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2017 and 2018

1 Jan

Happy New year, all.

This year just past has not been the best nor the worst the world has ever seen. In our own life, Sandie’s health continues intermittent, if I can call it that way. She has more or less recovered from the cancer of two and a half years ago, but now is suffering chronic shortness of breath. I am not all that healthy myself, my teeth continue to deteriorate and my joints get older every winter. I continue to sing; Sandie has taken a year off from CT in hopes of recovering her voice and lung capacity.

On the world scene and here in Canada, events continue to unfold. The continuing struggles in Palestine, in Catalonia, in Venezuela, in Syria, are more intense than we face here in North America, but the nature does not change however much the circumstances do; they are all aspects of the class struggle between Capital and Labour worldwide. On that note: I am heartened by our establishment of a Liaison Committee of Trotskyists in Canada last summer at a conference in Montreal. The four of us, altogether, hope to be able to rebuild a Canadian section of the FI united under the banner of the Organising Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International.

For friends and family, I wish us all a better year ahead, with more victories than defeats; peace, prosperity, and unity on us all.

For brothers and sisters in the NDP and the Socialist Caucus, I hope we can come to agree more on the correct strategies and tactics to unite our class and people independently of the bankers’ parties, the Grits and the Tories, and achieve political power in the name of the Canadian working class.

For comrades, I hope that in the coming year the ongoing difficulties in the Fourth International, and indeed not just in our stream of the International reproclaimed in 1993 but in all the streams which lay claim to the heritage of the FI founded in 1938, which could appear to an old political paranoid like me to have been deliberately engineered, shall be overcome and indeed overwhelmed. Might as well wish for the moon with a white-enameled wrought iron picket fence around it if we do not contribute to the fight, however, so onwards!

It is New Year’s day in Newfoundland, so … we will have a sip of Asti Spumante now, and one at 11:00 when it is New Year’s day in Halifax and the rest of the Maritimes, and then a big gurgle of it at local midnight in Toronto.
Happy New Year! Peace, prosperity and justice on us all.

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Endorsement letter for the Binational Fightback Conference

22 Nov

GREETINGS TO THE BINATIONAL CONFERENCE HELD ON DECEMBER 2-3, 2017, CARSON, CALIFORNIA.

Comrades and friends,

You hold this Conference in order to organize the fight to cancel NAFTA and to prevent the construction of the Wall of the Shame, a policy led by US imperialism against the working class and peoples of the three countries, United States of America, Mexico and Canada.

Comrades and friends,

Through NAFTA, which entered into force on 1994, Canadian and Mexican markets are forced to open wide for American products (spare parts for cars and trucks, agriculture, clothing, electronics and services), to relocate American factories, especially in the automotive sector, to these countries, to privatize economic and social sectors and to question workers rights.

Concerning Canada: on average, Canadian exports to the United States are 80% of total Canadian exports, while the exports from the United States to Canada are less than 60% of their total exports.

American factories and business have been outsourced to this country firing American workers and imposing low wages for Canadian workers; at the same time Canadian factories and businesses have been outsourced to right-to-work states in the US, and to Mexico.

The ongoing NAFTA negotiations are aimed, according to the Trump administration, at reducing the trade deficit with these countries. In reality, it is about amplifying the attacks on the working class and the peoples of our countries.

In Canada, recourse to special laws has become the rule to counter the mobilisations and strikes for the satisfaction of workers’ demands, as happened recently in Quebec in the construction industry and at Ontario colleges.

Comrades and friends,

We were unable to attend the Conference, which could have been Trinational; rest assured that your fight is ours and we will look for ways to join you.

Full success at the Conference.

Signed:

B. Ross Ashley; retired hospital worker, former member of the Executive Council of Local 204 SEIU; member of the executive of the Toronto-St Paul’s New Democratic Party, supporter of the NDP Socialist Caucus

Paul Nkunzimana; Correspondent International Workers Committee

(Copy, insert your name here, and email back to me at brashley46 at gmail.com)

at the oxymoron museum

12 Jul

Not political, but just freaking LOVELY.

Source: at the oxymoron museum

La démocratie exige de conclure : « Dehors ce président et cette Assemblée illégitimes, dehors la Ve République, Assemblée constituante souveraine tout de suite ! »

22 Jun

Communique of the POIDemocratique on the results of the second round

Paris, 19 June 2017
What now?
The National Assembly was elected on 18 June with fewer than two voters in five voting. This situation, unprecedented in the country’s history, occurred after Macron’s election, which was already marked by a record level of abstention and blank and spoiled ballots.
A class “non-vote”
A large majority had their say through a class “non-vote”. In the first round, two out of three workers and two out of three youth abstained or cast a blank or spoiled ballot; this phenomenon was more pronounced in the second round. This class “non-vote” clearly said: we reject the institutions and the policies they serve, the same policies which – from Sarkozy to Hollande to Macron – strike at the workers and the youth for the benefit of the capitalists and the bankers.
Democracy demands that we conclude: “Out with this illegitimate President and Assembly, out with the Fifth Republic, a sovereign Constituent Assembly now!”
This is not what the leaders of the parties and movements that emerged – to varying degrees – from the democratic labour movement are saying. Some of them are calling for the introduction of “an amount of proportional representation”: as if this could change the anti-democratic, authoritarian and Bonapartist nature of those institutions and the role of the rump National Assembly, dedicated to recording and accompanying every decision of the President!
Others are stating that this National Assembly is not “legitimate for taking the decision via ordinances” (1) to eliminate the labour Code…as if such an act of destruction were more acceptable if it came at the end of a “parliamentary debate”! To which can be added Melenchon’s request to the President of the Republic for a referendum on the future Macron law against the Labour Code…which once again amounts to Macron being able to rely on him!
Thus, all of them are staying within the framework of institutions that have been massively rejected, institutions which they are legitimising by calling for them to be reformed to a marginal degree.
It is the Fifth Republic that must be cleared out!
Those who campaigned on a position of “clearing them all out” are today patting themselves on the back for the disappearance of three quarters of the political personnel of the last Parliament. But, strangely, they have stopped being advocates of “clearing out” when it comes to the institutions of the Fifth Republic.
And yet the legislative programmes announced by Macron – on the Labour Code, the Social Security system and pensions – extend and worsen the previous programmes of Hollande and Sarkozy; like the others, Macron’s programmes are dictated by the European Union and the capitalist class. Defending labour rights and democracy cannot limit itself to “clearing out” failed government ministers and members of parliament; in fact, some of them have recycled themselves under new political labels. Defending labour rights and democracy calls for clearing out the institutions. Otherwise, a “clearing out” that focuses on individuals and ignores the institutions would only confirm a line from a famous film (2): “For things to remain the same, everything must change”.
After 18 June, anyone who claims to stand for the working class should come to this conclusion: democratic legitimacy resides in the class struggle organised by the workers themselves to block the government’s plans. On the evening of the second round, Mélenchon declared: “The people of France have at their disposal in the Assembly a consistent, disciplined and aggressive France Unbowed group, and it is this group (…) which, when the time comes, will call on the country to mount social resistance”. How are we to understand this wish to confiscate from the workers their right to organise their class struggle themselves?
How are we to understand this attempt to substitute oneself for the trade union organisations that were built by the workers to defend their demands?At a time when Trump is provoking a direct military confrontation with Syria (and behind it, Iran); at a time when the march to war is spreading to threaten peace throughout the world; what are they saying, all those officials of the groups elected yesterday to the National Assembly? That, one way or another, the war will continue. (3) On the contrary, whoever claims to stand for peace and democracy, whoever claims to stand for the working class, should say: there is an urgent need to open up the path to peace by withdrawing all French troops from foreign interventions.
This rejection is positive
The fact that activists who campaigned for France Unbowed candidates are happy with the number of seats won; the fact that Communist Party activists who feared that their party would disappear from the Assembly benches are reassured by the result; the fact that Socialist Party activists are dismayed by the SP dropping from 320 members of parliament to 29: every one of us can understand all this.
We, members of the Democratic Independent Workers Party (POID), fraternally say to all of them: whatever you are feeling on this election night, do not lose sight of the main point. The main point is that the working class and the youth abandoned the elections. This massive rejection is positive, as it heralds the developments to come on the battlefield of the class struggle.
We members of the POID place at the heart of our activity the fight for the workers’ united front, in other words for helping to achieve unity of the workers and their organisations on labour demands. As far as we are concerned, the only relevant criteria are class criteria.
“There are no supreme saviours…”
We remain faithful to the words of The Internationale: “There are no supreme saviours / Neither God, nor Caesar, nor tribune. Producers, let us save ourselves, / Decree the common salvation.” (4)
Yes, more than ever it is for the workers to decide on the forms and means of their united action together with their organisations. This presupposes specific slogans, and in particular:
• Withdrawal of the programme presented by the government on 6 June and repeal of the El Khomri law;
• Full respect for the Labour Code, rejection of reversing the order of standards and negotiating on an enterprise-by-enterprise basis;
• Return to the 1945 basis of the Social Security system, repeal of the CSG [supplementary social security contribution] and have funding only on a deferred-salary basis;
• Re-establishment of the public services, a return to state monopolies;
• Repeal of the counter-reforms in school education, preservation of the baccalaureate as a national diploma.
It is for the workers to decide for themselves. They are the majority, they are social and democratic legitimacy.
The Second Congress of the Democratic Independent Workers Party is taking place on 24 and 25 June. It will debate the new situation and the POID’s proposals with the delegates representing 72 départements and with non-member labour activists who have been invited.
(1) An ordonnance is a statute passed by the Council of Ministers in an area of law normally reserved for statute law passed by the French Parliament.
(2) The Leopard by director Luchino Visconti, based on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel of the same name.
(3) “The war is already pretty terrible, and here it is civilians who are bearing the brunt of phosphorus weapons, and this is unacceptable. There are undoubtedly other means to wage war that are less cruel for the civilian populations (…). I would implore those who are making the decisions to abandon the use of those weapons, even if it means using others”. (Melenchon on 16 June, after the shelling of Raqqa)
(4) Translator’s note: This is the literal English translation of the original French lyrics (written by Eugene Pottier in Paris, in 1871), which are not reflected in the full English version. This says: “No saviour from on high delivers; No faith have we in prince or peer. Our own right hand the chains must shiver: Chains of hatred, greed and fear.” The American version (translated from the French in 1900 by Charles Hope Kerr) is closer to the original in meaning: “We want no condescending saviors / To rule us from a judgment hall; We workers ask not for their favors; Let us consult for all.”

from the national office of the POID, on the elections in France

18 Apr

Communiqué du bureau national du POID – Paris, le 18 avril 2017 – Le Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique a été fondé pour défendre et exprimer les intérêts des travailleurs. Il lutte pour l’instauration d’un gouvernement ouvrier capable de prendre les mesures d’urgence qu’appelle la situation. Il y a vingt-cinq ans était signé le traité de […]

via Notre position — La Tribune des travailleurs

TIME TO SAY ‘NO’ TO LESSER-EVILISM!

14 Nov

Editorial from The Organizer newspaper, special election report, November 2016

Following the victory of Donald Trump on November 8, a number of prominent left-leaning liberals with a strong following in the labor movement – most notably Michael Moore, Robert Reich, and Arun Gupta – wrote articles about the Hillary Clinton debacle that contain valuable insights. But the authors go on to conclude that what is needed now is to “take back the Democratic Party from the rightwing Democratic National Committee (DNC) leadership who lost us the election.” Good assessment, wrong conclusion.

First, let’s look at some of the points in their balance sheets of the election with which one can only agree:

  • “Clinton won the popular vote by more than 650,000 votes – the second time in 16 years that a candidate who wins the popular vote loses the election; the Electoral College, a relic of 18th century ruling class fear of ‘mob rule,’ has got to go!”
  • Clinton lost because she had close to 9 million fewer votes than Barack Obama did in 2008, and roughly 5 million fewer votes than he did in 2012. “There’s no getting around the fact that much of the Democratic base repudiated Clinton.”
  • “Clinton ignored Sanders’ working class base, which demanded single-payer health care, but instead she equivocated on free trade and only offered more militarism.”
  • “Those who today say they are ‘stunned’ and ‘shocked’ by the results were not paying attention to [their] fellow Americans and their despair. After years of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew.”
  • “Obama failed to help workers despite his resounding mandate. He spent his political capital to save Wall Street and design a healthcare system more beneficial to the for-profit industry than its patients. Meanwhile, millions lost their homes, sank into joblessness, and descended into poverty.”
  • “Trump stoked the right’s racism and misogyny. He took workers’ social and economic ills produced as much by Democrats as by Republicans, and he fed them through a racial grinder to make his alt-white sausage.”
  • “Democrats have occupied the White House for 16 of the last 24 years, and for four of those years had control of both houses of Congress. But in that time they failed to reverse the decline in working-class wages and economic security. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama ardently pushed for free trade agreements without providing millions of blue-collar workers who thereby lost their jobs means of getting new ones that paid at least as well.”
  • “Democrats stood by as corporations hammered trade unions, the backbone of the white working class – failing to reform labor laws to impose meaningful penalties on companies that violate them, or help workers form unions with simple up-or-down votes. The unions lost members, and the working class lost bargaining leverage to get a share of the economy’s gains.”

All this is true. But instead of concluding that it’s about time for those unions that are getting hammered by the corporations (under the Democrats’ watch) to break with the Democrats and build their own independent political party, these liberal writers – Moore and Reich, in particular – simply propose more of the same: continued reliance on the Democratic Party. This is a dead end!

Time to Say “No” to Lesser-Evilism!

Michael Moore calls for “taking over the Democratic Party and returning it to the people.” The first step in this effort, he says, is to demand “that the DNC apologize to Bernie Sanders for fixing the primaries against him.”

For his part, Robert Reich calls “for the members and leaders of the DNC to step down and be replaced by people who are determined to create a party that represents America – including all those who feel powerless and disenfranchised, and who have been left out of our politics and left behind in our economy.”

“The Democratic Party,” he writes, “once represented the working class. But over the last three decades the party has been taken over by Washington-based fundraisers who have focused instead on raising campaign money from corporate and Wall Street executives and getting votes from upper middle-class households in ‘swing’ suburbs. Š We need a New Democratic Party that will fight against intolerance and widening inequality.”

Both writers insist that the main task during the next two years is to push the Elizabeth Warren-Bernie Sanders wing to take back the Democratic Party and elect “reformers” to political office in 2018 at all levels. “It’s about 2018 – not just 2020,” they insist.

Not surprisingly, both writers are silent about the key question facing working people today – which is the need for the labor movement to break its ties of subordination to the Democratic Party and build a working class party based on the unions and the communities of the oppressed.

No. The Democratic Party has never been the party of the working class majority. The party is funded and controlled – from top to bottom – by the corporations and the capitalist class. Always has been. Decades upon decades of attempts to “reform” the Democratic Party have all failed miserably. All such efforts, moreover, have ended up demobilizing and derailing the movements for social change. In the name of supporting the “lesser evil” candidates, the mass movements have been taken off the streets and taken back into the safe channels (for the ruling class) of the Democratic Party.

This issue is bound to surface in the coming weeks and months.

Independent, Mass Action in the Streets!

Activists are already beginning to call on the unions and the organizations of the Black and Latino movements to spearhead the resistance against the impending racist, anti-women and anti-worker attacks being prepared in Trump Tower.

United-front, mass-action coalitions will need to be organized soon, independent of the Democrats, around the following demands:

  • stop the drive to privatize public services and smash the trade unions;
  • stop the drive to privatize Social Security and undermine Medicare;
  • stop the attacks on healthcare gains: Single Payer Now!;
  • stop the police killings of Black youth (which are bound to increase at the hands of an emboldened right-wing, pro-Trump Police Officers Association);
  • stop the accelerated attacks on Black voting rights;
  • stop the deportations and attacks on undocumented immigrants;
  • stop the announced attacks on a woman’s right to choose;
  • stop the attempts, just announced by Mike Pence, to reverse the LGBTQ gains and rights; and
  • stop the increased wars of intervention against working people around the world.

Hundreds of thousands of people need to be mobilized in all corners of the country in support of all these and other struggles – either in the form of single-issue coalitions, or multi-issue coalitions. The time is now for mass action in the streets!

But these actions will necessarily be blunted today, and they will be derailed tomorrow, by those Democratic Party reformers who support mass protest actions but insist that these must be framed and organized in such a way as to promote their legislative efforts to defeat Republicans in 2018 and 2020.

No. The mass actions, to be successful, must remain broad-based and independent of the Democrats and their legislative agenda. The demands must be precise and uncompromising. Coalitions building these actions must be based on mass, democratic assemblies. Everyone who supports these demands is needed and welcome. But subordination to the Democratic Party, whichever its wing, is a recipe for disaster.

The trade unions will need to take the lead in building these mass actions, putting their immense resources and membership to this task.

It will also be important to reach out to white, working-class Trump supporters, who are in for a rude awakening when Trump – implementing the corporate agenda, as he will – begins slashing their healthcare programs, shutting down more factories and jobs, sending their sons and daughters to fight and die in wars in far-off lands, and leaving tens of thousands of them without homes and communities.

But something else, something even more vital, is needed in the coming period if the working class and its allies in the communities of the oppressed are to reverse these attacks and prevail in winning their fundamental demands for peace, jobs and justice: The trade unions must break their ties of subordination to the Democratic Party and build an independent voice, an independent political party, of their own – in alliance with their Black and Latino allies.

It’s Time for Labor to Relaunch a Labor Party Advocates-Type Organization!

The trade union movement, though severely weakened by decades of reliance on the Democratic Party, still remains a formidable force. And its potential power, if unleashed from its subordination to the Democrats, is exponentially greater.

Just in this election, the unions spent $400 million to support Clinton; SEIU alone put up $70 million. The unions mobilized tens of thousands of canvassers and knocked on 9.5 million doors, according to the AFL-CIO. They spent $40 million alone in registering new voters.

The unions, of course, mobilized to support for THE candidate of Wall Street, someone who was rejected by a huge number of union members; Clinton just narrowly beat Trump among union households. This is why their effort failed. But the fact is that these resources still exist and could be placed at the service of independent working class political action.

As we have stated time and again in the editorial pages of The Organizer newspaper, the number one obstacle facing working people in this country is the subordination of the leadership of the trade unions – the only organizations that represent and organize the workers on a class basis – to the Democratic Party. Helping to break the unions away from that vise-grip is therefore one of the central tasks facing independent labor activists.

Working people are looking for alternatives.

Nnamdi Scott ran as an independent Black working-class candidate for City Council in Baltimore and garnered close to 10% of the vote, with only a small and poorly funded campaign. What is needed are dozens of Nnamdi Scott-type campaigns around the country in 2018.

What’s needed now is a national organizing committee, with labor, Black and Latino leaders at the helm that promotes a new political strategy for labor. Such a committee – modeled after Labor Party Advocates – would, of course, promote independent mass actions of resistance in the streets, but its focus would be to get the ball rolling to run genuinely independent labor-community candidates for local and state office in 2018.

Follow the Example of the Cleveland 19 Trade Unionists

Two years ago, in the aftermath of the crushing Democratic Party debacle in the 2014 mid-term elections, 19 rank-and-file trade unionists in Ohio, at the initiative of the now deceased secretary of the Labor Fightback Network, Jerry Gordon, sent an Open Letter to the Cleveland Central Labor Council urging it to run independent labor-community candidates for public office. Their message is of great relevance today. They wrote, in part:

“In assessing the crushing defeat suffered by labor in the November 4 elections, the need to re-evaluate our election strategy is imperative. In our view, labor – together with our community partners – needs to run its own independent candidates for public office and not rely on any political party to do for us what we must do for ourselves. Š

“In 2008, the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, along with Democratic Party majorities in both houses of Congress, gave rise to hope for many people. However, no legislation was passed providing for a major jobs program, infrastructure spending, labor law reform, Employee Free Choice Act (card check), a labor-backed single payer universal health care system (eliminating the for-profit, parasitic insurance companies), increase in the minimum wage, or action to ensure a clean and healthy environment. And the list goes on.

“Instead, relentless pressure is coming from the administration to pass anti-worker trade legislation, which a delegate from the Steelworkers Union at last month’s delegates meeting called “NAFTA on steroids.”

“The country also experienced growing income inequality over the past several years and the widespread cuts in pensions are driving more people into poverty.

“Polls show 60% of the U.S. population favors the formation of a new, independent political party. Only 36% of eligible voters voted in the midterm elections. People are fed up with the two major parties and soundly repudiated the Democratic Party on November 4, a party we continue to support each election cycle with funding and boots on the ground. It’s time for a change! It’s time to develop an effective alternative!

“The lack of a critical voice from labor and its allies in the electoral arena has resulted in a monopoly of power by the big corporations and their political bagmen, with Wall Street popping the champagne corks as a result of the November 4 elections.

“Tough times lie ahead for the labor movement. What is urgently needed now, we believe, is a debate throughout the movement regarding what must be done to gain real clout in the political and electoral arena. Let those who advocate sticking with the Democrats (or turning to the anti-labor Republican Party) have their say. But let advocates of independent labor/community political action be heard as well.

“Therefore, we urge and hope that the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor will schedule such a debate in the days ahead. Subjects that we believe should be discussed include:

  1. The need for labor to develop its own independent electoral strategy;
  2. Viewing elections as the culmination of year-round coalition building and mass activities on major issues, not as a separate activity;
  3. Forming a Labor Representation Committee to train union members (and community leaders) as possible labor/community candidates;
  4. Developing a strategic plan that lays the basis for running independent labor/community candidates, with the goal being to build a local and statewide political organization that could become an independent political/activist party;
  5. Deciding what platform and issues should be paramount for labor and its community allies to better motivate and create change for the betterment and empowerment of the working class.”

The time is now to take this Open Letter and transform it into resolutions to be submitted to unions and labor councils across the country. The time is now to hold a broad-based conference of labor and the oppressed to promote running independent-labor community candidates and moving the discussion around the need for a new political party of the working class majority – a party based on the unions and the communities of the oppressed.

Sources:

The following articles were quoted in this Editorial:

  • “A prophecy of Trumps ascension to power (prior to the election) and some to do lists from Michael Moore” – reprinted from Michael Moore’s blog (Nov. 10, 2016)
  • “Unions investigate their poor showing for Clinton,” by Ted Hesson and Marianne Levine (Politico, Nov. 10, 2016)
  • “Warren offers Democrats path forward in Trump era,” by Gabriel Debenedetti and Madeline Conway (Politico, Nov. 10, 2016)
  • “Trump Won Because the Democratic Party Failed, Not Because the White Working Class Revolted,” by Arun Gupta (The Nation, Nov. 11, 2016)
  • “It’s Time to Dismantle the Democratic Party and Start Anew,” by Robert Reich – reprinted from RobertReich.org (Nov. 10, 2016)
  • “Progressives Should Remember It Is Darkest Just Before Dawn,” by Richard Kirsch (The Huffington Post, Nov. 10, 2016)

SIDEBAR ARTICLES

Some Key Facts About the Election

Clinton: 60.98 million – 47.79% of votes cast

Trump: 60.35 million – 47.38% of votes cast

Johnson: 4.13 million – 3.24% of votes cast

Stein: 1.24 million – 0.96% of votes cast

Others: 0.69 million – 0.53% of votes cast

Total Number of Votes Cast: 127.39 million

Total Number Eligible Voters: 231.56 million

Total Number of Abstentions: 104.17 million

Percentage of Abstentions: 44.98%

Percentage of Eligible Voters: 26.06%
Who Voted for Trump

Other Facts:

  • Clinton won the popular vote by more than 650,000 votes.
  • There was no Republican voter surge for Trump; he got roughly the same number of votes (60 million) as did GOP candidate George Romney in 2012.
  • Clinton received close to 9 million fewer votes than Barack Obama did in 2008, and roughly 5 million fewer votes than he did in 2012.
  • Obama won Indiana in 2008, a state that was about 84 percent white then, and performed better among nearly every subgroup of whites in his two victories than Clinton did in 2016. In fact, Clinton suffered her biggest losses in the places where Obama was strongest among white voters.
  • Clinton lost despite the fact that she outspent Trump almost 2-to-1 and had the support of the politically active denizens of Wall Street and the top executives of the country’s largest corporations, and even former Republican President George HW Bush.
  • This was second highest abstention rate in U.S. history; about 49% of eligible voters did not participate in the 1996 election, in which Democratic candidate Bill Clinton beat Republican candidate Bob Dole.
  • The Black vote was lower than expected because of the distrust in Hillary Clinton but also because in some states, such as North Carolina, the Republican officials imposed new restrictive voting laws targeting African American voters specifically. These laws restricted access to early voting.

Also, there is “felony disenfranchisement” in countless states; the New Jim Crow laws ban prisoners and ex-felons from voting. The total is 3.9 million people who could otherwise vote.

  • Trump has no mandate; he was supported by only 26.06% of the voting age population. Roughly one in four people over the age of 18 across the country voted for him.

Slamming the Abstentionists

Top Democratic Party officials have lashed out at the abstentionists and third party voters.

Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, gained great notoriety when – to protest the continued police killings of Black youth – he refused to stand during the pre-game national anthem. He took a knee instead.

Kaepernick’s protest went further. In an interview prior to the election, he explained that he had no plans to vote. Speaking about the debate between Clinton and Trump, he stated:

“I watched a little bit of it. To me it was embarrassing to watch that these two are our candidates. At this point, the election is a choice between the lesser of two evils. But in the end it’s still evil.”

Kaepernick was raked over the coals by the sports media, the Democratic Party, and the political establishment. They accused Kaepernick of poisoning the minds of Black youth against the political system. The Democrats, including Clinton, had earlier gone out of their way to discourage people from voting for third parties, arguing that a vote for a third party was a vote for Trump.


Healthcare 1: “Crashing the Democratic Party’s Country Club Party”

Speaking at a forum in San Francisco organized by Single Payer Now! shortly after the Democratic Party National Convention in mid-July 2016, Karen Bernal, who headed the Bernie Sanders California delegation to the convention, denounced the Democratic Party leadership, the DNC, and particularly the Democratic Party Platform Committee, for turning its back on the working-class majority in the United States, which supports Medicare For All – also known as single payer-healthcare.

Bernal reported on how Michael Lighty, political director of National Nurses United, addressed the party’s Platform Committee prior to the convention, to insist that they must adopt a plank in support of single-payer as this would play a big role in ensuring a Democratic Party victory in the November presidential election. She quoted Lighty as saying, “The only Democrats nationwide who oppose Single Payer are the Democrats in this room.”

But the Democrats, beholden to their corporate backers, particularly in the private healthcare insurance industry, refused to listen, Bernal said. They stabbed the workers in the back.

Bernal’s anger was not only directed at the DNC; it was also directed at Bernie Sanders, who told his delegation not to make an issue of this rejection of Single Payer on the floor of the Democratic Party convention, as it would only be “divisive” and could undermine support for the party’s nominee.

A California Nurses Association member told a gathering of activists that the nurses attending the Democratic Party convention were outraged that their issue was ignored by the Democratic Party leadership. “They made us feel like we were crashing their country club party,” she said.


Healthcare 2: “A Big Issue at the Dinner Table”

Interviewed by the PBS reporter at the Republican election-night gathering at the Hilton Hotel in New York City, Jack Kingston, a former Georgia member of Congress, explained the main reason, in his opinion, that Hillary Clinton lost the election. He said the following:

“One of the most neglected stories in the media is the widespread anger among working people in the Rust Belt and other regions over the rising costs of healthcare under Obamacare. It might not be a top media story, but it is certainly a discussion at the dinner tables in working-class and middle-class households across the country. Everyone is concerned that premiums and healthcare costs are going to soar in 2017 under Obamacare. Trump said that Obamacare has to go, and he got a real hearing.”


On the Auto Bailout and the So-Called “Recovery”

When General Motors filed for bankruptcy in the spring of 2008, at the height of the Great Recession, the U.S. government agreed to provide $65 billion to grease a deal that slashed 21,000 autoworkers’ jobs, closed 17 auto plants, and shut down 2,600 of GM’s 6,246 dealerships.

The UAW supported this “bailout” plan, which, additionally, froze wages, ended bonuses, eliminated noncompetitive work rules, and required binding arbitration in future contracts, thus eliminating the union’s right to strike. The UAW said that the cuts would save GM $1.3 billion a year over the five years of the new contract.

During the 2016 election campaign, Obama and Clinton spoke about the “amazing recovery” that the U.S. auto industry had made as a result of the Obama bailout. Yes, GM and Ford profits are up, but the workforce has been slashed and the laid-off workers have lost their homes or have moved into trailer camps in other states. And the new jobs that were created are all precarious jobs, with low wages, no benefits (no pensions or healthcare), no unions, no protections on the job, no stability.

Obama carried the majority of white, working class voters in 2008 – but the administration turned its back on these workers. Once their hopes were dashed, they were left prey to the demagogues like Trump, who scapegoated the immigrants as the ones largely responsible for the job losses.

It is now estimated that the Obama administration spent more than $7 trillion as part of his “economic recovery plan” – which was nothing more than a corporate bailout plan. This money was handed over to the very same banks and financial institutions that had created the financial crisis to begin with.


“Politics Abhors a Vacuum”

(Excerpts from Editorial in the November 2009 issue of The Organizer newspaper titled, “One Year in Office: Has Obama Delivered Change?”)

Obama and the Democrats’ refusal to heed the mandate for change from the American people on Nov. 4, 2008, has created a political void that the rightwing racists are aiming to fill. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

Significant sectors of the ruling class are leaning on and fomenting white racism to block any progressive change and take back the levers of power. Anti-immigrant mobilizations are multiplying across the country. The threat posed by these racists should not be underestimated.

In today’s conditions of deepening economic and political crisis, people are looking for an alternative to politics-as-usual. It is up to the organizations of the workers and the oppressed to raise a political alternative, an independent fightback perspective in the interests of the working-class majority.

[Note: Seven years later, these words are as relevant as they were then – maybe even more relevant.]


  • On the Occupation of the State Capitol in Wisconsin

(Excerpts from closing Comments by Jerry Gordon to the Labor Fightback Conference in Rutgers, N.J. on May 15-17, 2015. Jerry Gordon died this past October 27. See obituary page 7 of the printed version.)

When Wisconsin workers occupied the Capitol and took to the streets by the hundreds of thousands in February and March 2011 to defend their unions and living standards, the effect was electrifying. Workers throughout the U.S. were elated to see workers taking such militant actions, reminiscent of the 1930s. Messages of solidarity poured in. “WE ARE ALL WISCONSIN!” was heard around the globe. The fight against the bosses’ union-busting and austerity offensive was at last being joined by masses of U.S. workers.

Farmers came in their tractors to support the call by the Madison labor council to support the teachers and other public-sector workers against the cuts. White rural workers and private sector workers also responded to the call to action, as they saw a real working-class struggle develop that also addressed their needs and interests as workers.

But from the beginning of this struggle, labor leaders, with some significant dissenters, settled on a strategy of agreeing to Governor Scott Walker’s economic demands, which were that union workers in the public-sector pick up a significant part of the tab for their health care and pension benefits, while Walker’s budget called for $2.3 billion in tax cuts to the wealthy over the next decade. These concessions were announced publicly – without a vote taken of the affected workers – and amounted to over $100 million. But Walker rebuffed the idea that this was a sufficient basis to bring about a settlement of his dispute with the unions involved. Walker’s appetite having been whetted, he continued to demand that the public-sector unions also agree to having their members’ collective-bargaining rights stripped away, with police and firefighters excepted.

With the occupation of the Capitol and the gigantic demonstrations reaching a showdown stage, something had to give. The South Central Federation of Labor in Wisconsin adopted a resolution calling for exploration of the idea of a general strike as a possible next step.

If the labor movement had united on a national basis at that point and called a truly massive Solidarity Day 3 “March on Madison!” it could well have spurred more far-reaching actions by the Wisconsin labor movement, including a generalized work stoppage and mass civil disobedience. In the absence of such national support, Walker’s legislation was approved, and the struggle was then diverted to electoral channels by labor leaders and the Democratic Party.

Not surprisingly, the attempt to recall Walker and elect Democratic candidate Tom Barrett as governor was decisively defeated.

As Milwaukee mayor, Barrett sought union concessions that went beyond those mandated by Walker’s collective-barraging law. In a debate with Walker, he made clear he was not labor’s candidate. He also said that he would not increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

The Wisconsin labor movement was deeply divided in the recall campaign. According to the exit polls, 38% of union households voted for Walker, as did 67% of male blue-collar workers.

For the labor movement to shift its focus from independent mass action in the streets to supporting Democratic Party politicians was a sure recipe for defeat.

The Wisconsin experience also underscores again the need for the U.S. labor movement to establish independent labor/community coalitions and run candidates for public office, based on a program reflecting the needs and aspirations of the working class majority, and with candidates accountable to the base. Such an independent working class political movement could go a long way toward unifying the working class and cementing ties with the youth, students, communities of color, and other progressive sectors of the population.

[Note: The white farmers in the traditionally Republican areas of Wisconsin proudly took their tractors to the mass rallies in Madison, Wisconsin, in defense of public-sector workers. But when the union leadership pulled back from struggle to support Democrats, who were themselves anti-union and anti-worker, these farmers, too, were thrown back into the hands of the Republicans.]

Corbyn and the Future of Labour: A review

11 Oct

Corbyn and the Future of Labour: A Verso ReportCorbyn and the Future of Labour: A Verso Report by Tariq Ali

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An important collection of essays on the leadership struggle in the Labour Party over the last couple of years, written by people from left Social democrats to pro- and anti- EU campaigners to that old warhorse of the Ernest Mandel school, Tariq Ali.
I would like to draw particular attention among my fellow New Democrats to essay number 8, by Jeremy Gilbert, “The Question of Leadership”.

“The reason the two sides of this argument find it so hared to talk to each other, or even understand each other’s logics, is that what is at stake here really is two quite different conceptions of politics; this implies, among other things, two quite different conceptions of what leadership is and what leaders are for. One perspective basically thinks that politics is about selling your party to consumers; the other thinks that it’s mainly about building up a coalition of social groups with common interests.”

Politics as marketing, versus politics as movement-building. This is what the difference is between a Tom Mulcair and a Tommy Douglas.

“The great weakness of this model of politics is that it simply cannot explain how social change happens. It insists that politics as it has been done since the 1980s is the only way it could ever be done.” I could go on but I don’t want to quote too heavily from it; go, get a copy, read it, and ponder what sort of leadership we need in the NDP … not just who for Leader, but what sort of direction we need to go.

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