Political Action

A nuclear bully with Korea in his crosshairs

Socialist Worker - 16 hours 22 min ago

David Whitehouse explains the backdrop to the latest escalation of military threats and counter-threats between the Trump administration and North Korea.

Donald Trump threatens North Korea from his golf club in New Jersey

DONALD TRUMP dramatically raised the danger of war last week by promising to respond to "any more threats" from North Korea by inflicting "fire and fury like the world has never seen." The remark set off a chain of escalating rhetoric between Trump and the North Korean regime that stunned regional allies and rivals alike.

The talk of turning to military action was especially jarring because Trump had just registered a diplomatic success in cranking up pressure against the regime a few days before, when China agreed to tighten United Nations sanctions against the North.

Trump's outburst came shortly after he received a Defense Intelligence report that the North "had cracked one of the final technological challenges in nuclear missile design by successfully producing a miniaturized warhead," according to the Financial Times.

North Korean officials replied to Trump that they would prepare to create an "enveloping fire" of their own by splashing four test missiles into international waters around the island of Guam later in August. One-third of Guam, a longtime island colony of the U.S. in the South Pacific, is home to an air base that houses nuclear-capable B-1B bombers.

Trump responded by doubling down against North Korea's Kim Jong-un, saying, "If he does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before, what will happen in North Korea."

Administration insiders told the press that Trump's "fire and fury" remark was improvised. The aggressive policy, however, is not new. Three days before Trump spoke out, U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster explained Trump's endorsement of "preventive war" in an interview with MSNBC:

Well, what you're asking is, are we preparing plans for a preventive war, right? A war that would prevent North Korea from threatening the United States with a nuclear weapon? And the president's been very clear about it. He said he's not going to tolerate North Korea being able to threaten the United States. Look at the nature of that regime. If they have nuclear weapons that can threaten the United States, it's intolerable from the president's perspective. So of course we have to provide all options to do that. And that includes a military option.

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THE WEEK of incendiary rhetoric--particularly the U.S. threat of military action--took U.S. regional allies South Korea and Japan by surprise. Both countries are likely targets of North Korean retaliatory strikes if the U.S. attacks, in part because both countries host U.S. military bases, including 32 on Japan's Okinawa island alone.

South Korean officials initially saw no way to step in while Trump and the North fought their war of words. But on August 14, the South's new president, Moon Jae-in, gave a major address where he took a strong stand against unilateral U.S. action:

Only the Republic of Korea [South Korea's official name] can make the decision for military action on the Korean Peninsula. Without the consent of the Republic of Korea, no country can determine to take military action. The Government will do all it can to prevent a war from breaking out.

China, which is North Korea's largest trading partner and closest ally, also weighed in a few days earlier. The semi-official online magazine Global Times issued a warning to both parties on August 10:

China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.

Although the statement may have been purposely vague, the words suggested that China might tolerate some proportionate U.S. military action in response to even a symbolic show of force against Guam. China was thus telling North Korea to back down on its latest threat.

But the more serious warning seemed to be targeted at Trump. Considering that any military confrontation could quickly escalate into a full-fledged war for control of the peninsula, China's statement declares that a U.S. attack could ignite a new Korean War--one that, like the war of 1950-53, would involve U.S. and Chinese troops in direct combat.

The statements from South Korea and China may calm the situation for a few days, but a new round of joint U.S.-South Korean war games is set to begin August 21 and last for 10 days. Tensions usually peak during these twice-annual military exercises, which involve an influx of U.S. and soldiers and sailors to rehearse the overthrow of the Northern regime. The war games are one of the reasons that the regime has given for pursuing a nuclear deterrent.

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SOUTH KOREA'S capital of Seoul is in the line of fire of about 10,000 North Korean artillery pieces and medium-range rockets. Tens of thousands of civilians, perhaps hundreds of thousands, could die in the first week of a real war.

The country's military is tightly coordinated with U.S. forces. In fact, the U.S. maintains operational command of joint actions in case of war. Yet Trump did not consult the South about raising new threats against the North. One sign of the disconnect with the U.S. and the South is that neither president has yet appointed an ambassador to the other country.

Many Koreans--whether in the North, the South or the United States--were outraged to realize that Trump's vision of "America first" means that Korean lives are expendable.

"My biggest worry is that the U.S. would plot a pre-emptive attack on North Korea and carry it out without consulting our government," Kim Ho-joon, a 40-year-old South Korean office worker, told the Korea Herald. "I think it may be a plausible option for the U.S., because the war would play out on the Korean Peninsula, not on their land."

That's exactly Trump's reasoning, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). He told Today Show interviewers on August 2 that Trump is willing to sacrifice Korean lives to prevent North Korea from acquiring a nuclear deterrent. According to the Korea Times report of the interview:

Graham said that Trump won't allow the regime of Kim Jong-un to have an ICBM with a nuclear weapon capability to "hit America."

"If there's going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong-un], it will be over there. If thousands die, they're going to die over there. They're not going to die here. And he has told me that to my face," Graham said.

"And that may be provocative, but not really. When you're president of the United States, where does your allegiance lie? To the people of the United States," the senator said.

Graham's exposé of Trump's thoughts provided an opening for Kim's regime to appeal to Korean nationalism, which is strong throughout the peninsula. The regime sponsored a rally that called "for achieving peace through the united efforts of the nation"--that is, without the U.S.

Even the fairly conservative Council of Korean Americans (CKA) raised a protest. The CKA president distributed an open protest letter to the group's members, who include prosperous second-generation immigrants to the U.S.: "This kind of rhetoric is unacceptable to Korean Americans, who came from 'over there' and who have family, relatives, and a shared history with the people from 'over there.'"

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THE SOUTH'S Moon Jae-in took office in May promising to pursue dialogue with the North, but his liberalism has not led him to take a pacifist tack. He initially campaigned in opposition to installing the U.S. anti-missile radar/rocket system known as THAAD, but his government indicated recently that that it may accelerate the system's deployment in the South.

After the North's successful test of a long-range missile on July 4, Moon declared that the South needs to build medium-range missiles of its own. They would be able to reach North Korean targets, but like THAAD, a new set of South Korean missiles would also likely have enough range to reach--and to antagonize--China.

South Korea's subordination to the U.S. means that Moon needs to ask permission to upgrade the missile arsenal. The Pentagon last week gave its own green light to changing the U.S.-South Korean treaty to allow the South to build the new weapons.

When Moon laid claim to South Korea's right to decide on war and peace on August 15, the occasion was a major ceremonial address. North and South both celebrate Liberation Day on August 15, which marks the departure of Japanese troops in 1945 after 35 years as colonial overlords. It is thus a moment to assert Korean sovereignty.

If he really wanted to make a bold stroke for independence from U.S. belligerence, however, Moon could have announced that the South would refuse to participate in the 10-day Ulchi-Freedom Guardian war games that begin next week. Instead, Moon took pains to stress South Korea's political and military connection to the U.S.

He had already signaled his intent to stay in the orbit of U.S. militarism last week after he met with his own top military commanders. Emphasizing the "urgent task of securing defense capabilities," Moon said, "I believe we might need a complete defense reform at the level of a rebirth instead of making some improvements or modifications."

Japan fell into line also. The chief cabinet minister endorsed Trump's right to threaten military action against North Korea. On the day of Trump's "fire and fury" tirade, a pair of Japanese jets joined U.S. B-1B strategic bombers in an exercise over the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, which lies closest to the Korean peninsula.

Itsonori Onodera, the new defense minister, said that Japan has the right to shoot down North Korean missiles if they are headed for Guam. Japan's armed forces are constitutionally restricted to self-defense, but a law enacted last year allows the Japanese military to act in "collective self-defense" of allies like the U.S. The Japanese have accordingly positioned anti-missile batteries in western positions that North Korean missiles might fly over on their way to Guam.

Onodera has also claimed that Japan could invoke "pre-emptive self-defense" to attack North Korean ballistic missiles at their launch sites, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on August 6 that he has "no plan" to consider enabling that option. "We are relying on the United States for [such] strike ability," Abe said.

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IF NORTH Korea is preparing for war, there isn't much sign of it. Robert Carlin, a former State Department specialist on North Korea, told the Financial Times on August 11 that the North has made no real changes on the ground, such as putting citizens on high alert or pulling workers out of factories.

That same day, the 38North blog posted satellite photos of a naval shipyard suggesting that North Korea may be preparing a launch of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), last tested a year ago in a 300-mile flight. If that is the North's plan for Guam, then missile-armed subs would need to get 1,800 miles closer to the island, which is 2,100 miles from North Korea.

Naval activity could be an instance of North Korean misdirection, but so could the whole threat to splash missiles near Guam. The Financial Times pointed out that KCNA's report attributed the planning for the missile test to advisors, not to decision-makers such as Kim Jong-un, who would have to sign off on any plan.

As the South's liberal Hankyoreh put it, this way of announcing the plan, due to be in Kim's hands right about now, allows "splitting the threat level up into stages"--which, of course, makes it possible for him walk the threat backward or discard it with no real harm to his credibility.

On August 15, Kim did exactly that. The North's official KCNA news outlet declared that Kim would wait and assess Trump's "foolish and stupid conduct" before deciding about missile launches.

For anybody in the Trump administration who thinks that cranking up the level of crisis to the point of crisis will convince the North to disarm, the regime already answered last week: "The strategic weapons that [North Korea] manufactured at the cost of blood and sweat, risking everything, are not a bargaining thing for getting acknowledgment from others." Over the years, U.S. threats have merely reinforced the regime's conviction that it needs a nuclear deterrent to ensure its survival.

The regime even rewrote the country's constitution in 2012 to affirm that North Korea is committed to being a nuclear-armed state.

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FOR THE moment, the Trump administration is tempering its threats of war. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on August 13 that called for negotiations with North Korea and declared that the U.S. "has no interest in regime change."

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is on a tour of East Asia, with stops in Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul--where he assured Moon Jae-in that the U.S. regards military action against North Korea as a last resort.

There's some question whether Trump was really prepared for an attack when he made his threats last week. Clearly, he hadn't laid any groundwork with regional allies. What's more, he scheduled the nation's top military officer, Dunford, for his current talking tour right through the potential war zone, and troops were not moving into place for war.

Next week, though, things will be different. Extra U.S. troops will pour into South Korea for war games. If the past is any guide, both sides will re-intensify threats during these military exercises.

At times like these, there is a significant danger of war if either party miscalculates the other's intent.

There is, however, a basic conflict that makes the momentary risks keep emerging. Decades of threats from the U.S. have made the North Korean regime determined to build a nuclear deterrent to ensure its survival, while the U.S. has committed to use any means, including war, to prevent the North from acquiring that deterrent.

Trump's notoriously impulsive personality may make a war more likely, but it's not what drives him into conflict. The conflict is a matter of U.S. policy.

It's a policy, in fact, that he inherited from two previous presidents. Beginning with George W. Bush, U.S. presidents have proclaimed that any effective deterrent against U.S. military action would be treated as a threat to the U.S. Barack Obama affirmed the same stance in 2012. What's more, Obama told Trump that North Korea's weapons programs would be the most urgent problem he would face when he came into office.

Trump makes things more dangerous, but the bipartisan drive for imperial dominance is why the U.S. keeps steering a collision course with North Korea.

Categories: Political Action

The right's hate won't go unopposed in Boston

Socialist Worker - 16 hours 22 min ago

Ryan Gannon reports on plans for a counterprotest against the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who want to descend for a second time on Boston Common.

The far-right bigots who descended on Boston Common in May are planning to return

BOSTON HAS the opportunity to stand up to the growing threat of fascism in a way that hasn't been possible in years.

Following a wave of hateful rallies around the country, the far right is planning its next mobilization to Boston Common on Saturday, August 19.

The same collection of white supremacists and neo-Nazis who terrorized Charlottesville with their "Unite the Right" rally last weekend are organizing what they call a "free speech" rally in Boston--a name carefully chosen to conceal their true aim of inciting violence against people of color, immigrants and left-wing movements for social justice.

The white supremacists have been planning their rally for weeks, and while some initial efforts to oppose them were underway, the attack on anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville that left Heather Heyer dead and dozens more injured has transformed the political climate--including the organizing against the far right's August 19 demonstration in Boston.

Within hours of the Charlottesville attack, as people across the country erupted in anger and organized vigils and protests in hundreds of cities, support for the demonstration to confront the fascist menace in Boston was also multiplying.

On Facebook, thousands of people have indicated their intention to attend a march from Roxbury Crossing to Boston Common, where the alt-right rally is scheduled to take place. If the protest in January at Copley Square in support of the occupation at Logan Airport is any indication, the march could be far larger than any event Facebook page could predict.

Socialists, including members of the International Socialist Organization and Socialist Alternative, are also mobilizing a socialist contingent to march as a united front alongside civil rights organizations and activist groups. We invite anyone with a vision of a world without fascism to march with our contingent. Our numbers are our greatest strength in the fight against the right.

With the groundswell of support for the counterdemonstration, several of the speakers slated for the "free speech" rally have already backed out, including Canadian right-wing writer Gavin McInnes, leader of the far-right men's organization Proud Boys. McInnes called on the Proud Boys to disavow the planned demonstration.

This illustrates, in the clearest way possible, how even the threat of mass mobilization serves to counter the growth of the far right. The strength in numbers of people willing to stand up to fascism, racism and xenophobia has the potential to split and demoralize the far right.

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THE OUTPOURING of support for the August 19 march against the right is a hopeful sign, considering the relatively small anti-racist protest when the neo-Nazis last mobilized to Boston Common. Emboldened by the words of Donald Trump and the actions of their fellow reactionaries at the University of California-Berkeley, around 300 alt-right goons, including groups such as the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, showed up on May 13 to spread their violent, hateful message.

Socialist and left organizations organized a counterdemonstration, but were unable to outnumber the right, which saw the event as a victory for their side. The questions raised by the event still lingered as the bigots issued their call for an August 19 hatefest. At that time, activists and organizers in the city began work on another counterdemonstration, but the outcome was uncertain.

Now, what might have been a demonstration of hundreds will hopefully number in the thousands.

"Unfortunately, racist violence isn't a new thing in Boston," said Khury Petersen-Smith, one of Boston's leading anti-racist activists, in an interview days before the protest. "Some of the worst of this city can be found in the violence against Black children during desegregation in the 70s, the anti-Muslim attacks after the Marathon bombing in 2013, the beating of a Latino man by Trump supporters last year, and there are plenty of other horrible examples."

"But, the best of Boston," he continued, "comes out when we unite and refuse to tolerate racism and bigotry. We need everyone to come out on Saturday. We're going to shut down the fascists and let them know that their hate isn't welcome here or anywhere else."

Now more than ever, building a mass movement of everyone who stands against fascist hate is not only urgently necessary, but possible. Even if the planned "free speech" rally fizzles, bringing together the foundations of a strong left that can confront fascism wherever it rears its ugly head in the future is of the utmost importance--and the process begins on Saturday.

The rally in Boston will be a critical opportunity for socialists to raise their ideas and arguments to a broad audience. It will be a chance for the left to confidently put forward a vision of the solidarity that can defeat the right and to reach out to a new layer of people looking for an alternative to the xenophobic arguments of the far right and an alternative to the system that created it.

Unite the left! Fight the right! All out to Boston on August 19!

Categories: Political Action

Meeting terror with solidarity around the U.S.

Socialist Worker - 16 hours 22 min ago

Alan Maass rounds up reports from activists around the country as the horror and outrage at the Nazi menace on the streets of Charlottesville last week turns to action.

Hundreds gathered in Chicago in solidarity with Charlottesville (Carole Ramsden | SW)

THE NEO-Nazis' deadly terror in Charlottesville, Virginia, at last weekend's Unite the Right rally has sparked off protests against the far right and solidarity with the victims in Charlottesville that spread one end of the country to the other.

The response to the far right's violence, which culminated in a car-terror attack that killed one person and injured as many as two dozen others, was immediate and overwhelming. The liberal group Indivisible compiled a map showing nearly 700 events in solidarity with Charlottesville organized in the 24 hours after the murder of Heather Heyer.

The reinvigorated struggle to stop the fascists will go on, locally and nationally, in the days to come, with a counterdemonstration against the far right in Boston on August 19 and another counterprotest in Berkeley on August 27 that is generating a national call for a day on that day.

But just this early outpouring has shown the outrage and anger of huge numbers of people at both the far right killers, and their sympathizer-in-chief in the White House--and a new determination to take action.

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-- In New York City, numerous left-wing and anti-racist organizations came together to organize a rally on August 13 that drew some 800 people in Union Square on short notice.

Speakers from initiating organizations emphasized that the far right's violence in Charlottesville isn't an isolated incident, and that the bigots see an opportunity to grow, including by recruiting on campuses. Among the signs held by demonstrators was one reading: "James Fields drove the car--but Trump gave him the keys."

"This violence isn't new," said a speaker from Black Youth Project 100, "but what is new is the building of these coalitions on the left."

Jabari Brisport, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), who is running for New York City Council as a Green, was at the counterprotest in Charlottesville. He told how a right-winger approached him and said, "You know, I don't have a problem with Blacks like you, but it's these Jews who are screwing all of us." Faced with such hatred and division, "we cannot forget that we are larger than them," Brisport said.

Ronnie Flores of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) urge the left to organize to outnumber and demoralize the right-wingers, especially on campuses, where they are mobilizing under the guise of their "free speech". "Free speech may protect them from the state," Flores said, "but it does not protect them from the left's protests."

After the speeches, demonstrators began marching to Trump Tower on Madison Avenue, chanting "No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist USA," among other slogans. Police tried to block marchers just west of Union Square--and from the head of the march, a Black Lives Matter activist spoke about how the cops, vigilant today to confront anti-racist protesters, had stood by in Charlottesville as white supremacists attacked.

-- In the Bay Area, people were in the streets hours after Heather Heyer's murder to show their solidarity in the struggle against the far right.

At least 500 people gathered in Oakland's Latham Square, including members of the Black Panthers, Antifa, Black Lives Matter Bay Area and other organizations. The demonstration was called on short notice by the ad hoc coalition that is mobilizing a counterprotest against the far right's "No to a Marxist America" rally in Berkeley on August 27.

After an hour-long speakout, the demonstrators set out on a march through city streets, accompanied by a portable sound system blasting songs that included "FDT" (Fuck Donald Trump) and Billie Holiday singing "Strange Fruit" about lynching in the South.

"It's like, yeah, y'all have freedom of speech, but when it all boils down to it and y'all start threatening people, it's no longer your First Amendment right," one man told the San Francisco Bay View.

-- In Chicago, two demonstrations called for the same time Sunday afternoon drew hundreds of people each.

At the protest gathered in front of Trump Tower, Anton Ford, the event's MC, called for the crowd to remember: "We need to show that we are many and they are few. We can't rely on police or university administrators or City Hall or even the ACLU to protect us...If we're going to control the streets, we need to fill the streets."

The protest had a huge list of co-sponsors, including the Democratic Socialists of America's Chicago chapter and the International Socialist Organization, both organizations whose members were part of the anti-fascist contingent attacked in Charlottesville.

Chicago local Jobie and a friend remembered the enduring power of the national marches and local movements that have sprung into activism during Trump's presidency. "If it wasn't for the Women's March," Jobie said, "I probably wouldn't be continuing to do this, but it was a very eye-opening experience...We have to stand up so people can hear us."

Speaking to the crowd on behalf of the ISO, Kevin Moore called for a united front:

We have seen that victories can be had. It was the united front that drove those cowards out of Charlottesville yesterday. It was the united front that showed up at the airport uprisings that stalled the Muslim ban. It was the united front that shut down Trump's speech at the University of Illinois at Chicago, when he couldn't even face us because there were too many of us.

Huge cheers rung out as this memory, as Chicago stood proudly with counterprotesters in Charlottesville and against right-wing hate.

-- In the Washington, D.C., area, several hundred people gathered in Alexandria, Virginia, in solidarity with Charlottesville. After a 30-minute speakout at Market Square, protesters marched to alt-right leader Richard Spencer's home/office, accumulating supporters along the way. People out for the afternoon roared their support as marchers passed by.

The speakers not only talked about the far right's terror in Charlottesville, but issues that are close to home for anti-racists' in this area--not only are there monuments to the Confederacy, but streets are named after leaders of the slave South. Robert E. Lee's former mansion is a memorial to him, located in Arlington Cemetery.

After the march to Spencer's house, the crowd chanted loudly for some time. Apparently, Spencer and his goons were on the site. Their attempts to videotape the protesters on a cell phone only made the demonstration more angry.

After a march back to Market Square, a number of demonstrators left to attend the vigil across the river in D.C., where a somber crowd numbering in the thousands stood across from the White House.

One of the speakers, Eugene Puryear of the Stop Police Terror Project D.C., said: "The raw edge of the real struggle in this country was exposed. Some people want to drag this country back--make it more racist, more patriarchal, more divided, more unequal from an income perspective." said Eugene Puryear, an organizer with Stop Police Terror Project DC.

-- In Seattle, solidarity with Charlottesville began Sunday afternoon at a previously planned "Solidarity Against Hate" rally and march against a pro-Trump gathering organized by Patriot Prayer, the same right-wing group that rallied against "sharia law" in June.

The expected turnout of 100 or so anti-racists swelled to more than 1,000 in response to Charlottesville.

Demonstrators tried to directly confront the right-wing rally, but were cordoned off by police, who used pepper spray and even "pepper spray bombs." Finally, the anti-racist demonstrators were able to surround the outskirts of the right-wing rally. Some activists were even able to briefly take over the mic at the right's rally, and the bigots were sent packing.

In the evening, candlelight vigils in horror over the murder and mayhem by the fascists in Charlottesville took place throughout the area. More than 200 gathered on Seattle's Capitol Hill, and smaller numbers gathered in several usually sleepy suburbs like Issaquah, Lynwood and Vashon Island, as well as in nearby Tacoma.

"I just moved here from New Orleans to get away from the oppressive atmosphere, but I soon learned that racism is strong all over the U.S.," said one vigil-goer. "We have to keep fighting!"

-- In Philadelphia, a speakout and march called by the Philly Socialists for the night of the racist murder in Charlottesville drew out 200 people. A section of the demonstration marched to the Vine Street Expressway and blocked it for 10 minutes.

The next day, as many as 2,000 people attended a candlelight vigil near City Hall called by organizers of the Women's March. Speakers called for organizing that could push back the white supremacists everywhere they appear.

Hundreds of people turned out at other area demonstrations, including in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and Collingswood, New Jersey.

-- In Madison, Wisconsin, a vigil at the state Capitol building Sunday night drew a crowd of nearly 1,500 people from all over south central Wisconsin. Speakers at the event came from a wide variety of groups.

Jon Cole, a welding lab coordinator at Madison Area Technical College and member of the American Federation of Teachers Local 243, said he turned out to "take a stand against the rise of white nationalism that's happening in this country. I think the rallies that they're having now show they're feeling more comfortable, and I want to do what I can to try and stop that."

Speaking for the Madison branch of the ISO, Scot McCullough told the crowd: "Charlottesville is not so different from Madison; it's a college town, a liberal stronghold...The victims of this attack could have been us...We need a mass movement that says Black Lives Matter, that says no human being is illegal, that says free abortion on demand, that says health care is a right for all."

Organizations that built the protest include Indivisible Madison, Wisconsin Progressive Alliance, Industrial Workers of the World, Socialist Alternative and the anti-racist organization Young Gifted and Black.

-- In Atlanta, around 1,000 people came out from across the area to several events to show support for those attacked by the right in Charlottesville, and to counteract the terror the right's actions are designed to instill.

The largest action was downtown, with as many as 400 people gathered for a speakout and march to a nearby park containing a Confederate monument. The action was organized and led by a local anti-fascist group, but the crowd was very diverse politically, ranging from members of the organized left to people with no activist experience at all.

The mood was serious, but also defiant. In the words of one speaker: "We will not be silent, we will not let fear silence us. We have to organize to ensure that more than just speaking up, we can win."

-- In Portland, Oregon, a vigil and speakout in solidarity with Charlottesville on August 13 drew around 600 people to the steps of City Hall. The event was organized by Portland Stands United Against Hate, a coalition of over 70 organizations formed in June to counterprotest a white supremacist group's "freedom of speech" rally one week after aracist murdered two people and severely injured a third on a commuter train.

More than 40 people spoke. Micah Fletcher, the surviving victim of the stabbings on the commuter train, gave a cutting critique of the idea of meeting white supremacist terrorism with love and nonviolence.

Speakers called for unity and bravery in the face of hate. One woman said, "We need to show up even though we are afraid."

Signs and speeches remembered not only Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer, but Larnell Bruce Jr., a teen from the Portland area who was run over in a 7-11 parking lot by a member of a white supremacist group. Bruce died from his injuries that very day.

-- In Columbus, Ohio, 500 people marched on the Ohio Statehouse and gathered for a vigil August 13 to show support for the victims attacked by fascists in Charlottesville.

The day's events were organized by a number of individuals and groups, including local branches of DSA and the ISO, with the support of other organizations, such as Yes We Can, Columbus Citizens for Police Review, People's Justice Project, Ohio Interfaith Immigrant and the Migrant Justice Coalition, among others.

Speakers' comments connecting the threat of fascist violence to other political, social, and economic crises were meant by chants echoing these themes.

As ISO member Rachel Reiser told the crowd, "[R]ight-wing violence isn't only growing because of this administration, but has long been a hallmark of the right that has been growing before Trump was elected. It has been growing across the globe in a period of global crisis."

Among the other speakers at the rally were longtime anti-racist organizers, who talked about systemic racism, the prison-industrial complex, U.S. imperialism, anti-Semitism and the police state--while highlighting the urgent need for Columbus to start organizing itself to build the left in order to fight the right.

-- In the Twin Cities, some 1,000 gathered in the rain on Sunday night for a candlelight vigil near the lake known by its Lakota name Bde Maka Ska, to show that Minneapolis is united against racism.

The next day, hundreds gathered outside the office of the Minnesota Republican Party. The message coming from the speakers was clear: the far-right racism we saw in Charlottesville starts at the very top of society, and we need to build a mass movement to stop it.

Later, the crowd began marching toward downtown, its numbers swelling. As the demonstration wound through the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, a densely- opulated area with a large population of Somali immigrants, people came out of their apartments to show their support.

By the time the march reached its destination--the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility, the jail where many people arrested in Minneapolis are taken--the crowd had swelled to at least 1,000 people.

-- In Boston, some 300 people came out in a matter of hours to Boston Common to share their mourning and anger at the attacks on anti-racist protesters earlier that day in Charlottesville. The rally, called by Boston Feminist Liberation, consisted of speakers talking from the Common's bandstand.

"So many of us feel so helpless," said a Boston Feminist Liberation organizer. "But today, people went to Charlottesville to stand up to people who want to hurt them." A lone right-winger tried to chant down the organizer's speech, but she was undeterred.

More people filed up to the bandstand, sharing their anger and fear, but also a sense of solidarity and purpose. "We have to band together to fight fascism, as well as the administration that supports it," one speaker told the crowd.

A social worker talked about why she attended this rally: "It's hard to keep up with everything these days--it's one blow after another. But racial justice is something I feel close to my heart. It's difficult to see people elsewhere who don't feel the same way, but we're in this together. Their suffering is our suffering."

-- In Portland, Maine, a crowd of about 400 people gathered in Monument Square on Sunday night to stand in solidarity with victims of the alt-right in Charlottesville.

Trump was criticized for refusing to name the far right as responsible for the violence, but a majority of speakers focused on deeper systemic problems--the racism, sexism, and xenophobia that this country was founded on.

ISO member Caitrin Smith-Monahan told the crowd: "[We] must organize our side by having serious, political debates about how to move forward in a unified, comradely and democratic way. The leaders of the white supremacist movement are marching to 'unite the right.' We need to 'unite the left.'"

The crowd responded with a rousing chant of "No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here."

-- In Orlando, Florida, more than 300 anti-racist and anti-Nazi demonstrators rallied Sunday night at a vigil in Lake Eola Park downtown.

Holding candles, the crowd marched the length of the park to the site where a statue known locally as "Johnny Reb" stood for 100 years. The statue was taken down and removed from the park in June 2017. The city relocated it in a section of Orlando's Greenwood Cemetery where Confederate soldiers are interred.

Leslie, a rally co-organizer and DSA activist, said the aim of Sunday night's event was "to help comfort the community" and to make clear that "white supremacist violence and hatred will not be tolerated." Radical School of Orlando organizer Gavin struck a militant note, saying that the "burgeoning fascist movement has to be confronted and stopped in the streets. We will not be intimidated."

-- In Burlington, Vermont, members of the ISO joined with the IWW, DSA, Black Lives Matter, Vermont Worker's Center, Occupy Vermont, Rights and other groups to organize a speakout and march that drew some 400 people to City Hall Park on Sunday.

Lisa Green, a resident of Charlottesville, tearfully told the crowd, "We can't have this happen in another town." Green talked about walking Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian mall in Burlington like the one where "the man mowed down people in a car."

-- In Syracuse, New York, a powerful rally in solidarity with Charlottesville drew out some 300 people.

Challenging some speakers with a more liberal point of view, Nikeeta Slade invoked the slogan: "Which side are you on?" making clear that our side is the struggle against a rising right.

ISO member Katie Feyh spoke from her experiences in Charlottesville about how 5o resist these forces. She made the case that we can't ignore these fascist forces--they will not go away--and that defeating them requires mass numbers in the streets. This was a diverse crowd, but it was mostly receptive and sympathetic to a militant politics of confrontation with the right.

Syracuse is now focused on the upcoming "counterprotest" on September 9, which should be a big opportunity to building a unified left.

-- In Greensboro, North Carolina, around 250 people came out to a solidarity vigil. Though organized primarily by religious and liberal organizations. there were speakers from Black Lives Matter and other groups of the radical left. Two members of the ISO who were in Charlottesville for the counterprotest spoke about what they witnessed.

-- In Asheville, North Carolina, a Sunday vigil swelled to as many as 500 people at tis height. The speakers were politically diverse, ranging from representatives of liberal organizations to the left.

Fear of police response caused organizes to use a weak megaphone, making it hard to hear. An attempt to march was blocked by police.

The crowd was large and diverse for Asheville. Speakers drew attention to the fact that the only free speech area downtown is associated with a Confederate monument, and it happens to stand on the site of slave market in the western North Carolina town.

Sorry for the ad on but a few inviduals were attempting to film/pictures and seemed to be far right and were forced to leave.

-- In Austin, Texas, about 150 people gathered for a candlelight vigil and open mic in solidarity with the anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville. The Saturday night event was the first of several over the weekend.

A common theme among the speakers was the need for what one left-wing activist called a "united front of many organizations to fight against the right."

The vigil also raised awareness that there will be a Confederate heritage event called "Dixie Freedom Rally" on September 2. A counterprotest against the racist commemoration could connect with an immigrants rights rally and concert planned for the same time and place in Austin.

-- In Rochester, New York, some 80 people from numerous left organizations came out to Washington Square Park hours after the racist murder in Charlottesville for a vigil.

Attendees lit candles and held a moment of silence for Heather Heyer and all the comrades wounded in Virginia. Anyone who wanted to take a turn at the microphone could address the crowd, where speakers again and again stressed the need for anyone who is not currently involved in a left-wing organization to find one and get active.

The next day, around 300 people came out to an evening demonstration, but because it was chiefly organized by the "activist wing" of the local Democratic Party, it had much less to offer people who want to fight the far right.

-- In New London, Connecticut, about 100 people came out to protest the white supremacist hate rally in Charlottesville and the murder of Heather Meyer.

An African American artist and protester spoke of the Black Panthers as a group of struggle to emulate. Meanwhile, a former member of the military and a trans activist spoke about Trump's disgusting "trans ban" in the military, which served as the catalyst for their "coming out" for the first time at the protest.

-- In El Cajon, California, east of San Diego, over 60 people representing a half-dozen organizations came out Saturday night for a candlelight vigil in honor of the victims of the right-wing terrorist attack hours earlier in Charlottesville.

The vigil took place at the site of the police murder of Alfred Olango, and the significance of the location--as well as the connection between police violence and the emboldening of the far right--was lost on no one. "This is sacred ground," said Alexander, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, before echoing the call for unity on the left to challenge the right.

Categories: Political Action

Students dump a racist symbol

Socialist Worker - 16 hours 22 min ago

Matthew Gordon, a graduate of South Burlington High School in Vermont, reports on a struggle led by students to change the schools' offensive name for sports teams.

A new scoreboard for a new season at South Burlington High School

WHEN STUDENTS at South Burlington High School in Vermont successfully organized to change the name of their sports teams, they expected some resistance. But they didn't expect that those who opposed them would lash out with death threats, stalking and other forms of racist harassment.

In February, the school board of South Burlington voted unanimously to get rid of the name "Rebels"--a reference to the Confederacy that has been the official name of the high schools' sports teams since it was founded. Until the 1970s, the school used the Confederate Flag as an unofficial symbol, and a Confederate soldier mascot named "Captain Reb" wasn't retired until the early 1990s. With these Confederate symbols axed, the team name was the last standing.

Resistance to the school's racist traditions is nothing new. In 1964, an editorial appeared in a local newspaper denouncing the name. In the following decade, the NAACP intervened to change public opinion about the name, but met with limited success.

In the wake of the white supremacist massacre at a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, the issue was again brought to the school board for the first time in decades, but the board voted--also unanimously--to retain the name at the time.

Instead of giving up, students organized.

A year later, Isaiah Hines, a Black student and activist at the school, attended another school board meeting to make the case that the time had come to change the name. He founded a Student Diversity Union to coordinate the fight for both the name change and broader issues of diversity.

With help from Black Lives Matter Vermont, the NAACP and other like-minded community members, these students continued the fight until they won. In the following months, the board settled on Wolves as the new name and mascot.

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STORIES ABOUT high schools changing racist names are hardly new or unusual. Two schools in the same county as South Burlington High School have done so in the last couple decades, abandoning the names "Little Indians" and "Crusaders," and Southern states have seen regular conflicts over schools named after Confederate generals.

What makes the struggle in South Burlington notable is the participation of student activists in the adult-dominated field of public-school politics. These students didn't limit themselves to petition-signing or other warm-and-fuzzy activities often expected of teenagers.

They reached out to community organizations, gave speeches at events, and didn't hesitate to criticize the school. "The school has worked hard to hide its past from the community," said Isaiah Hines at a panel discussion on countering racist violence organized by the Vermont International Socialist Organization.

Equally striking was the conservative backlash. In the weeks following the school board decision in February, community members opposed to the name change began to organize through Facebook, calling themselves the Rebel Alliance.

Group founder Kiya Batmanglidj, in an interview with a local conservative website, warned that the name change was a threat to patriotism. If "a Native American student [thinks] the American flag is offensive because it represents oppression and genocide, does that then mean because that small group of people feels offended that we should then not fly the American flag at the school?" asked Batmanglidj.

The group quickly moved beyond incoherent racist rants on social media to tangible political organization, rallying behind Daniel Emmons and Marcy Brigham, two write-in candidates for the school board whose platform was singularly devoted to opposing the name change.

Fortunately, these candidates were unsuccessful--and both were fined by the Vermont Attorney General's office for campaign finance violations. Emmons later made news when he was charged with stalking and verbally threatening Isaiah Hines in person and on social media. "You guys have made a lot of people mad," he told the high school senior, adding that they were "shitting in the wrong yard."

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THIS WASN'T the last time that opponents of the name change would threaten Hines. In late April, South Burlington High School was put on lockdown three days in a row due to anonymous threats of armed violence. The threat specifically named Isaiah Hines as a target for his role in the name change.

While the perpetrator of these threats was not linked to the Rebel Alliance, the group continued to inspire racist hatred and held the town hostage in other ways. Police charged one student with a felony for racist graffiti against Hines.

Meanwhile, the school budget, rarely a sticking point in the town, was defeated twice at the ballot box, driven largely by opposition to the name change.

On one of the days that the school was locked down, Hines and his supporters held a rally for peace and acceptance. At the same time, Rebel Alliance members, now with a Black student as their scapegoat, brought gifts to police officers to thank them for their service--at a lockdown their group may have inspired.

Though the school budget did eventually pass, it took cuts to special education, language arts and preschool programs to do so.

Opponents of the team name change often framed the issue as an economic one, lamenting the insignificant cost of repainting signs and replacing uniforms. The cut to the budget, on the other hand, represents a significant decrease of available funds at a time when the South Burlington teachers union is negotiating its next contract.

Between the school board's rejection of a fact-finder's recommendations about contract negotiations and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott's plans to undercut teachers unions across the state by launching an assault on their health care benefits, a strike seems increasingly likely.

South Burlington teachers went on strike four years ago, but failed to achieve their demands due to self-imposed isolation from the community and resistance from the same current that later filled the ranks of the Rebel Alliance. In this way, racism, ableism and anti-union sentiment--until recently overshadowed by statewide support for Bernie Sanders' presidential bid--has reared its ugly head.

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THE STRUGGLE to combat racist hate can be seen in the heroic actions of Isaiah Hines and others who took the initiative when adults would not. They did so without any pre-existing organization, political experience and, most remarkably, without knowledge of the school's history of anti-racist resistance.

At the same time that the NAACP was fighting the "Rebel" name in the late 1960s and early '70s, it was also fighting against "Slave Day," the tradition of auctioning first-year students off to older students to carry books and perform other menial tasks. Despite the overwhelmingly white population of the school, the handful of Black students there organized successfully alongside the NAACP to end the practice.

Without knowing this history, today's student organizers repeated a similar feat in a new context.

What both this history and the current movement show is that young students don't have to wait until adulthood or college to become involved in the struggle against oppression. Like anyone else, they have power through collective action and cooperation with groups who share their goals.

This potential--combined with the help of established political groups--can lead to important victories. As South Burlington students, particularly students of color, leave summer vacation behind this month, they return to a school changed by their own actions, and hopefully with a sense of the power they wield in the struggles to come.

Battles around education have figured prominently in the wave of political polarization that has accompanied the election of Donald Trump. College campuses have been a primary manifestation of this, and for good reason: the lynching of a Black student at the University of Maryland, student protests of commencement speeches given by Betsy DeVos and Mike Pence, and the fight against right-wing bigotry at Middlebury College and Berkeley earlier this year have all put campus activism in the spotlight.

But younger students have not been isolated from the changing political climate, and teenage activists across the country can and should fight manifestations of oppression at the high school level.

Still, this victory must be just the beginning. From Charlottesville to Burlington, only a confident anti-racist movement uniting young students, unions and activists can face the twin threats of attacks on public education and the surge of right-wing terror.

Categories: Political Action

Unidos contra la derecha

Socialist Worker - 16 hours 22 min ago

Tras la violencia en Charlottesville, la Organización Socialista Internacional apela a la protesta y a la solidaridad para enfrentar y derrotar la extrema derecha.

EL PRESUNTAMENTE nuevo movimiento "alt-right" perdió su máscara, revelando la añeja y repulsiva cara del fascismo, el que muchos creían era ya una reliquia de la historia.

El rally "Unir la Derecha", del fin de semana pasado en Charlottesville, Virginia, no tuvo nada que ver con la supuesta defensa de "libertad de expresión", sino con una estatua confederada; dio acogida a los nazis, quienes merodearon las calles buscando a gente que asaltar; y culmino con un ataque terrorista, cuando uno de arrolló a una multitud de manifestantes pacíficos con su carro, matando a la activista local Heather Heyer, 32, e hiriendo a docenas, muchos de gravedad.

La indignada respuesta contra terror nazi en Charlottesville fue inmediata y poderosa, con protestas y vigilias en cientos de ciudades. De todos lados vinieron las denuncias contra la violencia racista; de todos lados, excepto de la Casa Blanca, ni de la boca de Donald Trump.

Este es un momento decisivo. "¿Tras el abierto despliegue racista, será la extrema derecha regresada a los márgenes de la política, o será el movimiento normalizado, permitiéndole entretejerse aún más profundamente en el discurso nacional?", preguntó el New York Times.

La respuesta a esta pregunta depende de lo que los millones de personas que desprecian a Donald Trump y a la derecha hagan en las próximas semanas y meses.

Debemos superar el temor que los fascistas nos quieren hacer sentir y organizar protestas masivas para detener este cáncer ahora, antes de que pueda convertirse en una amenaza mayor. Eso significa organizar protestas abiertas a todos los afectados por esta amenaza--la gran mayoría--con el fin de rendir la extrema derecha irrelevante.

Después de la nauseabunda violencia fascista en Charlottesville, sabemos que la extrema derecha no busca ganar votos para avanzar; tampoco no le importa el favor de las encuestas. Por eso, no podemos derrotarlos con "simplemente ignorarlos", como sugieren los liberales.

Si no detenemos a la extrema derecha hoy, nos impedirán organizar mañana; es así de simple. Esta no es una batalla que elegimos, pero es una que debemos ganar.

También debemos tener claro que no podemos confiar en la policía para protegernos de los fascistas, o en el gobierno para negarles permisos. Depende de nosotros mismos defender nuestras comunidades y nuestros movimientos de los ataques de la derecha.

Si tenemos éxito, Charlottesville podría ser recordado como un hito, no sólo en nuestra lucha contra la derecha, sino en nuestra capacidad de organizar por nuestras propias demandas.

La Organización Socialista Internacional asume esta urgente lucha y se suma al llamado de tantas organizaciones e individuos tras Charlottesville: luchar unidos para enfrentar y derrotar al fascismo.

Habrá fogueos en las próximas semanas, desde Boston a Berkeley, pero esta lucha debe llegar a cada ciudad y pueblo, a cada comunidad, a cada campus y a cada lugar de trabajo. Hacemos un llamado a todos nuestros simpatizantes y a toda la izquierda a unirnos y luchar.

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EL INCIDENTE más pavoroso en Charlottesville el pasado fin de semana fue, por supuesto, el ataque terrorista del neonazi James Fields, cuando el integrante de Vanguardia América arrolló con su automóvil un contingente de manifestantes que incluían a miembros de la Organización Socialista Internacional y de Trabajadores Industriales del Mundo, entre otros.

Pero el proyecto fascista es mucho mayor que el terrorismo individual. Ellos quieren construir una organización de matones disciplinados para brutalizar e intimidar sistemáticamente a los oprimidos, un programa que, como demuestra la historia, inevitablemente implica asesinatos.

En este caso, James Fields fue el asesino. Pero los nazis y los "guardianes de la paz" de la extrema derecha llegaron fuertemente armados a Charlottesville y estaban preparados para infligir violencia contra las personas de color, los judíos y la izquierda. Los asesinatos de individuos encajan en su torcida lógica política porque así allanan el camino para su objetivo real: asesinatos en masa y el genocidio.

El verdadero rostro del fascismo fue evidente durante todo el fin de semana en Charlottesville: Cientos de hombres empuñando antorchas, gritando "¡Sangre y tierra!", y agrediendo a los contra-manifestantes; grupos merodeando las calles con armas y escudos, buscando a gente de color, como Deandre Harris, 20, para brutalizar.

Como el reportero de ProPublica A.C. Thompson escribió, la extrema derecha en Charlottesville:

Exhibió una organización sin precedentes e ingenio táctico. Cientos de activistas racistas convergieron en un parque el viernes por la noche, caminando a través de la oscuridad en grupos de cinco a 20 personas. Un puñado de líderes con auriculares y radios de mano dieron órdenes, y una camioneta llena de antorchas se aproximó. En cuestión de minutos, su número había aumentado hasta llegar a los cientos. Rápida y eficientemente formaron una larga procesión y comenzaron a marchar, con antorchas encendidas, por la Universidad de Virginia.

Los fascistas de Charlottesville estaban confiados. Un pedante golfillo nazi, llamado Sean Patrick Nielsen, se jactó al Washington Post, "Estoy aquí porque nuestros valores republicanos son, primero, defender la identidad blanca local, nuestra identidad está bajo amenaza; dos, el mercado libre; y tres, matar judíos".

Todo esto hizo que la declaración inicial de Donald Trump, condenando la violencia "de muchos lados", asqueara aún más a millones de personas, y dio algo que celebrar al sitio web neonazista Daily Stormer.

Esta es otra señal de advertencia de los peligros del momento actual, con una Casa Blanca infestada de racistas de extrema derecha, del promotor de "alt-right", Steve Bannon, al aliado euro-fascista, Sebastian Gorka, al entusiasta de la Confederación, Jeff Sessions.

No debemos hacernos ilusiones: La tóxica combinación de una extrema derecha que abarca a grupos nazis y a personeros con acceso clave a la Casa Blanca produjo, en Charlottesville, la mayor muestra de fuerza del fascismo estadounidense en generaciones.

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NUESTRO LADO tiene latente una potente arma que usar contra esta creciente amenaza: grandes números. Los acontecimientos de Charlottesville, no sólo el ataque terrorista, sino las banderas nazis, la marcha con antorchas y la violencia matonesca, horrorizaron a la gran mayoría de la sociedad estadounidense.

Desde el sábado por la noche hasta el lunes, hubo manifestaciones de solidaridad en más de 400 ciudades en todo el país, una ola de manifestaciones que nos recordó los días posteriores a las elecciones de Trump en noviembre pasado.

Jason Kessler, el residente de Charlottesville que inicialmente convocó el rally fascista, fue expulsado de su propia conferencia de prensa por furiosos residentes locales. Declaraciones condenando la supremacía blanca, el terrorismo interno y la débil respuesta de Trump, salieron de todo el país. Los medios corporativos, de repente, dejaron de referirse a Richard Spencer y sus amigos como "alt-right" y más precisamente los llamaron "supremacistas blancos".

Decenas de republicanos en el Congreso, que hicieron sus carreras agraciando al racismo y la reacción, se apresuraron a condenar a los nazis y distanciarse de Trump.

La respuesta de Trump a Charlottesville es pedir más "ley y orden", una frase con tintes racistas que da a las autoridades policiales y de inmigración más poder para detener y brutalizar a las personas de color.

Las fuerzas de la "ley y el orden" estaban por todas partes en las calles de Charlottesville, y se mantuvieron al margen mientras la orgía de la violencia de la derecha tenía lugar.

En lugar de apelar al gobierno para que nos defienda, tenemos que construir protestas masivas para defendernos los unos a los otros. La estrategia de pequeños grupos de antifascistas para luchar en nombre de los oprimidos demostró ser insuficiente en Charlottesville por los números movilizados por los trogloditas.

Este es el momento de construir frentes unidos con tantas organizaciones como sea posible para enfrentar a la derecha, no sólo grupos de izquierda, sino sindicatos y organizaciones de derechos civiles, y todo grupo posible universitario.

En Portland, Oregón, este tipo de coalición sacó a más de 1.000 personas en junio para enfrentarse a grupos que celebraron los asesinatos racistas de Ricky John Best y Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche.

Necesitamos más como esto en las próximas semanas, cuando la extrema derecha descienda en Boston el 19 de agosto, y durante todo el año escolar, así como fascistas como Richard Spencer intentan su gira en los campus. El Movimiento por las Vidas Negras ha convocado un día nacional de acción para ese día.

El 27 de agosto, la extrema derecha planea una mayor movilización en Berkeley, California, para su rally "No a una América marxista", en la que intentarán repetir su algazara racista de la primavera pasada. Pero los antifascistas se han estado preparando por semanas para decirles que no retrocederemos ante su violencia y odio.

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EN MEDIO de las muchas condenas de muchos líderes políticos a la extrema derecha en Charlottesville, sobresalta una nota claramente falsa: que estos fascistas son de algún modo foráneos a la política e historia de los Estados Unidos.

La violencia racista tiene profundas raíces en este país, y el terrorismo en defensa de los retorcidos ideales de la derecha es tan estadounidense como las túnicas blancas y una soga colgando.

Pero la lucha contra el terrorismo racista también es parte de la historia de este país. Aquellos que nos dicen que debemos ignorar a los racistas para que se vayan solos son ignorantes de eso, o no quieren que construyamos un movimiento contra la extrema derecha porque instintivamente intuyen que nuestro movimiento no se detendrá ahí.

Este es el momento de aprender la historia de las previas generaciones que lucharon contra el KKK y la valiente lucha contra el fascismo en Europa. Y es hora de unirnos en acción para darnos el valor de enfrentar a aquellos que quieren que nos quedemos en casa.

Así como hemos tomado fuerza de la valentía demostrada por los residentes de Ferguson, Missouri, podemos sacar fuerzas de las palabras de la madre de Heather Heyer sobre su hija: "Ella nunca arriaría sus creencias. Y así fue que ella murió; luchando por sus creencias. "

La amenaza de la derecha está creciendo, pero debe ser enfrentada y superada si queremos luchar por cualquiera de nuestras demandas. Un organizador en Columbus, Ohio, dio voz al instinto de solidaridad y lucha que se ha sentido en todo el país desde Charlottesville:

Cuando comenzamos a planear la protesta en el aeropuerto de Columbus [contra la prohibición de entrada a los musulmanes promulgada por Trump en enero], varios derechistas y escoria islamofóbica empezaron a publicar fotos gráficas de animales y personas atropelladas por coches.

Su objetivo era claro: intimidar y amenazar, y hacer que la gente tuviera miedo de salir. Por varias horas tarde por la noche, sólo seguimos destruyendo esas fotos. Cientos y cientos de personas se presentaron de todos modos para luchar contra la prohibición. Mantuvimos vigilancia por los coches errantes, pero no aparecieron. Y así llegamos a ser parte de las históricas acciones en el aeropuerto que vencieron a la primera versión de la prohibición musulmana.

Estos fascistas tratarán de silenciarnos, intentarán intimidarnos, tratarán de hacernos sentir miedo. Pero nosotros somos muchos; ellos son pocos.

Traducido por Orlando Sepúlveda

Categories: Political Action

Thai Activist Jailed for the Crime of Sharing an Article on Facebook

Deep Links - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 19:45

Thai activist Jatuphat “Pai” Boonpattaraksa was sentenced this week to two and a half years in prison—for the crime of sharing a BBC article on Facebook. The Thai-language article profiled Thailand’s new king and, while thousands of users shared it, only Jutaphat was found to violate Thailand’s strict lese majeste laws against insulting, defaming, or threatening the monarchy.

The sentence comes after Jatuphat has already spent eight months in detention without bail. During this time, Jatuphat has fought additional charges for violating the Thai military junta’s ban on political gatherings and for other activism with Dao Din, an anti-coup group. While in trial in military court, Jatuphat also accepted the Gwangzu Prize for Human Rights.

When he was arrested last December, Jatuphat was the first person to be charged with lese majeste since the former King Bhumibol passed away and his son Vajiralongkorn took the throne. (He was not, however, the first to receive a sentence—this past June saw one of the harshest rulings to date, with one man waiting over a year in jail to be sentenced to 35 years for Facebook posts critical of the royal family.) The conviction, which appears to have singled Jatuphat out among thousands of other Facebook users who shared the article, sends a strong message to other activists and netizens: overbroad laws like lese majeste can and will be used to target those who oppose military rule in Thailand.

In addition to sending a frightening message to activists like Jatuphat who disseminate information, the ruling may reinforce existing chilling effects on journalism in Thailand. The lese majeste laws that can be used to target dissidents also limit what journalists and news organizations—particularly those with in-country staff or correspondents who rely on access to Thailand—can report about Thai politics. The BBC article in this case was a relatively objective, factual profile of King Vajiralongkorn, showing that even seemingly tame reporting and commentary may be construed as illegal. Even covering a case like Jatuphat’s can constitute a violation of lese majeste law, as reporting the details of a lese majeste crime may constitute reproducing illegal content and put journalists in a position to be accused of illegal royal defamation themselves.

Jatupat’s case is only the latest in the Thai government’s increasingly repressive and arbitrary attempts to chill expression online and censor content critical of the state, including banning interaction with certain exiled dissidents and making it a crime to simply view lese majeste content. These extremes are not just about stopping the flow of information; they are also about spreading fear among users that the authorities may be watching what they read, share, and say online. For users to have the best chance at fighting back, they need safe forums for peaceful debate, deliberation, and discussion online: forums that don’t dangerously tie their comments to their real identities and lives.

Categories: Political Action

Bike Gear Company Nearly Run Over by Patent Troll

Deep Links - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 18:21

Rick Pepper is passionate about designing cool products for cyclists and other adventurous types. He started his company Elevengear as a one-person shop in 2007, and it’s since grown to a small, successful team. But all of that could have changed when his company was sued for allegedly infringing a group of obscure patents on delivery and tracking protocols.

Before Rick even realized that he’d been sued, his inbox was flooded with solicitations from lawyers offering to take on his case. “I remember getting an email that I thought was super spammy,” Rick recalls. “It said something like, ‘Hey, since you’re in a bit of legal difficulty, and we have experience with cases like this …’ I thought for sure it was a scam. I thought it was one of those Nigerian prince sort of things.”

“Of course we shouldn’t infringe legitimate patents. But broadly worded and incredibly vague patents are just a shakedown.”

If only it were. Rick had really been sued by Eclipse IP (now called Electronic Communication Technologies LLC), a classic patent troll whose business is demanding licensing fees from real, practicing companies. Eclipse accused Elevengear of infringing three patents. U.S. Patent No. 7,119,716 (the ’716 patent) covers letting the recipient of a notification send a message requesting a change in settings for future notifications. U.S. Patent No. 7,479,899 is a continuation of the ‘716 patent and relates to a delivery recipient sending a message in order to change delivery settings or to provide information to the delivery person. Finally, U.S. Patent No. 7,876,239 (also a continuation of the ’716 patent) covers the practice of sending the recipient of a delivery a notification that that delivery is coming from an authorized source. Although Elevengear is based in Sebastopol, California, and Eclipse was a Florida company, the suit was filed across the country in a federal court in New Jersey.

When Rick realized that the lawsuit was real, he was floored. The patents struck him as incredibly broad and vague. As it happened, some of Eclipse’s patents had already had claims found invalid under Alice v. CLS Bank, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that says that an abstract idea does not become a patentable invention simply by being implemented on a computer. A federal judge in California had ruled that claims from three of Eclipse’s patents (also relating to notification technology) were invalid. In fact, this ruling invalidated more than a dozen claims from the ’716 patent itself.

The timing for Elevengear couldn’t have been worse: Rick was in the middle of launching a new product called Crashtag, an emergency identification tag for cyclists that doubles as a beer bottle opener. He was investing money into a new website and production costs; the last thing he needed was an expensive lawsuit. Rick is the first to admit that his business was on the line: “Our company would have folded, we would have packed up our tent, and I would have gotten another graphic design job.” Fortunately for Rick and his team, Alice came to the rescue.

Rick hired attorney Brian Mitchell to represent Elevengear. Through Mitchell, Elevengear struck back by filing a declaratory judgment action in the Northern District of California seeking a court order that all of Eclipse’s asserted patent claims were invalid under Alice v. CLS Bank. Indeed, Elevengear pointed out (PDF) that a court had already found similar claims invalid. Eclipse dropped its infringement suit and settled (on confidential terms) with Elevengear before the court ruled on these issues.

Rick remembers his team’s mellow celebration when the legal fight was over. “It wasn’t like, ‘We won!’ It was more like, ‘Well, we didn’t die this time.’” Patent trolls have a seemingly endless arsenal of bad patents to use against practicing companies. A small company like Elevengear can never rest easy when the next legal threat might be just around the corner.

Rick finds it deeply troubling that some lobbyists want to destroy Alice. “We’re small companies working on interesting new ways to do things. Of course we shouldn’t infringe legitimate patents. But broadly worded and incredibly vague patents are just a shakedown. If we didn’t have Alice as a tool to defend ourselves, it would have some serious economic implications.”

Categories: Political Action

The staff of music is long, but it bends towards harmony: An interview with the authors of Theft! A History of Music

Creative Commons - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 12:16

“To those who think that mash-ups and sampling started with YouTube or a DJ’s turntables, it might be shocking to find that musicians have been borrowing—extensively borrowing, consciously and unconsciously—from each other since music itself began,” write James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins, two superhero academics have taken on the subject of music and creativity in a new graphic novel. Meticulously researched and incredibly entertaining, the book explores 2,000 years of musical history, from Plato’s admonition that “musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state” to the recent “Blurred Lines” case – and everything in between.

Theft! A History of Music is the newest comic from Jenkins and Boyle, the team behind the 2006 fair use comic Bound by Law. Theft was written in collaboration with the late illustrator and academic Keith Aoki; Boyle and Jenkins developed the graphic designs that were illustrated and inked by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey. The book is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 and is available on the website of the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

In the book’s afterword, you write that you thought you were “done with comic books.” Why this one, and why now? How did the process of writing this book, which took ten years, differ from your previous comic, “Bound by Law?” Why did you decide to take on music as your next subject?

Bound By Law had success far beyond our expectations because it met a need – it explained fair use to a generation of creators and reusers of culture who found the language of copyright law mystifying and felt thwarted by the “permissions culture” of today, which presumes that permissions and fees must be attached to even the tiniest piece of creative culture.

We thought the same was true of music – particularly the permissions culture point. But when we came to write the book we saw that it had to roam much further, through the history of attempts to regulate musical borrowing – whether on grounds of philosophy, religion, race, or property rights. We saw common themes in all of those, common relationships between technology, incentives, law and the fire of sympathetic inspiration, which is impatient with barriers – whether it was a generation of white teenagers being inspired by African American rhythm and blues, or a church composer taking from the songs of the troubadours. As for the ten years it took us to finish, that gets to the pledge we made to our dear departed colleague, Keith Aoki.

In some “superhero” type scenes, your protagonists struggle with the push and pull between power and control vs freedom, with alter-egos employed to demonstrate the impossibility of the decision. How do you, as academics and authors, reconcile the tension between these two forces?

We don’t think that the forces can ever be reconciled once and for all; they are dynamic tensions that actually drive the art. The important thing is to understand that this is a dynamic balance, not a simple equation where more control means more incentives and thus more art.

Jamie still remembers the first conversations with Larry Lessig, Hal Abelson and others about why we needed Creative Commons – we asked the Copyright office how creators could choose to share, to make their material freely available for others to use and build upon. Their answer was “we don’t provide that service.” That is missing a key part of the cultural dynamic – the fact that culture needs raw material on which to build. Creative Commons tried to deal with one aspect of that, namely the sharing commons. But we understood very well that some of that raw material needs to be there because law doesn’t reach it in the first place. For example, E=MC2 or the alphabet aren’t “owned” and if they were you would get less creativity, not more. Yet that does not mean freedom is always the answer. We want artists and composers to have rights over their work and to receive the compensation and attribution they richly deserve. That is in their, and our, interests. But it is also in their interests to have the freedoms to build on the past in interstitial ways that prior musical generations took for granted!

Something I found particularly compelling about the book is the complicated nature of many of the artists’ copyright disputes juxtaposed with lighthearted illustrations and narrative. For example, you discuss a number of surprising stories from the 20th Century, like the clampdown on the kind of sampling in early Public Enemy (the court decision announcing “get a license or do not sample”) or the case finding George Harrison liable for “subconscious” copying. You also include more distant history about Bach, Gutenberg, and even Plato in ways that are easy to understand and often irreverent. What was it like to turn court cases and history into comics? How did you employ storytelling tropes to craft a narrative out of 2000 years of scholarship and history?

Each domain of creativity – from music to comics – has its own dynamics. As academics, fond of long, carefully constructed arguments, we found it a wonderful challenge to fit complex and multifaceted ideas into a comic panel, a picture and a short speech bubble! But designing each of those panels was what made the art so truly satisfying – it was a rush, a creative high. As for law, it can be the subject of both art and humour – look at what Shakespeare and Dickens do with it! The question for us here was whether we could be technically faithful to the details and nuances – this is academic research with references behind every assertion, but it is also an attempt to capture a “conversation” that has been going on for hundreds of years, and do so fairly.

Even a casual reader will notice that the book is well researched. How did you do the research? How did you decide on the narrative structure, from the invention of notation to “Blurred Lines?” What primary sources did you draw on, and how did you do it collaboratively?

Again, there is so much to tell. We worked with composers and musicologists – our colleague, Dr. Anthony Kelley of the Duke music department bears much of the credit there. We taught classes made up of half law students and half composers and asked each group to explain the lines that the other group drew around “allowed” and “forbidden” creativity. We scoured the great books about musical history and borrowing – there are many. We drew on the legal scholars who have touched on this debate – Mike Carroll, another person on the CC founding board has written several of the most important law review articles on the subject. And above all, we listened to how music has been influenced and changed over time.

As for the structure, it emerged out of the chaos of our desire to tell the story and our panic that we wouldn’t be able to do so in a way that showed how fascinating it is. The readers of the book will be the best judge of whether we succeeded.

The book ends with a question – what will music production and rights look like going forward? How will musicians find their way in the 21st century? What do you think is the future of music?

We see several possible futures. Frankly, if we go on our current path – with the permissions culture extending legal claims to the atomic level of musical creativity – then we think that the future will be poorly served. We say in the book that we wouldn’t have got jazz, rock and roll, soul or the blues if we had used the rules we have today. Those musical forms would simply have been made impossible. It is a horrifying thought to think of that dynamic denying us the next great musical form. But we also see a reaction against that cultural sclerosis. We wanted this book to provide the raw material, the balanced information, that helps us decide as a culture which line we wish to go down.

Watch a three minute video about the book below: 

The post The staff of music is long, but it bends towards harmony: An interview with the authors of Theft! A History of Music appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Whistleblower Chelsea Manning, Techdirt Founder Mike Masnick, and Free Expression Defender Annie Game Named Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award Winners

Deep Links - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 08:59
Full Frontal’s Ashley Nicole Black Keynotes Ceremony for Honorees Sept. 14 in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced today that whistleblower and activist Chelsea Manning, Techdirt editor and open internet advocate Mike Masnick, and IFEX executive director and global freedom of expression defender Annie Game are the distinguished winners of the 2017 Pioneer Awards, which recognize leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. This year’s honorees—a whistleblower, an editor, and an international freedom of expression activist—all have worked tirelessly to protect the public’s right to know. 

 The award ceremony will be held the evening of September 14 at Delancey Street’s Town Hall Room in San Francisco. The keynote speaker is Emmy-nominated comedy writer Ashley Nicole Black, a correspondent on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee who uses her unique comedic style to take on government surveillance, encryption, and freedom of information. Tickets for the ceremony are $65 for current EFF members, or $75 for non-members.

Chelsea E. Manning is a network security expert, whistleblower, and former U.S. Army intelligence analyst whose disclosure of classified Iraq war documents exposed human rights abuses and corruption the government kept hidden from the public. While serving in Iraq, Chelsea worked to release hundreds of thousands of classified war and State Department files on the Internet, including a video depicting the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians and two Reuters reporters by U.S. troops. Chelsea’s conscience-driven leaks exposed critical information about U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and made it available online to journalists and citizens around the world, greatly contributing to public knowledge, understanding, and discussion of the government’s actions. While serving seven years of an unprecedented 35-year sentence for leaking the documents, she became a prominent and vocal advocate for government transparency and transgender rights, both on Twitter and through her op-ed columns for The Guardian and The New York Times. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area, where she writes about technology, artificial intelligence, and human rights.

Mike Masnick is the founder and editor of the popular and respected Techdirt blog and an outspoken activist for digital rights, the First Amendment, and a free and open Internet. For 20 years Mike has explored the intersection of technology, policy, civil liberties, and economics, making Techdirt a must-read for its insightful and unvarnished analysis. He was a powerful voice in the fight against SOPA, and coined the term “The Streisand Effect.” Today Mike is in a fight for Techdirt’s survival—he and the weblog are targets of a $15 million libel lawsuit for publishing articles disputing claims of a man who says he invented email. The case pits Mike and Techdirt against the self-proclaimed email inventor and his lawyer, who, bankrolled by Peter Thiel, brought down Gawker. Mike has vowed to stand up for a free and independent press and fight this attempt to silence—or drive out of business—his blog for publishing First Amendment-protected opinions.

Annie Game is Executive Director of IFEX, a global network of over 115 journalism and civil liberties organizations that defends and promotes freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. IFEX exposes threats to online free expression, focuses on bringing to justice those who harm or kill journalists, and advocates for the rights of media workers, women and LGBT journalists, citizen journalists, and activists. For over 10 years Annie has led IFEX’s efforts to free imprisoned journalists, defend online activists targeted by repressive regimes, provide tools for organizing successful campaigns advocating for free expression, and expose legislation aimed at quelling free speech. Under Annie’s leadership, IFEX has begun pairing more traditional free expression organizations with their more digitized counterparts with a focus on building organizational security capacities. Annie has been activist throughout her career in the NGO sector and is also a published writer and broadcaster of satire and humor.  

“It’s an honor to celebrate this year’s Pioneer Award winners and the work they’ve done to fight for transparency and the rights of all people to freely express their opinions, passions, and beliefs without fear of censorship or retaliation,” said EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn. “In these turbulent times, it’s essential that the Internet remain free and open and a source of critical information for people around the world. This group of pioneers, often in the face of great personal risk, have stood up courageously and relentlessly for users, for freedom, and for truth. Their work is an inspiration as we continue to defend global digital rights.”

Awarded every year since 1992, EFF’s Pioneer Awards recognize the leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Previous honorees have included Malkia A. Cyril, Aaron Swartz, Laura Poitras, and Citizen Lab.

Special thanks to Airbnb and Ron Reed for supporting EFF and the 2017 Pioneer Awards ceremony. If you or your company are interested in learning more about sponsorship, please contact nicole@eff.org.

To buy tickets to the Pioneer Awards:
https://www.eff.org/awards/pioneer/2017

Contact:  RebeccaJeschkeMedia Relations Director and Digital Rights Analystrebecca@eff.org
Categories: Political Action

A.B. 375, California’s Broadband Privacy Act, Very Close to Becoming Law

Deep Links - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 07:57
Internet users across California have been calling their state legislators to demand they restore their broadband privacy rights by passing A.B. 375.

So far that public pressure has been overriding the opposition from major cable and telephone companies (although many ISPs based in California actually support the privacy rules) as the bill continues moving forward. If you have not had a chance to call your state senator, please make that call soon before the bill moves to the Senate floor in the coming weeks.

Take Action

Tell your representatives to support online privacy.

Next Steps for A.B. 375

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EFF testified before the state legislature on the need to fill the gap created by Congress when it repealed the broadband privacy regulations enacted by the Federal Communications Commission and prohibited the FCC from taking further measures to protect consumers’ personal data. We actively worked to combat the misinformation campaign launched by the bill’s opponents in a last ditch effort to kill the bill. If A.B. 375 becomes law, Californians will have the protections they were originally going to receive from the federal regulations.

Now that two key Senate committees have passed the legislation with bipartisan support, A.B. 375 sits in the Senate Rules Committee. It will be sent to the Senate floor for a vote after some technical amendments are made.

Several state senators requested that the bill’s author, Assemblymember Ed Chau, who also chairs the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, further amend the legislation to more tightly conform to the FCC’s rules. Both the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communicationsand the Senate Judiciary Committee noted differences between the FCC privacy rules and A.B. 375. These included a slightly broader definition of personal information in state law and the inclusion of the California Public Utilities Commission’s definition of broadband service providers.

California’s A.B. 375 Will Also Ban Pay-for-Privacy Schemes

The only substantive difference between A.B. 375 and the FCC’s privacy rules is a ban on making people pay even more for broadband in exchange for privacy protections. AT&T specifically trotted out a plan to charge people $30 more per month for the privilege of not selling their personal information.

Source: https://twitter.com/wattsteve/status/465182632016240640/photo/1

Since the FCC decided to not ban pay-for-privacy schemes outright and Congress went further by impairing the agency’s ability to protect consumer privacy, AT&T appears to be contemplating bringing back its privacy tax on already high subscription fees. If A.B. 375 becomes law though, those plans will never hit Californians.

The Bill Must Be Approved by the Legislature By September 15th

This is the official deadline for bills that can be contemplated by the Governor in California. That means we have one month for the bill to pass the Senate and the Assembly. There’s no doubt that Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon’s lobbying arms will push even harder on California’s legislators to kill the bill. If you are a California resident, you have to make sure you call your elected official and register your support with A.B. 375, the California Broadband Privacy Act.

Categories: Political Action

The right-wing rats and their ringleader

Socialist Worker - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 01:00

Nicole Colson reports on the bigots, new and old, who brought an orgy of violence and hate to Charlottesville last weekend--and on their sympathizer-in-chief in Washington.

Clockwise from top left: Donald Trump, David Duke, Matthew Heimbach and Richard Spencer

AFTER Charlottesville, we know the truth: The supposedly respectable "alt-right" isn't so "alternative." They're a new generation of the same violent, racist reactionaries of yesteryear.

And from the days after Charlottesville, we know another truth: They are being aided and abetted by none other than the current occupant of the White House.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump held a press conference in which he attacked left-wing and anti-racist groups as being complicit in the bloodshed in Charlottesville, Virginia, caused by a rampage of the filthiest of the far right during their demonstrations against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The reign of far-right terror culminated in a neo-Nazi mowing down anti-racist protesters with a car, killing one and injuring 19 more.

The events in Charlottesville exposed the far right's noxious stew of racism and violence for the world to see. But Trump wouldn't condemn the white supremacists outright at first--initially describing the violence as a result of "all sides."

Trump later retreated somewhat in the face of widespread condemnation, including from members of his own party. But the very next day, he returned full force to his pandering to the racist right, and then some.

"Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch," Trump said, adding that blame for the violence also belonged on those on "the left" who opposed the white supremacists.

"There is another side," Trump ranted. "There was a group on this side, you can call them the left. You have just called them the left, that came violently attacking the other group."

Apparently, Trump missed what the whole world saw: torch-wielding proponents of white supremacy marching on a college campus; followed the next day by a rally in which open supporters of Hitler chanted Nazi-inspired slogans; and gangs of thugs roamed the street looking for peaceful opposing demonstrators to beat up.

Trump went on to explicitly side with the far right's cause in Charlottesville: "Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"

Trump's words aren't merely ignorant. They echo some of the prime talking points of today's surging alt-right, who deflect attention from their violence and hate by claiming to be victims of a leftist conspiracy to silence them and take away their rights.

They just got a big boost from the president of the United States.

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THE ACTIONS of the right-wingers themselves in Charlottesville--the Nazi salutes, the T-shirts bearing quotes from Adolph Hitler, the fascist chants, the multiple incidents of violence against anti-racist protesters--should leave no doubt about the motives of those who organized and turned out for the "Unite the Right" rally.

One of the main organizers was Charlottesville native Jason Kessler.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Kessler got his start in far-right organizing as a student before branching out. In Charlottesville, one main focus for him has been attacking local figures like Wes Bellamy, the city's vice mayor and only Black City Council member, who has pushed for the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee.

Earlier this year, Kessler created a far-right white nationalist group called "Unity & Security for America," which describes itself as "a vanguard grassroots organization dedicated to defending Western Civilization" from "rampant immigration" and other evils.

Kessler's connection to violence isn't surprising. He was arrested for assault earlier this year and pleaded guilty--video showed him punching a man while gathering signatures on a petition to remove Wes Bellamy from office.

While they are now trying to distance themselves, Kessler has had plenty of support from Republican officials. In March, Kessler and members of his group met with Republican Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett, where Kessler reportedly touted anti-immigrant legislation later pushed by Trump.

When white supremacists marched on Charlottesville to "defend" the Lee statue back in May, Kessler and his group were front and center, with Kessler giving a speech to protesters "in which he praised fascist and racist organizations, thanked a prominent Holocaust denier, and declared the beginnings of a cultural 'civil war,'" according to one report.

Kessler couldn't have been more explicit about his goals for the march: "We're trying to do a pro-white demonstration. We're trying to show that folks can stand up for white people."

For Kessler and his followers, "standing up" means lashing out--at anti-racists, at Blacks, at anyone different who dares to oppose their bigotry.

That's why watching Kessler be run off from his attempted press conference the day after the killing of anti-racist Heather Heyer and the injuring of 19 others was so satisfying. As anti-racist activists began shouting and heckling Kessler, he was forced to duck through bushes and trees to escape--scurrying away like the rat he is.

"Her name was Heather, sir," one protester yelled as Kessler turned tail and ran. "Her name was Heather, Jason. Her blood is on your hands."

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WITH MANY repugnant far-right figures feeling confident after Charlottesville--and even more so after Trump's Tuesday tirade--they will redouble their efforts to spread their hate on our campuses and in our communities.

Take Richard Spencer, one of the most prominent figures of the current "alt-right" movement, who was also on the ground in Charlottesville.

The leader of the white nationalist "think tank," the National Policy Institute, Spencer prefers to call himself an "identitarian"--but that's just semantics. When promotion of your "identity" includes advocating for a white nation for the supposedly "dispossessed white race" and calling for "peaceful ethnic cleansing" to halt the "deconstruction" of European culture, there's really no difference.

Spencer is one of a number of racist alt-right figures who stepped forward during the election to advocate support for Trump and push for a mainstream revival of white supremacist organizing.

At a November gathering of his National Policy Institute following Trump's election, he denounced Jews and quoted Nazi propaganda--referring to the media as the supposedly Jewish-controlled "Lügenpresse," or "lying press," a term used by the Nazis. He went on to yell, "Hail Trump! Hail our people!" and "Hail victory!" (the English translation of "Sieg Heil"), as many in the crowd threw up Nazi salutes.

As a Politico profile of Spencer and other alt-right figures noted, Trump's election helped put the wind in their racist sails, allowing Spencer in particular to embark on a planned tour of college campuses--and feel right at home in Washington, D.C., where he was looking to expand operations and "push white nationalism out of the shadows of the internet." Spencer explained the goal: "We need to enter the world. We've hit our limit in terms of being a virtual institution."

That's why Charlottesville was important for the far-right racists. Spencer gloated afterward to the New York Times, Charlottesville "was a huge moral victory in terms of the show of force."

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YOU CAN count Matthew Heimbach as another of the racists on the ground in Charlottesville who saw the day as an unqualified victory for their side. "We achieved all of our objectives," Heimbach told the New York Times, adding, "We showed that our movement is not just online, but growing physically. We asserted ourselves as the voice of white America."

Heimbach is a founder of the Nationalist Front, a neo-Nazi group that bills itself as an umbrella organization for white nationalists. According to the SPLC, Heimbach is "considered by many to be the face of a new generation."

He also has his roots in campus activism, having started a "Youth for Western Civilization" chapter and "White Student Union" at Towson University. Today, Heimbach is known as a leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party and its youth offshoot, the Traditionalist Youth Network, but he also has ties to several other hate groups.

Heimbach's targets are familiar--anyone non-white, non-Christian and LGBTQ, for starters--but he also attempts to appeal to younger disaffected working-class people by criticizing capitalism and touting a kind of environmentalism, while posing white nationalism as a solution to the failures of the system.

His writings and speeches are saturated with bigotry and a frightening vision of an America in which homosexuality and interracial marriage are forbidden, and Jews and other religious minorities can be expelled. In 2013, for example, he said, "Those who promote miscegenation, usury, or any other forms of racial suicide should be sent to re-education centers, not tolerated."

On the ground in Charlottesville, he and his followers were central in escalating the violence. They came dressed in combat gear and attacked counterprotesters who attempted to prevent them from entering the right's rally site. At one point, Heimbach reportedly "ordered his followers to push down the metal police barricades that cut the park into separate zones."

"The biggest thing," he declared prior to the rally, "is a show of strength: To show that our organizations that have been divided on class, been divided on religious issues, divided on ideological grounds, can put 14 words--'We must secure the existence of our people and the future for white children'--as our primary motivating factor."

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IF HEIMBACH and his ilk represent a "new generation" of white supremacists, that doesn't mean the crusty old fascists weren't on hand--providing the ideological bridge between racists of decades past and today's alt-right.

One of the most prominent figures in Charlottesville rally was the grand (dragon) daddy of them all: David Duke.

Duke has been waiting for this moment for decades. After a long career spent trying to make his abhorrent views part of mainstream politics, the former Grand Dragon of the KKK in Louisiana was feeling smug as he marched in Charlottesville.

"This represents a turning point for the people of this country," he told one reporter on the scene. "We are determined to take our country back. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in. That's why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he's going to take our country back, and that's what we've got to do."

Duke got his start in the National Socialist White People's Party before launching the Louisiana Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1974. A Holocaust denier who used to celebrate Hitler's birthday, complete with a cake, each year, Duke also attempted to make the messaging of the Klan's racist terrorism more palatable and media-friendly. As a 1976 Newsweek article about Duke reported:

"We've got to get out of the cow pasture and into the hotel meeting rooms," says Grand Dragon Duke of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. "But it's all window dressing, the substance is still the same."

Duke and his Louisiana-based Knights, however, try publicly to blunt that old-time substance with a singular passion for the window dressing. The Grand Dragon is a 24-year-old LSU graduate who has taken to working the college lecture circuit at campuses like Vanderbilt, Stanford, Indiana and Tulane. He pays full-time organizers to raise Klan consciousness in the universities, and he plugs rallies with a hard-sell radio spot aired on top-40 rock stations.

But "for all Duke's public agonizing over image," Newsweek reported, "the Klan's underlying appeal to racism remains--and there is no indication that the Klan will change its ways soon, no matter how cleaned and pressed the bedsheets may become."

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DUKE TRIED to take his hate to the polls, entering into mainstream politics and serving in the Louisiana state House of Representatives. He ran frequently for political office in the 1990s--making unsuccessful bids for the senate, governor and the Republican presidential nomination.

But in the last presidential election, Duke was a staunch Trump supporter, finding common cause with the billionaire bigot over issues like immigration. "The reason we have this incredible destruction of both Europe and America," he said on the radio, "is because we have an alien race, an alien people who have taken over our countries, taken over our media, taken over our banking, and only Donald Trump of any Republican has spoken up against Wall Street and the Jewish banks like Goldman Sachs."

For his part, the current occupant of the White House initially refused to disavow Duke's support, saying he would "do more research" before deciding.

It's no wonder then that within minutes of Trump's August 15 press conference blaming the left for the violence in Charlottesville, David Duke tweeted at him approvingly: "Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa."

In 2016, Duke's biographer Tyler Bridges raised the alarm about the especially toxic racism on display in the election--and its parallels to the bigots like Duke from generations past:

After Duke's election to the Louisiana House in 1989, novelist Walker Percy offered this insightful perspective to the New York Times. "If I had anything to say to people outside the state," Percy said, "I'd tell them, 'Don't make the mistake of thinking David Duke is a unique phenomenon confined to Louisiana rednecks and yahoos. He's not. He's not just appealing to the old Klan constituency, he's appealing to the white middle. And don't think that he or somebody like him won't appeal to the white middle class of Chicago or Queens."

The left can't afford to see the alt-right bigots and their audience as confined to "rednecks and yahoos." They are organizing and marching, coming onto our campus and into our communities. They want to inspire terror--and they are being bolstered in their cause by the orange stain sitting in the White House.

We have to oppose them at every turn--by mobilizing and building the biggest resistance possible any time they attempt to rear their heads.

Categories: Political Action

How New York subways got broke on purpose

Socialist Worker - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 01:00

Vincent DeCesare takes the long view of the crisis of the New York's transit system.

NEW YORK City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing for a tax on the rich to fund desperately needed improvements to the crumbling subway system run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

De Blasio's plan would raise city income taxes on individuals making over $500,000 a year and couples making over $1 million by about half of a percent, which would raise over $700 million for subway and bus upgrades as well as half-price Metro Cards for the almost 800,000 city residents who are at or below the federal poverty level.

Predictably, New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican from Long Island, shot down the proposal in a statement declaring that "raising taxes is not the answer."

Flanagan didn't bother providing his own answer to the MTA's dire problems, presumably because he's fine with the status quo in which working class New Yorkers pay ever more money for a transit system that is in deep crisis.

Thanks to consistent underfunding from the state, subway delays have increased almost threefold since 2012, and derailments have become ever frequent. In a hyper-gentrified city like New York, the impact of these problems is profound for millions of workers who cannot afford to live near the central business districts.

A survey by the office of New York City Comptroller found that 54 percent of respondents from the Bronx experienced delays "more than half of the time" or "always," compared to only 25 percent of Manhattanites. The study also found that residents of low-income neighborhoods were 14 percent more likely to be reprimanded at work on account of subway delays.

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THE STARVING of the transit system in the wealthiest city in the world--overseen by Republicans and Democrats alike--is as big an indictment of the greed and shortsightedness of the 21st century American ruling class as anything that comes out of the mouth of the current president.

Yes, public transportation is a vital need for working people--a 2007 report sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that households living near good transit spend 9 percent of their income on transportation, while those living in more auto-dependent areas spend closer to 25 percent.

But while bosses would rather not cover worker transit expenses through increased taxes or company transit benefits, they also rely on a functional transit system for their workers to arrive to the job site safely and on time.

Beyond that, viable transit systems are vital to the larger capitalist economy, connecting workers to employers and consumers to products, and enabling urban development, from which the real estate, construction and financial industries profit.

The history of New York's subway system highlights this contradictory nature of public transit under capitalism.

In the early years of U.S. capitalism, bosses often built company towns to locate their workforce near the job site. The American landscape is dotted with erstwhile such towns like Lowell, Massachusetts, founded by Boston Manufacturing Company in the 1820s, and Pullman, Illinois, site of the famous 1894 strike led by Eugene Debs' American Railway Union.

Company towns were never economical in New York City due largely to its sky-high land costs. A mass transit system was therefore needed to facilitate employers' access to labor markets and satisfy the appetites of land speculators and developers for expansion into the outer boroughs of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

First came the elevated railway lines built in the second half of the 19th century by private companies which charged fares that were largely unaffordable to the city's working class.

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AT THE start of the 20th century, in what would today be considered a "public-private partnership," the city helped finance the construction of the subway system and permitted two private monopolies, Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) and Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT), to operate the lines.

By 1940, the city had bought out the two monopolies. But in 1953, in response to the subway system's financial woes, the state of New York placed the system under the control of the NYC Transit Authority, whose board members were appointed by politicians, immunizing the agency from public pressure.

In 1968, the MTA was born after Gov. Nelson Rockefeller combined the NYC Transit Authority with the Long island Railroad, Metro North commuter lines and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority that had been built up by Robert Moses.

In the mid-1970s, New York's elites used the city's fiscal crisis to roll back numerous social programs. They increased transit fares from 35 to 50 cents, introduced tuition at CUNY, closed public hospitals, and laid off tens of thousands of public-sector employees.

Meanwhile, the city government began to promote gentrification--at this point, a relatively marginal movement of middle-class homeowners--as a way to boost its declining tax base by staving off the flight of capital and better-off residents to the suburbs.

Naturally, the real estate industry shared the city government's interest in gentrification. Declining investment in cities during postwar suburbanization and the "white flight" of the 1960s had driven down property values and rents across the city.

Real estate interests stood to profit from what geographer Neil Smith would later call the "rent gap" between current rents and potential rents that could be generated by attracting white-collar industries and their affluent employees back to the city.

To attract these constituencies to the city, the faltering subways required serious renovation. By the early 1970s, the system--with an annual ridership less than half of its 1946 peak of 2 billion--was decrepit and had achieved an unsavory reputation for crime.

In the 1980s, the MTA rebuilt every main line track and introduced a new fleet of clean, un-graffitied cars. But the money for these improvements came largely out of the pockets of working-class New Yorkers.

The half-fare senior program and the half-fare Sunday program were eliminated, and as the government has continued to divest from the MTA, it has had to take on more debt to fund its budget. To pay this debt, the MTA raised fares, which have increased from 50 cents in 1980 ($1.57 in today's dollars) to almost $3 for a single ride today.

Since 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has habitually raided the MTA's budget to pay for non-transit items and diverted funds from subways, trains and buses to road projects and bridge lights.

The installation of cashless fare booths will cost the MTA $500 million, while the operation of the program will cost an additional $149 million over the next four years. Cuomo is also diverting $200 million from the MTA budget to install fancy lights on seven MTA bridges and two tunnels for the sake of impressing tourists.

Likewise, instead of prioritizing the maintenance and upgrade of the system, the MTA has spent billions expanding subway service to wealthy neighborhoods, like the $4.5 billion first phase of the 2nd Avenue extension along the Upper East Side.

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IN THIS context, de Blasio's "millionaire tax" to fund transit infrastructure upgrades is direly needed and clearly feasible.

The Seattle transit system created a similar program in 2015 for residents with household incomes of less than double the federal poverty level. The program has so far reduced bus and light rail fares for over 40,000 low-income riders.

But it remains to be seen if de Blasio plans to fight for his proposal or if he is simply posturing ahead of this fall's mayoral election, knowing that approval in Albany's statehouse--whose next legislative session does not meet until January--is highly unlikely. It was only a few months ago that de Blasio refused to support the idea of discounted fares for low-income riders.

Either way, the self-styled progressive mayor continues to support the criminalization of turnstile jumping, and even claims that it's "not an economic issue" because riders "have money on them" and sometimes even "weapons"--despite numbers showing that this is the case for less than 1 percent of those arrested for fare evasion.

While upstate and suburban Republicans have made their opposition to the millionaire tax apparent, state Democrats like Cuomo and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli have tried to divert attention away from the proposal by urging the city to use some of its budget surplus for the subway system's immediate needs.

Their ideas were laid out in MTA Chairman Joe Lhota's $800 million rescue plan, which sprinkles a few welcome infrastructure improvements over miserable plans to eliminate seats from some subway cars to mitigate overcrowding and more cops to enforce of "quality of life" offenses such as littering.

This last proposal is part of the notorious "broken windows" policing methods that disproportionately affect working-class communities of color. According to the Police Reform Organizing Project, over 90 percent of the 29,000 arrests for fare evasion--the number one reason for arrest in 2015--involved people of color.

We need a strong campaign from riders and transit workers working together to win both a millionaire's tax and the decriminalization of fare evasion politicians. Otherwise, state and city politicians of both parties will continue to pass the cost of a decaying transit system onto working New Yorkers.

Categories: Political Action

No more Charlottesvilles

Socialist Worker - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 01:00

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, explains why the Trump administration bears chief responsibility for the dramatic growth of white supremacy in the U.S. today, in an article that first appeared at Jacobin.

Helping the injured after an act of far-right terror in Charlottesville

THE WHITE supremacist rampage in Charlottesville, Virginia, was the predictable outcome of the Republican Party's racist agenda and Donald Trump's ascension to the presidency.

The racist violence of the right has been unshackled by Trump's election. White racists have not just been emboldened by President Trump, they have also been encouraged by the Trump administration's silence amid the dramatic growth of white supremacist organizations and violent racist attacks.

Antiracist activist Heather Heyer is one of a growing list of people who have been killed by white racists since Trump's election. Just months ago, a self-described "alt-Reich" activist murdered African American student Richard W. Collins III. Earlier this year, Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche were savagely murdered when the two men intervened to stop a white racist from verbally abusing two young Black women, one of whom was Muslim and wearing a hijab.

Collins' murder received no response from the Trump White House, while the vicious slayings of Best and Meche elicited a rare and underwhelming comment from Trump. Trump's muted comments in response to acts of racial terrorism stand in stark contrast to the bombast and vitriol he uses when he's whipping up his base into a racist frenzy.

When Trump finally made a public statement many hours after the racist melee in Charlottesville began, it was intentionally vague: he claimed to oppose violence "on many sides."

Trump's behavior is appalling but hardly shocking. He has been involved in an obscene dalliance with violent racists since his campaign, which saw the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke and other notorious white supremacists endorse him. His chief strategist is Steve Bannon, who has previously bragged about his relationship with the "alt-right." Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant of Trump who has established ties to fascist organizations in Hungary, said last week that "white supremacists" are not a problem in the U.S.

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IF CHARLOTTESVILLE is another episode of racist violence that has been vaguely and quietly criticized by the Trump administration, it also represents an alarming escalation of organized racist violence in the U.S. Other white supremacist murders that have occurred since Trump's inauguration could be described as random acts of racist violence. But the events in Charlottesville were planned well in advance.

For several months, it's been known that white racists were going to descend on Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a local park. This ragtag collection of racist organizations have been staging protests in and around the liberal college town for several months--including an earlier version of the tiki torch march that resurfaced on Friday evening.

Fascist organizations and their white supremacist allies spoke openly about bringing weapons--including guns--to Charlottesville. And they did, showing up with helmets, clubs, pepper spray, wooden shields and assault rifles. On Friday night, before their supposed protest, hundreds of mostly young white men marched through the University of Virginia campus, brandishing torches. They also reportedly marched on a Black church service being held in preparation for a major counterprotest the following day.

It was a naked act of racist intimidation. Despite their claims to only want to exercise their free speech rights, the white racists arrived in Charlottesville to riot, mob and kill anyone who got in their way. The Southern Poverty Law Center described it as the largest gathering of hate groups in the U.S. in decades.

Their mob action revealed multiple realities: they are relatively small, disproportionately violent--and completely coddled by law enforcement. On Friday evening, the police allowed these torch-bearing racists to descend upon a Black church chanting, "White lives matter," and the Nazi slogan "blood and soil," with no permit to protest. The following day, police stood passively as white supremacists lined up in formation, charged at protesters, and beat people.

The contrast with police treatment of Black Lives Matter protests was night and day. The police let a racist mob intent on physical violence simply have its way. The white supremacists never had to contend with tanks, tear gas, dogs, water cannons or assault from riot police. When antiracists chant, "The cops and the Klan go hand in hand," it is this cozy, almost collegial, relationship to which they are referring.

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TRUMP'S RELUCTANCE to openly denounce the white supremacists that supported his candidacy and now support his presidency has embarrassed his Republican Party into rebuking its association with white racists. By Sunday, it was hard not to find a Republican denouncing white supremacist violence--with the important exception of the president of the United States.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio implored Trump to make clear his opposition to white supremacy. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch urged Trump to "call evil by its name." Speaker of the House Paul Ryan described the attacks in Charlottesville as an example of "vile bigotry."

The Republican Party is crying crocodile tears. This, after all, is the party that gave Trump the platform he has stood on for months, espousing the vilest racism in modern American history. For months, Republicans have cheered on Trump's racist rampage in the White House. There was, of course, the Muslim travel ban that Trump called for within hours of his inauguration. But they have also stood by while he's used Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to instill terror in immigrant communities through the weapon of raids. Republicans have celebrated the Trump administration and its return to supposed "law and order" rhetoric--led by Jeff Sessions--while Trump simultaneously encourages the police to abuse people in their custody.

These central pillars of the Trump administration, widely supported by the Republican Party as a whole, are only the very beginning. In the last several weeks, the Trump administration has signaled its intent to investigate whether white people are the victims of discrimination in higher education. They have proposed limiting the number of immigrants migrating to the United States who do not speak English. And they have threatened to increase the number of raids in immigrant communities while specifically targeting for deportation young immigrants brought into the country when they were children.

More than providing a platform for Trump's racist hate speech, the Republican Party has boosted his political agenda--an agenda that has imbued the racist right with the confidence that they can succeed in their campaign of terrorizing, marginalizing, and even killing those who stand in their way. This includes Black and Brown people as well as the white antiracists who challenge them. We are all in their crosshairs.

The fight against racism in Charlottesville forced public officials to finally come out and speak against the growth of white supremacy and neo-Nazis. We have to continue to unite the struggle against right-wing racists and stop them before they kill again.

First published at Jacobin.

Categories: Political Action

Minneapolis rallies around a bombed mosque

Socialist Worker - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 01:00

Trump's deafening silence about the attack on a Minnesota mosque is a stark contrast to the solidarity of community members, write Chance Lunning and Eric Ruder.

Damage from a bomb thrown in the window of the Bloomington mosque

MORE THAN 1,000 people rallied on August 8 to show their support for a suburban Minneapolis mosque that was bombed on the morning of Saturday, August 5, as people prepared for morning prayers. More than 20 speakers addressed the crowd, which was made up of Muslims, Christians and Jews; young and old; and people of all races.

The bomb shook the entire building that houses the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center and rattled homes throughout the neighborhood around 5 a.m. in Bloomington, Minnesota, which lies just south of Minneapolis.

"Today is a day to join hands, reject hate and reaffirm humanity," Mohamed Omar, the executive director of Dar al-Farooq, told the crowd. "We thank God Almighty for blessing us with good neighbors. We are one Minnesota."

Trevin Miller, who lives across the street from the mosque, was awoken by the blast. "I thought maybe somebody drove through our house or something," said Miller. "I felt it on my insides."

Eyewitnesses saw a man drive away in a truck after hearing the window of the imam's office shatter. The power of the blast, which did significant damage to the imam's office but fortunately did not injure any of the dozen or so people gathering elsewhere in the building for the morning prayer, shocked the mosque's congregants.

But people felt joy at the outpouring of support that followed three days later.

"We thank you from the deepest part of our heart," said Abdulahi Farah of Dar al-Farooq, as he described the many neighbors who stopped by with cookies, flower and well wishes in the days after the attack.

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BUT WHILE the community rallied around the mosque, there was a conspicuous silence from Donald Trump about the attack, prompting many faith leaders, politicians and people on social media to call on him to condemn the attack on the mosque.

"If a (predominantly white) church or other house of worship were firebombed over the weekend, Trump would've commented by now," tweeted Imraan Siddiqi. Another Twitter user wrote: "The only thing missing from Trump's denunciation of the attack on a Minnesota mosque was a denunciation of the attack on a Minnesota mosque."

Asked by a reporter about why Trump hadn't yet commented, Sebastian Gorka, one of Trump's national security advisors, suggested that the attack may have been "propagated by the left" in order to appear as a hate crime.

"Silence on the part of public officials at the national level only serves to empower Islamophobes," Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement calling for Trump to condemn the attack.

The prevalence of Islamophobia in the American political establishment and in the mainstream media explains the double standard in how acts of violence are represented. What politicians and the media are willing to label terrorism--and what they are not--is intrinsically linked to the interests of the foreign policy establishment and U.S. imperialism.

That's why, despite how obvious it is to most people that the attack on the Dar Al-Farooq mosque was an act of racist terror, many media sources have yet to actually call it that. The idea of an American carrying out a terrorist attack on Muslims is so contrary to the Islamophobia that structures the media narrative that many accounts seemed to scramble to find other ways to describe it.

It even took liberal Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton more than 24 hours to publicly label the attack an act of terrorism.

But the Trump administration's silence on the attack only served to stiffen the resolve of those who rallied in support of the mosque. "This is my community," said Bloomington resident Donna Campbell. "I'm not okay with what happened here. I'm here to support our neighbors."

Categories: Political Action

Maryland, oh my! Maryland

Socialist Worker - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 01:00

University of Maryland student Brady O'Shea makes the case that the school needs to stop singing a pro-Confederate song as its anthem.

Giant Maryland flags in the stands at a UMD football game

THE COLLEGE football season is fast approaching. Our Terrapins are set to have their first home game of the season on September 9, against Towson.

This article isn't about the game of football, rather, this is about the racist vestige of the Civil War that is still blared loudly into the ears of every attendee of the University of Maryland (UMD) home games, "Maryland, My Maryland."

"Maryland, My Maryland" is a Confederate ballad that glorifies the cause of the slaveholding Confederacy against the "tyrant" Abraham Lincoln and is the official song of the state of Maryland. Some may recognize the song when it's sung at the Preakness Stakes, however the only verse that's sung there is the one verse out of the nine that won't offend most modern sensibilities. I would suggest that the reader take the time to read a full poem and check out this breakdown of the song's meaning published in the Carroll County Times.

The poem was written by James Ryder Randall in 1861 after the great Baltimore riot. This battle came directly after the Battle of Fort Sumter and consisted of an attack by Confederate sympathizers and those who favored appeasement of the Confederacy upon a regiment of union soldiers deployed to protect the Capitol.

The song itself refers to Abraham Lincoln as a "despot," "tyrant" and a "vandal." The song calls for Marylanders to take up arms against the Union Army, or as Randall prefers to call them "Northern Scum," and compares the cause of the Confederacy to that of the American revolutionaries.

Randall even calls for the assassination of Lincoln in the song when he proclaims that "Sic Semper" will be the rallying cry of the confederates, a shortening of "Sic semper evello mortem tyrannis." (Thus I always bring death to tyrants.) "Sic semper tyrannis" would be what Marylander John Wilkes Booth shouted after he mortally wounded Abraham Lincoln in Ford's Theater.

Randall even trumpets in the eighth verse that it would be better for Maryland to be shot to pieces in the war than face "Crucifixion of the soul"--in other words, the loss of Maryland's "honor," "glory" and of course, slaves.

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THIS SONG was the battle hymn of a group of rebellious states whose economic interests lay in continuing the brutal, inhumane and indefensible system of chattel slavery. There is no glory in the brutality of this system. There is no honor in the atrocities for which the confederacy was fighting to defend.

This song only became the official song of the state of Maryland on August 29, 1939, during the era of Jim Crow, in the same vein as laws throughout the South that invoked a revisionist history of the Confederacy and brazenly continued their policies of open racist segregation.

Having this song played during our football games both in its full instrumental form, and to herald the playing of our Alma Mater is unacceptable. This is especially true in light of the torch-wielding protests of modern-day Confederate sympathizers in New Orleans and Charlottesville that aim to violently intimidate those who attempt to remove the statues that glorify the indefensible.

The playing of this song is particularly insulting to the memory of Richard Collins III, a lieutenant in the same army that slaves, who escaped from the fetters that held them, bravely fought and died in so that they and their people might be liberated, the same army called "Northern Scum" by Randall in the song. Collins was murdered in cold blood by a racist, white UMD student who was trying to win his own civil war.

By continuing to play this song during our football games, we can see that the administration is merely trying to silence dissent when it talks about "reconciliation" and "improving race relations." The effort needed to end the playing of this vile song is tantamount to that needed for UMD President Wallace Loh to order a pizza, and should have been undertaken decades ago.

The real racist soil of this university, once worked by slaves, remains to be turned into the light of day, and is instead buried under a growing pile of bull manure.

If we are to truly rid our university and our state of the plague of racism that haunts it, than we must build movements that can go to the roots of the racism that infects our society, pull them from the ground, and leave them out in the sun to dry up and die.

Categories: Political Action

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