Posts Tagged 'capitalism'

Greece: Capitalism kills at Syntagma square.

Dimitris Christoulas, the man who took his own life using a pistol on Syntagma Square, in central Athens, on Wednesday morning, left a suicide note:
“The Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all traces for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid for 35 years with no help from the state. And since my advanced age does not allow me a way of dynamically reacting (although if a fellow Greek were to grab a Kalashnikov, I would be right behind him), I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance. I believe that young people with no future, will one day take up arms and hang the traitors of this country at Syntagma square, just like the Italians did to Mussolini in 1945″   the note said.
Dimitris Christoulas, was a retired pharmacist, who sold his business in 1994. He has a wife and daughter. According to friends and neighbours, he was involved in the wider leftwing movement. He left behind a suicide note addressed to his daughter, who subsequently spoke to Ta Nea. She said: “The contents of the note, the political content of his act, is the voice of my father.” In the note, Christoulas compared the present government with wartime collaborationists and, with his pension reduced to nothing, he had been given no choice to end his life with dignity.
Georgios Tsolakoglou was the first collaborationist prime minister during Germany’s occupation of Greece during the Second World War.
The reference has been widely interpreted as a comparison between the wartime collaborationist government and the current government of Lucas Papademos.
The suicide occured shortly before 9am, as people went about their business on the square. Christoulas, 77, shot himself while standing next to a tree on one of the grassy areas on the square.  He died from a single shot to the head, reports say.
Over a thousand people gathered in Syntagma Square, opposite parliament. on Wednesday evening, around the spot where Dimitris Christoulas had earlier ended his own life in despair over financial problems apparently linked to the economic crisis.
Responding to a call made over social networking sites, people from all corners of Attica started to gather in Syntagma to protest beneath the banner “Let’s not get used to death”.
“The way he chose is a statement of a political position and stance. If this man had killed himself at home there would not have been such a stir, as there had not been for the previous 1900 suicides. It is an incident that we must look at among many other incidents of suicide in our country, the country of sun and laughter,” the head of the Attica Pharmacists’ Association Kostas Lourantos said in statements to the AMNA.

Globalised food system has failed the poor.

The World Economic Forum’s annual gathering is usually little more than a toast to the benefits of increasing global gross domestic product (GDP), trade and investment. But this year’s meeting comes at a time when economic expansion can no longer be taken for granted and when the uneven benefits of past growth are sparking mass social unrest.

So it is little wonder that doomsday scenarios about the “seeds of dystopia” and the risks of “rolling back the globalisation process” are being dangled in Davos. The world’s economic and political leaders stand warned: do globalisation better, or it will be derailed by the growing legions of the discontented.

Leaders would be unwise to ignore this warning. Discussions in Davos must go beyond how to rectify the imbalances in developed countries’ debt-to-GDP ratios. They must finally pay attention to the wider imbalances that are generated by unfettered globalisation.

Popular anger is directed not only at the bank bail-outs, soaring public debt and bleak employment prospects of recent years. All around the world, people have fallen afoul of a two-track economic process whereby whole industries have been sacrificed to cheaper imports, whole regions have been consigned to abandonment or degradation and whole populations have been frozen out of economic progress.

Nowhere are these imbalances more evident than in the global food system. Globalisation has been wholeheartedly embraced in the service of feeding the world: bilateral and multilateral trade agreements have been put in place to allow food to flow from food-surplus to food-deficit regions.

Yet this model has failed spectacularly. The food bills of the least-developed countries increased five-or sixfold between 1992 and 2008. Imports now account for about 25% of their current food consumption. The more they are told to rely on trade, the less they invest in domestic agriculture. And the less they support their own farmers, the more they have to rely on trade. Countries that fall into this vicious cycle leave their citizens vulnerable to historically volatile prices on international markets, which means increased hunger and insecurity.

Despite the persistent challenges of hunger and food inequality, people are told to embrace more open markets, more trade and more globalised economic processes. Yet open markets do not function as perfectly as many at Davos would like to think. Food moves where purchasing power is highest, not where the need for it is most urgent.

This blind embrace of globalisation from above means missing out on key opportunities that do not fit the dogma. If we were to support developing-world small landholders, who are often the poorest groups, we could enable them to move out of poverty and enable local food production to meet local needs. Trade would complement local production rather than justifying its abandonment.

Trade and investment agreements are the gateways through which globalisation passes on its way to redefining a country’s economic landscape and they are increasing at an impressive pace. There are 6092 bilateral investment agreements in force, with 56 concluded in 2010 alone.

That growth reflects the flawed economic model of the pre-crisis years, which relied on indifference to where growth came from, how sustainable it was and who was benefiting from it. If we are to learn anything from the crisis, it must be to start asking the right questions.

Every new bilateral agreement, every chapter of globalisation, should be measured against new criteria. How sustainable and how evenly spread will the macroeconomic benefits be? Will they facilitate genuine development and provide dignified opportunities to those who become economically displaced?

Globalisation involves winners and losers — that has been established.

But losing out, for a subsistence farmer, means sinking into dire poverty and hunger.

Is the denial of a vulnerable population’s right to food an acceptable byproduct of a trade deal? Should the goal be to multiply the interests of powerful multinationals? Are these the economic processes that we want, or need?

These are the questions leaders must ask at Davos. Globalisation can survive the crisis. But not as we know it. Globalisation must be taken back for the interests of the many. © Project Syndicate, 2012. http://www.project-syndicate.org

 • De Schutter is the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food.

http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=163521

Food as a Commodity.

Food is one of the most basic of human needs. Routine access to a balanced diet is essential for both growth and development of the young, as well as for general health throughout one’s life. Although food is mostly plentiful, malnutrition is still common. The contradiction between plentiful global food supplies and widespread malnutrition and hunger arises primarily from food being considered a commodity, just like any other.

For many millennia following the origin of our species, humans were hunters and gatherers—an existence that one might think of as tenuous. However, judging from archeological evidence as well as recent examples, hunters and gatherers generally ate a diverse diet that supplied adequate nutrition. For example, studies in the 1960s and ‘70s of the !Kung of southern Africa, foragers for literally thousands of years, indicate that although they ate meat that they hunted, about two-thirds of their food was plant-based—nuts (supplying more than one-third of caloric intake), fruits, roots, and berries—and their diet provided approximately 2,400 calories a day. The groups of hunter-gatherers were egalitarian, with everyone participating in the provisioning of food.

Agriculture, which developed some seven to ten thousand years ago, provided surplus food that allowed the development of cities and the hierarchies and civilizations that went along with them—farmers, artisans, priests, kings, warriors, scribes, and other functionaries. But just because there was a surplus did not mean that people were better nourished than hunter-gatherers. In fact, the narrowing of available foods used from the wide variety in the hunter-gatherers’ diets, along with the reliance primarily on grains to provide calories, is thought to have caused a decrease in the health of early agriculturalists—as indicated by their decreased height compared that of hunter-gatherers. In these agricultural societies surplus food production was mainly appropriated for the use of the non-food producing classes. Most pre-capitalist agricultural societies had many producers relative to non-productive classes.

In some ancient empires imperial tribute took the form of food shipped long distances from the place of production. North Africa, for example, was the granary for Rome. Much of Chinese history involved constructing infrastructure to store and provide food far from its place of production. Nevertheless, in much of the world (including feudal Europe) food was produced either by peasant farmers and consumed by their families or else appropriated by landed aristocracies on a fairly local basis. What markets existed were often on a barter basis and trade in food was in kind, without becoming a commodity.

This changed with capitalism or generalized commodity production. The endless accumulation of profits, the motive force of the capitalist system, occurs through the production of commodities or services to sell at a price in excess of the production costs. Production for the purpose of sale and profit, instead of production for use, is a defining characteristic of capitalism and essentially all commodity exchanges take place in markets. During the early stages of capitalism, when most people still lived and worked on the land, a large portion of food was produced to be consumed locally in the rural areas and did not exist as a commodity. However, farmers near growing cities and/or near water transport shipped food to the industrializing urban centers.

The commodity nature of food became much more pronounced as capitalism grew and conquered most of the world’s societies. Imperial powers brought the peasants of their colonies into the money economy by extracting monetary rather than in-kind taxes. The need to obtain money to pay taxes began a process that converted a portion of the food produced into commodities.

The industrial phase of capitalism caused rural populations to decline in Europe, North America, and Japan. People were forced off the land and looked for work in the cities, moving to the growing industrial centers. (Many also migrated from Europe to North America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and elsewhere.) The development of canals, railroads, and road systems allowed for long-distance transport of food within large landmasses. Advances in shipping by sea also greatly decreased the cost of global trade in food.

Almost all of the crops and animals raised using the scale and approach of industrial farming are sold as undifferentiated commodities. Farmers sell their crops to buyers who resell the raw commodities to be processed—or themselves process the raw commodity—with the semi-processed commodities then sold to final processors/packagers who sell to wholesalers who then sell to retailers who finally sell food to the public. Thus, the farmers producing the bulk of food in the wealthy countries have become greatly separated from the public that finally purchases their products—not just physically, but also by the long chain of intermediaries between farms and people’s tables. Farm mechanization has increased labor productivity, leading to fewer farmers and larger farms. As industrial methods were applied to raising crops and animals, the agriculture-input sector grew dramatically and became highly concentrated—with relatively few companies now producing and selling farm machinery, fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds. Industrialized food systems also saw concentration and centralization of production and growing monopoly power. For example, large integrated “protein” (meat) firms now contract with farmers to produce poultry and hogs in large facilities under crowded and inhumane conditions. Because corporations mandate that their contractors be located near where they decide to build slaughtering facilities, this frequently means long distance transport of feed. Beef cows are increasingly raised in large feedlots.

Indeed farming, the actual raising of crops and animals, is only one part of the whole food system. The commodity nature of all parts of the agricultural/food system—farm inputs, actual farming, purchasing and processing raw agricultural goods, and wholesaling and retailing—means that many different types of commodities are produced and sold. Farming itself has been reduced to a component in a larger system of agribusiness, with many of the remaining small farmers in the United States increasingly becoming subcontractors to large corporations. The input side of agriculture was one of the last sectors of the economy to go through concentration of ownership, leading to fewer machinery companies, fewer “agrichemical” (fertilizer and pesticide) companies, and fewer seed companies. A few input and purchasing/processing corporations are able to exert near monopoly power. One of the most recent developments in the inputs sector has been the creation of transgenic (genetically modified, or GM) varieties of crops. Industry consolidation was stimulated by the greater control exerted on prices (and farmers), and today about 40 percent of the entire global seed market is controlled by three firms—Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta.

Globally there is still a significant portion of food produced on small landholdings for personal consumption or very local markets—in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. However, in the United States, Western Europe, and Australia (and now in Brazil, and even more recently, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia) crops are increasingly produced on large, highly mechanized farms for either national or international sale. Most of these countries actively promote large-scale production for export, to either obtain foreign exchange or to help their international balance of payments situation.

Implications

There are a number of important implications of the commodity nature of food production, processing, and consumption. In capitalist economies, as noted, nearly all enterprise is for the sake of producing commodities for sale—whether the “product” is an absolute necessity such as food and health care, or a luxury such as a private jet plane or a huge house. More and more of the natural world, including water supplies and the very genes of life, are being brought under private control with the aim of making profits, rather than to supply the needs of people.

However, there is a critical contradiction when any basic human need is produced and sold as a commodity, whether we are considering food, health care, drinking water, or shelter. Capitalism naturally produces a stratification of wealth that includes the unemployed, the working poor, a better-off working class, a middle class, and a relatively small group of very rich individuals. The bottom strata of society—encompassing the members of what Marx called the reserve army of labor—are absolutely essential to the smooth working of the system. It allows easy access to labor when the economy expands and helps keep wages down, as workers are aware that they can easily be replaced.1 Even in a wealthy country such as the United States the numerous unemployed and those in low-paying jobs cannot afford all of their basic living costs—rent, electricity, transportation (irrational patterns of development plus inadequate public transportation means that cars are frequently needed to get to work), clothes, medical care, food, etc.

Given that poverty in the United States is not absolute destitution, the poor sometimes have options: they may purchase more or less food of higher or lower nutritional value, skip meals, get food stamps (now called SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program), or receive food assistance from charities. The poor commonly have little money left for food after rent and utilities are paid. In the summer of 2011, approximately 46 million people were receiving food assistance through Federal programs, inadequate as it is. Still, despite the abundance of food, a high average per capita income, and various forms of assistance available, some 50 million people in the United States are considered to be “food insecure.” Of these, over 12 million adults and 5 million children have “very low” food security, with one or more members of their households lowering their food intake.

In some parts of the global South, of course, conditions are far worse. The commodity nature of food results in food price levels far above many people’s meager means, producing a lack of adequate nutrition. The United Nations estimates that there are close to one billion people worldwide who suffer from malnutrition. This leads to severe health problems and death for millions. Food deprivation, though falling short of severe malnutrition, is still a very serious condition. Hence, a sense of injustice associated with rising food prices and unequal access to food was a major factor spurring revolts in the Arab world over the last year.

Because food products are commodities, and the whole point of the food/agriculture system is to sell more and make more profits, there is massive advertising surrounding food, especially the most profitable sector—processed foods. High caloric but low nutritional-value foods, such as sugary breakfast cereals, are pushed on children. And because these processed foods are relatively inexpensive and available at local convenience stores that often do not carry higher quality food like fruits and vegetables, the commodity nature of food is part of the explanation for the surge in obesity, especially among the poor.

Food crops have many different uses other than direct human consumption. They can be processed into a variety of forms—breads (pitas, tortillas), potato chips, frozen dinners, pasta, ice cream, etc. Corn is commonly processed to obtain industrial starch and sugars (high in fructose). A relatively high percent of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are used to feed poultry and hogs as well as beef and dairy cows (that, from an environmental point of view, should be eating grass and legume forages that the bacteria in their rumens convert into usable energy and protein for the animals). And with the push to lessen dependence on imported oil and to have a supposedly more “green” source of liquid fuels—corn, soy, rape, sugar cane, palm oil, and jatropha (a non-food crop raised only to make biofuel) are being grown to produce either ethanol or biodiesel.

In the United States and Europe, there are governmental mandates and subsidies encouraging production of both food and non-food crops, which are then used for biofuel feedstocks. This is an important part of the explanation for the tight markets and high prices for corn and oil crops. A UN Food and Agriculture Organization report says: “By generating a new demand for food commodities that can outbid poor countries and food-insecure populations, industrial biofuels highlight the tension between a potentially unlimited demand (in this case for energy) and the constraints of a world with finite resources.”2 It was the search for another market for corn that induced Dwayne Andreas, CEO of the grain purchaser/processor and feed grain conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), to gain influence over politicians and spend lavishly on both Democrats and Republicans. ADM was the main backer for the corn-to-ethanol industry and might be considered the grandfather of the current mandate to mix a certain percent of ethanol with gasoline (in the process of increasing from 10 to 15 percent).

The commodity nature of food by itself limits access by the poor. Market pressures and incentives contribute to the interchangeability of key food crops that can also be used for animals or fuel production; the possibility to grow crops for strictly industrial use instead of food, if the price is right; and huge amounts of hoarding and speculation on agricultural commodities (see below). Land can be used to grow crops for a number of purposes: food for people, food crops that are also potentially feeds for animals, and industrial feedstocks (cotton, jatrohpa, corn to make sugar or other products, and crops like hay which are strictly for animals). Market prices guide farmers’ production. When ethanol prices increase, more land goes into corn for ethanol. If cotton prices increase, a portion of the land that would have gone to grow corn and soybeans will be planted with cotton. Market prices also guide the ultimate utilization of crops that have multiple uses. For example, should soybeans be used to make vegetable oil for human use, be feed to animals, or be converted into biodiesel fuel? The need to feed hungry people does not enter the calculation.

When a poor (so-called “developing”) country attempts to solve its food problem primarily by encouraging farmers to produce more, bumper crops tend to depress prices, thus helping the poor gain greater food access. However, depressed prices may be problematic for farmers, many of whom themselves are poor. This has happened recently in Zambia, where “massive production can send prices tumbling. The smallest farmers, who are the least productive, suffer doubly by producing little and getting paid a pittance for the crop.”3 Thus, bumper crops in capitalist agricultural tend to favor the larger farmers, especially those using inputs such as irrigation and fertilizers that help produce high yields. However, the resulting low prices may force large numbers of small farmers, many unable to protect their crops from the vagaries of nature and lacking the financial resources to weather hard times, into deeper poverty.

A new dimension has been added to the phenomena of food as a commodity—a new land grab, with private capital and sovereign wealth funds purchasing or leasing land in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to produce food and biofuels for markets for the home countries of the investors.4 As with food, the most basic input for its production, soil, becomes a commodity ripe for either speculation or to go to the highest bidder. In many countries of the global South, traditional land tenure systems are thrown aside as land is purchased or rented under long-term agreement by private capital or national sovereign wealth funds. The purpose is either to make money, or to produce food or fuel (jatropha or other fuel crops) for the “home” markets. This creates even more rapid “depeasantization” as more farmers are pushed off the land and into city slums that have no jobs for them. It is estimated that some 20 million hectares (50 million acres) have either been sold or are under long-term lease to foreign countries or foreign capital. “In Africa they are calling it the land grab, or the new colonialism. Countries hungry to secure their food supplies—including Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, South Korea (the world’s third largest importer of corn), China, India, Libya, and Egypt—are at the forefront of a frantic rush to gobble up farmland all around the world, but mainly in cash-starved Africa.”5

The “highest and best use” of any commodity is where it can get the best price, regardless of the social, ecological, or humanitarian consequences. One small example of the contradictions that arise from this is a result of the growing market in the North for quinoa, a grain grown in the Andes that is especially nutritious because of its balance of amino acids. This benefits farmers by increasing crop prices, but at the same time it means that this traditional and nutritious food is becoming too expensive for local people.6

Another implication of the commodity nature of food is that it is increasingly subject to speculative price movements. Raw commodities such as metals and food crops have become a prime target of speculators who want to bet on the price changes of tangible products, rather than completely relying on the complex bets embodied in many “financial instruments.” The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT, owned by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange), opening in 1848, is the oldest organized foodstuffs futures and options trading exchange. Throughout most of its history the CBOT and the other commodity exchanges were used primarily by those interested in hedging prices because they bought, sold, or used the physical products—farmers, buyers, and food processors. It was a sound way to protect your business against the vagaries of weather and competition. But with the financialization of the economy everything has become fair game for speculation, so food and other agricultural products (as well as other raw commodities) have become just more bets that can be made. With the so-called “Commodity Futures Modernization Act,” commodity markets were deregulated in 2000 and “structured” financial products were developed to allow various types of speculation. In addition to straight bets on individual commodities, commodity index funds (pioneered by Goldman Sachs) begun to track prices of commodities. The amount of money in these funds increased from $13 billion in 2003 to $317 billion in 2008. As U.S. hedge fund manager Mike Masters explained: “Speculators today have about 70 percent of the open interest in commodity markets. Ten years ago, they controlled roughly 30 percent of the market.”7 With so much money flowing into the food commodity markets, prices are driven up in a speculative upswing. This, of course, does not mean that commodity prices will only keep going up—they fluctuate based on economic conditions, world food stock levels, crop yields, rumors, and fads. But speculation drives prices up and down further and faster, and as a result contributes to hunger for many—sometimes millions—when prices peak, and to the ruin of small producers when prices crash.

When food—a basic necessity for human health and survival that is currently produced in sufficient quantity to feed everyone in the world a basic nutritious diet—is a commodity, the results are routine hunger, malnutrition, premature deaths, and famines when tight supplies result in exceptionally high prices. There are examples of farmers and the public organizing alternative ways to grow food for people instead of the market—such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in which people purchase (frequently on a sliding scale according to ability to pay) a share of the produce during grown during the season. These types of arrangements between farmers and the public are encouraging because they demonstrate an alternate approach to food. However, the only way to guarantee that food reaches all people in sufficient quantity and quality is to develop a new system that considers food a human right and no longer considers it a commodity. Only then will we be able to fulfill the slogan, “Food for People, Not for Profit.”

NOTES

↩ For a discussion of the reserve army see Fred Magdoff and Harry Magdoff, “Disposable Workers: Today’s Reserve Army of Labor,” Monthly Review 55, no. 11 (2004): 18–35.
↩ High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition, “Price volatility and food security,” Committee on World Food Security, Rome, July 2011, http://fao.org.
↩ Samuel Fromartz, “The Production Conundrum,” The Nation, October 3, 2011, 20–22.
↩ GRAIN, “The New Farm Owners: Corporate Investors and the Control of Overseas Farmland,” in Fred Magdoff and Brian Tokar, eds., Agriculture and Food in Crisis: Conflict, Resistance, and Renewal (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010).
↩ Margareta Pagano, “Land Grab: The Race for the World’s Farmland,” The Independent, May 3, 2009, http://independent.co.uk.
↩ Simon Romero and Sarah Shahriari, “Quinoa’s Global Success Creates a Quandary at Home,” The New York Times, March 19, 2011, http://nytimes.com.
↩ Deborah Doane, “As food speculators make money, the world’s poorest suffer,” CNN Opinion, June 22, 2011, http://cnn.com.

http://monthlyreview.org/2012/01/01/food-as-a-commodity

In Oaxaca, México, a struggle against wind energy companies from Spain.

To the peoples of Oaxaca
To the peoples of México
To the peoples of the world

The voracity and greed of the rich have no limits, and the rich don’t hesitate to spill the blood of campesinos and workers in order to impose their interests. The rebellions against capitalist greed are now spreading throughout the whole world, from Egypt to Chile, and from Greece to the United States, where people are now joining forces with the long, ancestral resistance of the original peoples against colonialist capitalist invaders. Yesterday, October 28, 2011, in Oaxaca, México, the struggle against transnational wind energy companies on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec resulted in the loss of yet another life and in wounds inflicted on 20 people. In some cases, the wounds were very serious.

Yesterday, October 28, 2011 there was a confrontation on the Pan American Highway just outside the La Venta Community in Juchitán, Oaxaca, when a group of thugs and policemen commanded by the La Venta municipal agent Ventura Ordaz Santiago, tried to violently clear a roadblock set up by campesinos opposed to the wind energy project in an effort to prevent the extraction of materials from their land that would be used for the construction of more wind energy parks in the region. The comrades tried to defend themselves from this attack, and in the confusion one of the aggressors was killed and twenty campesinos opposed to the wind energy project were badly wounded. The attack occurred seven days after the campesinos opposed to the project received death threats that were documented by Amnesty International and a few hours after professor Rodrigo Flores Peñaloza, in the city of Oaxaca, publicly denounced the imminent aggression against his comrades. The Gabino Cue State Government of Oaxaca did absolutely nothing to prevent the attack despite repeated denunciations.

The local press and state government officials are now maintaining a suspicious, hermetic silence regarding the events, at the same time that gunmen on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec hunt down the campesino comrades that they hold responsible for the death of the citizen killed yesterday in a quest for vengeance.

In the face of the complicit silence of the Gabino Cue Monteagudo state government, which has already resulted in one death and could unleash even greater violence, we denounce these acts before the men and women of the world, human rights organizations, and social organizations in resistance that are struggling for a better world.

Moreover, we denounce the fact that these acts on the Isthmus are part of the strategy of the Gabino Cue government to set social movements against each other, allow their conflicts to fester, and incite violence between peoples. The aim is to make the plunder of transnational corporations against the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca seem like inter-community conflicts. This has occurred in San Juan Cópala, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and is now the government strategy in San Miguel Chimalapa.

We hold these large Spanish companies directly responsible; DEMEX (RENOVALIA), GES SCADA, GAMESA, CIISA.

We also hold the individuals who headed the violent evacuation directly responsible: Pedro Santiago Rasgado, henchman of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and Ventura Ordaz Santiago, municipal agent of La Venta, Juchitán.

We hold Oaxaca state Governor Gabino Cue Monteagudo and his Secretary of the Interior Jesús Martínez Álvarez responsible for their perverse policy of setting social movements and organizations against each other and instigating fratricidal war between brothers and sisters, indigenous peoples, and poor people, while granting full guarantees and concessions to transnational corporations and rich people in general for their businesses.

We firmly demand the clarification of the events that occurred on the Pan American Highway yesterday, October 28, 2011, and express our confidence in the innocence of our campesino comrades opposed to the wind energy project.

PUNISHMENT FOR ALL GUILTY PARTIES!
NO TO THE TRANSNATIONAL WIND PROJECT!
PUNISHMENT FOR THE KILLER ULISES RUIZ ORTIZ!
JUSTICE FOR OAXACA!

Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus in Defense of the Land and Territory
VOCAL, Oaxacan Voices Constructing Autonomy and Freedom

Oaxaca de Magon, City of Resistance, October 29, 2011

http://elenemigocomun.net

Día internacional contra la violencia hacia las mujeres. Marcha en Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas.

Este 24 y 25 de noviembre, Día Internacional contra la Violencia hacia las Mujeres, a la asamblea y marcha para denunciar y exigir a las autoridades:
¡Alto a la violencia del sistema capitalista, neoliberal y patriarcal!

Y respeto a los:
  • Derecho de las mujeres a la tierra y a la propiedad familiar: no exclusión y despojo de las mujeres a la tierra y revisión inmediata de reglamentos ejidales y estatutos comunales para eliminar la discriminación a las mujeres.
  • Derecho a la alimentación: control de precios de los productos básicos, precio justo para los productos del campo.
  • Derecho a la justicia: alto a las violaciones, alto al feminicidio y castigo para los responsables.
Exigimos:
  • Alto a las altas tarifas de luz, agua, predial y de todos los servicios básicos.
  • Respeto a los derechos laborales y sindicales, respeto a las pensiones y jubilaciones, salarios justos.
  • Respeto a las autonomías zapatistas.
  • Alto a la militarización y a la paramilitarización.
  • Libertad inmediata de los y las presas políticas y respeto a su dignidad y a la de sus familiares.
Invitamos a participar a todas las mujeres de Chiapas del campo y la ciudad, y a los hombres solidarios con nuestras luchas, en:
LA ASAMBLEA de mujeres en lucha, que se realizará el 24 de noviembre, de 8:00 a 19:00 hs., en el CIDECI-UNITIERRA (Camino viejo a Chamula s/n. col Nueva Maravilla, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas).
LA MARCHA-MITIN En Tuxtla Gutiérrez, este 25 de noviembre, desde el Parque 5 de mayo a la Plaza Central.
Puntos de reunión:
– en San Cristóbal de las Casas: en CIDECI, a las 7:30 a.m.
– en Tuxtla Gutiérrez: en el Parque 5 de mayo, a las 10:00 a.m.
Pedimos que cada organización participante lleve sus mantas reivindicativas y su intervención para el mitín.
Los gastos serán cubiertos por cada organización.
Convocamos:

Movimiento Independiente de Mujeres (MIM),
Centro de Derechos de la Mujer de Chiapas, A.C;
Colectivos de mujeres de las regiones Selva-Norte, Altos y Sierra-fronteriza,
Red de mujeres sindicalistas de Chiapas, Brigada Feminista,
Coordinadora de Mujeres en Resistencia Norte, Altos y Selva-frontera,
Mujeres del Consejo Autónomo Regional de la Costa,
Organización de familiares de presos de Ocosingo “La Voz del Encino,”
Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas.

 

International Conference: Solidarity, Defense and Struggle for Freedom of Political Prisoners of the World. October 22-24. 2010. Copenhagen, Denmark.

International Conference on Solidarity, Defense and Struggle for Freedom of Political Prisoners of the World. From October 22. to October 24. 2010 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Solidarity, defense and struggle for the freedom of political prisoners of the world is not possible without creating a collaboration against the international governing world system (world capitalism) based on exploitation, repression, imprisonment, torture and execution.

The phenomenon “political prisoners” is a part of class struggle. In order to defend its privileges the ruling class – the capitalists – uses this tool to continue suppressing the freedom fighters of the world.

Political prisoners in Palestine, the Basque Country, Turkey, Colombia, Peru, Italy, Mexico, North America, Russia, Germany, Iran and in other countries live under severe and inhumane conditions. In prisons all over the world different types of torture are implemented systematically – isolation, cable lashes, drowning, electric shocks, rape and other forms etc.

Until now, there have been many joint efforts and international solidarity actions to defend political prisoners and freedom fighters, for example the International Conference in Berlin, Germany in April 1999, and in San Sebastian, the Basque Country in 2004.

In order to sustain and successfully follow up on these efforts, we as freedomfighters and former political prisoners from various countries are once again preparing an International Solidarity Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark to defend and fight for the freedom of political prisoners of the world. One of the major topics at the conference is to discuss how to organize independent Tribunals at national and international level.

So far, diverse countries as Euskal Herria, Iran, Turkey, Colombia, Palestine, Mexico and Denmark have taken part in discussions towards the organization of this conference.

We call on organizations around the world working for the liberation of political prisoners to join this initiative and participate in the International Conference, with their experiences of solidarity, defense and struggle for freedom of the political prisoners in your world.

The conference has five political themes:

1. The conditions of political prisoners all over the world

2. Administrative detention

3. Terror lists / Blacklisting

4. Class, ’Race’ and Gender

5. Tribunals

It is intended to form workshops on these five themes. You can sign up your workshop as soon as possible at: freeallpoliticalprisoners2010@yahoo.com

Revolutionary greetings!

Long live international solidarity!

FREEDOM FOR ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS OF THE WORLD!

By the Preparation Committee of the International Conference on Solidarity, Defense and Struggle for Freedom of Political Prisoners of the World

http://www.freeallpoliticalprisoners.org/

The Social Earthquake in Chile

Chile is experiencing a social earthquake in the aftermath of the 8.8 magnitude quake that struck the country on February 27. “The fault lines of the Chilean Economic Miracle have been exposed,” says Elias Padilla, an anthropology professor at the Academic University of Christian Humanism in Santiago. “The free market, neo-liberal economic model that Chile has followed since the Pinochet dictatorship has feet of mud.”

Chile is one of the most inequitable societies in the world. Today, 14 percent of the population lives in abject poverty. The top 20 percent captures 50 percent of the national income, while the bottom 20 percent earns only 5 percent. In a 2005 World Bank survey of 124 countries, Chile ranked twelfth in the list of countries with the worst distribution of income.

The rampant ideology of the free market has produced a deep sense of alienation among much of the population. Although a coalition of center left parties replaced the Pinochet regime 20 years ago, it opted to depoliticize the country, to rule from the top down, allowing controlled elections every few years, shunting aside the popular organizations and social movements that had brought down the dictatorship.

This explains the scenes of looting and social chaos in the southern part of the country that were transmitted round the world on the third day after the earthquake. In Concepcion, Chile’s second largest city, which was virtually leveled by the earthquake, the population received absolutely no assistance from the central government for two days. The chain supermarkets and malls that had come to replace the local stores and shops over the years remained firmly shuttered.

Settling Accounts

Popular frustration exploded as mobs descended on the commercial center, carting off everything, not just food from the supermarkets but also shoes, clothing, plasma TVs, and cell phones. This wasn’t simple looting, but the settling accounts with an economic system that dictates that only possessions and commodities matter. The “gente decente” the decent people and the big media began referring to them as lumpen, vandals and delinquents. “The greater the social inequities, the greater the delinquency,” explains Hugo Fruhling of the Center for the Study of Citizen Security at the University of Chile.

In the two days leading up to the riots, the government of Michele Bachelet revealed its incapacity to understand and deal with the human tragedy wrecked on the country. Many of the ministers were gone on summer vacation, or licking their wounds as they prepared to turn over their offices to the incoming right wing government of billionaire Sebastian Piñera, who will be sworn in this Thursday. Bachelet declared that the country’s needs had to be studied and surveyed before any assistance could be sent. On Saturday morning, the day of the quake, she ordered the military to place a helicopter at her disposal to fly over Concepcion to assess the damage. As of Sunday morning, no helicopter had appeared, and the trip was abandoned.

As an anonymous Carlos L. wrote in an email widely circulated in Chile: “It would be very difficult in the history of the country to find a government with so many powerful resources — technological, economic, political, organizational — that has been unable to provide any response to the urgent social demands of entire regions gripped by fear, needs of shelter, water, food and hope.”

What arrived in Concepcion on Monday was not relief or assistance, but several thousand soldiers and police transported in trucks and planes, as people were ordered to stay in their homes. Pitched battles were fought in the streets of Concepcion, as buildings were set afire. Other citizens took up arms to protect their homes and barrios as the city appeared to be on the brink of an urban war. On Tuesday, relief assistance finally began to arrive in quantity, along with more troops and the militarization of the southern region.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on part of a Latin American tour that was scheduled before the quake, flew into Santiago on Tuesday to meet with Bachelet and Piñera. She brought 20 satellite phones and a technician on her plane, saying one of the “biggest problems has been communications as we found in Haiti in those days after the quake.” It went unsaid that just as in Chile, the U.S. sent in the military to take control of Porte au Prince before any significant relief assistance was distributed.

Milton Friedman’s Legacy

The Wall Street Journal joined in the fray to uphold the neoliberal model, running an article by Bret Stephens, “How Milton Friedman Saved Chile.” He asserted that Friedman’s “spirit was surely hovering protectively over Chile in the early morning hours of Saturday. Thanks largely to him, the country has endured a tragedy that elsewhere would have been an apocalypse.” He went on to declare, “it’s not by chance that Chilean’s were living in houses of brick—and Haitians in houses of straw — when the wolf arrived to try to blow them down.” Chile had adopted “some of the world’s strictest building codes,” as the economy boomed due to Pinochet’s appointment of Friedman-trained economists to cabinet ministries and the subsequent civilian government’s commitment to neoliberalism.

There are two problems with this view. First, as Naomi Klein points out in “Chile’s Socialist Rebar” on the Huffington Post, it was the socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1972 that established the first earthquake building codes. They were later strengthened, not by Pinochet, but by the restored civilian government in the 1990’s.

Secondly, as CIPER, the Center of Journalistic Investigation and Information reported on March 6, greater Santiago has 23 residential complexes and high rises built over the last 15 years that suffered severe quake damage. Building codes had been skirted, and “the responsibility of the construction and real estate enterprises is now the subject of public debate.” In the country at large, 2 million people out of a population of 17 million are homeless. Most of the houses destroyed by the earthquake were built of adobe or other improvised materials, many in the shanty towns that have sprung up to provide a cheap, informal work force for the country’s big businesses and industries.

There is little hope that the incoming government of Sebastian Piñera will rectify the social inequities that the quake exposed. The richest person in Chile, he and several of his advisers and ministers are implicated as major shareholders in construction projects that were severely damaged by the quake because building codes were ignored. Having campaigned on a platform of bringing security to the cities and moving against vandalism and crime, he criticized Bachelet’s for not deploying the military sooner in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Signs of Resistance

There are signs that the historic Chile of popular organizations and grass roots mobilizing may be reawakening. A coalition of over 60 social and nongovernmental organizations released a letter stating: “In these dramatic circumstances, organized citizens have proven capable of providing urgent, rapid and creative responses to the social crisis that millions of families are experiencing. The most diverse organizations–neighborhood associations, housing and homeless committees, trade unions, university federations and student centers, cultural organizations, environmental groups — are mobilizing, demonstrating the imaginative potential and solidarity of communities.” The declaration concluded by demanding of the Piñera government the right to “monitor the plans and models of reconstruction so that they include the full participation of the communities.”

Roger Burbach lived in Chile during the Allende years. He is author of The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice (Zed Books) and director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) based in Berkeley, CA

Posted on New America Media


@twewwter

December 2019
S M T W T F S
« Sep    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Join 727 other followers

Archivo