The Take: Occupy, Resist, Produce

With a massive economic crisis underway I thought it timely to post The Take by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis on Argentina’s experience. An inspirational look at how workers reacted to losing their livelihoods by occupying their factories, resisting the authorities and co-operatively producing goods for the benefit of themselves and their communities.

In suburban Buenos Aires, thirty unemployed auto-parts workers walk into their idle factory, roll out sleeping mats and refuse to leave. All they want is to re-start the silent machines. But this simple act – the take – has the power to turn the globalization debate on its head. Armed only with slingshots and an abiding faith in shop-floor democracy, the workers face off against the bosses, bankers and a whole system that sees their beloved factories as nothing more than scrap metal for sale. With The Take, director Avi Lewis, one of Canada’s most outspoken journalists, and writer Naomi Klein, author of the international bestseller No Logo, champion a radical economic manifesto for the 21st century.

Where the Cheats Have No Shame

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To celebrate the release of new U2 fluff, here is Harry Browne’s take on Bono.

Entries have already been pouring in to the ‘rewrite a U2 song’ competition in honour of the group’s Irish tax-exile status, as described here on Counterpunch by Eamonn McCann. ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ has been recast as ‘Where the Cheats Have No Shame’, ‘Angel of Harlem’ as ‘Arrangement in Holland’ — and those are just the entries from my house.

But CounterPunchers are rarely less than fair, so we just had to read more when we saw this news intro on page-one of today’s Irish Times: “U2 singer Bono says he was ‘stung’ and ‘hurt’ by criticism of the band moving part of its business to the Netherlands to lessen its tax burden.”

Oh, Bono, dear Bono. Is that a tear I see in your eye, behind the wraparound shades? No, maybe not. As the interview with Bono in the newspaper demonstrates yet again, this is indeed a man entirely without shame. And also not too well endowed in the smarts department. His main excuse — all the other corporate entities were doing it — is a childish abdication of moral responsibility. And as another excuse he adds, “I can’t speak up without betraying my relationship with the band” — i.e. maybe this wasn’t really my idea but I’ve got to stick with my greedy pals. Well, that’s just low.

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‘Make Bono Pay Tax’

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The Solution to Ireland’s Austerity Plan by Eamonn McCann. I had attended a McCann talk once — the man is a real force of nature.

The most eye-catching placard on a 120,000-strong march in Dublin last Saturday against the Irish government’s austerity response to the tottering of the capitalist system was held aloft by a scrawny teenager with the look of a music-lover about him, reading “Make Bono Pay Tax.”

The march, organised by the Irish Congress of Trades Unions, was protesting against measures including a pay freeze plus a one percent wage levy on all public sector workers, education cut-backs which will mean, for example, the closure of special needs classes in primary schools, and much else along the same screw-the-workers, neo-liberal lines.

The cut-backs and attacks on public sector workers come against the background of a banking scandal which, proportionately, dwarfs the crimes of the bankster class in the US. Rummaging through the rubble of Anglo Irish Bank which collapsed at the end of 2008 and was nationalized in January, investigators discovered that the bank’s founder and boss Sean Fitzpatrick was secretly in hock to his own bank to the tune of €87 million, which he had shifted into Irish Life and Permanent on the day before the annual audit and shifted back again the day afterwards. Fitzpatrick—“Seanie” to both Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowan and his predecessor Bertie Ahern—had performed this manoeuvre with sums of around €80 million every year for the past seven years.

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Understanding the Crisis – Markets, the State and Hypocrisy

In this interview, Noam Chomsky offers his views on the current global economic crisis, exploding many of the myths, double standards and hypocricies of mainstream media commentary.

SAMEER DOSSANI: In any first year economics class, we are taught that markets have their ups and downs, so the current recession is perhaps nothing out of the ordinary. But this particular downturn is interesting for two reasons: First, market deregulation in the 1980s and 1990s made the boom periods artificially high, so the bust period will be deeper than it would otherwise. Secondly, despite an economy that’s boomed since 1980, the majority of working class U.S. residents have seen their incomes stagnate — while the rich have done well most of the country hasn’t moved forward at all. Given the situation, my guess is that economic planners are likely to go back to some form of Keynesianism, perhaps not unlike the Bretton Woods system that was in place from 1948-1971. What are your thoughts?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well I basically agree with your picture. In my view, the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in the early 1970s is probably the major international event since 1945, much more significant in its implications than the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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When Utopia Crumbles

Kim Nicolini on why Revolutionary Road was shut out at the Oscars.

It’s no wonder Revolutionary Road was shut out of the Oscars. As stated in this article from the New York Times, this year the Academy is looking to stories of the “indomitability of human will” to grace with its little gold statues. All of the nominees for best picture are “films built on individual successes” that provide “a nice, big chunk of uplift.” From Slumdog Millionaire to Milk to Frost/Nixon, these are stories where the little guy can beat the big powers that try to keep him down and where human will has the ability to allow us to conquer all, rise up, forge change, and take control of our own lives and destiny. Given that that many of the films deal with battling political and/or economic systems (presidential abuse of power, the Catholic church, economic class stratification), these films are classic Depression era narratives.

In fact, when writing about Slumdog Millionaire, I described it as Frank Capra goes to Mumbai in the 21st Century. Indeed, there is no hiding the fact that we are in a Depression. As the economy sinks lower and lower, people lose their homes and their jobs, and businesses collapse, there is no denying that the Depression is now. So maybe uplift and triumph is what people need. Apparently the Academy thinks they don’t need a movie like Revolutionary Road which provides a relentlessly brutal critique of the shallow illusion of the American Dream and the inherent fallacy of the institution of marriage. Revolutionary Road basically says that everything America pretends to be through its policies of blind acquisition, status through material gain, and a self-deluded vision of Norman Rockwellesque family life is a toxic lie. Well, isn’t it? Of course it is, but now that most Americans have had to look the lie in the face as the veneer of their American Utopia has crumbled under their feet, I guess they don’t want to see it in the movies too.

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