This country has a long history of nationalization. During World War I and II, the federal government took control of radio, railroads, coal mines and more. In 1984, the government took 80% ownership in the failing Continental Illinois bank, which remained nationalized until 1991. The Bush administration took similar action to bail out banks in 2008. Many of these nationalization efforts were temporary, and companies that tolerated government control during crisis eventually wanted the reins back. But there are (inevitably) new crises to come, and some nationalizations — such as the largely voluntary transfer of private passenger rail to Amtrak in the 1970s — have had staying power.
The Peruvian coup regime remains entrenched in power more than four months after the parliamentary coup that ousted democratically elected President Pedro Castillo. On April 10th, the de facto Minister of Energy and Mines Óscar Vera announced the coup government would grant permits to Macusani Yellowcake , subsidiary of Canadian mining company Plateau Energy Metals, which as of 2021 is a subsidiary of American Lithium in the Macusani town of the Puno region. This comes in the wake of the anti-coup protests that placed lithium as one of the main resources the coup government, serving its transnational corporate interests, would move swiftly to privatize.
So what caused this crisis, and what can be done to remedy it? In the midst of the 2008 economic crisis, former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan conceded that there was a flaw in his perception of the financial operating system. For 40 years, he had believed that banks could “self regulate” responsibly, a presumption that had proven to be flawed. In the case of SVB, however, the bank was not engaged in the sort of risky lending seen in the subprime crisis, and increased “stress testing” wouldn’t have saved it. It had put its deposits largely in federal securities, purported to be the safest assets available – so safe that they carry a “zero risk weighting” requiring no extra capital buffer.
Mexico’s leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) organized a massive rally in the heart of the capital, honoring the anniversary of the country’s nationalization of its oil reserves and expropriation of foreign corporations. AMLO also used the demonstration as an opportunity to publicly condemn US politicians who have proposed militarily invading Mexico to combat drug trafficking. “We remind those hypocritical and irresponsible politicians that Mexico is an independent and free country, not a colony or a protectorate of the United States!” López Obrador declared. “They can threaten us with committing some kind of abuse, but we will never, ever allow them to violate our sovereignty and trample on the dignity of our homeland!” he asserted.
Railroad workers packed themselves into hotel conference rooms near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in June 2022 to talk fervently about a momentous event potentially on the horizon: the first industry-wide rail strike in three decades. “All 12 railroad unions have proclaimed themselves united,” said Ron Kaminkow, Railroad Workers United (RWU) general secretary, during a conference session about chokepoints in the supply chain. “There could actually be a national railroad strike for the first time in almost 30 years.” Contract negotiations between those 12 unions and the country’s major freight railroad companies had ground to a halt by the conference, which was organized by RWU and the pro-union group Labor Notes.
For America’s rich and powerful, the new year is beginning in a most inauspicious fashion. Millions of Americans are once again fuming at the greed and grasping of our deepest pockets. That fuming — from would-be passengers of Southwest Airlines and their families — filled airports throughout this past holiday week. For good reason. At the height of the travel-heavy holidays, Southwest was canceling 60 percent of the airline’s daily flights. Over 15,000 Southwest planes never lifted off. Late December’s heavy dose of stormy weather certainly did set the stage for Southwest’s holiday meltdown. But Southwest can’t put the blame for the airline’s massive melt on the cold, wind, and snow. Other airlines delivered, amid the same winter weather, far better service.
In response to more than a decade of declining rail service in the United States, the cross-craft rail workers group Railroad Workers United (RWU) has called for public ownership of the railroad system. First discussed at the Third Convention of the group in Chicago a decade ago, on October 6th, the Steering Committee voted unanimously to approve a Resolution to this effect. According to RWU Steering Committee member and freight locomotive engineer Paul Lindsey, "The rail industry is alone as the sole means of conveyance that is held privately. Highways, inland waterways, seaports and airports are all in public hands. Given the industry's inability to grow and expand and to adequately meet the needs of shippers, communities, passengers, commuters and workers, it is time that it too become a public entity."
Here’s to 2022. A new year to displace one of the twenty previous warmest years globally since records began: the last twenty apart from 1998 with its strong El Niño. The summer of 2021 saw the Met Office in the UK issue what was its first-ever “extreme heat warning.” Over in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia, flash floods left more than 120 people dead. “You don’t expect people to die in a flood in Germany. Maybe in poorer countries, you could understand it, but not in Germany” was a comment that went viral. Question: What’s the difference between climate change and COVID?
With the economy grinding to a halt due to the social distancing measures and emergency lockdowns imposed in order to fight COVID-19, more than a million of Canadians have lost their jobs and are filing for employment insurance. This poses a unique danger to tenants. A half century of housing and tax policies that discriminate against tenants has highly stratified who rents and who owns their accommodations by income — as of 2016, the average household income of Canadian homeowners was nearly double that of renters. Many tenants are now, or soon will be, having to choose between buying groceries and paying rent, as the government’s support programs exclude a great deal of people.
Capitalism has birthed a nightmare. Nearly two million people around the world have already fallen ill as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals like ours have been completely overwhelmed by the rush of patients. The bodies of the dead are being held in refrigerated trucks. Those who can’t be identified are buried in mass graves. Unemployment may already be as high as 13 percent in the U.S. It was entirely preventable. For over a month, Trump downplayed the threat of a worldwide pandemic. Even as his advisors warned that as many as 1.2 million lives could be lost in the U.S. alone, time and again he claimed we were safe from harm. His denial left us totally unprepared to deal with the explosion of COVID-19 cases that came just days later.
Plenty has been written about the critical condition of the healthcare system. The response to the pandemic has been faulty at best, and the resources mobilized are falling dramatically short of what is needed. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is so scarce that nurses and other healthcare workers are protesting across the country, because working without appropriate PPE is resulting in high rates of infections and deaths. The media has been reporting on a national dearth of ventilators since the outbreak began. The New York state government has been scrambling to acquire the 30,000 ventilators that are going to be needed at the peak, according to estimates. Despite Donald Trump’s boasting about invoking the Defense Production Act, we are now at the peak of the pandemic, and the companies that were supposed to be retooled to churn out thousands of ventilators, like GM and Tesla, have produced a total of zero devices.
Here is a lesson: for 40 years, we have accepted the premise that markets will solve all our problems, and we don’t need national strategies. We traded our industrial capacity and technical leadership for cheap T-shirts and low-cost flat screen TV’s. Now we are dependent on supply chains in other countries to respond to our emergencies. China, South Korea, and Germany have effective national strategies and strong industrial bases. China was able to mobilize incredible resources in response to their epidemic. Germany’s formidable industrial capacity in chemicals and pharmaceuticals positioned them to devise test kits for their own people, and supply kits for Europe and other countries. South Korea was way ahead of us in their public health response.
Climate change is an unprecedented global social, political, and economic crisis. Without drastic action, the United States will likely experience rising sea levels that will regularly flood major cities, more intense weather patterns that will destroy homes and businesses, longer and deeper droughts that will disrupt agricultural production, and an increase in disease that will put stress on the healthcare system. Domestic and international climate refugees will have to be resettled and the effects of increasing global strife contained.
As we gear up for a war-type of mobilization to mitigate the climate crisis, a federal takeover of the oil, gas and coal industry should be on the table. No other generation understands better the implication of climate change than today’s teens. As sixteen year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has famously summarized it, “this is an emergency.” But despite this emergency, the response from national governments has been to hype up the private sector as the silver bullet capable of providing the financial means and innovations needed to address climate change...
I’m honored to be among the folks that Paul Street invited to think with him about what an “authentic” left would look like in the United States. It’s something that many of us think about all the time. The left would look very much as it does right now -- you start from where you are-- but it would begin behaving quite differently. I think that what we are actually talking about is: How do we make a movement -- a ruling class-destroying movement -- in the United States? That’s a simple proposition, and I think certain things flow from that proposition. Of course, we’d be talking about setting in motion several mass-based movements that are linked in their shared enemy: the ruling class and its organs of coercion and control, the organs that people come up against every time they move -- and even when they don’t move.