US interest rate dilemma

According to the mythology of capitalist economics, adjusting interest rates and the money supply can enable capitalist economies to negotiate their way successfully between maintaining full employment, ensuring a stable currency and controlling inflation. This is precisely the charter of the US Federal Reserve Bank, the US central bank. For the last seven years, the Fed has feverishly printed dollars, while keeping interest rates near zero, attempting to revive the US economy. Last December, with the US economy supposedly recovering, the Fed started talking about the need to ‘normalise’ monetary policy. Ever since, capitalist markets, companies and commentators have been asking: will they raise interest rates or won’t they? Now it finally seems likely that the Federal Open Market Committee will go ahead and raise rates at its meeting on 15-16 December 2015. Why should this tinkering with the capitalist economy be of any interest to us?

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California prisoners win victory against solitary confinement

On 1 September 2015 prisoners in California who had since 2011 been waging a sustained struggle against the oppressive and torturous use of solitary confinement won a significant victory, as a legal agreement was reached between prisoners and the state. Nicki Jameson reports.

In 2011 FRFI reported how on 1 July that year prisoners in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay prison, California began an indefinite hunger strike in protest at their prolonged detention in conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. By the following week, at least 6,600 prisoners in 13 prisons across the state had joined the protest. On 15 July the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) responded to pressure from the prisoners and their supporters by commencing negotiations, but these quickly broke down as it became clear that the CDCR was not interested in meeting any of the prisoners’ demands. 

On 26 September 2011, hundreds of SHU prisoners resumed hunger striking. As a result there were further negotiations, which again broke down, followed by further protests in July 2013. All the protests focused around Five Core Demands:

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Remember the MOVE massacre

13 May 2015 marked the 30th anniversary of an indelible and bloody day in US history – an event that shocked the world. GRACE UHURU reports.

The MOVE organisation was formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1972 by John Africa. It was a loose-knit, mostly black group whose members all adopted the surname Africa, advocated a back-to-nature lifestyle and preached against materialism and the injustices of the establishment.

On 13 May 1985, after years of police brutality against MOVE, the state police shot 10,000 rounds of ammunition into the MOVE house, before dropping a bomb on its roof. This horrific attack resulted in a blazing fire and ultimately the deaths of six adults and five children. Among the dead was John Africa. The only survivors of the bombing were Birdie Africa, aged 13, and Ramona Africa. Following the attack Ramona was hospitalised for a month with severe burns and taken into custody before being given a seven-year sentence for ‘inciting a riot’.

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Student loans: lessons from the US

Owe the bank £100, the old saying goes, and you have a problem; owe the bank £1 million and the bank has a problem. In the US almost 40 million people owe a total of $1.16 trillion in student loans. Since British capitalists have decided to follow their US counterparts onto the same slippery slope of financing higher education privately, it is worth having a closer look at the contradictions in this system.

Loans in the US

Student loan delinquencies are rising fast: loans more than 90 days delinquent are 4.3% of all consumer debt and 3.1% for mortgages: for student loans, the rate is 11.3% and increasing. When we take account of the fact that half of all these loans are in deferment, grace periods, or forbearance – in short, not in the repayment cycle – the delinquency rate more than doubles. With some putting it as high as 30%, it is clear there is a problem.

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The rage undammed

UCLA rally shortly after the Rodney King Verdict.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 107 June/July 1992

‘lt is no coincidence, either, that it all happened in the American city that most epitomises the burgeoning growth under Presidents Reagan and Bush, of a powerless underclass – a Rich v Poor polarisation in a city here the world’s most obscene conspicuous consumption of wealth exists so closely alongside Third World-type ghettoes, where Bel Air can seem like exclusive parts of Johannesburg and South Central Los Angeles more like Soweto.’ Andrew Stephen, Observer  

On 29 April, following the acquittal of four police filmed beating a black man, Los Angeles erupted in the fiercest uprising seen in the US since the 1960s. The rising left 58 people – mostly black or Hispanic – dead, 12,000 arrested, 3,700 buildings and 10,000 businesses destroyed. An estimated $1 billion damage was done. The fighting, which continued for over two days, only stopped when the Bush government deployed 5,000 police, 1,590 sheriffs, 2,300 state police, 1,000 FBI, 6,000 National Guard, 3,000 7th Infantry and 1,500 marines.

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Fire next time... US uprisings in the 1960s


‘What White Americans have never fully understood – but what the Negro can never forget – is that White society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, White institutions maintain it, and White society condones it.’

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Solidarity with the Baltimore uprising: justice for Freddie Gray – PSL statement

Below we reprint the statement from our comrades in the US Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), on the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent rebellion led by the black youth of Baltimore. Visit the PSL’s website for more reports and analysis of events in the US:

Baltimore’s rebellion: what happens to a dream deferred

If the young people of Ferguson had not rebelled, Mike Brown’s name would have been forgotten. The town would still have the same mayor and police chief. The cops would still be fining and arresting Black people for every conceivable thing, including 'Manner of Walking in Roadway,' 'High Grass and Weeds,' and even bleeding on police uniforms during a beat-down. There would have been no Justice Department investigations or presidential commissions. If the young people of Ferguson had not rebelled, the city would be, for most of the country, just another dot on the map; just another forgotten impoverished Black community.

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Behind the US ‘recovery’

It is taken for granted in the bourgeois financial media that the US is experiencing a ‘recovery’ of its economy; debate then moves to the possibility of it pulling the rest of the world out of stagnation and deflation. It is true that the US economy gives the impression of some kind of growth since the depths of the Great Recession: the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a stock market index, has risen from a low of 6547 in March 2009 to around 17500 today – an increase of more than 260%. Since the second quarter (Q2) of 2007, before the crunch hit, real GDP has risen by 8.5%. The official unemployment rate has fallen from 9.9% in Q3 of 2009 to just 5.7% five years later.

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Ferguson burns as racist cop walks free

Once again the people of Ferguson have had to display their righteous anger in protest over the death of Michael Brown. This time it was provoked by the announcement that Brown’s killer, Officer Darren Wilson, would not face any indictment. This was compounded by Wilson’s remorse-free announcement that his conscience was clear. What feeling breathing person, faced with this injustice and contempt, could easily restrain themselves from venting their anger? The furious people of Ferguson burnt cars and businesses and fought the police. In response the ‘Civil Rights’ fire brigade showed up to pour cold water on the popular rebellion, to condemn rioting and insist that all protests be peaceful, ie ineffectual. But their efforts at collaboration were themselves ineffectual as justice-minded people across the United States and internationally protested against this travesty of justice. In California, roads were blocked for three consecutive nights and hundreds arrested as they marched through Oakland and Los Angeles.

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Mid-term blues in the United States

The US mid-term elections, where 36 Senate seats and all 435 House of Representatives seats were contested, were held at the beginning of November. Polls had been divided about the predicted outcome, but when the dust settled Republicans won 244 House seats versus 186 for the Democrats, and 53 Republican seats in the Senate versuss 46 for the Democrats (five House races were undecided at time of writing, while Louisiana’s Senator will be decided in a December run-off election).

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Support the struggle of prisoners in Georgia

Recent years have seen repeated protests and hunger strikes in US penitentiaries, as prisoners in the world’s largest and most brutal system of incarceration desperately attempt to highlight the consistent use of solitary confinement as a form of torture, together with a sea of other abuses which, had they taken place anywhere else on the planet, would have resulted in an international outcry. The persistence of protesters in California has succeeded in galvanising some national and international attention; however similar actions in Georgia have been largely ignored. In December 2010 tens of thousands of Georgia prisoners participated in the biggest work strike in US prison history, alongside a hunger strike (see ‘Georgia prison strike’ in FRFI 219). There were further protests in 2011 and earlier this year. FRFI has received a letter from Tamarkus Wright, setting out the background to the February/ March 2014 protest in the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison/Special Management Unit (GDCP/SMU).

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United States: Low-paid workers rebel /FRFI! 239 Jun/Jul 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014

According to official census statistics, in 2012, the official US poverty rate was 15 per cent, with some 46.5 million people living in poverty. Most of the adults counted in these figures are ‘working poor’ – employed, but paid a very low wage. Official inflation figures do not represent real changes in the cost of living, and the cost of living index has been manipulated for political reasons. Independent statisticians calculate that the real inflation rate is about three percentage points higher than the official rate. It is therefore no surprise that low-paid workers are fighting back. Our US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports.

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Review: Shackled and Chained – Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America

Eugene Puryear, PSL Publications, 2013

A great deal has been written in recent years about the US prison and criminal justice system. Much simply graphically describes the absolute horror of torture and death which exists at the heart of the world’s largest ‘democracy’, exposing death row, solitary confinement, mandatory minimum sentencing, juvenile detention and so on, while some commentators try to explain how US society got to the point where a staggering 7.1 million people are either in prison or being monitored by the criminal justice system (on probation, parole etc).

Eugene Puryear writes from an overt Marxist perspective and Shackled and Chained locates mass incarceration squarely in the framework of the development of US capitalism, as well as exposing the key role of ‘liberals’ and the Democratic Party in making mass imprisonment the norm in late 20th and 21st century USA. Writing in a non-academic and accessible style, the author also seeks to debunk a range of right-wing ‘theories of crime’ and critiques some popular liberal view on mass incarceration, in particular the prevalent idea of the ‘prison industrial complex’.

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Obama’s immigration dragnet/ FRFI 238 Apr/May 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

Family members of those detained inside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., rallied outside the facility on Monday in solidarity with detainees on hunger strike.

On 7 March, 1,200 immigration detainees at the North West Detention Centre in Tacoma, Washington State, began a hunger strike, demanding an end to deportations and the separation of families, better food, medical care and wages for work inside the prison, where they currently receive just $1 a day for their labour. STEVE PALMER reports from the US on the struggle against Obama’s repressive immigration policies.

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The phoney US recovery

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 237 February/March 2014

According to the people who decide these things, the US economy has been recovering since June 2009. At first glance the economy does seem to be improving. Unemployment is down from 10% in October 2009 to 6.7% in December 2013. GDP rose at a 4.1% annual rate during the third quarter of last year. Housing starts in 2013 were some 18.3% up on 2012 and house prices increased by over 7%. The S&P 500 stock index closed the year at its highest ever level of 1846.87, up 31.8% over the year. Yet something is not quite right with this rosy picture. STEVE PALMER reports.

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Obamacare debacle / FRFI 236 Dec 2013/Jan 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014

‘Capitalist apologists are always trumpeting the supposed efficiencies of “competitive capitalism” compared to the supposedly “inefficient”, “bureaucratic” practices of socialism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of $2.5 trillion of US health spending in 2009, a staggering 31% ($765bn) was wasted.’

In mid-October, following a bitter battle over fiscal issues and a Republican-led government shutdown, polls showed that 50% of registered voters would vote Democrat, and 42% Republican. Democrats were smugly discussing taking back the House of Representatives in next year’s elections. Now, a month later, polls show 47% voting for Democrats and 49% for Republicans – a huge 10% swing. What happened? Steve Palmer reports from the United States.

What happened was that, the internet portal for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – also known as ‘Obamacare’ – went live, or at least attempted to, on 1 October. In the first four days, 8.1 million Americans visited the site to obtain information about health insurance or to sign up. The administration had expected 50,000-60,000; testing the day before the launch showed that the site would grind to a halt with just 1,100 users. Users had great difficulty simply registering, and even more when they attempted to sign up for an insurance option.

It eventually emerged that just 26,794 had enrolled for insurance in the first month of operation. The total number expected to enrol by the original deadline of 15 February 2014 – 12 million people – would, at this rate, be able to complete enrolment by March 2050. The administration is putting on a brave face and attempting to present the website problems as just a temporary technical glitch, which will soon be solved.

In fact the problems with the website are just one part of the problems which Obamacare is creating. These problems go much deeper, to the very impossibility of ever being able to create a capitalist healthcare system which provides decent care to the entire population throughout their whole life. None of the national health systems which operate in the other imperialist countries are fully privatised. They were established in the years immediately following the Second World War, when the Soviet Union, which had universal healthcare, enjoyed enormous popular prestige; when the working class movement was immeasurably stronger than it is today, and capitalism was still recovering from the devastation of war. Just as the achievement of the 10-hour day in the 19th century was a progressive reform, so with the establishment of the national health systems, as Marx put it, ‘the political economy of the middle class succumbed to the political economy of the working class’.

To a limited extent, capitalists do have an interest in the welfare of their workers: they want them to be fit enough to do the work required. However, capital has no interest in the welfare of the unemployed, the disabled or those who are retired. It is the provision of universal healthcare, even in its distorted capitalist form, that represented this victory of the ‘political economy of the working class’. Since this expenditure is unproductive, financed out of capitalist profits, the capitalist state organises the system in a way that minimises costs and strives to reduce the scope of services. The service is financed by a combination of social insurance, taxation and fees. Social insurance originated in the late-19th and early 20th centuries, but was only fully universal after the Second World War. The existence of such large-scale financing enables the state to control costs as a result of its market power, reducing the cost of drugs and equipment.

The history and situation of the United States is radically different. The system of insurance that grew up was employer-based, essentially a risk-based insurance scheme to minimise absence from work for medical reasons. During the Second World War, there was a huge shortage of labour and, while wages were strictly controlled, employers competed for workers by the provision of benefits. The post-war anti-communist hysteria, prevented any possibility of true social insurance. As a consequence, there was an established system of private health insurance. In addition, the physicians, organized in the American Medical Association, fought hard to prevent any ‘government interference’ in healthcare, and capitalism was given free rein.

A completely capitalist healthcare system is inevitably more expensive – profits have to be made; huge amounts have to be spent on sales, marketing and accounting that are unnecessary in a socialist system; medically unnecessary treatments are carried out because they make money. Overall, it is highly inefficient: primary and preventive care is much less profitable than other activities, but the absence of such care increases the demand for more expensive treatments later to ameliorate the consequences. Finance capital gets its cut through issuing insurance policies. The priority is selling a commodity, healthcare, at a profit – not on keeping everyone healthy. Like any other commodity, if you can’t afford it, you go without: 48 million people in the US, some 15.4% of the population, are uninsured; it is estimated that this results in 45,000-48,000 unnecessary deaths each year.

Spending on US healthcare in 2011 was 17.7% of GDP, compared to an average of 9.3% in OECD countries – almost double. Yet the US is not getting twice the results: the number of doctors per 1,000 people was 2.5 compared to an OECD average of 3.2. Basic health indicators for the richest country in the world show below average results. The average infant mortality rate was 4.1, while for the US it was 6.1 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth was 78.7 years in the US compared to an average of 80.1 years. In addition, the United States has the highest or near-highest prevalence amongst the 17 richest countries of heart and lung disease, obesity and diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, adolescent pregnancies, injuries, homicides, and disability.

Capitalist apologists are always trumpeting the supposed ‘efficiencies’ of ‘competitive capitalism’ compared to the supposedly ‘inefficient’, ‘bureaucratic’ practices of socialism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of $2.5 trillion of US health spending in 2009, a staggering 31% ($765bn) was wasted. This waste was attributable to unnecessary services ($210bn), excess administrative costs ($190bn), inefficiently delivered care ($130bn), excessively high prices ($105bn), fraud ($75bn) and missed prevention opportunities ($55bn). Productivity in US healthcare has steadily declined at a rate of about 0.6% per year. For every doctor there are six clinical workers (nurses, physiotherapists etc) and ten administrative workers. Private insurance creates unnecessary waste. There are about 50 significant different private insurers, each of which negotiates different plans with various employers and providers, each of which have different billing requirements, clinical care guidelines and covered benefits. These contracts are renegotiated annually, further complicating administration.

The alternative to private insurance to fund healthcare is what in the US

is called the ‘single-payer system’. Whether health services are provided privately (like Canada) or through the state (Britain), the government pays for, and hence negotiates, all healthcare costs. This allows it to negotiate lower rates with suppliers (such as drugs from pharmaceutical companies), standardize procedures and have uniform rules, cutting costs dramatically. It might be expected that US corporations would welcome this sort of cutting of their overhead costs, but corporate support for single-payer is lukewarm amongst capitalists. There are two main reasons: finance capital, which operates private insurance, is deeply intertwined with other industries; and US corporations want the entire funding of workers’ healthcare to be borne by the workers themselves, through a voucher scheme.

This is where Obamacare comes in: far from being the radical surgery needed to reform the bloated, sclerotic healthcare system, it is a grab bag of sticking plasters and bandages to patch over all the major problems. It not only leaves private insurance intact, it actually helps broaden the market by providing subsidies to those who would not otherwise be able to afford insurance. Extraordinarily, the Act requires everyone to purchase private insurance: failure to do so will result in a fine! Insurance is to be purchased through a ‘health insurance marketplace’, which dovetails with employers’ plans to move to a voucher scheme. These insurance exchanges offer a range of plans – Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Catastrophic – those with lower premiums have much higher excess rates (called the ‘deductible’ in the US). Corporations are dropping their insurance plans and giving workers a stipend, enough to purchase the cheapest plans. The excesses in these plans are massive, perhaps $5,000, which workers must pay from their own pockets before insurance coverage begins. Charges for visits to the doctor, for prescriptions and hospitalisation have all been increased.

This is hardly surprising. The original Bill which emerged from Senator Max Baucus’s office was designed by his senior aide, Liz Fowler. Fowler was formerly Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs at Wellpoint, the largest health insurer in the US. She helped ensure that the so-called ‘public option’, a government-run insurance option, was dropped from the Bill. In July of 2010 the administration hired her to work in the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the implementation of the Act. In November 2012 she then left to become Vice President of Global Health Policy at Johnson & Johnson, a $67.2bn health product conglomerate.

The final Act is huge – more than 900 pages long – and impossible to describe here in any but the broadest outlines. The Act became law in March 2010, and different parts of the law have been rolled out ever since. However, only now have we come to the real core of the Act: attempting to ‘fix’ the inevitable deficiencies of private insurance. While the failure of the website was not inevitable, it was predictable. Software development is still done using craft, artisanal techniques which cannot be managed using the ‘despotic’ (Marx) methods of capitalist control. Combined with the enormous complexity of the system and the continually shifting requirements, it became impossible to deliver the anticipated result. The ‘fix’ was then rashly promised by 30 November. This is highly unlikely to work correctly, and already the part of the system which enables small business to sign up is being postponed for a year.

Obama said that those already enrolled in individual, non-employer plans would not have to change them. However many of these did not meet requirements imposed by the Act and millions have had their plans cancelled, and been offered much more expensive replacements. The administration has scrambled to try and patch this problem.

In the longer term, for the working class, Obamacare is helping implement ‘disguised austerity’ by aiding corporations such as IBM, Time Warner and Caterpillar to cut costs by dismantling the employer-based system of healthcare. It is estimated that nearly a quarter of the 170 million people enrolled in these plans will be pushed to the private exchanges within the next five years. This is going to reduce the range of services and quality of care available, while drastically increasing the cost to workers.

Far from being a progressive reform bringing universal healthcare, Obamacare is an attack on the working class. It is racist, excluding illegal immigrants from any coverage. It is an attack on women: it won’t pay for abortion at all and there are no guarantees that contraception will be covered for all. It won’t even achieve its own explicit objective of ameliorating the burden of healthcare costs on US capitalism. The one sure winner is the insurance industry and the big conglomerate healthcare providers. Any genuinely progressive healthcare reform in the US must begin by getting rid of private insurance.


Herman Wallace released!

UPDATE - Herman Wallace died, shortly after this article was published, on 4 October 2013. He was 71 years old. Surrounded by friends and family, his last words were "I am free, I am free". 

[ORIGINAL ARTICLE 4.10.2013] Herman Wallace, one of the Angola 3 held in solitary confinement for 40 years following a corrupt, racist trial, and who is in the late stages of liver cancer, has been freed. To the surprise of both his defence campaign and the US ‘justice’ system, a judge ordered his release after finding that the exclusion of women from his original jury breached his constitutional rights.

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Free Herman Wallace!

Herman Wallace, one of the Angola 3, who were unjustly jailed in the United States following the death of a guard in a prison riot, has announced that he is in the final stages of cancer. Following 40 years in solitary confinement, Wallace has been transferred to a hospice for his final few weeks of life.

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Officer Dorner hits the reset button

Former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and ex US Navy Reservist, Officer Christopher Dorner died, apparently by his own hand on February 12 2013, in a blazing mountain cabin set on fire by surrounding police after a gun battle lasting several hours. Variously described by the media as ‘rogue’, ‘insane’ and ‘revenge-seeking’, Dorner had allegedly killed two police officers, two civilians with a police connection and wounded two more officers. Thousands of police officers spent days searching for the ex-cop in an unprecedented manhunt extending through California, surrounding states and Mexico, with a reward of $1 million.

Early on, it became clear that LAPD wanted Dorner dead rather than alive. On February 7, in Torrance, LAPD officers shot-up a blue Toyota Tacoma, which they believed to belong to Dorner, wounding 71 year old Emma Hernandez in the back and showering 47 year old Margie Carranza with shrapnel and flying glass. Dorner’s truck was grey; the two women were working, delivering newspapers. Vehicles belonging to nearby residents were left with bullet holes and some even penetrated surrounding houses, forcing occupants to seek cover – when they called the emergency number 911, they were reassured that police were already on the scene! A block away, a white surfer (Donner was black) had his truck rammed by police cars and shot up, leaving him with a concussion and shoulder injuries. A number of other innocent civilians were shot at, and some 400 warrantless searches carried out.

If Dorner was insane, then the LAPD drove him to insanity: ‘I am a man who has lost complete faith in the system, when the system betrayed me, slandered and libeled me’, he wrote in an online manifesto he left behind. Dorner had reported his training officer, Teresa Evans, for kicking a mentally ill homeless man. A subsequent hearing, with a panel composed of people with links to Evans, exonerated her and terminated Dorner for lying. After exhausting subsequent appeals Dorner announced to the world that he was taking matters into his own hands: ‘You’re going to see what a whistleblower can do when you take everything from him … Self preservation is no longer important to me … I was told by my mother that sometimes bad things happen to good people. I refuse to accept that. … I am here to correct and calibrate your morale [sic] compasses to true north.… The attacks will stop when the department states the truth about my innocence … Let the balance of loss of life take place. Sometimes a reset needs to occur. … I have nothing to lose. … I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty.’

However, Dorner’s motivation was not purely selfish: ‘From 2/05 to 1/09 I saw some of the most vile things humans can inflict on others as a police officer in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the streets of LA. It was in the confounds [sic] of LAPD police stations and shops (cruisers) [cars - SP]. The enemy combatants in LA are not the citizens and suspects, it’s the police officers.’ Dorner lifted the lid a little and gave us a glimpse inside the racist terrorizing LAPD where officers cheerfully engage in racist abuse and brutality without sanction. In fact, as Dorner shows in his manifesto, it is the innocent who get punished and the guilty who are promoted. The vicious videotaped beating of Rodney King in 1991 triggered massive rioting and Federal prosecutions of officers involved. The subsequent Christopher Commission Report revealed major management failures in the handling of complaints of brutality. The Ramparts investigation in 1999-2000 exposed unprovoked beatings and shootings, planting of false evidence, framing of suspects, narcotics stealing and dealing, bank robbery and perjury by officers in the LAPD. Yet ‘those officers involved in the Rampart scandal and Rodney King incidents have since [been] promoted to supervisor, commanders, and command staff, and executive positions.’ Dorner adds details of his own personal experiences of racism and brutality within the department. If Dorner was insane, then the conduct of LAPD drove him mad.

When Dorner’s manifesto surfaced, it hit a raw nerve within the Los Angeles community – Angelenos, especially black and Latino, but of all colours, have widespread experience of LAPD’s true behaviour. Signs appeared on vehicles: ‘Run Dorner, Run’. T-shirts with the slogan ‘Don’t shoot – I’m not Chris Dorner’ went on sale. Social media erupted, with many posting their videos of police brutality under Dorner’s Twitter hashtag. Dorner’s fight against injustice had become politicised, threatening the ‘rogue cop’ narrative. Dorner had to go, to protect the department from renewed inspection, to preserve individual reputations and to deter any thought by other officers of going public with the true nature of the LAPD and to criminalize a political issue.

Yet, however noble Dorner’s personal motivation might have been, his fight was inevitably quixotic because he tried to solve the problem individually. As Dorner’s manifesto shows, the issues he faced personally were not the fault of a few individuals, but part of a much larger problem of endemic police brutality, corruption and racism: a social problem which needs a social and political solution. This kind of police behaviour is not simply an organizational problem, but is essential to imperialism which needs to terrorize and criminalize the poor and oppressed in order to maintain its domination. The fight against it needs a movement which starts from the fight against imperialism.

Steve Palmer

Trayvon Martin: racist justice /FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013

Every so often, something happens to remind us how racist the United States really is. One such incident is the murder trial of George Zimmerman. The agreed facts of the case are well known: at 7.09pm, 26 February 2012, Zimmerman, a Neighbourhood Watch volunteer, called his local police department and reported ‘a real suspicious guy ... looks like he is up to no good or he is on drugs or something’. When the emergency services dispatcher asked him if he was following the man, he replied ‘Yeah’ and the dispatcher said ‘We don’t need you to do that’. Zimmerman ignored the dispatcher and continued to follow the man, who, minutes later was dead, shot to death by Zimmerman. The ‘real suspicious guy’ was Trayvon Martin, a black youth aged 17, who was returning home after visiting a local convenience store to pick up some snacks. There were no reliable witnesses to what happened between the two. Zimmerman alleged that Martin attacked him, so he shot him in self-defence. Martin, of course, is dead, so we don’t have his side of the story.

The police initially accepted Zimmerman’s story and released him. After country-wide demonstrations, Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, together with a lesser charge of manslaughter. The trial began on 24 June 2013 and culminated in Zimmerman’s acquittal on both charges on 13 July. The defence tried to ridicule the evidence of a young working class woman, Rachel Jeantel, 19, a friend of Trayvon’s who had been on the phone with him while Zimmerman was following him. They played up the discovery of minute traces of marijuana in Trayvon’s body. They produced a parade of witnesses who swore that Zimmerman was an angel and the victim in the fight.

The basic and inescapable point, however, is that if Zimmerman had not followed Martin, if he had not profiled him due to race, Martin would still be alive. Overlooked has been Trayvon Martin’s right to defend himself from the strange man stalking him. The effective outcome of the trial is that open season has been declared on black youth in America and that anyone black who resists an aggressor can be killed at will.

Contrast this with the case of Marissa Alexander, a 31-year-old mother of three. Alexander shot a gun into a wall when threatened by her abusive husband, Rico Gray. Gray admitted: ‘I told her … I ain’t going nowhere, and so I started walking toward her … I was cursing and all that … and she shot in the air ... If my kids wouldn’t have been there, I probably would have put my hand on her. Probably hit her ... She did what she feel like she have to do to make sure she wouldn’t get hurt, you know. You know, she did what she had to do. The gun was never actually pointed at me … The fact is, you know .?.?. she never been violent toward me. I was always the one starting it.’ Nobody was hurt, nobody died. A jury took 12 minutes to find Alexander guilty of aggravated assault. She is now serving a 20-year jail sentence. Alexander is black.

The injustices are glaringly obvious. Behind both lie the ideas both that black people are inherently violent and that they have no right to self-defence.

The outcome of the Zimmerman trial has catalysed the black community into protesting. All over the United States, huge protests have been held. Black people and their allies are not prepared to accept that there are different kinds of justice depending on whether or not you are black.

Steve Palmer


Snoopers exposed /FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013

The recent revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden about the activities of the US National Security Agency (NSA) have really put the cat among the pigeons. It is difficult to think of peaceful actions by any other single individual which have ever created such an international stir. US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports.

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Guantanamo hunger strike: dying for justice

‘Let them kill us, as we have nothing left to lose. We died when Obama indefinitely detained us. Respect us – or kill us. It’s your choice.’ (Hunger striker Faiz Al Kandari)

16 May marked 100 days since the start of a hunger strike amongst detainees at the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay. By 20 May, 103 out of the 166 men detained at the facility had joined the action, with 30 of them now being force fed. Force-feeding, in which the hunger strikers are strapped down while a plastic tube is painfully forced down through the nasal passage to the stomach, is considered torture by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

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US budget crisis drags on and on /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013

Marx wrote that ‘all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice... the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce’ (Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852). He was fortunate enough not to have to sit through the endlessly repeated episodes of ‘the budget crisis’, as staged by the US Congress. What he would have said about them is difficult to imagine, but would probably be unprintable: ‘farce’ is far too feeble a description. The latest episode in the world’s most expensive and overlong soap opera has been playing itself out as we go to press.

The inability of US capitalism to stand on its own two feet is evident from the massive cushion of federal debt propping it up – a staggering $16.7 trillion and rising, about $145,000 per household. At the end of 2007 federal debt equalled just 36% of GDP; by the end of this fiscal year it will reach 76% of GDP: federal spending on interest payments on the debt, currently at record low levels, will rise from 1.4% of GDP to some 3.4% of GDP by 2020. This interest is a large and growing diversion of the surplus-value pumped out of the workers away from the profits of industrial capitalists and into the hands of bondholders and other financial parasites.

This debt is unsustainable: the ruling class has to cut it dramatically yet is having difficulty with the consequences and has been dithering about what to do about it for the last two years. Its Congressional lackeys need to cut spending, but cannot yet bring themselves to adopt the only option workable for profit-driven capitalism: the reduction and abolition of programmes essential to the health and welfare of constituents. They will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t, so they run back and forth like headless chickens, flapping their wings, not sure what to do until the very last minute.

The previous episode of this tragi-comedy, described in the last issue of FRFI, left us with three looming deadlines: 1 March when ‘sequestration’ – $85bn in budget cuts – was due to kick in; 27 March, the renewal date for spending by government agencies; and 19 May when the ‘debt ceiling’ – a cap on federal borrowing – comes into effect.

Dire consequences were predicted if sequestration went ahead: planes would collide with one another as air traffic controllers went on short time; lengthy queues and delays would build up at airports because of cuts in security personnel; the White House Easter egg hunt would be cancelled leaving children in trauma; 700,000 jobs would disappear. But, thanks to an interim funding Act, 1 March came and went without anything apparently happening.

In fact, the cuts don’t take effect at once but take place over several months, so the consequences won’t be felt for a while. This gave our clowns some time to try to cobble together yet another of their last-minute compromises, to be enacted before funding expired on 27 March. With barely bated breath we watched the ridiculous drama unfold, which formed the ‘debate’ on what to do before said date. As we have come to expect, after weeks of grandstanding and finger-pointing our heroes managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at the very last moment by passing continuing funding bills. They promptly departed for two weeks of ill-earned Easter vacation, much to the relief of a weary and exhausted audience. The legislation allows $984bn in spending, but leaves in place, slightly trimmed, the $85bn of sequestration cuts. It funds all the main departments and science agencies, but not the new healthcare and financial reform laws.

What happens next has to be decided by 19 May, which is the deadline for the debt ceiling. If the debt cap remains in place then the government will have to stop borrowing at that limit, bringing the federal government to a screeching halt. It is almost unbearable to contemplate what antics these jokers are likely to perform before agreeing on yet another last minute compromise. US capitalists will have to wait anxiously to see if their hired flunkeys will satisfy the credit ratings agencies. These organisations grade US debt and effectively determine the interest rates the government has to pay for its borrowings. Sequestration was itself a compromise and more compromises about compromises leave the agencies less than impressed because the core ‘entitlement’ programmes – Medicare and Social Security – are left intact.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that, with the sequester in place, the budget deficit will fall in the near term, but will rise from this year’s $845bn to over $1 trillion by 2023, debt will reach 77% of GDP and be back on an upward path. To really solve the problem, US capitalism needs to sharpen its blade and cut boldly, ruthlessly and viciously. Judging from recent performances, this final bloody ending is still some way off.

Steve Palmer, US correspondent

US gun control – no solution/FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

The basic facts about the appalling slaughter of 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut are now well known and have shocked people around the world. The massacre comes in the wake of other mass shootings in the US and has re-awakened calls for stronger gun control. The gun control advocates appeal to common sense: fewer guns should, they say, mean fewer deaths. The threat of more gun controls has provoked a vigorous response from gun rights advocates. They point to the Second Amendment to the US Constitution as protecting the right of individuals to possess firearms. They also argue that preventing law-abiding citizens from owning guns leaves the guns in the hands of ‘the bad guys’ and that universal gun ownership would deter violent crime and enable private citizens to defend themselves. The cat, they say, is already out of the bag: millions of guns circulate on the black market, unhindered by gun laws. US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports.

Both sides pose the issue in terms of the rights and responsibilities of individuals. But this is a social problem, not an individual one. Capitalist violence, not guns, is the problem. Capitalism depends on violence and breeds violence and so long as it exists, the slaughter of innocents will continue. US imperialism is armed to the teeth with every imaginable weapon. It uses state violence to coerce the oppressed and enslave the exploited. It also, through its state, uses violence to threaten other nations, to expand at their expense and to defend itself against its competitors. Further, capitalism creates myriad problems which drive toward social violence: poverty; unemployment; racial and gender oppression; gangs; mental illness; drug dependency and the illegal drug economy; every imaginable kind of chauvinism; colossal individualism, egotism and competitiveness. Finally, it succeeds in making individuals feel isolated and personally responsible for, but powerless over, the results of these problems.

Who really does the dying?

In 2010 there were 30,814 deaths from firearms in the US. Of these, 19,392 were suicides (horrific in itself) and 11,078 were homicides. The remaining 344 were due to ‘legal intervention’, ie, killed by cops. Of the homicide victims, 6,151 were black – more than 55%, although black people are just 13% of the US population. Of the black male homicide victims, 43% were 24 or younger. Black males age 15-19 are more than 11 times more likely to be gun homicide victims than white males of the same age. By any standard, this is a massacre. Yet about this daily carnage of young people of colour, the media and the capitalist ‘experts’ have nothing to say, otherwise they would have to start talking about the whole issue of racism and racial oppression and the broad sweep of social problems created and fostered by capitalism and imperialism.

Gun control – a diversion

The ruling class promotes gun control as the primary solution to this slaughter. However, guns are being used as tools to try to find individual solutions to social problems. The bumper sticker ‘Guns don’t kill people. People kill people’ has a certain obvious truth: guns don’t just shoot people on their own. But it is no response to the critical question: what makes people kill people? Tinkering with the availability of guns – whether increasing or reducing it – is not going to do away with the social violence created by capitalism, and is hypocritical and diversionary.

The real reasons for gun control

The real reasons for gun control are nothing to do with ‘protecting the public’: they are all about maintaining capitalist domination and disarming the oppressed. This crucial aspect of gun control is concealed from view.

Historically in Britain, subjects had the right to possess arms for their defence, and this was accepted, with only slight encroachments, until the beginning of the last century. In 1918, when the secret Blackwell Report was written, discussing what to do about the vast numbers of weapons which would be available after the imperialist slaughter of 1914-1918, it quoted the findings of a sub-committee:

‘There are two distinct categories of person from whom danger is to be apprehended, viz (1) the savage or semi-civilised tribesmen in outlying parts of the British Empire whose main demand is for rifles and ammunition, and (2) the anarchist or “intellectual” malcontent of the great cities, whose weapons are the bomb and the automatic pistol…Our conclusion is that the regulation of the arms traffic after the war is a matter of vital importance to the future of the British Empire.’

Non-political criminal misuse of firearms did not appear to interest the Blackwell Committee. The ensuing Firearms Act of 1920, besides controlling the arms trade, deprived British citizens of the right to own firearms and turned it into a privilege, which has been steadily whittled away ever since, to the point, even, where the country’s Olympic pistol shooting team has to practise abroad.

In North America, despite constitutional guarantees of an individual’s right to bear arms, forms of gun control existed from before the Union was founded. However these were directed against black people, slave and free, even decades after the Civil War was over.

Ironically, modern gun control in the US was initiated, not by liberals, but by California conservatives around Ronald Reagan. The Black Panther Party, openly carrying guns, had begun to challenge police harassment of black people – ‘policing the police’. In 1967, a conservative Republican assemblyman introduced a bill which would prohibit the carrying of a loaded weapon in any Californian city. Reagan endorsed the Bill and it passed into law, supported by Republican lawmakers. Similarly, the black insurrection throughout the country in the summer of 1967 was followed in 1968 by the first Federal gun control law in 30 years, which was implicitly directed against black ownership of guns. The point was not so much to control guns as to control black people.

Obama has used Executive Orders to extend gun control. We sadly, but confidently predict that these will do nothing to halt the slaughter of young people by firearms. Gun controls are intended to confine the possession of deadly weapons to the ruling class and to disarm the oppressed and to prevent them from defending themselves and fighting for their liberation. To US imperialism, civilian gun deaths are just ‘collateral damage’. The real answer is the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with a socialist system which can begin to overcome all the problems which lie behind social violence.

US workers thrown off ‘fiscal cliff’/FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

After weeks of ‘will-they-won’t-they’ speculation, Congress finally passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act on 1 January. The ridiculous antics and accusations, the tension and the finger- pointing are not just ‘playing politics’, as the bourgeois commentators wearily call it, but reflect the inability of the ruling class to come to a final decision about the economic strategy they have to pursue. US capitalism, weighed down by some $16.4 trillion of Federal debt, needs to drastically cut back on state spending. To do the job properly means flushing all the expectations of more or less secure employment, increasing income and comfortable retirement, collectively known as the ‘American Dream’, down the toilet. With them will go forever the material basis for the political illusions that have contained class conflict in the United States for the last half century. The Republicans are the party with the necessary policy to do this, but they do not have the power; the Democrats have the power, but know that massive cuts will undermine the social and political coalition they rely on for support. This is the impasse in which the ruling class now finds itself.

So we have been lurching from compromise to compromise for the last few years. In December 2010, Congress extended the ‘Bush tax cuts’ of 2001 for another two years. Since there are only two ways to pay for state expenditure – increasing taxes or borrowing – this meant that the US government would have to go deeper into debt. When borrowing approached the ‘debt-ceiling’, a limit set by Congress, in August 2011, it passed the Budget Control Act which provided for huge cuts in government programmes (‘sequestration’) to take effect on 2 January 2013, unless Congress took a number of steps to eliminate the budget deficit. With a lame-duck Congress in an impasse inevitably nothing happened. With the election over in November, an end of year deadline loomed which, without Congressional intervention, would have seen sequestration begin, the Bush tax cuts expire, expiration of extended unemployment benefits, a 2% increase in payroll tax and other fiscal events. This was the ‘fiscal cliff’. After weeks of squabbling and finger-pointing, both party leaderships managed to devise a compromise.

The Republicans wanted to avoid tax increases for millionaires, while the Democrats insisted that anyone earning more than $250,000 should lose their tax cuts. The compromise settled on a limit of $450,000, which was hailed by the media as a Democratic victory, since the tax rate for the rich would rise from 35% to 39.6%, and sequestration was deferred for two months. Yet the 2% increase in the payroll tax also quietly went ahead, affecting anyone earning less than $113,000, raising the rate from 4.2% to 6.2% and pushing taxes up for the 77% of the population who are lowest paid. This meant an absolute increase of $960 per year for the average worker and $600 for anyone earning $30,000 – a significant sum to many families. The working class got booted off the cliff.

On examination of the Act, this ‘great victory for the middle class’ turned out to be stuffed with ‘pork’ – US political slang for spending which benefits some interest, usually someone who has lobbied or donated to a Congressperson’s campaign. So the US motor racing franchise, NASCAR, received $100m tax breaks over seven years; rum producers Diageo and Bacardi received tax breaks worth $580m; Hollywood got $430m over the next two years; finance capital got an $11.2bn tax break on interest income on money lent overseas; $1.5bn was doled out for multinationals selling through overseas affiliates; the railroad industry got a $331m tax credit; the energy industry received some $18.2bn and Goldman Sachs benefited to the tune of $1.6bn tax relief on its corporate headquarters, disguised as a redevelopment incentive for lower Manhattan.

At the same time as the fiscal deadline loomed, Federal spending was approaching the debt ceiling and it seemed likely that the US was heading toward another crisis in mid-February over increasing the ceiling. Right-wing Republicans were eagerly expecting to play a game of chicken with the Obama administration until they realised that there is no point taking hostages unless you are prepared to shoot them and that their popularity ratings were under water. So on 23 January the Republicans agreed to a limited increase in the debt ceiling until 19 May. There are two intervening deadlines: 1 March when the deferred sequestration cuts are due to kick in, and 27 March, when spending for government agencies must be renewed. The Republicans are hoping that both of these will give opportunities to extract concessions from the Democrats in the shape of cuts in the ‘entitlement programs’ – Medicare, Social Security, etc. Like a drunk staggering from lamp-post to lamp-post, US capitalism will lurch from crisis to crisis until confronted sooner or later with the next financial collapse. We will report on the next lurch in this journey in the next issue of FRFI.

Steve Palmer

The election is over: the crisis intensifies/FRFI 230 Dec 2012/Jan 2013

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

The 2012 general election is over. Although some $6bn was spent, with $2.6bn on the Presidential race alone, the political landscape has not changed much: Barack Obama was re-elected, and there were slight changes in Congress. With the Senate still controlled by Democrats, and the House of Representatives by Republicans, this split leaves Congress facing the same gridlock it has experienced for the last two years, promising further legislative paralysis. STEVE PALMER, US correspondent, reports.

Historic result

Both candidates were bankrolled by finance capital and imperialism, and the outcome is that US support for Israel’s blood-thirsty adventures will continue, as will drone attacks on wedding parties on the Pakistan borders.* Nevertheless, this election reflected significant developments within the US political landscape.

In particular, the Republican ‘Southern Strategy’ – the basis of its electoral strategy for the past 50 years – was left in pieces. It was originally developed in the mid-1960s, after civil rights legislation and desegregation led white southerners to reject the Democratic Party. The Republican Party had enjoyed minimal white southern support, but about 90% black support, as the traditional party of Lincoln who had ended slavery. Now the Democrats gathered support from black voters, while the Republicans appealed to the disenchanted white voters by advocating racism in an oblique form. In this ‘dog-whistle’ politics, the underlying racist message is so abstract that it is heard only by its target audience: opposition to ‘forced bussing’ and ‘racial quotas’, and advocacy of ‘States’ rights’ against the Federal government replaces blatant racism.

This strategy worked well for the Republicans for decades. However, by 2010 the proportion of non-Hispanic whites had fallen to 64% of the population. The Democrats were now a coalition based on the support of women, black people, Latinos, youth and a section of white people. Republicans depended overwhelmingly on the support of white voters, concentrated amongst older people (see Table 1).

Romney’s support was overwhelmingly from white voters – almost 90%. Although just over half of Obama’s support was from white voters, the votes of other groups enabled him to win.

In Table 2 we can see clearly the significant contribution to Obama’s victory made by women, younger Americans, non-whites and LGBT voters. Equally obvious is Romney’s dependence on men, older Americans, whites and, in particular, white Evangelicals and Catholics. Projections show that Latinos and Asians will increase their respective shares of the US population from 17% to 29% and from 5% to 9% by 2050, while whites will fall from 63% to less than 50%. Obama drew his support from sections of the population which are going to grow in size in the future. The ‘Southern Strategy’ has run its course.

The gulf between these starkly different constituencies made the Presidential campaign brutal. The depth of the divide was evident in bitter, often vitriolic and explicitly racist exchanges. Throughout the country, Republican-controlled States tried to restrict voting by poor people and people of colour by making voter registration more difficult. Legal skirmishes over these restrictions continued throughout the entire campaign, right down to polling day.

Republicans actually strengthened support for Obama amongst women by their opposition to abortion, by particularly misogynistic remarks about rape and by attacking an advocate of easier access to contraception as a ‘slut’. With their persistent racist attacks denigrating Obama, including images of monkeys with his face and widespread distribution of a video claiming that Obama’s real father had been a black American communist, Republicans did everything – short of putting up ‘We don’t want your votes’ posters – to encourage black support for Obama. Antagonism to ‘illegal immigrants’ and support for militarisation of the Mexican border similarly pushed Latinos toward Obama; homophobic opposition to same-sex marriage did the same for the gay community. An impressive achievement, given that Obama has failed to support important reforms demanded by these groups. While Romney offered blatant oppression and discrimination, Obama offered the more attractive, if empty and illusory, promise of hope.

Defeat for the Republicans brought howls of outraged pain, accusations of voter fraud, petitions for States to secede from the Union and death threats against Obama. Some found the prospect of another Obama presidency so depressing that they committed suicide. The twittersphere was thick with usage of the word ‘nigger’ – in a country where the word is so deeply stigmatised that mainstream media will only refer to it as ‘the N-word’. Clearly a deep, bitter and vindictive divide has opened up. How this plays out in future will be very significant.

What next?

The major issue confronting US imperialism is what has become known as the ‘fiscal cliff’. The underlying long-term decline of US capitalism has been mitigated by a steady expansion of debt. However, the impossibility of accumulating debt into the infinite future has impressed itself on the ruling class, mainly as a result of the 2007 financial crisis, since when reduction in government deficit financing has become the central domestic issue. The ‘fiscal cliff’ is the package of tax increases and cuts in government expenditure which will be automatically implemented on 1 January 2013, unless Congress can agree an alternative. Tax increases will occur because of the expiration of various tax cuts made in the past.

The direct result of ‘going over’ the ‘fiscal cliff’ will reduce the deficit by approximately $560bn. The consequence of this massive reduction has been estimated as a decline in GDP growth of somewhere in the region of 3.5% to 5%, sending the economy into another full-blown recession and increasing unemployment. The indirect effect of the ‘fiscal cliff’ is the current cutbacks in investment by companies due to the uncertain outcome after 1 January.

Potentially even more damaging to US capitalism is the rapidly approaching need to raise the debt ceiling – the Congressionally determined limit on the amount of Federal borrowing. The exact date when this will occur is uncertain, but we are just weeks away. Congressional Republicans widely regard this limit as giving them leverage over the Obama administration in the talks to resolve the ‘fiscal cliff’. However, failure to raise this limit could be far more disastrous for the US economy than going over the cliff: a halt to Federal borrowing will lead to far larger and swifter cuts in Federal spending. How a compromise can be negotiated within the time limit is impossible to know and difficult to foresee, given the ideological divide between the two sides and the smouldering resentment among the conservative wing of the Republicans. We may soon be treated to the spectacle of one section of the US ruling class, cutting off its nose to spite its face, pushing US capitalism over the cliff into another deep recession.

* See FRFI 229, ‘US presidential election: no choice but imperialism’,


Table 1 – Share of candidates’ support from different groups

Romney Obama

Whites 88% 56%

Blacks 2% 24%

Latino 6% 14%

Asian 2% 4%

Other 2% 2%

Total 100% 100%

Table 2 – Split of groups’ votes between candidates


Group Share in total vote % Split between candidates %

Obama Romney Other

Total 100 51 48 1

Men ? 47 44 52 2

Women ? 53 55 44 1

Married Women 31 46 53 1

Unmarried Women 23 67 31 2

Age: 18–29 years 19 60 37 3

30–44 years 27 52 45 3

45–64 years 38 47 51 2

65 + years 16 44 56 0

White ? 72 39 59 2

Black ? 13 93 ?6 1

Latino ? 10 71 27 2

Asian ?? 3 73 26 1

Other ?? 2 58 38 4

LGBT ?? 5 71 22 7

White Evangelical 26 21 78 1

White Catholic 18 40 59 1

Jewish ?? 2 69 30 1

US presidential election: no choice but imperialism /FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

The two candidates

First, let’s compare the two candidates. Mitt Romney has a background in private equity investment and regularly repeats the classic ‘free market’ mantra of tax cuts, state expenditure cuts and deficit reduction, with attendant fairy stories about how the US economy will expand as a result. His economic advisers are both former Chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisors under President George W Bush. Romney’s foreign policy team includes 17 members who served in the Bush-Cheney administration. Other Bush-era luminaries, such as extreme right-winger John Bolton, who advocates war with Iran, are also prominent advisers. Vignettes of a Romney foreign policy: he opposed the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (‘tragic’), announced that Russia is ‘without question our number one geopolitical foe’, and has described Dick Cheney as a ‘person of wisdom and judgment’ and the ‘kind of person [he]’d like to have’ working with him. Those Romney doesn’t want are the 47% of the population who are too poor to pay income tax who, he claimed at a fundraising dinner, ‘believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it... [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.’

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USAID - The United States Agency for International Development

The US agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. USAID states that ‘U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world.’ In 2012 ALBA expelled USAID from their countries after extensive evidence that it was funding subversion and destabilisation.

Defeat in Wisconsin

Photo: Workers protest February 2011

Defeat in Wisconsin

In early 2011, Scott Walker, the Republican Governor of Wisconsin presented a Bill to the legislature called the ‘Budget Repair Bill’. The Bill would end collective bargaining for most public sector workers, cap any wage increases, and force the unions to hold annual votes to certify as a recognized union. Employers could not collect union dues. Massive opposition developed culminating in demonstrations involving tens of thousands of Wisconsin’s workers. Yet the Bill was still passed by the Republican legislature in March 2011. As a result of this setback, a movement started to recall Walker. The recall was finally put to Wisconsin voters on 5 June 2012 and defeated. We are republishing this article explaining the failure of the recall, written by Jeff Bigelow, from Liberation News, newspaper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in the US.

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Greed, arrogance and hypocrisy: Business as usual on Wall Street

‘The course of true love never did run smooth’ – especially when it is the love of money! On 10 March, the JP Morgan Chase bank announced that its Chief Investment Office had lost $2bn on trades. This is peanuts to JP Morgan, the world’s largest bank, which has total assets of $2.32 trillion – less than 0.1%. JP Morgan is widely touted by an enthralled media as an ‘exemplary’ bank. The President agrees: ‘JP Morgan is one of the best managed banks there is, Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got’ – Obama even has his own bank account there. However, Dimon has been a loud and outspoken critic of bank regulation, and particularly of the Volcker Rule, which would, in theory, prevent commercial banks like JP Morgan from gambling on the exchanges.

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  5. Occupy US: arrests and evictions – where now?/ FRFI 224 Dec 2011/Jan 2012
  6. US military to regroup after leaving Iraq/ FRFI 224 December 2011/January 2012
  7. Oakland General Strike - Nov 2011
  8. Occupy Wall Street – Occupy Oakland!
  9. We are all Troy Davis – 21st century lynching in the US / FRFI 223 Oct/Nov 2011
  10. United States: bourgeois parties squabble as working class bear brunt of crisis / FRFI 223 Oct / Nov 2011
  11. US debt turmoil / FRFI 222 Aug/Sep 2011
  12. US Civil War and the British working class / FRFI 222 Aug / Sep 2011
  13. US budget crisis bites / FRFI 220 April/May 2011
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  15. Wisconsin Workers Fight Back - 23 Feb 2011
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  17. The mid-term elections and the Tea Party / FRFI 218 Dec 2010 / Jan 2011
  18. United States: recession over? / FRFI 217 Oct/Nov 2010
  19. Stop FBI Raids and Harassment on US Anti-War Activists
  20. Arizona – racist state / FRFI 215 Jun/Jul 2010
  21. Deepwater Horizon: an environmental disaster / FRFI 215 Jun/Jul 2010
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  23. American dream turns into nightmare / FRFI 214 Apr / May 2010
  24. Obama’s surge means more brutality for Afghan people / FRFI 213 Feb / Mar 2010
  25. USAID: arm of US imperialism / FRFI 213 Feb / Mar 2010
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