Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My 60th Birthday

On December 22, 2012 I reached the age of sixty.  This was a milestone and I decided to spend the day with Judi visiting the Longwood Gardens which is about forty-five minutes from our home in Philadelphia, PA.  The gardens are beautiful and visiting Longwood is a nice escape from our day-to-day lives. 

Longwood used to be the 1,077-acre estate of Pierre S. du Pont.  Ferdinand Lundberg argued in his book The Rich and the Super-Rich that the du Pont’s were the most affluent family in the nation.  This was because the du Pont’s not only owned DuPont Chemical Corporation, they also owned an enterprise known as General Motors.  This enormous wealth not only built the Longwood Gardens, but just about ten minutes from Longwood is the 979-acre estate that was owned by Pierre’s relative Henry Francis du Pont.  The gardens on this estate are called Winterthur.

Located at Longwood is one of the largest conservatories in the world.  There are rooms in the conservatory that house plants from every climate that include: tropical, desert, and temperate.  We happened to be there to view the dinner table the du Pont’s would have had when Pierre was alive.  A photo of that holiday table is pictured above and it might have had about 40 place settings.

One thing the official tour neglects to mention is that every penny that the du Pont family owned, and continues to own, came from the profits derived from thousands of auto and chemical workers.  Without the day-to-day toil of all these workers the du Pont’s never would have been able to amass the fortunes they enjoy.

Finding a place to eat

After visiting Longwood, Judi suggested that we have dinner at a restaurant in Kennett Square which is just a few minutes from the gardens.  The restaurants in this town appeared to be pretentious and over-priced.  It was a cold day and for a few minutes we didn’t know where we’d be eating.

Then, I had the idea of visiting a local bookstore and thought that someone there might know about a good place to eat.  We discovered that this bookstore was a voluntary venture where the books are donated and the profits go to a charity.  I saw a hardcover biography of Franz Fanon that I wanted.  The original price was $40 and the bookstore price was $4.  When the sales people learned that I was celebrating my birthday, they gave me the book as a gift.

The proprietors of the bookstore recommended a Mexican restaurant, Taqueria Moroleon, which was about fifteen minutes from Kennett Square.  Driving to the restaurant we passed the mushroom farms and hot-houses. 

The Kennett Square area is the center of mushroom farming in the United States.  Due to the insanity of the capitalist system, workers from Mexico travel to Kennett Square to pick mushrooms, working under horrendous conditions.  This is so we can have mushrooms in our pizzas, omelets, and pasta sauce.  The Spanish word for mushrooms is championes.

In the middle of these mushroom fields was a truck depot.  We saw eighteen-wheel tractor-trailers that, no doubt, carry those little mushroom boxes we see in the supermarket. 

The Taqueria Moroleon was an excellent suggestion.  The food was as good as any Mexican food I’ve ever had.  Unlike the pretentious restaurants in Kennett Square, the crowd at the Taqueria appeared to be working-class which made us feel right at home.

Well, this is how I celebrated sixty years on the planet earth.  While we both enjoyed the day, clearly there needs to be a lot of work to make this a world where there is human dignity for all.

You can see my photos of Longwood at:


Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Untold History of the United States – By Oliver Stone – A review

Oliver Stone has produced a ten-part documentary on the history of the United States for the Showtime network.  This documentary is based on the book of the same name that Stone co-authored with Peter Kuznick.  Stone’s purpose in preparing this project has been to give his audience a different picture of the history of this country.  While Stone gives us a number of facts most people are unaware of, the core of his point of view promotes a pro-capitalist perspective.  In order to do this, he must continue to keep essential historical facts hidden from the public.

What is capitalism?

In order to give some perspective to what a rational history of the United States would look like, we might start with an explanation of what the capitalist system is.  Capitalism came about because there were problems that emanated from societies ruled by royal families of kings and queens.  A new capitalist class emerged that was fundamentally interested in manufacturing commodities for profit.

This new class represented a progressive change in history.  For the first time there were mass production industries that had the potential of ending poverty in the world.  The problem of capitalism is that while the potential exists to eliminate poverty, because profits are the top priority, poverty is an absolute necessity of the capitalist system. 

Another problem of capitalism is the instability of this system.  For various reasons, the percentage of profits on investments tends to fall.  We can see this clearly when we look at the history of interest rates on savings accounts.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s the interest on savings accounts was about four to five percent.  Today, that same rate of interest is less than one percent.

This means that capitalists need to invest more and more in order to have a smaller and smaller rate of return on investments.  This state of affairs provokes capitalists to invest hundreds of billions of dollars every year in advertising.  This huge investment allows capitalists to maximize sales, selling commodities that many of us do not use. 

The falling rate of profit also demands that capitalists be obsessed with cutting costs.  This is why many capitalists have moved their operations to other countries in order to take advantage of lower labor costs.  This is also why capitalists have been, lowering the standard of living in the United States by giving wage increases that do not keep up with inflation.  The result has been that wages for working people have, in effect, been cut at a rate of about 30% over the past thirty years.

All of this means that depressions do not happen because of mistakes by capitalists or politicians.  No, when people who have power are obsessed with maximizing sales and minimizing costs, then, economic crisis’s are inevitable.

Therefore, while the potential has existed to eliminate poverty for quite a long time, the capitalist world moves closer and closer to another depression.  In their book, Untold History, Stone and Kuznick showed how during the last depression banks closed their doors and capitalists cut industrial production by 50%.  This was at a time when the official unemployment rate was twenty-five percent.

When we understand these facts, there is only one conclusion.  The only way to counteract the crisis caused by capitalism is to put in place a different kind of political economic system where human needs and not profits are the priority.  When capitalist politicians advance their strategies, they can only lead to the same kind of human made catastrophe that emerged in 1929.

Would Henry Wallace have been a better President?

One of the themes of the Untold History is to argue that the United States would have had a better government if Henry Wallace became President.  Wallace was the Vice-President in the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt up until a few months before Roosevelt’s death.

Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick argue that if Wallace became president, the government would have been more tolerant of the Soviet Union.  They also argue that had Wallace become President, the government would have been more supportive of labor and more critical of corporate power. 

Certainly Wallace made numerous statements that would make someone think that a Wallace presidency would have been different.  However, it is always best to judge people, not only by what they say, but by what they do.

Henry Wallace was the Vice-President under the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The record of the FDR administration is there for everyone to see.  Roosevelt probably used federal troops in attempting to break more strikes than any other President in history.  In spite of this vicious opposition, many labor unions won representation during the Roosevelt administration.  Roosevelt signed the Wagner Act that gave workers the right to the union representation they had already won through labor battles against corporations.

During the depression, as we might imagine, working people had an extremely harsh view of corporations.  Everyone knew the simple fact that corporations caused the depression that resulted in immense hardship.  Roosevelt manipulated this sentiment by making statements critical of corporations, while he viciously advanced policies that defended those who controlled corporate power.  Stone and Kuznick showed how Roosevelt refused to nationalize the banks even after millions of working people lost their savings.  This action protected the wealth of capitalists at the expense of working people.

Roosevelt refused to support the Costigan-Wagner Act that would have outlawed lynching in the United States.  Anti-lynching legislation had been advanced for over a decade.  Thousands of Black people had been lynched and the federal government rarely acted to prosecute the murderers.  However, Roosevelt was a democrat and the Democratic Party, as well as the Ku Klux Klan, ran the governments in the Jim Crow states.  Roosevelt did not want to antagonize his fellow democrats and refused to sign the Costigan-Wagner Act.

Roosevelt also adapted to this viscous racism by sending about 120,000 citizens of the United States, who happened to be Japanese, to concentration camps.           
Stone and Kuznick showed how Henry Wallace was from Iowa and became the Secretary of Agriculture before he was named Vice-President.  Wallace signed legislation that ordered farmers to destroy crops and young hogs in order to increase the price of food and clothing.  Wallace was clearly troubled by signing this order.  However, he signed the order and made it more difficult for people who were suffering during the depression to purchase the necessities of life.

Would Wallace have been friendlier to the Soviet Union?

Stone argued that Wallace would have been friendlier to the Soviet Union than President Harry S. Truman.  Challenging this assertion is easy when we look at the facts.

Historically superpowers have always dominated the capitalist system.  Before the first and second world wars, Britain was the world’s superpower.  The world wars signaled the fact that the British empire was collapsing.  Germany, the United States, and Japan were the world powers that were attempting to replace Britain as the world’s superpower.

Fascist Germany had taken military control of much of Europe.  When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, most analysts didn’t think this invasion could have been stopped.  Germany had dominated Czarist Russia in the first-world war. 

Joseph Stalin, the head of the Soviet government, had betrayed the revolution, murdered all of its leaders as well as many of the top ranks of the officer corps.  In spite of the fact that the Germans had prepared for the invasion, Stalin was taken completely by surprise when the German troops invaded.  Yet, in spite of Stalin’s horrendous lack of intelligent leadership, the Soviet Union defeated the German armed forces at a cost of over 20 million lives.

For the United States government, this appeared to be like a gift made in heaven.  The nation that was working to dominate the world had been defeated and, at this point, the U.S. didn’t need to make much of an effort.  Only after Germany had been defeated in Stalingrad did the Allied forces invade at Normandy.  While the U.S. never engaged more than ten German divisions in the war, the Soviet Union engaged 200 German divisions.

This was the reality that caused the U.S. government to temporarily change its hostile relations with the Soviet Union and send some aid to their Russian allies.  However, the U.S. is a nation dominated by capitalist relations.  Before and after the second-world war, the United States had hostile relations with the Soviet Union.

Clearly, no one knows what the world might look like had Henry Wallace become President of the United States.  However, Wallace proved himself to be a consistent capitalist politician and there is no reason to believe that had he become President, that the history of the world would have been significantly different.

(to be continued)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

37 schools may face closure in Philadelphia

Yesterday I received a real estate tax bill in the mail that says I owe about 20% more than I paid last year.  This morning I read a front-page story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about how 37 public schools in the city will probably be closed.  So, the city government is telling me that we will have to pay more money for fewer services.  This is the Christmas present the city government has given to it’s residents.  In order to fully appreciate the complete insanity of these policies, we need to give some background to the story.

Tax abatements

In the past few years Philadelphia has had the largest tax abatement program in the nation.  This means that the owners of many new and expensive skyscrapers in the city pay no taxes for ten years.  While the affluent owners of these buildings are enjoying their tax abatements, the school system has been cut to the tune of $400 million.

Racial discrimination

One of the borders of Philadelphia is City Line Avenue.  On the other side of City Line Avenue is the Lower Merion School district.  Per student funding for public schools in Lower Merion is double of what it is in Philadelphia.  The student population in Philadelphia is overwhelmingly Black and Latino.  The student population in Lower Merion is overwhelmingly white.

Back in 1954 the Supreme Court made its decision of Brown, v. Board of Education.  In this decision the court ruled that: “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”  In this decision, the Supreme Court argued that segregated education is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution that supports equal protection for all citizens.

The reason why there is gross disparity in educational funding is because there was an exception in the Brown v. Board of education ruling.  This ruling only applies to discrimination within cities.  Governments can discriminate all they want as long as this discrimination takes place outside the city limits.

The insanity of the capitalist system

When politicians talk about the need for cutbacks in social services, they know that the resources have been available for about 100 years to do away with poverty in the world.  Certainly there are sufficient numbers of people who would like to teach children the things we all need to know.  Certainly there are enough people who would like to see this happen so educational services could be vastly improved.

We can also say that there are enough workers as well as raw materials to make vast improvements in the standard of living in the world.  Yes, we all need and want: food, clothing, housing, health care, education, transportation, communication, as well as access to cultural activities.  The resources exist to provide everyone in the world with all these goods and services.  So, what is the problem?

We live in a society where the political and economic system is capitalism.  In this system human needs are not the priority.  Corporate profits determine all government action and dictate what will and will not be produced.

One would think that since the owners of capital have so much money, they would be satisfied with their wealth and allow everyone to have the means to live.  This is not how capitalism works.

In 1929 there was a depression and in the year 2008 the world nearly avoided another total economic collapse.  The fact that depressions are a constant feature of capitalism demonstrates how these events will continually occur as long as capitalism exists.

Clearly no one wants schools to close or depressions to happen.  Yet, these are the necessary consequences of the natural functioning of the capitalist system.

The Cuban reality

About 100 miles south of the United States is the island nation of Cuba.  The Cuban people had a political revolution and abolished capitalist property relations.  As a result, today Cuba has more teachers and doctors than any other nation in the world.  This is in a nation that is 100% Latino and about 40% Black. 

Clearly Cuba had many serious problems.  The revolutionary government inherited a nation that had an inadequate manufacturing infrastructure.  Cuba also exists in a predominantly capitalist world that is hostile to a government where human needs are the priority.  This means that the Cuban people lack in many of the goods that people have in developed capitalist nations.

However, the fact that Cuba has been able to survive and advance health care and education in the face of an all out crisis of capitalism is something we need to look at.  Cuba has shown the world that it is possible to make vast improvements in the standard of living of workers and farmers, if we advance a government where human needs are seen as more important than profits.

When we see taxes increase, as schools close, and jobs are eliminated, while we are expected to do more work, for effectively less money, yes, we can look at the Cuban road with a different perspective.  We can make this planet a much better place to live.  We can only do this when we have a government of working people that believes that human needs are more important than profits.     

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

1493 – uncovering the new world Columbus created - A review

Charles C. Mann’s book argues that globalized relations started with Columbus’ mistake of when he discovered a very old world.

The so-called educational system in the United States exposes students to a mythology course disguised as “American History.”  James Loewen is one of the historians who uncovered many of the routine falsifications in these courses with his book, Lies My Teacher Told Me. 

One of the myths contained in these courses is that Native Americans were not civilized and they needed exposure to the refinements of European civilization in order to escape the darkness.  This myth was blasted away in the book American Indian Contributions to the World – 15,000 years of inventions and innovations by Emory Dean Keoke and Kay Marie Porterfield.

Charles C. Mann views this history from a different perspective.  His book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus looks at some of the scientific discoveries that have demolished many of the ideas we have associated with Native Americans.

Where did the forests come from?

While many of us assume that the forests of the Western Hemisphere were virgin at the time Europeans came to this part of the world, Mann has a different point of view.  He argues that Native Americans planted many of the trees in these forests.

Today, farmers would never plant oak trees in order to harvest crops of edible acorns.  However, to the Native American, acorns were an edible food and oak trees are useful in many ways that benefitted their lifestyle.

In his book, 1493 – uncovering the new world Columbus created, Mann looked at how the world changed because of European and Asian contact with the Western Hemisphere.  One of his observations was how Native Americans cleared large sections of forestland in order to plant crops.

The consequences of Columbus’ mistake

Christopher Columbus’ goal was to find a shipping rout to China by sailing west.  Despite what we have been taught in school, Columbus did not discover that the world was round.  To the contrary, Mann argues that scientists had known the world was round centuries before Columbus.  In fact, Columbus made an erroneous calculation that contradicted the known science of his day.  He argued that the world was much smaller than it is and he proved himself wrong.

However, the Spanish did find large quantities of silver in the Americas.  The Chinese wanted this silver because they did not have a stable currency.  Mann argued that between 30 and 50 percent of the silver of the Americas went to China.

The Chinese were eager to trade silk and many other commodities for silver.  The Europeans were used to garments made of wool and did not develop cotton garments for many years.  As we might imagine, there was a strong market for silk made in China.  The Chinese emperor ordered peasants to plant mulberry trees.  These trees provided food for the silkworms.       

The world discovers new foods from the Americas

However, gold and silver were not the most valuable commodities that came from the Americas.  Corn, potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, as well as chili peppers were all crops that had their origins in the Americas.

In Europe and Asia there was a population increase because of the introduction of these crops.  Because potatoes were easier to farm than grains, farmers had more time to develop handicrafts.

In China the introduction of these crops meant that food could be grown in mountainous regions.  This meant that farmers cut down forests to make room for food crops which allowed the population to increase.  However, when China lost many of its mountainous forests, this increased flooding which was one reason for famines.

Off the coast of Ecuador are the Galapagos Islands.  On these islands there are huge amounts of bird droppings that contain nitrogen.  Farmers used these bird droppings to fertilize the soil and many crops did not need to be rotated as a result.

However, mixed in with the bird droppings was a fungus that destroyed potato crops all over the world.  The potato originated in the Andean Mountains.  The native people of that region used different methods to farm potatoes.  They planted numerous varieties of potatoes and created a border around each field.  Because the native people used these methods, they never had a potato blight the rest of the world suffered from.


According to Charles Mann there are three commodities that are indispensable to the industrialized world.  These are: fossil fuels, steel, and rubber.  Rubber originated in Brazil.  However, rubber production in Brazil did not flourish because there are natural obstacles that make large-scale production impossible. 

Today, rubber continues to be necessary for industrialization.  Synthetic rubber doesn’t have the desired qualities of the natural variety.  Most rubber today is grown in Southeast Asia.  However, there is a strong possibility that the natural predators of Brazil will find their way to Southeast Asia.  This has the potential to cause a worldwide catastrophe.


While most of us assume that mosquitoes are common to the world, Mann argues that they came from Africa.  When slaves came to the Americas, they came with mosquitoes.  While the African salves had a resistance to diseases spread by mosquitoes, the rest of the world didn’t. 

This meant that Europeans who came to the Americas oftentimes experienced diseases spread by mosquitoes for about three years.  The economist Adam Smith argued that it was cheaper to hire indentured servants from Europe than to import slaves from Africa.  Smith did not account for the time Europeans became ill because of diseases like malaria and yellow fever.  When slave owners accounted for these diseases, they found it cheaper to use the horrendous institution of chattel slavery.  In other words, Black people were kidnapped and shipped to the Americas because they were physically superior to Europeans.   


The theme of Charles Mann’s book 1493 is how globalization is not a recent phenomenon.  This started with the integration of the Americas with the rest of the world.

Today the capitalist system has invented imperialist property relations.  This means that about 40% of the world’s population lives on two dollars per day or less.  This also means that about 250 families have more wealth than half of the world’s population.

While Mann’s book gives us a lot of information about our history, he fails to even mention the biggest problem we have been facing for the past hundred years.  This problem is that the capitalist world is dedicated to creating profits for a tiny minority of the population.  When we begin to deal with this problem, then all the other problems Mann writes about can be resolved.                    

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why is there a conflict in Palestine?

I sent the following letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer that is critical of Charles Krauthammer's view of the conflict in Palestine.  The Inquirer refused to publish it.

To the Editor:

In his column, Why Gaza went to war (11-26-12), Charles Krauthammer demonstrated conclusively that he lives in a fantasy world.  His statement that "Israel wanted nothing more than to live in peace with this independent Palestinian entity," only makes sense if Krauthammer lives on a completely different planet and is completely ignorant of what is happening on planet earth.  In order to fully understand the complete absurdity of Krauthammer's thinking we need to look at a bit of international history.

The United States government has acknowledged that it violated nearly 400 treaties with Native Americans and sent them to impoverished reservations.  History also tells us that for many years, the U.S. government supported a system of Jim Crow segregation where African Americans did not have full citizenship rights.

In the year 1948, the nations of Israel and South Africa came into existence.  The governments of these nations rejected the British model of colonial rule.  The United States was becoming the world's superpower, and apartheid South Africa as well as Zionist Israel chose to imitate the United States government.  In South Africa and Israel the native people saw their land confiscated and laws were enacted to legalize discrimination.  

In both South Africa and Israel a system similar to the reservation system of the United States became the law.  In South Africa they called the reservations bantustans.  In Israel they called the reservations the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The nation of Israel exists for one and only one reason.  This is because of the massive aid they receive from the United States every year.  

The people who have power in this country give this massive amount of aid to Israel for one and only one reason.  Of the brutally repressive governments in the Middle East, Israel has proven to be the most reliable for Washington and Wall Street.  

Most of the oil in the world comes from the Middle East.  Corporations need a constant flow of oil or they will not be profitable.

There is no mystery as to what the Palestinian people want.  They want the same rights as Palestinians who live in Detroit, Michigan.  The means that they want the right to, own land, to travel, and to vote in every part of Israel.

While President Obama claims to support the ideals of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, he has made it clear that he supports the apartheid-like policies of the Israeli government.

Sooner or later working people and farmers who are Jewish and Palestinian will understand these basic facts.  The only resolution to this crisis will be a democratic secular Palestine where Jews and Palestinians will have equal rights.  When this happens we will be able to talk about a genuine peace in the Middle East.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A review of the film, "Lincoln"

Directed by Steven Spielberg

The other evening I viewed an interesting film, Lincoln directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role.  The film shows one side to Lincoln and concentrates on his effort to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution that outlaws slavery.

The strong parts of the film consist of the determined effort Lincoln made in getting this Amendment passed through Congress.  Even when the Confederacy was effectively defeated in the Civil War, there were enough votes in congress that might have blocked the passage of this amendment.  The core opposition to the abolition of slavery came from the Democratic Party.  This is the same political party that President Barrack Obama represents.

Clearly Lincoln did play a heroic role with respect to the defeat of the Confederacy.  At the beginning of the war, many of Lincoln’s advisers argued that a deal could be reached with the enemy that would make the war a relatively short conflict.  Lincoln had a better understanding of the sentiment in the country and knew that only a complete defeat of the slave owners would end this conflict.

The problem with this film is that it gives a heroic picture of Lincoln without looking at the historical context to the events of the film.  The film portrays Lincoln as opposing slavery primarily because he is appalled at how black people were treated by this institution.  This may be true, but there were other issues that Lincoln had to deal with.

Why did the Civil War happen?

We can begin the narrative of the Civil War with what happened in the state of Kansas.  Growing cotton in the slave states destroyed the soil and prompted slave owners to move west in search of new lands.  Kansas was one of the states where the slave owners attempted to take political control.

However, homesteaders from the east also wanted to settle in Kansas.  Initially the slave owners won a referendum and took control of the state government.  This state of affairs provoked a war between the slave owners and the homesteaders.  The Republican Party became a political force because it organized support for the homesteaders of Kansas.  Eventually these homesteaders prevailed and the slave owners of Kansas were repressed.

The events of Kansas demonstrated how the interests of slave owners were different, not only from the interests of slaves, but also antagonistic to workers and even to the owners of capitalist enterprises.  The slaveocracy wanted to move west to establish slave plantations.  Homesteaders wanted this same land to set up small farms.  Workers in the east also supported the homesteaders because they liked the idea that they had the option of moving west. 
The slave owners needed thoroughly repressive governments that made their top priority to enslave human beings and apprehend escaped slaves.  The governments of the north wanted skilled workers who toiled for wages.  They also wanted manufacturing enterprises that would build all kinds of commodities for a profit.  These were some of the irreconcilable differences that led to the Civil War.

However, before the election of Lincoln, politicians who accepted the institution of chattel slavery effectively controlled the government.  The election of Lincoln changed this, and this change was something the slave owners would not tolerate.  This is why the Confederacy seceded from the Union and this act sparked the Civil War that had been brewing for decades.

When we look at the opposed priorities of the Union and the Confederacy, we can see why the government needed to pass the Thirteenth Amendment and abolish chattel slavery.  Abraham Lincoln was not part of the abolitionist movement that consistently organized to abolish slavery.  He compromised his opposition to slavery when he favored continuing this horrendous institution in the border-states.

What might have happened if there was a compromise with slavery?

From today’s perspective we can say that there was a possibility that a compromise might have been reached with the slave owners.  We do not know what the outcome might have been if this would have been the case.  Certainly there might have been many possible outcomes.

What we do know is the history of Latin America.  There, large landowners did maintain control of the government.  This meant that the nations of Latin America became relatively underdeveloped, dominated economically and politically by foreign powers, and ruled for many years by repressive military dictatorships.  This could have been one of the possible outcomes in the United States had a compromise been reached with the slave owners during the Civil War.

The other side to Lincoln

While we can applaud the actions of Lincoln in the Civil War, we can also judge his actions with respect to Native Americans to be reprehensible.  One of Lincoln’s first actions as President was to order the executions of 38 members of the Santee nation who lived in what is now the state of Minnesota.

The Santee signed a treaty with the U.S. government that was supposed to guarantee them enough food so they would be able to live.  The U.S. representative charged with allocating this food told the Santee that if they wanted food they could “eat grass.”  Since this was a violation of the treaty, which is an act of war, the Santee did what they needed to do so their people would avoid starvation.  Many settlers died because of this war.

Instead of understanding why the Santee engaged in an armed rebellion, Lincoln treated them as common criminals and ordered the largest mass execution in the history of the United States.

After Lincoln’s assassination, two of Lincoln’s generals, and his closest advisers carried out a genocidal war against Native Americans.  These generals were Phillip Henry Sheridan, and William Tecumseh Sherman.  General Sheridan made the infamous statement that “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”  Sherman and Sheridan did their best to make this statement a reality.

Lessons we can learn from the Civil War

While the abolition of slavery in the United States was an immensely progressive act, this marked the end of any progressive politics that would be advanced by the United States government.  Reconstruction governments came into being after the Civil War.  These governments were some of the most democratic in the history of the United States.  They advanced literacy for former slaves and full rights for everyone including women and Native Americans.

The federal government under the Republican President of Rutherford B. Hayes made a deal to withdraw federal troops from the former confederate states.  This action effectively handed power to the terrorist organization of the Ku Klux Klan.  The Supreme Court then effectively denied Black people citizenship rights in the United States in their decision Plessey vs. Fergusson.

This history demonstrates why Karl Marx was both an ardent supporter of Lincoln’s actions in the Civil War, as well as an ardent critic of the political economic system of capitalism.  Marx argued that the price of labor is the price required to sustain workers at a minimum level. 

Today many workers are learning that we can loose everything when employers eliminate the jobs we work at.  However, workers are in a much better position to advance and defend our interests than people who lived under chattel slavery .  

All progress for working people after the Civil war came because of pressure that emanated from workers.  Woman’s suffrage, labor, civil rights, and anti-war movements would force the government to abandon policies they had advanced in the past. 

These movements all had international ramifications.  Since capitalism has always been an international system, workers and farmers need to defend the interests of workers all over the world.

Abraham Lincoln did have opinions that many of his supporters today would object to.  Clearly he believed that the only way for slavery to be eliminated was with the force of arms.  The Civil War ended the rule of slave owners in the United States. 

As Malcolm X once said that the interests of Black people need to be advanced by, “any means necessary.”  Malcolm quoted Patrick Henry when he said: “Give me liberty or give me death.”

This is the revolutionary heritage that workers and farmers have today.  When we look at the Civil War from this perspective, there is good reason to be optimistic about the future.                                  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Why isn't the news media genuinely interested in the elections?

Imagine for a moment, that all the media including, television, radio, magazines, and newspapers had a political opinion that the elections did not deserve any coverage.  Imagine that these media outlets rarely, if ever, gave any publicity to candidates running for office.  The reasoning for this hypothetical opinion would be that the elections just aren’t very important and they don’t merit any attention.

Given the enormous amount of coverage that the media gives to democratic and republican party candidates, this idea appears to be strange.  However, the above scenario has always been the routine policy of all capitalist media outlets.

For the past forty years I have supported the candidates of the Socialist Workers Party.  In order to be placed on the ballot, we have collected an onerous number of signatures.  Rarely, if ever, do we receive any media attention.  We can also make this same argument about the other political parties that are not democrats and republicans.

Elections are about people who represent various political parties running for office.  When the news media makes a decision not to give any coverage to candidates who are not democrats or republicans, they are deciding not to give coverage to the elections.

Imagine for a moment that President Barrack Obama and Willard Mitt Romney received the same publicity as the Socialist Workers Party candidate James Harris.  Clearly, most people don’t know the name of James Harris.  If the media gave the same publicity to Obama and Romney, most people wouldn’t know their names either.

Why is this important?

When we look at our paychecks we see deductions made for city, state, and federal taxes.  When we purchase most commodities we see more deductions for sales taxes.  Someone who has a salary of about $30,000 per year will see at least $300,000 in deductions made for taxes over a period of thirty years.

When we pay for commodities we want, we decide which are the ones we will purchase.  When we supposedly “pay taxes” we don’t get what we want.  The only basis for the argument that this is “our tax money at work” is the fact that we are allowed to pull levers in voting booths one day every year. 

The only way we know of the candidates who are running for office is because of media publicity.  When the media decides that it will not give publicity to candidates who run for office, they are making an argument that we do not deserve a representative government. 
Understanding these facts we can come to an inescapable conclusion.  That is that we do not “pay taxes” at all.  In fact, our rate of pay only reflects our net income after taxes. 

Today, because of the deteriorating state of the capitalist economy, the government is becoming more open in its slavish support of corporate power.  When fifty million people in this country do not have enough food to eat, the government demands that many of these people pay over $700 per year for third rate health care.  This money will be a cash windfall for the insurance and drug companies.

Who does the news media represent?

Today about one percent of the population owns about half of all financial wealth.  There is no reasonable explanation for this.  For this relationship to continue, working people need to be convinced that the government that supports this one-percent of the population is good.  We need to be convinced that this reprehensible disparity of wealth represents “liberty and justice for all.”

While the news media argues that they are “objective” in their reporting of the events of the day, another picture is becoming crystal clear.  Because the news media clearly supports capitalist interests, they need to give us a jilted view of the world.

They have argued that the best way to aid some of the poorest people in the world in Afghanistan or Vietnam is to go to war and kill them.  They argue that the best way to help working people in this country is to give tax incentives to corporations that are owned by the wealthiest people in the world.  While capitalist politicians talk about how they want to “create jobs,” these same politicians supported governments that allowed over 300 million jobs to be eliminated.

These are the reasons why the media needs to be indifferent to candidates who run for office and offer a different view of how to resolve the problems we face.  In 2008 the international capitalist economy nearly collapsed.  The pressures that created this crisis continue to be with us and we can expect a collapse of the economy in the future.  The candidates who support the capitalist system have made it clear that they have no plan to avoid this kind of catastrophe.

When working people become aware that we have no economic future with the capitalist system, we will become open to new ideas.  Masses of people will seek new sources of information that will take a serious interest in how to advance a rational political course for our future.      

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why I support James Harris for President

James Harris and Maura DeLuca are the Socialist Workers Party candidates for President and Vice President.

If you have ever been disheartened listening to the so-called debates between the democratic and republican party politicians, you have excellent reasons for your feelings.  James Harris, the Socialist Workers Party candidate for President, offers a real alternative to the other candidates who offer nothing more than a continuation of the status quo.

One piece of information that is missing from these so-called debates is a critical view of the economic political system known as capitalism.  When we look at the history of the laws that capitalism must follow, we get a clear picture of the source of our problems.

The history of capitalism

Capitalism came about because problems arose that the feudal societies of kings and queens could not deal with.  A new class emerged that became dedicated to manufacturing commodities for a profit.  This new political economic system allowed technology to develop in ways that would have been impossible in the feudal epoch. 

However, even in the birth of capitalism, the treatment of working people was abysmal.  In Britain, people who had power forced farmers off the land and into crowded factories where the conditions for men women and children were horrendous.  During these same years, British authorities also controlled the economies of India and China where tens of millions of people starved to death.

Today, capitalist politicians follow a similar path.  In the United States there are about 40 million people who do not have enough food to eat.  While these conditions exist, the government is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to go to war against the people of Afghanistan, who are among the poorest in the world.     

Capitalism also brought with it something that was new and progressive.  This was the working class.  Workers organized and continue to organize to make improvements in our condition.  James Harris has argued that the only things we have were won through struggle.

The labor movement improved working conditions.  The women’s and civil rights movements forced people with power to mollify many discriminatory practices.  The anti-war movement worked to end the genocidal war against the people of Vietnam.  Understanding this reality means that improvements in our lives will not come about through voting, but by engaging in mass struggle.      

There is another aspect of capitalism that explains the problems we face.  Capitalism works, in a way, like a roller coaster.  At times the economy goes up, but it always goes down.  The reason why the economy deteriorates is because the percentage of profit on investment tends to decline.  This means that capitalists need to invest more and more capital for a smaller and smaller rate of profit.

The result of this state of affairs is that capitalists are obsessed with selling more and more commodities while they are also driven to cut costs.  Eventually the inevitable happens.  There are more commodities on the market than there are people willing to purchase those commodities.

In other words, workers see our jobs eliminated, not because of scarcity, but because of overproduction.  The root cause of the economic crisis of 2008 was not sub-prime housing loans.  The root cause of every economic crisis of the capitalist system is the accumulated effect of successful business practices.   

The cruelty of capitalist politics

Understanding this reality, we can see how the campaigns of the democrats and republicans are nothing more than campaigns to continue the international war against workers and farmers.

Willard Mitt Romney argues that he has created jobs for working people.  The facts are that working people actively worked to create every penny of the financial assets that Romney has at his disposal.  Capitalists need workers but workers do not need capitalists.

The politics of Barrack Obama can be classified as acts of cruelty that can only be supported by ardent defenders of the capitalist system.

Obama had the authority to stop the state of Georgia from executing Troy Davis, who was clearly innocent of the charges he had been convicted of.  Obama decided to ignore all the evidence supporting Davis and allowed the state of Georgia to carry out his execution.

Obama has set a record for the most deportations of any President.  The federal government separated at least 5100 of these deportees fromtheir children who were born in this country.  These children were placed in foster care and no effort was made to reunite them with their families.

Obama’s health care bill will charge some of the least affluent people in this country over $700 for fourth rate health care insurance.

What a workers government might accomplish?

On the other hand, James Harris supports the formation of a workers government in this country.  Such a government would view the human needs of people as more important than the profits of a tiny minority of the population.

A workers government could make rapid progress in eliminating poverty in the world.  Ending the discrimination against Black people, Latinos, and women would be a top priority.  All enterprises would, for the first time, make it a top priority to work in harmony with the environment.

However, these are not the primary attractions to a workers government.  Human beings are different from animals because we can do skilled work in a social environment.  In the system of capitalism, it is natural for workers to feel alienated because we spend our lives at jobs so others will benefit.

With a genuinely representative workers and farmers government, we will be able to see for the first time what our real human potential is.  Problems that appeared to be unsolvable in the capitalist framework, will be easily resolved.  Humanity won’t need to go to work to avoid homelessness, but to make this a better world for everyone.

More information about the presidential campaign of James Harris can be seen in the Militant newspaper which can be viewed at: themilitant.comhttp://www.themilitant.com/index.shtml     

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why Marx Was Right - A Book Review

Terry Eagleton’s book looks at ten accusations against the political orientation of Karl Marx and shows why Marx’s ideas give us concrete answers to the problems we face today.

How many times have we heard the argument that the idea of communism is dead?  As far as the commercial media is concerned, the idea of communism died with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the infiltration of corporations into communist China.  Therefore, according to these commentators the ideas of Karl Marx, who is seen as the originator of communist politics must have been profoundly wrong.

In Terry Eagleton’s book Why Marx Was Right he explains that the only way anyone can reach this conclusion is if they have not read Marx, as well as his co-thinker Frederick Engels.  Much of Marx’s writings were an analysis of the capitalist system.  Marx argued that the normal functioning of capitalism undermines the interests of workers and farmers, who are the vast majority of the population. 

He also argued that the capitalist system needs to move towards complete economic collapse.  This is not because of mistakes made by people who have power, but because this is the only way that capitalism can function.

In 1929 there was an economic depression.  Banks closed, tens of millions of people lost their savings, and up to 30% of the working population was unemployed.

A rational person might think that if this did happen, the government, the media, as well as corporations would have made it their top priority to ensure this would never happen again.  After all, we work to have a better future along with health care, education, housing, and retirement.  How can we have any of these things if the banks close their doors?

Well, after working diligently to make sure that we would never have another depression, in the year 2008 the government informed us that we were on the verge of another depression.  In other words, while corporations pay about $160 billion in advertising to advise us as to how to spend our money, they have been working to advance a system that continues to move towards complete economic collapse.  Yet, the media pundits continue to argue that Marxism is dead.

Pro-capitalist economists argue that the way to fix the depression is with more or less government debt, or more or less government regulation.  These recipes ignore the fact that corporations and the government have had eighty-three years to come up with a plan to avoid depression and this did not happen.

Karl Marx had a different method of dealing with this crisis.  He called it “class struggle.”  Marx argued that the interests of working people and capitalists are antagonistic.  Working people have forced capitalists to grant certain reforms with respect to the civil rights movement, the labor movement, and the movement against the war in Vietnam.  However, capitalists have been driven to continue to advance their agenda calling for more discrimination, a deteriorating standard of living for working people, and more wars.

Terry Eagleton argues that when we look at any day during thousands of years of history, we will see a time when the masses of people worked so a tiny minority might benefit.  Marx argued that this state of affairs has meant that human history is in reality a period of pre-history.  Only when we begin to live in a world where a government advances the human needs of the majority of the population will we begin to experience history.

While a workers or socialist government will advance the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population, Karl Marx called this kind of government a “dictatorship of the proletariat.”  Marx felt the need to use this language because he wanted to make it clear that a workers government would in no way represent the interests of capitalists.  Marx felt that only by advancing this perspective would there ever be a genuine democracy.

The naysayers of Marxism argue that the Soviet Union collapsed and today the Chinese government embraces capitalist enterprises.  Why would anyone support a system that has been largely abandoned?  In this area I disagree with Eagleton’s answer to the question.  Eagleton argues that the underdevelopment of Russia and China doomed these revolutions.  He argues that the way to build a socialist society is in a developed nation that has all the means to transform reality.

Clearly Eagleton is right in arguing that an underdeveloped nation like China had many obstacles we would not see in an advanced capitalist nation.  At the time of the Chinese revolution most of the population were peasants who lived in dire poverty, not knowing how to read, with no access to medical care.  Clearly, it will be easier to transition to socialism in a nation where most people have cars, computers, as well as washing machines.

However, Eagleton’s argument ignores the Cuban reality.  Cuba was an underdeveloped nation at the time of the revolution.  Today, Cuba has three times the number of doctors per-capita as the United States.  Infant mortality in Cuba is about three times lower than in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  While the standard of living has dramatically deteriorated in Russia and China, this has not happened in Cuba. 

Clearly Cuba continues to suffer from a lack of resources.  This is largely because of the trade embargo of the United States.  However, the Cuban example demonstrates that a socialist government can be advanced in any nation in the world today.

Most of Eagleton’s book is an argument against capitalist politics and economics.  The commercial media completely ignores these arguments and is dedicated to the idea that capitalism can be reformed.  As theses ideas continue to be crushed by the reality we face, more and more people will discover that Karl Marx had realistic answers to our problems.