Saturday, April 25, 2015

Gallipoli 1915: Thousands died in Colonial war.

Gallipoli 1915: When 120,000 Men Died and 250,000 were Wounded for Colonial Plunder

Collage smallestP

published: 25 April 2015  by The Socialist Network

Intro: by the TSN Editor

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the invasion by British and French empire forces of Gallipoli, on the Western coast of what is now Turkey. The object of the invasion was to capture Istanbul (Constantinople), the capital, and thereby seize vast tracts of territory from the Ottoman empire. The military campaign which lasted seven months was a disastrous and bloody failure, hampered by arrogant leadership and poor planning on the Allied side, and fierce defensive resistance from the Turkish side.

In the media coverage currently filling TV screens there is much talk of the bravery of the British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers but no reference to the fact that this was an invasion organised purely for colonial conquest. And the invading Allied forces are somehow put on the same moral level as the Ottoman troops who were only defending their homeland.

Below is a short video made by Australian directors John Rainford and Peter Ewer which puts a very different perspective on the Gallipoli campaign from that of the capitalist media:

Gallipoli: Australia and its wars.

Left: Native peoples of Australia and the Americas were slaughtered by the colonial and imperialist powers like Britain so the wealth and resources of these countries and peoples could be looted. And the young people of Australia were sent abroad to fight for these same colonial and imperialist powers against their rivals such as Turkey and the Ottoman empire. This was Gallipoli. 

By Chester Harris.

Australia this weekend celebrates the centenary of one of its greatest military defeats. The battle of Galipoli in the Dardanelles, Turkey at the beginning of the great war is often described as the cauldron in which the nation came of age. How a nation should find its Identity in defeat upon a blood stained battlefield in the service of its colonial master is a question being raised by some, while the majority wax lyrical about courage, perseverance and sacrifice. The politicians jump on the bandwagon and the youth are starry eyed with visions of glory.

Altogether they solemnly declare “LEST WE FORGET” and the myth of ANZAC is perpetuated I prefer to say “Lest we selectively forget”. It's all very fine to remember a uniformed young digger paying the ultimate price for the benefit of our wonderful freedom, but if we are to remember war in it's real dimensions, there are things that really deserve not forgetting Namely Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, Nanjing, the fire bombing of Tokyo, the Holocaust and the Spanish flue to name just a few of the events that claimed and destroyed innocent lives in the pursuit of honour and glory. The most forgotten of them all are the frontier wars in the Americas and Australia, the latter of which claimed a greater percentage of innocent Australian lives than any other. It would appear that the most successful operation of this war was launched in Port Jackson in April 1789 by our first unknown Soldier. Unlike Galipoli, It was, in military terms, an unqualified success, but a terrible loss to Australia.

Unlike the debacle at Galipoli, this one did profoundly effect the shape that our country took and is arguably the one that most contributed to our unique present way of life. It may be 100 years since Galipoli, but it's 217 years since war first started to shape  Australian society.

I think that it is time that we considered looking at war from the same perspective that abolitionists saw slavery in the nineteenth century or more recently how reformists, in increasing numbers worldwide see capital punishment. Can we, in a civilised society, allow Greedy old men and reckless young ones to continually inflict so much misery on our populations in the name of love and glory? Australia has not come of age and it will not come of age until it acknowledges its past.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Freddy Gray. US Police: A brutal State Apparatus. "Rough Rides."

Sean O'Torrain.   From Buzzfeed. 

The death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore police custody on April 12 has brought renewed attention to a police practice known as “rough rides,” offering the latest evidence that they may not be a relic of past.

One former Baltimore police officer told BuzzFeed News he first learned about “rough rides” from the older veteran officers who drove the police wagons. A rough ride is when officers put a handcuffed suspect in the back of a police wagon without strapping on their seatbelt, then drive around making sudden turns and stops, jostling the suspect. It’s also called a “nickel ride” because of the way the suspect bounces around in the back like in an amusement park attraction.

“[A rough ride] wasn’t necessarily something that was done on the regular, but it wasn’t something that totally surprised me,” the former officer said. “If a person runs, there’s an expectation for some [officers] that they’re going to get beat for it. A ‘foot tax’ is the term people would use.”

Officers arrested Gray after a foot chase, then placed him into a police van. A video capturing a portion of the arrest showed that officers had to drag Gray to the wagon. According to the police account, Gray was breathing and conscious then. At some point in custody, Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury, and he died a week after the arrest, sparking protests and allegations of police brutality. A lawyer for his family claimed that the fatal injury occurred while Gray was riding in the wagon, and that Gray did not have a seatbelt on. On Thursday, the Baltimore Sun noted that Gray was “not the first to come out of [a] Baltimore police van with serious injuries.” And Baltimore was not the first police department to get in trouble over nickel rides.

“The old timers, they would talk about that term and they would say back in the day when somebody would be mouthing off, they would give ‘em the rough ride,” the former officer said. “They didn’t talk about it like they still did it.”

Rough rides have drawn scrutiny since at least the early 1980s, when the American Civil Liberties Union sued the city of Chicago for the police department’s use of the tactic. The city settled the suit in 1985 and agreed to replace the vans with a safer model that had roller coaster–type lap bars to ensure passengers would be strapped to their seats.

Years later, in 2001, a Philadelphia Inquirer investigation revealed that the rough rides had cost the city $2.3 million in settlements with passengers who had been injured in the back of police wagons. Though the department issued new rules requiring that police put seatbelts on wagon passengers, the practice apparently continued. In 2011, James McKenna won a $490,000 settlement with Philadelphia after he claimed that he had broken his neck during a rough ride. Police had said that McKenna broke his neck banging his head against the bars of his jail cell.

Baltimore, as the Sun noted, has also faced relatively recent allegations of punishing suspects with nickel rides. In 1997, Jeffrey Alston ended up paralyzed after his time in the back of a police wagon. A jury awarded him a $39 million verdict. In 2005, Dondi Johnson, who had been arrested for public urination, broke his neck during a ride in the van, and he died two weeks later from complications related to the injury. Johnson’s family won a $7.4 million jury verdict.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts suspended the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest and announced that the department was investigating the incident. On Friday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told reporters that she was “determined to get to the bottom of it.” This week protesters marched through Baltimore demanding answers to what caused Gray’s death and punishment for the officers responsible.

“I’ve never seen the outrage at this level,” said Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, who has been among those protesting police brutality in the city. “I’ve never seen this kind of outpouring in a public demonstration in Baltimore.”

Austerity: has it worked?

by Michael Roberts

Most governments in capitalist economies have engaged in what is loosely called ‘austerity’ policies since the end of the Great Recession in 2009.  More precisely, austerity policies are those where the government aims to reduce its annual deficit on spending and revenues and shrink the overall debt burden, plus introduce ‘reforms’ to weaken the labour rights and conditions at work to keep wage costs down for the capitalist sector.  The fiscal part of these austerity measures mainly involved cutting back on government spending, both in public sector employment, wages, public services and investment projects.

Those economists and governments that advocated austerity claimed that by getting debt ‘under control’, costs would be reduced and companies would invest, consumers would spend and economies would recover quickly.  Keynesians and others who opposed these measures reckoned that austerity would drive down ‘aggregate demand’ as government spending was cut, taxes raised and wages held down.  The way out of the crisis was to borrow more, not less and spend more not less.
The debate continues.  In my view, both sides are right and wrong.  See my posts on this: and

The Austerians recognise that the key to a capitalist economy recovering is to reduce costs for the capitalist sector by cutting wages and government taxation so that profitability can rise.  Raising wages or increasing government sending, as the Keynesians advocate, would reduce profitability at a time when it needs to rise.  However, the Keynesians recognise that, once an economy is in a slump and labour incomes are falling, cutting them further can worsen the fall in consumer spending and investment demand and for some time.  It’s not quite Catch 22; but looks like it for a while.

In a recent study, the IMF considered the question of whether austerity worked.  The IMF found that if governments did not spend too much when economies were growing and spent more when economies were in a slump, then this would act as a counter-cyclical buffer to the volatility of the capitalist sector.  The IMF quantified this effect as cutting “output volatility by about 15 percent, with a growth dividend of about 0.3 percentage point annually”.  The IMF optimistically reckoned that “Stability, growth and debt sustainability could all greatly benefit if measures that destabilize output, such as spending increases in good times, were avoided”.
fiscal stabilisation
But this is the classic sort of fiscal management policy advocated by mainstream economics back in the 1960s that supposedly was the answer to controlling capitalist booms and slumps.  Governments could smooth economic fluctuations by judicious (and even automatic) fiscal ‘stabilisers’.  Yet this policy (in so far as it was even implemented) proved a total failure during the 1970s, when the major capitalist economies experienced inflation and unemployment together and government fiscal management failed.  Indeed, governments probably increased volatility by stimulating or applying austerity at the wrong times.

Anyway, has austerity worked in getting economies to recover quicker since 2009 or have austerity measures made it worse?  See the graph below covering 30 advanced capitalist economies for changes in real GDP growth and reductions in government budgets since 2010 (from .  The further to the right a country, the more austerity there has been – with Greece leading the way.  The further up the graph a country is, the more growth there has been since 2010.
austerity and growth
The graph trendline appears to show that tightening the budget by one percent of GDP cuts about half a percentage point off the growth rate, even if we omit Greece.  But the correlation is not very strong.  The US underwent more fiscal consolidation than the UK in 2010-2014, but it also had better growth. On the other hand, the countries of the Eurozone, on average, grew more slowly than the OECD average despite a similar average level of austerity.  So other factors than the fiscal policies of governments were much more important for post Great Recession growth (see my post,

As for the other arm of austerity, ‘labour market reform’ (i.e. weakening trade unions, increasing the ability of employers to hire and fire at will, deregulating contracts and hours and job qualifications), have they worked?  These measures are advocated by the IMF, the OECD and by the European institutions in their current negotiations with Greece.  Well, a new study by IMF economists found no evidence that “deregulatory labour market reforms could have a positive impact in increasing economies’ growth potential”.  What they found was that more competition among capitalists in markets and higher investment spending contributed much more to boosting productivity than squeezing the conditions for the workforce.

What the IMF did not consider was that while more investment in new technology might raise productivity per worker more, cutting wage costs and weakening labour’s bargaining power can deliver more profitability quicker.  It might be short-sighted, but the capitalist mode of production does not take the long view.

In short, austerity has not worked in restoring trend economic growth, although it has not made things much worse either.  The problem is that cutting wage costs and holding back on government investment and spending has not sufficiently restored profitability and reduced debt to allow a significant rise in new investment.  But the alternative policy of Keynesian-type government spending might have helped labour a little, but it would not have boosted investment and growth either, as it would have lowered profitability.  Governments appear helpless to change things either way.  Another recession may do the trick

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

1.5 Million Black Men “Missing”

We reprint this article from The Black Agenda Report

 We Charge Genocide: 1.5 Million Black Men “Missing”

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Where did all the Black men go? Analysis of population data shows so many Black males have gone to prison, died of disease of accidents, or by violence, that Black females in many communities outnumber Black men by ratios of 6 to 10. A national policy of mass Black incarceration is the primary factor – a factual basis for a charge of genocide.

We Charge Genocide: 1.5 Million Black Men “Missing”

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

There are more Black men missing from their communities than the combined Black male populations of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington and Boston.”
A new analysis of population data confirms what has long been obvious to every minimally conscious Black person in the United States: a huge proportion of the Black male population is missing, physically absent from the daily life of the community. Many are prematurely dead, but the largest group has been consigned to the social death of incarceration. According to a study by the Upshot unit of the New York Times, when prison inmates of both sexes are taken out of the equation, there are now 1.5 million more Black women in the country, age 25 to 54, than there are Black men. In some locations – for example, Ferguson, Missouri – there are only six Black men physically present in the community for every ten Black women.

In white America, there is almost no imbalance in gender among the 25 to 54 age group. For every 100 white women, there are 99 white men.

There are more Black men missing from their communities than the combined Black male populations of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington and Boston. Six hundred thousand of them are in prison, and that’s not counting Black male prison inmates that are younger than 25 and older than 54. The analysts estimate that roughly half, and maybe as many as three-quarters, of the other 900,000 missing Black men have died before their time from diseases and accidents, and that 200,000 are no longer here due to homicide.
The war of attrition is a race war.”
Black life in America does not start out with these bizarre imbalances between the sexes. There is no gender gap among Blacks in childhood. Roughly the same number of boys and girls are born, and the ratio stays stable until the teenage years, when the war of attrition begins mercilessly grinding down the numbers of Black males. How else is this phenomenon to be described except as a war, in which 600,000 are held captive during their most productive years, 200,000 are killed by violence, and most of the rest go to early graves from accidents and diseases that cause far lower casualties among whites.

The data show that U.S. society has become much more toxic for Black men during the very period in which Blacks were supposedly making such fantastic “progress.” The numbers show that the missing-Black-men phenomenon “began growing in the middle decades of the 20th century.” The increasing ratio of Black women to men is primarily a product of the age of mass Black incarceration. The war of attrition is a race war deliberately and methodically initiated by the U.S. government, the effects of which have been devastating to Black society on the most fundamental level: stunting the formation of Black families and the Black American group as a whole by physically removing and eliminating the men.

The data support a totally plausible, factually grounded charge of genocide, based on international law. The U.S. government, through its mass Black incarceration policies of the last half century, has been guilty of a) “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” as well as b) “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.”

The facts bear witness to the indictment. So do 1.5 million missing Black men.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

Extremist Rebels 1 Islamic Terrorists 0

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I heard a new term today on public radio which is not public radio of course but we all know that.  It described the situation in Yemen as getting worse with the presence of al Qaeda and "extremist rebels".  Who are the these new guys, the  "Extremists rebels" I asked myself? Now, the term rebels and extremist are not usually used together in the highly controlled US media. The bad guys are either "Islamic extremists" or "Islamic terrorists", "Insurgents" "Militants" but "rebels" is usually reserved for good guys. The guys the US support in Syria are called “rebels” minus the extremist label.

But now we have "extremist rebels". Could this be because the "extremist rebels" they are referring to are the Houthis and the Houthis are Shia somewhat close to Iran? This presents the warmongers at the Pentagon with a dilemma?

So far the US flunkies in the region, the Saudi thugs, bombed Yemen but they were killing too many civilians and doing too much structural damage to this nation and people and they were turning against them and supporting the Houthis.

The US and UN had the Saudi’s stop while the US and western media gets things straight.  The US is fighting alongside Iran against the Pentagon’s old friends ISIS so it looks bad them blowing up ally’s of Iran in Yemen.  The new enemy, along with al Qaeda, are the “extremist rebels”, not Houthis, Houthis just doesn't have the same ring to it and most Americans aren't very up on foreign issues anyway. that’s a good way of spinning it.

What a mess US imperialism has made of the region.  The “extremists” we all need to be worried about are in the Pentagon and Washington.  The damage these extremists have wreaked on the globe the last 25 years, the human suffering and loss of life, the destruction of whole societies, far exceeds anything the paltry Taleban, Bin Laden or any other force has managed so far.

Remember after the collapse of the Soviet Union when we were all celebrating getting our share of the “peace dividend”;  money for education, roads, housing etc.  How could anyone have believed that?  Peace is not possible under capitalism, in a world of competing nations states, and it’s  not profitable.

Keep your noses to the grindstone fellow Americans, there’s more belt tightening to come until that point where we get rid the unelected clique that runs the country and the system they propagate.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Terrorism: The main terrorist force is US imperialism

by Sean O'Torrain. 

The word terrorism is everywhere you look in the capitalist mass media and political discourse. There are different kinds of terrorism. There is for example mass terrorism. This would be where millions of workers would mobilize and take action, that is strike terror, in the hearts of the tiny capitalist class which terrorizes the mass of the world's population in order to loot the earth's wealth.  This kind of  mass terrorism of the world's working class to this end  would be a good thing.

Then there is individual terrorism where small groups conspire to carry out violent actions keep their plans secret, and in this way exclude the mass of the working class and confuse and undermine the confidence of the working class that it as a class can solve the problems of society. This is a bad thing.

Today the word terrorism and actual terrorism is most used by the imperialist classes worldwide to justify anything they want to do to further their own interests, to invade other countries, to occupy other countries, to tap every phone and computer, to assassinate with drones and trained killers whoever is seen as a threat to the system to. What should working people think about this? Specifically the US working class. By the way the armed state of US imperialism with its full body armor and huge military vehicles and terrorist methods of arrest, slaughters young US workers by the thousands, mainly young African American and Hispanic workers. This is terrorism. There are also the scores of extreme right wing terrorist militias in the US which US imperialism tolerates as it thinks it might need them another day.

The biggest terrorist force in the world today is US imperialism, that is the US corporations and their state apparatus. As well as terrorizing its own working class population, it has close to 200 military bases throughout the globe. They are not there to help feed the people in those countries, they are there to make these people do what US imperialism wants them to do. And if they do not do this then they will be terrorized, invaded, occupied, slaughtered.

Look at the Arab Spring. The masses of the Middle East rose up against the terrorist dictatorships which had over centuries been installed and backed up by US imperialism to make sure they could steal the oil and other resources from these countries. These were and are terrorist regimes.  Just think of the ones that are closest to US imperialism, the Zionist regime and the so-called Saudi Princes. Think about what the terrorist Saudi regime does to women and workers. These terrorist thugs are now bombing, terrorizing Yemen, with weapons provided by the terrorist US regime. The Arab Spring is fragmenting along sectarian violent lines, lines which were encouraged over the centuries by all the imperialist powers so they could divide and rule the region.

As I write, the Middle East is being destroyed by war. The Zionist regime in Israel, the various Islamic regimes, the various different versions of the Islamic religion and their regimes, and in the middle of this with their dirty fingers are all the imperialist powers. At this very minute two huge flotillas are sailing towards each other of the coast of Yemen. One is the US imperialist flotilla, the other is the Iranian flotilla. The Iranian regime also has its eyes on creating an imperialist region for itself in part of the Middle East. Each has a different proxy in the war in Yemen. One of these forces is going to have to back down or there will be some much more serious terror unleashed.

It is hard to see the Middle East not descending further into war and destruction. The seeds of this were sown by imperialism over the centuries. These seeds are cultivated by the mass poverty which grows out of the robbing of the wealth of these countries by imperialism and its stooges. Look at how desperate people in the former colonial world are. Thousands risk their lives every day in rickety boats to try to get to Europe and without a penny in their pockets.

The only alternative to this catastrophe in the Middle East and internationally, the only alternative to the terrorism of imperialism and the various religious and other individualist terrorist groups,  is working class unity with the right to self determination for all nations and the right to freedom of religion, including no religion, for all, and full equality for women, men and peoples of all sexual orientation.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Finland’s Berlusconi proposes new bout of neoliberalism

 by Michael Roberts

In the general election on Sunday, Finnish voters gave most support to a former telecoms entrepreneur as prime minister. Juha Sipilä, the leader of the Centre party and a millionaire who has built his own house and gas-powered car, is set to replace Alex Stubb as Finland’s prime minister. Centre came first in the election with 21.1% of the vote (up from 15.8% in 2011). The euro-sceptic True Finns gained 17.6% (actually down from 19%). The incumbent coalition parties took a hit, with the National Coalition down to 18.2% from 20.4% and the Social Democrats 16.5% from 19.1%. Centre won 49 seats in the 200-seat parliament, with the True Finns gaining 38, the National Coalition 37, and the Social Democrats 34.

So Finland’s Berlusconi, Sipilä will try to form a coalition, probably a right-wing government consisting of Centre, True Finns and National Coalition. The True Finns refused to join a coalition in 2011 in opposition to Greece’s second bailout, but this time it seems that its leader Timo Soini is ready to join Sipila in government, significantly as foreign minister where he can exercise his party’s anti-immigration policies, just at a time when we see the terrible tragedy of migrants drowning by their thousands in the Mediterranean because Finland, among other ‘northern states’ in the EU, has insisted on cuts in EU funding for rescues as a ‘deterrent’ to those attempting to get into Europe.

Why did the conservative-social democrat ‘grand coalition’ (similar to that in Germany) lose power? Because Finnish capitalism is in a serious recession. Yes, just as we are told that the US and much of Europe is recovering from the slump of the Great Recession and the Euro depression of 2011-12, even Greece, Finland has got worse.  The economy has been contracting for three straight years in a slump that is much worse than in deep recession of the early 1990s.  “Finland is in very, very deep trouble,” says Anders Borg, the former Swedish finance minister who is conducting a review of Finland’s economy for the government. Alex Stubb, Finland’s losing prime minister, talks of a “lost decade”.
Finland recessions
Finland is one of the richest economies in the world and has one of the lowest public debt ratios. Indeed its governments used to boast of their low government debt and balanced budgets, unlike the feckless Greeks. But it seems that tight budgets and low public debt do not guarantee avoidance of slumps, contrary to the consensus view put forward by supporters of austerity in the US and the UK.

So what’s the cause of this failure of Finnish capitalism? Well, the underlying reason is the same as it is for other capitalist economies: the profitability of capital in Finland has taken a turn for the worse.

The deep recession of the early 1990s, which led to high unemployment and major restructuring of industry, gave a huge boost to profitability at the expense of wages during the 1990s, similar to the recovery in profitability in Germany (see my post, But it did not last. From the early 2000s, overall profitability began to fall and then dropped horrifically in the Great Recession, with no recovery since.

The net income of Finnish technology industry firms was on average just 0.9% relative to revenues in 2013 compared to 7.3% between 2000-2005 (7.3%) and 12% in 2007 before the Great Recession.
Finland rate of profit
The problem for Finnish capitalism is that its mainstays for decades — the forestry industry and the electronics sector around Nokia — fell into sharp decline. Timber prices collapsed as demand for printed paper declined with the advent of paperless online media and the internet. Nokia failed to defend its market share against Apple and other telecom rivals. At the same time, its large trading and geopolitical neighbour, Russia, did not provide an alternative market for Finnish exports and investment. Instead, while public sector finances remained tight, the private sector went on a binge as banks lent huge amounts to companies and for the housing market.

“We have been hit by various shocks at the same time. There are few, if any, countries in Europe that have had the same shocks,”
says Erkki Liikanen, the central bank governor (failing to mention Greece). It’s really yet another example, at the northern end of Europe like the southern end, where the smaller capitalist economies have taken the biggest hit from the Great Recession and subsequent miniscule recovery in world trade.

Finns are getting older and more expensive to keep alive. The proportion of Finland’s population that is of working age is due to fall from 65% in 2012 to 58% by 2030. Over the same period, the over 65s are expected to rise from 18% to 26%.
Finland working age
Unlike Germany, wage costs have spiralled higher than any other European country in recent years. As unit labour costs of Ireland and Spain have fallen because of the massive layoffs and cuts in real wages there, Finland’s has increased by about 20%. From 2007 to 2012 Finland’s unit labour costs in manufacturing rose by 6.3% a year, faster than any of the countries surveyed except Australia and Japan. At the same time, Finland’s productivity fell by 3.9%, far more than any other country.  Wages can rise if the productivity of labour does also and thus not damage profitability.  But falling productivity drove up costs for Finnish companies.
Finland unit labour costs
Of course, the answer of the mainstream is that profitability must be restored by cutting real wages and public spending. Sipila wants to cut spending by €2bn a year even though Finland’s budget deficit in 2014 is just 3.4% of GDP and public debt to GDP is around 60%, about half that of Italy’s. The bankers are screaming for cuts. And they want Finns to work harder and longer. They’ve had it too soft apparently (although Finns are continually told that the Greeks are the lazy ones in Europe).

Pasi Sorjonen, an economist at Nordea, the biggest bank in the Nordic region, says the government needs to cut taxes to help healthy businesses and stop “protecting jobs in the public sector.”  Jyri Häkämies, former conservative Minister of Economic Affairs, and now head of the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK,) would like to “freeze wages for years ahead”.

Sipilä, who made millions in telecoms and bioenergy, says he wants to run the government “more like a business”. And he means by that cutting the Finnish health system, one of the best in the world, and shrinking the public sector. The Finnish people should prepare themselves for a new bout of neoliberal solutions to the failure of Finnish capitalism.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

‘White Privilege,’ and the Working Class”

“Theodore W. Allen
On The Invention of the White Race,
 ‘White Privilege,’ and the Working Class”

 Jeffrey B. Perry

            Interest in the work of Theodore W. Allen continues to grow and people increasingly inquire about his writings on The Invention of the White Race, “white privilege,” and the working class. In response to recent queries I offer this brief introductory paragraph followed by three passages that offer some of his thinking on these topics.
The independent, anti-white supremacist, working class intellectual Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) is one of the most important thinkers on race and class of the twentieth century. His seminal two-volume classic “The Invention of the White Race” (Volume 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control  and Volume 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America) was published in 1994 and 1997 by Verso Books and in 2012 was re-published by Verso in new expanded form (that includes internal study guides in each volume).  Allen began his pioneering research on “white privilege” in 1965 and continued to write on the topic for forty years.
The “Introduction” to Volume I of the new (Verso, 2012) edition of “The Invention of the White Race” explains that:
Theodore W. Allen’s The Invention of the White Race, with its focus on social control and the nature of racial oppression, is one of the twentieth-century’s major contributions to historical understanding. This two-volume work, first published in 1994 and 1997, and considered a “classic” by 2003, presents a full-scale challenge to what Allen refers to as “The Great White Assumption” -- the unquestioning acceptance of the “white race” and “white” identity as skin color-based and natural attributes rather than as social and political constructions. Its thesis on the origin and nature of the so-called “white race” contains the root of a new and radical approach to United States history, one that challenges dominant narratives taught in schools, colleges, universities, and the media. With its equalitarian motif and emphasis on the class struggle dimension of history it contributes mightily to our understanding of American, African American, and Labor History and it speaks to people desiring and struggling for change worldwide. Its influence can be expected to continue to grow in the twenty-first century.
Readers of the first volume of Invention were startled by Allen’s bold, back-cover assertion that “When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no ‘white’ people there; nor, according to the colonial records, would there be for another sixty years.” That statement, based on twenty-plus years of primary research in Virginia’s colonial records, reflected the fact that Allen found no instance of the official use of the word “white” as a token of social status prior to its appearance in a Virginia law passed in 1691. As he later explained, “Others living in the colony at that time were English; they had been English when they left England, and naturally they and their Virginia-born children were English, they were not ‘white.’ White identity had to be carefully taught, and it would be only after the passage of some six crucial decades” that the word “would appear as a synonym for European-American.”
Allen was not merely speaking of word usage, however. His probing research led him to conclude that – based on the commonality of experience, the demonstrated solidarity between African-American and European-American laboring people, and the indeterminate status of African-Americans -- the “white race” was not, and could not have been, functioning in early Virginia.
It is in this context that he offers his major thesis -- that the “white race” was invented as a ruling class social control formation in response to labor solidarity as manifested in the latter (civil war) stages of Bacon's Rebellion (1676-77).  To this he adds two important corollaries: 1) the ruling elite deliberately instituted a system of racial privileges to define and maintain the “white race” and to implement a system of racial oppression, and 2) the consequence was not only ruinous to the interests of the African-American workers, but was also disastrous for European-American workers.

            In developing these theses Allen challenges the two main ideological props of white supremacy – the notion that “racism” is innate (and it is therefore useless to challenge it) and the argument that European-American workers benefit from “white race” privileges and white supremacy (and that it is therefore in their interest not to oppose them).

            His challenge is both historical and theoretical. He counters these arguments through meticulous use of sources, through probing analysis of ”Racial Oppression and Social Control” (the sub-title of this volume), and through important comparative study that offers analogies, parallels, and differences between the Anglo-American plantation colonies, Ireland, and the Anglo-Caribbean colonies. Allen chooses these examples, all subjected to domination by Anglo ruling elites, in order to show that racial oppression is a system of social control not based on phenotype, or skin color, and to show how social control factors impact how racial oppression begins and how it can be maintained, transformed, or ended.
 The core theses in Allen’s analysis were evidenced in the early 1970s. Allen writes in his “Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race” (1975; reprinted with new Editor’s Introduction by “Cultural Logic” and by the Center for the Study of Working Class Life, State University of New York, Stony Brook, 2006), n. 63:

Of all the historians of the "social" school whose work I have read, only the black historian Lerone Bennett, Jr., in his article, "The Road Not Taken," Ebony, vol. 25 (1970), no. 10 (August), pp. 70-77, and in Chap. III of his new book The Shaping of Black America (Chicago, 1975), succeeds in placing the argument on the three essential bearing-points from which it cannot be toppled. First, racial slavery and white supremacy in this country was a ruling-class response to a problem of labor solidarity. Second, a system of racial privileges for white workers was deliberately instituted in order to define and establish the "white race" as a social control formation. Third, the consequence was not only ruinous to the interests of the Afro-American workers but was also "disastrous" (Bennett's word) for the white worker. Others (such as the Handlins, Morgan and Breen) state the first two points to some degree, but only Bennett combines all three.

            Although I learned of Bennett's essay only in April 1975, the same three essentials have informed my own approach in a book I have for several years been engaged in writing (and of which this present article is a spin-off), on the origin of racial slavery, white supremacy and the system of racial privileges of white labor in this country.

The article “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” (Cultural Logic,” 2010) describes (with documentation) key components of Allen’s analysis of “white race” privilege:

As he developed the "white race" privilege concept, Allen emphasized that these privileges were a "poison bait" and explained that they "do not permit" the masses of European American workers nor their children "to escape" from that class. "It is not that the ordinary white worker gets more than he must have to support himself," but "the black worker gets less than the white worker." By, thus "inducing, reinforcing and perpetuating racist attitudes on the part of the white workers, the present-day power masters get the political support of the rank-and-file of the white workers in critical situations, and without having to share with them their super profits in the slightest measure." As one example, to support his position Allen would provide statistics showing that in the South where race privilege "has always been most emphasized . . . the white workers have fared worse than the white workers in the rest of the country."

Probing more deeply, Allen offered an additional important insight into why these race privileges are conferred by the ruling class. He pointed out that "the ideology of white racism" is "not appropriate to the white workers" because it is "contrary to their class interests." Because of this "the bourgeoisie could not long have maintained this ideological influence over the white proletarians by mere racist ideology." Under these circumstances white supremacist thought is "given a material basis in the form of the deliberately contrived system of race privileges for white workers.

Allen added, "the white supremacist system that had originally been designed in around 1700 by the plantation bourgeoisie to protect the base, the chattel bond labor relation of production" also served "as a part of the 'legal and political' superstructure of the United States government that, until the Civil War, was dominated by the slaveholders with the complicity of the majority of the European-American workers." Then, after emancipation, "the industrial and financial bourgeoisie found that it could be serviceable to their program of social control, anachronistic as it was, and incorporated it into their own 'legal and political' superstructure."

Allen felt that two essential points must be kept in mind." First, "the race- privilege policy is deliberate bourgeois class policy." Second, "the race-privilege policy is, contrary to surface appearance, contrary to the interests, short range as well as long range interests of not only the Black workers but of the white workers as well." He repeatedly emphasized that "the day-to-day real interests" of the European American worker "is not the white skin privileges, but in the development of an ever-expanding union of class conscious workers."

Allen made clear what he understood as the "interests of the working class" and referred to Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto: "1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole." He elsewhere pointed out, "The Wobblies caught the essence of it in their slogan: 'An injury to one is an injury to all.'"

Throughout his work Allen emphasizes, "that the initiator and the ultimate guarantor of the white skin privileges of the white worker is not the white worker, but the white worker's masters" and the masters do this because it is "an indispensable necessity for their continued class rule." He describes how "an all-pervasive system of racial privileges was conferred on laboring-class European-Americans, rural and urban, exploited and insecure though they themselves were" and how "its threads, woven into the fabric of every aspect of daily life, of family, church, and state, have constituted the main historical guarantee of the rule of the 'Titans,' damping down anti-capitalist pressures, by making 'race, and not class, the distinction in social life.'" That, "more than any other factor," he argues, "has shaped the contours of American history - from the Constitutional Convention of 1787 to the Civil War, to the overthrow of Reconstruction, to the Populist Revolt of the 1890s, to the Great Depression, to the civil rights struggle and 'white backlash' of our own day."

Based on his research Allen wrote, "history has shown that the white-skin privilege does not serve the real interests of the white workers, it also shows that the concomitant racist ideology has blinded them to that fact." He emphasized, "'Solidarity forever!' means 'Privileges never!'" 
It is hoped that these brief remarks will lead more people to explore the work of Theodore W. Allen.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The global crawl and taking up the challenge of prediction

by Michael Roberts

Readers of this blog will know that from its very beginning over five years ago, I have argued, ad nauseam, that after the end of the Great Recession in mid-2009, the world capitalist economy entered what I have called a long depression, see

What I meant by this was that the trajectory of the world real GDP growth and investment took what I described as a square-root shape. A relatively high trend growth rate was interrupted by a sharp drop, then a sharpish recovery before growth resumed but this time at a much lower level than before.
Schematically, it would look like this – and in reality.
This view, that capitalism is in a Long Depression, will be the main message of my upcoming book to be published (I hope) this summer.

However, there are many voices who do not agree that world capitalism is in a downward phase or wave or in a depression. Some, indeed, reckon that capitalism is in an upward wave of growth and investment and there has been no ‘stagnation’ or depression. I won’t deal with these arguments in this post. Instead, I shall add to the data supporting my view that the trajectory of depression is still in place.

As I write, the world’s leading central bankers and economists are in Washington for semi-annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. And in its latest World Economic Outlook report (, IMF economists explain that the global economy continues to crawl along at well below the post-war average trend growth rate, with little sign of improvement.

The IMF argues that the ‘potential output’ of the world economy is growing more slowly than before. In the advanced countries, the decline began in the early 2000s; in emerging economies, after 2009. The concern is that the world economy is now characterised by chronic weak investment, low real and nominal interest rates, credit bubbles and unmanageable debt. Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, described the world’s current economic performance as “just not good enough”.

The IMF expects real GDP growth in the advanced capitalist economies to pick up from 1.8% in 2014 to 2.4% this year. It needs to see that acceleration to achieve its forecast of world growth at 3.5% this year because growth in emerging markets, particularly in China and Russia, is slowing or even falling, so that growth there will be only 4.3% in 2015 down from 5% in 2013.
IMF projections
There are other forecasts and indexes less followed than that of the IMF that also show that the world economy is still crawling along. The global economy is mired in a “stop and go” recovery “at risk of stalling again”, according to the latest Brookings Institution-Financial Times tracking index. This ‘Tiger index’ shows measures of real activity, financial markets and investor confidence compared with their historical averages in the global economy and within each country. The Tiger index graph for global growth looks like the ‘square-root’ trajectory that I forecast back in 2009 for the world economy during and after the Great Recession.
Tiger index
Even more telling is the annual report of the World Trade Organisation just out. Global trade is poised for at least two more years of disappointing growth, according to the WTO. The WTO reckons world trade will grow just 3.3% this year, below the rate of world GDP growth expected by the IMF. It’s bad news whenever trade grows more slowly than GDP because it means the economies cannot get out a depression (Greece) or slow growth by exporting as external demand is even weaker than domestic demand.
WTO trade
You see, for at least three decades before the 2008 financial crisis, in the era of ‘globalisation’, world trade regularly grew at twice the rate of the world GDP. With last year’s growth of 2.8%, global trade has now expanded at, or below, the rate of the broader global economy for three straight years.

Roberto Azevedo, WTO director-general, blamed disappointing trade growth in recent years on the sluggish recovery from the financial crisis. He also warned that economic growth around the world remained “fragile” and vulnerable to geopolitical tensions.

And then there is the high frequency measure of the US economy provided by the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank. Its latest estimate is that the US economy has slowed to just a 0.2% annual rate as of 14 April. The apparent significant slowdown in the first quarter (blamed by the mainstream on a ‘bad winter’) is now carrying into the second quarter of 2015.
Atlanta Fed GDP now 14 April
So 2015 has not made a good start in meeting the forecasts of the IMF for faster US growth of over 3% this year – by the way, the IMF has made such a forecast and got it wrong for the last four years.
Now Chris Dillon runs an excellent and interesting blog called, Stumbling and mumbling. In a recent post, he argued that economists could not be expected to forecast anything, only to try and explain what is happening in the here and now,

He went on to point out, as I have just done above, that the IMF and the other leading official institutes had miserably failed to forecast the Great Recession or the subsequent slow recovery, being perennially optimistic about how things would pan out.

But Dillon reckoned that heterodox economists were little better in their forecasting, although he was wrong to say that Steve Keen did not forecast a credit crunch for the US economy in 2007-8 (see my paper, The causes of the Great Recession).

Like so many others, Dillon reckons the Great Recession was just a financial crisis caused by the collapse of the banks, which is really a description of the crash not an explanation. But he then put out a challenge: “Many of macro’s critics are begging the question: they are assuming that the economy could be predictable, if only we had a good enough theory. I doubt this. Now, this is just a hypothesis – albeit one consistent with lots of evidence. If you want to show I’m wrong, point me to some forecaster who foresaw both the recession of 2008-09 and the growth either side thereof. Or, failing that, show me forecasts for future years which successfully predict both growth and recessions.”

Well, as the quantum physicist, Niels Bohr once said, “Prediction can be very difficult, especially if it is about the future”. But I might be able to take up that challenge by Dillon. This is what I said back in 2005 in my book, The Great Recession, eventually published in 2009. “There has not been such a coincidence of cycles since 1991. And this time (unlike 1991), it will be accompanied by the downwave in profitability within the downwave in Kondratiev prices cycle. It is all at the bottom of the hill in 2009-2010! That suggests we can expect a very severe economic slump of a degree not seen since 1980-2 or more”.

As for the second part of Dillon’s challenge (how would the world economy grow after the end of the Great Recession?), then readers can consider what I predicted five years ago and mentioned at the start of this post (and for that matter also in my book, The Great Recession, back in 2009). So far, that prediction – for a long depression – has broadly worked out. In addition. I have argued in many posts that this depression will end but probably not before another severe economic slump, which is likely to begin within the next 12-18 months and last for a similar period through to 2018 or so. That’s a prediction.

And I think part of any scientific analysis is to make such forecasts or predictions to test a theory and its real outcomes. It is not good enough to just explain in hindsight (see my posts, and

For that matter, Marx himself made predictions arising from his theoretical analysis. He did not have sufficient data to make accurate predictions about oncoming slumps and recoveries, although he continually tried to find such data to do so. But his law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall does make a fundamental prediction: that the capitalist mode of production will not be eternal, that it is transitory in the history of human social organisation, because it has a use-by date. The law of the tendency predicts that over time there will be an actual fall in the rate of profit globally, delivering more crises of a devastating character. And what work has been done by modern Marxist analysis confirms that the world rate of profit has fallen over the last 150 years (see Maito, Esteban – The historical transience of capital. The downward tren in the rate of profit since XIX century and Long-Term Movement of the Profit Rate in the Capitalist World-Economy).

Obviously, sucking a forecast out of the air is no better than choosing a number in a lottery. A forecast is only as good as the theory behind it. I reckon Marx’s theory of crisis provides the best explanation of the Great Recession in 2008-9 and also allows us to discern the stage through which capitalism is going and where it is going. So I based my forecasts back in 2005, in 2009, and now, on that theory and the law of profitability (as developed by others and me). But, as Engels often said: the proof of the goodness of a pudding is in the eating.