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disaster capitalism

Is Capitalism in Crisis? Latest Trends of a System Run Amok

By C.J. Polychroniou - Truthout, August 4, 2017

Having survived the financial meltdown of 2008, corporate capitalism and the financial masters of the universe have made a triumphant return to their "business as usual" approach: They are now savoring a new era of wealth, even as the rest of the population continues to struggle with income stagnation, job insecurity and unemployment.

This travesty was made possible in large part by the massive US government bailout plan that essentially rescued major banks and financial institutions from bankruptcy with taxpayer money (the total commitment on the part of the government to the bank bailout plan was over $16 trillion). In the meantime, corporate capitalism has continued running recklessly to the precipice with regard to the environment, as profits take precedence not only over people but over the sustainability of the planet itself.

Capitalism has always been a highly irrational socioeconomic system, but the constant drive for accumulation has especially run amok in the age of high finance, privatization and globalization.

Today, the question that should haunt progressive-minded and radical scholars and activists alike is whether capitalism itself is in crisis, given that the latest trends in the system are working perfectly well for global corporations and the rich, producing new levels of wealth and increasing inequality. For insights into the above questions, I interviewed David M. Kotz, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism (Harvard University Press, 2015).

Scuttle the Shuttle: Lyft, strikes and blockades

By staff - LibCom.Org, June 22, 2017

Saying "It's just a bus but without the regulation/without unions/only for people with smartphones" is very incomplete as well, and it's worth unpacking why.

Firstly, regulations and working conditions are all the eventual product of years of struggle and strike action: from the ‘Great Upheaval’ of 1877 and the 1894 Pullman railway strikes all the way to the transit strikes which hit Philly last year, strikes in the transportation of goods and people have been a staple of US labour relations.

Yet to say "That’s because workers organised into unions" also doesn't explain why transport is so prone to strike action. There are a few reasons why strikes (and unions) are so much more common in transport than they are in other sectors in the American labour market.

The first reason is this: stop mass transit and tens of thousands of other workplaces are disrupted when their employees turn up late (if they turn up at all) or their customers decide not to come out and spend money to avoid transport hassle. This creates an extra pressure on bosses to keep the service running.

The second reason: transit is mostly immune from spatial fixes. While bosses can move a car or garment factory to China, doing the same with a bus or train route obviously isn't viable. Thus, while factory workers in the US were mostly decimated in the 1970s, transit/distribution have kept going to some extent until now.

For the genesis of Lyft Shuttle, a good place to start would be the 2009 deregulation of the UK post service. This followed the massive 2006-7 strike wave in the postal service, where staggered official strikes were backed up by work-to-rules and the refusal of other postal workers to cross picket lines, leading to disciplinary action which then led to further wildcat strikes. Post just did not get delivered for weeks at a time in some cases.

The response was to allow private companies to handle some deliveries, piggy-backing off Royal Mail's central infrastructure. Firms were then able to shift postal provider if affected by strike action, weakening leverage of workers: disruption was disrupted.

Fast-forward ten years and the gig economy starts to see industrial strife as Deliveroo workers go on wildcat strike in London. The atomisation of the workforce is clearly still not entirely successful as collection points still afford places for riders to meet and discuss issues, swap contacts and organise their strike via WhatsApp. Still harder than it used to be at Royal Mail depots though.

#Flint to #GrenfellTower: The Elite Only Want to ‘Manage the Disaster’

By staff - It's Going Down, June 22, 2017

Last Friday, thousands of people flooded into the streets of London to protest government cause and response to the recent fire which engulfed the Grenfell Tower, home to hundreds of working-class residents in an upscale part of the city. Angry crowds marched on Kensington Hall, where council officials barricaded themselves inside the building and attempted to keep residents locked out. Even Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to remain inside a church and then was chased away while the angry crowd chanted, “Shame on you!” Between 100 to 150 residents are estimated to have perished in the fire, all in one of the richest neighborhoods in one of the most wealthy cities in the world.

What has happened in London is disgusting, and it is caused by a system of neoliberalism which has sought to cut costs at every corner for the sake of transferring wealth away from workers and the poor and into the hands of the super-rich. Moreover, the over 100 people that died most horrifically in the fire could have been saved if basic precautions would have been implemented and complaints from residents for repairs would have been listened too. Instead, the Conservative Council and the property management firm that ran Grenfell, refused to listen to requests from people who referred to the tower as a literal “death trap.”

The same horrorshow repeats itself across the Atlantic Ocean, where in the United States poverty and the wealth gap grows, living standards are attacked, and despite presenting itself as a force against ‘globalism,’ the Trump administration attacks workers, the poor, and the environment in order to make America great again for the billionaire class which it serves. Just today, the Republicans released their newly updated version of a health care plan that calls for the slashing of medicaid and basic safety nets and programs. 

In Flint, Michigan, which has been gutted, abandoned, and left behind by large corporations, thousands of residents face potential home foreclosure and still have to rely on bottled water, as elected officials which created the current water crisis are only now starting to face legal reprimand.

Meanwhile, in St. Paul, Minnesota, a police officer is let free without any charges after murdering Philando Castile, a young African-American man who was pulled over in a traffic stop because the officer thought his nose resembled that of a possible robbery suspect. During the stop, Castile told the officer he was legally licensed to carry a concealed weapon and as he was reaching into his pockets, police officer Yanez shot him 7 times as Castile’s girlfriend recorded the entire incident. Before his death, Castile worked as a nutrition supervisor at a local school, and was reportedly pulled over by police 52 times.

'No Is Not Enough': Naomi Klein Writing Anti-Trump Blueprint for 'Shock Resistance'

By Andrea Germanos - Common Dreams, April 05, 2017

How did a man like Donald J. Trump get to be president? And how on earth can his dangerous agenda be fought?

For those burning questions, a forthcoming book described as "the toolkit for shock resistance" could well be an indispensable resource.

Authored by award-winning author and investigative journalist Naomi Klein, the book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, will publish in the U.S. on June 13, 2017.

"Trump is extreme, but he's not a Martian," writes Klein. "On the contrary, he is the logical conclusion to many of the most dangerous trends of the past half century. He is the personification of the merger of humans and corporations—a one-man megabrand, with wife and children as spin-off brands."

A website for No Is Not Enough says the book

reveals, among other things, how Trump's election was not a peaceful transition, but a corporate takeover, one using deliberate shock tactics to generate wave after wave of crises and force through radical policies that will destroy people, the environment, the economy, and national security. This book is the toolkit for shock resistance, showing all of us how we can break Trump's spell and win the world we need.

In the wake of Trump's election, Klein, while accepting the 2016 Sydney Peace Prize, also offered her thoughts on the factors that paved the way for the real estate mogul's rise to power and the strategies needed for a movement to rise against Trump (as well as other Trump-esque figures).

"If there is a single overarching lesson in the Trump victory, perhaps it is this: Never, ever underestimate the power of hate, of direct appeals to power over the 'other'...especially during times of economic hardship," she said.

Another takeaway, she continued, is that "four decades of corporate, neoliberal policies and privatization, deregulation, free trade, and austerity" have ensured ongoing economic pain and in turn, enabled the rise of faux-populists like Trump.

An additional lesson is that "only a bold and genuinely re-distributive agenda has a hope of speaking to that pain and directing it where it belongs—the politician-purchasing elites who benefited so extravagantly from the auctioning off of public wealth, the looting of our land, water, and air, and the deregulation of our financial system."

"If we want to defend against the likes of Donald Trump—and every country has their own Trump—we must urgently confront and battle racism and misogyny in our culture, in our movements, and in ourselves. This cannot be an afterthought, it cannot be an add-on. It is central to how someone like Trump can rise to power."

Klein, whose other works include No Logo, This Changes Everything, and The Shock Doctrine, also recently joined The Intercept as a senior correspondent. There, she is tasked with monitoring the "shocks of the Trump era." Days after Trump's inauguration, she wrote that his administration

can be counted on to generate a tsunami of crises and shocks: economic shocks, as market bubbles burst; security shocks, as blowback from foreign belligerence comes home; weather shocks, as our climate is further destabilized; and industrial shocks, as oil pipelines spill and rigs collapse, which they tend to do, especially when enjoying light-touch regulation.

All this is dangerous enough. What's even worse is the way the Trump administration can be counted on to exploit these shocks politically and economically.

This is the first time one of Klein's books will be published by the independent, Chicago-based Haymarket Books, which has delivered works by esteemed authors including Noam Chomksy, Howard Zinn, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and Winona LaDuke.

Oroville Dam: Another market driven disaster. Profits before People

By Richard Mellor - Facts For Working People, February 14, 2017

As is always the case, it is after terrible accidents happen that the public finds out details about what caused them. Most of the worst disasters, Katrina for example, are not freaks of nature but market driven disasters.

It appears we might have dodged a bullet here in California as the tallest dam in the US, the 770 foot Oroville dam, was in danger of rupture due to heavy rains. The lake behind the dam was overflowing and the water began to erode a part of the hillside that was a natural (unpaved) spillway. The danger is that if the erosion spread it could cause a rupture in the dam itself spilling billions of gallons of water in a 30-foot high wave downstream. Over the past weekend, evacuation orders were issued to 200,000 residents.

Now it comes to light that as far back as 2005, under Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, environmental groups and some local government officials warned that the dam’s integrity could be jeopardized and “catastrophic flooding” could result if the natural hillside spillway wasn’t reinforced with concrete or huge boulders that we sometime see at these dam sites. This would help protect against erosion when the dam overflowed which is what we are witnessing now.

So were this catastrophe to have occurred (and the dam could still burst) and people killed, what would have been described as an accident is in actuality, a market driven disaster. I say this because what is happening here is nothing new-----it’s about money, the allocation of capital. The only time the working class gets to make a decision about allocation is when they let us vote on bonds and we vote yes to borrow back our own money (with interest) to build a hospital.

The BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 that cost 11 workers their lives has caused untold damage to the environment. We will never fully know how much damage, we might get a glimpse as Bluefin Tuna and other marine life are washing ashore with two sets of genitals and other deformities. We can be sure the ocean floor is covered with oil and whatever chemicals that they use to help the oil dissipate but this likelihood will not be in a public service announcement during a playoff game.

Cities and civic workers: The union role in building better cities

By Jim Silver - Rabble.Ca, October 5, 2016

Although Carlo Fanelli's book Megacity Malaise: Neoliberalism, Public Services and Labour in Toronto is not about Winnipeg, it offers many insights applicable to Winnipeg and to other Canadian cities. Fanelli is a former Toronto civic employee who looks at civic issues from the point of view of city employees and their unions. His central argument is that the fiscal problems confronting Toronto and all major Canadian cities are not caused by over-spending on civic services nor by excessive union wage demands, although this is what is typically claimed.

The basis of Canadian cities' fiscal problems is in Canada's Constitution, which does not give cities the taxing powers to generate sufficient revenue to do all of the things for which they have responsibility. Cities are forced to over-rely on property taxes, which "is unsustainable in the long run." Property taxes are regressive, and don't grow with the economy, leaving cities in a constant state of fiscal crisis. This is made worse by the fact that federal commitments to civic issues have been sporadic and insufficient to meet cities' needs.

This has been worsened further by the ideological dominance in Canada of neoliberalism. This ideology has driven massive cuts in taxation and in public spending -- by 1999 Ontario's Mike Harris government, for example, had made 99 different tax cuts; by 2013 Stephen Harper's government had cut federal taxes to the lowest rate in 70 years -- followed by the downloading of responsibilities from senior to lower level governments. Cities have borne the brunt of this offloading, and have not had the capacity to generate the revenues needed to deal with it.

Toronto and Winnipeg have responded with a host of policy measures that do not get at the real root of the problem. Like Winnipeg, Toronto has allowed suburban sprawl to grow, on the grounds that more suburban housing will mean more property tax revenue. But this doesn't get at the underlying structural problems, and in fact generates more costs in the longer run. Selling off valuable public assets to the private sector creates profits for private interests, but produces a one-time only injection of cash that is no solution to the underlying problem and that diminishes future revenue flows. The same is the case with privatization and contracting out and the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs).

There is a great deal of evidence that PPPs, to take that example, do not generate the savings that cities claim. Ontario's auditor-general produced a major report on 74 PPPs completed between 2003 and 2014 and found that these cost Ontario some $8 billion more than traditional public financing. Contractors benefit, cities' budgets do not, yet Toronto and Winnipeg continue to make use of PPPs on the largely false grounds that they save public money. The contracting out of city work continues unabated, and any "savings" it produces are typically the result of non-union contractors exploiting vulnerable workers. This is the case with the privatization of Winnipeg's garbage collection service in 2012. The hard work of lifting garbage cans and dumping them into trucks is done by temporary day labourers -- many of them young Aboriginal men -- hired on a day-by-day basis at minimum wage with no benefits. Described in an expose by Aboriginal Peoples Television Network as "Winnipeg's dirty little garbage secret," this exploitative process is how Winnipeg "saves" money via privatization and contracting out

Spending on valuable public services continues to be cut on the largely false grounds that cities have a "spending problem," while the already massive infrastructure deficit balloons ever further. Roads, bridges, underground pipelines and transit services continue to deteriorate, while parks and recreation facilities, libraries and other essential civic services remain underfunded. The urban fiscal crisis grows unabated.

City governments, desperate for solutions and driven by their ideological orientation, point the finger at out-of-control spending and excessive wage demands by civic unions. Many in the right-wing media promote this simplistic and largely false explanation.

Fanelli points to data showing that incomes have stagnated over the past three decades of neoliberal governance. "In Canada's three largest cities the bottom 90 per cent of income-earners made less in 2013 than they did in 1983." Toronto's 2007 Independent Fiscal Review Panel found that the average wage of City of Toronto workers, including overtime, was "less than $40,000 in 2007." Toronto's unionized workers and their unions are not the cause of the city's fiscal problems.

Yet one of the great "successes" of neoliberalism and its adherents has been to redirect the anger of many modest-income earners at civic employees and their unions. Civic employees are seen as being paid too generously, despite their relatively modest earnings. As Fanelli points out, "the vitriol directed at them is intense, often as if they live lavish lives at the expense of non-unionized workers."

Capital Blight News #121

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 13, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Capital Blight News #120

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 7, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

Greenwashers:

Disaster Capitalism:

Capital Blight News #119

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 31, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Greenwashers:

Disaster Capitalism:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

Capital Blight News #118

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 24, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

Green is the New Red:

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