Fixed Elections and the “Shining City on the Hill”

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

Clinton and Trump "debating"

Clinton and Trump “debating”

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

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

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

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

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

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

You think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

That "shining city on the hill" and the reality

That “shining city on the hill” and the reality

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

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

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Black Panther Party Founded 50 Years Ago


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Union Carpenters Losing Their Pension

The carpenters pension plan in Western Washington is going down the tubes. This comes after the carpenters pension plan has already been abandoned in Alaska. Here, Bill Knowles explains part of the reason why. I think there are a couple of things that should be added to what he says:

1)On the failure to organize: This is not because the union leadership hasn’t invested money into what it calls “organizing”; it’s because they are going about it in the completely wrong way. They are hell-bent on keeping the contractors happy rather than fighting for the members. So how can they overcome the resistance of the contractors if they can’t and won’t mobilize their own members in a serious way, when “serious” means disrupting construction?
2)We should add to the three reasons that Bill Knowles mentions a fourth one: As part of their strategy of keeping the contractors happy, they settle every contract on the cheap. As a result, they are not forcing the contractors to put enough money into the pension plan.
What is happening in the Pacific Northwest, what has already happened in Alaska is just the warning for all of the union and, in fact, for all the building trades. As part of the union leadership’s determination to keep the contractors happy, they are determined to relieve the contractors of any responsibility for the unfunded liability of the pension plans throughout the US and Canada. Either organize to fight to change the direction of our union or lose it all!
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US Politics: Ground Shifting Beneath Our Feet


While the corporate media is focusing on the most recently revealed personal outrages of Donald Trump, something far more important is going on beneath the surface: Corporate America – the US capitalist class – is moving more decisively towards the Democratic Party.

Republican Party
In the past, there has been a division of labor between the two parties. When the major sectors of the capitalist class decided that the time was ripe to decisively attack workers, including to ratchet up the oppression against people of color, women, immigrants, then the Republican Party was the weapon of choice. For years, they had built this party from one that had been called so small you could fit all the members of a country club into it. From that status, as they needed to build a populist base, they recruited the religious fanatics, racists and xenophobes, all the better to use populist issues to broaden their attacks.

Democratic Party
On the other hand, the Democrats were their plastic shield. Under the death grip of the compliant leadership, the unions were sucked into the Democratic Party as were minorities under attack, those who wanted to resist anti-immigrant policies, etc. Corporate America used this wing of the Democrats to ensure that nothing really effective – an independent working class response – developed. But it was never possible for the working class to capture, to gain control, over the Democratic Party. In other words to convert it into a workers’ party.

Because of the Democrats’ base with the union leaders, leaders of community groups, etc., the Republicans in general were more reliable and therefore preferred by Corporate America.

Money Talks
Now all this is starting to change. As they say, “money talks”, and Corporate America is doing its talking with its money. As the Wall St. Journal (9/9/2016) reports: “From agriculture to Wall Street, employees in most business sectors are backing the Democratic presidential candidate over the Republican, a reversal from the 2012 election…. Of the $36 million donated by corporate employees to the two major presidential candidates’ campaigns in May, June and July, the Democrat received $31 million—roughly six times what was donated to Mr. Trump…


It is exactly when such political shifts happen at the top that a space opens up from below. What, for example, will the union leaders have to say once Hillary Clinton is elected (which is almost certainly what will happen) and she moves decisively to attack workers? What will the leaders of the different community groups who backed Clinton have to say? It’s not as if her past history didn’t give us a warning, after all.

Meanwhile, the protests from below will continue, especially around the issue of the police. Clinton may also be confronted with the Native American protest blocking the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Reform the Democrats?
Then we have the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democrats, which was always about building the liberal wing of that party. Now, for example, he has organized his own 401K-type group, “Our Revolution” which is backing hundreds of other liberals throughout the country.  All Sanders’ talk about a “political revolution” was never anything more than that. That is why it was such a huge mistake, a betrayal of principles, for socialists to support him. The question is not one of this or that issue – minimum wage, college debt, etc. – but of class power and of the necessity for the working class to have its own party.

Kshama Sawant and Bernie Sanders

Kshama Sawant and Bernie Sanders

Those socialists such as Kshama Sawant, who supported Sanders, are now suffering the hangover: They could not explain that the Democratic Party was one of the two parties of Corporate America – the US capitalist class – and that the key task in the present period was for workers to build their own party, a working class party. How could they explain that and support a Democrat at the same time? They couldn’t then, and they still can’t. Instead, they talk about a “party of the 99%” as opposed to the Democratic Party “establishment.” Not the party as a whole, but just its “establishment.

The Next Four Years
Hillary Clinton is likely to be the most repressive president in recent history. What choice will she have as she pursues the corporate agenda in a time when US capitalism is moving into increasing conflict with Chinese and Russian capitalism, and when a likely economic downturn hits? What choice will she have when protests like the Native American protest against the pipeline and protests agains the police, etc. are likely to mount? What choice will she have after having encouraged Corporate America – the US capitalist class – to even more decisively seize full control over her party?

It’s impossible to predict what form it will take, but it’s difficult to imagine how continued protests will not tend to directly take up the issue of the capitalist monopoly over US politics. It’s difficult to imagine how the movement will not move from simply protesting what the corporate politicians of both parties are doing to moving to build an alternative political power base.


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Capitalist Predators – Sexual and Otherwise

unknownIt would be interesting for somebody to do a study on the connection between those responsible for the most predatory practices of 21st century capitalism and the capitalist sexual predators.

That’s what was lost in last night’s “debate” between Clinton and Trump, and for good reason.

Trump’s “Forgotten” Comment
The clue in the “debate” was the fact that both the capitalist media and the capitalist politicians have tried to ignore the most blatant comment of Trump’s now-famous tape: “And when you’re a star (or a billionaire), they let you do it. You can do anything.”

Just as Trump “forgot” to mention what is really most scandalous (on the personal level) about Bill Clinton: His long association with Jeff Epstein.


Jeffrey Epstein
Epstein is the millionaire who made his fortune speculating on Wall Street in the 1970s. A truly respectable and caring capitalist, he funded genetic research into such diseases as Alzheimer’s and Crohn’s disease and gave major donations to the American Cancer Society. In the decades that followed, Epstein set himself up in a mansion in Florida where he held parties attended by well known scientists and other like Prince Andrew, Katie Couric, George Stephanopoulos, Charlie Rose and Woody Allen.

Then the covers came off.

In 2000, a 14 year old girl made a criminal complaint about Epstein’s using those parties as sex parties and how he recruited a whole ring of underage girls to have sex with. (He also reportedly had a whole series of hidden cameras throughout his house to record the carrying-on of his guests… the better to blackmail them with!) Convicted on a single count, he got off lightly with an 18 month sentence. Since then, Epstein has apparently continued with is practices.

Bill Clinton was a frequent flier on Epstein's "Lolita Express"

Bill Clinton was a frequent flier on Epstein’s “Lolita Express”

These include use of his private jet, known as the “Lolita Express” to fly dignitaries around the world, including to his private island in the Caribbean known as “Sex Slave Island”. The jet was tricked out with a bed and Epstein’s stable of underage girls was aboard. Bill Clinton was a frequent flier on the Lolita Express.

Why didn’t Trump mention all of this? Simple: Because he, too, has hung out with Epstein! 

Just as these capitalists are raping the planet, looting and destroying, so they are raping young girls. There must be a psychological link there.

As for the rest of the “debate”: Like the previous one, and like the presidential “debates” between Obama and Romney, the issue of global warming didn’t come up once. That about says it all.

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Breakdown of world order

Newly elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. He threatens to kill 2 million drug addicts and dealers.

Newly elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
He threatens to kill 2 million drug addicts and dealers.


Colombians rejecting a peace deal with the FARC that was highly desired by both the majority of the Colombian capitalist class as well as international capital.

Now the rise of the idiot “Pirate Party” in Iceland.

And in the Philippines, there is a president who threatens not only to switch allegiance from US capitalist domination to Chinese capitalist domination; he also is comparing himself to Hitler and threatening to assassinate 2 million drug users and a call center worker I recently talked with said she thinks he’s “good” and in regard to the threat to kill the 2 million “he doesn’t really mean what he says.”

It seems that all around the world, not only is the global (capitalist) order breaking down, so are the arrangements within capitalist society that keep capitalism functioning on an even keel. It’s not that workers were benefiting from the previous order, but the breakdown threatens to be at least as much if not more harmful.

And this doesn’t even begin to take into account the rise of religious fundamentalist, sectarian strife, wars like that in Syria, etc.
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Corbyn reelected as leader of British Labour Party

While in the US all eyes are turned to the presidential election, an important election was held in Britain. There, the left leader of the Labour Party was reelected. He won reelection despite a rigged campaign by the rest of the LP leadership that would make Debbie Wasserman-Schultz proud. Among other things, over 100,000 members of the LP were expelled – every one a Corbyn supporter. Roger Silverman, one of those expelled for sharply criticizing the right wing leadership, reports from London

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn

The re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party with a strengthened mandate is a sign of the change that has transformed British society. After decades of relative stability, political life in Britain is now in turmoil. In last year’s general election, the briefly fashionable Liberal Democrats were virtually annihilated, and the Scottish Nationalists swept from relative obscurity, with just six MPs out of 59 Scottish seats, to a near-monopoly of 56. Now the ruling Tory party is reeling from the shock result of the Brexit referendum, following which the prime minister resigned overnight, and the party is riven with barely concealed splits. Most significant of all is the transformation of the Labour Party, which has more than trebled its membership in a matter of months as hundreds of thousands of working people and youth have joined to elect a left leader and begin to restore it to its class roots.

“New Labour”
This transformation of the Labour Party represents a decisive rejection of the legacy of the Blair years. With Blair’s accession as Labour leader in the mid-1990s, there was an influx into parliament of career politicians owing little or no allegiance to the Labour and trade union movement. This process accompanied a conscious tactical manoeuvre by the ruling class. The Conservative Party had become discredited beyond foreseeable repair by popular revulsion at the effects of a decade of Thatcherism, and subsequently by the disaster of Black Wednesday in 1992, when the value of the pound sterling crashed. The decision was taken to abandon temporarily the Tories as the traditional political instrument of the establishment. For the first time, corporate donations poured into New Labour, with a mandate to carry onward under a new banner, along with some minor reforms, the Thatcherite crusade of privatisation. For the first time in its history, the Tory party found itself starved of funds; media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch became miraculously transformed into champions of Labour; and for the first time ever, under its new pro-business leadership Labour won three elections in a row and ruled for three full terms, from 1997 to 2010.

These Blairite MPs explicitly adopted an identity very distinct from Labour’s socialist traditions, proclaiming themselves explicitly as a separate party (“New Labour”), and expunged the socialist aims embodied for eighty years in the Party constitution, ditching in words as well as deeds time-honoured principles to which previous leaders had had to pay at least nominal lip service, such as defence of trade-union rights, an aspiration towards public ownership, and opposition to colonial wars. It was only following the financial catastrophe of 2008 that the New Labour project was deemed to have outlived its usefulness. Corporate support for Labour was unceremoniously withdrawn, funds began once again pouring into Tory Party coffers, and the media switched to vicious and unrelenting ridicule of Blair’s successor Brown.

This left the spent political residue of Blairite MPs – a beached whale if not quite a rotting carcase – awkwardly sprawled across most of the Labour parliamentary benches, lacking either the confidence of the newly regenerated Labour ranks or the patronage of a ruling class to which they have largely outlived their usefulness, except as an obstacle to the democratic rights of the Party membership. All that is left to them is to cling on to their careers in parliament. The ferocity of their resistance to the spectacular revival of Labour’s membership is due to the fact that they are fighting not just for discredited political ideas, but for their very livelihoods.

“Blinded with own delusions”
Blinded with delusions in their own status, these MPs have now precipitated their own downfall. It was they who opened the electoral floodgates to allow non-members to vote in leadership elections, deluding themselves that the wider electorate would always flock to their support against the left; some of them even nominated Corbyn as a leadership candidate in the mistaken belief that he would be trounced in any leadership vote and the left humiliated for evermore; and even after Corbyn had already proved them wrong by winning the leadership by a landslide, it was they who imagined that they could still bring him down in an orchestrated back-stabbing coup by resigning en masse from the Shadow Cabinet, hoping that the left would crumple under their pressure.

At every stage they showed themselves blind to the change sweeping Britain and the world. In their insulated Commons cocoon, what they had failed to notice was the new mood of revolt, in Britain taking the form of a wave of determined but scattered local grass-roots protests against housing evictions, hospital closures, etc., and most spectacularly the unprecedented strikes of hospital doctors. They have now perversely precipitated their own terminal crisis, by wantonly undermining a democratically elected leader who already enjoyed the biggest mandate in the party’s history.

It is the new mass influx into the party which has transformed the political outlook.

Jeremy Corbyn speaking to 10,000 in Liverpool

Jeremy Corbyn speaking to 10,000 in Liverpool

According to some surveys, Corbyn’s contemptible challenger Smith had won a small margin among that minority who had been members prior to 2015; but overall Corbyn won overwhelming majorities in all three sectors: among full party members, registered supporters and affiliated trade unionists. His victory is all the more impressive when account is taken of the outright sabotage practised by the party officials surviving from the Blair years, who grossly and blatantly rigged the vote, disenfranchising up to 200,000 party members through the imposition of arbitrary membership deadlines, targeted suspensions amounting to a wholesale purge, and even plain vote-stealing. Behind these machinations stood the unanimous hysteria of the media, from the BBC and the Guardian rightwards, who let loose an unprecedented barrage of baseless smears of intimidation, sexism and even anti-Semitism.

Right Wing’s “Magnanimous” Offer
Now that Corbyn is confirmed more overwhelmingly than ever as leader, the entire establishment is clamouring for the winning side in this contest to throw away its victory in a one-sided gesture of reconciliation which would leave the defeated MPs in place for perpetuity. They have magnanimously offered to resume their places in Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet… in return for just one favour: a guarantee of jobs for life. By demanding a ban on the right of local Labour Parties to hold democratic reselections of Labour candidates in future elections, they are insolently putting the onus on Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters for avoiding the coming split in the Labour Party which they themselves have made inevitable.

Labour today is a reinvigorated mass party, already numbering more than 600,000 members. They must insist on their right to select candidates who reflect their interests. They seem to have conjured up a new dogma: the divine right of Labour MPs. It is those who deny their members simple democratic rights who are paving the way for a split.

Social Democratic Parties of Europe
The old parties of social-democracy that had in more affluent times succeeded in winning partial concessions and reforms are today in terminal decline all over Europe: Greece, Spain, France, Germany, Scandinavia… In Britain the eclipse of New Labour and the influx into the Labour Party of workers and youth eager to transform it is a particular local variant of this same worldwide trend.

Programme Needed
What matters now is to formulate a programme adequate to the challenge. Winning and then reaffirming the election of a left leader is only the beginning of a long hard bitter struggle. With the active connivance of the ruling class, the right wing of the Labour Party has succeeded easily in outmanoeuvring the left, by springing clever traps in reshaping the composition of the National Executive Committee, fixing the election of conference delegates, manipulating conference procedures, etc. So far the programme of Corbyn and his chancellor McDonnell is confined to inspiring visions (a universal living wage, free lifelong education, a million new homes, etc.), but rather more modest immediate practical proposals, limited to renationalisation of the railways, limited curbs on the utility companies, etc. There are no proposals even for the nationalisation of the banks. Among the population there is a widespread thirst for far more sweeping measures.

Yes, Corbyn’s decisive mandate has generated genuine hope for the first time in decades; but on its own, hope is not enough. Now it is time to launch a debate at every level about how that hope can be vindicated and translated into deeds. Momentum (a Corbyn-led campaign mainly inside the Labour Party) has arisen spontaneously as a mass left movement within and alongside the official Labour institutions, but it has yet to develop a structure and a constitution, and above all a socialist programme. In their absence, it has already lost impetus and needs to catch up fast. The time for cheerleading is now over. What Corbyn and McDonnell need now is not just passive support but active participation in a democratic debate drawing in the whole revived movement.

Roger Silverman

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Kshama Sawant on the Presidential “Debate”

Kshama Sawant speaking with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. How different are Sawant's politics from those of Amy Goodman?

Kshama Sawant speaking with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. How different are Sawant’s politics from those of Amy Goodman?

For socialists, a major part of participating in capitalist elections should be to use them as a public forum to bring forward a socialist perspective. First and foremost in the US, that should mean most clearly stressing the class question. Even if you’re not running for office, commenting on the elections should play that role. Kshama Sawant had that opportunity when she was on “Democracy Now”, commenting on the Clinton/Trump debate. (See it here starting at about 2:50.20) Yet it was precisely in that role that Sawant fell short, in addition to saying some things that aren’t really true.

Inaccurate criticisms
Maybe to compensate for missing the central issues, Sawant hit Clinton/Trump inaccurately. She said that “the real issues (were) completely off the table” in the debate. That’s not strictly true. They both talked about jobs and wages, the police and racism, and even war. And Clinton made some attacks on Trump for his “trickle down economics” and made some popular appeals to boosting the income of “the middle class”, talked about graduating college “debt free”, etc. Clinton also attacked Trump for his open appeals to racism.

Sawant also claimed that this was a debate between the Democratic and Republican Parties’ “establishment”, but that is very mistaken; the whole point of Trump is that he is not part of the Republican Party establishment, who have been horrified at his primary victory.

Dual Approach
Sawant seemed to take a double approach. On the one hand, she said “we totally understand” a “safe state” strategy of voting for Clinton in states where the race is close. She talked about the necessity of defeating Trump and said that “there is a very clear difference between Clinton and Trump.” In the context of this election, many listeners would definitely take that as encouragement to vote for Clinton, and Sawant knows it perfectly well. While she did attack both for serving “Wall Street”, this still leaves open the idea of voting for Clinton as the lesser evil.

While she pumped up “the left” taking the lead on such issues as stop-and-frisk, she attacked “the Democratic Party establishment.” She advocated mass movements organizing “themselves independent of the Democratic (Party) establishment”. Given how

Sawant with local liberal Larry Gossett: Have her links with these local liberals force Kshama Sawant to compromise all-out opposition to all Democrats and the entire Democratic Party?

Sawant with local liberal Larry Gossett:
Have her links with these local liberals forced Kshama Sawant to compromise all-out opposition to all Democrats and the entire Democratic Party?

Sawant in the past has defended local Democratic Party liberal Larry Gossett as not being part of the “Democratic Party establishment”, this leaves open supporting the “non-establishment” (meaning the liberal) wing of the Democratic Party, as she has in local races in Seattle as well as in her support for Sanders. It is tempting to support these “non-establishment” Democrats, but historically, time and again, movements for a working class alternative to the Democratic Party have been diverted into the Democratic Party exactly through this wing – the liberal wing – of the Democratic Party.

Choice of Words
It is exactly in her choice of words – referring to “Wall Street” rather than the capitalist class, calling for a “a left alternative, a party of the 99%” or “third party politics” rather than a working class or workers’ party – that we see the real failing of Sawant. Especially in the US, where clarity on the class issue, on the irresolvable conflict of interest between the working class and the capitalist class, is relatively weak – especially here that is the issue that should be really clarified in crystal clear terms. Not by talking about “Wall Street” and the “99%”, but by referring to the capitalist and the working classes. Or at the very least as big business or Corporate America and working class people.

The importance was most clear with all of Trump’s bragging about having built such a great company – a point that Clinton (and all Democrats) are powerless to answer. Only a socialist can really explain the issue — “how can we expect a boss of bosses to serve the interests of the workers”? That should be the starting point. But by blurring the class question, Sawant too cannot and did not really answer Trump.

One of the main functions of socialists participating in elections should be to clarify these important issues. Most of all, to clarify the issue of socialism vs. capitalism. But Sawant never tried to contrast these two systems, never explained that it’s a systemic problem workers are facing.

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Clinton/Trump: A “debate” among capitalists


I am sick to death hearing about “America” this or “we” that, as in “America wants to control the Middle East” or “we invaded Iraq.” Especially when it comes from other socialists. No, it was the US capitalist class who made these decisions and who seeks to profit from them.

That may seem like a strange starting point for commenting on the “debate” between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but it really is the key. That’s because what was missing from the “debate” was any sort of class perspective. In other words, what’s missing is a radical, “class struggle working class political party“.

Trump Tax Returns
Take, for example, the sparring over Trump’s refusal to reveal his tax returns. Clinton said that maybe they would reveal that he paid no taxes. “That makes me a smart business man,” Trump shot back. Clinton had no answer. Why? Because the only real answer would have been: “No, it makes you part of the capitalist criminal conspiracy that bribes the politicians of both political parties to write a tax code that allows you to get away with murder.” 

Free Trade
It was the same on the more substantive issues. Trump attacked Clinton over the various free trade deals, and implicitly attacked free trade in general. He pointed out how manufacturing is migrating to low wage countries like Mexico and China. Clinton responded by claiming the benefits of trade for “all of America” (or some similar words). What can’t be pointed out by either of these capitalist candidates is that free movement of capital is inherent under capitalism. It’s simply the search for the greatest return on investment, meaning thrusting the world working class into ever greater competition for who will work for less and who will allow greater environmental degradation.

Then there was the discussion about government regulation of business, something which Trump denounced. And Clinton talked about less regulation on small businesses. In other words, they both support giving business the greater freedom to loot and plunder to their pocketbook’s content. Nobody said, “Deregulation? Take a look at Flint, Michigan. Take a look at the poisoning of the air, land and water. That’s what you mean when you talk about deregulation. That’s what Corporate America really wants.” They didn’t say it because they can’t; they both represent Corporate America.

Racism & “Law and Order”
Then there was the racist picture Trump painted of the black community as being some sort of war zone with bullets flying this way and that all over the place and thugs roaming the streets uncontrolled. That picture has been painted by both parties for years, and it has an effect. (I know people today who are afraid to come to Oakland because of that. Well, until recently, anyway. Nowadays the yuppies are moving in.) Trump calls for “law and order”, the phrase that was first popularized by the racist segregationist George Wallace and later taken up by both major parties. The answer should have been: “Law and order? What has that meant? It’s meant beating protesters nearly to death, machine gunning striking workers, and now it means allowing the cops to continue to run rampant.” Both candidates agreed that the police forces are composed of “many hard working and honest cops.” Maybe they should take a look at Oakland, where the entire force has been involved in the scandal involving the sexual abuse of “Celeste Guap”, an under age teen ager.

Class Conflict
Most important of all is Trump’s claim that being a successful capitalist qualifies him to carry out the interests of working class people. Clinton doesn’t dispute this, because as a representative of the other capitalist party, she too bases her politics on this.

Jill Stein
Would Jill Stein have provided a clear working class perspective? Not really, although it would have been a start. Can the Green Party evolve into a working class party? In fact, can a radical working class party even win major elections in the United States? Given how workers – all workers – here have been propagandized, how the very idea of open class conflict has been avoided like the plague, it would be an uphill struggle. But we have to begin somewhere.

A “Brexit” Outcome?
Meanwhile, we are faced with the perspective of one candidate who appeals to the desire for semi-stability and the other who appeals to blind, infantile anger. It’s still hard to imagine that that second candidate can win, but he’s making the same appeal that the supporters of Britain leaving the EU (“Brexit”) made. And few thought they would win either.

An Egyptian and an American worker in Tahrir Square. "Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win."

An Egyptian and an American worker in Tahrir Square.
“Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win.”

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

Support IUPAT #10 Workers Party Resolution! Sign the Petition


Sign the petition to support the union resolution for a “class struggle workers party”!

That’s what Painters Union Local 10 in Portland OR is calling for. (See below.) They point out that “the 2016 presidential election offers us the ‘choice’ between a raving, bigoted clown and a career representative of Wall St.” and that “the Democrats and Republicans have always been strike-breaking, war-making parties of the bosses.” They point out how both parties are complicit in the “police… regularly murder(ing) black men and women with impunity.”

A workers party could help unite and mobilize the US working class. It could bring together movements like those against racist police murders, against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the labor movement, and could help clarify the program that is needed to resolve these issues. It could help really put socialism on the agenda.

That’s why the resolution of IUPAT Local 10 must not be allowed to fall into the black hole; it must not be forgotten. Oaklandsocialist is circulating a message of support for individual to sign. We will send it to Local 10. Please sign it online here, and/or print out our petition to collect signatures among your co-workers, comrades, etc. (Note: If you sign online, if you don’t mind, please include the city or town where you live in the “comment” section, along with any other comment you might want to make.)

This can be a first step. Let’s make this real!

Printable petition: petition-2-pdf

Resolution for a workers party from IUPAT Local 10. It would be a first step towards fighting the wave of police terrorism.

Resolution for a workers party from IUPAT Local 10.
It would be a first step towards fighting the wave of police terrorism.


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

Crutcher Update: PCP “Found”

We all knew it was coming: Now, the police are claiming they found a vial of PCP in Crutcher’s car. Even if they did, it’s irrelevant; they’re just using that to distract attention from what they did. But, aside from that, how seriously can we take their claim?

The police “find” all sorts of things. Take, for example, the OJ Simpson case, where they  “found” the bloody glove in Simpson’s car. The claim was that this was the glove Simpson was wearing when he allegedly stabbed Nicole Brown, thus proving that he was the culprit. The glove was “found” by the cop Mark Fuhrman, who was a proven and dedicated racist. There was just one little problem: Simpson’s hands are so large, he couldn’t get them into the glove!

Can anybody reasonably doubt that Fuhrman planted the glove?

Then there is the case ongoing right now in St. Louis. In December of 2011, two cops – Jason Stockley and Brian Bianchi – tried to arrest Lamar Smith on suspicion of dealing drugs. Smith fled in his car. As the cops gave chase, Stockley is recorded as saying “Going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it.” (Previously, Stockley is seen waving around an AR-47 rifle – his own personal weapon that is not authorized by the department.) After Smith’s car crashes and he is stuck in the car, Stockley then reaches into the car and does exactly what he said he’d do: he shoots and kills Smith. He is then videotaped returning to his cruiser, rummaging around in a bag in the back of the car, and bringing a pistol and planting it in Smith’s car!

Mark Fuhrman (left); Jason Stockley (right) These two cops clearly planted evidence. The only unique thing about them is that we have the evidence they did. Is this what happened in Crutcher's case? Will we ever know?

Mark Fuhrman (left); Jason Stockley (right)
These two cops clearly planted evidence. The only unique thing about them is that we have the evidence they did. Is this what happened in Crutcher’s case? Will we ever know?

No, Bernie Sanders is the one who is lying when he says most cops are honest and hard working. They make up a criminal conspiracy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Terence Crutcher: Police a vast criminal network

What does it take to put an end to this police crime wave, this wave of police terrorism?

That is the question we must ask after the latest (known) outrage – the police murder of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, who was returning home from the criminal activity of attending a music appreciation class when his car broke down. The video clearly shows that he did nothing that could be even remotely interpreted as being threatening. Yet the cops’ attitude is clear from the start, when one of them is heard to say, “that looks like a bad dude, too. Probably on something.” Why? Simply because Crutcher is guilty of being a black man living in the USA.

Police Crime Wave
The crime wave of the police is showing no signs of abating. On the contrary, after all the freeways blocked, all the other protests we still have 837 people killed by cops in the US this year as of Sept. 30. Why?

Cops “Right About Everything”
Interim Chicago police chief Eddie Johnson gave a glimpse of what’s happening when he took office back in March of this year. “The officers right now are confused a little bit. They’re hurt. They went from being right about everything to now being under enormous scrutiny, and not just in Chicago, that’s across the country,” he said.

“They went from being right about everything” to being under scrutiny. That says a lot. Until recently, with all the “law and order” politics, the police were held up as being super-heroes, incapable of doing wrong, defenders of all the “law abiding” (white, middle class) blackpeoplemorelikelytobekilledpeople in the country. Nothing they did would even bring scrutiny, never mind criticism. It’s not only that they thought they were above the law; they were above the law. And they still are. (Why, for example, has the murderer of Crutcher, Officer Betty Shelby, not been arrested? There certainly is enough evidence to suspect she’s guilty of murder.)

A Palestinian child murdered by fascist Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Not only do liberals like Bernie Sanders cover up for and defend the police here, they do the same as far as Israel is concerned.

A Palestinian child murdered by fascist Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Not only do liberals like Bernie Sanders cover up for and defend the police here, they do the same as far as Israel is concerned.

A Few Rotten Apples?
All the corporate controlled politicians, even the most liberal, try to maintain this reverence for the police. That includes Bernie Sanders, who has commentedThe vast majority of police officers in this country are honest…” and bragged that as mayor of Burlington VT he “worked very closely and well with police… (who are) honest, hard-working people.” The image Sanders and other left liberals portray is that the problem is simply one or two “rotten apples”.

This is an outright lie. Even in the most mundane of cases, the police lie and fabricate, as for example in the case of a young man who had his cell phone snatched by the cops because he was (legally) videoing them. Having forgotten to turn off the phone, they can then be heard talking among themselves, trying to figure out how to fabricate charges against him. Just as with the Tulsa cops, these are ordinary, every-day cops — the “honest, hard-working” ones that Sanders and other liberals talk about.

Build a Workers’ Party!
Mass mobilizations, including mass civil disobedience, are necessary, but clearly it’s not enough. Not when the entire corporate-controlled political system from liberal to ultra conservative is covering up for the cops. What’s needed is for this movement to protest against the cops to start to link up with the protests against environmental destruction (like in North Dakota), and other issues affecting working class people. This can only be done through the organizing of a political party – a workers’ political party.

The Painters Union (IUPAT) Local 10 has taken a small first step in calling for exactly this. When we start to make this a reality, then we will be in a position to start to really fight back against this wave of terrorism in blue.

Update: We see that the cop who assassinated Crutcher has been arrested. That is only because of the video (vs. testimony of other witnesses – i.e. the other cops) and the public pressure. She should have been arrested on the spot!

Second: If you agree that the unifying of working class people to fight all the attacks of capitalism – racism, environmental, economic, etc. – is needed, please go here and sign the petition in support of this resolution.

Resolution for a workers party from IUPAT Local 10. It would be a first step towards fighting the wave of police terrorism.

Resolution for a workers party from IUPAT Local 10.
It would be a first step towards fighting the wave of police terrorism.

Posted in racism, repression, Uncategorized, United States | 2 Comments

Multicare: “Healthcare for profit’s got to go!”

Multicore workers and supporters protest outside restaurant of

Multicare workers and supporters protest outside restaurant of Luke Xitco, who is board member of Multicare. Note that some protesters are wearing masks. These are Multicare workers who don’t want to be victimized. “Free speech” at work in the US!

Multicare is a privately owned “non-profit” that owns and operates a chain of hospitals and clinics throughout the Pacific Northwest, among them Tacoma General Hospital. Many of the workers for Multicare are represented by UFCW Local 21, WSNA (nurses), SEIU 1199 NW, and Operating Engineers 286. Like most employers nowadays, Multicare has been engaged in attacks on its workers, including successfully eliminating a pension plan for new employees as of almost 15 years ago. In a more recent contract, after it was settled, they tried to cut the health benefits they’d agreed to – an attempt that was such a blatant contract violation that even an arbitrator ruled against them!

On-Call Workers
Another attack on workers living standard is being carried out by their increased use of on-call workers. These workers have no guaranteed hours, meaning that if they speak up they can be penalized by simply having their hours reduced. They also don’t get health benefits.

Multicare At It Again
Now Multicare is at it again, trying to cut health benefits. A spirited group of workers and their supporters recently picketed outside two restaurants which are owned by one of the board members of Multicare. A member of the local explains: “Our recent union contract agreed to have our pensions frozen. Now they want to make me pay more for health care. I’m getting older. This plan would cut into how much I’m able to save for retirement. For the lower paid workers this would have more immediate effects.

This is the same story as many other union contracts: They more you give, the more they want to take away. The fact that the strategy of the union leadership at best has no answer to this only demoralizes members even more and makes them feel even more alienated from the union. They are now putting all their eggs in the Hillary Clinton basket, while she has proven her value… to Corporate America.

  • The members who organized the protest at Luke Xitco’s restaurants have the right idea.The first step union leadership could take would be to call for a meeting of the members, families and supporters of all the workers for Multicare.
  • This would be a step towards linking up with different community groups to truly build massive protests, where they connect what’s happening at Multicare with the need to take profits out of the healthcare industry – for a publicly run national health care system.
  • Also, at this election time, we should follow the lead of IUPAT Local 10, which is calling for a mass workers party.

These steps would be a start in reversing the offensive of US and world capitalism.

Posted in health care industry, labor, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IUPAT Local 10: “build a class struggle workers party”

“We call on the labor movement to break from the Democratic Party, and build a class- struggle workers party.”

So reads the conclusion of a resolution passed by IUPAT (Painters Union) Local 10 in Portland, Oregon. At a time when many white union members are supporting Trump, this call from Local 10 is the answer. We urge all members of other union locals to bring up motions to send IUPAT Local 10 letters of support for their resolution. A follow-up step could be for the locals that support this position to jointly call for a conference, along with community groups such as those protesting against the police, the Native Americans protesting the North Dakota Access Pipeline, etc. in order to take the first steps towards making this a reality.

The full resolution reads as follows:

No Support to the Democrats, Republicans, or Any Party of the Bosses

Whereas the bosses have two parties to represent their class while the millions of working people have none, and

Whereas the Democratic president Barack Obama sent the U.S. Coast Guard to enforce scabbing against the International Longshore and Warehouse Union during the 2013-14 lock-out of northwest dock workers, and

Whereas the Democratic governor Kate Brown opposed and undercut the movement for a $15 minimum wage across Oregon, and

Whereas in 2014 Democrats in Congress joined with Republicans to pass a disastrous pension “reform,” allowing the bosses to escape their obligations and cheat our retirees, and

Whereas the two presidencies of the Democrat Barack Obama have been eight years of unending war in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, causing untold human suffering, millions of refugees, and attacks on our democratic rights at home, and

Whereas the Democratic Party in power has deported some 5 million immigrants, a record, and

Whereas across the country, from Oakland to Baltimore, police under Democratic mayors regularly murder black men and women with impunity, and

Whereas the 2016 presidential election offers us the “choice” between a raving, bigoted clown and a career representative of Wall Street, and

Whereas the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, Virginia governor Tim Kaine, supports union- busting “right to work” laws, and

Whereas Democrats and Republicans are and have always been strike-breaking, war-making parties of the bosses, and

Whereas so long as the labor movement supports one or another party of the bosses, we will be playing a losing game, therefore be it

Resolved that IUPAT Local 10 does not support the Democrats, Republicans, or any bosses’ parties or politicians, and Resolved that we call on the International Union to repudiate its endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, and Resolved that we call on the labor movement to break from the Democratic Party, and build a class- struggle workers party

Approved at the August 17, 2016 Regular Meeting of the Membership


Posted in labor, politics, United States | 2 Comments

Nationwide Prisoners Strike; Remember Attica

Greetings from the entire PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives. We are hereby presenting this mutual agreement on behalf of all racial groups here in the PBSP-SHU Corridor. Wherein, we have arrived at a mutual agreement concerning the following points:

1. If we really want to bring about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all solid individuals, who have never been broken by CDCR’s torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing, that now is the time to for us to collectively seize this moment in time, and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups.”

With these opening words, California prisoners announced an end to racial hostilities as they moved to struggle for their rights back in 2012. Now, a new movement is afoot. On September 9, prisoners across the United States struck to protest their conditions. They chose that date because on Sept. 9 of 1971 prisoners rose up at Attica State Prison in New York to demand their rights. Many were brutally gunned down and many survivors were tortured.

Across the nation, rallies and protests were held in support of this new movement. Here in Oakland, a rally was held on Sept. 10. Here is a video of the rally:

Defend Prisoner Rights

  • For full union rights for prisoners
  • Prisoners to be covered by minimum wage laws
  • End solitary confinement and all forms of abuse and torture of prisoners
  • Full voting rights for prisoners, ex-prisoners, and all those under court supervision
  • End overcrowding
  • Real job training and guaranteed job upon leaving prison


Agreement to end racial hostilities.

Agreement to end racial hostilities.


Posted in racism, rebellion | Leave a comment

Notes on the work of Theodore Allen & Lerone Bennett Jr.



The work of Theodore Allen (The Invention of the White Race, 1994 & 1997) presents a powerful argument for class as the underlying unifier in capitalist society and against ‘race’ as an inherent division amongst working class people. Allen’s work – to which he devoted the majority of his 85 years of life – describes how and why the colonial ruling class in American taught European-Americans workers to love their skin as “whites” and turn against their class brothers and sisters from Africa. Today, says Allen, the capitalist ruling class continues to crush working class movements by appealing to an “all-class” invention of their own making – “white supremacy.” Allen’s work on the creation of “white supremacy” as a social control formation and its use by the ruling class today fits nicely with the work of Lerone Bennett (The Shaping of Black America, 1975).

In 1607 the first European settlement is proclaimed in Jamestown, Virginia. The Europeans were not identified as “white” and the majority were indentured servants who were brutalized by the colonial ruling class – the owners of land, wealth, and the indentured. European indentured servants were maimed, held in shackles, and often tried to run away. George Washington bought white servants and used them as laborers. Says Bennett on the history of white slavery: “Although great care has been taken to hide the fact, black bondsmen inherited their chains from white bondsmen…to understand what happened to blacks…one must first understand what happened to whites…for they ran the first leg of the marathon of American servitude.” In short, African laborers were placed into a preexisting system of social control, complete with all the familiar stereotypes (white indentured servants were described as lazy, stupid, and inherently inferior) and forms of brutality normally associated only with black labor.

The first people from African arrive to North America in 1619. They come with a similar social status as European laborers – “free men and women temporarily bound for service.” They labor alongside Europeans and some Indians and are acutely aware not of skin color but of the differences between classes. Blacks are integrated into a system of labor that has nothing to do with their color until a crisis of authority prompts the colonial ruling class to create a “race problem” and a more robust and expansive social control buffer based on supposed differences between “blacks” and “whites.” Says Bennett: “One of the most striking features of this colony…was the relative absence of color consciousness.” White colonists had “no concept of themselves as white men” and “the word white, with all its burden of guilt and arrogance, did not come into common usage until the later part of the century.”

The first black person in English America dies in 1622-23. A year later there are 20 or so black people in Jamestown, a number of whom have served their years of servitude and are now free. These free blacks buy property, start families, and purchase other servants of African and European origin.

By 1649 there are some 15,000 English and 300 “Negroes” is colonial America. The word “white” has not been attached to Europeans, and Negro is still a national designation that has no connection to skin color. The divisions in society are between masters and servants – and there are blacks and whites in both categories. The majority of Europeans and Negroes are indentured servants. There are numerous examples of comradery and friendship between indentured servants from Europe and Africa: they run away together, sing and dance together, and have children together. There were prejudiced individual, but there was not yet a social structure built on racism and white supremacy – the ruling class didn’t have the need for that yet. Race had not yet been placed over class.

Says Bennett: “Back there, before Jim Crow, before the invention of the . . . white man, and the words or concepts to describe them, the Colonial population consisted largely of a great mass of . . . [European American and African American] bondsmen, who occupied roughly the same economic category and were treated with equal contempt by the lords of the plantation and legislatures. Curiously unconcerned about their color, these people worked together and relaxed together. They had essentially the same interests, the same aspirations, and the same grievances. They conspired together and waged a common struggle against their common enemy – the big planter apparatus and a social system that legalized terror against . . . bondsmen. No one says and no one believes it was a Garden of Eden in Colonial America. But, the available evidence . . . suggests that there were widening bonds of solidarity . . . And the same evidence indicates that it proved very difficult indeed to teach white people to worship their skin.”

Bacon’s Rebellion takes place in 1676. Says Ted Allen: “Bacon’s Rebellion demonstrated beyond question the lack of a sufficient intermediate stratum to stand between the ruling plantation elite and the mass of the European-American and African-American laboring people, free and bond. It began in April 1676 as a difference between the elite and the sub-elite planters over “Indian policy,” but by September it had become a civil war against the social order established by the land-engrossing plantation bourgeoisie. When Bacon’s forces besieged, captured, and burned the colonial capital city of Jamestown and sent Governor Berkeley, scurrying into exile across Chesapeake Bay, the rebel army was composed mainly of European-American and African-American bond-laborers and freedmen recently “out of their time.’” The ruling class at all times seeks to maximize wealth and maintain social control. (The two go hand in hand, as the more wealth is extracted off the backs of the working class, the more social control is necessary to keep them from revolting). The crisis of social control exemplified in Bacon’s rebellion sends a message to the ruling planter class (the owners of land). A new governor appears in Jamestown, who argues: “There must be an alteration though not of the Government yet in the Government.” The ruling planter class, he says, must find a manner of rule that will “agree with the common people.”

The solution is the creation of “white supremacy” in order to fool poor whites into hating their black class comrades and siding with the European planter class on the basis of skin color. Where there is unity there must be disunity. Says historian Philip Alexander Bruce: “toward the end of the seventeenth century” there occurred “a marked tendency to promote a pride of race among the members of every class of white people; to be white gave the distinction of color even to the agricultural [European-American limited-term bond-] servants, whose condition, in some respects was not much removed from that of actual slavery…” Whites are taught to take pride in their skin and blacks are taught the opposite. The entire working class is suddenly split in two – black and white – and the idea of race is invented to replace country of origin and smash class identification. The ruling class creates a race problem where there wasn’t one to begin with, because race did not exist as a social construct. Says Allen: “The white race, and thus a system of racial oppression, did not exist and could not have existed in the 17th-century tobacco colony because of class solidarity between working class European Americans and African Americans, absence of an all-class coalition of European-Americans against African-Americans, and the lack of an intermediate buffer social control stratum.”

How to teach white people to love their skin? Sticks and carrots. A series of laws strips blacks of the right to vote (they had it and exercised it previously), proclaims them servants for life (slaves), strips them of legal protections, and in general dehumanizes them. Poor whites aren’t given much, except the ability to police these new black slaves (the origins of modern police forces) and a few new freedoms. In general the vast majority of whites are still very poor and still bond servants – but at least they aren’t black, goes the new ideology. By and large poor white servants fought against the destruction of class cohesion, and for that they were killed alongside their black comrades. Says Bennett: “The whole system of subordination rested on official state terror. The exigencies of the situation required men to kill some white people to keep them white and to kill many black people to keep them white…The severed heads of black and white rebels were impaled on poles along the road as warnings to black people and white people.” Whites and blacks that resisted the imposition of white supremacy were also branded, castrated, and roasted over open fires.

In this way the ruling class creates what Allen calls a “social control formation” of poor white laborers – a group of people not of the property holding class who are given just enough (and a great deal in comparison to the deteriorating condition of blacks) to think there is something progressive about being white. Once the white ruling class has created a social system capable of conditioning poor whites into seeing race and not class (i.e. a racist society), there is a call to bring more whites to the colonies to strengthen the social control buffer. A 1698 law of South Carolina offered the captains of ships 13 pounds for each white servant imported and required every owner of 6 black slaves buy at least 1 white slave. 1711 South Carolina governor asks Britain to send more whites at public expense.

Once the ruling class had created this social control buffer, they were free to extract even more wealth from the indentured servant population by enslaving blacks (“more money could be made from the employment of lifetime hereditary bond-laborers”). Many white indentured servants continued to labor, but many more found it impossible to survive when put into competition against slave labor. Says Allen: “By the closing third of the eighteenth century this process had produced a situation in which at least 60 percent of the white adult men in Virginia were non-owners of bond-labor. Among that 60 percent were those encountered by the Marquis de Chastellux as he travelled through Virginia in spring 1782. For the first time in his three years in America, “in the midst of those rich plantations,” he often saw “miserable huts … inhabited by whites, whose wan looks and ragged garments bespeak poverty.” It seemed clear to him that the cause of this poverty was the engrossment of land by the plantation bourgeoisie.” For this reason and countless others to come in the future, Allen describes creation of the social control buffer and the subordination of class to race as “ruinous” for blacks and “disastrous” for European-American workers.

Since its creation, the ruling class has used race and white supremacy to destroy class cohesion. The myth of white supremacy – as opposed to class supremacy, which really exists – is reinforced by all levels of the state through “a material basis in the form of deliberate systems of race privileges for white workers” (see the National Housing Act of 1934, in which only 100 of the first 67,000 home mortgages were given to blacks). Certain privileges do exist for white people in America, but ultimately there are no racial privileges under capitalism – only class privileges determined by wealth and ones relationship to the means of production. The south, for example, is supposed to be the home of white supremacy. As such, we’d expect white people of all classes to be doing very well. But that’s not the case, as poor white southerners are among the poorest and sickliest in the country! So where is this “race privilege” for white workers? Where is this great promise that the ruling class promised poor whites all the way back in the late 17th century? Is it in Huntington, WV, where 26 people overdosed in four hours? Maybe it’s in Flint, MI, where poor blacks and whites were knowingly poisoned by the state? Maybe Cody Franklin, who joins the list of over a thousand people killed by the state each year, knows something about white supremacy. The key is that white privilege does not exist because it is counter to white’s class interests. Ultimately white and black workers suffer or rise together. If one can be paid less, so can the other. All workers feel the wrath of the ruling capitalist class. Some – white workers – have just been given just enough to be tricked into thinking they share a connection with the ruling class. The ruling class will always look to blame the problems of capitalism on workers, and tell white workers that those “other” workers are the problem.

Allen says that the capitalist ruling class uses the poison pill of white supremacy each time a crisis in capitalism drives workers together. Each time, white workers are offered just a small leg up over their black comrades – the choice is made by white workers whether or not to take the poison pill; whether or not to sacrifice their class interests for a reward that cannot free them from the bonds of wage slavery and alienated labor. As capitalism’s crisis becomes deeper and more frequent, the ruling class is able to offer white workers increasingly less.

How did the ruling class maintain social control post the rebellion of 1676 in the face of class solidarity? By appealing to the hopes of poor whites to break apart class solidarity. Said Sir Francis Bacon: “[I]t is a certain sign of wise government…when it can hold men’s hearts by hopes, when it cannot by satisfaction.” The rulers must go about “dividing and breaking of all factions and combinations that are adverse to the state, and setting them at distance, or at least distrust among themselves.”

Allen’s understanding of race and white supremacy – as a ruling class social control concepts based off immediate need of maintaining power, that there is no inherent animosity between black and whites, that class unity existed before the advent of race as an intentional tool of obfuscation – runs counter to ideas old and new. One idea is that there is no part of human nature that mandates racial discrimination (see comments made by Carl N. Deglerand). Another is that a non-historical, and thus unbreakable, barrier exists between a “white America” and “black America” (see the work of Michael Eric Dyson, among others). Such a view intentionally disregards class and presumably lumps together the leader of the capitalist state and military, Obama, with black victims of police terror. Finally, there’s a tendency to assume racism is something that can be changed by turning inwards and conquering internal biases (see YahNé Ndgo and most university level classes on race). But if racism and white supremacy are tools used by a ruling class, then the solution to racism is not shaming people but ending class society. The only way to ever rid our society of racism is to target the root, the idea (and it is an idea because supremacy under capitalism is based on class, not race) of white supremacy. But white supremacy will always remain an important tool (Allen says the most important tool) in the hands of the capitalist class, and therefore always exist, so long as the capitalist class still exists. You can’t fight racism without fighting to end capitalism, and you can’t fight to end capitalism without fighting racism.


Posted in Marxist theory, racism, Uncategorized, United States | 1 Comment

North Dakota Protest and Organized Labor

Many on the left have been inspired by the protest of Native Americans and their supporters against the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have been horrified at the recent use of police dogs by private security to attack these protesters.

Not so much the union leadership. Look at this letter they sent the governor of North Dakota, urging him to “enforce the letter of the law”. What a disgrace!


But what can you expect from a union leadership that brings out the likes of Mark Breslin or “Chef Bob” to preach to members about how they should work harder, a union leadership which honors a top capitalist as “union person of the year”, a union leadership which on a daily basis sides with management when they have a dispute with a rank and file member? (See here.)

Meanwhile, all too many socialists try to ignore or minimize the significance of this approach of the union leaders in the hopes of getting some support from these same leaders for some campaign the socialists are working on.

Years ago, Daniel deLeon called these leaders “the labor lieutenants of capital” – in other words, that they represented – were the lieutenants of – capital (the employers) within the labor movement. That is ever more so today. Socialists should be leading the effort to build opposition groups within the unions, not trying to curry favor with these lieutenants.

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

Political Shifts and the Unions: Labor Day, 2016

“Labor Day” is traditionally the official opening of US election campaigns. In this presidential election year, it is useful to compare the state of affairs of the two main parties of big business – the Republicans and the Democrats – with the state of affairs of the labor movement and its leadership.

Gerald Seib, chief Washington correspondent for the Wall St. Journal, has pointed out regarding the two main capitalist parties:A realignment of the two major political parties is under way…. A great sorting out has begun.”  This shift indicates a shake-up in the strategy of rule of Corporate America – the US capitalist class – as a whole. Its previous “rule from the center” was based on a widespread (although never unanimous) view that US capitalism was secure, stable and able to rule the world. From the rise of the Islamic State abroad to the rise of student debt and the stagnation (or worse) of wages at home, that perception is crumbling, creating a mounting crisis within the two main parties of big business. This will inevitably mean major political changes as a whole.

And the US labor movement?

Having evolved in the time of anti-communism and the post WW II economic boom, when class relations were somewhat softened, the US labor leadership clings desperately to the memory of this gone-forever world, and the more sharply workers – most especially union members – are attacked, the more desperate and futile are their efforts. What is happening in the building trades is an example – but only an example; it is definitely not unique:

A construction job in progress. Despite a building boom, the building trades membership has shrunk.

A construction job in progress.
Despite a building boom and increased overall employment, employment of unionized building trades workers has shrunk.

Building Trades Unions
Despite a massive construction boom, the building trades unions continue to be unable to stem the union busting tide in the industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2009 – when construction was in a slump – to 2015, nearly 500,000 more construction jobs were added. Yet the total number of union workers on the job actually declined from 1.130 million members to 1.049 million, a decrease from 16.7% to 14.8% of the overall construction work force who are union members. This decline confirms what Robert Gasperow of Construction Labor Research predicted back in 1999: “Holding their own in market share is the best they can hope for,”  he said…. “Unionized employment will keep climbing during the next decade but will be just barely equal to the rate of growth in non-union sector,” (as quoted here.) In fact, his prediction was overly optimistic; things have actually gotten worse!

This is partly due to the ridiculous “organizing” strategy of the building trades leadership, where they actually even bother to try. The Carpenters Union is one of the most aggressive in this field, but their method is to send “organizers” to watch the non-union jobs and pick out the carpenters who seem to be the best trained and approach them and offer them a union job. Sometimes they actually take a union contractor along with them to let that contractor decide who he or she wants to hire. This is known as “stripping”, and it might cause some temporary problems for one or another non-union contractor but overall it cannot stem the union-busting tide, as the statistics show.

Partly because this approach is failing, the building trades leadership is responding by trying to cannibalize on the each other. Several of the different trades have established “helper” categories (instead of the traditional apprentice or journey person), at wages little above $15/hour. This means cutting into the work of the Laborers, whose leadership is doing the same by setting up trade schools to teach their members some of the skills of the other trades.

Decline in % of union membership by industry. Even during the economic expansion, this decline continues.

Decline in % of union membership by industry. Even during the economic expansion, this decline continues.

From New York City to San Francisco to Seattle, union carpenters are reporting that major non-union commercial jobs are springing up in a way never seen in many decades. And if this has been a failure during boom times like the present, what will happen when the next slump inevitably hits? Then, union members will be dropping out like flies.

Union "organizer" Jay Bradshaw, shaking hands with cop as he tries to send striking carpenters back to work. The carpenters were wildcatting against a rotten contract that Bradshaw's boss had pushed through.

Union “organizer” Jay Bradshaw, shaking hands with cop as he tries to send striking carpenters back to work. The carpenters were wildcatting against a rotten contract that Bradshaw’s boss had pushed through.

A major factor that binds building trades workers to their union is the investment in work hours they have made towards their pensions. But that same pension is a major problem for the contractors. Partly due to changes in the law in 2014, we have seen a dramatic increase in the “unfunded liability” of “multi-employer” pension plans such as those of the building trades. (The “unfunded liability” means what the experts figure the plan will have to pay out in pensions in coming years vs. what is funded or figures to be coming in based on current rates.) This means that the signatory contractors are potentially on the hook for many millions of dollars, which gives them an even greater incentive to get out of their union contracts.

And the union leadership? It has responded by moving to drop the pension plans!  Already the Carpenters Union leadership in Alaska has done so and there is a move afoot to do the same in the Pacific Northwest region. (Of course, there is no such move for the fat International pension that goes to all full time union officials.) As the pension plans shrivel and die for the rank and file carpenter (but not the pension for full time officials), there will be one less incentive for these workers to stick with the union, especially when the current boom ends.

Team Concept
Meanwhile, the leadership furthers the myth that the union workers are on the same “team” as the union contractors, as opposed to the “team” of the non-union contractors and workers. As Bob Alvarado, executive secretary treasurer of the Northern California Regional Council of Carpenters wrote in the July issue of their journal, “training… (is) what sets us apart from every nonunion company and construction worker we compete with.” In other words, all we are is small business people selling our goods (our labor power), and we have to give a better deal to our buyers (the unionized contractors) than do the non-union workers. We are on the same team as the (unionized) employers.

From the Keystone Pipeline in the Mid-West, to the building of a methane processing plant in Tacoma to the building of a coal storage and shipping facility in Oakland, the building trades union leadership supports any construction anywhere, so long as it will bring in dues money.

Mountain top removal. It doesn't matter how disastrous the environmental consequences, if it bring in dues money, the union leadership will support doing it.

Mountain top removal.
It doesn’t matter how disastrous the environmental consequences, if it bring in dues money, the union leadership will support doing it.

This is nothing new. Many years ago, this writer told his union business agent, “if they were going to build a jail to put all union members in, you guys (the carpenter union business agents) would be in favor of it, as long as it was built union.” The business agent thought for a few seconds and then denied it. But the key was that he had to think for a few seconds first!

Corporate Propaganda and Union Consciousness
Unable to think independently from or in opposition to the employers as far as organizing,  the economy, or even as far as the relation of the union to the employers and society in general, the building trades union leadership has resorted to actually bringing on board a union-busting lawyer and “motivational speaker” to provide the main motivation and strategy to their minions – the second line leadership. In conference after conference, convention after convention, from the Carpenters to the Electricians to the Boilermakers, the union busting lawyer Mark Breslin is paid to lay down the line.

Mark Breslin. This union-busting con artist is paid big bucks by the building trades union leadership to lay down an anti-union, pro employer line.

Mark Breslin.
This union-busting con artist is paid big bucks by the building trades union leadership to lay down an anti-union, pro employer line.

Here is what the Boilermakers have to say about Breslin: “His (Mark Breslin’s) book is an everyday guide…. The essential theme running through the book is that for union construction to survive and recapture lost market share, individual union members must step forward and prove everyday they are the most skilled, most reliable, and hardest working employees available. They must demonstrate that their level of excellence justifies higher compensation than their nonunion counterparts. And they must become walking billboards for union excellence both on the job site and in the community.

“In short, to survive in the 21st century construction industry, individual union workers must change, adapt, and be the “fittest” of all workers.

In other words, the union leadership is putting out the most anti-union propaganda imaginable!

Wider Labor Movement
The building trades union leadership is not any different from the rest. A grocery clerk at Lucky’s, for example, recently complained to this writer about how she’d had a conflict with her manager and how the union representative came down to the store, spent an hour or more talking with the manager and then told the clerk that the manager was right. The union rep never even bothered talking with the member before making a decision! And the UFCW is forcing down the throats of its membership one rotten contract after another, complete with wages that are below $10/hour and falling. Meanwhile, they are bringing the same types of speakers to “motivate” the members. Sarah Morken, UFCW shop

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka. One one side, he is already making concessions to Donald Trump's racism and xenophobia, saying he's "scraped the rust off our political system" and complaining that Trump was too "meek and quiet" in Mexico. On the other hand, Trumka is giving unqualified support to corporate shill Hillary Clinton, fostering the illusion that she can be counted on to oppose trade deals like the TPP and claiming that Clinton “will be full partners (with the unions) in rewriting the rules of the economy,”

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka. One one side, he is already making concessions to Donald Trump’s racism and xenophobia, saying he’s “scraped the rust off our political system” and complaining that Trump was too “meek and quiet” in Mexico. On the other hand, Trumka is giving unqualified support to corporate shill Hillary Clinton, fostering the illusion that she can be counted on to oppose trade deals like the TPP and claiming that Clinton “will be full partners (with the unions) in rewriting the rules of the economy,”

steward in Tacoma, for example, reports that at a recent area-wide annual shot steward conference the leadership brought in as a motivational speaker a restaurant owner named “Chef Jeff” to provide the same message as Mark Breslin provides the building trades. And not so long ago, UFCW Local 8 leadership honored as the Western States Council’s “Union Person of the Year”  Bob Piccinini, chairman and majority stockholder of Save Mart Stores. Yes, an employer was honored as the union person of the year! Nor are things any different in the SEIU, where the International president acted to ensure that a local union president who protected an employer whose foreman tried to rape a female union member remain in office* and where one of the foremost “progressive” union reps, David Rolf, explains that “we always want to offer an olive branch… to employers of good conscience.

Effect on Membership
From their refusal to seriously try to organize to the inevitable growth of union busting,

It’s also why the great majority of union members feel alienated from their unions and aren’t even interested in attending union meetings. In some areas, many members don’t even know the name of their union! On a more practical basis, the above mentioned Lucky’s store clerk not only complained about her union representative, she also complained that her fellow workers wouldn’t stand up for her. And how could they be expected to, after all, when they’d been subjected to all the corporate propaganda as well as corporate-friendly contracts year in and year out — by their own union leadership?

Coming Change
The current situation cannot last forever. The union leadership largely bases its rule on the way that the employers – the capitalist class – has ruled over US society in general. But as the Gerald Seib quote above shows, this very method of rule is shifting, not by “choice” but because the tensions are starting to become unbearable. From the precarious (at best) situation of the younger generations to the wave of murders carried out by the police – many of which are racist in nature – the situation is getting worse and with it the consciousness and the mood is starting to change.

Meanwhile, as we have shown, the union leadership has, if anything, doubled down on their old way of controlling the unions. But this old way of control was based not only on the old way of rule by the employers; it was also based on the general mood and consciousness in society. This means that their way of control cannot last.

The 1999 SF Bay Area carpenters wildcat strike. They struck against their own leadership. Actions like these will play a role in transforming the unions.

The 1999 SF Bay Area carpenters wildcat strike.
They struck against their own leadership. Actions like these will play a role in transforming the unions.

Active union members don’t have to wait until the changes are so intense that something bursts; they can and should help prepare the way by organizing opposition caucuses within their unions based around a program that includes:

  • For unions that really fight for the members, both for good contracts and for membership rights and contract enforcement on a daily basis. This includes a fight for a drastic reduction of the standard work week with no loss in pay to compensate for the huge increases in productivity due to automation.
  • All union officials on the average pay of the members they represent, directly elected by those members and subject to immediate recall. Union contracts voted on by the members at general membership meetings where the pros and cons of the contract can be discussed by the rank and file.
  • Link the fight for better contracts with a crash organizing program.
  • For a mass mobilization that returns to the methods of the 1930s – the work-place occupations, mass picket lines, and mass defiance of the police, the courts, etc.
  • Link up with and mobilize the membership to support the struggles against racism, including police racism and brutality, against environmental destruction, gentrification, etc.
  • Through these links, run local independent candidates for office who openly and explicitly oppose the Democratic and Republican Parties and what they stand for. This would be a first step towards breaking with the corporate-controlled Democratic Party and building a mass workers party in the US.
  • Internationalism in deeds, not just words. Build direct links between workers across national borders in order to take joint action, including joint strikes. In today’s global economy, nothing less will do.

As elections 2016 approaches, and workers are offered the choice between a total corporate shill and a racist, xenophobic demagogue, this is the lesson we should drive home on Labor Day.

*- see interview with Amelia Vassar here.

working class one fist copy

Posted in labor, Uncategorized, United States | 1 Comment

Remember Theo Colborn!

Today, human health – in fact, the health of all species – is under assault from a great variety of sources. These range from fracking to production of a huge variety of synthetic chemicals, most of which go untested except for whether they produce cancer or not. has proven time and again that it cannot and will not take any meaningful steps to reverse this assault. That is why it is up to the working class to take matters in hand. But it cannot do this without understanding the science involved.

Dr. Theo Colborn

Dr. Theo Colborn

That is where Theo Colborn comes in. A former pharmacist and then a sheep rancher, Colborn went back to school at the age of 58 to earn a Ph.D. in zoology, with minors in toxicology, epidemiology (the spread of diseases) and water chemistry. Due to her cross-training, she was able to develop a new understanding of how different synthetic chemicals affect the different systems of the body, most especially the endocrine system. (This is the system that produces the different hormones that regulate almost everything of the development and functioning of the body.)

Her work is summarized in her wonderful book, “Our Stolen Future”. (Read a review/summary here.) In 2003, Colborn went on to play the central role in the founding of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX). She was then 76 years old! She continued researching, writing and speaking and was one of the first scientists to warn the public of the dangers of fracking.

TEDX home page

TEDX home page

This year marks the 25th anniversary of endocrine disruption science, a discipline which Theo Colborn did so much to found. The anniversary is marked by short summary of its history as well as the story of that great figure, Theo Colborn. Along with Robert F. Williams (author of “Negroes with Guns”), it will always be a great regret of mine that I never got to meet this great hero, Theo Colborn, who died in 2014.

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Military Vet Supports Colin Kaepernick

A huge brouhaha is being made over the courageous stance of 49’er quarter back Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the US National Anthem. Maybe those making this fuss should consider the words of US Marine Corps Brigadier General Smedley Butler:

“I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”

“I helped in the raping of a half dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall St…. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We marines operated on three CONTINENTS.”
US Marine Brigadier General Smedley Butler, 1881-1940 (For more from Butler, read his essay “War is a Racket“.)

Or maybe the should just listen to Ricardo, a military veteran I know, who volunteered his thoughts while he was sitting at Jack London Square:

(Also see the comments on racism and harassment of Ricardo and his buddy, Gregory, in this video.)

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

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:

Posted in Oakland, racism, videos/documentaries | Leave a comment

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.


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.

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 – 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.


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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 “” 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.

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

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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.


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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

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.)

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.

(Note: Since that time, we did go to Philadelphia. What we experienced there confirms everything this article explains. A report on that visit can be found here.)

*- 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


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.


“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.

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Clinton’s E-mails: The Real Issue


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.

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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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

Posted in Europe, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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

A bit of nature, and a bit of history.

Posted in Europe, John Reimann's personal blog, war | Leave a comment

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”).


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


“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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

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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Debate within Socialist Alternative

The open support for liberal Democrat Bernie Sanders by Socialist Alternative provoked a debate within that group back in the first part of 2016. In response, the leadership of Socialist Alternative sent around an internal document defending their position. 

A few former members of Socialist Alternative were given that document and we produced the following response (see below). In it, we drew the link between the support for Sanders and the direction that Kshama Sawant had been taking for several years. Here is our comment. Although the debate within Socialist Alternative has more or less been settled (with several branches leaving since then), we think the debate has some general lessons that can be useful. For that reason, we are publishing it at this time:


Letter to Socialist Alternative Opposition:
Seeing Support for Sanders in Context

The authors of this open letter have received copies of Socialist Alternative’s Members Bulletins numbers 69 and 70. These documents reveal the existence of immense fissures caused by the leadership’s particular strategy around the Sanders campaign. In November of 2006, Socialist Alternative published a statement analyzing and giving warning to the Green Party, at the time fractured over a split on a Ralph Nader campaign.

“From their beginnings up to the present, the Greens have been wracked by internal debates over their political program, their relationship to the Democrats, their internal structures, and their class orientation. Many of these questions came to a head in the 2004 race when deep divisions arose over whether they should endorse Ralph Nader or David Cobb as their presidential candidate.

The Cobb wing supported a “safe states” strategy of not consistently challenging John Kerry to avoid enraging their friends in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. They came out on top at the 2004 Green Party convention. However, probably half or more of Green Party activists supported Nader and his running mate Peter Camejo, who launched Greens for Democracy and Independence (GDI) after the convention.

The left wing of the Greens, grouped around GDI, correctly argued against the capitulation to “lesser evil” politics and that the Greens’ national internal structures were undemocratic. They have also had a more working-class orientation.” (

Many parallels are present then, in terms of the necessary debates needed over the political program of Socialist Alt., their relationship to the Democrats, internal structure, and class orientation. The open discussion and debate within Socialist Alt. on the direct support for Bernie Sanders is a healthy sign of a continuing revolutionary tendency within the organization. As former members of Socialist Alt., or of its predecessor (Labor Militant), we would like to contribute to this important discussion. The recent departure of the New Orleans branch from Socialist Alt indicates what could happen in branches across the country. However that may be a best case scenario, given the continued activity of the group as the Louisiana Socialist Network. Unfortunately, generations of radicalized individuals have gone through a process of disenchantment with revolutionary politics, burnt-out by bureaucratic methods and dead-end strategies. What this letter intends, is to initiate a discussion on the numerous missteps of Socialist Alternative, and to raise the idea that these are not various errors, but are tied to a common logic. This letter does not agitate for anybody to break from Socialist Alternative, although a break from a fundamentally wrong methodology is concretely posed by the very contradictions in that organization.

As the comrades were spot-on in raising in the members bulletins, the #Movement4Bernie campaign was birthed via bureaucracy. However while the leadership promise local discussion, the public image of the organization has, and will continue to be altered. The enclosing of debate within channels acceptable and controllable by leadership is cowardly and stands in contrast to the traditions of revolutionary Marxism, defined by the Bolsheviks as open debate (competing newspapers, long-term factions), and regular – not slate – elections. Political errors such as this, committed by a leadership eager to opportunistically capitalize on the possibility of new ranks of membership to correct a dire financial situation, are reinforced by system whereby membership are made unable to put the leadership in check when they find themselves distanced from the reality the rank-and-file engage in on the daily.

Seattle Leadership Priorities

No greater is this distance evidenced than in Seattle, where a recent leadership priorities list for 2016 was produced essentially thusly:

  1. *Movement4Bernie
  2. Recruitment
  3. Member Education

Only after pressure from a minority of members was a fourth item, regarding the housing crisis in Seattle, added to this list, but with no concrete steps detailed. What this reveals is the battle that must happen in every branch for resources between organizing for Sanders, and organizing for the working-class. Given the recent re-election of Kshama Sawant on the basis of a campaign run on fighting the skyrocketing rents across Seattle, it is shameful for someone who prides herself as not “actually” being a politician to be exactly like any other in this instance. To campaign on an issue, then ignore it in office – this is a political disgrace which lays at the feet of the leadership. A “Peoples’ Assembly,” further detailed below, was brought together in February of this year. This conference, dominated by Democratic Party politicians, underpinned the political concessions Socialist Alt. had made. Whereas previously they had campaigned on firstly city-wide rent control, then linkage fees (a form of property tax on construction), and lastly public housing, the Assembly made not even a mention of public housing in it’s run up. Last minute the topic of the Assembly was focused specifically on the crisis of homelessness in Seattle, and the solution Socialist Alt pushed for was a large increase in temporary shelter beds. It is greatly positive that seeking to expand public housing may now be an undertaking of the organization. However if the intention is simply to wage a propaganda battle or confine it in City Council channels, which will limit the gains greatly with limited struggle by ordinary Seattle workers, then that is hardly a campaign nor a victory. Nothing less than a “15 Now for democratically-run Public Housing” can be the rallying cry for socialists.

Kshama Sawant’s Victory a Victory for Socialism
When socialist Kshama Sawant was elected to the Seattle City Council in 2013, this gave Socialist Alt increased prominence and increased importance not only in the socialist movement in the US, but also to a small extent within the wider workers movement itself. It presented serious opportunities. But as is always the case, with every opportunity comes dangers and mistakes. While we think that some serious mistakes were made, we emphasize that Kshama Sawant’s election was a significant victory for the cause of socialism. Union members were reporting that her campaign had made it easier to raise the issue of socialism in their unions and that her victory had somewhat raised the fighting spirit of the members. It also helped focus attention on the demand for a $15/hour minimum wage. Likewise, the Bernie Sanders election campaign has undeniably opened up potential opportunities for revolutionaries to engage in a politically thinking section of workers and oppressed populations in a principled manner. However balance should be given, and has been by comrades in the MB, in acknowledging the co-optionary and conservatizing elements of the campaign as well.

Confusion Regarding Democratic Party
Politics is unforgiving, and mistakes, if uncorrected, have a way of multiplying. When Kshama was first elected, it seems that there was a lack of complete clarity on her role and relationship with the other city council members. On the one hand, she frequently warned about the dangers of a sellout, which is always important to be aware of. However, there was also some confusion from the start. She talked about the “Democratic party elite” rather than the Democratic Party as a whole. Philip Locker talked about having a “friendly” relationship with “her colleagues” on the city council. From the initial City Council election campaign, language referencing race as well as an explicit working-class orientation were removed from draft forms of the campaign plan. In other words, it was not totally clear to them right from the start that the entire Democratic Party represents the enemy class, or even on what class they would base the campaign on. This doesn’t mean that every minute has to be filled with shouting and open warfare, but through the leadership’s refusal to have a clear class-based approach, an increasing reliance on a section of the Democratic Party has been substituted for working-class militancy, which instead Socialist Alt distances itself from.

Confusion Regarding Union Leadership
The lack of clarity in relationship to the entire Democratic Party coincided with a similar confusion regarding the union leadership: There is a good reason that members’ alienation and anger towards that leadership has never been greater in over a half century. The entire leadership, including the “progressive” wing of it, is firmly locked into the position that they must help “their” employers compete with the non-unionized employers. That can only mean one thing: helping further thrust their members into competition with non-union workers for who can work cheaper. This violates the very reason for building a union, which is to help eliminate that exact competition, and the result is concessions on top of concessions, refusal to really enforce contracts, and outright repression of those members who dare to raise their heads above the parapet and demand a real struggle with the employers. This repression includes many measures, including colluding with the employers to discipline and even fire such “rebellious” members. Ironically, some of the so-called “progressive” union leaders at the national level – like Mary Kay Henry of the SEIU – are some of the worst when it comes to simple trade unionism. While some local leaders may claim to be “independent” and to oppose some of the policies of their internationals, it’s not possible to really do so without organizing the rank and file to build a base of members who are active and conscious and committed to fighting around these issues. Without this, all such “opposition” is merely talk and collapses the first time it is put to the test.

Collective Bargaining Opt-Out
The failure to appreciate this fundamental principle of union activity became a major stumbling block for S. Alternative and for Kshama Sawant at the April, 2014 nation-wide “15 Now” conference. There, the leadership of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (UNITE-HERE) union, came to the S. Alt. leadership with the demand that they accept a “collective bargaining opt-out” (CBO) for the hotel industry. In other words, non-union hotels would have to pay $15/hour but unionized hotels would be excluded from that requirement. The excuse given was that, in effect, the movement could not force unionized employers to pay a minimum wage of $15/hour and pay benefits too. The real reason was that they want to convince the employers that they will save money by signing a union contract. Directly linked to the refusal of the leadership to “Fight for 15 Now” plus full benefits is their absolute terror at the very thought of a real, mass mobilization of workers and youth, one similar to the famous example set in Seattle in the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO).

It may sound overly harsh or simplistic, but the acceptance of the union leadership’s insistence on this point has to be seen as nothing but the first step to outright acceptance of their violation of the very principles of unionism. This failure was followed by S. Alt’s. refusal to even consider launching a campaign among low wage union workers such as grocery store clerks to help them organize to demand that their union back 15 Now in Seattle and to try to use such a campaign to organize for a real, fighting UFCW in general. Then, over a year later, S. Alt. did worse than turn their back on 15 Now Tacoma, which was the only 15 Now group that took the slogan seriously and actually fought for an immediate $15/hr minimum wage: Not only did they isolate 15 Now Tacoma from 15 Now, nationally; when the King County Labor Council was getting ready to vote to endorse 15 Now Tacoma’s ballot initiative, Socialist Alternative members actively canvassed the council delegates to vote against endorsement! Despite all the excuses, the real reason was, once again, that they didn’t want to run afoul of the union leaderships there whose position was expressed by one of them as being that they “preferred to work with the business community.” The fact that the tiny forces of 15 Now Tacoma ended up winning something (a 26% increase in the minimum wage for all over two years) that was close to as much as what was won in Seattle was ignored by the comrades in Seattle.

The inevitable longer-term result has been that Socialist Alternative has more or less dropped the fight for a $15/hour minimum wage now, in favor of the union leadership’s “fight for fifteen” at some time in the future. An even more serious consequence has been that the enthusiasm that the election of a socialist to city council has largely collapsed among low wage workers. A member of SEIU Local 6 reports, for example, that among fellow janitors, whereas before several members were extremely enthusiastic about Sawant, within a year or so that enthusiasm had been replaced by distrust at best, partly because Kshama has made common cause with the dictatorial and hated president of the local.

Mass Movement From Below
The greatest fear of both the Democrats and of the union leadership is a mass movement of radicalized workers. Therefore, it was inevitable that the focus on the liberal Democrats and on the union leadership, the insistence on linking with this leadership, must lead to refusal to try to build or even directly link with even the beginnings of any sort of such mass movement of defiance, just as it meant refusing to try to help build a movement from below within the unions. We saw that in the refusal to support the opposition movement in SEIU Local 6 in Seattle/Tacoma. This despite a most rotten leadership that, among other things wouldn’t even defend a female member who was sexually assaulted at work by her boss! (When this betrayal by the Local 6 president was raised with Philip Locker, he – Locker – simply refused to believe it.)

This desire to keep the links with the liberal Democrats in particular caused the Socialist Alternative leadership to hold at arms’ length any sort of movement of mass defiance, for example in the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement. While nationally playing up language around criticizing Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, on the ground in Seattle, instead of trying to link up with the radicalized black youth, the Socialist Alternative leadership orientated towards the NAACP and the (conservative) black ministers. This mistaken approach then went further and was a warning of the future support for Sanders when Kshama gave an implicit endorsement of liberal Democrat Larry Gossett in February, 2015. In April, a number of Democrats were supported by Kshama to fill a vacant City Council seat, including a former NAACP and Urban League leader.

February, 2016 “People’s Assembly”: A Platform for Democrats
Recently in February of this year, a “Peoples’ Assembly” was convened with absolutely zero time given for working-class participation from the floor. Instead six elected Democrats were supported and given an uncritical platform to give speeches.

While the case of Socialist Alt openly supporting five Democratic candidates for Seattle City Council in October of 2015 is well known, what isn’t known is the depths to which the leadership fell. The South Seattle District 2 seat was contested in the primary by three individuals, Democrat incumbent (and winner) Bruce Harrell, Democrat Tammy Morales, and independent Josh Farris. Like Kshama, Farris was also known for his activist credentials, coming out of the Occupy movement leading an anti-foreclosure organization. His campaign openly supported Kshama, and referenced it in pledging to only take the average workers’ wage. His campaign was completely ignored, with the exception of a passing mention alongside the name of Morales, in a list of candidates who supported a housing platform Kshama put forward. Come October, only the campaign of Morales was highlighted by Socialist Alt. All other politics in that instance was subsumed under the single qualification of a toothless support for a platform which Kshama herself is no longer is acting on. It is in this context that the quivering criticism towards Sanders exists, where a front group could form whose website lists not a single criticism of Sanders.

History Rewritten
In the wake of this sharp turn towards the Democratic Party, it is unsurprising, though still shocking, to read of an attempted rewriting of history, where now the leadership is beginning to claim past mistakes in not supporting the potential Democratic Chicago campaign of Karen Lewis, or endorsing MXGM member and Mayor Chokwe Lumumba. Certainly Socialist Alt has been knee-jerk sectarian to the politics of Black self-determination, and is ignorant of potential developments in Jackson, Mississippi. However the central crime certainly was not caving to support a Democratic election campaign.

Jesse Jackson & Labor Militant: The Actual History
The historical alterations continue back to the 1980’s on the campaign of Jesse Jackson, where the leadership’s comments are completely erroneous. Labor Militant (the predecessor to Socialist Alternative) never had any consideration of calling for a vote for Jackson. Rather, LM initially called on Jackson to break from the Democrats and lead a movement for a mass labor party/workers’ party. The leading body of the CWI (Committee for a Workers International) criticized this by pointing out that it was a mistake to call on a capitalist politician to lead the workers’ movement. After discussion within Labor Militant, agreement was reached and the position was changed. Perhaps most shocking is their revisionist recounting of the position of the Bolsheviks regarding the Mensheviks. They compare the position of the Bolsheviks “call(ing) on the Mensheviks to take power” to the support for Sanders. The one has nothing to do with the other. The former amounted to a call on a social democratic party to overthrow the capitalist state by taking power through the workers’ councils; the latter is support for an out-and-out capitalist politician. It is hard to believe that the leading comrades in the organization don’t see the principled difference here.

In conclusion, here are a few demands to consider raising within Socialist Alternative:

  • Break from the liberal wing of the Democrats! Use the position of Kshama Sawant to organize to build a mass movement of defiance from below. Power must come from the working-class, not from career politicians, no matter how “progressive,” nor from top-down NGOs.
  • Withdraw support for liberal Democrat Bernie Sanders. Not supporting Sanders in no way means not trying to relate to the Sanders supporters.
  • Break from the union leadership, which represents the bosses and the Democrats inside the workers’ movement. Their entire strategy has alienated the membership from their own unions and has proven to be a complete failure. Help the rank and file organize to take back their unions, to transform the unions into fighting organizations that defend and advance wages and working conditions rather than collaborate with the unionized employers and divide union workers from non-union workers.
  • Put into action the call for 100 independent left candidates in the next election. Turn to the 1000s of individual local protest movements (around issues like police murders, lead in the drinking water, fracking, etc.) and encourage them to run independent left candidates with class-based grassroots campaigns at the local level as a first step towards coming together on the national level.

We urge those comrades who oppose Socialist Alternative’s capitulation to a wing of Democratic Party politics to consider where this important mistake comes from, and to make the connection between it and the general approach of the Committee for a Workers International. Comrades formerly in CWI sections from England to Bolivia have written material on the deficient and centrist approach of the International towards the state and the dual tasks of building both a revolutionary party as well as a mass party. The errors made globally illuminate upon the mistaken logic in the United States of Socialist Alternative. Neither staying in, nor leaving, the CWI makes one more or less a Marxist – rather it is the positions and principles upheld, and the methodology utilized. Utmost importance is chiefly on the identification of oneself as a Marxist and as a revolutionary above whatever party affiliation.

Mike Ladd
former member, Socialist Alternative
volunteer, 15 Now Tacoma
member and former shop steward and former executive board candidate, SEIU Local 6, Seattle/Tacoma, WA

Jordan Martinez
former member, Socialist Alternative,
(for more writings by Jordan Martinez, see
Jordan can be reached directly at:

John Reimann
former founding member, Labor Militant and former delegate, IEC
former recording secretary and expelled member, Carpenters Union Local 713, Hayward, CA
for more writings by John Reimann see
John can be reached directly at

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