International Workers Day


The origin of May Day is indissolubly bound up with the struggle for the shorter workday – a demand of major political significance for the working class. This struggle is manifest almost from the beginning of the factory system in the United States.


Although the demand for higher wages appears to be the most prevalent cause for the early strikes in this country, the question of shorter hours and the right to organize were always kept in the foreground when workers formulated their demands against the bosses and the government. As exploitation was becoming intensified and workers were feeling more and more the strain of inhumanly long working hours, the demand for an appreciable reduction of hours became more pronounced.

The continual fight for worker’s social, economic and political rights continues till this day in more than 80 countries around the world that celebrate International Workers Day. While what exactly constitutes the working class is not always clear – it is apparent in most nations that the employed, the subordinates, the man on the ground need a voice.

See protests videos and pictures from around the world that underscore the global nature of this ongoing fight. Whether it is a march against austerity measures, rising costs of living or stagnant wages – workers and unions continue to make known to governments and corporations that the current economic and political system continues to disproportionately disadvantage their class.

At home, the usual top-down message from PM Lee that reaffirmed the tripartite system had to compete for airtime with ground-up rally organized by Gilbert Goh of that protested the white paper and the government’s plans to let in more immigrants.


Global Civil Society: Look Left, Look Right

We often associate activism and civil society as being largely anti-establishment, progress and liberal. This article observes how the playing field is actually more balanced and diverse, exploring the myriad conservative right wing activist groups that have surfaced to protect established systems traditions and mindsets. 

PITTSBURGH: International campaigns on social and economic issues are increasingly common. NGOs, foundations, journalists, celebrities and citizens have pressured governments to establish an International Criminal Court, institute a ban on landmines and promote environmental sustainability. They are also trying to slow global warming, broaden access to reproductive rights and promote any number of other progressive goals.

Such activism, not always successful, has become so frequent that “global civil society” is often portrayed as a bastion of leftwing politics – a realm of likeminded groups working to counter corporate power, state repression and cultural backwardness.

Yet for all the liberal groups working across borders, the voices of another civil society are also making themselves heard. Right wing civic groups are taking to the global stage, despite a reputation for kneejerk aversion to international institutions as embodiment of liberal causes. Indeed, by doing so, conservative groups can attract allies, exploit receptive venues and find additional examples supporting their ideas.

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Fault Lines…again

Here’s a report from CNA on the IPS report concerning the integration of new immigrants. Why do you think the biggest incongruence between local and new citizen perception of what constitutes ‘integration’ lies with National Service? Why are the tertiary educated middle class supposedly more threatened?

National Service a key indicator of integration: study

SINGAPORE: A new study has placed National Service (NS) as a key indicator of integration for foreigners.

The report by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) seeks to examine what immigrants ought to do in order to be regarded as a full participating member of Singapore society.

The study covered some 2,000 local and foreign born citizens. Half of the new citizens got their citizenship just 10 years ago or earlier.

They were asked several questions on what they thought were social markers of integration. Such as – should a new citizen be gainfully employed, complete NS or be married to a local – to be seen as a Singaporean?

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Obituary for Common Sense

Found this floating about my Facebook News Feed: 

An Obituary printed in the London Times:

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense,
who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red
… … … tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable
lessons as:
– Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
– Why the early bird gets the worm;
– Life isn’t always fair;
– and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend
more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not
children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but
overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old
boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens
suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher
fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing
the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their
unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental
consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but
could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became
businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed
to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a
little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust,
by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his
son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I’m A Victim

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

5 Theories on the London Riots

Theory (n.): A supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.

What caused the London riots? 5 theories
The Week (original link here)

Mob violence and rampant looting in Britain have led to more than 1,000 arrests this week, as a rattled nation searches for answers

While 16,000 police officers managed to keep London (mostly) calm Tuesday night, the riots and looting that have swept through England’s capital since Saturday are now moving north to cities like Manchester. Britons are grappling with how a peaceful protest over the police killing of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, an Afro-Carribean resident of the London suburb Tottenham, turned into a nationwide rampage of firebombing and looting youths. What really sparked Britain’s worst rioting in at least a generation? Here, five theories:

1. Social and economic inequality
“Britain is less equal, in wages, wealth, and life chances, than at any time since” the last major financial upheaval, the great crash of 1929, says Mary Riddell in Britain’s Telegraph. It’s almost poetic that when the riots broke out, the same ruling class that failed this angry “lost generation” was vacationing abroad, “parked on sun-loungers, as London burned.” Indeed, the cause of this week’s unrest mirrors that of the riots of 1981 and 1990, says Steve Hynd at Newshoggers: “Brutal cuts, forced austerity,” and the shakedown of “the common people to finance corporate giveaways.”

2. A weak police response
This outbreak of “mass criminality” was “unleashed by an insufficiently tough police reaction to the initial incident,” says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. Because the cops didn’t crack down right away, it essentially “gave permission for dozens of sheer thugs to come and loot and burn the neighborhood.” When a mob sees that police can’t control a situation, it “leads to a sort of adrenalin-fueled euphoria,” agrees criminologist John Pitts, as quoted by Britain’s Guardian.

3. High rates of youth unemployment
Given the scope and coordination of the rioting, “this is clearly an event with far deeper causes than simple random hooliganism,” says Doug Saunders in Canada’s Globe and Mail. Most of the looters and vandals are under 20, and they’re destroying the same low-income neighborhoods they live in, where public housing is thick and job opportunities thin. With few prospects, these kids clearly “had nothing else to do with themselves, and no reason to fear or feel responsible for the consequences of their actions.”

4. Rank opportunism
This isn’t a political uprising by the downtrodden poor, it’s an outbreak of “nihilistic behavior” by “a mollycoddled mob” of social ingrates robbing their own community, says Brendan O’Neill at Spiked. In fact, what has set these riots apart from earlier ones is the deliberate, eerily consumer-like looting. And that has greatly upped the damages, says sociologist Paul Bagguley. Whereas all riots loosen inhibitions, “looting tends to involve a wider range of people — children, women, older people — because it does not involve physical violence.” And as more people get involved, more damage is done.

5. Racial profiling
To anyone who’s asked them, the rioters have “made it more than abundantly clear what their motives are,” says Richard Seymour at Lenin’s Tomb: “Most basically, [they’re] repaying years of police mistreatment.” That’s especially true in “communities where there is a relatively high percentage of black people,” says David Winnick, a member of Parliament, as quoted by The Guardian. The anger black people feel at being stopped and searched more often, combined with “continuing deprivation, growing unemployment, a feeling of lack of opportunity” makes for a “pretty toxic mix.”

And if that’s not enough, here’s more from the BBC

What’s your own theory for the riots?

What lessons can your society learn from this episode?