Thoughts from China: Socialism, a Work in Progress

by Brad Janzen

Editor’s note: The author is teaching English in China.

BEIJING – I arrived in Beijing on June 25.  My first time in Asia. My first time outside of the Western hemisphere. Though I had studied some Chinese, I was a bit overwhelmed at the communication barrier as I walked into a restaurant to order my first meal here.  The menu was all in Chinese, with no pictures, and no pinyin. (Pinyin is the transcription of Chinese to the Latin alphabet, with accent marks denoting the tones).  Nevertheless, after being here for two and a half months, my Chinese is slowly improving.

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My initial impressions of Beijing and China were, and still are, complex. China has surpassed Japan and Germany to become the second largest economy in the world, and China’s GDP will likely pass that of the U.S. in a few years. China’s economy is a mixed economy, with the state controlling much of what Lenin called the “commanding heights” of the economy, but with a large capitalist sector, and with an enormous number of small businesses. While the state permits capitalist enterprises, including foreign companies, to operate here, the state retains the ownership of the land, and essentially is granting the company the privilege of using the land in the interest of development. Continue reading

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Poll: Arizonans Oppose Right-Wing Agenda

special to peoplesworld.org

PHOENIX – A new statewide poll released today shows Arizonans, including self-identified Republicans, overwhelmingly oppose the extreme legislative agenda being pushed by lawmakers at the Statehouse, particularly measures attacking teachers, nurses and other public service workers who keep our communities safe and strong.

The poll showed Arizonans overwhelmingly want legislators to focus on creating jobs and improving education.  The poll – which had a majority of respondents self-identifying as Republicans – also found that only 29 percent of Arizonans approve of the job legislators are doing for them, a finding that shows voters see their lawmakers as extreme and out of touch.

“This poll confirms what we already knew: Arizonans are tired of partisan political games that only benefit special interests like the Goldwater Institute and Arizona’s 1 percent,” said John Loredo, who is working with the Arizona Working Families Coalition and is the former Arizona House Minority Leader.  “Legislators can either focus on job creation and improving education or face the wrath of voters in November by continuing to push these unpopular, overreaching policies that hurt working families and our communities.”

The release of the poll comes a day after Arizonans delivered over 20,000 petitions, postcards and letters to Senators opposing a bill that destroys personnel protections and institutes political cronyism, and other measures that do nothing to create jobs and only put families and communities at risk.  Though the poll shows job creation is the number one priority for Arizonans, reports from earlier this month show that the Senate Economic Development and Jobs Creation Committee had only met once since January and heard only three bills.

“Since the beginning of the year, extreme lawmakers have ignored the issues Arizonans elected them to work on and, instead, pushed an all-out assault on Arizona working families,” said Mike Covert, an elementary school special education teacher with the Cave Creek Unified School District for the past seven years, and a registered independent voter. “With tens of thousands of Arizonans looking for work, it is disheartening to see some legislators focused on bills that create no jobs but open the door to cronyism in government and hurt teachers, nurses and others who provide vital services to our communities.”

Lake Research Partners conducted the statewide telephone survey among a representative cross section of 400 registered Arizona voters on March 26-28, 2012. The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

Here are some of the findings from the poll:

  • 76 percent of respondents said they support the current personnel law that says there must be a reason to fire public employees like teachers, police and firefighters.
  • 87 percent felt that police and firefighters should have a say in their own training and job procedures, which is part of the current personnel laws, while only 8 percent said politicians said have the final say on these procedures, a change that would come if the current personnel bill is passed.
  • An overwhelming majority of Arizonans – 73 percent – also oppose a law, currently before the legislature, to prohibit public employees from setting up their paychecks to automatically contribute money to a third party.
  • On legislative priorities Arizonans would like to see lawmakers work on, 40 percent ranked job creation their number one concern followed by improving education at 36 percent. Only 9 percent said legislators’ priority should be to change the current hiring and firing process for public employees.
  • Only 29 percent of respondents gave state legislators a positive approval rating. 35 percent rating their work as “just fair” and 34 percent said lawmakers were doing a “poor” job. This mirrors an earlier poll conducted in January by Behavior Research of Arizona that found only 26 percent of Arizonans with a positive approval of legislators but shows an increase in disapproval.
  • Gov. Brewer fared better but a majority of Arizonans polled – 52 percent – gave her a “just fair” or “poor” rating.
  • 50 percent of those polled self-identified as Republicans.

To see the full polling results, click on this link or go here.

*note: People’s Voice is the news website of the Communist Party USA. The original article can be found here

Spanish General Strike Reaches 77% Participation, But Officials Turn Deaf Ear

by Diana Rosen

Demonstrators crowd Cibeles Sqare in Madrid during Spain’s general strike on March 29. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

Workers across Spain yesterday took to the streets today in a 24-hour general strike called by the country’s two main trade unions, General Workers Union and the Workers’ Commissions, over the economic reforms passed by the recently-elected People’s Party under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.  Last month, the Spanish government passed labor reform laws making it cheaper and easier to cut wages and lay off employees, including reducing severance pay from 45 to 33 days.

Today, the government announced that it would not modify the labor reforms–which could still be amended in Parliament–despite the participation of hundreds of thousands in yesterday’s strike.

On Wednesday, economy minister Luís de Guindos had said that regardless of how widespread participation in the strike became, the government would not modify “a single letter” of the labour reform.

Although high unemployment has led to declining support for trade unions in recent years, General Workers Union Secretary General Candido Mendez estimated that the strike had 77 percent participation, and said that this figure was as high as 97 percent in industry and construction. Unions declared the strike a success and threatened further demonstrations if the government did not negotiate changes to the law before May 1.

The Spanish unemployment rate is currently at almost 23% overall, with a 50% unemployment rate for young people.

Yesterday marked Rajoy’s 100th day in office. The vote for the People’s Party dropped from 46% to 41% in an Andalucia regional election last weekend.  There is speculation that Rajoy delayed announcing the budget cuts until this week to avoid losing support from Andalucia voters.

The strike enjoyed greatest participation in Madrid and Barcelona, where large marches and other events, including a group siesta, have been taking place all day.  Still, workers are striking all over the country.  Bus and rail services were severely limited all over and only a small fraction of domestic and international flights operated.  As of 9:00 am, electricity consumption was reported as down 25% by Red Eléctrica.  According to the General Workers Union, almost all of the Renault, Seat, Volkswagen and Ford car workers participated in the strike.  Spanish Twitter users have been using the hashtags #huelga and #enhuelga (“strike” and “in strike,” respectively) to trend the topic and spread the word.

Angel Andrino, a 31-year-old protestor in Madrid, explained his participation in today’s demonstrations to BBC:

“We are going through a really hard time, suffering. The rights that our parents and grandparents fought for are being wiped away without the public being consulted.”

Andrino was laid off in February after the labor reforms were passed.

The strike remained almost entirely nonviolent throughout the morning and afternoon, with the exception of a scuffle between police and protestors early this morning at a Madrid bus depot.  Protestors attempted to prevent a bus from leaving for work, leading to 58 people getting detained and nine injured.  Several small fires were started in Barcelona mid-afternoon, but no injuries were reported.

At around 7:00 pm, however, police began using rubber bullets and tear gas on protestors in Barcelona.  Barcelona protestors have been smashing shop windows and some reports have come in saying that a Starbucks was set on fire.

The last general strike in Spain was held in September 2010 and targeted the labor reforms of the then-Socialist government, which were ultimately upheld.

*note: This article originally appeared on In These Times, a left-leaning journal. The article can be found here