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John Case, Harper's Ferry, VA. Please check out the Talkin' Socialism web page for this Saturday's show, with guests Lou Martin and Kenzie New Walker from the WV Mine Wars Museum. 

Throughout Appalachia, especially, I think, it is important to draw the right conclusions from this key labor battle.

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Photo: General Miley before the House Appropriations Committee-Defense on the Fiscal 2022 Department of Defense Budget in the Pentagon Press Briefing Room, Washington, D.C., May 27, 2021., DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase

'They're Not Going To F**King Succeed': Top Generals Feared Trump Would Attempt a Coup After Election, According to New Book

For the first time in modern US history the nation's top military officer, whose role is to advise the president, was preparing for a showdown with the commander in chief because he feared a coup attempt after Trump lost the November election.

By Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb, Marshall Cohen, Elizabeth Stuart, and Barbara Starr 
CNN via Portside

July 15, 2021 -The top US military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, was so shaken that then-President Donald Trump and his allies might attempt a coup or take other dangerous or illegal measures after the November election that Milley and other top officials informally planned for different ways to stop Trump, according to excerpts of an upcoming book obtained by CNN.

The book, from Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, describes how Milley and the other Joint Chiefs discussed a plan to resign, one-by-one, rather than carry out orders from Trump that they considered to be illegal, dangerous or ill-advised.

"It was a kind of Saturday Night Massacre in reverse," Leonnig and Rucker write.

The book, "I Alone Can Fix It," scheduled to be released next Tuesday, chronicles Trump's final year as president, with a behind-the-scenes look at how senior administration officials and Trump's inner circle navigated his increasingly unhinged behavior after losing the 2020 election. The authors interviewed Trump for more than two hours.

The book recounts how for the first time in modern US history the nation's top military officer, whose role is to advise the president, was preparing for a showdown with the commander in chief because he feared a coup attempt after Trump lost the November election.

The authors explain Milley's growing concerns that personnel moves that put Trump acolytes in positions of power at the Pentagon after the November 2020 election, including the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the resignation of Attorney General William Barr, were the sign of something sinister to come.

Milley spoke to friends, lawmakers and colleagues about the threat of a coup, and the Joint Chiefs chairman felt he had to be "on guard" for what might come.

"They may try, but they're not going to f**king succeed," Milley told his deputies, according to the authors. "You can't do this without the military. You can't do this without the CIA and the FBI. We're the guys with the guns."

In the days leading up to January 6, Leonnig and Rucker write, Milley was worried about Trump's call to action. "Milley told his staff that he believed Trump was stoking unrest, possibly in hopes of an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act and call out the military."

Milley viewed Trump as "the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose," the authors write, and he saw parallels between Adolf Hitler's rhetoric as a victim and savior and Trump's false claims of election fraud.

"This is a Reichstag moment," Milley told aides, according to the book. "The gospel of the Führer."

Ahead of a November pro-Trump "Million MAGA March" to protest the election results, Milley told aides he feared it "could be the modern American equivalent of 'brownshirts in the streets,'" referring to the pro-Nazi militia that fueled Hitler's rise to power.

Milley will not publicly address the issues raised in the book, a defense official close to the general told CNN. The official did not dispute that Milley engaged in activities and communications that are not part of the traditional portfolio of a chairman in the final days of Trump's presidency.

"He's not going to sit in silence while people try to use the military against Americans," the official said. So while Milley "tried his hardest to actively stay out of politics," if the events that occurred brought him into that arena temporarily, "so be it," the official said.

The official added that the general was not calling Trump a Nazi but felt he had no choice but to respond given his concerns that the rhetoric used by the President and his supporters could lead to such an environment.

Trump on Thursday issued a lengthy statement attacking Milley.

"I never threatened, or spoke about, to anyone, a coup of our Government," Trump wrote in his statement, adding, "So ridiculous!"

"Sorry to inform you, but an Election is my form of 'coup,' and if I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is General Mark Milley," Trump continued.

'This is all real, man'

Rucker and Leonnig interviewed more than 140 sources for the book, though most were given anonymity to speak candidly to reconstruct events and dialogue. Milley is quoted extensively and comes off in a positive light as someone who tried to keep democracy alive because he believed it was on the brink of collapse after receiving a warning one week after the election from an old friend.

"What they are trying to do here is overturn the government," said the friend, who is not named, according to the authors. "This is all real, man. You are one of the few guys who are standing between us and some really bad stuff."

Milley's reputation took a major hit in June 2020, when he joined Trump during his controversial photo-op at St. John's Church, after federal forces violently dispersed a peaceful crowd of social justice protesters at Lafayette Square outside the White House. To make matters worse, Milley wore camouflage military fatigues throughout the incident. He later apologized, saying, "I should not have been there."

But behind the scenes, the book says Milley was on the frontlines of trying to protect the country, including an episode where he tried to stop Trump from firing FBI Director Chris Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel.

Leonnig and Rucker recount a scene when Milley was with Trump and his top aides in a suite at the Army-Navy football game in December, and publicly confronted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

"What's going on? Are you guys getting rid of Wray or Gina?" Milley asked. "Come on chief. What the hell is going on here? What are you guys doing?"

"Don't worry about it," Meadows said. "Just some personnel moves."

"Just be careful," Milley responded, which Leonnig and Rucker write was said as a warning that he was watching.

'That doesn't make any sense'

The book also sheds new light on Trump's descent into a dark and isolated vacuum of conspiracy theories and self-serving delusions after he was declared the loser of the 2020 election.

After the January 6 insurrection, the book says Milley held a conference call each day with Meadows and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Leonnig and Rucker report the officials used the calls to compare notes and "collectively survey the horizon for trouble."

"The general theme of these calls was, come hell or high water, there will be a peaceful transfer of power on January twentieth," one senior official told the authors. "We've got an aircraft, our landing gear is stuck, we've got one engine, and we're out of fuel. We've got to land this bad boy."

Milley told aides he saw the calls as an opportunity to keep tabs on Trump, the authors write.

A second defense official told CNN that Milley and the Joint Chiefs met on both January 7 and 8, with some calling in virtually, to discuss not only what happened at the violent insurrection at the US Capitol but also to discuss their growing worry about the emerging "what if" scenarios.

On January 12, they signed a memo rejecting the violence and told troops to stand strong, reminding service members of their obligation to support and defend the Constitution and reject extremism.

The second defense official said the "what if" scenarios included everything from dealing with rumored unrest at every state capitol to the possibility Trump didn't leave office. "What happens if the crazies take over, what do we do?" was the focus of the discussion and essentially what became a mini-wargame to plan for possible scenarios.

There was concern in part about being "ready" because they had seen the slow National Guard response on the Hill on January 6.

If Trump didn't leave the White House, it was going to be up to Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service to deal with him and related domestic unrest. For the Joint Chiefs, the minute Democratic nominee Joe Biden was sworn in would be it -- he would be the commander in chief at that point and Trump would no longer hold power.

The official said that a realistic scenario is none of the chiefs would have resigned. They would have not carried out illegal orders, but they would have made Trump fire them.

Leonnig and Rucker also recount a scene where Pompeo visited Milley at home in the weeks before the election, and the two had a heart-to-heart conversation sitting at the general's table. Pompeo is quoted as saying, "You know the crazies are taking over," according to people familiar with the conversation.

The authors write that Pompeo, through a person close to him, denied making the comments attributed to him and said they were not reflective of his views.

In recent weeks Trump has attacked Milley, who is still the Joint Chiefs chairman in the Biden administration, after he testified to Congress about January 6.

'You f**king did this'

The book also contains several striking anecdotes about prominent women during the Trump presidency, including GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former first lady Michelle Obama.

The book details a phone call the day after the January 6 insurrection between Milley and Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who has close military ties. Cheney voted to impeach Trump and has been an outspoken critic of his election lies, leading to her ouster from House GOP leadership.

Milley asked Cheney how she was doing.

"That f**king guy Jim Jordan. That son of a b*tch," Cheney said, according to the book.

Cheney bluntly relayed to Milley what she experienced on the House floor on January 6 while pro-Trump rioters overran police and breached the Capitol building, including a run-in with Jordan, a staunch Trump ally in the House who feverishly tried to overturn the election.

Cheney described to Milley her exchange with Jordan: "While these maniacs are going through the place, I'm standing in the aisle and he said, 'We need to get the ladies away from the aisle. Let me help you.' I smacked his hand away and told him, 'Get away from me. You f**king did this.'"

'Crazy,' 'dangerous,' 'maniac'

The book reveals Pelosi's private conversations with Milley during this tenuous period. When Trump fired Esper in November, Pelosi was one of several lawmakers who called Milley. "We are all trusting you," she said. "Remember your oath."

After the January 6 insurrection, Pelosi told the general she was deeply concerned that a "crazy," "dangerous" and "maniac" Trump might use nuclear weapons during his final days in office.

"Ma'am, I guarantee you these processes are very good," Milley reassured her. "There's not going to be an accidental firing of nuclear weapons."

"How can you guarantee me?" Pelosi asked.

"Ma'am, there's a process," he said. "We will only follow legal orders. We'll only do things that are legal, ethical, and moral."

A week after the insurrection, Pelosi led House Democrats' second impeachment of Trump for inciting the insurrection. In an interview with the authors, Pelosi said she fears another president could try to pick up where Trump left off.

"We might get somebody of his ilk who's sane, and that would really be dangerous, because it could be somebody who's smart, who's strategic, and the rest," Pelosi said. "This is a slob. He doesn't believe in science. He doesn't believe in governance. He's a snake-oil salesman. And he's shrewd. Give him credit for his shrewdness."

'That b*tch'

The book quotes Trump, who had a strained relationship with Merkel, as telling his advisers during an Oval Office meeting about NATO and the US relationship with Germany, "That b*tch Merkel."

"'I know the f**king krauts,' the president added, using a derogatory term for German soldiers from World War I and World War II," Leonnig and Rucker write. "Trump then pointed to a framed photograph of his father, Fred Trump, displayed on the table behind the Resolute Desk and said, 'I was raised by the biggest kraut of them all.'"

Trump, through a spokesman, denied to the authors making these comments.

'No one has a bigger smile'

After January 6, Milley participated in a drill with military and law enforcement leaders to prepare for the January 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden. Washington was on lockdown over fears that far-right groups like the Proud Boys might try to violently disrupt the transfer of power.

Milley told a group of senior leaders, "Here's the deal, guys: These guys are Nazis, they're boogaloo boys, they're Proud Boys. These are the same people we fought in World War II. We're going to put a ring of steel around this city and the Nazis aren't getting in."

Trump did not attend the inauguration, in a notable break with tradition, and the event went off without incident.

As the inauguration ceremony ended, Kamala Harris, who had just been sworn in as vice president, paused to thank Milley. "We all know what you and some others did," she said, according to the authors. "Thank you."

The book ends with Milley describing his relief that there had not been a coup, thinking to himself, "Thank God Almighty, we landed the ship safely."

Milley expressed his relief in the moments after Biden was sworn in, speaking to the Obamas sitting on the inauguration stage. Michelle Obama asked Milley how he was feeling.

"No one has a bigger smile today than I do," Milley said, according to Leonnig and Rucker. "You can't see it under my mask, but I do."

CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report. ...Read More
Trump Supporters’ Anti-Science Crusade Is Threatening Us All
Photo: A protester holds an anti-vaccination sign as Trump supporters rally on May 16, 2020, in Woodland Hills, California.DAVID MCNEW / GETTY IMAGES

By William Rivers Pitt 
Truthout

July 15, 2021 - The number of new COVID-19 infections in the country topped 26,500 yesterday, a two-week increase of 111 percent. Experts broadly agree the reasons behind this new infection spike are twofold: (1) The Delta variant of COVID is highly infectious and on the verge of becoming the dominant strain in the U.S.; (2) Millions of people continue to refuse to get vaccinated or wear masks.

Note well, there are plenty of people who remain unvaccinated for very comprehensible reasons: They live in areas where the shot is still difficult to obtain, or they are prevented from doing so for unavoidable work/life requirements, or they have vaccination hesitancy that is deeply rooted in an understandable distrust of medical experts who have grossly abused their communities for generations.

The problem, however, is that millions of people remain unvaccinated — and won’t wear masks — because they think Donald Trump won the 2020 election, because Trump says he did. The way they have chosen to combat the ocean of criticism earned by the Trump presidency is simple, and utterly lethal: If Trump is good, that means science is bad, so screw science and screw you, too. If this self-destructive practice is not interrupted, we may be in for another long and brutal winter.

“Vaccines have been available to most Americans for months,” reports CNN, “but still only 48.2% of the country is fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — and the rate of new vaccinations is on the decline. Meanwhile, case rates have been going up dramatically. In 47 states, the rate of new cases in the past week are at least 10% higher than the previous week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Of those, 35 have seen increases of over 50%. Officials and experts have said disinformation is largely to blame for the high number of unvaccinated Americans, a group which is now seeing the largest impacts of the pandemic.”

Matters are becoming dire enough to spur the largest nurses’ union in the U.S. to urge the reinstatement of the mask mandate. National Nurses United executive director Bonnie Castillo transmitted a letter to the CDC warning, “The Covid-19 pandemic is far from over.” The letter goes on to lay out a swath of terrifying infection numbers. “NNU strongly urges the CDC to reinstate universal masking, irrespective of vaccination status, to help reduce the spread of the virus, especially from infected individuals who do not have any symptoms,” pleads the concluding message.

“Officials and experts have said disinformation is largely to blame for the high number of unvaccinated Americans,” reported CNN. But why? Qui bono? Who benefits? As it turns out, the same old right-wing hucksters are the ones who benefit the most, the ones who will say anything in order to dent the conversation and increase their own power, no matter how many of their own people they trick into an early, gasping grave. Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg News explains it:

It works like this. A fringe group of the party seeks to differentiate itself from the mainstream. To do that, its members set out to prove that they are the True Conservatives and everyone else is a wishy-washy Republican in Name Only at best, and a collaborating liberal at worst. However, by now the mainstream of the party has become so conservative that there are no easy moves to make that involve pushing one or another policy preference….

The key point here is that there is no counter move available to the rest of the party. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can say that they oppose such-and-such a policy because they are liberals, not socialists. There’s no parallel move for the Republican congressional leaders, Kevin McCarthy in the House or Mitch McConnell in the Senate. That doesn’t mean that mainstream conservatives always go along, but within the norms of the party they’re not allowed to call anyone too conservative, let alone any more negative characterization.

How do you set yourself outside and above the conservative pack? Start by refusing to wear a mask. Follow that by refusing to get vaccinated. Not long after, begin making spurious claims that the vaccinations are deadly, and when people don’t die in sufficient numbers to support that egregious lie, downshift to the argument that vaccinations and masks are the newest iteration of Nazi fascism.

How do you fix this when the governor of Florida is selling t-shirts attacking Anthony Fauci, the government’s lead COVID expert, even as that state endures 3,000 new COVID hospitalizations a day?

I do not see an easy solution to this problem, especially in a country that prides itself on freedom of opinion, even monstrously self-destructive opinion. How do you fix this when the governor of Florida is selling t-shirts attacking Anthony Fauci, the government’s lead COVID expert, even as that state endures 3,000 new COVID hospitalizations a day? New infections in Florida are up 429 percent over the last two weeks, a number only matched by Tennessee, where the government has all but declared the topic of coronavirus to be off limits.

The way things are headed, we could soon be forced back into our masks for all occasions, back into seclusion, and worse, forced to bear witness to a segment of the population as it kills itself in the culmination of 40 years of nihilistic Republican ideology. One wonders if it really could have ended any other way. ...Read More
Surgeon General Urges US Fight Against Covid Misinformation
Photo: Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 15, 2021. White House press secretary Jen Psaki listens at left. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

By David Klepper
Associated Press

July 15, 2021 - U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Thursday called for a national effort to fight misinformation about COVID19 and vaccines, urging tech companies, health care workers, journalists and everyday Americans to do more to address an “urgent threat” to public health.

In a 22-page advisory, his first as President Joe Biden’s surgeon general, Murthy wrote that bogus claims have led people to reject vaccines and public health advice on masks and social distancing, undermining efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic and putting lives at risk.

The warning comes as the pace of COVID19 vaccinations has slowed throughout the U.S., in part because of vaccine opposition fueled by unsubstantiated claims about the safety of immunizations and despite the U.S. death toll recently passing 600,000.

Murthy, who also served as surgeon general under President Barack Obama, noted that surgeon general advisories have typically focused on physical threats to health, such as tobacco. Misinformation about COVID19, deemed an “infodemic” by the World Health Organization, can be just as deadly, he said.

“Misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health,” Murthy said during remarks to reporters Thursday at the White House. “We must confront misinformation as a nation. Lives are depending on it.”

Given the role the internet plays in spreading health misinformation, Murthy said technology companies and social media platforms must make meaningful changes to their products and software to reduce the spread of misinformation while increasing access to authoritative, fact-based sources.

Too often, he said, the platforms are built to encourage, not counter, the spread of misinformation.

“We are asking them to step up,” Murthy said. “We can’t wait longer for them to take aggressive action.”

The criticism is not new, and Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other platforms have defended their work to stem the tide of misinformation. In a response to Murthy, Twitter noted that it has removed more than 40,000 pieces of content that violated its COVID19 misinformation rules.

“We agree with the surgeon general,” Twitter said in a statement. “Tackling health misinformation takes a whole of society approach.”

Murthy’s recommendations went beyond tech firms. Teachers, he said, should expand lessons on media literacy and critical thinking. Journalists, he suggested, should work to responsibly debunk health misinformation without inadvertently spreading it further. And public health professionals, he added, should do a better job answering questions and explaining why public health guidelines sometimes change based on new information.

As for everyday Americans, Murthy urged them to verify questionable health information with trusted sources like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to exercise critical thinking when exposed to unverified claims. If people have loved ones or friends who believe or spread misinformation, he said, it’s best to engage by listening and asking questions rather than by confronting them.

While some groups that push health misinformation do so for profit or other motives, many Americans may be spreading false information without realizing it, according to the advisory.

“Misinformation hasn’t just harmed our physical health — it has also divided our families, friends, and communities,” Murthy wrote in the advisory. “The only way to address health misinformation is to recognize that all of us, in every sector of society, have a responsibility to act.” ...Read More
Washington’s Weaponization of Protests in Cuba Takes Its Regime Change Efforts to New Heights of Hypocrisy
Photo: Pro-government demonstrators in Havana. Source: Granma

By Peter Bolton
Counterpunch

On 11 July, Cuba saw thousands of demonstrators take to the streets in cities across the island. The protests are believed to have started in the Artemisa Province before spreading to neighboring Havana and further afield, including Cuba’s second largest city, Santiago de Cuba. Press reports largely claim that protesters are motivated by shortages and the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Needless to say, the US government, its minions in the corporate-owned media, and, of course, the representatives of the Cuban-American exile brigade have seized on the protests to bolster their case for regime change and the continuation of coercive measures against the beleaguered Caribbean island nation. At the forefront of these calls has been Frances Suarez, mayor of Miami – the hinterland of CubaAmerican exile hardliners – who has openly called for direct US military intervention into Cuba.

The move comes amidst a growing unwillingness on the part of the Biden administration to roll back some of his predecessor’s policies toward Cuba. The Trump administration had reversed several of the renormalization measures implemented by the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president, in part as an effort to court the support of the Cuban-American community and their representatives, such as senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

There were high hopes within progressive circles that Biden would at least return Cuba policy to the Obama days or perhaps even abandon the US’s policy of regime change altogether. But, so far, he has kept Trump’s policies intact. More ominously, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said to reporters in March that “a Cuba policy shift is not currently among President Biden’s top priorities.”

In the wake of Sunday’s protests, Biden’s position appears to have shifted even further to the right. Referring to the Cuban “regime,” that favorite of Washington’s propaganda terms, he called on the Cuban government to “hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.” He added: “We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime.”

As would be expected, the corporate-owned media, parroting Washington’s position, repeat accusations of authoritarianism and mismanagement without qualification or nuance. With the Cuban-American exiles added to this mix, commentary has increasingly morphed into a self-reinforcing loop of justification for US intervention as rhetoric gets converted to “fact,” which, in turn, provides justification for US intervention. It therefore falls to independent voices to provide some modicum of balance.

First of all, it is important to put these protests into perspective. Biden talks as if the protesters are representative of the entire Cuban people when there is no evidence to support this insinuation. Cuba is an island of 11 million people who hold diverse views about the revolution and all manner of other matters. There is zero evidence to suggest that the majority of the Cuban people want to reverse the major social gains of the revolution. ...Read More
From the CCDS Socialist Education Project...
A China Reader


Edited by Duncan McFarland

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


244 pages, $20 (discounts available for quantity), order at :


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

Click here for the Table of Contents
Taking Down White Supremacy 

A Reader on Multiracial and Multinational Unity 

Edited by the CCDS
Socialist Education Project

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


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

      Click here for the Table of contents

On The Political Marriage Of Joe Biden And Bernie Sanders
Progressives Cannot And Should Not Be Satisfied With The Policies Of
The Biden Presidency. Yet Breakthrough Achievements Should Not Be
Denied.
By Norman Solomon
Common Dreams

So far, most of the Biden presidency has been predictable.

Its foreign policy includes bloated Pentagon spending and timeworn declarations that the United States should again "lead the world" and "sit at the head of the table."

Many corporate influence peddlers have settled into jobs in the upper reaches of the executive branch. The new administration has taken only baby steps toward student debt relief or progressive taxation. On health care, the White House keeps protecting the interests of insurance companies while rebuffing public opinion that favors Medicare for All.

And yet—Joe Biden is no longer on the narrow corporate road that he traveled during five decades in politics.

President Biden's recent moves to curtail monopolies have stunned many observers who—extrapolating from his 36-year record in the Senate—logically assumed he would do little to challenge corporate power. Overall, Biden has moved leftward on economic policies, while Sen. Bernie Sanders—who says that "the Biden of today is not what I or others would have expected" decades ago—has gained major clout that extends into the Oval Office.

  • One danger of Bernie's tight political embrace of Biden is that "progressive" standards will be redefined downward. Another danger is that Biden's international policies and conformity to militarism will be further swept off the table of public debate.

This month has seen a spate of news stories about Sanders' new political leverage, not only as chair of the Senate Budget Committee but also due to his close working relationship with Biden. Under the headline "Vermont's Longtime Outsider Has Become a Trusted Voice in the Biden White House," CNN summed up: "The Biden-Sanders connection is not a love story; it's more a marriage of convenience. But as Biden pushes an unprecedented progressive White House agenda, it's crucial." Sanders told the network that Biden "wants to be a champion of working families, and I admire that and respect that."

But if Biden is pushing "an unprecedented progressive White House agenda," it's a high jump over a low bar. Leaving aside President Lyndon Johnson's short-lived Great Society program that was smothered by Vietnam War spending, no White House agendas since the 1940s really merit the term "progressive." And the current president hardly passes as "a champion of working families" unless he's graded on an unduly lenient curve.

One danger of Bernie's tight political embrace of Biden is that "progressive" standards will be redefined downward. Another danger is that Biden's international policies and conformity to militarism will be further swept off the table of public debate.

For instance, targeting VenezuelaIranCuba and other disfavored nations, Biden continues to impose sanctions that are killing many thousands of people each month, with children especially vulnerable. A truly progressive president would not do such a thing.

Meanwhile—despite strong efforts by Sanders, some other lawmakers and many human-rights activists—Biden is still abetting Saudi Arabia's warfare in Yemen that continues to cause the world's worst humanitarian disaster. "While he is a welcome change from the incompetence, venality, and cruelty of the Trump administration," epidemiologist Aisha Jumaan and attorney Charles Pierson wrote recently at Common Dreams, "Biden has continued the Obama and Trump administrations' support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen." A truly progressive president would not do such a thing.

And then there's the enormous U.S. military budget, already bloated during the Trump years, which Biden has opted to raise. A truly progressive president would not do such a thing.
There is political and moral peril ahead to the extent that Bernie Sanders—or others who oppose such policies—feel compelled to tamp down denunciations of them in hopes of reaping progressive results by bonding, and not polarizing, with Biden.

In the aftermath of his two presidential campaigns that achieved huge political paradigm shifts, Sanders is now in a unique position. "Sanders already influenced a leftward shift in the Democratic Party through his time on the campaign trail in 2016 and 2020," Bloomberg News reported last week. "Biden has embraced a series of progressive priorities, including an expanded child tax credit and subsidies for clean energy, and made an attempt at increasing the national minimum wage earlier this year."

For genuine progressives, the Sanders-Biden bond is positive to the extent that it helps sway the president's policies leftward—but negative to the extent that it restrains Sanders, and others in his extended orbit, from publicly confronting Biden about policies that are antithetical to the values that the Bernie 2020 presidential campaign embodied.

Sanders routinely combines his zeal for the art of the morally imperative with the art of the possible. So, four months ago, he helped push the American Rescue Plan through the Senate and onto Biden's desk for signing. It resulted in upwards of 160 million direct cash payments to individuals but did not boost the minimum wage. Sanders commented: "Was it everything we wanted? No. Was it a major step for the working class of this country? You bet it was." ...Read More
Photo: From the streets of Ferguson to the halls of Congress: U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO). Here she speaks at a 2020 campaign rally., Photo News 247, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Key to Strategy #2:
Know Yourself

This is the second in a series of columns looking at Left strategy today. Key to Strategy #1 focused on the first component of Sun Tzu’s dictum that to prevail in battle it is necessary to “know the enemy and know yourself.”

By Max Elbaum  
Organizing Upgrade

July 12, 2021 - Social justice movements and the Left have grown by orders of magnitude in size and political sophistication since 2015. That explosive growth has given leftists tremendous hope. It’s punched a big hole in “always-on-the-margins” thinking and pushed radicals to set our sights on operating “at scale.” These are huge assets as we confront the challenges of a moment characterized by deep racial, economic, and environmental crises and intense political polarization.

Yet along with that boost, such rapid progress can spur magical thinking about our strength relative to the forces arrayed against us. Judged in comparison to the Left’s clout during the 40 years that preceded 2015, we are doing great. But we remain weak in comparison to the MAGA bloc that has turned the Republican Party into a white nationalist-driven “party for dictatorship.” And we do not match the institutional strength and mass following of the power-brokers anchored in and around the Democratic Party leadership.

The potential to gain further ground relative to these other actors is very real. But following several years in which longstanding arrangements and ways of thinking were rapidly upended, U.S. politics are taking shape as a kind of “trench warfare.” Further Left growth is unlikely to take the same forms it did during Bernie Sanders’ breakthrough campaigns or the 2020 uprising to defend Black lives. The hard slog ahead will require a focused, in-it-for-the-long-haul strategy for gaining power and greater alignment among the most dynamic groups that have been formed or grown rapidly in recent years. We will need big advances in our organizational capacity, and deeper roots in working-class and people of color communities.

To make the breakthroughs we require, it is necessary to conduct a frank inventory of where we are now.

BIG ADVANCE: A FOCUS ON POLITICAL POWER

On the level of vision, today’s U.S. Left is on more advanced ground than it was six years ago. For the first time in decades, elaborating a strategy to win a chunk of political power is a central feature of the discussions and debates that shape what social justice forces actually do.

Ideas about how to achieve political power have always been a feature of Left conversation. But since the 1960s upsurge ebbed, gaining power has been only an abstract or theoretical question for partisans of social justice and transformative change. Radicals have participated in and made big contributions to important struggles. But these have been either defensive or, when they have pushed things forward, were protest movements pressing those who held power to concede to popular demands.

The fundamental reason for this lay in the conditions the Left operated within. The successful backlash against the gains of the 1960s – globally as well as within the U.S. – closed off avenues for the Left to engage in any serious fight for political power. The deeply unfavorable balance of forces exerted great pressure on every radical formation to narrow its political horizons. (Or to become what Marx called “socialist sects” where the goal of “seizing power” is kept alive in internal culture and propaganda but has little to do with the groups’ practical organizing.)

In 2015-2016, conditions changed. The consequences of the 2008 financial crisis and the “Great Recession,” and the reaction of racially anxious whites to the demographic changes symbolized by the election of the first Black President, produced two political explosions.

On the right, the groundwork laid by the Tea Party, birtherism, and 40 years of backlash led to a right-wing populist insurgency that catapulted Trump to the GOP presidential nomination. On the Left, Bernie Sanders’ campaign became the vehicle for an outpouring of radical energy and mass discontent, building on the ground laid by Occupy, Black Lives Matter, climate justice protests, and teachers’ strikes, as well as numerous local and state community organizing efforts that had been under the radar for the previous decade.

These explosions resulted in Trump winning the presidency and Bernie coming much closer to winning the Democratic nomination than anyone had expected. The combination upended previous thinking on the Left. The policies Trump pursued from day one showed that at pivotal moments it mattered a great deal which of the two major blocs/parties held governmental power. Bernie’s achievement indicated that the Left not only could contend on the national stage, but if we played our cards right, we might grab some power for ourselves.

BLOCK THE RIGHT, WIN GOVERNING POWER

Four years of Trumpism in the White House, the 2018 and 2020 elections, and January 6 and its aftermath have underscored these points and pushed Left discussion further.

The MAGA authoritarians have consolidated their takeover of the GOP and dug in to cover up the roots – and even the existence – of Trump’s January 6 coup attempt. The “big lie” that Trump won in 2020 is now a litmus test of party loyalty and the justification for full embrace of a suppress-votes-and-steal-elections strategy. The urgency of preventing the MAGA bloc from controlling either house of Congress and/or the White House is now all but universally acknowledged.

Key developments on the other end of the spectrum include the election of AOC, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley to Congress in 2018 and expansion of The Squad with the victories of Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman in 2020; the growth and political tightening up of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; the achievements and growth of power-building formations in Florida, Virginia, and other states; the role of social justice forces in 2020 battleground states and especially the Georgia Senate run-offs; and the fact that key elements of Biden’s domestic program are both very popular and a break with the “old orthodoxy” of neoliberalism. These and other factors have underscored the ways progressive electoral engagement can affect national politics, shift the dynamic within the Democratic Party, and expand the grassroots base of the Left.

This has resulted in more radical organizations moving the idea of fighting for “governing power” at the municipal, state, and federal levels central to their strategic thinking. The electoral abstentionism that accompanied a Left whose main activity was mobilizing protests and issuing propaganda has diminished influence. It is being replaced by a push for social justice groups to use electoral campaigns to bring previously “siloed” movements together, reach out to win majority support, and fight to win. As they engage with electoral work, these groups synergize it with mass action (strikes, demonstrations etc.) and with ambitious communications strategies to “change the narrative.” They link election campaigns with sustained efforts to revitalize civil society organizations – the labor movement and community groups of various kinds – that bring people together who share conditions of life across political, and sociological divides.

The bulk of those taking this course have also decided that most of their electoral efforts will involve fighting on Democratic Party terrain. A wide spectrum of views exists on what that means and what the medium-term goal of those fights should be. At one end are perspectives that oppose any involvement in Democratic Party affairs or structures beyond running Left candidates in primaries to win the Democratic ballot line. Some but not all advocates of this view accept the idea that they need to vote for even backward Democrats to keep the MAGA bloc out of power.

A larger number of progressives, including Bernie, advocate an across-the-board effort to win maximum influence within and eventually control of official Democratic Party structures. And they – along with others still agnostic on how exactly to deal with the Democratic Party – stress that being in the forefront of electoral, election-protection, and non-electoral efforts to defeat the GOP is not only necessary to protect hard-won democratic space but crucial to winning the confidence of key constituencies and building the independent strength of the social justice trend.

'UNRIG A RIGGED SYSTEM'

Most throwing themselves into electoral engagement are aware of its limits. Maurice Mitchell, leader of the Working Families Party, frequently describes the challenge facing the Left this way:

“We need to get enough power within a rigged system to unrig it.”

Mitchell and others point to the racist and undemocratic nature of key structures of the U.S. state such as the Senate and Electoral College. The same applies to bodies such as ICE, police departments and the prison system.

These structures must all be abolished and replaced with different structures if popular power is to be secure. They cannot simply be taken over and used differently. But as the longtime organizer and Executive Director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression Frank Chapman says, “You can’t abolish unless you first control.”

The fight for governing power is, among other things, a crucial component of gaining the control needed to accomplish the Left’s abolish-and-replace tasks. Putting that idea in classical Marxist terms means noting that “governing power” is not the same as “state power.” But it is a necessary step in that direction.

STRONG STATES CAN’T BE TAKEN SOLELY FROM OUTSIDE

No one on the Left has figured out how to win governing power, much less how a combination of electoral victory and “outside” fighting capacity could capture state power. But the probing discussion that is now underway is more advanced than the U.S. Left’s conversation the last time a new radical cohort thought a path to power was on the near-term agenda.

That round was the late 1960s/early ’70s upsurge that produced my generation of revolutionaries. The victories of national liberation revolutions and the “Road of October” (Russia in 1917) led us to think states could be overthrown purely from “outside.” And right here in the U.S. it seemed for a brief but intense moment that elections were considered obsolete not just by radicals but by millions, especially youth. Most of us were not ideologically anti-electoral: how could we be given the influence on us of the voting rights struggle and Mississippi Summer? But most of the ’60s revolutionary generation embraced strategies in which electoral engagement was at most a minor tactical option while the “real” struggle took place outside it.

Experience across the globe since then has shown that only states that have near-zero mass legitimacy and a fragile social base (mainly client states imposed by a foreign power) can be overthrown purely from the outside. States that have functional electoral systems – even if those function badly – have proved capable of navigating major crises without being toppled.

No successful socialist transformation has occurred in any such country. No part of the Left can claim to have “the answer” to the question of how to take power. But strong evidence indicates that it will take a combination of winning significant governing power and building deeply rooted and combative mass-based forms outside of state structures to win consistent democracy and social transformation.

THE UPRISING AND THE CENTRALITY OF RACIAL JUSTICE

The uprising in defense of Black lives following the murder of George Floyd has led to the other major advance in U.S. radical thinking. The uprising thrust the fight for racial justice and the pivotal role of the Black Freedom Movement into the center of the conversation about transformative strategies. It aligned the present activist generation with a dynamic central to U.S. politics since 1619.

Before the uprising, the cycle of radicalization that got the most media attention began with the 2008 financial crisis and Occupy and was mainly driven by the economic squeeze. The numerically largest layer in this radicalization – educated young whites – had been led to expect fulfilling careers and a bright economic future. Instead, they faced mountains of student debt and job prospects circumscribed by austerity and the “gig economy.”

Black Lives Matter was in the mix, part of a radicalization process more rooted in communities of color that kicked off after Hurricane Katrina and moved through the massive 2006 immigrant rights demonstrations to Ferguson and beyond. But the Black Freedom Movement did not yet manifest a level of social power comparable to its role in the 1960s or in the 1980s Rainbow Coalition resistance to Reaganism. And too much of the self-described socialist Left and too many prominent white progressives did not fully appreciate its importance, or the increasingly significant role being played by radical circles rooted in Indigenous resistance and Latinx, Asian American, and Arab American communities. The shortcomings of Bernie’s 2016 campaign in addressing racial justice was only the most visible reflection of this weakness.

The uprising caused a sea-change. It reminded everyone (not just the Left) that the fight for racial justice – and against anti-Blackness in particular – was a central component of the fights for democracy and radical change. Indeed, in 400 years of U.S. history, it has frequently been those struggles’ driving force.

An outpouring of scholarship on the deep interconnection between white supremacy and the development of U.S. capitalism, and a torrent of newspaper, film and television attention to events and themes previously off-limits, has reshaped the national conversation about race. The right-wing assault on the New York Times 1619 Project – and now the hysteria over schools teaching “critical race theory” – indicates the potential impact of this shift. But it is the uprising that showed – to put it in old-school terms – the potential power of ideas when they become a material force among millions.

Not every sector of the Left has sufficiently incorporated these realities into their strategic thinking. And no part of the social justice movement has solved the problem of building a durable multi-racial bloc for radical democracy and social transformation. But post-uprising, the Left conversation about how to do that has been catapulted forward.

INTERNATIONALISM, CLIMATE CHANGE

Unfortunately, the strategic conversation in the social justice eco-system lags on the equally urgent challenge of combating war, militarism, and imperial bullying. Yet internationalism is especially important at a moment when the Biden administration is adopting many welcome policies on “domestic” issues while doing all it can to shore up U.S. global hegemony and block the rise of any potential rival. (Read: Target China.) There has been some creative thinking on the Left on how to move forward (pieces by Phyllis Bennis and Van Gosse/Bill Fletcher Jr.) but we have a huge distance to travel before a movement that is making major gains on “domestic” issues effectively integrates peace and anti-militarist programs into its efforts.

There is a more widespread appreciation on the Left of the danger of climate change, a reality which in Naomi Klein’s words, “changes everything.” But alignment on strategies that effectively address the difference in pace between climate change (time is running out) and power-building (arduous and slow) is yet to be developed. The potential for progress, however, is indicated by the recent advances in climate justice activism – the rooted work led by indigenous peoples which has led to important victories, and the creative campaign that has catapulted the idea of a Green New Deal into the mainstream.

CONVERGENCE, BUT A LONG WAYS TO GO

Accompanying these advances in Left conversations about strategy has been a growing convergence of formations from different sectors around a few key points. Many of the social justice groups that threw down to beat Trump and the GOP at the ballot box in 2020 shared a common view of Trumpism as an extreme danger, race and racism at the pivot of the country’s current polarization, and the need to engage electorally not just to beat the right but to contend for governing power. Coordinating their electoral efforts through vehicles such as United Against Trump, The Frontline, Win Justice, and various state tables deepened this agreement and strengthened practical ties. The broad consultations over messaging and tactics among an even broader range of forces to protect the results was also a promising step forward.

But coordinating efforts in one specific campaign is a long way from joining together in a coalition or single formation united on a strategy for sustained work across different states and numerous election cycles. And while some organizations are larger or more influential than others, no single group in the social justice eco-system has the combination of a compelling strategy and sufficient social weight to bring most others into its orbit. Even common vehicles for organizing strategic debate in a way that makes it more systematic and more accessible are not yet in place.

The problems this creates for the Left are underscored by comparison to the level of strategic clarity and coordination that characterize our opponents. The MAGA movement is pursuing a clear strategy to gain political power and it is united behind a single center (talking points from Mar-a-Lago are spread to millions within hours). The Democratic High Command is less monolithic, and though it is shedding neoliberalism it has not yet formulated a clear alternative model. And even if we on the Left believe its strategy is not adequate to either soundly defeat the GOP or satisfy the demands and aspirations of the anti-Trumpist majority, the Biden-Schumer-Pelosi bloc is operating in far more unified fashion than the progressive movement which is challenging it.

In short, our strategic thinking and degree of coordination have advanced substantially since 2015, and the “progressive wing” is now a player in national politics. But even on the level of vision and unity we trail our opponents.

We lag even further behind our opponents in terms of institutional strength, organizational capacity, influence within government, and the size of our mass base. An attempt to “know ourselves” regarding those key components of contending for power will be the focus of the next column in this series.
 
Max Elbaum has been active in peace, anti-racist and radical movements since the 1960s. He is an editor of Organizing Upgrade and the author of Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che (Verso Books, Third Edition, 2018). ...Read More
Is a War With China Inevitable?

The statements coming out of the Department of Defense and
the upper ranks of Congress these days make it seem that way.
By Michael T. Klare
The Nation

It’s the summer of 2026, five years after the Biden administration identified the People’s Republic of China as the principal threat to US security and Congress passed a raft of laws mandating a society-wide mobilization to ensure permanent US domination of the Asia-Pacific region.

Although major armed conflict between the United States and China has not yet broken out, numerous crises have erupted in the Western Pacific and the two countries are constantly poised for war. International diplomacy has largely broken down, with talks over climate change, pandemic relief, and nuclear nonproliferation at a standstill. For most security analysts, it’s not a matter of if a US-China war will erupt, but when.

Does this sound fanciful? Not if you read the statements coming out of the Department of Defense (DoD) and the upper ranks of Congress these days.

“China poses the greatest long-term challenge to the United States and strengthening deterrence against China will require DoD to work in concert with other instruments of national power,” the Pentagon’s 2022 Defense Budget Overview asserts. “A combat-credible Joint Force will underpin a whole-of-nation approach to competition and ensure the Nation leads from a position of strength.”

On this basis, the Pentagon requested $715 billion in military expenditures for 2022, with a significant chunk of those funds to be spent on the procurement of advanced ships, planes, and missiles intended for a potential all-out, “high-intensity” war with China. An extra $38 billion was sought for the design and production of nuclear weapons, another key aspect of the drive to overpower China.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress, contending that even such sums were insufficient to ensure continued US superiority vis-à-vis that country, are pressing for further increases in the 2022 Pentagon budget. Many have also endorsed the EAGLE Act, short for Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement—a measure intended to provide hundreds of billions of dollars for increased military aid to America’s Asian allies and for research on advanced technologies deemed essential for any future high-tech arms race with China.

Imagine, then, that such trends only gain momentum over the next five years. What will this country be like in 2026? What can we expect from an intensifying new Cold War with China that, by then, could be on the verge of turning hot?

TAIWAN 2026: PERPETUALLY ON THE BRINK

Crises over Taiwan have erupted on a periodic basis since the start of the decade, but now, in 2026, they seem to be occurring every other week. With Chinese bombers and warships constantly probing Taiwan’s outer defenses and US naval vessels regularly maneuvering close to their Chinese counterparts in waters near the island, the two sides never seem far from a shooting incident that would have instantaneous escalatory implications. So far, no lives have been lost, but planes and ships from both sides have narrowly missed colliding again and again. On each occasion, forces on both sides have been placed on high alert, causing jitters around the world.

The tensions over that island have largely stemmed from incremental efforts by Taiwanese leaders, mostly officials of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), to move their country from autonomous status as part of China to full independence. Such a move is bound to provoke a harsh, possibly military response from Beijing, which considers the island a renegade province.

The island’s status has plagued US-China relations for decades. When, on January 1, 1979, Washington first recognized the People’s Republic of China, it agreed to withdraw diplomatic recognition from the Taiwanese government and cease formal relations with its officials. Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, however, US officials were obligated to conduct informal relations with Taipei. The act stipulated as well that any move by Beijing to alter Taiwan’s status by force would be considered “a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States”—a stance known as “strategic ambiguity,” as it neither guaranteed American intervention, nor ruled it out.

In the ensuing decades, the United States sought to avoid conflict in the region by persuading Taipei not to make any overt moves toward independence and by minimizing its ties to the island, thereby discouraging aggressive moves by China. By 2021, however, the situation had been remarkably transformed. Once under the exclusive control of the Nationalist Party that had been defeated by communist forces on the Chinese mainland in 1949, Taiwan became a multiparty democracy in 1987. It has since witnessed the steady rise of pro-independence forces, led by the DPP. At first, the mainland regime sought to woo the Taiwanese with abundant trade and tourism opportunities, but the excessive authoritarianism of its Communist Party alienated many island residents— especially younger ones —only adding momentum to the drive for independence. This, in turn, has prompted Beijing to switch tactics from courtship to coercion by constantly sending its combat planes and ships into Taiwanese air and sea space.

Trump administration officials, less concerned about alienating Beijing than their predecessors, sought to bolster ties with the Taiwanese government in a series of gestures that Beijing found threatening and that were only expanded in the early months of the Biden administration. At that time, growing hostility to China led many in Washington to call for an end to “strategic ambiguity” and the adoption of an unequivocal pledge to defend Taiwan if it were to come under attack from the mainland.

“I think the time has come to be clear,” Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas declared in February 2021. “Replace strategic ambiguity with strategic clarity that the United States will come to the aid of Taiwan if China was to forcefully invade Taiwan.”

The Biden administration was initially reluctant to adopt such an inflammatory stance, since it meant that any conflict between China and Taiwan would automatically become a US-China war with nuclear ramifications. ...Read More
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‘The White Republic’: Concluding Thoughts by Bob Wing
Multi-racial, multi-class forces united to defend the November 2020 election, and Pennsylvania was a key battleground. Photos from Pennsylvania Stands Up.

By Bob Wing
Organizing Upgrade

July 13, 2021 - Many thanks to the editors of Organizing Upgrade for coordinating responses to my essay, “The White Republic and the Struggle for Racial Justice.” And special thanks to Bill Fletcher, Jr., Gerald Horne, Erin Heaney, Peter Olney and Rand Wilson, Van Gosse, and Barry Eidlin for their thoughtful and comradely contributions to the discussion.

The respondents agreed that “white republic” is an accurate historical and strategic concept. Most used their responses to deepen, refine, and or apply it to their organizing work. They are well worth the read but too numerous for me to respond to here. However, I believe that a class realignment strategy, as outlined by Barry Eidlin, divides the antiracist forces and diverts the left from the historic racial justice struggle, so I will respond to it at the end of this note.

FASCISM HAS A HISTORICALLY SPECIFIC FORM IN THE U.S.

I think the terms “fascism” and “fascists” are overused and overbroad. More importantly, history itself has now produced a more specific concept that is also better understood publicly: “racist authoritarianism.” In other words, the specific form of authoritarianism and far-right populism in the U.S. is not fascism but racist authoritarianism. And the specific name of the U.S. version of fascists is white supremacists/nationalists. MAGA movement is also on point. Trumpism or Trumpists are best used when it is made clear that the main content of these terms is racist authoritarianism. It is also likely that a powerful white nationalist movement will survive Trump. Finally, some people use the term “New Confederacy,” which I am not quite ready to adopt though I see its attractions.

THE STRUCTURE OF WHITE MINORITY RULE

In my essay, I briefly discussed some of the critical remaining racist political institutions: the Electoral College, the Senate, gerrymandering, and various forms of voter suppression. I explored these in more depth in a previous essay, “Notes Toward a Social Justice Electoral Strategy.”

Here I want to brand this system of institutions as the “structure of white minority rule.” Without them, we would be thrashing the Trumpists. With them, we have a winnable but grueling fight ahead.

Notably, each of these institutions is part of the system of federalism enshrined in the Constitution that, among other things, purposely empowered the slaveholders at the expense of democracy.

The size of each state’s congressional delegation determines the number of votes it gets in the Electoral College. Thus, the notorious constitutional rule that counted each slave as three-fifths of a person even though they were disenfranchised enabled slaveholders to augment their representation in Congress and the Electoral College.

Today, the Electoral College still subverts the fundamental democratic principle of one person, one vote. It effectively disenfranchises about 40% of the national Black presidential vote when white Southern reactionaries outvote African Americans and thereby garner all of the electoral votes of most Southern states for the Republicans. And it gives three times as much weight to an electoral vote from small-population (primarily Republican) states as large (mostly Democratic) states. As a result, the Republicans have held the presidency for twelve years since 2020 despite losing the popular vote in all but one of those elections.

The Senate is composed of two Senators from each state, allowing the numerous small states, now overwhelmingly Trumpist, to lock in their power. Ian Millhiser, writing for Vox, calculates, “the Democratic half of the Senate represents 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half.” Thus, even if we eliminate the filibuster rule, the Senate is a bulwark of racist authoritarianism. Still, we can and must win the Senate.

Similarly, racist gerrymandering and voter suppression laws enable Trumpists to control state legislatures and congressional representation even when they lose the popular vote.

UNITED FRONT, POPULAR FRONT, AND DEMOCRATIC FRONT

In my essay, I invoked the concept of the united front as the principal opposition to the racist authoritarians. In the 1930s and 1940s, that concept referred to building strategic unity among different working-class forces within the advanced capitalist countries. In most countries, that meant unity among social-democratic (and socialist) parties and trade unions and communist parties and unions, which together dominated the working-class movement in Europe. In the original conceptualization, the popular front was the multi-class front of all peoples’ forces against fascism, and it excluded big capitalists.

However, in my opinion, the most progressive political forces and movements in the U.S. have been multi-class for at least half a century: for example, the movements of Black people and other people of color, the multi-racial antiracist movements, the women’s movement, the movements for climate and health justice, against war, for LGBTQ rights, etc. Moreover, although working-class forces have been present in each of those multi-class groupings, they have been far weaker and less politically advanced than in Europe and the U.S. in the 1930s. At that time, they were undeniably the leading and most powerful movement.

Thus, although building the working-class movement, including working-class poles within the multi-class movements, is a crucial priority, it is likely that Black-led people of color and antiracist movements will continue to be the main anchor of the people’s movement.

Finally, I believe capitalist forces are crucial to defeating the MAGA movement, and I do not think this will change anytime soon either. By capitalist forces, I refer to most elite Democratic Party elected officials, funders, think tanks, and operatives; the mainstream media and corporate cultural institutions; large, moderate non-profit organizations and funders; liberal colleges, etc. It is significant that, so far, the only giant corporate entity publicly aligned with the Trumpists is Fox and that the mainstream media is virtually unanimous in opposition. Although the left and progressive forces have made massive gains over the last 10 years, we still have little to take the place of the crucial role those forces and institutions play.

Consequently, I purposely used the term “united front” to refer to multi-class forces united to defeat racist authoritarianism and fight for an antiracist democracy. And I believe it compels us to adopt another strategic concept that recognizes the breadth of the anti-Trumpist alliance, including capitalists: the democratic front.

Yes, including capitalists in the democratic front tremendously complicates unity and struggle dynamics within that front, with constant class struggle. But, in my opinion, that is the political reality on the ground, regardless of whether we recognize it conceptually.

Making strategic and tactical unity-and-struggle decisions regarding various capitalists is, in fact, a crucial task for virtually every social justice organization in the U.S. It is a constant in electoral, community, policy, and labor organizing and fundraising, and media work. It is almost impossible to seriously engage, let alone win any campaign, without making smart decisions about which capitalists might align with our immediate goals, which are unalterably opposed, and which might be convinced to stay neutral. This critical work is a combination of winning powerful allies and dividing our opponents.

Consequently, it is far better to consciously and strategically deal with this reality rather than allow it to blindside us or facilitate a devastating Trumpist victory by making enemies of all capitalists. We can only build the social justice movement if we can navigate the complex unity-struggle dynamics with powerful allies, even if those allies sometimes undercut, block, or even outright attack us. But, of course, this alignment of forces will almost certainly change once the white nationalists are defeated and before we win an antiracist democracy. In short, politics are in constant motion, and we need to be alert to changes that require changes in strategy and tactics. But this is my read at the moment.

Soon, I hope our movement will name itself (as the far right has) and replace the clunky concepts that we now work with. The Rainbow Coalition once accomplished this. Black Lives Matter is a significant step in that direction. Our ability to agree on a powerful identity will mark our maturation and unity and be crucial to our further development.

CLASS VS. CLASS IS A LOSING STRATEGY

I believe the strategy proposed in Barry Eidlin’s response to my essay divides the antiracist forces and diverts the left from the frontlines of the historic struggle now raging. But his and similar views are influential in the Democratic Socialists of America, which, as a national organization, still holds back from making its potentially weighty political contribution to the fight against racist authoritarianism.

Eidlin states that he agrees with me that: “Clearly any movement for social and economic justice in the U.S. must place the struggle against racism and white supremacy at its core. More specifically, it’s hard to find fault with his assessment that ‘race is the pivot of U.S. politics’ and that the contemporary Republican Party has doubled down on naked, overt racism as its fundamental appeal.” He also positively invokes the concepts of “racial capitalism” and “the white republic.”

However, the article’s strategic punchline omits all of those racial justice affirmations in favor of the class struggle between workers and capitalists: “The goal of today’s antiracist alliance should not be to array one cross-class alliance against another. Rather, it should be to realign the entire conflict along class lines.”

The lynchpin of this class strategy is a belief that racial oppression and white privilege are merely ideological, not systemic, structural, or material. Eidlin writes: “Does this mean that racist domination of Black and indigenous peoples was and is simply an instrument of economic exploitation? Far from it. Ideologies often take on a life and logic of their own once established.”

This consignment of racial oppression to “ideology” has significant consequences. Only class exploitation is considered the “material base” and, in Eidlin’s framework, is far more important than ideology. He does not consider the vast economic and social differences between whites – capitalists and non-capitalists alike – and people of color to be “a material basis of racism” since they are not, in his view, class exploitation. This analysis leads to an antiracist strategy designed to “realign the entire conflict along class lines.”

By contrast, I believe a strategy that seeks to realign antiracist struggle to class struggle rather than directly confront systemic racism and the racist state is ephemeral at best and racist class collaboration at worst (expressed, for example, in the practice of the American Federation of Labor until fairly recently).

Eidlin acknowledges that rabid exploitation of African slaves and seizure of Native land were the chief purposes of racism in the U.S. But he ignores the development of the system of white privilege that gave white supremacy its unique shape, political dynamics, and power in this country, including racist state power.

The thirteen colonies and the U.S. were the only slave societies that produced a stark racial polarization based on the one-drop rule. And the United States was the only former site of African slavery that later legally instituted and enforced, often by white terror, a systematic Jim Crow color line of white supremacy/white privilege and Black oppression throughout its economy, society, and politics. Consequently, while sharp racial disparities, discrimination, and colorism are rife in countries where Europeans enslaved Africans, racial politics are far more potent in the U.S. than in the others, and the U.S. is the only one I consider to be a white republic.

BEYOND THE MATERIAL BASE

The capitalist “material base” alone cannot explain any of these unique historical developments or comprehend their specific politics. Racist exploitation and white privilege have, from the beginning, led to the creation of a vast system of economic, political, legal, and institutional structures that permeate every aspect of U.S. life. Its politics cannot be comprehended in class terms alone.

Finally, the proposed class realignment strategy downplays the power of millions of Black and Latino(a) non-working class people who possess less net wealth than white high school dropouts and whose lives do not matter to racists or the racist system. A class-versus-class strategy diminishes the grievances and political importance of the millions of non-working class whites who oppose racism. And it underestimates the crucial role of tens of millions of white workers who, as we speak, are going to the mattresses for Trumpist racist authoritarianism.

In short, this strategy weakens the antiracist forces and oversimplifies the racist forces. The left needs to take history and politics as the basis of analysis and strategy rather than squeezing reality into a theory.

Should we ever win socialism and eliminate capitalism in the U.S., significant racist stratification of the working class and society, racial profiling, and voter suppression will undoubtedly continue. So we will need to continue to systematically root it out and defeat the racist forces within the working and middle classes that promote it. ...Read More
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This Week's History Lesson:
The Many Myths of the Term ‘Anglo-Saxon’
Two medieval historians tackle the misuse of a phrase that was rarely used by its supposed namesakes


By Mary Rambaran-Olm and Erik Wade
Smithsonianmag.com

JULY 14, 2021 = People in the United States and Great Britain have long drawn on imagined AngloSaxon heritage as an exemplar of European whiteness. Before becoming president, Teddy Roosevelt led his “Rough Riders” on the 1898 U.S. invasion of Cuba with a copy of Edmond Demolins’ racist manifesto AngloSaxon Superiority in tow.

In the 1920s, the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America lobbied in favor of segregation and argued for the exclusion of those with even a drop “of any blood other than Caucasian.” In the same time frame, a Baptist minister from Atlanta declared, “The Ku Klux Klan is not fighting anybody; it is simply pro AngloSaxon.” Across the Atlantic, in 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill smugly inquired, “Why be apologetic about Anglo-Saxon superiority, that we were superior, that we had the common heritage which had been worked out over the centuries in England and had been perfected by our constitution?”

Today, the term “Anglo-Saxon” is little used in mainstream American circles, perhaps as a chiding WASP label directed toward northeastern elites. But as news from earlier this year has shown, it still exists as a supremacist dog whistle. Its association with whiteness has saturated our lexicon to the point that it’s often misused in political discourse and weaponized to promote far-right ideology. In April 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives’ America First Caucus published a seven-page policy platform claiming that the country’s borders and culture are “strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.” On social media, jokes about a return to trial by combat, swordfights, thatched roofs, and other seemingly Anglo-Saxon practices quickly gained traction.

How did this obscure term—little used in the Middle Ages themselves—become a modern phrase meaning both a medieval period in early England and a euphemism for whiteness? Who were the actual people now known as the Anglo-Saxons? And what terminology should be used instead of this ahistorical title?

The Anglo-Saxon myth perpetuates a false idea of what it means to be “native” to Britain. Though the hyphenated term is sometimes used as a catchall phrase to describe the dominant tribes of early England, it’s historically inaccurate and wasn’t actually used much prior to the Norman Conquest of 1066. The name didn’t even originate in England: Instead, it first appeared on the continent, where Latin writers used it to distinguish between the Germanic Saxons of mainland Europe and the English Saxons.

The few uses of “Anglo-Saxon” in Old English seem to be borrowed from the Latin Angli Saxones. Manuscript evidence from preConquest England reveals that kings used the Latin term almost exclusively in Latin charters, legal documents and, for a brief period, in their titles, such as Anglorum Saxonum Rex, or king of the Anglo-Saxons. The references describe kings like Alfred and Edward who did not rule (nor claim to rule) all the English kingdoms. They were specifically referring to the English Saxons from the continental Saxons. Scholars have no evidence of anyone before 1066 referring to themselves as an “Anglo-Saxon” in the singular or describing their politics and traditions as “Anglo-Saxon.” While one might be king of the English Saxons, nobody seems to have claimed to be an “English-Saxon,” in other words.

Who, then, were the groups that lend Anglo-Saxon its name? The Angles were one of the main Germanic peoples (from modern-day southern Denmark and northern Germany) to settle in Great Britain. The first known mention of the Anglii was recorded by the first-century Roman historian Tacitus. Just as the Angles settled in Britain, so too did the Saxons, along with the Frisians, Jutes, and other lesser-known peoples. Originally from what is now Germany, these Saxons became one of the dominant groups in Britain, though the stand-alone word Seax in Old English was not widely used and only for the Saxon groups, never for all these people together. Together, they were most commonly called “Englisc.”

For years, scholars of medieval history have explained that the term Anglo-Saxon has a long history of misuse, is inaccurate, and is generally used in a racist context. Based on surviving texts, early inhabitants of the region more commonly called themselves englisc and angelcynn. Over the span of the early English period, from 410 A.D. (when various tribes settled on the British islands after the Romans left) to shortly after 1066, the term only appears three times in the entire corpus of Old English literature. All of these instances are in the tenth century.

Modern references to “Anglo=Saxon political traditions” would benefit from readings of actual Old English charters—early medieval documents predominantly preoccupied with land grants, writs and wills. From the eighth century onward, these charters increasingly favored granting land to laypeople, many of whom were migrants. Those Americans who seek a return to the roots of Anglo-Saxons should realize that this actually translates to more open, inclusive borders. As historian Sherif Abdelkarim writes, “[F]irstmillennium Britain offers one glimpse into the extent to which communities mixed and flourished.” Archaeological finds and historiographical sources, he adds, “suggest extensive exchange and assimilation among Britain’s inhabitants and settlers.”

One early medieval English king, Offa, minted a commemorative coin modeled on an Abbasid dinar, complete with a copy of the Islamic declaration of faith. Another king, the famed Alfred the Great, wrote in his law code that “You must not oppress foreigners and strangers, because you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” Archaeological evidence shows that people of sub-Saharan African descent lived in early England, according to scholar Paul Edward Montgomery Ramírez.

Following centuries of disuse after the Norman Conquest, the term Anglo-Saxon reappeared in the late 16th century in antiquarian literature to refer to preConquest peoples in England ...Read More

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Just Part Way Through the Party
WEEKLY BULLETIN OF THE MEXICO SOLIDARITY PROJECT
JUNE 30, 2021/ THIS WEEK’S ISSUE/ MEIZHU LUI, FOR THE EDITORIAL TEAM

The party starts out with excitement and enthusiasm as the crowd starts building. But part way through, the energy starts flagging. It’s not clear whether folks are coming or going.

In our interview this issue, Agustin Arreola talks about the excitement and enthusiasm he felt when Morena — the new progressive Mexican political party founded in 2014 — exploded onto the national scene, promising to prioritize the needs of the poor and the marginalized. Could the “Mexican dream” finally be coming true?

In pursuit of that dream — also the theme of the film we feature this week in Reflections — Arreola returned to his Mexican hometown of Jalisco from San Diego to become a Morena activist. But dreams, particularly utopian dreams, tend to butt up against reality when the lights go on. Arreola found in Jalisco a Morena organization that acted more like the corrupt parties of the past than an expression of greater democracy.

Disappointing? Yes, but the party isn’t over. Agustin and others like him aren’t walking out the door. They’re staying, to revive flagging spirits and to encourage new people to come in and revitalize the party. They understand that we need our utopian dreams, a vision to help us strive ahead through thick and thin.

Our spirits aren’t flagging here at the México Solidarity Bulletin. Our sense of solidarity with folks struggling for the “Mexican dream” remains solid, not dream-like ephemeral. We’ll be taking a break the next two weeks to finally visit family and friends. But we’ll be back in your email inbox July 21. Please keep the party going while we’re gone!

Agustin Arreola, a life-long political activist, has been an organizer and a go-to person for those in the Mexicano community needing help, whether in México or in San Diego, where he lived for several decades. He’s now living again in Jalisco, immersed in the politics of his hometown.

How did you first get politically involved?... ...Read More
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Book Review: 'Hummingbird Salamander' – An Idea That Won’t Go Away

Vandermeer’s latest novel finds not only a thrilling and unsettling work of climate fiction, but also a genre bending critique of modern capitalism and its destruction of nature.


By Jack Pickering 
RS21

July 9, 2021 - Hummingbird Salamander, the latest novel by Jeff Vandermeer is pure thriller, haunted much like its unnamed protagonist by the specters of ecological collapse, political violence, and the weight of the past.

The protagonist, going by the alias ‘Jane’, begins the book by informing the reader of her likely death. What follows is a tale of the events which led to Jane’s potential demise, beginning with the strange gift given to her by Silvina, the leader of a mysterious eco-terrorist group. This sparks a slow-boiling investigation in between, then steadily instead of her day job as a security consultant, eating away at her comfortable job and family life, just as the world similarly begins to dissolve around her.

As this is a thriller, and plot details are clearly important to the enjoyment of that genre, I will not mention any more about the plot in this review. Besides, the themes and tone of this book are fertile enough. Vandermeer provides a pessimistic snapshot into a deeply alienated America, driven to its limits by Silicon Valley technofetishism and the security industrial complex. In this world of middle managers and private security contractors, characters are not only alienated from their work and each other but from the very environment they rely upon.

Building the same tension and dread that pervades his more overtly fantastical narratives like the Southern Reach trilogy, Vandermeer constructs a frighteningly plausible near future. In this novel, there is a clearer focus on the mundane wreckage of diverse lives and places wrought by modern capitalism. Possible near-future technologies are woven into the story as scathing critiques of techno-optimist narratives, and considerable humor is brought to bear in satires of the security industrial complex.

Hummingbird Salamander provides a taut and understated commentary on life lived during a pandemic. It also offers insight into the emotional impact of political violence fostered by cultlike groups, armed militias, and the paramilitary state. As the character thinks about the details of her investigation and plans her next moves, she navigates through a world dominated by the paranoid rituals of security, and the specific anxiety that comes with an advancing pandemic. At the same time, omens in the form of animal corpses, repurposed, revalued or left dead by the side of the road lead our protagonist from deeper into an underworld uncomfortably close to her old life, carefully concealed by a veneer of middle-income respectability.

In Hummingbird Salamander, Jeff Vandermeer is preoccupied with the personal and social meaning that can be gained, the horror and/or ecstasy that results from processes of self-dissolution or annihilation into nature. It is the unspeakable transcendence that sits at the heart of his fiction. These stories very often become that of an individual unmooring themselves from the culture around them as they become attuned to other ways of being. They make no prescriptions apart from a resounding call to pay attention, to focus on how our society and its norms are rooted in forms of extraction from nature. They challenge us to take seriously the demands and implications of social change, the importance and necessity of social-ecological thinking. ...Read More
TV Review: Amazon’s ‘Solos’
Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and Anne Hathaway star in a monologue-driven sci-fi anthology drama.


By Inkoo Kang
Hollywood Reporter

Necessity is the mother of invention, but not necessarily of good TV. The programming that came out of the early COVID production restrictions — Social Distance, Love in the Time of Corona, those together apart reunions of 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation — are in retrospect some of the least essential shows of 2020.

And yet a new frontrunner emerges in that race for dispensability: Amazon’s Solos, a monologue-driven, single-set, vaguely sci-fi anthology drama that might inspire even the most earnest acting student to roll their eyes at its lazy self-indulgence and overwrought intensity.

Shot last fall, the seven-part series somewhat recalls Black Mirror in its near future setting and occasional flirtations with techno dystopian scenarios, but utterly lacks that series’ commitment to its ideas or visual flair. (In their place, Solos offers…lots and lots of fart jokes.) Though full of admirable performances by the likes of Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Anthony Mackie, Uzo Aduba and Constance Wu, there’s little tonal or thematic connective tissue from one episode to the next. The point of creator David Weil’s show, I think, is to demonstrate how transporting an actor’s words can be, but the wan writing and dispiriting plot twists mostly just underscore how long 30 minutes can feel.

Mirren acquits herself best as Peg, a willing human guinea pig on a spaceship with no plan for returning to Earth. Hurtling away from everything she’s ever known — and strangely incurious about the purpose of the experiment she’s just signed up for — the septuagenarian chats with the shuttle’s computer system as if she’s having tea with a dear friend. Her journey is familiar — that of an older woman who realizes she didn’t need to be so self-effacing all her life, and vows to be more assertive now — but Mirren’s understated, phenomenally controlled, bittersweet performance distinguishes it from other Pegs you’ve seen before.

No other actor transcends the humdrum scripts, although Aduba and Wu come close. Aduba’s episode is the only one that reaches for some kind of social resonance, and the actor benefits from that with her paranoid turn as Sasha, a recluse who’s been fooled one too many times by the tech powers that be to now believe their insistence that the pandemic she’s been hiding out from has been over for years.

Wu’s installment opens with her character, Jenny, in an otherworldly waiting room. Possibly hungover with her eye makeup smeared, Jenny recounts the slowly unfurling nervous breakdown she’s been having for the past year or so, which has ebbed and flowed with her shifting ambivalence toward motherhood. Jenny’s story is by far the most emotionally extreme, and Wu excels in this rare dramatic role. But even her talents can’t rescue her from a car wreck of a final reveal that retroactively ruins the previous half hour.

Saddled with less memorable roles are Hathaway (who plays three different versions of her grieving time travel inventor — yeah, you read that right), Mackie (who also plays opposite himself), Nicole Beharie (whose Nera has to contend with a kind of unnatural motherhood she wasn’t prepared for in the season’s weakest installment), and Freeman and Dan Stevens (the only two actors freed from the soliloquy format). The latter’s concluding chapter — between an Alzheimer’s patient (Freeman) and the interloper (Stevens) who restores the old man’s memories, but for his own gain — perfectly encapsulates how, no matter the novelty of the show’s premises, it’s constantly underdone by perfunctory characterizations and a lack of point of view. Perhaps Solos isn’t wholly inessential, though: It certainly makes the running on fumes later seasons of Black Mirror look a lot better in comparison. ...Read More
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