Protests in Belarus

dear all,

here an article about the current development in belarus, we would like
to share with you, to raise awareness about the situation of our friends
out there.

solidarity abcdd

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https://abcdd.org/en/2017/03/15/dutzende-anarchistinnen-wurden-nach-antiregierungsprotesten-in-minsk-festgenommen/

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Today in three major cities of Belarus – Minsk, Mogilev and Grodno –
people took the streets protesting against government attempts to
collect tax off the unemployed (details of the story HERE
<https://abcdd.org/2017/03/14/groesste-proteste-in-belarus-in-den-letzten-10-jahren/>).
In Minsk, demonstrations managed to gather more that 1 500 people, in
Mogilev and Grodno 1 000 each. These are the biggest protests those
cities have seen in decades. It is worth mentioning that most of the
protesters are far from major political powers in the country and do not
align with any opposition stream, rather prefer to point out the hard
economical conditions and results of 24 years of Lukashenkos rule.

*Around 40 anarchists organized in a separate block participated in the
demonstration* with banners saying “For the people, the main social
parasite are the bureaucrats, politicians and the police” (refering to
the law against social parasites introduced 2015 that is the major
reason for recent protests). To make the demonstration a little bit more
fun, a samba band in black joined the block. Inside of the
demonstration, anarchists were by far the most organized force that took
a lot of attention from the police.

*During the whole demonstration, 20-30 civil cops were constantly
following the anarchist block* and at the end of the demo tried to
arrest some people. Anarchists together with other participants of the
demo managed to unarrest people and get into public transport
<https://vk.com/video-108910672_456239055> – a tactic that was quite
successful in the past months, when anarchists managed to get out
safely. However it was stopped a couple of minutes later by a bus
without license plates and civil cops rushing into the public transport
<https://twitter.com/svabodka/status/842051177760100354>. To get the
people out , the pigs used not only brute force beating up people, but
also pepper sprayed the trolleybus (an action one of the football
hooligans got 10 years in jail for in Belarus just last week). At the
end of the confrontation, *around 30-35 people were detained including
several bystanders*, who were trying to help people resist the police.
By the end of the day, some activists were beaten up so badly that the
cops had to call an ambulance.

Right now, all the arrested are in jail in Minsk police stations
awaiting trial tomorrow. Judging from recent developments, most probably
they will be punished with 15 days in jail.

Furthermore it has been reported that over 9 people from the
demonstration were detained in Mogilev. Their destiny is not clear yet.

Lawyers and food parcels are covered so far by human right activists.
*But you can always support people with solidarity actions next to local
embassies or Lukashenko’s mansions. Apart from that you can share the
news, and make the topic more visible around you. *

By the moment this article is written, over 150 people were detained and
sentenced to fines or some short prison terms for protests in last weeks
in Belarus.

On 03/14/2017 02:33 PM, miharu wrote:

dear people,

here are a public overview about the recent development in Belarus we
would like to share and also raise awareness, as the situation might get
more tense.

https://abcdd.org/en/2017/03/14/groesste-proteste-in-belarus-in-den-letzten-10-jahren/

----------------------

In Belarus last weeks people took to the streets to fight the law
against social parasitism – law that was signed by dictator Lukashenko
in 2015, but started troubling population only at the beginning of the
2017. Thousands took to the streets in Minsk, Brest, Gomel and many
other smaller cities all around the country, to show their discontent
with the law and the current regime. The protests seems to have little
influence from “official” opposition- instead of that people previously
not involved in the politics are organizing together. In several places
anarchist played quite a big role in the protests. Last week belarusian
government started repressions against those on the streets – up until
now over 48 people were detained and prosecuted for different violations.

Social parasites

Belarusian government started talking about social parasitism somewhere
after 2010 elections. The idea was not new to the region – previously in
soviet union people who were not officially employed were always under
threat of prosecution. This time belarusian government was doing the
same – Lukashenko wanted to punish those who are not working or working
but not paying taxes.

Slowly step by step through several ministries the idea have
crystallized – the law was written and presented to Lukashenko who
eagerly signed it. Inside it was stated that every person who is not
working for more than 6 months in a year have to pay a “tax” to the
state to cover the “social” state – free public health care and
education. The sum to pay for many people was quite big – around 180
euro per year, with an average salary somewhere between 200 to 300 euro
per month depending on the region of the country.

This was done next to already existing humiliating quantity of 15
dollars per months for those officially registered at the unemployment
center – money that you would only get after one day of work assigned by
the unemployment agency.

Of course in 2015 there was already a certain level of discontent, but
it never turned into real protests – the law promised to start working
only in 2017, and a lot of people were expecting that the government
would back off. Instead of that by the end of 2016, beginning of 2017,
people began to receive something that got nicknamed “letters of
happiness” where it was stated that due to their “financial inactivity”
in 2015 they have to pay a tax to the state. And that was the moment
when it stroke a lot of people – by the official state media around 450
000 people are affected by the law (with the working population around 5
000 000 people).

You could avoid paying the tax if you go to the governmental commission
and explain yourself and your bad financial situation. This is one of
the most humiliating procedures that belarusian people facing financial
troubles has to go through.

There is a punishment as well – those who are not capable of paying the
law can be sentenced up to 15 days of forced labor or to pay a fine
together with the tax.

Marches of nonparasites

First march against the law took place on 17 February 2017 in Minsk. It
gathered around 2000 people on a demonstration not allowed by
authorities. After a short symbolic march from the palace of republic
(main square in Minsk) to the parliament the demo was over and the
organizers from the opposition were calling people to go home and come
back in one month, giving time for Lukashenko to cancel the law. One of
the most organized and loudest groups during the demonstration were the
anarchists – and they were the only group that was shortly attacked by
the police after demonstration – one banner was stolen, however people
were unarrested and left home. Huge support for the anarchist came from
usual people that were also resisting the police, escorting participants
of the anarchist block to the safe place.

During next week the demonstrations in Gomel and Brest took place, with
several thousand participants all together. They were the biggest
protests outside Minsk in the whole history of Belarus. In Brest small
group of anarchists took over the demonstration from opposition, that
was trying to organize a meeting with the local mayor. Instead of that
people occupied the streets and went through the city chanting “No to
decree #3, Lukashenko go away” (Decree #3 is the official registration
number of the law). After the success of the march in Brest several
anarchists were arrested at home and sentenced to 5 days in jail. Later
on protests moved to smaller cities all around the country with hundreds
to thousands participating in different places: Orsha, Bobruisk, Kobrin,
Luninec are among those – probably places that you have never heard in
your life. Those small towns haven’t seen any demonstrations over
decades, and now people are protesting against the law together.

Under the pressure of the protesters Lukashenko had to back off – he
officially announced the freezing of the law for 2017, and the return of
the money to those who have already paid the tax, but just if they are
currently working or will find a work in 2017. This didn’t stop
protesters, who are now demanding not only the cancellation of the law
but also the retirement of Lukashenko and his government.

Raisins in the bread rolls

Last week on Monday the belarusian state TV has issued a propagandist
movie where the whole protesting movement is split into two parts –
those who are genuinely affected by the law and deserve compassion, and
mere “provocateurs”. The state TV is pointing these “provocateurs” as
people who are there to create another Maydan in the region and destroy
the country stability. The film explains that among those “provocateurs”
are the anarchists who are considered to be chaotic foot troops of
liberal nationalists. The movie makes clear that the government is not
going to back off under the pressure of the protesters and will repress
those who are not conforming.

Lukashenko made a statement as well last week to address the problem.
Apart from long tirades from the good king about the bad bureaucrats who
understood the law wrongly, he also made a statement saying that there
are “special” elements inside of the protests that have their own agenda
and are not interesting in the prosperity of the belarusians. Those are
again anarchists and opposition activists. Trying to make a metaphor he
called those people raisins in the rolls – obviously Lukashenko doesn’t
like raisins.

First arrests were made even before the movie was done – several people
from Brest were caught after the demonstration by the civil cops that
hunted them all around the town. Later on, arrests of some famous
opposition members also took place. Last days demonstrations in several
towns also ended up with prosecutions again journalists and participants

By now over 48 people were detained and prosecuted for different
violations: starting with violating the law on public gatherings and
ending up with accusation of immoral behavior on the streets. Different
activists got from 5 to 15 days in jail and some of those who were
already sentenced to 5 days were rearrested and prosecuted again for
swearing in public in front of the prison gates – common tactic of
police forces that are rearresting people inside of the prisons without
even letting them out.

Map of people arrested can be found here –
http://www.svaboda.org/a/28365086.html

The next march is planned on Wednesday 15.03. and people are expecting
different scenarios – Lukashenko can freak out completely arresting
everybody showing up, or attacking and arresting people after the
demonstration. At the same time everything can go smoothly and police
will not escalate the conflict. The second is less likely.

Taking into account the recent statement about raisins and anarchist
role in destabilizing the whole situation, we out here expect an
increase of repressions, and more people detained/arrested than it was
in last years.

More Information about repression in Belarus: https://abc-belarus.org

If you feel like supporting anarchists repressed in Belarus you can
always donate money to Anarchist Black Cross via:

paypalbelarus_abc@riseup.net <mailto:belarus_abc@riseup.net>

bitcoin – 1CcxWEswKjXZgXQCds5KcHfemzrAASVbuv

or bank transaction:

name: VpKK e.V.
IBAN: DE 40850205 0000 0361 5700
BIC: BFSWDE33DRE
name of the bank: Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
subject: Donation ABC-B


On 02/27/2017 10:18 AM, Full Name wrote:
On 27.02.2017 10:52, ???? ? ??? ??????????? wrote:
Hi everybody

News are reporting on protesting in Belarus against the new tax on
"non-working" people. What about that? Are any perspectives ion that?
After the protesting do people keep on organizing stuff? And mostly,
what about the politcal power? do they consider taking the tax back?

Hi, just a few theses on that.
- indeed the protest started on February 17 and was called by a
Belarusian National Congress (part of the opposition). The other part of
the the opposition boycotted the day because they wanted to make their
own protest on March 15 (the day of the constitution) and because they
are competing for the electorate.
- a lot of regular people came to protest (around 2-3 thousands in
Minsk, which is a lot for Belarus), nobody expected that. Anarchist came
to support the demo.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1122729071178770/permalink/1210370935747916/
Only plaincloth police were present, they didn't detain anyone, but
tried to catch a few anarchists in the end.
At that demo the politicians called the people to come again on March 25
which is the Day of Freedom (the date of first announcement of
Belarusian republic in 1918) and clearly they want to co-opt the social
protest and channel it into their political march. Note that they didn't
call people to come to March 15 actions organised by other opposion.
- On February 19 in several regional cities the same Congress called for
meetings on the same topic. The most mass attended was in Gomel with 3-4
thousand people. In other cities nobody from the opposition actually
cared to organise anything and people started to self-organise - just
shouting how their life is fucked up. Again, nowhere police interfered,
only later a few politicians from Gomel received papers for
non-sanctioned protest.
- On Feb 26 protest happened again in Vitebsk and 3 more cities. This
time Vitebsk was the most attened - 2-3 thousands, ans again nobody care
to even bring them some loudspeaker. People were deciding themselves
where to go and shouted different things.
- In some cities they want to hold another protest on march 5.
- Meanwhile, the other opposition prepares meeting countrywide on march
15, but it's not clear if they are actually not late for the protest.
- And also, they all expect a lot of people on they celebration of March
25th.

So generally the protests are used for letting the steam off where
people share bad things that the authorities done to them and it's
enough. Many really enjoy this feeling of being a bi potent crowd as
they never felt it before. This is made possible by the lack of
repression. Some people collect signatures against the law, some burn
papers from the lax office, some claim they are 'giving the authorities
2 weeks to change the law, otherwise..." they probably meet again and
collect more signatures. Generally people call not to pay the tax and
ask Lukashenko to go and provide the space for the youth.

The power meanwhile is organising meetings with people explaining them
the law and changing the law a bit to exclude most sensitive social
groups. To have the tax anulled, people in bad situations should come to
a special commission, explain how fucked up their life is and ask for
mercy to a range of officials. People are very ashamed of that, here is
the viral picture of a woman crying in from of the officials
https://scontent-otp1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/16864138_1239393156114138_298980823764561271_n.jpg?oh=629e167144c23f3bdb8844001494603b&oe=593E0FBF

Generally, the feeling is that they will have to call off this tax and
too many people are not ready or even able to pay it.

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Antifascist Demonstration in Moscow

On January 19 2017 a group of activists and supporters of the Russian section of the International Workers’ Association took part in the now traditional march in Moscow in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, human rights lawyer and anarchist journalist respectively, who were murdered by neo-fascists in 2009. About 500 people took part in the demonstration, representing various anti-fascist groups, trade unions, and left-wing and human rights organizations.

 

In their appeal for support for the demonstration, the organizers noted that fascist street violence and terror is only the tip of the anti-social, national-conservative iceberg in contemporary Russia. “Our society today is facing three major problems which will soon become more acute, in fact traumatic. Firstly, the neo-fascists on our streets and public spaces come from those conservative elements which the government depends on for suppressing social protests and oppositionists. Secondly, national conservatism has become the official ideology, legitimizing the application of authoritarianism in internal politics, and militarism in external politics. Yesterday’s street fascists are able to find jobs in the state’s projects. Thirdly, national conservatism provides a cover for the government’s repudiation of social security and social justice, and for its failure to develop education and public health.”

We, the anarcho-syndicalists, take a negative view of the insipid, non-class-based “antifascism” which denies the link between fascism and capitalism and counters fascism with capitalist democracy. But many of the demonstrators were close to our anti-capitalist stance, understanding that fascism is an extreme form of capitalist reaction, and that it doesn’t make sense to fight fascism without at the same time fighting against the state, capitalism, nationalism, national borders, clericalism, the neo-liberal dismantling of social security, and the oppression of women.

The demonstrators marched from Novopushkinsky Square to the house near the Kropotkin metro station where Stas and Nastya were murdered. It was decided to conduct the march without flags, but the participants carried banners and placards, and also chanted slogans against fascism, capitalism, the state, and nationalism. It was encouraging to note the virtual absence of the slogans of “opposition” politicians, who are unhappy only with the fact that they are not feeding at the trough of power and so are unable to enjoy the fruits of plundering working people which are currently enjoyed by their ruling competitors.

Unfortunately, the demonstration was marred by two episodes, The first was the arrest, under various pretexts, of six participants. The second was a shameful announcement made through a megaphone by one of the speakers during the march, thanking the police for protecting the marchers from fascist attacks and provocation. Of course such grovelling was in marked contrast to the chant: “Fascists kill, the state conceals.”

Thanks to the KRAS-AIT website (www.aitrus.info) for this information.

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London: Picket of Turkish Embassy Friday January 13th

12-2pm 43 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8NT:
Organised by London Anarchist Federation. Feel free to add your group to sponsor:
Solidarity with Hüseyin Civan
The wave of repression unleashed by the Erdogan regime in Turkey has resulted in thousands losing their jobs and thousands imprisoned. Recently Hüseyin Civan, managing editor of Meydan, a paper that represented the views of the DAF (Devrimci Anarsist Faaliyet / Anarchist Revolutionary Action), received a prison sentence of one year and three months.
This was the result of the action of the chief public prosecutor who pursued Meydan over articles published in issue 30, December 2015. The charge against our comrade was “making propaganda for the methods of a terrorist organization constituting coercion, violence or threats through legitimizing or praising or encouraging the use of these methods”.
Meydan was closed down after Erdogan began a campaign of repression after the recent failed coup. The imprisonment of Civan is another heavy blow against the anarchist movement operating within Turkey.
Advocating a system based on mutual aid and equality, defending workers’ struggles, arguing for gender equality and the freedom of the individual , against nationalism and fascism are seen as terrorist crimes by the Erdogan regime.
Representing Meydan and Civan, lawyer Davut Erkan stated that the decision was illegal and would be appealed, if necessary, all the way to the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
The Anarchist Federation sends a message of solidarity to Hüseyin Civan, Meydan and the DAF.
Follow Meydan at :
http://meydangazetesi.org
@MeydanGazetesi
Messages of solidarity can be sent to:
https://www.facebook.com/meydangazetesi/
See also: https://www.reddit.com/…/prison_sentence_to_managing_edito…/

Facebook Event Page
:https://www.facebook.com/pg/London-Anarchist-Federation-1400446043611574/events/?ref=page_internal

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Merry Christmas?

$1 of Every $2 Spent Online Goes to Amazon. Can We Break the Company’s Stranglehold?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 By Mario Vasquez, Truthout | Report

Amazon Books, for now the online retailer's sole physical bookstore, at the University Village mall in Seattle, March 9, 2016. (Photo: Michael Hanson / The New York Times) Amazon Books, for now the online retailer’s sole physical bookstore, at the University Village mall in Seattle, March 9, 2016. (Photo: Michael Hanson / The New York Times)

Stories like this will always remain free to read at Truthout. But if you can spare a small donation, please click here to ensure independent media has a future!

Amazon.com is ubiquitous: It seems to reach into all the corners of our lives, selling everything from toiletries to furniture. Yet, beyond the “A to Z” selections offered on Amazon exists the reality that workers, consumers and their communities are suffering from the retailer’s stranglehold on the American economy, researchers at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) say in a study released in late November. Not only does Amazon possess an increasingly dominant share of the retail market — with one of every two dollars spent online going to the company — but it is increasingly expanding into other low-road money-making schemes, at the expense of public coffers. Amazon’s grip on the US economy should be worrisome for anyone seeking an egalitarian and fair society.

“A to Z”? The M Is for Monopoly

As ILSR puts it, when considering Amazon, imagine “if Walmart owned most of our malls and Main Streets, decided the terms by which its rivals could rent these spaces, and oversaw every sale they made.” Although Walmart has long been the archetype for a corporation that drags down communities with poverty-waged big-box store jobs and exploitative labor practices up and down its supply chain, it has nothing on Amazon’s gatekeeper status. Upon inspection, Amazon’s business practices, obfuscated behind the gleam of a seamless, consumer-friendly online interface, reveal that the company is what ILSR describes as a “monopoly hiding in plain sight.”

First, Amazon uses its position as the owner of its massive retail marketplace to its advantage when it comes to marketplace participants. For third-party sellers on the site’s marketplace, Amazon ends up taking a portion of each sale: somewhere between 15 and 50 percent. If the sellers do not agree to these terms, and forgo a place on the company’s platform, then there exists the risk that their products won’t be seen by the one-half of online shoppers who start their shopping directly at Amazon instead of via search engines. Amazon is currently the top toy retailer, and by end of next year, it will be the leading retailer of clothing and consumer electronic goods. This will come on top of the company’s dominance in book retail (where much of publicized Amazon’s strong-arming against smaller competitors occurs). Within the book industry, Amazon owns 65 percent of the market share. This is as much as Standard Oil owned of the oil industry back in 1911, when it was broken up for acting as a monopoly.

Any success that third-party sellers do have usually leads to Amazon creating its own knockoff product, decreasing sales of the original product when Amazon’s copy is boosted to the top of the results page. This practice is underlined by Amazon’s ability to track customer shopping habits, boosting its chances of manufacturing a particularly successful product. The cumulative effect, ILSR believes, is limited choice and the stifling of competition from smaller, independent online retailers and suppliers. It is Amazon’s control of several parts of the supply chain, as both a manufacturer and retailer — what is called vertical integration — and the power that comes with it that gives the company an exceptional edge.

Anyone hoping for a Standard Oil-like split up for Amazon, as ILSR recommends, would have to acknowledge that the political will to act on antitrust violators has shrunk since the 1970s and 80s, transitioning more toward the mindset that as long as consumers are getting low prices, everything is fine. Amazon’s powerful position as a dual manufacturer and retailer would have been viewed as an antitrust violation before the ideological shift on breaking up monopolies began, but as law scholar Linda Khan tells Truthout, “Current law has a very dim view of what constitutes as ‘anticompetitive’ in vertical arrangements.”

The Public Cost of an “Everything” Store

Beyond Amazon’s predatory tactics lies the public damage the company causes with its dominance. When accounting for the fact that retail shopping is rapidly shifting online, ILSR estimates that Amazon has “displaced enough sales at brick-and-mortar stores to force the elimination of about 295,000 retail jobs,” while only creating roughly half as many jobs in its warehousing and distribution operations. In almost half of the country, Amazon generates billions of dollars in sales within each state without employing a single person. The loss of retail jobs in physical locations means store closures and subsequent vacancies, and as ILSR finds, because on-the-ground shopping is one form of social interaction in the community, the hyper-reliance on Amazon leads to a reduction in social bonds and communal vibrancy.

The fiscal losses to public coffers at the expense of Amazon’s private gain could be just as damaging. The shift toward online shopping — half of it conducted on Amazon — means that communities and states lose the property taxes that would have been brought in through brick-and-mortar stores. Furthermore, as the progressive advocacy group Good Jobs First notes in a study released this week, politicians are encouraging Amazon’s behavior via public subsidies. Since 2005, Amazon has received approximately $900 million worth of subsidies to construct and operate its facilities, with $241 million awarded since the start of 2015. These efforts grease the track for a corporation that has to build these facilities, regardless of any potential subsidies. The researchers at Good Jobs First conclude: “Public officials must recognize their communities’ value. They need to recognize that the prize on the bargaining table isn’t an Amazon facility: it’s more access to the local market for another aggressive retailer growing at the expense of existing retailers.”

The Squeeze on Labor

The people inside Amazon’s oft-publically-subsidized warehouse and distribution facilities, who keep its infrastructure functioning, are also victims of Amazon’s might. You’d never know it from the outside: One job posting for its order fulfillment centers reads, “Our fulfillment centers are where Amazon orders come to life, where we focus on delighting our customers by delivering smiling boxes filled with everything under the sun.” But the experiences of workers detailed in ILSR’s study shed light on grim conditions. A harsh quota system must be met at a breakneck pace. An International Business Times report describes the company’s manipulative motivation technique: “Amazon’s productivity numbers are apparently purposely designed to be unattainable for most workers so that employees feel that they are falling down on the job and push harder to hit the impracticable levels. This strategy [is] known as management by stress.” With wages lower than at comparable facilities (9 percent to 22 percent less, according to ILSR estimates), the quota system creates high turnover. This makes for a tougher terrain to utilize a key tool that might significantly alter the way the company operates — unionization.

The massive volume of packages that go in and out of Amazon facilities also gives the company leverage to affect the work at carriers who deliver Amazon orders. The start of the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) partnership with Amazon in 2013 opened the doors for Sunday package delivery, leading to a new “underclass” of postal employees often working more than seven consecutive days, and dragging down standards for the entire workforce. Meanwhile, Amazon has sought to reduce its dependence on the union-backed workers at United Parcel Service (UPS). ILSR notes that in an effort to reduce its shipping costs, Amazon has steadily decreased its use of UPS and FedEx in the past few years, switching instead to regional couriers that utilize independent contractors “who are in many cases treated like employees but denied the benefits and security of the employer-employee relationship.” The proliferation of such potentially unjust contract work lowers the standards throughout the delivery industry and provides an out for management to extract concessions from unionized shops at USPS and UPS.

ILSR codirector and study author, Stacy Mitchell, tells Truthout, “Delivery drivers at companies like UPS and the postal service, as well as freight pilots, typically earn solid middle-income wages and have reasonable workloads. But Amazon’s intention is to impose the same arduous and dehumanizing conditions and workloads on the people in its delivery system as it does in its warehouses.”

The independent contract situation within the courier industry will grow further entangled with Amazon in the near future. As a part of a strategy that company insiders call “Consume the City,” Amazon is seeking to flesh out its own shipping and delivery infrastructure — described in one report as an “e-commerce Walmart with a FedEx attached.” Amazon is supplementing its own Uber-like delivery service called Amazon Flex, which is already operating in 30 cities across the US. Like other “gig economy” companies, Amazon touts that its platform enables the flexibility of supplemental income. But given Amazon’s proven record of dragging down job standards and killing retail jobs, the question of whether the company has an obligation to make Flex participants actual employees is a real one.

The Fight Back

Amazon’s move toward controlling more of its package delivery logistics has also led it toward investing in cargo airlines, what it calls Prime Air. Earlier this year, Amazon announced plans to lease as many as 40 planes from two carriers, Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) and Atlas Air, with the option to purchase 20 percent and 30 percent stakes of each respective company in the next few years. Here, Amazon is running into its first pockets of real resistance, and it is turning into a battle to set the standards of labor at Amazon’s air investments.

On November 22, 250 pilots at ATSG’s Amazon-servicing subsidiary, ABX Air, went on strike to protest the lack of compensatory time off granted after the pilots were forced to work extra hours to make up for the understaffing at the airline. The pilots, members of Teamsters Local 1224, were forced back to work the next day after an injunction was ordered by Judge Timothy Black of the US Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Judge Black remarked, “Absent an injunction, ABX, its customers, and the public will suffer immediate, irreparable harm. Imagine Christmas without Amazon!”

Over at Atlas Air, home of the first Boeing 747 jet flying Prime Air branding, 1,700 pilots are considering their own strike. The same understaffing issues, as well as low pay and benefits, are at the center of the conflict. The pilots, also members of Teamsters Local 1224, picketed at Amazon headquarters on December 7 with signs reading, “Santa won’t deliver on time without us.” They hope that Amazon will push Atlas to come to the negotiating table in good faith. “You reach a point where no matter what you offer, pilots don’t want to work there because it’s their livelihood. You spend a lot of time in these jobs here and you want to work in a place that is rewarding,” says the head of Atlas’ union pilots, Robert Kirchner.

Considering Amazon’s treatment of workers across the supply chain, as described in ILSR’s findings, it should perhaps be no surprise that Amazon chose these specifically low-road cargo airlines as its bases for Prime Air. However, the Teamsters Local 1224 chose to fight back, and their fight could provide a model of resistance for other workers under the thumb of Amazon.  “If the time comes, if the situation happens, there will be no hesitation about going on strike at all,” says Kirchner.

The labor fight could also stimulate policy makers to wake up to the stranglehold that Amazon has on society at large. Could the stranglehold not be more evident than when a federal judge used “Imagine Christmas without Amazon!” as his logic for squashing a strike?

ILSR recommends strengthening labor law to allow greater room for successful unionization and bargaining, saying that tougher enforcement on misclassified independent contractors is key to loosening Amazon’s drag on the economy. Additionally, antitrust laws must be expanded and brought back from the “dim view” that Khan describes to break up Amazon’s anti-competitive measures as a retailer and manufacturer.

“Without a strong and thoughtful public policy response to Amazon’s growing monopoly power, and the high costs it’s imposing on competition, small businesses, workers and consumers, many of the benefits of the digital revolution will not be realized,” ILSR concludes.

Mario Vasquez

Mario Vasquez is a writer from southern California interested in labor and grassroots progressive movements. His work has been previously featured at In These Times and Salon.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/38807-1-of-every-2-spent-online-goes-to-amazon-can-we-break-the-company-s-stranglehold

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The American Version of Democracy: Some Facts and Figures, and a Bit of Commentary to Go With It

[An very good piece from a very good issue of Insurgent Notes-a.]

1. A majority of voters disliked both candidates. Six of ten thought both were dishonest. Clinton won the popular vote. She received at least 500,000 more votes than Trump, and by the time all the votes from California are calculated she may have as many as 2 million more. To put this into perspective, John F. Kennedy won the 1960 election by just 112,827 votes. Barack Obama won his first election by 10 million votes. Although people obviously know about the Electoral College this is all still pretty notable and for many startling. This is only the fifth time in the 240-year history of the United States as a country that a president won an election without winning the popular vote. Two of those instances came in the last 20 years. The first three times it happened it caused major political crises. In 1876 the crisis was protracted and resulted in the end of Reconstruction in the post–Civil War south with old elements of the defeated slavocracy returning to power. The potential difference between the popular vote and the votes of the winner in this election is unprecedented, yet this is not considered particularly newsworthy by any major publication or media outlet let alone the Democratic Party and its candidates. At most it gets passing mention.

2. Although George W. Bush’s 2000 victory was widely seen as illegitimate since he lost the popular vote by around 550,000, Trump’s victory was quickly announced and congratulated across the board. Newspapers, television stations, Clinton, Obama and even Bernie Sanders fell all over themselves to congratulate Trump for his victory and promise to support and work with him. This despite months of every newspaper, every Democratic politician, major figures in the military and government bureaucracy, and even huge sections of the Republican Party establishment claiming that Trump was unfit for the presidency and would ruin the United States of America. This despite Trump stating time and time again that voting was being rigged, and that he may not accept the outcome of the election. If things would have gone the other way with Clinton winning the election despite Trump winning the popular vote we could expect a major uproar to say the least.

3. Trump won less popular votes than Mitt Romney secured in the 2012 election against Obama. In other words, Trump won an election with less votes than the loser in the last election was able to score. Trump secured the lowest total number of popular votes of any candidate since George W. Bush in 2000, hardly a ringing endorsement or mass mandate.

4. Voter turnout fell drastically in this election. The number of people eligible to vote has increased by millions since Obama was first elected in 2008, yet the total number of people who cast ballots this time around was down by around 10 million. Nearly 100 million of the 218.9 million eligible voters selected neither Clinton nor Trump by voting third party or staying home. With all said and done, Trump will have won the presidency with the votes of only 19 percent of the total population of the United States.

5. Clinton won 2 million fewer votes from women than Obama won in the 2012 election. The push to elect the first female president on the basis of her being a woman and basically nothing else did not motivate women to vote. Nearly half of women eligible to vote decided to stay home instead. Clinton won 3 million fewer votes from black people than Obama won in the 2012 election. She won a nearly identical number of Latino votes as Obama won in that same election even though the number of eligible Latino voters has risen since that time.

6. Trump won the votes of about 27 million white men. In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney won the votes of about 27 million white men. Trump gained at most 1 percent on Romney’s share of votes from white people. Trump won a higher percentage of votes from every other “racial group” in the United States than Mitt Romney did in the 2012 election. Trump won 7 percent more blacks than Romney. He also won 11 percent more Asians and 8 percent more Latinos.

7. In exit polls, more than half of voters said that the main issue for them was “the economy.” Neither race nor gender was given as a reply in enough numbers to be statistically significant. Many voters went out of their way to say it wasn’t. Seven of ten voters said undocumented immigrants should be allowed to apply for legal residency. More voters opposed building a wall on the border with Mexico than favored it.

8. “Due largely to the dramatic movement among whites with no college degree, the gap between college and non-college whites is wider in 2016 than in any past election dating to 1980.” The biggest swings, in terms of income, came from people who make $30,000 a year or less. Trump won 10 percent more of these voters overall than Mitt Romney did last time around. In historically industrial states where hundreds of thousands of jobs have been done away with in recent years the shift was even more dramatic among people making $30,000 a year or less. Trump gained 19 percent from this income bracket in Indiana, 18 percent from this income bracket in Pennsylvania and 17 percent from this income bracket in Wisconsin. These three states helped to cement his win. Trump also gained big in the $30,000–50,000 a year income bracket nationwide, which it would be fair to imagine would contain a lot more workers than shopkeepers, managers and big wigs. Conversely, Clinton made gains among voters making over $50,000 a year. Her most pronounced swings came from voters earning more than $250,000 a year. She gained 11 percent among that affluent income bracket. She mainly promised more of the same “recovery” overseen by Obama, which saw one of the biggest shifts of wealth from the lower to upper classes in US history, the elimination of tens of thousands of jobs, the destruction of pensions of retired workers and the compulsory purchase of overpriced health insurance, and came complete with the vast expansion of the electronic big-brother spy state, drone strikes and assassinations of citizens, and murderous military interventions in foreign lands. There is also the underreported issue of the announcement made just prior to the election that insurance premiums would rise an average of 25 percent across the United States. Pennsylvania was said to be on track for an increase of over 32 percent. This is the legacy Clinton, already hated and despised as a soulless and corrupt apparatchik beholden to Wall Street and the security state apparatus, proclaimed her eagerness to continue.

9. “Whites” between the ages of 24 and 59 have the highest death rates caused by suicide, drugs and alcohol of any “racial group” in America. Some groups of such as middle-aged, low-income white people, have seen death rate surges of up to 25 percent in a handful of years. This has never been seen in a developed country (let alone the richest country in the world) and is comparable to the results of the collapse of the USSR and “Eastern Bloc.”

10. Obviously, other “racial groups,” or more precisely the workers who have been categorized into various racial groupings, have also been hit hard by the financial collapse of 2008 and subsequent devastation. Contrary to the popular narrative, Trump was the only candidate to really address this. He said: “We’re going to rebuild our inner cities because our African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before.” The White House denied the decline of conditions for black people, saying black people were “better off” under Obama despite all indications to the contrary. Clinton, put forward as a candidate of minorities, but who in the 1990s demonized black men as “superpredators” and helped consigned untold numbers to prison, agreed.

11. With the exception of Bernie Sanders, Trump was the first candidate to go to the industrial heartlands where hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost and specifically say: “We will rebuild the factories” since the collapses and liquidations of 1970s and ’80s. This should not be underestimated in places where whole cities have been destroyed after plant closures, with the people left in them to rot away and die. During the primaries, as the coal industry plummeted, mines scaled down or closed, and courts allowed mine operators to cancel retired miner’s pensions, Clinton said “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right” before making some vague promises about “clean energy” coming in to save them at some point in the future. In actual practice, she planned to continue Obama-era laws that would lower states to consume less coal and shift to things like natural gas. The short-lived natural-gas boom has driven down the price of coal and has combined with shifts in investment and a decline in Chinese consumption to decimate the coal industry which in many places is practically the only industry that exists.

With few exceptions, local politicians, especially of the Democratic variety, have consigned the coal industry to disappearance. When a mine closed in the heart of southwestern Pennsylvania’s coal country last year, the Democratic county commissioner gathered them all together and said: “A lot of you aren’t going to get back to the mines. That’s just the way it’s going to happen.” Coal miners with years underground were told to “be realistic” and “come back to the real world,” which meant retraining for jobs in fields like healthcare that pay less than half of what they made in the mines. Trump, on the other hand, promised to “bring coal back!” When companies announced that they were shutting down plants in the United States and moving them to Mexico, Trump immediately and publicly condemned them by name and blamed it on trade policies of both major parties. He said he would hit the companies with huge tariffs on any products they tried to import back into the United States for sale, and make them beg to reopen their factories. Sanders was able to ride this kind of rhetoric to primary victories over Clinton in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. Trump rode it all the way to the White House. Previous candidates made vague promises about “job retraining” or other benefits and help as they have done for decades. They rarely talked about “the working class” and they never talked about bringing back factory jobs. Obama traveled to Pittsburgh at least twice to praise a supposed “technological boom” going on there without mentioning that it employs none of the thousands of former mill and mine workers who were forced to migrate for work, take on low-paying service industry jobs or go out on disability even though they’re physically fine. In between giving private speeches to Wall Street executives, Clinton went no further than giving the occasional talk about inequality (while wearing a $12,495 designer jacket). Of course factory jobs are not coming back. We know that. A lot of workers probably do too, but they’re desperate. Trump made empty promises as all politicians do. Things will never be the same. Even where some industrial production has trickled back into the United States it has brought little in terms of actual jobs thanks to technology (or the organic composition of capital for you Marx readers). Manufacturing jobs only grew by about 86,000 between 2011 and 2016 while manufacturing output grew by more than 20 percent over the same period. This is what Wall Street and the workings of capitalism demand. Look at the US-based Duraflame company for an example. They manufacture 36 million fire logs every year, accounting for almost half of the total market. How many people do they actually employ? A whopping 201. This doesn’t even get into the matter of wages. Wages for manufacturing workers, when they can still find work, have fallen year after year after year. And communists don’t even want things to be the same with whole towns and generations slaving away in filthy dangerous factories. This is not the point. The point is that Trump actually dared to talk to these people and addressed their conditions which in itself is totally new and would help explain his victory, driven as it was by gains among low income people in states with totally ruined industrial sectors like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. These are, or should be, some of the people communists look to the most, as opposed to the soft left-lite which had all but disappeared the working class before this election in favor of focus groups of ideology-driven students pushing for “safe spaces” on college campuses so they could live in their isolated suburban islands without danger of being potentially offended. None other than AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka (who is the biggest union leader in America for those unaware) raced to the front of the line to congratulate Trump on his victory and pledge to work together with the new commander in chief. Trumka proclaimed “The President-elect made promises in this campaign—on trade, on restoring manufacturing, on reviving our communities. We will work to make many of those promises a reality.” This is the same guy who recently branded Native American anti-pipeline protesters facing down the same private security and police who break union strikes as enemies of workers, saying the protesters “hold union members livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay.” United Auto Workers (UAW) president Dennis Williams crowed about Trump too, saying: “I think his position on trade is right on…. I see somebody who made a lot of commitment to workers about fairness and being part of the American dream, rebuilding the American middle class, creating opportunities.” Williams is now trying to sit down with Trump to help implement an immediate tariff against cars made in Mexico. This is the same sort of UAW leadership that pushed anti-Japanese rhetoric to the max in the 1980s and whipped workers up into a violent frenzy that led directly to violent attacks (and even murder) of totally innocent Asian people in Michigan, but wouldn’t dare lift a finger to reach out to Japanese autoworkers for joint activity or challenge the Big Three bosses as they dismantled factories across America. Union officialdom in the United States has been pushing nationalist poison for years and years. Rather than try to organize immigrants and build working class solidarity across international borders to do battle with the multinational corporations that drive working people into the dirt everywhere, Trumka and his ilk push for “partnerships” with the billionaire bosses and blame job and income declines in America on low paid “foreign workers.” Sound familiar? It should; it was the bedrock of Trump’s appeal to the workers in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. If you think it had no effect, or that it had less effect than hate spewed by marginal racist grouplets like the KKK or individuals like David Duke which haven’t been able to make any real inroads for four decades, even though the facts[1] and the people who voted themselves tell you otherwise[2] (with more than half saying “the economy is the main issue”), then I don’t know what to tell you. When so-called communists find themselves repeating the arguments of the bourgeois opinion-making media mouthpieces and academics scorning the “racist and backward” members of “the white working class” you may think they would want to reconsider their positions, or at least stop pretending to be on our side. Especially when even the “liberal elite” New York Times is able to see the reality, at least once in a while.

http://insurgentnotes.com/2016/11/some-facts-and-figures-and-a-bit-of-commentary-to-go-with-it/

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International Women’s Day

A very interesting history here:

https://apps.cla.umn.edu/directory/items/publication/304528.pdf

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Father Frost against Putin III Fest-Helsinki

Welcome to Father Frost against Putin III Festival in Helsinki

> >From 9th to 10th of January 2016 third Father Frost against
> Putin-festival will be organised in Helsinki. This is the first time
> when festival will last two whole days.
>
> Purpose of the festival is to create connections between Finnish and
> Russian grassroot activists, and it is also a way to spend Russian new
> year holidays.
>
> As in earlier years, various Russian grassroot initiatives will present
> themselves in festival. You should visit festival, if you are interested
> on what has happened in Russian anarchist, feminist and queer movements
> during year 2015.
> All festival events will be open to everyone. The festival is organized
> by Alusta anarchist federation (Helsinki local group A-ryhmä) and
> Anarchist Black Cross of Helsinki.
>
> The festival organizers promise free meals to every visitor from abroad
> during the two festival days. Vegan foodwill be provided so it is
> suitable for as many people as possible.
> For additional information, contact dedmoroz@riseup.net.
> Festival begins 11 AM on Saturday 9th of January.
>
> Excerpts from program, full program will be published later:
>
> Maria Godovannaya “Motherhood and Art Practice: the gender balance of roles”
>
> Motherhood completely reverses time and space of artists-mothers
> transforming theirart-making strategies and techniques. After a
> childbirth a female-artist immerses herself into maternal practices
> displacing her artistic activities for a while. But for “thetrue female
> artist” art returns to her life and artistic practices start to co-exist
> with maternal practices, although in modified forms. The main questions
> of my research: how the balance of gender roles is achieved by Russian
> artists-mothers? what kind of combined practices they use? what happens
> with professional careers of female artists when they become mothers?
> how time and space of their art-making transforms under “pressure” of
> motherhood? do they reflect their maternal experiences in art?
>
>
> «The Displaced»: a performance by Masha Godovannaya and Polina Zaskavskaya
>
> Post-feminist program is often excluded from the public space, silenced
> and appropriated by discourse fo the power. «The Displaced» is using
> voice-performative gesture to occupy space, to move the interpretative
> framework, taking observer to a post-feminist context where questions of
> authority, economic and social hierarchies, alienated work, art
> production, inter-personal relations and collective experiences are
> being formulated…
>
> Lyonya Gegen: Neo-nazis and nationalists of Sankt-Peterburg
>
> Once mighty far-right of Sankt-Petersburg is currently completely
> disorganised. Year 2015 was the first time, when it failed to organise
> main annual nationalist event, “Russian march” which once gathered
> hundreds of participators. This presentation looks back to development
> of the far-right in Sankt-Petersburg during this millenium, and how it
> eventually collapsed.
>
> 10 PM — 4 AM, a concert in Kupoli (Mannerheimintie 5 b 7th floor)
>
> With singer-songwriter Stas Pochobut from Belarus and other performers.
> On sunday 10th of January, program begins 12 PM and ends 9 PM. Details
> will be announced later.
>
>
> Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/801406223321950/
> VK: https://vk.com/event108150936

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