Trump Made Socialism Great Again: The president has disrupted democratic complacency, and that’s a good thingShadi Hamid, Aug. 15, 2018
The election of Trump?—?and the populist upsurge he helped encourage?—?has confirmed that politics is no longer the art of the possible, but the improbable. If Trump can win the highest office in the land, then why can’t the rest of us run for something, too? Why shouldn’t a 33-year old Egyptian-American named Abdul run for Michigan governor? Why shouldn’t a 28-year old, who was only a bartender a year ago, defeat a Democratic establishment stalwart? And why shouldn’t that person say, without shame or apology, that she’s a socialist?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary-election victory, coming on the heels of Bernie Sanders’s insurgent presidential campaign, has thrust “socialism” into the center of the American political conversation. Ideas once dismissed as radical are now gaining a hearing. Fights are raging within the Democratic Party, and on the political left. And that reinvigorated debate?—?and the other political conflicts Trump has inflamed?—?may be one of Trump’s more unlikely and ultimately positive contributions to American democracy.
Few people would say that conflict is a thing to be embraced. The usual assumption is that conflict and polarization undermine democracy. We hear paeans to civility, unity, and coming together as a nation. But conflict, or at least the threat of it, can be a powerful motivator.
If a government has no fear that the poor might one day revolt, then it will have few incentives to check the excesses of the rich. If elected leaders have no fear that they might lose the minority vote, they will have little reason to take racism as seriously as they should. If established parties have no fear that populist parties might take their place, they will have little reason to rethink their basic approach to politics. Without pressure from populist challengers, centrist parties will avoid addressing sensitive issues, instead postponing them until crisis hits. And crisis almost certainly does.
This confusion around the desirability of conflict makes it difficult to assess how well or poorly the world’s most established democracies are faring, now that nearly every one of them has been significantly affected (with Portugal being a notable exception). As some would have it, America, along with large chunks of Europe, is on the verge of dictatorship from which it may never recover.
If you view the very election of Trump?—?to say nothing of what he’s actually done in office?—?as an “extinction-level event,” then alarmism is precisely what’s called for: the more, the better. But I, for one, do not believe that Trump is anything more than damaging and destructive?—?as bad as that is. Two or six years from now, America will emerge with considerable damage, but intact. And by then, the experience of having lived under Trump will produce other consequences, some of them positive. In fact, it’s already producing them.
Trumpism?—?or some variation of the populist-nationalism that has proved so compelling from Italy and Poland to Israel and India?—?will survive Trump. The ideas of this visceral but vague populism?—?obsessed with demographic change and trafficking in proposals that only 4 years ago would have been beyond the pale?—?are almost entirely unconcerned with the norms of what was, up until 2016, a somewhat narrow mainstream consensus.
As Ben Judah wrote recently, a door has been opened: “Because by embracing everything about Donald Trump, [the Right] has embraced the idea that something is terribly wrong with America, and that the country needs big, beautiful solutions for terrible, awful problems. When the Right becomes populist, embraces deficits, dunks on free trade, and rails against elites, it suddenly becomes a lot tougher for it to ridicule a populist Left that is credibly offering more.”
Where Trump told voters that he (and only he) would “make America great again,” Hillary Clinton countered by saying “America was already great.” America is already great, but the problem with making that the theme of a national campaign is that it promises only minor variations of the status quo. Clinton?—?and so many of the center-left and center-right candidates hoping to forestall populist challengers?—?offered voters stability in a time of instability. Experiencing Trump on a daily basis tends to help one appreciate the prospect of once again being bored by politics. But stability, particularly in the long run, is an overrated political good that can actually forestall the kinds of deep changes that every society needs from time to time.
Another way of viewing it, and probably the easier way, is to see Trump as an accident of history and not something to ponder too deeply. Since the results could have easily been otherwise?—?had, say, James Comey not issued his letter in those final, critical days?—?there is no particular reason to shift our view of politics or democracy. To view Trump’s election as an extinction-level event is to argue, in effect, that the solution to Trump is self-evident: his removal from office. Politics can then return to at least some degree of normalcy. If Trump, however, is a product of a political order that is fundamentally broken, then the need for radical, unusual, or at least out-of-the-mainstream proposals becomes just as necessary if and when Trump loses?—?or even if he hadn’t won in the first place.
Civility and consensus are only possible in homogeneous societies with a strong, shared national identity, something that the United States and most European countries can no longer claim. In diverse societies, where citizens no long agree on the common good, conflict and polarization are unavoidable. Like conflict, the word radical is usually used pejoratively, signifying chaos and disorder. But like conflict, radicalism isn’t necessarily bad, particularly if it allows a larger number of citizens to feel they have a stake in their own society. It also leaves open the possibility that ideas that were once considered unacceptable can be accepted. Some unacceptable ideas are unacceptable for a reason. Some, though, are not.
Today, ideas that were once considered radical and even politically suicidal, like same-sex marriage, are now so culturally pervasive that it’s hard to remember that they were once only held by a small minority. (As recently as 2009, President Barack Obama, despite his seeming private openness to gay marriage, was unwilling to endorse it publicly). It’s precisely through radical voices that the bounds of what’s politically and socially possible expands. At one point in American history, for example, the abolition of slavery was seen as outside the bounds of what was possible or acceptable. Through Bernie Sanders’s presidential candidacy, the idea of single-payer universal health care became normalized, shifting the entire debate around health-care provision onto what many Americans would consider a more moral foundation. (Of course, many other Americans see it as an unacceptable intrusion on the part of the state.)
To find a silver lining to this disruption of political complacency is not to excuse Trump. The families torn apart at the border; those who have lost their healthcare; the communities that will be polluted by environmental disaster; or the millions of people abroad who have suffered from Trump’s unashamedly pro-dictator foreign policy would have been better off had he never run for office. But even without Trump, disruption and conflict were coming; he was merely the catalyst. This?—?whatever this is exactly?—?is a universal phenomenon, emerging in dozens of incredibly different national contexts, across varying cultures, regions, religions, and levels of economic development. It may be hard to define, but what we are seeing is nothing less (or perhaps nothing more) than a rebirth of politics, with all the conflict that that entails.
The point about radical ideas is that some of them may be good, but there’s no way to know, definitively, whether they are, until they’re debated openly and freely. And, today, that’s precisely what’s happening. That’s a good thing, and we may have Trump to (partly) thank for that.
It’s time to reclaim ‘socialism’ from the dirty-word category WP By Elizabeth Bruenig, Opinion columnist, August 19, 2018
A Gallup poll this month found that Democrats are warming up to the idea of socialism — or at least to the word. While 57 percent of Democrats polled said they view socialism positively, only 47 percent said the same of capitalism, down from 56 percent in 2016. Republicans, meanwhile, remain pretty enthusiastic about capitalism, with 71 percent rating it positively. Still, 16 percent of GOP voters said even they view socialism through a friendly lens, which raises the question: When Americans say they view socialism one way or the other, what exactly do they have in mind?
The United States doesn’t have a familiar, established socialist history to look to for guidance on what socialism might mean in this country. But that doesn’t mean socialism is hopelessly nebulous, or that Americans who are interested in the idea are wandering dabblers. It just means that socialism, like any sophisticated term, warrants thoughtful consideration.
Socialism has meant different things to different people in different times and places, while maintaining a stable core of themes and objectives: social (as opposed to private) control of the means of production, and of all the societal, humanitarian and political-economic changes that entails, especially where the freedom and autonomy of working people are concerned.
The term itself came into being in the early decades of the 19th century and, like any good word, inspired a great deal of imagination. For the non-Marxian English socialists of the 1840s, socialism mainly meant opposition to the competitive, dehumanizing effects of liberal economics, local experiments with communitarianism and cooperatives, and demands for the privileges of freedom, autonomy and participation in government to extend to the lower classes.
Meanwhile, Marxian socialism focused on the conditions of production — who owns what, the relationships between wage-earners and owners, and how stuff gets made in a society — and the kind of politics those conditions produce. Even when “socialism” was a relatively new term, in other words, its exact meaning was disputed.
That happened at least in part because the meaning of “socialism” has always been politically contested, with different factions claiming that their vision best matches the true essence of socialism. To most English and French workers, Friedrich Engels wrote in an 1880 booklet, “Socialism is the expression of absolute truth, reason and justice.” But since notions of truth, reason and justice differed, Engels observed, visions of what socialism really represented widely varied — leading to “a kind of eclectic, average Socialism.”
In contrast to Engels, Karl Marx argued for a scientific socialism, derived from careful analyses of history and economic facts — which explains why “Das Kapital” is such dry reading. Establishing the priority of one form of socialism over the other was political work.
And the politics of differing socialist visions played out over time, with different forms of socialism taking root in various countries through the years. The profusion of disparate historical examples of socialist governments can understandably cause confusion about what socialism looks like on the ground: Soviet Russia or modern-day Norway? One may as well ask if the United Arab Emirates or the United States of America is really capitalist. The answer, in both cases, has to do with varieties, degrees, democracy and methodology.
But now, as in the 19th century, confusion about what “socialism” means is stoked by political interest in clouding the issue. As Eric Levitz notes in New York magazine, conservatives tend to oscillate between arguing that successful countries such as Finland, Norway and Denmark, generally regarded as socialist, are actually as capitalist as the United States, and claiming, as Fox Business Network’s Trish Regan recently did, that socialism has made those countries stagnant and stultifying.
Clarifying exactly what “socialism” means once and for all likely won’t happen anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean that voters who are attracted to democratic socialist politicians such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez don’t know what they’re getting into. Proposals to wipe out so-called right-to-work laws, to make college tuition-free or to provide universal health care are resonating with those supporters.
At the heart of the democratic socialist vision flowering on the American left is the recognition that more than policy tweaks will be needed to empower everyday people to participate meaningfully in society and democracy. Working Americans deserve a say in how the country’s vast wealth will be used, and that will be possible only when inequality is reduced, corporate and big-money donors are banished from politics, and lawmakers are truly accountable to the people. It’s not so much to ask. But democratic socialists are the only ones asking.
Opinion | This is not your grandfather's concept of socialism After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's primary win, columnist Elizabeth Bruenig explains why democratic socialism is taking off... video
What might a socialist American government do? WP By George F. Will, Columnist, July 6, 2018
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28. recently won the Democratic nomination — effectively, election — in a Bronx and Queens, N.Y., congressional district, running as a “democratic socialist.” In response to her, progressives and conservatives are experiencing different excitements.
The left relishes the socialist label as a rejection of squishy centrism — a naughty, daring rejection of timidity: Aux barricades, citoyens! The right enjoys a tingle of delicious fear: We told you that the alternative to us is the dark night of socialism.
At the risk of spoiling the fun — the left’s anticipation of the sunny uplands of social justice; the right’s frisson of foreboding — consider two questions: What is socialism? And what might a socialist American government do?
In its 19th-century infancy, socialist theory was at least admirable in its clarity: It meant state ownership of the means of production (including arable land), distribution and exchange. Until, of course, the state “withers away” (Friedrich Engels’s phrase), when a classless, and hence harmonious, society can dispense with government.
After World War II, Britain’s Labour Party diluted socialist doctrine to mean state ownership of the economy’s “commanding heights” (Lenin’s phrase from 1922) — heavy industry (e.g., steel), mining, railroads, telecommunications, etc. Since then, in Britain and elsewhere, further dilution has produced socialism as comprehensive economic regulation by the administrative state (obviating the need for nationalization of economic sectors) and government energetically redistributing wealth. So, if the United States had a socialist government today, what would it be like?
Socialism favors the thorough permeation of economic life by “social” (a.k.a. political) considerations, so it embraces protectionism — government telling consumers what they can buy, in what quantities and at what prices. (A socialist American government might even set quotas and prices for foreign washing machines.)
Socialism favors maximizing government’s role supplementing, even largely supplanting, the market — voluntary private transactions — in the allocation of wealth by implementing redistributionist programs. (Today, America’s sky is dark with dollars flying hither and yon at government’s direction: Transfer payments distribute 14 percent of gross domestic product , two-thirds of the federal budget, up from a little more than one-quarter in 1960. In the half-century 1963-2013, transfer payments were the fastest-growing category of personal income. By 2010, government at all levels in the United States was transferring $2.2 trillion in government money , goods and services.)
Socialism favors vigorous government interventions in the allocation of capital, directing it to uses that far-sighted government knows, and the slow-witted market does not realize, constitute the wave of the future. So, an American socialist government might tell, say, Carrier Corp. and Harley-Davidson that the government knows better than they do where they should invest shareholders’ assets.
Socialism requires — actually, socialism is — industrial policy, whereby government picks winners and losers in conformity with the government’s vision of how the future ought to be rationally planned. What could go wrong? (Imagine, weirdly, a president practicing compassionate socialism by ordering his energy secretary to prop up yesterday’s coal industry against the market menace of fracking — cheap oil and natural gas.)
Socialism, which fancies itself applied social science, requires a bureaucracy of largely autonomous experts unconstrained by a marginalized — ideally, a paralyzed — Congress. So, an American socialist government would rule less by laws than by regulations written in administrative agencies staffed by experts insulated from meddling by elected legislators. (Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee’s office displays two piles of paper. One, a few inches high, contains the laws Congress passed in a recent year. The other, about 8 feet tall, contains regulations churned out that year by the administrative state’s agencies.)
Socialism favors vast scope for ad hoc executive actions unbound by constraining laws that stifle executive nimbleness and creativity. (Imagine an aggrieved president telling, say, Harley-Davidson: “I’ve” — first-person singular pronoun — “done so much for you.”)
Today’s American socialists say that our government has become the handmaiden of rapacious factions and entrenched elites, and that there should be much more government. They are half -right. To be fair, they also say that after America gets “on the right side of history” (an updated version of after “the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”), government will be truly disinterested, manipulated by no rent-seeking factions, serving only justice. That is, government will be altogether different than it is, or ever has been. Seriously.
It’s time to give socialism a try WP By Elizabeth Bruenig, Opinion columnist, March 6, 2018
In the United States, we’ve arrived at a pair of mutually exclusive convictions: that liberal, capitalist democracies are guaranteed by their nature to succeed and that in our Trumpist moment they seem to be failing in deeply unsettling ways. For liberals — and by this I mean inheritors of the long liberal tradition, not specifically those who might also be called progressives — efforts to square these two notions have typically combined expressions of high anxiety with reassurances that, if we only have the right attitude, everything will set itself aright.
Hanging on and hoping for the best is certainly one approach to rescuing the best of liberalism from its discontents, but my answer is admittedly more ambitious: It’s time to give socialism a try.
Contemporary supporters of liberalism are often subject, I think, to what I call “everyday Fukuyama-ism” — the idea, explicitly stated or not, that the end of the Cold War really signaled the end of history, and that we can only look forward to the unceasing rise of Western-style liberal-democratic capitalism. (As the leftist scholar Mark Fisher recounted: “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”) This assumption is reflected in the blindsided, startled unease of liberals in the era of President Trump: “There are moments when everything I have come to believe in — reasoned deliberation, mutual toleration, liberal democracy, free speech, honesty, decency, and moderation — seem as if they are in eclipse,” Andrew Sullivan recently lamented in New York magazine. “For the foreseeable future, nationalism is likely to remain a defining political force,” Yascha Mounk fretted this weekend in the New York Times; “liberals should strive to make nationalism as inclusive as possible,” he warned.
Against this backdrop of liberal disquietude, the notion that everything either will be or already is all right, granted the correct attitude — that “we’re better than this,” as Joe Biden confidently declares on his newly launched political action committee’s website — appears particularly frail. It’s hard to square the late-Obama-era insistence that “America is already great” with the palpable sense that something — in the climate, in the economy, in society, in politics, in the wellspring of American ideas — is going badly wrong. What to do? Sullivan’s solution to liberalism’s peril is contemplative “self-doubt and self-knowledge”; Mounk’s is to “domesticate [nationalism] as best we can.”
But my sense is that while Sullivan, Mounk and all the other concerned liberal observers are right that something is wrong with the state of American liberalism, the problem is much deeper than they allow. I don’t think business-as-usual but better is enough to fix what’s broken here. I think the problem lies at the root of the thing, with capitalism itself.
In fact, both Sullivan’s and Mounk’s complaints — that Americans appear to be isolated, viciously competitive, suspicious of one another and spiritually shallow; and that we are anxiously looking for some kind of attachment to something real and profound in an age of decreasing trust and regard — seem to be emblematic of capitalism, which encourages and requires fierce individualism, self-interested disregard for the other, and resentment of arrangements into which one deposits more than he or she withdraws. (As a business-savvy friend once remarked: Nobody gets rich off of bilateral transactions where everybody knows what they’re doing.) Capitalism is an ideology that is far more encompassing than it admits, and one that turns every relationship into a calculable exchange. Bodies, time, energy, creativity, love — all become commodities to be priced and sold. Alienation reigns. There is no room for sustained contemplation and little interest in public morality; everything collapses down to the level of the atomized individual.
That capitalism is inimical to the best of liberalism isn’t a new concern: It’s a long-standing critique, present in early socialist thought. That both capitalism and liberal governance have changed since those days without displacing the criticism suggests that it’s true in a foundational way.
Not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.
I don’t think that every problem can be traced back to capitalism: There were calamities and injustices long before capital, and I’ll venture to say there will be after. But it seems to me that it’s time for those who expected to enjoy the end of history to accept that, though they’re linked in certain respects, capitalism seems to be at odds with the harmonious, peaceful, stable liberalism of midcentury dreams. I don’t think we’ve reached the end of history yet, which means we still have the chance to shape the future we want. I suggest we take it.
Millennials have a higher opinion of socialism than of capitalism WP By Catherine Rampell, Columnist, February 5, 2016
As socialist Venezuela collapses, socialist Bolivia thrives. Here’s why. WP By Francisco Toro, January 5, 2017
Venezuela’s economy is a catastrophe of Dickensian proportions. And for plenty of readers, that’s hardly a surprise. Every time I write about it, dozens pipe in with some variant on the same comment: “Socialism leading to total ruin — who would’ve thought?!” The temptation to read Venezuela’s collapse as ideological comeuppance seems to be irresistible. My country, people tell me again and again, is just the end of the line on the Road to Serfdom.
There’s just one problem with all this bashing of socialism: Bolivia.
Since 2006, Bolivia has been run by socialists every bit as militant as Venezuela’s. But as economist Omar Zambrano has argued, the country has experienced a spectacular run of economic growth and poverty reduction with no hint of the chaos that has plagued Venezuela. While inflation spirals toward the thousand-percent mark in Venezuela, in Bolivia it runs below 4 percent a year. Shortages of basic consumption goods — rampant in Caracas — are unheard of in La Paz. And extreme poverty — now growing fast in Venezuela — affects just 17 percent of Bolivians now, down from 38 percent before the socialists took over 10 years ago, even as inequality shrinks dramatically. The richest 10 percent in Bolivia used to earn 128 times more than the poorest 10 percent; today, they earn 38 times as much.
How can this be? It’s true that Bolivia has been on the receiving end of a staggering boom in natural resources for much of the past decade, as both the volume of its gas and mining exports and the price they fetch abroad jumped at the same time. Export revenue grew six-fold in the decade after Evo Morales, the charismatic hard-left president, took power, from $2.2 billion just before of his election to $12.9 billion at the peak of the boom.
So yes, that’s a bit like putting the game settings on “easy” when it comes to development. But it can hardly explain why Bolivia thrives while Venezuela spirals: Venezuela enjoyed an even bigger commodities boom, with exports climbing from $23 billion before the oil boom to $153 billion at its peak.
Turns out it’s not the boom itself that matters, it’s what you do with it.
Venezuela’s socialists spent the entire export windfall, and then some. Bolivia’s socialists saved much of theirs.
Venezuela ran large budget deficits every year, even as oil prices skyrocketed between 2005 to 2014. That meant the country was piling on debt even as government revenue exploded — a senseless, pro-cyclical policy that left Venezuela up a creek without a paddle when commodity prices tanked.
In the meantime, Bolivia was running budget surpluses every year between 2006 and 2014. This allowed it to draw down the public sector’s debt, which fell from 83 percent of GDP in 2003 to just 26 percent in 2014, even as Bolivia built up its international reserves dramatically, from $1.7 billion in 2005 to $15.1 billion at the end of the boom in 2014.
Turns out the difference between Bolivia and Venezuela has nothing to do with abstract ideological labels, and everything to do with fiscal prudence.
I know, I know, fiscal prudence sounds deadly dull, but it makes an enormous difference in real people’s lives. While Venezuela’s reckless socialists were impoverishing the country’s once thriving middle class, Bolivia’s socialists were creating an entirely new indigenous middle class, even spawning a whole new style of architecture along with it. Why? Because newly affluent Bolivians can afford it: Per capita GDP more than tripled from just $1,000 a year to over $3,200 over a decade. At the same time, new government social programs designed to help older people, mothers and other at-risk groups saw to major improvements in social indicators. To take just one, consider this: Thirty-two percent of Bolivians were chronically malnourished in 2003. By 2012, just 18 percent were.
The point here isn’t to idealize Bolivia’s socialists: The country remains badly governed in important ways. Corruption remains endemic in Bolivia’s public sector, with most infrastructure contracts given out on a no-bid basis to ruling-party cronies. And while nowhere near as extreme as Venezuela’s turn to dictatorship, Bolivia’s political scene has seen worrying authoritarian drift, closing down the spaces for dissent that any proper democracy needs to function.
Even the social achievements have to be taken with a grain of salt. There’s a good case to be made that poverty reduction would’ve been faster and more sustainable if the Bolivians hadn’t needlessly antagonized the private sector. As it stands, facing a sometimes hostile administration, the foreign companies that actually operate Bolivia’s mines and gas fields are working aggressively to squeeze out their deposits as fast as possible and get out, investing little or nothing on risky exploration and development.
And past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Bolivia is now clearly having trouble adjusting to lower commodity prices: Since 2015 it’s been running large deficits, drawing down its international reserves far too fast as the government resists the kind of spending cuts it will take to adjust to the new normal. Keep that up for another few years, and Bolivia could find itself on the same downward trajectory Venezuela is now on.
Still, because they kept spending under control during the fat years and drew down debt, Bolivia’s socialists have many more options for dealing with the lean years than Venezuela’s could dream of.
What’s clear is that the supposedly obvious link between socialism and economic ruin doesn’t check out. It’s not just that it’s easy to find counter examples of socialist governments that fail to set off economic collapse, like Bolivia. It’s also that catastrophe has more often than not come at the hand of committed anti-socialists. Bouts of acute economic chaos ending in hyperinflation broke out in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and even in Bolivia itself back in the 1980s, each time under centrist or right-wing governments deeply at odds with the socialist left.
Socialism, it turns out, explains nothing about why some countries turn into economic basketcases. Instead, it muddles the debate for political ends, delegitimizing progressive policies that have often been shown to work while convincing conservatives that it’s okay when they recklessly overspend. After all, if it isn’t economic recklessness that causes economic chaos, but rather an abstract noun (“socialism”), why shouldn’t right-wingers overspend?
Fox host tries to bash socialism in Denmark and gets her ass handed to her by Denmark officials 8/15/18
Abbreviated pundit round-up: Trump 'treason' talk soars; democratic socialism's 'visionary realist' 7/22/18--E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post writes—Democratic socialism’s time has come around:
“Socialism has known increments of success, basic failure and massive betrayal. Yet it is more relevant to the humane construction of the twenty-first century than any other idea.”
With those words, Michael Harrington began his book “Socialism,” published in 1972. In his day, Harrington was often called “America’s leading socialist.” He was also one of the most decent voices in politics, a view shared not just by his friends but also by most of his critics.
Harrington founded Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which, in the often splintered politics of the left, was a breakaway group from the old Socialist Party. My hunch is that Harrington — whom I counted as a friend until his death in 1989 at the age of 61 — would be amazed, though not entirely surprised, by the extraordinary growth of DSA since Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign.
It would thrill him that the organization is now heavily populated by the young, although I also suspect he would have spirited tactical arguments with youthful rebels about what works in politics. Harrington was a visionary realist, and the dialectic between those two words defined his life. He preached vision to those worn down by a tired political system, and realism to those trying to change it.
Socialists have had quite a journalistic run since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old DSA member, defeated veteran Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), a genial and rather liberal stalwart of the old Queens Democratic machine, in a primary last month.
Opinion has been divided, roughly between those who see her as the wave of the future and those who warn of grave danger if Democrats move “too far to the left.” I use quotation marks because that phrase has been repeated so much, and because it’s imprecise and misleading. [...]
World Socialist Web Site [WSWS] Excellent news source
International Viewpoint News from around the world from the Fourth International.
Eugene Debs and the Kingdom of Evil By Chris Hedges [best journalist alive today] July 17, 2017 "Information Clearing House"
TERRE HAUTE, Ind.—Eugene Victor Debs, whose home is an infrequently visited museum on the campus of Indiana State University, was arguably the most important political figure of the 20th century. He built the socialist movement in America and was eventually crucified by the capitalist class when he and hundreds of thousands of followers became a potent political threat. [I am a Socialist - Colby]
Debs burst onto the national stage when he organized a railroad strike in 1894 after the Pullman Co. cut wages by up to one-third but did not lower rents in company housing or reduce dividend payments to its stockholders. Over a hundred thousand workers staged what became the biggest strike in U.S. history on trains carrying Pullman cars.
The response was swift and brutal.
“Mobilizing all the powers of capital, the owners, representing twenty-four railroads with combined capital of $818,000,00, fought back with the courts and the armed forces of the Federal government behind them,” Barbara W. Tuchman writes in “The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914.” “Three thousand police in the Chicago area were mobilized against the strikers, five thousand professional strikebreakers were sworn in as Federal deputy marshals and given firearms; ultimately six thousand Federal and State troops were brought in
Debs and the union leaders defied the injunction. They were arrested, denied bail and sent to jail for six months. The strike was broken. Thirty workers had been killed. Sixty had been injured. Over 700 had been arrested. The Pullman Co. hired new workers under “yellow dog contracts,” agreements that forbade them to unionize.
Debs feared the rise of the monolithic corporate state. He foresaw that corporations, unchecked, would expand to “continental proportions and swallow up the national resources and the means of production and distribution.” If that happened, he warned, the long “night of capitalism will be dark.”
This was a period in U.S. history when many American Christians were socialists. Walter Rauschenbusch, a Christian theologian, Baptist minister and leader of the Social Gospel movement, thundered against capitalism. He defined the six pillars of the “kingdom of evil” as “religious bigotry, the combination of graft and political power, the corruption of justice, the mob spirit (being ‘the social group gone mad’) and mob action, militarism[,] and class contempt.”
[Debs] equated the crucified Christ with the abolitionist John Brown. He insisted that Jesus came “to destroy class rule and set up the common people as the sole and rightful inheritors of the earth.” “What is Socialism?” he once asked. “Merely Christianity in action.”
It was also a period beset with violence, including anarchist bombings and assassinations. An anarchist killed President William McKinley in 1901, unleashing a wave of state repression against social and radical movements. Striking workers engaged in periodic gun battles, especially in the coalfields of southern West Virginia, with heavily armed company goons, National Guard units, paramilitary groups such as the Coal and Iron Police, and the U.S. Army.
Debs, although a sworn enemy of the capitalist elites, was adamantly opposed to violence and sabotage, arguing that these actions allowed the state to demonize the socialist movement and enabled the destructive efforts of agents provocateurs. The conflict with the capitalist class, Debs argued, was at its core about competing values. In an interview conducted while he was in jail after the Pullman strike, he stressed the importance of “education, industry, frugality, integrity, veracity, fidelity, sobriety and charity.”
A life of moral probity was vital as an example in the face of capitalist exploitation, but that was not enough to defeat the “kingdom of evil.” The owners and managers of corporations, driven by greed and a lust for power, would never play fair. They would always seek to use the law as an instrument of oppression and increase profits through machines, a reduction in wages, a denial of benefits and union busting. They would sacrifice anyone and anything—including democracy and the natural world—to achieve their goals.
Debs turned to politics when he was released from jail in 1895. He was one of the founders of the Socialist Party of America and, in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or “Wobblies.” He was the Socialist Party candidate for the U.S. presidency five times in the period 1900 through 1920—once when he was in prison—and he ran for Congress in 1916.
Debs was a powerful orator and drew huge crowds across the country. Fifteen thousand people once paid 15 cents to a dollar each to hear him in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. In his speeches and writings he demanded an end to child labor and denounced Jim Crow and lynching.
He called for the vote for women, a graduated income tax, unemployment compensation, the direct election of senators, employer liability laws, national departments of education and health, guaranteed pensions for the elderly, nationalization of the banking and transport systems, and replacing “wage slavery” with cooperative industries.
As a presidential campaigner he traveled from New York to California on a train, called the Red Special, speaking to tens of thousands. He helped elect socialist mayors in some 70 cities, including Milwaukee, as well as numerous legislators and city council members. He propelled two socialists into Congress. In the elections of 1912 he received nearly a million votes, 6 percent of the electorate. Eighteen thousand people went to see him in Philadelphia and 22,000 in New York City.
He terrified the ruling elites, who began to institute tepid reforms to attempt to stanch the growing support for the socialists. Debs after the 1912 election was a marked man.
On June 18, 1918, in Canton, Ohio, he denounced, as he had often 'e in the past, the unholy alliance between capitalism and war, the use of the working class by the capitalists as cannon fodder in World War I and the Wilson administration’s persecution of anti-war activists, unionists, anarchists, socialists and communists. President Woodrow Wilson, who had a deep animus toward Debs, had him arrested under the Sedition Act, which made it a crime to “willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of the Government of the United States” or to “willfully urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of the production” of anything “necessary or essential to the prosecution of [a U.S. war, in this case against Germany and its allies].”
Debs did not contest the charges. At his trial, he declared: “Washington, Paine, Adams—these were the rebels of their day. At first they were opposed by the people and denounced by the press. … And if the Revolution had failed, the revolutionary fathers would have been executed as felons. But it did not fail. Revolutions have a habit of succeeding when the time comes for them.”
On Sept. 18, 1918, minutes before he was sentenced to a 10-year prison term and stripped of his citizenship, the 62-year-old Debs rose and told the court:
Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
I listened to all that was said in this court in support and justification of this prosecution, but my mind remains unchanged. I look upon the Espionage Law as a despotic enactment in flagrant conflict with democratic principles and with the spirit of free institutions. …
Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believe in a fundamental change—but if possible by peaceable and orderly means. …
Standing here this morning, I recall my boyhood. At fourteen I went to work in a railroad shop; at sixteen I was firing a freight engine on a railroad. I remember all the hardships and privations of that earlier day, and from that time until now my heart has been with the working class. I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison. …
I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and the factories; of the men in the mines and on the railroads. I am thinking of the women who for a paltry wage are compelled to work out their barren lives; of the little children who in this system are robbed of their childhood and in their tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the monster machines while they themselves are being starved and stunted, body and soul. I see them dwarfed and diseased and their little lives broken and blasted because in this high noon of Christian civilization money is still so much more important than the flesh and blood of childhood. In very truth gold is god today and rules with pitiless sway in the affairs of men.
In this country—the most favored beneath the bending skies—we have vast areas of the richest and most fertile soil, material resources in inexhaustible abundance, the most marvelous productive machinery on earth, and millions of eager workers ready to apply their labor to that machinery to produce in abundance for every man, woman, and child—and if there are still vast numbers of our people who are the victims of poverty and whose lives are an unceasing struggle all the way from youth to old age, until at last death comes to their rescue and lulls these hapless victims to dreamless sleep, it is not the fault of the Almighty: it cannot be charged to nature, but it is due entirely to the outgrown social system in which we live that ought to be abolished not only in the interest of the toiling masses but in the higher interest of all humanity. …
I believe, Your Honor, in common with all Socialists, that this nation ought to own and control its own industries. I believe, as all Socialists do, that all things that are jointly needed and used ought to be jointly owned—that industry, the basis of our social life, instead of being the private property of a few and operated for their enrichment, ought to be the common property of all, democratically administered in the interest of all. …
I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.
This order of things cannot always endure. I have registered my protest against it. I recognize the feebleness of my effort, but, fortunately, I am not alone. There are multiplied thousands of others who, like myself, have come to realize that before we may truly enjoy the blessings of civilized life, we must reorganize society upon a mutual and cooperative basis; and to this end we have organized a great economic and political movement that spreads over the face of all the earth.
There are today upwards of sixty millions of Socialists, loyal, devoted adherents to this cause, regardless of nationality, race, creed, color, or sex. They are all making common cause. They are spreading with tireless energy the propaganda of the new social order. They are waiting, watching, and working hopefully through all the hours of the day and the night. They are still in a minority. But they have learned how to be patient and to bide their time. The feel—they know, indeed—that the time is coming, in spite of all opposition, all persecution, when this emancipating gospel will spread among all the peoples, and when this minority will become the triumphant majority and, sweeping into power, inaugurate the greatest social and economic change in history.
In that day we shall have the universal commonwealth—the harmonious cooperation of every nation with every other nation on earth. …
Your Honor, I ask no mercy and I plead for no immunity. I realize that finally the right must prevail. I never so clearly comprehended as now the great struggle between the powers of greed and exploitation on the one hand and upon the other the rising hosts of industrial freedom and social justice.
I can see the dawn of the better day for humanity. The people are awakening. In due time they will and must come to their own.
Eugene Debs delivering his legendary speech in Canton, Ohio on June 16, 1918
When the mariner, sailing over tropic seas, looks for relief from his weary watch, he turns his eyes toward the southern cross, burning luridly above the tempest-vexed ocean. As the midnight approaches, the southern cross begins to bend, the whirling worlds change their places, and with starry finger-points the Almighty marks the passage of time upon the dial of the universe, and though no bell may beat the glad tidings, the lookout knows that the midnight is passing and that relief and rest are close at hand. Let the people everywhere take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing, and joy cometh with the morning.
Three years later, Debs’ sentence was commuted by President Warren Harding to time served, and, in broken health, he was released from prison in December of 1921. His citizenship was not restored until five decades after his 1926 death. The labor movement and socialist party he had struggled to build had been ruthlessly crushed, often through violent attacks orchestrated by the state and corporations and mass arrests and deportations carried out during the Palmer Raids in November 1919 and January 1920. The government had shut down socialist publications, such as Appeal to Reason and The Masses. The “Red Scare” was used as an ideological weapon by the state, and especially the FBI after it was established in 1908, to discredit, persecute and silence dissent.
The breakdown of capitalism saw a short-lived revival of organized labor during the 1930s, often led by the Communist Party, and during a short period after World War II, and this resurgence triggered yet another prolonged assault by the capitalist class.
We have returned to an oligarchic purgatory. Wall Street and the global corporations, including the fossil fuel industry and the war industry, have iron control over the government. The social, political and civil rights won by workers in long and bloody struggles have been stripped away. Government regulations have been rolled back to permit capitalists to engage in abuse and fraud. The political elites, along with their courtiers in the media and academia, are hapless corporate stooges. Social and economic inequality replicates the worst excesses of the robber barons. And the great civic, labor and political organizations that fought for working men and women are moribund or dead.
We have to begin all over again. And we must do so understanding, as Debs did, that any accommodation with members of the capitalist class is futile and self-defeating. They are the enemy. They will degrade and destroy everything, including the ecosystem, to get richer. They are not capable of reform.
I walked through the Debs home in Terre Haute with its curator, Allison Duerk. It has about 700 visitors a year. Rarely do these visits include school groups. The valiant struggle by radical socialists and workers, hundreds of whom were murdered in labor struggles, has been consciously erased from our history and replaced with the vacuity of celebrity culture and the cult of the self.
“Teaching this kind of people’s history puts a lot of power in working-class people’s hands,” Duerk said. “We all know what that threatens.”
The walls of the two-story frame house, built by Debs and his wife in 1890, are covered with photos and posters, including pictures of Debs’ funeral on the porch and 5,000 mourners in the front yard. There is the key to the cell in which he was held when he was jailed the first time. There is a photo of Convict No. 9653 holding a bouquet at the entrance to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta as he accepts the nomination from leaders of the Socialist Party to be their 1920 presidential candidate. There are gifts including an intricately inlaid wooden table and an ornately carved cane that prisoners sent to Debs, a tireless advocate for prisoner rights.
I opened the glass panel of a cherry wood bookshelf and pulled out one of Debs’ books, running my fingers lightly over his signature on the front inside flap. I read a passage from a speech he gave in 1905 in Chicago:
The capitalist who does no useful work has the economic power to take from a thousand or ten thousand workingmen all they produce, over and above what is required to keep them in working and producing order, and he becomes a millionaire, perhaps a multi-millionaire.
He lives in a palace in which there is music and singing and dancing and the luxuries of all climes. He sails the high seas in his private yacht. He is the reputed “captain of industry” who privately owns a social utility, has great economic power, and commands the political power of the nation to protect his economic interests.
He is the gentleman who furnishes the “political boss” and his swarm of mercenaries with the funds with which the politics of the nation are corrupted and debauched. He is the economic master and the political ruler and you workingmen are almost as completely at his mercy as if you were his property under the law.
I leafed through copies of Appeal to Reason, the Socialist party newspaper Debs edited, which once had almost 800,000 readers and the fourth highest circulation in the country.
Debs, like many of his generation, was literate. He read and reread “Les Misérables” in French. It was his father’s bible. It became his own. His parents, émigrés from Alsace, named him after the French novelists Eugene Sue and Victor Hugo. His father read Sue, Hugo, Voltaire, Rousseau, Dumas and other authors to his six children.
Debs found in Hugo’s majestic novel the pathos of the struggle by the wretched of the earth for dignity and freedom. He was well aware, like Hugo, that the good were usually relentlessly persecuted, that they were not rewarded for virtue and that those who held fast to truth and justice often found their way to their own cross. But there was no other choice for him: The kingdom of evil had to be fought. It was a moral imperative. It was what made us human.
“Intellectual and moral growth is no less indispensable than material improvement,” Hugo writes in an appendix to “Les Misérables.” “Knowledge is a viaticum [food/supplies for a journey]; thought is a prime necessity; truth is nourishment, like wheat. A reasoning faculty, deprived of knowledge and wisdom, pines away. We should feel the same pity for minds that do not eat as for stomachs. If there be anything sadder than a body perishing for want of bread, it is a mind dying of hunger for lack of light.”
This article was first published by Truthdig
H. Smith: It was in this prison term, that he ran for the U.S. presidency of 1920, and received 919,799 votes. This big support caused President Warren G. Harding, to release him from prison in 1921, commuting his term to time served. http://democracyandsocialism.com/FameSocialism/Eu...
Mohammed Cohen: Christopher Hedges is always a beacon on he hill of this decaying and crumbling pile of filth that the destructive forces have so far succeeded in manipulating through their unending exploitation of the working class while their citadels are glaring at the hapless suffering of the toiling working class of America! The more we Americans are exposed to the injustices of our dying capitalist way of life, the ugliest it looks. Chris Hedges' insightful, penetrating and stimulating thought and logic is, to say the least, very enlightening that compels readers to a self examination of our innerself. Great piece Mr. Hedges. Thank you!
A specter is haunting world capitalism: the specter of the Russian Revolution. This year marks the centenary of the world-historical events of 1917, which began with the February Revolution in Russia and culminated in October with “ten days that shook the world”—-the overthrow of the capitalist provisional government and conquest of political power by the Bolshevik Party, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky.
The overthrow of capitalism in a country of 150 million people and establishment of the first socialist workers’ state in history was the most consequential event of the twentieth century. It vindicated, in practice, the historical perspective proclaimed just 70 years earlier, in 1847, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto.
The victory of the socialist revolution in October 1917 proved that the conquest of political power by the working class depends, in the final analysis, upon the building of a Marxist party in the working class. No matter how large and powerful the mass movement of the working class, its victory over capitalism requires the conscious political leadership of a Marxist-Trotskyist party. There is no other way the victory of the socialist revolution can be achieved.
As 2017 begins, we call on the many thousands of readers of the World Socialist Web Site to become active in the revolutionary struggle and to join and build the Fourth International as the World Party of Socialist Revolution. This is the most appropriate and effective way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and the victory of October 1917.
A Socialist Economy for the 21st Century by RICHARD ROSEN | DECEMBER 16, 2016 from thenextsystem.org, the next system project
Health Care Hither and Yon: An Invitation to Scream about Socialism By Fred Reed December 12, 2016 "Information Clearing House"
Almost all advanced countries, if not all, have national medical care. It is telling that in the debate over Obamacare, few looked at systems in other countries to see how well what worked. The reason seems to have been a mixture of the classic American arrogance and lack of interest in anything beyond the borders. Characteristically, discussion usually turned on the evils of socialism–for some reason, Europe is thought to be socialist–and who was going to make money.
The results are what one would expect. Study after study has shown that American health care is of poor quality compared with that of other First World nations, and way more expensive.
Recently I encountered a casual friend–he was dancing in a local club–whom I had not seen for a while. Where ya been, I asked? In Guadalajara for cardiac surgery, he said, double bypass and valve replacement. The replacement valve was from a pig so we made the mandatory jokes about did he say oink-oink, and parted.
Later, for the hell of it, I asked by email what it had cost. His response, verbatim, except for my conversions to dollars at 17 pesos to the dollar:
“The costs of my surgery were as follows:
330,000 pesos to the surgeon and his surgical team. $19,411
122,000 pesos to the hospital for eight days $7176
15,000 to the blood bank. $882
467,000 total $27,470
The time frame was March 13 to March 21. The exchange rate around this time period was about 17.5 which would make the USD cost app. $27.000.”
Wondering what this would cost in the US, I googled around and found things like this:
“For patients not covered by health insurance, valve replacement surgery typically costs from about $80,000-$200,000 or more with an average, according to an American Heart Association report , of $164,238, not including the doctor fee. A surgeon fee can add $5,000 or more to the final bill.”
Why the prices? Several reasons offer themselves. Advanced countries–Mexico is not one–have less corruption than does the US, and a greater concern for the well-being of their people. In Europe, for example, this is obvious not just in medical care but in unemployment insurance, length of vacations, and public amenities. In Seville, among my favorite cities, sidewalks are very wide, bicycle lanes are actually usable, in intercity buses are clean and comfortable. In the US all of this would be regarded as hippy dippy or socialism or the malevolent workings of the nanny state.
Then they talk about the evils of socialism.
Suppose we did make comparisons?
Military medical care is the obvious, available, and easily studied alternative to Obamacare. So far as I know, nobody thought of this. In the military you go to the hospital or clinic, show your ID card, get 'e whatever you need, and leave. Thank you, good day. No paperwork. No paperwork. No insurance forms, deductibles. receipts. No insurance companies trying to pay as little as possible, since that’s how they make money. The doctor doesn’t order a PET scan, three MRIs, and a DNA analysis of your grandmother’s dog to run up the bill.
A Strategic Counsel survey found 91% of Canadians prefer their health care system instead of a U.S. style system.
“The French health care system is one of universal health care largely financed by government national health insurance. In its 2000 assessment of world health care systems, the World Health Organization found that France provided the “close to best overall health care” in the world.
Capitalism's Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown Paperback – May 17, 2016 by Richard D. Wolff "Richard Wolff is the leading socialist economist in the country. This book is required reading for anyone concerned about a fundamental transformation of the ailing capitalist economy!"—Cornel West
While most mainstream commentators view the crisis that provoked the Great Recession as having passed, these essays from Richard Wolff paint a far less rosy picture. Drawing attention to the extreme downturn in most of capitalism's old centers, the unequal growth in its new centers, and the resurgence of a global speculative bubble, Wolff—in his uniquely accessible style—makes the case that the crisis should be grasped not as a passing moment, but as an evolving stage in capitalism's history.
Socialism and historical truth By David North 17 March 2015
The lecture introduced the publication of the German-language edition of The Russian Revolution and the Unfinished Twentieth Century... I am very grateful to my comrades in the Partei für Soziale Gleichheit, and, especially, Peter Schwarz and Andrea Reitmann, for their extraordinary work in the translation and editing of this volume. It is difficult to believe that a book of more than 450 pages was translated into German “aus dem Amerikanischen” in less than three months.
I am fortunate to have a translator who not only knows what I was trying to say, but manages to render it more precisely, and with a greater literary sensibility in German, than I was able to achieve in English. However, the content of my book may have been a factor that somewhat facilitated Andrea’s work. So much of it deals with events that occurred in this country that it could be said that Andrea has translated the American edition back into its original language.
The publication of In Defense of Leon Trotsky in early 2011 had preceded by several months the planned release, by Suhrkamp, of a German edition of the Service biography. However, Suhrkamp’s schedule was complicated by the release of an open letter, signed by fourteen respected historians, protesting the association of the prestigious publishing house with Service’s book. The impact of the historians’ protest was intensified by the publication, in the authoritative American Historical Review, of a review that unambiguously endorsed my critique of Service and condemned his biography of Trotsky as a piece of “hack work.”
This is not the sort of language that is normally used in an academic journal. A devastating and well deserved blow had been delivered to the professional reputation of Robert Service, at least in the eyes of principled scholars who still hold to the pre-postmodern view that historians are obligated, intellectually and morally, to observe long-established—but now increasingly violated—professional standards in the selection, presentation and interpretation of facts. After a delay of nearly a year, Suhrkamp finally released Service’s biography. But it arrived in the bookstores with the proverbial mark of Cain stamped upon its cover.
Socialism and the struggle against war This perspective is the text of the speech delivered by David North, chairman of the World Socialist Web Site International Editorial Board and national chairman of the Socialist Equality Party (US), to open the May 3 International May Day Online Rally.
The past year has witnessed the relentless escalation of military violence, instigated by the United States and its major imperialist allies. The so-called “War on Terror” expands from country to country, from continent to continent. Nearly fifteen years after the events of 9/11, it has become obvious to all but the blind that the “War on Terror” has served as a pretext for the unleashing of US military power all over the world.
The events of the past year have made it all too clear that these regional interventions are part of an emerging global battle plan. The United States is escalating, simultaneously, its confrontation with Russia and China. With extraordinary recklessness, the Obama administration has taken actions that seem calculated to provoke a Russian military response. The US orchestration of the Ukrainian coup in February 2014 initiated a confrontation with a nuclear-armed Russia. Far from seeking to pull back from the brink, the United States—with the support of Germany and other NATO powers—is intensifying economic and military pressure against Russia.
It is a well-established historical fact that the existence of a complex network of military alliances and commitments between different European states—whose political implications and consequences were poorly understood by the governments involved, and which were hidden from the great mass of the people—contributed significantly to the outbreak of World War I in July–August 1914. Without the “Blank Check” that it had received from Germany in July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian government might have refrained from going to war against Serbia two weeks later. The commitments made by France to Russia encouraged the Tsarist regime to intervene militarily in support of Serbia.
One hundred years later, history is repeating itself. During his visit last year to Tallinn, capital of the small Baltic state of Estonia, Obama declared in a public speech: I say to the people of Estonia and the people of the Baltics, today we are bound by our treaty Alliance. We have a solemn duty to each other. Article 5 is crystal clear: An attack on one is an attack on all.
How many Americans know about, let alone understand the implications of, the military commitment made by the Obama administration to the politically unstable and reckless right-wing government in Estonia? The distance between Tallinn in Estonia and St. Petersburg in Russia is just 230 miles, ten miles less than the distance between New York City and Washington, DC. Approximately one-quarter of the Estonian population consists of ethnic Russians.
The political struggle against war and the tasks of the Socialist Equality Party The following resolution was unanimously adopted by the first national congress of the Socialist Equality Party (Sri Lanka) held on March 27-30, 2015. It is the essential basis of the party’s political struggle in Sri Lanka and South Asia against the growing threat of imperialist war and social counterrevolution.
The IYSSE’s campaign against war and historical falsification at Humboldt University By Andre Damon and Jesse Olsen 13 January 2015.. great video in German with English subtitles.
Scholarship, not war propaganda! The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany
One hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War, and seventy-five years after the outbreak of World War II, the German elites are once again preparing for war.
By seeking to downplay and relativize the crimes of the past, professors at Humboldt University are playing a central role in the campaign to revive German militarism.
This video explains how the IYSSE is fighting to turn the student election into a campaign against war and in defense of historical truth.
The Fight Against War and the Political Tasks of the Socialist Equality Party The Third National Congress of the Socialist Equality Party of the United States unanimously adopted this resolution on August 5. The Congress also passed the resolutions “Oppose the Israeli assault on Gaza!” and “Defend the rights of immigrant workers! Unite the working class of North, Central and South America!”
Leon Trotsky and the Defense of Historical Truth Eighty years have passed since the first Moscow Show Trial, one of the most sordid frame-ups in world history. Also known as the Trial of the Sixteen, the “Case of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center” took place in Moscow from August 19 to August 24, 1936. All sixteen defendants were sentenced to be shot and their personal property confiscated.
Beyond those at the trial, Lev Davidovich Trotsky and his son, Lev Lvovich Sedov, were declared in absentia to be “subject to immediate arrest and trial by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR,” i.e., if captured, they too would be tried and executed in mockery of the most elementary judicial standards.
Throughout the world, a rising tide of social struggle is upending the proclamations by anti-Marxist intellectuals that the “grand narratives” of working-class struggle and socialist revolution have been superseded.
Politically powerful and well-attended public meetings were held by the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne last week on Why and How the GPU Murdered Trotsky, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Leon Trotsky’s assassination by an agent of Joseph Stalin’s secret police in Mexico in 1940.
The Australian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), the world party of socialist revolution founded by Trotsky in 1938—explained the significance of Trotsky’s life and struggle, and the elaborate lengths to which Stalin went to organise Trotsky’s murder.
Trotsky’s murder had robbed the international working class of the most conscious representative of its historical interests, Crisp said, and was the culmination of a campaign of terror waged by the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union that saw the elimination of the entire Bolshevik leadership that had participated and led the Russian Revolution of 1917.
“He was a leader of the Russian Revolution of 1905, at the age of just 26; the co-leader with Lenin of the Russian Revolution of 1917; the founder and builder of the Red Army, which defeated the 14 armies of imperialist intervention that sought to overturn the first workers’ state; and the leader of the political struggle from 1923 onward, until his murder in 1940, against the counter-revolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy, which had usurped political power from the Soviet working class.”
Before Trotsky was killed, Beams emphasised, he had made what he regarded as his most important contribution—the founding of the Fourth International. Today, led by the International Committee, the Fourth International is the only tendency in the world that seeks to continue and develop the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism through the world socialist revolution, the task begun in the October Revolution of 1917.
The inner core of all Trotsky’s achievements, Beams explained, was that he was the foremost strategist of the perspective of world socialist revolution, summed up following the 1905 Russian revolution in his path-breaking theory of permanent revolution. “This represented a fundamental shift of perspective and orientation, based on the understanding that the Russian Revolution, which had now emerged, could only be conceived and understood, not as a national phenomenon, but as a component part of the developing world socialist revolution, the objective preconditions for which had been created by the global development of the capitalist system.”
Beams stressed the fundamental contradiction, identified by Trotsky, between the global development of the productive forces and the outmoded nation-state system, which divided the world into rival and conflicting powers. Imperialism attempted to solve this problem through war.
The working class had to solve it by means of the world socialist revolution—the overthrow of the entire reactionary system of nation-states and the private ownership of the means of production.
Leon Trotsky’s place in history By David North 21 August 2015
Sixty years ago, on August 21, 1940, Leon Trotsky died from wounds that had been inflicted by an agent of the Soviet secret police one day earlier. The Stalinist regime hoped that this murder would not only end the political activities of its greatest opponent, but also eradicate his place in history. Totalitarian pragmatism proved to be shortsighted in its calculations.
As historians study and interpret the twentieth century, the figure of Leon Trotsky looms ever larger. In few other lives were the struggles, aspirations and tragedies of the last century reflected so profoundly and nobly as in that of Trotsky. If we accept as true the observation of Thomas Mann that, “In our time the destiny of man presents itself in political terms,” then it can be said that in the sixty years of Trotsky’s life, destiny found its most conscious realization.
Why was Trotsky, in exile and apparently isolated, so feared? Why did Stalin consider his death necessary? Trotsky himself offered a political explanation. In the autumn of 1939, several weeks after the signing of the Stalin-Hitler Pact (which he had predicted) and the outbreak of World War II, Trotsky called attention to a conversation, reported in a Parisian newspaper, between Hitler and the French ambassador Robert Coulondre.
As Hitler boasted that his treaty with Stalin would give him a free hand to defeat Germany’s enemies in the west, Coulondre cut the Führer short with a warning: “The real victor (in case of war) will be Trotsky. Have you thought this over?” Hitler voiced agreement with the assessment of the French ambassador, but blamed his adversaries for forcing his hand.
Citing this amazing report, Trotsky wrote: “These gentlemen like to give a personal name to the specter of revolution ... Both of them, Coulondre and Hitler, represent the barbarism which advances over Europe. At the same time neither of them doubts that their barbarism will be conquered by socialist revolution.”
In 1991, Duke University published a 1,000-page study of the International Trotskyist movement by Robert J. Alexander. In his introduction, Alexander observes:
As of the end of the 1980s the Trotskyists have never come to power in any country. Although International Trotskyism does not enjoy the support of a well-established regime, as did the heirs of Stalinism, the persistence of the movement in a wide variety of countries together with the instability of the political life of most of the world’s nations means that the possibility that a Trotskyist party might come to power in the foreseeable future cannot be totally ruled out.
Despite the vast economic and social changes in the last 60 years, we are not so far removed from the problems, issues and themes with which Trotsky dealt. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Trotsky’s writings retain, to an extraordinary degree, a contemporary character. A study of Trotsky’s writings is essential not only for an understanding of the politics of the twentieth century, but also for the purpose of orienting oneself politically in the very complex world of the twenty-first century.
If the greatness of a political figure is measured by the extent and enduring relevance of his legacy, then Trotsky must be placed in the very first rank of twentieth century leaders. Let us for a moment consider the political figures that dominated the world stage in 1940.
It is difficult even to mention the names of the totalitarian leaders of that era—Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Franco—without uttering an obscenity. They left nothing behind but the memory of their unspeakable crimes.
As for the “great” leaders of the imperialist democracies, Roosevelt and Churchill, no one would deny that they were striking personalities and displayed skill within the framework of conventional parliamentary politics.
Churchill, more brilliant than the American president, was a talented orator and displayed some skill as a writer. But can one really speak of either man’s legacy? Churchill’s hymns to the fading British Empire were regarded as anachronistic even by many of his admirers. His writings are of interest as historical documents, but have very limited contemporary relevance.
As for Roosevelt, he was the consummate political pragmatist, who reacted with a combination of guile and intuition to the problems of the day. Would anyone suggest seriously that one would find in the speeches and/or books of Churchill and Roosevelt (the latter, by the way, did not write any) analyses and insights that would contribute to an understanding of the political problems that we confront at the outset of the twenty-first century?
Even in their own day, Trotsky towered over his political contemporaries.
The philosophical and political foundations of historical falsification “Lies about politics and history have wide-ranging implications,” Heymanns warned. He recalled the outbreak of the First World War 100 years ago and the Second World War 75 years ago. Today, the major powers are heading towards a new war, and the capitalist system has, for the last five-and-a-half years, been in its worst crisis since the 1930s.
In his contribution, Wolfgang Weber, a member of the executive of the Socialist Equality Party (Partei für Soziale Gleichheit--PSG), detailed the background to Robert Service’s invitation.
Those who anticipated a new flowering of historical science after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening up of the archives, which would clarify the Stalinist lies about Leon Trotsky, have been disappointed, he said... David North.. undertook a fundamental critique of all three books, characterising them as “preventative biographies” that had resuscitated old lies.
As the final speaker, Ulrich Rippert, chairman of the PSG, focused on the political context of Service’s invitation. The announcement by the new federal government that the period when Germany was obliged to abstain from military action was finally over marked an historical turning point, Rippert declared. It prepared the way for a new stage of imperialist and aggressive foreign policy.
“The struggle against social inequality, dictatorship and war necessarily raises the question of a socialist program, and Trotsky’s perspective, which made clear the unbridgeable conflict between Stalinism and socialism, plays a central role,” Rippert said.
Rippert then spoke about his own personal experiences. He had been confronted by the crimes of National Socialism at a trade union school as a 16-year-old apprentice and had been shocked. He rapidly grasped the connection between fascism and capitalism. But this raised another question: Why did the working class not prevent this catastrophe?
“So we studied the workers movement somewhat more closely,” he said. He had opposed Stalinism, which suppressed the workers’ uprising in East Germany in 1953, the Hungarian revolution of 1956, and the Prague Spring of 1969. But only the writings of Trotsky brought clarity.
“We studied Revolution Betrayed, and feverishly studied Trotsky’s writings on Germany when they were published in the summer of 1971. The situation in Germany now became clearly comprehensible. Due to the reactionary politics of the Stalinist parties, the working class had been unable to prevent fascism.”
Chris Hedges" The Socialist Alternative The disintegration of the ruling political parties, along with the discrediting of the established political and economic elites, presage radical change. This change may come from the right. It may result in a frightening proto-fascism. If it is to come from the left it must be pushed forward by dogged activists and citizens who are willing to accept that stepping outside the system will mean surrendering all hope of power for perhaps a decade. To continue to engage in establishment politics, especially attempting to work within the Democratic Party, will further empower corporate capitalism and extinguish what remains of our democracy."The vested interests - if we explain the situation by their influence - can only get the public to act as they wish by manipulating public opinion, by playing either upon the public's indifference, confusions, prejudices, pugnacities or fears. And the only way in which the power of the interests can be undermined and their maneuvers defeated is by bringing home to the public the danger of its indifference, the absurdity of its prejudices, or the hollowness of its fears; by showing that it is indifferent to danger where real danger exists; frightened by dangers which are nonexistent." - Sir Norman Angell 1872 - 1967 [an English lecturer, journalist, author, and Member of Parliament for the Labour Party. Angell was one of the principal founders of the Union of Democratic Control. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933. Wikipedia]
Sir Norman Angell is most widely remembered for his 1909 pamphlet, Europe's Optical Illusion, which was published the following year (and many years thereafter) as the book, The Great Illusion. (The anti-war film La Grande Illusion took its title from his pamphlet.) The thesis of the book was that the integration of the economies of European countries had grown to such a degree that war between them would be entirely futile, making militarism obsolete.
Willingly entering the political wilderness requires a vision that is worth sacrificing and fighting to achieve. It means that some of those who begin the revolution against corporate capitalism will not live to see its culmination. It will mean marginalization, harassment, persecution, prison and, if the movement becomes effective, state violence. History has taught us that.
But given the alternative—the planet’s ecosystem destroyed by the fossil fuel and the animal agriculture industries, greater pillaging by corporate oligarchs and the rise of a global security and surveillance system that takes from us all pretense of liberty—the battle is worth it.
“American is left wing,” she insisted. “America is angry at the corporate domination of politics. America is disgusted with the U.S. Congress and the two-party establishment. America wants social change that will have a transformative impact on people’s lives and the environment.”
She points to the Sanders and Trump insurgencies as evidence that the managed political system is escaping the control of the elites. This, she said, has provided the left with an opening.
“Hillary Clinton, the establishment candidate, expected a coronation,” she said. “She did not get that. Sanders upended every calculation the ruling class made. This is happening on the other side with Trump. The Republican Party is in disarray and chaos. This is the public discrediting of the two parties.”
Living With Denmark's Democratic Socialism By Nancy Graham Holm. Wednesday Nov 11, 2015
Why so much anger? [with Americans against Denmark]
Here’s my best educated guess: Most Americans have been brought up to believe that the USA is the best country in the world and that most people in other nations wish they could live in it. This means that it feels unpatriotic to admire someone else’s political system; disloyal – close to treason - to even consider the possibility that another socioeconomic system might be superior.
America’s superiority is an assumption I carried with me throughout my life and I probably brought it with me to Denmark when I was hired to teach for one year at the national journalism college. The one-year gig became two and then three and then five until I was granted academic tenure and permanent residency. By then, I was well acquainted with Denmark’s democratic socialism and after marrying a Danish national and realizing that I’d probably be staying forever, I started to consider myself fortunate. Let me tell you why.
First, I like Danish egalitarianism.
OK. This clearly makes me out to be a liberal. As moral psychologist, Jonathan Haidt teaches us in his provocative book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2013) liberals need to feel equal to everybody while conservatives need to feel superior to at least a few. This makes Denmark a perfect fit for American social liberals and a frustrating - even exasperating - experience for Americans who identify as conservative.
Personally, I like how Danes value work and workers. They seem to understand that nothing is produced or accomplished in society without labor and they honor rank and file workers just as much as managers. In Danish society, human beings are judged by the strength of their character, not by their professional status or the size of their pay-check. Weekend getaway planning conferences often include everybody-at-the-office, not just upper and middle management, but secretaries, cantine workers and custodians. Everyone is entitled to express opinions and they do. In Denmark, medical doctors do not wear white coats (except in hospitals) and they normally introduce themselves by their first names. Professors and teachers are also called by their first names and everybody else too that you might meet on the job. The majority of work places have a kitchen and eating area so that mid-morning and mid-afternoon coffee breaks are social events with freshly brewed coffee served in cups with saucers and bakery goods – including, on occasion - wienerbrød (yes, what Americans call Danish).
Union membership is not compulsory in Denmark yet 80% of people with jobs (skilled and unskilled) are members of a labor union. Kollektive overenskomster means "collective bargaining" and this is the heart and soul of their economic egalitarianism. Without government interference, it is the employees and employers that negotiate salary, vacation, sick leave and maternity/paternity leave. Women cannot lose their jobs because of pregnancy and all pregnant women are entitled to paid-leave one month prior to giving birth and up to one year afterward. Professional childcare exists so that women can participate in the economy. All children are guaranteed a place in a nursery until elementary school, subsidized through taxation.
Everybody – skilled and unskilled – is formally trained in Denmark. There seems to be an ”education” for just about everything, including the execution of retail sales in department stores. Workers are entitled to upgrade their skills through courses and it is not unusual for management to send some of their staff to various courses on company time. If you lose your job, unemployment insurance protects you, giving you enough to stay inside the economic system; enough to keep you from losing your home to the bank; enough to buy groceries and prescription medicines; enough to live with dignity while you search for a new job. Losing your job in Denmark is inconvenient but not a disaster.
Work/play balance is a Danish value and people who work excessively are not admired but considered anti-social and unhealthy. Normally, everybody works 37 hours a week and gets 5-6 weeks of paid vacation in a calendar year. If you change employers, you are entitled to carry your vacation time with you.
Health care is pre-paid through taxation. Doctors are paid by the State and everyone is entitled to pick their own physician, and/or change doctors, if they choose. The first line of care is with a general practitioner who makes referrals to specialists, if necessary. All diagnostic tests, treatments and surgery are free of extra charge and the costs of medicines are subsidized to make them affordable.
But hey! Democratic socialism is not communism. It is merely a pooling of resources to share the nation’s wealth among its citizens. Democratic socialism means that the decision makers are democratic; transparent; accessible: Not far away; not totalitarian.
I like the Danes’ highly decentralized system of political power so that a nation of only 5.6 million people has 98 municipal districts and five administrative regions. I like the fact that MPs - Members of Parliament - are not professional politicians but ordinary people: librarians, teachers, dentists, building contractors, accountants, journalists, etc. that represent eight different political parties, none of which, by the way, want to dismantle the welfare state.
What impresses me most about Danish political campaigns is the prohibition of television ads so that political candidates run on a level playing field and do not have to raise gargantuan sums of cash. I like the fact that the campaign period is short, not years but a matter of weeks.
Danes do not see “the government” as an adversary but as a mirror. The Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches are follow citizens working on their behalf.
What Socialism Means to Bernie Sanders—and You Posted on Nov 6, 2015 By Joe Conason
Since the advent of the Cold War, and even before then, the multifarious meanings of the S-word were hidden behind the ideological and cultural defenses erected against communism. The Soviet dictatorship and its satellites claimed their authoritarian way was the only true socialism—and conservatives in the West seized that self-serving claim to crush arguments for social justice and progressive governance. American politicians of both parties embraced the blurring of socialism with communism, rejecting both.
But that narrow definition of socialism was always wrong. To accept it meant to ignore fundamental realities, both contemporary and historical—such as the bolstering of the Western alliance by European democracies that called themselves socialist or social democratic, all of which had adopted programs, such as universal health care, denounced by American politicians as steps on the road to Communist serfdom. Decades later, of course, those same countries—including all of Scandinavia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom—remain democratic, free and open to business.
As for the United States, Sanders might recall that this country once had a thriving Socialist Party, which elected mayors in cities like Milwaukee and even sent two of its leaders, Milwaukee’s Victor Berger and New York’s Meyer Lon', to Congress. Their movement enjoyed not only electoral victories but also a strong record of municipal reform and reconstruction. They built sewers to clean up industry’s legacy of pollution; they built public housing; they ensured delivery of publicly owned, affordable water and power; and they cleaned up local government.
Understanding Marxism and Socialism with Richard Wolff: video Despite a concerted effort by the U.S. Empire to snuff out the ideology, a 2016 poll found young Americans have a much more favorable view of socialism than capitalism.
What is Democratic Socialism, American-Style? by Peter Dreier. Published on Wednesday, October 28, 2015 by CNN
In the early 1900s, socialists led the movements for women's suffrage, child labor laws, consumer protection laws and the progressive income tax. In 1916, Victor Berger, a socialist congressman from Milwaukee, sponsored the first bill to create "old age pensions." The bill didn't get very far, but two decades later, in the midst of the Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded Congress to enact Social Security. Even then, some critics denounced it as un-American. But today, most Americans, even conservatives, believe that Social Security is a good idea. What had once seemed radical has become common sense.
Much of FDR's other New Deal legislation -- the minimum wage, workers' right to form unions and public works programs to create jobs for the unemployed -- was first espoused by American socialists.
Socialists were in the forefront of the civil rights movement from the founding of the NAACP in 1909 through the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Socialists have long pushed for a universal health insurance plan, which helped create the momentum for stepping-stone measures such as Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s and Obamacare today.
In the 1890s, a socialist Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy, wrote "The Pledge of Allegiance" and a socialist poet, Katherine Lee Bates, penned "America the Beautiful." Throughout our history, some of the nation's most influential activists and thinkers, such as Jane Addams, John Dewey, Helen Keller, W.E.B. DuBois, Albert Einstein, A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, Martin Luther King, Paul Robeson, Eugene V. Debs, and Gloria Steinem, embraced democratic socialism.
King believed that America needed a "radical redistribution of economic and political power." In October 1964, he called for a "gigantic Marshall Plan" for the poor -- black and white. Two months later, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, he observed that the U.S. could learn much from Scandinavian "democratic socialism." In fact, he told his staff, "There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism."
During the Cold War, many Americans confused democratic socialism with communism. In fact, democratic socialists opposed the totalitarian governments of the Soviet Union, China and their satellites. That's because democratic socialism is about democracy -- giving ordinary people a greater voice in both politics and the workplace.
Although Sanders says that America needs a "grassroots political revolution," he is actually a reformer, not a revolutionary. His version of democratic socialism is akin to what most people around the world call "social democracy," which seems to make capitalism more humane.
This is why Sanders says that the U.S. should learn from Sweden, Norway and Denmark -- countries with greater equality, a higher standard of living for working families, better schools, free universities, less poverty, a cleaner environment, higher voter turnout, stronger unions, universal health insurance, and a much wider safety net
Sounds anti-business? Forbes magazine ranked Denmark as the #1 country for business. The United States ranked #18.
European social democracies put greater emphasis on government enterprise, but even most Americans favor government-run police departments, fire departments, national parks, municipally-owned utilities, local subway systems and public state universities.
Because the word "socialism" has been demonized, few Americans call themselves socialists or even social democrats. But public opinion polls -- including the Pew Research Center, Hart Research Associates and The New York Times/CBS -- show that a vast majority of Americans agree with what Sanders actually stands for.
Chris Hedges: What It Means to Be a Socialist Chris Hedges gave this speech Sunday at a Santa Ana, Calif., event sponsored by the Green Party of Orange County.
We live in a revolutionary moment. The disastrous economic and political experiment that attempted to organize human behavior around the dictates of the global marketplace has failed. The promised prosperity that was to have raised the living standards of workers through trickle-down economics has been exposed as a lie. A tiny global oligarchy has amassed obscene wealth, while the engine of unfettered corporate capitalism plunders resources, exploits cheap, unorganized labor and creates pliable, corrupt governments that aban' the common good to serve corporate profit.
The relentless drive by the fossil fuel industry for profits is destroying the ecosystem, threatening the viability of the human species. And no mechanisms to institute genuine reform or halt the corporate assault are left within the structures of power, which have surrendered to corporate control. The citizen has become irrelevant. He or she can participate in heavily choreographed elections, but the demands of corporations and banks are paramount.
We will, as Friedrich Engels wrote, make a transition to either socialism or barbarism. If we do not dismantle global capitalism we will descend into the Hobbesian chaos of failed states, mass migrations—which we are already witnessing—and endless war. Populations, especially in the global South, will endure misery and high mortality rates caused by collapsing ecosystems and infrastructures on a scale not seen since perhaps the black plague. There can be no accommodation with global capitalism. We will overthrow this system or be crushed by it. And at this moment of crisis we need to remind ourselves what being a socialist means and what it does not mean.
First and foremost, all socialists are unequivocal anti-militarists and anti-imperialists. They understand that there is no genuine social, political, economic or cultural reform as long as the militarists and their corporatist allies in the war industry continue to loot and pillage the state budget, leaving the poor to go hungry, workingmen and -women in distress, the infrastructure to collapse and social services to be slashed in the name of austerity.
The psychosis of permanent war, which infected the body politic after World War I with the internal and external war on communism, and which today has mutated into the war on terror, is used by the state to strip us of civil liberties, redirect our resources to the war machine and criminalize democratic dissent.
We have squandered trillions of dollars and resources in endless and futile wars, from Vietnam to the Middle East, at a time of ecological and fiscal crisis. The folly of endless war is one of the signs of a dying civilization. One F-22 Raptor fighter plane costs $350 million. We have 187 of them. One Tomahawk cruise missile costs $1.41 million. We fired 161 of them when we attacked Libya. This missile attack on Libya alone cost us a quarter of a billion dollars. We spend an estimated $1.7 trillion a year on war, far more than the official 54 percent of discretionary spending, or roughly $600 billion. If we '’t break the back of the war machine, profound change will be impossible.
The human cost has been horrendous. Over 1 million dead in Iraq. Millions more are displaced or are refugees. Iraq will never be reconstituted as a unified state. And it was our war industry that created the mess. We attacked a country that did not threaten us, and had no intention of threatening its neighbors, and destroyed one of the most modern infrastructures in the Middle East. We brought not only terror and death—including the Shiite death squads we armed and trained—but power outages, food shortages and the collapse of basic services, from garbage collection to sewer and water treatment. We dismantled Iraq’s institutions, disbanded its security forces, threw its health service into crisis and engineered massive poverty and unemployment. And out of the chaos rose insurgents, gangsters, kidnapping rings, jihadists and rogue paramilitary groups—including our hired mercenaries, like [the current army of] Iraq.
Foreign battlefields are laboratories for the architects of industrial slaughter. They perfect the tools of control and annihilation on the demonized and the destitute. But these tools eventually make their way back to the heart of empire. As the corporatists and the militarists disembowel the nation, rendering our manufacturing centers boarded-up wastelands and tossing our citizens into poverty and despair, the methods of subjugation familiar to those on the outer reaches migrate back to us—wholesale surveillance, indiscriminate use of lethal force in the streets of our cities against unarmed citizens, a stripping away of our civil liberties, a dysfunctional court system, drones, arbitrary arrest, detention and mass incarceration.
Democracy is snuffed out. As the German socialist Karl Liebknecht said during the First World War: “The main enemy is at home.” We will destroy the engines of endless war and shut down the war profiteers or we will become the next victims; indeed many in our marginal communities already are its victims.
You cannot be a socialist and an imperialist. You cannot, as Bernie Sanders has 'e, support the Obama administration’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen and be a socialist. You cannot, as Sanders has 'e, vote for every military appropriations bill, including every bill and resolution that empowers and sanctions Israel to carry out its slow-motion genocide of the Palestinian people, and be a socialist. And you cannot laud, as Sanders has 'e, military contractors because they bring jobs to your state. Sanders may have the rhetoric of inequality down, but he is a full-fledged member of the Democratic Caucus, which kneels before the war industry and their lobbyists. And no genuine grass-roots movement will ever be born within the bowels of the Democratic Party establishment, which is currently attempting to shut down Sanders to make sure its anointed candidate is the nominee. No elected official dares to challenge any weapons system, no matter how costly or redundant. And Sanders, who votes with the Democrats 98 percent of the time, steers clear of confronting the master of war.
There is a reason no establishment politician, including Sanders, dares say a word against the war industry. If you do, you end up like Ralph Nader, tossed into the political wilderness. Nader was not afraid to speak this truth. And it is in the wilderness, I am afraid, that real socialists must for the moment reside. Socialists understand that if we do not dismantle the war industry, nothing, absolutely nothing, will change; indeed, things will only get worse.
War is a business. Imperial wars seize natural resources on behalf of corporations and ensure the profits of the arms industry. This is as true in Iraq as it was in our campaigns of genocide against Native Americans. And, as A. Philip Randolph said, it is only when it is impossible to profit from war that wars will be dramatically curtailed, if not stopped.
War, wrapped in the cant of nationalism and the euphoria that comes with the giddy celebration of power and violence, is used by ruling elites to thwart and destroy the aspirations of workingmen and -women and distract us from our disempowerment.
Eugene V. Debs--“I have been accused of obstructing the war,” Debs said in court. “I admit it. I abhor war. I would oppose war if I stood alone.”
Debs, who would spend 32 months in prison, until 1921, also delivered to many a socialist credo at his sentencing after being found guilty of violating the Espionage Act:
“Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it. While there is a criminal element, I am of it. While there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
The redirecting of national frustrations and emotions into the struggle against a common enemy, the cant of patriotism, the endemic racism that is the fuel of all ideologies that sustain war, the false bonding that comes with the sense of comradeship, seduces those on the margins of society. They feel in wartime that they belong. They feel they have a place. They are offered the chance to be heroes. And off they march like sheep to the slaughter. By the time they find out, it is too late.
“War,” as Randolph Bourne wrote, “is the health of the state.” It allows the state to accrue to itself power and resources that in peacetime a citizenry would never permit. And that is why the war state, like the one we live in, has to make certain that we are always afraid.
The manufacturing of weapons systems and the waging of war is today the chief activity of the state. It is no longer one among other means of advancing the national interest, as Simone Weil pointed out, but has become the sole national interest.
The radicals, such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or Wobblies, founded by Mother Jones and Big Bill Haywood in 1905, were destroyed by the state. Department of Justice agents in 1912 made simultaneous raids on 48 IWW meeting halls across the country and arrested 165 IWW union leaders. One hundred one went to trial, including Big Bill Haywood, who testified for three days. One of the IWW leaders told the court:
"This war is a business man’s war and we '’t see why we should go out and get shot in order to save the lovely state of affairs that we now enjoy."
The Wobblies once led strikes involving hundreds of thousands of workers and preached an uncompromising doctrine of class warfare. It went the way of the passenger pigeon. The Socialist Party by 1912 had 126,000 members, 1,200 officeholders in 340 municipalities, and 29 English and 22 foreign-language weeklies, along with three English and six foreign-language dailies. It included in its ranks tenant farmers, garment workers, railroad workers, coal miners, hotel and restaurant workers, dock workers and lumberjacks. It too was liquidated by the state. Socialist leaders were jailed or deported. Socialist publications such as The Masses and Appeal to Reason were banned. The assault, aided later by McCarthyism, has left us without the vocabulary to make sense of our own reality, to describe the class war being waged against us by our corporate oligarchs.
We will regain this militancy, this uncompromising commitment to socialism, or the system the political philosopher Shel' Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism” will establish the most efficient security and surveillance state in human history and a species of neofeudalism. We must stop pouring our energy into mainstream political campaigns. The game is rigged.
We will rebuild our radical movements or become hostages to the capitalists and the war industry. Fear is the only language the power elite understands. This is a dark fact of human nature. It is why Richard Nixon was our last liberal president. Nixon was not a liberal [personally]. He was devoid of empathy and lacked a conscience. But he was frightened of movements. You do not make your enemy afraid by selling out. You make your enemy afraid by refusing to submit, by fighting for your vision and by organizing. It is not our job to take power. It is our job to build movements to keep power in check. Without these movements nothing is possible.
“You get freedom by letting your enemy know that you’ll do anything to get your freedom; then you’ll get it,” Malcolm X said. “When you get that kind of attitude, they’ll label you as a ‘crazy Negro,’ or they’ll call you a “crazy nigger”—they '’t say Negro. Or they’ll call you an extremist or a subversive, or seditious, or a red, or a radical. But when you stay radical long enough, and get enough people to be like you, you’ll get your freedom."
The New Deal—which as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a charter member of the oligarchic class, said—saved capitalism, was put in place because socialists were strong and a serious threat. The oligarchs understood that with the breakdown of capitalism—something I expect we will again witness in our lifetimes—there was a real possibility of a socialist revolution. They were terrified they would lose their wealth and power.
In other words, Roosevelt went to his fellow oligarchs and said hand over some of your money or you will lose all your money in a revolution. And his fellow capitalists complied. And that is how the government created 15 million jobs, Social Security, unemployment benefits and public works projects. The capitalists did not do this because the suffering of the masses moved them. They did this because they were scared. And they were scared of radicals and socialists.
George Bernard Shaw got it right in his play “Major Barbara.” The greatest crime is poverty. It is the crime every socialist is dedicated to eradicating.
We must stop looking for our salvation in strong leaders. Strong people, as Ella Baker said, do not need strong leaders. Politicians, even good politicians, play the game of compromise and are too often seduced by the privileges of power. Sanders, from all I can tell, began his political life as a socialist in the 1960s when this was hardly a bold political statement, but quickly figured out he was not going to have a seat at the table if he remained one. He wants his seniority in the Senate. He wants his committee chairmanships. He wants his ability to retain his seat unchallenged. This was no doubt politically astute. But in this process he sold us out.
Integrity and courage are powerful weapons. We have to learn how to use them. We have to stand up for what we believe in. And we have to accept the risks and even the ridicule that comes with this stance. We will not prevail any other way.
As a socialist I am not concerned with what is expedient or what is popular. I am concerned with what is right. I am concerned with holding fast to the core ideals of socialism, if for no other reason than keeping this option alive for future generations. And these ideals are the only ones that make possible a better world.
If you will not call for an arms embargo along with the boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, you are not a socialist. If you will not demand we dismantle our military establishment, which is managing the government’s wholesale surveillance of every citizen and storing all our personal information in perpetuity in government computer banks, and if you will not abolish the for-profit arms industry, you are not a socialist.
If you will not call for the prosecution of those leaders, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who engage in aggressive acts of pre-emptive war, which under post-Nuremberg laws is a criminal act, you are not a socialist. If you will not stand with the oppressed across the globe you are not a socialist.
Socialists do not pick and choose whom among the oppressed it is convenient to support. Socialists understand that you stand with all the oppressed or none of the oppressed, that this is a global fight for life against global corporate tyranny. We will win only when we stand together, when we see the struggle of workingmen in Greece, Spain and Egypt as our own struggle.
If you will not call for full employment and unionized workplaces you are not a socialist. If you will not call for inexpensive mass transit, especially in impoverished communities, you are not a socialist. If you will not call for universal, single-payer health care and a banning of for-profit health care corporations you are not a socialist. If you will not raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour you are not a socialist.
If you are not willing to provide a weekly income of $600 to the unemployed, the disabled, stay-at-home parents, the elderly and those unable to work you are not a socialist. If you will not repeal anti-union laws, like the Taft-Hartley Act, and trade agreements from NAFTA to the TPP and CAFTA, you are not a socialist. If you will not guarantee all Americans a pension in old age you are not a socialist.
If you will not support two years of paid maternity leave, as well as shorter workweeks with no loss in pay and benefits, you are not a socialist. If you will not repeal the Patriot Act and Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act as well as halt government spying on citizens, along with mass incarceration, you are not a socialist.
If you will not put into place laws that prohibit all forms of male violence against women and criminalize the trafficking and pimping out of prostituted girls and women, while not criminalizing the exploited girls and women, you are not a socialist. If you do not support a woman’s right to control her own body you are not a socialist. If you do not support full equality for our GBLT community you are not a socialist.
If you will not declare global warming a national and global emergency and divert our energy and resources to saving the planet through public investment in renewable energy and an end to our reliance on fossil fuels you are not a socialist. If you will not nationalize public utilities, including the railroads, energy companies and banks, you are not a socialist. If you will not support government funding for the arts and public broadcasting to create places where creativity, self-expression and voices of dissent can be heard and seen you are not a socialist.
If you will not terminate our nuclear weapons programs and build a nuclear-free world you are not a socialist. If you will not demilitarize our police, meaning that police no longer carry weapons when they patrol our streets but rely on specialized armed units that have to be authorized case-by-case to use lethal force, you are not a socialist.
If you will not support government training and rehabilitation programs for the poor and those in our prisons, along with the abolition of the death penalty, you are not a socialist.
If you will not grant full citizenship to undocumented workers you are not a socialist. If you do not declare a moratorium on foreclosures and bank repossessions you are not a socialist.
If you will not provide free education from day care to university, and forgive all student debt, you are not a socialist. And if you will not provide free, state-run mental health care, especially for those now caged in our prisons, you are not a socialist. If you will not dismantle our empire and bring our soldiers and Marines home you are not a socialist.
Socialists do not sacrifice the weak and the vulnerable, especially children, on the altars of profit. And the measure of a successful society for a socialist is not the GDP or the highs of the stock market but the right of everyone, especially children, never go to bed hungry, to live in safety and security, to be nurtured and educated, and to grow up fulfill his or her potential. Work is not only about a wage, it is about dignity and a sense of self-worth.
I am not naive about the forces arrayed against us. I understand the difficulty of our struggle. But we will never succeed if we attempt to accommodate the current structures of power. Our strength lies in our steadfastness and our integrity. It lies in our ability to hold fast to our ideals, as well as our willingness to sacrifice for those ideals. We must refuse to cooperate.... We must rebel.
I cannot promise you we will win. I cannot promise you we will even survive as a species. But I can promise you that an open and sustained defiance of global capitalism and the merchants of death, along with the building of a socialist movement, is our only hope. I am a parent, as are many of you. We have betrayed our children. We have squandered their future. And if we rise up, even if we fail, future generations, and especially those who are most precious to us, will be able to say we tried, that we stood up and fought for life. The call to resistance, which will require civil disobedience and jail time, is finally a call to the moral life. Resistance is not about what we achieve, but about what it allows us to become. In the end, I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.
Reality and Dreams by Fidel Castro Ruz. 8/18/15.
we will not stop fighting for peace and the well-being of all human beings, regardless of skin color and origin of every inhabitant of the planet
if you consider that the battered humanity must have more and better education against the incredible ignorance we all are mired in
Equality for all citizens to healthcare, education, work, food, security, culture, science, and wellbeing, namely, the same rights we claimed when we started our fight plus those emerging from our dreams of justice and equality for the world’s inhabitants, that is what I wish for all
Quote: "The United States spends over $87 billion conducting a war in Iraq while the United Nations estimates that for less than half that amount we could provide clean water, adequate diets, sanitations services and basic education to every person on the planet. And we wonder why terrorists attack us." - John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
Which Is Better for Innovation: Capitalism or Democratic Socialism? In the quarter-century after World War II, the high profits garnered by American corporations due to their exceptional place in the world market allowed corporate labs to engage in “blue-skies research” projects. But even then, public funding accounted for roughly two-thirds of all research and development expenditures in the United States, creating the foundations for the high-tech sectors of today.
"Today, when the bottom line is touted as the answer to every question, Americans are imprisoned in a mental world shaped by economic trends. Ironically, its ideologists have become pitchmen for a capitalist caricature of Marxism--promulgating a crude economic deteminism in which the market rules every social, mental and geographic space. Since the fall of Communism, market-oriented ways of thinking, feeling and seeing have permeated our lives and our culture to a degree that Marx never dreamed of.
Yet the real Marxism, although no longer emodied in movements or governments, has never been truer or more relevant: Most of the world's main problems today are inseparable from the dynamics of the capitalist system itself. With corporate capitalism everywhere in command, the outlook is for increased poverty, more environmental degradation, ever more uneven distribution of resources and the undermining of traditional societies and ways of life, for a culture dominated by marketing, advertising and uneven global development.
"But Americans need only glance around the world to see that there are alternatives...
"The reigning economic system will continue to generate opposition as long as it speaks of equality (which it must) yet continues to be unequal and undemocratic (which it must); as long as it incites dreams of a better life (which it must) but deforms social, cultural and political life according to its bottom line (which it must); as long as its rampant abuse of the environment andpillage of natural resources continue (also inevitable)...
"The next left will have to acknowledge, and even celebrate, the socialist spirit. Socialism's values continue to nourish community life. Much of our world continues to be organized collectively, democratically and socially, operating according to need and not according to profitability--in schools and cooperatives; libraries and nonprofits; local, state and federal government programs. September 11 and Hurricane Katrina showed the undying need for extensive and intensive structures of community. The socialist standards of fairness, democracy, equality, and justice are as much a part of daily life as are capitalism's values of privilege, unequal rewards and power...
"What will individuals and groups demanding equality, democracy, respect for the environment and freedom from the market call themselves as they try to coalesce around increasingly global demands and on behalf of increasingly global alternatives? We need not be timid about naming this "socialims." What else is it? What a new progressive movement needs can be simply stated: more socialism...
"In its own terms our society should be taking steps at least to insure that we are equal to become unequal. In other words, fair competition requires an equal starting point. Yet today this is not a liberal but a radical demand...
(Ronald Aranson. "The Left Needs More Socialism." The Nation, April 17, 2006: 28-30).
OCTOBER REVOLUTION [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_Revolution]
officially known in the Soviet literature as the Great October Socialist Revolution
and commonly referred to as Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a seizure of state power instrumental in the larger Russian Revolution of 1917. It took place with an armed insurrection in Petrograd traditionally dated to 25 October 1917
The revolution was led by the Bolsheviks, who used their influence in the Petrograd Soviet to organize the armed forces. Bolshevik Red Guards forces under the Military Revolutionary Committee began the takeover of government buildings on 24 October 1917 (O.S.). The following day, the Winter Palace (the seat of the Provisional government located in Petrograd, then capital of Russia), was captured.
As the revolution was not universally recognized, there followed the struggles of the Russian Civil War (1917–22).
Leon Trotsky was a Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founding leader of the Red Army. Trotsky initially supported the Menshevik Internationalists faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Wikipedia Born: November 7, 1879, Bereslavka, Ukraine Height: 5' 9? Assassinated: August 21, 1940, Coyoacán, Mexico Spouse: Natalia Sedova (m. 1903–1940), Aleksandra Sokolovskaya (m. 1899–1902) Quotes The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end. Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that can happen to a man. You may not be interested in strategy, but strategy is interested in you. /DSA
Colby Glass, MLIS