Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Come out on New Year's Day for our fundraiser:

January 1, 2011
The Buccaneer Lounge
1368 Monroe Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104

bands will start at 10 sharp

DJ Bennett will play requests for donations/feel free to bring your own music.
There will be homemade vegan cookies!

Let's build a socialist future together in Memphis.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How Does the Biggest Prison Strike in American History Go Unnoticed?

Georgia inmates' refusal to work in demand for humane treatment receives scant media coverage.

Mark Anthony Neal, TheLoop21

In September of 1971, more than a thousand prisoners at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica , NY revolted in what eventually became one of the most famous prison standoffs in American history. Before the insurrection was bloodily quelled on orders of then New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller, the prisoners demanded an improvement to the conditions that they were forced to live. In the midst of the Black Power Movement, Attica became a lasting symbol for demands for human and civil rights, even among the incarcerated.

In the spirit of Attica, nearly 40 years later, prisoners at six prisons in Georgia, organized a non-violent labor strike to demand better conditions for themselves. Specifically the inmates demanded a living wage for their work, educational opportunities, decent health care, an end to cruel and unusual punishment, decent living conditions, nutritional meals, opportunities for self-improvement (rehabilitation), access to their families and just parole decisions.

Perhaps even more remarkable than the strike, in which inmates shared information via text messaging on phones bought from prison guards, is that the strike went virtually unnoticed by mainstream American media. That so many chose to ignore what has been called the largest strike of its nature in American history, speak volumes to how Americans continue to think of the American Prison System or what scholars and activists have more commonly referred to as the “Prison Industrial Complex.” The inmates themselves have another word for their reality: “Slavery.”

Read the entire story at TheLoop21...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Crisis and Obama's Decline

The Crisis and Obama's Decline

by Rick Wolff - 

The economic crisis that Obama rode to victory in 2008 also rode him down in the 2010 elections. Obama and his economic advisors badly "mismanaged the crisis." While the Obama team seems to have learned little from its failure, we need to draw its lessons if we are to reduce the costly social consequences of that defeat.

Obama's administration decided to handle the severe crisis inherited from Bush by following standard Keynesian economics. It undertook massive new spending. First it bailed out banks and other large corporations (AIG in insurance, GM in automobiles, etc.). Then it "stimulated" the economy by boosting spending on goods and services by all levels of government. Standard Keynesian practice also includes not taxing corporations and the richest 10% of US taxpayers to raise the money for all that new spending. Instead, the government borrows that money to cover the difference -- the deficit -- between tax receipts and increased spending. (Super Keynesians like Paul Krugman want more spending and thus bigger deficits.)

No doubt Obama's team worried that large US corporations and the 10% richest individuals would react badly if they were taxed more to enable Washington to spend more. However much they contributed to the crisis and however much they benefit from government spending, corporations and the rich want others to pay for that spending. When have those two groups ever willingly behaved otherwise? They prefer lending to Washington over being taxed by Washington. So the Obama team spent more by borrowing more (much of it from the same corporations and rich people that it had not taxed).

Whenever governments run deficits by borrowing, corporations and the rich become concerned about a resulting problem: who will be taxed to pay the interest on the government's borrowings and to pay back the lenders? To make sure it would not be them, corporations and the rich shifted a significant amount of their political and financial support to Republicans for the mid-term elections. That shift aimed to ensure that no future taxation of business and the rich would force them to pay for deficits. In a capitalist crisis, that's how economic policy works when no organized opposition exists to prevent it.

As 2009 passed into 2010 and government deficits ballooned, the worries of corporate America and the rich deepened. They saw unemployment rise and stay around 10% and a flood of foreclosures eject millions from their homes. They saw Obama losing support from his electoral base as economic conditions kept deteriorating. They feared that he might be tempted (politically compelled) to regain his base's support by taxing corporations and the rich rather than middle and poorer citizens. Then some Obama remarks blamed Wall Street for helping to cause the crisis and criticized the high executive salaries in corporations receiving government aid. In response, a significant portion of corporations and the rich decided to block Obama from moving any further in such directions.

The way to do that was clear: help Republicans. They reliably oppose taxes on corporations and the rich by blocking all tax increases. Corporations especially interested in preventing Obama from other efforts to recoup his base -- such as regulating energy companies after the Gulf of Mexico disaster -- helped the Tea Party's total demonization of Obama and Washington. Media exposure for the Tea Party -- its activities and candidates -- became extraordinary and often quite favorable. Media attitudes toward Obama became much less sympathetic. Funds shifted to Republicans and lobbying against Obama's legislative efforts ramped up.

Obama's team ignored the classic flaw in Keynesian deficit spending policy: underestimating the political struggles over taxes. Middle and lower income individuals were desperate to ease the burdens of the recession on them, while corporations and the rich had no intention of accepting such burdens. As the crisis persisted (no drops in unemployment, foreclosures, job deterioration, etc.) and deficits soared, Obama's base felt increasingly betrayed as very little improved for them. Meanwhile, corporations and the rich shifted support toward Republicans in significant numbers. By mid-2010, it was already too late for Obama. The six months before the November elections were, for many Democrats, like watching an approaching car wreck from inside the car yet powerless to stop it.

Had Obama pursued a different set of policies from the beginning, he might at least have had a chance to avoid the November 2010, electoral results. At the peak of his popularity and support early in 2009, he might have used them to blunt the resistance of corporations and the rich to pay for the increased spending needed to overcome the crisis (and thereby reduce or eliminate the deficits). Only a massive, popular mobilization could frighten (persuade) them that paying all sorts of taxes and other costs of government programs was preferable to risking a mass anger and opposition that might demand far more basic social change at the expense of corporations and the rich. After all, it was massive popular mobilization that enabled FDR to do some of that in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Nowadays, when no trade union upsurge nor sizeable socialist and communist parties exist to mobilize a left opposition, Obama himself would have had to help build one to avoid the defeat he suffered this November.

Obama missed his chance. His advisors, said to include "experts on the Great Depression," misunderstand its political economy, consequently misadvised Obama, and thereby produced a political defeat. A new political formation able and willing to mobilize a majority around its interests is required. It could win a possible exit from the economic crisis by taxing corporations and the rich to enable increased government spending. That modest program would reduce or avoid deficits. Middle and lower income people would then face fewer or no cuts in public employment and services and no need for tax increases. With that program and with government spending focused on jobs and affordable housing, Obama might also have developed into a popular hero along the lines of FDR rather than become a shaky first-term President.

Rick Wolff is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and also a Visiting Professor at the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University in New York. He is the author of New Departures in Marxian Theory (Routledge, 2006) among many other publications. Check out Rick Wolff’s documentary film on the current economic crisis, Capitalism Hits the Fan, at www.capitalismhitsthefan.com. Visit Wolff's Web site at www.rdwolff.com, and order a copy of his new book Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do about It.

Red State Podcast: Episode Three

Listen to episode three of our Socialist Party of Kansas comrades' Red State Podcast.

This episode highlights perspectives rarely displayed by the media, including a constructive conversation with a Tea Party activist, a lecture on the degeneration of Soviet state capitalism in the 1990s, a discussion with Dan LaBotz on his successful campaign in Ohio, and a speech on the continuing relevance of Karl Marx given by Brian Jones of the ISO.

The Red State Podcast moves beyond slogans, soundbites and sectarianism to provide compelling political commentary.

Check out the Sunflower Socialists blog...


Press Release

Thousands of Georgia Prisoners Continue Peaceful Protest
Georgia Department of Corrections Responds with Violence

December 10, 2010…Atlanta, Georgia

Contacts: Elaine Brown, 404-542-1211, sistaelaine@gmail.com;
Valerie Porter, 229-931-5348, lashan123@att.net.

Yesterday morning, December 9, 2010, thousands of Georgia prisoners refused to work, stopped all other activities and locked down in their cells in a peaceful protest for their human rights. The December 9 Strike was the biggest prisoner protest in the history of the United States.

Thousands of men, from Augusta, Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, went on strike to press the Georgia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) to stop treating them like animals and slaves and institute programs that address their basic human rights. They have set forth the following demands:


Despite that the prisoners’ protest was non-violent, the DOC violently attempted to force the men back to work—claiming it was “lawful” to order prisoners to work without pay, in defiance of the 13th Amendment’s abolition of slavery. In Augusta State Prison, six or seven inmates were brutally ripped from their cells by CERT Team guards and beaten, resulting in broken ribs for several men, one man beaten beyond recognition. At Telfair, the Tactical Squad trashed all the property in inmate cells. At Macon State, the Tactical Squad menaced the men all day, removing some to the “hole,” and the warden ordered the heat turned off, and today, the hot water. Still, men at Macon, Smith, Augusta, Hays and Telfair State Prisons say they are committed to continuing the strike, one inmate stating, “We’re going to ride it until the wheel falls off. We want our human rights.”

When the strike began, prisoner leaders issued the following call: “No more slavery. Injustice in one place is injustice to all. Inform your family to support our cause. Lock down for liberty!”

Read more from the Black Agenda Report...

Read more from the New York Times...