Glen Ford on US Presidential Elections

Bernie Sanders’ campaign “has not pushed Hillary Clinton to the left. It’s made her lie more.”

With this sharp line, Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford summed up the net effect of the Bernie Sanders’ campaign on the Democrats. But he also discussed a lot more at a forum on the US presidential elections held in Oakland on Feb. 5.

Ford predicts that black voters will “bring down” the Sanders campaign. This is ironic, according to Ford, because Sanders’ program is a lot closer to the views of most black voters than are those of Hillary Clinton. Ford explains this by his view that black voters look to the Democratic Party as their protectors against the “existential threat” of the “white man’s party” – the Republicans. This despite the fact that both parties are “the rich man’s party”. “Left politics are not alien to black folks. We are the left constituency in this country…. (but) we vote for a protector against the white man’s party”
he said.

It’s not that Ford supports any wing of the Democrats, including the Bernie Sanders wing. “Black movement politics, black radical politics cannot coexist with Democratic Party politics…. We have not transformed the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party has transformed us…. So we should be saying ‘all power to the movement and to hell with both wings of the rich man’s party. Power to the people!” he concluded.

There were several other speakers, but the most important issue to be considered is: How can a real alternative to the “two party system” – the monopoly over US politics by the Republicrats – develop? Other speakers at the forum represented different candidates for president. None of them will make any impression either on black voters or on the vast masses of working class people in the US in general. That’s because the dynamic that Glen Ford described is not unique to black voters alone. Millions of workers in general have a similar perspective – they’re looking for a protector against the Republicans.

Since those millions of people are paying attention to the presidential election, socialists cannot just ignore them. But we make a mistake to become mesmerized by these elections;  even while they are going on, local protest movements are going on all around the country. They involve issues like lead in the water in Flint, MI, fracking throughout Colorado, and of course the issue of racism, the police and the criminal (in)justice system in general. There already is a tendency for some of these movements to throw up candidates at the local level. We are not talking about opportunists like Delray McKesson, who is trying to use the movement to advance his own career in Baltimore. We are talking about real movement leaders who are running outside of and against the entire Republicrat paradigm. Socialists should participate in these local movements. Help build them. And part of helping build such movements is to encourage them to openly break from the Republicrats and put up their own candidates for local office.

Running “outsiders” for president, US Senate or even state wide office is biting off more than we can chew. Given the present state of the movement, it tends to fall on deaf ears. Running workers’ leaders in local elections, outside of and opposed to the Republicrats, and  based on the real movement in the streets and communities – that can start to gain some traction. That can be the first step towards building the alternative to the Republicrats.

leaflet of Oaklandsocialist

leaflet of Oaklandsocialist

Posted in politics, racism, United States | 2 Comments

David Sheen on the increased racism in Israel

Here is David Sheen on how open racism is on the rise in Israel. His extended presentation does not provide a clear explanation of why this is on the rise nor an answer of how to fight it. But we should be aware of what is happening there.

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Iowa Election Results: Crisis in Both Parties

Back in December, Bret Stephens, one of the main columnists for the Wall St. Journal, wrote a column entitled “Let’s Elect Hillary Now”. He addressed it: “Dear Fellow Conservatives,” and he commented, “Now (the Republican Party) has as its front runner an insult machine whose political business is to tell Mexicans, Muslims, physically impaired journalists, astute Jewish negotiators and others who cross his sullen gaze that he has no use for them.”

And today, in response to the election outcome in Iowa, he comments that the Republican Party has as its two main candidates:

  • “A bigoted braggart with a laughable grasp of public policy and leering manners of the kind you would expect from a barroom drunk.
  • “A glib moralizer who is personally detested by every single senator in his own party, never mind the other one.”

Republicans

What Stephens writes is a visible reminder of how much the mainstream of Corporate America – the US capitalist class – has lost control over their main and favored party.

Some argue that there is no difference between the two parties, but that’s not true – no more than claiming there’s no difference between a defensive lineman and a free safety in football. They each have an important role to play.

When the capitalist class feels itself in the driver’s seat, when it is moving forward, then it is able to put the Republicans in power in order to maximize the attack. When it has to maneuver, tack this way and that, even retreat a little bit – all in order to prevent a rout – then the Democrats are necessary. The compromise they had to have over the last eight years shows. Internationally, the Republicans showed they were incapable of putting up a presidential candidate who could maneuver and play the diplomacy game. And they also learned that they couldn’t just continue attacking – just invading one country after another without even any serious allies. So they put Obama in the White House. But domestically things were different, so they maneuvered to get a Republican majority in congress to make sure no concessions were made at home.

Arrangement Unravelling

But now, that arrangement threatens to come unravelled. Internationally, the age of US control over practically every corner of the globe is over. Its weakness – humiliation, even – is increasingly there for all to see. The Republicans are raising a hue and cry over this, stirring up xenophobia, along with a completely unrealistic view of what the US military can and cannot do. “We will carpet-bomb (ISIS) into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out!” says the “glib moralizer” who’s “detested” by all his fellow Senators. “I will…quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS, will rebuild our military and make it so strong no one — and I mean, no one — will mess with us,” says the “bigoted braggart”.

This is the George W. Bush school of foreign policy on steroids, and these are the two candidates who came in #1 and #2 yesterday in Iowa, collectively polling some 52%. (Together with Ben Carson, who basically has the same politics, they got 61%.)

Democrats

On the Democratic side, things aren’t much better for US capitalism. As we said, the Democrats are necessary in order to prevent having to give a little ground here and there into becoming a complete rout. But like any serious leaders of any class, the leaders of the capitalist class prefer not to give any ground at all. (Would that the leaders of the US working class – the union leaders – had half as much backbone!) Here’s how Corporate America sees the situation there, as far as their two main candidates. Bret Stephens, again, describing them:

  • “A compulsive liar with a persecution complex, a mania for secrecy, and a bald disdain for rules as they apply to lesser people.
  • “A Sixties radical preaching warmed-over socialism to people too young to know what it was or too stupid to understand what it does.”
The four leading candidates, clockwise from top left: the "glib moralist", the "bigoted braggart", the "compulsive liar" and the "Sixties radical". For different reasons, none of them is acceptable to Corporate America.

The four leading candidates, clockwise from top left: the “glib moralist”, the “bigoted braggart”, the “compulsive liar” and the “Sixties radical”. For different reasons, none of them is acceptable to Corporate America.

Sanders

The fact that Sanders could win in essence 50% of the vote in conservative and rural Iowa is extremely significant. It speaks to the enormous discontent that exists as well as the widespread acceptance of the term “socialism”, meaning a rejection of “capitalism”.

This is what explains the hatred for Sanders that is fairly dripping from the fangs of Bret Stephens. His few words here pale by comparison to what they’d be saying about him if, as is extremely unlikely, he got elected. Then, they’d be mobilizing against him, and even his own party, the Democrats, would not defend a single priority he’s put forward. Many, probably most, would be joining in that mobilization against Sanders’ program. Meanwhile, despite the fact that Sanders is doing them a great favor by channeling the anger back into the Democrats and thereby strengthening them, Corporate America still must denounce him.

Clinton

But how to explain their description of Clinton?

Consider the scenario: The Republicans nominate either the “glib moralist” or the “bigoted braggart”, and the results are predictable. As Stephens says, in that case we might as well “just elect Hillary now.” After all, if nothing else she is a reliable representative for them. But they also know that she has almost no credibility. Nor is she anywhere near as charismatic nor as glib as the current president. And she’ll be sitting in office at a time when the economy will be threatening to unravel again and who knows what international crisis will require new “sacrifices” from US working class boys and girls (more body bags, in other words).

No, this situation will not suit them at all. But what can they do about it?

It will be us – US workers and youth, especially people of color – who will suffer the most from this crisis. An alternative to the two parties of big business can be found. It must be found. Looking to start at the national level exceeds out capacity right now. If all we can do is start at the local level, then so be it, that’s where we must start. Yes, it will only be a start, but as they say “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

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Jabari – “A $15 hour minimum wage by 2020”

We caught up with Jabari while he was by Lake Merritt, gathering signatures for a minimum wage ballot initiative for a $15 hour minimum wage by 2020. He agreed that by then, rents will have gone up so much that the minimum wage would be around what it is now. Some of his other comments “A home is a necessity…. The richest person in the world, they not going to go home and sleep on the floor…. There’s so many abandoned buildings that could be turned into homeless shelters…. Hopefully it doesn’t get to violence… That’s what it’s about, man: Just keeping your head free and stay chillaxed.”

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“Warren for President”?

Just days before the vote in Iowa, a tiny crowd turns out to hear Hillary Clinton in Dubuque.

Just days before the vote in Iowa, a tiny crowd turns out to hear Hillary Clinton in Dubuque.

In the lead-up to the first primary – in Iowa – it seems that Clinton is in serious trouble and Sanders’ support continues to grow. The main thing holding back his numbers is his lack of support among black and also Latino voters. I think this will very likely start to change. He still has, however, the nearly insurmountable barrier of the “super delegates”, who are 20% of the Democratic delegates overall and of whom something like 15% are committed to Clinton. That means Sanders would have to win slightly over 60% of the popular primary vote and he’s not close to that. On the other hand, Clinton is not only in trouble because of her personal unpopularity; her e-mail issue seems like it won’t go away. In fact, one of her staff members reportedly even predicted that she couldn’t beat Trump.

The tops of Corporate America are very worried about a Trump presidency, but they also really don’t want a Sanders presidency either.

One possible outcome of the Democratic Party convention: They know that Clinton is seriously disliked and has major baggage. They cannot stand Sanders. So they arrange a deadlocked convention in which neither candidate gets enough delegates votes, thereby opening up the convention to a compromise candidate. Maybe Elizabeth Warren?

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The Man With No Home: Hassan’s Story

as told by “S” (Note: “S” teaches German at a refugee camp in Germany.)

Syrian refugees at a center in Germany.

Syrian refugees at a center in Germany.

Today I had a totally interesting German lesson day. In fact, we did close to no German at all. There were only a few participants and so the whole atmosphere was quite relaxed and personal. A young man from Pakistan got a private lesson from me (there were even two teachers!) After a few minutes of lessons, it was clear that he needed to talk just about life, and since he spoke passable English, we were able to do that.

Hassan started his tale by complaining about the other refugees that I think he is meeting in the camp. Basically, he feels that all they do is sleep, sleep, sleep and some drinking and he is different, he wants to learn English. He told us he has no friends or family and no job, so what he has is time and he wants to dedicate every moment to learning. I got a bit of a feeling that he is quite lonely. He seemed to be asking for access to more German lessons, but I didn’t know how to help him off-hand. I told him I would think about what can be done get back to him on that. He comes to all the German lessons anyway, so I’m sure I’ll see him again.

He showed me his papers. He has some sort of residency status which expires in a few weeks. After that, he hopes to get a residency permit for 3 years, which would include a work permit. This seems to be very important to him. Then we got to talking about languages again and he told us that he speaks Greek quite well! “Well, I asked him, “How did that happen?” Turns out he has been living in Greece for the past several years, but came to Germany because he had been illegal for that time. He had been arrested for not having the proper papers and so, it was time to leave.

This is not the first time I’ve heard stories like this. Seems like a good chunk of the refugees who have been storming the German borders are people who beforehand had been living in other countries in Europe for years, but have been illegal and always living on the fringe. One man from Tunisia who I had met has been living in Italy for 18 years. Doesn’t really speak Arabic or French. Only Italian. So Germany, besides taking in all the war refugees is also taking in the refugees from other countries within the EU with failed immigration policies. This is not mentioned at all in the press.

Karachi, Pakistan: This is the sort of conditions that forced Hassan to flee.

Karachi, Pakistan: This is the sort of conditions that forced Hassan to flee.

Hassan continued his tale. His mother and father are old and poor and live in a quieter place far from Karachi where things are safe, but they are very poor. He is the oldest of five children and has two unmarried sisters. He very clearly feels responsible for supporting them all.

His first stop, I think, after leaving Pakistan was Saudi Arabia, where he worked in a clothing factory. He said he was a tailor, which may be something he had already learned in Pakistan. In Saudi Arabia, the hours were long and hard (14-hour-days) and the pay was poor if at all. The bosses made the workers jump up for their chairs when they entered the room and it sounds really like slavery.

Life in Greece was a little better with not such brutal working hours. He was selling clothes in the streets, I think. The big problem was the illegality, with no chance of anything changing. Interestingly, he said that Greece was really bad for him regarding the Nazis. The Pakistanis there (in Athens) are afraid to go into certain neighborhoods, always travel in groups and never go out at night. He had a little scar on his head from being beaten up and they broke his arm as well. A hard life there as well.

Violence in Greece by Golden Dawn fascists

Violence in Greece by Golden Dawn fascists

Germany for him so far has been a paradise. He actually may finally, at age 38 after years of hard work, have a chance at working papers here. He gets 350€ a month of state assistance. And most happily for me, he finds the people nice. Everyone seems to be helpful and he doesn’t feel threatened. Even when I mentioned Pegida, he said that may be, but he has had only good experiences. One town over from us is a nest of neo-Nazis, but he hasn’t been there.

We talked a little about the refugee crises and Merkel and he understood the problems. When I mentioned that the wave seems to include a lot of immigrants from within Europe (like himself), he put the whole issue into very financial terms. In Spain (I think it was), the people have no chance of anything. If they are eligible for state help at all, they receive something like 70€ a month. For a family to arrive, and then get 350€ per person, that is a huge difference.

Now that I think about it, this illustrates a very valuable lesson on what is wrong in this world (one of the things at least). Here is a serious, honest man who has spent his whole life working hard, earning nothing and existing in the fringes of every nation he has lived in. His labors have helped the Saudi factory owner get richer than we can even imagine, helped someone in Greece get richer and have given him absolutely nothing. 

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More Oakland Speaks: “I like to th___ hope my vote counts”

I think “the presidential race is pretty funny (because) I never thought Donald Trump would run for president,” says Major. “I like to th___ hope my vote counts,” says Nina. (Note how she catches herself and corrects from “think” to “hope”.)

More conversations around Lake Merritt.

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Oakland speaks: “high rents; gentrification; just right here, right now, chillin'”

Everybody has a story to tell. Everybody has a philosophy of life.

For almost all longer-time Oakland residents, the issue of money and rents is huge. That’s clear from Cetima* and Cloud, who speak here. What can be done about it?

Cetima has hopes in Bernie Sanders. She hopes Sanders will win, but says “you can’t trust politicians, regardless.” Cloud is more skeptical. “Whatever law is going to be is going to be,” he says. It’s what seems to draw him to conclude, “I live in the now. To tell you the truth, what’s going on in the world out there, I could care less.”

And like people all over the world, basically they want a decent life. As Cetima concludes, while she strolls around Lake Merritt, “its a beautiful day today,” or in the words of Cloud: “I’m just right here, right now, enjoying my day… chillin’.”

*Note to Cetima: If you are watching, and if we’ve spelled you name wrong, please write in and let us know. To the others we interviewed: We’ll have your interviews up soon. Thanks to all for taking the time to talk with us.

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Interviews with Bernie Sanders Supporters in Oakland

Supporters of Bernie Sanders rallied and marched around Oakland’s Lake Merritt today. Here are a few interviews that Oakland Socialist did with a few of them. More are coming.

For those wanting to know more about a socialist view of the Sanders campaign, we urge you to check out this link. Your comments and/or questions are welcome.

We distributed this leaflet. Sanders way forward?

Update

Here is the second batch of interviews:

https://youtu.be/czR_zRoaOLY

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The Democratic Party “Debate”: One family with a few squabbles

Candidates for the Democratic nomination. They may have some squabbles, but they're all one family.

Candidates for the Democratic nomination. They may have some squabbles, but they’re all one family.

The fourth and last “debate” of the Democratic candidates for their party’s nomination for president was held last night.The two real candidates (Clinton and Sanders) and the faux candidate (O’Malley) all agreed on some things. Sanders bragged about his role in “bringing our country together.” Clinton the same; she will “bring our country together.” O’Malley, who was pretty much frozen out by the “moderators”, bragged “all my life, I brought people together…”

They all agreed about how we need a higher minimum wage, gun control (but not of the militias who are occupying federal land), rebuilding our inner cities, ending climate change, and reining in the big banks.

Health Care

There was a lot of back and forth between Clinton and Sanders about health care. Clinton actually had the nerve to claim that all her life, she’d stood up to the industry. I suppose that’s why   “Since her first bid for Senate in 2000, Clinton has accepted nearly $1 million from drug and health companies and more than $2.7 million from the insurance field and its related sectors,” and why she “has received more campaign cash from drug companies than any candidate in either party.”

So when, in the past, Sanders attacked her for he donations from Goldman Sachs, he couldpremium-2 091509pitgif_2 have included these sources. But he, too, has a little problem when it comes to health care. He, too, helped write and supported the “Affordable Care Act” (ACA, also known as Obamacare). And while he calls for “Medicare for all” – the equivalent of “single payer” – he forgets to mention the massive increases in health insurance premiums. (See graphs.) This was entirely predictable, since under ACA people are required to buy health insurance. In other words, it’s a matter of supply and demand, and demand has increased enormously.

That was inevitable since Obama & Co. brought the insurance companies “to the table” to help design ACA. It’s like asking the drug cartels to help design an anti-drug campaign.

Sanders’ solution is “Medicare for all.” This would be a good step forward, but as long as the rest of the industry is in private hands, they will milk the market for all it’s worth. What ever happened to the original demand for socialized medicine? That’s what’s really needed and what Sanders ignores.

Gun Control

Right wing militias at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. There was a lot of talk about gun control, but none about controlling this gang of armed and dangerous thugs.

Right wing militias at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. There was a lot of talk about gun control, but none about controlling this gang of armed and dangerous thugs.

There was a lot of talk about gun control and “standing up to the gun lobby”. But the biggest threat from that lobby today comes in the form of the right wing, racist militias, specifically right now those who are occupying the national Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. While Black Lives Matter protesters face criminal conspiracy charges for peacefully occupying a freeway for a few minutes, these thugs in Oregon are allowed to come and go as they please, receive mail there, destroy the land by building roads on the reserve, and recruit even more of their armed and dangerous thugs from around the country. Nothing was said about “controlling” those armed and dangerous thugs!

And while they couldn’t ignore the issue of the other armed and dangerous thugs – the police – the “solutions”, such as more training, were completely inadequate.

Then they got onto the issue of “breaking up the big banks”. Clinton and Sanders went at each other over it. (O’Malley was frozen out.) They both vowed to end “too big to fail”, but all that would lead to is “too many to fail”! It’s no solution whatsoever. The problem is that the rate of profit for productive use of capital (manufacturing, for example) is in decline. That’s because it’s human labor that leads to profit, but there is less and less human labor – as opposed to computers and machinery – involved in production. For more on this fundamental issue, see this article and that particular web site in general.) So, instead, the owners of capital – the capitalists – put increasing amounts into building different houses of cards — Wall St. speculation, in other words.

But the real elephant in the room is the issue of political campaigning itself. Sanders vowed to push “campaign finance reform.” Very nice. But Corporate America has always exercised a near monopoly on US politics from the very writing of the US Constitution. They do so through their control of the only two major political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. Both Clinton and the other guy (O’Malley) have never even pretended to stand for an alternative to the Democrats; Sanders has in the past, but what is his position now?

Sanders: “Did I say that (about the Democrats)?”

In order to further undercut him with the Party leadership, a quote of his was thrown up in his face. ‘You’ve been quoted as saying in a book you wrote, quote “There wasn’t a hell of a big difference between the the two major parties.’” To which Sanders replied: “Did I say that?” He later made his intention clear: “The Democratic Party needs major reform… We need to expand… the input into the Democratic Party.”

But all of US history – especially in the last 40-50 years – has proven that making the

The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party of 1964. They proved that serious reform of the Democratic Party is impossible.

The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party of 1964. They proved that serious reform of the Democratic Party is impossible.

Democratic Party represent working class people is impossible. (The effort with the greatest power was that led by Fannie Lou Hamer’s Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party back in the 1960s. It failed.)

Bernie Sanders has done the Democratic Party a great favor. He’s helped make them aware of the tremendous discontent that exists. He’s helped “expand the input” into the Democrats. That’s what was shown in the fourth and final Democratic “debate”.

Socialists and Sanders

One footnote: Some socialists who claim to support the need for working class people to have their own political party – a mass workers’ party – opportunistically now support Sanders. They do so with all sorts of excuses that Sanders has awakened a new layer of workers and youth to politics. But that’s exactly the reason why, without ignoring the serious Sanders supporters, it is a huge mistake to support Sanders, who has proven that he’s totally entrenched in the Democratic Party. He’s surrounded himself  with Democratic Party operatives. Urging him to break from the Democrats is like urging a wolf to become a vegetarian.Exactly when tens maybe hundreds of thousands are paying attention to politics partly because of the role of Sanders, exactly now is the chance to further raise the profile of the need for a mass workers’ party. Sure, it’s probably very likely that the great majority of Sanders supporters won’t agree at this time, but they will remember the argument and return to it in the future. Instead, these socialists are simply going with the flow and supporting the liberal Democrat, Bernie Sanders, and his supposed “political revolution”, which as he’s made clear simply means reforming the Democrats and electing more of them into office.

Candidates for the Democratic nomination. They may have some squabbles, but they're all one family.

Candidates for the Democratic nomination. They may have some squabbles, but they’re all one family.

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Martin Luther King, jr.

Martin Luther King, jr.

Martin Luther King, jr.

Today, as the nation “celebrates” the birthday of Martin Luther King, we should remember him as he really was, rather just than as a kindly man who gave a few nice speeches, not an icon, he was a truly great leader of a great movement.

He got his start as a movement leader in the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-6. Originated by a local union leader – E.D. Nixon of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Nixon helped elevate MLK into the central leader because he – Nixon – was out of town too much for his job. Martin Luther King continued from there. In 1961, he played a major role in leading the boycott/campaign in Birmingham against segregation and official discrimination in that city.

A major aspect of that campaign was the “children’s march.” The long, drawn out nature of

"children's march" in Birmingham, ALA.

“children’s march” in Birmingham, ALA.

that campaign and the repression against the black community in Birmingham had meant the movement was stalling. Had it fallen back, it would have been a major blow to the entire Civil Rights movement. Into the breach stepped the youth, some as young as pre-teen agers. Resisting the pressure of the black establishment, Martin Luther King saw the necessity of encouraging the involvement of the youth. Then 16-year old Raymond

Youth marchers attacked by police dogs and fire hoses. This writer remembers seeing this photo at that time. It made a huge impression on him.

Youth marchers attacked by police dogs and fire hoses. This writer remembers seeing this photo at that time. It made a huge impression on him.

Goolsby described what happened:

‘Rev. Martin Luther King stood right beside me,” remembers Goolsby, 66. “He said, ‘I think it’s a mighty fine thing for children, what you’re doing because when you march, you’re really standing up; because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.’ And, boy, I mean he talked so eloquent and fast, after he finished his motivational speech, I was ready.”

‘On May 2, 1963, Goolsby joined thousands of students who left their classrooms and gathered at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. It was there where they spilled out in groups of 50 to march downtown. “My group was the first of 50 to march,” says Goolsby. “Our job was to decoy the police. We got arrested about a block and a half from 16th Street.”’

Internationalism

Martin Luther King was an internationalist. Against much pressure, including from most

To his everlasting credit, Martin Luther King spoke out against the Vietnam War.

To his everlasting credit, Martin Luther King spoke out against the Vietnam War.

of his most influential “supporters”, he came out publicly against the Vietnam War, first in his 1967 speech in New York City. “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” In Vietnam, said King, “that time has come for us…. Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path…. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.”

Just as he continued to speak up against the murderous butcher of the US war against Vietnam, so he spoke up against the regime in apartheid South Africa. “Africa does have spectacular savages and brutes today, but they are not black” he commented in 1965. “They are the sophisticated white rulers of South Africa who profess to be cultured, religious and civilized, but whose conduct and philosophy stamp them unmistakably as modern-day barbarians.”

His move to drawing global conclusions from the struggle he helped lead against official segregation was a mark of a great leader who was able to grow and respond to events surrounding him.

Poverty and Class Struggle

That was equally so as far as the issue of poverty and class struggle. Initially, he pointed out that the Civil Rights movement had not done a lot for the poor black people in the South. He continued from there to start to develop a vision and an understanding of poverty in general.  “In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States,” he said. “Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.” The result of this view was his planned “Poor People’s March on Washington”.

In these last few years, he had started to see the issue of class struggle and of socialism. Already, in 1957, he was starting to see this point of view. “Privileged classes do not give up their privileges voluntarily,” he said in an interview. “We are engaged in the class struggle…. Maybe America must move towards democratic socialism,” he said.

As he was planning this, he got involved in the struggle of sanitation workers for union rights in Memphis in 1968. It was there that he was murdered.

Learning and developing, but not “perfect”

As with all great leaders, Martin Luther King learned, developed and responded to the events of the day. Also, as with other great leaders, he had his faults and weaknesses. Early on, under the influence of the liberal pacifist left, he allowed himself to be convinced of “non-violence” as a principle rather than as a tactic. (This writer remembers talking with an older black worker in the South in 1969. “I believe in non-violence,” the worker said. Just as this writer was getting ready to argue, the worker added, “to a certain extent.”) Even there, though, according to Charles R. Sims, founder of the “Deacons for Defense of Justice” in Bogalusa, Louisiana, whenever Martin Luther King visited that area, he allowed himself to be escorted by that armed self-defense group. Sims claimed that King would not have survived had the Deacons not escorted him, arms in hand.

And while Martin Luther King never capitulated to the corporate-controlled Democratic Party and never relied simply on the good graces of liberals like the Kennedy brothers or LBJ, he also did not develop a vision of an alternative to the Democrats.

The United States has produced some great leaders of the struggle against oppression and exploitation. These include Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, “Big Bill” Haywood, Eugene Debs, and Malcolm X. Martin Luther King, jr., whose birth we celebrate on this day, was right up there with them. He was far more than just a kind, “peace loving” man who gave some nice-sounding speeches. He was truly a mass leader.

 

 

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Can Sanders Break from the Democratic Party?

Can the Bernie Sanders campaign lead to a split away from the Democratic Party?

That’s the subject of a debate I’ve been having with some socialists who support Sanders. How could such a split come about?

Sanders has a long history  as a loyal Democratic Party liberal. More to the point, he has surrounded himself with Democratic Party operatives:

  • His Chief of Staff in the Senate is Michaeleen Crowell. Crowell formerly worked for
    Michaeleen Crowell, Sanders Chief of Staff. She typifies the Democratic Party operatives that Sanders has surrounded himself with.

    Michaeleen Crowell, Sanders Chief of Staff. She typifies the Democratic Party operatives that Sanders has surrounded himself with.

    Senator Ted Kennedy and before that for Congresswoman Denise Majorette (D – GA).

  • His campaign communications director is Michael Briggs. Briggs had formerly worked for Democratic US Senators Paul Simon, Carol Moseley Braun and John Edwards.
  • His campaign director is Jeff Weaver. Weaver’s entire political history is in the Sanders staff. “But before he came on board Bernie 2016, Weaver had retired from politics to launch one of the DC-area’s biggest gaming businesses.” (See this article.) This entrepreneur is not exactly the type who would encourage building an independent movement.
  • His Field Director is Phil Fiermonte. Prior to working for Sanders, Fiermonte worked for the United Professionals of Vermont – AFL-CIO. They are part of the American Federation of Teachers, whose national leadership was the first to take a position on the Democratic nominations. They endorsed Clinton. There is no record of Fiermonte having any open conflict with the AFT executive board.
  • A major strategist for the Sanders campaign is Tad Devine. Politico dot com describes Devine as “a big name in Democratic politics” who has worked for John Kerry, Al Gore and Michael Dukakis.
  • Devine is joined by his “business partner” Pete D’Alesandro (Iowa campaign director), Scott Goodstein, formerly of the Obama campaigns, Arun Chaudhry, who was a White House videographer, and Keegan Goodiss, who worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In other words, Sanders has surrounded himself with Democratic Party operatives. Those who expect any portion of his campaign to break away from the Democrats under normal circumstances are living in a dream world.

“Not Normal Times”

“But we’re not living in normal times,” some might say. “The pressure on the Democrats is enormous.” True enough. What would happen, for example, if Sanders were to win the  majority of the votes in the primaries but lost the nomination due to the votes of the “Super Delegates”? This would cause a furor, but the most likely outcome would be for Sanders & Co. to lead a campaign for “democracy” within the Democratic Party. Given those he’s surrounded himself with, it’s extremely difficult to see how Sanders and Co. could do anything else.

Suppose this were combined with a severe economic crisis? Would his base of support demand he leave the Democrats and drag him with them? Not impossible, but what seems more likely is that many if not most of them would be drawn into a campaign to reform the Democratic Party.

The main qualification is suppose there were some sort of other huge crisis. Suppose, for example, Obama ordered a military invasion of Iran and hundreds possibly thousands of body bags started coming home? In the first place, that is highly, highly unlikely. In fact, the main reason that Corporate America installed Obama in 2008 was exactly to avoid such a disastrous blunder. (Disastrous for them; they don’t care about anybody else.) If that were to happen, then a mass movement would spring up overnight. And given Sanders support for the State of Israel, it’s not even certain what his position would be. But in any case, it’s possible that he and some other Democrats could be swept along.

Such an event is extremely unlikely (to say the least), but it can’t be ruled out. But it’s a huge mistake to place all one’s eggs in this one basket, especially since it is not likely to materialize.

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Economics, Oppression and Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders focuses almost exclusively on the issue of income inequality and related issues – “breaking up the big banks”, student debt, etc. Even when pressure forces him to talk about the police murders of black people, he reverts back to economics, relating it to poverty and unemployment in the black communities. As if poverty is the reason the police are racist murderers.

Of course poverty and racism and oppression in general are interlinked, but they’re not one and the same. Even many of those who support Sanders understand that simply electing some more liberal politicians won’t solve the problem; the solution has to start with the active struggle of workers and youth themselves. And for those who are taken in by Sanders’ call for a “political revolution” (regardless of the fact that his goal in this “revolution” is to replace the Republicans with Democrats), keep this in mind: The two most recent mass movements in the US did not revolve around income and employment. The first was the “Civil Rights” movement and the second was the movement against the War against Vietnam. Yes, economics was related, but it wasn’t the focus.

How can socialists ignore this?

How can socialists ignore this?

No real movement for change in the US will exclude the most oppressed, and for many what’s on their mind is not just economics, although of course poverty wages and unemployment are important. The issue of the police is red hot for a reason.

Then there are the events that come and go, but which millions are thinking about. Take the invasion of the Malheur Nature Reservation by the group of racist, right wing white thugs who call themselves a militia. Social media is buzzing with the difference between how the police and sheriffs treat them vs. how black protesters and other protesters are treated. Yet Sanders has uttered not a word about this disparity, nor about how the media ignores it.

Any movement that is really of, by and for the most oppressed would reflect this. Yet it goes completely unnoticed by Sanders and his supporters, including those who claim to be socialists. They will never build a real movement from below this way. They will remain isolated from the most oppressed layers of society. In that case, what sort of “socialism” are they trying to build?

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Movie Review: “Concussion”

Actor Will Smith (R) with the real Dr. Bennet Omalu

Actor Will Smith (R) with the real Dr. Bennet Omalu

“Concussion”, starring Will Smith, presents the contradiction of professional football. It also presents more than that.

The film opens with a former football star, “Iron Mike” Webster, being inducted into the hall of fame. Already in his acceptance speech, you can sense that he’s not entirely all there. But it gets worse. Much worse, ending in the painful death of Webster. Dr. Bennet Omalu, played by Smith, wants to find out why when he examines Iron Mike’s brain. Omalu’s curiosity and integrity lead him down a path he probably never intended to travel. It brings him into direct conflict with the institution that could be compared to the Catholic Church in the medieval ages as far as cultural importance.

The fact of brain damage to football players is now as well known as the Jesus myth, but the back story isn’t. That’s what this movie reveals – how the NFL lied, stalled and did everything in its power to prevent the truth from coming out. And how the dogged determination and integrity of Dr. Omalu overcame it. The movie explicitly compares the NFL to the tobacco industry and its role in trying to prevent the tobacco/cancer link from being revealed. “There are a lot of unknowns… The science isn’t settled… Not all scientists agree…” That sort of line. (An entire book – “Merchants of Doubt” by Oreskes and Conway – has been written describing these methods. They are the same ones still being used to this day to try to cast doubt on the fact of human caused global climate disruption.)

Lawsuit

The film shows how the players are ultimately drawn into suing the league. Not shown is the fact that that suit was settled for some $765 million, a settlement which was challenged by several players and then thrown out and changed to some $900 million. Even there, they got away cheap. Stanford law professor William B. Gould commented  that “I would have expected this settlement to be in the billions of dollars.” Nor are other inadequacies of the settlement shown. One is the very definition of brain damage itself. How to determine if some ex-player is slowing down a little, maybe stumbles a little in his speech, is brain damaged due to football? As lawyers representing some excluded football players explain, the major “flaw in the deal is the lack of payments to players who have symptoms — including mood swings, sleep disorders, vertigo, dizziness and headaches — that affect people who have sustained concussions.

“The settlement includes potential payments to players with full-blown dementia or ‘moderate to severe cognitive impairment,’ but none for players with problems related to postconcussion syndrome.”

And this doesn’t even include the lifetime of pain that many if not most ex-players endure. (This writer once worked with a fellow carpenter who was so grouchy in the mornings that he tried to pick fights. One day, after I expressed sympathy for football players, this fellow carpenter called me aside. He rolled up his pants leg to reveal a humongous scar. “I used to be a defensive back for the Eagles,” he said. “I played for three years and then hurt my knee and never played again. I don’t know if you’ve noticed how I’m in a bad mood in the mornings sometimes. But this still hurts me. Sometimes it hurts so bad I can’t sleep at night.”)

Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that the tens of millions of

Proposed stadium in St. Louis. $150 million in taxpayer donations to the millionaires who own the team is not enough for them.

Proposed stadium in St. Louis. $150 million in taxpayer donations to the millionaires who own the team is not enough for them.

dollars that the cities of St. Louis and San Diego are willing to donate to the private, profit-making football teams, and the extremely valuable land the city of Oakland has offered to donate — that this is “unsatisfactory and inadequate”, and that the teams demand even more money for the state of the art stadiums they demand in order to remain in those cities.

But back to the film: One thing it shows is the contradictory nature of professional football. Some of the scenes show the ballet-like grace and choreography of football. A receiver running downfield, a quarterback throwing the ball, and the ball and the receiver intersecting some 40 yards downfield without the receiver breaking stride. A 200+ pound ball carrier jumping and dodging as nimbly as a gymnast. Then there is the brute force and violence. A player running full speed and being stopped short and thrown to the ground just as abruptly as if he’d literally run into a brick wall, his head snapping around as if were on the end of a chain.

Former receiver Lynn Swann. He was famous for his grace and acrobatic catches. It's no accident that he studied ballet.

Former receiver Lynn Swann. He was famous for his grace and acrobatic catches. It’s no accident that he studied ballet.

There are also some unanswered questions. At one point, Dr. Omalu is offered the position of Surgeon General in Washington DC. He turns it down in favor of taking a job as medical examiner in Lodi, CA (!) One wonders what the back story is to this. Why did he make that choice, what strings were attached to the offer?

As far as the acting, since the film is about one individual, Dr. Bennett Omalu, the presence of Will Smith dominates the movie. I have to admit, I’ve had a long time prejudice against Will Smith based on the days when he starred in the TV series “Fresh Prince of Bel Aire”, which I always felt was a heavy propaganda show and Smith seemed particularly light weight. Maybe it’s that he’s older now and his face has real personality to it, or maybe it’s the subject, but his acting, alone, in “Concussion” makes going to see this movie worthwhile. Will Smith is a serious actor. But the movie is also much more than that.

Usually, Hollywood over does anything it produces. A little violence is never enough; they have to have blood and guts poring out. A subtle laugh isn’t enough; they have to have slapstick “comedy”. Not in this case. It’s a serious film about a serious subject, well scripted and well acted. Definitely worth the price of admission and the time spent watching it.

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Economic Interests Behind Malheur Occupation

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There are powerful economic interests behind militia occupation of the center at the Malheur National Wildlife Reserve in eastern Oregon. It all starts with federal (that is, top_10public) ownership of land. Look at the map and the table. You can see that such ownership in the West is massive – over 630 million acres in the West. The cattle industry has used much of this land for grazing their cattle. They got a cut rate deal back in 1978, “designed to guarantee ranchers a profit even as grazing costs taxpayers more than $100 million per year.” In some

Map of federally owned land.

Map of federally owned land.

cases, like that of Cliven Bundy, ranchers have even refused to pay the paltry sums that they negotiated those 35 years ago.

In effect, the cattle industry is an extractive industry, and they are aligned with other extractive industries – mining and oil – in trying to get their hands on more federal land. Two major capitalists are leading this push:

  • One is the Koch Brothers. As journalist Chris Zinda explains “the Koch foundation of course is interested in public lands because they wish to extract anything they can from it…. Koch Industries’ agricultural holdings are among the largest in the nation. Their Matador Cattle Company that operates adjacent to Yellowstone National Park is #7 in the country and they also own large ranches in both Kansas and Texas. Their holdings also include the timber giant Georgia-Pacific.”
  • The other capitalist enterprise is the Mormon church (Latter Day Saints or LDS). The
    Mormon Church holdings

    Mormon Church holdings

    LDS, for example, owns Deseret Management Corporation (DMC) and AgReserves. Their ranches include a 288,000 spread in Nebraska. DMC reportedly has up to 3,000 employees and has an annual revenue of about $1.2 billion.

These two forces, one of which ran a candidate for US president four years ago (Mit Romney), have collaborated closely. They jointly organized and ran the far right wing John Birch Society. Koch is the main funder for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and through ALEC as well as through the Koch Brothers’ American for Prosperity they support the American Lands Council. One article in Counterpunch explains that the Mormons and the Koch brothers “have shared common economic and political ideologies for decades.” It is no accident that Cliven and Ammon Bundy are Mormons.

background_graphicThe leader of the American Land Council is Utah State Representative Ken Ivory. He has traveled throughout the country, advocating that federal land should revert back to the states, knowing full well that many Western states, where most federal land lies, are controlled by the Mormons (Utah) or ranching and mining/oil interests. He is not alone. “Nearly every Western state has someone carrying the banner for the transfer movement. In Montana, it’s state Sen. Jennifer Fielder, backed in part by oil and gas interests. In Arizona, Republican state Sen. Al Melvin has been loudest. Nationally, it’s getting noticed. In March, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, sponsored a budget amendment, which sailed through the Senate, that supported the idea of moving federal lands to the states.”

Clive Bundy. He said, "“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro….I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?" Racism is an integral part of the movement he's part of.

Clive Bundy. He said, “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro….I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?” Racism is an integral part of the movement he’s part of.

These land grabbers are tied in with different militia groups, many of whom are openly racist. The most openly racist of them is the Council of Conservative Citizens, which is considered to be a “white supremacist group, which was cited by the racist terrorist Dylan Roof. Then there is the Militia of Montana, founded by another white supremacist, John Trochmann. Trochmann has commented that “we (MOM) have a little organization called the Sanders Natural Resource Council,” which is focused on privatizing public land. (See this article.) The Mormon Church, of course, has a long history of racism, going all the way back to when they settled Nevada and sought to build their own independent state – “Deseret” – which was to be a slave state.

The links are clear between far right, openly white supremacist groups and the upper echelons of the Republican Party. However, the entire Republicrat cabal is involved. One of the Tea Party luminaries who is also involved in this drive to privatize public land is Utah’s junior Senator Mike Lee. Through his general counsel, John Huntsman, Lee is linked with the liberal Brookings Institute. Huntsman was also a former member of the Obama administration. Lee is also linked with the Sidley Austin LLP, which is a lobbying group that represents such companies as Herbalife, the National thoroughbred Racing Ass’n., Pfizer, General Motors, Fireman’s Fund Insurance, and the liberal Democratic non-profit ACORN.

In general, both capitalist parties support privatization. That is one reason why the Obama administration has not moved decisively against these land occupying thugs. (The other reason is that they are all white.) The Obama administration’s inaction in the Cliven Bundy showdown has encouraged these thugs even further.

Despite that, the drive to privatize federal land is not getting very far. One main reason for this is the low price of oil and other raw materials. This will not last forever, and when those prices rise – if not before – this drive will roar through our precious publicly owned land like one of the wildfires that have burned out of control in recent years. Meanwhile, the federal inaction in prosecuting the thugs at the Cliven Bundy ranch are encouraging more such actions. That’s what we are seeing now at the Malheur National Bird Sanctuary.

Posted in politics, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Militia Thugs, racism and privatization.

The “go easy” approach of the government regarding the Bundy’s is criticized for revealing the racism involved, how much different they treat black people. That is very true, but there’s another aspect of this: It’s not only a matter of race; it’s also a matter of politics. If this had been the “black bloc”, for example, do you think the government would have been as gentle? How about the animal rights protesters? Or environmental protesters or union fighters? Nope, another major part of this is that these right wing fanatics are politically connected and their cause is the cause of Corporate America. That cause is to privatize everything in sight, including federal lands, and allow private businesses, including ranching, to do whatever it wants to do.

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“Organized Labor and the Black Worker in America, 1619-1981” by Philip Foner: Book Review

The rise of Donald Trump, the internet videos of white racists – some of them workers – insulting and threatening Black Lives Matter activists, the swing of white male blue collar workers further to the right. “We would rather go broke and die hungry than to give up our moral beliefs,” said one poor, white Mississippian in explaining the support for right wing Republicans by poor whites in that state.  

As the police continue to rampage through the black community – and communities of other people of color –  some are starting to wonder whether there is any hope for white workers at all. Others are tending towards the idea that moral appeals and/or shaming (“you are privileged”) can accomplish a change.

In this context, Philip Foner’s book, “Organized Labor & the Black Worker, 1619-1981” provides a lot of useful information and lessons – along with a few key gaps. It is very useful, therefore, to consider some of the history Foner reviews. One note: This article deals mainly with the issue of the racism and the potential of white workers. It is not a fully balanced review of Foner’s book, which also has a lot of information on the struggle of black workers themselves.

Reconstruction Period: “National Labor Union” and “Knights of Labor”

The first attempt to build a national labor body in the United States was led by William

William Silvis

William Silvis

Sylvis, a self-proclaimed supporter of Karl Marx, who led the founding of the National Labor Union (NLU) in 1867, in other words, during the era of Reconstruction. He and other leaders urged that black workers be admitted on the simple grounds that if they weren’t, the bosses would use them to break the (all white) unions. Their urgings were rejected by the majority, but a position had been laid out.

This was the norm, time and again during this era. In part, the rejection of the most basic principles of working class solidarity was due to outright racism on the part of white workers. In part, it was due to the craft/guild mentality that still existed at that time. “The more we can restrict our ranks, the more we can increase our price, meaning our wages,” was the attitude.

In the following decades, the NLU was eclipsed by the Knights of Labor, an organization that mixed elements of unionism with utopian socialism. The weakness of their views was shown in that the leadership tended to oppose open class struggle in the form of strikes. On the other hand, their idealism was reflected in that they admitted two key sectors of especially oppressed workers: women and black workers. As a result, black workers flocked into the Knights. As Ida B. Wells, a black journalist and anti-lynch mob crusader reported in 1887: “I was fortunate enough to attend a meeting of the Knights of Labor…. I noticed that everyone who came was welcomed and every woman from black to white was seated with the courtesy usually extended to white ladies alone in this town. It was the first assembly of the sort in this town where color was not the criterion to recognition as ladies and gentlemen.”

“Staggering” Towards Class Unity and New Orleans General Strike

In general, workers learn from experience, especially the experience of the class struggle. That was clearly seen in the post Civil War era. Whenever workers went into struggle, the white workers tended to drop their prejudice and move to unite with the black workers. That was what happened, for example, of a sugar cane workers strike in Louisiana in 1887. (Whether the unity in the course of the open struggle would last is another question. We can see some of the answer in future events.) The problem was that the leadership of the Knights opposed and discouraged strikes, so the learning was more limited that it had to be.

By 1890, the AFL had largely overtaken the Knights of Labor, mainly because the Knights weren’t a true labor union. A clear example of the huge step forward that white workers had taken was the New Orleans general strike of 1892. There, the strikers consciously decided to establish a negotiating committee that was made up 50-50 of black and white workers. They refused to back down from this in the face of fierce race baiting by the employers, who among other things offered to bargain with the white representatives only. (The offer was rejected.) The head of the AFL was Sam Gompers, who at that time considered himself to be a supporter of Karl Marx. He wrote: “Never in the history of the world was such an exhibition, where with all the prejudices existing against the black man, when the white wage workers of New Orleans would sacrifice their means of livelihood to defend and protect their colored fellow workers.”

In other words, following the Civil War, white workers were staggering in an uneven way towards opposition to racism and towards class unity. Sure, it was based on perceived self interest, but what section of the working class doesn’t start from that position? However, capitalism is a system of turmoil and crisis, including economic crisis. How the workers’ movement develops during “normal” times can be thrown back in a time of crisis, if a way forward out of the crisis is not clear.

Panic of 1983

That is exactly what happened in the economic panic of 1893. Tens of thousands of workers were thrown out of their jobs and, especially among black workers and their families there was outright starvation. In this situation, the unity that had been forged among black and white workers in New Orleans, for example, disintegrated, and white workers were perfectly willing to take the jobs of their black brothers. Nor was this just a temporary situation; it had a centuries’ long affect on the US labor movement.

Was this the inevitable result of the Panic of 1893, or would a different outcome have been possible? Just as the opposition to strikes meant not only did the Knights of Labor decline, it also meant that they were unable to fully lead the way forward towards overcoming racism in general, so the AFL suffered from a shortcoming. Even when Gompers considered himself a supporter of Karl Marx, in practice he saw no alternative but to organize for the best deal possible under capitalism. That was a million times more true for almost all the rest of the union leadership. But in the economic crisis of those years, no “good deal” was possible. The choice was to either build a movement to overthrow the entire system, or to see the working class retreat into a mentality of every man or woman for themselves, better you starve than me. Given the absence of an alternative, it was the second that held sway.

Rise of Craft Unionism & Racism

It was exactly in this period that the AFL moved towards craft vs. industrial unionism. This meant that workers were organized based on what skills they had, rather than based on the fact that a group of them all had the same boss. Inherent in this mode of organizing is a trend towards a guild mentality – that we are essentially selling a commodity (our particular skill), and if we can limit the number of people who can sell this particular commodity, then we can jack up the price of that commodity (in other words, increase our wages). In the context of the United States, that inevitably meant encouraging racist exclusion, especially of black workers.

AFL president Samuel Gompers. As he moved towards business unionism and opposing strikes, he also moved to accept racism.

AFL president Samuel Gompers. As he moved towards business unionism and opposing strikes, he also moved to accept racism.

Prior to 1893, the AFL was actually barring unions that had racist exclusion clauses. By 1900, this was reversed, and by 1901 there were 8 affiliated unions that officially barred black workers as members. This paralleled the increased racism; from 1900 to 1914 there were over 1000 black people lynched in the South. Gompers reflected this transformation, and whereas he had previously saluted the unity in action in New Orleans, he now took the position towards black people that “you must hold and hope for a time.” During this same period, Gompers also moved to opposing strikes in general. In other words, as he moved away from opposing racism he also moved towards class collaboration. No accident there.

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

In 1905, the same year as the “general dress rehearsal” for the Russian Revolution, key

IWW leader Big Bill Haywood (R), with two IWW supporters. He said to the Southern timber workers: "You work in the same mills together. Sometimes a black man and a white man chop down the same tree together. You are meeting in convention to discuss the conditions under which you labor. This can't be done intelligently by passing resolutions here and then sending them out to another room for the black man to act upon. Why not be sensible about this and call the Negroes into this convention? If it is against the law [which it was], this is one time when the law should be broken." They ended up breaking the law and building an integrated union.

IWW leader Big Bill Haywood (R), with two IWW supporters. He said to the Southern timber workers: “You work in the same mills together. Sometimes a black man and a white man chop down the same tree together. You are meeting in convention to discuss the conditions under which you labor. This can’t be done intelligently by passing resolutions here and then sending them out to another room for the black man to act upon. Why not be sensible about this and call the Negroes into this convention? If it is against the law [which it was], this is one time when the law should be broken.” They ended up breaking the law and building an integrated union.

radical union leaders in the US met to found the self-styled revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). In the main, the founding of the IWW was a response to the opposition of the AFL unions to organizing in heavy industry (steel, auto, etc.) The IWW leaders understood that organizing in such industry was impossible if done along craft lines. Not coincidentally, they saw their goal as the overthrow of capitalism while, at the same time they opposed racism in all its forms. Despite their confusions on some issues and their ultimate demise, the IWW represented all that was best in the US labor movement; they showed the potential for the US working class.

  • In 1906, they were the only union to explicitly address the issue of lynching, passing a resolution calling lynching and racist riots “a blot on the garment of civilization”
  • In May of 1913, they led a successful strike of longshore workers in Philadelphia, insisting on racial solidarity. The strike was led by the black IWW organizer Harrison Fletcher.
  • In that same year, the Brotherhood of Timber Workers in the South applied for affiliation with the IWW. They were organized on “separate but equal” lines. Before affiliating, they were convinced by Big Bill Haywood to fully integrate their union.

(That same year also saw the example of the workers of the Great Southern Lumber Company in Louisiana going on strike. One of their lead organizers was a black worker named Sol Dacus. He was forced to flee into the swamps by a racist anti-union mob, and only emerged under the protection of his fellow workers. Four white workers were shot and killed protecting Dacus.)

Rise of CIO

The IWW went into decline partly due to government repression during WW I, partly because they were unable to organize in heavy industry as they had set out to do, and partly because of their own confusion (seeking to be both a union and a revolutionary organization at the same time). That workers in heavy industry would organize, however, was inevitable. The warning sign of this was the three great strikes of 1934 – the San Francisco General Strike, the Toledo Auto Lite Strike, and the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike.

In the case of the S.F. General Strike, which was led by longshore workers and maritime workers in general, there were many black workers involved and one result was the further integration of the Marine Cooks and Stewards union, where racially mixed crews were established as a result. In 1936, the MC&SU struck to maintain the power of the union hiring hall, which not only protected the union in general, it helped protect against racist hiring practices.

In March of 1937, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) held its first congress. Among other things, it passed a resolution calling for an organizing drive in the South and opposing all forms of discrimination, both political and economic. Again, this stood in marked contrast to the conservative AFL, which neither seriously tried to organize workers nor opposed racism. Foner sums up the creation of the CIO: “Whatever its shortcomings, the CIO was unquestionably the most important single development since the Civil War in the black worker’s struggle for equality. The Pittsburgh Courier (an African-American newspaper) remarked on December 7, 1939: ‘The only real effort that has been made to let down the color bars since the days of the Knights of Labor is that of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.’ Thurgood Marshall, chief legal adviser to the NAACP, declared, ‘the program of the CIO has become a Bill of Rights for Negro Labor in America.’”

A milestone in the building of the CIO was the sit-down strikes, starting in auto in 1937. The auto sit downs focused on General Motors, where few black workers were employed at the time. Foner reports on one small shop, however, where there were a number of black workers. In defiance of the United Auto Workers position, the white majority in this instance barred the black workers from membership. (The UAW never should have admitted them under those circumstances.) However, when they went on strike, it became clear to the whites that if they continued their racist exclusion, there was no way they could win, so they dropped it. According to Foner, “In a sharp break with precedent, the white workers did not desert their black union brothers after the victory. They kept their part of the bargain, and a truly interracial local developed in the plant.” (Foner, p. 222)

“Has the CIO played fair with us Negro workers? Well, look at the new clothes our children wear the homes that we are paying out since the SWOC enrolled us and showed us how to wage a successful fight for decent wages and better working conditions. See how the white and colored steel workers get along together since they started waring the union buttons.” Joe Cook, black president of the Valley Mould (IL) Lodge of the SWOC, 1940

“Has the CIO played fair with us Negro workers? Well, look at the new clothes our children wear the homes that we are paying out since the SWOC enrolled us and showed us how to wage a successful fight for decent wages and better working conditions. See how the white and colored steel workers get along together since they started waring the union buttons.” Joe Cook, black president of the Valley Mould (IL) Lodge of the SWOC, 1940

It was a similar story throughout the steel industry and on the East Coast of the maritime. In fact, according to Fonder, the National Maritime Union expelled members who were open racists. At that time, this meant they couldn’t work in the industry. Throughout the CIO, in industries where there was a significant number of black workers, there was also a significant number of black union organizers and black union officials. We must bear in mind that this did not come from some benighted idealistic liberals; on the contrary, it reflected the consciousness of the great bulk of steel workers, sailors, etc. Ordinary working class people. Did it eliminate racism altogether? Of course not; that would (and will) require a complete revolution. But it was a huge step forward both in the class struggle and the struggle against racism.

WW II: “Hate Strikes and Wildcat Strikes

Foner covers the WW II period, but with one huge gap: During the war there were the twin developments of the racist “hate” strikes in auto and elsewhere. These were strikes of white workers against the promotion of black workers to more skilled positions. At the same time, there was a huge outbreak of unsanctioned “wildcat” strikes of both white and black workers. This writer once asked a retired auto worker and UAW shop steward to explain why these contradictory developments happened. During this time, all wings of the union leadership did their level best to prevent workers from taking advantage of their improved conditions to fight for higher wages. The worst of the leadership on this score was the Communist Party, who reversed course completely. This even included their opposition to the planned March on Washington led by the black union leader A. Philip Randolph. The purpose of this march was to demand an end to racist employment practices in war related industries. (Before the march happened, FDR retreated and conceded the point to Randolph.) What this former auto worker explained was that the workers were under tremendous pressure in that period, and where there was a local, in-plant leadership that took a militant position, the workers responded by going on wildcat strikes. Where such a local leadership was absent, then they released the pressure through racism. As a supporter of the Communist Party, Foner completely misses these developments.

Post WW II: The Bureaucracy Gains Control

Foner covers the period up to 1981. However, this was the period (after WW II) when the conservative, business-minded union bureaucracy really managed to gain near complete control over the US labor movement. This distorted everything that happened within the unions, including the views and actions of the membership, both black and white. The reasons for this are several. They include the global power of US capitalism, the post WW II economic boom, and the role of the Soviet bureaucracy in giving socialism a bad name. The organized left that remained became pretty integrated into the bureaucracy itself, and Foner, as a supporter of the Communist Party, doesn’t even come close to explaining this. It is partly as a result of this prolonged period, which in its worst aspects is still present, that there is the confusion on the question of the link between working class struggle and unity and the struggle against racism.

The main lesson from this history, however, is that as workers move to struggle against the employers, their understanding and consciousness in general raises. This includes the increased consciousness about the issue of racism (as well as sexism). That doesn’t “solve” the problem; the consciousness can always be driven back again, especially during times of crisis, just as the class struggle can go into retreat for entire periods. But the link between class struggle and the struggle against racism is inextricable; in the US, it’s impossible to effectively fight on one front without linking it to the other. Ultimately, this means linking the class struggle with the struggle against racism, per se, along with the struggle to overthrow capitalism itself.

Members, Marine Cooks and Stewards Union. “All the time the struggle for integration was taking place, the general fight against the ship owners for better wages and conditions was also being intensified, thereby keeping the basis of Negro-white unity solid in the union.” A black member describing their strike of 1936.

Members, Marine Cooks and Stewards Union.
“All the time the struggle for integration was taking place, the general fight against the ship owners for better wages and conditions was also being intensified, thereby keeping the basis of Negro-white unity solid in the union.” A black member describing their strike of 1936.

Posted in labor, racism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Conversation in Oakland: For a Revolutionary New year

So I was walking down Broadway in downtown Oakland last night, coming back from a protest. A young black woman happened to be walking alongside me with her two kids, about ten and eight. “I hope Russia and China drop a bomb on here and wipe everybody out,” she said to her kids. Then she said it again, so I turned to her and said, “yeah, but they’d get the good people with the bad ones.” She said something to the effect that all the good people were being killed off already, and anyway, I didn’t have to worry about it. Something like that.

“Well,” I told her, “you don’t really know that. You don’t know who my children and my grandchildren are.”

She immediately changed. “You know, you’re right. I apologize,” she said. Then we got to talking. I commented that there were lots of people who were really disgusted with what was going on in this country. She just kind of looked at me.

We talked about Tamir Rice and Laquan McDonald and why it was that thousands of people weren’t out protesting in the streets, and maybe people felt like there was nothing they could do.

Then she said something about a master plan to “get rid of all of us by 2050.” We talked about that a little. I just commented that if “I want to steal from you and that woman over there (pointing to a woman standing 15 feet away), my best bet is to get the two of you to distrust each other, to think that one of you is stealing from the other. Divide and conquer.”

Then it was time to go. We shook hands and told each other our names. “You’ve made my new years,” I told her. I don’t know why, but it was true. No great words of wisdom were exchanged. Just a human contact.

For a revolutionary New Year.

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Tamir Rice: Murder of Black Children Legal

It is now even more official: It is perfectly legal to murder black people, including children, especially if it’s done by the police. That is the outcome of the grand jury decision not to charge Cleveland cop Timothy Loehman. District Attorney Timothy J. McGinty justified the decision. In other words, the DA, who is supposed to be seeking grounds to prosecute possible crimes, sided with the defense.

The cops came out because somebody had called in saying that he saw a kid posting a gun at people. The caller said he thought the gun was probably a toy.  McGinty claimed the murder was justified on the grounds that Tamir was reaching into his waistband. But even if he was, the cops had no way of knowing if he was reaching to draw a gun. In fact, they didn’t even know for sure at that point that Tamir was the individual who had the gun. And even if they did know, Ohio is an “open carry” state!

Dangerous Job?

“The police have such a hard job. They are in danger every time they put on their uniform,” we are told. That is why they have to make split second decisions and shoot first and ask questions later. Is that so? According to the statistics, work related police fatalities rank tenth of all occupations, at a rate of 18.1 per 100,000 police officers. This includes not only cops who are shot on the job, but those who die in traffic accidents, etc. And when you look at those shot, the numbers are even more stark. Consider the graph below. It shows the number is near an all-time low.police1

On the other hand, according to this article, the cops shot and killed nearly 1200 people in the US in 2015. And while all races were affected, at 6.94 per million, they shot and killed black people at double the rate they shot and killed whites.

Federal Investigation?

Some have called for federal investigations into such murders. But consider the federal “Justice” Department deal with the Ferguson police. There, the Feds are recommending increased training for these racist cops. That’s all.

The “Justice” Department is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Democrats?

Others place their hopes in the liberal Democrats, especially Bernie Sanders. From time to time, when under pressure, Sanders has commented on the issue. In the main, he relates the issue of police murders, especially murders of black people, to the issue of low wages and unemployment. It’s undeniable that economics is related to racism, but this is not the central issue here. In effect, what Sanders is implying is that the poverty in the black community is causing higher crime rates and more violence in the black community, and this is the cause of the police murdering black people. To put it simply, Sanders is saying they are killing black people because black people are acting badly.

This shows how this most liberal of all prominent Democrats is simply part of the system.

Union Leadership

Back in August of 2014, when nearly the entire black community of Ferguson erupted, one Ferguson resident who was a member of the United Auto Workers union reported to this writer that his local union leaders had told him “this is not our battle.” The union leadership is representing the employers on the job and the Democratic Party politically. That’s why they take this hands-off position.

Occasionally, they will speak out against police brutality and racism, as in the march led by the Longshore workers union in San Francisco last May Day. Even here, though, these same union leaders continue to support the same politicians who are covering up for the police.

So, one necessary step is to struggle to build a movement inside the unions to make them fight for their members on the job and to break from the Democrats and support independent workers’ representatives, who are opposed to the Democrats and Republicans.

Criminal (In)justice System

Occasionally, the criminal (in)justice system will make some concessions. For example, in the police murder of Oscar Grant in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009. In that case, because of the public outcry and because of the clear evidence due to the existence of the video, one cop (Johannes Mehserle) was prosecuted. What happened was that the judge in the case gave the jury incorrect information, leading to an extremely light sentence being given to this particular murderer. In the case of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, also with similar clear evidence, one cop might be prosecuted, but it’s certain he won’t get a sentence similar to other cold-blooded killers.

These few cases show that the court system is just as political as the rest of the government machinery; public outcry, pressure and disruption have an affect. But they also show that we can never get real justice through this system.

In the case of Noel Aguilar, the video clearly shows the cops shooting a handcuffed man lying on the ground and planting a gun on him to justify it. The media and the politicians are helping cover up such police crimes. https://youtu.be/ql9RIeYEyyw

People’s Justice

Clearly, a wider and deeper movement is needed. Who knows how successful a serious, sustained and systematic drive to organize in the working class communities could be? This would include actually going out to the parks, the high schools, the street corners and initiating discussions on this issue and the other issues that affect working class and oppressed communities, including the economic issues. Through this, a real mass mobilization, similar to what happened in Ferguson in August of 2014 immediately after the murder of Michale Brown, might possibly be organized on a national basis. This could lead to some concrete and sustained follow-up steps, including organizing community patrols similar to what the Black Panther Party did in their heyday. It could also be a major step towards the running of workers’ political candidates who are completely independent of and opposed to the Republicrat paradigm.

That, in turn, could lead to a mass radical workers’ political party – a first step towards building a real revolutionary movement in the United States.

Posted in racism, repression, Uncategorized, United States | Leave a comment

Book Review: “Islamic State – the Digital Caliphate”

From the widespread support for Donald Trump to the growth of far right parties in Western Europe to the recent victory of the Svoboda party in the municipal election in the city of Ivano-Frankivs, in Ukraine, the far right is on the offensive. It’s not that all of capitalism is about to be engulfed in a wave of xenophobia, racism and oppression, but it is on the increase. Nowhere are these forces more clear than in the case of the Islamic State, an outright fascist force. That’s why it’s important to understand how and why they arose.

Abdel Bari Atwan has written a very useful book – “Islamic State, the Digital Caliphate” – that goes a long way to explaining that, although it does have a few major gaps. What follows is a summary of that book, along with some analysis of this writer. Unless otherwise stated, the events and facts recounted are simply those from Aswan.

“The Digital Caliphate”

Throughout the book, Atwan explains the extremely successful use the Islamic State makes of the internet, especially of social media. Truly, they have adapted to this new era of communication. The algorithms of social media also encourage this, since what a person shows an interest in is what the social media tends to display. This helps lead them into whatever small world or narrow perspective they may be developing. But along side this, the Islamic State successfully uses sound effects and visuals that appeal to today’s younger generation.

Origins: Invasion of Iraq

The origins of the Islamic State lie in the Bush ordered invasion of Iraq, which devastated Iraqi society. In the aftermath, the head representative of the Bush administration, General Jay Garner, apparently focused on “rebuilding” Iraq vs. repression. As a result, he was replaced by the crude Paul Bremer, who among other things set up Camp Bucca as a

Paul Bremer: The brutal face of US imperialism in Iraq

Paul Bremer: The brutal face of US imperialism in Iraq

prison for political prisoners. Camp Bucca performed a function similar to how the US prison system helps link up and train “career criminals” here in the US: It brought together hundreds of opponents of the US occupation, many of them former officials in Saddam Hussein’s military.

Already before the invasion, Hussein was starting to try to build a base by calling  on Islamic nationalism, and those who followed him continued this. As Hussein’s base was among a layer of the minority (in Iraq) Sunni Moslems, and as the administration that followed the US invasion based itself on the Shia, it was the Sunni who mainly opposed the US invasion. As such, there was also a tendency towards increased Sunni-Shia conflict. The (mainly Sunni) prisoners inside Camp Bucca followed down that road. Meanwhile, thousands of “foreign fighters”, some of them battle hardened from the war in Afghanistan, were coming to Iraq to fight the US invaders.

Meanwhile, the Sunni opposition was organizing under the leadership of the “Jordanian street thug” and former Camp Bucca prisoner Abu Musab al Zarqawi. They came together under the umbrella of the “Islamic State in the Land of Two Rivers” and were linked with

Abu Musab al Zarqawi

Abu Musab al Zarqawi

al Qaeda internationally. However, they made little headway until 2011.

In part, that was due to the role of the Sunni-based militia, the “Sons of Iraq”, which the US forces organized. However, the US government’s man, Iraqi president Nouri al Maliki, was increasingly basing himself on Shia sectarianism and in 2011 he disbanded the Sons of Iraq, leaving thousands of these troops penniless and out on the street. Many of them turned to Zarqawi and his forces.

On to Syria

In 2011, the regional revolt known as the “Arab Spring” erupted. While it was composed of elements from different classes, the working class was definitely represented also. Nowhere was this evidently more so than in Syria. While Atwan covers these events, he does so only superficially. A key development was the rise of revolutionary councils – workers’ councils – in and around Taftanaz, Syria. One report explained: “All around Taftanaz, amid the destruction, rebel councils like these were meeting — 27 in all, and each of them had elected a delegate to sit on a citywide council. They were a sign of a deeper transformation…. (in one council, where food prices were set, the leader) Hakim acknowledged that in this revolution ‘we have to give to each as he needs’…. …. (In) the public-affairs committee, (of) one of the village’s revolutionary councils, (a) man slammed his hands on the floor and shouted, ‘this is a revolution of the poor! the rich will

Arab Spring in Syria: a "revolution of the poor"

Arab Spring in Syria: a “revolution of the poor”

have to accept that.’” 

The enormous significance of such developments is missed by Atwan, who also doesn’t adequately consider the demoralizing effect of seeing this “revolution of the poor” slip out of the workers’ hands and into the hands of the ex-Assad military officers as well as into the hands of the reactionary religious fundamentalists. Atwan does, however, clearly explain the attitude of the forces that became the Islamic State towards the Arab Spring: They denounced its “un-Islamic ideologies, such as filthy and evil secularism, infidel democracy, the putrid ideology of patriotism and nationalism.”

Defeated in Egypt, the Arab Spring turned into a proxy war in Syria. In 2013, Abu Bakr led a small force of his followers into Syria, where they initially joined al Nusra, the al Qaeda front group. The most aggressive and brutal of all the Islamic forces fighting in Syria, and partially funded by a layer of the cleric/capitalist class in Kuwait (according to the Brookings Institute), they became the largest and most powerful of the Islamic fighting groups in Syria, and in that same year they split away from al Qaeda and renamed themselves the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS – vs. previous Islamic State in Iraq or ISI).

The Foreign Fighters

Foreign fighters from throughout the Islamic world played a key role in the rise of ISIS, and Atwan connects their role with the role of the Saudi ruling class. When the current regime came to power in Iran (1979), they sought to place themselves as the leaders of the entire Muslim world. The Saudi ruling class, which rivaled their Iranian counter parts, sought to counter this by spreading their brand of Islam throughout the world. They spent millions building madrassas, Islamic schools, from Pakistan to Malaysia, the Arab world, etc. Millions of poor parents, unable to feed no less educate their sons, sent them to these madrassas, where they were indoctrinated in this extreme fundamentalist version of Islam. Many of these youth became the jihadists in Afghanistan (some 20,000 according to Atwan) who fought the Soviet invasion. After that, thousands traveled elsewhere, including to Bosnia. By 2012, there were more such foreign fighters in Syria than had been in Afghanistan.

ISIS used extreme brutality both as a propaganda tool to recruit the foreign fighters and as a means of terrorizing any would-be opponents. In 2014 it had expanded from a base in Syria across the border into the area of Mosul in Iraq and in July of that year it declared itself as the rebirth of the old Islamic Caliphate of the seventh century, with Abu Bakr as the Caliph. This, in itself, set off a further wave of foreign fighters to their cause, with some 6,000 flooding in in a two week period – some 30,000 overall.

Role of US Capitalism

The US government, which had encouraged Islamic fundamentalism when it was fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, now opposed it. They helped a organize group, the Syrian National Council, and through it the “Friends Of Syria (FOS)”. Initially, the FOS was composed of the governments of 114 nations, but each capitalist regime had its own interests, and the FOS rapidly dwindled to just 11 nations. The Saudi regime, for example, split away because they claimed the FOS wasn’t doing enough to stop Assad from killing his own people. This from a government that executes one person every other day! Symptomatic of the inherent nature of the FOS was that its titular leader actually supported the Israeli regime!

"Friends of Syria" meet.

“Friends of Syria” meet.

Finances of Islamic State

This inability of the major capitalist powers to squash the Islamic State has led to its further strengthening, including in the realm of finances. According to Atwan, their control over oil regions in Syria and Iraq allows them to sell some 80,000 barrels of oil per day, bringing in some $2-3 million per day in revenue. The majority of this oil is sold to buyers in Turkey, Jordan and Iran. (Other sources claim that IS is also a major supplier of oil to the Assad regime!) They also receive some $8 million per month through what Atwan calls “extortion” (and they probably call taxes) of businesses in the Mosul area. They also do a profitable business selling ancient artifacts, with one bringing a price of $57 million on the market in London. Kidnapping also brought in $20 million in 2014. Another source of income is the slave trade of women and children, for instance Yazidi women.

The Islamic State apparently has all the attributes of a state, including the fact that according to Atwan they now have their own currency.

Future

There is one major attribute they lack, however: Their own air force, and that is important. As of this writing, they seem to be having some military reverses in the Ramadi area of Iraq, exactly because of their lack of air power. Even if they are driven out of this area, though, they are far from through. According to Atwan, they have support in Lebanon and Turkey, and one poll showed that 92% of Saudis support them. They have a “large number of sleeper cells” in Jordan. Boko Haram in Nigeria is now in their camp as is AQIM, which operates in Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, chad and Niger and has links with Boko Haram. AQAP in Yemen is linked with them, as are groups in Pakistan, Chechnya and the “Stans” (Uzbekistan, etc.) Another report claims that thousands of Uighurs (from Western China) are now fighting in Syria, presumably under the IS banner.

What Distinguishes IS

Atwan explains that there are three main sources of Islamic fundamentalism:

  • Saudi Wahabbism
  • The Taliban-al Qaeda alliance
  • The Islamic State

What really distinguishes the IS is their dedication to breaking apart the entire arrangement of nation states in this region of the world, an arrangement that has held sway for nearly 100 years. We are referring to the Sykes-Picot Accord. This was the accord of French and British imperialism wherein they divided up most of the former Ottoman Empire after they (Turkey) lost in WW I. It was under this accord that many of the national boundaries were drawn up in West Asia and Northern Africa.

British and French imperialists carved up this region to suit themselves.

British and French imperialists carved up this region to suit themselves.

Sykes Picot countries

In this, they in some ways could be compared to the Zionist revisionists led by Vladimir Jabotinsky. Whereas mainstream Zionism originally only envisioned a “Jewish homeland” under British colonial rule, Jabotinsky from the start was calling for a new, Jewish nation state. It is no accident that like the IS, Jabotinsky too was a fascist, or at least was close to the fascists. (Of course, there are huge differences also.)

Some Additional Points

Atwan recounts how foreign fighters are coming into the region from predominantly Muslim areas that were formerly under the Soviet Union and related states. This includes the “Stans” as well as Bosnia and Chechnya. (In fact, one of IS’s battle leaders in Syria is a Chechen.) But what he misses is the overall effect of the return to capitalism in those countries. On the one hand, this really unleashed reactionary nationalist forces, including those of religious fundamentalism, giving rise to a huge number of foreign fighters who swelled the ranks of the IS.

More than that, though, the return to capitalism in those regions of the world was a set back for the entire global working class. It enormously boosted the propaganda that there was no alternative to the rule of the capitalist class, and thereby helped confuse and demoralize the workers’ movement. This, in itself, helped open the door to all sorts of reactionary forces within society.

Other defeats have also played a role. Just a year ago, the Greek working class was leading the European working class in the struggle against the capitalist offensive. In an effort to further that struggle, they elected Alexis Tsipras and the Syriza party to head the

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. His failure to mobilize the working class had global implications.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. His failure to mobilize the working class had global implications.

government. Tsipras and Co., however, while they conducted a propaganda campaign, failed to take the one key step: They failed to mobilize the Greek workers and use that as a spring-board to mobilize the working class of the rest of Europe. As a result, they capitulated to the demands of European capital.

Just imagine if they had really mobilized the working class throughout the region. Even had they failed to defeat the capitalists, they would have set an example for the entire world’s working class. Inevitably, workers in Syria and Iraq would have been affected, especially since there are so many immigrants from that part of the world in Greece.

The former petty criminal, Zarqawi, who turned to extreme islamic fundamentalism – fascism, in fact – is an example of the set back of the workers movement. He is not alone, as it has been revealed that many of those who committed the recent atrocities in Paris were also former petty criminals. In the 1970s, there were a whole series of petty criminals in the US – George Jackson, Malcolm X, hundreds of others – who turned to revolution. Hopefully, in the future, as a mass movement of the working class arises, we will see a return to those traditions.working class one fist copy

Posted in book reviews, Middle East, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sophie Scholl

Amidst all the horrors, all the crimes against humanity committed by people, there are always the Sophie Scholl’s too. Those are the ones we should remember and struggle to emulate.

Sophie Scholl was a German woman executed by the Nazis for distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets. Prison officials, in later describing the scene, emphasized the courage with which she walked to her execution. Her last words were: "How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to offer themselves up individually for a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go."

Sophie Scholl was a German woman executed by the Nazis for distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets. Prison officials, in later describing the scene, emphasized the courage with which she walked to her execution. Her last words were: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to offer themselves up individually for a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go.”

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Appeal to Socialist Alternative

Example of Israel's crimes against humanity. Socialist Alternative can play a real role in forcing Sanders to address this.

Example of Israel’s crimes against humanity. Socialist Alternative can play a real role in forcing Sanders to address this.

Comrades:

At the Democratic Party “debate” on Saturday (12/19), the word “Israel” did not come up once. This is at a time when literally fascist settler thugs are roaming the streets and hills of the West Bank, at a time when there is increasing discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel proper, and when African asylum seekers inside Israel are being rounded up and put in concentration camps. The fact that nobody mentioned “Israel” during the “debate” shows that they all – both the moderators and all three candidates – know that they are on extremely weak ground, none more so than Sanders who has a base among a lot of left and left-leaning people.

Here is a link to a video by David Sheen that documents what’s really happening in Israel. It’s well worth watching:  https://youtu.be/sdJIAmLGwbs

While I disagree with your support for Sanders, you should be at least raising some of his weaknesses within his campaign. More than anything else, this means raising what is happening in Israel and his support for Israel. The fact is that he is complicit with crimes against humanity. If you raise the issue systematically and openly within his campaign, I think you might really make a difference; it might start to actually force him to address the issue. But if you don’t make this a public issue, aren’t you allowing this complicity?

In online conversations with quite a few different members of Socialist Alternative, several of them have said they don’t agree with everything that Socialist Alternative is doing. Now is the time to raise your voice, both individually and collectively. Not only in private conversations but in your branches, in the form of resolutions, proposed leaflets, etc. And yes, openly within the broader workers’ movement and among fellow socialists outside Socialist Alternative. Either speak up openly or accept that you, too, are responsible for Sanders’ complicity with crimes against humanity.

Posted in socialist movement, videos/documentaries | 1 Comment

Democratic Candidates Hold Friendly Chat: “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”

Sanders, Clinton and O'Malley at "debate". They were all in it together.

Sanders, Clinton and O’Malley at “debate”. They were all in it together.

It was more a friendly discussion than a debate.

First thing, they got rid of the issue of the Democratic National Committee cutting the Sanders campaign off from its own voter data. Sanders made his complaint, Clinton and the other candidate responded, and that was it. Like a pebble tossed into a lake, leaving a few ripples for a second and then everything returns to normal. The completely undemocratic nature of the “Democratic” Party was not even hinted at by any of the candidates nor was it raised by the moderators.

Then on to other issues, the main one of which was the threat to the “homeland” of terrorist attacks by Muslim fundamentalists. The five co-conspirators in ensuring that nothing threatening was raised – three candidates and two moderators –  ignored the fact that there have been many, many times more people killed in the US by gun fanatics turned mass murderers, white racists and similar types than by Muslim fundamentalists.

And although they did ultimately turn to the issue of the police, another issue covered up by the co-conspirators was the fact that the greatest terrorist threat in the US is the threat of murder by police, especially but not only in the communities of people of color. Just two days before the event, a video was released of two cops in Long Beach CA holding 23-year-old Noel Aguilar down, clearly planting a gun beneath him, shooting him three times, and then continuing to hold him down so that he would bleed to death. As with the corporate media, the corporate politicians choose to ignore this scandalous story, thereby helping to cover it up. The five co-conspirators last night were part of this cover-up.

Long Beach PD execute Noel Aguilar. This sort of thing is too hot to handle for these leading Democrats.

Long Beach PD execute Noel Aguilar. This sort of thing is too hot to handle for these leading Democrats.

Police

They had to cover up this and similar stories, since both candidates as well as the Pretend Candidate (O’Malley, who’s just there for show) favor closer links between the police and the community. Clinton, for example, talked about the need to “involve the entire community” in watching for suspicious behavior – in other words a neighborhood snitch program. Sanders raised the same idea. But given who the police are, and given the entire role of the criminal (in)justice system, such a program would inevitably be turned into a snitch program against community and work-place activists and organizers. (On the question of gun control and gun violence, one thought that might be worth considering is calling for a publicly accessible registry of all people who have bought over a certain number of assault weapons and bullets. The idea that you might have a right to know if your neighbor or co-worker is arming himself to the teeth should be considered.)

Muslim World

On the policy of the US government in North Africa and Western Asia, all three candidates (Clinton, Sanders and the Other Guy – the one who’s up there to help maintain the pretense that there’s a real race for the nomination) — all three agreed that “we” need a coalition of allies. And who is ally Number One? None other than the government of Saudi Arabia, the most powerful of the Arab regimes. Are they serious? Here you have the regime that has played the central role in spreading Wahabbism – which is to say, Islamic fundamentalism – all around the world. This has provided the ideological underpinnings for Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, and they’re supposed to lead this coalition against the Islamic State? And this disregards the murderous repressive nature of that regime inside Saudi

An execution in Saudi Arabia: One is done every other day, often for simply speaking out, and even sometimes of teen agers.

An execution in Saudi Arabia: One is done every other day, often for simply speaking out, and even sometimes of teen agers.

Arabia, a regime that executes one person every two days, including minors, and often for simple political dissent. Yet both Clinton and Sanders agree that they are one of “our” leading allies.

Both candidates agreed that “we” need to have allies in the region and need to build a coalition. Nice ideas, but that was exactly a central basis for Obama’s election in 2008 as well as his having been given a Nobel Peace Prize (remember that?) and we see how far he’s gotten.

Israel

They talked about ensuring that Muslims don’t feel that the United States is anti-Muslim. But there’s another issue that the five co-conspirators covered up: Not once during the entire discussion was the word “Israel” mentioned. How on earth can you talk about the crisis in that part of the world, how can you talk about the feelings of alienation that Muslim people feel, and not discuss this state that is leading the entire world in anti-Muslim racism?

Economy

Both the real candidates claimed to be standing for the “middle class families”. (When will we ever hear anybody emphasize the problem of the poor?) They both say they want to end tax breaks for the rich. The difference is that Clinton is getting millions for these exact CEO’s and Sanders isn’t and is criticizing Clinton for it. Sanders has all sorts of wonderful-sounding goals: Raise the minimum wage to $15 in “several years” (not now, though), rebuild our infrastructure, free college… Sounds great — until you realize that he’ll have to get his own party to support that, which is as likely as that the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia will be converted to leaders of democratic government and simple human decency. But does Sanders or any of his other co-conspirators ever hint at that little detail? Not once.

The closeness in the positions of Sanders and Clinton is a result of his having dragged her to the left. Now she, too, raises some populist themes. For this, she and her backers should be eternally grateful to Sanders. When she runs against the Republican candidate (and it’s overwhelmingly likely it will be her), she can thank Sanders for helping her see the light of day.

One interesting thing to consider: Both candidates and the faux candidate all talked about “we” and “us” whenever they referred to the US government. “We need to put together broad coalitions,” Sanders said. But then he talks about the “billionaire class” who control candidates by their war chests. It doesn’t take a political genius to realize that these are the same ones who run the government. So when the two candidates plus the third one talk about “we” should do something… Well, how can it be “we”? It’s the “billionaire class” that Sanders is always talking about and never drawing any conclusions from his talk. They are the ones running the government, not all of us.

Conclusion

The truth about Saudi Arabia, any consideration of the role of Israel, any real talk about the crime wave of the police – the absence of these issues was dwarfed by another absence: The absence of considering the independent role of the working class, including in the crisis in the Muslim world. Not a single ally of Corporate America, not the Saudi nor the Turkish regimes, not “moderate” opposition groups funded by the US regime — none of them can help solve the crisis in that part of the world. Instead, workers in the US should look to the Arab Spring, including the strike waves in Egypt and the formation of workers’ council in Syria, and be seeking a way to link up with workers there.

To walk down that road, workers here will need their own representatives and their own political party – a mass workers’ party. It is to avoid a real start along these lines that the Sanders campaign is dedicated.

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

Climate Fraud in Paris

In the weeks leading up to the Paris Climate talks, dozens of climate activists were placed on house arrest in Paris. The excuse was the state of emergency declared after the terrorist

Police tear gas climate protesters outside Paris Climate negotiations

Police tear gas climate protesters outside Paris Climate negotiations

attacks the previous month, but the real emergency is the state of the world’s environment, including its climate.

Provisions of the Deal

Hoping to be freed of the pesky protesters, the corporate-controlled heads of state came up with a deal which they claim is a huge step forward.

  • The basic goal of the deal is to hold global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial global temperatures. Even at this increase, permafrost thaws (releasing methane gas), glaciers continue to melt, and the oceans continue to acidify. However, it is almost ruled out that they will even achieve this goal.

Other basic provisions include:

  • Forest Preservation – Governments are “encouraged to take action” to preserve forests, but who’s going to pay for it? As Justin Gillis, climate science reporter writes: ‘Tropical countries would likely be paid with both public and private money if they succeed in reducing or limiting destruction of their forests due to logging, or clearance for food production.” Private money? Yes, right. Public money? In this day of “debt reduction?”’
  • Costs – the industrialized countries “should continue to take the lead in mobilizing finances” to pay the costs of any changes. “Should” is the operative word. Can anybody living in any of the industrialized countries – the US, Britain, Germany – seriously expect that these governments will take on additional spending when the entire political mantra is “debt reduction”? Will Merkel, after her campaign against Syriza?

Aside from the yawning gulf between the decisive action that is desperately required and what this deal actually provides, there is another huge lapse. As this article explains:

  • In all the 32,731 words of the climate document discussed there, one world you won’t find is “military”. Yet the US military alone is the single largest user of petroleum in the world. This doesn’t include the release of greenhouse gases through the use of military weapons. (Hint: Think Syria, Iraq, Libya.)

As the world hurtles towards increasing wars, including proxy wars, does anybody seriously expect military expenditures will decrease?

Wall St. Journal

The Wall St. Journal (12/14) was pretty clear also. They report that even as planned, this deal doesn’t meet the level of cuts that the agreement itself targets. Just as with other problems, the plans are to be implemented in the future, “by governments that haven’t yet been elected” and that “the plans aren’t legally enforceable.” Maybe that’s why Benjamin Spartan, chief executive of the World Coal Association, “said the agreement left room for the coal industry to grow.”

World “Leaders”

Aware that there is growing popular concern over this disaster-in-waiting, the representatives of world capitalism have trumpeted its success.

  • “We came together around a strong agreement the world needed—We met the moment,” said Barack Obama. This is the same president who has called for an “all of the above” energy policy (use all energy sources, including coal, oil, etc.), has
    Barak Obama in Paris. A case of "Do as I say, not as I do."

    Barak Obama in Paris. A case of “Do as I say, not as I do.”


    encouraged fracking, and recently okayed oil exploration in the Arctic. On top of that, there is the Trans Pacific Partnership Obama is pushing – a partnership between corporations which will make it many times more difficult to impose any sort of environmental regulations by any of the governments that have signed it.

  • “The agreement is not perfect, and there are some areas in need of improvement…. This does not prevent us from marching forward with this historic step,” said the representative of the Chinese government. Meanwhile, China receives 60% of its electricity from the dirtiest source possible – coal – and plans to continue building new ones until 2030.

iea-forecast-of-us-oil-production-new-policies-scenario

 

 

 

Figure-3-EIA-Proj

 

  • “I think it’s really, really an historic moment. Finally we are moving to actions and not just talking problems…. What we have today is an historic moment, in a friendly atmosphere, and I feel a new confidence in the political world’s ability to deal with climate change,” Isabella Texeira, Brazil’s environment minister is reported  to have said. Meanwhile, the deforestation rate in Brazil doubled in the last quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015.
  • This agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is fully committed to a low-carbon future. We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on
    A coal fired power plant in China. While talks were under way, Beijing had to go on "red alert" and order people indoors due to the poisonous air in the city.

    A coal fired power plant in China. While talks were under way, Beijing had to go on “red alert” and order people indoors due to the poisonous air in the city.

    this challenge,” said UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon. This is the General Secretary of an international body which has proven itself incapable of taking any decisive action on anything from Israel’s war crimes to the disaster in Syria. As for global climate change, the UN’s own aviation regulatory body, the International Civil Aviation Organization, has opposed any international regulations that would decrease airline global warming emissions.

While the climate talks were going on, the bombs continued to rain down on Syria. Aside from the immediate human suffering, how much will such wars continue to add to global climate destruction?

While the climate talks were going on, the bombs continued to rain down on Syria. Aside from the immediate human suffering, how much will such wars continue to add to global climate destruction?

 

People’s Leaders

Maybe that’s also why Cliff Willmeng commented: “There’s no way the fossil fuel industry can conduct business without having an apparatus of near totalitarian control…. So you have Paris, where the representatives of capitalism have come together and… ‘shockingly’ have come out with no mandate whatsoever. Then, of course, you’ve got all the Big Green organizations (Food and Water Watch, Sierra Club, etc.) where after 40 years of repeating a failed environmental strategy, their solution to the Paris failure is to double down on the exact same strategy, meaning to recognize that we don’t have any power as people so we have to depend on the good graces of the corporate politicians. So we have to just go back to letter writing and lobbying. And let’s not forget fundraising. We can’t forget that.”  (Cliff Willmeng, is a leading anti-fracking activist in Colorado. See this interview.)

Big Green and Climate Scientists

Many Big Green environmental groups as well as the foremost climate scientists have panned the deal. Foremost among them is James Hansen, who’s considered to be the “father of global warming science”. He has bluntly called the deal “bullshit”. He’s right. But what’s his solution? A global carbon tax.

It’s truly amazing that scientists such as Hansen, who demonstrate bold and courageous thinking when it comes to science, are so timid and unimaginative when it comes to politics. He seems incapable of considering any alternative to the anarchic, profit addicted and destructive capitalist system of production.

As for the Big Green groups, they are so compromised with the major corporations and, in the United States, with the corporate-controlled Democratic Party,  that nothing serious can reasonably be expected from them.

Republicrats

In the United States, the Republicrats are in league with each other. While the Republican wing is dominated by climate deniers who appeal to the most backwards thinking, the Democratic wing pretends to give something with one hand, while they take away even more with the other. But at least the pretense is there. First and foremost, what’s needed is an alternative to these two wings that represent Corporate America. This seems most likely to start through local movements running their own candidates outside of and opposed to the Republicrats.

Program

Global climate disruption/global warming is also connected to all different movements.

  • Police and Government Repression: As we saw with the arrests of climate activists in Paris, the police and the criminal (in)justice system will be given a free hand to repress and if necessary brutalize people in order to repress a movement against corporate environmental destruction. That’s why it affects the movement against police racism and repression in the United States.
  • Income Inequality: Global climate change will hit the poor the hardest.
  • Housing: Rising sea levels will sharply hit housing supplies in many major cities.
  • Unions: In the United States, the unions are dominated by a layer of bureaucrats who increasingly do little but represent the employers and the Democratic Party inside the working class. The union leaders always look to team up with “their” employers to make sure that environmental regulations don’t affect “their” employers’ profits. They also team up with the Democrats to try to make sure that no social movement goes beyond the bounds of what’s acceptable to the liberals inside that party. The struggle against global climate disruption is integrally linked with the struggle to transform the unions.

Socialism

From housing to transportation to energy sources, the source of the problem is the anarchic, and profit-driven system of production called capitalism – a system that has completely outlived itself and must be replaced. While partial goals are necessary along the way, the ultimate goal of replacing it with a planned economy – one under the democratic management and control of the working class itself – must be the ultimate goal.

And there’s not a whole lot of time to accomplish that.

Posted in environment, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

San Bernardino Shooting: Questions About What Happened

 

 

San Bernardino shooting

)12/8/2015 NOTE: At the time that this was written, what actually happened was unclear. Some aspects of this crime are still unclear, especially the issue of the third shooter. We no longer think some of the other issues raised below are valid, but we are leaving the original post since that’s what we wrote at the time. See the added note at the bottom of this article.)

According to CNN, it’s an open and shut case: Sayed Farook and Tashfeen Malik were the shooters in the San Bernardino attack. Their latest headline simply identifies them as the “San Bernardino Shooters.” Is it open and shut, though?

One witness: “Certain” there were three shooters

One witness has said that she’s “certain” that she saw three people run into the building to do the shooting. Not only that, but she said they were tall, athletic built and “appeared” to be white. On these last points she did not say she was certain, and she was at some distance so she could be mistaken, but on the number of shooters – of that she was “certain” and it’s difficult to confuse two with three people.

Family Attorney Claims

Then there is a commentary from the attorney of the family. In an interview with CNN, the attorney, David S. Chelsey, claims that Malik weighed about 90 lbs. and was too small to handle the imagesweapon which she’s accused of using. But his most important claim is that the couple was found lying face down and in handcuffs in the back of the vehicle (the black SUV).**

This raises the question of the third shooter, as well as the third person who was detained leaving the scene of the alleged shootout with the people in the black SUV. Clearly, if Farook and Malik were handcuffed in the back of the vehicle, then there must have been at least one other person – the driver. Some have said they heard reports that the authorities subsequently released this individual, having determined that he was not involved. Can we take their word for this?

Boston Marathon Bombing

We should remember the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, and in particular the FBI’s apparent assassination of Ibragim Todashev. Recall that Todashev had been in touch with the two Tsarnaev brothers. Todashev seemingly had evidence that would have raised questions as to the government’s prior relationship with one or both of the Tsarnaev brothers. This is relevant in this case:

  • Who is the third person involved in the shooting and where is he?
  • Is it true that it was all men doing the shooting?
  • Is it true that Farook and Malik were found lying face down and handcuffed in the vehicle?
  • Who is the third person who was briefly detained while walking away from that shoot-out?

It seems unlikely that this is simply a “false flag” operation which was out-and-out orchestrated by the government. That would raise too many complications. But it does seem possible that this could have been some sort of sting operation, or a set-up gone bad. We have no idea whether this was the case, but we most definitely shouldn’t rush to judgement.

Update: Since posting this article, we have come across an interview with a second witness who described “three white men in military fatigues” that he says he saw running away from the scene of the shooting and jumping into a black vehicle.

** — Since this was written, David Chelsey gave a new interview in which, among other things, he associated himself with those why deny that the attack on the school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, ever even occurred. This makes him a very unreliable individual. While we always were conditional about his claims, it now seems likely that they can be dismissed altogether. The main question that remains, as far as the specifics of the shooting is what happened to the third shooter, since it still seems overwhelmingly likely that there were three, not just the two.

We are not raising the idea that the third shooter was a government agent/provocateur. That seems very unlikely. However, given the history of entrapment by government informants as well as miscalculations by the government, it seems possible that the third shooter was a person who the government saw as an informant, but who was in fact a co-conspirator. If this is the case, it would be highly embarrassing for the government and they would definitely seek to cover it up.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized, United States | Leave a comment

How Did We Become Humans and How Did Early Humans Organize?

combined document cover

To parents, older brothers/sisters/cousins, aunts & uncles:

I’ve been working on a history project – a book – for children around ten to 12 or 13 years old (inspired by my grandchildren). Here are the first two sections:

  1. “How Did We Become Humans?” explains how human being evolved, how a primate first walked upright, freeing up their hands, which led to the development of the opposable thumb and… tool making. It was from that that the larger brain (and greater intelligence) arose.
  2. “How did Early People Organize?” explains the “Neolithic Revolution” – the transition from food gathering (hunting and gathering) to food production (domestication of plants and animals) and agriculture. Contrary to what a lot of people might still think, after the agricultural revolution people worked a lot harder, longer hours, had worse health and died earlier. Also, this was the basis for exploiting the labor of others, the rise of class society and the oppression of women.

Part 1: How Did We Become Humans?

“How did we become humans?”

This might seem like a strange question. You have always been a human. Everybody you know has always been a human. Of course, we’re talking about evolution – how earlier species evolved into the human species.

But this leads to another question: “Why does it really matter?” After all, this happened a looong time ago (we’re talking millions of years). Now that we’re here, what does it matter how we became what we are?

It matters because it helps determine how we look at human society. That means, how we look at what people do in their everyday life. And if we can get a clear understanding of that, we can change it too. But to understand it, we have to look at how we got there, starting with how we – the human species – became what we are.

 

Here is the book: Children’s Book, first 2 parts

So I have a request to anybody who reads this: If you like it, please read it or give it to a younger person. Maybe read it along with them, get their reaction, and let me know what they think. What you think too.

Thanks, John Reimann

Posted in for young people, youth | 2 Comments

Murder in Chicago; Capitalist Cover Up

Laguna McDonald. Gone but not forgotten.

Laquan McDonald. Gone but not forgotten.

On October 20, 2014, a Chicago cop murdered 17 year-old Laquan McDonald. He unloaded his full magazine – 16 rounds – into Laquan as he (Laquan) lay on the ground. Then the system went into action.

  • The story the police put out was that Laquan had lunged at them with a knife. Not a single cop present contradicts this story (never mind acting to prevent this murder in the first place).

    Diagram of the bullets that hit Laquan

    Diagram of the bullets that hit Laquan

  • The corporate media faithfully parrots the police line, with no questions asked. See this story from the Chicago Tribune on the day after the murder, for example.
  • A CCTV security camera on a nearby Burger King mysteriously has the footage of this murder missing after the cops gain access to it.
  • The City of Chicago refuses to release the police car dash cam recording of the murder for over a year. During that period, the family of Laquan gets the recording (after suing) along with a settlement of $5 million and… agreement to keep the recording secret.
  • The capitalist media do nothing to gain access to the dash cam recording, but an independent journalist brings suit under the Freedom of Information Act. On Nov. 24, the cop who unleashed the barrage on Laquan is arrested for murder… and then the dash cam video is released.

It is clear that the entire system has participated in this cover up. Democratic Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, claims he never saw the recording until it was released. If that is true, then he is guilty of intentionally not knowing what his cops are up to, but most likely it is a bold faced lie.

Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel and Chief of Police Garry McCarthy. By covering up this murder, they are setting the stage for the next one.

Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel and Chief of Police Garry McCarthy. By covering up this murder, they are setting the stage for the next one.

The cops who participated in the lie about what happened? Nothing is said about them. The Chief of Police and the City Attorney, both of whom have tried to cover this up too? The wheels are in motion to keep the pressure off of them too.

And the murderer, Jason Van Dyke: Who is he? Even the FBI has reported that the KKK has had a campaign to infiltrate the nation’s police force. That report has been largely hushed up, but is Van Dyke

The murderer - Jason Van Dyke. Who is he?

The murderer – Jason Van Dyke. Who is he?

one of these infiltrators? There are other reports that many police are on steroids and go into “roid rage”. Is Van Dyke one of these?

Of course, this murder is not just a crime of one individual “bad cop”; the events as explained above show that the entire system collaborated to keep the truth from seeing the light of day. But another part of this propaganda campaign is the hiding from us of how many truly dirty cops are walking the streets.

Bernie Sanders

Then there is Bernie Sanders. After Obama’s “change you can believe in” we now have Sander’s “political revolution against the billionaire class”. But evidently that “revolution” doesn’t include anything against police racism and murder or the cover up by the Republicrat establishment and the corporate-controlled media.

Organized Labor

It is criminal that the union leaders have more or less ignored this issue. In fact, one protester in Ferguson last year reported to this writer that his union leader (of the UAW) had told him “this is not our battle.” Karen Lewis, head of the Chicago Teachers Union, says she will march

Karen Lewis, head of the Chicago Teachers Union. She may participate in a symbolic march, but she's not seeing to it that her union really organizes to stop this police crime wave.

Karen Lewis, head of the Chicago Teachers Union. She may participate in a symbolic march, but she’s not seeing to it that her union really organizes to stop this police crime wave.

in protest against this murder, but that’s just for show. Look at the web site of the union: There’s nothing on it about this murder or the issue in general. And all the rest of the union leadership remains silent as they continue to support the Democrats.

The Nation’s Most Prominent Socialist

The events in Chicago are not about one racist murder. We’ve been seeing these murders, and the cover-ups of these murders for years. Each cover-up helps set the stage for the next such murder. Clearly, the entire capitalist system is guilty. This includes its police force, its media, and its two political parties. Never was it more obvious than in this case. Never was the necessity for a real revolution obvious.

That’s why it is so criminally mistaken for the nation’s most prominent socialist, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, to be silent, just as she was silent for days after Israel started its criminal attack on the people of Gaza last year. Ultimately, after it became too embarrassing, she felt forced to say a few words. But what will she say this time? Will she condemn not only the police and the Democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel? Or will she point out the obvious – that Bernie Sanders, too, is participating in the cover up? An e mail fund appeal from her group, Socialist Alternative, does the opposite. Yes, in addition to trying to capitalize on this murder to get money they actually imply that Sanders is opposing these murders and cover-ups! In this time, when a real socialist program is needed more than ever, they are giving socialism a bad name.

  • No confidence in the police or any civilian review board (which will be controlled by the cops, themselves). For democratically elected community patrols/community committees of public safety!
  • No confidence in any wing of the the Democratic Party, including Bernie Sanders! They are part of the cover-up and part of the problem!
  • For the movement to run its own candidates for public office, starting at the local level. This includes the movement against police racism and murder, the real movement against fracking (vs. Big Green), etc.
Posted in racism | Leave a comment

Five BLM Activists Shot: Global Perspectives and Program Needed

On Monday night, five activists in the Black Lives Matter movement were shot in Minneapolis. This shows the serious danger that is growing in the United States and, in fact, around the world. It is far, far more serious than just one isolated attack, or even than an attack of a few racist extremists. It is part of other physical assaults:

  • On two separate occasions, supporters of the leading Republican presidential candidate – Donald Trump – assaulted black protesters at one of their rallies.

    Racist supporters of Donald Trump assault a black protester. The threat is real.

    Racist supporters of Donald Trump assault a black protester. The threat is real.

  • There has been a series of attacks on Muslims in the United States.

Racism and Xenophobia

This is part of a global development, wherein Muslims have been assaulted throughout the Western world and anti-Muslim, xenophobic parties are on the rise throughout Europe, paralleling the continued support for Donald Trump in the United States.

These developments are directly connected with the rise of the fascist Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. (In fact, one might almost say the “former” Syria and Iraq since those two states have nearly broken down.) Also, there is the increased power of similar forces in Israel, where hundreds, maybe thousands, of Israeli youth are marching to the

Racist Israeli youth threaten Palestinian woman

Racist Israeli youth threaten Palestinian woman

slogan of “death to (all) Arabs”.

The racist, communalist and xenophobic movement of both sides needs each other.

In other words, the increasing racism, especially the racist attacks by the police, does not exist in a vacuum; it is part of a wider reactionary, xenophobic, communal development in the United States and globally. Some might be inclined to look to the Democratic Party as an alternative to the racists in the Republican Party, especially the Donald Trump wing. That is a mistake, since the Democrats have simply helped prepare the ground for the rise of the Republican right. Nor will any wing of the Democrats organize a true fight back against the racists and xenophobes. This means, among other things, no illusions in the liberal Democrat Bernie Sanders. See here for more detail on who he really is. Orienting to or appealing to the Democrats is a dead-end street.

Among other things, Sanders and his fellow liberals propose closer ties between the “community” and the police (“community policing”). But the police are part of the problem, especially since they have become infiltrated by the KKK and other racists. The liberal Democrats also propose police review boards. But these boards always end up as an extension of the police themselves.

  • Instead, the example of the old Black Panther Party should be looked to – committees of public safety to patrol the communities and protect against all violence and crime (including most particularly police crime and violence).
  • We also need economic safety and security. This means a real struggle for a $15/hour minimum wage now, not 5 or 7 years from now. It means an all out campaign against union busting and against unemployment.
  • Most important, we need an alternative to the Republicrat paradigm. In several cases, we have seen the movement from below throw up local anti-Republicrat candidates for office. The recent campaign of anti-fracking activist and socialist, Cliff Willmeng, for city council in Lafayette, CO, is an example of this. This can be a first step towards the coming together of a real, grass-roots movement against racism and xenophobia and for a united, working class alternative to the attacks of capitalism.

In summary: The attack on the Minneapolis BLM activists is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the danger facing us all. A united, radical, anti-racist and working class based alternative is desperately needed.

 

Posted in racism, Uncategorized, United States | Leave a comment

Socialist Kshama Sawant’s Support for Bernie Sanders Criticized

As the only public official who’s a socialist, what Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant says and does matters. That’s why her most open support yet for liberal Democrat Bernie Sanders is provoking criticism, including within her own group, Socialist Alternative. But Sawant’s support doesn’t come in a vacuum; it is connected to several other issues, and it’s important to understand these too. Here, Sean Greaves, a member of Socialist Alternative, posts his critique, which was written several weeks ago:

Liberal Democrat Bernie Sanders. He supports drone warfare, Israel and the continued political monopoly of the Republicrats. It is a huge mistake for socialist Kshama Sawant to support him.

Liberal Democrat Bernie Sanders. He supports drone warfare, Israel and the continued political monopoly of the Republicrats. It is a huge mistake for socialist Kshama Sawant to support him.

Though Socialist Alternative has been working tirelessly for comrade Sawant’s re-election, we have been no less active in another electoral campaign – that of liberal Democrat Bernie Sanders. Despite the fact that SA has not officially endorsed Sanders and has called on him to run independently (which he has stated emphatically he will not do) the leadership has, in practice, encouraged a non-critical approach toward Sanders’ program. As one of comrade Sawant’s leading campaign persons told a public meeting in Oakland on Sept 20, and as was repeated by a leading member of the Oakland branch “we do not have to criticize Sanders”. Indeed, our party’s (literature) tables, articles and leading comrades’ interactions with Sanders supporters are all geared toward giving the impression that the difference between ourselves and the left-liberal amount to little more than a tactical difference over the utility of the Democratic party. 

Leading comrades have argued that it is better to uncritically echo Sanders’ “calls” than expose the limits of his white progressivism. If we must be distinct from him, better to frame it as “our differences” rather than urge his supporters to see that no Democrat can deliver the goods and that there is an insurmountable gulf between his platform and a genuine working-class program. In my own branch in the SF Bay Area, leading members have attempted to bridge the gap with his campaign by appealing to socialism as almost a moral idea wherein we merely “go further” than Sanders’ “democratic socialism”. Indeed, in my branch many members personally endorse the Democratic candidate. In Seattle, comrades have helped organize ‘For-Bernie’ committees. I cannot understand how this is anything other than entrism in the outer fringes of the Democratic party. 

The leadership is correct that we can recruit members from this – but on what basis other than based on their illusions rather than helping them develop a clearer class consciousness? Are we helping to build an independent movement of the working class – be it electorally, in the streets or on the job, or has SA has moved to a position of tacit support for Sanders? We are talking about Sanders’ “movement”, but this is a movement without any real soldiers, one which lacks a campaign in the streets, etc. We are in effect providing Left cover for his candidacy rather than attempting to connect the sincere desires of the workers and students who support him to independent struggle. 

In fact, leading comrades have argued that to talk to Sanders supporters about his imperialist foreign policy, reactionary stance on immigration, refusal to amplify the needs/demands of people of color, etc. is akin to a Spartacist-like approach of “lecturing” workers. Instead, as one leading comrade I know has said, we should “let the workers figure it out for themselves”. This reduces the role of SA to cheerleading, orienting toward the consciousness of white progressives instead of building a movement of the most oppressed and exploited in this country. This uncritical approach toward Sanders seems to be connected to an opportunist approach that has generally developed toward municipal progressives and the union leadership in the last couple years. 

 

Tacoma 15 Now

In Tacoma, the party has completely refused to support the $15/hr Now ballot initiative, and it appears this betrayal of 15 Now is partially driven by a desire to maintain a friendly relationship with some of the local union officialdom which is backing the Mayor’s conservative $12 in 2018 plan. In fact, Comrade Sawant even went so far as to refuse to support 15 Now Tacoma’s ballot initiative when it

Seattle City Council member and member of Socialist Alternative campaigning for a $15/hour minimum wage two years ago. She should have stuck to her guns.

Seattle City Council member and member of Socialist Alternative campaigning for a $15/hour minimum wage two years ago. She should have stuck to her guns.

came up for a vote before the King County Labor Council. In no other American city has there been as pure a divide between the fight for $15 and the diversionary concessions of the municipal liberals, and in no other U.S. town has there been the opportunity for a pure all-inclusive immediate wage raise. 

When I brought this issue up in my branch, leading comrades delivered the now almost boilerplate excuse that criticizing the union leadership will isolate us from their members. Just as, apparently, criticizing left-liberals will isolate us from freshly-politicized young people oriented toward Sanders. But for SA to quietly oppose the struggle in Tacoma to play nice with the union bureaucracy is, in reality, tailing the liberals. Moreover, if the anti-austerity consciousness among Tacoma workers is as strong as it appears to be, then how can it simultaneously be so fragile that disillusionment must result if we point out the way forward is not through their current union leaderships? 

Similarly, if the young people oriented toward Sanders truly represent a new movement from below around anti-capitalist politics, how can leaders argue their consciousness is so weak that to criticize Sanders will isolate us? 

Connected to other policies

It also seems to be connected to other policies. For example, it has been reported (and never denied) that at the height of the protests against police murders in Seattle, Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative oriented more towards the NAACP and establishment ministers than towards the radical black youth. If we truly believe Sanders’ populism represents an historic opportunity to organize workers independent of the big business parties, then we must have faith that workers and young people are serious enough to allow for critical intervention and not just massaging. In my branch, many of the same tactics now being heralded for the Sanders campaign were first tried in our intervention with supporters for Dan Siegel’s Oakland mayoral campaign. This is similar to Sawant’s former support for the liberal Democrat Larry Gossett and her close relationship with city council liberals like Nick Licata. It flows directly from her refusal to criticize the union leadership’s refusal to really fight for their members. This is connected to an opportunist approach toward certain left-liberals as a whole in the city, where, as one leading comrade in the bay area we put it, we “can’t support or endorse, but whom we want to win.”  (Note: Since this letter was written, Sawant and Socialist Alternative did directly support 5 liberal city council candidates by calling for the defeat of their opponents.)

 

“Popular Front”

This approach has a history –The Popular Front. Indeed, what the comrade said is very similar to the Communist Party’s slogan in the 1936 presidential election. They did not officially endorse FDR but they organized to “Defeat Landon at all costs, vote for Browder” – in essence a tacit support for a Democratic victory. 

“I’ve been banned…”

….. In my own branch, I have been banned from communicating over the email list and have been accused of being everything from being a plant of disgruntled ex-members to being a Republican. Hopefully from reading this letter you see I am an average rank-and-file member hoping to help put our party on the right track. If you are in a similar position, please contact me and perhaps we can start to raise our concerns in a more organized way within Socialist Alternative. Thank you.

UPDATE: Since this was written, our web site has published an article that is more critical of Bernie Sanders. But this article was coupled with a new one by Jess Spear in which she repeats that SA’s role is to build a movement that could ‘really’ “win Sanders’ progressive platform” and calling on him to run independently. We are speaking out of both sides of our mouth. The spirit of this article is essentially that Sanders is an “insurgent” who is ‘not really’ a Democrat, and despite our “disagreements” with him we should orient toward him and call on him to be his best self. Yet, how can we expect a politician who has caucused with the Democrats his whole career to lead a movement for a workers’ party? Without an open discussion on these problems, we will continue to wander from one mistake to another without having really learned anything.

Oakland Socialist comments

We think this letter explains a lot about how the support for the union leadership – a leadership that represents the employers and one of their parties, the Democrats, inside the unions – how support for them is tied to failure to take an independent position on a series of other issues. As far as Bernie Sanders is concerned, the main point is the crying need for a mass workers’ party. We think such a party will start to come into existence through the campaigns of independent left candidates, candidates who run completely outside of and opposed to the Republicrat paradigm. Campaigns like that of Sanders do just the opposite – they tend to channel the movement back into the Democratic Party, where it dies. Sawant’s support for Sanders and her support for the five liberal Democratic candidates for Seattle city council were principled mistakes. For a more in depth explanation, see this article.

NOTE: We have had over 600 hits on this post. Hopefully, some of them are by members of Socialist Alternative or other CWI-associated groups. We encourage you to raise these issues within your group or, at the very least, among your comrades.

Posted in politics, socialist movement, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Ford Workers Rejecting Contract: What Next?

By a margin of 48% “yes” to 52% “no”, it seems that Ford workers are about to reject a contract proposed by their union leadership. The final vote will be announced on Saturday (Nov. 21). After years of concessions, with new hires making just $19/hour (only slightly above what many think the minimum wage should be!), with unemployment dropping, and with Ford reportedly making almost $25 million per day, workers’ expectations have been high.

Workers at Ford auto. They expect something better.

Workers at Ford auto. They expect something better.

One worker explained“People are upset, because the objective was to eliminate the tiers, but they’ve added more tiers. And they have the smokescreen with the eight years grow-in period, but we only have four years to the end of the contract.

“And for the older employees, a lot of the concessions they gave up to keep Ford profitable and keep it afloat, they aren’t getting their money back. In ten years we’re going to be making the same money now, and we’re going to be behind the increase in the cost of living.

“That’s why people are voting ‘no.’ They’re looking at the long-term. They’re not looking at the lump-sum bonuses and profit sharing. And you know, it’s going to be a struggle. We’re going to have to move back with our parents, or in with each other. And they’re taking the money from us.”

The union leadership looks at it differently. As its chief Ford negotiator, Jimmy Settles, put it, he has to “keep Ford competitive”. He added, “If Ford pays more, they would be at a disadvantage to the other companies.” What Settles and his type never consider is how far down do workers have to go to be “competitive”? Where will it all end? (And you can be sure that Settles and his type aren’t keeping their pay down!)

Rejecting what workers consider an inferior contract is a good first step, but only a first step.

“The Times They Are Changing”

Four years ago, when Ford workers seemed to be rejecting a contract, Settles threatened that if they struck, Ford would hire “replacement workers”, i.e. scabs. This threat, which drove the workers to accept the contract, shows the huge change from the 1970s and before. In those days, the US auto manufacturers wouldn’t think of hiring scabs if their workers struck. The memory and traditions of the great sit-down strikes of the 1930s was still too present. However, the employers and the union leadership have done everything

Workers occupy GM plant in 1937

Workers occupy GM plant in 1937

in their power to erase those traditions, so the threat is real. It doesn’t mean that workers should bow down before the threat; it simply means that a return to the traditions of the ’30s is needed now more than ever.

Link With Unemployed and Especially Oppressed

Meanwhile, the UAW leadership has stood aside from some of the main struggles in the US. The most important of these has been the struggle against police murders of black people and others. As one UAW member in Ferguson reported at the height of the protests in August of last year, his leadership had told him “this is not our battle.” Just the opposite is the case.

Offshore Production

The other threat is that of runaway shops. Even under the present contract proposal, Ford is saying it will shift its production of auto’s (vs. SUV’s and light trucks) to Mexico, where labor costs are so much lower.

Worker at GM's Pontiac Metal Plant: GM is planning on importing from China.

Worker at GM’s Pontiac Metal Plant: GM is planning on importing from China.

And Ford is not alone. General Motors has announced that, for the first time, it will be importing vehicles (the Buick “Envision”) from China, where wages are even cheaper than in Mexico.

International Solidarity

Over a century ago, workers in the US realized that they couldn’t just fight on a local or regional basis; they had to organize nationally. Now, a qualitatively new step is needed: A jump from national struggle to try internationalism, not just in words but in deeds. Unfortunately, the union leadership chooses to line up with the employers, against workers in other countries, rather than lead the union to align itself with workers internationally.

That’s why workers have to start organizing on their own, and today, with the internet, it’s easier than ever. There is no reason why dissident groups in the UAW cannot contact auto workers in Mexico, China and across the globe to discuss their common needs. That could be a first step towards real international action, including across-border strikes if necessary. There is no way to build such solidarity – neither with struggles here at home nor with workers in other countries – as long as auto workers accept concessions and inferior contracts. But the rejection of this Ford contract implies such a wider struggle.

 

Posted in labor, United States | Leave a comment

Joe Hill: 100 Years in Memorium

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Tomorrow, Nov. 19, marks the 100th anniversary of the state lynching of Joe Hill, worker, revolutionary and fighter for the poor and oppressed in the United States.

Born Oct. 7, 1879 in Gavle Sweden as Joel Ammanuel Hagglund, he came to the US in the early 1900s and changed his name to Joe Hill. He worked various odd jobs, traveled the country on the freight trains, faced frequent unemployment and poverty, and joined the revolutionary union the Industrial Workers of the World. His greatest contribution was as a revolutionary songwriter, and many of his songs became famous, including “Preacher and Slave”, well known for its refrain:

“You will eat, by and by,

In that glorious land in the sky,

Work and pray,

Live on hay,

There’ll be pie in the sky, when you die.”

Today, with the influence of fundamentalist religion – from Christianity to Islam – around the world, and the promise of a better life after death as a reward for groveling before capitalist oppression, that song could not be more relevant.

Joe Hill was arrested for the murder of former policeman and grocer John G. Morrison. He had evidently been shot (non-fatally) in a fight with a rival for the attention of a young woman, but courageously and gallantly had refused to reveal the name of the young woman. The trial, typically, was a farce in which “witnesses” contradicted their earlier testimony. As he explained, “Owing to the prominence of Mr Morrison, there had to be a ‘goat’ [scapegoat] and the undersigned being, as they thought, a friendless tramp, a Swede, and worst of all, an IWW, had no right to live anyway, and was therefore duly selected to be ‘the goat’.”

On Nov. 19, 1915, Hill was placed before a firing squad. His last words were to tell the firing squad, “Fire — go ahead and fire!” But he left much more. He had written Big Bill Haywood (also a great IWW leader): “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize… Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

He also left a last will and testament:

My will is easy to decide,

For there is nothing to divide.

My kin don’t need to fuss and moan,

“Moss does not cling to rolling stone.”

My body? Oh, if I could choose

I would to ashes it reduce,

And let the merry breezes blow,

My dust to where some flowers grow.

Perhaps some fading flower then

Would come to life and bloom again.

This is my Last and final Will.

Good Luck to All of you.

But perhaps the greatest testament to Joe Hill is his legend in song.

Here is another great musician of the revolution, Paul Robeson, commemorating Joe Hill.

Posted in rebellion, United States | Leave a comment

“F___ ISIS”?

Somebody I know responded to the killings in Paris with the two word comment: “F___ ISIS”. Here’s this writer’s response:

I’m not sure what people mean when they say “f__k ISIS”. Do they mean they hate them? That’s all well and good, but there’s a lot of forces worthy of hatred out there. Do they mean “we” should attack them? Who is “we” — the US or the French government? The French regime has already started that, and you can be sure that even more innocent civilians will die due to those attacks than what happened in Paris. If that is what you’re supporting, you are really advocating even more terrorist attacks, this time by Western governments. If that’s not what you mean, then what, exactly?

The approach of simply “hating” IS leads us away from our starting task, which is to understand how they developed and what they represent. How else can they be combatted?

The historic background is the general spread of Wahabbism, a very crude form of religious fundamentalism whose base is in Saudi Arabia among a layer of the clerical/semi-feudal ruling class. As for ISIS in particular, the basis for their development was the defeat of the “Arab Spring”, especially in Syria, where the revolt was, as one participant put it, “a revolution of the poor.” As that revolution became militarized, a layer of the Kuwaiti ruling class (another totally reactionary force) started financing a most extreme wing of “rebels” against the Assad regime. That was the origins of ISIS. They seem to be mainly self-financing today, probably through taxes but also through oil sales. There are some claims that the US government is helping to finance ISIS, but we haven’t seen any serious evidence for that, nor does it make sense politically. (Here is a more in-depth article on the origins of ISIS.)

It seems that at least some of their local recruits are simply young men in need of a job. But probably their foreign recruits have a more ideological motivation. Evidently at least one or two of the attackers in Paris were French born. This seems to speak to the alienation that Muslim immigrants feel in Europe.

More generally, it seems that the rise of ISIS is a symptom of the alarming weakness of the workers’ movement everywhere in the world. We saw what happened in Greece – the former high point of the workers’ movement in Western Europe – for example. There, the leadership of that movement was unable or unwilling to really mobilize the power of the working class and as a result capitulated to Eurpoean capital. I think IS is just one tip of the iceberg. We see a similar force developing in Israel, for example. Then, in the US, there is the mass insanity that is seen by the support for Donald Trump. It’s true that there is a parallel support for Bernie Sanders, but as his most recent “debate” performance shows, he has nothing radically different to offer as far as this threat. The IS attack will strengthen the support for Trump and similar types.

In the period leading up to 9/11, there was a radical, anti-“global capitalism” movement developing. It started among the youth but workers were starting to join in. 9/11 reversed all of that. In the last year, an anti-corporate mood has started to develop, although it is not as strong as was the movement before 9/11. And even before the attack in Paris, a right wing, racist/nationalist/xenophobic tendency was developing alongside of the anti-corporate mood. In fact, it could be argued that worldwide it was already the stronger of the two trends. I don’t think any of us thinks what happened in Paris will be the last of such attacks.

The Paris attack, as well as similar attacks in Kenya, Lebanon and elsewhere are a warning. If a united workers’ movement is not built, what’s coming will be even worse.

Posted in war | Leave a comment

November, 2015, Election Results: Some local elections mattered most!

While the corporate-controlled media focused on the higher level election results (such as the victory of the Tea Partier Mat Bevin for governor of Kentucky), some important local votes were also held. These include:

  • The election campaign of long-time activist, working class fighter, fracking opponent and socialist Cliff Willmeng for the city council in Lafayette, Colorado.
  • The ballot initiative for an immediate $15/hour minimum wage in Tacoma, Washington.
  • The reelection campaign of socialist Kshama Sawant for Seattle City Council.

Cliff Willmeng

Cliff Willmeng campaigning against fracking

Cliff Willmeng campaigning against fracking

A former union carpenter who was an active dissident in the Carpenters Union, Cliff became a nurse and moved to Lafayette from Chicago. He became involved in the campaign against fracking*.  As part of this campaign, Cliff is involved in getting a ballot initiative in Colorado to empower local communities to stop any sort of investment (including fracking) that the majority of residents feel is not in their interests.

As an emergency room nurse, Cliff also came in contact with firefighters, and through that, he got involved in a campaign to get their union recognized. From these experiences, Cliff explained in this interview that “you’re always asking them  (the elected officials) to do favors for you…. And we decided that we needed to start to take some power ourselves…. Through the campaign for city council, we decided that we could advance the ideas of the movement itself and… should I win the campaign as a way to (further) build the movement of grassroots communities.”

Cliff campaigned around the issues of community control over investment, union rights for firefighters, a $15/hour minimum wage, and similar issues. In the event, there were four elected, and they gained from 20.5% to 13.2% of the votes. Cliff got 9.8%, which is not bad for his first time running. (One of the things used against cliff was the complete coincidence that his mother happens to already be a council member. It was implied – completely falsely – that this represented some sort of corruption.) Most important, in many ways his campaign can serve as an example for others.

15 Now Tacoma

15 Now Tacoma activists. They come from all walks of life, but all are from a working class background.

15 Now Tacoma activists. They come from all walks of life, but all are from a working class background.

Tacoma 15 Now was one of the only such campaigns that took the slogan seriously; they got enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot calling for an immediate $15/hour minimum wage. An interesting addition was that their measure criminalized wage theft by the bosses. Following a militant May Day (2015) rally put on by 15 Now Tacoma, that city’s Chamber of Commerce called a meeting at which its leaders showed a tape of part of the rally and told their members that if they didn’t organize some sort of increase, they would be facing a far worse alternative – 15 now. As a result, they got together with the mayor and other officials and maneuvered to put an increase on the ballot for $12/hour phased in over two years. So voters had a choice: They could first vote “yes” or “no” on whether the minimum wage should be increased at all, and then if “yes”, whether it should be the immediate increase to $15/hour, or the phase in to twelve. Significantly, both the Chamber of Commerce and the restaurant owners association backed the raise to $12/hour, which means that they were backing an overall raise of the minimum wage by what amounts to 27%  over two years, rather than fighting it altogether!

In a very low turnout, “yes” won 59% to 41%, but 1b ($12/hour) won by 72% to 28%.

From the chain of events, it’s indisputable that this increase was due to the uncompromising position of 15 Now Tacoma.

Kshama Sawant for Seattle City Council

Seattle City Council member and member of Socialist Alternative campaigning for a $15/hour minimum wage two years ago. She should have stuck to her guns.

Seattle City Council member and member of Socialist Alternative campaigning for an immediate $15/hour minimum wage two years ago. She should have stuck to her guns.

The entire issue of an immediate raise in the minimum wage to $15/hour is related to the election of socialist city council member Kshama Sawant in Seattle two years ago and her reelection this week. In 2013,“15 Now” was her main slogan, and after she won her main political advisor and speech writer, Phil Locker, promised: “The key task for our campaign — and unlike other campaigns who say one thing when it comes to election time and have a completely different agenda once they are elected – our number one priority going forward is to fight for a $15/hour minimum wage in Seattle not 5 years from now, not 10 years from now… Now. Now!” Her election helped spur discussion on this demand throughout Seattle, as well as advancing discussion on the cause of socialism. All of this was very positive.

Unfortunately, she and her group, Socialist Alternative, made the mistake of waiting some four or five months to start collecting signatures for a minimum wage ballot initiative. Given the deadlines, that made it too late to get enough signatures, so they didn’t have that alternative route to take. The reason they had waited so long was that they had focused on negotiating with the liberal Democrats on the city council and trying to consolidate their support among the union hierarchy, who function as the representatives of the Democrats (and the employers) within the labor movement. They supported the Hotel Workers union leadership in its demand that unionized hotel workers be excluded from any minimum wage proposal that they (Socialist Alternative) would put forward. They failed to campaign among low wage unionized grocery store workers to help them get their union to back a $15/hour minimum wage. Through such actions, they proved to the union hierarchy that they were reliable allies. But at the same time, they didn’t mobilize their own potential power base, leaving themselves in a weakened position, forced to accept a proposal that wasn’t all that very different from what a much smaller group who lacked a city council member won in Tacoma. While the ultimate minimum wage ordinance reaches $15 in Seattle, it takes a seven year phase-in for it to cover all workers (as opposed to two years for all minimum wage Tacoma workers to reach $12/hour).

Supporting Local Democrats

The focus of Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative can also be seen in their support for five local Democrats who were running for city council in districts other than Sawant’s. This is more than a mistake; it is a violation of principle for the workers’ movement and for socialists to call for support for representatives of one of the two parties of big business.

This whole approach explains why Sawant didn’t support 15 Now Tacoma. She didn’t want to conflict with union leaders like Adam Glickman of SEIU, who said he “prefers to work with the business community” on the issue.

Despite this course, it was positive that Sawant won reelection by over 52%. Had she lost, the “rejection” of socialism would have been trumpeted by big business. And, if there is a real movement from below, it is still possible that Sawant and Socialist Alternative could move to a more independent position. Meanwhile, she will help put some issues like housing more in the spotlight.

Some General Conclusions

One factor in the results in Tacoma was the extremely low voter turnout. This even included among minimum (or close to minimum) wage workers – exactly those who would have benefited most from 15 Now. Low wage workers active in the campaign reported that they couldn’t get their co-workers to even vote. Other activists had similar experiences. In an election which was all mail-in, it doesn’t exactly take a massive amount of time and energy to bother sticking an envelope in the mail box. But so many feel so hopeless, so atomized, so powerless to effect any sort of change at all, that even this simple act doesn’t seem worthwhile.

This mood is slowly changing, but it still is there and for many it may take some powerful political or economic shock to drive them into action.

As this changes, what sort of direction is a movement likely to take and, most important, how can an alternative to the Republicrats develop? Elections – both for public office and ballot measures – can only accomplish just so much; the movement in the streets, communities and work places is vital. But as Cliff Willmeng explained above, participating in elections independently of the Republicrats is one important tool in the working class movement’s tool box.

Perspectives

It seems likely that local (and not-so-local) movements will continue to develop – around the issue of racism and the police, fracking, the minimum wage, you-name-it. It also seems likely that other movements will draw the conclusion that the movement Cliff is involved in has drawn – that they have to start running their own candidates for office, almost certainly starting at the local level. As a general trend starts in this direction, and as a few more get elected, then this trend may start to come together, first as a loose network and then developing into a more formal organization, in other words, the beginnings of a true mass workers’ party.

Kshama Sawant, as the first such elected socialist, could play a very helpful role in this process. To do so, she and Socialist Alternative would have to break with the union hierarchy, which will bitterly oppose any serious steps she would take in that direction, and she would have to stop supporting liberal Democrats like those who ran for Seattle city council (also like her de facto support for Bernie Sanders). She and Socialist Alternative would also have to break with their method of refusing to collaborate in a truly democratic and equal manner with others on the left. So far, the signs that they will be willing to do this are not very positive, but stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, the crisis mounts and there rarely has been a time in the US when a serious socialist movement was more needed… or more possible.

working class one fist copy

For those unfamiliar with fracking, this is a disastrous process which not only adds to global climate disruption/global warming but also massively pollutes the air, land and water, contributes to birth defects, etc. (See this link for a series of articles on the issue and this article  in particular if you aren’t familiar with what fracking does.

Posted in politics, United States | 5 Comments

Netanyahu: Who Really Collaborated With the Nazis?

According to official figures (Wall St. Journal, 10/22/2015), Israeli forces have killed 50 Palestinians in recent days, only 19 of whom are even accused of having attacked Israelis. In order to justify this and further stir up hatred of Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going around claiming that Hitler’s mass murder of 6 million Jews was done at the behest of the leading Palestinian cleric of the time, the “Grand Mufti” Amin al Husseini. This claim is false. What is true, however, is the long standing cooperation between wings of the Zionist movement and the Nazis back in those days. Neither Netanyahu nor the supporters of Zionism ever mention that!

  • In 1934, shortly after the Nazis came to power, Jews internationally started a boycott campaign against Germany. The Nazis turned to the German Zionist Federation, who opposed the boycott campaign in exchange for being recognized as being the “official” representative of Germany’s Jews. As a result, the boycott campaign collapsed.
  • In April of 1944, Rudolf Vrba escaped from Auschwitz and made his way to Hungary, where he met with leading Zionist, Rudolf Kastzner, to whom he broke the news that the “work camps” that Hitler was sending the Jews to were in reality death camps, whose purpose was to exterminate the Jewish people. Kastzner subsequently met with infamous Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichman and, over brandy and cigars, agreed to keep this fact secret from the masses of Hungarian Jews. In return, he was allowed to pick out some 1500 “prominent” Jews to be sent to Palestine.
    Rudolf Vrba: His warnings were kept secret.

    Rudolf Vrba: His warnings were kept secret.

    Rudolf Kastzner: He kept Vrba's warnings secret from the masses of Hungarian Jews in a deal cooked up with Adolph Eichman.

    Rudolf Kastzner: He kept Vrba’s warnings secret from the masses of Hungarian Jews in a deal cooked up with Adolph Eichman.

  • In 1941, the Stern Gang – the armed wing of Zionist Revisionists – sent a letter to the Nazis in which they wrote: “The NMO (National Military Organization – connected with the Stern Gang)… is well acquainted with the goodwill of
    Yitzhak Shamir: He was a member of the Stern Gang when they offered to join WW II on the side of the Nazis.

    Yitzhak Shamir: He was a member of the Stern Gang when they offered to join WW II on the side of the Nazis.

    the German Reich… Common interests could exist.” It called for “cooperation between the new Germany and a renewed folkish-national Hebraium… The NMO offers to actively take part in the war on Germany’s side.” One member of the Stern Gang at that time was future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

The Zionist movement has always been a reactionary movement, right from its inception. Just as it was based on racism and oppression of the Palestinian people, so it also betrayed the masses of Jewish people at moments of crisis.

Posted in History, Middle East, racism | 2 Comments

15 Now Tacoma Can Win; Sawant Refuses Support

15 Now Tacoma activists. They come from all walks of life, but all are from a working class background.

15 Now Tacoma activists. They come from all walks of life, but all are from a working class background.

Tacoma 15 Now is the only branch of “15 Now” nationally that is really trying to win a $15/hr. minimum wage now, as opposed to in 5 or 7 years from now. From a small group of some 50 or so activists, they have put Tacoma’s mayor, the Chamber of Commerce and some of the union leadership on the spot. Even the Tacoma Tribune (6/13/2015) referred to “the perception of 15 Now Tacoma as a potential heavy hitter… In its short history,” they continued” the group has been consistently underestimated.”

How did this happen?

On May 1, 15 Now Tacoma organized a May Day rally that was well attended. Its militancy caught the attention of the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce, which held a meeting in which they showed a video of the militant speech of one of the leaders (Mike Ladd). This was used to scare the Chamber’s members into pressuring Tacoma Mayor Strickland to put together a task force in order to create a weak alternative to the real 15 Now initiative. In other words, realizing that the initiative might pass, and afraid of the militancy that the campaign might unleash, they accepted that some sort of weak compromise might be necessary.

Union leadership

Disgracefully, the leadership of the two locals that have the most low wage workers in them – UFCW 21 and SEIU 775 – have been the most outspoken in opposing 15 Now’s Initiative One. Adam Glickman, secretary-treasurer of 775, explains. ““We would prefer to try to work together with the business community and nonprofits and other stakeholders.” Knowing the history of the UFCW, which lionizes employers at its meetings, another factor almost certainly is that they don’t want to upset the supermarket chains with whom they have contracts that call for far less than $15/hour for many of their members.

These corporate union leaders argue that Initiative One cannot win and claim that that’s why they don’t support it. But Initiative One has already scored a victory in forcing the mayor to put forward some sort of minimum wage increase (Initiative 1b), no matter how weak it is. If the union leadership were to really mobilize to fight for it, Initiative 1 would sweep to victory. More important, it would be an important step towards building a real worker fight-back. But that’s exactly what they are afraid of. The stronger the campaign for Initiative 1A, the stronger will be the pressure on the union leaders to break with the employers (including the Chamber of Commerce) and their party – the Democrats.

Kshama Sawant

On Oct. 21, the King County (Seattle) Labor Council voted unanimously to endorse measure 1A. Coming just two weeks before the final vote and after the mail-in ballots to Tacoma voters were already mailed out, this was largely a symbolic vote, although it was better than nothing. Even that, however, was too much for socialist city council member – and delegate to the labor council – Kshama Sawant, who made sure to leave the meeting before the issue came up for a vote. She did reportedly say, however, that she didn’t support the measure in Tacoma because it is “fatally flawed”, and doesn’t have the forces on the ground to win, thus repeating the claim of the union leadership.

This argument fails on the face of it. Even if it can’t win – which is not certain – now that it’s on the ballot there is no reason not to at least endorse it! No, the real reason Sawant & Co. won’t support it is that they don’t want to run afoul of union leaders like Glickman and David Rolf. (Rolf is the original architect of the “collective bargaining opt out” clause, under which unionized employers would be excused from paying an increased minimum wage. He justifies this by saying that he wants to offer an “olive branch” to these employers. More like a white flag.)

A secondary reason probably is that 15 Now Tacoma is the only branch of 15 Now nationally that is not controlled by Socialist Alternative.* Their concern for their own organizational interests overrides the interests of the workers’ movement as a whole.

Sawant and Socialist Alternative hung their hat on the slogan “15 Now”, and in the one instance that that has a possibility of becoming a reality, they cut and run because union leaders like Glickman and Rolf want to protect “their” employers. This is socialist politics? No wonder 15 Now Tacoma leader Mike Ladd calls this a “betrayal”.

* – Since this piece was written, this statement has been corrected. See the comment below.

Posted in Minimum wage campaign, socialist movement, United States | 5 Comments

Cliff Willmeng for Lafayette, CO, City Council

Cliff Willmeng – working class fighter, environmental and anti-fracking activist, and socialist – is running for city council in Lafayette, Colorado. Here he explains why he’s running and what he hopes to accomplish.

Posted in environment, politics, socialist movement | Leave a comment

Qilombo: The Struggle Lives On

20151018_124513

Struggles rise and fall back, but they always leave something behind – a heritage, lessons for people to learn from and carry on. Occupy Oakland was one example. It couldn’t last forever, but it left something behind — a legacy for the future struggles. Here, some of Oakland’s youth explain how their experiences in Occupy Oakland led them to build this community center in AfricaTown.

It’s our job not only to carry the struggle forward, but to learn from the past – from what was done right and from the mistakes so that we can complete the struggle to overthrow the capitalist system itself.

Posted in Oakland, videos/documentaries | Leave a comment

Democratic Presidential “Debate”: No Solution Here

The Democratic and Republican primaries offer two different visions of how Corporate America – the US capitalist class – sees a way forward; how they see resolving their problems. Their main problems are increased frustration and anger at home and waning power abroad.

One wing of the US capitalist class – mainly the newly rich – sees the solution as being a reversion to the policies of George Bush, but on steroids. In the main, they are backing the Republicans, and it shows. The Republican primaries can basically be called throwing them red meat – increasingly bloody and aggressive sound bytes. The Democratic “debate” last night put on a display of a more strategic approach.

"The billionaire class". They are generally hated today.

“The billionaire class”. They are generally hated today.

All the candidates talked about income inequality, the need to raise the minimum wage, paid family leave, etc. In other words, the themes that Bernie Sanders has been concentrating on for months. Alone, Sanders attacked the “billionaire class”, but his proposals weren’t all that different from the others. One thing they all agreed on is the threat posed to the United States by… the Republicans!

The great majority of Corporate America recognizes the threat posed by global climate change, so all the candidates paid homage to that threat. But integral to that threat is the ongoing disaster of fracking. Since fracking is so central to the interests of US capitalism, that "must" be allowed to continue. As a result, not a single one of the candidates (including Sanders) mentioned this disaster.

The great majority of Corporate America recognizes the threat posed by global climate change, so all the candidates paid homage to that threat. But integral to that threat is the ongoing disaster of fracking. Since fracking is so central to the interests of US capitalism, that “must” be allowed to continue. As a result, not a single one of the candidates (including Sanders) mentioned this disaster.

The discussion on foreign policy was defining in some ways. The general theme was the necessity of working with “our allies” in the region, which means the different states like Saudi state – one of the most reactionary and repressive ones in the world – and the best way to oppose “Putin”, meaning Russian capitalism. There was a fair bit of discussion on what to do in Syria, but no solution was reached. The reason is that they all – to the very last candidate – see the issue as one of how the different regimes can work out their interests. Not a single candidate sees the working class majority in the region as being the subject, the actors, on the stage of history; for all the candidates the working class majority is just an object of history, just props on the stage.

Take the rise of the Islamic State: Even if it were true that the US were financing it (for which there is no serious evidence), but whatever forces are behind it (and it seems that a section of the Kuwaiti clerical/capitalist class was one of the original financiers), the rise of this form of fascism would not have been possible had there not been the right situation on

Islamic State soldiers with captives. Their rise was only made possible by the situation on the ground in the region. The people of the region are not simply objects of history; they are the subjects.

Islamic State soldiers with captives. Their rise was only made possible by the situation on the ground in the region. The people of the region are not simply objects of history; they are the subjects.

the ground. That situation was, mainly, the defeat of the Arab Spring, especially in Syria itself. And what was that revolt in Syria? As one Syrian put it, “this is a revolt of the poor.”

But it’s exactly this that none of the candidates can recognize, because they all represent US capitalism, with the main difference being how to best advance the interests. Of course, there are secondary differences in that some of them – Sanders especially – make demagogic appeals to the anger of millions in the US. “What this campaign is about is whether we can mobilize our people to take back our government from a handful of billionaires and create the vibrant democracy we know we can and should have,” as Sanders put it last night, along with his call for a “political revolution.”

But what does that “revolution” amount to? “We need to have one of the larger voter turnouts in the world, not one of the lowest,” Sanders said. “If we want free tuition at public colleges and universities, millions of young people are going to have to demand it, and give the Republicans an offer they can’t refuse. If we want to raise the minimum wage to $15 bucks an hour, workers are going to have to come together and look the Republicans in the eye, and say, “We know what’s going on. You vote against us, you are out of your job.’” 

In other words, “come together”… to vote in more Democrats.

Just a few days before this “debate”, the Wall St. Journal published an article on “America’s Fading Footprint in the Middle East”. They wrote: “As seasoned politicians and diplomats survey the mayhem, they struggle to recall a moment when America counted for so little in the Middle East—and when it was held in such contempt, by friend and foe alike.” The failure of the Bush policy of direct military intervention with or without any support of “our” allies, was proven to be a failure. (All the candidates last night agreed, for example, about how disastrous the invasion of Iraq was.) Corporate America’s installation of Obama in 2008 was as much about reversing that policy, reverting to a policy of “diplomacy”, as anything. That policy has also resulted in further weakening, as the Wall St. Journal article explains. However, it seems unlikely that the mainstream of Corporate America – the US capitalist class – is ready to abandon that approach just yet.

In the future, they will. That is the threat that the Republicans represent, but the Democrats offer no solution either. Not for US capitalism, because there is no solution to their problems. And most certainly not for the US working class. For us, the first step will be to build the movement in the streets and link the various movements together as the tendency for that movement develops to run its own candidates. Candidates who are outside of and opposed to the Republicrat paradigm.

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Oakland Yuppifies

Oaklandsocialist thanks the National Security Agency (NSA) for their extensive news reporting service, otherwise known as eavesdropping. As Edward Snowden has revealed, the NSA listens in to almost all phone conversations. We recently were able to overhear one such conversation, which evidently took place a month or so ago but which we’re just now overhearing. The conversation took place here in Oakland.

Here’s what we heard:

Kitty: Hey, Asher, this is Kitty.

Asher: Kitty! What’s up? What you doing today?

K: Not much. Hey, a few of us are going down to the Lake* to hang out. You want to join us?

A: I think I’ll pass. You know, I just don’t feel comfortable down there. I moved over here from SF to get away from the crowds and to get a cheaper rent. And the Lake is, or could be really nice, but… well… you know….

K: “I know” what?

A: Well, you know…. Ummmm, well, it’s just not comfortable down there. The vibe isn’t right. I don’t want to sound racist, but, well, you know….

K: Asher, you’re talking with me. You can say it.

A: Okay. Well…. You know, it’s too many like they say ‘people of color” around the lake. A few is okay. In fact, I would like that. But, like, when I walk around there now, well, I feel almost out of place, like this isn’t my city anymore.

K: Yeah. I know what you mean. I just moved here a few months ago, but you have been here a whole year now. You’re registered to vote here. You’re even on first name basis with your city council member. You live right across from the Lake. And these people are taking the Lake over. I bet most of them don’t live anywhere near the lake. Probably live a mile or more away! Why can’t they stick to their own neighborhood. We didn’t move here for nothing, did we?

A: That’s exactly my point. With the rent that I’m paying — that we’re all paying — how could those people afford to live near the Lake? But I’m not taking this lying down. You know, I got hooked up with Libby. (Note: this is clearly a reference to Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf.) She told me that my landlord has already talked with her, but she said what she needs is some citizens’ complaints about the noise. And now, since she’s got that from me, we’re going to get Parks and Rec to crack down. Hey, we’re not paying $3,000 a month for nothing, right?

K: Asher, you’re so right. You know, I believe in being civically active.

A: Okay. Catch you later. I’m just going to hang out with Buddy today.

K: Ohmigawd! how is that cute little bulldog doing?

A: Doing fine. Speaking of ‘doing fine’, I got to brag: My trust fund is breaking records, thanks to that suggestion you made. 

K: Really? I’m so glad. Maybe I should go into financial advising!

A: (laughs) Yeah, but that’s a lot of work. 

K: True. We wouldn’t want work to get in the way… Hey, my buds are here. Let’s meet up one of these days.

A: Bye.

Oaklandsocialist has been unable to find out for sure what happened next as far as any meetings of Asher and city officials. What we do know is this:

Recently, following a dispute over drumming in the park, the city Parks and Recreation department posted new signs with what is allowed and prohibited around Lake Merritt.

Signs recently posted around Lake Merritt. Note the claimed prohibition of playing a musical instrument without a permit.

Signs recently posted around Lake Merritt. Note the claimed prohibition of playing a musical instrument without a permit.

As you can see from photo, the signs claim that playing musical instruments requires a permit. However, according to the municipal code cited, this is only true if sound amplification is used. These signs posted by the City are telling an outright lie.

We should be under no illusions about our city officials. If you want to know who they represent, as they say, “follow the money”. Take our illustrious myor, who Asher knows as “Libby”. Look at her major donors – those who contributed at or near the maximum allowed to her mayoral race. They include:

  • Sustainable Buildings Systems, Cedar properties, R.E. Steele Properties, Mason McDuffie.

Schaaf is also well connected with major corporate law firms. She received donations from:

  • CMS Law Firm, Donahue Fitzgerald

Schaaf is also connected with the high tech industry, having received donations from

Recent Lake Merritt renovation project. Oakland residents spent about $200 million for this project - to the benefit of the real estate speculators.

Recent Lake Merritt renovation project. Oakland residents spent about $200 million for this project – to the benefit of the real estate speculators.

executives associated with:

  • Google, Xantrion

Other donations of interest include major donations from the CEO of Ballena Technologies. Ballena describes itself as “the market leader in sports and entertainment venue visualization”and they are involved in technology for sports arenas (Oakland Coliseum, anybody?). Schaaf has also received major donations from various companies in the health care industry such as NVIGANT and Dignity Health. Another interesting donation is from EJP corporation. From their web site, it appears they would be involved in privatizing the water industry.

Some of those involved in fighting the “gentrification” and “whiteification” of Oakland are trying to work with the Mayor and other officials. That will work no better than it did for those who tried to preserve the beautiful Knowland park (See this video for an explanation.)

Clearly, as the phone conversation we “overheard” shows, the campaign to stop the racist crack-down around Lake Merritt is directly linked with the yuppification and “whiteification” of Oakland, and that, in turn is linked with

Press conference of tenants last year held to protest raising of rent of their apartments on Lakeshore. Rents went up from $1080/month to $3,870/month!

Press conference of tenants last year held to protest raising of rent of their apartments on Lakeshore. Rents went up from $1080/month to $3,870/month!

the issue of affordable housing and decent jobs. It also can’t be seperated from the privatization of public spaces and of public services (such as education). To fight these issues, we have to start a working class people’s movement. An important part of that will be running our own, working class people’s candidates for public office, outside of and opposed to the Libby Schaaf’s and the Republicrat paradigm.

*For those outside this area, Lake Merritt – which was the US’s first ever bird sanctuary – is a beautiful inland lagoon of brackish water and is the center piece of the park around it. The entire area around the park has become very expensive as the yuppies from San Francisco and elsewhere are settling the city. Recently one landlord raised the rents on his tenants on Lakeshore Avenue (facing the lake) from an average of $1080 per month to $3,870. 

Much of the ability to jack up the rents so high has been due to the $200 million renovation project of the City of Oakland. Paid for by the Oakland taxpayers, they now are paying twice as the real estate speculators and landlords are using this to jack up rents enormously. That, of course, was the entire purpose of this project – and to attract the yuppies from San Francisco and elsewhere who could afford to pay such sky-high rents.

Posted in Oakland, racism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Report from Refugee Camp in Germany

Karen R. volunteers teaching Asian and African refugees German at a refugee camp in Dresden, Germany. She recounts her experiences there.

Refugee camp in Dresden, Germany

Refugee camp in Dresden, Germany

Sept. 12, 2015

Yesterday I went by to visit Ceebla again. My work colleague (J) had gotten together and organized a baby bed and they showed up there too to deliver it.

We knocked on the door and a young woman with a little baby (4 mos.?) answered. We explained as best we could and were greeted with smiles and welcomes. Jasmine’s little room immediately filled up with a whole bunch of Somalis. Quickly we greeted and introduced each other. It felt a bit like a college dorm. Newspapers were spread out on the floor, a single big plate of spaghetti with potatoes and meat was put in the middle and a tub with forks and spoons set down next to it. Ceeblal’s family and I sat down on the floor and we ate. We started talking about Somali vs. German food and the conversation took off from there. Two of the people spoke some English too, but conversations were careful because of language difficulties.

Then Kinsi (my friend who provided me with the introduction) came in with another woman and they joined the party. One of the Somali women, Sagal, was 7 mos. pregnant and speaks decent German. Kinsi told us she is one of the most ambitious of them all and wants to accomplish something here – I definitely got that feeling too. Anyway, it was a loud laughing party feeling with young positive engaged energy. The two pregnant women are both carrying girls and they said how good it is to be in Germany where they can be happy even though it’s not a boy. The men nodded in agreement.

Anyway, we organized meeting together at a street fair next week, made an appointment to look at the birthing room where Jasmine will deliver and did a German lesson. Overall a very very positive feeling. I wish such a contact opportunity on everyone who is worried about what will happen next with these refugees.

I always say, yes, rest assured, some crazy Islamic lunatics have snuck in (this is a prevalent fear here), and yes, we can rest assured that a bomb will go off in a train station sometime set by one of these people, but that’s how it is. These people are not going to do that, and they are the majority. Germany has been complaining for decades about their demographic problem: not enough young people to take care of the old people. Problem solved, I say!

Anyway, just my notes for now.

Sept. 15, 2015

I went to the birthing room today with Ceebla. You have to visit the rooms about two weeks before the due date for a check up and an introduction to the doctor and midwives, etc. Seemed very pleasant. Anyway, as we sat there, we started talking a little about our lives. I told her about my brothers and sister and niece, etc and she told me about her family. Her mother lives in Somalia with her daughter. (There’s one of those pregnancies

What they went through fleeing Somalia

What they went through fleeing Somalia

answered for; the other one really didn’t result in a live birth, whatever the reason. Her father and her husband (father of that child) were both killed in the war there. She showed me a picture of three young men in soccer uniforms. Those were her brothers and a cousin, I think. The cousin is dead. Then she told me she had walked from Somalia, through Ethiopia, Sudan and into Libya. In Libya, she crossed over to Italy in a boat. Eight people drowned on that trip, four children, two men and two women. Lots of shooting in Somalia and Libya. From Italy to Germany, and Germany is good. She came alone and met and married her new husband here in Germany. Pretty incredible.
482152760
When she was asked to sign a paper, a look of panic crossed her eyes. The doctor saw that and said I could sign for her and it needn’t be, but I don’t think Jasmine understood. She got out her ID and looked to see how to spell her name. She managed to chicken scratch out her first name. No last name. It didn’t matter to anyone though, and everyone was happy that the baby seems healthy and all could go well. I may very well be there for the delivery. I offered to come if she wanted me. I would feel quite honored.

 

22.09.2015

Today was my first day in the refugee camp (or more precisely, next to it in the offices where the classes will take place) to volunteer as a German language teacher. Unfortunately, my voice is now officially shot and I cannot speak for longer than 5 minutes before it starts to weaken. I had already decided therefore that I would spend more time helping the teachers, develop curricula and provide teaching materials. I suspected that I was one of the better skilled ones in this department. Within 5 minutes of meeting the people, my suspicions were confirmed. The other teachers-to-be were nice, but shy and unsure.

I went to all the potential teachers and explained my idea. My plan, since I can’t speak anymore, at least enough to teach a full class, is to provide support and teaching materials. I certainly have the experience and now that I quit all my teaching jobs, I have the time. They were thoroughly delighted to hear that they might have support in this department. They had really no idea how this was going to work. No one did, to be honest. Anyway, I quickly established myself there and we waited.

Shaking Hands
We were told 40 people were coming. Instead, about 60 people came, one single woman in the whole lot. They came in and the first few greeted us with handshaking (SOOO important here in Germany – a constant stumbling block of politeness even for Americans) and then after the 10th person, it faded off. I immediately jumped in and insisted that they all come and shake hands and say “Guten Tag” and encouraged everyone to join in. It was a good start and the mood was positive. It was a bit like at a wedding.

 

Order out of chaos

Anyway, a whole lot of chaos broke out as we had many more than planned, several languages in the room, and no idea what to do next. The first thing that was done was introductions of the teachers and welcoming for the participants. I spoke slowly and clearly, simply and in English and thanked them for coming. The other teachers were shy, some mumbled and none of them spoke simply. Room for improvement there. They all, however, expressed heartfelt excitement for starting the lessons. One Syrian who spoke good English translated. At the end, there was some muttering and he said that he now wanted to translate what the course participants had just said and thank us for our efforts. Very kind.

After a bit of standing around muttering, we finally decided we needed a list of names of the people and maybe their nationalities. A list was made and passed around. Not very useful because there were just too many and most of the entries were in Arabic. One woman who was sort of organizing the thing started a lesson based on a not totally suitable lesson plan that had been handed out. Still, better than nothing and off we went. She tried to teach them Hello, my name is… What is your name… I come from… Okay, not a bad start, but she kept mixing in English thinking it would help them and that only confused them. Nobody really understood but some order was coming into the mayhem because everyone was paying attention.

Finally a man who has lived in Germany for decades but is from the Arabic-speaking world, came in, talked to them, helped them understand the exercise and off we went. Then even more people came and this time a bunch of women and gaggles of small children. Each person had to stand up and say something. Off we went. At that point I jumped in fully and went to the back of the class where people weren’t getting it anyway. (I had been mingling the whole time before and talking and practising but not with full force.) When one boy got up and said the sentences loud and clear he got a round of applause. There was a boy with Downs Syndrome too.

I met a family with 4 children. The father immediately gave me to understand that his one boy, Achmed, is very little for his age (he was) but that he was 10 and needed to go to school. Yes, I said, I would mention that to the others. Another man told me he needed to take the ilts test right away. After a few minutes I understood. He meant the ILTS test, a test in English language proficiency. And learn German grammar, etc. immediately. He had interrupted his studies in Computer Science in Syria and wanted to continue as soon as possible. I could only take note of the situation.

Children Jumping with Excitement
I tried to sit and talk especially with the women. They were all eager and some were shy, but outnumbered and most of them busy with small children. One very young mother who looked more Central Asian than Arabic was quite forceful and outspoken. The small children were adorable. To them it seemed like this whole refugee thing was a big adventure – sleeping in tents with lots of people, eating in a cafeteria, sleeping on army cots, new languages – all very exciting. I had been going around shaking hands with everyone and practicing my name and country and they were jumping with excitement, sticking their hands out, smiling big smiles, just plain delighted with the whole thing.

Anyway, that’s how it continued for a while and suddenly, the time was way over and everyone went out. The first list signing was a failure because no one knew who had signed and who hadn’t so another list was made and they signed on the way out. Turns out at least 100 people, excluding the children had turned up.

At this point, I decided to turn my attention to three African looking men. They were looking sort of forlorn and when I approached them, my suspicions turned out to be right. They were really the only ones in that room who do not speak Arabic. I had read somewhere that within the refugee camps, the Africans (excluding North Africans) are the very bottom of the pecking order. They had not understood a thing and have probably have been feeling sort of left out since this whole crisis started. One of them spoke good English, the other two Eritrean only (my knowledge of languages that exist outside of Europe has been growing!) I spoke with the English speaker a bit and found out that Eritrean also has its own alphabet so they have a hard road ahead of them. He told me he had been an English and a history teacher in Eritrea. Anyway, I hinted that I would keep an eye on them and try to help them from getting lost in the mayhem.

I left needless to say on a high.

Still, there are two hundred people living in this camp alone. They are busy building more tents because next week 400 more people are coming to this camp. Dresden alone has several and this one is not the biggest. The people have been here for about 3 weeks and have not even been properly registered yet. That means three weeks ago they were sitting in boats crossing over to Greece and walking through all of eastern Europe.  The people here who are helping them, every last one of them, is overwhelmed and the flood has not stopped.

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Debate on Bernie Sanders

A debate on Bernie Sanders was organized by the Peace and Freedom Party in Oakland yesterday ((Oct. 3).  The debate gave an insight into the justifications for those who support Sanders. Some of them were the most banal. for example, the representative of the Tri-Valley Democratic Party Club (which has endorsed Sanders) said that in part they support him because, “Bernie has reached across the aisle (to the Republicans)… to get things done.”

Steve Early, a long-time union activist and supporter of the “progressive” wing of the union establishment, claimed that Sanders will “create opportunities” and will “strengthen the left.” But he gave his game away when he said that it’s an open question for him whether to stay in the Democrats or build a third party. In other words, the Sanders campaign is a conduit for a layer of “the left” to get engrossed in Democratic Party politics.

The corollary to this is the strategy of reforming the Democrats, and several other speakers in effect betrayed this as their goal. One Sanders supporter, for example, called for “build(ing) a movement to push Bernie to the left.” But “Bernie” doesn’t exist in a vacuum; he’s part and parcel of the Democratic Party, so pushing him “to the left” really means pushing the Democrats in that direction.

Another Sanders supporter showed the same strategy when he pointed to the example of the effect of the Tea Party on the Republican Party. His view was that Sanders could have a similar role in the Democrats. (This is a fairly common view, but it forgets that the Tea Party has major capitalist backers, such as the Koch brothers.)

Then there was the lesser evil line. This writer spoke with one Peace and Freedom Party member who is supporting Sanders. When Sanders’ foreign policy was pointed out, all she could say is that he’s the best of the lot. The Democratic Party representative was similarly clear. “You could be (politically correct) and end up with Donald Trump,” he warned. This, of course, will be similar to the line he and the Democrats will use in the general election, no matter who wins the nomination of either the Republicans or the Democrats.

Then there were the usual attacks for alleged ultra-leftism. Steve Early rode that hobby horse into the ground, attacking those for whom a candidacy of “Chris Hedges or Leon Trotsky” wouldn’t be enough. “Some people really need to loosen up a bit,” he said, as he denounced the “sectarian tendency” that leads some to not support Sanders.

But just saying something doesn’t make it true. All the Sanders supporters completely refused to respond to the criticisms – the practical experience that some cited in showing how working inside the Democratic Party is a complete dead-end, for example. Others pointed to the example of the Jesse Jackson campaigns of the 1980s – campaigns that led nowhere but to right back into the Democrats. The example of the campaign for governor of California of Upton Sinclair in 1934 was raised. Despite the fact that he campaigned as a Democrat, he was far enough to the left that the entire Democratic Party (the party of FDR) refused to support him.

And then there is Bernie’s foreign policy, including his support for the racist, expansionist State of Israel and his support for state terrorism through drone warfare. Especially in the era of global capitalism, it is impossible to build real workers’ solidarity as long as you support a candidate who supports these policies. The same domestically, where Sanders has closed his eyes to racism and police terrorism as much as he can get away with.

There is no escaping the fact that Sanders supporters are basically saying that the workers’ movement and the interests of Corporate America are compatible, that the workers should lie down with the capitalists. As one of the speakers, Gerald Sanders, explained, this is really what Jesse Jackson called for when he talked about the lion lying down with the lamb. “There’s only one time that the lion will lie down with the lamb,” he explained. “Dinner time.”

Posted in Uncategorized, United States | Leave a comment

Campaigning for 15 Now Tacoma

15 Now Tacoma activists. They come from all walks of life, but all are from a working class background.

15 Now Tacoma activists. They come from all walks of life, but all are from a working class background.

Over this last weekend, I was up in Tacoma helping 15 Now Tacoma campaign for their initiative. Among other things, Initiative One not only really calls for an immediate $15/hour minimum wage (as opposed to in two to seven years from now), it criminalizes wage theft. That’s huge. After all, if a worker steals from the boss, that’s a felony, but if the boss steals from the worker (by not paying him or her the right amount), that’s not even a misdemeanor.

On my first full day there, we went to a blood donation center. That’s where the capitalists literally get their pint of blood — workers who are so broke that they have no other means of eating but to sell their blood.  Within a few minutes, the manager of the blood center was out harassing us and telling us we couldn’t distribute our literature there. Shows how much the capitalists believe in freedom of speech!

We went a few feet away, where we were able to talk with the donors anyway. A common theme that people raised was “how about those who don’t even have a job of any sort?” That’s a valid question, and we’ll have to address it. But quite a few people did support the initiative. One young guy expressed real appreciation for what we were doing. “God bless you,” he said. That was one of the very few times I’ve been told that that I didn’t mind it!

The next day I went with another 15 Now activist and did doorbell ringing. We had a list of voters and their addresses. The first two doors we knocked at were strong supporters who both said they’d like to have a yard sign when these get printed up. I would guess that 50-60% of the people we talked with were supporters. One guy, though, was quite hostile, said he was not in support of any raise in the minimum wage and nearly slammed the door in our faces. When I turned around, I saw his truck parked in front of his house — he was a building contractor! No wonder!

Several union locals have endorsed 15 Now, and even a layer of the union leadership is swinging around into support. I think the reason is that they figure that most voters that come out to support this initiative will also support “their” candidates for office. The 15 Now activists I met were inspirational. They included a low wage single mother, an unemployed guy, and some slightly older people (like myself). We also have had supporters coming down from Seattle, and they are a great help.

I think there’s no doubt that if the union leadership would even half mobilize their membership that Initiative One would sweep to victory. That is despite the fact that the Democrats in Tacoma have pulled the trick of putting Initiative One B on the ballot. This raises the minimum wage to $12 in two years from now, and if it gets more votes than Initiative One, it will override it. It’s no secret that 15 Now Tacoma is a small force without a great deal of resources, but their efforts have already wrung this concession from the Democrats and their big business backers. I would urge anybody who lives near Tacoma to get involved in this campaign, which is truly a grassroots campaign. And whether you live near there or not, your donations are a great help. You can donate online here.

Posted in Minimum wage campaign | Leave a comment

A Bitter Pill to Swallow…

Somebody posted a rant that ends up supporting Bernie Sanders. It starts by talking about sweating for a living and barely being able to pay the bills. It ends:

When Bernie Sanders talks about income equality, I listen. But that’s different. Bernie Sanders is different. He walks to work. He flies coach. His largest campaign contributors are labor unions (not banks and corporations). He doesn’t run negative campaigns. He agrees with scientific consensus; doctors, nurses, climatologists, and Neil deGrasse Tyson (♡). He doesn’t take corporate contributions.

That’s a big one. He’s funded by small donations from regular people like us, $2 or $3 at a time. We can’t afford more, and he knows it. And he wants to help.

Just read about him. Watch a speech from him. Like him on Facebook and scroll through his posts. I don’t have to convince you. He will.

He’s the one we’ve been waiting for.

Unless you’re happy with the daily struggle and pleased with the government’s way of doing business, JOIN THE REVOLUTION.

Vote for Bernie in the primary election! Let’s get him the Democratic nomination!

Here’s what I’d say to that guy:

Your views are completely understandable. It was the same when Jesse Jackson ran for the Democratic nomination, I think it was in 1983-4. He attracted a lot of working class support, and look how that ended up — nowhere. Sanders might say things that you want to hear, but that’s been so for the liberal wing of the Democrats for years and years. But what can he produce? Anything he tries to do, he’ll be completely stymied by his own party – the Democrats – and he knows that. So what does that mean? It means he’s leading you down a blind alley. 

And another thing: Workers in this country will not advance their own interests in isolation from the interests of workers all around the world. For starters, Bernie has zero

Bernie supported the legislation that helped set in motion the mass incarceration of black people in the US. Solidarity means solidarity with all workers!

Bernie supported the legislation that helped set in motion the mass incarceration of black people in the US. Solidarity means solidarity with all workers!

problems with the absolutely bloated military budget, so where will the money come from for the social programs that he’s advocating, such as free college education? But more than that, we have to think about workers other than ourselves — meaning white workers, who are about the only ones supporting Bernie, and for a reason. How about all the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of black people that are being killed annually by the police? Bernie has no real problem with that. And the mass incarceration of black people in this country? Bernie has helped pave the way for that. But just as important: Workers are workers no matter where they live, whether it be in Omaha, Nebraska, the ghettoes of any US city, or Yemen or Gaza. But Bernie supports the mass terrorism against those people in Gaza and Yemen. How can we support that while railing against our own oppression here at home?

Results of a drone bombing. A common tactic is the "double tap" where a second rocket is sent a minute after the first in order to kill anybody who tries to rescue those trapped in the rubble. Bernie supports this.

Results of a drone bombing. A common tactic is the “double tap” where a second rocket is sent a minute after the first in order to kill anybody who tries to rescue those trapped in the rubble. Bernie supports this.

Sanders supported Israel's "right to defend itself" against Gaza. Where is the Palestinian's right to defend themselves?

Sanders supported Israel’s “right to defend itself” against Gaza. Where is the Palestinian’s right to defend themselves?

It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but you have no choice but to participate in organizing among your co-workers and their friends and families to build a movement of, by and for working class people here. But you cannot do that while ignoring (at best) or participating in (in reality) the brutal suppression of workers elsewhere in the world. I say “in reality” because that is exactly what Bernie and his party supports. Bernie will not save you; he will not help you and us in building our own movement. Just the opposite, he is an obstacle to it. That is the entire purpose of the liberal wing of the Democrats.

For more on the real Bernie Sanders, see: http://oaklandsocialist.com/…/who-is-the-real-bernie…/

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Sawant and Hedges Speak in Oakland

Oakland forum. From left to right: Erin Brightwell, chair, Kshama Sawant, Chris Hedges, Gail McGloughlin

Oakland forum. From left to right: Erin Brightwell, chair, Kshama Sawant, Chris Hedges, Gail McGloughlin

Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant, the most prominent socialist in America, spoke in Oakland last night. She spoke along with the noted left journalist Chris Hedges. Also speaking was former left mayor of the city of Richmond CA, Gail McGloughlin.

Hedges

Hedges really gave the best speech of the evening. He opened by posing the age-old alternative that we see more clearly every year: “Socialism or barbarism.” Deeply felt, he ripped the “war machine” as he called it – the military industrial complex, and nearly his entire speech was devoted to this theme. Although he did not offer much that was new, he did make some important points, including that there will be no “progress” as long as the domination of the “war machine” is unbroken. He attacked “a bankrupt liberal class”, and named Hillary Clinton and Obama among them. When this writer shouted out “Sanders”, Hedges agreed. “Yeah, I don’t support Sanders either,” he said. (And why should he? Sanders never mentions the military budget and on almost every important foreign policy question he is in lock step with Obama & co.)

Kshama Sawant

Sawant spoke about the rising mood to fight back, from the Arab Spring to the struggles in the US (Wisconsin, Occupy, etc.). She said that what was really lacking in the US – the reason for the low mood – was that the victories have been few and far between in recent years. In this regard, she pictured both her election of two years ago as well as the ‘victory” of a $15/hour minimum in both Seattle and at Seatac as being such victories. In this light she went on to talk about her present election campaign and the importance of her winning the upcoming election.

“Question and Answer” Period

Following the speeches there was a “question and answer” period. In the old days of Labor Militant – Socialist Alternative’s predecessor – we used to pitch this as a discussion period to make sure that people felt free to not only ask questions but make comments. In an indication that Socialist Alternative knows it’s on shaky political ground, in this case, the chair did her level best to not to call on anybody she thought was going to raise anything controversial. To no avail, though. After she announced the end of the “question” period, somebody from the Spartacist League stood up and objected to what he correctly called the “political censorship” and insisted on having a comrade of his speak. After some resistance from the chair, the Spartacist did get to speak. He commented on Sawant’s having “supported” the newly appointed chief of police in Seattle. (As is typical of the Spartacists, they either didn’t know the full facts or are incapable of seeing the subtleties, or both, as we will see in the reply.)

After he finished, this writer also stood up and said he wanted to speak and the chair felt unable to refuse me. I explained how I had donated to her first campaign and had been very enthusiastic about it. I referred to her having commented on being “bold and defying the pundits” in Seattle and said that that was what 15 Now Tacoma was doing – that they were the only ones who were fighting for a $15/hour minimum wage now, not in 5 or 7 years from now. You have corporatized union leaders like Adam Glickman who are refusing to support the initiative there because, as he said, he “prefers to work with the business community.” Isn’t it time to break with these corporate union leaders and support 15 Now Tacoma? was the question. Then, on the national level, the reference was made to Hedges’ very moving attack on the “war machine”. Given that Sanders supports Israel, supports drone warfare, and has never attacked the military budget, shouldn’t she be attacking Sanders as one of the representatives of that war machine?

These remarks got scattered applause throughout the audience.

Final Remarks

The final remarks was where it really got interesting.

Hedges went first. He started by apologizing for Sawant. She “is in a delicate situation because she’s running for office, but I’m not running for office,” he said. In other words, he was admitting that Sawant was making political compromises because she’s trying to get votes. He then continued to once again attack the “war machine”. “We can talk about income inequality all we want,” he said. None of the reforms on these issues will happen “until we break the back of the war machine… Sanders doesn’t confront the war machine….”

Funneling Into the Democratic Party

One comment, among others really stood out and all supporters of Sanders, especially those who claim to stand for the need for a real alternative to the Democrats, should bear it in mind: “Bernie will go out and funnel all that energy and passion back into a dead political system, not attacking the Democratic Party.” That is exactly the point, and all the calls in the world on him to break with the Democrats are like calls for god to come down from heaven and rescue us. It will not happen because it cannot happen; Sanders cannot lead a break from the Democrats. Period.

Disingenuous

Sawant spoke last and to call much of what she said disingenuous is being charitable.

She denied having supported the new police chief, which is technically correct since she voted against her, but at the same time she was very friendly towards her in her speech. Sawant pointed out that she’d voted against the new youth jail in Seattle, but she forgot to mention the support she gave to the liberal Democrat Larry Gossett, who supported that jail. Other comments on the police were quite incredible, coming from a socialist: Instead of attacking the racism and brutality of the police in no uncertain terms, she went on to talk about crime in the black community. Her comments were almost close to those right wingers who excuse the police by talking about “black-on-black crime.” She claimed she and Socialist Alternative had supported Black Lives Matter (BLM) in Seattle. This is flat-out untrue. The local equivalent to BLM was a group called Outside Agitators. In one instance, Socialist Alternative all but prohibited their members from participating in an Outside Agitators march, and they preferred to work with the more conservative elements like the NAACP.

15 Now Tacoma

Sawant completely ignored the question of supporting 15 Now Tacoma and a real battle for 15 Now. (See leaflet below.) In so doing, she in effect admitted that she’s going to continue to align herself with the corporateized union leadership.

Bernie Sanders

Her defense of her and SA’s position on Bernie Sanders was most interesting. She defended herself by pointing out that she’d urged Sanders to run as an independent some months ago in New York. But she ignored the view that he cannot run as an independent, because he’s part and parcel of the Democratic Party. She didn’t deny that; she just didn’t comment on it.

She referred to his being a representative of the “war machine” as well as his having supported measures that helped lead to the mass incarceration of black people as his “deficiencies”. No, they are not “deficiencies”, they are simply proof of what he really is – a 21st century equivalent of the old “Cold War liberals”.

She also showed complete confusion – at best – about the role of such liberals. “His message… is not a message that empowers Wall St.,” she claimed. “His message is a message that empowers the working class, and Wall St. does not need Bernie Sanders; Wall St. needs Hillary Clinton… (or) Obama.”

Sawant and Socialist Alternative would do well to study the 1983-84 campaign of Jesse Jackson, which was very similar. When it was all over but the shouting, Jackson made the comment at the Democratic convention that his party, the Democratic Party, “needs the left wing and the right wing to fly.” He was absolutely right. The Democrats and the forces that control them – Wall St., the military/industrial complex, the prison/industrial complex, etc. – absolutely need the liberal wing to survive. Without that wing, the movement for political independence would be light years ahead. Even Chris Hedges showed that he understands this when he explained how Sanders was going to funnel his supporters into the Democratic Party.

Sensing the Weakness

As if sensing the weakness of this argument, Sawant then went on to talk about the “millions” who are flocking to Sanders banner. “We cannot ignore what is happening among the millions” of Sanders supporters, she said. But that was never in question. What is in question is how to try to intersect with those supporters (who don’t seem to be millions as far as activity). Do we intersect with them by largely ignoring in all but the fine print that nobody reads what Sawant calls Sanders’ “deficiencies” — meaning the fact that he represents the military industrial and prison industrial complexes? (If Sawant wants to relegate this to being merely a “deficiency”… well, what more can be said?) Do we intersect with these alleged millions by pretending that there is the slightest chance that Sanders can or will lead a break from the corporate-controlled Democratic Party? Do we intersect with them by ignoring the fact that Sanders never mentions the bloated military budget?

And how can any socialist simply allow Sanders’ supporters to ignore Sanders’ support for that brutal, criminal, racist regime in Israel? Is that socialist politics? Is that even working class politics?

Sure, it’s right to support the enthusiasm for a “political revolution” and to attack Corporate America for the inequality, etc. that it has produced. But socialists have to go beyond that. They have to clearly and openly explain that Sanders cannot produce what he claims he can. We have to explain the connection between his links to the prison and military industrial complexes, his failure to really openly speak up against racism and police brutality, his support for the racist state of Israel, and his being tied hand and glove to the Democratic Party. It is a serious mistake to pretend that Sanders can lead a movement for a new, mass workers party. All this can be done with sympathy to those who support Sanders – or at least many of them – but it has to be done openly, not buried away in the back of some article like the escape clause written in eight point type in a five page insurance contract.

“A message that empowers the working class”???

“Millions are being electrified around his message, because his message is a message that empowers the working class,” Sawant claimed. In effect, Sawant is claiming that this liberal capitalist politician is leading the working class forward. There is a technical name for this sort of approach. It’s not a name that we use lightly, nor as a swear word. But when socialists try to attach themselves to a liberal capitalist politician and his or her supporters without making the class lines clear, the correct, the scientific name for that is opportunism.

In the end, those who support Sanders – either by directly endorsing him or by simply claiming that he’s “empowering the working class” while at the same time ignoring the fact that he’s supporting racism at home and abroad – should bear in mind the memorable words of Chris Hedges last night when he said that we cannot just ignore Sanders’ support for Israel: “You either stand with all of the oppressed or you stand with none of the oppressed.

By that measuring stick, Sanders stands with none of them and any genuine socialist, in fact any fighter for the working class, is obligated to point that out.

Oaklandsocialist distributed this leaflet at the event last night.

Oaklandsocialist distributed this leaflet at the event last night.

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Corporate America Takes Fright

WSJ

Trust the good old Wall St. Journal to make matters clear. They are truly concerned about the smashing victory of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party. In today’s editorial, they remark on Corbyn’s “socialism and anti-Americanism,” and comment (correctly) that “Mr. Corbyn makes Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders look moderate in comparison.”

They recognize the longer term threat:

“Mediocre economic growth brought about by bad economic ideas has a way of making bad ideas more popular, not less. This is the lesson of 20th-century Argentina and 21st-century Greece. 

“That means that even if Mr. Corbyn never takes power, Corbynism could become the dominant ideology of a party that someday will. An unopposed Conservative Party could become prone to infighting and scandal. Mr. Corbyn could also bring back into the fold left-wing Scottish voters who abandoned Labour for the Scottish National Party in the last election. Throw in an ill-timed recession, and a Labour comeback is far from impossible.”

They conclude by calling on the Tories – and their counterparts on this side of the Atlantic – to step up the propaganda for “a smaller state and greater individual opportunity.” They conclude: “If free-market ideas are to be durable, those ideas have to be tested and taught.”

The problem is that after all these years of these “free market ideas” being “taught” – that is, after all the years of “free” market propaganda – these ideas have also been tested. They have proven to be a disaster for the overwhelming majority. That’s why Syriza won the election in Greece and Corbyn did in Britain. That’s also why workers in the US need their own political party as a first step in combating this “free” market shipwreck.

The one percent. The "free" market has worked great for them.

The one percent. The “free” market has worked great for them.

 

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Jeremy Corbyn and the rising tide against Corporate World

I listened to the victory speech of Jeremy Corbyn this morning.

Corbyn is, of course, the left wing candidate that came out of nowhere to win the leadership of the British Labour Party – one of the two main parties in that country. The Labour Party is unlike in the US, where the structures of the two main parties are so obscure that it is much easier for shadowy, “influential” figures to really control things from behind the curtain. Also, the unions are organically linked to Labour in a way that they are not to the Democrats. All this means that Labour and the Democrats are fundamentally different, and winning the official leadership position of Labour really means something. In fact, there was a national campaign all around the country, with registered party members casting their votes for the official leader. The only thing that is remotely similar is the US presidential primary campaign, and even that has huge differences.

So Corbyn came out of “nowhere” to stun the party officialdom and massively win the leadership position. His campaign was based on opposition to inequality, homelessness, and poverty. He opposes the “austerity” that has been such a disaster for so many millions. But this appeal directly conflicts with the policies of Labour for decades. Just like the Social Democratic parties of Europe, they have joined in helping keep “their” capitalists afloat by attacking the social services and wages of workers in Britain. They have become so unpopular that they have totally lost support in Scotland, their traditional stronghold.

As the Financial Times wrote, “The images flashed around the world, an inspiration for

Bernie Sanders has been compared to Corbyn, but unlike Corbyn, Sanders does not participate in protests in the street. Unlike Corbyn, Sanders supports US imperialism. Most important of all, unlike Corbyn, Sanders is part of a party this is and will remain a party of the capitalists. Bernie Sanders is no Jeremy Corbyn.

Bernie Sanders has been compared to Corbyn, but unlike Corbyn, Sanders does not participate in protests in the street. Unlike Corbyn, Sanders supports US imperialism. Most important of all, unlike Corbyn, Sanders is part of a party this is and will remain a party of the capitalists. Bernie Sanders is no Jeremy Corbyn.

those who see Mr Corbyn as the embodiment of a socialist revival, a two-fingered salute (the same as the “one fingered” salute in the US) to the old order with its embrace of austerity and complicity with big finance.” Corbyn’s campaign has been likened to the campaign of Syriza in Greece, and with good reason.

And most certainly, whether it be the one or the two fingered salute to Corporate World, that salute is welcome, not only as an act of defiance, but more important because it shows that workers and young people are starting to move into action. But as this happens, the pitfalls that might lie ahead have to be recognized.

Jeremy Corbyn: His program included calling for a public bank to finance development of infrastructure. However, such a bank would have to operate within the economic laws of the "free" market. From all reports, he has backed off from this call.

Jeremy Corbyn: His program included calling for a public bank to finance development of infrastructure. However, such a bank would have to operate within the economic laws of the “free” market. From all reports, he has backed off from this call.

 

 

Will Corbyn be able to produce? 

That’s the question of the hour, and that’s where his victory speech comes in.

He spent the first half of that victory speech thanking all the Labour Party bigwigs as well as the party staff – the party bureaucracy. These were the same elements that pulled all sorts of dirty tricks against his campaign, including sending thousands of party members off the books in an effort to eliminate his internal support. The same ones who have been capitulating to austerity for so many years. So why did he thank them?

When out of power, one of the main roles of the Labour Party leader is to select a “shadow cabinet” if Labour is out of power. This is the group that takes up the policies of the in-power party. He, Corbyn, cannot function without them. This is just the most glaring example of the fact that he can only work within and through his party. (The same as in the US, by the way.)

So Corbyn has a choice: Either he can really organize and spark a revolt from within the

Ed Miliband, Labour's main environmental representative. Corbyn thanked him for his "passionate defense of the world's environment." Under Miliband, Labour supports fracking, the single greatest danger to the world's environment today.

Ed Miliband, Labour’s main environmental representative. Corbyn thanked him for his “passionate defense of the world’s environment.” Under Miliband, Labour supports fracking, the single greatest danger to the world’s environment today.

ranks of the Labour Party, resting mainly on those who have newly joined it to vote for him, or he will have to compromise on all the most serious issues with the party establishment. His victory speech was the first warning sign of which direction he is liable to take.

In a previous article on this site, Roger Silverman predicted a split in the Labour Party whatever the outcome. “Two classes cannot occupy the same party,” he wrote. It may come to that, but if it does, it won’t without a vicious internal battle. That battle will actually be healthy. It will help define the issues and who stands where. Along with the activity on the streets and in the work places, it is a necessary and inevitable part of the process of the revival of the working class movement.

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“How Did Early Humans Organize?

Note: This is the second in a series on the history of human society written for children. It is inspired by my grand children. I would greatly appreciate it if anybody who reads it – and especially if they read it to a child – would give some feedback…. John Reimann

In “How Did We Become Humans?”, we explained how human beings evolved from earlier primates (ape-like animals). We explained that this happened through the process of “survival of the fittest”. This means that those animals that were most fit – most able to survive, maybe because they could run faster, or were stronger, or had a more usable hand – tended to live longer and, therefore, had more babies. Those babies tended to inherit this trait and passed it on. In the case of our ancestors, what came first was walking upright and the freeing up of the arms and hand, which led to tool making and… the larger brain (intelligence) to make greater use of these abilities.

But all of that is only the very, very beginning of the story.

All Animals Organize

All animals have ways of organizing, of working together. They organize to get food and to protect themselves. Many herbivores (animals that eat plants, including fruit, nuts, etc.) band together for protection. In a herd of antelope, for example, one of the herd may spot a predator – a lion, for example – before all the rest. That one goes on “alert”, all the rest notice almost instantly, and they prepare to flee. The lions on the other hand, hunt in a group (called a “pride” of lions); they work together to bring their prey down.

Mating Patterns

Different animals also have different mating patterns. Lions, for example, have one dominant male in their pride. He fathers all the offspring, and the less dominant males have to go off on their own. When that dominant male gets older, slower and weaker, then one of the younger ones fights him and if the younger one wins, he drives the older one off. (He will also kill the lion cubs from the previous male.)

Because even the earliest human beings had much more complex ways of making a living they also had much more complicated systems of communicating – language, in other words. And they also had more complicated ways of organizing in general, including mating patterns – producing offspring.

The early human beings were “hunter-gatherers” or “food gatherers” (as opposed to “food producers.”) In other words, they lived by hunting animals that were already out there and gathering plants and fruits, roots, nuts, berries that grew of their own. They mainly survived simply by taking what “nature” provided for them on its own. One thing that’s important to think about: Homo Sapiens (human beings) first walked the planet about 100,000 years ago. They evolved from other species that existed for over a million years earlier, and inherited a lot of those species’ qualities. For up until 10,000 years ago, human beings existed by hunting and gathering. How we were then, what we did, what we

The Neolithic Revolution in Egypt. People went from hunting and gathering their food to raising crops and animals. You see here a picture painted by early Egyptians of people tending their cattle, for example.

The Neolithic Revolution in Egypt. People went from hunting and gathering their food to raising crops and animals. You see here a picture painted by early Egyptians of people tending their cattle, for example.

ate, how we related to each other — it was all very different from today.

There’s an important lesson in that: Many people today say that our present behavior is “natural”, it’s what we’re born with. But the fact that behaviors were so very different for over 90% of the history of our species proves that that’s not true. As we read about human society’s development, it’s important to keep that in mind.

Read the entire piece…How Did Early People Organize?

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Report from Germany

Dan Armstrong reports on the general mood in Germany regarding the wave of refugees there:

Syrian refugees at a center in Germany.

Syrian refugees at a center in Germany.

The past two or three years have been dominated by reports of general hostility towards immigrants including physical attacks by ultranationalists egged on by a sympathetic crowd of locals. The regional support for the Pegida anti-islam arches in Dresden and elsewhere in the east gave the ugly impression that Germans opposed foreigners.
Simultaneously, opinion polls showed a completely different picture. In every poll, the majority view was that immigration was acceptable or to be welcomed, although concerns were expressed about the logistics of housing, financing and employing new arrivals. In the past year, there was a breathtaking increase in refugee influx and other immigration to 1.4 million. As has been widely reported, with the continuing horrors of city bombings mainly in Syria, the pressure to flee increased from a stream to a flood. Relentless reports of drownings, images of long trails of families walking hundreds of kilometres stirred the feelings of millions in Europe, arousing this time not hostility but sympathy and fellow-feeling.

As if tripping a switch, a simple statement by Merkel accepting in principle something approaching another million immigrants into Germany has totally changed the atmosphere. In addition, the SPD minister of employment is issuing carte-blanche work permits to another 20,000 young Syrians, irrespective of the qualifications. Large charity organisations mobilised thousands of volunteeers. When asked, an astonishing 90% of Germans said they had already donated or were intending to donate money or clothing to migrants. Merkel’s statement and countless media interviews of ordinary folk spoke of solidarity, Christian values, human decency and “paying back” what they had already themselves received, either as east Germans after reunification or those with longer memories remembering the Care packages and Marshall Aid post 1945.

These are the real, living views of the mass of German population, eclipsing the inhuman and vicious stunts of the handfuls of neo-nazis and their shamefaced hangers-on, burning down refugee asylum buildings as a prelude to burning to people.

The majority of Germans are welcoming those fleeing war and death.

The majority of Germans are welcoming those fleeing war and death.

Socialists will know why there was a Marshall Plan to redevelop West German capitalism as a bulwark against the USSR. And that the annexation of east Germany and the destruction of its planned economy opened fruitful fields for expansion by German capital. And also that Merkel was voicing the needs of the German economy in a country where population growth is stagnant and has been declining, where an influx of hundreds of thousands of young, mainly healthy, well-educated Syrians will do wonders for financing the pensions of the ageing population.

But for the moment, it is a pleasure to see and feel this complete change in public attitudes.

 

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Who is the Real Bernie Sanders?

Thousands of people – mainly young (and overwhelmingly white) have been enthusiastically turning out to hear Bernie Sanders speak forcefully on such things as income inequality, national health care insurance and free education. He also attacks the domination over politics by the “one percent”, the billionaires, as he calls them.

Those thousands who are turning out are looking for somebody who will resolve their personal crisis. It would make things a lot easier if Sanders can or will. But will he? In fact, can he?

Some who support Sanders think that what he’s doing is “opening up a political space” in which to discuss socialist ideas and build a movement for an alternative to the Democrats. How ironic that while this is their claim, they shrink from actually doing so! This is no accident, as what Sanders appeals to, what his entire campaign is based upon, is an appeal to let him – and presumably other Democrats – resolve people’s problems for them.

Contrary to what defenders of Sanders claim, we are not looking for a “perfect” candidate. But a good dose of reality never hurt, and we have to measure Sanders’ present rhetoric against his actual past.

"I’ve run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates... What we have seen is that while the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, we have seen a huge increase in income and wealth inequality, which is now reaching obscene levels. This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans. … You know, this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires.” Sanders talks the talk (sometimes) but does he walk the walk?

“I’ve run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates… What we have seen is that while the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, we have seen a huge increase in income and wealth inequality, which is now reaching obscene levels. This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans. … You know, this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires.”
Sanders talks the talk (sometimes) but does he walk the walk?

Foreign Policy

While many workers pay less attention to foreign policy, for Corporate America this is central. It determines how the US government will defend Corporate America’s interests abroad. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, a wing of the Democrats were known as “Cold War liberals.” They supported concessions to US workers at home while they determinedly pursued US corporate interests abroad. At the same time, they opposed and repressed anybody with any sort of socialist agenda at home or abroad. Hubert Humphrey was one of the foremost examples of these liberals. Today, the “War on Terror” has replaced the Cold War for Corporate America. Sanders has proven himself to Corporate America on this score:

  • In 1999, he supported then-President Clinton’s War in Kosovo. (He later had some protesters arrested who sat in in his office.)
  • He has always voted for war appropriations for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
  • In 2006, he voted for HR 921, which gave full support for Israel’s war against Lebanon and for HR 4681, which imposed sanctions on the Palestinian Authority as a result of the democratic election of Hamas in Gaza.
  • To this day, he supports drone warfare.

Israel

Support for Israel – one of the most racist and reactionary states in the world – is a litmus test for Corporate America. Sanders passes the test. He has visited Israel several times. There is no indication that he did so to support the Palestinian rights advocates there. He has made some mild criticisms of some of Israel’s more extreme actions (as has Obama), but when push came to shove, he defended Israel, as when he voted for Senate Resolution 498 in July of 2014. This was the resolution that supported Israel’s murderous war on Gaza on the basis of Israel’s

Sanders supported Israel's "right to defend itself" against Gaza. Where is the Palestinian's right to defend themselves?

Sanders supported Israel’s “right to defend itself” against Gaza. Where is the Palestinian’s right to defend themselves?

“right to defend itself.” (What never gets addressed is whether the Palestinians also have a right to defend themselves against land and water theft, racist attacks, etc.)

Repression at Home

  • In 1996, Sanders voted for Bill Clinton’s “Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.” This act laid the foundation for Bush’s “War on Terror” (murder abroad) as well as making it easier for the government to execute people here at home.

Ties to the Democrats

Sanders first ran for office in 1968 and was defeated. After that defeat, he attended Harvard’s Kennedy School. That, in itself, was the tipoff. The Kennedy School is run in order to help build and spread the influence of the liberal establishment. Sanders’ attendance there cannot be understood as anything but a conscious decision to join that establishment.

  • In 1981, Sanders won his first election as mayor of Burlington, VT. While in office, he teamed up with real estate, hotel and other business interests to support construction on the city’s waterfront and wetlands – a project that was opposed by environmentalists at that time.
  • In 1990, Sanders was elected to the US House of Representatives and to the US Senate in 2006 (and reelected in 2012). As if in anticipation of the present disgust with both parties, Sanders has remained officially an “independent”. This fits with the current mood, in which 39% of voters aren’t aligned with either of the two main parties (vs. 32% Democrats and 23% Republicans). The reality is that ever since the days that he attended the Kennedy School, Sanders has tied himself with a thousand threads to the Democratic Party.
  • In 2006, when he first ran for the Senate, he cut a deal with the Democratic tops that they wouldn’t help finance any Democratic opponent in exchange for his supporting Democrats in other races. Having supported Bill Clinton in the ‘90s and John Kerry in 2004, it was easy for Sanders to hold up his end of the bargain as did the Democratic Party leadership did for their end. He was supported by Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Senator Chuck Schumer as well as by the Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Sanders supported Democrats against independents like Progressive Party candidate David Zuckerman.

Public Education

Meanwhile, he waltzes around the issue of privatization of education and has refused to support those communities and teachers who are opposing closure of public schools like those in Chicago. Part of his problem is that like in so many other similar cases, he’d have to directly oppose a fellow Democrat (Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel), something he’s refused to do so far.

Bitter Pill

Essentially, what Sanders advocates is that he will solve the problems that the majority of Americans face for them. There can be no other meaning, for instance, to his recent announcement that he’s introducing a bill to establish free higher education in the US. What sort of campaign is he seeking to organize for this, aside from his own election campaign? In other words, this bill has less chance of passing than he does of winning the race for president.

This is the entire underlying theme of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. It is used to suck any social movement – as well as the unions – into that swamp where it will lose its way and drown. Those who doubt it should suggest a simple step: That Sanders’ campaign set up an e mail list for all the local chapters of Sanders supporters to directly communicate with each other. Just as MoveOn.org refuses to do this, the Sanders campaign won’t either.

The bitter pill is that workers and young people have no alternative but to organize their own movement, completely independent of all wings of the Democrats and, through this, to build a new, mass workers’ party. It can start down that road by linking the protests in the streets with running independent political candidates, most likely at the local level for a start. Support for Bernie Sanders is a diversion from this path.

Protester in Ferguson, August, 2014

Protester in Ferguson, August, 2014

 

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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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