The Jungle 2.0
"Chunks" of feces are making it through the USDA’s flawed meat inspection program
The Jungle 2.0
"Chunks" of feces are making it through the USDA’s flawed meat inspection program
The largest bank in the United States will stop making student loans in a few weeks.
The official reason is quite bland.
"We just don’t see this as a market that we can significantly grow," Thasunda Duckett tells Reuters. Duckett is the chief executive for auto and student loans at Chase, which means she’s basically delivering the news that a large part of her business is getting closed down.The move is eerily reminiscent of the subprime shutdown that happened in 2007. Each time a bank shuttered its subprime unit, the news was presented in much the same way that JPMorgan is spinning the end of its student lending.
That was a huge boon for Hugo Boss… he got the contract just eight years after founding his company… and that infusion of business helped take the company to another level.
The Nazi uniform manufacturing went so well that Hugo Boss ended up needing to bring in slave laborers in Poland and France to help out at the factory.
In 1997, Hugo’s son, Siegfried Boss, told an Austrian news magazine, “Of course my father belonged to the Nazi party. But who didn’t belong back then?” (Source: New York Times)
Hitler told Porsche to make the car with a streamlined shape, “like a beetle.” And that’s the genesis of the Volkswagen Beetle… it wasn’t just designed for the Nazis, Hitler NAMED it.
During World War Two, it’s believed that as many as four out of every five workers at Volkswagen’s plants were slave laborers. Ferdinand Porsche even had a direct connection to Heinrich Himmler, one of the leaders of the SS, to directly request slaves from Auschwitz. (Source: The Straight Dope)
IG Farben is the company that turned the single largest profit from work with the Nazis. After the War, the company was broken up. Bayer was one of its divisions, and went on to become its own company.
Oh… and aspirin was founded by a Bayer employee, Arthur Eichengrun. But Eichengrun was Jewish, and Bayer didn’t want to admit that a Jewish guy created the one product that keeps their company in business. So, to this day, Bayer officially gives credit to Felix Hoffman, a nice Aryan man, for inventing aspirin. (Source: Alliance for Human Research Protection, Pharmaceutical Achievers)
Siemens also has the single biggest post-Holocaust moment of insensitivity of any of the companies on this list. In 2001, they tried to trademark the word “Zyklon” (which means “cyclone” in German) to become the name a new line of products… including a line of gas ovens.
Zyklon, of course, being the name of the poison gas used in their gas chambers during the Holocaust.
A week later, after several watchdog groups appropriately freaked out, Siemens withdrew the application. They said they never drew the connection between the Zyklon B gas used during the Holocaust and their proposed Zyklon line of products. (Source: BBC)
So they invented a new drink, specifically for the Nazis: A fruit-flavored soda called Fanta.
That’s right: Long before Fanta was associated with a bunch of exotic women singing a god-awful jingle, it was the unofficial drink of Nazi Germany. (Source: New Statesman)
He profiteered off both sides of the War — he was producing vehicles for the Nazis AND for the Allies.
I’m wondering if, in a completely misguided piece of logic, Allianz points to the Detroit Lions giving Ford the naming rights to their stadium as a reason why they should get the rights to the Meadowlands. (Source: Reformed Theology)
Without them, the German air force never could’ve even gotten their planes off the ground.
When Standard Oil was dissolved as a monopoly, it led to ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, all of which are still around today. (But fortunately, their parent company’s past decision to make incredible profits off of war have not carried on.) (Source: MIT’s Thistle)
They froze European Jewish customers’ accounts and were extremely cooperative in providing banking service to Germany. (Source: New York Times)
In September of 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, the “New York Times” reported that three million Jews were going to be “immediately removed” from Poland and were likely going to be “exterminat[ed].”
IBM’s reaction? An internal memo saying that, due to that “situation”, they really needed to step up production on high-speed alphabetizing equipment. (Source: CNet)
Bertelsmann still owns and operates several companies. I picked Random House because they drew controversy in 1997 when they decided to expand the definition of Nazi in Webster’s Dictionary.
Eleven years ago, they added the colloquial, softened definition of “a person who is fanatically dedicated to or seeks to control a specified activity, practice, etc.” (Think “Soup Nazi”.)
The Anti-Defamation League called that expanded definition offensive… especially when added by a company with Nazi ties… they said it, quote, “trivializes and denies the murderous intent and actions of the Nazi regime… it also cheapens the language by allowing people to reach for a quick word fix… [and] lends a helping hand to those whose aim is to prove that the Nazis were really not such terrible people.” (Source: New York Observer, ADL)
The moral of this story should not be simply trash Harvard students. But I do think it raises some important points about:
1) The notion that our system is a meritocracy and that those who rise to the top — for instance, by attending the most elite colleges — do so by dint of their unique excellence as a human being is just false. Harvard students, like all others in this system, lie, cheat, steal, and do whatever they have to do to either get by or get over on someone else. [Not even to mention the fact that Harvard actively practices affirmative action in respect to the wealthy and white.].
2) The idea that “illegal” or “unethical” behavior is more often found amongst the lower classes or whatever. Specifically, I know Harvard academics who like to posit the idea that the criminal element in society is comprised of those who are either culturally or racially degenerate, and are therefore poor. In actual fact, Harvard students are just as likely to “steal” from others in order to get ahead as anyone else.
3) Our education system is bankrupt. The idea that each student is an island and that the process of education and work in human society ought to be based purely on individual effort is false. Cooperation and getting help from others is a natural human instinct. If the education system were OPENLY premised around such notions, “cheating” would not even be a problem.
In an online survey, Harvard freshmen admit to cheating on homework and exams, with nearly half of the incoming class saying they’ve done so.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the question of what it actually takes to build a truly united, multiracial, multigender, multi-all-forms-of-oppression, movement that is truly based in genuine solidarity and the collective striving toward mutual emancipation from exploitation and oppression.
It is of course an understatement to say that this is a very difficult task. This is precisely because capitalist society is so effective at dividing the working class and creating definite strata within the working class along the lines of various forms of social oppression. Black workers are invariably subjected to racist attitudes by white workers, and likewise between men and women, and so on. The distrust that exists within the minds of oppressed groups towards those of the oppressor social group — regardless of class — are quite real, and frankly understandable, in a strictly logical sense, because of the foregoing.
Thus, the task of establishing unity between oppressed groups as part of a larger united working class struggle for the abolition of capitalism presents very difficult challenges.
In particular, the question of building a revolutionary organization along these lines can be immensely confounding. Indeed, history is littered with social movements, revolutions, and even mass revolutionary parties which have foundered precisely on this contradiction; the contradiction between the needs of unity of the entire working class, and the immense enmity and suspicion which exists between them at present because of capitalist social relations.
Oftentimes, trust will breakdown between comrades within a group or social movement over this issue, with oppressed people feeling slighted, marginalized, or not taken sufficiently seriously.
First of all, I want to say that I actually don’t think this is ultimately a matter of individuals being racist or sexist [though that certainly can and does happen on the left and even within revolutionary organizations].
I also don’t think that racism or sexism or really, by definition, any form of oppression, in general — as social constructions — are the product of any one individual’s attitudes. Rather, it is a product of the ensemble of social relations which obtain under capitalism.
Yet, the fact is that this oppression does exist, is real, and permeates virtually all of our relations within the system. Inequality exists between various strata of the working class due to this oppression — in terms of their opportunity, livelihoods, well-beings — which then in turn impacts oppressed people’s sense of confidence and self-worth, etc., especially in relation to those strata of the working class which rest above them (not even to mention in relation to the upper classes of the dominant social group).
As I sometimes do, I decided to see what comrade V.I. Lenin may have to say on the matter. Now, I don’t think that Lenin (or anyone for that matter), was an infallible genius or other such nonsense who always has the “correct” thing to say on every matter.
Nonetheless, I do think on this particular question he offers some important insights.
In particular, I was reading Lenin on the question of the relations between ethnically dominant Russian comrades and proletarians, on the one hand, and those of the oppressed nationalities within the former Tasrist Russian Empire, on the other. And I think he makes some important arguments in terms of the process of what it takes to overcome the distrust that oppressed people feel towards those of the dominant “oppressor” social group or nation as a result of historical and continued injustices to which they’ve been subjected.
He starts by talking about the difference between the nationalism of the oppressor nation and the nationalism of the oppressed nation. By this he means, for instance, the difference between the national pride expressed by Iraqi people fighting against the invasion and occupation of their nation by the U.S., and the patriotism of those in the U.S. waving the American flag as bombs were being dropped on Iraq.
He writes, “In respect of the second kind of nationalism we, nationals of a big nation, have nearly always been guilty, in historic practice, of an infinite number of cases of violence; furthermore, we commit violence and insult an infinite number of times without noticing it.… That is why internationalism on the part of oppressors or “great” nations, as they are called (though they are great only in their violence, only great as bullies), must consist not only in the observance of the formal equality of nations but even in an inequality of the oppressor nation, the great nation, that must make up for the inequality which obtains in actual practice.” [All italics here and below are mine].
He continues: “What is important for the proletarian? For the proletarian it is not only important, it is absolutely essential that he should be assured that the non-Russians place the greatest possible trust in the proletarian class struggle. What is needed to ensure this? Not merely formal equality. In one way or another, by one’s attitude or by concessions, it is necessary to compensate the non-Russian for the lack of trust, for the suspicion and the insults to which the government of the “dominant” nation subjected them in the past.”
Now, if we take the discussion around national oppression and apply it to the question of racial oppression, or potentially even other or all forms of social oppression, we can gain insight from his argument that “nothing holds up the development and strengthening of proletarian class solidarity so much as national injustice; "offended" nationals are not sensitive to anything so much as to the feeling of equality and the violation of this equality, if only through negligence or jest- to the violation of that equality by their proletarian comrades. That is why in this case it is better to over-do rather than undergo the concessions and leniency towards the national minorities. That is why, in this case, the fundamental interest of proletarian class struggle, requires that we never adopt a formal attitude to the national question, but always take into account the specific attitude of the proletarian of the oppressed (or small) nation towards the oppressor (or great) nation.”
Finally, he concludes, “It would be unpardonable opportunism if, on the eve of debut of the East, just as it is awakening, we undermined our prestige with its peoples, even if only by the slightest crudity or injustice towards our own non-Russian nationalities. The need to rally against the imperialists of the West, who are defending the capitalist world, is one thing. There can be no doubt about that and it would be superfluous for me to speak about my unconditional approval of it. It is another thing when we ourselves lapse, even if only in trifles, into imperialist attitudes towards oppressed nationalities, thus undermining all our principled sincerity, all our principled defence of the struggle against imperialism.”
[Interestingly, and I think appropriately, the book I have in which I was originally reading this piece, “Lenin’s Final Fight 1922-23,” concludes this chapter with an addendum written by Lenin in which he criticizes Stalin for simply being too rude and insufficiently considerate and polite in his dealings with comrades. Now this is not to say AT ALL that comrades or fellow activists who act in a rude or impolite manner are the future Stalins of the world. This would be obviously preposterous. But I just think it’s noteworthy nonetheless that this question of “comradely relations”, so to speak, is something that Lenin was aware of].
Anyway, these are just some things I’ve been thinking about. I am aware that Lenin is writing about a specific set of conditions at a specific moment. I do not think the USA of the early 21st century is the exact same as the Russia of the early 20th century.
Nonetheless, I think we would do well to study past revolutions, especially ones that achieved even momentary or partial victories, and tease out what is of enduring usefulness.
I think we are also at a critical juncture right now to specifically address the question of building a united, working class movement that is allied and even embodies the struggle against all forms of oppression. Black people in the U.S. today face horrific levels of poverty, violence, inequality, racial prejudice, and — what’s more — are radicalizing and beginning to fight back in an increasingly deliberate way around these things [i.e., Stop and Frisk, police violence, Dream Defenders, Trayvon Martin, mass incarceration, etc.]
Likewise, a new generation of young women are radicalizing and beginning to fight back against the scourge of rape, sexual violence, inequality, and discrimination [i.e., SlutWalk, Steubenville, reproductive justice, etc.]
The same could be said of other oppressed groups, such as the LGBT movement, transgender and queer activists and individuals, and even the some of the most oppressed workers at the point of “production” [i.e., the fast food workers and WalMart workers organizing initiatives and limited strike actions].
The question of uniting these struggles is paramount. For without that, there can be no discussion of overthrowing the entire social order and truly eradicating the roots of these various forms of oppression. Ultimately, that means talking about the socio-economic system itself, capitalism. Naturally, that then brings us to the question of socialism — genuine socialism — a genuine social existence in which the “free development of each is the precondition for the free development of all,” and society is organized around the principle, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”
I do not claim that this single piece by Lenin is THE answer to this obstacle. Nor do I think that I particularly have any more important insight into the solution of this question than any others.
But it is a discussion we have to have. A better world is possible, but we can only get there together.
A Hundred Arrested Protesting Walmart Firings | Labor Notes
September 06, 2013 / Alexandra Bradbury
They didn’t strike this time—but Walmart workers and their allies marched, rallied, danced, blew horns, and took arrests in a coordinated day of action in 15 cities yesterday. They were protesting the company’s recent crackdown on worker activists.
Walmart fired 20 members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart)—and disciplined 50 others—for taking part in a week-long strike in June. The company claimed the workers were “no-call, no-shows,” though they made it clear they were striking. “We don’t recognize strikers,” one supervisor told a fired employee in Baker, Louisiana.
Thousands of people participated in Thursday’s protests, according to OUR Walmart, and 100 were arrested—including in Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, Maryland, Orlando, Los Angeles, and New York.
The business of war is more profitable than ever.
While the sequester kicks children out of pre-school, major military contractors are celebrating record profits and stock prices.
"Let them eat the bombs for Syria…they hate us for our freedom."
US Congress shows exemplary bipartisanship when it comes to bombing Syria ostensibly for the abuses the government has committed “against its own people.”
Yet when it comes to abusing “its own people”, Congress suddenly can’t get enough, and the notion of bipartisanship in the interest of ameliorating the misery of America’s most vulnerable is almost laughable.
As lawmakers cast a fight over cuts to food stamps in terms of spending, budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in “food insecurity” among Americans.
IN 2002 the journal Historical Materialism published a translation of a previously unknown work of Marxist economic theory by a young Bolshevik, Pavel Maksakovsky.
Maksakovsky was born in 1900 in the factory town of Ilevo, son and brother to metalworkers. In 1917 he was recruited to Bolshevik-inspired underground work and he joined the party shortly thereafter. He served in the Red Army, and in October 1919 was taken prisoner by the counterrevolutionary forces of General Denikin and sentenced to death for being a “Bolshevik commissar and spy.” He eluded the sentence after convincing the soldiers who were escorting him to defect to the Bolsheviks.
A bout of typhus in 1920 cut short his activity in the Red Army, and he spent the next eight years of his life working as an instructor at party schools. In 1927 he participated in a seminar at the Institute of Red Professors dealing with Marxist economic theory. The notes from the seminar became “The Capitalist Cycle: An Essay on the Marxist Theory of the Cycle,” which was published posthumously after he died at the young age of 28.
IN HIS Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and elsewhere, Marx starts with a very different understanding of human nature. In this conception, we are not naturally competitive, rather, we are social creatures who cannot survive without cooperating with each other. Modern science confirms this view. Humans did not evolve as a collection of atomized individuals constantly at war with one another, but in social groups that depended on mutual support. According to the anthropologist Richard Lee:
"Before the rise of the state and the entrenchment of social inequality [about 5,000 years ago], people lived for millennia in small-scale kin-based social groups, in which the core institutions of economic life included collective or common ownership of land and resources, generalized reciprocity in the distribution of food, and relatively egalitarian political relations."
[Mind you, the homo sapiens species has been around for approximately 100,000 years].
The idea that violence and war have always been part of human society may seem like common sense. But an examination of the historical evidence reveals a very different picture. As the anthropologist R. Brian Ferguson points out, “the global archaeological record contradicts the idea that war was always a feature of human existence; instead, the record shows that warfare is largely a development of the past 10,000 years.”
Warfare became a feature of human society only as a consequence of specific historical developments—crucially the establishment of permanent settlements with accumulated wealth, and the emergence of “social hierarchy, an elite, perhaps with its own interests and rivalries.” Rather than war being the expression of some general human propensity towards violence, it reflects the interests of those at the top of society who are most likely to benefit from it.
Evidence of this kind supports the view that human beings are not naturally violent, selfish, competitive, greedy, or xenophobic, it is not natural for human societies to be organized hierarchically or for women to have lower social status than men, and capitalism does not exist because it uniquely reflects human nature, as its defenders often claim.
Marx recognized that in different social and historical circumstances, human behavior and psychology can vary dramatically, just as in different physical circumstances water can be a solid, a liquid, or a gas. As he put it, “the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations.”
Some 80,000 gold miners in South Africa have gone on a strike to call for higher pay, but their union has significantly scaled down its demands.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is now calling for a 10% wage rise, down from earlier demands for increases of up to 60% for some workers.
Workers last week rejected an offer of a 6% rise - the same as the current annual rate of inflation.
South Africa’s gold industry is one of the biggest in the world.
I recently reconnected via Facebook with a friend of mine from high school. I hadn’t spoken to this person in at least ten years. Back then, neither of us were particularly that politically active, though we would probably identify as liberals and supporters of the Democratic Party.
As it turns out, both of us have now come to consider ourselves socialists, and reject both the Democratic and Republican parties as more or less corrupt, pro-corporate parties which perpetuate and defend the status quo. We both hold more or less tantamount critiques of contemporary society, and also vehemently oppose the oppression of women, people of color, lgbtq individuals, and others, which appear as part and parcel of the capitalist system.
Recently, we discussed the process whereby each of us had radicalized politically. I found my friend’s response very interesting and asked if I could reproduce it publicly. I think it’s important for those of us who consider ourselves on the radical left to think about how best to relate to those who still consider themselves basically liberal, and have not yet developed a systemic critique of the fundamental inadequacy of the entire system, i.e., anti-capitalism.
In other words, how is it that one goes from accepting most of the false assumptions purveyed by this society — and never veering further left politically than, say, what is offered on MSNBC — to becoming a conscious revolutionary?
In this light, I give you my friend’s response along with my original question.
Here was my original query:
So, i have a question for you. I’m very interested in what it is that leads people to change their ideas, particularly in a way that is critical of the economic/political status quo.
I’m sure you’ll remember that neither of us were really that politically engaged in high school.
I’m curious when you began to become politically conscious/active. Were there specific precipitating events? When did you began to self-consciously think of yourself as a socialist or left-winger or whatever?
And my friend’s response:
So I’d say that I was actually politically active and interested in high school (I don’t know if you remember I volunteered with M.M. on Ralph Neas’s failed congressional campaign to unseat Connie Morella), but it was very much within the liberal tradition. One thing that I was always acutely aware of based on my early experiences was that I hadn’t done anything to “earn” my privilege. I can’t remember if my parents actively taught me this, or I just perceived it based on their example… but it always allowed me to separate my good fortune from any sense that I was entitled to my success. Going to college in a poorer urban environment definitely helped solidify my thinking on this.”
So then Bush happened, and I became a “radical” liberal Democrat, I was a huge Howard Dean fan, mostly based on his fighting temperament during the primaries (hindsight pretty clearly suggests that this was nothing more than savvy marketing) and I’ve always considered myself pretty strongly in the pacifist camp.
I think the straw that broke the liberal camel’s back and pushed me to self identify as a leftist/marxist/socialist/jacobin was seeing how little changed after we elected a so-called liberal president. And I’ll admit, I was super excited to elect Obama! I celebrated in the streets when he won in 2008! But then it was clear immediately that he was more interested in preserving the status quo while tinkering around the edges.
While I will acknowledge that Obamacare is in many ways much better than the status quo, the fact that structural forces allowed it to so easily be neutered by entrenched interest groups (don’t even get me started on the banks…) made me take a long hard look at the modern state as it exists under global capitalism. And then I’d see fellow travelers making excuses or calling me ignorant for thinking that “Obama could wave a wand and get what he wanted in the face of a psychopathic Republican opposition.” But I DIDN”T think he could work magic, I just thought that his actions made it pretty clear that aside from offering slightly more bread and circuses, that he wasn’t really interested in examining the fact that the US Senate is an institution forged in a compromise with slaveholders and that “respecting” this institution implicitly is dangerously naive or worse.
So then once you decide that the system is fucked, you start looking for ideologies and movements that understand the broken structures and are interested in fixing them.
So I’d say, the genesis of my ABILITY to evolve in this way came from recognizing my privilege at a young age, then the current trajectory of history (I think we are probably living through late-stage capitalism that will be upended by some kind of ecological catastrophe, but there are so many possibilities!) and the ineffectualness of working within a broken system radicalized me beyond the typical US political consensus. And from there, you start examining and fighting against all the entrenched racial/gender/ablist privileges!
Goddamn. This shit is out of control. Capitalism and mass incarceration on steroids. And this from the “liberal” Democratic Governor of California!
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday responded to a federal court order to significantly reduce California’s prison population by proposing a $315 million plan to send inmates to private prisons and empty county jail cells.
The cost could reach $700 million over two years, with much of the money likely to come from a $1 billion reserve fund in the state budget.
Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.