Political Action

When things are up

American Friends Service Committee - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 10:25
Charleston Gazette-Mail logo Photo: AFSC/ News Source: Charleston Gazette-Mail
Categories: Political Action

Announcing the Creative Commons Community Activities Fund

Creative Commons - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 09:40
CC Tanzania training from the Awesome Fund, Photo by Aris Maro, CC BY-SA

Inspired by the Awesome Fund, we are excited to announce the Community Activities Fund as part of our ongoing efforts to support the activities of CC communities and beyond. Through this fund, and in conjunction with the Global Network Strategy, Creative Commons is taking a leap towards a truly open and collaborative community of individuals and organizations committed to building and fostering a vibrant global commons.

The Community Activities Fund is a mini-grant program aimed at supporting individuals and communities pursuing activities aligned with the network values and principles stated on the new Creative Commons Global Network Strategy. These grants are meant to provide quick, practical-level support for activities, projects, and events done by supporters and advocates of Creative Commons – from kickstarting projects, facilitating travel and mentorships, to supporting the organization of CC-themed events around the globe.

We’re looking to help fund salons, campaigns, translations, e-books, printing, collaborations, and more. Need the funds for something small and impactful? This fund is for you.

Basic information about the Fund:

  1. Anyone can apply. We’d love to support projects from any individuals, teams, or organizations advancing the mission and work of CC.
  2. There’s a maximum amount, not minimum. The maximum amount that one can request per project is USD 1000. There is no minimum.
  3. Light and fast procedure. The applications will be reviewed weekly and feedback relayed within 2 weeks of application.
  4. Language. Applications can be sent in English, Spanish, French or Arabic.
  5. Criteria. We support projects that help grow the global commons and foster the benefits of openness around the world at the local level. This fund is aimed to support efforts at country, city or community level to advance into the Creative Commons mission, providing support for activities.

Application and reporting process
To apply, please fill out this application form. You will receive feedback within 2 weeks of your application.
The reporting process is important, but we are keeping it lightweight – all we ask for are a brief narrative report and the minimum requirement of making your project outputs available under CC BY.
If you have any questions or clarification requests, please email Simeon Oriko, CC Network Manager, at network@creativecommons.org or do it in our #general channel at the CC Slack. You can also post on the #creativecommons IRC channel, just connect via Freenode.

The post Announcing the Creative Commons Community Activities Fund appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

The single-payer specter haunting health care

Socialist Worker - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 01:00

Christopher Baum analyzes initiatives for single-payer health care in two major states and unravels the distortions of right-wingers trying to discredit this popular alternative.

Nurses take to the streets for single-payer health care in California (Healthy California | Facebook)

ON JUNE 1, the California State Senate voted by a margin of 23-14 to pass the Healthy California Act, which would create a universal single-payer health care system for all residents of California, regardless of immigration status.

Two weeks before, in New York, the State Assembly passed a universal single-payer bill, the New York Health Act, for the third year in a row.

Both bills now face challenges in the other houses of their state legislatures--the California State Assembly and the New York State Senate, respectively. But the fact that they have come this far shows that support for single-payer health care is strong and surging.

The idea behind single-payer is to replace the current system--in which health care is administered under a complex and often predatory network of private insurance companies--with one where all people are enrolled in a single, government-administered health care program.

It is not difficult to see why this idea is popular. The Obama administration's Affordable Care Act (ACA) brought health care coverage to millions of previously uninsured Americans. But as of 2016, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, some 28.6 million Americans remained without health care coverage.

Even those who do have insurance are often unable to make use of it. According to the Commonwealth Fund's 2016 Biennial Health Insurance Survey, approximately 63 million people reported "not getting needed care because of cost."

And now, the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress are doing everything they can to tear down even this flawed system.

The Republicans may or may not be able to agree on a version of the monstrously cruel and cynical American Health Care Act (AHCA), which threatens to leave an additional 23 million Americans without insurance by 2026.

But even if the GOP can't get it together to replace Obamacare, the Trump assault is adding to the pressures that were already undermining the ACA. Insurance companies are pulling out of the ACA-created marketplaces to sell policies to those without employer-provided insurance. Some 15,000 enrollees in 20 counties nationwide have no insurance plans at all to choose from in 2018, and those numbers are certain to grow, possibly into the many hundreds of thousands.

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ALL THIS is why support for a "Medicare for all" single-payer system has gained momentum in the Trump era. Faced with the prospect of Trumpcare, more and more individuals and organizations are recognizing the need to fight for more than just preserving the ACA--to fight, in the words of Mark Dudzic, national coordinator of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, "to expand an improved Medicare to everyone rather than to restore a failing status quo."

Although Democratic politicians at the national level continue to reject the idea of single-payer out of hand, several recent opinion polls suggest that a majority of Americans favor of a single-payer system.

But there are plenty of opponents, too--flogging myths and lies about what's supposedly wrong with a single-payer system.

When the California Senate Committee on Appropriations issued a report on May 22 suggesting that the California program might cost as much $400 billion a year--far above the state's entire annual general fund revenues--conservative pundits had their knives out at once. Here was "proof," they lectured, that a single-payer program is impossible--and they took the opportunity to shoot down the concept on philosophical grounds as well.

As Jack Novak sneered on CNBC.com:

Let's stop here for a second and clarify something that's been lost in the eternally annoying debate about whether health care is a right or a privilege. The only human right connected to health care that isn't ruinous to all other rights and responsibilities is the right of an urgently injured or dying person to get emergency care, no questions initially asked.

Once that care is administered, the caregivers and/or those who paid for the care have a right to ask for some kind of payment. This is a basic ethical truth that, thanks to the bean counters in Sacramento, now has even more economic truth to back it up.

Set aside Novak's heartless views on the question of health care as a human right. Nobody has ever suggested that care should be provided without payment. The questions, rather, are who pays, and where the money comes from.

Nor does anyone deny that universal health care will be expensive. After all, when Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin abandoned a proposed single-payer plan--one criticized by health care advocates as flawed--in 2014, he gave cost as the reason.

But this observation comes nowhere near "proof" that providing such care would be "ruinous to all other rights and responsibilities." It merely means that, like any other program administered by the government, from the Pentagon to rural road maintenance, this one will have to be funded in some way.

Beyond this, Novak ignores several important points in the California Appropriations Committee report. The first is that "existing state, federal, and local funding of about $200 billion could be available to offset a portion of the total program cost." The remaining $200 billion would likely need to be raised through a payroll tax--the report estimates a tax rate of about 15 percent.

But, the committee pointed out, "the overall cost of these new tax revenues would be offset to a large degree by reduced spending on health care coverage by employers and employees," which today accounts for an estimated $100 billion to $150 billion. "Therefore, total new spending required under the bill would be between $50 billion and $100 billion per year"--a long way from $400 billion.

On the other hand, as reported by the San Jose Mercury-News, a recent study of the California bill by economists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst suggests the single-payer program might actually save the state some $37 billion. This assessment assumes, among other things, that the state follows the analysts' recommendations concerning implementation of a new sales tax and gross revenue tax to fund the program.

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WHICHEVER ESTIMATE is nearest the truth, the question of funding is obviously extremely important. But first things first: what would we be paying for?

Although they differ in many details, the New York and California proposals for single-payer are broadly similar. Both are open to all residents, regardless of immigration status, and both cover a comprehensive range of treatments. Members would not pay any premiums, deductibles, co-payments or co-insurance for services covered under the program.

Members would have to enroll with a "care coordinator" of their choice--this could be, among other things, a primary care provider, gynecologist or specialist care practitioner of the member's choosing. The care coordinator is responsible, in the words of the New York bill, for "managing, referring to, location, coordinating and monitoring health care services for the member."

Although members must be enrolled with a care coordinator to be covered by the programs, they will be free to obtain health care from any authorized provider, without needing a referral.

Insurance companies would not be entirely eliminated, but under both bills, they would generally be barred from offering "benefits that cover any service for which coverage is offered to individuals under the [single-payer] program," to quote, again, from the New York bill.

This is important as a means of ensuring that the single-payer program is truly universal. As the sponsor of the New York bill, Assembly member Robert Gottfried of Manhattan explained to Gothamist.com, "If wealthy and powerful New Yorkers can be in a separate boat and don't have a stake in the quality of the New York health program, then it could easily degrade the program."

Indeed, this would merely perpetuate the inequity that is so widespread today--one standard of care for the well off, another for the needy.

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TO PAY for all this, both bills contemplate two main sources of income.

The first is federal funding, in the form of waivers allowing money that would have gone toward Medicare, Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other such programs, as administered by the respective states, to be applied instead to funding their single-payer programs.

In the event that these waivers are not granted, the bills provide that the states would continue to obtain funding through existing channels, but that the program would be administered in such a way that, to the extent possible, the specific arrangements under which funds are obtained will happen behind the scenes, allowing members to continue to deal directly (and solely) with the state's "single payer."

The second source of funds is, of course, taxation. The New York bill specifically calls for progressive taxes on payroll and other forms of income, and requires the governor to include the necessary provisions in the executive budget beginning with the fiscal year after the bill is enacted.

The California bill merely states that "it is the intention of the legislature to enact legislation that would develop a revenue plan." However, the San Jose Mercury-News reports that the California State Assembly will likely add the necessary tax provisions to its version of the bill.

In countering the right's propaganda about bloated taxes to pay for a single-payer program, it should be emphasized what people will no longer be paying under the proposed programs. There will be no premiums, no deductibles, no co-payments--no out-of-pocket expenses at all--and proponents of both bills argue that, for most residents, these savings will more than make up for what they pay in new taxes.

According to an analysis of the New York bill conducted in 2015 by Gerald Friedman, a professor at UMass-Amherst, "While the largest savings would go to working households earning less than $75,000, over 98 percent of New York households would spend less on health care than they do now."

The UMass-Amherst study of the California bill predicts a "reduction in health care spending for California's middle-income families of between 2.6-9.1 percent of income." Even for high-income households, the total increase in costs paid for health care would be only be about 0.6 percent of income.

In addition, as Dr. Paul Y. Song points out in the Huffington Post, moving to a single-payer system can lead to enormous savings by eliminating the price-gouging practiced by some health care providers today. Song gives several examples of massive price markups at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, ranging from $36.78 for a Tylenol with codeine pill (market value $0.50) to $14,110 for knee arthroscopy (market value $2,037).

Song argues that "powerful hospitals" justify this kind of markup with the claim that it is "needed to pay for uncompensated care." But this argument becomes meaningless if everyone has coverage. Song also notes that "Kaiser and United Healthcare use their massive market share to negotiate steep drug discounts"--and suggests a single-payer system could negotiate similar discounts for all.

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THE FATES of both bills are uncertain, as of this writing, but any sober assessment must admit that they face an uphill battle.

Even if both proposals clear the remaining hurdles in their respective state legislatures, it isn't clear how the two states' Democratic governors, Jerry Brown in California and Andrew Cuomo in New York, would respond.

In California, Brown has made his skepticism about single-payer known. According to the Mercury-News, "Few expect he would sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk."

Meanwhile, in New York, Gothamist.com points out that Cuomo is "widely believed to be eyeing a centrist-tinged presidential run in 2020"--and notes that his "last stab at an item on the progressive wish list, free college tuition, was a somewhat mixed affair"--which was the assessment of SocialistWorker.org as well.

On the other hand, the fact that Cuomo brought Bernie Sanders onstage at the press conference in January where he announced the tuition program suggests at least some desire on his part to win support to his left.

Perhaps the looming catastrophe of the AHCA might drive these governors to take bolder, more progressive action than they otherwise would. But in any event, progress toward single-payer won't take place without a good deal of "encouragement" in the form of mass demonstrations in support of the legislation.

For those of us who believe that health care is a human right, the task is obvious: We must ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear, both in our own communities and in the halls of government, as we demand an end to the obscenity that passes for a health care system in this country today.

The stakes have never been higher--but as the growing support for these bills shows, the opportunity has never been greater.

Categories: Political Action

Countering anti-Muslim hate around the U.S.

Socialist Worker - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 01:00

Danny Katch rounds up reports of counterdemonstrations against the Islamophobes.

Opponents of Islamophobia challenge the right wing in San Jose (Luke Pickrell)

THE HATE group "ACT for America" held "anti-Sharia law" protests in over 20 cities on June 10. But the Islamophobes were met with counterprotests that vastly outnumbered them in many places--and in a couple locations, they were forced to pack up and leave early.

Like the protests against a far-right "free speech" rally in Portland earlier this month, the wave of counterprotests last Saturday marked an important step forward for a U.S. left that needs to figure out how to counter the alarming growth of a new fascist movement looking to recruit among Trump supporters.

"The far right is emboldened right now because their bigotry is championed by the president," said Sumaya of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), speaking at one of the counterprotests in New York City. "That's why it's extremely important for us to be out here today."

Predictably, the bigots with ACT for America complained that counterdemonstrators were violating their right to free speech.

Pax Hart, who organized the right-wing rally in New York, advised Muslim women who feel unsafe "walking around in a hijab [to] try being a conservative on a college campus. We're here protecting their rights, and they're trying to shut us down! It's insane!"

Hart was claiming to stand for civil liberties at the very moment that fellow ACT for America protesters were showing up with guns to a mosque in Richardson, Texas, to interfere with families trying to attend prayers.

ACT for America's claims to be defending women and LGBTQ people were also belied by the many sexist and homophobic slurs hurled toward counterprotesters across the country on June 10.

The right-wing Oath Keepers militia was present at most protests--often armed--to "defend" the anti-Muslim rally from the dreaded counterprotesters, even though organizers like Hart are boastful about how much support they have from local police.

Our side has a long way to go to confront this growing menace, but the June 10 counterprotests showed that across the country, it's possible to confront the bigots with larger numbers that prove they are a loathed minority.

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-- In New York City, around 500 people turned up to counter the ACT for America rally in Manhattan's Foley Square, whose 100 attendees donned everything from Trump caps to a "Kekistan" flag to the red and white cross of the Ku Klux Klan.

The counterprotesters were split into two evenly sized rallies. There was a "noise rally" organized by anarchists and other radicals across the street from Foley Square to try to drown out the bigots, and there was a "NYC Loves Muslims" gathering a few blocks away at City Hall Park.

The NYC Loves Muslims rally was organized by the Council on American Islamic Relations and New York City Immigration Coalition, along with a number of more left-wing groups, including Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), the Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) and the International Socialist Organization (ISO).

"We have to say no to war," said Yasmine Kamel of Bay Ridge for Social Justice, "because it's justified with Islamophobia. We have to say we are not afraid of Muslims here in New York or Muslims across the Atlantic from us. We will stand against killing Muslims over there and detaining and deporting Muslims over here.

Some of the NYC Loves Muslim rally organizers tried to keep the message apolitical and discourage attendees from joining the other counter-protest at the end of the rally. "This rally is about love over hate, not confrontation," declared the emcee at the outset.

The rally was supposed to end with a march in the opposite direction of both the Islamophobes and our allies protesting them. Instead, however, more than half of the attendees ended up marching over to the noise rally to directly confront the cancer of anti-Muslim bigotry.

-- In Chicago, 200 pro-refugee, pro-Muslim, anti-hate counterprotesters showed up and drove out a fragmented and small group of 30 anti-Muslim bigots, right-wingers and Nazis.

ACT for America had called a protest to begin at 10 a.m. on a street corner near Trump Tower in downtown Chicago, but counterprotesters showed up early and occupied their planned spot. By the time the bigots arrived, they were confused, outnumbered by 10 to 1, and--after whining to police--were forced to set up across the street.

The mood was celebratory amid the 90-degreee heat, with the crowd united in strong chants of "Racists out, Muslims in," "Racists go home!" and "ACT for America--facts don't work for ya!" along with messages that Muslims, refugees and immigrants are welcome here.

As the morning wore on, more anti-Muslim bigots began to appear, including some openly making Nazi salutes and wearing T-shirts praising Chilean dictator August Pinochet's death squads.

Despite Act for America's false claim that its anti-Muslim hate is out of concern for LGBTQ people, many of its supporters hurled homophobic language at the counterprotest. Their small group stood flanked by a line of police standing in front of them to defend them. The bigots were clearly fragmented and unorganized.

The larger group of counterprotesters moved across the street to block out and drive off the bigots, but not without interference from the cops, who shoved, threatened and attempted to prevent us from moving off the sidewalk. We were able to make it across the street safely and chant strongly against both the bigots and the cops defending them, telling the racists to go home and asking the cops, "Who do you protect? Who do you serve?"

The volume of the crowd protesting the hate completely drowned out the attempts of ACT for America supporters to try to speak, and their hateful rhetoric was lost in the din. In less than an hour, the bigots left defeated, and the electrifying energy on our side erupted in victory chants, dancing and a short speakout.

-- In Seattle, nearly 1,000 people marched and protested against the bigots of ACT for America, chanting, "We are many, they are few! Stop the hate, it's up to you!" and "Say it loud, say it clear! Muslims are welcome here!"

As Leela Yellesetty of the ISO told the rally crowd:

The far right claims they are in favor of "free speech," but in fact, they aim to intimidate us into silence. Well, they're free to speak, but so are we, and we must stand up and proclaim loudly that we are many, and they are few...Only by bringing together the widest possible forces and standing in solidarity with each other's struggles can we hope to push back the tide of reaction and win true democratic and human rights for all people.

After about two hours of chanting and the presence of a noise demo, the bigots packed up two hours early. It was a huge victory for anti-racists in Seattle.

-- In San Jose, California, some 900 anti-racists marched against 40 people who showed up for the anti-Muslim rally--including at least one Oath Keeper. Spirits were high among counterprotesters, who included people of all ages and several faith-based groups.

Signs and chants ranged from "All you need is love" and "United we stand" to "Black, Latino, Arab, Asian and White...unite, unite, unite to fight the right" and "No borders, no nations! Stop deportations!"

-- In Lansing, Michigan, more than 200 people rallied for the "No Islamophobes in Lansing" counterprotest against ACT for America. About 50 bigots took part in the "anti-Sharia" march. Some were armed with weapons and wearing body armor, while others gave Nazi salutes and screamed anti-Black and anti-Semitic rhetoric, in addition to their Islamophobia.

The bigots had originally planned to march through a predominately Muslim neighborhood in Lansing, but were met and held near their staging point by counterprotesters chanting, "We love our Muslim neighbors!" and "No hate! No fear! Muslims are welcome here!"

Organizers of the counterprotest had sought to mobilize as many people as possible, while taking steps to ensure safety. Peacekeepers and legal observers were present, and counterprotesters were urged to be disciplined and avoid escalating the confrontation.

After a tense two-hour standoff, the counterprotesters withdrew in an organized fashion and marched to their own staging area outside the neighborhood they were defending. The ACT for America marchers didn't follow, and dispersed soon after.

Afterward, a man from the Lansing Muslim community spoke to the crowd, saying that he'd originally been opposed to the idea of the counterprotest, "but I changed my mind after seeing you today, and all the love and support for us."

It was a hopeful note for building stronger links between the left and the Muslim community after successfully challenging Islamophobic bigots.

-- In Austin, Texas, three columns of state troopers armed in riot gear protected 50 ACT for America bigots positioned on the outskirts of the Capitol grounds from 150 to 200 anti-racist counterdemonstrators chanting, "Say it loud, say it clear! Muslims are welcome here!" and "From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!"

Surrounded, outnumbered and unable to hear themselves, the Islamophobes made no speeches and were ultimately forced to call off their planned march after only four hours. During the demonstration, other squadrons of police in turn surrounded the anti-racists, who carried signs with messages of solidarity and large placards honoring Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, Ricky John Best and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, who were stabbed after confronting an Islamophobe on a Portland train in May.

Nearby, a Muslim Solidarity ATX press conference drew a diverse crowd of around 75 people. "We're here to combat hate and build community," declared Imam Mohamed-Umer Esmail, the press conference emcee. "We've had enough of transphobia, homophobia and xenophobia."

Speakers for LGBTQ rights, Palestinian liberation and other issues called for mutual respect for diversity. Austin Mayor Steve Adler expressed hope that the city would be successful in fighting anti-immigrant attacks in the state legislature.

-- In Syracuse, New York, over 50 right-wingers converged to spew hatred for their Islamophobic national day of action. Their demonstration was surrounded by the right-wing Oath Keepers militia in an attempt to intimidate anti-racist resistance.

Nonetheless, around 120 activists from Syracuse and the surrounding area assembled across the street from the "anti-Sharia" rally. Anarchists and socialists mobilized networks of solidarity to stifle the growth of right-wing extremism. With superior numbers, their anti-racist chants drowned out their bigotry.

While ACT for America pretends to care for the well-being of women, the counterdemonstrators were quick to remind them, "You don't give a shit about women." As the last herd of bigots retreated from the protest, it was clear that our ability to win came from having a larger number of people.

Categories: Political Action

Holding out a helping hand to the banksters

Socialist Worker - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 01:00

Meet Keith Noreika, a lawyer for the banksters-turned-interim head of the Treasury office in charge of regulating banks. Colin Patrick makes the introductions.

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency head Keith Noreika

THE OFFICE of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is a bureau within the Department of the Treasury that is the main institution responsible for regulating national banks.

According to the OCC's website, the bureau has "played a vital role in assuring the health and well-being of the nation's financial system" by having "set and achieved the highest standards of public service."

"Under the direction of the Comptroller of the Currency," a 2008 OCC document informs us, "the national banking system" has "acquired a reputation for safety and soundness that [has] inspired confidence from the banking public."

Whatever confidence the national banking system may have enjoyed in 2008, however, largely turned into resentment as a result of the financial crisis that began to unfold that year.

Donald Trump was able to exploit resentment into a successful bid for the presidency in part by promising to "drain the swamp" of corporate and financial influence in Washington. But so far his approach to "draining" the swamp has been to flood it with toxic waste. A prime example is his pick for acting head of the OCC: Keith Noreika.

ProPublica describes Noreika as "a prominent Washington attorney" who "has made a career out of representing banks as they sought to fight back consumer-friendly state regulations and class-action lawsuits accusing banks of deceptive practices."

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TYPICALLY, WHEN a comptroller leaves, the position is filled temporarily by a career staff member, who does the job until they are formally replaced by a nominee approved by the Senate. Noreika, however, has no OCC experience.

Noreika does have a lot of experience with the banking industry--although IT may not be in keeping with OCC's stated mission of "public service" and "inspiring confidence in the banking system."

As an attorney, he successfully defended the banks' ability to charge ATM fees to non-customers, and even to charge non-customers for cashing checks drawn on the banks' own accounts, when these were under threat by state legislatures. He also helped banks dodge state-imposed audits of their residential mortgages as the housing bubble expanded in the early 2000s.

In 2007, when several large national banks were being sued for seeking to shield their subsidiaries from state regulation, Noreika, then working for the corporate law firm Covington & Burling, successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that, since state laws didn't apply to subsidiaries of national banks, such regulation was legally indefensible.

Noreika is only the acting head of the OCC, so the Trump administration managed to install him without a hearing or confirmation. His temporary status--what the OCC calls a "special government employee"--also means that while he's in office, he doesn't have to abide by stricter ethics rules governing permanent appointees. That presumably includes rules covering obvious conflicts of interest.

That temporary status also provides direct benefits to the banks and the Trump administration. After interviewing a person with knowledge of the nomination process, CNBC's Yian Mui reported, "With Senate confirmation likely to take months, the person said the administration intends to appoint Noreika to the interim post in order to move more quickly in reversing Obama's policies."

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NOREIKA WILL likely prove useful in helping the administration in scaling back banking regulation under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act --an important, if limited, financial regulatory act that the House of Representatives voted to gut last week.

One important provision under Dodd-Frank, and a target of Republican ire, is known as the "Volcker Rule," which restricts banks from "making speculative investments that do not benefit their customers." The rule is named after former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker, who saw the kinds of speculative activity covered by the rule as playing a key role in the 2008-09 financial crisis.

On just his third day at the OCC, Noreika, who decked out his new office with a "Make America Great Again" hat, publicly criticized the Volcker rule as one that has "zero value and costs a lot"—and appeared ready to act to relieve banks from their obligations under it.

"Regulation doesn't work when it chokes investment," Noreika opined to the OCC staff, arguing for the need to strike a "delicate balance" between legitimate regulations and those that do "not make sense," perhaps unsurprisingly failing to specify examples of the former.

What will Noreika do once his 130-day stint at the OCC is over? That’s hard to say, although it looks like he's going to try to put a significant dent in U.S. financial regulation with the short time that he has.

And there are benefits to Noreika's short time in the job. "While he will be subject to some post-government restrictions once he leaves," former general counsel and acting director of the Office of Government Ethics Don Fox told the New York Times, "he will not be subject to the same extent as someone who is either confirmed by the Senate or a career employee."

This year is thus likely to be one in which Noreika does indeed strike a "delicate balance"--between deregulating banks at the OCC and defending banks from regulators in private practice.

Categories: Political Action

The last refuge for desperate Tories

Socialist Worker - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 01:00

Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party won the most seats in Britain's election, but lost its majority in parliament. To cling to power, the Tories are seeking a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Connor Kelly explains what May's new best friends really stand for, in an article written for the revolutionary socialism in the 21st century website.

A mural in Belfast celebrates Ulster loyalist paramilitary groups (Borja García de Sola Fernández | flickr)

THE DEMOCRATIC Unionist Party (DUP) is the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland (NI). Led by the thoroughly corrupt and devious Arlene Foster, it is a deeply sectarian party that, when not stirring up hatred against Catholics and republicans, vilifies gays, women, Muslims and the poor. The party maintains links with the Free Presbyterian Church (a Bible literalist fundamentalist church founded by former DUP leader Ian Paisley) and the Protestant fundamentalist pressure group, the Caleb foundation. On the political spectrum, they would be situated on the far right--probably significantly to the right of even the UK Independence Party. The Tea Party movement in the U.S. is a useful, if not entirely accurate, analogue.

The DUP operates on a cross-class basis, drawing support from working-class Protestants, as well as a significant middle-class and wealthy rural constituency. This unholy alliance is cemented through a sectarian hatred of republicans, nationalists and Catholics, and whipping up the fear that Ulster Protestants are under constant threat of being betrayed to Irish unification--a northern Irish version of the stab in the back myth.

Founded in 1971 by the Protestant supremacist preacher Rev. Ian Kyle Paisley as the successor to his Protestant Unionist Party, formed five years before, the DUP was a radically sectarian outfit from the get-go. Paisley was a right-wing bigot, a fundamentalist Christian and a conspiracy monger who believed that the Northern Ireland civil rights movement was merely a front for the IRA and/or communists, and part of an international conspiracy led by the antichrist (the Pope). He saw official unionism's concessions to the movement as a betrayal of Ulster Protestantism. After Bloody Sunday, as Ireland descended into war, the DUP maintained close links with armed Loyalist death squads for the remainder of the Troubles and up to the present day.

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ALTHOUGH THE DUP traces its roots back to the signing of Carson's Ulster Covenant in 1912 and the foundation of loyalism in the North, its particular brand of Christian fundamentalist loyalism has some unusual esoteric roots. In the mid- to late 1960s, Protestants dominated Catholics in the North in all areas. Catholics were treated like second-class citizens, and unionist control was cemented by vote rigging, gerrymandering and various violent state apparatuses. Various groups of activists in Northern Ireland, inspired by the American civil rights movement, began actions and demonstrations demanding rights for the Catholic minority in the North (one person one vote, end gerrymandering, housing rights, etc.). Protestant supremacists in the North saw this movement as an existential threat and began to mobilize a reaction.

To give a flavor of the milieu out of which the DUP originated, it may be useful to consider TARA. In the late 1960s, a group of what can only be described as blood-and-soil national fascists calling themselves TARA grew up as a response from hard-line loyalists to the civil rights movement.

TARA was militantly anti-Catholic; it believed that Ulster Protestants were descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel and that Ulster Scots had an ancient and legitimate right to the province. Unlike other loyalist groupings, they utilized Celtic symbolism--hence the name TARA: Tara was the ancient seat of the high kingship of Ireland.

As well as spreading conspiracy theories and crackpot histories, it was closely associated for a time with the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), one of the main loyalist paramilitary groups in Ireland--the UVF encouraged its membership to also become members of TARA. TARA was supported by Paisley, and he may have been a member (TARA were vocal supporters of Paisley). TARA's founder William McGrath was, in addition to being a pseudo-occultist lunatic, a child-rapist who was later convicted of running a child-sex ring out of the Kincora boy's home in Antrim. (There is also good reason to believe he was an agent of MI5, and that British intelligence possibly knew about the abuse and allowed it to continue in order to "trap" new agents). McGrath's career in Loyalism ended in disgrace and four years in prison, but that of his erstwhile Ulster Israelite ally Paisley was just beginning.

As the civil rights movement gained momentum, there was a backlash from Protestants committed to defending their interests. British troops were introduced to the streets in 1969 in response to a radical uprising in the Bogside of Derry. The Provisional IRA was formed that year as a response to the burning out of Catholic homes in Belfast--IRA members dissatisfied with the official leadership formed a hasty defense of Catholic areas.

With British troops on the streets as a legitimate target for the new IRA, and sectarian violence rampant, Paisley and his comrades declared that they had been proved right--the civil rights movement was an IRA front and the very notion of a Protestant Ulster was under threat.

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THE DUP came into its own as a force in 1973, after the signing of the Sunningdale agreement--an attempt at a power-sharing agreement that was not unlike the later Good Friday agreement. The agreement would see power-sharing between the Nationalist Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP) and the representatives of official unionism--the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). Paisley and his DUP were virulently opposed to the agreement which they saw as an unnecessary compromise with Catholic Nationalists, which would threaten the privileged (and divinely sanctioned) position of Ulster Protestants and pave the way to a reunified Ireland: "Dublin is just a Sunningdale away." The DUP along with other unionists and loyalists formed the United Ulster Unionist Council to coordinate their opposition. This worked in tandem with the loyalist political formations and paramilitary death squads that formed the Ulster Worker's Council (UWC) and the Ulster Army Council (UAC) to organize Protestant workers to oppose the agreement and stir up sectarian hatred.

This culminated in the UWC strike of 1974--a reactionary workers' strike that lasted for a fortnight and succeeded in killing the Sunningdale Agreement. The strike essentially brought Northern Ireland to a halt, and loyalist gangs stirred up violence against Catholics throughout. On day three of the strike, loyalists detonated four car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan, killing 33 civilians. The UWC Strike cemented Paisley and the DUP's role as a force to be reckoned with.

Throughout the Troubles, Paisley and the DUP lurched from one holy crusade to another. From the campaign against the Anglo-Irish agreement to the use of the slogan "Save Ulster from Sodomy," you could guarantee that the most reactionary political actions had this Antrim Fred Phelps at their center.

The DUP opposed every concession to the political desires of Irish Catholics for the rest of the war, up to and including the Good Friday Agreement--though they had no qualms about participating in the Stormont assembly afterwards.

As many revolutionary socialists at the time warned, the GFA did not "put to rest" the Irish question and merely institutionalized sectarianism in Northern Ireland on an official political level, leading to the most hard-line forces of each "community" becoming their official representatives--Sinn Fein and the DUP.

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THERE HAS been much shared on social media platforms over the last few days about the DUP's links with loyalist terror gangs in the North. The DUP remained on mostly cordial relations with loyalist paramilitaries throughout the troubles--from TARA to the present day, though they have always kept themselves at a safer distance than other groups formally linked to paramilitaries, such as the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), which operated as the "political wing" of the UVF.

Paisley's attempts to create his own paramilitary forces were rather pathetic. In 1981, he formed the Third Force and was pivotal in its successor group, the Ulster Resistance. These were protestant militias modeled on Carson's original UVF. Although their mass rallies might have conjured up images of the KKK in America, the groups were largely ineffective as fighting forces and essentially served as live-action role-playing for the DUP leadership to demonstrate their commitment to the cause of Ulster Protestantism. Paisley was content enough to stir up loyalist gangs to violence and quickly distance himself from them when it was politically expedient. (Ulster Resistance was, however, engaged with other paramilitary groups in criminal activity, such as the importation of arms from Lebanon in collaboration with the UVF and the UDA.)

The closest to military activity Peter Robinson ever got was to lead a merry band of loyalists in an "incursion" of the village of Clontibret in Monaghan, south of the border. They went on a rampage destroying property and conquered the local Garda hut. Robbo was deputy leader at the time. He later went on to become First Minister of Northern Ireland.

We cannot examine any political support the DUP gave to loyalist death squads without also looking at the direct military and intelligence support that the British state lavished on these groups. Collusion between loyalist groupings and the RUC is, at this point, well known. But British Intelligence, military and otherwise, also aided and abetted--and sometimes organized--atrocities committed by people who have been described by former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan as "serial killers."

If the DUP saw the death squads as "counterterrorists," then so did the British state--the Tory Party arguably has overseen more concrete "links with terrorism" in Northern Ireland than the DUP ever have. The scale of collusion and agent-running in Northern Ireland was massive, with some groups such as the LVF (Loyalist Volunteer Force) being described as "wholly and subsidiary owned" by British state forces. So when Theresa May gallingly accuses Jeremy Corbyn of being soft on the IRA, we should remember that her own party oversaw the arming and support of fascist death squads in Ulster that killed hundreds of civilians. These groups still exist, are still armed and have, in some places, total control of working-class communities.

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THE DUP have been in power in Northern Ireland since 2007 in a power-sharing coalition with Sinn Fein (SF). They, along with SF have overseen the implementation of Tory austerity in the North, which devastated already impoverished working-class communities across the sectarian divide. They have long opposed LGBT and women's rights--various DUP politicians calling homosexuality "disgusting" and "an abomination to God." They, along with Catholic counterparts, oppose the extension of the 1967 abortion act to Northern Ireland and support the criminalization of women seeking an abortion. This means that if they need an abortion, women must travel to England and pay for it on the NHS. They have consistently blocked the introduction of gay marriage in Northern Ireland using the "petition of concern" mechanism in Stormont--a mechanism which, up until recently, effectively gave the DUP a veto over any progressive social legislation for Northern Ireland.

They are a deeply racist party. The former First Minister Peter Robinson, who can be seen in a video describing death squads as "counterterrorists," supported a Belfast pastor who described Muslims as Satanists. Robinson said he would trust Muslims to "go to the shop" for him, a comment which led to encouraging and humorous anti-racist demonstrations across the North. Paisley himself was a deeply racist man. One Jewish filmmaker who had dealings with Paisley recalls how "He had three nicknames for me--one was 'the Jew', another one was 'my Jewish friend,' and the third one was 'my circumcised friend.'"

That the Tories accuse Labour of being a hotbed of anti-Semitism and then go into coalition with a party founded by and led by this man is rank hypocrisy. These sorts of comments would likely ruin the career of any other leading politician in the UK--but with the DUP, this is standard fare.

Peter Robinson and his wife Iris Robinson have been involved in numerous corruption scandals. Iris Robinson, the party's homophobe-in-chief, was brought down by a scandal that began public revelations about her affair with a (barely legal) young man. It was later revealed that she had been siphoning off public money in his direction. Peter Robinson has been implicated in the NAMA properties scandal (see "Namagate")--allegedly, he stood to benefit $9.5 million in fixer's fees upon completion to the deal. The current leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, is also tarnished by numerous corruption scandals, from claiming expenses for disused buildings in her constituency to overseeing the Renewable Heating scheme that resulted in the recent "Cash for Ash" scandal that brought down the NI Assembly. Refusing to resign, she caused Northern Ireland to fall under yet another period of stalemate and direct rule. Now, she holds the levers of power in Westminster. This is a party so steeped in corruption that they make the Westminster expense scandal look tame by comparison. Along with their regressive social policies, they will undoubtedly try to use their new position with the Tories to further line their own pockets through more dodgy deals and illegal transactions.

Everyone on the left in Britain must now mobilize against the new coalition at Westminster (regardless of the actual arrangement). In Liverpool last week, fascists in the EDL attempted to march (they were crushed by anti-fascist mobilization). One of the flags they brandished was that of the UVF. Ulster loyalism has long had links with fascist groups in Britain--now their bigoted political representatives are in bed with Theresa May. This can only embolden right-wing and far-right elements in Britain and NI. Every anti-fascist group and anti-racist group in Britain should now mobilize against this unholy alliance.

The Tory government is content to throw the GFA and the people of Northern Ireland under the bus in order to cling to power. That one NI party now holds the balance of power in Westminster makes a laughingstock of the very idea of power-sharing in the North. The Irish Question is now firmly back on the table, and a critical examination of the "Peace Process" is long overdue.

Even if--it seems fairly likely--we see a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn in the near future, the radical left must take an independent socialist position on Ireland. That position should be the same one that we have been arguing for the last 100 years--not power-sharing in a puppet state in the six counties, but a 32-county socialist republic. If ever there was a time for the left to make these arguments, this is it.

First published at rs21.

Categories: Political Action

Pride and justice stand together

Socialist Worker - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 01:00

Steve Leigh reports from Seattle day of protests for LGBTQ pride and equality.

Marching for LGBTQ pride and equality in Seattle

MORE THAN 2,000 people gathered in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood on June 11 and marched to the city center in support of LGBTQ pride and equality.

The march was one of several across the U.S., including a gathering in Washington, D.C., that were aimed at being more political than the official LGBTQ pride marches later in June, which started as a commemoration of the Stonewall Rebellion, but have morphed into an apolitical event, sponsored in part by corporations.

Brooklyn activist David Bruinooge called for the day of protests on a Facebook page back in January, saying he was inspired by the Women's Marches on January 21. The vile homophobia of the Trump administration continued to drive interest in the demonstrations around the country.

Transgender pride was a strong theme throughout the day in Seattle. Speakers also expressed solidarity with other groups under attack in the age of Trump. One speaker introduced herself as a "radical, proud, out lesbian and Muslim" to loud cheers from the crowd.

Speakers urged people not to give their signatures to put Initiative 1552 on the ballot. If passed, the referendum which would enforce a law like the notorious one in North Carolina that forces people to use bathrooms of their birth gender, rather than the gender they identify with. Activists circulated through the crowd with " decline to sign" petitions.

One extremely popular act was a beautiful rendition of John Lennon's utopian socialist anthem "Imagine."

The radical political message of solidarity was mixed with calls for support of gay businesses. One of the sponsors was the Greater Seattle Business Association, which also sponsors the official Pride event at the end of the month. Politicians in support of LGBTQ rights were also featured from the speakers' platform.

Meanwhile, sections of the march broke out in chants defending immigrants, Muslims, the African Americans and other oppressed groups. One of the most popular was "When queer rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!"

Categories: Political Action

New York Rushes To Enact Terrible Right of Publicity Law

Deep Links - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 17:25

The New York State Legislature is considering a bill that would radically reshape its right of publicity law. Assembly Bill A08155 [PDF] would dramatically expand New York’s right of publicity, making it a property right that can be passed on to your heirs – even if you aren’t a New York resident. The bill was introduced less than two weeks ago and is being rushed through without any hearings. EFF is urging legislators to slow down before passing an unnecessary law that would threaten the freedom of expression of individuals, activists, artists, and journalists around the United States. 

The right of publicity is an offshoot of state privacy law that gives a person the right to limit the public use of her name, likeness, or identity for commercial purposes. While a limited version of this right makes sense (for example, allowing you to stop a company from using your name in an advertisement without permission), it has turned into a monster in recent years thanks to misguided legislation and court decisions. In some states, the right covers just about any speech that even “evokes” a person’s identity. Celebrities have brought right of publicity cases against moviesrap lyricsmagazine features, and computer games. The right of publicity has even been invoked to silence criticism of celebrities.

Since the right of publicity can impact a huge range of speech, any changes to the law should be considered carefully. That is especially true if the changes would affect New York law, give that it is home to so many artists and public figures. EFF has submitted a letter in opposition to the New York bill asking legislators to slow down and consider several specific problems:

  • Dramatically Expanding the Right of Publicity: The bill expands the right of publicity to include uses of a person’s likeness, including any characteristic that could identify a person, including “gestures” and “mannerisms.” The more expansive the right of publicity is the more it can be used to shut down otherwise lawful speech. The bill would also give a cause of action to anyone whose “identity” was used in New York (as opposed to limiting its scope to those who are domiciled there). This means it could impact almost anything published on the Internet or other national media.
  • Reframing the Right of Publicity as a Property Right: The bill would reframe a well-established privacy right into a freely transferable publicity right. But the right of publicity makes the most sense as a cause of action that gives people control over what they endorse. In this sense, it can be seen a form of false advertising law. When the right is treated like property that can be assigned, however, celebrities can lose control over their own image. For example, a celebrity might assign publicity rights to settle a debt and then find her image pasted over advertisements for products or causes the celebrity finds reprehensible. At the very least, the New York legislature should think carefully about whether that is a result it approves.
  • Expanding of the Term of the Right: A post-mortem right means heirs can invoke the right long after the celebrity is dead. This massively expands the range of speech impacted by the right of publicity while providing no benefit to the celebrity (who will, of course, be dead).
  • Inadequate Protections for Speech: The bill attempts to address some of these negative effects through exemptions. But the prospect of litigation over the meaning of these exemptions will chill even speech that falls within their boundaries—particularly given that the overall bill invites litigation involving parties who aren’t even U.S. residents, much less New York residents. Even worse, we understand that SAG-AFTRA has proposed an amendment that would undermine even the limited protections these exemptions offer.

Right of publicity expert Jennifer Rothman has also submitted detailed comments [PDF] discussing these and other problems with the legislation. We hope legislators take the time to consider these objections.

New York does not have a chronic celebrity shortage that warrants rushed and careless legislation. New York legislators should oppose Assembly Bill A08155 unless and until these problems are fixed. Right of publicity law should not be upended on a whim with disastrous results for free speech.

Categories: Political Action

In Response to EFF Lawsuit, Justice Department Scheduled to Release Significant FISC Opinions About Warrantless Surveillance

Deep Links - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 17:17

Tomorrow, the government is scheduled to release a group of significant opinions of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The documents are being released as a result of a FOIA lawsuit filed by EFF last year, seeking disclosure of all of the FISC’s still-secret, yet significant, opinions.

The opinions scheduled for release all relate to Section 702, as enacted by the FISA Amendments Act, the warrantless surveillance law that expires at the end of this year. We don’t yet know how many opinions the government will release, what their precise subject matter will be, or whether they will be substantially redacted. The opinions are part of a group of 25-30 opinions that the intelligence community has identified as the most significant FISC opinions that remain secret.

We’re hopeful the opinions released tomorrow will shed some much-needed light on the government’s operation of Section 702. Just last week, the Director of National Intelligence announced that his agencies would break a promise to Congress to produce an estimate on the number of Americans swept up in the government's warrantless surveillance program. It’s long past time for the government to come clean about how Section 702 operates, and fully understanding the program's legal underpinnings and the involvement of the FISC, as reflected in these still-secret FISC opinions, is a critical part of that. 

This is the fourth lawsuit EFF has brought seeking greater transparency for FISC opinions. As a result of our FOIA litigation, hundreds (if not thousands) of pages of previously secret FISC opinions have been made public, including opinions detailing serious legal violations. The opinions have also shed light on the dubious legal interpretations the government has pushed the FISC to adopt. 

Of course, it’s possible the government won’t release anything tomorrow. But, if they don’t, they should expect to see us back in court soon. That’s because, in addition to FOIA, the USA Freedom Act requires the government to release these opinions. We’ve given the government time to perform the necessary declassification reviews; now it’s time to make them public.

The public has a fundamental right to know, read, and understand the decisions of the federal courts. That’s true whether the opinions concern national security surveillance or more mundane issues. Secret courts, and secret legal opinions, are fundamentally inconsistent with our democratic system -- a point the USA FREEDOM Act recognized and corrected. Hopefully, tomorrow’s disclosures will move us one step closer to closing the chapter in nation’s history on secret surveillance law.

Related Cases: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Orders
Categories: Political Action

Contribuye al Fondo de Defensa Legal de Diego Gómez

Creative Commons - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 15:02

Hace tres semanas reportamos que Diego Gómez, estudiante Colombiano demandado por compartir por internet un paper académico, ha sido absuelto de los cargos penales en su contra.

Pero hace algunos días los abogados del denunciante apelaron a la decisión del juez de primera instancia, lo que implica que luego de varios años de procedimientos judiciales innecesarios (y caros), el caso de Diego será revisado por el Tribunal de Bogotá. El juicio a Diego Gómez es un ejemplo flagrante de abuso de derechos de autor, donde titulares de derechos pueden hacer uso de la ley, que ya es excesiva en su alcance, para que una infracción menor tenga un impacto significativo no sólo para el individuo involucrado, sino también para la sociedad en su conjunto. Los estudiantes no debieran ser sujetos de largos y estresantes acciones judiciales por el hecho de compartir conocimiento.

Diego necesita tu ayuda. La Fundación Karisma, organización de derechos digitales colombiana que ha estado asistiendo a Diego desde el comienzo, está lanzando una campaña de crowdfunding en IndieGoGo para pagar por los costos legales asociados. La campaña, llamada Compartir no es delito: Sharing Is Not A Crime pretende conseguir USD $40,000.

The post Contribuye al Fondo de Defensa Legal de Diego Gómez appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Contribute to the Diego Gómez Legal Defense Fund

Creative Commons - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 15:02
Support Diego by donating today!

Three weeks ago we reported that Diego Gómez, the former Colombian student who’s been prosecuted for sharing a research paper online, had been acquitted of criminal charges.

But within days of the ruling, the author’s lawyer appealed the decision, meaning that even after several years of unnecessary (and expensive) criminal proceedings, Diego’s case continues to the appellate court—the Tribunal of Bogotá. The prosecution of Gómez is an egregious example of copyright overreach where rights holders can unfairly leverage the law so that even a minor violation leads to major negative repercussions for both the individual involved, and society as a whole. Students shouldn’t be subject to lengthy and stressful lawsuits for sharing knowledge.

Diego needs our help. Fundación Karisma, the Colombian digital rights organisation that’s been supporting Diego since the beginning, is launching an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to pay for the ongoing legal expenses. The campaign—titled Compartir no es delito: Sharing Is Not A Crime—is now live and aims to raise $40,000.

The post Contribute to the Diego Gómez Legal Defense Fund appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Qatar's Crisis is About Freedom of Expression

Deep Links - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 12:02

The tiny Gulf country of Qatar is in crisis. Over the past few weeks, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have systematically sought to isolate and suffocate the country, accusing Qatar of supporting extremism, severing diplomatic ties, and calling upon their allies to do the same. 

It is not only a diplomatic crisis, but a crisis for free expression in an already restrictive region. As some analysts have pointed out, the singling out of Qatar has as much to do with the country’s alleged support of terrorism as it does with neighboring countries’ desire to shutter Al Jazeera, Qatar’s flagship media organization.

Al Jazeera, a comprehensive media outlet funded by the Qatari government with several international satellite television channels, websites, and online video operations, is not exactly a beacon of free expression—it rarely reports negatively on Qatar or other Gulf countries, for example—but it has stood strong in its reporting on the Arab region and much of the world, covering topics that other outlets often ignore.

Although the country restricts access to some websites and outlaws criticism of its rulers, it has nevertheless set itself apart as a regional media leader. Al Araby Al Jadeed (“The New Arab”) and Huffington Post Arabi are just two of the online media outlets to emerge from the country in recent years.

Its Gulf neighbors—namely Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—offer a much more restrictive online environment, with each blocking numerous websites, including international media. Now, as they seek to isolate Qatar, they’re homing in on its media and using the internet as a means to an end.

Forced closure

It all began just a few days after President Trump’s May 22 meeting with Gulf leaders in Saudi Arabia, when Qatar News Agency (QNA) published comments critical of the United States attributed to the country’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Al Jazeera claimed QNA's site had been hacked, but satellite channels from the UAE and Saudi Arabia reported the comments as legitimate and subsequently blocked Al Jazeera’s main website on May 24.

From there, things escalated quickly: on May 25, Egypt blocked access to Al Jazeera and other Qatari-funded news sites, and took the opportunity to also block local independent site Mada Masr. Saudi Arabia and Jordan followed suit by revoking Al Jazeera’s license and closing its offices.

And now, under the pretext of cybercrime (a favored means of repression in the region), Qatar’s neighbors are seeking to prosecute anyone who speaks favorably about the country. The UAE has threatened up to 15 years in prison or debilitating fines for anyone who shows sympathy to embattled Qatar, while Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior announced penalties of up to five years imprisonment on their website. SaudiNews tweeted that the government of Saudi Arabia would impose up to five years imprisonment for pro-Qatar speech as well, on the grounds of the country’s 2007 cybercrime law, which bans “material impinging on public order.” The kingdom took their restrictions a step further, banning satellite TV from hotels to prevent visitors from watching Al Jazeera. Finally, on June 8, Al Jazeera suffered a massive cyberattack

These restrictions, as well as restrictions on travel to and from Qatar, are pushing the embattled country into isolation and threatening the economy and livelihood of Qatar’s residents and citizens. But they also set a dangerous precedent in an already extremely restrictive environment for freedom of expression: the use of economic and travel sanctions to shut down a powerful media outlet and further, punish anyone who speaks out against that act.

As a media leader in the region, Qatar has an important role of providing news coverage to citizens in the Gulf and beyond. And while press freedom still has a long way to go in Qatar, further suppression of human rights by members of the GCC is not the answer. EFF condemns the Council's attempts to sever diplomatic ties with the country and silence Qatari media outlets, like Al Jazeera, under the guise of combating terrorism. Supporting Qatar's media environment, and helping it become more free, is an imperative.

Categories: Political Action

How did Portland stand united against hate?

Socialist Worker - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 01:00

On June 4, more than 2,000 people mobilized in Portland, Oregon, to counterprotest far-right forces gathered for a rally allegedly about "free speech," but really about racist hate.

The turnout of 400 right-wingers on June 4, even after the racist murders committed by a white supremacist on a Portland train that shocked the world, shows the frightening growth of the far right. Fortunately, though, opponents of racist hate refused to be intimidated and sent a message that the bigots won't go unchallenged. The organization of the counterdemonstrations raised anew questions for the left about how to confront the far right--and even to take place, they had to surmount the objections of liberal voices who opposed a direct challenge and even, in some cases, called for ignoring the racist haters.

The June 4 counterdemonstration is only a first step--but an important one in setting an example for the left's future initiatives against the rise of the far right. Here, Wael Elasady, an organizer in Portland and member of the International Socialist Organization, discusses how the counterdemonstration was built with another Portland organizer Sarah Levy.

Anti-racists mobilize against the far right in Portland, Oregon (Joe Frazier)

WHAT WERE the goals of the organizers of Portland Stands United Against Hate counterprotest against the far right?

WE COULD see that around the country, the far right was consciously provoking street brawls with small numbers of Antifa activists at their rallies as a way to radicalize and build their base. Meanwhile, the liberal establishment was urging people to ignore the right and lamenting the violence from "extremists" on both sides.

As a result of this dynamic, broader layers of people who would otherwise come out to oppose the right were opting to stay home, and the far right was therefore gaining momentum.

We know this trend needs to be reversed. Therefore, what informed our strategic orientation from the beginning was the goal of organizing the largest mobilization possible to confront the far right.

At first, garnering interest beyond the existing left proved difficult, but the dynamic changed after the horrific murders by right-wing extremist Jeremy Christian, and it became possible to build a larger mobilization.

We organized the Portland Stands United Against Hate rally at City Hall, across the street from the far-right rally, and adjacent to two other counterdemonstrations.

Our counterdemonstration was based on the belief that we wouldn't have the numbers to either occupy the plaza where the far right was rallying or push them out once they started, as the other two counterprotests wanted. So we aimed to challenge the right with our much greater numbers, and hopefully build the basis for even larger mobilizations in the future.

We reached out to unions, faith organizations, immigrant rights groups and social justice groups of every stripe to endorse the action and invited them to a planning meeting in which we all would shape the event. This approach was very successful--the planning meeting had 30 people from 20 different organizations present, and we ultimately ended up with 72 organizations that endorsed the rally and mobilized their communities to attend.

It was very powerful to see unions, racial justice groups, immigrant rights groups, socialists and others arrive with their banners, marching into the rally with organized contingents. There was a brass band contingent, a Native American drumming group, families of victims of police brutality who came out, and throngs of Portland residents who brought their homemade signs.

This sent an important message--it wasn't only a minority of left-wing activists who rejected the racism of the far right, but masses of ordinary residents of Portland.

BESIDES THE question of how to organize a counterdemonstration against the far right, there was also the debate about whether to counterdemonstrate. The liberal strategy essentially called for ignoring the far right's rally, because if you show up and confront them, you're giving them more attention. Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. led the pressure to call off the counterprotest, right?

JESSE JACKSON actually flew into town for one day and called for the counterdemonstrations to be canceled, so he could lead an anti-racist march on a different day. He has yet to call that march, by the way, and my sense is that he won't. So his call appears to have been simply a cynical maneuver to disorganize and demobilize our side.

We had to argue against this approach--not only against Jesse Jackson, but other organizations that put forward the message that the right should be ignored.

It's very important for us to understand how self-defeating the calls to "ignore" the far right are. The goal of far-right movements is to dominate the streets and intimidate their opponents. If they're successful in this or are left unchallenged, they will only gain more momentum and confidence. And they'll be able to attract more people to their organizations because it appears that they have a successful strategy.

The goal of intimidation is a central strategy of the far right. That's why they're coming to Portland, Berkeley, Seattle and Boston. They want to go to the heart of cities with a strong left--they want to come into our streets--and say: This is our territory now.

That's why it was essential for people to show up in mass numbers to confront the far right.

Luckily, not everyone heeded Jackson's call, and only a few organizations in our coalition pulled their endorsement of our counterdemonstration.

If Jackson and other liberal politicians had joined the call for people to mobilize, we would have drowned the far right in a sea of resistance. Instead, the self-described "leaders" of the resistance did everything in their power to limit our numbers and therefore played a particularly damaging role.

IT FELT to me like the stakes were really high in Portland, following the stabbing, then the noose being hung in the African American Museum in Washington--every day following the stabbings, we would hear about another hate crime. It's clear that it's going to get worse and worse if the far right isn't confronted. This seemed to prove, in a way, that the liberal idea of "ignoring" the right has already failed tragically--they've already grown stronger in the months when they were ignored.

YES, WHAT the far right is trying to do is instill terror into anyone opposed to them. They hope to accomplish this through individual attacks by right-wing extremists who have gained the confidence to carry out murder in broad daylight--the Portland Max line attack, the assaults on two Muslims the next day in Portland, the murder of a Black student at the University of Maryland by a member of an "Alt-Reich" group, the nooses hung at the African American history museum.

In my neighborhood, there were white supremacist fliers put up everywhere, and we most recently heard that there were death threats against the organizer of the Good In the Hood festival in Portland. So on the one hand, they carry out individual terror and intimidation. On the other, they were brazenly organizing rallies in the heart of our cities.

So what was at stake in Portland was this: Can the far right murder people in broad daylight and then stomp triumphantly through our streets, opposed only by a small number of radicals? Or would the city of Portland turn out in mass to reject their hate?

The latter is what happened, with counterprotesters greatly outnumbering the right and surrounding them on three sides--500 at the Antifa rally, 150 at the Labor against Fascists rally, and over 1,500 at our Portland Stands United Against Hate Rally. This sent an important message that even the media could not ignore, and it was a very important step forward.

If you watch videos of the conversations of right-wingers at their rally, they were taken aback, muttering that Portland really was "liberal" and that our rallies were huge.

Of course, this is just a first step, but it's an important one. Around the country, I think this is the first time since the protest against Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California at Berkeley that our side vastly outnumbered their side. This can be our starting point for stemming the tide of their growth.

THERE HAVE been some critiques about the fact that the Portland Stands United Against Hate rally wasn't organized around physically confronting the right.

THE DECISION to organize this rally around a plan of challenging the far right, but not physically confronting them or attempting to deny them the space, was a tactical consideration. It was informed by our overriding goal of mobilizing the greatest number of people to confront the right and our assessment that those large numbers of people wouldn't attend a rally with those aims.

So we organized the Portland Stands United Against Hate rally with this in mind. It was a way to build confidence and organization, and break through the fear barrier that was being fanned by the media, the mayor and the police to discourage people from attending.

That said, our aim should be to build our numbers and confidence so that we not only protest the far right, but ultimately are able to drive them from our streets. This can't be done simply through will power or radical sloganeering. If all it took to defeat the right was yelling charge, then we would have already defeated them.

We have to be able to asses the political situation, and the strength and confidence of our side, and choose tactics that will help mobilize the largest number of people to confront the right and take militant action to push them back.

The far right is incredibly dangerous in their instigation of violence--this is the main way they have trained their core members throughout history. For that reason, our movement has to take up the question of defending ourselves from attack, and what tactics can drive them from the streets.

Our strategy is different from Antifa. These activists conceive of their struggle to push back the fascists as separate from a mass movement--in fact, they see themselves as acting on behalf of larger numbers of people and view the confrontation primarily through the lens of street fighting.

We, on the other hand, believe that self-defense and actual confrontations have to be organized as part of a mass movement, and democratically accountable to it. The specific tactics and assessments have to flow from a broader political strategy of defeating the right. That's something the left needs to think through and discuss.

IN THE lead-up to the protest, there were calls by the mayor to have the federal government revoke the permit for the far right. Is this a call that should have been supported?

THE FIRST thing that we have to do is expose the hypocrisy of what the far right is doing. They are using the cover of free speech to organize a white supremacist movement in this country that aims to take away all of our civil rights, including free speech.

Killing people on a train isn't a question of free speech, hanging a noose outside the African American History museum isn't a question of free speech, physically attacking and assaulting Muslims on the streets isn't free speech, sending death threats to a professor of African American history at Princeton isn't free speech.

The first thing we have to say is that the far right doesn't care about free speech or civil rights--their aim is to use the call for "free speech" to organize for the opposite.

But there are multiple problems with relying on the state to stop the far right, which is what Mayor Wheeler proposed to do by asking the federal government to pull the permit.

First, this plays into the far right's strategy. They are making gains by portraying themselves as victims who are just trying to send their harmless, inoffensive message. When the government steps in against them, that's more fuel to the fire.

Second, and even more importantly, calling on the state to revoke the permit of the far right today hands them the power to cancel our rallies tomorrow. We can't trust the state, which is the largest purveyor of violence and repression, so we can't hand over our civil liberties to them.

Finally, you can't ban a far-right movement out of existence. These forces are a mass phenomenon, emerging out of an underlying social crisis.

That doesn't mean our side shouldn't exercise our right to free speech to challenge the far right wherever they rear their heads. The strategy for defeating the right isn't to appeal to the state to ban them, but to organize mass mobilizations, which can ultimately push them backwards.

SPEAKING OF the state, can you talk about the role of the police at the rally and what IT tells us about what we can expect from law enforcement in the contest with the right.

THE POLICE actually coordinated with the far-right militias that were providing security for the racists' rally. It appears that the police handed over control of the sidewalk surrounding their rally to these militias, and then worked with them.

A member of a far-right militia helped police tackle, subdue and arrest a leftist protester. The militia member actually reached into the waistband of the DHS officer and grabbed plastic cuffs to help with the arrest.

Furthermore, the police erected a barrier around the far-right protest, making it clear who they were there to protect. They then carried out an attack on left-wing protesters at Chapman Park, using tear gas and rubber bullets, and later "kittling" a group of left-wing protesters.

This is another reason we have to be clear that the state won't stop the far right. In fact, elements of the state often ally with the right.

This is because the mass protests of the left demand a different society. We expose police brutality, while the cops are there to protect the current order, and they are imbued with racism and contempt for working-class people who they police.

The far right's ideology and strategy fit with that. They don't want to get rid of the system--they want to channel anger against minorities and the left. The far right consciously courts the police and law enforcement--which is why there were Blue Lives Matter posters at their rally. Many of the Oath Keepers who coordinated with the police are former military and former police officers themselves.

The Portland example confirms the general rule: The police--except in specific circumstances where they may go beyond the limits of the establishment, won't confront the fascists and isn't on our side against them.

That's why it's critical for our side to organize the largest number of people and have a coherent strategy that avoids self-defeating provocations with police that give them cover to target our side--so that we can take on the right, but also build our power to withstand police repression.

CAN YOU talk about some of the next steps in fighting the right?

THE IMMEDIATE steps are to continue building a movement that can confront them.

The far right is growing--there were 400 people at their demonstration, which is one of their larger ones they've been able to organize. Their goal is to build a mass movement to take over the streets, so we have to continue our mobilizations to confront them and demoralize them.

But we also have to understand that this is going to be a long-term struggle. This isn't going to be one or two protests.

There are a few reasons for this. First, there's an ideological dynamic, created by both political parties, that is conducive to the growth of the far right. Years of the "war on terror" has normalized Islamophobia; years of immigrant-bashing and deportations has built up anti-immigrant lies, and increasing inter-imperial rivalries are strengthening nationalism. This has created an atmosphere in which far-right ideas can gain traction among wider layers of people.

Second, with Trump in office, we know he will continue to use his position to spread racism, sexism, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant scapegoating, and this gives the right greater confidence.

Finally, as I said earlier, there are deep structural issues at play that allow the far right to grow. Historically, the right grows when there's an economic and social crisis that devastates lives and drives people to despair. The right thrives by taking that despair, and channeling it toward scapegoating, racism and nationalism.

Which means that as we build our movement to challenge the far right, we also have to connect that movement to a variety of social struggles--from immigrant rights, to police violence, to universal health care--and a wider left alternative.

Ultimately, to defeat the right, we have to not only challenge them in the streets, but provide a more compelling political alternative that can channel people's anger and despair about the status quo into a political movement that identifies the real source of our misery in a system built for the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

Challenging the far right requires aiming for a different vision of society--one based on equality, where immigrants aren't terrorized by ICE and African Americans don't suffer police violence; where women have control over their bodies and decisions; where working people of all races don't not have to struggle every day just to pay the bills; where getting an education doesn't mean being up to your eyeballs in debt; where health care isn't a privilege but a right for every person; where human activity sustains and enriches all lives, rather than destroying the planet.

We have to provide a socialist alternative to this system and to the despair it breeds.

Categories: Political Action

May's election disaster and the road ahead

Socialist Worker - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 01:00

Britain's ruling Conservative Party government of Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a huge setback in the June 8 general election that May herself engineered--while the opposition center-left Labour Party defied all previous expectations with a major surge in votes and seats won in parliament. May and the Tories could remain in power if they make a deal with the right-wing Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, but this is a strong repudiation of the Conservatives' neoliberal agenda--and an endorsement of the avowedly left-wing alternative put forward by Corbyn, despite opposition from the Labour Party establishment.

Here, Amy Gilligan and Colin Wilson provide a morning-after analysis of the election in this article published at the revolutionary socialism in the 21st century website.

British Prime Minister Theresa May vows to remain in office

OPTIMISM GOING into the June 8 election turns out to have been well placed. The Tories, and particularly Theresa May, have been dealt a massive blow. Many Tories will be stunned by the result, asking themselves how they could have gone from a 24 percent lead in the polls to what comes down to defeat--and at the hands of Labour, led by the supposedly "unelectable" Jeremy Corbyn. To quote Tory MP Nigel Evans: "It was an amazing own goal. We didn't shoot ourselves in the foot, we shot ourselves in the head."

Labour has done better than most of us dared hope. A year ago--or even when May called the election in April--it would have seemed an unrealistic dream for Labour to defy the establishment pundits and right-wing media and destroy the Tories' majority. This is a historic victory for the left: Corbyn's message has been proved hugely popular. Labour has won 40 percent of the vote--just short of Tony Blair's result in 2001--and the support of almost 13 million people.

It was a mixed night for the Liberal Democrats, but anyone who was part of the student movement in 2010 will have celebrated as former leader Nick Clegg lost his seat--a final punishment for his support of the Tories, and a belated victory for all those on the streets seven years ago.

May is trying to patch together some kind of arrangement, which gives her a wafer-thin majority, with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed in January when DUP leader Arlene Foster became involved in a corruption scandal over green energy payments. The DUP prevents women in Northern Ireland from getting abortions, has blocked same-sex marriage and describes climate change as a con. Corbyn was attacked in the election as a "terrorist sympathizer"--but the DUP has a long history of links with armed groups. These are the people May now relies on to remain in government.

The election result leaves many questions unresolved. May will try to struggle on as prime minister. Yet many Tory MPs are furious at how she mismanaged the election campaign and all too aware of how inadequate a politician she is. Talk of a leadership challenge had begun to circulate last night, even before the last results were declared. But who can replace her? In particular, who can pull together the different factions of a divided and traumatized Tory party? What will a coalition with the DUP mean for Brexit, for Ireland, and politics in Britain generally? How can Labour best exploit these divisions? How can the momentum of those who have been energized and politicized over the last few weeks be kept up to campaign against what the Tories and DUP will be trying to push over the coming months?

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The Tories' Loss

May's election campaign has been a disaster. It's only eight weeks since the Daily Mail set out the Tory strategy with its front-page headline "Crush the Saboteurs." A landslide victory was to give the Tories a mandate for the Brexit negotiations--including their racist scapegoating and their refusal to grant UK citizenship to people from the European Union (EU) living here. The landslide was also going to enhance May's personal authority. She assumed that support for Brexit and the power of the Tory-supporting press would see her through.

But as the weeks went on, May came across as robotic and inauthentic, scared of meeting the public outside stage-managed events, while repeating her "strong and stable" mantra. For many people she came to look ridiculous--most of all, when she explained that the "naughtiest" thing she ever did was running through a field of wheat. Even David Cameron's former aide Steve Hilton called on her to resign in the wake of the London Bridge attacks.

The Tories' arrogance shone through. They claimed to be the party of economic competence, but their manifesto was uncosted. May felt she could get away with not turning up to the television debates. A turning point came with the Dementia Tax, a proposal that reinforced their image as cruel and alienated one of the most reliable parts of their voter base.

The Tory share of the vote in some locations was up on 2015. Often this was achieved on the back of UKIP's [the right-populist UK Independence Party] complete collapse, with former kippers returning to the Tory Party in the hope of getting the Brexit they want. But May's chances of any success in the Brexit talks are now hugely reduced. EU leaders want to punish Britain for leaving so as to deter any other country from trying the same thing, and this will make any deal at all hard to achieve. Then May, hugely weakened, has to keep happy two very different Tory constituencies--UKIP-leaning voters, who want to go back to a fantasy version of the 1950s, and big business, which wants agreed conditions for trade and access to a migrant workforce.

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Labour's Victories

Labour gained seats and votes across the UK, not just because the Tories did badly, but because they ran an excellent campaign. People supported them not just out of hatred for the Conservatives, but because Labour offered a positive vision which would make people's lives better: a £10 per hour minimum wage, free child care, no university fees, rail nationalization and an end to NHS privatization. That Labour alternative shifted the terrain of debate from Brexit, which the Tories wanted to be the main topic of the election, to public services and austerity.

Pundits were unanimous that Corbyn would be a liability for Labour. In fact, he was the party's greatest strength. He remained calm, authentic and principled. He put forward left politics in a way that people could relate to. The massive rallies during the campaign were testament to that--as John Prescott commented, Labour didn't manage anything similar even at the height of Blair's popularity in 1997. A host of initiatives, like Grime for Corbyn, sprang up as people--many of whom had previously had no time for politicians--seized the chance to campaign for change.

This is a personal vindication for Corbyn, who has weathered personal attacks on him and seen his personal approval ratings more than double over the course of the campaign. Diane Abbott's triumph in Hackney North, where she won over 75 percent of the vote, is likewise a vindication after the disgusting racist and misogynistic abuse she has faced.

But the election result is not just a personal triumph for Corbyn--it marks the end of a political era, one which began in 1994 when Tony Blair was elected leader of the Labour Party. Since then, the common sense of politics has been that you win from the center ground, a center ground where all parties accept the free market, privatization and war. In that view, socialism was dead and left politics were electoral poison. Last night marks the death of that common sense. As ITV's Robert Peston put it, "Real politics is back."

We've already seen commentators and pundits shifting to take account of that new reality. The Guardian called for a Labour vote. Guardian columnists like Polly Toynbee, who have attacked Corbyn relentlessly for the last two years, were enthusiastic for the manifesto. Labour MPs last night were admitting that Corbyn had done well and that they had been wrong to assume the election would be a disaster. If the Guardian and the Labour right are now going to get behind Corbyn, good. Certainly most Labour voters will feel that's what they should do. But we also shouldn't be naïve. It's only a few weeks since many members of the Parliamentary Labour Party assumed that losing the election would give them their best chance yet to kick Corbyn out. The Labour right still has a base in local councils which have been happy to work with the Tories. The Guardian's strategy for financial survival relies on building a global brand around politics like those of Clinton and Macron. Anti-Corbyn voices will be quieter, but will not go away.

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South of the border, surprise has been expressed about the results in Scotland, particularly the Tories gaining 12 seats, gains concentrated in mainly rural areas in the Borders and the North East. This isn't an entirely unexpected result--the Tories made gains in recent council elections and in the Scottish Parliament elections last year--though it's worse than might have been hoped for. One factor here is that the Unionist vote in the election consolidated behind the Tories, who fought the election on opposition to Indyref2, especially in areas that prior to 1997 had been Tory strongholds.

But the real story is the fall in the vote for the Scottish National Party (SNP), which also lost six seats to Labour. The SNP achieved its second-best result ever in terms of Westminster seats, but the election was undoubtedly a night of disappointment for them. The surge in 2015 that gave the SNP 56 of out of 59 seats was in many ways a freak result, with the party being able to channel the energy of the independence campaign into votes.

Now the desire for change that was reflected in near-victory in the independence referendum and the SNP's 2015 results has pushed up the Labour vote. This increase is down to Corbyn, not a rejection of Indyref2 as some of the right of the Scottish Labour Party would like to claim. The problems faced by Scottish Labour will continue unless they make a shift to the type of politics coming from Corbyn instead of obsessing over potential independence referendums.

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Where Next?

Everyone on the left will be celebrating today. May's credibility is in tatters. If the Tory government manages to remains in power, they only do so with the support of the Neanderthals of the DUP. The most radical Labour manifesto any of us can remember has gained the support of millions of people.

For decades now, we've heard that socialism is dead. The result last night shows that socialism is not just alive, but is capable of winning the support of huge numbers of people--in particular, the support of an overwhelming majority of young people--who are sick of insecure jobs, poor housing and cuts to health care. As the slogan of the anti-capitalist movement put it at the beginning of this century, "Another world is possible."

The election result should inspire us all now to fight for the kind of future we want. Many people will want to defend Corbyn, and take forward those struggles, inside the Labour Party. We wish them well. But we still believe that parliament is not where real change happens. We still remember how the Greek leftists of SYRIZA were defeated by the EU and the International Monetary Fund when they tried to challenge capitalism by electoral means. That debate, between reform and revolution, is one we'll continue to have on the left.

For now, we need to celebrate, and then seize this opportunity. We can't rely on MPs to deliver a socialist future for us from above. We must build on the election campaign and look beyond parliament--to the streets, the workplaces, communities, campaigns where we can build this future ourselves.

First published at the rs21 website.

Categories: Political Action

How left-wing politics won over millions

Socialist Worker - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 01:00

Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing leader of Britain's Labour Party, overturned the conventional wisdom of political insiders that center-left parties like Labour must run to the right with his stunning showing against the ruling Tory Party government of Prime Minister Theresa May. Here, Australian socialist Tom Bramble considers the implications for the left in Britain and around the world, in an article written for Red Flag newspaper.

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn rallies supporters before Election Day (Ren | flickr)

THE GENERAL election result in Britain is a stunning vindication of Jeremy Corbyn's left-wing leadership and a damning indictment of all those on the right of the Labour Party who have, since his election as leader in 2015, tried to bring him down. It is also an indictment of the right in Australian Labor Party (ALP), which has for decades resisted any left on the grounds that it would only lead to the electoral wilderness.

The extent of the turnaround in Labour's fortunes, compared to both the 2015 election and the recent polls, is worth spelling out. In the face of every mainstream commentator predicting annihilation under Corbyn at the outset of the campaign, the Labour Party polled 3.5 million more votes than in 2015, boosted its share of the vote by nearly 10 points and increased its number of seats by 29.

Tory seats tumbled across the country. Seven Tory frontbenchers were ousted, including the author of the party's manifesto. Home secretary Amber Rudd only narrowly squeezed home in the normally safe seat of Hastings. Labour increased its majorities in places as diverse as the former industrial towns of Yorkshire and Lancashire, along with seats in east London and Bristol. Had Labour not been stuck with a colorless leader in Scotland, who failed both in addressing the national question and the class issues of direct interest to many potential Labour supporters, Labour's total seat haul would have been even bigger.

Labour may have not won as many seats or share of the vote as the Tories. But given the avalanche of hostile media, not just from the right wing rags like the Sun and Daily Mail, but the liberal media like the Guardian, this was a remarkable outcome. Theresa May may yet suffer the ignominy of being Britain's sixth shortest serving prime minister. With only 331 days at the helm by polling day, she only narrowly edges out the Earl of Bute, who in 1762 served for 317 days.

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THE MAIN line of attack on Corbyn from within the Labour party was that he was "unelectable." A decent chap, but just not leadership material capable of winning over the party's demoralized supporters. This was shown up as nonsense--Corbyn's campaign energized the party and enthused millions of its supporters.

This enthusiasm was evident at the big turn-up at the leader's rallies in towns across the country. Corbyn received strong support from young people in particular. One million people aged 18 to 34 registered to vote in the seven weeks from the calling of the election on April 18 to election day. And Corbyn was greeted by chanting crowds when he appeared on stage at concerts. On the day, voter turnout among 18 to 25 year olds was 72 percent.

But it wasn't just younger voters who were inspired to vote Labour. Turnout was up across the board, to just shy of 70 percent--the highest since 1997. In Labour strongholds, the increased vote was notable: in Newcastle East, where Labour boosted its majority to a massive 46 percent, turnout was up by 14 percent. Nationally, commentators described the ballot as more like the Brexit referendum in 2016--when people felt that their vote would actually count for something--than the normal humdrum general election.

Labour's campaign was successful in whittling away the Tories' huge poll lead of 17 percent on the day the election was called to just 7 percent by 8 June. It was the biggest campaign turnaround since polling first began. Its gains demonstrated that the Labour Party could win people on the basis of a left-wing reform program, including hiking taxation on the top 5 percent, committing to boosting social welfare and reversing years of neglect of the National Health Service and the education system for the benefit of the great majority.

The promise to ax tuition fees, and to gradually wind back the accumulated student debt of graduates, helped rally young people behind the party. In the week of the election, the Labour held a 46 percent lead over the Tories among the young. But it wasn't just young people. Labour's program included a boost to the minimum wage, a reversal of the run-down of public housing, and renationalization of the Royal Mail, the railways and the water system. Labour also promised to end attacks on social security recipients and trade unions.

Labour's success also points to the way that the far right can be tackled. In 2015, the racist UK Independence Party (UKIP) scored 13 percent. After the Brexit referendum, support for the party collapsed. Tory campaigners were confident that most former UKIP voters would shift to the Conservatives, but early analysis suggests that Labour was able to win up to half of UKIP's former supporters. This was not by pandering to its racism, but by standing strong on class questions--jobs, renationalization, social welfare and the National Health Service.

The same was true, but from a different angle, with Brexit which was supposed to have been a serious threat to Labour with its supporters ranging from strongly pro-Remain voters in London and the university towns to strong Leave supporters in the north and north east of England. Labour was able to overcome this division and saw handsome swings to the party among both elements of the electorate. The party won 46 of 73 seats in London, 25 out of 29 in the northeast and won several seats from the Tories in the northwest on the basis of emphasizing issues of working-class and community interests in opposition to the Tory agenda of slashing the welfare state.

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AS SOON as he was elected leader, Corbyn faced every kind of attack from the right within his own party. After recovering from his shock win in the first leadership ballot, his opponents forced a second, in which they lost even more decisively.

The right-wing majority in the caucus was backed by the entire news media. The Guardian in particular, traditionally viewed as being a Labour paper, played a notorious role. Its panel of columnists wrote a constant stream of poisonous pieces, all with one message: Corbyn must go. Rather than rallying around the leader after the election was called, these columnists became more feral.

For example, Simon Jenkins wrote on April 18: "For Labour the news [of the election] is nothing but good. An election under Jeremy Corbyn is certain to be painful. But by autumn its sad flirtation with the archaic left should be over. A new era under a new leader can dawn." Jonathan Freedland wrote on 6 May in the aftermath of local council elections: "No more excuses: Jeremy Corbyn is to blame for the meltdown...[I]f only Corbyn would get out of the way...a new leader could take the fight to Theresa May very rapidly."

The hypocrisy is stunning. When the right has the upper hand, the left is always expected to compromise and make peace. But when the boot is on the other foot, no such restraint applies. No calls for "unity behind the leader" when it comes to Corbyn: it's war to the end.

Corbyn's critics should all be eating humble pie. The party's election result puts the leader and his left wing supporters in the caucus in a strong position. They can justifiably point to the enthusiastic reception for a left reformist program as vindication of their stance.

There are some who acknowledge that the outcome was better than expected, but that this was more the outcome of Theresa May's inept electioneering than it was any skill or positioning on Corbyn's part. The corollary is that Labour could now be in Number 10 but for Corbyn.

This is rubbish. When Corbyn took over as leader of the party, it was in a dire state. Previously, there had been high hopes that it could at least force David Cameron's Conservative Party to a close contest in 2015. Instead, thanks to Ed Miliband's wishy-washy approach, the Tories improved their position and were able to govern in their own right, free of the Liberal Democrats.

At the 2015 election, the Labour Party lost some of its supporters to UKIP on its right; it was smashed in Scotland by the Scottish Nationalist Party after dominating there for decades; and its younger supporters stayed away from voting in droves. Corbyn's election campaign was not an impediment to Labour's success, but the reason for it. The party won back support from a decent chunk of UKIP voters, halted the Scottish National Party's advance in Scotland and galvanized young people to vote in big numbers. Any idea that Corbyn's rivals for the leadership, whether in 2015 or in 2016, could have done any better is fanciful.

This is a lesson for the ALP as well. Every sneering putdown of the left by the right wing and soft left of the British party has its echoes here. How often the ALP machine, its leaders, its student factions and their apologists in the liberal media tell those who criticize the party's right-wing program that anything else would make the party unelectable. Those who advocate genuinely left wing politics are dismissed as "utopians," who just believe in "pie in the sky" and "can't relate to the working class." Workers are deemed to be at best capable of accepting a program barely two steps to the left of the Coalition. And this can be heard not just from the most craven right-wing supporters of the capitalists but the party's supposed left as well--have you heard a peep of protest from Anthony Albanese or Tanya Plibersek lately?

These figures have their supporters in the Australian media as well--found in the pages of the Fairfax press or the local version of the Guardian. Just like their British colleagues, they profess their support for the basic principles advanced by figures like Corbyn. But wearily, and more in sadness than in anger, they say that the public just won't buy it. Columnist Van Badham wrote as recently as May 12 in the Guardian that the British Labour party should knife Corbyn if it wanted to win the election, just as Bob Hawke had knifed incumbent leader Bill Hayden in the 1983 federal election here.

The result of these messages of hopelessness and adaptation to the right is the steady abandonment of anything resembling a left in Australian politics. This has done nothing to advance the cause of the working class and has only sucked the life out of politics and generated cynicism. Corbyn's success demonstrates that this is completely avoidable. Whatever else comes out of this election, one thing is certain: a left wing alternative can revive the labor movement in this country.

First published at Red Flag.

Categories: Political Action

Popular anger at Bombardier boils over

Socialist Worker - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 01:00

The cozy relationship between corporate giant Bombarider and Canada's Liberal Party is coming under much-deserved public scrutiny, explains Michele Hehn.

Protesters in Montreal rally against the theft of public money by aerospace corporation Bombardier

THE MAY 11 announcement by Québec aerospace and transportation manufacturer Bombardier that its executive chairman Pierre Beaudoin would be stepping down is the latest in a series of face-saving efforts by Bombardier management to subdue popular anger at its recent theft of public money.

Trouble started for the multinational giant on March 29 when the press announced its executives planned to give themselves raises averaging 50 percent.

If the nearly $30 million (all figures in U.S. dollars) in raises had been the result of a good business year, Bombardier execs might have been able to take the money and run. But Bombardier is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy after pursuing a number of failed business ventures.

But because Bombardier is a corporation and not a citizen, it found a sympathetic ear for its tale of woe among officials in Canada's Liberal Party--which essentially serves as Bombardier's Daddy Warbucks.

For its troubles, Bombardier was rewarded with unconditional payments of nearly $1 billion and $276 million from the Québec and federal governments, respectively. As a gesture of gratitude to Canadian taxpayers, Bombardier then announced plans to lay off 2,000 Canadian workers and another 5,500 abroad, even before awarding its executives extravagant raises.

In Canada, a large country with two official languages, consensus is seldom achieved, but Bombardier's naked looting of public funds has cohered opinion against corporate greed across coast and prairie, arousing hatred among francophone and anglophone alike.

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DENUNCIATIONS OF Bombardier in the mainstream media were so virulent that on March 31, the Liberal Party and Bombardier felt compelled to perform a choreographed concession to public opinion: A public scolding of Bombardier by Québec Finance Minister Carlos Leitão, followed by a statement from Beaudoin that he would renounce his 2016 pay increase.

But these concessions failed to neutralize the wave of public anger, which erupted in a small protest in front of Bombardier's offices on April 2. The same day, the news program TVA Nouvelles announced that a recent poll showed a staggering 93 percent of Québecois disapproved of Bombardier's actions.

A second protest of several hundred people took place a week later in front of the office of Philippe Couillard, who is the Premier of Québec and the leader of the Liberal Party, a day after the opposition parties lost a vote in the National Assembly that would have forced Bombardier management to forego its raises.

On April 10, Bombardier made its second concession to popular anger in Québec and Canada: The deferral by one year of potentially half of the projected 2016 compensation of CEO Alain Bellemare.

In addition to the protests, 34,000 Québecois signed a petition requesting that the Québec government reconsider its $1 billion dollar investment into Bombardier's failing CSeries jet. The petition was presented to the National Assembly by Québec Solidaire deputy Amir Khadir, but Minister of the Economy Dominique Anglade shut down debate, saying curtly, "This is not at all what was planned."

Still the anger was unstoppable. On May 8, two days before Bombardier's annual shareholder meeting, institutional investors including Ontario Teachers, the Caisse de dépôt de la province du Québec and the solidarity fund of the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec (Québec Federation of Labour) announced that they would not vote for Bombardier Executive Chairman Pierre Beaudoin at its annual shareholder meeting on May 10.

A third protest was organized by the independence parties Québec Solidaire and the Parti Québecois to take protesters by bus to Bombardier's annual shareholder meeting at its Dorval offices.

Though the dissident investors failed to stop the re-election of Beaudoin--an indication in itself of how out of touch the majority shareholders are with public opinion--the steady drumbeat of criticism from the press was sufficient to wring a final, symbolic concession from Beaudoin: his self-imposed demotion to Chairman from Executive Chairman.

In April, Bombardier's cozy relationship with the Liberals also sparked a trade war between the U.S. and Canada after U.S. aerospace giant Boeing went crying to its own patron, the U.S. Republican Party, that Bombardier's government handouts gave it an "unfair market advantage."

As a result, the U.S. Commerce Department and International Trade Commission have launched an investigation into Bombardier. Canada Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan retaliated May 31 by saying that Boeing was no longer a "trusted partner," while omitting mention of the Liberal government's plan to purchase 18 Super Hornet fighters from Boeing.

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UNSURPRISINGLY, THE Liberal Party is hated almost as much in Québec as Bombardier.

A recent poll shows that 67 percent of Québec's anglophones--the Liberals' traditional base--view the Liberals as corrupt, with the number increasing to 79 percent for francophones.

Indeed, aside from Leitão's token finger-wagging, the Liberals have defended Bombardier to the hilt, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau putting in sycophantic televised defenses of their chums in capital, despite having positioned themselves as the friends of the middle class during their election campaigns.

The Liberals' leading role as enforcer of austerity during the public-sector strikes of 2015 have also gone a long way in perpetuating their image as a bully of the working class. Indeed, the Liberals recently gave themselves a big pat on the back at taxpayer expense in the form of a congratulatory, end-of-congress party, with drinks and canapés that cost twice as much as in 2016.

That a party so generally despised can get elected at all is due to: 1) the lack of an alternative among Québec's several independence parties that can command the votes of those who oppose the Liberals; 2) the "first past the post" or "winner takes all" electoral system; and 3) a culture of "voting the bums out," with little choice except to elect a representative of another neoliberal party.

The pilfering in plain view of public money by Bombardier--with the connivance of the Liberals--comes in the wake of devastating cuts to social services, most recently imposed by the Liberals. These attacks on living standards have disproportionately hit Québec's working class and poor, who are in turn disproportionately immigrant, female and children.

For a full appreciation of the Liberals' hypocrisy, it's worth comparing Leitão's slap on the wrist to Bombardier--after handing it $1 billion--with his statement that "the minimum wage is high enough" in reply to demands for a CA$15 per hour minimum wage that activists mobilized around during the 2016 World Social Forum in Québec.

Independent researcher l'Institut de recherche et d'informations socio-économique (Institute for Research and Socio-economic Information) deems CA$15 per hour to be the minimum wage for a "decent wage" for a family of four, while the current minimum wage is only CA$11.20.

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WITH PROVINCIAL elections just around the corner in 2018, it's no surprise that the opposition independence parties, particularly the centrist Parti Québecois and the left-wing Québec Solidaire, have tried to take electoral advantage of the Liberals' low poll numbers by sending their deputies to speak at the recent protests against Bombardier and even mobilizing members for protests.

But with the independence parties split by class, the Liberals may very well come out ahead in the next round of elections.

In this context, the Parti Québecois has urged Québec Solidaire to make an electoral pact to defeat the Liberals. But Québec Solidaire rejected this by a two-thirds majority at its annual congress on May 21, a decision that has been sharply criticized by the mainstream press, as well as by the Parti Québecois. "This is not the decision we hoped for, and we are convinced that it is not the decision that the Québecois population was waiting for," said Véronique Hivon, a member of the National Assembly for the PQ.

Socialists should defend QS on both democratic and strategic grounds for refusing to make a pact with the neoliberal PQ, whose rhetoric has become increasingly anti-immigrant and Islamophobic since its attempt in 2014 to pass a Charter of Values similar to the one that the French government tried to pass a few years earlier.

While encouraging Québec Solidaire's decision to reject an electoral pact with the PQ, socialists should think about how to push QS toward a call for the nationalization of Bombardier, the only remedy that will keep its management from siphoning the taxes of Québec's citizens.

Categories: Political Action

Sanctuary for some in New York City

Socialist Worker - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 01:00

Julian Guerrero looks at the reality for the undocumented in New York City and what it will take to win real protections against deportation, In an article written for Jacobin.

Graduating police officers are inducted into the New York Police Department (Diana Robinson | flickr)

THE WORD "sanctuary" conjures up a vision of safety, protection, and shelter. But in a sanctuary city like New York--a place as wealthy as it is impoverished--can immigrants really feel safe?

In early April, many New Yorkers were surprised to learn that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) was tipping off Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents about immigrants' court dates. Mayor Bill de Blasio, like other liberal big city leaders, had loudly voiced his opposition to Donald Trump and professed his support for maintaining New York as a sanctuary city. He'd vowed to protect immigrants and not honor ICE detainers.

And now New York City was apparently fueling the deportation machine.

Larry Byrne, NYPD deputy commissioner of legal matters, rushed to explain the apparent incongruity. This was nothing new, he noted: the city works with ICE to deport immigrants, legal or undocumented, with prior felony convictions. After the NYPD makes an arrest, it fingerprints the suspect and sends the information to Albany, whose law enforcement databases have long been integrated with federal agencies'. When the NYPD picks up an undocumented immigrant, ICE automatically gets a tip.

This policy pivots on the constructed narrative of the "good immigrant," who deserves the opportunities the country offers, as opposed to the "bad immigrant," who is criminally inclined and intent on using and abusing the rights, benefits, and safety of other Americans. Since the advent of the "war on drugs" in particular, New York politicians have built their careers around this narrative genre, deploying "law-and-order" measures instead of (or at best in conjunction with) social programs.

In the case of de Blasio, this shows up in his commitment to zero-tolerance policing, also known as "broken windows." While de Blasio tours the country bragging about his progressive credentials and shoring up support for his reelection bid, New York City's immigrants, like many of its other residents, find themselves mired in the interlocking crises of unaffordable housing, poverty, homelessness, and state disinvestment. These crises, compounded by the fear of deportation, expose immigrants to broken-windows policing's racial profiling and practices.

New York City may have little influence over Albany's collaboration with federal agencies, but its political class makes billion-dollar investments in surveillance and law enforcement, while funneling tax breaks to the wealthy. Under the guise of law and order, police crack down on "deviance," "criminal elements," and "disruptive protesters" in order to maintain a stable environment for business, tourism, and real estate growth.

When we think of New York City, "sanctuary" should be the last word to come to mind.

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THE CURRENT deportation regime is largely a post-9/11 creation.

When George W. Bush entered the Oval Office in 2001, he inherited an exceptionally repressive state. Already its coerciveness rivaled those of authoritarian countries.

But with the onset of the "war on terror," the U.S. state ascended to new heights of repression, transforming into a sprawling security apparatus capable of mass surveillance and intelligence gathering.

Along the way, it militarized local law enforcement, encouraged further collaboration between federal and state agencies, and beefed up local police departments' surveillance capacity.

Local police not only received a stream of military weapons, but were inundated with the day's ruling rhetoric, which proclaimed that an internal enemy was operating in the shadows and had to be neutralized. Cops began to mimic the mentality of soldiers at war. They started carrying machine guns and "non-lethal" weapons for riot control.

New York City stood out even amidst this galloping militarization. When the city's police commissioner, Ray Kelly, grew frustrated that his department wasn't receiving enough resources from the federal government, he created his own intelligence and surveillance task forces, modeled after the CIA and the FBI.

Before long, Kelly's crew started spying on and entrapping New York's Muslim residents, while the NYPD's Intelligence Division released an internal report ("Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat") justifying their practices. With fear-mongering and mass victimization the order of the day, the political establishment applauded the department's initiative.

At the same time, anti-immigrant groups seized on the widespread paranoia to swell their ranks and try to turn the metastasizing security state on the immigrant community. Nativist politicians like Republican representative Tom Tancredo were all too happy to oblige.

Tancredo's House Immigration Reform Caucus (HRIC), founded in 1999, ballooned in size after 9/11 and swiftly moved from the margins to the American political mainstream, pushing a far-right, nativist agenda backed by groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies.

In the 2005-06 congressional session, the HIRC prioritized the so-called Sensenbrenner Bill, which went to new lengths to criminalize immigrant communities. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their allies mobilized mega-marches against the bill and successfully killed it in the Senate.

But nativist forces, undeterred, pivoted from the national level and launched a state-by-state assault. As scholar Alfonso Gonzalez notes, "The number of anti-migrant bills at the state level doubled between 2006 and 2007. In 2007, there were 1,562 immigration related bills in all of the fifty states. A total of 240 bills became law in forty-six states."

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THE STATE-centered strategy had little success in New York. The massive "Day Without Immigrants" rallies made politicians wary of supporting any such bills.

New York City's billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, denounced the Sensenbrenner Bill, largely because of the damage it would cause to the state's economy to deport New York's one million undocumented immigrants. The state's newly elected governor, Eliot Spitzer, rolled back legislation that made it almost impossible for undocumented immigrants to secure a driver's license. And the New York State Legislature adopted a resolution calling on Congress to renounce the Sensenbrenner Bill, leaving congressman Peter King, coauthor of the legislation and the only state politician who sponsored the bill, politically isolated.

But the discursive residue of the Sensenbrenner Bill continued to undercut the national immigrant rights movement. The debate around the legislation helped propel the good immigrant/ bad immigrant dichotomy into the mainstream. Even after the bill's demise, politicians in both parties reached for the good immigrant/ bad immigrant framework to justify the latest in draconian enforcement.

Take Secure Communities. One of George W. Bush's most significant anti-immigrant initiatives, Secure Communities integrated ICE's operations with state law enforcement so the federal agency could detain and deport any undocumented immigrant the police arrested. When it launched as a pilot program in 2008, Secure Communities partnered with fourteen jurisdictions. By January 2013, right before Obama began his second term in office, ICE had completed its fusion with state law enforcement in all 3,181 jurisdictions.

Obama deployed Secure Communities for the same purposes Bush had set out, and used the same good immigrant/ bad immigrant rhetoric.

The resulting mass deportations sparked enormous protests from precisely the base that had delivered the Democrats a congressional majority. Chasing the Latino vote on the campaign trail in 2012, Obama introduced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) after DREAMers occupied his campaign offices in swing states to pressure the administration.

Under the new program, ICE would only detain and deport immigrants with criminal convictions. The cord between state and federal law enforcement databases, however, remained intact.

Indeed, the previous year New York governor Andrew Cuomo, facing a wave of pressure himself, had pulled New York out of the Secure Communities program. But it was too late: the state's databases were already integrated with the federal government's, and the network remains operational today.

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IN THE course of defending the NYPD's collaboration with ICE earlier this year, Larry Byrne used an old trick: he stressed the two detained immigrants' felony convictions.

In January, Mayor de Blasio used the same good immigrant/ bad immigrant framing in an interview with Jake Tapper. When asked about the threat of criminal immigrants, de Blasio responded, "anyone who is violent, anyone who is a serious threat to society...they get deported."

The very same month, a tense exchange at a state budget hearing illustrated the perils of acceding to such framing. Republican assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis deployed a litany of right-wing talking points about criminal immigrants while de Blasio defended the city's policy. But near the end of the sparring, the mayor signaled his eagerness to "continue the dialogue," and he subsequently expanded the list of felony offenses that trigger cooperation between the NYPD and ICE.

Any credence given to the good immigrant/ bad immigrant framework is politically disarming, granting only conditional support to immigrants and ultimately enabling intensified police scrutiny.

Criminalizing immigrants encourages cops to tip off ICE when they interact with immigrants they perceive, for racist reasons or otherwise, as criminal. In a radio interview, Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeant's Benevolent Association of the NYPD, made this exact point: "Make no mistake about it: the members of law enforcement in the NYPD want to cooperate with ICE. I speak to cops every day--they want to cooperate with ICE, they want to work with fellow law enforcement agents."

New York's anti-crime strategy is clear: criminalize whole communities and implement zero-tolerance policing, rather than mobilize resources and stop crimes largely motivated by poverty and exclusion.

And the good immigrant/ bad immigrant narrative plays into this. As Juan Carlos Ruiz, cofounder of the New Sanctuary Movement of NYC said in an interview:

The card of the good/ bad immigrant has been overplayed. It is a smokescreen that detracts our attention from utilizing our resources to where they are really needed. In short, it is a steal from all our communities for the benefit of those who profit from a system that blames and victimizes the majority.

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LOPSIDED PRIORITIES and pervasive law-and-order rhetoric have shared origins in the politically and economically turbulent 1970s. This discourse justified flooding communities of color with police, who found it easier to manufacture public consent once crack cocaine invaded the inner cities.

In New York, the war on drugs was born as the 1975 fiscal crisis threatened the city with bankruptcy. Mayor Ed Koch rolled back the welfare state, and threats of mass layoffs cowed the labor movement. As social conditions worsened, ruling elites unleashed the police to tame what they feared would be rising social instability.

This austerity-plus-policing mix spread across the United States, eventually producing the system of mass incarceration that now imprisons over two million citizens.

In New York, it left the world's second wealthiest city with a homeless population exceeding sixty thousand people and cleared the way for gentrification around the city. These days, many working people don't even have to leave their neighborhoods to see who is enjoying the fruits of the economic recovery.

In the midst of all these social crises, immigrants face intensified policing.

But though many have criticized the broken windows strategy's effectiveness, the country's most liberal mayor defends it. It's easier to police a community when its members don't fear deportation, de Blasio reasons.

In reality, broken windows policing supplements Trump's mass deportation operation because it demands that the NYPD focus on "quality-of-life" offenses: panhandling, public urination, and graffiti, as well as non-criminal offenses like eating, drinking, sleeping, or assembling in public spaces.

This policing strategy forces greater interaction between the NYPD and the public, especially people of color and those affected by the city's social crises. Immigrants, documented or not, who are arrested for the nonviolent criminal offense of jumping a turnstile to access the city's sprawling transportation system are automatically fingerprinted, giving federal agents access to their last known address and any other information they can cross reference. Those found guilty of fare-beating have a misdemeanor charge added to their record, raising their risk of deportation.

The de Blasio administration has defended this very practice as recently as March, when amNew York quoted the mayor as stating that "we believe in quality of life policing. We believe it's one of the reasons this city has gotten safer for a quarter century and...we continue to get safer. We're not changing a formula that works."

Another example of quality-of-life policing is the racist practice of stop-and-frisk. While de Blasio has significantly scaled back this tactic, the NYPD hasn't dropped it entirely. According to an NYLCU report, 10,171 New Yorkers were stop-and-frisked from January through September of 2016. Of those, 76 percent (7,758) were completely innocent, 54 percent (5,401) were black, and 29 percent (2,944) were Latino. Only 10 percent (1,042) of those arrested were white.

So why does a self-styled progressive like de Blasio defend this policing strategy? Put simply: New York City's real estate is the most expensive in the world, and as the theory goes, broken windows lower property values. Before developers can cash in on neighborhoods with low housing prices, the area has to be rid of unwanted residents.

That's where aggressive policing comes in.

Broken windows tactics are used to ostensibly lower crime rates in communities--through intimidation, imprisonment, or deportation--so that the real estate sector will invest in building commercial centers and luxury homes. De Blasio has confirmed as much.
Praising Bratton's police work at a major fundraiser in 2014, de Blasio said: "It's actually incredibly inspiring to see what the work of the NYPD has achieved...Let's thank them for all they've done. I will also note, as a homeowner in Brooklyn, I was struck by the real-estate value map. There's good news all around tonight."

Notably, the fundraiser was organized by the Police Foundation, the same organization where George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, originators of the broken windows theory, worked.

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SO FAR this fiscal year, New York state has aided in the deportation of more than two thousand immigrants--many, no doubt, because of broken-windows policing.

Immigrant rights organizations, legal aid firms, and activists are pressing de Blasio to drop the tactic. Even fellow New York City Democrat Rory Lancman has criticized the mayor, and his own police commissioner, James O'Neill, has admitted that broken windows unnecessarily exposes people to police contact and deportations.

De Blasio has largely stayed silent in the face of recent criticism.

When he does decide to defend himself, he'll likely reiterate what his supporters have already said: that the mayor has done much to change the NYPD's most egregious practices.

And there's some truth to the contention. De Blasio has lowered the number of stop-and-frisks. He's spoken the language of police reform, so much so that he's earned the ire of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA), the NYPD rank and file's union, and various other law-and-order forces in the city.

But de Blasio, caught between police reformers and the threat of mutiny by the world's largest police force, has walked a fine line that's ultimately benefited law enforcement.

When the City Council's efforts to decriminalize a slew of low-level nonviolent offenses gained traction, infuriating the PBA, De Blasio stepped in to negotiate on the NYPD's behalf. At the same time the Right-to-Know bill was making its way through the City Council--a bill that mandated cops identify themselves to whomever they stopped, justify their reasons for stopping, and ask for consent before performing a search--de Blasio urged City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to stop the bill from coming to a vote. (A compromise was ultimately struck whereby the NYPD's patrol guide would be updated and reworded to include aspects of the Right-to-Know bill, but cops would have complete discretion in applying it.)

Given such punitive policies, it's no wonder many question whether New York can actually protect its immigrant communities. The city's working class, especially its immigrant members, are placed in situations that risk arrest because of circumstances the city's business-friendly elites created.

Study after study has shown that programs like Secure Communities and zero-tolerance policing strategies do next to nothing to lower crime rates. De Blasio and the political class are committed to these strategies not because they cut crime but because they serve the interests of business.

At the same time, however, the state's repressive apparatus is uniting movements and activists fighting for racial and economic justice. Black Lives Matter, the immigrant rights movement, Muslim solidarity activists--all are coalescing into a unified front that could turn the tide of a forty-year, one-sided class war.

They recognize that only by practicing unconditional solidarity can we find common cause. Only by dismantling the false dichotomy between the good and the bad immigrant can we join forces.

And only then will we find true sanctuary in New York City.

First published at Jacobin.

Categories: Political Action