Donald Trumpenstein

Is Donald Trump a fascist?” the “Newsweek” headline asked. They answered: “Since World War II, the ideology he represents has usually lived in dark corners, and we don’t even have a name for it anymore. The right name, the correct name, the historically accurate name, is fascism.”

The fascist Benito Mussolini: The Newsweek writer claims Trump is a fascist as was Mussolini. Although he shares some personality traits with Mussolini - the bragging, the extreme ego, etc. - Trump bases himself on different social forces. Whereas Mussolini gathered around him a gang of thugs who beat up and killed union activists, for instance, Trump is confined to the normal "democratic" methods of legal maneuvering, firing union supporters, etc. The same difference is seen in the modern day world, where the Islamic State - a fascist force if there ever was one - rules through terror; Greece's Golden Dawn carries out organize attacks on the immigrant community; and the Israeli settler movement does the same against Palestinians while they call for "death to (all) Arabs." While Trump undoubtedly has fascists of this type around him, the conditions are not ripe enough in the US for such a fascist movement on a wide scale.

The fascist Benito Mussolini: The Newsweek writer claims Trump is a fascist as was Mussolini. Although he shares some personality traits with Mussolini – the bragging, the extreme ego, etc. – Trump bases himself on different social forces. Whereas Mussolini gathered around him a gang of thugs who beat up and killed union activists, for instance, Trump is confined to the normal “democratic” methods of legal maneuvering, firing union supporters, etc. The same difference is seen in the modern day world, where the Islamic State – a fascist force if there ever was one – rules through terror; Greece’s Golden Dawn carries out organize attacks on the immigrant community; and the Israeli settler movement does the same against Palestinians while they call for “death to (all) Arabs.” While Trump undoubtedly has fascists of this type around him, the conditions are not ripe enough in the US for such a fascist movement on a wide scale.

The fact that Newsweek would call Trump a “fascist” shows how very worried they are about him. With the headlines he’s been making, and considering that he’s leading the Republican polls by a wide margin, their worry is understandable.

Who is Donald Trump?

So who is Donald Trump? What is his background?
Born into a family made wealthy by real estate speculation, in 1968he was brought into his father’s (Fred Trump) real estate firm at 22 years old, where he performed menial jobs like landscaping. But his multi-million dollar grub stake, plus his political connections, allowed him to make millions on his first own investment, turning the bankrupt Commodore Hotel into the Grand Hyatt – with the help of a 40-year tax abatement from the New York City government. He used this to create his own company, the Trump Organization.

Contrary to his claim to be a business genius, in 1989 he was forced to declare bankruptcy due to poor investments in the Las Vegas casino industry as well as in junk bonds. In 1999, he inherited tens of millions of dollars when his father died. As with all “successful” capitalists, Trump continued to milk the system by making large donations to politicians from both major parties. (Today, he denounces the politicians for their corruption, but he was one of the corrupters!) Meanwhile, he associated himself with all sorts of right wing causes such as the Tea Party and the “birthers” (who deny that Obama was born in the US. These same bigots apparently have no problem with right wing presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada.) He also got close to the racist Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 2013, New York Republicans sought to get him to run for New York State governor, but Trump evidently had his eye on bigger things and turned it down. In the same year, he was a featured speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“The Apprentice”

Trump with his signature line from his TV show: "You're fired." Is it any wonder that this simpleton actually came to believe his press clippings that he's some sort of genius?

Trump with his signature line from his TV show: “You’re fired.” Is it any wonder that this simpleton actually came to believe his press clippings that he’s some sort of genius?

Meanwhile, Trump was being lionized on the media through is TV show, “The Apprentice” in which he celebrates the naked quest for money and his power over other people’s lives. “You’re fired” was his trademark line in that show. This celebration of Trump was part of the overall decades-long media campaign to build up the reputation of the super rich and to help develop individual greed and cover up the disastrous harm that that mentality – the mentality of capitalism itself – is doing to the planet. “Money, money, money… money” was the theme song of “The Apprentice.”

So, backed by some $8.7 billion in net worth and made to feel that what passes for his thoughts really are important, and having played the role of corrupter of all different politicians, Trump’s oversized ego led him to decide to run for president and not care what his fellow capitalists thought. Now he denounces his fellow candidates for corruption, stupidity, and lacking care for the conditions of “American” workers.

All of this is bad enough for Corporate America but now he’s also  helping to stir up the anti-“free” trade sentiments of many US workers. He links that with “nativistic jingoism” as that Newsweek article said.

Corporate America Paved the Way

Corporate America has been paving the way for this for years. Look at any NFL (football) game today. Look at how often the US military is glorified, how “the flag” is waved around. (Of course, no capitalist enterprise will pass up a quick buck so four different NFL teams got $5.4 million to promote militarism and jingoism over the last four years.) Look at any TV quiz show. Whenever some participant is introduced who is or was in the military, there is always a round of applause for their having “protected our freedom” overseas (usually by killing Asian or Arab people). In almost every aspect of the corporate (meaning capitalist) controlled cultural life, flag waving and “jingoism” is promoted. Then there is the political life itself, where every major politician talks about how much they “love America”, runs around with a little “American” (really a US) flag on their lapel, etc.

So is it any wonder that some demagogue would come along who picks up this particular ball and runs with it?

Then the Newsweek article complains that “in effect (Trump) believes that he is running to be the CEO of the country — not just of the government… Trump wants to run the entire nation as if it were Trump Tower.” But in one major political race after another, you get one candidate after another who proclaims that their qualifications are based on their having been a corporate executive. Does the name “Mitt Romney” ring a bell? Or “Carly Fiorina”? And where is the corporate-controlled media denouncing this view?

Donald "Trumpenstein": Like the mythical monster, Trump has been created by the capitalists themselves but now he's partially run out of their control.

Donald “Trumpenstein”: Like the mythical Frankenstein monster, Trump has been created by the capitalists themselves but now he’s partially run out of their control.


“To (Trump), America is a homogenous unit, no different from his own business enterprise,”
complains the Newsweek article. But from every president, including Obama, on down, that is exactly the point of view of the Republicrat paradigm.

“They’ve got the flags, the music, the hype, the hysteria, the resources, and they work to extract that thing in many people that seeks heroes and momentous struggles in which they can prove their greatness,” Newsweek complains. People should bear this in mind when they tune in to the Republican and Democratic conventions.

The xenophobia and racism that Trump bases himself on has been based on the corporate propaganda over the decades. Now, they're complaining that it's gone too far.

The xenophobia, racism and simple mindedness that Trump bases himself on has been based on the corporate propaganda over the decades. Now, they’re complaining that it’s gone too far. What he’s stirring up is a warning for the future, where things will go if a real, left movement of the working class as a whole isn’t built.

Their Real Problem

Corporate America’s real problem with Trump is two-fold:

  • First of all, he’s breaking the rules of the game, mocking his competitors as if they weren’t also his partners in crime. He’s giving voice to the real frustrations of millions of people in the US. This is an embarrassment to many of the corporate mouthpieces who run for office.
  • Second, he’s channeling this through the route of anti-“free” trade. This has been a real staple of capitalism in seeking to boost its rate of profit by using the cheap wages in some areas and the lax regulations (especially environmental ones) and the even lower corporate taxes to boos their rate of profit everywhere. They use this to drive down the wages in their home countries, and to fight for less regulation and even lower taxes.

Trump anti-worker

If elected (which is no more likely than Sanders being elected), Trump will even worsen the situation for all workers. While he rambles on about “illegal immigrants”, Trump’s companies have not hesitated to hire some 1100 foreign workers since 2000, mainly into low wage positions. In other words, he’s been no different from his fellow capitalists regarding using these workers lack of legal status to drive down workers’ pay. And his union busting at his hotel in Las Vegas proves this. (It should be emphasized that what he did there is little different from what the great majority of employers in the US do or have done.)

What Trump “represents will not last,” the Newsweek article concludes. “It’s a moment in time. The thousands who attend his rallies and scream their heads off will head home and return to enjoying movies, smartphones and mobile apps from all over the world…” These advances (smart phones, etc.) are all due to the “courtesy of the global market economy in which no one rules.” It’s true that the “free” market has no one individual “ruler”, although a small handful of major corporations have much more of a role in manipulating that “free” market that the apologists such as Newsweek like to admit. Instead, they have sought to introduce the complete domination over every aspect of human life – from the air we breathe and the food we eat to the wages and working conditions (for those who actually have a job) by Corporate World.

Reaction against “free” market

No wonder that there is a growing populist reaction against the “free” market, nor that this reaction in part is channeled into racism and “nativistic jingoism”:

In the first place, Corporate America through all its media (TV, Hollywood, the politicians, professional sports, etc.), has encouraged this “jingoism”. Second is the confusion created by the fact that the leaders of the only organizations that workers have in this country – the unions – refuse to lead. Instead, inside the unions they often act as the mouthpiece for the employer, and off the job – politically – that’s all they do; they do nothing politically but mouth what the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party is willing to concede.

The forces that are uniting behind Trump almost certainly include fascists in the true sense of the word, but Trump does not base himself on fascist methods. But he represents a danger nevertheless; he shows that in the absence of a real, mass and radical working class movement, larger wings of middle class and even working class people will be responding to his jingoistic and racist appeals. “Newsweek” is completely wrong on this; what he represents will not go away.

The forces that are campaigning against police brutality and racism, the forces inside the unions that are genuinely fighting for a  real change, those who are really fighting against fracking and against environmental damage (as opposed to the Big Green non-profiteers, who are linked to the Democrats) will have to all join together to build the left wing alternative to Trump and the jingoism and racism that he bases himself on.

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The Gathering Storm

Workers and youth in the United States and around the world should pause and think about what is happening.

The Western media is talking a lot about the Islamic State seizing power in large parts of the Arab world and beyond. This is a fascist force that rules through frenzied hatred and terror. But they are not alone.

Throughout Europe, racist, anti-immigrant forces are rising up.

Then there is Israel. Below is a video of Palestinian protesters in Ashkelon, Israel who gathered to show support for the gravely ill hunger striker Muhammed Allan while he’s in the hospital. They are met by right wing, racist Israelis whose chants celebrate the mass murder of children in Gaza as well as calling for “death to reporters”. These forces, too, are fascist, and are tolerated by the Israeli regime. Here is a video of that event:

Young people and workers in the US should not be fooled into thinking that what is happening elsewhere won’t affect us. Just as the economy is global, so is the political climate. We know that the organized fascists are making contact across borders. But more important, this racism and reaction in one part of the world helps spur it on everywhere else. We here in the US are a long way from an outright fascist movement even threatening for power, but we shouldn’t underestimate the danger that the Trump types and their supporters pose (even though most of them aren’t outright fascists).

The xenophobia and racism that Trump bases himself on is part of a general world trend. Only a united workers movement can combat it.

The xenophobia and racism that Trump bases himself on is part of a general world trend. Only a united workers movement can combat it.

The movement against police racism, murders and brutality can become the leading force in a more generalized movement not only against racism but also against the attacks on working class people in general. No capitalist candidate (including Bernie Sanders) has any answer. The answer lies among ourselves and our own united power.

 

Posted in Marxist theory, Middle East, racism, United States | Leave a comment

US Presidential Race Gets Interesting

The US Presidential race is starting to get a little interesting. On the Republican side, we
have the racist buffoon demagogue, Donald Trump, leading the pack with close to 25% support among Republican voters. It’s hard to see how the Republican tops can allow him to represent their party in the presidential race, but this writer made a categorical prediction about Bernie Sanders before (that there was zero chance he would get the nomination). Maybe we’ll have to eat those words, although it still seems extremely unlikely for him to win the Democratic nomination, but consider the numbers according to the latest poll:

Democratic voters support for the two main candidates:

  • one month ago: Clinton: 59%,   Sanders 19%
  • Two weeks ago: Clinton 51%,    Sanders 22%
  • 3 Days ago:        Clinton 49%     Sanders 30%

Consider the longer term perspectives:

If Trump wins the nomination (extremely unlikely) this will nearly guarantee a

Nowhere else in the world would 25% of the voting age population take this buffoon seriously.

Nowhere else in the world would this buffoon be taken seriously.

Democratic victory.

If a moderate Republican wins the nomination, Trump is likely to run as a third candidate, nearly guaranteeing a Democratic victory.

If a right wing fanatic like Ted Cruz wins the Republican nomination, a Democratic victory is likely (but not guaranteed).

If Sanders is the Democratic nominee (which still seems very unlikely unless there is a mass movement from below) and wins the presidency, he will be facing total opposition, including from his own party, in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Talk about “gridlock”! That is, unless he completely capitulates, which would lead to a disastrous collapse in confidence for the Democrats.

Hillary Clinton. Her lack of credibility means that as president she would have a hard time holding things together.

Hillary Clinton. Her lack of credibility means that as president she would have a hard time holding things together.

If it is Clinton, US capitalism will have a president who is completely wooden and unconvincing, even compared to the other corporate politicians; she completely lacks the charisma of Obama or previous presidents, yes, even including George Bush. This will be at a time when US society will be facing ever greater conflict. And their #1 salesperson will be completely lacking in sales appeal.

And if, somehow, a Republican wins, well then all bets are off.

Posted in politics, United States | 2 Comments

Congratulations to Mara and Marissa

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Congratulations, Marissa Johnson and Mara Jacqueline Willaford. You accomplished what you set out to do. Maybe it wasn’t pretty. Maybe it wasn’t perfect. But we see that Sanders is now talking about “institutional racism,” he’s talking about Sandra Bland as an example of police racism.

It was the protest at Netroots Nation that first caught his attention, and your interruption really sealed the deal. “There is no president that will fight harder to end institutional racism,” he said in Los Angeles just two days after his Seattle adventure. There are a couple of conclusions we should draw:

  • First and foremost, we should remember the immortal words of the very successful baseball manager, Leo Duroucher, who was known for being a real tyrant. When he was asked why he wasn’t a nicer guy, he answered, “because nice guys finish last.”
  • Second, we can never rely on the liberal establishment. We have to build our own, independent power base.

Onward 

The Sandersnistas have tried to defend his relative silence on the issue of institutional racism up until now by pointing to some march he participated in 50 years ago, as if resting on his laurels satisfies. But we can’t do the same; now its onward and upward. Sanders’ feet must be kept to the fire on this issue, but it should be expanded. If we are fighting racism here in the US, and if we want to be taken seriously, then we have to fight it everywhere. While Sanders claims to oppose “institutional racism”, there is probably no country in the world where racism is more institutionalized than the racist, expansionist State of Israel. Sanders supports Israel and Zionism. He can’t be allowed to pretend to oppose racism at home while he supports it abroad. If black lives matter, then so do Palestinian lives.

One trap we should beware of: Pressuring a liberal politician can lead us down the road to relying on those very same politicians. But if we want to avoid that trap, we have to have an alternative. Running our own candidates, separate and apart from the Republicrat paradigm won’t solve the entire problem, which is capitalism itself, but it’s one step in building a broader movement; it’s one step in helping that movement define its own goals and strategy; it’s one step down the road towards the US working class consciously becoming a class in, of and for itself. That means, among other things, explicitly fighting racism also.

 

 

Posted in politics, racism, United States | 1 Comment

Bernie Sanders Event Disrupted in Seattle

Unknown-1UnknownThe disruption of the campaign event for left liberal Bernie Sanders by Black Lives Matter activists in Seattle is sending ripples throughout the media and across the internet. Did they do the right thing? Are they really plants for Hillary Clinton? Was it wrong to antagonize potential allies?

This writer, for one, thinks they did the right thing, and it speaks mountains that Sanders didn’t invite them to speak even before the event happened — while it was still in the planning stages, and in fact seek to involve them in the planning. However, what was said – and left unsaid – also matters. And also, where things go from here matters.

Sanders has a history of downplaying the issue of police racism and murder. And when it was forcefully brought to his attention – at the Netroots Nation conference (with all the drawbacks of that group) – he responded by implying that all that need be done about racism is fight for jobs, free education, etc. Sure, the economic issues are intimately tied in

 Symone Sanders, a volunteer organizer with the D.C.-based Coalition for Juvenile Justice, was announced as the new national press secretary of Sanders’ campaign after he was confronted by Black Lives Matter protesters.


Symone Sanders, a volunteer organizer with the D.C.-based Coalition for Juvenile Justice, was announced as the new national press secretary of Sanders’ campaign after he was confronted by Black Lives Matter protesters.

with the issue of racism and it’s a mistake to ignore them, but Sanders’ thinking that that’s all there is to it is totally wrong. As people point out, what good did a job do Sandra Bland or any of the other victims of police violence and racism? (For a more in-depth history of the sort of approach that Sanders takes, see this article.)

The issue of the criminal (in)justice system, including police abuse and murder, is one of the most crucial if not the most crucial issues in the US today. Until recently Bernie Sanders has pretty much whiffed on this issue and the only reason he’s changed recently is that he wasn’t allowed to go on like that. And why shouldn’t somebody at the forefront of this battle have been allowed to speak at this rally in Seattle?

But once they got the stage, there were a couple of things that really needed to be said.

  • First of all, if black lives matter, then so do Palestinian lives. Almost everybody is giving Sanders a free pass regarding his support for the racist State of Israel. His support for Israel is a huge issue and should be really emphasized. It’s unfortunate that the young
    "I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection." Martin Luther King, jr.

    “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
    Martin Luther King, jr.

    woman who spoke didn’t really hammer him on this issue.

  • Second, this was a largely white audience, and what they need to understand is that if the police are allowed to run rampant throughout the black community, they will also be abusing and even killing white people too. Nothing gets people’s attention like self-interest, after all.
  • Third, and really crucial is an explanation of the entire role of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. This is the wing that diverts and drowns every real movement for change. Even where Sanders is right on the issues, what does he propose? In effect nothing but vote in more Democrats. What’s needed is to build the movement in the streets and link that with running candidates from that movement apart from and in opposition to the Republicrats.

If they had done that, it would have been a real “learning moment” for thousands in that crowd. It would have also completely dispensed with the accusation that these young women were really a stalking horse for Hillary Clinton, as those points apply to her even more than to Sanders. Let us hope that Clinton as well as the disgusting Republican candidates get the same “welcome” as they travel around the country.Unknown-2

These representatives of the racist capitalist system deserve the same "welcome".

These representatives of the racist capitalist system deserve the same “welcome”.

But nobody ever said it would be smooth and easy. Especially in the US, the land of pragmatism, it’s inevitable that as a movement develops mistakes will be made. But it’s still important to learn from the past. As somebody once said, “a smart person learns from their own mistakes; a truly wise person learns from the mistakes of others.”

Additional NOTE: It’s said that the two young women refused to allow Sanders to speak at all. We haven’t seen any video that shows this event until the end, so we don’t know about that, but if it’s true then we think this was mistaken. It’s one thing to insist on having one’s voice heard and it’s another to refuse to allow somebody to speak at their own event, even if that somebody is a capitalist politician. (The only exception would be racists and others who seek to stir up attacks on oppressed groups of people.)

Posted in politics, racism | 6 Comments

The Corbyn Phenomenon

Introduction: The movement against oppression and poverty and for worker rights in the US has always suffered from the fact that workers – all workers – in the US lack their own party through which the popular movements can organize and fight. As a result, these movements have tended to be a bit scattered and have tended to get derailed by the corporate-controlled Democratic Party. The next logical step of the new movement that is building in the streets will be the running of our own candidates as a step towards building a new, radical mass workers’ party. Because of that, we can learn a lot from developments in other mass workers’ parties. Here, Roger Silverman reports from London on the British Labour Party and the “Jeremy Corbyn Phenomenon”.

Jeremy Corbyn headed home on the bus (!) after a day's campaigning. No big entourage or limo for him.

Jeremy Corbyn headed home on the bus (!) after a day’s campaigning. No big entourage or limo for him.

The latest manifestation of the popular revolt sweeping Europe against austerity is the campaign in Britain in support of Jeremy Corbyn – one of the few remaining left Labour MPs – as leader of the Labour Party. It has already transformed the outlook and shone at last a ray of hope into the gloom induced by the Tory victory in May’s general election, with its brutal programme of welfare cuts and attacks on trade-union rights.

The likely impending victory of Corbyn has generated a rabid scare campaign by the media. One newspaper shrieked that “140,000 hard lefts” were plotting to infiltrate the party. (It was news to most of us that we had anything like so many co-thinkers.) Another warned that if Corbyn won, the Labour Party would become “another SYRIZA – completely unelectable”! (They appear not to have noticed that SYRIZA won its last election, while Labour lost.) Only three months ago, the only party putting a clear anti-austerity policy at the general election – the Scottish National Party – swept the board, winning 56 out of the 59 Scottish seats, while the Labour Party – in its former rock-solid red-belt heartland – was literally wiped out. It seemed that the groundswell of anger against the government might bypass a slowly decomposing Labour apparatus. But as often happens, events are developing in a paradoxical, contradictory and ambiguous way.

It is overwhelmingly the trade unions who make up the solid base of the Labour Party, and it is trade union members responding to the appeal of UNITE who make up the bulk of those who have registered to support Jeremy Corbyn.

A split?

Under Corbyn, the Labour Party would become revived. Along with more radical policies – renationalisation of the railways and utility companies, reversal of welfare cuts, etc. – there would be some restoration of the party’s former democratic structure. There could be a healthy influx of workers and youth into the currently hollow shell of the constituency parties; probably, too – for better or worse – a reorientation towards Labour by some at least of the left groups.

If Corbyn wins, then it may be that some right-wing Labour Members of Parliament (MPs) will split away; this option is already being seriously debated. Alternatively, they are considering triggering a coup by refusing to recognise the outcome of the vote, undermining the new leader, plotting a new leadership election within a year or two, or just plain splitting. One said: “We cannot just allow our party, a credible party of government, to be hijacked in this summer of madness. A right-wing breakaway from Labour under the barrage of a hysterical press campaign to discredit Corbyn would enjoy flattery, bribery and glittering rewards from the ruling class and the media. The Labour Party could initially be reduced to a much reduced faction in parliament, pilloried by media abuse.

If the Corbyn campaign fails, or if the right wing succeed in using legalistic or constitutional tricks to reverse his election, or if he succumbs to the overwhelming pressures to which he will be subjected… then the trade unions could still find other means to make their voice heard, including – as they have warned several times – by launching an alternative party. The workers have no choice but to fight back; they need a political voice. The class tensions within the Labour Party can’t be reconciled; sooner or later it has to come to a split. If Labour MPs refuse to represent them, then the trade unions will have to find another route.

Dave Ward of the Communications Workers’ Union has expressed very clearly the issues at stake: “There is a virus within the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn is the antidote….”

The railway union RMT had already broken away from the Labour Party as long ago as 2004. Even the Communications Workers’ Union seriously debated the issue in 2009; in a consultative ballot by London members, no less than 96% of the membership voted in favour of immediate disaffiliation.

The leader of Britain’s biggest trade union UNITE, Len McCluskey, has many times threatened in so many words to disaffiliate Unite from Labour and launch a new workers’ party, demanding that Labour prove itself “the voice of ordinary working people “. And only two weeks ago, he repeated his warning yet again: that UNITE would “disaffiliate from the Labour Party if it does not elect the correct leader… and prove it is the voice of organised labour“.

Two classes cannot share one party. The mass of trade-union rank-and-file Labour activists and the parasitic clique of New Labour crypto-Tory MPs who have made their nests in the parliamentary party cannot preserve for much longer their current uneasy cohabitation. These are not just a new generation of the old-style reformist Labour leaders of yesteryear – tainted individuals perhaps, cowardly, treacherous, bribed or intimidated, but with roots firmly implanted in the labour movement. They are a “virus”, as Dave Ward rightly said. Like any organism, to regain its health the Labour Party needs to rid itself of this virus. Corbyn’s candidacy has acted as a catalyst in polarising the opposing forces within the Labour Party.

Sooner or later, a clean parting of the ways is needed. This would liberate the labour movement.

The historical background

Despite superficial similarities, the Labour Party is not at all the same as the US Democratic Party. That party started as the slave-owners’ party and was taken over by the capitalists after they defeated the slave owners in the Civil War. It can never be made into a workers’ party. The Labour Party was founded at the beginning of the twentieth century as the political arm of the trade unions, which had grown exponentially and needed parliamentary representation to resist the legal restrictions placed in their path. Long before it was yet even formally a socialist party, Lenin had advocated its admission into the Socialist International, on the grounds that it was the political voice of the trade unions and that, whether or not it recognised the class struggle, “inevitably the class struggle would recognise it”. Sure enough, in 1918, under the impact of the Russian revolution, the Labour Party adopted a constitution committing it to socialist aspirations: a society in which “the workers by hand and by brain” would receive “the full fruits of their labour”. In 1921, Lenin advised Britain’s fledgling Communist Party to affiliate to the Labour Party.

The Labour Party used to have a socialist constitution, a decisive trade union block vote, an elected national executive committee, a genuine policy-making conference, an active working-class base, and a parliamentary party largely composed of former workers and trade-union officials. It was created by the trade unions, stood for a socialist transformation of society, and actually at one time carried through nationalisation of some basic industries, the foundation of the national health service, and comprehensive education. The Tories bitterly opposed every one of these measures, and did all they could to reverse them at the earliest opportunity. It took years of struggle by the working class to achieve them, and their implementation by Labour Governments was rightly celebrated as a historic victory. For all its corruption and bureaucratisation, Labour was manifestly a party based on the working class, and its leaders had to hypocritically justify every treacherous twist and turn with reference to the interests of labour and the cause of social reform.

Under sustained pressure, the leadership of the Labour Party has usually betrayed the workers’ hopes. Labour’s first Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald in 1931 broke his electoral mandate, split the party and formed a coalition “National Government” – in effect, presided over a Tory government – in order to carry through a programme of savage cuts.

However, the 1945 Attlee government – swept to power on a tide of revolt against the system which had offered only the hunger of the 1930s slump and the slaughter of the world war – did carry through a wave of radical reforms, including the nationalisation of many basic industries and services ravaged by the war and the creation of the much-loved National Health Service. Soon, under capitalist pressure, it reverted to a programme of counter-reforms – a trend largely continued by the Wilson and Callaghan governments in the 1960s and 1970s. Nevertheless, even the right-winger Gaitskell fought the 1959 election on a manifesto of wholesale nationalisation; and right up to the 1980s, the party conference was committed to “a fundamental shift in the balance of power and wealth” in society.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, the group around the paper Militant built a formidable base as a Marxist tendency within Labour. They introduced thousands of working-class youth to socialist ideas, led mass campaigns and played a major role in forcing Thatcher’s resignation in 1990. To the jeers of sectarians, Militant in its day argued that Labour was, for all the betrayals of the leadership, still the workers’ traditional party, to which they would turn first in their search for a political solution. In the 1980s, however, amid baying media hysteria Militant fell victim to an inquisitional witch-hunt and mass expulsions.

During the 1990s, after a decade of privatisations and attacks on workers’ rights under Margaret Thatcher, an openly pro-capitalist clique assumed the leadership of the Labour Party, led by Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown. Mandelson openly boasted: “I am supremely relaxed about people getting filthy rich, so long as they pay their taxes.” They attacked Labour’s socialist and trade-union traditions and proclaimed a new identity, calling themselves “New Labour”. Where in the late 1950s Gaitskell had tried unsuccessfully – in the teeth of resistance from the rank and file – to renounce that clause of the party constitution (Clause Four) which set out Labour’s socialist aims, they succeeded. The party’s constitution and programme changed drastically under the New Labour regime: Clause 4 was dropped, and the role of the trade unions in the party structure was reduced mainly to fund-raising. There was a reversal in Labour’s relationship with big business. Previously, Labour had still campaigned for the nationalisation of the “commanding heights” of the economy, and in the 1960s and the 1970s, Labour governments still carried through some reforms. In contrast, the New Labour governments carried much further than even Thatcher dared to go her reactionary crusade: partial privatisation of the NHS and state education, the introduction of tuition fees for students, an astronomical rise in the prison population, etc.

In the past, Labour governments had been tolerated only when capitalism was suffering a crisis, and only then with gritted teeth, for brief periods, and under relentless pressure. The first Wilson government complained that it had been blackmailed by the “gnomes of Zurich”. Back in power in 1974, when Britain was gripped by power cuts in the wake of the miners’ strike, and the Tories had lost an election called on the issue of “who runs Britain: the government or the trade unions?” – the second Wilson government was rocked by runaway inflation, waves of strikes, terrorist bombings, and open speculation of an imminent Chilean-style coup.

The capitalists showed a very different attitude towards New Labour. For an unprecedented three successive terms of office, they patronised it as their preferred instrument of government, temporarily abandoning their traditional party the Tories and showering donations on it. During the thirteen years of government by a “New Labour” clique which abandoned the party’s socialist aspirations, undermined the link with the trade unions, destroyed party democracy, bad-mouthed its Labour heritage, and carried through ultra-Thatcherite policies that even the Iron Lady herself had shrunk from, its leaders openly proclaimed themselves champions of big business. They even adopted a new name, to differentiate themselves from Labour’s historic traditions.

New Labour served a very specific historical purpose for the ruling class: to carry through to a conclusion the Thatcherite counter-revolution under new wrapping, once the Tories had become so discredited that they were no longer capable of finishing the job under their own banner. It was the product of a conscious conspiracy by the ruling class. Only in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 was New Labour deemed to have outlived its usefulness; once having served its purpose in government, it was unceremoniously ditched.

Now the reins of power have been firmly grasped by Britain’s traditional masters – the products of Eton School, Oxbridge, the Church, the army and the top people’s exclusive clubs.

The Blairite MPs have no allegiance to the labour movement, nor any aspirations to a new society. They are plain careerists who at a certain time found it opportune to jump on the New Labour bandwagon – an alien force hostile to the workers’ interests. This could not continue. Either there would be an influx of workers to regenerate the party, or a breakaway by the trade unions and the creation of an alternative party, or a combination of both: attempts by some trade unions to reclaim the Labour Party, alongside movements by sections of worker activists to replace it.

Just as after the defeat of the last Labour government in 1979, when there was a sharp swing to the left among Labour supporters and a historic vote for the left-winger Tony Benn as deputy leader, so now – in a delayed reaction reflecting the workers’ shock at the savage scale of Tory attacks – a new wave of revolt is at last on the horizon.

The Future

The new influx of workers and the surge of support for Jeremy Corbyn is only the beginning of a new era of struggle. Millions of workers are gearing up for a fightback. Young people especially are being victimised by the new Tory government, through mass unemployment, dead-end low-paid jobs, soaring tuition fees, a housing crisis. The new government seems hell-bent on provoking a new outbreak of riots and looting as in 2011, to justify intensified police repression. One of the most encouraging features of the Corbyn phenomenon is that young people are now flocking to his support.

Already, win or lose, the Corbyn campaign has transformed the mood throughout Britain.

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“A Disaster for the Pro-Capitalist Cause”

Jeremy Corbyn: A "Disaster" for British capitalism.

Jeremy Corbyn: A “Disaster” for British capitalism.

A specter is haunting the British capitalists; it is the specter of a renewed class struggle. Or rather, the class attacks by British capitalism finally starting to receive an answer from workers and young people.

The specter is taking the form of a campaign by socialist Jeremy Corbyn to win the leadership of the British Labour Party. Here’s how the London Telegraph sees the matter:

“Britain needs as many pro-capitalist parties as it can get…. It would therefore be a disaster for Britain were Jeremy Corbyn to become leader of the Labour Party. He is an unreconstructed socialist…. It would become acceptable again to call for nationalising vast swathes of industry, for massively hiking tax and for demonising business…. It would also become far harder for them to reform trade unions…. Class war, extreme language and nonsensical positions would all be back…. A Corbyn-led Labour Party would be a disaster for the pro-capitalist cause.”

Like similar mass workers’ parties throughout Western Europe, the British Labour Party has turned sharply to the right in recent decades. It has embraced cuts in services and jobs, cuts and more cuts. The result has been that workers and youth have turned away from Labour in droves. Now, however, Jeremy Corbyn is campaigning to lead a Labour Party that would reverse all that. The London Telegraph article shows what the capitalists fear this would mean for British society.

We here in the US have a lot to learn from the struggles all around the world. In Greece, recently, workers and youth rejected their traditional mass party – the Greek socialist party known as Pasok – and voted in a left alternative, Syriza. Even though the Syriza leadership has shown so far that it lacks a strategy to defeat European capitalism, the last act there has not yet been written. Meanwhile, we see here the drama shifting across the channel to Britain.

Some might compare the campaign of Bernie Sanders in the US’s Democratic Party to that of Jeremy Corbyn. But it’s not the same, because the Democratic Party never has been, is not now and never can become a mass party of workers. It will always be corporate-controlled. But what we are starting to see here is the very beginnings of independent left candidates – socialists most often – running for local office outside of the Democratic/Republican paradigm. As this develops, they will tend to come together and a new mass organization, a political party, will tend to be formed. As that develops, we will have to learn from the lessons of Syriza, Jeremy Corbyn, the struggle in South Africa against the ANC, and other such struggles.

(In the coming days, we hope to have a more in-depth analysis from Britain of what is happening in the British Labour Party.)

 

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Lessons from the Youth Movement of the 1960s

Protests outside Democratic Party Convention, Chicago 1968.

Protests outside Democratic Party Convention, Chicago 1968.

Today, as a new youth movement is developing across the United States, it’s important to draw some lessons from what was probably the largest youth movement of US history – the movement of the 1960s.

In 1964, UC Berkeley exploded around what became known as the “Free Speech Movement.” In a speech at that campus in December of that year, Mario Savio, the best know leader of that movement said, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” (Note the last sentence; it implies that the ultimate goal is to pressure the capitalist class rather than remove it from power.)

“New Left”

Inspired by the black liberation movement and feeling the pressure of the Vietnam War, tens possibly hundreds of thousands of college students nationwide moved into political action, mainly against the war. Disgusted with the war as well as with the racism of US society, many of these students became part of what became known as the “New Left.”

The New Left offered some lasting advances. As opposed to most Marxists of the day, youth of the New Left took up issues like the environment, women’s liberation, gay rights, etc. (They all responded to the black liberation struggle; that was not new.) These are lasting benefits of that then-youth movement.

However, there was also a down-side.

Throwing out the Baby with the Bath Water

In rejecting the “old” left, they threw out the baby with the bath water. Not only did they reject the revolutionary role of the working class; they saw themselves as inventing something entirely new, a movement that didn’t have to study and learn from the revolutionary movements of the past. Most important, they attempted to avoid really considering the main debates that had raged through those past movements; they failed to take a clear position on them.

The result was that the New Left got disoriented and it disintegrated in just a few years. Unclear on the role of the working class, they were also unclear on the role of the capitalist class as a class and the role of its parties. Some rejected those parties, including the Democrats, on the immediate grounds that its president (Lyndon Johnson) was the one conducting the War Against Vietnam. But there was no clear analysis beyond that, so in 1968, six short years later, many on the New Left got sucked into the campaign of “peace candidate” Gene McCarthy for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

Chicago, 1968

In 1968, mass protests in Chicago outside the Democratic Party national convention led to the arrest and trial of 8 leaders on conspiracy charges. The evolution of some of the most prominent of those leaders is instructive:

  • Tom Hayden got elected as a liberal Democrat to the California State Assembly. He ispresently a functionary of the Progressive Democrats of America.

    Tom Hayden today.

    Tom Hayden today.

  • Jerry Rubin became a Wall St. stock broker who advocated liberal capitalism.

    Jerry Rubin. He became a stock broker.

    Jerry Rubin. He became a stock broker.

  • Abbie Hoffman never sold out; instead he moved to the fringes of society, lost all influence, and ended up committing suicide.

    Abbie Hoffman back in the day.

    Abbie Hoffman back in the day.

  • An eighth leader took such an independent and courageous stance that he had his trial separated. This was the courageous Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party. Still alive today, while he hasn’t capitulated, he has clearly backed off from his radicalism, recently declaring, for example that “There are (some) good cops, straight cops. They don’t run around brutalizing people for the sake of brutalizing people. They’re my friends. I want people to make that distinction.”

    Bobby Seale (left) with singer D'Angelo today.

    Bobby Seale (left) with singer D’Angelo today.

The Science of Revolution

Today, the lessons of that movement bear studying. Most important, those of us who are looking for a road to revolution should consider the fact that while revolution is one part art, it is also one part science, and like any science it has to be studied. We cannot afford to ignore all the huge issues, the questions that raged through the revolutionary movements and the events that flowed from those questions, from the Chinese and Cuban revolutions to the revolutions in Africa and, yes, the Russian Revolution (and its aftermath), nor the more recent revolutionary movement in South Africa in the 1980s nor the revolutionary movement of the Arab Spring. As the youth movement of the 1960s shows, we fail to clarify and take a position on those issues at our own risk. This includes:

  • Whether national liberation movements can be won within the confines of capitalism or whether the struggle against oppression and colonialism has to be linked with the struggle against capitalism itself.
  • Whether any sector of the capitalist class and its organizations/political parties can be an ally.
  • What is the role of the working class as a whole and whether is it necessary to find a road towards the working class as a whole?

All of these issues have been settled by the harsh judgement of historical fact.

There is no need nor is there time to reinvent the wheel.woman fist up

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“Socialists”, liberals and racism and the Bernie Sanders phenomenon

Bernie Sanders: Along with other liberals, he's nearly ignoring the institutional racism of capitalist America.

Bernie Sanders: Along with other liberals, he’s nearly ignoring the institutional racism of capitalist America.

Last week, the liberal Democratic activists “Netroots Nation” held its annual convention and Bernie Sanders was one of the featured speakers. During his speech, Sanders was interrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters about his failure to address the issue of police abuse and police murder and the racism so integral to the criminal (in)justice system. His immediate response, as seen in this video, was to talk about creating decent paying jobs. Some days later, after this experience, Sanders did say a few words on the issue, but it was too little too late.

Of course, decent paying jobs is integral to fighting racism. But to simply focus on that issue is to actually help cover up for the institutional racism that is so blatant in the United States. Sanders approach is reminiscent of the approach of Eugene Debs, the great socialist of the early 20th century. In his essay, “The Negro in the Class Struggle,” Debs condemns racism, including the racism of the poor whites. But he also writes, “I have said and say again that, properly speaking, there is no Negro question outside of the labor question—the working class struggle. Our position as Socialists and as a party is perfectly plain. We have simply to say: ‘The class struggle is colorless.’ The capitalists, white, black and other shades, are on one side and the workers, white, black and all other colors, on the other side…. We have nothing special to offer the Negro, and we cannot make separate appeals to all the races.”

Debs’s opposition to Jim Crow, lily-white unionism stood out in his day, but he was totally mistaken in his view as quoted above. Of course the workers movement in general – no less socialists – have to stand out first and foremost against racism and any and all forms of special oppression. That has to be at the very head of their banner, or else what kind of society are they really striving for?(The early Communists – who came from the Socialist Party – at first adopted Debs’s position and it took the arguments of Lenin to convince them that they were wrong, that simply campaigning for economic justice for all was not enough.) 

The other mistake Debs made was that, if you read his essay, it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t see black people as the prime mover, the leading force, in fighting racism; he doesn’t see black people as the subject of the fight, but rather as the object, as being dealt with from above, so to speak.

Debs’s mistaken views, however, are understandable (although just as mistaken) considering that he was writing over 100 years ago. What is not understandable, though, is for alleged “socialists” taking that position today, and that is what Bernie Sanders does. Look at the video where Sanders is interrupted at Netroots Nation; doesn’t he in essence take the same position? Look at Sanders Facebook page, the issue is entirely absent.

Sandra Bland, murdered by the institutional racism of capitalist America. Where have Sanders and other "socialist" been on this issue?

Sandra Bland, murdered by the institutional racism of capitalist America. Where have Sanders and other “socialist” been on this issue?

But wait, there’s more, as the TV game show MC used to say. Consider the Facebook page of  socialist Kshama Sawant. The issue is absent here too. And her group, Socialist Alternative, indirectly supports Sanders while they criticize him for possibly not going far enough and for running as a Democrat. But it’s far more than this; just as Sanders defends and covers up for the racist State of Israel, by ignoring the issue of the police, etc. he in effect covers up for the rampant racism and oppression of the US criminal (in)justice system.

What Sanders is doing is appealing to those middle class white youth who are angry that their future is no longer guaranteed. Rather than helping them see the link between their economic uncertainty and the racist oppression of capitalism, he is reinforcing their selfish concern for themselves alone.

We have to ask: What sort of “socialism” is this?

Posted in racism, socialist movement | 2 Comments

The Never-Ending Race to the Bottom: Who’s Next?

Many years ago, this writer was a delegate to the Alameda County Building Trades Council for his local of the Carpenters Union. At one point the executive secretary of the council (his name was Billy Ward) was preaching about how we have to help “our” contractors compete with the non-union contractors. I pointed out that the non-union bases their pay on what the union contractors are forced to pay. “If we take a cut, they will take a cut. So where will it all end?” I asked. The executive secretary tried to avoid my question but I wouldn’t let him. Every time he tried to move on I raised a “point of order” and asked again. Finally, in frustration, he threw his hands up in the air. “I don’t know where it will all end! Okay, John?” he exclaimed.

That was about 40 years ago, and we haven’t ended yet. In fact, we’re not even close.

Today’s Wall St. Journal (7/18/15) has an article which explains it perfectly. It reports on a small economic recovery in Portugal. There, an austerity program similar to Greece was imposed several years ago. Jobs disappeared and wages collapsed. The economy shrunk by 6% between 2011 and 2013. Hundreds of thousands of Portuguese fled the country. These economic refugees swelled the world’s labor pool, to be used by global capital to depress wages in other countries.
WO-AX190A_PORTG_9U_20150717165407

But wait, there’s more.

Magically, in 2014 the Portuguese economy grew by 0.9%. With the domestic market dead, it must have been magic, right? Nope. It was based on a massive increase in exports. In 2009, exports were only 27% of the Portuguese economy. Last year they were 40%.

In other words, as wages and other labor costs were cut, Portugal became a more profitable target for investment for sale on the world market. 

Who is next? Will Greek workers be forced to continue down that road? Will the Spanish or Italians? How about the Germans? Couldn’t be, could it? Don’t be too sure; as this article shows, global capital already has their eyes on them. Here in the US, we’ve been driving down that road for decades now.

Billy Ward didn’t know where it all would lead, but here it is, and it hasn’t stopped yet. It will only end in the ruination of the entire world working class. Either that, or the overthrow of the capitalist system.

Portuguese workers march in support of the struggle of Greek workers against austerity.

Portuguese workers march in support of the struggle of Greek workers’ fight against austerity.

Posted in economics, Europe, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Greece: More on Race to The Bottom

Yanis Varoufakis (r) and his former counterpart, German Finance Minister Schauble. Despite his denials, Schauble has the same medicine in store for the German working class.

German Finance Minister Schaeuble (l) and his former Greek counter part, Yanis Varoufakis. Despite his denials, Schauble has the same medicine in store for the German working class.

Slightly over a month ago, we printed an article which explained that what’s really under way in Greece is to use the economic crisis there to drive down the living standards of Greek workers and then use that as a battering ram against the workers throughout the EU. Now, a new article in today’s Wall St. Journal again confirms that.

That article is titled (in the print edition) “Berlin Avoids Own Medicine”. It explains: “Many of the overhauls on Athens’ to-do list are inspired by the labor market, welfare and budget measures that Germany enacted in 2003 and 2004, when it was struggling with high unemployment and slow growth. Others—such as lifting restrictions on Sunday shopping and deregulating pharmacies—go further and would likely face a political and legal backlash if attempted in Germany.”

The chief architect of the attacks on Greek workers – German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble – denies there are any plans for similar attacks on German workers. Of course he denies it; he has to keep their support. But one economist from a “non-partisan” think tank – the Centre for European Reform – gave the game away. “The attitude in Germany and in policy circles is that we don’t have a problem, so we get the luxury of keeping distortions of the free market.” (Note: “distortions of the free market” means anything that doesn’t just leave the hungry to starve the the poor living in the streets.) 

In other words, as soon as the German economy hits a speed bump, the same prescription will be enforced. Beware, German workers!

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Greece: Some Thoughts for a Program

Greeks rally for the "no" vote

Greeks rally for the “no” vote

Recent events in Greece once again show that in every struggle of working class people, clear goals – also known as a program – are necessary. Without that, the struggle inevitably gets led down dead-end streets or into a swamp that only the capitalists can benefit from. From outside Greece, the best socialists can do is raise some thoughts. We hope these bear discussing inside the workers’ movement there.

Greek Exit from Euro or “Grexit”

It’s clear that the only way that Greece can remain inside the eurozone is by either completely prostrating itself to German Finance Minister Schauble and German capital, or rapidly build a movement of workers both inside Greece and Europe-wide – one powerful enough to get Scheuble, Merkle & Co. to back down. In any case, since the “Grexit” is clearly a possibility, it has to be prepared for. With that in mind, we would like to know what socialists inside Greece think of the following points:

  • Repudiate the foreign debt.
  • Prepare for the “Grexit” by starting now to develop a national currency
  • Put the entire banking system into public ownership, under the control and management of the workers and the small depositors.
  • Retract all plans for privatization, first and foremost of the Port of Pireus.
  • Public ownership of the Greek mass media under worker control and management.
  • Put the Greek shipping lines under public ownership without compensation. (Note: These companies have received special tax breaks for years. That’s compensation enough.) Recall all Greek ships to the Port of Pireus for the sailors to meet with the port workers to organize how to take full control and management of their industry. This would be the first step down the road towards a planned economy. (Note: The Greek merchant marine owns almost 20% of the world’s merchant fleet. This would have serious trade consequences, but so be it.)
  • Build direct links with the workers in other countries, especially in the EU. This includes sending worker delegations throughout the EU, most particularly to meet up with the workers in Germany who are or were recently on strike to explain their common interests.
  •  Take immediate steps to draw the refugees living in Greece into the struggle and help spread this struggle to their home countries.

The other part of the question is how can this program, or any program be accomplished?

As far as we can understand it, Syriza still has the attention of the majority of Greek people, including the Greek working class. If that’s true, then we don’t understand why some of the Marxists aren’t inside Syriza, fighting for Syriza to take up a program that meets the needs of the moment, whether it includes the above points or totally other ones. In fact, is there an argument to be part of the left platform of Syriza?

The other question is this: Are there any sort of committees of struggle that workers in their work places and in their communities are starting to build? We read, for instance, about neighborhood committees that were starting to build a year ago. We have no idea if these are just the fantasies of some ultra lefts or if they really involved some working class people. But are there such committees now? In other words, how could centers of workers’ power – committees of struggle – develop in Greece?

We put all this forward really as questions we’d like answers to so that we, outside Greece, can best learn from this struggle.

Posted in Europe | 2 Comments

Oakland Socialist on the Radio

For those who are interested, Oaklandsocialist will be on the radio tomorrow (Saturday) morning at 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time (USA) talking about the events in Greece from the perspective here in the US. It can be heard online at WEFT.org.

For those who missed it and would like to hear it, the link is here. Note: the interview on Greece starts about a half hour in.: http://radio4all.net/index.php/program/81729

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

15 Now or 15 Sometime in the Future?

By putting a measure on the ballot (Proposition One) that is really for a $15/hour minimum wage now for almost all workers in Tacoma, 15 Now Tacoma has created a bit of a stir. They certainly have shaken up the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce: After seeing the speech of Mike Ladd of 15 Now Tacoma on May Day, the Chamber jumped to it, contacted Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and got her to set up a commission to come up with something that they hope will short circuit Proposition One. They also shook up the would-be junior partners of the Chamber – those union leaders who think that it’s impossible to go toe-to-toe with big business and win and are therefore unwilling to even try. And they also shook up 15 Now nationally and the “controlling partner” (one could say) inside that group – Socialist Alternative.

Mike Ladd (right) of 15 Now Tacoma. He writes: " I would say that 15now Tacoma genuinely represents a (truly) grassroots independent pro-worker challenge not only to Big Business and their representatives in the local city government, but the current institutions of business unionism and the generalized political gatekeepers of the Left as well. Currently, the Tacoma campaign has volunteers ranging from socialists to progressive democrats, students and retired people, rank and file union members and radical Christians. In many ways we might say that 15now Tacoma represents the various elements of what would come to make up a new and revitalized workers' movement, except on a very small scale. That being said, there are plenty of political disagreements and stark differences in tactics and strategy within the group, but what holds it all together is not only the commitment to the fight for 15/hr right now but an otherwise militant pro-worker attitude. In many ways we could say that 15now Tacoma represents in reality what the 15now movement has been only in rhetoric since the end of the Seattle campaign. "

Mike Ladd (right) of 15 Now Tacoma. He writes: “I would say that 15now Tacoma genuinely represents a (truly) grassroots independent pro-worker challenge not only to Big Business and their representatives in the local city government, but the current institutions of business unionism and the generalized political gatekeepers of the Left as well. Currently, the Tacoma campaign has volunteers ranging from socialists to progressive democrats, students and retired people, rank and file union members and radical Christians. We might say that 15now Tacoma represents the various elements of what would come to make up a new and revitalized workers’ movement, except on a very small scale. There are plenty of political disagreements and stark differences in tactics and strategy within the group, but what holds it all together is not only the commitment to the fight for 15/hr right now but also a militant pro-worker attitude. In many ways we could say that 15now Tacoma represents in reality what the 15 Now movement has been only in rhetoric since the end of the Seattle campaign.”

Well, maybe it’s not quite correct to say they were shaken up. They simply toed the line that their senior partners – the union leadership – has set. While publicly they and 15 Now nationally are simply ignoring 15 Now Tacoma, in private they’ve argued that the Tacoma chapter should drop the ballot initiative, approach the union leadership and go with whatever the union leadership is willing to support.

One wing of the union leadership in Tacoma has supported 15 Now Tacoma by both endorsing it and giving some money. Others, however, seem only willing to support what the Chamber of Commerce won’t fight tooth and nail. This means conceding to the Chamber in practice. Ironically, those union leaders who take this position “represent” the members who would benefit the most from a $15/hour minimum wage, such as janitors, grocery clerks and home care workers.

Argument to Fall in Line

The argument goes like this: If these union leaders won’t support it, and the unions as a whole won’t really get behind it in a big way, it can’t win, and a defeat will set back the movement. Why devote time an energy to an election campaign that is going to crash and burn? Haven’t we gone down that road before with other causes?

Proposition One Can Win

In the first place, it’s by no means certain that it can’t win without the union leadership. It’s not easy to get a measure on the ballot, and the fact that 15 Now Tacoma was able to do that with small forces says a lot. Of course, the lack of support from Socialist Alternative and their Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant makes it more difficult, but even then it’s still not doomed.

Building a Wider Movement

But the main point is this: Are we just trying to win a few more dollars on some workers pay checks, or are we raising the issue of the minimum wage to build a wider movement of working class people, one that is independent of big business and all their representatives, including the Democrats (which includes Bernie Sanders)? Isn’t it the latter really what’s needed? And, in fact, isn’t it by building a wider movement that it will be easier to win the immediate reforms?

Union Leadership and Collective Bargaining Opt-Out

What will the union leadership be willing to really support?

First and foremost, they are committed to opposing any sort of campaign that opposes the Democrats or threatens labor’s dependence on them, nor will they support anything that is opposed by all wings of big business. This means they will not support a campaign to bring minimum wage workers up to $15/hour now.

Then there is the “collective bargaining opt-out” (CBO) clause. The CBO exempts unionized employers from having to pay the new minimum wage. This was written into the SeaTac airport minimum wage ordinance. It was demanded of 15 Now in Seattle by the hotel workers union leadership (and supported by Socialist Alternative). It was written into the hotel minimum wage bill in Los Angeles. It’s not a far stretch to imagine that at least some of the union leadership would want it in any Tacoma minimum wage bill.

The CBO exemplifies the union-management “partnership” that these leaders live by (or one could say live by in the dream world they inhabit). As David Rolf, president of SEIU 775, explained it, it means “offering the olive branch to employers of good conscience.” (When Rolf finds such employers, we hope he lets us know.) What he really means is offering the white flag to any employer who doesn’t oppose letting Rolf and his type collect dues from that employer’s underpaid workers. If the likes of Rolf were willing to take a pay cut down to the sub-$15/hour wage that their members try to live on, we could at least take them seriously. They’d be mistaken, but at least they’d be for real. Their real attitude is best seen in the comment of another top officer of 775, Adam Glickman, who is quoted as calling Proposition One “divisive”. (Note: We tried to talk with Glickman to clarify his position, but he didn’t return our calls.) As it is, they’re demanding sacrifices that they’re not willing to make. There is a word for this.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. Under the pressure of strength of Proposition One, the Chamber of Commerce got the mayor to appoint a “Minimum Wage Task Force.” The overwhelming majority of its members are employers of one sort or another. It is rumored that they will be recommending an increase in Tacoma’s minimum wage to $13/hour over the next 2-3 years. If the Tacoma’s union leaders fall in line with this, does Socialist Alternative still say 15 Now Tacoma should back off?

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland.
Under the pressure of strength of Proposition One, the Chamber of Commerce got the mayor to appoint a “Minimum Wage Task Force.” The overwhelming majority of its members are employers of one sort or another. It is rumored that they will be recommending an increase in Tacoma’s minimum wage to $13/hour over the next 2-3 years. If the Tacoma’s union leaders fall in line with this, does Socialist Alternative still say 15 Now Tacoma should back off?

Imagine how the workers feel when they’re told, “you are taking a pay cut because you’re a union member.” That is not exactly calculated to increasing the support for unionism. It’s not going to increase the fighting spirit of workers in the least. And even on what amounts to an anti-union position (the CBO), Socialist Alternative has no opposition. They want 15 Now Tacoma to concede even to this, as they themselves did in Seattle.

There is no way to use the issue of a $15 minimum wage now to build a wider movement with this approach.

Instead, imagine if 15 Now Tacoma took Proposition One directly to the union members who are currently making less than that amount, starting with the courtesy clerks in the unionized grocery stores. Imagine if they urged them and helped them organize to get their union to back Proposition One. That would include not only financial support, but getting their local to really organize their members and their members’ families to campaign for it. Imagine if 15 Now Tacoma were able to get some of these members to make the link between this and the need for a real, fighting union – one which organizes and fights for its members every day on the job (and off). If they are able to accomplish that, then even if Proposition One fails at the ballot box, it will have won.

As for those who still aren’t convinced, those who want to wait and wait some more for a $15/hr minimum wage for all: Then the least they could do is change their slogan to “15 Sometime”.

Seattle City Council member and member of Socialist Alternative Kshama Sawant. She has refused to endorse Tacoma’s Proposition One. The very least she and Socialist Alternative could do is organize an open discussion and debate on the merits of this issue.

Seattle City Council member and member of Socialist Alternative Kshama Sawant. She has refused to endorse Tacoma’s Proposition One. The very least she and Socialist Alternative could do is organize an open discussion and debate on the merits of this issue.

 

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Report From Greece

This report is about the economical, political and social situation in Greece. I ‘m 26 years old unemployed Greek and I am member of Xekinima – CWI (Committee of a Workers International) which campaigned along with other left groups in Greece and with SYRIZA for the “NO” vote in last Sunday’s referendum.

Greeks rally for the "no" vote

Greeks rally for the “no” vote

What was the mood in society?

The referendum gave breath to the people, and gave them the chance to decide about the future of our country. Over the last five years the governments didn’t ask the Greek society about the memorandums which brought a very cruel austerity in the country, followed by unemployment, closed businesses , poverty, and suicides. At the beginning the people were frozen by the capital controls and the bank runs, but in the next days people calmed down and started to think that ‘if we vote “yes” in the referendum, in some years we will not have any money in our banks and our life will be worse than now.’ The daily experience of the closed banks proved some facts to the Greek society. The majority of the unemployed didn’t have any money in the banks. The majority of the workers understood that they could take their wage over 5 days (60 euros per day x 5 days = 300 euros). The only social layer which had a really serious problem with the capital controls was the pensioners, and the majority of them voted yes. They panicked more than anyone else and most of them didn’t have cards for the ATMs so the government opened some banks so the pensioners could take some money from their pensions.

In the queues at the banks the majority of people supported the no vote and the most common phrases amongst them were: “ I know that we will have a tough future but I say NO to the Troika, for me , for my children, and because we owe it to the history”. “We don’t want the future generations to think about us as cowards”. “I am unemployed , I don’t have nothing to lose, we will win our freedom if we vote No”.

The role of mass media

The mass media showed their dirtiest face the former week. They started a terror campaign against the No vote. And the result? It’s unbelievable, but people said no to the lies and the terror of the mass media and turned off their TVs! In the streets, in the banks, in the cafeterias you could hear people swear at the TV channels and the journalists! In the big demonstration of NO vote the last Friday the people have a very strong slogan “Punks, Pimps, Journalists”!

Their terror attack lead a vast majority of the people to vote the opposite of what the channels and journalists supported! Now the people are asking the government to close the channels ( the mass media owe the Greek state 2.3 billion euros) because of their debt, and the prosecutors have started research about their attitude during the week before the referendum.

After the referendum their attitude “changed” and now they seem to support a the Tsipras Government a little more . But when they find the chance they will hit again the government and the working class . The government should make them pay! Pay for their lies and pay for their debts! That’s what the people are asking!

What did Tsipras do after the referendum?

Tsipras made two big mistakes after the referendum. He’s made more than two the last months and we ‘ll see it in the near future, but in last Monday we saw very clear the reformist ideas which we have read about Marxist theory and in our history books.

The first mistake was that he called the defeated leaders of the other parties to compromise! The winner called the defeated to talk and take decisions together! That is a huge mistake from Tsipras’s side. Their parties and their ideas are dead after the referendum. They have huge problems inside their parties and the people hate them and call them traitors. Tsipras is giving them the chance to survive in a political scene which changes ultrafast!

The other mistake of Tsipras was that he changed the former minister of finance Yanis Varoufakis with Efklidis Tsakalotos. Let’s be clear, neither Varoufakis nor Tsakalotos are good enough for finance ministers because they are both on the right inside Syriza and they can not take radical left decisions. But Varoufakis was an noncomformist minister of finance who was hated by the other finance ministers of the Eurogroup and that’s why the Greek people loved him. Have you ever heard of any minister of finance, which workers, the unemployed and pensioners hug and kiss when they see him in the streets… even with the banks closed? Tsipras sacrificed Varoufakis in front of E.U. to gain their favor. That’s the truth and the opinion that says that it was a tactical move from Tsipras is wrong and void.

What will happen the next days?

There are two scenarios. The first is that Tsipras will compromise with the E.U. and he will sign with a new 3 years memorandum. That’s the bad scenario in which the Greek society will suffer for more years. If Tsipras signs the memorandum, Syriza could collapse under the pressure of its people and a new authoritarian government could show up. That will be the end of the left in Greece for many years in the future and of course the working class could be smashed under the pressure of a new memorandum.

The second scenario is that Tsipras will not accept the memorandum and the Europeans decide to kick out Greece from the Eurozone. How this will happen?

I will try to explain that complicated issue with few phrases.

The European Central Bank will stop supporting the Greek banks and the Greek Government will decide to make a new currency. If Tsipras decides to take that road, he must nationalize the banks, the energy company, pharmaceutical companies and food companies if we want to overcome the crisis in a few months. The few months would be hard for the Greek society, but if Tsipras takes those steps, during that month and the next year we will be talking for the miracle of Greece!

A Greek woman votes with her finger

A Greek woman votes with her finger

 

Dimitra Spanoudaki

*Note: Oaklandsocialist thanks Comrade Spanoudaki for taking the time for writing this report. 

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Greece: Is this Possible?

Angry crowd gathers at the entrance to a closed bank in Greece.

Angry crowd gathers at the entrance to a closed bank in Greece.

Not being in Greece, it’s impossible to really have a clear idea of the next step. But here’s what I’m wondering:

If there really is a super-charged atmosphere in Greece, then what would happen if some small group simply forced open the doors of some of the banks? We are reading that every day there are hundreds or maybe thousands of people gathered outside the banks. They must be both scared and angry. If the doors were forced open, would they just go in and refuse to leave? If so, then you have the start of occupation of the banks.

If just a few hundred started occupying a few banks, the word would spread like wildfire. You would need, then, a plan of action to follow up. It seems likely that if this were to happen, there would be a tendency for people in surrounding communities to start bringing food, water, etc. to those inside the banks. Then you have neighborhood support committees starting to form themselves. In addition, if it didn’t happen spontaneously, it probably

wouldn’t take much to get those who are occupying the individual banks to start communicating with each other – first maybe by Twitter and the like and then in person.

But the individual branch banks are just the branches of the central monster. Isn’t the central bank the nerve center? Wouldn’t that be the next logical step – to occupy the central bank?

That’s one lesson from Occupy Oakland. Sometimes talk is cheap and action is what is needed. The anarchists and similar types were ultimately proven wrong in Occupy Oakland. The movement does need a clear program and plan of action. Sometimes, though, in this period it is out of the action itself that such a program can start to develop a mass base.

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Varoufakis Resigns

First there was the victory of a nearly overwhelming “no” vote of Greek voters against the demands of European capital. They showed they were not cowed by all the threats and intimidation, nor by the financial crisis first set in motion by the major capitalists taking their money out of the country. They showed they were willing to fight against more cuts, more unemployment, more poverty.

Then, less than 24 hours later, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis resigned. In his resignation statement, he strongly implies that he has resigned at the request of Greek Prime Minister Tsipras. A Wall St. Journal report says this directly.

Yanis Varoufakis (r) and his former counterpart, German Finance Minister Schauble. No love lost between these two.

Yanis Varoufakis (r) and his former counterpart, German Finance Minister Schauble. No love lost between these two.

According to other reports, Varoufakis represented the “left” wing of the Tsipras administration, while his deputy prime minister represented the more conservative wing, and that Tsipras was vacillating back and forth between these two. With the forced resignation of Varoufakis, it seems Tsipras is moving more decisively in the direction of the more conservative wing.

According to these same reports, many of the other representatives of European capital had a strong personal dislike for Varoufakis and saw him as being in the way of a deal. Maybe he was, but even he never really advocated mobilizing the power of the Greek workers and linking that up with the workers throughout Europe.

We are getting reports of overwhelming enthusiasm, maybe even euphoria, in Greece following the “no” vote. Those feelings are understandable and positive, but we also have to look beyond that. We have to try to analyze what are the plans of both the “partners” as well as of Tsipras.

One of the three “partners” – the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – has concluded that the kind of harsh “austerity” that has been imposed on Greece does not work. They see that all it does is reduce demand even further, leading to even worse recessions. The other two “partners” – the European Commission and the European Central Bank – seem hell-bent on continuing to punish Greece. From the outside, it seems likely that the IMF is more concerned with global economic and monetary stability, while the other two “partners” are more concerned with being sure that Spain doesn’t go down the Greek road, that the Spanish workers see their Greek counterparts punished sufficiently so that they are intimidated.

(Another point is that US capital pretty much controls the IMF, and they probably don’t want to see the dollar rise any more vs. the euro, since that makes exporting US made goods more expensive. But Greece being forced out of the eurozone would lead to an even greater drop in the euro. That’s probably a part of the reason why Obama has been urging Merkel & Co. to compromise.)

So what might come out of this? Maybe Tsipras is hoping that with Varoufakis out of the way, he can get the “partners” to make a few very minor concessions.

Tsipras meeting with shark-in-chief Merkel. Can they make a deal?

Tsipras meeting with shark-in-chief Merkel. Can they make a deal?

Then he can come back to the Greek people claiming a big victory. Here in the US, we’ve seen that time and again with union negotiations. The employers make really disastrous demands. The union leaders holler and scream blood murder, all the while refusing to really organize to fight. Then, at the 11 and 1/2 hour, the employers make some very minor concessions and the union leaders come back to the members waving a deal around, claiming a huge victory. Everybody (or almost everybody) is very happy… until some months later when the reality of what happened confronts them.

 

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Greece votes “No”

Greek people rally for "no" vote.

Greek people rally for “no” vote.

images

Greece is at the center of the struggle against making workers pay for the crisis of capitalism. This affects us all – the struggle against racism (since the “1%” seeks to use racism and xenophobia to distract and confuse workers and young people), the struggle of young people in the US to get out from under student debt and find a decent-paying job, you name it.

That’s why it’s important the Financial Times is reporting that with 85% of the votes counted, Greeks are voting by 61.5% “no” to the European “partners”.  This means they are voting against making Greek workers and small business people pay for the crisis of capitalism. This means that they have decided by a large majority not to knuckle under to the demands of European capital (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – also called “the partners” by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras) to just accept whatever cuts are demanded of them.

What comes next?

Will there be a movement to occupy the banks and big businesses? Will there be a campaign against privatizing the Port of Pireus, including occupying the port if necessary? Will the movement systematically reach out to the striking German workers? And what will be the position of the Syriza government tomorrow?

Whatever follows, the overwhelming “no” vote is a victory for the struggle against the demands of Corporate World.

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International Food Workers’ Union Opposes Greek Austerity

The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) has made a strong statement opposing austerity in Greece. “A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of a democratic alternative to austerity. The Syriza government of Greece incarnates that alternative, which is why the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) have allied with the IMF to exorcise the challenge it represents. With few exceptions, political parties of every persuasion have tacitly or actively supported the anti-Syriza coalition,” they write.

They explain the unbending approach of “the institutions”, (Formerly known as the troika, and made up of the European Central Bank, the IMF and the European Commission, their name was changed to “the institutions” because the troika’s mere name was so hated in Greece.)

German post-war debt

The statement points out “In 1953, the London conference of Germany’s creditors agreed to write off half of Germany’s sizeable pre-war debt and made payment of the remainder contingent on Germany’s ability to pay by running a trade surplus. No surplus, no payments. The London Agreement was political; it was intended to fortify Germany’s position in the Cold War. The decision to undermine a government of the left in Greece is equally political. The assertion, endlessly repeated during 6 months of negotiations, that Europe can weather a Greek default and exit from the euro, can be turned on its head. Europe can digest a substantial write-down of Greek debt – in fact it would be beneficial to everyone – but the ‘institutions’ are determined to deliver a political lesson, and not just to Greece.”

Meanwhile, Greece has defaulted on paying $1.73 billion to the International Monetary Fund. This is the largest loan default in IMF history.

“Voters” must bow to “economic reality”

The Wall St. Journal editors confirmed this two days ago, when they wrote: “Appeasing Syriza’s demands could spread political contagion to Spain, Portugal and other countries that might think they too can avoid reform and still be rescued. A last-minute reprieve is possible, but if not the Greeks will have committed suicide by ignoring economic reality. Voters in Europe, Japan and the U.S., take note.” In other words, what this is really all about is intimidating workers (“voters”) into accepting cuts, more cuts, and still more cuts.

Opinion polls

Clearly, a “no” vote would show that workers are not intimidated.

So far, opinion poll results vary. One poll reported in the Wall St. Journal had the “yes” votes clearly ahead. Most other polls, however, show the “no” vote leading. In the key EU country – Germany – opinion is strongly anti-Greek.

Public opinion in Germany regarding Greece

Public opinion in Germany regarding Greece.

This is much more than a matter of “democracy” and “dignity.” We are reminded of the reported exchanges during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) in which republican forces were defeated by fascist General Franco. During a lull in the fighting, the republican propagandists shouted to the fascist troops, “come over to our side, where democracy is!” The return answer was, “and what does democracy give you to eat?” 

That is the issue in both Greece and Germany.

Meanwhile, there is a bit of a strike wave in Germany, including both postal workers and hospital workers. As a first step, Syriza could organize to send Greek workers to those strikers in Germany to offer support and to explain that “austerity” in Greece simply means more of what these German workers are striking against. Now that would put real pressure on Merkel and the rest of the troika!

Update

We got the following update from Greece: The german unions of Bosch, Volkswagen, hospital Charite, Alstrom, MAN,Amazon, IG Metall Salzgitter-Peine sent their solidarity and support to the greek workers and greek goverment, and called the greek workers to vote no, today. The bad news are that the General Confederation of Greek Workers asked from the goverment to take back the referendum. Some bureaucrats stand to the side of capitalists in the name of workers… We have some unfinished business with them to close after the referendum…”

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Greece update

Leaders of Chile coup of 1973. They killed 10,000 or more.

Leaders of Chile coup of 1973. They killed 10,000 or more.

Finance capital: The organizers of the threatened coup in Greece. They are killing many more around the globe.

Finance capital: The organizers of the threatened coup in Greece. They are killing many more around the globe.

A coup is threatening in Greece. Not with bullets and tanks. Not with soldiers and bloodshed in the streets. This time, it is through the impersonal forces of international finance capital, but the suffering will be just as great. This time, instead of thousands condemned to the firing squad, it is tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions condemned to poverty, hunger and despair.

A Greek pensioner contemplating the future international finance capital poses for her.

A Greek pensioner contemplating the future international finance capital poses for her.

As we have been reporting, the Greek workers finally decided enough is enough: Enough unemployment, enough layoffs, enough poverty and outright hunger. They elected a radical left government to put a stop to it all. However, global finance capital had other plans. They have been using Greece to drive down the standard of living of all workers in the European Union.  They could not tolerate any defiance, lest that set an example for workers in other countries around the world.

So it was that they determined to crush the Greek government.

Following the demands of finance capital, as put forward by German Chancellor Merkel and her peers in the rest of the European Union, Greek President Alexis Tsipras decided to call a popular referendum to allow the people of Greece to vote on whether they wished to continue down the path of “austerity”. But there was a side effect: The representatives of finance capital are threatening to kick Greece out of the European Union. Among other things, this would destroy the monetary system in Greece. Thus, the money in Greece rushed for the exit. Businesses sent their capital out of Greece. Individual Greeks started a run on the banks to get as many of their euros as they could, before it was too late.

Tsipras was forced to close the banks. Chaos threatens.

So we see how the laws of motion of international finance capital are moving to destroy the Greek rebellion.

The editors of today's Wall St. Journal write the following. They understand that a set back for "austerity" in Greece would "spread the contagion", as they say: "Appeasing Syriza’s demands could spread political contagion to Spain, Portugal and other countries that might think they too can avoid reform and still be rescued. A last-minute reprieve is possible, but if not the Greeks will have committed suicide by ignoring economic reality. Voters in Europe, Japan and the U.S., take note."

The editors of today’s Wall St. Journal write the following. They understand that a set back for “austerity” in Greece would “spread the contagion”, as they say: “Appeasing Syriza’s demands could spread political contagion to Spain, Portugal and other countries that might think they too can avoid reform and still be rescued. A last-minute reprieve is possible, but if not the Greeks will have committed suicide by ignoring economic reality. Voters in Europe, Japan and the U.S., take note.

From Germany to Puerto Rico

Meanwhile, roughly 1000 miles away, German workers have been out on strike a cumulative 350,000 days in the first five months of this year. As we write, postal workers are still striking against privatization and cuts. They are fighting the exact same thing the Greek workers are fighting. They are fighting the exact same forces.

And 5300 miles away, the governor of Puerto Rico is reporting that the government cannot pay its loans. This comes after years of the same austerity as the Greeks face.

A way can be found, it must be found, for these struggles to link up.

Posted in Europe, rebellion, repression, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Greece Again: Serious Dangers Present

poverty in Greece

poverty in Greece

“It’s so bad families can no longer afford to even bury their dead. Bodies lie unclaimed at public hospitals so that the local municipality can bury them.” That was how a director of a funeral parlor described  the poverty in Greece after the austerity measures were introduced several years ago. Rebelling against the most harsh cuts in jobs and income, Greeks elected  the radical Syriza Party into office in January of this year. The Syriza leadership was committed to the promise of reversing the cuts. That was what they were elected into office for.

Retreats

In a previous article written in February of this year, we described the weakness of the approach of the leadership of Syriza, including the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Already then, this weakness was revealed by his reversing course on the issue of privatization – in that case, the privatization of the Port of Pireus. The main weakness was that the Syriza leadership had no serious focus on mobilizing the Greek working class, nor the working class of the rest of Europe. There was no explanation of how the cuts in living standards to Greek workers would simply force workers in other European Union countries to also face similar cuts. (As a result, most workers in the wealthier EU countries fell prey to the capitalist propaganda that if Greek workers didn’t take cuts, they – the other EU workers – would have to pay for it.) Instead, in order to try to smooth things over, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras started calling the sharks who are running the governments of Europe (Hollande in France, Merkel in Germany, etc.) “partners”. The three major killer institutions – the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund – had been known as the hated “troika” in Greece. Tsipras rebranded them as “the institutions.”

Tsipras meeting with shark-in-chief Merkel

Tsipras meeting with shark-in-chief Merkel

Economic Recovery and Competition Between Workers

Meanwhile, matters became even clearer. The slight uptick in the Spanish and Portuguese economies had been due to the cuts workers experienced there. (See this explanation.) These cuts meant that greater profits were available there. In fact, there had been a slight upturn in the Greek economy in the early part of this year for the exact same reason. Now, the representatives of European and international capital were sensing the opportunity to make the cuts in Greece permanent, thereby opening the door to driving through similar cuts throughout the European Union. The fact that the cuts in one country increases the pressure for cuts everywhere else was ignored by Tsipras as well, evidently, as by most of the rest of the Syriza leadership. It was not used as a basis for really trying to rally the rest of the European working class to oppose “austerity” throughout the region, and beyond.

Like a pack of wolves smelling blood, the representatives of European capital moved in for the kill. Round after round of fruitless “negotiations” followed, in which the heads of state in the EU held firm. What were the leaders of Syriza – Prime Minister Tsipras and Finance Minister Varoufakis – saying? We will never know, because as is typical in capitalist diplomacy, the talks were held in secret.

“Grexit” and Capital Flooding Out

Meanwhile, payments on the Greek debt were looming as was the increasing possibility that Greece would be thrown out of the European Union (known as the “Grexit”). If that happens, the capital will rush out of Greece in an absolute flood. Already, it is reported that every day 59 businesses are closing in Greece costing 613 jobs and 22 million euros every 24 hours, and many of those that remain are busy sending their money out of the country.

A closed cement plant in Greece

A closed cement plant in Greece

Tsipras Cries “Uncle”

So it was that early last week, Tsipras cried “uncle”. He submitted a proposal for raising the retirement age, cutting pensions for the poorest retirees, and increasing the Value Added Tax (VAT – a form of a sales tax). Naturally enough, the representatives of European capital weren’t even satisfied with that. They wanted to completely discredit Syriza and thereby discourage any thought among workers in Greece or anywhere else that it was possible to fight back. So they demanded even more.

Tsipras commented, “We are carrying out people’s dignity as well as the aspirations of all Europeans. We cannot ignore this responsibility. It is not a matter of ideological stubbornness. It has to do with democracy.” What do the representatives of capital care about “dignity” or democracy? And as for the workers, “dignity” is represented first and foremost by a plate of food, a roof over one’s head and a future for one’s children — and a strategy to fight for that.

Tsipras puts on a happy face as he leaves latest negotiations with EU sharks.

Tsipras puts on a happy face as he leaves latest negotiations with EU sharks.

Referendum

Now Tsipras has announced plans to put the latest package of blood-letting, known as “austerity”, before the Greek people in the form of a referendum scheduled for July 5. One government representative, Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis, has said the government will recommend a “no” vote. On the other hand, Tsipras commented that “Greece is and will remain an undetachable part of Europe, and Europe an undetachable part of Greece.” It’s unclear what he means by that, but all recent opinion polls show that the majority of Greeks do not want to leave the EU. However, a “no” vote could very well mean exactly that.

Conscious active union members in the US have experience with similar contract votes here. After months of fruitless negotiating, the union leadership comes back to the members with a contract proposal that involves sharp cuts. Little or nothing was done during all that time to really build on the power of the members and the working class as a whole. Sensing which way the wind is blowing, seeing similar cuts being pushed through elsewhere, the more timid workers win the day and the contract passes.

Isn’t there a serious danger that a similar situation could develop in Greece?

Threat of Xenophobia and Racism

Meanwhile, the immigration issue is moving to the forefront throughout Europe, and most particularly in Greece, where tens of thousands of people fleeing absolute starvation and war in Africa and parts of the Arab world. This wave of immigration has combined with general failure to mount a real class struggle against the austerity throughout the EU to Precarious unite

Recent protests throughout Europe in support of immigrant rights: These protests should be linked to the struggle of workers against austerity and the "race to the bottom".

Recent protests throughout Europe in support of immigrant rights: These protests should be linked to the struggle of workers against austerity and the “race to the bottom”.

create a widespread anti-immigrant mood. Ironically, it is strongest in Greece, where 70% are reported to believe that immigrants are a burden on the country. The terrorist attacksof the reactionary, bigoted anti-worker Islamic fundamentalist groups of just yesterday (June 26) are calculated to exacerbate the situation. As explained in this article on domestic terrorism  the rise of these groups has a lot to do with the defeat of the Arab Spring. A similar defeat in Greece could have a similar effect. As a retired factory worker in Greece said, “if Tsipras doesn’t do anything, the only ones left are Golden Dawn.” (Golden Dawn is the anti-immigrant and racist fascist party in Greece.)

Dylann Roof: This vicious terrorist killer shows that the United States will not be immune from the racism and xenophobia that is rising throughout the world.

Dylann Roof: This vicious terrorist killer shows that the United States will not be immune from the racism and xenophobia that is rising throughout the world.

This threat is real. One possibility is that workers in Greece will move forward and conclude that what is needed is even more determined action on the part of Greek workers, linked with the workers throughout the region – from the EU to Turkey, Syria and Iraq, etc. This would require a program that includes taking the banks into public ownership under workers control and management as a first step. How else, for example, can Greek workers prevent the current rush to the exit of capital in Greece from becoming an absolute flood? But a program like this, and a plan of action doesn’t exist just in the ether; it is carried in the minds of people and it has to be organized. Is there such an organization – however small at present – in Greece that is capable of ultimately winning the day? We have don’t know.

If not, and if one doesn’t develop quickly, then the threat of Golden Dawn could become a reality. Not that it would win power, but it could become a real force.

working class one fist copy

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Within Israel: Black washing and sex washing

Here is a video by David Sheen on racism and sexism within Israel. Among other things, he clearly shows the link between racism and sexism, including the huge number of top Israeli politicians who are accused of or convicted of rape, and how the Zionist press pushes the idea that Jewish women are reserved for Jewish men.

Posted in Middle East, racism, sexism | Leave a comment

Dylann Roof and Domestic Terrorism: A warning

Every single prominent politician, conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat, has denounced the mass murder committed by Dylann Roof. Almost all of them have called it a “hate crime,” but not a terrorist act.

The human brain: Some say that "hate never solved anything," but studies show that the area of the brain associated with hatred is also associated with action. When linked with reason, hatred can be a liberating emotion.

The human brain: Some say that “hate never solved anything,” but studies show that the area of the brain associated with hatred is also associated with action. When linked with reason, hatred can be a liberating emotion.

That shows how the term terrorism, itself, is loaded with racial connotations. Only white people can be victims of terrorism, is the not-so-hidden message. And don’t forget, we are carrying out a “war on terrorism”, but no war on racism, no war on “hate crimes.”

The fact that his was an act of terrorism should cause us to think about terrorism in general. Psychologists have tried to study the makeup of terrorists; they seem to have concluded that one of the main requirements for a person to carry out terrorist actions is that they feel that they are part of a larger community. As one psychologist says, they have to feel “part of a collectivist cause.”

This applies to Roof, whose “collective cause” came through his links with the Conservative Citizens Council

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour: He's associated with the racist "hate" group the Conservative Citizens Council

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour: He’s associated with the racist “hate” group the Conservative Citizens Council

(CCC). This group derives from the old White Citizens Councils, the more “respectable” wing of the KKK, and was formed to combat the Civil Rights movement. And “respectable” the CCC certainly is. Among those associated with it are 20 state legislators in Mississippi, a presiding judge on the Mississippi State Supreme Court, one national representative from Mississippi and the Mississippi governor, Haley

Bernie Sanders: Along with other liberals, he's helping cover up the more blatant racism of the likes of Haley Barbour

Bernie Sanders: Along with other liberals, he’s helping cover up the more blatant racism of the likes of Haley Barbour

Barbour.

Almost all of these are Republicans, but not a single Democrat (including the “socialist” Bernie Sanders) has called them out on this. In other words, the liberals are helping cover up for their partners-in-crime, the conservatives. Why is that?

We can’t put it better than did Otis L. Griffin, a commentator in Facebook. He wrote in part:
“At least I am starting to see the one thing I have rarely seen in when it comes to people and their feelings on things: Honesty…As the economy continues to flounder on its way to collapse, we will see more and more of it…This is probably the only thing good that awaits us in this aspect: some f***ing truth for once…”

Global

What Otis Griffin writes about Roof also applies globally. We see the rise of anti-immigrant groups throughout Western Europe, the Buddhist-led attacks on the Muslim minority in Myanmar, the growing attacks on people of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic. Maybe the most extreme example is the rise of the Islamic State – a fascist group if there ever was one. A person in Iraq explains the threat to that society as well as the rest of the Arab world:

“UNFORTUNATELY, I think we are in a moment of counterrevolution and sectarian conflict.

It is important to remember how we got here. If you take Iraq, for example, it, like the rest of the region, had an Arab Spring. There was an Iraqi Spring with non-sectarian protests and demonstrations. People even occupied their own Tahrir Square in Baghdad for a while.

But the Iraqi state acted very brutally to destroy this movement by dividing it–by

Arab Spring: Its defeat opened the space for the rise of sectarian war and even fascism.

Arab Spring: Its defeat opened the space for the rise of sectarian war and even fascism.

picking off certain elements, by pitting Shia against Sunnis–to the point where the protests were extinguished, the encampments were bulldozed and the activists were killed or imprisoned. From those ashes emerged the latest version of the Iraqi insurgency and ISIS.

So there was a real sense of hope, even in Iraq. But that has been extinguished for now. The states of the region worked every step of the way to try to destroy the uprisings. As a result, I think the scope for hope right now is low.”

He or she (they had to remain anonymous for their safety) also explained that the cause for the defeat was the lack of a clear political program and strategy.

We should draw the lesson here. While the major parts of the US capitalist establishment don’t want the racist pot to boil over, they also want to keep it at a low simmer, to always be ready in case of a real, huge crisis. And when (not “if”) that crisis comes, we will face racist terrorist crimes greater than that of Dylann Roof.

 

Posted in racism, Uncategorized, United States | 2 Comments

15 Now Tacoma Deserves Support!

15 Now Tacoma supporters out campaigning

15 Now Tacoma supporters out campaigning

15 Now Tacoma has qualified for the ballot. Unique among all the 15 Now campaigns, in Tacoma they really mean now, n-o-w, as in: As soon as it is passed by the voters. And not just for a small portion of the workers, but for over 95% of them (mainly excluding the kid you hire to mow your lawn or baby sit for you). That majority of the work force won’t have to wait two years, or seven, to get up to $15/hr, when it will be worth less; they’d get it now. (And bear in mind, $15/hour is little enough to live off of.) The initiative would also make wage theft a felony equal to if a worker steals from his or her boss.

Unfortunately, some of the union leadership is not supporting this initiative. Here is an article from the Tacoma News Tribune that explains that, and a quote from one union leader explains why: “We would prefer to try to work together with the business community and nonprofits and other stakeholders to find a path to a wage increase that we can all support and do together,” says that leader. They prefer to work with the employers and their representatives – the Democrats. The excuse is that they can’t match the money big business will pour into Tacoma to defeat this measure. That’s true, as far as money goes, but they could overcome the cash disadvantage by really mobilizing their members, their members’ families, etc. The problem  is that, once set into motion, such a movement might not be just stopped like turning off a light switch. But that’s exactly the whole point: To use the minimum wage issue to try to build a wider movement.

And how about the rest of 15 Now, nationally? Unlike in Tacoma, they are controlled by Socialist Alternative, the group that put Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant into office.

It is a complete disgrace that Socialist Alternative is following around behind this union leadership like a little puppy dog, and likewise refuses to support the Tacoma campaign.* What they’re doing is allowing these conservative and timid union bureaucrats to set their program for them. Some socialists.

The won the struggle to get on the ballot. Now the real struggle begins!

The won the struggle to get on the ballot. Now the real struggle begins!

* Note: Members of Socialist Alternative and their supporters elsewhere in the world are urged to ask their group why they are not the supporting 15 Now Tacoma.

Posted in Minimum wage campaign, United States | Leave a comment

Unions: The results are in

The results are in.

In 1999, the Construction Labor Review wrote “Unionized employment will keep climbing during the next decade but will be just barely equal to the rate of growth in non-union sector,” (as quoted here). The graph below, from today’s Wall St. Journal, shows that that is exactly what has happened since then.

NA-CG124_LABORT_16U_20150609124520

What the graph shows is continuing decline during the downturns, barely holding its own during the upturns. In other words exactly what the Construction Labor Research Council predicted. In case there ever was any doubt, this once again is decisive proof that the strategy and goals of the union leadership is not working.

This means that it’s not enough to just come out to the next rally or picket line to “defend labor” without at the same time also organizing internally to fight to change the policies that the union hierarchy has imposed on the unions. Nor is it enough to just call for more “democracy.” We have to organize to change the policies. This includes opposing the “team concept” and all its expressions and fighting for better contracts and real contract enforcement. It also means breaking with the Democrats (one and all) and joining with the movement for social justice – but really joining, not just supporting one or two nice safe marches and rallies here and there – and building a mass movement of workers (including the unemployed and those in prison and their families) that will include running its own candidates for office, candidates who are outside of and opposed to the two big business parties.

That would be the first step towards building a mass party of US working class people, one that would bring together all the most serious and determined layers to coordinate the movement, press it forward, including (but not only) running its own candidates for office.

Posted in labor, United States | 4 Comments

Debating the liberals

Bernie Sanders: the liberal

Bernie Sanders: the liberal

I had an online debate with a liberal union “reformer” about supporting Bernie Sanders. Here’s how it went:

  • He started off by attacking me for my revolutionary politics. (Since most workers aren’t revolutionaries, they wouldn’t agree with me about not supporting Sanders and other liberals, you see.)

I replied:

  • This is not a matter of being convinced that socialism is necessary, that it’s the only way to resolve any of the problems we face. And if a worker is going to confine his or her political activity to simply putting a piece of paper in a box every two years (or touching a computer screen), then sure, it’s impossible to argue against voting for the candidate who will do the least harm. After all, as we are driven towards the cliff, who wouldn’t want to take the most amount of time possible before we get there and are pushed over it? Who wouldn’t want to live just a few minutes longer?But if you want to reverse course, then you need a movement of, by and for working class people. It needs to be organized in an organization that is completely independent of Corporate America and its two political parties. In other words, we need a mass, working class party, one that organizes workers and young people to fight on the streets, the work places and the communities, and also that runs candidates for office. All of US history has proven that it’s impossible to build such a movement – never mind such a party – while supporting the Democrats at the same time. That has been proven. (You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.)As to where such a mass workers’ party has to lead – whether it has to have a revolutionary socialist goal — that’s a related but also somewhat different question. But you don’t have to be convinced of it in order to see the need for such a movement and party.
  • His reply: You are pedantic. Which is your first problem. You talk down to workers and it turns them off. Also this is a page for (union) members. Are you a (union) member. or someone looking for another outlet for their theories…. You might first try and explain to the average worker how socialism would improve their situation. Many union members are firmly co=opted into believing they are middle class. They own houses and maybe a few toys like motorcycles and boats. They don’t want the results of their hard earned money taken away from them for the betterment of all. Which is how they view socialism…. Incidentally I know that PJ McQuire (founder of the Carpenters Union) was a socialist. You are NOT the only one who studies history. In fact, I probably have a more extensive education on it than you.

Notice how this liberal completely avoids my points and, in his own way, engages in a subtle red-baiting. It’s the same old story: Debate with a liberal and they will end up attacking you personally, and putting down workers (who all have “middle class” values, etc.)

  • As the debate went on, I added the following: “(This individual) wrote: “You might first try and explain to the average worker how socialism would improve their situation. Many union members are firmly co-opted into believing they are middle class. They own houses and maybe a few toys like motorcycles and boats. They don’t want the results of their hard earned money taken away from them for the betterment of all. Which is how they view socialism” This shows the sheltered life he’s been leading, among the elite of the elite of the working class. He seems to know nothing about the millions of workers who are struggling to make ends meet – just to pay the rent and drive an old beater. He seems completely ignorant about the experiences of black people – workers and otherwise – who are afraid to simply drive down the street or walk to the store for fear of being harassed, beaten or killed by cops. Or the undocumented immigrant workers who can be swept up and sent away at a moment’s notice. He seems ignorant of the millions of our bothers and sisters warehoused in the prisons for years on end, some for crimes they committed at 16 years old, others for crimes they didn’t commit. It’s the point of view of this elite of the elite of the working class that he’s expressing.”
Posted in labor, politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Prison Revolt: Letter from Tecumseh Prison

Greetings my friends. My name is Chadrick Fitzgerald, IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) membership number X385061. As I write these words, I am sitting in a cell on the SMU gallery in Tecumseh Corrections Facility under investigation for the uprising that took place on 5-10-15. The Nebraska DOC has been run poorly for some time, we have had a number of changes in directors and that’s about it. The number of problems are too long to list but somewhere at the top of that list sits overcrowding, lack of programming, and the mistreatment of the inmates.

To give you an idea of how out of control it has become, prison guards themselves have sued the state of Nebraska and won because they were being abused by coworkers via racial slurs at work. The ACLU has threatened to sue over the amount of overcrowding and current living conditions. The inmate population has tried many times to get programming that would help us upon release and time and again, nothing.

There are a few jobs that pay more than $24.00/month ($1.21/day) and they are restricted to less than 200 +/- inmates of the 1000 plus that live here. Those jobs include CSI woodshop and laundry and a few in the kitchen. So once again a group of inmates came together to make a list of things that need to be changed. This list was to be presented to staff at 2:30pm on 5-10-15. If talks were not opened, then work was to stop on 5-11-15.

At approximately 2:30pm, a group of about 65 inmates went to the main compound area when medical sick calls were called over the PA. When staff noticed the group, they were confronted. 17 staff members were trying to stop more from joining the growing group. As the list was given to the staff by an inmate, the staff became aggressive and pulled out large cans of mace and told the inmate who handed them the list to cuff up, at which time he asked why. Shortly thereafter, there was a melee with staff spraying mace and inmates fighting back. Shots were fired from the gun tower and all became quiet as inmates and staff lay flat on the ground.

Staff regained control of the situation for a moment. They handcuffed a few and ID’s the rest but before long, their verbal taunts became too much. The group stood as one and began marching around the compound. Inmates inside the housing units joined in at this time. Staff ran for cover locking everyone out of their housing units. The group of inmates marching on the compound tried to break into the gym to let out inmates that had been locked in. This is when they shot inmate Washington in his upper leg. As inmates attempted to give first aid, the tower rained down bullets. The only two hit were Washington and Camancho. Inmates then carried Washington to medical where they refused to give him aid for some time before dragging him off by his arm to the medical sally port.

Once word got out, fires started burning. Hours later local and state law enforcement along with prison officers came in and regained the prison by force shooting inmates with less lethal rounds at point blank range. Some were already cuffed when they were shot. Inmates were taken to the education building until all were accounted for. Many inmates were left cuffed with hands behind their backs for 48+ hours.

At the time of this writing, that was 8 days ago. We have been receiving only (2) meals a day since with little or no way to make contact with our family or loved ones. What the future holds we do not know, but until there are no prisons left, we must fight.

FW Chadrick X385061

Posted in rebellion, repression | Leave a comment

Spain, Greece and the Race to the Bottom

An article  in today’s (6/3/2015) Wall St. Journal perfectly describes what all the pressure on Greece’s Syriza-run government to further cut living standards is really all about. It focuses on what’s happening in Spain, another EU country. There had been a huge speculative boom in real estate in Spain, just like in the US, and around the same time. That boom inflated both the incomes and the expectations of millions of Spanish workers and middle class people, also like in the US and, also like here, the crash brought them back to Earth with a hard landing.

Now, the Spanish economy is “recovering”, with workers starting to go back to work, but at vastly reduced wages. (Sound familiar?) In other words, there is a slight uptick in investment because it’s more profitable to invest in Spain now, due to the lower wages. But this has its limits: As the Wall St. Journal explains about Spain’s next door neighbor, Portugal, “a slide in consumer spending has put a drag on Portugal’s recovery.” The same holds true for Spain as well as several other countries.

European Economy at a Glance. "Labor costs also weigh on businesses in France and Italy. Cuts in social-security taxes over the past year brought relief to employers in both countries, only to be offset by ongoing wage growth in France.  A major part of Spain’s recovery strategy has been to spur exports. New labor contracts that cut wages helped persuade car makers to shift some production to Spain from elsewhere in Europe." (WSJ)

European Economy at a Glance. “Labor costs also weigh on businesses in France and Italy. Cuts in social-security taxes over the past year brought relief to employers in both countries, only to be offset by ongoing wage growth in France.
A major part of Spain’s recovery strategy has been to spur exports. New labor contracts that cut wages helped persuade car makers to shift some production to Spain from elsewhere in Europe.” (WSJ)

Keynesians

The liberals (“Keynesians”) say the solution is simple: Boost wages. But not so fast. The WSJ explains the basis for the (weak) recovery: “Spanish exporters are gaining market share within Europe and beyond. But the way they are doing so is by reducing their costs (that is, cutting wages) and selling for less.” In fact, in today’s global economy, all these countries have a long ways to go: “Other countries on the eurozone periphery are also struggling to sustain recoveries and overcome one of their biggest weaknesses—a competitive disadvantage against leaner economies.” In other words, they are competing with Turkey, Vietnam, China, you name it. The “solution” is to cut wages to the level of the workers in those countries. But that’s no solution whatsoever, since as the WSJ article explains, the wage cuts simply cut into demand, further dragging down the economy.

Another aspect of the global competition is lowering the value of a country’s currency. Doing so cheapens the price of exports to other countries, but it also raises prices domestically. Equally important, just as with wage cuts, what amounts to currency wars is a never-ending downward spiral.  What recovery that exists in the EU is partly driven by such a currency war. As the WSJ explains, “For selling beyond the eurozone, a now-cheaper euro provides help.” At least for as long as their competitors don’t cut their currencies value!

Greece & Syriza

All of this is very relevant to what’s happening in Greece. There, the Syriza government had come to power based on the promise of reversing the draconian cuts of recent years. They immediately came under pressure from European and international capital and at this point it seems they might be retreating. A major reason is their failure to really seek to mobilize both their own working class as well as the workers throughout the European Union and beyond. They have failed to explain that the more the Greek workers take cuts, the more the Germans, French and everybody else will come under the same pressure.

The Wall St. Journal article is proof of this.

Posted in economics, Europe | Leave a comment

Islamic State: The Rise of a Fascist Movement

Leading to a slaughter?Islamic State soldiers with captives.

Leading to a slaughter?Islamic State soldiers with captives.

Beheadings, mass slaughter, terrorist bombings — all of this is accompanying the advance of the Islamic State with its recent victories in Palmyra, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq. These are having repercussions around the world, striking fear in the hearts of millions from Ethiopia to Nigeria to the Arab world itself. 

It is also affecting US politics as the US presidential elections near, and the different contenders are increasingly talking about US foreign policy. This is partly to distract attention away from the massive inequality in the US, but also because of the rising threat to US global control posed by the Islamic State. The fact that the “diplomacy” approach of Obama has been an abject failure in stemming this rise is leading some of Corporate America to a swing back to the intervention approach of the Bush years. This is having a direct effect on domestic policies, as the more interventionist Republicans are getting more support.

That’s why it’s important to understand who the Islamic State (IS) is and what were the conditions that led to their rise, first in Syria and then elsewhere in the region.

Arab Spring: “revolution of the poor”

The revolt known as the “Arab Spring” hit Syria in 2011. As explained here, in at least one region (Taftanaz) the popular revolt from below involved popular revolutionary committees of workers, farmers and the poor. As one participant exclaimed, “This is a revolution of the poor! The rich will have to accept that.” However, because a clear, wider and deeper program and strategy were lacking, this “revolution of the poor” couldn’t keep control and overcome the repression of the Assad regime; it turned into a military war by proxy of the different capitalist forces in the region and globally. (For a more in-depth explanation, see this article from this web site.)

Salafists in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia step in

One of these capitalist forces was many of the members of the ruling class of the Arab world, especially from Kuwait, a country dominated by the Salafi (extreme Islamic fundamentalist) clergy, similar to Saudi Arabia. There, in 2011 the Syrian ex-pat (refugee) community joined with some of these fundamentalists  and their “charitable” non-profits to raise money for the Syrian revolt. According to a report from the Brookings Institute, this gave them access to “philanthropic businessmen with deep pockets and a reputation for generosity.” This same report claims that they raised hundreds of millions of dollars in just one year.

As the revolt from below in Syria hit the brick wall of military repression by the Assad regime, some of the “supporters” in Kuwait started to provide military support. They sent representatives to Syria to document the growing military battle and use that as propaganda to raise money. They specified, for instance, that $800 would buy a directed missile or a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. The Kuwaiti government, which is close to the US government, was unhappy with this, as were individual Kuwaiti capitalists. Abdul Hameed Dashti, a former member of the Kuwait parliament, for example, explained, “I am one of the biggest investors in Syria since 1985. I have 2400 employees there. They are jobless [because of the war] but still taking salaries.” However,  they couldn’t do anything since the regime leaned on the Salafists for political support in general. The same was true of some of the Kuwaiti (and also Saudi) capitalists.

One of the first major military victories of the fundamentalists in Syria was the conquest of Latakia in August of 2013. Following this conquest, there was a slaughter of civilians, especially of Shias. One of the first to organize support for the militarization of the revolt

Salafi cleric Dr. Shafi al-Ajmi of Kuwait: He wanted the "pleasure" of personally slaughtering Shia captives.

Salafi cleric Dr. Shafi al-Ajmi of Kuwait: He wanted the “pleasure” of personally slaughtering Shia captives.

in Syria, Dr. Shafi al-Ajmi, a Salafi cleric and member of the faculty at Kuwait University’s College of Sharia and Islamic Studies, reportedly called on the Sunni fundamentalists in Latakia to save ten captured (Shia) Hizbullah so he could have the “pleasure” of slaughtering them himself.

From al-Qaeda to Islamic State

Originally, the main fundamentalist group operating in Syria was the al-Qaeda connected al-Nusra Front. Their success led to greater aspirations – the return to the days of old and a “caliphate” – an Islamic state that included parts of Syria and Iraq (and more). From this idea grew the group first known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and later simply the Islamic State. Success breeds success, including military success. For instance, it is claimed that the IS 2014 victory in Mosul (Iraq) netted them up to $1.5 billion.

Social Conditions

But lacking the right social conditions, all the money in the world can no more build a movement than can all the seeds in the world grow plants on barren soil. What are the conditions that allowed for the growth of the IS?

In the first place, there was the stalemate and then defeat of the workers and the poor in Syria, as the report from Taftanaz and following events show. This inevitably would have created disappointment and even demoralization among the workers and peasants, setting the stage for other elements to take charge. This included military chiefs from the Assad regime – most certainly not the most pro-worker layer in the world. In Iraq, where IS spread, the former al-Maliki regime had carried out sectarian repression against the Sunni minority, making them more receptive to the Sunni-based IS. (Note: Both Iraq and Iran are majority Shia, but throughout the Islamic world, including most Arab countries, the Sunnis are the great majority.)

The situation inside Syria and Iraq was complemented by the situation outside Western Asia/North Africa. The Putin regime in Russia had carried out a war against the majority Muslim Chechens. Many of the battle-hardened Chechens were recruited by IS. Then, throughout Western Europe there was a layer of Islamic youth who felt alienated from society. General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for all of Europe, explained it: The IS “addresses these basic wants (of the youth) of value, of a purpose — a sense of something as part of a larger good.” (SF Chronicle, 6/2/15)

And so, thousands were drawn to the IS from across the globe.

Fascism

How do we classify the Islamic State movement?

It has the backing of part of the capitalist class in the Muslim world, but clearly it is not completely under their control. It calls on frustration, hatred and resentments from a history going all the way back to the Christian Crusades. It rules through repression and outright terror. They also target certain groups for special oppression and murder – especially Shias and women in general. These are all the classical qualities of a fascist movement. The fact that it harkens back to a bygone era – the era of the Islamic caliphate (661-750 A.D.) – is also reminiscent of fascism, for instance the movement of Mussolini.

Islamic State on the move

Islamic State on the move

 

There is also the political vacuum: In many of these countries (Iraq under Hussein, Libya under Qadaffi., and Syria under Assad Sr.) the old regimes came to power based on radical pan-Arab nationalism. This included a high degree of nationalization of industry and state intervention in the economy. But this was based on the national revolts of the 1950s and ‘60s as well as the role of the bureaucracy of the Soviet Union. With the end of both of these, and with the rise of the economic crisis of capitalism, neo-liberal economic measures became the order of the day. Both Assad and Qadaffi turned to such reforms. With the weakness of the workers’ movement world-wide, reactionary religious fundamentalism filled the resulting vacuum.

Muslim and Jewish Nationalism

While there are huge differences, there is also an ironic similarity between Islamic fundamentalism and the early Zionist movement. As with Islamic fundamentalism, the early Zionist movement posed a nation for a group (European Jews, mainly) who weren’t really a national minority. They were spread out all over the map, lacked a common language and had huge cultural differences. Zionism was also a creature of British imperialism, just as is Islamic fundamentalism a creature of the Salafists of Saudi Arabia

Vladimir Jabotinsky: The face of Zionist fascism.

Vladimir Jabotinsky: The face of Zionist fascism.

and Kuwait. And as with Islamic fundamentalism, the Zionists had their outright fascist wing, organized and led by Vladimir Jabotinsky and his Zionist Revisionist group. Finally, the rise of Zionism was only possible due to a disastrous defeat of the working class (the seizure of power by fascism in Europe). (For more on the origins of Zionism, see here.)

Western capitalist powers

Western capitalism, especially the US, as well as the Israeli regime, are faced with a dilemma: On the one hand, Islamic fundamentalism destabilizes not only that particular region, but the entire Islamic world and beyond. On the other hand, they want to see the downfall of the Assad regime. And what’s more, their opposition to the Islamic State is bringing them closer to the Iranian regime, because the Shias are under attack by IS. All of this is just one more example of a world spiraling out of control. The dangers include the potential for the use of nuclear weapons (beyond simply depleted uranium armor piercing shells, as the US military used in Iraq).

US Senator John McCain, posing with Islamic fundamentalists, including IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

US Senator John McCain, posing with Islamic fundamentalists, including IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Workers Movement

Some on the left in the United States are inclined to give some sort of support to the Assad dictatorship, just as they did for Qadaffi before he was overthrown. They reason that since US imperialism wants these dictators overthrown, then there is a reason to back them to some degree. That is a huge mistake, one based on the inability to see the working class and its organizations as the only potential force that can resolve the issues. We saw an example of that potential in the workers’ and peasants’ councils that were organized in and around Taftanaz, Syria, back in 2011. From there to the resistance of the Greek workers to austerity – that is the only basis for a new movement that can resolve the issues and prevent a true, outright global disaster.

working class one fist copy

Posted in Marxist theory, Middle East, Uncategorized, United States, war | 1 Comment

Chevron/Texaco cover up

I hope everybody who sees this post watches the video and then shares it. As many people know, Texaco – subsequently bought by Chevron – was sued for its destruction of the Amazon in Ecuador. In this tape, which was sent by a secret whistle-blower inside Chevron, Chevron officials and their consultants are seen trying their level best to find a part of the jungle free of oil.

Right now, the media is all agog about the corruption in the international soccer body FIFA. But there is no mention of this criminal conspiracy. The corporate media is just as guilty.

Posted in environment | Leave a comment

“Holding the Mayor Hostage”: 15 Now Tacoma

15 Now Tacoma has proven a central point: That the best way to win reforms is not by allowing the compromisers-to-big-business — that is, the union leadership — to set the agenda for the movement. Instead, they have organized independently for what is needed. In the process, Corporate Tacoma, through their Chamber of Commerce, has gotten so worried that they are pressuring the mayor to come up with a plan to increase the minimum wage. The web site “Darkarethedays.wordpress.com” has published a new article on the groundbreaking campaign of 15 Now Tacoma and the fact that 15 Now nationally has instituted a news blackout on them. Here is their article:

Who is 15 Now Tacoma? The national 15 Now website carries no campaign updates with the exception of one sentence posted in March of last year, no reposted news articles, and no information outside basic contact information of an external website, phone number, and a Facebook page. Yet, this very same 15 Now local group has been causing political waves in the third largest city in Washington State, just 32 miles southwest of Seattle. A recent flurry of mediaattention has cast a spotlight on the 15 Now Tacoma ballot initiative, filed earlier this week. This ballot initiative would jump the city’s minimum wage to $15 at the beginning of 2016 for businesses with gross revenues greater than $300,000, faster than any other city in the country, and raise the legal penalty of wage theft to a felony, equalizing with the charge for workplace theft. 15 Now Tacoma has been described as holding the mayor hostage with their uncompromising campaigning for 15.

Read more

Posted in Minimum wage campaign | Leave a comment

Elections and the workers’ movement

In 1831, Nat Turner led a slave revolt that shook up the entire slave owning South. His revolt was just one of many. It was followed 28 years later by John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, intended to spark another revolt of slaves. The constant threat of revolt of the slaves was a major factor in US politics during the entire period leading up to the confrontation and eventual overthrow of the slave owning class through the Civil War.

Rebellions of the slaves were one of the driving forces leading to the abolition of slavery.

Rebellions of the slaves were one of the driving forces leading to the abolition of slavery.

“Jayhawkers”

Meanwhile, during part of this period (the 1840s), the “Jayhawkers” in Kansas carried on a vicious border war with pro-slavery settlers and raiders in that state-to-be. The Jayhawkers ultimately became the base for a new political party – the Republican Party – whose rise to power led to the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.

A group of Kansas "Jayhawkers." Their open clashes with the pro slave militias led to the formation of the anti-slavery Republican Party.

A group of Kansas “Jayhawkers.” Their open clashes with the pro slave militias led to the formation of the anti-slavery Republican Party.

Workers’ Struggle

Fast forward to the revolt of the US working class in later years. From the Ludlow Massacre (of striking Colorado miners and their families in 1914) to the sit-down strikes of 1937, nothing changed for workers without mass uprising, confrontation  and defiance of the bosses and their representatives.

Engels and Workers’ Party

In 1886, Frederick Engels wrote that “the first great step of importance” for the US working class was “the constitution of the workers as an independent political party, no matter how, so long as it is a distinct workers party…” He thought that step was about to be accomplished in the US at that time. Obviously, he was mistaken; that step has yet to happen, but it is still the main task of the day.

Frederick Engels, co-thinker with Karl Marx. Regarding the US working class, he wrote: "The first great step of importance for every country newly entering into the movement is always the constitution of the workers as an independent political party, no matter how, so  long as it is a distinct workers' party." It is exactly this step that the "progressive" wing of the Democrats is dedicated to preventing.

Frederick Engels, co-thinker with Karl Marx. Regarding the US working class, he wrote: “The first great step of importance for every country newly entering into the movement is always the constitution of the workers as an independent political party, no matter how, so long as it is a distinct workers’ party.” It is exactly this step that the “progressive” wing of the Democrats is dedicated to preventing.

Elections and movement from below

Especially in the US, where class relations are so much played out in the streets, such a party will not simply gather workers up every two years to put a scrap of paper in a ballot box or put a voting mark on a computer screen. Elections can’t be and won’t be ignored (no matter what some idealists would like), but a real working class political party will link the collective struggle in the streets, work places and in the unions with voting. Election campaigns will not be a substitute for mass confrontation and defiance; it will help clarify the program and aims of the struggle and in so doing help lead it forward. (It can also be used to help consolidate gains, but that is a secondary purpose.) In other words, a true mass workers party will combine and help coordinate the struggle in the streets, communities and work places with electoral politics, rather than try to replace one with another.

Clearly, we are not anywhere near the stage where such a party is being built. But we do have to see things through those lenses – what helps lead in that direction, in the direction of workers forming their own, independent organization/party to lead the movement forward vs. what helps confuse or obscure that path? What is a diversion?

Bernie Sanders and Liberal Democrats

The campaign of Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for the presidency is an example of such a diversion. According to reports, Sanders has gotten thousands to sign up and to donate to his campaign. Although the rhetoric is different, Obama accomplished something similar in 2008. He built a strong campaign infrastructure, with many people who genuinely saw his candidacy as a means of fighting racism as well as of changing US politics. Some at that time claimed that this infrastructure could later be used to carry the movement forward, but the Democratic Party machine had control of it from start to finish and they never allowed that to happen.

More recently, we saw the liberal wing of the Democrats – MoveOn.org – lead a campaign to try to convince US Senator Elizabeth Warren to challenge for the Democratic nomination. Just as with the Obama machine, MoveOn is controlled from the top to be sure that everything was channeled into and through the Democratic Party. They may help lead a Bernie Sanders campaign, but whether they do or not, his machine will play the same role, since Sanders himself has never been involved in or helped build any movement from below. (We may be sympathetic towards some of those caught up in the Sanders campaign, but we cannot mince words about what role it plays.)

US Senator Bernie Sanders: It is a mistake to call on what are essentially capitalist politicians like Sanders (no matter how liberal they may be) to lead the workers' movement, including building a workers' party

US Senator Bernie Sanders:
It is a mistake to call on what are essentially capitalist politicians like Sanders (no matter how liberal they may be) to lead the workers’ movement, including building a workers’ party

Sanders is not unique; from the local level to the regional and state level, there will be all sorts of candidates who will claim to challenge the system. But for all of them, just as for Sanders, the question to ask is: How do they propose to change things? Do they claim, or even imply, that electing them can bring about the change? Is their candidacy a step towards building working class independence from Corporate America and its two parties?

Workers’ Leaders 

What are the criteria to decide if they should be supported? Here are some thoughts:

  • Does the candidate have a clear record of helping build the movement from below – the mass confrontation and defiance – and does he or she make clear that they will use their office to help further that movement?
  • Does the candidate clearly separate her or himself from the Democrats and make clear that their campaign is a step towards workers building their own political party in the sense we describe above?
  • Does the candidate make clear that workers and young people must not have to pay for the economic problems of capitalism itself, that they oppose all cuts in wages, social services, etc.?
  • Does the candidate make clear that they do not see the private “free” market – private investment for private profit – as the be all and end all, as the only way that people’s needs can be met? Does he or she make clear that public investment, based on taxing the rich and the major corporations, is the real avenue to solving the lack of housing, infrastructure, education facilities, etc, and does he or she oppose all privatization of public services?

If the answer is not “yes” to all of these, then the candidate and their campaign will not help build the movement of workers, the specially oppressed and the youth.

Local Candidates

Especially at the local level, there may be candidates who are fairly new to electoral politics who  may be very appealing but don’t meet these qualifications. Some of them might be genuine, they might have the best of intentions and really want to make a change in the system and believe they can. There will be a strong impulse to support these candidates, and maybe some of them might move in the direction of actually trying to help build a workers’ movement and build an opposition to the Republicrats. But before those of us who are committed to building that movement support them, we should be sure that such local candidates are open to this and that they make an open commitment in that direction. Because otherwise, if they get elected, the system will overtake them, no matter what their intentions.

The entire history of the United States shows that.

Posted in Marxist theory, politics, Uncategorized, United States | 2 Comments

Britain after the elections

With a new Conservative (= Republicans in the US) government, there are some changes in the British Labour Party. In some ways the Labour Party is similar to the US Democratic Party, but it has a different tradition. It was built by the unions there, which made it a workers’ party in the past. Now, as the Labour Party moves further to the right, there are increasing pressures for the unions to split from the LP and build a new party. If the unions, or any one or two major unions, do that, it would start to raise that issue here in the US.

images

Dan Armstrong writes:

The UK media have already talked themselves into a panicky campaign about the support for Andy Burnham as the new “front runner” in Labour’s upcoming leadership contest. Not that Burnham is a leftwinger but he has had the temerity to “talk” to Len McCluskey, leader of the large Unite union. Burnham has been at pains to emphasise that he would unite all wings, i.e. labour and capital, in the LP if he were elected.
Meanwhile a propaganda campaign is underway to warn of the dangers of thousands of union members joining the party as individual supporters which would give them a vote in the coming leadership elections.

There is unfortunately at present no candidate worthy of support by socialists but if the unions do succeed in establishing a majority of votes, any future leader – and indeed individual sponsored members of parliament
– would necessarily be subject to working class pressure and run the risk of being voted out at the next opportunity.

Dan Armstrong

Roger Silverman comments:

How shameful that Blair’s former health minister Burnham looks like the least worst option! Every one of the candidates for the leadership of the Labour Party is chanting the same sickening mantra about the need to stop speaking up for the rights of “the poor”, to become the party of “aspiration”, to distance the party still further from the trade unions, etc. As one of them put it before the election: “Labour is not the party of people on benefits“. The reason that there is no left candidate standing for the leadership is that apparently there are only 18 Labour MPs who might even consider nominating one – and 35 is the minimum number required. It is certain that under a new leader, the Labour Party will drift further right than ever.

Under this Tory government, the working class will suffer even more ferocious attacks than under the coalition: welfare and benefit cuts amounting to a further £12 billion; a virtual legal ban on strikes; the scrapping of the human rights law; accelerated privatisation of health and education; the dismantling of all the last surviving relics of the postwar settlement. And it can expect no serious resistance from the Labour leadership.

The class tensions within the Labour Party can’t be reconciled; sooner or later it has to come to a split. The workers have no choice but to fight back; they need a political voice. If Labour MPs refuse to represent them, then the trade unions will have to find another route, just as they did more than a century ago.

Last April, the General Secretary of Britain’s biggest trade union Unite, Len McCluskey, threatened in so many words to disaffiliate Unite from Labour and launch a new workers’ party if Labour lost the 2015 general election. Yesterday he repeated his warning that Unite’s affiliation to Labour could be “reconsidered” unless it showed it was the “voice of ordinary working people… the voice of organised labour… It is up to them. If they don’t, if they kind of inject more disillusionment in the party, then the pressure will grow from our members to rethink.

So far this is mere words. No doubt McCluskey is hoping to exert enough pressure on the new leadership to avoid the need for a decisive break. But there is no room for compromise. The demands of the capitalist crisis are unrelenting.

Comrades have asked whether people are apathetic about politics in England. Yes, of course; how could they become interested when they see no substantial difference between the only alternative parties, and when no one speaks up for them? Look at the dramatic contrast in Scotland, where 85% of the electorate voted in the independence referendum – a full twenty percentage points higher than in the British general election.

Once Unite and some other trade unions make a decisive break from the Blairite clique in the Parliamentary Labour Party and place themselves firmly on the side of the millions of workers on squeezed wages and zero-hours contracts, the nearly two million unemployed, the million relying on food banks, the dispossessed welfare claimants, the students weighed down with debt, the homeless, etc., that’s when politics in Britain will get really interesting!

Roger Silverman

A homeless family in Britain: As in the US, the poor are ignored by the politicians.

A homeless family in Britain: As in the US, the poor are ignored by the politicians.

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“If the working class is the class that works, what do the other classes do?”

15 Now Tacoma is making waves.

Just last week, the Tacoma Business Examiner – organ of the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce – reported on  a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce in that city to discuss the threat of 15 Now Tacoma. They quoted all the usual sob stories about small businesses that say they can’t afford to pay a $15/hour minimum wage. (How about those that would exist if the minimum wage were lowered to $2.50? So should we lower it that far in order to give them a helping hand?)

But it’s clear what’s really scaring the large businesses just as much as paying a wage increase and, therefore, taking a small hit to their profits: That is how the radical 15 Now Tacoma will stir up the pot and help bring to the fore all the repressed anger that millions of workers are feeling. They showed this video below of a 15 Now Tacoma rally.

They actually showed this at their own meeting — and then they went on to advocate that the mayor of Tacoma start to take steps to raise the minimum wage!

Posted in Minimum wage campaign, rebellion, United States | 1 Comment

British Elections: What Happened?

From London, Roger Silverman analyzes the results of the recent elections in Britain and what those elections say about the mood and consciousness there:

Some initial hurried reflections on the general election result…

The Labour Party was the political creation of the trade unions. At its peak it won 48% of the votes. That was in the days when Britain’s economy was primarily based on manufacture, and there was a large concentrated industrial proletariat. There were massive confrontations like the seamen’s strike of 1966, the miners’ strikes of the 1970s and ‘80s, repeated Ford workers’ assembly line strikes, etc. Today there are virtually no coal mines, steel works or car factories; the industrial backbone of Labour is gone. Trade unionism today is largely confined to the public sector; and, due to privatisation, outsourcing and massive cutbacks, this is a shrinking work force.

In my earlier predictions of the election result, I noted that it was 23 years since the Tories had won a majority at a general election, and drew mistaken conclusions from that. What I had overlooked is the fact that, for three of the four general elections that had been held since then, the ruling class had actively favoured a New Labour victory.

It is 40 years since Labour won an election (actually, two successive elections) in clear defiance of the wishes of the ruling class. That was on the crest of the miners’ strike and Heath’s rash gamble on going to the country on the issue of “who runs Britain?” The 1974-9 Labour government was a period of economic crisis and political confrontation, when there was alarm and open speculation by the ruling class about the need for extra-parliamentary measures, the veiled threat of military manoeuvres at Heathrow airport, favourable comment on the Chilean coup,  etc.

For a period, under the New Labour clique, Labour really was the preferred political instrument of the ruling class. The Tories had become so discredited by 1997 that money came pouring into Labour funds from big business donors, while the Tories were starved of funds and became the object of derision in the Murdoch press and similar media outlets. This arrangement continued right up to the time of the financial crash in 2008. The ruling class reverted to support for their by now rehabilitated traditional Tory team. New Labour had served its purpose and was now tossed aside with contempt. Brown in particular received no gratitude for his services and was humiliated.

Miliband had drawn from the experience of New Labour the conclusion that the only way he could regain office was by reassuring the ruling class that he too was responsible and worthy of trust; hence his commitment to an “austerity-lite” programme and his short, feeble, miserable list of very minimal reforms.

Along with everyone else, I had wrongly trusted the opinion polls, which had unanimously and consistently put Labour and the Tories neck and neck – even though that didn’t tally with the bad feeling I was getting about the outcome from the fact that this time, unusually, I kept coming across people who were actually prepared to admit without shame their intention to vote Tory. I added a cautionary postscript to my initial writings about the election campaign once it had become clear that the ruling class had taken a firm decision, no matter what, to push all out for a Tory victory. All the press and media (apart from the Guardian/Observer and the Mirror), including even the Independent, were campaigning hard for the Tories, with relentless crude scare stories, despicable taunts against Miliband personally, etc. This is because the ruling class were genuinely scared of the constant pressure that would be exerted on a minority Labour government by the SNP.  (NOTE: The SNP is the Scottish National Party, which advocates for an independent Scottish nation. They have also criticized the austerity measures of the Conservatives and Labour.) They weren’t concerned about the risk of a “break-up of the UK”, as they pretended; they were alarmed at Nicola Sturgeon’s highly effective and popular calls on Miliband to end austerity. And, with their monopoly control of all mass sources of information, the ruling class can normally count on getting, by and large, the result they want.

It is true that there are special factors that explain the obliteration of a century of Labour tradition in Scotland; but this political earthquake has powerful lessons for the future in Britain as a whole. If Labour can be wiped out overnight in its former rock-solid red-belt heartland, then how can it be considered secure anywhere else?  Labour can’t simply continue to rely on the automatic loyalty of the working class – even more so when the conclusion of the next Labour leadership will undoubtedly be to move even further to the right. Already they are openly blaming the defeat on Miliband’s few fleeting gestures to the left in the late stages of the campaign.

What does this result mean? It is a catastrophe. There will be more suicides, more scapegoating and more riots; despair and outrage, sudden explosions, but all blind and impulsive. The best hope is still that at least some key trade unions will at last break free from the still overwhelmingly Blairite Parliamentary Labour Party, assume their rightful role helping to harness the rage that will be sweeping the millions, to unify the hundreds of currently atomised protest groups, to mobilise the forces for a mass movement against capitalism.

Roger Silverman

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The Democrats and “Faith in the System”

“Faith in the system is the bedrock of the system. Without it, the system is drained of its inviolable authority. This is the danger America now faces.” So wrote the N.Y. Times on May 4, just days after mass protests that included property damage and attacks on the police rocked the city of Baltimore.

From Ferguson to Baltimore

The events in Baltimore were not alone. From similar protests in Ferguson following the police murder of Michael Brown, to protests in Oakland and elsewhere, the black community, with support from some whites and others, is starting to signal that enough is enough. This mood is furthered by the internet and smart phones/camcorders. Video after video of police brutality and murder – Tamir Rice, John Crawford, and countless others – are rocketing around the internet, proving to millions what many in the black community have known and experienced for years.

Police

People think in images, and the image of the “tough but fair” cop, the one who protects women from abuse, protects little children from sexual predators and serial killers – that is the image peddled by the media, Hollywood, and the politicians, and it is starting to give way to an image that better suits reality. Above the law, racist, shoot-first-ask-questions-later – that is the new image that is starting to take hold throughout society, and it is leading to a breakdown of “faith in the (entire) system”, as the NY Times fearfully commented.

Right Wing Populism

Already, this weakening of faith in the system has spawned a populist movement, but to the right, as represented by the Tea Party. Corporate America succeeded in capturing this movement and channeling it back into one of their two main parties – the Republicans. This has caused some problems within the Republicans, but the thinking is: Better that than have these right-wing nuts run completely out of control and more clearly reveal their racist and chauvinist/xenophobic character. Better that than racist physical assaults, assaults on union activists, etc. That would spark a counter mobilization that Corporate America strives to prevent. (They are holding the more widespread racist assaults in reserve and will unleash it on a wider scale when the crisis becomes even more acute and even more desperate measures are needed.)

Democrats

Now, a similar task confronts the Democrats, and their “progressive” wing is attempting the same task. So it was that just two days after the defiant protests in Baltimore were put down by the National Guard, Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced that the six police involved in the murder of Freddie Gray would be charged with various felonies. “To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America: I heard your call for ’No justice, no peace,’” she commented. “I will seek justice on your behalf,” she added.

Marilyn Mosby “There are barriers of distrust within the community and law enforcement. And we’ve got to find ways to bring down these barriers." But it's not a matter of distrust or a few rogue cops; the problem is that the police are there to enforce the economic exploitation, oppression and racism that is inherent in the entire system.

Marilyn Mosby
“There are barriers of distrust within the community and law enforcement. And we’ve got to find ways to bring down these barriers.”
But it’s not a matter of distrust or a few rogue cops; the problem is that the police are there to enforce the economic exploitation, oppression and racism that is inherent in the entire system.

And on the same day, “socialist”-but-Democrat-in-all-but-name US Senator Bernie Sanders announced that he will run for the Democratic presidential nomination. In doing so, he will be providing the “left alternative” competitor that the Democrats have long sought for their all but certain ultimate nominee, Hillary Clinton. As with the charging of the six Baltimore cops, Sanders’ move is aimed at seeking to restore faith in “the system” and preventing an independent movement on the left from developing.

(Note: Many may have differences with Sanders but still have faith in his basic decency, as shown by the comment on an MSNBC article “”I’m happy about Bernie running. He is such a decent, good man…” One simple issue disproves this: Sander’s full support for the racist, expansionist State of Israel. It’s impossible that a US Senator doesn’t know about the crimes against humanity of which the State of Israel is guilty. To continue to support them shows a lack of basic human decency; it shows the cynicism that is the basis for capitalist politics.)

US Senator Bernie Sanders: This "decent man" supports torture and mass murder in Israel/Palestine.

US Senator Bernie Sanders:
This “decent man” supports torture and mass murder in Israel/Palestine.

There is a long, long tradition of the Democrats acting as the “shock absorbers” for the movement from below. In this writer’s lifetime, it goes all the way back to the candidacy of Gene McCarthy for the Democratic presidential nomination back in 1968. That was at the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement, and millions of young people were becoming increasingly disaffected with corporate politics. So McCarthy was thrust forward as the peace candidate, and a whole layer of the youth adopted the slogan “neat and clean for Gene”, shaved their beards, removed their beads and put on bra’s and were drawn into his campaign. The result? Of course, he was bound to fail and, after the murder of Robert Kennedy, the establishment liberal Hubert Humphrey won the nomination and McCarthy did his level best to turn his campaigners into active Humphrey supporters.

Sanders has already announced that he will do exactly the same thing, that he will support Clinton or whoever else wins the Democratic nomination.

To draw the movement into the Democratic Party, the “progressive” wing will have to produce something, and that won’t be so easy. Decades of glorifying the police and of giving them a free hand has made them believe they are above the law, and they will continue to resist all attempts to rein them in. Also, all the propaganda about “violent criminals,” “law and order,” and the “war on drugs” (code words for “blacks and Latinos are the problem”) have increased the already semi-latent racism within a large layer of white society. This means greater conflict from below and also from above.

Struggle in the Streets

This means increased struggles on the streets, including more of what is called “violence” and activity by “thugs”. As an article in Salon.com put it: “After nearly a week of resistance—including the occupation of Baltimore by heavily-armed National Guard—Maryland state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby stepped into the fray, announcing charges against six officers and admitting that her hand had been forced by the streets: “To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America: I heard your call for ‘No justice, no peace.’”….

Riots work, so why do so many well-meaning voices continue to insist that they don’t? The argument that they harm communities makes intuitive sense, but doesn’t hold up to serious scrutiny: the Maryland Insurance Commission has estimated the uninsured losses from the riots to be a paltry $1 million. Meanwhile, foreclosures from the recession cost Baltimore $1.5 billion (with a B) from 2008-2010, and $13.6 million in tax revenue in 2010 alone. And as many are quick to point out, the city has paid out more than $5.7 million to settle police abuse lawsuits since 2011. The police—not to mention capitalism—have done far more to damage Baltimore than any riot could.”

As the article points out, though, the arrest of the six police officers is only a partial and temporary victory as they are already out on bail and on paid vacation (“administrative leave”) while 18-year old Allen Bullock is in jail on $500,000 bail for being accused of having broken in the window of a police car.

So, yes, “riots” can lead to temporary and partial concessions, but these can as easily be taken away, and also the forces of the criminal (in)justice system will be even freer to crack down even more.

Come Together

While black people (and others) are rising up from Baltimore to Ferguson, others are taking up outright resistance and defiance on other issues, especially the issue of fracking. (This is the destructive practice of pumping poisonous chemicals into the ground to fracture oil-bearing shale rock to pump out the oil. This practice is poisoning the air and water of those who live in the immediate area and beyond. For a background article on fracking, see here.) Residents in town after town have voted to ban fracking, despite the fact that these bans are illegal. This campaign to ban fracking is in general carried out outside of the main, liberal environmental groups, just as the uprisings in places like Ferguson and Baltimore are carried out outside of groups like the NAACP, as well as the leadership of those like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Hopefully, the activists in such movements can come together and develop a strategy and goals – both short term and long term – and build an organization to carry this forward. This direction would help avoid the trap set by the “progressive” Democrats by developing as an independent, working class movement and party to establish a real alternative to the two main parties of Corporate America and the crisis-ridden, oppressive capitalist system these two parties represent.

Frederick Engels, co-thinker with Karl Marx. Regarding the US working class, he wrote: "The first great step of importance for every country newly entering into the movement is always the constitution of the workers as an independent political party, no matter how, so  long as it is a distinct workers' party." It is exactly this step that the "progressive" wing of the Democrats is dedicated to preventing.

Frederick Engels, co-thinker with Karl Marx. Regarding the US working class, he wrote: “The first great step of importance for every country newly entering into the movement is always the constitution of the workers as an independent political party, no matter how, so long as it is a distinct workers’ party.” It is exactly this step that the “progressive” wing of the Democrats is dedicated to preventing.

Posted in racism, rebellion, repression, United States | 8 Comments

May Day in Oakland

This May Day, the longshore workers (ILWU Local 10) voted to shut down the Port of Oakland to protest the police crime wave that is sweeping the country. This was a positive step as labor has been largely missing in action from the movement that has developed since the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson last August. In fact, one member of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) in Ferguson reported at that time that his union leaders had told him that “this is not our battle.”

A coalition formed to organize a protest and march based on this shut down of the port. A small rally was held at the port, then a march through West Oakland and then the main rally at Oscar Grant Plaza in downtown Oakland. Speaker after speaker praised the ILWU for their support of this movement. And speaker after speaker denounced the violence and racism of the police. However,  what none of the speakers at the main rally did was to put forward a perspective, including explaining why labor had been missing in action up until now and what was necessary for the labor movement.

That was left up to two speakers at the pre-event rally. Here is a video that summarizes May Day in Oakland.

 

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Oaklandsocialist speaks at May Day at Port of Oakland

The major event in Oakland this May Day was the rally and march from the Port of Oakland to City Hall. The ILWU Local 10 had voted to shut down the port in a May Day protest against the police crime wave. There were many speeches given saluting Local 10 and labor in general.  Unfortunately, the only speech that pointed out the different direction labor must move in was given by Oaklandsocialist. In the next day or two, we will put up a lengthier video of the May Day event here, but meanwhile, ere is the speech of Oaklandsocialist.

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Port Shut Down: A Good First Step

The longshoremen’s union – ILWU – Local 10 has voted to shut down the Port of Oakland on May Day (May 1) to protest police racism and murders and brutality. This is a very good first step, but it is only a first step. It should be followed by a shut down of the entire city of Oakland, as Occupy Oakland did. This follow-up would be a step towards building a more long-lasting movement.

May 1 leaflet Port of Oakland Today 2

Posted in labor, Oakland, racism | 1 Comment

Appeal from Greece

Through the Syriza-led Greek parliament, a “Truth Commission on the Public Debt” has been established. That commission is sending out this appeal. The questions it raises – such as who is profiting from the public debt – are generally known, but it will help to get more specific details.

Meanwhile, throughout the eurozone governments have been moving to make their economies more competitive. That means holding down social benefits, making it easier to fire workers, etc. In other words, boosting profits, which can only be done at the workers’ expense. This means increasing the competition between workers around the world. The only answer is international solidarity. That why this appeal for international unity is important. We urge all working class fighters to sign on to it and notify the comrades in Greece. Notification can be sent to: giorgos.mitralias@gmail.com

 

To the people of Europe and the whole world!

To all the men and women who reject the politics of austerity and are not willing to pay a public debt which is strangling us and which was agreed to behind our backs and against our interests.

We signatories to this appeal stand by the Greek people who, through their vote at the election of 25th January 2015, became the first population in Europe and in the Northern hemisphere to have rejected the politics of austerity imposed to pay an alleged public debt which was negotiated by those on top without the people and against the people.  At the same time we consider that the setting up of the Greek Public Debt Truth Commission at the initiative of the president of the Greek Parliament constitutes a historic event, of crucial importance not only for the Greek people but also for the people of Europe and the whole world!

Indeed, the Truth Commission of the Greek Parliament, composed of volunteer citizens from across the globe, is destined to be emulated in other countries. First, because the debt problem is a scourge that plagues most of Europe and the world, and secondly because there are millions and millions of citizens who are rightly posing basic and fundamental questions about this debt:

“What happened to the money that made up this loan? What were the conditions attached to it? How much interest has been paid, at what rate? How much capital has been repaid? How was the debt allowed to accumulate without benefiting the people? Where did the capital go? What was it used for? How much was diverted, by whom, and how was this done?

“And also: Who took out this loan and in whose name? Who granted the loan and what was their role? How did the state become involved? By what decision, taken with what authorisation? How did private debts become ‘public’? Who set up such inappropriate schemes, who pushed in this direction, who profited from them? Were offences or crimes committed with this money? Why has penal civil, criminal and administrative responsibility not been established?”

All these questions will be subjected to rigorous analysis by the commission, which has an official mandate to “gather all information relevant to the emergence and disproportionate increase in public debt, and to subject the data to scientific scrutiny in order to determine what part of that debt  can be identified as illegitimate and illegal, odious or unsustainable, during the period of the Memoranda, from May 2010 to January 2015 as well as in the preceding years. It must also publish precise information – which must be accessible to all citizens, provide the evidence to back up public declarations, raise awareness among the Greek population, the international community and international public opinion, and finally draw up arguments and demands calling for cancellation of the debt.

We consider that it is the most basic democratic right of every citizen to demand clear and precise answers to these questions. We also consider that refusal to reply constitutes a denial of democracy and transparency on the part of those at the top who invented and use the “debt system” to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. And even worse: we consider that by jealously keeping for themselves the monopoly right to decide the fate of society, those at the top deprive the overwhelming majority of citizens not only of their right to make decisions but above all of the right to take their destiny and the fate of humanity into their hands!

This is why we are launching the following urgent appeal to all citizens, social movements, ecological and feminist networks and movements, trade unions and political organizations that reject this ever less democratic and humane neo-liberal Europe: Show your solidarity with the Greek resistance by supporting in action the Greek Public Debt Truth Commission and its work in identifying that part of the Greek public debt which is illegal, illegitimate, odious and/or unsustainable.

Defend it against the outrageous attacks it has been subjected to from all those forces in Greece and the rest of the world who have an interest in keeping the truth about the “debt-system” hidden from view.

Actively take part in the citizen debt audits that are being developed throughout Europe and elsewhere.

Share your support and solidarity on your social networks, since this support and international solidarity is the only way to thwart the ruling powers’ plan to suffocate Greece and the people who are fighting against our common enemy: the politics of austerity and the debt that is strangling us!

We are confronted by an experienced adversary, united, well-coordinated, armed with extraordinary powers and absolutely determined to pursue its offensive against every one of us to the bitter end: we who constitute the overwhelming majority of our societies. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of resisting separately, each in his own corner. So let us unite our forces in a vast movement of solidarity with the Greek resistance and support for the Truth Commission of the Greek Parliament, multiplying such debt audit commissions everywhere where that is possible. Because the struggle of the Greek people is our struggle, and their victory will be our victory. Our unity is our only strength. United we stand; divided we fall.

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“War with Iran is probably our best option”

Josh Muravchik has been called “maybe the most cogent and careful of the neoconservaitve writers on foreign policy” by the Wall St. Journal. So when he writes an article  “War with Iran is probably our best option” it should not be dismissed as the ravings of a lone lunatic. In his piece, he writes “only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq… can accomplish what is required.”

Is he even right that the Iranian regime is trying to move towards building a nuclear bomb?

If so, can the deal Obama & Co. reached with that regime head them off?

If it can’t, does Muravchik represent the future of US policy?

We need to know, because a possible war with Iran would not be a simple matter; it would likely involve the use of “tactical” nuclear weapons, and would have vast economic and environmental (never mind human) consequences.

Iran a nuclear power?

With its enormous oil reserves, why would Iran invest all that money in nuclear research just for nuclear power? After all, the average nuclear plant has a working life of about 30 to 40 years and after all the costs are accounted for, it only provides a net energy surplus of about 18 years.

Clearly, Iranian capitalism is striving to become a regional power, the rival of Israel and Saudi Arabia. That’s why it is apparently supporting the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, just on Saudi Arabia’s southern border while at the same time reportedly resurrecting its support for Hamas in Gaza (despite the fact that Hamas is Sunni-based while the Iranian regime is based on the Shiite wing of Islam). It has also increased its influence in neighboring Iraq, where it is helping the Iraqi regime battle the Sunni-based Islamic State there.

And in today’s world, when even small, weak, impoverished states like Pakistan and North Korea have nuclear weapons, no capitalist power can seriously strive to become a regional power without being nuclear armed. But it is exactly this – the rise of a rival power in the region – that US capitalism is determined to prevent. The nuclear potential of the Iranian regime is simply a symptom of this larger problem.

George Bush presidency

In the last years of the George Bush presidency, when neocons like Muravchik were riding high in the saddle, it seems a military attack on Iran was being seriously considered. The well-connected reporter Seymour Hersh reported on this in the New Yorker. “There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontaiotn with Iran is regime change,” Hersh wrote in 2006.It was thought that a military attack would lead to the downfall of the Iranian regime, but more serious heads held sway. Hersh writes that one “former defense official” had commented “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘what are they smoking?’” According to Hersh, even members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were threatening to resign in protest against these plans. These top military people always have the closest links to the tops of the US capitalist class.

Obama replaces the neo-cons

The costs and dangers of an attack on Iran terrified major wings of Corporate America. That was why they arranged to defeat the mad bomber John McCain and put Barak Obama in the White House in 2008. Obama represented the diplomacy approach to US corporate strategy. He believed and believes that US corporate interests cannot be furthered world-wide without allies, and to keep allies Corporate America cannot resort to war as the first and only option. With Obama’s victory, the top capitalists world-wide breathed a sigh of relief. They immediately bestowed on him one of their top prizes – the Nobel Prize for Peace (!), as a way of encouraging his diplomatic strategy. But as far as Iran, the goal remained the same: As Hersh reported one “high-ranking diplomat” had commented in 2006 “The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.”

Temporary success

Until now, Obama has been able to keep the economic sanctions against Iran going fairly successfully. He and Corporate America have had success because they have been able to keep all the major capitalist powers together. One major reason has been the increased supply of oil and natural gas, due to fracking. This has meant that the oil supplies from Iran weren’t all that needed. Another reason for the success has been the extreme statements of the previous Iranian president, Ahmedinijad. Despite these economic sanctions, though, the Iranian regime seems to be holding things together and be developing its nuclear potential.

Agreement with Iran

Now a deal seems to have been reached. (See box for details.) That deal, though, is unlikely to prevent the Iranian regime from developing its nuclear potential.

 

Negotiators of the accord with Iran. The accord's basic terms include: Iran’s commitments •Halt production of near-20-percent enriched uranium and disable the centrifuges used to produce it. •Start neutralizing its near-20-percent enriched uranium stockpile. 	•	Refrain from enriching uranium in nearly half the installed centrifuges at its Natanz site and three-quarters of centrifuges at its Fordow site. 	•	Limit centrifuge production to what’s needed to replace damaged machines. 	•	Refrain from building additional enrichment facilities and advancing research and development of enrichment. 	•	Refrain from commissioning, fueling or adding reactor components to its Arak reactor and halt production and additional testing of fuel for the reactor. 	•	Refrain from building a facility capable of reprocessing, which would allow Iran to separate out plutonium, which could be used to make nuclear bombs. P5+1, EU commitments 	•	Suspend implementation of sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical exports and on goods imported for use in its automotive industry. 	•	Suspend sanctions on Iran’s import and export of gold and other precious metals. 	•	Shelve efforts to further curtail Iranian crude-oil purchases by P5+1 countries. 	•	Free up Iranian money to help pay the educational costs of young Iranians, many of whom are attending U.S. colleges and universities. 	•	Raise tenfold the ceilings for money transfers to and from Iran. 	•	Take actions to ease Iran’s access to $4.2 billion in restricted Iranian funds in several installments. The first installment of $550 million in frozen assets will be released to Iran in the first week of February

Negotiators of the accord with Iran. The accord’s basic terms include:
Iran’s commitments
• Halt production of near-20-percent enriched uranium and disable the centrifuges used to produce it.
• Start neutralizing its near-20-percent enriched uranium stockpile.
• Refrain from enriching uranium in nearly half the installed centrifuges at its Natanz site and three-quarters of centrifuges at its Fordow site.
• Limit centrifuge production to what’s needed to replace damaged machines.
• Refrain from building additional enrichment facilities and advancing research and development of enrichment.
• Refrain from commissioning, fueling or adding reactor components to its Arak reactor and halt production and additional testing of fuel for the reactor.
• Refrain from building a facility capable of reprocessing, which would allow Iran to separate out plutonium, which could be used to make nuclear bombs.
P5+1, EU commitments
• Suspend implementation of sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical exports and on goods imported for use in its automotive industry.
• Suspend sanctions on Iran’s import and export of gold and other precious metals.
• Shelve efforts to further curtail Iranian crude-oil purchases by P5+1 countries.
• Free up Iranian money to help pay the educational costs of young Iranians, many of whom are attending U.S. colleges and universities.
• Raise tenfold the ceilings for money transfers to and from Iran.
• Take actions to ease Iran’s access to $4.2 billion in restricted Iranian funds in several installments. The first installment of $550 million in frozen assets will be released to Iran in the first week of February

Similar steps were taken with the North Korean regime. In 1994, the US and North Korean regimes signed an agreement that North Korea would not develop nuclear weapons. There followed a series of negotiations, violations of various

agreements, culminating in the North Korean regime’s announcement in 2005 that it had developed a nuclear bomb and, in 2006, the successful testing of ballistic missiles as well as of a nuclear bomb underground. Why should any agreement with the Iranian regime end up any differently?

But what are the alternatives?

An attack on Iran would almost certainly lead to the immediate closing of the Straits of Hormuz, which would disrupt global shipping, especially of oil supplies. Such an attack would immediately boost the credibility and influence of the Iranian regime throughout the Islamic world. And a single attack is not likely to succeed in destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities. That’s why even the former war hawk, former “Defense” Secretary under Bush, Robert Gates, commented “If you think the war in Iraq was hard, an attack on Iran would, in my opinion, be a catastrophe.” And Muravchik, who advocates such an attack, explained that a series of attacks over time would be necessary and would probably lead to Iranian counter-attacks throughout the region. In other words, the ongoing wars that have become the norm in parts of the region (Syria, Yemen, Libya)  would spread and intensify. Not only that, but some strategists for US capitalism reckon that the use of “tactical” nuclear weapons would be necessary. This would mean massive, long term environmental damage in this oil-rich region, meaning disruption of oil supplies. Maybe more important in their calculations is that once this threshold has been crossed in these ongoing conflicts, it would be difficult to pull back. Entire regions could become uninhabitable, thus cutting into the profits and stability of the capitalists. (The human suffering doesn’t matter.)

Russia and Iran

And even the “success” of the military option is now threatened:

The Putin regime has linked with the Iranian regime to wage a war by proxy in Syria. Now, horror of horrors, they are offering to upgrade Iran’s anti-aircraft defense with the more modern S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system. As a Newsweek article explained, this “represents a fundamental shift in military power for the region. For over a decade, the United States and its allies have been able to take freedom of action in the Middle Eastern skies for granted…. This was especially true of Iran, whose air defenses have suffered greatly due to sanctions. The arrival of the S-300 changes this…. Overcoming this type of system will require a large deployment of air, sea, and land assets, including our most capable—and expensive—airplanes and missiles.” In other words, once this system arrives and becomes functional, neither the Israeli nor even the US military will be able to attack Iranian nuclear installations with impunity.

US Capitalism a waning power

The basic issue is that the power of US capitalism to control the world is waning. On the one hand, we see the increased influence of its main rivals: Russia and China. (The latter is rapidly increasing its influence in South American and Africa as well as in Asia itself, with the threat to control vital shipping lanes in the South China Sea, among other things.) Along with this is the disintegration of societies throughout the world and the rise of  rogue, “extremist” forces like the Islamic State. As the Wall St. Journal has complained, the US has gone from controlling events to responding to them. The installation of the Bush regime represented a determination of US capitalism to reverse this process by crude military means (invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq). That only accelerated the process, so they moved back to “diplomacy” with the installation of the Obama presidency. At some point, they will veer back again to the military option, this time probably on an even more devastating level.

That is the future that capitalism has to offer.

What capitalism has to offer

What capitalism has to offer

Posted in Middle East, Uncategorized, United States, war | Leave a comment

Ferguson: Interview with grassroots activist

“People want change. They don’t want the illusion of change. They don’t want the appearance of change. They understand that the system is broken, it’s corrupt, it’s racist. And change cannot come from within that system.”

So speaks Bgyrl4life, grassroots activist in Ferguson as she reflects on the events of last summer there, on what’s happened since, and on the political scene in the US in general.

Posted in Ferguson, racism, Uncategorized, United States, videos/documentaries | 1 Comment

ILWU Tentative Contract: Organize to stop concessions!


On Tuesday, March 31, a meeting in San Francisco was held with longshore workers and others to discuss and explain the failings of the recent tentative agreement over a new contract between the ILWU and the employers. All unionists should be concerned about this contract and, even more important,
what can be done about it. 

The maritime industry on the US West Coast is just about the only major industry in the country that is still strictly union.

That is why Corporate America as a whole must have been eying this industry, determined to break the union’s grip. The results of the tentative agreement between the union (the ILWU) and the employers goes a way towards achieving the employers’ goal. (See graphic at right for a summary.)

Among the key points stressed at this San Francisco meeting are: The new agreement gives a large raise to the highest paid workers (33% over 5 years) and relatively little to the lowest paid. This will increase the divisions within the union. The agreement allows non-ILWU truck drivers vastly increased freedom to operate within the shipping yards. This is a potential dagger to the heart of ILWU control over the docks. The agreement basically paves the way for destroying the ILWU tradition of not crossing a picket line. (It does so by mandating that the employers and the union must meet first before a picket line is declared genuine. So all the employers have to do is fail to show up and the picket line isn’t genuine!) The agreement provides no protection against automation. In an era when computerization is increasing rapidly, it is nearly certain that the cranes will be computer operated in the future, thus vastly cutting into the jobs of some of the highest paid longshore workers.

Among the key points stressed at this San Francisco meeting are:
The new agreement gives a large raise to the highest paid workers (33% over 5 years) and relatively little to the lowest paid. This will increase the divisions within the union.
The agreement allows non-ILWU truck drivers vastly increased freedom to operate within the shipping yards. This is a potential dagger to the heart of ILWU control over the docks.
The agreement basically paves the way for destroying the ILWU tradition of not crossing a picket line. (It does so by mandating that the employers and the union must meet first before a picket line is declared genuine. So all the employers have to do is fail to show up and the picket line isn’t genuine!)
The agreement provides no protection against automation. In an era when computerization is increasing rapidly, it is nearly certain that the cranes will be computer operated in the future, thus vastly cutting into the jobs of some of the highest paid longshore workers.country that is still strictly union. That is why Corporate America as a whole must have been eying this industry, determined to break the union’s grip. The results of the tentative agreement between the union (the ILWU) and the employers goes a way towards achieving the employers’ goal.

There’s hardly a union contract around nowadays that doesn’t include major concessions. The key question is what to do about it?  Unfortunately, not much was said directly about this beyond just rejecting this proposed contract. However, one speaker, Dan Coffman, former president of ILWU Local 21 in Longview WA, provided some of the answer, although he did so unintentionally. As president of his local, Coffman had led a major battle against the grain shipping companies back in 2011. This included open defiance of the police by blocking the trains with mass pickets at one point, an action for which Coffman (and others) were arrested.

Despite this, though, Coffman ended up signing a terrible contract at that time. It’s true he was directed to by the International, but he could have refused, and last night, when he spoke at the SF meeting (via Skype), he said he regretted having signed the contract. But it wasn’t only that. When he spoke, he explained that he’d been called away from the battle in Longview and to San Francisco by the International at a crucial time. According to him, he was called to S.F. to keep him away from Longview because had he stayed there he would have been able to implement a strategy that might have blocked the ship coming in. He also explained that “my International had a gag order on me where I couldn’t speak to the press.” What must be asked, though, is why if his presence was so crucial in Longview at that time did he agree to come to San Francisco, and why did he obey the “gag order”?

The only way to answer this is to look at the balance of forces. Coffman may have had the moral backing of his local members and some in Local 10 (San Francisco), but that was all; the support wasn’t organized to fight the International. That would have had to include internal organization beyond their one local. Whether he wanted to or not, Coffman alone could not take on the entire ILWU International. It’s like one individual trying to stand up to a tsunami. It’s a rule of war, including the war within the unions, that if one side is organized and the other isn’t the former will win.

What does being organized mean for the rank and file?

It means understanding not only “who” you are opposing, but also why – what are their policies, who their allies are, what is the alternative program and strategy and who your potential allies are. In this regard, there are a few points.

As our article last year on the longshore (largely fanciful but completely accurate) made clear, the main issue is the “team concept” or “partnership” that every single union leadership operates by. On the job, they think they have to keep the bosses happy and help them make profits, and the only way to do that is to give ground on wages, working conditions and union power on the job. Politically, the same concept is applied through their total dependence on the corporate controlled Democratic Party.

The Mood inside the unions

Several speakers at Tuesday’s meeting referred to the lack of willingness of many members to really fight. As one speaker commented, “The power we have on the water front is not being exercised…. A lot of our brothers and sisters just don’t get it.” Well, of course not. The union leadership has had over 75 years of trying to repress the fighting traditions of the union struggle, including the 1934 San Francisco general strike. Because that power that the speaker referred to has not been called upon by the leadership, like an unused muscle the power has atrophied. Not only that, but the union leadership has done everything in its power to isolate, intimidate and even if necessary run out of the industry any members who still hold to and advance those fighting traditions.

Ferguson and a Break in the Mood

In every single union, those who want to see a real fight report how isolated they feel, how the rest of the membership “just doesn’t care”. In other words, the 75 year campaign waged by both Corporate America and the union leadership has had a huge effect within the union membership. So where will a break in the mood come from?

Despite the fact that this was a meeting called to discuss this particular union contract, several of the ILWU speakers themselves referred to something that on the surface seems completely unconnected: Ferguson. This shows that what’s happening there, and related events around the country, has deeply penetrated the consciousness of many workers – especially black and Latino workers. The battles that are being fought around that issue are immensely important for all union members.

That’s why one UAW worker in Ferguson reported to this writer last August that his own local union leader had told him “this is not our battle.” The reality is that the leadership is terrified of how this struggle will affect “their” members.

Conclusion

One speaker at Tuesday’s meeting urged the membership to “speak up, ask questions” about the contract. He was right, of course, but we have to go beyond that; we have to organize opposition caucuses within the unions. Organize within the unions for:

  • Oppose the “team concept” – the idea that the bosses and the workers are on the same team; this only adds to the race to the bottom.
  • Instead, unite all workers in any industry, regardless of what union they are in, or if they are in no union, and also regardless of what country they work in.
  • Link up with the community struggles, including the struggle against racism and police brutality and the community-based struggles against destruction of our environment (especially fracking. (See this interview, for example)
  • For a return to the traditions of the 1930s – open defiance of the police and the courts, mass picket lines, work place occupations, etc.

That is the outline, the beginnings of a program that can start to unite those inside the unions see the need to change their unions and build a real workers’ movement to reverse the bosses’ offensive.

Posted in labor, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cliff Willmeng: Interview with a “Fractivist”

Fractivist Cliff Willmeng speaking on behalf of the Colorado Community Rights Initiative.

Fractivist Cliff Willmeng speaking on behalf of the Colorado Community Rights Initiative.

We interview Cliff Willmeng, one of the leading anti-fracking activists (“fractivists”) in Colorado. In this video, Cliff explains several points:

  • How communities in Colorado are moving to ban fracking and, thereby coming into direct legal conflict with the entire political structure
  • How the corporations really control the political and legal system and how the anti-fracking movement has come into conflict with Corporate America in general.

He discusses the Colorado Community Rights Initiative.

  • “The Colorado Community Rights Amendment would be the natural class interests of the working class.”

He explains the relationship between fracking and capitalism.

  • “Fracking is a natural extension of capitalism.”

He comments on the Trans Pacific Partnership:

  • “It’s our obligation to make those kinds of trade agreements fully unenforceable.”

He explains his view of the relationship between his struggle and the struggle in Ferguson:

  • “If you don’t have the right to walk down the streets without being shot by the police, there’s really no community rights at all.”

He discusses his previous strategy for his own life and that of his family:

  • We had no concept, absolutely no concept, that we were going to be moving out here (to Colorado) onto a shale formation and essentially be undertaking the fight of our lives.”

Those wanting to contact the Colorado Community Rights Network can e mail them at: CoCommRights@gmail.com

Watch Video:

Posted in environment, Ferguson, videos/documentaries | 2 Comments

The “Team Concept” and the Race to the Bottom

There’s an article in today’s Wall St. Journal about the increase in outsourcing of work in the auto industry; increasing amounts of parts are being made in Mexico and other low wage countries and then installed in “American built” cars in the US. Simultaneously, the wages for auto workers here in the US have dropped drastically – down to as low as $10/hour for new hires.

John Childers and Chrystal Varty (pictured here with their children from previous marriages) work for American Axel & Manufacturing and make $10/hr each. "Lower class is what we are. Let's be honest," says Childers.

John Childers and Chrystal Varty (pictured here with their children from previous marriages) work for American Axel & Manufacturing and make $10/hr each. “Lower class is what we are. Let’s be honest,” says Childers.

Instead of linking up with the Mexican auto workers to raise the wages of all, by joint strikes if necessary, the UAW leadership has bought into the idea of competing with them to see who can make greater profits for the employers. This “race to the bottom” destroys the entire purpose of having a union.

The article brings to mind a discussion we had with a union activist recently about the “team concept”, meaning that workers for one company are on the same team as their employer and must join the competition of their employer against other rival companies. What it means in effect is that the workers have to compete with each other for who can work cheapest. Here’s the way the conversation went:

Comment of union activist:

As long as unions are embedded in capitalism  they will have a left and a right wing. If they are democratic both wings will find a way to express themselves. I think this is important because leftists need to recognize that as long as competition for jobs is a fact of life, business unionism will find an echo in the rank and file. People are required to compete at the same time as they need to cooperate to earn their daily bread. People will run with solidarity up to a point, then the tide will turn and people will move back toward competing with other workers. This ebb and flow will continue as long as we have capitalism. Right?

So unless a union is a revolutionary union, which I don’t think they can be, their entire purpose will never be to eliminate competition. Although it may be the entire purpose of whatever revolutionaries are in unions. I guess my point is that people will generally not take solidarity to the point that they destroy the company they work for. But they might do it if they thought every one else was going to do it, and that would be a revolution. 

Reply from Oaklandsocialist:

Workers organized unions to stop the undercutting of one worker against another. It spread from individual work places to cities to the entire country and within entire industries. The old UAW was a prime example. In its heyday it controlled the entire auto industry, thus preventing workers from Ford, let us say, from competing with and undercutting the workers from GM, thereby boosting the standards of all.

When outsourcing really got underway, along with runaway shops – first to Mexico and then elsewhere – this competition reared its ugly head again in a new and more generalized form. In the building trades, which is my background, it was simply the growth of non-union (“open shop”) construction. What was the response of the union leadership?

In construction we were told we have to help “our” contractors compete with the non-union by holding down our wages, or taking outright cuts. What this really meant was that we had to compete with the non-union construction worker for who would work for less. But since the non-union contractor always pegs his pay at a percentage of the union scale, when we took a cut, then the non-union would take a cut. And down we all went. In one memorable clash in our building trades council, I asked the council secretary where this would all lead. After trying repeatedly to avoid my question and my insisting on an answer, he threw up his hands and said, “I don’t know where it’s all going to lead! Oaky?”

We’ve seen the same thing in the auto industry, where the NON-union pay scale has gone down and down as the union scale for new-hires drops.

The thing is that the union leadership has closed the door and locked it with unbreakable locks to the idea of returning to the methods of the ’30s. So it makes them incapable of really organizing, meaning incapable of reversing this cycle. At the same time, since they cannot conceive of a real break with US capitalist politics, they feel duty bound to represent the interests of US capitalism overseas, so serious international solidarity is also ruled out. As a result, even if they didn’t think they were responsible for helping assure that the employer makes a profit (or, in the case of public workers, that the budget is complied with), they wouldn’t be able to stop the never-ending downward spiral.

A union doesn’t have to be a “revolutionary union” to break with the team concept and break with sticking strictly with legality. In fact, the whole concept of a revolutionary union is an impossibility. The union has to include all the workers in any work place – or strive to do so – but by definition the great majority of workers will not be revolutionaries except in the most exceptional of situations, meaning a revolutionary situation. 

In an earlier period, workers went from local struggles to national ones as capital went national. Now, the unions have to go a further step and go international, not just in words but in deeds. This means organizing global strikes if necessary.

Posted in labor | Leave a comment

An Open Letter to Food And Water Watch

We have received this open letter to the Big Green environmental NGO, Food & Water Watch. It takes F&WW to task for taking credit (and money) for the activism organized by local people and groups.

"If the judge won't allow us to ban fracking, then we shouldn't listen to the judge." 5 Year old Sasha Willmeng speaking at a public hearing.

“If the judge won’t allow us to ban fracking, then we shouldn’t listen to the judge.” Six Year old Sasha Willmeng speaking at a public hearing.

From the Colorado Community Rights Network

CoCommRights@gmail.com

March 18, 2015

Over the preceding years in Colorado the issue of oil and gas development and the community efforts opposing the inherently dangerous process have driven a state and national discussion.  The nature of the discussion has traditionally contested the possibility of  “safe” fracking, or the idea that oil and gas development can be conducted with a degree of responsibility. These talking points, which were originally argued by politicians of both parties and major national environmental groups like the Sierra Club, contended that better regulations of the oil and gas industry could provide adequate protections for our public health and environmental safety. These talking points were refuted by many in the scientific community, local people aiming to protect their municipalities, and by your organization, which has publicly called for a ban on the practice of fracking. We commend you on seeing through the false idea of safe fracking, and for promoting the elimination of the industrial practice altogether.

While we appreciate this position of Food and Water Watch, there are at the same time increasing areas of concern regarding your role in addressing the issue of oil and gas development, and how you identify the leading actors in the movement against fracking.

Colorado Governor Hickenlooper confronted by angry Coloradans after he threatened to sue any community that banned fracking.

Colorado Governor Hickenlooper confronted by angry Coloradans after he threatened to sue any community that banned fracking.

We feel that these concerns need to be publically stated as the failings in Colorado’s state government and its general neglect and hostility toward our local communities now requires an independent, honest, and clear discussion, while new strategies need to be created and employed.

It is the position of the Colorado Community Rights Network that the issue of fracking cannot be separated from the larger problem of the legal system that is exploited by the oil and industry to force fracking onto communities. This system of legal privilege has meant oil and gas industry lawsuits against Front Range communities recently delaying or banning fracking in places like Longmont, Broomfield, Fort Collins, and Lafayette. While these lawsuits may be new to many, they are not new to Greeley, Colorado, which had their ban on oil and gas activity overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court as long ago as 1992. We notice that in your literature and public statements, the full body of legal privileges owned and regularly employed by the oil and gas industry go without mention, which leaves a vacancy in the public understanding of the true depth of the problem, and which allows actions based on a superficial analysis. And as the same legal privileges have been used against communities attempting to protect themselves from a spectrum of inherently dangerous corporate activities, the omission has the effect of isolating the people and issues that could normally come together in a united front against fracking, mining, injection wells, GMO’s and other dangerous industrial projects.

Of an equal or greater concern is our experience with the long-standing pattern of fund raising emails distributed by your organization. In these emails, Food and Water Watch has regularly taken credit for the numerous bans and moratoria accomplished by communities through heroic local effort. While Food and Water Watch may have assisted

Residents of Lafayette, CO, celebrating election victory of ballot initiative banning fracking in their community. They are the ones who did this, not F&WW or any other Big Green group.

Residents of Lafayette, CO, celebrating election victory of ballot initiative banning fracking in their community. They are the ones who did this, not F&WW or any other Big Green group.

some of these communities at times, it is not the work of FWW that created these tangible local successes, but the work of volunteer community members fighting for their families, neighborhoods, and environment. We have read these fundraising emails for many years, and called increasing attention to what we consider misrepresentation of your organization as the engine behind local efforts fighting oil and gas development. This pattern is not limited to Colorado, and has misappropriated measures that have passed in California, New Mexico, Ohio, and Texas, possibly among others. We contend that the credit and resources needed to build and defend our communities from the oil and gas industry must go to the local organizations doing the real work, and that Food and Water Watch promotions neglecting these genuine grassroots groups are both opportunistic and unethical.

There is an additional point on the description of the efforts against fracking that needs to be made. To the extent that Food and Water Watch claims itself as the force behind local efforts, this false claim will be gladly exploited by the oil and gas industry, that is only too happy to misrepresent the real local nature of the movement against fracking. Energy front groups like Energy In Depth have already begun to take Food and Water Watch at face value, and are helping to eclipse the communities behind the banner of national professional environmentalism.

We can do better than this.

It is the position of the Colorado Community Rights Network that the effort to ban fracking formally recognize that which we have already known to be true:

1. That fracking can in no way be made safe, and the practice has to be permanently banned.

2. That the authority for decision making in protecting the public health, welfare, and safety, and the advancement of the rights of individuals, communities, and nature, has to recognize the superiority of communities above corporations, and that where the law does not recognize this, it is therefore illegitimate and needs to be changed.

3. That the fight against fracking continue to be led and recognized as a grassroots movement, built by the volunteer efforts of common people in frontline communities. As such, these communities must be given direct credit for their efforts, so that the defense of their local laws and actions can be fully assisted and reinforced.

As our communities across Colorado continue to learn through our collective experiences with politicians, industries, and the corporate legal system that unites them all, the fight against fracking necessitates a civil rights movement. Like any movement, there will be differences in both analysis and strategy. And while these differences can be honored, we believe the above points of unity should be self evident, and offer them in an effort to build mutual aid as a means to end fracking, and the system that forces it upon us. As the movement progresses in its understanding and its reach, it is imperative that the elements joining it act both honestly and openly.

Sincerely,

The Colorado Community Rights Network

Drinking fracked water: It will only be stopped by mobilization from below.

Drinking fracked water: It will only be stopped by mobilization from below.

Oaklandsocialist comments: The problem with the Big Green environmental organizations is that they are so closely tied in with Corporate America. Food and Water Watch,  for instance, is linked with Richard N. Goldman, Republican business man and husband of Rhoda Haas Goldman, member of the Haas family and heiress to the Levi-Strauss fortune. They are also linked to Roy Hampton Park, former co-founder of Hines-Park Food and former top executive at Proctor and Gamble as well as founder and owner of the communications conglomerate Park Communications. Park was listed as the 40th richest person in the US by Forbes.

 

Posted in environment, Uncategorized | 14 Comments

“This is not what I joined Socialist Alternative for.”

Today, more young adults think positively about socialism than do about capitalism. Sadly, socialism in general is lacking a public face. The one exception is Seattle city council member, Kshama Sawant, an open socialist. She’s the most prominent socialist in the United States. That’s why what she does and what her group, Socialist Alternative does, matters for the entire socialist movement. We carry below an open letter from a member of Socialist Alternative. The letter criticizes Kshama Sawant.

Larry Gossett

Several weeks ago, socialist city council member Kshama Sawant was confronted by pickets at a fund raiser for liberal Democratic city council member Larry Gossett. The pickets were there because Gossett had supported a new youth prison. Sawant, however,

Larry Gossett (second from right) endorsing fellow Democrat Bruce Harrell. He serves as a conduit into this corporate-controlled party.

Larry Gossett (second from right) endorsing fellow Democrat Bruce Harrell. He serves as a conduit into this corporate-controlled party.

had come to support Gossett. She engaged in a debate with the pickets, in which she said that Gossett is not really a part of “the establishment” and that he’s been fighting for working class people for years. (Note: the debate was caught on video, but for some reason it has since been taken down from youtube.)

In fact, the liberal wing of the Democrats is in some ways the more dangerous wing. They are the ones who serve as the bait for the trap, the ones who lure the workers movement into the corporate-controlled Democratic Party, thereby preventing the workers’ movement from developing its own party and its own, working class position on the different issues.

Union Leadership

This confusion around the liberal Democrats is directly connected with Socialist Alternative’s refusal to have any sort of break with the union leadership. On the one side, this leadership brings the views of the employers into the union, with the leadership’s support for the idea that the workers and the employers are on the same “team” and that the union has to look out for the profits of the employers. This was the position of the leadership of the hotel workers’ union at the 2014 15 Now national conference. There, this leadership argued that the employers could not pay a minimum of $15/hour and continue to pay full health benefits too. Unfortunately, the SA leadership, including Sawant, agreed with them. On the other hand, these same leaders represent the Democratic Party inside the unions.

Inevitably, the support for the union leadership’s team concept has led Socialist Alternative to support individual Democrats too. The damage that is done is shown by the letter below from Socialist Alternative member Sarah Morken. Sarah should be congratulated for her honesty and integrity. She writes:

Letter from Socialist Alternative member

Last week I almost talked myself into attending a fundraiser for a local Democratic party political candidate. 

I almost justified this to myself, even though Socialist Alternative stands for breaking with the Two Parties of Big Business. I have been a dues paying member of SA Tacoma for 3 years. I am firmly and openly critical of the Democratic party to anyone who will listen. If I almost broke with those principles, I wonder how many other SA members/socialists/progressives were influenced by the latest move by Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant? How many other people will say, “well this democrat might help me with …… if I support their campaign,” “quietly attending their fundraiser as their friend won’t hurt anything,” “attending a fundraiser doesn’t mean I’m endorsing them.”

From “What We Stand For” in SA newspaper: “Unions and social movement organizations should stop funding and supporting the Democratic and Republican Parties and instead organize independent left wing, anti-corporate candidates and coalitions as a first step toward building a workers’ party.” 

Guess why I almost justified going to this democratic party candidate’s fundraiser?

A new political party recently started by some activists who I know. I was going to ask them what their orientation will be towards the Democratic Party. I am 99% sure of what their orientation will be, based on what I know about the people who created the new political party. 

But, then I thought, “do I really want to go there right now?” Do I really have a leg to stand on considering that Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant recently attended a fund raiser for one of Democratic party’s “progressive” gatekeepers? She was caught on camera defensively justifying it? I did watch the video myself, but it has since been removed from the internet. 

Kshama is in the leadership of Socialist Alternative and she is the most famous “socialist” in America. Several of my fellow marxists have said that Sawant and SA have become like European Social Democrats. SA is no longer acting like a revolutionary socialist organization in my opinion.

I sent Kshama a private message regarding my concerns. 

In the last few years I have had several political disagreements with Socialist Alternative. Nonetheless I have stayed in the organization because, despite the disagreements, SA seemed like the most viable left political party that had firm principles regarding the democratic party. 

Kshama attending King County Council Member Larry Gosset’s fundraiser and her defense of him is a significant breach of principle. It just continue’s the pattern that I have observed, of SA leadership spending more time and energy trying to appeal to middle class voters and build relationships with union leadership and democratic party leadership than they do on building a base among workers, youth and the poor. 

I know that Kshama is facing a fight to keep her seat on the city council. SA is thinking they must build coalitions with people like Gosset in order to do that. Three Democrats have announced they are running against Sawant. In my opinion it would be better to remain firm on the principle of not supporting Democratic candidates. SA could emphasize to Gossett’s supporters, “Look, Gossett should leave the democratic party if he really is so progressive. His party is running candidates against the only socialist, woman of color on the city council! “ 

Kshama Sawant is betraying our principles in an attempt to hold onto that city council seat. I have been told before by SA leadership that our political candidates are a reflection on our entire organization.

This is not what I joined SA for.

Posted in socialist movement, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Israel’s Election Results

Like every other struggle, the fight against racism is international. That’s doubly true for the State of Israel, which has accurately been compared with apartheid South Africa. And that’s why we should consider yesterday’s elections there.

Yesterday’s Election Results

After trailing in the polls, Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party came out with more votes than any other party, winning 30 seats in the Israeli parliament (“Knesset”) out of 120 vs. 24 for its closest rival, the “Zionist Union”. (There never has been a government that had an outright majority in the history of Israel.)

Israel's election results: many of these smaller parties are outright racist, advocating ethnic cleansing, etc.

Israel’s election results: many of these smaller parties are outright racist, advocating ethnic cleansing, etc.

Israeli politics are a corrupt and confused mess, as is to be expected of a racist, colonialist state. “Bibi” Netanyahu is widely hated by a large sector of the Israeli electorate, as much for his proven corruption as anything else. (He and his wife, for instance, were so petty as to keep money due the government for government-purchased recycled plastic bottles!) Now, this war criminal will almost certainly add to his reign, this time by relying even more strongly on the far right racist parties like Shas.

War criminal Netanyahu pounding his message home before US congress

War criminal Netanyahu pounding his message home before US congress

Ali Abounimah has clearly explained the lack of an alternative in his article, “Why I’m Relieved Netanyahu Won”. The main “opposition” was from the team of Tsipi Livni and Isaac Herzog. How much of an alternative they are is revealed by the fact that Herzog criticized Netanyahu for not attacking Gaza strongly and soon enough in Israel’s recent slaughter there and Livni has expressed policies that imply ethnic cleansing and was responsible for the criminal war against Gaza known as “Operation Caste Lead”.

As it is, Netanyahu won based in part on the promise that there will never be a Palestinian state as long as he is in office. On the alternative, Abounimah writes: “Had the Zionist Union (Herzog/Livni) won, there was a very grave danger that the Palestinians would have been dragged back a decade into fruitless Oslo-style “negotiations” that would have served as a cover for continued sugbjugation and colonization….

“Such negotiations have provided the principal excuse for the so-called international community to endlessly defer holding Israel even minimally accountable.”

Abounimah’s entire article is well worth reading for anybody who fights against racism and oppression as, among other things, it clearly explains the fantasy of the idea of a separate, independent Palestinian state. However, he is mistaken as far as the election outcome outcome: It is based on a strategy that revolves around the governments of the Western states (including the United States) forcing a change on Israel. It fails to reckon with the fact that every wing of Corporate America, including its most liberal representatives, supports Zionism in one way or another. The liberal economist Paul Krugman, for instance, claims that Israel “was built on the socialist ideals of the kibbutz system,” and while he decried the increased economic inequality in Israel, he ignores the most sharp inequality – between Israeli Jews and Israeli palestinians. US Senator Elizabeth Warren, the great hope of the liberals, has commented, “America has a very special relationship with Israel…. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world…. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.” (Whether Palestinians have a right to defend themselves from land and water theft, mass murder and other war crimes Warren didn’t comment on, of course.)

The real Elizabeth Warren

The real Elizabeth Warren

Abounimah’s view also shows no appreciation for the potential role of any sector of the Israeli working class, even including the Palestinians in Israel. It is hard to imagine that these results will not further demoralize the Palestinians, both in Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza, and thereby make building a movement even more difficult.

Israeli Poverty

The opponents of Israeli racism and oppression tend to ignore the sharp increase in poverty and inequality in Israel. In fact, the increased opposition to Netanyahu was largely based on the fact that a layer of the population for the first time tended to focus on this issue rather than on the issue of “security”.  Many of the poorer Israeli Jews tend to be the most racist, similar to poor white Southerners in the US. But this has a twist: This is not simply a matter of “white supremacy” as a disproportionate number of those poor Israeli Jews are Sephardic, or West Asian (non-white), Jews.

Homelessness in Israel

Homelessness in Israel

US Capitalism & Israel

Today, Israel is one of the most racist societies in the world. The only hope for change is to connect the issue of poverty at home in Israel – that is to say, the class struggle – with the issue of racism and oppression. It won’t be easy. That was proven by yesterday’s elections. And possibly the only hope is linked with the international struggle, including in Western Asia and Northern Africa. Maybe a real class struggle and a struggle for socialism throughout the region will help start to break through the deep-seated racism within Israel. That, connected with the ongoing efforts to isolate racist Israeli society globally. But whatever it takes, it certainly can’t be argued that the present ignoring of the class divisions within Israeli Jewish society has been very successful. What is the alternative?

There’s a lesson to be learned there for the movement in the United States.

Note: For a more comprehensive explanation of the rise of Zionism and how it relates to the crisis of capitalism as well as the failure of the reformists of all stripes, see this pamphlet.

Posted in Middle East, racism | 2 Comments

Israel: What goes around comes around

Here is an interesting story from the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz about the mistreatment of a sick elderly Jewish man in an Israeli hospital. (Note: You will have to register with Ha’aretz to read the full article, but it doesn’t cost anything.) It’s much too long, but worth reading the first part, which reveals the gross inhumanity (and corruption) that apparently pervades every part of Israeli society. For instance, here’s the writer’s description of what happened after her father died in the hospital:

“After that point, no nurse or doctor talked with us, offered an explanation of what had happened, or did what ordinary human beings do in such situations: show compassion for loss. The only person who spoke to us was the cleaning person who had responsibility for putting the room in order. In a matter of a few minutes, we had entered the realm of an unknown distress for which we had no preparation, no known recipe, no prewritten script.”

Of course, what do you expect of a society that is based on racism, brutality, mass murder and theft? As they say, what goes around comes around.

Posted in Middle East | Leave a comment

Marxism and the Struggle in Greece

The Marxist economist Michael Roberts has an interesting and important piece on the economic plans of the present leadership in Greece and also the criticisms of the main left opposition there. The lessons he draws should be followed by the struggle against oppression and poverty the world over.

Roberts repeatedly refers to Greek capitalism’s lack of competitiveness, and capitalism is of course based on competition. But in any competition, there are necessarily winners and also necessarily losers. The capitalist economy of some country will inevitably be less competitive than others. In the EU Greece, for whatever reasons, is one of those. The entire drive of the EU commanders is to make Greek capitalism more competitive through driving down living standards, which means increasing the surplus value* extracted from the working class. If they succeed, then some other country would be less competitive, and then they would be forced to install similar measures.

The Greek Minister of Finance, Varoufakis, repeatedly claims he’s a Marxist, but that “Marxism” won’t work in the short term. That brings to  mind the old joke that nuclear fusion is the energy source of the future… and always will be. It also brings to mind Trotsky’s comment on workers’ leaders who reserve their socialism for holiday speechifying. It’s got no relevance for today. Or, to put it another way, they have no sense of the transitional  method, meaning seeing what immediate steps can be taken that lead to the longer term solutions.

This relates to maybe the most important point: The Tsipras/Varoufakis leadership of the ruling party in Greece, Syriza, seems not to base itself on a mobilization of the working class. That appeared to be so over a year ago on a completely different issue: the rise of the fascist Golden Dawn, who at that time were assaulting the immigrant community. The main Syriza leadership simply saw electing a left government as the solution. Granted, that was part of it, but that didn’t answer the immediate crisis for immigrants in Greece. For that, a mobilization at the base to stop Golden Dawn in the streets was needed. The Tsipras leadership didn’t see that. Whatever the issue, whether it be street thugs or nationalization of the banks, it cannot be resolved from above. But neither the present leadership nor the main left opposition seems to be committed to mobilizing the base.

 

Posted in Europe, workers' struggles | Leave a comment