The global rush to grab land and other resources

[The basic law of capitalism is “expand or die” — and quickly so, as the threat of being crushed or swallowed by competing exploiters also grows without a break.  Maximizing profits through ruthless exploitation of labor, manipulation of trade, and wholesale plunder of resources, all drive at immediate returns, and threaten and cause the destruction of the long-term survival of peoples across the planet. The article below details how the inherent malevolence of the capitalist-imperialist system, is driving billions of people in despair and into struggle against it.  — Frontlines ed.]

25 February 2013. A World to Win News Service. The planet is facing a serious food crisis. The unsustainable use of resources, from the land to the sea, due to the violent rush for profit, poses a great threat to humanity and the planet. But rivalry for control of food production and distribution under the profit-driven capitalist system is still sharpening, taking new forms and causing greater misery for the world’s people. The land-grab going on in Africa and other parts of the world is part of this trend.

Africa, whose people were kidnapped by the millions for the slave trade and ground down and bled under colonialism and since, a continent whose resources has been sacked for centuries and which has suffered so much from wars spurred by big-power rivalry, faces a new form of looting today. Corporations, private banks, pension funds and many multinational companies have grabbed fertile land all over the continent. With the connivance of corrupt and client governments dependent on foreign investment, they have secured long leases by paying as little as half a U.S. dollar per hectare per year.

Although this kind of land acquisition is far from new, there has been a spectacular jump since 2008. In the following year, investors bought or leased more than 56 million hectares in Asia, Latin America and especially Africa, roughly 15 times more land that the yearly average in the preceding half century. (Farah Stockman, Boston Globe, 24 February 2013) Continue reading

OccupySandy: Grassroots Relief from Disaster Capitalism

by Max Haiven, Dissident Voice,  November 2nd, 2012

For the past two days I’ve been volunteering with grassroots relief efforts in New York City in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. While the storm could have been a lot worse, and while New York is one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the world, the storm has swept the veil off of the entrenched inequalities at this city’s core.

In New York, a lot of public housing projects and poor neighborhoods are located on the beaches and shores of this maritime capital, and so have been hit hard. On the eve of a pivotal election, all the politicians and media stooges are eager to show images of action and recovery. But the reality is that you can drive out to any one of a number of neighborhoods and find block upon block of low-income high-rises, full of people and utterly dark. Inside, children, the elderly and the sick suffer with no heat, no clean running water, and no electricity. Relief and support has been slow in coming from the powers that be. And two days after the New York Stock Exchange opened, tens of thousands of poor and working class folks are barely scraping by.

Yet one year after Occupy Wall Street bloomed and was quashed it is at the heart of grassroots relief efforts. Much is already being made of the magic of social media and its capacity to connect donors with needs in the wake of the storm. But there’s a hidden story here. That social media process is enabled and facilitated by dozens of Occupy-trained and tested organizers working 10-16 hour days to get the word out about what’s needed, to coordinate the gathering of materials from multiple city-wide drop points, to organize the sorting and bagging of all those materials, to cook hot meals for blacked-out neighborhoods, and to send teams of volunteers out to areas far and wide to provide food, clothing, blankets, water, toys, diapers, medicine (asthma inhalers and insulin, mostly) and whatever else is needed.

I worked in an OccupySandy-run church kitchen in Sunset Park today and yesterday, and drove around doing pick up and delivery. I talked to a lot of volunteers. Some had been involved in the Occupy encampments a year ago and Occupy organizing since, though many had just admired the movement from afar. We all marveled at the efficiency and determination of those who had cut their teeth in Occupy as they gracefully coordinated the often chaotic volunteer efforts and the rapid flow of people and materials. But we also admired these organizers’ good nature and friendliness, their patience and their adaptability, all hard-won qualities that come from organizing under fire in a non-hierarchical, mindful, and consensus-based movement that’s seen its fair share of crises. No one is “in charge,” yet things get done and needs get met. People’s skills and abilities find outlets. People are at their best, despite everything. Continue reading

Occupy Wall Street Joins Fight for Migrant Workers Rights

[The ongoing financial crisis continues to fuel xenophobic campaigns and political / economic repression against targeted migrant communities.  Some, including some voices in this video, make their appeals to Obama and the political system.  Yet the need has never been greater for politically-independent organizing of working class solidarity with migrant workers against the oppressive capitalist economic and political system. — Frontlines ed.]

OWS Joins Fight for Migrant Workers Rights

TheRealNews on Dec 21, 2011

OWS connects struggle for rights of migrant workers with struggle of the 99%

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world

[An interesting study has detailed the organizational networks and concentrations of the world imperialist economic and financial systems of control.  Described in a recent issue of New Scientist magazine, it verifies the visceral sense of monstrous power of “the 1%” as the Occupy movement has dubbed it.  Although this article describes the study as “ideologically-free”, it actually portrays this concentration of power as a natural phenomenon and characteristic of “human nature” as well–as if the dominance of capital and the devastation it brings as collateral damage from the “expand or die” laws of capitalism is genetically, and not culturally, derived. Promoting such an assumption is capitalist ideology at its core. — Frontlines ed.]
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24 October 2011
by Andy Coghlan and Debora MacKenzieNew Scientist Magazine issue 2835.
The 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the economy. Superconnected companies are red, very connected companies are yellow. The size of the dot represents revenue

The 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the economy. Superconnected companies are red, very connected companies are yellow. The size of the dot represents revenue

AS PROTESTS against financial power sweep the world this week, science may have confirmed the protesters’ worst fears. An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.

The study’s assumptions have attracted some criticism, but complex systems analysts contacted by New Scientist say it is a unique effort to untangle control in the global economy. Pushing the analysis further, they say, could help to identify ways of making global capitalism more stable.

The idea that a few bankers control a large chunk of the global economy might not seem like news to New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement and protesters elsewhere (see photo). But the study, by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the first to go beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power. It combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world’s transnational corporations (TNCs).

“Reality is so complex, we must move away from dogma, whether it’s conspiracy theories or free-market,” says James Glattfelder. “Our analysis is reality-based.”

Previous studies have found that a few TNCs own large chunks of the world’s economy, but they included only a limited number of companies and omitted indirect ownerships, so could not say how this affected the global economy – whether it made it more or less stable, for instance. Continue reading

Financial insider spills the beans: “Dear Wall Street, this is why the people are angry”

By Josh Brown Marketplace Money, Friday, October 14, 2011

Josh Brown may be in the same group as the bankers and brokers that the Occupy movements are protesting against, but he’s just as angry as the protestors are at his own industry.

Tess Vigeland: Inequity is arguably the main rallying cry of the Occupy movement. And on that score, the primary bogeymen are the nation’s bankers, brokers and traders — the so-called “one-percenters” who control about a third of the country’s wealth.

Commentator Josh Brown is one of those one-percenters. He’s an investment adviser at Fusion Analytics in Manhattan. If you think you know what his take on all this is going to be, here’s his open letter to the banks that don’t seem to get why people are mad.


Josh Brown: In 2008, the American people were told that if they didn’t bail out the banks, there way of life would never be the same. In no uncertain terms, our leaders told us anything short of saving these insolvent banks would result in a depression to the American public. We had to do it!

At our darkest hour we gave these banks every single thing they asked for. We allowed investment banks to borrow money at zero percent interest rate, directly from the Fed. We gave them taxpayer cash right onto their balance sheets. We allowed them to suspend account rules and pretend that the toxic sludge they were carrying was worth 100 cents on the dollar. Anything to stave off insolvency. We left thousands of executives in place at these firms. Nobody went to jail, not a single perp walk. I can’t even think of a single example of someone being fired. People resigned with full benefits and pensions, as though it were a job well done.

The American taxpayer kicked in over a trillion dollars to help make all of this happen. But the banks didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. The banks didn’t seize this opportunity, this second chance to re-enter society as a constructive agent of commerce. Instead, they went back to business as usual. With $20 billion in bonuses paid during 2009. Another $20 billion in bonuses paid in 2010. And they did this with the profits they earned from zero percent interest rates that actually acted as a tax on the rest of the economy. Continue reading

Malcolm X Grassroots Movement: Statement on New Afrikans & Occupy Wall Street

[Please note:  enslaved African labor built the structures of early Manhattan, including Wall Street, where slaves were bought and sold.  The African Burial Ground is less than a mile north of Wall Street. — Frontlines ed.]

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NEW AFRIKANS & OCCUPY WALL STREET

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement struggles to defend the Human Rights of African people in the United States and around the world.  The Occupation of Wall Street is an important opportunity to highlight the economic struggles of the 99% and in particular those of New Afrikans (people of African descent in the diaspora). Corporate and national wealth continues to be built on the stolen land of indigenous peoples and on the backs of New Afrikans, immigrants and poor people of European descent; profits are made because of our suffering. 

The agricultural and industrial strength that laid the foundation for U.S. economic power exists because of the blood, sweat and tears of the Afrikans who were enslaved.   Enslaved Africans literally built Wall Street, the very wall from which Wall Street gets its name, where Africans were bought and sold.  The sale of our Black bodies enriched the early traders and bankers. Now, everyday Wall Street bankers desecrate our ancestor’s graves and dishonor their work by trading this blood money on top of an African burial ground.

New Afrikans’ incredible contributions to the strength of the U.S. capitalist economy are continuously unacknowledged and devalued.  From numerous inventions to forms of art, the history books remain silent about our contribution to this country’s wealth. We demand reparations that honor the immeasurable value of our work!

There is a direct link between corporate profit and New Afrikan suffering.  While New Afrikan people suffer under the stress of under-resourced communities, high unemployment and high imprisonment rates. Our people are kicked out of our homes, off our land, and lose small businesses. Meanwhile private and public prisons benefit on our cheap labor to earn billions of dollars a year and media moguls make billions of dollars a year on the sexual degradation of our people and the glorification of violence in our communities. As a result of these and other racist policies and practices, the official unemployment rate for New Afrikans in some states higher than 34% and the wealth gap between white and New Afrikan households has grown even wider in the wake of the mass scale thievery orchestrated by Wall Street. We will continue to fight back against our economic oppression!

We will continue our struggle for collective self-determination, human rights, and reparations!  We do not expect the powers that be to willingly change systems of exploitation that benefit the top 1% and are resolved to build our own alternatives. 

We stand in solidarity with occupy wall street’s outcry for economic justice because it speaks to the realities of Afrikan people in the U.S. and around the world, and our members are in the streets, in solidarity, from New York to the S.F. Bay Area, Atlanta to Dallas and in D.C. and Philadelphia.

www.mxgm.org

Warm Memories of Food for Thought; and now, “A Country Without Libraries”

By Charles Simic
New York Review of Books (blog)
May 18, 2011
http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/may/18/country-without-libraries/

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. – Groucho Marx

All across the United States, large and small cities are closing public libraries or curtailing their hours of
operations. Detroit, I read a few days ago, may close all of its branches and Denver half of its own: decisions that will undoubtedly put hundreds of its employees out of work. When you count the families all over this country who don’t have computers or can’t afford Internet connections and rely on the ones in libraries to look for jobs, the consequences will be even more dire. People everywhere are unhappy about these closings, and so are mayors making the hard decisions. But with roads and streets left in disrepair, teachers, policemen and firemen being laid off, and politicians in both parties pledging never to raise taxes, no matter what happens to our quality of life, the outlook is bleak. “The greatest nation on earth,” as we still call ourselves, no longer has the political will to arrest its visible and
precipitous decline and save the institutions on which the workings of our democracy depend.

I don’t know of anything more disheartening than the sight of a shut down library. No matter how modest its building or its holdings, in many parts of this country a municipal library is often the only place where books in large number on every imaginable subject can be found, where both grownups and children are welcome to sit and read in peace, free of whatever distractions and aggravations await them outside. Like many other Americans of my generation, I owe much of my knowledge to thousands of books I withdrew from public libraries over a lifetime. I remember the sense of awe I felt as a teenager when I realized I could roam among the shelves, take down any book I wanted, examine it at my leisure at one of the library tables, and if it struck my fancy, bring it home. Not just some thriller or serious novel, but also big art books and recordings of everything from jazz to operas and symphonies. Continue reading