Political Action

This is the time to unite and fight far-right terror

Socialist Worker - Tue, 08/15/2017 - 01:00

After the violence and hate of Charlottesville, the International Socialist Organization appeals for mass protest and solidarity to confront and defeat the rising far right.

Marching in Washington, D.C., in solidarity with Charlottesville, Virginia (Ted Eytan | flickr)

THE MASK has been ripped off the supposedly new "alt-right" movement to reveal the familiar and horrifying face of fascism that most people thought was a relic of history.

Last weekend's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, wasn't about some fake defense of "free speech," but championing a Confederate statue. It welcomed open Nazis into its ranks, who roamed the streets looking for people to assault--and ultimately committed a vehicle-terror attack against a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing 32-year-old local activist Heather Heyer and injuring several dozen others, many seriously.

The outraged response to Nazi terror in Charlottesville was immediate and powerful, with protests and vigils in hundreds of cities and denunciations of the violent racists coming from everywhere. Everywhere but Donald Trump's White House, that is.

This is a decisive moment. "Will the overt displays of racism return the extreme right-wing to the margins of politics, or will they serve to normalize the movement, allowing it to weave itself deeper into the national conversation?" asked the New York Times.

The answer depends on what the millions of people who despise Donald Trump and want to stand against him and the right do in the coming weeks and months.

Now is the time to overcome the fear that the fascists want us to feel and organize demonstrations with overwhelming numbers--to stop this cancer now, before it can grow into something far more threatening. That means organizing broad protests open to everyone affected by this threat--which is just about everyone--to prove the far right is a tiny minority.

After the sickening violence of the storm troopers in Charlottesville, we know that the far right isn't looking to gain power through winning votes, and they don't care about approval ratings. We can't defeat them by following the liberal advice to "just ignore them."

If we don't stop the far right today, they will stop us from organizing tomorrow--it's that simple. This isn't a battle that we chose, but it's one we have to win.

Let's also be clear that we can't rely on the police to protect us from fascists or on the government to deny them permits. It's up to all of us to defend our communities and our movements from the right.

If we're successful, Charlottesville could be remembered as a turning point, not only in our fight against the right, but in our ability to organize for our own demands.

The International Socialist Organization is wholly committed to this urgent struggle, and we join with the call that has come from so many organizations and individuals since Charlottesville: for a united fight to confront and defeat fascism.

There will be flash points in the coming weeks, from Boston to Berkeley, but this fight needs to be taken into every city and town, into every community, onto every campus, and into every workplace. We appeal to all our supporters and the whole left to take this stand: Now is the time to unite and fight.

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THE MOST horrifying incident from Charlottesville last weekend was, of course, neo-Nazi James Fields' terror attack, in which the Vanguard America member plowed his car into a contingent of marchers that included members of the International Socialist Organization, Democratic Socialists of America and Industrial Workers of the World, among others.

But the project of fascism is a lot larger than solitary terror strikes. They want to build an organization of disciplined thugs to systematically brutalize and intimidate the oppressed--a program that, as history shows, inevitably involves murder.

In this instance, it was James Fields who was the killer. But the Nazis and far-right "peacekeepers" who came heavily armed to Charlottesville were prepared to inflict violence on people of color, Jews and the left. They are more than willing to kill individuals in order to pave the way for their real aim--mass murder and genocide.

The real face of fascism was apparent throughout the weekend in Charlottesville: Hundreds of torch-wielding men, chanting "Blood and soil!" and assaulting counter-protesters; groups roaming the streets with weapons and shields, looking out especially for people of color like 20-year-old Deandre Harris to brutalize.

As ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson wrote, the far right in Charlottesville:

exhibited unprecedented organization and tactical savvy. Hundreds of racist activists converged on a park on Friday night, striding through the darkness in groups of five to 20 people. A handful of leaders with headsets and handheld radios gave orders as a pickup truck full of torches pulled up nearby. Within minutes, their numbers had swelled well into the hundreds. They quickly and efficiently formed a lengthy procession and begun marching, torches alight, through the campus of the University of Virginia.

The fascists in Charlottesville were confident. One smug little Nazi named Sean Patrick Nielsen bragged to the Washington Post, "I'm here because our republican values are, number one, standing up for local white identity, our identity is under threat, number two, free market, and number three, killing Jews."

All of which made Donald Trump's initial statement condemning violence "on many sides" all the more sickening to millions of people--and a cause for celebration for the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website.

This is another warning sign of the dangers of the current moment--with a Trump administration infested with far-right racists, from alt-right promoter Steve Bannon to Euro-fascist ally Sebastian Gorka to Confederacy enthusiast Jeff Sessions.

We shouldn't have any illusions: The toxic combination of a far right that spans the range from open Nazis to people with access to key White House personnel produced the biggest show of force for American fascism in generations in Charlottesville.

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OUR SIDE has a powerful potential weapon to use against this growing threat: overwhelming numbers. The events of Charlottesville--not only the terror attack, but the Nazi flags, the torch-wielding march and the thuggish violence--horrified the vast majority of U.S. society.

From Saturday night through Monday, solidarity demonstrations were called in more than 400 cities across the country--an explosion of protest that recalled the days after Trump's election last November.

Jason Kessler, the Charlottesville resident who initially called the Unite the Right rally, was chased from his own press conference by furious local residents. Statements poured in from across the country condemning white supremacy, domestic terrorism--and Trump's weak response. The corporate media suddenly stopped referring to Richard Spencer and his pals as "alt-right" and called them the more accurate "white supremacists."

Dozens of Republicans in Congress, who made their careers out of pandering to racism and reaction, rushed to condemn the Nazis and distance themselves from Trump--who was finally forced on Monday to explicitly condemn white supremacists.

Even then, though, it should be noted that Trump's response to Charlottesville is to call for more "law and order"--a racist buzzword that means giving police and immigration authorities more unchecked power to detain and brutalize people of color.

The forces of "law and order" were all over the streets of Charlottesville--and they stood by as the orgy of right-wing violence took place.

Instead of appealing to the government to defend us, we have to build mass protests to defend ourselves and one another. The strategy of relying on small groups of anti-fascists to fight on behalf of the oppressed was shown to be insufficient in Charlottesville by the bigots' large mobilization.

This is the moment to build united fronts with as many organizations as possible to confront the right--not only left-wing groups, but unions and civil rights organizations, down to every possible club on campuses.

In Portland, Oregon, this type of coalition brought out more than 1,000 people in June to confront hate groups that celebrated the racist murders of Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche.

We need more of this kind of organizing in the coming weeks when the far right descends on Boston on August 19, and throughout the school year as fascists like Richard Spencer attempt a provocative tour of campuses. The Movement for Black Lives has called a national day of action for August 19.

On August 27, the far right is planning an all-out mobilization in Berkeley, California, for a "No to a Marxist America" rally, where they will try to repeat their racist rampages of last spring. But anti-fascists have been preparing for weeks to send the message that we will not retreat in the face of their violence and hate.

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AMID THE many condemnations of the far right in Charlottesville, there has been one distinctly false note coming from many political leaders: that these fascists are somehow "un-American."

Violent racism has deep roots in this country, and terrorism in defense of the right's twisted ideals is as American as white sheets and a swinging rope.

But fighting back against racist terror is also very much a part of U.S. history. Those who tell us to ignore the racists and they'll go away are either ignorant of that--or they don't want us to build movements against the far right because they instinctively sense that our movements won't stop there.

This is the time to learn the history of previous generations who fought the KKK and the courageous struggle against fascism in Europe. And it's time to come together in action to give ourselves the courage to confront the forces that want us to stay home.

Just as we've taken strength from the bravery shown by the residents of Ferguson, Missouri, we can take strength from the words of Heather Heyer's mother about her daughter: "She would never back down from what she believed in. And that's what she died doing, she died fighting for what she believed in."

The threat of the right is growing, but it has to be faced and overcome in order to fight for any of our demands. One organizer in Columbus, Ohio, gave voice to the instinct for solidarity and struggle that has been felt around the country since Charlottesville:

When we started planning the Columbus airport protest [against Trump's Muslim travel ban] in January, several right-wingers and Islamophobic scum started posting graphic photos of animals and people being run over by cars.

Their aim was clear: to bully and threaten, and make people scared to come out. For several hours late at night, we just kept taking those photos down. Hundreds and hundreds of people showed up anyway to fight the ban. We kept a look out for errant cars, but they didn't show up. And so we became part of the historic airport actions that beat back the first version of the Muslim ban.

These fascists will try to silence us, they will try to intimidate us, they will try to make us feel afraid. But we are many, they are few.

Categories: Political Action

White (House) supremacists

Socialist Worker - Tue, 08/15/2017 - 01:00

Racists in the White House are enabling racists in the streets, writes Elizabeth Schulte.

Donald Trump presides over a White House event as Steve Bannon (right) looks on

IF THERE was ever a question in anyone's mind that Donald Trump and his racist drumbeat has helped fuel the growth of the far right, just ask longtime white supremacist David Duke.

"This represents a turning point for the people of this country," Duke told Indianapolis Star photojournalist Mykal McEldowney. "We are determined to take our country back. We are 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. That's what we gotta do."

The murder of an antiracist protester in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Donald Trump's immediate response in its aftermath--refusing to condemn the white supremacists responsible for murder and instead denouncing violence "on many sides"--were proof positive of something many people already knew: Trump thrives on the racism and xenophobia that he stirs up, and he doesn't care who embraces this hate and how they act on it.

Among Trump's closest advisers and appointees, there is a long history of advancing white supremacist ideas.

Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, is the former chief of Breitbart Media, where he rebranded old-fashioned reactionary ideas like racism and xenophobia with the shiny new label "alt-right." Before entering the Trump administration, he helped provide a mouthpiece for Islamophobes, racists, anti-Semites, and opponents of LGBT and women's rights.

When Trump appointed Bannon in November, far-right organizations and individuals celebrated--including many of the far-right groups that descended on Charlottesville last weekend. This included "Unite the Right" rally organizers, "alt-right" leader Richard Spencer and the white nationalist Traditionalist Workers Party's (TWP) Matthew Heimbach, who first gained notoriety when he was filmed at a Trump campaign event shoving a Black woman protester.

The TWP's Tony Hovater said of Bannon's appointment at the time: "What timeline are we even on anymore? We're like one or two degrees of separation away from the fucking president."

As his campaign adviser, Bannon advised Trump not to criticize alt-right racism, because Trump's relationship with the right wouldn't hurt him in the polls. Devil's Bargain author Joshua Green wrote, "It was a subject any ordinary campaign would be toxically afraid of...But it didn't produce the political dynamic Clinton expected...Bannon thought he knew why. 'We polled the race stuff and it didn't matter,' he said in late September."

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PANDERING TO the right-wing fringe didn't stop when Trump got elected. Trump and Bannon continued to cater to the right--trying repeatedly to make Bannon's pet projects, such as the Muslim travel ban, into actual government policy.

Then there's Trump's deputy assistant and counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka. He's also an alum of Breitbart, as its national security editor, and was a frequent guest on a radio show hosted by anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney.

Gaffney promotes the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the U.S. government and that the civil rights group Council on American Islamic Relations is a "terrorist" organization. Gorka agrees.

Gorka's close ties to the far right include "co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party with a well-known history of anti-Semitism; repeatedly publishing articles in a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and racist content; and attending events with some of Hungary's most notorious extreme-right figures," according to Forward.

Days before the murder of an antiracist protester in Charlottesville, Gorka appeared on the Breitbart News Daily radio to say that white supremacist weren't the "problem" in America--"jihadis" were.

Meanwhile, White House adviser Stephen Miller made headlines at the beginning of August when he attacked the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty--especially the part that says, "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," which he falsely claimed was "added later."

Miller also has deep ties to the far right. He met Richard Spencer at Duke University, where they bonded over "concerns that immigrants from non-European countries were not assimilating," according to Spencer. Miller attacked programs for Spanish-only speakers, claiming they made "a mockery of the American ideal of personal accomplishment."

A columnist for the conservative Duke Chronicle, Miller's beliefs raised concerns from his co-workers when he was a staffer in the office of then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general (that must be hard to do). Miller wrote in defense of unequal pay for women, called affirmative action programs "racial preferences," and defended former Education Secretary Bill Bennett for saying that crime could be reduced by aborting "every black baby in this country."

And if you thought there was no room for the unreconstructed racism of yesteryear amidst all this repackaged "alt-right" bigotry, you'd be mistaken--because Jeff Sessions, the man who called the Voting Rights Act a "piece of intrusive legislation," is still attorney general. Likewise, warhawk John Kelly, with a career of defending and carrying out anti-Muslim, anti-refugee policies, is just getting settled in as White House chief of staff.

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BUT IT is Donald Trump who rightfully stands at the top of this pile.

Trump didn't just hesitate to condemn the Nazis this weekend--he has lent support to their cause every day of the week, since the moment he began his ugly, bigoted campaign for president.

From a wall to keep out "rapists" and "criminals" from Mexico to bans on Muslim "terrorists" traveling to the U.S., Trump has used the politics of scapegoating to target the most vulnerable people in society and divert anger away from the real sources of people's misery. In the process, the far right, which relies on scapegoating of immigrants, Muslims and others to convince people to join their cause, has found more fertile ground for their hate than at any time in any recent history.

It was a surprising turn of events to see the likes of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) condemn the racist terror in Charlottesville. The undeniable horror prompted even the most cynical politicians to criticize the Trump administration for not immediately condemning racism.

But it hasn't just been the alt-right "outsiders" in the Trump administration who have made racism a part of the scene in Washington. Even if it isn't as overt as what the alt-right creeps in Trump's office are saying, xenophobia and racism are familiar tactics in Washington politics.

Politicians from Republican Ronald Reagan to Democrat Bill Clinton have fanned the flames of racism with myths about "Black-on-white crime," "immigrants stealing jobs" and "welfare cheats," in an effort to convince "hard-working Americans" that Blacks and immigrants were keeping them from having decent living standards, not the corporate parasites who have profited handsomely by making the U.S. a leader in low-wage work.

If the Republican Party establishment wants to distance itself from the alt-right fringe's racism and hate, it will have a hard job erasing its own history of using racism and hate for political gain.

If, in the aftermath of Charlottesville, the Trump administration is forced to exorcise the Bannons and the Millers, it would be cause for celebration. But there will still be a long and ugly tradition of racism in Washington that we need to defeat.

The first step is the solidarity actions for Charlottesville that have been organized across the country, but it can't stop there. We need to mobilize protests wherever the far right tries to organize--and connect the dots between the white supremacists and the White House supremacists.

Categories: Political Action

Supporting the "lesser evil" in Venezuela?

Socialist Worker - Tue, 08/15/2017 - 01:00

With Donald Trump threatening military action against Venezuela, the left's ongoing debate about the way forward is all the more acute. Tom Lewis, co-author with Oscar Olivera of ¡Cochabamba! Water War in Bolivia and contributor to the International Socialist Review, puts forward an independent socialist view on the debate.

Lines outside supermarkets in Venezuela form early in the morning

IN VENEZUELA today, a neoliberal right aims to kill off the Bolivarian process, using violence and economic sabotage, with the full backing of U.S. imperialism. At the same time, a venal "Chavista" government, led by President Nicolás Maduro, reigns over scarcity, represses dissent, rigs elections and fills private bank accounts with profits pilfered from an extractivist economy and military drug trafficking.

The question "which way out?" or "what way forward?" for Venezuela is routinely posed as a binary choice. Should we support Maduro's government or align with the opposition?

If you choose the first option, you side with a government that has betrayed the Bolivarian process. And if you choose the second option, you side with an opposition dominated by fascists and neoliberals.

At least on the English-speaking left, the debate over Venezuela has predictably been plotted as yet another episode in the tired old melodrama of "lesser evilism." One of the legacies of Stalinism is that the ugly politics of lesser evilism raises its twin horns everywhere and in every way: Trump or Clinton? Washington or Moscow? Stalin or Mao? Maduro or MUD (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, Democratic Unity Roundtable)?

Too often, we do not dare to answer: Neither of the above. But "neither of the above" is precisely the response demanded by the current situation in Venezuela.

Venezuelan revolutionaries--as well as the many foreign sisters and brothers who offer international solidarity to the Bolivarian process--find ourselves pressured to choose between a lesser evil (Maduro and the state bureaucracy dominated by the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela [PSUV]) and a greater evil (the right-wing opposition and U.S. imperialism).

This is a sclerotic and ultimately self-destructive choice--one that guarantees, no matter which side wins, the suffocation of the revolutionary energies and ideals that led millions to support Chavismo in the early years.

Fortunately, there exist some political groups, some rank-and-file unionists, some urban colectivos and perhaps some rank-and-file sectors of the armed forces who consider themselves to be authentic Chavistas and who are prepared to organize for another way.

Donald Trump's threats to start more wars, including against Venezuela, represent a heightening of the U.S. government's long-standing hostility toward the governments of Chávez and Maduro. Socialists unconditionally oppose U.S. imperialist threats and intervention, military or otherwise. But this can't serve as an excuse to fall in behind the "lesser evil" logic of defending a Venezuelan government that has betrayed the people.

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A Self-Defeating Illusion

In an article published July 29 at Jacobin ("Which way out of the Venezuelan crisis?") George Ciccariello-Maher offers the following rebuttal to Mike González's Jacobin article of July 8 ("Being honest about Venezuela"):

Ultimately, for González, Chavista elites and the bourgeoisie who have "happily colluded" with them are one and the same. But this leaves him unable to answer the most basic question of all: if they are the same, then why are they fighting a bloody battle in the streets? The answer is that, however imperfectly, the Maduro government still stands for the possibility of something radically different, as the many grassroots revolutionaries that continue to support the process can attest.

Ciccariello-Maher is an insightful scholar and analyst of the Venezuelan experience; his views deserve respect. Yet a fundamental misunderstanding of the Bolivarian process surfaces in this passage. This misunderstanding derives from a widely shared but nonetheless mistaken idea of Venezuelan political economy--in particular, class processes and class struggle today--as well as of the class character of the "Bolivarian" state that has been erected to reproduce Venezuela's current regime of capital accumulation.

Ciccariello-Maher rightly observes that the "Chavista elites" and "the bourgeoisie" are squared off against each other today, but he errs when he attempts to assess the significance of this fact. Indeed, Ciccariello-Maher strongly implies that since they are engaged in "bloody" conflict with "the bourgeoisie," the "Chavista elites" cannot and do not constitute a "bourgeoisie" in their own right.

Although he acknowledges it elsewhere in his writings, in this key passage from Jacobin Ciccariello-Maher conceptually ignores the reality, power, and influence of the boliburguesía--that is, the public officials and associated regime capitalists who have become rich off successive Chavista administrations.

The boliburguesía--its existence and its social agency--completely disappears from Ciccariello-Maher's scenario of lesser evilism ("Chavista elites" vs. "bourgeoisie"). For him, therefore, the Maduro government still represents an anti-capitalist institution and social force ("the possibility of something radically different").

On this logic, one might well argue--in denial of large chunks of historical experience--that sections of the ruling class never face off violently against one another. Yet violent confrontations can and often do characterize contexts in which a rising section challenges the power and privilege of an already established section of the ruling class. Capitalists regularly behave as a "band of warring brothers" when it comes to who gets to control the spoils of exploitation.

Many analysts refer to Venezuela as a "petro-state" or "rentier state," meaning that the economy revolves around oil and mineral extraction and exports. Moreover, it is widely acknowledged that Chávez's dream of "endogenous" development dissolved with falling oil prices. As a result, even after the advent of Chavismo, the national economy occupied the same position in the world economy as it did before Chávez: Namely, Venezuela remains imprisoned in the imperialist dungeon of extractivism.

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The Policies and Practices of Extractivism

Extractivism is the main regime of capital accumulation in Venezuela. This process is not administered by the direct producers (oil workers), nor is it superintended by the informal sector of related service workers.

Those whose labor is exploited in and through this regime of accumulation aren't allowed to have a deciding voice in the overall policies and practices of extractivism. Instead, capital accumulation in Venezuela is controlled by the state and the PSUV party bureaucracy. These entities run Venezuela very much as if it were a private enterprise--Venezuela, Inc.

The list of consequences goes on and on: state-led development from above; personally lucrative deals with imperialists; sweetheart deals with sectors of national capital and business union bureaucrats; disregard of environmental impacts; violations of Indigenous rights; the siphoning off into private pockets of foreign capital and international aid; strangling the flow of financing to social programs whenever faced with the "need" to impose austerity and administer shortages; subversion of local autonomies by forcing barrios, misiones and colectivos to compete for scarce resources, thereby creating local PSUV apparatchiks who must curry favor and identify with the ruling party and its state.

What I have just sketched is known as the system of bureaucratic state capitalism. It is an understanding of contemporary Venezuela as this kind of system that Ciccariello-Maher misses. This conceptual failure causes him to misinterpret the significance of the "bloody battle" between an old ruling class that longs to return to naked neoliberalism and a new ruling class that veils state capitalism behind the shroud of socialist rhetoric.

Bureaucratic state capitalism is, however, precisely the perspective that González brings to bear on the nature of the current crisis in Venezuela. Whereas Ciccariello-Maher naively sees Maduro as the last bastion of Chavista hope, González correctly sees Maduro as the undertaker of the Bolivarian revolution.

During a Facebook discussion of Venezuela, Sam Farber circulated a link to the debate held in 1950 between Max Shachtman and Earl Browder concerning the nature of the Stalinist Soviet Union ("Is Russia a socialist community?"). Anyone who wishes further explanation of why González views Venezuela as a non-socialist social formation will find this exchange to be enlightening.

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A Revolutionary United Front

Another significant voice propagating major illusions about what Maduro and the PSUV represent for socialism and revolutionary hope is Stalin Pérez Borges, a long-standing union leader, current figure of the United Chavista Socialist League and member of the Advisory Committee of the Bolivarian Socialist Workers Central Union (CBST).

Other critics will dissect details of his arguments in depth. What I wish to highlight here is the overall contradiction at the heart of Pérez Borges's prognosis for revolutionary developments emerging from the recently empowered National Constituent Assembly (ANC).

The list of revolutionary reforms that Pérez Borges expects is truly astonishing. He believes that the ANC will find a way to defuse the present situation of violent confrontations; arrange a negotiated social peace; devise a system of price controls and insure an equitable distribution of consumer goods; improve the constitutional status and state funding of the misiones and other social programs; eradicate corruption and impunity within the government; productively address problems of national and cultural identity; protect Indigenous rights; empower the youth; and defend the environment.

All of that is at best wishful thinking. At worst, it is grotesque propaganda for the regime of bureaucratic state capitalism.

Pérez Borges himself admits that the selection process for ANC delegates was thoroughly undemocratic and controlled by the PSUV cúpula. Moreover, the ANC has opened with intensified repression, not only against the right, but also against the center and the left. And no matter what insincere "paper reforms" eventually make their way out of the ANC, they will be thwarted and crushed whenever the government deems it "necessary" to do so.

Reforms are by no means guaranteed, nor will they endure in a social conjuncture shaped by state capitalism, warring factions of the ruling class and the subordination of progressive grassroots organizations to the state apparatus of PSUV committeemen and committeewomen.

Only a fully-fledged socialist revolution--one that abolishes state capitalism, thereby loosening the hold of imperialism and dissolving a racketeering state--can enact true and lasting reforms.

So what is to be done? The path lies in the direction of building a revolutionary united front committed to fighting the right, re-establishing the constitution of 1999, and recovering the economic and social gains of the early years of the Bolivarian process. The starting point would be to pursue a united front among a variety of groups and individuals.

This united front would not include the Opposition, the boliburguesía or hard-line, rigidly centralized and authoritarian sectors of the PSUV. It should, however, seek to win over some of the trade unions, colectivos and student groups that at present remain formally within the PSUV. Their support for Maduro, especially among the rank and file, may weaken as the crisis deepens.

A revolutionary united front might also include pockets of rank-and-file military resistance to Maduro--depending on whether the military rebels have declared for MUD or for the Constitution of 1999.

A revolutionary united front strategy should not, however, rely fundamentally on the military. The old Bolivarian strategy of "civic-military" alliances revealed its bankruptcy starting in 2006, if not before. Nevertheless, if sectors of the military declare for the Constitution of 1999, and if they agree to fight under revolutionary civilian leadership, then their participation could be welcomed.

The only strategy with any promise of success in breaking the chains forged by imperialism and state capitalism in Venezuela is that of the patient building up of revolutionary socialist forces outside of both the Maduro government and the opposition.

No one should entertain any illusions that such a strategy can provide a short-cut or quick fix. There is nothing automatic about it, and eventual success will require a commitment to longer-term struggle.

It is not, of course, the place of North American socialists to choose the way forward for Venezuelan socialists. But in fact, a strategy similar to the one outlined in this article has already been proposed by the comrades of Venezuela's Marea Socialista (MS).

At this juncture, one cannot claim that MS and its allies can field anything like the social forces necessary to defeat the opposition, nor to simultaneously transform Venezuela's regime of state capitalist accumulation. In a way that other significant political formations in Venezuela do not, however, MS carries the flame of authentic Chavista hope and expresses it with the resolute clarity of revolutionary socialism.

For MS's perspective and its rich analysis of contemporary Venezuelan society and politics, see the interview with MS member Carlos Carcione published at SocialistWorker.org.

Meanwhile, back in the belly of the beast: If the bellicose thug known as Donald J. Trump does anything further to interfere with the process of Venezuelan self-determination, he and those who support him in Congress, the State Department and the U.S. military should be challenged mightily in American streets by our own homegrown united front.

Hands off Venezuela! U.S. Out of Latin America!!

Thanks to Todd Chretien and Eva María for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

Categories: Political Action

The roots of the nuclear arms race

Socialist Worker - Tue, 08/15/2017 - 01:00

With Trump's threats grabbing headlines, Australian socialist Tom Bramble looks back at the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation, in an article written for Red Flag.

A pilotless U.S. nuclear missile from the early years of the Cold War with the ex-USSR (S Kaiser)

FOR SEVEN decades, the world has been on the edge of a nuclear precipice. The United States and the Soviet Union each had at their disposal a massive array of aircraft, submarines and land-based missile launchers that were ready to fire a barrage of nuclear weapons that could, in a single day, kill tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people. On several occasions, conflict between the two superpowers brought the world to within a hair's breadth of annihilation.

Even though nuclear Armageddon has not eventuated, the cost of diverting resources to feed the insatiable maw of nuclear weapons development, construction, maintenance and disposal has resulted in countless needless deaths as money was taken out of health, education and housing. It wasn't just people's material needs that were sacrificed; the entire political structure of the rival nations engaged in the nuclear arms race were skewed towards authoritarianism and secrecy.

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The Start of the Nuclear Age

The dropping of the atom bomb by U.S. Air Force plane Enola Gay on the Japanese city Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, is usually considered the beginning of the nuclear age.

But October 1944 might be better understood as the start. In that month, the leaders of the Allied powers--Britain, the U.S. and the Soviet Union--met in Yalta on the Crimean peninsula to decide on the spoils of the Second World War, the end of which was by then in sight.

Some areas were not in dispute and did not come up for discussion. The U.S. was to maintain its domination over Central and Latin America. The Soviet Union would control the Baltic States. Britain was, temporarily at least, to retain its empire east of Suez.

But Yalta decided the fate of most of Europe. The U.S. and Britain were to control the West, the Soviet Union the East. Any popular movement that threatened the division of Europe--such as the Greek resistance forces in the West or the later revolt in Hungary in the East--was crushed.

Signatures on a piece of paper were one thing. The only sure safeguard for the boundaries agreed upon at Yalta was military might. The Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the first victims of the U.S.'s need to demonstrate its capacity to inflict death and destruction on a grand scale. They were bombed despite the fact that the Japanese emperor was preparing to surrender.

By seizing the initiative in Japan, the U.S. also wanted to scotch any ambitions that the USSR might have to build an empire on its eastern borders along with the new empire it was establishing on its west. The Russian army was sweeping through Japanese lines in northern China. It had to be stopped. President Truman's war secretary Henry Stimson wrote in his diary immediately following the first successful test of an atomic bomb in New Mexico: "Let our actions speak for words. The Russians will understand them better than anything else. We have got to regain the lead and perhaps do it in a pretty rough and realistic way."

The hundreds of thousands who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, either immediately or in a horrible, slow way in the months and years afterwards, paid the price for the U.S.'s determination to demonstrate it was top dog and to ensure Japan fell into its camp and not that of Stalin.

Nuclear weapons were from the outset an outgrowth of the competition between the great powers.

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The Onset of the Cold War

America's monopoly of atomic bombs did not last long. Just four years after Hiroshima, the USSR tested its first bomb. By now the Cold War between the two superpowers was in full swing. Two great armed camps faced off against each other. For the first time in human history, the two foes possessed the kind of weaponry that could eliminate entire cities of their enemy in one airborne raid. The destructive power only increased with the testing of hydrogen bombs, first by the U.S. in 1952 and then by the Soviet Union the following year.

Within each camp, the dominant imperialist consolidated its power. In the West, the U.S. forced Britain to disband its empire to allow access for its big corporations to new markets. The U.S. built dozens of military bases across Western Europe to extend its military reach within the umbrella of the newly established North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The U.S. also rolled out the Marshall Plan to rebuild the economies of its war-shattered allies so they could act as a buffer against Russian power.

In the East, Russia established the Warsaw Pact to extend its occupation of the lands it conquered in 1945 and as a bulwark against U.S. expansion. And it created the economic bloc COMECON to draw Eastern Europe into serving the needs of Russian industry.

The two blocs developed as mirror images of each other.

Even without a single missile being fired or bomb dropped, the economic waste involved in the nuclear arms race was appalling. In today's equivalent, trillions of dollars were spent on nuclear programs. Governments both East and West diverted resources from health, education, social welfare, housing--anything of human value--into the employment of armies of scientists to develop the latest means of mass destruction. The burden was particularly severe for the Soviet bloc because its economy was much weaker than that of the U.S. It had to devote a much bigger share of its resources to the arms race.

The similarities between the two superpower rivals were not just economic and military, but political too. While both proclaimed their adherence to democracy, authoritarian rule was much more apparent. In the East, the Stalinist states were run by one-party governments. Any threat to these, in the form of independent unions and media, were banned and often condemned as agents of the West.

In the core of the Western bloc, there was the appearance of parliamentary democracy and freedom of assembly and the press. But in the U.S., the advent of the nuclear age brought a massive concentration of power in the presidency, including the right to wage war without the approval of Congress. The 1947 National Security Act established both the president's National Security Council and the CIA, which quickly became laws unto themselves. "Loyalty oaths" and the attorney general's list of "subversive" organizations then formed the basis of the McCarthyite witch-hunts of the late 1940s and early 1950s, which drove more than 10,000 people from their jobs on the grounds that they were Russian agents. The U.S. also intervened on numerous occasions in the postwar decades to overturn governments that were not sufficiently loyal to Washington.

On the periphery of the Western bloc, whether in Greece, Turkey, Portugal or Spain, and in the many countries in the Third World occupied by the U.S. and the big powers of Europe, even the semblance of democracy was absent, with the U.S. propping up friendly dictators.

Nuclear weapons and their threatened use hung over the entire imperialist rivalry between East and West, as each tested the strength of the other along the borders between their respective spheres of influence. During the Korean War, secretary of state Dulles threatened the Chinese with nuclear attack. The U.S. developed advanced plans in 1961 to mount a nuclear attack on the USSR in the event that the latter went ahead with plans to take over West Berlin, then occupied by the U.S., Britain and France.

The most frightening nuclear confrontation came a year later, in October 1962, when Russia attempted to ship nuclear missiles to Cuba, just 90 kilometers from Florida. The U.S. could not tolerate a situation in which the Soviet Union would have nuclear warheads so close to U.S. soil. It blockaded Cuba to prevent Russian ships from reaching their destination, marshaled 100,000 troops in Florida to invade Cuba and mobilized 1,400 bombers with instructions to strike Russian targets. For 13 days, the world stood on the brink of an unprecedented nuclear catastrophe. Leading figures in the U.S. political establishment seriously believed that the world could end. But, faced with the threat of the devastation of its cities, the Russians pulled back.

Berlin, Korea and Cuba were just three moments when the world could have seen a nuclear exchange and massive destruction of life. As far as the U.S. government was concerned, a nuclear exchange would kill millions of its citizens, but the U.S. ruling class, bunkered down in well-provisioned shelters, would survive, whereas the USSR would not. It was a diabolical calculation.

Leaving aside war planning, there were many other moments where malfunctions of one sort of another might have resulted in nuclear disasters, including massive radiation spills. These included nuclear missiles falling from or being jettisoned from aircraft, aircraft carrying nuclear weapons crashing into land or ocean or blowing up on military bases, nuclear submarines sinking to the ocean floor and subterranean nuclear tests releasing radioactive dust, raining fallout all around. More than a dozen U.S. nuclear bombs have been lost in accidents and never recovered. In Australia, the British used Aboriginal people in Maralinga as guinea pigs when they were subjected to radioactive fallout.

There were also many occasions when nuclear missions were almost initiated because of false alarms of incoming missiles due to faulty computer equipment or misreadings of radar or satellite information. On one occasion, U.S. radar operators mistook a flock of Canadian geese as a Soviet bomber attack.

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The Second Cold War

Despite the frequent saber-rattling between the two sides and the bloody and lengthy proxy conflicts that raged, the U.S. and the USSR (and China) in the 1970s negotiated some limits to the military competition that had characterized the Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s. The U.S. was licking its wounds after defeat in Vietnam. Russia was happy to focus more on matters at home because its economy was beginning to sputter.

In 1980, however, a new Cold War between East and West got underway. Economic and political crises wracked both sides. The U.S. was under siege within its own camp, as markets long dominated by U.S. companies had come under serious threat from German and Japanese competitors. Its prestige had been badly dented by the Watergate scandal and the overthrow of political allies in Iran and Nicaragua. Russia had been compelled to send its army into Afghanistan as its client government in Kabul was losing control of the country. In Poland, the government, Russia's ally, was being assailed by a new trade union, Solidarność.

Newly elected U.S. President Ronald Reagan announced a massive boost to arms spending, with the aim of reasserting U.S. imperialist power. Cruise and Pershing missiles, first-strike weapons able to destroy Russian missiles still in their silos, were to be installed in Western Europe. Other new projects included the B1 bomber, the neutron bomb, which wiped out populations but left buildings intact, the Trident nuclear submarine and the MX nuclear missile. On top of all these, Reagan announced a satellite-based nuclear defense system, known as Star Wars. The new system was designed to knock out any incoming missiles, allowing the U.S. to strike at the USSR without fear of retaliation.

Reagan's frenzied arms spending in his first term forced Russia to try to catch up. It introduced SS20 missiles and the new Backfire bomber. But because its economy was so much weaker, the renewed arms race created a severe crisis in the Soviet economy. The working class, long repressed under the heel of the authoritarian regime, began to stir. The ruling class under Mikhail Gorbachev tried to restructure the economy, but the system was beyond repair. The USSR collapsed in 1991. The U.S. emerged as the undisputed master of the world.

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The Situation Today

The world is a much more dangerous place today. There are many more nuclear-armed powers, even though the U.S. is still by far the most dangerous. Most states with pretensions to regional or global leadership seek a nuclear capability. The proliferation of nuclear weapons means that regional conflicts have the capacity to lead to devastation.

Thousands of nuclear weapons are just minutes away from being launched. Most nuclear arms limitation treaties are not worth the paper they're written on; even if they limit the number or development of one type, they encourage the building of others. So called "dirty weapons", which use depleted uranium, were used by the U.S. in Iraq with devastating effects.

Nuclear weapons are the most obscene but logical conclusion of a whole system based on economic, political and military competition. This never-ending competition carries with it the dreadful prospect of nuclear holocaust. Capitalism is an insane system that threatens us all.

First published at Red Flag.

Categories: Political Action

Medicare para todos

Socialist Worker - Tue, 08/15/2017 - 01:00

Una propuesta demostración nacional por Medicare Para Todos puede ser el primer paso para convertir el creciente favor por sistema de pago-único en organización.

DONALD TRUMP y el Partido Republicano sufrieron otro revés en su intento de destruir Obamacare, un sistema de salud enfermo, y dejar que los súper ricos saqueen sus escombros.

En julio, en el curso de una semana, tres diferentes proyectos de ley empujados por Mitch McConnell, líder de la mayoría republicana en el Senado, para revocar la Ley de Asistencia Asequible (ACA) de Barack Obama, fallaron debido a la oposición dentro de la estrecha mayoría de su propio partido.

El primer intento fue un proyecto de ley que hubiera revocado y reemplazado Obamacare con un sistema de salud más favorable a los ricos que lo aprobado por la Casa de Representantes en mayo, y que el mismo Trump había cotejado de "tacaño"; el segundo hubiera revocado Obamacare sin reemplazo; y el último hubiera revocado sólo sus partes más impopulares, como la obligación de obtener un seguro de salud bajo pena de multa.

Estas son buenas noticias: todas las versiones de la legislación republicana eran un desastre. La propuesta del Senado, supuestamente más "moderada", hubiera, por ejemplo, reducido aún más el dinero para Medicaid que el proyecto aprobado por la cámara baja.

Pero también hay malas noticias: el fracaso de los republicanos no cambia el hecho de que el sistema de atención de la salud bajo ACA se hunde más profundamente en crisis.

Obamacare contiene algunos avances importantes que deben ser defendidos contra los republicanos. Pero al establecer mercados que dejan a decenas de millones de personas a la merced de la lucrosa industria de seguros, preparó el escenario para el caos entre las mismas personas que debía ayudar.

Si los republicanos están en condiciones de tratar de revocar Obamacare es porque pueden explotar la masiva insatisfacción popular con el estatus quo en la salud.

La única manera de salir de esta crisis en la atención de la salud es una alternativa radical a Trumpcare y Obamacare: un sistema de pago-único que cubra a todo el mundo bajo Medicare, ampliado y mejorado.

La verdadera buena noticia es que el apoyo para esta alternativa es fuerte y está creciendo. Una encuesta realizada el mes pasado por Pew Research Center mostró que el apoyo a un sistema de pago-único ha crecido la mitad en tres años, llegando al 33 por ciento. Lo mismo con las iniciativas de la izquierda para organizar este sentimiento en protesta y acción política.

Hay un largo camino por recorrer antes de obtener Medicare para todos, pero cada vez más personas se niegan a permitir que lo largo del camino les desanime a dar los primeros pasos.

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CUANDO McCONNELL admitió la derrota por segunda vez, el apoyo a su proyecto de ley se había hundido hasta el 12 por ciento, según una encuesta de USA Today.

La legislación era tan obviamente destructiva que gran parte de la industria del cuidado de la salud se opuso, pero la propuesta estuvo a sólo dos o tres votos de convertirse en ley. Con el margen tan estrecho, las protestas contra el GOP, en Washington y en todo el país, fueron cruciales.

En el Capitolio, por ejemplo, la organización ADAPT organizó un "die-in" en la oficina de McConnell en junio. La policía tuvo que arrancar a algunos manifestantes de sus sillas de ruedas y arrestaron 43 participantes.

Estas acciones ayudar a aumentar la presión sobre los republicanos mientras éstos aún se hallaban en Washington, pero cuando regresaron a sus estados y asistieron a asambleas con sus votantes las cosas no fueron diferentes. Durante todo el año, los legisladores republicanos enfrentado el tipo de oposición una vez movilizada contra los miembros demócratas del Congreso durante la era Obama. Y recibieron el mensaje; muchos cancelaron las apariciones en sus propios distritos.

Los locales del Partido Demócrata pudieron haber convocado alguna de estas protestas, pero las organizaciones de base que las convirtieron en puntos de discordia establecieron un marcado contraste con la actitud de mantener la cabeza baja que el partido prefirió.

La estrategia demócrata amontó a darle cuerda a los republicanos para que se ahorquen, y esperar por la próxima elección. Este cinismo se cristalizó después de que los republicanos de la cámara baja votaron su proyecto de ley de salud, y un grupo de fatuos demócratas comenzó prematuramente a celebrar las victorias electorales por venir.

No podemos confiar en que los demócratas vayan a luchar, incluso contra la destrucción de Obamacare. Es más probable, de hecho, que McConnell obtenga algunos Senadores demócratas para sacar una versión alterada de la propuesta republicana.

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LA IZQUIERDA debe recordar esto: Tomó un movimiento de protesta desafiar a Trump y los republicanos en el tema de la salud.

Esto encaja con la lección primordial de la era Trump, tanto durante su campaña electoral, como en los primeros meses de su presidencia. ¿Qué lección?: No puedes luchar contra la derecha desde el centro.

Trump y los republicanos tienen una cosa a su favor: El sistema de salud es un desastre para millones de personas. Las medidas positivas en ACA son anuladas por su núcleo tóxico, dejando a las aseguradoras libres para atrapar a los más necesitados, obligándolos a comprar su producto defectuoso y caro.

Desde la aprobación de ACA en 2010, la industria de seguros ha logrado aflojar las nuevas regulaciones federales, descubriendo cómo jugar con la ley para maximizar sus ganancias. Las primas están en alza, junto con el costo para los asegurados, y los "mercados" de ACA, donde un individuo debe comprar su seguro, están en peligro de quiebra, así como las aseguradoras se retiran en algunos estados.

Esas no son mentiras de Trump o propaganda republicana.

La cura, por supuesto, no es el veneno del GOP. La cura es una ruptura radical, una que Obama nunca consideró en 2009: Un sistema de pago-único que proporcione atención universal de salud, como existe en casi todos los países industrializados del mundo.

Esta urgente necesidad es ahora compartida por un número más amplio de personas. A pesar de las calumnias de la industria de la salud, un tercio de la gente dijo a Pew Reaserch Center que apoyan tal alternativa. Un 60 por ciento dice que el gobierno federal debe ser responsable de asegurar la cobertura médica para todos los estadounidenses, lo que es sólo posible bajo un sistema de pago-único.

El tiempo ha llegado para que los que apoyamos Medicare para todos tomemos la iniciativa. Pero eso requiere una comprensión clara de lo que obstaculiza nuestro camino: la industria de la salud y de seguros, los republicanos, por supuesto, pero también los demócratas.

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DESTRIPADOS DE su poder en Washington por las elecciones de 2016, los líderes demócratas sienten la libertad para dar apoyo retórico a un sistema de pago-único. Por primera vez, la mayoría de los demócratas de la cámara baja ha registrado su apoyo a una propuesta de Medicare para todos. No sólo Bernie Sanders, sino también los senadores Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand y Kamala Harris han expresado diverso grado de respaldo.

Pero para cuando las papas queman, el entusiasmo demócrata se enfría.

En California este año, donde el gobernador es un demórata, los activistas por el derecho a la salud presionaron a la legislatura estatal, totalmente controlada por los demócratas, a tomar un proyecto de ley que habría comenzado a trabajar en un sistema de pago-único.

La popular medida pasó fácilmente el Senado estatal. Pero en junio, cuando el proyecto de ley debía ser retomado por la Asamblea Estatal, su presidente, Anthony Rendon, anunció que permanecería en comité indefinidamente, una sentencia de muerte legislativa.

¿Su excusa? Rendon afirmó que el aplazamiento era para hacer que la lucha contra Trumpcare en Washington "fuera la principal prioridad en el cuidado de la salud".

Esto es ridículo, por supuesto. La aprobación de una legislación de pago-único, en el estado más poblado del país nada menos, habría desafiado a los reaccionarios republicanos en Washington y hubiera galvanizado la lucha contra Trumpcare en todo el país.

La verdadera razón por la que Rendon mató el proyecto de ley es que los demócratas ven la ventaja política en decir que apoyan tal sistema, pero no quieren incurrir en la ira de la industria de la salud.

Por el contrario, los activistas de la salud que se movilizaron en California y en el estado de Nueva York, donde una legislación similar avanzó una cámara de la legislatura, pero fue detenida en la otra, demostró que se puede luchar contra Trumpcare y por pago-único.

De hecho, las dos batallas necesitan ser ligadas, porque las protestas contra el desastre de salud republicano serán mucho más efectivas si tenemos algo mejor que Obamacare como alternativa.

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EL MOMENTO crece para que la izquierda tome esta lucha. Cuando los Social Demócratas de América (DSA, por sus siglas en inglés), quienes han cuadruplicado su tamaño durante el último año, encuestó a sus miembros sobre qué campañas deben ser una prioridad, Medicare para Todos fue mayoritaria por un amplio margen.

Los miembros de DSA en torno a la revista Jacobin, entre otras, proponen que su organización, en coalición con otros grupos de izquierda, convoquen una demostración nacional por un sistema de pago-único en Washington, DC. Dustin Guastella escribió en Jacobin:

Una marcha daría a los socialistas la oportunidad de liderar, vocal y agresivamente, en una demanda esencial de la clase obrera. Nos ayudaría a construir la organización, forjar un consenso político y reintegrar el movimiento socialista en un sector clave del movimiento obrero. Ese mismo nivel de unidad y claridad de enfoque no podría lograrse mediante tácticas de cabildeo, como los telefoneando a los senadores, o mediante campañas locales.

Los activistas por la salud necesitan una forma de generar impulso en un momento en que las campañas locales y estatales han tropezado con obstáculos, como en California. Y una acción a nivel nacional podría proporcionar un enfoque que galvanizaría el amplio sentimiento en favor de un sistema de pago-único.

Pero algunos en la izquierda se han opuesto a esta marcha nacional, incluso dentro de DSA. Un documento que circula en Internet de los miembros de DSA en Washington, DC, argumenta que una demostración consumiría recursos que podrían ser usados en la organización local, sin tener ningún impacto real.

Desafortunadamente, el documento incluye algunas caricaturas comunes de la izquierda que a menudo se utilizan para desacreditar la idea de protestar. Pero incluso dejando eso de lado, la crítica de que una marcha nacional desviaría la atención de la organización local es errónea. La experiencia pasada demuestra que la movilización para una marcha nacional es una excelente manera de reunir a personas, localmente, que podrían no juntarse de otra manera.

Además de iluminar un tema que el establecimiento político y mediático prefiere ignorar, una marcha por Medicare para Todos podría ayudar a convertir un estado de ánimo generalizado en una organización tangible, que puede dar los siguientes pasos, a nivel local, nacional, o ambos.

El ataque republicano no será detenido con una sola demostración, ni tampoco una victoria a nivel nacional por pago-único está a la vista. Pero si esperamos ganar en cualquier momento, nuestro lado necesita organizarse y debemos aprovechar todas las oportunidades para hacerlo.

En este momento, el foco se centra en la atención de la salud, y el desastre republicano expone no sólo la miseria que nos quieren infligir, sino también la necesidad de demandar algo mejor que Obamacare. Los socialistas tenemos algo que decir al respecto.

Traducido por Orlando Sepúlveda

Categories: Political Action

Rising Demands for Data Localization a Response to Weak Data Protection Mechanisms

Deep Links - Mon, 08/14/2017 - 15:30
Don't Trust Data Localization Exceptions in Trade Agreements to Guarantee Protection of Personal Data

The digital economy relies on cross-border provision of services and goods, and in the past government trade regulators have embraced the borderless nature of the Internet and adopted light-touch regulation. But with the growing perception of data as the new oil, governments around the world are now flexing their muscles and stepping up efforts to limit or tax cross-border data flows. Multiple countries have enacted laws localizing storage and processing of data within their territory or subjecting cross-border transfers to to strict conditions.

The wave of data localisation policies suggest that a marked regulatory shift is underway. National localization is creating tension within trade negotiations such as RCEP, NAFTA, and TiSA in which countries like the United States, Singapore, Thailand and Japan, along with tech companies, are seeking to prohibit data localization practices.

Although governments push for data localization to achieve diverse policy goals, there is an inherent conflict between the logic of most data localization efforts and the policy objectives that countries pursue by participating in free trade agreements. Resolving localization demands and reconciling conflicting ideologies and interests may be difficult to achieve through trade agreements.

As in the case of copyright rules in trade agreements, developing trade solutions to data localization are sure to get caught up in the wider socio-politics of trade and Internet governance. Negotiating on data localization for the protection of personal information creates the risk of compromise on protections that should be a minimum guarantee, as countries could lay down localization conditions as a trade-off for respecting privacy rights.

Policy Objectives for Pursuing Data Localisation

Government demands for localization are driven by diverse rationales, one of which is security or surveillance concerns. Consider China's National Security Law which limits operations and maintenance of "critical Internet infrastructure" to mainland China as matter of national and cyber security. Similarly, Vietnam and Indonesia mandate maintaining in-country servers for access by law enforcement agencies.

The desire to attract investment, fuel innovation and create competitive advantage for local companies is another important logic driving localization efforts. When framed from the narrative of economic and employment gains, localization is politically appealing and enjoys support of local business constituencies. This approach seems to be at working for some countries. Google and Amazon Web Services (AMS) have announced data centers in Singapore, Taiwan and Japan. Alibaba Cloud, the computing arm of the Chinese company, announced that it would be setting up data centers in India and Indonesia.

Protection of national autonomy or efforts to reign in the hegemony of US firms is also used to drum-up support for introducing rules for transfers of data. Last week, India's telecom regulator issued a consultation paper exploring measures to address cross-border flow of information and jurisdictional challenges in the digital ecosystem. The regulator's move appears to be triggered by its displeasure with Apple's refusal to list an app developed by the regulator that tracks user's messages and call logs to identify spam.

Beyond the economic rationale, there is a growing perception that nations able to control data flows will fare better in the Internet governance order. For developing and developed countries alike, leadership with regard to digital economy is linked to establishing their claims of sovereignty in cyberspace. Therefore, nations mandate storage and processing of data within their jurisdiction. In a similar vein, governments may also lay down conditions for allowing transfer of data such as the company’s nation of incorporation or principal sites of operations and management. The new Chinese cybersecurity regulation defines the notion of territory not only based on the location of operations, but also of ownership.

Not all localization demands are blanket bans on data transfers or on the use of foreign servers. Establishing local facilities can also be incentivized by raising the costs of the data transfer to other jurisdictions either through tedious procedures or through strict compliance obligations. A recent example would be the security review procedure for transfer of personal information laid down under the Chinese cybersecurity law. Other localization laws are narrow in scope. Think of South Korea’s Land Survey Act banning exporting local mapping data to foreign companies that do not operate domestic data servers. India's National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy requires all data collected using public funds to be stored within the borders of India.

Balancing Data Protection and Data Localization in Trade

Another important issue driving localization demands is privacy and protection of personal information. The inclusion of commitments prohibiting localisation mandates in treaties is promoted by industry groups [PDF] as a victory for user rights, security and openness of the Internet... but it’s not quite as simple as that. Some countries argue that limiting how personal data can be transferred across borders is one of the only practical ways they have to protect the privacy of their citizens, in the absence of a more comprehensive shared data protection regime between the countries concerned.

Thus concerns about the lack of control over user data and its transfer, processing and storage in jurisdictions with autocratic governments, a weak rule of law, or surveillance programs, have led governments to recognise data protection as a legitimate reason to limit transfer of data. For example, without such exceptions, sensitive health information from Canada and Australia could be processed in jurisdictions with weaker privacy protections. The European Union also maintains that data protection and privacy are legitimate reasons to place limits cross-border transfer of data, and its Privacy Shield agreement with the United States is its attempt at doing exactly this.

Not surprisingly, there has been strong pushback from the US and large tech firms on this stance. Last week, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) a US-based technology group has alleged that several countries, including India, China, South Korea, Russia, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico and Indonesia have turned to discriminatory policies and forced localisation that unfairly disadvantage American companies. The group has submitted a report to the Trump Administration and is urging for an intervention from the Trump administration to remove barriers to trade.

There is no agreement on where to draw the line between data protection based restrictions on data flows that are protectionist and against trade and liberalisation, and those that are necessary to guarantee the rights of citizens. Privacy experts have argued that data protection is qualitatively different from forced localization and the issue of data localization for data protection would disappear if nations implement stronger privacy laws or adopted baseline best practices. Nevertheless countries continue to pursue carving exemptions for data protection in trade agreements.

Several regional trade agreements under discussion include provisions addressing the cross-border transfer of personal information. Texts and analysis of TTIP, TPP, TISA and NAFTA seems to suggest an emerging strategy on data localization linked to transfer of personal information. Participating nations commit to general obligations to not restrict data flows or to require localization of infrastructure, facilities or restriction on transfer of ICT goods and services. For the RCEP, which includes countries with strong national localization strategies or ambitions such as China and India, and countries like Australia and Japan that oppose localization, it is as yet unclear how data localization will be treated.

A strategy to harmonize national approaches followed in the TPP which may see adoption in other trade agreements such as NAFTA and RCEP would be to create exceptions for countries to the general obligations against data localisations. Exceptions allowing restrictions have to based on “legitimate public policy concerns” and are expected to provide the flexibility to accommodate national approaches in regional agreements. Not including such exceptions could require certain countries to roll-back data protections guaranteed to citizens in order to allow cross-border transfer. Global trade bodies recognise the need for flexibility and the World Trade Organization provides such exceptions under Article XIV of its General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

Yet the problem with this is it exposes data protection rules to the possibility of trade complaints about whether these rules are legitimate and proportionate—and these complaints would be heard by a panel of trade lawyers, who have no particular expertise in privacy law or human rights. A lot depends on the implementation of restrictions crafted under these exceptions. When specifying exceptions it is important that governments lay down conditions to facilitate transfer of data where privacy concerns have been adequately addressed. Thinking through and being critical of effectiveness of de-identification measures or thresholds for meaningful informed consent will go a long way in understanding if restricting data to a jurisdiction is a long-term solution for protecting personal data.

EFF’s Recommendation

We believe that countries should consider other measures apart from data localization for strengthening data protection in trade agreements. While there is no global framework for data protection, there are regional initiatives such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Privacy Principles and APEC's Cross Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system. Such mechanisms could be a starting point for harmonising national approaches and gaining consensus on data protection.

The CBPR features principles and guidelines for the development of a system of voluntary cross-border transfer of personal information in the region. In addition to Canada, Japan, Mexico, and the US, nearly two dozen private companies are also participatory members in the CBPR framework. Earlier this year, South Korea became the fifth member and Singapore and the Philippines are expected to join in the near future. The incentives for integration of such a template will depend on how far countries can accommodate domestic strategies to be harmonious with global rules. By themselves, Australia, India, China, Japan and South Korea are large economies and their role in regional structures and ambitions will influence their role in trade negotiations.

Since the APEC privacy principles do not impose obligations on its member organisations with respect to privacy, but merely confirm a baseline level of protection, Mexico has asked for more in the NAFTA negotiations which begin this week. It is pushing for a Privacy Shield style agreement that would require U.S. companies to abide by Mexico's stronger data protection rules if they wish to gain access to the benefits of liberalized trade within the NAFTA region. The response from the United States remains to be seen, but we can expect some pushback against this suggestion.

Calls to regulate data localization laws in trade agreements aren't going to go away while the factors driving these laws remain, and weak cross-border data protection is one such factor. But data localization isn't a comprehensive solution to this problem, as it doesn't guarantee that data will be secure or adequately protect it against misuse. Pushing localization for short-term social, political and economic gains could ultimately harm users and innovators.

Given the complex political and cultural contexts driving data localization, reconciliation of the multitude of interests and ideologies will not be easy.  Ideally, the privacy and personal data of users would be protected through measures that support a free and open Internet, and that would not be vulnerable to being overturned by trade tribunals who place the free flow of data above the human rights of users. Threading this needle is a challenge in the best of conditions, but doing so under the closed, opaque, and lobbyist-dominated conditions of trade negotiations makes it even harder.

Categories: Political Action

In J20 Investigation, DOJ Overreaches Again. And Gets Taken to Court Again.

Deep Links - Mon, 08/14/2017 - 15:25

We’ve already written about problems with the government’s investigation into the J20 protests—a series of demonstrations on January 20, the day of President Trump’s inauguration—which resulted in the arrest of hundreds of protesters.

But prosecutors in DC are still at it. And they’re still using unconstitutional methods to pursue their investigation.

This time they served a search warrant on hosting provider DreamHost that would require the company to turn over essentially all information on a website it hosts, www.disruptj20.org—a site that was dedicated to organizing and planning the protest.

Did you click on that link? Well, that’s apparently information the government wants to know. In just one example of the staggering overbreadth of the search warrant, it would require DreamHost to turn over the IP logs of all visitors to the site. Millions of visitors—activists, reporters, or you (if you clicked on the link)—would have records of their visits turned over to the government. The warrant also sought production of all emails associated with the account and unpublished content, like draft blog posts and photos.

No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible. But the Fourth Amendment was designed to prohibit fishing expeditions like this. Those concerns are especially relevant here, where DOJ is investigating a website that served as a hub for the planning and exercise of First Amendment-protected activities.

DreamHost did the right thing: it stood up for its users. It offered the government a chance to narrow the scope of the warrant. And when the government refused, DreamHost went to court.

A hearing is scheduled for August 18, in Superior Court in Washington, D.C. EFF will continue to monitor the situation.

Categories: Political Action

Tell Congress: Protect DACA, and defend 800,000 young immigrants from deportation

American Friends Service Committee - Mon, 08/14/2017 - 14:55

Take action today, and tell your members of Congress to stand with communities across the country in urging President Trump to protect DACA.

Categories: Political Action

EFF Urges Supreme Court to Protect Your Cell Phone Location Data from Over-Curious Cops

Deep Links - Mon, 08/14/2017 - 12:01
Outdated ‘Third Party’ Doctrine Lets Law Enforcement Violate Your Privacy

Washington, D.C - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the U.S. Supreme Court today to curb law enforcement’s expansive tracking of suspects’ cell phones, arguing that police must get a warrant before collecting the detailed location data that all phones generate as part of their routine functioning.

The defendants in U.S. v. Carpenter were convicted after hundreds of days of location data collected from their wireless carriers associated them with a string of armed robberies. But investigators obtained those location records through a lower legal standard than needed for a warrant, relying on the “third-party doctrine”—an outdated legal standard that says if you voluntarily give certain information to entities like banks or the phone company, you have no expectation of privacy in the data.

“The Supreme Court developed the third-party doctrine at a time when everyone used rotary-dial, land-line phones, which couldn't reveal very much about the people who used them,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch. “The location data our cell phones generate now is much more detailed. As cell phones connect to cell towers and antennas hundreds of times a day, it creates a non-stop flow of information on everywhere we travel—revealing things like when we're at home, whether we're seeing a therapist, where we worship, or what kind of political meetings we might attend. This is far too sensitive information to obtain without a warrant based on probable cause.”

Judges in several states and some federal courts have already recognized that the third-party doctrine should not apply to cell site location data. Meanwhile, in two major recent decisions, the Supreme Court found that modern technology requires updated interpretations of privacy law in order to safeguard constitutional rights. In 2014, the court held that the astounding amount of sensitive data stored on smartphones requires police to obtain a warrant before accessing data on an arrestee’s device. And in a landmark 2012 decision, the court decided that using a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s car is a search under the Fourth Amendment. As it’s impossible to use mapping services, fitness trackers, or many other technologies without sharing data with third-parties, extending these decisions is critical to preserving privacy in the 21st century.

 “Taking advantage of everyday conveniences shouldn’t mean that we have to relinquish our constitutional rights,” said EFF Staff Attorney Andrew Crocker. “We’ve seen the Supreme Court move in the right direction in these cases, and we hope they continue that trend here.”

For our amicus brief in U.S. v. Carpenter:
https://www.eff.org/document/amicus-brief-carpenter

For more on this case:
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/06/supreme-court-will-hear-significant-cell-phone-tracking-case

Contact:  AndrewCrockerStaff Attorneyandrew@eff.org
Categories: Political Action

Charlottesville is a call to action against fascism

Socialist Worker - Mon, 08/14/2017 - 01:00

Katherine Nolde, Richard Capron and Scott McLemee round up on-the-spot reports from the deadly confrontation between the far right and anti-racists in a Virginia city.

Standing in solidarity with Charlottesville at a vigil in Oakland, California (Stephen Lam | Reuters/Newscom)

THE FAR-right demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12--probably the largest public gathering of the racist "alt-right" ever--was clear evidence of the murderous forces nurtured and emboldened by Donald Trump over the past two years.

And it had deadly consequences: One anti-fascist protester was killed and more than two dozen injured when a neo-Nazi terrorist drove his car at high speed into a counterdemonstration led by left organizations, including the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Democratic Socialists of America and Industrial Workers of the World, among others.

Trump issued a weasel-worded condemnation of "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides" that fooled no one--especially not the far right. "He refused to even mention anything to do with us," one racist website gloated. "When reporters were screaming at him about White Nationalism he just walked out of the room."

So the fascists see Trump as one of their own--and for good reason.

But the hate on display in Charlottesville--and promoted by the hatemonger-in-chief--is galvanizing people across the country.

News of the racist car attack was met by a wave of solidarity--within hours, there were vigils and protests in dozens of cities, followed by many more the next day, and plans for still more in the days to come. By the end of the weekend, people had taken a stand in solidarity with Charlottesville in hundreds of towns and cities.

These people who sent a message of defiance were not only repulsed by the hatred of the fascists and horrified by their violence, but they understand the need to confront this menace before it can inflict more suffering and take more lives.

Charlottesville showed the grave threat we face in the form of an emboldened far right. But it is also revealing the potential to mobilize a mass opposition to the hatemongers, whether they strut in the streets or in the Oval Office.

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THE THOUSANDS mobilizing against the Trump agenda in recent months are making it impossible for the far right to claim it represents more than a small part of the U.S. population.

When the Klan came to Charlottesville last month to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a city park, they attracted around 50 supporters--and were outnumbered 20 times over by antiracists.

Humiliated by this, far-right groups announced another rally for August. The city granted a permit for this past Saturday in Emancipation Park to "Unite the Right" organizers--a last-minute legal attempt to deny the permit was stayed by a judge based on an appeal by the ACLU. Permits were also granted to counterdemonstrators to assemble a couple blocks away in Justice Park.

The far right came looking for a fight in Charlottesville, and they got started Friday night with a torchlight parade on the University of Virginia campus. Chanting "Heil Trump" and "You will not replace us"--sometimes changed to "Jews will not replace us"--some used their lighted torches to threaten the small numbers of antiracist protesters who confronted them on campus.

If the racists thought they would have the same overwhelming force on their side the next day, they were wrong. The fascists were outnumbered by their opponents, ranging from Antifa contingents and the radical left to more moderate antiracist organizations. But the antifascists' advantage wasn't as large as it could have been.

Groups from each side made pass-by marches within sight of one another Saturday morning, and there were isolated clashes, leading to an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainly.

When a group of ISO members approached the southwest entrance to Justice Park, the counterdemonstration site, they found a handful of young white men with automatic rifles and red bandanas tied around their necks standing watch. Momentary fear dissipated when the socialists were welcomed with cheers and handshakes--these were members of Redneck Revolt, a newly formed militant Southern working-class self-defense group.

Local and state police were present, but they maintained a hands-off policy when the right-wingers made threatening moves against the counterprotesters. As a report from ProPublica recounted:

[A]t one of countless such confrontations, an angry mob of white supremacists formed a battle line across from a group of counterprotesters, many of them older and gray-haired, who had gathered near a church parking lot. On command from their leader, the young men charged and pummeled their ideological foes with abandon. One woman was hurled to the pavement, and the blood from her bruised head was instantly visible.

Standing nearby, an assortment of Virginia State Police troopers and Charlottesville police wearing protective gear watched silently from behind an array of metal barricades--and did nothing.

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WHEN VIRGINIA Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency at 11 a.m., the National Guard made its appearance. Police dispersed the far right from its spot in Emancipation Park--but this led to roaming groups of racists looking for a fight in the surrounding streets.

Counterdemonstrators heard that the fascists were headed to a part of town with a concentration of public housing to harass low-income residents.

A march was organized spontaneously in defense of the community. "Feelings of uncertainty and defenselessness changed immediately to confidence and authority," said one ISO member who was part of the action. "We wouldn't let the fascists control the day."

Some 300 antifascist protesters marched and chanted in tight formation, coming to a halt just before turning the corner on the street where the projects were located. But on arriving, they found no right-wingers. An organizer from the community went to the front of the march and got on the bullhorn, urging a withdrawal to decrease the chances of bringing police into the neighborhood.

The group made its way back downtown to find another contingent of counterdemonstrators flooding the street in an exhilarated mood. The groups merged and headed uphill toward Justice Park, planning to celebrate their seeming victory in sending the right-wingers packing.

They were about halfway up the hill when all at once came what sounded like a crash or explosion. Bodies flew into the air, and people were screaming. A car had driven into the crowd at full speed, then reversed up the hill and out of sight.

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IN THE chaos, people did their best to maintain composure, take stock of the situation and call for medics assigned to the march. They moved the wounded out of the street--out of harm's way, in the event of another automobile assault--and called for ambulances.

What arrived instead was a police tank. A man in military dress emerged from the top of the hatch with a rifle designed to shoot tear gas canisters. Three police cars filled in behind him, along with a squad of cops in riot gear. Police finally shut down the area, and the demonstrators dispersed.

Police later reported arresting and charging an Ohio man, James Fields Jr., with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and failure to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in a death. Photographs from earlier that day show the killer brandishing a shield with the emblem of the neo-Nazi American Vanguard group.

Fields' car attack killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer, a native of Charlottesville who worked as a paralegal and was passionately devoted to social justice.

A neighbor said "she lived her life like her path--and it was for justice." Heather's mother Susan Bro teared up as she told a writer from HuffPost: "Somehow I almost feel that this is what she was born to be, is a focal point for change.

More than two dozen other people were seriously injured. Bill Burke, a member of the ISO from Athens, Ohio, was among those taken away from the scene in an ambulance, given concern that he might have suffered spinal injuries. He didn't, but he was treated for a concussion and monitored for brain damage, along with lacerations to his face that required many stitches and staples, and severe abrasions on his arms and legs.

Burke was released from the hospital late Sunday afternoon and is expected to make a full recovery. He sent this message via fellow ISO members:

I appreciate the support and solidarity from everyone. I hope that what the fascists did is a wake-up call for our side. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism: The right-wingers represent all the worst parts of this capitalist system. If we really want to stop them, we have to be better organized and fight in solidarity against all oppression. Ultimately, we need to fight for a new world that is run for people, not for profit.

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THAT THE vehicular assault was no accident seems obvious to everyone but the likes of Donald Trump.

But anyone who doubts it should consider the alt-right meme that appeared months before the Charlottesville showdown. It shows the words "ALL LIVES SPLATTER" above a car plowing into three people--and beneath it: "Nobody cares about your protest. Keep your ass out of the road."

It follows Trump's spirit of "fun" terrorism--with his "joking" offers to pay the legal bills if his supporters beat up protesters and "tongue-in-cheek" references to assassinating an opposing candidate. Such rhetoric has emboldened reactionaries like the torch-carriers reenacting the Nuremburg rally on Friday night in Charlottesville.

Their sickening violence has already led to an eruption of antiracist protest around the country. But we can't stop there. We need a sustained movement that mobilizes to confront the far right with much greater numbers whenever they try to raise their heads--and that organizes a radical left alternative to the fascists' politics of despair and scapegoating.

As one participant in the Charlottesville antifascist protests wrote on social media:

In order to command the streets, we have to fill them. If we had had people covering every inch of downtown Charlottesville, we wouldn't have been so vulnerable.

In order to demobilize the fascist movement, they have to be physically outnumbered and driven out...Isolate them, demoralize them.

The heartbreaking thing is that the counter-protesters in Cville had just begun to feel a sense of confidence and unity in action [before the car attack]....Two contingents, two crowds marching happened to converge downtown and were heading to Justice Park to celebrate, finally having achieved a sense of organization after being divided between multiple locations.

This is the goal of the far right: to terrorize, intimidate and destroy the organizations of workers and the left, and anyone else they deem a threat.

We cannot let them become more emboldened because of what happened today.

Categories: Political Action

John Kelly is no "moderate"

Socialist Worker - Mon, 08/14/2017 - 01:00

There's a new sheriff-wannabe in the White House. Danny Katch looks at his record.

New White House Chief of Staff John Kelly at his confirmation hearing to head Homeland Security (Wikimedia Commons)

SINCE TAKING over as the White House chief of staff two weeks ago, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly has won praise in the media for trying to implement utterly normal chief-of-staff procedures such as having final say over who gets to have meetings with the President.

By contrast, reported Bloomberg, "Trump resisted attempts by Kelly's predecessor, Reince Priebus, to stop White House staffers from popping in unannounced to see the president...Trump, who's known to be easily distracted, would wave in the visitors, even as his scheduled appointments sometimes backed up."

Kelly's promotion to chief of staff from head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also seemed to alter the power dynamics inside the endlessly scheming world of the Trump administration.

Jeff Sessions was assured that his job was safe despite Trump's rambling tweets against his own Attorney General; Anthony Scaramucci was canned after 10 days as communications director; and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster was given the okay to fire Ezra Cohen-Watnick--an ally of Trump's chief strategist and in-house fascist Steve Bannon.

Now, as Kelly accompanies Trump on his New Jersey gold resort vacation, he is conducting a review of administration personnel and is reportedly questioning, according to Politico, why Bannon "has a large staff, including an outside public relations expert, but no specific duties."

As a result, Kelly is being hailed for bringing "order to a chaotic and unruly White House" and even inspiring hopes that he might be a moderating influence against the far-right influence of advisers like Bannon, Steven Miller and their crackpot underlings who issue national security memos warning that the deep state is controlled by a cabal of globalists, "cultural Marxists" and the Muslim Brotherhood.

But don't forget: We've been here before.

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WHEN KELLY was nominated to run DHS, he was praised as a moderate and easily confirmed in the Senate by a vote of 88 to 11. As a recent article in Politico explained, "John Kelly's sterling reputation as a Marine general with an appreciation for nuance led many Democrats to back his nomination as Homeland Security secretary in the hope that he would rein in President Donald Trump's hard-line immigration and security policies."

Kelly had "earned" this faith by hinting at a bit of discomfort with some of Trump's most right-wing campaign promises like a Muslim ban and ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

But just a brief look at his record as head of the Pentagon's Southern Command under the Obama administration showed clearly that John Kelly's politics were going to fit nicely in a Donald Trump White House.

Kelly's post at Southern Command, which guards the U.S. empire in Central and South America, gave him a firsthand view of the epidemic of gang wars, rape and violence that has led to unprecedented numbers of refugees--many of them unaccompanied children--fleeing northward for the U.S.

Yet in the face of this humanitarian crisis, all Kelly could see was the "existential threat" these children supposed posed to the U.S, as Heather Digby Parton explained in Salon:

He warned that neglect of the border had created vulnerabilities that could be exploited by terrorist groups, describing a "crime-terror convergence" already seen in Lebanese Hezbollah's alleged involvement in the region (a onetime assertion made in a congressional report a decade ago.) He said there exists an "incredibly efficient network" by which terrorists and weapons of mass destruction could travel into the United States...

In short, he has been a border-security fanatic for some time.

At Southern Command, Kelly was also in charge of the military prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, where, as Baher Azmy of the Center for Constitutional Rights explained on Democracy Now!, "he was in charge during...a mass hunger strike, in 2013, and...responded brutally, through mass force-feedings, solitary confinement, to punish detainees."

Azny added that Kelly refused to call the protest a hunger strike, but instead gave it the Orwellian label "long-term, nonreligious fasting."

That's the kind of chilling enthusiasm for violent repression that will get you noticed by Trump. When Kelly was nominated to run DHS, he responded with a sound bite sure to please his new boss: "The American people voted in this election to stop terrorism, take back sovereignty at our borders, and put a stop to political correctness that for too long has dictated our approach to national security."

The only reason John Kelly's tenure at Southern Command gave him a reputation for "nuance" was that his xenophobic and anti-Muslim politics were at the time serving a Democratic rather than Republican administration--and that, unlike crackpots like Michael Flynn, Kelly was a smooth political operator who ran a tight ship.

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UNSURPRISINGLY, JOHN Kelly's short tenure running Homeland Security was not known for its moderation or nuance.

Kelly defended the president's attempts at an anti-Muslim travel ban and has been just as cruel to immigrants as the most bigoted Trump supporter could have hoped.

In March, Kelly announced that DHS was considering snatching children away from parents who are caught crossing the border. In May, he dismissed the uproar over the deportation of a mother with her five-year old son despite facing death threats in her native Honduras--by claiming to know that she has been trained by smugglers to lie in order to get asylum.

Even as he was shifting his agency's focus to target a wide range of immigrants, Kelly adopted the seemingly tough but actually cowardly posture of the military bureaucrat who claims he's only following orders.

"If lawmakers do not like the laws they've passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws,'' he said in an April speech. "Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.''

This blunt soldier talk goes over great in the media. A typical fawning media profile of Kelly began, "The first thing you need to know about John Kelly? He's a Marine." As if he was plucked for the White House while he was in the middle of a commando crawl under some barbed wire.

In fact, Kelly has long been a Washington insider, having served as a legislative assistant for the Marine Corps commandant in the mid-2000s before becoming a liaison to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during the Obama years. In the year before Trump's election, Kelly had retired from the military and was working for Dyncorp, a major player in the military-industrial complex.

So far, it looks like Kelly's vows to whip the White House into tiptop military shape may be just as much hot air as a Scaramucci press conference. For certain, the tough-guy general has been no more successful than the hapless Priebus at restraining Trump from going on wild rants--and Reince can at least say that on his watch, the President never threatened the "fire and fury" of nuclear holocaust.

The moral of the story? No establishment figure is coming into the White House to save us from Donald Trump. He's too far gone, and the "establishment" is far closer to him than many pundits wants to admit.

Categories: Political Action

When a "universal" approach narrows the fight

Socialist Worker - Mon, 08/14/2017 - 01:00

David Camfield, a socialist activist in Winnipeg and author of We Can Do Better: Ideas for Changing Society, comments on a discussion on the left about the place of struggles against oppression in the fight for socialism.

Sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, fighting for civil rights and union rights in 1968

IT'S GREAT that more people on the U.S. left are embracing a politics of social class. But too many supporters of class politics still argue as if working-class struggle is separate from struggles against sexism, racism and other forms of oppression, or treat struggles against oppression as not all that important.

We can see this in the way some on the left criticize "identity politics." In the wake of Donald Trump's win, Bernie Sanders' call to "go beyond identity politics" got lots of attention. Writing in Jacobin that "Identity politics can only get us so far," Roger Lancaster argues for "an inclusive and universalist socialist program" because of the limits of demands by communities of "marginalized people" "for autonomy or for rights and recognitions."

Similar arguments crop up in other countries too; it's not just a U.S. thing. But it's time for people on the left to stop arguing about "identity politics" in this way.

The first problem is that the meaning of "identity politics" is far from clear.

As Richard Seymour helpfully notes, the right uses the term to mean "any concession whatsoever to the idea that anyone other than white bourgeois men are 'created equal.'" Used this way, it's "part of a whole vocabulary including 'thought police,' 'politically correct,' and 'liberal elites,' whose main intention is to undermine the legitimacy of liberal and left politics," as Linda Burnham argues.

Seymour adds that "a wing of the liberal center" uses "identity politics" "to criticize what they think of as the overly clamorous and over-hasty demands of women, gays, African-Americans, migrants and others for justice."

These meanings propagated in the mainstream media are by far the most influential ways the term is understood. No wonder, then, that some people who experience racism, sexism, heterosexism and other forms of oppression identify "identity politics" with their struggles against the specific ways in which they're harmed.

This is reason enough for people who mean something different than these understandings of "identity politics" to find another way of talking about it. "Identity politics" isn't like "working class" or "socialism"--terms with highly contested meanings that we have to stick with because today we don't have better words to use to communicate these ideas.

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BUT THE problem goes a lot deeper than terminology. Sanders called for Democratic candidates--"Black and white and Latino and gay and male"--with the "guts to stand up to the oligarchy," who will "stand with...working people," who understand how many people's income and life expectancy are declining, and who get that many people can't afford health care and college.

Lancaster is more radical: he praises the "original, radical outlooks" of the Black, women's and gay and lesbian movements of the 1960s and 1970s. However, the content of the "inclusive and universalist socialist program" he contrasts with "identity politics" isn't clear. He observes that what "socialist and working-class movements have usually demanded" are such things as "universal health care, free education, public housing, democratic control of the means of production."

What both these lines of argument have in common is the idea that the left should champion a universalist politics instead of "identity politics"--and that universalist politics don't include demands directed specifically against racism, sexism, heterosexism, settler-colonialism and other kinds of oppression.

Action against gender violence, free contraception, free abortion on demand, free public child care, a federal and state jobs program for economically marginalized Black people, permanent resident status for all immigrants, full legal equality for queer and trans people, self-determination for indigenous nations – these and other reforms to weaken oppression are downplayed or sometimes even excluded as "particular" "identity" demands.

This approach "not only presumes that class struggle is some sort of race- and gender-neutral terrain but takes for granted that movements focused on race, gender or sexuality necessarily undermine class unity and, by definition, cannot be emancipatory for the whole," as Robin D.G. Kelley argued 20 years ago.

The history of struggles against oppression disproves those notions. The abolition of slavery in the U.S. inspired organizers for the rights of wage workers and women. "As slaves acted to change things for themselves, horizons broadened for almost everyone," notes David Roediger.

The liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s loosened the grip of ruling-class ideology on U.S. society and influenced some of the broader struggles of workers and students of the time. The May 1 "Day Without Immigrants" protests of Latinx people in 2006 showed that political strike action is possible in the U.S.

Today, Black Lives Matter is encouraging some people who don't experience racism to organize and fight for change. As we saw at Standing Rock, Indigenous land defenders are mounting some of the most effective resistance to capitalist energy industry projects that would make climate change even worse and contaminate water sources.

This history demonstrates that the freedom struggles of the oppressed can advance unity among workers by chipping away at material inequalities and reactionary ideas that divide the class. They've shown other people the power of militant collective action.

They've also inspired some who receive relative advantages because others are oppressed--men, white people, straights--to question our role and join in the struggle, leading us to recognize that perpetuating oppression is wrong and strengthens our enemies, and that these movements are ultimately about our freedom, too, as many of the demands in the platform of the Movement for Black Lives make clear.

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YES, SOCIALISTS need to fight for demands like free education, dramatic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions along with a just transition for workers negatively affected, and single-payer health care in the U.S.

But for socialist politics to be truly universal, they have to do more than advance such demands and link them to a vision of transforming society. We must also propose measures that specifically target different forms of oppression. That's the best way to put the old workers' movement slogan "An injury to one is an injury to all" into practice today.

To shy away from such measures because they're unpopular among some of the people we want to organize is to avoid the hard work involved in forging unity in societies in which the working class is deeply divided and oppression is still very real in spite of gains in legal rights and cultural norms.

When carpenters union officials report workers without status to ICE; when many union leaders were on the wrong side at Standing Rock; when many white people act as if people of color are a threat to them; and when cis women and trans people are routinely denied control over their bodies; "race-blind" and "gender-blind" politics won't help us get where we need to go.

Unity built on the foundation of such politics will be fragile and shallow. It will always remain vulnerable to divide-and-conquer tactics used by employers and politicians.

None of this means that a politics whose aspirations for oppressed people don't go much beyond cultural recognition and fair representation in the power structure of neoliberal capitalism aren't a problem. They are, as the records of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton reveal so clearly.

Some supporters of these politics opportunistically use insinuations about Sanders and "Bernie Bros" being supposedly hostile to women and Black people to smear anyone who criticizes the Democratic Party establishment from the left. But attacks on "identity politics" in the name of a "universalism" that underestimates the importance of oppression or that doesn't explicitly take on oppression in every form aren't the way to persuade people swayed by that kind of liberalism to embrace socialist politics.

Categories: Political Action

Ten facts to remember about the Iraq War

Socialist Worker - Mon, 08/14/2017 - 01:00

With Trump ramping up military aggression on a number of fronts, Kyle Gilbertson highlights some key facts to remember about what the "achievements" of the Iraq war.

AS THE U.S. government prepares for new wars around the world, here are 10 things I think we should remember about the Iraq war:

1. All of the most respectable media outlets, including the New York Times, lied to the public about Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), helping to push the public into supporting the war. It's not the first time, nor is it the last time this will happen. Be prepared to be lied to again.

2. The war has resulted in 199,734 Iraqi civilian deaths--and still counting--according to Iraq Body Count.

In just the first three years of the conflict, 4.7 million Iraqis were displaced from their homes. Millions more have been displaced in the years since then. The war also resulted in the death of 4,424 American soldiers, and the injury of 31,952, according to the Department of Defense. Take a moment to let the scale of human suffering sink in.

3. As of 2013, the Iraq war cost taxpayers about $2 trillion, according to Reuters. The number is certainly higher as the war has continued.

But at the same time, the U.S. government has cut hundreds of billions of dollars from health care programs; closed schools, libraries and mental health clinics; and even cut Meals on Wheels for seniors because it just doesn't have the money, or so the politicians say. Could you think of a more productive way to use that $2 trillion?

4. The war took a massive toll on the environment. Use of depleted uranium caused an increased rate of cancer and birth defects. The destruction of Iraqi infrastructure turned the streets into open sewers, spreading disease. In many places, the water is undrinkable. Not to mention the enormous greenhouse gas emissions associated with the war.

5. American occupiers treated the Iraqi people just as brutally as any dictatorship, if not worse. The torture in places like Abu Ghraib is probably the most well known example. Homes were regularly broken into and ransacked in the middle of the night, family members were kidnapped and taken away to undisclosed locations, and pedestrians were run over and killed by Humvees as if their lives meant nothing.

6. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but he was able to build up his political, economic and military power in the 1980s with support from the U.S.

American foreign policy does not really distinguish between dictatorships and democracies. The main distinction it makes is between "friends" and "enemies." So some of the most ruthless governments in the world--Saudi Arabia, for example--are "friends," and regularly receive substantial economic and military aid.

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At the same time, democratically elected governments are sometimes labeled "enemies"--like the government of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, which was overthrown by a military coup in 2009, with the backing of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

There are many more examples, but given the history and current policy, why should anyone believe representatives of the U.S. government or military when they claim to be fighting dictators and promoting democracy? The government the U.S. currently backs in Iraq is a sectarian theocracy.

7. None of the strategic objectives of the Iraq war were actually achieved. The main outcomes of the war were: strengthening Iran in the region; fomenting sectarian strife--which was practically nonexistent before the war--culminating in the formation of ISIS; and keeping the U.S. bogged down in an endless conflict while China was able to build its economic strength throughout the world.

While I do not support the goals of U.S. imperialism, the war failed even on its own terms.

8. American soldiers resisted, forming Iraq Veterans Against the War, speaking out and going to prison for their refusal to fight. The civilian antiwar movement embraced the soldiers, taking up the slogan "Support our troops, bring them home."

We should remember soldiers like Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes, Kyle Snyder and Chelsea Manning, as well as military family members like Cindy Sheehan, who helped to lead that resistance. We should learn their stories and think about what motivated them to engage in such bold acts of civil disobedience.

9. You can never bring liberation and democracy to a country by invading and occupying it. That has never happened in history, and it certainly didn't happen in Iraq.

10. The point of studying history is to make the world a better place. If that's not the goal, then learning about the past is a pointless exercise. We need to remember what the powers-that-be want us to forget, so that we won't be fooled again.

Categories: Political Action

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