Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Next Global Crisis: Will Peak Food Follow Peak Oil?

By Roger Baker / The Rag Blog / September 23, 2010
(re-posted with permission from The Rag Blog)

Will we soon experience a global peak in food production, similar to peak oil?

It is too difficult and too soon to predict a global peak in world food production, but it is easy to see that some such event cannot be delayed much longer, and is quite likely to occur within the next five years. This despite the fact that global grain reserves seem to be adequate for now.

The World Bank writes that "it is too early to make conclusive statements on the impact of the very recent global wheat price spikes at the national and household level." The FAO has likewise stated that there does not currently appear to be a crisis, but that it is concerned about the amount of volatility in food markets. And that volatility might bode ill for progress toward overcoming challenges like those laid out in the Millennium Development Goals being discussed at the U.N. this week.

"These recent global staple price increases raise the risk of domestic food price spikes in low income countries and its consequent impacts on poverty, hunger and other human development goals," according to the Bank.
Peak food is pretty hard to determine compared to peak oil, partly since so much of its production is local. Global food demand can restructure in its demand over time to accommodate a reduction in food supply. Those who are hungry will tend to shift their consumption to cheaper calories, often at the expense of its nutritional content. Globally, the wealthier tend to favor animal protein produced from grain, foods imported from afar, and in general less energy efficient foods.

Grains are the most important global food commodities to focus on because they provide such a large percentage of the world's total food calories, and because they can be stored and traded to reduce local food shortages. Wheat and rice are the top human food grains by tonnage. Other commonly used animal feed grains like corn are termed coarse grains. Wheat tends to be more used globally to prevent regional hunger, whereas rice provides cheaper food calories but is more often produced and consumed locally.

Since food is so vital for survival, those who are hungry will try to shift their spending to food if they are able. Intensive urban or backyard agriculture can help some. The suburbs of today may be the produce gardens of tomorrow. If animals are fed less, then humans can eat considerably more. Biofuels like corn ethanol are mostly an energy waste, so that in response to high fuel prices, food can probably outbid biofuel production in competition for arable cropland.

The economics of the food marketplace is obviously a lot different for affluent countries when compared to poor countries struggling to feed themselves. If food prices rise, the world's affluent can eat less beef in exchange for eating more of the the corn previously fed to the cow. However, many of the world's poor may already spend a lot of their total income on grain, or they may suffer from local production crises complicated by poor transportation, as is the case with Pakistan. Localized food shortages are likely to increase.

The big picture in terms of global food production is that the healthy survival of adults requires about 2,500 food calories per day for each person, in order to feed roughly 6.8 billion people. Since global population is increasing at about 1.17% per year, this means food production needs to increase accordingly to hold food prices constant, assuming the same food production and consumption patterns.

The global food production trends
are moving in the wrong direction

If we ignore the late 2007 to early 2009 price spike and the brief below the trend line decline, we see a recent return to the long range upwards trend. We need to examine the various factors that affect the global food price index, and how they are likely to influence the total average cost of food.

If we extend the 10 percent yearly food price index increase trend line, we find that the previous price pain level is likely to be reached again by about 2014. We might anticipate about the same unhappy result if average food costs reach the 2008 peak while average earnings remain stagnant. This situation was painful enough to cause food riots in about 30 countries around the world, as well as encouraging speculation in food commodities.
The immediate causes of the protests in Mozambique's capital, Maputo, and Chimoio about 500 miles north, are a 30% price increase for bread, compounding a recent double-digit increase for water and energy. When nearly three-quarters of the household budget is spent on food, that's a hike few Mozambicans can afford.

Deeper reasons for Mozambique's price hike can be found a continent away. Wheat prices have soared on global markets over the summer in large part because Russia,the world's third largest exporter, has suffered catastrophic fires in its main production areas. These blazes, in turn, find their origin both in poor firefighting infrastructure and Russia's worst heatwave in over a century. On Thursday, Vladimir Putin extended an export ban in response to a new wave of wildfires in its grain belt, sending further signals to the markets that Russian wheat wouldn't be available outside the country. With Mozambique importing over 60% of the wheat its people needs, the country has been held hostage by international markets.

This may sound familiar. In 2008, the prices of oil, wheat, corn and rice peaked on international markets -- corn prices almost tripled between 2005-2008. In the process, dozens of food-importing countries experienced food riots...
Dr. Tad Patzek is Chairman of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Austin. Besides working on fossil fuels, Patzek is studying the thermodynamics and ecology of human survival, and the food and energy supply for humanity. He spoke at a September 14 meeting of the Austin Sierra Club and provided the following abstract of some of his studies on food crops, which indicate that per capita food production is likely already peaking:
The main staples I have looked at are wheat, rice, barley, potatoes, and rye. The world’s production of these staples is not keeping up with population growth. Their production is stagnant or declining, and crop areas are declining. Per capita production (kg per person) and per capita yield (kg per person per ha) are declining.

We are witnessing a global failure of modern food supply and inflation of food prices. This inflation became hyperinflation in 2007 and 2008, because of the massive, destructive speculation on wheat and other staple futures by Goldman Sachs and international investors.

The main energy crops I have looked at are maize, sugarcane, soybeans, and oil palms. The world’s production of these crops is rapidly expanding. Their crop areas are increasing (exponentially for soybeans and oil palms in the tropics). Per capita production is increasing, but per capita yields are declining. We are witnessing a global move away from food to energy crops. Diverting more land to pure energy crops, switchgrass, etc., will only deepen the food supply crisis, especially in the poorest countries.

Genetically modified plants, while easier to grow, and very profitable for the seed manufacturers, create problems with yields, water, and fertilizer requirements, and cause a fast-spreading resistance of weeds and pests. So, is there a solution? Perhaps, but it would require a change in the current paradigm of industrial agriculture.

What causes food prices to rise?

How do we explain the steady upwards food price trend and then the sudden spike and decline in 2007-2009? I believe there are three basic and somewhat interacting factors at play.

The first factor is the declining per capita food production discussed above. It is primarily this factor that causes the steady upward trend line. If per capita food production is really decreasing, it could hardly be otherwise. The other two important factors are peak oil, and finally, food market speculation.

When we try to discount the early 2008 food price spike tied to oil oil costs, and to speculation, we see the longer term food price index rise of more than 10 percent a year. This trend line looks like it will intersect its previous price 2008 peak before 2014, if not before.

Since the last few years have been a period of global recession, we can probably assume that average global per capita purchasing power for food has been been almost flat during the last three years, as it has been in the USA. Furthermore, we can probably anticipate that given a globally depressed economy, there is scant prospect for a real earnings increase in the near future.

It makes sense to imagine that over a period on the order of a decade, and discounting speculation, the various roughly linear factors like population increase, global warming, water constraints, urbanization of arable land, and rising energy price increases will continue to work together to restrain an increase in the global food supply.

The rise in food prices has a natural component related to its steadily rising difficulty of production in the face of increasing demand. The steady component of the rise in the food index increase is due to the combined effects of these factors, well outlined here.

Nomura Group is confident that this is a long-term macro trend that will continue in the years ahead:
We expect another multi-year food price rise, partly because of burgeoning demand from the world's rapidly developing -- and most populated -- economies, where diets are changing towards a higher calorie intake. We believe that most models significantly underestimate future food demand as they fail to take into account the wide income inequality in developing economies.

The supply side of the food equation is being constrained by diminishing agricultural productivity gains and competing use of available land due to rising trends of urbanization and industrialization, while supply has also become more uncertain due to greater use of biofuels, global warming and increasing water scarcity.

Feedback loops also seem to have become more powerful: the increasing dual causation between energy prices and food prices, and at least some evidence that the 2007-08 food price boom was exacerbated by trade protectionism and market speculation...
Meanwhile, global warming is lowering food production and raising food prices in a way that can be roughly quantified on average, though it is seen locally as an unpredictable increase in weather volatility like droughts, floods, and heat waves:
The two scientists analyzed six of the most widely grown crops in the world -- wheat, rice, maize, soybeans, barley and sorghum. Production of these crops accounts for more than 40 per cent of the land in the world used for crops, 55 per cent of the non-meat calories in food and more than 70 per cent of animal feed.

They also analyzed rainfall and average temperatures for the major growing regions and compared them against the crop yield figures of the Food and Agriculture Organization for the period 1961 to 2002.

"To do this, we assumed that farmers have not yet adapted to climate change, for example by selecting new crop varieties to deal with climate change," Dr Lobell said.

"If they have been adapting, something that is very difficult to measure, then the effects of warming may have been lower," he said.

The study revealed a simple relationship between temperature and crop yields, with a fall of between 3 and 5 per cent for every 0.5C increase in average temperatures, the scientists said...
The looming wild card:
How peak oil can spike food prices

Peak oil is already a serious problem that affects food prices in many ways. Parts of the slowly depleting Ogallala Aquifer in the U.S. Midwest have been so heavily pumped so far below the ground level, that the rising cost of diesel fuel to pump aquifer water up to the surface has eliminated the profit to be made on the irrigated crops.

The food price index has a strong tendency to echo the price of petroleum, in common with many other traded commodities. Global oil prices are currently fluctuating within a band of about $70-$80 a barrel, held down for now largely by a depressed world economy.

A major oil price increase is also partly being restrained by the buffering effect of the untapped reserve capacity of OPEC, estimated at about 5 million barrels per day.This reserve capacity is mostly within Saudi Arabia, which is suspected of exaggerating this reserve capacity.

We are already well past a global peak in conventional oil production on dry land. Oil is getting harder and harder to produce. If we are not yet peaking in liquid fuel production, we are probably within five years of such a peak in all liquid fuels. These fuels are vital for portable power and transportation needed for food production and distribution. Robert Hirsch is a top oil analyst who argues that the politicians who understand the energy situation are mostly unwilling to discuss the true implications publicly.

Since food production and distribution are both energy intensive, any return of the 2008 oil price spike would necessarily be soon reflected in another spike in global food prices. With the end of an undulating global oil production plateau we have been experiencing since 2004, and facing a significant decline in liquid fuel production, we face a steep increase in the cost of fuel embedded in the price of food. Another oil price spike is nearly certain to bring in its wake another food price spike, and the return of widespread hunger and political unrest.

The threat of another food speculation bubble

Even if we could somehow assume perfectly ample supplies of liquid fuel, the trend line shows that various other factors inhibiting food production increases are probably enough to cause the return of a food price crisis widely felt by about 2014.

Such an increase is likely to encourage some nations to stockpile reserves of their national production. This may be quite rational given the key importance of food security to national economies, but it would also tend to encourage the return of global food speculation. We can see the speculative bubble in the sharp food price rise above and subsequent fall beneath the trend line, during the period from 2007-2009.

The exponential food price rise seen during 2007 seems to be a speculative bubble because it soars far above the decade long trend line before collapsing. Part of this sudden price increase was due to rising oil price, and some was due to food market speculation.

We now know that Goldman Sachs and others were strongly involved in food price speculation, anticipating profit from a sharp rise in food price:
In early 2008, everything boiled to the surface. The banks were fueling this artificial demand, and speculation drove wheat prices out of control. This spurred riots in more than thirty countries and drove the world’s food insecure to over one billion people. Somehow, this so-called fabulous investment was causing some serious trouble...

This far away world of high finance and commodities trading impacted the price of bread, cooking oil, butter, and other items all over the world. This is when the price of food gets scary -- it’s as if the masters of high finance have the ability to reach down and take the food right off of the tables of the poor. For most of the readers of this blog, you are maybe spending 15 or 20% of your income on food. But most people on this planet are spending upwards of 50% of their daily earnings on food. For many, the food bubble pushed that up to 80%, and right into the arms of food insecurity, malnutrition, and starvation...
Food reserves have always been by nature conducive to hedging, hoarding, and speculation. Countries that experience shortages tend to try to secure food reserves in advance. Russia is now embargoing its wheat, which is raising its price globally. A rise in price tends to encourage further speculation.

Food is naturally and historically conducive to stockpiling reserves in anticipation of possible crop failure. If the price of a basic food crop rises, there is a natural tendency to buy some in reserve, which then causes the price to rise further.

This may be rational behavior for individuals, who may decide to stockpile a few months supply of grain for their family. However if this difficult-to-control behavior becomes widely practiced, it can easily lead to serious food shortages becoming a lot worse, which in turn is likely to force food rationing, other than by price.

[Roger Baker is a long time transportation-oriented environmental activist, an amateur energy-oriented economist, an amateur scientist and science writer, and a founding member of and an advisor to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil-USA. He is active in the Green Party and the ACLU, and is a director of the Save Our Springs Association and the Save Barton Creek Association in Austin. Mostly he enjoys being an irreverent policy wonk and writing irreverent wonkish articles for The Rag Blog.]

(reprinted with permission from The Rag Blog, Thorne Dreyer, ed.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Organizing Meeting - Dallas-Fort Worth area

An organising meeting for the SP of DFW is going to be held on 20
November 2010, at 2:00 PM at the Bedford Public Library.
Here's the address:

1805 L. Don Dodson Dr
Bedford, TX 76021

For more information:
call= 785-566-6261

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Letter to My Congressman

July 25, 2010

Congressman Lamar Smith
2409 Rayburn Building
House Office Building
Washington DC 20515

Dear Congressman Smith:

I am in receipt of your latest re-election rag. Gee, it’s funny how you only send out those legislative updates right around election time. Second one in about a month.

I too share your concern about excessive government spending, but I see you certainly have no problem with sending out your re-election newsletter at government expense.

I also see where you and your buddies in Congress also have no qualms about spending government money for your pet junkets. $604,000 for bottled water in 9 months? Might I suggest that cuts in government spending start right there in Congress? How about a salary cut for all the pigs at the trough? If you are serious about cutting spending, let’s see some more real action and a lot less bull.

Want to cut spending? How about reeling in those insurance companies that are soaking up all that health care money? How about ending those subsidies to the oil companies? How about cutting some of the pork from the so-called “Defense” Budget? One billion dollars for a battleship that still won’t float? Surely you must realize that you are being played by some big corporate type here. Or maybe you are part of the problem?

So, if you are going to Talk the Talk, maybe you should Walk the Walk.


Steve Rossignol

What to Do About Big Oil? Nationalize 'Em!

by Steve Rossignol and Billy Wharton

If there is one lesson to be learned from the massive British Petroleum Oil
Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it is that Big Oil has no conscience when it
comes to killing workers and raping the environment in their quest for
profits. In the case of BP, even overlooking the diabolical role they played
in the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadegh [sp?] Government in
Iran in 1953, the petrolem giant has ignored safety regulations, manipulated
federal regulators, and possibly even had a hand in the parole of convicted
Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in order to curry an oil contract
with Libya.

Civilized nations do not allow their citizens to act in this manner. Why do
we allow corporate giants to do so? The time has come for us to put aside
our dark fears and loudly start saying that dirty word dreaded by Tea
Baggers everywhere: Nationalization.

Once an integral plank of socialist platforms everywhere, the concept of
"nationalization" lost grace in the Seventies in favor of less offensive
terminology, like "socialization" or "workers' control" or some such. The
connection to any sort of state-owned or state-controlled economy was a
boogeyman with which no one dared be associated. All that free-market
stuff, you know. But the reality of government regulation in the so-called
free market is that regulation usually comes as a result of massive
corporate abuse which finally prompts the government to act.

Well, times change, but the oil industry hasn’t. All we have to do is a
look at the latest corporate abuser of the natural world, BP. The outrages
have become such that mere regulation is no longer effective in curtaillling
the abuses of the industry. We need to do more to lasso in the oil industry.

Nationalization (or whatever we choose to call iit) will no doubt raise the
hackles of so-called "free market" folks. But what about that free market?
Guess what. There ain't no such unicorn. When the oil industry cartel can
whimsically escalate gasoline and heating oil prices at will, grant obscene
bonuses to executives at tax-payer expense, generate record profits with
the help of massive government subsidies, manipulate energy futures on the
stock market, fail to build new refineries in order to keep gas prices up,
and flagrantly violate federal regulations, it is time to face the very
real fact that the oil companies are thumbing their noses at the American
people. There is no "free enterprise" here. And the added myth that the
"industry will regulate itself", as we have been told for decades, makes me
rather want to believe in the Tooth Fairy. Polluting companies like BP just
don’t “do” cleanup – there is no profit in it. I could go on and on about
the cardinal sins of these energy giants, but I do not think that there is
much doubt or disagreement about their greed and disregard for the national
good. There is a certain arrogance coming from the petroleum boardrooms
which seems to be saying, "Oh, yeah? What are you going to do about it?"

After all, when the Federal Trade Commission under George W. Bush permitted
mergers which allowed the largest oil companies to get even larger
(ExxonMobil, Conoco-Phillips, Texaco-Shell, BP-Amoco, Valero-Shamrock etc.),
it was rather clear that the stranglehold grip of Oil on America would only
get tighter. It's like a macabre family reunion of John D. Rockefeller's
Standard Oil. The basic lesson of history is that there was a good reason
why Standard Oil was busted up. While certainly no panacea, an immediate
plan of nationalization, perhaps administered congressionally, will reel in
all of the petroleum giants.

Nationalize 'em. That's what I think we should do about it. We as a nation
need to let them know that we are in charge.

There are many good reasons to nationalize the energy industry. Instead of
having Big Coal compete with Big Oil and Big Nuclear, and all of them trying
to strangle alternative energy like wind and solar, we could have a
comprehensive energy policy which would reduce the dependence on Big Foreign
Oil and fossil fuels altogether, all the while graduating towards renewable
energy sources. We would be able to regulate gasoline and heating oil
prices; we would be able to equally distribute supplies nationwide; we would
be able to reduce gasoline prices at the pumps. We would be able to increase
fuel effiiency standards; we would ensure the construction of new refinery
capacity. We would be able to sustain viable employment in the energy
industry, especially with new construction oriented to more energy effecient
and alternative sources. We would further ensure the safety and health of
our working people; and we would make sure that there would be no more Deep
Well drilling accidents in the Gulf of Mexico. It might even get us out of
that oil war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and keep us from getting into another
oil war in Iran or Venezuela.

Basically, we would be able to regulate and ensure supply, distribution,
production, importation and work towards efficient energy consumption.

Obviously there are plenty of details to be worked out, but the main thing
is to recognize that unless there is some sort of immediate central
oversight over the oil cartels, there will be nothing but more problems in
the economy, in the environment and in the survival of most Americans and
the world.

So call it what you want--nationalization, socialization, whatever, but
recognize that it needs to be done. When they are done wiping off those
oil-soaked pelicans in the Gulf, nationalization might not seem like such a
dirty word.

Guest Post: Fromm’s Socialist Program, Written in 1959 or 1960

Many academic scholars and many socialists may not know that Erich Fromm, perhaps the most famous social psychologist of the 20th Century, was a Marxist, writing “Let Man Prevail: A Socialist Manifesto and Program.” He wrote it for the Socialist Party (SP-SDF) in 1960. Here is some background. Of course, some of this may come as a surprise to those who have fallen for a caricature of Fromm: Wasn’t he once an early scientific leader of the Frankfurt School but later a disconnected “flake” praising Buddha, Jesus, Marx and Socrates, all as exemplars of some “art of loving”? But the caricature is a slander. Actually Fromm was always a science-minded, clear-headed organizer -- a socialist humanist and an organizer -- at least that is my Erich Fromm.
The Manifesto/Program was not adopted by the SP-SDF, although the party reprinted it at least three times in the 1960s. It was written roughly during the time Fromm was writing his classic Marx’s Concept of Man, and he was on the National Committee of the SP at the time.

With SANE already founded, partially named after Fromm’s earlier book, The Sane Society, there was an intense blip of public resistance to the 1950s “dog days” of hiding from McCarthyism. This new public resistance/peace movement worked in combination with the emerging civil rights movement: Coretta Scott King, for example, was also a founder of SANE. SANE began openly opposing the bomb shelter scam, a mass delusion that after nuclear explosions some of us could survive hiding underground and emerge later to start the world over. [My dad, incidentally, went to jail in 1961 for protesting bomb shelters – making front page of the Tacoma, Washington daily paper.] This is the period in which Fromm wrote his Manifesto/Program.

Let me briefly elaborate this peace movement aspect of Fromm’s work. In the 1950s, America was hardly a freely thinking society. There was McCarthy in Washington, and every state legislature had a little McCarthy to match him. There were witch-hunts in universities, and as we all know, Hollywood had a red scare where many progressive artists, like Charlie Chaplin, left the country or quit the industry. There was an arms race, brinkmanship, and glorification of big bombers and big bombs. There was “ethnic cleansing” against Mexican Americans in 1954 (The Government’s “Operation Wetback”), and southern states ferociously defended Jim Crow segregation. Because this was such a chilling time for social critics, it should not be underestimated how important a new open peace movement was in the late 1950s. (This was culturally a long time before the widely accepted 1965 to 1972 peace movement.) But by 1960, SANE was holding numerous rallies with some Hollywood figures coming out of Hollywood’s political seclusion: Marylyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, Harry Belafonte, and Ossie Davis; and other prominent figures were emerging to face the insanity of the arms race: Dr. Benjamin Spock, Walter Reuther, Pablo Casals, Bertrand Russell, Albert Schweitzer, and Norman Thomas emerging to speak together.) Of course the late 1950s was also still a dangerous time, with the FBI nuts, with Bobby Kennedy’s witch hunts against unions, and with state-level investigating committees against subversives, and with the John Birch Society and other rightist and racist groups skulking. So SANE becoming public was important psychologically, challenging the bizarre mentality of fleeing into the ground as a form of insanity.

Because the Communist Party was a shell of its previous self and was trying to recover from its semi-underground status during the McCarthy period, and because it was trying to digest the shocking “revelations” about Stalin in the 1956 Soviet Congress and the rebellions in the East Bloc, they had been reduced to hoping desperately (and fruitlessly, for the most part) to be accepted by the Democratic Party. The Trotskyists had done poorly in the 1950s too -- the term “dog days “ comes from James Cannon and was originally used to refer to a period in the 1920s -- and there were deep splits in Trotskyist ranks. Fromm was on the national committee of the merged Socialist Party-Social Democratic Federation, which had also had a difficult time and was looking for ways to regroup, and he had already been in correspondence (at least 50 letters in his lifetime), which lasted to his death, with Raya Dunayevskaya, founder of the still-active-today News and Letters left group, whose newspaper’s editor was a black auto worker.

I think what Fromm was trying to do with his new Manifesto/Program, which he hoped would be discussed in unions and left groups, was to provide a rallying cry to all leftists to come out of the 1950’s hole and to try something different than repeating the ineffectual “party-building” (“recruitment”) and sectarian proclivities of their recent past. He was hoping the left could work together to involve masses in socialist planning discussions, with discussions on educational reform, critiques of bureaucracy, etc. (Fromm reissued this basic proposal later, in 1968, as Toward a Revolution of Hope, with an explicit warning that voting Democrat or Republican in 1968 would not be a step in the right direction. (Fromm co-signed a statement with Herbert Marcuse and others that year criticizing dependence on the Democratic Party.) Revolution of Hope included a little clip-out page in the back of the book to mail back to him if workers or others would be willing to work with him to form a new network of “clubs.”

Marx’s Concept of Man in 1961 is the companion piece to the Manifesto/Program and is one of Fromm’s greatest achievements, spreading the word about the “early Marx” and locating Marx in a philosophical tradition that Fromm and Dunayevskaya were each calling Humanism. The “early” Marx, with his talk about “alienation” and our separation from our “species being,” was not accepted well by the old left. The Communist Party was going through one of its intense anti-intellectual phases, burrowing into trade union practice and focusing on telling the workers how money is being taken right out of their mouths and hands by the capitalists every day. You don’t need to know some humanist tradition of thought to get the workers angry about that, they figured. But still Fromm had immense influence, among second-level academic and church layers and the peace movement. Fromm had an impact internationally too, being one of the few people quoted in Paulo Freire’s Latin American classic, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. And Fromm was the organizer of a momentous international symposium, creating the book Socialist Humanism, with East Bloc intellectuals in 1965; in the book, he contributed an article as did Dunayevskaya and Norman Thomas.

Fromm, from his 1960 Program/Manifesto to the 1965 Socialist Humanism Symposium, provided a powerful critique of Western “democracy” removed from its humanist “spiritual” roots, from the Renaissance to the Abolitionists. “Democracy” had been reduced to stale and oppressive rituals of rigged slates. And Manifesto/Program provided an implied critique of East Bloc “socialism” and of the left’s destructive bureaucratic cant about “party loyalty,” and its attachment to simple “trade union solidarity” -- I’ll scratch your back if you remember to scratch mine and “buy American” -- and offered an implied criticism of intellectual “service” to the cause matching worker production.
Fromm’s Manifesto/Program is reprinted in a later book by Fromm, Disobedience.
[A longer version of this piece by Nick Braune was presented at the 2008 Radical Philosophy Conference in San Francisco.]

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Solidarity with the Striking Workers in Europe and Student and Worker Walkouts in the US this September and October

passed on August 31, 2010 by the SPUSA National Action Committee

Since May of this year, workers in Greece, Italy, France and Spain have organized increasingly large strikes. In Europe, just as in the United States, workers are confronted with budget cuts, union-busting, and labor law ‘reforms’ that favor the rich. In Spain, labor unions are organizing a general strike on September 29th to coincide with a meeting of European finance ministers on September 29 in Brussels. It is expected that militant actions in other countries will also take place on this day.

Workers’ organizations and individuals in Europe have been calling others to help build September 29 into a day that will begin to awaken a response by global workers to austerity and attacks on our rights.

In the United States students and workers have called for a repeat of last year's mass actions and students walk-outs. On October 2nd and 7th actions are being called to stop budget cuts and other regressive measures which balance budgets on the backs of students, the poor and union workers.

We stand with the European workers and our fellow workers and students in the United States, raising our fists in defiance this September and October.

As socialists, we must reject the latest onslaught of neo-liberal attacks on students’ and workers’ rights, working conditions, social services for our youth, the elderly, and people living with disabilities.

Inasmuch as we call on the US and European governments to immediately halt austerity plans that are killing our people, we also remind our sisters and brothers in the movement that we cannot settle for reforms – we must reject capitalism as a whole. Just as globalization has opened borders to exploitation, we must stand united for the transformation of our societies from the rule of the wealthy few to the radically democratic governance of the collective wealth of the many.

Together we recognize that our politics and our approaches to this mass strike ought to reflect the open, transparent and democratic qualities that are prerequisites for genuine socialist democracy. It is necessary to show unity in action as well as theoretical, tactical, and political distinction from reformist parties and labor union bureaucracies.

With one voice, American and European workers, students and all oppressed by the capitalist system must rise up and demand an end to the war on workers, an end to the imperialist occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq; and an end to capitalism’s war on humanity, thus giving substance to the words:

Alto Arizona PSA - Zack de la Rocha