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New book reveals the history of rubber: holocausts, environmental destruction and class struggle

The Devil’s Milk: A social history of rubber
By John Tully
Monthly Review Press, 2011

[Order the The Devil’s Milk from Monthly Review Press HERE. John Tully launched the book in Melbourne on February 17, at Readings Books, Carlton (309 Lygon St). He will also launch it in New York City on February 22, 7.30pm, at The Brecht Forum,  451 West Street.]

February 18, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- This new book from Monthly Review Press – by Australian socialist John Tully -- documents the history of rubber and the role it has played in the development of capitalism.

Rubber is an essential industrial material, although underappreciated by most of us, even though we are surrounded by it. Since its industrial uses began to be fully appreciated in the 1800s, the quest for rubber has been, in Tully’s words, “a paradigm of imperialism”.

Egypt’s uprising: Not just a question of ‘transition’

Anti-Mubarak graffitti on a tank.Tahrir Square. Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy.

By Adam Hanieh

February 14, 2011 -- The Bullet -- The events of the last few weeks are one of those historical moments where the lessons of many decades can be telescoped into a few brief moments and seemingly minor occurrences can take on immense significance. The entry of millions of Egyptians onto the political stage has graphically illuminated the real processes that underlie the politics of the Middle East.

It has laid bare the longstanding complicity of the US and other world powers with the worst possible regimes, revealed the empty and hypocritical rhetoric of US President Barack Obama and other leaders, exposed the craven capitulation of all the Arab regimes, and demonstrated the real alliances between these regimes, Israel and the USA. These are political lessons that will long be remembered.

Martin Hart-Landsberg: China and the jobs issue

"Approximately 90 per cent of China’s high technology exports to the US are produced by multinational corporations and many of them are being bought and sold in the US by other multinational retailers."

By Martin Hart-Landsberg

January 21, 2011 -- Reports from the Economic Front -- The president of China, Hu Jintao, just completed a visit to the United States and, not surprisingly, many people used the occasion to raise the jobs issue. The US economy continues to suffer from high unemployment. And the US continues to run an enormous trade deficit with China, a deficit that dwarfs any other bilateral deficit. The connection made is as follows: China is an unfair trader. Its state policies, including subsidies and labour repression, are a major reason for the destruction of the US manufacturing sector and jobs.

This nation-state framing encourages us to see US workers in direct competition with Chinese workers, with their gains largely coming at our expense. It also tends to promote a simple response: force China to quicken its embrace of market forces so that its economy will become more like ours. Unfortunately, this framing misleads more than it helps to clarify current economic dynamics. It also leads to a counterproductive response.

The futility of green capitalism: Interview with Daniel Tanuro

Interview with Daniel Tanuro, translated by Richard Fidler

January 17, 2011 -- Climate & Capitalism -- Daniel Tanuro’s new book, L’impossible capitalisme vert,or “The Futility of Green Capitalism”, is a major contribution to our analytical understanding of ecosocialism. Tanuro, a Belgian Marxist and certified agriculturist, is a prolific author on environmental history and policies.

Addressed primarily to the Green milieu, as the title indicates, this book is a powerful refutation of the major proposals advanced to resolve the climate crisis that fail to challenge the profit drive and accumulation dynamic of capital. Much of the book appears to be a substantially expanded update of a report by Tanuro adopted in 2009 by the leadership of the Fourth International as a basis for international discussion. That report was translated by Ian Angus and included in his anthology The Global Fight for Climate Justice.

Wikileaks, Karl Marx and you

By Alistair Davidson

December 23, 2010 -- Liberty and Solidarity -- Despite blanket media coverage of Wikileaks and Julian Assange, there has been little discussion of the fact that Assange is merely one leader within a large and complicated social movement. The better analyses have found it interesting that the Swedish Pirate Party are aiding Wikileaks; some note links to the German Chaos Computer Club. But only “geeks” and “hackers” (technology workers) are aware that all of these organisations are members of the same movement.

This social movement, which has been termed the “free culture movement”, has a 30-year history. It incorporates elements reminiscent of earlier workers’ movements: elements of class struggle, political agitation and radical economics. The movement’s cadre, mainly technology workers, have been locked in conflict with the ruling class over the political and economic nature of information itself. As Wikileaks demonstrates, the outcome will have implications for all of us.

Capitalism and degrowth: An impossibility theorem

By John Bellamy Foster

January 2011 -- Monthly Review -- In the opening paragraph to his 2009 book, Storms of My Grandchildren, James Hansen, the world’s foremost scientific authority on global warming, declared: “Planet Earth, creation, the world in which civilization developed, the world with climate patterns that we know and stable shorelines, is in imminent peril…The startling conclusion is that continued exploitation of all fossil fuels on Earth threatens not only the other millions of species on the planet but also the survival of humanity itself—and the timetable is shorter than we thought.”1

Why does health care in Cuba cost 96% less than in the US?

Claudia Lopez, an intern, with outpatients at 5 de Septiembre Polyclinic, Havana. Photo by Gail Reed/World Health Organisation.

By Don Fitz

January 5, 2011-- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When Americans spend $100 on health care, is it possible that only $4 goes to keeping them well and $96 goes somewhere else? Single payer health care [government-funded universal health insurance] advocates compare US health care to that in Western Europe or Canada and come up with figures of 20–30% waste in the US.

But there is one country with very low level of economic activity yet with a level of health care equal to the West: Cuba.

Life expectancy of about 78 years of age in Cuba is equivalent to the US. Yet, in 2005, Cuba was spending US$193 per person on health care, only 4% of the $4540 being spent in the US. Where could the other 96% of US health care dollars be going?

1. A fragmented system

What if the state of the world were measured by its majority?

What real democracy looks like: a communal council in Merida votes for its electoral commission in July 2010. Photo by Tamara Pearson.

By Tamara Pearson, Merida, Venezuela

December 30, 2010 -- Venezuelanalysis.com -- The rich and their golf courses. From their perspective the whole world is one -- a wonderland of hillocks and streams and games made just for them, watered without thought for drought, and the world’s poor nowhere to be seen. But a bit of the map has said it doesn’t want to be a golf course. The rich, sweaty and sulking, arm themselves with reports, statistics, surveys, foundations, institutes and “causes” and set out to prove that Venezuela is burning and broken, its economy rumbling, its health system out of order, and its politics repressive.

In fact, Venezuela has the worst economy in the world, according to a Newsweek study in August 2010.

Fred Magdoff: Creating an ecological civilisation

By Fred Magdoff

``It is inconceivable that capitalism itself will lead directly to an ecological civilization that provides the basic needs for all people. However, building an ecological civilization that is socially just will not automatically happen in post-capitalist societies. It will occur only through the concerted action and constant vigilance of an engaged population.''

January 2011 -- Monthly Review -- Given the overwhelming harm being done to the world’s environment and to its people, it is essential today to consider how we might organize a truly ecological civilization—one that exists in harmony with natural systems—instead of trying to overwhelm and dominate nature. This is not just an ethical issue; it is essential for our survival as a species and the survival of many other species that we reverse the degradation of the earth’s life support systems that once provided dependable climate, clean air, clean water (fresh and ocean), bountiful oceans, and healthy and productive soils.

Los seres humanos como centro de nuestro socialismo

[English at http://links.org.au/node/2042.]

Por Federico Fuentes, traducido por Janet Duckworth

Resena sobre libro, La alternativa socialista: el verdadero desarrollo humano, de Michael Lebowitz

Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- La llegada de la crisis económica mundial a mediados de 2008, simbolizada por el colapso de algunas de las empresas más icónicas de Wall Street, condujo a un incremento vertiginoso de las ventas de El Capital, la obra maestra de Carlos Marx, porque mucha gente buscó una explicación de los acontecimientos apocalípticos que se estaban desarrollando.

What the Dickens? — a tale of two Scrooges

By Christopher Phelps

"Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."
"Are there no prisons?", asked Scrooge.

"Plenty of prisons", said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

"And the union workhouses?", demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"

"They are. Still", returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."

"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?", said Scrooge.

"Both very busy, sir."

"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course", said Scrooge. "I am very glad to hear it."

In holiday advertisements and popular culture, Ebenezer Scrooge has come to stand as the symbol of insufficient seasonal zeal — and thus the hero of cynics who grumble, "Bah! Humbug!" when confronted by the madness of the waning month of the year.

Originally Scrooge was so much more: a cold-hearted tightwad whose selfish money-grubbing typified the rising social class of Victorian capitalism.

Putting humans back into socialism

Review by Federico Fuentes

The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development
By Michael Lebowitz
Monthly Review Press, 2010

December 5, 2010 -- Green Left Weekly -- The onset of the global economic crisis in mid 2008, symbolised by the collapse of some of Wall Street’s most iconic companies, led to soaring sales of Karl Marx’s seminal work Das Kapital, as many sought explanations to the tumultuous events unfolding. Although written more than 100 years ago, this devastating and insightful dissection of how capital functions is still a powerful tool for people looking to understand and change the world.

Marx’s aim was to provide a handbook for working-class activists that unravelled the logic of capital and its inherently exploitative nature. Marx said this was necessary because as long as workers did not understand that capital was the result of their exploitation, they would not be able to defeat their enemy.

The left cannot ignore China’s achievements, but neither can it be too celebratory

Rural poverty in China is much higher than urban poverty.

By Michael Karadjis

November 24, 2010 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- I strongly agree with Reihana Mohideen (“The left cannot ignore China’s achievement in poverty reduction), that the left cannot simply ignore China’s impressive achievements in poverty reduction and other related social development. I also agree very much with Reihana that the main source of China’s outstanding success as a Third World capitalist power is to be found in the Chinese revolution itself, despite the undoing of its socialist basis and the uncontrolled capitalist development that has taken its place.

I would make a few points about poverty reduction.

A century since Hilferding’s `Finanz Kapital' -- again, apparently, a banker’s world?

By Patrick Bond

November 19, 2010 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The power and reach of financial institutions, not to mention the resulting superprofits, are the source of widespread, often extreme frustration. Industrialists, small businesspeople, government leaders, workers, consumers, environmentalists, the Greeks and Irish (and similar Third Worlders), and indeed all debtors have suffered usurious, speculative or bailout-related decimation of their resources over the past thirty years.

A shared critique of banks today, we’d all agree, includes: too much control, too much out-of-control investing, and too much revolving-door crony capitalism connecting financiers to state “regulators”, of which the Wall Street-Washington crew appear the most corruptly profligate.

Video: `The Story of Electronics' -- Designed for the dump (from the makers of `The Story of Stuff')

 

November 10, 2010 -- From the makers of The Story of Stuff and the The Story of Cap and Trade, Annie Leonard presents the latest episode in the series, The Story of Electronics. Like the first film, Leonard simply explains in plain English how an economy based on endless production of commodities for profit's sake creates waste and pollution and poisons people and the planet. While she urges consumers to make wiser choices when they shop, she also points out that it is the nature of the present system of ownership and production, and its lack of adequate regulation, that has to be changed to really make a difference. You can download the annotated script of The Story of Electronics HERE.

`Productivism' or liberation? Socialists debate consumerism

By Ben Courtice, Melbourne

November 2, 2010 -- In a recent seminar on trade unions and the climate movement, I observed a surprising disagreement between some of the socialists present. It was started by a comment from Melbourne University academic (and Socialist Alliance activist) Hans Baer, who suggested that the “treadmill of production and consumption” had to be challenged, that we need to challenge consumerism and the alienation of work that makes people buy things to feel better.

Liz Ross of Socialist Alternative took umbrage at this, declaring that workers should create and enjoy wonderful technological products, tearing down a straw figure that Hans was supposedly arguing to stultify the creativity of the working class.

Turning the tide of oil in US and world politics

By Dan La Botz

October 22, 2010 -- The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico represents the latest in a series of atrocities committed by petroleum companies against the environment and against humanity. Yet, terrible and tragic as the BP spill is, it is merely a marginal event in the long and sordid history of the oil companies in US and world history. The petroleum companies have been at the centre of US politics for a hundred years, determining its domestic agenda, its environmental policy and its foreign policy. To be a US politician was to be baptised in oil. To be an admiral or a general was to be a warrior around the globe for the petroleum industry.

Foreign policy

By the 1920s, with the rise of the internal combustion engine and the automobile, and the conversion of the US Navy from coal to oil, petroleum became the most sought after commodity in the world. Oil became a strategic commodity, a necessity of modern life and modern warfare. From that time on, the oil corporations moved to the centre of US politics. President Warren G. Harding’s cabinet was known as the “oil gang”, and the cabinet-level corruption involved in the attempt of private parties and corporations to get at the navy oil reserves led to the Teapot Dome scandal, for which Harding’s administration is best remembered.

Grameen Bank and `microcredit': The `wonderful story' that never happened

Mohammad Yunus accepts the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

Far from being a panacea for fighting rural poverty, microcredit can impose additional burdens on the rural poor, without markedly improving their socio-economic condition, write Patrick Bond and Khorshed Alam.

October 21, 2010 -- Pambazuka News -- For years, the example of microcredit in Bangladesh has been touted as a model of how the rural poor can lift themselves out of poverty. This widely held perception was boosted in 2006 when Mohammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, the microfinance institution he set up, jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize. In South Asia in particular, and the world in general, microcredit has become a gospel of sorts, with Yunus as its prophet.

Consider this outlandish claim, made by Yunus as he got started in the late 1970s: "Poverty will be eradicated in a generation. Our children will have to go to a `poverty museum' to see what all the fuss was about."

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