Sophie Scholl

Sophie Scholl

“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

These were the last words of Sophie Scholl as she was about to be executed by the Nazis for distributing anti-Nazi propaganda. She was all of 21 years old. This week marks the 74 anniversary of her murder.

It’s something to think that she might still be living today. However, she may be gone, but not forgotten.

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The Developing Mood in the US

Women's March. One of the largest protests in US history.

Women’s March.
One of the largest protests in US history.

An unprecedented ferment is developing around the country. That’s what we’ve been hearing from people we’ve talked with around the country.

New Orleans
The mood there is symbolized by the 7-10,000 that participated in the women’s march, which was the largest protest march in decades.

Colorado
We talked with radical “fractivist” (anti fracking activist) Cliff Willmeng in Colorado. He’s

Cliff Willmeng confronting a spokeswoman for Encana Energy. He helped drive her out of town.

Cliff Willmeng confronting a spokeswoman for Encana Energy. He helped drive her out of town.

been holding trainings for civil disobedience to stop fracking. He says that six months ago about 20 would have showed up at a training. Now, he’s having to cap attendance at around 40 to 50. This increased activity is partly because – as he predicted some time ago – the legal challenges to fracking were exhausted, so people have no other avenue but civil disobedience. But he says it’s also due to the new mood that’s developed since Trump was elected.

“In five years of fighting the oil and gas industry,” he says, “I’ve never seen the same amount of enthusiasm and readiness to go after the industry. It would be hard to say that we’re not operating in a different climate from what we were operating in before.”

Rural Pennsylvania
Here, in the heart of Trump country, something similar is happening. A woman called a meeting shortly after Trump was elected, expecting maybe a dozen people to show up. Instead, some 30 or more came. Every meeting since then has been progressively larger. At one meeting, shortly after Trump’s Muslim ban, they went around the room, asking each person to explain why they’d come. The answers fell in three broad categories:

  • Some said that they felt they’d been silent too long; they had to speak up.
  • Some said, maybe mainly in relation to the Muslim ban, “This is not the America I know.”
  • Some had personal reasons. For example, some were afraid of losing their health care. another woman said she had a trans grandchild and was worried about the future of that grandchild.

As has been reported on in the mainstream media, like in many other areas, they’ve been turning out to town hall meetings of various Republican politicians to give them an earful.

Tacoma, WA
An activist in Tacoma has been going to meetings of “Indivisible”, which she says is getting attendance of some 200 people, mixed ages and mainly but not entirely white people.

Seattle, WA
A construction worker in Seattle reports a real mood swing among construction workers there. He says that in the past, for example, many of them actually opposed the campaign for a $15/hour minimum wage. “They should just get a real job,” was the excuse. (This from union members!) In the main, this is from the white construction workers, most of whom he believes voted for Trump. But now, these same workers are seeing things differently. For example, they are denouncing the homeless situation in the city – not to blame the homeless but denouncing the cost of living, etc.

New York City, Kings County Hospital Center
Here is what “Frankie”, a nurse at this hospital writes about the situation there:

Kings County Hospital "The minute we get on shift to the minute we leave we are running around trying to make it through."

Kings County Hospital
“The minute we get on shift to the minute we leave we are running around trying to make it through.”

“At my workplace the work pace and load is so frenzied and overloaded that we have difficulty having space and time to discuss politics. The minute we get on shift to the minute we leave we are running around trying to make it through. Lately we have been so short staffed that we often can’t take breaks during the entire 12 hour shift. Often we stay longer (1-2 hours). In relation to this, overtime has to be approved by managers, and we often don’t bother to chase them down. There have also been rumors that ‘there is no more overtime’. This is a chronic issue that is felt throughout the hospital, especially on the floors (not the outpatient clinics that are open only during the day). That said, there are constant grumblings about Trump and bouts of anger in the staff lounge. Especially the ancillary staff (PCAs, PCTs, CNAs) are often heard shouting in the lounge about Trump “asking for it”. People talk openly about how disgusting he is, his sexism and racism, how he is terrible for blacks and immigrants. There is a lot of sympathy for undocumented people who are being targeted now. People say, ‘They are just here trying to live,” and ‘this puts all of us in danger. We all know immigrants, or are immigrants ourselves.’ And how this is contradictory to the so-called legacy and history of America, the huge melting pot of immigrants (‘America was founded on immigrants! if they didn’t have immigrants, no one would do that hard work…White people don’t want to be doing this slave work.’)

“It is not clear what the union will be doing to mobilize the members to fight Trump.”

Virginia
(Since we published this article, we got the following report from Wythe in Tidewater, VA. We encourage others to report on what’s happening in your area, and we will add then as they come in. Meanwhile, thank you, Wythe.) What you say is certainly true here in staid Tidewater VA (centered around the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, and Newport News), where the biggest naval base in the world is located, with many old-line VA conservatives, many new military-supporting conservatives, and large numbers of active military and retired military.  More than 2500 people — but no tv or print reporters — showed up for the Womens March in Norfolk two weeks ago.  The police used drones to monitor the unexpectedly large crowd.  There have been continuing anti-Trump protests in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and other local sites.  More than 2000 people turned out on the last two evenings to attend Town Hall meetings held courageously by a local rightwing Republican Congressperson, Scott Taylor, whose gerrymandered district stretches from Yorktown in the west to Virginia Beach in the east, and most of the questions were opposed to him, Trump, and the Republicans in general.  Taylor was consistently booed loudly when he gave his knee-jerk GOP positions on most things.  People were very angry over GOP plans to repeal Obamacare.  The other day at least 100 people turned up in Suffolk, VA, to protest the building of a pipeline through scenic and historic central Virginia to deliver natural gas to waiting ships which will take it elsewhere for profit — and they were not allowed to attend the supposedly “public comments session” except one person at a time; anger was palpable.  My GOP cousin and her husband are switching immediately to the Democrats and are going to these sorts of gatherings.  A NAACP local chapter meeting held the other day in the chilly sunshine outside Hampton’s City Hall drew at least 80 folks, and all of the speakers (local and state Democratic officeholders) were angry at Trump and his policies; a third of the folks there were white and all gave great applause to the speakers.  Something is indeed happening.

Fear
Along side this ferment, a fear is spreading within the immigrant community, due to

A serious crackdown on undocumented workers is a threat to all workers.

A serious crackdown on undocumented workers is a threat to all workers.

Trump’s new orders regarding undocumented immigrants. Since those orders include deporting any immigrant who has done anything not in total accordance with the law, and since this would include using a false social security number, for example, it’s easy to see why this fear is spreading.

Disgracefully, some people such as Yvette Carnell, who writes for Black Agenda Report (which used to be uniformly excellent), are actually giving implicit support to this repression on the grounds that undocumented immigrants compete with black workers for jobs, etc. What do people like this think is going to happen? Do they think that this spreading repression of undocumented immigrants will be confined to just this group? Given the fact that racism and repression in the US has always tended to focus on black people, don’t they realize that the black community will bear some of the worst brunt of this in the future?

Green Party

Green Party. At least in some areas they don't seem to be growing very much and are still oriented mainly towards elections only. This might be different in other areas.

Green Party.
At least in some areas they don’t seem to be growing very much and are still oriented mainly towards elections only. This might be different in other areas.

From New Orleans to Colorado to Oakland, it does not seem that the Green Party is growing very much. (This might be different elsewhere.) This is probably due to the fact that at least in these areas their focus remains mainly on elections, when most activists are oriented to getting out there in the streets.

The Democratic Party and their Allies
Two groups that are experiencing meteoric growth are “Indivisible” and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). While somewhat different, both of these groups are allied with the Democrats. Indivisible was started by some Democratic Party staffers who had the idea of building a “left” equivalent of the Tea Party. That explains their tactic of turning people out to the town hall meetings of Republican representatives, similar to what the Tea Party did some years ago.

The DSA is somewhat of a mixed bag. At least in Oakland, many union staffers are DSA members. Supposedly they have an “inside-outside” strategy towards the Democratic Party. This means working both inside and outside the Democrats. In the past, this has always meant claiming to work outside while, in reality, orienting towards the liberal wing of the Democratic Party inside. That is what seems to be happening now. For example, in California their main activity is mobilizing to support a state wide “single payer” health care bill that is being introduced in Sacramento. This is part and parcel of the emerging strategy of the Democrats overall to focus on the issue of “defending and improving” Obamacare.

The Socialist Left
We are also hearing that several revolutionary socialist groups are growing considerably. Unfortunately, almost all of them seem to be dedicated to building their own group at the expense of collaborating together to build a wider socialist trend within the resistance to Trump as a whole.

The Future
What will happen is unclear.

We can’t rule out the possibility that Trump/Bannon will be able to continue tightening the screws, first on the immigrant community as well as on groups like the anti-fracking activists in Colorado. There, long prison sentences for interfering with oil and gas drilling could possibly inhibit the movement. Then there is the black community. Trump has threatened to send the feds into this community in Chicago. If he does so, he will be sending in an occupying army that will act with extreme repression.

There is also the danger of a new terrorist attack or an individual-type assault on some cops. This would be used as an excuse to sharply increase the government repression, including the jailing of many thousands. It might even include calling out the National Guard. What would be the response to that? Would it create such an uproar, such a mass semi-spontaneous mobilization of millions that the government would be forced to back off?

It’s impossible to know.

Program and Strategy
The strategy of the reformers, who revolve around the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, is to go back to the situation that existed several years ago. Maybe with a few improvements here an there, but basically the same situation. Stability, in other words.

There are several different possible outcomes to this situation, but a return to the past is not one of them. In the 200+ year history of the US, there has never been a president like the present one.

In other words, the situation we face is unprecedented. Sometimes, revolutionaries are the most conservative of all and can tend to keep responding as they did in the past, despite the changed circumstances. One thing is clear: Even in the past, the direction that most socialists took did not work. The existence of Trump as president proves that, if nothing else does. In this period of increased ferment, new possibilities are opening up. We should use those opportunities to go directly to the working class on the job, in the communities and in the schools.

  • Explain that “an attack on one is a threat to all”, that today it may be Muslims or undocumented workers who are being attacked by Trump & Co., but tomorrow it will be you.
  • Call for and actually try to organize a united struggle in the streets, the communities, the schools and the work places to block ICE.
  • Link up such a campaign with one to make the unions do what they were built to do: fight for workers both on the job and off it. This means a campaign to get the union leadership out of bed with the employers and instead to fight for the members on the job; a campaign oppose the drive for “deregulation” and freeing up big business to further rape, loot and plunder the environment; a campaign to make the unions organize to defend the most oppressed; and a campaign to get the unions to break with the Democratic Party lock, stock and barrel and to join with the growing movement against Trump to build a fighting, mass working class party, one with a genuine socialist program and plan of action.

We hope readers of this blog site will send us in reports of what is happening and what is being said at your work place or school. You can either send them in as a “reply” to this post, or if you prefer to remain anonymous, send us an e mail and we’ll publish it without identifying the reporter.

Note: This is the third in a series about the Trump presidency. The first was on Trump and the world capitalist crisis. The second was on the internal dynamics of the Trump presidency and how far his administration might go. We also did one on the Trump-Russia connection.

working class one fist copy

Posted in rebellion, Trump, Uncategorized, United States | 9 Comments

Barbara Lee Town Hall Meeting in Oakland

Liberal icon Congresswoman Barbara Lee held a town hall meeting in Oakland on Saturday morning (Feb. 18). The focus of the meeting was to “defend and improve” the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”.

It seems that this will be the focus of the Democrats as they deal with Trump and the Republicans. In line with this focus on health care, some Democrats in the California State legislature are introducing a bill for “single payer” health care in California. It is extremely unlikely that this bill will pass, so what is more likely is that it will be used as a means of bringing more people into the (liberal Democratic) fold. And even if it were to pass, as the fate of single payer in Vermont shows, it’s not possible to successfully introduce single payer in one state along; it has to be on a national basis. (In any case, what’s really needed is to take profit out of the health care system entirely – for socialized medicine, in other words!)

It was significant that some 1200 or more people turned out, a large turnout for a Saturday morning. But the crowd was almost entirely white and middle class, and this in an event held in east Oakland which is overwhelmingly working class and Latino and black. This speaks to the movement that is developing against Trump. It seems that the Democrats will succeed in gaining the lead of this movement in its early days, but as a more working class element gets involved, that may change. Or at least there will be more opportunities for a working class and socialist tendency to develop, one that is independent of the Democrats and can lead towards a mass, fighting working class political party.

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The Trump-Putin Connection

Trump at news conference. He told the media: "The public doesn't believe you people anymore." "The whole Russia thing -- that's a ruse. He is also trying to bully them: "I would be your biggest fan in the world is you treated me right." "The false reporting by you people makes it much harder to get along with Russia."

Trump at news conference.
He told the media:
“The public doesn’t believe you people anymore.”
“The whole Russia thing — that’s a ruse.
He is also trying to bully them:
“I would be your biggest fan in the world if you treated me right.”
“The false reporting by you people makes it much harder to get along with Russia.”

The media is beside itself. Even Fox News is ripping Trump. That’s because their backers – mainstream US big business – has partially lost control over their president. This is unprecedented in US, and therefor in world history. How did this happen? What does it mean for the future? To start, let’s take a look at the facts related to the whole “Russia” scandal. The facts reveal, once again, the fact of the most corrupt president in US history. Here are the main characters in this plot:

Carter Page
Carter Page was formerly a top foreign policy advisor for Trump when he ran for president. An ex-Marine (another one!), Page was an investment banker for Merrill Lynch. then he founded his own investment fund, Global Energy Capital, which partnered with former (Russian state gas company) Gazprom executive Sergei Yatsenko. Page has long expressed support for Putin. “Business Insider” reported (1/27/17) that Page was offered the brokerage fee for sale of a 19% stake of Rosneft (the Russian state oil company) back last July when he was in Moscow giving a speech if he could convince Trump to lift sanctions on Russia. That 19% stake was sold to a Qatar fund in December (i.e., after Trump was elected). The deal was financed by Gazprombank (the bank for Gazprom), of which Page was a member of the board of directors. Page was in Russia one day after the sale was finalized.

He has consistently criticized the US sanctions against Russia, a position parroted by Trump. He had to abruptly resign from the Trump campaign when his visits to Russia were revealed.

Paul Manafort
Paul Manafort was brought onto the Trump electoral campaign as an insider expert to corral delegate votes. A long time lobbyist, he has represented such savory characters as Jonas Savimbi (who represented apartheid South Africa in Angola), Ferdinand Marcos, and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. In the 1990s, he represented the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA, which has long been considered to be linked with right-wing Islamic terrorism. More recently, he represented the Putin-backed Victor Yanukovich in Ukraine. As such, he was in effect representing the Putin regime. On the side, he also was involved with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and Ukrainian investor Dmytro Firtash.  He, too, resigned in a hurry from Trump’s campaign after it was revealed that he’d received millions from Yanukovich’s party.

Michael Flynn
The hit of the party, of course, is Michael Flynn. This anti-Muslim bigot and loose cannon

Mike Flynn (with hand to ear) appearing at the RT gala in Moscow with Putin. (At lower right is Green Party's Jill Stein.)

Mike Flynn (with hand to ear) appearing at the RT gala in Moscow with Putin. (At lower right is Green Party’s Jill Stein.)

was criticized before for his links with Putin’s state TV channel “RT”, including a paid appearance at an RT gala in 2015. In December, before Trump even took office – but right around the time that the Rozneft 19% sale was finalized – Flynn had a series of phone calls with Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. Initially, he denied he’d discussed the US sanctions, but then it was proven that he had. Meanwhile, Vice President Pence went on TV to also deny that Flynn had discussed that issue. Did Flynn lie to Pence about that (as they both claim), or is he taking one for the team? We’ll probably never know.

Stephen Bannon
100 years ago, Russia’s simpleton Tsar Nicholas represented the complete degeneration of the Russian aristocracy. He was guided by a crazed mystic named Rasputin. Today, Trump has his Rasputin: Stephen Bannon. Whereas many others are simply guided by personal financial self-interest, Bannon actually has a vision – the return of “Western Judeo-Christian civilization.” He sees Putin’s regime as a useful although temporary ally in dealing with the supposed main enemy, which is an expanding Islamic caliphate. (See, for example, his comments at the 2014 Vatican conference.)

But all of this leads us back to one man:

Tsar Nicholas II had Rasputin; Trump has Bannon

Tsar Nicholas II had Rasputin; Trump has Bannon

Donald Trump

The New York Times (2/14/2017) reports that Trump was informed of Flynn’s conversations back at the end of January. However, he did nothing. What has been his connection with Russian capitalism?

He does not have direct investments in Russia (no “Trump Towers” there), but he’s got very close links in another way: Russian capitalists are major investors in his company in the US. “President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial soft spot for Russia is based on decades of courting wealthy Russians to buy condos in his luxury high-rises and invest in his other real estate ventures…. After several bankruptcies made it hard to raise money in the United States for his high-end hotel and condominium projects since the 1990s, Trump, and later his children, traveled to Moscow to talk deals and attract buyers” (USA today, 12/15/2016)

This same article cites 65 units in Trump World Tower in NY that have been bought by Russian investors, for example. It also explains that other Russian investors have paid Trump royalties for properties in Florida for use of the Trump brand name. In fact, according to this same article, this became a great business model for Trump: License his brand name to Russian (and other investors), have them do all the investing, and harvest a royalty, risk free. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York,” Trump Jr. said at the time (2008). “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia. There’s indeed a lot of money coming for new-builds and resale reflecting a trend in the Russian economy and, of course, the weak dollar versus the ruble,” says that same USAtoday article.

Then there is the comment of Aras Agalarov, who partnered with Trump to hold the Miss Universe contest in Russia in 2013: “He (Trump) says that if he becomes president of the United States he will certainly keep in mind that he has friends in Russia.” (USA today, 12/15/2016)

Russian Stock Market & Trump’s Taxes
After Trump won the election, the Russian stock market started to take off. As the Financial Times reported on Jan. 4: “In January, the Micex index of Russian stocks hit an all-time high. Colin Croft, manager of the Jupiter Emerging European Opportunities fund, who increased his allocation to Russia to 58 per cent, up from 45 per cent 18 months ago, says: There is a strong investment case for Russia. Donald Trump is the most pro-Russian US president in a long time, raising the chances sanctions [imposed in 2014] will be lifted, a great boost for sentiment.”

While Trump has no direct investments in Russia, we have to wonder whether he owns Russian stocks. If he were to reveal his tax returns, we would know.

Conclusions
In other words, while the mainstream of  the US capitalist class sees Russian capitalism as its rival, Trump sees them as a business opportunity. (This coincides with the view of his Rasputin – Bannon – who has his own agenda as we explained.)

Under normal circumstances, the tops of the US capitalist class would have means of bringing a president into line. When they determined that Nixon must go, for example, they mobilized their media against him and drove his approval ratings down to 25%. While low by historical standards, Trump’s approval ratings still stand at about 40%, and most of that is strongly felt. That’s because, when he attacks the media as he did in his press conference of Feb. 16 (“The public doesn’t believe you people anymore”) he strikes a chord with millions of people.

Then there is congress. On the one hand, the fact that so many congress members are purely looking out for their own personal interests has a huge impact, given that most of them are Republicans, and they largely depend on their president for favors. On the other hand, whatever ability to control the president through congress is limited by the fact that they, too, have extremely low approval ratings. Realclearpolitics puts their approval rating at about 20%!

These poll numbers reflect the crisis of capitalism, the fact that it cannot develop society any longer. It is destroying the lives of millions all around the planet and destroying the planet itself, while it threatens a new world war. The capitalists themselves hardly believe in their own system anymore, which is why they are increasingly just looking out for themselves at the expense of the system as a whole – a trend that Trump reflects to the nth degree.

Some celebrate the fact that Trump is partly out of control, and certainly the fact that the enemies of the working class are fighting among themselves is positive. But this is also an extremely dangerous moment, especially because the US working class hardly exists as a coherent political force. Maybe Trump will be brought into line (although there is no indication so far that he will). Maybe Corporate America will drive him out of office, in which case Trump’s supporters will be infuriated and driven to even greater extremes. But overall, the summation of the situation that Leon Trotsky gave almost 100 years ago fits today perfectly. He wrote: “History says to the working class, ‘you must know that unless you cast down the bourgeoisie (the capitalist class) you will be crushed in the ruins of the capitalist civilization. Try. Solve this task!’”

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Question to our readers

Question for those who read oaklandsocialist articles:

We had an offer to write for “blasting news US” web site. They claim millions of hits per month. It would mean that we could not post the full articles onto oaklandsocialist.com – only a summary along with a link to the article on blasting news. They claim that they don’t sell their info to third parties, that they make their money through their advertising on the site. So, the question is whether those of you who read the articles on oaklandsocialist would follow the link to blasting news or not. Here’s a link to their web site:

http://www.blastingnews.com

Please respond to help us decide. You can respond with a comment below, or send an e mail to oaklandsocialist@gmail.com if you prefer for your response not to be made public.

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Bannon/Trump: How Far Can They Go?

Trump & Bannon. Who is really running the show here?

Trump & Bannon.
Who is really running the show here?

It is ironically appropriate that the man pulling the strings of President Trump, Stephen Bannon, come from Hollywood – that land of flashy special effects, shallow propaganda and cheap thrills. It is also frightening, including to the capitalists themselves. Bannon’s promotion to the inner circle (the “Principles Committee”) of the National Security Council “should send shivers down the spine of every American and our allies worldwide” says David Rothkopf, the executive editor of Foreign Policy Magazine, one of the foremost such magazines for the US capitalist class. Rothkopf explains the role of the NSC as being “the central nervous system of the US foreign policy and national security apparatus.” You couldn’t get more central than that.

Promoted to this Principles Committee along with Bannon was Reince Priebus, former head of the Republican Party and now Trump’s chief of staff. I used to think that Priebus’s appointment indicated that Trump was going to accommodate himself to the mainstream of that Party, but Trump knew him better (of course). Priebus has shown himself to be nothing but a toady for Trump, a willing go-between between Trump and the Republicans in congress.

Then there is Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who according to this Washington Post article operates as “almost a shadow secretary of state.”

For any US president, personal security is important, especially so for Trump – probably the most unpopular president to hit the ground running in many, many decades, if not in all of US history. Normally, the President’s security is handled exclusively by the Secret Service. Not in Trump’s case, where his long time private security man, Keith Schiller and Schiller’s employees are also playing a role. Under the guise of security, according to reports, Schiller also partially controls access to the president. ‘Schiller mostly remains — as one former campaign aide put it — “the most important man no one has ever heard of.”

That influence comes from Schiller’s ability to essentially control access to Trump, acting as his liaison to everyone from staff and well-wishers to dignitaries — and even Secret Service agents. “Keith is kind of a consigliere,” said a transition team official.’

Demotions
On the same day that Bannon and Priebus were promoted to the “Principles Committee”
of the “central nervous system” of the US government (the NSC), other key players were demoted. These included the top military officer of the US government – the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – and the highest-ranking intelligence officer of the United States, the director of national intelligence. (Never mind that that latter position was held by a conspiracy nut, Michael Flynn.)

What are we to make of all this?

US Constitution
The framers of the US Constitution set up the federal government to ensure that they – the capitalist class of their day plus the slave owning class – could ensure that they (the ruling class) could keep the government under their control. One of the ways they envisioned this was through the system of “checks and balances”, among other things ensuring that the president did not escape their control. Part of those checks and balances was giving the Senate veto power over the key appointments of the president. Along with congress, the tops of the military, the State Department and the CIA also play a key role in maintaining the links between the government and the tops of the capitalist class and their strategists. And what has Trump done?

He removed the military tops from the Principles Committee of the NSC. He has more or  less gutted the State Department of its top layer of bureaucrats, nearly paralyzing it. He has bypassed congress’s ability to approve appointments by making his key advisers ones who aren’t subject to appointment.

Top officials from the State Department gone. No replacements.

Top officials from the State Department gone.
No replacements.

Roles
Consider their roles:

The toady, Priebus, is responsible for trying to keep congress in line. He is nothing but a Trump flunky.

A main role of Kushner is the bag man for what will almost certainly be one of the most corrupt presidencies in US history. His role as “shadow foreign secretary” will be to help organize the bribes from foreign governments and companies. Already, for example, there is evidence that a payment may have been made to Trump by the Russian state oil company Rosneft of $19 million. We should also note that Trump has evidently already filed for reelection in 2020, which is unprecedented at such an early date but will allow him to start collecting campaign donations – a means of accepting legal bribes.

Schiller evidently is playing the role of unofficial and partial chief of staff as well as the organizer of a private goon squad.

Stephen Bannon. He said: "Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today's establishment.”

Stephen Bannon. He said:
“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

But we’re saving the best for last: Stephen Bannon. He’s the only one with a clear vision and strategy, and such he’s bound to be the most influential of all. And what a vision he has!

According to this article, which is based on an in-depth interview Bannon conducted, one of his main influences is the works of William Strauss and Neil Howe, who are known as “generational theorists.” Let us allow Bannon to explain what that means: ‘”This is the fourth great crisis in American history,” Bannon told an audience at the Liberty Restoration Foundation, a conservative nonprofit, in 2011. “We had the Revolution. We had the Civil War. We had the Great Depression and World War II. This is the great Fourth Turning in American history, and we’re going to be one thing on the other side.”’

More explicitly, he said: “There’s a crisis of capitalism but really of the underpinnings of the Judeo Christian West…. Rot at the center of the Judeo Christian West… There’s a fifth column in the US that we have to deal with… You have an expansionist Islam and an expansionist China and I think the Judeo Christian West is on the retreat… We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal conflict… We’re only at the top of the first inning of taking our country back…”

The same article provides further quotes: “You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China,” he said during a 2016 radio appearance. “They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat.”

“We’re going to war in the South China Seas in the next five to 10 years, aren’t we?” Bannon asked during a 2016 interview with Reagan biographer Lee Edwards.

“We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism,” he said in a speech to a Vatican conference in 2014. “And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it.”

(Note: In our previous article, we explained the developing actual crisis of US and world capitalism which forms the background to Trump’s accession to the presidency. In this sense, what Bannon is reflecting is a twisted, distorted vision of a crisis that actually does exist, like looking at the real world through a reflection in a fun-house mirror.)

Bannon/Trump’s Muslim Ban
This is the light in which we should see Trump’s Muslim ban. As several commentators have noted, it was not only a ban on Muslims, it was a test to see which agencies of the US government would be loyal to the president, vs. the US Constitution. For example, he found that immigration officials – employees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — would obey him rather than a court ruling. It is also reliably reported that the letter from the head of the FBI just weeks before the election – the one which again raised possible legal violations of Hillary Clinton – came as a result of pressure from within that agency. In other words, there is at least a major wing of the FBI that would be loyal to Trump. Then there are the local police, the overwhelming majority of whom voted for him and who anyway operate as a gang of thugs above the law.

Clearly, Bannon is serious in his fanaticism (and what other word is there to describe it?) How far could he go?

Patriotism and the "Judeo-Christian tradition". That's what Bannon claims to stand for. What's the reality behind it?

Patriotism and the “Judeo-Christian tradition”.
That’s what Bannon claims to stand for. What’s the reality behind it?

Terrorist Attack
Imagine this: There is a major terrorist attack. For example, a few weeks ago some woman snuck into a private gathering of all the top Republican legislators – including the vice president – in Washington DC. Nobody knows who she was. Imagine a suicide bomber doing something similar.

Wouldn’t Bannon/Trump use that as an excuse to crack down extremely hard? He would have on his side not only the official state forces mentioned above, but the rising far right, including the “open carry” gun nuts as well as the overt racist groups. They could be joined – fed information – through Keith Schiller.

And who is on the other side? Who would stop them? True, there is the main bulk of the ruling class, the capitalist class itself, but through what organ would they impose their opposition? The Democratic Party?

Please, can we get a serious response?

Military
Some people have actually posed the possibility of the military removing Trump as a step in the right direction. In the first place, in the event of a major crisis like the one posed here, that is extremely unlikely to happen. And even if it did, that would simply be out of the pan and into the flame.

How about the working class as a whole? It is more fragmented than ever in many decades. It hardly exists as a cohesive political force.

Movement Bubbling Away
On first glance, it seems there is no force that could stand up to Bannon/Trump. But that doesn’t take into account what’s bubbling away beneath the surface.

Republican party federal legislators are reporting throughout the country that when they report back to their constituents at town hall meetings, they are being met with angry voters, nearly being overwhelmed to the degree that they are fearing for their own safety.

A woman who recently got reactivated politically in rural Pennsylvania (Trump country if there ever was one) recounted that in her area a woman called a meeting to talk about Trump. She expected a dozen or so people to show up. Something like 50 or 100 came. They all explained why they were there. It broke down into three main reasons: (1) I’ve been silent too long; (2) In response to the Muslim ban “This is not who we are as a country.” (3) Individual concerns such as possible loss in health care, or concern for a grandchild who is a trans.

Portesters at Republican Town Hall meetings. "Middle America" is waking up.

Portesters at Republican Town Hall meetings.
“Middle America” is waking up.

This woman who reported said that she doesn’t think this group would crawl into a hole or be caught up in a reactionary patriotic wave in the event of a major terrorist attack. In that case, if there were a major, extra-Constitutional crack down, you could possibly see tens of millions out on the street overnight. It could eventuate into what could be a general strike and even a near pre-revolutionary situation.

A feeling of exhilaration would rein.

This, of course, would not be the end of it. In fact, it would probably peter out after a time. But this is one possible scenario.

But make no mistake: We had better take Bannon/Trump seriously when Bannon says:

Bannon: We’re gonna have some dark days”
“We’re gonna have to have some dark days before we get to the blue sky of morning again in America,” Bannon warned in 2010. “We are going to have to take some massive pain. Anybody who thinks we don’t have to take pain is, I believe, fooling you.”

“This movement,” he said in November, “is in the top of the first inning.”

Protester in Ferguson, August, 2014

Protester in Ferguson, August, 2014

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Donald Trump and the World Capitalist Crisis

Throughout the world, the Trump forces are gathering steam. In Britain, in a fit of national chauvinism and anti-immigrant sentiment, the majority if Brits voted to leave the European Union (“Brexit”) in order to prevent foreign workers from entering the country. In Myanmar (Burma), there has been a wave of attacks on the Muslim minority known as the Rohingya. Throughout Europe, far right racist and chauvinist parties are on the rise. And to this we must add what is happening in the Islamic world, where Sunni and Shia have been attacking each other with a vengeance.

The forces of racism and sectarianism gathering steam. Clockwise from top left: Trump supporters; supporters of the neo-fascist Jobbick party in Hungary; fascist Russian motorcycle gang the "Night Wolves"; fighters in the shim-sunni civil war in Yemen (stoked by the Iranian and Saudi regimes); supporters of "Brexit"; Buddhist monks leading an anti-Rohingya riot in Myanmar.

The forces of racism and sectarianism gathering steam. Clockwise from top left: Trump supporters; supporters of the neo-fascist Jobbick party in Hungary; fascist Russian motorcycle gang the “Night Wolves”; fighters in the shim-sunni civil war in Yemen (stoked by the Iranian and Saudi regimes); supporters of “Brexit”; Buddhist monks leading an anti-Rohingya riot in Myanmar.

What is happening in our world?

There are three main factors:

  • The first is the breakdown of the “world (capitalist) order”. For 50 years, the world was dominated by the competition between the capitalist world and the Soviet Union and its allies. This competition forced the capitalist world to huddle together behind the leadership of US capitalism. Then, for a short time after the Soviet Union collapsed, US capitalism dominated the world without a rival. We went from a “bipolar” world to a “unipolar” world. And now?

Let us allow the editors of the Wall St. Journal speak: “For 20 years and through administrations of both parties, the U.S. managed to contain the emergence of such regional threats (to US domination). But that containment has broken down in Europe, the Middle East and East Asia…

Into this vacuum, the regional powers battle for influence. This takes the form of Shia vs. Sunni sectarianism as the Iranian regime (Shia) battles primarily the Saudi regime (Sunni) for influence and control throughout the Arab world. The Russian capitalist regime has also entered the fray in Syria, seeking to maintain and expand its influence. Meanwhile, the US regime has been more or less standing on the sidelines, wringing its hands over the fact that it can hardly find a reliable base of support for itself. Now, under Trump, they are planning on entering more decisively on the side of Assad & Company.

In the US, this collapse of the “world order” has also led to increased confusion. Like a kidnap victim under the influence of the “Stockholm Syndrome”, in which the victim associates him or herself with the kidnapper, workers the world over tend to associate with their rulers – “their” capitalist class. The more dominant “their” capitalist class is, the more they tend to associate with them. The severe weakening of US capitalist domination has increased the feeling of insecurity and confusion among millions of US workers. This is a major aspect of the popularity of Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.” — a return to the “good old days” when America was unchallenged, when it was “number one”.

This collapse of the old order will not be reestablished except through a new global-scale war – a war that would threaten the existence of human society.

Aleppo, Gaza and Grozny (Chechnya). This devastation is a small picture of what capitalism has in store for us.

Aleppo, Gaza and Grozny (Chechnya).
This devastation is a small picture of what capitalism has in store for us.

  • Then there is the economic crisis of world capitalism. Bubbling along under the surface, it burst forth in 2007-8, threatening an all-out collapse of global capitalism. Contained by massive government bail outs of the banks and other financial institutions, it is nowhere near resolved. Even the recovery has not benefited the working class. A recent Oxfam report  (as reviewed here) revealed that the richest 1% of the world has 65 times the wealth of the bottom 50%!  In every age bracket and among all racial and ethnic groups, economic insecurity reigns.

The combined effect of these two developments has meant a rising tide of economic nationalism – the idea that if only we were alone in our own little economic world, things would be better. That is another part of the reason for the “Brexit” vote, as well as the support for Trump’s drive towards tariff barriers and trade wars.

  • There is a third factor: The weakening of the working class as an organized, coherent and independent political force. For decades, in Europe for example, the workers had their own parties (the social democratic and socialist parties) that at least to a certain extent worked for their benefit. Now, those parties have gone over to attacking the very same benefits that they were so central to brining into existence in the first place. In North Africa/West Asia, radical nationalist parties had a similar effect in the past. But they degenerated into dictatorships like Assad in Syria, who was little but a neoliberal stooge for the World Bank until the Arab Spring of 2011. And a bloody, murderous tyrant to boot.

This has led to a scattering – a partial fragmentation – of the world’s working class. In the US, for example, where there never even was a mass working class political party, the working class hardly even exists as a coherent political force. Some sectors vote for the Democrats, some for the Republicans. Among the Democrats, some sectors of the working class supported the mainstream (Clinton) while other sectors supported the liberal wing (Sanders). Some are concerned about the environment; others have fallen for the environment vs. jobs line.

Union Leadership

AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka with a representative of the Chamber of Commerce. Socialists must not ignore how the union leadership has climbed into bed with the employers.

AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka with a representative of the Chamber of Commerce.
Socialists must not ignore how the union leadership has climbed into bed with the employers.

Another part of the reason for this fragmentation is the role of the US union leadership. Even in their extremely weakened state, the unions are still the only mass working class organizations in this country. But the entire top leadership is locked into the view that they must help “their” employers compete with the non-union employers. This means granting concessions and refusing to fight for the members on the job. And this is what the leadership preaches   to its members. It has led to an unprecedented level of alienation from and anger at the unions by the rank and file as well as confusion.

Along with the confusion grows the political vacuum. Into this vacuum has stepped the likes of Donald Trump.

The Socialist Left
In past crises, such as in the 1930s, the socialist left of different stripes played a meaningful role. Already marginalized by the long period of capitalist stability, today much of that left is isolated from the working class and sometimes even more confused. Much of it, for example, supported the “Brexit” vote on the grounds that it was a vote against “globalization” of capitalism. What they missed was that it was a vote for a return to economic nationalism and for chauvinism and xenophobia. They were so blinded by the fact that it weakened capitalism that they completely missed the fact that it further divided, confused and weakened the working class!

As far as the unions, the great majority of the socialist left has shown no interest in helping the rank and file organize to make the unions the fighting organizations that so many sacrificed so much for in the first place. Instead, they have this rotten bargain where some union leader or another agrees to support some “progressive” political cause and in exchange the socialist left ignores how that same leader is selling his or her members down the road on a daily basis.

On top of this is the methods of the different socialist groups, almost all of which are simply jockeying for position, trying to figure out how best to recruit to their own particular tiny group.

New Situation
The situation cannot last forever. Already the winds of change are blowing, as we saw in

Women's March on Washington. A new movement is coming

Women’s March on Washington.
A new movement is coming

the Women’s march. This was followed by the massive turnout to stop Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at UC Berkeley, Many if not most of the students there were participating in such a protest for the first time. Several to whom this writer spoke said that a year or two ago they never could have seen themselves participating in a protest like this.

These are just the first few hints of a new movement that is just starting to develop. The direct and indirect representatives of the Democratic Party will be the main ones leading this movement, but not since the 1930s has there been such an opening for serious socialists. Those who are not stuck in the past, who seriously want to break out of their isolation, should turn to the working class, including working class youth, instead of maneuvering within the already-existing “left” as well as tying ourselves hand and foot to the non-profits and to the “progressive” union leaders. Together, a broad socialist alliance can be built with some small but real roots among workers and young people. One that argues for:

  • Mass defiance of Trump and of capitalism!
  • No support for any wing of the Democratic Party!
  • For a fighting, mass working class party, one that is built through action and links up the action with running candidates!
  • Socialism… Not social democracy (as seen in Europe), but real socialism, where the commanding heights of the economy are owned by society as a whole and for workers’ democracy.
Posted in racism, Uncategorized, world relations | Leave a comment

Mt. Everest and the Class Struggle

Mt. Everest. The Nepalese call it Sagarmatha and the Tibetans call her Chumalongma

Mt. Everest.
The Nepalese call it Sagarmatha and the Tibetans call it Chumalongma

Who would have thought that the class struggle would reach Mt. Everest? My wife and I got into watching documentaries about climbing Mt. Everest. Every video shows the brave,  adventurous climbers (almost all from the US, Europe and Australia) struggling heroically to reach the world’s highest mountain peak. They go through organized expedition companies.

$5,000 for the world’s most dangerous job
Along with them go some 30 Sherpas per expedition team. They cheerfully make these

Edmund Hillary (left) and Tenzing Norway (right). These were the first to people to reach the top of Mt. Everest. Tenzing - the Sherpa - went ahead, reaching the peak first, but Hillary got most of the credit... and money.

Edmund Hillary (left) and Tenzing Norway (right).
These were the first to people to reach the top of Mt. Everest.
Tenzing – the Sherpa – went ahead, reaching the peak first, but Hillary got most of the credit… and money.

climbers tea and breakfast in the morning, dinner in the evening, and pack the tents and all the supplies to the camps along the way up the mountain. They get paid a maximum of $5,000 for what is most certainly one of the world’s most dangerous jobs.

Several of the documentaries we watched contain footage of Russel Brice owner and operator of Himalayan Experience, Ltd. He charges his clients something like $100,000 a piece. If a sherpa is killed, their family gets a few hundred from the Nepalese government (not enough to even cover funeral costs) and zero from the likes of Brice, who in many of the videos expresses oh-so-much concern for “his” Sherpas, but pays as little as he can get away with.

All went on swimmingly until the climbing season of 2013, when one of the climbers called a Sherpa a “Motherf____r” and was attacked by the Sherpa. We see the scene (not a reenactment, the real scene) in the video “Sherpa.” There is a near riot, but Brice manages to calm things down.

2014 Strike!

Sherpa Strike Meeting This is the actual scene where the Sherpa guides organize to go on strike.

Sherpa Strike Meeting
This is the actual scene where the Sherpa guides organize to go on strike.

Then came the 2014 climbing season. Carrying packs up the Ice Fall, disaster struck. A 14,000 ton block of ice came tumbling down, killing 16 sherpas. (This section of the climb has become increasingly dangerous due to global warming.) Then the class struggle broke out in the open.

 

The Sherpas hold a mass meeting, shouting and voicing their anger. Brice (and his fellow capitalist mountaineering company owners, presumably) call in the government, who send emissaries to try to get the Sherpas back to work. But they aren’t convinced. They are determined to walk off the job… strike for the entire 2014 climbing season.

Brice complains about how “irrational” they are, and at one point he is seen talking with his clients, claiming that “his” Sherpas want to stay and climb, but that they’ve been threatened by others “hotheads”.

Solidarity
Brice talks with his clients, complaining that there are just four or five agitators among all the Sherpas (for all the different companies). One of the clients suggests that he find out who they are so they can be run off the mountain, but Brice says it’s not so easy. Evidently

Russel Brice, owner and operator of Himalaya Experience, Ltd. He expresses so much concern for "his" Sherpas, until they stand up for their interests.

Russel Brice, owner and operator of Himalaya Experience, Ltd.
He expresses so much concern for “his” Sherpas, until they stand up for their interests.

the Sherpas are sticking together.

Brice sits there trying to get the Sherpas to talk. They sit there, expressionless while he comments that normally you guys are so cheerful. “I want to hear you,” Brice says. “If any of you has anything to say, I’m listening. Say it.” I’m thinking: “He wants to see who leaders are so he can fire them.” None of the Sherpas says a word. He says he knows that they want to climb but they’ve been threatened. Silence.

One of the American climbers complains that it’s incredible, he’s being prevented from climbing by a few “terrorists”. Yes, that’s the term he uses!

Anyway, this is an absolutely classic and real-life exposition of all the tricks that a union busting boss tries to play as well as the arrogance and racism of these privileged climbers. Well worth seeing. We got it from our public library, but I imagine it’s on Netflix. Simply called “Sherpa“, it’s definitely worth seeing.

Posted in Asia, labor, movies | 2 Comments

Now online: “What is Socialism?”

What is Socialism?

Introduction to the 2017 edition
From the United States to Syria, capitalism is in a disastrous political crisis. This crisis stems from several developments:

  • The global economic crisis. There is no return to a national economy, and the global capitalist economy has in reality never recovered from the crisis of 2007. That crisis is just eating away under the surface, prepared to burst to the surface again at any time. And even during this “recovery” in the richest economy in the world – the US – things have hardly improved for the great majority, while young people are increasingly insecure as to their future.
  • The shifting world balance of forces. For decades, the world was stabilized (in its own way) by the rivalry between US capitalism and the Soviet Union. It was called a “bi-polar world.” For a few decades after the Soviet Union collapsed, US capitalism dominated with few challenges. (It used that domination to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, which led to a different crisis.) Now, that too is collapsing, but no new world capitalist order is taking its place. As a result, we are seeing increasing chaos and turmoil. And the fact is, the capitalist system cannot provide an alternative — except through a devastating new world war, which would threaten to wipe out human life on Earth.

The historically unprecedented situation in the US, with the Trump presidency, is a sign of this crisis. But it is also a sign of another crisis: The absence of a mass working class movement, a socialist movement. In part that springs from the role of the union leadership, as well as from other factors. (See this pamphlet on the unions.) As a result of this absence, some workers in the US are falling prey to increased racism, sexism, xenophobia and other forms of bigotry, all of which have always existed and will always exist under capitalism in the US.

Nor is this crisis confined to the United States. From Britain (with the “Brexit” vote) to the rest of Europe (where we are seeing the rise of forces similar to Trump) to Russia (where Putin bases himself on chauvinism and racism)… From Syria (where we are seeing a bloody sectarian war) to Myanmar (where the Rohingya minority are under increasing attack), racism, sectarianism and other forms of bigotry are on the rise. This is just a warning of what capitalism holds in store for us.

At the same time, however, there is an unprecedented interest in socialism, especially among young people. A Pew Poll in 2011 revealed that of young adults, 49% had a positive view of socialism while only 46% had a positive view of capitalism (less than the 47% who had a negative view of capitalism). But what, exactly, is socialism? Bernie Sanders claims that countries like Sweden and Denmark are socialist. Is that true? Here, we put forward the classic, Marxist, explanation. (One note: In this pamphlet, we talk about how a “democratic socialist” society would be run. As is clear from the context, this has nothing to do with what various liberals, including Bernie Sanders, mean by “democratic socialism”. It is just meant as a contrast to, for example, bureaucratic domination over society like in the old Soviet Union. Had this pamphlet been written more recently, since Sanders gave that term such notoriety, we would have used a different term.)

Read online here: online edition, what is socialism

what-is-socialism-cover

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Steve Bannon, Tulsi Gabbard and Syria Social Nationalist Party

It is always helpful to get a glimpse of the internal dynamics of the enemy’s central command (the Trump administration), and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s (D. HI) recent trip to Syria helps us get such a glimpse. (Dennis Kucinich, another liberal icon, also went on the trip.) Let’s not forget that she met privately with Trump shortly after his election to discuss “our current policies regarding Syria, our fight against terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria], as well as other foreign policy challenges we face,” according to Gabbard. We also should not forget that she has expressed no criticism of Trump.

Tulsi Gabbard. She was a guest of the SSNP in Syria. Note the Swastika-like insignia of this fascist party.

Tulsi Gabbard.
She was a guest of the SSNP in Syria. Note the Swastika-like insignia of this fascist party.

Her trip to Syria was set up by officials of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, and they appear to have been her escort while she was in Syria. This shadowy party has long lurked in the Shadows of Syrian and Lebanese politics. It advocates a “Greater Syria” that would include Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine/Israel and even down into Kuwait. Founded in 1932, it supported the Nazis in WW II and is an outright fascist party. Until recently, it was just a fringe party in Syria. However, Assad has increasingly relied on the SSNP troops, and according to this article (which also gives some good background to the SSNP), Assad turned over the administration of Homs to the SSNP when he retook that city in 2014. And the Syrian Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs, Ali Haidar, is a leader of the SSNP.

Bearing in mind that Gabbard had recently met with Trump to discuss Syria, and bearing in mind that the Pentagon reportedly knew about her visit, it seems overwhelmingly likely that she unofficially went on behalf of Trump & Co. But the question is, who set it up? Who made the links with the SSNP? Why, Steve Bannon, of course!

Breitbart & SSNP
In 2011, when Assad seemed to be sitting firmly in the saddle, Bannon’s Breitbart carried several articles condemning the SSNP, but they have changed their tune since. Here is one article praising the SSNP’s role in 2015, for example. And there is something else: As advocates of a “Greater Syria”, the SSNP is opposed to religious sectarianism and has quite a base of support among Syrian Christians. As a forum for far right Christians in the US, this is another reason for Breitbart to support the SSNP.

So we see another indication of the elevation of the role of Steve Bannon in the Trump administration. We also see the filthy role of liberal Democrats like Tulsi Gabbard and Dennis Kucinich, who apparently have no problem associating with fascists such as the SSNP.

None of this should come as a surprise to those who are serious about politics and have looked into the real Tulsi Gabbard – the one who supports the Hindu sectarian BJP and is in league with the right wing. American Enterprise Institute.

Posted in Middle East, United States | 4 Comments

Meeting on Syria

Here is the presentation by Oaklandsocialist at the meeting on Syria on January 28. The meeting agreed to the following:

Greetings to Syrian Revolutionaries
This meeting sends its greetings to our comrades of the Syrian revolution. Your courage sets an example for the entire world. We join you in the spirit of the indigenous Australian Lila Watson, who said ““If you’ve come to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us walk together.” Together we struggle against oppression and economic exploitation, against sectarianism and against the system – capitalism – that is destroying us all. Your struggle is our struggle and together we will learn and together we will win.

Workers of all lands unite.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
We have the world to win.

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Muslim Ban: Trump’s Hornets Nest

On Saturday, President Trump banned Muslims from certain countries from entering the US. Within hours, there were mass protests at airports throughout the country. Donald Trump has stirred up a hornets nest and it’s not going to die down so easily. Here is a video of some of the protest at the San Francisco airport – base for the carpenters wildcat strike which shut down construction at this same terminal back in 1999.

Note: Mention is made here of the carpenters wildcat strike of 1999 which shut down construction of this very building. Here is a video of that strike. And here is a longer article, giving a history of that strike. The union leadership has done everything in its power to crush that fighting union spirit, but it is the coming movement that can play a big role in its revival. This will play a major role in transforming the political situation in the US.

 

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Building trades leaders meet with Trump

Building trades leaders with Trump. Carpenters president Doug McCarron is second from right

Building trades leaders with Trump. Carpenters president Doug McCarron is second from right

 

Just days after the big women’s march, the leaders of the building trades unions in the US held a nice sit-down with Donald Trump, helping to give him cover for his anti-worker and bigoted policies. It should come as no surprise. Back in November, Doug McCarron, president of the Carpenters Union, sent a letter to the union’s membership saying that he was going to try to work with Trump. (See here for the letter plus a translation.) As the letter makes clear, their position is that they favor any construction, anywhere, any time, just so long as they get a cut – through the dues money – for it. We should not be surprised if they actually support building the wall along the Mexican border!

"No Applause for Union Busting" Notice there is no union label - the union "bug" - on the button. The story behind this: Some delegates to the 1981 Carpenters Union convention got this button printed up in Chicago for when Reagan was set to appear. The union leadership got wind of it and called around to every union shop that made buttons and told them that if they printed up this button they never would get any union business again, so all the union shops refused the job so they were made at a non-union shop. Then, the Carpenters leadership refused to allow any delegates into the convention who were wearing a button without a union "bug".  Clearly, though, they have nothing against scabbing; it was just a ruse in order to be able to kiss up to the likes of Reagan (then) and Trump now.

“No Applause for Union Busting”
Notice there is no union label – the union “bug” – on the button. The story behind this:
Some delegates to the 1981 Carpenters Union convention got this button printed up in Chicago for when Reagan was set to appear. The union leadership got wind of it in advance and called around to every union shop that made buttons and told them that if they printed up this button they never would get any union business again, so all the union shops refused the job. As a result, the buttons had to be made at a non-union shop. Then, the Carpenters leadership refused to allow any delegates into the convention who were wearing a button without a union “bug”.
Clearly, though, they have nothing against scabbing; it was just a ruse in order to be able to kiss up to the likes of Reagan (then) and Trump now.

In fact, there is a long history to this sort of thing. Back in 1981, when Reagan was president, the Carpenters Union president invited President Reagan to address their general convention in Chicago. This was right in the midst of Reagan’s busting of the air traffic controllers’ strike. The California delegation wanted to walk out when he spoke, so the union president got them all together and laid down the law.  “We’re going to have to work with this president,” he said. In other words, he was wanting to cut his own deal with Reagan and leave the other unions hanging, starting with the air traffic controllers. It was what amounted to political scabbing.

Now, Doug McCarron and the others are doing the same thing but worse.

Ullico
Also present was Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers Union. O’Sullivan is the former CEO of Union Labor Life Insurance Company, “Ullico”, which also has a sordid past. Established by the unions in the 1920s, Ullico is run by a board of directors that is composed of the heads of various unions. This board of directors sets the price of its stock, based on the recommendation of its auditor. Back in the 1990s, the union presidents (including McCarron) plus different union pension plans were given the opportunity to buy the stock at a favorable price, knowing that that price was about to go up considerably. In less than a year, aware that some of the holdings of Ullico were in stock whose value was based on fraud, the union presidents were allowed to bail, selling the stock at an enormous profit. The union pension plans were left holding the bag. (See pp. 15-16 of this pamphlet for the details.)

Personal enrichment plus control over the membership – that’s what these union leaders are all about. They might be a little worse than some of the other union leaders, but it’s only a matter of degree. They are all locked into the idea that they must collaborate with the employers of their particular industry.

Mark Breslin and the “Team Concept”
This is no different from what the building trades are doing sending around the professional union busting lawyer, Mark Breslin, to lay down the line to their second line leadership. “to survive in the 21st century construction industry, individual union workers must change, adapt, and be the “fittest” of all workers,” is the line Breslin is laying down on behalf of the building trades leadership. Nor is it any different from what other union leaderships are doing, sending in the employers to lay down the same position.

The struggle against Trump, if it is to really gain a base among the rank and file of the unions, must also include a struggle to transform the unions from top to bottom, to make them the fighting organizations that so many workers sacrificed so much for in the first place.

Posted in labor, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Video: Oakland’s Women’s March

Includes a few interviews…

See here for a more in-depth article.

Posted in Oakland, politics, videos/documentaries, women | Leave a comment

Women’s March and the Coming Battles

womens-march

Exactly what the mainstream of US capitalism feared now seems to be under way: Trump has poked a hornets’ nest. Consider: “The Metro public transit system reported that about 275,000 trips had been taken as of 11 a.m. Saturday—about eight times normal volume—compared with roughly 193,000 trips the system recorded on Inauguration Day by the same time. The city also issued 1,200 bus permits for the march, compared with 400 for the inauguration.”

According to estimates, it was some 2.9 million who marched yesterday – the largest protest march in US history, and completely dwarfing the inaugural turnout.

Donald Trump. The brewing movement is just one side of the problem for US capitalism. The other side is his opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership. This opposition not only hinders increased corporate control over society; it also is a major obstacle to stopping the growing influence of US capitalism’s main rival: Chinese capitalism. Then there is his support for the breakup of the European Union, which would destabilize world capitalism and give increased influence to the other important capitalist rival: Russian capitalism. On top of that, there are his other proposals, such as to build “the wall”, support for the most radical right wing in Israel (which weakens US influence in the entire region), etc.

Donald Trump.
The brewing movement is just one side of the problem for US capitalism. The other side is his opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership. This opposition not only hinders increased corporate control over society; it also is a major obstacle to stopping the growing influence of US capitalism’s main rival: Chinese capitalism. Then there is his support for the breakup of the European Union, which would destabilize world capitalism and give increased influence to the other important capitalist rival: Russian capitalism. On top of that, there are his other proposals, such as to build “the wall”, support for the most radical right wing in Israel (which weakens US influence in the entire region), etc.

Two Facebook Messages
And to think that it all started when two individual women posted notes on Facebook suggesting this march. But it was not just any two women: Teresa Shook is a retired attorney. When she posted her note, within 12 hours there were 10,000 replies. At the same time, Bob Bland, a fashion designer and entrepreneur in New York, posted a similar idea. Bland already had several thousand followers on FB due to some Planned Parenthood T-Shirts she’d designed and was selling.

The two women merged their efforts and it took off from there as the Women’s March on Washington. The “team” that directed the efforts included:

Democrats and Their Supporters
Tamika Mallory
, who is founder of Mallory Consulting and worked closely with the Obama Administration; Carmen Perez, executive director of a non-profit; Bob Bland, CEO and founder of Manufacture New York; and Janaye Ingram, who served as executive director of National Action Network (NAN, founded by Al Sharpton; several others on this team had links with NAN.) As it developed, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party got involved. Ron Bonta, Democratic state assembly member for the Oakland area, sent out an e mail to his constituents urging them to attend for example.

So we can see that from its inception, this event was politically connected. That is part of why it took off so much, in addition of course to the fact that it really tapped into a mood in the US.

Trump and the Republicans moved quickly. Even before his taking over, the Republicans moved to allow Corporate America even greater freedom to pollute the environment. On the very day that Trump took office, his team eliminated all references to "global warming" as well as "LBGTW rights" on the White House web site as this shows.

Trump and the Republicans moved quickly.
Even before his taking over, the Republicans moved to allow Corporate America even greater freedom to pollute the environment. On the very day that Trump took office, his team eliminated all references to “global warming” as well as “LBGTW rights” on the White House web site as this shows.

Union Leadership
In addition to these connections, the union leadership mobilized its members. The Carpenters Union leadership, for example, made robocalls to their members throughout the US, urging them to attend the protests. Significantly, the president of this union – Doug McCarron – just a month or so earlier had written a letter to the membership saying that the union would try to “work with” Trump (as did AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka), and normally the Carpenters Union leadership avoids any mobilization of its membership like the plague.

What accounts for this turnaround?

On the one hand, the union leadership was watching Trump’s appointments, most particularly the appointment of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor. Normally this position serves as the link between the administration and the union leadership, but the appointment of Puzder serves as a declaration of war not only on the membership but on the leadership itself. Coming from the fast food industry, Puzder even opposes the very idea of a minimum wage. Together with the most right wing congress in many decades, this could mean the passage of a national “right to work” (for less) law.

“American democracy” and Capitalist Stability
There was also another factor: An overriding concern for the mainstream of US capitalism continues to be its political stability.  So, for example, we saw Obama’s concentration on a “smooth transition of power” from his administration to Trump’s. It might be largely symbolic, but symbolism counts for a lot in how people see things. That stability is impossible if it is discredited in the eyes of large sectors of the population.

The Democrats and their lieutenants – the union leadership and the non-profiteers – knowing that a movement was likely coming had to ensure that it did not break the bounds of dependence on the liberal establishment. First and foremost, this meant that the inevitable protest in Washington DC on the day of the inauguration would not be so massive that it would disrupt this “smooth transition”, that the symbolism of the inauguration would not be disturbed. Just imagine what would have happened if instead of some 10,000 or so, hundreds of thousands had descended on Washington DC to jeer and boo Trump as he took the reigns of power. Just imagine if they had disrupted everything to the extent that clouds of tear gas drifted over the city and Trump, Obama and Company had been driven indoors to carry out their symbolic ceremony in a semi-private indoors setting!

The organizing of the Women’s March helped ensure that tens of thousands would delay coming to Washington until the day after the inauguration!

“Bermuda Triangle” of US Politics
This is linked with the overall necessity of the liberal establishment to draw this movement into Bermuda Triangle* into which movements enter and are never heard from again – the clutches of the Democratic Party. So we saw Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who is presiding over and represents the gentrification and whitification of Oakland, speaking at the march in Oakland. And such Democratic liberal icons as Elizabeth Warren, a supporter of Hillary Clinton, speak in Boston’s event. In general, and as the Wall St. Journal put it,  “Democratic Party’s Next Generation of Leaders Appear at Protests”.

Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi happily attending the convention with right wing Republican war hawk, US Senator John McCain. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is the bait for the trap.

Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi happily attending the convention with right wing Republican war hawk, US Senator John McCain.
The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is the bait for the trap.

In a way, although there are some fundamental differences, there is a symmetry between the rise of this movement and the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party originated as a “grass roots” movement of the right, not directly connected with any major political party. It could not continue this way, and soon it came under the wing of the Republican Party with a more radical wing moving towards overt racism, for example. Similarly, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, along with their lieutenants, is moving quickly to take control of this movement on the left. The difference is that the more radical wing of the resistance to Trump and the Republicans will have to be outside the control of and opposed to the representatives of the rulers of America in general – the owners of capital. In other words, the US capitalist class.

The great majority of those who were at yesterday’s protests seemed to think that they can get the liberal wing of the Democrats to represent their interests. However, that wing is simply the bait for the trap. As New York State Attorney General Eric Schniederman put it  at a recent Democratic Party conference: “We’re not trying to get everybody on board a specific path.” In other words, they are happy with the “big tent” that draws working class and middle class people and organizations into a party controlled by the owners of capital.

Program and Plan of Action
The wing of the movement against Trump that is independent of the owners of capital (which is to say the socialist wing) certainly has its task cut out for it, as yesterday’s protests show. Equally, it has an opportunity before it as never before for many decades. To accomplish that task, serious socialists need to work together around a common general program and strategy:

  • Build community and work place based committees of resistance to oppose and prevent deportation of undocumented immigrants, attacks on women and people of color, etc. This would be done not just in words, but in deeds, through mass action in the streets and work places.
  • Build a rank and file movement in the unions to get the leadership out of bed with the Democrats and the employers and make the unions really fight for the members. Oppose concessionary contracts and collaboration with the employers on the job.
  • Link up the issue of racism, sexism and bigotry in general with both the economic issues as well as with internationalism in deeds, not just words. (The importance of the latter can be seen in the gathering of all the far right, racist chauvinist populist parties of Europe on the same day as Trump’s inauguration. These parties were boosted by and celebrated the coming to power of Trump and their rise will give Trump a boost.)
  • Link this struggle with the struggle internationally. As we see with the far right parties
    Leaders of the European far right racist, chauvinist parties meet in Germany and celebrate the taking of power by Trump in the US.

    Leaders of the European far right racist, chauvinist parties meet in Germany and celebrate the taking of power by Trump in the US.

    and right wing events like Brexit (see this article, for example) and the rise of the far right parties in Europe as well as the crisis in Syria, what happens around the world affects us in the US and vice versa.

  • Work together to organize a broad, working class, socialist opposition to the attacks of Trump and of capitalism in general – an opposition that can coordinate and help organize this struggle nation wide and beyond, independent of all the forces of capital. Such an organized opposition could be the embryo of a mass working class political party in the US – the alternative to the Democratic Party quicksand.

The “Bermuda Triangle” is a triangular area just north of Bermuda whose peculiar convergence of ocean currents and weather patterns has caused several ships, boats and small planes to disappear, sinking to the bottom of the ocean. In general, the exact cause of their disappearances has been a mystery. It’s similar with the Democratic Party, the NGO’s and the union leadership in relationship to social protest movements; these movements have tended to disappear into this convergence of forces.

 

 

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Chelsea Manning and the Coming Movement

The commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence has to be welcomed. But it also has to be understood in its context.
The context is the coming movement against Trump and the role of the Democratic Party and their water carriers – the union leadership and the nonprofiteers.
Take the protests scheduled for Inauguration Day (January 20) and the one scheduled for the day after (Jan. 21) – the “Million Women’s March”. The second one is more or less called by the liberal women’s groups, including the non-profits (who function as one of the wings of the Democratic Party). The union leadership is getting in on the act, too. For example, even the Carpenters Union leadership, whose president says he wants to try to work with Trump, has called members in the region to come to the January 21 protest. Why did they schedule it for the day after inauguration? Why not on Inauguration Day? The reason is that the protests on that day will necessarily be far more confrontational. They might actually somewhat disrupt all the pomp and ceremony of the inauguration. Battles in the streets, even maybe tear gas – imagine how that would make the famous “American democracy” look!
But to stay out in front of the movement, they have to have some credibility, and Obama has lost a lot over the years. With this one act, he has helped himself and his party regain some.
So, yes, we should welcome the commutation of Chelsey Manning. We should also redouble our efforts for the release of political prisoners like Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal. But we should also not be confused. This commutation, and other similar feints to the “left” by the Democrats, are only done to ensure that the anti-Trump movement doesn’t move towards building its own, mass radical, working class party and that it doesn’t threaten the stability of US capitalism, that it doesn’t question capitalism itself. And to those who say that moving in that direction is a distraction from winning some gains in the immediate future, we say: The further we go down that road – towards working class independence and towards socialism – the more concessions the capitalists will grant.
Build an independent, working class movement!
Fight for socialism!

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Mumia on MLK Day

Join The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal at the MLK March

Monday 16 January 2017 at 10:45 AM

Meet us with the Labor Rising contingent at:

16th & Clay, downtown Oakland

Free Mumia!   Hep-C Medications for All Infected Prisoners!

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After last month’s successful Mumia Action Coalition rally and march in Oakland, the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal is calling all activists to join the labor contingent for the MLK march on Monday January 16. We will be gathering in front of the State Building at 16th St. & Clay in downtown Oakland at 10:45 AM and then moving to Oscar Grant Plaza around the corner to join the main march. We’ll have a large Free Mumia banner and posters, but if you have your own bring that.  Let’s make Mumia’s recent courtroom victories a reality by organizing a spirited contingent demanding his immediate release from prison after 35 years on slow death row! 

About the recent Court victory:

On January 3rd, a federal court granted Mumia Abu-Jamal’s petition for immediate and effective treatment for his Hepatitis-C infection, which has hitherto been denied him. The judge struck down Pennsylvania’s protocols as “deliberate indifference to serious medical need.”

This is a rare and important win for innocent political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal in a court system that has routinely subjected him to the “Mumia exception,” i.e., a refusal of justice despite court precedents in his favor. Thousands of Hep-C-infected prisoners throughout Pennsylvania and the US stand to benefit from this decision, provided it is upheld.

But, it is up to us to make sure that this decision is not over-turned on appeal–something the State of Pennsylvania will most likely seek.

Hundreds demonstrated in both Philadelphia and Oakland on December 9th to demand both this Hep-C treatment for prisoners, and “Free Mumia Now!” In Oakland, the December 9th Free Mumia Coalition rallied in downtown and then marched on the OPD headquarters. The Coalition brought over two dozen groups together to reignite the movement to free Mumia; and now we need your support to expand and build for more actions in this new, and likely very dangerous year for political prisoners.

Monday 16 January 2017 at 10:45 AM

Meet us with the Labor Rising contingent at:

16th & Clay, downtown Oakland

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You couldn’t make this s_t up!

Regarding the “golden shower” Trump rumors:

CNN hinted at this is a recent broadcast when they reported that a CIA briefing of Trump and of Obama included an “addendum” which said that Putin & Co. may have “compromising information” on Trump. Whether the particular rumor about this information is true or not (the “golden shower” rumor – that Trump hired some prostitutes in a Moscow hotel to urinate on a bed that the Obama’s had slept in), there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that there is tons of “compromising” information floating around out there about this most depraved member of a depraved class. It’s one way the capitalist class will have of keeping him in line and this CIA briefing was a way of indirectly reminding him of this fact.

Meanwhile, we can talk about a leadership crisis in the working class; the capitalist class has a leadership crisis!

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Tulsi Gabbard: A New Democratic Party Star?

Tulsi Gabbard speaking at the 2015 conference of Christians United for Israel

Tulsi Gabbard speaking at the 2015 conference of Christians United for Israel

The latest rising star on the liberals’ horizon is Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic Congresswoman from Hawaii. A military vet and a prominent participant in the Bernie Sanders campaign, she cuts an attractive appearance. But is she really our hope? Who, in fact, is she?

Liberal but…
She is one of the few members of congress who has spoken out in favor of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. Her voting record on environmental issues and other liberal touchstones is good. Among other things, she supports the right to same sex marriage. But it’s exactly here that a different Gabbard appears. In 2004, Gabbard argued against a Hawaii state bill in favor of civil unions, which she denounced as being the product of  “a small number of homosexual extremists.” This is similar to the switch that Hillary Clinton pulled on this issue. And while she now poses as a champion of homeless veterans, when she was a Honolulu city council member, she introduced a bill which would have had the effect of confiscating the personal possessions of the homeless.

HR6504
Her main issue, over which she’s been getting a lot of attention lately, is a bill she’s sponsoring (HR6504) that would supposedly mandate that the US stop funding Islamic terrorist groups or individuals. This is music to the ears of those on the left who support Assad and Putin in Syria. They see the matter as being purely a war against these terrorist groups, with the US allegedly backing those groups. But what, in fact, does the bill say and who else is behind it?

A tip off is that one of the co-sponsors of the bill is US Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R, CA). Rohrabacher is on the far right of the Republican party, an outspoken Islamophobe and anti-immigrant bigot.

HR6504 reads, “no funds made available to any Federal department or agency may be used to provide covered assistance to Al Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and ISIL, and any individual or group that is affiliated with, associated with, cooperating with, or adherents to such groups.”

We are not lawyers, but this is a very broad prohibition that would apply not only to “Defense” and similar agencies, but as it says “any Federal department or agency”.  Combine that with what it says – any group or individual that is even “associated with” such groups. In other words, this could mean any Muslim in the US who goes to a mosque or participates in some sort of Muslim social group where there are people who have some sort of relationship with some group or individual who is involved – either knowingly or not – with one of the named groups. Such people could, for example, be barred from getting federal housing assistance, etc.

Given that Gabbard and the other sponsors provide not a shred of evidence that the US government actually is funding the Islamic State or similar groups, this bill should be seen in the context of the anti-Muslim propaganda that is so prevalent today. As well, it is a nod towards the far right wing Vladimir Putin.

Gabbard with Narendra Modi

Gabbard with Narendra Modi

Hindu Nationalism
HR 6504 should also be seen in the context of Gabbard’s own history. A Hindu, Gabbard is a supporter of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  This party, and Modi himself, were complicit in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, riots that killed close to 800 Muslims. (The Wall St. Journal has supported Modi because of his promise to push through neoliberal economics measures as prime minister.)

In 2014, BJP supporters in the US convened a meeting in Atlanta. According to a report, “Gabbard attended the meeting, posing with a sash adorned with the BJP’s party logo…. Federal election commission documents show Gabbard received over $6,000 from BJP supporters in the Atlanta area that day alone…. her backers are all ideological backers of the BJP, which represents the right-wing, Hindu nationalist wing of Indian politics.

Gabbard with BJP supporter Vijay Jolly at their Atlanta conference

Gabbard with BJP supporter Vijay Jolly at their Atlanta conference

The following year (2015), Gabbard visited India, where the Indian newspaper “The Telegraph” called her “the Sangh’s mascot.” This refers to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a far, far right Hindu sectarian and nationalist group that supported the

The RSS thugs. During WW II they supported Hitler.

The RSS thugs.
During WW II they supported Hitler.

Nazis during WW II. Among other things, during that visit, Gabbard attended a conference hosted by the Sangh. While in India, she also made comments on Hinduism that are no different from comments a Christian fundamentalist would make about the Bible and Christianity.

Israel
Her anti-Muslim politics coincides with her support for Israel. As does Modi, Gabbard strongly supports that state, and she is close to one of Israel’s strongest supporters in the US, the right wing Sheldon Adelson. In July of 2015, Gabbard was a featured speaker at the conference of “Christians United for Israel” (see picture), where she campaigned against the US treaty with Iran.

Gabbard was a featured speaker at the conference of Christians United for Israel. She spoke along with such right wingers as Ted Cruz and Nick Santorum. The reactionary bigot Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu also spoke.

Gabbard was a featured speaker at the conference of Christians United for Israel. She spoke along with such right wing religious fanatics as Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. The reactionary bigot Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu also spoke.

Trump and Conservative Establishment
Gabbard has studiously avoided openly criticizing Trump, and shortly after he was elected

Gabbard happily posing with the wife of far right winger, Sheldon Adelson.

Gabbard happily posing with the wife of far right winger, Sheldon Adelson.

president she had a private audience with him, where she reportedly discussed the war in Syria. On this issue, she apparently has a lot in common with Trump in that both support Assad and, apparently, Putin’s role also.

Gabbard is also close to the conservative establishment, most particularly the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). “I like her thinking a lot,” says  Arthur Brooks, president of the AEI. As the conservative National Review reports, “Since taking office in January 2013, Gabbard has cultivated relationships with conservative national-security and defense experts, particularly those from AEI, an institution known for churning out research advocating a muscular foreign policy. She was one of just three Democrats to land an invitation to AEI’s exclusive annual retreat in Sea Island, Ga., earlier this month… and she’s befriended and impressed AEI’s foreign-policy wonks.”

Conclusion
It says a lot that Bernie Sanders made Tulsi Gabbard a central figure in his presidential campaign. On several foreign policy issues, such as drone warfare and support for Israel, the two are on the same page.

For US politics, most of the 20th century was dominated by the “Cold War”, the rivalry between US capitalism and the Soviet Union. During that era, there arose a liberal establishment in the US that totally pushed US capitalist domination overseas (such as the Vietnam War) while supporting some liberal reforms at home. First and foremost among these was Hubert Humphry, former US senator and vice president under Lyndon Johnson. These were known as the Cold War liberals. Sanders and Gabbard are the 21st century equivalent of these politicians. In a world where events around the world increasingly affect events at home, these 21st century Cold War liberals offer no way forward.

Update: Since this article was written, Tulsi Gabbard made a trip to Syria as a guest of the fascist Syrian Social Nationalist Party. There, she and another liberal icon – Dennis Kucinich – met with Assad. Click here for this story.

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A New Political Party: “Blueprint” or Perspectives?

A bit of a discussion is under way (again) about an alternative to the Democrats. Seth Ackerman has written an article “A Blueprint for a New Party”, for example. His “blueprint” is to focus on the unions – which really means on the union leadership in this case, and to work through the Democratic Party. John Leslie of Phillyworkersvoice has written a reply, talking about “the party we need”.

We should start by considering the method.

Perspectives
It’s not a matter of what “we need” or want. Nor is it possible to draw up a blueprint, especially not in this country in this period. Rather, it’s a matter of  how things are likely to develop – not in detail, nor in certainties, but the general process. It is also not a matter of a party of “the left”, but a class question. Writing over 100 years ago, Frederick Engels commented: “The first great step of importance for every country newly entering into the movement is always the organization of the workers as an independent political party, no matter how, so long as it is a distinct workers’ party.”

Working Class Mass Political Party
All political parties are based on one class or another. The Republicans and

Frederick Engels, co-thinker with Karl Marx. He also wrote on an early attempt to build a workers party in the US: "That the first programme of this party is still confused and highly deficient, that it has set up the banner of Henry George, these are inevitable evils but also only transitory ones. The masses must have time and opportunity to develop and they can only have the opportunity when they have their own movement--no matter in what form so long as it is only their own movement--in which they are driven further by their own mistakes and learn wisdom by hurting themselves."

Frederick Engels, co-thinker with Karl Marx. He also wrote on an early attempt to build a workers party in the US: “That the first programme of this party is still confused and highly deficient, that it has set up the banner of Henry George, these are inevitable evils but also only transitory ones. The masses must have time and opportunity to develop and they can only have the opportunity when they have their own movement–no matter in what form so long as it is only their own movement–in which they are driven further by their own mistakes and learn wisdom by hurting themselves.”

the Democrats (as well as the Libertarians) are based on the owners of capital, the capitalist class. There has never been a case in history of a capitalist party being transformed into a working class party, and the Democrats will not be so transformed. The question is how, under what conditions and through what sort of process, will the US working class organize into its own party. Again, not what we want, but what is the most likely general process.

Unions
Both Ackerman and Leslie focus a lot on the role of the unions. That makes sense, since even in their greatly weakened state, they remain the only mass organizations of the working class. But what they don’t deal with is the present situation within the unions. The entire union leadership is dedicated to the proposition that for the unions to survive, the members must assure their employers that they, the employers, will be able to compete with the non-union employers, that they will make steady and sufficient profits. (See this article, for a clearer view.) This has direct, concrete consequences. It means granting concessions after concessions and refusing to fight for the members in the daily struggles in the work place. And the result for the members? Demoralization and alienation from the union.

Tony Mazzocchi, founder of the Labor Party of the 1990s. This writer was intimately involved in that movement. He helped organize the original meeting of AFSCME Local 444 on the issue, and Mazzocchi himself said that it was the success of that meeting that got him to go on to found "Labor Party Advocates", later the Labor "Party". Unfortunately, Mazzocchi was unwilling to really lead a campaign against the conservative position of his fellow union leaders. This included not only their reliance on the Democrats, but also their refusal to really organize a struggle against concessions.

Tony Mazzocchi, founder of the Labor Party of the 1990s.
This writer was intimately involved in that movement. He helped organize the original meeting of AFSCME Local 444 at which Mazzocchi spoke on the issue, and Mazzocchi himself said that it was the success of that meeting that got him to go on to found “Labor Party Advocates”, later the Labor “Party”. Unfortunately, Mazzocchi was unwilling to really lead a campaign against the conservative position of his fellow union leaders. This included not only their reliance on the Democrats, but also their refusal to really organize a struggle against concessions.

No campaign for the unions to build a wider movement and a political party can succeed without the participation of a mass of the members. But this means that no such campaign can succeed unless it is directly linked to a campaign to transform the unions, to make them the fighting organizations that so many workers struggled and sacrificed for in the first place.

And there’s the rub. Such a struggle has to involve organizing opposition caucuses within the unions. But that is often a bitter and lonely struggle, and given the repression and demoralizing role of the leadership as well as the alienation most members feel from their union, it’s been nearly impossible for such oppositions to make a real breakthrough. (It has happened occasionally, such as in the 1999 Bay Area carpenters wildcat strike. But these have been the exception, not the rule.)

This situation cannot last forever. It won’t last forever. But how is it likely to change?

Broader Social Movements
Broader social movements give a hint. During the “general strike” of Occupy Oakland, a few union members came down looking for a way to link up that movement with their dissatisfaction with their own union leadership. It was similar in the first week of the protests in Ferguson, where some union members got involved. So, the question is how can a broader social movement develop and what are its possible links to the rise of a mass workers’ party?

It seems almost certain that January 20 will mark the start of a new stage in the movement, with more than just the “usual suspects” involved in widespread and persistent struggles against the attacks of the Trump administration. There will be strong efforts to channel this movement into the waiting clutches of the liberal establishment and the Democratic Party, but this will not entirely succeed. Most likely, most of the organizing will start out at the local level, but as a movement develops, it’s hard to see how there won’t be a tendency to come together at the national level – to coordinate as well as draw some conclusions at that level. Wouldn’t this tend to become some sort of national coalition or national organization of some sort?

At the same time, isn’t it likely that wider layers of working class people will tend to get involved, meaning that the working class will tend to stamp its imprint on this movement? And as this movement develops, then and maybe only then will we see a tendency for rank and file union members to organize and rise up to make their unions into the fighting organizations that they were meant to be in the first place.

Anybody who thinks that the process will be smooth and step-by-step will be caught by surprise. Inherent in the situation are huge shocks - events equivalent to a tidal wave or an earthquake. These might include some mass racist or terrorist attack, an environmental disaster, a nuclear meltdown or similar event, and war or revolution, etc. They will tend to destabilize US capitalist society, including weakening the grip of the union leadership over its members.

Anybody who thinks that the process will be smooth and step-by-step will be caught by surprise. Inherent in the situation are huge shocks – events equivalent to a tidal wave or an earthquake. These might include some mass racist or terrorist attack, an environmental disaster, a nuclear meltdown or similar event, and war or revolution, etc. They will tend to destabilize US capitalist society, including weakening the grip of the union leadership over its members.

If that is so, then what will tend to develop is a body, a coalition, whose role is to guide and coordinate – and draw conclusions from – a movement that is increasingly based on the working class. And what is that but the beginnings of a mass workers party?

Put another way, there is a tendency to think of the development of a workers party in the US as being through running candidates for office. But given all the traditions of the struggle in the US – a struggle that has always tended to focus first on the mobilizations in the streets, communities and work places – why should we think that a workers’ party will develop first through elections?

Elections
Of course, the issue of elections will be a litmus test. Some – including those close to the nonprofits, the union leadership and other Democratic Party supporters – will argue against this movement/organization-in-the-making running its own candidates. (Ironically, the anarchists will join  forces with these liberals.) Some of them will argue for abstaining from elections, while others will argue for supporting the next Bernie Sanders. But abstention will not be an option; the alternatives will be either supporting the Democrats or running our own candidates. That will be a harsh test for this movement in the making. Maybe it will start with running candidates at the local level, where the movement will have a better chance to actually make an impact. But run its own candidates, this movement must do.

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Syria: Can Any Capitalist Force Provide a Solution?

Can any capitalist regime help the masses of Syrian people?

That is the question of the hour.

Some, incredibly including some socialists, believe so. They base this belief on the view that the one and only problem the Syrian masses face is the Islamic fundamentalists. On that basis, they are supporting Assad and his allies. Let’s consider who these forces are:

Assad Regime
The Assad regime has a long history of using torture against its opponents. So experienced was his regime in those methods, that he allied himself with George Bush as a favored participant in the Bush administration’s “extraordinary rendition” program. (So much for

Assad's war against the people of Syria.

Assad’s war against the people of Syria.

Assad’s “anti-imperialist” credentials!) For years, Assad carried out a neoliberal economic program as mandated by the World Bank. In fact, like with the Egyptian and Tunisian regimes, it was exactly his neoliberal economic attacks that led to the revolution against him in the “Arab Spring” of 2011. Assad based himself on religious/ethnic sectarianism, specifically the support of the Alawi minority. One of Assad’s biggest supporters in Aleppo, Fares Shehabi, is a top Syrian capitalist.  This basis of Assad’s rule – capitalist neoliberal policies, sectarianism, and torture – mean that he has nothing to offer the great masses of the Syrian people.

Putin
In assessing Assad’s main ally – Putin – we should keep in mind the fact that “foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy”.  Putin has pushed the same type of economic policy as is followed by Assad, including privatization of medical insurance, etc. Russian workers’ union rights are extremely limited if they exist at all. In order to maintain a popular base, Putin pushes chauvinism and nationalism. Putin, himself, is close to the founder of the

Putin (left) with "The Surgeon", founder of the Russian fascist motorcycle gang the Night Wolves

Putin (left) with “The Surgeon”, founder of the Russian fascist motorcycle gang the Night Wolves

fascist Russian motorcycle gang, the Night Wolves. As “Rolling Stone” magazine explains: “Under Putin’s tenure, the Kremlin has jailed journalists and opposition figures, banned “gay propaganda” and crafted ersatz political parties that provide a veneer of self-governance. It has deployed its vast propaganda apparatus — state-controlled radio and newspapers, but above all, television — to fan patriotic fervor.”

Putin also supports many of the far right chauvinist and racist groups and individuals throughout Europe, including Jobbik, the neo Nazi Hungarian group, Ataka, a similar group in Bulgaria, the Austrian “Freedom(!) Party,” and Le Penne’s National Front in France. (Note: A google search using the words “Putin European right wing groups” will turn up numerous articles documenting this.)

In 1999, the Putin regime invaded Chechnya and carried out a scorched earth policy that reduced Grozny, the principle Chechen city, to rubble, leaving it looking like Gaza after Israel got finished with it.

The interest of the Putin regime in intervening in Syria is to protect its military base in Tartus, and to defend the interests of Russian capitalism in relation to its rivals, the main one being US capitalism. It also has an interest in opposing Islamic fundamentalism, which has arisen in parts of Russia like Chechnya as a result of Russian imperialist slaughter there. It has no interest whatsoever in defending or empowering the Syrian working class. Just the opposite.

Rouhani & Hezbollah
Then there is Putin’s ally, Rouhani, in Iran, and their representative in Lebanon, Hezbollah. The Iranian regime routinely arrests union leaders. Among other issues, they

Iranian plain clothes police beat woman celebrating International Women's Day in 2016. How can the Iranian regime possibly be participating in any "liberation" of Syria?

Iranian plain clothes police beat woman celebrating International Women’s Day in 2016. How can the Iranian regime possibly be participating in any “liberation” of Syria?

base themselves on extreme oppression of women. As for Hezbollah, they represent the Shia capitalist class. Both forces rest on Shia sectarianism, just as IS and al Qaeda rest on Sunni sectarianism. In Iraq, the same forces that are supporting Assad in Syria, are accused of reprisal killings of Sunnis. They will carry out the same policies in Syria, if they are not doing so already.

Conclusion
It is ridiculous to think that these forces, which base themselves on economic exploitation, religious sectarianism, chauvinism and oppression of women, would have anything to offer the Syrian masses.

The forces opposed to Assad & Co. and the United States
On the one hand, there are the Islamic fundamentalist forces, some of which are outright fascist. None of them advocate US intervention, obviously.

But some of the other forces opposed to Assad & Co. do support the idea of US military intervention in Syria. Some, but not all, of those forces are simply the representatives of US capitalism/imperialism. There are, however, many sincere people who are not such representatives. They see the devastation that the Assad and Putin regimes have wrought, such as on the people of East Aleppo. They see the deadly role of Shia fundamentalists, such as Hezbollah and the Iranian “Revolutionary Guard”. Failing to see any popular force that can stand up to these criminals, they turn to the hope that the US regime will come to their rescue. They should consider:

In 2011, the Syrian masses joined their counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia and rose up against their oppressor, the torturer and World Bank stooge Assad. Unfortunately, the

In March and April of this year, despite everything the Syrian people have gone through, the protests in the streets sprang to life again. Here is a protest in Barzeh on March 18 of 2016

In March and April of this year, despite everything the Syrian people have gone through, the protests in the streets sprang to life again. Here is a protest in Barzeh on March 18 of 2016. This shows that the popular resistance to both the Islamic State and to Assad is not completely crushed, although we don’t know to what extent is survives.

revolution became militarized, and it appears that it got out of control of the masses. One force that intervened was the Saudi and similar capitalists, through their support for the fascist Islamic fundamentalists, including Daesh (or the Islamic State) and al Qaeda (known in Syria as al Nusra). Some claim that the US regime was the one behind the building of the Islamic State. That is ridiculous. The IS arose in opposition to US occupation of Iraq. It is a vicious, bigoted and sectarian force that opposes the role of all non-Sunni Muslims throughout the region. In fact, it’s no accident that at this time, incoming US president Trump is close to Putin and according to the New York Times, he is saying that the United States should focus on defeating the Islamic State, and find common ground with the Syrians and their Russian backers.

Even if the US regime were to intervene against Assad, Putin & Co., what would they do? There is not the slightest chance that they would support the opponents of the neoliberal economic attacks on the workers and peasants in Syria. Given that capitalism has proven that it cannot provide any real future in that entire region, there is no chance that US capitalism would support any truly popular mass force. They never have anywhere else and will not in the future. Given the long, long history of US capitalist support for the

In 2009, the Honduras military carried out a coup with US government covert support. The US government will not help the Syrian people in any way.

In 2009, the Honduras military carried out a coup with US government covert support. The US government will not help the Syrian people in any way.

racist State of Israel, its long history of intervention on the side of capitalist oppressors around the world, its pushing neoliberal economic policies at home, how can US capitalism possibly have anything positive to offer the Syrian masses?

And while the idea that the US intentionally helped the Islamic State to organize is false, there is a certain history here: The US capitalist class did help al Qaeda when they were fighting against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. They did that because they saw the greater threat of an anti-capitalist force (even though the Soviet Union was not truly socialist). This stands as a warning: If a mass working class movement were to develop again in Syria and elsewhere in the Muslim world, US capitalism would not hesitate to once again directly back Islamic fundamentalists like the Islamic State in order to counter such a movement.

The “Left” and Syria
Much of the left is in a near total state of confusion regarding Syria. Some, such as the longstanding socialist Jeff Mackler, are outright supporters of Assad, Putin & Co. In part,

Eva Bartlett This paid agent of Assad and Putin is a proven liar, but she has influenced much of the left, from socialist Jeff Mackler to left liberal Amy Goodman.

Eva Bartlett
This paid agent of Assad and Putin is a proven liar, but she has influenced much of the left, from socialist Jeff Mackler to left liberal Amy Goodman.

they have been taken in by that paid mouthpiece of Assad and Putin and proven liar, Eva Bartlett. The same is true for much of the Palestinian rights movement. Others, like left journalist Glenn Greenwald, limit themselves to opposing British (and by extension, US) intervention into Syria. Famed independent journalist Robert Fisk, by his own accounting has actually been operating as an embedded journalist with the Assad military. In both cases, they seem to focus entirely on the different military forces at work and tend to ignore the masses of Syrian people themselves. Incredibly, even the usually very thoughtful Black Agenda Report is giving a forum to Syrian capitalist Fares Shehabi as a legitimate representative of the Syrian masses.

Then there is the issue of Donald Trump, who is close to Putin. This, too, has utterly confused much of the left. Julian Assange has expressed mixed feelings about Trump, and “Counterpunch” has published an article that comes close to outright support for Trump.

On the other side, many who oppose Putin/Assad & Co. see some hope for a US or British military intervention. They think this would be a step forward.

Cause of Confusion
The cause for this confusion is that none of these elements see an alternative force to one or the other of the capitalist powers. Specifically, they don’t see the potential for the working class to be an independent force, for the working class to be the subject not the object of history.

How could the working class play an independent role?

Especially with the regime’s victory in Aleppo, it’s possible that in Syria today the working class has suffered such a set back that it is very demoralized. But no working class lives in a vacuum. What is the situation for the Egyptian workers, for the Turkish working class? Then there is the European working class. Through supporting the rights and interests of Syrian and other refugees, the European working class could establish direct links with their brothers and sisters in Syria. Through this, direct aid could be given. Equally important, a discussion could be initiated about the situation for workers in Europe, Syria and elsewhere and what lessons can be learned from recent and not-so-recent experiences. This could revive the working class movement throughout the world.

These are a few ideas for how to start. It might seem pitifully little, given the scope of the disaster under way in Syria. But what is the alternative?

working class one fist copy

Note: We got several notes that were simply a compilation of swearing and bald accusations with nothing to back them up as well as implied physical threats. We encourage vigorous debate, but such comments simply bring down the political level and we will not print them here.

Posted in Middle East, rebellion, repression, Uncategorized, war, women | 4 Comments

Christmas in the trenches

The real meaning of a shared holiday:

WW I was the classic inter-imperialist war, in which working class young men were sent to kill each other for the interests of big business. But on Christmas Day of 1914, the German and British soldiers stopped shooting each other and started singing Christmas carols to each other instead. This led to the soldiers getting out of the trenches, unarmed, and approaching each other, singing as they came. They retrieved their dead comrades who’d been lying there in “no man’s land”, and then they shared chocolates with each other and played football with each other.

Surely, the officers were standing there nervously watching, worrying that real comradeship might break out. Unfortunately, because there was no organization to make the impromptu truce last, the troops returned to their trenches and the next day resumed the mutual slaughter for the interests of capital.

But “Christmas in the trenches” should be remembered every Christmas day.

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Trump, Assad and the US Left

Much of the left in the US is basically taking the same position that Donald Trump is taking regarding Syria. As the New York Times reports: Trump’s position is “that the United States should focus on defeating the Islamic State, and find common ground with the Syrians and their Russian backers.” “My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS,” Trump has said.

Is this so very different from those on the left who see the Islamic State and al Qaeda (in the form of Nusra) as the only opponents of Assad? Is it so different from those who justify any crime against humanity in the name of combating the Islamic State fascists? What will they say if a Trump presidency actually does join forces with Putin & Co. in Syria? Will they support that?

Basically, these lefts have abandoned any class position. They see one, and only one enemy: US imperialism. The Russian capitalist state cannot be imperialist, according to them. That includes when it imposes itself on the people of Chechnya, using the same military tactics that the racist State of Israel used against the people of Gaza.

Same as the Stalinists of Old
These lefts are taking a position similar to that taken by the Stalinists and their liberal supporters back in the 1930s and ’40s. In the first place, any reports of the crimes of Stalin & Co. are purely capitalist propaganda. Second, that those who traveled to the Soviet Union as guests of the terrorist regime of Stalin and came back with glowing reports were “independent” reporters – as if the people of the Soviet Union then or Syria today would speak openly to these “reporters” for their torturer! But, most important, back in the era of Stalin his supporters argued, in effect, that the world working class must sacrifice its interests for the interests of the “socialist homeland”, which in reality meant the Stalinist bureaucracy.

“US Imperialism the One and Only Enemy”
Today, the defenders of Putin/Assad (and Rouhani and Hezbollah) make a similar argument: That the one and only battle that matters today is that against US imperialism (and its allies, including Israel). Therefore, anything is justified in opposing US imperialism, which is the only imperialist force in the world. They forget that every capitalist state is imperialist, or would be if it could. What is the Guatemalan state when it casts covetous eyes on Belize, with the desire to invade that country? What are both the Indian and Pakistani states with regard to Kashmir? How about the Brazilian state when it sent troops into Haiti to murder Haitian workers protesting in the streets? How about the Chinese state, when it expands into Pakistan, Africa and South America?

This is not an argument in defense of the Number One terrorist, imperialist state in the world: US imperialism. It’s simply saying that imperialism is an inherent part of capitalism everywhere.

Class Struggle
For these lefts, any crime is justified in combating the one and only enemy: US imperialism. When Putin and Assad use the same military tactics that Israel used in Gaza – basically leveling entire populated areas, bombing schools, hospitals and public markets – that is okay. That particular war against an entire people is okay. When the Industrial Workers of the World wrote: “The working class and the employing class (meaning the capitalist class) have nothing in common,” for these lefts that only applies to the United States. The representatives of the Russian, Iranian or Syrian capitalist class are our allies. The class struggle stops at the border of the United States.

Popular Uprising Became Militarized
Basically, what happened in Syria is that a mass, radical, popular rebellion against that stooge of the World Bank, Assad, became militarized. In such a situation, it’s nearly impossible for the masses of working class people to retain control. Who are the fighters against Assad now? We don’t really know, although as recently as last March, popular protests erupted throughout Syria against both the Islamic jihadists and Assad. But whoever they are, nothing can justify the mass slaughter being carried out by the air forces of Putin and Assad, nor the terrorism of the Shia terrorists, Hezbollah.

Inability to See Role of Working Class Leads to Abandonment of Socialism
The problem is that these lefts cannot see the working class as an independent force, as the subject rather than the object of history. As a result, they flail around, looking for some other force.

Support for Putin/Rouhani/Hezbollah/Assad is a betrayal of socialism just as much as is support for the US government. On either basis, it would be impossible to make the direct, worker-to-worker links that are so necessary to start to build a world workers’ movement against all these capitalist terrorists.

Note:

Those who like this article might also like this one, which is a report on a radio debate this writer had with a defender of Putin/Assad. The article also contains a link to a recording of the debate.

Posted in socialist movement | 15 Comments

Debating an apologist for Putin/Assad

Yesterday (Dec. 17), we had a chance to debate with an apologist for Putin/Assad (and Iran’s Rouhani and their client, Hezbollah) on WRFU’s World Labor Hour. (Hear it here, starting at about 60 minutes in.)

Our basic principle should be (as the IWW says), “the working class and the employing class (i.e. the capitalist class) have nothing in common.” This not only applies to the representatives of the US capitalist class, but also of the Syrian and Russian capitalist class, meaning Assad and Putin, as well as Iran’s Rouhani and the Hezbollah.

The essence of the situation is that there was a popular uprising against that representative of the World Bank, Assad, in 2011. Faced with massive repression, the uprising became militarized and was unable to find a way forward as a “people’s” political revolt. We don’t know who, exactly, is organizing against the regime right now, although as recently as March of this year there were protests throughout Syria against both Assad and the Islamic jihadists. But in another sense, it really doesn’t matter since the present strategy of Putin/Assad is mass murder.

It was interesting to hear what this apologist for them had to say in response.

Mass Murder Becomes “This Implementation”
She started off by denouncing any call for US intervention, but that is a false flag, designed to distract, as I had made perfectly clear that I was opposed to that.

Then she commented: “I have no doubt that people were killed during this implementation (meaning the Russian

Aleppo, Gaza and Grozny (Chechnya). Can you tell which is which? Does it matter? These are all crimes against humanity, but the left liberals and "socialists" cover up for the crimes of Putin. (Hint: Pictures are in chronological order from top down.)

Aleppo, Gaza and Grozny (Chechnya). Can you tell which is which? Does it matter? These are all crimes against humanity, but the left liberals and “socialists” cover up for the crimes of Putin. (Hint: Pictures are in chronological order from top down.)

forces’ bombings of Aleppo and elsewhere). I think this is always going to happen during conditions of war. but it was not intentional.” All she’d have had to do was add the terms “collateral damage”, and she’d have sounded exactly like a US State Department spokesperson defending the latest drone or other outrage by US forces in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere.

As in Grozny (Chechnya), the reactionary Putin capitalist regime targeted the people of Aleppo, directly contrary to the false claims of the Putin/Assad apologist. It is little different from what the criminal Israeli regime did in Gaza with the backing of their US allies (including the working class “savior”, Bernie Sanders).

Eva Bartlett
She talked about the RT reporter Eva Bartlett, who’s spent a good deal of time in Syria: “She is independent. She’s boots on the ground,” she said. This is a reporter for that organ of the Putin administration, RT, who has been in Syria as a guest of the Assad regime, as I pointed out on the radio show. And given Assad’s long, long history of arrest, torture and murder of any critic of his regime, there is no way that Bartlett could have survived there had she been honestly reporting what has been and is happening.

Capitalist “Legitimacy”
Then this defender of the World Bank stooge Assad commented “The Syrian government… is legitimate, just as Russia is operating within international law.” This is the fall-back position of all the left-liberal defenders of these representatives of the capitalist class of their particular countries (Assad, Putin, etc.). That they are operating within capitalist legality. It shows that they have not the slightest connection with the working class, not in their own country nor with the global working class movement. Who cares if these regimes are doing what they and their class have made legal? Under that cover, we would have to defend what the governor of North Dakota did when he called up law enforcement from the surrounding states to attack the protesters at Standing Rock. All of that was done under the law, too.

On this basis, the US government’s war in Vietnam was perfectly okay because the US was invited in by the “legitimate” government of South Vietnam!

Defending Hindu Nationalist
Then this defender of capitalist legality defended US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbert as being “too good to be true.” This is a member of congress who is an anti-Muslim bigot and a supporter of India’s vicious Hindu nationalist president, Modi. (Gabbert was also happy to meet and consult with Donald Trump recently shortly after Trump’s election victory.) Oh, yes… “too good to be true”.

World Working Class
This left liberal who was on the radio show is not alone. All sorts of life-long socialists, from Jeff Mackler to Richard Mellor*, are also giving some measure or other of support to Assad, Putin, etc. The problem is that all they can see is US imperialism, and they have lost sight of the role of the working class as an independent force in history. Therefore they flail around looking for an alternative.

It’s true that that role is more difficult to see today than almost any time in many decades. But outside of orienting towards it, what alternative is there?

In this particular case, what can the workers’ movement do?

Build Direct Links
First of all, there are the Syrian refugees throughout the US and Western Europe. Socialists and other supporters of the workers’ movement should be trying to make links with them and through them try to establish direct links with the Syrian movement, both what remains of it in Syria as well as in the refugee communities in Turkey, etc. Through that, a discussion could be developed so that the workers’ movement can start to learn the lessons of what has happened in Syria and the lessons of the Arab Spring. Also, some forms of worker-to-worker aid could start to be developed. What form that would take is impossible to say from here at this point. But it would be completely impossible to establish such links on the basis of any support – either overt or covert – for the criminal and near-genocidal policies of Assad/Rouhani/Putin/Hezbollah.

We should add: It may be that some of the opponents of Assad have some illusions in seeking US military support. That would be almost inevitable at this point. As we stressed time and again on the radio show, socialists would have to be absolutely adamant in their opposition. Inviting in US military support of any kind would be like asking the wolf to guard the hen house against the fox.

Update: We have received a reply to this article from the person referred to above. It was sent as a personal e mail. Unfortunately, we were refused permission to reprint it here. She is welcome to respond to this report at any time, however.

*since this article was written, Richard Mellor has apparently changed his position of support for Assad & Co.

Posted in Middle East, socialist movement, Uncategorized, world relations | 4 Comments

Interview with Farooq Tariq, Pakistan’s Working Class Hero

Posted in Asia, socialist movement | Leave a comment

Will be on the radio

To those who like the material on this blog,:

I’ll be debating the issue of Syria on the radio this Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. I’ll be taking the position that there is absolutely nothing “progressive” about the Assad regime, that he is really just a brutal stooge of the World Bank and reliant on the nearly as brutal Putin regime.

You can hear it live online at WRFU.net.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Carpenters Union Leader: “We will work with” Trump

Here is the letter sent out by the president of the Carpenters Union, Doug McCarron. We are also providing a translation of some of the finer points.

mccarron-on-trump15122016

McCarron: “Our membership is divided over this election. However, what unites us is stronger than what divides us.”
Translation: “We recognize that many of our members have fallen prey to racism and other forms of bigotry. We, the union leadership, will do nothing to challenge this disease that will rot away the very foundation of worker solidarity.”

McCarron: “Every good UBC member has the desire to be the best, most productive craftsperson in the industry. And by being productive we help ensure that our employers can be successful and bid and win more work.”
Translation: “The union will survive by providing workers who make more profit for the boss than do the non-union workers. That this destroys the very reason for a union, and that this policy has been a total failure, we will ignore.”

McCarron: “We will now work with (Trump) to find common ground such as on infrastructure spending.”
Translation: “We will continue to ignore his playing to bigotry as it doesn’t affect our dues base. We will ignore his war mongering, unless that means increased construction spending, in which case we’ll support it. As for infrastructure spending – oil pipelines, coal storage facilities, methane plants… we will support it 100% (as long as we get some dues money out of it). As for a Wall? Well, let’s discuss that.”

McCarron: “work to achieve our goal of 70% market share.”
Translation: “We are a business just like any other, not a union. And just like any other business, we’re after our share of the market.”

McCarron: “As Senator Ted Kennedy once said, ‘… the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.'”
Translation: “We know we are headed to disastrous failure for the rank and file. So they should console themselves with the hope that sometime in the future they – or maybe their kids, or maybe their grand kids – will do better.”

What’s left unsaid: “Meanwhile, don’t worry about me, I’ve got millions stashed away in stock and real estate investments plus all the right connections in the construction industry. Even if the union went belly up tomorrow, even if the rank and file’s pension plans went broke, I’ll be okay.”

For a more in-depth review of where the union leadership stands right now, see this Labor Day article.

 

Posted in labor, politics | 13 Comments

Rex Tillerson and Obscenity Laws

Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson

It must be the anti-obscenity laws that have created the ban.

During the election “debates” three dirty little words were never mentioned: “global climate change”. And now, there is a public furor over Trump’s nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State.  The furor is over whether Tillerson will be looking out for the interests of US capitalism as a whole in relation to Russia, or whether he’ll be favoring the interests of ExxonMobil.

Missing again are those same three dirty little words. The hope is that they will be gone and forgotten, but we must not forget…

We should not forget the role ExxonMobil played in funding the climate change denial industry, despite the fact that their own research had proven it to be a fact. As the New Yorker writes a year ago: “As early as 1977, Exxon (now ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest oil companies) knew that its main product would heat up the planet disastrously. This did not prevent the company from then spending decades helping to organize the campaigns of disinformation and denial that have slowed—perhaps fatally—the planet’s response to global warming…. Exxon didn’t just “know” about climate change: it conducted some of the original research…. Exxon responded … by helping to set up or fund extreme climate-denial campaigns…. The company worked with veterans of the tobacco industry to try and infuse the climate debate with doubt.”

Exxon (and later ExxonMobil) was the main funder of the climate denial cabal. And Tillerson?

The manipulation of the corporate controlled media. Rex Tillerson and his gang at Exxon are the prime movers behind this manipulation, yet the corporate politicians - Republican and Democrat alike - have not a word to say about this.

The manipulation of the corporate controlled media.
Rex Tillerson and his gang at Exxon are the prime movers behind this manipulation, yet the corporate politicians – Republican and Democrat alike – have not a word to say about this.

By 1998, Tillerson had become Vice President of Ventures for Exxon and following their merger with Mobil the next year he became executive vice president of ExxonMobil Development Company. In 2004 he became president of Exxon Mobil and in 2006 it’s CEO. In other words, for all those years he had no apparent problem with Exxon’s blatantly dishonest campaign.

It’s true that in recent years ExxonMobil has backed off some of it’s funding for some of the more extreme of the climate denialist groups. But they’re still at it. They still apparently contribute to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which supports climate denialist legislation. And in 2014, they donated over $30 million to climate denialist groups. And as to Tillerson, his position, as expressed at a shareholders meeting, is: “[A]s a species, that’s why we’re all still here. We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this.” In other words, no big deal.

Yet none of this ever gets mentioned. In other words, what remains the number one threat to human society – and to life on the planet in general – pales in comparison to looking out for the interests of all of US capitalism vs. their Russian rivals.

 

 

Posted in environment, politics | Leave a comment

Ghost Ship Disaster: The Hunt is On

While the real criminal is getting off Scot-free, the campaign is on to find a scapegoat for the Ghost Ship fire disaster, in which at least 36 people died. So far, the winner by acclamation is Derick Almeda, the sleaze ball landlord who leased the place. “I’m incredibly sorry,” he says, but that won’t bring those 36 dead back. Despite all sorts of warnings, he apparently kept all sorts of code violations, including electrical wiring code violations.

Consider the alternatives, though: Almeda rented out artist space for $500 to $1500 per month. This is cheap rent in Oakland, nowadays. Had he fixed up the former warehouse, he’d have jacked up the rent so high that none of these artists would have been able to afford to live there.

In fact, that’s what’s happening all over Oakland. Houses that sold for $300 or 400,000 just a few years ago are now going for close to a million dollars. Rents in general have skyrocketed. As the New York Times reports: “Over the past few years, as prices have surged across the Bay Area, Oakland’s pricing advantages have mostly eroded. Rents have increased 70 percent in five years, more than in any other big city in the nation, according to Zillow, the online real estate pricing service. The city’s $2,899 median rent is now among the highest, and just short of median rents in Manhattan.”

This disaster for the moment serves to dwarf the disaster that rising rents has meant for tens of thousands of former Oakland residents, mostly black and Latino, who have been driven out of the city. Gentrification and white whitification are the order of the day here.

It has long been obvious that the “free market” health care system – profit off of sickness – is unable to provide the health care that people really need. Obama & Co. – the Democrats – tried to square that particular circle through the Affordable Care Act. And its inability to resolve the problem has been one of the factors that has brought us Donald Trump. To this we now have to add housing-for-profit, the “free” market in housing.

That’s the real criminal.

update: Since this article was written, there has been more that’s come to light on this event. Among other things, the building evidently has never been inspected by either the fire department or the building department of the City of Oakland. In part, it seems due to simple bureaucratism on the part of the tops of these departments. In part, it’s also due to budget cuts. So, to the “free”  market, for profit housing factor, we can add city budget cuts and cronyism/bureaucratism.

This fire is sure to be replicated on a much larger scale in one form or another over the coming years.

Posted in Oakland, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trump: A Method to his Madness

When Corporate America installed George Bush as president, it indicated a shift in foreign policy. Drunk with the collapse of “Communism”, they believed that as the world’s unchallenged military power, they could invade anywhere, without allies, and thereby completely dominate the globe. The disastrous (for them) invasion of Iraq was the final straw; they realized that  unchallenged military might isn’t the one and only factor. Diplomacy (gaining allies – both of other governments and inside any country) matters.

That’s why they installed Obama.

Trump Outside the Establishment?
It has been widely thought that Trump ran completely outside the Republican establishment. That is partly true, but only partly so, and the appointment of Republican Party chairman Rence Priebus as his chief of staff tells a lot: Many, including this writer, thought that this appointment meant a bow towards that Republican establishment, but there’s a hidden story. According to an article in the Washington Post, Priebus is one of those in the Republican Party that believes that US capitalism must reset its relations with China, including forging closer relations with the Taiwan government. Already, this has been played out by the phone call from the Taiwan head to Trump. This same article says that that phone call must have been planned weeks in advance; it was not some spur of the moment call accepted by a novice who doesn’t know the past policy of the US government.

“Make America Great Again”
This fits with Trump’s demagoguery around “make America great again”, linked with trade policy. Doesn’t it fit in perfectly with a new, more aggressive policy aimed at China? In fact, Obama had already started down that road with is “turn towards the Pacific”, moving some of the US naval fleet out of the Mediterranean and into the Pacific.

But that has been inadequate. Chinese capitalism continues to expand its influence, both in Asia and globally, especially in Latin America and Africa. “Diplomacy” has not worked to stem the tide, so now US capitalism has to turn to a more aggressive approach. They didn’t want Trump as president, but now they’ve got him and they are going to make use of his campaign. Look for sharply ramped up conflicts between US and Chinese regimes.

Posted in Asia, Uncategorized, United States, war | Leave a comment

Trump and the Specter Haunting Europe

human-body-endocrine-130701

A specter is haunting Europe (and the rest of the world). No it is not (yet) the specter of communism. (We wish!) It is the specter of endocrine disruption.

What kind of disruption?” you may ask. “What are you talking about? And what does this have to do with Donald Trump?”

What is the Endocrine System and Why is it Important?

Dr. Theo Colborn - ground breaking toxicologist and scientific investigator into endocrine disruptors. She explained that the endocrine system is the series of glands that produces the hormones that regulate both the development of the embryo of all animals (including humans) as well as that animal's functioning as long as it lives. The great toxicologist and scientific pioneer, Theo Colborn, explains it this way: The hormones create a constant "cross talk and constant feed back, (without which) the human body would be an unruly mob of some 50 trillion cells rather than an integrated organism operating from a single script…. (There are) profound interconnections between the brain and the immune system, the immune system and the endocrine system, and the endocrine system and the brain.”  Nowadays, there is a lot of research and talk about genetics, but as Colborn explains, what the genes often do is simply act as a switch to turn on and off the glands that secrete hormones, and it these hormones that determine the development of the fetus.

Dr. Theo Colborn – ground breaking toxicologist and scientific investigator into endocrine disruptors.
She explained that the endocrine system is the series of glands that produces the hormones that regulate both the development of the embryo of all animals (including humans) as well as that animal’s functioning as long as it lives. The great toxicologist and scientific pioneer, Theo Colborn, explains it this way: The hormones create a constant “cross talk and constant feed back, (without which) the human body would be an unruly mob of some 50 trillion cells rather than an integrated organism operating from a single script…. (There are) profound interconnections between the brain and the immune system, the immune system and the endocrine system, and the endocrine system and the brain.” 
Nowadays, there is a lot of research and talk about genetics, but as Colborn explains, what the genes often do is simply act as a switch to turn on and off the glands that secrete hormones, and it these hormones that determine the development of the fetus.

The endocrine system is the system of glands that produce the hormones that determine both the growth and the functioning of all animals, including us human beings. A growing body of science is showing that all sorts of different chemicals can affect the functioning of that system. As one scientific journal put it, “endocrine disruptors” (chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system) “are contributing to increased chronic disease burdens related to obesity, diabetes mellitus, reproduction, thyroid, cancers, and neuroendocrine and neurodevelopmental functions.” Endocrine disruptors can include everything from flame retardants to pesticides to chemicals for industrial use.

Despite this, the effect of endocrine disruptors is largely ignored. For example, in a google search of “diabetes” the first of a half dozen articles listed never mention the environment (endocrine disruptors) as one possible cause for this all-too common disease.

“Scientific Controversy”
And now the campaign is on to cover up this extreme threat to healthy animal life on the planet. Just as “scientists” claimed for years that there was “scientific controversy” over the fact that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer, and still to this day they claim that there is a “controversy” over global warming/climate disruption caused by human action, so they are claiming there is a “controversy” about the dangers of endocrine disrupting

'Last year fewer than a fifth of young men who donated sperm in the inland province of Hunan had sufficiently healthy semen to qualify as a donor, according to a 15-year study of more than 30,000 applicants. In 2001 more than half qualified. “Growing evidence seems to suggest that male infertility is increasingly becoming a serious concern in the entire country,” said Huang Yanzhong, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.' Financial Times 11/28/16

‘Last year fewer than a fifth of young men who donated sperm in the inland province of Hunan had sufficiently healthy semen to qualify as a donor, according to a 15-year study of more than 30,000 applicants. In 2001 more than half qualified.
“Growing evidence seems to suggest that male infertility is increasingly becoming a serious concern in the entire country,” said Huang Yanzhong, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.’
Financial Times 11/28/16

chemicals.

What these “scientists” thrive on is the fact that in any process, not everything is completely understood, even if the overall process is understood. So, there is a “controversy”, which they claim means that the effects are in doubt. No, they are not in doubt, and that’s where that specter that is haunting Europe comes in:

Toxic 18
It is reported that “The European Commission has developed its own evidence to avoid an overly stringent regulation of these hazardous substances.” What happened was that back in 2013, a group of 18 “scientists” wrote an article in a scientific journal challenging the standard accepted view of what constitutes an endocrine disruptor. Seventeen of these “Toxic 18” have known links to the chemical industry; they are funded by them to the tune of millions of dollars. And, in fact, the article was also pushed by the industry, itself — just as the tobacco industry pushed articles casting doubt on the smoking-cancer link and the oil industry today does the same regarding global warming/climate disruption.

chemical-industry

Their methods are the same. As a group of 40 scientists explain this includes making

Baas Blaasboer, lead "scientist" of the Toxic 18. Over a recent 2 year period he received over $500,000 from the European Chemical Industry Council and is a member of the chemical industry funded "International Life Sciences Institute". Like politicians who claim that corporate donations don't affect their actions, Blaauboer claims these links don't affect him. Of course. The industry just finances him by the goodness of their hearts.

Baas Blaasboer, lead “scientist” of the Toxic 18.
Over a recent 2 year period he received over $500,000 from the European Chemical Industry Council and is a member of the chemical industry funded “International Life Sciences Institute”. Like politicians who claim that corporate donations don’t affect their actions, Blaauboer claims these links don’t affect him. Of course. The industry just finances him by the goodness of their hearts.

impossible expectations as far as what can be proven, relying on “common sense” that “collection of prejudices acquired by age 18” (Einstein), misstating the accepted criteria for considering what is an endocrine disruptor, misstating what is accepted as far as links between (other) animal reactions and human reactions, and in some cases making outright factually false statements. These “Toxic 18” also pretend that what affects other animals only (vs. affecting human beings) is unimportant. All we need do is is consider the words “honey bee hive collapse” to answer that ridiculous assumption.

Trump
And what does all this have to do with Donald Trump?

One of his main commitments is to eliminate as many industry regulations as possible. This will include cutting back on the (already weak) Clean Water Act, moving to allow mining and oil exploration on federal lands, etc. (Hillary Clinton was also committed to doing the same thing, although she would have gone a little slower than Trump will do.)

This will affect the entire world population, since there are not borders to pollution. But first and foremost, it’s likely to affect poor communities and communities of color. (Think: “Standing Rock”.)

So, while we are fighting Trump, and while we are fighting the corporate attacks in general, let’s not forget this issue. And let’s remember that it is capitalism, itself, that must be brought down, and a healthy, worker-controlled socialist system brought in to replace it. A first step in the movement towards this will be the development of a mass, radical, working class political party, as called for by Painters Local 10 in Portland, OR.

Environmental Racism From Standing Rock to Oakland, CA, it will be communities of color and poor people in general who will suffer the most from the deregulation of industry that the Republicans are pushing, with the Democrats not far behind.

Environmental Racism
From Standing Rock to Oakland, CA, it will be communities of color and poor people in general who will suffer the most from the deregulation of industry that the Republicans are pushing, with the Democrats not far behind.

Posted in environment, Europe, Human health, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IUPAT Local 10: “Mobilize to Stop the KKK”

The Painters Union (IUPAT) Local 10 in Portland OR has passed a resolution calling for mass mobilizations to stop the KKK and similar racist groups. Union activists, socialists and others should join together to support this resolution and to build mass protests for January 20. This should be organized together, not as separate groups alone.

iupat-local-10-resolution-mobilize-labor-to-stop-the-kkk

Note: We previously reported on the resolution of the Painters Union (IUPAT) Local 10 in favor of a “class struggle workers party.” The above resolution is in line with that.

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Outlines of Trump Presidency

The outlines of a Trump presidency are starting to appear.

His appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions (R., SC) as attorney general is key. He has been one of the hardest core senators against immigrants. As attorney general he will be in a position to really move against immigrants, especially those without papers and most particularly those who have had any sort of contact with the law. In this context, the “Dream Act” should be seen as a real threat, since youth who were brought to this country without documents who registered under the “Dream Act” are now more exposed.

Then there is retired general Michael Flynn, appointed to National Security Advisor, retired general James Mattis, who is rumored to be appointed Secretary of State, and Mike Pompeo to head the CIA. Both of these appointments indicate a closer tie with the more crazed sector of the military. (Pompeo, a Tea Partier, has a military background and Mattis was known as “Mad Dog Mattis”.)

Trump appointees to date. Top: Jeff Sessions and "Mad Dog" Mattis; second row: James Flynn and Rence Priebus; bottom, Mike Pompeo

Trump appointees and possible appointees to date.
Top: Jeff Sessions and “Mad Dog” Mattis; second row: Michael Flynn and Rence Priebus; bottom, Mike Pompeo

Iran
This team is known to strongly oppose the Iranian nuclear deal, as is Trump. What Trump personally believes in is almost irrelevant. More important is the fact that he campaigned against it and bases himself on the right-wing populist pro-war rhetoric as well those sectors of the military-industrial complex that favor a more aggressive approach. Given that the Putin regime is closely allied with the Iranian one, this means that all Trump’s pro-Putin rhetoric will fall by the wayside, especially if there is a US attack on Iran.

An attack on Iran, or even increased tensions, would also open the door to increased repression on Muslims in this country. This could be coupled with a general attack on immigrants, especially those without papers.

Trump’s Base and Federal Lands
Trump’s base of support is quite narrow. With the uncounted ballots, he will have ended up getting about as many votes as did Romney in 2012. Given this, and given that major sectors of his class – the capitalist class – are very skeptical of him to say the least, he may move cautiously on these fronts at first. Possibly his first major step would be to open up federal lands for oil, mineral and ranching exploitation. This would actually get major support from the building trades and Teamsters union leadership, and the AFL-CIO at best would probably be neutral. In fact, large sectors of the working class itself would very possibly support this and he could broaden his base both within his own class as well as within the working class.

Other Attacks
But ultimately, he will have to move against both Iran and against immigrants in this country. It’s impossible to know which will come first, or if they will happen together. A war with/invasion of Iran would be devastating for workers around the world. A “terrorist attack” that is blamed on the Iranian regime is possible, although the difficulty would be that almost all the Muslim terrorist groups are Sunni Muslim and the Iranian regime is Shiite.

Republican and Democratic “Opposition” to Trump
What sort of opposition can be expected from the less crazed sectors of the US capitalist class and their representatives in the Republican and Democratic Parties? Basically, the capitalist class as a whole seems to be taking the view that they didn’t trust him, that they’d rather have had a Clinton victory, but “let’s see how things work out; maybe he can get away with what he’s planning and we can move a lot further than we had though.” Trump’s appointment of Priebus as chief of staff will serve to cement his ties with the Republican mainstays.

And the Democrats? The day after the elections, Obama congratulated Trump on his victory and commented “we are now all wishing him success in uniting and leading the country.” Since then, his entire effort has been to smooth the transfer of power to the Trump reactionaries. Even Bernie Sanders commented that if Trump “has the guts” to stand up to corporate America, “he will have an ally with me.” This is like holding out the hope that the wolf can possibly be trusted to guard the hen house, and Sanders has offered no strategy whatsoever for resisting Trump’s coming attacks. In other words, nothing effective can be expected from the Democrats. (Update: We see that anti-Muslim bigot and Sanders ally, US Representative (D., HY) Tulsi Gabbert is meeting with Trump and is reportedly under consideration for UN representative.)

AFL-CIO
Never one to step out on the front lines, the union leadership has mimicked the Democrats. Rich Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, in an official statement, commented “The AFL-CIO accepts the outcome of this election and offers our congratulations to President-elect Trump.” Dennis Williams, president of the United Auto Workers, gave Trump limited support with his comment that Trump’s “position on trade is right on.” In other words, zero resistance can be expected from the leadership of the unions. This failure fits right in with their refusal to fight the boss in the work place.

Organize at the Base
That is why it is vital that workers and youth start organizing now. A small example is the small community meeting called by this leaflet below. Activists can do the same in their neighborhoods throughout the country. One step coming from those meetings could be to try to make the public schools centers of resistance to any deportation raids. Another could be to start to bring workers and youth together on the molecular level, linking up different community and work place based groups like these. This could develop into a mass protest on January 20, inauguration day. Such a base could also develop into a true mass movement, one capable of effectively resisting any drive towards war with Iran or any other increased military intervention overseas.

leaflet announcing meeting. Such meeting could be organized throughout the country.

leaflet announcing meeting.
Such meeting could be organized throughout the country.

Such neighborhood councils could also make a drive into the unions and help union members organize to transform the unions. Out of this, the basis for a genuine working class party could develop. Such a party could coordinate a mass, working class resistance to all the attacks of a President Trump — attacks on immigrants, on people of color, on Muslims, on LBTQ people and on workers in general. It could also start to formulate the lessons of the recent decades and the program and strategy for the working class to unite and reverse course in the United States and in the world. This would include running candidates for public office, hopefully on a socialist program.

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DAPL, Federal Lands and “Jobs”

San Francisco rally in support of Standing Rock

San Francisco rally in support of Standing Rock

There was a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline in San Francisco this morning. What the protesters and socialists in general have to consider is this: Many of us think that when Trump gets into office and “betrays” the working class, then white workers will turn against him. But it might not be that simple.

There has been a long term campaign to turn over federal lands to the states so that they can open them up to mining, oil exploration, logging and ranching – the extractive industries, in other words. That’s especially so for the 630 million acres of federal land in the West. These were the economic forces behind the occupation of the Malheur Nature Preserve in eastern Oregon.

“Jobs”
What will happen when Trump gets in and he starts to do this? Especially in an

The forces behind the Bundy's and the occupying of the Malheur Nature Reserve. See: https://oaklandsocialist.com/2016/01/06/economic-interests-behind-malheur-occupation/

The forces behind the Bundy’s and the occupying of the Malheur Nature Reserve. See: https://oaklandsocialist.com/2016/01/06/economic-interests-behind-malheur-occupation/

economic downturn, isn’t there a real likelihood that there would be widespread support for this on the grounds of “jobs”? Don’t forget that public opinion polls showed that 57% of people in the US backed the Keystone XL Pipeline while only 28% opposed it. Especially in an economic downturn, isn’t there a danger that an even greater majority would support mining, ranching, logging and oil exploration on these lands? Does anybody seriously think that can be stopped if we cannot get the majority of the working class on our side? Can we just ignore the support of the AFL-CIO, and especially the building trades leaders, for projects like DAPL?

Here are some thoughts on how to deal with this, starting now:

  • Especially related to the building trades, we should explain to the rank and file that their leaders’ support for such environmental destruction is just the flip side of the coin to the building trades leadership’s following behind the thinking of the employers – even the union busters – in general. We should use the example of how the building trades leaders are following the strategy proposed by union buster Mark Breslin. The leadership’s support for these projects is directly connected with their refusal to fight for top contracts and for real rank-and-file union power on the job. Without this, they cannot stem the tide of union busting in construction.
  • We should challenge the short-term thinking of “jobs now and the hell with the consequences”. This includes going directly to the working class youth and trying to get them to win over their parents (as happened during the Vietnam War).
  • We should, of course, put forward the alternatives for jobs – renewable energy investment, of course.
  • Finally, and most important, we should start now on the dire necessity of building a mass, fighting working-class party in the US – one with a socialist program, in fact.

Unless we start with this now, there is a serious danger that Trump and “Trumpism” could win an even larger base among workers, including among the unemployed.

Supporters of Standing Rock. We will need to win over workers and the unemployed

Supporters of Standing Rock. We will need to win over workers and the unemployed

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Hands Around Lake Merritt

About a week or so ago, somebody put up a Facebook event calling for a “peaceful protest” in Oakland by calling on people to join hands around Lake Merritt on Sunday, Nov. 13. The thing went viral and a reported 8.7 thousand turned up! The general vibe was that we don’t support Trump’s racism and xenophobia, and my guess is that most of those present supported Hillary Clinton as the alternative to Trump. But not everybody did, and the fact that this took off the way that it did really says a lot. Here’s a video of my experiences at the event:

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AFL-CIO’s Weak Statement

Richard Trumka, head of the labor movement in the US (the AFL-CIO) has put out an extremely weak (at best) statement on Trump’s victory. “The AFL-CIO accepts the outcome of this election and offers our congratulations to President-elect Trump,” he says. “We hope to work with President-elect Trump to help him carry out this solemn responsibility (to protect and preserve our democracy).”

There is not the slightest note of defiance, the slightest hint of a struggle against this racist, xenophobic, anti-worker bigot.

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka. No hint of struggle.

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka.
No hint of struggle.

This is 100% in keeping with their entire role over decades.

Where?
Where was the union leadership in all the protests against the murder of Michael Brown? They were in hiding, that’s where. One UAW member in Ferguson told this writer that the head of his union local had told him “this is not our battle.”

Where has the union leadership been in the whole struggle against the crime wave of the police?

DAPL
Maybe it’s just as well that they have been absent, considering their position on the North Dakota Access Pipeline, which they want built!

Occasionally, one or another union leader will support some of the protests against the police crime wave… But then they turn around and support the exact same politicians who are helping cover up for that crime wave! Meanwhile, what are they telling their membership in both words and deeds?

The building trades union leadership is shopping around a professional union busting lawyer, Mark Breslin. They trot him out to union conventions and “leadership training” seminars to preach his anti-union message as a strategy for the unions: “To survive in the 21st century construction industry, individual union workers must change, adapt, and be the “fittest” of all workers,” he says. In other words, the union leadership is preaching “survival of the fittest”, that union workers have to out-compete non-union workers. It’s no different in any of the other unions. The UFCW brings in employers to preach the same message to their stewards, for example.

“You are no use to me!”
And their words are matched by their deeds. In general, the union leadership is so absent from the work place that most members don’t even think about the union, even if they get in trouble with the boss. But let a member try to rely on the union to help out and they will be disappointed many times. A clerk at a unionized supermarket reports, for example, on having a conflict with her supervisor. The union rep came in, spent a half hour talking with the supe and then told the worker that the supe was right. “I told her (the union rep) ‘you are no use to me!’”

That about sums it up – “you are no use to me.”

Effect on Consciousness

Even with the extreme weakness of the union leadership, there still has not been a massive swing to the right, nor towards racism, as this graph shows. For an in-depth analysis of the voting trends, see this article: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/11/12/pers-n12.html

Even with the extreme weakness of the union leadership, there still has not been a massive swing to the right, nor towards racism, as this graph shows. For an in-depth analysis of the voting trends, see this article:
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/11/12/pers-n12.html

Is it any wonder, then, that the idea of a united, working class struggle against the bosses has been so weakened? Is it any wonder that the union leaders’ repression of class consciousness has opened the door to the most reactionary thinking among some workers?

Then there are the comments of Donald Williams, head of the United Auto Workers (UAW).  He says that Trump’s “position on trade is right-on.” What he’s doing here is stirring up anti-foreign worker attitudes. “Let the auto workers of Mexico, Canada, or Korea be unemployed. The hell with them,” is what he’s communicating.

“Build that wall”?
Meanwhile, you can be sure that the building trades leadership is at best in a quandary about Trump’s plan to build the Wall. It will mean jobs, you see. (This reminds this writer about an exchange he had with his Carpenters Union business agent years ago, in which he told the BA “if they were going to build a prison to put all union members in, you guys would support it if it were going to be built union.” The BA had to think for a couple of seconds before he denied it!) And if the building trades leaders (and members) think that Trump’s talk about infrastructure spending will be a blessing, they’d better think twice: It is nearly certain that they will use any such funding to try to break the Davis Bacon Act and get federal funding for non-union construction projects.

This has been a disaster, first and foremost for the consciousness of union members. According to Williams, for example, an estimated 32% of union members voted for Trump.

The clear lesson of these elections is that union members can no longer afford to just sit back and wait or hope that things will change. We have to organize opposition groups inside the unions.

  • Organize to make the unions fight for the members, both on a daily basis and when contracts roll around!
  • Fight to make the unions mobilize and join in all the protests against Donald Trump! 
  • Fight to make the unions build real internationalism, in deeds not just words, including international strike action. Workers can start this by making direct links with their counterparts throughout the world.
  • This includes leading up to January 20, inauguration day. For a general shut-down of America on inauguration day!
  • Fight to make the unions break completely with the other corporate-controlled party – the Democratic Party. 
  • For the unions to join with the community groups, the groups fighting the police crime wave, the protests against environmental destruction, including at Standing Rock, and build a mass, radical class struggle working class political party!
Resolution for a workers party from IUPAT Local 10. This is the way to fight the racist bigot Donald Trump, and to fight for the working class in general.

Resolution for a workers party from IUPAT Local 10.
This is the way to fight the racist bigot Donald Trump, and to fight for the working class in general.

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“Political Revolution” Revealed

“That sounds to me like people want a political revolution at the DNC.”

So that’s the real reality of Sanders “political revolution”. Support for corporate liberals like Pramila Jayapal, who got money from the cops and the real estate speculators. Saying that he’s “prepared to work with” Donald Trump. And now this – trying to channel everything into reforming the DNC.

Sure, it’s understandable that younger people would have been enthusiastic about Sanders. But for those of us who have been around awhile and made no warning? Unforgivable.

sanders-for-ellison

Posted in politics, Uncategorized, United States | 2 Comments

Thank you, Donald Trump

Thank you, Donald Trump. You brought tens of thousands of young people out into the streets on the night after elections to protest against you and what you stand for. We notice that you’ve toned it down already, though. Instead of talking about putting Hillary in jail, you’re giving her compliments. And we see that you’re surrounding yourself with the same Goldman Sachs banksters and speculators that all the other presidents have.

Meanwhile, here is what you’ve helped create.

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Protest Against Trump

Thank you, Donald Trump. There were thousands and thousands at the anti-Trump rally in downtown Oakland last night, the overwhelming majority were young. This could be the start of something big. Here’s a leaflet we distributed. Video and photos coming later.fight-back-3

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Fight Back!

Make no mistake, the election of the far right wing, racist, xenophobic simpleton Donald Trump is a defeat. And like all defeats, it is a bit demoralizing. This is showing already in the recriminations that are already floating around – recriminations against Jill Stein and the Greens for splitting the vote, recriminations against white male voters… More bitterness is certain to come.

None of that matters anymore. All that matters is how to organize to resist, how to fight back. And one thing we have to admit: While the resistance to the ravages of capitalism has made some positive steps, overall we have to reassess what we’ve done. We have to think about what to do differently.

Racism, Xenophobia and Class Appeal
Yes, racism and xenophobia were a major part of Trump’s campaign and he wouldn’t have won without it. But in an ironic way, so was his class appeal – all his talk about job losses and his promises to bring those good paying jobs back home. And the fact that it’s been largely lacking in the resistance so far has left that field wide open to Trump.

Unions
That brings us to the union movement and its leadership, which is strangling that movement. Anytime a resistance builds, the union leadership will do its best to either strangle or tame that resistance. So the resistance has to involve the struggle to change the unions. It’s impossible to fight to change the unions’ position on, for instance, Standing Rock, without linking that to the leadership’s role in betraying the membership every day on the job. The reason is that the change in the bigger policies can’t be won without an upsurge from below, and the great majority of union members won’t get involved in their union unless they see something in it for them in a very direct way, meaning unless they see a chance that they can make their union fight the boss for them. Simple as that.

“The Prospect of Hanging…”
As they say, the prospect of hanging helps concentrate the mind wonderfully.

So today, Wednesday Nov. 9, is Day One. From Day One we have to organize to fight back, building (let’s hope) into one massive, general day of resistance on January 20, inauguration day. Make it nation-wide and in fact international. Let’s build the resistance beyond just the “usual suspects” — get out into the working class communities, the community colleges and high schools and build a movement that can shut down the country. And then go on from there. Bring all the issues together. Bring the movement together.

One nationwide, in fact one international movement, against racism, xenophobia, sexism and economic exploitation. In other words, one international movement against capitalism.

working class one fist copy

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Radio show: fixed elections and the rule of capital over labor

“The whole electoral process is a means of validating the rule of capital over labor…. The needs of the (capitalist) system and the needs of life on this planet, including human life, stand at complete odds with each other.”

That was the main point of this radio interview on “fixed” elections. Yes, they’re fixed — fixed by big business to try to get their rule validated. Not that the workers’ movement can ignore the elections, but by the same token we should have no illusions in capitalist democracy.

Listen to the show here, starting at 67:00 minutes in.

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The Coming Mass Workers Party in the US?

The most important thing about this presidential race is not what we’re seeing, it’s what’s missing: The organized voice of the working class. That shapes everything, in election season and out. That organized voice can only be heard through a party, a working class political party. So, the question of the hour is: How might such a party develop in the US, this weird country which is the only developed capitalist nation in which the working class has never had a party of its own?

Usually, we think of a political party as running candidates and not much more than that, but is that necessarily the main role of a workers’ party in the US? Is that necessarily how it will develop? To answer that, we have to look at what the next four years are likely to look like:

US Capitalism Weakens Globally
On the global scale, the main thing is that US capitalism has been unable to arrest its weakening ability to control events. Time and again, the Wall St. Journal complains about this. In one editorial (5/26/16) they complained about “China, Russia and Iran… assert(ing) political and (perhaps eventually) military dominance over their corners of the globe… Containment has broken down in Europe, the Middle East and East Asia…. The next President will need an urgent strategy to contain and counter the rising threats.”

They include the threats of Islamic fundamental terrorist groups and blame this weakening on Obama’s reluctance to take unilateral military action, but it was exactly because of this reluctance of his that Corporate America installed him into office in the first place. After all, that unilateral military action in the form of the invasion of Iraq turned out to be a disaster for them, and they were terrified that it would be repeated on an even more disastrous scale by an invasion of Iran. So, the alternative was a president focused on “diplomacy”, in other words “the international community” (of capitalist governments).

A columnist for the WSJ, William Galston, commented on Obama’s foreign policy this way: “The opposite of a mistake is usually the opposite mistake.” In other words, while Bush went too far in simply invading foreign countries with no thought to what would come later, Obama has made the opposite mistake (as far as the interests of US capitalism are concerned).

Hillary Clinton & US Military
It is no accident that Hillary Clinton is the perfect candidate to correct this “mistake.”*

Jack Keane He played the major role in informing Clinton's thinking on foreign policy.

Jack Keane
He played the major role in informing Clinton’s thinking on foreign policy.

In 2002 she she got herself appointed as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee (which she chose over the more prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee). She used this position to cement her ties with the tops of the military-industrial complex. This included Jack Keane, who the NY Times describes as being “one of the intellectual architects of the Iraq (troop) surge…. He is also a well compensated member of the military industrial complex, sitting on the board of General Dynamics and serving as a strategic adviser to Academi, the private-security contractor once known as Blackwater.” (Blackwater was the contractor of mercenaries known as being one of the most brutal in Iraq.) They say about Keane and Clinton: “He is… perhaps the greatest single influence on the way Hillary Clinton thinks about military issues…. The two would meet many times over the next decade, discussing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Iranian nuclear threat and other flash points in the Middle East…. ‘She really likes the nail-eaters — McChrystal, Petraeus, Keane’ one of her aides observed.”

As Secretary of State in the first Obama administration, she teamed up with (Republican) Robert Gates (Secretary of “Defense”), Mike Mullen (chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), and David Petraeus (head of Central Command) to form a four way lobbying team for more aggressive military response. For example, she lobbied for a greater troop surge into

top left clockwise: Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, David Petraeus, Mike Mullen. These four formed a team that represented the more aggressively militaristic strategy within the first Obama administration.

top left clockwise: Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, David Petraeus, Mike Mullen. These four formed a team that represented the more aggressively militaristic strategy within the first Obama administration.

Afghanistan and pushed for the “no fly zone” (really, no fly of anybody but the US military) over Libya.

As Jake Sullivan, her top policy advisor when she was Secretary of State is quoted as saying in that same NYT article: “There’s no doubt that Hillary Clinton’s more muscular brand of American foreign policy is better matched to 2016 that it was to 2008.” This perfectly captures the shift in emphasis of the tops of the US capitalist class over the last 8 years.

Domestic Struggles
Domestically, the struggle at Standing Rock really shows what we will be facing. There, a mass struggle is being brutally repressed by police and sheriff agencies from seven different states under a 20 year accord that has never been used before except in the uprising in Baltimore following the Freddy Gray murder. Such mass police and National Guard turnouts will increase as will increasingly serious criminal charges. Plus, the racist far right is already emboldened and, no matter who wins, they will be mobilizing more.

The state forces of repression have been brought out in mass in Standing Rock. Will this be the wave of the future?

The state forces of repression have been brought out in mass in Standing Rock. Will this be the wave of the future?

Mandatory Domestic Service
But there is more: Clinton is close to those capitalist strategists (such as General Stanley Mchrystal) who are calling for a universal mandatory service, something like conscription for a domestic peace corps. But in a situation with increased demands on US troops abroad – possibly including National Guard troops – such a drafted national service would likely start to shade over into keeping “public order”. In other words, it would likely start to look like a return of the draft – maybe in the disguised form of paying for college education.

Mandatory Personal Savings Plan
Then there is the call of Tony James, a top finance capitalist and top Clinton fund raiser, for mandatory personal savings plans for all workers – possibly deducting something like 4% from every pay check for some sort of 401(k), which would be managed by finance companies like James’s Blackstone Group. In the event of another financial meltdown, this would amount to a privatized bailout of finance capital while it would continue the drive to eliminate fixed income pension plans.

New Movement Forced Into Existence
Under these circumstances, a new movement of working class people would be forced into existence. It might start out localized, but it could not remain like that. Look at the Black Lives Matter movement, which started out as various local protests but is moving to become national. Such would happen on an even greater and more systematic scale. It would have to mean the coming together to hash out an understanding of what is happening and why and to hash out a strategy for building a resistance. Just as what happened with the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movement of the ‘60s, some sort of national movement and national organization would be forced into existence. The difference is that this time it would have to be more thoroughgoing and have a more working class base because of the economic attacks that workers have been facing for decades now.

Statement of AFL-CIO supporting the pipeline. This is typical of the union leadership and it is an example of why there is such a vacuum in US politics. On top of that, the union leaders refuse to fight for the members on a day-to-day basis against the bosses. The development of a new movement, and in particular a new mass workers party, will necessarily involve a shake-up inside the unions. However, we have to be on guard that a layer of this leadership, along with the non-profiteers, will try to tame this new movement.

Statement of AFL-CIO supporting the pipeline. This is typical of the union leadership and it is an example of why there is such a vacuum in US politics. On top of that, the union leaders refuse to fight for the members on a day-to-day basis against the bosses. The development of a new movement, and in particular a new mass workers party, will necessarily involve a shake-up inside the unions. However, we have to be on guard that a layer of this leadership, along with the non-profiteers, will try to tame this new movement.

What would that be – a national body that is made up of the most determined and thinking workers and young people? A body or organization that coordinated the resistance and met and discussed on every level from the national down to the individual work places, schools and neighborhoods? That would be the beginnings of a mass workers political party! A party born in struggle, built to advance that struggle. Eventually, it would have to decide on its orientation towards elections, with some probably opposing any participation, others calling for support for the next Bernie Sanders, and others explaining that this new party must run its own candidates. That will be a decisive moment, and any tendency towards either trying to ignore elections or towards supporting the next Bernie Sanders would seriously cripple this new mass workers party to-be. The next step forward for that party to-be would be to run candidates on an explicitly socialist program, one which ties in elections with the struggle in the streets, communities and work places.

* —  Note: As of this writing, it still seems that Clinton will most likely be elected. But even if Trump is elected, most of  the perspectives are similar. Some differences are that he might actually pursue a more isolationist economic strategy, especially in the event of a recession. This would make the recession even worse. His election would give even greater impetus to the racist far right, but they will likely increase their activity whether he wins or not. He would probably speed up the privatization and other attacks on workers and the environment, but that’s only a matter of degree with Clinton. Same for state repression. It’s possible that if the tops of the capitalist class cannot get him more under control that they might engineer a “JFK solution”, which would throw everything into turmoil, but that and other similar unpredictable events have to be taken as they come.
Posted in labor, rebellion, repression, Uncategorized, United States | Leave a comment

Hillary Clinton’s E-mail scandal and Haiti

Like a zombie rising from the grave, Hillary Clinton’s e mail scandal just won’t go away. But while the media (and Clinton herself) pretend the issue is possible security violation, for working class people it’s really so much more than that, and Haiti is at the center of it.

Check it out:

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Berkeley Protest of Arrests at Standing Rock

Here is a video of a protest held in Berkeley against the arrests at Standing Rock.

 

Reference was made to the statement made by the AFL-CIO in support of the pipeline. Here is a screen shot of the AFL-CIO's web site with that statement. Please note that it suggests that if you have questions or comments you contact Jasmine Nazareth at (201) 637 5018.

Reference was made to the statement made by the AFL-CIO in support of the pipeline. Here is a screen shot of the AFL-CIO’s web site with that statement. Please note that it suggests that if you have questions or comments you contact AFL-CIO staffer Jasmine Nazareth at (201) 637 5018.

Posted in environment, labor, rebellion, United States | Leave a comment

Organize in the Building Trades to Support Standing Rock

Urging people to leaflet building sites to get the members to stand up against this disgraceful position of the leadership. The same way the leadership is standing with the employers against the members, they are standing with big business against people and the environment.labor-for-standing-rock

Note: This is a leaflet I have distributed here in the SF Bay Area. If you like the general idea of this leaflet and would like to use it with some changes (e.g. name and contact info), send me a note and I can make those changes and send you a pdf of it.)

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Support Labor for Standing Rock

I tried to post this onto Youtube 3 times, and each time I got a notice “processing failed”. Then I tried a fourth time, but this time I omitted the words “Standing Rock” in the title. It went through fine. I only added the references to Standing Rock in the written message after the processing was done. Was this a coincidence? Who knows.

 

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South African students resume their fight – and face repression

In what seems like it will be a repeat of the struggle of the miners of 2012, now students in South Africa are rising up. Ashley Fataar reports from South Africa:

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 21: Students of the Witwatersrand University march in Johannesburg, South Africa on October 21, 2015 during a protest against fee hikes. Universities in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and other cities have halted lectures during several days of protests against fee increases that many students say will force poor blacks further out of the education system (Photo by Ihsaan Haffejee/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – OCTOBER 21: Students of the Witwatersrand University march in Johannesburg, South Africa on October 21, 2015 during a protest against fee hikes. Universities in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and other cities have halted lectures during several days of protests against fee increases that many students say will force poor blacks further out of the education system (Photo by Ihsaan Haffejee/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Since last month students at universities across South Africa have been protesting for the complete removal of university fees for poor students. They are pushing for the realisation of the demands raised by the #FeesMust Fall campaign last October, the largest wave of protests to sweep the country since the fall of apartheid which saw tens of thousands of students take to the streets. Currently universities in six provinces are witnessing protests.

The protests erupted when Blade Nzimande, the government Minister responsible for universities, announced that it would be left to individual universities to determine fee increases for 2017. Students were hoping for at least no increases. Had that been the case then the protests might not have erupted.

Students Organize

"Shoot down fees, not us" S.A. students protesting high fees

“Shoot down fees, not us”
S.A. students protesting high fees

The students responded by organising mass meetings on campuses to decide on the way forward. They had a series of sit-ins, meetings and disruption of lectures. Barricades were also erected at some campuses.

But the response from university managements and police this time around has been vicious. They are determined that there will be no re-run of last year’s #FeesMust Fall campaign which caught them flat-footed. Faced with the re-emergence of campus protest, university managers called in private security companies or the police to disrupt the meetings and to ensure that they did not go ahead.

Vetus Schola
One of the private security corporations is Vetus Schola. It employs former special operations soldiers of the apartheid military. They identified and hunted anti-apartheid activists and murdered them in the 1980s. Vetus Schola security thugs also unleashed a

Vetus Security... These thugs were used to defend the racist apartheid system. Now, the government is using them to protect capitalism itself.

Vetus Security… These thugs were used to defend the racist apartheid system. Now, the government is using them to protect capitalism itself.

reign of terror in a mining community during a workers strike some years ago. Already a student has been shot through the thigh in Johannesburg allegedly by a private security guard.

The police for their part have used tear-gas, rubber bullets and water cannons. The police also use body armour and wave guns loaded with live ammunition.

More worryingly, soldiers were deployed onto the campus of the University of the Free State to “assist” police. They use automatic rifles. The mainstream media has not reported on this.

The Battle of Braamfontein
Students at the University of the Witwatersrand in central Johannesburg tried to use the university’s main hall for a meeting. But police nyalas (armoured cars) and a water cannon truck charged at the students. Heavily armed police liberally threw stun grenades into the crowd and opened fire with rubber bullets. Tear-gas was also fired into university lecture rooms to clear buildings.

A number of university workers who were not part of the protest at the time were severely injured by the bullets, burned by the grenades or had breathing problems because of tear-gas also being used.

Faced with such a situation, the students took their protest outside the gates of campus and into the surrounding area of Braamfontein.

Bystanders who were shocked at the police response sympathised with the students and joined in the protests.

Battle of Braamfontein

Battle of Braamfontein

Community joins in
But other people also joined in. Poor and homeless people smashed shop windows and grabbed what they could – especially clothing. The mainstream media called them “criminal elements”.

The police followed hours later. The following night they unleashed a reign of terror on student residences and night clubs in the area.

A witness describes happened at a night club:

So the Wits Management decide to impose a curfew on campus and police jump at the opportunity to implement the curfew in neighbouring suburb, #Braamfontein where they rain down terror last night. People are arrested for walking on the street? Stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas are unleashed on people passing by in the streets. Off campus residences are raided and more tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets are shot indoors.

In the midst of this… the iconic Sibongile Khumalo is busy performing at the Orbit Jazz Club in Braamfontein and from what I can gather, as security enter the club she begins to sing Nkosi Sikelel’ Africa [the anthem of the anti-apartheid struggle] and patrons all rise. She keeps singing and then ends her concert with a prayer for the #FeesMustFall movement as teargas creeps up the stairs of the popular jazz club.

As patrons leave, the streets have become a war zone. A truck has been set alight, another car is burning, friends who were there report harrowing screams, and police continue brutally implementing #HabibsApartheid [the Wits VC is Professor Adam Habib, a former liberal turned reactionary].”

Police and security forces have been raiding Wits halls of residence between 11pm and 4am. Witnesses report that six days later students are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders, uncontrollable crying and nightmares from the experiences.

Imprisonment
But there is more repression being used. Students are being denied bail and kept imprisoned. Some have been locked up for three weeks.

Most have been charged with arson. But, chillingly, one student in Cape Town has been charged with attempted murder. Three security guards were locked in a security office which was set alight. Yet the security company says no students were involved. The student was also nowhere near the campus. A second student at another university in Cape Town has been denied bail and is currently locked up in a maximum security prison.

A massacre on the way?
Many commentators point to a massacre of students in the making – just like striking mineworkers were massacred by police four years ago in Marikana. The President, Jacob Zuma, has just announced a commission of enquiry to look into the issue of free education. But it’s clear the main item on the agenda is the further securitisation of the campuses: members of the commission include the government ministers responsible for the prisons, police, army and intelligence services. We don’t need to wait for the commission’s findings: the police action in Braamfontein and the trumped-up charges against students show how the government is already responding.

Either way, the message from the university administrations, police and government is chillingly clear. The repression is going to become much worse.

In order to counter this, trade unions and other groups of organised workers show sign that they are beginning to plan organised resistance in unity with the students.

Ashley Fataar
Keep Left

South Africa

Editor’s Note: Since receiving this article, we have read the following article, which reports on campus workers joining the students’ struggle:

http://city-press.news24.com/News/wits-staff-protest-is-crucial-to-the-feesmustfall-movement-heres-why-20161019

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Whatever Happened to “Our Revolution”?

I get one of these every day. Sometimes twice. They’re the appeals from Bernie Sanders to 14729115_10207311830015939_3061763304928796733_nhelp elect  liberal Democrats and give the Democratic Party a majority in congress. Let’s take a look at some of these candidates:

Morgan Carroll
Morgan Carroll is running for congress from Colorado. She says she “love(s) our public lands, open spaces… Our natural beauty also brings significant dollars into the economy.” How very nice. What’s not so nice is her talk about how “clean technology and energy sector has created good jobs and boosted Colorado’s economy.” Could she be talking about fracking?

Ellen P. Belef
Belef brags that she’s “a champion of victim’s rights.” This is the code word for the campaigns for the “lock them up and throw away the key” crowd.

Nanette Barragan
Barragan says she believes in “fiscal common sense” – code for balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. Meanwhile, war hawk president-to-be Hillary Clinton will have an ally in Barragan who says she believes in “uphold(ing) America’s presence internationally” and supporting “our democratic allies in key regions, such as Israel.”

 Russ Feingold
Feingold also says he believes in “fiscal responsibility”. One of his major donors is the corporate law firm Foley & Lardner LLP, which helps companies bust unions, and avoid taxes, among other things.

Pramila Jayapal
One of the more interesting candidates Sanders is supporting is Washington State Senator Pramila Jayapal, who’s running for the US House of Representatives. Here is what independent socialist Doug Nielson, who lives in Seattle, has to

Kshama Sawant (l) with Pramila Jayapal (r). Supporters of Socialist Alternative claim that pictures like this don't mean that Sawant is "supporting" Jayapal. They were saying the same thing for months about not "supporting" Bernie Sanders... until they turned on a dime and openly supported him. It is a shame that the only elected socialist is moving ever closer to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

Kshama Sawant (l) with Pramila Jayapal (r). Supporters of Socialist Alternative claim that pictures like this don’t mean that Sawant is “supporting” Jayapal. They were saying the same thing for months about not “supporting” Bernie Sanders… until they turned on a dime and openly supported him. It is a shame that the only elected socialist is moving ever closer to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

say about Jayapal: Jayapal took a total of $1,900 from the Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs in her run for the state senate while claiming to be a supporter of Black Lives Matter. During her primary run for the state senate she promised to introduce a rent control bill in the state legislature. She never did.  As soon as rent control champion Jess Spear was defeated by (mainstream Democrat) Frank Chopp in the primary, Jayapal contributed $150 to Chopp’s campaign, and shortly thereafter she received $250 from the Washington State Realtors PAC.  She got $500 from Mary Ryan, the director of The Community Center for Education Results (CCER), which created the”Road Map Project” funded by the Gates foundation. Schools get Road Map grants in exchange for letting Microsoft collect student test scores along with tons of other personal data for a massive national data base on students.  

“She’s better than somebody else. Yippee!”

Understandable
So this is what it’s come to. After all the sound and fury, the “political revolution” has evolved into one more campaign to get more run-of-the-mill corporate liberals elected to congress. It is entirely understandable that millions of “millennials”, new to political activity, would have been excited by the Sanders campaign. It’s entirely understandable that they supported it. After all, few of them knew much if anything about the history of this sort of thing – Gene McCarthy (1968), George McGovern (1972), Jesse Jackson (1980s), Dennis Kucinich (2012).

Unforgivable
What is unforgivable is for experienced socialists to have failed to warn, and to have failed to put forward an alternative. It is unforgivable that they failed to use the increased attention to politics to explain that the Democratic Party (not the Democratic “establishment” but the party itself) is a party of big business, of the capitalist class, and that workers need their own party, a working class party (not a “party of the 99%” or a “left party” but a party of working class people), and that the Democratic Party can never become a workers’ party.

Instead, in order to cover their tracks, the one somewhat influential socialist group that supported Sanders – Socialist Alternative – simply called on Sanders to run as an independent. Lacking the explanation of the class role of the Democratic Party, this argument made no sense and got no support from Sanders’ supporters. They correctly argued that had he done so, his campaign never would have gotten as far as it did. (Now, many of these “Berners” have switched to supporting Jill Stein, but that’s only after Clinton won the nomination.)

Lost Opportunity
What an opportunity was lost. Certainly the great majority of the “Berners” would have continued to support Sanders, but some would have remembered that argument and would be coming around to it now. Instead, for popularity and short term recruitment gain, Socialist Alternative dropped the ball.

After all the noise, after the excitement, after the curtain has dropped on Sanders’ run for the Democratic nomination, this is where his “revolution against the billionaire class” has ended up. Another diversion into the bowels of the Democratic Party.

Update (1/9/2017): Tulsi Gabbard
Another liberal Democrat that played a prominent role in Sanders’ campaign and whom Sanders is supporting is Tulsi Gabbard (D. HI). For more on Gabbard, see this article.

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Fixed Elections and the “Shining City on the Hill”

Donald Trump is right: These elections are “fixed”. It’s just that he’s lying (again) in how they are fixed. But, man, in this weird, hilarious and terrifying presidential election, nothing Trump has said has so horrified Corporate America as this claim of his.

Clinton and Trump "debating"

Clinton and Trump “debating”

“I am appalled”
A blow to our democracy that is one more piece of his outright effort to undermine the system,” intoned one columnist for the Wall St. Journal.

Horrifying… I, for one, am appalled,” commented Hillary Clinton. And “I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place,” Obama said.

Clinton went further: “He is denigrating — he’s talking down our democracy.

Ahh, yes, “our democracy”. The tradition of “free and fair elections”!

Have we forgotten how Hillary Clinton stole the primary vote in California this election? How Corporate America stole the election for George Bush? How Kennedy beat Nixon through vote fraud in Chicago, orchestrated by Mayor Richard Daly, whose motto was “vote early, vote often“? It was this vote fraud that won Kennedy the state of Illinois and, thus, the presidency.

Or maybe the probable next president is talking about how the US Constitution was established, when slaves and women couldn’t vote and when in all states voters were required to have a certain amount of property or wealth? Maybe she is talking about how even with that, according to noted US historian Charles Beard, the evidence is that most voters thought they were voting to reject the Constitution? Or maybe she’s talking about the fact that women only got the right to vote in 1920 and black people in the South only in the 1960s? Or maybe she’s talking about the fact that all those under court supervision, and in many states even those who are no longer under court supervision, are denied the right to vote?

You think?

But it really goes even deeper than that. Consider one detail of last night’s “debate”: The discussion on the Clinton Foundation and Haiti. Trump rightly pointed out how the Clintons are hated in that impoverished country. But he didn’t explain that, while the Clinton Foundation was taking money from investors in Haiti, Hillary Clinton’s State Department was pressuring the Haitian government to keep the Haitian minimum wage at starvation level.

Where?
In other words, the voice of the working class is entirely absent, not only in this election, but in every one.

  • Where is the candidate who explains how the police are a true occupying army in black communities, in fact in all working class communities, and really reveals how the entire police force has collaborated in covering up murder, corruption, false arrests, etc.?
  • Where is the candidate who explains how even at $15/hour millions of workers cannot escape poverty?
  • Where is the candidate who explains how they cannot solve workers and oppressed people’s problems for them, but that what they can do is use their office to help workers and oppressed people organize and fight on their own behalf?
  • Where is the candidate who explains how the “free” market is destroying lives and the environment all around the world?
  • Where is the candidate who explains how it is up to workers to stop the drive towards world war, how we can and must make direct links with workers throughout the world to build a powerful international workers’ movement and a powerful mass workers’ international?
  • Where is the candidate who explains that both the Democratic and Republican Parties are parties of big business – the capitalist class – and that working class people must build a party of their own?
  • Where, in other words, is the candidate who explains the true nature of affairs and who stands up and fights for working class people?

Union Leadership
Except in the margins, this candidate doesn’t exist. The blame, first and foremost, falls on the entire union leadership. These are the ones who exercise a choke hold over the only mass working class organizations that exist in the US – the unions. The same ones who told a black UAW member in Ferguson right after Michael Brown was killed “this isn’t our battle”, the same ones who bring corporate shills into the unions to preach the company line.

Jim Wallace of the far right Fox News, in phrasing the question in last night’s debate, said: “there is a tradition in this country — in fact, one of the prides of this country — is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner.”

One WSJ columnist explained the danger of what Trump is saying: “It sends the message that the United States may no longer be the ‘shining city on a hill’ that serves as an example for countries struggling for self-determination.” In other words, it weakens the ability of Corporate America to control what happens in the rest of the world, especially in the underdeveloped world. (Bear in mind, this is the government that has supported military coups and repressive regimes throughout the world.)

That "shining city on the hill" and the reality

That “shining city on the hill” and the reality

Capitalist Democracy
Even with a workers’ party, elections under capitalism always will be “fixed” because the capitalists always will have the advantage; they always will have the education system, the media to propagate their views. And if all else fails, they always will have the police and the military brass to intimidate working class people.

So, sure, the workers movement must take advantage of capitalist democracy, including elections, to fight for their interests. But, please, can we stop with all the nonsense about “the shining city on the hill”? 

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Black Panther Party Founded 50 Years Ago

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This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party. At the time, they were hated and feared by every official institution of US capitalism. Today, many of those same institutions are trying to make them safe. But what they stood for and what they did was not “safe” then and it isn’t now.

Revolutionary Example
The idea that black people should patrol their communities, guns in hand, keeping the police in check was truly revolutionary. It was a tremendous threat to the police then. It still is. And it stands in vital contrast to all the reformists today who today don’t go beyond calls for civilian police review boards, “community control of the police”, etc. Today, along with guns – where it’s possible to carry them – similar patrols could carry video cameras as well.

Ten Point Program
Their ten point program is also as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. While the Black Panther Party focused on the issue of the police, the economic demands they raised were just as important today as then.

Bobby Seale for Mayor
We should never forget that in 1973 Bobby Seale ran for Mayor of the City of Oakland and actually forced a runoff election. One problem was that he ran as a Democrat, rather than running to explain that the Democratic Party can never serve the interests of working class people. It can never serve to organize against racism and oppression. But the fact that he and the Black Panther Party used their base in the streets to run for office can set an example for today’s movement. By using this base to run for local office, today’s movement could start to go beyond making demands on and protesting against the Republican and Democratic politicians

Learn From Their Example
The socialist and the revolutionary movement should honor the Black Panther Party, but the only way to do so is to learn from both what they did right as well as their mistakes. And all movements make mistakes, from the Russian Bolsheviks right up to the present.

The Black Panther Party believed that “the lumpen”, as it was called by them and others – the perpetually unemployed, those living by their wits (and courage) alone – would be the revolutionary force in society. They did not see the employed working class as playing a basic role. Connected with this, they did not really see a road towards organizing the working class. While they took up economic questions in their program, it’s hard to see where they actually organized around those economic questions. This was connected with their nearly exclusive focus on “the community”, to the exclusion of organizing at the point of production, the work place.

Mao: “Serve the People”
Much is made of their free breakfast program. This was organized in the era when Mao and Maoism was popular within the revolutionary left in the US, and the watchword of Maoism was “serve the people.” It seems unlikely that the Black Panther Party thought they could actually overcome the economic crisis in the black community. It seems much more likely that their free breakfast program was intended as an avenue to build a wider base. But that, in itself, shows the problem.

United Class Struggle
The best, in reality the only way to build a wider base is to find a way to get increasing numbers involved in organizing to fight for their interests. That means really organizing around many of the economic demands of the Ten Point Program. But how is that possible without also organizing at the work place? And how can that be done without organizing all workers? How can the for jobs, housing, education be won for some if it can’t be won for all? And how can we even begin to fight for such demands if we don’t combine these struggles with a struggle to transform our unions? Today, even more so than 50 years ago, those demands are vital for all sectors of the US working class.

Today, some revolutionary groups try to follow the example of the Black Panther Party by instituting programs similar to the free breakfast program. They are copying a mistake the Black Panther Party made, one made from a lack of seeing a clear road for how to translate the economic demands into actually organizing workers as workers, instead of learning from and basing themselves on the tremendous things the Black Panther Party did right.

So today, we should honor the courage and the depth of thinking of the Black Panther Party founders. We should carry that forward. Not in a mechanical fashion, but learning from and build upon their example, which does not mean simply examining what they did uncritically.

 

Posted in Oakland, racism, rebellion, United States | Leave a comment