December 25, 2016

Inter-Imperialist Rivalry - The U.S. shift toward Russia and away from China

It feels like my articles have been bouncing around a bit, but following what the PEOTUS is doing can give a person whiplash. That being said, I believe that it’s time for some background that might help explain a bit of what is going on between the U.S., Russia and China. The idea that we need to look at is Inter-imperialist Rivalry.

The chart above shows the percent of world GDP held by different parts of the world through the last 2000 years of history. It is interesting to note that prior to colonization of Africa and the Americas by Europe, and the enslavement of Africans, China and India were the world’s leading manufacturing powers. But we can see that starting around 1600 AD Europe begins to surpass Asia. Thus is due mostly to riches gathered from colonies in Africa and the Americas and the use of slave labor to mine for gold and grow crops. By the 1800’s the industrial revolution and the control of Asian ports by European countries, had boosted Western Europe above Asia, with the U.S. closing in. 

The idea that we need to look at is Inter-imperialist Rivalry.

1800 – 1913 – Intra-European Rivalries

During the late 1800’s European countries had divided up the world and fighting among themselves for control. The Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War and the Franco-Prussian Wars were the biggest of the dozens of conflicts that took place within Europe between 1800 and 1900. At the same time European countries were also fighting their colonies, with England, Spain and France coming out as the big winners. The resources that these colonies provided helped England and France develop their industrial prowess and helped set up one side of WW I. Meanwhile the United States was taking control of Central and South America and expanding its influence in Asia

1917-1939 – Europe Divides the Middle East

After WW I the industrial powers of Europe needed a consistent source petroleum for fuel and for raw materials. The Middle East, in particular the Saudi Peninsula and Iran became this source. The Ottoman Empire had fought with the Germans and were on the losing side of WWI. England and France stepped in after the war taking direct control of some parts and fomenting nationalist independence movements (Lawrence of Arabia anyone?) in others. Throughout this era, the United States continued to strengthen its hold on resources in Central and South America, while building military bases in Hawaii and Manila to exert more power in Asia.

Post WW 2 – 1945-1970

 The United States was the only major industrial power to emerge from World War 2 with its factories unscathed

This is a key era in figuring out what is happening today. The United States was the only major industrial power to emerge from World War 2 with its factories unscathed. Also, finding that the armies of their colonizers had been greatly weakened by the war, European colonies in Africa and Asia pushed for independence, depriving many European powers of the inexpensive resources. This left the United States in a unique period. While there was a military rivalry with the USSR, and proxy wars around the world, the U.S. was really a uni-polar manufacturing power during this period. This allowed companies in the U.S. to pay salaries that were very high compared to historical amounts, while still maintaining large profits. The ruling class was able to buy labor peace because they were not facing major competition from foreign powers.


When both leaders talk about expanding their nuclear arsenals ON THE SAME DAY, that is not a coincidence, it is a warning to China.

Today we live in a multi-polar world. The U.S., Europe, China, India, Brazil are all major players looking to increase influence and markets. Usually this is done with a veneer of civility, through trade agreements. And the past eight years have shown that the United States has been moving toward a greater tie to Asia and China. The Pacific Rim Partnership meetings have been as important as the G-7 and G-20 meetings in Europe.

But not all members of the ruling class are happy about this development. There are people and companies that want the U.S. to be more confrontational with China. Remember, they were left out when China made a deal with France and Saddam Hussein to develop the Iraqi oil fields back in 2000. According to a paper published by the right-wing Heritage Foundation in February of 2003, France controlled 23% of Iraq oil exports, while the U.S. was barred from the fields. Shortly after this, the U.S. invaded Iraq, removed Hussein from power, and negated all contracts he had negotiated.

It has become obvious that Trump is backed by the section of the ruling class that wants closer ties to Russia and more confrontation with China. We have all heard and read about Russia’s efforts is getting Trump elected. His appointment of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State means that there is no attempt to hide who is making the decisions in this outfit. The U.S. government will be run openly by Exxon oil. The U.S. government will remove sanctions on Russia that have prevented the finalization of $500BILLION deal to develop Russian oil fields, a total about-face from the current U.S. policy.
Trump and Putin will also work together to try and slow or stop China’s expansion. When both leaders talk about expanding their nuclear arsenals ON THE SAME DAY, that is not a coincidence, it is a warning to China. Why? Because China’s response to Trump talking with Taiwan’s leader was to have multiple flights of its nuclear bomber over the South China Sea. China has also been expanding its military bases in the South China Sea. This is a dangerous game of superpower one-upmanship.

So what does this mean for us, the average people of the world? Well, we will probably see more Russian conflict in Eastern Europe, more conflicts with China and less stability in Latin America where China has been expanding its influence. We will see more Russian and Irani influence in the Middle East. This instability raises a greater chance of war. I also think that more people will see through this growing fascism and the need to maintain internal order in the U.S. will bring more and more repressive policies here. So we, the workers here in the U.S. and around the world, need to organize and be ready to fight against this growing tide of war and fascism.

December 11, 2016

Trump's Cabinet - A Neo-Liberal Conservative's Wet Dream

Last month many people, republicans, pundits, people on the street, were criticizing those of us who were protesting against Trump. “He hasn’t even been sworn in yet, wait and see what he does.” Well, he still hasn’t been sworn in, but, looking at his cabinet choices and they give us a pretty good idea of what he plans to do as President. And truthfully, those of us to have been protesting were right. Trump’s administration is shaping up to be an attack on healthcare, education and the environment like we have not seen in the past 100 years.

Betsy DeVos – Secretary of Education

According to Trump’s website, his plans for education include:
  • Immediately add an additional federal investment of $20 billion towards school choice. This will be done by reprioritizing existing federal dollars.
  • Give states the option to allow these funds to follow the student to the public or private school they attend. Distribution of this grant will favor states that have private school choice, magnet schools and charter laws, encouraging them to participate.
And his choice for Secretary of Education has been a proponent of these goals and more for many years. She is Chairman of the American Federation for Children, and organization whose mission statement is:
The American Federation for Children is the leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers, scholarship tax credit programs and Education Savings Accounts.
Her view is that traditional public schools are unfixable, and the students should be given vouchers to attend either charter schools or private schools. She is also an evangelical Christian who has said that education reform can advance “God’s Kingdom” saying “to confront the culture in which we all live today in ways that will continue to help advance God’s Kingdom, but not to stay in our own faith territory,” according to an article on

As a retired public school teacher I can attest to damage done by charter schools and even by the whole small school “education reform” movement. These “alternatives” have drained top students and money from traditional neighborhood schools. The have cherry picked the highest achievers, leaving those children who need the most help behind in schools that have fewer resources then ever before.

Rep. Tom Price – Secretary of Health and Human Services


According to Trump’s website, his healthcare plans include the following highlights:
·         Completely repeal Obamacare. Our elected representatives must eliminate the individual mandate. No person should be required to buy insurance unless he or she wants to.
·         Allow individuals to use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Contributions into HSAs should be tax-free and should be allowed to accumulate.
·         Block-grant Medicaid to the states.

Tom Price Fits in with this view. The idea of tax credits and health saving accounts are a benefit to the rich but of no real help to poor and working class people who do not have the extra income to invest. He also is in favor of limiting a company’s tax deduction for providing healthcare coverage to its employees.

Finally he is in favor of block-granting Medicaid and Medicare to states, and to cut funding by close to $1 TRILLION over the next 10 years. According to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, this could result in states dropping up to 20 million people from Medicaid over the next 10 years. You can read their article here for a very good analysis of this issue.  

Scott Pruitt - Head of the Environmental Protection Agency

Pruitt is a climate change denier. He has written as recently as May that science is far from settled on climate change. More importantly, he is an advocate for sharply cutting environmental regulations for industry and farming.

“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” he wrote in National Review earlier this year. “That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”

Pruitt has coordinated multi-state law suits against both federal health care and environmental regulations. According to reports in the NY Times, many of these suits were backed and even written by energy and health companies affected by the regulations. 

What can we do?

The time to sit on the sidelines is over. It is vital that we do all that we can to fight against the attacks that are coming from the Trump government. We must be involved in movements both close to home and nationally. Find those groups that doing things. Organize! Fightback!

December 4, 2016

What happened to the miners? Why understanding class is important

I recently watched Harlan County U.S.A. for the umpteenth time. For those who don’t know it, this documentary is centered around a coal miner’s strike in Harlon County Kentucky in 1974. This film is a time capsule showing how hard these workers fought for their rights. But in watching it again I was struck by just how much their political views have changed in the last 40 years.

I am old enough to remember this strike, which was important for several reasons. 1974 was a turning point in the labor movement in the United States, and Harlan County seemed to be at the center of it. There had been a major attempt by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to organize mines and the workers at the Brookside Pit had voted to join the UMWA. The owners, Eastover Coal Company, a subsidiary of Duke Power, were determined not to accept the union contract because they were worried about future negotiations with their miners in North and South Carolina.

This struggle in Harlan County was taking place against the backdrop of an internal fight over the leadership of the UMWA. Tony Boyle had been president of union, but was viewed a corrupt and in the pockets of the mine owners. He was facing an election against Joseph Yablonski, a former mine worker who was the favorite of many of the rank and file members.

Finally, Harlon County has a history of violent mine strikes. In 1931 5800 miners went on strike when the owners cut wages by 10%. The owners used the full power of the government to attack the workers and break the strike. They hired “private security” to protect the scabs, and then the sheriff deputized them, giving them the ability to literally arrest, brutalize and even shoot at strikers. When strikers fought back, the governor brought in the National Guard, who then attacked the strikers. The strike was broken, and the workers were forced back winning no concessions.

Bayonets keep pickets at bay in bloody Harlan County's little coal war - Life Magazine

In 1974 the miners in this film had a really sharp analysis of how the system worked. They understood that the courts, sheriff, gun thugs and politicians were all controlled by the mining companies. They discussed the need to stand together and organize. They took on the scabs and gun thugs, bringing their own members and arming themselves for protection against enormous forces.

As I watched Harlan County this time I was really amazed at the job that the right wing has done on these workers during the past 40 years. Over half of the mining jobs in Kentucky disappeared between 1980 and 2000. Jobs were then stable until 2013, when the number of jobs in eastern Kentucky began dropping again. The Republicans have said that this was because of regulations, and environmental regulations have played a role. But, as an article on the website notes, there are other contributing factors, such as the low price of natural gas.

Another factor affecting these workers was one that no one is talking about, but that got a very brief mention in the movie Harlan County U.S.A. For decades the state of Kentucky discouraged and/or prevented other industries from moving in to coal mining areas. They did this at the behest of the coal companies so that there wouldn’t be competition for workers that would force wages up. So the coal industry and the state worked together to make sure that for most workers in eastern Kentucky, the only choice was to go down the mine.

My point in all of this is not to argue Democrat vs Republican. More so it is to point out that in 40 years the miners of eastern Kentucky have gone from using the words “boss” and “businessman” as a curse to helping elect a billionaire. Why has there been such a change?

It is easy to blame racism and xenophobia. And there is certainly a case to be made for the fear of change that has been whipped up by one of the parties. But I feel that there is more at the heart of this. Over the past 40 years both parties have pushed political discussion away from talking about class. No longer do we study the issues of this country by looking at the rich/ruling class and the poor/working class. By removing the idea that society is divided into classes from the national dialogue, the ruling class has been able to convince workers that that rich are just like them and will do what is best for them.

The ruling class has done this in many ways. They have used identity politics to emphasize differences between workers, and similarities between workers and bosses, to get people to support different wings of those who control the country. Identity politics came as a reaction to racism and sexism. It came about because many People of Color and women felt that they were being left behind by the growth of union jobs and educational opportunities during the 1950’s and 1960’s. It came about because of legitimate concerns and grievances. And the ruling class was able to use these concerns to divide workers. They did this in New York by having Albert Shanker take teachers out on a racist strike in 1968 instead of working with Black and Latino parents to figure out how to integrate school staffs. They did it by pitting Native born workers against immigrant workers around the country. And they did it by convincing white workers that they have more in common with billionaires that with Black and Latino workers.

In my opinion we have to bring class identity back into the everyday lives of workers. Until all workers realize that our bosses are not on our side, and that coal miners have more in common with nurses and teachers and fast food workers then they do with their bosses, we will have a country that lets the very rich stay rich and keep their foot on the throat of the workers.