How Class Struggle Emerges Under the Democratic Tent

Centrist Dems Ready Strike against Warren Wing

By Kevin Cirilli
Progressive America Rising via The Hill

March 2, 2013 – Centrist Democrats are gathering their forces to fight back against the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of their party, fearing a sharp turn to the left could prove disastrous in the 2016 elections.

For months, moderate Democrats have kept silent as Sen. Warren’s (D-Mass.) barbed attacks against Wall Street, income inequality and the “rigged economy” thrilled the base and stirred desire for a more populist approach.  

But with the race for the White House set to begin, centrists are moving to seize back the agenda.

The New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a caucus of moderate Democrats in the House, plans to unveil an economic policy platform as soon as this week in an attempt to chart a different course.

"I have great respect for Sen. Warren — she’s a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side."

Peters said that if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, "it’s going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition."

"To the extent that Republicans beat up on workers and Democrats beat up on employers — I’m not sure that offers voters much of a vision," Peters said.

Warren’s rapid ascent has highlighted growing tensions in the Democratic Party about its identity in the post-Obama era.

Caught in the crossfire is the party’s likely nominee in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose husband took the party in a decisively centrist direction during his eight years in office. (Continued)

End the Embargo of Cuba Now – A Forum and Discussion

Ariel Hernandez, first secretary to Cuba’s UN Mission, with Bob Guild and Luis Matos

By Pat Fry

The Metro NY CCDS organized and co-sponsored a panel presentation February 19th at Local1199 SEIU in mid-town Manhattan on the breakthrough in U.S. policy toward Cuba and what it will take to end the five and a half decades-long embargo of Cuba. Co-sponsors were the Local 1199 SEIU Latin American and Caribbean Democracy Committee and the World Organization for the Right of the People
to Health Care (WORPHC).

Long time Cuba solidarity activist, Bob Guild, Vice President of the NJ-based travel agency Marazul that has organized educational trips to Cuba for many years, spoke of the new travel regulations announced by the Obama Administration.

“The changes are significant for the right of the U.S. people to travel to Cuba,” said Guild. He explained that any group can now sponsor a trip to Cuba – unions, neighborhood organizations, the PTA and not have to apply for a license to do so. From the point of view of U.S. State Department, said Guild,they are encouraging travel because they believe it will undermine the Cuban government and its political system. “We are not emissaries of the U.S. State Department,” Guild said.

He spoke of the attacks on many who have advocated against the U.S. ban on travel over many years, including bombings of Marazul Tours and Local 1199’s union hall that injured a maintenance worker, and the 1979assassination of Cuban American Carlos Muniz, a leading solidarity activist with the Antonio Maceo Brigade. The policy change is a victory for the Cuban people because the U.S. was forced to recognize the legitimacy of the Cuban state, he said.

Ariel Hernandez, First Secretary of the Republic of Cuba to the UN Mission, said “The blockade of Cuba continues and the U.S. policy of ‘regime change’ in Cuba has not abated.” One way in which this is playing out is the attempt by the U.S. to ease import/export restrictions for the private sector in Cuba and not for publicly-owned restaurants and hotels. Hernandez said that the private sector in Cuba has some of the strongest pro-government people in the country. “Cuba will never accept any U.S. interference in our internal affairs,” he said.

Negotiations on many issues including telecommunications and internet, will continue the week of February 23, he said. “We are optimistic in the process. We are very strong in our position of sovereignty.”

Luis Matos of the Local 1199 SEIU Latin American and Caribbean Democracy Committee and the World Organization for the Right of the People to Health Care (WORPHC) spoke of the importance of educational trips to Cuba. The WORPHC has been organizing trips to Cuba for 30 years mainly among health care workers and rank and file union members. Matos stressed the importance of educational trips to Cuba in order for people to learn of the Cuban system of health care, Cuban life and society.

Muata Greene, a retired EMT medic in NYC, works with the WORPHC in organizing trips. He said “Cuba is a great example of the right of the people to health care. The people that go to Cuba are taking the message back to the U.S. – single payer health care for the U.S.,” said Greene.

Among the 60 people attending were many activists in Cuba solidarity work, including Leslie Cagan who headed the Cuba Information Project in the 1990s, Gail Walker of Pastors for Peace/IFCO, Ike Naheem and Jaime Mendieta of the July 26th Coalition. Anne Mitchell of CCDS chaired the panel and welcomed everyone on behalf of the three sponsoring organizations.

In discussion of next steps to end the embargo, Pat Fry reported on the lobby efforts in Congress, spearheaded by the Latin American Working Group. The LAWG has an online petition in support of legislation to lift the travel ban (S. 299 and H.R. 664). The identical bills are bi-partisan but the lobby focus is aimed at Republicans before more Democrats sign on. A bill to lift trade restrictions was
also introduced in Congress but with less support at this time.

At the conclusion of the forum, there was consensus on a proposal to build a network to:

1) Share information and build support for “End the Travel Ban” legislation, including circulating the LAWG online petition at http://www.lawg.org/action-center/78-end-the-travel-ban-on-cuba/1407-tell-congress-its-time-to-end-the-embargo

2) Initiate a petition to completely bring an end to the embargo of Cuba and repeal the Helms-Burton law that enforces all aspects of the U.S. embargo.

3) Share information about educational trips to Cuba and build participation to encourage as many as possible to go to Cuba and learn first-hand the Cuban socialist project.

The US is Heading Into a Heavily Militarized Future

By Tom Englehardt
Beaver County Peace Links via TomDispatch

Feb 17, 2015 – I never fail to be amazed — and that’s undoubtedly my failing.  I mean, if you retain a capacity for wonder you can still be awed by a sunset, but should you really be shocked that the sun is once again sinking in the west? Maybe not.

The occasion for such reflections: machine guns in my hometown. To be specific, several weeks ago, New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton announced the formation of a new 350-officer Special Response Group (SRG). Keep in mind that New York City already has a police force of more than 34,000 — bigger, that is, than the active militaries of Austria, Bulgaria, Chad, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kenya, Laos, Switzerland, or Zimbabwe — as well as its own “navy,” including six submersible drones. 

Just another drop in an ocean of blue, the SRG will nonetheless be a squad for our times, trained in what Bratton referred to as “advanced disorder control and counterterror.”  It will also, he announced, be equipped with “extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns — unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances.” And here’s where he created a little controversy in my hometown.  The squad would, Bratton added, be “designed for dealing with events like our recent protests or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris.”

Now, that was an embarrassment in liberal New York.  By mixing the recent demonstrations over the police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others into the same sentence with the assault on Mumbai and the Charlie Hebdo affair in France, he seemed to be equating civil protest in the Big Apple with acts of terrorism.  Perhaps you won’t be surprised then that the very next day the police department started walking back the idea that the unit would be toting its machine guns not just to possible terror incidents but to local protests.  A day later, Bratton himself walked his comments back even further. (“I may have in my remarks or in your interpretation of my remarks confused you or confused the issue.”)  Now, it seems there will be two separate units, the SRG for counterterror patrols and a different, assumedly machine-gun-less crew for protests.

Here was what, like the sun going down in the west, shouldn’t have shocked me but did: no one thought there was any need to walk back the arming of the New York Police Department with machine guns for whatever reasons.  The retention of such weaponry should, of course, have been the last thing to shock any American in 2015.  After all, the up-armoring and militarization of the police has been an ongoing phenomenon since 9/11, even if it only received real media attention after the police, looking like an army of occupation, rolled onto the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, in response to protests over the killing of Michael Brown.

In fact, the Pentagon (and the Department of Homeland Security) had already shunted $5.1 billion worth of military equipment, much of it directly from the country’s distant battlefields — assault rifles, land-mine detectors, grenade launchers, and 94,000 of those machine guns — to local police departments around the country.  Take, for example, the various tank-like, heavily armored vehicles that have now become commonplace for police departments to possess.  (Ferguson, for instance, had a “Bearcat,” widely featured in coverage of protests there.)

Since 2013, the Pentagon has transferred for free more than 600 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs, worth at least half a million dollars each and previously used in U.S. war zones, to various “qualified law enforcement agencies.” Police departments in rural areas like Walsh County, North Dakota (pop. 11,000) now have their own MRAPs, as does the campus police department at Ohio State University.  It hardly matters that these monster vehicles have few uses in a country where neither ambushes nor roadside bombs are a part of everyday life. (Continued)

Commentary: US-Led Like-Minded Coalition Unable to Win Anti-Terror War

Photo: Chinese and Pakistani soldiers in joint anti-terrorism training

Xinhua, New China News Agency
Feb 18, 2015

BEIJING, Feb. 18 — U.S. President Barack Obama is set to host the "Summit on Countering Violent Extremism" in Washington on Wednesday in an attempt to address the aggravating terrorist violence across the world.

This summit will be attended by security experts and government officials from member countries of the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition against the backdrop of recent terrorist attacks in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, the United States has actively spearheaded the international fight against terrorism.

In the name of counter-terrorism, the George W. Bush administration launched two successive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which, instead of stemming terrorism, have bred waves of terrorist activities and violence that have claimed tens of thousands of innocent lives.

Over the past 13 years, terrorist activities continue to rise worldwide. The Islamic State (IS) and other emerging terrorist groups pose new challenges to the global fight against terrorism, and their birth was partly related to the U.S. Middle East policy.

Last year, on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Obama set out his strategy to unite with other countries for military actions against the IS in a televised address to the American public.

"America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat," Obama declared. "Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy IS through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy."

Compared to Bush’s coalition, the "new anti-terror coalition" proposed by Obama appears to be more extensive, as it has to date involved more than 60 countries and regional organizations, some of which have taken an active part in the airstrikes against the IS.

But this coalition is not inclusive enough as Russia, Iran, Syria and other countries, which are capable of contributing to the fight against the IS, are excluded.  (Continued)

Why the Country Needs a Populist Challenger in the Democratic Primaries

By Robert Borosage
Campaign for America’s Future

Feb. 17, 2010 – Polls show Democrats want a contest, not a coronation, for their presidential nomination. The press yearns for a primary contest, if only to have something to cover. A raft of reasons are floated for why a challenge would be useful, most of them spurious.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t need a contest to get her campaign shipshape. She’s already been central to three presidential campaigns, as underdog, incumbent and, disastrously, overwhelming favorite. She has every high-priced operative in the party. If she doesn’t know how to put together campaign by now, an upstart challenger won’t help.

Some suggest a challenger could move Hillary to the left, as if Hillary Inc. were a bloated ocean liner needing a plucky tugboat to put it on the right path. But the Clintons are adept at running more populist than they govern. Hillary found her populist pitch in 2008 when it was too late to save her. She’s knee deep in pollsters and speechwriters. She won’t need a challenger to teach her the lines.

There are two compelling reasons for a challenge in the Democratic primaries: We need a big debate about the direction of the country, and a growing populist movement would benefit from a populist challenge to Hillary.

The Divide

This isn’t conventional wisdom. Matt Yglesias argues that Clinton is the prohibitive favorite for the nomination not because of experience, name recognition or the Clinton money machine but because no large ideological divisions separate Democrats. New Dems have embraced the social liberalism they once dreaded. Foreign policy differences are minimal. All Democrats sing from President Obama’s populist songbook. All favor raising the minimum wage, pay equity, investment in infrastructure, bank regulation.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer agrees that the “differences among Democrats are small compared to the chasm on the Republican side.” Democrats, he argues, are united on “fundamental issues,” like the minimum wage, pay equity, paying for college.

In fact, there is a deep divide between the party establishment and the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. All affirm, finally, that this economy works only for the few and not the many. But after that, the differences are immense.

The center of the party – which Hillary occupies – argues that our extreme inequality just happened, sort of like the weather. Globalization and technology did it. Republican trickle-down economics made it worse. We can fix it with sensible reforms packaged as “middle-out economics.” We’ll give everyone a “fair shot,” as the president puts it, echoing Bill Clinton, “with everyone playing by the same set of rules.”

The Democratic wing of the party understands, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren has put it, that extreme inequality is the result of the “rules being rigged” by the few to favor the few. The deck is stacked. Playing by the same set of rules doesn’t change the outcome if the rules are rigged. The core structures of our politics and our economy have to be changed to get a clean deal. (Continued)

Moral Mondays’ Barber Says America’s Political System Suffers From a ‘Heart Problem’

Saturday’s Moral Mondays march once again brought a multicultural crowd of thousands to Raleigh, N.C., protesting budget cuts and voting restrictions enacted by the state’s Republican Legislature.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards and NAACP National President Cornell Brooks (far right) listen to the North Carolina NAACP’s the Rev. Dr. William Barber speak at the Moral Mondays march in downtown Raleigh, N.C., Feb. 14, 2015.

By David Swerdlick
The Root

Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 14: An African-American Muslim imam, Oliver Muhammad, offered the call to prayer; members of black Greek-letter fraternities served as event marshals; and as marchers in North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement began their walk across downtown Raleigh, the state’s capital, Chapel Hill Town Council member Maria Teresa Palmer announced—in Spanish—that “interpreters will be available at the intersection of Hargett and Fayetteville.”

It’s that kind of come-one, come-all event. And even though this year’s ninth annual march wasn’t as big as last year’s—one that The Nation’s Ari Berman reported as “the largest civil rights rally in the South since the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965”—organizers again brought together a diverse coalition of activists on a chilly Valentine’s Day to protest what movement leader and state NAACP President the Rev. Dr. William Barber II described as the state’s—and the nation’s—“heart problem.”

And while the Moral Mondays movement is left-leaning, Barber told supporters that he wanted them to be political “defibrillators” because “we find we’ve got, not a left problem or a right problem or a conservative problem or a liberal problem. We’ve got a heart problem. When money and greed and political hubris and pride and ego and beating your opponent become more important than working together to uplift humanity, we’ve got a heart problem.”

For the movement, the stakes haven’t changed.

Barber called on legislators to “fund Medicaid expansion, raise the minimum wage, index it with inflation—put it on the ballot and let the people vote,” as well as “restore cuts to public education,” reject “the attacks on women’s health and environmental protection, repeal the death penalty, reform the criminal-justice system,” enact “fair immigration reform, and respect the constitutional rights of all humanity, regardless of race, creed, color and sexuality.” (Continued)

Are Adjunct Professors the New Fast-Food Workers?

By Ana Beatriz Cholo
Beyond Chron

Feb 12, 2015 – Patti Donze, is a California State University, Dominguez Hills sociology lecturer doing everything right to become a tenured college professor. She has advanced degrees from well-respected universities and is teaching a full load of five classes this semester. But her net income is $2,500 a month, just barely enough to buy food and pay rent on a studio apartment in Culver City.

She has $50,000 in school loan debt — not an extreme amount considering the Juris Doctorate and Ph.D. that she has under her belt, but she said it’s not feasible to pay even the minimum monthly payment and is researching loan forgiveness programs.

Besides fast-food workers, there is another face of low-wage workers across the country. For many universities and colleges, both public and private, it’s their most embarrassing secret — paying educated professionals minimum wage salaries with no benefits. Adjuncts are paid much less than tenured and full-time faculty and typically do not have union representation.

For many adjuncts, banding together to speak up is one approach to winning better pay, benefits and some job security, such as longer and more stable contracts. These are the aims of academic unions and the New Faculty Majority, an advocacy organization committed to bringing about income equality for all college faculty in areas where unions are weak.

Adrianna Kezar, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education and co-director of the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, is an expert on change and leadership in higher education. She believes the unionization movement has been the big catalyst for the recent focus on unfair working conditions for these highly qualified educators.

“Fifty percent of the faculty in our country make what somebody at McDonalds makes,” she said, adding that more and more adjuncts are going on public assistance and needing food stamps to survive.

Last year in California, Local 1021 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) began an intense campaign to organize adjunct faculty members in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, part of a national Adjunct Action campaign that is taking place in American cities. (Disclosure: Both SEIU 1021 and the California Faculty Association are financial supporters of Capital & Main.) (Continued)

A Revitalized Teacher Union Movement

Reflections from the field

By Bob Peterson
Rethinking Schools / Winter 2014/2015

If we don’t transform teacher unions now, our schools, our profession, and our democracy—what’s left of it—will likely be destroyed. I know. I am from Wisconsin, the home of Scott Walker and Paul Ryan.

In 2011, in the wake of the largest workers uprising in recent U.S. history, I was elected president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA). Unfortunately, that spring uprising, although massive and inspirational, was not strong enough to stop Gov. Walker from enacting the most draconian anti-public sector labor law in the nation.

That law, known as Act 10, received support from the Koch brothers and a cabal of national right-wing funders and organizations. It was imposed on all public sector workers except the police and firefighter unions that endorsed Walker and whose members are predominantly white and male.

Act 10 took away virtually all collective bargaining rights, including the right to arbitration. It left intact only the right to bargain base-wage increases up to the cost of living. The new law prohibited “agency shops,” in which all employees of a bargaining unit pay union dues. It also prohibited payroll deduction of dues. It imposed an unprecedented annual recertification requirement on public sector unions, requiring a 51 percent (not 50 percent plus one) vote of all eligible employees, counting anyone who does not vote as a “no.” Using those criteria, Walker would never have been elected.

Immediately following Act 10, Walker and the Republican-dominated state legislature made the largest cuts to public education of any state in the nation and gerrymandered state legislative districts to privilege conservative, white-populated areas of the state.

Having decimated labor law and defunded public education, Walker proceeded to expand statewide the private school voucher program that has wreaked havoc on Milwaukee, and enacted one of the nation’s most generous income tax deductions for private school tuition.

Under these conditions, public sector union membership has plummeted, staff has been reduced, and resources to lobby, organize, and influence elections have shrunk.

People familiar with Wisconsin’s progressive history—in 1959, for example, we were the first state to legalize collective bargaining for public sector workers—find these events startling. And they should. If it happened in Wisconsin, it could happen anywhere.

And it has. In New Orleans, following Katrina, unionized teachers were fired and the entire system charterized. Following Wisconsin’s lead, Tennessee abolished the right for teachers to bargain collectively. In Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission unilaterally canceled its expired contract with the teacher union. In city after city, privately run charter schools are dominating the education landscape.

Fortunately, teacher union activists across the country are revitalizing their unions and standing up to these relentless attacks. And this growing transformation of the teachers’ union movement may well be the most important force in our nation to defend and improve public schools and, in so doing, defend and improve our communities and what’s left of our democratic institutions.

The revitalization builds on the strengths of traditional “bread and butter” unionism. But it recognizes that our future depends on redefining unionism from a narrow trade union model, focused almost exclusively on protecting union members, to a broader vision that sees the future of unionized workers tied directly to the interests of the entire working class and the communities, particularly communities of color, in which we live and work.

This is a sea change for teacher unions (and other unions, too). But it’s not an easy one to make. It requires confronting racist attitudes and past practices that have marginalized people of color both inside and outside unions. It also means overcoming old habits and stagnant organizational structures that weigh down efforts to expand internal democracy and member engagement.
From Bread and Butter to Social Justice

The MTEA is a member of the National Education Association (NEA), which has a long history of being staff-dominated. In some locals, elected presidents were (and still are) just figureheads. Allan West, a national NEA staff member, memorialized this staff-run union approach in a widely distributed 1965 speech. According to West, the executive director was the one who should be the public spokesperson, develop agendas for elected executive boards, and direct most of the union’s affairs. This power structure was written into our local’s constitution, and it had profound consequences. When a member of a progressive rank-and-file caucus in Milwaukee was elected president in 1991, for example, it took him six months just to get a key to the office. For nearly a decade we pushed for a full-time release president, a proposal resisted by most professional staff.

Meanwhile, by the late 1980s and into the ’90s, teacher activists in Milwaukee were connecting with other rank-and-file teacher union activists through Rethinking Schools and the newly formed National Coalition of Education Activists (NCEA). In 1994, 29 teachers’ union activists from both the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) met at the Portland, Oregon, NCEA conference and issued a statement: “Social Justice Unionism: A Working Draft” (see sidebar, p. 18).

Social justice unionism is an organizing model that calls for a radical boost in internal union democracy and increased member participation. This contrasts to a business model that is so dependent on staff providing services that it disempowers members and concentrates power in the hands of a small group of elected leaders and/or paid staff. An organizing model, while still providing services to members, focuses on building union power at the school level in alliance with parents, community groups, and other social movements.

Three components of social justice unionism are like the legs of a stool. Unions need all three to be balanced and strong:

    We organize around bread and butter issues.

    We organize around teaching and learning issues to reclaim our profession and our classrooms.

    We organize for social justice in our community and in our curriculum.

Unfortunately, few public sector unions in Wisconsin adopted this model of unionism. As long as we had an agency shop and could protect our members’ compensation and benefits, most members were happy. (Continued)

Bernie Sanders Lights a Fire under Pennsylvania Democrats at Keystone Progress’s Annual Summit in Harrisburg

By Carl Davidson

BeaverCountyBlue.org

Feb 8, 2015, Harrisburg, PA. If the vote were taken for the Democratic presidential candidate at the Harrisburg Hilton on Saturday, Feb. 7, Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, would likely have won by a landslide.

That was the spirit in the hotel ballroom as Sanders addressed the 800 people gathered for the PA Progressive Summit. The annual meeting, sponsored by Keystone Progress, brought together progressive activists—community and trade union organizers, women’s right and civil rights groups, hopeful candidates and door knockers—all of whom made up the democratic wing of the Democratic Party, from all across the Keystone State.

“I’m going to try something a little different this morning,” said Sanders to start things rolling, “I’m going to tell you the truth.” He got a wave of laughter and cheers from people who often got something else from politicians.

Sanders with Tina Shannon

Sanders with Tina Shannon

Sanders started off with the ‘Citizen United’ Supreme Court decision taking limits off the superrich in funding elections and candidates. “It will go down is history as one of the worse ever made in modern times” Sanders said by way of description. “By a five-to-four vote, it undermined the very foundations of democracy. I know you think the situation is bad, believe me, it’s worse than you think it is.” Billionaires are not satisfied with owning the economy, he explained. They were buying government as well.”

The Koch Brothers, with 85 billion in wealth, were taken as the case in point. Sanders explained that they alone intended to spend over 900 million dollars on the 2016 election—more than the combined total of Obama and Romney in 2012. This meant these “counter-revolutionaries with a far right agenda” would wield more power than both political parties in the recent past.

Turning to the economy, Sanders said while the economy was clearly in better shape than when Obama, first took office, it was still clearly in bad shape. He explained the different meanings of official unemployment figures, with 5.8 percent being the most common number cited, but double that, near 12%, was more accurate.

Then he broke it down further: “We talk a lot about Ferguson, as we should. But we also need to talk more about Black youth unemployment, which is 30 percent. Nobody should be satisfied with where we are today. We have 45 million people living in poverty, another word we need to talk more about today.”

For those worried about deficits, Sanders noted that they had been reduced under Obama. But he also insisted that if they were truly concerned about deficits, they would have stood up against the Iraq war. This remark got wild cheers and everyone out of their seats.

Unfair Impact of Technological Change

Sanders went on to examine ‘the explosion in technology,’ not only i-Phones and i-Pads, but robotics in factories. “All of this has led to a tremendous growth in productivity on the part of American workers.” Such changes logically might suggest workers were paid more or worked shorter hours, he added, “but all of you know, tens of millions of Americans today are working longer hours for less pay.”

This meant anger and stress among workers—impacting both men and women, even if in slightly different ways—needed discussion as a national issue. There was a time, “ancient history” said Sanders, when one worker could work 40 hours and support a family reasonably well. Now women were working along with men, sometimes at two or three jobs, at long hours and low pay, to hobble together enough to support a family. “This causes a lot of anger, and often it’s being angry at the wrong people for the wrong reasons,” he added. “The average male worker, right in the center of the economy, now makes $800 a year less in inflation adjusted dollars than he did 40 years ago. The average female worker in the center makes $1300 a year, even less. They have a lot to be angry about. They want to know why, and our job is to explain it to them.” (Continued)

Huge Madrid March in Support of Anti-Austerity Party

 

Tens of thousands take to the streets of Spanish capital in support of Podemos.

31 Jan 2015 al-Jazeera

Tens of thousands of people have marched in Madrid in support for anti-austerity party Podemos, whose surging popularity and policies have drawn comparisons with Greece’s new Syriza rulers.

On Saturday, protesters chanted "Yes we can!" as they made their way from Madrid city hall to the central Puerta del Sol square. Podemos and its anti-austerity message have been surging in polls ahead of  local, regional and national elections this year.

Podemos ("We Can") was formed just a year ago, but produced a major shock by winning five seats in elections for the European Parliament in May.

"People are fed up with the political class," said Antonia Fernandez, a 69-year-old pensioner from Madrid who had come to the demonstration with her family.

One protester, Fernandez, who lives with her husband on a 700-euros-a-month combined pension cheque said she used to vote for the Socialist party but had lost faith in it because of its handling of the economic crisis and its austerity policies.

"If we want to have a future, we need jobs," she said.

Greek leftist leader Alexis Tsipras promised that five years of austerity, "humiliation and suffering" imposed by international creditors were over after his Syriza party swept to victory in a snap election on January 25.

Like Syriza, Podemos has found popular support by targeting corruption and rejecting austerity programmes aimed at lifting the countries out of a deep economic crisis.

Spain is emerging from a seven-year economic slump as one of the euro zone’s fastest growing countries, but the exit from recession has yet to ease the hardship for thousands of households, in a country where nearly one in four of the workforce is out of a job.

Source: Agencies