“Compound growth forever is impossible; an alternative has to arise in which there is a zero-growth economy. Economic inequality has to be eradicated; environmental degredation has to be stopped. And there is only one way to do it: that is, to end capitalism.”—David Harvey (via rethinksocialism)
So, you saw the flyers. What’s up? Well, the University of Michigan is changing for the worse—so much so you can see it in almost every part of the campus. We can see it just walking around, where the student body is more affluent and whiter than ever before (in 2000, 18.4% of Michigan students had a family income of $200k or more…in 2010, 27.6%). We can see it in the classrooms, where there are more and more GSIs and lecturers, who are paid only a fraction of what tenure-track professors make. We can see it in the salaries of the university administrators, which have risen a shocking 27% since 2006, while they have similarly raised our tuition (in the same time period) 22%. We hear their claims that there isn’t enough money, that there have to be cuts, that the state has defunded us, but we see the reality that the administrators always get paid, in full, without fail. We can see it in tuition, which has risen at Michigan a jaw-dropping 233% since 1990, pricing many poor and middle-income students out of the university. We can see it in the student loans we are now forced to take out: last year alone Michigan students took out an estimated $412 million (that’s right, for just one school year) in student loans—that’s almost half of what the university took in in tuition last year! And to add insult to injury, we can see it in the $2.3 billion the university administration has borrowed since 2007 to build new buildings, buildings we didn’t need, money we shouldn’t have borrowed, money that students, not the administrators who borrowed it, will eventually have to pay back, with interest in the form of more student loans.
We can all see that the University of Michigan has changed for the worse and that it isn’t getting better and that the administration has no ideas other than to raise tuition and to raise their own pay (…already the administration has announced that, despite state funding going up next year, there will still be a tuition hike!). Those of us involved in Occupy UM have been trying to figure out how things got like this and what we can do about it. In our struggle to figure out how things got so bad, we’ve come across some information that we found helpful. We want to ask you for 15 minutes of your time to share some of this information with you. In this piece, we will try to tell the story of how we got here. It is a story in two parts. The first part is about the Michigan Model and the rise of the for profit university, and the second is about the rise of student debt as a form of predatory lending (a term used to describe when banks use unfair or deceptive practices to get people into debt). By way of conclusion, we’ll make a few proposals for what we can do about it.
Despite the injuries she suffered, McMillan’s own conduct is now being called into question by police. One of the eyewitness videos documenting her arrest shows what appears to be McMillan intentionally elbowing her arresting officer in the face, before she was violently taken down. (She was later charged will assaulting an officer.) McMillan, an avowed socialist who was mentioned in Rolling Stone last year, has been arrested before at Occupy protests making her the perfect foil for NYPD backers who think these kids are just asking for trouble.
“I don’t want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of the capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into this promised land if I could because if I could lead you in, someone else could lead you out.”—Eugene V. Debs
Feminist Ryan Gosling and the Visual Scream stems from our increasing frustration with the politicizing and disciplining of women and their bodies especially as a device to curry political favor and to distract from other issues.
In the past several weeks, it has become increasingly…
By now, most of the people reading this have heard of the European Crisis, the terrors of Sovereign Debt, and of the measures being taken to keep the European Union whole. However, this has been going on for so long that it may be good for us to overview the crisis, its causes, its effects, and its solutions in a compact form.
The European Union’s origins lie far back in the postwar era. The European Coal and Steel Community, an economic industrial union, was created in 1952. Shortly after, it was joined by the European Atomic Energy Community and the European Economic Union in 1957. These organizations had two purposes: first, to help rebuild Western Europe building upon and superseding the Marshall Plan, and second, to create strong enough economic ties between the nations to prevent another world war. The unstated political goal behind it, though, was to eventually make Western Europe a supranational power bloc, independent of both the Soviet Union and America. Over time, the three economic unions merged into one collective body. The Maastricht Treaty established the European Union in 1993. The EU is a combination of supranational organizations (some elected by the people, some appointed by member governments) and international agreements between the different heads of state. The Lisbon Treaty, put into effect in 2009, gives more power to the Parliament and diminishes the effect of the Council of Ministers (the arm of the governments of Europe), and makes the European Central Bank (ECB) an EU institution. Moreover, Lisbon gives the European Council (not to be confused with the Council of Ministers) an official role as the policy-setting body that has no actual legislative power, but acts as a way for the different heads of government to be given an official capacity as a collective “head of state.” It has a single monetary policy, free travel, and universal economic laws. In short, it’s complicated. The modern EU is not a ‘true’ federation, but a confederation, larger in economic power, but still politically similar to the government America had in the immediate post-revolution period. Due to the fact that interstate disputes and economic collapse were threatening to destroy the United States in the 1780s, the Articles of Confederation were abandoned for a stronger union, and now it seems that the EU may follow the same path and become the United States of Europe– or, just as likely, disintegrate.
Divided It Falls: A Ruling Class Divided Against Itself
It is no great secret that the American political system, despite its democratic auspices, is a mechanism for the rule of an elite minority. The past thirty years in particular have seen many brazen examples of this, highlighted by an unprecedented expansion of the gap between rich and poor as social welfare spending was cut to make way for ever greater tax breaks for the wealthy. However, while the corruption of our system has been exposed repeatedly by thousands of different observers, the modern political climate holds new developments. As our politicians squabble on the national stage it becomes clear that along with misrepresenting us, these elites are increasingly incapable of effectively governing the country. A division has emerged within the ruling class that makes their hold on power increasingly tenuous, creating opportunities for the people to seek a radically different future. After four years, the promises of President Obama’s campaign seem almost cruel when placed alongside his actions in office. Instead of a break with the past, Obama has pursued policies remarkably akin to those of his predecessors, most ironically George Bush. Guantanamo Bay remains open while an interventionist foreign policy continues to cause thousands of deaths globally. Our economy continues to be weak, the “recovery” largely jobless; tax rates on the wealthy are at historic lows; health care reform passed only as a broken shadow of itself; and our freedoms have been limited by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in ways that the authors of the Patriot Act could only dream of. There can be little argument that Obama has fallen far short of his promises from the campaign trail.
This article, by synthesizing personal observation and statistical information, attempts to understand how U.S. anti-immigrant policies have emerged to produce profit for American corporations by criminalizing undocumented U.S. residents. Though the data used in this article is primarily focused on U.S. immigrants from Latin America, the author recognizes that undocumented people from all over the world reside in the U.S. and that no person should be understood to be “illegal.” Monday through Friday, from 9am to 4pm, the hallways of Webster Elementary School in southwest Detroit are a site for busy teachers, dutiful hall monitors, kindergarteners lined up for recess, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. The ICE officers do their best not to trip over Tinker Bell backpacks as they peer into art classrooms, dodgeball gym sessions, and the cafeteria. What are they looking for? Community members speculate that the ICE surveys schools in order to monitor new students who may “appear to be illegal,” as a way of tracking undocumented populations in the United States. In a neighborhood where a person can be pulled over for looking “too brown,” this is not difficult to believe.
NAFTA and Immigration: Globalizing the Corporate Class
Charged comments during recent Republican primaries have reopened a political can of worms – immigration. While both political parties argue about the character and economic effects of immigrants in the United States, they exclude two crucial questions: why is there an influx of immigration and what role has the US played in this influx? Although many policies have shaped immigration between the US and Mexico, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has had one of the strongest impacts. When Congress passed NAFTA in 1994, it originally had the intention of “promoting greater economic integration between migrant sending countries and the United States through free trade.”(1) Since NAFTA’s inception, however, an estimated six million Mexican immigrants have come to the US, representing a 10% increase in the percentage of Mexican born immigrants living in America(2). Thus, despite its supposed goal of integrating the US and migrant sending countries, NAFTA has delivered contrary results. (1)
It is difficult to question a system to which there is no conceivable alternative. We have grown up in an America without a political left, and so, as we watch our system crumble under the weight of inequality, we don’t know what to do about it. We vote for the ‘other’ people, the ones who didn’t visibly have a hand in getting us to our current situation, or the ones who make the best excuses and offer the vaguest promises. Looking to Europe and Canada, we see a few things that look right—a free or inexpensive college education and health care for every citizen. Conservatives cry “Socialism! Marxism!” and even educated people reply to queries about socialism and communism with, “It didn’t work in the USSR; just look at what happened!” What do you say to that? We would like to know too. We have been listening to critiques of socialism our whole lives, whether we knew it or not, and now we’re going to try to formulate responses to these critiques. In this edition of The Harbinger, we’re going to articulate what it is that we are against, and respond to one of the most common criticisms of communism that we encounter.
We were anti-capitalists long before we knew what the term meant. Growing up watching relatives work awful jobs for very little pay while their employers made exorbitant amounts of money instilled in us a desire to see things change in the worker-employer relationship. For a time, voting Democrat seemed like the best way to address this. However, the past three years of American politics have convinced us that a more fundamental change is necessary. Democrats and Republicans alike are uninterested in seeing full employment, the resurgence of labor unions, or a decrease in CEO pay. These conditions can only be realized by the fall of capitalism. The path to becoming an anti-capitalist begins with realizing that there is a doctrine of accepted assumptions about how finance, economics, and politics in America function. The process of questioning these assumptions begins differently for everybody—cynicism, disillusionment, voracious reading of history, perhaps a rebellious streak. Noticing that we mistook an unrecognized or unquestioned belief for a fact is a difficult process, made harder still by an aversion to asking what might seem like a stupid question. How is the value of anything determined? What exactly is “capital”? What does, and what should, distinguish private from public property? Like any good question, the answers lead only to more questions. We would like to explore the assumptions about capitalism that we grew up with and the alternatives to capitalism, and learn how to effectively make a case against capitalism.
Geoff Bailey and Kyle Brown take up a debate about Occupy and the working class.
AMID A flurry of debates assessing the fallout from the two Occupy port actions in the Bay Area and the upcoming call for a general strike on May 1, an anonymous article posted by “Oakland Commune” aims to put the tactical debates surrounding the port shutdowns into a theoretical framework.
The author or authors argue that structural changes in the nature of capitalism have created conditions that require us to refashion our tactics around a new, more transient and precarious labor force.
In doing so, they defend an idea that has become almost common sense on the U.S. left: that the working class as it once existed—and was once seen as the central agent of revolutionary change for generations of radicals and revolutionaries—has been so diminished and atomized that new struggles and tactics are necessary.
While there can be no disagreement that profound changes have taken place over time, we want to argue that these changes have not lessened the importance of the working class globally or here in the U.S.
A central challenge for the Occupy Wall Street movement remains whether it can tie the broad activism that has developed around it to the power of the working class at the point of production. The attempts to “update” the theory of the general strike don’t represent an advance for our movement, but a retreat.