The Left, Progressives and Social Media

October 25th 9pm ET/6pm PT
CCDS/Socialist Education Project
"Fourth Monday" discussion

Facebook is under scrutiny and criticism in Congress from Democrats and Republicans alike. But what might be the perspective of socialists and the Left? What are the impacts, relevance, and usefulness or not, of social media such as FaceBook, Instagram, and others?  

Our panel will explore these questions: Who controls these companies? How have progressives gained from using social media? What are their negative effects? Should social media be regulated? How and by whom? What does this all mean for free speech? Followed by Q&A and discussion.

Carl Davidson is a longtime Left social media guru and director of the Online University of the Left. Carl is a member of the CCDS national coordinating committee and Local 3657 of the United Steelworkers; in the 1960s he was a national leader of SDS.

Rafael Pizarro manages the social media for Bristol County, MA for Correctional Justice. The media's use in organizing demonstrations and pressuring ICE has been praised by the ACLU and local coalitions. Rafael also edits the local DSA Facebook page.
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Fourth Monday in September, watch here: IDEOLOGICAL HEGEMONY AND HIGHER EDUCATION
Thousands March Across the Country in
Opposition to the Texas Abortion Ban
CCDS members (from l) Anne Mitchelll, Maxine Orris, Pat Fry at the rally for abortion rights in NYC October 2nd. Some 5,000 participated in a rally and march that included scores of young people.
More Pictures from New York City
Above from Pat Fry
Photo to the left and below from Ted Reicht
Above 2 photos from Ted Reich
Thousands March in Chicago Loop
'We need access to free, legal, and safe abortions."

Oct 2
We got to the Daley Center a little early to find a few hundred people gathering in small groups. Signs, mainly about abortion rights, were mostly handmade. That’s always a clue that while 24 organizations sponsored the event, most marchers were coming as individuals, rather than brought by large, organized groups. Very few buses in sight. Not much visible union participation.

There was a tiny handful of vocal anti-abortion protesters encircled and protected (from what?) by yellow-vested march monitors. Three cops kept an eye on a lone evangelical, preaching the anti-abortion gospel through a hand-held mic and small speaker. There’s no mistaking Chicago for Texas or Tennessee.

As the crowd swelled to a couple of thousand, spontaneous chants broke out until the formal festivities began and speakers appeared on the dais. As usual, those of us on the outer edge of the rally could barely hear the speeches. The loudest sustained applause was reserved for Lori Lightfoot, the city’s first Black, gay, woman mayor.

No matter, we knew what the message was and the crowd’s response was joyful, militant, and enthusiastic. We also knew we were part of something much bigger taking place around the country in D.C., Houston, L.A., and more. This is all happening just days before the Supreme Court meets to begin considering the constitutionality of a Mississippi law modeled on the one in Texas.

By the time the crowd took to the streets, it had swelled to thousands more. The exact count hasn’t come in yet. It doesn’t matter. The message was clear. The latest right-wing assault on women’s rights and criminalization of abortion, etched in law in Texas and other MAGA strongholds and ratified by a Trumpian Supreme Count, will not
Protesters rally for abortion justice at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, on October 2, 2021, during Women's March
Below, Youngstown, Ohio
Corvallis, Oregon sent by Courtney Childs (Below)
The Democrats as the ‘Un-Republican’ Party

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Reposted from Organizing Upgrade

With the Democratic Party possessing a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and a tie in the Senate, the contradictions within the Democratic Party have become more visible, if not more inflamed. Liberal commentators obsess on the factional differences and flareups within the Democratic Party and incessantly call for unity. What they continue to miss is that the Democratic Party is not one party or, to put it another way, it is the Un-Republican Party.

My colleague Carl Davidson has suggested, for several years, that it is critical that we understand the absence of a two-party system in the USA. Rather, he posits the existence of a six-party system, with at least three “parties” within each camp—Republican and Democratic. With regard to the Democratic Party, this certainly remains the case. That said, the broader implications of this need to be clarified.

The Republican Party has consolidated into a hard right-wing authoritarian party which supports dictatorship. While there have always been authoritarian tendencies within both parties, it is critical to appreciate the qualitative change we have witnessed. No longer is it appropriate to view the Democrats and Republicans as Tweedle-dee and tweedled-dumb. The Republicans are now the party for dictatorship, and it is highly unlikely that there is a way for them to walk that back.

This means that the electorate which wishes to oppose the authoritarian direction can choose to be independent, Democratic or disengaged. For those who remain engaged, the Democrats will offer a home. The problem that results is that the diversity within the Democratic Party will inevitably expand. Distinguishing oneself from the Republicans will primarily mean one’s stand on the question of democracy and dictatorship. But that distinction, while critically important, will not translate into programmatic unity. As one can see in the current debates surrounding the budget, conservative elements of the Democratic Party are, more than anything, going to assert a neoliberal framework and the necessity to downplay the political, economic and environmental crises we are facing.

If we accept that the Democratic Party is the Un-Republican Party, then we are acknowledging the breath of the differences that will inevitably emerge within that tent. There is no consolidated Democratic Party. Thus, the struggles that we are witnessing should be understood to be not only normal but entirely predictable.


What are the implications? So-called centrist Democrats seek to make the party even more amorphous such that Republican and independent voters can be attracted. They recognize the current Democratic Party, correctly, as a coalition party rather than as a political/programmatic party. They see the future as being based on out-voting the Republicans rather than out-organizing the Republicans, i.e., without building a programmatic bloc with an entirely different vision of the future of the U.S. (and the world).
Thus, one implication is that we should ignore and dismiss the handwringing concerning disputes within the Democratic Party. Those disputes are no different than the disputes that take place in parliamentary systems where there are fights between parties within an electoral coalition. This is why Davidson’s essay remains so relevant.

A second implication is that, within the Democratic Party, if you do not have the votes, you are forced to compromise. Compromise should not be seen as a bad word. It is a recognition of the balance of power. The failure of the so-called Blue Tide to materialize in 2020 left the Democrats with a quandary. With a tie in the Senate, so much has come down to two Senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, who are other than progressive. There is very little wiggle room for the Democrats, particularly in light of the refusal of even so-called moderate Republicans, e.g., Susan Collins, to compromise with the Democrats. Pressure on Sinema and Manchin must be applied but at a certain point, the matter comes down to compromise. This is not selling out in the least. It would be selling out if the progressives had the votes and they, instead of pursuing the struggle, backtracked.

A third implication is the recognition of the Democratic Party as a flawed united front against authoritarianism. As the Un-Republican Party, it should garner all those who stand in opposition to authoritarianism, but this should not be mistaken for party-level unity. This unity is temporary and very fragile. It will tend to exist at the level of social issues but not much deeper and certainly not into the realm of foreign policy. It can be important in opposing, at the levels of litigation and legislation, further steps to the right.

Finally, the left/progressive forces within and around the Democratic Party must be strengthened, particularly at the state level. The Republicans have successfully carried the battle for national political power into the states. Their success with voter suppression and now abortion suppression is a testament to their approach. Regardless of the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections, the fight at the state level, including at the level of administrative machinery, will be critical. This means that as important as the Congressional Progressive Caucus is, forces on the Left must prioritize the building of organizations such as the Progressive Democrats of America, Working Families Party, Justice Democrats, and state-based formations that are attempting to build progressive, governing power at the local level.
Session 2 of Race and the Cuban Revolution
sponsored by the CCDS Peace & Solidarity Committee,
Monday, November 15, 2021, 8 PM ET, 7pm CT, 5pm PT

It will feature panelists Sara Kozameh, Danielle Pilar Clealand and Lisa Brock, all of whom authored an article on the topic of race and Cuba in the Summer 2020 issue of Souls magazine, commemorating the publication’s 20th anniversary. 

Souls was founded in 1999 by historian and scholar Manning Marable who was chair of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies and the Center for the Study of Contemporary Black History at Columbia University until his untimely death at the age of 60 in 2011.

Importantly, the second edition of Souls for Spring 1999 was dedicated to the subject of race and Cuba with articles by Lisa Brock among several others. Manning was a founding national co-chair of CCDS and a leading light for our organization. Links to suggested readings authored by each of the panelists will be sent with the flyer announcement for the November 15th discussion.
Our Amazing Resource for Radical Education

There are hundreds of video courses here, along with study guides, downloadable books and links to hundreds of other resources for study groups or individuals.

Nearly 10,000 people have signed on to the OUL for daily update, and more than 150,000 have visited us at least once.

Karl Marx's ideas are a common touchstone for many people working for change. His historical materialism, his many contributions to political economy and class analysis, all continue to serve his core values--the self-emancipation of the working class and a vision of a classless society. There are naturally many trends in Marxism that have developed over the years, and new ones are on the rise today. All of them and others who want to see this project succeed are welcome here.

Phyllis Willett, Presente

We in CCDS are saddened by the untimely death of Phyllis Willett after being struck by a car while walking. Phyllis was a founding member of CCDS. She was a life long trade union and immigrant rights activist.
CHANGEMAKER PUBLICATIONS: Recent works on new paths to socialism and the solidarity economy

Remember Us for Gift Giving and Study Groups

We are a small publisher of books with big ideas. We specialize in works that show us how a better world is possible and needed. Click Gramsci below for our list.

This image graphically reflects the crisis in US health care spelled out in the above article and shows to some degree its depth even before the current pandemic, but so much more now.

In this program recorded on August 25, 2021, Marilyn Albert, RN presents an overview and update on many of our struggles for a just healthcare system. And Corinne Frugoni, MD explores the many issues physicians face in this context and their role in winning healthcare justice.

This is a good start to what we hope will become a quarterly update. If you know folks who would like to be invited to these Zoom events, ask them to email us at

Link to the program’s hour-long recording, with passcode:

Passcode: ykx=i4ua

Links to groups, bills and movements mentioned in this program:

Suggested Reading:

We asked participants to identify in chat which state they were from. Of those who did, 44% were from Oregon, 13% each from Washington, California and Indiana, and 6% each from Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.

We had some discussion of what our next update may cover: prospects in California amid its political turmoil, advances in state campaigns in Washington, Oregon and New York, and the status of the drive in Congress to expand Medicare coverage and content. Send us your experiences, and your ideas on topics for educationals.

Sandy Eaton, RN
Massachusetts CCDS

Improved Medicare for All Update Group - Get Updated in One Hour!

The next Zoom meeting of the Improved Medicare for All Update Group will be held on November 17th 5pm Pacific, 7pm Central, and 8pm Eastern Times. To get the Zoom link, please email

The agenda for this meeting will be:
  • Educational talk on Medicare Privatisation - Medicare Advantage insurance policies, and the new Direct Contracting Entities
  • Update on Medicare Expansion legislation in Congress
  • State single payer advocacy - report from state movements for single payer
  • Plenty of time for Q&A and discussion

Marilyn Albert, RN
Saint Vincent Nurses' Strike, Worcester, Massachusetts"
by Sandy Eaton
July 21, 2021

On March 8th, seven hundred nurses marched out of Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts to fight for safer staffing. They are still out. In 2000, they secured their first union contract and a safer workplace through a forty-nine-day strike against Tenet Health Care, one of the largest hospital corporations in the world. As of today, sufficient agreement on safe staffing levels is on the table, but this marathon strike goes on because of the lack of a mutually-agreeable back-to-work settlement. Tenet failed to smash the union, but it is hell-bent on punishing the strikers by retaining the “permanent replacements” it’s hired over the months, thereby displacing many of the experienced nurses with the guts to strike for the safety of their patients and themselves. The Massachusetts Nurses Association has filed nine unfair labor practice charges against Tenet, and adjudication of these may quickly settle the “permanent replacement” issue, since it is not allowed in a ULP strike. So we keep up the pressure until victory. The Worcester community needs all of its experienced and dedicated nurses back at the bedside. Solidarity will make this happen!

Twenty-one years ago, these Worcester nurses faced off against the Tenet Corporation. Newly organized, they struck for forty-nine days to win a first contract. Then, as now, money wasn’t the main issue. The safety of patients and staff in a profit-driven healthcare system was the nurses’ main goal, while Tenet executives demanded cruel working conditions that threatened patients’ safety and lives. It was all about control of the assembly line into which the delivery of care had been transformed.

Then, as now, a strategy of escalating pressure, finally threatening to go national and mobilizing not only the nurses directly involved but union members and community folks far beyond Worcester, is the winning formula. In 2000, it took forty-nine days for Tenet executives to realize they were beaten. Now this strike, which began on March 8th, has gone on much longer than that. The strikers have remained solid. Labor in the Worcester area and the community at large is supportive.

Progressive groups and elected officials have come to the picket line and organized rallies. So a few weeks ago Tenet escalated the fight, clearly pushing to break the strike and smash the union by threatening to replace the striking nurses permanently. Alarm bells should have gone off throughout Labor circles nationally. But it took the activists and unions of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer to see the issues and recognize the threat.

The pressure on Tenet is mounting as it will try to justify its siphoning off hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for pandemic relief to fatten its own coffers and those of its shareholders. But Tenet may not be afraid of elected officials and the threat of Congressional inquiries. The logical and essential next step in Labor’s escalation in order to win this strike, beat back union busting, push President Biden and Congress to enact the Medicarefor-All bill and fundamental labor-law reform is the full mobilization of the labor movement and our communities.

Labor leadership at all levels, but particularly at the national, must use its resources to mobilize the force needed to turn back Tenet’s union-busting drive and reverse not only the forty years of attacks since PATCO but the crippling provisions of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. Rich Trumka, the AFL-CIO Executive Council and all union leadership bodies must see both the urgency of this moment and the opportunity. Tenet will not back down without it. The President and Congress will not act without it. Like a mighty wave, we must roll over this seventy-two-year pattern of being beaten down. Our new normal in this post-pandemic era must include solidarity strong enough to shift the balance of power in this country.
Sara Nelson at Saint Vincent Nurses’s Rally
The Nursing Revolution Has Only Just Begun --June 2000

Sandy Eaton, RN, PeaceWork, June 2000

By the time the 49-day strike against Tenet Healthcare Corporation by 615 Worcester, Massachusetts, nurses ended, not only were the lives of the participants changed forever, but also the consciousness of nurses throughout Massachusetts, across the United States and in other countries as well. At 4:50 PM on May 19th, Anne Spellane, co-chair of the Saint Vincent Hospital/Worcester Medical Center bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association announced the result of the balloting by the rank-and-file on their first contract. Predictably, ratification was achieved by the lopsided vote of 358 to 5.

The picketers marched one last time around the sprawling new WMC campus, laid down their picket signs and started to celebrate. The story begins in 1997 when the Catholic Saint Vincent Hospital was sold to OrNda, a for-profit hospital chain, which was then bought up to help create the Tenet Healthcare Corporation, the second largest for-profit acute-care hospital chain in the United States (and in the world, since no one else does health care like the US). In the 90s, changes in the way health care was financed were passed as the state government strove to become 'entrepreneurial.'

For the first time, for-profit hospital chains found Massachusetts a fertile field. New battle lines were drawn. Sensing danger to her patients and to her license to practice nursing safely, Anne Spellane gathered a handful of colleagues together and approached MNA for help in organizing. In 1998, the nurses of Saint Vincent voted in their new union and bargaining began for a first contract. After two slow years of negotiating, almost all issues had been settled, except Tenet's insistence on the right to impose mandatory overtime, a practice that had not been part of the work life of these nurses up to that point.

Construction of the new $215 million edifice in downtown Worcester called the Worcester Medical Center neared completion, thanks to significant tax breaks and other incentives from the City, with April 1st as the target date for a grand opening. The nurses realized that Tenet's plan was to staff the newly configured units minimally, to be staffed 'flexibly' with mandatory overtime of those already on duty if the patient census jumped up on a given day, and with staff sent home without pay if the census fell.

Managed care has heavily penetrated Massachusetts, and such wide swings in patient census are now typical. Nurses around the country have been battling the scourge of mandatory overtime with increasing passion, as they realized that this practice spawned a far higher rate of possibly fatal medication and other errors, and a far higher rate of staff illness and accidents, as well as disrupted family life and risks of abandonment of children by single parents. Sandy Ellis, speaking on behalf of the striking nurses and the Massachusetts Nurses Association, offered the following as part of her testimony before the Joint Committee on Health Care of the Massachusetts legislature in its April 18th hearing on the binding ballot initiative for fundamental health care reform being pushed by the Coalition for Health Care. "For them (Tenet Corporation) it is much more cost effective to pay nurses overtime pay, mandate tired and fatigued nurses to care for very ill patients, rather than to keep the appropriate number of nurses on the payroll - even if it places patients' safety at risk."

Throughout the two years of protracted negotiations, the nurses worked to build bridges and organize the community around the issues of patient safety and workers' rights in the face of Santa Barbara-based Tenet Corporation. At the prestrike rally on March 30th, almost the entire political leadership of the Worcester area came to speak on behalf of the nurses, pledging their unwavering support.

For years nurse leader Sandy Ellis had effectively focused on relations with this group. None of them would attend the gala celebrations marking the opening of the new hospital, so these celebrations had to be canceled. Many of these political leaders returned time and again to the picket line. The entire Massachusetts congressional delegation signed a letter to Tenet in support of the nurses' position.

In mid-March, the nurses voted three to one to strike over patient safety, gave Tenet the required ten-day notice of intent to strike and so, the day before the grand opening, the strike began. The night shift turned the narcotic keys for each unit over to their supervisors and gathered in the main lobby of the old Saint Vincent Hospital at 6:30. They marched out the front door and set up picket lines at both campuses. The scabs arrived at 7:00, consisting of the hundred or so nurses who had voted against the strike and about 125 professional scabs flown in by US Nursing Corporation, based in Denver. The situation was most chaotic, so the move into the new hospital was delayed until April 3rd.

The local media gave thorough coverage to the strike, thanks in great measure to Sandy Ellis' articulation of the issues and the tireless efforts of MNA's public communications department. Letters to the editor reflected overwhelming support from the community and its appreciation of the overriding issue of patient safety. Although there tended to be spotty coverage of the strike beyond Massachusetts in the established media, news spread rapidly by 'word of mouse.' Daily strike bulletins spread from email list to email list, crossing both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Nurse-oriented and -run chat rooms buzzed with the news from Worcester. The MNA web page received over a half million hits in the month of April.

Global awareness grew, with messages to Tenet and to the Worcester nurses coming in from Abu Dhabi to Australia. Co-chair Debbie Rigiero had become an integral part of the central labor council, even though MNA is not part of the AFL-CIO. Organized labor in the Worcester area, and then throughout the state, understood the issue and what was at stake. Teachers and teamsters, carpenters and counselors massed on the picket line, contributed to the strike fund and contacted Tenet with the demand to listen to the nurses and settle immediately.

The Worcester firefighters, who had lost six of their number in a tragic warehouse fire a few months before, were especially fervent in their support, not only marching on the line but opening their adjacent fire station for the nurses' respite. This labor solidarity peaked when the three largest unions in Worcester approached Fallon HMO, the largest managed care company in that part of the state, which has an exclusive contract with Tenet, to pressure Tenet to negotiate with the nurses or they would take their members elsewhere. Fallon publicly called for the Tenet CEO to fly out from California to enter negotiations directly.

When no response came, Fallon began referring its surgical day patients to an off-campus surgicenter independent of Tenet. Agencies of the state government which held the mandate for public safety came under scrutiny. The Department of Public Health routinely reported that no serious violations of standards of care were to be found within the struck facility, until its written report was made public revealing that three scabs had been fired for serious lapses in nursing judgment which threatened patient safety.

The Board of Registration in Nursing was publicly excoriated by a legislative oversight committee both for its tendency to scapegoat staff nurses for systemic health facility problems and for its apparent double standard in swiftly granting licenses to practice nursing to imported scabs while other candidates had to wait weeks before being able to secure employment in Massachusetts.

Groups of organized nurses from across Massachusetts regularly came to Worcester to picket. The United Nurses and Allied Professionals sent large contingents from Rhode Island, seeing this struggle as part of their own campaign for safe patient care. Both the California Nurses Association, which has had extensive dealings with Tenet, and the American Nurses Association took out ads in the local press critical of Tenet and supportive of the nurses' issue of safe care.

Immense logistical support and suggestions for effective action came from CNA. ANA organized a picket at the Denver headquarters of US Nursing Corporation. Magazines such as Nursing Spectrum which carry ads for agencies that recruit scabs were targeted, and their job fairs picketed. On May 5th, 1500 delegates to the annual convention of the Massachusetts Teachers Association left the nearby convention center and rallied with the nurses in front of WMC. Senator Ted Kennedy, who had been to Worcester to address the teachers, came out as well to stand with the nurses and proclaim the justice of their cause.

National Nurses Day was celebrated on the sidewalk outside the Worcester Medical Center on May 7th, as elected officials, community activists, labor leaders, representatives of organized nursing from one end of Massachusetts to the other, from California, from Michigan, from Rhode Island and New Hampshire took the microphone and spoke of their undying commitment to safe patient care. Plans for a national corporate campaign directed at Tenet and calls for turning Santa Barbara into Seattle were put forth.

On May 10th, intense telephone conversations heated the lines between Santa Barbara and Washington, and between Washington and Worcester. On the morning of May 11th, the seventeen members of the nurses' negotiating committee, with their attorney and staff, flew to Washington to sit across the table from Tenet executives from California in the offices of Senator Ted Kennedy, assisted by Representative Jim McGovern. They received from Tenet an offer almost identical to the last one the nurses themselves had put forth in negotiations: no full-shift mandated overtime and severe limits on required overtime up to four hours, with the individual nurse's right to refuse if too tired or ill. When the team arrived back at Logan International Airport in Boston that evening, throngs of nurses and other supported were there, hailing them as conquering heroes, with as much joy and enthusiasm as has ever been received by any winning sports team.

Worcester Tenet CEO Bob Maher, despite repeated accusations of lying to the press during the period of protracted negotiations, probably hit the nail on the head when he told the press, after the tentative agreement had been reached, that "we are right at the beginning of a revolution in nursing, and we're at the front end of it. ... We believe nurses throughout the United States are willing to work long and hard to fight mandatory overtime. We could have fought back and let this drag out, but that's not good for anybody. ... We needed to recognize that this is a national trend, and move on." - from Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 5/12/00

While it's probably too soon to do an exhaustive analysis of this strike, I think a few lessons jump out. First of all, the Worcester nurses themselves and their elected leadership are committed, principled and organized. The central issue, the nurses' mandate to provide safe patient care, was clear and widely supported. Organized efforts to reach out to the whole community and to its organized components were systematically undertaken. Effective work with the media and political leaders was necessary, and made possible by the prior work.

Having access to an organization able to focus its resources and priorities, such as the Massachusetts Nurses Association, is invaluable. Local, regional, national and international connectedness multiplies one's strength immensely. And being at the right moment in history, with growing revulsion of corporate health care and corporate priorities in general, maximizes the potential of the moment.

These nurses became the vanguard of the revolution taking place right now in health care in Massachusetts and across the country. Wherever you live, when you read this, there are groups organized to put patients before profits. For readers, whether in Massachusetts or in any other state, opportunities for effective, timely involvement in the broad movement to make access to quality, affordable health care a right in the United States are available through contacting any of these organizations. Universal Health Care Action Netw
Using The Median Voter Theorem to Left Advantage

by Jay D. Jurie

For more than five decades the conventional wisdom of mainstream political science, as expressed in this instance by the Median Voter Theorem of Anthony Downs, was that most voters gravitated toward the center of the political spectrum. It then closely followed that as an election drew closer, candidates would moderate their campaign messages, so as cater to the center and attract more voters.

While the Theorem largely still appears to hold in the Democratic Party, Republican operatives and candidates in recent years have stood it on its head, increasingly couching their appeals to the most rabid fringe of their party. Some have claimed the center of the Republican Party has shifted to the far right, and no doubt there is some accuracy to that contention.

Yet the Theorem may still help explain Republican voter suppression, redistricting, gerrymandering, and other efforts to control the vote around the country, as a response to the way they have distanced themselves from centrists of all stripes, including corporate liberals within the Democratic Party, many political independents, and even moderates within their own party.

For those of us revulsed by what has become Republican far right extremism, we must do everything in our power to resist and reverse the redefinition of the political center to the right. We must take every opportunity to point out how far from the mainstream this has diverged, the neo-fascist threat it presents. This includes identifying Corporate America as the source of many of our problems, how the right has been used to deflect attention away from the economic inequality foisted on society, and ultimately, how the few profit at the expense of the many.

We must simultaneously advance an agenda many see as increasingly reasonable and balanced. As embodied in the Build Back Better program, what a majority of voters in this country have repeatedly expressed they want: preservation of democracy and an economy that is of benefit to society as a whole within a sustainable environment. We can realign and make effective use of the Median Voter Theorem if we continually challenge and explicitly denounce the themes and intentions of the far right, exposing them for what they are. Our goal in so doing must be to marginalize them and simultaneously legitimize and advance our agenda as the true center of the political spectrum.

E Pluribus Unum.

Clarence Kailin: American Communist,
Interbrigadier and Working Class Hero
I was thinking about an old Robin Hood song written by Woody Guthrie in the 1930s about an Oklahoma legend, Pretty Boy Floyd. According to Woody’s rendition, Pretty Boy Floyd got into a fight with a deputy sheriff and killed him. Floyd was forced to flee and allegedly took up a life of crime. At least authorities and journalists blamed Floyd for every robbery or killing that occurred in the state of Oklahoma. “Every crime in Oklahoma was added to his name.”

But in true Robin Hood fashion Pretty Boy Floyd stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Floyd, the outlaw, paid the mortgage for a starving farmer. Another time when Floyd begged for and received a meal in a rural household, he placed a thousand dollar bill under his napkin when he finished dinner. One Christmas Day Floyd left a carload of groceries for starving families on relief in Oklahoma City.

And in these days of massive unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, criminal wealth, and staggering poverty, through the voice of Pretty Boy Floyd, Woody Guthrie tells the wrenching story of capitalism that today is not too much different from during his time.

“Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
I’ve seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won’t never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.”

By Harry Targ 

Harry Targ

“Purdue is one of 11 universities initially selected to join the UPP (University Partnership Program). Establishing strategic partnerships with this select set of nationally renowned universities allows the Space Force to recruit and educate a diverse, high-caliber workforce, offer opportunities to advance research in specific areas of interest, and develop a 21st-century, technology-savvy service” (“Space Force, Purdue partner on STEM education, innovation,” Purdue Today, September 29, 2021).“We are eager to serve the national security interest of this country any way we are asked to do so,” he said. “We’re expanding our capacity. We’re about to do more classified work than Purdue ever has.” Mitch Daniels (
“The promise of aerospace-related jobs that Purdue President Mitch Daniels for years has insisted the university was ripe to get finally landed on Wednesday...Saab will invest $37 million and  employ up to 300 people at a facility expected to make fuselages for the Boeing T-X, advertised as the U.S. Air Force’s next generation jet trainer…. Holcomb (Governor of Indiana) called it “a proud patriotic day for Indiana and its place in advanced manufacturing in the name of cutting-edge national defense.” (Dave Bangert, “Purdue Lands SAAB Plant,” Journal and Courier, May 9, 2019).
“Purdue University’s Discovery Park has positioned itself as a paragon of collaborative, interdisciplinary research in AI and its applications to national security. Its Institute for Global Security and Defense Innovation is already answering needs for advanced AI research by delving into areas such as biomorphic robots, automatic target recognition for unmanned aerial vehicles, and autonomous exploration and localization of targets for aerial drones….
It has become apparent that the United States is no longer guaranteed top dog status on the dance card that is the future of war. To maintain military superiority, the focus must shift from traditional weapons of war to advanced systems that rely on AI-based weaponry...we must call upon the government to weave together academia, government and industry for the greater good.” (Tomas Diade la Rubia, (former)Vice President Discovery Park, Purdue University “Academia a Crucial Partner for Pentagon’s AI Push,” National Defense Magazine, February 11, 2019).

“President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to grapple with the effect of space technology on international relations and so began championing what is known as the “sanctuary doctrine” of space. Eisenhower put forth the idea that space should be preserved for use by all mankind, with weapons of mass destruction prohibited.”( Gregory Niguidula, “ Trump’s Space Force is a strategic mistake,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, January 21, 2019).
In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan was instituting a military budget that in total was greater than all US military expenditures from the founding of the nation until the 1980s. Military doctrine, in accordance with the huge increase in military spending, shifted from maintaining a capability to deter aggression from other nations, particularly the former Soviet Union, to the development of a first strike capability, that is to be able to strike an enemy first. This shift in policy was coupled with the president claiming that the former Soviet Union constituted an “evil empire,” one that had to be pushed back, weakened, and destroyed.

As part of the reinstitution of a New Cold War with the Soviet Union, after a decade of détente, Reagan announced in a dramatic speech the development of the new Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which became known as the “Star Wars” program. The president claimed that the United States could develop a space-based defensive shield that could protect North America from any attack from a foreign power.

SDI became a boondoggle for the military/industrial complex. Especially universities saw the project as a source of significant increases in revenue. However, large sectors of the scientific community declared that Star Wars was wasteful and technologically impossible to achieve. (Many Purdue professors signed a petition promising not to accept any Star Wars funding).
Along with its lack of feasibility, most strategic analysts questioned the President’s claim that SDI was merely a defensive weapon. They argued, in the context of Reagan’s hostile rhetoric about the Soviet Union and the claim that the US could achieve physical protection from attack, that the Soviets would perceive SDI as an offensive weapon. They might conclude that the United States was developing a defensive shield so that it might choose to launch a first-strike against the Soviet Union.

The military doctrine of “deterrence,” dominating military thinking on both sides of the Cold War for years was that neither power could afford to launch a first-strike attack on the other because the second-strike response would be so devastating that functioning societies in both countries would be destroyed. Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara aptly labeled this doctrine Mutually Assured Destruction (or MAD). In short, with SDI, an enemy of the US could believe that they might be attacked at any time. As a consequence “Star Wars” was profoundly destabilizing, increasing the possibility of nuclear war.

Twenty-six years later, President Trump declared that the United States henceforth would recognize that space should be the site for military preparedness to defend national security. To achieve this goal the US Space Force would lead the way (Gregory Niguidula, “Trump’s Space Force is  a Strategic Mistake,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 21, 2019). In the National Defense authorization Act of 2020, Congress approved the idea of establishing a new sixth branch of the military, the United States Space Force.

Meanwhile, the United States in 2021 continues to have over 700 military bases of various sizes around the world and military programs with almost 40 countries, sometimes including private military contractors. The United States also pursues what VJ Prashad calls “hybrid wars,” economic sanctions, covert operations, and ideological campaigns against so-called “authoritarian” states.

Perhaps most threatening from the standpoint of increasing the probability of war is a dramatic increase in verbal hostilities toward China. The rhetoric has been coupled with warnings from influential think tanks that the United States, “the world’s leading democracy,” was falling behind Chinese in influence, power, economic capabilities, and mostly technological advances. In addition, the Obama Administration declared that the United States was pivoting its security concerns to Asia. Trump and Biden have moved US ships to the South China Sea, sought an alliance with Asian nations against China, and most recently President Biden signed a naval agreement with Australia.

Observers of the international scene regard these developments in US/China relations, over the last three administrations as profoundly destabilizing, perhaps a “New Cold War.” Of course the most horrific possibility is escalation from conventional to nuclear war. Therefore, it is in this context that the creation of a sixth branch of the military, the United States Space Force, and its growing penetration of major domestic institutions, including universities, is troubling.

This new branch of the military, seeking legitimacy and the expansion of its own power and resources, is embedding itself in what could be called the military/industrial/academic complex. And, from the standpoint of universities, which are experiencing declining financial resources, new space-oriented research constitutes a vital source of revenue paralleling that provided by the dubious Star Wars program of the 1980s.

In this context, President Mitch Daniels announced on September 29, 2021  that Purdue University has signed a memoranda of understanding to increase research and educational collaboration with the USSF. Ten other universities were also making commitments to work with the USSF.

The USSF/Purdue agreement raises at least three concerns:
First, the Purdue arrangement skews the university’s research agenda further in the direction of militarism. It is logical to assume that resources, research and production, related to the militarization of space take away funds that could be used to address issues of health, the environment, human rights and reducing the likelihood of war.

Currently Congress is engaged in a conflict over President Biden’s Build Back Better economic program that will serve the needs of the vast majority of Americans. Many of the same Congress people who oppose the $3.5 trillion ten-year program supported the largest military budget in US history. President Daniels has written often about the dangers of deficit spending. Ironically a long-term commitment to building a space force would parallel, if not exceed, expenditures for the fulfillment of human needs. 

Second, and President Daniels made this clear, the role of the university is being reconceptualized as an institution that serves United States “national security.” University administrators, ever since the onset of the Cold War in the 1940s, justified support for higher education in “national security” rather than educational terms.

Third, and perhaps most dangerous, the university/USSF connection is justified as a necessity because of the “Chinese threat.” In the dark days of the conflict with the Soviet Union trillions of dollars were wasted on both sides in military expenditures, wars were fought all around the globe, and on numerous occasions conflicts almost escalated into nuclear war. The “enemy” was the Soviet Union. Now it is China.

So the USSF and its memorandum of understanding with Purdue University, a new arm of the military and a major university, are collaborating in projects that may be wasteful and dangerous for the stability of the international system.
James Campbell: A Life To Remember


A tribute to James E. Campbell, a well-known and widely influential leader of the civil rights and socialist movements for the last seven decades. He worked as an actor, writer, and organizer, working with Jack O'Dell, Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz, Bayard Rustin, James Balwin, and many others. He served as an editor of Freedomways magazine and as national co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. He passed away earlier this year in Charleston, NC.

Order your copy today here.
Important Lessons from History
from Carl Davidsons Facebook page
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I'm going to start a series of posts featuring interesting items about us and our country. I'm not a historian like Howard Zinn or Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz or many others. I doubt I have a book in me anywhere near their standards. But I do have a pile of notes and ideas to share. We can just see where it goes. I'm especially inspired by Charles W Mills, the philosopher who just passed on. His 'Racial Contract' is a mindblower and eye-opener. It emancipates our minds in a major way.

So I want to start with the 'New World' or 'North America' before the European conquerors and settlers arrived. Right away, Mills would tell me even the names are wrong, since these are European names. It matters, because the continent wasn't a 'wilderness.' It was full of people and villages, from nomadic camps to major cities, some large and more modern than those in Europe. Agriculture was everywhere--corn, beans and squash--and the forests were managed, full of trails and roads No one is quite sure how many people were here, but 100 million is a number that pops up. Their social orders ranged from small equalitarian tribes to major feudal orders. One thing is certain: they were not 'savages,' 'wild' 'heathen' or any other nasty subaltern name those from Europe would give them. Truth be told, they were at least on a par, if not better in some ways.

So what did they call the continent? It depends. Some had names for parts of it, like 'Aztlan,' for what today is part of Mexico and the US Southwest. But more than one grouping used several terms, that roughly translate as 'Turtle Island.' That may seem odd, but if you get into the origin myths many had in common, it makes perfect sense, especially to them. So that's what I'll try to use, and even if I fall into 'the new world,' or 'the Americas,' I mean Turtle Island. Here's a map that might get you thinking about it in a way that's outside 'the racial contract'. Next we'll get into the 'Doctrine of Discovery.'

In movies, books and paintings, we've all absorbed the scene of Columbus, or John Cabot or another European ship captain with his armed thugs, sometimes with a priest, planting a flag or banner, and making a proclamation. In many cases, they had little idea about where they were--the northern buffer regions of Cathay? Japan? If they ran into the people who lived there, they didn't understand the languages, even as they read something aloud.

So what were they doing? It was a proclaiming of the 'Doctrine of Discovery' based on a set of three 'Bulls' issued by the Pope in Rome that made the land and peoples they were standing on now under the ownership and sovereignty of whatever kingdom who financed them. They only had to know two, maybe three, things. 1. The native peoples were heathen; 2. They were previously unknown in Europe; and 3. they were not part of a class-divided social order, subject to kings or princes of their own. Since the last one was hard to determine, it was often ignored.

What was the reason for this 'Doctrine?' In the early 1400s, the Islamic world was making it hard for the kingdoms of Christendom to trade with the far east via the Silk Road, the Red Sea and other routes. The pressure was on to find new trade routes. Henry the Navigator went to work for the Portuguese king, taking over the Canaries, working his way down the African coast, finding gold and ivory, and finally making it around the Cape into the Indian Ocean. Columbus, on the other hand, started claiming islands beyond the Azores for Spain. So Spain and Portugal clashed, and took it to the pope. To shorten the tale, his Holiness drew a line down the middle of the Atlantic--everything to the West was Spain's, to the east, Portugal's. That's why Brazil largely speaks Portuguese.

But what about the rest of the Kingdoms of Europe? Were they cut out? No, there was a loophole. They could claim lands 'unknown' to Portugal or Spain. An early rival was John Cabot, working for English merchants with some help from Henry the VII. His first trip failed to make it, but the second, around 1497, got him to what most think is Newfoundland. He got on the beach, planted the English banner, read his little speech, walked around for about 100 yards, found a vacated native campsite, then got back on the ship and headed home. He corresponded with Columbus, comparing notes, and correctly concluding that 'Turtle Island' was unknown to Columbus, so bingo, North America now belonged to the English king. Except John Cabot died somewhere on his third voyage, and the new king, Henry VIII, was too busy marrying and divorcing, and breaking with the Pope, to care that much about 'the new found lands.'

To our modern ears, the 'Doctrine' sounds weird and dead. Not so. It's not only embedded in ongoing international law; it's also, thanks to Thomas Jefferson and an 1820s Supreme Court ruling, part of our law. It was recently cited by none other than Ruth Bader Ginsberg in a ruling she made against the Oneida tribe of native peoples. But Charles Mills, in his 'Racial Contract,' makes the key point about the Papal Bulls. They marked the turning point where the Christendom of Europe became the motherland of 'superior' people noted for their white skin, and the rest of the planet had no rights they were bound to respect. Next: Europeans carve up Turtle Island
New Narrative #3:

The indigenous peoples along the North Atlantic were not unfamiliar with Europeans even before Columbus and John Cabot. These days we all know of the visits of the Norse and Leif Erikson, even their settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland around the year 1000, and more probable camps down to Massachusetts. But after a decade, the Norse retreated.

More regular but less known were the Basques, who frequently hunted whales and fished for cod. Again the Catholic church had a hand in it, forbidding the eating of meat every Friday and dozens of other holy days. Thus there was a hot market for fish of all sorts, especially for the upper crust. Whale meat and oil were also in high demand. A lot of this in earlier years was caught in European waters but they were being over-plundered.
The Basques, being excellent fishers, sailors and whale hunters, also kept their mouths shut, as best as they could, about the location of the new unplundered fishing waters west of Iceland, from Labrador and Newfoundland, all the way down to Massachusetts.

They had a settlement called 'Red Bay' in Canada near Newfoundland, used mainly for rendering whale blubber into oil and salting down the Cod for the return voyage.
Some Native peoples recall contact and trade with these fishermen, but none of it was extensive or permanent. They were most impressed with metal tools and colorful cloth, along with the size of the Basque 'canoes' and the beards on men. And as noted earlier, save for the English who fished with the Basques, the English Crown largely ignored the matter until the late 1500s.

So that leaves Spain as the principal early and deadly intruder into 'Turtle Island.'
As we know, Columbus landed in 1492, and he named the place 'San Salvador' in the Bahamas. What is less known is exactly which island it was. It's still debated. The people who lived there, the Taíno, (see graphic) called their home 'Guanahaní'.

In December 1492, Columbus also landed in Hispaniola, also home to the Taíno. He left about 30 men with the wreckage of the Santa Maria to form a colony, after seizing a dozen or so Taíno to take back to the King and Queen of Spain as slaves. Columbus had no scruples about brutality toward 'heathens'.

When Columbus returned to the 'colony' on his second voyage, he found it empty, save for a few dead bodies of his men. The story goes that while seizing women and gold jewelry, the men fell out among themselves. A Taíno chieftain, named Caonabo, gathered an insurgent force against the harsh treatment and wiped the Spaniards out. Later on, the Taínos themselves would face genocide, but from the very first years, we can see 'wherever there is oppression, there is resistance.' But let's not get too far ahead. Next is Spain enters 'Turtle Island' proper, the North American continent.

Columbus and a cohort of enslavers and settler-colonialists didn't come to the Caribbean for sightseeing. They wanted wealth, and lots of it, for themselves and the Spanish Court. Without much immediate gold or spices to be taken, Colmbus enslaved and sent back people. First, he sends a few dozens, then a batch of 400 or so, in horrific conditions on board the ships. While the Court at first accepted them as curiosities, Queen Isabella didn't like dealing in slaves herself, so she turned them out to be sold in the local markets.

Where she queried instead, were the spices, gold, and jewels? The Spaniards on Hispaniola noticed some natives with small leaves of gold worn as earrings. Where did it come from? High up in the mountains, in the streams. They took a party to show them, included how to dig a trough in the water, sift the mud, and eventually, a fleck or two of gold appeared. The native Tainos liked the stuff, but not anywhere near the madness that overtook the Spaniards.

Herein is the source of much evil and suffering. To condense the story, the native Tainos, by the thousands, were turned into a slave proletariat on hundreds of makeshift gold mines, squeezing a good deal of raw gold out of the hills. The human cost was significant. After a year in these conditions, the native workers, according to an observer at the time, were 'walking corpses.'

We're told the Indians died from epidemic diseases to which they had little resistance. True, but only a partial truth. They were first beaten in warfare, then reduced to slave conditions and deprivations, then worked nearly to death, and then, very weakened, succumbed to Europe's pathogens. So the disease theory of depopulation can often mask more than it reveals.

In any case, the Taino were dying in droves, and the Spaniards needed more slaves for digging gold and diving for pearls. They tried seizing a people called 'Caribs' on outlying islands, but they were too fierce. The tale was told that they sliced open their captives and ate their flesh. Whether true or not, it kept the Spaniards at bay. It also got back to the Queen, who was trying to write a law against slavery. She wanted the Indians to be her 'free vassals' and converted to Catholicism. But she allowed three exceptions: a native could be enslaved if 1. they were cannibals, 2. they were captured in a 'just war,' and 3. they were bought from other natives for whom they were already slaves.

Obviously, the exceptions became the rule, with one departure. Natives brought to Spain and able to get a decent lawyer-a number specialized in the field-might win their freedom. But not likely across the ocean.

The mainland was said to have many people for enslaving, so the pressure was on. The first to rise to the demands was Juan Ponce De Leon, who we all know as the guy who claimed Florida while searching for the 'Fountain of Youth.' The 'fountain' quest was all myth and hype. His real aim was to seize people, load them on his boats, and make them slaves on Hispaniola and other islands. He succeeded and returned to Spain to be made governor of Puerto Rico. Back in the West Indies, he invaded Florida again, but this time was seriously wounded in battle with the Calusa people. He managed to make it back to Cuba and died there, and was later buried in Puerto Rico. There were two more invasions, with vastly different outcomes. We'll get to them next time.

The mark left on the New World, or Turtle Island, by Hernan Cortez, left Ponce de Leon in the dust. Born a lesser noble with dim prospects, he headed to Hispaniola and then Cuba as a young man. Bogarting and elbowing his way upward, he received what was called an encomienda, a designated area of land with the command of all to non-Christian labor upon it. This was typical of all the nobility and many of the military who had migrated, and they put it to use to make their fortunes. Cortez used his allotment to work himself into a position to make a military invasion of what was the Aztec empire against the orders of Cuba's governor.

We all know the next part fairly well. Cortez impressed the first two native peoples with his horses and guns and thought they might use Cortez against the local rivals. So Cortez defeated one group after another, until he had gathered a considerable force, fought his way into Tenochtitlan, got Montezuma to agree to meet him, then put the Aztec ruler under house arrest. Cortez proceeded to take over the region and killed Montezuma along with his two chief underlings. This made Cortez head honcho, more or less, of what he called 'New Spain' with many subordinate states. But the Spanish king made Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar the governor of New Spain, with Cortez in a secondary position.

No matter. Cortez maneuvered his way back to the top. But what is interesting to us is how did, apart from looting Aztec royalty, Cortez and others like him make their money? The answer is silver, much more so than gold. Central Mexico had lots of it in the hills, in ore seams that reached the surface. Unlike gold, silver ore had to be treated and processed several times to leach out the silver. Moreover, the seams went downwards, requiring long shafts up to 600 feet.

This required a lot of labor. All was done by hand tools, wooden ladders, ropes, and headbands. It required a class of miners, made up of drafted Indians, enslaved Africans, and when they weren't enough of these, more Indians were recruited paid a wage. Cortez himself owned dozens of mines and hundreds more by other Spaniard settler-colonizers. Up to 5000 miners were forming the mixed slave and wage proletariat of New Spain. And as workers often do, they waged battles and strikes to improve their conditions. Sometimes they were killed and replaced. But since the work required some skill, sometimes they won a few actions. If you want to write our labor history, this is one good starting point.

The key point is there was constant pressure to find more slaves. This was made difficult because the successor to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the young King Charles II, and Marianna, his regent mother, were trying to outlaw slavery in the Caribbean and New Spain, to make new 'Catholic vassals' of the peoples. Only about 10% were actually freed. But excuses had to be concocted to enslave new peoples.

So next we find one Juan de Oñate y Salazar, a young conquistador of the late 1500s who married Cortez's granddaughter. He gathered up a small army and headed northward, to subdue a new area, the 'New Kingdom of León y Castilla,' later known as New Mexico in what is now the United States. In 1598, he crossed the Rio Grande and pressed on until he ran into a relatively large collection of Pueblos, the adobe city of the Acoma peoples. Oñate raids them for food and tries to capture slaves but meets resistance. It turned into a full-scale war, and the Acoma, only 500 left, surrendered. To punish any who won't be enslaved and work, he gathers dozens of young men and chops off one foot (some reports say he chopped off their toes).

Oñate took his troops far beyond Santa Fe, exploring and capturing native peoples into what is now Oklahoma and Texas. Eventually, news of his cruelties caught up with him, and in 1608, he went back to Mexico. But he's still remembered. When Hispanic New Mexicans recently tried to commemorate him with a statue, indigenous New Mexicans wanted it removed. Someone cut off one foot of the statue's horse where he was seated. Some memories stick around.

Some 80 years later, the Pueblo people's organized a general uprising and drove the Spaniards out for 12 years. Its leader was named Po'pay, and the revolt is often named after him. Today's New Mexicans have a statue of him in the U.S. Congress. More to come.

It's time to turn to other European powers, starting with France. We've established St Augustine, Florida, and Santa Fe, New Mexico as the first permanent European settlements in what is now the USAmerican part of 'Turtle Island' or North America.

Jacques Cartier is the explorer who gets the main credit for carving out 'New France' in 1534 for King Francis I. But we should also mention Giovanni da Verrazzano, who made the trip in 1527, also for Francis I. Verrazzano cruised the coast from Cape Fear in North Carolina up to Newfoundland, making a few stops to talk with the Lenape, Wampanoag, and Narragansett peoples before heading back. He was mainly looking for a route to China and thought it might be the Pamlico Sound in North Carolina.

Jacques Cartier efforts were more serious. He made three voyages, extensively taking stock of the entire region from Newfoundland to New England, but especially the St Lawrence River and Quebec, which the native peoples also called the area. At the bay into the St Lawrence, he also stopped and planted the proper French banners, erected a tall cross, and read the pompous speech claiming all the river's lands and lands of the minor rivers that flowed into it for the French King.

During his three voyages, Cartier largely ignored what would become the main wealth the French took out of the region, the fur trade. He was obsessed with two things: the route to China and ‘cities of gold' along the way. He was also likely impressed with the strength of the St. Lawrence Iroquoians. A subset of the Haudenosaunee, which translates into ‘People of the Long Houses,’ who held sway in much of what is now Eastern Canada and New York state.

Cartier’s ships were icebound for the winter months at one point in his second voyage, and his crew nearly died of scurvy. They were saved when the Iroquoians taught them to use the bark of the aneda evergreen tree to make a concoction with vitamin C.
With Cartier’s prodding, the Native people started telling him a tall rale about the ‘Kingdom of Saguenay’, a city to the north and west loaded with gold, diamonds, and ‘people who can fly.’ (It seems Native peoples throughout North America, whenever they wanted to get rid of explorers, told them stories of ‘cities of gold’ if they just kept going further to the northwest. The Europeans always seemed to fall for it.) Cartier had to show something for his efforts, so he kidnapped a number of Natives to take back to France, along with a batch of iron pyrite and quartz, supposed ‘gold and diamonds,’ but worthless.

Cartier can be credited with the first French settlement in North America, Fort Charlesbourg Royal near today’s Quebec City, in 1541. But it failed in two years, due to the resistance of the St. Lawrence Iroquoians.

The Native peoples around the St Lawrence had pretty much figured out what the French were up to with their cross and flag-planting ceremonies. They wanted no part of it, and at one point, amassed 1000 or more warriors on the river bank to greet the newcomers, giving them an idea of what they were up against. On the other hand, they were drawn to the goods offered from trade, especially colored cloth and anything made of metal. Later, weapons, gunpowder, horses, and alcohol became important. So they were willing to deal.

Thus the first permanent French port town was a trading post, Tadoussac, at the confluence of the Saguenay and Saint Lawrence rivers, in 1599. A naval officer, Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnetuit, and a merchant, François Gravé Du Pont, got the credit. This site remains today, mainly as a tourist attraction.

The major work of developing New France, however, fell to Samuel de Champlain, the nephew of Du Pont. Champlain founded the colony of Acadia, with the town of Port Royal, and today’s Quebec City. He explored the Great Lakes, and made extensive studies of the various indigenous people. It was his work that set the stage for what was a bit different about the French. They became more interested in extractivist colonialism than the settler variety. They wanted an ongoing subaltern relationship with the Indians as the source of furs, rather than extermination to grab land for massive immigration from France and elsewhere in Europe.

Champaign was governor of New France in all but name, but since he wasn’t a noble, Louis XIII never assigned it to him officially. But he carried out the work of setting up the fur trade in Quebec until he died in 1635. More to come.

It's time to bring England back into our story, or as it was called after 1707, Great Britain. As noted, John Cabot landed on Turtle Island back in 1497, but nothing much came of it.

When it came to empires as the 1600s began, England was a minor league team compared to the Spanish and the Portuguese. Their only big conquest back then was the Kingdom of Ireland, which became a client state in 1542. But England was an island nation, skilled at building boats and sailing the seas. And Queen Elizabeth was determined to expand her domains, especially at the expense of Spain.

Francis Drake became her chief instrument. Drake was the first of twelve sons born to a commoner, a religious-minded farmer, who became a clergyman attached to the Navy. Drake grew up working on ships, plying the trade between England and the European mainland. He soon got a small ship of his own, and set out on a more profitable career, robbing slaves and other booty from Spanish and Portuguese ships, and selling the goods at a tidy profit. He thus became a slave-trader and a pirate or, to use the polite term given to pirates who stole from the Queen’s rivals, a ‘privateer.’ The deal was the Queen got a 50% cut.

Drake and his various crews had quite a time in the Caribbean. They engaged what some have come to call ‘war capitalism,’ raiding ships and towns for the gold and silver the Spanish had stolen from the Native Empires or mined with slave and indigenous labor.

Sometimes they had so much loot it was too much for their ships, and then buried it on various hidden beaches, giving rise to many tales. (Elizabeth’s cut on one load was half as much as her entire income for the year from all other sources.) Drake raided towns on the Isthmus of Panama, since the stolen treasure from the Incas was brought overland there for reshipment to Spain. One story has Drake climbing a tall tree on a high hill so he could see the Pacific, spurring his desire to go beyond the Caribbean.

In 1577 the Queen sent Drake to make trouble with the Spaniards along the Pacific coast. So he followed Magellan's path and made his way down the coast of South America, around the Cape, then up the other side, raiding Spanish settlements in Chile, Peru, and Mexico. In need of supplies and a good harbor to repair his ship, the Golden Hind, he decided to skip Southern California and go further north. In 1579, he stopped in Coos Bay, Oregon, but finally settled on Point Reyes, just north of what is now the Bay Area. There he could turn his ship on its side and make repairs. He liked the place and met with a few of the Miwok people living there. He decided to claim it for the Queen, read his ‘discovery’ speech, nailed an inscribed brass plate to a tree, and called the area ‘New Albion.’ It didn't count for much since he left no settlers. The Brits still used it later for their arguments for possession of Oregon.

Drake made it to the Spice Islands in the East Indies, around Africa and back to his home port of Plymouth, England in 1580, loaded with spices and Spanish treasure. The Queen was quite pleased, and in April 1581, made him a knight, hence Sir Francis Drake. Now rather wealthy as well as a lesser noble, he settled into an estate, Buckland Abbey. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

The Queen wanted more than treasure. She wanted her own settled colonies in the New World. She pushed another of her courtiers, Sir Walter Raleigh, who got his cousin, Sir Richard Grenville and a partner, Sir Ralph Lane, to set one up on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, in 1585. She also sent Drake back to the Caribbean to make more raids, and on his way back, he attacked and burned the Spanish settlement of St Augustine in Florida, before making a final stop at Roanoke. Drake replenished the 100 or so colonists, but took most of them back to England. Signals were crossed with Grenville, who soon arrived with more colonists and supplies. John White was in charge of Roanoke, but he too returned to England for more supplies. White managed to return in 1590, but found the settlement deserted, save for the carving of ‘Croatoan’ on a tree, the name of a nearby island and Indian tribe. Hence the Queen’s first effort became the renowned ‘Lost Colony.’ But it was soon to be followed by Jamestown and Plymouth. More to come.

In 1607, three English ships-- the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery—made landfall in a country called Tsenacommacah. They picked a spot on a river, now called the James, that flowed into a bay, now called the Chesapeake.

Tsenacommacah was about 100 miles by one hundred miles areawise, and the home to six tightly united indigenous tribes, loosely aligned with about 30 more tribes. Collectively, they were called the Powhatan, and their chief leader also went by that name. (His given name was Wahunsenacawh). They numbered around 15,000 in 1607 and were a subset of eastern-Algonquian speakers.

They had been visited earlier by the Spaniards, who called them the ‘Ajacan.‘ The Spaniards staked out a claim for the Chesapeake area they called the ‘Province of Axacan,’ from 1560-70, but the Spanish effort failed to take root.

Coastal Native peoples left few records of what they thought about the Europeans on early encounters. One thing fairly common is their noting that the Europeans smelled very bad. The Native peoples were in the habit of bathing regularly, sometimes daily.

(The Europeans for some reason thought bathing ‘unhealthy’ and only did it two or three times a year). The Natives also found them rather ugly, with unruly facial hair and beards, with sickly wan skin. They were also puzzled by the seeming inability of some of them to work, while others had few skills about how to provide proper food for themselves.

No matter. They also had an upside view. They admired the ‘great canoes,’ one tribe even naming their builders ‘the wood-eating people’ for the amount of timber that went into a ship. They desired nearly everything made of European metal. Even teapots could be cut up for arrowheads. Brightly colored cloth and bead wares were also big pluses, as was alcohol. Guns and horses were awe-inspiring. Since all groupings of Native peoples had both friends and adversaries in other groups, the weapons, and the Europeans themselves, were often viewed as a ‘new tribe’ one might use in alliances against others.

From the English viewpoint, all of the Chesapeake area belonged to them, due to their 1606 Royal Charter for the Virginia Company. The peoples already living there were to be made royal subjects, removed or killed. The problem was the English only numbered 100 or so, and were on the verge of starvation much of the time. Captain John Smith had to put a gun to the head of the ‘gentlemen’ among them thinking work was beneath them, unless they worked at least six hours a day growing food. The ‘gentlemen’ assumed their main task was to stroll about gathering up gold and enslaving natives as servants. What food the settlers couldn't buy from the Natives, they simply stole. A few times, the Natives helped them out of pity.

In the early years of Jamestown, Powhattan could have readily wiped them out. Instead, he opted for an on-and-off-again war of accommodation, called the First English Powhattan war. He would fight in self-defense and punish the English for killing his people when they encroached on Native lands. But he wanted to keep them as a source of rare goods and as a potential ally. This is the context of the famous half-myth, half-truth story of Powhattan’s daughter or granddaughter, Pocahontas, taking pity on Capitan John Smith and later marriage to John Rolfe. Powhattan saw this as a linkage of two tribes and ended the state of war. At Rolfe’s instruction, Pocahontas converted to Christianity, changed her name to Rebecca, and moved to England, where she born him a son, Thomas Rolfe, in 1615. She died of disease and never returned to Virginia, but her son did.

John Rolfe’s main contribution, however, was the colony’s economy. Always near collapse since its main crop was a lousy version of tobacco, Rolfe stole some seeds of a premium, sweeter variety from Trinidad. It thrived in the Virginia soil and was quickly in high demand back in Europe. But growing it took some care, and hence there was a high demand for labor.

We’re now at 1619. Powhattan has died the year before, and an English privateer ship has arrived with ’20 and odd’ Angolans stolen from a Portuguese slave ship. The Angolans were purchased and put to work in the tobacco fields with the indentured servants. The next decades are fairly well known. With more slave and indentured labor, the tobacco economy boomed. Two more wars were fought with the Powhattan tribes (often including Jamestown alliances with other rival tribes) pushing them back from all the shore areas and fertile land. ‘War capitalism' was giving birth to more advanced and even more deadly versions. More to come.
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 

A Reader on Multiracial and Multinational Unity 

Edited by the CCDS
Socialist Education Project

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

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.

      Click here for the Table of contents

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