Tag Archive: Democracy

Nov 05 2017

Rant of the Week: Stephen Colbert – Restoring Democracy Spanish Style

Catalonia is a triangular region of Spain that borders on France and the Mediterranean. It is a prosperous region and, in October, it held a referendum declaring its independence from Spain. Needless to say the Spanish government did not react kindly to this and took action to squash the vote by declaring it null and …

Continue reading »

Jan 04 2016

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: What Jeremy Corbyn’s Campaign Means for Britain

By: NY Brit Expat (Note: this piece came in just as we were doing our platform transfer and by the time that task was complete we were deep into Holiday season and I wasn’t sure it would get the prominence it deserved. I apologize for the delay. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour is, if anything, …

Continue reading »

Sep 07 2015

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: What Jeremy Corbyn’s Campaign Means for Britain

By: NY Brit Expat

Can I begin by saying how much I have enjoyed the Labour party leadership elections? I was set not to when I saw the original candidates for the post. It was downright dispiriting. Then Jeremy Corbyn declares his candidacy, we have the nail-biting nominations process, he gets through, the Unions start coming on board, the Constituency Labour parties supporting him hands down, the purges by Labour of those that “do not share its aims and values”, now Corbyn as the frontrunner of an election which will be declared next week. This has not only been exciting, it has been a breath of fresh air and it is a conversation that Labour has needed to have for quite a while. I have enjoyed it thoroughly, now we just need to hope that the grandees of the Labour party do not pull a fast one and he is expected to win. Yes, win!

In many senses, Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign has shaken the political landscape in Britain. There are a number of things that have led us to this place (among these are the Scottish referendum and the collapse of Scottish Labour, and the general election result which the Tories won), but I think the straw that broke the camel’s back actually was the decision of Labour’s grandees to abstain on the Welfare Bill enabling a vicious attack on women, the disabled and the working class to pass with opposition coming from the Scottish National Party, the Greens and Plaid Cymru. It became evident that while Labour claimed to be the opposition in Parliament that they had proved themselves to be enablers of the Tories rather than an opposition. Jeremy Corbyn is set to win the Labour leadership election; by August 24th he had moved into the front of the pack with odds of 3/10 of winning.

For those that haven’t heard of Jeremy Corbyn, let me introduce you to a left Social Democrat who is one of the few remaining in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). He is the Member of Parliament from the People’s Republic of Islington representing Islington North. He is a man of integrity and principles and has a long list of defying the Labour party whips more than 238 times  at least according to The Sun.  Normally, I would never quote The Sun, a right-wing Murdoch spread, but you do need to read this if only to get an idea of how Corbyn is being characterised.

Corbyn is a supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the People’s Assembly, is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Amnesty International. He opposed the Iraq War, supports LGBT rights, supports a united Ireland, opposes tuition fees at Universities, opposes the creation of Academies and Free Schools, supports the introduction of a living wage voted against the horrific Welfare Bill (that Labour MPs were supposed to abstain on), has spoken at demonstrations of the People’s Assembly, against the Iraq war, against austerity among many others. He is also a vegetarian, supports animal rights, wears old jumpers and often wears a black cap (yes, it is similar to Lenin’s).

 photo 1c9cffae-ff53-4ecb-8cd7-4eb2e8fb5ed8_zpspkj9oqzl.jpg

His candidacy differs from Bernie Sanders (and this is not only because he is further to the left of Sanders) as he is not an outsider seeking to be leader; he is a long-term member of the Labour party and a member of the Socialist Campaign Group.  He will probably win the Labour leadership contest despite opposition from the right, centre and centre-left of the Party and despite smears in the mainstream media from fellow party members and members and ideologues of the ruling class.  Moreover, the momentum behind him does not come as much as from within in the party itself as from those who left or are outside of the Labour party due to its transformation into New Labour which lost them the base of the party.

Jan 14 2015

Lip Service – Caution Democrats At Work!

HueyPLongLook out! The ghost of Huey Long has taken over for all three of Dickens’ spirits and is haunting the Corporate Democrats. How else to explain the recent conversions of the darling of Goldman Sachs’ and Robert Rubin’s Hamilton Project, the Crown family of General Dynamics and Penny Pritzger of the Hyatt fortune suddenly getting all populist and proposing a free community college education for one and all?

President Obama said Thursday that he would propose a government program to make community college tuition-free for millions of students, an ambitious plan that would expand educational opportunities across the United States. …

The proposal would cover half-time and full-time students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average – about a C-plus – and who “make steady progress toward completing a program,” White House officials said. It would apply to colleges that offered credit toward a four-year degree or occupational-training programs that award degrees in high-demand fields. The federal government would cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college for those students, and states that choose to participate would cover the remainder. If all states participate, the administration estimates, the program could cover as many as nine million students, saving them each an average of $3,800 a year.

Mr. Obama will include the program, which would need congressional approval, in his budget for the coming year, his advisers said, and detail it in his State of the Union address Jan. 20. …

White House officials acknowledged in a conference call with reporters that the program was unlikely to win quick approval in Congress.

Huey has also been haunting congressional corporate Democrats, too! Programs and ideas that liberals/progressives and decent people have been politely pushing the Democrats to get behind are suddenly popping up all over! The “Robin Hood” (Tobin) Tax, incentives to raise worker pay, tripling the child-care tax credits – a program that for once redistributes wealth downwards!

All this from an administration that created a budget sequestration process and stood by with its hands in its pockets as a bipartisan deal was cut which rewarded the military industrial complex while failing to address drastic cuts in food stamp benefits and did not extend unemployment benefits for workers displaced by the banksters’ (whom Obama continues to protect) looting of the economy.The same administration that has been aching to cut old folk’s social security to reward his rich buddies. Corporate Democrats came out of the woodwork to support Obama in his attack on poor old folks with rhetoric that would make Frank Luntz wonder which party he works for:

Congressional Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), signaled greater willingness on Wednesday to cut Social Security benefits … Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill that a cut proposed by President Barack Obama in the fiscal cliff negotiations would in fact “strengthen” the program, echoing the claims often made by Republicans about entitlement programs they want to slash. …

The cut involves swapping out the traditional method for calculating cost of living increases, based on the current standard for measuring inflation, for something called a chained CPI, or chained Consumer Price Index.

The cuts would start small, but wind up costing beneficiaries thousands of dollars over time … Pelosi wrapped both her arms around it Wednesday, insisting she does not regard it as a “cut.”

Huey must have clapped these guys upside the head with a spectral clue-by-four!

Nov 16 2014

Just Don’t Call It Democracy

What do we want, what are our demands? That’s been a question many have raised, and answered, particularly since the Occupy movement in 2011. Many complained about Occupy at the time because it seemingly did not have any demands. The focus was on Wall Street and the 99/1% theme and the narrative that our government works for the 1% and not the 99%. There were lists of demands going around at the time, some with 15-20 items ranging from ending the wars and establishing public banking to addressing climate change and jobs programs.

But in the end wasn’t it and isn’t it about one primary thing – democracy? That’s what Occupy was all about, the fact that our government operates for the rich and powerful and the rest of us can eat dirt.

OK Class, listen up.

A Democracy is “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections”  (Merriam Webster), or

“Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens are meant to participate equally – either directly or, through elected representatives, indirectly – in the proposal, development and establishment of the laws by which their society is run. (Wikipedia)

Democracy is supposed to be socially equal and classless, i.e, the rich bastards are not supposed to have all the power. Democracy is Power to the People.

There are two basic forms of democracy, direct democracy and representative democracy. Our country uses both forms, primarily representative. Direct democracy exists only at the state level and below in the form of referendums and initiatives placed on the ballot. Citizens in states that have voted to legalize marijuana and gay marriage have practiced direct democracy. Citizens can raise and lower their taxes to fund schools and libraries through direct democracy.

Some like to argue that our form of government is a Republic as opposed to a Democracy. That’s an argument that goes back to this nation’s founding when “all the young dudes” with the wigs were sitting around smoking weed and thinking about what kind of government was best while their slaves and women folk stayed back on the plantation. Primarily the arguments were about direct democracy versus representative democracy, or democracy versus a republic as James Madison argued.

Whatever, it’s still all about electing representatives and a President who are supposed to represent all people, not just the rich. Or was that “We the People, All Men are Created Equal” talk just rubbish?

Some argue that this form of representative government is actually an oligarchy, not a democracy. An oligarchy is defined as a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.  The word Democracy comes from the Greek words Demos, meaning people, and Kratos, meaning power. Power to the People. The hippies had it right, man. The number of representatives in the House of Representatives in 1791 was 69 while the U.S. population was just over four million. That’s a ratio of about 58,000 citizens to 1 representative. Today there are 435 House Representatives “representing” 316 million U.S. citizens. That’s a ratio of about 734,000 citizens to 1 representative. That’s not Power to the People, that’s power to a small group of individuals, i.e., an oligarchy.  And those individuals are controlled by another small group of individuals, the .001%.  A small group of people controlling a small group of people controlling the rest of us idiots.  We in the United States of Free and Brave People call that Democracy.

(Note: Back in those glorious days of the early 1900′s when this country was completely hijacked by the bankers in 1913, Congress passed the Apportionment Act of 1911 capping the number of Representatives at 435. Over one hundred years and no change. Wonder why?  I guess they thought 435 was just the right amount of representation we citizens needed.)

Tell me how that is democracy. How is it that one person can represent the interests of over 700,000 people? Even with all the outside pressures from corporations and billionaires and RICH PEOPLE, it’s not possible. It’s not democracy, not unless you reinvent the word. It’s not “Power to the People”, that’s for sure. I’m 59 years old and I’ve never, ever, ever been asked by a politician what I thought about an issue prior to their votes in Congress. I always wondered about that when I was young – how do they know what my opinion is if they don’t ask? I learned, as we all have, that is just not how it works. Our opinions don’t matter.

Then when you consider what has become of this “representative” democracy, it becomes just that more ludicrous. The two party system that is corrupt as hell. The inability of third parties to become part of the game. The billion dollar elections, Citizen’s United, the thinktanks and lobbyists, the billionaires, the millionaire/billioinaire Congress and Senate. The CIA and NSA and the CFR. There’s just no way this representative system of government can be called democracy, the power to the people.

Which brings us back to what do we want. Sure, we want to end the wars, feed the people and save the planet. But we can’t do that without democracy and we do not live in a democracy. Is that what we want? Do we want a democracy or don’t we. It’s that frigging simple.

We’re back to where we were over two hundred years ago. We need the same discussions.  The system of government installed for this country doesn’t deliver democracy. There were many back then who predicted this would happen. They said the people would have to rise up and make changes, even carry out another REVOLUTION.  They even put that in the Constitution.

The funny thing about Americans is how prideful we are about our “democracy”, and yet we live our lives under an illusion. The United States of America is nothing but an illusion. But it’s still up to us. We can change things if we want, it depends on what we want. Do we want democracy or do we want to continue this silly and self defeating game of voting for an oligarchy that doesn’t represent us? Do we really want to address this question? That’s the first thing we have to do, address the damn question.

We can have direct democracy. We can have that Power to the People we’ve dreamed of since that first toke over the line in 1969. We can create a system, such as breaking the large nation-state into small, manageable units and establishing thousands of local assemblies that debate the issues and then collect the votes nationwide. We can implement a national initiative process to vote nationally on gay marriage and legalizing weed and ending imperialism and saving Social Security. We can create democracy. First we have to decide if we really want it, democratically.  Because we can’t have it with the system now in place.

A good first step  is to organize a boycott of the Democratic and Republican national political parties for the 2016 election process. Over half the eligible voters are already boycotting this undemocratic system. Join them if you haven’t already and let’s make it official. We can call the shots here, it’s what this country is supposed to be all about. Power to the People.  Let’s demand democracy. We can say we want a new government, one that is democratic. That’s where it all starts.

Jul 13 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Misogyny and Capitalism

Recent Supreme Court rulings highlight the persistent presence of misogyny in the US.

Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, expressed her anger over the Supreme Court’s message that “women are second-class citizens, not capable of making our healthcare decisions without the interference of our bosses and complete strangers on the street,” and she encouraged the crowd to send a message back.

This was the most striking language in the buffer zone ruling, to me:

petitioners are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives.

Unbidden strangers given the rights of “counselor.” Since when is anyone who wants to talk to me considered my counselor? Why is the word “consensual” in that sentence? Patients haven’t consented to this counseling. They are hounded by it. This kind of distortion of someone’s behavior and giving it a title which then affords them rights, when they are really just harassing people would never happen if the recipients of said counseling were white males. Where is the autonomy of the woman in this interaction? This is codified misogyny.

In a country which claims to be “democratic” and to believe in “liberty”, how is it that autonomy is not fully respected for all people?

It would seem that something overrides our belief in the respect of the individual which should be inherent to a democracy and our commitment to privacy when it comes to personal liberty. Could that be capitalism?

Will you join me for an exploration of the linkages between capitalism and misogyny?

Jun 15 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: These are a few of my least favourite things by NY Brit Expat

It’s been one of those weeks where so many things have come to light that I simply do not know where to begin writing first. I sit there and think, which of the various things that I have been listening to or reading about have actually annoyed me to the point of actually writing about. I have realised that I am just generally annoyed.

When I thought about it more, I concluded that the underlying theme of these various stories is a complete and utter contempt by bourgeois governments (that lay claim to being utterly democratic) of the vast majority of people that they govern. Whether they govern competently or not, whether there is anything resembling a democratic mandate or not; it is the utter contempt in which they hold the majority of the population that has really gotten my goat.

I also realised that this is not only confined to governments, it is a view shared by the leadership of religious authorities, by arms of the state (police, armies, etc.) and even by the heads of sporting associations.  This contempt is a reflection of the fact that those in power think/know that when push comes to shove, they know who they serve and it is not the vast majority of people; it is a tiny elite hiding behind the word “democracy” while actually not even slightly being accountable to that majority. It is the abuse of power by those that have it wielded against those that view themselves as powerless. Having just spoken to my postman about my frustration, he agreed and said “this is a long term problem, what can you and I do about it”?

 photo e4cf2fda-af30-4419-a80c-34be035f7234_zps10c6a859.jpg

Jun 09 2014

A-C Meetup: Part 1 on the Need for Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism by Galtisalie

[Note: This is my version of light summer reading (but my nickname’s not “Buzzkill” for nothing). Hey, I’m even breaking this diary into two parts. It’s not healthy to read while you eat but if you do, have a nice sandwich (better make that two), chew slowly, and by the time you’re to the pickle, maybe you’ll be done. I want to present in bite-size easily digestible pizzas my vision of a peaceful deep democratic revolution. I’m not there yet. I enjoy all the rabbit trails that make up the whole too much and mixing metaphors like a … concrete mixer. (Do similes count?–see, I do know the difference.) Below all bad writing is my own and unintentional.]

No pressure, but in late 2012 Kyle Thompson at The other Spiral wrote:

I think the most important thing at this point in time is for the left to reclaim three areas: 1) Internationalism 2) The vision of the future and 3) Economic legitimacy. Without internationalism each struggle feels isolated and localism will never be anything more than localism. … Similarly the left needs to reclaim the future. If all we can imagine for the future is dystopia we will never be motivated enough to build socialism. This is basically the work of artists, conjuring up an image of what might be …. Finally the left must fight to achieve at least a niche of respectability in economic discourse.

I’ll up the ante and say that together we must constantly work to combine all three into a new praxis, one that learns from the past but also is willing to modify or even Jetson imagery that unnecessarily divides us. But, we’ve caught a break: in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of capitalist imagery has worn thin. Ecology and unemployment are biting capitalism on the buttock, just as our side predicted. When I was a kid, I was counting on one of those glass-topped space sedans to zip me around town one day. I’m beginning to doubt that’s going to happen. The caution yellow Pinto with shag carpeting on the dash that zipped me to my first job has long since finished rusting to nothingness, and only the bondo I liberally applied during those bong-heady times remains at the bottom of some landfill.

The future is with us, and that’s scaring the bondo out of the oligarchy, but our side’s still dazed and confused, and the oligarchy wants to keep its party going until the polar ice cap has gone and every last carbon chain has been broken to fuel the Pintos of the 21st century we will purchase to drive to the jobs we won’t have. I’m no artist and have no credentials for economic discourse. That leaves me with a possible niche of utility if not respectability researching internationalism. But since I’m writing from the Deep South of the U.S., home of a widely-held theory about the U.N. involving the mark of the Beast, I’d better toss in some revolutionary ever-modern art to get things started, and, in Part 2, follow-up with Luxemburg, who gives the political-economic basis for anti-capitalist democratic internationalism. If Rosa’s not respectable and respectful enough for the dismal scientists they can kiss my grits.

When El Lissitzsky created “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge” he made a conscious decision to use the forms of the unrepresentational feelings-based supremacist school he had helped found to focus on their artistic opposite: the material world as he perceived it. This professional betrayal was motivated by a higher duty: universal morality. As a Russian Jew who’d lived most of his life under the Czar’s antisemitism, he wanted to use the best tools that he could muster to help beat the reactionary White Army. Nothing could have been more literal in the minds of the populace who viewed the poster and others like it in the Russian Civil War. Yet the use of geometric shapes and a limited palette brings a discordant transcendence so that even now when one looks at the poster it appears relevant– or so would have said two kids I showed it to if they used big words. Subconsciously, it is up to the individual viewer to decide where he or she fits among the objects, while pining for something missing from this divided two-dimensional incomplete but sadly accurate plane.

What tools do we have to muster and for whose cause should we be mustering them? Key questions of the 20th century and always.

I write this on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when humanity did not need national banners to know that Hitler’s eliminationist ethnic nationalism was so inhumane it had to be defeated. (But humane posters are always useful.) Capital “F” Fascism has a way of reemerging on our one planet, and we rarely on this day consider why that is in our justifiable remembrance of the lives that were lost on those bloodied shores of Normandy. I am sure that millions of D-Day-themed posts and comments in blogs and on Facebook pages will be published before this one comes out on Sunday night, June 8, 2014. Rather than add to the digital pile, I am instead going to focus on the war to end all wars that came one generation before WWII, the choices that are involved in warring, and the political-economic reasons we keep doing the wrong thing as a single human species.

Interesting, “national” banners. They pop up, as with the U.S. Civil War, before ethnic armies that are not even nations. Two passed me night before last as I was walking my dogs in the Deep South: the rebel flag flying proudly on the right of the back of an old imported pick-up truck with its windows down driven by a “white” man with the Libertarian “Don’t Tread on Me” flag on the left. The skinny bearded great American working class Confederate man calmly smiled and nodded at me inclusively, assuming I was part of his team, like we were about to go over together and kick the dead Yankee bodies at Bull Run just for grins, or perhaps attend a lynching and pass the bottle (not spin the bottle mind you, 100% virile straight man fun stuff). I was wondering if he heard my loud “Booooo,” particularly when he began to slow down about thirty yards past me. (At least I thought it was loud, but not so loud as to upset the dogs–but pretty darn loud people.) I thought he, likely packing, was turning around to come back and tread on me or worse, but he turned right, fittingly. Maybe he had second thoughts about murder or maybe it was his muffler problem that allows me to write these words. How do we get him out of the white circle and in the natural polychromatic sphere of life, not pictured here? I think he’s hopeless, so mostly I ignore him, but, if and when he waves his hateful flags in my neighborhood or yours, I propose confrontation, red wedge wielded. And somewhere, those flags are always waving. And innocent kids are being raised to be in the white circle.

May 02 2014

US Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy

In a recently published Princeton University study, “Testing Theories of American Politics” (pdf), researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page reveal through statistical analysis that the United States is no longer an actual democracy but has slipped into becoming a full fledged oligarchy.

The study starts with the question “Who governs? Who really rules?” in the US:

Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, …” and then they go on to say, it’s not true, and that, “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened” by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead “the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.“[..]

The authors clarify that the data available are probably under-representing the actual extent of control of the U.S. by the super-rich:

   Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis, even though our findings probably understate the political influence of elites. Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups. Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.

The Guardian‘s Ana Marie Cox and the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim join the host of MSNBC’s “Now,” Alex Wagner, to discuss how the economic elite domination in the American political system.

The authors of the paper, Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, sat down with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show to talk about the demise of democracy in the US.

Mar 16 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Don’t Mourn, Organise! by NY Brit Expat

The slogan “Don’t Mourn, Organise!” was written in a telegram from Joe Hill to Bill Haywood before Hill’s execution on trumped up charges in Utah. Joe Hill wrote “Goodbye, Bill, I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!”

This slogan is not a call for us to be beyond human and not grieve or mourn. What it is instead is a call not to get so caught up in grief and mourning that we give up the struggle out of despair; it is a call to remind us what we are fighting for and that the struggle continues irrespective of our losses. It takes the loss and puts it in the past (and of course part of our present) and brings to the forefront what those who have passed on have spent their lives fighting for! Presente Bob Crow and Tony Benn!

 photo 9845129e-02a0-49d2-83f7-83a3c9e785b9_zps9b9055c6.jpg

This week Britain’s left has seen the loss of two stalwarts, two great fighters for economic, political and social justice. Two men from different class backgrounds who spent their lives fighting in different arenas; one as a member of Parliament in the Labour Party and the other as a giant of the trade union movement, a militant trade union organiser. Both men were thorns in the sides of the ruling class and mainstream politicians … both men not only fought in their chosen arenas but were part and parcel of the general movement for socialism, for democracy, and worked alongside, not as an elevated leadership, those struggling against the not only the excesses of capitalism, but in favour of the creation of a better future for all.

Rather than speak for these men, I will let you have the pleasure of listening to them speak for themselves and am including speeches made by them. Both great orators in their own way, the comparison between Bob Crow’s east London working class accent and Tony Benn’s crisp Oxbridge accent in itself is a pleasure; what they are saying exemplifies their different approaches to the struggle for socialism.

Older posts «

Fetch more items