Socialism Art Nature

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via Wisconsin State AFL-CIO

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"It’s a cruel irony that people in rural Iowa can be malnourished amid forests of cornstalks running to the horizon.”

That, dear National Geographic, is the cruel irony of capitalism — inequality and poverty amidst abundance.

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Why are people malnourished in the richest country on Earth?

Millions of working Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from. We sent three photographers to explore hunger in three very different parts of the United States, each giving different faces to the same statistic: One-sixth of Americans don’t have enough food to eat.

 … In the United States more than half of hungry households are white, and two-thirds of those with children have at least one working adult—typically in a full-time job. With this new image comes a new lexicon: In 2006 the U.S. government replaced “hunger” with the term “food insecure” to describe any household where, sometime during the previous year, people didn’t have enough food to eat. By whatever name, the number of people going hungry has grown dramatically in the U.S., increasing to 48 million by 2012—a fivefold jump since the late 1960s, including an increase of 57 percent since the late 1990s. Privately run programs like food pantries and soup kitchens have mushroomed too. In 1980 there were a few hundred emergency food programs across the country; today there are 50,000. Finding food has become a central worry for millions of Americans. One in six reports running out of food at least once a year. In many European countries, by contrast, the number is closer to one in 20.

 … It’s a cruel irony that people in rural Iowa can be malnourished amid forests of cornstalks running to the horizon. Iowa dirt is some of the richest in the nation, even bringing out the poet in agronomists, who describe it as “black gold.” In 2007 Iowa’s fields produced roughly one-sixth of all corn and soybeans grown in the U.S., churning out billions of bushels.

These are the very crops that end up on Christina Dreier’s kitchen table in the form of hot dogs made of corn-raised beef, Mountain Dew sweetened with corn syrup, and chicken nuggets fried in soybean oil. They’re also the foods that the U.S. government supports the most. In 2012 it spent roughly $11 billion to subsidize and insure commodity crops like corn and soy, with Iowa among the states receiving the highest subsidies. The government spends much less to bolster the production of the fruits and vegetables its own nutrition guidelines say should make up half the food on our plates. In 2011 it spent only $1.6 billion to subsidize and insure “specialty crops”—the bureaucratic term for fruits and vegetables.

Those priorities are reflected at the grocery store, where the price of fresh food has risen steadily while the cost of sugary treats like soda has dropped. Since the early 1980s the real cost of fruits and vegetables has increased by 24 percent. Meanwhile the cost of nonalcoholic beverages—primarily sodas, most sweetened with corn syrup—has dropped by 27 percent.


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Lenin and the debates that shaped the Russian Revolution have been misunderstood by friends and foes alike.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 has long been an object lesson suitable for drawing edifying morals. Everyone looks at it in order to discover the great mistake — moral, political, ideological — that led to disaster.

Having discovered the mistake, we can feel secure that we would have avoided disaster and superior to all those who have not yet seen the error of their ways. The human reality of the revolution — the overpowering sense of being caught up in a whirlwind of events — is lost as we hurry to draw lessons and point fingers.


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Any business that sacrifices human beings for the profit of a few is a crime against society.
Helen Keller

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You know socialism has killed over 94 million people right?
Anonymous

Wrong. You’re thinking of capitalism — maybe state capitalism [i.e., what’s referred to as so-called “Communism”] — but capitalism nonetheless (i.e., the exploitation of the working class by a ruling class which controls the means of production).

Actual socialism — i.e., the DEMOCRATIC and COLLECTIVE control over society by the working class — has certainly not killed even a tiny fraction of that number of people.

In fact, the historical international socialist movement has probably “saved” billions of people insofar as socialist individuals, organizations, and struggles have been behind such things across the world as universal health care, welfare, social security, unemployment insurance, movements against war, unions, an end to child labor and poverty wages, disability insurance, environmental and safety protections at work/school/communities, the fight against slavery, the fight against colonialism/imperialism, the fight against fascism, the fight for women to be free from sexual violence, the fight against racist lynchings and white supremacy, the fight for LGBT rights, and on and on …


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we should have done this years ago, imho …

we should have done this years ago, imho …


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who’s ready for the Third American Revolution?


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Nicole Colson reports from the Socialism 2014 conference in Chicago.

SOME 1,450 people from across the U.S. and beyond attended Socialism 2014 in Chicago over June 26-29.

Sponsored by the Center for Economic Research and Social Change (CERSC) and co-sponsored by the International Socialist Organization (ISO), the annual conference is one of the largest gatherings of the left in the U.S. This year’s attendance topped last year’s by more than 100 people—and an expanded schedule allowed close to 150 sessions offered during the four-day event.

But more important than attendance figures were the struggles represented at Socialism 2014: Palestinian rights, LGBT equality, the labor movement, anti-racism, education justice, women’s rights and the environment, to name just some.

… ANOTHER HIGHLIGHT for many was the session featuring CeCe McDonald, an African American transgender woman, who was imprisoned in Minnesota for the “crime” of defending herself from a racist and anti-trans hate crime. Thanks to an activist campaign demanding she be freed, McDonald was released from prison in January of this year after serving 19 months.

At Socialism, McDonald brought the crowd in the packed-to-overflowing room to its feet multiple times as she explained her own evolution as an activist—including how her experiences with the prison system have shaped her attitudes. “I don’t care if you put me in a men’s prison, a women’s prison, a trans prison or a unicorn prison…I’m a prison abolitionist,” McDonald said.

In an interview after the session, she said:

"I thought that the conference was awesome. It felt like a wonderful big queer family reunion. I felt like there was no holds barred—this is the place where people can express themselves freely, talk about the issues in our country, and be surrounded by loving and caring advocates, and people who are involved in the issues. I’m really, really glad that I came, and that I got to speak, and that I got to meet such wonderful, lovely people."

Explaining the importance of building solidarity, McDonald explained:

"As a trans woman, I feel like my issues go beyond just trans issues. When it comes to prison abolition, immigration, women’s rights, the policing of our bodies, reproductive rights, voting rights—all of this is connected to me, someway, somehow. I feel like I can’t just say I can only be concerned about trans issues and not be concerned about those other issues as well. We have to understand that every issue, every struggle, is our issue and our struggle."


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Marxism lives because we have not gone beyond the circumstances that created it.

 … The crime of capitalism is that it forces the vast majority of the population to remain preoccupied with basic concerns of nutrition, housing, health, and skill acquisition. It leaves little time for fostering community and creativity that humans crave.

And the injustice of capitalism is that it does so in an era of plenty.


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Capitalism, disability, and the false valuation of human life

Keith Rosenthal
21 June 2014

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image

Two days ago, Annie, a 2-year old child with a heart condition, died in Illinois because she was refused a heart transplant.

The reason? She was born with Down Syndrome, and had what are often referred to as “special needs”. In the U.S., children with disabilities such as Down Syndrome are nearly always automatically removed from organ donor transplant lists. Their lives are deemed less valuable by medical professionals, administrators, insurance companies, and state and federal law-makers and enforcers.

As journalist Jenna Glatzer wrote at Salon.com a few years back, “In the U.K., the policy is absolute: No medical center will give a transplant to a patient with Down syndrome. [But] in the U.S. policy is unofficial — there’s no written rule excluding people with disabilities. However, in practice, the statistic speaks for itself: Only one person with Down syndrome has ever been granted a heart transplant in this country.”

One hospital medical director put it bluntly to Glatzer: “My main aim is to make people live and to become independent human beings that will live a fulfilled life. I have grave doubts as to whether … a Down’s sufferer [would] ever be able to lead a totally independent life. If asked to make a decision between a normal person and a Down’s patient, [we take] the person who is the most whole.”

Such life-and-death decisions are made in the medical industry all the time, and often the reasons provided by doctors or medical administrators are not as blatantly bigoted as the one above. (Though this still leaves aside the basic problem that such decisions are subject to the whim of unaccountable medical technocrats, rather than truly being in the hands of the people themselves, as per the norms of what is generally understood as “democracy”).

To me, though, this is not really a “medical” issue or problem, at base. It is a social one. It is not the medical field which is the root of the devaluation of the lives of disabled people in this society, though the medical-industrial complex has historically and presently played an outrageous role in justifying and contributing to such devaluation.

At base, it is about what our society as a whole deems to be a “worth-while” life. Starting with the advent of the industrial revolution, it came to be an accepted fact that the purpose of society was to produce, accumulate, and exchange as many goods, commodities, and wealth as quickly as possible. If that meant throwing children into factories; so be it. Paying starvation wages; so be it. And if it meant casting aside to die all those individuals deemed incapable of engaging in sufficiently profitable and productive labor in the factories, mills, and workhouses emerging everywhere; so be it.

This is why the US has institutionalized, sterilized, and killed millions of disabled people over the course of its existence (and even today continues such practices). In a capitalist economy based on prioritizing profit and breakneck production over all else — in which cutthroat competition reigns supreme as per the dystopian dictates of “survival of the fittest” free-marketeers and ideologues — all those humans who are incapable of laboring under the prevailing rate and pace of industrial exploitation are considered mere “burdens” by the bean-counters and cynics who rule over the economy (and consequentially the polity itself).

We are not humans first in such a society, but rather “human resources” compelled to sell ourselves on a “job market.” The value of our labor — i.e., our capacity to produce surplus value, or profit, for a prospective employer — is what determines our value in society as a whole.

The lower one’s “marketability” as such a human resource, the lower one’s social position in society, replete with the poverty, ostracism, and perceived inferiority that comes with it.

The fact of the matter is that the measure of the value of human life should not be, need not be, and hasn’t always been, commensurate with one’s ability to participate fully in specifically capitalist, i.e., exploitative and grueling, conditions of social labor (i.e., the total societal production, exchange, and distribution of goods and services).

What if the purpose of life was not to be deemed sufficiently “valuable” to an employer — or to pursue profit for profit’s sake, but merely the pursuit of happiness, love, meaningful social interaction, and creativity, based upon a society in which each person was able to contribute to the total quantity of socially-necessary labor (i.e., the total work necessary to enable society to function and equitably prosper) according to no other consideration than their unique abilities and creativity?

All humans are capable of loving and being loved; of interacting with other humans and their environment in unique, special, and intrinsically valuable ways. And that is the point of human existence. Not having a profit-margin that outpaces a competitor; or a GDP that outpaces a rival nation. These latter things are artifices imposed upon us by capitalist-driven market forces and divisions. They are not natural, and certainly not necessary.

At present, the human species has developed the wealth, technology, and productive capacity to provide for all; to reduce the labor burden placed on each, and enable the participation of all in the procurement of our social necessities. To allow for the free development of all humans as an end in itself; to allow for the flourishing and integration of all humans in greater and more harmonious intercourse regardless of the unlimited mental and physical differences which obtain between us.

When just the US alone spends nearly $2 billion A DAY maintaining its military machinery; when the 400 richest individual Americans have more combined wealth ($2 trillion) than the bottom half of the entire population combined, and more than the entire GDP of 80% of the nations on this planet; when we can find the means to pay the average CEO of a large U.S. corporation a wage of $7,000 per hour;— when we look at all these things it is clear that — if apportioned equitably — we more than have the resources and the ability to provide for all human beings and enable all human beings to live as free and full members of society.

In such a context, the notion that a disabled child or adult is a “burden” on the rest of the human population is not only barbaric and bigoted, it is anachronistic. It is a notion which continues to corrupt our species for no other reason than that the form of socio-economic organization (yes, capitalism) which comports with — and gives rise to — such prejudices, lingers on as the hegemonic system under which human affairs are organized.

It is high past time that such a system — and all of the unnecessary, barbaric, and backward ideas which it fosters — be consigned to historical bygone, once and for all.


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Upon hearing the news of the brutal massacre in May 1871 of 20,000 workers by the French national government, Walt Whitman wrote this poem as an ode/elegy to the revolutionary and heroic martyrs of the Paris Commune.

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This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families … re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body … “

… The attitude of great poets is to cheer up slaves and horrify despots. The turn of their necks, the sound of their feet, the motions of their wrists, are full of hazard to the one and hope to the other. Come nigh them awhile and though they neither speak or advise you shall learn the faithful American lesson. Liberty is poorly served by men whose good intent is quelled from one failure or two failures or any number of failures, or from the casual indifference or ingratitude of the people, or from the sharp show of the tushes of power, or the bringing to bear soldiers and cannon or any penal statutes.

… The battle rages with many a loud alarm and frequent advance and retreat … . the enemy triumphs … . the prison, the handcuffs, the iron necklace and anklet, the scaffold, garrote and leadballs do their work … . the cause is asleep … . the strong throats are choked with their own blood … . the young men drop their eyelashes toward the ground when they pass each other … . and is liberty gone out of that place? No never. When liberty goes it is not the first to go nor the second or third to go . . it waits for all the rest to go . . it is the last… When the memories of the old martyrs are faded utterly away … . when the large names of patriots are laughed at in the public halls from the lips of the orators … . when the boys are no more christened after the same but christened after tyrants and traitors instead … . when the laws of the free are grudgingly permitted and laws for informers and bloodmoney are sweet to the taste of the people … . when I and you walk abroad upon the earth stung with compassion at the sight of numberless brothers answering our equal friendship and calling no man master—-and when we are elated with noble joy at the sight of slaves … . when the soul retires in the cool communion of the night and surveys its experience and has much extasy over the word and deed that put back a helpless innocent person into the gripe of the gripers or into any cruel inferiority … . when those in all parts of these states who could easier realize the true American character but do not yet—-when the swarms of cringers, suckers, doughfaces, lice of politics, planners of sly involutions for their own preferment to city offices or state legislatures or the judiciary or congress or the presidency, obtain a response of love and natural deference from the people whether they get the offices or no … . when it is better to be a bound booby and rogue in office at a high salary than the poorest free mechanic or farmer with his hat unmoved from his head and firm eyes and a candid and generous heart … . and when servility by town or state or the federal government or any oppression on a large scale or small scale can be tried on without its own punishment following duly after in exact proportion against the smallest chance of escape … . or rather when all life and all the souls of men and women are discharged from any part of the earth—-then only shall the instinct of liberty be discharged from that part of the earth.

Walt Whitman, from the Preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass

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With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891)

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