The National Political Committee of DSA condemns in the strongest possible terms the inhumane treatment of the 12,000+ asylum seekers currently stuck under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. These migrants have been forced to wait in a makeshift camp after crossing the Rio Grande for their petitions to be processed with little food, water, medicine, or shelter from the elements. They’ve also endured anti-Black violence at the hands of Customs and Border Protection, with reported shouts of “Go Back to Mexico” despite many of the migrants originating from Haiti, further adding to the erasure of Black immigrants in the discussion around immigration.
In May, the administration ruled that people coming to the US from Haiti would be granted TPS designation due to ongoing political unrest and climate disasters. We know these crises are rooted in US imperialism and western colonization. Instead of receiving them with dignity, 86 people were deported under Title 42, and there are more flights scheduled to depart this week.
The deportation flights must end, the border must be demilitarized, and these migrants must be allowed in. They should be allowed to petition for asylum for the violence they are fleeing. We reaffirm our position that ICE and CBP serve no purpose other than to enact racist violence in the name of xenophobic policies, designed to force the people of the Global South into a permanently-maintained, exploitable underclass. We call for these policies and the agencies that enforce them to be defunded, disarmed, and dismantled.
Time and again, the US has shown its disregard for the humane treatment of asylum seekers and migrants, and as the reconciliation bill is being finalized, it’s more important than ever that a pathway to citizenship be included. A budget is a political and moral document, and regardless of what the Senate Parliamentarian recommends, Senate Democrats and President Biden have the power to ensure millions of people living in the US are no longer arbitrarily disenfranchised.
As DSA, we will continue the public pressure to ensure that parts of the PRO Act and Green New Deal for Public Schools are in the national budget and infrastructure bill, because we recognize how the climate crisis drives migration, and thus the US obligation to house and provide universal public services to those who seek refuge from man-made disasters. The investment of $3.5 trillion into our safety, livelihoods, and addressing the climate crisis are not optional but absolutely necessary.
We encourage members to get involved with our Immigrant Rights Working Group and join our Green New Deal campaign for shifts this weekend.
El Comité Político Nacional de los Socialistas Democráticos de América condena en los términos más enérgicos posibles el trato inhumano de los 12,000 solicitantes de asilo actualmente atrapados bajo un puente en Del Río, Texas. Estos migrantes se han visto obligados a esperar en un campamento improvisado después de cruzar el Río Bravo para que sus peticiones sean procesadas con poca comida, agua, medicinas o refugio de los elementos. También han soportado la violencia anti-negra a manos de la migra, Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza, con reporteos de gritos de “Vete a México” a pesar de que muchos de los migrantes son de Haití, añadiendo aún más al borrado de los inmigrantes negros en la discusión sobre inmigración.
En mayo, la administración dictaminó que a las personas que llegan a Estados Unidos desde Haití se les concedería la designación del TPS debido a los continuos disturbios políticos y desastres climáticos. Sabemos que estas crisis están arraigadas en el imperialismo estadounidense y en la colonización occidental. En lugar de recibirlos con dignidad, 86 personas fueron deportadas bajo el Título 42, y hay más vuelos programados para salir esta semana.
Los vuelos de deportación deben terminar, la frontera debe ser desmilitarizada y estos migrantes deben ser admitidos. Se les debe permitir solicitar asilo por la violencia de la que huyen sin más violencia. Reafirmamos nuestra posición de que ICE y CBP no tienen otro propósito que promulgar violencia racista en nombre de políticas xenófobas, diseñadas para forzar al pueblo de los países del Sur a una subclase explotable y permanentemente mantenida. Pedimos que estas políticas y las agencias que las hacen cumplir sean desfinanciadas, desarmadas, y desmanteladas.
Una y otra vez, los Estados Unidos ha mostrado su desprecio por el trato humano de los solicitantes de asilo y los migrantes, y a medida que se está finalizando el proyecto de ley de reconciliación, es más importante que nunca que se incluya un camino hacia la ciudadanía. Un presupuesto es un documento político y moral, e independientemente de lo que recomiende el parlamentario del Senado, los demócratas del Senado y el presidente Biden tienen el poder de garantizar que millones de personas que viven en los Estados Unidos ya no sean arbitrariamente privadas de sus derechos.
Como DSA, continuaremos la presión pública para asegurar que partes del PRO Act y el Nuevo Trato Verde para las Escuelas Públicas estén en el presupuesto nacional y en la factura de infraestructura, porque reconocemos cómo la crisis climática impulsa la migración, y por lo tanto, la obligación de los Estados Unidos de albergar y proporcionar servicios públicos universales a quienes buscan refugio de desastres provocados por el hombre. La inversión de $3.5 billones en nuestra seguridad, medios de vida y para abordar la crisis climática no es opcional sino absolutamente necesaria.
Animamos a nuestros miembros a que se involucren con nuestro grupo de trabajo sobre Derechos de los Inmigrantes y se unan a nuestra campaña GND4PS para turnos este fin de semana.
Don’t Start Another Cold WarBy Bernie SandersJune 17, 2021
The unprecedented global challenges that the United States faces today—climate change, pandemics, nuclear proliferation, massive economic inequality, terrorism, corruption, authoritarianism—are shared global challenges. They cannot be solved by any one country acting alone. They require increased international cooperation—including with China, the most populous country on earth.
It is distressing and dangerous, therefore, that a fast-growing consensus is emerging in Washington that views the U.S.-Chinese relationship as a zero-sum economic and military struggle. The prevalence of this view will create a political environment in which the cooperation that the world desperately needs will be increasingly difficult to achieve.
It is quite remarkable how quickly conventional wisdom on this issue has changed. Just over two decades ago, in September 2000, corporate America and the leadership of both political parties strongly supported granting China “permanent normal trade relations” status, or PNTR. At that time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the corporate media, and virtually every establishment foreign policy pundit in Washington insisted that PNTR was necessary to keep U.S. companies competitive by giving them access to China’s growing market, and that the liberalization of China’s economy would be accompanied by the liberalization of China’s government with regard to democracy and human rights.
This position was seen as obviously and unassailably correct. Granting PNTR, the economist Nicholas Lardy of the centrist Brookings Institution argued in the spring of 2000, would “provide an important boost to China’s leadership, that is taking significant economic and political risks in order to meet the demands of the international community for substantial additional economic reforms.” The denial of PNTR, on the other hand, “would mean that U.S. companies would not benefit from the most important commitments China has made to become a member” of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Writing around the same time, the political scientist Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute put it more bluntly. “American trade with China is a good thing, for America and for the expansion of freedom in China,” he asserted. “That seems, or should seem, obvious.”
Well, it wasn’t obvious to me, which is why I helped lead the opposition to that disastrous trade agreement. What I knew then, and what many working people knew, was that allowing American companies to move to China and hire workers there at starvation wages would spur a race to the bottom, resulting in the loss of good-paying union jobs in the United States and lower wages for American workers. And that’s exactly what happened. In the roughly two decades that followed, around two million American jobs were lost, more than 40,000 factories shut down, and American workers experienced wage stagnation—even while corporations made billions and executives were richly rewarded. In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidential election in part by campaigning against U.S. trade policies, tapping into the real economic struggles of many voters with his phony and divisive populism.
Meanwhile, needless to say, freedom, democracy, and human rights in China have not expanded. They have been severely curtailed as China has moved in a more authoritarian direction, and China has become increasingly aggressive on the global stage. The pendulum of conventional wisdom in Washington has now swung from being far too optimistic about the opportunities presented by unfettered trade with China to being far too hawkish about the threats posed by the richer, stronger, more authoritarian China that has been one result of that increased trade.
In February 2020, the Brookings analyst Bruce Jones wrote that “China’s rise—to the position of the world’s second-largest economy, its largest energy consumer, and its number two defense spender—has unsettled global affairs” and that mobilizing “to confront the new realities of great power rivalry is the challenge for American statecraft in the period ahead.” A few months ago, my conservative colleague Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, compared the threat from China to the one posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War: “Once again, America confronts a powerful totalitarian adversary that seeks to dominate Eurasia and remake the world order,” he argued. And just as Washington reorganized the U.S. national security architecture after World War II to prepare for conflict with Moscow, Cotton wrote, “today, America’s long-term economic, industrial, and technological efforts need to be updated to reflect the growing threat posed by Communist China.” And just last month, Kurt Campbell, the U.S. National Security Council’s top Asia policy official, said that “the period that was broadly described as engagement [with China] has come to an end” and that going forward, “the dominant paradigm is going to be competition.”
DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE
Twenty years ago, the American economic and political establishment was wrong about China. Today, the consensus view has changed, but it is once again wrong. Now, instead of extolling the virtues of free trade and openness toward China, the establishment beats the drums for a new Cold War, casting China as an existential threat to the United States. We are already hearing politicians and representatives of the military-industrial complex using this as the latest pretext for larger and larger defense budgets.
I believe it is important to challenge this new consensus—just as it was important to challenge the old one. The Chinese government is surely guilty of many policies and practices that I oppose and that all Americans should oppose: the theft of technology, the suppression of workers’ rights and the press, the repression taking place in Tibet and Hong Kong, Beijing’s threatening behavior toward Taiwan, and the Chinese government’s atrocious policies toward the Uyghur people. The United States should also be concerned about China’s aggressive global ambitions. The United States should continue to press these issues in bilateral talks with the Chinese government and in multilateral institutions such as the UN Human Rights Council. That approach would be far more credible and effective if the United States upholds a consistent position on human rights toward its own allies and partners.
Americans must resist the temptation to try to forge national unity through hostility and fear.
Organizing our foreign policy around a zero-sum global confrontation with China, however, will fail to produce better Chinese behavior and be politically dangerous and strategically counterproductive. The rush to confront China has a very recent precedent: the global “war on terror.” In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the American political establishment quickly concluded that antiterrorism had to become the overriding focus of U.S. foreign policy. Almost two decades and $6 trillion later, it’s become clear that national unity was exploited to launch a series of endless wars that proved enormously costly in human, economic, and strategic terms and that gave rise to xenophobia and bigotry in U.S. politics—the brunt of it borne by American Muslim and Arab communities. It is no surprise that today, in a climate of relentless fearmongering about China, the country is experiencing an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes. Right now, the United States is more divided than it has been in recent history. But the experience of the last two decades should have shown us that Americans must resist the temptation to try to forge national unity through hostility and fear.
A BETTER WAY FORWARD
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has rightly recognized the rise of authoritarianism as a major threat to democracy. The primary conflict between democracy and authoritarianism, however, is taking place not between countries but within them—including in the United States. And if democracy is going to win out, it will do so not on a traditional battlefield but by demonstrating that democracy can actually deliver a better quality of life for people than authoritarianism can. That is why we must revitalize American democracy, restoring people’s faith in government by addressing the long-neglected needs of working families. We must create millions of good-paying jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and combating climate change. We must address the crises we face in health care, housing, education, criminal justice, immigration, and so many other areas. We must do this not only because it will make us more competitive with China or any other country but because it will better serve the needs of the American people.
Although the primary concern of the U.S. government is the security and prosperity of the American people, we should also recognize that in our deeply interconnected world, our security and prosperity are connected to people everywhere. To that end, it is in our interest to work with other wealthy nations to raise living standards around the world and diminish the grotesque economic inequality that authoritarian forces everywhere exploit to build their own political power and undermine democracy.
The Biden administration has pushed for a global minimum corporate tax. This is a good step toward ending the race to the bottom. But we must think even bigger: a global minimum wage, which would strengthen the rights of workers around the world, providing millions more with the chance for a decent, dignified life and diminishing the ability of multinational corporations to exploit the world’s neediest populations. To help poor countries raise their living standards as they integrate into the global economy, the United States and other rich countries should significantly increase their investments in sustainable development.
For the American people to thrive, others around the world need to believe that the United States is their ally and that their successes are our successes. Biden is doing exactly the right thing by providing $4 billion in support for the global vaccine initiative known as COVAX, by sharing 500 million vaccine doses with the world, and by backing a WTO intellectual property waiver that would enable poorer countries to produce vaccines themselves. China deserves acknowledgment for the steps it has taken to provide vaccines, but the United States can do even more. When people around the world see the American flag, it should be attached to packages of lifesaving aid, not drones and bombs.
Creating true security and prosperity for working people in the United States and China alike demands building a more equitable global system that prioritizes human needs over corporate greed and militarism. In the United States, handing billions more in taxpayer dollars to corporations and the Pentagon while inflaming bigotry will not serve these goals.
Americans must not be naive about China’s repression, disregard for human rights, and global ambitions. I strongly believe that the American people have an interest in strengthening global norms that respect the rights and dignity of all people—in the United States, in China, and around the world. I fear, however, that the growing bipartisan push for a confrontation with China will set back those goals and risks empowering authoritarian, ultranationalistic forces in both countries. It will also deflect attention from the shared common interests the two countries have in combating truly existential threats such as climate change, pandemics, and the destruction that a nuclear war would bring.
Developing a mutually beneficial relationship with China will not be easy. But we can do better than a new Cold War.
Senator Bernie Sanders
Sept 14, 2021 - Record fires in Oregon and California. Floods in Houston and New York. Deadly winter storms in Texas. Droughts across much of the west.
Flash floods in England and Germany. Blinding dust storms in China. One-hundred-year cyclones devastate Fiji and Indonesia. Deadly droughts across subSaharan Africa. Wildfires in Greece and Italy.
The year is not over yet, but in the United States and across the world, the toll in lives and destruction is growing in storms of biblical proportion.
Despite popular support for reforms, big interests are mobilized against change led by Big Oil, the coal barons, and companies hooked on fossil fuels, the deadly crack of our time.
The poorest peoples and the poorest nations are most at risk, but no one is insulated against the impact. The wealthy on Lake Tahoe are evacuated in the face of unprecedented wildfires.
Texan oilmen struggle when record winter storms shut down the electric system. Wall Street bankers are hit with floods sweeping through subways and streets. As the storms increase, food supplies and prices will be hit. Millions will be displaced.
There is no longer any doubt about the reality of global warming, the dangers of it, or the causes of it. Republicans who for years scorned the reality of global warming—Donald Trump dubbed it a "Chinese hoax"—now accept that it is real. Corrupted scientists paid by oil companies that argued the crisis wasn't manmade, now quietly reverse their opinions.
Now the only question is: what will we do in the face of what the United Nations warns is literally an existential threat?
We can't undo what we have done, but we can alter how bad the future becomes. We can move to sustainable and efficient energy systems, make production and housing and transport more energy efficient, replant forests, invent new ways to generate or save energy, or more.
In its last authoritative report, the UN issued what it called a "code red for humanity." The change must take place over the next decade or we will seed calamities too horrible to imagine. Already this year, the town Lytton, British Columbia, in Canada was erased by a hit so extreme—temperatures reached 121 degrees—that it literally went up in smoke and was reduced to ashes.
And yet, we keep putting more and more carbon in the atmosphere. Like addicts on drugs, we know we are killing ourselves but can't resist the high. Feeding deadly drug addictions—from heroin to crack to fentanyl—are multi-trillion dollar enterprises, some corporate, some gangs, all criminal. They have the power not only to slake the thirst of the addicted, but to corrupt the guardians—the police on the street, the politicians in the suites, the CEOs in the boardrooms.
Can we summon up the awareness, the moral courage, and the popular demand to meet this clear, present and growing threat to our lives? Over the next few weeks, Congress will face yet one more skirmish in this struggle between the blind and the aware, the corrupt and the alarmed, the powers that be and the powers that must be.
Democrats in the House and Senate are now working to draft and to pass the core elements of Joe Biden's Build Back Better Plan. Central to that are the first major investments in addressing climate change—mass transit, electric cars, rebuilding housing, solar and wind energy, an end to fossil fuel subsidies, modernizing the electric grid, creating a civilian climate corps that can enlist the energy of the young to retrofit houses and plant trees and much more.
Republicans no longer deny the existence of the threat and admit that it is manmade in origin. Now they argue that it is too costly to do anything about it. They raise alarms that developing new energy and electric cars and retrofitting homes will somehow hurt jobs and the economy, when in fact, the transition to sustainable energy will be a source of new demand, new invention and new jobs and growth.
Moreover, the U.S. would surely benefit if it became the leader in the new green technologies that surely will drive growth markets across the world. Plus, with their leaders convinced they will benefit politically if Biden fails, Republicans have lined up unanimously to oppose the Biden plan.
So, making progress on climate demands completely on Democrats. With the Senate split 5050 between the two parties, and Republicans unanimously opposed, Democrats must vote unanimously so Vice President Harris can break the tie to pass a budget bill that would contain the first major investments in dealing with climate change.
That won't be easy. Despite popular support for reforms, big interests are mobilized against change led by Big Oil, the coal barons, and companies hooked on fossil fuels, the deadly crack of our time. An army of lobbyists has descended on Washington. Deep-pocket donors are calling in their chips. When a politician like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) says he needs "greater clarity," and won't support the Biden plan, particularly its measures designed to accelerate the transition to renewable energy by utility companies, he isn't confused; he is compromised.
The legislative process—the ugly sausagemaking of the Congress—is confusing, secret and arcane. It seldom generates headlines or attention. But right now—in the next few weeks—this Congress will decide if we take the first steps to address a threat already taking a rising toll in lives and destruction. The interests invested in stopping change are mobilized. The only hope is that we the people rise up to demand the change that is desperately needed.
Jesse Jackson is an AfricanAmerican civil rights activist and Baptist minister. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and served as shadow senator for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997. He was the founder of both entities that merged to form Rainbow/PUSH.
Chicago Sun Times, via Common Dreams.
Also see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjHm6ST3H3Q
SEPTEMBER 14, 2021
Meyerson on TAP
How We Avoided Great Depression 2.0 Last Year
The great American socialist Michael Harrington used to say that if you wanted to solve the problem of low incomes, you should try providing money. If anyone doubted the soundness of this recommendation, those doubts should be dispelled by a look at the Census Bureau’s data on poverty rates last year, which the bureau released earlier today.
Beginning in March of last year, the pandemic sent unemployment soaring, faster than it’s ever grown before, and to rates not seen at least since the recession of 1981. Nor did unemployment rates recede to anything like pre-pandemic levels during the course of the year, as the pandemic remained stubbornly and fatally with us.
Despite all that, the overall economy didn’t plunge to Great Depression levels in 2020, and the share of Americans living in poverty, rather amazingly, was actually lower than the share living in poverty in 2019.
And that’s entirely because the government addressed the problem of abruptly lower incomes with money.
According to an analysis of today’s data by the Economic Policy Institute, two programs enacted last year to mitigate the pandemic’s economic toll are largely responsible. The first was the expansion of unemployment insurance, adding a $600 weekly benefit to whatever the various states were paying, and also extending eligibility to independent contractors and otherwise ineligible low-income workers. These expanded UI benefits kept 5.5 million people from descending into poverty last year, which, EPI calculates, is ten times the number of Americans rescued from poverty in the year preceding. And if Congress had not curtailed the provision of those $600 UI supplements as of last July, the multiple would have been a lot higher than ten.
The other anti-poverty measure the government enacted was the provision of $1,200 stimulus checks in the spring of 2020 to adults with incomes under $75,000 and $500 to each child under the age of 17. By EPI’s calculations, this kept 11.7 million Americans out of poverty.
Since the Democrats took control of the government this January, more such programs have been created, most notably the Child Tax Credit, which lifts more than half of impoverished American children out of poverty. The CTC was authorized for only one year; its extension depends on its inclusion in the pending reconciliation bill, and its continued efficacy depends on the Democrats’ not narrowing its scope, as West Virginia Sen. Ebenezer Scrooge—excuse me, Joe Manchin—has called for.
So, yes—money is a very efficient way to solve the problem of low incomes.
~ HAROLD MEYERSON
Not a Nation of Immigrants.
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is a historian, activist, and author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (Beacon Press, 2015). This article is adapted from the introduction of her latest book, Not A Nation of Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2021).
On George Washington’s birthday, 2018, the Donald Trump administration’s director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, L. Francis Cissna, changed the agency’s official mission statement, dropping the language of “a nation of immigrants” to describe the United States. The previous mission statement had said the agency “secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.”1 The revised mission statement reads: “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”2
The Trump administration’s official negation of the United States as a nation of immigrants was unlikely to change the liberal rhetoric. During Joe Biden’s 2020 bid for the presidency, the campaign issued a statement on his immigration plan, titled “The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants,” asserting that “unless your ancestors were native to these shores, or forcibly enslaved and brought here as part of our original sin as a nation, most Americans can trace their family history back to a choice—a choice to leave behind everything that was familiar in search of new opportunities and a new life.”3 Unlike the previous “nation of immigrants” statement, the Biden campaign did acknowledge prior and continuing Native presence, as well as specifying that enslaved Africans were not immigrants. However, the new rhetoric continues to mask the settler-colonial violence that established and maintained the United States and turns immigrants into settlers.
Read the important essay. From Monthly Review.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka died suddenly last month at age 72. At this moment of transition — marked by the election of Liz Shuler, the first woman to serve as the head of the AFL-CIO — it is important to keep in mind how Trumka’s legacy can inform efforts underway to continue labor’s revival. Below are some reflections on the connection he made to building worker’s political strength while fighting for democratic rights that is relevant to work of DSA.
In 1986, I was working for the National Association of Letter Carriers, covering the NALC’s Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul as part of the union’s publications department. Amongst the invited speakers was Richard Trumka, elected president of the United Mine Workers only four years prior. Trumka’s election was the culmination of the work of Miners for Democracy, a rank-and-file movement formed in 1970 in response to the assassination of coal mine reformer Jock Yablonski, who was murdered along with his wife and daughter. Trumka’s invitation reflected a kinship borne from the fact that NALC’s leadership also emerged from a rank-and-file movement, growing out of the postal workers 1970 illegal wildcat strike. Vince Sombrotto — who had been a working letter carrier for over 20 years — was elected NALC President in the union’s first all-membership direct vote in 1978. Perhaps acknowledgement of that shared background was behind the enthusiastic applause for Trumka as he spoke, especially when he made explicit his call for labor to organize its own political party, independent of Democrats and Republicans, to represent working people, not the bosses.
Representative Bill Gray, a Democratic Congressman from Philadelphia, also spoke at the Convention.
Gray had been elected Chair of the House Budget Committee in 1985, the first African American to hold that position. His speech focused on the importance for letter carriers specifically, and for federal workers overall, to have Congressional allies in leadership roles as then President Ronald Reagan used attacks on government employees as the nexus for attacks on unionism and social insurance programs. Following the 1970 strike, postal workers had gained, for the first time, collective bargaining rights through the creation of the United States Postal Service as a hybrid public service/private corporation. In consequence, the role of Congress in regulating, rate setting and budgets had grown. Gray stressed that this made Democratic control of Congress even more important, arguing that even a weak Democrat was better than a good Republican if it meant maintaining that majority. The NALC had developed a powerful political action program involving rank-and-file members and locals across the country. Convention delegates rightly saw Gray’s speech as vindication of their hard work and they gave him applause every bit as rousing, every bit as sincere, as the applause given to Trumka.
At the time, I viewed the contradiction between the two audience responses as reflecting the difference between workers’ aspirations and workers’ need for a practical approach to real-world problems. But that was a superficial way of thinking; aspirations and hopes for what could be are part and parcel of practical decisions we make every day of our lives — union politics neither can nor should divide the two. Trumka’s leadership of the then ongoing Pittston strike in western Pennsylvania demonstrated a grasp of the needs of the moment that never lost sight of the larger issues at stake. So while he and Gray each spoke to Convention delegates’ desire for a degree of real power over forces impacting on their lives, Trumka’s perspective was deeper, pointing to the need for labor to push beyond the limits imposed by our political system.
Although fairly soon thereafter Trumka stepped back from advocating a new labor party, he never retreated from a notion of workers using politics rather than being used by politicians. During his years as president of the AFL-CIO he developed an approach toward defining what independent working-class politics can be, leaving a legacy from which we all can learn and build.
I. Working with Enemies Without Forgetting They’re Enemies
For many years most unions have supported Democrats. Although in the past some labor leaders demonstrated “independence” by supporting Republicans, the room to do so has virtually vanished as the extreme right-wing of Republican politics becomes more pronounced. The 2016 election brought this to a head — the danger Trump posed to working people, to labor rights and to civil liberties was so great that every layer of union leadership (other than a few police unions) pulled out all stops in an effort to elect Hillary Clinton, notwithstanding hesitations or questions about her stance on trade and other policies. As we know, that opposition was not successful — Trump was elected president, not least because many union members (not a majority, but indeed, a very large minority) disregarded their respective leaders’ admonitions and voted for him.
It is now well understood that an underlying or explicit racism lay behind that, as did a more general sense of dislocation which led many to embrace or disregard Trump’s similarly contemptuous attitude towards women, immigrants, Muslims, the disabled and society’s “losers.” The vain hope was that somehow a strong authoritative voice could crack through elite power and set the United States on a course of stability and improved living standards that have not been seen for decades. Into the general mix of incoherent and contradictory ideas Trump put forth, he signaled willingness to act on two particular issues of concern to trade unionists: pushing through infrastructure spending to create good paying jobs; and pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA, initiated by the Bush Sr. administration and completed by the Clinton administration, stood as a prime example of politician’s indifference to popular need. The so-called free trade pact between the US, Mexico and Canada contributed to loss of jobs, loss of wages and environmental destruction, providing working people no favors in any of the three countries.
So Trumka, without retracting any of his anti-Trump statements, without any promise of political or electoral support, committed to supporting any infrastructure bill that the Trump administration proposed if it included genuine job guarantees and labor protections. Rather than relying on denunciation without content, Trumka recognized divisions amongst working people and focused on those areas where a shared agenda could be advanced. A shared agenda not with Trump but with fellow workers. In taking this position, Trumka helped to expose the administration’s lies; as, with so many of Trump’s promises, nothing materialized.
For unionists the point was made: Labor’s program must address worker needs, no matter who is in office. Working-class interests, however, would not be sacrificed in the name of “access” to the powerful; there would be no pretense that something was gained when the table was, in fact, bare.
Following that logic, Trumka supported the Trump administration’s renegotiation of NAFTA. The AFL-CIO took part in those talks, rejecting an initial draft, while supporting the subsequent United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Agreement only when greater labor rights were included within it. Trumka called for a “yes” vote when it was brought before the Senate; though he made clear that while it was a step forward, the agreement was not a final solution to run-away jobs, environmental destruction and inequality. Labor seized an opening created by the Trump administration, but there was never a pretense of a shared agenda, and there were no words of praise for the administration. Instead, Trumka’s praise was for “working people [who] are responsible for a deal that is a vast improvement over both the original NAFTA and the flawed proposal brought forward in 2017.”
II. Disagreements Among Friends That Don’t Create Enemies
Meanwhile in New York, for self-defined pragmatic reasons, many union leaders supported former Governor Andrew Cuomo against more progressive Democratic challengers during primaries in 2014 and 2018. The abject loss of independence by those union leaders lay not so much in the calculated decision to support him — but in demanding that others do so as well, attacking organizations they had worked with in the past rather than respect disagreement. Numerous other union leaders have taken a similar parochial view of political activity – demanding that supporters march in lockstep over a candidate endorsement or a legislative campaign. The implication of doing so is that debate is a weakness because members are incapable of understanding nuance or complexity.
However, Trumka pointed to a different way of engaging in politics that treated working people and broader social movement advocates with the respect democracy demands.
By way of example, many people active in progressive and union circles believed that the flaws in the USMCA outweighed any of its virtues and therefore opposed the agreement. Prominent among them was Bernie Sanders, who voted against the USMCA in the Senate despite the AFL-CIO’s call for support. But opposition to the positioning of the fFederation did not lead Trumka to accuse a longtime allies as being anti-labor. Independent working-class politics means nothing if it doesn’t allow space for friends, allies and members to differ, even sharply.
Perhaps the clearest expressions of that approach was evident in one of Trumka’s last public statements. He had developed a close, positive working relation with Joe Biden and publicly declared that Biden had a deeper appreciation for working people and respect and understanding of unions than any of his Democratic predecessors. But that support was not unconditional. When Representative Cori Bush criticized Biden for his failure to extend anti-eviction protections in place for renters because of the impact of Covid-19, Trumka didn’t react with fear that this might damage labor’s relationship with a friend in the White House — that it might jeopardize “access”. Rather, he stated in the AFL-CIO's Daily Brief: “I especially want to recognize the leadership of Rep. Cori Bush, who organized lawmakers and activists for five days on the steps of the Capitol. She pushed Congress and the nation to see the struggle of people who are currently unhoused or facing eviction. In her words, Today, our movement moved mountains.”
Cori Bush had experienced homelessness, a reality many working people have faced one time or another — including many from Trumka’s western Pennsylvania hometown. To allow a relation with an elected official to outweigh solidarity with those who are or may be forced to experience living without a roof over their head would mean sacrificing workers’ trust for a momentary gain.
III. Drawing a Line
Trumka’s sudden death just at the moment when Rep. Bush and other progressive House members are showing real power in crafting budget and infrastructure bills is a significant loss. Yet his legacy points a way forward. To the end, Trumka’s focus remained on the realities of the lives working people face and their need for answers that have direct and immediate impact. It is a way of maintaining a substantive political independence that works within the reality of our electoral system but is not trapped by it.
Of necessity, that political independence must work within our trade union movement as it is presently structured. The AFL-CIO is an organization composed of affiliates (rather than of individual members), each equal and independent, each with its particular strengths and weaknesses, histories and internal culture, all confronting an ever-changing workplace, social and political environment. The Federation itself is only one part (albeit the largest part) of the trade union movements, while union members remain a minority within the working class.
The challenge for Trumka was to find a path that would acknowledge the result of diversity — multiple competing understandings — in order to forge a degree of unity through which working-class power can be expressed. Although some critics of union leadership imagine that there can be shortcuts — that challenging existing corporate power can be proclaimed absent meaningful support and engagement built through patient organizing — the reality is that no such short cut has ever been found. Working-class political independence will only be made a reality when a common bond is built that recognizes and respects the various conclusions union members come to as to how best to defend their immediate interests and create a more secure life built upon respect as the basis of a genuine freedom.
Noting this, however, is not to say that all points of view are equally acceptable. A scab may be a worker, but a scab’s opinion is due no respect, unlike the opinion of unionists arguing over a more-or-less confrontational course of action, arguing over the merits or demerits of a particular contract or endorsement. By definition, a scab is a force for working-class disunity and subservience. And, as Trumka repeatedly made clear, the same can be said of those who wear their racism on their sleeve. The logic that led him to support the USMCA or to support a sit-in to preserve a moratorium on evictions, the same logic he expressed in the strikes he led as Mine Workers president and those he supported at home and abroad led by other unionists, led him to unequivocally oppose anyone or any idea that denigrated or attacked the humanity of a fellow worker, of a fellow human being.
That translated into a clear, stated, uncompromising opposition to racism, not as an abstraction, but in the concrete meaning of opposition to police brutality and mass incarceration. He called out those whose fear and hatred of people with a different skin color led them to cut off their nose to spite their face – those who voted for Bush, Trump or any of the state and local candidates who similarly rise to office by a politics of division. Trumka took an equally clear stance in support for immigrants and immigrant rights, and in recognizing that sexual harassment has no place in the workplace or in the labor movement.
Of course, just saying that racism, sexism, and fear-mongering have no place doesn’t make inequity go away, doesn’t erase overnight an outlook that took root in a society built on the premise that some people are less human than others. But calling it out publicly is a necessary part of defining working-class perspective and building a genuine working-class unity that is the only path toward independent working-class politics.
A speech Trumka gave (alongside Poor People’s Campaign leader Rev. William Barber) at a memorial in Alabama honoring four children killed in a bomb detonated during a Sunday Service in 1963 — the murder of Black children worshipping being the Klan’s answer to the March on Washington only a few weeks earlier — gives a sense of the principles that underlay his vision of unionism:
Every time a union leader calls for equal pay, every time a shop steward says to the boss ‘you can’t do that, it’s discrimination,’ every time we cast a vote, we honor the memory of Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole and Denise [the four martyred children].
But our debt as a labor movement to this community is greater than that. On the day the Ku Klux Klan set off the bomb, parts of the labor movement were racially segregated including in Birmingham. The divisions and hatred that landowners and employers had been sowing since the founding of this country infected our own movement.
And so when the AFL-CIO fought for the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we were fighting to end discrimination and racism not just by employers, but by our own unions, our own institutions. We were fighting to change ourselves. We believe that people can change and grow and overcome so that history can be made right. We believe that people — and we, the people — don’t stay in the same place forever. We can be moved forward. After all, that is why it is called a movement.
America’s labor movement stands with every union member and every person in this country who is demanding justice and striving for the end of racism.
IV. A Connecting Link
Knowing what policies to advocate, what forms of political action to engage in, how to build a labor movement that is true to itself and true to the larger movement for social justice of which it is a part, requires understanding who or what stands in the way of worker rights. After a strike is over, win or lose, unions must bring those scabs back into the fold or else remained permanently divided.
Similarly, those workers blinded by racism still have to be represented when an employer violates their contractual rights, still deserve health care and pensions. Abhorrent views must be rejected without losing sight of the need for universal rights and protections for all working people. Moreover, being the tools of the wealthy and powerful doesn’t change the fact that tools remain the tools of others.
Particular employers are often the direct source of workers’ grievances, as those striking Nabisco or trying to organize Amazon are currently experiencing, as workers anywhere asserting rights against a recalcitrant employer know all too well. Those fights, however, generally take place apart from each other and though solidarity does have meaning in a practical sense, Nabisco workers can’t organize Amazon, Amazon workers can’t win Nabisco workers’ strike. Unions often engage such foes of human rights piecemeal because that is how the conflict manifests itself — and is the basis for horse-trading politics or even the kind of politics that Bill Gray spoke to at that NALC Convention, in which electing Democrats was more important than holding them accountable, apart from narrowly defined aims.
Our political system is structured so as to undermine the power of working people and reinforce divides among them. Thus, while the need for political independence — meaning the ability of working people and their organizations to advance their interests and the goal of popular rights and genuine equality over and against corporate interests — is evident, the pathway forward is murky and requires identifying where barriers are placed by those who profit from worker divides.
Trumka used his legal training to develop a systemic critique of the way our institutions are failing us. His analysis of the direction of the Supreme Court over the past decades hinged on demonstrating how even the fig leaf of precedent is removed in the way rulings have attacked one labor right after another. Far from isolated attacks, these rulings are itself part and parcel of a broader attack on democracy. And that is the territory on which he staked out a framework for building workers’ political independence — by organizing on behalf of a genuine democracy in the face of a legal system that is serving to entrench an ever more oligarchical economic and political system. A speech Trumka gave to law students at Yale when arguing against Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve on the Supreme Court can serve as an example:
“Which side are you on? Which side are you on?” Those are lyrics from a song about a bitter struggle between my union, the United Mine Workers of America, and mine owners in southeastern Kentucky. The song continues, “They say in Harlan County there are no neutrals there. You'll either be a union man or a thug for J.H. Blair.”
Unfortunately, today those lyrics could serve as the fight song for the Supreme Court’s pro-corporate, activist wing of justices who wax poetic about precedent and judicial restraint, yet regularly bend over backwards to serve the interests of the wealthy, the powerful and the privileged. There are no neutrals there. …
The [Supreme] Court has used its authority to entrench economic and political power in the hands of the elites against a growing number of Americans and increasingly to foster division on racial, religious and ethnic lines. It is impossible to read the Court’s decisions in major cases over the past two decades without coming to the conclusion that they amount to deck stacking … an effort by the Court in tandem with reactionary political forces to ensure that justice is only available to the wealthy and well-connected.
V. Building on a Legacy
This kind of understanding is shared by the House Progressive Caucus. To an extent not seen in decades, the caucus is taking shape as a cohesive force forging a progressive agenda distinct from — and when need be, in opposition to — mainstream liberalism without ever losing sight of the greater danger to democracy and human rights posed by right-wing Republican policies. The strength the caucus has demonstrated, and the popular movement that led to the election of so many principled progressives to federal, state and municipal offices across the country, is the reason the Biden administration has taken the steps it has to date to advance working people’s interests. As the Congressional battle over voting rights and labor law reform (and the continued fight to protect renters from eviction) indicate, so much more can be done. In that respect, we see the shape of a genuine political independence that Trumka advocated his entire life. And that potential can be further realized if organized labor as a whole builds on the perspective Trumka put forward.
We should remember that the wildcat 1970 postal workers strike and the subsequent rank-and-file movement that brought new leadership to a transformed NALC and created the American Postal Workers not only led to improved pay and benefits; it created powerful vehicles that have resisted every effort of the Postal Service to use technological change and changes in communication technology to destroy or privatize the postal system itself. The victory of Miners for Democracy gave miners back their union, which has consistently fought for better wages, stronger safety protocols and pensions, even as the industry has gone into freefall. The current months-long strike of over 1,000 miners in Alabama is testament to that continued determination.
Yet it would be hard to deny that the hopes of those renewed rank-and-file movements have not been realized, that postal workers, miners, all working people, have been locked in a defensive fight for over four decades. For all the heroism and power demonstrated in workplace struggles, progress requires the political strength of a united movement. By the same token, only through a united labor movement rooted in membership engagement and ideas, such as those postal workers and miners expressed and acted upon decades ago, will political action have the power to be and remain genuinely independent of corporate wealth and blandishments. This returns us to the connection between responding to practical needs and deeply held aspirations as the core of unionism at the workplace and in society.
With that in mind, it is fitting to remember the values which underscore our engagement. So we close with remarks provided by Trumka in a speech memorializing Joe Rauh, who represented rank-and-file miners seeking justice for Yablonski:
You see, workers are willing to endure hardship. We are the most resilient group of people the world has ever known. But what we won’t accept is the feeling of being unnecessary. What we won’t allow is for anyone to strip us of our value, our dignity, our worth.
Reposted from the Washington Socialist . September.
by David Anderson
In 2020, the three major TV networks, CBS, ABC, and NBC, devoted only five minutes to Afghanistan, according to the Tyndall Report. Major news organizations have pretty much ignored the war in Afghanistan.
“Ask yourself how often Afghanistan has been a lead story for the last twenty years,” Oliver Willis of the progressive watchdog Media Matters for America recently remarked. “American media is putrid at covering the world and it directly leads to a public constantly surprised by topics and issues.”
New York Times reporter Liam Stack tweeted, “There will be many partisan efforts to spin the Fall of Afghanistan, but after 20 years and four presidents from two parties, the entire U.S. governing class is implicated in this. Every official or DC think tanker or cable news talking head you see on TV today.”
As the war ends, Joe Biden is being lambasted by the entire Republican party, a certain number of prominent Democrats, and many in the Beltway chattering class for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Architects of “the war on terror” crawled out from under their rocks to growl. Tony Blair said Biden was “imbecilic.” Even Henry Kissinger emerged from his crypt. Nobody mentioned George W. Bush and how he changed his focus from Afghanistan to attacking Iraq. Nobody mentioned his “weapons of mass destruction” lies.
In a Times op-ed, Ryan C. Crocker, who was Obama’s ambassador to Afghanistan and has worked for administrations of both parties, complained that Biden hasn’t shown the “strategic patience” of the kind that has kept American troops in South Korea for more than seven decades.
He says, “Mr. Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces destroyed an affordable status quo that could have lasted indefinitely at a minimum cost in blood and treasure.”
That is absurd. Unlike South Korea, Germany and Japan (countries with a seemingly permanent U.S. military presence), Afghanistan has never been stable since the U.S. invasion and has been in the middle of a brutal civil war.
The chairs of the Senate’s leading foreign policy committees (who are all Democrats) are calling for an investigation of how Biden handled the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
That’s good. However, we need a thorough investigation of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan for the last 20 years. No, for the last 40 years. Let’s examine the decisions by the Carter and Reagan administrations to arm and train Afghan mujahadeen against the Soviets.
Unfortunately, in December 2019, there wasn’t a push to investigate the revelations in the “Afghanistan Papers” published in the Washington Post. Using the Freedom of Information Act (after a three year court battle) reporter Craig Whitlock obtained more than 2,000 pages of interviews with more than 400 key insiders — senior generals, Afghan governors, diplomats, aid officials, and policy advisers — conducted during a federal review of the “Lessons Learned” in Afghanistan.
John Sopko, who leads the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which conducted the review, admitted to the Post that the records show the American people “have constantly been lied to.”
Peter Beaumont of the Guardian says the papers tell a story of “how successive presidents from Bush through Obama to Donald Trump, publicly rejected ‘nation-building’ but created a violent, corrupt and dysfunctional state only barely propped up by U.S. arms.”
In one interview, Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs between 2006 and 2009, said America’s mission was incoherent and contradictory. He explained;
“If we think our exit strategy is to either beat the Taliban – which can’t be done given the local, regional, and cross border circumstances – or to establish an Afghan government that is capable of delivering good government to its citizens using American tools and methods, then we do not have an exit strategy because both of those are impossible.”
Daniel Ellsberg said the “Afghanistan Papers” are similar to the “Pentagon Papers” (a secret history of the Vietnam war by the Defense Department) which he leaked. Both papers showed how the government intentionally and systematically misled the American people. He remarked, “The presidents and the generals had a pretty realistic view of what they were up against, which they did not want to admit to the American people.”
Joe Biden promised to end America’s longest war. He did it. He didn’t promise a happy ending.
Making Immigration Matter
AUGUST 25, 2021 BY REVIEW BY VIRAL MISTRY
Immigration Matters: Movements, Visions, and Strategies for a Progressive Future
Ruth Milkman, Deepak Bhargava, and Penny Lewis, eds.
The New Press, 2021, 336pp., $18.98 paperback.
Posted on the Democratic Left blog.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
Emma Lazarus’s famous words, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty and at one time taught to every U.S. schoolchild, present one picture of this country. The reality, as many immigration activists and leftists are increasingly aware, is far from those hopeful words. The year before Lazarus’s poem was penned, the Chinese Exclusion Act became law—the first direct ethnic immigration restriction law of any major industrial country. The decades that followed saw an increase in nativist sentiment that ultimately led to a series of immigration restriction laws in the 1910s and early 1920s, capped off with quotas that essentially halted non-Western European immigration to the United States.
The 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act replaced those laws with a new liberal vision that tried to recast the United States as a “nation of immigrants.” But the new policies, though more progressive than their predecessors, set the stage for the modern immigration detention state by refusing to directly challenge the nativist sentiment from which they emerged. As immigration from Global South nations increased, a bipartisan anti-immigrant consensus took hold, with new border policing and criminalization statutes coming down in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. Decades of expanded border patrols, partial border fences, and new bureaucratic structures like the formation of the Department of Homeland Security gave Donald Trump all the tools he needed to build a political coalition primarily centered around anti-immigrant hostility and xenophobia. But the end of the Trump administration and the rise of the new Biden administration pose a difficult question for the broad coalition that opposed Trump and his open racist and nativist rhetoric: what do we actually do about immigration policy in the United States?
At its core, Immigration Matters struggles with this question. A collection of essays by progressive figures, it attempts to survey a broad range of perspectives for activists and policy makers. It starts by surveying the long, painful history of oppression inherent in our immigration laws. Alongside that history of state violence and repression, however, is an equal and opposite history of resistance and struggle for freedom driven by and for immigrants. From labor organizing to electoral involvement to targeted campaigns against complicit corporations, the book documents the diverse tactics people have taken to protect and empower immigrants. From there, various essays chart visions for the future. What strategies and tactics can we use to protect immigrants? What should be the nature of our immigration system? What would it look like to dismantle organizations such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)? What concessions can we win in the here and now, and what should be our approach moving forward? And how do we break the xenophobic electoral coalition that has united rural white folk with the corporate ruling class through their combined distrust and hatred for immigration from the Global South?
Fulton Books 2021 141pp. available at bookstores every where or online at the Apple iTunes store, Amazon, Google Play or Barnes and Noble.
Review by Paul Buhl.
The historical moment for 1960s radicals’ self-reflection may have arrived early a while ago, even before 1980 for the especially large egos, but has arrived in force mostly in the last few years. We are now evidently beginning a smallish rush on the market, smallish in part because many of the books are self-published, smallish in another part because these are not the celebrity-status famous people or even the purported Beautiful People. A certain modesty is a great source of their attractions.
Milt Tambor’s Democratic Socialist Adventures surely takes the cake for modesty. It is all about him and it is not about him. This is a fellow who grows up within a Jewish-American world and never seems entirely comfortable about being there— no doubt because the institutions and their big shots have shifted sharply right during our political lifetimes, even when the community itself remains largely liberal. Tambor is forever, in these pages, reaching out beyond the limits of that world toward others, as he searches for a career equal to his talents. He is a “people skill” person who works with social service clients, with fellow workers of various kinds, and with allies, smoothing out tensions and searching for solutions in place of conflicts.
Tambor, as he explains, became early in his career a unity-builder between Jewish and minority communities in Detroit. He had a fine mentor: Saul Wellman, an erstwhile Communist dignitary of note as well as a veteran of the Spanish Civil War. Wellman had been doing the work of bringing people together for decades when young Milt came on the scene in Detroit. A more than willing protege, the younger man showed himself eager to build alliances, for his own reasons. Born in 1938 and raised in Miami and New York in a highly religious household, he was too old for the New Left and perhaps skeptical of imagined utopias. Besides, trained in social work was and assigned to community projects, not on the campus where the New Left action mostly took place.
You might almost say that Milt Tambor was born for DSA, or what became DSA.
On staff from 1965 at the UAW Retired Workers Center in Detroit, he was in a bargaining unit—a union within a union—for AFSCME. He soon set himself to organize various social work agencies as he prepared to go on to graduate school. He leaped into the labor movement’s own peace initiatives of the time, no easy matter when the AFL-CIO was led by super hawk George Meany and his circle of bureaucrats, enraged at peaceniks of any kind. Happily, the best of the old radicals were also against the war, almost as if the aging socialists of the 1930s-40s found a place to work together again. It was too little and too late, but meanwhile, Tambor had helped lead a strike of Detroit social workers, setting the pace for long term improvement of their collective situation.
The New American Movement formed in 1971 had a special appeal to him, bringing him into closer contact with such revered figures as Dorothy Healey. By the middle 1980s, he had become part of a labor delegation in support of Central American uprisings in Nicaragua and El Salvador, once again in sharp contrast to the AFL-CIO leadership. He also went back to graduate school and became a scholar of unions in social work, as well as a labor educator. With a pension, he took retirement and headed for an Atlanta retirement in 2001, eager for new political opportunities.
DSA had meanwhile emerged, joining two Left organizations and in a sense, bringing a sense of reconciliation between warring communist and anticommunist traditions. He was in the right place to push for Bernie Sanders, to build an Atlanta Metro DSA, and to secure the links with the labor movement that would make the movement a success in…. coalition building!
Nothing spectacular here but everything useful. Milt Tambor teaches us, especially but not only the young, how to be the Jimmy and Jenny Higgins of today and tomorrow.
[Paul Buhle, founding editor of the new left journal RADICAL AMERICA, has published many books on the history of the US Left but in recent years turned to creating radical history graphic novels. His most recent is Eugene V. Debs: A Graphic Biography, co-authored with Steve Max, illustrated by Noah Van Sciver. He is a retired Senior Lecturer at Brown University, and is currently working on the 3rd edition of the Encyclopedia of The American Left.
Milt was instrumental in founding DSA's Atlanta chapter in 2006 and rooting it in the workplace and community struggles of poor and working class Atlantans, whether through anti–forclosure, anti–gentrification, or workplace struggles, using tactics from public education, to electoral organizing, to direct action. In his memoir, Milt details how the chapter's work contributed to the building of a vibrant progressive movement in Atlanta.
–Maria Svart, national director, Democratic Socialists of America
by Leo Casey
What needs to be negotiated for U.S. K-12 schools to be reopened safely?
Quite a bit.
That statement may seem counterintuitive. We are now witnessing a potential unraveling of the hard-won progress in beating back the COVID-19 pandemic — and it is largely because of the failure of many of our fellow citizens to be vaccinated. Our patience is exhausted. Understandably, there is growing sentiment to simply mandate vaccines. For the frustrated, mandates — in schools and elsewhere — seem like an obvious step that would address the current crisis and put us back on track to controlling the pandemic. What is left to negotiate?
Yet the challenges are more complex. Yes, mass vaccination — over 90 percent of the population, such as countries like Iceland are well on their way to achieving — is an indispensable front in winning the fight against the COVID pandemic. Mandates can play an important role in getting to mass vaccination, and so they can and should be employed, particularly in healthcare, public safety, public education, mass transportation and other critical services. But it will require more than mandates to get us where we need to be with mass vaccination, and the mass vaccination that is now within our reach will not, by itself, be sufficient for schools to reopen safely this fall.
Let’s start with why mass vaccination is a positive, but not sufficient, condition for the safe reopening of schools. In fact, educators are already vaccinated at very close to the rates we need for the general population: both the AFT and the National Education Association calculate that somewhere in the vicinity of 90 percent of their K-12 educator members are vaccinated. This achievement comes in part because of the prodigious work of teacher unions to get their members vaccinated. A vaccination mandate for educators could improve that rate, and so is worth doing, but we need to be clear that it will be improvement largely at the margins: the numbers of unvaccinated educators are relatively small, and they include people who have genuine medical reasons and sincere religious beliefs for not being vaccinated and people who will leave teaching rather than be vaccinated. (Part of what must be negotiated is the procedures for identifying authentic medical and religious exemptions.)
More importantly, the most critical challenge of a safe reopening of schools is not the status of educators, with their high rates of vaccination, but that of students. In pre-K through 7th grade, none of the students will be vaccinated this fall, and in the higher grades, we have yet to reach a 50 percent vaccination threshold. So, vaccination will provide essential protection to the adult educator in the classroom, but that protection will be missing for the 15 to 30 students in the class who are unvaccinated. While as a rule the severity of the COVID disease declines with age, the ability to transmit the virus does not. If students communicate the virus to each other in the classroom — and here we must take into account the much greater transmissibility of the now dominant Delta variant — they will become vectors for the spread of the COVID virus to their families and to the community at large. And that would be very bad news for containing the pandemic.
Schools may be able to require vaccinations for students down the road, much as we currently require vaccinations for measles and mumps, but that is just not within our reach now — and the danger of a resurgence of the pandemic is now. So, the safe reopening of schools will depend not just on the vaccination of educators, but on employing mitigation strategies that reduce and abate the potential for transmission among students — the use of masks, physical distancing, appropriate ventilation, and regular and full cleaning of classrooms. The critical battle in the safe reopening of schools is around employing these mitigation strategies, especially universal masking. We must be able to turn back the efforts of elected officials like Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, who is doing everything in his power to try to undermine universal masking in Florida’s schools, even as his state leads the nation in the resurgence of the pandemic with its highest daily number of new COVID cases — including cases among children — since the start of the pandemic. (It is telling that the reflexively anti-union commentators who were quick to attack teacher unions for saying that negotiations over these matters are necessary, like New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, have managed to overlook DeSantis’ attacks on mask mandates.)
The experience of teachers and their unions throughout the last year and a half is that left to their own predilections, too many school districts and local and state governments will not employ these mitigation strategies in the comprehensive ways that are required. The strategies can be costly (retrofitting poorly maintained school buildings with appropriate ventilation) and logistically difficult (finding space for smaller classes that allow for physical distancing). Even the easiest of these strategies to implement — universal masking — can become a subject of contention in an era where science and public health have been under attack by public figures like DeSantis. Moreover, the challenges to implementing these mitigation strategies are greater in schools that serve working-class and poor communities and communities of color, as their buildings are often aged and in poor repair and their class sizes are larger. Taking on the necessary work of mitigation strategies in schools is not for the faint-hearted.
Add to this on-the-ground reality a likely scenario for how vaccine mandates would roll out. There will certainly be legal challenges, and it is probable that courts will hold the mandates in abeyance while the issue is adjudicated. It is by no means certain that this Supreme Court would rule in favor of mandates, despite clear precedents for them. As a consequence, vaccine mandates will not be immediate fixes, but — assuming the Supreme Court does not strike them down — more medium- and long-range tools in the pandemic. It is essential that other means of achieving mass vaccination — education campaigns, incentive programs and requirements of weekly and even twice weekly COVID testing of the unvaccinated working in critical services such as education — not be abandoned in the name of pursuing mandates, but instead intensified.
In sum, vaccination mandates are not a “magic bullet” in the fight against COVID but one of many tools that need to be employed. We need all the tools we can muster in this battle, so mandates should be supported, but we also need to be clear about all that is needed to safely reopen schools and contain the pandemic. The common good of achieving both of these objectives is best met when teachers and their unions have a voice in the pandemic-related policies and practices of their schools, and when local school districts are required to negotiate these matters with them.
Leo Casey is the former director of the Albert Shanker Institute and is currently assistant to the president of the AFT.
Assistant to the President
American Federation of Teachers
555 New Jersey Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
Oppose the California Recall
The California recall vote scheduled for Sept 14, is powered by a partisan, Republican coalition of national Republicans, anti-vaxxers, QAnon conspiracy theorists, anti-immigrant activists and Trump supporters. They seek to overturn the California governor’s election and their victory could threaten California’s economic recovery and Covid control efforts.
From the Los Angeles Times:
“Allied with radical and extreme elements… includ[ing] groups promoting distrust of government, science and medicine; peddlers of QAnon doomsday conspiracies; “patriots” readying for battle and one organization allied with the far-right extremist group, the Proud Boys.”
POLITICO reported how one of the co-founders and chief organizers of the recall- a former Yolo county deputy sheriff, suggested it would be a good idea to “microchip” immigrants, and anti-immigrant rhetoric has been central to recall organizers’ appeals to supporters.
In addition to the anti Vaxxer extremism, the recall advocates reveal their anti immigrant emphasis in the published official statement of reasons for the recall. In the second sentence they say,
“ Governor Newsom has implemented laws which are detrimental to the citizens of this state and our way of life. Laws he endorsed favor foreign nationals in our country illegally, over that of our own citizens….
And, in the fourth sentence they say, “ He has imposed sanctuary state status and fails to enforce immigration laws.”
That is how they argue in public for the record. On social media they are much more blatant and aggressive. Could they be more clear? These are anti immigrant dog whistles. And dog whistles work with some voters.
This campaign is a dangerous repeat of the 1994 campaign of California Prop.187 which initiated over 10 years of anti immigrant repression in the nation. California Proposition 187 was a hate crime. It was a racists law, passed by 2/3 of California voters. It banned over 600,000 immigrants from receiving needed food stamps, medical care. Although overturned by a court decision at the state level in 1999, the elements of California Prop. 187 became national law in 1996 as a part of the Immigration Reform and Control act of 1996 and the bipartisan " Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-193)." during the Clinton Administration.
These laws and policies are included in some of the most punitive and cruel aspects of our current immigration enforcement system. How did this happen ? In the Summer of 1993, a failing economy and governmental retrenchment combined to make Republican Governor Pete Wilson the most unpopular governor in recent history. By November of 1994 Wilson won re-election with over 56% of the vote. Two factors combined to deliver victory to Wilson; a mean spirited, divisive, and racist campaign directed against Mexican and Mexican Americans, and an inept campaign by Democratic Candidate Kathleen Brown.
The voters of California voted 62% to 38% in favor of Proposition 187, the so called Save Our State initiative to restrict illegal immigration. A number of groups including FAIR, the Republican Party, Zero Population Growth and the Perot organization worked together to qualify the initiative.
In 1994 California had a population that is 56.3 % White, 26.3 % Latino, 9.4% Asian, 7.4 % African American, and 0.6% other. However, according to exit polls, the voters in this election were 80% white, 9% Latino, 7 % African American, and 4 % Asian. Exit polls show that Latinos voted against Prop. 187 by 3 to 1, African Americans split their vote 50 -50, and the Anglo electorate, then the majority, passed the proposition by over 60%.
On campuses the Chicano/Latino youth mobilized in unprecedented numbers. School walk outs and protests occurred up and down the state – but campus politics could not match the power of enraged, organized, angry voters.
Make no mistake about it. This was an anti Mexican campaign. While the Wilson said that he welcomed legal immigrants, the photos, the ads, the letters, the references, and the scapegoating clearly blamed Mexicans for the state’s economic crisis.
The anti Mexican immigrant campaign of 1994 had far reaching consequences. For example, Proposition 186 on the same ballot would have provided a single payer health system for California, but it was defeated by the engaged voters. In following years similar White voter majorities passed Proposition 209 banning Affirmative Action in California, and Proposition 227 banning bilingual education programs among others.
Since Trump, blame the immigrant politics is on the Republican voter mobilization agenda once again. They are using the Covid economic crisis and blaming the current California governor for an endless series of problems related to the pandemic – and they are engaging and motivating the dangerous, armed white militarized organizations. This agitation grows the white supremacy movement in the state and advances Republican politics- the same people who sought to overthrow the U.S. government on Jan.6, 2020.
California politics changed in the decade after the 1994 passing of Proposition 187. The Latino vote grew from about 20% of the electorate to 30 %. A new younger generation of Latinos have now become active and elected leaders. The growth of the Latino vote produced a major shift as California “Turned Blue,” https://newlaborforum.cuny.edu/2020/01/03/the-blue-ing-of-california/ . However the harmful national legislation that derived from the Proposition 187 campaign was never repealed. It remains law.
And, bad race baiting politics did not go away. In a substantive July 27, 2021, poll, some 47% of likely California voters would vote to recall Newsom, while some 50% oppose the recall. And, the Republican right is much more engaged and enthused in the campaign than are the Democrats. A September election will be a low turnout election, which usually means an increased percentage of White voters. To date, the anti recall campaign has been unimaginative.
The recall campaign could be a decisive turning point similar to the attacks on union workers by then Governor Walker of 2010-2012 in Wisconsin. With a mobilized anti immigrant anti Mexican campaign a majority of California voters could turn Republican once again. To avoid this calamity, every union, every progressive organization, every prodemocracy group, and certainly each of the many Latino political organizations should have their members walking precincts, working phone banks, and talking to their neighbors to make certain that a sufficient number of Democrats and independents understand the danger of this recall campaign.
It is in each of our interests to unite to defeat this recall.
Dr. Duane E. Campbell,
Professor Emeritus. California State U- Sacramento
Co- Chair. Immigrants Rights Working Group,
Democratic Socialists of America
Mutual Respect and Self Determination. Mexican President AMLO Proposes an Alternative Policy Between the U.S. and Latin America
Andrés E. Jiménez Montoya
This message follows my posting about current Mexican politics mentioning the presidency of the center-left incumbent Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
In the speech, AMLO outlines and advocates a new InterAmerican relations doctrine, proposing the establishment of a new and unique “American Unión” modeled on the European Union. He also provides an open defense of the Cuban Republic and people, calling for the abolition of the OAS and US hegemony in the Americas. As many of you may know, Mexico is the chair of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and holds a temporary seat on the UN Security Council. This is truly a ground breaking speech and a signal to the social democratic and socialist democratic left in the Américas.
Here, again is the link to the English translation of AMLO’s speech that also featured remarks by the Chilean author Isabel Allende and a musical performance by Lila Downs:
Here’s a link to the speech in Spanish:
Here’s a link to the entire program, including the AMLO speech:
In Peace and Solidarity.
Andrés E. Jiménez Montoya,
Director Emeritus, California Policy Research Center,
University of California.
Two important essays on how caucuses can be destructive to DSA and to democracy. Recommended by a reader.
What Momentum caucus did to the Philadelphia chapter of DSA. Feel free to share widely and discuss.
Caucuses, Consequences, and Construction: Caucuses, Conflict, and Convention Reassessed
We are building something here. We will be building something for a long time. And a basic respect for that fact should be universal among members of the organization.
I want to write to you today about a document. It was a document written by someone who was very influential in my DSA chapter (Philly) until recently. It was initially a private document for the author’s caucus, but was unintentionally released by a separate caucus that viewed it as an essential training manual. The author’s caucus lost power in my chapter a few weeks ago after a years-long, incredibly bitter, and completely futile battle that destroyed many friendships, egos, and campaigns. It managed to produce not one, but two splinter organizations of Philly DSA. Many of the leading members of that caucus resigned from their positions in the organization in April, and it is unclear how many intend to return.
The document is many things. It is a perceptive analysis of the development of blocs in an unorganized assembly and the dynamics of competitive meetings. It is the articulation of a political strategy that had proved rather successful at the time of its writing and had two years of gas left in the tank afterward. It is (implicitly) a theory of what democracy is and how it should function in a socialist organization.
The document being examines.
Caucuses, Conflicts and Convention
The following are notes on the process of caucus formation, the expression of political conflict, the meaning of internal democracy and some suggestions for our convention. This memo does not cover the entire breadth of our work as a caucus but merely the functions of the caucus as a democratic tool, in other words the following memo does not discuss our outward organizing but instead how precisely we plan to win priorities around which we tend to organize. Much of what is below was informed by reading about intra-party caucuses in Latin America and Europe as well as some classic liberal democratic theory.
Resolution on the Defense of Immigrants and Refugees
Authors: Immigrants’ Rights Working Group Steering Committee
Whereas: Immigrants in the United States are living under apartheid conditions. Under the U.S. constitution, persons living in the U.S. are promised basic human rights; however, under the current legal framework migrants in the U.S. are disenfranchised from basic legal protections. The migrant working class constitutes at least 20 % of the working class. This working class population – residents of the U.S., must not be ignored by a socialist platform. Political projects that do not include a substantive and realistic analysis the migrant working class fail to understand both race and class in the U.S. and thus fail to address our fundamental political tasks.
Whereas: To achieve these ends we must first, promote the empowerment, self-determination and liberation of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, indigenous, and other oppressed nationalities and immigrants within DSA and within the nation. Our opposition must be of at a level sufficient enough to defeat these forces.
Be it resolved:
1)That the Democratic Socialists of America will make defense of immigrant and refugee rights a top national priority of the organization to be spear headed by the National Immigrants Rights Working Group in coordination with national staff.
2)That Democratic Socialists of America reaffirm our position that no human being is illegal and that all working people and oppressed people are welcome in our organization on an equal basis regardless of immigration or citizenship status.
3)That Democratic Socialists of America support the struggles of immigrant communities around immediate demands (such as restoring DACA) as well as the right of immigrants and their communities to lead in this struggle and to determine its tactics. We stand with Dreamers, TPS holders, farmworkers and community organizers who have worked tirelessly for legislative relief for migrant communities. We push further for broad and inclusive legislation and administrative actions that regularizes the status and ensures the full integration of all migrants and refugees
4)That Democratic Socialists of America demand:
●Abolition of ICE and the end to the persecution, jailing, and deportation of immigrants.
●Aid to those fleeing from violence, political and economic turmoil, imperialism, colonialism, as well a global warming induced climate change instead of barring refugees at our borders and jailing those who arrive.
●Full labor rights for all those who work within the country and the integration of the labor movement with those who struggle for immigrant rights.
6)The National Immigrants Rights Working Group will coordinate activities within DSA under this resolution and develop a program of education on the history and political economy of immigration.
One quarter time staff person and appropriate support personnel and resources.
We support the amendment.
Duane Campbell. Immigrant Rights Working Group.
By Max B. Sawicky
I'd like to underscore the importance of Leo's post. I've had a ringside seat on this and I've been yelling about it since April, so I'd like to add a few points, in the nature of friendly amendments.
The Right is whining that education on race introduces turmoil in schools and classrooms. Actually it is their own agitation that will do that. Rabid denunciations of teaching on elementary matters of race by adults will echo in classrooms. A race-blind pedagogy will render U.S. history more remote to POC and lead to the opposite result for which they clamor: less identification with U.S. citizenship.
But the campaign is not motivated by any of that. One of the original epicenters was in Loudoun County, Va., where I live. This has national strategic significance, in three ways. 1) it pressures teacher unions, one of the lynchpins of Democratic Party power nationwide; 2) it agitates Trump voters in Virginia, a key source of Democratic Party electoral votes; 3) it fuels the home-schooling movement.
On (2), the former head of the Loudoun County school board is using this issue as a springboard for his gubernatorial campaign. The state government went all-Democratic in recent years, and this issue, along with hype over gun control, has lead to frenzied public meetings of crazed voters. The gun control agitation was based in the rural counties. The CRT noise is focused in the biggest, wealthiest counties. Put them together, and you have the basis for Republican victory.
On (1) and (3), CRT hype promotes separation from public schools altogether, not unlike the formation of racist 'academies' in the South after Brown vs. Board of Ed. One can find talk locally by parents of hiring teachers to teach in their home to groups of five or so students. There are enough people here with the financial means to cause a non-trivial drain on public schools, leading to generalized lack of funding that will have disparate, negative impacts by class and race.
On ways to fight back, here are a couple of additional considerations.
This is a Trumpist movement, and Trumpists have substantially discredited themselves with their actions on Jan 6. Such antics would be likely to have their greatest negative response in precisely the middle-class localities where the CRT issue has been amped up. Jan 6 should be a millstone around the necks of the GOP everywhere.
In Loudoun Country, the school board is not up for election this year, so the Right is trying to set off a recall election. Here school board elections are formally non-partisan. Of course all electeds have some known party identification. Nevertheless, voters may resent being dragged into elections for those they have already approved at the ballot box, all the more so if the campaign is based on rubbish.
One added element locally has been protest over protocols on treatment of transgender students. The bathroom issue is rearing its head again. Parents of these students tend to be among the most energetic in response. There has also been flak over 'dirty books' being assigned for reading. (Actually they're not dirty and they have not been required reading.) Middle-class moderate parents are unlikely to be moved by these issues, so the campaign has the effect of energizing an excitable minority, but also isolating them.
Finally, I note that DSA in Virginia has been totally asleep at the switch on all of this. In my rudimentary understanding of organizing, politics entails talking about what others are talking about, not just what you want to talk about. Here the preferred issues are a pipeline that would run through the state, and the PRO act. If the R's retake power in the state, pipelines and labor rights will take their place alongside other, equally-critical problems.
It is time for educators to go on the offensive against the conservative campaign to ban critical race theory from schools.
Leo Casey ▪ July 14, 2021
The American right ‘s latest culture war offensive is an all-out assault on critical race theory (CRT). Like other right-wing campaigns, the attack on CRT is taking place on two fronts one battle to define the term negatively in popular discourse, and another to enact laws and executive orders that severely restrict how racism is addressed in public schools and post-secondary public institutions. The two fronts work in tandem, feeding off each other; consequently, they must be addressed together.
The right has been shrewd in selecting its target. Founded in the 1970s by legal scholars, CRT has its roots in efforts to explore the ways that racial biases in the law result from structural and systemic inequities. In subsequent decades, the approach spread to disciplines across the social sciences and humanities, as well as to professional fields such as medicine and education, with the goal of investigating and analyzing systemic racism in different cultures and institutions. Today, its influence can be found in dozens of fields of research, and in thousands of texts by hundreds of authors.
Previously known to few outside of academia, it has become a racial Rorschach test, a canvas readymade for the projection of white anxieties, fears, and resentments. That is exactly what the right is counting on. The leading strategist behind the current attacks, Manhattan Institute fellow Christopher Rufo, has explained that the â€œgoal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think â€˜critical race theory.â€™â€ Writing in the New York Post and City Journal, Rufo linked the theory to a long list of negatively perceived terms and events, including Marxism, Stalinâ€™s gulags, Maoâ€™s Cultural Revolution, the Khmer Rouge, â€œBlack Communism,â€ â€œanti-Americanism,â€ â€œomnipotent bureaucratic authority,â€ and â€œre-education camp[s].â€ Alongside this gallery of horrors, Rufo included terms that are employed in actual efforts to address racism in educationâ€”equity, social justice, and diversityâ€”rendering them guilty by association.
It is essential to keep in mind whatâ€™s at stake here. Itâ€™s not the reputation of CRT among scholars, and not even how the general public perceives it. Itâ€™s a campaign to drastically limit teaching and learning about racism in public Kâ€“12 and higher education, while inflaming the Republican base.
So far, six states have enacted laws, four have taken other forms of action (executive orders issued by state boards of education or directives from attorney generals), and another eight states have bills pending in legislatures controlled by Republicans. Bills introduced in an additional eight states appear to have stalled or failed in legislative sessions that are ending, although many are sure to be reintroduced when state legislatures reconvene.
How should educators respond? Ignoring attacks from the right wonâ€™t do, and neither will politely seeking to correct the record. Rufo isnâ€™t participating in an academic colloquium. Heâ€™s writing propaganda, and propaganda doesnâ€™t have to be logical or true to be effective.
A defensive response is guaranteed to lose. But thereâ€™s still time to push back. An effective positive response will need to meet four criteria.
There is substantial overlap among the various state laws and orders. The Florida State Board of Educationâ€™s ban on the teaching of CRT characterizes it as the idea that â€œracism is not merely the product of prejudice but . . . is embedded in American society and its legal systems.â€ The Texas law requires that slavery and racism be taught as â€œdeviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States.â€ A Republican bill in the Pennsylvania legislature would remove funding from any school district, college, or university where instructors â€œadopt, express or promoteâ€ a long list of prohibited ideas about race and sex in this same vein. In Congress, Republicans have introduced a bill to apply these provisions to Washington, D.C. public schools and charter schools, and a bill that would remove federal funding from schools that used the New York Timesâ€™ 1619 Project in instruction. A number of states have also prohibited the use of the 1619 Project.
How will this play out in classrooms? Take the ban on teaching that racism can be systemic and embedded in U.S. law and society and the requirement that slavery and racism be taught as contrary to the founding of the United States. How can the U.S. Constitution be properly taught without any consideration of the significant body of evidence that the entrenchment of racial slavery was not incidental, but part of its original design? How can a student understand the role of the Supreme Court in upholding systemic racism for much of its history, without an examination of how its Dred Scott rulingâ€”that African Americans were â€œso far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respectâ€â€”was expressly based on the original language of the Constitution?
The proscriptions written into these laws and executive orders may well extend beyond the history of racism toward African Americans. How can the campaigns of extermination against indigenous peoples and the Trail of Tears be properly taught, if their manifest racism canâ€™t be examined as central to the nationâ€™s founding? How can the Chinese American Exclusion Act of 1882, forced deportations of Latinos in the 1920s and 1930s, and the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War be properly taught without a discussion of systemic racism in society and law against Latinos and Asian Americans?
The problems with these measures extend well beyond the topics and ideas that may be taught. They could impede and inhibit efforts to make public schools, colleges, and universities into welcoming and nurturing places for students of all races by addressing the obstacles that students of color face. The campaign against CRT has targeted diversity and inclusion programs, as well as anti-bias training. It looks to undermine a culturally responsive pedagogy that allows students of color to see themselves, their experiences, and their heritage culture in their education, as white students already do.
Sweeping formulations of the sort found in these laws and executive orders invite legal challenges. Out of professional integrity, many educators will look for ways to continue to expose their students to a full and accurate account of U.S. history and society. Teacher unions will provide a vigorous defense for members who are disciplined or dismissed for teaching honest history. But none of the coming fight back should distract us from the political objectives of this mushrooming campaign: to enshrine in law and government policy an official mythologyâ€”an orthodoxy of who Americans are as a nation, how we came to be, and what we can aspire to become.
This campaign is producing what conservative commentator David French has described as â€œan extraordinary chilling effect on classroom speech.â€ The danger here lies not just in the broad and far-ranging language found in the laws and executive orders themselves, but in the climate of educational vigilantism they engender. School boards across the country have become the focus of an operation reminiscent of the early days of the Tea Party, with meetings consumed by fervid battles over the phantom use of CRT in Kâ€“12 classesâ€”clashes organized by right-wing organizations and financed with dark money. A number of school districts are being inundated with Freedom of Information requests on the details of classroom instruction, and the proposed Pennsylvania law would allow private citizens to trigger official investigations of schools, colleges, and universities for alleged uses of CRT. More U.S. school board officials have been recalled in the last six months than at any time since such records have been kept. Teachers are increasingly fearful of how these laws and executive orders will be used, with some resorting to self-censorship to try to protect themselves. Reports are now surfacing of college courses on race being canceled, and even of entire academic departments being closed down.
At stake is the ability of educators to provide honest and accurate instruction on racism in American history and contemporary society.
Who do most Americans trust? In public opinion polling on the most trusted professions, Kâ€“12 teachers continually rank at the top, alongside nurses and doctorsâ€”despite teachers having borne the brunt of many right-wing attacks, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. College faculty do not rank as high but still far outweigh groups at the bottomâ€”including politicians. This ranking reflects the fact that, like healthcare, education is seen as â€œcaringâ€ work that a person enters to help others.
Teachers can draw on this trust to fight back against the laws. We might ask: Who should have the greatest say about how public schools, colleges, and universities address racism? Would we rather leave it up to the people who have studied how to educate our children and are experienced in that work, who have the closest relationship with our children and care about them as individuals? Or would we rather hand it over to politicians trying to win elections and increase their power by stoking bigotry?
While there is little cause for worry when elected officials decide that high school students should be taught American history and civics, or that a post-secondary institution should have a department of political science, detailed government mandates on what should be taught and how are problematic, both educationally and politically. Designing a curriculum is a complex undertaking that relies upon the professional expertise of educators. It is a process best insulated from the passions of political battle and shielded from crude government interventions meant to compel students into following a particular party line.
Airing disagreements over such matters is how knowledge advances. By contrast, the crass politicization of history and social science, with the use of propaganda to distort scholarship and education, is what authoritarian movements do. And sweeping state mandates on which topics and schools of thought can and cannot be discussed in education are what authoritarian governments do.
At the core of this fight is the ability of educators to teach their students the responsibilities of democratic citizenship. A number of these laws include restrictions on civic education; the Texas law specifically requires that a current controversy can only be taught â€œwithout giving deference to any one perspective.â€ Teachers of civics have long recognized that democratic education includes exposing students to multiple perspectives, especially when teaching controversies. Indeed, what is pernicious about the campaign against CRT is precisely the attempt to preclude exposure to different perspectives on racism, starting with our nationâ€™s founding.
But in the current era, an equally important responsibility of teachers is providing students with accurate information and a factual basis for understanding controversies. These state laws and bills have been written to undermine that responsibilityâ€”to require educators who teach contemporary controversies such as who won the 2020 election and what happened in the January 6 insurrection to present truth and propaganda as equally plausible and acceptable perspectives, â€œwithout giving deferenceâ€ to either. On these points, the defense of American democracy becomes inseparable from the academic freedom to teach honest history.
The story of American democracy cannot be told without according a central role to the Black freedom struggle. When that struggle moved forwardâ€”with the end of slavery, the Civil War amendments and Reconstruction, and again with the civil rights movement and the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Actâ€”so did American democracy. It was the Fourteenth Amendment that provided the constitutional basis for court cases expanding civil liberties and civil rights during the last century, and the civil rights movement that provided the template for subsequent movements to expand rights, including the womenâ€™s movement and LGBTQ movement. And when that Black freedom struggle suffered defeatsâ€”with the end of Reconstruction and the imposition of Jim Crow and de jure racial segregationâ€”so did American democracy. We riseâ€”and fallâ€”together. To realize the democratic promises of liberty and justice for all, the United States must embrace that Black freedom struggle. And educators must have the ability to teach the relationship between that struggle and American democracy.
Leo Casey has been a teacher of civics and history and a teacher unionist for four decades. He works at the American Federation of Teachers. And, a leader in North Star.
The rich and powerful use racism to protect their interests and scapegoat communities of color. But there is an effective way to talk about both race and class when organizing for multiracial democracy.
Anika Fassia and Tinselyn Simms ▪ Summer 2021
This article is one in a series of arguments on class and race in our summer issue.
We’re glad to be at a point in American political discourse where the question being posed is how to talk about race and class, rather than whether to do so. For too long, many on the left, especially white progressives, have shied away from talking directly about race and racism. Talking about race, they have argued, is divisive and costs us electoral victories. This approach centers the experiences of white voters, who don’t feel the direct impact of racism in our economy or democracy, and neglects the concerns of people of color, who make up a large portion of our base. It also ignores the fact that race is always being discussed by our opponents. By not responding to the racial sentiments of their narratives, we leave their potent messages unopposed. As a result, we lose persuadable voters and fail to mobilize our base.
Many of us who are doing the day-to-day organizing work to build a multiracial democracy struggle to find effective ways to talk about race and class. We often resort to tactics that either don’t connect with or alienate the people we are trying to move.
The Race Class Narrative (RCN), developed by Ian Haney López, Heather McGhee, and Anat Shenker-Osorio, is a rigorously researched framework that addresses these concerns. We can use it to fight back against the ways that strategic racism is weaponized by the rich and powerful to protect their interests, scapegoat communities of color, and leave us all fighting for scraps. It is a narrative structure that reveals the strategy of the right and builds cross-racial support for progressive policies.
This work is essential if we want to beat the right. As McGhee writes in her recent book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, if we
try to convince anyone but the most committed progressives (disproportionately people of color) about big public solutions without addressing race, most will agree . . . right up until they hear the counter-message that does talk, even implicitly, about race. Racial scapegoating about “illegals,” drugs, gangs, and riots undermines public support for working together. Our research showed that color-blind approaches that ignored racism didn’t beat the scapegoating zero-sum story; we had to be honest about racism’s role in dividing us in order to call people to their higher ideals.
The RCN tries to do just that. Rather than saying “all people” or “everyone,” the narrative advises those writing scripts for canvassing or for social media campaigns to use more specific language, such as “people of different races and from different places” or “white, Black, or brown.” Mentioning race like this helps to turn our vision of cross-racial solidarity into a reality.
To give an example, here is a message from the RCN research designed to build support for progressive issues and push back against divisiveness from our opposition:
America’s strength comes from our ability to work together—bringing together people from different places and of different races into a whole. For this to be a place where everyone can thrive, we cannot let the 1% and the politicians they pay for divide us against each other based on what someone looks like, where they come from, or how much money they have. We need to join together to fight for our future, just like we won better wages, safer workplaces, and civil rights in our past. Coming together, we can elect new leaders who will deliver better healthcare for our families, quality schools for our kids, and a fair return on our work.
Across the country, organizations have used the RCN to move voters on important issues. In 2018, activists in Minnesota used it in Greater Than Fear, a campaign designed to push back against anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric and actions. Partners used the RCN research to build a strong campaign brand that included messaging guides, trainings, rallies, ads, print materials, and a digital strategy. On election night in 2018, the Minnesota House of Representatives flipped, turning blue. Democrats also won the gubernatorial, attorney general, secretary of state, and auditor races. Now, they are pushing an ambitious RCN-infused We Make Minnesota revenue campaign that could have long-lasting results for families across the state. They are not avoiding conversations about race and class but leaning into them to tell a story about how racism is deployed against all of us for the economic gains of a powerful few.
In the spring of 2019, People’s Action incorporated RCN into their deep canvassing program in Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, with the goal of increasing support for including immigrants in expanded healthcare coverage. These states were chosen because they had all seen an uptick in anti-immigrant sentiment and white nationalist organizing, and because they were important to the 2020 election. Deep canvassing goes beyond typical door-knocking. It involves longer, candid conversations where canvassers ask voters to share emotionally significant experiences. Even though the conversations did not explicitly mention the president, at the end of this program, researchers found a 3 percent decrease in support for Trump plus a 20 percent increase in support for expanded healthcare coverage that would include undocumented immigrants—a shift that was larger than the shift in vote share from Democrat to Republican between 2012 and 2016. More conversations like this could have huge effects on electoral politics.
The movements that have dared to use the RCN have shown how strategically naming race and calling for multiracial prosperity can lead to progressive victories. More recently, using RCN has proven successful in ballot measures and in get-out-the-vote efforts. It was used in mailers and scripts to successfully support expanding Medicaid to 230,000 Missourians and had a positive impact on returned ballots and early in-person voting in Wisconsin.
The RCN provides us with the beginnings of a roadmap to progressive victories, but more research is needed to create a strategy that can successfully conquer the right. We hope that the framework can provide a model for further research into the most effective ways to address strategic racism in its varied forms as we fight for a new democracy and economy.
Anika Fassia is the co-director of the new home for Race Class Narrative implementation, We Make the Future Action. Prior to this role, she served as Director of Outreach and Training at Race Class Narrative Action, where she led the outreach and partnerships of organizations spanning seven Midwestern states.
Tinselyn Simms is the co-director of We Make the Future Action. Prior to this role, she served as Assistant Director of Communications at the Service Employees International Union, where she led communications for the Racial Justice Center. She spearheaded the labor union’s involvement in Race Class Narrative research.
Two comrades in Sacramento have written a four part history of people of color work in DSA. We congratulate them on their work and recommend it.
by Duane Campbell
At the same time, we must insist that the story of people of color in DSA is not only the story of African American participation. While mentioned in part two of the series, after that the work of the Anti Racism Commission and the Latino Commissions in DSA disappear. There needs to be a part five and six at least. Below is a supplement to the four part series people of color history. The current history of DSA as presented by the Sacramento writers David Roddy and Alyssa De La Rosa misses this important work.
Let us begin near the beginning.
In 1983, Dr. Marable was a professor of economics and history and the director of the Race Relations Institute at Fisk University. He went on to direct the Africana and Latin American Studies program at Colgate University, and then chaired the Department of Black Studies at Ohio State University. He was a prolific scholar and continued his career at Columbia University. 1
(Marable, Encyclopedia of the American Left. Verso, 2022. )
In the summer of 1983 Manning organized a conference of Third World Socialists (people of color ) at Fisk University, bringing together a diverse group of left academics and activists. At this conference DSA created new commissions each focused on self-determination :a Latino Commission, an African American Commission and an Anti-Racism Commission within DSA. These commissions went on to support the Jesse Jackson run for President in 1984, and then convinced the DSA itself to support the Jackson effort in 1988. The Anti Racism Commission also supported the election effort of Ron Daniels for President in 1992 as an independent.
Many socialists and activists in the 70’s, including this writer, were engaged as organizers with the United Farmworkers of America. Doing this work taught us the fundamental value of unions to working people in a period when middle class student activists have not learned the important role of labor unions in building a better future. Working along side great organizers we learned organizing skills and discipline. Dolores Huerta was a founding Vice President of the United Farmworkers. Later Eliseo Medina was a Vice President. Eliseo went on to become a Vice President of SEIU. Both were later Honorary Chairs of DSA until these positions were eliminated in 2017. They had been important emissaries to work in the Latino community, particularly in California.
Dolores Delgado Campbell became a chair of the Latino Commission at the founding of the Latino Commission at Fisk. (1983) She contributed to the 1983 publication Women of Color, by the DSA Feminist Commission. Over the years there were several co chairs of the Latino Commission including José La Luz . I,( the writer) Duane Campbell became co chair of DSA’s Anti Racism Commission and secretary to the Latino Commission at this 1983 meeting.
The Latino Commission worked for a number of years on immigrants’ rights efforts beginning in 1985, including the effort to defeat the Reagan “Amnesty” plan or IRCA of 1986, During the 1990’s, we were again intensely involved in trying to defeat the anti Immigration California Proposition 187. California Proposition 187 was a pivotal feature in redirecting the political trajectory of Latino politics in California, and the South West.
(Bert Corona, Encyclopedia of the American Left. Verso. 2022. )
(2. Meyerson, )
These efforts taught us the stark realities of globalism producing migration as well as the importance of internationalism. Immigrant rights works taught us to see capitalism from its harsh periphery.
The prior four part essay has a limited recognition of the Central American struggles, NAFTA ( 1994) , and the changes in the AFL-CIO. The Latino Commission had worked for over a decade on Central American solidarity efforts for both El Salvador and Nicaragua. The Latino Commission took leadership in bringing these struggles to DSA through campaigns, speakers, and representation by leaders from Central America. Participation in these movements taught us to look beyond the narrow perspectives of the U.S. media to recognize the deadly and imperialist nature of U.S. power. Along the way we learned that our government was willing to kill at least 30,000 Salvadorans and Nicaraguans to impose U.S. domination.
During the 80s, the organized left in the U.S. was small. Most organizations ranged from 50- 200 activists. DSA was the largest with some 10,000 members. Many activists in these small organizations decided to concentrate on building the structures of their own left organizations. These organizations have since disappeared . The organized left was only of marginal assistance to building the Central American solidarity movements and was too weak to contribute significantly to the Anti War movement of 2003. .
By 1994, the Latino Commission of DSA was only operating effectively in California. Elected leaders to DSA’s NPC included Al Rojas and Eric Vega. Al was a former UFW organizer, and became the Chair of North Americans for Democracy in Mexico. Together played an active role in seeking to defeat NAFTA including bring Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, candidate for President of Mexico, for a California tour. Eric Vega as an NPC member played an active role in bringing DSA resources and organizing to the important California Proposition 209 campaign in an effort to defend Affirmative Action (1996). He was a lead organizer for this campaign in Sacramento. Each of these efforts were integrated with labor organizing efforts.
There were efforts during these years to create left organizations, D.S.A. (Democratic Socialists of America) C.C. for D.S. (Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism ) along with the remnants of earlier left parties of the socialists and communists. Since DSA played no part in the important electoral campaigns, the organization did not grow.
None of the left efforts have achieved even a modest sized organization that could organize for issues, influence national, state, or local politics, or produce significant results. This decline of the organized left was directly proportional to the decline of organized labor as a political force.
Good people from several perspectives tried to build an ideological left, but they were unable to develop and sustain organizations which served as recruitment, training, preparation and conduits to effective political action. The nascent organizations, few of which last more than ten years, have been unable to create a multi racial left culture where activists could find meaning and importance in their lives by struggling to make a difference in our society.
DSA, as the largest of these organizations, did not overcome its isolation from the Latino community even though we had outstanding notables including Dolores Huerta and Eliseo Medina. Without capacity building organizations, the popular left activism continually recruited new people and burned out veterans rather than building a sustaining culture and organization. Notably, African American organizers created African American groups such as the Black Radical Congress, and Latino organizations created a series of Latino organizations both inside and outside of the Democratic Party,
Organizations usually exist to develop projects and carry out political work. DSA had locals and the commissions from 1983- 2004, in order to pursue political projects together. Activism organizes. Lack of activism leads to the decline of locals, the commissions and of the organization. ( for an alternative See Jose La Luz, An Organizing Model of Unionism, Labor Research Review. Midwest Center for Labor Research, 1992.
A result of the low level of political work and the meager level of organizational resources, participation by all groups , including Latinos , in DSA declined. At the same time Latino participation in labor unions and Latino organizations grew. In response to the declining state of affairs within DSA , the Latino commission decided in 2004 to operate as more as a network and less as a commission. With the development of electronic communications, there was no longer a significant need for a quarterly newsletter ( Our Struggle) Both the Latino Commission and the Anti Racism Commissions terminated their roles as commissions of DSA.
During its time of growth ( 1983-2000) the Latino Commission was able to recruit and organize several leading Chicanos from the Sacramento area into DSA leadership and YDS.
After a few years they each left. Interviews of the Latinos who left give reasons for leaving as follows.
1. Latinos were integrated into the organization, but Latino issues were not central.
2. DSA as an organization did little other than talk. These activists wanted to be part of an organization that advanced political work.
3. DSA did not have an action plan nor the ability to mobilize people, particularly people of color. Latino activists preferred to work effectively within the Latino community
Records and documents of the above are available from the author.
Details of much of this history can be found at www.antiracismdsa.blogspot.com. This was the forum of the Commissions. There is a link on the right of this page.
The Obama campaign
Like the 1984 Jackson campaign, DSA organizationally sat out the Obama campaign of 2008. The National Political Committee (NPC) speaking for DSA offered “critical support” for Obama campaign in late August. While some DSA members worked on the Obama campaign as individuals, DSA itself was at such a low level that there was no significant mobilization of DSA members nor resources for the election.
As a consequence, the size, strength, organizational abilities of DSA remained essentially what it was prior to the Obama campaign .
There was a notable lack of Latino participation in the Obama campaign in California of 2008. We brought this weakness up to the Obama campaign steering committee on three occasions.
There was no recognizable Latino outreach effort for the Obama campaign in Sacramento nor in California. This was surprising to us. A campaign viewpoint was that California was going to vote for Obama, so there was not a need for organizing outreach. Instead, there were efforts to get Sacramento volunteers to travel to Nevada for campaigning.
Latinos resoundingly rebuked this electoral abstention by voting for Obama by 66 % to 32,% a huge sixteen-point swing to the Democrats compared to 2004. Even a 58 percent majority of Cubans in Florida, traditionally solidly Republican, went for Obama.
Latinas led the way toward Obama, casting 68 percent of their votes for him and only 30 percent for McCain. Latino voters under 30 went for Obama by 76 to 24, indicating the direction of future Latino voting patterns.
Asians swung Democratic by fourteen points over 2004, voting for Obama 61 to 35. The political trajectory of Asian voters has been striking. In 1992, Bill Clinton received only 31 percent of the Asian vote. Since then Asians have steadily moved Democratic.
Obama’ success was both astonishing and history making. He won the southwestern states of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, and the former Confederate slave states of Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, as well as former slave states Maryland and Delaware. The Latino vote was decisive for Obama in Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and Colorado in 2008.
2, Meyerson The Blue-ing of California. 2020.
3. Corona, Encyclopedia of the American Left. Verso, 2022.
'They're Not Going to F**King Succeed': Top Generals Feared Trump Would Attempt a Coup After Election,
'They're Not Going to F**King Succeed': Top Generals Feared Trump Would Attempt a Coup After Election, According to New Book.
For the first time in modern US history the nation's top military officer, whose role is to advise the president, was preparing for a showdown with the commander in chief because he feared a coup attempt after Trump lost the November election.
July 15, 2021 Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb, Marshall Co
The top US military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, was so shaken that then-President Donald Trump and his allies might attempt a coup or take other dangerous or illegal measures after the November election that Milley and other top officials informally planned for different ways to stop Trump, according to excerpts of an upcoming book obtained by CNN.
The book, from Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, describes how Milley and the other Joint Chiefs discussed a plan to resign, one-by-one, rather than carry out orders from Trump that they considered to be illegal, dangerous or ill-advised.
"It was a kind of Saturday Night Massacre in reverse," Leonnig and Rucker write.
The book, "I Alone Can Fix It," scheduled to be released next Tuesday, chronicles Trump's final year as president, with a behind-the-scenes look at how senior administration officials and Trump's inner circle navigated his increasingly unhinged behavior after losing the 2020 election. The authors interviewed Trump for more than two hours.
The book recounts how for the first time in modern US history the nation's top military officer, whose role is to advise the president, was preparing for a showdown with the commander in chief because he feared a coup attempt after Trump lost the November election.
The authors explain Milley's growing concerns that personnel moves that put Trump acolytes in positions of power at the Pentagon after the November 2020 election, including the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the resignation of Attorney General William Barr, were the sign of something sinister to come.
Milley spoke to friends, lawmakers and colleagues about the threat of a coup, and the Joint Chiefs chairman felt he had to be "on guard" for what might come.
"They may try, but they're not going to f**king succeed," Milley told his deputies, according to the authors. "You can't do this without the military. You can't do this without the CIA and the FBI. We're the guys with the guns."
In the days leading up to January 6, Leonnig and Rucker write, Milley was worried about Trump's call to action. "Milley told his staff that he believed Trump was stoking unrest, possibly in hopes of an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act and call out the military."
Milley viewed Trump as "the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose," the authors write, and he saw parallels between Adolf Hitler's rhetoric as a victim and savior and Trump's false claims of election fraud.
"This is a Reichstag moment," Milley told aides, according to the book. "The gospel of the Führer."
Ahead of a November pro-Trump "Million MAGA March" to protest the election results, Milley told aides he feared it "could be the modern American equivalent of 'brownshirts in the streets,'" referring to the pro-Nazi militia that fueled Hitler's rise to power.
Milley will not publicly address the issues raised in the book, a defense official close to the general told CNN. The official did not dispute that Milley engaged in activities and communications that are not part of the traditional portfolio of a chairman in the final days of Trump's presidency.
"He's not going to sit in silence while people try to use the military against Americans," the official said. So while Milley "tried his hardest to actively stay out of politics," if the events that occurred brought him into that arena temporarily, "so be it," the official said.
The official added that the general was not calling Trump a Nazi but felt he had no choice but to respond given his concerns that the rhetoric used by the President and his supporters could lead to such an environment.
Trump on Thursday issued a lengthy statement attacking Milley.
"I never threatened, or spoke about, to anyone, a coup of our Government," Trump wrote in his statement, adding, "So ridiculous!"
"Sorry to inform you, but an Election is my form of 'coup,' and if I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is General Mark Milley," Trump continued.
'This is all real, man'
Rucker and Leonnig interviewed more than 140 sources for the book, though most were given anonymity to speak candidly to reconstruct events and dialogue. Milley is quoted extensively and comes off in a positive light as someone who tried to keep democracy alive because he believed it was on the brink of collapse after receiving a warning one week after the election from an old friend.
"What they are trying to do here is overturn the government," said the friend, who is not named, according to the authors. "This is all real, man. You are one of the few guys who are standing between us and some really bad stuff."
Milley's reputation took a major hit in June 2020, when he joined Trump during his controversial photo-op at St. John's Church, after federal forces violently dispersed a peaceful crowd of social justice protesters at Lafayette Square outside the White House. To make matters worse, Milley wore camouflage military fatigues throughout the incident. He later apologized, saying, "I should not have been there."
But behind the scenes, the book says Milley was on the frontlines of trying to protect the country, including an episode where he tried to stop Trump from firing FBI Director Chris Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
Leonnig and Rucker recount a scene when Milley was with Trump and his top aides in a suite at the Army-Navy football game in December, and publicly confronted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
"What's going on? Are you guys getting rid of Wray or Gina?" Milley asked. "Come on chief. What the hell is going on here? What are you guys doing?"
"Don't worry about it," Meadows said. "Just some personnel moves."
"Just be careful," Milley responded, which Leonnig and Rucker write was said as a warning that he was watching.
'That doesn't make any sense'
The book also sheds new light on Trump's descent into a dark and isolated vacuum of conspiracy theories and self-serving delusions after he was declared the loser of the 2020 election.
After the January 6 insurrection, the book says Milley held a conference call each day with Meadows and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Leonnig and Rucker report the officials used the calls to compare notes and "collectively survey the horizon for trouble."
"The general theme of these calls was, come hell or high water, there will be a peaceful transfer of power on January twentieth," one senior official told the authors. "We've got an aircraft, our landing gear is stuck, we've got one engine, and we're out of fuel. We've got to land this bad boy."
Milley told aides he saw the calls as an opportunity to keep tabs on Trump, the authors write.
A second defense official told CNN that Milley and the Joint Chiefs met on both January 7 and 8, with some calling in virtually, to discuss not only what happened at the violent insurrection at the US Capitol but also to discuss their growing worry about the emerging "what if" scenarios.
On January 12, they signed a memo rejecting the violence and told troops to stand strong, reminding service members of their obligation to support and defend the Constitution and reject extremism.
The second defense official said the "what if" scenarios included everything from dealing with rumored unrest at every state capitol to the possibility Trump didn't leave office. "What happens if the crazies take over, what do we do?" was the focus of the discussion and essentially what became a mini-wargame to plan for possible scenarios.
There was concern in part about being "ready" because they had seen the slow National Guard response on the Hill on January 6.
If Trump didn't leave the White House, it was going to be up to Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service to deal with him and related domestic unrest. For the Joint Chiefs, the minute Democratic nominee Joe Biden was sworn in would be it -- he would be the commander in chief at that point and Trump would no longer hold power.
The official said that a realistic scenario is none of the chiefs would have resigned. They would have not carried out illegal orders, but they would have made Trump fire them.
Leonnig and Rucker also recount a scene where Pompeo visited Milley at home in the weeks before the election, and the two had a heart-to-heart conversation sitting at the general's table. Pompeo is quoted as saying, "You know the crazies are taking over," according to people familiar with the conversation.
The authors write that Pompeo, through a person close to him, denied making the comments attributed to him and said they were not reflective of his views.
In recent weeks Trump has attacked Milley, who is still the Joint Chiefs chairman in the Biden administration, after he testified to Congress about January 6.
'You f**king did this'
The book also contains several striking anecdotes about prominent women during the Trump presidency, including GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former first lady Michelle Obama.
The book details a phone call the day after the January 6 insurrection between Milley and Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who has close military ties. Cheney voted to impeach Trump and has been an outspoken critic of his election lies, leading to her ouster from House GOP leadership.
Milley asked Cheney how she was doing.
"That f**king guy Jim Jordan. That son of a b*tch," Cheney said, according to the book.
Cheney bluntly relayed to Milley what she experienced on the House floor on January 6 while pro-Trump rioters overran police and breached the Capitol building, including a run-in with Jordan, a staunch Trump ally in the House who feverishly tried to overturn the election.
Cheney described to Milley her exchange with Jordan: "While these maniacs are going through the place, I'm standing in the aisle and he said, 'We need to get the ladies away from the aisle. Let me help you.' I smacked his hand away and told him, 'Get away from me. You f**king did this.'"
'Crazy,' 'dangerous,' 'maniac'
The book reveals Pelosi's private conversations with Milley during this tenuous period. When Trump fired Esper in November, Pelosi was one of several lawmakers who called Milley. "We are all trusting you," she said. "Remember your oath."
After the January 6 insurrection, Pelosi told the general she was deeply concerned that a "crazy," "dangerous" and "maniac" Trump might use nuclear weapons during his final days in office.
"Ma'am, I guarantee you these processes are very good," Milley reassured her. "There's not going to be an accidental firing of nuclear weapons."
"How can you guarantee me?" Pelosi asked.
"Ma'am, there's a process," he said. "We will only follow legal orders. We'll only do things that are legal, ethical, and moral."
A week after the insurrection, Pelosi led House Democrats' second impeachment of Trump for inciting the insurrection. In an interview with the authors, Pelosi said she fears another president could try to pick up where Trump left off.
"We might get somebody of his ilk who's sane, and that would really be dangerous, because it could be somebody who's smart, who's strategic, and the rest," Pelosi said. "This is a slob. He doesn't believe in science. He doesn't believe in governance. He's a snake-oil salesman. And he's shrewd. Give him credit for his shrewdness."
The book quotes Trump, who had a strained relationship with Merkel, as telling his advisers during an Oval Office meeting about NATO and the US relationship with Germany, "That b*tch Merkel."
"'I know the f**king krauts,' the president added, using a derogatory term for German soldiers from World War I and World War II," Leonnig and Rucker write. "Trump then pointed to a framed photograph of his father, Fred Trump, displayed on the table behind the Resolute Desk and said, 'I was raised by the biggest kraut of them all.'"
Trump, through a spokesman, denied to the authors making these comments.
'No one has a bigger smile'
After January 6, Milley participated in a drill with military and law enforcement leaders to prepare for the January 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden. Washington was on lockdown over fears that far-right groups like the Proud Boys might try to violently disrupt the transfer of power.
Milley told a group of senior leaders, "Here's the deal, guys: These guys are Nazis, they're boogaloo boys, they're Proud Boys. These are the same people we fought in World War II. We're going to put a ring of steel around this city and the Nazis aren't getting in."
Trump did not attend the inauguration, in a notable break with tradition, and the event went off without incident.
As the inauguration ceremony ended, Kamala Harris, who had just been sworn in as vice president, paused to thank Milley. "We all know what you and some others did," she said, according to the authors. "Thank you."
The book ends with Milley describing his relief that there had not been a coup, thinking to himself, "Thank God Almighty, we landed the ship safely."
Milley expressed his relief in the moments after Biden was sworn in, speaking to the Obamas sitting on the inauguration stage. Michelle Obama asked Milley how he was feeling.
"No one has a bigger smile today than I do," Milley said, according to Leonnig and Rucker. "You can't see it under my mask, but I do."
CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.
CNN, via Portside.
Thanks to Carl Davidson for locating and reposting this piece.
A select few in North Star prepared and planned for how to respond in case such a coup had taken place. This time, such preparation was not needed. But, we will conti
Essays from In These Times.
By activists in the Movement for Black Lives.
Voter Suppression Is White Supremacy. It Must Be Stopped
To: G20 Finance Ministers on the occasion of their meeting on 9/10 July 2021
Urging the immediate introduction of Financial Transactions Taxes to improve economic stability and support public investment, particularly in developing countries, to pay for healthcare,
jobs and the costs of climate impacts
We, the undersigned, economists and finance experts, in light of the severe, unprecedented repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, are writing to you to make the case for the immediate introduction of Financial Transactions Taxes (FTTs), both as a means to make economies more resilient and to generate urgently needed public investment, both overseas and domestically, to save lives by strengthening health systems and to help pay the costs of the devastating impacts to populations due to the heating of our climate.
FTTs encourage longer-term investments in the real economy, providing a more solid foundation for economic renewal. This is particularly important as countries rebuild following the pandemic. FTTs dis-incentivise excessive speculative activity, particularly high-frequency trading, which have led to flash crashes in the past. As well, they give tax authorities greater oversight over financial activities, helping them to collect tax receipts and battle corruption.
Although richer countries have experienced great hardship at the hands of the COVID-19 crisis, poorer countries, many of whom were in serious debt distress before the health crisis struck, are now in a perilous economic situation often forced to make life and death choices between servicing their debt and the provision of healthcare for their citizens.
It is in response to this situation of acute need that we strongly urge you to look to the world’s wealthiest sector and raise extra revenue through comprehensive levies on, to-date, seriously under-taxed financial transactions in shares, bonds, derivatives and foreign exchange. Limited FTTs already exist in 9 of the G-20 countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, South Africa, UK and US), predominantly levied at very low rates on equity trading. We propose that countries without FTTs introduce them immediately and those with FTTs both increase tax rates and extend the scope of the tax base to other assets. In so doing, additional revenue of the order of $100 billion could be generated on an annual basis, at least 50% of which should be devoted to developing countries to support health, education and to strengthen preparedness for future pandemics, with the other 50% spent to assist those most in need at home, particularly in the protection and provision of employment. With regard to solidarity funding to poorest countries, we urge that revenue from FTTs is over and above Official Development Assistance and ring-fenced to pay for public goods, not returned in the form of debt repayments.
Introducing FTTs in this manner complements and builds upon recent agreements to implement a minimum corporate tax rate. Both measures are long overdue and timely, as well as popular. The finance sector has continued to fare strongly and even to thrive despite the pandemic and can afford this extra tax burden. FTTs can be designed to fall on intermediaries rather than pension funds and small investors to ensure constituencies, such as older age groups, are not disadvantaged. Importantly, good tax design prevents tax avoidance by making the location of trading irrelevant to the capture of the tax receipt. As the precedents from current FTTs demonstrate, tax collection is quick and simple due to the automation of financial markets.
The existence of FTTs in numerous countries around the world is testament to their feasibility and desirability. What is required at this juncture is your political will to implement FTTs comprehensively without delay to create greater economic stability and generate income at scale for the benefit of millions in both developed and, particularly, developing countries. Surely this is the time for the world’s richest market to make a far greater contribution to those most in need both domestically and across the globe.
Signed by hundreds
The Modern Tecumseh and the Future of the U.S. Left
Posted Jun 17, 2021 by Bill Fletcher, Jr.
On Monthly Review.
This essay is inspired by Gramsci’s thinking on matters of history, strategy, and organization. This essay does not, however, attempt to mirror Gramsci’s works but rather borrows from the spirit of his thinking to grapple with the challenges facing the socialist left in the twenty-first-century United States. Though I believe that some of what I write here has broader applicability, my target audience are leftists within the United States. In part for this reason, I will be using a different historical allegory in order to make a series of points concerning those challenges.
The Contemporary U.S. Left and the Tecumseh Challenge
To a great extent, strategy—or perhaps better said, the absence of strategy—haunts the U.S. left. What generally passes for strategy are usually a set of slogans, such as “United Front Against Imperialism” and “Unite the 99%,” rather than anything that approaches a plan. The reasons for this are numerous, but they seem to come down to two principal features: (1) an absence of appreciation of the actual history of the United States and (2) a failure to grapple with the nature of the “moment” or conjuncture in which we live. As a result, the left finds itself responding to events, much like a ship without either radar or a rudder, caught in a storm.
As with Tecumseh, one needs to aim to develop a set of strategic objectives that will guide the actual strategy or plan necessary to succeed. The objectives cannot pop out of the air but must be grounded, as noted above, historically and conjuncturally.
The starting point is to clarify what one means by strategy, when discussed in a left context.
Strategy is, in its fundamentals, a plan for the disposition of forces to achieve an objective or set of objectives within a given period. A strategy, in political or military contexts, assumes an understanding, to borrow from Sun Tzu, of oneself and one’s opponent. But it also necessitates an identification of one’s real and potential allies, as well as real and potential opponents. A strategy must identify, to borrow from V. I. Lenin, the key link in order to undermine an opponent and achieve victory.
It is not possible to speak about a general left strategy, but it is possible to speak of a strategy to which one wishes to win a critical mass of the left to adopt. There is no general left strategy because the left is not monolithic and is far from unified. Given the multiple tendencies, from anarchists to social democrats to democratic socialists to variants of communists, there are not necessarily common assumptions about strategy. Thus, the battle for strategy is the battle to win agreement or a consensus within a critical mass of the left and through which to influence the broader mass movements.
Who Are “We”? Part OneEvery progressive movement of resistance (to oppression) or progressive—if not revolutionary—movement for social transformation must establish who, meaning what sectors, are at the core of the movement, and what social movements and social sectors are at varying distances from the core. In this sense, the “we” must be constantly clarified and, in fact, changes in different periods of struggle depending on the nature of the opponent, a point reiterated by Mao Zedong throughout the Chinese Revolution.
Tecumseh understood this and set as his mission the clarification of the “we” in the context of the first decade of the nineteenth century. The “we” were the Indigenous peoples. This was based on a recognition that despite contradictions that had historically existed between various Indigenous nations, the situation facing them represented the principal contradiction between themselves and the invading white settlers from the newly formed United States.
A Marxist understanding of intersectionality places an emphasis on overdetermination and the intersection of different systems of oppressions and social movements (that oppose them), which, at various moments, result in multilayered social struggles. Whether an individual perceives one’s self to be principally gay or lesbian, Black or mixed, Latinx or Afro-Latinx, is secondary to the manner in which oppressions come together and affect the consciousness and social practice of different groups of people. This is also critically important in understanding that, in every social movement, the multiple contradictions are acting out and cannot be put on “hold” pending the resolution of the principal contradiction. They must be both acknowledged and addressed in the way the principal contradiction is tackled. The failure to do so, as has been seen in myriad social movements, such as anticolonial struggles, ultimately results in major setbacks, indeed retrogression.
Who Are “We”? Part Two
I say: Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.
When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal.
If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.17
As a left, and particularly as the socialist left, who is our constituency? Or, to put it in terms analogous to those of both Tecumseh and Mao, who are “the people”?
The socialist left (and the subset of the communist left) in the United States have largely seen the working class as “the people.” The working class is our base and other sectors are extraneous, a summary of an approach frequently taken. During the Third Period (1928–35) of the Communist International, this approach was framed as a “class-against-class” analysis, that is, the working class against the capitalists.
Over time, a broader sense of “the people” has been tossed around, but one of the difficulties is that it sometimes is done in a way that deemphasizes particular struggles or social movements. This is especially the case with regard to racist and national oppression. Thus, struggles seem to be a laundry list.
There have been some interesting exceptions or attempts at an alternative framing. The 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement ingeniously articulated the “99 percent” against the “1 percent” as a means of giving “the people” a designation with which so many could identify. Though the percentages do not accurately capture the social base within which the so-called 1 percent or the plutocrats operate, it did emphasize the majoritarian nature of the movement that Occupy was attempting to build.18Certainly, there were limitations, including the tendency to avoid the subdivisions—for lack of a better term—that exist among the so-called 99 percent, such as race, nationality, and gender. That said, it succeeded in becoming a mass identification and one can convincingly argue that it ultimately had an impact on the 2012 presidential elections.
From the standpoint of the socialist left, one must ask: Which segments of society have a revolutionary interest in opposing capitalism? This question is not as easily answered as it may first appear. We are not asking which segments have an interest in profound structural reforms.
What does one mean by a “revolutionary interest”? Simply put, it means that the major challenges this sector faces cannot be successfully resolved within the framework of capitalism. It does not mean, however, that reforms and improvements under capitalism are impossible.
Looking at it in these terms, the workers’ movement, women’s movement, social movements of color, movements under the rubric of gender justice and the environmental movement each represent constituencies whose interests cannot be resolved by capitalism.
As you will notice, this referred to movements as opposed to straight demographics.19The reason is that within each demographic group there are segments whose interests can be “resolved” within the framework of capitalism. Marx, Engels, and Lenin each recognized that there were segments of the working class that had a material interest in supporting capitalism and imperialism, resulting ultimately in the notion of a labor aristocracy. This term must be understood politically rather than sociologically. Even some workers in the so-called labor aristocracy are exploited and produce surplus value, in the manner that Marx and Engels described theoretically. Yet, that exploitation did not necessarily result in promoting internationalism or a revolutionary spirit on the part of workers in this sector. There were other factors that intervened.
National Left Political OrganizationIn A World to Build: New Paths Toward Twenty-First-Century Socialism, the late theorist Marta Harnecker makes a strong and convincing argument for the need for leftist political organization.25 She speaks of a “political instrument,” by which she is speaking of a leftist organization or party. I will not repeat her arguments.
Tecumseh and his work are relevant here. What we can learn from Tecumseh, paralleling Harnecker’s arguments, is the need for a core to move the political project. The political project is much larger than the core and more diffuse. Our political project is ultimately the construction of a bloc (to be discussed later) that advances socialism as an alternative to a patriarchal, racist settler state at the heart of a global capitalist empire.
Prophetstown can be misunderstood as something akin to a utopian commune. It was more of a base area or liberated zone where new practices were introduced in the construction of an Indigenous identity, while at the same time laying the foundation for a major confrontation with the encroaching settler state—the United States. Prophetstown, then, despite the spirituality that surrounded “the Prophet,” was not a home to a closed-off millenarianism awaiting the end of the world. In some respects, one can argue that it existed to prove that it could exist; that another world, in the here and now, was possible.
A national leftist organization cannot be all things to all left wingers. Fundamentally, it must be revolutionary, Marxist, and democratic in its goals as well as practice. Its revolutionary politics need to be not only the politics of social transformation, but the politics of individual transformation. The creation of a new identity that can infuse the popular democratic bloc that needs to be created on the scale of millions of people. It does this in the material (ideological, political, economic) context of imperialism, so it cannot create “socialist relations” through force of will. And it must be a fighting organization—which is part of what a base area does: nurtures the will, ability, and security to fight.
The identity that the national leftist organization seeks for its members is that of comrade, and it seeks to build a counter-state—a “popular democracy”—to the patriarchal, settler capitalist state.
To build and operate as a core, one must review the historical experience of various left projects from the mid–nineteenth century forward. To a great extent, in both the Global North and South, left projects have tended to oscillate between, on the one hand, stage-driven reformism, and, on the other, voluntarism. In both cases, organized left projects have made assumptions about themselves and their own role in the greater process of social transformation. Rather than as a catalyst and educator, even reformist projects have tended to see themselves through a quasi-military lens, for example, as the “general staff.” While such a self-conception makes perfect sense in a military situation (like a civil war), in a non-war situation or in a moment after having won governing power or state power, such a view is laden with landmines.26
The national left organization or party is not the source of all wisdom. A source of education, training, coordination, organizing, and reflection—yes. The national left organization is not infallible. Its leadership of struggles and movements must be won and rewon, as the Communist Party of China demonstrated during their period of renovation in Yenan, and is actualized through self-criticism and rectification.
A national left organization must be rooted within the oppressed and dispossessed, particularly but not exclusively the working class. In the absence of such rooting, a national left organization exists as an advocacy group or support group for the struggles of the oppressed and dispossessed, rather than functioning as an integral component of such struggles. When people have historically utilized the term sectarian, it has meant not simply a factional attitude toward others, but equally an organizational existence lacking a mass base (regardless of intentions).
The project of the national left organization must be something far greater than building itself. This is where the U.S. left frequently stumbles. It tends to think too small about a task that necessitates a level of organization that cannot be counted in the dozens or even hundreds. But it, equally, cannot be a project that is undertaken by a loose assortment of activists.
The Popular Democratic BlocIn one sense, Tecumseh, Gramsci, and Mao similarly perceived the need for a broader configuration of forces capable of bringing about revolutionary change. They each had terminology to describe this configuration, and it related, ultimately, to the matter of collective identity.27
For Tecumseh, the Indigenous confederacy may have been a step toward a nation-state. What is clear, however, is that Prophetstown served as a model for what Tecumseh believed to be the necessary configuration and identity of a new Indigenous alignment.
Gramsci emphasized the need for a “national-popular bloc” as the necessary element in the transformation of Italy, with the Modern Prince playing a key role in materializing this bloc. The national-popular bloc refers to a strategic configuration of the key essential forces for whom there is an interest in revolutionary transformation. Noteworthy here is that Gramsci did not restrict the process of social transformation to the working class alone. Though the working class would be essential, Gramsci recognized the need for the Italian peasantry and, quite explicitly, the bridging of the north/south divide in Italy.
….The historical challenge for the left in the United States is the conducting of a revolutionary struggle in the context of a racial settler state, one which became a subcontinental geographic empire and, eventually, the hub of a global empire. The construction of the United States as a settler state involved the near extermination of the Indigenous nations; enslavement of Africans; the seizure of northern Mexico; the seizure of territories formerly controlled by Spain, such as Puerto Rico, Philippines, Guam; the racialization of certain immigrant populations from what we now know as the Global South; and the imposition of racist and national oppression successfully implemented through a system of white privilege.28
The social transformation of the United States, while certainly necessitating the vigorous prosecution of reform struggle, will demand both a reconfiguration of the United States itself, as well as the construction of a strategic bloc invested in social transformation.30 For the purposes of this essay, I refer to this as the popular democratic bloc, not a term I originated but one that accurately describes the alignment.
Tecumseh appreciated that the multiple tribes willing to sign onto his proposed confederacy had various—and often times contradictory—demands and objectives. They also had histories of lengthy hostility with other tribes/nations. The confederacy was a means and instrument toward addressing those contradictions as well as focusing the collective fury of the Indigenous nations on the encroaching settler state.
The popular democratic bloc to be constructed needs an identity, and it is the role of the national left organization to help construct that identity as a way of making the bloc self-aware. Ironically, by the estimates of noted right-wing commentator Bill O’Reilly several years ago, approximately three in ten people in the United States were open to an alternative to capitalism. Factoring out people under the age of 18, one may be discussing more than seventy million people. The problem is that most forces on the U.S. left do not think in those terms, but the reality is that seventy million is the initial pool for the building of a historic bloc.
Though the popular democratic bloc must think in majoritarian terms, it cannot assume that it is the majority. Put another way, the popular democratic bloc is a critical mass of the population that ultimately moves in favor of social transformation. It must win over or significantly influence more center and middle forces to defeat the right. But waiting for any majority to materialize in opinion polls will be an eternal challenge.
In the U.S. War of Independence, for instance, the colonial population—contrary to myth—broke down roughly one-third in favor of independence, one-third opposed, and one-third in the middle. Thus, the key task ended up being the influencing of the middle through the construction of a strong and energized pro-independence constituency.
Contemporary leftist politics necessitates a similar outlook. The securing of a popular democratic bloc, however, is not a numerical or even demographic task—in the main—but rather a coalescing of social movements that see in the materialization of the popular democratic bloc the means to achieve success for their respective social movements. Additionally, the bloc must have the “face” and “spirit” of these social movements at its core, rather than treating these social movements as guests on a high-speed train over which they have no control.
The popular democratic bloc begins to materialize in the context of actual struggles and a growing awareness of the mutual necessity of various social movements. This is not something that one can expect will happen on its own. This cannot be overemphasized. The sense that many people on the U.S. left have of the 1930s as a relatively progressive decade was not, mainly, about the reforms introduced, but rather about the social movements that converged and saw a level of commonality in their struggles, thus forcing elements of the ruling class to undertake reforms.
It is the task of the national left organization to help unite the struggles and social movements through a combination of education, coordination, and joint action. Expecting that the popular democratic bloc will emerge on its own, become self-aware, and achieve strategic direction is delusional. There is no historic basis for believing such a thing can or will happen. One can see examples of this challenge in the Black Lives Matter movement, which reemerged in the aftermath of the murder of Minnesota resident George Floyd by the police. The protests and rebellions proved to be multiracial and global, but they also inspired other racialized populations in the United States to articulate their own struggles against racism, national oppression, and repression. The Black Lives Matter struggle became not only a struggle of U.S. African Americans, but also a catalyst for a broader movement.31 What has been missing are organizational forms that materialize this broader unity, and organizational forms that practice a type of revolutionary, emancipatory politics that helps bring such a unity into existence.
It then becomes the task of the “Modern Tecumseh”—the national left organization—to lead in the building of this popular democratic bloc. To borrow from Gramsci’s commentary on Machiavelli, the Modern Tecumseh is not and cannot be a person. It must be an organization that is driven by the recognition that winning—defeating capitalism and all forms of oppression—necessitates the building of the popular democratic bloc. Thus, diplomacy, education, coordination, joint action, and so on, initiated or joined by the national left organization with the purpose of creating a self-aware and massive force that advances the process of social transformation, are key.
…Returning to Matters of StrategyThe principal contradiction we face in the United States is between the forces of the “New Confederacy” and the forces of democracy. To be clear, the forces of the oppressed have two main enemies: neoliberal authoritarianism and the New Confederacy. The New Confederacy or Neo-Confederacy refers to an alliance between ultraconservative corporate capitalists and a right-wing populist mass movement (a core of neofascists can be found within the latter). Their efforts include rolling back the victories of the twentieth century and establishing a twenty-first century version of the Confederate States of America or a neo-apartheid scenario. Neoliberal authoritarians seek a preemptive strike against the popular movements that they anticipate will grow in strength in response to the crisis of converging economic and environmental catastrophe.
The neo-Confederate wing of capital represents the most immediate threat.37
Framing the principal contradiction in this way indicates that, regardless of the powerful rhetoric about “socialism versus barbarism,” in the United States we are not at the point of an immediate fight for socialism. This is largely due to a combination of a fragmented working class (and popular movements), a weak and divided left (operating within the context of the continuing crisis of socialism), and the horrific threat of right-wing authoritarianism that, though a global phenomenon, in the case of the United States is the result of the defeat of key social movements in the early-to-mid 1970s, and a counterrevolutionary thrust of racist and patriarchal forces aligned with key segments of capital.
It is important to remember that the principal contradiction does not mean the only contradiction. It reflects the strategic contradiction that will most influence all other contradictions at a specific conjuncture. As noted earlier, it acts on and is always acted on by other contradictions. There is, therefore, no linear resolution to a principal contradiction.
A second feature of our situation is that the left generally, and the socialist left in particular, is on the strategic defensive. Drawing from Mao, this means that our opponents—capital and their political forces—have been on the move against the popular movements and the reform victories of the twentieth century since the 1970s. The political right has been eating away at the various gains that popular movements have won. In response, the victories that the “people” have won in the last forty years have been largely tactical and sometimes primarily symbolic. They have not yet seriously interrupted the offensive of the right.
Being on the strategic defensive, however, is not the equivalent of being routed, even though our movements were largely defeated in the 1970s. It means that the momentum has mainly been in the hands of the right. And, with the growth of neoliberalism, a rogue’s gallery assumed form, bringing together elements of the political right in an objective united front against the progressive movements.
Tactical victories have been won while we have been on the strategic defensive, including around LGBTQIA rights, and some immigrant rights, but none of this has seized the initiative away from the right. At least not yet.
In a situation of strategic defense, priority must be given to understanding and undermining the strategy of our opponents. Undermine the strategy of one’s opponent and one has undermined one’s opponent.
This is where matters become especially complicated since the political right is not one monolithic monster. The forces that formed the core of what became the New Right were ultraconservative (and in some cases crypto-fascists), with either secular or religious ambitions, that have sought to overturn the major progressive victories of the twentieth century. There has been a specific focus on overturning the victories of oppressed nationalities, racialized populations, and women, in addition to undermining the public sector and labor.
These reactionary movements arose prior to the full materialization of neoliberalism, but coalesced with the pro-neoliberal forces in the Republican Party. This coalescing came to be personified by the presidency of Ronald Reagan. The Democratic Party establishment increasingly embraced neoliberal economics, but demographically diversified because of the impact of the progressive social movements of the 1960s and ’70s on the Democratic Party itself.38
…Beginning during the period of the Barack Obama administration, ultraconservative capitalists have been quite successful in mobilizing a mass right-wing populist movement to advance neoliberalism. The presidency of Donald Trump demonstrated this. Despite his rhetoric, which frequently tried to center (white) “working people,” his initiatives advanced both the neoliberal agenda as well as his own objectives. Tying all of this to a racist, xenophobic program, he solidified a mass base, the core of which is approximately 25 percent of the electorate; a program which one might describe as the reaffirmation of the “white republic” or, as earlier stated, a campaign for a neo-apartheid state in the United States.
The destruction of the right-wing populist movement, and the New Confederacy, necessitates a combination of driving a wedge between that movement’s base and the ultraconservative capitalists, building a left populist current that is antiracist and antisexist rooted among working people with a particular focus on the achievement of a so-called Green New Deal.
An assessment of the right-wing populist base must distinguish between those who are confused and vacillating versus those who fully embrace the right-wing populist framework. To win over a segment of this base, genuine organizing must take place among this portion of the population, including but not limited to rural areas, as well as within segments of the working class. This, for instance, makes union organizing in the South and the Southwest of immense importance as a means of building “base areas” for progressive politics. That said, the approach toward union organizing must itself be transformed such that not only are the strategies novel, but so too must be the vision. This is what Fernando Gapasin and I were addressing in our book, Solidarity Divided.40
The great and immediate priority, however, is for the socialist left to cohere organizationally (building a national left organization) and to focus our attention on a counter-project. Specifically, we need to build a popular democratic bloc that is majoritarian in orientation, antiracist and antisexist in program and practice, and most immediately fights in favor of a progressive, democratic foreign policy, breaking with imperial privilege, and focuses on advancing the fight for the Third Reconstruction with a particular emphasis on winning a Green New Deal. Such a movement can reject both the neo-Confederacy as well as the neoliberal approach taken by the leaderships of both major parties.
Disrupting the strategy of our opponents necessitates tactical innovation and creativity. This includes, in the immediate, anti-voter suppression work, particularly in the South and Southwest; battles for Indigenous sovereignty; union organizing and labor struggles that challenge income, wealth inequality, and authoritarian workplaces; land occupation and anti-eviction struggles; challenges to police abuse and other forms of repression; and electoral campaigns in low turnout conservative districts. These constitute a variety of means to disrupt the other side. In essence, the progressive forces serve to become the unpredictable irritant.
To begin to shift the balance of forces, the progressive—left populist—movement must focus on an achievable objective: “governing power” in municipalities, counties, and eventually states. “Governing power” references winning progressive power within the context of so-called democratic capitalism rather than “state power,” the latter referencing the period of being the dominant force in moving postcapitalist, fundamental social transformation. To put it more directly, the fight for governing power is what we do now, as part of our effort to build the Third Reconstruction and defeat the New Confederacy. This does not assume the immediate end to capitalism. The fight for “state power,” however, is the longer-term fight to advance full social transformation away from capitalism under the leadership of the oppressed, including but not limited to the working class.
New Majority, a term that began to appear in the early 2000s and came to be associated with projects in Virginia and Florida, or Twenty-First-Century Majority, are good frames and identities for the left populist—structural reform—movement that needs to be constructed. The New Majority must be the mass base of the Third Reconstruction. This term expresses the reality of something different coming into being—particularly the rise of various social forces and movements—and the refusal to be seen as a minority or adjunct social force. The New Majority must push the limits of democratic capitalism under the banner of the fight for consistent democracy. New Majority, a term primarily used in different forms in the context of electoral efforts, can be applied to other social movements and be the identity or standard under which progressive social movements converge.
The New Majority (or left/progressive bloc) needs to win power in cities and counties but cannot afford to be limited to an urban movement. Therefore, eyeing political power at the state level becomes critical. A successful Republican ploy to undermine liberals and progressives in major urban centers has been “state preemption,” that is, limiting the ability of localities to undertake statutory reforms in the absence of the approval of state legislatures. Thus, a strategy to win must engage urban, suburban, and rural populations in the constitution of the New Majority.
Potential ImplicationsThe national left organization must be seen as the instrument that seeks to bring together the popular democratic bloc, to build a collective leadership of this bloc, and an organization that seeks to be among the leaders of this bloc. This last phrasing is critically important. The national left organization should not see itself as the sole instrument for the achievement of social transformation. The national left organization may take the form of a party for socialism or a revolutionary front, but it must assume that any leadership that it gains is earned through the struggle and the respect that the organization gains and not through self-aggrandizement or administrative methods.
The national left organization is the “Modern Tecumseh” precisely because of its strategic vision, diplomatic skill, antisectarianism, ability to forge a broad front or bloc, programmatic wisdom, and scope of work.
Finally, the national left organization must be multitendencied, in that there are many questions that simply cannot be resolved at present. Those questions that are necessary to forge a strategy covering this period must be bottom lines. Put in a different way, what are the questions or issues around which there must be unity in order for a national left organization or party to be effective? There are many issues that can certainly divide us. There are issues that may not be resolvable in the near future. The unity of the socialist left necessitates clarification as to what must unite us. There are myriad historical questions that may be of interest but cannot be resolved at this point and, truth be told, are simply not essential to unite around in order to advance the work—in the shorter term—of the socialist left.
By Way of ConclusionTecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames in 1813. His dream of an Indigenous confederacy largely died with him. Yet his appreciation of the moment and the possibilities for transformation lived on and should give us all pause. The skillful crafting of organization and the building of the Indigenous confederacy held unbelievable potential that could have fundamentally shifted the subsequent history of the United States.
The question of timing is the matter that I have always found to be the most haunting. At what point is it too late to shift the balance of forces? Is there ever a point where one concludes that victory has eluded us? And, if so, then what? Or is it that there are opportunities during specific “strategic moments” that are largely unpredictable and unprecedented, not replicable in other periods?
As far as Tecumseh was concerned, the situation was all or nothing. Given the convergence of the economic and environmental crises, such a formulation nearly sums up our situation as we proceed further into the twenty-first century. Either the socialist left can reverse a strategic defensive into a strategic counteroffensive, ultimately laying the foundations for the advancement toward socialism, or the masses of the laboring classes are condemned to be crushed by the juggernaut of capital and the barbarism inherent in right-wing populism and neofascism.
There does not appear to be any middle ground.
I wish to thank Tom Goodkind and Joel Haycock for their feedback and editing; and Howard Waitzkin for his editing assistance. I take sole responsibility for the content of this essay.
Notes ( Additional notes in the original.)1.↩A story within a story; using a story to make a separate point.
2.↩Antonio Gramsci,Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971).
3.↩Gramsci,Selections from the Prison Notebooks, 123–205.
4.↩Constitutionally democratic capitalismrefers to a form the state can take under capitalism when there are democratic rules in place, but the system operates to enforce capitalism. In speaking aboutdemocratic capitalism, I am distinguishing a system from that of autarchy, dictatorship, fascism, and so on.
5.↩Throughout this essay, I use the termIndigenousconsistently, rather thanNative American,American Indian, and so forth. Although most Indigenous peoples, like many other groups, refer more readily to their own social groupings such as clans and tribes,Indigenoushas emerged as a useful general term that contains less adverse symbolism than other terms. Other terms are used (and I have as well in other places), respectfully, in referencing the Indigenous in the Americas. No criticism of other terms is implicit in my usage ofIndigenous.
About Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Bill Fletcher Jr. is a longtime socialist, trade unionist, and internationalist. He is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, an editorial board member of the Black Commentator, and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. He is the author of several books including Solidarity Divided (coauthored with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) and “They’re Bankrupting Us!”—And Twenty Other Myths About Unions.
Posted with the permission of the author.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
by José G. Pérez,
At first glance the proposed DSA platform seems to be a semi-organized collection demands where calls for a constitutional convention hang out with petitions for a little better funding for education. From that point of view, it is harmless albeit not useful. Its role would seem to be a sandbox for the delegates to play in while the cool kids – the ones who lead the caucuses-- fight it out behind everyone’s back.
But there is another side to the platform, its strategic core, and that is denying the agency of oppressed people except as part of “the multiracial working class,” which in reality is dominated by white people and white interests.
The easiest way to see this is to compare the hyping of the “labor movement,” (which has been in an uninterrupted decline since I was a kid, and I’m now on Medicare) with what it says about the Black movement.
The document singles out “the importance of a vibrant, fighting labor movement,” asserting this “cannot be overstated,” and moreover claiming to see “the rise of a fighting spirit” among workers and admonishing:
It is imperative that DSA members fan that flame, by taking rank-and-file union jobs, organizing new unions in their workplaces, building reform caucuses that fight for democracy in their unions, and providing support to workers on strike. It will take a huge fight to win any improvement to the lives of working class people. An organized, militant working class is the only force capable of winning these fights. [Emphasis added]
But ask yourself: what has been more significant in the last couple of years in the United States: strikes and union organizing drives or Black Lives Matter? So why does the platform explicitly bring up teachers strikes but does not even mention the George Floyd protests?
Where was the “organized, militant working class” in last summer’s movement? Where were the union banners and union contingents in the marches? How many union leaders got arrested? And I must have missed the ringing, fighting proclamations from the AFL-CIO.
I hold that the working class was there, in the streets, in the form of a mass upsurge against killer cops led by Blacks as a people. But not as a “militant working class” organized by the unions that the class-reductionist wing of the DSA fantasizes about.
And having just turned 70, I ask myself: what has been more important in my lifetime, in actually changing the United States, union battles or the Black liberation movement?
And in changing the world in my lifetime? So-called “labor,” or the national movements of oppressed and colonial peoples?
You might object, but these struggles of oppressed nationalities like Black people are actually also expressions of class struggles. That is exactly my point.
So find me where the platform says the DSA must unconditionally support Black Lives Matter as a movement, or the Latino movement or the immigrant movement? It doesn’t.
The sole active protagonist that the DSA platform identifies with in the United States is the “multiracial working class”.
We strive for the emancipation of all people by forging the multiracial working class into an organized, fighting force on the terms of its most oppressed members.
The phrase “in the terms of its most oppressed members” is a lie. That’s never been true of the U.S. labor movement, which has thrown Blacks, Latinos and women under the bus at every opportunity to secure gains --or at least the mirage of gains-- for unionized workers.
Why were farmworkers and domestic workers excluded from protection under labor law? Why were states in the South and Southwest allowed to keep anti-union “right to work” laws?
These were “compromises” to secure relative privileges for union workers in the rest of the country --overwhelmingly white union workers.
The operative part of the platform, when it discusses specifically where and how people should organize, says that the only real progressive movement of strategic significance is the union movement.
All other movements are implicitly denied, even if they are not explicitly denounced.
But think of how much focus and care it must have taken to produce an 8,000-word, 21-page putatively “socialist” platform in the United States in 2021 and not have the phrase “Black Lives Matter” pop up anywhere in the document.
That absence is not an accident, but a conscious choice, and it tells us the real political thrust of the platform: the rest is just cover-your-ass verbiage.
A bad document may seem like no big deal. The real problem is that the platform faithfully reflects the DSA’s actual practice, both as a national organization and in my chapter.
Our sole national priority is the PRO Act when it could not possibly have been clearer that the central issue in U.S. politics today, around which everything else hinges, including the PRO Act, is voting rights. Because the PRO Act is just a “messaging bill,” a glorified leaflet, until and unless the filibuster is smashed. And the one issue which might break the filibuster is voting rights.
So the very week the first big battle around voting rights came to a head in Georgia, the Atlanta DSA Chapter voted to make our priority phone banking for the PRO Act.
In what is above, I have mostly used the example of Black struggles, but let me add this.
First, the DSA’s class-reductionism impacts everything because what is denied is the legitimacy and autonomy of all independent movements.
Second, specifically in relation to oppressed peoples, there is a chauvinist tendency in the DSA to liquidate the specific, distinct struggles of different nationalities into racialized abstractions like “BIPOC.”
This isn’t just wrong but offensive. Latinos are not now, nor have we ever been “People of Color” as the American racial construct would have it. And this has very clear reflections in the platform.
The first draft of the platform did not even mention Latinos once, not with an “x” or an “e” at the end, or even under the name Hispanics. This second draft mentions Latinos twice, in both cases to liquidate our specific issues into the anglo BIPOC construct.
Decarceration and eventual abolition of the carceral state, which disproportionately targets and impacts Black, Latino, Indigenous, and other people of color.
Establish community based response systems, entirely seperated from the carceral state, in order respond to targeted anti-asian, anti-latino, antisemitic, anti-black, anti-indigenous, islamaphobic, and all types of racist violence.
Notice the phrase “racist violence.” But an everyday aggression against Latinos has nothing to do with “race,” it has to do with language. Latinos are systematically ostracized, persecuted and even violently attacked for speaking Spanish.
Latinos are not a “race,” we are a people defined by common elements of origin, language and culture. Our oppression as a people is intimately and centrally tied to U.S. imperialist domination of Latin America and our language and culture.
And for that reason, I consider this document as one more an anglo insult against my people.
I very much fear the DSA’s blindness to its white and anglo chauvinism is going to doom the organization. Voting down this platform will not fix it, but it would be a start.
José G. Pérez, Atlanta.
As you may know DSA will hold its national convention on Aug.1-8. The convention will consider resolutions and a proposed platform as well as elect a new National Political Committee.
Today we are asking you to participate in deciding key issues of concern for the North Star delegation at the DSA national convention. We invite and request your input.
A subcommittee of the NS steering committee made up of Mark Schaeffer and Michael A. Dover have studied the resolutions proposed for the convention and have recommended which we should support and which we should oppose. The reflected upon recommendations will be sent to the delegates for their consideration.
The list is here.
It includes links to each resolution so you can refer to the actual resolution text.
We ask that you read the resolutions. We encourage all to use our list serve for open discussion of the resolutions you find important. Please share your views, your qualms, your reservations about specific resolutions.
To encourage you. This is a sample of what you will find on the link above.
Resolution (full text available here)
#1: Resolution on the Defense of Immigrants and Refugees
#2: Formation of a National Committee for Reparations to Black People
#3: Empowering DSA’s Mass Abolition Work
#4: Mass Campaign for Voting Rights
How to share;
Respond to the dsa list serve.
Add a title: ie. Response to resolution #3.
Sign your name in the post so that all will know who is speaking.
After a few days of discussion, we will send a separate e mail asking that you rank the five resolutions you regard as most important for NS to take a position on. You will receive an e mail with that link. We do not intend to take a position on each of the resolutions. We want to know which ones are most important to you.
The document is also attached below as a pdf.
After open discussion and priority ranking, the steering committee will make some recommendations to the NS delegates. The delegates will have the final word and they will vote on the resolutions. We anticipate substantial agreement among the North Star delegates. We will share the recommendations we make with the list.
Please read and discuss the resolutions. And, wait for the e mail offering a rank order process.
Duane Campbell, for
North Star Steering Committee