production and under-consumption, an increasing fiscal crisis of the capitalist state, and rising prices of core natural resources (particularly oil). With a growing crisis, global corporate and finance capital shifted from investments in production of goods and services to financial speculation. Thus capitalist investment steadily shifted to financialization, or the investment in paper-stocks, bonds, private equity and hedge funds and other forms of speculative investment. Financial speculation was encouraged by state tax policies, “free trade” agreements, an expanded international system of indebtedness, and increased reliance on consumer debt.

Multinational corporations which continued to produce goods and services sought to overcome declining profit rates. This, they concluded, could only be achieved by reducing the costs of labor. To overcome the demand for higher real wages, health and other benefits, and worker rights, manufacturing facilities were moved from core capitalist states to poor countries where lower wages were paid. Thus, in wealthier countries millions of relatively high paying jobs were lost while production of goods increasingly moved to sweatshops in poor countries. Wealthy capitalist states experienced deindustrialization .

Finally, assisted by technological advances, from computers to new forms of shipping, financial speculation and deindustrialization fueled the full flowering of globalization, or the radically increased patterns of cross border interactions- economic, political, and cultural. Globalization began to transform the world into one integrated global political economy.

In short, we may speak of a four-fold set of parallel political and economic developments that have occurred since the end of World War II, in which the United States has played a leading role: creating a permanent war economy, financialization, deindustrialization, and globalization.

Should We Be Thinking About Socialism Today?

A rich and vital set of images of a socialist future comes down to us from the utopians, anarchists, and Marxists, the martyrs of the first May Day, and the variety of experiments with socialism attempted in Asia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. Extracting from the multiple reasons why individuals and movements chose socialism one reason stands out; that is, that capitalism historically is and has been a cruel and inhumane system, a system borne and fueled by slavery, genocide, super exploitation of workers, tactics of division based on race and gender, and an almost total disregard for the natural environment that sustains life. Building a permanent war economy, financialization, deindustrialization , and globalization are merely extensions of the cruel and heartless pursuit of profit which has been the fundamental driving force of the capitalist mode of production.

Drawing on the history and the images of a better future coupled with the brutality of the capitalist era, we might conceive of a 21st century socialist future that has four main dimensions.

First, we need to create institutions that are created and staffed by the working classes and serve the interests of the working classes. While scholars and activists may disagree about what “class” means in today’s complicated world, it is clear that the vast majority of humankind do not own or control the means of production, nor do they usually have an instrumental place in political institutions. Therefore, socialism involves, in the Marxist sense, the creation of a workers’ state and since most of us are workers (more than 90 percent of the US population for example), a state must be established that represents and serves the interests of the many, not the few.

Second, our vision of socialism is a society in which the working classes fully participate in the institutions that shape their lives and in the creation of the policies that these institutions develop to serve the needs of all the people.

Third, socialism also implies the creation of public policies that sustain life. Socialism in this sense is about good jobs, incomes that provide for human needs, access to health care for all, adequate housing and transportation, a livable environment, and an end to discrimination and war.

Fourth, socialism is also about the creation of institutions and policies that maximize human potential. A socialist society provides the intellectual tools to stimulate creativity, celebrate diversity, and facilitate writing poetry, singing and dancing, basking in nature’s glow, and living, working, and loving with others in humanly sustainable communities.

Today we remain terribly far from any of these dimensions of socialism. But paradoxically, humankind at this point in time has the technological tools to build a mass movement to create a socialist future. We can communicate instantaneously with peoples all over the world. We can access information about the world that challenges the narrow ruling class media frames about the human condition. We have in the face of brutal war, environmental devastation, enduring racism, super exploitation of workers everywhere mass movements of workers, women, people of color, indigenous people, and youth who are demanding changes. Increasingly public discourse is based upon the realization that our future will bring either extinction or survival. Socialism, although it is not labeled as such, represents human survival.

Where do we who believe that socialism offers the best hope for survival stand at this critical juncture? We are weak. Many of us are older. Some of us have remained mired in old formulas about change. Nevertheless we can make a contribution to building a socialist future. In fact we have a critical role to play.

We must articulate systematic understandings of the global political economy and where it came from: permanent war, financialization, deindustrialization , and globalization. We need to articulate what impacts these processes have had on class, race, gender, and the environment. In other words, we need to convince activists that almost all things wrong with the world are connected and are intimately tied to the development of capitalism as the dominant mode of production.

We need to take our place in political struggles that demand an expanded role for workers in political institutions. We need to insist that the working classes participate in all political decisions.

We need to work on campaigns that could sustain life: jobs, living wages, single payer health care, climate change etc. Our contribution can include making connections between the variety of single issues, insisting that participants in mass movements take cognizance of and work on the other single issues that constitute the mosaic of problems that require transformation. We must remember that in the end the basic policies that sustain life require building socialism. Most struggles, such as those to achieve living wages or a single payer health care system for example, plant the seeds for building a broader socialist society. We can incorporate our socialist vision in our debates about single issues: if we demand a living wage, why not talk about equality for example?

We need to rearticulate our belief that human beings have a vast potential for good, for creativity, and given a just society, we all could move away from classism, racism, and sexism. We could pursue our talents and interests in the context of a sharing and cooperative society.

By working for institutional incorporation (empowerment) and life-sustaining and enhancing policies we will be planting the seeds for a socialist society.

“In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.
For the union makes us strong”

From “Solidarity Forever,” Ralph Chaplin lyrics, 1915.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Some May Day thoughts about the class struggle and working class struggles, history and the Communist Party

Canadian Dimension posted this article as a link on their May Day calendar page… while I wrote the “comment” following this book review several months ago, there is a lot of relevant stuff in it and I guess because May Day has brought more attention to this article I started getting a few calls about what I wrote.

People are kind of intrigued by my comment pointing out that the Communist Manifesto was written with the intent of developing Communist Party organizations which would seem to be a no-brainer; but, apparently that has been lost on some people in the left looking for excuses to create all kinds of left/communist/socialist organizations except for the Communist Party with the thinking that you can just kind of pretend you can ignore history and facts.

I also dealt with “20th century socialism” a little.

My comment begins quite a ways down.

I am working on producing something about how to start a Communist/Marxist/Socialist club… I have posted bits and pieces on a few list serves to get some feed-back and ideas… if you have any thoughts pass them on and I will include them.

Alan L. Maki

North Winnipeg’s Seal of Identity

Leo Panitch | January 7th 2009 | 1

A Glowing Dream: A Memoir
by Roland Penner
J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing, 2007

“The place of childhood provides the seal of identity.” This epigram opens the first chapter of Roland Penner’s memoir, Growing Up ‘Red’ in Winnipeg’s North End. It holds true even for those of us who grew up only “pink” — i.e. whose parents were CCFers rather than Communists, and who as a result never set foot in the Ukrainian Labour Temple at Pritchard and McGregor. Just how much Winnipeg’s working-class political culture sealed our identities was brought home to me last year when I sent my brother an article that touched on the strike at the Hurtig Fur Company in the early 1930s — during the course of which my father, while on the picket line, had his head split open by a scab. My brother, who was born in 1934, responded: “You know, when I was a little boy I used to get confused about whether the really bad guy’s name was Hurtig or Hitler.”

To be sure, the industrial side of Winnipeg’s history of class conflict makes very little appearance in this memoir — apart from a few sentences that recall Roland standing as a teenager “on the bald prairie with the temperature at about wind chill -50°F, handing out union leaflets” as part of an organizing drive at a plant on the outskirts of Transcona. This is hardly surprising, since the Penner family was preeminent for its involvement on the political side of the labour movement — so much so that on one memorable May Day, after some five thousand paraded along Portage Avenue and Main Street to end up at Market Square in front of the old City Hall, the three speakers who addressed them were Penner’s politically passionate and fiery mother, Rose; his eleven-year-old “child orator” brother, Norman; and, of course, his venerable father, Jacob, the famous Communist alderman for Ward Three. (Jacob Penner was “almost always dressed in a conservatively cut three-piece wool suit, a shirt with a stiff celluloid collar, a firmly knotted woolen tie, a carefully blocked and immaculately clean fedora, and sometimes, over his shoes, spats.”)

The story told here of the Penner family is a fascinating one, from its origins among downwardly mobile Mennonite ancestors who once owned an estate on the west bank of the Dniepr River to Jacob’s “form of marriage without clergy” to a Jewish orphan from Odessa, Rose Shapak. One of the most revealing aspects of north Winnipeg’s ethnic culture is uncovered here, as Jacob the Red, before his election as alderman in 1934 at the age of 54, moves from job to job for some two decades, including as a candy salesman with the help of Rose’s connection to the well-off Galpern family. Just as class conflict tore the Jewish community apart in a strike like the one at Hurtig’s, so did family ties often transcend the sharpest of differences in the class politics of Winnipeg’s North End.

The family anecdotes in this book are so profuse that many of the best are found in the footnotes. One of Rose’s nephews goes to the U.S.S.R. in 1933 and gets swept away five years later in Stalin’s murder machine. One of Jake’s brothers-in-law returns home after a visit to Germany in 1936, and becomes a supporter of the Winnipeg Nazi Party. Shortly after Jake is sent off to an internment camp as a Communist in 1940, sixteen-year-old Roland and his twin sister Ruthie are home alone listening to “Saturday Afternoon at the Met” (while Rose is in Ottawa heading up a delegation of wives petitioning for improvements in the camp’s conditions), and the RCMP come barging in waving a search warrant. As one Mountie moves to turn off the radio, Ruthie screams at him: “In this house no one turns off the opera!”

Indeed, so plentiful are Penner’s family anecdotes that one terrific example, which he told when Norman was honoured at a banquet at the University of Manitoba some two decades ago, is left out of this book. As I recall it (and have often retold it), when Norman marched into the principal’s office of his grade school to complain that the phys-ed instructor was picking on him because he was a Communist, the principal sternly and accusingly said (so everyone in the outer office could hear): “You’re a Communist?!” And then, after closing the door, he whispered, “So am I.”

Penner’s admiration for his parents’ Communist politics is palpable, and he explicitly contrasts this with the way other “red diaper babies” like Jim Laxer and Stan Gray have written disparagingly of their parents’ politics. Quoting Laxer to the effect that truth was “a very slippery commodity” in his home, Roland proudly writes: “That was not our experience…. We asked many questions and Dad and our mother told us what they sincerely believed to be true.” His father remains his “primary inspiration” — a man who “fought for the rights of others at great cost to himself” — and this is why his parents commitment to the “Glowing Dream” forms the title of his memoir. Yet, one might have wished that Roland had offered a more sober reflection on his father’s generation of Canadian Communists, not only with regard to what they knew or didn’t know about Stalin’s crimes in the U.S.S.R. or to the limitations of “democratic centralist” life inside the party, but also to the reformist strategy it pursued in the public arena.

Thus, we learn that Jacob Penner left the Socialist Party of Canada in 1911 because he felt it was too oriented toward raising class consciousness through Marxist education alone. He devoted himself to a life of “unceasing struggle for [the] daily needs and pressing problems” of working people in the belief that this practical activity would raise their consciousness as “the essential feature in the development of a socialist revolution.” Yet, when he died in 1965, aged 85 (having only retired as alderman three years earlier), the Winnipeg Free Press made a point of saying that he was a “political curiosity” who drew much of his support from people “who cared nothing for politics but who admired his efficiency and ability and who believed that he worked for the underdog.” Penner quotes this approvingly, without raising the question of how far this achievement nevertheless stood from the development of the class consciousness needed for supporting socialist revolution, which had been Jake’s original purpose. Would more attention to creative Marxist education have produced a better result? This memoir doesn’t go there, perhaps because Roland, from the time of his own engagement in student politics at the University of Manitoba in the late 1940s, adopted a stance “quite in keeping with my father’s approach to political activity on an issue-by-issue basis.” This approach did not mean that he often lost his bearings on the Left of the political spectrum — far from it. But as the main part of the memoir turns to cover Roland’s own adult political life, this “issue-by-issue” approach is visible all along the way: from his slow drift away from the CP (rather than exiting in flames as his brother did in 1957); to his joining Joe Zuken’s law firm; to his foundational role in the establishment of legal aid in Manitoba; to his almost happenstance decision to join the NDP; to what he calls his “life in government” as attorney general of Manitoba.

The limits of this approach came to a head with his role in the Meech Lake Accord, which he still sees as “a reasonable compromise” on the grounds that, while he agrees with those critics who said that “the separatists would always ask for more,” if the Accord had passed it would have ensured that “their call to break up the country [would have] fallen on less fertile ground.” This is pretty conventional stuff. He reserves his real ire, moreover, for the left critics of the Accord, especially those “many women … influenced by flamboyant statements … by Judy Rebick and the National Action Committee,” who saw the deal as concocted by “men in suits” with the aim of using Quebec’s recognition as a distinct society to override the Charter’s equality provisions (“This is, in my view, nonsense.”) and undermine federal social programs (the likelihood of which he sees as “essentially nil”).

Penner’s decision to side with the pragmatic men in suits against the socialist feminists during the Meech Lake controversy in 1987 was presaged by the controversy over the stand he took in 1983 over the newly opened Morgentaler abortion clinic in Winnipeg. In justifying why as attorney general he could not “authorize a blanket stay of proceedings” with respect to criminal charges against Morgentaler, Penner clearly sees himself as properly following the advice Justice Samuel Freedman gave him when he invited Penner to lunch after his appointment: the Attorney General “must not be political.” But if Penner now admits that his Morgentaler moment “still comes back to haunt me from time to time,” this may be because he knows very well (as he puts it in the memoir in relation to his discussion of the task force on legal aid in the 1970s) that “the legal system itself is so much the product of the establishment it serves that it cannot be turned into the front line for law reform and even more obviously for social transformation.” It most certainly can’t if attorneys general act as if their roles are non-political.

It is impossible to do full justice to Penner’s memoir without going even further over the word limit CD’s editors have allotted me. Suffice to say that this review touches upon only a few aspects of the rich and varied life recounted in this book. I especially enjoyed making the connection between Penner’s many entrepreneurial activities during his Communist boyhood in the 1930s with his “life as an impressario,” when he ran the Co-op Bookstore in the late 1950s and was responsible for bringing Pete Seeger and Odetta, among many others, to sing before Winnipeg audiences.

For me, at least, this enjoyable read was enhanced by being able to catch Penner out on such errors as telling us that Lenin “famously said that communism equals socialism plus electric power” (he actually said “soviets and electric power”). Or the misnumbering of the Chapter Two endnotes, so that the citation for the homage Penner pays to the great Fritz Hansen, the American running back who led the Blue Bombers to their first Grey Cup in 1935, amusingly offers sources to the On to Ottawa Trek of that year. The only unfortunate result of this misnumbering is that we never learn who actually coined that wise phrase: “The place of childhood provides the seal of identity.”

Tags: culture, labour, marxism, panitch, reviews, roland penner, winnipeg.

This article appeared in the January/February 2009 issue of Canadian Dimension magazine. SUBSCRIBE NOW to get a refreshing and provocative alternative delivered to your door 6 times a year for up to 50% off the newsstand price.

· Leo Panitch’s review of “A Glowing Dream: A Memoir” itself is food for thought, dialogue, discussion and debate as much as is Roland Penner’s excellent book, which I would strongly recommend to every worker to read and study.

Panitch finds problems with Jacob Penner’s approach towards politics and assumes that Marxist education was not simultaneously taking place with the excellent work Jacob Penner did in serving working people on the Winnipeg City Council.

Having personally known many of those in Jacob Penner’s Communist Party circle, I know that this contention simply is not accurate.

And I believe that where Panitch is inaccurate here is the very crux of what is missing in working class struggles in Canada and the United States today, which is holding back the struggle of the working class for real power: social, political and economic; the struggle for socialism—the only alternative to this failed capitalist system.

What Panitch fails to understand is the way the Communist Party works in a collective way… while Panitch’s contention that Jacob Penner paid too little attention to Marxist education of the working class—a very dubious contention at best seeing as how Jacob Penner was the longest serving Communist elected public official in Canada, and perhaps the world—it is hard to believe that Panitch’s assessment is accurate that there was a lack of socialist/Marxist education taking place. How a Communist repeatedly gets elected and re-elected when there is a powerful corrupt web of capitalism spun all around him creating such a hostile environment would then have to be explained… an explanation Leo Panitch never broaches… not everything he hasn’t broached can be explained away as not being provided more space by Canadian Dimension since Panitch has had ample opportunity to do this elsewhere; and he has not.

Panitch forgets, or intentionally omits, the role of the Communist Party Club. Jacob Penner always “had his back covered” by a very powerful Communist movement consisting of very important Communist Party clubs in Manitoba which were more than a little responsible for his repeated re-election campaigns because of the “collective” way these Communist Party clubs operate as the “think-tanks” and “action centers” of the working class and people’s movements constantly stressing that all the various movements for democracy, peace, social and economic justice and for socialism need to work together in unity.

I have noticed that failure to understand the all-important role of Communist parties by Panitch in many of his other writings, too; which boils down to not understanding the very important and significant role these Communist Party Clubs play in winning the day to day struggles working people are constantly embroiled in as a matter to survive the obstacles and problems created by a capitalist social, economic and political system.

Like in this current book review, Panitch even writes about the Communist Manifesto but fails to understand that Marx and Engels in writing this brief pamphlet did so with the intent of encouraging workers to build Communist Parties to advance their demands for reforms AND winning social, economic and political power.

There is all kinds of ample evidence that Jacob Penner and his comrades and friends understood very well “What needs to be done?” And they did what needed to be done—on all fronts, from education to activism.

The real questions Leo Panitch might want to ponder is why Jacob Penner and the Communist Party in Winnipeg did so well while in most other places in North America the working class movement did not fare as well?

A big part of the answer to this question lies in attacks on the Communist Party by the government (which Jacob Penner and the Winnipeg Communists and their friends and allies so successfully fought back) and the attacks on the Communist Party from the right and ultra-left in the working class movement (again, attacks which Jacob Penner and the Winnipeg communists struggled against so successfully).

And Joe Zuken’s campaigns successfully built on all of this.

How and why this powerful Communist movement in Winnipeg lost momentum and suffered losses should be the topic of a forum with the proceedings published in another book… it would be very interesting to see if Leo Panitch’s ideas as to his “critique” (or not so thinly veiled attack on the role and objectives of Communist Parties) hold any water when placed side-by-side with the Communist perspective in all of this.

I really think we need to be asking what has held back the working class movements from achieving what Jacob Penner and his comrades and friends achieved not finding excuses to write them off because in these troubled times, there is not only a Canadian dimension to what these working class Communist Party activists achieved, there is something for all working class activists from throughout North America and the rest of the world to learn from… I find it rather ironic that many people who adhere and cling to Leo Panitch’s perspective regarding the Soviet Union and other socialist countries who found their own way to power and to hold on to that power which they so despise, now like to take cheap pot shots at the very man and the Communist Party he was a member of which climbed towards working class power so successfully in the electoral arena.

Which, also, begs the question: If Canada and the U.S.A. were the bastions of democracy capitalist politicians claim them to be; why then has the policy towards allowing Communists to freely participate in the political lives of these two countries been so restricted—and, I think I am being very charitable in using the term “restricted” when political suppression and repression are more appropriate.

If Leo Panitch would like to participate in an organized dialogue on this question concerning the legacy of the role of the Communist Party clubs I would be happy to participate, too.

Jacob Penner and Winnipeg Communists are not the only example of the success of Communist Party Clubs and how they combined electoral work with other facets of class struggle work—merely the best; an example which many working class activists today have a right to know about… just as working class activists today have a right to know about how Communists like Lyle Dotzert led the struggle to organize Ford in Windsor and his comrades like Phil Raymond, Nadia Barkan, Bob Travis, Bud Simons and Wyndham Mortimer across the river—south of the border—led the struggles to organize the Big Three and then elected the legendary working class activist and leader Coleman Young to public office… in order to know and understand this aspect of the working class struggle and history might make the difference as to whether the working class wins or loses the looming class conflict ahead.

The working class made numerous advances with Communist Parties in the lead… an historic fact that no amount of twisting and misinformation can erase—obscure, yes—but not erase because history is what it is.

Communists have made plenty of mistakes just like anyone else; but, the so-called errors attributed to us here simply are not correct.

There is this “movement” on the part of a section of the North American left which seeks to want to put everything from 20th Century Communism and socialism behind us as if it was all misguided and bad when nothing could be further from the truth.

Roland Penner’s excellent book provides us with aspects of working class history some people would rather just forget… just like they would like to forget Jacob Penner, Lyle Dotzert, Phil Raymond, Nadia Barkan (in Nadia’s case, the “historians” even give her the wrong name!)... but, forgetting primary aspects of history is not the same as these struggles and their leaders—with the Communist Parties at the forefront—being forgotten… or intentionally maligned as Leo Panitch does, and continues doing.

Recently Howard Zinn engaged in similar distortion on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” when he stated:

“No, I was really gratified when Obama called for “Let’s tax the rich more, and let’s tax the poor and middle class less.” And they said, “That’s socialism.” And I thought, “Whoa! I’m happy to hear that. Finally, socialism is getting a good name.” You know, socialism has been given bad names, you know, Stalin and all those socialists, so-called socialists. They weren’t really socialist, but, you know, they called themselves socialist. But they weren’t really, you see. And so, socialism got a bad name. It used to have a really good name. Here in the United States, the beginning of the twentieth century, before there was a Soviet Union to spoil it, you see, socialism had a good name. Millions of people in the United States read socialist newspapers. They elected socialist members of Congress and socialist members of state legislatures. You know, there were like fourteen socialist chapters in Oklahoma. Really. I mean, you know, socialism—who stood for socialism? Eugene Debs, Helen Keller, Emma Goldman, Clarence Darrow, Jack London, Upton Sinclair. Yeah, socialism had a good name. It needs to be restored.”

Well Zinn—the great historian—apparently never heard of Jacob Penner, Willian Z. Foster, Paul Robeson Lyle Dotzert, Wyndham Mortimer, Phil Raymond or Nadia Barkan.

And Sam Webb, the revisionist “leader” of the CPUSA goes even further than Panitch or Zinn in saying he wants nothing at all to do with 20th Century socialism.

I find it very strange that all these attacks of a similar nature come at a time when the working class needs stronger Communist Parties than ever before… and slanting history to suit one’s own biased perspectives will not aid in building a winning working class fight-back as this rotten capitalist system collapses by the day from the time the bell rings on Wall Street until another plant is shut down, both throwing workers out into the streets as if they are merely disposable items like dirty baby diapers.

Alan L. Maki
Minnesota/Dakotas District, CPUSA

#1. Posted by Alan L. Maki on January 13th 2009 at 10:30pm

Alan L. Maki

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Cell phone: 651-587-5541


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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Global steel industry awaits auto turnaround as layoffs on the Iron Range mount and MN DFL twiddles thumbs

Statement of the Iron Range Club of the Communist Party, USA

Barack Obama in an Easter Sunday holiday message had the nerve to lie to the American people about the nature of the economic depression we are in. Obama said he sees "glimmers of hope."

We ask: Where are the "glimmers of hope?"

Obama has not been to the Iron Range.

We ask: Where's the change?

Here on the Iron Range there are no "glimmers of hope;" only the despair that accompanies growing growing joblessness and dire poverty making the Iron Range, what Alan Maki has referred to "the Appalachia of the North with the same pits, pollution and poverty."

The economic situation and social conditions are worsening by the day on the Iron Range as working class families are now experiencing dire economic straits our grand parents tell us they have not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930's.

We and our grand parents were assured such conditions would never come about again.

We were told that Karl Marx was wrong. We were told that the capitalist system could be managed by flaky, weirdos like John Maynard Keynes and Alan Greenspan.

This generation was assured by the best paid economists Wall Street could buy that this generation would never live through an economic depression where the capitalist system collapses.

Yet, today, all economic indicators--- contrary to Barack Obama seeing "glimmers of hope," are pointing to the worst depression ever along with all the misery for working people such a catastrophe will most certainly entail as this "ball continues to drop" if we don't push back against Wall Street, and push back hard.

Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council--- Barack Obama's chief economic adviser--- describes the economy like a "ball dropping from the table that has not stopped falling."

Something is terribly wrong with this entire scenario. We are being played for suckers and fools as if we do not have the brains or capacity to reason and think.

Vice-president Joe Biden stated months ago that he and Obama are trying to "dropkick the ball." Here we are, months later, with Larry Summers telling us "the ball is still dropping" and hasn't even touched the ground yet.

Key to Obama's lies is that he continues to state economic troubles were caused by the "crisis in the housing market." This is an outright lie. The housing market, sabotaged by a bunch of greedy crooks not of which one has been prosecuted to date as millions of people lose their homes, is part of the problem; part of the problem contributing to the main problem. But not the primary source of the problem that Barack Obama and his over-paid economic advisers are well aware of but refuse to acknowledge because to do so would expose the capitalist system for what it has become: rotten to the core.

The present crises the capitalist economic system is experiencing is the direct result of the corporate assault on the standard-of-living of the working class that has been well underway in this country for over thirty years, and Wall Street has intensified this assault on the working class over the last eight years of Republican domination over our lives while Democrats sat back like cowards and did nothing.

The problem is one from which the capitalist economic system cannot escape:

Workers not being paid enough to purchase back what they have produced. Most working people in the United States have been receiving poverty wages; unable to purchase even the minimal basic necessities required to live decent lives.

Capitalist exploitation is THE PROBLEM. Capitalists stealing the wealth created by the working class is the source of this economic mess.

Common sense tells us that if the wealth created by the many is being constantly stolen by the rich few there is going to be severe economic problems down the road; we are now at the end of that road.

High-paid corrupt union leaders like Leo Gerard, Ron Gettelfinger and John Sweeney have worked in cahoots with big-business in forcing concession after concession from the very workers whose dues are paying their big fat salaries when they should have been putting the unions' resources into organizing the unorganized. Instead, they plowed union dues into supporting Barack Obama and the Democrats who are now kicking workers in the head while down on the ground.

How else can one explain taking away the homes of working people who are jobless and going hungry?

A moratorium on all foreclosures and evictions should have been and still is the NUMBER ONE requirement needed by hard-hit workers. This is so basic to common human decency we Communists should not even have to be stating this.

Minnesota Senator David Tomassoni could not even get the vote of one single Democrat in support of "the Minnesota People's Bailout." And the United Steel Workers and United Auto Workers unions are pumping money into getting these servants of the Chamber of Commerce, the mining, auto, banking and power industries elected!

If Senator Tomassoni and any other DFL'ers who consider themselves "progressive" don't see the need to leave the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party after this (first it was betrayal and sell-out on saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant) now these same rotten Democrats have defeated "the Minnesota People's Bailout" which would have halted foreclosures and evictions so widespread across the Iron Range and the rest of the state and the entire country.

Now these same Democrats are kicking the living daylights out of the working class at every opportunity; not missing an opportunity to kick workers in the head. Case in point: the auto workers; and miners right here on the Iron Range.

No two unions did more to help elect Barack Obama and the Democrats than the United Steel Workers union (USW) and the United Auto Workers union (UAW).

Steel workers and auto workers are now getting kicked in the head by Barack Obama and the Democrats without any help from the Republicans.

What does this tell us about the two-party system?

It should tell us what Communist Party leaders William Z. Foster and Gus Hall said over and over again:

Labor needs its own political party.

The time has come for working people to get up off the ground and fight back.

Since the labor "leadership" is not willing to fight back; the rank-and-file is going to have to stand up and slug it out with these corrupt and wholly incompetent labor leaders, the Democratic Party and Wall Street.

Military recruiters are not shy about walking into our public schools trying convince our children to go fight Barack Obama's dirty imperialist wars.

A third of the ore that has been taken from the ground on the Range has gone into wars and militarism as our children die in these senseless wars that Barack Obama said were "stupid" when he wanted our votes.

Barack Obama and the Democrats are not as eager to solve our problems as they are to ship our kids off to war.

In fact, to a large extent the social and economic problems we are experiencing are directly related to these dirty imperialist wars.

As Alan Maki has pointed out, we need "800 public health care centers spread out across the United States instead of over 800 U.S. military bases dotting the globe."

On this Easter Sunday, we on the Iron Range don't see Barack Obama's "glimmers of hope."

The steel and auto industries need to be nationalized and brought under public ownership and the democratic control of the people.

We will not get a "people's bailout" until we organize some kind of "people's lobby" as part of a "massive people's front" in the struggle for an end to foreclosures and evictions and a legislated minimum wage that is a real living wage directly based upon and tied to all cost-of-living factors.

Polls now show the American people have completely lost confidence in capitalism.

The same polls demonstrate that the time is now to place socialism on the table; socialism is the only way working people are ever going to get out of this economic mess.

The time has come for working people to create a people's political party to challenge the monopolies for power, and put us on the high road to peace and jobs through socialism.

We ask Barack Obama and the lying, warmongering Democrats: Where's the change?

As the article below points out, the steel and auto industries are the key to any healthy economy.

We ask: Does anyone see any indication of these two industries ever recovering again under capitalism?

China bailed is out and saved thousands of jobs for us here on the Iron Range.

Now that Chinese "leaders" have betrayed their people like union "leaders" here and jumped in bed with Wall Street after having been sold a bill of goods by Alan Greenspan, the CATO Institute and the Heritage Foundation that capitalist markets could provide a "quick fix" to their problems there is no place else for us to look other than to our own strength which comes through our own working class unity in getting out from under this mess.

Make no mistake, this economic mess was made by Wall Street capitalists in their never-ending drive for profits; there is no reason for the working class to have to shoulder the burden by way of being driven into poverty to get these vultures and parasites out of this mess that they created.

The corporate CEO's and bankers who created this mess are walking away with multi-million dollar "unemployment checks"--- our tax-dollars; and Barack Obama and the Democrats who expect our votes can't even come up with unemployment checks for workers from time of unemployment until time of re-employment as part of a "people's bailout." This is a disgrace.

We ask: Where's the change?

Since working people are called upon to solve the problems we had no part in creating, we need to resolve these problems in a way that benefits the working class by improving the lives of working class families and not Wall Street pigs gorging themselves at the public trough provided courtesy of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party at our expense.

Again, we ask Barack Obama and the Democrats: Where's the change?

In response to those still saying: "Give Obama a chance;" we say:

Join the Communist Party.

Join the fight for peace and jobs through socialism.

Iron Range Club, CPUSA

Global steel industry awaits auto turnaround

PARIS (AFP) – Steel is on edge and the global industry is cutting back hard, hanging on for either a budget blast from China, new credit for vast Middle Eastern building schemes or resurrection of the US auto industry.

Demand has dwindled and steelmakers, notably the giant of them all, ArcelorMittal, are damping down surplus furnace capacity while waiting for credit to flow, construction cranes to turn and factories to roll.

A decision by ArcelorMittal last week to pursue temporary production cutbacks, slashing European output by more than half from the end of April according to a union source, dramatises the extraordinary ride and role of steel in the last few years.

In just months the global industry has gone from a boom driven largely by China, emerging markets and a property extravaganza in the Middle East to a narrow line between excess capacity and the costs of waiting for recovery.

"Over the past six months, demand for steel has dropped dramatically and, as a result, producers have been cutting production," analysts at Barclays Capital said in a study last week.

In another report, Morgan Stanley predicted "the current demand shock to lead to excess steel capacity."

Consequently, the bank said, steel plants should operate at rates below 75 percent of capacity until 2012.

"The steel market is not very different from base metals as a whole, but steel has reacted more rapidly and dramatically since September," said commodities analyst Perrine Faye of London-based FastMarkets.

She said the future of the steel industry depended on three factors -- the impact of Chinese economic stimulus efforts, a pick-up in the Middle East construction sector and a revival of the once mighty US auto industry.

"Chinese imports and exports are at a standstill. Everyone is waiting for the Chinese stimulus package to see if it will revive demand."

The Chinese government last month announced a four-trillion-yuan (580-billion-dollar) package of measures that it said could contribute 1.5 to 1.9 percent to the country's economic growth.

Industry experts have meanwhile spoken optimistically of China's prospects.

Thomas Albanese, chief executive at steel maker Rio Tinto, said earlier this year that the company foresaw "a short, sharp slowdown in China, with demand rebounding over the course of 2009, as the fundamentals of Chinese economic growth remain sound."

Analysts have said steel inventories are falling in China in anticipation of projects expected to emerge from the country's huge stimulus package.

"It is encouraging that the inventory of steel products, especially long products, which are mostly used in construction projects, have started to fall (since the end of March), likely suggesting that end-demand is gathering momentum," Frank Gong, a Hong Kong-based economist for JPMorgan, wrote in a research note.

On-the-ground evidence suggested that the Chinese industry had been re-stocking in the first two months of the year, followed by a pause in March before major infrastructure projects were expected to start in the second quarter, Gong wrote.

In the Middle East, according to Faye, the big problem is a shortage of credit, notably for real estate developers and builders.

Construction planners had "counted on a higher price for oil and on credit to finance their huge projects."

In addition, demand for such facilities, especially in the Gulf, has died.

"They were hoping that Americans and Europeans would buy apartments. But property prices have collapsed in the Middle East as well."

In the United Arab Emirates more than half the building projects, worth 582 billion dollars or 45 per cent of the total value of the construction sector, have been put on hold, a study by Dubai-based market research group Proleads found in February.

In Dubai, one of the states of the UAE, prices in the real estate sector have slumped by an average of 25 percent from their peak in September after rallying 79 percent in the 18 months to July 2008, according to Morgan Stanley.

Faye said the fate of the steel sector was in addition tied to that of the struggling US auto industry, once a thriving steel market but one in which two of its giant players, General Motors and Chrysler, are staring at bankruptcy.

The two companies are currently limping along thanks to billions of dollars in government aid.

"We are waiting to see if the auto sector in the US will get out of the crisis intact," she said.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Poll: Just 53% Favor Capitalism Over Socialism

This poll (see article below) is very important because it demonstrates there is a very large existing and even greater potential base for socialist activities ranging from initiating “socialist study/action clubs” of one kind or another to creating voting constituencies capable of determining the outcomes of elections to the possibility of electing socialists to public office to creating a widespread dialogue capable of setting our country on the road to socialism.

With capitalism in deep crises and no end in sight, we are living in a “Marxist moment” and as socialists we have a responsibility to take full advantage of capitalism being on the skids to oblivion while dragging all of humanity down the rough, bumpy road to perdition… now is the time like never before to start encouraging a we make a “left turn.”

This poll sheds a new light on the needed urgency to take advantage of the “moment” to advance a socialist agenda which includes real solutions to the problems of working people and the racially and nationally oppressed peoples who for the most part are working class and are suffering the greatest brunt of this crisis.

This proves that “socialism is on the table;” not withstanding objections from the pseudo socialists who project socialism for consideration in the far distant future, or those who think that socialist ideas should be limited to discussions among those in the “ivory towers.”

Socialism is a working class idea that workers need to be talking about where they live, work, recreate and go to school.

One only has use the imagination to figure out how powerful a force might be developed should an organized campaign for socialism combined with socialist oriented alternatives together with a socialist critique of the Obama/Wall Street agenda.

After years of lie after lie about socialism coming from the business, schools and the mainstream media, that there remains this kind of support for socialism proves we have been way too timid in advocating the socialist.

Now, more than ever, we need to find creative ways to get socialist ideas into the hands of working people.

I find it interesting that the number of people who describe themselves as “Democrats” are for socialism when the Democratic Party is an anti-socialist, pro-capitalist party. This must cause the leaders and Democratic Party hacks reason to be worried should a socialist/socialist oriented, non-sectarian political party with a sensible program calling for radical reforms with an anti-capitalist, pro-socialist agenda entering the political scene as an alternative to the two-party trap.

Keep in mind that where there might be three, four or five candidates in a race such as in many areas of Minneapolis; a socialist could win with 15% to 20% of the vote. In other areas, 15% to 20% of the vote would make socialist candidates “deal makers” to be contended with when it comes to struggling and fighting for reforms.

The time has come for the Obama/Wall Street agenda to be critiqued and challenged by socialists.

With a well-organized campaign networked in states like North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio socialism can make a big impact and become an integral part of the political process. People need to put their heads together to figure out how this can be done… most important is to ignore that part of the sectarian left and those who try to manipulate and control, while taking a campaign for socialism and radical reforms directly into the workplaces, schools and working class communities.

Obviously socialist ideas are more established and supported than what many on the left have thought.

Once people start thinking more deeply about capitalism vs. socialism after reading socialist ideas there shouldn’t be a problem with getting a solid one-third of the population talking knowledgeably about the need for socialism.

I would encourage the widespread distribution of Albert Einstein’s important essay:

Why Socialism?

We need to boldly proclaim that capitalism is the bankers’ system and socialism is the workers’ system… people and Mother Nature before corporate profits.

Is there some kind of socialist study/action club in your community? If not, now is the time to initiate one.

Alan L. Maki

04.09.09 - 12:01 PM

Poll: Just 53% Favor Capitalism Over Socialism

by Craig Brown

Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.

Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.

Investors by a 5-to-1 margin choose capitalism. As for those who do not invest, 40% say capitalism is better while 25% prefer socialism.

There is a partisan gap as well. Republicans - by an 11-to-1 margin - favor capitalism. Democrats are much more closely divided: Just 39% say capitalism is better while 30% prefer socialism. As for those not affiliated with either major political party, 48% say capitalism is best, and 21% opt for socialism.

The question posed by Rasmussen Reports did not define either capitalism or socialism

It is interesting to compare the new results to an earlier survey in which 70% of Americans prefer a free-market economy. The fact that a "free-market economy" attracts substantially more support than "capitalism" may suggest some skepticism about whether capitalism in the United States today relies on free markets.

Other survey data supports that notion. Rather than seeing large corporations as committed to free markets, two-out-of-three Americans believe that big government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors.

Fifteen percent (15%) of Americans say they prefer a government-managed economy, similar to the 20% support for socialism. Just 14% believe the federal government would do a better job running auto companies, and even fewer believe government would do a better job running financial firms.

Most Americans today hold views that can generally be defined as populist while only seven percent (7%) share the elitist views of the Political Class.

Alan L. Maki

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Why Socialism?

Why Socialism?

by Albert Einstein

[This essay was originally published in May 1949.]

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called "the predatory phase" of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: "Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?"

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept "society" means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is "society" which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists' requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers' goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama from Sidney J. Gluck

Attached is an open letter to President Barack Obama.

I don't know whether you agree with my point of view or not; but I am functioning out of the feeling that the negative aspects of capitalism are becoming obvious to people all around the world regardless of class positions, that understanding its avaricious nature brings them closer to Marx's analysis of the system which all of you can read his seminal word on "Capital." Chapter 26 which deals with the law of capitalist accumulation will give you the prototype of which the USA's capitalism is the arch example of its worst (together with the British who started out but are following along with the USA).

Globalization is a mess and everyone knows that the USA has created more poverty with its capital investments than existed before the global expansion. We know that formal colonial countries are seeing through this domination and are moving in directions which reject the control of foreign capital in their own developments. WE ARE LIVING IN A CENTURY OF EPOCHAL CHANGE. Our hope is that the change which is now developing in the form of a bipolar economic structure will continue to redevelop economies technologically and sustainably. We hope too that the ultimate resolution of differences between the double-structured world economic system will not be resolved by warfare. That is the most important struggle we must be involved with. A peaceful acceptance of epochal change and the survival of all in a better world.


Sidney J. Gluck

Dear President Obama,

The world economic crisis sparked by the financial sector of our country has put the capitalist system on a defensive more openly than any other time in history. I am one of many who strongly supported your candidacy based on your vocalization of much of what we felt had to be changed in our country to make it more livable for those of us who produce the wealth and intellectual atmosphere.

You are facing the sharpest attack from the ranks of the Republican Party. We all admire your diplomatic ability to deal with those who disagree with you; but, the time has come when you must take an ideological position in order to clarify the issues involved in building a new type of economic structure in the country. This means that the dominance of the financial institutions in the political decisions affecting the majority must be defended openly against misrepresentations and manipulations which we all now know come from the unsupported defense of government that gives primacy to capital accumulation whether it be finance capital or industrial capital.

You do not have to embrace socialism. That is not the ideological position that put you in power. You were put in the White House with a promise to govern in the name of the working majority. True, you would like to have support from all sections of political and economic forces, but YOU WILL NOT GET IT.

If you continue to move along supporting the program of the financial circles in our country, your presidency is DOOMED. Listen to the needs of the majority and cater to it.

You can announce openly that you are not for socialism but you are for correcting the ills of the capitalist system and to relinquish domination of other countries allowing them to move independently as their people desire.

The Republican Party is pressing for the continuation of the kind of economic distortions that has dragged the world down. Openly facing this fact will help you reshape our country’s goals.

We are in an epoch of change. We must remove barriers and encourage each nation to resolve their day to day problems created by greed and distorted wealth accumulation. It does not make you a socialist to talk for Main Street but they need a spokesman in high places that will act for them.

You are in an enviable yet complicated position. Exposing the negative effect of unregulated finance capital which dominates humanity today would memorialize you for the next thousand years. The Bush Administration preempted the first move to deal with the economic crisis by bailing out the perpetrators who squandered every cent in bonuses and bashes. You are now faced with additional steps to bail out the industrial capitalists who have the responsibility of reshaping these enterprises into a new technological and green economy whose purpose is to raise the living standards of all.

The fulfillment of your promises requires that you take an ideological position. You will go down in history as having broken the racial barrier but it will end at that if you continue to be consumed by the economic crisis. OUR SYSTEM NEEDS CHANGE. Do what you can within that system. This means openly opposing the Republican Party’s program already on the road to capturing the presidency and congress in 2010 before they bring us further down. Don’t let them bully you with the “socialist” label.

The ball is in your court to change the situation. In your most diplomatic way you must take an ideological position to correct the problems of the system as you promised and restore true democracy which favors the needs of the majority.


Sidney J. Gluck