The Labour Manifesto: For the Many, Not the Few

Laura's commentary this week highlighted the Labour Manifesto, who take their motto, "for the many, not the few" to heart. A political statement that says "We will measure our economic success not by the number of billionaires, but by the ability of our people to live richer lives"? We're here for it.

Read the manifesto below.

Watch the full episode with Naomi Klein on now.

 

"CREATING AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL

We will measure our economic success not by the number of billionaires, but by the ability of our people to live richer lives.

Labour understands that the creation of wealth is a collective endeavour between workers, entrepreneurs, investors and government. Each contributes and each must share fairly in the rewards.

This manifesto sets out Labour’s plan to upgrade our economy and rewrite the rules of a rigged system, so that our economy really works for the many, and not only the few. Britain is the only major developed economy where earnings have fallen even as growth has returned after the financial crisis. Most working people in Britain today are earning less, after inflation, than they did ten years ago. Too many of us are in low-paid and insecure work. Too many of us fear our children will not enjoy the same opportunities that we have.

 

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Progressive Power Shifts Will Happen From The Bottom Up

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The twisted turns of the Trump/Comey  spectacle could keep us mesmerized for months but they better not, and that’s because while the drama playing out in DC is enough to turn one’s stomach, what threatens the average American far more immediately is happening as usual, in the states.

 

Drowned out by the Donald din, old school conservatism is quietly going about its business, building power, investing in infrastructure and shifting policy and opinion to the Right.

 

Top-down media aren’t just railed against by the rest of us for pledge-drive reasons (and have you paid yours yet?), they’re problematic because they live, eat and play at the top of the power heap, and change, as every good change maker, knows, works from the bottom up be it from the right or left.

 

To invert a phrase of Michelle Obama’s, when they go high we ought to go low. As in local.  All the most significant policy reversals of the last forty years have started in the states. Think about reproductive choice, affirmative action, welfare repeal. Those rollbacks haven’t happened by accident. And nor did civil rights.

 

 

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Can Trump's Base Survive? Working America Surveys Ohio.

Mainstream media keep telling us that Trump voters are sticking by their man, but are they really? And what do so-called swing voters actually want? Working America, the community organizing affiliate of the AFL-CIO, took to the streets and sidewalks of central Ohio earlier this year to find out. Matt Morrison, deputy director of Working America, is here with me to share the findings of the front porch focus group report and what lessons progressives can take from it into the 2018 election.

Laura Flanders:So, the front porch focus group. Why the name?

Matt Morrison:When we came up with the methodology, we wanted to understand is this a survey? Is it a poll? Is it a focus group? And we were just brainstorming and we realized what we're really doing is having extensive conversations with a large enough number of voters that we can draw inferences about what the trends are amongst different segments. But it ultimately isn't intended to be representative, but it's certainly intended to be informative.

Laura Flanders:Well, you talked to a lot of people. I mean, how many? Who? Why? Where?

Matt Morrison:We talked to, what? 976 voters for this particular project and this is one of a series of the front porch focus group series that we've done dating back to early 2016. Why we do this work? We know that by getting face-to-face with people, you can get not just the top lines of what the support levels are, but you can understand why they're supporting the candidates, the positions, the issues that are animating them.

Laura Flanders:So, that's why you didn't just call them up or send them an email survey?

Matt Morrison:Absolutely. We know that if I go and knock on your door, one out of three are gonna open that door and have a conversation with you. You're gonna really get a chance to listen to them and you don't have to work from a script. You have to work from what the human being is telling you. Are they busy? Do they have dinner on the stove? Do they really want you to come and sit down and have a smoke with them on the front porch?

Laura Flanders:I've raised money in my college years for the 9to5 organization of Working Women, and found just what you said. People will talk to you if you're standing on their doorstep. They'll even give you money. What did you find? What insights came out of doing all this kind of very labor-intensive work?

Matt Morrison:Well, for us, the lesson really learned from this is always listen more than you talk. And from that, we were able to hear a few clear insights. Number one, while Trump voters are by and large continuing to stick by him, they're very movable. What some 80% of the swing voters we spoke to, who are Trump voters to begin with, said, yes, they still approve of the job he's doing, but if you introduce real information that connects with their lives, like his tax policies, his workplace safety plans, more than half of them start to express doubts.

Laura Flanders:Give us a little bit more depth on that. Explain.

Matt Morrison:Sure. One of the examples comes from Delaware Township. This is about 50 miles north of Columbus. A fellow by the name of Jim was coming home ... he's a construction worker ... when our canvasser, Soren, approached him to talk about the front porch focus group project and we asked Jim a whole series of questions, one of which was, "Had you heard about Trump's proposal to roll back workplace safety regulations?" That got Jim thinking, "Hey, I got hurt on the job about 20 years ago. That's not what he promised." And, ultimately, the more we can introduce information that isn't so worked over ... that is tell people something they don't know, as opposed to telling them what they know is wrong ... the more we can introduce a different way of thinking.

Laura Flanders:We had a chance to talk with Soren, actually. He's one of your field organizers in Ohio. Here's some of what he had to say.

 

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Can the European Left Save Itself?

Can social movements keep the social when they take over power and government? The example of Syriza, the Greek Progressive Alliance has lessons to teach progressives. The Movement for Black Lives is a case in point. Should it ever run candidates? If not, what? Joining me this week, Irish author and scholar, Helena Sheehan and Natalie Jeffers, one of the organizers behind Black Lives Matter in the UK. We'll also take a look at Stop and Frisk, UK style, and have a few words on right-wing bread and Trumpian circuses. This is The Laura Flanders Show, a place where the people who say it can't be done take a backseat to the people who are doing it.

Laura Flanders:At the cutting edge of both the austerity crisis and the alternative, the rise of the Greek Left Alliance, Syriza, a few years ago sparked progressive excitement around the world. "What if? What if social movements on the left could successfully move into government?" That bubble burst not long after Syriza actually took office. The next tremor to shake Europe came from the other direction with the momentous vote on Brexit, the vote in the UK to leave the European Common Market. Since then, elections have come and gone. More loom this summer. What is to be made of it all? Especially when it comes to that sticky question of the relationship between social movements and government and, dare I say, power.

I'm joined today by Helena Sheehan, author of a new book, The Syriza Wave: Surging and Crashing with the Greek Left, and Natalie Jeffers, an organizer with Black Lives Matter UK and founder of Matters of the Earth, an education and design collective. Welcome both. Glad to have you.

Helena Sheehan:Thank you Laura.

Natalie Jeffers:Thank you.

Laura Flanders:Let's start with the book, Helena. You call Greece a crucible. A crucible of what? What draw your interest to it?

Helena Sheehan:I felt that during the crisis, Syriza represented all the forces in motion at a really high energy level in confrontation with each other. As you said, it was the cutting edge both of the crisis and of a possible alternative to the crisis.

Laura Flanders:I think I got it from you in the book.

Helena Sheehan:Yes. That's what attracted me, and also the nature of Syriza itself attracted me because I felt it represented a best possible synthesis of the forces of the old left and the new social movements.

Laura Flanders:We'll get more into that, but take us back just a minute. We're going back to a period where austerity had been raging for a while. In your country, or adopted country, of Ireland there was an austerity scenario that people were said to be not resisting all that much. Greece was held up as the great alternative of resistance. You say it's not that simple.

Helena Sheehan:No, definitely not. It was not true that Irish people didn't protest and weren't resisting. That makes me furious that so many people were saying and thinking that, but at the same time, we looked to Greece and there was a higher level of resistance that we did envy. We wished that we could have brought our level of protest to that level. The level of protest has been there from the beginning of the crisis, and it's been very steadily rising. Even now when it's crashed in Greece, it's still rising in Ireland.

Laura Flanders:What was your impression of all of this, watching from the UK, Natalie?

Natalie Jeffers:We had an immense amount of respect, as always, for the social movements that are happening within Ireland and inside of Greece. I think Syriza was deeply inspirational for how that informal social movement power can actually penetrate the formal realms of power.

 

 

 

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Debt that Lasts Forever: Can't Cash in on Credit

Production or prediction? Healthy risk taking or dangerous betting? What are the implications of a society based along the lines of Wall Street? This week author, Ivan Ascher and Strike Debt activist Pam Brown join me, and we hear from Mandy Cabot on why she turned down a $100 million buyout deal for her company, Dansko Shoes. It's all coming up on The Laura Flanders Show, the place where the people who say it can't be done take a backseat to the people who are doing it.

Laura Flanders:When Marx looked out at what produced profit in his day, he saw grinding factories producing things. If he'd gone back further, he might have been struck most by agriculture. Today, what dominates is Wall Street, finance, and not just investing and trading, but betting. That is risk and credit. We call it playing the market, but it's not really playing when you're gambling with people's needs like college and housing and pensions. We discovered that in 2008 when the market crashed.

We have gone from a production-based economy to a prediction based one. It's affecting every aspect of our lives says today's guest. Ivan Ascher is the author of a new book called Portfolio Society, which looks at the 21st century risk-based economy. Joining him is Pam Brown, returning guest, writer and organizer with Rolling Jubilee that was born out of Occupy Student Debt. She's also a host on WBI Radio. Welcome both. Glad to have you. Obvious question, what is the Portfolio Society, Ivan?

Ivan Ascher:It's a phrase I actually borrow or lift from someone else, Gerald Davis, who is a sociologist at Michigan, who uses it to describe basically capitalist societies that are dominated by finance?

Laura Flanders:Is that new? There's always been markets or there have been for years.

Ivan Ascher:That part is not new. What I think is new is the fact that it's taken such a dominant place in organizing our lives and also as a source or a site of profit making. Not just profit making. As you said, a disproportionate amount of money now gets made in the financial world, but it also just governs our relations or shapes our relations in ways that it didn't before.

Laura Flanders:I'd love you to elaborate a little bit on that. In what ways does being a risk and credit-based society affect our relations with one another?

Ivan Ascher:In the 19th century, in the industrial area, people spoke of a Bourgeois society or a civil society. The Portfolio Society I understand to be the contemporary version of this. We're still organized around exchange and production, but on top of this we have these financial markets that increasingly encroach or shape the way in which we produce and buy and sell things. A simple example would be the use of credit cards when you go to the market. You no longer use cash, but certainly if you buy anything online, your transaction is mediated by credit cards, which means all kinds of things in the way that people have access to markets and the way in which we have to produce ourselves is a certain kind of subject. Somebody who is credit worthy, somebody whose probability of default can be measured.

Laura Flanders:This gets to some of the work that you do and have done over years, Pam. When you hear about a credit-relation-based society, what bells go off in your head?

 

 

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F-Word: Zombie Malls and Zombie Economics

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“Creative destruction at its best,” that’s what Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi called the multi-billion dollar crisis that’s hitting US retail.

At issue is the crash and burn of US shopping malls. After a two decades of boom, malls are closing all over the country. As the New York Times reported in May, as many retail workers have been laid off since October, as work in the entire American coal industry, almost 89,000.

“While painful for those in the middle of it, this is how we grow and wealth is created,” the man from Moody’s told The Times.

That’s the standard economists’ and stock brokers’ line. Markets work magic, trends come and go, people miraculously wise up, adapt, and “the economy” comes out ahead in the end. That’s the way economists report the news.

But let’s take a closer look. The US has many more malls per head of population, than any other place on earth. Each of us has, 23.5 square feet of retail space, compared with 16.4 square feet in Canada and 11.1 square feet in Australia — our next closest competitors in the malls-per-person race.

With malls come paved earth, in the US over a million square miles of it, usually coated in black or gray concrete, heating, drying, and secreting waste into the soil and water beneath.

Shut an anchor store in a mall, as Sears and Macy’s and JC Penney’s have in the hundreds, and typically the whole mall empties, leaving masses of people out of work, mostly with skills like stocking and clerking that are rapidly getting automated, and whole swaths of the landscape sweating under impervious macadam. The paving leads to water run-off, more frequent flooding, increased acidity etc

Is change like this painful for those in the middle of it? You bet it is. But those human and environmental costs don’t have to be just the way things are, as per the economists’ brush-off.

Pain may be inevitable, but suffering is political: 89,000 miners have built enough power to make their layoffs costly, not just to them, but to society. Retail workers on the other hand, are disproportionately female, of color, immigrant and older or young. They haven't built the same power as miners yet.

Do we actually, in this country, leave change to the market, by getting government out of it? No. We don’t leave business owners to bear the cost of dislocation, retraining and pollution. We the people cover those, so-called “externality costs”, just as our taxes usually pay for the roads, electrification, and sewerage that made it possible to build the mall in the first place. We’ve decided those costs, just like the clean up won’t be born by private corporation, but the public corpus.

So do things have to be this way? You tell me. The rest of the world’s not facing this same mass of defunct, zombie malls, because, frankly, they and their governments made different decisions. Zombie malls are our problem. And Zombie economics.

 

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New Economy Models: A Victory for the Commons

Laura Flanders: A new world based on community and collaboration is closer than you think. We can steward resources together. In fact, millions of people are doing just that and not in the history books. This week, David Bollier, activist, co-founder of The Commons Strategy Group, explains what it means to think like a commoner. And two activists engaged in Commons projects right now, talk about two very distinct, but complementary strategies. One digital in Barcelona, the other rural in Mozambique. It's all coming up on the Laura Flanders show, the place where the people who say it can't be done take a back seat to the ones who are doing it.

Laura Flanders: So David, thanks for joining us. It's great to have you with us.

David Bollier: Great to be here.

Laura Flanders: The first time I said the "commons," that I was going to be talking to you about The Commons ... a friend of mine said, "Isn't that old, ancient history?" You've heard that before.

David Bollier: I've heard it all the time. People think it's either associated with a strip mall, the such and such commons, or English history. In fact, it's a very contemporary phenomena, and I would even go further, it's part of human history. We've always been cooperators. It's what we're hardwired to do. The whole idea of homo-economic is that we're utility maximizing, selfish, materialistic creatures, is an aberration in history. What's happening is I think we're rediscovering a lot of these roots of humanity, partly through the Internet, which has encouraged and facilitated sharing and collaboration and shown how artificial property rights are. So it's opening up a new exploration of both the economy as well as our inner lives.

Laura Flanders: What about the tragedy of The Commons? If you went through an economic school any time in the last 40 years, you would've heard about the tragedy of The Commons.

David Bollier: This is kind of both a fable and a smear of collective action by a famous biologist of the late 60s, Garrett Hardin, who wrote an essay by that title, "The Tragedy of the Commons." And he said, "Imagine you have a pasture where you can put any number of cattle or sheep on, it will result in the overgrazing and ruination of The Commons, and it will be a tragedy." Really, what he was describing was more akin to the tragedy of the market, where there's no community, no rules, no punishment for violators. A commons is a managed system, where social community gets together and says, "We're gonna manage this resource sustainably for the future," and in fact, empirically, that happens all around the world throughout history.

Laura Flanders: We've had Peter Linebaugh on the show, the historian of The Commons, and he talks about common-ing as a verb. In fact, he says you can't have commons without common-ing, that it's an active engagement of people.

David Bollier: This is one reason economists like to ignore, because how do you put activities and practices into a spreadsheet? They like precise quantitative mathematical models and predictions. They don't like to acknowledge that the economy is socially embedded, that we actually have a role in co-creating the economy. And The Commons is about giving a vehicle and mechanisms and governance for managing our own economy. Not to meet maximum profit or financial speculation, but to meet every day needs. And that, too, is somewhat seen as beneath the grand aspirations of economics.

Laura Flanders: You talk about self-provision-ing. How is that different from subsistence? Or is it?

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Learning from the South: What Does Solidarity Look Like?

So how do you like it? Lots of Americans awoke from the last election to get their first taste of non-representative government. Donald Trump lost the popular vote by almost three million votes, remember. The electoral college unfairly privileges some states over others, we've been reminded. Worse, in government now are people who oppose government. And they're set on reversing regulations and rolling back the social functions of the state, to the detriment of the poor and the benefit of the powerful. Especially corporations. It's all propped up by brutality and a fervent populism.

None of any of this comes as a surprise to people in the US South. Southern progressives, LGBTQ people, and people of color in the South, especially have been living this reality for decades. Our guest today has some insight into what southern resilience and action can look like in the age of Trump, and what the rest of us have to learn from the South. Cazembe Murphy Jackson works with Black Lives Matter, Atlanta; and as the national organizer for the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, which for more than 30 years has been working across movements to end systemic oppression.

Laura Flanders:Cazembe, welcome to the program. Glad to have you.

Cazembe Jackson:Thank you, thank you.

Laura Flanders:So is that fair to say that you in the South woke up and sort of "Same old, same old"?

Cazembe Jackson:I think that's partly true. I think when we woke up and we realized that Trump was in office, part of it was like "Okay, this is something that we've been dealing with." We call it the New Confederacy. We've been dealing with this kind of action for a while. But also there was a sense of urgency and responsibility that we were going to actually be called into action to lead other folks who are not in the South about how to deal with the same kind of administration.

Laura Flanders:So when you talk about you've been dealing with some of these phenomenon over the years, what do you mean? How do you describe it?

Cazembe Jackson:I think on a state level in particular, we are used to really repressive kind of legislation. In particular in Tennessee and in Georgia, Mississippi, we have super majority Republican legislatures that typically pass laws that are aggressive against queer and trans people, bathroom bills, that kind of stuff. In Tennessee there were bills of things where they didn't even want students to be able to say the word "gay" in school. But also against living wages, most states are right-to-work states so we can't really form unions and stuff-

Laura Flanders:Medicaid expansion.

Cazembe Jackson:Exactly. All of these kinds of things on a state level, and so we knew it would be a little different going to a federal kind of level, but I don't know that any of us were actually prepared for the extent of things that's happening right now.

Laura Flanders:So how much patience do you have with northerners going "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Panic, panic"?

Cazembe Jackson:You know? I think there is a level of patience, because at the end of the day in order for us to actually be successful in the resistance we have got to kind of be open to folks who have different levels of experience with this kind of repression. So I think I'm learning to be more patient because-

Laura Flanders:Well that's very kind of you. I think about it as a media problem, in the sense that our media has so refused to cover the South that during the period of the Obama Administration, the 2008 election, you would have though everything in the whole country had gone Democratic. Not so.

Cazembe Jackson:Yeah, definitely not. Yeah, I agree with that.

Laura Flanders:So being southern kind of gives you an edge? Being a southern progressive kind of gives you an edge? Being a queer, trans, LGBT activist of color gives you an edge looking into all of this? How so? And tell us a little bit about your life.

 

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What I Learned From My Mother - Laura Flanders

Dear friends and supporters,

I have been working in independent media for the almost thirty years. This would hardly have been possible without the people who have inspired me, or without the support of viewers like you. 

Like you, perhaps, the coming Mother’s Day holiday has me thinking about my mother.

Some of you who have read my work or watched The Laura Flanders Show have connected me to the men in my family: radical journalist Claud Cockburn (my grandfather), or even my father Michael Flanders (of the performing duo Flanders and Swann.) What you may not know is that I trace my most invaluable skills, the ones I’ve come to lean on time and time again, to the female side of my family.

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Former Women's Prison becomes a Feminist Community Space

Community, creation, collaboration. On the Laura Flanders Show we talk with Pamela Shifman and Iris Bowen about remaking a former women's prison in New York into a space for women's liberation and activism, and we hear from photographer and author Yoav Litvin who specializes in the art of collaboration

Laura Flanders:People, power and place-making. There is not an organizer we interview on this program who doesn't talk about the crisis of real estate. Groups need places to work and meet and come together, especially in an era like ours of isolation and virtual connections. But what does community building look like in a time of privatization and shrinking common space? What models exist for viable self-sustainable community property places? My guests today are giving all of this a lot of thought.

They're two of the people behind the women's building project in New York City. It is re-making and re-imagining a former women's prison and turning it into a new women's community for transformation and justice and impact. The project so far has involved a collective and complex process. Here to talk about that and what has been learned is Pamela Shifman, Executive Director of the Novo foundation and Iris Bowen, program coordinator for the Coming Home program at the Mount Sinai St. Luke's Institute for advanced medicine.

Welcome both. We should say at the start that the Novo foundation and Pamela are big supporters of this program so you're not going to get brutal, attacking, questions and I'll just be upfront about that. This process though, I thought was important enough that we should bring it to our audience 'cause it's complicated; Creating space, creating space in space that is so loaded in a time that's so fraught; Why a building, of all your possible priorities, Pamela?

Pamela Shifman:Well a women's building has been wanted, desired, worked for, hoped for in New York City for decades. Since I joined Novo 10 years ago I asked activists from all over the world what they most needed to be most impactful in their work, advocating for girls and women's rights, and what I kept hearing over and over again was the importance of space, the importance of being able to connect with peer organizations, to learn from each other, to organize together. So, when we had the opportunity to support the development of a building to do just that and it was a former women's prison, to be able to turn a place of pain and confinement into a place of justice and healing and liberation and possibility, we knew we absolutely had to make that happen.

Laura Flanders:Has New York ever had a women's building?

Pamela Shifman:There have been attempts to have a women's building. In the early 1970s, a group of women occupied a space in the East Village to create a women's building. So there have been starts and stops. There's a really fantastic women's building in San Francisco and the executive director of that building is very actively involved in the women's building in New York City. We're building a huge community of women who are helping Make this possible.

Laura Flanders:So Iris, tell us a little bit about this building. It's on West 20th Street, which now is Chelsea, right over on the West Side Highway. If you've ever been in a traffic jam right there you might've passed it. What's been its history? What is that building to you?

Iris bowen:Well, it was home for me for at least four years. So, when you say, "Chelsea," I used to look out the window and say, "Boy, I wish I was out there." But it was home for me, up and down the stairs for four years, so now that it's turning into something more meaningful and more powerful, I'm very excited.

Laura Flanders:Now, the building was having problems before the decision to close it and am I right in thinking the decision to close it that was made by the state was because of Hurricane Sandy, was that it?

Iris bowen:Yes, that it correct. When Hurricane Sandy came, the water flooded the building and they decided to close it. They shipped the women out to another facility and they then closed it.

Laura Flanders:So what complications present themselves as you think of taking over this building?

Pamela Shifman:One thing that's really important in taking over the building is making sure that we maintain the history of what happened in that place, and that we use this as an opportunity to educate people about the ongoing incarceration of women, and the fact that this is absolutely a nightmare for women in this country and that we are locking up the most marginalized women in our country, at rates that are the fastest growing prison population in this country are of women. So, we need to make sure that we maintain the history and also create a space that imagine something new, and that is actually going to be a building that serves the movements for social justice now and 99 years from now.

So we really need to put a lot of thought into this and a lot of creativity, and so we have been building a huge community of people, Iris has been on advisory circle for the women's building along with many other incarcerated women, formerly incarcerated women who are activists. As well as activists from across the world who are working to advance justice for girls and women everywhere, and really thinking about how we can create a space that's flexible and that is going to really allow us to do the best work possible.

Laura Flanders:I mean it's a; Well you tell me. When I heard that the prison was being closed, I was both happy and also conscious that this is a big hit for the families that need to visit their incarcerated members.

Iris bowen:Yes, absolutely.

Laura Flanders:What happens to them?

Iris bowen:So they have to travel perhaps on the Metro-North or take a bus. So it's a longer commute to get to see the family and probably the desire was to get to Bayview to be closer to your family. So they were shipped out to different places, and so a little hardship on the family to get to a visit. 

 

 

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