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ASR 69: Trumpocolypse

asr-69-coverAnarcho-Syndicalist Review 69 (Winter 2017) is on the press, and will ship to subscribers in early January.

This issue features a special section on anarchist responses to resisting the Trumpocolypse, as well as articles on fighting capitalism to save the planet, a special section looking back on the First International and the battle between the emerging anarchist and Marxist currents, the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, and reviews of new books on anarchism in Bulgaria and the United States, a biography of Frank Little, and more…

Quote of the day

“Whenever someone starts talking about the “free market,” it’s a good idea to look around for the man with the gun. He’s never far away.”— David Graeber, “The Utopia of Rules”

“Unions” for thugs

The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police recently won an arbitration order reinstating police officers caught on video in one of a series of robberies of 22 bodegas. (There was a back-up camera in this particular bodega, which filmed the cops cutting the wire to the camera they could see; the other victims only had one camera and so had only their accounts, which the police of course ignored.) A Washington Post columnist aptly described the outcome as “a lesson in American justice.”

The FOP and its ilk like to style themselves as unions, and to lay claim to the heritage of labor struggles for social justice. The Boston police who struck in 1919 (and were all fired) may have had the right to make such a claim. But today’s police “unions” are well-honed political machines which defend the thugs in uniform no matter how clear cut the evidence of murder, torture and other abuses. In These Times reviews this sordid history in a recent post to its web site focusing on Chicago and New York City. It concludes with these words:

police unions further the-all-too-accurate conception that the police are an occupying force in poor communities of color, and are antithetical in principle and action to the progressive principles of the labor movement.

Jail whistleblowers, liberals plead

The April 7 issue of The Nation has a guest editorial, “Plea Time for Snowden,” that calls on the Obama administration to offer whistleblower Edward Snowden a deal: jail time of nine months to a year (perhaps, they suggest, Obama might commute it, much as George Bush II did for Scooter Libby — convicted for exposing an undercover CIA agent for no purpose other than revenge on her husband, who had exposed one of the lies behind the Bush regime’s case for invading Iraq), and two years of “debriefing” by the national “intelligence” agencies. (NPR reported this morning noting that a three-year study found that ordinary citizens armed with a Google search engine were about as good at predicting world events as were “intelligence” agencies armed with their surveillance records and other “secrets,” some of which may even have been true.)

Snowden has little chance of persuading a judge that his disclosures were justified, they argue. Perhaps that’s true; there’s little evidence that the courts are much interested in justice, or in the indisputable fact that his disclosures have shed much-needed light on the massive scope of government snooping. (Indeed, much of the scandal arises from the fact that the spies have gone beyond the almost-universally-accepted spying on ordinary citizens to snooping on the heads of “friendly” governments and even rooting around in the files of U.S. senators and destroying information that might embarrass the CIA.)

Snowden broke promises, blew the whistle on surveillance programs and tarnished the reputation of the country abroad, but his actions led to an important national policy debate that would not have happened but for him…

So he should go to jail. With liberals like these, who needs conservatives?

Meanwhile, George Bush the Second and his team of war criminals walk the streets undisturbed, the Guantanamo detainees (many of whom the government admits it has no reason to hold) continue to be tortured, no GM executive will go to jail for decisions that killed at least 13 people in order to save 90 cents on a car part, and the looters who sparked the continuing economic catastrophe are wallowing in their unearned millions. Ain’t capitalism wonderful?

Repression in Venezuela

by Rafael Uzcategui   [from El Libertario newspaper]

February 21, 2014

On February 4th, 2014, students from the Universidad Nacional Experimental del Tachira (Experimental University of Táchira), located on an inland state of the country, protested due to the sexual assault of a  female classmate as a result of the current insecurity situation of the city. The protest was repressed, and several students were detained.

The next day, other universities around the country had their own protests requesting the release of these detainees, being at the same time repressed and some of them incarcerated. The wave of indignation had the context of the economic crisis, the shortage of first necessity items and the crisis of basics public services, as well as the beginning of the enforcement of an economic plan on behalf of the President Nicolas Maduro.

Two opposing politicians, Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado, tried to capitalize on the wave of discontent rallying for new protests under the slogan “The Way Out” and try to pressure for the resignation of president Maduro. Their message also reflected the rupture and divisions among opposing politicians and the desire to replace Henrique Capriles’ leadership, who publicly rejected the protests. The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (Democratic Unity Table) coalition, didn’t support them either.

When the government suppressed the protests, it made them grow bigger and wider all over the country. On February 12th, 2014, people from 18 cities protested for the release of all of the detainees and in rejection of the government. In some cities, inland, particularly punished by scarcity and lack of proper public services, the protests were massive. In Caracas, three people were murdered during the protests. The government blames the protesters, but the biggest circulating newspaper in the country, Ultimas
Noticias (Latest News), who receives the biggest advertising budget from the government, reveals through photographs, that the murderers were police officers. In response, Nicolas Maduro stated on National television and radio broadcast that police enforcement had been “infiltrated by the right wing.”

Repression against protesters not only uses police and military enforcement agencies, it incorporates the participation of militia groups to violently dissolve the protests. A member of PROVEA, a human rights NGO, was kidnapped, beaten and threatened with death by one of then on the west side of Caracas. President Maduro has publicly encouraged these groups, which he calls “colectivos” (collectives).

The Venezuelan government actually controls all of the TV stations, and has threatened with sanctions, radio stations and newspapers that transmit information about protests. Because of this, the privileged space for the distribution of information has been the social media networks, especially twitter. The use of personal technological devices has allowed the record keeping through videos and photographs of ample aggressions of the repression forces.

Human rights organizations report detainees all over the country (many of them already released), the number has surpassed 400, and they have suffered tortures, including reports of sexual assault, cruel treatment, inhumane and degrading. As this is being written 5 people have been murdered in the context of the protests.

In his speeches, Nicolas Maduro, stimulates the protesters that are against him to assume even more radical and violent positions. Without any criminal investigation, he automatically stated that each deceased person has been murdered by the same protesters, whom he disqualifies permanently with all of the possible adjectives.

However, this belligerence seems not to be shared by all the chavista movement, because a lot of it’s bases are waiting for what happens next, without any expressions of support. Maduro has only managed to rally public employees to the street protests he has done. In spite of the situation and due to the grave economic situation he faces, Nicolas Maduro continues to make economic adjustments, being the most recent, the increase of the tax unit.

The state apparatus reiterates repeatedly that it is facing a “coup,” that what happened in Venezuela on April 2002 will repeat itself. This version has managed to neutralize the international left wing, which hasn’t even expressed its concern about the abuses and deaths in the protests.

The protests are done in many parts around the country and are lacking in center and direction, having being called through social media networks. In the protesters themselves, there are many diverse opinions about opposing political parties, by which it is possible to find so many expressions of support and rejection at the same time.

In the case of Caracas they are starred specially by middle class sectors and college students. On the other hand, in other states, other popular sectors have joined the protests. In Caracas the majority of the petitions are political, freedom for the detainees and the resignations of the president, while in other cities social demands are incorporated, such as inflation, scarcity and lack of proper public services. Even though some protests have turned violent, and some protesters have used fire guns against police and militia groups, the majority of the protests, specially outside of Caracas, remain peaceful.

The Revolutionary Independent Venezuelan Left (anarchists, sectors that follow Trotsky, Marx, Lenin and Guevara) don’t have any incidence in this situation and we are simple spectators. Some of us are simply actively denouncing state repression and helping the victims of human rights violations.

Venezuela is a historically oil driven country, it possesses low levels of political culture amongst its population, explaining why the opposing protesters have the same “content” problem as the bases of support for the government. But while the international left wing continues to give its back, and support without any criticism the government’s version of “the coup,” it leave thousands of protesters to the mercy of the most conservative of opposition’s political parties, without any reference to anti-capitalists, revolutionaries and true social change that could influence them.

In this sense, the detention of Leopoldo Lopez, conservative opposition leader, tries to make his own figure the center of a dynamic movement, that up until this moment, that this is been written, had surpassed the political parties of the opposition and the government of Nicolas Maduro.

What will happen in the short term? I think nobody knows exactly, especially the protesters themselves. The events are developing minute after minute.

For more alternative information about Venezuela, we recommend:
http://periodicoellibertario.blogspot.com (in Spanish)
http://www.derechos.org.ve (in Spanish)
http://laclase.info (in Spanish)
http://www.nodo50.org/ellibertario (in Spanish, English & other languages)

International Day of Solidarity with Santander Workers Dec. 12

The conflict against Santander Bank-Isban continues to increase with no sign of willingness to dialogue from the company. After the dismissal of Isban CNT-AIT section union delegate, revolutionary unions federated in the IWA-AIT are spreading the message of the workers in struggle and preparing coordinated actions worldwide.

(Note that Santander bought the U.S.-based Sovereign Bank during the financial crisis, and last month rebranded all Sovereign outlets under the Santander name.)

Isban: Missery, slavery and fear

Isban, a computer services company owned by the overpowerful Santander group property of Emilio Botin, is the umbrella company that sustain a network of “cannon fooder” provider companies that act as temporary employment agencies and set cheap and precarious labor.

More than 10,000 employees worldwide are illegally transferred to Isban, so to fire someone they simply inform the temporary employment agencies on duty. (In Spain and many other countries, employees have legal rights against discharge once past a probationary period.) No cost to the bank, of course, as according to them it is not a redundancy but a “project change,”  the agency then either dismisses the worker or transfers them to another “customer” company.

Through this practice millionaires benefit by saving in hiring and firing, while maintaining dozens of companies under their control. All obey its guidelines as none wants to lose a profitable “client.” Some even give up to 100% of its employees to the bank, weaving a network of illegal subcontracting mafia.

The climate of fear and helplessness that Isban workers live is absolute, fearing homelessness if they make even minimal protest. This facilitates the acceptance of surreal working hours, overtime and mandatory shifts, schedules and work schedule as, categories and wages below the roles played and countless more outrages.

Santander Group: Greed, corruption and spoiling

Recently there have been hundreds of irregular dismissals across the Santander group, framed in what workers have denounced as undercover Redundancy Dismissal Procedure. Santander Back-office (SBGM) and Isban CSA services staff have seen their rates reduced to 50% in a few months. In addition, the workers selected to leave the bank have been less “temporary” staff and the most vulnerable. The outsiders (workers illegally transferred), short-time mothers and displaced workers abroad have been the preferred targets for cuts. With the collusion of government and scab unions, massive job destruction comes out practically free for the Santander group.

And all this despite the fact that the Santander Group is not losing money, but rather made a profit of €2,255 million in the first six months of 2013, almost 30% more than in the same period of 2012. An extremely hypocritical attitude clashes with the group advertising image which boast of lifting the country thanks to the trust in people and the future. A future of millions of people led to unemployment and poverty.

It is not the first time the tyrannical methods of the billionaire Emilio Botin are reported, but so far has not been done justice. In 2008 the Supreme Court filed by defects in the process the case against Botin and other bank executives for the irregular buying of Banesto bank. In 2012 the National Hearing filed the famous case of Swiss accounts after the Botin family disburse €200 million to “regularize the situation.”

Recently have uncovered new atrocities committed by this multinational giant as promoting subprime mortgages that caused the current economic crisis. The credit institution UCI, Santander Group, awarded for years unaffordable loans. We were not living beyond our means, the bank was mortaging above our means: to take advantage of defaults after foreclosing and evicting the most vulnerable.

It is curious that in early 2008, when the world crisis was not yet on everyone’s lips, Santander sold almost all its real estate. Even the luxurious Boadilla financial city (bank headquarters with over 160 acres of offices, hotels and even a golf camp) was sold and maintained rented since then. The Botin CEOs knew what they had generated and protected their interests by selling at a good price before the bubble burst.

Other liens have contributed to the growth of the assets of the business group. While the boom brick lasted, the bank provided loans to builders millionaires, some of them involved in the case of urbanism corruption Malaya case. After the fall of the construction sector, the bank foreclosed on their properties, which now are gived to the new generation family who hire their mortgages.

Other notorious case is the extortionate interest charges to college students through Santander Bank accounts that are automatically engaged when enrolling in universities that have agreements with the group. Again Santander uses its position of power to bleed the people that have made them rich.

Last September 17th, Rodrigo Rato (ex-Spanish economy minister) was named international councelor in Santander group. In the past, he was Santander councelor between 2008 and 2010. Then he was named president of Caja Madrid (Bankia). He dismissed after asking the Spanish government for a rescue plan for the savings bank of €6,000 million of public funds.

Rato announced €309 million of benefits for Bankia in 2011. But when he left, Bankia got €3,000 million of losses. He is on trial since July 2012 because of Bankia management and the millionaire losses. Now he comes back to Botin side exploiting the Spanish revolving door system, where politicians easily become businessmen and vice versa.

What’s more, Santander Bank has €96,72 million in arms companies’ mutual funds. The product of this funding is high-tech military weaponry like Leopard tanks, M45, M51, ASMP, ICBM y Minuteman nuclear missiles, Trident and Ohio nuclear submarines, uranium ammunition for Challenger2 and CHARM3 tanks, cluster bombs… Their money is stained with the blood of the wars that kill our people.

Santander Group also promotes the worst forms of torture designed by human beings being in charge of managing the financial movements of correctional institutions and other public administrations. Since 2002 Santander receives profits from the judicial accounts. The payment of penalties fine, bonds, indemnities and salaries of about 50,000 jailers and employees of the judiciary, as well as the money destinated to the prisons in the Spanish State. More than 3 billion euros annually from the business of State torture are managed by Santander Group.

This way, Santander CIOs become accomplices to all the torture and deaths of prisoners in custody in the Spanish State. More than 100 people were killed during the years 2010 and 2011. More than 6.986 cases of torture at the hands of the Spanish State were reported between 2001 and 2010.

The workers’ response

In this anti-workers policy, Santander interests collide now with organized workers. The dismissal of the delegate of the National Confederation of Workers CNT at Isban has triggered the rapid escalation of the conflict, because this violation of freedom will not be tolerated here or anywhere.

SOLIDARITY AGAINST SANTANDER-ISBAN!
STOP OUTSOURCING! REINSTATE THE FIRED UNION DELEGATE!

Section of Telecommunications and Information Services, CNT-AIT Madrid
http://informaticamadrid.cnt.es  isban[arroba]cnt.es

The CNT has called for the next International day of action against Santander Bank on December 12th. We are asking all our comrades to carry out the following actions, as far as they are able:

– Demonstrations at the doors of Santander Bank, Isban or Panel Sistemas branches.

– Closing accounts of unions and individuals in Santander Bank, informing that the closing is done in solidarity with the Isban workers on fight in Madrid.

– E-mails in solidarity with the Isban workers on fight and claiming for the fired comrade readmission to the following e-mail adresses:
ebotinsanz@gruposantander.com;
bcomunic@isban.es;
comunicacionbancosantander@gruposantander.com;
seleccion@panel.es;
panel@panel.es

If there is anyone interested in joining in in Pennsylvania, please get in touch.

Shutting down the government

The U.S. government will shut down at midnight, or so we are promised.

But they won’t be shutting down the entire government. Health and safety inspections of workplaces will stop, as will oversight of industrial polluters. Museums, art galleries and public parks will be closed. No one will be answering the phones at the agencies charged with “enforcing” workers’ rights. But the border guards will be out in full force, making sure none of our fellow workers cross the borders money flows across so freely. The army will continue its operations without disruption. No one will be released from prisons, not even those the administration concedes are victims of unfair treatment in the war on drugs. Whistleblowers like Private Manning will not be set free; the persecution of those accused of lifting the curtain on the government’s secrets will not stop.

We can see what is important to the bosses in the list of essential “services” to be continued during the government shutdown, and in the list of those to be shuttered. Even more telling is the pundits’ bleating. The government shutdown is not so bad, they tell us. We can get by just fine without parks and art, without labor rights and the like.

What really matters — and on this the pundits are unanimous — is that the Republicans back down on their threat to not lift the debt ceiling in a few weeks. If they don’t, horror of horrors, the government might go into technical default on its debts. The bankers would face the threat of not receiving their money on time! Financial markets would rebel! Catastrophe would ensue!

I can almost see the platoons of bankers, decked out in their three piece suits, fountain pens in hand, parachuting down from their global tax havens to occupy Washington DC, and set things right. Money must prevail! Debts must be paid!

They don’t go to all that much trouble to conceal who’s in charge, and whose interests really matter.

Solidarity with Egyptian workers

As the Egyptian army continues its bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, it’s important not to lose sight of the struggles that actually could lead to better lives for our Egyptian fellow workers.  The current military regime is continuing the brutal legacy of the Mubarek and Morsi regimes in their attack on workers’ rights, arresting steelworkers who briefly struck after several of their colleagues were sacked for demanding that management honor the terms of their contract.

http://menasolidaritynetwork.com/2013/08/12/egypt-appeal-for-solidarity-after-steel-workers-arrested-by-army/ 

DC police infiltrate anti-sweatshop movement

Free Bradley Manning

There is no horror, no cruelty, sacrilege, or perjury, no imposture, no infamous transaction, no cynical robbery, no bold plunder or shabby betrayal that has not been or is not daily being perpetrated by the representatives of the states, under no other pretext than those elastic words, so convenient and yet so terrible: “for reasons of state.” — Mikhail Bakunin

Bradley Manning faces more than a hundred years in military prison for peeling away the veil of secrecy that shields the government’s crimes. Some have tried to claim that his acquittal on the aiding the enemy charges proves that the system works. But he was convicted on espionage charges, and of many other offenses against the “order” and “discipline” required to sustain the modern state in all its brutality.

Not that those who claim the Espionage Act has been misapplied have any basis for their claims. The Espionage Act was passed during World War I precisely to protect the government from criticism. Like Manning, the overwhelming majority of those convicted under it have never been charged with anything resembling the popular understanding of the term. Rather, it has always been a means of silencing the government’s critics. Thousands of Wobblies, anarchists and socialists were imprisoned during the World War I-era espionage cases (and some tortured to death) not for revealing government secrets (unless the fact that the government serves to promote the interests of the rich, and has not the slightest regard for the lives and welfare of working people around the world is a secret), but rather for having the temerity to protest – to refuse to lend their silence to the facade of “national unity” that governments always rely on to conceal their crimes.

A couple issues back, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review referred to Obama as a Nixon Republican. So true. He doesn’t burgle his critics’ offices, perhaps, but that’s because he doesn’t need to. He has the NSA working overtime intercepting phone calls, sweeping up emails, and generally casting a surveillance net that would have left the old-time totalitarian states green with envy.

The commentariat are up in arms just now about Russia’s criticisms of the U.S. human rights record, and there’s no doubt that there’s more than a little hypocrisy at play given the Russian regime’s dismal record. But torture is now government policy – at Guantanamo as with Bradley Manning. No one even pretends that there’s any reasonable basis for caging most of those at Guantanamo – Obama is quite open in declaring that he’s doing it only for political reasons. I very much doubt whether the Russian regime has ever dreamed of the sort of total surveillance machine that we are assured is perfectly legal (at the very same time that they threaten those who made it public with the direst consequences).

Bradley Manning released video that made it clear for all to see that the U.S. army was murdering civilians and journalists in cold blood. He leaked documents proving the duplicity and deceit that underlies U.S. foreign policy – and the foreign policy of all states. Those who care to trudge through the Wikileaks archives can see the sorry spectacle of government at work – bullying Haiti to protect bosses from paying higher wages, shoring up corrupt regimes, coddling dictators, doing the nasty things that governments have always done.

It should be pretty clear who’s the criminal here.

Free Bradley Manning