Archive for October 4th, 2012

“The history of urban-based class struggles is stunning. The successive
revolutionary movements in Paris from 1789 through 1830 and 1848 to the Commune of 1871 constitute the most obvious nineteenth century example. Later events included the Petrograd Soviet, the Shanghai Communes of 1927 and 1967, the Seattle General Strike of 1919, the role of Barcelona in the Spanish Civil War, the uprising in Cordoba in 1969, and the more general urban uprisings in the United States in the 1960s, the urban based movements of 1968 (Paris, Chicago, Mexico City, Bangkok, and others including the so called “Prague Spring;’ and the rise of neighborhood associations in Madrid that fronted the anti-Franco movement in Spain around the same time). And in more recent times we have witnessed echoes of these older struggles in the Seattle antiglobalization protests of 1999 (followed by similar protests in Quebec City, Genoa, and many other cities as part of a widespread alternative
globalization movement) . Most recently we h ave seen m ass protests in
Tahrir Square in Cairo, in Madison, Wisconsin, in the Plazas del Sol in
Madrid and Catalunya in Barcelona, and in Syntagma Square in Athens,
as well as revolutionary movements and rebellions in Oaxaca in Mexico,
in Cochabamba (2000 and 2007) and El Alto (2003 and 2005) in Bolivia,
along with very different but equally important political eruptions in
Buenos Aires in 2001 -02, and in Santiago in Chile (2006 and 2011).

And it is not, this history demonstrates, only singular urban centers
that are involved. On several occasions the spirit of protest and revolt
has spread contagiously through urban networks in remarkable ways.
The revolutionary movement of 1848 may have started in Paris, but t he
spirit of revolt spread to Vienna, Berlin, Milan, Budapest, Frankfurt,
and many other European cities. Th e Bolshevik Revolution in Russia
was accompanied by the formation of worker’s councils and “soviets” in
Berlin, Vienna, Warsaw, Riga, Munich and Tur in, just as in 1968 it was
Paris, Berlin, London, Mexico City, Bangkok, Chicago, and innumerable
other cities that experienced “days of rage;’ and in some instances violent
repressions. The unfolding urban crisis of the 1960s in the United States
affected m any cities simultaneously. And in an astonishing but much underestimated moment in world history, on February 15, 2003 , several
million people simultaneously appeared on the streets of Rome (with
around 3 million, considered the largest anti-war rally ever in human
history) , Madrid, London, Barcelona, Berlin, and Athens, with lesser but
still substantial numbers (though impossible to count be cause of police
repression) in New York and Melbourne, and thousands more in nearly
200 cities in Asia (except China), Africa, and Latin America in a worldwide
demonstration against the threat of war with Iraq.  Described at
the time as perhaps one of the first expressions of global public opinion ,
the movement quickly faded, but leaves behind the sense that the global
urban network is replete with political possibilities that remain untapped
by progressive movements. Th e current wave of youth-led movements
throughout the world, from Cairo to Madrid to Santiago  to say nothing
of a street revolt in London, followed by an “Occupy Wall Street”
movement that began in New York City before spreading to innumerable
cities in the US and now around the world-suggests there is something
political in the city air struggling to be expressed.”

—  excerpted from REBEL CITIES by David Harvey order at our store and show vital and much-needed support for our projects!


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Clashes, protests and strikes have once again hit eurozone countries over harsh economic conditions and tough austerity measures in the bloc, Press TV reports.

Hundreds of protesting shipyard workers in Greece have broken into the grounds of the country’s Defense Ministry in Athens. The protestors pushed through the ministry gates attempting to enter the ministerial offices.

The shipyard workers say they have not been paid for several months, some remain unpaid for three years. The police forces have clashed with the protestors and have arrested and injured several workers.

Protests are becoming an everyday scene in Greece as the country battles with its economic crisis.

Greece has been at the epicenter of the eurozone debt crisis and is experiencing its fifth year of recession, while harsh austerity measures have left about half a million people without jobs.

One in every five Greek workers is currently out of work, banks are in a shaky position, and pensions and salaries have been slashed by up to 40 percent.

Meanwhile, in Italy the police that broke up protests days ago have gone on a protest themselves. Tens of Italian police officers and heads of labor unions rallied in front of the Ministry of Labor.

The move is in protest to Prime Minister Mario Monti’s austerity measures. The Italian government has cut the police budget and has increased the retirement age to 62.

This comes as Italy’s main cities were yesterday paralyzed due to a 24-hour strike staged by public transporters in protest to poor working conditions and the government’s failure to renew their contracts.

Over the past decade, Italy has been the slowest growing economy in the eurozone.

A transport strike, organized by several worker unions, is also in place in Portugal. The striking workers are angry about the government’s decision to increase taxes and introduce more cuts to public spending.

Various EU member states have been struggling with deep economic stagnancy since the bloc’s financial crisis began roughly five years ago. The debt crisis began in Greece and later spread to Ireland, Portugal and even the much bigger economy of Spain.

As a result, the member states started implementing tough austerity measures in a bid to prevent facing double-dip recessions.

The austerity measures have only resulted in growing anger among the most affected people, sacked or low-income workers and students.


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President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney met in their first presidential debate on Wednesday, exchanging the same arguments and accusations they had before. The tepid debate stressed the lack of choice the Americans are facing, analysts say.

­The debate centered on domestic issues, as both candidates basically repeated their election platforms and slogans while discussing jobs, the economy, and healthcare.

The Romney camp was thrilled with their performance, as liberals blasted Obama for being underwhelming. Romney’s campaign spokesman claimed that Governor Romney had won so clearly that “if this was a boxing match, the referee would have stopped it.” Obama analysts, for their part, while lamenting the missed opportunity to essentially stop the Romney campaign cold, also pointed out that Obama did not leave any weak spots to be attacked.

However, many Americans may well be confused as to what exactly the differences are between the two candidates, as the overlap of ideas between America’s two dominant political parties has reached a fever-pitch in recent elections cycles.

Obama and Romney have sparred publicly over one of the keystones of the 44th president’s administration: universal healthcare, or as it now more commonly known, “Obamacare”. Romney has stated time and again that he will repeal “Obamacare”, and that the centerpiece of the plan, “the individual mandate” that requires every American to purchase health care or suffer increasing tax penalties, places an unfair burden on the middle class.

“Obamacare is on my list,” Romney quipped in last night’s debate, as he reeled off a list of programs he wanted to cut. “When you look at Obamacare, the congressional budget office has said that it will cost $2,500 a year more than traditional insurance. So it’s adding to cost…It’s expensive. Expensive things hurt families.”

But voters get confused when they are reminded that the idea of the individual mandate has already been used – by Romney himself.

“The irony is, we’ve seen this model work very well – in Massachusetts,” Obama shot back, defending his plan. “Governor Romney did a good thing working with democrats in the state to set up what is essentially an identical model, and as a consequence, people are covered there, it hasn’t destroyed jobs, and we have a system where we can start bringing down costs as opposed to leaving millions of people out in the cold.”

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney introduced the Massachusetts Health Reform Law in 2006. “Romneycare” in many ways served as the de facto model for Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), and required all Massachusetts residents to buy health insurance coverage or face escalating tax penalties. That is, the mandate that Romney now calls unconstitutional was, in fact, championed by Romney himself six years ago.

That Obama adopted a Republican idea might reasonably anger many on the left. That the individual mandate is viewed by those on the right as the scourge of socialism proves how short American attention spans are and how broken the political system may actually be.

When talking about reducing the deficit and creating jobs in America, both candidates, overtly or otherwise, took aim at China, as if both understood the need to look tough against the world economic giant.

In order to cut spending and reduce the deficit, Romney said “I will eliminate all programs by this test: is the program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get rid of it. I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to keep borrowing money from China to pay for it.”

Obama seemed to say the same thing moments later, alluding to jobs being shipped overseas. “Part of the way to do that [reduce the deficit] is to not give tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas,” he said. “Right now you can actually take a deduction for moving a plant overseas. I think most Americans would say that doesn’t make sense.”

“You said you get a deduction for taking a plant overseas? Look, I’ve been in business for 25 years; I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Romney retorted minutes later. “Maybe I need to get a new accountant, but the idea that you get a break for shipping jobs overseas is simply not the case,” as if to imply the strange idea that transferring factory jobs to countries with cheaper labor would in no way affect a company’s bottom line.

And there are other examples that have left voters scratching their heads, trying to figure out who’s on the left and who’s on the right.

In 2008, Republican Senator and former POW John McCain regularly lambasted then-Democratic contender and presidential hopeful Obama for being weak on national defense.

But from the death of Osama Bin Laden to the ever-expanding drone war and NDAA, Obama has proven to be on par with several hawkish Republicans when it comes to keeping the country safe.

Obama even presided over a massive troop surge in Afghanistan while simultaneously executing an exit-strategy in Iraq.

Liberal commentator Rachel Maddow said on her eponymous show last month that there is a “responsible debate to be had here over the longest war in American history.”  With some 70 per cent of Americans saying the US should immediately withdraw Afghanistan, Maddow has a point, but there is no longer a party representing it.


Right, left, or center?

Perennial outsider and long-suffering third-party political candidate Ralph Nader has consistently argued that the current two-party system in America effectively presents the one agenda, providing no alternative for Americans.

From single-payer healthcare to a living wage, renegotiating NAFTA to imperialism, poverty and special tax breaks for corporations, Nader says the major beliefs of America remain chronically unrepresented by America’s political system.

“That’s the conundrum. A minority party fostering a majority agenda. The reason is that the two-party duopoly has every conceivable way to exclude and depress and harass a third party. Whether it’s ballot access. Whether it’s harassing petitioners on the street. Whether it’s excluding them from debates. Whether it’s not polling them. And with a two-party, winner-take-all electoral system, it’s easy to enforce all those. Unlike multi-party Western countries where you have proportional representation, the voters [in America] know that if you get 10 per cent of the vote, you don’t get anything. Whereas in Germany, you get 10 per cent of the parliament. So [German] voters say, ‘Let’s just vote for the least worst,’” he told Time Magazine in June.

Author and historian Gerald Horne believes that none of the sides is a perfect choice as the American voters are short on alternatives.

“What happens in the United States is that all the candidates of the left, such as the Green Party, are barred from this kind of presidential debate,” he told RT.

While the United States spends enormous amount of funds on “building democracy abroad, the candidates should focus on building democracy at home,” Horne argues. “These kinds of debates basically exclude the critiques of the present dilemmas and problems that the US people face, for example rising poverty, rising unemployment et cetera.”

Both sides in the debate raised the issue of China in connection with America’s economic problems.

“They don’t want to point the finger at themselves,” Horne says. While many US cities are trying to attract Chinese investment, both Obama and Romney are basically bashing China, he argues. “We all know that that’s just song and dance, that after the election they will both be knocking on China’s door.”


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