Wildcat! The 1999 SF Bay Area Carpenters Wildcat Strike: A Video Documentary

In the late ’90s, construction was booming in northern California. That’s why carpenters were pissed off when their union leadership settled a cut-rate contract that the members didn’t even have the right to vote on. So some 2,000 of them conducted a wildcat strike to protest. Here, for the first time, is some video documentary of that strike. It contains important lessons for today. For a more complete written history of the wildcat strike, see this article.

There was a follow-up general conference of carpenters to talk about what we were fighting for. It can be seen here.

While the names and faces of the leadership have changed, their policies haven’t. In July’s issue of the The Northern California Carpenter*, put out by the N. California Regional Council of Carpenters, Bob Alvarado, EST of the council, talks about “every nonunion company and construction worker we compete with.” It’s not that we union carpenters should join with and organize the nonunion; instead we have “joined” with the union contractors! This just means more of the race to the bottom. For a more complete analysis of this, see this pamphlet.

* – Note: This magazine now has articles translated into both Spanish and Chinese. That is a direct result of our wildcat strike. During the strike, we translated almost all our leaflets into Spanish and had a Spanish translation of our telephone messages. We overheard the union leadership commenting on this and shortly after the strike they started doing the same. That was at least one accomplishment of our strike!

Posted in labor, Uncategorized, videos/documentaries, workers' struggles | 1 Comment

Harassment & Racism at Jack London Square

We were walking along Jack London Square when we saw a cop interviewing two guys who obviously were not the yuppies that the authorities want here. We stopped and asked what was happening. Here’s what they told us.

This sort of harassment is part of the campaign to gentrify Oakland. It is also part of the campaign to get rid of those living outdoors. They were driven out of the Albany Bulb and out of Albany. They are being driven out of San Francisco. Now there is the beginnings of a campaign to drive them out of Berkeley and Oakland. Where are people supposed to go?

We urge people to send a complaint about this sort of harassment to the management at Jack London Square along with a copy to us. They can be contacted at: info@jacklondonsquare.com

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Stein-Baraka Reset

Today, anger is sweeping the country. I watched a video of a group of black youth in Milwaukee confronting the police. “Don’t touch one woman,” they said. “None. Not a one.” Eventually the police backed down and retreated down the street. We all have something to learn from the fearlessness of these youth.

It is that spirit that will transform society. Along the way, it is that spirit that will build a real, mass working class party.It is that spirit that the Stein/Baraka campaign must appeal to, not just in words, but in action.

Black youth confront cops on a Milwaukee street.

Black youth confront cops on a Milwaukee street. These photos are from the video from the Facebook page of The Many Faces of Vaun.

The cops retreat

The cops retreat

 

Only to be followed by the youth, who confront them again.

Only to be followed by the youth, who confront them again.

An Organizing Campaign
The presidential election campaign of Stein/Baraka should be transformed – should “reset” itself – into a mass organizing campaign. They should be going to all the hotspots around the country, including Milwaukee, right at the forefront, confronting the police and helping these youth publicize what they are experiencing every day. On that basis, they could be really building a fighting political party, one that not only speaks good ideas, but organizes the fight against this rapacious capitalist system.

Trans Pacific Partnership
There is another thing to consider: Already big business is talking about passing the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) after the elections, during the “lame duck” session of congress. Nobody (except for the tops of the capitalist class) knows exactly what is in it, but we do know that it is a major threat to worker rights, the environment, etc. Rather than just talk about this issue, the Stein/Baraka campaign should be organizing a true mass opposition to it, building community/labor groups that are prepared to go out into the streets and shut down every major city in the country as soon as the US congress starts to officially consider this treaty.

Now, that would be a real workers’ election campaign!

  • * –  I can’t find that video on youtube, but if you go to the Facebook page of oaklandsocialist, you can find it there. If we can find the video on youtube, we will edit this post to include it.
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Green Party Meeting

I went to a Green Party meeting in Oakland, CA last night. My main reason was to see if a layer of radicalized Sanders supporters were getting involved in the Greens. One meeting is not a be-all and end-all, but the Sanders youth weren’t there last night. Who was there was a politically mixed crowd to listen to a variety of speakers:

The first speaker, Laura Wells, is a leading Green Party member in California. She mainly gave a rundown of who spoke at the recent GP national convention. Two of the other five – Tom Gallagher and Pat DeTemple – were active Democrats who argued for working for “change” through that party. Another speaker was David Cobb, who gave a rip-roaring speech in which he claimed to be “a revolutionary”. Finally, there was Wyatt Ratliff of Socialist Alternative. He claimed his organization has “has the playbook for building the mass movement.”

Bernie Sanders and his supporters. Will these Sanders supporters move from supporting an individual to building a political party that represents working class people?

Bernie Sanders and his supporters.
Will these Sanders supporters move from supporting an individual to building a political party that represents working class people?

Some speakers argued for voting for Jill Stein, others for Clinton, all with equally friendly response from the audience. In other words, it does seem that the view some Greens have that their party is a pressure group on the Democrats (vs. an independent political party fighting for power) is alive and well, at least in this area. (Why, after all, would a serious political party invite speakers from a rival party?) Meanwhile, the lack of a significant delegation of radicalized young Sanders supporters at this meeting seems to say something. It seems to say that while these same Sanders supporters who cheered for Jill Stein in Philadelphia a few weeks ago may not vote for Clinton, they might still be seeing politics as mainly simply turning out to hear and vote for their favored candidate, rather than building an organization – meaning a political party – that can carry their needs and interests. (We say “might” because one meeting is far from definite proof.)

Black Lives Matter Program
Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement or a wing of it has developed a more comprehensive platform. Their program takes up economic as well as other demands. This is an extremely important development for all workers. There are also other important aspects, some of which seem to show an orientation towards the Democratic Party, but some which seem to show the opposite.

The Movement for Black Lives has developed a wide ranging platform or program. Here is the visual they present of its main planks.

The Movement for Black Lives has developed a wide ranging platform or program. Here is the visual they present of its main planks.

So far, this movement has seemed to steer clear of the issue of electoral politics, but no movement that exists for an extended time can avoid the issue forever. Either this movement will have to fall in with the liberal wing of the Democrats or it will have to start running its own candidates, at least at the local level. If they do so, they will be propelled further down the role of taking up class politics. (Along the way, they will have to grapple with the reformist role of both the nonprofiteers and the union leadership.)

But that remains the issue of the day — Corporate America – the capitalist class – has two main parties (the Republicans and the Democrats). Through these parties they organize their own class; advance their ideas and propaganda; and carry out their political agenda. The United States is unique in the industrialized capitalist world in that the main rival class to the capitalist class, the working class, has never had a mass party of its own — a party that can start to play a similar role for its class.

Beyond the “Feel the Bern”, beyond the “Jill not Hill”, the question of the hour remains how and when the US working class will change this situation. Will the Greens become radicalized and start to form a real working class base? Will the developments inside Black Lives Matter continue down that road? Or will it be a combination along with some development that nobody foresees right now?

Most probably the latter. But meantime, workers and socialists should be involved in all these developments as well as keeping an ear to the ground.

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1999 Carpenters Wildcat Strike & Follow-up Conference

In 1999, some 2,000 union carpenters went on a wildcat strike against their own union leadership, who had signed a poor contract that the members didn’t even have the right to vote on. (See this article for a longer history of that wildcat strike.) Although the wildcat strike only lasted five days, the struggle against this contract lasted several months. In the course of this, the carpenters organized an opposition caucus called “Working Carpenters for a Stronger Union.” Here is a video with a few scenes from that strike and (mainly) some of the discussion on the program that our caucus adopted. With everything that is going on in the Carpenters today (including their trying to give away our pension in the Pacific Northwest), we thought this discussion would be useful. We are going to publish a longer video of the wildcat strike itself in the near future.

Posted in labor, rebellion, Uncategorized, videos/documentaries | 2 Comments

Oaklandsocialist debates Brexit

On Aug. 6, the Peace and Freedom Party held a debate about the EU and Brexit. Oaklandsocialist was one of the panelists. A key moment in the debate was in the discussion period when one of the socialist supporters of Brexit more or less compared the free movement of labor to the “race to the bottom” and called for an end to the free movement of capital. His contribution, which naturally flowed from the logic of supporting Brexit, inevitably would lead to (1) barring immigrants; and (2) erecting tariff barriers. None of the socialist panelists who supported Brexit took issue with his contribution.

Here is the presentation of Oaklandsocialist:

 

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Facts don’t matter… Or do they?

Many sociologists have conducted studies which show that factual accuracy doesn’t matter to most people, that facts themselves don’t really matter in determining people’s social/political views. What matters is images.

That is kind of depressing for Marxists, who hope to win people over based an an accurate representation of the world. Here is an article in today’s Washington Post entitled “Why facts don’t matter to Trump supporters.” The article is a summary of a study done on the issue. It explains that when you refute the “facts” stated by a politician – Trump, for example – what happens is that after a day or so what the Trump supporter remembers is the statement of the alleged fact, not the refutation of it.

CAMPAIGN_2016_TRUMP-6d5c7-1293

Maybe this is more common in the United States – home of surface imagery due in part to the power of Hollywood – but anyway it turns out that things are more complicated than that. As the article explains: “People are more likely to accept information… if the factual presentation is accompanied by “affirmation” that asks respondents to recall an experience that made them feel good about themselves.
“The final point that emerged from Graves’s survey is that people will resist abandoning a false belief unless they have a compelling alternative explanation.”

In other words, as far as working class whites who support Trump: Yes, we have to refute the lies and distortions of Trump. But we have to put it in the context of their lives as workers, “a compelling alternative explanation” in other words. What is that alternative explanation? The class divide that exists, the crisis of the capitalist system itself and that the capitalists are trying to make workers pay for that crisis, the fact that workers will never advance as long as they allow one sector of the working class to be singled out for special attacks, etc. etc.

That approach was reinforced by the experiences of a black socialist who was campaigning for his presidential candidate in Minnesota’s Iron Mountain Range. This is an economically depressed mainly white working class area, where many miners have lost their jobs. As he writes: “As most Minnesotans know, there aren’t many people on the Range who look like me” in that area. Trump country. The only problem this brother encountered was that he couldn’t get away from people in order to continue campaigning; they all wanted to keep on talking.

He describes his encounters: ‘“Hi, my name is August. I’m here on behalf of the Socialist Workers Party,” I began on the steps of a house of a very young mother, a 5-month-old in her arms…. 

“The young woman was attentive and engaged during the entire 10 or 15 minutes we connected, despite her needy baby. At the end, she agreed to sign a petition to put on the ballot in Minnesota the SWP presidential and vice presidential candidates, Alyson Kennedy and Osborne Hart. The campaign literature I pointed to displayed prominent pictures of both candidates. Hart is African-American.

“That’s how my two-day experience on the Range began; it only got better.

“The next person I found… was a retired male in his mid-60s. After hearing my introductory rap, he insisted I sit on his porch to continue the discussion. He struck me as a possible Tea Party supporter because of his complaints about taxes he pays on family property on a nearby lake. After about 20 minutes, he, too, signed the petition. The exchange ended only because I wanted to go to speak to others in his neighborhood.”

 

A key, I think, was this: “most, I believe, were appreciative — and probably surprised — that someone wanted to hear their opinions.” In other words, affirmation of their experiences and their value.

The author also explains how those workers were interested in international affairs, especially the struggles of Chinese workers.

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Oaklandsocialist on the radio

I was asked to be on WEFT’s “World Labor Hour” last Saturday morning to talk about what I saw in Philadelphia at the DNC and about the Sanders campaign. In part the show evolved into a debate about Sanders. This part of the show started about 25 minutes in.

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Notice something about Trump?

Have you ever noticed how Trump repeats himself?

“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet” he said about fellow Republican Paul Ryan.

“He has not done a good job for the vets, and I’ve always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets. So I’ve always had a difficult time with John for that reason, because our vets are not being treated properly. They’re not being treated fairly,” he said about John McCain.

Imagine if he’d said about Ryan: “I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country and we need very strong leadership. I’m not quite there yet.” Or, about McCain: “He has not done a good job for the vets. Our vets are not being treated fairly.”

Is anything happening up there?

Is anything happening up there?

The way he repeats himself is a cover for the fact that he basically has nothing to say. He is a caricature of the empty headedness of US politics.

Meanwhile, the crisis in the favored party of Corporate America deepens, as one Republican after another is coming out in support of Clinton. It’s partly rats leaving a sinking ship, but it’s also a matter of the fact that increasingly the US capitalist class feels they cannot control Trump. But they’ve sowed the whirlwind, now they must reap the storm. They’ve encouraged this empty headedness for decades – a combination of patriotic claptrap, religious cliches, and emotional appeals to “family values” – all of which they’ve done in both parties. This has been combined with the propaganda campaign machine known as Hollywood, which first made Trump into a public figure to be admired, and which continually provides the empty headed garbage known as “entertainment” on TV and in the movies.

On the other hand, they have become so arrogant in their assumptions that they can continue attacking the US working class from both sides of the aisle – Republican and Democrat alike, and there never will be any rebellion.

Now, they have to deal with it.

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Ferment in Britain

Jeremy Corbyn speaking to 10,000 in Liverpool

Jeremy Corbyn speaking to 10,000 in Liverpool


Once again, the US corporate propaganda machine – also known as the “media” – is trying to shape the mood in the US… by what it doesn’t report on. This time, it’s the ferment in British society, a sharp turn to activism and to the left. Roger Silverman reports from London:

A turning point has been reached in British politics. It was marked by the surprise election to the Labour leadership of the left MP Jeremy Corbyn last September on a landslide vote of a quarter of a million Labour Party members and newly-registered supporters – the product of a tidal wave of radicalisation in Britain and the beginning of a reclamation by the working class of its traditional political party. Now, the establishment has launched a campaign to undermine Corbyn which is unprecedented, even by British standards.

Media Blackout
There is a complete media black-out on Corbyn’s policies and speeches, and the deployment of every possible device to discredit him. Foremost among the agents of this campaign have been the rump of Blairite Tory-lite “New Labour” MPs stranded in parliament, relics of a bygone era, who passed a vote of no confidence in Corbyn, forced a new leadership election, and discovered among their ranks a previously unheard-of obscure upstart challenger for the leadership who has belatedly assumed an improbably radical masquerade. The bureaucratic machine of the Labour Party apparatus, who first tried brazenly to wipe Corbyn’s name off the ballot, then enforced draconic restrictions on the franchise, including the arbitrary withdrawal of voting rights from around 150,000 recently-recruited members, and the imposition of a £25 fee and a two-day registration deadline on new supporters.

190,000 New Labour Members in Two Days;
10,000 Meet in Liverpool
The challenge was taken up with magnificent determination. 190,000 new supporters registered within the two-day deadline. However, there is no end to the dirty tricks practised by the bureaucracy, which has arbitrarily rejected 50,000 of these and closed down whole party branches. Nor is there any limit to the lies the press have peddled: the manufacture of cheap stories alleging hooligan tactics by Corbyn supporters, and the fiction that Corbyn – demonstrably the most popular Labour leader for decades – is “unelectable”. The fact is that there is a huge surge in support for Corbyn, who has been speaking at mass meetings up and down the country (to take the latest example, last night’s meeting in Liverpool, which attracted an audience of 10,000). Not only have hundreds of thousands of people joined the Party to support Corbyn, but in a recent opinion poll a decisive majority of Labour voters have expressed a preference for him rather than his challenger Smith as leader. There are even reports from around the country of former UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party – a far right, nationalistic party) voters expressing regret at their mistake and flocking back to Labour now that it has a radical new leader. Corbyn personally has 750,000 Facebook followers! A mass movement has sprung up to campaign for Corbyn: Momentum has tens of thousands of members actively mobilised, meeting, leafletting, and telephone canvassing up and down the country.

Defections
The latest weapon in the armoury of the right wing is to tempt prominent former allies to defect. One example is the former dissident Bank of England economist David Blanchflower. Another is the popular young newspaper columnist Owen Jones, who has recently denounced Corbyn’s alleged neglect of media opportunities. These criticisms may or may not have some validity, though they take no account of the systematic suppression of Corbyn’s arguments and programme. But whether or not, to raise them at this juncture, on the eve of the ballot, is a despicable stab in the back. If Jones is supporting Smith, let him say so clearly (as Blanchflower has done). If not, then he should wait to raise his objections later, once the battle is won.

Dirty Tricks
There is a barrage of attacks and dirty tricks against Corbyn: bureaucratic sabotage by the LP machine, the unjustified exclusion of tens of thousands of bona fide voters, high-profile stabs in the back, a crescendo of media slanders, the challenger’s newly-assumed mock radicalism, the universally peddled myth of Corbyn’s alleged unpopularity… In spite of this, it is generally regarded as a foregone conclusion that Corbyn will win the contest. That is not guaranteed, though, and complacency could be fatal.

Momentum”
Momentum – a movement/organization initiated by Corbyn – consists of largely autonomous local groups, and there is a wide variation between them. The national leadership is struggling to cope with the huge demands on its rickety apparatus, and is open to plausible charges of excessive caution and timidity. But there are enormous reserves of elan, optimism and audacity at rank-and-file level. The tens of thousands turning out at mass meetings up and down the country testify to this. And at local level, I can testify to the enthusiasm and determination in my own branch, which was set up at the spontaneous initiative of Labour and trade-union activists and youth. We hold

Jeremy Corbyn has organized "Momentum," a grass roots campaign to transform the Labour Party. It is no accident that Sanders has not done anything of the sort. Corbyn is the leader of a mass workers' party; Sanders is the leader of the liberal wing of a capitalist party.

Jeremy Corbyn has organized “Momentum,” a grass roots campaign to transform the Labour Party. It is no accident that Sanders has not done anything of the sort. Corbyn is the leader of a mass workers’ party; Sanders is the leader of the liberal wing of a capitalist party.

meetings of at least 35-40 people every week – working-class women, trade union activists, ethnic minorities, students, disabled people, all highly vociferous and enthusiastic – at which everyone participates in a lively bubbling of ideas, opinions and practical suggestions. Our ad hoc interim committee of six or seven people is in practically daily session either at meetings or by phone/e-mail contact. We recently held a successful public meeting of 120 people and are planning a mass rally in a couple of weeks. I personally have never witnessed in Britain, in 55 years of political activity, a comparable mood of political radicalisation. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say it offers just a faint foretaste of what a revolution would feel like.

Landmark Reached
Whatever happens now, a landmark has been reached. It is clear that Labour is on the precipice of a historic split. It is not a question of “calling for” a split in the Labour Party. The fact is, irrespective of my or anyone else’s wishes on the question, that is what is going to happen. The rejected relics of yesterday’s crypto-Tory “New Labour” hijack of the Labour Party are not waiting for permission; they are about to perpetrate their last betrayal, by claiming a spurious inheritance of the Labour name despite their overwhelming rejection by a newly replenished and reinvigorated membership. Their defection is not just inevitable, but long overdue.

If anyone has an objection to the terms in which I have posed the question, then here are the same ideas, this time framed in a more academic style, in an extract from a recent article by Jeremy Gilbert, Professor of Cultural and Political Theory at the University of East London.

“It is abundantly clear that the vast majority of the current parliamentary party are just not personally, socially or intellectually suited to the task of representing even a moderately left-wing party or its key constituencies in the early 21st century. Almost all of them were selected as candidates and trained as politicians by the machinery established by Peter Mandelson in the 1990s, the key objective of which was to select and train parliamentary representatives who would never behave in any way likely to offend powerful financial interests or their agents. This was a key element of the project to re-brand the Labour Party as ‘New Labour’, a novel type of political formation in which most of the traditional apparatus of party democracy would be bypassed, the authority of the leadership being guaranteed by its control of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and its exclusive access to key media channels. Predictions of a full split in the party seem well-founded, given that the political, social and psychological gulf between the majority of the PLP and the majority of the membership now seems unbridgeable.”

Stay tuned… More events on the way.

momentum-corbyn-a-cult-of-dangerous-thugs-body-image-1469032172

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Philadelphia DNC: A Report

lead photo

Who are the Bernie Sanders supporters? Where are they coming from and where are they headed? And what should the role of socialists be in this phenomenon?

I went to the DNC in Philadelphia to try to get a better grip on these questions.

The “Berners”
We have to distinguish between the protesters on the outside (which were almost unanimously pro-Sanders) and the Sanders delegates, who tended to be a bit older and more established in life. One main reason, I suspect, is economics: All the expenses of the delegates are borne by the individual delegates themselves, unless they can get donations from somebody. Expenses include travel, hotel room (delegates must stay at the hotel assigned to their delegation) and all sorts of other required expenses such as paying for the required breakfasts, required bus to take them to the convention, etc. Obviously, this means that a single mother or a broke student or ex-student cannot be a delegate. For some of these delegates, this was their first time being involved in an election campaign. For others, they’d had long experience in such campaigns. This included one Sanders delegate I talked with who made his living working on such campaigns, starting with the John Kerry presidential campaign of 2004. (He tried to recruit me to get involved in the Democratic Party at the local level here in Oakland.)

I spoke with a lot of “Berners”, as one Sanders DNC delegate called them, who were on the outside. Most of them were relatively young (surprise!), but they came from a diversity of political backgrounds. Some had been deeply involved in Democratic Party politics for years. Here is a partial list of “Berners” I talked with:

  • A young woman who had been involved in campaigning for various Democratic candidates for the last 13 years, but she didn’t plan to continue with this. She also said
    A Sanders supporter

    A Sanders supporter

    that she would have quit sooner were it not for Sanders’ campaign.

  • A 30s something woman who had also campaigned for other Democrats. She said she was done with the Democratic Party, that she supported a “3rd party”, but that she would support other Democrats “on a case-by-case basis.”
  • A woman in her early 20s who was brand new to political activism of any sort and who agreed with the need for a workers’ party, but who also wasn’t totally clear on the concept.
  • A 30s something woman from Chicago who also agreed on the need for an alternative to the Democrats but at the same time hopes the liberal Democrat Chuy Garcia will be able to replace the machine Democratic Chicago mayor, Rahm Emmanuel.
  • A 30s something socialist supporter of Sanders who also was a member of Socialist Alternative. He believed that Sanders’ campaign was “unique… an exceptional instance that’s likely to never happen again.”
  • A group from “foreclosurebusters.org” from New York. In response to my question about the need for a workers’ party, one of them said that “the two party system is broken” but that “we’re not ready” for the “real democracy” of a party built “from the grass roots up.”
  • A group of Haitians protesting against Hillary and Bill Clinton’s role in Haiti. The person I talked with agreed with the need for a workers’ party but was not optimistic about the prospects.
  • A 20 year old with a sign “Socialists 4 Justice”, who also both supported Sanders and said he agrees with the need for a workers’ party.
  • A middle age, middle class liberal who argued that change comes “incrementally” and slowly.

As you can see, there was a huge diversity in the backgrounds of these “Berners”, including whether or not Sanders had brought them into political activity, and specifically into Democratic Party activity.

Clinton Supporters

I also managed to speak with a few Clinton supporters. They were:

  • A middle age woman delegate from California who was an official in the SEIU. She
    These supporters of Hillary Clinton are smiling here, but they dropped the smile when I asked them about her role in Haiti.

    These supporters of Hillary Clinton are smiling here, but they dropped the smile when I asked them about her role in Haiti.

    totally defended everything about Clinton and was very excited about the “first woman president,” was unwilling to consider either the role of Margaret Thatcher in Britain or the Clintons’ role in Haiti. She adamantly denied that the union leadership is not really fighting for its members on the job.

  • A middle age woman who was completely unfamiliar with the role of the Clintons in Haiti and basically tried to bore me to death.
  • A middle age couple, from New York, who were “guests” to the convention. (I was told that most of these official “guests” were the big money donors.) They got a bit agitated when I asked them about Hillary’s role in Haiti, accused me of having “an agenda” (which is true) and stomped off.

General Mood
In general, I didn’t get the impression that the Berners felt that Sanders had betrayed them by supporting Clinton, although the overwhelming mood was to support Jill Stein of the Green Party. One woman, in fact, said that Sanders had only done so because “he had to,” or else he’d have had his credentials removed.

Young people marching for "Bernie and Jill"

Young people marching for “Bernie and Jill”

Despite Sanders’ repeated statements that this is not just about one candidate, that was precisely the mood there — “feelin’ the Bern” as some signs put it. This focus on the individual was inevitable since most “Berners” weren’t committed to building “Bernie’s” party – the Democratic Party, nor did he put much emphasis on that issue.

And once “the Bern” was out, there was a tendency for this mood to be transferred to Jill Stein. “Jill not Hill” was the chant. There was some talk about the Green Party, but that wasn’t the focus; the individual candidate was the overwhelming focus, to the extent that even some of the “Berners” I talked with agreed that it approached hero worship or a personality cult.

The Convention
I didn’t have a chance to watch any of the speeches (too busy and too tired), but I did get some insights into the workings of the convention through talking with a few of the Sanders delegates. One delegate said it was one giant “infomercial”, with the delegates under complete control from when they got up in the morning and had to sit through a breakfast that they’d already paid for (mandatory) and listen to various speakers lay down the line. It also costs a minimum of several thousand dollars for a delegate to attend, and I was told that the costs had increased several times over since the 2012 convention. Whether intentional or not (probably intentional, in my opinion), this would have served to keep away many of the younger, more radical of the “Berners”.

An example of how the convention was handled was this: Some Sanders delegate had several thousand old little balloon-type inflatables left over from the 2012 Obama campaign. He painted “No TPP” on them and mailed around several hundred to every state. The plan was to hold them up when Obama spoke. On that day, the convention security confiscated every one of them when the delegates entered the hall. In at least one case, they actually called the cops to enforce their edict!

The walkout on Tuesday, when Sanders officially endorsed Clinton, had been planned well in advance. These delegates went to the media center, where they were locked in and had to negotiate their release with the Philadelphia cops!

One delegate reported to me that the general mood in the convention among the Clinton supporters was like something she’d seen in the Republican nomination, with the immense hostility from the Clinton supporters, who tried to drown out the Sanders supporters with chants of “USA! USA!”.

The Sanders Campaign – some details
The Sanders delegates were getting regular tweets and text messages from on high. However, there was no means of them communicating amongst themselves, except on a person-by-person basis. And there was the constant threat to yank the delegate’s credentials. One delegate I talked with was quite sure that if any delegate had stepped forward and actually tried to organize anything apart from what the Sanders leadership approved of, they would have lost their credentials.

I was also told that the text of Clinton’s acceptance speech was distributed to the Sanders delegates in advance and that they were negotiating with the Clinton campaign about that speech from eleven in the morning until seven at night. The “Berners” had seven points they wanted added or changed; they got five of them. For instance, Clinton was originally going to call for a $12/hour minimum wage, but they got her to agree to fifteen. The also wanted her to “apologize” for the way they’d been treated by the Democratic National Committee. They did not get that.

Future
The Sanders campaign has set up what appears to be a non-profit called “Our Revolution.” It is revealing to compare it to “Momentum,” which was set up by the British Labour Party’s new, left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn.  “Momentum” is an open organization, with rank and file local meetings and branches. One Momentum member tells me that with a week’s planning they can get several hundred to a meeting. On the other hand, everything about “Our Revolution” is controlled from the top – from the message that’s sent out to its general focus, which appears to be to advise and help (including financially) local liberal candidates run for office. Some of these might be “independent” vs. “Democrat”, but let’s not forget that  Sanders has run as an “independent” before he even got to Washington, and for all that time, he functioned in the real world as a Democrat, continues to function as one despite the fact that he is now reportedly reregistering as an independent.

Role of Socialists
The most prominent socialist in the US – Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant along with her group, Socialist Alternative – supported Sanders. This is contrary to the classic view of revolutionary socialism – that the workers’ movement has to stand on its own two feet, independent of all wings of the corporate (that is, capitalist) politicians, and that in the US the most important step is to start down the road of building a working class political party, which can’t be done while supporting a liberal Democrat like Sanders. While all my criticisms of Sanders were, I believe, on track and fairly concrete, I think my experience in Philadelphia went a long way towards putting some flesh on the bones (as did Sanders capitulation, which I predicted – to the extent of predicting more or less what he’d say.

A coalition of different socialist groups organized a "Socialist Convergence" for every night. It was attended by hundreds, and there was not the bickering that so often marked socialist meetings of the past. Here, on right, the daughter of slain Honduran indigenous leader Berta Caseres speaks.

A coalition of different socialist groups organized a “Socialist Convergence” for every night. It was attended by hundreds, and there was not the bickering that so often marked socialist meetings of the past. Here, on right, the daughter of slain Honduran indigenous leader Berta Caseres speaks. (Translator is on left.)

The main problem is the lack of clarity on the question of class struggle – the fact that there is an irresolvable conflict of interest between those who work for wages for a living (the working class) and those who live off those who work for wages (the capitalist class), and that while the latter – the capitalist class – has two major political parties, the working class needs a party of its own, which the Democratic Party can never be. The conflict comes in when you support these liberal Democrats, as Sawant did. How can you support any Democrats on one hand (which she also has done in effect at the local level in Seattle), and clarify this point about class conflict and the need for a workers’ party on the other?

I listened closely to Sawant speak at one rally in Philadelphia. She hinted at the class struggle, just as Sanders has done. She denounced “the Democratic Party establishment”, but not the party as a whole. (She made that distinction in Seattle when defending one of the Democratic liberals there.) She hinted at the idea of the working class when she talked about “ordinary people”, but never clarified it. And she hinted at the need for a party based on the working class, when she talked about the need for a party “of the 99%”. Here are some quotes from her speech: “people all across this great country are looking for an alternative to these two establishment parties…. We need to build a left… We need an independent party for the 99%… We have to build a left right here and right now… (We need an) independent party for the 99% right now in an election year….” 

As I said, I didn’t encounter any support whatsoever, not the slightest, for the idea that Sanders should have run as an independent. That was because the call was simply seen as a tactical question. What needed a clearer explanation was the class issues at the core of it — who the working class is, who Corporate America or the capitalist class is, what is the basis of the Democratic Party, and why the working class can never control that party and needs its own party. And that couldn’t be clearly explained, including in popular but clear language, if you turn around and then support a representative of the Democratic Party, no matter how liberal he or she might be. Admittedly, it makes things a little more complicated if you don’t support Sanders, but I didn’t find anybody who cut themselves off from me once they heard that I didn’t support him.

Oaklandsocialist speaking before a small crowd in Philadelphia. You’ll notice that the speech didn’t get the loud cheers, but some people seemed to be listening and thinking; and several people came up to speak with me afterwards.

The socialist support for Sanders also led to a mistaken method in evaluating his candidacy. As one member of Socialist Alternative told me, “Sanders was unique…. this is an exceptional instance that likely will never happen again.” In another forum, another member of the same group expressed a similar approach when he said that he didn’t care about the history of similar candidates in the past. But we have to learn from the past. There is a long history of candidates like Sanders – Gene McCarthy (1968), George McGovern (1972), Jesse Jackson (1984 and ’88) and Dennis Kucinich (2012). Some attracted as much excitement as did Sanders (McCarthy, McGovern, Jackson the first time). And, contrary to what the S. Alt. member said, we almost certainly will be faced with similar candidates again in the future, especially if and when a movement for a working class party starts to get off the ground. That’s why it’s essential to learn from history as well as learn from mistakes.

The Next Step
The working class in this country cannot even start to resolve its problems, it cannot even start to stamp its will on society, without its own organization. The unions can do so, but only in a very limited way. That’s because the unions necessarily focus on the work place – not entirely but that’s the main focus – and also because the majority of workers can never even join a union. No, workers need a wider organization that they can fight through – whether it be around the issue of racist police murders, the environment, or student issues. Such an organization can only be a political party – not one that simply wakes up every two years to run candidates for office, but one that helps workers organize to fight in the streets and work places and communities for their interests day-in and day-out.

How can such a party get started?

Right now, there is a mood among many Sanders supporters to support Jill Stein of the Green Party. Maybe that mood will lead to thousands of these “Berners” sweeping into the Green Party and transforming it into a working class political party that actually fights capitalism.

Or maybe the movement in the streets against racist police murders will start to run local candidates of their own – separate from and opposed to the Republican/Democrat paradigm. If they do this, they will also have to broaden out and take on other issues. These different local campaigns could then start to come together to form a wider body which could lead to becoming a working class political party.

We also have to be very conscious of the situation within the unions. There, the vast bulk of the membership is alienated from a union leadership that is absolutely dedicated to the proposition that there is a harmony of interests between the unionized employers and the members. The result is selling rotten contracts and refusing to fight for the members on a day-to-day basis. At the same time that these union leaders are the voice of the employers inside the unions, they are also the voice of the Democratic Party. And given the alienation of the membership, the union leaders tend to dominate the structures of the union, including controlling the local meetings. That is why any new movement cannot rely on simply going to local union meetings; it should go directly to the workers at their work places. Of course, this will incur the wrath of the union leadership, who will attack the movement for meddling with the internal affairs of the union, but so be it.

Some Conclusions
It’s unclear how the movement will develop, but the general rejection of the Democrats is an important first step. Election campaigns cannot replace the movement in the streets, work places and in the unions, but they can help clarify a program – what we are fighting for.

  • It seems to make sense for those who are working in the Green Party to struggle to build this party as a socialist and working class party and as one that participates in and helps build the movements.
  • For those who are active in different protest movements – from opposition to fracking to opposition to racism and police violence, to whatever –  it would make sense to start to more systematically link up these different movements with a view towards running independent local candidates who are explicitly opposed to both the Republicans and the Democrats. And at some point in the future, these local campaigns could start to link up to form a broader network which can become a mass workers party.
  • In any campaign, if it starts to get off the ground the union leadership will try to intervene, either directly or through their left representatives or both. But they will do so in order to try to keep the movement within the bounds of what’s acceptable to the liberal Democrats and to prevent the radicalism from affecting their members. That’s why where the unions exist, they cannot be ignored, but the movement should go directly to the work places to talk with and try to involve the workers themselves.

Throughout this entire process, it is the task of socialists to both learn from the history – both more recent (Sanders) and earlier (including the other candidates mentioned above) and to watch and participate in the movement as it develops, both to learn from the movement and to try to apply the lessons of the past.

John Reimann
8/1/2016

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Check Facebook

For the latest Oaklandsocialist updates from Philadelphia, please check out our Facebook page, or chech the FB page of John Reimann. Thanks.

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Democratic Party Convention: “Giving them there space riiiiiight now”

Ferment and turmoil is rocking both the parties of big business in the United States. First we had the Republican Party convention, with the mainstay of the religious right wing – Ted Cruz – booed and heckled by Trump supporters, while other Republican bigwigs staying away completely. Now it’s the Democrats’ turn.

“We’re giving them their space right now so when Hillary takes the stage they will have all of their things resolved.” So spoke a delegate at yesterday’s Democratic Party convention. In other words, let them get it out of their system. Sanders doubled down on this: “I ask you as a personal courtesy to me not to engage in any kind of protest on the floor,” he said.

You couldn’t have a better example of the role of the entire liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Basically, what it amounts to is “roll with the punches.” Absorb all the disorganized protests and anger, even express some of that anger… and keep everything tightly controlled from the top.

Now there is talk about a walkout when Clinton is officially nominated. Will that happen? Possibly, but I’m reminded of the Carpenters Union general convention of 1980. President Ronald Reagan had been invited to speak, right when he was in the midst of breaking the air traffic controllers strike and destroy their union. There was a movement among the California delegates to walk out, and other delegates wanted to also. The central leaders got all the California delegates together in a room and hammered at them for an hour about how we must not walk out. Since there was no central leadership of the delegates to oppose this, they won the day and the walkout movement was squashed.

Of course, we are in a very different period today, but we should not be surprised if only a few delegates end up walking out.

The other thing is this: The entire emphasis of the Sanders campaign has been to elect him and he will solve people’s problems for them. Yes, it’s true that he talked about the “political revolution” and said that the campaign was not about just one individual, but the reality is that that is exactly what it was about — electing him and maybe getting set up to elect some other “Bernie Sanders’s” to lower office. Now, much of that has shifted to Jill Stein of the Green Party. But what is missing is linking up building the movement in the streets, the work places and also, critically, the movement inside the unions to transform the unions. What is missing is building a democratic infrastructure.

So it’s probably best to vote for Jill Stein as a vote against the corporate duopoly, but that movement from below, and the organization to build and coordinate that movement is still the critical task.

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Check out our Facebook page

To those we talked with at the DNC: Please check out our Facebook page (Oaklandsocialist), where we have some video and photos and commentaries posted. We’ll have some of the same material up on our blog site by next weekend if not before.20160725_184446

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Oaklandsocialist speaking Aug. 6 on EU/Brexit Forum

John Reimann, representing Oaklandsocialist, will be speaking on this panel. Please pass the word.

forum-flyer-2016-08-06-brexit-1-2

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Trump: Red Meat to the Lions. What is the Alternative?

Trump appears on stage at the Republican convention. "I am your voice," he said. "I am the law and order candidate." "I alone can fix it."

Trump appears on stage at the Republican convention.
“I am your voice,” he said.
“I am the law and order candidate.”
“I alone can fix it.”

Donald Trump’s convention speech may have thrown plenty of red meat to the lions, it may have succeeded in adding to his super-hero image, and it may even be a road to victory in November, but it did not make corporate America happy. Consider how the mainstream corporate media reported on it:

  • “Donald Trump, a rich businessman who has never been poor, recast himself as a populist… Thursday night…. Several times, the son of a millionaire New York landlord said, ‘I am your voice.” San Francisco Chronicle, 7/22/2016
  • “With dark imagery and an almost angry tone, Mr. Trump portrayed the United States as a diminished and even humiliated nation, and offered himself as an all-powerful savior…” New York Times
  • “Trump paints a grim portrait of the U.S. and casts himself as its only savior in GOP acceptance speech” headlined the L.A. Times
  • “Trump spoke with so much gusto it sounded much of the time as though he were screaming, and by the end his face was notably red and glistening with sweat.” Washington Post.
  • And even the far right Wall St. Journal, undecided who is worse, the subject-to-pressure Democrat Clinton or the untrustworthy Trump expressed their doubts: Donald Trump ended his party’s convention Thursday the way he began his history-making campaign: attacking the political establishment, playing to voters’ fears of foreigners and crime, and making bold promises to fix America’s ills.”

No presidential candidate, not even “The Donald”, can run as an individual; he or she must run as the leader of a political machine, a political party. And there lies Trump’s problem. The Wall St. Journal described how Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party has created chaos inside that party. They discussed “the missteps that marred the first days of the convention: the repeated passages in Melania Trump’s speech from one delivered eight years earlier by Michelle Obama, a divisive fight over convention rules, and the chaos that erupted after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s refused to endorse Mr. Trump during a prime-time address Wednesday…. ‘If you can’t run a convention, how is he going to run a State Department, or the Pentagon?’ said Rick Tyler, former aide to the Cruz presidential campaign.’

William Galston, member of the Brookings Institute and columnist for the Wall St.

We may not know who will win the 2016 presidential election, but we already know who has lost it: corporate America. Open warfare has broken out between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republican nominee. The less-combative Business Roundtable makes no secret of its dismay over the choice of candidates it faces. The turn away from free trade and welcoming immigrants confuses business leaders who still cannot understand why anyone would object to these policies. The corporate sector favors moderation in social policy and a steady internationalism in foreign policy—the reverse of the main currents within today’s Republican Party. The political homelessness of corporate America is a kind of rough justice—the consequence of policies that have ended by alienating huge numbers of Americans. As recently as 1999, according to the Pew Research Center, 73% held “very” or “mostly” favorable opinions of corporations. By spring 2008—months before the financial crash and onset of the Great Recession—that share had already declined to 47%, and it fell further, to 38% in 2011, before bottoming out. Other surveys help explain this negative attitude. In 2014, 66% of Americans told Gallup that big businesses were successful at creating jobs in foreign countries with which they were doing business. But only 43% thought U.S. companies were creating jobs domestically; 54% said firms were doing a poor job of balancing the best interests of the U.S. and American workers with the best interests of their company. Businesses have one view of “global supply chains,” it seems, and average Americans quite another. The moral for corporate leaders is clear: If you care only about shareholder value, only your shareholders will care about you. And when a political crunch comes, your shareholders won’t be numerous or powerful enough to save you. In a modern democracy, a stable relationship between citizens and corporations rests on a tacit compact. The people are willing to give big business substantial latitude to chart its own course. In return, business leaders are expected to give due weight to the interests of the people, including not only the businesses’ employees but also the citizens of the communities whose well-being the leaders’ decisions affect. In the three decades after World War II, all parties to this compact understood its terms and mostly honored them. Since then, the social compact has weakened steadily, and many Americans now believe that it has broken down altogether. They have come to view corporations as employing a narrowly self-interested calculus to determine the level of wages and the location of production. And they are fighting back with the only weapon they have—their vote. Many corporate leaders insist that they are doing what they must amid intensifying global competition. Their real choice, they say, isn’t between paying U.S. workers $20 an hour or Mexicans $3 an hour to make air conditioners, but rather between paying Mexicans $3 an hour and going out of business. Globalization isn’t an abstract, irresistible force. It has political preconditions, including legal protections for mobile capital. Without international agreements, businesses could not confidently invest in new markets abroad. (NOTE: But this means protections for capital, not for workers or the environment!) It is telling that neither party’s presidential candidate has endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership—and that the business community is surprised. Business leaders should examine their own role in bringing this about. Unless they are willing to live with an America of increasing economic insularity, they must look beyond narrow, short-term self-interest to the long-term common good on which their own well-being ultimately depends."

“We may not know who will win the 2016 presidential election, but we already know who has lost it: corporate America.
Open warfare has broken out between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republican nominee. The less-combative Business Roundtable makes no secret of its dismay over the choice of candidates it faces. The turn away from free trade and welcoming immigrants confuses business leaders who still cannot understand why anyone would object to these policies. The corporate sector favors moderation in social policy and a steady internationalism in foreign policy—the reverse of the main currents within today’s Republican Party.
The political homelessness of corporate America is a kind of rough justice—the consequence of policies that have ended by alienating huge numbers of Americans. As recently as 1999, according to the Pew Research Center, 73% held “very” or “mostly” favorable opinions of corporations. By spring 2008—months before the financial crash and onset of the Great Recession—that share had already declined to 47%, and it fell further, to 38% in 2011, before bottoming out.
Other surveys help explain this negative attitude. In 2014, 66% of Americans told Gallup that big businesses were successful at creating jobs in foreign countries with which they were doing business. But only 43% thought U.S. companies were creating jobs domestically; 54% said firms were doing a poor job of balancing the best interests of the U.S. and American workers with the best interests of their company. Businesses have one view of “global supply chains,” it seems, and average Americans quite another.
The moral for corporate leaders is clear: If you care only about shareholder value, only your shareholders will care about you. And when a political crunch comes, your shareholders won’t be numerous or powerful enough to save you.
In a modern democracy, a stable relationship between citizens and corporations rests on a tacit compact. The people are willing to give big business substantial latitude to chart its own course. In return, business leaders are expected to give due weight to the interests of the people, including not only the businesses’ employees but also the citizens of the communities whose well-being the leaders’ decisions affect.
In the three decades after World War II, all parties to this compact understood its terms and mostly honored them. Since then, the social compact has weakened steadily, and many Americans now believe that it has broken down altogether. They have come to view corporations as employing a narrowly self-interested calculus to determine the level of wages and the location of production. And they are fighting back with the only weapon they have—their vote.
Many corporate leaders insist that they are doing what they must amid intensifying global competition. Their real choice, they say, isn’t between paying U.S. workers $20 an hour or Mexicans $3 an hour to make air conditioners, but rather between paying Mexicans $3 an hour and going out of business.
Globalization isn’t an abstract, irresistible force. It has political preconditions, including legal protections for mobile capital. Without international agreements, businesses could not confidently invest in new markets abroad. 
It is telling that neither party’s presidential candidate has endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership—and that the business community is surprised. Business leaders should examine their own role in bringing this about. Unless they are willing to live with an America of increasing economic insularity, they must look beyond narrow, short-term self-interest to the long-term common good on which their own well-being ultimately depends.”

 

Journal, explained why big business is not happy with Trump: “The corporate sector favors moderation in social policy and a steady internationalism in foreign policy.” (As if to confirm the former, on the very same day that Trump gave his speech the corporate giant National Basketball Association reversed its commitment to play next year’s money-making all star game from Charlotte, North Carolina because of that state’s recent law legalizing discrimination against gays and lesbians.)

In that same article, Galston wrote that corporate America “has lost” this election. But just because corporate America has lost this election doesn’t mean that the working class is winning it. Building on the years of development of the Tea Party, Trump is hitting on and thereby further popularizing certain themes:

  • “law and order”, meaning support the police and more repression and more racism, at home.
  • anarchy and chaos abroad, meaning a barrier to international working class solidarity.

Why? How?
Why, how has the mood developed that allows for the rise of this demagogue? To dismiss “Trumpism” as only the racism of a sector of the white population is to fall into the same simplistic thought process that Trump, himself, relies on and encourages. Of course that is part of it, but there is more:

William Galston, in his column on the right, explains a lot of it. But there is also the world situation: The United States has basically been in a state of low-grade war since 2001. Whenever any country is sent to war, a blood lust, a patriotic war fever tends to develop at first. This only is washed away when the body bags start coming home. But no significant number of body bags have come home. As a result, the patriotic fever has been allowed to build.

On top of that, one country after another has descended into anarchy and chaos – Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq… This disintegration of society, coupled with the disintegration of any central government, has meant that the US government is less able to control events in the world. As is true everywhere, many US workers associate with corporate America, especially in times of war (either overt or covert), and they experience the loss of US power as humiliation for themselves. Trump has played masterfully on this.

Democrats No Alternative
That is why not a single Democratic political leader – including Bernie Sanders – can provide any alternative, any barrier to “Trumpism”. Every last one of them, including Sanders, supports strengthening corporate America abroad; every single one of them supports the “war on terror”, either overtly or covertly. So they cannot provide an alternative to this war fever.

That is partly why it has been a violation of principles for socialists – including the only socialist* public official, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant – to have supported this 21st century equivalent of a cold war liberal, Bernie Sanders. Now, Sawant & Co. are saying that there can be no road to a solution that lies through the Democratic Party. But they should have been explaining this before instead of strengthening exactly these illusions. How can they answer those former Sanders supporters who are now planning on voting for Clinton? One result of this confusion is that according to a June 14 poll, 22% of Sanders supporters say they’ll vote for Trump and 18% say they’ll vote for far-right Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson!

Movement in the Streets, Workplaces & Unions
Not only does action result from changed ideas, ideas change from action. That is why it’s vital to not only keep the movement in the streets going but to widen it. So far, that movement has been mainly in protest over racist police killings. It’s vital to keep attention on that issue, but equally important to expand it.

  • The unions as an organized force have been entirely missing in action from this movement. Meanwhile, there is massive discontent within the unions over the union leadership capitulating to management. Their capitulation to management is the flip side of the coin to their capitulation to the Democratic Party, and that should be clearly explained to union members as part of a campaign to help them organize to transform their unions.
  • Many protesters are trying to take a hands-off approach to the general elections. This usually comes from an attempt to avoid the thorny question of supporting the Democrats vs. building an alternative. That’s partly because building an alternative must mean taking a class position – the corporate-controlled Democrats (and Republicans) vs. the need for a working class alternative party. In this present situation, it seems the best alternative is to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party, while the weaknesses of that party and that candidate are also explained.
  • Finally, the movement cannot escape a clear position on the issue of capitalism vs. socialism. In Galston’s column on the right, he explains that for big business, the choice is moving to low wage countries and paying $2/hour or going out of business. This is the result of the inevitable further globalization of capitalism itself. Yes, a movement must be built to fight against these consequences – for international solidarity in action, not just words, including regional and global strike action when necessary; for a region-wide and a global minimum standard of living/minimum wage, etc. But in this process it must also be explained that ultimately you cannot control what you do not own, that the working class must put under public ownership the commanding heights of the economy – the giant corporations – and organize and plan the economy under the democratic control and management of the working class itself.

 

*- Use of the term “socialist” here includes all wings of the socialist movement, including social democrats like Sawant.
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Malik: Afghanistan Life in Really Bad Situation

Malik is an Afghani refugee in Germany. Recently, he sent a note to Oaklandsocialist describing the situation for Afghanis, both those living in Afghanistan and in Germany. According to the German government, Afghanistan is a “safe” country so the refugees cannot be political refugees… and must be sent back. But Merkel cannot explain why, when the German foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, visited Afghanistan a year ago, he had to wear body armor and while he was talking with Afghani politicians a suicide bomber killed several dozen people just a few hundred yards away.

War in Afghanistan

War in Afghanistan


afghan people for the rest of they life are in really in bad situation ,a lot of thing happen but no one see them it’s more then 35 years it’s like that it’s mean before I born and this is destiny  majority of my people . and even in Europa as you see history again….; in all of this years war and immigration cause a lot of damage for all and the important one is education most of afghan people have almost no chance to education in Afghanistan , Iran , Pakistan there is a lot of reason and that is long story here I don’t want to talk about it .the problem is now no one can speak English and protect they right only a few can speak that’s not enough and this is the negative point all of the politicians use this way so easy for they goal without any damage for example they say why Afghanistan people deport them self ? it show there is no problem and it safe foreign minister going Kabul with a lot of guard and very high security situation with bulletproof vests and look into the camera and say every thing is okay here!!!! Do not care about suicide bombing in Kabul the same day……….. here for us still no justice, discrimination and racism almost they same situation in Afghanistan and neighborhood country ; we do big risk and come here about 7’8 thousand kilometer but still most people look at us with our nationality not with reality, human right

Afghan refugees seeking asylum in Germany

Afghan refugees seeking asylum in Germany

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Pakistan: They Came in the Dead of the Night

Farooq Tariq  general secretary of the Awami Workers Party, reports from Pakistan. He shows how terrorism and the government campaigns against it are used to divide and repress workers and peasants:

In the dead of the night on July 17, 2016, the police vans snaked their way into Chak 4-L. At around 2am, several dozens of policemen forced entry into the house of Mehr Abdul Jabbar, younger brother of incarcerated peasant leader

Shells litter the floor of the home of the family of Mehr Abdul Sattar after police raided their home.

Shells litter the floor of the home of the family of Mehr Abdul Sattar after police raided their home.

. They broke down the front door and opened indiscriminate fire shattering cupboards and other household paraphernalia. They departed 15 minutes later but left behind a cloud of uncertainty and fear that spread among the villagers jolted awake by the gunfire.

False Police Claims
Within half an hour, several private television channels broke the ‘news’ that the Okara police had rescued six hostages from Jabbar’s house and had found wads of Indian currency and ammunition including hand grenades.

The charade was necessary to feed the narrative that Sattar was an anti-state agent working for India, that he had a cache of illegal weapons at home and that he was harbouring criminals at his house who had shot at the police. The police were, of course, lauded for being the heroes who had successfully freed ‘hostages’ from the peasant leader’s house.

Sattar was arrested on April 15, 2016, and accused of being a foreign agent working for the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). The allegation was tied to Sattar’s visit to Nepal in 2007 where he attended a meeting of the South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) as secretary of Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee. To provide this measly accusation teeth, the police staged a raid at his house on July 17, and claimed that they had found INR 85,000 there. This is, apparently, all the proof required to brand someone a spy and an anti-state agent. Due process be damned.

Hundreds of villagers, on tenterhooks after hearing the gunfire, gathered around the house in the aftermath of the raid. Jabbar’s wife, who was at home with her children when the policemen broke in, explained to them that while they had not harmed her or her children, the cops had taken away clothes and cell phones and had ransacked the house. One of the policemen, she said, had been taking pictures and making videos of the house.

Al Qaeda
The raid comes barely a week after the same cops claimed to have killed six AlQaeda ‘terrorists’ at the house of the younger brother of another peasant movement leader in Kulyana Estate on July 12. The narrative in this case was further skewed by the fact that the police had, in fact, murdered the terrorism suspects at another location – the dera (private place for meeting guests) of Major (retd) Faqeer Hussain. Villagers in the area vouch for the time the ‘encounter’ took place (2am) and explain that it was not carried out at Malik Naeem Jhakkar’s house. Naeem Jhakkar’s elder brother Malik Saleem Jhakkar, a peasant movement leader, has been in jail for the last two years. The police did, however, move into Naeem Jakhar’s house in his absence to seize his tractor and animals.

A week after this incident, on July 19, the Shuhda Foundation of the Lal Mosque mullahs claimed that two of those killed supposedly at Jhakkar’s house had been in police custody for over a year. The statement, coming from unlikely quarters, only strengthened what the peasants of Kulyana Estate have been trying to explain all this time –  they had nothing to do with terrorists.

The Anjman Mozareen Punjab (AMP) have long opposed brutal Islamist militancy and have called for civilian state intervention to protect the lives of citizens. Events unfolding this month, however, speak of a blatant attempt by the state to box in leaders of the AMP with the same extremist elements the peasants have opposed so far. The attempts have been made in service of the powers that are trying to build a case for the persecution of peasants and to undermine the AMP’s struggle for land ownership rights.

This encounter, if indeed staged, is telling of dangerous tactics the police and intelligence officials are employing to implicate and criminalise peaceful political activists.

Furthermore, they speak volumes of the extent and manifestation of the misuse of the National Action Plan and anti terrorism laws. The police appear to have adopted a no-holds-barred approach to somehow prove that the five main leaders of Anjman Mozareen Punjab they have arrested – Mehar Abdul Sattar, Nadeem Asharf, Malik Salim Jakhar, Hafiz Jabir and Shabir Sajid – have been funded by foreign elements including foreign intelligence agencies.

Protest march of peasants

Protest march of peasants in Okara

The peasants’ struggle is not a recent occurrence nor has the brutality emerged out of a vacuum. The people arrested for leading the movement have been demanding their right to own the land they till for more than 16 years. The peasants of the Okara Military Farms have lived in and tilled the lands there since 1910. State narrative has been contrived around the movement in a way so as to criminalise their demand of the right to own the 68,000 acres of land they have been tied to for generations.

13697033_10154284467242856_511911739300713234_nSince 2001, the police have registered 348 cases against the tenants of Okara. Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act is added to create extra pressure and to tighten a noose around the movement. Most of these cases were registered in the aftermath of protests by tenants against state injustice. Where women are mostly spared in times of war, the women peasants in Okara have been dealt the same hardened blows as the men have.

This is because the women peasants had managed to organise and mobilise in a manner unprecedented in any peasant movement in the Punjab.

More importantly, never before had any segment of the have-nots, the oppressed and the financially and politically weak dared to challenge the most powerful institution in the country. The peasant farmers of Okara had stood up to the administration of the Military Farms and the serving military officers there.

Hundreds of criminal charges later, the accusations directed against the peasants have been unable to hold water. As many as 11 tenants have lost their lives to state brutality in their struggle for land ownership rights. Not a single casualty has been reported by those wielding the guns. There has never been attack on the oppressors by those oppressed – yet the brutality continues unabated.

The security agencies’ blundering attempts to connect peasants to terrorists in their custody speaks volumes of their desperation to see the movement meet an early end. The staged encounter on July 12, is one of the tactics the state has employed to turn public sympathy away from the peasants and to snatch away their moral or ethical claims to lands the state elite have their eyes on. Decimating the peasants’ movement would be the first step towards that.

The aftermath of the police encounters and the staged raids has created an environment of trepidation among the tenants. With their leaders in prison, the tenants now fear that the wrath of the security apparatus will be turned on them.

The very basis of the movement pits the tenants in opposition with the administration of Okara Military Farms which demands share-cropping rights. The tenants, however, argue that the land does not belong to the military but the provincial government. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, chairman of the political party in power in the Punjab, had earlier promised to extend land ownership rights to the tenants.

It was after the tragic mass murder of children by religious extremists at an army-run school in Peshawar that the security apparatus was given a free hand to rein in terrorists and extremists. Two years after the incident, the National Action Plan has been directed towards the most vulnerable segments of the society to silence those who dared raise their voice for their rights.

Despite warnings and remonstrations from human rights quarters, including the National Commission for Human Rights and the Senate Committee on Human Rights, the violence does not appear to have abated. If anything, it has worsened and the peasants of Okara lie in the heart of this brutal onslaught.

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Britain: “The Battle is Joined”

We reprint below a report from Roger Silverman in Britain about events there.

After decades of political stagnation, Britain is suddenly plunged into turmoil. It has become, for the moment, the most unstable country in Western Europe. Within a few weeks, it has witnessed the murder of a Labour MP by a Nazi assassin, the shock outcome of the EU referendum, an upsurge of xenophobia and bigotry, the unexpected resignation of a prime minister and the successive downfall of his two most prominent presumed successors… And, most crucial of all, the long-overdue split in the Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn

Corbyn
At first sight Corbyn may appear a little less radical than Bernie Sanders in the USA, with Sanders’ talk of “revolution” against the “billionaires’ dictatorship”. But Corbyn, an honest and principled traditional left reformist, stands implacably for resistance to austerity, nuclear disarmament, and renationalisation of the railways, and these are solid commitments. The difference is in the historical context. The election of Corbyn means a reclamation by the working class of the party it created over a hundred years ago from the clutches of conscious agents of the class enemy. It was the result of an unforerseen tidal wave: an anticipation of revolution. The violent class tensions that had been tightly compressed for two decades within the Labour Party, the traditional party of the working class created by the trade unions, could no longer be reconciled. Under the shock of the financial crash and the subsequent years of savage cuts, nothing could prevent it bursting asunder.

Labour MP’s and “New Labour”
These Labour MPs are not just a new generation of the old-style reformists of yesteryear – tainted individuals perhaps, cowardly, treacherous, bribed or intimidated, but with roots firmly implanted in the labour movement. During the 1990s, an openly pro-capitalist grouping assumed the leadership of the Labour Party. One of them, Mandelson, openly boasted: “I am supremely relaxed about people getting filthy rich, so long as they pay their taxes”. They tried to eradicate Labour’s socialist and trade-union traditions and proclaimed a new identity, calling themselves “New Labour”.

New Labour served a very specific historical purpose. It was the product of a conscious conspiracy by the ruling class: to carry onward the Thatcherite counter-revolution wrapped in new packaging, once the Tories had become too discredited to do it themselves under their own banner. It was only after the financial crisis in 2008 that New Labour was deemed to have outlived its usefulness; once having served its purpose in government, it was unceremoniously ditched, and the reins of power firmly grasped by Britain’s traditional masters.

The Blairite MPs have no links or allegiance to the labour movement, let alone any aspirations to a new society. They are plain careerists who at a certain time found it opportune to jump on the New Labour bandwagon. Most of them are relics of that Blairite influx: an alien force of lawyers, lobbyists and “special advisers” hostile to the workers’ interests. One trade union leader rightly called them a “virus”.

Two Classes Cannot Share One Party
Two classes can’t share one party. It was always inevitable that, sooner or later, the working class must either reclaim the Labour Party or replace it. With the mobilisation of the Labour ranks and affiliated trade unions, and a huge influx of new and overwhelmingly younger members, we see a combination of both variants: a replenished and reinvigorated mass workers’ party, already numbering half a million members.

The exact mechanism by which the crisis has erupted is a consequence of the arrogance of the Blairites, who still delude themselves that they enjoy mass support. They had blamed the election of their previous leader, the pathetically ineffectual Ed Miliband, on the trade union block vote, and imagined that by throwing open the franchise to all and sundry, allowing anyone to register as a supporter, they could secure victory for their own preferred candidate. They then compounded this mistake by lending Jeremy Corbyn enough MPs’ nominations to cross the threshold to stand as a candidate, hoping thereby to demonstratively humiliate the left.

Actually it was a questionable exercise of “democracy” to allow the party leadership to be determined by selling cheap votes to all and sundry, irrespective of their commitment to the party. However, such was popular outrage at New Labour’s despicable record of treachery, and anger at the election by default last year of yet another even more right-wing Tory government, that hundreds of thousands of people registered as supporters, exercised their voting rights as affiliated trade unionists, or joined the Party outright. Jeremy Corbyn won a decisive majority in all three sectors, with 60% of the vote and a popular mandate of 250,000 people.

Clean Break
If Corbyn’s victory was not to mean a reclamation by the working class of its traditional party, then it would have been meaningless. What had to follow was a clean break between the mass of trade-union rank-and-file Labour activists and the parasitic rump of New Labour MPs clinging on to their parliamentary seats.

Under the impact of current historical shocks, what was already a simmering crisis has now come to an immediate showdown. Predictably, it was the MPs who precipitated it. By a four-to-one majority, they passed a vote of no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership and are now scrambling around trying to find a candidate to challenge him. Having failed in a brazen plot to keep Corbyn off the ballot paper (a provocation that could only have precipitated an immediate split), in an act of pure spite they disenfranchised over 100,000 Labour members at a stroke by imposing an arbitrary cut-off membership date, and raised the affiliation fee for new supporters from £3 to £25, while giving them a deadline of just two days to register.

It’s not, as they pretend, the risk of defeat in a coming general election that the Blairite MPs are afraid of; what terrifies them is the prospect of victory under a socialist leadership. Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party with the biggest mandate of any political leader in British history. Hundreds of thousands of people were inspired to join the Labour Party to support him. Since his election, Labour has begun to recover from years of decline under Blair, Brown and Milliband.

Who are the Labour right to complain of declining support? It is eleven years since they last won an election. Since the 1997 election, under Blair and Brown, Labour lost four million votes; not to mention losing every single seat but one in Scotland to the Scottish Nationalists. In contrast, under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour gained the biggest share of the vote in local council elections around the country; won all four successive by-elections with increased shares of the vote; and won all four mayoral elections, including London, where the Labour candidate won the highest ever vote for any individual candidate: 1.1 million votes.

Split Long Overdue
The imminent split in the Labour Party is long overdue. The mass of trade-union rank-and-file Labour activists and the parasitic cabal of crypto-Tory MPs who have made their nests in the parliamentary party could not preserve for long their uneasy cohabitation. For them, this is not a political debate. They are fighting for their careers, their livelihoods, their privileged place in society. This is a fight to the finish.

Hundreds of thousands of Labour activists are ready and waiting to defeat this coup by a clique of embittered careerists, and restore to Labour its socialist traditions. Everywhere throughout Britain, every day, local branches of Momentum, the grassroots mass movement that has sprung up in support of Corbyn, are meeting, planning, recruiting, discussing, campaigning, enraged at the MPs’ dirty tricks and determined at all costs to win: working-class women, ethnic minorities, youth, disabled people, older men… a real parliament of the people!

Battle is joined!

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Bernie Sanders Lowers the Curtain

Sanders formally endorses Clinton: ”I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president. This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face. And there is no doubt in my mind that, as we head into November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that.”

Sanders formally endorses Clinton:
”I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president. This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face. And there is no doubt in my mind that, as we head into November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that.”

Bernie Sanders has lowered the curtain on the last act of the Bernie Sanders Show. He has done what was clearly in the works for weeks – issued a formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton. And with the show now closed, Sanders’ supporters – at least some of them — will have to draw some hard conclusions. “What is left?” they should be asking themselves. “Was it ever really anything more than a political campaign? What of the ‘political revolution’?” Most important of all, what should be asked is “what sort of organization was built through the Sanders campaign? In what way has the Sanders campaign helped us organize better to fight Corporate America?”

The fact is that his campaign did not. On the contrary, just as Sanders has vowed to do all along*, he is seeking to strengthen the Democratic Party.

Like Water Sinking Into the Sand
It is understandable that those new to the struggle, especially the younger generation, would be taken in by some of Sanders radical rhetoric and that they might be surprised by his capitulation to Clinton and the leadership of the Democratic Party. They would not have known the history of the Gene McCarthy campaign of 1968, the George McGovern campaign of 1972, or the Jesse Jackson campaigns of the 1980s. They would not have known how those campaigns ended up like water sinking into the sands leaving nary a trace. But how do the older socialists explain themselves now?

The dictionary defines "personality cult" as: "excessive public admiration for or devotion to a famous person, especially a political leader" Leaving no independent organization, no organized means through which workers and young people can fight for their interests, how has the Sanders campaign been anything more than this?

The dictionary defines “personality cult” as:
“excessive public admiration for or devotion to a famous person, especially a political leader”
Leaving no independent organization, no organized means through which workers and young people can fight for their interests, how has the Sanders campaign been anything more than this?

Most particularly, how does a socialist group like Socialist Alternative justify its position? Their call for Sanders to run outside the Democratic Party is like a bridge jumper calling on gravity to stop operating – it violated the laws of political nature. Its only affect was to maintain the illusions that millions had in Sanders.

Instead, shouldn’t they have been warning Sanders supporters? Shouldn’t they have been explaining what had happened with previous similar campaigns  – Gene McCarthy in 1968, George McGovern in 1972, Jesse Jackson in 1984 and ’88, Dennis Kucinich in 2012? Shouldn’t they have been explaining the need for a mass workers’ party and how none of the needs of workers and young people can be met through any wing of the Democrats? Shouldn’t they have been explaining the role of candidates like Sanders in luring people into the Democratic Party swamp?

It all could have been done in a friendly and sympathetic way. It might not have convinced people at the time, but it would have left a marker, left something to think about for a time like this.

It will be interesting to see how Sanders supporters respond. (According to a Wall St. Journal poll 14% of self-identified Sanders supporters say they’ll vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein while 9% say they’ll vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and 8% say they’ll vote for Trump, meaning that 17% say they’ll vote for a far right wing candidate.)

Philadelphia
In a little over a week, thousands of Sanders supporters and others will be descending on Philadelphia, site of the Democratic Party convention, to press their demands. Oaklandsocialist will be there too to see and report on the mood and on what people are saying. We’ll also be there to stress the need for:

  • An independent party of, by and for working class people – a party that not only campaigns for office but also organizes in the communities, work places and in the unions to fight Corporate America
  • For a united struggle against racism and police murders.
  • For unions that really fight for their members and for all working class people. This must include the unions to help lead the struggles agains the wave of police murders in this country.
  • For the movement in the streets to reach out to the wider working class and to run its own candidates for office, outside of and opposed to the Republican/Democratic Party paradigm.

*- Just last month, for instance, Sanders commented: ” I also look forward to working with Secretary Clinton to transform the Democratic Party so that it becomes a party of working people and young people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors: a party that has the courage to take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel industry and the other powerful special interests that dominate our political and economic life.”

Posted in politics, Uncategorized, United States | 5 Comments

A Sorry State of Affairs

I was at my local supermarket just now. I got in line with a checker I know – a middle age black woman – and when she got to me we greeted each other. Then I asked her, “what do you think of what’s going on in this country?”

She frowned and shook her head. “I’ve been worried about my son,” she said. “He’s in Texas now.” She talked about that for a second. Then I mentioned that I’d been on the protest here in Oakland and had been up on the freeway. She asked me about some cops being injured but I didn’t know anything about that.
Then I commented, “you know what makes me so mad? In all those thousands of people — where were the unions? They should have been leading the protest.”
She nodded her head. Then, without a pause, she started talking about a dispute she’d been having with her manager. “____ (her union business representative) took his (the manager’s) side. She never even talked to me. I told her, ‘you know what? You’re no good to me. I pay your wages, but you’re no good to me whatsoever.‘”
She then complained that her co workers “stabbed me in the back.” I commented that we’ve had 40 years of repressing the union spirit and that’s why we’re where we’re at. By that time she was finished with me and had to go on to the next customer.

But what a sorry state of affairs with our union leadership. If anybody wonders why this country is where it’s at, that little conversation goes a long ways to explaining it.

Posted in labor, United States | Leave a comment

Police Rampage: A Suggestion For the Movement

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Oaklandsocialist has a suggestion for a step in stopping the police rampage of murder, brutality, rape and destruction: That the movement to oppose it organize and go directly to the union membership at their work places. We can draw up leaflets pointing to the latest two murders – Philando Castile and Alton Sterling – and to the need for workers, especially organized workers (meaning the unions) to get involved in stopping this.

Never was the silence of the union leadership more deafening. At last night’s protest in

Condolence letter from leadership of Teamsters Local 320 where Philando Castile was a member. From this letter, you would think he died of natural causes. Otherwise, the union leadership has been completely silent. They're busy figuring out how to get Hillary and other Democrats elected.

Condolence letter from leadership of Teamsters Local 320 where Philando Castile was a member. From this letter, you would think he died of natural causes. Otherwise, the union leadership has been completely silent. They’re busy figuring out how to get Hillary and other Democrats elected.

Oakland, for example, the unions were totally absent as an organized presence. Two years ago, a black United Auto Workers member in Ferguson told Oaklandsocialist that his local leaders had told him that the protests against the murder of Michael Brown “are not our battle”. Why? Because they are taking their orders from the Democratic Party tops.

And never was the presence of the organized working class more needed.

The shooting of 12 cops (5 dead, 7 wounded) in Dallas shows the danger. The anger and frustration is building. Why would it not? According to the Washington Post, the number of people killed by the cops reached 491 in the first six months of 2016 – one every 8.9 hours and a 6% increase over last year. Not only that, but the rate at which cops killed black people was 2.5 times that at which whites were killed. The protests continue but the killings mount. Frustration is the order of the day.


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“Deeply Troubled” vs. “Outrage and Horror”
And what was the official reaction to the shooting of of Castile and Sterling, vs. the cops? Obama’s comments are revealing: “All Americans should be deeply troubled,” he said. He talked about “the broader challenges within our criminal justice system.” But he also made sure that nothing would be taken to mean a broad criticism of the criminal, racist police in general. “To admit we’ve got a serious problem in no way contradicts our respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day. It is to say that, as a nation, we can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement.”  Note the calm, measured and safe tone he takes.

This man was photographed carrying a rifle at the protest in Dallas. As Texas is an "open carry" state, that was perfectly legal. Yet the police circulated his photo as a suspect in the police killing there. He turned himself in and was accused and lied to by the cops for an extended time before he was released, because he was completely uninvolved in the shooting. Where are the "gun rights" advocates in this case? For them, carrying arms only applies to white, right-wing bigots.

This man was photographed carrying a rifle at the protest in Dallas. As Texas is an “open carry” state, that was perfectly legal. Yet the police circulated his photo as a suspect in the police killing there. He turned himself in and was accused and lied to by the cops for an extended time before they had to release him because he was completely uninvolved in the shooting. Where are the “gun rights” advocates in this case? For them, the right to carry arms only applies to white, right-wing bigots.

Compare it with his comment on the attack on, rather than by, the police: “there’s been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement…. we are horrified over these events…. our police have an extraordinarily difficult job and the vast majority of them do their job in outstanding fashion. I also indicated the degree in which we need to be supportive of those officers who do their job each and every day. Protecting us and protecting our communities. Today is a wrenching reminder of the sacrifices that they make for us.” 

He is not outraged at the “vicious, calculated and despicable attacks” by law “enforcement”, only on them.

And as for serving and protecting us: In Oakland, it was recently revealed that the OPD has been operating almost as a giant brothel. Those cops who were not involved must have known about it and kept mum. That’s how much they “sacrifice” and “protect” us.

Just last May, Obama signed a federal bill criminalizing making “threats” against cops. As commented on by Breakingbrown’s Yvette Cornell, even before that, just calling the cops racist can lead to arrest. This new law will make that worse. What will be next will be criminalizing video taping the cops in their daily routine of brutality and murder. This is what attacks like the one in Dallas will help open the door to, but it won’t stop the cops’ rampage in the slightest.

The proposal of Oaklandsocialist, for trying to involve the organized working class, could be a first step towards building a real, working class movement against police racism as well as against repression in general. We urge anybody who is interested to contact us.

Posted in Oakland, racism, Uncategorized, United States | 1 Comment

Video of protest in Oakland against Police rampage

This is a video of last night’s protest in Oakland against the police rampage.

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

Clinton’s E-mails: The Real Issue

Haiti

So James Comey, the head of the FBI, is recommending no indictment against Hillary Clinton for her having used her private e mail server for government business. Both he and the entire corporate-controlled media are pretending the central issue is whether or not she violated government security. Is that the real issue?

Consider the Clintons’ history:
In 2011, the US State Department cleared a $29 billion dollar arms deal with the repressive government of Saudi Arabia. Over the previous few years, the Saudi government had donated some $11 million to the Clinton Foundation, including $900,000 just a few months prior to the arms deal being approved.

As Mother Jones magazine points out: “The Saudi transaction is just one example of nations and companies that had donated to the Clinton Foundation seeing an increase in arms deals while Hillary Clinton oversaw the State Department. IBT found that between October 2010 and September 2012, State approved $165 billion in commercial arms sales to 20 nations that had donated to the foundation, plus another $151 billion worth of Pentagon-brokered arms deals to 16 of those countries—a 143 percent increase over the same time frame under the Bush Administration. The sales boosted the military power of authoritarian regimes such as Qatar, AlgeriaKuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, which, like Saudi Arabia, had been criticized by the department for human rights abuses…. 17 out of 20 countries that have donated to the Clinton Foundation saw increases in arms exports authorized by Hillary Clinton’s State Department.”

Clinton Foundation & Haiti
One of the biggest, and unmentioned, scandals of the Clintons is their role in Haiti. Bill got himself appointed as the leader of rebuilding efforts there after the disastrous earthquake of 2010. Under his leadership, the signature $224 million “Caracol” industrial park was organized. This was to be a special industrial park, mainly for clothing manufacturers. According to a Counterpunch article, “According to an October 2013 Worker Rights Consortium report, all 24 garment factories studied cheated workers out of legally-entitled minimum wages. Housing outside of the project was inadequate and way over budget, prompting criticism from the Government Accountability Office in a June 2013 report. They were so badly built they were in need of repair.”

Simultaneously, the Clinton-run State Department was pushing for keeping the already starvation level minimum wage to be kept that way.

Caracol industrial park, left. It has contributed to the massive poverty in Haiti, as encouraged by the Clintons.

Caracol industrial park, left. It has contributed to the massive poverty in Haiti, as encouraged by the Clintons.

Who were the donors to the Clinton Foundation and what links did they have with investment in Haiti? We will never know. But we do know that Hillary kept a close watch on that while she was in the State Department. ‘One of these people, a veteran Foreign Service officer, described a trip on the secretary of state’s Air Force C-32. “Hillary took along stacks of papers in manila folders that were marked ‘CF’ and ‘CGO’ — the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative,” this person said. “They had dividers labeled ‘Donations,’ ‘Fund Raising,’ ‘AIDS/HIV,’ ‘Haiti,’ and so forth,”’ explains one report.

Freedom of Information Act
Under the Freedom of Information Act, we would have much more access to e mails Hillary Clinton would have sent or received which draw the links between personal/family financial gain and her activity as Secretary of State — that is, if those e mails were sent and received on government e mail servers.

Hillary Clinton has claimed that all non-personal e mails have been turned over to investigators. But as Michael Mukasey, former US attorney general, points out in the Wall St. Journal: “The (FBI) agents had to reconstruct thousands of emails from a series of private servers used and abandoned over the years, some of them turned into confetti in the process. The FBI agents also had to tease out from the files of other government employees emails that they might have received from or sent to Mrs. Clinton during her tenure as secretary of state, and weigh their importance.” And it was Clinton’s own lawyers “who decided which emails to produce by reading just the headings.”

In other words, by using private e mail servers, she was protecting herself from Freedom of Information Act revelations about potential self-enrichment through her government position.

Just the Norm
Why is the corporate-controlled media ignoring this issue?

Take the case of West Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Criminal corruption charges

Governor Bob McDonnell. What he did was the norm.

Governor Bob McDonnell. What he did was the norm.

were brought against him for accepting donations directly connected with government legislation. However, as the Wall St. Journal reported, ‘“Gov. McDonnell was convicted in part for taking actions that, in the main, are indistinguishable from actions that nearly every elected official in the U.S. takes nearly every day.”

Evidently the US Supreme Court agreed with this, because they recently unanimously threw out the conviction. In other words, if Hillary’s self serving deals were to be fully exposed, it would expose what practically every politician in the US is doing. Imagine how that would undermine the already weak confidence in US politicians, Republican and Democrat alike.

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

Lessons of “Brexit”

It’s almost old news now, but the lessons of the recent vote in Britain should be learned by socialists, especially because level of confusion about the vote is astounding. Take the Black Agenda Report’s Margaret Kimberly, for example. BAR normally has some of the most thoughtful political commentary in the United States. Yet Kimberly justifies the vote this way:  British pro-Brexit workers “want freedom from the big bullies on the school yard, the United States of America and finance capital.” She describes the chaos among British and European capitalist politics that resulted and concludes: “Chaos can be a good thing. The current mess of post-Brexit politics is a sign that one part of the capitalist coalition is in trouble. They won’t give up easily and will do everything in their power to negate the will of the people. But this earthquake can’t be papered over easily and that is a good thing indeed.”

Her focus is absolutely typical within the left, including among socialists.

And it could not be more mistaken.

Instead of focusing on the disruption of capitalist society, Kimberly and the rest of the left should be asking one simple question: “Does this vote strengthen the working class? Does it add to its cohesion and unity and does it advance its understanding of its historic role?”

This welcoming of “chaos” in a time when the level of organization of the working class is at historic lows is reminiscent of the idea that “the worse it is, the better it is.” It is reminiscent of the slogan of the German Communist Party in the 1930s: “After Hitler, then us.”  History did not treat that idea too kindly. Of course, the defeat of the German working class with the rise of Hitler dwarfs what has happened in Britain, but the principle is the same, as it is with the rise of the Islamic State, which has also weakened the “capitalist coalition”.

Weakening of Industrial Working Class
Or more similarly, consider Donald Trump, who was attacked almost daily by columnists in the Wall St. Journal. The support for him has much in common with the working class Brexit vote, as an article in the British Financial Times (7/2-3/2016) explains. They describe the devastation of the steel industry and its effect in the former steel town of Monessen, PA: “Mr. Trump has tapped into the frustration felt by people in areas such as Monessen, which have not reaped the gains of globalization,” they write. “‘Our workers’ loyalty (to America) was repaid with betrayal,'” Trump said in Monessen. “‘Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization — moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas.'” A long time liberal Democratic voter turned Trump supporter in Monessen commented: “You are having a form of revolution in this country… Trump is going against the Republicans to some degree. The people like that.”

Supporters of Brexit (top) and of Trump (bottom). They have a lot in common.

Supporters of Brexit (top) and of Trump (bottom). They have a lot in common.

Change “Trump” for Britain’s Boris Johnson, Republican for Tory, globalization for European Union, add in a healthy dose of anti-immigrant and racist sentiment to both… and this could be a description of the Brexit vote. But the return of heavy industry to either the United States or Britain is a mirage at best, and there is nothing that either Donald Trump or Brexit can do about its. There is a historical reason for the domination of finance capital in these countries, and it has a lot more to do with the tendency for the rate of profit to fall (as Karl Marx exlained) than anything to do with the policies of the US or British capitalist politicians. It also has a lot to do with globalization, and neither Donald Trump nor Brexit will reverse this inevitable process of capitalism.

Neoliberalism
The EU’s Maastricht Treaty and other statutes require that member states make workers pay for the crisis of capitalism — in other words, neo-liberal austerity. The Greek working class got a good dose of this medicine a few years ago when the radical Syriza party was elected to lead the government. Under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras, they pushed for the banks to “take a haircut” — in other words, for finance capital to pay for the crisis of Greek capitalism, instead of the Greek workers. The EU dictatorship pushed back, threatening to kick Greece out of the EU if Tsipras & Co. didn’t continue the austerity budgets and make the workers pay. Ultimately, Tsipris backed down.

This sounds like a good argument to leave the EU, until the alternatives are considered. What would have happened had Greece left the EU? They would have had to institute their own currency (the drachma), which would have been shunned by international finance capital, causing its value to collapse and prices in Greece to shoot through the roof.
This is a perfect example of Marx’s dictum that law (or in this case international treaties) just is a recognition of accomplished fact. The “accomplished fact” of the domination of finance capital and of the globalization of capitalism means that government deficit financing (Keynesianism) is dead. he “free markets” won’t allow it.

And it is no accident that throughout the struggle, the majority of Greek workers opposed

"Fight the real enemy". This couple were part of a protest against the Brexit vote in Berlin, Germany. The protesters were Britons living there. These two people get it. Why can't so many socialists?

“Fight the real enemy”. This couple were part of a protest against the Brexit vote in Berlin, Germany. The protesters were Britons living there. These two people get it. Why can’t so many socialists?

leaving the EU. Instead of appealing to the EU rulers, Tsipras & Co. should have been mobilizing the Greek workers and linking that up with a campaign to mobilize the working class throughout the EU and beyond. They should have been explaining that what happens to the Greek working class today will be happening to the workers in even the richest EU countries tomorrow. They should have been explaining the necessity to not only oppose austerity everyhere, but to link this with the struggle to overthrow capitalism itself. But such a campaign implies the very opposite of the implications of the Brexit vote.

This doesn’t mean, by the way, that the Greek workers should not have stuck to their guns and been willing to challenge the EU rulers to throw Greece out of the EU. But being kicked out by the capitalists is radically different from voluntarily leaving, as the latter sends a message to workers throughout the EU that “we aren’t going to try to build an EU wide workers’ movement.”

Undemocratic
Much is made of the undemocratic nature of the European Union, which is largely run by unelected bureaucrats and commissions. But how is this fundamentally different from every capitalist state, where the elected representatives are really captive of the military, the criminal (in)justice bureaucracy, etc.? How has shifting increased power to the capitalist state vs. the EU commissions really changed very much?

EU and Trade Deals

Left supporters of Brexit (along with Donald Trump) liken the EU to such trade deals as Nafta, but the two are very different, first of all in the fact that the EU originated shortly after WW II in an attempt to get around the crisis of inter-imperialist rivalries that had resulted in two world wars. And today the EU contains measures that require certain protections for workers and for the environment. It also requires free movement of EU citizens within the EU. The different trade deals tend to prohibit things like environmental regulations as a restraint on free trade. And while all the trade deals are aimed at recognizing the fact of free movement of capital, none of them provide for the free movement of workers.

“Independence”
Just as Donald Trump calls for independence from foreign capital, so many British workers who voted for Brexit were seeking to break the ties with European capital. In the first place, that is impossible. Even the US economy cannot stand alone, much less the British one. Already there is talk about increasingly closer economic ties between Britain and the US. Some great step forward – trading the domination of European for that of US capitalism!

But more important is the question of the understanding on the part of the British working class of their role in society. Just like the working class in every single capitalist country, the British workers have no common interests with the British capitalist class. But in part, it was exactly the opposite that the Brexit campaign preached. “We’re British…. Return Great Britain to its former role in the world…. ” All that sort of patriotic nonsense.
And if British workers think that the British capitalists will be any kinder to them, that they will demand any less austerity, they are in for a deep disappointment. Meanwhile, their understanding of their role, independent of and in opposition to the British capitalist class, will have been thrown back by the Brexit campaign.

Immigration
This will have been compounded by the fact that the issue of immigration was the central issue for Brexiteers. This includes for workers who voted for Brexit. Sure, the majority may not have been committed racists or xenophobes, but the campaign still encouraged the view that the source of workers’ problems in Britain has been immigration, that “something has to be done” about all the immigration. It’s the immigrants, claimed the Brexiteers, who are taking the jobs and costing the government in public services. Don’t unite all workers against all capitalists; instead unite British workers with British capitalists. That was the

Some of the anti-immigrant bigotry that got a boost from the entire Brexit campaign.

Some of the anti-immigrant bigotry that got a boost from the entire Brexit campaign.

inescapable logic of the message. Once again, we see the similarity with Donald Trump’s campaign in the US. And although the majority of British workers who voted for Brexit may not be committed bigots and xenophobes, those forces definitely got a boost from the entire Brexit campaign and from its outcome. We have seen this in the significant rise of verbal and physical racist assaults since the vote there.

In other words, yes the Brexit vot was a revolt against neoliberalism, but it was a revolt to the right, a revolt away from working class unity and solidarity, a revolt away from consciousness that “the working class and the employing class have nothing in common”. This rightwards revolt must be taken in the global context: All around the world we see increasing communal, sectarian, religious and ethnic divisions. We see it in Myanmar, where the Buddhist monks are leading attacks on the mainly Muslim Rohingya minority. We see it with the rise of the right wing xenophobic and racist parties throughout Europe, with the bloody slaughter between Christian and Muslim Nigerians, and most clearly with the rise of the Islamic State. The crisis in Britain and the US is not as severe as in most  other parts of the world, so the tendency towards such sectarianism is not as extreme, but that is what Brexit and Trump represent. And the danger is very real.

That reality is shown by the many reports of increased racist verbal and physical assaults in Britain since the vote there. Socialist supporters of Brexit tend to ignore or belittle this serious development. In part that’s because they cannot explain it. When, after all, has such a great victory by workers – as Brexit is supposed to have been – been immediately followed by increased racism and division?

The Alternative
There is an alternative, and that alternative is working class unity and internationalism – not in words but in deeds. A large part of the reason for the immigration into Britain has been the extremely low wages in other parts of the EU. Consider the huge differences in the minimum wage, for example. It ranges from 2.13/hour in Lithuania and 2.55 in Poland to 9.23 in Britain and 9.67 in France. Several countries, including Italy, have no minimum wage at all. Instead of defending national divisions, socialists should have been campaigning for an EU-wide minimum wage, a living wage, with additional amounts in the individual countries based on higher costs of living. This should have been linked with a demand for a guaranteed job or social/unemployment benefits for all.
Unfortunately, the Brexit vote makes this sort of campaign more difficult, especially in Britain, but it also makes it all the more important, as the Brexit vote shows the dangers of even greater divisions in the working class.

The wave of refugees coming to Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, etc. is also relevant and important. A genuine workers’ campaign of the kind described above would have to also fight for the needs of these refugees and draw them into the struggle. Doing so would open up another tremendous opportunity: The opportunity to unite the European working class with the predominently Muslim workers of North Africa and West Asia – a unity not just of kind words and nice intentions, but a unity in common struggle. Among other things, this would start to destroy the basis for Islamic fundamentalism, most particularly the base of the fascist Islamic State.

In this way, the setback and the dangers of the Brexit vote could be reversed. But it cannot be done without recognizing it for what it was first, nor without accepting that socialists have made a huge blunder by supporting this divisive set back of the working class.

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Along the Banks of the Oder River: Tranquility, Beauty… but also History

A bit of nature, and a bit of history.

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Anti-Fascists Rally in Sacramento

On Sunday, members of the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), the Golden Skinheads, and other neo-Nazi and white supremacist gangs attempted to spread hate by holding an ‘Anti-Anti-Fascist’ rally on the steps of the California state capital in Sacramento.

The TWP, formed only this year, is led by Matt Heimbach and is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a leading force in the “new wave of extremism” in America. While the group sometimes cloaks itself in leftist phraseology  – “America’s first political party created by and for working families” – its real mission is to “indoctrinate high school and college students into white nationalism” and strengthen the stench of racism, nationalism, and other backwards ways of thinking promoted by both major political parties. Heimbach told Reuters that the TWP and its affiliates were at the capitol “to support [white] nationalism.”

In response a mix crowd of nearly 400, called on by the anti-fascist organization Antifa Sacramento, rallied around and in front of the capitol building an engaged the few neo-Nazis who did eventually show up. Seven people (at least five of them anti-fascists) were hospitalized with minor to sever stab wounds, and many more were teargassed by police. After gaining the steps of the capitol around 1pm and feeling secure no other fascists were present, anti-fascists declared the rally a success. Heimbach, who was not present at the rally, said the fascists stood their ground and that the event was “a victory for us because more of them walked away injured.”

The anti-fascist rally in Sacramento follows a KKK rally in Anaheim and the praising of the Orlando killings by a Sacramento Baptist pastor. In the past two months hate flyers have appeared in downtown Sacramento and on the UC Davis campus.

There were a mix of leftist groups present at the rally, including anarchist elements dressed in black, holding plastic riot shields and wooden poles, and waiving the iconic anarchist red ‘A’ flag. There were many other groups present, including the Freedom Socialist Party and the Progressive Labor Party. Many of the demonstrators waved signs denouncing the white supremacists, encouraging peace, or condemning hate. The majority of the anti-fascist demonstrators did not engage with the neo-Nazis but did chant slogans and provide as much protection and medical aid to the more active comrades as was possible. (It took an enragingly long time for professional medical help to reach one young man who others described as “convulsing on the ground with stab wounds to his chest and abdomen”).

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“From Olympia to Atlanta Antifa fights back, the Bay don’t play! Bay Area antifascists”

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“The only good fascist is a dead one.”

For all their bluster and show of force, the police showed complete disinterest in stopping  violence between the two sides (violence, as usual, directed from the neo-Nazis against anti-fascists as exemplified by the stabbings). One anti-fascist said the police told National Lawyer’s Guild representatives present at the march that officers were not there to protect protestors. Police fired teargas indiscriminately and without warning, brandished assault riffles, and in one instance pointed shotguns at protestors gathered for a water break.

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The state’s armed forces were on full display: police on the ground carried assault rifles and shotguns alongside teargas grenade guns and paintball guns, while helicopters flew overhead and snipers watched from the capitol building roof. The entire area was monitored by mobile camera platforms, and at least one protestor was sure undercover cops were working the crowds.

As is typical at demonstrations between fascists and anti-fascists, police in Sacramento chose to side with the powers of racism and hate. In Sacramento, officers at first refused anti-fascist protestors access to the capitol steps only to have two neo-Nazis ‘slip past them’ onto the steps an hour later. And why not? As armed protectors of capitalism, it is the job of law enforcement to safeguard a system of economic exploitation that thrives on violence and division within the working class. White supremacy – whether its spouted by the KKK, the police, or politicians –  has always been given a platform in mainstream discourse, while anti-fascist are portrayed as violent extremists devoid of any social or political context. If its a discussion of violent extremists, then certainly it’s the police – the only political group to have killed more people in the U.S. than white nationalists – who deserve an excruciating analysis.

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Protestors hold a flag after taking the steps of the capitol building in Sacramento.

As increasing numbers of people struggle to survive under the further deterioration of capitalism, large groups are drawn towards the scapegoating tactics of racism and nationalism spewed forth by both ends of the two party establishment. The ruling class works very hard to blame anything and anyone for the deterioration of this country, so long as the eyes of the masses are kept from the true culprit – an economic system based on private profit, wage and job slavery, and complete disregard for the masses. Nationalists and racists should be apposed without hesitation, and by force if necessary, by a united front of workers and supporters; they will not be allowed to draw more people into their ranks and pollute any more young minds.

But force against the individual fascists is not nearly enough. If we are truly interested in stomping out fascists, then a change in the material conditions of the working class is necessary. To end fascism, we must end an economic system that leaves millions impoverished, and smash a state that uses fascism as a tool to intimated and disrupt organized labor and sow fear and hatred. An economy that meets the needs of everyone, implemented by a state controlled by the working class as the vast majority of the population, must replace one that far exceeds the needs of a select few and that leaves broken communities and decimated countries in its wake. Fascism can only be destroyed once workers gain control of the state and take power for themselves.

As the Brexit will soon demonstrate, the fight for socialism cannot be won on a platform of nationalism so long as the capitalist class is always leading the way. The working class within the ranks of neo-Nazis should know that their deteriorating economic conditions cannot be solved by the promises of Donald Trump, or the white nationalist agenda put forth by their leaders. Likewise, the working class of the world should also know that no capitalist state or politician will ever willingly provide the keys to their freedom.

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Brexit Again: An Irish Perspective

Another voice, this time Finn Geaney writing from Dublin, Ireland, on the massive mistake socialists have made in supporting “Brexit.” There is little to add to what he writes, other than this: Some in the United States (and maybe elsewhere) are tending to argue that out of this nationalist, right-wing blunder a more militant, working class movement will emerge. That is similar to what the Stalinist Communist Party of Germany argued back in the 1930s – “After Hitler, then us.” In fact, after that disastrous defeat, the working class was demoralized and crushed. The “Brexit” is nowhere near a defeat of the same order, but a similar logic applies.

Finbar Geaney writes:

Those on the left who supported the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union have made a disastrous mistake. As a direct consequence of the Referendum result, right-wing forces within UK politics have received a considerable fillip. The further right of the Tory Party are now in the ascendant, and Farage’s UKIP, which in last year’s General Election won only a single seat, has found itself centre stage in this current jamboree of nationalism, xenophobia and delusionary imperial grandeur.

Result Throughout EU
And this consequence is not confined to Britain. Already LePen in France and Wilders in The Netherlands have expressed their enthusiasm for what they see now as the potential break-up of the EU; and Frauke Petry of the Alternative für Deutschland has welcomed the UK result as a defeat for what he called the ‘quasi socialist’ measures of the EU.

Right Wing in Labour Party Revitalized
A second direct result of Thursday’s vote is a serious attempt by right-wing Labour Party MPs to now remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

EU Bureaucracy – Greece, Ireland, etc.
There can be no argument about the scandalous role of the EU bureaucracy during the crisis in Greece. And it was not just in Greece that they insisted upon punitive austerity measures. The same thing happened in Ireland, Portugal and Spain as financial and industrial capital tried to make workers’ pay the price for sustaining their system of exploitation. But to argue that the way to defeat this programme of austerity is the leave the EU altogether is wrong on many counts.

The institutions of the EU reflect the interests of the conservative and right-wing political parties that currently predominate in Europe. These parties have to be fought on home ground. Some of the institutions of the EU are bureaucratic and do not reflect the needs of Europe’s citizens, but it is not in the best traditions of the labour and socialist movement to walk away from a battle for democratic accountability.

Which Forces
When the question of Brexit was raised I would have thought that any socialist would firstly have considered what forces were lined up in this combat and what class interests these forces represent.

The campaign to leave the EU was always driven by the forces on the right of politics. For example the basis of Thatcher’s opposition to Europe was her anxiety to prevent measures that protected workers’ rights from being forced on British employers by the European Court of Justice.

It is true that some organisations on the left also argued that Britain should leave the EU, but the left perspective was never more than a minor aspect of it all. Focussing on the issue of national sovereignty some left MPs argued that progressive legislation was being impeded as a consequence of EU membership. This is a gross oversimplification. The failures of the Blair and Brown Labour Governments to carry through a socialist programme, or for that matter those of Wilson or Callaghan in earlier years, cannot be blamed on the European bureaucracy.

Incidentally, the seven hereditary monarchies in the EU (including Britain until yesterday) are hardly the result of directives from the ‘unelected’ European Commission!

British Labour and Trade Union Bureaucracies
Some within the British Labour and trade union bureaucracy have tended to use the EU as a scapegoat to cover their own failures, just as Johnston, Farage and Gove use it as a lever to elevate their own right-wing agendas. It is foolish to argue that, now that the UK is out of the EU, these three Musketeers – and others like them – will be exposed and their politics discredited. Last Thursday a train has been set in motion that will not be easy to stop.

A lot of damage will in the coming period be visited upon workers, immigrants, minorities and the poor.

Tories
The Tory Government will probably begin the process of withdrawal from the EU by repealing the European Communities Act, and then by another Act of Parliament that will enable them to filter all EU laws, directives and recommendations. Does anybody have the slightest doubt about which legislative provisions of the EU the Tories will keep and which ones they will discard! Or which decisions of the European Court of Justice will be incorporated into British law and which ones will be consigned to the dustbin!

The Westminster Parliament will shortly witness the farcical Situation where Labour MPs, who believed themselves to be on the left by campaigning for Brexit, fighting to maintain legislative provisions that were introduced by the hated EU.

It is probably the case that those small left-wing organisations in Britain that supported Brexit will now realise their serious mistake. A few such organisations in Ireland made a similar error. But all is not lost. Making mistakes, if recognized – however difficult it might be to admit them – is not a hanging offence. What is essential is that trade union, socialist and labour organisations across the continent unite to fight austerity, xenophobia and the rise of nationalism.

Unfortunately the UK is now outside the EU, or will be shortly. Consequently some obstacles have been created in terms of building an effective Europe-wide opposition of progressive forces, yet that is what must be done.

There are no short cuts.

It is also essential that socialists argue now that separation of Scotland from the UK will not solve Scotland’s problems either. One of the conundrums that could cause a political hernia to those socialists who argue now for Scottish independence is that such independence will be predicated on Scotland remaining within the EU, itself apparently the source of all evil!

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Britain Votes to Leave EU: What it Means

Some People in the US are confused about the meaning of the vote in Britain to leave the European Union. Maybe the meaning can be seen most clearly from the fact that the British Donald Trump – Boris Johnson – is now being mentioned as the heir apparent to Prime Minister Cameron, who is resigning. Below, Roger Silverman – who made exactly that prediction several days ago on this blog site – explains the significance.

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Donald Trump commented: “They’re not happy with the people flowing into the Country. We’re on the other side of the ocean, but the world is not so different.”

Donald Trump commented: “They’re not happy with the people flowing into the Country. We’re on the other side of the ocean, but the world is not so different.”

Nor should we think we will escape the results of this vote. All around the world, the Forces of racism, sectarianism and xenophobia are threatening. This vote will give those Forces a boost, including those of Donald Trump in the US.

Roger Silverman writes:

The vote for Brexit has sent Britain and Europe spinning. The instant reaction of the EU has been an insistence on immediate and irrevocable withdrawal and a point-blank refusal to negotiate a single concession. They see clearly ahead the nightmare of an unravelling of the entire project, with Brexit followed by Dexit, Swexit, Frexit, Spexit…

To their honour, Scotland and multi-ethnic London strongly voted REMAIN. But England, Wales and the Protestant community in Northern Ireland mostly voted LEAVE by significant margins. All the passion, the rhetorical tricks and the emotional manipulation had come from the LEAVE side, while the sole argument of Cameron and the establishment was: membership of the EU gives us access to a market of 500 million people; in other words, “we can make lots of money out of Europe, so to hell with your problems”. Corbyn, to his credit, did rightly defend free movement of labour, and stress the threat posed by Brexit to the minimal workers’ rights wrested earlier from the EU (which had been conceded as a means of protecting German and other employers from the risk of being undercut by weaker competitors). However, his voice was drowned out as usual by the media.

Cheap demagogues like Johnson and Farage have used outrageous jingoistic bombast to conjure up the faded glory of British imperialism 150 years ago, when Britain was a “great trading nation” and “the workshop of the world”. It is a ridiculous fantasy.

Ever since the wilful destruction of British industry by Thatcher’s government in the 1980s, used as a deliberate policy to smash the power of the trade unions (a policy cheerfully maintained under Blair’s subsequent “New Labour” government), the old manufacturing base of the British economy has gone. There are virtually no shipyards, coal mines, steelworks or car plants left. What then will be the basis of Britain’s revived role as a “trading nation”? What can Britain offer for sale? All that is left is the banks, whose crooked practices already so recently plunged the economy into catastrophe. Britain is now little more than just another money-laundering tax haven offshoreisland, siphoning up the dirty money of the world’s oligarchs and gangsters into a booming property market that shuts out the local population from any hope of ever buying or even renting any living space.

One EU bureaucrat scoffed that Britain would end up as just an island off the European coast like Guernsey. Maybe its main attraction will be as a theme park, living off visits to Stratford-on-Avon and the Tower of London.

The only heavy industry that still barely survives in Britain consists of a handful of factories owned by foreign companies like Honda, or – until its recent announcement that it was shutting it down – Tata Steel. These companies had strategically targeted a British location for no other reason than precisely as a stepping stone into the European market. Once Britain leaves the EU, these companies will inevitably pull out. Meanwhile, the sharp fall in the value of the pound will send the price of fuel, food and other essentials sky-high. So Brexit could well bring in its wake the added horrors of mass unemployment and soaring inflation – both of them problems which the British economy had avoided up to now since the start of the 2008 recession.

The victorious Brexit campaign has already in effect legitimised widespread moods of xenophobia and bigotry which had previously been largely muted. In conditions of intensified economic hardship, these could well now erupt into a huge rash of verbal and physical street attacks on immigrants, and – especially in the aftermath of any successful atrocities by Islamic terrorists – in outright race riots.

To their lasting dishonour, nearly all the left groups had opportunistically jumped on the Brexit bandwagon, using as justification their quite justified abstract characterisation of the EU as an instrument for naked rule by the multinational monopolies. At the same time, they shamefacedly brushed aside its increasingly blatant xenophobic character. They argued, correctly, that the vote to leave the EU represented a revolt against austerity; but it was a blind and perversely misdirected outcry against years of low wages, zero hours dead-end jobs, homelessness, welfare cuts and unremitting cuts. It was a classic case of the same old diabolical “divide-and-rule” manoeuvre. The media had succeeded in diverting their despair into safe channels by scapegoating immigrants: largely migrant workers from Eastern Europe and the handful of refugees allowed in from current war zones. In the process, like every authoritarian regime in the world, or in the best traditions of British imperialism (as practised so skilfully over the ages in Ireland, India, Palestine, etc.), the rage of the poor was neatly deflected from the ruling class to attacks on a despised minority.

Britain has entered into a dangerous, volatile period; a period of sharp and sudden shocks. It has witnessed huge trade-union demonstrations, student upsurges, youth riots, political instability, even a political assassination. Both the traditional political parties are on the verge of splits. The only certainty is that more such events are imminent, probably still more shocking and more violent.

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Oakland’s Frat House and Policing in America

Last week, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told the media she is determined to “run a police department, not a frat house.” The mayor of 18 months continued, saying she wants to “root out a culture that tolerates unethical behavior,” and that “At a time when communities across the country are questioning police culture, it is critical that our officers operate ethically. This is especially important in a community like Oakland, where trust between the police and the community has been broken in the past.”

The “frat house” in question is the Oakland Police Department (OPD), an institution known for its rapes, murders, racism, brutality, and general disregard for the vast majority of Oakland’s poor, non-white, and/or politically active population. In short, the OPD is a police department like all the rest. Now, Oakland’s men and women in black are scrambling following revelations of trafficking a minor and statutory rape engaged in by “at least fourteen Oakland police officers, three Richmond police, four Alameda County sheriff’s deputies, and a federal officer.” Also of interest is the likely murder cover-up by the OPD involving former officer Brendan O’Brien. (O’Brien – the officer who first encountered the trafficked minor and started having sex with her in 2014 before introducing her to other officers – likely killed his wife in 2013 before committing suicide in early 2015).

Of course, we didn’t need this newest “scandal” to convince us of the criminal nature of the OPD and all police forces across America.

The Oakland Police Department has its roots in armed groups of white men tasked with protecting the property of Oakland’s up-and-coming shipyards and controlling its mostly black labor force. This followed a pattern of policing in the Northern States in which organized bands of full time professional officers were tasked with protecting the private property of burgeoning capitalists. Departments in the South formed to protect a different kind of property – slaves. In 1966 the Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland largely in response to police brutality against working class blacks. One of the many tactics of the Panthers – dubbed public enemy number one by J. Edgar Hoover – was to police the OPD. Armed with guns, pencil and paper, and citizens’ rights leaflets, Panthers would follow OPD cars, stop whenever they stopped, and make their presences known to the officers. (It’s no surprise that the nation’s first gun control laws were passed in California – with help from then-governor Richard Nixon and the NRA – to take arms away from the Panthers).

Original 6 members

The original six Panthers: point seven of their Ten Point Program read, “We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people, other people of color, all oppressed people inside the United States.”

 

 

Starting in 1996, a group of four OPD officers – the “Rough Riders” – began a spree of violence that led to $11 million in settlements and 90 cases being thrown out. In 2000, all four officers were charged with terrorizing and beating suspects, planting evidence, and making false arrests over the four-year period. (An all-white jury would later clear the four officers on eight counts and deadlocked on the remaining 27). Since 2003, the OPD has been overseen by a federal monitoring board (labeled “independent” but currently led by a former Rochester police chief) and mandated to make certain reforms – changes the OPD consistently fails to make.

The Occupy movement brought masses of dissatisfied people – a mix of classes and political agendas – into public spaces across the city. Protestors were routinely harassed and beaten by police, and agent provocateurs infiltrated encampments. In Oakland, protestors first occupied Frank Ogawa Plaza and renamed the area in honor of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black man murdered by BARTPD officer Johannes Mehserle in 2009. The OPD, under then-mayor Jean Quan, responded to Occupy with such force that even the corporate media took note when protestor Scott Olsen was nearly killed by a non-lethal round to the forehead. During interactions with protestors officers covered their name tags with black tape, illegally detained several reporters and protestors, and abused and denied council and medical care to many of those in custody. Settlements for police abuse during Occupy Oakland have topped $6 million, a portion of the nearly $74 million the city has spent since 1990 to settle over 417 lawsuits against officers – the largest sum spent by any police department in California.

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Oakland police clash with Occupy Oakland protestors in 2011. The city has since had paid millions to settle police brutality cases brought by protestors.

As we navigate such shocking and numerous examples of police misconduct, it can be easy to lose sight of the forest through the trees. Capitalism – an economic system based on the division of labor and private ownership of the means of production – requires a state with “armed men…material adjuncts, prisons, and institutions of coercion of all kinds” to impose the will of a few exploiters upon the many exploited. Police are bound to uphold the law, and the law in all instances is written by the ruling class in order to protect and further the means by which they make their exorbitant wealth. Weaving through instances of explicit brutality, the greatest crime committed by police is their protection of an economic system that negatively impacts millions of people nationally and billions globally. The sick and criminal culture that does exists within the ranks of the OPD and police in America is only a reflection of the economic system they are tasked to defend – a system strengthened by, and responsible for, the continued presence of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other backward ways of thinking.

The capitalist class, alarmed by new financial crises and the fragility of its two-party duopoly, is taking steps to give their protective forces more weapons and even greater freedom to trample the constitution. Contrary to Obama’s word, the flow of military grade weapons to police departments has not stopped, and politicians continue to capitalize on blowback from their imperialist wars abroad to advocate for increased police state measures. Increasingly, states are pushing to make resisting arrest a felony offense, and so-called ‘Blue Lives Matter‘ laws are making violence against police a hate crime – despite the fact that police in America have never been safer. In addition, an increasing number of security drills across the country indicates a preparation for the mass imposition of marshal law – a scenario most Americans have been conditioned to accept, as evidenced by the largely apathetic public response to police activities following the Boston Marathon bombing.

Our task is to take power away from the current ruling class before it’s too late. Socialism – the logical solution to capitalism’s inevitable contradictions – would see a society free from the division of labor in which crime would fall as each individual is given a job, an income, and the means by which he or she can self-actualize.

But that future is a long ways off. Until then, socialists must explain the class character of policing in America and its necessary place in a capitalist economy. Work must be done to join together all those made especially vulnerable to police violence and to explain the impossibility of police reform independent from a larger attack on the capitalist system. While Libby Schaaf and other elites across the country may be questioning “police culture” and “unethical behavior,” the majority of working class people – especially those made extra vulnerable by race, gender, and/or sexual preference – question the very role of the police as an institution within a class based capitalist society. Increasingly, we can see the forest through the trees. And as our eyes open to business as usual under capitalism, our demands will come into direct conflict with the needs of the ruling class. In our way stands a coercive state apparatus – the police – existing, in the final instance, to protect the desires of a few.

 

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British EU vote: “Lexit” or “Rexit”?

Note: The socialists who support Britain leaving the European Union console themselves by calling for a left exit or “lexit”. This is like somebody preparing to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and calling for gravity to cease its operation in advance. If what Roger Silverman writes below is anything near accurate, it won’t be a “lexit”; it will be a “rexit”. This has nothing whatsoever to do with any claim that British workers who are anti-immigration are racists or xenophobes, but those are the forces which will be strengthened by what is, in practice, an anti-immigrant vote, no matter what the socialist “leave” campaigners call for. And the results will be felt all the way across the Atlantic in the US where the anti-immigrant forces will get a boost also.

And as far as the point that the EU sets limits on what the state can spend on social programs, etc. — this is just a clear reminder of what Marx said, that the law is just the recognition of accomplished fact. That’s because it’s not so much what is in the EU statutes that matter; what matters most is the fact that international capital sets limits in practice because it can and does simply move to those markets where the lowest taxes and fewest limitations are imposed on it.

Roger writes:

Most of the left groups must be squirming now at the appalling blunder they have made in allying themselves with the bigots of the LEAVE campaign. The Socialist Party, for one, justifies it as follows:

“As The Socialist predicted, voters – particularly working class voters – are increasingly seeing the referendum as a chance to protest both against Cameron and everything they have suffered in recent years: low pay, zero-hour contracts, benefit cuts, the lack of affordable housing, and public services cut to the bone.”

Isn’t there something missing from this list of gievances? There could not be clearer evidence of the Socialist Party’s persistent, blatant, willful refusal to acknowledge the wave of xenophobia aroused by the LEAVE campaign. What began as a debate on Britain’s membership of the EU has become ovewwhelmingly a plebiscite on one single question: immigration.

The left groups console themselves that a victory for LEAVE cold split the Tory (Conservative) Party and that Labour under Corbyn could win a subsequent general election. On the contrary: by far the most likely outcome would be an ulra right-wing Johnson/Gove/Farage government.

And, in a grotesque parody of history, today, too, just as then, those who claim to uphold the legacy of Marxism find themselves on the same side as the ultra-right, and justify their stance by blaming the social democrats. I’m beginning to understand better Trotsky’s famous reference to the village idiot who sings wedding songs at funerals.

What position might Trotsky have taken on this issue? Certainly, he called for a socialist united states of Europe; but he also considered what at the time must have seemed a very far-fetched hypothetical situation:

“If the capitalist states of Europes succeeded in merging into an imperialist trust,” he wrote in his “Peace Program”, “this would be a step forward as compared with the existing situation, for it would first of all create a unified, all-European material base for the working class movement. The proletariat would in this case have to fight not for the conversion of the imperialist state into a European Republican Federation.”

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Sanders Supports Clinton

“I recently had the opportunity to meet with Secretary Clinton and discuss some of the very important issues facing our country and the Democratic Party. It is no secret that Secretary Clinton and I have strong disagreements on some very important issues. It is also true that our views are quite close on others. I look forward, in the coming weeks, to continued discussions between the two campaigns to make certain that your voices are heard and that the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda. I also look forward to working with Secretary Clinton to transform the Democratic Party so that it becomes a party of working people and young people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors: a party that has the courage to take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel industry and the other powerful special interests that dominate our political and economic life.”

So spoke Bernie Sanders yesterday. In this article, we had a fanciful speech of Sanders in which we predicted exactly this.

What it means is that if Clinton gets elected (which will be with Sanders support),  she will sign a new Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. She will continue the attacks on working class people all around the world. She will continue and   ramp up support for the racist Stat of Israel… On and on.

Democratic Party Platform
Sanders talked a lot in his speech about the Democratic Party platform. This is a meaningless piece of paper. Sanders is just hiding behind this as a fig leaf.

We  have recounted the history of campaigns similar to that of Sanders: Gene McCarthy (1968), George McGovern (1972), Jesse Jackson (1980s), Dennis Kucinich (2012). With the exception of the Kucinich campaign, every single one of these created widespread enthusiasm. (Kucinich, who was to the left of Sanders, had the same effect, but not as widely.) But the net effect was to bolster the Democratic Party.

Sanders talks about changing the Democratic Party. That is the same old trap. Changing that party is similar to trying to shape cotton candy. And the more you try, the more it sticks to your hands, thoroughly entangling you.

Socialist Support for Sanders
This is why it was such a huge mistake – more than that, really – for socialists to support Sanders and to call on him to run independently. What this did was to create the illusion that he was somehow different, that he actually might run independently, that this capitalist politician could lead the working class. It helped foster illusions in “the Bern” as an individual instead of helping explain the forces at work.

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Britain to Vote on Leaving or Staying in European Union

(Introduction: On June 23, Britons will vote on whether to stay in or leave the European Union. There are a couple of points for US workers to think about:

  • In the first place, the very fact of the vote shows the extreme weakening of the grip the two main parties (the Conservatives and Labour) have over British politics. We, here, are seeing something similar with the fracturing of the Republican Party.
  • Second, the campaign to leave – which is currently leading in the polls there – is led by far right wing xenophobes. If that vote succeeds, it will not only strengthen them there in Britain, it will do the same here in the US. As the Wall St. Journal points out, “Boston’s (England) debate echoes that seen in the U.S., where Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been preaching American renewal, more immigration controls and taking on the Washington establishment.” 

Below, Julian Silverman explains what’s happening in Britain:

The referendum taking place next week over whether or not Britain should stay in the European Union has stripped bare the political crisis of British capitalism. The repercussions could spell, literally, the end of the Tory party, the end of the British “United Kingdom”, and the end of the European Union.

One, at least, of Lenin’s conditions for revolution has been met. The ruling class cannot go on ruling the old way. And the middle class is volatile and increasingly hostile to the establishment.

Conservatives in Majority

British Prime Minister David Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron

Last year the Conservatives found themselves unexpectedly with an absolute majority in the House of Commons. They had no choice but to form a government. Meanwhile, outflanked in ‘neoliberalism’, demagogery and xenophobia by UKIP (the “United Kingdom Independence Party – a far right, xenophobic party) they had promised a simple referendum ‘IN’ or ‘OUT’ of the European Union and – when pushed – had had to give a date.

Opinion polls then were largely non-committal and tended rather towards remaining IN. No doubt the Tory hierarchy thought they could stitch up a speedy apparent ‘reform’, mumble a few comforting patriotic platitudes, surrounded by undecipherable statistics – talk of GDP and single markets etc., relying on general ‘apathy’ and unwillingness to step into the unknown, and thus despatch the Brexteers without much fuss.

Britain’s rulers needed immigrant labour. They needed it as cheap as they could get.

[Incidentally, not only do the immigrant workers disproportionately care for our old, sick and disabled, at little cost, but, being predominantly of working age and ready to work, they also give Brits better, cheaper public services – since they bring in £millions more in taxes than they use.]

They needed the immigrants as workers but they needed them as scapegoats too. Whether immigrant or native British, low wages cannot keep the workforce alive. So, to keep their system running, the government is forced to subsidise bad employers and top up wages. (Tescos, the massive super-exploiting supermarket chain gets £385 million a year). This is called ‘in-work benefit’.

Cameron tries to stitch up deal
In order to appease both the screaming right and his EU colleagues/rivals at the same time, Prime Minister Cameron demanded from the EU a rule delaying immigrants in-work benefits for four years. This was not accepted, since it would have breached the principle of free movement of labour. Faced with European hostility to the Tories’ demands on immigration, for yet further deregulation and special privileges for British ‘financial services’, Cameron rushed across European capitals trying to stitch up one-to-one deals with individual governments.

He came back with nothing [apart, it seems, from some token – and unpublicised – ‘improvements’ to London’s financial dominance] But Cameron was a more than self confident professional liar, born to privilege, connections and money and trained in how to build on them at England’s elite private school, Eton. He had ‘worked’ as a Public Relations consultant. He had no reason to believe that his bread would not continue to fall butter-side up.

Decline in British economy
But he returned to office last year when, largely as a result of his last five years of office, manufacturing had actually declined, a fact which the government’s own ‘Office of Budget Responsibility’ read as a sign of “a coming crash”. Manufacturing represents no more than 8% of the British economy, but the Service industry was also declining. GDP was growing very little, and was to rise by no more than 0.4% in the first quarter of 2016. Estimates of productivity dropped and the OBR called previous optimistic reports “a false dawn”. Standard & Poor down-graded UK credit rating to ‘negative’ [from AAA] based precisely on the risk of exit from the EU.

Privatization and cuts
Meanwhile the population was rising. Each new baby had to be clothed, fed, housed, and taught before it could become a customer, worker or little entrepreneur. Then there were the disabled, the workless, the sick….Despite shifting much of the burden on to local authorities, while cutting down their funds and powers, despite NHS (National Health Service) and school privatisations and welfare caps [limits on benefits regardless of need] despite destroying centres and help for the mentally sick and despite the cuts and privatisation of care for the elderly, ‘welfare’, pensions and health care remain the three top drains on government spending., and the old stubbornly refused to die off quickly enough to save the government from budget irresponsibility. As one poor woman [a Brexiteer] said: “Never mind where they come from, we just can’t cope with more people………We won’t be any better off if we leave, but it’s our children…”.

"Welcome to hell" Poverty in Britain has reached epidemic proportions.

“Welcome to hell”
Poverty in Britain has reached epidemic proportions.

The Tory leadership were ready for action. They prepared for the most massive onslaught on the poor and on workers that had been seen in many generations. They promised to cut all public services by a total of £12 billion, they made massive plans to cut disability allowances, they tried to impose a new work regime on all hospital doctors, they refused to take in even orphan refugee children with relatives in Britain, to throw out the [International] Human Rights statutes, cut the police force and bring in a new Trades Union Bill’ which would impose the harshest possible ballot and picket restrictions and effectively all but destroy their powerful link to the Labour Party. It was a fellow Tory who declared that this would take the unions back to their role in Fascist Franco’s Spain!

Tory Revolt
But there was a revolt. The very minister who had prepared the killing welfare reforms announced his resignation during the budget debate. He claimed he couldn’t go along with such attacks on the poor and vulnerable. [He went on to become one of the leaders of the OUT campaign]. The Tory (Conservative Party) establishment was running scared. A combination of Labour, Scottish Nationalists and an ever-increasing and ever more vocal band of Tory dissidents combined to force the government to withdraw every one of these projects – as well as others like increased liberalisation of Sunday trading, and relegalising fox hunting. The Tory establishment could not go into a referendum as such an overt and obvious enemy of the people whose interests they were claiming to want to serve.

Boris Johnson & background

Their opponents were no rosy kindly liberals. Like Cameron, the leading OUT Tory minister Boris Johnson went to school at Eton and joined the aristocratic Bullingham Club at Oxford. Ministers Duncan Smith and Michael Gove were directly responsible for welfare cuts and privatisations. Nigel Farage, leader of the right-wing xenophobic party UKIP was a millionaire commodities trader.

UK Independent Party. Longing for a return to the days of British colonialism.

UK Independent Party.
Longing for a return to the days of British colonialism.

The campaign started low-key, slow and boring. It was as though we were being asked to act as unpaid auditors to “Britain plc”, and the debate was conducted in grandiose abstractions (“sovereignty”, “democracy”, “control of our own borders”. Soon, the invective increased without any corresponding rise in wit, as it descended to sheer Tory vs Tory nastiness: increased invective but no increase in wit. “You’re just polishing poo” said one, among similarly elegant use of words like “shit”, “crap” and worse.

Capitalist establishment unites
The initial response of the newly-elected left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was: “This is a squabble between Tories”. Later he was edged into taking up a relatively progressive position, refusing to join Tory platforms and emphasising the risk to workers’ hard-won rights. Meanwhile, under increasingly strident anti-immigrant propaganda from the OUT side, Labour panicked and adopted the uninspiring slogan “Labour: better IN for Britain!” and issued posters saying simply “VOTE REMAIN”. Some Labour MPs appeared on the same platform with Cameron. Cameron is in effect using Labour to keep his job. The Labour right is colluding with the Tories, just as they did in Scotland – thus losing at the last election every parliamentary seat they had in Scotland, bar one. The archbishop of Canterbury, the EU bosses, Obama, the banks, etc., all say one thing (helped by Blair, Brown and others who imagine they still have some influence). But the more they panic, the more workers see the combined establishment ranged on one side and they on the other.

Left Groups
Most of the left groups scoff at those who fear the consequences of a victory for the LEAVE camp for their “lack of confidence in the power of the British working class to fight back”. They for their part can equally be accused of a lack of confidence in the power of the European working class to mount an international struggle against the EU.

Cohesion of Working Class vs. “Leave” Campaign
Anything that weakens the cohesion of the working class is a weapon in the hands of the ruling class. A victory for the LEAVE campaign, which is firmly under the leadership of the most vicious enemies of workers’ rights – Johnson, Farage, Gove, and Duncan Smith – will grossly aggravate the political conditions in which socialists and worker activists are struggling. This campaign has already brought to the surface among millions of the more politically backward strata the vilest prejudices long festering in the rotting heritage of British imperialism. A victory for Brexit will herald an orgy of xenophobia and racism; a plague of verbal and physically violent street attacks on migrants and minorities; it will be a carnival of tub-thumping monarchism and chauvinism.

"Kill All Muslims" Spray painted sign on a Muslim-owned shop in Britain. If the "leave" campaign succeeds, attacks on immigrants in Britain will get even worse.

Kill All Muslims
Spray painted sign on a Muslim-owned shop in Britain. If the “leave” campaign succeeds, attacks on immigrants in Britain will get even worse.

Foreign Investors
Foreign investors now own close to £1tn worth of shares in UK-domiciled companies. Around 53.8% of shares in UK-based companies, worth some £928.6bn (€1.3bn, $1.4bn), were held by investors outside Britain in 2014, up from 53.6% in 2012 and 43.4% in 2010. (In the early 1980s, less than 5% of British shares were held by overseas investors. The manufacturing sector, which accounted for 25% of gross domestic product in 1979, now accounts for less than 10% – less the financial sector. The value of UK-owned foreign assets is less than the value of UK assets that are in foreign ownership. There is now a net flow abroad of interest payments, dividends and profits.

Most of Britain’s infrastructure is now in foreign ownership. This includes seaports, airports, power stations, railways and buses, water companies and much else besides. Large swathes of manufacturing industry are also now in foreign ownership. This includes the car industry, steel industry, cement manufacturing industry, a large proportion of the food processing industry, and Britain’s aerospace industry…. is passing into foreign ownership.

“National interest” and bashing workers
Of course this is more than balanced by the foreign investments by British firms. British capitalists do not worry over the nationality of the people they extract their profits from! Neither businesses nor their subject populations are overly concerned with national borders. What it shows is that ‘national interest’ is just business-speak for deregulation, union bashing, tax laxity etc.

This global profit-lust is inevitable irrespective of the EU. Last year the IMF leaders themselves reminded us that 85 individuals owned more than the world’s poorest 3.5000,000,000 half of the world’s population.. But in one year things have moved on again: now Oxfam reckons it’s 62.

Fight one country at a time?
So the question for us is how do we free ourselves from rule by these remote but ever-present vast powerful forces? Even if the monumental struggle in Greece had not shown us, a simple reckoning of the balance of forces would have shown us that it is impossible to escape from – still less to defeat – our oppressors one country at a time.

The referendum gives us the opportunity to put forward our vision for how the immense wealth of natural and human resources of Europe could be used for our mutual benefit. And we have valuable allies in the trade unions, activist groups, the various anti-austerity movements and parties across the continent. Labour should be among those making links with these people and join them in calling for a conference and coordinated campaign to work out and enact a strategy to take us towards reaching these goals.

As our recent resolution explains:

“‘Austerity’ is an international phenomenon: the chosen method of Europe’s financial rulers to uphold corporate profits – causing monstrous inequality, ruining hundreds of millions of lives across the continent. Recent events in Greece prove once again that it can only be defeated by concerted action of the peoples of each country.

Europe’s assets have been valued at €155,000,000,000,000. 24 million people are registered unemployed, countless millions more under-employed.

We call upon the Labour leadership to make positive use of the opportunity of the EU referendum to mount a positive campaign for a socialist Europe which can use its immense human and natural resources for the common good.

To this end we call upon the leadership to prepare to link up with the political parties, trades union and activist groups across Europe who support our aims, with a view to working out a common set of goals, and a strategy to achieve them.”

Update
Since we put up this article, the Wall St. Journal printed an article about this vote in UK. They make it clear that the debate over this issue has little or nothing to do with workers rights and everything to do with immigration. They toured the English town of Boston with a retiree and describe his comments: “That’s not English, that’s not English, that’s not English,” the 57-year old retiree said, gesturing to various shops around the town. “It’s all gone.” They also write: “Pollsters in the U.K. identify unease over immigration as a critical determinant of how likely a voter is to cast their ballot in favor of leaving the EU. More than 40% of voters backing Brexit said immigration was the most important factor in deciding how they will vote…”

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Orlando: Homophobia and Bloodlust

Was Omar Mateen simply “psychotic”, or was he a homophobic reactionary thug? Is there really a difference? What, after all, happened in Germany when millions supported the Nazis? Was that a fascist movement or mass psychosis — or both?

132 mass shootings in 2016
One thing is certain: The mass outrage in Orlando – 49 dead – is not some isolated incident committed by some accidental individual. Not after San Bernardino. Not when James Wesley Howell was caught headed to the gay pride march in Santa Monica with several assault weapons, high capacity magazines and thousands of rounds of ammo. Not after Dylan Roof murdered nine black church goers in Charleston, SC. Not after the 132 other mass shootings in the US in 2016 alone.

liberals, conservatives and racist populists
The liberals, conservatives and racist populists have reacted as could be expected. Hillary Clinton calls for gun control, especially of assault weapons. But would it really have made any difference if Mateen had only been able to get his hands on a series of high-powered pistols?

Equally predictable was Donald Trump’s reaction: On the one hand reasserting his call for a ban on Muslims to enter the US; on the other, his bizarre implication that somehow Barack Obama was involved. “Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind. And the something else in mind—you know, people can’t believe it. People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on,” he said.

You don’t have to be a supporter of Obama to see the implied racism of these comments.

Then there are the ever-predictable editors of the Wall St. Journal who commented, “One way to stop a Mateen before he strikes is to have an undercover agent invite him to take a step toward violence.” In other words, entrapment. You can be sure that those who are set up won’t be white racists; they will be mostly young and gullible Muslims. In the future, such methods of entrapment will be used against any popular, working class people’s movement, just as it was during the days of Cointelpro.

Meanwhile, homophobia will continue to grow. It is fueled by religious bigot fundamentalist preachers like Steven Anderson and Sheikh Farroukh Sekaleshfar  and Yishai Schlissel in Israel, who stabbed six people at a gay pride parade in Israel. More than that, it is fueled by a world society that is descending ever deeper into homophobia and bigotry as part of wartime bloodlust. And we should note that many parts of the world have been in a state of war – both outright and low grade warfare – for some 15 years now. In this context, willingness to sacrifice lives at the alter of xenophobia linked with all kinds of bigotry becomes the order of the day.

faces of murder & mayhem

Never were the words of Rosa Luxembourg more true: “Socialism or barbarism.”

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Oakland Police Chief Suddenly Resigns: The Coverup Unravels

Out of nowhere, Oakland’s police chief Sean Whent resigned last week. Now the truth behind his resignation is starting to be revealed in this article in the East Bay Express. According to the article, an underage prostitute named “Celeste Guap” (not her real name) was being traded around by numerous Oakland cops for sex. It is absolutely disgusting how these cops traded this young woman around like a piece of meat. It really shows their attitude towards women, and towards all people that they have power over.

But we should also note that there is no way that Guap was the only one woman who was treated like this, and there is no way that practically the entire police force didn’t know what was going on, or at least have heard rumors about it.

Then there is the situation with former OPD cop Brendan O’Brien who recently committed suicide. O’Brien was one of the first to have exploited Guap. Several years ago, O’Brien’s wife “committed suicide” by shooting herself in the head, but there was something a little strange about the suicide:  The gun she used to shoot herself had fired two shots! Given that it’s pretty hard to miss one’s own head, this means she must have fired the second shot after she was dead. Unless…

Whent claims he didn’t investigate any further because O’Brien’s wife had gunpowder residue on her hand. There’s a very simple explanation for that: The cop shot her, then put the gun in her hand and fired another shot. That’s so obvious that even somebody like me, who has zero experience in such matters can figure it out. In other words, Whent and the entire force covered up for a murder. And where was the DA’s office? It is also coming out that other departments, including Richmond, had members who were exploiting Guap. In other words, the entire system is guilty.

Update
A new article in the San Jose Mercury News reveals what should have been obvious all along: That this was not confined to the OPD. “Guap said she slept with five Richmond police officers, including a lieutenant and two sergeants, four Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies, one Livermore officer and a law enforcement worker based in Stockton.” This also included cops from San Francisco,

It doesn’t matter if she was under age at the time or not; this is like a prison guard having sex with a prisoner. The power that the cops have over women in this position means that her having sex with them can never be consensual.

Also, Guap is just the only one to come forward. If this was happening with her, there must be dozens of other young women who were in a similar situation.

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Hillary Clinton: An Already Wounded Duck President

If she gets elected, Hillary Clinton will be a wounded duck president from day one.

Wait. Scratch that. It will be from even before she takes office. Already she’s unpopular, and just wait till Donald Trump gets through with her.

And already there is speculation that during her presidency Corporate America (the US capitalist class) will decide to go to war against the Iranian regime (which will mean, among other things that gas prices will shoot up – always a cause for intense anger here in the US). And already there is speculation about a new recession in 2017. In fact, the two could happen at once.

Meanwhile, the media is doing its level best to hide her unpopularity.

Clinton rally contrasting photos

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Vote Fraud in California

“What matters isn’t who votes; what matters is who counts the votes.” So spoke Joseph Stalin, and what was true in his bureaucratic dictatorship is apparently also true in capitalist America.

In the run-up to the election, Sanders was within 2% of Clinton and gaining. This result probably underestimated the Sanders vote because the polls tend to be based on previous voters, and there were millions of newly registered voters, the great majority of whom were almost certainly Sanders supporters. Yet, what were the official results?

election results

Here are the notes a poll worker took during her training. At the bottom she noted the instruction to give NPP voters provisional ballots. These ballots are not counted.

Here are the notes a poll worker took during her training. At the bottom she noted the instruction to give NPP voters provisional ballots. These ballots are not counted.

A poll worker in Southern California explains the disparity: California voters can register according to one of the parties on the ballot or as “no party preference” – NPP. The California Democratic Party allows NPP voters to vote in their primary if such voters wish, and as we know, Sanders tends to overwhelmingly win such voters in states where they can vote in the Democratic primary. In California, there are 4.2 million such voters.. That is more than the slightly under 3.5 million votes that Clinton and Sanders received combined. What happened to these voters?

According to the Southern California poll worker, poll workers were told to give NPP voters a “provisional ballot.” In general, provisional ballots simply aren’t counted! 

This is just the most blatant of the methods used to evidently obtain a fraudulent result in the California Democratic presidential primary vote. This video may contains illusions in the entire system, but it also shows the system’s corruption.

Media

Our media – which is always bragging about how free it is – has completely covered up this fraud; they have breathed not a word. Not a word about the contradiction between the previous polls and the ultimate “result”. Slightly older voters might remember something that was totally lacking in these “elections” – exit polls. In past elections, the media did exit polls which almost always almost exactly mirrored the official results. This time there were none. When George Bush was fraudulently given the election in 2000, a major piece of evidence of the fraud in a number of states was the wide disparity between the official vote count and the exit polls. Nobody can say they haven’t learned from experience!

A Hillary Clinton rally in Los Angeles (left) and a Sanders rally in L.A. (right). Can we really totally discount the size of the crowds as far as the election results?

A Hillary Clinton rally in Los Angeles (left) and a Sanders rally in L.A. (right). Can we really totally discount the size of the crowds as far as the election results?

Bernie Sanders

But it’s not only the media. Bernie Sanders has been completely silent on the issue, just as he’s been silent on a number of issues such as Clinton’s support for starvation wages in

Left liberal Dennis Kucinich leaving Air Force One with President Obama in 2010. Obama was pressing Kucinich to drop his insistence on "single payer" and support "Obamacare" instead. With them was Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D. Ohio) who supported Obamacare. Shortly after this plane ride, Kucinich did as Obama demanded. What should Sanders supporters expect from Sanders meeting with Obama except that he support Hillary Clinton?

Left liberal Dennis Kucinich leaving Air Force One with President Obama in 2010. Obama was pressing Kucinich to drop his insistence on “single payer” and support “Obamacare” instead. With them was Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D. Ohio) who supported Obamacare. Shortly after this plane ride, Kucinich did as Obama demanded. What should Sanders supporters expect from Sanders meeting with Obama except that he support Hillary Clinton?

Haiti, her support for the coup in Honduras, etc. The reason for his silence is contained in what he’s said many times over: That his goal is to strengthen the Democratic Party. He is the loyal opposition (with emphasis on “loyal”) within that party and within the capitalist system that he represents. Instead, he will be going into a closed door meeting with Obama. What can anybody reasonably expect to come of that meeting?

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Oakland Voters Speak

If you want to know what people are thinking, you have to ask them.

With that in mind, Oaklandsocialist did its own mini “exit poll” outside a polling place during yesterday’s California primaries vote. Here are a few interviews. One note: This is a completely “unscientific” poll since nine out of ten people didn’t want to talk, either because they were in a rush or because they didn’t feel comfortable talking on camera, or for whatever reason, Nevertheless, what people said was interesting, if for no other reason than to get an idea of what’s going on in the heads of some people here in Oakland.

“Utter chaos for the next four years.”

An Oakland voter talks about Sanders, Clinton & Trump, what is and is not socialism, and his perspective for the upcoming election and the next four years — “utter chaos” he predicts.

Below, a few African American voters talk about their concerns and hopes in general.

 

Here, a few Oakland Bernie Sanders voters express their views and concerns

 

Here, a few Oakland voters express their views on the elections in general.

 

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Doing the same thing over and over…

Bernie-Supporters-Move-On

Here is a conversation between a young Sanders supporters and an older one:

Youth excitedly: “What Bernie is doing is totally different! It’s never been done before.”

Older Sanders supporter: “Well, actually… Back in 1968 we had Gene McCarthy run for the Democratic nomination as an anti-war candidate. There was a lot of enthusiasm for him and a lot of young people cleaned themselves up; the guys shaved. The women put on skirts and blouses. “Neat and clean for Gene,” was the slogan.”

McCarthy for Pres

Youth: “So what happened?”

Older Sanders supporter: “He didn’t get the nomination. Then in 1972, George McGovern actually captured the Democratic nomination as the peace candidate. The Democratic Party leadership undercut him and even the union leadership wouldn’t support him. So instead, we got Tricky Dick Nixon as president.

McGovern

“Then in the ’80s, Jesse Jackson ran for president twice. There was massive enthusiasm for him among lots of workers, especially black workers. Way more than for Sanders now.”

Bernie Sanders: "Why I'm supporting Jesse Jackson" in 1984

Bernie Sanders: “Why I’m supporting Jesse Jackson” in 1984

Youth: “So what happened with all those campaigns? Did they change the Democratic Party? Did any longer lasting movement come out of them?

Older Sanders supporter: “Not really. But I think we should just keep doing the same thing over again.

“Maybe we’ll get a different result this time.”

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Bernie Sanders in Oakland: What Wasn’t Said

Bernie Sanders spoke to some 30,000 people in Oakland, CA, on Memorial Day. Just a few days before he spoke, the noted journalist John Pilger wrote about the failure of all the presidential candidates to address themselves to the increased militarism and drive towards war that has happened under Obama. We should keep this in mind when thinking about Sanders’ campaign.

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Israel Moves Even Further Right; Affecting US Politics Too

A new phase is opening up in Israeli politics, and it affects relations between the US and Israeli governments and US politics itself.

Yair Golan. He compared present-day Israeli society to Germany in the 1930s, shortly before Hitler came to power.

Yair Golan. He compared present-day Israeli society to Germany in the 1930s, shortly before Hitler came to power.

In Israel, on Holocaust Remembrance Day (May 4), the Israeli army’s deputy chief of staff, Yair Golan, compared what has been happening in Israel to the situation in Germany in the 1930s, when the Nazis were rising to power. This set off an uproar, but it shouldn’t have; Golan was right.

“Death to Arabs”

Israeli fascist youth chanting "death to Arabs" at a protest.

Israeli fascist youth chanting “death to Arabs” at a protest.

We have the example of marches of thousands, primarily youth, calling for “death to Arabs”; assaults on Palestinians, boycotts of Palestinian businesses and even of Israeli businesses that employ Palestinians, refusal of landlords to rent to Palestinians, etc. Recently, a video surfaced of an Israeli soldier – El’or Azaria – running up to a Palestinian man – Abdel Fattah al-Sharif – who was wounded and lying face down on the ground and shooting him in the head, killing him. Al-Sharif had been accused of attacking some Israelis with a knife, but whether he did or not, he was no threat whatsoever at the time. It was a cold blooded assassination. The Israeli military brass, which covers up every Israeli military atrocity that it can, was unable to cover up this murder and they put Azaria on trial. This has set off a furor of protest in Israel, with thousands calling Azaria a hero.

The Israaeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is a Trump-like politician – cynical, corrupt, demagogically playing on the worst racist fears. He has moved so far to the right that his Minister of Defense, Moshe “Bogy” Ya’alon, resigned on May 20. Netanyahu replaced him with Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu, the Israel Home party. This is a party that mainly is based among the Russian Jewish immigrants and is a far, far right party. It models itself after Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of Zionist Revisionism (the wing of Zionism that originally advocated for an independent Israeli state, rather than simply being a Jewish colony of Britain). Jabotinsky was a fascist sympathizer, and Lieberman is not far from it. He has commented, for example, “those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe.” In the context of discussing attacking Iran, Lieberman has raised the example of the US government’s use of nuclear

Ayelet Shaked: She called Palestinian babies "little snakes".

Ayelet Shaked: She called Palestinian babies “little snakes”.

bombs in WW II. His fellow party member, Ayelet Shaked, talked about Palestinians as if they were all “terrorists” and called for killing them all. “They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there,” she said.

Shaked is the “Justice” (!) Minister in Netanyahu’s cabinet. Ya’alon also resigned his seat in the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) and will be replaced by Yehuda Glick, who is described as “the leader of the ‘Temple Mount Loyalists’”. This is a group that seeks open and violent confrontation with Palestinians over the historic “Dome of the Rock”.

Israeli Military
Ironically, one of the main forces that is unhappy about the rise of racist populism in Israel is the Israeli military establishment. In part that’s because, like most military establishments, it tends to take a more strategic view. It has to since it must live with the direct consequences of strategic blunders. That’s what happened when they tried to invade Gaza during the recent war against the people there. It’s what happened in the Israeli war in Lebanon. In both cases, the Israeli military suffered a surprising number of casualties – something the Israelis are unused to – and had to withdraw.

Israeli Capitalists
A major wing of Israeli capitalists are equally concerned with the growing role of Lieberman and his party, as witnessed by this article in the daily newspaper Ha’aretz, which commented: “Apparently not everyone is willing to stick his nose into Yisrael Beiteinu’s open sewer, sniff and enjoy it…. And Lieberman is really frightening, let’s admit it.” They concluded: “Rabbis and nationalist zealots marked Yitzhak Rabin, Sarah Palin marked Gabrielle Giffords, and now, Avigdor Lieberman is another right marker. Only yesterday, another target was marked in Jerusalem. Watch carefully, glance right to the Kahane and Goldstein commemoration corner, for the fire will open from here.” (Meir Kahane was an extreme right, violent racist, founder in the US of the Jewish Defense League. He ultimately emigrated to Israel, became a member of parliament who was so extreme that his party – Kach – was ultimately banned there.)

US Capitalists
Nor is Corporate America, as represented by the Obama administration, happy about the developing situation in Israel in general and the appointment of Lieberman in particular. “We have also seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history and we also know that many of its ministers have said they oppose a two-state solution. This raises legitimate questions about the direction it may be headed in … and what kind of policies it may adopt,” said US State Department spokesman Mark Toner in commenting on Lieberman’s appointment.

Pressuring Israeli Regime & Bernie Sanders
Their problem is that they have so strongly defended the Israeli regime for all these years, and now it’s difficult to publicly pressure that regime. After all, they don’t want to weaken it or weaken US support for it, they just want it to take a more reasonable – meaning strategic – approach. But who knows what workers and youth would start to discover, what reality they would start to see, once that can of worms is opened? (The Israel lobby also plays a powerful role, but they could be overcome if Corporate America decided it was completely necessary.) Into this breach steps…. Bernie Sanders. He has pressured the Democratic Party tops to be allowed to name five people to the Democratic Party platform

Cornel West. He and others will be used to pressure the racist regime of Israel to moderate their approach.

Cornel West. He and others will be used to pressure the racist regime of Israel to moderate their approach.

committee. Two of those he’s named are Cornel West, the left-wing African-American academic, and James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. They have made it clear that they will be pushing for opposition to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. A Clinton representative made it clear that nothing of the sort will be passed, but the Israel lobby is disturbed anyway. Malcolm Hoenlein, representative of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he found it to be “disturbing” that people such as Zogby and West (as well as Muslim congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota) were even on that committee.

In this way, some “outsider” voices can start to be raised in order to pressure the Israeli regime. Corporate America’s problem is that it’s no more entirely up to the saner heads among Israel’s capitalists than it is entirely so here in the US. After all, if here they face the actual possibility that the loose cannon Donald Trump could become president while the radical liberal Bernie Sanders has gone far further than anybody (including himself) expected in the Democrats, if here they are no longer in total control of their two parties, then imagine how things must be in Israel!

Netanyahu (l) & Trump (r). If bigoted, loose cannon populists like this can win such a base, what does this say about the future of world capitalism?

Netanyahu (l) & Trump (r). If bigoted, loose cannon populists like these can win such a base, what does this say about the future of world capitalism?

Class Struggle vs. Racism, Communalism & Bigotry
The rise of open racism and even fascism in Israel and the rise of far right populism in the US (Donald Trump) is part of a global trend. This includes the attacks on the Rohingya minority in Myanmar (Burma), the Islamic State elsewhere, the communalist BJP in India, and the far right, xenophobic parties throughout Europe. The answer to them lies not only in open opposition, it also lies in building the class struggle, the most prominent example of which is presently the mass strikes and protests against attacks in France against long-standing workers’ rights there. The liberal politicians will not save us. Bernie Sanders (who fundamentally supports Israel as well as US militarism, including drone warfare) will not save us. The union leadership – which represents the employers and one of their two parties, the Democrats, inside the workers’ movement – won’t save us. It is up to workers and youth to join together and form their own organizations of struggle, ultimately forming a mass political party, to save ourselves.working class one fist copy

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Interviews and video at Sanders Rally in Vallejo

Here are two videos of interviews with people who came to the Sanders rally in Vallejo on May 18, plus some footage of the event itself. In the first video, we interviewed several young supporters of Sanders. Their enthusiasm gives reason to hope. Scroll down to see second video.

 

In this video below, we interview several older former union activists and socialists as well as show some footage of the rally itself and of Sanders speaking.
Please see this link for a more extended commentary of the event in Vallejo.

 

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5,000 at Sanders Rally in Vallejo, CA

A reported 5,000 came out to Vallejo, CA, to hear Bernie Sanders yesterday (Wednesday, 5/18). I was there too.
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Who Was There
There were a lot of interesting things about the event, most importantly who was there
13244126_10206249370735121_8057797401730079645_o(fairly diverse crowd, overwhelmingly young). The other thing I found was that it was extremely easy to get into conversations with people, including the young people. Being 70, that’s not always the case for me. I even had one shocking experience: Usually, at events like this, when I get to talking with somebody, I really want to hear what they have to say. In one instance, I got to talking with a group of five or six young people (early 20s at the oldest). At one point I made 13221396_10206249372975177_4307725581640444291_osome comment and then stopped, waiting to hear what they had to say. They told me to go on, they wanted to hear more of what an older person had to say, what his experiences were. What a shocking experience here in the US!

Overall, I was extremely impressed with the openness and the seriousness of the people I got to talking with.

On several occasions, I had to explain that I didn’t support Sanders (and of course I don’t support Clinton nor Trump). People were very open and willing to hear why. As my generation used to say, the Democratic Party is the graveyard of social movements; it’s like quicksand, drawing movements in in order to drown them. In my opinion the main thing is that what’s needed more than anything is a working class political party, and I think the Sanders campaign, as positive as it is raising some important issues, also is tending to serve that same role. Some socialists are supporting Sanders and his so-called “political revolution,” but I think it’s a contradiction to support a Democratic candidate and at the same time argue for the need for a complete alternative to all Democrats.

Sanders Speech
Sanders’ speech was interesting. He concentrated his fire on Donald Trump, saying why it’s important that this bigot not be allowed to be elected president. Given that it’s overwhelmingly likely that Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, this seemed to be setting the groundwork for him to transition to campaigning for her after the Democratic Party convention.

Where will Sanders supporters go after that? The overwhelming majority of those I’ve talked with (if not all of them) say they won’t vote for Clinton, although one or two agreed that if they lived in a “swing state” they might. But how about after the elections?

Sanders has made it clear that he’s going to campaign to reform the Democratic Party. As he said after the Nevada Democratic Party convention: “It is imperative that the Democratic leadership, both nationally and in the states, understand that the political world is changing and that millions of Americans are outraged at establishment politics and establishment economics.” This is a declaration that he’s going to campaign to try make them “understand”, which is to say to reform the Democratic Party. However, Glen Ford of Black Agenda report has made convincing argument that the Democrats will turn to the right, though. Even if he’s wrong, though, even if Sanders succeeds in building the “progressive” wing of the Democrats, they will only be allowed to grow enough to “keep hope (in the Democrats) alive”, but not to have real power. No matter what, though, some of Sanders supporters will continue in political activity and will be looking to build an alternative to the Democrats. What form that alternative will take and how it will be built is open to question, but build it we must.

One older union member I was talking with made the point that this was the next wave after Occupy, and I think he was right. As we agreed, the Greek myth of the goddess Pallas Athena springing full grown from the head of Zeus is just that — a myth – because like humans, no movement comes into being full grown and fully formed. Especially in the US, it will come into existence in fits and starts, with confusions and all.

Stay tuned; more coming
For those who are new to this blog site and want to read more of a revolutionary socialist critique of the Sanders campaign, you can find a series of articles here. Also, Oaklandsocialist did several interviews yesterday. We will have them up in a day or two. Stay tuned.

"Fuck Trump." If he wins, there will be a huge reaction and protests from Day one.

“Fuck Trump.” If he wins, there will be a huge reaction and protests from Day one.

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“Vaxxed”, the Movie

Imagine taking your baby to the doctor and within 24 hours that baby becomes extremely sick and never fully recovers. He (and usually it is a “he”) loses contact with people around him or loses the ability to walk or run normally or loses the beginnings of speech or starts such repetitive motions as banging his head against his crib. Or all of this.

In other words, the baby has become autistic.

Imagine the disaster this means for everybody involved, first and foremost the baby.

This is what the move “Vaxxed” explores – the explosive issue of whether there is a link between vaccinations – especially the “MMR” (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine — and autism. Everybody knows that this has been decisively disproven, that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a massive study that disproved this and that the doctor who originally made that claim committed fraud. Everybody knows this and there’s no reason to look any further.

Right…. or is it?

This is what “Vaxxed” explores. Along the way, it documents case after case of parents who saw their infant child become very sick immediately after getting the MMR vaccine and then becoming autistic. As a doctor in the film points out, it used to be that doctors were told to listen to their patients, or in this case the parents; now they’re told to ignore them, to tell the parents that they’re wrong. Tell them, for instance, that the child was already autistic, as if a parent can’t tell a sudden and drastic change in her or his child’s behavior.

Aside from the heartbreaking scenes, the film reveals some important information, not the least of which is that the lead scientist on the team that did the CDC study became a whistleblower and that the US congress then refused to subpoena him to come in and testify.

  • It reveals that the original research papers were ordered to be destroyed. It reveals e mails talking about “problematic results”, and that the CDC changed the analysis plan once the statistics didn’t show what they wanted.
  • It reveals that the CDC covered up a significantly higher autism rate among african-american boys.
  • It reveals that the then-head of the CDC subsequently went on to head the vaccine program at Merck, at a nice fat salary, thank you very much.
  • It reveals that vaccines are not tested for safety the way drugs are (which is poor enough) because vaccinations are considered to be a public health measure.
  • It reveals that under the 1986 Childhood Immunity Act, a patient or the parent of a patient cannot sue in court for damages due to vaccination. Instead, they have to go to a special “vaccine court”, which has ruled out a link between vaccines and autism based on the fraudulent CDC study.
  • It reveals that after the original study finding a link between MMR vaccine and autism, and after parents wanted to give their children the vaccines one-by-one instead of all at once, a single measles vaccine was made unavailable.

Here is the maker of “Vaxxed” debating with some protesters outside a theater.https://vimeo.com/166309709

Deviation from analysis plan, destruction of data….

These are just a few of the points raised in the film. It’s impossible to really do it justice since I didn’t take notes during it. But one thing really jumped out:

I remember when the media played up a huge measles scare a year or so back. 664 cases of measles, I think it was. 664! In a country of over 320 million, that is not exactly a huge health crisis, yet the film shows the huge media brouhaha over it. Meanwhile, over 1 million new cases of autism were diagnosed in 2014 and the numbers are increasing exponentially. Occasionally, we’ll hear about that.

Health Care “Reform”

The film also has implications as far as health care reform. Many on the left, including many socialists, confine themselves to calling for “single payer” or “Medicare for all.” In other words, nationalized health insurance.

What this film drives home is that this is nowhere near adequate. What sort of health care are we talking about, after all? Will the sort of “care” we get be driven by private profit? Of course, “Medicare for all” would be a step forward, but what’s really needed is socialization of the entire medical industry, including the pharmaceuticals, under the control and management of the workers and patients. In that way, healthy human beings rather than healthy profits would be the driving motive.

Racism and Pollution

Oh, yes, one last thing. About the fact of a significantly higher rate of autism among african-american boys — The film doesn’t speculate on the reasons, but my suspicion is that autism is related to a whole series of assaults on the immune/nervous systems, from various toxins and also from multiple vaccines. And lead and other toxins do tend to be more present in black communities. That’s only my guess. Too bad the CDC won’t investigate that.

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Oaklandsocialist’s “fashion statement”

Just for kicks… Oaklandsocialist t-shirt.

The picture is of Occupy Oakland’s “general strike”, and I took it from the sound truck on that day. It’s the only picture of its kind. The person speaking in the lower left hand corner of the picture is Oakland’s own Boots Riley.

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When Hillary Clinton Came to Oakland

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Hillary Clinton made a campaign stop in Oakland on May 6 and a crowd of hundreds came out to see her. Oaklandsocialist went to talk with those who came out there. Clinton’s staffers tried to prevent us from speaking by following behind me and starting a chant of “I support Hillary!” but it didn’t work.

Here is a video of some of what people had to say. I have to apologize for the extremely poor camera work. I got so engrossed in talking with people that I didn’t pay enough attention to the camera.

One thing to note: Several people raised the specter of Donald Trump. “Would you rather have Trump?” many asked. We can see that this will be a theme of the Clinton campaign, and it shows how extremely unpopular even her campaign knows she is. Unlike Obama, neither Clinton nor Trump will be given that “honeymoon” period after they first take office. Obama is a gifted politician who was able to co-opt any protests. Clinton lacks that gift. (As for Trump, he will face a polarized population the second he takes office, if he should win.) Given this, and given that a new economic crisis is likely in the next four years (if not before) and even new (and unpopular wars), a Clinton presidency is likely to be one of the most repressive in many decades.

Posted in Oakland, United States, videos/documentaries | 6 Comments

A Patriotic International Workers Day

 

May Day meeting at ILWU Local 10 hall in San Francisco

May Day meeting at ILWU Local 10 hall in San Francisco

May Day – International Workers Day – last year saw a march from the Port of Oakland through the (still) predominantly black and working class West Oakland to downtown Oakland. Although there were some weaknesses (see article and video here), it had a militant spirit, and different voices, including critical ones, were heard. This year, the leadership of Local 10 got a firm hold of the event. The result was that it started off with… the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag! Yes, on this day – International Workers Day – we started off with patriotism. What a travesty!

There followed several speeches which covered such topics as the struggle for the eight hour day, and the need for class struggle in general. All that is very nice. But what’s needed now, more than ever, is a clear explanation of the general direction that the workers’ movement needs to take and what specific, concrete steps can be taken down that road immediately. That is what defines real leadership. All the general talk is just that — talk. It’s meant to cover up the fact that the intent is to continue down the same path that we’ve been trodding for decades. That is the path of reliance on the cooperation of the employers and the good will of the liberal wing of the Democrats. By any measure – in terms of standard of living, working class unity, racism and xenophobia and sexism, the general direction of politics in the US, or the strength of the unions – by any measure this direction has been a disastrous failure.

Any serious socialist cannot just confine themselves to organizing for such events without a word of criticism. Socialism means nothing if it has no meaning in the here and now.

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May Day Greetings

Greetings on May Day. Here is Oaklandsocialist’s leaflet which will be handed out on May Day, 2016:
Put International into Int'l workers day

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“Every day” Corruption is not Corruption

Your elected officials at work

Your elected officials at work

In 2011, the CEO of Star Scientific, Jonnie Williams Jr., bought W. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell a $6,000 Rolex watch, took McDonnell’s wife on a $20,000 shopping spree, and paid $15,000 to cater the wedding of the McDonnell’s daughter. All in all, Williams spent $177,000 in gifts and loans of the governor.

He didn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart, no more than Wall St. moguls paid the Clintons millions for making speeches. No, what he was after was to get the Governor to “push state university researchers to produce studies that could help secure Food and Drug Administration approval for the dietary supplement Anatabloc,” according to the Wall St. Journal (4/27/2016). (So much for “scientific studies”.)

Now, McDonnell is up on corruption charges. His excuse? It’s “commonplace,” he claims, and sending him to prison for this would “radically reshape politics in this nation.” As the Wall St. Journal reports: ‘“Gov. McDonnell was convicted in part for taking actions that, in the main, are indistinguishable from actions that nearly every elected official in the U.S. takes nearly every day,” the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee said in a brief.’

Yes, we have the best democracy money can buy.

Oh, and as far as the “Citizens United” Supreme Court ruling, the ruling that corporations can spend unlimited amounts in political campaigns because they have the same rights as individuals: Cases like the one of McDonnell – which “nearly every elected official… (does) every day” — these would continue, Citizens United or not.

So, contrary to all calls to “get the money out of politics,” and contrary to the claims that this is something new, it’s not. It’s how capitalist democracy has always functioned.

Posted in politics, United States | 1 Comment

“Every Arab must get a bullet in the head”

What is so significant about this video is not the last line spoken by one of the Israeli racists: “Every Arab must get a bullet in the head.”

No, what is so significant is that here the crowd is chanting that “Bibi” (Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister) “betrayed us.” Netanyahu was elected on an appeal to racism. He represents the right wing of Israeli politics. And here he is being called, in effect, a traitor.

In other words, this sinister force of Israeli fascism is growing. And don’t expect “Bibi” to stand up to it. On the contrary, he will make further concessions.

This is part and parcel of the rise of racism and outright fascism (Islamic State, for example) globally.

US capitalism is somewhat more stable than elsewhere. That means that such forces won’t get as wide a base here, but we must not think we are immune from this.

Posted in Middle East, racism | 6 Comments

Wealth, Poverty, and Social Control in the Golden State

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People took to the streets in Oakland following the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The doors to the OPD headquarters were fittingly covered in red paint

In capitalist society, the wealth of the working class is appropriated and hoarded by a tiny elite – the ruling class. This ruling class creates a state in its image in order to protect its wealth and ensure its continued enrichment at the expensive of all subordinates. This state, which includes the police, becomes increasingly brutal as class lines sharpen during periods of economic instability – dips, crashes, and depressions that are built into the economic system. California, the largest and most diverse state in the U.S., is a fine example of a state in the decaying stages of capitalism, during which the misery of the many increases alongside the enrichment of the few, and the armed wing of the state polices the widening class divide with increasing brutality.

Wealth

In 2015, the state of California passed in front of Brazil and France to become the 6th largest economy in the world. The top ten economies in the world are now the U.S. ($17.8 trillion GDP in 2015), China ($10.9), Japan ($4.1), Germany ($3.6), the UK ($2.9), California ($2.5), France ($2.4), India ($2.1), Italy and Brazil ($1.8 each). (The global collapse of capitalism – some predict a new collapse within the year –  is reflected in the fact that only the U.S., China, California and India have growing economies). Only the U.S. (536) and China (213) have more billionaires than California (131 in 2015). The combined wealth of these individuals is worth more than the GDP of many countries. The governor of California, Jerry Brown, has a net worth of $4 million, and California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is worth a whopping $74 million (making her the 3rd wealthiest member of congress). Larry Page of Google (Mountain View, CA) and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook (Menlo Park, CA) are multi-billionaires behind corporations ingrained in the bourgeois state and its apparatuses of surveillance and control.

Poverty

While a handful Californians are incredibly wealthy, the majority are very poor. In fact, California is the most unequal state in one of the most unequal countries in the world (just a Louisiana is the most incarcerated state in the most incarcerated nation in the world). California has the highest poverty rate in the country, with %27 of children living in poverty; in 2013, 48.8% of children in the state were poor or near the poverty line. That same year, around one quarter of the state’s total population lived in poverty. One in ten Cal State University students are homeless, and one in four go hungry. Housing prices across the state continue to rise, and many people in the Bay Area are being forced out. In San Francisco, low wages and increasing home prices ($2,795 average for a one bedroom, $4,222 for a two) are forcing hundreds of school teachers and paraprofessionals to leave. Rents have skyrocketed in Oakland, with many forced to work two or three jobs just to get by and many people, most from poorer black neighborhoods, being pushed farther and farther away.

 

As the wealth gap (and therefore the life expectancy gap, literacy gap, education gap, etc.) increases, the class differences in society become increasingly pronounced. The ruling elite must maximize profit and maintain social control, and an increasingly repressive state is needed to control people as they are thrown into deeper and deeper poverty; a brutal economic system requires a brutal state to defend it. In step the police, who in California have time and time again been exposed as agents of the status quo who rape, murder, and pillage with impunity.

Social Control

The Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland largely in response to police brutality against working class blacks. One of the many tactics of the Panthers – dubbed public enemy number one by J. Edgar Hoover – was to police the OPD. Armed with guns, pencil and paper, and citizens’ rights leaflets, Panthers would follow OPD cars, stop whenever they stopped, and make their presences known to the officers. (It’s no surprise that the nation’s first gun control laws were passed in California – with help from then-governor Richard Nixon and the NRA – to take guns away from the Panthers). Since 2000, Oakland cops have killed 90 people – 74% working class and black.

In 1996 a group of four OPD officers – the “Rough Riders” – began a spree of violence that led to $11 million in settlements and 90 cases being thrown out. In 2000, all four officers were charged with terrorizing and beating suspects, planting evidence, and making false arrests over the four-year period. (An all-white jury would later clear the four officers on eight counts and deadlocked on the remaining 27). Since 2003, the OPD has been overseen by a federal monitoring board (labeled “independent” but currently led by a former Rochester police chief) and mandated to make certain reforms – changes the OPD consistently fails to make.

In 2009 Oscar Grant was killed by a shot to the back from Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer Johannes Mehserle (video).

Throughout 2011 Occupy Oakland protestors were routinely harassed and beaten by police, and agent provocateurs infiltrated encampments. Protestor Scott Olsen was nearly killed by a non-lethal round to the forehead (video). Officers covered their name tags with black tape, illegally detained several reporters and protestors, and abused and denied council and medical care to many of those in custody. Settlements for police abuse during Occupy Oakland have topped $6 million, a portion of the nearly $74 million the city has spent since 1990 to settle over 417 lawsuits against officers – the largest sum spent by any police department in California.

In November of that same year, UC Davis police officers harassed and pepper sprayed protesting students (video).

In 2014 a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer was filed savagely beating a 51-year-old black woman. No charges were filed (video).

In March of 2015 A Los Angeles cop executed Charly “Africa” Keunang with at least two “contact gunshot wounds” (muzzle of the gun pressed directly to the skin) to the chest. Keunang had been living on Skid Row, one of the most impoverished areas in the state.

On December 2 San Francisco cops executed Mario Woods firing squad style as he walked away from them (video).

In June of 2016 the OPD faced a PR setback when department practices of sex trafficking and statutory rape became impossible to hide. The now well known incident involved “at least fourteen Oakland police officers, three Richmond police, four Alameda County sheriff’s deputies, and a federal officer.” Mayor Libby Schaaf is scrambling to keep her job.

Less than three weeks ago police in Castaic shot and killed William Bowers, a homeless white man riding a bike.

Social Control

This is the reality of life in California, the great liberal Golden State – extreme wealth for the ruling class and its ilk, a sliver of mobility for a lucky few, increasing immobility for many, and dire poverty for the rest. Police officers in California have free reign to terrorize and control the majority of the state’s population in order to enforce foreclosures and displacements, protect private property, and crush political dissent. While women, those gender nonconforming, and people of color are particularly vulnerable to the state’s racist and divisive filth, all those who sell their labor power in order to make a living are susceptible to state violence. The lumpenproletariat and reserve pool of labor are deemed criminal and rendered vulnerable to the full brutality of the capitalist state.

As the wealth gap in California becomes more pronounced – as school budgets are further slashed, housing prices rise, medical expenses increase, social services are gutted – the police will be tasked with subduing an increasingly politicized working class. Already, the police are being given new weapons to control the masses. The battle lines have long ago been drawn around the class divisions in society, and the current mood is captured well in advertising for Urban Shield 2016: “Intense Training for Intense Times.” (Urban Shield is a cesspool of police and military grade weapons. All are encouraged to protest Urban Shield on September 9).

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A ruling class always seeks to do two things: increase profits and maintain social control, using all forms of coercion available.

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“Capitalism’s Perfect Storm”

This pamphlet, written in 2008, just as capitalism’s economic crisis was really setting in, shows how “human” caused global warming is a misnomer; it is capitalist-caused, it flows directly from the very mode of functioning of capitalism itself. The pamphlet also draws a link between this environmental crisis and the then-developing economic crisis. In a series of appendices it also analyses the main scientific explanations for global warming, the arguments of the “scientific” denialists and gives the financial and political ties of these denialists. Much of this material is more or less settled today, but it some readers might find it useful.
perfect storm not laid out

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