Life in the New York Cities

October 28, 2014
Two cities

Tales of Two Cities: The Best and Worst of Times in Today’s New York, ed. John Freeman; illustrated by Molly Crabapple. Published by OR Books in association with Housing Works. The “two cities” in the title of this book are both New York. John Freeman in his introduction tells us that he set out to collect stories about life in New York that focus on the human consequences of inequality of wealth, which “is at its most acute in the ‘world cities’ where the rich choose to live (or invest their fortunes in real estate).” What does it “feel like” to live side by side with people who are vastly richer and/or vastly poorer than you are? Some of...
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Mad Dogs and Businessmen

July 28, 2014
Mad Dogs and Businessmen

Back in the late 1940s, in the good old days when the world lay prostrate at the feet of those Nice Guys in Washington, when the Marshall Plan was concocted to save capitalism from the ruins of itself, it was discovered that the erstwhile ally of the United States, the Soviet Union, had somehow transformed itself into the U.S.’s worst nightmare. The doctrine of National Security was born. About the same time, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was launched, revealing that “un-americanness” had overnight become a political issue — a clear and present danger had suddenly apparated from gawd knows where. Just as you could once have been burned at the stake for being an atheist, after HUAC...
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Profit Hotel (dirty gossip about the capitalist mode of production!)

November 4, 2013

Power cannot speak truth anyhow Taking the moral high ground is so-o-o easy! Politicians, leaders, governments — they know all the tricks. Kaiser Wilhelm first taught the capitalist class the value of making “national defense” a synonym for “foreign conquest.” When a Johnny-come-lately like Vladimir Putin comes along and whines about the danger of war in Syria, he is following a well-beaten track: Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the...
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WHOSE Right to Life?

September 30, 2013
WHOSE Right to Life?

On June 25th Texas State Senator Wendy Davis (D) filibustered an anti-abortion bill that has the intended consequence of shutting down as many Planned Parenthood women’s health clinics as possible. In addition to restricting the used of the RU-486 abortion drug and banning abortion after the twentieth week of pregnancy, the proposed anti-abortion bill — SB5 — will require abortion facilities to meet ambulatory surgical-centre standards in addition to requiring the doctors performing abortions to have hospital admitting privileges — an almost impossible burden to meet in Texas with public and even most private hospitals.  In 2011 the Republican legislature under Governor Rick Perry’s leadership cut State funding for Planned Parenthood which led to shutting down fifty-six health centres...
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Who are ‘the poor’?

September 11, 2013
Who are ‘the poor’?

Socialists are reluctant to talk about ‘the poor’ as a distinct social group. In a certain real sense, all of those excluded from ownership and control of the means of life – the large majority who make up the working class – are poor. All the same, there are degrees of poverty. Being homeless or trapped in a rat-infested tenement is very different from living in a comfortable house (however heavily mortgaged) in a clean suburb. My focus here is on the people conventionally regarded as poor in the United States. Socialists might prefer to call them ‘the extremely poor’. The US government defines a ‘federal poverty line’ (FPL) – currently an annual income of $19,530 for a family...
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Are workers better off today than they were in 1900?

July 12, 2013

Rick: Can anyone argue with a straight face that workers today are no better off than workers at the beginning of the twentieth century? Does anyone really think that the reforms that have been acheved since that time have had no positive effect? We have weekends, overtime pay, child labor laws, environmental regulations, and a host of other ‘reforms’ that have improved life for workers. Sure, socialism would be best, but in the meantime I would say that those things are decent steps in the right direction. Karla: It is very easy for me to keep a straight face and argue that workers were better off before the family farm disappeared, before there were holes in the ozone layer...
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Profit Hotel (dirty gossip about the capitalist mode of production)

June 20, 2013

J. EDGAR, I HARDLY KNEW YA You will never hear an economist argue that increases in productivity are bad. But where do you think the government ever got all that nifty surveillance technology from? From the surveillance industry, of course. If you’re wondering why there was no surveillance industry in 1917 (Pinkertons, yes! police spies, yes!), it’s because the capitalist class then didn’t have all the lovely surplus value floating around looking for investment opportunities that it does now. All the wages employers figured those overpaid workers didn’t need have gotten funneled increasingly into first building a National Security State and then developing an elaborate Riot Control Establishment to enforce it. Why did “international terrorism” waste no time in...
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Big Pharma: pushing harmful drugs

June 12, 2013

Last year I wrote about the rebellious teenagers ‘diagnosed’ with the newly invented Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and the highly profitable industry that has grown up to ‘treat’ – that is, abuse – them (MW, January 2012). The American Psychiatric Association has included ODD in the latest edition of its authoritative handbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), together with Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, for people who get angry too often, and Hoarding Disorder, for people who don’t like to throw things away. The biomedical model In early May the Division of Clinical Psychology of the British Psychological Society called for a halt in the process of defining all sorts of deviant or inconvenient behaviors as...
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Book Review. The Alternative to Capitalism

May 26, 2013

Adam Buick and John Crump, The Alternative to Capitalism (Theory and Practice, 2013) This short paperback is a concise introduction to basic Marxian concepts concerning the current system of society – world capitalism – and the alternative to it – world socialism. The texts are carefully written to be fully accessible to readers with no previous knowledge of Marx’s ideas. Apart from the preface, the book consists of three chapters reproduced from two other books that were published in the 1980s and are now unfortunately out of print.* Although there is a note of this fact on the page just after the title page, under copyright and ISBN, it is not mentioned anywhere else, and this may confuse the...
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What we are up against

May 20, 2013

The most vicious enemies of the working class in the United States are bourgeois pseudo-democracy and the combined power of congress and the courts. Just prior to each election cycle a hidden primary is held by the corporate elite behind the voters’ backs. It is through this informal primary that the funders of the election campaigns determine which potential candidate to fund and in effect purchase. Unless the potential candidate is a self funding millionaire or billionaire (who represents corporate interests ipso facto), the one selected through the hidden primary becomes bought property. Many times, especially since the Citizens United Supreme Court case legalizing anonymous corporate campaign contributions to political campaigns (in the US), corporate titans hedge their bets and...
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Socialism And The Environment – Part One

Introduction In recent years the environment has become a major political issue.  And rightly so, because a serious environmental crisis really does exist.  The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat have all become contaminated to a greater or lesser extent.  Ecology – the branch of biology that studies the...


What is Common Ownership?

Quite simply, the common ownership of the world’s resources and productive capacity is the basis for a reorganisation of society that would ensure plenty of the necessities of life for everyone on the planet – no more starving, malnourished people, no wandering homeless, no senseless deaths for the want of easily affordable medical care...


Marx’s Conception of Socialism

Marx’s Conception of Socialism Marx usually referred to the society he aimed to see established by the working class as “communist society”. Precisely because he believed that “communist society” would be the outcome of the struggle and movement of the working class against its capitalist conditions of existence, Marx always refused to give any...