GeneralStrikeComics.com presents a review of the Immortal Technique show in CT by
SEEK TRUTH and SHOWDOWN – SOUNDS OF THE SUBTERANE
Seek Truth & Showdown are radio hosts of Sounds of the Subterane, a weekly hip hop program on Hartford-New Britain WFCS 107.7 FM. You can tune in every Saturday from 10pm-12am.
What’s good comrades?
The winds of change blew the doors off the hinges at Toads Place; as Immortal Technique & Chino XL took to the stage to deliver revolution through hardcore lyricism. DJ GI Joe held down the 1’s and 2’s, except one turntable had to go into surgery from the start of the show. Poisen Pen hosted the show and later performed, making light of GI Joe’s situation, but telling the crowd they were working on it in the back. The tone was quickly set when Rebel Arms’ newest recruit CF (Constant Flow) hit the stage. His set was short but sweet, well maybe not sweet, considering he displayed a raw, vicious flow conveying the message of unity and the struggles of Puerto Rican people’s fight for freedom. Next, Jay Arch. standing at 6’6” this colossal emcee’s heavy weight lyrics where displayed not only onstage, but in the crowd, As he easily brushed aside members of the audience, clearing a path for Chino XL. who would later start his performance among the people! Unlike many hollywood acts. This lack of mainstream appeal was evident with battle champ Swave Seveh’s , performance. The Harlemite’s thunderous voice and gritty lyrics energized the crowd as Swave’s style was much like watching a verbal brawl take place. Host flipped MC, Bed Stuy’s Best Buy, underground Legend, Poison Pen’s performance took you on a walk through the northeast celebrating the traditional sound from a bygone era that still inspires generations of young people who express themselves through Hip-Hop! Rebel Arms veterans Da Circle also rocked the stage as this duo showcased Hip Hop n its purest form getting the crowd hyped up as they made their way through the crowd and eventually paved way for Chino XL to come onto the stage spewing lyrics from the crowd like a wrestler entering the ring from the audience.
Chino XL, the Puerto Rican Superhero, super-villain, super human, wordsmith made his way to the stage while displaying a seemingly endless supply of vocabulary. The crowds energy just kept rising as he performed a sample of his catalog with songs dating back to 1996. The most notable moment of Chino’s performance was when he performed Wordsmith, sitting down so as to get eye level with the people.The melodic piano mixed with Chino’s ability to paint a vivid picture through words took you on a rough journey throughout a life that fueled the emcee’s drive to become one of the most recognized and respected lyricists. Chino then introduced Immortal Technique! Greeted with tremendous love from the crowd, Tech took a few moments to talk to the people and feel the crowd before starting off with “Industrial Revolution”. Tech’s performance included songs from all of his albums including “Dance with The Devil”, one of his most powerful songs telling a story of a young man who’s infatuation with material wealth leads him to unwittingly rape and kill his own mother. Using the message to transition into a more positive message fighting for the rights of women. “Natural Beauty” sent the message further by exposing the media’s eurocentric, fantastical portrayal of women and reassuring that a lady should stay true to herself, accept her natural beauty and not allow societal pressures dictate how women should view themselves. While Tech took a brief intermission DJ GI JOE took over on the turntables in a display of acrobatics scratching, juggling, and mixing the crowd into a frenzy before Tech finished out the show. Overall the concert was an amazing display of revolutionary spirit through Hip Hop. True Hip Hop.
Jasiri X will be performing at the United National Antiwar Conference this coming weekend in Stamford, CT March 23-25. www.UNACpeace.org to Register. Below is the song that the University of Connecticut would not let him perform on campus.
Dedicated to Trayvon Martin 1995-2012
*GeneralStrikeComics.com editor Chris Hutchinson will be speaking at this conference
Attend the United National Antiwar Coalition National Conference
Register Now! Extremely Reasonable Air Fare & Hotel Rooms Now Available!
March 23-25, 2012 at the Stamford CT Hilton (one stop from Harlem/125th St. on Metro North commuter line)
Say No to the NATO/G8 Wars & Poverty Agenda
A Conference to Challenge the Wars of the 1% Against the 99% at Home and Abroad
The U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the G-8 world economic powers will meet in Chicago, May 19-22, to plan their financial and military strategies for the coming period. These elites, who serve the 1% at home and abroad, impose austerity–often by the use of drones, armies, and the police–on the 99% to expand their profits.
Join activists from the antiwar, occupy, environmental, immigrant rights, labor, and other movements at a conference from March 23-25, 2012 to learn more, to plan a May 19 “No to NATO/G8” demonstration in Chicago, and to democratically develop a program of action for the months to follow.
To Register and See Full conference Schedule go to:
Books: How the 1% screw the rest of us
The appearance of “The Trouble With Billionaires” could not have been more timely. Published in Canada by Penguin Books (Toronto, soft cover edition in 2011, 272 pages), the book is to be released in the USA under the title “Billionaires’ Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality” on March 27 by Beacon Press.
It’s as though co-authors Linda McQuaig, a Toronto Star political columnist who has written eight books, and Neil Brooks, professor of tax law at Osgoode Hall Law School, had anticipated the Occupy movement and its odious target—the incredible inequality of wealth and income that is a burgeoning North American scandal.
The authors provide numerous shocking descriptions of the vastness of the wealth concentrated in so few hands. Here’s one example: if Bill Gates started counting his money at the rate of one dollar every second, every hour of every day, he would have to count for 1680 years to complete the task.
One chapter challenges the notion that immense wealth acquisition is the reward for the sheer brilliance and unique efforts of a precious few remarkable individuals. It draws on the works of famous liberals and conservatives like Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Thomas Hobbes to demolish the “great man” theory of history. They argue that the greatest innovations and discoveries, by the likes of Isaac Newton and Joseph Marie Jacquard (inventor of the loom), were built on a pyramid of accumulated human knowledge and that this knowledge is really the inheritance of us all.
The book looks at the adverse affects of gross inequality on human health, social relationships, and democracy. It cites studies that show that a healthier, more politically inclusive society results from a more equal distribution of income and wealth.
The authors compare the era of the Roaring Twenties, leading up to the great stock market crash of 1929, with the years prior to the economic crisis of 2008. The deregulation of banks and provision of huge tax breaks for corporations and the super rich preceded both global crises.
In 1911, U.S. President Howard Taft deregulated the banks in America, allowing them to become involved in the selling of stocks and bonds. Then in the 1920s, Andrew Mellon, serving as Treasury secretary under three presidents, was able to reduce corporate and personal income taxes massively in favour of the rich and powerful. A speculative frenzy hit the stock market, with paper values rocketing far above their real worth. This resulted in the market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Under the New Deal, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s programme to save capitalism—greater regulation, higher marginal tax rates, and government spending—started to pull the U.S. economy out of depression, although World War II played a more decisive role. In 1938 Roosevelt signed the Fair Labour Standards Act. It established a national minimum wage. Workers’ pay rose and union membership grew from 12 percent to 35 percent in 10 years. The Glass Steagall Act of 1933 prohibited a bank holding company from owning other financial companies. (It was repealed in 1999 by the Gramm-Leach- Bliley Act.)
The state interventionism of the Second World War was followed by an era of unprecedented growth in capitalist economies, as well as a much greater sharing of wealth production (to divert workers from the path of revolt). But as the authors point out, “The wealthy interests had never given up resisting the New Deal.” President Ronald Reagan’s crushing of the air traffic controllers’ strike in 1980 signalled a return to blatantly one-sided laws in the interests of the rich and powerful. Through the regimes of Reagan, the Bushes, and Bill Clinton, progressive taxation was rolled back. Washington deregulated businesses and banks.
In Canada a similar trend was afoot. In 1987 Michael Wilson, the finance minister in the Conservative Government of Brian Mulroney, began a major overhaul of the federal tax system to reduce the burden on the country’s richest families. Rules on Family Trusts, set up essentially to avoid taxes, saved Canada’s richest families $7.9 billion between 2000 and 2010. A report from the Senate Banking Committee, chaired by Leo Kolber, lawyer and former CEO of the multi-billionaire Bronfman family’s holding company, persuaded the Liberal Jean Chretien government to reduce the capital gains tax in Canada. This caused a huge loss of federal revenue. Where did it go? We know that 50 percent of capital gains go the richest 1 per cent of the population. During the last two decades, corporate taxes have also been significantly reduced and replaced with higher consumer taxes.
North American tax regimes continued to change so that corporations and wealthy individuals benefited from lower corporate, income, capital gains, and inheritance taxes. The discrepancies of income and wealth even surpassed those of the 1920s. Since industrial profit rates were at an all-time low, surplus wealth was devoted to wild speculation in Mortgage Derivatives and Credit Default Swaps. Speculation facilitated by the deregulation of financial industries hit a wall with the collapse of these Ponzi schemes. The banking crisis of 2008 and the ensuing deep recession continue to this day.
McQuaig and Brooks present a series of reforms to force billionaires to pay more. Higher tax revenues and increased government spending on social programs could reduce the wage and wealth gap that presently bedevils society.
They propose two new tax rates—60% on income over $500,000 and 70% on income over $5 million. Tax loopholes that benefit the rich, like Capital Gains exemptions and business “entertainment” expenses, would be eliminated. A Financial Transaction Tax, also known as the Tobin Tax, should be imposed on all financial transactions. Cooperative and enforceable international measures for a clampdown on tax evasion can be devised. Every time a payment or disbursement is made to an individual or corporation from an off-shore banking haven, a copy of the transaction would be sent to the national jurisdiction of the corporation or individual involved.
Inheritance taxes could be a major source of expenditures to meet human needs. Taxing all inheritances over $1.5 million on a steeply progressive scale up to 70% on inheritances of $50 million dollars, would be a step forward. The authors propose putting this money into an education trust fund to make college and university accessible to all. Finally, governments should strive to change social attitudes towards taxes. The role of taxation in achieving a fair, democratic, and equitable society should be promoted, say the authors.
McQuaig and Brooks have written a very readable and informative book—a valuable resource for critics of the tax system. The progressive tax measures they propose are among the measures that the NDP in Canada, and a future labour party in the U.S., should fight to achieve.
Sadly, the authors suggest that capitalism can be transformed from within by enacting such reforms. This is wrong on many levels. Even the most radical tax reform will not end the alienation of labour, nor break the political power of the super-rich—both of which are rooted in the capitalist mode of production. Keynesian measures and progressive taxes cannot stop the ups and downs of the business cycle, much less permanently entrench social justice.
The authors themselves show how the capitalist class resists taxation, how it uses all the power at its disposal, including control of political parties and the media, to sabotage any move towards social equality. If these measures fail they have other means at their disposal—exorbitant interest rates, wage suppression, and using high levels of government debt, coupled with budgetary deficits, to justify “austerity” policies designed to further rob the working class. And that is to say nothing of resorting to state violence to quell protest!
In terms of Canadian fiscal deficits, the combined federal and provincial shortfalls are about $65 billion annually. Keep in mind that since 1980 the top 1 per cent has increased its share of national income in Canada from 8.1% to 13.3%. That’s a shift of $67 billion. If taxes had stayed at the 1980 level, there would be no deficit nationally.
“The Trouble with Billionaires” explodes many myths. It demolishes the claim that there is a “free market,” the claim that without huge salaries the rich would exert little or no effort (we should be so lucky!), and the contention that there is meaningful democracy under capitalist rule today. The authors deserve credit for that. Nonetheless, a radical critique of capitalism, and of the capitalist state, is needed.
First of all, capitalism is a global system. Its crises are triggered by overproduction (of useless things) and the decline in the average rate of profit (due to the system’s growing reliance on machines, rather than exploitable labour). Under capitalism the ruling powers spend billions to send armed forces around the world to impose regimes amenable to the extraction of natural resources for their home industries at the lowest possible price.
Capitalism despoils the environment and puts the existence of humankind in peril. While workers should fight for a more progressive tax system, taxation alone cannot achieve a just society. Socialists fight for progressive reforms, but aim for the abolition of taxation and the abolition of the class system through collective ownership. The solution for growing inequality and oppression is a planned economy run on the basis of human need, controlled by democratic workers’ governments, and globally coordinated. In a word, socialism.
> The article above was written by John Orrett and Barry Weisleder, and first appeared in the March 2012 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.
Robin Hood: People’s Outlaw and Forest Hero, A Graphic Guide, is a book with illustrations by General Strike Comics creator, Chris Hutchinson
Where and what was Robin Hood? Why is an outlaw from fourteenth century England still a hero today, with films, festivals and songs dedicated to his living memory?
This book explores the mysteries, the historical evidence, and the trajectory that led to centuries of village festivals around Mayday and the green space of nature unconquered by the forces in power. Great revolutionaries including William Morris adopted Robin as hero, children’s books offered many versions, and Robin entered modern popular culture with cheap novels, silent films and comics.
There, in the world of popular culture, Robin Hood continues to holds unique and secure place. The “bad-good” hero of pulp urban fiction of the 1840s-50s, and more important, the Western outlaw who thwarts the bankers in pulps, films, and comics, is essentially Robin Hood. So are Zorro, the Cisco Kid, and countless Robin Hood knockoff characters in various media.
Robin Hood has a special resonance for leftwing influences on American popular culture in Hollywood, film and television. During the 1930s-50s, future blacklist victims devised radical plots of “people’s outlaws,” including anti-fascist guerilla fighters, climaxing in The Adventures of Robin Hood, network television 1955-58, written under cover by victims of the Blacklist, seen by more viewers than any other version of Robin Hood.
Robin Hood: People’s Outlaw and Forest Hero also features 30 pages of collages and comic art, recuperating the artistic interpretations of Robin from seven centuries, and offering new comic art as a comic-within-a book.
With text by Paul Buhle, comics and assorted drawings by Christopher Hutchinson, Gary Dumm, and Sharon Rudahl; Robin Hood: People’s Outlaw and Forest Hero adds another dimension to the history and meaning of rebellion.
“Free Love: Robin and Marian” by Chris Hutchinson
By Paul Buhle
Lost and Found: Comics 1969-2003
By Bill Griffith
Fantagraphics Books, 364 pages $35
Bill Griffith, the one prominent figure of underground comix to reach the daily comic page mainstream, has delivered again with a phone book-sized volume both odd and pleasing. It comes with a Long Island back-story.
Life (suburban life, that is), found this grandson of famed Western landscape photographer William Henry Jackson growing up in the self-satirizing environment of Levittown, Long Island. He got out as quickly as he could, and at 25 was drawing comics in Manhattan for the hipster East Village Other spinoff, Gothic Blimp Works. Thanks to Griffith, as well as to Kim Deitch, Robert Crumb, Spain Rodriguez and a handful of others, the comic art revolution had begun.
This wild-and-crazy development owed a lot to Mad Comics, successor to Mad Magazine, and above all to Mad founder Harvey Kurtzman, who published young artists in the short-lived Help! magazine of the early 1960s. It owed a bit more to the loosening social standards that allowed artists to express themselves in stronger political and sexual terms than had previously been imaginable. The artists of the emerging genre furthered the Kurtzman ethic of humor as social critique, a style that scholars of humor history would later come to associate with Monty Python (John Cleese actually worked on Help! for a time), Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons.
Strangely, alternative comics from this era didn’t owe much to the Jewish influence that had been central to the mainstream comic book industry. But with the return of the alternative comics center to New York from San Francisco, the Jewish role in comic art would become central in a new way.
While most of the artists of alternative comics were not Jewish, much of their counter-cultural audience was. Griffith, with his Long Island love-and-hate memories, had another crucial link: His wife and fellow comic artist Diane Noomin (born Newman) was a fellow Long Islander, but from a more genteel, leftwing Jewish family. Close observers would be quick to note that Griffith “assimilated,” in the same way that leftist gentile Hollywood writers with Jewish wives and friends had earlier assimilated, acquiring much of their politics and aesthetics in the process.
Griffith, with his “Zippy the Pinhead” cartoon, which has been carried in dozens of daily newspapers since 1984, has had numerous reprint books, but none so exhaustive as “Lost and Found.” Day by day, week by week, year by year, Zippy reveals the oddness of post-modernity and opens up a large view of civilization both berserk and humorous, when viewed from what has been called “the Zen of stupidity.”
Nor has any previous collection contained such a substantial memoir as the artist’s introduction to this volume, “Inside the Box.” Not even Griffophiles (or is it Zippophiles?) like this reviewer knew most of the details offered here, many of them inside stories of big-budget film and television projects that didn’t quite happen.
What’s Jewish about this humor? It would be easier to ask what is not Jewish. A 1978 piece, “Is there life after Levittown?” is typical, with the ghosts of postwar consumer culture accumulating around the life (and confused mind) of a teenager born in 1944, hitting puberty just as the 1950s eased out of sight. It was easy to take a train to Manhattan, and flee onward to San Francisco, and still onward again to picturesque rural Connecticut, but impossible to leave the ghosts of memories of Levittown behind.
Perhaps, however, that’s a good thing. Memories of alienation amidst the sprawl prepared Griffith for a lifetime of comical critique as, perhaps, nothing else in the second half of the 20th century could have. At the end of the introduction, he quotes Robert Crumb saying that the artist “does more time out there in the horrible jungle of the modern world than any of us…how does he do it?” Griffith’s answer is that it gets easier and easier: He knows right where he is supposed to b