Mumia on MLK Day

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

Monday 16 January 2017 at 10:45 AM

Meet us with the Labor Rising contingent at:

16th & Clay, downtown Oakland

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

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

About the recent Court victory:

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

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

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

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

Monday 16 January 2017 at 10:45 AM

Meet us with the Labor Rising contingent at:

16th & Clay, downtown Oakland

Posted in racism, United States | Leave a comment

You couldn’t make this s_t up!

Regarding the “golden shower” Trump rumors:

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

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

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Tulsi Gabbard: A New Democratic Party Star?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabbard with Narendra Modi

Gabbard with Narendra Modi

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

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

Gabbard with BJP supporter Vijay Jolly at their Atlanta conference

Gabbard with BJP supporter Vijay Jolly at their Atlanta conference

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

The RSS thugs. During WW II they supported Hitler.

The RSS thugs.
During WW II they supported Hitler.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Political Party: “Blueprint” or Perspectives?

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

We should start by considering the method.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Syria: Can Any Capitalist Force Provide a Solution?

Can any capitalist regime help the masses of Syrian people?

That is the question of the hour.

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

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

Assad's war against the people of Syria.

Assad’s war against the people of Syria.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How could the working class play an independent role?

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

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

working class one fist copy

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

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

Christmas in the trenches

The real meaning of a shared holiday:

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

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

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

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Trump, Assad and the US Left

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note:

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

Posted in socialist movement | 15 Comments

Debating an apologist for Putin/Assad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Farooq Tariq, Pakistan’s Working Class Hero

Posted in Asia, socialist movement | Leave a comment

Will be on the radio

To those who like the material on this blog,:

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

You can hear it live online at WRFU.net.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Carpenters Union Leader: “We will work with” Trump

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

mccarron-on-trump15122016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in labor, politics | 6 Comments

Rex Tillerson and Obscenity Laws

Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Posted in environment, politics | Leave a comment

Ghost Ship Disaster: The Hunt is On

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the real criminal.

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

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

Posted in Oakland, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trump: A Method to his Madness

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

That’s why they installed Obama.

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

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

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

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

Trump and the Specter Haunting Europe

human-body-endocrine-130701

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

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

What is the Endocrine System and Why is it Important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chemicals.

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

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

chemical-industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IUPAT Local 10: “Mobilize to Stop the KKK”

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

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

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

Posted in labor, rebellion | Leave a comment

Outlines of Trump Presidency

The outlines of a Trump presidency are starting to appear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DAPL, Federal Lands and “Jobs”

San Francisco rally in support of Standing Rock

San Francisco rally in support of Standing Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hands Around Lake Merritt

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

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AFL-CIO’s Weak Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Effect on Consciousness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Political Revolution” Revealed

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

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

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

sanders-for-ellison

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Thank you, Donald Trump

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

Meanwhile, here is what you’ve helped create.

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Protest Against Trump

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

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Fight Back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

working class one fist copy

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

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

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

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

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The Coming Mass Workers Party in the US?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check it out:

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Berkeley Protest of Arrests at Standing Rock

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

 

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

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

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Organize in the Building Trades to Support Standing Rock

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

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

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Support Labor for Standing Rock

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

 

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South African students resume their fight – and face repression

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

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

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

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

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

Students Organize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battle of Braamfontein

Battle of Braamfontein

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

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

A witness describes happened at a night club:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley Fataar
Keep Left

South Africa

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

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

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Whatever Happened to “Our Revolution”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fixed Elections and the “Shining City on the Hill”

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

Clinton and Trump "debating"

Clinton and Trump “debating”

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

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

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

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

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

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

You think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

That "shining city on the hill" and the reality

That “shining city on the hill” and the reality

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

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

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Black Panther Party Founded 50 Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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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…

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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.

 

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

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.

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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.

“Brexit”

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.

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

Clinton/Trump: A “debate” among capitalists

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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.

Deregulation
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.”

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Support IUPAT #10 Workers Party Resolution! Sign the Petition

composite-workers-party

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.

 

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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.

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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

iupat-10-workers-party-resolution

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.

acuerdo

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

 

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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!

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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.

Labor
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.

Pension
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.

“Jobs”
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 shop 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
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