Thursday, May 14, 2020

Generals Chuikov & Gurov check the rifle of famed sniper Vassili Zaitsev at Stalingrad -- Daily LIFT #193

Generals Chuikov & Gurov check the rifle of famed sniper Vassili Zaitsev at Stalingrad -- Daily LIFT #193

Zaitsev, the most effective sniper of the battle that turned the tide against the Nazis, meets with Soviet generals during the battle.

Recipes from a Greek Island w. White Bean Soup, Red Mullet in Grape Leaves, Pork w. Quince & more -- Vintage Cookbook TBT

Vintage Cookbook: Recipes from a Greek Island, Susie Jacobs

Publication Details: Simon & Schuster, 1991

The cookbook we are looking at today is like a love letter to Greece, Greek culture, the Greek islands and, of course, to Greek food. Written by Susie Jacobs, who moved to a Greek island and had been there for 15 years when she put the book together, it has over 100 recipes that reflect the cuisine and its ingredients and techniques that she loved so much.

There are also many breathtaking photographs of the truly stunning natural beauty of the setting. The book begins by looking at various seasonings and staples, then move to general sections like soups, fish and mains.

There are tips all along the way and many of the recipes are accompanied by colour photographs of the dishes.

One of those cookbooks that truly transports you to a place that it would be wonderful to visit...and perhaps even stay at for awhile.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Fidel Castro and "La Pasionaria", January 1964 -- Daily LIFT #192

Fidel Castro and "La Pasionaria", January 1964 -- Daily LIFT #192

Castro in conversation with Dolores Ibárruri, the heroic Spanish Communist leader also known as "La Pasionaria". During the Spanish Civil War she coined the battle cry “No pasarán! ” as well as famously saying during a speech that "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."

Just dying for them to reopen: The corporate coronavirus agenda

Two things are becoming clear at this critical moment in the western capitalist coronavirus crisis. One is that the capitalists and their governments want to "reopen the economy" as quickly as possible. The second is that this is incredibly dangerous for working people and the evidence is overwhelming that doing so is entirely about profits and greed.

There is no particularly deep analysis required to show that these two things are true.

Just a few recent examples in this newest front of the class war on workers by capital:

- On May 11, the government of Quebec announced the "complete reopening of all construction sites and manufacturing companies" in the province. According to their triumphant press release, "all construction sites are returning to activity, including residential, institutional, commercial, industrial along with civil engineering, public transit and roads and highways."

Yet just the day before La Presse reported (translated from the French):
The COVID-19 pandemic is not slowing down in Quebec: the province announced Sunday that it had recorded 142 deaths in 24 hours, which places Quebec in seventh place in the world for the number of daily deaths.
Only the United States, Ecuador, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Italy and Spain reported a daily death toll higher than that of Quebec on Sunday. 
- "Reopening", where it has been pushed forward in many countries or states, is often being followed by a totally predictable upsurge in coronavirus cases. This has been seen in places as far afield as Texas and Lebanon.  In Germany daily cases nearly tripled after lockdown restrictions were eased forcing some German states to reimpose them. The German outbreaks were especially pronounced in meat packing factories, a disturbing trend internationally and also a reminder that "physical distancing" in factories is very difficult to achieve.

- Justin Mayhugh in Labor Notes talked about exactly this issue. In an article entitled "When Auto Plants Reopen, Some of Us Will Die for Corporate Profit" he notes:
The United States is still confirming roughly 25,000 new cases of the coronavirus every day. At least 1,000 Americans have died from the disease every single day since April 2; there have been nearly 1.4 million reported cases and more than 80,000 deaths.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, racial and ethnic minority groups, the elderly, and people with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk to contract the virus. These underlying conditions include moderate to severe asthma and other respiratory problems, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney or liver disease.
How many of our brothers and sisters have at least one of these underlying conditions? The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. are at elevated risk, including 41 million people under age 65.
If you’ve ever worked on an auto assembly line, you know there is very little the corporations can do to carry out the CDC’s six-foot social distancing guideline. Many of us work side by side with others for at least eight hours a day, at least five days a week.
Every vehicle assembled is touched by hundreds of workers. Breathed on by hundreds of workers. There is no way to avoid this reality in an assembly plant.
For example, in my plant on the door line, many workers do their jobs face to face with co-workers only a couple of feet apart. On the headliner install job, where workers attach a composite material to the inside of the vehicle's roof, at least three workers are within six feet of each other as each worker snaps in a corner of the headliner. Masks are not a fail-safe precaution.
- That this is true could not be made more clear by the outbreaks in Cargill slaughterhouses and meat packing plants in Canada. The plant in Alberta had the largest single cornavirus outbreak yet in the country with over 900 cases. A second plant near Montreal has also had a large outbreak with at least 64 cases. Yet the Alberta plant has reopened over the strenuous objections of its union.

- What if you don't want to go back to work because you think it is too dangerous? In most jurisdictions that is not going to be an option. For example the "Ohio state government has asked employers to report anyone who refuses to return to work because they are concerned about the coronavirus pandemic. Reported workers may be ineligible for unemployment benefits."

This is not simply in Ohio. In Canada "at least 540,000 low wage workers risk losing CERB if they refuse unsafe work" according to David Macdonald in Behind the Numbers. He goes to state:
Once workplaces are opened, employers will start to call workers back. If a worker doesn’t return because of concerns about workplace safety, an employer could deem that non-return as quitting and issue the employee a Record of Employment to that effect, disqualifying them from receiving the CERB.   Hypothetically, if a provincial labour board upholds a work refusal due to unsafe conditions (ie. Coronavirus infection), a worker could keep receiving the CERB. But provinces like Ontario simply aren’t shutting down workplaces due to a clear coronavirus infection risk.  Furthermore, there has been little movement by many provinces to investigate unsafe workplace complaints due to COVID-19, and there seems to be no particular drive to ramp up labour protection programs.
The discussion of “worker incentives” has already started, which really means cutting off basic income supports from low wage workers to force them back to work, putting themselves and their families at risk of infection. Conversely, there is almost no discussion of “employer incentives” to create safe workplaces. The narrative is being set: if businesses are allowed to reopen but workers don’t return, the workers—who are prepared to live off the supposed king’s ransom of $2,000 rather than working in potentially unsafe workplaces—are to blame for their greed.  On the other hand, the same level of pressure is not being applied to employers to make necessary investments in shields, PPE and policies that will help keep their workers safe when businesses gradually reopen.
We know which class benefits from this situation.

- As reopening proceeds, any type of temporary "pandemic pay" for "hero workers" will likely be rolled back even in cases where record profits were made. A case in point is Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the United States, which is eliminating the extra $2 hourly rate they were paying their workers on May 17.  Yet "Kroger said the pandemic "triggered a significantly greater lift in sales across both physical retail stores and digital channels in March," with monthly sales up 30% from a year ago. Kroger added that it anticipates first-quarter sales to top its 2020 guidance." Things have been so good that "Kroger repurchased $355 million of its own shares in the first quarter, and holds about $2.3 billion in cash and temporary cash investments."

- In an example of the total farce that unfolds when governments and corporations say "back to work" yet still claim to want "social distancing" one need only look at London, UK. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that people who cannot work from home should be starting to physically go back to work even as the coronavirus continues to rage. Of course, workers who cannot work from home are disproportionately lower wage workers. They also have to find some way to get to work and this led immediately to overcrowding on public transit.

Thus we have a nearly Kafkaesque absurdity such as:
Johnson said in his address to the nation on Sunday that those unable to work from home should start returning to work from Wednesday, but urged people to avoid public transport and drive, cycle or walk.
Unions say this is not a viable option for many in the capital, who either do not have a car or live to far away from their place of work to cycle or walk. 
Telling people to head to work but to "avoid public transport" is something that only a clueless child of privilege like Johnson could do.

- In Ontario the march to reopen continues on the part of the big business Doug Ford government. Yet "Ontario's top doctor says he does not feel confident that the province has met the threshold to start on its economic recovery plan" and "the province reported 361 new cases, a second straight day of increasing case numbers" on May 12.

- Billionaire Elon Musk used his power and wealth to force local officials in California to capitulate and allow his Tesla plant to operate despite local health regulations and concerns about workers. "Democracy" in action. When it comes to power never doubt that the billionaire class has far more of it than any government right now.

There is no more transparent case of in whose interests "reopening" is than this one.

- In South Dakota far right media darling Republican governor Kristi Noem is attempting to force the sovereign Sioux nations to open their borders up to travel and transit through checkpoints that they had established even though these only effected non-essential travel. Far from having any valid economic purpose it appears to be a vanity exercise and an attempt to undermine Indigenous sovereignty rights.

It is no coincidence that the forces lining up to force a "reopening" agenda are a coalition of billionaires, CEOs, right-wing politicians, extreme right and white supremacist formations and "protesters", and the right wing press and media.

This also tells you all you need to know about their motives. To the handful of "progressives" and "leftists" who are backing the line of these reactionaries, it is bizarre that anyone who claims to be anti-capitalist or pro-worker cannot see this corporate campaign for what it is based on.

It is perfectly obvious that the push by capital to "get the economy moving" and to force governments to relax the pandemic lockdowns is all about profit and has nothing to do with the health and safety of workers or the general population. At this critical juncture it is essential that the left and workers' parties and organizations fight back against any attempts to restart capitalist production on the backs and lives of working people.

Further Reading:

Don't let the capitalists fool you...we have the social wealth to properly fight the pandemic

Related Video:

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

May Day Rally, Philadelphia 1935 -- Daily LIFT #191

May Day Rally, Philadelphia 1935 -- Daily LIFT #191

Capitalism is incurable: Statements from the European Communist Imitative

On May 10, 2020, the parties of the European Communist Imitative held a teleconference with the theme "The struggle of the communist and workers' parties in the conditions of the pandemic and the new capitalist crisis".

As the conference was held at the initiative of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) the party's General Secretary gave an important and rousing opening statement.

After the teleconference a joint statement was issued by all the parties.

"The teleconference was attended by 24 communist and workers' parties from Austria, Bulgaria, France, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Latvia, Belarus, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Hungary, Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Sweden and Turkey."

Here are excerpts from both statements.

Introductory Speech of the General Secretary of the KKE Dimitris Koutsoumbas (excerpt):

Dear comrades,

IT IS UP TO US TO BREAK THE SILENCE that the government and the big employers want to impose in the name of the slogan "let's overcome this crisis together", which is a reflection of hypocritical bourgeois ethics.

IT IS UP TO US TO DEMAND MEASURES to support the workers and the self-employed who have been hit by the restrictive measures.

TO DEMAND the cancellation of thousands of redundancies and the much more damaging changes that preceded them.

WE WILL NOT LEGITIMIZE measures taken under the pretext of the epidemic, with a view to become permanent, such as those concerning further "flexibility" of work...


THE MYTH WHICH IS UTTERLY REFUTED during the coronavirus pandemic is the one saying that the public and the private sector can coexist harmoniously and thus contribute to addressing this situation. This myth is refuted by the profiteering of private health centers conducting the coronavirus testing, which is only accessible to those who can afford it, depriving state planning of valuable resources and at the same time increasing the risk of spreading the virus. This was tragically proved in many cases and deaths in Greece that occurred in private clinics and structures that did not fully meet hygiene standards.

This myth is also refuted by the fact that the state depends on the world market "war" conducted by the big companies, which found the opportunity to run a very lucrative business, for the supply of basic materials and drugs.

The necessity for an exclusively public and free Health system with the abolition of any business activity has been dramatically demonstrated. Today, it is indisputable that the health of the people, their care, protection, and security are incompatible with capitalist profit, greedy capital and the capitalist mode of production.

Either a solution will be provided based on the real needs of the people or the people will suffer, they will live in miserable conditions, they will constantly pay out of their own pockets so that the few and chosen ones of capital will make huge profits.

And as life confirms, the monopolies seek to increase their wealth both in conditions of capitalist development and in conditions of crisis of the capitalist economy.

Especially in the recent period, the activity and competitions at a European and international level have intensified over how to more effectively support the stricken capitalist economy.

The consequences of the coronavirus pandemic acted certainly as a catalyst for the worsening of the serious problems that pre-existed in the capitalist economy...

...The coronavirus will be cured and the pandemic will end, just as others did in the past. Capitalism, however, is incurable and will continue to torture humankind, with poverty, unemployment, wars, the destruction of the environment, until the peoples decide to lead the way in the developments.

More and more people in the world are realizing and shouting out loud that “capitalism is the real virus”.

Today’s system can only be overthrown and replaced by a superior social system, socialism – communism, where social ownership of the means of production with workers’ power, scientific central planning for the satisfaction of people’s needs, workers’ control of all the administrative organs and participation in all the organs of power, from the bottom to the top, can lead to prosperity for the people, to peace and the progress of humankind.

We must be consistently and unwaveringly oriented to this task. Our daily tactics and practice must be subordinated to this task, of course always taking into account the particular conditions, the correlation of forces, but without retreating because of them or altering our strategic goal.

Internationalism, workers'- communist solidarity and action, are what should accompany us at every step, as we have done so far, but with faster steps that will lead to realistic perhaps small leaps in the present, but which will prepare the big leap in the future, for the peoples of our countries, for the whole Europe, for the whole world.

Joint Statement of the European Communist Initiative Parties (excerpt):

The ECI parties also expressed solidarity with those affected by the CoVID-19 pandemic and wished them a speedy recovery.

Moreover, they saluted Cuba's solidarity action with the most affected countries.

The parties agreed to reinforce the struggle for:

Immediate strengthening of public health systems, recruitment of permanent medical and nursing staff with full rights, the meeting of all needs in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and infrastructure required for the full operation of public health care and research services.

Immediate provision of all the necessary means of protection (masks, gloves, disinfectants, etc.) to the people by the state free of charge and fight against profiteering. Immediate provision of all protection measures to the healthcare personnel that gives this battle.

The communist and workers' parties in Europe noted that they will lead the struggle against the attack of capital, which in the face of the new crisis proceeds to widespread layoffs and tries to further crush wages, working hours, leaves, and other labor rights. They expressed their solidarity with the class-oriented trade unions that struggle in order for the workers not to pay the consequences of the capitalist crisis.

They spoke out against the imperialist plans of the USA, NATO, and the EU, as well as against sanctions and economic exclusion measures that are criminal and make people's lives difficult.

The parties that attended the teleconference noted that the current situation shows the deep impasses of the capitalist mode of production (crisis, unemployment, the impoverishment of the working class, the commercialization of social needs such as health, imperialist wars, etc.).

Under these circumstances, the slogan "Socialism or barbarity" is more timely than ever.

Ham and Cheese Melt Sandwiches

When people think of making a "perfect" melted cheese sandwich they generally look to various grilled cheese techniques and ingredients. Today, however, I want to look at a way of making a melted cheese "croque monsieur" style bit of greatness that is broiled instead of fried.

There are an enormous number of variations of this that can be done and we will touch on some of them at the end, but here we are using an English muffin, ham and cheddar cheese.

To begin, lightly toast your English muffin. (If you are using bread, follow all of the same steps).

On one side -- in the case of English muffins the inside -- coat the bread with a layer of Dijon mustard. On the other, outside side, spread some softened butter.

Then place a layer of grated cheese over the mustard. We used old, sharp cheddar, but you can use any cheese. Another common one is, of course, Swiss or Gruyere.

Cover this with some slices of ham. We used Black Forest style.

Combine the two sides together and place on an ungreased oven pan. Place the pan in the oven set to broil and cook for around 5 minutes. You want, as generally with broiling, the oven rack to be at either the highest or second highest placement depending on the size of your oven

After around 5 minutes, leaving the broiler on, take the sandwiches out, flip them and top with another layer of grated cheese on the outside. Put them back in the oven and broil for 5 minutes more or until the topping cheese is melted and golden-brown to your liking.

Take out of the oven, sprinkle with some ground black pepper, let sit a couple of minutes and serve.

This is very, very tasty! There are also any number of variations. Below we used a whole wheat bread. Rye bread is terrific for this. Substitute spicy salami or roast beef for ham. You can switch it up all you want.

But the butter and the broiling will always produce a terrific texture and flavour.