Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’

Golden Dawn

Konstantinos Georgousis (2013)

Review

Golden Dawn is a remarkable documentary tracing the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Greece. Despite their role in several high profile murders, Golden Dawn has held 18 seats in the Greek parliament since 2012.

Their rapid rise to power relates in large part to dire austerity measures the European Union has imposed on Greece. With 28% unemployment (55% youth unemployment) and drastic pension cuts, many starving Greek citizens join Golden Dawn because of their free food distribution programs.

However as Georgousis makes clear, the strong support Golden Dawn enjoys from police (who openly admit to being members), the media, the Greek Orthodox Church and Greek security services is even more instrumental. In all respects the parallels with Nazi Germany are chilling.

Golden Dawn is notorious for openly beating up and murdering both illegal and legal immigrants – with the police looking on and, in many cases arresting legal immigrants instead of perpetrators.

Only anarchist groups have tried to protect immigrants from these attacks. When they do so, the police step in and arrest, beat and torture them.

In 2012, following the murder of a high profile Greek national, the Greek government finally arrested four Golden Dawn leaders on a charge of criminal gang activity. However instead of stripping them of their parliamentary seats, they then directed Greek jail staff to transport them between jail and Parliament.

What I found most remarkable about the documentary is its excellent footage of actual Golden Dawn meetings and its in-depth interviews with some of its members.

Hidden History: How the Gladio Assassinations of Alfred Herrhausen and Detlev Rohwedder Turned Eastern Europe into a Wall Street Sweatshop

Late Pentagon and intelligence inside Col Fletcher Prouty was the first to raise the alarm that the 1989 assassination of Deutche Bank president Alfred Herrhausen was intelligence-related. This was two decades before the CIA/NATO’s secret Operation Gladio* assassination program became common public knowledge. Although officials on both sides of the Atlantic blamed the so-called Red Army Faction, the extremely sophisticated bomb that killed Herrhausen was well beyond the expertise of amateur extremists.

In a 1992 interview with the Italian Newspaper Unita Prouty states “Some great power center wanted for some reason to get rid of the board spokesman of Deutsche Bank on that day and in that manner, in order to teach others a lesson. So there is a message in the way he was killed.” He adds,“When you consider the great importance of events in the Soviet Union, in Eastern Europe, and especially in Germany . . . then the Herrhausen assassination is tremendously significant. We must not allow it to be swept under the rug.”

In Prouty’s view, the key to the Herrhausen assassination, occurring three months after the fall of the Berlin wall, was his revolutionary proposal to found a Polish development bank, modeled on the German Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau, which played a crucial role in the postwar economic reconstruction of Germany.

What Went Wrong with East Germany?

Economist and historian William Engdahl would explore the Herrhausen assassination in more depth in a 1992 article entitled What Went Wrong with East Germany. The article points out that Herrhausen’s banking views differed significantly from those of the US/British banking establishment.

Herrhausen, recruited by Chancellor Helmut Kohl to assist in planning the economic reunification of Germany, was a champion of third world debt forgiveness. Poland’s debt service burden to help stimulate development in former eastern bloc economies. He also argued strongly for a slow process of German reunification, one that would make full use of East German worker’s superior technological education and skill level. This approach would stimulate East German industrial infrastructure development while simultaneously protecting East Germans against a sudden loss of social supports they enjoyed under the communist regime. Most controversially he proposed to build a high speed rail link connecting Paris, Hanover, Berlin, Warsaw and Moscow.

The 1991 Assassination of Treuhand Chief Detlev Rohwedder

Instead of taking 10 years, as Herrhausen proposed, following his murder, the process of German monetary and economic union was compressed down to one year. In June 1990, Kohl appointed Detlev Rohwedden to head the government created company Treuhandanstalt to oversee the disposition of the entire East German economy. From the outset, Rehwedder, who shared Herrhausen’s vision of East German infrastructure development, was in constant battle with the western banking establishment and other members of Kohl’s cabinet. He insisted on modernizing East German state industries to make them economically viable, whereas the Anglo/American banking establishment sought to simply dump them onto the open market for private investors to buy up.

In his final interview five days before his death, he announced victory – a vital Treuhand policy change from that of immediate privatization to one emphasizing the rehabilitation of existing industries to make them more competitive.

On April 2 1991, Rohwedder was assassinated by a so-called “RAF third generation” sniper who left no forensic traces to his identity. Within weeks of his death, Rohwedder’s Treuhand policy was quietly reversed under new leadership.

The doors of Treuhand were opened to a host of management consultants to pick over the 81,000 East German companies under Treuhand and prepare them for rapid sell-off. Western firms were offered large incentives to buy former East German state owned firms only to shut them down, fire the work force, or use them in similar jobs at a fraction of what western workers would get.

The social consequences of this new Treuhand policy were staggering. In summer 1992, the real level of unemployment (including half time workers) in former East Germany was 40% of the work force.


*Operation Gladio was part of a post-World War II program set up by the CIA and NATO supposedly to thwart the influence of left-wing groups and politicians in electoral politics in Western Europe. They were notorious for false flag operations in which bombings and assassinations were blamed on fictitious communist groups such as the “Red Brigages” and the “Red Army Faction.” The existence of Gladio was confirmed and admitted by the Italian government in 1990, after a judge, Felice Casson, discovered the network in the course of his investigations into right-wing terrorism.

 

Can We Do It Ourselves? A Film About Economic Democracy

Patrick Witkowsky, Jesper Lundgren, Andre Nystrom and Nils Safstrom (2015)

Swedish with English subtitles

Film Review

“Economy democracy” describes a system in which workers control the workplace and determine the policies under which it runs. The workers cooperative is the best known model of economic democracy.

The filmmakers begin by differentiating capitalism from a free market economy and economic democracy from socialism – as many people confuse these terms. Under capitalism private capitalists own the capital to run a business and enter into a rental contract with workers to perform the labor. Under this system the capitalists own and control the business and keep all the profits.

With a worker cooperative, workers own and control the business and enter into a rental contract with labor to provide capital. They pay the capitalists for using their money but maintain ownership of the business and control of production. They also decide how profits will be distributed.

Under socialism, the capital is “socialized.” Theoretically this means workers own an equal share of the entire economy. In practice, this has generally translated into state control of the workplace, as opposed to worker control.

This film focuses on the day-to-day operation of two 30-year-old American cooperatives. The first is Massachusetts-based Equal Exchange, founded in 1986. The second is New York-based Cooperative Home Care Associates. The latter was founded in 1985 and has 2,300 member-employees.

The filmmakers also interview various academics, activists, business leaders and trade unions officials regarding their research and experience with cooperatives.

The part of the film I found most interesting was an analysis of how monopoly capitalism distorts the free market. Our present economic system actually consists of three markets: the consumer (goods and services) market, the labor market and the capital market. Only the consumer market operates democratically, in being driven by consumer choice. The goal of economy democracy is to democratize the labor and capital markets, which are controlled at present controlled by a tiny capitalist elite.

Because workers have virtually no say into their work and receive minimal direct benefit from it, capitalists must use the fear of being fired to force them to work. This is only possible in economies with high levels of unemployment and poverty. Historically the corporate elites have deliberately manipulated monetary and fiscal policy to keep unemployment rates high.

Once workers own and run their own companies, unemployment and poverty are no longer necessary to motivate them. Thus full employment is one of the most important benefits of economic democracy.

***

I was really touched by this review, by a teen blogger, of my young adult novel. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling that “teenage-related problems” made the book seem more real for her. Her revelation that she has never read a book like this also grabbed me. I guess it’s pretty rare to encounter books on protest and political change in modern bookstores and libraries.

smoking

As a doctor, I’m well aware of the negative health effects of smoking. Studies show a life time of smoking subtracts an average of ten years from your life expectancy. I’m also aware of the considerable health costs of treating smoking-related illnesses, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease and stroke. Other studies suggest that non-smokers actually generate higher health care costs because they live ten years longer. This research receives limited publicity. The Center for Disease Control prudently chooses not to promote the cost savings associated with premature death.

Owing to a chronic sinus condition, I’m also painfully aware of the effects of second hand smoke. Prior to the public ban on smoking, I had no choice but to avoid public areas (restaurants, bars, theaters and even airplanes) where smoking was likely to occur.

The Stigmatization of Smokers

However, as an organizer and civil libertarian, I’m also extremely wary the increasing stigmatization of smokers – especially when I read that employers are using “smoker status” as a justification for not hiring people. In this regard, I think the right wing may be justified in labeling liberals who lobby for smoking bans as “green fascists.” In an era were corporate and government interests are looking for every possible opportunity to pit working Americans against one another, it’s counterproductive to be hypercritical of lifestyle choices.

Most progressives know better than to stigmatize the unemployed and homeless. Yet many of us don’t give a second thought about villainizing smokers, alcoholics, fat people – and, might I add, gun owners. All four are popular targets right now. I blame this on liberals’ willingness to embrace what is essentially conservative ideology – the need to take “personal responsibility” for our lives.

The Cult of Personal Responsibility

Taking “personal responsibility” simply ain’t going to cut it right now. Not for millions of unemployed Americans, nor the million plus homeless, nor for thousands of families facing imminent foreclosure and/or eviction. And singling out designated groups for bad lifestyle choices distracts us from the real problem in the US – a concerted attack by Wall Street and our corporate-controlled President and Congress on working people.

Decades of epidemiological research (see prior blog on Dr Stephen Bezruchka) show that lifestyle choices account for only 10% of the causation of illness. If we’re really serious about improving Americans’ abysmal health status (near the bottom for industrial countries), it’s time to address the real cause of poor health. Study after study shows a direct link between their extreme income disparity and Americans’ high rate of both acute and chronic illness.

It’s time to focus on the real problem – the corporate deregulation and tax cuts responsible for extreme income equality in the US. Instead of scapegoating smokers and fat people.

photo credit: cszar via photopin cc

Rebel cover

A Rebel Comes of Age – release date Dec 21, 2013

Another Excerpt from my young adult novel (from Chap 22)

When Clemente finally took the microphone, the stretch of McDonough between Patchen and Malcolm X was wall-to-wall people. The hip-hop activist, an attractive, thirty-something Latino woman with short, curly black hair and enormous gold ear loops, wore a dark blue hoodie in honor of Trayvon Martin.

“Brothers and sisters, look at us,” she proclaimed. “When hip hop fights back, watch out.” At this, the crowd broke into ecstatic applause, accompanied by whistling and cheering. When the uproar died down, she called up all eighteen Freedom House residents and their sixteen Mandela House counterparts and lined them up on either side of her. “This isn’t a building we’re fighting for today. We’re here to support this phenomenal group of young people. They are our soul and conscience. Like Van Jones says, it’s time to change from fighting against something to fighting for something. No matter what we believe, what we all want, nothing advances or happens without organizing. Lots of it.”

Reverend McLeod came to the stage in a dark gray ski jacket rather than his usual suit and overcoat. Ange assumed that this was to distinguish between his activist and ministerial role. He began by complaining how sick he was of Wall Street’s longstanding pattern of theft from the African American community.

“Yah suh,” a woman in the front row came back, as if they were in church.

“First, it was our supermarkets, then our schools and now our homes. Surely the time has come to say enough.”

“Um-hmn,” the woman agreed.

“The time has surely come,” another woman echoed.

“Marches and rallies aren’t enough to check this power. The time has come, brothers and sisters, to put our bodies on the line. As Reverend Martin Luther King did. People of conscience are called on to break unjust laws, just like our brothers and sisters in Occupy Brooklyn who secured a home for brother Carasquillo and his family.”

He paused dramatically for this to sink in. “Where will you be, brothers and sisters, when the sheriff comes to put these young people out in the street? Will you all be comfortably at home watching American Idol or whatever nonsense they are showing now? Or will you be here with them?” His voice soared. “I tell you where I will be, brothers and sisters. I will be here in front of this building. No matter if the sheriff’s officers come at dinner time or midnight or three in the morning, they will have to walk through me.” He paused again. “Who will join me?”

The reaction from the crowd was stunned silence, followed by quiet murmuring. When Ange turned to look around, she saw the ten live-in protestors and six Occupy activists tentatively raise their hands. “Um-hmn-um,” McLeod vocalized reprovingly. “Looks to me like a long, lonely night.”

***

A Rebel Comes of Age can be pre-ordered from the following links:

Cover photo credit: sand_and_sky via photopin cc

Rebel coverRelease date: Dec 21, 2013

Prologue (excerpt)

Ange’s skin crawled as Phillip placed the M16 in her arms. The gun was cold and unnaturally smooth. It smelled like burnt rubber. Then he left her alone with PJ, a tall, thin, forty-something with wavy, shoulder length black hair and a long, unkempt beard. The small unheated barn, with its dirt floor, was virtually empty except for a large utility table covered in scratches and stains. PJ had a laptop plugged into a socket that hung from the ceiling on a cord. He played her a video of a young woman disassembling an M16A2. The woman, who was white, had dark brown hair and wore a plain white tee shirt. Two men in uniform shirts stood on either side timing her. She looked up at them triumphantly as she set the last part on the table.

PJ was dressed in faded overalls fastened over a bulky gray cardigan and two sweatshirts. Ange could see them at the collar line—one gray and one dark blue.

“You see that?” He dragged out his vowels with a singsong intonation. Lacey said he was from Appalachia. “Two minutes ten seconds.”

He clicked replay and they watched the video again. Then he closed the laptop, shoved it aside, and replaced it with a glossy black and white poster depicting the M16 parts in the order they were to be removed.

“Okay. You do it now.”

Copying the woman in the video, Ange turned the weapon over to find the safety. Then removing the magazine to check the chamber, she removed the bolt carrier group. Laying the receiver and charging handle on the table, she broke the BCG down by removing the bolt retaining cotter pin, bolt and firing pin.

“Well done. Now reassemble it.”

She repeated the entire process three times. Then Phillip returned with a pair of ear protectors and safety glasses and took her to the firing area. A mixed race Haitian, he was slightly taller than PJ. He wore his hair in long dreadlocks, and Ange guessed he was somewhere in his early forties. Phillip’s face was long and narrow with deeply set eyes, a large hooked nose, thin lips, a sparse, untrimmed beard, and permanent creases on his forehead and around his eyes. Like many of Ange’s activist friends, he dressed in an assortment of free and secondhand clothes. Today he was wearing dark blue track pants, a mangy leather jacket that looked like it had been through the washing machine, and a woolen maroon cap that covered his forehead and ears.

Ange had hoped that PJ would take her for target practice. She didn’t like or trust Phillip. He didn’t seem to like teenagers very much. His desire to work with them puzzled her. She strongly sensed he had some ulterior agenda that had nothing to do with empowering the homeless youth of Bedford-Stuyvesant. She was also convinced it was his idea—not Fabio’s—that they use weapons to defend themselves against the impending eviction.

Occupy Homes, like Occupy Wall Street and other left-leaning movements, had always opted for nonviolent methods in confronting the police. Although Bank of America had yet to acknowledge the teenagers had taken over the abandoned Credit Union building, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the bank obtained an eviction order.

Recruiting and training teenagers to shoot automatic weapons wasn’t normal, no matter how radical you were. Lacey said that military-style assault rifles were illegal in New York State, that PJ most likely belonged to some right wing militia. She gave no clue—and Ange didn’t ask—how she knew these things. Ange assumed the ex-boyfriend who taught Lacey to shoot was the source of information.

Lacey and Geneva were already outside in the firing area. They lay side by side aiming at multicolored concentric circles attached to straw bales. Phillip directed Ange to lie down next to them. Gritting her teeth, Ange did as she was told, determined to block out the churning nausea in her gut with sheer force of will. The sooner she learned to do this, the sooner she could end the firearms lessons and this whole sordid chapter of her life.

A Rebel Comes of Age can be pre-ordered from the following links:

  • Kindle edition available after Dec 15

Cover photo credit: sand_and_sky via photopin cc