Saturday, August 16, 2014

Public Relations- An Activist's View

      Well, television advertising has become very entertaining, and been that way for a long time now.  However, along with Public Relations, the business of Advertising became scientific a long time ago, and has obviously become part of the military-industrial complex and big business.  Subliminal Seduction was a great book by B. Wilson Key, I recall, but is fairly hard to obtain now.  Vance Packard wrote about it, but it goes back to people like Ed Bernays and another guy named Drecht, or something of that sort.   His name isn't mentioned in this wikipedia review.  The review does mention that the series may have been inspired by Stuart Ewen's PR! A Social History of Spin.  The film talks about the founding of the National Association of Manufacturers during the Roosevelt Administration, and Bernays' key role in the CIA's covert operations in the Guatemalan coup d'etats of 1954.  Cheers.  

The Century of the Self is a British television documentary series by Adam Curtis, released in 2002. It focuses on how the work of Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, and Edward Bernays influenced the way corporations and governments have analyzed, dealt with, and controlled people.[1]

Episodes

1. Happiness Machines (17 March 2002)
2. The Engineering of Consent (24 March 2002)
3. There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed (31 March 2002)
4. Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering (7 April 2002)

Overview

"This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy." —Adam Curtis' introduction to the first episode.
Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed the perception of the human mind and its workings. The series describes the propaganda that Western governments and corporations have utilized stemming from Freud's theories.
Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in public relations, are discussed. Freud's daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in the second part, as is one of the main opponents of Freud's theories, Wilhelm Reich, in the third part.
Along these general themes, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy, commodification and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitudes to fashion and superficiality.
The business and political world uses psychological techniques to read, create and fulfill the desires of the public, to make their products or speeches as pleasing as possible to consumers and citizens. Curtis raises the question of the intentions and roots of this fact. Where once the political process was about engaging people's rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a society, the documentary shows how by employing the tactics of psychoanalysis, politicians appeal to irrational, primitive impulses that have little apparent bearing on issues outside of the narrow self-interest of a consumer population.
The words of Paul Mazur, a leading Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers, are cited: "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs".[2][3][4][5][6][7]

Germany Showing Backbone

  Germany is showing some gumption in recent trade talks.  A comment at the site goes beyond the article to suggest that it is the German people who are influencing a none too brazen government.  The German people have successfully lobbied a few times, and actually led much of the effort to create the favorable conditions for their renewable energy strength, following Denmark's pioneering steps, a very lonely but robust UK effort, and all along with the US and Spain's less democratic versions.  The selection below comes from Yes Magazine online.

 Why Germany Is Backing Away From a Trade Deal that Lets Corporations Sue the Government

A new round of international trade agreements threatens to increase corporate power over national governments. But news out of Germany suggests the deals aren't inevitable.



posted Aug 06, 2014



by Alexis Goldstein



A new round of international trade agreements threatens to increase corporate power over national governments. But news out of Germany suggests the deals aren't inevitable.
In a move that has many on the left cautiously celebrating, Reuters reported on July 28 that Germany might reject a new trade agreement between Canada and the European Union.
Some commentators see Germany's move as proof that organizing against the new round of trade agreements is gaining ground.
The deal is called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA. It’s part of a new wave of large, aggressive trade deals that also includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union, and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) between 12 countries of the Pacific Rim.
If all the deals passed, they would affect more than half of the world’s economy. But the red light from Germany could signal that these agreements are not as inevitable as their advocates suggest.
Germany’s objections are centered specifically on the so-called “investor-state dispute settlement” provisions in CETA. These provisions—also known by the acronym ISDS—allow transnational corporations to take legal action against individual governments if they believe that the country’s domestic laws violate a trade agreement. And the legal disputes happen through arbitration, which is a way to settle disputes completely outside of the involved countries’ courts.
We’ve seen this movie before. Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) stipulates that three-person panels of private attorneys decide who wins in disputes between corporations and individual governments. These proceedings are closed to public observation.
The fallout has been dramatic: Corporations have used the NAFTA tribunals to win big-ticket monetary settlements from the taxpayers of nations whose domestic laws interfere with corporate profits. According to a report by the consumer-rights advocacy group Public Citizen, there are 17 pending claims in which corporations are seeking a total of $38 billion through NAFTA and other deals.
The compensation won through these claims hits particularly hard in Argentina—the most frequent target of these cases according to a 2014 report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. In one example, Argentina was ordered to pay $185.3 million to the energy company BG Group, who sued for profits lost when the country froze gas prices in 2001.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Noam Chomsky on the Crimea

Chomsky uses T. Cambanis' idea of "red lines" to analyze the Crimean situation and US behavior.  He simply condemns Putin Russia's invasion in terms of its illegality, but emphasizes the illegalities in international context brilliantly, especially Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Comments were made that helped me understand the ethnic context better.
     One comment refers to the commenters WISH that the US could be a moral force, and that US Leaders need to learn THEIR lesson.  It is clear to me that no leader who can create a democratic economy can get elected until social movements in the US do so first.  Chavez in Venezuela acted brilliantly and almost with incomprehensible tact to implement significant advances in economic democracy there.  Would it take a similar enlightened military man in the US?  Philip Agee, for example, ex-CIA, might have been a kind of character up to the challenge in his heyday.  

The Politics of Red Lines: Putin's takeover of Crimea scares U.S. leaders because it challenges America's global dominance
Noam Chomsky
In These Times, May 1, 2014
The current Ukraine crisis is serious and threatening, so much so that some commentators even compare it to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
Columnist Thanassis Cambanis summarizes the core issue succinctly in The Boston Globe: "[President Vladimir V.] Putin's annexation of the Crimea is a break in the order that America and its allies have come to rely on since the end of the Cold War -- namely, one in which major powers only intervene militarily when they have an international consensus on their side, or failing that, when they're not crossing a rival power's red lines."
This era's most extreme international crime, the United States-United Kingdom invasion of Iraq, was therefore not a break in world order -- because, after failing to gain international support, the aggressors didn't cross Russian or Chinese red lines.
In contrast, Putin's takeover of the Crimea and his ambitions in Ukraine cross American red lines.
Therefore "Obama is focused on isolating Putin's Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world, limiting its expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood and effectively making it a pariah state," Peter Baker reports in The New York Times.
American red lines, in short, are firmly placed at Russia's borders. Therefore Russian ambitions "in its own neighborhood" violate world order and create crises.
The point generalizes. Other countries are sometimes allowed to have red lines -- at their borders (where the United States' red lines are also located). But not Iraq, for example. Or Iran, which the U.S. continually threatens with attack ("no options are off the table").
Such threats violate not only the United Nations Charter but also the General Assembly resolution condemning Russia that the United States just signed. The resolution opened by stressing the U.N. Charter ban on "the threat or use of force" in international affairs.
The Cuban missile crisis also sharply revealed the great powers' red lines. The world came perilously close to nuclear war when President Kennedy rejected Premier Khrushchev's offer to end the crisis by simultaneous public withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba and American missiles from Turkey. (The U.S. missiles were already scheduled to be replaced by far more lethal Polaris submarines, part of the massive system threatening Russia's destruction.)
In this case too, the United States' red lines were at Russia's borders, and that was accepted on all sides.
The U.S. invasion of Indochina, like the invasion of Iraq, crossed no red lines, nor have many other U.S. depredations worldwide. To repeat the crucial point: Adversaries are sometimes permitted to have red lines, but at their borders, where America's red lines are also located. If an adversary has "expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood," crossing U.S. red lines, the world faces a crisis.
In the current issue of the Harvard-MIT journal International Security, Oxford University professor Yuen Foong Khong explains that there is a "long (and bipartisan) tradition in American strategic thinking: Successive administrations have emphasized that a vital interest of the United States is to prevent a hostile hegemon from dominating any of the major regions of the world."
Furthermore, it is generally agreed that the United States must "maintain its predominance," because "it is U.S. hegemony that has upheld regional peace and stability" -- the latter a term of art referring to subordination to U.S. demands.
As it happens, the world thinks differently and regards the United States as a "pariah state" and "the greatest threat to world peace," with no competitor even close in the polls. But what does the world know?
Khong's article concerns the crisis in Asia, caused by the rise of China, which is moving toward "economic primacy in Asia" and, like Russia, has "expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood," thus crossing American red lines.
President Obama's recent Asia trip was to affirm the "long (and bipartisan) tradition," in diplomatic language.
The near-universal Western condemnation of Putin includes citing the "emotional address" in which he complained bitterly that the U.S. and its allies had "cheated us again and again, made decisions behind our back, presenting us with completed facts with the expansion of NATO in the East, with the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They always told us the same thing: 'Well, this doesn't involve you.' "
Putin's complaints are factually accurate. When President Gorbachev accepted the unification of Germany as part of NATO -- an astonishing concession in the light of history -- there was a quid pro quo. Washington agreed that NATO would not move "one inch eastward," referring to East Germany.
The promise was immediately broken, and when Gorbachev complained, he was instructed that it was only a verbal promise, so without force.
President Clinton proceeded to expand NATO much farther to the east, to Russia's borders. Today there are calls to extend NATO even to Ukraine, deep into the historic Russian "neighborhood." But it "doesn't involve" the Russians, because its responsibility to "uphold peace and stability" requires that American red lines are at Russia's borders.
Russia's annexation of Crimea was an illegal act, in violation of international law and specific treaties. It's not easy to find anything comparable in recent years -- the Iraq invasion is a vastly greater crime.
But one comparable example comes to mind: U.S. control of Guantanamo Bay in southeastern Cuba. Guantanamo was wrested from Cuba at gunpoint in 1903 and not relinquished despite Cuba's demands ever since it attained independence in 1959.
To be sure, Russia has a far stronger case. Even apart from strong internal support for the annexation, Crimea is historically Russian; it has Russia's only warm-water port, the home of Russia's fleet; and has enormous strategic significance. The United States has no claim at all to Guantanamo, other than its monopoly of force.
One reason why the United States refuses to return Guantanamo to Cuba, presumably, is that this is a major harbor and American control of the region severely hampers Cuban development. That has been a major U.S. policy goal for 50 years, including large-scale terror and economic warfare.
The United States claims that it is shocked by Cuban human rights violations, overlooking the fact that the worst such violations are in Guantanamo; that valid charges against Cuba do not begin to compare with regular practices among Washington's Latin American clients; and that Cuba has been under severe, unremitting U.S. attack since its independence.
But none of this crosses anyone's red lines or causes a crisis. It falls into the category of the U.S. invasions of Indochina and Iraq, the regular overthrow of parliamentary regimes and installation of vicious dictatorships, and our hideous record of other exercises of "upholding peace and stability."
http://www.chomsky.info/articles/20140501.htm

Friday, June 20, 2014

Noam Chomsky: Will Capitalism Kill Us?

I've just watched the Howard Zinn doc "...Moving Train" and am in the middle of watching the Noam Chomsky doc "Manufacturing Consent" (both again), and revived my realization that Zinn had been and Chomsky has been amazing activists.  I found this 2013 piece by Chomsky at chomsky.info, and think it is 
superb.  He refers to Mondragon, Ohio, and Alperovitz, and his own bright light, Dewey.  I wasn't familiar with Dewey's powerful relevance.  I guess one thing he doesn't seem to acknowledge is the existence of Federal laws like Germany's Worker Co-Determination law with some other European Work Councils.  The original Danish approach from protests to mechanics to associations to co-ops was followed by Germany to its larger scale, with an interesting version injected into the UK.  Ohio has an example applying this, I understand.  An example I like in the US is that of the food co-operatives and credit unions.  There are plenty of both.  Nevertheless, it is the industrial strength ones that need to inspire most of us, and so I am honored again to mention Michael Moore's last film, Capitalism, with his visits to Wisconsin and San Francisco industrial co-ops.

Can Civilization Survive Capitalism?
Noam Chomsky
Alternet, March 5, 2013
The term "capitalism" is commonly used to refer to the U.S. economic system, with substantial state intervention ranging from subsidies for creative innovation to the "too-big-to-fail" government insurance policy for banks.
The system is highly monopolized, further limiting reliance on the market, and increasingly so: In the past 20 years the share of profits of the 200 largest enterprises has risen sharply, reports scholar Robert W. McChesney in his new book "Digital Disconnect."
"Capitalism" is a term now commonly used to describe systems in which there are no capitalists: for example, the worker-owned Mondragon conglomerate in the Basque region of Spain, or the worker-owned enterprises expanding in northern Ohio, often with conservative support -- both are discussed in important work by the scholar Gar Alperovitz.
Some might even use the term "capitalism" to refer to the industrial democracy advocated by John Dewey, America's leading social philosopher, in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Dewey called for workers to be "masters of their own industrial fate" and for all institutions to be brought under public control, including the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Short of this, Dewey argued, politics will remain "the shadow cast on society by big business."
The truncated democracy that Dewey condemned has been left in tatters in recent years. Now control of government is narrowly concentrated at the peak of the income scale, while the large majority "down below" has been virtually disenfranchised. The current political-economic system is a form of plutocracy, diverging sharply from democracy, if by that concept we mean political arrangements in which policy is significantly influenced by the public will.
There have been serious debates over the years about whether capitalism is compatible with democracy. If we keep to really existing capitalist democracy -- RECD for short -- the question is effectively answered: They are radically incompatible.
It seems to me unlikely that civilization can survive RECD and the sharply attenuated democracy that goes along with it. But could functioning democracy make a difference?
Let's keep to the most critical immediate problem that civilization faces: environmental catastrophe. Policies and public attitudes diverge sharply, as is often the case under RECD. The nature of the gap is examined in several articles in the current issue of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Researcher Kelly Sims Gallagher finds that "One hundred and nine countries have enacted some form of policy regarding renewable power, and 118 countries have set targets for renewable energy. In contrast, the United States has not adopted any consistent and stable set of policies at the national level to foster the use of renewable energy."
It is not public opinion that drives American policy off the international spectrum. Quite the opposite. Opinion is much closer to the global norm than the U.S. government's policies reflect, and much more supportive of actions needed to confront the likely environmental disaster predicted by an overwhelming scientific consensus -- and one that's not too far off; affecting the lives of our grandchildren, very likely.
As Jon A. Krosnick and Bo MacInnis report in Daedalus: "Huge majorities have favored steps by the federal government to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated when utilities produce electricity. In 2006, 86 percent of respondents favored requiring utilities, or encouraging them with tax breaks, to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit. Also in that year, 87 percent favored tax breaks for utilities that produce more electricity from water, wind or sunlight [ These majorities were maintained between 2006 and 2010 and shrank somewhat after that.
The fact that the public is influenced by science is deeply troubling to those who dominate the economy and state policy.
One current illustration of their concern is the "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act" proposed to state legislatures by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-funded lobby that designs legislation to serve the needs of the corporate sector and extreme wealth.
The ALEC Act mandates "balanced teaching" of climate science in K-12 classrooms. "Balanced teaching" is a code phrase that refers to teaching climate-change denial, to "balance" mainstream climate science. It is analogous to the "balanced teaching" advocated by creationists to enable the teaching of "creation science" in public schools. Legislation based on ALEC models has already been introduced in several states.
Of course, all of this is dressed up in rhetoric about teaching critical thinking -- a fine idea, no doubt, but it's easy to think up far better examples than an issue that threatens our survival and has been selected because of its importance in terms of corporate profits.
Media reports commonly present a controversy between two sides on climate change.
One side consists of the overwhelming majority of scientists, the world's major national academies of science, the professional science journals and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
They agree that global warming is taking place, that there is a substantial human component, that the situation is serious and perhaps dire, and that very soon, maybe within decades, the world might reach a tipping point where the process will escalate sharply and will be irreversible, with severe social and economic effects. It is rare to find such consensus on complex scientific issues.
The other side consists of skeptics, including a few respected scientists who caution that much is unknown -- which means that things might not be as bad as thought, or they might be worse.
Omitted from the contrived debate is a much larger group of skeptics: highly regarded climate scientists who see the IPCC's regular reports as much too conservative. And these scientists have repeatedly been proven correct, unfortunately.
The propaganda campaign has apparently had some effect on U.S. public opinion, which is more skeptical than the global norm. But the effect is not significant enough to satisfy the masters. That is presumably why sectors of the corporate world are launching their attack on the educational system, in an effort to counter the public's dangerous tendency to pay attention to the conclusions of scientific research.
At the Republican National Committee's Winter Meeting a few weeks ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned the leadership that "We must stop being the stupid party ... We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters."
Within the RECD system it is of extreme importance that we become the stupid nation, not misled by science and rationality, in the interests of the short-term gains of the masters of the economy and political system, and damn the consequences.
These commitments are deeply rooted in the fundamentalist market doctrines that are preached within RECD, though observed in a highly selective manner, so as to sustain a powerful state that serves wealth and power.
The official doctrines suffer from a number of familiar "market inefficiencies," among them the failure to take into account the effects on others in market transactions. The consequences of these "externalities" can be substantial. The current financial crisis is an illustration. It is partly traceable to the major banks and investment firms' ignoring "systemic risk" -- the possibility that the whole system would collapse -- when they undertook risky transactions.
Environmental catastrophe is far more serious: The externality that is being ignored is the fate of the species. And there is nowhere to run, cap in hand, for a bailout.
In future, historians (if there are any) will look back on this curious spectacle taking shape in the early 21st century. For the first time in human history, humans are facing the significant prospect of severe calamity as a result of their actions -- actions that are battering our prospects of decent survival.
Those historians will observe that the richest and most powerful country in history, which enjoys incomparable advantages, is leading the effort to intensify the likely disaster. Leading the effort to preserve conditions in which our immediate descendants might have a decent life are the so-called "primitive" societies: First Nations, tribal, indigenous, aboriginal.
The countries with large and influential indigenous populations are well in the lead in seeking to preserve the planet. The countries that have driven indigenous populations to extinction or extreme marginalization are racing toward destruction.
Thus Ecuador, with its large indigenous population, is seeking aid from the rich countries to allow it to keep its substantial oil reserves underground, where they should be.
Meanwhile the U.S. and Canada are seeking to burn fossil fuels, including the extremely dangerous Canadian tar sands, and to do so as quickly and fully as possible, while they hail the wonders of a century of (largely meaningless) energy independence without a side glance at what the world might look like after this extravagant commitment to self-destruction.
This observation generalizes: Throughout the world, indigenous societies are struggling to protect what they sometimes call "the rights of nature," while the civilized and sophisticated scoff at this silliness.
This is all exactly the opposite of what rationality would predict -- unless it is the skewed form of reason that passes through the filter of RECD.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Atomic States of America

I listened to this segment again last night.  I recently showed the film Erin Brockavich to one of my classes.  These are the tragedies that can help give people a reality check.

Nuclear power has drawn wide support from both sides of the aisle, with both Republicans and Democrats advancing a pro-nuclear agenda even in the aftermath of last year’s Fukushima disaster in Japan. We speak with Sheena Joyce, co-director of the new documentary "The Atomic States of America," which is featured at 2012 Sundance Film Festival. We’re also joined by Kelly McMasters, whose book "Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town" inspired the film. Joyce says, "We used Kelly’s book and the town of Shirley as kind of a springboard into the issue, to just talk to people really on both sides, but mainly to speak to the people in reactor communities... We wanted to seek an intelligent dialogue." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival, the nation’s largest festival for independent cinema. Today we’re talking about nuclear power. Why? Well, the corporate media brings out debate when the establishment in Washington is divided—Democrats debating Republicans. That scope of debate, they bring us. But what happens when the majority of Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and the president, as well, agree? You’re not going to get much coverage of the issue. And that’s the story of nuclear power today. Just two years ago, President Obama gave his State of the Union address and was applauded on both sides of the aisle when he said this.
We’re broadcasting from Park City, Utah, and we’re about to go to a clip of President Obama speaking two years ago at the State of the Union address, when he addressed the issue of nuclear renaissance.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: [But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production,] more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country, because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy, and America must be that nation.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama in 2010 giving his State of the Union address. And that is a clip of a new movie that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival called The Atomic States of America. It’s directed by Sheena Joyce and Don Argott. And Sheena Joyce is joining us now.
The film is based on a book called Welcome to Shirley by a Shirley resident, Kelly McMasters. That’s Shirley, Long Island, New York. And Kelly joins us today.
....   http://www.democracynow.org/2012/1/24/the_atomic_states_of_america_exploring

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Arundhati Roy on India´s Globalization Problems

Unfortunately, India is in as much trouble as the rest of the world, despite Gandhi´s amazing presence there historically.  It´s worth a visit to the Right Livelihood Award to check out some of the excellent activist efforts that have been going on there. 

 

Arundhati Roy: Is India on a Totalitarian Path?

Wednesday, 16 April 2014 09:09 By Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

2014 0416royArundhati Roy's trenchant analysis of the destructive impact of global neoliberalism on India is availble directly from Truthout by clicking here. Capitalism: A Ghost Story is a passionate, detailed journey through the injustices of systemic inequality.
As voting begins in India in the largest elections the world has ever seen, we spend the hour with Indian novelist and essayist Arundhati Roy. Nearly 815 million Indians are eligible to vote, and results will be issued in May. One of India’s most famous authors - and one of its fiercest critics - Roy is out with a new book, Capitalism: A Ghost Story, which dives into India’s transforming political landscape and makes the case that globalized capitalism has intensified the wealth divide, racism, and environmental degradation. "This new election is going to be [about] who the corporates choose," Roy says, "[about] who is not going to blink about deploying the Indian army against the poorest people in this country, and pushing them out to give over those lands, those rivers, those mountains, to the major mining corporations." Roy won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things. Her other books include An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire and Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.
TRANSCRIPT:
AMY GOODMAN: Voting has begun in India in the largest election the world has ever seen. About 815 million Indians are eligible to vote over the next five weeks. The number of voters in India is more than two-and-a-half times the entire population of the United States. The election will take place in nine phases at over 900,000 polling stations across India. Results will be known on May 16th.
Pre-election polls indicate Narendra Modi will likely become India’s next prime minister. Modi is the leader of the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party. He serves—he served as the chief minister of Gujarat, where one of India’s worst anti-Muslim riots occurred in 2002 that left at least a thousand people dead. After the bloodshed, the U.S. State Department revoked Modi’s visa, saying it could not grant a visa to any foreign government official who, quote, "was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom." Modi has never apologized for or explained his actions at the time of the riots.
Modi’s main challenger to become prime minister is Rahul Gandhi of the ruling Congress party. Gandhi is heir to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that’s governed India for much of its post-independence history.
Several smaller regional parties and the new anti-corruption Common Man Party are also in the running. If no single party wins a clear majority, the smaller parties could play a crucial role in forming a coalition government.
Well, today we spend the hour with one of India’s most famous authors and one of its fiercest critics, Arundhati Roy. In 1997, Roy won the Booker Prize for her novel, The God of Small Things. Since then, she has focused on nonfiction. Her books include An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers and Walking with the Comrades. Her latest book is titled Capitalism: A Ghost Story. Nermeen Shaikh and I recently sat down with Arundhati Roy when she was in New York. We began by asking about her new book and the changes that have taken place in India since it opened its economy in the early ’90s.
ARUNDHATI ROY: What we’re always told is that, you know, there’s going to be a trickle-down revolution. You know, that kind of opening up of the economy that happened in the early '90s was going to lead to an inflow of foreign capital, and eventually the poor would benefit. So, you know, being a novelist, I started out by standing outside this 27-story building that belonged to Mukesh Ambani, with its ballrooms and its six floors of parking and 900 servants and helipads and so on. And it had this 27-story-high vertical lawn, and bits of the grass had sort of fallen off in squares. And so, I said, "Well, trickle down hasn't worked, but gush up has," because after the opening up of the economy, we are in a situation where, you know, 100 of India’s wealthiest people own—their combined wealth is 25 percent of the GDP, whereas more than 80 percent of its population lives on less than half a dollar a day. And the levels of malnutrition, the levels of hunger, the amount of food intake, all these—all these, you know, while India is shown as a quickly growing economy, though, of course, that has slowed down now dramatically, but at its peak, what happened was that this new—these new economic policies created a big middle class, which, given the population of India, gave the impression of—it was a universe of its own, with, you know, the ability to consume cars and air conditioners and mobile phones and all of that. And that huge middle class came at a cost of a much larger underclass, which was just away from the arc lights, you know, which wasn’t—which wasn’t even being looked at, millions of people being displaced, pushed off their lands either by big development project or just by land which had ceased to be productive. You had—I mean, we have had 250,000 farmers committing suicide, which, if you even try to talk about, let’s say, on the Indian television channels, you actually get insulted, you know, because it—
NERMEEN SHAIKH: I mean, that’s an extraordinary figure. It’s a quarter of a million farmers who have killed themselves.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah, and let me say that that figure doesn’t include the fact that, you know, if it’s a woman who kills herself, she’s not considered a farmer, or now they’ll start saying, "Oh, it wasn’t suicide. Oh, it was depression. It was this. It was that." You know?
AMY GOODMAN: But why are they killing themselves?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Because they are caught in a debt trap, you know, because what happens is that the entire—the entire face of agriculture has changed. So people start growing cash crops, you know, crops which are market-friendly, which need a lot of input. You know, they need pesticides. They need borewells. They need all kinds of chemicals. And then the crop fails, or the cost of the—that they get for their product doesn’t match the amount of money they have to put into it. And also you have situations like in the Punjab, where—which was called the "rice bowl of India." Punjab never used to grow rice earlier, but now—
AMY GOODMAN: In the north of India.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Yes, in the north. And it’s supposed to be India’s richest agricultural state. But there you have so many farmer suicides now, land going saline. The, you know, people, ironically, the way they commit suicide is by drinking the pesticide, you know, which they need to—and apart from the fact that the debt, the illness that is being caused by all of this, in Punjab, you have a train called the Cancer Express, you know, where people just coming in droves to be treated for illness and—you know, and—
AMY GOODMAN: And the train is called the Cancer Express?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Yes, it’s called the Cancer Express. And—
AMY GOODMAN: Because of the pesticide that they’re exposed to?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah, and they are. And this is the richest state in India, you know—I mean agriculturally the richest. And there’s a crisis there—never mind in places like, you know, towards the west, Maharashtra and Vidarbha, where, you know, farmers are killing themselves almost every day.
AMY GOODMAN: I was wondering if you could read from Capitalism: A Ghost Story.
ARUNDHATI ROY: So, "In India, the 300 million of us who belong to the new, post-IMF 'reforms' middle class—the market—live side by side with the spirits of the nether world, the poltergeists of dead rivers, dry wells, bald mountains and denuded forests; the ghosts of 250,000 debt-ridden farmers who have killed themselves, and the 800 million who have been impoverished and dispossessed to make way for us. And who survive on less than half a dollar, which is 20 Indian rupees, a day.
“Mukesh Ambani is personally worth $20 billion. He holds a majority controlling share in Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), a company with a market capitalization of $47 billion and global business interests that include petrochemicals, oil, natural gas, polyester fibre, Special Economic Zones, fresh food retail, high schools, life sciences research and stem cell storage services. RIL recently bought 95 per cent shares in Infotel, a TV consortium that controls 27 TV news and entertainment channels in almost every regional language.
RIL is one of a handful of corporations that run India. Some of the others are the Tatas, Jindals, Vedanta, Mittals, Infosys, Essar. Their race for growth has spilled across Europe, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America. Their nets are cast wide; they are visible and invisible, over-ground as well as underground. The Tatas, for example, run more than 100 companies in 80 countries. They are one of India’s oldest and largest private sector power companies. They own mines, gas fields, steel plants, telephone, cable TV and broadband networks, and they run whole townships. They manufacture cars and trucks, and own the Taj Hotel chain, Jaguar, Land Rover, Daewoo, Tetley Tea, a publishing company, a chain of bookstores, a major brand of iodized salt and the cosmetics giant Lakme—which I think they’ve sold now. Their advertising tagline could easily be: You Can’t Live Without Us.
"According to the rules of the Gush-Up Gospel, the more you have, the more you can have."....

Interference with US Volkswagen Plant Union Vote

The VW plant employee vote on creating a UAW union branch is a great illustration of the state of the US political economy today, and the existence of an anti-democratic oligarchy and plutocracy. 

 

A Primer on the Antiunion Campaign at Volkswagen

Monday, 14 April 2014 12:02 By John Logan, Truthout | Op-Ed

The Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., Jan. 28, 2014. (Photo: Tami Chappell / The New York Times) The Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., Jan. 28, 2014. (Photo: Tami Chappell / The New York Times)
Given the dizzying array of antiunion forces that were involved in the campaign to undermine workers' choice to form a union at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, a who's who of who did what in the dirty tricks campaign may come in handy.
On April 9, the United Auto Workers (UAW) subpoenaed Republican Sen. Bob Corker, Governor Bill Haslam and 18 other state officials to appear at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB hearing into third-party intervention in the union election at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Given the dizzying array of antiunion forces that were involved in the campaign to undermine workers' choice, it's easy to lose track of who did what.
The anti-UAW campaign at Volkswagen had everything: a senator deliberately misleading workers; a governor offering Volkswagen hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars - but only if the union lost - senior state politicians openly making threats of financial retribution; Republican staffers secretly coordinating the anti-UAW campaign with notorious union busters; shadowy organizations with links to the nation's leading right-wing activists; an Ayn Rand-inspired anti-union consultant; and AstroTurf organizations that purported to be groups of rank-and-file workers. And this is only what we know so far.
Here's a quick primer to the main actors in the campaign to subvert workers' choice:
Competitive Enterprise Institute: A shadowy libertarian organization with links to the Koch Brothers and right-wing foundations. CEI's involvement was primarily through right-wing activist Matt Patterson, who later went on to spearhead the antiunion campaign with the Center for Worker Freedom.
Center for Worker Freedom: A special project of Grover Norquist's American for Tax Reform. CWF Director Matt Patterson spent a year in Chattanooga spreading misinformation. After the election, he boasted that his strategy of involving workers' families and the community had caused "strife."
Bob Corker: Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) twice told workers he had been given assurances that Volkswagen would expand production at Chattanooga if they voted against the union. It wasn't true. Never before has a senator misused his position to interfere in a union election at a private company in this way.
Jim Gray: Antiunion consultant Gray heads a South Carolina firm that has a "primary focus on union avoidance." After attending an anti-UAW planning meeting, Gray stated, "I'm just here to help out." It appears that Gray helped arrange the production of the antiunion campaign videos.
Bill Haslam: Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam offered Volkswagen $300 million in subsidies, but only if the UAW lost. Written at top of the confidential document was the following caveat: "The incentives described below are subject to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee."
Peter List: A notorious antiunion consultant, List is the founder and CEO of Kulture Labor Relations. According to a profile in Fortune magazine, List is "a firm believer in Ayn Rand's philosophy of radical individualism" who "opposes all state efforts to regulate labor relations." In a 2007 organizing campaign, NLRB member Dennis Walsh wrote that in his effort to "persuade" workers, List had engaged in "patently unlawful" activities.
National Right to Work Committee Legal Defense Fund: The organization claimed that it only provided free legal support for antiunion workers, but the UAW has alleged that a NRTW lawyer was also involved in coordinating the antiunion campaign.
Maury Nicely: A Chattanooga antiunion lawyer who fronted Southern Momentum, Inc., Nicely told Reuters that his group had raised over $100,000 from antiunion businesses and individuals. Despite purporting to represent ordinary Volkswagen workers, none of SMI's funding came from workers, and few Volkswagen workers had any direct involvement with it.
Projections, Inc.: One of the country's leading "union avoidance" firms, Projections created three antiunion videos for SMI, which were shown at public meetings, put on SMI's "no2uaw.com" website and given to workers on flash drives so they could watch them with their families. The videos implied that workers job security would be threatened if they voted for the union.
Robin Smith: Chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, Smith compared the UAW to an "infestation" of "Ichneumon wasp larvae." When the NAACP expressed support for an investigation into Haslam's secret offer, Smith tweeted: "@NAACP supports @UAW at @VW in Chattanooga. Those allies tell the tale." As indicated by her comments, the Tennessee GOP establishment intervened in the election in a disgraceful manner.
Southern Momentum, Inc.: SMI was the one antiunion group that claimed to represent ordinary Volkswagen workers. In reality, it was another AstroTurf organization, headed by antiunion lawyer Maury Nicely, funded by antiunion businesses, and which hired expensive external union avoidance professionals.
Bo Watson: State Senator Watson and other senior state politicians threatened to block financial incentives for the company - which the workers understood would threaten their job security - if workers voted for the UAW. The day before workers started voting, Watson stated at a press conference that, "members of the Tennessee Senate will not view unionization as in the best interest of Tennessee," and that lawmakers would "have a difficult time convincing our citizens to support any Volkswagen incentive package."
Todd Womack: Corker's chief of staff was in direct contact with Tennessee politicians - including members of the Governor's cabinet - and union avoidance groups about anti-UAW messaging. Womack sent an email concerning the three Projections anti-UAW videos. Recipients of his message included Grey, List, and the heads of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce and Tennessee Manufacturers Association.
The Volkswagen election showed the extraordinary lengths to which Republican lawmakers and antiunion organizations are prepared to go to subvert workers' right to choose a union. Whatever the eventual outcome at Chattanooga, they must never get away with these dirty tricks again.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission

John Logan

John Logan is a professor and director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University.

 comment....
Interestingly enough, VW was OK about unions, thanks to the urging of their pre-existing unions in Germany, and didn't oppose this vote at all. In fact, they tacitly approved of it. VW wants Workers Councils in the US like they use in Germany, a structure that is properly illegal in this country without the presence of a Union. It makes for a more efficient operation of production, not to mention happier workers.
The Republican politicians opposed it for ideological reasons and as part of a wider allegiance to plutocratic special interests.
If the company was truly enlightened, they'd walk away and go to somewhere like Detroiit, set up the plant with a Union presence. But I don't expect this to happen--they've put a lot into investigating this site. But it'd send a great message to the Republicans.

Agreed. Ultimately, a non-profit needs to create a certification for automobiles that parallels Fair Trade for imported agricultural products (which has emphasized co-ops, and just advanced to living wages for hired labor). Jobs For Justice, for example. Without visibility, much leverage for worker justice is lost. FSC for forests is another example. Need that market visibility for consumer choice and consciousness....