Skype Series Event! Portuguese Anti-Austerity Struggle: From the General Strike to Today

Since 2011, countries around the world have had historic upsurges and have gained serious insight into the dynamics of struggle in this period.  Advance the Struggle along with La Peña Second Generation proudly presents a monthly Skype series with revolutionaries from across the globe to discuss these massive social movements.  

The third session will be with a militant from Portugal  who has been involved in the anti-austerity movement.  The event will take place on Saturday April 19th, noon at La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA).  Below is a description of the event and the leaflets for the series.  Hope to see you there!

The austerity measures imposed in Portugal by the right-wing government, the IMF and the European bank have had destructive effects on people’s lives.  These measures were seen by the ruling class as a way to restructure the Portuguese economy through neo-liberal reforms, which are erasing the rights workers won in the Carnation Revolution of 1974. As a response, an anti-austerity movement grew and also shifted the militant composition of the left; from it’s institutional parties to social movement networks, anarchist and communist collectives, and local struggles. This conversation will try to draw a brief overview of these processes and it’s connection to what’s happening in other parts of Europe.

This is the third installment in our monthly series of Skype sessions with revolutionaries around the world, offering an opportunity to engage with their valuable insights and relate it to our own tasks

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WOSP – The City of Oakland’s Plan for Gentrification: A Target For Anti-Displacement Activity

What follows is a critique of the West Oakland Specific Plan – WOSP – which the city of Oakland hopes will help in “developing” West Oakland and is attempting to pass in the coming weeks.  We offer this critique and brief thoughts on strategy in order to support the ongoing work of combatting displacement and gentrification that has been hitting the Bay Area for a long time.  Please add comments, questions, and critiques in the comment section in the spirit of deepening our collective discussion of anti-displacement analysis and strategy.

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Advertisement for Public Release of WOSP in Feb. 2014

Snapshot of the State and Capital in the Bay Area

If the Bay Area’s economy was compared to every other national economy in the world, it would be the 19th largest.  The Bay has the highest GDP per capita in the entire United States, and even outpaces London and Singapore.  It captures 40% of the entire flow of venture capital in the US (p11), which constitutes a higher amount of capital than that captured during the dot.com boom.  While the Bay accounts for only 2.4% of the total jobs in the US, it has 12% of the computer & electronics manufacturing, 10.3% of software development, and 8.3% of internet related jobs (p13.) Seven of the top 10 social media companies are here – Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Linkedin, Zynga, and Yelp.  In short, the Bay is home to one of the highest concentrations of capital in the world and mapping out the composition of capital is key for us to situate ourselves as we continue to engage in class combat. (Footnote #1)

The regional state is well aware of its place within the world economy.  Over the past years, city politicians from the greater Bay Area have come together to generate a 30 year strategy about how to restructure the region’s housing, employment, and transportation structures.  Plan Bay Area (PBA) was developed by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to carry out the tasks of determining how the state can support and facilitate the accumulation of capital throughout the region.  In order to grease the wheels of the local capitalist economy, the PBA aims to redevelop housing and transit throughout the Bay; New units are set to be built, new transportation “hubs” developed, and both of these projects are to be coordinated across single cities and the bay area as a whole.

PBA aims to align the various metropolitan areas of the Bay in their development of housing to match projected increases in employment.  Internet, computer and electronics manufacturing, along with professional, scientific and technical services are accounting for some of the largest contributors to job creation here.  PBA states that between early 2011 and late 2013 the Bay Area added more than 200,000 jobs, an increase of 7.5 percent that is well above the state’s average of 4.5%.  PBA is projecting that this area will continue to outpace the rest of California and the US in its share of job growth due to the heavy concentration of tech related industries which forms part of the economic base of Bay Area political economy.  (Footnote#2)

West Oakland Specific Plan – One Part of Capital/State’s Total Plan

We find ourselves in a city that’s clearly at the crosshairs of the system’s plans for intentional development and displacement: highly concentrated capital in the Bay Area and projections of millions of jobs being created in the next 10 years; a strategic plan by city politicians across the Bay to house these new high wage workers within its multiple cities; and the ongoing displacement of low wage workers and unemployed people.  This is the situation Oakland Mayor Jean Quan references when she states that she’s seeking to bring in 10,000 new residents to Oakland while saying nothing about keeping long term residents and working class people in Oakland. Continue reading

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International Revolutionary Skype Series: Brazilian Class Struggle

Since 2011 countries around the world have had historic upsurges and have gained serious insight into the dynamics of struggle in this period.  Advance the Struggle along with La Peña Second Generation proudly presents a monthly Skype series with revolutionaries from across the globe to discuss these massive social movements.  

The second session will be with Brazilian activists who were recently involved in the Free Pass Movement and the protests against the World Cup.  The event will take place on Tuesday March 18th, 6:30pm at La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA).  Below is a description of the event and the leaflets for the series.  Hope to see you there!

Join us for a live Skype discussion with Brazilian activists who have organized in the Free Pass Movement, which last year organized massive demonstrations for public transportation.  These demonstrations  spread throughout the country, won reductions in fares, and shook the foundations of Brazilian society.  Additionally, we will be discussing the struggle around the World Cup by the Brazilian working class to address the countries growing income inequality.

This is the second installment in a series of Skype sessions with  revolutionaries around the world, offering an opportunity to engage with their valuable insights and relate it to our own tasks.

Listen to an interview from our Brazilian comrade on KPFA’s La Raza Chronicles: http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/100862

Link to Facebook event, please share! https://www.facebook.com/events/212264698967130/?notif_t=plan_user_invited

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Caring….for Profits in the CA Nonprofit Health Industry

As our organization expands to include workers from different sectors of industry, we are forced to understand and clarify the terrain in which we are organizing in.  Below we are posting a new series that will focus on the health care industry and prospects for communist intervention in the Bay Area.  Through an analysis of our local region, we wish to draw out the broader implications for organizing the rapidly expanding health care industry.  We encourage our readers to comment on the questions raised so as to deepen our understanding of the complexities of workplace organizing in health care!

Non-profit health care is a huge industry.  It meets at the junction of the “non-profit industrial complex” and the “health care industrial complex,” but forms a unique hybrid.

To give some scope to this industry, in California, non-profit hospitals account for 61% of total patient days excluding state psychiatric hospitals.  Profits are just as large.  In 2010 alone, the top two California chains, Kaiser and Sutter Health, together made net income of $2.18 billion.[1]

This led us to two questions:  How do nonprofits make profit, and where do the profits go once they’re made?

How does a “non-profit” hospital make profits?

A huge amount of non-profit hospitals’ profits come from state subsidies and benefits. These benefits include being exempt from state and federal income taxes on profits, property taxes, and almost all sales taxes.  In return, these hospitals are supposed to offer charity care to those can’t afford it.  It’d be reasonable to think that the tax credits given and the charity care returned should balance out so that these institutions are actually non-profiting.  The joke of an exchange that exists in reality is shown in the following chart, courtesy of the National Nurses United research group the Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy.

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Should Anarchists Make Demands on the State?

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Occupy Oakland rally in front of Lakeview Elementary school. Photo Cred: https://oaklandnorth.net/2011/11/19/occupy-oakland-marches-again-sets-up-tents-in-new-downtown-site/

The global movement of the squares (Taksim in Turkey, Syntagma in Greece, Tahrir in Egypt, OGP in Oakland, etc) against capitalist austerity, displacement, and overall inequality has pushed activists around the world to consider important questions of revolutionary strategy.  One of the central contradictions that tended to be posed between “radicals” and “liberals” was that of whether or not to make demands on the state, capitalists, or other institutions.  There have been many anti-state communists/socialists, anarchists, and others who have advocated the perspective that demands should not be made on ruling class institutions.  There is good reason for skepticism and antagonism toward programs of demands, as they have at times been used by more liberal, social-democratic forces to limit the politics of struggle into reformist channels.  

This recent cycle of struggle that we’ve participated in has brought to light some of the limits of “demand-lessness.”  While Occupy Oakland was at its peak, for instance, there was a move by the Oakland Unified School District to close 5 elementary schools, as well as the passing of a “West Oakland Specific Plan” which lays out a program for continued gentrification of a historically (at least since the 1930s*) black neighborhood.   What if there had been a more concerted effort to defeat some of these attacks on black and brown proletarian communities?  Would this have been a reformist deviation from an otherwise militant struggle?  Or could it have been a way of bringing in larger layers of proletarians into struggle against some of the effects of white supremacist capitalism?   It is in this context that Wayne Price, noted anarchist writer and activist, has written a useful essay arguing in favor of anarchists raising a program of demands.  We re-post it here for your consideration and commentary.  

Should Anarchists Raise a Program of Demands?

by Wayne Price

http://anarkismo.net/article/26648

This essay is slightly expanded from one which was rejected by a US anarchist magazine for political reasons. It deals with a disagreement among activists: Should we propose that the movement raise a program of demands? I think that anarchists should, but with a more libertarian-democratic version than the liberals and state socialists. The essay is followed by a response to the political points raised by the editors of the anarchist journal.
During the height of the Occupy Wall Street encampments, a dispute broke out among activists. Various liberals and state socialists advocated that the movement raise a program, a set of demands on the capitalist class and the state. This approach was opposed by a number of anarchists. Given the economic situation, the program-raisers typically called for full employment policies, such as public works projects providing useful services, to be paid for by taxing the rich and cutting the military budget.

While many anarchists vehemently opposed to the Occupy movement raising demands, others were for a more libertarian-socialist approach to raising programs (as I am). To some degree this disagreement among anarchists reflects a long time split, or more precisely, a polarization, since the alternatives are not sharply either/or. Since Proudhon, one anarchist pole has primarily advocated building alternate institutions within capitalist society. These might be worker or consumer coops, bike clubs, community gardens, or block associations. These anarchists hoped that community Occupations would be such “dual power” institutions. These would gradually expand to take over—and replace–the economy and state. Such activities do not lead to making demands on the state or the ruling class—except maybe to be let alone.

From the other viewpoint, all these things are good in themselves and worth supporting, but as a strategy for changing society, they are limited. Most likely they do not threaten the system (can they really replace the auto industry with an alternate national transportation system, or replace the armed forces with a popular militia?). If they do threaten vital institutions, the state will crack down on them. As the state disbanded Occupy encampments all over the country.

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International Revolutionary Skype Series: Chilean Port Strike

Since 2011 countries around the world have had historic upsurges and have gained serious insight into the dynamics of struggle in this period.  Advance the Struggle along with La Peña Second Generation proudly presents a monthly Skype series with revolutionaries from across the globe to discuss these massive social movements.  

The first session will be with Chilean port workers who were recently on strike for three weeks.  The event will take place on Tuesday February 25, 6:30pm at La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA).  Below is a description of the event and the leaflets for the series.  Hope to see you there!

Join us for a live Skype discussion with Chilean longshore workers who last month ended an intense three-week strike in their fight to end the casualization of labor and obtain retroactive pay from years of unpaid  lunch breaks. Their struggle forms part of a coordinated network of Chilean working-class organization and resistance fighting for labor rights, better living conditions and universal public education.

 
This is the first installment in a series of Skype sessions with revolutionaries around the world, offering an opportunity to engage with their valuable insights and relate it our own tasks.

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Evict This! A History of Housing in West Oakland and Tools to Resist Displacement

Everyone on the left recognizes gentrification is happening. Its political, economic and social implications are far-reaching, with the state aiding and abetting the process. Neighborhoods in L.A., San Francisco and Oakland look completely different now than even ten years ago. In a gentrifying neighborhood residents feel the effects with ‘in-your-face’ style evictions and/or foreclosure notices. These have become an almost daily occurrence for struggling families. Many are forced to find ways to cope or resist the shifting nature of their neighborhoods; while those conscious of it, and even active in confronting the major players driving it (banks, real estate companies and big developers), recognize they also play a role in it. Considering this, how does the left get a full understanding of how and why gentrification happens? And then, how do organizers bring up conversations with our neighbors that will lead to constructive dialogue and a collective fighting strategy?

The East Bay Solidarity Network, based in West Oakland, focuses primarily on direct-action eviction defense. As a group of radicals, they seek to develop a deeper understanding of the history, process and results of gentrification before embarking on an eviction defense project. They’ve spent months base-building in West Oakland by: hosting monthly tenants’ rights meetings, door knocking to neighbors, flyering around liquor stores, laundromats and dollar stores, in addition to organizing neighborhood BBQ’s.

Acknowledging that there is more to learn — they wrote a small pamphlet, passed it out to neighbors, and sought to gather as much feedback as possible.  The pamphlet, or zine, was a compilation of knowledge about gentrification learned through research, conversations, outreach and organizing; and an attempt to answer questions about the foreclosure crisis that re-ignited the gentrification in West Oakland. It explains how a national wave of foreclosures specifically affected this neighborhood, then goes on to highlight a history of West Oakland residents fighting back against federal, state and city policies. Policies which have resulted in the targeted displacement of Black residents since they arrived in the post-WWI boom years. It emphasizes that losing a house is not the fault of the individual, but instead a systematic approach by banks and big real estate companies to kick out long-term residents and drive up property values.

This is one strategy the East Bay Solidarity Network utilized to answer some of the most important questions to better understand gentrification; and was the medium used to talk to neighbors about how to fight back against a capitalist system that would rather — see their family-home empty with a ‘For Sale’ sign in the front — than with current and past generations living inside.

Advance the Struggle hopes to write a longer, more researched piece on gentrification in the upcoming months but would first like to showcase some of the work organizers have been doing. Here is the East Bay Solidarity Network’s zine:

Pages from Evict This

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