Thursday, May 31, 2012

Imperialism Redux: Canada Colonizes Honduras?

By Dave Broad
May 31, 2012

A curious article recently appeared in Canada's Globe and Mail. The authors are US economist Paul Romer and Octavio Sanchez, chief of staff to the President of Honduras. They are promoting Romer's idea for "charter cities," in which Canada is invited to play a role in an ostensibly new model to promote development and prosperity in the Third World. As the authors put it:

With the near unanimous support of its Congress, Honduras recently defined a new legal entity: la RegiĆ³n Especial de Desarrollo. A RED is an independent reform zone intended to offer jobs and safety to families who lack a good alternative; officials in the RED will be able to partner with foreign governments in critical areas such as policing, jurisprudence and transparency. By participating, Canada can lead an innovative approach to development assistance, an approach that tackles the primary roadblock to prosperity in the developing world: weak governance.1

This special development region would be a step beyond special enterprise zones now existing in the Global South in that it would have its own government. Romer argues that traditional aid and development models have not worked because they are hamstrung by corrupt and inefficient governments. So the charter city is offered as an alternative to traditional aid and to migration of Third World peoples to First World countries in search of work and a better life.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Why Eliminating the Shelter Belt Program is Bad Economics

By Jim Harding
No Nukes
May 25, 2012
In its April 2012, budget, Harper announced a $250 million cut to Agriculture, which quickly filtered down to the rural constituencies that, for the most part, voted for Harper. The town of Indian Head woke up to find that the Prairie Shelterbelt Program, operating since 1901, was eliminated. This cut was made without any rural consultation, similar to the cutting of the Canadian Wheat Board, also done without any consultation or the farmer vote required by existing legislation.
The elimination of the shelterbelt program directly affects the income of 80 families, but thousands more will be affected across the prairies. According to the government’s own figures, in spring 2011 the shelterbelt program shipped nearly 3 million seedlings to 7,500 rural people to create an additional 1,200 km of field shelterbelts, 2,218 km of yard and 134 km of riparian shelterbelts. The 28 different deciduous and coniferous species went to 37 distribution points in Saskatchewan, 40 in Manitoba, 67 in Alberta and 2 in BC. These will protect nearly 16,000 hectares of fields, over 200 hectares of wildlife areas and nearly 700 farm yards.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Montreal Lives!

A video of protesters banging pots and pans on Quebec streets is going viral on social networks.

Posted on Friday afternoon, the beautiful black and white film shows protesters of all ages taking to the streets to protest the emergency law Bill 78. The Vimeo video quickly began showing up all over Twitter and Facebook.
Bill 78 is being called a draconian attempt to quell massive student protests that have taken over Quebec streets for more than 100 days. The bill limits the ability to protest by requiring groups to get police approval for demonstrations and restricting where they can take place, among other provisions.
People took up the percussive protest Thursday night in several towns and cities including Sorel, Longueuil, Chambly, Repentigny, Trois-Rivieres and even in Abitibi -- several hundred kilometres away from the hot spot of Montreal.
They were still loudest in Montreal, where a chorus of metallic clanks rang out in neighbourhoods around the city, spilling into the main demonstrations and sounding like aluminum symphonies.
The pots-and-pans protest has its roots in Chile, where people have used it for years as an effective, peaceful tool to express civil disobedience. The noisy cacerolazo tradition actually predates the Pinochet regime in Chile, but has endured there and spread to other countries as a method of showing popular defiance.
Thursday's protest in Montreal was immediately declared illegal by police, who said it violated a municipal bylaw because they hadn't been informed of the route. They allowed it to continue as long as it remained peaceful.
Usually the nightly street demonstrations, which have gone on for a month, have a couple of vigorous drummers to speed them along their route. At the very least, someone clangs a cow bell.
But in the last few days, the pots and pans protest -- dubbed the casseroles by observers -- have acted like an alarm clock for the regular evening march, sounding at 8 p.m. on the nose in advance of the march's start.
With files from The Canadian Press.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Introducing the Online University of the Left

Univ of left poster copyCheck Out This Project And Prepare To Be Amazed!

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

Many people know the internet is full of instructional treasures for educating activists new to the left--and for the ongoing education of elder comrades as well.

One problem, however, is that these little gems are scattered far and wide, often in obscure places. It's a tedious task, even with Google and other research tools, to find and sort through them, making them handy and useful to key audiences.

Enter the `Online University of the Left,' a new `Left Unity' project initiated by the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. It's core orientation is Marxist, but it contains teaching resources reflecting the full range of views on the wider left. About 50 left academics are involved in the core group so far-Richard Wolff, David Schweickart, Rose Brewer, Tim Johnson, Gregory Morales, William Tabb, Ellen Schwartz, Jerry Harris, Linda Alcoff, Dana Cloud, Gar Alperovitz, to name a few.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why Keynes was Right, and Utterly Wrong

By Mat Little
New Compass

The economic theories of John Maynard Keynes are experiencing a resurgence. With the election of Francois Hollande as French President, Keynesian nostrums, such as state investment in infrastructure projects, are considered the only way to expand a European economy stagnating under demand-choking austerity. But Keynes himself would have been surprised by the need for this new renaissance. He believed that, by now, humanity would be nearing a permanent solution of its “economic problem”, enabling radically reduced working hours and increased leisure.

Technologically Keynes was prescient. But the man credited with “saving capitalism from itself” during the Great Depression, did not understand how capitalism would thwart the liberating potential of the very economic abundance it helped to create. The “distasteful” and “unjust” practices Keynes thought humanity could discard haven’t eased their grip. They have intensified. In order to realise the benefits of the “economic bliss” Keynes foresaw, we need the insights of anti-capitalist thinkers. We need to go beyond Keynesianism

According to the person some regard as “the greatest economist who every lived” we should, by now, be approaching a state of “economic bliss”. John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1930 that under the surface of the unfolding gloom of the Great Depression, mankind was solving its economic problem.

In the essay, “The Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren”, he predicted that in 100 years’ time, Europe and the US would be between four and eight times more wealthy. He thought that his descendants of 2030 would work three hour days and fifteen hour weeks. Their main dilemma would be how to occupy their abundant leisure.

Time for big ideas: Imagine Canada after Harper

By Murray Dobbin
May 21, 2012

Glencore in Saskatchewan: Who are they?

Glencore: Reaping Huge Profits From Life’s Essentials

This short  video by Patrick Clair tells the story of commodity broker Glencore International, the biggest shareholder of Century Aluminum, and the company’s dangerously powerful position on the world’s markets. (Best watched in full screen).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A different way of doing things

Robin Murray explores the potential of co-ops to form the basis of an alternative economy

May 2012

The first great surge of co-operation took place in Britain at the dawn of the age of railways in the 1840s. It was a consumer co-operation of the industrial working class. Within 50 years it had grown into a network of more than 1,000 retail co-ops and a wholesale society that had become the largest corporate organisation in the world. By the first world war, British co-ops accounted for 40 per cent of food distribution. They owned their own factories, farms, shipping lines, banks, an insurance company and even a tea plantation in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The co-operative movement was, in the vision of one of its inspired organisers J T W Mitchell, on the way to developing an alternative economy.

There were similar movements of small farmers and artisans on the continent and in North America, and later in Asia. Common to them all was an emphasis on civic and workplace democracy, autonomy, the quality of work and on small-scale units gathered into large federated organisations where a larger scale was necessary.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Socialism in the 21st Century

By Samir Amin
May 19, 2012

Professor Samir Amin, one of the leading Marxist thinkers in the world today, speaks about the implosion of contemporary capitalism. He articulates the need for the radical left, in the North as well as the South, to be bold in formulating its political alternative to the existing system. It is time for the left to articulate a new socialist agenda, not merely as a repetition of the 20 century socialism, but recreating it in light of the lessons learned from the past and the changes we are seeing in the world today.

Towards a New Hegemony

New Left Project

Mark Fisher, author of Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? talked to Ed Lewis and Samuel Grove about the status of capitalist realism, social media and the challenges for the left today. 
Sam: You start your book, Capitalist Realism, with Frederick Jameson’s observation—‘it’s more difficult to envisage the end of the world than the end of capitalism’. With the recent mobilisations of 2010 and 2011 at home  and particularly abroad in Greece, Spain, Nigeria and the Middle East—do you see these as representing a crack in ‘capitalist realism’?
Mark: I think in a certain sense there has been a crack, but in another sense no. I joked as I was writing the book that capitalism would be finished before the book was because of the crisis since 2008; but things haven’t turned out like that. Quite plainly capitalism is in serious trouble, but it doesn’t appear to be on the brink of collapsing. And in many ways what we have seen since the bank crises is an intensification of ‘capitalist realism’ really. I mean it has certainly changed its form. Prior to 2008 capitalist realism had a buoyant and bullying quality of the form ‘if you don’t get on board then you will just be left behind, or you will be crushed by the locomotive of history which is definitely going one way only—which is towards more neoliberalisation. Since 2008 capitalist realism has had a more desperate quality – ‘if we don’t all band together then everything is going to go to shit’. So either we accept austerity that has been put in place to defend capitalism or we face inevitable catastrophe; that is the ruling logic.

Greek leftist leader Alexis Tsipras: 'It's a war between people and capitalism'

Greece's eurozone fate may now be in the hands of the 37-year-old political firebrand and his Syriza party

Alexis Tsipras

Alexis Tsipras in his office at the Greek parliament building on Friday. He says Greece has been used as a guinea pig for the rest of Europe. Photograph: Martin Godwin

"I don't believe in heroes or saviours," says Alexis Tsipras, "but I do believe in fighting for rights … no one has the right to reduce a proud people to such a state of wretchedness and indignity."

The man who holds the fate of the euro in his hands – as the leader of the Greek party willing to tear up the country's €130bn (£100bn) bailout agreement – says Greece is on the frontline of a war that is engulfing Europe.

A long bombardment of "neo-liberal shock" – draconian tax rises and remorseless spending cuts – has left immense collateral damage. "We have never been in such a bad place," he says, sleeves rolled up, staring hard into the middle distance, from behind the desk that he shares in his small parliamentary office. "After two and a half years of catastrophe Greeks, are on their knees. The social state has collapsed, one in two youngsters is out of work, there are people leaving en masse, the climate psychologically is one of pessimism, depression, mass suicides."

But while exhausted and battle weary, the nation at the forefront of Europe's escalating debt crisis and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy is also hardened. And, increasingly, they are looking towards Tsipras to lead their fight.

"Defeat is the battle that isn't waged," says the young politician who almost overnight has seen his radical left coalition party, Syriza, jump from representing fewer than 5% of Greeks to enjoying ratings of more than 25% in polls.