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Carne da cannone

In Da altri media, politica on 21/01/2014 at 10:14

di Simone Rossi

Quest’anno in molti Paesi europei si terranno commemorazioni del centenario dello scoppio della Grande Guerra, da cui l’Italia restò fuori fino al maggio 1915. Considerato il clima politico e culturale del nostro tempo, si prospettano, almeno per le iniziative ufficiali, mesi di retorica patriottarda e manichea che annullerà la natura imperialistica di quella guerra e, possibilmente, fornirà una pezza giustificativa alle guerre contemporanee.

Fu quello un conflitto in cui tra i milioni di cittadini chiamati alle armi per divenire carne da macello nelle trincee ci furono molti giovani, talvolta minorenni. Una pratica che sembra dura a morire a distanza di un secolo anche nell’avanzato Occidente. Secondo quanto riportato da Steven Walker sul quotidiano britannico The Morning Star, che riproduco in fondo, le forze armate di Sua Maestà ricorrerono al reclutamento di adolescenti di 16 e 17 anni e li impiegano in compiti sul campo per far fronte alla carenza di volontari maggiorenni. Nonostante la giovane età delle reclute li renda psichicamente più vulnerabili in situazioni di guerra, le reclute minorenni sono considerate a tutti gli effetti dei professionisti una volta che hanno affrontato un periodo di preparazionee quindi sono impiegate in prima linea là dove la scarsa disponibilità di adulti lo renda necessario. Seguendo un copione collaudato, i “caccaitori di teste” delle forze armate cercano potenziali reclute nei quartieri più poveri, tra le fasce più emarginate della società nell’auspicio che la prospettiva di una carriera professionale sia sufficientemente attrattiva per giovani con scarsi risultati scolastici e poche opportunità per emanciparsi socialmente. Il tutto in contrasto con la Legge sull’Infanzia (Children Act) del 1989 e con la Convenzione ONU sui Diritti dell’Infanzia e dell’Adolescenza del medesimo anno.

Oggi come cento anni fa, la superiore Ragione di Stato, vedasi la tutela degli interessi delle élite nazionali, richiede carne da cannone e, come si suol dire, “tutto fa brodo”, al di sopra di qualsiasi altra considerazione.

The Shame of British Child Soldiers

di Steven Walker

da Morning Star

How embarrassing for war minister – sorry, Defence Secretary – Philip Hammond that the MoD announces a failure to recruit enough soldiers as he preens himself ready for the first world war’s 100th anniversary commemorations.

Usually in years of high unemployment the army loves the chance to soak up numbers of people with very few options. The capitalist media treats this news in a superficial way, but look harder and there are some quite rational reasons why young people do not relish an army career.
For example, less attention has been paid to the British armed forces’ attitude to using under-18-year-olds in armed conflict and their vulnerability to developing serious mental health problems.
According to MoD research, young soldiers are three times more likely to commit suicide than their civilian counterparts.
Britain recruits 16-year-old children to all three branches of the military, the only European country to do so.
There are clear contradictions in the British government’s use of minors with its legal obligations under the 1992 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the 1989 Children Act to protect and safeguard children.
The Ministry of Defence has ensured that the needs of military power and political control override the best interests of those under-18s in the armed forces. Article 38 of the CRC emphasises the particular vulnerability of children as civilians and soldiers and recommends signatories refrain from sending children into battle.
It recognises that children’s rights are particularly vulnerable to violation during armed conflict and lays down specific obligations on the state to protect children caught up in situations of war.
If the non-deployment of personnel under the recommended CRC minimum ages would “destabilise” the unit that they are part of, then the MoD reserves the right to deploy younger recruits.
The government claims that once children are trained in the armed forces they are considered to be professionals and are treated as such. They play an important role in their unit, and their removal would undermine the effectiveness and cohesiveness of the unit.
This would be demoralising and unpopular among other soldiers and add to the training burden.
The World Health Organisation recognises that young soldiers exposed to conflict situations can more easily develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) leading to persisting patterns of problematic behaviour and functioning.
As numerous research studies have now proven, these problems may not emerge until years later or after the symptoms are revealed by alcohol, domestic violence, self-harm and/or substance abuse.
Many young soldiers may be withdrawn, depressed, go awol and display difficulties in social relationships.
Children deployed in Northern Ireland, the Gulf, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq have had to undergo very traumatic experiences such as removing the bodies of dead soldiers they had just shot at, some of whom were not older than 12 years, or dealing with women and young girls who were rape victims.
Demographic profiles indicate that the majority of army recruits are from poorer socio-economic groups where it is known that a higher proportion of children and young people are at greater risk of developing mental health problems.
The British army encourages recruitment at low income, high unemployment, disadvantaged areas where children with few academic or career prospects are able to sign up to six-year minimum service contracts at 16 years of age seduced by glamorous images of travel, adventure, machismo, and employable skills training.
The adverse publicity over the culture of bullying and suicides at military training establishments such as Deep Cut revealed a tiny, previously hidden, glimpse of what many vulnerable young people may also be subjected to on a routine basis once they enter service.
Combined with more frequent deployment into war-fighting zones it is no wonder that the charity Combat Stress has called PTSD a “ticking time-bomb” among ex-soldiers.
Since 1971, 24 children have died and 10 been seriously physically injured while on active military service in the British army. The MoD requires a yearly recruitment of under-18s of about one third of the annual intake into the armed forces.
While it says under-18s are not deployed to combat zones, ministers’ responses to parliamentary questions over the past two decades have shown that around 50 under-18s were involved in peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, for example, while BBC reports in 2002 suggested that under-18s had had to be removed from a contingent in Afghanistan.
It seems that in 2014, ironically, young people are much wiser than politicians and war-mongers assume, and perhaps they have learned the real lesson of history – make peace not war.

Annunci

Il mito dell’efficienza nel privato

In Da altri media on 14/01/2014 at 14:30

di Simone Rossi

In questi ultimi tempi è tornata nell’agenda politica e nel dibattito pubblico la questione dell’alienazione dei (reisdui) servizi e beni pubblici; che si tratti dei Conservatori britannici o dei Democratici italiani, la soluzione alla crisi economica e per il rilancio dell’economia passa attraverso la vendita del patrimonio pubblico residuo. Da Royal Mail, Poste di Sua Maestá, al patrimonio demaniale italiano i governi sono intenzionati a (s)vendere quanto possibile, nonostante l’opinione pubblica dei rispettivi Paesi sia contraria. Sotteso a queste politiche, il cui obiettivo è ridurre la presenza dello Stato nella società e di ingrassare ulteriormente il grande Capitale, è il discorso secondo cui la gestione privata di beni e servizi di interesse pubblico sia mirata a fornire ai cittadini ed ai consumatori il miglior prodotto possibile al minor costo possibile. Un discorso che assume caratteri mitologici se si considera la realtà dei fatti, in cui l’interesse principale della aziende privatizzate, spesso operanti in regime di oligopolio o di monopolio, è la massimizzazione del profitto anche a scapito dell’efficienza e della qualità; basti pensare alle ferrovie britanniche, tra le più costose in Europa a fronte di un servizio tutt’altro che eccellente, o dei servizi idrici privatizzati in alcune città italiane, con un corollario di moti tra i consumatori infuriati.

Al tema dedica una riflessione il settimanale brasiliano Carta Capital, in una articolo pubblicato sul sito il 7 gennaio c.a., che merita attenzione. Riporto la traduzione di seguito:

“Stato inefficiente”, un mito mediocre

di Rafael Azzi

da Carta Capital

traduzione Simone Rossi

L’ideologia liberista propugna l’idea secondo cui l’iniziativa privata sia in grado di produrre beni e servizi in modo efficiente ed economico; per contro lo Stato, considerato inefficiente e corrotto, sarebbe semplicemente un ostacolo al buon funzionamento del mercato. Si tratta di un’ideologia di stampo manicheo, che proclama la dicotomia tra lo Stato cattivo ed il mercato buono. In molti casi, queste visione si mostra in accordo con la realtà e, quando messa in pratica da un certo tipo di governo, si trasforma in una profezia autoavverantesi.

Secondo la medesima logica, i dipendenti pubblici sono considerati corrotti e pigri. Si tratta di un pregiudizio diffuso e inconfutabile anche di fronte al fatto che esistono dipendenti pubblici esemplari nei vari settori e che nelle organizzazioni private ci sono lavoratori che adattatisi alla cultura aziendale riescono ad essere premiati pur evitando di lavorare o ricorrendo a metodi poco etici.

Alla base dell’argomento di chi sostiene questo punto di vista manicheo vi è la questione della stabilità. Per legge i dipendenti pubblici hanno diritto alla stabilità dell’impiego dopo aver trascorso un periodo di valutazione di tre anni. Questo fatto giustificherebbe il luogo comune secondo cui essi lavorano meno dei dipendenti delle aziende private. Tale spiegazione si basa sulla premessa per cui il principale motore dell’efficienza sul lavoro sia il timore di esser licenziati. In verità studi recenti dimostrano che questa idea non è corretta. Ci sono differenti motivazioni al lavoro. I principali stimoli, come la percezione di svolgere un incarico significativo, il riconoscimento da parte degli altri e la possibilità di progredire possono essere presenti o assenti tanto nel settore privato come nel pubblico impiego.

L’argomento di un mercato più efficiente in molti casi non trova fondamento. Anzi, in alcuni settori la logica mercantilistica sembra agire in modo contrario al principio di efficienza. Per quanto concerne la sanità, ad esempio, è possibile confrontare due sistemi ai poli opposti: gli Stati Uniti d’America e Cuba. Gli indici dell’aspettativa di vita e della mortalità infantile dell’isola caraibica e degli USA sono praticamente i medesimi. A fronte di ciò la spesa annuale pro capite per la sanità negli USA è di US$5’711 mentre Cuba spende US$251. In questo modo lo Stato cubano sostiene un costo per lo meno venti volte inferiore per ottenere un risultato equivalente a quello del settore privato nordamericano.

Questo succede perché lo Stato può investire là dove serve per affrontare direttamente le cause dei problemi e così facendo portare l’assistenza medica a chi più ne ha bisogno. Nel 2001 una commissione del parlamento britannico visitò l’isola caraibica e riferì che l’esito della politica sanitaria locale era dovuto alla forte enfasi sulla prevenzione delle malattie ed all’impegno a fornire un servizio medico diretto alle comunità locali. Tale procedimento produce risultati migliori con meno risorse. Il mercato insegue costantemente la logica della massimizzazione del profitto, che non sempre si mostra la più efficace per affrontare i problemi sociali; nelle parole di Bill Gates: “capitalismo significa che si fa più ricerca sulla calvizie maschile che su malattie come la malaria.”

Nel caso dell’ideologia liberista al potere, molte volte ciò che succede è che essa diviene una profezia che si autoavvera. Partendo dal principio per cui lo Stato è inefficiente e corrotto consegue che lo Stato investe poco, paga male i propri dipendenti ed indebolisce i servizi pubblici. Lo scarso riconoscimento e le cattive condizioni di lavoro generano insoddisfazione e scioperi. Le paralisi a loro volta diventano un argomento in più per affermare che il servizio pubblico è intrinsecamente di bassa qualità.

È il caso, ad esempio, del sistema carcerario brasiliano. I governi recenti hanno investito poco in questo campo e non si sono interessati al rinnovamento del sistema detentivo medioevale del Paese. Così anziché prendere le redini della situazione, lo Stato escogita una soluzione di rapido effetto e che soddisfa tutti: l’iniziativa privata è tirata in ballo per poter finalmente risolvere la questione, essendole affidato dallo Stato il compito di costruire ed amministrare le case di pena. Sono in molti a guadagnare da questo, meno la società: i politici che esternalizzano il problema e gli imprenditori che ricevono il denaro direttamente dal Governo.

Un altro caso da menzionare è quello del trattamento dei tossicodipendenti. Mentre molti Centri di Assistenza Psichico-sociale (CAPS) sono trascurati, l’Esecutivo propone come soluzione l’internamento in comunità terapeutiche private. In questo caso va osservato che non esiste nemmeno una “logica di mercato” propriamente detta che operi secondo il principio di competizione e libero mercato. Carcerati e tossicodipendenti non possono scegliere il servizio migliore e sono portati nelle carceri e nelle comunità terapeutiche in maniera coercitiva. Non esiste neanche una competizione sul costo del servizio, dal momento che esso è sostenuto da sussidi governativi.

Così, si osserva che il mercato può anche operare in forma contraria all’interesse collettivo. Le istituzioni carcerarie e terapeutiche private hanno l’interesse ad ottenere il maggior numero di internamenti, senza che ciò comporti un miglioramento del servizio offerto. In questo modo la dinamica degli interessi genera una pressione degli operatori del settore sul governo affinché inasprisca le leggi sulla restrizione della libertà ed incentivi l’internamento forzato per consumatori di droghe. Oltre a ciò, la recidività dei carcerati e dei tossicodipendenti è benefica per il mercato e controproducente per la società. Studi affermano che, nel caso di internamento, il tasso di recidiva tra i tossicodipendenti è superiore al 90% dei casi.

Può anche esser mostrata la falsità dell’argomentazione per cui l’esternalizzazione può esonerare lo Stato dalle proprie responsabilità. In un’istituto pubblico, sia una prigione o un CAPS, lo Stato è direttamente responsabile per il salario dei dipendenti e per la manutenzione dei servizi. Nel caso delle comunità terapeutiche e delle case di pena private il Governo paga un contributo in base al numero di carcerati e di pazienti. In questo contributo deve rientrare oltre ai costi fissi per i salari e per la manutenzione un certo margine di profitto affinché gli operatori privati di interessino ad offrire tali servizi.

È necessario analizzare puntualmente le situazioni in cui lo Stato sostiene costi maggiori per fornire direttamente i servizi pubblici. Nella maggior parte di questi casi, i costi più elevati sono dovuti alle attività per garantire la trasparenza. I dipendenti devono avere la qualifica necessaria ed essere assunti attraverso concorsi pubblici e la spesa pubblica è giustificata e controllata attraverso bandi pubblici di appalto e pubblicità dei conti. Tale trasparenza ha come obiettivo di evitare atti indebiti ed arbitrari, rappresentando la condizione necessaria per il controllo sulle pratiche disoneste e scorrette. Nelle organizzazioni private che forniscono servizi i dipendenti sono scelti dall’azienda e l’uso del denaro pubblici non è controllato nella medesima forma rigida applicata per il monitoraggio delle spese nell’ambito pubblico.

Possibili soluzioni a questo problema potrebbero essere un controllo ed una vigilanza rigida esercitati dallo Stato sulle imprese affidatarie dei servizi pubblici. Pertanto, si giunge ad una contraddizione. Affinché si abbia una buona vigilanza dello Stato, il Governo dovrebbe dotarsi di più infrastrutture, pagare più dipendenti, sostenere maggiori costi di manutenzione in aggiunta agli altri investimenti. Inoltre, se la convinzione dei liberisti è che lo Stato sia intrinsecamente inefficiente e corrotto, a cosa servirebbe il monitoraggio? Questa è una contraddizione del discorso liberista. In realtà, in molti casi invece di divenire più efficiente lo Stato diviene il migliore collaboratore che il privato potrebbe avere.

La nozione dello Stato come luogo privilegiato della corruzione è sostenuta analogamente da pregiudizi ideologici. In verità si può affermare che lo Stato può essere efficiente ed il mercato corrotto, non essendoci alcuna relazione intrinsecamente univoca tra questi termini. La corruzione dello Stato è un problema reale che deve esser combattuto attraverso azioni di trasparenza e di accesso ai conti da parte della società. Secondo un rapporto prodotto dalla FIESP (Federazione delle Industrie dello Stato di San Paolo), il Brasile perde tra i 50,8 e gli 84,5 miliardi di real (R$) all’anno a causa della corruzione nelle istituzioni. Ciononostante la corruzione non è un’esclusiva dello Stato. Per quanto concerne la frode fiscale, classificata come corruzione privata, una ricerca dell’organizzazione britannica Tax Justice Network indica perdite maggiori per il Paese, intorno ai US$280,1 all’anno.

Pertanto, il mito del governo inefficiente e corrotto è un discorso ampiamente diffuso perché giova a molti gruppi, inclusi quelli che fanno profitti sulle spalle dello Stato medesimo. È necessario determinare politiche pubbliche orientate a ciò che sia meglio per la società nel suo complesso, senza l’interferenza indebita de ideologie e pregiudizi creati e corroborati dal senso comune.

Dagli all’immigrato! Funziona sempre

In Da altri media on 02/01/2014 at 19:29

di Simone Rossi

L’immigrazione è un tema che tiene banco nel dibattito politico dei paesi europei da un paio di decenni; sempre trattato nelle forme dell’ordine pubblico e della sicurezza nazionale, l’argomento ha sostituito efficacemente lo spauracchio sovietico. Mentre da un lato le classi dirigenti occidentali hanno favorito la globalizzazione neoliberista che produce tra i suoi effetti i fenomeni migratori, dall’altro esse hanno fomentato una guerra tra le classi medio-basse impoverite ed i nuovi arrivati, presi come capro espiatorio. Si tratta una strategia che ha beneficiato soprattutto i partiti conservatori e le classi sociali i cui interessi sono garantiti da tali partiti, garantendo una relativa pace sociale anche quando il modello neoliberista si è inceppato generando una profonda crisi economica.

Il Regno Unito è una di quelle nazioni dove tale strategia è stata adottata da partiti di destra come i Conservatori e lo UKIP e da una parte del Partito Laburista, con il plauso dei grandi organi di stampa. Specificamente, negli scorsi mesi nel dibattito pubblico ha avuto ampio spazio la questione dell’apertura del mercato del lavoro a bulgari e romeni, trascorso un quinquennio di transizione dopo l’adesione dei loro paesi alla Unione Europea. Lanciato dal UKIP e dai tabloid, il tema ha assunto toni apocalittici con l’immagine di orde di immigrati dai Balcani che avrebbero invaso le strade britanniche a partire dal 1 gennaio (data della fine delle restrizioni). Distorcendo i fatti e le statistiche, alcuni membri dell’esecutivo hanno creato la leggenda dei “turisti” della sanità e dell’assistenza sociale, persone che si installerebbero nel Regno Unito per godere dei benefici dello stato sociale alle spalle dei contribuenti britannici; una suggestione che sembra non tenere in conto che la maggior parte degli immigrati nel Regno Unito sono giovani in età da lavoro e contribuiscono alla produzione della ricchezza nazionale più di quanto ricevano.
A questa vera e propria leggenda metropolitana ha dedicato un articolo Seumas Milnes sul quotidiano The Guardian nel secondo giorno in cui le ipotetiche masse di bulgari e rumeni sarebbero dovute giungere nel Paese. Uno spunto su cui è imbastita una riflessione sulla politica britannica.

Scapegoating migrants for Britain’s crisis will damage us all

The Tories and Ukip are vying to terrify the public about Romanians and Bulgarians. What’s needed is protection at work and a crash housing programme

di Seumas Milne
da The Guardian

It’s the influx that never was. New Year’s Day, we were told by rightwing politicians and press, would be the day the floodgates opened. Romanians and Bulgarians, free at last to work in Britain without restrictions, would come in their hordes. Beggars and benefit scroungers would be battering on our doors. The country would be swamped.

But when it came to it, there was no sign of them: no special coaches, no temporary camps and plenty of spare seats on flights from Bucharest and Sofia. It’s not so hard to work out why. Romanians and Bulgarians have been able to live and work throughout the European Union since 2007. There are already about 150,000 in Britain, 2 million in Italy and Spain, and seven other EU countries lifted working restrictions yesterday, including France and Germany.

No doubt the numbers will pick up, though it won’t be on the scale of the east European migration of the past decade. But for months, we have been subjected to a drumbeat of hysteria, as the Tories vied with the nationalist UK Independence party to terrify the public about the coming onslaught and promise ever more meaningless or toxic crackdowns, egged on by a xenophobic media.

Migrants will be charged for emergency hospital treatment at their bedside, the government announced – but that won’t apply to EU citizens. The Daily Mail and 90 Conservative activists begged David Cameron to invoke an EU “safeguard clause” to keep the curbs on Bulgarian and Romanian employment in place, while Tory ministers claimed they were being blocked by the Liberal Democrats. It was grandstanding nonsense, as the European commission would have had to agree to it.

Cameron claimed he was going to clamp down on “benefit tourism”, for which the government conceded there was in fact no “quantitative evidence”. He then announced migrants would no longer be able to claim out-of-work benefits for three months – which is effectively already the case. The depraved nadir of this migrant-baiting Dutch auction was reached when Ukip’s leader, Nigel Farage, made clear that his call for Syrian refugees to be allowed into Britain would apply to Christians only.

In reality, the politicians are posturing because they can’t control EU migration, but need a scapegoat for falling living standards, shrinking public services and the housing shortage. Faced with the electoral threat from Ukip, the Tories and their friends in the media have reached for the tried and tested alternative of blaming foreigners.

That will only strengthen Ukip’s appeal. But it will also degrade social life and undermine economic recovery, as the government tries to restrict the right of British citizens to bring in a non-European spouse to those earning over £18,600 a year and clamps down on non-EU students. After years in which the explosive link between immigration and race has been partly defused, expect abuse of Roma people, Europe’s most shamefully treated minority, to be ratcheted up.

That’s far easier for the government and its supporters than dealing with the causes of the crisis through which people experience mass migration. As Damian Drăghici, Roma adviser to the Romanian prime minister, put it this week, Britain should be more worried about bankers “stealing billions” than “Roma begging in the street”.

The growth of large-scale migration is after all part of the system of corporate globalisation that took hold in the past 30 years and widened inequality both within and between countries. It’s also been fuelled by 15 years of western wars and intervention from Afghanistan to Somalia. And in eastern Europe, the exploitation and migration of low-waged and skilled workers has been central to the neoliberal model imposed after 1989.

It’s that model that crashed in 2008 after years of stagnating real wages had fuelled the rise of the populist right across the continent. Public opposition to immigration in Britain isn’t just a product of xenophobia or media mendacity, as sometimes claimed, but people’s response to its impact on a deregulated labour market, under-invested housing and slashed public services.

In the past decade, European migration was used as a sort of 21st-century incomes policy in Britain as employers ruthlessly exploited migrant labour to hold down wages – which have since been cut in real terms for four years in a row as a result of the crisis.

The ready supply of low-cost migrant labour was only one factor in the earlier wage stagnation, which was driven by globalised trade, technology and the decline of unions. But the determination to fight anti-migrant bigotry and racism can lead some to romanticise deregulated migration as an undiluted good on whatever scale.

That’s clearly not the case for either source countries, which can be stripped of skilled workers and professionals by richer states, or migrants subject to abuse and discrimination. Immigration rules for EU states, such as Britain, are incidentally heavily skewed in favour of white migrants.

For host countries, the overall economic impact of immigration may be positive, even if Britain’s growth was relatively sluggish before the crash. And press and politicians’ claims that migrants are a drain on the public finances is clearly nonsense. They are far less likely to claim benefits than those born in Britain and they make a large net contribution in taxes.

But the class impact is something else. Whatever the effect on average wages, there is clear evidence that lower-paid and unskilled workers’ wages are often squeezed or cut by the exploitation of migrant workers in, say, construction or care work – while well-off professionals typically benefit from cheaper restaurants and domestic cleaners. And the competition for scarce housing and overstretched public services is greatest in the poorer areas where migrants tend to live.

That’s why the policies that are desperately needed for the majority to break the grip of a failed economic model would also help make regulated migration work for all: stronger trade unions, a higher minimum wage, a shift from state-subsidised low pay to a living wage, a crash housing investment programme, a halt to cuts in public services, and an end to the outsourced race to the bottom in employment conditions. Those changes are necessary in themselves – but are also essential to draw the poison from immigration.

Chi tutela i lavoratori dello spettacolo?

In Da altri media on 17/12/2013 at 14:30

di Simone Rossi

Ogni giorno sui nostri mezzi di comunicazione siamo invasi dalle immagini e dai suoni della società dello spettacolo. Cantanti ed attori sono conosciuti ed idolatrati da milioni di persone sul pianeta, mentre rimangono nell’ombra le migliaia di persone che con il proprio lavoro contribuiscono alla buona riuscita dei loro spettacoli: coreografi, costumisti, ballerini, vocalisti, registi… Tutti lavoratori, spesso sottoposti a ritmi serrati o esclusi dalle norme che tutelano la salute e garantiscono una protezione sociale. Sul quotidiano statunitense The Nation é recentemente apparso un articolo che narra della vicenda dei ballerini di supporto allo spettacolo del cantante Justin Timberlake che dopo mesi di lotta e di negoziati sono riusciti ad ottenere migliori condizioni contrattuali, inclusa la copertura sanitaria privata e quella previdenziale. Un risultato ottenuto grazie alla pertinancia di questi giovani lavoratori ed al sostegno dato alla loro lotta da alcune migliaia di cittadini e che potrebbe essere un apripista per la definizione di un contratto di categoria.

Riporto l’articolo di seguito.

Justin Timberlake’s Union Tour

Di Jessica Weisbergon

Da The Nation

Dana Wilson, a back-up dancer on Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour, moved to Los Angeles from Aurora, Colorado, when she was 18. She’s in her mid-20s now and has started to think about her pension. Tours like Timberlake’s can go on for months, even years, and backup dancers typically lose their SAAG-AFTRA union benefits while on the road.

Before the tour started, in November, Wilson and the other dancers decide to demand a union contract—a touring contract has existed since 2006, but no dancer has ever been covered by it (though back-up singers for James Taylor, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Blues Traveler, Josh Groban and Jefferson Starship have). “A few of us have healthcare and pension plans through a spouse, but we thought it was important for not just us but for dancers in the future,” said Wilson, whom I spoke to from the lobby of her hotel in Indianapolis. She had just checked out of her room and had an hour until she had to be at that evening’s venue, the name of which she could not remember. She performs four times a week, dancing on wood, metal and Plexiglas. “It’s virtually the same as dancing on concrete,” Wilson said. “It could take its toll.” There’s a moment in the show—she didn’t want to give away too many details—where the stage expands into the audience while the dancers are not secured. “I still get nervous,” Wilson said. “It’s not a situation that a normal worker would be put in.”

The negotiation took months and was nerve-wrecking at times. “Tours are very sought after jobs for dancers,” Wilson said. “But ultimately, what’s more important than having a cool job is being able to work for a long, long time.” She had also performed in Timberlake’s Future Sex/Love Show tour, in 2007, and was worried that her activism might create friction with her old boss. “On tour, you’re a close family, you don’t ever want to be a thorn in anyone’s side or be ruffling feathers,” Wilson said, “but at a certain point it is really worth it to ruffle a few feathers.” The six back-up dancers had support from the wider community; at the peak of their negotiations, they hosted an event at the Avalon club in LA that more than 1,000 people attended. “I heard the applause that night and I knew we weren’t in trouble and we were in the right place at the right time to make a change,” Wilson said.

Timberlake’s management eventually agreed (“They were all decorum and business,” Wilson said.) Timberlake, she says, “has become such a hero in the dance world.” Randy Himes, who works for the union and helped organize the dancers, is hoping to make the 20/20 Experience World Tour contract an industry standard. In 2012, Wilson and Himes, along with other members of the Dancer’s Alliance, successfully negotiated a union contract for dancers in music videos; it was the Alliance’s first campaign, though the organization has been around for more than twenty years, and culminated in a flash-mob outside Sony’s office to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and two long days of heated discussion with record executives until an agreement was reached at 1:30am.

There are some basic challenges to organizing dancers. They are a motley crew—some are classically trained, others learn on the street—and convincing professional dancers that they are all in the same field has been a challenge for the Dancer’s Alliance. They’re also young and driven, and not necessarily thinking about retirement, or even life after 30. “The average age of a dancer has to be early 20s, at that age you really feel invincible,” Wilson said. “It’s a passion so we don’t care if our knees hurt or our feet are bleeding.”

“We’re trying to get young people taking responsibility for being business professionals,” said Himes. “Helping artists step up and get respect for what they do.”

I due Mandela

In Da altri media on 14/12/2013 at 09:45

THE TWO MANDELAS

di B. Fogel

da Jacobin

In the course of his lifetime, Nelson Mandela saw his elevation in the West from terrorist to secular sainthood. The world’s media continues churning out headline after headline on his life and legacy as the world, remembering him as one of the exemplary moral figures of the 20th-century alongside the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Mandela is lauded as a hero by everyone from Lindsey Lohan to ex-apartheid apologists like British Prime Minister David Cameron. Yet he wasn’t a pacifist, a tame advocate of nonviolence, an non-ideological figure of singular moral righteousness. He was an exemplary revolutionary, fueled by political commitment.

Yet while Mandela was certainly a “great historical figure,” too many of the obituaries and tributes published so far have been unable to move beyond hagiography or platitude. Far too little critical reflection on his actual political legacy or analysis of the nature and dangers of the Mandela mythologies has been written so far. The image of a progressive “rainbow nation” generally on the right track invoked in many of these pieces bares little relation to the actual social realities of post-apartheid South Africa.

The truth is that in South Africa much of what constituted apartheid still exists, enforced no longer through the laws, decrees and brute force of the state, but by new forms which reproduce themselves through the market. It from this basis that an honest assessment of Mandela’s legacy must begin from, but in order to do this one needs to separate Mandela the myth from the actual Mandela.

There were really two Mandelas. The first Mandela, is that of the revolutionary, the lawyer, the politician, flaws and all. The second Mandela is a sanitized myth: the father of the nation, the global icon beloved by everyone from the purveyors of global humanitarian platitudes to even the erstwhile enemies of the African National Congress. This Mandela is removed of his humanity and touted as an abstract signifier of moral righteousness.

The first Mandela was willing, along with tens of thousands of others, to lay down his life in the struggle against a racist system. He was a lifelong anti-imperialist who never hesitated to stand up to the US on matters of foreign policy, and never ceased in his solidarity with the Palestinian struggle or with countries like Cuba who stood as allies in the struggle against apartheid.

This Mandela was a brilliant strategist. He was able (alongside others, like Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and Anton Lembede) to transform the ANC into a mass political organization through the African National Congress Youth League in the 1940s and 1950s through the and the defiance campaigns of the 1950s. After his release from prison, he was able to again pivot the ANC from a liberation movement to a modern political party. Both were remarkable achievements. And, of course, he served as the moral icon of the anti-apartheid movement, a bearer of remarkable symbolic power — power that was later co-opted by the very people and institutions he fought against.

Mandela is often invoked in the international discourse of rights and leadership as a wholesome leader. His actual political history, which ranges from his early anti-communist black nationalism to his later embrace of non-racialism and more radical vision of nationalism, as well as his stint in the South African Communist Party (SACP), goes unremarked. This includes his early political views on the necessity of nationalization (something he only dropped in the early 1990s), his harsh critique of racial injustice during apartheid, and his essentially revolutionary politics.

Take this expression of his politics from around 1960:

I am attracted by the idea of a classless society, an attraction which springs in part from Marxist reading and, in part, from my admiration of the structure and organization of early African societies in this country. The land, then the main means of production, belonged to the tribe. There were no rich or poor and there was no exploitation.

Or this denunciation of non-violence, made in the context of the adoption of the armed struggle by the ANC in 1961:

 There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile to continue talking about peace and non-violence against a government whose only reply is savage attacks on an unarmed and defenceless people.

Mandela was never the benevolent grandfather presented in his post-apartheid representations. But the Mandela most know is the second Mandela, the Mandela of reconciliation, the man who pulled South Africa from the brink of civil war and entered into a compromise with the Nationalist Party that resulted in the National Unity government after the ANC’s victory in the country’s first democratic elections in 1994. It is the Mandela represented in post-apartheid sentimentality in films like Invictus, clad in the South African rugby team captain’s jersey at the Rugby World Cup Final, proclaiming that whites have a place in the new South Africa. (In the more recent Long Walk to Freedom, he is portrayed as saving South Africa from the radicalism of his comrades.)

He is seen as a rare example of “good leadership” in Africa because he voluntarily stepped down from power, leading to the construction of a foolish binary between the South African path of democracy and economic stability (Mandela) and the Zimbabwean path of radical policies and authoritarianism (Mugabe) mentioned in many remembrances in recent days.

In South Africa today, Mandela’s legacy is characterized by one central contradiction. The country is a pluralistic liberal democratic state in which the black majority enjoys full citizenship — a state in which a constitution enshrines both human and socioeconomic rights. Yet South Africa is one of the most starkly unequal societies in the world, with an unemployment rate near 40 percent and an economic system which still traps the majority of black South Africans in poverty or unskilled low wage work.

The formal laws, decrees and regulations which formed apartheid may have been removed, but the free market is almost as effective a mechanism for ensuring that the geography and economic structure of apartheid persists. The structure of the bantustans remains intact in large swathes of the country. These parts of the country remain undeveloped “labor reserves” in which millions of South Africans live under the tyranny of patriarchal customary law enforced by “traditional leaders,” mostly invented by white apartheid authorities as “black tradition.”

Too often, Mandela’s own tenure as president is glossed over as some sort of miracle period in which he was able to unite black and white; his own political successes and failures in his one and only term go unexamined.

Many of these failures can be traced to the neoliberal economic trajectory of the country initiated by the National Party in the 1980s and deepened and entrenched through the Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy package introduced in 1996, pushed by the IMF and World Bank GEAR saw the introduction of a self-imposed austerity regime justified as necessary in order to pay back debt accumulated by the apartheid state. GEAR was pushed by Western powers, the IMF and World Bank, technocrats within government (many inherited from the previous regime), and a powerful faction of the ANC headed by ex-president Thabo Mbeki and ex-finance minister Trevor Manuel.

It saw the mass privatizations of state owned companies, the commercialization of the delivery of basic services. In a more general sense it saw the emergent language of universal citizenship produced by the liberation struggle replaced by a conception of citizenship as tied to one’s own participation in the formal economy. The citizen has been replaced by the “stakeholder.”

The ANC adopted GEAR partially because it was under pressure from international powers and capital and was threatened with exclusion from the World Trade Organization if it pushed for a more radical redistributive agenda; but also because the dominant faction of the ANC believed in the ability of the market unleashed from its apartheid shackles to restructure South African society and bring blacks into the formal economy, thus empowering them.

The ANC, to which Mandela committed his life, has descended into a thick morass of social conservatism, neoliberal technocracy, patronage networks, corruption, and increasingly authoritarian politics. The party lacks any sort of unifying narrative or future vision for the country. Its image as a progressive force on behalf of the poor and working class remains purely rhetorical — rhetoric that has grown increasingly hollow in the wake of the 34 murders of striking miners committed by police (acting in tandem with senior figures in the ANC, particularly ANC deputy president and ex-union leader Cyril Ramphosa) at Marikana last year.

The ANC’s continued mass support is mostly linked to its use of the pathos of the liberation struggle (in particular, the figure of Mandela), the political deficiencies of the opposition parties, the dependence on millions of black South Africans on the state for access to the formal economy, and the success of its social grant program, which now reaches over 18 million.

In another narrative, Mandela is identified as the arch-betrayer, the man who sold out black South African’s liberation and the South African path to socialism. The man who sold out the ideals of the liberation movement to white capitalists and the national party, the man who saw it more necessary to reconcile and embrace white South Africa rather take on the old elite and their allies.

This narrative is closely tied to the Stalinist influence within the ANC in the form of the concept of the National Democratic Revolution, in which a bourgeois nationalist revolution is seen the first necessary struggle, before the real struggle for socialism can begin. In this narrative the state is seen as a blunt instrument, socialism can be achieved only if the right people are in charge. But this narrative never engages with both historical lessons of “actually existing socialism” or experiments in “African socialism,” it never deals with the fundamental contradiction between nationalism and socialism.

But both of these narratives fall into the category of analyzing Mandela not as the person he was, but through the lens of the mythology surrounding him — operating in the symbolic rather than historical realm.

The compromise with the National Party and white capitalists was always the strategy of the ANC. At no point during the armed struggle did the organization consider the overthrow of the apartheid state’s military a real possibility. The betrayal narrative spun by much of the Left, operating both from within the congress and without, is too conspiratorial, and reinforces the grand historical agency assigned to Mandela.

Although certainly Mandela’s late night hotel room conversations with South African capitalists like ex-Anglo-American CEO Harry Oppenheimer and trips to Davos had a large role in influencing his gradual embrace of the market, the likes of ex-president Thabo Mbeki and Trevor Manuel, South Africa’s finance minister at the time and architect of GEAR, played a far greater role in the neoliberal trajectory of South Africa than Mandela. It is a mistake to lay the blame completely at Mandela’s feet rather than at ANC’s inability to politically maneuver during the period of post-apartheid economic negotiations.

As another great South African revolutionary and fellow Robben Island prisoner Neville Alexander, who passed way last year, pointed out back in 1999 in an interview with PBS:

[The ANC doesn’t] believe … that we can overthrow the apartheid state. They believe that we’ve got to compel the apartheid ideologues and strategists to come to the negotiation table.” … He recalled the fact that [Ben Bella], the Algerian leader at the time, had told him when he had been in Algeria, that they should not try to overthrow the apartheid state, because they would not be able to do so. That it would be strategically wasteful of lives, time, [and] energy.

The pernicious image of Mandela as the savior who descended from Robben Island to liberate South Africa in 1990 persists. It is central to the sentimentality surrounding the ANC — and is key to their hegemony. It is also central to capital’s post-apartheid mythology of South Africa as a post-racial society in which moral worth and social position is no longer measured by race, but by market value or productivity. Mandela had redeemed the nation of all of its past sins, and 1994 signified a total break with the past.

The beatification of the leaders of a liberation struggle to “founding father” status sometimes only becomes apparent with time. It progresses beyond mere distortions of the past to the promotion of a history in which those who took up struggle are robbed both of their actual role and their collective agency. It was the black trade union movement, the hundreds of thousands mobilized through the United Democratic Front and its affiliates, and the civic movements who took to the streets, occupied mine shafts and fought the police, who freed Mandela.

This big man history of liberation, is closely tied to the ANC and Mandela, demobilizing a highly politicized society and bring the mass movements of the 1980s under the direct control of the ANC leadership. This process was the transformation of the ANC from a liberation movement into a political part in the early 1990s. Part of the reason for this was to prevent mass opposition to the economic compromises that the leadership would make with capital and the Nationalist Party. In particular the ANC needed to be able to prevent mass opposition to the economic path they followed in the trade union movement. The result of this in Franz Fanon’s words was that “the people are expelled from history … and sent back to their caves.” Or more specifically the idea that people should wait passively for the ANC to deliver, once freedom had been attained.

Any transformative left project in South Africa located outside of the ANC, needs to be able to tap back into the consciousness and legacy of the mass movements of the 1970s and 80s and be able to challenge the narrative of messianic liberation tied up to the Mandela mythology.

Respect, mourn, and take inspiration from Mandela. But don’t succumb to the mythology surrounding his legacy. It is too susceptible to becoming impervious of criticism. To allow Mandela the myth to remain intact is to allow for the dynastic and religious forms of nationalism, like the one surrounding Gandhi and Nehru in India.

It’s a tale that provides cover for capital and locks the political imagination of South Africa into an understanding of politics in terms of an eternal present, rather than allowing for the urgent duty of reimagining alternatives and engaging once more in the tradition of mass tradition which freed Mandela in the first place. Mandela shows us that individual courage, collective solidarity and revolutionary commitment can bring about change, but at the same time South Africa’s liberation struggle is far from complete.