Campaigning for Democracy And Socialism
Stalemate in the Trenches as GOP Starts to Fracture
The cartoon to the right is a warning. The GOP is stalemated and reduced to demagogy in Congress. But it also has fascist forces waiting in reserve. Fortunately, some of them, like the Oathkeepers, are tangled up in court battles. Unfortunately, there are more where they came from. We still need to build deep and allied organizations with a capacity for self-defense. Hope for the best, and prepare for the worse.

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

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

Saturday Morning Coffee!

Started Sat Aug 13, then weekly going forward.

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

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

Meeting ID: 868 9706 5843

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Co-sponsors include: CCDS Socialist Education Project, Massachusetts Peace Action, Wisconsin Peace Action,“the Fund Health Care Not Warfare working group of Massachusetts Peace Action.” and the Online University of the Left.
Over 100 Starbucks Stores Go on Strike to Protest Company Union Busting

BY Sharon Zhang

Nov 17, 2022 Workers for more than 100 Starbucks locations nationwide are staging a strike on the company’s “Red Cup Day” on Thursday in protest of union-busting tactics that the company has relentlessly unleashed on pro-union workers.

The “Red Cup Rebellion,” as workers have dubbed it, will see more than 2,000 workers on strike, the union says, with 112 stores on strike in dozens of cities from coast to coast. It is the largest national action taken by Starbucks Workers United so far, as the union comes up on the first anniversary of its first stores voting to unionize.

“Red Cup Day” is usually one of the company’s most profitable days, when workers give customers Starbucks-branded reusable red holiday cups with certain purchases. Striking workers will instead give out red union-branded reusable cups to customers “in response to Starbucks’ union-busting tactics and refusal to bargain,” the union wrote. ...Read More

Staughton Lynd, Presente!

Legendary teacher and organizer dies at 92

By Sean Barron
The Youngstown Vindicator
NOV 18, 2022 - Staughton C. Lynd, a longtime attorney, professor, author and historian who also dedicated his life to fighting for civil rights, fair labor laws and peace, died Thursday morning at Trumbull Regional Medical Center in Warren. He was 92.

Originally from Philadelphia, Lynd practiced law in Youngstown, including for several years with Northeast Ohio Legal Services, during the turbulent years of the local steel industry’s demise in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He worked closely with a variety of forces that tried to keep the steel mills open and operating.

Along those lines, Lynd, who also was a Quaker, served as lead counsel for one of those forces: the Mahoning Valley Ecumenical Coalition, which sought to reopen the shuttered mills via a worker-community ownership. Even though the effort failed, Lynd and his wife, Alice, continued to organize workers in the Mahoning Valley.

In 1983, Staughton Lynd penned the book “The Fight Against Shutdowns: Youngstown’s Steel Mill Closings,” with assistance from his wife, who also is a longtime attorney and activist.

Before coming to the Valley, he had earned a doctorate degree in history from Columbia University, then accepted a teaching position at Spelman College, a private, historically black liberal-arts school in Atlanta, where he worked closely with Howard Zinn, a civil rights activist, playwright and philosopher who chaired the college’s social sciences and history departments.

Among his students at Spelman was Alice Walker, the author of the famous book-turned-movie “The Color Purple.”

In 1964, Lynd oversaw setting up Freedom Schools throughout Mississippi, which were the backbone of Freedom Summer, led by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Congress of Racial Equality, two major civil rights organizations that recruited hundreds of mostly white and young Northerners to come to the state to help blacks register to vote and receive a better education. He also worked with the late Bob Moses, an educator and activist who was the Freedom Summer’s main organizer.

Soon after, Lynd relocated his family to New England after taking a position at Yale University, where he became a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War via leading protests and hosting speaking engagements. He and a few others also embarked on a controversial fact-finding trip to Hanoi during the war.

In 1967, as another means to protest the growingly unpopular war, Lynd signed a letter stating his refusal to pay income taxes and encouraged others to follow suit.

About a year later, Lynd and his family moved to Chicago, where he initially struggled to make a living from organizing efforts, so he and his wife embarked on an oral history project called “Rank and File,” which focused on the plight of the working class.

The effort was a prelude for Staughton Lynd to study law to assist workers that companies had taken advantage of or were not protected by labor unions. As a result, he earned a degree in 1976 from the University of Chicago Law School.

In addition, Lynd was fiercely against the death penalty and spoke in opposition to the “prison industrial complex.”

Staughton and Alice Lynd studied many death-row cases, one of which was the 10-day riot at the Lucasville State Prison in 1993 that led to death sentences against five people authorities claimed had been responsible for 10 deaths in the uprising.

From Chicago, the couple and their children moved to Youngstown.

Lynd was well known and revered in the Valley for his activism on behalf of workers and others. Among those who praised his work was Penny Wells, a longtime activist and director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past.

“He was an avid pacifist, and very outspoken about getting rid of the death penalty,” she said. “He was a gentle spirit.”

Wells also fondly recalled often being among those who visited his Niles home, where Lynd held discussions in his basement on alternating Saturdays about topics that ranged from capital punishment to nonviolence.

In addition, Wells gave Lynd several photographs she found, one of which was from the civil rights museum in Jackson, Miss., that shows him in 1964 during the Freedom Summer project. ...Read More
Danny Feonte, Presente!

The Texas AFL-CIO was saddened at the weekend news that Danny Fetonte, an organizer’s organizer, has died after a long illness.

Brother Fetonte was best known for his work with the Texas State Employees Union/Communications Workers of America. None I have known were better at connecting with working people.

 Danny’s skill set combined a boundless passion for our movement and for social justice, a gift of gab, mastery of the details of what work is about, and, most importantly, an ability to convey the breadth and history of our movement in direct, simple terms. It is consoling to know that Fetonte lived to see what he battled for his whole career: a national resurgence in union organizing.

Fetonte was a proud Democratic Socialist, a proud environmentalist, and a major player in the 2016 Texas presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. ... It was the essence of Brother Fetonte that during his illness, and even after an arm amputation, he could be seen at labor and social justice events on a regular basis for as long as he was able to get in the mix. 

The Texas AFL-CIO extends our heartfelt condolences to the Fetonte family.

 Film-maker Anne Lewis posted a short clip of Danny in his element, discussing historic organizing he undertook in Nacogdoches in the late 1980s. It’s a great glimpse of the attention to detail and passion with which Danny went about his business:
Latest News
MAGA Stymied, But Stalemate Remains

By Max Elbaum

Nov 10, 2022 - Effective Left/progressive organizing helped block the “Red Wave.” This buys our movements a bit more time to build to the scale and unity we need to defeat the authoritarian Right.

A big proportion of the country’s anti-MAGA majority turned out November 8 and prevented the GOP from getting the “Red Wave” their leaders (and all too many liberals and progressives) expected.

Republicans may yet emerge with majorities in the House (likely) and Senate. But the overall results of races for Congress, governorships, secretaries of state, and ballot initiatives mark a setback for the GOP’s drive to capture complete control of the federal government. It is a political and morale boost for everyone left of center. The atmosphere has been changed.

An assessment of the landscape and the key tasks facing the social justice wing of the anti-MAGA front in the wake of this result yields the following key points.

This defeat for MAGA is not decisive enough to stop the backlash against the gains of the 1960s and the 1930s that has reached its fever pitch under Trump.

Despite not meeting its midterm targets, MAGA has maintained its firm grip on its 40% of the electorate. It won more than enough elections to continue its drive toward authoritarian rule via a “legal coup” in 2024.

The midterm results showed that almost half the electorate, largely young and largely people of color, understands and rejects MAGA appeals. But only continuing high turnout by the majority can stop the Republican juggernaut next time around. Progressives played a key role in galvanizing the record turnouts that led to major victories in 2018 and 2020 and fought MAGA to a stalemate this year. We will need to play an even bigger role in 2024 if we are to turn the corner on this long backlash phase of U.S. political history.

A leap forward in reach, strategic alignment, and practical coordination among different components of the progressive movement will be required not just to qualitatively expand our electoral capacity. It will be essential to effectively carry out the long-term deep organizing —electoral and non-electoral—that can push back authoritarianism and start a new progressive cycle in U.S. politics.

Backlash politics hits a peak—and then is stalemated

Today’s MAGA movement is simply the latest political incarnation of the backlash against the gains of the 1960s whose driving force was the Black-led Civil Rights Movement.

Nixon courted the white South, Reagan inaugurated neoliberalism, conservative operatives started planning their takeover the federal judiciary, and the Tea Party and birtherism made white nationalism the GOP’s center of gravity. Trump’s success at tapping that legacy and winning the 2016 election raised the prospect of an even more intense assault on the rights and living standards of peoples of color, women, workers, and all marginalized groups. The result was an upsurge of resistance in the streets and at the ballot box. The 2018 and 2020 elections saw unprecedented turnout with the House and Senate being retaken by Democrats and, in 2020, Trump losing his re-election bid. ...Read More
Republicans Take Over the House and Nancy Pelosi Takes a Bow: What Can We Expect from the Next Congress?

My conversation with Ro Khanna

By Robert Reich

Nancy Pelosi’s announcement yesterday that she’ll step down as the House Democrats’ top leader did not come as a surprise, but it does mark the end of an era. When the current lame-duck session expires, she will have been the Democrats’ leader for two decades — tying Sam Rayburn’s record for party leader longevity.

Pelosi held the Speakership during several of the most tumultuous eras in postwar America: the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency and the first two years of Barack Obama’s, and again during the last two years of Donald Trump’s presidency and the first two of Joe Biden’s.

I had the privilege of working with her, and although I didn’t agree with her on everything she did or refused to do (I was disappointed at her initial resistance to a bill that would bar House members from actively trading in stocks, for example), she will go down as one of the most effective and forward-looking Speakers in American history.

At a time when America came as close as we’ve ever come to losing our democracy, Pelosi effectively beat back Trump, refusing to bow to his demands. (One of her most memorable public moments was ripping up Trump’s vacuous and hateful 2020 State of the Union Address in front of millions of American viewers.)

She led two successful efforts to impeach him (although the Senate shamefully failed to convict). She organized the January 6 committee, making sure it was bipartisan yet without it containing any Republican election-denier.

In July 2009, Pelosi convinced Barack Obama to try for the Affordable Care Act (something he would not have done absent her forceful advocacy) and in 2010 she got it through Congress — one of the most significant progressive achievements of the past two decades.

Anyone seeking further evidence of Nancy Pelosi’s extraordinary reign need look no further than the anger she stirred up on the Republican side.

No other Speaker in living memory has been so reviled by the Republican right. None has had as many threats on her life (including the attackers on January 6 and, tragically, the person who recently invaded her home and attacked her husband). Yet through it all she remained steady, level-headed, and practical (confirmed by the behind-the-scenes footage of legislative leaders during the January 6 attack on the Capitol).

If the House ever builds a fourth office building (as it has talked about since 1975), the building should be named after her. (The three current House office buildings are named after former Republican Speakers Joseph Gurney Cannon and Nicholas Longworth, and former Democratic Speaker Sam Rayburn.) I kind of like the sound of the Pelosi House Office Building.

With Pelosi no longer leading House Democrats starting in the next session of Congress, and Republicans in control, what can we expect?

Earlier this week I spoke with Rep. Ro Khanna, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus. Ro was co-chair of Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign, and is one of the most thoughtful and articulate members of Congress (and already among those mentioned as possible Democratic candidates in 2024).

We spoke just before Republicans were declared to have taken back control of Congress, before Trump announced he was running again, and before Pelosi said she would no longer lead the Democrats, but our conversation assumed all these would occur.

We addressed several issues on the top of my mind (and probably yours):

— What’s next for Republican leadership in Congress? Will Kevin McCarthy be able to function as Speaker? What role will Mitch McConnell be playing?

— What can we realistically expect from the lame duck session?

— What can we expect from Congress over the next two years?

— Will Biden run again? Should he?

— Does Ron DeSantis have much of a future?

— Will Trump win the Republican nomination and how ugly will American politics get with Trump as the Republican nominee?

— What can and should all of us be doing to help get America back on track?

Please have a look. Click the video above. ...Read More
DEAL W/THE DEVIL: There’s No Happy Ending for the GOP and Donald Trump

The former president is a human political suicide pact from which the Republican Party cannot presently escape.

By Robert Schlesinger
The New Republic

Nov 16, 2022 - Don’t call it a comeback—because God help us, Donald Trump never left.

After 22 months of overstaying his national welcome, Trump officially invited himself back into our lives on Tuesday night with a decidedly low-energy presidential campaign declaration featuring his repellent mix of anger, lies, and grievance.

Trump’s weird act, which he spent the better part of the past week telegraphing, was all the stranger given the context surrounding his decision to suddenly jump into the waters of the 2024 presidential election cycle: The 2022 ballots haven’t even all been counted, and the Georgia Senate race is heading for a runoff, and yet here is Trump, threatening to disrupt the GOP’s chances in 2024 as well as some of its remaining 2022 hopes. The GOP’s vastly diminished midterm performance has the former president’s diminutive fingerprints all over it. This is presumably why, with a straight face, Trump characterized his involvement as an “unprecedented success.”

There aren’t many in the Republican fold who are eager to agree with that assessment. This was the third election running in which Trump did as much to hurt his ostensible party as help it. He primarily touched off a new round of alarms wailing on the right, adding a fresh, keening note of urgency to the latest dump-Trump boomlet—though it truly seems like this iteration is a bit more serious than all the other ones. Even Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is weighing in against Trump (again, anyway).

This is a familiar crossroads for the GOP: Is it time to break with the party’s standard-bearer? Once again, they have arrived back at this fork in the road based on some understandable instincts: Trump is palpably toxic; he is also extremely addictive. But there’s a critical question that the non-Trump GOP hasn’t been able to answer—or hasn’t had the courage to ask—since he started winning presidential primaries back in 2016: What’s the endgame? What’s the path to a viable but Trump-free GOP?

Spoiler alert: It doesn’t exist. This is a suicide mission.

Let’s walk through the possible scenarios, in roughly descending order of likelihood.

Let’s say Trump wins the nomination again. Since well before he even jumped into the 2016 presidential race, the right has entertained a fair amount of anti-Trump grousing. It periodically bubbles into the open when he does something insane like attacking gold star families (repeatedly) or, you know … sending an angry mob to attack the Capitol. Trump nevertheless endures, and it doesn’t take much time before party leaders are prostrating themselves once again.

Axios can cite sagging polls and call Trump an “underdog,” but Trump remains the presumptive front-runner unless and until Republican voters cast him down in actual primaries. Who wants to take that bet? Trump still connects with the GOP base, feeling their pain—and then amplifies and channels it. In this regard, he will have a head start on whatever presumptive primary field arises to try to wrest away the crown.

It’s true—despite his hoary “drain the swamp” verbiage Tuesday and ritual denunciation of “the Washington establishment [that] wants to silence us”—that Trump is no longer an outsider onto whom voters can project their hopes and, especially, fears. But Trump’s appeal was never rooted in policy. His was a presidency built atop mood and resentment and truculence. Building a border wall wasn’t about some tangible outcome of immigration policy, any more than “Lock her up” was about information security policy. This was vibes, all the way down.

Would a 2024 Trump nomination work out for the GOP? He won before and might again. It may be hard to imagine the country would want more Trump after eight unrelenting years, but 2020’s outcome was pretty close when you consider the apocalyptic incompetence Trump demonstrated during the pandemic. But win or lose, the party would only be more enmeshed with the Trump brand.

But what if Trump loses the nomination? Here’s where we can measure the precise sharpness of horns of the GOP’s dilemma. Does anyone believe that Donald Trump will be a gracious loser? That he’d bow out and support the nominee who bested him? This is a guy who denounced both the Republican primaries and general election 2016—both of which he won—as “rigged.” He has a consistent playbook to which he has stuck since well before he pointed a lynch mob at his own vice president. Trump will likely start the “rigged” drumbeat well before he loses the nomination.

It won’t end there. Part of Trump’s longevity stems from his connection with the GOP base (his political human shields). But it also derives from his psychopathic narcissism. Many of the rules of politics just don’t apply to Trump, because they rely on baseline levels of honesty, integrity, loyalty … hell, even shame—what he seems to view as sucker qualities. Ordinary politicians admit when they lose, express contrition when caught in a lie, and behave accordingly. Donald just keeps implacably Trumping along, spewing his mendacity and conspiracy theories. The crooked establishment is always somehow depriving him—and America!—of another glorious victory.

It’s impossible to envisage Trump losing a GOP presidential primary without also imagining that he would immediately either launch a third-party run or command his supporters to boycott the general election—or both. Given the polarized nature of the country, he probably wouldn’t need many voters to comply; just a few percent in some key states might doom Trump’s would-be successor. Would violence, perhaps at the 2024 GOP convention, be out of the question? This is a guy who riled up a mob and aimed it at his own vice president and then happily watched it rampage. And got away with it, because these same Republicans forgave it.

He was willing to sell the country out to retain his power—does anyone believe that he’d hesitate to sell out the GOP? No, this would be Trump as Khan at the end of Star Trek II, battered, burnt, bleeding—and vengeful: “You can’t get away. From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee! For hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee!” (The key differences would be that Trump wouldn’t quote Melville and the GOP wouldn’t be able to warp away to safety.) ...Read More
Digging Deeper into the Current Conjuncture:
Idaho Trump-Loving Megachurch Pastor Opposes a Woman’s Right to Vote
By Elizabeth Preza 

Nov 18, 2022 - Disciples of right-wing megachurch pastor Doug Wilson, a devoted Trumper with a booming media empire, knew who to blame for Republican midterm losses.


Especially college-educated women.

Wilson is known to most non-Trumpers for teaching that wives must obey husbands in all matters, including sex. His most famous aphorism is that God designed the male as the one who "penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.”

He counsels married couples that sex is "not an egalitarian pleasuring party" so women shouldn't expect to enjoy it as much as men. Wilson advises husbands to tell their wives how to vote.

In addition to being pastor of Christ Church in Idaho, Wilson launched a religious college and models for private schools and homeschoolers, is a popular speaker on the political/ religious revival circuit, and owns a book publishing house. It published his novel "Ride, Sally, Ride" about a Christian student so enraged by his neighbor's sexbot wife, he throws her into a recycling compactor, then faces murder charges.

Former Fuller Theological Seminary instructor Steve Rabey partners rounded up the reaction to the midterms from an array of Wilson's disciples for Roys Report, an online Christian newsletter.

Right Response Ministries, a frequent partner of Wilson's on YouTube shows and live events, tweeted after seeing a chart on TV showing that women, particularly college educated, are more likely to vote for Democrats.

The ministry tweeted: "Takeaways: 1) Yes, women are more easily deceived than men. 2) Yes, the majority of universities are merely institutions for deception. 3) Yes, the 19th Amendment was a bad idea."

Bnonn Tennant, co-author of It’s Good To Be A Man published through Wilson’s Canon Press, battled women on Facebook after calling women's suffrage a "rebellion" against God. He continued, “Voting is an act of rulership. Since rulership is not given to women, women should not vote."

Tennant added that in a modern society where “women are allowed/expected to vote, it is prudent for a husband and wife to discuss how to vote, so they can double the impact of their household vote.” Another one of Wilson's authors, Stephen Wolfe (The Case for Christian Nationalism) published, tweeted that he believes only heads of households should vote so a widow supporting children might be allowed to vote.

Wilson and his male followers are not cultural oddities. They are part of the theonomist movement, which advocates America being ruled by divine law rather than the Constitution. They favor embracing Old Testament rules and regulations.

In September, Wilson told Meet the Press he aimed for a spiritual takeover of his town, Moscow, Idaho, that would exemplify the ideal of laws imposed by God, not the government.

Tragically, the pretty university town has been in national headlines this week because four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death in their off-campus home. As of Friday, police said they had no suspects.

Wilson's Christ Church claims a membership of at least 800 in person and far more online. That is impressive, given Moscow's population of only 25,800. But Wilson seems as controversial there as he is popular. In August, one of his former deacons pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography. There are two websites for people who have fled Christ Church, both are anonymous to protect the users' identities from Wilson's followers.

And Wilson's candidly combative tone makes many non-members uneasy. The logo of his New Saint Andrews College says: "Swords and Shovels. Build. Fight." On Wednesday, in his blog, he attacks the FBI for infiltrating the Proud Boys at the Capitol on January 6.

"The top echelons of the FBI have done their level best to fulfill their self-appointed role of becoming partisan hacks, obtaining Russian hoax warrants under pretenses known by them to be false—managing thereby to attain an astounding level of corruption—and all without anybody associated with these monkeyshines ever having to spend any time in the Big House," Wilson wrote. "We now know that the top law enforcement agency in the United States is itself lawless." ...Read More
How Democrats Can Build a John Fetterman 2.0

One lesson is that he showed up, repeatedly, in places that Democrats rarely visited. He began during his run for Senate in 2016, when he lost in the primary. After he was elected lieutenant governor in 2018, he traveled the state constantly.

By Michael Sokolove  
New York Times vis Portside

Nov 17, 2022  - When John Fetterman announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate early in 2021, he vowed to compete everywhere, including areas of Pennsylvania that “feel left behind” and not “part of the conversation.” His campaign mantra was, “Every county, every vote.”

To many political professionals, this sounded like a promise that would give way to the unforgiving arithmetic of a statewide campaign. Rural voters in Pennsylvania, as elsewhere in America, have been increasingly beyond the reach of Democrats. So why bother when you can just mine the deep trove of Democratic votes in the cities and close-in suburbs?

But Mr. Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor and an unconventional politician in almost every way, did not waver. And the results showed that he had substantially cut into the huge margins that Donald Trump ran up in Pennsylvania’s deep-red communities in defeating Hillary Clinton in 2016 — and again four years later in losing the state, just barely, to Joe Biden.

Mr. Biden won Pennsylvania by a razor-thin 1.2 percentage points. Mr. Fetterman’s margin over Mehmet Oz was over four percentage points — a comfortable quarter million votes. He outpaced Mr. Biden and Mrs. Clinton in some of the metropolitan areas, most notably Pittsburgh and its suburbs — but much of the difference was in the votes from across a landscape of small towns and rural communities.

Mr. Fetterman’s victory represented the only Senate seat that either Democrats or Republicans flipped last week. Exactly how Mr. Fetterman was able to beat Dr. Oz — in a swing state and even after suffering a near-fatal stroke that kept him off the campaign trail for weeks — is worthy of close study by Democrats. Voters’ willingness to send a still-recovering candidate to Washington implies a strong emotional investment in Mr. Fetterman.

No candidate can be replicated, and that is especially true of Mr. Fetterman. He is 6-foot-8 with a shaved head, multiple tattoos and a sartorial style that leans to hipster rustic. There are not a lot of other inked-up giants Democrats can put up for office — but Democrats can take these lessons from his winning campaign.

One lesson from Mr. Fetterman is that he showed up, repeatedly, in places that Democrats rarely visited. He began during his run for Senate in 2016, when he lost in the primary. After he was elected lieutenant governor in 2018, a job with few official duties, he traveled the state constantly.

“He has physically spent more time in rural Pennsylvania than any candidate I’ve ever seen,” Jeff Eggleston, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Rural Caucus, told me. “He got to know people. He spent time in our backyards. He made real, meaningful relationships, so people were willing to make a huge sacrifice in order to get him over the finish line.”

Mr. Eggleston is from Warren County, in the far northwest corner of Pennsylvania. If you looked at the results of last week’s Senate race in only that county — 63 percent for Dr. Oz to 34 percent for Mr. Fetterman — you might think it was a bad night for the Democrat. But Mr. Trump twice won the county with nearly 70 percent of the vote. The same pattern repeated in rural areas across the state and, in combination with a solid performance with Democratic voters in the cities and close-in suburbs, allowed Mr. Fetterman to claim victory.

Mr. Fetterman’s style and appearance are the first things that set him apart. Neil Oxman, a Philadelphia consultant who has run more than a dozen statewide races, including those of the two-term governor Ed Rendell, said that “you can’t discount the look” — his signature outfit is a Carhartt hoodie and cargo shorts. Mr. Oxman noted: “It’s an entry. He can talk to blue-collar people in a way that other Democrats have been failing at.”

Another lesson in Mr. Fetterman’s success is that the issues that animate him have stayed consistent. They amount to an idiosyncratic basket of concerns that, critically, do not come off as poll-driven. As lieutenant governor, he headed the Board of Pardons and strongly advocated granting clemency to inmates who had served long terms and posed no threat. Dr. Oz spent millions on TV ads hammering him as lenient on crime, but Mr. Fetterman did not back down on the issue. ...Read More
Citing George Orwell's 1984, Judge Blocks 'Positively Dystopian' Censorship Law Backed by Florida's DeSantis

The federal judge lambasted Florida officials' argument that "professors enjoy 'academic freedom' so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the state approves."

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

Nov 17, 2022 - In an order that begins by quoting the famous opening line of George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, a federal judge on Thursday blocked key provisions of a Florida censorship law that aimed to restrict how state university professors teach race, gender, and U.S. history.

"'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,' and the powers in charge of Florida's public university system have declared the state has unfettered authority to muzzle its professors in the name of 'freedom,'" Judge Mark Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, an Obama appointee, wrote in his scathing decision, which temporarily halts enforcement of parts of the law championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis—a possible 2024 presidential candidate.

"To confront certain viewpoints that offend the powers that be, the state of Florida passed the so-called 'Stop WOKE Act in 2022—redubbed (in line with the state's doublespeak) the 'Individual Freedom Act,'" Walker continued. "The law officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints. Defendants argue that, under this act, professors enjoy 'academic freedom' so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves. This is positively dystopian."

The Thursday decision, which concludes that the GOP law violates the First Amendment rights of public university faculty and students, marks the second time Walker has ruled against the "Stop WOKE Act" in recent months. In August, the judge blocked the part of the law pertaining to private businesses.

Adriana Novoa, a University of South Florida history professor and a plaintiff in the case, said in a statement that Walker's Thursday ruling is a win "for the institutions of this country."

"I hope that the courts will defend the existence of a public education that cannot be manipulated by politicians to push any ideology, now and in the future," Novoa added.

Part of a recent wave of censorship laws advanced by Republicans in Florida and across the U.S., the "Stop WOKE Act" was billed as an attempt to "give businesses, employees, children, and families tools to fight back against woke indoctrination."

But civil liberties groups and other critics of the law have argued it is both unjustifiable and exceedingly vague in its mandates, creating a chilling effect on educators as they attempt to teach their classes under the threat of state retaliation. 

Emily Anderson, an assistant professor of International Relations and Intercultural Education at Florida International University, told the Miami Herald in August that "these policies have really led to increased efforts to silence and surveil academic speech."

"Academic speech matters, because it's a fundamental freedom that is really how our university system is grounded," said Anderson. "When we have policies that threaten speech, in my view, it shadows threats to all other protected rights."

In his ruling, Walker points to the eight specific concepts outlawed that are under the measure, including the notion that "such virtues as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race, color, national origin, or sex to oppress members of another race, color, national origin, or sex."

"Despite [Florida officials'] insistence that the professor plaintiffs' proposed viewpoints must serve as a mirror image for each prohibited viewpoint, the proposed speech needs only to arguably run afoul of the prohibition," Walker wrote.

Adam Steinbaugh, an attorney with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE)—which sued Florida officials over the censorship law—said that "faculty members are hired to offer opinions from their academic expertise—not toe the party line."

"Florida's argument that faculty members have no First Amendment rights would have imperiled faculty members across the political spectrum," said Steinbaugh.

Emerson Sykes, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said in a statement that Walker's ruling "is a huge victory for everyone who values academic freedom and recognizes the value of inclusive education."

"The First Amendment broadly protects our right to share information and ideas, and this includes educators' and students' right to learn, discuss, and debate systemic racism and sexism," Sykes added. ...Read More
A Forgotten Colony in the Sahara

Morocco controls 80 percent of Western Sahara. In the other 20 percent, the Polisario Front governs the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, a state battling for recognition.

LA Progressive

NOV 16, 2022 - Since 1975, thousands of Sahrawi people have lived in five refugee camps in the Algerian Sahara. They named these camps after cities in Western Sahara: Ausserd, Boujdour, Dakhla, Laayoune, and Smara. In a straight line, Smara the camp is some 400 kilometers from Smara the city. 

But a sand berm, built in the 1980s by Morocco, makes the distance unassailable. At 2,700 kilometers, the berm is the second-longest military fortification in the world, after the Great Wall of China. Reinforced with ditches and barbed wire fences, artillery and tanks, guarded outposts, and millions of land mines, the sand berm partitions Western Sahara—separating 80 percent of Western Sahara controlled by Morocco from the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic—which is recognized by the United Nations as the last “non-self-governing territory” in Africa. 

In 1991, MINURSO, the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, announced a plebiscite that would give the Sahrawi people a choice: independence or integration with Morocco. In April 1991, the Sahrawi people packed their belongings in boxes, choosing the former.

A Long History

Seeking access to Western Sahara’s rich coastline, Spain first seized the territory after European colonizers partitioned Africa at the West African Conference of Berlin that took place from November 1884 to February 1885. By the 1970s, facing resistance from the Sahrawi people and increasing internal pressures, the regime of Francisco Franco in Spain agreed to hold a referendum on independence, which never took place. Spain eventually pulled out from Western Sahara. 

Meanwhile, to the south and the north, Mauritania and Morocco had set their sights on Western Sahara’s resources. In November 1975, despite a judgment from the International Court of Justice that neither Mauritania nor Morocco had territorial sovereignty over the land, Morocco sent 25,000 troops and 350,000 settlers to Western Sahara. On November 14, Spain signed the tripartite Madrid Accords with Morocco and Mauritania, effectively ceding Western Sahara to its invaders.

The Polisario Front, a national liberation movement formed in 1973 to oppose Spanish colonialism, now fought on two fronts. Supported by Algeria, it defeated the Mauritanians in 1978. But Morocco retained its control over Western Sahara—with significant backing from Western powers, including the United States and members of NATO. At the Museum of Resistance in the camps, the Polisario keeps weapons of war captured during its struggle—tanks, airplanes, artillery, and armored vehicles from Austria, Germany, France, Spain, the U.S., Belgium, and apartheid South Africa.

Morocco controls 80 percent of Western Sahara. In the other 20 percent, the Polisario Front governs the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, a state battling for recognition. Armed conflict continued until Morocco and the Polisario agreed to a ceasefire in September 1991 overseen by MINURSO. 

“I was just coming back from Syria, a young graduate, having lived my entire life within this liberation process,” Oubi Bachir, a diplomat for the Polisario Front, told me. “I discovered not just hope, but jubilation. Finally, we were going home.” 

The Sahrawi people packed boxes to take their belongings back to Western Sahara. But as the boxes gathered dust, jubilation turned to frustration. The independence referendum has failed to take place—and the possibilities for armed struggle only reemerged when Morocco broke the ceasefire in 2020. 

The Sahrawi liberation movement, Bachir said, was “built on the armed struggle as the dominating pillar of action. That was taken away with no practical process in its place.”

Imperialism in Western Sahara

Western Sahara is a rich land. It has some 72 percent of the world’s phosphate deposits, which are used to manufacture fertilizers. By the end of November 2021, Morocco reported revenues of $6.45 billion from phosphates, an amount that increases each year. Western Sahara’s fishing grounds accounted for 77.65 percent of Moroccan catches in 2018, representing the majority of its income from fishing that year. The European Union, too, operates a fleet in these waters. 

In 2018, a judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU struck down the 2000 Euro-Mediterranean Agreement between Morocco and the EU as “incompatible with the principles of self-determination.” But the EU continues to act in violation of the judgment, funding highly destructive fishing practices in the occupied territory. Scientists warn that overfishing in Western Sahara is rapidly destroying a critical biodiversity hotspot.

Morocco and its international backers have their sights on two other resources abundant in the territory: wind and sunlight. In 2018, using German technology, the UK firm Windhoist built the 200 MW Aftissat wind farm in Western Sahara. Vigeo Eiris, a UK-French company that has been “investigating companies operating in occupied Palestine,” certified Moroccan energy investments on Sahrawi land. General Electric signed a contract to build a 200 MW wind farm in Western Sahara. 

Greenwashing its occupation in Western Sahara, Morocco uses the infrastructure in reporting toward its climate targets. Western Sahara Resource Watch estimates that the wind power plants in the territory could account for 47.2 percent of Morocco’s wind capacity and up to 32.64 percent of its solar capacity by 2030.

The People Bloom

“We call this the desert within the desert,” Mohamed El Mamun, a Polisario Front representative, told me on a drive between two camps. The sand is so salty, the water so scarce, that few things can grow. 

Yet in the five decades since the five camps have existed, the Sahrawi people have made great strides toward building a dignified society in them. They eliminated illiteracy. They built universal education and the infrastructure to extract and distribute water to the people. Mass movements ensure the participation of women, workers, and the youth in the project of liberation. Health care is free, and a small experiment in aquaponic farming promises to grow food in one of the most arid places on Earth.

The camps depend almost entirely on foreign aid, a resource that is rapidly depleting. As of November 10, 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Algeria mission, a key source of humanitarian assistance to the Sahrawis, was only 39 percent funded. The UN has warned that the Russian-Ukrainian conflict risks further eroding that support. Here, socialist internationalism plays an important role. In the Smara camp, Venezuela and Cuba built a school. 

The Simón Bolívar School is staffed by Cuban teachers. More than 100 Sahrawis have graduated from the school since it opened in 2011. Some of the alumni went on to study in Cuba, returning as doctors, engineers, and teachers. 

Nearby, a man who calls himself Castro established the Center for Education and Integration, which prepares children with severe disabilities to live a dignified life. Above its entrance, a sign reads: “Neither plants nor trees grow here, but people bloom.”

This article was produced by Globetrotter. ...Read More
Karen Bass Elected Mayor, Becoming First Woman To Lead L.A.

HE HAD MONEY, WE HAD PEOPLE: Bass overcame her challenger, Rick Caruso, and his enormous financial advantage. He spent more than $100 million of his own money.

By Julia Wickstaff 
Los Angeles Times

NOV. 17, 2022 - Rep. Karen Bass has defeated businessman Rick Caruso in the Los Angeles mayor’s race, according to an Associated Press projection Wednesday, making her the first woman and second Black Angeleno elected to lead the city in its 241-year history.

The 69-year-old congresswoman achieved victory despite Caruso spending more than $100 million of his own fortune on his mayoral bid, shattering local spending records and pumping previously unprecedented sums into field outreach and TV advertising.

“The people of Los Angeles have sent a clear message: it is time for change and it is time for urgency,” Bass said in a Wednesday evening statement. She learned of the news while in her Los Angeles congressional office, according to the campaign.

Her message to the city, she said, was a pledge to “solve homelessness,” “prevent and respond urgently to crime” and make Los Angeles affordable for working families.

Caruso, 63, outspent Bass more than 11 to 1 but was ultimately unable to prevail as a former Republican in a sapphire-blue California city.

Preliminary results seesawed on election night, but by early the next morning Caruso had eked out a thin lead, buoyed by support from voters who marked ballots in person. Vote-by-mail ballots processed after election day strongly favored Bass, and her margin in the race steadily grew. As of Wednesday, she was leading by just over six points.

“I’m proud of the work we did to engage long-neglected communities, giving a voice to the unheard, and to the light we shined on the biggest challenges facing our great city,” Caruso said in a concession statement. “There will be more to come from the movement we built, but for now, as a city we need to unite around Mayor-elect Bass and give her the support she needs to tackle the many issues we face. Congratulations, Karen, and God-speed.”

Caruso called Bass to concede on Wednesday evening, according to both campaigns.

Bass’ path to City Hall had begun to seem like a foregone conclusion in recent days, though more than a hundred thousand votes likely still remain to be counted. The L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office is expected to certify the results on Dec. 5.

Born in South L.A., raised in the Venice-Fairfax area and now a longtime resident of Baldwin Hills, Bass has spent her life deeply rooted in Los Angeles. Her social justice ideals have taken her from a county emergency room to nonprofit leadership and, ultimately, the halls of power in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

Her commute will grow far shorter on Dec. 12, when she is sworn in to succeed Eric Garcetti as Los Angeles’ 43rd mayor.

“This moment is tremendously historic for two reasons,” said USC political science and international relations department chair Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, citing Bass’ win, along with a broader transformation in local political leadership.

Five years ago, there were two women on Los Angeles City Council and none held citywide office. By the end of 2022, at least five women will be seated on the council and two will hold citywide office — Bass and incoming City Atty. Hydee Feldstein Soto. At the county level, women now hold all five seats on the powerful Board of Supervisors, which historically had been overwhelmingly male.

“Los Angeles is really experiencing what I would call a moment in women’s leadership in history,” Hancock Alfaro said.

Bass will take control of a city marred by corruption scandals, with a spiraling homelessness crisis and profound inequities deepened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Confidence in local government is seemingly at a nadir after a series of City Hall indictments in recent years, and the release of a leaked audio recording less than a month before the election that revealed top officials making racist comments and scheming to maintain political power.

In the days before the election, Bass said her first priority upon taking office would be to declare a state of emergency on homelessness and work to get people housed in a city where as many as 41,000 people sleep in tents, RVs and other makeshift housing.

The city’s first competitive mayoral race in nearly a decade was a story of contrasts, with two candidates who symbolized divergent visions of the city.

Bass, a Black woman, has spent decades in public service, evolving from an activist organizer to pragmatic elected official as she fought for incremental gains in underserved L.A. communities.

The former Assembly speaker and six-term member of Congress has a reputation as a decidedly low-key politician known for her skills as a coalition-builder.

Caruso, a white man, built a real estate empire on spectacle and spectacular attention to detail, creating highly controlled private spaces like the Grove shopping center that evoke an idealized version of urban life.

His high-sheen candidacy — which largely focused on his easily digestible pledge to “clean up L.A.” — painted the former Police Commission president as a political outsider with the business chops to succeed where longtime politicians had failed.

Ultimately, however, it was the candidates’ disparate political histories that became the defining divide of the race.

Bass, a lifelong Democrat, built up a virtual wall of support from the Democratic establishment in the general election. Those lockstep endorsements from Democratic elected officials and clubs helped buttress Bass’ frequent contention that she was “the only Democrat” in the race to lead an overwhelmingly blue city.

The real estate developer registered as a Democrat for the first time in late January, less than three weeks before he declared his candidacy. Party history weighed less heavily during the early months of a primary defined by voter frustrations around homelessness and crime.

But Caruso’s Republican past became an inescapable albatross in the summer and fall.

This race — the first modern L.A. mayoral election to be held in an even year, synced up with state and federal elections — advanced amid an encroaching backdrop of hyper-partisan national politics.

The rancorous battle for control of Congress was never far from view, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade two weeks after the June primary made abortion rights an unlikely but potent campaign issue. Caruso loudly touted his support for abortion rights throughout the race, but his past donations to antiabortion politicians and murky history on the issue lent Bass a formidable line of attack.nd-largest city. ...Read More
New Journals and Books for Radical Education...
Dialogue & Initiative 2022

Contested Terrains:
Elections, War
& Peace, Labor

Edited by CCDS D&I
Editorial Group

A project of the CCDS Socialist Education Project

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

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

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

By Liberation Road

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

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

Copies are available for $10 plus shipping at Changemaker.

Revolutionary Youth and the
New Working Class

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

Edited by Carl Davidson

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

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

$20 paper, $3 as an e-book at Changemaker
NOT TO BE MISSED: Short Links To Longer Reads...
Photo: Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy (photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

GOP In Massive Turmoil — And It's Delicious: Can Mitch And Kevin Survive?

Maybe Republicans are finally over Trump! Ha ha, just kidding — but one way or another, they're eating themselves

By Heather Digby Parton

NOV 14, 2022 - I've seen some circular firing squads in my time observing politics, but never anything like what is going on in the Republican Party right now.

Usually it's the Democrats ripping each other apart over an election loss, running around in circles casting blame, rushing to avoid responsibility and otherwise making everything worse.

But they look like rank amateurs compared to the GOP, which is in the throes of the angriest political tantrum I've ever seen. I must confess to a full-blown case of schadenfreude over it. 

The unexpected run of Democratic victories — they've already held the Senate, will come within a whisker of holding the House and have won a bunch of state-level races too — has shaken the foundations of both MAGA World and what used to be known as the Republican "establishment," although the difference between the two is not readily discernible these days. It's only in times of Trump scandal or electoral catastrophe that we can still glimpse some daylight between them. There's generally a round of hand-wringing and public disavowal from some of their important thought leaders and elected officials until they get word from the base that Donald Trump is still their daddy and they fall back into line.

It would be amazingly dumb for GOP to impeach Biden — so sure, go for it
I'm sure you remember the last time this happened, after the Jan. 6 insurrection when Trump incited his rabid followers to storm the Capitol, with the apparent goal of literally hanging the vice president. Why, for a few days many Republicans were very upset! Even a loyal Trump lackey like South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham said, "Count me out, enough is enough," and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy declared that "the president bears responsibility" for what happened.

There were resignations from the Cabinet and angry denunciations by dozens of Republicans who had happily gone along with Trump's Big Lie up to that point.

Then they got yelled at in airports by their MAGA constituents and suddenly a violent assault on their own workplace didn't seem like such a big deal after all:

McCarthy went down to Mar-a-Lago to mend fences and kiss the ring. (No word on whether he brought some of those red Starburst candies Trump loves so much.) Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell resigned himself to Trump once again — even though he had just lost the Senate majority, thanks to those Georgia runoffs a day before Jan. 6 — and everything fell back into place. Trump was the undisputed head of the Republican Party, having cemented his leadership by attempting to stage a coup and getting away with it.

Remember the good old days after Jan. 6, when Republicans like Lindsey Graham said, "Count me out, enough is enough"? Then they got yelled at in airports and suddenly decided insurrection was no big deal.

The assumption going into these midterm election was that the party holding the White House would get routed, for all the reasons everyone has already discussed ad nauseam. But it didn't turn out that way. As I and many others have pointed out along the way, Donald Trump is the gift that keeps on giving — to Democrats.

If Trump had kept his mouth shut and stayed out of the Republican primaries, as Senate Republicans wanted him to, it's entirely likely they would have done better. But then again, their own cowardice and opportunism are as much to blame as he is. They had the chance to make sure that Trump would never run again by convicting him in the second impeachment trial and they whiffed. They're still stuck with him, and the results are as bad as they have been in every major election since 2016. ...Read More
Photo: Oleksandr Ratushniak / UNDP Ukraine • Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Reed/Inhofe Amendment Opens Floodgates for War Profiteers

If the Reed/Inhofe amendment is really aimed at replenishing the Pentagon’s supplies, then why do the quantities in its wish list vastly surpass those sent to Ukraine?

By Medea Benjamin
And Nicolas Davies
LA Progressive

NOV 14, 2022 - If the powerful leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senators Jack Reed (D) and Jim Inhofe (R), have their way, Congress will soon invoke wartime emergency powers to build up even greater stockpiles of Pentagon weapons.

The amendment is supposedly designed to facilitate replenishing the weapons the United States has sent to Ukraine, but a look at the wish list contemplated in this amendment reveals a different story.

Reed and Inhofe’s idea is to tuck their wartime amendment into the FY2023 National Defense Appropriation Act (NDAA) that will be passed during the lame duck session before the end of the year. The amendment sailed through the Armed Services Committee in mid-October and, if it becomes law, the Department of Defense will be allowed to lock in multi-year contracts and award non-competitive contracts to arms manufacturers for Ukraine-related weapons.

If the Reed/Inhofe amendment is really aimed at replenishing the Pentagon’s supplies, then why do the quantities in its wish list vastly surpass those sent to Ukraine?

Let’s do the comparison:

The current star of U.S. military aid to Ukraine is Lockheed Martin’s HIMARS rocket system, the same weapon U.S. Marines used to help reduce much of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to rubble in 2017. The U.S. has only sent 38 HIMARS systems to Ukraine, but Senators Reed and Inhofe plan to “reorder” 700 of them, with 100,000 rockets, which could cost up to $4 billion.
Another artillery weapon provided to Ukraine is the M777 155 mm howitzer. To “replace” the 142 M777s sent to Ukraine, the senators plan to order 1,000 of them, at an estimated cost of $3.7 billion, from BAE Systems.

HIMARS launchers can also fire Lockheed Martin’s long-range (up to 190 miles) MGM-140 ATACMS missiles, which the U.S. has not sent to Ukraine. In fact the U.S. has only ever fired 560 of them, mostly at Iraq in 2003. The even longer-range “Precision Strike Missile,” formerly prohibited under the INF Treaty renounced by Trump, will start replacing the ATACMS in 2023, yet the Reed-Inhofe Amendment would buy 6,000 ATACMS, 10 times more than the U.S. has ever used, at an estimated cost of $600 million.
Reed and Inhofe plan to buy 20,000 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from Raytheon. But Congress already spent $340 million for 2,800 Stingers to replace the 1,400 sent to Ukraine. Reed and Inhofe’s amendment will “re-replenish” the Pentagon’s stocks 14 times over, which could cost $2.4 billion.
The United States has supplied Ukraine with only two Harpoon anti-ship missile systems - already a provocative escalation - but the amendment includes 1,000 Boeing Harpoon missiles (at about $1.4 billion) and 800 newer Kongsberg Naval Strike Missiles (about $1.8 billion), the Pentagon’s replacement for the Harpoon.

The Patriot air defense system is another weapon the U.S. has not sent to Ukraine, because each system can cost a billion dollars and the basic training course for technicians to maintain and repair it takes more than a year to complete. And yet the Inhofe-Reed wish list includes 10,000 Patriot missiles, plus launchers, which could add up to $30 billion.

ATACMS, Harpoons and Stingers are all weapons the Pentagon was already phasing out, so why spend billions of dollars to buy thousands of them now? What is this really all about? Is this amendment a particularly egregious example of war profiteering by the military-industrial-Congressional complex? Or is the United States really preparing to fight a major ground war against Russia?

Our best judgment is that both are true. ...Read More
Kevin Johnson Speaks From Death Row About His Impending Execution This Month

A bald man with glasses and a well-manicured, short-cut beard and goatee sits in a white room with a bricked interior. 37-year-old Kevin Johnson faces the death penalty in the state of Missouri.

BY Kalonji Changa
& Joy James 

Nov 16, 2022 - The United States promotes itself as being the “leader of the free world.” Yet, its legal apparatus and carceral systems have built a bloodthirsty, parasitical machine obsessed with domination, captivity and torture — under the guise of justice.

This country considers itself “civilized,” yet the death penalty is legal in 27 states.

Like Nazi euthanasia programs that executed prisoners deemed “unworthy of life,” the contemporary U.S. makes similar determinations with varied means across states, including lethal injections, the electric chair and firing squads (the last firing squad execution was that of Ronnie Lee Gardner in Utah in 2010).

The state of Missouri plans to execute Kevin “KJ” Johnson, a 37-year-old father and grandfather, on November 29 for shooting and killing police officer William McEntee in 2005. At the time, Johnson was 19 years old and in psychological distress after watching his 12-year-old brother collapse, and die, during a police house search.

Johnson grew up under impoverished and traumatic conditions of child neglect and child abuse. His advocates assert that racist prosecutorial conduct and ineffective counsel impacted his defense, and that court-appointed attorneys failed to present mitigating evidence to the jury.

The hung jury in Johnson’s first trial rejected the first-degree murder charge. In his second trial, by an all-white jury after the prosecutor eliminated potential Black jurors, he was sentenced to death for killing a white police officer.

Capital punishment is traumatic not only for the accused, but also for family, friends and supporters. We should reject the backwards logic that putting an expiration date on an individual’s life will somehow make this militarized and violent nation a safer place to live.

Below we are sharing a streamlined and edited adaptation from “Live from Death Row: Kevin Johnson,” an FTP Movement interview that we conducted with Johnson on November 7, 2022.

Kalonji Changa: Kevin Johnson, how did you come up in St. Louis County, Missouri?

Kevin Johnson: I liked games and coaching sports, all this stuff with the average of the urban neighborhood bring all my siblings together and some unfortunate things. I had a kid at a young age and [I had] my little brothers.

Changa: You had a child at an early age [17] and today your child is how old?

Johnson: My daughter is 19 now. She has a five-month-old son.

Changa: Congratulations on that and your grandson. You have shared that you grew up with a mother addicted to drugs and in severe poverty, and food insecurity.

Johnson: Yes, you know the drug situation. My father, like many of us, also ran into similar situations and was dealing with incarceration.

Changa: We’re pretty sure that that impacted you; and you were separated from your siblings for a time?

Johnson: Growing up … you want your dad to be present and do stuff; he should be your friend, [protect you]. It was frustrating [and] stressful not having them there. I have to do what I have to do to survive....I didn’t have a father that I needed in my life, right. I wanted to, like, kind of feel for somebody else, to take care of them, protect them. … My mother gave him the nickname and it just stuck. ...Read More
From the CCDS Socialist Education Project...
A China Reader

Edited by Duncan McFarland

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

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

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

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

Edited by the CCDS
Socialist Education Project

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

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

  Click here for the Table of contents

Photo: Jennifer Pippin, president of the Indian River County chapter of Moms for Liberty, a rightwing group, attends Jacqueline Rosario’s campaign event in Vero Beach, Florida, on Oct. 16, 2022. – GIORGIO VIERA / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Right-Leaning Nonprofit Increasingly Targets Mass. Teaching Of Gender, Race, And Sex Education

Newton North faces complaint for casting only people of color in play.

By Jusneel Mahal 
The Boston Globe

Nov 14, 2022 - An increasingly active right-leaning non-profit called Parents Defending Education filed a federal civil rights complaint against Newton North High School last month, alleging that a student-led theater production broke the law by limiting auditions to people of color only.

The same group sued Wellesley Public Schools last year for alleged illegal discrimination when Wellesley High School hosted a forum for Asian students and students of color to discuss a mass shooting at an Asian massage parlor in Atlanta. The teacher who organized the session wrote that it was “*not* for students who identify only as White.”

So far, the national group has identified 43 “incidents” in which they say Massachusetts schools inappropriately – or even illegally – taught students about race, sexual orientation or gender, setting school districts across the Commonwealth on edge that they might be sued next.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before in all my years here,” said Wellesley School Superintendent David Lussier, who settled the lawsuit with the organization in February. “They try to go after superintendents and get people fired.”

Parents Defending Education did not return repeated requests for comment, but supporters say the group offers a vital counterweight to an education system steeped in liberal values.

“I think it’s good because, for a long time, education has been very one-sided,” said Jennifer McWilliams, a consultant to Parents Defending Education who runs her own advocacy group in Indiana. “Schools have decided that they need to teach children morals, values, attitude and worldview over academics.”

The two-year-old organization, based in Washington D.C., urges parents across the country to report incidents in which they believe schools are dividing students on racial lines or inappropriately teaching students about sex or gender roles. The group states on its website that education must be based on “scholarship and facts” and says ethnic studies divides “children into oppressor and ‘oppressed’ groups,” while teaching white students “guilt and shame.”

And the organization has a sizable, well-connected staff to promote their agenda. Parents Defending Education’s website lists 13 staff members including Nicole Neily, former president of an organization affiliated with the Koch Brothers called Speech First and Aimee Viana, a former Trump Administration appointee.

Schools have long been battlegrounds in the nation’s culture wars, but experts say Parents Defending Education marks something new: an attempt to nationalize the agenda. The group has been promoting conservative values across the country, enlisting local groups with names like Moms for Liberty and No Left Turn in Education along the way.

“We see increased coordination, national coordination among groups of all political stripes and partisan stripes, thanks to social media,” said Meira Levinson, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. “The right more than the left seems to have mastered techniques of developing language that then can be replicated in legislation, or policy across different municipalities and state governments.”

For Massachusetts educators facing criticism from Parents Defending Education, it suddenly feels like the group is everywhere. The group criticized Brookline schools in April after teachers organized a walkout to protest a Florida measure opponents have characterized as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

In June, the organization condemned Milton for teaching a lesson about the country’s first openly gay politician Harvey Milk and the importance of the letters LGBTQ.

“Who the hell wants to go into this profession anymore if this is going to be the type of community that we’re serving and the type of pressure that we’re going to experience,” Wellesley Educators Association President Kyle Gekopi said. “It’s really been forcing a lot of people to question their choices.

Most recently, Parents Defending Education filed a federal civil rights complaint on Oct. 4 against Newton North High School.

The group alleged to the United States Department of Education that the school violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Both are meant to protect people from discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. That protection extends to white students, they say.

Parents Defending Education claims the school’s student-led production, “Lost and Found: Stories of People of Color by People of Color,” restricted auditions to only students of color. The show, which organizers described as “a no-cut, cabaret-style show for students of color,” was meant to “provide a safe community space for students of color to express themselves through the performing arts.”

But Newton Public Schools put out a statement stressing that “no one is turned away or excluded from participating” in the play.

Educators far beyond Newton are nervously watching the case unfold. Brian Fitzgerald, president of the Plymouth County Education Association, said Parents Defending Education remind him of activists in past decades who have fought to curtail sex education, making it difficult to teach students about health.

“My fear is that they’re going to impact the ability of a student to learn,” Fitzgerald said. ...Read More
Q&A: Navigating the Left’s Ukraine Debate

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
and Elly Leary

Nov 15, 2022

“Sovereignty and self-determination are important concepts to keep at the heart of Left analysis”—and can help orient us in the confusion and misinformation surrounding Russia’s war on Ukraine.

1. Why is the principle of self-determination so important to understanding the conflict in Ukraine?  

There are three aspects to the question of national self-determination. One, a recognition that “nations” of peoples have a right to assert their own identity and form a political unit separate from or included within a larger geo-political grouping. Two, that a recognized nation-state has the internationally recognized right to national sovereignty. Specifically, regarding national sovereignty, no outside power has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of another country (unless under terms agreed upon by the United Nations). And third, self-determination is a basic element of freedom that has tremendous power to forge unity as it resonates amongst a people.

In the case of Ukraine, the international borders of an independent Ukraine were recognized in 1991 in the context of the collapse of the USSR. Ukraine, however, did have a national-territorial status as a recognized nation after the formation of the USSR and, further, in the context of the formation of the United Nations. The internationally recognized borders of Ukraine were affirmed in 1994, with the signing of the Budapest Accords whereby Ukraine turned over nuclear weapons on the condition that Russia pledged to never invade Ukraine and to always respect Ukrainian sovereignty.

Russia violated this agreement in 2014 with the invasion and annexation of Crimea, on the pretext of an alleged coup in Kyiv. Even if one agreed that a coup took place—and we do not—that would not justify a foreign intervention.

Sovereignty and self-determination are important concepts to keep at the heart of left analysis.

The US and others have a long and sordid history of meddling in the internal affairs of countries. The entire 1950s US regime of Allan and John Foster Dulles (State Department and CIA) was based on this principle. Ukraine has been the subject of much external plotting and conniving, certainly by the US.

Even with outside meddling from numerous forces, what took place in 2014 was a matter internal to Ukraine—the result of its own internal contradictions. The political outcome was not favorable to Russia, but was in no way an attack on Russia. As such, it should not have justified any sort of intervention. Consider the US invasion of Panama in 1989. It was based on the pretext that Manuel Noriega was a criminal and that the US had to bring him to justice. While Noriega certainly was a criminal—and one who had regularly worked in cooperation with the USA—he was also the president of a sovereign nation. As with Ukraine, there was no internationally legal justification for a US invasion (of Panama).

National self-determination for Ukraine is of further importance given the semi-colonial relationship the country has historically had with Russia, despite the close linguistic and cultural ties. Asserting that Russia has no need to recognize Ukrainian sovereignty due to historic ties would be the equivalent of suggesting that the US has no need to recognize Canadian sovereignty given the close linguistic and cultural ties that go back at least two hundred years.

2. Is this a proxy war between the US/NATO and Russia?

It has become almost fashionable, among some segments of the Left, to call the Russo-Ukrainian War a “proxy war” between Russia and NATO: that is a war in which the principal contradiction is the instigation of war by foreign powers, and in which internal contradictions are secondary.

An excellent example of a “proxy war” would be the conflicts within the Democratic Republic of the Congo post-1997 wherein the domestic forces were largely eclipsed by or dominated by foreign actors, e.g., Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, multi-national corporations. While there was certainly an internal conflict, various militias were doing the bidding of foreign actors.

The Russo-Ukrainian War is no more a “proxy war” than was the Vietnam War. Yet it is important to remember that many liberals and right-wingers described the Vietnam War as a proxy war between the US, on the one hand, and the USSR and China on the other. They ignored the national question—the fact that the Vietnam War was about US aggression against the people of Vietnam (and, later, the people of Laos and Cambodia). A proxy war is taking place when there are bad actors on both sides, not when one side is fighting for their independence—even if the side fighting for independence seeks help from other nations.

The Russo-Ukrainian War is the direct result of Russia violating the sovereignty of Ukraine. About this there is little debate. The question is whether their violation was justified by acts of NATO. Since there was no evidence that NATO has armed Ukraine with nuclear weapons and since there is ample evidence that several NATO member-states were actively opposed to the inclusion of Ukraine within NATO, the argument falls flat.

Putin’s stated objective is to end the national sovereignty of Ukraine. Any mention of the role of NATO is a red herring that hides the real aim of Russia to expand its sphere of influence.

3. What has been the role of NATO? Is it the aggressor in this current conflict?

Let’s be clear: the fall of the Berlin Wall offered a unique opportunity to reconfigure international relations worldwide. Leftists and progressives argued vigorously for the disbanding of NATO and for a new framework to be drawn based on mutual respect, democracy and security. That did not happen. Despite sufficient evidence that the US agreed or implied that NATO would not expand, without this being codified in writing all bets were off once the USSR collapsed.

The irony is that the invasion ended any hope for a new framework beyond NATO; in fact, it accomplished the opposite. There appear to have been major conflicts within the NATO community regarding what should unfold. What did happen, however, is that NATO expanded eastward towards the Russian border when countries that had been formerly in the Soviet bloc indicated that they needed protection against a potential Russian expansionist/hegemonist threat. NATO was not pushed on these countries, though NATO could have and should have stopped the expansion. The expansion largely stopped in 2004.

What changed was the 2014 crisis in Ukraine. Remember that the Budapest Accords of 1994 did not have any sort of “exception” clause that would ever justify a Russian invasion. When the 2014 crisis unfolded, the so-called Maidan uprisings, a pro-Russian administration was chased out of the country by a broad coalition within which there were hard, rightwing forces. It is around this time that Ukrainian chauvinists began pushing anti-ethnic Russian politics, especially regarding usages of the language. The Putin regime utilized the internal Ukrainian conflict as a pretext for an intervention. This included seizing Crimea and supporting separatist regimes in the Donbas region.

It was in the context of the Russian intervention in the internal affairs of Ukraine that the matter of NATO arose. Prior to 2014 there was little interest in Ukraine joining NATO. As a result of Russian interference in Ukraine, including but not limited to the seizing of Crimea, interest in NATO emerged.

In the lead-up to the February 2022 invasion, the Ukrainian government conveyed to Putin that it would not join NATO. This did not stop the invasion, largely because the invasion had little to do with NATO. Putin made the objectives very clear on the day of the invasion where he declared that Ukraine was “national fiction.” Thus, for Putin, the invasion was not about an alleged NATO threat and more about the destiny of Ukraine as a country.

4. Is it right to call for a world that is divided into spheres of influence so that peace can be maintained? Is this in the interest of the working classes?

There have been many sincere progressives and leftists who have argued that big countries, e.g., Russia, have a legitimate interest in a sphere of influence. Some on the Left specifically propose the notion of “multi-polarity” that says there needs to be several major poles—powers—to counter the hegemonism of the USA. This is a different definition from another one other leftists have used where multi-polarity means the upholding of sovereignty and independence of all nations. It is the former with which we take issue.

While most of the world, including some leftists and progressives, talks about spheres of influence, we believe the principle of self-determination must be our starting point. We have historically protested the US invoking the so-called Monroe Doctrine to justify endless violations of the national sovereignty of countries in the Western Hemisphere. Sphere of influence arguments have always been used by big powers to suppress national self-determination. US antipathy towards Cuba (since 1959) and Nicaragua (1980s) are both related to claims of spheres of influence. The Soviet invasions of Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968) were justified based on spheres of influence.

The argument regarding multi-polarity can sound, in a first hearing, to be a progressive demand to restrain US imperialism. But that is not always the case. The pre-1914 world was multi-polar as was the pre-1939 world. That did not make them progressive in the least. Certainly, the current expansion of rightwing authoritarian regimes across the planet leaves little doubt multi-polarity could easily result in a profoundly reactionary world.

Progressives support national self-determination and not spheres of influence. Our demand needs to be for national self-determination and a world guided by principles of international law.

5. Isn’t the USA being hypocritical in its stand? Doesn’t this explain why many countries in the global South have been reluctant to speak up?

The US has a history of profound hypocrisy. In the current war there is little question but that the stand of the US is hypocritical. In condemning Russian aggression, it ignores Israeli aggression against the Palestinians and Moroccan aggression against the Sahrawis, and our own illegal invasion of Iraq. And, yes, this is a reason that many governments in the global South have equivocated—at least until recently—in full condemnations of the Russian aggression. And there is the issue of food: Russia and Ukraine are the bread baskets of Africa. It is not too impolite to label this food blackmail.

That said, it is important to note that many governments in the global South are also influenced by trade and financial arrangements that they have with Russia as well as the West, leading them to be cautious in response.

It is important to add that US hypocrisy has not stopped progressives around the world from speaking out on other outrages. For example, the Indonesian atrocities against East Timor were called out by people of good will internationally and forced the US to back away from its traditional alliance with the reactionary Indonesian regime. Violations of international law and human rights were denounced because they were wrong.

In this sense, the response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine by genuine internationalists is entirely consistent with approaches from the past. US supporters of Irish liberation did not remain silent about British imperialism just because the US was an imperialist power. And supporters of African liberation did not remain silent about European colonialism just because the US was also a colonial oppressor, e.g., against the Philippines.

6. Even if we oppose the invasion, is it correct to support weapons to Ukraine or doesn’t that just prolong the fighting and bring us closer to global war?
If one opposes the Russian invasion and supports Ukrainian sovereignty, the logical question is really this: how are the Ukrainians supposed to resist Russian aggression? With simply harsh language? An appeal to the United Nations?

Those who say that weapons should not go to the Ukrainians are insincere. They are, in essence, calling upon the Ukrainians to surrender. They may believe that the Ukrainians can carry out passive resistance against the Russians along the lines of the Danish resistance to Nazi Germany. The only problem is that the Danish were not resisting the Nazis in a vacuum. There was a world war underway.

When the Vietnamese were resisting the US, there were those who called upon the Vietnamese to make concessions and to hold off on their struggles. In fact, in 1954 both the USSR and China appealed to the Vietminh to accept the “temporary” division of Vietnam into two regions as a means of ending the conflict. We see where that ended.

The oppressed are regularly told that they should hold off on their demands and tone down their efforts. Such arguments were made to the US Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, arguments to which Dr. King responded, condemning white moderates who wanted the Black Freedom Movement to restrain itself. If we ask Ukraine to tone down their efforts, we are in essence telling them to submit to the demands of the aggressor, Putin’s Russia.

Is there a danger of global war? Absolutely. As long as there are imperialist powers such a danger exists. Yet that should not mean that the oppressed, and those victimized by aggression should restrain their resistance.

7. Why has it been impossible to achieve a negotiated settlement to this conflict? 

Simply put, the Putin regime sees no reason to negotiate. As one is seeing now (October 2022), the Putin regime intends to implement the approach that it took toward the suppression of the Chechnyans, i.e., total suppression through massive, indiscriminate use of violence. This was also replicated in the Russian-backed assault on the Syrian revolutionary movement, e.g., barrel bombs, attacking hospitals.

Ultimately the Russian government will need to decide what is their bottom line. They may decide on a “Korean solution,” i.e., an armistice without a treaty and with a “cold war” continuing between Russia and Ukraine. This may not be acceptable for the Ukrainians. Moreover, the Ukrainian experience with Russia in negotiations has been very problematic—starting with the Budapest Accords in 1994 which guaranteed Ukrainian sovereignty in exchange for the return of nuclear weapons to Russia and continuing with the Minsk Accords.

We should acknowledge that there has been a great deal of organized misinformation propagated by the Putin regime and their allies. These forces have suggested, from the beginning, that the US and the Ukrainian government have lacked an interest in a negotiated settlement. This is false.

There is an additional matter relative to negotiations. Those who argue that the matter of the Russo-Ukrainian War needs to be settled between the US/NATO and Russia treat Ukraine as a secondary player. They are acting, against all evidence, as if this is a struggle that is not about the national existence of Ukraine but is a battle between two imperialist powers. Any settlement not negotiated with the Ukrainians at the head of the table would be a settlement imposed on the people. This is a position which the global Left has never accepted.

8. Whereas other liberation struggles, such as the Palestinian, Kurdish, or American First Nations’ have tended to unite most of the Left, why has the debate over Ukrainian liberation seemed to have divided it?

There are several reasons:

Russian propaganda skillfully identified the 2014 events as a fascist/US-led coup.
A version of the “enemy of my enemy is my friend,” in this case meaning that insofar as the US supports the Ukrainian government this must mean, for some sections of the Left, that the Ukrainians are on the wrong side of history.

An inaccurate analysis of the Putin regime, including a tendency towards nostalgia by some regarding the old USSR. This can be seen in the fascination by some leftists that the flag of the former USSR has been used at different points by the Russian forces. Thus, a denial of the semi-fascist nature of the Putin regime, including but not limited to its active support for far Right forces globally.

As we have seen in a number of struggles, it is relatively easy for segments of the Western Left and progressive movements to become destabilized if a particular government waves the “red flag” and proclaims itself to be anti-imperialist. Rather than doing a concrete analysis, many of us are taken in by the rhetoric and tend to belittle charges against such governments as having been manufactured by the CIA and other nefarious players.

9. What do we know about the anti-war movement in Russia and anti-war sentiment more broadly? Is there any way we can support anti-war/pro-democracy forces in Russia without putting them in danger? 

One of the first things Putin did after the invasion was to outlaw independent journalism and crack down on protests. Since then, things have only intensified. Anti-war actions have spread throughout Russia, sometimes appearing on mainstream news outlets, while in other cases, street actions or various forms of civil disobedience.

The question of supporting anti-war forces in Russia is complicated by the nature of the authoritarian Putin regime. What seems to be in order is calling attention to repression by the Russian government and giving support to Russian refugees who are leaving the country to avoid military service. Additional assistance can be rendered through support for legitimate trade unionists in Russia who are standing in opposition to the war. That said, the trade union movement is divided on the question.

10. Can the US government play a positive role that doesn’t undermine Ukrainian sovereignty? How can we best express solidarity with Ukraine? Are there social movement forces we can reach out to?

Let’s be clear. The US cannot negotiate on behalf of Ukraine. Ukraine is not acting as an agent of the US. The US can encourage both parties to negotiate and pledge that it would support any steps to guarantee security for both parties on the condition that there are no further acts of aggression. The US could cease arms delivery beginning when there is a legitimate Russian ceasefire and could stop them altogether upon the removal of all Russian forces. The US could also pledge to respect the neutrality of Ukraine and not support their entry into NATO.

The Left can be most helpful to the Ukrainians by insisting that the right of self-determination of the Ukrainian people is the principal contradiction here. Even as forces around the world suggest frameworks and conciliatory peace plans to stop the carnage, at the end of the day it is in the hands of the Ukrainian people to decide what to accept.

As once part of the USSR, “communist” parties have existed for decades inside Ukraine. Pro-Russian forces, inside and outside Ukraine including the contested oblasts in the East (Donbas, Crimea, Kherson), have effectively used the “banning of communist parties” and Russian language as examples of the anti-democratic (or even fascist) nature of the Ukraine regime. While these laws were passed prior to Zelensky’s election victory, and there has been some attempt to soften the language issues, ultimately this is an internal problem for the Ukrainian people to resolve. We can be in solidarity with those in Ukraine who oppose internal repression and neoliberal initiatives. But this should not confuse anyone, i.e., the main challenge facing Ukraine is the Russian invasion.

There are also small but vital anti-capitalist, egalitarian formations inside Ukraine, Sotsyalnyi Rukh for example. We, on the left, are obliged to listen to their voices. There is also an on-line journal, Commons that overlaps with SR.

These are tremendous resources, and we should look to them for information and guidance.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a longtime trade unionist, writer and speaker. He was also a president of TransAfrica Forum, chairperson of the board of directors of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, and co-coordinator of the Campaign to End the Moroccan Occupation of Western Sahara. A sequel to his murder mystery novel, The Man Who Fell From the Sky, will be published later in 2022.

Elly Leary is a retired GM autoworker who was active in New Directions and served as a chief contract negotiator. She has participated in popular education workshops with workers all over the world, often with Transnational Information Exchange. She is a member of the Liberation Road's International Work Team. ...Read More
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In 1934, famed writer and socialist Upton Sinclair swept the Democratic primary for governor of California, leading a mass End Poverty movement. To defeat him that fall, his opponents created one of the dirtiest, and most influential, campaigns in U.S. history, and Hollywood took its first all-out plunge into politics. Directed by Greg Mitchell and Produced by Lyn Goldfarb.
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Shining a Light on México’s New Truth Commission 
from the Nov 16, 2022 Bulletin
Carlos A. Pérez Ricart teaches international relations at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics in México City. An expert on the influence of the US government on México, he’s devoted particular attention to how US drug enforcement agencies have impacted the design, implementation, and evaluation of Mexican drug policy. Pérez Ricart is currently serving as a member of México’s new truth commission, and he spoke recently about that panel’s work with journalist Kurt Hackbarth in an interview for the Jacobin. We’ve highlighted key portions of that interview here. 

The dirty war, in your words, was “extended, premeditated and cruel.” But in comparison with other Latin American countries, very little of this has been discussed in México. Why?
The dirty war, a global phenomenon, has to be understood in the context of the Cold War. In Argentina, where they had a savage dictatorship and a large number of disappeared, a broad educational project took place in the wake of its dirty war. A figure like Jair Bolsonaro would be unthinkable in today’s Argentina. 
Even in the context of a terrible economic crisis, nobody is even considering the possibility of a military regime returning to power because of the educational process that occurred.
That construction of truth, with the victims at the center, has been missing in México.
Critics of AMLO see the new Mexican truth commission as little more than a simulation designed to shelve the whole issue of the dirty war.

The dirty war wasn’t sitting on anyone’s agenda, not even on the president’s agenda, until four years ago. The truth commission we have now exists thanks to pressure from the organized victims’ groups and assemblies. The idea, the project, the negotiation, the force came from the victims, and anyone who’s familiar with this process would consider it absurd to suggest, as some have, that this project aims to rehabilitate the military.
I see this as the beginning of a broader process, a ladder to allow us to build the foundations for a new culture of human rights. By that I mean rights for everyone, from the poor to the LGBTQ community and all of those who have been seen as “other.”
The essential idea: to expand the concept of rights to people who don’t even know that their rights have been violated, who saw what happened to them as a normal part of life.
We can tell them that if you were displaced or assaulted due to your religious orientation or for speaking another language or just because you were poor, you have rights. You can organize, you can demand reparations. The right to truth and justice exists for you too, and not only for the circle of victims active on the Left and well aware of their rights.
Just to mention one case: the 1972 operation in the town of El Quemado in Guerrero. The army came in, tortured eighty men, and took them prisoner. But what happened to the women? They were raped, they were forced to marry, in some cases forced to have children and in others to take birth control pills.
The women have also been victims, but until now they’ve been erased. What happened to them? What happened to their children? Here we are broadening the concept of victim, not only focusing on what is obvious but ensuring that our narrative includes the wives, the mothers, the daughters, the sons.
Your investigations may reveal that the United States played a larger role in the dirty war than previously known. Do you have any concern that the commission’s revelations could affect bilateral relations?

What happens, happens, and we’ll say what has to be said. The dirty war connected transnational networks of repression. This is what Operation Condor has taught us. We don’t yet have a clear picture, and that’s why our project will include a search of US archives using the Freedom of Information Act. 

We’ve met with Kate Doyle, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive and an expert in US policy in Latin America. She’s part of an advisory group to the commission and will be helping us access the archives of the CIA, the FBI, and over agencies....Read More

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TV Review:
Netflix Adaptation
Of All Quiet On The Western Front Is A Sledgehammer Of Anguish

By Owen Gabbey
Pittsburgh City Paper
In all the best war movies, people just fucking die. They all do. There’s no ceremony, no heartfelt speech. Someone just takes a bullet to the neck, or a grenade puts them in way too many different places at once. There’s no reprieve, no exceptions for the main characters, just the blood of someone you knew two seconds ago.

All Quiet on the Western Front, now streaming on Netflix, immediately enters this canon. Director Edward Berger's adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's 1929 book, which was also made into a 1930 film, is an exercise in the miserable. A World War I story told from the perspective of the Imperial German Army, the film gives sympathy to those just following orders, bludgeons us with the hell of war, and … that’s about it.

The story follows 17-year-old Paul Baumer (Felix Cammerer), a naive high-schooler roused to join the Army after hearing a speech about how war is actually about honor, not centuries of Imperialism. Of course, Paul and his fellow recruits don’t know that the uniforms they’re being given are simply the hand-me-downs of the last group of people that ended their patriotic ride to glory losing a limb or their lives. It’s not the first moment that lacks any semblance of subtlety, but there’s still effectiveness to it.

The rest of the film ostensibly follows Paul to the battlefield, with some detours to the German High Command negotiating the end of the War with the Allied Powers. Harrowing doesn’t begin to describe his journey, as he meets nothing but blood, shit, and mud, all to gain about 10 feet of ground on the opposition. War is pointless, the film passionately and incessantly posits. To which the audience answers: Uhhh … yeah?

This may be harsh to a movie that, in so many respects, is just fabulously made. It’s almost astonishing that this is a Netflix film, as Berger coats every frame of the movie with a lavishness absent from the company’s rushed-to-production originals. The gorgeous cinematography of James Friend captures the massive scope of trench warfare and the intimacy of the characters' pain in equal detail. Volker Bertelmann produces one of the most interesting scores for a war movie I’ve heard in a long time, the low thuds sounding more like Aphex Twin than John Williams.

And, of course, Cammerer is a star. His transformation from energetic to broken, from prideful to cynical, is all told through his close-ups, and he nails each one. One particular fight scene against another soldier in a giant crater, the product of one too many bombs, is a masterwork in non-verbal storytelling.

Told from the German perspective, the examination of war as a truly harrowing pursuit may have been revolutionary 90 years ago, but there’s not much to differentiate it from 1917, Come and See, Apocalypse Now, or the dozens of other contemporary war flicks that operate on the same basic principle. Still, maybe it is necessary. Maybe we need the message injected into us once a year, like a flu shot full of mass violence, as we watch Ukraine be invaded by Russia and, once again, forget the humanity behind it.

All Quiet on the Western Front feels like a stunning, expertly told re-packaging of a tried and true idea, a message to us regular people that other regular people always suffer in times like these. Maybe we just need to find a way to get the film in front of some people who aren’t so regular.

All Quiet on the Western Front is now available to stream on Netflix. ...Read More

Book Review: The Experiment, or the Life and Afterlife of the Paris Commune

By David A. Bell
The Nation

NOV 15, 2022 - We generally don’t see Paris as a city scarred by war. It is not like London and Berlin, where the drab modern architecture of the urban centers offers silent reminders of past aerial bombardment. It is not like Warsaw and Frankfurt, where the “old towns” are modern re-creations, erected over cleared fields of corpse-filled rubble. Despite revolutions, sieges, World War I shelling, and World War II bombings, Paris still possesses a remarkable architectural unity. The city’s center looks much as it did in the late 19th century. But while the scars are not immediately visible, they are there, and the worst of them are self-inflicted: the product of a single hideous week in May 1871. This was the week that the Paris Commune died.

By Carolyn J. Eichner

The Commune was one of the most radical political experiments in European history, but it was also tragically short-lived. At the start of 1871, France’s fledgling conservative republican government signed an armistice with Prussia, which had defeated the armies of Emperor Napoleon III (leading to the collapse of his regime) and subjected the French capital to a grueling siege. In mid-March, the city’s radical National Guard challenged the government’s authority and set up a revolutionary municipal administration that called itself, echoing French Revolutionary terminology, the Commune. With thousands of rank-and-file soldiers supporting this new body, the national government withdrew to the nearby town of Versailles, the residence of France’s monarchs under the pre-1789 ancien régime.

There followed two extraordinary months in which the Commune passed a host of egalitarian and anti-clerical measures, including a postponement of debt and rent obligations, a curtailment of child labor, the expropriation of church property, and the secularization of schools. Although it did not grant women the right to vote, women took on important political roles and militated for expanded rights. The socialist red flag flew over city hall (the Hôtel de Ville).

But the experiment lasted just two months. The national government, led by the veteran centrist politician Adolphe Thiers, declared the Commune illegal and planned a counterattack. On May 21, its armed forces entered Paris, and there followed a week of slaughter and fire. The “Versaillais” carried out large-scale summary executions, while the “Communards” desperately tried to stop them. In a final attempt to block the enemy advance, they even torched major monuments, including the Hôtel de Ville and the Tuileries Palace (which stood between the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre). As fires burned out of control throughout the city, the Commune’s defenders made a hopeless last stand in the cemetery of Père Lachaise. In the end, 147 were lined up against the cemetery wall by the national government’s forces and shot—part of a death toll that probably exceeded 20,000.

The Paris Commune received more worldwide media attention than probably any other event of the period except the American Civil War. (Ed. Note: The Reconstruction governments, which lasted several years, were seen by some, such as Wendel Phillips, as our 'Paris Commune,' and he supported both) A city that had served as a glittering showcase for modern consumer capitalism after its reconstruction by Napoleon III had been taken over by radical revolutionaries and then, horrifically, became a battlefield. Conservatives around the globe denounced the Communards as bloodthirsty savages and saved their worst venom for the so-called pétroleuses—women arsonists supposedly armed with watering cans full of kerosene. (They were mostly a propaganda invention.) The worldwide left, meanwhile, hailed the Commune as a beacon of hope and mourned its slain supporters as martyrs. Karl Marx called it “the glorious harbinger of a new society.” One of its flags later accompanied Lenin to his final resting place in Red Square.

Few things generate more powerful legends than martyrdom and massacre, and for historians, it has sometimes been hard to crawl out from under the legends of the Commune. Up until its 150th anniversary last year, which saw a profusion of innovative new studies (notably one by Quentin Deluermoz on the global resonance of the Commune), the temptation to refight it on paper has often ended up obscuring its complexity and ambiguities. It took a very long time to recognize that, despite the red flag, the social reforms, and Marx’s paean to a “working men’s government,” the Commune was in no simple sense either socialist or proletarian. A majority of its governing council came from the lower bourgeoisie, and the best indicator of whether Parisians supported it was not their social class but their neighborhood. The recent rebuilding of the city had driven poorer Parisians from the center into peripheral areas like the former village of Belleville, and in doing so had nurtured strong local solidarities and resentment of the central administration. But the Commune could never count on the support of all Parisians, and by the end, much of the exhausted and anxious city population actually welcomed the arrival of the Versaillais.

Finally, the Commune government itself was uncomfortably divided among several distinct factions: followers of Louis-Auguste Blanqui, who prioritized establishing dictatorial rule by a tight-knit revolutionary socialist party; socialist internationalists, who wanted to implement broad egalitarian reforms as soon as possible; and Jacobin republicans, who believed in at least a limited right to private property. As a result, the Commune’s social policies remained limited in scope. If a single political cause united the factions, it was anti-clericalism, not socialism.

It is all the harder to know what to make of the Commune because it changed so much over the course of its brief life. In its last, desperate days, its governing council shut down opposition newspapers and created a Committee of Public Safety—a name deliberately resonant of the French revolutionary Reign of Terror. On May 15, 1871, representatives of the socialist internationalist group charged that “the Paris Commune has abdicated its power into the hands of a dictatorship.” Nine days later, over the opposition of many of the same figures, the council ordered the execution by firing squad of clerical hostages, including the archbishop of Paris. Was the Commune, under the influence of the hard-line “Blanquists,” moving toward the sort of government by terror that would characterize too many self-proclaimed socialist regimes in the 20th century? Or might the moderate internationalists have prevailed? (Indeed, in one of the Commune’s tragic ironies, a prominent leader of the moderates, the bookbinder Eugène Varlin, was lynched on May 28, partly in revenge for the archbishop’s death.)

In light of these ambiguities, it would be easy to consign the history of the Paris Commune to the same gray limbo of memory in which so many left-wing revolutions now reside: honored for their ideals but damned for their sometimes monstrous betrayals of them. Yet in our own increasingly unequal age, there is a reason to look back to the Commune that does not involve its internal quarrels, its uncertain trajectory, or its dreadful conclusion. This is the sense of equality, of humane treatment of all people, that it briefly but powerfully summoned up. It is precisely this quality that Carolyn J. Eichner emphasizes in The Paris Commune, her short but informative and moving new history. In the book’s opening vignette, she describes a concert given in the Commune’s last days in the Tuileries Palace, where Napoleon I and Napoleon III had both lived. The Commune opened it up to some 10,000 ordinary Parisians, who crammed in to partake of free food and drink and to hear some of the most famous musical performers of the day. A member of the Commune government commented that the people “seemed to say, ‘Finally we are in our house, in our palace! We have driven out the tyrant, and now can use this place as we please.’”

Eichner previously wrote the influential study Surmounting the Barricades: Women in the Paris Commune, and in her new book she pays particular attention to the extraordinary and innovative roles played by feminists in the event. Women spoke out forcefully in political clubs, often chiding male Communards for political timidity. “Men,” charged one, “are like monarchs softened by possessing too much authority…it is time for woman to replace man in directing public affairs.” The Commune government refused to grant women many formal rights, but it worked closely with the Union des Femmes, founded by a young Russian emigrée named Elisabeth Dmitrieff, which fought against the marginalization of women’s labor.

The journalist and novelist known as André Léo (a pseudonym created from the names of her two sons), who had co-founded the Society for Women’s Rights and written its most important manifesto, became one of the Commune’s most eloquent radical and militant voices. A similar trajectory was followed by Louise Michel, the so-called “Red Virgin” of the Commune, who consistently argued for aggressive action against the Versaillais and threatened personally to assassinate Thiers. Both of them argued that women should serve as soldiers, although the Committee of Public Safety refused to go along.

Eichner also expertly summarizes the Commune’s attempts to end economic exploitation and to transform education and culture in the city. In terms of the first, many of the Commune’s far-reaching plans never had a chance to come to fruition. A women’s labor organization, for instance, called for limits on repetitive manual labor and on working hours, as well as equal pay for women and men and the confiscation of property abandoned by bourgeois who had fled the city. Other radicals proposed taking over the national bank and abolishing the hated pawnshop network, which was filled with items sold by the desperate poor. The Commune government did not take these steps, but it did allow Parisians to retrieve low-cost items from the pawnshops, passed a decree taking over abandoned workshops and factories, and issued its measures on debt and rent relief and child labor. The council never abrogated private property rights in general, although that did not stop conservative journalists from asserting that it had. As one of them wrote: “The government is passing from those who have a material interest in the conservation of society, to those completely disinterested in order, stability, or conservation.” ...Read More
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