Campaigning for Democracy And Socialism
Consolidate the Vote! Expand the Left Core, Shore UP All Allies
The cartoon to the right Displays two truths. One is the infantile whining of GOP election losers wanting to create their own realities. They got their 'comeupins' Tuesday. The other is the persistence of a large neoconfederate bloc, one that will still pose a major danger going forward. Consolidate our gains into ongoing organizations. We have many battles ahead.

Please send us your letters, comments, queries, complaints, new ideas. Just keep them short and civil. Longer commentaries and be submitted as articles.

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We're going to try something new, and you are all invited.

Saturday Morning Coffee!

Started Sat Aug 13, then weekly going forward.

It will be more of a hangout than a formal setting. We can review the news in the previous days' Leftlinks, or add new topic. We can invite guests, or just carry on with those who show up. We'll try to have a progressive stack keeper, should we need one. Morst of all, we will try to be interesting and a good sounding board. If you have at point you would like to make or a guest to invite, send an email to Carl Davidson,

Continuing weekly, 10:30 to Noon, EDT. The Zoom link will also be available on our Facebook Page.

Meeting ID: 868 9706 5843

Let's see what happens!
Monday, Nov 28, 2022
8:00 pm EST

CCDS Peace & Solidarity Move the Money Task Force will present a Zoom webinar to address the widening "guns v. butter" trade-off.

What's War Got
to Do With It? 
Fund Human Needs
Not Pentagon Greed

We will consider military and national security state expenditures and their affect on domestic social program funding and underserved human needs. As then-President Eisenhower famously expressed it in 1953:

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies...a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed...".

Emphasis will be placed on the significance of these expenditures with regard to contemporary poverty, inequity, and deprivation in the United States.  

Presentation speakers will be Sandy Eaton of CCDS and the Massachusetts Care Single-Payer Network and Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director for the Coalition of Funding Human Needs. 

There will be an opportunity at the end of the presentations for questions and answers.

Co-sponsors include: CCDS Socialist Education Project, Massachusetts Peace Action, Wisconsin Peace Action,“the Fund Health Care Not Warfare working group of Massachusetts Peace Action.” and the Online University of the Left.
Jim Skillman, 1946-2022, Presente!

Editor: Jim Skillman was a close friend and comrade for many years, from the days of SDS and the October League, to CCDS and today. He was a legendary organizer in the South, taking on the KKK and other adversaries. He helped launch the Online University of the Left, and did much to build up the early subscriptions to LeftLinks. Near to his heart was his membership and long-time participation with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, and his work keeping what the Vets fought for alive for future generations. The following Obit was written by his family:

James Douglas Skillman, beloved husband, father, grandfather and lifelong soldier in the fight for social justice, passed away October 20, 2022, at the age of 76.

Jim was born January 24, 1946, to Mary Noreen Skillman (nee Yeargin) in a Miami, Florida, Army hospital. After a short time in Montgomery, Alabama, Jim moved to Georgia and spent his youth in Marietta and Atlanta's Cascade Heights neighborhood. From Bert Adams Scout Camp to watching the Allman Brothers at Piedmont Park, Jim was a product of an old Atlanta that is long gone. Jim loved reminiscing about the sights and sounds of the Royal Peacock, the soul music extravaganzas at Ponce de Leon Park, Lawson General Hospital, Alley Pat on the radio or the Frito Lay factory.

It was the old army induction center on Ponce de Leon Jim reported to, when, weeks after graduating high school in 1965, he was drafted into the Army. He was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma until he was deployed to Vietnam where he served in an artillery unit in the central highlands. His experiences overseas disillusioned him about the war in Vietnam, and on his return home he dedicated himself to anti-war causes including joining Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) and Vets for Peace.

As a student at Georgia State University, Jim co-founded the school's chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and met his first wife Peggy.

Jim's trade was printing and packaging. From his first Boy Scout's badge for printing to running a press for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) offices on Auburn Avenue to running his own shop, City Printing, in Birmingham, Alabama, printer ink was in Jim's blood.

While printing was Jim's occupation for most of his life, political activism was his passion. He could always be counted on to man a picket line in support of workers' rights, to pass out literature protesting the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, or to join a vigil for peace. He loved a good political debate which he entered into with zeal and a keen knowledge of current events as well as history.

His political activism took him first to Chicago, then Birmingham where he lived with his second wife Jennie, until 1990. He returned to Atlanta in 1991, married Trisha Renaud and helped raise her two children.

Jim was a prodigious reader with a sharp mind, quick wit and warm heart. He was also known for his tasty Brunswick stew and fluffy waffles, and he relished the boisterous chaos of family gatherings at holidays.

Jim worked in the packaging/printing business until retiring in 2008. He never, however, retired from fighting for the causes he believed in. In Atlanta, he helped rejuvenate the local chapter of Jobs with Justice and was arrested in 2012 during a civil disobedience action to protect union jobs at AT&T.

Until the end, the fire Jim had in him to fight for justice and equality burned bright. As his health faltered, he gave what time and energy he could to those efforts. He never wavered from his abiding sense of duty to forge a moral world

Jim passed peacefully surrounded by his wife and children. He is survived by his beloved wife of 31 years, Trisha, their five children Benjamin Skillman, Aubrey (Vicki) Skillman, Margaret (Jim) Hart, Katherine (Adam French) McLennan and Jeffrey (Michelle) McLennan, eight wonderful grandchildren and a sweet dog Annie. In lieu of flowers, consider a donation to Vets for Peace or the Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace and their Regulate Guns, Not Women campaign (Contact them at: ...Read More
Socialism and the movements

A dialogue between Jonathan Smucker and Bill Fletcher, Jr.

It goes deep into organization building at the grassroots, and taking part in a wider common front to defeat fascism Click the image to access the video.
Latest News
Saved From Neofascism?
No, But A Small Reprieve

By Robert Reich

Friends... Apart from specific issues and candidates that motivated voters on Tuesday, two contrasting parties continue to emerge in America – one, pro-democracy; the other, anti-democracy or neofascist.

The hallmarks of the neofascist party are its cruel nastiness and unwillingness to abide by election results. In other words: Trumpism.

Both were on full display election night as Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake assailed the “cheaters and crooks” whom she claimed were running elections, “BS and garbage,” “incompetent people,” “propagandists,” and “fake media.”

And as Rep. Andy Biggs joked that Nancy Pelosi was “losing the gavel but finding the hammer,” a crude reference to the attack on Pelosi’s husband that left him with a fractured skull.

Other GOP candidates and flaks hurled similar insults -- “Merrick Garland needs some new pantyhose,” “Beto [O’Rourke] is a furry,” Sen. Mark Kelly is a “little man” whose “ears don’t match,” President Biden is a “lost child” with a “very dirty diaper,” Democrats are “lunatics.”

Contrast this feculence with Tim Ryan’s graceful concession speech in the Ohio senate race (I’ve pasted the live version below).

  • We have too much hate, we have too much anger, there’s way too much fear, there’s way too much division, and we need more love, we need more compassion, we need more concern for each other. These are the important things. We need forgiveness, we need grace, we need reconciliation. … I have the privilege to concede this race to J.D. Vance because the way this country operates is that when you lose an election you concede and you respect the will of the people. We can’t have a system where if you win it’s a legitimate election and if you lose, someone stole it. … We need good people who are going to honor the institutions of this country…. The highest title in this land is citizen, and we have an obligation to be good citizens.

Or with John Fetterman’s humble remarks after the senate race in Pennsylvania was called for him — when, wiping away tears, he told cheering supporters “I'm not really sure what to say right now, my goodness. I am so humbled, thank you so much …. This campaign has always been about fighting for anyone that ever got knocked down that got back up.”

Fetterman had been knocked down last May with a near-fatal stroke — which invited ridicule from Trumpists such as Trump Jr., who told a Sunday-night crowd at a rally in Miami that “if you're going to be in the United States senator, you should have basic cognitive function. It doesn't seem that unreasonable to have a working brain … We're up against a Democrat party today that doesn't believe that a United States senator should not have mush for brain."

Gratuitous cruelty, derision, nastiness — they are one of a piece with authoritarianism because they feed off the same anger and fear. They also fuel the hate and paranoia that are causing Americans to distrust our electoral system and one another. And they can fuel violence.

When I was a kid I was bullied by other kids because I was so short. I remember the ridicule and the cruelty. The worst of the bullying, I later learned, came from kids who were bullied at home, often by abusive parents.

So many Americans feel bullied by the system today — bullied by employers, landlords, hospitals, insurance companies, debt collectors, government bureaucracies, and the like — that they’re easy prey for Trumpism.

This isn’t to excuse these people, but only to explain the likely source of their rage, and how the Trumpists are channeling it.

And why it’s so important to stop all forms of bullying in modern America — not only because such bullying is morally wrong but because its poison spreads throughout our society.

The results of the midterm elections could have been far worse. The extreme grotesqueries of the Trumpist right were soundly defeated — Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, Maine gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage, New Hampshire Senate candidate Don Bolduc, and Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels (who promised if elected that no Democrat could ever win Wisconsin again). Most election-denying candidates for secretary of state were defeated.

As of Wednesday evening, Kari Lake was trailing her Democratic rival for Arizona governor, Katie Hobbs, by a hair. Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (the freshman MAGA Republican from Colorado) was fighting to keep her seat,

But Marjorie Taylor Greene was reelected, as was Andy Biggs, and many other election-deniers. And Trump himself seems intent on launching another run on the White House (and on American democracy) within the week.

Not as bad as it could have been, but deeply concerning nonetheless. We are still on the brink. ...Read More
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, takes the stage at an election night party in Pittsburgh

Did We Just Save Democracy?

The 2022 midterms were stunning as much for what didn’t happen as for what did.

By Robert Kuttner
American Prospect

NOV 11, 2022 - We had a very narrow path to saving American democracy this year, and we just might have begun that journey. For starters, it’s likely that Democrats will hold the Senate. Catherine Cortez Masto seems on track to eke out a narrow win in Nevada once all ballots are counted. That success, along with the almost certain victory of Democrat Mark Kelly in Arizona, means that Democrats are likely to keep 50 Senate seats whether or not Raphael Warnock wins the December 6 runoff in Georgia.

So even if Democrats very narrowly lose the House, Biden will have a Senate that can confirm nominees, conduct investigations, and block crazy Republican legislation. And if it’s clear that Democrats have kept control even without the Georgia seat, that is likely to depress Republican turnout more than Democratic turnout when Georgians vote. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, an anti-Trump Republican, cruised to re-election, and we can expect an honest vote count.

More remarkably, the anticipated Trumpian claims of election fraud, as well as Republican attempts to use it to their advantage, totally fizzled. Trump’s calls were widely ignored. Almost everywhere, it was a normal election.

Efforts at voter intimidation at polling places were blocked. With a few exceptions, even conservative courts refused to connive with Republican strategies to deter or depress voting.

In every major race that the AP has called, the loser has accepted defeat. Most statewide Republican candidates who campaigned around claims of ballot mischief were defeated.

For the most part, state and local election officials, of both parties, behaved like professionals, defending the right to vote. The few genuine cases of technical problems with voting, as in Philadelphia and Maricopa County, Arizona, were speedily rectified. There is still a good deal of ballot counting to go, but all indications are that is going smoothly.

And as our colleague, Miles Rapoport points out, “In addition to rejecting election denial victories in the most important states, voters in several states passed ballot initiatives to expand voting and voting choice.”

Rapoport notes that in Michigan, voters approved a measure requiring nine days of early voting, increased ballot drop boxes, and more time to count absentee ballots. Arizona enacted an initiative requiring more transparency for campaign contributions. And Connecticut voters passed a constitutional amendment allowing for early voting.

At the city level, Portland, Oregon, passed a new multimember proportional representation and ranked-choice voting plan. Oakland approved a program of public-financing vouchers and expanded transparency for local elections. And in Seattle, an initiative for ranked-choice voting is too close to call.

The failure of Republican candidates or activists to rally to Trump’s banner of claimed election fraud is another sign of Trump’s diminishing influence both in his party and with voters. Much of the claim of stolen elections began with Trump. And as a sign of sick democracy, it could well end with him.

Far from over

The battle to save democracy is far from over, but these trends are a sign that at least the “ballot fraud” fever has peaked. Of course, some of the deeper problems with democracy are still baked in—the grotesque amounts of special-interest money being spent; the partisan gerrymandering; and the far-right capture of the Supreme Court.

The failure of Republican candidates or activists to rally to Trump’s banner of claimed election fraud is a sign of his diminishing influence.

At the local and state level, the struggle to prevent partisan legislation and official interference from deterring voting will still be trench warfare. Florida, for example, has successfully undermined a voter-approved ballot initiative to give former felons back the vote.

But we now have a decent shot at rebuilding our democracy. This was by no means assured and it is still far from a sure thing.

For democracy to broadly prevail, right-wing candidates need to be repudiated. Democrats will need to keep on rallying voters to the banner of economic justice, as they did in the 2022 midterms. They will need to keep peeling off Trump voters, as John Fetterman did so brilliantly. They will need to win in 2024 with a strong progressive program. ...Read More
Photo: Election workers sort ballots at the Maricopa County. Arizona election officials continue counting votes in close state races. JOHN MOORE, GETTY IMAGES

All Eyes On Nevada And Arizona As Senate Control Hangs In Balance

Counting continues in key Senate battlegrounds, while Republicans look on course for slim majority in House

By Edward Helmore
The Guardian

Nov 11, 2022 - The eyes of the political world remained focused on Arizona and Nevada on Friday, where hundreds of thousands of uncounted votes held the key to control of the US Senate, three days after Americans cast their final ballots in midterm elections.

The delay in districts such as Arizona’s Maricopa county, which includes Phoenix, is attributed to the record number of ballots cast on Tuesday. Election officials had estimated they would have a tally by Friday but now say they will count through the weekend.

US midterms 2022: Democrats’ Senate hopes grow as vote count edges forward – live
In Nevada, election officials had estimated a finish by Friday but, again, the high number of ballots cast means counting will continue through next week. However, a winner could be called as soon as any candidate is judged to have passed a majority threshold.

If Democrats or Republicans can capture a majority by sweeping the contests in both states, it will settle control of the Senate. A split, however, would transform a 6 December runoff Senate election in Georgia between incumbent Democratic senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker into a proxy battle for the chamber, which among other powers holds sway over Joe Biden’s judicial appointments.

Meanwhile, Republicans were slowly inching closer to wresting control of the House of Representatives from Biden’s Democrats, which would in effect give them veto power over his legislative agenda, allow them to launch investigations into his administration and have greater control over the budget.

Biden conceded on Thursday that Democrats face long odds to keep control of the House.

“It’s still alive. It’s still alive. But it’s like drawing an inside straight,” Biden said, using a poker term for an unpromising situation.

Biden said he had spoken to the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, a day earlier, after an upbeat press conference at the White House.

“I said: ‘If you win the majority, congratulations,’” Biden recalled, in a fine distinction after McCarthy told Fox News that the president had congratulated him on winning a majority.

Republicans had secured at least 211 of the 218 House seats they need for a majority, Edison Research projected late on Thursday, while Democrats had won 197. That left 27 races yet to be determined, including a number of close contests.

The Republican House leader, Kevin McCarthy, has already announced his intention to run for speaker if Republicans win, an outcome he described as inevitable on Wednesday.

But his path could be blocked by a handful of conservative Republicans known as the Freedom Caucus. McCarthy needs 218 votes, so fewer than a dozen caucus members have power to block his path.

“No one currently has 218” votes, Chip Roy of Texas told NBC News as he emerged from a private Freedom Caucus meeting.

Tuesday’s results fell far short of the sweeping “red wave” that Republicans had expected, despite Biden’s anemic approval ratings and deep voter frustration over inflation.

Democrats portrayed Republicans as extremist, pointing to the supreme court’s decision to eliminate a nationwide right to abortion and the hundreds of Republican nominees who promoted former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent.

Some of Trump’s most high-profile endorsed candidates lost pivotal races on Tuesday, marring his status as Republican kingmaker and leading several Republicans to blame his divisive brand for the party’s disappointing performance. ...Read More
Digging Deeper into the Current Conjuncture:

Fox News Is Having a Meltdown Over the Election Results

Right-wing media simply cannot understand the election results

By Prem Thakker
The New Republic

Nov 10, 2022 - In the wake of Republicans falling short of their foretold “red wave,” right-wing media reactions have run the whole gamut.

But no other outlet has had a meltdown like Fox News:

These hosts are so unable to fathom the results that they have gone to great lengths to introduce other convoluted theories for why Republicans lost. Fox News host Jesse Watters, for example, claimed that the Democrats are working to keep women single, and if single women just get married, things would look way different:
It’s not just Fox News, of course. On The Charlie Kirk Show, Benny Johnson yearned for a Republican who “utilizes and wields power over his enemies, and then destroys his enemies and makes them grovel, makes molten salty tears flow from their faces.” (Yes, this is an exact quote.) On Pray Vote Stand, Michelle Bachmann said the results simply don’t make sense given how much praying and repenting the right did.

These nonsensical right-wing media reactions substantiate one case for why Republicans lost. The Republican project to win majorities off of disinformation, or by desperately trying to frame Democrats as “out of touch,” can only go so far when your own project has nothing to offer.

Republicans and the media, and Fox News specifically, have for months framed Democrats as too focused on “social issues” instead of “kitchen table issues.” But voters just showed how these issues are one and the same—and that Democrats are the ones speaking to them.

Marijuana legalization, abortion access, a free and fair democracy are all ideas that have won this week, and all things—alongside items like student debt cancellation and climate and Medicaid expansion—that have buoyed Democratic success. Republicans simply do not have a plan to recoup young voters, or women voters (beyond begging for them to get married).

If Republicans remain saddled in their aimless meltdown, pointing fingers left and right and everywhere in between, we’ll keep seeing moments like these: ...Read More
Photo: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) speaks to abortion-rights activists in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after the Court announced a ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case on June 24, 2022 in Washington, D.C.NATHAN HOWARD / GETTY IMAGES

Young Voters Are Driving 'Generational Shift' to the Left, Ocasio-Cortez Says

BY Sharon Zhang

Nov 9, 2022 - As the results of the midterm elections roll in and it’s becoming clearer that Democrats may have exceeded expectations despite the odds stacked against them, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) is emphasizing the impact of young voters on this election, saying that younger generations may be ushering in a new era of politics.

According to exit polls, young voters overwhelmingly supported Democrats in this election; data from Edison Research shows that 63 percent of Gen Z and millennial voters, aged 18 to 29, voted for Democrats, while 35 percent voted for Republicans. People aged 30 to 44, largely millennials, favored Democrats by a 6-point margin, with 51 percent saying they voted for Democrats and 45 percent saying they voted Republican.

Though exit poll findings are often inaccurate and should be taken with a grain of salt, they can be a general show of how certain demographics voted — and, indeed, other research has shown that young voters lean much more heavily to the left than older voters do.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez emphasized that youth turnout was a major factor in Democrats’ ability to bat off a “red wave,” which was expected as it’s typical for the party of the president to lose a large amount of seats in Congress during their first term. She said that younger generations are driving a “generational shift.”

“The role of young people in this election cannot be understated. Turnout delivered on many of these races,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “By 2024, Millennials and Gen Z voters will outnumber voters who are Baby Boomers and older, 45/25. We are beginning to see the political impacts of that generational shift.”

Polls have shown that, not only are young voters more likely to support Democrats, they are also most likely of all age groups to support explicitly progressive policies like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal and student debt cancellation. At the same time, young voters are more likely to choose not to vote at all, and young voters describe being frustrated with establishment politics and inaction from Democrats on key issues like the climate crisis.

Indeed, as a Harvard Institute of Politics poll of voters aged 18 to 29 found in October, only about 40 percent of young voters say they approve of the job performance of President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress, despite preferring Democratic control of Congress by a nearly 2 to 1 margin over Republican control.

It’s possible that factors in politics like the rise of the far right are driving young voters to cast a ballot, however. According to the Harvard poll, about 40 percent of young voters said that they would vote in this election, about the same percentage of voters who said they would vote in 2018 and up over 10 percentage points from the 2014 and 2020 midterm elections.

As younger generations take over the voting population, they are also leading their own political movements, perhaps driven by disengagement with mainstream, centrist Democrats like Biden. ...Read More
Photo: Newly elected members of Congress from Texas, Greg Casar (Texas-35) and Jasmine Crockett (Texas-30), join the ranks of Working Families Party members in the House of Representatives., Working Families Party photos

How the Working Families Party Helped the Dems Defy Gravity

Reaction to the Republican Supreme Court’s attack on abortion rights, drove high Democratic turnout, especially among women and young voters, saw Democrats overperform polls in many places, just as in summer special elections in New York and Alaska.

BY Joe Dinkin and Natalia Salgado 

Nov 10, 2022 - One thing is certain: the red wave that most pundits predicted did not materialize. Did we defy gravity? At least a little.

Many races are still up in the air, and over the coming days and weeks we’ll analyze the results. But we believe two factors kept the midterms close:

The reaction to the Republican Supreme Court’s attack on abortion rights, which drove high Democratic turnout, especially among women and young voters, and saw Democrats overperform polls in many places, just as in summer special elections in New York and Alaska.
The Democrats’ success at passing a legislative agenda: while voters are feeling the impact of higher costs, Democrats could claim credit as the party taking action to solve problems through the Inflation Reduction Act; and Democrats could mobilize young voters because of actually taking action on student debt. Both were very popular measures.

National Democrats got some things right: the importance of abortion rights, the need to remind voters of the GOP’s extremism and disdain for democracy; and the need to actually deliver on material gains like through the Inflation Recovery Act.

But national Democrats also made errors. From the beginning of this cycle they were convinced that crime and policing was their main vulnerability, despite polls showing it lagged in importance behind the economy and abortion. Further, research consistently finds that voters agree with progressives on many questions about public safety. But in their desperation to distance themselves from progressives, too many Democrats mirrored GOP talking points — a strategy that never fails to fail. They also convinced themselves that progressive candidates could not win in competitive races. Though key races remain too close to call, we believe Democratic strategists’ panic over this issue contributed to leaving votes on the table.

Getting right into it, here’s how WFP endorsed candidates did:


This is a significant accomplishment for the party out of power. WFP ran a major field mobilization in four crucial Senate battlegrounds.


WFP ran one of the largest field campaigns in the state for Fetterman. We knocked on 400,000 doors in Pennsylvania to drive Democratic participation, focused on Philadelphia and other communities of color. On Election Day, WFP held a 1,000-person phone bank to cure ballots. Fetterman was heavily attacked for his progressive criminal justice record. Picking up a state in a midterm was always going to be tough, and we’re proud to have helped do it.


Mandela Barnes is a WFP champion and founding member of the Wisconsin WFP. We endorsed him the day he announced his campaign, and helped him win his primary over several better funded rivals. When smug pundits and consultants claimed Mandela could never win, Democratic donors pulled back. Now, Mandela trails incumbent insurrectionist Republican Ron Johnson in what was clearly a winnable race.

This should be a wakeup call. In the crucial weeks after Mandela’s primary win, Republican super PACs dumped millions into negative ads against Barnes to define him. They outspent Democrats in that window by roughly 3–1 — and that lopsided spending was tremendously damaging. If more major national donors had stepped up to keep the spending closer to even and attacked Ron Johnson’s huge liabilities, they could have helped us change history.


Arizona was a WFP priority, where we focused a major grassroots mobilization on turning out Democratic voters for a number of down ballot races, including Maricopa DA, state legislative races and Corp Commission. Those outcomes are mainly too close to call but helped contribute to Senator Mark Kelly’s narrow lead, though the race remains up in the air. (WFP did not run a Nevada program but Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s race seems too close to call at this moment, though we believe the remaining ballots slightly favor her.)


As in 2020, Raphael Warnock is headed to a run-off. And just like two years ago, we’re going to bring everything we have to the race to secure the win. But this time, the run-off is only four weeks away, so we’re going to have to sprint into action. If the numbers in Arizona and Nevada hold, Democrats retain the Senate majority even without Georgia — however for WFP, the difference between 50 and 51 Democratic Senators is significant given the track record of Democrats like Manchin and Sinema. One wildcard to watch for: if Trump announces his Presidential campaign, that could supercharge turnout on both sides, even without the Senate balance in play.


Despite signs in their own polling, this isn’t an outcome most forecasters foresaw: control of the House is still up in the air. The most likely result is Republicans will hold a narrow and chaotic and fractious majority, where MAGA extremists are likely to hold the balance of power. Though make no mistake: a slim Republican majority can still do real harm and we’re not about to rest easy.

Some takeaways:

SUMMER LEE: WFP secures a sixth WFP champ.

A perfect storm could have derailed Summer Lee: a Republican candidate with the same name as the Democratic incumbent we had defeated in the primary; a local Democratic party that was slow to consolidate; millions spent attacking Summer on Pittsburgh broadcast through the fall; and a late million dollars added by AIPAC’s Super PAC. WFP made a final media buy and brought the coalition back together from the primary, in order to bring Democratic voters home, and it worked.

Summer Lee is the sixth WFP primary winner for the cycle to be headed to Congress, along with Greg Casar (TX-35), Delia Ramirez (IL-3), Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Maxwell Frost (FL-10) and Becca Balint (VT-AL), comprising the biggest new class of WFP members ever sent to Congress.

One final closing detail, Democrat Chris DeLuzio who is in a neighboring toss-up district, PA-17, was hit with millions of dollars in negative spending attacking him for his connection to Summer Lee, also appears to be leading. ...Read More
Photo: Shell’s new petrochemical plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Credit: Emma Ricketts

A New, Massive Plastics Plant In Southwest Pennsylvania Barely Registers Among Voters

Environmentalists in Beaver County alarmed by harmful emissions from the plant once it opens say they are discouraged by most voters’ inattention, but not deterred.

By Emma Ricketts
Inside Climate News via Beaver County Blue.

Nov 5, 2022 - ALIQUIPPA, Pa.—From the tranquility of her garden in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Terrie Baumgardner worries that her grandchildren will grow up without access to clean air, clean water and a safe space to play outdoors.

For decades, Beaver County’s economy has been dependent on polluting industries—first steel, and more recently natural gas drilling. Many longtime residents, who remember the prosperity brought by the steel industry, have welcomed the construction of a massive new Shell petrochemical plant and the politicians that support it.

Baumgardner and other environmental activists are discouraged that local residents and politicians favor the continuation of fracking and the new mega plastics plant it has spawned, but they are not giving up their fight.

“People say that’s what we do in Beaver County—we trade our health for jobs,” Baumgardner said. “But it’s unfortunate because it doesn’t have to be that way now.”

A reluctant activist, Baumgardner first became involved in environmental issues in 2011, when she learned about the dangers posed by fracking. Concern for the environment and health of local residents led her to canvas for signatures in 2016 as Shell moved toward building the plastics plant.

Spanning nearly 800 acres along the Ohio River, the plant is expected to open later this year. The facility will convert fracked gas into 1.6 million metric tons of polyethylene per year.

Polyethylene, made from ethane, a form of natural gas, is the key building block in numerous common plastic products—from food wrapping and trash bags to crates and bottles.

Despite assurances from Shell that the facility will be safe for the surrounding community, environmental activists have warned that the plant will cause air and water pollution, and a protracted dependence on fracking.

Under Shell’s permit, the plant can release up to 159 tons of fine particulate matter and 522 tons of volatile organic compounds per year. Exposure to these emissions has been linked to issues in the brain, liver, kidney, heart and lungs. They have also been associated with miscarriages, birth defects and cancer.

“They’re going to unload all of these toxic chemicals, hazardous air pollutants, volatile organic compounds and millions of tons of CO2 gas. What’s going to happen?” asked Bob Schmetzer, a local councilman from nearby South Heights and a long-time spokesperson for Beaver County’s Marcellus Awareness Committee. He has opposed the plant since it was first proposed 10 years ago.

Jack Manning, a Beaver County Commissioner, does not share these concerns. “I have great faith in the technology and in the competency of those that will be running the facility,” he said. “It’s a state-of-the-art, world-class facility.”

Manning blamed people’s apprehension on unfair comparisons between the environmental impacts of the plant and those of the steel mills that used to occupy the area. “Those heavy particulates are a different type of pollution,” he said.

Shell has assured residents of the safety of its plant. “At Shell, safety is our top priority in all we do and that includes being a good neighbor by communicating about plant activities that could cause concern if not expected,” Virginia Sanchez, a Shell spokesperson, said in a statement. “When we are in steady operations, it is our goal to have little to no negative impact on our neighbors as a result of our activities.”
For activists, these assurances do little to allay concerns.
On a grassy hillside overlooking the massive complex, Schmetzer spoke with his friend and fellow activist, Carl Davidson. While the plant is not yet operational, the grinding sounds of industrial machinery and screeches of train cars disturbed the clear fall day.

Photo: Bob Schmetzer and Carl Davidson, standing above the petrochemical plant. Credit: Emma Ricketts

Davidson, a self-professed “solar, wind and thermal guy,” wore a Bernie cap and alluded to his youth as a student leader of the New Left movement in the 1960s. While he estimates that around one-third of residents were concerned about the plant’s potential impacts from the beginning, he expects this number to grow once it opens. “People are starting to see two things,” he said. “Number one, there is all kinds of pollution that they didn’t know about. And second, all the jobs that were promised aren’t real.”

The plant sparked hope for a revival of economic prosperity in the area. However, now that construction is largely complete and thousands of workers have finished working on the site, the plant is expected to only employ about 600 people going forward, according to Shell.

While opponents wait anxiously for the plant to begin operations, they don’t think it will influence next week’s elections. The Shell plant has been a non-issue in the tight race for the 17th Congressional District in Beaver County between Democrat Chris Delluzio and Republican Jeremy Shaffer, both of whom support continued fracking.

In the state’s closely watched U.S. Senate race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz, both of whom support fracking, the environment has barely come up in a nasty campaign focused on abortion rights.

Similarly, fracking and the environment have hardly been mentioned in the governor’s race between Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general, and Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Trump supporter and election denier.

Beaver County, while only counting for 1.3 percent of the votes cast in any given election in Pennsylvania, is a bellwether, according to Professor Lara Putman of the University of Pittsburgh. “It is socio-demographically similar to counties that, collectively, make up about one-quarter of Pennsylvania’s population. So in that sense, when Beaver shifts other places are usually shifting as well,” she said.

Baumgardner called the political candidates’ silence “disheartening.”

“I wish they would have the courage to speak up, to take a position and stick with it,” she said.

However, she understands the political risks associated with taking an environmental stand in a community that believes its economic fortunes are tied directly to pollution. She just wishes this wasn’t still the case. “We have alternatives,” she said. “We just need our political leaders to embrace them and get serious about renewables and removing the subsidies on fossil fuels.”

According to Davidson, the key to awakening the public is to ensure that alternatives are tangible. Good ideas aren’t enough to make people give up the job opportunities they have, he said. Clean energy projects are great in theory, but until workers can see a real job with similar wages, many will continue to support the status quo.

Progress might be slow, but Baumgardner, Davidson and Schmetzer remain hopeful that the realities of the plant will sway public opinion once residents’ senses are assaulted with the acrid smells and cacophony of relentless sound they expect the new plastics plant will emit. They each stand ready to educate people on its health and environmental impacts, as soon they are ready to listen. They may be discouraged, but are not deterred.

“Nothing is going to shut me down as long as my grandkids are here,” Baumgardner said.

Emma Ricketts is a graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She focuses on politics, policy and foreign affairs reporting, with a particular interest in climate change and environmental issues. Previously, Emma practiced as a lawyer in a New Zealand-based commercial litigation team where she focused on climate-related risk. ...Read More
Photo: President Biden flanked by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, left, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the White House last month. Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

Top U.S. General Urges Diplomacy in Ukraine
While Biden Advisers Resist

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has made the case that the Ukrainians should try to cement their gains at the bargaining table.

By Peter Baker
The New York Times

Nov. 10, 2022 - WASHINGTON — A disagreement has emerged at the highest levels of the United States government over whether to press Ukraine to seek a diplomatic end to its war with Russia, with America’s top general urging negotiations while other advisers to President Biden argue that it is too soon.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has made the case in internal meetings that the Ukrainians have achieved about as much as they could reasonably expect on the battlefield before winter sets in and so they should try to cement their gains at the bargaining table, according to officials informed about the discussions.

But other senior officials have resisted the idea, maintaining that neither side is ready to negotiate and that any pause in the fighting would only give President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia a chance to regroup. While Mr. Biden’s advisers believe the war will likely be settled through negotiations eventually, officials said, they have concluded that the moment is not ripe and the United States should not be seen as pressuring the Ukrainians to hold back while they have momentum.

The debate, which the officials described on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss sensitive deliberations, has spilled out into public in recent days as General Milley made public comments hinting at his private advice. “Seize the moment,” he said in a speech in New York on Wednesday.

He elaborated in an interview on CNBC on Thursday. “We’ve seen the Ukrainian military fight the Russian military to a standstill,” he said. “Now, what the future holds is not known with any degree of certainty, but we think there are some possibilities here for some diplomatic solutions.”

The White House, however, made a point of distancing itself from any perception that it is pushing President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to cede territory to Russian invaders even as Moscow pulls forces back from the strategic city of Kherson.

“The United States is not pressuring Ukraine,” Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, told reporters on Thursday. “We’re not insisting on things with Ukraine. What we are doing is consulting as partners and showing our support not just through public statements or moral support but through the tangible, physical support of the kind of military assistance I mentioned before.”

The State of the War

Retreat From Kherson: Moscow announced a retreat of Russian forces from the strategically important city in southern Ukraine, one of the most significant reversals of the Kremlin’s war effort. But Ukrainian officials expressed skepticism, saying that the withdrawal could be a trap.

Indeed, the Pentagon on Thursday announced that it was sending another $400 million in military aid to Ukraine. Among the weapons being shipped will be the first mobile Avenger Air Defense Systems provided by the United States as well as missiles for HAWK air defense systems already provided by Spain, mortars, artillery rounds, Humvees, grenade launchers, cold weather gear and ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, that have proved so effective in pushing back the Russians. ...Read More
New Journals and Books for Radical Education...
Dialogue & Initiative 2022

Contested Terrains:
Elections, War
& Peace, Labor

Edited by CCDS D&I
Editorial Group

A project of the CCDS Socialist Education Project

228 pages, $10 (discounts available for quantity orders from, or order at :

This annual journal is a selection of essays offering keen insight into electoral politics on the left, vital issues for the peace and justice movements, and labor campaigns.

Click here for the Table of Contents
Social Justice Unionism
25 Years of Theory and Practice

By Liberation Road

This new 222-page book is a collection of articles and essays covering 25 years of organizing in factories and communities by Liberation Road members and allies.

It serves as a vital handbook for a new generation of union organizers on the left looking for practical approaches to connect their work with a wider socialist vision.

Copies are available for $10 plus shipping at Changemaker.

Revolutionary Youth and the
New Working Class

The Praxis Papers,
the Port authority Statement, the RYM Documents and Other Lost Writings of SDS

Edited by Carl Davidson

A Collection of 12 essays featuring some of the most creative and controversial work of
the U.S. New Left
of the late 1960s.

Most items are difficult to find, and in one important case, The Port Authority Statement, written in 1967 to replace the Port Huron Statement, appears here for the first time. Important for today's radical youth.

$20 paper, $3 as an e-book at Changemaker
NOT TO BE MISSED: Short Links To Longer Reads...
Photo: Cuba's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Fernandez de Cossio listens to Phil Peters, founder of FocusCuba, during a conference in Havana, Cuba, October 26, 2022.

Cuba hosts First U.S. Business Conference in Years, Seeks Investment

Cuban Chamber of Commerce hosts a conference with Washington-based business consultancy FocusCuba.

Communist-run Cuba issued new laws allowing private businesses to incorporate

By Marc Frank

HAVANA, Oct 26 (Reuters) - A few dozen U.S. entrepreneurs braved tough U.S. sanctions and Cuba’s worst economic crisis in decades to attend a conference in Havana on Wednesday focusing on the new private sector and aimed at boosting flagging engagement between the Cold War-era foes.

The Cuban Chamber of Commerce and Washington-based consultancy FocusCuba, which are hosting the gathering, said the three day event was the first such forum since at least 2018 when former U.S. President Donald Trump piled new sanctions on top of the decades-old trade embargo.

Both the Cuban and the U.S. delegations criticized the sanctions - most of which are still in place - and called on Democrat U.S. President Joseph Biden to drop his Republican predecessor's policies.

Cuban Chamber of Commerce President Antonio Luis Carricarte called the gathering in the famous Hotel Nacional an "historic day," praising the persistence of representatives in attendance from both side of the Straits of Florida.

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During a brief thaw in relations under former President Barack Obama, hundreds of U.S. businesses arrived to explore opportunities on the all but forbidden Communist-run island nation.

Some, from cruise ship companies to Western Union Co (WU.N) and Starwood Hotels inked groundbreaking agreements, only to have new U.S. sanctions force them to renege. Others continue to do business.

The government has licensed Cubans to operate nearly 5,500 private small and medium sized businesses over the last year, in a first since Fidel Castro's 1959 Revolution, opening new possibilities for partnerships with foreign investors.

"Almost everything we do is with the new booming private sector," said Cuban-American Hugo , whose Miami-based Fuego Enterprises Inc (FUGI.PK) operates an online food market that processes 4,000 orders in Cuba per day.

"It is important American businesses see this for themselves," said Cancio, who was attending the conference.

U.S. entrepreneurs in attendance represent a range of industries from food services to online shopping, digital money transfers, shipping, and finance.

“I think participants are seeking clarity in terms of what is possible with investment on the Cuban side in this new private sector, though any agreements must also be approved by U.S. regulators," said Phil Peters, founder of FocusCuba told Reuters. "We need more clarity there as well."

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Biden administration has loosened some restrictions on Cuba around remittances, tourism and migration. It has also expressed interest in supporting Cuba's private sector. ...Read More
UN Votes Overwhelmingly
To Condemn US Embargo Of Cuba

By Edith M. Lederer
Nov 3, 2022 - UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Thursday to condemn the American economic embargo of Cuba for the 30th year, with the Biden administration continuing former President Donald Trump’s opposition and refusing to return to the Obama administration’s 2016 abstention.

The vote in the 193-member General Assembly was 185 countries supporting the condemnation, the United States and Israel opposing it, and Brazil and Ukraine abstaining.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said before the vote that since 2019, the U.S. government “has escalated the siege around our country, taking it to an even crueler and more humane dimension, with the purpose of deliberately inflicting the biggest possible damage on Cuban families.”

During the first 14 months of the Biden administration, the damage to the Cuban economy was estimated at $6.35 billion, equivalent to more than $15 million a day, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said the Biden administration is continuing Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy. He said that despite some positive but limited adjustments in recent months on U.S. flights to Cuba, remittances and consular proceedings, these in no way “modify American economic, commercial and financial measures.”

“The blockade, which has been tightened to the extreme, continues to be the central element that defines the U.S.-Cuba policy,” the foreign minister said.

U.S. political counselor John Kelley told the assembly after the vote that the United States remains committed to the Cuban people’s pursuit of freedom and dignity, is focused on their political and economic well-being, and centers its efforts “on democracy and human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

He recalled that the Cuban government pursued a crackdown on demonstrators in response to July 2021 protests by tens of thousands of Cubans across the island demanding freedom.

He said Cuba’s government also “has used harsh prison sentences, even against minors, intimidation, tactics, arrests, Internet disruptions, government-sponsored mobs, and horrendous prison conditions to try to prevent Cubans from exercising their human rights.”

While the United States holds the Cuban government responsible, Kelley said, “the people of the United States and U.S. organizations donate a significant amount of humanitarian goods to the Cuban people, and the United States is one of Cuba’s principal trading partners.”

Cuba’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Yuri Gala, responded: “If the United States government really did care for the well-being, human rights and self-determination of Cuban people, it could lift the embargo.”

The United States advocates for individual freedoms in Cuba, Gala said, “yet they have not reversed the restrictions that are having a direct impact on Cuban entrepreneurs in areas such as software development, hospitality and other areas.”

Rodriguez earlier told the assembly, “We do not blame the blockade for all the difficulties our country faces today.”

“But those who deny its very serious impacts or fail to recognize that it is the main cause of the deprivations, scarcities and hardships suffered by Cuban families would be failing to tell the truth,” he said.

Rodriguez accused the U.S. of using its powerful media and digital technology platforms “in a virulent disinformation and disparagement campaign against Cuba.” He said the U.S. is resorting to “the most diverse methods of non-conventional war, using our children, youths and artists as the targets of this political and media bombardment.”

Thursday’s 185-2 vote was similar to previous years. ...Read More
Photo: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) joins a February 13 campaign rally for democratic socialist Greg Casar, now the Democratic Party’s House candidate for the 35th District in Texas.

Don’t Look Now But Progressives Are About to Expand Their Ranks in Congress

A lot is uncertain about the midterms, but there’s one thing we do know—the House will have the largest left cohort in decades.

By Branko Marcetic 
In These Times

NOVEMBER 2022 - It’s been a rough year for progressives, or so the headlines tell us. Pundits have been quick to elegize the left electoral movement after several high-profile primary defeats in New York, Illinois and Texas. ?“Left loses momentum.” ?“Progressives are in danger of losing influence.” Pundits are ?“seeing limits on the political support for their reformist vision of the country” with this year’s ?“spate of losses” only the ?“latest blow to progressive power,” as the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party struggles ?“to find a winning formula.”

The jubilant mood at the Vermont senator’s September roundtable with a group of progressive House primary winners, then, might come as a surprise. ?“The Squad” — the moniker claimed by the troupe of progressive and democratic-socialist insurgents who started elbowing their way into the House in 2018 — is expected to number in the double digits in 2023, with at least four likely inductees poised to safely win blue districts in November. All in all, progressives are set to claim at least six Congressional seats opened up by redistricting and a record number of retirements.

“I was elected to the House and took office in 1991, and I can tell you there was nothing — nothing — like what we will be seeing in Congress next year,” Sanders said.

If that’s the case, it will not only be thanks to the political talents of the candidates themselves, but to the work of groups like Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party (WFP), among the most prominent of the multiplying constellation of organizations devoted to overturning the Democratic establishment. For this faction, the fight is bigger than any one election cycle, whether defined by shock progressive upsets as in 2018 or this year’s handful of undeniably bitter losses. And they measure success as much by the lengths their opponents are going to stop them as by the number of congressional seats they control.

Few would deny the left electoral movement has suffered major setbacks since Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns.

Sanders’ brutal 2020 primary losses — after the Democratic establishment belatedly rallied around Joe Biden — were intertwined with a powerful Republican ground game that torpedoed many progressive campaigns alongside establishment Democrats that November. Sanders ally Nina Turner lost her bid for Ohio’s 11th District seat in 2021, and her campaign failed again nine months later. The Democrats’ 2021 electoral setback was widely spun as a repudiation of the Left.

This year’s primary season also saw painful progressive losses. Despite holding an anti-choice record in a post-Dobbs moment, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) narrowly fended off a second primary challenge from immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros in the 28th District. Progressive first-term Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.) fell to centrist Rep. Sean Casten, while Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) prevailed over his progressive challenger, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, in what Maloney called a win for the ?“mainstream.”

In all, centrist Democrats challenged by progressives ended up winning 14 of 22 primaries this cycle — roughly two-thirds. ?“The main problem was corporate PAC dark money,” says Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats. ?“The scale of it,” says Maurice Mitchell, National Director of the WFP, “I can’t overstate.” ...Read More
From the CCDS Socialist Education Project...
A China Reader

Edited by Duncan McFarland

A project of the CCDS Socialist Education Project and Online University of the Left

244 pages, $20 (discounts available for quantity orders from, or order at :

The book is a selection of essays offering keen insight into the nature of China and its social system, its internal debates, and its history. It includes several articles on the US and China and the growing efforts of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.

Reviewed HERE in MLToday, Click here for the Table of Contents
Taking Down
White Supremacy

Edited by the CCDS
Socialist Education Project

This collection of 20 essays brings together a variety of articles-theoretical, historical, and experiential-that address multi-racial, multi-national unity. The book provides examples theoretically and historically, of efforts to build multi-racial unity in the twentieth century.

166 pages, $12.50 (discounts available for quantity), order at :

  Click here for the Table of contents

Ottoman Revival? Turkey between Russia and Ukraine

By Cihan Tugal
NLR Sidecar

14 OCTOBER 2022 - During a war in which most countries have either taken sides or remained silent, Turkey has positioned itself as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine – seeking to negotiate with both Putin and Zelensky, and playing an important role in the semi-restitution of grain trade last summer. It has opposed Western sanctions on Russia, yet it has also limited Russian warships in the Black Sea. Such geopolitical maneuvering – treading a fine line between Great Powers – is not confined to the current crisis, nor to Turkey’s bilateral relations with the two warring states. Rather, it is a reflection of Erdogan’s broader foreign policy direction.  

Ever since the Arab Spring, Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been reimagining the country as an independent actor: not simply a ‘bridge’ between the West and the rest, but a force that both the declining American empire and its emergent competitors must reckon with. This, however, is more an expression of fantasy than fact. As we shall see, the material basis for an autonomous Turkish foreign policy is weak, and domestic class dynamics are unfavorable. No matter how much Islamist media outlets try to promote their thin and mostly antisemitic version of ‘anti-imperialism’, it does not amount to a coherent overseas strategy. In the absence of such material and social anchors, the AKP’s search for independence ultimately amounts to a haphazard series of short-termist adventures.

This is in marked contrast to the country’s experience during the mid- to late-twentieth century. The Republic of Turkey’s first two decades were an early harbinger of Third Worldism, with all its merits and demerits. The Republican People’s Party (CHP, which ruled from 1923 to 1950) was dominated by Mustafa Kemal and his allies in the political center, but it also had a left wing that sympathized with the Soviet Union and a right wing that drew on the European traditions of corporatism and fascism. Kemal revered most aspects of Western civilization, but he believed that the best way to catch up with the developed world was for Turkey to retain its independence. He also viewed individualism and class struggle as undesirable aspects of Western capitalist culture, which he sought to banish from the Turkish body politic. This campaign for substantive autonomy largely succeeded, but at the cost of a stagnant illiberalism which left Turkey devoid of both entrepreneurialism and civic anti-capitalism.

A principled alliance with the Soviet Union of the 1920s could have put Turkey on a steadier anti-imperialist path. Yet there was no proper class basis for such an alliance, since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire had decimated the bourgeoisie along with nascent labor movements, rendering the civic and military bureaucracy the most dynamic sector in this fledgling nation. As such, the onset of the Cold War quickly marginalized Turkey’s fragile anti-imperialist forces, while fear of Stalin drove the Kemalists into the arms of the West. This shift was not as abrupt as it appeared, though, since Kemal had himself always been hostile to Bolshevism – nipping left-wing organizing in the bud and restricting the space for trade union militancy.

The fruits of the CHP’s alliance with the West were NATO membership in 1952 and a prolonged (and ultimately unrealized) process of European integration. But it had other manifestations as well, such as Turkey’s vote against Algerian independence at the United Nations in 1955. With the rise of the Democrat Party – a liberal-conservative coalition opposed to the Kemalists’ top-down modernization program, which governed between 1950 and 1960 – a militant Atlanticism replaced the CHP’s more cautious embrace of Western interests. Meanwhile, the 1940s and 50s witnessed the emergence of civic organizations of anti-communist militants, whose influence peaked over the following two decades. By then, Third Worldism had become an oppositional force, which the Turkish right lumped in with the ‘communist threat’.

Long before their fateful splits, the Islamists and proto-fascist Grey Wolves banded together in violent anti-communist gangs, which fought with leftists and anti-imperialists on the streets of the major cities. In 1969, when thousands of students turned out to protest against the American navy’s 6th Fleet, these gangs assisted the police in suppressing the demonstration, killing two and injuring many more. Until the Turkish and Kurdish Islamists themselves took a quasi-Third Worldist turn towards the end of the 1970s, such armed groups served as the main ‘popular’ bulwark against challenges to this alliance with the West.

Turkey’s default center-right rulers of the last 75 years – the Democrat Party in the 1950s, Justice Party in the 60s and 70s, the Motherland Party in the 80s – mainstreamed this popular-reactionary anxiety concerning any kind of independence from the US empire. The most resonant political slogan of those decades, Ortanin Sol’u, Moskova’nin Yolu (which roughly translates as ‘left of center, the path to Moscow’), captured the mood – implying that even a vote for the CHP would inevitably lead to Turkey’s accession to the Eastern Bloc. The political establishment thus gave a blank check to Grey Wolf militants in their campaign to violently eradicate the anti-imperialist left. They attacked coffee houses, bus stations and homes, assassinating union leaders and socialist organizers throughout the 1970s. Towards the end of the decade, this terror campaign expanded to the provinces and countryside, culminating in ethnic and religious pogroms including the massacre of more than 100 Alevis in two days in the provincial town of Maras. Left-wing militants began to defend themselves, and their small armed units rapidly turned into undisciplined mass organizations.

The 1980 coup, led by Kenan Evren, the commander of a US-backed anti-communist guerrilla force, sealed Turkey’s marriage to the West. Its explicit aim was to end ‘left–right clashes’ (the official euphemism for the Grey Wolves’ killing spree and the left’s retaliation); but its real purpose was the implementation of a Chilean-style neoliberal policy package. To consolidate their power, the generals hanged and tortured several right-wing militants and leaders, but the left bore the brunt of their repression. Evren’s coup was largely modelled on Pinochet’s. Yet, thanks to the strong civic traditions of the Turkish right, the military ultimately agreed to govern alongside civilians from 1983, except in Turkish Kurdistan. At this point, military officers trained and funded by the US allied with burgeoning warlords and gained de facto control over the east and southeast of the country, deploying some of the most brutal counter-insurgency techniques of the Cold War against leftists and Kurdish insurgents. By the mid-1990s, this campaign had evolved into a full scale civil war. The civilian government changed hands several times, but the elected administrations were either unable or unwilling to de-escalate the conflict. 

After the fall of the Eastern Bloc, the military’s counter-insurgency campaign was rendered largely redundant in most of the country, as there was no longer an organized socialist movement to suppress. But the growing popularity of the Kurdish guerilla forces extended its shelf life in the east. The Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) became the most powerful player in the Kurdish resistance, once all its competitors – armed or peaceful – were eradicated; and it remains locked in an ongoing conflict with the central government. All in all, the violence has left around 40,000 dead and created an ethnic rift between Turks and Kurds which remains unhealed today. It also served to marginalize the country’s democratic forces. A brief upsurge of student, feminist, environmentalist and labour movements, roughly spanning 1987-95, proved unable to sustain itself amid these harsh conditions, and failed to offer a unifying vision for the country.

The civil war thus unraveled any political bloc capable of questioning Turkey’s submission to the West. Like Black or Hispanic kids in white American schools, Turkey came to play the role of ‘token minority’ in Fortress Europe and NATO. Its proximity to these institutions was held up as proof that liberal imperialism was more tolerant of religious, ethnic and racial differences than it appeared. Turkey provided troops for the occupation of Afghanistan and played an auxiliary role in the conquest of Iraq – making it more difficult for critics to frame these wars as anti-Muslim crusades.

As the country’s pro-Western consensus calcified in the new millenium, it became almost impossible to mount a progressive opposition to EU membership, viewed by both liberals and sections of the left as the most realistic hope for democratizing the Turkish political system. Criticism of the EU was mostly relegated to far right nationalists and ultra-Kemalists, while NATO membership was considered non-negotiable. Thousands turned out to protest against the wars in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, but most shied away from demanding Turkish withdrawal from Western-led military and security organizations.

At this juncture, Turkish Islamists began to outflank the pro-Westernism of the secular political class. From the 70s to the 90s, quasi-Third Worldist Islamists had organized under the banner of the National Salvation Party (MSP) and Welfare Party (RP), whereas pro-NATO Islamic communities had predominantly voted for the mainstream parties. Yet the integration of the small merchant base of the MSP-RP into world markets initiated a process of political and cultural liberalization, paving the way for the unabashedly pro-Western policies of the AKP.

Founded in 2001, the AKP managed to unite these two factions of the Muslim vote, bringing them together in a Western-oriented bloc. Whereas the previous Islamic establishment had given elaborate theological justifications for supporting NATO, the increasingly bourgeois AKP had less need for scriptural exegesis. Its ideology – more neo-Ottoman than Islamist – was a blend of pragmatic, conservative and imperial discourses. Ahmet Davutoglu became the main ideologue of this new Islamism. A former professor of political science and international relations, he served as an advisor to Erdogan in the 2000s, then as foreign minister between 2009 and 2014, and finally as prime minister until 2016.

However, two developments would alter the AKP’s geopolitical calculus in the early 2010s. The first was the global financial crisis. After 2008, the government could no longer count on the flow of hot cash from abroad, and increasingly resorted to state capitalist tools, which almost always went hand-in-hand with the expansion of the military apparatus. This state-capitalist turn began to undermine Davutoglu’s liberal imperialism, if imperceptibly at first. Political-military control of industry eroded the formal independence of the pious bourgeoisie, on which Davutoglu’s pro-Western policy depended. Gradually, Turkey’s overseas outlook began to shift with these domestic realignments.

The second decisive factor was the Arab Spring. In 2011, there initially appeared to be an opening for Davutoglu’s soft power approach, which aimed to peacefully export the Turkish model, first to Arab nations and then to the rest of the Muslim world. The AKP hoped that the uprisings would entrench its favorite binary opposition, between Islamic liberals and secular dictators. With this in mind, Erdogan visited Egypt with an army of Turkish businessmen, hoping to gain greater access to Middle Eastern markets. Yet the sectarianization of the uprisings precluded this outcome. In Syria and Yemen, as elsewhere, civil unrest degenerated into wars between Sunni and Shia populations. This, in turn, prompted the AKP to abandon its dream of pan-Islamic influence and fall back on its default anti-Shiite position, arming murderous Sunni groups throughout the region. At the same time, the AKP responded to the growing movement for Kurdish regional autonomy by integrating the Grey Wolves – as well as some of the ultra-Kemalist soldiers it had purged in the late 2000s – into its governing coalition. These militarist forces proceeded to launch countless incursions into Iraqi and Syrian territory. In this new world, Davutoglu’s liberal-democratic project was rendered obsolete. His relations with Erdogan deteriorated, and he was forced to resign in 2016.

In contrast to the Davutoglu era, the latest iteration of the AKP lacks a sound ideological basis for its foreign policy. Erdoganists have been forced to adopt the quasi-Third Worldist themes of yesteryear’s Islamism, while attempting to reconcile them with the imperialist outlook of the Turkish right, which typically manifests in fantasies of reviving the Ottoman Empire, uniting Turkic nations of Asia with Turkey, or building pan-Islamist unity across the globe. In recent years, the AKP has drawn on these themes in an ad hoc and unsystematic manner. Turkey’s Islamist newspapers are full of analyses of Chinese, Russian, Iranian and Latin American alternatives to US hegemony, which haphazardly draw on World Systems Theory and other anti-imperialist schools of thought. None of these nations is glorified (indeed, Iran is viewed as Turkey’s Shiite arch-enemy), but they are nevertheless seen as important experiments that Turkey could learn from and build on. One concrete policy that has emerged from this disjointed ideological landscape is the so-called ‘Blue Homeland’ project, which seeks to redefine the Eastern Mediterranean (including the Black Sea and Azov Sea, and stretching all the way to Tunisia) as a Sunni-Turkic possession. The AKP’s current ambition is to bring the natural resources and trade routes of this region under its control.

It is through this hodgepodge of references that Turkey can view Russia as a legitimate partner, yet retain a strong suspicion of its foreign policy decisions. The AKP claims that it does not have to choose between Russia and the US; it can strike deals with Putin while simultaneously presenting itself as Ukraine’s savior. Yet such bombast flies in the face of Turkey’s real geopolitical position. It remains militarily and economically dependent on the West – and, to a lesser extent, on the Russian energy sector and Arab oil wealth. The regime’s state-capitalist turn may have freed up some resources for independent maneuvering; but the Turkish economy is still highly restricted by its existing trade routes and partnerships. It therefore lacks a reliable basis for imperial adventures. Without a sturdy state capitalism and a sound intellectual vision, the aspiring imperialists of the AKP cannot assert their control over the Eastern Mediterranean, nor over parts of the Middle East and Caucuses, into which they have made some brief and ineffective forays. When push comes to shove, Turkey’s most consequential policies are decided elsewhere. For instance, in late September 2022, Erdogan was forced to tow Washington’s line and withdraw from a Russian-led payment system – despite the deleterious effects of this decision on the domestic economy.

However, the AKP’s disingenuous assertion of strategic independence still has obvious payoffs. Erdogan’s pledge that Turkey will become an imperial power – bolstered by its operations in Syria and Iraq – helps to galvanize his right-wing base and disarm the opposition. The Kemalists (still represented primarily by the CHP), the secular offshoots of the Grey Wolves (Iyi Parti), and the liberal Islamists (Babacan’s DEVA and Davutoglu’s Gelecek Partisi), all line up behind the AKP whenever ‘national security’ is at stake. By failing to articulate an alternative foreign policy, these doggedly pro-NATO forces offer little more than a revival of the AKP’s early years, where liberal democracy, free markets and Atlanticism were articles of faith. Given how much the world has changed since 2002, it is doubtful whether this could constitute a governing vision fit for the 2020s.

Internationally, too, the major benefit of the AKP’s foreign policy is buying time while the US empire declines and its rivals advance at an unpredictable pace. Erdoganists hope that the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative will provide new resources for Turkey and more freedom from the West. Some in Erdogan’s coterie even think that Turkey could one day replicate the Chinese path to development. Yet the party has so far refrained from adopting any Chinese-style oversight of major industry. Here, too, postponing any reckoning with Turkey’s place in the shifting sands of world capitalism is the greatest strength of the AKP’s strategy. Where this will ultimately lead is still uncertain. But it’s clear that neither a principled anti-imperialism, nor an ability to intervene in inter-imperialist rivalry, will flow from Erdogan’s confused worldview.

Read on: Cihan Tugal, ‘Turkey at the Crossroads?’, NLR 127. ...Read More
The following was written in response to the DSA Socialist Majority Caucus to see the statement go to

If You Don't Hit It, It Won't Fall: On the Socialist Majority Caucus statement, 'Against the Right and the Center: A Democratic Socialist Strategy for Working Class Power'

By Carl Davidson and Bill Fletcher

On the eve of the 2022 election, DSA's Socialist Majority Caucus has declared itself as a force actively engaged in building a broad united front against the far Right, with the particular aim of defeating GOP candidates across the board. It matters even more so because that task is not over with this electoral round, but will continue to 2024 and beyond.

The statement also does a good job in stressing the need for independent organization, both its own and other mass organizations among the working class and all subaltern communities of the oppressed. Without organization, there is no way for progressive ideas and their advocates to come to power. This applies both in the short term and the longer run as well.

 That said, and with all due respect, there are some problems. We'll focus on three areas: 1. Defining the current conjuncture, 2. Assessing the current terrain, and 3. Describing our tasks.

The current conjuncture

As socialists, it's very important to understand where society is at, even as it is constantly changing. In the U.S. today, we are in a non-revolutionary situation. Socialism is not on the agenda in the current or next round of elections, nor is 'all power to the workers and community councils' (or something similar) anywhere near being a slogan for mass action. Given the crisis-ridden and war dangers of capitalism, there will come a time when things rapidly change, and a new set of revolutionary programs and tactics will rise to the fore. But we are not there yet.

 We are confident that the SMC would agree with us, but they need to be clear in articulating this message. . What we find in the document instead are sections that mush together immediate demands with 'transitory' programs and situations. For example:

 "Our project is to defeat the right and the neoliberal leadership of the Democratic Party, implement a program that can substantially shift the balance of forces in our society, and lead a working-class majority in the struggle to end the capitalist system."

This formulation merges an anti-far Right/antifascist fight with a fight against centrist Democrats, leading to a moment where the working class wins state power. We would agree that there are conflicts and struggles on all these fronts, but formulating it this way causes more problems and confusion than it solves or clarifies. There are three sets of struggles that need to be conducted, but the question is, at this moment, what is the principal struggle and who is the principal enemy.

We understand and support, for example, an approach to reforms that distinguishes between redistributive demands (wage increases and other forms or relief) and deep structural reforms (altering the relations of power with new organization[WFJ1] ).

Assessing the Terrain

Here is where the issue of assessing the terrain becomes critical. We don't put the fight against the right on a par with the fight with the center. In fact, we advocate a more nuanced approach: First, unite and develop the progressive forces (Everyone from the Congressional Progressive caucus, Progressive Democrats of America, and the Working Families Party, on one hand, and the socialists, including Bernie, AOC, and those to their left on the other hand). Second, the progressive and Left forces must win over as many of the middle forces as we can (The Biden Dems, their close allies, Blue dogs, independent voters and even a few never-Trump Republicans). Third, isolate and divide the right (Overt fascists, Trump's rightwing populists and the Christian nationalists) and crush them batch by batch. Basically, we want to and need to avoid fighting all our adversaries at once.

Our approach to the center is one of critical support. We are certainly in a tactical alliance with them to defeat Republicans. But there is more to it. We are joining them in a wider fight for defending democracy and the Constitution. We also can join them in their programs, however limited, around climate change, a Green New Deal, and an expansion of high tech manufacturing. They will fight for these in their way and we will do it in ours, and there will be unity and overlap, as well as contention. We both are aware of other sectors of capital that oppose these reforms in their entirety. Where we need to struggle against them, we will do so, including where the centrist Democrats hold office and move anti-people programs.

Our base(s) must be clear that it is not the centrist Democrats who are engaged in voter suppression; the destruction of abortion; global warming denial, etc. The centrist Democrats are not the main threat to political democracy. Thus, to the extent to which we place them on the same level, even rhetorically, as the far Right, we are confusing ourselves and our base, and we are wasting valuable resources and time.

 This raises the question of neoliberalism. We think the SMC would do well to examine the matter more. We think neoliberalism, at least on the domestic front, has reached a point of exhaustion. It's had a good 40-year run, but it has no solutions to any pressing programs. Once elected, Biden had to bracket it and search for the voice of his inner FDR New Deal to come up with his Build Back Better, Infrastructure and other programs. The hard liners of the neoliberals, the Kochs, are embedded within the GOP's efforts to gut Medicare and Social Security. To be sure the neoliberals are still around, even under the Dem tent. But they operate more as Zombies, wielding some power and danger, but no life.

Socialism and Dividing Our Tasks into Two.

 We don't want to submerge the question of socialism, nor does the SMC. What we do is divide our tasks into two, our mass democratic tasks and our socialist tasks. Mass democratic task we all know well, everything from organizing the unorganized to winning elections and beating back fascists. When it comes to socialist tasks, what we criticize is what we'll call 'last sentence socialism,' wherein we make a speech or write an article about a rent strike or a union battle, and at the end, we tack on a sentence or two asserting 'that's why we need socialism!' We have all seen this too many times.

But we are quite serious about our socialist tasks, and they are not to be put off to another day. We need clarity on what they are. We think they are largely theoretical and educational. We need serious study and debate around 21st century socialism, market economies, and many other matters. We need an array of thousands of socialist study groups among the most active and advanced workers and students on the matter, along with book stores and publishing houses. We need think tanks that can develop the policies of the deep structural reforms we want to get on the agendas in Congress and state legislatures. This is not being done all that well by any of us. But if we fail, when the time comes when socialism is being a large matter in elections and insurrectionary risings, we will be poorly armed for the moment.

"We submit our feedback, for your consideration, in the interest of strengthening clarity and unity within the socialist Left. We want to open a discussion, no assert any final conclusion. With the onslaught coming from the far Right the socialist Left must play a key role in constructing a broad front opposing the Right. The ability or inability of the socialist Left to lead in the construction of such a front and, thereby, blunting the offensive of the Right, will ultimately determine our own viability as a political current. The stakes could never be higher."
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History Lesson of the Week:
‘Manless Climbing’ and breaking into the news
Photo: Una Marson broadcasting to British troops in the West Indies from a London theatre, February 1942 © Getty Images.

Breaking into the masculine public sphere of the interwar years.

By Ann Kennedy Smith
History Today
December 2020

Una Marson broadcasting to British troops in the West Indies from a London theatre, February 1942 © Getty Images.
Shiela Grant Duff was 21 and fresh out of university when she witnessed the violence that followed the Saar plebiscite in 1935. ‘The Nazis can tell their enemies by their eyes’, she wrote in her report for the Observer, warning of the German people’s growing support for Nazi brutality. By the time that war broke out, Grant Duff had become one of the world’s foremost experts on Czechoslovakia. She never forgot that in 1934 the editor of The Times had turned her down as foreign correspondent, suggesting that she might send the paper some ‘fashion notes’ from the Continent instead. 

Writing, risk-taking and the refusal to conform to ‘gendered expectations’ unite the 13 women who feature in Sarah Lonsdale’s Rebel Women Between the Wars, who used a range of strategies to break into the ‘masculine public sphere’ of the interwar years. Journalism was one tried and tested method of gaining entrance to this well-defended fortress. As Lonsdale points out, many of her subjects had grown up reading the newspapers of the Edwardian women’s suffrage groups and had learned from their organization and campaigning zeal. In 1928 the former suffragist Ray Strachey wrote that ‘the main fight is over and the main victory is won’, but there were many high walls still to be scaled. 

Edith Shackleton is chiefly remembered (if at all) as the ‘last mistress’ of the poet W.B. Yeats, but in 1930 she was Fleet Street’s highest paid woman journalist, earning more for her book reviews than many senior men at the Evening Standard. Margaret Lane refused the safety of the women’s page and (like Grant Duff and Martha Gellhorn) chose the financially precarious position of freelance reporter to participate in journalism on her own terms: Lane’s interview with ‘Scarface’ Al Capone made the front page of the Daily Express in October 1931. Specialist professional and sporting journals edited by women provided another way for their voices to be heard. In 1921 engineering student Claudia Parsons published her first article in The Woman Engineer and mountaineer Dorothy Pilley co-founded the all-woman Pinnacle Club to promote the subversive practice of ‘manless climbing’. 

Engaging and pacily written, Rebel Women Between the Wars reveals how formal and informal networks enabled individual women’s participation and activism. In her maiden speech to the House of Commons in 1931, the Labour MP Leah Manning described the nations of the world as ‘roped together like Alpine climbers’ and in May 1937 the international associations she belonged to helped her to transport 4,000 Basque refugee children to Southampton. There were downsides to such powerful networks. The Jamaican poet and playwright Una Marson, who in 1938 became the first black woman to work for the BBC, felt betrayed when she discovered that even apparently forward-looking English feminists put Empire and the interests of the West above racial equality.  

There has been a vogue for feminist anthologies recently, featuring potted biographies of ‘remarkable women’ of the past, and this book’s title seems to nod to that trend. Lonsdale acknowledges the limitations of studying such a selective, middle-class, mostly British group, but Rebel Women Between the Wars is not just about these 13 women. It is also about the thousands of others they stood for, ‘working assiduously at the defences of the fortress’ and for all those who continue to challenge gendered expectations today.  

Rebel Women Between the Wars: Fearless Writers and Adventurers
Sarah Lonsdale
Manchester University Press 432pp £20 ...Read More
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Time for a Tune-Up: Morena Turns Eight
from the Nov 9, 2022 Bulletin
I got a new car in 2014, the same year Morena became a Mexican political party. This new car — my first-ever brand new one — had me thoroughly excited. No scratches, no noises, no problems!
Fast forward eight years. My car has problems. OK, some count as my own fault, like the time I left the car in drive when I exited and the car promptly propelled itself into a ditch. I blame other mishaps on acts of nature, like those mice that ate all the wiring. And don’t get me started on that faulty AC that crashed as soon as the warranty expired.
Morena, meanwhile, began life as a party of a brand-new design, as a civil society organization based in México’s social movements. Andrés Manuel López Obrador led the way. He had left the PRD party, itself a democratic breakaway from the PRI, México’s long-time ruling party. Other left-leaning PRD militants joined Morena when its members voted to register as a political party.
Did this new Morena come with design flaws? Sure did. In an attempt to be as democratic as possible, for instance, the party allowing anyone and everyone to become a member and run for office under the Morena banner. The more popular that banner became, the more opportunists rushed into Morena and ran for office under it.
Did Morena run into problems beyond the party’s control? Most certainly. As always, the United States wants a servant south of the border, not a neighbor. US officials right now are threatening to sue México under existing free trade rules if the Morena government moves to take control of its own energy sector. 
Is Morena facing problems caused by its own actions and inactions? Of course, perhaps most notably by failing to maintain and strengthen its social movement base.
But problems always become inevitable as time passes. I’m not ready to junk my eight-year-old car. And within Morena we can see a new fix-it spirit. A younger generation of activists, young people like Alejandro Torres, our interviewee this week, have the technical skills and visionary creativity to do much more than just keep the old buggy running. They’re building a vehicle for real revolutionary change. ...Read More
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Film Interview:
Why the New Iranian Movie Holy Spider Feels Like Important Viewing


Ali Abbasi’s serial-killer drama Holy Spider was already gaining a reputation on the festival circuit as one of the most haunting and upsetting films of the fall, a grim indictment of deep-rooted misogyny in modern Iran. Then came the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, and the street protests in Iran and retaliatory violence by authorities that have followed and riveted the world. Holy Spider, which opens in limited theaters today and is based on the real-life killings of sex workers in the Iranian city of Mashhad in 2000 and 2001, suddenly feels like important viewing, a prescient report from the shadows of a brutal theocracy.

It’s a difficult film—not for the faint of heart. Holy Spider is not especially explicit or gory, but it’s uncommonly unflinching in its depiction of violence against women. Abbasi, who was born in Iran and studied film in Sweden and Denmark, is known for his two previous features (both set in Europe), 2016’s Shirley and 2018’s Border. He worked for years to get his Holy Spider script made, one that shows a side of Iranian life I’d never seen on film—including depictions of drug use, homelessness, and prostitution.

The subject matter meant Abbasi couldn’t shoot in Iran (he settled on Jordan), and he has praised his Iranian lead actor, Mehdi Bajestani, for his bravery in taking on the role of the killer. Yet I was struck by the ferocity of his heroine—a female journalist named Rahimi, played by the actor Zar Amir Ebrahimi—who investigates the crimes when the police won’t. An Iranian exile, Ebrahimi won best actress at Cannes for her performance this year and told me she channeled her own experience into the performance.

As recounted in a recent profile in The New York Times, Ebrahimi, 41, was a popular television actress in Iran until her career fell apart after an intimate video of her and her boyfriend was leaked online. Fearing for her life and facing a prison sentence, she fled the country and is now based in Paris. I spoke to her about Holy Spider, which has been put forward by Denmark (where Abbasi is based) for the Oscar for the international feature film.

Vogue: Since this movie debuted at Cannes, it feels like the world has changed and we’re all riveted by the street protests in Iran. Can you talk about the release of Holy Spider amid all of this?

Zar Amir Ebrahimi: Yes, people are starting to watch the film in another way. The screenings have been very emotional. It’s like the brutality of this movie has somehow become a reality. The images from Iran, the videos of authorities beating people in the street and killing people, are much more brutal than our movie. I have even started to watch it in another way. My character, Rahimi, the journalist, is a completely fictionalized character, but what I see right now from women and the men in the street is that there are thousands of Rahimis in Iran, fighting for their freedom. It’s a special moment: This movie has become an opportunity to talk about this moment in Iran.

The film is based on real killings of women in the Iranian city of Mashhad from 2000 and 2001. I know you lived in Iran in those years. Were you aware of this history?

Yes, yes. Before the serial killings in Mashhad, there was another man in Tehran who was raping and killing women as a taxi driver. He got arrested after a few months, but then the killings started in Mashhad. A few months later we had a serial killer in Kerman, which is another big city in Iran. My memories from this period are all about fear—the fear we had as women. I was 20, a university student, and I was so afraid of even taking a taxi. I also remember that it took a year before the killer was arrested in Mashhad—he killed 16 women—and so everyone was asking, “Who is he? Does he have any support from the government?” Then he got arrested and eventually executed, but still everyone wondered if he’d really been executed. We don’t ever trust this government. Even when he was in prison, people came to support him. People in Mashhad were happy that he’d killed all these women. They felt he was cleansing this city of streetwalkers, and people appreciated him. You’d see the support, and you’d feel it, and that was really scary.

I was surprised a movie like Holy Spider could be made. You are an associate producer and worked as the film’s casting director before taking the role of Rahimi. When you read Abbasi’s script, did you think it was a dangerous movie to make?

I felt no fear. I already can’t go back to Iran anyway—I made my mind up about that 10 years ago. And so it was important for me to see that this film could happen and it would be possible to make a movie about the reality in Iran. We knew it was not something the government would like.

There’s such an intensity to your performance. Does it have to do with the reasons you had to leave Iran?

Yes, I managed to link the experience of my own life, especially my last year, to this character. In the script she is younger, but when I came on board, we changed her to my age. And I think that helped me to add my experience. Ali and I had many hours of discussion, wondering, What is her motivation? Why does she risk her life to investigate the killings? I was always like, Is it journalism? Are all journalists willing to risk their lives in this way? I think no. But maybe when I came on board to play her, something very naturally came out of me. And when you fight for yourself, you fight for others too. This is what I see today. I had a call from a friend a week ago in Iran who told me, ”I go to the street for you because I want you to be back, and you can’t ask me not to go.” And I just thought, Yes, there are all these women who are fighting for freedom—but not only for their own freedom.

What do you think is going to happen in Iran? It’s gripping to watch these protests but also scary. What do you think is coming next?

You know, Ali always says this movie isn’t about a serial killer. It’s about a serial-killer society. That’s a huge thing to say about Iran, and it’s generalizing, but I do understand him. It’s a patriarchal society, and we are talking now about Iran’s misogyny. But what is happening is that I think this society is changing. This new generation—and I don’t think it’s only about the new generation—is fighting for women’s rights and human rights. I think there’s a wall that is half broken. Maybe we need time for the rest. But the change is there, and the revolution is happening, especially because men and women are together and fighting for their freedom. I’m quite an optimist. I know it’s so sad, and I’m crying thinking about the people who are almost getting killed right now, but I see there is no fear. ...Read More
Book Review: The War Upon Us

This new book assesses the current state of global capitalism and the new social movements that have arisen in response to recent transformations in the system.

By Jerry Harris 

Global Civil War:
Capitalism Post-Pandemic
William I. Robinson
PM Press/Kairos

November 9, 2022 - William I. Robinson's Global Civil War is a call to the left to get ready for battle. This book follows Robinson’s Police State, diving more deeply into the post-pandemic world, the fourth industrial revolution, and what the left needs to do to meet the challenges ahead.

More than in any of his previous works, Robinson devotes space to the types of political organization, theory and practice needed to win against authoritarian capitalism, a discussion that takes up most of Chapter Three.

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Robinson wants this work to be an intellectual weapon in the effort to construct counter-hegemony, an analysis that can be understood and used by activists to develop a systemic critique of global capitalism.

For Robinson, this is the role of “organic intellectuals in the Gramscian sense, intellectuals who attach themselves to and serve the emancipatory struggles of the popular classes…” (148)

A professor of sociology, global and Latin American studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara, the author begins with a description of the economic fundamentals at the foundation of the world’s social and economic crisis. This is covered in the first chapter “Global Capitalism Post-Pandemic.”

But where Robinson expands his previous work is in detailing how advanced digitalization is transforming the world, presenting the dangers of a technological dictatorship. This is the centerpiece of the book, encompassing Chapter Two, “Digitalization and the Transformation of Global Capitalism.”

Chapter Three is “Whither the Global Revolt,” which Robinson notes “may be the most urgent for readers,” whereas the first two chapters “lay the indispensable groundwork for this strategizing.” (7)

Global Capital and Contradictions

Robinson and others have covered this economic and social analysis before, but it’s a concise and necessary framing for the book. To this is added the impact of COVID-19. As Robinson says, “The pandemic left in its wake more inequality, more political tension, more militarism, and more authoritarianism — or rather, there were more of these things through the pandemic.”

The first chapter starts with the crisis of overaccumulation and stagnation. The fact that capitalism must always seek to increase profits by lowering the cost of production, particularly labor costs. The result is the working class can never buy all that it produces, leading to stagnation and the need to find new markets.

Consequently, capitalism needs to ceaselessly expand, moving beyond nationally bound economies. While this impulse was always part of capitalism, the 1980s stagnation led to a much deeper, wider, and connected system of global production and finance, a global system constructed by the emergence of a transnational capitalist class (TCC).

But this spatial expansion offered only temporary relief, as global polarization and inequality reached levels without precedent. A new structural crisis exploded in 2008, with all its contradictions accentuated a few years later by the pandemic.

As joblessness and poverty rapidly increased, authoritarian capitalist states heightened their repressive control and pushed forward the global police state.

Robinson concludes that the global nature of the crisis results in an “acute political contradiction.” (51) National states must retain political legitimacy for the capitalist system. But the accumulation process is largely out of their control.

The transnational capitalist class demands downward pressure on wages, the deconstruction of the social contract, cuts in taxes, privatization of state assets such as health and education, and budgetary austerity.

That’s exactly what creates anger and alienation among broad sections of the working and middle classes. Nationalist political movements then direct this anger against other countries as well as racial, religious, or ethnic minorities. Writing before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Robinson notes that “The drive by the capitalist state to externalize the political fallout of the crisis increases the danger that the international tensions will lead to war.” (53)

The following chapter is devoted to an examination of the powerful growth of tech companies, and their ties to finance and also repressive accumulation.

Throughout the past 20 years Robinson has written on the importance of computer and information technologies, and the power of digitalization to synchronize, coordinate, transfer and integrate global production and finance. But here, Chapter Two offers an extended investigation, particularly the most recent developments concerned with artificial intelligence, biotechnology and big data.

Tech and Capital’s New Bloc

Typical of Robinson’s methodology, he offers an abundant amount of data and statistical evidence as to the growth and economic importance of intellectual capital and its tools of production, and the giant tech companies who dominate the field.

One interesting aspect is the separation of direct human labor from the actual work process through robotization. Robinson notes how human pilots can operate production robots, or military drones, from anywhere on the planet. But we can take that example even further: Consider the robots roaming the surface of Mars doing scientific research directed and controlled from workers on Earth.

The transformation of the work process has been truly remarkable. Robinson pursues the effects on labor in diverse areas including gig workers, precariousness, working from home, and the diminished role of living labor in the creation of wealth.

As he explains, the pandemic has increased the fragmentation of the entire labor process, which in turn increases the physical isolation of workers, undercutting solidarity and the ability to organize.

The fourth industrial revolution has brought capital closer than ever to reducing labor costs, and the number of workers from direct labor. But as pointed out in Chapter One, this only increases the crisis of capitalism and all of its social contradictions.

Robinson uses his examination of tech to argue a new capitalist bloc has been established. He writes, “The rise of the digital economy involves a fusion of Silicon Valley with transnational finance capital…and military-industrial-security complex giving rise to a new bloc of capital that appears to be at the very core of the emerging post-pandemic paradigm.” (87)

One important area that doesn’t gain Robinson’s attention is the green ecomodernization of the means of production with its ties to the tech industry, a development that has attracted significant investments.

This field also offers expanding new opportunities for over-accumulated capital, and it would be interesting to see how Robinson fits this sector into his analysis of the new capitalist bloc.

Social Explosions and Quandaries

Chapter Three turns attention to the social explosions breaking out in numerous counties as the result of neoliberal policy, the pandemic, and the structural crisis of capitalism. Robinson examines mass upsurges in Sudan, Chile, Bolivia, France, China, India and the United States as well as other countries. Unfortunately, the environmental mass movement, particularly among youth, doesn’t find its way into this list. But the author’s main focus here is to identify “four quandaries” as to why these mass global rebellions have not led to revolutionary alternatives to capitalism.

Robinson has little belief in any renewed capitalist stability requiring large-scale state intervention, finding neither neoliberal nor social-democratic elites up to the task.

The first quandary is the disconnect between popular uprisings and an organized socialist left. Robinson sees the need for a revolutionary political organization with a program of action and strategy that can bring together social movements into an emancipatory anti-capitalist project. One of the main barriers is the “stubborn identitarian paradigm…resistant to political organization and to identifying broader class interests beyond identity.” (118).

Without a socialist party with revolutionary conscious leadership, he contends, building a sustained challenge to capitalism out of the spontaneous upsurges becomes nearly impossible.

Quandary two is the failure of the left to respond to the nature of transnational capitalism. As the author argues, national states are unable to exercise real political power over a global system of accumulation when the transnational capitalist class has tremendous structural power when facing over 200 individually divided countries. Since working classes can only seize power at the nation-state level, they can be isolated and defeated.

For Robinson the answer lies in building “transnational counter-hegemony…coordinated across borders and across regions.” (120) He doesn’t articulate what the political program will be, although in the book’s conclusion he briefly notes that the Green New Deal as a sweeping reform movement can generate “favorable conditions to struggle for a post-capitalist social order.” (148)

But under quandary two, Robinson’s real focus is the relationship of the political to the economic, and the role of the state.

Describing liberal ideology, he illustrates how the capitalist viewpoint separates the public political sphere, which encompasses the state, from the private corporate sphere of economic expropriation. Consequently, the widespread popular belief is that each has “its own innate laws and dynamics, the first pursuing power and the second wealth.” (122)

Since the state is the condensation of social and economic grievances, social movements often turn their attention to political demands of inclusion, without demanding democratizing economic relations using a revolutionary class perspective.

Turning to Gramsci, the author explains that while the state has autonomy from individual capitalists, it remains the guardian of capitalist relations of production. Therefore, Robinson criticizes “popular struggles that target the state (and) run the risk of dissolving class-based demands of the proletariat and other exploited classes into more abstract demands for democratization (which) can strengthen the hegemony of dominant groups as these groups accommodate liberal demands for equality or representation and inclusion in the capitalist state.” (124)

Thus, his critic of identitarian politics ties into Gramsci’s “passive revolution” in which the ruling class can encompass and defuse mass movements. This is Robinson’s third quandary, the “influence, even hegemony, over mass struggle of identitarian paradigms that…eclipsed the language of class and the critique of capital and political economy.” (127)

Here the author blames academics and intellectuals who have led the assault on Marxian class analysis with postmodernism, replacing collective action by the oppressed with demands for equitable inclusion into global capitalism.

Bringing the point to the largest movement in recent U.S. history, Robinson maintains that Black Lives Matter and the Defund Police movements focused on reforming law enforcement, rather than speaking to the “big picture,” the structural fact that the role of police is to defend capitalist property rights and criminalize the poor — an economic violence responsible for more Black deaths than police brutality.

The Far Right’s Appeal

The final quandary is the far-right’s appeal to the same social base that the left is attempting to organize.

Robinson makes the point that social decay, downward mobility, xenophobia, and racial supremacy all add to the power of the far-right’s appeal. But in describing the majority of those who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 he ascribes their anger to various economic troubles, blaming identitarians for writing them off as racists.

Nevertheless, an important study done at the University of Chicago led by Robert Pape found sixty-three percent of the would-be January 6 insurrectionists believe in the “Great Replacement” theory that whites are being replaced culturally and economically by minorities.

Furthermore, Pape’s original hypothesis was that insurgents would come from white households whose income was dropping. Instead, he found the most meaningful correlation was that insurgents came from counties in which the white population was in decline.

Indeed, for every one-point drop in the percent of whites, insurgents coming from that county increased by 25 percent. This link held up in every state, and attests to the powerful role that racism actually plays in the neofascist threat, and the widespread effect of Replacement Theory propaganda.

The task then for Robinson, and indeed the entire left, is how to understand and organize around the core relationships among U.S. capitalism, race, and class.

Robinson himself notes: “The problem here…is not a struggle against racism, for that must be front and center of any emancipatory project, rather, it is the separation of race from class, the substitution of politics based on essentialized identities for politics based on the working class.” (139).

The last point in Chapter Three turns to the relationship of the transnational capitalist class and the authoritarian state and fascist mobilization. Robinson argues that full-blown fascism requires three elements: reactionary state power, fascist mobilization in civil society, and support for the project by the majority fraction of the Transnational Capitalist Class. But he observes, “It appears that the major portion of the TCC is not prepared to support fascist projects,” because reactionary nationalism calls for a withdrawal from globalization. (140)

Instead, we see a TCC engaged in fierce competition, splits, and infighting. This may help explain the war in Ukraine and efforts to contain China.

In a future work we can hope that Robinson expands on this analysis. What are the different strategic differences splitting the TCC, are there different blocs contending for hegemony, and just how does nationalist politics impinge on transnational economics? ...Read More
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