Daily News Digest January 1, 2018

Daily News Digest Archives

Laura Gray’s cartoon from the front page of The Militant August 18, 1945, under banner headline: “There Is No Peace”

During This Economic Crisis, Capitalism’s Three Point Political Program:  1. Austerity, 2. Scapegoating Blacks, Minorities, and ‘Illegal Immigrants’ for Unemployment, and 3. The Iron Heel.

Democracy?: As the Capitalist Robber Barons Steal from the 99% — Only the 1% Voted For Austerity — The 99% Should Decide On Austerity — Not Just The  Who Profit From Austerity! Under Austerity, All of the World Will Eventually Be Pauperized, Humbled, and Desecrated Like Greece and Puerto Rico

Daily News Digest January 1, 2018

Images of the Day:

Scrooge 2017

Doubling Estate Tax Exemption Would Give Windfall to Heirs of Wealthiest Estates

Quote of The Day:

In light of the nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea bringing frequent comparisons to the Cuban Missile Crisis and discussion of hypothetical worst-case scenarios, it’s worth reviewing the United States’ record and examining whether North Korea is really the belligerent nuclear menace the world needs to liberate itself from. As critics of American foreign policy have noticed, the United States’ leaders, its media and its citizens never quite seem to recognize the full consequences of their country’s actions in other regions, or investigate its long history of conflict with North Korea. To begin in chronological order, touring around the globe, it’s been noted by international relations scholars and historians that the Korean War is partly known as “The Forgotten War” because Americans have largely forgotten “the utter ruin and devastation” the United States inflicted upon North Korea. It’s not widely known that the United States’ own leaders have admitted to have “killed off” approximately 20% of North Korea’s population throughout the war by targeting “everything that moved.” Or that the United States destroyed more cities in North Korea than it did in Germany or Japan during World War II by dropping more bombs than it did throughout the entire Pacific Theatre. When there were few urban targets left to bomb, the United States began to bomb dams that supplied water for the production of rice—one of the quintessential food commodities in Asia—which led to mass starvation during and after the war. While Americans may not remember the carnage across the other side of the world, North Koreans have never forgotten the destruction on its own peninsula, nor the American threats to use nuclear weapons during the war which first inspired Kim Il-Sung to obtain his own nuclear deterrent decades ago.—The World’s Real Nuclear Menace Isn’t North Korea

Videos of the Day:

Obama Chose Wall St. Over Main St. – Thomas Frank on RAI (8/8) On Reality Asserts Itself, Thomas Frank says the Democratic Party must acknowledge that in 2008 the crash and the discrediting of Bush, created conditions for much a more progressive policy – but Obama did not step up; with host Paul Jay

Outrage in Peru Over Pardon of Ex-President Fujimori Thousands of protestors took to the streets amid suspicions that President Kuczynski pardoned former President Fujimori, who was serving a 25-year sentence for crimes against humanity, in order to avoid impeachment for corruption


Help for Struggling Millionaires is on the Way It isn’t easy being a millionaire these days, especially if you’ve got less than $20 million. Fortunately, Congress is watching out for you. Yes, the Republican tax cut bonanza targets lower end millionaires for special relief. Now those struggling to scrape by with $15 million or $20 million can breathe more easily. And even lowly billionaires will be able to keep more of their wealth. Why? Because Congress just increased the amount of wealth exempted by the estate tax, our nation’s only levy on inherited wealth. In the bad old days, a family had to have $11 million in wealth before they were subject to the tax. This exempted the 99.8 percent of undisciplined taxpayers who, in the words of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, had squandered their wealth on “booze, women, and movies.” Now no family with less than $22 million will pay it (or individuals with less than $10.9 million). This gift to “grateful heirs” will cost $83 billion over the next decade.by Chuck Collins

Doubling Estate Tax Exemption Would Give Windfall to Heirs of Wealthiest Estates Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch’s new tax bill would double the value of estates that’s exempt from the estate tax, from $11 million per couple ($5.5 million per person) to $22 million per couple ($11 million per person). That would:Cut the share of estates facing the tax from 2 in 1,000 to fewer than 1 in 1,000. Even today, only the largest 0.2 percent estates face the tax; the other 99.8 percent face no estate tax at all. Policymakers have dramatically raised the exemption level in recent decades (from $675,000 per person in 2001), so far fewer estates are large enough to be taxable. (See first chart.) By Chye-Ching Huang


Ongoing Big Energy Crisis:

Civil Rights/ Black Liberation:



The Rich Get Richer —The 99% Get Poorer: World’s richest 500 see their wealth increase by $1tn this year Ultra-rich warned of ‘strike-back’ as global inequality hits a 100-year high and billions of poorer people see their earnings stagnate The world’s 500 richest people have increased their wealth by $1tn (£745bn) so far this year due to a huge increase in the value of global stock markets, which are likely to finish 2017 at record highs.  The big increase in the fortunes of the ultra-wealthy comes as billions of poorer people across the world have seen their wealth standstill or decline. The gap between the very rich and everyone else has widened to the biggest it has been in a century and advisers to the super-rich are warning them of a “strike back” from the squeezed majority. By Rupert Neate


Zuma impeachment calls grow after court rules on home upgrade scandal South Africa’s constitutional court says parliament failed to hold the country’s president to account over state-funded upgrades to rural residence The constitutional court ordered the national assembly to make rules that allow the president to be impeached, adding to Zuma’s difficulties after he was replaced last week by Cyril Ramaphosa as leader of the ruling African National Congress. By Ruth Maclean

Venezuela after the municipal elections

As was expected, Venezuela’s municipal elections on December 10 produced a landslide victory for the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV). It won 308 out of 335 local councils winning in 23 out 25 state capitals. The opposition, which stood divided and largely boycotted the election, only managed to win two significant local councils, those of San Cristobal, the capital of Táchira and Libertador, the capital of Mérida. The reactionary pro-imperialist opposition is ending the year 2017 extremely fractured, with their ranks demoralised and without a clear strategy, after the defeat of their violent attempt to overthrow the government in the first half of the year.

Revolutionary left candidates against the bureaucracy

The weakness of the opposition opened the way for all the pent up contradictions within the Bolivarian camp to come to the fore. In a number of municipalities there were left-wing challenges from within chavismo against the official PSUV candidates. In the capital Caracas, Eduardo Samán stood as a candidate for the Libertador council, which covers most of the city’s centre and western working class and poor districts. A former government official and minister under Chavez, known for his fierce opposition to the capitalists and multinationals, his struggle against racketeering and his defence of workers’ control, Samán was standing on the PPT (Fatherland For All) ticket as well as that of the Communist Party (PCV).

He faced constant sabotage on the part of the state and the PSUV bureaucracy and was effectively banned from appearing in the media. Furthermore, his name was not even printed on the official ballot papers! In the end he received 6.6% of the vote against 66% for the official chavista candidate Erika Farias. Nevertheless his campaign managed to gather in a joint effort most of the revolutionary left of chavismo in Caracas. Amongst those challenging official PSUV candidates from the left were Jesús Silva in the Moran council (Lara) who managed to get a very decent 16% of the vote. In the Cajigal council (Sucre), Augusto Espinoza, a leader of the local communal movement received 51% of the vote beating the PSUV candidate who got 45%. In the Paez council (Apure) a candidate of the Bolivar Zamora Revolutionary Current, Chema Romero, won with 61% of the votes, though in this case he had the support of the PSUV.

The most scandalous examples of bureaucratic manoeuvres to prevent left-wing chavista candidates from taking over were in the Monagas Libertador council and in the Simon Planas council in Lara. In the first case, the PCV backed candidate Régulo Reyna won a massive 62% of the vote, against 30% for the PSUV candidate. Here, incredibly, the National Electoral Council (CNE) argued, after the election, that the Constituent Assembly, of which Reyna is an elected member, had not given him permission to stand. Therefore, in spite of the fact that his candidature had been accepted by the CNE, that he had not been notified of any impediments and his name was on the ballot paper, the CNE declared his candidature void and declared the previous PCV candidate, Presilla, as the winner! As Presilla refused to participate in this sham, the CNE then appointed a provisional mayor. The PCV and the local population are up in arms and are continuing to fight to get the winner, Reyna, recognised.

In the case of Ángel Prado, in the Simón Planas council (Lara), the situation is equally scandalous. As we explained previously,  Prado is a leading figure in the communal movement in his council, involving thousands of poor peasants and workers. He was elected to the Constituent Assembly in July 2017 with massive support. He then collected thousands of signatures backing him as a candidate for the local council. The National Electoral Council then turned around and said he needed permission from the Constituent Assembly to stand. Despite overwhelming support for his candidature and the fact that plenty of CA members were candidates, the presidency of the Constituent Assembly denied him permission to stand.

Basing himself on the mass mobilisation of the poor peasants locally, Prado insisted he would stand on the PPT ticket and that anyone voting for the PPT would be voting for him. The CNE then printed ballot papers in which the PPT was supporting the official PSUV candidate. However, defying this kafkian situation, 57% voted for the PPT and only 34% for the PSUV. Since Prado’s name was not on the ballot paper, the CNE insisted that the winner was the PSUV candidate Jean Ortiz. The masses then surrounded the local town hall to prevent him from being sworn in. Since then thousands have marched to Caracas, petitioned the Constituent Assembly and the president and have vowed not to give up until the rightful winner is proclaimed.

Lessons of the struggle in the council elections

All of these conflicts and tensions within chavismo, though limited to a minority of municipalities, reveal a number of very interesting features.

First, that the state and party bureaucracy will not stop at anything to remain in power and smash any potential challengers from within the left wing of the movement. The methods used against these candidates are in reality very similar to those used during the Fourth Republic which chavismo smashed back in 1998-2000: political patronage, intimidation and threats, media blackout, the use of state resources to cajole people to vote for the “right” candidate, etc.

Second, that there is a widespread mood of anger and discontent amongst the Bolivarian rank and file against the bureaucracy and the reformists in the leadership and in the state, which they see as increasingly moving away from the genuine ideals of the movement. This is compounded by the severe economic crisis and the government making all sorts of concessions to the capitalists and sections of the right-wing opposition. Although this movement is still largely disorganised and scattered, the campaign for these candidates in the municipal elections and then the struggle to defend their victories has provided a focal point for the revolutionary left of chavismo which has, perhaps for the first time, developed links nationally.

It is not by chance that all the areas where the revolutionary left is better organised are rural and linked to communes. They are better able to produce at least basic food products and thus partially avoid the worst effects of the economic meltdown. In the main cities, on the other hand, the pressure of the struggle for daily survival has dealt a severe blow to the level of political activity of the Bolivarian masses.

2018: presidential elections and economic crisis

As we enter 2018, the defeat of the opposition’s offensive in the  first half of 2017 has not really solved any of the underlying problems facing the Bolivarian revolution. The severe economic crisis is compounded by financial sanctions imposed by Washington and has forced the government to move towards renegotiation of the foreign debt. The policy of Maduro has been effective in weakening the right-wing opposition and so he is likely to move to early presidential elections in the coming year. But in reality the government has already made concessions to the capitalist class on many of the crucial aspects.

There is an offensive against corruption in PDVSA which has seen dozens of high ranking officials,, and even the company’s president and the Oil Minister, indicted. There is no doubt that there is corruption at all levels of the company, but it is difficult to escape the conclusion that this campaign is also part of an internal purge against Rafael Ramirez. He is the Venezuelan ambassador to the UN (a position from which he has been forced to resign) and former PDVSA president and Oil Minister and therefore a powerful figure, against whom criminal proceedings have also started.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank has pursued a crazy policy of printing money without any control, so that the government could pay Christmas bonuses ahead of the December 10 municipal elections. This, of course, has added to the already severe problems of hyperinflation. Between October 20 and December 8, the money supply doubled, with 5 consecutive weeks in which it went up by over 9% each week! The money supply went up by 800% in the first 11 months of the year and has increased by 12,000% since Maduro was elected in April 2013.

In reality what we have is a government which uses increasingly bureaucratic and authoritarian methods to stay in power, while at the same time giving away many of the gains of the revolution by making concessions to the oligarchy. If the opposition were to come to power, on the other hand, they would launch an all out assault to make the workers and the poor pay the full price of the crisis.

The ruling class is toying with the idea of standing businessman Lorenzo Mendoza as a candidate against Maduro in the 2018 presidential elections. He is one of the most powerful capitalists in the country, controlling the food production and distribution monopoly Grupo Polar and kept at a prudent distance from the opposition’s violent attempts to overthrow the government in the first half of 2017. He would probably stand with the argument that “at least a businessman knows how to run the economy” and would pretend to be independent from the discredited violence of the right-wing parties.

Which way forward?

As we have warned for a number of years, the policies of the Maduro government are preparing the way for the return of the oligarchy to power. The only way forward is for the revolutionary left of the Bolivarian movement — which we saw emerge, incipiently, here and there, during the municipal election campaign – to get organised at a national level with a clear revolutionary socialist programme.

Events in 2017 have shown that there is, despite everything that the masses have endured, a healthy class instinct of rejecting the right-wing opposition’s violent attempts to overthrow the government. The workers and the poor know full well what a victory for the oligarchy would mean and that they would have to pay the price.

This healthy instinct is cynically used by the bureaucracy with the sole aim of staying in power. In this situation, any challenge coming from the left must clearly work within the framework of the Bolivarian revolution. If sectarian mistakes are made that allow the bureaucracy to depict these groups and trends as being part of the opposition they would be discredited in the eyes of the wider masses.

A revolutionary opposition coming from within the rank and file must have as its central idea the reclaiming of the genuine traditions of chavismo, those of rank and file democracy and participation, accountability of the leadership, workers’ control and the struggle against capitalism. It is the PSUV bureaucracy which has betrayed the legacy of Chavez, not the left opposition that is emerging within the movement.

The starting point of a movement to regenerate chavismo must be the last statements of president Chavez where he warned that two key tasks were pending: the building of a socialist economy and the destruction of the bourgeois state. It is not the revolutionary left but rather the bureaucracy which have broken with the Bolivarian movement and betrayed its principles. If the municipal elections of December 2017 served to sow the seeds of such a movement, then that would have been a good beginning. By Jorge Martin

Health, Science, Education, and Welfare:

Diane Ravitch’s Blog: Texas: Should Charter Schools Buy High-End Condos with Public Dollars? A small Texas charter organization has spent sizable sums to buy residential condos, claiming they are for “office space and storage.” “Accelerated Intermediate Academy – the charter school network criticized for its purchase of a Houston condominium with taxpayer dollars – also owns a second condo in downtown Dallas where similar units have been appraised at more than $300,000. “The network also shelled out nearly $120,000 in property taxes on the Houston property, including $45,700 in late fees and attorney costs, in 2016 after the Harris County Appraisal District denied a request for a property exemption, tax records show. The two-school charter network, which served fewer than 300 students last year at two campuses, spent $427,238 for the Houston condo and an undisclosed amount for the high-end Dallas residence, property records show. Both were purchased in June 2011…

A Houston charter school lacks a playground, but pays for a high-rise condo School operations deserve oversight from the Texas Education Agency. Don’t let the name fool you. Charter schools are still public school. They rely on taxpayer funding just the same and deserve the highest scrutiny by the Texas Education Agency. Take the case of Accelerated Intermediate Academy, which has received more than $55 million in public funds since opening in 2001. That charter system educates 500 or fewer mostly Hispanic and black students and, by all objective measures, meets academic guidelines. However, its fiscal governance raises all sorts of big red flags. Rather than stick his head in the sand, Education Commissioner Mike Morath should fulfill his role as a public watchdog and direct the agency to find out what’s going on.