Trump’s Populist Deceit

Trump’s Populist Deceit

     by  / Local Futures

While misogyny, racism, and ethnic taunts were conspicuous signposts on Donald Trump’s path to the White House, much of that road was paved with “populist”, “anti-establishment” and “anti-globalization” rhetoric. Trump’s inaugural address featured numerous populist lines (e.g. “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people”), attacks on the status quo (“The establishment protected itself, not the citizens of our country”), and barbs aimed at globalization (“One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.”)

Are these themes accurate predictors of how Mr. Trump and his administration will govern for the next four years?

Hardly. Long before the election, it was widely pointed out that the populist platitudes issuing from the silver-spooned mouth of a billionaire plutocrat represented little more than elite hucksterism. [1] Of course, post-election, the band of fellow billionaire corporate rascals and knaves Trump assembled for his cabinet and close advisors should have put an end to this fatuous ‘anti-establishment’, ‘populist’ charade once and for all. As one observer noted, “Trump’s cabinet has begun to resemble a kind of cross between the Fortune 500 rich list, a financier’s reunion party and a military junta.” [2]

What about Trump as an ‘anti-globalization’ crusader? Apart from the inconvenient fact that his own loot was built upon global outsourcing and the exploitation of cheap labor abroad for which ‘globalization’ is shorthand, the fact is that a “former Chamber [of Commerce] lobbyist who has publicly defended NAFTA and outsourcing more generally was appointed to Trump’s transition team dealing with trade policy.” [3] Did anyone really buy the notion that the swaddled child of corporate globalization had morphed into a working-class hero battling the ravages of that same globalization?

Some of Trump’s voters were undoubtedly among those who have been economically marginalized by globalization and wealth inequality – the common folk on whose behalf populism historically emerged. No doubt some allowed Trump’s populist, anti-globalization legerdemain to blind them to his scapegoating of fellow displaced working-class victims of globalization – aka immigrants from non-European countries. That these constituted the majority of his voters, however, is questionable. As Jeet Heer argued convincingly back in August,

“Rather than a populist, Trump is the voice of aggrieved privilege—of those who already are doing well but feel threatened by social change from below, whether in the form of Hispanic immigrants or uppity women. … Far from being a defender of the little people against the elites, Trump plays to the anxiety of those who fear that their status is being challenged by people they regard as their social inferiors.” [4]

In other words, Donald Trump is no populist, but an “authoritarian bigot”[5], and his election represents the victory of the rich – and a victory for corporate globalization. He is “not an outlier, but instead the essence of unrestrained capitalism.” [6] (To be clear, this should in no way be read as an implicit endorsement of the neoliberal Democratic Party, whose economic and trade policies are largely pro-corporate as well.)

To see Trump as an anti-globalization crusader is to misunderstand one of the main structural features of globalization itself: the concentration of wealth by fewer and fewer corporations and the consequent widening of the gulf between rich and poor. According to a recent report, [7] here are some relevant trends from 1980 to 2013 – roughly the period of hyper globalization:

  • Corporate net profits increased about 70 percent;
  • Three-quarters of this increase went to the largest corporations (those with over $1 billion in annual sales);
  • Just 10 percent of publicly listed companies account for 80 percent of corporate profits; the top quintile earns 90 percent;
  • Two-thirds of 2013 global profits were captured by corporations from rich, industrialized countries;
  • During this period in these same “rich countries”, labor’s share of national income has plummeted. Needless to say, labor in poorer countries has not fared better – indeed, exploitation of labor’s “cheapness” in the poorer countries is the sine qua non of this spasm of corporate profits.

As Martin Hart-Landsberg explains in his summary of the report, “the rise in corporate profits has been largely underpinned by a globalization process that has shifted industrial production to lower wage third world countries, especially China; undermined wages and working conditions by pitting workers from different communities and countries against each other; and pressured core country governments to dramatically lower corporate taxes, reduce business regulations, privatize public assets and services, and slash public spending on social programs.” [8]

This strategy has not “helped lift hundreds of millions to escape poverty over the past few decades”, as is repeatedly, unquestioningly claimed in the mainstream media. [9] As scholar Jason Hickel has shown, such a claim rests on propagandistic World Bank-sponsored poverty statistics; if poverty were to be measured more accurately, “We would see that about 4.2 billion people live in poverty today. That’s more than four times what the World Bank would have us believe, and more than 60% of humanity. And the number has risen sharply since 1980, with nearly 1 billion people added to the ranks of the poor over the past 35 years.” [10]

Additionally, inequality has reached nauseating heights: the latest analysis by Oxfam shows that “Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity.” [11] Globalization – an abbreviated way of describing the worldwide evisceration of regulations hampering corporate profits and the institutionalization of those that enhance them – is an engine of extreme inequality and corporate power, within and between countries, full stop. It is not cosmopolitanism, humanism, global solidarity, multicultural understanding and tolerance, or any of the other noble liberal virtues claimed for it by its votaries. In fact, while a ‘borderless’ world was seen as the pinnacle of the globalization project, physical barriers at the world’s borders have actually increased by nearly 50 percent since 2000 [12] – with the US, India and Israel alone building an astounding 5,700 km of barriers. [13]

Widespread hostility towards globalization by the working class in ‘rich countries’ is understandable and justified. The problem is that this animosity is being misdirected against fellow working-class victims of corporate profiteering (“immigrants”, “the Chinese”), and not against the banks and corporations that are the source of working-class misery. This is the strange creature called ‘right-wing anti-globalization’, or, ‘right-wing populism’ – concepts that seem rather contradictory insofar as right-wing politics is about defending and strengthening status quo arrangements of power, privilege and hierarchy. Anti-globalization, on the other hand, is about challenging the gross inequality and injustice of the status quo; and populism – historically at least – is supposed to be about advancing the interests of common people and creating a more egalitarian society. [14]

Nonetheless, it is common in the mainstream media for ‘anti-globalization’ to appear on the ugly right-wing and reactionary side of a simplified binary ledger of political ideologies. It is listed, almost automatically, alongside such distasteful qualities as “inward-looking” and “anti-immigrant”, while the opposite side is ascribed noble qualities like “tolerance” and “solidarity”. This is merely a recycling of the popular (and very much corporate-sponsored) notion of globalization-as-humanizing-global-village. This Thomas Friedman-esque framing works to deflate the would-be critic of corporate globalization by threatening to tar her by association with reactionaries and xenophobes.

To accede to this binary framing would be a grave error, since it further empowers the existing system of corporate exploitation and wealth concentration. However, because there is undeniably an element of the anti-immigrant, xenophobic right that is also – at least rhetorically – anti-globalization, it is absolutely essential for the left to articulate in the clearest terms possible an anti-globalization stance rooted in international solidarity, intercultural openness and exchange, environmental justice, pluralism, fraternity, solidarity, and love, and to continually expose the fact that globalization is intolerant of differences in its relentless dissemination of a global consumer monoculture. In other words, the right should not be allowed to hijack the anti-globalization discourse, and contaminate and confuse it with racist, anti-immigrant sentiment, nor let localization – the best alternative to globalization – become equated with nativism, nationalism, xenophobia etc. It is unfortunate that we have to do this, since peoples’ movements against globalization and for decentralization/re-localization have already clearly drawn this distinction, indeed emerged in large measure in opposition to global injustice. But do it we must, since the corporate media is happily using the rise of the right-wing to discredit the spirited, leftist opposition to globalization that has stalled such corporate power grabs as TPP, CETA, and TTIP.

Should the left make common cause with those on the right when it comes to opposing globalization, irrespective of our profound opposition to the rest of the rightist agenda? Can we hold our noses and engage with this strange bedfellow to slay our ‘common’ foe, globalization? I do not think so. Not only is right-wing anti-globalization based on a deeply flawed and internally incoherent analysis, more importantly the political expediency of the implicit message – “as long as you join us in opposing corporate free trade treaties, your xenophobia, racism et al. can be temporarily ignored and tacitly tolerated” – is noxious and inexcusable.

Fortunately, a number of writers and activists have already been busy on the critical project of framing an inclusive anti-globalization stance. Chris Smaje, agrarian and writer of the Small Farm Future blog in the UK has spelled out a vision of “left agrarian populism” that is genuinely anti-establishment and pro-people (all people), is based on and strengthens local economies, and is fiercely internationalist. [15] Localist and internationalist? Yes. Localization of economic activity is, perhaps counter-intuitively, supportive of greater global collaboration, understanding, compassion and intellectual-cultural exchange, while corporate-controlled economic globalization has hardened, and even produced, cultural/national friction and competition.

Political theorist Chantal Mouffe has similarly acknowledged the right-wing hijacking of legitimate political discontentment against corporate elitism across Europe, the answer to which, she says, must involve “the construction of another people, promoting a progressive populist movement that is receptive to those democratic aspirations and orients them toward a defense of equality and social justice. Conceived in a progressive way, populism, far from being a perversion of democracy, constitutes the most adequate political force to recover it and expand it in today’s Europe.” [16]

Degrowth scholar-activists Francois Schneider and Filka Sekulova have, in line with Smaje’s left-green localism-populism, articulated the important concept of ‘open-localism’ or ‘cosmopolitan localism’.  “Open-localism”, they write, “does not create borders, and cherishes diversity locally. It implies reducing the distance between consumer and producers … being sensitive to what we can see and feel, while being cosmopolitan”. [17] These visions, and many other related ones, provide an important foundation for social justice and environmental activists to build upon in boldly reclaiming the anti-globalization narrative and resistance in these difficult times.

Alex Jensen is Project Coordinator at Local Futures/International Society for Ecology and Culture. He has worked in the US and India, where he co-ordinated Local Futures’ Ladakh Project from 2004-2015. He has also been an associate of the Sambhaavnaa Institute of Public Policy and Politics in Himachal Pradesh, India. He has worked with cultural affirmation and agro-biodiversity projects in campesino communities in a number of countries, and is active in environmental health/anti-toxics work.


[1] See for example Naureckas, Jim, “Hey NYT – the ‘Relentless Populist’ Relented Long Ago”, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, January 22, 2017; Lynch, Conor, “Don’t be fooled: Trump’s populist economic rhetoric is a fraud”, Salon, July 9, 2016; Paarlberg, Michael, “Donald Trump is a pretend populist – just look at his economic policy”, The Guardian, August 10, 2016.

[2] Warner, J. (2016) “Donald Trump’s cabinet of oil men and generals is just what’s needed to get US out of its rut “, The Telegraph, December 16, 2016.

[3] Hart-Landsberg, M. (2016) ‘Confronting Capitalist Globalization’, Reports from the Economic Front.

[4] Heer, J. (2016) ‘Donald Trump Is Not a Populist. He’s the Voice of Aggrieved Privilege’, New Republic, 24 August.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Cuadros, A. (2016) ‘The Other Buffett Rule; or why better billionaires will never save us’, The Baffler, No. 33.

[7] McKinsey Global Institute (2015). “Playing to Win: the new global competition for corporate profits”, September 2015.

[8] Hart-Landsberg, M. (2016) ‘The Trump Victory’, Reports from the Economic Front, 18 November, 2016.

[9] See for example Pylas, P. and Keaten, J. (2017) ‘Will Trump end globalization? The doubt haunts Davos’ elite‘, Associated Press, January 20, 2017.

[10] Hickel, J. (2015) “Could you live on $1.90 a day? That’s the international poverty line”, The Guardian, November 1, 2015.

[11] Oxfam (2017) ‘Just 8 men own same wealth as half of humanity’, Oxfam International Press Release, 16 January, 2017.

[12] Harper’s Index, ‘Percentage by which the number of international borders with barriers has increased since 2014: 48’, Harper’s Magazine, January 2017.

[13] Jones, R. (2012) Border Walls: Security and the War on Terror in the United States, India and Israel, London: Zed Books.

[14] cf. Heer 2016, op.cit.

[15] Smaje, C. (2016) ‘Why I’m still a populist despite Donald Trump: elements of a left agrarian populism’, Small Farm Future, 17 November.

[16] Mouffe, C. (2016) ‘The populist moment’, Open Democracy, 21 November.

[17] Schneider, F. and Sekulova, F. (2014) ‘Open-localism’, paper presented at the 2014 International Conference on Degrowth, Leipzig, Germany.

Dominican Republic Cane Cutters & Haitian Garment Workers Meet to Voice Their Own Demands

Dominican Republic Cane Cutters & Haitian Garment Workers Meet to Voice Their Own Demands

By One Struggle

On what I earn, I can’t afford shoes… We are poor, poor, poor. There are days we go to bed without food. – Batey worker from the film, “The Price of Sugar”

In the sugar plantations or bateyes of Dominican Republic, cane cutters often work barefoot. They can’t afford shoes. They can barely afford food, for that matter, despite the fact that they often work a minimum of 12 hours a day, doing the back-breaking work of cutting sugar cane by hand.

On the other side of the border that divides Hispaniola, Haitian garment workers in Port Au Prince recently blockaded a Korean factory because of bounced paychecks. For years, Haitian garment workers have been fighting wage theft and to be paid the inadequate legal minimum wage – still not enough to live off of.

Whatever the product is – the pair of pants, the t-shirt – we are the ones producing it. We labor hard, and don’t get paid. – Haitian garment worker of SOTA in Port Au Prince

This week Unión De Trabajadores Cañeros De Los Bateyes (Union of the Bateyes of Sugarcane Workers) and Sendika Ouvriye Takstil ak Abiman (SOTA) (Union of Textile and Garment Workers) will meet to discuss their common struggles against exploitation.

Specifically, they are meeting about recent actions of the DR government to strip people of Haitian descent of their citizenship. This has mostly affected the poor – cane cutters, street vendors, and service laborers. In bringing attention and their perspective to this struggle, the groups’ intentions are to put down false divisions of racism and nationalism, with the goal of working together against their common enemy – the Haitian and Dominican ruling classes.


SOTA is affiliated with the autonomous workers’ organization, Batay Ouvriye (BO) (Workers Fight), which will host a series of meetings, a press conference, and direct action in Port Au Prince.

According to one of the event organizers, “They will be three Haitian cane workers, one Dominican cane worker and the coordinator of the union. The presence of the Dominican cane worker is to deny the nationalist option and to put the class situation in concrete relief, in contrast to the bourgeois organizations here who pretend to defend their ‘compatriots.’”

There is a long history of animosity between Haiti and Dominican Republic. Both nationalism and racism are deep rooted. The DR won its independence, not from European colonialists, but from Haiti. Since then, Haitians living in the DR have faced discrimination, and thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent were massacred under Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo.

In 2013, the Dominican Supreme Court retroactively withdrew citizenship from anyone born in the DR to undocumented immigrants, with the provision that persons who submitted the proper documentation could apply for legal residency. The deadline for this application was summer 2015. However, many who submitted this paperwork, along with hundreds of dollars in fees, never received any notice or proper documentation from the government. Thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent left the DR, or were rounded up and dropped at the Haitian/Dominican border, often without being able to gather their belongings or to alert their families.

So now, there are hundreds of thousands of people rendered stateless, living in temporary shanty-towns along the border. They’ve been told that if they get documentation proving their country of origin from the Haitian government, then they can apply for Dominican citizenship or work visas. In fact, the Haitian government was paid by the Dominican government to facilitate this process, but Haitians living in limbo on the border have seen no results from this transaction.

Another issue affecting cane workers and low-wage laborers is that for years many paid into social security in the DR. Once they stopped working, they apply for their pensions, submitting the required paperwork to DR government and received nothing. Or, if they’ve been deported, they have no means of claiming their pension either.

This situation is not just about racism or nationalism. It is an issue of the ruling classes of both countries exploiting and stealing from the poor and working class. This summer, many demonstrations were held, especially in New York and Miami, with calls for travel boycotts against the DR and urgent appeals to avert a humanitarian crisis. Most of these demands have been voiced from people outside of the DR/Haiti, or removed from the exploitation of the bateyes and the temporary shanty-towns.

The aim with this series of meetings between workers from both countries is to bring attention to calls and demands led by the workers and people directly affected by these struggles. These are the people whose demands should be amplified, and calls for action should be followed.


Here in the U.S. we use Dominican sugar in our coffee every day. Our clothing is made in sweatshops, often sewn in Haiti (thanks to HELP and HOPE Acts). Capitalism and imperialism give us no choice, no say in how goods are produced. Our sugar and our clothing are the results of wage theft and a politic of misery for the working class in dominated countries. Boycotts and conscious consumerism pretend that with our purchasing, exploitation can be ameliorated. In reality, it is merely shifted to another part of the world.  We need to understand the dynamics of capitalism/imperialism, its inherent exploitation, and we must address these issues from the interests of the working class. Who better to lead this effort than the workers themselves?



Read more at One Struggle

Translating the Language of Imperialism

Translating the Language of Imperialism

By One Struggle

That country is poor.

Translation: Your country had bountiful natural resources until we beat the hell out of you and stole everything.

Their government is incompetent. They are unable to govern themselves.

Translation: We invaded you, killed a bunch of you and set the rest at each other’s throats, and installed a dictator who’s helping us steal everything. But it’s your own fault that your country is a mess.

The US helps people all over the world.”

Translation: If you don’t want our products or loans because they’ll ruin your economy, we’ll twist your arm until you take them. We’ll charge you for interest, inputs and maintenance far beyond the value of our original ‘assistance,’ and label ourselves saints and you ungrateful.


Developing nations should be integrated into the global economy.”

Translation: First we’ll steal all your natural resources and destroy your economy, and then when your people are starving we’ll give them sweatshop jobs in our factories.

We pay low wages but their living expenses are lower so it all works out.”

Translation: I’ll tell that lie to pacify domestic consumers, but really I don’t care if you starve.

Okay, their lives are hard, but they should be grateful we gave them a job.”

Translation: You have no right to dignity, safety, to send your kids to school. I need that extra profit to pay for my fifth mansion in Switzerland.

We are bringing democracy to the world.”

Translation: We’ll crush you.

Without our help, they’d fall apart. They need us.”

Translation: We don’t produce anything, but we’re violent sociopaths loaded up with guns and nuclear weapons, so we’ll keep on sucking your blood as long as we can get away with it. If you ever stop us, we’ll die.

Jonah Mix: On Prostitution, the Left has Taken a Right-Wing Turn

Jonah Mix: On Prostitution, the Left has Taken a Right-Wing Turn

Last week, Amnesty International moved from being a human rights organization to a men’s rights organization.

Delegates from around the world met in Dublin over the weekend at the biennial International Council Meeting to vote on a policy of what they called “decriminalizing sex work.” This terminology is deceitful; what Amnesty International actually voted on was legalizing the purchase and sale of women and girls.

In response to this suggested platform, over four hundred women’s organizations and activists signed their names to an open letter condemning a supposed human rights advocacy organization for their uncritical support of the global trade in women’s bodies. The men at Amnesty International were apparently unconvinced, and went ahead with their endorsement of decriminalization against all evidence and common sense.

The debate around Amnesty’s capitulation to pimps and johns has forced the Left to confront prostitution once again. The results, as expected, have been largely pathetic. It speaks to the dismal condition of radical politics today when the concepts of “freedom” and “choice” are used to defend any system of wage labor, let alone one that feeds primarily on the bodies of poor women, women of color, and disabled women.

Anyone with sense rejects the notion that “freedom” or “choice” have anything to do with a coal miner’s decision to work fifteen-hour days in a sludge of industrial waste, or a single mother’s decision to flip burgers and stock shelves. Yet somehow we’re supposed to believe that prostitution is a unique and valuable expression of a woman’s innate desires.

It’s not shocking that many men see penetration by male strangers as the pinnacle of women’s freedom. What’s shocking is the speed at which the wider Leftist movement adopted this misogyny as a party line.

Reasoned, nuanced discussions of prostitution, patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism have been largely replaced on the Left with a bankrupt libertarian individualism. The pinnacle of this intentionally apolitical approach is the oft-repeated mantra, “Listen to sex workers!” which Amnesty International specifically used to deflect any criticism of their pro-pimp agenda.

“Listen to sex workers!” is a bankrupt policy position for too many reasons to count. The first problem, as Helen Lewis pointed out recently in The Guardian, is exactly which “sex workers” we should be listening to. I certainly don’t see pro-legalization liberals heeding the words of women like prostitution survivor and abolitionist advocate Bridget Perrier. “I didn’t choose prostitution,” she told me. “Prostitution chose me — because of childhood sexual abuse, racism, and colonialism.” She rejects the term “sex worker” entirely, saying, “What I did was not work. It was abuse.” Are you listening?

Other exited women — Rachel Moran, Rebecca Mott, and dozens more — rarely receive much more than derision and slander from those who claim “listening to sex workers” as their first priority. Entire organizations like SPACE (Survivors of Prostitution Abuse Calling for Enlightenment) are routinely dismissed despite being comprised completely of formerly prostituted women.

These women are often shouted down because, having escaped the industry, they’re no longer considered to be “authorities” on the sex industry today. But Trisha Baptie, another survivor and abolitionist activist, says that’s ridiculous.

“Prostitution doesn’t just affect prostituted women. It affects communities as a whole,” she said. “Women who are out of it now are the ones who have a whole picture of who it harms — they’re not just thinking about how they’re paying their rent.” Was Frederick Douglass not “an authority” on slavery simply because he escaped his chains?

When I asked her whether or not she would have supported legalizing prostitution while she was in the industry, she laughed. “Oh, without a doubt. Absolutely… Because I was relying on it for me and my kids, I would have said I have a right to do this, and that it was my choice to do it. But it wasn’t until I was able to get out and those pressures were taken off of me that I was able to look at it and see the lack of choice I had. Women who have exited have a different view of the men who are purchasing sex. A bit like battered woman internalize all that shame, and once you’re out of it, you can see more clearly what was happening.”

Even currently prostituted women who oppose the industry are ignored in favor of the more palatable “empowered sex worker.” My friend Chelsea endures daily rapes inside the New Zealand brothels that so many Leftists hold up as a progressive example of the system Amnesty International hopes to institute. “The brothels still work the same way they did when it was illegal,” she told me. “We get the worst of both worlds.”

Laws mandating condom use are barely enforced, and women who refuse to let men ejaculate on or inside them struggle to find clients. Should a man harass, abuse, or assault a woman, management can refuse to give out their names, making prosecution impossible.

Some Leftists may think that regulation will bring prostitution out of the shadows, but Chelsea disagrees. “The laws can’t reach us here,” she said. “If we had the Nordic Model, I’d call the cops on all of them the second I get my money, before they get to rape me. If I called cops under [decriminalization] they would say, Did you accept the money? If say yes, they say, boom, consensual.” Amnesty International apparently didn’t listen to this “sex worker” when they decided to put a legal stamp of approval on her rape.

And what about the millions of women, around the globe and here in the United States, who can’t speak loud enough to even have their words dismissed in the first place? There aren’t many talk shows and newspapers interested in giving space to the traumatized indigenous women being bought and sold by South Dakota oil field workers. The immigrant women I have met who sell sex in double-wide trailers outside Seattle dairy farms are unlikely to be tweeting about “whorephobia.” Yet these women are the ones who are most likely to bear the brunt of men’s violence under the guise of “sex work.”

In practice, “listening to sex workers” most often means uncritically accepting the public statements of a small minority of women in prostitution, most of whom are likely to be white, middle-class, young, and able-bodied. This is an egregious failure of the most basic radical politics. Leftists — the ones who should be most aware of the ways our white supremacist, misogynistic, pro-capitalist media system excludes the weak and marginalized — have settled for a bankrupt method of inquiry that self-selects for privileged voices.

More importantly, even if we could somehow poll every single woman in prostitution for their thoughts on the law, a larger problem remains: There isn’t a single tyrannical system on Earth that would be abolished today through its victim’s popular vote.

Any Leftist in America should know this. After all, capitalism itself is widely supported by those who bear the brunt of its abuse — not because they are stupid, ill-informed, or evil, but because capitalism excels at artificially removing alternatives that might allow life outside of it. We understand this. Our politics are robust enough to explain why oppressed people often work to sustain the system that exploits them. So why do we retreat into rudderless libertarianism when the topic switches from wage labor in general to one specific — and specifically abusive — form?

I live now in Northern California, where there wouldn’t be a redwood left standing if the residents had their way. The rivers would be dammed to oblivion and the salmon runs would be extinguished — not because those living here hate the natural world, but because they exist inside a system that has made destroying that natural world their one stable path to rent money, food, and clothes for their children.

Does that mean any laws to save old-growth forests should be scrapped in favor of the short-term survival of lumberjacks and mill workers, most of whom are living on the hope that more trees come down? If your politics end at “listen to the loggers,” the answer would be yes.

Tax law would have to be eviscerated too, of course. The vast majority of Americans, if asked, would gut infrastructure and defund social programs in a heartbeat — again, not out of heartlessness or greed, but because there are millions of poor people in this country who would rather have an extra twenty dollars weekly than a social safety net years down the line. That’s the hard pragmatism of poverty that capitalism depends on, and it’s a logic that Amnesty International and other supposed Leftists have uncritically transformed into policy.

Even minimum wage laws and age regulations are hardly a settled issue among many Americans. I spent my childhood in northern Idaho, among some of the most crushing poverty in the nation. You became used to seeing kids who couldn’t be more than fifteen spend their afternoons in mechanic shops, teenagers paid under the table to move hay and help with harvesting wheat instead of studying.

These children didn’t sell away their chances at an education lightly. Instead they realized the obvious truth that a high school diploma doesn’t help when your family is one paycheck from eviction at any moment. And if you asked these children and their families what they would prefer, quite a few would tell you that removing laws against hiring underage workers would make their lives safer and easier in the short term. How long until Amnesty International “listens” to them and puts children in steel mills?

I could offer a hundred more examples, but the uncomfortable reality is clear: Legislation that curbs the ruthless advance of violent and abusive market system may very well, in the short term, bring undeniable harm to some very real human beings. I know this for a fact. I’ve seen entire families have their financial lives ruined when environmentalists succeeded in shutting down logging operations. I’ve watched poor mothers and fathers burst into tears upon hearing that a Walmart’s zoning application was denied.

This shouldn’t shock anyone; after all, if workers could survive easily in the short term without capitalism, there would be no capitalism. Regardless, they are still hard truths, stories that we as radicals can’t simply wish away as we so often do. But to let them dictate our strategy at the expense of a cohesive analysis of resource extraction, colonialism, and environmental destruction is an even more cowardly cop-out.

There is a dangerous logic to the idea that oppressive systems must be sustained solely because the oppressed depend on them to survive. It sends a clear message to those in power: Exploit enough people, and we won’t try and stop you. Destroy enough viable alternatives, and your business is safe. By this reasoning, the only industries that can safely be dismantled are the ones that don’t coerce the people they bleed dry. What has happened to our movement that we are less likely to call for a system’s destruction the more exploitative it gets?

This contradictory, flawed approach is fundamentally an ideological failure. Around the issue of prostitution, the Left has made policy out of the most vicious libertarian lie: That long-term positive social change can come about solely through individuals seeking out their own individual needs and desires. The Left’s logic on prostitution isn’t just offensive; it’s indistinguishable from the latest Republican talking points. “Listen to sex workers” is the Invisible Hand of the Market repackaged as radicalism. It bases policy on the coerced decisions of the abused and then makes them shoulder the blame when their individual attempts to survive fail to end oppression.

But people in desperate situations shouldn’t be expected to have their eye on long-term social change while they daily struggle just to survive. Demanding they do so is the arrogance of privilege.

I learned this lesson firsthand years ago, when I discovered that a dear friend of mine was being horribly abused. When she disclosed this to me, I immediately offered her whatever help I could — a place to stay, a car ride to the women’s shelter, help with a restraining order. But the request I got in return was much simpler: Her boyfriend, she said, was more violent when he was under stress, and their bills were piling up. She reasoned that if I could put in a good word for him with my boss, he might be able to get work, and the beatings might become less frequent.

My friend’s request was heartbreaking, but it wasn’t stupid. Domestic abuse does, in fact, correlate with financial stress, and in the short term a new job for her abuser might have saved her life. She was a woman in a desperate situation, who decided to pursue the temporary solution that was most likely to keep her afloat. That was her right, and there was nothing weak or short-sighted about it. But how many of us would argue that domestic violence shelters should then “listen to abused women” and apply their resources to landing jobs for wife batterers, or mandatory vacation days for rapists?

Inside a system that artificially restricts opportunity for women, people of color, and other oppressed groups, oftentimes the struggle for survival will take place on the terms of the oppressor: A few more hours working for a multinational corporation, a bundle of socks sewn by children in the Third World for twenty cents cheaper, one last trick before the end of the night.

From its inception, capitalism has banked on these Faustian bargains, leveraging desperation into increased engagement with the system. The task of radicals is to break that cycle through an open confrontation with power. Instead, Amnesty International and the modern American Left have lazily rebranded that coercion as freedom, hoping that free condoms and clean needles will be enough to end the centuries-long legacy of colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism that makes the sex industry what it is. For a movement supposedly devoted to the liberation of the oppressed, this is a tragic failure.

Adon Apamea: Dubai and the Fantasies of Civilization

Adon Apamea: Dubai and the Fantasies of Civilization

By Adon Apamea / Deep Green Resistance Middle East & North Africa

Dubai is an interesting city. A thriving futuristic metropolis in the heart of the desert considered to be the crown jewel of modernity with indoor ski resorts, gulf courses, fully computerized metros, giant air-conditioned shopping malls, and the tallest skyscrapers in the world.

Built upon the oil money and over the desert’s sands starting from 1970s, Dubai is rootless more than any other city in the world. With a few thousand original natives, Dubai attracts millions of people today from around the world who come to live and work, or to just take a look at the legendary city.

The dispossessed, like yours truly, come to Dubai for work when all other possibilities are blocked. Some of the latter enter the city with the dream of doing big money. Some come out of desperation while the rest are forced into cheap labor or sold as slaves for the sex industry.

The possessed – those who have loads of money and are possessed with making more money and power, also come to Dubai. Most of them come to squeeze the life out of the first group for profit while some just want to show off their fortune or discover what the fuss is about.

The dispossessed sit on the bottom while the possessed sit on top. The hierarchy looks something like this: native Emirati men – specifically those possessing money, power and oil – sit on top, white western men sit right next or beneath them managing the growth of one of the fastest cities in the world.  Some brown men, mainly from Pakistan and India, sit in the third row, and more whitish people and some Arabs sit somewhere in the fourth row making the middle management and landlords of the city. East Asians sit on the fifth row doing all the blue collar jobs, answering phone calls, making deliveries, and fixing air conditioners. And last a majority of Pakistanis, Indians, Bengalis and Sirilankans sit in the last row, building the city in the scorching heat, cleaning houses, and opening doors. In the shadows, an unknown number of women, from all nationalities of the third world are sex slaves, without passports or means to escape their slavery.

In any work, being a white westerner ensures you get a salary four or five folds the one that any person of a brown nationality would get for exactly the same job. An IT engineer of Indian nationality might get a salary of 1500 USD. A British would get 6000 USD for the same job in the same company, just for being white. This is how the system works. Everyone knows it; brown people make jokes about it. White people rarely laugh. In Dubai you discover that racial hierarchy isn’t a theory in a book.

The dispossessed, however, largely share an illusion absent amongst the possessed, that they can join the upper class if they work hard enough. The banks are especially fond of fostering this hope: it just takes a few weeks of living in Dubai to become eligible for a fat bank loan. Agents will knock on your door, call your phone, and come to your office trying to sell you easy loans and premium credit cards. You can wake up a poor man in the morning, and in the afternoon walk from the doors of a bank with a small fortune.

And thus the mighty machine continues its march onward, greased by the sweat and blood of poor people… and by their dreams as well.

Being in the desert, everything in Dubai is imported and packaged in neat plastic or metal containers: water, food, cars, buildings, furniture, and people. The world’s most exotic fruits and foods are available at any supermarket year round, but everything tastes the same. High-tech electronics and the most sophisticated cars in the world are all here too. Even portable ACs, in case you wanted to sit on the balcony in the summer’s desert and you disagree with the temperature. One building in Dubai for example, Burj Khalifa, spends the equivalent of 29.000.000 lb (13.000 tons) of melting ice in one day on cooling. Dubai has 80.000 multistory buildings.

You don’t even have to go to the grocery store or any place else to buy your stuff; the bottom strata of the dispossessed class will cycle in the scorching heat to deliver anything you need to your front door so you don’t move your ass one inch from the sofa. The dispossessed then get a killing tan and skin diseases. The possessed get fat. Doctors and personal fitness trainers make more money.

People who spend a long time here speak of Dubai as a city designed to take back everything it gives to a person. If you don’t have what it takes, the attractions and the marketed lifestyle in the shiny city will invite you to put all the money you made on doing and buying stuff you don’t need before you step your foot again on a plane. Many people leave Dubai in debt.

Dubai is described as the highest expression of civilization, and it really is. It’s a money making machine, and it does a hell of a good job at it. The people who can see the truth, however, would call it for what it is: a monster. A monster devouring the desert, once filled with delicate ecosystems and countless animals and plants. A monster devouring the world, one packaged fruit at a time. A monster devouring its people, one broken spirit at a time.

Dubai though, is not an exception. If you really think about it, Dubai is every city in the world…

Samsung admits that it profits from the exploitation of children in tin mining

Samsung admits that it profits from the exploitation of children in tin mining

By Mongabay

Mobile device giant Samsung has admitted to using tin sourced from a controversial mining operation on the Indonesian island of Bangka, where unregulated mining kills 150 miners a year and causes substantial environmental damage, reports The Guardian and Mongabay-Indonesia.

Samsung’s admission came after a campaign by Friends of the Earth, which led to nearly 16,000 customers contacting the company. In an email sent the customers and the NGO, Samsung said it is investigating the matter.

“While we do not have a direct relationship with tin suppliers from Bangka Island, we do know that some of the tin that we use for manufacturing our products does originate from this area,” Samsung said. “We are also undertaking a thorough investigation of our supply chain in the region to better understand what is happening, and what part we play.”

Bangka and neighboring island Belitung account for about 90 percent of Indonesia’s tin production. Mining on the islands involves more than half the population, but is largely unregulated, leading to a raft of ills. An investigation last year by the Guardian and Friends of the Earth found widespread use of child labor, clearing of forests, and degradation to coral reefs. Accidents kill scores of people each year.

After the investigation, Friends of the Earth called on Samsung and Apple to disclose whether they use tin from Bangka in their smartphones and tablets. To date only Samsung has admitted to sourcing Bangka tin, a point highlighted by Friends of the Earth.

“It’s great Samsung has taken an industry lead by tracking its supply chains all the way to Indonesia’s tin mines and committing to taking responsibility for helping tackle the devastating impact that mining tin for electronics has on people and the environment,” said Craig Bennett of Friends of the Earth in a statement.

“Rival Apple is already playing catch-up on the high street in terms of smartphone sales – it’s time it followed Samsung’s lead by coming clean about its whole supply chains too.”

From Mongabay: “Samsung admits to using tin linked to child labor, deforestation; Apple mum on sourcing