Economic Update: Insurgent Working Class and Organization

[S11 E23] New

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In this week's show, Prof Wolff presents updates on the efforts to finally add dental, vision, and hearing coverage to Medicare, the effects of Trump's tariffs on China, and the contradictions between capitalist profiteering and healthcare. In the second half of the show, Wolff is joined by Professor Manny Ness to discuss worker insurgencies and political organizations in the global South today.

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About our guest: Immanuel Ness is Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and Senior Research Associate in the Department of Sociology of the University of Johannesburg. He is the author of books and collections on labour, globalization, migration, and protest movements, including Organizing Insurgency: Workers Movements in the Global South, among many other works.  He is editor of the peer review Journal of Labor and Society. He is co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Economic Imperialism.  Ness is currently writing a book on migration and global capitalism and another book on the gig economy.

Organizing Insurgency: Workers Movements in the Global South available at https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745343594/organizing-insurgency/

Learn more about Prof Wolff's new book, "The Sickness is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself," now available. Visit us at www.democracyatwork.info/books

"Richard Wolff in his new book examines frightening and anti-democratic configurations of corporate power, offering not only a blueprint for how we got here, but a plan for how we will rescue ourselves and create new models of economic and political justice.” - Chris Hedges

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  1. Medicare Coverage: washingtonpost.com 
  2. Failure of US tariffs against China: wsj.com 
  3. Pharma advertising versus medical consensus: reuters.com  and cnn.com 

Showing 10 comments

  • Pasqual DiGesu
    commented 2021-07-11 11:16:17 -0400
    Very interesting “surveillance capitalism” ,,, not only attacking our right to self rule and (privacy above all else), but our very souls. William you are not being “hyperbolic”, but very accurate. As for smart anything devices, I always saw them as an increasing dependency that ultimately only dumbs down. I learned to use a sextant at 15 and continued using maps over GPS when I travelled for work. I was issued a govt. cell phone in 1996 and refuse to carry one since or now with only a flip in my Harley pouch where it stays. My friends think I am as archaic as the old testament. As for media gloom and doom, its real but what is disgusting is that it is being used for manipulating control, wealth as you state, with total disregard to the real damage. They will use every and any tool to their advantage. Every barb thrown at them is a potential weapon used to throw back ten fold. As for intent of governments, they are all measured by their very actions no matter which side of the globe they sit on. This unavoidable inflation will be used as you say just as it has been unmitigated to date by the absent Fed. Again, the devil wears many faces and flies many flags and as you say this economic practice of ours is truly unsustainable or increasingly chaotic driven by greed for money and power and in the end for a very short lifetime of exploitation. (remember the phrase “rats in a granary”?) Thanks
  • Sonny Wiehe
    commented 2021-07-10 21:56:45 -0400
    The “people” are not incapable of governing themselves; they simply have been programmed to be, how should we say, disinclined to do so.

    I agree with you, Pasqual, that the government (and oligarchs) have “conditioned” this state of public paralysis. You hit the nail on the head, but I’d like to elaborate. They achieve this result through predictive programming fueled by ever present surveillance capitalism. Most are oblivious to this conditioning. But I point to Shoshana Zuboff’s book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” for a thorough and eye-opening account of this practice that has been honed and expanded for many decades.She gives us the tools and language by which to discuss, confront, and ultimately defeat this multi-faceted monster. Not trying to be too hyperbolic here, but surveillance capitalism is not only an attack on our right to privacy and self rule, but truly is an attack on your very soul and being.

    A considered response would be to ignore and challenge the sensational gloom and doom stories perpetrated by the “news” and never ending declared states of emergencies which are designed to overwhelm, neutralize, and divide/conquer the otherwise collective masses which hold the real power in society. That’s were the root of the above stated disinclination can be found. These predictive program(s) are fueled by an insatiable appetite for meta data that seeks to turn the brains of the masses into malfunctioning, conditioned compartments of mush. We largely supply the fuel for this conditioning voluntarily -and virtually on a 24/7- basis. Some of the most obvious tools for this meta-data fueled conditioning are our “smart” phones (both Apple and Android platforms alike), our “smart” thermostats (Nest), and our ’smart" doorbells (Ring). In fact technological devices that begin with the word “smart” are anything but “smart” in relation to being used to enhance your liberty and well being. The appropriate response to this onslaught of data mining and predictive programming is for people to regain the full-range use of their mental capacity (through private conversations and public forums such as this) and exercise their critical sense on a daily basis. ln short, resist. And question authority. Always.

    We have obviously been programmed to believe these rational responses are evil. They are not. In fact, as I said earlier, none other than Benjamin Franklin, a revolutionary who resisted the tyranny of the British Crown, claimed it it to be your very responsibility as a citizen of this republic. We all should take that responsibility seriously if that is the type of government we wish to live under. If you don’t, the alternative will be your ultimate assimilation into the strongest communist empire on the planet; that of the CCP. I fear we are already largely headed down that road under the digital implementation of surveillance ‘capitalism’. In our case, our nuanced brand of capitalism is that which is fueled by the seemingly unrestrained printing of unfathomable amounts of fiat currency by the State—-with almost all of that being controlled by, and funneled toward, a select group of corporate elites. While we have been conditioned to believe the State and Corporate interests are naturally at odds as a natural form of check and balance (and it probably once was), that has ceased to be the case. The State is no longer regulating Corporate interests. Oligarchs are regulating “elected” officials who, in turn,are obligated to act in their interests rather than that of the public. What we have now, essentially, is a new Global Monarchy;with a New King if you will. Tyranny has evolved in the digital age. The State and Oligarchs are now acting in tandem as they have discovered that the power of printing limitless amounts of fiat currency by Sovereign States (all controlled by the King) is the new form of unhindered human slavery. To their additional benefit, this new form of slavery is no longer limited to any one ethnicity, race, or lower socioeconomic class. It is the enslavement of the public masses in totality that are forced to oblige in the use of this fiat currency (and thus why the challenge of cryptocurrency is so demonized). Unlimited—and it is unlimited, folks, unless a federal balanced budget is forcibly enacted—fiat currency is the new ‘golden goose’ that keeps on giving. If you think the leaders within the CCP are not participatory members of this new brand of slavery, then I believe you are delusional. They are, in fact, the largest single holder of our fiat currency debt by far (I’m not counting Japan whose Debt-to-GDP ratio is an embarrassing 4 fold that of China). Thus, almost all of us in the US are being programmed to be on track to be enslaved by this New King; that of the global Communist State.

    Come to think of it— the inevitable firestorm of inflation headed our way may simply become another inconvenient, yet programmed, truth along the way towards the ultimate consolidation of global power (and pubic complacency) by the New King. But not if I can help it.
  • Pasqual DiGesu
    commented 2021-07-10 08:56:44 -0400
    I agree Sonny. Your ability to “fathom” is good, or your ability to perceive accurately. I have a very large social circle of friends, family and most go back to my teen years. Only a very few seem to understand or accept our actual situation. I don’t think they loathe using their right to govern as much as they have been conditioned to believe that they can’t beyond a vote on whats handed to them, also because of an education system that was more like a motor vehicle permit test which most wanted to just end quickly in order to attain their certificate. This lack of interest, purpose and self awareness is why I also believe we are incapable of governing ourselves until proven otherwise by deed. The present system of government directly exists as a consequence of our condition regardless how it is painted.
  • Sonny Wiehe
    commented 2021-07-09 22:49:24 -0400
    You bring up a good point Pasqual. That is: Who is minding the store? Allow me to address that rhetorical question:

    The U.S., being a republic, should be minded by the people— by right— and by responsibility. The government was created of the people, by the people, and for the people. However, the people have largely abdicated their responsibility as citizens. They seek very little accountability for the most egregious government actions and allow fiscal irresponsibility to rain down upon them virtually unchecked. They think some political messiah will be ‘elected’ at some point and save us all like an updated episode of Superman or Wonderwoman. Of course, that is a foolish fantasy fueled by expensive election cycles that have become nothing more than an expensive anointment process controlled by oligarchs. What we see, as a result, are mini-dictatorships playing out every 4-8 years in the form of “executive orders” rather than a rational legislative representation.That is systematically followed by some flavor of declared state of emergency that requires yet another round of bailout and funny money distribution. Benjamin Franklin famously warned of this very danger in 1787 on the steps of Independence Hall. Strange how ordinary citizens hold the real power— yet are loathe to exercise it. Worse yet, most freely surrender their civil rights enshrined in the constitution in exchange for technological “convenience”. What a terrible exchange. What a political travesty.
    What we see in the wake of this populist political power vacuum is a bunch of greedy politicians filling the void and being funded by a small cadre of oligarchs who, in turn, feed off the fiat currency being printed by our government, essentially, at their behest. The treasury has been turned into a veritable “money tree” that is being picked with reckless abandon by corporate elites.

    However, this fiat currency printing ponzi scheme will invariably come to an end. That end will be both alarming and abrupt. It will likely be caused by inflationary pressures very few are old enough to remember or even bright enough to fathom.
  • Pasqual DiGesu
    commented 2021-07-09 10:36:45 -0400
    Thanks Sonny, your summaries are always interesting and direct. My experiences in industry with Unions tell me that here in the last 4 decades they have proven to be too weak, too controlled by those they are supposed to control or they are too powerful and greedy and ultimately destructive to state budgets fueled by political drives or empowerment. My eternal question is always whose minding the store or at the wheel?
  • Sonny Wiehe
    commented 2021-07-09 10:31:33 -0400
    Interesting anecdotes on Italian tax structure. However, I am a U.S. citizen and that tax structure is what is germane to my interests. It also appears to be the subject of this blog post involving U.S. tariffs.
  • Pasqual DiGesu
    commented 2021-07-09 10:20:18 -0400
    As for taxes, in Italy I experience not fixed percentages as in US independent states but a type of luxury tax imposed on the types of product sold. Bread which is considered a basic necessity had seemingly no tax as opposed to caviar with a 500% mark up, public transportation and most roads traveled little or no cost, Highways for those who could afford them pay expensive tolls, luxury vehicles had a much higher tax and annual registration cost than smaller vehicles and so on. Free school and medicine was accomplished with an average 40% income tax on all and not an added property tax which is minor as compared to our own, and did not come with a penalty of home lose if unpaid. In the end this luxury tax is paid willingly by the individuals decision to purchase knowing the added cost, despite the complaints, automatically taxing those who obviously can afford it and have the wealth. This system also providing everyone else with the necessary but affordable food, transportation, roads to the same destinations, education and health care at less, little or no cost if they cannot afford the luxuries. General security and comfort intact.
  • Sonny Wiehe
    commented 2021-07-09 09:49:34 -0400
    Yes, Pasqual, you are correct. The last say is by the oligarchs who have bought out all the politicians at this point—- which include the “presidents”.
  • Pasqual DiGesu
    commented 2021-07-09 09:39:07 -0400
    Thank you professor for your honesty and courage regarding the truth on who pays this tariff. It is unfortunate that that this is an uphill battle which cannot be won under the control of the financials in charge of this system. I do not believe that presidents have the last say or ultimate power in our country or that policies esperienced are not pre planned or deliberate.
  • Sonny Wiehe
    commented 2021-06-27 19:59:59 -0400
    Many Ness speaks in platitudes and generalities when it comes to socialist movements. That does not move the ball forward. When I hear that unions “have their workers backs” , then I know no concrete research has been done. That means nothing if you can’t be specific. He might be visiting workers and reviewing their poverty (he does state 50 cents an hour in parts of India) but that is not a revolutionary idea worth documenting in a book. Poverty has been ubiquitous since man has walked the Earth. Upton Sinclair worth about it more sensationally than anyone.

    What I would like to see Mr. Ness convey is the specific and effective revolutionary (meaning transformative—a term progressives are currently enamored with) actions (he says workers are always in motion— and that means actions) Unions are taking in the ever continuing struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed. I won’t buy the book on the slight chance it might be contain a well supported thesis; particularly if he can’t even deliver one specific example of this alleged transformative experience in the global south in this interview. In short, this professor appears in this interview as all bark and no bite. However, I should note that is not uncommon with Richard’s guests. The thrust always appears to sell a book rather than actually motivate the public towards Richards cause of moving us past the inequalities of Capitalism.


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