Since its announcement, the POA has been touted as putting an end to five years of brutal structural adjustment. For instance, Natalie Jaresko, executive director of the unelected Financial Oversight Board that has dictated Puerto Rico’s finances since 2016, celebrated the POA as a “new chapter in Puerto Rico’s history.” Gov. Pedro Pierluisi suggested that while the POA is “not perfect,” it ultimately protects Puerto Rico’s vulnerable public sector. In contrast, a multisectoral coalition of teachers, labor, pensioners, students and activists expressed immediate rejection of what they call the “plan del tumbe” (the shakedown plan). These groups have long been demanding a comprehensive debt audit, calling attention to the POA’s everyday implications, and resisting its confirmation by mobilizing online, in the streets, the legislature and the courts.Continue reading
Above Photo: Túmin notes from Chiapas, Mexico. (Clara Haizlett).
People across Mexico are increasingly using Túmin to support local businesses and challenge monopoly capitalists.
In southern Mexico, Itzel Castro sits behind the counter at a small artisanal store tucked along a colorful side street. She welcomes customers as they browse shelves stacked full of food, books and accessories. When the customers check out, Castro offers them change – not in pesos, but in Túmin.
Túmin is an alternative currency that emerged in Veracruz, Mexico in 2010. About the size of a credit card, Túmin notes are printed with vibrant illustrations that vary from state to state. Each Túmin note is equivalent to one peso, one minute of work or even one US dollar. It is both a unit of exchange and a currency that comes in 1, 5, 10, and 20 denominated notes.
Castro works at Túmin Tienda in San Cristobal de las Casas, in the state of Chiapas. It’s a space dedicated to supporting local producers and cultivating awareness about the currency. Castro sells her homemade flour and cheeses at the store. She is one of ten Túministas who opened the space last month – making her one of more than 350 vendors using the currency in the town, of around 2,500 nationwide.
Communities around Mexico are increasingly turning to the fringe currency to foster solidarity amid economic instability and inflation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now present in 24 of Mexico’s 32 states – with 723 vendors in the eastern coastal state of Veracruz and 567 in Oaxaca.
As the currency isn’t accepted by large companies, Túmin encourages consumers to purchase local products. And since banks don’t recognize it, it can’t accrue interest, so users are incentivized to circulate the currency rather than accumulate it.
“This community currency will not go to large transnational stores never to return, but will remain circulating and prevent scarcity in the community,” explained academic and Túmin activist Juan Castro (no relation to Itzel).
“The objective is to satisfy the needs of communities by allowing products and services to be paid for with Túmin. In this way, the economy is diversified and official money, which is now less necessary, is disempowered.”
The currency – usually, but not always, used alongside the peso in transactions (for example, paying half in each currency or receiving 20% change in Túmin) – was the brainchild of researchers from the Intercultural University of Veracruz, who were conducting a project on rural communities. They observed that the growth of local markets in Veracruz state was being hampered by their inability to compete with large companies.
Fruit and vegetable producers from the Veracruz town of El Espinal, home to around 25,000 mostly indigenous people, soon came together to print and use Túmin to tackle local cash shortages and rising prices.
They also sought to stimulate sales through lower costs. Túministas generally sell at cheaper prices when accepting Túmin as a gesture of solidarity with consumers.
Currency Against Capitalism
Ultimately, however, the currency’s creators wanted to make a stand against the type of capitalism that extracts and hoards wealth. Unsurprisingly, the country’s central bank, the Bank of Mexico, pushed back, arguing that Túmin was unconstitutional since the state has a monopoly on minting currency and issuing bank notes.
But the Túministas maintained that they were protected by rights allowing indigenous people and communities autonomy to shape their economies, and that the currency did not seek to replace the peso. The furor blew over.
Now, in some municipalities, such as El Espinal or Papantla, it has been reported that rent, water and other bills can be paid – at least in part – in Túmin.
The desire that Túmin be used to help build a social fabric that favors barter and interest-free loans, especially in the face of the growth of electronic banking that came with the pandemic, is central to its creators.
“When you start using Túmin, you stop being clients and become partners,” Castro explained. “When this happens, the entire capitalist dynamic collapses.”
He added that the currency presents a problem for the Mexican government as taxes cannot be levied on profits made in Túmin. The paper-based currency offers an alternative to centralized debt-based economic models and represents something of a return to pre-capitalist methods of barter and exchange.
“It is an alternative market that only works communally in the spirit of one for all and all for one,” Castro said. “It is just one part of a new culture that is increasingly developing autonomous social structures outside government control.”
He told Mexican newspaper Proceso: “This project cannot repeat the schemes of capitalism; it is not a coin to profit, nor to speculate. It is not to generate wealth or create poverty: it is a currency that supports people, but it does not solve everything. You have to be realistic, it is not an ideal currency.”
Back in San Cristobal de las Casas, taxi driver Laura Mendoza has been accepting Túmin for almost a year. However, just a handful of clients regularly pay her in Túmin. Most of them don’t know anything about the currency. This isn’t uncommon. Despite the numbers of vendors now using it, outside Veracruz, Túministas have generally struggled to get working people to embrace it, as it is perversely considered a foreign and even slightly bourgeois concept. Detractors also suggest that it would be easier to counterfeit Túmin than Mexican banknotes.
“I tell them I can offer change in Túmin but a lot of people don’t want it,” she said. “They’re afraid of something different. Or they think that I’m trying to swindle them.”
But when people are interested, she is happy to explain how the system works and give them change in Túmin. As a consumer, she tries to do her shopping in places which accept Túmin or by directly contacting other Túministas.
“We have a big group on WhatsApp in San Cris,” she said. “I can ask there if someone is offering a particular service or if someone is selling fruit or vegetables.”
With interest growing, she is intrigued by the potential of the currency – not dissimilar to other models used and experimented with across the world – to strengthen the local economy and society.
“People are always talking about the remittances that come into Mexico, but they don’t talk about the huge quantities of money leaving the country through big stores like Walmart,” Mendoza said. “Túmin is a necessity if we wish to reinvest in our community.”
This week, Justice Stephen Breyer announced that he is retiring from the Supreme Court and President Biden promptly reiterated his promise to fill the seat—for the first time ever—with a Black woman. Breyer, who has served 27 years on the Court, is one of the three remaining “liberal” justices. In that sense, this resignation isn’t a major earthquake: the makeup of the court will remain the same. Still, the announcement comes at an opportune time for the Biden administration.
A few months ago, Breyer himself said he was not ready to retire. The timing of his recent announcement to retire before the Court’s session ends in June and ahead of the November midterm elections indicates that he is concerned about the future political makeup of the court.Continue reading
In 2017, Junior Jein, a rapper from Buenaventura [Colombia], released a song that became the anthem of a protest. But he did not appear in the music video. Instead, karaoke-style lyrics play alongside a CGI television set that shows clips of police motorcades patrolling the city, cops raiding neighborhoods, and children choking on tear gas. In the background, a steady fire burns through a chain link fence bordered by the yellow and green flags of Buenaventura.
The chorus repeats: “ESMAD, fucking ESMAD. Esa es la respuesta que el gobierno nos da.” ESMAD, that’s the response that the government gives us.
Junior Jein’s song, aptly named “Fucking ESMAD,” goes on to describe the conditions of state violence in the city: “If we ask for water, they send us ESMAD.Continue reading
The declines of U.S. capitalism and of its imperial position provoke fear among its mainstream politicians. Their response, in large part, has been to deny that any such decline is happening. These politicians do this partly by acting as though the U.S. remains in the globally dominant position it occupied in the second half of the 20th century. Thus, to maintain this illusion, they start wars in the Middle East, maintain military bases in dozens of countries, intervene in other countries at will and describe the U.S. as the global guarantor of peace, security, and democracy.
Yet these U.S. politicians also sense what the population feels: that decline of capitalism and U.S. hegemony is actually happening. So repeated denials, while comforting the citizens of the country, do not suffice to control popular opinion and thereby common sense.Continue reading
Because only fools believe they can predict the short-term fluctuations of the economy, let’s follow in the style of Descartes and just retreat to the most basic possible prediction that we are certain will come true. Which is: The current boom in asset prices — high prices not just in one asset, but in stocks, financial assets, real estate, luxury goods, crypto, NFTs and any other hastily invented place where money can flow — will come to an end. Whether that end comes tomorrow or in six months or in a year or in five years is impossible to know for sure, but we do know that the economy moves in cycles, and the current cycle is (very far) on the upside. And what goes up will, inevitably, come down.Continue reading
The corporate seizure of public utilities and privatization of schools is part of a broad assault to turn government assets into assets that will swell corporate profit. The post office has been a coveted target for decades. Corporations such as FedEx and UPS have used their lobbyists and campaign contributions to cripple the government postal service in an effort to destroy it and take it over. These corporations engineered a congressional mandate in 2006 that requires the post office to pre-fund the next 75 years of retiree health benefits in one decade. No other federal government agency is required to carry out a similar pre-payment plan, nor is there any actuarial justification for this measure.Continue reading
On Wednesday, a group of more than 450 scientists called on advertising agencies to cut off their fossil fuel clients and to end their ties with an ongoing misinformation campaign that has time and again killed progress on addressing the climate crisis.
In a joint letter, the scientists say that they are “consistently faced with a major and needless challenge” of having to correct false information and rebut the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to downplay the severity of climate change. The expensive and glossy ad campaigns “represent one of the biggest barriers to the government action science shows is necessary to mitigate the ongoing climate emergency,” the letter stated.
The letter was sent to advertising companies WPP, Edelman, and IPG, as well as some of their clients, including Unilever, Amazon and Microsoft, which all have announced various climate and sustainability pledges.Continue reading
During the Trump presidency, slogans like “Facts Matter” and “#BelieveTheScience” abounded. The idea was that, unlike the outright denial espoused by Republicans, Democrats recognize basic scientific truths about the world, such as the existence of climate change and the dangers of Covid-19. Because they “take science seriously,” it’s implied, Democrats will propose and enact more scientifically-informed policies. It’s been a year since Joe Biden took office on the promise that his respect for science would manifest in more rational policy solutions. So, now is a good time to ask: how’s that going?
“Follow the science” was an effective campaign slogan during the Trump years, but it was only ever a slogan. On September 20, 2020, Joe Biden tweeted, “Unlike Trump, I’ll listen to the experts and heed their advice — especially when it comes to matters of health and safety.”Continue reading
It is no news that transnational corporations have effectively infiltrated institutions such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Still, according to a new report published by the People’s Working Group on Multistakeholderism (PWGM), their influence has now edged towards a breaking point. The Transnational Institute (TNI), the People’s Health Movement (PHM), Public Services International (PSI), and other organizations members of the working group have warned that surpassing this point will make it even more difficult to reclaim power from corporations, and that will have an effect on all aspects of people’s lives.
The original concept of multilateralism refers to the collective responsibility of countries’ governments to collaboratively take decisions important for the future of the world.Continue reading
There is one last hope for the United States. It does not lie in the ballot box. It lies in the union organizing and strikes by workers at Amazon, Starbucks, Uber, Lyft, John Deere, Kellogg, the Special Metals plant in Huntington, West Virginia, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the Northwest Carpenters Union, Kroger, teachers in Chicago, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona, fast-food workers, hundreds of nurses in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.Continue reading
Harsha Walia has been involved in anti-colonial and anti-capitalist migrant justice movements for the past two decades. Her first book, Undoing Border Imperialism, offered a movement analysis of the foundational connections between migration, borders and imperialism, with insights into the grassroots organizing her work comes out of. Building on this, her latest work, Border and Rule offers a crucial resource for going beyond nation-based thinking about border regimes around the world and building an internationalist movement for their abolition.
In Border and Rule, Walia avoids comparisons of one border regime or another as “worse” or “better,” focusing on how borders are consistently a “method of capital” involved in seizing and holding territory and in the segmentation of the working class.Continue reading
We have two examples of economic systems and of individual scientific workers and business people doing what they do that offer a instructive illustrations of why the US is so screwed up, and why it doesn’t have to be that way.
The first is the extraordinary new (if unfortunately named) James Webb telescope heading rapidly towards it’s parking orbit at the Lagrange point 2.2 where its telescope, reportedly 100 times more powerful than the already extraordinary orbiting Hubble telescope, will be able to show images of early galaxies formed only a short time after the Big Bang.
That telescope, which has had to go through over 300 automated or remotely controlled steps — in order — to open up from its fetal position crammed inside the oversized faring of a European-built Ariane rocket — was designed and built by scientists and engineers working on salary and launched on a rocket designed and built by a multi-European government agency.Continue reading
Lee Camp looks at how the capitalist system sits at the heart of the worst problems facing society. In this history lesson, Camp takes you back to the feudal system, to the creation of corporations and currency, to the modern system that’s destroying the lives of the poor today. The ruling class don’t even try to hide the inhumanity that keeps the system running anymore, now that it has become almost impossible to ignore. This leaves it up to popular movements to end the capitalist system and create something new. Then, Camp reports on the police brutality victims who don’t gain as much attention as those murdered by cops, and Marilyn Manson’s #MeToo allegations.
Afghanistan’s economy is suffering under US sanctions after the 20-year war on the Afghan people.Continue reading
The coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc in 2021, with the Omicron and Delta variants, supply chain disruptions, and inflation battering the global working class. In the United States, companies continued to put profits before worker well-being while the Biden administration refused to provide relief like continuing the child tax credit. Amid much bad news for workers last year emerged a key victor: wealthy shareholders.
Share buybacks hit a record high last year. Companies in the S&P 500 — a market index which tracks the stock prices of 500 leading U.S. companies — repurchased shares worth over $245 billion in the third quarter alone. These exorbitant buybacks helped U.S. stock market indices reach record peaks: the S&P 500 broke 67 records in 2021 and increased its value by 25 percent.Continue reading