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.

Posted in politics, socialist movement, Uncategorized | 3 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


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.

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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.


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


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.

Posted in politics, United States | Leave a comment

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.
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.



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.

Posted in Europe | Leave a comment

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.

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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:…/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 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.


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.

Posted in Oakland, socialist movement, Uncategorized, United States | Leave a comment

Corporate America Takes Fright


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.

Posted in Europe, politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“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.


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 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


Posted in politics, rebellion, socialist movement, Uncategorized, United States | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in politics, racism, Uncategorized, videos/documentaries | Leave a comment

The Gathering Storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

US Presidential Race Gets Interesting

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

Democratic voters support for the two main candidates:

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

Consider the longer term perspectives:

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

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

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

Democratic victory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in politics, United States | 2 Comments

Congratulations to Mara and Marissa


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

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

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


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

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



Posted in politics, racism, United States | 1 Comment

Bernie Sanders Event Disrupted in Seattle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in politics, racism | 6 Comments

The Corbyn Phenomenon

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

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

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

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

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

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

A split?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The historical background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future

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

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

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“A Disaster for the Pro-Capitalist Cause”

Jeremy Corbyn: A "Disaster" for British capitalism.

Jeremy Corbyn: A “Disaster” for British capitalism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Lessons from the Youth Movement of the 1960s

Protests outside Democratic Party Convention, Chicago 1968.

Protests outside Democratic Party Convention, Chicago 1968.

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

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

“New Left”

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

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

However, there was also a down-side.

Throwing out the Baby with the Bath Water

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

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

Chicago, 1968

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

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

    Tom Hayden today.

    Tom Hayden today.

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

    Jerry Rubin. He became a stock broker.

    Jerry Rubin. He became a stock broker.

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

    Abbie Hoffman back in the day.

    Abbie Hoffman back in the day.

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

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

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

The Science of Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But wait, there’s more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Greece: More on Race to The Bottom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Greece: Some Thoughts for a Program

Greeks rally for the "no" vote

Greeks rally for the “no” vote

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

Greek Exit from Euro or “Grexit”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oakland Socialist on the Radio

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

For those who missed it and would like to hear it, the link is here. Note: the interview on Greece starts about a half hour in.:

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

15 Now or 15 Sometime in the Future?

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

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

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

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

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

Argument to Fall in Line

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

Initiative One Can Win

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

Building a Wider Movement

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

Union Leadership and Collective Bargaining Opt-Out

What will the entire union leadership be willing to really support?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Report From Greece

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

Greeks rally for the "no" vote

Greeks rally for the “no” vote

What was the mood in society?

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

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

The role of mass media

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

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

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

What did Tsipras do after the referendum?

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

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

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

What will happen the next days?

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

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

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

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

A Greek woman votes with her finger

A Greek woman votes with her finger


Dimitra Spanoudaki

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

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Greece: Is this Possible?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Varoufakis Resigns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Greece votes “No”

Greek people rally for "no" vote.

Greek people rally for “no” vote.


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

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

What comes next?

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

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

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International Food Workers’ Union Opposes Greek Austerity

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

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

German post-war debt

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

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

“Voters” must bow to “economic reality”

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

Opinion polls

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

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

Public opinion in Germany regarding Greece

Public opinion in Germany regarding Greece.

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

That is the issue in both Greece and Germany.

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


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

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Greece update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tsipras was forced to close the banks. Chaos threatens.

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

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

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

From Germany to Puerto Rico

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

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

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

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

Greece Again: Serious Dangers Present

poverty in Greece

poverty in Greece

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


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

Tsipras meeting with shark-in-chief Merkel

Tsipras meeting with shark-in-chief Merkel

Economic Recovery and Competition Between Workers

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

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

“Grexit” and Capital Flooding Out

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

A closed cement plant in Greece

A closed cement plant in Greece

Tsipras Cries “Uncle”

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Threat of Xenophobia and Racism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

working class one fist copy

Posted in Europe, racism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Within Israel: Black washing and sex washing

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

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

Dylann Roof and Domestic Terrorism: A warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted in racism, Uncategorized, United States | 2 Comments

15 Now Tacoma Deserves Support!

15 Now Tacoma supporters out campaigning

15 Now Tacoma supporters out campaigning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unions: The results are in

The results are in.

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


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

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

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

Posted in labor, United States | 4 Comments

Debating the liberals

Bernie Sanders: the liberal

Bernie Sanders: the liberal

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

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

I replied:

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

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

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

Prison Revolt: Letter from Tecumseh Prison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FW Chadrick X385061

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Spain, Greece and the Race to the Bottom

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

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

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

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


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

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

Greece & Syriza

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

The Wall St. Journal article is proof of this.

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