Campaigning for Democracy And Socialism.
A Nation with No Memory Will Bring Us Death and Destruction
There's a core message in the graphic shown here, and it captures our current adversaries, the GOP neo-Confederates and their camp followers.

The message is willful ignorance. It's rooted in a neoliberal sense of self-entitlement that trumps any concept of the common good. It trashes the core values of the working class and the communities of all the oppressed, solidarity and mutual aid.

So we have a contest on two fronts. We have to battle for the objective truths made known to all by science. And we have a cultural war of position to defend the core values of our shared humanity. You're needed. It's not crowded up front.
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Courtney Childs, Oregon: I started subscribing to this newsletter 'Participatory Democracy in Cuba' to check it out. This was my first issue. I'm impressed.

Marilyn Katz, Chicago: RE: The New Yorker on 'Other Afghan Women.' We may have all predicted this but reading the reality is more than brutal- perhaps we did in the 1940s (or perhaps not) but since then when has America engaged in any foreign adventure that did anything but destroy places and lives.

Pat Fry, New York: Through Pluripolarity to Socialism: A Manifesto. This looks like a substantial initiative. I don’t know the speakers other than Vijay Prashad of Tricontenintal and Chris Mathalko of the SACP. Check it out.
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WHERE WE STAND: We see the immediate problem of defeating the GOP Trumpists. This task is framed by the centrality of a path forward focused on taking down white supremacy, along with all other forms of oppression and exploitation. Naturally, this will include important battles within the Democratic party as well. This is the path to class unity and popular solidarity.

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Latest News
The GOP:
Worker's Party
or Party of the White Republic?

The Republican Party is a "working class party" now, according to its nationalist wing. But a deeper look at its pro-worker rhetoric reveals a longstanding trope of the "white worker" against invader populations.

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.  
Bias Magazine: The Voice Of The Christian Left via Portside

Sept 6, 2021 - Something very curious unfolded in the latter days of Trump’s presidency. No, not Trump’s “big lie” about voter fraud and his election victory. Rather, it was a peculiar spin on the future of the Republican Party’s relationship to the working class. Some Republicans, including Trump, began to describe the Republican Party as a “working class party” standing in opposition to the alleged elitism of the Democratic Party. Conservative intellectuals, religious institutions, and think tanks also began to propose a rebranding of American conservatism and the GOP around “proworker” politics.

Many observers scratched their heads at this shift, as the platform and practice of the Republican Party have been, historically, anything but proworker. 

But Trump and his far-right allies in the GOP were not so much announcing that the class composition or policy platform of the Republican Party had shifted. Indeed, the balance sheet of Trump’s labor politics was horrendous. Rather, they were seeking to forge a particular form of racialized unity among alleged productive members of US society against the alleged unproductive members. Among these alleged unproductive are the so-called coastal and woke elites; sometimes referenced as the “Eastern Elites,” who, supposedly allied with Jews (although often referenced indirectly), racial minorities, feminists, LGBTQIA activists and immigrants from the global South, are challenging the social texture and political viability of the United States.

According to this narrative, it is the custodians of “woke capital” who are especially to blame for the assault on productive Americans, punishing patriotic workers with a globalist, social justice agenda, and crushing the “real economy.” While this rhetorical focus on the working class has surprised many pundits, it is hardly new. It is a species of rightwing populism, a longstanding irrationalist political current that bases itself on racism, sexism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism. It is the manure within which neofascist currents sprout.

The rightwing populist movement that has grown in the U.S. since the late 1960s has always positioned itself as an aggrieved white movement countering the advances of the traditionally oppressed and marginalized sectors of the population. In some cases, rightwing populism has been blatant in its racism and white supremacy. In other cases, however, it has been more subtle, offering a carrot to segments of racialized populations so long as they embrace the critical image of the U.S. as a perpetual “white republic.”

The Republican Party’s flirtation with pro-worker politics is both absurd and clever. It allows them to claim that racial and gender diversity and inclusion (not to mention antiracism and antisexism) are somehow ploys of the woke—read ‘Jewish’—elites to rob the ordinary (white) person of what they supposedly earned through hard work. Further, efforts to oppose racism, even symbolically, are portrayed as an assault on “American” history and the white population—the victims of a woke agenda that oppresses “straight white men.”

A case in point was the decision of Major League Baseball (MLB) to relocate the 2021 AllStar game. Originally scheduled to have been played in Atlanta, Georgia, MLB made the surprising decision to relocate the game to Denver, Colorado after being pressured to denounce Georgia’s voter suppression efforts. Immediately, many Republican politicians, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, loudly proclaimed the need to attack the antitrust exemption that has allowed MLB to monopolize baseball since the early 1920s. The fact that Republicans have consistently opposed efforts to overturn the antitrust exemption was ignored. What mattered was that they were taking on “woke corporations.” Senator Mitch McConnell even threatened major corporations for taking such stands, hilariously suggesting that corporations should stay out of politics (he quickly reversed himself).

We must be clear. This illusory proworker conservatism has nothing to do with labor rights, income inequality, occupational health and safety, or progressive economic development—urgent issues that confront workers every day. Rather, it is an opportunistic attempt to create a united front of the supposedly productive classes and fractions of American society against the supposedly parasitic forces—both elites and “Others” ( foreign-born and domestic)—that are draining the country of its national strength.

Constructing the 'White Working Class'

Rightwing claims to speak for the working class should always be taken with a grain of salt, but they also have to be understood historically. Jim Crow segregation in the US was not presented to white people as a policy of the white elite but as something beneficial to all whites insofar as they were productive members of society. Likewise, as fascist movements grew in both Italy and Germany, the right attempted to present itself not as the partisan protector of the rich and powerful but, instead, of the “worker”—though in using that term they were certainly not relying on a Marxist definition of class.

Rightwing populists, including but not limited to fascists, tend to root themselves in the middle strata of capitalist society—at least until they capture political power, at which point an alliance with segments of the capitalist class becomes essential. This middle strata includes small businesses, the professional-managerial sector, the upper crust of the working class (those who must sell their labor power to capitalists to survive), employees in the finance sector, and many self-employed craft workers.

This is a very unstable sector in capitalist society and is regularly threatened with forms of pauperization by the dominant forces; indeed, it is routinely threatened by the manner in which capitalism operates as a system. This middle strata often feels crushed between the rich and the poor, but it especially resents this because it sees itself as the productive, or at least part of the most productive sector of the overall society.

Rightwing populist movements attempt to bridge the gap between the aggrieved middle strata and segments of the elite by constructing the image of a productive segment of society and, as such, defining all productive members of society as “workers”—or, at least, patriotic. It is no accident, then, that the ascendent German fascists called themselves the National Socialist German Workers Party, a propaganda coup to seize the workerist imagery from the Left and redefine the “worker” in racial, chauvinist terms.

The banner of “worker,” as articulated by the Republican Party, is not and never has been about working-class people. It does, however, represent a renewed effort to reach the white middle strata and segments of white workers with several messages, messages that must be understood in the context of the crisis of neoliberalism.

RightWing Populism to the Rescue

U.S. capitalism sustained a series of body blows beginning in the late 1960s as a result of the demands of progressive social movements for wealth redistribution and social justice. Along with this came changes in global capitalism as competitor capitalist countries like Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Sweden reemerged. Technological stagnation in the U.S. was also a contributing factor. American capitalism found itself facing a declining profit rate. In the minds of many of its ideological leaders—what Antonio Gramsci would call the “organic intellectuals” of the capitalist class—this posed a threat to capitalism itself. It was in this milieu that the experiment that came to be known as neoliberalism emerged.

Neoliberalism, engineered first among Republicans and later embraced by the leadership of the Democratic Party, brought with it staggering economic dislocation, inaugurating an era of economics and politics that pursued privatization, deregulation, casualization, free trade and the destruction of worker organizations. As the theory to lead the USA out of 1970s stagnation and inflation, it also challenged the notions of collective action among the disenfranchised and the idea of a social contract. One need only remember former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s words to the effect that there is no such thing as society; there are only individuals and families.

With the rise of neoliberalism there was the decline of the US worker, and working people more generally. The living standard for the average U.S. worker stagnated or declined beginning in the mid1970s, and working people became increasingly dependent on credit and multiple jobs to survive. Slowly but surely the promise of the so-called American Dream was vanishing for millions of white Americans—people who had been led to believe that if they played the game, their future would improve. The other part of playing the game, of course, was ignoring or supporting the oppression and marginalization of populations that were not to be considered fully “American” and supporting U.S. foreign policy, regardless of its extensive criminality.

Changing demographics contributed to this growing sense of unease about what was happening in the country. Opportunities were opening up for populations that had been historically, and almost literally, invisible. This represented a crisis. If white Americans, people who saw themselves as working hard and playing by the rules (even if those rules jumped them ahead of racialized populations) were not becoming beneficiaries of the system, then clearly, it did not pay to be white anymore.

In stepped the rightwing populist movement, the articulation of the counterattack or backlash against the progressive, democratic victories that had been achieved by the social movements of the mid-twentieth century. The various components of the rightwing populist movement increasingly cohered around what has come known as the “great replacement” conspiracy—or more crudely, around fears of “white genocide.” In other words, good, hard-working white people were being displaced by the foreign, unassimilable ‘Other.’ And the ‘Other’ was populations that did not work as hard; populations that supposedly always had their hands out; populations that were not pulling themselves up; and populations that were worshipping the wrong God. One need only look to the most popular rightwing populist media personality, Tucker Carlson, to find this theory blatantly endorsed. In April, he railed that “The Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World.”

The Republican construct of “worker,” then, is not responsive to the demands of working-class people who are being stepped on and crushed on a daily basis by the juggernaut of capital. Rather, it is a call to those who supposedly work hard—whether a white construction worker, a white manufacturing magnate or even a worker of color who either wishes to deny their heritage or somehow thinks that they are ‘different’ from others—to join hands in restoring to America the pride and strength that it has allegedly lost. These are the true “workers” who must be represented against the Eastern elites and their supposed puppets among the masses.

Segments of white workers, as well as some racialized workers, are attracted to this banner because they can distance themselves from other segments of the oppressed and marginalized, believing that they are, themselves, different.

This was just as true in the lead-up to the Nazi domination of Germany. In fact, a wing of the Nazi Party focused on trying to win the German working class to Nazism. Known by their leaders, brothers Otto and Gregor Strasser, they called on the Nazi Party to lead a so-called national revolution against both Jews and monopoly capitalists. Though they made little headway, the Nazi Party continued to lay claim to being the party of the German worker. And, through massive preparations for war, the Nazis were able to win considerable support within the German working class as they provided jobs, security, and a perverse sense of imperial national purpose.

Fighting White Supremacist Capitalism

Therein lies the danger. White supremacist oppression in the U.S., which emerged from settler colonialism, created a sense of white purpose. The mythology connected with whiteness included the view that North America was vacant until the arrival of the Europeans and that hardworking Europeans—later Euro-Americans— turned an uncultivated wasteland into paradise. And they did this with little help, at least so goes the myth. It is this heritage that was supposedly robbed from the average, hardworking (white) American with the rise of “big government” and the emergence of intruder populations who were and are undeserving of the benefits of whiteness. It is America’s settler-colonial, slaveholding past that is the connecting thread to today’s reinvigorated “proworker” conservatism.

Defeating rightwing populism will involve far more than debunking the notion that the Republican Party is or will ever be a workers’ party. It necessitates the construction of an alternative left politics to address the crises brought about by the destabilization of global capitalism and the environmental catastrophe overtaking our planet. Rightwing populism seeks to avoid dealing with the depths of these crises by punching down on scapegoats and convincing whites that they are under threat.

Nor will our confrontation with rightwing populism succeed if it tries to avoid the challenges of racism, sexism, and xenophobia, essential tools of capitalist domination. Rather it is in our ability to take on these oppressions directly, demonstrating through education and through actual struggles that it is the capitalist elites—those who truly dominate the economy—who play working people for fools.

The capitalist class is hoping and praying that white workers, in particular, will value their white “uniform” rather than recognize that they are being crushed—not by the poor, not by immigrants of color, not by people of color, not by those challenging heterosexism, but by those who never seem to be able to squeeze enough wealth out of the bodies of working people.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a longtime trade unionist, writer and a past president of TransAfrica Forum. ...Read More
'Time for Waiting Is Over': Biden's New
Vaccine Requirements Target US Workforce
'My message to unvaccinated Americans is this," said the president: "What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see?'

By Kenny Stancil
Common Dreams

Sept 9, 2021 - "The time for waiting is over," President Joe Biden said in a televised address at the White House on Thursday.

In an effort to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control as the ultracontagious Delta variant kills about 1,500 Americans per day and imperils the nation's fledgling economic recovery, Biden on Thursday announced new vaccine requirements affecting tens of millions of workers in the United States.

One of the sweeping new rules, which Biden unveiled during a speech laying out his administration's plan to contain the pandemic, stipulates that all employers with more than 100 workers require their employees to be fully inoculated against Covid19 or face weekly testing. The move will impact roughly 80 million individuals, the Associated Press reported.

"My message to unvaccinated Americans is this," said the president: "What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We made vaccinations, free, safe, and convenient. The vaccine is FDA approved. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin and your refusal has cost all of us."

The new rule targeting large employers will be implemented through the U.S. Labor Department.

"The requirement for large companies to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing for employees will be enacted through a forthcoming rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that carries penalties of $14,000 per violation," AP noted. "The rule would also require that large companies provide paid time off for vaccination."

In addition, the approximately 17 million people who work at healthcare facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding must get vaccinated.

Biden didn't conceal his growing frustration with unvaccinated Americans who have refused the shots due to unfounded beliefs and misinformation about their safety or efficacy, some of which has been spewed by elected Republican leaders.

"We have the tools to combat Covid19, and a distinct minority of Americans, supported by a distinct minority of elected officials, are keeping us from turning the corner," said Biden. "These pandemic politics, as I refer to it, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die."

As Common Dreams reported earlier Thursday, several million more workers will be covered by a new vaccine mandate that requires employees of the executive branch as well as contractors who work with the federal government to be vaccinated, with no option for avoidance through regular testing.

The president delivered remarks explaining the new vaccination requirements and other components of his administration's strategy to tackle the pandemic.

Watch the video below

Biden also announced that the federal government is working to expand testing. 

According to AP:

  • ... The White House has secured concessions from retailers including Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger to sell at-home testing kits at cost beginning this week.

The administration is also to send additional federal support to assist schools in safely operating, including additional funding for testing. And Biden will call for large entertainment venues and arenas to require vaccinations or proof of a negative test for entry.

Republicans are reportedly already threatening to take legal action against Biden's new vaccine requirements. ...Read More
Digging Deeper into the Terrain of Today's Far Right:








Photo: Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican lawmaker who compared mask mandates to the Holocaust, wears a mask that says ‘Free Speech’ © Getty Images

The Republican Party: Covid-19’s Dependable Ally

By Edward Luce 
US National Editor and Columnist
Financial Times

Sept 10, 2021 - My headline isn’t clickbait. It is an assertion grounded in fact. Nor am I the first to argue this (read this to-the-point column by Jamelle Bouie). It is easy to make fun of the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the conservative movement. The Georgia Republican’s QAnon worldview leads her to compare mask mandates to the Holocaust. Or to Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, who thinks that a horse dewormer is safer than a Covid jab. Or to Madison Cawthorn, the North Carolina Republican, who said that offering vaccines door-to-door could lead to the government confiscating your bibles and guns.

At one level these are hysterically funny claims from the deranged fringe of today’s Republican party. But if you consider America’s rising death toll — now averaging about 1,020 a day — and look at the parts of the country where most of these deaths are happening, such diatribes take on a sinister light.

They are rhetorical feeders into a large-scale manslaughter — the preventable death of tens of thousands of Americans. I wish I could put this more felicitously, or find a “but on the other hand” caveat to my observation. But the stakes are far too high and the facts are impossible to ignore.

The most worrying aspect is that it is no longer just the party’s fringe — the demagoguery is backed up by hard policy in the big states that Republicans govern. From Florida’s Ron DeSantis to Texas’s Greg Abbott and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, Republican chief executives are doing their best to stymie civil society’s attempts to boost vaccinations and enforce mask rules. Civil society is only taking such steps in the absence of government leadership.

Whether it is schools or restaurants, motorcycle rallies or cruise liners, Republican governors are punishing entities that want to defeat this pandemic and protect their customers.

The same applies at the federal level. Ted Cruz, the Texan senator — and, like Noem and DeSantis, a 2024 presidential hopeful — has drafted a bill that would outlaw vaccine and mask mandates nationwide. Some of his colleagues present a slightly more nuanced rationale.

Taking a vaccine is a personal choice, they say. We should respect each other’s medical privacy. All of them talk about freedom. Telling people to take shots is an infringement on their God-given liberty, they say. Get the government off our backs!

I could spend the rest of this note complaining about hypocrisy. All of these figures have taken two shots (and those that haven’t disclosed it are simply withholding what we know). The same applies to the Fox News anchors who nightly pour kerosene onto the Delta forest fire. I don’t gamble, but I’d wager next month’s salary that Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham took the shots just as soon as they could. Ditto for Rupert Murdoch. My deeper concern is with their cynicism.

The Republican party has decided that the worse the pandemic, the weaker Joe Biden’s chances of re-election — and of holding on to Congress in next year’s midterm elections. Rampant infection rates have already chilled consumer confidence, which has slowed US growth forecasts and contributed to Biden’s declining approval ratings. In other words their strategy is working.

Why should the Republican party help Biden by bringing this pandemic under control? Didn’t he defeat Donald Trump because he argued that Trump had allowed Covid-19 to get out-of-control?

Well, two can play at that game. If people die of coronavirus, that is a tragedy but it is their own choice. Americans are free to take the shots if they want. Don’t expect us to help Biden to get America vaccinated.

I have many reactions to this, not all of them printable. So I will leave Swampians (his newsletter is called The Swamp -Ed,)with one thought. In my view it is time to retire the word “freedom” from political discourse. It is the most overused, misunderstood, and cynically-deployed word in the American political dictionary. Every time a politician uses it, we should assume they are guilty until proven innocent. The freedom not to take the vaccine impinges on the freedom of other people and the health of society.

It should not be a personal choice. Nor is spreading a deadly pathogen to your neighbors a Christian duty; it violates a key biblical commandment. And patriotism means paying heed to the interests of those who live around you.

None of this should need to be spelt out. It is a tragic commentary on the health of US democracy that it does. Rana, welcome back from a long hot summer of book writing (I know the feeling). Have I made you feel cheerful? What, in your view, could Biden be doing to defeat the pandemic that he isn’t doing?

You can reach us at swampnotes@ft.com
Photo: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks with a reporter as she protests the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium on the House steps of the U.S. Capitol on August 3, 2021, in Washington, D.C. DREW ANGERER / GETTY IMAGES

AOC Pans Greg Abbott’s Pledge to End Rape in Texas: 'GOP Laws HELP Abusers'

By Sharon Zhang
Truthout

Sept 9, 2021 - Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) has panned Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for his disingenuous claims about preventing sexual assault made while defending the state’s dangerous abortion ban this week.

As Texas’s abortion ban has faced fierce criticism from a multitude of angles over the past weeks, Abbott has doubled down on a dubious defense: he will supposedly work to end sexual assault in the state by “eliminat[ing] all rapists,” incarcerating them instead.

Aside from the obvious paradox of this statement — how could the government punish an assailant before they assault someone? — critics have pointed out that the sentiment isn’t actually genuine. Abbott doesn’t want to end sexual assault, critics say, and if he did, he would take actual steps to address rape culture.

“If Gov. Abbott is as ‘anti-rape’ as he claims, why doesn’t he just lead the Texas state legislature to pass a law for $10k bounties on people who engage in or aid sexual assault?” wrote Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter — a likely dig at the “bounty hunter” aspect of the new anti-abortion law the governor just signed. “Or is he opposed to that because it’s a slippery slope of vigilantism where men could be unjustly targeted?”

The so-called “bounty hunter” system that allows any private citizen to sue anyone who aids a person in getting an abortion and win a reward of $10,000 or more is exceptionally cruel, as critics have pointed out. It not only creates a massive chilling effect on abortion providers in the state, but also encourages harassment and sets a dangerous precedent of vigilantism, as Ocasio-Cortez pointed out.

Bounty hunting as a practice has a grim, dark history in the U.S., having been used to abduct Black people into slavery and, in modern times, used to terrorize people who cannot afford to pay off bail bonds. Companies that bounty hunt make millions while causing untold suffering to their targets and their families.

As critics of the abortion ban have pointed out, Texas’s abortion ban will likely disproportionately affect non-white, LGBTQ and poor people, who may lack the resources to travel out of state to obtain an abortion. The disproportionate effect of the law hearkens back, then, to bounty hunting’s racist and discriminatory roots.

Such a system for enforcing any law only enhances the carceral state. Though the Texas law doesn’t directly incriminate abortion providers or people who aid someone seeking an abortion, it creates punitive measures for these individuals. It adds to, rather than eliminates, rape culture, which is one of the reasons a person may seek an abortion in the first place.

Abortions should not be subject to punitive measures to begin with, and the negative stigma around what is clearly a medical procedure created by anti-choice groups is part of what has led the U.S. down this sordid path. The Texas abortion ban is extremely restrictive, not allowing even victims of rape or incest to be exempted from the law, which makes it particularly inhumane. Not that there should be any shame — or for that matter, a prohibitive law — associated with seeking an abortion for any reason in the first place, abortion rights activists point out.

“Still thinking about how Gov. Abbott’s message to survivors terrified of the bounties now on their heads is ‘I will end rape.’ No, he won’t. He and the GOP just gave abusers & coercive partners a powerful new tool to intimidate victims,” wrote Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday. “These GOP laws HELP abusers, not stop them.”

“By allowing any person to financially destroy pregnant people on a whim, they knowingly handed over the keys of manipulation & control to people most likely to use it,” she continued. “Don’t let them feign ignorance about this. They know exactly what they’re doing. This is about fear & control.”

The New York lawmaker also wrote that the real reason Republicans are seeking to outlaw abortion is their desire to take away people’s body autonomy.

“Sexual assault is an abuse of power that attempts to seize sexual control over another person’s body,” wrote Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter. “Anti-choice laws are also an abuse of power that attempts to seize sexual control over people’s bodies en masse. And that’s one way rape culture informs anti-choice legislation.”

“It’s not a coincidence that Texas is where GOP are testing new ways to retake sexual control via legislation,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “Texas had ‘anti-sodomy’ laws in place until 2003 (!) that made non-PIV sex illegal until the Supreme Court overturned it on the basis of Roe v. Wade’s right to privacy." ...Read More
Trump, Texas, and the MAGA Drive for Power
Women staged performance protests around Texas and around the country at noon on Sept. 1, the day that Texas SB8 took effect. The bill amounts to a near-total abortion ban, enforced by vigilante justice. The Trust Respect Access coalition called the protests.

By Max Elbaum
Organizing Upgrade

Sept 7, 2021 - Donald Trump dispensed with even the pretense of paying tribute to workers on Labor Day. Instead, his three word Labor Day Statement, blasted out to his supporters everywhere via the right-wing media machine, was blunt about his political priorities:
“Fix 2020 First.”

The non-Trump media says the statement is ‘bizarre,” since it doesn’t “clarify what exactly should be fixed.” But everyone in the MAGA world got the point loud and clear: Our guy won the 2020 election. We need to “Stop the Steal” and get him back in the White House. No need to offer a policy agenda or beat around the bush. All that matters is gaining absolute political power.

SLAVE PATROLS TO TEXAS SB8

In pondering the significance of this, it would be wise for all of us to take Maya Angelou’s advice: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

After all, today’s Trumpist bloc, a.k.a. MAGA Faction, a.k.a. Jim Crow Faction, is not a new phenomenon in the United States. Michael Podhorzer’s latest “Weekend Reading” lays it out:
“The MAGA Faction has never accepted liberal democracy. The Faction’s vigilante ideology is theocratic – the state exists to preserve privilege in a western, patriarchal interpretation of biblically ordained racial and social orders. When the state fails to enforce those moral absolutes, it is the natural right of citizens to enforce those eternal laws. It was ever thus – from slave patrols to the KKK to January 6 and now TX SB8, the Faction glorifies vigilante justice.”

This faction is ecstatic over Republicans’ success at blocking any congressional action to protect voting rights, and the Supreme Court’s refusal to stay the implementation of Texas’ new law, SB8, essentially nullifying Roe v. Wade. The January-6-was-a-rehearsal-for-more-successful-coups-to-come bloc smells blood in the water and is moving fast on all fronts, including:

  • Passing vigilante legislation. The passage of SB8 is sparking the flood of copycat legislation in other states. The law in the first place is a brutal assault on women’s rights. But it is also a push-the-envelope effort to remove all checks on right-wing vigilante justice. It offers financial incentives for suppressing women’s rights, thus adding battalions of bounty hunters to the MAGA Faction’s existing contingent of armed white supremacists militias. (See Ken and Karen Laws and the Institutionalization of Anti-Democratic Politics for an examination of this topic in more depth.)

  • Seizing control of vote counting. The U.S. electoral system is structured in favor of disproportionate and anti-democratic white political power via the Electoral College and the Senate. The GOP’s voter suppression and gerrymandering crusades – enabled by right-wing control of the Supreme Court – has further skewed the electoral playing field. But even that is insufficient for a MAGA Faction panicked by the rising proportion of peoples of color in the U.S. and the unpopularity of right-wing politics among youth.

  • So the Trumpists are moving to seize control of not just who votes but of who counts the votes by working overtime to get federal courts to interpret the Constitution as endorsing the “Independent State Legislature Doctrine.” This doctrine would allow gerrymandered state legislatures controlled by the GOP to decide how to allocate the state’s Electoral Votes in a presidential election independent of the vote of that state’s electorate. The result could be that a Republican presidential nominee could lose both the nationwide popular vote and the popular vote in battleground and blue states, but still be certified as the election winner, entrenching the GOP in permanent control of the federal government. There are warning signs that a majority of the current Supreme Court may interpret the Constitution this way.

  • Expanding GOP approval of the big lie and legitimating political violence. The MAGA bloc is building large-scale mass support for outright use of violence to regain and retain power. Recent polls show that more than 50% of Republicans already agree that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.” More than 40% agree that “a time will come when patriotic Americans have to take the law into their own hands.” MAGA messengers appearing everywhere from Fox TV to local school board hearings threaten health workers, teachers, and election officials and work to swell those numbers every day of the week.

THE ANTI-MAGA MAJORITY CAN PREVAIL

If ever there were a “clear and present danger,” we face one now. It can be beaten back because the majority of the population is opposed to the MAGA program and inclined to defend what democratic space still exists in this country. But this majority is fragile, fragmented, and bombarded every day with messages that are aimed to confuse, misinform, and demoralize us. Effectively combating those messages requires partisans of social justice to scale up our work as we sink deeper roots in the constituencies we aim to serve. It mandates going even beyond what progressives did in 2020 to counter racist voter suppression and all the other efforts to entrench white supremacy which lie at the heart of Trumpism.

The 2022 and 2024 elections will be the main tests of strength between the MAGA Faction and the country’s majority. The campaign to decide who controls Congress going into the next presidential contest has already begun. The outcome will determine not just what legislation is passed and what judges are confirmed in 2023 and 2024 but what body may determine the outcome of the 2024 Presidential contest if the result is contested.

These elections take place in the context of “trench warfare” where every front of battle must be engaged. There is a battle for public opinion; there are campaigns to influence Congress, state legislatures and city councils. Fights to be joined over police violence, anti-trans legislation, the right to teach the truth about U.S. history. Strikes and unionization campaigns, the anti-immigrant horrors still happening at the border every single day. The “battlespace” is global: Ignoring what’s afflicting the rest of the world is both a myopic outlook and a losing strategy. In the era of COVID, nuclear weapons, and climate change the global majority will rise or fall together.

On every battlefront, including the ballot box, it is imperative for partisans of social justice to stand as the most resolute defenders of democracy and opponents of the MAGA bloc. This is the key to being able to play a unifying and motivating role within the anti-Trump coalition, and hence contribute the most to its victory.

Unwavering defense of democracy is simultaneously crucial for beating the MAGA bloc in a way that simultaneously builds independent progressive strength. Substantial majorities in communities of color, labor, the LGBTQ community, and other constituencies believe – rightly! – that Trumpism constitutes a mortal threat to their interests and well-being. When we demonstrate on the ground that radicals are the most reliable and effective fighters against that threat, we maximize our chances of gaining support for our perspective and our organizations.

That kind of orientation offers the best prospects for making the 2022 and 2024 contests more than successful efforts at harm reduction. The more we contribute to beating the MAGA Faction in this round of voting, the better positioned we are to push further toward the multiracial democracy, transformed economy, and changed relationship with the planet and all the people on it that is so desperately needed.

No Pasaran!

Max Elbaum has been active in peace, anti-racist and radical movements since the 1960s. He is an editor of Organizing Upgrade and the author of Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che (Verso Books, Third Edition, 2018). ...Read More
FBI Seizes Oath Keeper Lawyer’s Phone in
'Seditious Conspiracy' Investigation
Photo: The US Capitol on January 6, 2021John Minchillo/AP

The move suggests an expansion of the January 6 case against members of the militia network.

By DAN FRIEDMAN
Mother Jones

The FBI is investigating “seditious conspiracy” charges related to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, according to a search warrant served Tuesday night on a lawyer for the far-right Oath Keepers’ militia group.

Kellye SoRelle, the Oath Keepers’ general counsel, tweeted Wednesday that the FBI had seized her phone. The action would seem unusual, since SoRelle is a lawyer who says she has provided advice to defendants facing prosecution or investigation due to their actions on January 6. “[T]hey have all my clients and my comms,” she commented in a message to Mother Jones. “[It’s] unethical as shit on their part.”

SoRelle is close to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who has not been charged with crimes related to the siege of Congress, but who remains a subject of investigation and was with Sorelle on January 6 in Washington. Prosecutors have charged 17 Oath Keeper members with conspiring to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory; Rhodes is not named, but is identifiable as “PERSON ONE” in court documents detailing his extensive online and phone communications with Oath Keeper members ahead of and during the siege of Congress. FBI agents seized Rhodes’ phone in May as part of their investigation. Rhodes had stated previously that he believes he may “go to jail” over the events of January 6, but he denies wrongdoing and has accused prosecutors of trying to build a false case against him and fellow Oath Keepers.

SoRelle suggested on Twitter that the seizure of her phone was a part of a baroque conspiracy connected to her interest in “deep state ties” to Mike Lindell, the “MyPillow guy” famous for promoting that false theory that Trump was robbed of a 2020 election victory by Chinese hackers and Democratic Party officials. There is no evidence agents were interested in SoRelle’s views on Lindell.

Instead, according to the search warrant, an image of which SoRelle provided to Mother Jones, the phone seizure is about suspected crimes connected to January 6. The warrant says the search is related to potential violations of nine criminal statutes: Those include crimes with which many people who entered the Capitol have been charged, from destruction of government property to trespassing and obstruction of Congress. The agents are also seeking evidence of false statements and obstruction of justice, including destruction of evidence, the warrant says.

Notably, the warrant also lists “seditious conspiracy” among the suspected crimes.

Last March, the acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, said during an interview on 60 Minutes that he believed federal investigators had found evidence that would likely allow the government to file sedition charges against some January 6 defendants. “I personally believe the evidence is trending towards that, and probably meets those elements,” said Sherwin, who has since retired from the Justice Department. Sherwin’s comments, which were not authorized by Justice Department leaders, drew a rebuke from a federal judge and a review by DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have charged no one with sedition. The reference to such charges in the SoRelle warrant, which is dated August 30, does not mean anyone will face sedition charges. But it does indicate officially that FBI agents are actively investigating that possible crime.

SoRelle says she and Rhodes did not enter the Capitol Building on January 6 or encourage others to do so. She maintains that the Oath Keepers charged to date with conspiracy and who stormed the Capitol acted without Rhodes’ approval, noting that she has spoken with FBI agents in multiple interviews since the Capitol siege.

She says she is trying to assist with the January 6 investigation. “I really have been trying hard to resolve everything,” she said on Wednesday, “just like everyone else.” ...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), 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.

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

NOT TO BE MISSED: Short Links To Long Reads...
The Real Origins of the Religious Right

They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation

By Randall Balmer  
POLITICO via Portside

Sept 5, 2021 = One of the most durable myths in recent history is that the religious right, the coalition of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, emerged as a political movement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. The tale goes something like this: Evangelicals, who had been politically quiescent for decades, were so morally outraged by Roe that they resolved to organize in order to overturn it.

This myth of origins is oft repeated by the movement’s leaders. In his 2005 book, Jerry Falwell, the firebrand fundamentalist preacher, recounts his distress upon reading about the ruling in the Jan. 23, 1973, edition of the Lynchburg News: “I sat there staring at the Roe v. Wade story,” Falwell writes, “growing more and more fearful of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s act and wondering why so few voices had been raised against it.” Evangelicals, he decided, needed to organize.

Some of these anti- Roe crusaders even went so far as to call themselves “new abolitionists,” invoking their antebellum predecessors who had fought to eradicate slavery.

But the abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.

***

Today, evangelicals make up the backbone of the pro-life movement, but it hasn’t always been so. Both before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject, which they considered a “Catholic issue.” In 1968, for instance, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.

When the Roe decision was handed down, W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century—was pleased: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” he said, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”

Although a few evangelical voices, including Christianity Today magazine, mildly criticized the ruling, the overwhelming response was silence, even approval. Baptists, in particular, applauded the decision as an appropriate articulation of the division between church and state, between personal morality and state regulation of individual behavior. “Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision,” wrote W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press.
***

So what then were the real origins of the religious right? It turns out that the movement can trace its political roots back to a court ruling, but not Roe v. Wade.

In May 1969, a group of African-American parents in Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the Treasury Department to prevent three new whites-only K-12 private academies from securing full tax-exempt status, arguing that their discriminatory policies prevented them from being considered “charitable” institutions.

The schools had been founded in the mid-1960s in response to the desegregation of public schools set in motion by the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. ...Read More
Photo: A Wiyot Child preparing for remembrance ceremony.

How To Give The Land Back

The Wiyot Tribe and Cooperation Humboldt are working together to form a type of Community Land Trust (CLT), Dishgamu Humboldt

By Aaron Fernando
Shareable

Sept 7, 2021 - It’s common to feel a deep sense of injustice for what happened in history and to hunger to create a better future by doing good work today. But what does that good work look like? In an economy and legal system filled with structural injustice, how do groups of people build a better world?

In the lands commonly called Humboldt, Calif., the Wiyot tribe and settler-colonizer organizations are working together to do this. At the intersection of land justice, language justice, and ecological restoration they are creating a legal framework for how to give the land back to First Nations so that healing of, and on, the land can both happen.

To do this, the Wiyot Tribe and Cooperation Humboldt are working together to form a type of Community Land Trust (CLT), Dishgamu Humboldt, the first of its kind, to structurally ensure that the Wiyot tribe will maintain decision-making power in this land trust, forever.

An Indigenous-Led CLT
Property is often considered to be a ‘bundle of rights’ that defines who gets to use or alter a space. A CLT legally and financially separates the two bundles of property rights we usually think about together: the ownership of buildings and the ownership of the land that those buildings are on.

Under a CLT, buildings can be bought and sold based on their value. The difference is that the land beneath those buildings gets held by a type of nonprofit in perpetuity—which is as close to “forever” in legal terms as you can get. In this way, the financial value of the land gets separated from the buildings, effectively decommodifying the land and preventing it from being bought up by those who only see it as a financial asset.

Like other nonprofits, a CLT is governed by a board, which in this case ensures that control of land use stays in the hands of the Wiyot. The first of its kind, this CLT locks in a tribal majority to the structure itself: four of the seven board members will always be appointed by the Wiyot Tribal Council. Dishgamu won’t just exist to hold and manage land; it also aspires to foster cooperative ventures and solidarity economics. “We’re not just looking at projects. The projects are the building blocks.

But we are committed to truly reIndigenizing this place,” says David Cobb, a lawyer, activist, and former Green Party presidential candidate. Cobb has been working closely with Wiyot Tribal Administrator Michelle Vassel in forming the CLT.

Cobb is also on the board of Cooperation Humboldt, a solidarity economy organization that pays an honor tax (1% of their annual revenue) to the Wiyot Tribe as a tangible way of honoring the sovereignty of the Native Nations on whose land they operate.

Slow and Steady Healing

Like anything pioneering, retooling legal structures is not always clearcut. “One of the things we’re struggling with is to [form the CLT] under Indian law, rather than California State law,” says Cobb. “That gets very tricky because there are all sorts of questions or conflicts of jurisdiction.”

'We’re not just looking at projects. The projects are the building blocks. But we are committed to truly reIndigenizing this place.'
--David Cobb

The process of reIndigenizing land and healing has not been quick either. In a webinar, Vassel gave an overview of the decades-long struggle to have land returned. In the 1970s, one tribal chairman asked for the land back, but the city refused. About two decades later, another tribal chairwoman and three partners started hosting candlelight vigils, in honor of the Wiyot tribe’s sacred World Renewal Ceremony.

This is because Tuluwat Island—much of which had come into the ownership of the City of Eureka—was the site of a brutal massacre of women and children at the hand of white settlers in 1860. It took place during the Wiyot’s World Renewal Ceremony, and the island was, and still is, sacred to the Wiyot. By the 1990s, the vigils began, allowing Indigenous and settlers alike to come to terms with that history. “It was at these vigils that real change started happening in our community, because it wasn’t just Wiyot people, it wasn’t just Indian people. It was also people that were from all over Eureka and all over Humboldt County,” explains Vassel. “We were able to gather in this space at night by candlelight and look history in the eye.” The vigils continued for 20 more years. ...Read More
Photo: A US Chinook helicopter flies over the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday. Helicopters are landing at the US embassy there as diplomatic vehicles leave the compound as the Taliban advance on the Afghan capital. Photo: VCG

Rather than spreading democracy, we spread an imperialist colony: US Afghan veteran

By Global Times /China
Sep 07, 2021

Editor's Note: As the US pulled its last troops out of Afghanistan, it left a chaotic Afghanistan behind. The veterans of the US who have participated in the war in the past 20 years also feel frustrated about their country's repeated mistakes.

Chris Velazquez (Velazquez), a veteran who attended War in Afghanistan and now digital organizer of the anti-war organization Veterans for Peace, reflected on how the war failed to achieve its desired goal and the meaning of his individual parts in it with Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wenwen ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks.

GT: Why did you choose to serve in the War in Afghanistan? Can you briefly tell me about your experience?

Velazquez: I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17. I was deployed to Iraq in 2006, and then to Afghanistan in 2009. I didn't really get a choice to serve in either of those wars, but my reason for joining the Marine Corps was because I had no other options and a lot of schools and impoverished areas here in the United States are where recruiters tend to recruit the most. The area I was living was a conservative area so tended toward the right side of the political spectrum. And it definitely reinforced this glorification of the military along with American exceptionalism.

When I was in Afghanistan, I was a civil affairs operator. At the time, I really thought I was there to help people, so I would help build wells and help reestablish schools and hospitals and start doing a lot of what I thought was help. And it wasn't what the local people needed. I presented a security risk and a danger to a lot of lives for working with us. The military blueprint there impacted civilian lives more so than anything. That's an intrinsic part of warfare, and regardless of what nation you're from or what national army is, to be in the military means serving one's purpose; and that's to fight a war with violence, no matter what job you're doing.

Unfortunately, in the wars that we have fought over the last 20 years, we're not fighting another government or another military. We're fighting a local population. I'm sure that I did a lot of good whether it was providing food or helping with water, in a case-by-case basis. But when I look at the impact of my presence in the entire area, I did more damage to them whether that was through climate change and assuring sustainable farming land, whether that was destroying relationships between people and creating hierarchy. I'm not somebody who wants to harm people. I don't think most veterans are either.

GT: What harm did war experiences cause to you? 

Velazquez: I was diagnosed with PTSD and it has greatly affected me. I got out of the Marine Corps in 2010. I had no job prospects, so I was trying to go to school. I didn't have the mental health help or support from my friends and family that could guide me through this. I hadn't really held a job for longer than a year at a time. A couple of years ago, I met my partner. It drastically helped turn around my life and now I'm an employee of Veterans for Peace.

I also suffer from moral injury. PTSD and moral injury overlap a lot. Moral injury, knowing that I'm harming a civilian population that doesn't deserve that, lingers with me. The treatment is similar for PTSD, including cognitive behavioral therapy or cognitive processing therapy doesn't necessarily encapsulate the treatment for moral injury, which has to do with righting the wrongs that you did. 

GT: Do you think the US stayed in Afghanistan too long? Or did it pull out its troops too early to create such a chaos in the country?

Velazquez: This question has a lot of nuance and complexity of it. We shouldn't have been in Afghanistan in the first place. I should not have been there. I should have never had the opportunity to deploy to Afghanistan. We knew within the first four or five years of being there we had no objective. There's no reason first to be there, and we weren't going to help or succeed in any type of capacity for whatever you wanna call success. We knew that it wasn't gonna happen. We should have gone by 2005. And once again, we shouldn't have been there, the same with Iraq. We need to leave. The manner in which we withdrew borders on negligence and malicious mishandling of withdrawal, knowing what's going to happen. ...Read More
Photo: Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders stand above a giant portrait of late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong as they arrive for the event marking the 100th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of China, on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Unleashing Reforms, Xi Returns to China's Socialist Roots
By Yew Lun Tian
Reuters

BEIJING, Sept 9 2021 (Reuters) - When Xi Jinping took command of the Communist Party in late 2012 and proclaimed "only socialism can save China", it was largely ignored as the perfunctory mention of an antiquated slogan - not to be taken literally in a modern-day, market-powered economy.

But sweeping new policy moves - from crackdowns on internet companies, for-profit education, online gaming and property market excesses, to the promulgation of "Common Prosperity" - show Xi's seriousness in steering China back towards its socialist roots.

Having done away with term limits in 2018, China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong is pushing what some observers describe as a mini "revolution", curbing the excesses of capitalism and shedding negative cultural influences of the West.

The effort, touching everything from school curriculums - including the newly required study of "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" - to tighter regulation of the property sector and a squeeze on what the government sees as unwholesome entertainment, has rattled investors and prompted officials and state media to try to assuage markets.

On Wednesday, for example, the official People's Daily sought to reassure the private sector that support for it "had not changed": recent regulatory actions were meant to "rectify market order", promote fair competition, protect consumer rights and "perfect the socialist market economy system".

But the intent, observers say, is clear.

"Xi wants to address a very contemporary issue, the way in which neoliberal reforms have made China much less equal, and bring back the sense of mission that shaped early Maoist China," said Rana Mitter, a professor of Chinese history and politics at Oxford University.

That inequality, as well as the vast wealth and power accumulated by some industries, threatened to undermine social stability and ultimately the party's legitimacy if left unchecked, some analysts said.

The timing of the reforms reflects confidence that China can solve its problems through its own hybrid system instead of following the model of the West, whose shortcomings - from managing COVID-19 to the chaos of the U.S. election and withdrawal from Afghanistan - are repeatedly depicted in China as evidence of systemic decay.

"The state control model did seem to serve China well in the fight against COVID," said Chen Daoyin, a political commentator who is based in Chile and was formerly an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

Xi is confident of striking a balance between government and markets, and between power and capital, Chen said.

"The danger is when the state can't resist reaching out its visible hand ... it creates unpredictability and political risk for capital," Chen said.

The Hong Kong market, where many Chinese tech firms targeted by the crackdown are listed, has lost over $600 billion in value since July, with investors whipsawed by new regulations and scouring old speeches for clues as to what may be coming.

Xi's activist populism also demonstrates confidence that he can afford to alienate elites who fall on the wrong side of his policies as he solidifies his case for a third five-year term - not that there is any visible competition.

But his calculus goes even beyond that, analysts say.

"Xi is an ambitious leader with a grand vision who genuinely wants to go down in history as the man who saved the party and made China strong," said Yang Chaohui, a lecturer in politics at Peking University.

China's State Council Information Office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

MR. FIX-IT?

Under Mao, the earliest iterations of party doctrine aspired to free people from the exploitation of capital, destroy private ownership and defeat American imperialism.

Deng Xiaoping, Mao's successor, took a pragmatic turn, allowing market forces to incentivize production and unleashing four decades of breakneck growth that fuelled massive wealth accumulation - but also deep inequality.

This summer's reforms are enabled by Xi's consolidation of control since taking office: he unleashed a massive anti-corruption campaign, eliminated space for public dissent, and reasserted Communist Party power - with himself at the "core" - across all aspects of society.

With that power, Xi is addressing a spate of societal woes, from people not having enough babies and an unhealthy obsession with educational achievement to young adults so stressed by the rat-race that they would rather drop out and "lie flat". New rules curb young people spending too much time playing online games and too much money promoting their idols.

"Xi has set out to tackle the problems that cause anguish for the common people, such as corrupt officials and the rich-poor gap," said Chen.

While many in China express skepticism that Beijing can get people to have more babies or make big-city housing more affordable, some of the moves appear popular: many parents welcome an easing of the educational burden and the new three-hour-per-week time limit for children to play online games.

"Championing the common people gives him a moral high ground to consolidate his authority within the party and makes it hard for his political opponents to attack him. After all who can be against social equality?"

Reporting by Yew Lun Tian Editing by Tony Munroe and Lincoln Feast ...Read More
AI’s Future Doesn’t Have To Be Dystopian

AI can be used to increase human productivity, create jobs and shared prosperity, and protect and bolster democratic freedoms—but only if we modify our approach.

By Daron Acemoglu
Boston Review

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not likely to make humans redundant. Nor will it create superintelligence anytime soon. But like it or not, AI technologies and intelligent systems will make huge advances in the next two decades—revolutionizing medicine, entertainment, and transport; transforming jobs and markets; enabling many new products and tools; and vastly increasing the amount of information that governments and companies have about individuals. Should we cherish and look forward to these developments, or fear them?

Current AI research is too narrowly focused on making advances in a limited set of domains and pays insufficient attention to its disruptive effects on the very fabric of society.

There are reasons to be concerned. Current AI research is too narrowly focused on making advances in a limited set of domains and pays insufficient attention to its disruptive effects on the very fabric of society. If AI technology continues to develop along its current path, it is likely to create social upheaval for at least two reasons. For one, AI will affect the future of jobs. Our current trajectory automates work to an excessive degree while refusing to invest in human productivity; further advances will displace workers and fail to create new opportunities (and, in the process, miss out on AI’s full potential to enhance productivity). For another, AI may undermine democracy and individual freedoms.

Each of these directions is alarming, and the two together are ominous. Shared prosperity and democratic political participation do not just critically reinforce each other: they are the two backbones of our modern society. Worse still, the weakening of democracy makes formulating solutions to the adverse labor market and distributional effects of AI much more difficult. These dangers have only multiplied during the COVID19 crisis. Lockdowns, social distancing, and workers’ vulnerability to the virus have given an additional boost to the drive for automation, with the majority of U.S. businesses reporting plans for more automation.

None of this is inevitable, however. The direction of AI development is not preordained. It can be altered to increase human productivity, create jobs and shared prosperity, and protect and bolster democratic freedoms—if we modify our approach. In order to redirect AI research toward a more productive path, we need to look at AI funding and regulation, the norms and priorities of AI researchers, and the societal oversight guiding these technologies and their applications.

Our modern compact

The postwar era witnessed a bewildering array of social and economic changes. Many social scientists in the first half of the twentieth century predicted that modern economies would lead to rising inequality and discontent, ultimately degenerating into various types of authoritarian governments or endless chaos.

In the first three decades after World War II, technologies boosting human productivity and labor market institutions protecting workers were mutually self-reinforcing.

The events of the interwar years seemed to confirm these gloomy forecasts. But in postwar Western Europe and North America—and several other parts of the globe that adopted similar economic and political institutions—the tide turned. After 1945 industrialized nations came to experience some of their best decades in terms of economic growth and social cohesion—what the French called Les Trente Glorieuses, the thirty glorious years. And that growth was not only rapid but also broadly shared.

Over the first three decades after World War II, wages grew rapidly for all workers in the United States, regardless of education, gender, age, or race. Though this era was not without its political problems (it coincided with civil rights struggles in the United States), democratic politics worked: there was quite a bit of bipartisanship when it came to legislation, and Americans felt that they had a voice in politics. These two aspects of the postwar era were critical for social peace—a large fraction of the population understood that they were benefiting from the economic system and felt they had a voice in how they were governed.

How did this relative harmony come about? Much of the credit goes to the trajectory of technological progress. The great economist John Maynard Keynes, who recognized the fragility of social peace in the face of economic hardship more astutely than most others, famously predicted in 1929 that economic growth would create increasing joblessness in the twentieth century. Keynes understood that there were tremendous opportunities for industrial automation—replacing human workers with machines—and concluded that declining demand for human labor was an ineluctable consequence of technological progress. As he put it: “We are being afflicted with a new disease of which . . . [readers] . . . will hear a great deal in the years to come—namely, technological unemployment.”

Yet the technologies of the next half-century turned out to be rather different from what Keynes had forecast. Demand for human labor grew and then grew some more. Keynes wasn’t wrong about the forces of automation; mechanization of agriculture—substituting harvesters and tractors for human labor—caused massive dislocation and displacement for almost half of the workforce in the United States. Crucially, however, mechanization was accompanied by the introduction of new tasks, functions, and activities for humans.

Agricultural mechanization was followed by rapid industrial automation, but this too was counterbalanced by other technological advances that created new tasks for workers. Today the majority of the workforce in all industrialized nations engages in tasks that did not exist when Keynes was writing (think of all the tasks involved in modern education, health care, communication, entertainment, back-office work, design, technical work on factory floors, and almost all of the service sector). Had it not been for these new tasks, Keynes would have been right. They not only spawned plentiful jobs but also generated demand for a diverse set of skills, underpinning the shared nature of modern economic growth.

Labor market institutions—such as minimum wages, collective bargaining, and regulations introducing worker protection—greatly contributed to shared prosperity. But without the more human-friendly aspects of technological change, they would not have generated broad-based wage growth. If there were rapid advances in automation technology and no other technologies generating employment opportunities for most workers, minimum wages and collective wage demands would have been met with yet more automation. However, when these institutional arrangements protecting and empowering workers coexist with technological changes increasing worker productivity, they encourage the creation of “good jobs”—secure jobs with high wages. It makes sense to build long-term relationships with workers and pay them high wages when they are rapidly becoming more productive. It also makes sense to create good jobs and invest in worker productivity when labor market institutions rule out the low-wage path. Hence, technologies boosting human productivity and labor market institutions protecting workers were mutually self-reinforcing.

Without the more human-friendly aspects of technological change, labor market institutions would not have generated broad-based wage growth.

Indeed, good jobs became a mainstay of many postwar economies, and one of the key reasons that millions of people felt they were getting their fair share from the growth process—even if their bosses and some businessmen were becoming fabulously rich in the process.

Why was technology fueling wage growth? Why didn’t it just automate jobs? Why was there a slew of new tasks and activities for workers, bolstering wage and employment growth? We don’t know for sure. Existing evidence suggests a number of factors that may have helped boost the demand for human labor. In the decades following World War II, U.S. businesses operated in a broadly competitive environment. The biggest conglomerates of the early twentieth century had been broken up by Progressive Era reforms, and those that became dominant in the second half of the century, such as AT&T, faced similar antitrust action. This competitive environment produced a ferocious appetite for new technologies, including those that raised worker productivity.

These productivity enhancements created just the type of advantage firms were pining for in order to surge ahead of their rivals. Technology was not a gift from the heavens, of course. Businesses invested heavily in technology and they benefited from government support. It wasn’t just the eager investments in higher education during the Sputnik era (lest the United States fall behind the Soviet Union).

It was also the government’s role as a funding source, major purchaser of new technologies, and director and coordinator for research efforts. Via funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, research and development tax credits, and perhaps even more importantly the Department of Defense, the government imprinted its long-term perspective on many of the iconic technologies of the era, including the Internet, computers, nanotechnology, biotech, antibiotics, sensors, and aviation technologies.

The United States also became more democratic during this period. Reforms during the Progressive and New Deal Eras reduced the direct control of large corporations and wealthy tycoons over the political process. The direct election of senators, enacted in 1913 in the 17th Amendment, was an important step in this process. Then came the cleaning up of machine politics in many northern cities, a process that took several decades in the first half of the century. Equally important was the civil rights movement, which ended some of the most undemocratic aspects of U.S. politics (even if this is still a work in progress). Of course, there were many fault lines, and not just Black Americans but many groups did not have sufficient voice in politics. All the same, when the political scientist Robert Dahl set out to investigate “who governs” local politics in New Haven, the answer wasn’t an established party or a well-defined elite. Power was pluralistic, and the involvement of regular people in politics was key for the governance of the city.

Democracy and shared prosperity thus bolstered each other during this epoch. Democratic politics strengthened labor market institutions protecting workers and efforts to increase worker productivity, while shared prosperity simultaneously increased the legitimacy of the democratic system. And this trend was robust: despite myriad cultural and institutional differences, Western Europe, Canada, and Japan followed remarkably similar trajectories to that of the United States, based on rapid productivity growth, shared prosperity, and democratic politics.

The world automation is making

We live in a very different world today. Wage growth since the late 1970s has been much slower than during the previous three decades. And this growth has been anything but shared. While wages for workers at the very top of the income distribution—those in the highest tenth percentile of earnings or those with postgraduate degrees—have continued to grow, workers with a high school diploma or less have seen their real earnings fall. Even college graduates have gone through lengthy periods of little real wage growth.

A very different technological tableau began in the 1980s—a lot more automation and a lot less of everything else. Automation acted as the handmaiden of inequality.

Many factors have played a role in this turnaround. The erosion of the real value of the minimum wage, which has fallen by more than 30 percent since 1968, has been instrumental in the wage declines at the bottom of the distribution. With the disappearance of trade unions from much of the private sector, wages also lagged behind productivity growth. Simultaneously, the enormous increase in trade with China led to the closure of many businesses and large job losses in low-tech manufacturing industries such as textiles, apparel, furniture, and toys. Equally defining has been the new direction of technological progress. While in the four decades after World War II automation and new tasks contributing to labor demand went hand-in-hand, a very different technological tableau began in the 1980s—a lot more automation and a lot less of everything else.

Automation acted as the handmaiden of inequality. New technologies primarily automated the more routine tasks in clerical occupations and on factory floors. This meant the demand and wages of workers specializing in blue-collar jobs and some clerical functions declined. Meanwhile, professionals in managerial, engineering, finance, consulting, and design occupations flourished—both because they were essential to the success of new technologies and because they benefited from the automation of tasks that complemented their own work. As automation gathered pace, wage gaps between the top and the bottom of the income distribution magnified.

The causes of this broad pattern—more automation and less effort directed toward increasing worker productivity—are not well understood. To be sure, much of this predates AI. The rapid automation of routine jobs started with applications of computers, databases, and electronic communication in clerical jobs and with numerical control in manufacturing, and it accelerated with the spread of industrial robots. With breakthroughs in digital technologies, automation may have become technologically easier. However, equally (if not more) important are changes in policy and the institutional and policy environments. ...Read More
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This Week's History Lesson:
Coxey’s Army: An Early Occupy Movement
Photo: Clashes with police in DC.

By James A. Haught
LA Progressive

The terrible Great Depression of the 1930s wasn’t America’s only economic crash. Various lesser ones happened through the 1800s, almost in a 20-year cycle, inflicting poverty and suffering on working-class families.

Especially severe was a collapse in the 1890s. Thousands of businesses went bankrupt. Hundreds of banks failed. Farmers couldn’t find buyers for their crops. Around three million workers were jobless, roaming for charity, eating in soup kitchens and sleeping in shelters. In those times, America had no government safety net to help victims. The unlucky were cast into helplessness.

As the march finally neared Washington, right-wing newspapers predicted armed violence and called for troops to quell the mob. But 10,000 Washingtonians turned out to greet and feed the visitors.

Amid the hardship, an Ohio reformer named Jacob Coxey hatched a dramatic plan: He called for an army of jobless men to march on Washington to demand federal work projects that would put the unemployed to work building roads, schools, libraries, hospitals, bridges and the like. He said his marchers would be a “petition in boots.”

Coxey’s right-hand man, Carl Browne, preached that the social gospel of Jesus demanded that America help miserable underdogs. He said all people have a share of Christ’s soul inside them, so the populace should feel sympathy for the hungry and homeless. He and Coxey called their movement the Army of the Commonweal of Christ. A painting of Jesus was prepared for the marchers, and a commissary wagon was emblazoned, “Sell what you have and give to the poor.”

Various out-of-work men and labor union members came to Coxey’s hometown of Massillon to join the proposed march. Conservative newspapers sent reporters who ridiculed the assemblage as “hoboes” and “dangerous cranks” in a “fanatical mob.” Headlines derided “Coxey’s Army.”

The march began on Easter, 1894, along Ohio’s crude and muddy roads. Some newspapers predicted that violence and criminality would result. But a strange thing happened: Sympathetic throngs greeted the band at each town, cheering the humanitarian cause, offering food, clothing and shelter to the hikers. One town contributed 300 pairs of shoes. Others produced brass bands and picnic feasts.

Across Pennsylvania and Maryland, more jobless men joined the array, despite springtime cold, even snow. The parade grew to 500 strong. At night, marchers huddled around campfires and slept in hay-filled barns.

As the march finally neared Washington, right-wing newspapers predicted armed violence and called for troops to quell the mob. But 10,000 Washingtonians turned out to greet and feed the visitors. Two thousand bicycle riders accompanied the procession. Four hundred Washington union members joined the throng.

Sympathetic congressmen introduced bills for federal work programs fitting Coxey’s vision. Coxey demanded a right to speak at the Capitol, but police refused. Lines of officers blocked streets. During a confrontation, police clubbed some bystanders, while Coxey rushed to the Capitol steps to speak. Police subdued him — but not before he handed his speech to a reporter.

Leaders of Coxey’s Army were jailed on charges of walking on the Capitol lawn. Followers set up a campground to wait for Congress to act.

Meanwhile, copycat protest armies of jobless men formed around America and began heading for Washington. Some assembled in California, the Pacific Northwest, the Rockies, the Midwest and New England. Many rode freight trains to the nation’s capital, where they joined the campers.

In the end, Congress didn’t provide work relief. The encampment disintegrated in late summer. It was somewhat similar to the Occupy Wall Street episode that swept America in the early 21st century. Despite few tangible gains, it nonetheless focused a national spotlight on the plight of left-out people. ...Read More

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The Beautiful Light of the Gender Spectrum
WEEKLY BULLETIN OF THE MEXICO SOLIDARITY PROJECT
AUGUST 25, 2021 THIS WEEK’S ISSUE

MEIZHU LUI, FOR THE EDITORIAL TEAM

What if life brought us only bright daylight and total darkness? That would be an incredibly boring world, without the magnificent colors, the pinks and purples, that grace our dawns and sunsets.

European culture has historically stuck us in either/or thinking. Our only choices: x and y. Any “g” — let alone any “t” — must be shunned and shamed, banned and eliminated. In medieval times, the powers-that-be used gays as “faggots,” tinder for starting the fires that burned other transgressors at the stake.

Today, in the US and México, many around us still see those who do not present as clearly male or female as willful deviants, flawed souls who need medical interventions to make them “normal” — or dangers to society who need to be locked away or even shot for the crime of nonconformity.

Feminists, in challenging the role of women in society, have opened the door to new questions about the meaning of gender. If women don’t need to stay in their place, if they can hunt and not just gather, why shouldn’t LGBTQ people also not challenge their assigned “throw-away” role? 

In México today, thank goodness, the dawn has finally broken. In our interview this week, Irving Radillo Murguía describes the gradual lightening of the Mexican sky. Beautiful and diverse colors no longer remain just forever on the horizon. They are spreading across the country. May we all accept this new spectrum, this wonderful gift, with gratitude.
We’re dedicating this issue to our fellow México Solidarity Project activist Badili Jones, a gay, bilingual, African American builder of bridges between Black and Latinx peoples. He died unexpectedly this past June. ...Read More
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Book Review Thaddeus Stevens: Civil War Revolutionary, Fighter For Racial Justice

Thaddeus Stevens:
Civil War Revolutionary,
Fighter for Racial Justice,
By Bruce Levine
Simon & Schuster
March 2021, 320 pages.

Reviewed By Robert Bonner
ML Today

August 29, 2021 - Author, Bruce Levine, has chronicled the career of a US politician dedicated to ending slavery and racial discrimination and has painted a vivid portrait of a fearless advocate. His account lends few pages to the Vermont Baptist background that may have given birth to Steven’s egalitarian and humanitarian views, opting to highlight his public acts and leadership on the issues of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

Born to meager circumstances and with a club foot, Stevens once stated,” I am induced to thank my creator for having, from early life, bestowed the blessing of poverty.” He consistently displayed sympathy for the downtrodden and mistreated. Violent attacks on abolitionists and African Americans occurred in the north throughout the 1830’s. In 1836, in response to petitions to outlaw slavery in the District of Columbia, Congress adopted a gag rule refusing to even recognize receipt of petitions, resolutions, or memorials related to the issue.

The author describes Stevens’ belief in a kind of crude capitalism made up of small family farmers which he argued gave everybody a stake in Democracy. At the 1860 Republican Party convention, Stevens insisted the platform call for a bill to provide Homesteads. He also proposed the confiscation of slave holdings worth more than $5,000 to be broken into 40-acre parcels and given to freedmen along with $50 for building on the property.

“Those that defend and support the country must have a stake in the soil; they must have an interest to protect and defend.” Stevens invested earnings from his law practice in real estate and an iron works. We aren’t informed of the profitability or lack thereof of those investments, but we do learn that Robert E. Lee’s forces destroyed the iron works during the war.

Levine does a great job tracing Stevens’ political career against the background of the most turbulent time in US history. He skillfully utilizes quotes, anecdotes and contemporary observations that illustrate the wit, courage, and conviction that made the man. He records Stevens’ movement through political parties seeking the best means to deliver an end to slavery and discrimination: Anti-Mason, Whigs, Union, and Republican.

Stevens worked with the Underground Railroad and earned the friendship of Frederick Douglass and the respect of W.E. B. Dubois who praised his “grim and awful courage.” He was charged on the floor of the House more than once by supporters of slavery but remained calm, unyielding, and focused, at times surrounded and protected by his allies and friends. Stevens was also a supporter of rights for Native Americans, Chinese workers in California, and the right of women to vote and hold office.

The battle to retain the primacy of private property in the form of slaves is episodic throughout the book, recounted in legislative debates, Supreme Court cases, and the fear that slavery’s dissolution could call into question the relation between capital and labor in the North. The New York Times lamented the inability to confine the movement against capital to the South.

The work is an easy read that I would recommend for its excellent historical value, but I would forewarn readers, it is depressing to see how present-day history could have been changed had Stevens and his supporters been able to reshape the power relations in the post Civil War South. Stevens was prophetic: “But reformation must be effected; the foundation of their institutions, both political, municipal, and social, must be broken up and relaid.”

Readers will see the all too familiar issues of voting rights, unequal distribution of wealth, the fight to maintain and fund public education, an end to discrimination, and the struggle for reparations persist more than a century and a half later!

Robert Bonner is former president of AFGE Local 2028 in Pittsburgh, PA where he represented US Veterans Administration workers. ...Read More
Film Review:‘Ash Is Purest White,’ a Woman's Tale of Love and Transitions against a Background of Gangsters and Betrayals
By Namrata Joshi
The Hindi

An intimate story of romance, betrayal and loss gets framed against the sweeping, epic backdrop of radical, socio-economic changes in China.

Somewhere in the middle of the film, observing a dormant volcano from a distance, Jianghu crime syndicate gangster Bin (Fan Liao) and his girlfriend Qiao (Tao Zhao) talk about how the ash of the volcano is the purest; having burnt at that high a temperature, it gets refined. It becomes a metaphor for Qiao’s own journey in life — how intense travails, betrayals and losses burnish and strengthen her. An inner distillation of sorts to find herself.

Qiao, who is devoted to Bin, ends up serving a five-year-long sentence for his sake and comes back to realise that everyone, including Bin and China itself, have changed and moved on. The film then is like coming a full circle for Qiao who starts off as a typical gangster’s moll but eventually comes to rule the gangland herself as the mob boss. From always being his pretty arm candy, she turns into the support that a vulnerable Bin is left seeking as time passes by.

Storyline: Qiao, who is devoted to mob boss Bin, ends up serving a sentence for his sake and comes back to realize that everyone, including Bin and the nation itself, have changed and moved on.

In scene after scene, Jia Zhangke frames the petite and fragile Tao Zhao as a lone female presence in the mercurial male world of smoke-filled gambling dens, street violence and shooting guns. Zhangke offers an interesting feminist twist to what has essentially been considered a male genre. Even as men talk of brotherhood and loyalty in the gang, it’s Qiao who looms large.

The personal in Zhangke’s work can’t be seen independent of the nation’s history. Qiao’s intimate story of rebuilding her own life after a five-year pause in the prison is set against a sweeping, epic backdrop of the radical, socio-economic changes inChina. The intimations of them were in the air when she was still out and some have happened during her confinement. There is the future of coal mines and its workers at stake in Datong with Qiao’s father symbolizing an old order getting lost.

“We must fight the capitalists until the end,” says he on a microphone. But is anyone listening? The not-so-picturesque, modern landscape tells its own story of supposed progress and rough transitions — the ugly powerplants, the shiny train stations, the high rises, an under-construction sports stadium. And, above all the Three Gorges dam submerging Fengjie, forcing people to be evacuated. The theme of migration and resettlement due to supposed reforms and development echoing loud for us here in India as well.

It’s essentially Qiao-Bin story but Zhangke creates some quirky characters along the way, bordering on the funny. The elegant, animal documentaries and ballroom dancing loving mobster, a sex-obsessed motorcyclist who gets conned by Qiao or the ardent UFO believer with whom she finds a moment of intimacy on a train ride. But it’s Fan "Bin" Liao, and more so Tao Zhao who owns Ash Is Purest White. Her Qiao is luminous and admirable in her pride and self respect. A compelling personification of changes and continuities. ...Read More
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