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United States: `Clunker' healthcare bill protects private insurers, damages democracy

By Billy Wharton

March 24, 2010 -- Americans desperately need healthcare. The need is so desperate that many are buying into a “something is better than nothing” philosophy to support a healthcare bill that actively works against their own interests. The bill that US President Barack Obama plans to sign into law is being dubbed a “reform”, but actually amounts to a corporate restructuring that will solidify the reliance on the same private insurance companies that have caused the crisis in the nation’s healthcare system.

As single-payer heathcare activist Dr. Margaret Flowers stated, “The Democratic Party has now moved so far to the right that they have just passed a Republican health bill.” This is no surprise, private insurers and pharmaceutical companies have flooded the electoral system with money in order to guarantee their continued ability to accumulate profits.

[In the United States, "single-payer healthcare" refers to universal public health insurance schemes similar to Canada's scheme and Australia's Medicare.]

Alexandra Kollontai: International Women's Day -- a militant celebration

To mark International Women's Day 2010, Links International Journal of Socilalist Renewal reproduces Alexandra Kollontai's classic history and explanation of this important anniversary. Thanks to the Marxist Internet Archive (MIA) for making this and other writings by Kollontai available. Notes by MIA.

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By Alexandra Kollontai

Mezhdunarodnyi den' rabotnitz, Moscow 1920 -- Women's Day or Working Women's Day is a day of international solidarity, and a day for reviewing the strength and organisation of proletarian women.

United States: The rise of bagel capitalism

By Harry Targ

February 27, 2010 -- Diary of a Heartland Radical -- A long time ago Karl Marx theorised that in capitalist societies the class of people that own and control the means of production -- the machines, the factories, the workers -- constituted an economic ruling class. The only thing that workers owned was their ability to do work. The workers would sell their ability to do work for a wage. The capitalists would hire workers, work them hard, and sell the goods and services produced. The capitalists would sell the products and/or services for more than the workers would get paid. They would keep the difference and that is where profit came from.

Over time, Marx said, the number of capitalists would get smaller and smaller and what they owned and controlled would get bigger and bigger. Marx’s predictions pretty much have come to pass with a few hundred corporations and banks controlling about one-third of all that is produced on the face of the globe.

Obama’s State of the Union: Year one of a corporate presidency

By Billy Wharton

January 27, 2010 -- From the start, Barack Obama’s presidency has seemed like one big public relations campaign. Tonight’s State of the Union address did little to dissuade one from this view. Sagging under the weight of depressed dreams of hope and change, he desperately needed to appear as though he was doing something to address the growing needs of the US people. Emphasis was on “appearances”, since Obama’s speech delivered more of the same from his first year in office: high rhetoric with little substance.

The clear emphasis of the speech was the US economy. This was a double-edged sword. In the first part, Obama presented his bank bailout as an unpopular, but necessary measure – “We all hated the bank bailout… I hated it… promised I wouldn’t just do what was popular, I would do what is necessary.” Yet, brushing off the bailout as a necessary evil misses important points.

Howard Zinn, 1922-2010: Howard Zinn interviewed by Dave Zirin

On May 2, 2009, the US International Socialist Organization invited Dave Zirin to sitdown and interview renowned historian Howard Zinn.

Martin Luther King Jr in the age of Obama: Why we can't wait

By Billy Wharton

January 17, 2010 -- Albert Boutwell's election as Birmingham, Alabama, mayor in 1963 might have signaled the end of the modern civil rights movement. As a moderate Democrat, Boutwell promised to temper the harsh repression unleashed by the city’s notorious chief of police and his mayoral opponent Eugene “Bull” Connor. Mainstream leaders of the black community were told to wait it out –- let the storm pass and incremental changes could begin. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. refused to wait. Instead, he launched Plan “C” (confrontation), a large-scale protest campaign that broke the back of Southern segregation.

United States: Blacks still taking the hit

By Malik Miah

January 2010 -- Against The Current -- It took 10 months before the US Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) stood up and challenged President Barack Obama. In a surprise move, 10 CBC leaders refused to participate in a key House of Representatives financial committee vote in December 2010 until some more relief is provided to Black businesses.

Black politicians and civil rights leaders have been understandably careful about criticising the first Black president. Yet facts on the ground, especially the super high unemployment in the Black communities, forced their hand. While their challenge is mild, it is significant.

The impact of the Great Recession has been greatest on Blacks as well as on other ethnic minorities. Official unemployment is nearly 50% higher for African Americans than for whites. What’s most striking is that the Black middle class, including those with Ivy League educations, are having a hard time finding jobs.

The issue of “race” once again is becoming a hot topic in the Black community as qualified professionals and skilled workers with equal or better résumés than whites are being turned down for jobs — going instead to whites with lesser qualifications. It is a reminder of the pre-civil rights era.

United States: Healthcare bill -- a nightmare before Christmas

By Billy Wharton

December 25, 2009 -- Call it the nightmare before Christmas or Santa’s lump of healthcare coal. Either title captures the disastrous qualities of the healthcare reform bill passed by US Senate on December 24. After months of media coverage, a summer of wild town hall meetings and all the high-sounding rhetoric one could swallow, a 2000 page monster has been birthed.

Though US President Barack Obama hailed the bill’s passage by declaring, "This will be the most important piece of social legislation since Social Security passed in the 1930s", it carries few of the universal qualities or public control of the social security legislation. For all the political theatre associated with the bill, remarkably little in the bigger picture of healthcare in the United States has changed: private health insurers still run the system; Washington politicians are still gathering in the campaign contributions from the industry; and millions of people will still be left without health insurance.

Bad gets worse in the Senate

United States: Photo essay -- Students occupy Berkeley university building to protest fee hikes

Story and photos by David Bacon

Berkeley, California -- November 20, 2009 -- Students occupied Wheeler Hall on the University of California campus in Berkeley, protesting against a decision by university regents to raise tuition fees by 32%, bringing them to US$10,302 per year for undergraduates.

At the beginning of the occupation the students made several demands, including the reinstatement of 38 laid-off custodial workers, and amnesty for protesting students.

United States: Where's the socialism? The good, the bad and the ugly of health-care reform

By Billy Wharton

November 9, 2009 -- Where is the socialism now? Frenetic right-wingers spent a good part of the US summer shouting about the “government takeover of health care” or the “stealth socialist health-care plan”. Now that the Affordable Healthcare for America Act has been passed by a slim margin in the US House of Representatives, on November 8, there are few traces of anything even resembling socialism. Instead, Americans will find the good, the bad and the ugly of health-care reform all contained within the 1990-page bill.

Climate change: The carbon trading debacle

By Carter Burke

October 28, 2009 -- The next major international summit on climate change will be held in Copenhagen in early December, 2009. The position of the United States in these talks remains ambiguous. The latest climate legislation to move through the US Congress is H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. It passed the US House of Representatives in June 2009, mostly along party lines, to the applause of President Obama and house speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Paul Le Blanc -- Why I'm joining the US International Socialist Organization: Intensifying the struggle for social change

Paul Le Blanc.

By Paul Le Blanc

October 2009 -- I have decided to join the International Socialist Organization (ISO) because I believe socialists can and must, at this moment, intensify the struggle to bring about positive social change. I have been active in this struggle for most of my life -- as a member of the "new left" in the 1960s and early '70s (first in Students for a Democratic Society and briefly in the New American Movement), then in the Trotskyist movement (the Socialist Workers Party for ten years, briefly in Socialist Action, the Fourth Internationalist Tendency for another eight years). I have always considered "Trotskyism" as the same as revolutionary socialism, associated with some of the most useful ideas and most inspiring traditions that ever existed -- something I will come back to shortly.

Since 1992 I have been a member of Solidarity, which over the years has attracted a number of fine people who have done excellent work, although it has never proved able to sustain a membership of more than 300. I feel I have done all that I can to help build Solidarity. At this point I believe I may have more to contribute to building the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and am hopeful that the ISO can play a badly needed role in the intensification of the struggle to bring fundamental social change.

`Monthly Review' at 60: Six decades of campaigning for `social and ecological revolution'

On September 17, 2009, Monthly Review celebrated its 60th anniversary at the New York Society for Ethical Culture in New York City. Five-hundred enthusiastic supporters gathered to hear remarks by Robert McChesney, Grace Lee Boggs, John Bellamy Foster, Fred Magdoff, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Michael Tigar, and hear music by Toshi Reagon.

More than six decades ago, Paul Sweezy and his good friend, the labour journalist Leo Huberman, had long dreamed of founding a magazine offering a forum for insightful comment and analysis of world and national events from a specifically socialist perspective. The two already had a history of activism in the radical cauldron spawned by the Great Depression, the rise of the labour movement, and the World War II. By 1948, with the accelerating crises of Cold War and domestic repression – and with seed money from Sweezy's good friend and Harvard colleague, the literary historian and critic F.O. Matthiessen – they pressed forward with their plan for what would become Monthly Review.

Review of `Renegade: The Making of Barack Obama'

Renegade: The Making of Barack Obama
By Richard Wolfe, Virgin Books, London 2009

Review by Jeff Richards

October 14, 2009 – Whatever your views are about Barack Obama, there is no doubt that his campaign for the US presidency was a major milestone in the history of electoral politics in the United States. How did a senatorial rookie who was black, with an alien name and a background in community organising get to the centre of the system of power? It was both a matter of circumstance (the crises and failure of neoconservative project) and the remarkable political skills of Obama and the campaign team led by David Axelrod.

United States: `Birthers', `deathers' and haters -- Right-wing populism and liberal retreat


By Malik Miah, San Francisco

October 11, 2009 — The heat is on the administration of US President Barack Obama. The energised conservative base has taken over town hall meetings on health care. There are “birthers” (those who claim Obama is not a US citizen and ineligible to be president), “deathers” (those who claim Obama’s health care reform is a plan to kill old people) and just pure haters. Obama has been personally attacked as a racist, socialist, communist, Stalinist, fascist, Nazi, Pol Potist, foreigner and every other name the right finds in its vocabulary.

When Obama led the US delegation to Copenhagen to get his home town of Chicago the 2016 Olympics — and failed — he was attacked as “out of touch” by the right. When Chicago was knocked out in the first round of voting, the right gleefully cheered! The “country first” crowd forgot that a Chicago Olympics would be in the United States, not “Obama Land”.

John Bellamy Foster: Financial crisis, imperialism and environment -- `Socialism is humanity's best chance'

On September 17, 2009, John Bellamy Foster appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the financial meltdown, social change and democracy. Click HERE to read the transcript.

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A conversation with John Bellamy Foster, editor of the US-based socialist magazine Monthly Review, professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and co-author (with Fred Magdoff) of The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (Monthly Review Press, 2009). He was interviewed by Farooque Chowdhury for the Bangladesh daily newspaper New Age. It was published on September 8, 2009.

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Paul Robeson: `The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery'

Peekskill outrage, September 4, 1949.

[See below for a four-part documentary on Paul Robeson's life.]

By Harry Targ

On September 4, 1949, an angry crowd surrounded the 20,000 friends of Paul Robeson who had come to hear him in an open-air concert at Peekskill, New York. After the event right-wing, anti-communist inspired mobs attacked supporters who were leaving the event. These attacks included smashing the windows of Pete Seeger’s automobile with several family members inside. Sixty years later we remember the great progressive Paul Robeson, his struggles for justice, and his refusal to bow to the politics of reaction.

United States: Ted Kennedy -- The myth of the `liberal lion'

Ted Kennedy during his first campaign for US Senate in 1962.

By Lance Selfa

August 28, 2009 -- Democratic Party senator Ted Kennedy's political career reflects the course of US liberalism, from its heyday in the 1960s to its sorry state today.

For decades, Ted Kennedy was the bogeyman used by conservatives in their fundraising appeals to raise millions of dollars. To them, the liberal Kennedy seemed to represent everything they hated--there was no easier way to get a right-wing crowd booing and hissing than to mention Kennedy's name.

So it was more than a little jarring to hear conservatives sing Kennedy's praises for his "bipartisanship" in the wake of Kennedy's death from brain cancer on August 25.

"There is nobody else like him", Republican Senator Judd Gregg told the Associated Press. "If he had been physically up to it and been engaged on this [the current health-care reform debate], we probably would have an agreement by now."

Yeah, right.

The free-market fallacies of Ayn Rand

By Phil Hearse

August 22, 2009 -- Marxsite -- Most people sympathetic to radical politics outside the United States have probably never heard of Ayn Rand, and a brief introduction to her ultra pro-free market views would doubtless be enough to convince them they haven’t missed anything. Yet 27 years after her death, Ayn Rand continues to be seriously debated in the US, her books sell hundreds of thousands each year, her views are propagated by right wing think tanks and foundations and – bizarrely – Charlize Theron is in discussions to turn Rand’s 1088-page magnus opus Atlas Shrugged into a TV mini-series.

The Times Educational Supplement claimed in July that the Ayn Rand revival is gathering pace on US campuses. According to the TES:

United States: Race and class -- African Americans in a sick system

By Malik Miah

August 2009 -- The critical lack of quality and affordable health care is devastating for African Americans. Twice as likely as whites to go without health insurance, African Americans suffer chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes at an escalating rate. The root of the problem is not inferior Black — or better white — health care. It is first and foremost a class issue, exacerbated for Blacks and Latinos because of the institutional racism that still permeates society.

Only the wealthy can afford “the best medical care in the world”. Everyone else’s care is rationed by the employer or private plans that each can afford to buy, or if uninsured, by the use of “free” clinics and emergency rooms. The debate over the broken US health-care system and what to do about it is one of life and death.

Stubborn facts

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