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On the Roots of American Racism

An Interview with Noam Chomsky

George Yancy

The America that "black people have always known" is not an attractive one. The first black slaves were brought to the colonies 400 years ago. We cannot allow ourselves to forget that during this long period there have been only a few decades when African-Americans, apart from a few, had some limited possibilities for entering the mainstream of American society. We also cannot allow ourselves to forget that the hideous slave labor camps of the new "empire of liberty" were a primary source for the wealth and privilege of American society, as well as England and the continent. The industrial revolution was based on cotton, produced primarily in the slave labor camps of the United States. Thomas Jefferson feared the liberation of slaves, who had "ten thousand recollections" of the crimes to which they were subjected. As is now known, they were highly efficient. Productivity increased even faster than in industry, thanks to the technology of the bullwhip and pistol, and the efficient practice of brutal torture, as Edward E. Baptist demonstrates in his recent study, "The Half Has Never Been Told." The achievement includes not only the great wealth of the planter aristocracy but also American and British manufacturing, commerce and the financial institutions of modern state capitalism. It is, or should be, well-known that the United States developed by flatly rejecting the principles of "sound economics" preached to it by the leading economists of the day, and familiar in today's sober instructions to latecomers in development. Instead, the newly liberated colonies followed the model of..

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Will the Real Keynes Please Stand Up

On Keynesianism and Crisis Theory

Michael Roberts

An argument has broken out among top Keynesian economists about what is the Keynesian theory on economic fluctuations in capitalist economies (i.e, crises and slumps). The debate has taken the usual form of arguing about what Keynes 'really meant', whether he was really a radical that dispensed with neoclassical equilibrium theory or whether followers and supporters of Keynesian economic theory have distorted the master's ideas so much as to reduce their insights to nothing. This argument reminds me of the unending one within Marxian economics that some of us have been engaging in yet again recently. Did Marx have a clear theory of crises under capitalism in his works that he stuck to consistently; or were his ideas so sketchy that followers like Friedrich Engels distorted them? And is the theory of value as the basis of Marxian economics founded on realistic premises and logically consistent as a fundamental explanation of accumulation and social relations in the capitalist mode of production? Moreover, does the theory fit the facts? Well, this sort of debate also takes place with Keynesians. What did Keynes really mean? What is his theory of macroeconomic fluctuations in modern economies? There are two running debates within mainstream macroeconomics at the moment. The first is that between former Fed chief Ben Bernanke and Larry Summers, the Keynesian reviver of what he calls the theory of 'secular stagnation', the situation he fears that capitalist economies are currently in.

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Facing Violence, Resistance Is Survival for Indigenous Women

Heather Gies

The resistance of women, especially indigenous women, is key to fighting for alternatives to capitalism and colonialism. In their movements, women not only fight against gendered injustices, but also demand wider societal transformation to a system that doesn't work for them as women - even though as a system it is working exactly how it's supposed to. That is, the inequality and commodification that drives the system exploits woman (as reproductive laborers) to enable all other labor within capitalism, keeping women in a disadvantaged position. At the same time, women's participation in social struggle is also a way of asserting and vocalizing their own worth in a system that doesn't value and seeks to eradicate them. This devaluation results in violence against women that is not a matter of isolated incidents or individual "bad apples." Instead, violence against women, especially indigenous women and women of color, is a structural component of the capitalist, colonial state. As Costan Rican feminist journalist and human rights activist Maria Suarez Toro told teleSUR, "Violence against women is and remains a cornerstone for all other kinds of violence used to subjugate." For Suarez Toro, normalized inequality and gendered experience, maintained through various forms of violence, are the driving force of capitalism. In Guatemala, state-sponsored femicide and mass rape inflicted on more than 100,000 women were a strategic part of suppressing revolutionary movements during the 36-year civil war, and the majority of victims were indigenous women. With an ongoing crisis of gendered violence in Guatemala..

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'Fight for 15' Inspires Bold Demands

Sonia Singh

Temporary workers at the Metro regional government in Portland, Oregon, won major wage increases in their first contract after AFSCME Local 3580 partnered with 15 Now Portland and Jobs with Justice. Under the new contract, hazardous waste workers will see their wages rise from $13.55 to $17.50, and zoo security workers from $12 to $15.75. While these jobs are considered temporary and seasonal, some workers have been doing them for 20 years. The union argued that this "perma-temp" system lowered wages for all workers, and pushed for temporary workers to be paid 80 percent of full-time colleagues' wage. Ross Grami, AFSCME Council 75 representative, says the community pressure from allies was a critical factor in their win, with 15 Now and Jobs with Justice joining AFSCME at the bargaining table on the last day. "I don't think I could have sat at the table five years ago and demanded an employer pay a living wage of $15. Most employers would have laughed at us and laughed at our bargaining unit," said Grami. "The organizing workers are doing nationally and the sacrificing they have had to do has changed the conversation and changed perceptions around the table." Tim Combs, a temporary hazardous waste worker who joined the bargaining team, describes the 30 percent raise as a game-changer and says other groups of temps are now approaching AFSCME to organize, too. Leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union announced in late March that, as part of upcoming contract talks, they will seek a minimum of $15 for all school employees and subcontractors, both CTU members and others.

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