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Updated: 1 hour 43 min ago

A nuclear bully with Korea in his crosshairs

16 hours 16 min ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

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

16 hours 16 min ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

Meeting terror with solidarity around the U.S.

16 hours 16 min ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

Students dump a racist symbol

16 hours 16 min ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead of giving up, students organized.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

Unidos contra la derecha

16 hours 16 min ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traducido por Orlando Sepúlveda

Categories: Political Action

The right-wing rats and their ringleader

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the main organizers was Charlottesville native Jason Kessler.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

How New York subways got broke on purpose

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

No more Charlottesvilles

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First published at Jacobin.

Categories: Political Action

Minneapolis rallies around a bombed mosque

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

Maryland, oh my! Maryland

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 01:00

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

Giant Maryland flags in the stands at a UMD football game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

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

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

White (House) supremacists

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 01:00

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

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

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

"This represents a turning point for the people of this country," Duke told Indianapolis Star photojournalist Mykal McEldowney. "We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in, that's why we voted for Donald Trump. Because he said he's going to take our country back. That's what we gotta do."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

Supporting the "lesser evil" in Venezuela?

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 01:00

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

Lines outside supermarkets in Venezuela form early in the morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Self-Defeating Illusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Policies and Practices of Extractivism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Revolutionary United Front

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

The roots of the nuclear arms race

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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The Start of the Nuclear Age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Onset of the Cold War

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

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

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

The two blocs developed as mirror images of each other.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Second Cold War

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

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

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

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

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The Situation Today

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

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

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

First published at Red Flag.

Categories: Political Action

Medicare para todos

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Esas no son mentiras de Trump o propaganda republicana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traducido por Orlando Sepúlveda

Categories: Political Action

Charlottesville is a call to action against fascism

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

John Kelly is no "moderate"

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

When a "universal" approach narrows the fight

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

Ten facts to remember about the Iraq War

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 01:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Political Action

Capitalism doesn't give a flying f*#k

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 01:00

Leela Yellesetty explains why the abysmal conditions endured by airline passengers and workers alike have everything to do with the bosses' bottom line.

Airlines are cramming more and more passengers onto each flight

DURING HIS brief but memorable tenure as White House communications director, Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci attempted to explain Trump's vision for health care reform:

What the president is trying to do is make the health care system freer. So why not disrupt and decentralize the system, make it more price competitive, increase competition for the insurance companies and trust the process of the free market, like in telecom, like in airlines?

Really? Yes, the health care system is awful, but did the Mooch really think a good selling point for reform would be to make it more like Comcast, the most hated company in America? Or United Airlines, which wasn't able to beat out Comcast even by dragging a bloodied man off a plane, so they decided to kill a bunny rabbit for good measure?

"No one wants health care to be like the airlines!" talk-show host Seth Meyers quipped in response, "'How was the hospital?' 'Not great. My surgery was three hours late, my bed was double-booked so they dragged me out of the OR, and then they sent my appendix to Albuquerque!'"

What's to blame for the awful treatment of passengers and airline workers alike? The problem isn't bad business decisions, but the drive for sky-high profits.

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FOR THOSE of us who hate the elaborate torture that is U.S. air travel--that is, all of us who can't afford first class--we have some tentative good news. A recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to address "the Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat," as one judge put it.

The ruling came in response to a petition filed by the consumer advocacy group Flyers Rights, which pointed out that the distance between seats, known as the "pitch," has decreased from an average of 35 inches to 31, with some as low as 28, while seat widths have shrunk by an inch and half in the past decade--at the same time as the average passenger has grown larger.

The group argued that this posed a health and safety hazard by making it difficult to evacuate in an emergency and increasing the risk of passengers developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a potentially fatal condition caused by a blot clot as a result of prolonged sitting in cramped space.

The FAA rejected the petition, claiming--with "research" to back it up--that the issue of seat size was one of comfort and not safety. While the court agreed that the danger of DVT was not well established, on the safety claims, it blasted the FAA for a "vaporous record" of "off-point studies and undisclosed tests using unknown parameters."

Indeed, the FAA refused to disclose most of the tests used to make its decision, claiming they were proprietary.

While the ruling simply directs the FAA to revisit the petition and doesn't directly compel the agency to set minimum standards for seat size, it is certainly a positive development in the face of the ongoing airline assault on our safety and comfort, not to mention dignity.

Apparently not everyone is cheering this development, though.

In article sneeringly titled "Let Them Shrink: FAA Should Not Regulate Airline Seat Space," Forbes' Omri Ben-Shahar argued that the airlines are actually giving consumers exactly what they asked for. That is, if we want cheaper flights, we should be prepared to suffer for them.

If you want better seats, just pay more--indeed, one reason our seats are shrinking is to make room for "premium" options for the lucky few.

William McGhee, author of the airline industry expose Attention All Passengers, summed up the attitude of Forbes writers and airline executives this way:

Things are just fine in business class and first class. I don't think that's coincidental. It reflects the larger issues we face as a society right now, the 99 Percent vs. the 1 Percent. I've talked to execs about deteriorating conditions in the back, and their response is basically, 'You should pay for and sit up front,' which is a bit of a 'Let them eat cake' response.

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AS EASY as it can be to dismiss an argument inspired by Marie Antoinette, it's worth probing some of the claims that Ben-Shahar makes more closely.

For one thing, it's true that airline travel is more affordable and accessible to the average person that it was in the glory days of free food and adequate legroom.

Back then, air travel was largely a preserve of the wealthy. For free-market enthusiasts like Ben-Shahar and the Mooch, therefore, the deregulation of the airline industry in 1978 was a victory for consumers, increasing competition and thereby lowering fares and improving service.

This sounds good, but it doesn't remotely depict what has actually happened in the decades since deregulation. Instead, what's played out is a sordid tale of rampant inefficiencies, corruption, bankruptcies, mergers and deteriorating conditions for both passengers and workers.

Right after deregulation, there were more than 400 certified carriers and 10 major airlines. Today, just four airlines control 80 percent of all domestic flights. Rather than encourage competition, deregulation removed antitrust provisions, allowing airlines to collude in raising fares while reducing service.

The 2013 merger of American and US Airways to create the world's largest airline was accomplished by an army of corporate lobbyists, lawyers and economists, while executives and their Wall Street backers salivated at the profits to be made from the deal:

Indeed, government investigators had uncovered documents showing airline executives crowing about how mergers allow them to charge travelers more. "Three successful fare increases--[we were] able to pass along to customers because of consolidation," wrote Scott Kirby, who became the president of the new American Airlines, in a 2010 internal company presentation...

A 2014 Goldman Sachs analysis about "dreams of oligopoly" used the American-US Airways merger as an example. Industry consolidation leads to "lower competitive intensity" and greater "pricing power with customers due to reduced choice," the analysis said.

Another useful tool in the industry playbook is bankruptcy. All of the four remaining airlines filed for bankruptcy in the past decade--and they are now the four most profitable airlines in the world.

In fact, they were doing just fine before, but bankruptcy allowed them to slough off inconvenient costs of providing decent pay and benefits to their employees. As United Auto Workers activist Gregg Shotwell commented on American's 2011 bankruptcy:

Capitalism isn't above the law in the United States--it is the law. Peace and solidarity activists are hounded, harassed and arrested, but the forcible transfer of wealth from the working class to the investing class is protected concerted activity.

American Airlines' debt doesn't outweigh its cash and assets. In fact, American is financing its own bankruptcy. That's not distress, it's brass-knuckles union busting. The business press makes no bones about American Airlines' plan to profit off the broken backs of labor contracts. In fact, they crow about it.

American Airlines ordered 460 new planes from Boeing and Airbus less than five months ago, at a cost of $38 billion. Those contracts will be honored even as American plans to dump pensions underfunded by about $10 billion for approximately 130,000 workers and retirees.

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THIS UNION busting comes with real consequences for passenger safety as well. Abysmal pay and working conditions for pilots in budget regional carriers has resulted in an increase in crashes, to give just one example.

While cutting corners on workers' rights has helped boost airline profits and executive compensation, the impact on fares for passengers is less than meets the eye. As Carl Finamore explained in a 2010 article republished at SocialistWorker.org:

Champions of the free market boast about upwards of a 20 percent reduction in fares since 1978 when airlines were freed to set their own prices without the nuisance of government regulators. But this is very misleading. There are several factors contributing to the decline in prices. For example, booking online has almost entirely eliminated the large commissions of travel agents. Experts state these fees normally accounted for a full 10 percent of ticket prices.

And while it is true that fares to large cities has benefited from increased competition, where it exists, smaller communities have, conversely, seen substantial fare increases as their airports have experienced reduced or lost service. Millions of travelers are also forced to purchase tickets to major hub airports they otherwise would have bypassed during the period of regulation where direct flights to and from smaller markets were offered.

The last major factor making the price of flights misleading is the explosion of fees for everything from luggage to meals to wifi to the ability to board early--coming soon: the surcharge if you would like to not be beaten and dragged off the plane. This has been the single largest source of profits for airlines in the last decade, with Delta alone pulling in $5.7 billion from such fees in 2013 alone.

As Tim Wu pointed out in the New Yorker, this pricing model sets up a perverse incentive:

Here's the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as "calculated misery." Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that's where the suffering begins.

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IS THERE any way out of calculated misery?

The current trajectory we're on doesn't seem promising. While the past few years saw record profits for airlines in part due to lower fuel costs, as costs begin to rise, we should expect new rounds of crisis, bankruptcies and mergers, all of which will, of course, be apaid for by further attacks on worker and passenger dignity.

Ultimately, we would be wise to heed the words of former American Airlines CEO Bob Crandall that "market forces alone cannot and will not produce a satisfactory airline industry, which clearly needs some help to solve its pricing, cost and operating problems."

Nationalizing and making the airlines a public utility would be a rational response to the anarchic yet calculated misery of deregulation. In a sane system, we would also look for ways to reduce the amount of air travel, given its carbon footprint, but this would require reorganizing corporate practice and providing affordable, sustainable travel alternatives, such as high-speed rail, as well as providing workers more vacation days to make slower forms of travel feasible.

Of course, we should expect none of these solutions to be forthcoming from the airline executives--least of all under a certain president who, within weeks of taking office, gleefully told a group of them: "You're going to be so happy with Trump."

Instead our salvation from the unfriendly skies lies, as an anonymous Delta employee put it recently, in passengers and airline workers joining forces in support of each other:

Instead of indicting each other (employees and passengers), we should focus on fostering solidarity. Many of our interests are the same.

Most obviously, a passenger's flying conditions are also an airline employee's working conditions...The declining emphasis put on passenger comfort and airline employee working conditions can be traced back to a common cause: the deregulation of the U.S. airline industry and the relentless pursuit of profit.

Categories: Political Action

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