February 2018
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Day February 20, 2018

Editorial: All That Glitters

Among other things, Insurgent Notes is dedicated to the proposition that it’s necessary to look below the surface to understand what’s going on in the world. We hope that many of our articles over time have helped our readers to do just that.

At the moment, we’d like to point out just a few current instances where “All That Glitters is not Gold” appears to be an apt analysis. Two such instances are the subject of articles in our new issue.

The first concerns the Foxxcon miracle in southern Wisconsin announced with much fanfare some months ago. Dave Ranney has two articles on the matter which illuminate the ways in which the miracle is more “con” than anything else. Even in the months since Dave authored his first analysis, every aspect of the deal appears to be worse than was previously thought. This is nothing new for Foxxcon which does its damage all over the world. As Dave notes, it would be quite encouraging if the prospective victims of the “con” in Wisconsin became able to make common cause with actual victims elsewhere.

The second concerns events in Catalonia, Spain. It’s hard to find an American traveler who doesn’t return from Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, with glowing tales of the wonderful city. Unfortunately, much of what is being relied upon to support those favorable impressions is a relentless gentrification which has driven workers out of the city and transformed what was once a vibrant center of working class culture and learning into a Disney-lite spectacle show turned on for tourists. Zhana Kurti has interviewed a Barcelona activist to provide us with a glimpse of events below the spotlights. One of the important insights in the interview concerns the way that apparently blameless tourism drives the further gentrification of the city. “Let the tourist beware!”

While gentrification has been making its way in Barcelona for some time, recent reports from Catalonia have been focused on calls for Catalan independence—calls that are often received in many quarters as exciting and evidence of a renewed militance among the Catalan population. Our correspondent, Teo Maldo, remains quite skeptical and points out the numerous ways in which the independence campaign reflects little more than a maneuver by elite Catalan forces to obtain more power than they currently enjoy under the existing Spanish state and to use that power to enrich themselves. That perhaps requires little explanation. What does require explanation is the apparent willingness of many who should know better to fall for the scam. The author observes that self-deception on the part of all too many workers is common across Europe (the United Kingdom, France, Hungary, Poland) and the United States. Without underestimating the challenge, he argues that the “recomposition of critical social and political cooperation” is indispensable to the development of an “anti-capitalist counter-power.”1

Here at home, in the wake of the much-trumpeted Trump tax cut, employers have been rushing to announce employee bonuses as they share some of the newfound wealth they’ll have due to lower taxes. Often enough, the promised bonuses appeared to be $1,000. It turns out, however, that in many instances, the amount of the bonus is tied to time on the job. At places like Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot, the $1,000 maximum only goes to workers who have been with the company for twenty years or more. As readers can well imagine, such workers at those companies are close to an extinct species.

But that scam is only part of the bigger scam. Keep in mind that bonuses are not raises. If you’re earning $30,000 a year and you get a $1,000 bonus, your gross pay is $31,000. But, for next year, your pay once again becomes $30,000. No bonus next year means a loss in income. But let’s be fair to our corporate neighbors. Let’s imagine that they continue to award $1,000 bonuses year after year on what remains a $30,000 wage. After ten years, the total income would be $310,000. But, if instead, the workers got a $1,000 raise each year for ten years, their total income after ten years would be $355,000. It’s hard to believe that they didn’t think of that before we did. Oh wait! They did.

For more than two decades, employers have been replacing wage increases with bonuses. According to the New York Times, in 1991, bonuses accounted for 3.1 percent of total compensation and salary increases accounted for 5 percent. By 2017, bonus payments amounted to 12.7 percent and wage increases to only 2.9 percent. The only change the tax law made was that it gave companies an opportunity to get some cheap publicity.

And now we turn to the stock market. After all too many months of going higher and higher, the various Wall Street indices went a bit crazy in the couple of weeks before we write—but mostly down and then back up. We’re reluctant to predict what will happen next but we feel obligated to point out that the constant growth in stock market values largely reflects an over-supply of money in banks, insurance companies, unions and various institutional investors (like pension funds) looking for ways to make more of itself with too few opportunities to make it “the old-fashioned way.” With interest rates barely above zero and bond rates (meaning long-term borrowing, especially by the government) not much different, those looking for a good deal had only one place to look—stocks, stocks, stocks. Alas, in spite of itself, the goose was worried about its future in laying golden eggs and those in the know, mostly anonymous algorithms in the houses of grand finance, wielded by those kind of people you see in cable tv ads for technology companies, began selling geese.

To end with a different note, we turn to an instance where there is no possibility of gold or glitter (unless you’re thinking of the little stuff that kids play with on glue). We’re thinking of the nation’s national security and intelligence forces. Since the arrival of the Trump administration, the mainstream news media, with the exception of the drivel-driven Fox News, has been absorbed by the administration’s disrespect for the nation’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It may well be impossible to view an episode of Chris Hayes or Rachel Maddow on msnbc without seeing some drooling defense of those who work to keep our nation free and safe. We have only one word in response: bullshit. The fbi and the cia (and all those other agencies with initials) have been responsible for untold crimes (assassinations, murders, coups, economic sabotage) against people across the world and in this country. For a small sample of those crimes, we suggest that readers consult the report of the Senate’s Church Committee in 1975. That’s what the friends of national security had to say. And here’s the fbi’s own public account of its cointelpro program.

We have no hesitation in insisting, unlike the liberal supporters of “anything but Trump,” that we are no friends of national security and no friends of counter-intelligence against oppositional forces. We believe that view is as good as gold.

  1. The issue also includes three other articles—the first, some critical reflections on the October 1917 Russian Revolution by Loren Goldner; the second, a short report from a correspondent in South East Asia on the situation in that part of the world, and the third, a brief review of the new book by Mitch Abidor on the events of May ’68 in France. Insurgent Notes previously published an article on the topic by Mitch in June 2016.